HotFreeBooks.com
Atlantic Monthly, Volume 6, Issue 35, September, 1860
Author: Various
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Oh, I'm glad you said that, Jacqueline!"

"My best friends," repeated Jacqueline,—not merely to please Elsie. Love had opened wide her heart,—and Elsie, weak and foolish though she might be,—Elsie, her old companion, her playmate, her fellow-laborer,—Elsie, who should be to her a sister always, and share in her good-fortune,—Elsie had honorable place there.

"Could anything have happened, Jacqueline?" said Elsie, trembling: her tremulous voice betrayed it.

"Oh, I think not," was the answer.

"But he is so fearless,—he might have fallen into—into trouble."

"What have you heard, Elsie?"

This question was quietly asked, but it struck to the heart of the questioned girl. Jacqueline suspected!—and yet Jacqueline asked so calmly! Jacqueline could hear it,—and yet how could this be declared?

Her hesitation quickened what was hardly suspicion into a conviction.

"What have you heard?" Jacqueline again questioned,—not so calmly as before; and yet it was quite calmly, even to the alarmed ear of Elsie Meril.

"They have arrested Victor, Jacqueline."

"For heresy?"

"I heard it in the street."

Jacqueline arose,—she crossed the chamber,—her hand was on the latch. Instantly Elsie stood beside her.

"What will you do? I must go with you, Jacqueline."

"Where will you go?" said Jacqueline.

"With you. Wait,—what is it you will do? Or,—no matter, go on, I will follow you,—and take the danger with you."

"Is there danger? For him there is! and there might be for you,—but none for me. Stay, Elsie. Where shall I go, in truth?"

Yet she opened the door, and began to descend the stairs even while she spoke; and Elsie followed her.

First to the house of the wool-comber. John was not at home,—and his mother could tell them nothing, had heard nothing of the arrest of Victor. Then to the place which Victor had pointed out to her as the home of Mazurier. Mazurier likewise they failed to find. Where, then, was the prison of Le Roy's captivity? That no man could tell them; so they came home to their lodging at length in the dark night, there to wait through endless-seeming hours for morning.

On the Sunday they had chosen for their wedding-day Mazurier brought word of Victor to Jacqueline,—was really a messenger, as he announced himself, when she opened for him the door of her room in the fourth story of the great lodging-house. He had come on that day with a message; but it was not in all things—in little beside the love it was meant to prove—the message Victor had desired to convey. In want of more faithful, more trustworthy messenger, Le Roy sent word by this man of his arrest,—and bade Jacqueline pray for him, and come to him, if that were possible. He desired, he said, to serve his Master,—and, of all things, sought the Truth.

To go to the prisoner, Mazurier assured Jacqueline, was impossible, but she might send a message; indeed, he was here to serve his dear friends. Ah, poor girl, did she trust the man by whom she sent into a prison words like these?—

"Hold fast to the faith that is in you, Victor. Let nothing persuade you that you have been mistaken. We asked for light,—it was given us,—let us walk in it; and no matter where it leads,—since the light is from heaven. Do not think of me,—nor of yourself,—but only of Jesus Christ, who said, 'Whosoever would save his life shall lose it.'"

Mazurier took this message. What did he do with it? He tossed it to the winds.

A week after, Le Roy was brought to trial,—and recanted; and so recanting, was acquitted and set at liberty.

Mazurier supposed that he meant all kindly in the exertion he made to save his friend. He would never have ceased from self-reproach, had he conveyed the words of Jacqueline to Victor,—for the effect of those words he could clearly foresee.

And so far from attempting to bring about an interview between the pair, he would have striven to prevent it, had he seen a probability that it would be allowed. He set little value on such words as Jacqueline spoke, when her conscience and her love rose up against each other. The words she had committed to him he could account for by no supposition acceptable and reasonable to him. There was something about the girl he did not understand; she was no fit guide for a man who had need of clear judgment, when such a decision was to be made as the court demanded of Le Roy.

Elsie Meril, between hope and fear, was dumb in these days; but her presence and her tenderness, though not heroic in action nor wise in utterance, had a value of which neither she nor Jacqueline was fully aware.

When Jacqueline learned the issue of the trial, and that Victor had falsified his faith, her first impulse was to fly, that she might never see his face again. For, the instant she heard his choice, her heart told her what she had been hoping during these days of suspense. She had tried to see Martial Mazurier, but without success, since he conveyed, or promised to convey, her message to the prisoner. Of purpose he had avoided her. He guessed what strength she would by this time have attained, and he was determined to save both to each other, though it might be against their will.

XI.

Victor Le Roy's first endeavor, on being liberated, was—of course to find Jacqueline? Not so. That was far from his first design. His impulse was to avoid the girl he had dared to love. Mazurier had, indeed, conveyed to his mind an impression that would have satisfied him, if anything of this character could do so. But this was impossible. The secret of his disquiet was far too profound for such easy removal.

He had not in himself the witness that he had fulfilled the will of God. He was disquieted, humiliated, wretched. He could not think of Leclerc, nor upon his protestations, except with shame and remorse,—remorse, already. In his heart, in spite of the impression Mazurier had contrived to convey, he believed not that Jacqueline would bless him to such work as he could henceforth perform, no longer a free man,—no longer possessed of liberty of speech and thought.

He had no sooner renounced his liberty than he became persuaded, by an overwhelming reasoning, as he had never been convinced before, of the pricelessness of that he had sacrificed. When he went from the court-room, from the presence of his judges, he was not a free man, though the dignitaries called him so. Martial Mazurier walked arm in arm with him, but the world was a den of horrors, a blackened and accursed world, to the young man who came from prison, free to use his freedom—as the priests directed!

He went home from the prison with Mazurier. The world had conquered. Love had conquered,—Love, that in the conquest felt itself disgraced. He had sold the divine, he had received the human: it was the old pottage speculation over again. This privilege of liberty from his dungeon had looked so fair!—but now it seemed so worthless! This prospect of life so priceless in contemplation of its loss,—oh, the beggar who crept past him was an enviable man, compared with young Victor Le Roy, the heir of love and riches, the heir of liberty and life!

Yes,—he went home with Mazurier. Where else should he go? Congratulations attended him. He was compelled to receive them with a countenance not too sombre, and a grace not all thankless, or—or—they would say it was of cowardice he had saved his precious body from the sentence of the judges, and given his precious LIFE up to the sentence of the JUDGE.

Yes,—Martial took him home. There they might talk at leisure of those things,—and ask a blessing on the testimony of Jesus, made and kept by them!

Victor Le Roy was too proud to complain now. He assented to all the preacher's sophistry. He allowed himself to be cheered. But this was no such evening as had been spent in the room of the wool-comber, when Leclerc's voice, strong, even through his weakness, called on God, and blessed and praised Him, and the spirit conquered the flesh gloriously,—the old mother of Leclerc sharing his joy, as she had also shared his anguish. Here was no Jacqueline to say to Victor, "Thou hast done well! 'Glory be to Jesus Christ, and His witnesses!'"

Mazurier thanked God for the deliverance of His servant! He dedicated himself and Victor anew to the service of Truth, which they had shrunk from defending! And his eloquence and fervor seemed to stamp the words with sincerity. He seemed not in the least to suspect or fear himself.

With Victor Le Roy such self-deception, such sophistry, was simply impossible.

* * * * *

Not of purpose did he meet Jacqueline that night. She had heard that Le Roy was at liberty, and alone now she applied at the door of Martial Mazurier for admittance, but in vain. The master had signified that his evening was not to be interrupted. Therefore she returned, from waiting near his door, to the street where she and Elsie lived.

Should her woman's pride have led her to her lofty lodging, and kept her there without a sign, till Victor himself came seeking her? She knew nothing of such pride,—but much of love; and her love took her back to the post where she had waited many an hour since that disastrous arrest: she would wait there till morning, if she must,—at least, till one should enter, or come forth, who might tell her of Victor Le Roy.

The light in the preacher's study she could see from the door-step in a court-yard where she waited. Should Mazurier come with Victor, she would let them pass; but if Victor came alone, she had a right to speak.

It was after midnight when the student came down from the preacher's study. She heard his voice when the door opened,—by the street-lamp saw his face. And she recognized also the voice of Mazurier, who, till the last moment of separation, seemed endeavoring to dissuade his friend from leaving him that night.

He heard footsteps following him, as he passed along the pavement,—observed that they gained on him. And could it be any other than Jacqueline who touched his arm, and whispered, "Victor"?

His fast-beating heart told him it was she. He took her hand, and drew it within his arm, and looked upon her face,—the face of his Jacqueline.

"Now where?" said he. "It is late. It is after midnight. Why are you alone in the street?"

"Waiting for you, Victor. I heard you were at liberty, and I supposed you were with him. I was safe."

"Yes,—for you fear nothing. That is the only reason. You knew I was with the preacher, Jacqueline. Why? Because—because I am with him, of course."

"Yes," she said. "I heard it was so, Victor."

"Strange!—strange!—is it not? A prison is a better place to learn the truth than the pure air of liberty, it seems," said he, bitterly.

"What is that?" she asked. She seemed not to understand his meaning.

"Nothing. I am acquitted of heresy, you know. It seems, what we talked so bravely meant—nothing. Oh, I am safe, now!"

"It was to preach none the less,—to hold the truth none the less. But if he lost his life, there was an end of all; or if he lost his liberty, it was as bad. But he would keep both, and serve God so," said Jacqueline.

"Yes," cried Victor, "precisely what he said. I have said the same, you think?"

"If you are quite clear that Leclerc and the rest of us are all wrong, Victor."

"Jacqueline!"

"What is it, Victor?"

"'The rest of us,' you say. What would you have done in my place?"

"God knows. I pretend not to know anything more."

"But 'the rest of us,' you said. You think that you at least are with Leclerc?"

