The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. I, No. 1, Nov. 1857
Part 1 out of 5
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THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS
Abbe de l'Epee, the
Agassiz's Natural History
Akin by Marriage
Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, the
Battle of Lepanto, the
Beecher, Henry Ward
Birds and their Ways
British Gallery in New York, the
Catacombs of Rome, the
Child-Life by the Ganges
Cretins and Idiots
Diamond Lens, the
Financial Flurry, the
Ghost Redivivus, the
Great Failure, the
Grindwell Governing Machine, the
Hundred Days, the
Indian Revolt, the
Journal to my Cousin Mary
Kansas Usurpation, Review of the
Lepanto, the Battle of
L'Epee, the Abbe de
Librarian's Story, the
Manchester Exhibition, the
Maya, the Princess
Mourning Veil, the
My Journal to my Cousin Mary
New England Ministers
Notes on Domestic Architecture
Our Birds and their Ways
Pendlam, a Modern Reformer
Pictures, Something about
President's Message, the
Prima Donna, Who paid for the
Pure Pearl of Diver's Bay, the
Queen of the Red Chessmen, the
Round Table, the
Saints, and their Bodies
Sally Parsons's Duty
Solitude and Society
Something about Pictures
Tiflin of Paragraphs
Welsh Musical Festival
Where will it End?
Who is the Thief?
Who paid for the Prima Donna?
Wichern, Dr., and his Pupils
Winds and the Weather, the
Amours de Voyage
Burying-Ground, the Old
Busts of Goethe and Schiller, the
By the Dead
Chartist's Complaint, the
Daylight and Moonlight
Didactic Poetry, the Origin of
Epigram on J.M.
Gift of Tritemius, the
Goethe and Schiller, the Busts of
Golden Milestone, the
Karin, the Story of
Lucknow, the Relief of
Milestone, the Golden
My Portrait Gallery
Old Burying-Ground, the
Origin of Didactic Poetry, the
Relief of Lucknow, the
Rommany Girl, the
Sculptor's Funeral, the
Skipper Ireson's Ride
Story of Karin, the
Tacking Ship off Shore
Telling the Bees
Wedding Veil, the
Wind and Stream, the
Word to the Wise
American Cyclopaedia, the New
Anglais, les, et l'Inde
Bayne, Peter, Essays in Biography and Criticism
Beatrice Cenci, by Guerrazzi
Brazil and the Brazilians
City Poems, by Alexander Smith
Clerical Life, Scenes of
Comic and Humorous German Poetry
Cyclopaedia, the New American
Dante's Hell, by J.C. Peabody
De Vere, Aubrey, May Carols by
Dichtung, die deutsche komische und humoristische, seit Beginn
des 16. Jahrhunderts bis auf unsere Zeit
Dunglison's Dictionary of Medical Science
Elements of Drawing, by Ruskin
Ete dans le Sahara, une
France au XVI. Siecle, Histoire de
Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain, by Dr. Waagen
German Poetry, Comic and Humorous
Greyson Letters, the, by Henry Rogers
Hamilton, Alexander, History of U.S. as traced in the Writings of
Handbook of Railroad Construction
Handel, Schoelcher's Life of
Harford's Life of Michel Angelo
Helps's History of the Spanish Conquest
Homoeopathic Domestic Physician
Hunt, Leigh, Poetical Works of
Kane, Dr. E.K., Elder's Life of
Kraft und Stoff, von C. Buechner
Liberte, la, par Emile de Girardin
Library of Old Authors, Smith's
Materie und Geist, von Buechner
May Carols, by Aubrey de Vere
Michel Angelo Buonarotti, Harford's Life of
Michelet, Histoire de France par
Norwege, la, par Louis Enault
Parthenia, by Mrs. Lee
Prudhomme, M. Joseph, Memoires de
Reichspostreiter, der, in Ludwigsburg
Revolution Francaise, Histoire de la
Roumania, by Jas. O. Noyes, M.D.
Ruskin's Elements of Drawing
Sahara, une Ete dans le
Scenes of Clerical Life
Smith, Alexander, City Poems by
Spanish Conquest in America, the
Spurgeon, Rev. C.H., Sermons of
Thueringer Naturen, von Otto Ludwig
Waagen, Dr., Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain by
White Lies, by Charles Reade
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY
VOL. I.--NOVEMBER, 1857.--NO. I.
My personal acquaintance with Douglas Jerrold began in the spring of 1851.
I had always had a keen relish for his wit and fancy; I felt a peculiar
interest in a man who, like myself, had started in life in the Navy; and
one of the things poor Douglas prided himself on was his readiness to know
and recognize young fellows fighting in his own profession. I shall not
soon forget the dinner he gave at the Whittington Club that spring. St.
Clement's had rung out a late chime before we parted; and it was a drizzly,
misty small hour as he got into a cab for Putney, where he was then living.
I had found him all I expected; and he did not disappoint, on further
acquaintance, the promise of that first interview. It will be something to
remember in afterlife, that one enjoyed the friendship of so brilliant a
man; and if I can convey to my readers a truer, livelier picture of his
genius and person than they have been able to form for themselves hitherto,
I shall be delighted to think that I have done my duty to his memory. The
last summer which he lived to see is now waning; let us gather, ere it
goes, the "lilies" and "purple flowers" that are due to his grave.
Jerrold's Biography is still unwritten. The work is in the hands of his
eldest son,--his successor in the editorship of "Lloyd's,"--and will be
done with pious carefulness. Meanwhile I cannot do more than _sketch_ the
narrative of his life; but so much, at all events, is necessary as shall
enable the reader to understand the Genius and Character which I aspire to
set before him.
Douglas William Jerrold was, I take it, of South-Saxon ancestry,--dashed
with Scotch through his grandmother, whose maiden name was Douglas, and who
is said to have been a woman of more than ordinary energy of character. As
a Scot, I should like to trace him to that spreading family apostrophized
by the old poet in such beautiful words,--
"O Douglas, O Douglas,
Tender and true!"
But I don't think he ever troubled himself on the subject; though he had
none of that contempt for a good pedigree which is sometimes found in men
of his school of politics. As regarded fortune, he owed every thing to
nature and to himself; no man of our age had so thoroughly fought his own
way; and no man of any age has had a much harder fight of it. To understand
and appreciate him, it was, and is, necessary to bear this fact in mind.
It colored him as the Syrian sun did the old crusading warrior. And hence,
too, he was in a singular degree a representative man of his age; his
age having set him to wrestle with it,--having tried his force in every
way,--having left its mark on his entire surface. Jerrold and the century
help to explain each other, and had found each other remarkably in earnest
in all their dealings. This fact stamps on the man a kind of genuineness,
visible in all his writings,--and giving them a peculiar force and
raciness, such as those of persons with a less remarkable experience never
possess. We are told, that, in selling yourself to the Devil, it is the
proper traditionary practice to write the contract in your blood. Douglas,
in binding himself against him, did the same thing. You see his blood in
his ink,--and it gives a depth of tinge to it.
He was the son of a country manager named Samuel Jerrold, and was born in
London on the 3d of January, 1803. His father was for a long time manager
of the seaport theatres of Sheerness and Southend,--which stand opposite
each other, just where the Thames becomes the sea. Douglas spent most of
his boyhood, therefore, about the sea-coast, in the midst of a life that
was doubly dramatic,--dramatic as real, and dramatic as theatrical. There
were sea, ships, sailors, prisoners, the hum of war, the uproar of seaport
life, on the one hand; on the other, the queer, rough, fairy world (to
him at once fairy world and home world) of the theatre. It was a position
to awaken precociously, one would think, the feelings of the quick-eyed,
quick-hearted lad. No wonder he took the sea-fever to which all our blood
is liable, and tried a bout of naval life. At eleven years of age he
became a middy, and served a short time--not two years in all--in a vessel
stationed in the North Sea. Naval life was a rough affair in those days.
Jerrold's most remarkable experience seems to have been bringing over
the wounded of Waterloo from Belgium; which stamped on his mind a sense
of the horrors of war that never left him, but is marked on his writings
everywhere, in spite of a certain combative turn and an admiration of
heroes which also belonged to him. To the last, he had an interest in sea
matters, and spoke with enthusiasm of Lord Nelson. But the literary use he
made of his nautical experience ended with "Black-eyed Susan." He was a boy
when he came ashore and threw himself on the very different sea of London;
and it is the influence of London that is most perceptible in his mature
works. Here his work was done, his battles fought, his mind formed; and you
may observe in his writings a certain romantic and ideal way of speaking of
the country, which shows that to him it was a place of retreat and luxury,
rather than of sober, practical living. This is not uncommon with literary
men whose lot has been cast in a great city, if they possess, as Jerrold
did, that poetic temperament which is alive to natural beauty.
He now became an apprentice in a printing-office, and went through the
ordinary course of a printer's life. He felt genius stirring in him, and
he strove for the knowledge to give it nourishment, and the field to give
it exercise. He read and wrote, as well as worked and talked. It would be
a task for antiquarian research to recover his very earliest lucubrations
scattered among the ephemeral periodicals of that day. Plays of his might
be dug out, whose very names are unknown to his most intimate friends. He
scattered his early fruit far and wide,--getting little from the world in
exchange. Literature was then a harder struggle than in our days. Jerrold
did not know the successful men who presided over it. He had no patrons;
and he had few friends. The isolation and poverty in which he formed his
mind and style deepened the _peculiarity_ which was a characteristic of
these. They gave to his genius that intense and eccentric character which
it has; and no doubt (for Fortune has a way of compensating) the chill they
breathed on the fruits of his young nature enriched their ripeness, as a
touch of frost does with plums. The grapes from which Tokay is made are
left hanging even when the snow is on them;--all the better for Tokay!
His youth, then, was a long and hard struggle to get bread in
exchange for wit;--a struggle like that of the poor girls who sell
violets in the streets. He was wont to talk of those early days very
freely,--passionately, even to tears, when he got excited,--and always
bravely, heartily, and with the right "moral" to follow. When Diderot had
passed a whole day without bread, he vowed that if he ever got prosperous,
he would save any fellow-creature that he could from such suffering.
Jerrold had learned the same lesson. Through life, he took the side of
the poor and weak. It was the secret, at once, of his philosophy and his
politics. He got endless abuse for his eternal tirades against the great
and the "respectable,"--against big-wigs of every size and shape. But
the critics who attacked him for this negative pole of his intellectual
character overlooked the positive one. He had kindness and sympathy enough;
but he always gave them first to those who wanted them most. And as
humorist and satirist he had a natural tendency to attack power,--to
play Pasquin against the world's Pope. In fact, his radicalism was that
of a humorist. He never adopted the utilitarian, or, as it was called,
"philosophical," radicalism which was so fashionable in his younger
days;--not, indeed, the Continental radicalism held by a party in
England;--but was an independent kind of warrior, fighting under his own
banner, and always rather with the weapons of a man of letters than those
of a politician. For the business aspect of politics he never showed any
predilection from first to last.
