This was a proud fellow, self-trusting, sensitive, with family-recollections that made him unwilling to accept the kind of aid which many students—would have thankfully welcomed. I knew him too well to urge him, after the few words which implied that he was determined to go. Besides, I have great confidence in young men who believe in themselves, and are accustomed to rely on their own resources from an early period. When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the World, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it come off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away timid adventurers. I have seen young men more than once, who came to a great city without a single friend, support themselves and pay for their education, lay up money in a few years, grow rich enough to travel, and establish themselves in life, without ever asking a dollar of any person which they had not earned. But these are exceptional cases. There are horse-tamers, born so, as we all know; there are woman-tamers who bewitch the sex as the pied piper bedeviled the children of Hamelin; and there are world-tamers, who can make any community, even a Yankee one, get down and let them jump on its back as easily as Mr. Rarey saddled Cruiser.
Whether Langdon was of this sort or not I could not say positively; but he had spirit, and, as I have said, a family-pride which would not let him be dependent. The New England Brahmin caste often gets blended with connections of political influence or commercial distinction. It is a charming thing for the scholar, when his fortune carries him in this way into some of the "old families" who have fine old houses, and city-lots that have risen in the market, and names written in all the stock-books of all the dividend-paying companies. His narrow study expands into a stately library, his books are counted by thousands instead of hundreds, and his favorites are dressed in gilded calf in place of plebeian sheepskin or its pauper substitutes of cloth and paper.
The Reverend Jedediah Langdon, grandfather of our young gentleman, had made an advantageous alliance of this kind. Miss Dorothea Wentworth had read one of his sermons which had been printed "by request," and became deeply interested in the young author, whom she had never seen. Out of this circumstance grew a correspondence, an interview, a declaration, a matrimonial alliance, and a family of half a dozen children. Wentworth Langdon, Esquire, was the oldest of these, and lived in the old family-mansion. Unfortunately, that principle of the diminution of estates by division, to which I have referred, rendered it somewhat difficult to maintain the establishment upon the fractional income which the proprietor received from his share of the property. Wentworth Langdon, Esq., represented a certain intermediate condition of life not at all infrequent in our old families. He was the connecting link between the generation which lived in ease, and even a kind of state, upon its own resources, and the new brood, which must live mainly by its wits or industry, and make itself rich, or shabbily subside into that lower stratum known to social geologists by a deposit of Kidderminster carpets and the peculiar aspect of the fossils constituting the family furniture and wardrobe. This slack-water period of a race, which comes before the rapid ebb of its prosperity, is familiar to all who live in cities. There are no more quiet, inoffensive people than these children of rich families, just above the necessity of active employment, yet not in a condition to place their own children advantageously, if they happen to have families. Many of them are content to live unmarried. Some mend their broken fortunes by prudent alliances, and some leave a numerous progeny to pass into the obscurity from which their ancestors emerged; so that you may see on hand-carts and cobblers' stalls names which, a few generations back, were upon parchments with broad seals, and tombstones with armorial bearings.
In a large city, this class of citizens are familiar to us in the streets. They are very courteous in their salutations; they have time enough to bow and take their hats off,—which, of course, no business-man can afford to do. Their beavers are smoothly brushed, and their boots well polished; all their appointments are tidy; they look the respectable walking gentleman to perfection. They are prone to habits,—to frequent reading-rooms, insurance-offices,—to walk the same streets at the same hours,—so that one becomes familiar with their faces and persons, as a part of the street-furniture.
There is one curious circumstance, that all city-people must have noticed, which is often illustrated in our experience of the slack-water gentry. We shall know a certain person by his looks, familiarly, for years, but never have learned his name. About this person we shall have accumulated no little circumstantial knowledge;—thus, his face, figure, gait, his mode of dressing, of saluting, perhaps even of speaking, may be familiar to us; yet who he is we know not. In another department of our consciousness, there is a very familiar name, which we have never found the person to match. We have heard it so often, that it has idealized itself, and become one of that multitude of permanent shapes which walk the chambers of the brain in velvet slippers in the company of Falstaff and Hamlet and General Washington and Mr. Pickwick. Sometimes the person dies, but the name lives on indefinitely. But now and then it happens, perhaps after years of this independent existence of the name and its shadowy image in the brain, on the one part, and the person and all its real attributes, as we see them daily, on the other, that some accident reveals their relation, and we find the name we have carried so long in our memory belongs to the person we have known so long as a fellow-citizen. Now the slack-water gentry are among the persons most likely to be the subjects of this curious divorce of title and reality,—for the reason, that, playing no important part in the community, there is nothing to tie the floating name to the actual individual, as is the case with the men who belong in any way to the public, while yet their names have a certain historical currency, and we cannot help meeting them, either in their haunts, or going to and from them.
To this class belonged Wentworth Langdon, Esq. He had been "dead-headed" into the world some fifty years ago, and had sat with his hands in his pockets staring at the show ever since. I shall not tell you, for reasons before hinted, the whole name of the place in which he lived. I will only point you in the right direction, by saying that there are three towns lying in a line with each other, as you go "down East," each of them with a Port in its name, and each of them having a peculiar interest which gives it individuality, in addition to the Oriental character they have in common. I need not tell you that these towns are Newburyport, Portsmouth, and Portland. The Oriental character they have in common consists in their large, square, palatial mansions, with sunny gardens round them. The two first have seen better days. They are in perfect harmony with the condition of weakened, but not impoverished, gentility. Each of them is a "paradise of demi-fortunes." Each of them is of that intermediate size between a village and a city which any place has outgrown when the presence of a well-dressed stranger walking up and down the main street ceases to be a matter of public curiosity and private speculation, as frequently happens, during the busier months of the year, in considerable commercial centres like Salem. They both have grand old recollections to fall back upon,—times when they looked forward to commercial greatness, and when the portly gentlemen in cocked hats, who built their decaying wharves and sent out their ships all over the world, dreamed that their fast-growing port was to be the Tyre or the Carthage of the rich British Colony. Great houses, like Lord Timothy Dexter's, in Newburyport, remain as evidence of the fortunes amassed in these places of old. Other mansions—like the Rockingham House in Portsmouth (look at the white horse's tail before you mount the broad staircase) show that there was not only wealth, but style and state, in these quiet old towns during the last century. It is not with any thought of pity or depreciation that we speak of them as in a certain sense decayed towns; they did not fulfil their early promise of expansion, but they remain incomparably the most interesting places of their size in any of the three northernmost New England States. They have even now prosperity enough to keep them in good condition, and offer the most attractive residences for quiet families, which, if they had been English, would have lived in a palazzo at Genoa or Pisa, or some other Continental Newburyport or Portsmouth.
As for the last of the three Ports, or Portland, it is getting too prosperous to be as attractive as its less northerly neighbors. Meant for a fine old town, to ripen like a Cheshire cheese within its walls of ancient rind, burrowed by crooked alleys and mottled with venerable mould, it seems likely to sacrifice its mellow future to a vulgar material prosperity. Still it remains invested with many of its old charms, as yet, and will forfeit its place among this admirable trio only when it gets a hotel with unequivocal marks of having been built and organized in the present century.
——It was one of the old square palaces of the North, in which Bernard Langdon, the son of Wentworth, was born. If he had had the luck to be an only child, he might have lived as his father had done, letting his meagre competence smoulder on almost without consuming, like the fuel in an air-tight stove. But after Master Bernard came Miss Dorothea Wentworth Langdon, and then Master William Pepperell Langdon, and others, equally well named,—a string of them, looking, when they stood in a row in prayer-time, as if they would fit a set of Pandean pipes, of from three feet upward in dimensions. The door of the air-tight store has to be opened, under such circumstances, you may well suppose! So it happened that our young man had been obliged, from an early period, to do something to support himself, and found himself stopped short in his studies by the inability of the good people at home to furnish him the present means of support as a student.
You will understand now why the young man wanted me to give him a certificate of his fitness to teach, and why. I did not choose to urge him to accept the aid which a meek country-boy from a family without ante-Revolutionary recollections would have thankfully received. Go he must,—that was plain enough. He would not be content otherwise. He was not, however, to give up his studies; and as it is customary to allow half-time to students engaged in school-keeping,—that is, to count a year, so employed, if the student also keep on with his professional studies, as equal to six months of the three years he is expected to be under an instructor before applying for his degree,—he would not necessarily lose more than a few months of time. He had a small library of professional books, which he could take with him.
So he left my teaching and that of my estimable colleagues, carrying with him my certificate, that Mr. Bernard C. Langdon was a young gentleman of excellent moral character, of high intelligence and good education, and that his services would be of great value in any school, academy, or other institution, where young persons of either sex were to be instructed.
I confess, that expression, "either sex," ran a little thick, as I may say, from my pen. For, although the young man bore a very fair character, and there was no special cause for doubting his discretion, I considered him altogether too good-looking, in the first place, to be let loose in a room-full of young girls. I didn't want him to fall in love just then,—and if half a dozen girls fell in love with him, as they most assuredly would, if brought into too near relations with him, why, there was no telling what gratitude and natural sensibility might bring about.
Certificates are, for the most part, like ostrich-eggs; the giver never knows what is hatched out of them. But once in a thousand times they act as curses are said to,—come home to roost. Give them often enough, until it gets to be a mechanical business, and, some day or other, you will get caught warranting somebody's ice not to melt in any climate, or somebody's razors to be safe in the hands of the youngest children.