"That was the truth you taught me, Victor. But—I have not yet been tried."

"That is safe to say. What makes you speak so prudently, Jacqueline? Why do you not declare, 'Though all men deny Thee, yet will I never deny Thee'? Ah, you have not been tried! You are not yet in danger of the judgment, Jacqueline!"

"Do not speak so; you frighten me; it is not like you. How can I tell? I do not know but in this retirement, in this thought you have been compelled to, you have obtained more light than any one can have until he comes to just such a place."

"Ah, Jacqueline, why not say to me what you are thinking? Have you lost your courage? Say, 'Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.'"

"No,—oh, no! How could I say it, my poor Victor? How do you know?"

"Surely you cannot know, as you say. But from where you stand, that is what you are thinking. Jacqueline, confess! If you should speak your mind, it would be, 'Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God, poor coward!' Oh, Jacqueline, Mazurier may deceive himself! I speak not for him; but what will you do with your poor Victor, my poor Jacqueline?"

She did not linger in the answer,—she did not sob or tremble,—he was by her side.

"Love him to the end. As He, when He loved His own."

"Your own, poor girl? No, no!"

"You gave yourself to me," she answered straightway, with resolute firmness clinging to the all she had.

"I was a man then," he answered. "But I will never give a liar and a coward to Jacqueline Gabrie. Everything but myself, Jacqueline! Take the old words, and the old memory. But for this outcast, him you shall forget. My God! thou hast not brought this brave girl from Domremy, and lighted her heart with a coal from Thine altar, that she should turn from Thee to me! If you love a liar and a coward, Jacqueline, you cannot help yourself,—he will make you one, too. And what I loved you for was your truth and purity and courage. I have given you a treasure which was greater than I could keep.—Where is it that you live now, Jacqueline? I am not yet such a poltroon that I am afraid to conduct you. I think that I should have the courage to protect you to-night, if you were in any immediate danger. Come, lead the way."

"No," said Jacqueline. "I am not going home. I could not sleep; and a roof over my head—any save God's heaven—would suffocate me, I believe."

"Go, then, as you will. But where?"

Jacqueline did not answer, but walked quietly on; and so they passed beyond the city-borders to the river-bank,—far away into the country, through the fields, under the light of stars and of the waning moon.

"If I had been true!" said Victor,—"if I had not listened to him! But him I will not blame. For why should I blame him? Am I an idiot? And his influence could not have prevailed, had I not so chosen, when I stood before my judges and they questioned me. No,—I acquit Mazurier. Perhaps what I have denied never appeared to him so glorious as it did once to me; and so he was guiltless at least of knowing what it was I did. But I knew. And I could not have been deceived for a moment. No,—I think it impossible that for a moment I should have been deceived. They would have made a notable example of me, Jacqueline. I am rich,—I am a student.—Oh, yes! Jesus Christ may die for me, and I accept the benefit; but when it comes to suffering for His sake,—you could not have expected that of such a poltroon, Jacqueline! We may look for it in brave men like Leclerc, whose very living depends on their ability to earn their bread,—to earn it by daily sweat; but men who need not toil, who have leisure and education,—of course you would not expect such testimony to the truth of Jesus from them! Bishop Briconnet recants,—and Martial Mazurier; and Victor Le Roy is no braver man, no truer man than these!"

With bitter shame and self-scorning he spoke.—Poor Jacqueline had not a word to say. She sat beside him. She would help him bear his cross. Heavy-laden as he, she awaited the future, saying, in the silence of her spirit's dismal solitude, "Oh, teach us! Oh, help us!" But she called not on any name; her prayer went out in search of a God whom in that hour she knew not. The dark cloud and shadow of Satan that overshadowed him was also upon her.

"Mazurier is coming in the morning to take me with him, Jacqueline," said Victor. "We are to make a journey."

"What is it, Victor?" she asked, quietly.

There was nothing left for her but patience,—that she clearly saw,—nothing but patience, and quiet enduring of the will of God.

"He is afraid of me,—or of himself,—or of both, I believe. He thinks a change of scene would be good for both of us, poor lepers that we are."

"I must go with you, Victor Le Roy," said the resolute Jacqueline.

"Wherefore?" asked he.

"Because, when you were strong and happy, that was your desire, Victor; and now that you are sick and sorrowing, I will not give you to another: no! not to Mazurier, nor to any one that breathes, except myself, to whom you belong."

"I must stay here in Meaux, then?"

"That depends upon yourself, Victor."

"We were to have been married. We were going to look after our estate, now that the hard summer and the hard years of work are ended."

"Yes, Victor, it was so."

"But I will not wrong you. You were to be the wife of Victor Le Roy. You are his widow, Jacqueline. For you do not think that he lives any longer?"

"He lives, and he is free! If he has sinned, like Peter even, he weeps bitterly."

"Like Peter? Peter denied his Lord. But he did weep, as you say,—bitterly. Peter confessed again."

"And none served the Master with truer heart or greater courage afterward. Victor, you remember."

"Even so,—oh, Jacqueline!"

"Victor! Victor! it was only Judas who hanged himself."

"Come, Jacqueline!"

She arose and went with him. At dawn they were married. Love did lead and save them.

I see two youthful students studying one page. I see two loving spirits walking through thick darkness. Along the horizon flicker the promises of day. They say, "O Holy Ghost, hast thou forsaken thine own temples?" Aloud they cry to God.

I see them wandering among Domremy woods and meadows,—around the castle of Picardy,—talking of Joan. I see them resting by the graves they find in two ancient villages. I see them walk in sunny places; they are not called to toil; they may gather all the blossoms that delight their eyes. Their love grows beyond childhood,—does not die before it comes to love's best estate. Happy bride and bridegroom! But I see them as through a cloud whose fair hues are transient.

From the meadow-lands and the vineyards and the dark forests of the mountains, from study and from rest, I see them move with solemn faces and calm steps. Brave lights are in their eyes, and flowers that are immortal they carry in their hands. No distillation can exhaust the fragrance of those blooms.

What dost thou here, Victor? What dost thou here, Jacqueline?

This is the place of prisons. Here they light again, as they have often lighted, torch and fagot;—life must pay the cost! Angry crowds and hooting multitudes love this dreary square. Oh, Jacqueline and Victor, what is this I behold?

They come together from their prison, hand in hand. "The testimony of Jesus!" Stand back, Mazurier! Retire, Briconnet! Here is not your place,—this is not your hour! Yet here incendiaries fire the temples of the Holy Ghost!

The judges do not now congratulate. Jacqueline waits not now at midnight for the coming of Le Roy. Bride and bridegroom, there they stand; they face the world to give their testimony.

And a woman's voice, almost I deem the voice of Elsie Meril, echoes the mother's cry that followed John Leclerc when he fought the beasts at Meaux,—

"Blessed be Jesus Christ, and His witnesses."

So of the Truth were they borne up that day in a blazing chariot to meet their Lord in the air, to be forever with their Lord.

* * * * *

ON A MAGNOLIA-FLOWER.

Memorial of my former days, Magnolia, as I scent thy breath, And on thy pallid beauty gaze, I feel not far from death!

So much hath happened! and so much The tomb hath claimed of what was mine! Thy fragrance moves me with a touch As from a hand divine:

So many dead! so many wed! Since first, by this Magnolia's tree, I pressed a gentle hand and said, A word no more for me!

Lady, who sendest from the South This frail, pale token of the past, I press the petals to my mouth, And sigh—as 'twere my last.

Oh, love, we live, but many fell! The world's a wreck, but we survive!— Say, rather, still on earth we dwell, But gray at thirty-five!



SOME NOTES ON SHAKSPEARE.

In 1849, the discovery by Mr. Payne Collier of a copy of the Works of Shakspeare, known as the folio of 1632, with manuscript notes and emendations of the same or nearly the same date, created a great and general interest in the world of letters.

The marginal notes were said to be in a handwriting not much later than the period when the volume came from the press; and Shakspearian scholars and students of Shakspeare, and the far more numerous class, lovers of Shakspeare, learned and unlearned, received with respectful eagerness a version of his text claiming a date so near to the lifetime of the master that it was impossible to resist the impression that the alterations came to the world with only less weight of authority than if they had been undoubtedly his own.

The general satisfaction of the literary world in the treasure-trove was but little alloyed by the occasional cautiously expressed doubts of some caviller at the authenticity of the newly discovered "curiosity of literature"; the daily newspapers made room in their crowded columns for extracts from the volume; the weekly journals put forth more elaborate articles on its history and contents; and the monthly and quarterly reviews bestowed their longer and more careful criticism upon the new readings of that text, to elucidate which has been the devout industry of some of England's ripest scholars and profoundest thinkers; while the actors, not to be behindhand in a study especially concerning their vocation, adopted with more enthusiasm than discrimination some of the new readings, and showed a laudable acquaintance with the improved version, by exchanging undoubtedly the better for the worse, upon the authority of Mr. Collier's folio, soon after the publication of which I had the ill-fortune to hear a popular actress destroy the effect and meaning of one of the most powerful passages in "Macbeth" by substituting the new for the old reading of the line,—

"What beast was it, then, That made you break this enterprise to me?"

The cutting antithesis of "What beast" in retort to her husband's assertion, "I dare do all that may become a man," was tamely rendered by the lady, in obedience to Mr. Collier's folio, "What boast was it, then,"—a change that any one possessed of poetical or dramatic perception would have submitted to upon nothing short of the positive demonstration of the author's having so written the passage.

Opinions were, indeed, divided as to the intrinsic merit of the emendations or alterations. Some of the new readings were undoubted improvements, some were unimportant, and others again were beyond all controversy inferior to the established text of the passages; and it seemed not a little difficult to reconcile the critical acumen and poetical insight of many of the corrections with the feebleness and prosaic triviality of others.