Well, then,--picture him to yourself, reader, a small, delicate youth, with
fair, prominent features,--long, thin hair,--keen, eager, large, blue eyes,
glancing out from right to left, as he walks the streets of Babylon,--and
seizing with a quick impulsiveness every feeling of the hour. Still
young,--and very young,--he has married for love. He is living in a cottage
or villakin on the outskirts of town, where there is just a peep of green
to keep one's feelings fresh; and he is writing for the stage. It is hard
work, and sometimes the dun is at the door, and contact is inevitable with
men who don't understand the precious jewel he weareth in his head;--but
the week's hard work is got through somehow; and on Sundays he sallies
forth for rural air with a little knot of friends, and the talk is of art,
and letters, and the world. So quick and keen a nature as his had immense
buoyancy in it. Nay, for the very dun young Douglas had an epigram,--as
bright, but not as welcome, as a sovereign. A saying of those early days
has found its way into a comedy,--but not the less belongs to his authentic
biography. A threatening attorney shakes his fist at the villakin where at
the window the wit is parleying with him. "I'll put a man in the house,
Sir!" "Couldn't you," says Douglas, (and of course the right-minded reader
is shocked,) "couldn't you make it a woman?" What a scandalous way to treat
a man of business! Between Douglas and the lawyers, for many years, there
was open war. He was a kind of Robin Hood to these representatives of the
Crown,--adopting the plucky and defiant gaiety of the old outlaw, and
shooting keen arrows at them with a bow that never grew weak.
The theatres were his regular sources of employment for many years, and he
wrote dramas at a salary. Tradition and family connection must have led
him chiefly to this walk; for though he had some of the most important
qualities of a dramatist, very few of his dramas seem likely to live,--and
even these are not equal to his works in other departments. The "Man made
of Money" will outlast his best play. His most popular drama,--"Black-eyed
Susan,"--though clever, pretty, and tender, is not, as a work of art,
worthy of his genius; nor did he consider it so himself. In his dramas
we find, I think, rather touches of character, than characters,--scenes,
rather than plots,--_disjecta membra_ of dramatic genius, rather than
harmonious creations of it. He could not separate himself from his work
sufficiently for the purposes of the higher stage. As Johnson says of
"Cato," "We pronounce the name of Cato, but we think on Addison,"--so one
may say of any character of Jerrold's, that it suggests and refers us to
its author. All the gold has his head on it. To be sure, there is plenty of
gold; and I wish somebody would put his scores of plays, big and little,
into a kind of wine-press and give us the wine. There is always the wit of
the man, whether the play be "Gertrude's Cherries," or "The Smoked Mixer,"
or "Fifteen Tears of a Drunkard's Life,"--or what not. _That_ quality never
failed him. He dresses up all his characters in that brilliant livery. But
dialogue is not enough for the stage, and compared with the attraction of
an intense action is nothing. Besides, Jerrold found the modern taste for
spectacle forming thirty years ago. In his prefaces he complains bitterly
of the preference of the public for the mechanical over the higher
attractions of the art. And the satirical war he waged against actors
and managers showed that he looked back with little pleasure to the days
when his life was chiefly occupied with them and their affairs. It may be
mentioned here, that he was very shabbily treated by several people who
owed fame and fortune to his genius. I have heard a curious story about his
connection with Davidge, manager of the Surrey,--the original, as I take
it, of his Bajazet Gay. They say that he had used Douglas very ill,--that
Douglas invoked this curse upon him,--"that he might live to keep his
carriage, and yet not be able to ride in it,"--and that it was fulfilled,
curiously, to the letter. The ancient gods, we know, took the comic poet
under their protection and avenged him. Was this a case of the kind,--or
but a flying false anecdote? I would not be certain;--but at least,
when Davidge died one evening, and Douglas was informed of the hour, he
remarked, "I did not think he would have died before the half-price came
in!" Sordid fellows are not safe from genius even in the grave. It spoils
their sepulchral monuments,--as the old heralds tore the armorial blazonry
from plebeian tombs.
His first fame and success, however, were owing to the Drama; and though
his non-dramatic labors were greater and still more successful, he never
altogether left the stage. I repeat, that I value his plays, most, because
they helped to discipline him for his after-work; and I thank the theatre
chiefly for ripening in its heat the philosophic humorist. That was the
real character of the man. He tried many things, and he produced much;
but the root of him was that he was a humorous thinker. He did not write
first-rate plays, or first-rate novels, rich as he was in _the elements_
of playwright and novelist. He was not an artist But he had a rare and
original eye and soul,--and in a peculiar way he could pour out himself.
In short, to be an Essayist was the bent of his nature and genius. English
literature is rich in such men,--in men whose works are cherished for
the individuality they reveal. What the Song is in poetry the Essay is
in prose. The producer pours out himself in his own way, and cannot be
separated even in thought from that which he has produced. Jerrold's
characters in plays and novels are interesting to me because they are
Jerrold in masquerade.
But none of us are just what we should like to be. Fortune has her say in
the matter; and as Bacon observes, a man's fortune works on his nature, and
his nature on his fortune. Many a play Jerrold no doubt wrote when he would
rather have been writing something else,--and so on, as life rolled by, and
the day that was passing over him required to be provided for. His fight
for fame was long and hard; and his life was interrupted, like that of
other men, by sickness and pain. In the stoop in his gait, in the lines in
his face, you saw the man who had reached his Ithaca by no mere yachting
over summer seas. And hence, no doubt, the utter absence in him of all
that conventionalism which marks the man of quiet experience and habitual
conformity to the world. In the streets, a stranger would have known
Jerrold to be a remarkable man; you would have gone away speculating
on him. In talk, he was still Jerrold;--not Douglas Jerrold, Esq., a
successful gentleman, whose heart and soul you were expected to know
nothing about, and with whom you were to eat your dinner peaceably,
like any common man. No. He was at all times Douglas the peculiar and
unique,--with his history in his face, and his genius on his tongue,--nay,
and after a little, with his heart on his sleeve. This made him piquant;
and the same character makes his writings piquant. Hence, too, he is
often _quaint_,--a word which describes what no other word does,--always
conveying a sense of originality, and of what, when we wish to be
condemnatory, we call egotism, but which, when it belongs to genius, is
As he became better known, he wrote in higher quarters. "Men of Character"
appeared in "Blackwood,"--a curious collection of philosophical
stories;--for artist he was not; he was always a thinker. He had a way of
dressing up a bit of philosophical observation into a story very happily.
He had much feeling for symbol, and, like the old architects, would fill
all things, pretty or ugly, with meaning. When one reads these stories, one
does not feel as if it were the writer's vocation to be a story-teller, but
as if he were using the story as a philosophical toy. And it was fortunate
for him that he fell on an age of periodicals, a class of works which just
suited his genius. He and the modern development of periodical literature
grew up together, and grew prosperous together. He was never completely
known in England till after the establishment of "Punch." An independent
and original organ just suited him, above all; for there he had the full
play which he required as a humorist, and as a self-formed man with a
peculiar style and experience. "Punch" was the "Argo" which conveyed him to
the Golden Fleece.
Up to the time of the appearance of this journal, Jerrold had scattered
himself very freely over periodical literature. He had conquered a
position. He had formed his mind. He had seen the world in many phases, and
besides his knowledge of London, had varied his experience of that city
by a lengthened residence in France. Still, he had not yet caught _the
nation_,--there being many degrees of celebrity below _that_ stage of it;
and now, in middle life, his best and crowning success was to begin.
I believe that Jerrold had long desiderated a "Punch"; but it is certain
that the present famous periodical of that name was started by his
son-in-law, Mr. Henry Mayhew. For a while it had no great success, and the
copyright was sold for a small sum to Messrs. Bradbury and Evans. Success
came, and such a success that "Punch" must always last as part of the comic
literature of England. That literature is rich in political as well as
other forms of satire; and from various causes, about the time of "Punch,"
political satire was at a low ebb. The newspapers no longer published
squibs as they once had done. The days of the Hooks and Moores had gone
by; there was nobody to do with the pen what H. B. did with the pencil. So
"Punch" was at once a novelty and a necessity,--from its width of scope,
its joint pictorial and literary character, and its exclusive devotion to
the comic features of the age. "Figaro" (a satirical predecessor, by Mr. a
Beckett) had been very clever, but wanted many of "Punch's" features, and
was, above all, not so calculated to hit "society" and get into families.
Jerrold's first papers of mark in "Punch" were those signed "Q." His style
was now formed, as his mind was, and these papers bear the stamp of his
peculiar way of thinking and writing. Assuredly, his is a _peculiar_ style
in the strict sense; and as marked as that of Carlyle or Dickens. You see
the self-made man in it,--a something _sui generis_,--not formed on the
"classical models," but which has grown up with a kind of twist in it, like
a tree that has had to force its way up surrounded by awkward environments.
Fundamentally, the man is a thinking humorist; but his mode of expression
is strange. The perpetual inversions, the habitual irony, the mingled
tenderness and mockery, give a kind of gnarled surface to the style, which
is pleasant when you get familiar with it, but which repels the stranger,
and to some people even remains permanently disagreeable. I think it was
his continual irony which at last brought him to writing as if under a
mask; whereas it would have been better to write out flowingly, musically,
and lucidly. His mixture of satire and kindliness always reminds me of
those lanes near Beyrout in which you ride with the prickly-pear bristling
alongside of you, and yet can pluck the grapes which force themselves
among it from the fields. Inveterately satirical as Jerrold is, he is even
"spoonily" tender at the same time; and it lay deep in his character; for
this wit and _bon-vivant_, the merriest and wittiest man of the company,
would cry like a child, as the night drew on, and the talk grew serious. No
theory could be more false than that he was a cold-blooded satirist,--sharp
as steel is sharp, from being hard. The basis of his nature was
sensitiveness and impulsiveness. His wit is not of the head only, but
of the heart,--often sentimental, and constantly _fanciful_, that is,
dependent on a quality which imperatively requires a sympathetic nature
to give it full play. Take those "Punch" papers which soon helped to make
"Punch" famous, and Jerrold himself better known. Take the "Story of a
Feather," as a good expression of his more earnest and tender mood. How
delicately all the part about the poor actress is worked up! How moral, how
stoical, the feeling that pervades it! The bitterness is healthy,--healthy
as bark. We cannot always be
"Seeing only what is fair,
Sipping only what is sweet,"
in the presence of such phenomena as are to be seen in London alongside
of our civilization. If any feeling of Jerrold's was intense, it was his
feeling of sympathy with the poor. I shall not soon forget the energy and
tenderness with which he would quote these lines of his favorite Hood:--
"Poor Peggy sells flowers from street to street,
And--think of that, ye who find life sweet!--
She hates the smell of roses."
He was, therefore, to be pardoned when he looked with extreme suspicion
and severity on the failings of the rich. _They_ at least, he knew, were
free from those terrible temptations which beset the unfortunate. They
could protect themselves. They needed to be reminded of their duties.
Such was his view, though I don't think he ever carried it so far as he
was accused of doing. Nay, I think he sometimes had to prick up his zeal
before assuming the _flagellum_. For a successful, brilliant man like
himself,--full of humor and wit,--eminently convivial, and sensitive to
pleasure,--the temptation rather was to adopt the easy philosophy that
every thing was all right,--that the rich were wise to enjoy themselves
with as little trouble as possible,--and that the poor (good fellows, no
doubt) must help themselves on according as they got a chance. It was
to Douglas's credit that he always felt the want of a deeper and holier
theory, and that, with all his gaiety, he felt it incumbent on him to
use his pen as an implement of what he thought reform. Indeed, it was a
well-known characteristic of his, that he disliked being talked of as "a
wit." He thought (with justice) that he had something better in him than
most wits, and he sacredly cherished high aspirations. To him buffoonery
was pollution. He attached to _salt_ something of the sacredness which
it bears in the East. He was fuller of repartee than any man in England,
and yet was about the last man that would have condescended to be what
is called a "diner-out". It is a fact which illustrates his mind, his
character, and biography.