I had an uneasy feeling, after giving this certificate. It might be all right enough; but if it happened to end badly, I should always reproach myself. There was a chance, certainly, that it would lead him or others into danger or wretchedness. Any one who looked at this young man could not fail to see that he was capable of fascinating and being fascinated. Those large, dark eyes of his would sink into the white soul of a young girl as the black cloth sunk into the snow in Franklin's famous experiment. Or, on the other hand, if the rays of a passionate nature should ever be concentrated on them, they would be absorbed into the very depths of his nature, and then his blood would turn to flame and burn his life out of him, until his cheeks grew as white as the ashes that cover a burning coal.
I wish I had not said either sex in my certificate. An academy for young gentlemen, now; that sounds cool and unimaginative. A boys' school; that would be a very good place for him;—some of them are pretty rough, but there is nerve enough in that old Wentworth blood; he can give any country fellow, of the common stock, twenty pounds, and hit him out of time in ten minutes. But to send such a young fellow as that out a girl's-nesting! to give this falcon a free pass into all the dove-cotes! I was a fool,—that's all.
I brooded over the mischief which might come out of these two words until it seemed to me that they were charged with destiny. I could hardly sleep for thinking what a train I might have been laying, which might take a spark any day, and blow up nobody knows whose peace or prospects. What I dreaded most was one of those miserable matrimonial misalliances where a young fellow who does not know himself as yet flings his magnificent future into the checked apron-lap of some fresh-faced, half-bred country-girl, no more fit to be mated with him than her father's horse to go in double harness with Flora Temple. To think of the eagle's wings being clipped so that he shall not ever lift himself over the farm-yard fence! Such things happen, and always must,—because, as one of us said awhile ago, a man always loves a woman, and a woman a man, unless some good reason exists to the contrary. You think yourself a very fastidious young man, my friend; but there are probably at least five thousand young women in these United States, any one of whom you would certainly marry, if you were thrown much into her company, and nobody more attractive were near, and she had no objection. And you, my dear young lady, justly pride yourself on your discerning delicacy; but if I should say that there are twenty thousand young men, any one of whom, if he offered his hand and heart under favorable circumstances, you would
"First endure, then pity, then embrace,"
I should be much more imprudent than I mean to be, and you would, no doubt, throw down a story in which I hope to interest you.
I had settled it in my mind that this young fellow had a career marked out for him. He should begin in the natural way, by taking care of poor patients in one of the public charities, and work his way up to a better kind of practice,—better, that is, in the vulgar, worldly sense. The great and good Boerhaave used to say, as I remember very well, that the poor were his best patients; for God was their paymaster. But everybody is not as patient as Boerhaave, nor as deserving; so that the rich, though not, perhaps, the best patients, are good enough for common practitioners. I suppose Boerhaave put up with them when he could not get poor ones, as he left his daughter two millions of florins when he died.
Now if this young man once got into the wide streets, he would sweep them clear of his rivals of the same standing; and as I was getting indifferent to business, and old Dr. Kilham was growing careless, and had once or twice prescribed morphine when he meant quinine, there would soon he an opening into the Doctors' Paradise,—the streets with only one side to them. Then I would have him strike a bold stroke,—set up a nice little coach, and be driven round like a London first-class doctor, instead of coasting about in a shabby one-horse concern and casting anchor opposite his patients' doors like a Cape-Ann fishing-smack. By the time he was thirty, he would have knocked the social pawns out of his way, and be ready to challenge a wife from the row of great pieces in the background. I would not have a man marry above his level, so as to become the appendage of a powerful family-connection; but I would not have him marry until he knew his level,—that is, again, looking at the matter in a purely worldly point of view, and not taking the sentiments at all into consideration. But remember, that a young man, using large endowments wisely and fortunately, may put himself on a level with the highest in the land in ten brilliant years of spirited, unflagging labor. And even to stand at the very top of your calling in a great city is something,—that is, if you like money and influence, and a seat on the platform at public lectures, and gratuitous tickets to all sorts of places where you don't want to go, and, what is a good deal better than any of these things, a sense of power, limited, it may be, but absolute in its range, so that all the Caesars and Napoleons would have to stand aside, if they came between you and the exercise of your special vocation.
That is what I thought this young fellow might have come to; and now I have let him go off into the country with my certificate, that he is fit to teach in a school for either sex! Ten to one he will run like a moth into a candle, right into one of those girls'-nests, and get tangled up in some sentimental folly or other, and there will be the end of him. Oh, yes! country doctor,—half a dollar a visit,—ride, ride, ride all day,—get up at night and harness your own horse,—ride again ten miles in a snow-storm,—shake powders out of two phials, (pulv. glycyrrhiz., pulv. gum. acac. aa: partes equates,)—ride back again, if you don't happen to get stuck in a drift,—no home, no peace, no continuous meals, no unbroken sleep, no Sunday, no holiday, no social intercourse, but one eternal jog, jog, jog, in a sulky, until you feel like the mummy of an Indian who had been buried in the sitting posture, and was dug up a hundred years afterwards! "Why didn't I warn him about love and all that nonsense?" Why didn't I tell him he had nothing to do with it, yet awhile? Why didn't I hold up to him those awful examples I could have cited, where poor young fellows that could just keep themselves afloat have hung a matrimonial millstone round their necks, taking it for a life-preserver?
All this of two words in a certificate!
Through the silent streets of the city, In the night's unbusy noon, Up and down in the pallor Of the languid summer moon,
I wander and think of the village, And the house in the maple-gloom, And the porch with the honeysuckles And the sweet-brier all abloom.
My soul is sick with the fragrance Of the dewy sweet-brier's breath: Oh, darling! the house is empty, And lonesomer than death!
If I call, no one will answer; If I knock, no one will come;— The feet are at rest forever, And the lips are cold and dumb.
The summer moon is shining So wan and large and still, And the weary dead are sleeping In the graveyard under the hill.
We looked at the wide, white circle Around the autumn moon, And talked of the change of weather,— It would rain, to-morrow, or soon.
And the rain came on the morrow, And beat the dying leaves From the shuddering boughs of the maples Into the flooded eaves.
The clouds wept out their sorrow; But in my heart the tears Are bitter for want of weeping, In all these autumn years.
It is sweet to lie awake musing On all she has said and done, To dwell on the words she uttered, To feast on the smiles I won,
To think with what passion at parting She gave me my kisses again,— Dear adieux, and tears and caresses,— Oh, love! was it joy or pain?
To brood, with a foolish rapture, On the thought that it must be My darling this moment is waking With tenderest thoughts of me!
O sleep I are thy dreams any sweeter? I linger before thy gate: We must enter at it together, And my love is loath and late.
The bobolink sings in the meadow, The wren in the cherry-tree: Come hither, thou little maiden, And sit upon my knee;
And I will tell thee a story I read in a book of rhyme;— I will but feign that it happened To me, one summer-time,
When we walked through the meadow, And she and I were young;— The story is old and weary With being said and sung.
The story is old and weary;— Ah, child! is it known to thee? Who was it that last night kissed thee Under the cherry-tree?
Like a bird of evil presage, To the lonely house on the shore Came the wind with a tale of shipwreck, And shrieked at the bolted door,
And flapped its wings in the gables, And shouted the well-known names, And buffeted the windows Afeard in their shuddering frames.
It was night, and it is daytime,— The morning sun is bland, The white-cap waves come rocking, rocking, In to the smiling land.
The white-cap waves come rocking, rocking, In the sun so soft and bright, And toss and play with the dead man Drowned in the storm last night.
I remember the burning brushwood, Glimmering all day long Yellow and weak in the sunlight, Now leaped up red and strong,
And fired the old dead chestnut, That all our years had stood, Gaunt and gray and ghostly, Apart from the sombre wood;
And, flushed with sudden summer, The leafless boughs on high Blossomed in dreadful beauty Against the darkened sky.
We children sat telling stories, And boasting what we should be, When we were men like our fathers, And watched the blazing tree,
That showered its fiery blossoms, Like a rain of stars, we said, Of crimson and azure and purple. That night, when I lay in bed,
I could not sleep for seeing, Whenever I closed my eyes, The tree in its dazzling splendor Against the darkened skies.
I cannot sleep for seeing, With closed eyes to-night, The tree in its dazzling splendor Dropping its blossoms bright;
And old, old dreams of childhood Come thronging my weary brain. Dear foolish beliefs and longings;— I doubt, are they real again?
It is nothing, and nothing, and nothing, That I either think or see;— The phantoms of dead illusions To-night are haunting me.
CENTRAL BRITISH AMERICA.
Even before the announcement of the discovery of gold upon the Frazer River and its tributaries, the people of Canada West had induced the Parliament of England to institute the inquiry, whether the region of British America, extending from Lakes Superior and Winnipeg to the Rocky Mountains, is not adapted by fertility of soil, a favorable climate, and natural advantages of internal communication, for the support of a prosperous colony of England.
The Parliamentary investigation had a wider scope. The select committee of the House of Commons was appointed "to consider the state of those British possessions in North America which are under the administration of the Hudson Bay Company, or over which they possess a license to trade"; and therefore witnesses were called to the organization and management of the Company itself, as well as the natural features of the country under its administration.