Again, it was observed by those conversant with the earlier editions, especially with the little read or valued Oxford edition, that a vast number of the passages given as emendations in Mr. Collier's folio were precisely the same in Hanmer's text. Indeed, it seems not a little remarkable that neither Mr. Collier nor his opponents have thought it worth their while to state that nearly half, and that undoubtedly the better half, of the so-called new readings are to be found in the finely printed, but little esteemed, text of the Oxford Shakspeare. If, indeed, these corrections now come to us with the authority of a critic but little removed from Shakspeare's own time, it is remarkable that Sir Thomas Hanmer's, or rather Mr. Theobald's, ingenuity should have forestalled the fiat of Mr. Collier's folio in so many instances. On the other hand, it may have been judged by others besides a learned editor of Shakspeare from whom I once heard the remark, that the fact of the so-called new readings being many of them in Rowe and Hanmer, and therefore well known to the subsequent editors of Shakspeare, who nevertheless did not adopt them, proved that in their opinion they were of little value and less authority. But, says Mr. Collier, inasmuch as they are in the folio of 1632, which I now give to the world, they are of authority paramount to any other suggestion or correction that has hitherto been made on the text of Shakspeare.

Thus stood the question in 1853. How stands it in 1860? After a slow, but gradual process of growth and extension of doubt and questionings, more or less calculated to throw discredit on the authority of the marginal notes in the folio,—the volume being subjected to the careful and competent examination of certain officers of the library of the British Museum,—the result seems to threaten a considerable reduction in the supposed value of the authority which the public was called upon to esteem so highly.

The ink in which the annotations are made has been subjected to chemical analysis, and betrays, under the characters traced in it, others made in pencil, which are pronounced by some persons of a more modern date than the letters which have been traced over them.

Here at present the matter rests. Much angry debate has ensued between the various gentlemen interested in the controversy,—Mr. Collier not hesitating to suggest that pencil-marks in imitation of his handwriting had been inserted in the volume, and a fly-leaf abstracted from it, while in the custody of Messrs. Hamilton and Madden of the British Museum; while the replies of these gentlemen would go towards establishing that the corrections are forgeries, and insinuating that they are forgeries for which Mr. Collier is himself responsible.

While the question of the antiquity and authority of these marginal notes remains thus undecided, it may not be amiss to apply to them the mere test of common sense in order to determine upon their intrinsic value, to the adequate estimate of which all thoughtful readers of Shakspeare must be to a certain degree competent.

The curious point, of whose they are, may test the science of decipherers of palimpsest manuscripts; the more weighty one, of what they are worth, remains, as it was from the first, a matter on which every student of Shakspeare may arrive at some conclusion for himself. And, indeed, to this ground of judgment Mr. Collier himself appeals, in his preface to the "Notes and Emendations," in no less emphatic terms than the following:—"As Shakspeare was especially the poet of common life, so he was emphatically the poet of common sense; and to the verdict of common sense I am willing to submit all the more material alterations recommended on the authority before me."

I take "The Tempest," the first play in Mr. Collier's volume of "Notes and Emendations," and, while bestowing my principal attention on the inherent worth of the several new readings, shall point out where they tally exactly with the text of the Oxford edition, because that circumstance has excited little attention in the midst of the other various elements of interest in the controversy, and also because I have it in my power to give from a copy of that edition in my possession some passages corrected by John and Charles Kemble, who brought to the study of the text considerable knowledge of it and no inconsiderable ability for poetical and dramatic criticism.

In the first scene of the first act of "The Tempest" Mr. Collier gives the line,—

"Good Boatswain, have care,"—

adding, "It may be just worth remark, that the colloquial expression is have a care, and a is inserted in the margin of the corrected folio, 1632, to indicate, probably, that the poet so wrote it, or, at all events, that the actor so delivered it."

In the copy of Hanmer in my possession the a is also inserted in the margin, upon the authority of one of the eminent actors above mentioned.

SCENE II.

"The sky. it seems, would pour down stinking pitch, But that the sea, mounting to the welkin's cheek, Dashes the fire out."

The manuscript corrector of the folio, 1632, has substituted heat for "cheek," which appears to me an alteration of no value whatever. Shakspeare was more likely to have written cheek than heat; for elsewhere he uses the expression, "Heaven's face," "the welkin's face," and, though irregular, the expression is poetical.

At Miranda's exclamation,—

"A brave vessel, Who had no doubt some noble creature in her, Dash'd all to pieces,"—

Mr. Collier does Theobald the justice to observe, that he, as well as the corrector of the folio, 1632, adds the necessary letter s to the word "creature," making the plural substantive agree with her other exclamation of, "Poor souls, they perished!"

Where Mr. Collier, upon the authority of his folio, substitutes prevision for "provision" in the lines of Prospero,—

"The direful spectacle of the wreck . . . I have with such provision in mine art So safely ordered," etc.,—

I do not agree to the value of the change. It is very true that prevision means the foresight that his art gave him, but provision implies the exercise of that foresight or prevision; it is therefore better, because more comprehensive.

Mr. Collier's folio gives as an improvement upon Malone and Steevens's reading of the passage,—

"And thy father Was Duke of Milan; and his only heir A princess; no worse issued,"—

the following:—

"And thy father Was Duke of Milan,—thou his only heir And princess no worse issued."

Supposing the folio to be ingenious rather than authoritative, the passage, as it stands in Hanmer, is decidedly better, because clearer:—

"And thy father Was Duke of Milan,—thou, his only heir A princess—no worse issued."

In the next passage, given as emended by the folio, we have what appears to me one bad and one decidedly good alteration from the usual reading, which, in all the editions given hitherto, has left the meaning barely perceptible through the confusion and obscurity of the expression.

"He being thus lorded, Not only with what my revenue yielded, But what my power might else exact,—like one Who having unto truth by telling of it Made such a sinner of his memory To credit his own lie,—he did believe He was indeed the Duke."

The folio says,—

"He being thus loaded."

And to this change I object: the meaning was obvious before; "lorded" stands clearly enough here for made lord of or over, etc.; and though the expression is unusual, it is less prosaic than the proposed word loaded. But in the rest of the passage the critic of the folio does immense service to the text, in reading

"Like one Who having to untruth by telling of it Made such a sinner of his memory To credit his own lie,—he did believe He was indeed the Duke."

This change carries its own authority in its manifest good sense.

Of the passage,—

"Whereon, A treacherous army levied, one midnight Fated to the purpose, did Antonio open The gates of Milan, and in the dead of darkness The ministers for the purpose hurried thence Me and thy crying self,"—

Mr. Collier says that the iteration of the word "purpose," in the fourth line, after its employment in the second, is a blemish, which his folio obviates by substituting the word practice in the first line. I think this a manifest improvement, though not an important one.

Mr. Collier gives Rowe the credit of having altered "butt" to boat, and "have quit it" to had quit it, in the lines,—

"Where they prepar'd A rotten carcase of a butt not rigg'd, Nor tackle, sail, nor mast,—the very rats Instinctively have quit it."

Adding, that in both changes he is supported by the corrector of the folio, 1632. Hanmer gives the passage exactly as the latter, and as Rowe does.

We now come to the stage-directions in the folio, to which Mr. Collier gives, I think, a most exaggerated value. He says, that, where Prospero says,—

"Lend thy hand And pluck my magic garment from me,—so Lie there, my art,"—

the words, "Lay it down," are written over against the passage. Now this really seems a very unnecessary direction, inasmuch as the text very clearly indicates that Prospero lays down as well as plucks off his "magic garment,"—unless we are to suppose Miranda holding it over her arm till he resumes it. But still less do I agree with Mr. Collier in thinking the direction, "Put on robe again," at the passage beginning, "Now I arise," any extraordinary accession to the business, as it is technically called, of the scene: for I do not think that his resuming his magical robe was in any way necessary to account for the slumber which overcomes Miranda, "in spite of her interest in her father's story," and which Mr. Collier says the commentators have endeavored to account for in various ways; but putting "because of her interest in her father's story," instead of "in spite of," I feel none of the difficulty which beset the commentators, and which Mr. Collier conjures by the stage-direction which makes Prospero resume his magic robe at a certain moment in order to put his daughter to sleep. Worthy Dr. Johnson, who was not among the puzzled commentators on this occasion, suggests, very agreeably to common sense, that "Experience proves that any violent agitation of the mind easily subsides in slumber." But Mr. Collier says, the Doctor gives this very reasonable explanation of Miranda's sleep only because he was not acquainted with the folio stage-direction about Prospero's coat, and knew no better. Now we are acquainted with this important addition to the text, and yet know no better than to agree with Doctor Johnson, that Miranda's slumbers were perfectly to be accounted for without the coat. Mr. Collier does not seem to know that a deeper and heavier desire to sleep follows upon the overstrained exercise of excited attention than on the weariness of a dull and uninteresting appeal to it.

But let us consider Shakspeare's text, rather than the corrector's additions, for a moment. Within reach of the wild wind and spray of the tempest, though sheltered from their fury, Miranda had watched the sinking ship struggling with the mad elements, and heard when "rose from sea to sky the wild farewell." Amazement and pity had thrown her into a paroxysm of grief, which is hardly allayed by her father's assurance, that "there's no harm done." After this terrible excitement follows the solemn exordium to her father's story,—

"The hour's now come; The very minute bids thee ope thine ear. Obey and be attentive."

The effort she calls upon her memory to make to recover the traces of her earliest impressions of life,—the strangeness of the events unfolded to her,—the duration of the recital itself, which is considerable,—and, above all, the poignant personal interest of its details, are quite sufficient to account for the sudden utter prostration of her overstrained faculties and feelings, and the profound sleep that falls on the young girl. Perhaps Shakspeare knew this, though his commentators, old and new, seem not to have done so; and without a professed faith, such as some of us moderns indulge in, in the mysteries of magnetism, perhaps he believed enough in the magnetic force of the superior physical as well as mental power of Prospero's nature over the nervous, sensitive, irritable female organization of his child to account for the "I know thou canst not choose" with which he concludes his observation on her drowsiness, and his desire that she will not resist it. The magic gown may, indeed, have been powerful,—but hardly more so, we think, than the nervous exhaustion which, combined with the authoritative will and eyes of her lord and father, bowed down the child's drooping eyelids in profoundest sleep.