The "Q." papers, I say, were the first essays which attracted attention
in "Punch." In due time followed his "Punch's Letters to his Son," and
"Complete Letter-Writer," with the "Story of a Feather", mentioned above.
A basis of philosophical observation, tinged with tenderness, and a dry,
ironical humor,--all, like the Scottish lion in heraldry, "within a double
tressure-fleury and counter-fleury" of wit and fancy,--such is a Jerroldian
paper of the best class in "Punch." It stands out by itself from all
the others,--the sharp, critical knowingness, sparkling with puns, of a
Beckett,--the inimitable, wise, easy, playful, worldly, social sketch of
Thackeray. In imagery he had no rivals there; for his mind had a very
marked tendency to the ornamental and illustrative,--even to the grotesque.
In satire, again, he had fewer competitors than in humor;--sarcasms lurk
under his similes, like wasps in fruit or flowers. I will just quote one
specimen from a casual article of his, because it happens to occur to my
memory, and because it illustrates his manner. The "Chronicle" had been
attacking some artists in whom he took an interest. In replying, he set
out by telling how in some vine countries they repress the too luxuriant
growths by sending in asses to crop the shoots. Then he remarked gravely,
that young artists required pruning, and added, "How thankful we ought all
to be that the 'Chronicle' keeps a donkey!" This is an average specimen of
his playful way of ridiculing. In sterner moods he was grander. Of a Jew
money-lender he said, that "he might die like Judas, but that he had no
bowels to gush out";--also, that "he would have sold our Saviour for _more
money_." An imaginative color distinguished his best satire, and it had the
deadly and wild glitter of war-rockets. This was the most original quality,
too, of his satire, and just the quality which is least common in our
present satirical literature. He had read the old writers,--Browne, Donne,
Fuller, and Cowley,--and was tinged with that richer and quainter vein
which so emphatically distinguishes them from the prosaic wits of our day.
His weapons reminded you of Damascus rather than Birmingham,
A wit with a mission,--this was the position of Douglas in the last years
of his life. Accordingly he was a little ashamed of the immense success of
the "Caudle Lectures,"--the fame of which I remember being bruited about
the Mediterranean in 1845,--and which, as social drolleries, set nations
laughing. Douglas took their celebrity rather sulkily. He did not like
to be talked of as a funny man. However, they just hit the reading
English,--always domestic in their literary as in their other tastes,--and
so helped to establish "Punch" and to diffuse Jerrold's name. He began
now to be a Power in popular literature; and coming to be associated
with the _liberal_ side of "Punch," especially, the Radicals throughout
Britain hailed him as a chief. Hence, in due course, his newspaper and
his magazine,--both of which might have been permanently successful
establishments, had Ids genius for business borne any proportion to his
genius for literature.
This, however, was by no manner of means the case. His nature was
altogether that of a literary man and artist. He could not speak in public.
He could not manage money matters. He could only write and talk,--and
these rather as a kind of _improvvisatore_, than as a steady, reading,
bookish man, like a Mackintosh or a Macaulay. His politics partook of this
character, and I always used to think that it was a queer destiny which
made him a Radical teacher. The Radical literature of England is, with few
exceptions, of a prosaic character. The most famous school of radicalism
is utilitarian and systematic. Douglas was, emphatically, neither. He
was impulsive, epigrammatic, sentimental. He dashed gaily against an
institution, like a _picador_ at a bull. Ha never sat down, like the
regular workers of Ms party, to calculate the expenses of monarchy or the
extravagance of the civil list. He had no notion of any sort of "economy."
I don't know that he had ever taken up political science seriously, or that
he had any preference for one kind of form of government over another.
I repeat,--his radicalism was that of a humorist. He despised big-wigs,
and pomp of all sorts, and, above all, humbug and formalism. But his
radicalism was important as a sign that our institutions are ceasing
to be picturesque; of which, if you consider his nature, you will see
that his radicalism was a sign. And he did service to his cause. Not an
abuse, whether from the corruption of something old, or the injustice of
something new, but Douglas was out against it with his sling. He threw his
thought into some epigram which stuck. Praising journalism once, he said,
"When Luther wanted to crush the Devil, didn't he throw _ink_ at him?"
Recommending Australia, he wrote, "Earth is so kindly there, that, tickle
her with a hoe, and she laughs with a harvest." The last of these sayings
is in his best manner, and would be hard to match anywhere for grace and
neatness. Here was a man to serve big cause, for he embodied its truths in
forms of beauty. His use to his party could not be measured like that of
commoner men, because of the rarity and attractive nature of the gifts
which he brought to its service. They had a kind of incalculable value,
like that of a fine day, or of starlight.
He was now immersed in literary activity. He had all kinds of work on hand.
He brought out occasionally a five-act comedy, full as usual of wit. He
wrote in "Punch,"--started a newspaper,--started a magazine,--published
a romance,--all within a few years of each other. The romance was "A Man
made of Money," which bids fair, I think, to be read longer than any of
his works. It is one of those fictions in which, as in "Zanoni," "Peter
Schlemil," and others, the supernatural appears as an element, and yet is
made to conform itself in action to real and every-day life, in such a
way that the understanding is not shocked, because it reassures itself by
referring the supernatural to the regions of allegory. Shall we call this a
kind of bastard-allegory? Jericho, when he first appears, is a common man
of the common world. He is a money-making, grasping man, yet with a bitter
savour of satire about him which raises him out of the common place.
Presently it turns out, that by putting his hand to his heart he can
draw away bank-notes,--only that it is his life he is drawing away. The
conception is fine and imaginative, and ought to rank with the best of
those philosophical stories so fashionable in the last century. Its
working-out in the every-day part is brilliant and pungent; and much
ingenuity is shown in connecting the tragic and mysterious element in
Jericho's life with the ordinary, vain, worldly existence of his wife
and daughters. It is startling to find ourselves in the regions of the
impossible, just as we are beginning to know the persons of the fable. But
the mind reassures itself. This Jericho, with his mysterious fate,--is
not he, in this twilight of fiction, shadowing to us the real destiny of
real money-grubbers whom we may see any day about our doors? Has not the
money become the very life of many such? And so feeling, the reader goes
pleasantly on,--just excited a little, and raised out of the ordinary
temperature in which fiction is read, by the mystic atmosphere through
which he sees things,--and ends, acknowledging that with much pleasure he
has also gathered a good moral. For his mere amusement the best fireworks
have been cracking round him on his journey. In short, I esteem this
Jerrold's best book,--the one which contains most of his mind. Certain
aspects of his mind, indeed, may be seen even to better advantage in others
of his works; his sentimental side, for instance, in "Clovernook," where
he has let his fancy run riot like honeysuckle, and overgrow every thing;
his wit in "Time works Wonders," which blazes with epigrams like Vauxhall
with lamps. But "A Man made of Money" is the completest of his books as
a creation, and the most characteristic in point of style,--is based on
a principle which predominated in his mind,--is the most original in
imaginativeness, and the best sustained in point and neatness, of the works
he has left.
During the years of which I have just been speaking, Jerrold lived chiefly
in a villa at Putney, and afterwards at St. John's Wood,--the mention
of which fact leads me to enter on a description of him in his private,
social, and friendly relations. Now-a-days it is happily expected of every
man who writes of another to recognize his humanity,--not to treat him as
a machine for the production of this or that--scientific, or literary, or
other--material. _Homo sum_ is the motto of the biographer, and so of the
humbler biographic sketcher. Jerrold is just one of those who require and
reward this kind of personal sympathy and attention;--so radiant was the
man of all that he put into his books!--so quick, so warm, so full of light
and life, wit and impulse! He was one of the few who in their conversation
entirely come up to their renown. He sparkled wherever you touched him,
like the sea at night.
The first thing I have to remark, in treating of Jerrold the man, is the
entire harmony between that figure and Jerrold the writer. He talked very
much as he wrote, and he acted in life on the principles which he advocated
in literature. He united, remarkably, simplicity of character with
brilliancy of talk. For instance, with all his success, he never sought
higher society than that which he found himself gradually and by a natural
momentum borne into, as he advanced. He never suppressed a flash of
indignant sarcasm for fear of startling the "genteel" classes and Mrs.
Grundy. He never aped aristocracy in his household. He would go to a tavern
for his oysters and a glass of punches simply as they did in Ben Jonson's
days; and I have heard of his doing so from a sensation of boredom at a
very great house indeed,--a house for the sake of an admission to which,
half Bayswater would sell their grandmothers' bones to a surgeon. This kind
of thing stamped him in our polite days as one of the old school, and was
exceedingly refreshing to observe in an age when the anxious endeavour
of the English middle classes is to hide their plebeian origin under a
mockery of patrician elegance. He had none of the airs of success or
reputation,--none of the affectations, either personal or social, which
are rife everywhere. He was manly and natural,--free and off-handed to the
verge of eccentricity. Independence and marked character seemed to breathe
from the little, rather bowed figure, crowned with a lion-like head and
falling light hair,--to glow in the keen, eager, blue eyes glancing on
either side as he walked along. Nothing could be less commonplace, nothing
less conventional, than his appearance in a room or in the streets.
His quick, impulsive nature made him a great talker, and conspicuously
convivial,--yea, convivial, at times, up to heights of vinous glory which
the Currans and Sheridans shrank not from, but which a respectable age
discourages. And here I must undertake the task of saying something about
his conversational wit,--so celebrated, yet so difficult (as is notoriously
the case with all wits) to do justice to on paper.
The first thing that struck you was his extreme _readiness_ in
conversation. He gave the electric spark whenever you put your knuckle to
him. The first time I called on him in his house at Putney, I found him
sipping claret We talked of a certain dull fellow whose wealth made him
prominent at that time. "Yes," said Jerrold, drawing his finger round
the edge of his wineglass, "_that's_ the range of his intellect,--only
it had never any thing half so good in it." I quote this merely as one
of the average _bons-mots_ which made the small change of his ordinary
conversation. He would pun, too, in talk, which he scarcely ever did in
writing. Thus he extemporized as an epitaph for his friend Charles Knight,
"GOOD NIGHT!"--When Mrs. Glover complained that her hair was turning
gray,--from using essence of lavender (as she said),--he asked her "whether
it wasn't essence of thyme?" On the occasion of starting a convivial club,
(he was very fond of such clubs,) somebody proposed that it should consist
of twelve members, and be called "The Zodiac,"--each member to be named
after a sign. "And what shall I be?" inquired a somewhat solemn man, who
feared that they were filled up. "Oh, we'll bring you in as the weight
in Libra," was the instant remark of Douglas. A noisy fellow had long
interrupted a company in which he was. At last the bore said of a certain
tune, "It carries me away with it." "For God's sake," said Jerrold, "let
somebody whistle it."--Such _dicteria_, as the Romans called them, bristled
over his talk. And he flashed them out with an eagerness, and a quiver of
his large, somewhat coarse mouth, which it was quite dramatic to see. His
intense chuckle showed how hearty was his gusto for satire, and that wit
was a regular habit of his mind.
I shall set down here some _Jerroldiana_ current in London,--some heard by
myself, or otherwise well authenticated. Remember how few we have of George
Selwyn's, Hanbury Williams's, Hook's, or indeed any body's, and you will
not wonder that my handful is not larger.
When the well-known "Letters" of Miss Martineau and Atkinson appeared,
Jerrold observed that their creed was, "There is no God, and Miss Martineau
is his prophet."
"I have had such a curious dinner!" said C. "Calves' tails."--"Extremes
meet," Douglas said, instantly.