On the 31st of July, 1857, the committee reported a large body of testimony, but without any decisive recommendations. They "apprehend that the districts on the Red River and the Saskatchewan are among those most likely to be desired for early occupation," and "trust that there will be no difficulty in effecting arrangements between her Majesty's government and the Hudson Bay Company, by which those districts may be ceded to Canada on equitable principles, and within the districts thus annexed to her the authority of the Hudson Bay Company would of course entirely cease." They deemed it "proper to terminate the connection of the Hudson Bay Company with Vancouver Island as soon as it could conveniently be done, as the best means of favoring the development of the great natural advantages of that important colony; and that means should also be provided for the ultimate extension of the colony over any portion of the adjacent continent, to the west of the Rocky Mountains, on which permanent settlement may be found practicable."
These suggestions indicate a conviction that the zone of the North American continent between latitudes 49 deg. and 55 deg., embracing the Red River and the Saskatchewan districts, east of the Rocky Mountains, and the area on their western slope, since organized as British Columbia, was, in the judgment of the committee, suitable for permanent settlement. As to the territory north of the parallel of 55 deg., an opinion was intimated, that the organization of the Hudson's Bay Company was best adapted to the condition of the country and its inhabitants.
Within a year after the publication of this report, a great change passed over the North Pacific coast. The gold discovery on Frazer's River occurred; the Pacific populations flamed with excitement; British Columbia was promptly organized as a colony of England; and, amid the acclamations of Parliament and people, Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton proclaimed, in the name of the government, the policy of continuous colonies from Lake Superior to the Pacific, and a highway across British America, as the most direct route from London to Pekin or Jeddo.
The eastern boundary of British Columbia was fixed upon the Rocky Mountains. The question recurred, with great force, What shall be the destiny of the fertile plains of the Saskatchewan and the Red River of the North? Canada pushed forward an exploration of the route from Fort William, on Lake Superior, to Fort Garry, on the Red River, and, under the direction of S.J. Dawson, Esq., civil engineer, and Professor J.Y. Hinde, gave to the world an impartial and impressive summary of the great natural resources of the basin of Lake Winnipeg. The merchants of New York were prompt to perceive the advantages of connecting the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes—with the navigable channels of Northwest America, now become prominent and familiar designations of commercial geography. A report to the New York Chamber of Commerce very distinctly corrected the erroneous impression, that the valleys of the Mississippi and St. Lawrence rivers exhausted the northern and central areas which are available for agriculture. "There is in the heart of North America," said the report, "a distinct subdivision, of which Lake Winnipeg may be regarded as the centre. This subdivision, like the valley of the Mississippi, is distinguished for the fertility of its soil, and for the extent and gentle slope of its great plains, watered by rivers of great length, and admirably adapted for steam-navigation. It has a climate not exceeding in severity that of many portions of Canada and the Eastern States. It will, in all respects, compare favorably with some of the most densely peopled portions of the continent of Europe. In other words, it is admirably fitted to become the seat of a numerous, hardy, and prosperous community. It has an area equal to eight or ten first-class American States. Its great river, the Saskatchewan, carries a navigable water-line to the very base of the Rocky Mountains. It is not at all improbable that the valley of this river may yet offer the best route for a railroad to the Pacific. The navigable waters of this great subdivision interlock with those of the Mississippi. The Red River of the North, in connection with Lake Winnipeg, into which it falls, forms a navigable water-line, extending directly north and south nearly eight hundred miles. The Red River is one of the best adapted to the use of steam in the world, and waters one of the finest prairie regions on the continent. Between the highest point at which it is navigable, and St. Paul, on the Mississippi, a railroad is in process of construction; and when this road is completed, another grand division of the continent, comprising half a million square miles, will be open to settlement."
The sanguine temper of these remarks illustrates the rapid progress of public sentiment since the date of the Parliamentary inquiry, only eighteen months before. Of the same tenor, though fuller in details, were the publications on the subject in Canada and even in England. The year 1859 opened with greatly augmented interest in the district of Central British America. The manifestation of this interest varied with localities and circumstances.
In Canada, no opportunity was omitted, either in Parliament or by the press, to demonstrate the importance to the Atlantic and Lake Provinces of extending settlements into the prairies of Assinniboin and Saskatchewan,—thereby affording advantages to Provincial commerce and manufactures like those which the communities of the Mississippi valley have conferred upon the older American States. Nevertheless, the Canadian government declined to institute proceedings before the English Court of Chancery or Queen's Bench, to determine the validity of the charter of the Hudson's Bay Company,—assigning, as reasons for not acceding to such a suggestion by the law-officers of the crown, that the proposed litigation might be greatly protracted, while the public interests involved were urgent,—and that the duty of a prompt and definite adjustment of the condition and relations of the Red River and Saskatchewan districts was manifestly incumbent upon the Imperial authority.
This decision, added to the indisposition of Lower Canada to the policy of westward expansion, is understood to have convinced Sir E.B. Lytton that annexation of the Winnipeg basin to Canada was impracticable, and that the exclusive occupation by the Hudson's Bay Company could be removed only by the organization of a separate colony. The founder of British Columbia devoted the latter portion of his administration of the Colonial Office to measures for the satisfactory arrangement of conflicting interests in British America. In October, 1858, he proposed to the directors of the Hudson's Bay Company that they should be consenting parties to a reference of questions respecting the validity and extent of their charter, and respecting the geographical extent of their territory, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Company "reasserted their right to the privileges granted to them by their charter of incorporation," and refused to be a consenting party to any proceeding which might call in question their chartered rights.
Under date of November 3, 1858, Lord Caernarvon, Secretary of State for the Colonies, by the direction of Sir E.B. Lytton, returned a dispatch, the tenor of which is a key not only to Sir Edward's line of policy, but, in all probability, to that of his successor, the Duke of Newcastle. Lord Caernarvon began by expressing the disappointment and regret with which Sir E.B. Lytton had received the communication, containing, if he understood its tenor correctly, a distinct refusal on the part of the Hudson's Bay Company to entertain any proposal with a view of adjusting the conflicting claims of Great Britain, of Canada, and of the Company, or to join with her Majesty's government in affording reasonable facilities for the settlement of the questions in which Imperial no less than Colonial interests were involved. It had been his anxious desire to come to some equitable and conciliatory agreement, by which all legitimate claims of the Company should be fairly considered with reference to the territories or the privileges they might be required to surrender. He suggested that such a procedure, while advantageous to the interests of all parties, might prove particularly for the interest of the Hudson's Bay Company. "It would afford a tribunal preeminently fitted for the dispassionate consideration of the questions at issue; it would secure a decision which would probably be rather of the nature of an arbitration than of a judgment; and it would furnish a basis of negotiation on which reciprocal concession and the claims for compensation could be most successfully discussed."
With such persuasive reiteration, Lord Caernarvon, in the name and at the instance of Sir E.B. Lytton, insisted that the wisest and most dignified course would be found in an appeal to and a decision by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, with the concurrence alike of Canada and the Hudson's Bay Company. In conclusion, the Company were once more assured, that, if they would meet Sir E.B. Lytton in finding the solution of a recognized difficulty, and would undertake to give all reasonable facilities for trying the validity of their disputed charter, they might be assured that they would meet with fair and liberal treatment, so far as her Majesty's government was concerned; but if, on the other hand, the Company persisted in declining these terms, and could suggest no other practicable mode of agreement, Sir E.B. Lytton held himself acquitted of further responsibility to the interests of the Company, and proposed to take the necessary steps for closing a controversy too long open, and for securing a definitive decision, due alike to the material development of British North America and to the requirements of an advancing civilization.
The communication of Lord Caernarvon stated in addition, that, in the case last supposed, the renewal of the exclusive license to trade in any part of the Indian territory—a renewal which could be justified to Parliament only as part of a general agreement adjusted on the principles of mutual concession—would become impossible.
These representations failed to influence the Company. The Deputy-Governor, Mr. H.H. Barens, responded, that, as, in 1850, the Company had assented to an inquiry before the Privy Council into the legality of certain powers claimed and exercised by them under their charter, but not questioning the validity of the charter itself, so, at this time, if the reference to the Privy Council were restricted to the question of the geographical extent of the territory claimed by the Company, in accordance with a proposition made in July, 1857, by Mr. Labouchere, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, the directors would recommend to their shareholders to concur in the course suggested; but must decline to do so, if the inquiry involved not merely the question of the geographical boundary of the territories claimed by them, but a challenge of the validity of the charter itself, and, as a consequence, of the rights and privileges which it professed to grant, and which the Company had exercised for a period of nearly two hundred years. Mr. Barens professed that the Company had at all times been willing to entertain any proposal that might be made to them for the surrender of any of their rights or of any portion of their territory; but he regarded it as one thing to consent for a consideration to be agreed upon to the surrender of admitted rights, and quite another to volunteer a consent to an inquiry which should call those rights in question.
A result of this correspondence has been the definite refusal of the Crown to renew the exclusive license to trade in Indian territory. The license had been twice granted to the Company, under an act of Parliament authorizing it, for periods of twenty-one years,—once in 1821, and again in 1838. It expired on the 30th of May, 1859. In consequence of this refusal, the Company must depend exclusively upon the terms of their charter for their special privileges in British America. The charter dates from 1670,—a grant by Charles II. to Prince Rupert and his associates, "adventurers of England, trading into Hudson's Bay,"—and is claimed to give the right of exclusive trade and of territorial dominion to Hudson's Bay and tributary rivers. By the expiration of the exclusive license of Indian trade, and the termination in 1859 of the lease of Vancouver's Island from the British government, the sway and influence of the Company are greatly restricted, and the feasibility of some permanent adjustment is proportionately increased.