The strangest of all Mr. Collier's comments upon this passage, however, is that where he represents Miranda as, up to a certain point of her father's story, remaining "standing eagerly listening by his side." This is not only gratuitous, but absolutely contrary to Shakspeare's text,—a greater authority, I presume, than even that of the annotated folio. Prospero's words to his daughter, when first he begins the recital of their sea-sorrow, are,—

"Sit down! For thou must now know further."

Does Mr. Collier's folio reject this reading of the first line? or does he suppose that Miranda remained standing, in spite of her father's command? Moreover, when he interrupts his story with the words, "Now I arise," he adds, to his daughter, "Sit still," which clearly indicates both that she was seated and that she was about to rise (naturally enough) when her father did. We say, "Sit down," to a person who is standing; and, "Sit still," to a person seated who is about to rise; and in all these minute particulars, the simple text of Shakspeare, if attentively followed, gives every necessary indication of his intention with regard to the attitudes and movements of the persons on the stage in this scene; and the highly commended stage-directions of the folio are here, therefore, perfectly superfluous.

The next alteration in the received text is a decided improvement. In speaking of the royal fleet dispersed by the tempest, Ariel says,—

"They all have met again, And are upon the Mediterranean flote Bound sadly home for Naples";—

for which Mr. Collier's folio substitutes,—

"They all have met again, And all upon the Mediterranean float, Bound sadly back to Naples."

Mr. Collier notices, that the improvement of giving the lines,

"Which any print of goodness will not take,"

to Prospero, instead of Miranda, dates as far back as Dryden and Davenant's alteration of "The Tempest," from which he says Theobald and others copied it.

The corrected folio gives its authority to the lines of the song,—

"Foot it featly here and there, And, sweet sprites, the burden bear,"—

which stands so in Hanmer, and, indeed is the usually received arrangement of the song.

This is the last corrected passage in the first act, in the course of which Mr. Collier gives us no fewer than sixteen, altered, emended, and commented upon in his folio. Many of the emendations are to be found verbatim in the Oxford and subsequent editions, and three only appear to us to be of any special value, tried by the standard of common sense, to which we agreed, on Mr. Collier's invitation, to refer them.

The line in Prospero's threat to Caliban,—

"I'll rack thee with old cramps, Fill all thy bones with aches, make thee roar,"—

occasioned one of Mr. John Kemble's characteristic differences with the public, who objected, perhaps not without reason, to hearing the word "aches" pronounced as a dissyllable, although the line imperatively demands it; and Shakspeare shows that the word was not unusually so pronounced, as he introduces it with the same quantity in the prose dialogue of "Much Ado about Nothing," and makes it the vehicle of a pun which certainly argues that it was familiar to the public ear as ache and not ake. When Hero asks Beatrice, who complains that she is sick, what she is sick for,—a hawk, a hound, or a husband,—Beatrice replies, that she is sick for—or of—that which begins them all, an ache,—an H. Indeed, much later than Shakspeare's day the word was so pronounced; for Dean Swift, in the "City Shower," has the line,—

"Old aches throb, your hollow tooth will rage."

The opening of this play is connected with my earliest recollections. In looking down the "dark backward and abysm of time," to the period when I was but six years old, my memory conjures up a vision of a stately drawing-room on the ground-floor of a house, doubtless long since swept from the face of the earth by the encroaching tide of new houses and streets that has submerged every trace of suburban beauty, picturesqueness, or rural privacy in the neighborhood of London, converting it all by a hideous process of assimilation into more London, till London seems almost more than England can carry.

But in those years, "long enough ago," to which I refer,—somewhere between Lea and Blackheath, stood in the midst of well-kept grounds a goodly mansion, which held this pleasant room. It was always light and cheerful and warm, for the three windows down to the broad gravel-walk before it faced south; and though the lawn was darkened just in front of them by two magnificent yew-trees, the atmosphere of the room itself, in its silent, sunny loftiness, was at once gay and solemn to my small imagination and senses,—much as the interior of Saint Peter's of Rome has been since to them. Wonderful, large, tall jars of precious old china stood in each window, and my nose was just on a level with the wide necks, whence issued the mellowest smell of fragrant pot-pourri. Into this room, with its great crimson curtains and deep crimson carpet, in which my feet seemed to me buried, as in woodland moss, I used to be brought for recompense of having been "very good," and there I used to find a lovely-looking lady, who was to me the fitting divinity of this shrine of pleasant awfulness. She bore a sweet Italian diminutive for her Christian name, added to one of the noblest old ducal names of Venice, which was that of her family.

I have since known that she was attached to the person of, and warmly personally attached to, the unfortunate Caroline of Brunswick, Princess of Wales,—then only unfortunate; so that I can now guess at the drift of much sad and passionate talk with indignant lips and tearful eyes, of which the meaning was then of course incomprehensible to me, but which I can now partly interpret by the subsequent history of that ill-used and ill-conducted lady.

The face of my friend with the great Venetian name was like one of Giorgione's pictures,—of that soft and mellow colorlessness that recalls the poet's line,—

"E smarrisce 'l bel volto in quel colore Che non e pallidezza, ma candore,"—

or the Englishman's version of the same thought,—

"Her face,—oh, call it fair, not pale!"

It seemed to me, as I remember it, cream-colored; and her eyes, like clear water over brown rocks, where the sun is shining. But though the fair visage was like one of the great Venetian master's portraits, her voice was purely English, low, distinct, full, and soft,—and in this enchanting voice she used to tell me the story of the one large picture which adorned the room.

Over and over again, at my importunate beseeching, she told it,—sometimes standing before it, while I held her hand and listened with upturned face, and eyes rounding with big tears of wonder and pity, to a tale which shook my small soul with a sadness and strangeness far surpassing the interest of my beloved tragedy, "The Babes in the Wood,"—though at this period of my existence it has happened to me to interrupt with frantic cries of distress, and utterly refuse to hear, the end of that lamentable ballad.

But the picture.—In the midst of a stormy sea, on which night seemed fast settling down, a helmless, mastless, sailless bark lay weltering giddily, and in it sat a man in the full flower of vigorous manhood. His attitude was one of miserable dejection, and, oh, how I did long to remove the hand with which his eyes were covered, to see what manner of look in them answered to the bitter sorrow which the speechless lips expressed! His other hand rested on the fair curls of a girl-baby of three years old, who clung to his knee, and, with wide, wondering blue eyes and laughing lips, looked up into the half-hidden face of her father.—"And that," said the sweet voice at my side, "was the good Duke of Milan, Prospero,—and that was his little child, Miranda."

There was something about the face and figure of the Prospero that suggested to me those of my father; and this, perhaps, added to the poignancy with which the representation of his distress affected my childish imagination. But the impression made by the picture, the story, and the place where I heard the one and saw the other, is among the most vivid that my memory retains. And never, even now, do I turn the magic page that holds that marvellous history, without again seeing the lovely lady, the picture full of sad dismay, and my own six-year-old self listening to that earliest Shakspearian lore that my mind and heart ever received. I suppose this is partly the secret of my love for this, above all other of the poet's plays;—it was my first possession in the kingdom of unbounded delight which he has since bestowed upon me.

* * * * *

THE GREAT ARM-CHAIR.

Shall I not to-day, Estelle, give you the history of this great arm-chair, the only historical piece of furniture in our house? The heavy oak frame was carved by an imprisoned poet. They took away his pen, and in larger lines he carved this chair. Heavily moulded Sphinxes form its arms; the strong legs and feet of some wild beast its support; the crest, a winged figure with bandaged eyes,—a Fate or Fortune we might call it,—that mild look not to be resisted in its gentle strength. But blind Fortune could not so master him: his prison made for him only a secure room, in which to study, to work out, the mysteries.

The rich covering was wrought long years ago, in some ancient convent, by a saintly nun. Holy, pious tears dropped on it as she wrought. She pricked out brave bright flowers with her needle, though her own life was pale and sad. I cover this sacred work with housewifely care; but it makes our rest there more hallowed.

This old chair we call our dreaming-chair,—to borrow a name, our Sleepy-Hollow. It is so simple and grand in workmanship, it should be the seat of honor in a king's palace; and yet it is in place in our small parlor. Perhaps some day I may tell you of the ancient dames and knights who once possessed it; but they have long since slept their last sleep,—no summer-afternoon's nap, but a sleep so long to last, now their long day's work is done.

Not quite finished is the old man's work who this afternoon sat in the chair and quietly dreamed back his youth. I saw the hardened, withered face soften, as the bright light of childhood played around it; the meagre, hard old man forgot for a little the sharp want that pinched him; when he waked, he still babbled of green fields.

"Did Robinson Crusoe ever come back to his father and mother?" he says to me. "Poor boy! poor boy! I went to sea when I was young. Father and mother didn't like it. Came back after a four-years' voyage, and off again, soon as the ship had unloaded, on another trip up the Channel: took all my money to fit out. Might have had the Custom-House, if there had been anybody to speak for me; would have done my work well, and maybe had kept it thirty or forty years. Should be glad to creep into a hay-mow and pay somebody to feed me. Wish old Uncle Jack was good for somethin' besides work, work,—nothin' but hard work! Wish he could talk and say somethin'.

"Now that was good, sensible poetry you were reading, wasn't it? Good stuff? Couldn't hear a word of it: poor old fellow can't hear much now. Wish my father had lived longer; he would have told me things; he used to be different to me. I could have been a sight of comfort to him in mathematics." (His father died when the son was fifty years old; the thirty years he had lived since seemed a long life to the old man.) "Mayn't I look at the poetry?"