He admired Carlyle; but objected that he did not give definite suggestions
for the improvement of the age which he rebuked. "Here," said he, "is a man
who beats a big drum under my windows, and when I come running down stairs
has nowhere for me to go."
A wild Republican said profanely, that Louis Blanc was "next to Jesus
Christ"--"On which side?" asked the wit.
Pretty Miss ----, the actress, being mentioned, he praised her early
beauty. "She was a lovely little thing," he said, "when she was a _bud_,
and"--(a pause)--"before she was a _blowen'_."--This was in a very merry
vein, and the serious reader must forgive me.
He called a small, thin London _litterateur_ of his acquaintance, "a pin
without the head or the point."
When a plain, not to say ugly, gentleman intimated his intention of being
godfather to somebody's child, Jerrold begged him not to give the youngster
A dedication to him being spoken of,--"Ah!" said he, with mock gravity,
"that's an awful power that ---- has in his hands!"
Carlyle and a much inferior man being coupled by some sapient review as
"biographers,"--"Those two joined!" he exclaimed. "You can't plough with an
ox and an ass."
"Is the legacy to be paid immediately?" inquired somebody,--_apropos_ of a
will which made some noise.--"Yes, on the coffin-nail," answered he.
Being told that a recent play had been "done to order,"--he observed, that
"it would be done to a good many 'orders,' he feared."
It may be honestly said that these are average specimens of the
pleasantries which flowed from him in congenial society. His talk was full
of such, among friends and acquaintance, and he certainly enjoyed the
applause which they excited. But in his graver and tenderer moods, in the
country walks and lounges of which he was fond, his range was higher and
deeper. For a vein of natural poetry and piety ran through the man,--wit
and satirist as he was,--and appeared in his speech, occasionally, as in
A long habit of indulgence in epigram had made him rather apt to quiz
his friends. But we are to remember that he was encouraged in this, and
that a self-indulgent man is only too liable to have the nicety of his
sensitiveness spoiled. Certainly, he had a kind heart and good principles.
He would lend any man money, or give any man help,--even to the extent
of weakness and imprudence. This was one reason why he died no better
off,--and one reason why his friends have so much exerted themselves to pay
a tribute to his memory in the shape of an addition to the provision he had
made for his family. The quickness of feeling which belonged to him made
him somewhat ready to take offence. But if he was easily ruffled, he was
easily smoothed. Of few men could you say, that their natural impulses were
better, or that, given such a nature and such a fortune, they would have
arrived at fifty-four years of age with so young a heart.
The last literary event of any magnitude in Jerrold's life was his assuming
the editorship of "Lloyd's Newspaper." This journal, which before his
connection with it had no position to brag of, rose under his hands to
great circulation and celebrity. Every week, there you traced his hand
at its old work of embroidering with queer and fanciful sarcasm some bit
of what he thought timely and necessary truth. Against all tyrants, all
big-wigged impostors, black, white, or gray, was his hammer ringing, and
sparks of wit were flying about as ever under his hand. He was getting up
in years; but still there seemed many to be hoped for him, yet. Though not
so active in schemes as formerly, he still talked of works to be done; and
at "Our Club," and such-like friendly little associations, the wit was
all himself, and came to our stated meetings as punctually as a star to
its place in the sky. He had suffered severely from illness, especially
from rheumatism, at various periods of life; and he had lived freely and
joyously, as was natural to a man of his peculiar gifts. But, _death_! We
never thought of the brilliant and radiant Douglas in connection with the
black river. He would have sunk Charon's boat with a shower of epigrams,
one would have fancied, if the old fellow, with his squalid beard, had
dared to ask him into the stern-sheets. To more than one man who knew him
intimately the first announcement of his decease was made by the "Times."
On the evening of the 19th of May, I met him,--as I frequently did on
Saturday evenings,--and on no evening do I remember him more lively and
brilliant. Next Saturday, I believe, he was at the same kindly board; but
some accident kept me away;--I never saw him again. Soon after, he was
taken ill. There passed a week of much suffering. June had come, warm
and rainy, but our friend was dying. The nature of the illness might be
doubtful, but there could be no doubt that the end was near. He prepared
himself to meet it. He sent friendly messages of farewell to those he
loved, begging, too, that if what he had ever said had pained any one, he
might now be forgiven. His mind was made up, and his children were all
about him. On a fine evening in the first week of June, he was moved to the
window, that he might see the sun setting. On Monday, the eighth of that
month, being perfectly conscious almost till the very last, he died.
The time is not yet come to discuss what his ultimate place will be in
the literature of his century. It will not be denied that he was a man of
rare gifts, and of a remarkable experience in life; and his life and the
popularity of his writings will by and by help posterity to understand
this our generation. Meanwhile I shall leave him in his resting-place in
Norwood, among the hills and fields of Surrey, near the grave of the friend
of his youth, the gentle and gifted Laman Blanchard, where he was laid on
the 15th of June, amidst a concourse of people not often assembled round
the remains of one who has begun life as humbly as he did.
His death made a great impression; and the acuteness with which his friends
felt it said more than could be said in a long dissertation for the kindly
and love-inspiring qualities of the man. As soon as it appeared that his
family were left in less prosperous circumstances than had been hoped,
their interest took an active form. A committee met to organize a plan
by which the genius of those who had known Jerrold might be employed in
raising a provision for his family. The rest has been duly recorded in the
newspapers, where the success of these benevolent exertions may be read.
The capital of Tuscany--according to its most respectable and veracious
chroniclers--is the oldest city extant. Its history is traced with great
accuracy up to the Deluge, which is as much as could be reasonably
expected. The egg of Florence is Fiesole. This city, according to the
conscientious and exhaustive Villani, [Footnote: Cronica. Lib. I. c. vii.]
was built by a grandson of Noah, Attalus by name, who came into Italy in
order "to avoid the confusion occasioned by the building of the Tower of
Babel." [Footnote: "per evitare la confusione creata per la edificazione
della torre di Babel," etc.] Noah and his wife had, however, already made
a visit to Tuscany, soon after the Deluge; so that it is not remarkable
that "King Attalus" should have felt inclined to visit the estates of his
ancestor. At the same time, it is obvious that the Noahs had not been
satisfied with the locality, and had reemigrated; for Attalus, upon his
arrival, found Italy entirely without inhabitants. He, therefore, with
great propriety claimed jurisdiction over the whole country, elected
himself king, and his wife Electra queen; built himself a palace, with a
city attached to it; and in short, made himself, generally, at home. We
are also fortunate in having some genealogical particulars as to his wife's
antecedents; and it is to be regretted that modern historians, of the
skeptical, the irreverent, and the startling schools, could not imitate
the gravity, the good faith, and the respect for things established, by
which the elder chroniclers were inspired. The apothecaries of the Middle
Ages never dealt so unkindly with the Pharaohs of Egypt, as the historical
excavators of more recent times have done with the embalmed, crowned, and
consecrated mummies which they have been pleased to denounce as delusions.
Your Potiphars or your Mizraims, even when converted into balsam, or
employed as a styptic, were at least not denuded of their historical
identity by the druggists who reduced their time-honored remains to
a powder. Their dust was made merchandise, but their characters were
respected. Moreover, there was an object and a motive, even if mistaken
ones, on the part of the mediaeval charlatans. But what ointment, what
soothing syrup, what panacea has been the result of all this pulverizing of
Semiramis and Sardanapalus, Mucius Scaevola and Junius Brutus? Are all the
characters graven so deeply by the stylus of Clio upon so many monumental
tablets, and almost as indelibly and quite as painfully upon school-boy
memory, to be sponged out at a blow, like chalk from a blackboard? We, at
least, cling fondly to our Tarquins; we shudder when the abyss of historic
incredulity swallows up the familiar form of Mettus Curtius; we refuse to
be weaned from the she-wolf of Romulus. Your unbelieving Guy Faux, who
approaches the stately superstructures of history, not to gaze upon them
with the eye of faith and veneration, but only that he may descend to the
vaults, with his lantern and his keg of critical gunpowder, in order to
blow the whole fabric sky-high,--such an ill-conditioned trouble-tomb
should be burned in effigy once a year.
Electra, then, wife of Attalus, founder and king of Fiesole, was of very
brilliant origin, being no less than one of the Pleiades, and the only one
of the sisters who seems to have married into a patriarchal family. "The
reason why the seven stars are seven is a pretty reason"; but it is not
"because they are not eight," as Lear suggests, but, as we now discover
by patient investigation, because one of them had married and settled in
Tuscany. We are not informed whether the lost Pleiad, thus found on the
Arno, was happy or not, after her removal from that more elevated sphere
which she had just begun to move in. But if respectability of connection
and a pleasant locality be likely to insure contentment to a fallen star,
we have reason to believe that she found herself more comfortable than
Lucifer was after his emigration.
Great care must be taken not to confound Attalus with Tantalus,--a blunder
which, as Villani observes, [Footnote: Cron. Lib. I. c. vii.] is often
committed by ignorant chroniclers. But Tantalus, as we all very well know,
was the son of Jupiter, and grandson of Saturn. Now we are quite sure
that Noah never married a daughter of Saturn, because that voracious
heathen ate up all his children except Jupiter. This simple fact precludes
all possibility of a connection with Saturn by the mother's side, and
illustrates the advantage of patient historical investigation, when founded
upon a reverence for traditional authority. Had it not been for such an
honest chronicler as Giovanni Villani, our historic thirst might have been
tantalized for seven centuries longer with this delusion. Certainly, to
confound Tantalus, ancestor of all the Trojans, with Attalus, ancestor of
all the Tuscans, would be worse than that "confusion of Babel" which the
quiet-loving potentate came to Florence to avoid.
Attalus brought with him from Babel an eminent astrologer and civil
engineer, who assured him, after careful experiments, that, of all places
in Europe, the mount of Fiesole was the healthiest and the best. He was
therefore ordered to build the city there at once. When finished, it was
called _Fia sola_, because of its solitariness; Attalus, in consequence
of his participation in the Babel confusion, having become familiar with
Tuscan several thousand years before that language was invented. The city,
thus auspiciously established, flourished forty or fifty centuries, more
or less, without the occurrence of any event worth recording, down to the
time of Catiline. The Fiesolans, unfortunately, aided and comforted that
conspirator in his designs against Rome, and were well punished for their
crime by Julius Caesar, who battered their whole town about their ears, in
consequence, and then ploughed up their territory, and sowed it with salt.
The harvest of that agricultural operation was reaped by Florence; for the
conqueror immediately afterwards, by command of the Roman Senate, converted
a little suburb at the bottom of the hill into a city. Into this the
Fiesolans removed at once, and found themselves very comfortable there;
being saved the trouble of going up and down a mountain every time they
came out and went home again. Florence took its name from one Fiorino,
marshal of the camp, in the Roman army, who was killed in the battle of
Fiesole. As he was the flower of chivalry, his name was thought of good
augury; the more so, as roses and lilies sprang forth plenteously from the
spot where he fell. Hence the fragrant and poetical name which the City of
Flowers has retained until our days; and hence the cognizance of the three
flowers-de-luce which it has borne upon its shield. Julius Caesar, whose
sword had severed the infant city from its dead mother in so Caesarean a
fashion, had set his heart upon calling the town after himself, and took
the contrary decree of the Roman Senate very much in dudgeon. He therefore
left the country in a huff, and revenged himself by annihilating vast
numbers of unfortunate Gauls, Britons, Germans, and other barbarians, who
happened to come in his way.