There is no necessity for repeating here the voluminous argument for and against the charter of the Hudson's Bay Company. The interest of British colonization in Northwest America far transcends any technical inquiry of the kind, and the Canadian statesmen are wise in declining to relieve the English cabinet from the obligation to act definitely and speedily upon the subject. The organization of the East India Company was no obstacle to a measure demanded by the honor of England and the welfare of India; and certainly the parchment of the Second Charles will not deter any deliberate expression by Parliament in regard to the colonization of Central British America. Indeed, the managers of the Hudson's Bay Company are always careful to recognize the probability of a compromise with the government. The late letter of Mr. Barens to Lord Caernarvon expressed a willingness, at any time, to entertain proposals for the surrender of franchises or territory; and in 1848, Sir J.H. Pelly, Governor of the Company, thus expressed himself in a letter to Lord Grey:—"As far as I am concerned, (and I think the Company will concur, if any great national benefit would be expected from it,) I would be willing to relinquish the whole of the territory held under the charter on similar terms to those which it is proposed the East India Company shall receive on the expiration of their charter,—namely, securing the proprietors an interest on their capital of ten per cent."
At the adjournment of the Canadian Parliament and the retirement of the Derby Ministry, in the early part of 1859, the position and prospects of English colonization in Northwest America were as follows:—
1. Vancouver's Island and British Columbia had passed from the occupation of the Hudson's Bay Company into an efficient colonial organization. The gold-fields of the interior had been ascertained to equal in productiveness, and greatly to exceed in extent, those of California. The prospect for agriculture was no less favorable,—while the commercial importance of Vancouver and the harbors of Puget's Sound is unquestionable.
2. The eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains and the valleys of the Saskatchewan and Red River were shown by explorations, conducted under the auspices of the London Geographical Society and the Canadian authorities, to be a district of nearly four hundred thousand square miles, in which a fertile soil, favorable climate, useful and precious minerals, fur-bearing and food-yielding animals, in a word, the most lavish gifts of Nature, constituted highly satisfactory conditions for the organization and settlement of a prosperous community.
3. In regard to the Hudson's Bay Company, a disposition prevailed not to disturb its charter, on condition that its directory made no attempts to enforce an exclusive trade or to interfere with the progress of settlements. All parties anticipated Parliamentary action. Letters from London spoke with confidence of a bill, drafted and in circulation among members of Parliament, for the erection of a colony between Lakes Superior and Winnipeg and the eastern limits of British Columbia, with a northern boundary resting on the parallel of 55 deg.; and which, although postponed by a change of ministry, was understood to represent the views of the Duke of Newcastle, the successor of Sir E.B. Lytton.
4. In Canada West, a system of communication from Fort William to Fort Garry, and thence to the Pacific, was intrusted to a company—the "Northwest Transit"—which was by no means inactive. A mail to Red River, over the same route, was also sustained from the Canadian treasury; and Parliament, among the acts of its previous session, had conceded a charter for a line of telegraph through the valleys of the Saskatchewan, with a view to an extension to the Pacific coast, and even to Asiatic Russia.
Simultaneously with these movements in England and Canada, the citizens of the State of Minnesota, after a winter of active discussion, announced a determination to introduce steam-navigation on the Red River of the North. Parties were induced to transport the machinery and cabins, with timber for the hull of a steamer, from the Upper Mississippi, near Crow Wing, to the mouth of the Cheyenne, on the Red River, where the boat was reconstructed. The first voyage of the steamer was from Fort Abercrombie, an American post two hundred miles northwest of Saint Paul, down north to Fort Garry, during the month of June. The reception of the stranger was attended by extraordinary demonstrations of enthusiasm at Selkirk. The bells of Saint Boniface rang greeting, and Fort Garry blasted powder, as if the Governor of the Company were approaching its portal. This unique, but interesting community, fully appreciated the fact that steam had brought their interests within the circle of the world's activities.
This incident was the legitimate sequel to events in Minnesota which had transpired during a period of ten years. Organized as a Territory in 1849, a single decade had brought the population, the resources, and the public recognition of an American State. A railroad system, connecting the lines of the Lake States and Provinces at La Crosse with the international frontier on the Red River at Pembina, was not only projected, but had secured in aid of its construction a grant by the Congress of the United States of three thousand eight hundred and forty acres a mile, and a loan of State credit to the amount of twenty thousand dollars a mile, not exceeding an aggregate of five million dollars. Different sections of this important extension of the Canadian and American railways were under contract and in process of construction. In addition, the land-surveys of the Federal government had reached the navigable channel of the Red River; and the line of frontier settlement, attended by a weekly mail, had advanced to the same point. Thus the government of the United States, no less than the people and authorities of Minnesota, were represented in this Northwest movement.
Still, its consummation rests with the people and Parliament of England. Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton was prepared with a response to his own memorable query,—"What will he do with it?" Shall the Liberal party be less prompt and resolute in advancing the policy, announced from the throne in 1858, of an uninterrupted series of British colonies across the continent of North America? This will be determined by the Parliamentary record of 1860.
PALMER'S "WHITE CAPTIVE."
Once on a time a maiden dwelt with her father,—they two, and no more,—in a rude log-cabin on the skirts of a grand old Western forest,—majestic mountains behind them, and the broad, free prairie in front.
Cut off from all Christian companionship and the informing influences of civilized arts, all their news was of red men and of game, their entertainments the ever-varying moods of Nature, their labors of the rudest, their dangers familiar, their solacements simple and solitary. Alone the sturdy hunter beat the woods all day, on the track of panthers, bears, and deer; alone, all day, his pretty daughter kept the house against perils without and despondency within,—the gun and the broom alike familiar to her hand.
Commissioned to illumine the murk wilderness around her with the glow of her Christian loveliness and faith, Nature had touched her with inspirations of refinement, with a culture as unconscious as the growing of the grass, and the clear intuitions of a spiritual life full of heaven-born inclinations. Nature, too, had endowed her with fine lines of beauty, attitudes of grace, movements of dignity and love, and all the charmfulness that had learned its shapes from flowers and its arts from birds. Nature's officers, the elements, had bestowed on her each his appropriate gift,—the Air its crispness, the Earth its variety, the Sun its brightness and its ruddy glow, the very Water from the well its freshness and its fluent forms; the stars repeated their friendliness in her eyes, the grass dimpled her pliant feet, the breeze tossed her brown hair in triumphs of the unstudied becoming, and from the wildness all about her she had her wit and her delightful ways; Morning lent her her cheerfulness, Evening her pensiveness, and Night her soul.
But Night, that had given her the Christian soul, true and wise, self-reliant and aspiring, brought also the surprise and the peril that should put it to the proof; for once, when the hunter was belated on his path, and sudden midnight had caught him beyond the mountain, far from the rest of his hearth and the song of his darling, came the red Pawnees, a treacherous crew,—doubly godless because ungrateful, who had broken the hunter's bread and slept on the hunter's blanket,—and laid waste his hearth, and stole away his very heart. For they dragged her many a fearful mile of darkness and distraction, through the black woods, and grim recesses of the rocks; and there they stripped her naked, and bound her to a stake, as the day was breaking. But the Christian heart was within her, and the Christian soul upheld her, and the Christian's God was by her side; and so she stood, and waited, and was brave.
And here still she stands, as the sculptor's soul sat down before her, in a vision of faith and tenderness, to receive her image,—stands and waits for the pity and the help of you and me, her brothers and her lovers. We long to rescue her and take her to our hearts; we are touched by her predicament, as Michelet tells us the heart of the beholder is moved by the bound Andromeda of Puget,—that great artist in whom dwelt the suffering soul of a depraved age, and who all his life long sculptured forlorn captives,—"Ah, would I had been there to rescue the darling!"
But we are told of the Andromeda, that, unconscious and almost dead, she knows not where she is, nor who has come to set her free; for, paralyzed by the chafing of her chains, and even more by fear, she cannot stand, and seems utterly exhausted.
Not so with our Andromeda. Horror possesses her, but indignation also; she is terrified, but brave; she shrinks, but she repels; and while all her beautiful body trembles and retreats, her countenance confronts her captors, and her steady gaze forbids them. "Touch me not!" she says, with every shuddering limb and every tensely-braced muscle, with lineaments all eloquent with imperious disgust,—"Touch me not!"
Her lips quiver, and tears are in her eyes, (we do not forget that it is of marble we are speaking,—there are tears in her eyes,) but they only linger there; she is not weeping now; her chin trembles, and one of her hands is convulsively clenched,—but it is with the anguish of her sore besetting, not the spasm of mortal fear. Though Heaven and Earth, indeed, might join to help her, we yet know that the soul of the maiden will help itself,—that her hope clings fast, and her courage is undaunted, and her faith complete.
Among her thronged emotions we look in vain for shame. Her nakedness is a coarse chance of her overwhelming situation, for which she is no more concerned than for her galled wrists or her dishevelled hair. What is it to such a queen as she, that the eyes of grinning brutes are blessed by her perfect beauties?