I found the place for him,—"New England."

"Yes, the farmer takes lots of comfort, walking on the road, foddering cattle, cutting wood."

Uncle Jack believes heartily in New England corn, and in the planting and hoeing of Indian corn he takes great delight: not to corn-laws, but to Indian corn, the talk always drifts.

"I hear you are going to plant a couple of acres of corn, Sir. Glad of it. This is an excellent dish of tea, Marm. This bread tastes like my mother's bread; baked in a bake-kettle. These mangoes are nice,—such as we used to have."

Turning to Aunt Sarah, he says,—

"Did you ever notice a difference in eggs, Marm?"

"Yes, Aunt thinks there is a difference between fresh and stale eggs."

"But I mean, Marm, that some are thin-shelled, some rough, some round, some peaked: a hen lays 'em just so all her life. Ever see a difference?"

It is an open question.

Then turning to the master of the house,—

"Do you like choc'late, Sir? Well, how you going to fix it when you haven't got any milk? Well, you just beat up an egg, and pour on the choc'late, boiling hot, stirring all the time, and you won't want any milk, Sir. That was what kept me alive aboard the Ranger."

Now comes the story of the Ranger. He was getting in years, he said, and wanted a home for his old age; so he built him a boat. He put a little open stove in it, because an open fire felt kind o' comfortable to his toes. He named it the Ranger; because when he was a little boy he took a long walk to the beach with his father, the little Iulus following with unequal steps, and they saw a shipwrecked vessel, named the Ranger, and he liked the name. He kept that name in his heart many years. When at last, by dint of much saving and scraping together, much hoeing of Indian corn, the old stocking-foot was at last filled, all the little odd bits, poured out and counted up, came to enough to speak to the ship-builder. Oh, the model! how the old man's brain worked over that! Then the timber,—each was a chosen piece; oak, apple, cherry, pine, each tree sent a stick. The home was builded, was launched, was christened: The Ranger. Alas, it was an ill-omened name to him! Brave and young was he in heart, and loved right well his tossing, rolling home; and many a hard gale did he ride out in her alone, old as he was.

Too old was he to be trusted on the treacherous deep; and friends (?) advised and counselled, and the home of his old age was sold. (He never got the pay!) Now, with restless, wandering feet, he makes long tramps, trying to collect old debts. Kind-hearted old man that he is, thinking always he is hard on 'em when he gets a promise to pay! A wife has been sick; perhaps he had better not ask for it now. His ox has died; maybe he had better wait. Fumbling over old papers in his pocket-book, muttering something about a pension: he was on the list, but was never called out, or somebody took his place.

Poor old Uncle Jack, with his dream of a pension, his dream of an office, his dream of a home in a boat! With him "many a dream has gone down the stream."

May some friendly hand at last close his eyes to that last long sleep, when his turn comes to heave down!

He is always finding Indian arrowheads and hatchets and pestles. He picks full pails of the nicest-looking huckleberries. He is always dressed in clean, tidy clothes, a little scant and well patched. He pats me on the head and says, "Didn't know you were Evelyn's sister; thought it was a little three-year old." About to tell me a sad story he had read in the newspaper, he stops suddenly and says, "Believe I won't tell you, dear!" "Did you hear the newspipe has broke?" when the Atlantic Telegraph Cable parted. He had plans for shoving off the Leviathan when it stuck.

Shall I not tell you he brings me a little bunch of eels of his own spearing? that you must be careful at table he has enough to eat, he takes such small pieces? that he is altogether a sparse man? has rows of pins on his sleeve that he picks up?—an old-fashioned man, whose type is fast fading out from these "fast," "steep" times. He tells a story of a stream of black flies which came so thick and so fast pouring on, he looked as long as he darst to. Yet he can tell a good, big story yet, and when somebody was talking of turtles of good size, jumped up suddenly, "Did you ever see a terrapin, Sir?" and then walked round the long dining-table to tell how big he was and how high he stood on his feet. "When I was in the West Indies, Sir——Wish I could creep into a good English hay-mow and pay somebody to feed me!"

Do you remember, Estelle, the story we read together once, out of the "Casket" or "Gem," one of those old annuals, where a certain princess was sent to a desolate island, whose maids of honor were all old crones, once distinguished by their wonderful beauty? Her task was to discover each especial grace, long since buried by the rubbish which time and folly had heaped upon it; in each old, yellow, wrinkled hag to find the charm which had once adorned her: as she found the grace, it was transferred to her own youthful person. Slowly and patiently she unwound those wrapped-up mummies, and disclosed the gems hidden in those burial-clothes; and returned to her father's court enriched with all those long-buried graces, now revived to their former youthful beauty, and with the added charm which wisdom and patience give.

My task is not so difficult,—as I seek virtues, not perishable stuffs. We will learn the history of these thickly crossing wrinkles, that, checkering, map out the face like the streets of a busy city. We will read the story "that youth and observation copied there." Many sit in my chair with weather-beaten looks, but time and want and necessity have ploughed still deeper furrows.

It is not in vain, this brave encounter with the elements,—this battle to keep the wolf Want outside the door,—the patient, laborious building up of the small house, made almost a comfortable home by many years of toil,—the sufficient meal snatched from Nature by the line or the gun, or wrung from her by hard labor of the hands. Is the face too thin and hard, the lips compressed? Would you turn away from so much patient endurance of a hard lot? Turn again, and read the story the clear eye tells; listen to the words of a deep religious experience which the thin, cracked voice relates: how in visions of the night the Comforter has come to them, and henceforth the way of duty is clear, and the burden of life is lightened. Will you go with me, dear, into those homely houses, sit with me by the firesides, and hear the simple story of New England's farmers and farmers' wives? We cannot call those poor who are so rich in all the manly virtues, and in the deep experiences of a faithful life.

Uncle Jack stops on his way, going up to get the oxen, and passes the night,—says, "Other people can't find enough to do; for his part, he should like to lie down in the hay-mow and rest,—all worn out, used up. Now Josiah, good, conversable man, knows about geography and the country round. Well, when you've got that, got the best of him,—likes variety too well,—goes off, leaves the homestead like a dismantled ship. Now, if a man only gets three good days down cellar, that's something. Don't believe 'Siah ever does it. So many notions in's head bothers him." (Uncle Jack is quite right; 'tis not economical to have notions; besides, they are revolutionary, they subvert the order of things.) "Got a cunning little heifer used to have some manners. Lost some of our lambs; read in a book, that, take what care you might, you would lose some lambs at times."—To-day he has gone driving the oxen round by Perkins's.

"Had the rheumatism this winter,—guess Jack Frost pinched him."—Ah! dear old man, an older than Jack Frost has got hold of your aged limbs! Harder pinches old Time gives than any mortal man!

"Used to get a little bird, Harris and me, and roast it, and mother would give us a little apple-sauce in a clam-shell, and we would go off back the island and eat it. Harris was sent to school up to Perkins's; couldn't stay; run away, and borrowed a boat, and came home again; afraid of his father, and hid in the barn. Dug a well in the hay, and they used to lower him down things to eat, and water to drink in scooped-out water-melon rinds."

* * * * *

THE SONG OF FATIMA.

On, sad are they who know not love, But, far from passion's tears and smiles, Drift down a moonless sea, and pass The silver coasts of fairy isles!

And sadder they whose longing lips Kiss empty air, and never touch The dear warm mouth of those they love, Waiting, wasting, suffering much!

But clear as amber, sweet as musk, Is life to those whose lives unite: They walk in Allah's smile by day, And nestle in his heart by night!



SOMETHING ABOUT HISTORY.

There is no kind of writing which is undertaken so much from will and so little from instinct as History. It seems the great resource of baffled ambition, of leisure, of minds disciplined rather than inspired, of men with pecuniary means and without professional obligations. Sympathy with or opposition to an author prompts those thus situated to write criticism; a dominant sentiment inspires poetical composition; and usually an impressive experience suggests adventure in the field of fiction: but we find educated men, in independent circumstances, not remarkable for sensibility to Nature, acute critical perception, or dramatic talent, whose literary aspirations are vague, and who desire to be occupied eligibly, turn to History as the most available vantage-ground, busy themselves with wars and councils that happened ages ago,—with kings and soldiers, institutions and adventures, politics and dynasties, so far removed from the associations and interests of the hour, that only a scholar's enthusiasm or ambition could sustain the research or keep alive the enterprise thus voluntarily assumed. It is this objective method and motive that chiefly accounts for the numberless inert and the few vital histories. Like any intellectual task assumed without special fitness therefor or motive thereto,—without a comprehensive grasp of mind that impels to historic exploration,—without a patriotic zeal that warms to national heroism,—without, especially, a love of some principle, a conviction of some truth, an admiration of some national development, irresistibly urging the cultivated and ardent mind to seek for the facts, to celebrate the persons, to evolve the truth involved in and manifest through public events,—the annals recorded are but dry chronology,—a monotonous, more or less authentic, perhaps quite respectable, but far from a very important or peculiarly interesting work. Thousands of such cumber the shelves of libraries and fill the pages of catalogues,—dusted once a year, perhaps, to verify a date, to authenticate the details of a treaty, or fix the statistics of a war, but never read consecutively and with zest, because there was no genuine relation between the writer and his book. He undertook the latter in the spirit of a mechanical job; industry and learning may be embodied therein, but no moral life, no human charm; yet the work is cited with respect, the author enrolled with honor;—whereas, had he sought in poetry or philosophy, in a novel or a drama, thus to occupy and celebrate himself with literature, the failure would have been signal, the attempt ignominious. There is, indeed, no safer investment for middling literary abilities than History; for, if it fail to yield any large harvest of renown, it is comparatively secure from the assaults of ridicule, such as make pretension in other spheres of writing conspicuous.