The first public edifice of any importance erected in the city was a temple
to Mars, with a colossal statue of that divinity in the midst of it. This
is the present baptistery, formerly cathedral, of Saint John; for the
temple never was destroyed, and never can be destroyed, until the day of
judgment. This we know on the authority of more than one eminent historian.
It is also proved by an inscription to that effect in the mosaic pavement,
which any one may inspect who chooses to do so. [Footnote: Villani, Cron.
Lib. I. c. xlii.]
The town was utterly destroyed A.D. 450, by Totila, _Flagellum Dei_,
who, with great want of originality, immediately rebuilt Fiesole; thus
repeating, but reversing, the achievement of the Romans five hundred years
before. So Fiesole and Florence seem to have alternately filled and emptied
themselves, like two buckets in a well, down to the time of Charlemagne.
That emperor rebuilt Florence, but experienced some difficulty in doing
so, by reason of the statue of Mars, which had been thrown into the Arno.
The temple, converted to Christian purposes, had been the only building to
escape the wrath of Totila; but owing to the pagan incantations practised
when the town was originally consecrated to the god of war, the statue of
that divinity would not consent to lie quietly and ignominiously in the bed
of the Arno, while his temple and town were appropriated to other purposes.
The river was dragged. The statue was found and set upon a column near the
edge of the river, on a spot which is now the head of the Ponte Vecchio.
True to its pugnacious character, it brought nothing but turbulence and
bloodshed upon the town. The long and memorable feuds between the Guelphs
and Ghibellines began by the slaying of Buondelmonte in his wedding dress,
at the base of the statue. (A.D. 1215.)
There could be no better foundation for romance or drama than the famous
Buondelmonte marriage, before which, sings Dante, Florence had never cause
to shed a tear, and after which the white lily of her escutcheon was dyed
red in her heart's blood. There were four noble families in Florence, of
surpassing importance,--the Buondelmonti, the Uberti, the Donati, and the
Amidei. A match-making widow of the Donati has a daughter of extraordinary
beauty, whom she intends to bestow in marriage upon the young chief of the
Buondelmonti. Before she has time to complete her arrangements, however,
Buondelmonte betroths himself to a daughter of the house of Amidei. Signora
Donati waylays him, as he passes the door, and suddenly displays to him the
fatal beauty of her daughter. "She should have been your bride," said the
widow, "had you not been so hasty." The gentleman, dazzled by the beauty
of the girl, and satisfied by the prudent mother as to the dowry, marries
Signorina Donati upon the spot. Next day, riding across the Ponte Vecchio
upon a white horse, he is beset by a party of friends and relatives of
the deserted damsel, and killed close by the statue of Mars. All the
nobles of Florence take part in the question; upon one side the Nerli, the
Frescobaldi, the ----; but "courage, gentle reader," as Tristram Shandy
observes, in his famous historical chapter upon Calais; "I scorn it; 'tis
enough to have thee in my power; but to make use of the advantage which the
fortune of the pen has now gained over thee would be too much."
Thirty years long, then, the town gates were all fastened, and the streets
all chained, so as to make many little compact inclosures for slaughtering
purposes; while the whites and blacks, Guelphs and Ghibellines, red caps
and brown, all buffeted each other pell-mell. To the exhaustion thus
produced of noble blood is often ascribed the establishment of a popular
government at the close of the thirteenth century. The causes lay really
much deeper, however,--in the great revolutions consequent upon the
extinction of the Suabian dynasty, and in the wonderful progress in culture
made by the Florentine democracy.
O Buondelmonte, quanto mal fuggisti
Le nozze sue per gli altrui conforti!
Molti sarebber lieti, che son tristi,
Se Dio t' avesse conceduto ad Ema
La prima volta ch' a citta venisti.
Ma conveniasi a quella pietra scema
Che guarda il ponte, che Fiorenza fesse
Vittima nella sua pace postrema.
Con queste genti, e con altre con esse,
Vid' io Fiorenza in si fatto riposo,
Che non avea cagione onde piangesse.
Con queste genti vid' io glorioso
E giusto il popol suo tanto, che 'l giglio
Non era ad asta mai posto a ritroso,
Ne per division fatto vermiglio.
_Paradiso_, XVI. 140-154.
The walk to the church of San Miniato is a paved, steep path, through
olive orchards fringed by a row of cypresses, to the little church of
San Salvadore; thence, through a garden of roses and cabbages, fresh and
fragrant in the December sun, to the convent of Miniato. From the terrace
is one of the best views of the city; not so fine, however, as that from
Bello Sguardo. The gentle, beautiful chain of hills which encircle Florence
smile cheerfully in the sunshine, clapping their hands and skipping like
lambs, if little hills ever did make such a demonstration. These environs
of the town are like a frame of golden filigree, almost too fantastic a one
for so shadowy and sombre a city. The green hill-sides and plains are sown
thickly with palaces and villas glancing whitely through silvery forests of
olives and myrtle; while the distant Apennines, like guardian giants, lift
their icy shields in the distance.
The church is built upon the grave of the eminent saint, Miniato. This
personage was, it seems, the son of the king of Armenia,--very much as all
the heroes in the Arabian Nights are sons of the emperor of China. Having
been converted to Christianity, he was offered by the emperor Decius great
honors and rewards suitable to his royal rank, if he would renounce his
faith. (A.D. 250.) He refused, and the emperor cut off his head. The
execution took place in Florence, on the north side of the Arno. The holy
man was not so easily disposed of, however; for he immediately clapped his
head upon his shoulders again, and holding it on with both hands, waded
across the river, and marched steadily up the hill on the other side.
Arrived at the top, he gave up his head and the ghost. Hence the convent
and church of San Miniato.
The church, to an architectural student, is interesting and important. A
man needs a good eye and a good education to feel and thoroughly appreciate
the grand symphonies which this wonderful architectural music of the Middle
Ages has so long been silently playing. San Miniato belongs to the close of
the Romanesque or Latin period. The early Christian school had expired in
the midst of the general convulsions of the ninth and tenth centuries,--in
the struggles of an effete and expiring antiquity with the brutal,
blundering, but vigorous infancy of mediaeval Europe. During the three
centuries which succeeded, there was rather a warming into unnatural life
of the mighty corpse, than the birth of a new organism, capable of healthy
existence and unlimited reproduction. The Romanesque art seems to have
dealt with the ancient forms, without moulding any thing essentially
and vitally new. Where there seemed originality, it was, after all,
only a theft from the Saracenic or Byzantine, and the plagiarism became
incongruity when engrafted upon the Roman. Thus a Latin church was often
but an early Christian _basilica_ with a Moorish arcade.
The San Miniato has an arcade, of course not pointed, upon the facade and
the interior. Its tessellated marble work, its ancient mosaics, with its
Roman capitals and columns, all make it interesting. These last show that
at the close of the epoch, even as at its beginning, the chain which binds
the school to the ancient Roman is fastened anew.
The frescos in the sacristy, by Spinello Aretino, painted at the end of the
fourteenth century, are singularly well preserved,--fresh as if painted
yesterday. 'Tis a great pity that the works of other masters of the same
age, Spinello's superiors, could not have been as fortunate. If the frescos
of Orgagna, and of Benozzo Gozzoli in the Campo Santo at Pisa, were in as
good condition, it would be much more satisfactory.
These pictures of Spinello are drawn with much boldness and energy, but it
is not the fortunate audacity of Orgagna. They are much more the work of
a mechanic, not self-distrustful, but with comparatively little feeling
for the higher range of artistic expression. They are quite destitute of
sentiment, but are not without a strong, rough, hardy humor. The drawing
is far from accurate, but the coloring is well laid on. They represent the
life and adventures of Saint Benedict, are of colossal size, and depict the
saint in various striking positions. Here he is portrayed as rescuing a
brother friar from the inconveniences resulting from a house having fallen
upon him; in another he is miraculously mending a crockery jug belonging
to his nurse; and in a third he is unsuccessfully attempting to move a
large stone, upon which the Devil has seated himself, much to Benedict's
discomfiture. The fiend is drawn, _con amore_, in black, with hairy hide,
bat's wings, and a monkey's tail; the traditional Devil who has come down
to us unharmed through all the vicissitudes of the Middle Ages. The saints
and friars are generally attired in mazarine blue.
ACADEMY OF THE FINE ARTS.
There is here a large hall, containing a brief chronicle of the progress of
painting from Cimabue to--Carlo Dolce! There may be a still deeper descent;
but that is bathos sufficient for any lover of his species.
It is desirable to look at these painters of the thirteenth, fourteenth,
and fifteenth centuries with some reference to the political condition of
Florence and of Italy at that time. In truth, Florence during the period of
its life _was_ Italy,--the _vivida vis_, creative, contemplative, ornative,
impulsive to the clay of Europe. The art of painting seems to spring
full-grown into existence, with the appearance of Cimabue in the latter
part of the thirteenth century. Even so the Italian language suddenly
crystallizes itself into a brilliant and perpetual type, at the same epoch
as the wondrous poem of Dante flashes forth from the brooding chaos,--the
_fiat lux_ of a new intellectual world.
The Emperor Frederic II., last of the imperial Hohenstaufens, died in 1250.
Chivalrous, adventurous, despotic, as became the head of the conquering
German races at their epoch of triumph,--imaginative, poetical, debauched,
atheistical, as might be expected of a prince born in Italy, he seemed to
justify the somewhat incongruous eagerness with which the Florentine mind
sought political salvation in the bosom of the Church. Yet here seems the
fatal flaw in the liberal system of Italy at that period. The Ghibelline
party was at least consistent. To be an imperialist, a Hohenstaufenite,
was at least definite; as much so as to be an absolutist, a Habsburgite,
a Napoleonite to-day. But to be a Guelph,--to be in favor of municipal
development, local self-government, intellectual progress, and to fight for
all these things under the banner of the Church, in an age which witnessed
the establishment of the Inquisition, in an age when the mighty spirit of
Hildebrand was rising every day from his grave in more and more influential
and imposing shape,--this was to place one's self in a false position.
Dante, no doubt, felt all this to the core of his being. A poet by nature,
with that intense, morbid, proud, uncomfortable, alternately benevolent
and misanthropical temperament which occasionally accompanies the poetic
faculty, he had little in common with the bustling, vivacious character
of his fellow-townsmen. _Fiorentino di nascita, non di costumi_, as he
describes himself, he had slight sympathy with Blacks or Whites, Guelphs
or Ghibellines. A Guelph by birth, a Ghibelline by banishment, he was in
reality an absolutist in politics, and a bigot in religion. Had a hell
never been heard of, he would have invented one, for the mere comfort of
roasting his enemies in it, and his friends along with them,--the solitary
enjoyment of his lifetime. His part in public affairs has been much
magnified. He was prior in 1300; but almost any citizen of Florence might
be prior. He was once sent to Rome, on a diplomatic errand; but he was
only the envoy of a party, only one of a set of delegates appointed by
the Whites. He was banished for his political opinions, and afterwards
condemned to death; but even this was no distinction; for six hundred other
persons, most of them obscure men, were included in the same sentence,
for the same offence. They all happened, in short, to belong to the party
opposed to the one which was successful. His merits of style can hardly
be exaggerated. Alone of mankind he almost created a language. Imagine
the English, or the German, or the French poetry of the year 1300 flowing
musically and familiarly from the lips of 1857! The culture, too, of
his epoch might almost be measured by his personal accomplishments. The
Aristotle, the Bacon, the Humboldt of Florence was one of the world's
great poets into the bargain; but he was any thing but a statesman or a
In his poetry, accordingly, written when the Florentine democracy was
young, vigorous, and mischievous, there is no chord of sympathy with
the polity of his native place. On the contrary, the whole magnificent
"Commedia" is a _De profundis_ chanted out of an oppressed and scornful
bosom, a fiery protest, an excoriating satire against the liberty upon
which the Commonwealth prided itself. Florence banished and would have
burned her poet. The poet banished and burned Florence in the great hell
which his imagination created and peopled. His ashes,--so often and so
vainly implored for by the repentant and sorrowing mother, who had driven
him from her bosom with curses, to wander and to starve, "to eat the bitter
bread of exile, and to feel that sharpest arrow in the bow of exile, the
going up and down in another's house,"--his ashes are not the property of
the Republic. Are his laurels? Yes. The "Divina Commedia" is a splendid
proof of the vitality which pervades a republican atmosphere. There was
little of justice perhaps, and less of security and comfort; but there was
at any rate life, intellectual development, thought, pulsation, fierce
collision of mind with mind, attrition of human passions and divine
faculties, out of which an elemental fire was created which flamed over the
civilized world, and has lighted the torches of civilization for centuries.