The qualities which constitute true greatness in a statue such as this are, if we apprehend them aright,—first, that sublime simplicity of Idea which omnipotently sways the beholder, and alike inspires his coarseness or his culture; next, that personality, that moving humanness of feeling, which holds him by his very heart-strings, and makes him forget its marble, to accept its flesh and blood; and, finally, that wondrous skill of nice manipulation, which, neglecting nothing in the myriad of anatomical and physiological details,—not even the faintest sigh or the dimmest tremor,—tells, fibre by fibre, a tale that all may read, and comes to us with a story "to hold children from play and old men from the chimney-corner."
Tried by this definition, we believe the "White Captive" proves its claim to genuine greatness, and that it will presently take its place, with the world's consent, in the front rank of modern statues,—good among the best, in the flesh-and-bloodness and the soul of it. It is original, it is faithful, it is American; our women may look upon it, and say, "She is one of us," with more satisfaction than the Greek women could have derived from the Venus de' Medici, with its insignificant head and its impossible spine.
Especially true to the American type, as compared in statues with the familiar Greek, the head of the "White Captive" is large; but that it is too large, or in excess of the least of a thousand female heads that have been gathered around it since it was first exposed to the public scrutiny, we have failed to discover in repeated and careful examinations; and we are constrained to commend such as may be exercised on that point to the critical flippancies of the jaunty gentlemen who find the hips at once too broad and too narrow, the bosom too full and too young, the arms too meagre and too stout.
We call the attention of our readers to a series of twelve photographic views of forest and lake scenery published by Mr. J.W. Black, Boston, from negatives taken by Mr. Stillman in the Adirondack country. The points of view are chosen with the fine feeling of an artist, and the tangled profusion and grace of the forest, with the moment's whim of sunfleck and shadow, are given with exquisite delicacy. Whatever the all-beholding sun could see in those woodland depths we have here,—sketches of the shaggy Pan snatched at unawares in sleep. One may study these pictures till he becomes as familiar as a squirrel with fern and tree-bark and moose-wood and lichen, till he knows every trunk and twig and leaf as intimately as a sunbeam.
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
Plutarch's Lives. The Translation called Dryden's. Corrected from the Greek, and Revised, by A.H. CLOUGH, sometime Fellow and Tutor of Oriel College, Oxford, and late Professor of the English Language and Literature at University College, London. Boston: Little, Brown, & Company. 1859. Five vols. 8vo.
In these five handsome volumes, we have, at length, a really good edition in English of Plutarch's Lives. One of the most delightful books in the world, one of the few universal classics, appears for the first time in our language in a translation worthy of its merits.
Mr. Clough, whose name is well known, not only by scholars, but also by the lovers of poetry, has performed the work of editor with admirable diligence, fidelity, and taste. The labor of revision has been neither slight nor easy. It has, indeed, amounted to not much less than would have been required for the making of a new translation. The versions in the translation that bears Dryden's name, made, as they were, by various hands, and apparently not submitted to the revision of any competent scholar, were unequal in execution, and were disfigured by many mistakes, as well as by much that was slovenly in style. At the time they were made, scholarship in England was not at a high point. Bentley had not yet lifted it out of mediocrity, and the translators were not stimulated by the fear either of severe criticism or of comparison of their labors with any superior work. The numerous defects of this translation are spoken of by the Langhornes, in the Preface to their own, with a somewhat jealous severity, which gives unusual vigor to their sentences. "The diversities of style," say they, "were not the greatest fault of this strange translation. It was full of the grossest errors. Ignorance on the one hand, and hastiness or negligence on the other, had filled it with absurdities in every Life, and inaccuracies on almost every page." This is a hard, perhaps an extreme judgment; but it serves to show the difficulties that would attend a revision of such a work. These difficulties Mr. Clough has fairly met and overcome. We do not mean to say that he has reduced the whole book to a perfect uniformity, or even to entire elegance and exactness of style; but he has corrected inaccuracies, he has removed the chief marks of negligence or haste; and, after a careful comparison of a considerable portion of the work as it now appears with the Greek text, we have no hesitation in saying that this translation answers not merely to the demands of modern scholarship, but forms a book at once essentially accurate and delightful for common reading.[A] We think, moreover, that Mr. Clough was right in choosing the so-called Dryden's translation as the basis of his work. Its style is not old enough to have become antiquated, while yet it possesses much of the savor and raciness of age. The book is interesting from Dryden's connection with it, but still more so—considering how slight that connection was, his only contribution to it being the Life of Plutarch—from the fact, that the translations of some of the Lives were made by famous men, as that of Alcibiades by Lord Chancellor Somers, and that of Alexander by the excellent John Evelyn; while others were made by men who, if not famous, are at least well remembered by the lovers of the literature of the time,—as that of Numa by Sir Paul Rycaut, the Turkey merchant, and the continuer of Dr. Johnson's favorite history of the Turks,—that of Otho by Pope's friend, the medical poet, Dr. Garth,—that of Solon by Creech, the translator of Lucretius,—that of Lysander by the Honorable Charles Boyle, whose name is preserved in the alcohol of Bentley's classical satire,—and that of Themistocles by Edward, the son of Sir Thomas Browne.
[Footnote A: For the sake of illustration of the care and labor given by Mr. Clough to the revision, we open at random on the Life of Dion, Vol. V., p. 291, and, comparing it with the original Dryden, we find, that in ten pages, to the end of the Life, there are but three, and they short sentences, in which changes of more or less consequence have not been made. These changes amount sometimes to entire new translation, sometimes consist merely in the correction of a few words. Throughout, the hand of the thorough scholar is apparent. The earlier volumes of the series would, probably, rarely exhibit such considerable alterations.]
But Mr. Clough's labors have not been merely those of reviser and corrector. He has added greatly to the value of the work by occasional concise foot-notes, as well as by notes contained in an appendix to each volume. So excellent, indeed, are these notes, so full of learning and information, conveyed in an agreeable way, that we cannot but feel a regret (not often excited by commentators) that their number is not greater. In addition to these, the fifth volume contains a very carefully prepared and full Index of Proper Names, which is followed by a list for reference as to their pronunciation.
When this version, to which Dryden gave his name, was made, there was no other in English but that of Sir Thomas North, which had been made, not from the Greek, but from the French of Amyot, and was first published in 1579. It was a good work for its time, and worthy of being dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, although, as the knight declares, "she could better understand it in Greek than any man can make it English." Its style is rather robust than elegant, partaking of the manly vigor of the language of its time, and now and then exhibiting something of that charm of quaint simplicity which belongs to its original, Montaigne's favorite Amyot. "Of all our French writers," says the incomparable essayist, "I give, with justice, I think, the palm to Jacques Amyot";[B] and thereupon he goes on to praise the purity of his style, as well as the depth of his learning and judgment. But, although Amyot had "a true imagination" of his author, he was not always exact in giving his meaning. The learned Dr. Guy Patin says: "On dit que M. de Meziriac avoit corrige dans son Amyot huit mille fautes, et qu'Amyot n'avoit pas de bons exemplaires, ou qu'il n'avoit pas bien entendu le Grec de Plutarque."[C]
[Footnote B: Essays, Book II. 4.]
[Footnote C: Patiniana.]
Amyot's eight thousand errors were not diminished in passing into Sir Thomas North's English; but their number mattered little to the readers of those days, who found in the thick folio enough of interest to spare them from making inquiry as to the exactness of its rendering of the meaning of Plutarch. From the time of its first publication, for more than a hundred years, it was one of the most popular books of the period, as was proved by the appearance of six successive editions in folio.[D] Some of these clumsy volumes may, no doubt, have been put to uses as ignoble as that which Chrysale, in "Les Femmes Savantes," suggests for his sister's similar copy of Amyot:—
"Vos livres eternels ne me contentent pas; Et, hors un gros Plutarque a mettre mes rabats, Vous devriez bruler tout ce meuble inutile";—
but duller books of the same size, of which there were many in those days of patient readers, would have had an equal value for such economical purposes as this, and "The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans by that Grave Learned Philosopher & Historiographer Plutarch" were too entertaining to young and old to be left for any length of time quietly upon the shelf. They were the familiar reading of boys who were to become the actors in the great drama of the Rebellion and the Commonwealth, or who a little later were to frequent the dissolute court of Charles, presenting in their own lives, whether in camp or court, as patriots or as traitors, parallels to those which they had read in the weighty pages of the old biographer.
[Footnote D: In 1579, 1595, 1602, 1631, 1657, 1676. Mr. Hooper, in his Introduction to Chapman's Homer, London, 1857, says, that "the edition of 1657 was published under the superintendence of the illustrious Selden." We do not know his authority for this statement. The fact, if it be one, is very remarkable, as Selden's death took place in 1654.]