Even in what are considered the successful exemplars in this department of literature, the errors incident to artificiality, the conventional forms of writing, are patent. Only in passages do we recognize that beauty or truth, that reality and genuineness, which so often wholly pervade a poem, a story, a memoir, or even a disquisition: at some point, the flow incident to wilful instead of soulful utterance becomes apparent;—ambition, pride of opinion, love of display somewhere manifest themselves. It has been said that the chief element of Hume's mental power was skepticism; and, singular as it may appear, his doubts about what are deemed the vital interests of humanity gave a charm to his record of her political vicissitudes; while he made capital of touching "situations," he displayed his own strength of intellect; but, with all this, did not write complete and authentic history. And when analyzed, what was the animus of Gibbon's elaborate chronicle? He "spent his time, his life, his energy," says a severe, but just critic, "in putting a polished gloss on human tumult, a sneering gloss on human piety." And who has not felt, in following Macaulay's animated periods and thorough exposition and illustration of some event, trait, or economy,—in itself of little importance and limited value,—how much better it would have been to reserve his brilliant descriptive and keen analytical powers for the grand episodes, the prolific crises, and the leading characters of history, instead of indiscriminately devoting them to a consecutive account of national incidents and persons, both great and small, illustrious and insignificant?

A popular British author of our own day, in order to demonstrate the law of compensation, as regards the literary vocation, cites its inexpensiveness,—arguing, that, whereas the artist must invest capital, however small, in colors, marble, canvas, and studio-hire, and the professional man occupy a costly locality, the author needs but a quire of foolscap and a pen and ink to set up in trade. While there is literal truth in this comparison, the fact is not applicable to historical writing, except in a very limited degree. The preparation of the most successful works in this department, in modern times, has been attended with an outlay impossible to the poor scholar. It has involved the examination and reproduction of voluminous manuscript authorities, distant travel, the purchase of rare books and family papers, and sometimes years of busy reference, observation, and study, lucrative only in prospect. The same amount of culture and facile vigor of composition which less prosperous authors expend on a masterly review would suffice to make them famous historians, if blessed with the pecuniary means to seek foreign sources of information, or gather about them scattered and rare materials wherewith to weave a chronicle of the past. Hence, not only has History become the chosen field of writers with no special gift for more individually inspired kinds of literature, but of the educated sons of fortune. Accordingly, it is curious to remark the contrast between the lives of historians and those of poets; and in the average circumstances of the former there is some justification for the title of an aristocratic guild in letters. Compare Cowper's humble home at Olney with Gibbon's elegant library at Lausanne,—the social environment of Hallam, Grote, or Macaulay with the rustic isolation of Wordsworth, the economies of Shelley, or the life-struggle of Jerrold. Of course, there can thence be inferred no general rule; and the very differences in temperament between inventive and reproductive writers suggest a consequent diversity of habits; but the very idea of historical composition, on an extensive scale and as a permanent occupation, implies the leisure which competency alone yields, the means indispensable for gradual literary achievement, and more or less of the luxury and social position which, when education obtains, usually attend upon these advantages.

It results from these considerations that there is no sphere of literature which is so often the refuge of wealthy scholars, idle men of taste, baffled politicians of independent means, ambitious and well-read but not specially gifted citizens who have inherited comfortable estates. It is so dignified an employment, that it gratifies pride,—so possible without trenchant opinions, that it does not alarm the conservative,—so thoroughly respectable, safe, and capable of being made illustrious, so comparatively easy to the fluent but unoriginal mind, and practicable to follow, when methodically carried out, in a stated, regular manner, that we can scarcely be astonished at the alacrity with which such voluntary tasks are undertaken or the steadiness with which they are followed; at the same time, it may be because so few are able to command the means and opportunity, that historical writing is so highly estimated. As a test of intellectual power, a gauge of individual sentiment, an evidence of original genius, it is immeasurably inferior to dramatic, philosophical, or any of the more personal forms of literature, when inspired by deep convictions, original ideas, or creative imagination. It requires more knowledge than reflection, more patience than earnestness, more judgment than sentiment; and those who have raised it to a vital significance and profound beauty and interest have done so by virtue of endowments which, otherwise directed, would have placed them high and firm on the roll of genius: for it is possible to write history without this transcendent gift,—possible to write it respectably without the slightest grandeur or grace of mind,—by virtue of command of words, industry, care, and good sense. We cannot imagine Shakspeare tracing out his conception of Hamlet, or giving language to Lear or Miranda, without a soulful experience as far above mere intellectual assiduity as humanity is above mechanism; we cannot think of Milton elaborating his sublime epic, without, in fancy, taking in the studious years, the Italian nights of music, starlight, and high converse, the beautiful youth, the self-sacrificing prime, the blind old age, the religious patriotism, the pious loyalty, the learning and love, and the isolated meditation, cheered by grand symphonies and hoarded wisdom, through and by which, concentrated into melodious expression, the life of a noble mind thus majestically expressed itself: but we can easily fancy cold and cultured Gibbon returning from the Continent, full of classic lore, disgusted with his failure in public life, not sympathetic enough to enjoy heartily a career either of pleasure or of society, and so, in his dreams of scholarship, seizing upon the idea of a long, laborious, erudite, and elegant task; and we can also well imagine Hume, with his love of speculation, turning gratefully to the records of the past for subjects of reflection, analysis, and inference. In these and other notable instances, we feel it is more an accident than an inspiration, more from circumstances than from innate and absolute endowment and impulse, that the historic Muse is wooed.

Within a brief period the grave has closed over one of the most irreproachable and assiduous of American writers of History,—whose career signally illustrates the blessing of such a resource to unoccupied and cultivated leisure, and at the same time the fortuitous circumstances which often originate and prolong this kind of literary labor. In a letter to a friend abroad, written by Prescott soon after he found himself thus congenially occupied, the case is most frankly stated. "Ennui crept over me, when I found myself a perfectly idle man, with nothing to do, and, what made it worse, with eyes so debilitated that I had no power of doing anything with them. However, 'necessity is the mother of invention,' and I resolved to turn author in spite of my eyes; and it is a great satisfaction to me to think that the volumes I have put together for my own amusement should have afforded some to my countrymen, and, above all, to my friends."[A]

[Footnote A: Letter of W. H. Prescott to Miss Preble, dated Boston, February 28, 1845. Memoir of Harriet Preble, by Professor R.H. LEE, p. 285-6.]

This modest and candid estimate of his vocation indicates how much more a thing of volition and opportunity, and how much less a work of special endowment and intuitive recognition is the literature of History than that of Poetry, Psychology, or Philosophy, notwithstanding all these may be fused therein. "Whatever may be the use of this sort of composition in itself and abstractedly," observes a judicious critic,[B] "it is certainly of great use relatively and to literary men. Consider the position of a man of that species. He sits beside a library-fire, with nice white paper, a good pen, a capital style, every means of saying everything, but nothing to say. What, again, if something would happen, and then one could describe it? Something has happened, and that something is History." To feel fully the difference between a formal, mechanical annalist and the revival of the past through poetic or artistic sympathy, it is only requisite to turn from some dry chronicle of political vicissitudes, duly registered by a dull, matter-of-fact, conscientious antiquary, to the fresh classical or colonial romance, of which such graceful and well-studied exemplars have been produced by Lockhart, Bulwer, D'Azeglio, Kingsley, Ware, Longfellow, and other bards and novelists. While the attempt, by intensity of description and brilliant generalities, to impart to veritable history the charm we accept in the historical romance, has caused many an old-school reader to place Macaulay's fascinating volumes, called "The History of England," on the same shelf with works of fiction,—Aytoun, Hugh Miller, and William Penn's champions have given special meaning to this principle or prejudice, whichever it may be, by challenging the delightful author to the test of fact.

[Footnote B: Bagehot.]

In statesmen, or those who have excelled in political writing, the ambition to write history, the desire to illustrate and record national events, is not only a natural, but an auspicious feeling; and so it is in educated poets in whom the sentiment of patriotism or the narrative art gives scope and glow to such an enterprise. That Fox and Bacon, Milton and Swift, Mackintosh, Schiller, and Lamartine, should have partially adventured in this field seems but a legitimate result of their endowments and experience, however fragmentary or inadequate may have been some of the fruits of their historic studies.

When an enlightened and executive or speculative man is an obvious part of the history of his own times, his chronicle must have a certain significance and value. Raleigh, when he wrote the "History of the World" in prison, gave hints by which subsequent and less obsolete annalists have wisely profited. The scholar and the patriot coalesced in the mind of Camden, prompting him to rescue and conserve the materials of English history and note the fading traditions,—a purely antiquarian service, which only those can appreciate who seek authentic data of the far past. Such as cavil at the legal tone and crude arrangement of Clarendon are none the less his debtors for specific memoirs, the personal element of history; and while Burnet has been vigorously repudiated by standard historians, he continues, and justly, to be a prolific authority. It is conceded by all candid explorers, that, as far as it goes, the account of England by Rapin is the best. Franklin's old friend Ralph was commended and quoted by Fox. As the enterprise of historical writers enlarged and their style became elaborate, these and such as these lost in popularity what they gained in usefulness. The charm of rhetorical elegance and broad generalizations gradually usurped the place of simple narrative and detailed statement. In the very design of Gibbon there is a certain poetical attraction; his work may aptly be described as panoramic, unrolling a vast picture or succession of pictures, too vague in outline and too monotonous in color for minute impressions, yet, on this account, the more remarkable for general effect. What Europe was in the Middle Ages we find more specifically in Hallam; the Moors in Spain have been more vividly painted by subsequent writers, whose aim was less comprehensive: but how the imperial sway of Rome subsided into the Christian era, how a republican episode gleamed athwart her waning power in the casual triumph of Rienzi, the later emperors, and what occurred in their reign in Jerusalem and Constantinople, pass emphatically before us in the stately pages which once charmed readers of English as the model of historic eloquence, and now excite the admiration of scholars as a monument of erudition and elaborate but artificial writing. There was a new attraction in the pleasing style of Robertson and the characterization of Hume; the winsome language of the one and the transparent diction of the other made historical reading not so much a task to cumber the memory as a pastime to entertain the mind; in the one chronicle we followed events gracefully unfolded, and in the other discussed persons with acuteness; yet, when to either was subsequently applied the test of absolute accuracy and sound deduction, large allowances were demanded for inadequate research on the part of Robertson and partial inferences on that of Hume. The theories of the latter indicate why and how, with all his intellectual abilities, the sympathies of his readers were inevitably limited; in his view of humanity we find the true cause of all his deficiencies as an historian: "Human life," he somewhere remarks, "is more governed by fortune than by reason, is to be regarded more as a dull pastime than a serious occupation, and is more influenced by particular humor than by general principles." Yet, in a philosophical retrospect of English historians, we can trace a progressive development from the purely antiquarian researches of Camden to the personal memoirs of Clarendon and Burnet; thence to the comprehensive erudition and majestic narrative of Gibbon; onward to the reasoning, lucid record of Hume and the fascinating narrative of Robertson;—all of which qualities of industry, characterization, broad knowledge, taste, emphasis, and reflection blend, culminate, and intensify along the copious, rhetorical, and vivid page of Macaulay.