He who would study the _artes humaniores_ must turn of necessity to two
fountain heads; and he finds them in the trampled marketplaces of two
noisy, turbulent, unreasonable, pestilent little democratic cities,--Athens
and Florence. Extinguish the architecture and the sculpture, the poetry and
the philosophy of Attica; obliterate from the sum of civilization the names
of Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Machiavelli,--of Cimabue, Giotto, Leonardo
da Vinci, Brunelleschi, Michel Angelo,--of Brunetto, Ficino, Politian; and
how much diminished will be the remainder!
Nevertheless, it is in vain to look for any special seal set by the spirit
of liberty upon the artistic productions of the earlier age in Florence.
The works of the great painters bear the impress of the Church. If the
spirit of liberty be present at all, it is veiled and hooded by monastic
garments. But it should never be forgotten, that, in this age, the Church
embodied an element of liberty. The keys of Saint Peter were brandished
against the universal sceptre of the Suabians; cultivated intellect was
matched, and often successfully, against brutal violence. The Pope was the
rival of Caesar.
The first great painting in the Academy--to return from this digression--is
the famous Madonna of Cimabue. This picture is astonishing. Although
considered by many critics to manifest lingering traces of the Byzantine
bandages, it seems to us, on the contrary, to be wonderfully free from
stiffness and conventionality. The genius of Cimabue extricates itself at a
bound from the trammels of preceding systems, and flies vigorously towards
The Madonna is colossal. She wears a hood, and holds her child in her
arms. There is a strong human, yet spiritualized expression upon the face.
The drapery is gracefully arranged, not folded like mummy cloths; and the
color is strong and liberally laid on, without any attempt, however, at
transparency of shadow. There is little indication of the technical glories
of succeeding centuries. Perhaps the best part of the picture is in the
lower margin. Here are four heads of saints, painted with a breadth and
energy absolutely startling, when one recollects by whom and when they were
executed. Dominic Ghirlandaio, two hundred years later, could hardly have
put more masculine expression into a quartet of heads.
Giotto's Madonna is the pendant to that of Cimabue; but although painted
twenty-five years later, it shows less progress in art than might be
expected. Giotto's triumphs are to be found in the frescos of the
Santa Croce. In that unequalled series, the art-student recognizes,
almost at a glance, the power of the master. Largeness, rhythm, and
harmony of composition,--dramatic movement, and individual beauty of
expression,--heads which have brains, eyes which can smile, lips which can
speak, fluent limbs which can move, or remain in natural repose,--the whole
surrounded and inspired by that atmosphere of piety, that effluence of
religious ecstasy, which can never be imitated, and which came from the
unquestioning faith of the artist;--such wonders were for the first time
revealed by Giotto. The shepherd boy, whom Cimabue found drawing pictures
upon a stone in the open field, nobly repaid his patron and master, by
extending still farther the domain of art,--by throwing its doors wide open
to the cool breath of nature and the liberal sunshine. To pass from the
Byzantines into the school of Giotto is to come out from the catacombs into
the warm precincts of the cheerful day.
Of the pictures of the early part of the fifteenth century, none are
more worthy of attention in this collection than those of Fra Angelico
of Fiesole. (1387-1455.) Nevertheless, it seems no great progress from
Cimabue, Giotto, and Orgagna, whose compositions are so full of energetic
life and human passion, to these careful, gentle miniatures upon an
expanded scale. The Fra was a _miniatore_, after all,--a manuscript
illuminator of the first class. His effort to represent a descent from the
cross in a large and dramatic manner is feeble and flat. This flight seems
beyond his strength; and his waxy little wings, which sustained him so well
within his own sphere, melted at once in this higher region.
Far better is an exquisite little picture in his very best manner, a
work which hangs in the apartment De' Piccoli Quadri. This is a Judgment
Day, and a cheerful painting of its class. There is an old conceit, very
cleverly carried out through the whole composition, of representing all the
just made perfect as actually converted into little children. Kings with
crowns, popes, bishops, cardinals in hats and mitres, monks cowled and
robed in conventual habiliments, are all philandering together through
gardens of amaranth and asphodel towards the Grecian portico of heaven; and
all these fortunate personages, whether monarchs, priests, fine ladies, or
beggars, are depicted with perfectly infantine faces. To do this well lay
exactly in the quaint, delicate nature of the angelic Frater; and this
portion of the picture is most exquisitely handled. The other moiety, where
devils with rabbits' ears, tiger faces, and monkeys' tails, are forking
over the damned into frying-pans, while Satan devours them as fast as
cooked, is common-place and vulgar. At the same time, it is certain that
the whole composition shows much poetry of invention and delicacy of
Andrew Castagno's Magdalen, like Donatello's Wooden Statue of the same
penitent in the Baptistery, seems a female Robinson Crusoe,--hirsute,
cadaverous, fleshless, uncombed and uncomely,--certainly a more edifying
spectacle than the voluptuous, Titianesque exhibitions of fair frailty
which became the fashion afterwards.
Of Gentile da Fabriano, a very rare master, there hangs an Adoration of
the Magi, marked May, 1423. One always feels grateful to such of the
_Quattrocentisti_ as enlarged the sphere of artistic action, by going out
of the conventional circle of holy families, nativities, and entombments.
There is a dash about Gentile, a fresh, cavalier-like gentility, quite
surprising, and altogether his own. A showy, flippant frivolity in several
of the figures enlivens and refreshes us with its mundane sparkle and
energy. One of the three kings, in particular,--a young, well-dressed,
vivacious, _goguenard_-looking personage, with a very glittering pair of
spurs, which his groom is just unbuckling, while another holds a highly
bedizened war-horse, who is throwing up his head, showing all his teeth,
and crying ha, ha, with all his might,--has a very dramatic effect.
Of the Lippo Lippis, the Lorenzo di Credis, the Ghirlandaios, the
Peruginos, and the other great masters of the fifteenth century, of whom
are many masterpieces in this collection, there shall, for the present, not
a word be said.
There is also a portrait of Savonarola, by Fra Bartolommeo. The face is
neither impressive nor attractive. The head is shorn, except the monastic
coronal, and shows a small organ of benevolence, and a very large one
of self-esteem. The profile is not handsome,--the nose being regularly
aquiline, while the mouth is heavy with a projecting upper lip. A strong,
blue beard, closely shaven, but very visible, darkens and improves the
SANTA MARIA NOVELLA.
This church was so beloved by Michel Angelo as to be called his bride. It
must be confessed that the great artist was determined in his choice less
by the external charms than by the interior excellence of his _sposa_;
for although she has now got herself a new front and vamped herself up a
little, thus looking a trifle younger than she must have done three hundred
years ago, still she has any thing but a bridal or virginal aspect.
This church and monastery belong to the earlier German period of Italy,
if such a thing as Italian Gothic can be said to have ever existed. The
truth is, that with the exception of Milan cathedral, which is modern,
exotic, and exceptional, the German, or, to use the common and senseless
expression, the Gothic system of architecture never fairly took root in
Italy. Certainly, the pointed windows and arches of the Florence _duomo_
and its _campanile_ do not constitute it a Gothic church. The square
cornices, vast masses of wall, heavy pilasters, and, in general, the
horizontal outlines and heavy expression of all these churches, have
a character very remote from that of the airy, upspringing, fantastic
German architecture, in which every shaft, arch, vault-girdle, pillar,
window-frame, pinnacle, seems struggling and panting upward with an almost
audible eloquence. This is not the expression of the _duomo_ here. There
is no perpetual _Excelsior_ ringing from point, spire, and turret. On the
contrary, the grave, almost rigid aspect of the ancient _basilica_--the
Roman business-hall, compounded of Greek elements, and transformed into a
Grecian temple--is ever at work repressing that devotional ecstasy which
is the characteristic of the Gothic church. The Italian language in the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was like the Italian architecture of
the same period. The different intellectual manifestations, subjected to
the same influences, obeyed one general law. The conquering German mind
of the Dark Ages easily impressed itself where the soil was still virgin.
Throughout _savage_ Europe the dominion was yielded at once to the new
power which succeeded to the decrepit empire of Rome. Gaul, Germany,
Britain, Iberia obeyed instinctively the same impulse. The children born of
that vigorous embrace were of fresh and healthy beauty. The manifestations
of the German mind in the cathedrals of Paris, Cologne, Antwerp are
undimmed and unrivalled. The early German architecture in the actual realms
of Germany is as romantic, energetic, and edifying as its poetry at the
same epoch. A great German cathedral is a religious epic in stone. All the
ornaments, all the episodes, spring from and cluster around one central,
In Italy, on the other hand, the architecture of the so-called Gothic
period embodies a constant struggle between the ancient and the new-born
mind,--a contest in which the eventual triumph of the elder is already
foreshadowed, even while the new has apparently gained the ascendency. Why
was this? Because in Italy the German conquerors had invaded the land of
ancient culture, of settled and organized form. The world could not be
created _de novo_, as in the shaggy deserts of Hercynia and Belgica. The
seeds of human speech, planted in those vast wildernesses, sprouted readily
into new and luxuriant languages. English, Flemish, German, French spring
from German roots hidden in Celtic soil. The Latin element, afterwards
engrafted, is exotic, excrescent, and not vital to the organization. In
Italy, where a language, a grammar, a literature already existed in full
force, the German element was almost neutralized. The Goths could only
deface the noble language of Rome. They gave it auxiliary verbs,--that
feeblest form of assistance to human eloquence,--and they took away its
declensions. Architecture presented the same phenomenon. It submitted
to what seemed the German tyranny for a time, but it submitted
under a perpetual and visible protest. [Footnote: Compare Kugler,
_Kunstgeschichte_, pp. 590, 591.] The Gothic details in the _campanile_
and the _duomo_ look altogether extraneous and compulsory; they are not
assimilated into the constitution of the structure. The severe Roman
profile is marked as distinctly as ever, notwithstanding the foreign
ornaments which it has been forced to assume.