Nor in more recent times has North's version failed of admirers. Godwin declared, that, till this book fell into his hands, he had no genuine feeling of Plutarch's merits, or knowledge of what sort of a writer he was. But the chief interest of this translation at the present day, except what it possesses as a storehouse of good mother-English, comes from the fact that it was one of the books of Shakespeare's moderate library, and one which he had thoroughly read, as is manifest from the use that he made of it in his own works, especially in "Coriolanus," "Julius Caesar," and "Antony and Cleopatra." It was from the worthy knight's folio that he got much of his little Latin and less Greek. He helped himself freely to what was to his purpose; and a comparison of the passages which he borrowed from with the scenes founded upon them is interesting, as showing his use of the very words of the author before him, and as exhibiting the new appearances which those words take on under his plastic hand. We have no space for long extracts; but a short illustration will serve to show that Shakespeare is the best translator of Plutarch into English that we have had. Compare these two passages:—
"Therefore, when she [Cleopatra] was sent unto by divers letters, both from Antonius himself and also from his friends, she made so light of it, and mocked Antonius so much, that she disdained to set forward otherwise, but to take her barge in the river of Cydnus; the poop whereof was of gold, the sails of purple, and the oars of silver, which kept stroke in rowing after the sound of the musick of flutes, bowboys, citherns, viols, and such other instruments as they played upon in the barge. And now for the person of herself, she was laid under a pavillion of cloth of gold of tissue, apparelled and attired like the goddess Venus, commonly drawn in picture; and hard by her, on either hand of her, pretty fair boys apparelled as painters do set forth god Cupid, with little fans in their hands, with which they fanned wind upon her. Her ladies and gentlewomen also, the fairest of them were apparelled like the Nymphs Nereides (which are the Myrmaids of the waters) and like the Graces; some steering the helm, others tending the tackle and ropes of the barge, out of the which there came a wonderful passing sweet savour of perfumes, that perfumed the wharf's side, pestered with innumerable multitudes of people. Some of them followed the barge all along the river side; others also ran out of the city to see her coming in. So that in the end there ran such multitudes of people one after another to see her, that Antonius was left post alone in the market-place, in his imperial seat to give audience."—NORTH'S Plutarch, Life of Antonius, p. 763. Ed. of 1676.
Enobarbus. When she first met Mark Antony, she pursed up his heart upon the river of Cydnus.
Agrippa. There she appeared, indeed; or my reporter devised well for her.
Eno. I will tell you. The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne, Burnt on the water: the poop was beaten gold; Purple the sails, and so perfumed that The winds were lovesick; with them the oars were silver, Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made The water, which they beat, to follow faster, As amorous of their strokes. For her own person, It beggar'd all description: she did lie In her pavilion, (cloth of gold, of tissue,) O'er-picturing that Venus where we see The fancy outwork Nature: on each side her Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids, With divers-color'd fans, whose wind did seem To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool, And what they undid, did.
Agr. Oh, rare for Antony!
Eno. Her gentlewomen, like the Nereids, So many mermaids, tended her i' the eyes, And made their bends adornings: at the helm A seeming mermaid steers; the silken tackle Swell with the touches of those flower-soft hands, That yarely frame the office. From the barge A strange invisible perfume hits the sense Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast Her people out upon her, and Antony, Enthron'd i' th' market-place, did sit alone, Whistling to the air, which, but for vacancy, Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too, And made a gap in Nature.
Antony and Cleopatra. Act II. Sc. 2.
The operations of Shakespeare's creative imagination are rarely to be observed more distinctly than in such instances as this, where we see the precise source from which he drew, in all its original limitations and native character. Books were to him like ingots of gold, which, passing through the mint of his brain, came out thence stamped coin, current for all time. Viewing some of his plays, it may be said, with no real, though with apparent contradiction, that no man ever borrowed more from books, and yet none ever owed less to them. For the Roman times Plutarch served him, as Holinshed and Hall supplied him for his English histories. Under Plutarch's guidance he walked through the streets of ancient Rome, and became familiar with the conduct of her men. He is more Roman than Plutarch himself, and by divine right of imagination he makes himself a citizen of the Eternal City. While Shakespeare was using Plutarch to such advantage, on the other hand, Ben Jonson seems to have borrowed little or nothing from him in his Roman plays. He got what he wanted out of the Latin authors, and he succeeded in Latinizing his plays,—in giving to his characters the dress, but not the spirit of Rome.
It was toward the end of the seventeenth century that Dryden's translation appeared, and for about fifty years it held much the same place with the reading public that North's had filled for previous generations. It was, no doubt, in this version that Mrs. Fitzpatrick amused herself during her seclusion in Ireland, as she tells Sophia Western, with reading "a great deal in Plutarch's Lives." But this was at length superseded by the translation of the brothers Langhorne, which, spite of its want of vivacity, its labored periods, and formal narrative, has retained its place as the popular version of Plutarch up to the present day. One can hardly help wishing—so little of Plutarch's spirit survives in their dull pages—that a similar fate had overtaken these excellent men to that which carried off the gentle Abbe Ricard with the grippe, when he had published but half of his translation of the Philosopher of Cheronaea.
It is a proof of the intrinsic charm of Plutarch's Lives, that thus, notwithstanding the imperfect manner in which they have been, up to this time, presented to English readers, they should have been so constantly and so generally read.[E] They have given equal delight to all ages and to all classes. The heavy folio has been taken from its place on the lower shelves in the quiet libraries of English country-houses, and been read by old men at their firesides, by girls in trim gardens, by boys who cared for no other classic. The cheap double-column octavo has travelled in peddlers' carts to all the villages of New England, to the backwoodsman's cabin in the West. It has taken its place on the clock-shelf, with only the Bible, the "Pilgrim's Progress," and the Almanac for its companions. No other classic author, with, perhaps, the single exception of Aesop, has been so widely read in modern times; and the popular knowledge of the men of Greece and Rome is derived more from Plutarch than from all other ancient authors put together. The often-repeated saying of Theodore Gaza, who, being once asked, if learning should suffer a general shipwreck, and he had the choice of saving one author, which he would select, is said to have replied, "Plutarch,"—"and probably might give this reason," says Dryden, "that in saving him he should secure the best collection of them all,"—this saying is but a sort of prophecy of the decision of the common world, who have chosen Plutarch from all the rest, and find, as Amyot says, "no one else so profitable and so pleasant to read as he."[F]
[Footnote E: We have not spoken of Mr. Long's translations of Select Lives from Plutarch, which were published in the series of Knight's Weekly Volumes, under the title of The Civil Wars of Rome, because, although executed in a manner deserving the highest praise, they presented to English readers but a limited number of Plutarch's biographies. Mr. Clough says, justly, in his Preface, that his own work would not have been needed, had not Mr. Long confined his translations within so narrow a compass.]
[Footnote F: "De tous les auteurs," says the Baron de Grimm, "qui nous restent de l'antiquite, Plutarque est, sans contredit, celui qui a recueilli le plus de verites de fait et de speculation. Ses oeuvres sont une mine inepuisable de lumieres et de connaissance; c'est vraiment l'encyclopedie des anciens." Memoires Historiques, etc., I., 312.]
Nor is it merely the common mass of readers who have chosen Plutarch as their favorite ancient. The list of great and famous men who have made him their companion is a long one. Men of action and men of thought have taken equal satisfaction in his pages. Petrarch, the first scholar of the Revival, held him in high esteem, and drew from him much of his uncommon learning. Erasmus, the first scholar of the Reformation, made his writings a special study, and translated from the Greek a large portion of his Moral Works. Montaigne has taken pains to tell us of his affection for him, and his Essays are full of the proofs of it. "I never seriously settled myself," he says, "to the reading of any book of solid learning but Plutarch and Seneca."[G] And in another essay he adds,—"The familiarity I have had with these two authors, and the assistance they have lent to my age, and to my book wholly built up of what I have taken from them, oblige me to stand up for their honor."[H] And again he declares,—"The hooks I chiefly use to form my opinions are Plutarch, since he became French, and Seneca."[I] The genial humanity and liberal wisdom of Plutarch claimed the sympathy of Montaigne, while his discursive style and love of story-telling suited no less the taste of his disciple. Montaigne, as it were, makes Plutarch a modern, and uses his books to illustrate the passing times. He introduces him to new characters, and reads his judgment upon them. He finds in him a hundred things that others had not seen. It is a wide step from Montaigne to Rousseau, and yet, spite of the naturalness of the one and the artificiality of the other, there were some points of resemblance between them, and they harmonize in their love for a common master, Rousseau has written of Plutarch as Montaigne felt,—"Dans le petit nombre de livres que je lis quelquefois encore, Plutarque est celui qui m'attache et me profite le plus. Ce fut la premiere lecture de mon enfance, et sera la derniere de ma vieillesse; c'est presque le seul auteur que je n'ai jamais lu sans en tirer quelque fruit."[J] Plutarch's Lives was one of the few books recommended to Catharine II. of Russia, as she herself tells us, wherewith to solace and instruct herself during the first wretched years of her miserable married life. It is, perhaps, not impossible to trace in some passages of her later life the results of what she then read.
[Footnote G: Essays. Book I., Chapter 25.]
[Footnote H: Essays, II. 23.]
[Footnote I: Ibid. II. 10.]
[Footnote J: Les Reveries d'un Promeneur Solitaire. Quatrieme Promenade.]
And thus we might go on accumulating the names of men and women whom all the world knows, who have confessed their obligations to the old biographer,—philosophers like Bacon, warriors like Bussy d'Amboise, poets like Wordsworth; while many a one has owed much to him who has made no open acknowledgment of his debt. Montaigne somewhere complains of the unlicensed stealings from his author; and Udall, in his Preface to the Apophthegms of Erasmus, declares,—"It is a thing scarcely believable, how much, and how boldly as well, the common writers that from time to time have copied out his [Plutarch's] works, as also certain that have thought themselves liable to control and amend all men's doings, have taken upon them in this author, who ought with all reverence to be handled of them, and with all fear to have been preserved from altering, depraving, or corrupting."[K]
[Footnote K: The following passage presents a view of some of the uses to which Plutarch's narratives were turned during the Middle Ages. "Or personne n'ignore que les chroniqueurs du moyen age compilaient les faits les plus remarquables de l'Ecriture Sainte ou des histoires profanes pour les meler a leurs recits. C'est ainsi que ceux qui ont ecrit la vie de Du Guesclin ont mis sur le compte de ce heros ce que Plutarque rapporte de plus memorable des grands hommes de l'antiquite."—SOUVESTRE. Les Derniers Bretons. I. 147.]