The Italian historians prolong, in style at least, the method of their classic predecessors: "La Storia del Guicciardini e considerata come opera classica,"—we are told by one of the critics of that nation; who adds, "His descriptions are always accurate, clear, and expressed with eloquence; the causes of events and their consequences are enumerated with rare acuteness; and his personages are delineated in their true characters, the historian descending into the deepest penetralia of their hearts: but the most eminent merit of this History consists in the moral and political considerations with which it abounds; it is like Tacitus." In like manner, Machiavelli is compared to Thucydides; while Varchi's long periods, adulation of the Medici, and municipal details are condemned by the same authority: yet one familiar with modern literature in this department will, despite this general commendation of native critics, be apt to ascribe the conservative charm of the Italian historians to their style rather than their method or matter.

It is remarkable how late the French writers won laurels in the field of historical composition, and how long France, with all her national vanity, has lacked a complete and classical chronicle,—brilliant and invaluable fragments whereof abound. According to the most esteemed French critics, until this century the nation actually knew nothing of its own history; and it is characteristic of their speculative and methodical mind and taste, that History became popular and philosophical, a novelty and a reform, simultaneously. Guizot, Thierry, Sismondi, and others, created a new era in this branch of letters; Thiers and Michelet enlarged its sphere and increased its charms; and yet, while the graphic simplicity of Froissart, the critical insight and ingenious generalizations of Guizot, and the poetical glow and richness of Michelet have made the history of France both highly suggestive as regards the development of civilization, and picturesque and dramatic as a narrative, the greatest allowance for brilliant theorizing, political sympathies, and an errant fancy are indispensable in order to attain to a clear view of genuine facts and absolute principles. It has been said that "leading ideas" are fatal to accuracy of statement; and these dominate in the minds of French philosophical annalists; while the more sympathetic class are fond of rhetorical display and fanciful episodes. A recent critic, after bestowing merited encomiums on Michelet, gives the following instance of his absurd generalizations, which occur in the midst of grave historical statements and descriptions: "Wool and flesh are the primitive foundations of England and the English race; ere becoming the world's manufactory of hardware and tissues, England was a victualling-shop; before they became a commercial, they were a breeding and a pastoral people,—a race fatted on beef and mutton; hence their freshness of tint, their beauty and strength: their greatest man, Shakspeare, was originally a butcher."

Less prominent and more recent names on the roll of historic literature are as distinctly associated with special excellences and defects. Thus, Grote keeps attention more by the intelligence of his comments than by the flow of his narration; he is far more political than picturesque; and while he gives a masterly analysis of the Athenian system of government, so as to place it in a new light even to the scholar's apprehension, he discusses the arts and the literature so inspiring to most cultivated minds, when describing Greece, with comparative indifference. Those who would examine English annals unbiased by Protestant zeal, and realize how the events and characters look to a Roman Catholic vision, may gather from Lingard some views which may not disadvantageously modify their interpretation of familiar men and occurrences. Two English writers have hastily compiled her annals during certain epochs; but while they are equally chargeable with superficiality, the manner in which the work is done is by no means similar. Smollet's continuation of Hume was confessedly a bookseller's job: four octavo volumes in only ten times the number of months, even in our days of locomotive celerity, would be thought rather a suspicious piece of literary handiwork; and besides the indecent haste, so incompatible with thoroughness, the misrepresentations of Smollet are patent. Goldsmith, as unambitious in research as he was genial in expression, made so agreeable a story, that, with all its imperfection, his sketch still finds readers; while the rarely quoted work of Henry most conveniently enumerates, at the end of each reign, details economical and social which identify and illustrate both period and progress in Anglo-Saxon civilization. As a copious and consecutive record of the salient incidents in modern Continental history,—so needful now for reference, and the diverse phases of which are so widely chronicled in the memoirs, the journals, the diplomatic correspondence, and what may be called the incidental history of the period,—the plan of Alison's work might have achieved a triumph of industry and skill, valuable as well as interesting to general readers and professional writers: but the political opinions, with the partial feelings they engender, continually distort the view and influence the estimate of this positive yet pleasant historian; while his almost wilful blunders, like the errors of Lord Mahon in regard to the American War, have been repeatedly demonstrated. Mackintosh philosophized about events, measures, and men, better than he described either. Sharon Turner nobly illustrates the value of intrepid research and patient collation. Mitford represents the aristocratic as Grote the democratic element in Grecian history. Tytler wrote of the past in the life of nations with the exclusive reliance on written proof that a conveyancer places upon title-deeds, and beside the glowing and harmonious pictures of later annalists such writing now appears obsolete. Napier describes battles scientifically, and Carlyle revolutions melodramatically,—each with original power, in their respective methods,—while Miss Strickland brings to the record of queenly sorrows and duties a woman's sympathetic prepossessions.

Since those quaintly simple and emphatic statements which, under the name of Froissart's Chronicles, seem to perpetuate the instinctive notion of History, as an honest and earnest, but unadorned and unelaborate narrative of military and political facts,—not only has there been a continual refinement of style and enlargement of scope and art, but a greater complexity and subdivision in the historian's labors. Abstract political ideas, purely intellectual phenomena, have found their annalists, as well as executive enterprise; events have been analyzed, as well as described,—characters discussed, as well as pictured,—the elements of society laid bare with as much zeal and scrutiny as its development has been traced and delineated. European historical students read anew the records of the past by the light of philosophy; more subtile divisions than the geographer indicates organize the record; events are narrated with reference to a dominant idea; governments are chronicled through their ultimate results, and not exclusively with regard to their locality; rulers are considered in groups; a faith is made the nucleus of an historical development, instead of a nation. Thus, we have Ranke's "Popes" and D'Aubigne's "Reformation," Hallam's "Middle Ages" and "English Constitution"; De Quincey treats of "The Caesars"; Vico demonstrates that History is a science with positive laws; Gervinus illustrates it as a development of certain inevitably progressive ideas; Niebuhr interprets it by fresh tests and ordeals; Dr. Arnold teaches it by an original method; Humboldt points out its naturalistic tendencies and origin; Herder and Hegel, De Tocqueville and Guizot, the eminent writers on Civilization, on Art, on Education, Political Economy, Literature, and Natural History, more and more exhibit the facts of humanity and of time under such new combinations, by so many parallel truths and principles, that it is difficult to conceive that History, as now understood by the educated and the reflective, is the same thing once crudely embodied in a ballad or mystically conserved by an inscription. To multiply relations is the destiny of our age, and to converge all that is discovered through the laws of Science upon the records and relics of the past is a process now habitual and pervasive.

And yet how little positive satisfaction does the lover of truth, the aspirant for what is authentic and significant, find in current and even popular histories! Certain general notions of the character of nations we, indeed, distinctly and correctly attain: that Chinese civilization is stationary, the French instinctively a military race, the Swiss mercenary, and adventurous in engineering and religious reform,—that modern German literature was as sudden as simultaneous in its development,—that Holland redeemed her foundations from the sea,—that Italy owes to art, and England to manufactures, her growth and grandeur. These and such as these are problems which the history of the respective countries, however inadequately told, reveals with authenticity; but when we go beyond and below the patent facts of local civilization, to the analysis of character, and, through it, of destiny, few and far between are the satisfactory records whence we can draw legitimate materials for inference and conjecture. The most attractive method is apt to be that upon which least reliance can be placed. We seldom consult Sir Walter's essays at serious history, while the novels he created out of historic material are as familiar as they are endeared; but their imaginative charm is in the inverse ratio of their authenticity. With every new candidate for public favor in this sphere of literature, there arises a "mooted question" whereon the historian and his readers are irreconcilably divided. The character of Penn, of Marlborough, and of the facts of the Massacre at Glencoe are still vehemently discussed, whenever Macaulay's popular History is referred to. Froude advances a new and plausible theory of the character of Henry VIII.; few of Bancroft's American readers accept his estimate of John Jay, Sam Adams, or Dr. Johnson, or of the political character of the Virginia Colonists; and Palfrey and Arnold interpret quite diversely the influence and career of Roger Williams. Nor are such discrepancies surprising, when we remember how the history which transpires now and here fails of harmonious report. Every battle, diplomatic arrangement, political event, nay, each personal occurrence, which forms the staple of to-day's journalism and talk, is regarded from so many different points of view, and stated under so many modifying influences, that only judicial minds have a prospect of reaching the exact truth. Hence the true way to profit by History is eclectic.