Santa Maria Novella, then, is as good a German Italian church as can be
found; but, for the reasons stated, it is not particularly interesting as a
piece of architecture. Its wealth is in its frescos. In the quadrangle
of the cloister is a series of pictures by Paolo Uccello, who, by the
introduction of linear perspective, of which he is esteemed the inventor,
made a new epoch in art. In the "chapel of the Spaniards" is a famous
collection of frescos by Giotto's scholars. A large, thoughtful, and
attractive composition is called the Wisdom of the Church. On the opposite
side is a very celebrated painting, entitled the Church Militant and
Triumphant; the militating and triumphing business being principally
confided to the dogs of the Lord,--_videlicet, Domini-canes_. A large
number of this dangerous fraternity is represented as a pack of
hounds, fighting, pulling, biting, and howling most vigorously in a
life-and-death-struggle with the wolves of heresy. In the centre of the
composition are introduced various portraits. These were thought for a
long time to represent Cimabue (in a white night-cap), Petrarch (in long
petticoats), Laura (in short ones), and various other celebrities. Vasari
is the original authority [Footnote: Vite da Vasari, ed. Lemonnier, 1846.
Sim. and Lippo Memmi, p. 90, and notes.] for this opinion, which has ceased
to be entertained by _cognoscenti_. It is also no longer believed that the
pictures are the work of Taddeo Gaddi and Simon Memmi. The _custode_ clings
to both delusions,--the portraits and the painters. Whether red Murray, and
that devoted band of English and Americans who follow his flag, patronize
the Vasari theory or more modern ones, we are at this moment unable to
By what subtile threads are international hearts bound together! Two great
nations have wrangled for a century; but they have a common property in
Shakspeare and Tupper,--and--most precious of all joint-possessions--in the
hand-books of Murray. We feel with one throb upon all aesthetic subjects.
We admire the same great works of art. We drop a tear upon exactly the same
spots, hallowed in ancient or modern history. The fraternity is absolute.
In the Strozzi chapel are an altar-piece and several wall-pictures by
Andrew Orgagna. They are not so grandly conceived as that wondrous
composition of his, the Triumph of Death, in the Pisan Campo Santo; but
they are additional proofs of his intense and Dante-like genius. No doubt
Dante influenced him deeply, as he did all his contemporaries, whose minds
were fertile enough to ripen such seed. The large picture on the left--a
view of paradise--is full of energetic and beautiful figures, combined with
much dramatic effect and great technical skill. The opposite pictures,
representing hell, were not by Andrew, but by Bernard Orgagna, a man of far
inferior calibre. They have, moreover, been entirely revamped.
In the choir are the renowned frescos of Dominic Ghirlandaio,--scenes from
the lives of John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary. These, however, are
but names and frames. The great merit of these paintings is that they were
the first, or among the first, to introduce the actual into the world
of conventional and conventual art. They form a series of full-length
portraits,--sometimes of celebrated contemporaries, as Politian, Marsilio
Ficino, and others,--but always of flesh-and-blood people, living, moving,
and having a being. That group of Platonists, with their looks of profound
wisdom and dogmatic eloquence, are lifting their forefingers, pricking up
their ears, opening their mouths, (each obviously interrupting the flow of
the others' rhetoric,) in most lifelike fashion. One almost catches the
winged syllogisms as they fly from lip to lip. We are almost drawn into
the dispute ourselves, and are disposed to ventilate a score of outrageous
paradoxes, for the mere satisfaction of contradicting such wiseacres. These
heads are painted with a vivacity and an energy worthy of the Dutch great
masters of the seventeenth century. In fact, there is something caught, no
doubt, from the early schools of Flanders; for Dominic was the contemporary
of the glorious masters protected by Philip the Good of Burgundy,--the only
good thing he ever did in his life,--the man who opened the road for that
long triumphant procession which for two centuries was to march through the
Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. There is no want, however, of historical
dignity in these compositions. Each one has a stately rhythm, an harmonious
grandeur of conception and execution, which, in connection with the
lifelike fidelity and unaffected beauty of the heads, stamp their creator
as a dramatic genius of a higher order than any of his contemporaries.
The Madonna of Cimabue, which hangs at the end of the south transept,
resembles the one in the Academy. In place of the powerful saints' heads,
is a group of angels of much grace and purity, supporting a shrine. This
picture is considered a bolder and more untrammelled composition than the
other. It is the world-renowned masterpiece of the thirteenth century,
which all Florence turned out in procession to honor when it left the
painter's hands; and which even Charles of Anjou, dripping in blood, and
stalking through the scenes of that great tragedy whose catastrophe was the
Sicilian vespers, paused on his way to admire.
In this church, which the admirers of Brunelleschi must study, are two
small, but most exquisite masterpieces of Lippo Lippi. All the works of
this most profligate of friars are tender and holy beyond description.
They have also that distinguishing charm of the Florentine school of the
fifteenth century, _naivete_,--a fresh, gentle, and loving appreciation
of the beautiful and the natural. It is evident that the Fra went through
the world with his eyes open, looking for beauty wherever it was visible;
and in his works, at least, there is no lingering trace of Byzantinism. A
scholar of Masaccio, of a far inferior mind both to Masaccio and Maselino,
and without the force of hand of either, he is still, more than both
together, the founder of the natural school of Florence.
One of his pictures is in this church,--a Madonna with the child on her
lap. The Christ is leaning forward and playing with a cross which the
infant Saint John holds in his hand. Nothing can be more suggestive or
touching than this prophetic infantile movement. Although the color of
the picture is rather feeble and washy, as frequently may be observed of
Lippo's paintings, the whole expression is bathed in purity and piety. Yet
the Fra was such an incorrigible _mauvais sujet_, that when he was employed
to decorate the _palazzo_ of Cosmo Vecchio, the _Pater Patriae_ was obliged
to lock up his artist in the chamber which he was painting. The holy man
was not easily impounded, however; for he cut his bedclothes into strips,
let himself into the street from an upper-story window, and departed on
his usual adventures; so that it was weeks before Cosmo could hear of his
[Concluded in the next Number.]
Whene'er a noble deed is wrought,
Whene'er is spoken a noble thought,
Our hearts, in glad surprise,
To higher levels rise.
The tidal wave of deeper souls
Into our inmost being rolls,
And lifts us unawares
Out of all meaner cares.
Honor to those whose words or deeds
Thus help us in our daily needs,
And by their overflow
Raise us from what is low!
Thus thought I, as by night I read
Of the great army of the dead,
The trenches cold and damp,
The starved and frozen camp,--
The wounded from the battle-plain,
In dreary hospitals of pain,
The cheerless corridors,
The cold and stony floors.
Lo! in that house of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
Pass through the glimmering gloom
And flit from room to room.
And slow, as in a dream of bliss,
The speechless sufferer turns to kiss
Her shadow, as it falls
Upon the darkening walls.
As if a door in heaven should be
Opened, and then closed suddenly,
The vision came and went,
The light shone and was spent.
On England's annals, through the long
Hereafter of her speech and song,
That light its rays shall cast
From portals of the past.
A lady with a lamp shall stand
In the great history of the land,
A noble type of good,
Nor even shall, be wanting here
The palm, the lily, and the spear,
The symbols that of yore
Saint Filomena bore.
SALLY PARSONS'S DUTY.
The sun that shines on eastern Massachusetts, specially on buttercups and
dandelions, and providentially on potatoes, looks down on no greener fields
in these days than it saw in the spring of 1775, fenced in and fenced off
by the zigzag snake-fences of 'Zekiel Parsons's farm.
"About this time," as almanacs say, young orchards were misty with buds,
red maples on the highway shone in the clear light, and a row of bright
tin pans at the shed door of the farm-house testified to a sturdy arm and
skilful hand within,--arm and hand both belonging to no less a person than
Miss Sally, 'Zekiel Parsons's only daughter, and the prettiest girl in
Westbury; a short, sturdy, rosy little maid, with hair like a ripe chestnut
shell, bright blue eyes full of mischief, and such a sunny, healthy,
common-sense character, one is almost afraid to tell of it, it is so out of
But of what use is it to describe her? How can I impress upon moderns how
enlivening and refreshing was her aspect, as she spun, or scoured pans, in
a linsey-woolsey petticoat and white short gown, wearing her pretty curls
in a crop? George Tucker knew it all without telling; and so did half a
dozen of the Westbury boys, who haunted the picket fence round 'Zekiel's
garden every moonlight night in summer, or scraped their feet by the half
hour together on his door-step in winter evenings. Sally was a belle; she
knew it and liked it, as every honest girl does;--and she would have been
a belle without the aid of her father's wide farm and pine-tree shillings;
for she was fresh and lovely, with a spice of coquetry, but a true woman's
heart beneath it all.
It was very hard to discover whom Sally Parsons favored among her numerous
beaux. Her father seriously inclined to George Tucker; not because he was
rich,--for 'Zekiel had not arrived at fashionable principles,--but because
he was honest, kind-hearted, and reliable; but as yet Sally showed no
decided preference; time and the hour were near, but not in sight.
One Sunday night, early in April, after the nine o'clock bell had scattered
Sally's admirers far and wide, and old 'Zekiel sat by the chimney corner,
watching his sister, Aunt Poll, rake up the rest of the hickory log in the
ashes, while he rubbed away sturdily at his feet, holding in one hand the
blue yarn stockings, "wrought by no hand, as you may guess," but that of
Sally; the talk, that had momentarily died away, began again, and with a
glance at Long Snapps,--a lank, shrewd-faced old sailor, who, to use his
own speech, had "cast anchor 'longside of an old ship-met fur a spell,
bein' bound fur his own cabin up in Lenox,"--'Zekiel spoke after this
"I expect, Long, you sailors hev a drefful hard, onsartain time navigatin',
"Well, skipper! that are depen's on folks. I don't calk'late to hev no sort
of a hard time, ef I don't get riled with it; but these times I doo rile
"What onsettles ye, Snapps?"
"Well, there's a squall to wind'ard, skipper; 'ta'n't no cat's-paw neither;
good no-no-east, ef it's a flaw. And you landlubbers are a-goin' to
leeward, some on ye."
"You don't say! what be you a hintin' at?"
"Well, there's a reel blow down to Bostin, Zekle; there's no more gettin'
out o' harbour with our old sloop; she's ben an' gone, an' got some 'tarnal
lawyer's job spliced to her bows, an' she's laid up to dry; but that's
a pesky small part o' judgment. Bostin's full o' them Britishers, sech
as scomfishkated the Susan Jane, cos our skipper done suthin' he hedn't
oughter, or didn't do suthin' he hed oughter; and I tell _yew_ the end o'
things is nigh about comin' on here!"
Sally, in the chimney corner, heard Long Snapps with open eyes, and
hitching her wooden chair nearer, inquired solemnly,--
"What do you mean, Mister Snapps? Is the end of the world comin' here?"
"Bless your pooty little figger-head, Sally! I don't know as 'tis, but
suthin' nigh about as bad is a-comin. Them Britishers is sot out for to hev
us under hatches, or else walk the plank; and they're darned mistook, ef
they think men is a-goin' to be steered blind, and can't blow up the cap'en
no rate. There a'n't no man in Ameriky but what's got suthin' to fight for,
afore he'll gin in to sech tyrints; and it'll come to fightin', yet, afore
"Oh my! oh goody! the land's sakes! yew don't mean ter say that, Long?"
wofully screeched Aunt Poll, whose ideas of war were derived in great
measure from the tattered copy of Josephus extant in the Parsons family;
and who was at present calculating the probable effect of a battering-ram
on their back buttery, and thinking how horrid it would be to eat up Uncle
'Zekiel in case of famine,--even after long courses of rats and dogs.
"Well, I dew, Aunt Poll; there'll be some poppin' an' stickin' done in
these parts, afore long!"
"The Lord deliver us! an' the rest on't!" devoutly ejaculated Poll, whose
piety exceeded her memory; whereat 'Zekiel, pulling on the other blue
stocking that had hung suspended in his fingers, while the sailor
discoursed, exhorted a little himself.
"Well, the Lord don't deliver nobody, without they wriggle for themselves
pretty consider'ble well fust. This a'n't the newest news to me; I've been
expectin' on't a long spell, an' I've talked consider'ble with Westbury
folks about it; and there a'n't nobody much, round about here, but what'll
stand out agin the Britishers, exceptin' Tucker's folks; they're desp'rit
for Church an' King; they tell as ef the Lord gin the king a special
license to set up in a big chair an' rewl creation; an' they think it's
perticular sin to speak as though he could go 'skew anyhow. Now I believe
the Lord lets folks find out what He does, out o' Scriptur; and I han't
found nothin' yet to tell about kings bein' better than their neighbours,
and it don't look as ef this king was so clever as common. I s'pose you
ha'n't heerd what our Colony Congress is a-doin', hev ye, Snapps?"
"Well, no, I ha'n't. They was a-layin' to, last I heerd, so's to settle
their course, I 'xpect they've heaved up an' let go by this, but I han't
seen no signals."
"Dear me!" interrupted Sally, "a real war coming! and I a'n't any thing but
Her cheeks and eyes glowed with fervent feeling, as she said this; and the
old sailor, turning round, surveyed her with a grin of honest admiration.
"Well said, gal! but you're out o' your reckonin', ef you think women a'n't
nothin' in war-time. I tell _yew_, them is the craft that sails afore the
wind, and docs the signallin' to all the fleet. When gals is full-rigged
an' tonguey, they're reg'lar press-gangs to twist young fellers round, an'
make 'em sail under the right colors. Stick to the ship, Miss Sally; give
a heave at the windlass now'n then, an' don't let nary one o' them fellers
that comes a buzzin' round you the hull time turn his back on Yankee
Doodle; an' you won't never hanker to be a man, ef 'tis war-time!"
Sally's eyes burned bluer than before. "Thank you kindly, Mister Snapps.
I'm obleeged to you for putting the good thought into my head. (If I don't
pester George Tucker! the plaguy Tory!)"
This parenthesis was mental, and Sally went off to bed with a busy brain;
but the sleep of youth and health quieted it; and if she dreamed of
George Tucker in regimentals, I am afraid they were of flagrant militia
scarlet;--the buff and blue were not distinctive yet. However, for the next
week Sally heard enough revolutionary doctrine to revive her Sunday-night
enthusiasm; the flame of "successful rebellion" had spread; the country
began to stir and hum ominously; people assembled in groups, on corners,
by church steps, around tavern-doors, with faces full of portent and
expectance; ploughs stood idly in the fields; and the raw-boned horses,
that should of right have dragged the reluctant share through heavy clay
and abounding stones, now, bestridden by breathless couriers, scoured the
country hither and yon, with news, messages, and orders from those who had
taken the right to order out of the hands of sleek and positive officials.
Nor were Westbury people the last to wake up in the general _reveille_.
Everybody in the pretty, tranquil village, tranquil now no more, declared
themselves openly on one side or the other;--Peter Tucker and his son
George for the king, of course; and this open avowal caused a sufficiently
pungent scene in Miss Sally Parsons's keeping-room the very next Sunday
night, when the aforesaid George, in company with several of his peers,
visited the farm-house for the laudable purpose of "sparkin'" Miss Sally.
There were three other youths there, besides George; all stout for the
Continental side of the question, and full of eager but restrained zeal;
ready to take up arms at a moment's notice; equally ready to wait for the
ripened time. Of such men were those armies made up that endured with a
woman's patience and fought with a man's fury, righting a great wrong as
much by moral as by physical strength, and going to death for the right,
when death, pitiless and inevitable, stared them in the face.
Long Snapps had been, in his own phrase, "weather-bound" at Westbury, and
was there still, safe in the chimney-corner, his shrewd face puckered
with thought and care, his steady old heart full of resolute bravery, and
longing for the time to come; flint and steel ready to strike fire on the
slightest collision. On the other side of the hearth from Snapps sat Zekle
in his butternut-colored Sunday suit; the four young men ranged in a grim
row of high-backed wooden chairs; Sally, blooming as the roses on her
chintz gown, occupying one end of the settle, while Aunt Poll filled the
rest of that institution with her ample quilted petticoat and paduasoy
cloak, trying hard to keep her hands still, in their unaccustomed
idleness,--nay, if it must be told, surreptitiously keeping up a knitting
with the fingers, in lieu of the accustomed needles and yarn.
An awful silence reigned after the preliminary bows and scrapes had been
achieved,--first broken by George Tucker, who drew from under his chair a
small basket of red-cheeked apples and handed them to Aunt Poll.
"Well, now, George Tucker!" exclaimed the benign spinster, "you dew beat
all for sass out o' season! Kep 'em down sullar, I expect?"
"Yes'm, our sullar's very dry."
"Well, it hed oughter. What kind be they?"
"English pippins, ma'am."
"Dew tell! be you a-goin to hev one, Sally?"
"No, Aunt Poll! I don't want any thin' English 'round!"
The three young men grinned and chuckled. George Tucker turned red.
"Hooray for you, Sally!" sung out old Snapps. "You're a three-decker, ef
ever there was 'un!"
Again George reddened, fidgeted on his chair, and at last said, in a
disturbed, but quite distinct voice,--
"I think the apples are good, Miss Sally, if the name don't suit you."
"The name's too bad to be good, sir!" retorted Sally, with a decided sniff
and toss of the head. Old Zekle gave a low laugh and interfered.
"You see, George Tucker, these here times is curus! It wakes up the wimmen
folks to hev no tea, nor no prospects of peace an' quiet, so's to make
butter an' set hens."
"Oh, father!" burst out Sally, "do you think that's all that ails women? I
wouldn't care if I eat samp forever, and had nothing but saxifrax tea; but
I can't stand by cool, and sec men driven like dumb beasts by another man,
if he has got a crown, and never be let speak for themselves!"
Sally's logic was rather confused, but George got at the idea as fast as
"If 'twas a common man, Miss Sally; but a king's set up on high by the
Lord, and we ought to obey what He sets over us."
"I don't see where in Scriptur you get that idee, George," retorted Zekle.
"Well, it says in one place you're to obey them that has the rule over you,
"So it do; but ef the king ha'n't got no rewl over us, (an' it looks mighty
like it jes' now,) why, I don't see's we're bound to mind him!"
This astute little sophism confounded poor George for a minute, during
which Sally began to giggle violently, and flirt in her rustic fashion
with the three rebels in a row. At length George, recovering his poise and
"But he did rule over us, Mister Parsons, and I can't see how it's right to
"There don't everythin' come jest square about seein' things," interposed
Long Snapps; "folks hed better steer by facts sometimes, than by yarns.
It's jest like v'yagin'; yew do'no' sumtimes what's to pay with a compass;
it'll go all p'ints to once; mebbe somebody's got a hatchet near by, or
some lubber's throwed a chain down by the binnacle, or some darned thing's
got inside on't, or it's shipped a sea an' got rusted; but there's allers
the Dipper an' the North Star; they're allers true to their bearin's,
and you can't go to Davy Jones's locker for want of a light'us so long's
they're ahead. I calk'late its jes' so about this king-talk; orders is very
well when they a'n't agin common sense an' the rights o' natur; but you
see, George Tucker, folks will go 'cordin to natur an' reason, ef there's
forty parlamints an' kings in tow. Natur's jest like a no'west squall; you
can't do nothin' but tack ag'inst it; and no men is goin' to stan' still
and see the wind taken out o' their sails, an' their liberty flung to
sharks, without one mutiny to know why!"
"No!" burst out Sally, who had stopped flirting, and been listening with
soul and body to Long; "and no man, that _is_ a man, will go against the
right and the truth just because the wrong is strongest!"
This little feminine insult was too much for George Tucker, particularly as
he had not the least idea how its utterance burned Sally's lips, and made
her heart ache. He got up from his chair with a very bitter look on his
"I see," said he, quite coldly, "I am likely to be scarce welcome here. I
believe the king is my master, made so by the Lord, and I think it is my
honest duty to obey him. It hurts me to part otherwise than kind with
friends; but I wish you a good night, and better judgment."
There was something so manly in George's speech, that, but for its final
fling and personality, every man in the room would have crowded round him
to shake hands; but what man ever coolly heard his judgment impeached?
Sally swallowed a great round sob; but being, like all women, an actress in
her way, bowed as calmly to Mr. George as if he only said adieu, after an
Aunt Poll snuffled, and followed George to the door; Uncle Zekle drew
himself up straight, and looked after him, his clear blue eyes sparkling
with two rays,--one of honest patriotic wrath, one of affection and regret
for George; while Long, from the corner, eyed all with a serpent's wisdom
in his gaze, oracularly uttering, as the door shut,--
"Well, that 'are feller is good grit!"
"All the worse for us!" growled Eliashib Sparks, the biggest of the three,
surprising Sally into a little hysterical laugh, and surprised himself
still more at this unexpected sequence to his remark.
"Pooty bad! George is a clever fellow!" ejaculated Zekle. "He han't got the
rights on't, but I think he'll come round by'n by."
"I do'no'," said Long, meditatively; "he's pooty stiff, that 'are feller.
He's sot on dooty, I see; an' that means suthin', when a man that oughter
be called a man sez it. Wimmin-folks, now, don't sail on that tack. When
a gal sets to talkin' about her dooty, it's allers suthin' she wants ter
do and han't got no grand excuse for't. Ye never see a woman't didn't get
married for dooty yet; there a'n't nary one on 'em darst to say they wanted
"Oh! Mister Long!" exclaimed Sally.
"Well, Sally, it's nigh about so; you han't lived a hunderd year. Some o'
these days you'll get to know yer dooty."
Sally turned red, and the three young men sniggered. Forgive the word,
gentle and fair readers! it means what I mean, and no other word expresses
it; let us be graphic and die!
Just then the meeting-house bell rang for nine o'clock; and every man got
up from his seat, like a son of Anak, bowed, scraped, cleared his throat to
say "Goodnight," did say something like it, and left.
"Well, Sally, I swear you're good at signallin'," broke out Long, as soon
as the youths were fairly out of sight and sound; "you hev done it for
Sally gave no answer, but a brand from the back-log fell, blazed up in a
shaft of rosy flame, and showed a suspicious glitter on the girl's round,
wholesome cheek. Aunt Poll had gone to bed; Zekle was going the nightly
rounds of his barns, to see to the stock; Long Snapps was aware of
opportunity, the secret of success.
"Sally," said he, "is that feller sparkin' you?"
Sally laughed a little, and something, perhaps the blaze, reddened her
"I don't know," said the pretty hypocrite, demurely.
"H'm! well, I do," answered Long; "and you a'n't never goin' to take up
with a Tory? don't think it's yer dooty, hey?"
"No indeed!" flashed Sally. "Do you think I'd marry a Britisher? I'd run
away and live with the Indians first."
"Pooty good! pooty good! you're calk'lating to make George into a rebel, I
Long was looking into the fire when he said this; he did not see Sally's
look of rage and amazement at his unpleasant penetration.
"I'm sure I don't care what George Tucker thinks," said she, with a toss of
her curly head.
"H'm!" uttered Long, meditatively, "lucky! I 'xpect he carries too many
guns to be steered by a woman; 'tis a kinder pity you a'n't a man, Sally;
mebbe you'd argufy him round then; it's plain as the Gulf you can't crook
his v'yage; he's too stiff for wimmin-folks, that is a fact!"
Oh, Long Snapps! Long Snapps! how many wives, in how many ports, went to
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