The question naturally arises, What are the qualities in Plutarch which have made him so universal a favorite, which have attracted towards him men of such opposite tempers and different lives? It is not enough to say that all real biography is of interest,—that every man has curiosity about the life of every other man, and finds in it illustrations of his own. Other writers of lives have not had the same fortune with Plutarch. For one reader of Suetonius or of Diogenes Laertius, there are a thousand of Plutarch. Nor is it that the subjects of his biographies are greater or more famous than all other men. Some of the noblest and best known men of Greece and Rome are omitted from Plutarch's list.[L] The true grounds of the general popularity of Plutarch's Lives are not to be found in their subjects so much as in his manner of treating them, and in the qualities of his own nature, as exhibited in his book. At the tomb of Achilles, Alexander declared that he esteemed him happy in having had so famous a poet to proclaim his actions; and scarcely less fortunate were they who had such a biographer as Plutarch to record their lives. He himself has given us his conception of the true office of a biographer, and in this has explained in great part the secret of his excellence. "It must be borne in mind," he says, "that my design is not to write histories, but lives. And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever. Therefore, as portrait-painters are more exact in the lines and features of the face, in which the character is seen, than in the other parts of the body, so I must be allowed to give my more particular attention to the marks and indications of the souls of men; and, while I endeavor by these to portray their lives, may be free to leave more weighty matters and great battles to be treated of by others."[M]
[Footnote L: In Rogers's Recollections, Grattan is reported as saying,—"Of all men, if I could call up one, it should be Scipio Africanus. Hannibal was perhaps a greater captain, but not so great and good a man. Epaminondas did not do so much. Themistocles was a rogue." It is curious that Themistocles is the only one of these men of whom we have a biography by Plutarch. His Lives of Scipio and Epaminondas are lost. Hannibal did not come within the scope of his design.]
[Footnote M: Life of Alexander, at the beginning.]
It is his fidelity to this principle, his dealing with events and circumstances chiefly as they illustrate character, his delineation of the features of the souls of men, that constitutes Plutarch's highest merit as a biographer. He is no historian; he often neglects chronology, and disregards the sequence of events; he omits many incidents, and he avoids the details of national and political affairs. The progress of the advance or decline of states is not to be learned from his pages. But if his Lives be read in chronological order, much may be inferred from them of the moral condition and changes of the communities in which the men flourished whose characters and actions he describes. Biography is thus made to cast an incidental light upon history. The successes of Alexander give evidence of the lowering of the Greek spirit, and illustrate the immemorial weakness of Oriental tyrannies. The victories and the defeats of Pyrrhus alike display the vigor of Republican Rome. The character and the fate of Mark Antony show that vigor at its ebb, and foretell the near fall of the Roman liberties. Thus in his long series of lives of noble Grecians and Romans, the motives and principles which lay at the foundation of the characters of the men who moulded the fate of Greece and Rome, the reciprocal influences of their times upon these men and of these men upon their times, may all be traced with more or less distinctness and certainty. It was not Plutarch's object to exhibit them in sequent evolution, but, in attaining the object which he had in view, he could not fail to make them manifest to the thoughtful reader. His book, though not a history, is invaluable to historians.
But the character of Plutarch himself, not less than his method of writing biography, explains his universal popularity, and gives its special charm and value to his book. He was a man of large and generous nature, of strong feeling, of refined tastes, of quick perceptions. His mind had been cultivated in the acquisition of the best learning of his times, and was disciplined by the study of books as well as of men. He deserves the title of philosopher; but his philosophy was of a practical rather than a speculative character,—though he was versed in the wisest doctrines of the great masters of ancient thought, and in some of his moral works shows himself their not unworthy follower. Above all, he was a man of cheerful, genial, and receptive temper. A lover of justice and of liberty, his sympathies are always on the side of what is right, noble, and honorable. He believed in a divine ordering of the world, and saw obscurely through the mists and shadows of heathenism the indications of the wisdom and rectitude of an overruling Providence. To him man did not appear as the sole arbiter of his own destiny, but rather as an unconscious agent in working out the designs of a Higher Power; and yet, as these designs were only dimly and imperfectly to be recognized, the noblest man was he who was truest to the eternal principles of right, who was most independent of the chances and shiftings of fortune, who, "fortressed on conscience and impregnable will," strove to live in the manliest and most self-supported relations with the world, neither fearing nor hoping much in regard to the uncertainties of the future, and who
"metus omnes et inexorabile fatum Subjecit pedibus."
In his whole character, Plutarch shows himself one of the best examples of the intelligent heathen of the later classic period. His Writings contain the practical essence of the results of Greek and Roman life and thought. His intellect, equally removed from superstition and from skepticism, was open with a large receptiveness, which sometimes approaches to credulity, to the traditions of early wonders, to the reports of recent miracles, and to the stories of the deeds and sayings of men.[N] The evidence upon which he reports is often insufficient to establish the statements that he makes; but his readiness to tell the current stories gives to his biographies a peculiar interest, adding to their entertainment, and at the same time to their value as representations of common beliefs and popular fancies. He is one of the best story-tellers of antiquity, and from his works a series of "Percy Anecdotes" of ancient men might easily be compiled. "Such anecdotes will not," says he, in his Life of Timoleon, "be thought, I conceive, either foreign to my purpose of writing lives, or unprofitable in themselves, by such readers as are not in too much haste, or busied and taken up with other concerns." It is this fulness of anecdote, which, perhaps, more than any other quality of his writings, makes him the favorite of boys as well as of men. He treasures up pithy sayings, and his own reflections are often epigrammatic in expression, and always full of good sense.
[Footnote N: There are two remarkable passages in the Life of Coriolanus which illustrate Plutarch's opinions upon these points. The first (ii. 91) treats of the divine influence on the human will and action; the second (ii. 97-98) relates to the mode of regarding events seemingly incredible. This latter is peculiarly distinguished by its good sense and clear statement. It closes with the memorable saying, "Knowledge of divine things for the most part, as Heraclitus says, is lost to us by incredulity."]
In his Life of Demosthenes, in a passage which is pleasant on account of its personal reference, Plutarch speaks of the advantage that it would be for a writer like himself to reside in some city addicted to liberal arts, and populous, where he might have access to many books, and to many persons from whom he might gather up such facts as books do not contain. "But as for me," he says, "I live in a little town, where I am willing to continue, lest it should grow less." And he goes on to excuse himself for his imperfect knowledge of the Roman tongue, which unfits him to draw a comparison between the orations of Demosthenes and of Cicero. But, although his acquaintance with the structure and powers of the language may have been insufficient to enable him to venture on literary criticism, his acquaintance with the books of the Romans was considerable, and he had thoroughly studied the Greek authors who had written on Roman affairs. His own library, or the libraries to which he had access at Chaeronea, must have been well furnished with the books most important for his studies. He is said to quote two hundred and fifty authors, some eighty of whom are among those whose works have been wholly or partly lost. He made careful use of his materials, which were, of course, more abundant for his Greek than for his Roman narratives. "If we would put the Lives of Plutarch to a severe test," says Mr. Long, than whom no one is better qualified to speak with authority upon the subject, "we must carefully examine his Roman Lives. He says that he knew Latin imperfectly, and he lived under the Empire, when many of the educated Romans had but a superficial acquaintance with the earlier history of their state. We must therefore expect to find him imperfectly informed on Roman institutions; and we can detect him in some errors. Yet, on the whole, his Roman Lives do not often convey erroneous notions; if the detail is incorrect, the general impression is true. They may be read with profit by those who seek to know something of Roman affairs, and have not knowledge enough to detect an error. They probably contain as few mistakes as most biographies which have been written by a man who is not the countryman of those whose lives he writes."
Yet, spite of his general accuracy and his impartial temper, the representations which Plutarch makes of the characters which he describes are not always to be accepted as fair delineations. Unconscious prejudice, or misconception of circumstances and relations, sometimes leads him into apparent injustice. Thus, for example, while he bears hardly upon Demosthenes, and sets out many of his actions in too unfavorable lights, he, on the other hand, interprets the conduct and character of Phocion with manifest indulgence, and presents a flattered portrait of a man whose death turned popular reproaches into pity, but was insufficient to redeem the faults of his life.
Mr. Grote, in his History, passes a very different judgment upon these two men from that to which one would be led by the perusal of Plutarch's narratives merely. And it is an illustration, at once, of the honesty of the ancient biographer, and of the ability of the modern historian, that Mr. Grote should not infrequently derive from Plutarch's own account the means for correcting his false estimate of the motives and the actions of those whom he misjudged.
In an excellent passage in his Preface, Mr. Clough remarks that
"Much has been said of Plutarch's inaccuracy; and it cannot be denied that he is careless about numbers, and occasionally contradicts his own statements. A greater fault, perhaps, is his passion for anecdote; he cannot forbear from repeating stories the improbability of which he is the first to recognize, which, nevertheless, by mere repetition, leave unjust impressions. He is unfair in this way to Demosthenes and Pericles,—against the latter of whom, however, he doubtless inherited the prejudices which Plato handed down to the philosophers.
"It is true, also, that his unhistorical treatment of the subjects of his biography makes him often unsatisfactory and imperfect in the portraits he draws. Much, of course, in the public lives of statesmen can find its only explanation in their political position; and of this Plutarch often knows and thinks little. So far as the researches of modern historians have succeeded in really recovering a knowledge of relations of this sort, so far, undoubtedly, these biographies stand in need of their correction. Yet, in the uncertainty which must attend all modern restorations, it is agreeable, and surely also profitable, to recur to portraits drawn ere new thoughts and views had occupied the civilized world, without reference to such disputable grounds of judgment, simply upon the broad principles of the ancient moral code of right and wrong. .... We have here the faithful record of the historical tradition of Plutarch's age. This is what, in the second century of our era, Greeks and Romans loved to believe about their warriors and statesmen of the past. As a picture, at least, of the best Greek and Roman moral views and moral judgments, as a presentation of the results of Greek and Roman moral thought, delivered, not under the pressure of calamity, but as they existed in ordinary times, and actuated plain-living people, in country places, in their daily life, Plutarch's writings are of indisputable value."
Of all the biographies contained in his work, none might excite greater suspicion of incorrectness than that of Timoleon, on account of the extraordinary character both of the man and of the incidents of his career. His story reads like a romance of the ancient times, like a legend of some half-mythical hero, rather than like the true account of an actual man. There is, perhaps, none among his Lives which Plutarch has written with greater spirit, with livelier sympathies, than this. And yet, in spite of all its seeming improbability, there is little reason to question its essential truth. It corresponds, with some minor exceptions, with all that can be ascertained from other ancient authors who wrote concerning the deliverer of Sicily; and even Mitford, with all his zeal in the cause of tyrants, can find little to detract from the praise of Timoleon, or to diminish our confidence in the truth of Plutarch's account of him.
But, in addition to the interest that belongs to these biographies, from their intrinsic qualities, as affected by the character of Plutarch,—beside the interest which the common reader or the student of biography and history may find in them, they possess a still deeper interest for the student of human nature, in its various modifications, under varying influences, and in different ages, from exhibiting to him, in a long series, many of the chief characters of the heathen world in such form as fits them for comparison with the prominent men of Christian times. The question of the effect of Christianity upon the characters and lives of the leading actors in modern history is not more important than it is difficult of solution. Plutarch, better than any other ancient writer, affords the means of estimating the motives, the principles, the objects, of the men of the old time. We see in his pages what they were; we see the differences between them and the men of later days. How far are those differences exhibitions of inferiority or of superiority? How far do they result from the influence of secondary causes? how far from the change in religious belief?
No man who knows much of the course of history will venture to insist greatly on any essential change for the better having been wrought as yet by Christianity in the manner in which the affairs of the world are carried on. Christianity has not yet been fairly tried. Nations calling themselves Christian are still governed on heathen principles. Christianity has been for the most part perverted and misunderstood. The grossest errors have been taught in its name, are still taught in its name. Falsehood has claimed the authority of truth, and its claim has been granted. The stream which flowed out pure from its source has been caught in foul cisterns, has been led into narrow channels, has been made stagnant in desolate pools and wide-spread weedy marshes. The doctrine of Christ has had thus far in the world but very few hearers who have understood it. Many a modern creed might well go back to heathenism for improvement. This perversion of Christianity is a chief element in the difficulty of tracing the real influence of true Christian teaching upon character. It is this which compels us to draw a parallel, not so much between the actual characters of ancient and modern times, if we would rightly understand the differences between them, as between what we may assume to be the ideal standards of the heathen and the Christian. But to treat this subject with the fulness and in the manner which it deserves would lead us too far from Plutarch, and we have done enough in suggesting it as matter for reflection to those who read his Lives.
One of the most marked differences in the position of the ancient and the modern man is that which has been quietly and gradually brought about by science; but its effect is little recognized by the mass of men or the most wide-spread churches. It is the difference of his recognized relations to the universe. While this earth was supposed to be the central point and main effort of creation, while the earth itself was unknown, and all the regions of space were regarded as void and untenanted, save by the inventions of fancy, man may have seemed to himself a creature of large proportions and of considerable importance. He measured himself with the gods and the half-gods, and found himself not much their inferior. In reading Plutarch, one cannot fail to be struck with the manly self-reliance of his best men of action. Their piety had no weakness of self-abasement in it. They possessed a piety toward themselves as well as toward the gods. Timoleon, who was attended by the good-fortune that waits on noble character, erected in the house which the Syracusans bestowed upon him an altar to [Greek: Automatia], which, as Mr. Clough well remarks, in a note, "is almost equivalent to Spontaneousness. His successes had come, as it were, of themselves." The act was an acknowledgment of divine favor, and an assertion at the same time of his individual independence of action. This spirit of self-dependence was the grandest feature of Greek and Roman heathenism; and it is in this, if in anything, that a superiority of character is manifest in the men of ancient times. The famous passage in Seneca's tragedy, in which Medea asserts herself as sufficient to stand alone against the universe, contains its essence and is its complete expression.
Nutr. Spes nulla monstrat rebus adflictis viam.
Med. Qui nil potest sperare, desperet nihil.
Nutr. Abiere Colchi; conjugis nulla est fides; Nihilque superest opibus e tantis tibi.
Med. Medea superest; hic mare et terras vides, Ferrumque, et ignes, et deos, et fulmina. Medea, Act ii. 162-167.
Here is self-reliance at its highest point; the strength of resolute will measuring itself singly and undauntedly against all forces, human and divine.
But, as a necessary consequent of this spirit, as its implied complement in the balance of human nature, we find, as a distinct trait in the lives of many of the manliest ancients, an occasional prevalence of a spirit of despondency, a recognition of the ultimate weakness of man when brought by himself face to face with the wall of opposing circumstance and the resistless force of Fate. Will is strong, but the powers outside the will are stronger. Manliness may not fail, but man himself may be broken. Neither the teachings of natural religion, nor the doctrines of philosophy, nor the support of a sound heart are sufficient for man in the crisis of uttermost trial. Without something beyond these, higher than these, without a conscious dependence on Omnipotence, man must sink at last under the buffets of adverse fortune. Take the instances of these great men in Plutarch, and look at the end of their lives. How many of them are simple confessions of defeat! Themistocles sacrifices to the gods, drinks poison, and dies. Demosthenes takes poison to save himself from falling into the hands of his enemies. Cicero proposes to slay himself in the house of Caesar, and is murdered only through want of resolution to kill himself. Brutus says to the friend who urges him to fly,—"Yes, we must fly; yet not with our feet, but with our hands," and falls upon his sword. Cato lies down calmly at night, reads Plato on the Soul, and then kills himself; while, after his death, the people of Utica cry out with one voice that he is "the only free, the only undefeated man." It may be said that even in suicide these men displayed the manliness of their tempers. True, but it was the manliness of the deserter who runs the risk of being shot for the sake of avoiding the risks and fatigues of service in war.[O]
[Footnote O: There is a striking passage in Seneca's treatise De Consolatione, which may, perhaps, be not unfairly regarded as the expression of a sentiment common among the better heathens in regard to death,—a sentiment of profound sadness. He says,—"Mors dolorum omnium solutio est et finis, ultra quam mala nostra non exeunt, quae nos in illam tranquillitatem, in qua antequam nasceremur jacuimus, reponit." xix. 4.]
Again, we must be content rather to hint at than to develop the matter for reflection and study that Plutarch affords, and unwillingly pass by, without even a glance at them, large domains of thought that lie within his pages. We are glad to believe, that, through the excellent edition before us, his Lives will be more widely read than ever. In this country, where the tendency of things is to the limited, but equal development of each individual in social and political life, and hence to the production of a uniform mediocrity of character and of action, these biographies are of special value, as exhibiting men developed under circumstances widely contrasted with our own, and who may serve as standards by which to measure some of our own deficiencies or advantages. Here were the men who stood head and shoulders above the others of their times; we see them now, "foreshortened in the tract of time,"—not as they appeared to their contemporaries, but in something like their real proportions. But the greatness of those proportions for the most part remains unchanged. How will it be with our great men two thousand years hence? Will the numerous "most distinguished men of America" appear as large then as they do now? Will the speeches of our popular orators be read then? Will the most famous of our senators be famous then? Will the ablest of our generals still be gathering laurels?
There is a story told by the learned Andrew Thevet, chief cosmographer to Henry III., King of France and Poland, to the effect that one Triumpho of Camarino did most fantastically imagine and persuade himself that really and truly one day "he was assembled in company with the Pope, the Emperor, and the several Kings and Princes of Christendom, (although all that while he was alone in his own chamber by himself,) where he entered upon, debated, and resolved all the states' affairs of Christendom; and he verily believed that he was the wisest man of them all; and so he well might be, of the company." The fantastical imagination of this Triumpho furnishes a good illustration of the reality of companionship which one who possesses Plutarch may have in his own chamber with the greatest and most interesting men of ancient times. If he be worthy, he may make the best of them his intimates. He may live with them as his counsellors and his friends. Whether he will believe that he is "the wisest man of them all" is doubtful; but, however this may be, he will find himself in their company growing wiser, stronger, tenderer, and truer.