Let the erudition of the German, the genial animation of the French, the Saxon good sense, the Italian grace be enjoyed, and whatsoever of glamour or of inadequacy these charms hide be duly estimated; reflection and sympathy will often separate the gold of truth from the alloy of prejudice or fantasy. Above all, let this eclectic test be applied beyond nominal history,—to the geological data on the ancient rock,—the handwriting of the ages upon race, costume, language,—the incidental, but genuine history innate in all true literature, vivid elements whereof live in passages of Milton's controversial writings, in Petrarch's sonnets, De Foe's fictions, our Revolutionary correspondence, South's sermons, Swift's diaries, Burke's speeches, French memoirs, Walpole's letters, in the poems, plays, and epistles of the past, and every fact and person which society and life offer to our cognizance or sympathy.

"When we are much attached to our ideas, we endeavor to attach everything to them," says Madame de Stael. "The secret of writing well," observes a Scotch professor, "is to write from a full mind." These two maxims seem to us to illustrate the whole subject of historical composition; an earnest votary thereof will instinctively find material in every interest and influence that sways events or moulds character, and from the assimilation of all these will educe a vital and harmonious picture and philosophy. There is an historical as well as a judicial or poetic type of mind; and to such there is no object too trifling, no fact too remote, not directly or indirectly to minister to the unwritten history which vaguely shapes itself to his intelligence. In his reading and travel it is by no means to the ostensible monuments and trophies of the past that his observation and inquiry are confined: the Letters of Madame de Sevigne give him authentic hints for the social tendencies of France and their influence upon politics, as the blood-stains at Holyrood identify the place of Rizzio's murder; the "Edinburgh Review" reveals the spirit of the Reform movement as clearly as the Parliamentary records its letter; the South-Sea House and the Temple are as suggestive as Whitehall and the Abbey,—for trade and jurisprudence, in the retrospect, are as much a part of the by-gone life and present character of a nation, as the fate and the fame of her dead kings; and a Spanish ballad is as valuable an illustration as a Madrid state-paper; while the life of Harry Vane vindicates the Puritan nature as clearly as the letter of a Venetian ambassador exhibits the domestic life of a Pope.

The redeeming influence of strong personal sympathy and earnest conviction, both in the choice of a subject and the method of its treatment, has been signally illustrated by a countryman of our own. The interest of the general reader and the approbation of historical scholars were at once enlisted by Motley's "Rise and Fall of the Dutch Republic." That work differs from and is superior to any American historical composition by virtue of a certain fluent animation, a certain decided and sustained tone, such as can be derived only from an absolute relation between the author's mind and heart and his subject. Accordingly his record not only seizes upon the attention, but wins the sympathy of the reader, who recognizes a vital and genuine spirit in the work, which gives it unity, completeness, and a living style, whereby its incidents, characters, and philosophy are unfolded, not only with art, but with nature, and so made real, attractive, and significant. That we are right in ascribing these merits to the affinity between the author and his work is amply evidenced by his own confession in a letter called forth by the death of Prescott, in which he says,—

"It seems to me but as yesterday, though it must be now twelve years ago, that I was talking with our ever-lamented friend Stackpole about my intention of writing a history upon a subject to which I have since that time been devoting myself. I had then made already some general studies in reference to it, without being in the least aware that Prescott had the intention of writing the history of Philip II. Stackpole had heard the fact, and that large preparations had already been made for the work, although 'Peru' had not yet been published. I felt, naturally, much disappointed. I was conscious of the immense disadvantage to myself of making my appearance, probably at the same time, before the public, with a work not at all similar in plan to 'Philip II.,' but which must, of necessity, traverse a portion of the same ground. My first thought was, inevitably as it were, only of myself. It seemed to me that I had nothing to do but to abandon at once a cherished dream, and probably to renounce authorship. For I had not first made up my mind to write a history, and then cast about to take up a subject. My subject had taken up me, drawn me on, and absorbed me into itself. It was necessary for me, it seemed, to write the book I had been thinking much of,—even if it were destined to fall dead from the press,—and I had no inclination or interest to write any other."

The same inspiration is partially obvious in those portions of every history which come home to the writer's experience: as, for instance, some of the military episodes in Colletta's "History of Naples," he having been a soldier,—and the descriptive phases of Parkman's "History of Pontiac," the author having been a Prairie traveller, and familiar with the woods and the bivouac. In like manner, it is the idiosyncrasy of historians which gives original value to their labors: Botta's knowledge of American localities and civilization was meagre, but his sympathy with the patriots of the Revolution was strong, and this gave warmth and effect to his "Guerra Americana"; Niebuhr was specially gifted to develop what has been called the law of investigation, and hence he penetrates the Roman life, and lays bare much of its unapparent meaning and spirit. So apt and patient are the Germans in research, that they have been justly said to "quarry" out the past; while so native are rhetoric, theorizing, and fancifulness to the French, that they make history, as they do life and government, theatrical and picturesque, rather than gravely real and practically suggestive.

A peculiar feature in the labors of modern historians is the research expended upon what the elder annalists regarded as purely incidental and extraneous. The collation of archives, official correspondence, and state-papers is now but the rough basis of research; memoirs are equally consulted,—localities minutely examined,—the art and literature of a given era analyzed,—the geography, climate, and ethnology of the scene made to illustrate the life and polity,—social phases, educational facts estimated as not less valuable than statistics of armies and judicial enactments. Michelet has some charming rural pictures and female portraits in his History of France; Macaulay thinks no custom or economy of a reign insignificant in the great historical aggregate. Topography, botany, artistic knowledge are not less parts of the chronicler's equipment than philology, rhetoric, and philosophy; a newspaper is not beneath nor a traveller's gossip beyond his scope; architecture reveals somewhat which diplomacy conceals; an inscription is not more historical than the average temperature or the staple productions. Whatever affects national character and destiny, whatever accounts for national manners or confirms individual sway, is brought into the record. Diaries, like those of Pepys and Evelyn, the tithe-book of a county, the taste in portraiture, the costume and the play-bill yield authentic hints not less than the census, the parliamentary edicts, or the royal signatures; the popular poem, the social favorite, the cause celebre, what pulpit, bar, peasant and beau, doctor and lady a la mode do, say, and are, then and there, must coalesce with the battle, the legislation, and the treaty,—or these last are but technical landmarks, instead of human interests.

Even our most generalized historical ideas are made emphatic only through association and observation. How the vague sense of Roman dominion is deepened as we trace the outline of a camp, the massive ranges of a theatre, or the mouldy effigy on a coin, in some region far distant from the Imperial centre,—as at Nismes or Chester! How complete becomes the idea of mediaeval life, contemplated from the ramparts of a castle, in the "dim, religious light" of an old monastic chapel, or amid the obsolete trappings and weapons of an armory! What a distinct and memorable revelation of ancient Greece is the Venus or Apollo, a Parthenon frieze or a fateful drama! The best political essays on the French Revolution are based on the economical and social facts recorded in the Travels of Arthur Young. The equivocal action of Massena, when he commanded Paris against the Allies, is explained in the recently published letter of Joseph Bonaparte, wherein we learn his deficiency of muskets. Humboldt accounted for the defects of Prescott's "Conquest of Mexico" by the fact that the historian had never visited that country. Napoleon gave a key to the misfortunes of Italy, when he said, "It is a peninsula too long for its breadth." And the significance of the Seven Years' War is expressed in a single phrase by Milton's last biographer, when he defines it as the "consummation politically and the attenuation spiritually of the movement begun in Europe by the Lutheran Reformation."

Indeed, so intimate is the connection between private life and public events, between political and social phenomena, that the historical mind finds material in all literature, and the very attempt to keep to a high strain and to bend facts to theory limits the authenticity of professed annalists. What Macaulay says of an eminent party-leader is modified to those who have studied the character through his memoirs or writings. The charming narrative of Robertson, the characterization of Hume, the stately periods of Gibbon, fail to win implicit confidence, when the scene, the age, or the personages described are known to the reader through original authorities. When Bancroft declares a treaty of Colonial governors against Indian ravages the germ of democratic government, we know that it is his attachment to a theory, and not the actual circumstances, which leads to such an inference; for the very authority he cites merely indicates a defensive alliance among rulers, not a coalition of the ruled. And so when to an account of the Battle of Lexington he appends a rhetorical argument connecting that event, so meagre and simple in itself and so wonderful in its consequences, with the progress of truth and humanity in political science and reformed religion, we feel that the reasoning is forced and irrelevant,—more an experiment in fine writing than an evolution of absolute truth.

Thus continually is the independent reader of history taught eclecticism: he makes allowance for the want of careful research in this writer, for the love of effect in that,—for the skepticism of one, and the credulity of another,—for enthusiasm here, and fastidiousness there,—and especially for the greater or less attachment to certain opinions, and the absence or presence of strong convictions and genuine sympathies. Hence, to read history aright, we must read human nature as well; we must bring the light of philosophy and of faith, the calmness of judgment and the insight of love, to the record; collateral revelations drawn from our own experience, modified acceptance of both statement and inference, superiority to the blandishments of style, are as needful for the right interpretation of a chronicle as of a scientific problem. Thus history is perpetually rewritten; fresh knowledge opens new vistas in the past as well as the future; the discovery of to-day may rectify, in important respects, the statement which has been unchallenged for centuries; one new truth leavens a thousand old formulas; and nothing is more gradual than the elucidation of historical events and characters. Even our own brief annals suggest how large must be the historian's faith in time: only within a year or two has it been possible to demonstrate the justice of Washington's estimate of Lee, and how completely the sagacious provision of Schuyler secured the capture of Burgoyne. Since the American Revolution, one of these men has been as much overrated as the other has failed of just appreciation—because the documentary wisdom requisite for an enlightened judgment has not until now been patent.[C]

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse