Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 61, No. 380, June, 1847
Author: Various
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GRATIAN.—I don't like "the mind throws its burden:" lays it down is better—there is more weariness in it. You must alter that expression, or we see the mind like the "iniquae mentis ascellus," dropping back its ears, and throwing its not agreeable and easy-sitting rider. Why not—

"When the mind lays its burden down, to come?"

But I see you have both of you translated away from the Latin the Lydiae undae. How comes it so?

AQUILIUS.—The reasons given for the word meaning Lydian seem to be insufficient; because it is said the Benacus resembles the Lydian rivers Hermus and Pactolus in having gold; or because the Benacus was in the district of the Thusci, who came from the Lydians. I adopted a conjecture once thrown out—and I think it was by the most accomplished scholar, W. S. Landor, that Lydiae is the adjective of the word Ludius—ludiae undae, or Lydiae undae, the same thing, for that ludius is, as the dictionary tells us, "a Lydis, qui erant optimi saltatores." If so, Lydiae would mean the sportive, or "dancing waters of the lake."

CURATE.—I took this hint from Aquilius, though I do not remember from whom the suggestion came. I would venture from the last line—

"Ridete quidquid est domi cachinnorum—"

a remark upon a passage, the celebrated expression in the Prometheus of AEschylus, the [Greek: anerithmon gelasma]. Some call it "countless dimples." Now is it not possible Catullus may have thought of this, and as it were translated it by quidquid est cachinnorum? The question then would be, is it meant to speak to the ear or the eye? Is it of sound or vision? I am inclined to think it is the sound, the communicative laughter of the many waves. "Dimple" is too little for the gigantic conception of AEschylus, but the laughter of the multitudinous ocean-waves is more after his genius. No one could translate cachinnus "a dimple." If, therefore, Catullus had in his mind the Greek passage, it shows his idea of the [Greek: anerithmon gelasma].

GRATIAN.—I have often admired how that can be very beautiful which is of uncertain meaning. Is it that either construction conveys distinct thought—clear idea? I confess, I prefer the sound. What comes next?

CURATE.—Missing one or two, we take up his "Request to his friend Caecilius to come to him to Verona"—who, it seems, was a native of that place, and fellow townsman, as well as most dear friend of Catullus.

AQUILIUS.—Both poets—both kind-hearted; in fact, "The two gentlemen of Verona."

GRATIAN.—Well, that is saying something for Latin poets. Let us have your version, Curate.



Papyrus, to Caecilius tell (A touching bard, my friend as well) That to Verona he must come, Where his Catullus is at home, And new-built Comu's walls forsake, And that sweet shore of Laris Lake. A friend of mine and his has brought To light some passages of thought, Which he must hear. So if he will Be thriving and improving still, His speed will swallow up the distance, Although with amorous resistance, And both arms clinging round his neck, That lovely maid his progress check, With lips a thousand times that say "Oh, do not, do not go away!" I mean that maid who, Fame—not I— Asserts for love of him would die; For fire consumes her heart and head, Since first the opening lines she read Of Cybele the God's great queen. Maid, learned as the Sapphic muse, I cannot sympathy refuse; For not amiss (the book I've seen) Begins the tale, "The Mighty Queen."

AQUILIUS.—I protest against "so if he will be thriving and improving still." That is the Curate's interpolation. The fact is, he must have rhymed a passage from his last sermon; and it has somehow or other slipped into his Catullus.

CURATE.—No authority! What, then, is meant by "Quare si sapiet?"

AQUILIUS.—Simply, if he would know the secret—the "cogitationes."

GRATIAN.—I am inclined to agree with you. Now, Aquilius, we will listen to your version.


Hasten, papyrus! greet you well That tender poet, my sweet friend Caecilius—speedily I send, As speedily my message tell: That he should for Verona make All haste—and quit his Larian Lake, And Novum Comum—for I would Some certain thoughts he understood And purposes, that now possess A friend of mine; and his no less. And if he takes me rightly, say His coming will devour the way, Though that fair girl should bid him stay, And round his neck her arms should throw, And cry, Oh, do not, do not go!— That girl, who, if the truth be told, E'en in her heart of hearts doth hold And cherish such sweet love—since he First read to her of Cybele, "Great Queen of Dindymus" the tale Begun. Oh, then she did inhale The living breath of love, whose heat Into her very life doth eat. Thy passion I can well excuse, Fair maid! more learn'd than the tenth muse, The Lesbian maid—nor couldst thou fail To find for love an ample plea, In that so nobly open'd tale Of the great Goddess Cybele.

CURATE.—What's all this?—the "tenth muse!" where is she in the Latin?

AQUILIUS.—Sapphica musa, Doctor. That is Sappho, is it not? and pray was Sappho one of the nine muses? No; then of course she was the tenth—and was not she "the Lesbian maid?"

CURATE.—Well, I admit it—you have vindicated your muse fairly, and I will not pronounce against her, though tempted by an apt quotation from the mouth of Bacchus, in the Frogs of Aristophanes.

"[Greek: Aute poth e Mouo ouk elesbiazen ou]."

For your muse is certainly a Lesbian; but you have omitted "misellae," which shows that the passion was not returned.

GRATIAN.—I don't see that; for she throws her arms about his neck. But neither of you have well spoken the "millies euntem revocet," the calling him back after departure, and that is very good too. I see the note upon Sapphica Musa, speaks of various interpretations to the passage; but adopts this—that the maiden loving Caecilius has more sense (is that doctior? I doubt) than Sappho, who loved a youth too stupid ever to write a line; but this maid did not love till she had read the commencement of his poem. I don't see the necessity for thinking the passion hopeless either, because of the comparison with Sappho. Few Roman maidens took the Leucadian leap.

CURATE.—It is very odd, and might first appear a mark of their good manners—that the Romans never mention "old maids." I fear there was another cause. I suppose the omission may be accounted for by the state of society, which was not favourable to their existence at all; for then a man could put away his wife at any moment, and for any plea, most women must have managed to get a husband for a long or a short time.

AQUILIUS.—The only ancient old maids were the Fates and Furies—of the latter, the burden of the song was—

"Oh no, we never mention them, Their names are never heard!"

GRATIAN.—Come back to your duty: we are wandering, and leaving Catullus behind. What are we to have now?

AQUILIUS.—An attack upon one Egnatius, who, having white teeth, took care to show them upon all occasions. He was not, however, celebrated for his tooth-powder. He is a fair mark for the wit of our author. The arrow of his satire was occasionally keen enough and free to fly.


Egnatius's teeth are very white, And therefore is he ever grinning: Let pleaders in the court excite All hearts to weep—from the beginning E'en to the end he laughs. The while The mother on the funeral bier, Sheds o'er her only son the tear, Alone Egnatius seems to smile, Then opes his mouth from ear to ear: Where'er he is, whatever doing, He laughs and grins. The thing in fact is A tasteless, foolish, silly practice, Egnatius, and well worth eschewing. Spare all this risible exertion, And were you Roman or Tiburtian, Sabine, Lanuvian, fat Etruscan, Or porcine Umbrian with rare show Of tusks—columnar—order Tuscan: Or born the other side the Po,} (And my compatriot, therefore know,)} Where folk are civilised I trow,} And wash their teeth with water cleanly— Pure water such as folk might quaff— I would entreat you still—don't laugh. You look so sillily, so meanly, As if you were but witted half. Yet being but a Celtiberian, Holding the custom of your nation, Using that lotion called Hesperian; The more you grin, folk say, forsooth, What pity 'tis the whitest tooth Should have the foulest application!

CURATE.—I did not translate—and our host will think one translation quite enough.

GRATIAN.—Go on then to the next. What are we to have?

CURATE.—His address to his farm. Authors were happy in those days to have their landed estate. Horace always speaks of his with delight; so does Catullus, as we have seen, of his Sirmio. This farm was, it should seem, like Horace's, among the Sabine hills.


My farm! which those who wish to please Thy master's heart, Tiburtian call; But they who call thee Sabine, these Respect his feelings not at all: And wishing more to tease and fret, Will wager thou art Sabine yet— How well it pleased me to retreat To thy suburban country-seat; Where I sent summarily off That plaguy pulmonary cough; Which, half-deserved, my stomach gave Just for a hint no more to crave Luxurious living. I had hoped With a good dinner to have coped At Sextius' table; when he read A poisonous speech might strike one dead, All gall and venom, to refute One Attius in a certain suit. Since when, a cold cough and catarrh Against my battered frame made war; Until I came in thee to settle, And cured it with repose and nettle. So, now I'm well, I thank thee, farm! And that I got so little harm, From such great fault. I may be pardon'd If to this pitch my heart is harden'd: To pray, when Sextius reads again Things so abhorr'd of gods and men, That that my cough and cold catarrh Not mine but Sextius' health might mar— Who never sends me invitation But for such wretched recitation.

GRATIAN.—A charitable wish this of our good Catullus! But these heathens knew little of "do as you would be done by." One of the neatest wishes of this kind is in a Greek epigram. I can't remember word for word the Greek, so I give the translation:—"Castor and Pollux, who dwell in beauteous Lacedemon, by the sweet-flowing river Eurotas, if ever I wish evil to my friend, may it light upon me; but if ever he wishes evil to me, may he have twice as much."

AQUILIUS.—In a note on villae, I see the derivation of that word given, quasi vehilla, because there the fruits of the farm were carried; so that the original idea of a villa was quite another thing from the modern suburban construction. Architects, when they call these suburban edifices villas, might as well remember how inappropriate is the term. But here you have my version of this address to his farm:—


My Farm, or Sabine or Tiburtian, (What name I care not we confab in, Though they who hold me in aversion, Persist and wager you are Sabine,)

In your suburban sweet recesses Of that vile cough I timely rid me, Merited well, for those excesses My stomach failed not to forbid me,

When I with Sextius was convivial, Who feasting read me his invective, Vilest, 'gainst Attius his rival, All venom—and, alas! effective.

For surely 'twas that poison seized me, A chill—a heat—a cough then shook me E'en to my vitals—and so teazed me, That to thy bosom I betook me.

Thanks, my good farm! my fault you pardon'd, And not revenged. We've much to settle On score of thanks: my chest you harden'd, And healed with basil-root and nettle.

But from henceforth, if I such vicious Invectives read, though Sextius pen 'em, Who but invites me with malicious Intent to kill me with their venom—

If e'er I yield to his endeavour, Expose me to his scrip infectious— I call down ague, cold, and fever, Oh! fall ye not on me,—but Sextius.

GRATIAN.—I see the next is that one which has been not unfrequently translated and imitated. Is there not one by Cowley,—if I remember, much lengthened?

AQUILIUS.—It can scarcely be called a translation. The Latin measure is certainly here very sweet and tender.


Septimius, to his bosom pressing His Acme, said, "I love thee, Acme— All my life-long will love thee, Acme! Nor day shall come to love thee less in. Or should it come, like common lover, In such poor love I love thee only; May Libyan lion dun discover, Or torrid India's beast attack me, Wandering forlorn from thee, and lonely On desert shore."— He said: Love, as before, Upon the left hand aptly sneezed. The omen showed that he was pleased To give his blessing.

Then gentle Acme, softly turning Upon the breast of her Septimius, And unto his her face upraising, And looking in his eyes so burning, As if inebriate with gazing; With that her rich red mouth she kissed them, And said,—"My love, dear, dear Septimius! Oh, let us serve our master duly— Our master Love, as now caressing; For never yet have Love so blessed them As now my thoughts he blesseth truly, Even to my heart of hearts, Septimius, The inmost core." She said: and, as before, Love on the left hand aptly sneezed. The omen showed that he was pleased To give his blessing.

They loved—were loved: this sweet beginning Omen'd their future bright condition. Offer all Asia to Septimius— Add Britain—put in competition With Acme—wretchedly abstemious They'd call him of your gifts, Ambition. The only province worth his winning Is Acme: Acme's faithful bosom Knows nought on earth but her Septimius. Ripe was the fruit, as fair the blossom Of this their mutual love, and glowing; And all admired its freshness growing. Was never pair so fond and loving! And Venus' self looked on approving.

CURATE.—Are you correct in your translation "Love, as before?" Is it not that, as before he sneezed on the left, now he sneezes on the right hand,—was unfavourable—is now propitious?

GRATIAN.—I see in the note that the passage bears either construction. There is also authority given; for what to us is the left hand, to the gods is the right. Now, Curate, for your Acme and Septimius.



Acme to Septimius' breast, Darling of his heart, was prest— "Acme mine!" then said the youth, "If I love thee not in truth, If I shall not love thee ever As a lover doated never, May I in some lonely place, Scorch'd by Ind's or Libya's sun, Meet a lion's tawny face; All defenceless, one to one."— Love, who heard it in his flight, To the truth his witness bore, Sneezing quickly to the right— (To the left he sneezed before.)

Acme then her head reflecting, Kiss'd her sweet youth's ebriate eyes, With her rosy lips connecting Looks that glistened with replies. "Thus, my life, my Septimillus! Serve we Love, our only master: One warm love-flood seems to thrill us, Throbs it not in me the faster?"— Love, who heard it in his flight, To the truth his witness bore, Sneezing quickly to the right— (To the left he sneezed before.)

Thus with omens all-approving, Each and both are loved and loving. Poor Septimius with his Acme, Cares not to whose lot may fall Syria's glory—wealthy province!— Or both Britains great and small. Acme, faithful and unfeigning, Gives, creates, enjoys all pleasure, With her dear Septimius reigning.— Oh! was ever earthly treasure Greater to man's lot pertaining? Blessed pair!—thus, without measure, Venus' choicest gifts attaining.

GRATIAN.—You have a little run riot, good Master Curate; and run out of your rhyming course too, I see—for you don't mean "province" to rhyme to "Acme."—I see the next is, On Approach of Spring—with that beautiful line, "Jam ver egelidos refert tepores." I wish to see how you would have translated that refreshing and cool warmth of expression—almost a contradiction in terms—the season when we inhale the heavenly air with the chill off—like hot tea thrown into a glass of spring-cold water, and drank off immediately.

AQUILIUS.—I gave it up in despair, and the Curate too has omitted it. There are two other perhaps untranslatable lines in this short piece:—

"Jam mens praetrepidans avet vagari; Jam laeti studio pedes vigescunt."

After two other little pieces, we come to a few lines to no less a personage than Marcus Tullius Cicero, who had probably in some cause gratuitously assisted the poet with his eloquence; for to sue in forma poetae, was, perhaps, pretty much the same as in forma pauperis. It seems that "omnium patronus" was a flattering title on other occasions, and by other persons bestowed upon Cicero, as well as by our poet here. One would almost think the orator had served the poet an ill turn, and that this superlative praise was but irony; for he not only calls Tullius the most eloquent of men, but as much the best of patrons, as he, Catullus, is the worst of poets. This surely must be a mock humility. Is it a satire in disguise, and meaning the reverse? After this, follows a little piece to his friend Cornellus Licinius Calvus, with whom he had passed a pleasant and too exciting day—but let him tell his own story. Shall I repeat?


My dear Licinius, yesterday We sported in our pleasant way; Tablets in hand—and at our leisure, In verse as various as the measure, Scribbling between our wine and laughter. But when we parted, mark the after Vexation;—conquered, and hard hit By your all-overpowering wit, I could not eat—nor yet would Sleep His softly-soothing fingers keep Upon my weary lids: all night} I toss'd, I turned from left to right} Impatient for the morning light,} That I might talk with you, and be Again in your society. But when my limbs, as 'twere half dead, Were lying on my restless bed, I made these lines—which, my good friend, That you may know my pains, I send. Now, though so free, so bold to dare, So apt to scoff—good sir, beware Lest with the eye of your disdain You view these lines, my vow, my pain. Beware of Nemesis, beware!— For Vengeance, should I cry aloud— She hears—and punishes the proud.

GRATIAN.—Those last lines are very grave: are they not too much so for the intended play of this mock anger? Let us have your version, Master Curate.

CURATE.—I am sure you think one version quite enough. I did not translate it; and believe we must now turn over many pages, and then I have little more to offer.

GRATIAN.—(Turning over the leaves of Catullus.) Here I see is that beautiful passage in his "Carmen Nuptiale."

"Ut flos in septis secretus nascitur hortis."

AQUILIUS.—Which did not escape the tasteful, though bold Ariosto. I have made a weak attempt to translate the passage; and as it stands in the middle of a long piece, I have taken it out as a sonnet. I will read it:—


As in enclosure of chaste garden ground, The floweret grows—where nor unseemly tread Of flocks or ploughshares bruise its tender head— There soft airs soothe it with their gentle sound; Suns give it strength, and nurturing showers abound, And raise its tall stem from its sheltered bed; And many a youth and maiden, passion-led, With longing eyes admiring walk around: Pluck'd from the stem that its pure grace supplied, Nor youths nor maidens love it as before. So the sweet maiden, in the queenly pride Of her chaste beauty, many hearts adore; But that her virgin charter laid aside, Who lov'd, who cherish'd, cherish, love no more.

CURATE.—I remember Ariosto's translation—for translation it is; and though you know it, I will repeat it, and, by Gratian's favour, let it pass for my version. For once, borrowed plumes,—and I shall not be the worse bird—though birds of richer plumage have no song.

"La verginella e simile alla rosa, Chi'n bel giardin su la nativa spina, Mentre sola, e sicura si riposa, Ne gregge, ne pastor sele avvicina; L'aura soave, e l'alba rugidosa L'acqua, la terra al suo favor s'inch a: Giovani vaghi, e donne innamorate, Amano averne e seni, e tempre ornate. Ma non si tosto dal materno stelo, Remossa viene, e dal suo ceppo verde, Che, quanto avea dagli uomini, e dal cielo, Favor, grazia, ebellezza, tutto perde."

GRATIAN.—Let us examine the alterations made by one genius, in transferring to his own language the ideas of another genius of another country. Catullus says "the floweret,"—flosculus: Ariosto particularises the rose,—the bel giardin, "the beautiful garden," stands for septis in hortis, the enclosed. Then he has given the idea of secretus, which is certainly "separated," "set apart," by the words sola e sicura, "alone and safe"—is it so good? but he gives that a grace, a beauty, the original perhaps has not, riposa—the floweret enjoys its secret repose. The cutting down the flower by the plough was unnecessary, after telling us of the enclosure; we scarcely like to be brought suddenly into the ploughed field. Here Ariosto is better—"nor shepherd nor flock come near it." That enough confirms the idea of its being fenced off, and they wander in their idleness, or, but for the fence, might have reached it; the plough and the team are a heavy apparatus, and would be a most unexpected intrusion,—so I like the Italian here better. Then, su la nativa spina is good: you see the beautiful creature on its native stem or thorn. Then for the enumeration of the airs, the sun, and the shower, the Italian, in his beautiful language, softens the very air, and gives it a sweetness, l'aura soave, and ushers in "the dewy morn:" then, expanding to the glory of the full reverence of nature to this emblem of purity, he makes all bend and bow before it, as before the very queen of the earth. Here he surpasses his original. Then he gives you the object of the wishes of the youths and maidens, the multi pueri multae optaverae puellae. They desire to place it in their bosoms or round their temples: and is not the lovingness of the youths and maidens a good addition? The giovani vaghi e donne innamorate. Both are admirable—but I incline to Ariosto.

AQUILIUS.—And do you think the Latin poet the original? You forget how little originality the Latin authors can claim. This of Catullus is a translation—a free one, it is true—of perhaps a still more beautiful passage in Euripides. Reach the book: you will find it in that very singular play the Hippolytus. Ay, here it is. He offers the garland to the virgin goddess Artemis—(line 73)

[Greek: "Soi tonde plekton stephanon ex akeratou Leimonos, o despoina, kosmesas phero, Enth' oute poimen axioi pherbein bota Out' elthe po sideros, all' akeraton Melissa leimon' erinon dierchetai Aidos de potamiaisi kepeuei drosois. Hosois didakton meden, all' en te physei To sophronein eilechen es ta panth' homos, Toutos drepesthai; tois kakoisi, d' ou themis."]

"I bring thee, O mistress, this woven crown, beautifully made up of flowers of the pure untouched meadow—where never shepherd thinks it fitting to feed his flock, nor the sickle comes; but the bee ever passes over the pure meadow breathing of spring, and modesty waters it as a garden with the river-dews. To them who have, untaught, in their nature the gift of chastity, to these only it is at all times an allowed sanctity to cut these flowers, but not to the evil-minded."

You cannot doubt that the passage in Catullus is taken from the Greek—which is of a higher sentiment in the conclusion, and is enriched beyond the Latin by the bee, and above all by the personification of Modesty tending and watering the garden, or rather these especial flowers, with the river-dews.

CURATE.—How far more pure is the sentiment, and more quiet the imagery, in the Greek! The Greeks were the great originators of glorious thought and beautiful diction.

GRATIAN.—Let us now to Catullus. What have we next?

AQUILIUS.—Here is a tender little piece, to his friend Ortalus. I see it has an omission: this edition does not supply it; I only take what I see. It seems Ortalus had requested him to send him his translation from Callimachus, the "Coma Berenices," which for some time, through grief for the death of his brother, he had failed to do. He now sends the poem.


Though care, that unto me sore grief hath brought, Calls me from converse with the sacred Nine, Nor can my heart incline To bring to any end inspired thought;—

(For now the wave of the Lethaean lake, How recent hath it bathed in Death's dark vale A brother's feet so pale; And I can only sorrow for his sake.

The Trojan land on the Rhoetean shore Hath hidden him for ever from these eyes,— And I with glad surprise, And brother's love, shall welcome thee no more.

Loved more than life, dear brother! what can I But love thee still, and mourn for thee full long In a funereal song, In secret to assuage my grief thereby?

As amid many boughs all leaf-array'd The Danlian bird, the nightingale, out-poured, When Itys she deplored, Her mellow sorrows in the thickest shade:)

Yet, Ortalus, 'mid tears that flow so fast, The work of your Battiades I send, Lest you should deem, dear friend, Your wishes to the winds are idly cast,

And from my mind escaped, all unaware, As falls the fruit, love's furtive gift, unbid, In virgin bosom hid, When she, forgetful of its lying there,

Would suddenly arise, and run to greet The coming of her mother, from her vest And her now loosen'd breast, The shameless apple rolls before her feet.

And she, poor maid! abashed, and in the hush Of shame, before her mother cannot speak, While all her virgin cheek Betrays her secret in the conscious blush.

CURATE.—It is very tender—the last image is delicately beautiful. I did not translate it.

GRATIAN.—Pretty as the passage of the maiden's disaster in dropping the lover's gift—and that, too, be it observed, in the hurry of her tenderness, which increases the beauty, or rather accomplishes it—yet is it not abrupt in a piece where there is the expression of so much grief? Catullus was an affectionate man, more especially affectionate brother; on other occasions, if I remember rightly, he deplores this brother's loss. Now, Master Curate, what do you offer us?

CURATE.—Not now a verse translation, but an observation on a little piece of raillery, in which Catullus quizzes one Arrius for his aspirating; and, I mean it not as a pun, exasperating, though it should seem that his friends were not a little exasperated at his bad pronunciation. Do we inherit from the Romans this, our (Cockneyism, I was going to say, but it is too general to allow of such a limit,) vulgarity of speech? "Where," says Catullus, "Arrius meant to say commoda, he uttered it as chommoda, and hinsidias for insidias, and never thought he spoke remarkably well unless he laid great stress upon the aspirate, calling it with emphasis hinsidias. I believe his mother, his uncle, his maternal grandfather and grandmother all spoke in the same way. When the man went into Syria, all ears had a little rest, and heard those words pronounced without this emphatic aspirate, and began to entertain no fears respecting the use of the words; when on a sudden they hear—that after Arrius had gone thither, the Ionian seas were no longer Ionian, but Hionian." This is curious. As the Romans had possession here more than four hundred years, did they leave us this legacy?

AQUILIUS—I will, then, give you versions of the two which immediately follow.


I love and hate. You ask me how 'tis so. Small is the reason which I have to show: I feel it to my cost—'tis all I know.

Then follows a compliment, by comparison, to his Lesbia.


Many think Quintia beautiful: she's tall, And fair, and straight. I know, I grant it all, When each particular beauty I recall;

But I deny—when these are uncombined To form a whole of beauty—and I find So large a person with so small a mind.

But Lesbia's perfect person is all soul, Compact in beauty—as if grace she stole From all the rest, and made herself one perfect whole.

CURATE.—This is compliment enough as far as comparison goes—but he pays her a much greater shortly after: for he loves her in their greatest quarrels.


"Lesbia mi dicit semper male."

Lesbia's always speaking ill Of me—her tongue is never still: Yet may I die, but 'gainst her will, She loves me, spite of her detraction.

Why think I so? Because I blame Her ways, abuse her just the same: Yet howsoe'er I name her name, I still love Lesbia to distraction.

GRATIAN.—Perhaps the constancy was more to the credit of Lesbia than Catullus. Now then, Aquilius.



Lesbia speaketh ill of me Ever—nought it moves me: Say she what she will of me, Yet I know she loves me.

Why? Because in words of hate, I am far before her; Yet no jot of love abate, Rather I adore her.

CURATE.—I don't like "I am far before her." We say, "I am not behind" in hate or love—I doubt "before."

AQUILIUS.—Easily mended—thus then,—

Why? Because in words of hate I go far beyond her, Yet no jot of love abate— But still grow the fonder.

GRATIAN.—Probatum est.

AQUILIUS.—The Curate is too quick upon me. We must go back: he has left out "De Inconstantia Feminei Amoris."

CURATE.—True. Here is my version. Not being a happy subject, I passed over it.


My pretty she will none but me For husband, though were Jove, her wooer. So tells she me: but what a she Says to her lover and pursuer, Might well be written on the wind, Or stream that leaves no track behind.

AQUILIUS.—I object to "pretty she," for mulier. I think, however, that mulier here is a word of contempt. I make it out thus:


She says—the woman says—she none would wed But me, though Jove came suitor to her bed; She says—but, oh! what woman says—so fair, And smooth to doting man, is writ on air, And on the running stream that changeth every where.

AQUILIUS.—We have seen much of our friend Catullus as a loving poet, let us end by showing him to have been a good hater. The following is no bad specimen of his powers in this line:—


If you, Cominius, old, defiled With every vice, contemn'd, and hoary, From your vile life were once exiled, Your carcass beasts would mar—grim, wild. Vultures that tongue, defamatory Of all the gentle, good, and mild; And with those eyes, that all detest, Pluck'd from their hateful sockets gory, Crows cram their maws, or feed their nest, And hungry wolves devour the rest!

It was now time, Eusebius, to conclude for the night, and, indeed, to put our Catullus upon his shelf again. Before separating, we reminded Gratian that he was the arbiter, and must make his award. "I remember well," said he; "and you, Aquilius, made, I think, this my baculus the staff of office. A good umpire might, not very improperly, give the stick to you both, breaking it equally, "secundum artem baculinam." But it is a good, useful staff to me; we have had some rubs together, and I won't part with it. True, it has not unfrequently rubbed my pigs' backs, and shall again. But the pig Aquilius has made his acquaintance with, has grunted out all his happy days; and, to do him all honour, I have sacrificed him upon this occasion, to appease the manes of the Latin poet in his anger at your bad translations. But for yourselves, I have still something to award. My pig has two cheeks—there is one for each, and you shall have them put before you at breakfast to-morrow morning; and thus, I think, you will agree with me that I have duly countenanced you both. And I hope my pig will have both sharpened your appetites and your wit, 'sus Minervam.' Good-night!

'To-morrow to fresh fields and turnips new.'"


I here send you, Eusebius, the last of our Horae Catullianae, which has been lying by a week or more. This little delay enables me to wind up the Curate's affair to your satisfaction. Our friend Gratian gave verbally the Bishop's reply to Mathew Miffins, who, seeing himself deserted by his principal witness and informer, Prateapace, was not sorry to veer round with the weather-cock, and was obsequiously civil. It was characteristic of our friend Gratian, that he should settle it as he did with that huckster. Going through, as it is called, the main street, I saw him engaged with Miffins, in his shop, and went in. He was talking somewhat familiarly with the man—of all subjects, on what do you suppose?—on fishing. Gratian had been a great fisherman in his day, as his rheumatic pains can now testify. As he afterwards told me, fearing he might have given the Bishop's message rather sharply, and not liking to pain the man, he turned off the subject, and talked of fishing, to which he knew Miffins was addicted; and so it ended by Gratian's obtaining his good-will for ever, for he sent him some choice hackles. Prateapace and Gadabout have returned to the church, whereupon the Rev. the cow-doctor has stirred up the wrath of the chapel by a very strong discourse upon backsliding. A poor woman spoke of it as very affecting, adding, "Some loves 'sons of consolation,' but I loves 'sons of thunder.'" Doubtless there was lightning too; and there is of that vivid kind which bewilders and leaves all darker than before. The Curate has found bouquets in the vestry and the desk, and has been in danger of becoming "a popular."

A subscription has actually been set on foot, by Nicholas Sandwell, at the instigation, it is said, of certain ladies, and even encouraged by Miffins, to purchase a coffee-pot and tea-spoons for the Curate; but an event a few days ago has put an end to the affair, and given rather a new turn to the parochial feelings. This event is of such moment, that I ought, perhaps, to have told you of it at first—but I should have spoiled my romance, my novel—and what is any writing without a tale in it worth now-a-days? The Curate, then, is actually married—even since the termination of the Horae Catullianae.

Miss Lydia, ("alas, false man!" sighed some one,) of the family at Ashford, is the happy bride. The Curate had unexpectedly come into a very decent independence; and is, and will be for ever after, according to the usual receipt, happy.

Since this event, the bouquets have ceased to be laid in the vestry and the desk. Lydia Prateapace has been heard to say she should not wonder if all was true after all, and affects to be glad, for propriety's sake, that they are married. Gadabout runs every where repeating what Prateapace said; and Brazenstare looks audacious indifference, and once stared in the Curate's face and asked him how many Misses Lydia there might be of his acquaintance. My dear Eusebius,

"So goes the world, and such the Play of Life. This loves to make, and t'other mends a strife; Old fools write rhymes—the Curate takes a wife."

Yours ever, AQUILIUS.


Rarely, in these days of profuse and unscrupulous scribbling, do we find an author giving the essence, not a dilution, of his wit, learning, and imagination, dispensing his mental stores with frugal caution, instead of lavishing them with reckless prodigality. Such a one, when met with, should be made much of, as a model for sinners in a contrary sense, and as a bird of precious plumage. Of that feather is Monsieur Prosper Merimee. He plays with literature, rather than professes it; it is his recreation, not his trade; at long intervals and for a brief space, he turns from more serious pursuits to coquet with the Muse, not frankly to embrace her. Willing though she be, he will not take her for a lawful spouse and constant companion, but courts her par amours. The offspring of these moments of dalliance are buxom and debonair, of various but comely aspect. In two-and-twenty years he has written less than the average annual produce of many of his literary countrymen. In several paths of literature, he has essayed his steps and made good a footing; in not one has he continuously persevered, but, although cheered by applause, has quickly struck into another track, which, in its turn, has been capriciously deserted. His "Studies of Roman history" give him an honourable claim to the title of historian; his "Notes of Archaeological Rambles" are greatly esteemed; he has written plays; and his prose fictions, whether middle-age romance or novel of modern society, rank with the best of their class. He began his career with a mystification. His first work greatly puzzled the critics. It professed to be a translation of certain comedies, written by a Spanish actress, whose fictitious biography was prefixed and signed by Joseph L'Estrange, officer in the Swiss regiment of Watteville. This imaginary personage had made acquaintance with Clara Gazul in garrison at Gibraltar. Nothing was neglected that might perfect the delusion and give success to the cheat; fragments of old Spanish authors were prefixed to each play, showing familiarity with the literature of the country; the style, tone, and allusions were thoroughly Spanish; and, through the French dress, the Castilian idiom seemed here and there to peep forth, confirming the notion of a translation. Clara was an Andalusian, half gipsy, half Moor, skilled in guitars and castanets, saynetes and boleros. L'Estrange makes her narrate her own origin.

"'I was born,' she told us, 'under an orange-tree, by the roadside, not far from Motril, in the kingdom of Granada. My mother was a fortune-teller, and I followed her, or was carried on her back, till the age of five years. Then she took me to the house of a canon of Granada, the licentiate Gil Vargas, who received us with every sign of joy. Salute your uncle, said my mother. I saluted him. She embraced me, and departed. I have never seen her since.' And to stop our questions, Dona Clara took her guitar and sang the gipsy song, Cuando me pario mi madre, la gitana."

Biography and comedies were so skillfully got up, the deception was so well combined, that the reviewers were put entirely on a wrong scent. Two years later, M. Merimee was guilty of another harmless literary swindle, entitled La Guzla, a selection of Illyrian poems, said to be collected in Bosnia, Dalmatia, &c., but whose real origin could be traced no further than to his own imagination. Although the name was a manifest anagram of Gazul, the public were gulled. The deceit was first unmasked in Germany, we believe, by Goethe, to whom the secret had been betrayed. Thenceforward the young author was content to publish under his own name works of which he certainly had no reason to be ashamed. One of the earliest of these was, "La Jacquerie"—a sort of long melodrama, or series of scenes, illustrating feudal aggressions and cruelties in France, and the consequent peasant revolts of the fourteenth century. It shows much historical research and care in collection of materials, is rich in references to the barbarous customs and strange manners of the times, and, like the "Chronicle of Charles IX.," another historical work of M. Merimee's, has, we suspect, been found very useful by more recent fabricators of romances.

Educated for the bar, but not practising his profession, M. Merimee was one of the rising men of talent whom the July revolution pushed forward. After being chef de cabinet of the Minister of the Interior, Count d'Argout, he held several appointments under government, amongst others, that of Inspector of Historical Monuments, an office he still retains. In 1844 he was elected to a chair in the French Academy, vacant by the death of the accomplished Charles Nodier. He has busied himself much with archaeological researches, and the published results of his travels in the west of France, Provence, Corsica, &c., are most learned and valuable. In the intervals of his antiquarian investigations and administrative labours, he has thrown off a number of tales and sketches, most of which first saw the light in leading French periodicals, and have since been collected and republished. They are all remarkable for grace of style and tact in management of subject. One of the longest, "Colomba," a tale of Corsican life, is better known in England than its author's name. It has been translated with accuracy and spirit, and lately has been further brought before the public, on the boards of a minor theatre, distorted into a very indifferent melodrama. The Corsican Vendetta has been taken as the basis of more than one romantic story, but, handled by M. Merimee, it has acquired new and fascinating interest; and he has enriched his little romance with a profusion of those small traits and artistical touches which exhibit the character and peculiarities of a people better than folios of dry description. "La Double Meprise," another of his longer tales, is a clever novelette of Parisian life. According to English notions its subject is slippery, its main incident, and some of its minor details, improbable and unpleasant, although so neatly managed that one is less startled when reading them than shocked on after-reflection. It certainly requires skilful management to give an air of probability to such a scene as is detailed in chapter five. A French gentleman, a man of fortune and family, mixing in good society, is anxious for an appointment at court, and to obtain it he reckons much on the influence and good word of a certain Duke of H——. There is a benefit night at the Opera, and the young wife of the aspirant to court honours has a box. Between the acts her husband, who has unwillingly accompanied her, rambles about the house, and discovers the Duke in an inconvenient corner, where he can see nothing. His grace is not alone, but in the society of his kept-mistress. To propitiate his patron, the unscrupulous husband introduces him and his companion into the box of his unsuspecting wife! The sequel may be imagined; the stare and titter of acquaintances, the supercilious gratitude of the Duke, the astonishment of the lady at the singular tone of the pretty and elegantly dressed woman with whom she is thus unexpectedly brought in contact, and whose want of usage bespeaks, as she imagines, the newly arrived provincial. All this, which might pass muster in a novel depicting the manners and morals of the Regency, is rather violent in one of our day; but yet, so cleverly are the angles of improbability draped and softened down, the reader perseveres. The plot is very slight; the tale scarcely depends on it, but is what the French call a tableau de moeurs, with less pretensions to the regular progress and catastrophe of a novel, than to be a mirror of everyday scenes and actors on the bustling stage of Paris life. The characters are well drawn, the dialogues witty and dramatic, the book abounds in sly hits and smart satire; but its bitterness of tone injured its popularity, and, unlike its author's other tales, it met little success. The opening chapter is a picture of a lively Parisian menage, such as many doubtless exist; a striking example of a mariage de convenance, or mis-match.

"Six years had elapsed since the marriage of Julie de Chaverny, and five years and six months, or thereabouts, since she had discovered that it was impossible for her to love her husband, and very difficult to esteem him. He was not a bad man, neither could he be called stupid, nor even silly; she had once thought him agreeable; now she found him intolerably wearisome. To her every thing about him was repulsive and unpleasant. His most trifling actions, his way of eating, of taking coffee, of talking, gave her umbrage and irritated her nerves. Except at table, the pair scarcely saw or spoke to each other; but they dined together several times a-week, and that sufficed to keep up the sort of hatred Julie entertained towards her husband.

"As to Chaverny, he was rather a handsome man, a little too corpulent for his time of life, with a fresh complexion, full-blooded, and by no means subject to those vague uneasinesses which sometimes torment persons of more intellectual organisation. Piously convinced that his wife's sentiments towards him were those of tender friendship, the conviction caused him neither pleasure nor pain. Had he known Julie's feelings to be of an opposite nature, it would have made little difference to his happiness. He had served several years in a cavalry regiment, when he inherited a considerable fortune, became disgusted with garrison life, resigned his commission, and took a wife. It seems difficult to explain the marriage of two persons who had not an idea in common. On the one hand, a number of those officious friends and relations, who, as Phrosine says, would marry the republic of Venice to the Grand Turk, had taken much pains to arrange it: on the other, Chaverny was of good family; before his marriage he was not too fat; he was gay and cheerful, and what is called a good fellow. Julie was glad to see him at her mother's house, because he made her laugh with anecdotes of his regiment, droll enough, if not always in the best taste. She found him amiable, because he danced with her at every ball, and was always ready with excellent reasons to persuade her mother to remain late at theatre or party, or at the Bois de Boulogne. Finally, she thought him a hero, because he had fought two or three creditable duels. But what completed his triumph, was the description of a certain carriage, to be built after a plan of his own, and in which he was to drive Julie, as soon as she consented to become Madame de Chaverny.

"A few months of married life, and Chaverny's good qualities had lost much of their merit. He no longer danced with his wife—that of course. His funny stories had long been thrice told. He complained that balls lasted too late; at the theatre he yawned; the custom of dressing for the evening he found an insufferable bore. Laziness was his bane; had he endeavoured to please, perhaps he would have succeeded, but the least exertion or restraint was torture to him, as to most fat persons. He found it irksome to go into society, because there the manner of one's reception depends on the efforts one makes to please. A rude joviality suited him better than refined amusements; to distinguish himself amongst persons of a similar taste to his own, he had only to talk and laugh louder than his companions—and that he did without trouble, for his lungs were remarkably vigorous. He also prided himself on drinking more champagne than most men could support, and on leaping his horse over a four-foot wall in true sporting style. To these various accomplishments he was indebted for the friendship and esteem of the indefinable class of beings known as 'young men,' who swarm upon our boulevards towards eight in the evening. Shooting parties, country excursions, races, bachelors' dinners and suppers, were his favourite pastimes. Twenty times a-day he declared himself the happiest of mortals; and when Julie heard the declaration, she cast her eyes to heaven, and her little mouth assumed an expression of indescribable contempt."

We turn to another of M. Merimee's books, in our opinion his best, an historical romance, entitled 1572, a "Chronicle of the Reign of Charles the Ninth." "In history," says the author in his preface, "I care only for the anecdotes, and prefer those in which I fancy I discover a true picture of the manners and characters of a particular period. This is not a very elevated taste; but I own, to my shame, that I would willingly give the whole of Thucydides for an authentic memoir of Aspasia, or of one of Pericles' slaves. Memoirs, the familiar gossip of an author with his reader, alone supply those individual portraits that amuse and interest me. It is not from Mezerai, but from Montlue, Brantome, D'Aubigne, Tavannes, La Noue, &c., that one forms a just idea of the French of the sixteenth century. From the style of those contemporary authors, we learn as much as from the substance of their narratives. In L'Estoile, for instance, I read the following concise note. 'The demoiselle de Chateau-neuf, one of the king's mignonnes, before he went to Poland, having espoused, par amourettes, the Florentine Antinotti, officer of the galleys at Marseilles, and detecting him in an intrigue, slew him stoutly with her own hand.' By the help of this anecdote, and of similar ones, which abound in Brantome, I make up a character in my head, and resuscitate a lady of Henry the Third's court." The "Chronicle" is the result of much reading and combination of the kind here referred to; and M. Merimee has even been accused of adhering too closely to reality, to the detriment of the poetical character of his romance. He does not make his heroes and heroines sufficiently perfect, or his villains sufficiently atrocious, to suit the palate of some critics, but depicts them as he finds evidence of their having existed—their virtues obscured by the coarse manners and loose morality, their crimes palliated by the religious antipathies and stormy political passions of a semi-civilised age. He declines judging the men of the sixteenth century according to the ideas of the nineteenth. And, with regard to minor matters, he does not, like some of his contemporaries, place in the mouth of a Huguenot leader, or a Guisarde countess, the tame and dainty phrase appropriate enough in that of an equerry, or lady of the bed-chamber at the court of the Citizen King. Eschewing conventionality, and following his own judgment, and the guidance of the old chroniclers, in whose quaint records he delights, he has written one of the best existing French historical romances.

It would have been easy for a less able writer than M. Merimee to have extended the "Chronique" to thrice its present length. It is not a complete romance, but a desultory sketch of the events and manners of the time, with a few imaginary personages introduced. Novel readers who require a regular denoument will be disappointed at its conclusion. There is not even a hint of a wedding from the first page to the last; and the only lady who plays a prominent part in the story, a certain countess Diane de Turgis, is little better than she should be. And yet, if we follow M. Merimee's rule, and judge her according to the ideas and morals of the age she flourished in, she was rather an amiable and proper sort of person. True, she sets her lovers by the ears, and feels gratified when they cut each other's throats: she even challenges a court dame, who has taken the precedence of her, to an encounter with sword and dagger, en chemise, according to the prevailing mode amongst the raffines, or professed duellists of the time; and she writes seductive billets-doux in Spanish, and gives wicked little suppers to the handsome cavalier on whom her affections are set. But, on the other hand, she goes to mass, and confesses, and does her best to save her Huguenot lover's body and soul, and obtain the remission of her own sins by converting him from his heresy. So that, as times went in the year 1572, she was to be reckoned amongst the righteous. The handsome heretic, in whose present safety and future salvation she takes so strong an interest, is one Bernard de Mergy, who has come to Paris to take service with the great chief of his co-religionists, Admiral Coligny. His brother, George de Mergy, has deserted the creed of Calvin, and is consequently in high favour at the Louvre, but under the ban of his father, a stern old Huguenot officer, who will not hear the name of his renegade son. Bernard, whilst regretting his brother's apostasy, does not deem it necessary to shun his society. On the road he has been cajoled or robbed of his ready cash by a pretty gipsy girl, and his good horse has been stolen by one of the hordes of German lanzknechts, whom the recent civil war had brought to France. He reaches Paris with an empty purse, and is not sorry to meet his brother, who welcomes him kindly, and supplies his wants, but refuses to recant, and attempts to justify his backsliding. In the course of his defence he gives an insight into the prevalent corruption of the time, and shows how the private vices of great political leaders often marred the fortunes of their party.

"'You were still at school,' said De Mergy, 'learning Latin and Greek, when I first donned the cuirass, girded the Huguenot's white scarf, and took share in our civil wars. Your little Prince of Conde, who has led his party into so many errors, looked after your affairs when his intrigues left him time. A lady loved me; the prince asked me to resign her to him; I refused, and he became my mortal enemy. From that hour he lost no opportunity of mortifying me.

Ce petit prince si joli Qui toujours baise sa mignonne,

held me up to the fanatics of the party as a monster of libertinism and irreligion. I had only one mistress; and as to the irreligion,—I let others do as they like, why attack me?'

"'I thought the prince incapable of such baseness,' said Bernard.

"'He is dead,' replied his brother, 'and you have deified him. 'Tis the way of the world. He had great qualities; he died like a brave man, and I have forgiven him. But then he was powerful, and on the part of a poor gentleman like myself, it was guilt to resist him. All the preachers and hypocrites of the army set upon me, but I cared as little for their abuse as for their sermons. At last one of the prince's gentlemen, to curry favour with his master, called me libertine, before all our captains. I struck him: we fought—and he was killed. At that time there were a dozen duels a day in the army, and no notice taken. In my favour an exception was made; I was fixed upon by the prince to serve as an example. The entreaties of the other leaders, including the Admiral, procured my pardon. But the prince's rancour was not yet appeased. At the fight of Jazeneuil, I commanded a company: I had been foremost in the skirmish; my cuirass battered and broken by bullets, my left arm pierced by a lance, showed that I had not spared myself. I had only twenty men left, and a battalion of the king's Swiss guards advanced against us. The Prince of Conde ordered me to charge them; I asked for two companies of reitres, and—he called me coward.'

"Mergy rose and approached his brother with an expression of strong interest. The Captain continued—his eyes flashing with anger at the recollection of the insult:—

"'He called me coward before all those popinjays in gilt armour who afterwards abandoned him on the battle-field of Jarnac. I resolved to die, and rushed upon the Swiss—vowing, if I escaped with life, never again to draw sword for that unjust prince. Grievously wounded, thrown from my horse, one of the Duke of Anjou's gentlemen, Beville—the mad fellow whom we dined with to-day—saved my life, and presented me to the duke. He treated me well. I was eager for vengeance. They urged me to take service under my benefactor, the Duke of Anjou; they quoted the line—

Omne solum forti patria est, ut piscibus aequor.

I was indignant to see the Protestants summoning foreigners to their assistance. But why disguise the real motive that actuated me? I thirsted for revenge, and became a Catholic, in hopes of meeting the Prince of Conde in fair fight, and killing him. A coward forestalled me, and the manner of the prince's death almost made me forget my hatred. I saw his bloody corpse abandoned to the insults of the soldiery; I rescued it from their hands, and covered it with my cloak. I was pledged to the Catholics; I commanded a squadron of their cavalry; I could not leave them. I have happily been able to render some service to my former party; I have done my best to soften the fury of religious animosities, and have been fortunate enough to save several of my friends.'

"'Oliver de Basseville tells every body he owes you his life.'

"'Behold me then a Catholic,' continued George, in a calmer voice. 'The religion is as good as another: and then it is an easy and pleasant one. See yonder pretty Madonna: 'tis the portrait of an Italian courtesan; but the bigots praise my piety when I cross myself before it. My word for it, I get on vastly better with Rome than Geneva. By making trifling sacrifices to the opinions of the canaille, I live as I like. I must go to mass—very good! I go there and stare at the pretty women. I must have a confessor—parbleu! I have one, a jolly Franciscan and ex-dragoon, who for a crown-piece gives me a ticket of confession, and delivers my billets-doux to his pretty penitents into the bargain. Mort de ma vie! Vive la messe!'

"Mergy could not restrain a smile.

"'There is my breviary,' continued the Captain, throwing his brother a richly-bound book, fastened with silver clasps, and enclosed in a velvet case. 'Such a missal as that is well worth your prayer-books.'

"Mergy read on the back of the volume, Heures de la Cour.

"'The binding is handsome,' he said, disdainfully returning the book.

"The Captain smiled, and opening it again handed it to him. Mergy then read upon the first page: La vie tres-horrifique du grand Gargantua, pere de Pantagruel: composee par M. Alcofribas, abstracteur de Quintessena."

Thus, in a single page, does M. Merimee place before us a picture of the times, with their mixture of fanaticism and irreligion, their shameless political profligacy and private immorality. Bernard de Mergy cannot prevail with his brother to return to the conventicle: so he accompanies him to mass—not to pray, but hoping to obtain a glimpse of Madame de Turgis, whom he has already seen masked in the street, and whose graceful form and high reputation for beauty have made strong impression on the imagination of this novice in court gallantries. On entering the sacristy, they find the preacher, a jolly monk, surrounded by a dozen young rakes, with whom he bandies jokes more witty than wise.

"'Ah,' cried Beville, 'here is the Captain! Come, George, give us a text. Father Lubin has promised to preach on any one we propose.'

"'Yes,' said the monk; 'but make haste. Mort de ma vie! I ought to be in the pulpit already.'

"'Peste! Father Lubin, you swear like the king,' cried the Captain.

"I bet he would not swear in his sermon,' said Beville.

"'Why not, if the fancy took me?' stoutly retorted the Franciscan.

"'Ten pistoles you do not.'

"'Ten pistoles? Done.'

"'Beville,' cried the Captain, 'I go halves in your wager.'

"'No, no!' replied his friend, 'I will not share the reverend's money; and if he wins, by my faith! I shall not regret mine. An oath in pulpit is well worth ten pistoles.'

"'They are already won,' said Father Lubin; 'I begin my sermon with three oaths. Ah! Messieurs les Gentilhommes, because you have rapier on hip, and plume in hat, you would monopolise the talent of swearing. We will see.'

"He left the sacristy, and in an instant was in his pulpit. There was silence in the church. The preacher scanned the crowded congregation as though seeking his bettor; and when he discovered him leaning against a column exactly opposite the pulpit, he knit his brows, put his arms akimbo, and in an angry tone thus began:

"'My dear Brethren,

"'Par la vertu!—par la mort!—par le sang!'

"A murmur of surprise and indignation interrupted the preacher, or, it were more correctly said, filled up the pause he intentionally left.

"—— 'de Dieu,' continued the Franciscan, in a devout nasal whine, 'we are saved and delivered from punishment.'

"'A general burst of laughter interrupted him a second time. Beville took his purse from his girdle, and shook it at the preacher, as an admission that he had lost."

The sermon that follows is in character with its commencement. Whilst awaiting its conclusion, Bernard de Mergy in vain seeks the Countess de Turgis; it is only when leaving the church that his brother points her out to him. She is escorted by a young man, of slight figure and effeminate mien, dressed with studied negligence. This is the terrible Count de Comminges, the duellist of the day, the chief of those raffines who fought on every pretext, and often on no pretext at all. He had had nearly a hundred duels, and a challenge from him was held equivalent to a ticket for the hospital, if not to sentence of death. "Comminges once summoned a man to the Pre-aux-Clercs, then the classic duelling-ground. They stripped off their doublets, and drew their swords. 'Are you not Berny of Auvergne?' inquired Comminges. 'Certainly not,' replied his antagonist; 'my name is Villequier, and I am from Normandy.' 'So much the worse,' quoth Comminges, 'I took you for another man; but since I have challenged you, we must fight.' They fought accordingly, and the unlucky Norman was killed." Since the death of a Monsieur de Lannoy, slain at the siege of Orleans, Madame de Turgis is without a lover. Comminges aspires to the vacant post; his attentions are rather tolerated than encouraged; but he seems determined that if he does not succeed, nobody else shall, for he has constituted himself her constant attendant, and a wholesome dread of his formidable rapier keeps off rivals. He has sworn to kill all who present themselves.

By the interest of Coligny, whom Charles the Ninth affects to favour whilst he plots his death, Bernard de Mergy receives a commission in the army preparing for a campaign in Flanders. He goes to court to thank the king, and the following scene passes.

"The court was at the Chateau de Madrid. The queen-mother, surrounded by her ladies, waited in her apartment for the king to come to breakfast. The king, followed by the princes, slowly traversed the gallery, in which were assembled the nobles and gentlemen who were to accompany him to the chase. With an absent air he listened to the remarks of his courtiers, and made abrupt replies. When he passed before the two brothers, the Captain bent his knee, and presented the newly-made officer. Mergy bowed profoundly, and thanked his majesty for the favour shown him before he had earned it.

"'Ha! it is you of whom my father the Admiral spoke! You are Captain George's brother?'

"'Yes, sire.'

"'Catholic or Protestant?'

"'Sire, I am a Protestant.'

"'I ask from idle curiosity. The devil take me if I care of what religion are those who serve me well.'

"And having uttered these memorable words, the king entered the queen's apartments. A few moments later, a swarm of ladies spread themselves over the gallery, as if sent to enable the gentlemen to wait with patience. I shall speak but of one of the beauties of that court, where they so greatly abounded; of the Countess de Turgis, who plays an important part in this history. She wore an elegant riding-dress, and had not yet put on her mask. Her complexion, of dazzling but uniform whiteness, contrasted with her jet-black hair; her well-arched eye-brows, slightly joining, gave a proud expression to her physiognomy, without diminishing its graceful beauty. At first, the sole expression of her blue eye seemed one of disdainful haughtiness; but when animated in conversation, their pupils, dilated like those of a cat, seemed to emit sparks, and few men, even of the most audacious, could long sustain their magical power.

"'The Countess de Turgis—how lovely she looks!' murmured the courtiers, pressing forward to see her better. Mergy, close to whom she passed, was so struck by her beauty, that he forgot to make way till her large silken sleeves rustled against his doublet. She remarked his emotion without displeasure, and for a moment deigned to fix her magnificent eyes on those of the young Protestant, who felt his cheek glow under her gaze. The Countess smiled and passed on, letting one of her gloves fall before our hero, who, still motionless and fascinated, neglected to pick it up. Instantly a fair-haired youth, (it was no other than Comminges,) who stood behind Mergy, pushed him rudely in passing before him, seized the glove, kissed it respectfully, and presented it to Madame de Turgis. Without thanking him, the lady turned towards Mergy with a look of crushing contempt; and, observing Captain George at his side, 'Captain,' said she, very loud, 'where does that great clown spring from? He must be some Huguenot, judging from his courtesy.'

"The laughter of the bystanders completed the embarrassment of the unlucky Bernard.

"'He is my brother, madam,' was George's quiet reply; 'he has been three days at Paris, and, by my honour! he is not more awkward than Lannoy was, before you undertook his education.'

"The Countess coloured slightly. 'An unkind jest, Captain,' she said: 'Speak not ill of the dead. Give me your hand; I have a message to you from a lady whom you have offended.'

"The Captain respectfully took her hand, and led her to the recess of a distant window. Before she reached it, she once more turned her head to look at Mergy.

"Still dazzled by the apparition of the beautiful Countess, whom he longed to look at, but dared not, Mergy felt a gentle tap upon his shoulder. He turned and beheld the Baron de Vaudreuil, who drew him aside, to speak to him, as he said, without fear of interruption.

"'My dear fellow,' the Baron began, 'you are a stranger at court, and are probably not yet acquainted with its customs?'

"Mergy looked at him with astonishment.

"'Your brother is engaged, and not able to advise you; if agreeable to you I will replace him. You have been gravely insulted; and seeing you in this pensive attitude, I doubt not you meditate revenge.'

"'Revenge?—on whom?' cried Mergy, reddening to the very white of his eyes.

"'Were you not just now rudely pushed aside by little Comminges? The whole court witnessed the affront, and expect you to notice it suitably.'

"'But,' said Mergy, 'in so crowded a room as this an accidental push is nothing very extraordinary.'

"'M. de Mergy, I have not the honour to be intimate with you: but your brother is my particular friend, and he will tell you that I practise as much as possible the divine precept of forgiveness of injuries. I do not wish to embark you in a bad quarrel, but at the same time it is my duty to tell you that Comminges did not push you accidentally. He pushed you, because he wished to insult you; and if he had not pushed you, you would still be insulted; for, by picking up Madame de Turgis's glove, he usurped your right. The glove was at your feet, ergo it was for you alone to raise and return it. And you have but to look around; you will see Comminges telling the story and laughing at you.'

"Mergy turned about. Comminges was surrounded by five or six young men, to whom he laughingly narrated something which they listened to with curious interest. Nothing proved that his conduct was under discussion; but at the words of his charitable counsellor, Mergy felt his heart swell with fury.

"'I will speak to him after the hunt,' he said, 'and he shall tell me—'

"'Oh! never put off a good resolution; besides, you offend Heaven much less in challenging your adversary immediately after the offence than in doing it when you have had time to reflect. In a moment of irritation, which is but a venial offence, you agree to fight; and if you afterwards fulfil your agreement, it is only to avoid committing a far greater sin, that of breaking your word. But, I forget that you are a Protestant. Nevertheless, arrange a meeting with him at once. I will bring you together.'

"'I trust he will not refuse to make a fitting apology.'

"'Undeceive yourself, comrade. Comminges never yet said, I was wrong. But he is a man of strict honour, and will give you every satisfaction.'

"Mergy made an effort to suppress his emotion and assume an indifferent air.

"'Since I have been insulted,' he said, 'I must have satisfaction. And whatever kind may be necessary, I shall know how to insist upon it.'

"'Well spoken, my brave friend; your boldness pleases me, for you of course know that Comminges is one of our best swordsmen. Par ma foi! he handles his blade right cunningly. He took lessons at Rome, of Brambilla, and Petit-Jean will fence with him no longer.' And whilst speaking, Vaudreuil attentively watched the countenance of Mergy, who was pale, but from anger at the offence offered him rather than from apprehension of its consequences.

"'I would willingly be your second in this affair, but I take the sacrament to-morrow, and, moreover, I am engaged to M. de Rheincy, and cannot draw sword against any but him.'[B]

"'I thank you, sir. If necessary, my brother will second me.'

"'The Captain is perfectly at home in these affairs. Meanwhile, I will bring Comminges to speak with you.'

"Mergy bowed, and turning to the wall, did his best to compose his countenance and arrange what he should say. There is a certain grace in giving a challenge, which habit alone bestows. It was our hero's first affair, and he was a little embarrassed; he was less afraid of a sword-thrust than of saying something unbecoming a gentleman. He had just succeeded in composing a firm and polite sentence, when Baron de Vaudreuil, taking him by the arm, drove it out of his head.

"'You desire to speak to me, sir?' said Comminges, hat in hand, and bowing with an impertinent politeness, which brought an angry flush upon Mergy's countenance.

"'I hold myself insulted by your behaviour,' the young Protestant instantly replied, 'and I desire satisfaction.'

"Vaudreuil nodded approvingly; Comminges drew himself up, and placing his hand on his hip, the prescribed posture in such circumstances, replied with much gravity:

"'You constitute yourself demander, sir, and, as defendant, I have the choice of arms.'

"'Name those you prefer.'"

Comminges reflected for an instant. "'The estoc,' he at last said, 'is a good weapon, but it makes ugly wounds; and at our age,' he added, with a smile, 'one is not anxious to appear before one's mistress with a scarred countenance. The rapier makes a small hole, but it is enough.' And he again smiled, as he said, 'I choose rapier and dagger.'

"'Very good,' said Mergy, and he took a step to depart.

"'One moment!' cried Vaudreuil; 'you forget the place of meeting.'

"'The Court uses the Pre-aux-Clercs,' said Comminges; 'and if the gentleman has no particular preference——'

"'The Pre-aux-Clercs—be it so.'

"'As to the time, I shall not be up before eight o'clock, for reasons of my own—you understand—I do not sleep at home to-night, and cannot be at the Pre before nine.'

"'Let nine be the hour.'

"Just then Mergy perceived the Countess de Turgis, who had left the Captain in conversation with another lady. As may be supposed, at sight of the lovely cause of this ugly affair, our hero threw into his countenance an additional amount of gravity and feigned indifference.

"'Of late,' said Vaudreuil, 'it is the fashion to fight in crimson drawers. If you have none, I will send you a pair. They look clean, and do not show blood. And now,' continued the Baron, who appeared quite in his element, 'nothing remains but to fix upon your seconds and thirds.'

"'The gentleman is a new comer at Court' said Comminges, 'and perhaps might have difficulty in finding a third. Out of consideration for him I will content myself with a second.'

"With some difficulty, Mergy contracted his lips into a smile.

"'Impossible to be more courteous,' said the Baron. 'It is really a pleasure to deal with so accommodating a cavalier as M. de Comminges.'

"'You will require a rapier of the same length as mine,' resumed Comminges; 'I can recommend you Laurent, at the Golden Sun, Rue de la Feronnerie; he is the best armourer in Paris. Tell him you come from me, and he will treat you well.' Having thus spoken, he turned upon his heel, and rejoined the group he had lately left.

"'I congratulate you, M. Bernard,' said Vaudreuil; 'you have acquitted yourself admirably. Exceedingly well, indeed. Comminges is not accustomed to hear himself spoken to in that fashion. He is feared like fire, especially since he killed Canillac; for as to St Michel, whom he killed a couple of months ago, he did not get much credit by that. St Michel was not particularly skilful, whilst Canillac, had already slain five or six antagonists, without receiving a scratch. He had studied at Naples under Borelli, and it was said that Lansac had bequeathed him the secret thrust with which he did so much harm. To be sure,' continued the Baron, as if to himself, 'Canillac had pillaged the church at Auxerre, and trampled on the consecrated wafers: no wonder he was punished.'

"Mergy, although far from amused by this conversation, thought himself bound to continue it, lest a suspicion offensive to his courage should occur to Vaudreuil.

"'Fortunately,' he replied, 'I have pillaged no church, and never touched a consecrated wafer in my life; so I have a risk the less to run.'

"'Another caution. When you cross swords with Comminges, beware of one of his feints, which cost Captain Tomaso his life. He cried out that the point of his sword was broken. Tomaso instantly guarded his head, expecting a cut; but Comminges's sword was perfect enough, for it entered, to within a foot of the hilt, Tomaso's breast, which he had exposed, not anticipating a thrust. But you fight with rapiers, and there is less danger.'

"'I will do my best.'

"'Ah! one thing more. Choose a dagger with a strong basket-hilt; it is very useful to parry. I owe this scar on my left hand to having gone out one day without a poniard. Young Tallard and myself had a quarrel, and for want of a dagger, I nearly lost my hand.'

"'And was he wounded?' inquired Mergy.

"'I killed him, thanks to a vow I made to St Maurice, my patron. Have some linen and lint about you, it can do no harm. One is not always killed outright. You will do well also to have your sword placed on the altar during mass. But you are a Protestant. Yet another word. Do not make it a point of honour not to retreat; on the contrary, keep him moving; he is short-winded; exhaust his breath, and, when you find your opportunity, one good thrust in the breast and your man is down.'

"There is no saying how long the Baron would have continued his valuable advice, had not a great sounding of horns announced that the King was about to take horse. The door of the apartment opened; and his Majesty and the Queen-mother made their appearance, equipped for the chase. Captain George, who had just left his lady, joined his brother, and clapped him joyously on the shoulder.

"'By the mass!' he cried, 'thou art a lucky rogue! Only see this youngster, with his cat's mustache; he has but to show himself, and all the ladies are mad after him. The handsome Countess has been talking about you for the last quarter of an hour. Come, good courage! During the hunt, keep by her stirrup, and be as gallant as you can. But what the devil's the matter with you? Are you ill? You make as long a face as a preacher at the stake. Morbleu! cheer up, man!'

"'I have no great fancy to hunt to-day,' said Bernard; 'and I would rather—'

"'If you do not hunt,' whispered Vaudreuil, 'Comminges will think you are afraid.'

"'I am ready,' said Mergy, passing his hand across his burning brow, and resolved to wait till after the hunt to inform his brother of his adventure. 'What disgrace,' thought he, 'if Madame de Turgis suspected me of fear; if she supposed that the idea of an approaching duel prevented my enjoying the chase.'

"During the hunt, Bernard swerves not from the side of the Countess, who accords him various marks of favour, and finally dismisses Comminges, who has also escorted her, and has a tete-a-tete ride with her new admirer. She well knows that a duel is in the wind, and dreads it, for Mergy's sake. Hopeless of his escape with life from the projected combat, she tries at least to save his soul, and makes a bold attempt at his conversion. But on that head he is deaf even to her voice. Baffled, she essays a compromise.

"'You heretics have no faith in relics?' said Madame de Turgis.

"Bernard smiled.

"'And you think yourselves defiled by touching them?' she continued. 'You would not carry one, as we Roman Catholics are wont to do?'

"'We hold the custom useless, to say the least.'

"'Listen. A cousin of mine once attached a relic to his hound's neck, and at twelve paces fired at the dog an arquebuse charged with slugs.'

"'And the dog was killed?'

"'Not touched.'

"'Wonderful! I would fain possess such a relic.'

"'Indeed!—and you would carry it?'

"'Undoubtedly—since the relic saved the dog, it would of course—But stay, is it quite certain that a heretic is as good as a Catholic's dog?'

"Without listening to him, Madame de Turgis hastily unbuttoned the top of her closely fitting habit, and took from her bosom a little gold box, very flat, suspended by a black ribbon. 'Here,' she said,—'you promised to wear it. You shall return it me one day.'

"'Certainly. If I am able.'

"'But you will take care of it? No sacrilege! You will take the greatest care of it!'

"'I have received it from you, madam.'

"She gave him the relic, and he hung it round his neck.

"'A Catholic would have thanked the hand that bestowed the holy talisman.'

"Mergy seized her hand, and tried to raise it to his lips.

"'No, no! it is too late.'

"'Say not so! Remember, I may never again have such fortune.'

"'Take off my glove,' said the lady. Whilst obeying, Mergy thought he felt a slight pressure. He imprinted a burning kiss on the white and beautiful hand."

"Frank and free were the dames of the ninth Charles's court. Faithless in the virtues of the relic, feverishly excited by the novelty of his situation, and by the preference the Countess has shown him, which has given life a tenfold value in his eyes, Mergy passes an agitated and sleepless night. When the Louvre clock strikes eight, his brother enters his apartment, bringing the necessary weapons, and vainly endeavouring to conceal his sadness and anxiety. Bernard examines the sword and dagger, the manufacture of the famous Luno of Toledo.

"'With such good arms,' he said, 'I shall surely be able to defend myself.' Then showing the relic given him by Madame de Turgis, and which he wore concealed in his bosom, 'Here too,' he added with a smile, 'is a talisman better than coat of mail against a sword-thrust.'

"'Whence have you the bauble?'

"'Guess.' And the vanity of appearing favoured by the fair, made him for a moment forget both Comminges and the duelling sword that lay naked before him.

"'I would wager that crazy Countess gave it you! May the devil confound her and her box!'

"'It is a relic for protection in to-day's encounter.'

"'She had better have worn her gloves, instead of parading her fine white fingers.'

"'God preserve me,' cried Mergy, blushing deeply, 'from believing in Papist relics. But if I fall to-day, I would have her know that I died with this upon my heart.'

"'Folly!' cried the Captain, shrugging his shoulders.

"'Here is a letter for my mother,' said Mergy, his voice slightly tremulous. George took it without a word, and approaching the table, opened a small Bible, and seemed busy reading whilst his brother completed his toilet. On the first page that offered itself to his eyes, he read these words in his mother's handwriting; '1st May 1549, my son Bernard was born. Lord, conduct him in thy ways! Lord, shield him from all harm!' George bit his lip violently, and threw down the book. Bernard observed the gesture, and imagining that some impious thought had come into his brother's head, he gravely took up the Bible, put it in an embroidered case, and locked it in a drawer, with every mark of great respect.

"'It is my mother's Bible,' he said.

"The Captain paced the apartment, but made no reply."

According to the established rule in such cases—a rule laid down for the especial behoof, benefit, and accommodation of romance writers—the hero of a hundred duels falls by the maiden sword of the tyro, who escapes with a slight wound. So signal a triumph makes the reputation of Mergy. His wound healed, and all danger of persecution by the powerful family of Comminges at an end, he reappears at court, and finds that he has in some sort inherited the respect and consideration formerly shown to his defunct rival. The politeness of the raffines is as overpowering as their envy is ill concealed; and, as to the ladies, in those days the character of a successful duellist was a sure passport to their favour. The raw provincial, so lately unheeded, has but to throw his handkerchief, now that he has dabbled it in blood. But the only one of these sanguinary sultanas on whom Mergy bestows a thought, is not to be found. In vain does he seek, in the crowd of beauties who court his gaze, the pale cheek, blue eyes, and raven hair of Madame de Turgis. Soon after the duel, she had left Paris for one of her country seats, a departure attributed by the charitable to grief at the death of Comminges. Mergy knows better. Whilst laid up with his wound, and concealed in the house of an old woman, half doctress, half sorceress, he detected a masked lady, whom he recognised as De Turgis, performing for his cure, with the assistance of the witch, certain mysterious incantations. They had procured Comminges's sword, and rubbed it with scorpion oil, "the sovereign'st thing on earth" to heal the wound the weapon had inflicted. And there was also a melting of a wax figure, intended as a love charm; and from all that passed, Bernard could not doubt that the Countess had set her affections on him. So he waits patiently, and one morning, whilst his brother is reading the "Vie tres-horrifique de Pantagruel," and he himself is taking a guitar lesson from the Signor Uberto Vinibella, a wrinkled duenna brings him a scented note, closed with a gold thread, and a large green seal, bearing a Cupid with finger on lips, and the Spanish word, Callad, enjoining silence.

The best picture of the massacre of St Bartholomew we have read in a book of fiction, is given by M. Merimee, in small compass and without unnecessary horrors. Less than an hour before its commencement, the Countess informs her lover of the fate reserved for him and all of his faith. She urges and implores him to abjure his heresy; he steadfastly refuses—and she, her love redoubled by his courageous constancy, conceals him from the assassins. In the disguise of a monk, he escapes from Paris, and makes his way to La Rochelle, the last stronghold of the persecuted Protestants. On the road, he falls in with another refugee, the lanzknecht Captain Dietrich Hornstein, similarly disguised and bound to the same place. There is an excellent scene at a country inn, where four ruffians, their hands reeking with Protestant blood, compel the false Franciscans to baptise a pair of pullets by the names of carp and perch, that they may not sin by eating fowl on Friday. Mergy at last loses patience, and breaks a bottle over one of their heads; and a fight ensues, in which the bandits are worsted. The two Huguenots reach La Rochelle, which is soon afterwards besieged by the king's troops. In a sortie, Bernard forms an ambuscade, into which his brother unfortunately falls, and receives a mortal wound. Taken into La Rochelle, he is laid upon a bed to die; and, refusing the spiritual assistance of Catholic priest and Protestant minister, he accelerates his death by a draught from Hornstein's wine flask, and strives to comfort Bernard, who is frantic with remorse.

"He again closed his eyes, but soon re-opened them and said to Mergy: 'Madame de Turgis bade me assure you of her love.' He smiled gently. These were his last words. In a quarter of an hour he died, without appearing to suffer much. A few minutes later Beville expired in the arms of the monk, who afterwards declared that he had distinctly heard in the air the cries of joy of the angels who received the soul of the penitent, whilst subterraneous demons responded with a yell of triumph as they bore away the spiritual part of Captain George."

"It is to be seen in any history of France, how La Noue left La Rochelle, disgusted with civil wars and tormented by his conscience, which reproached him for bearing arms against his king; how the Catholic army was compelled to raise the siege, and how the fourth peace was made, soon followed by the death of Charles IX.

"Did Mergy console himself? Did Diana take another lover? I leave it to the decision of the reader, who thus will end the romance to his own liking."

By his countrymen, M. Merimee's short tales are the most esteemed of his writings. He produces them at intervals much too long to please the editor and readers of the periodical in which they have for some time appeared,—the able and excellent Revue des Deux Mondes. Once in eighteen months, or two years, he throws a few pages to the public, which, like a starved hound to whom a scanty meal is tossed, snaps eagerly at the gift whilst growling at the niggardliness of the giver: and the publisher of the Revue knows that he may safely print an extra thousand copies of a number containing a novel by Prosper Merimee. Now and then, M. Merimee comes out with a criticism of a foreign book. His last was a review of "Grote's Greece," and he has also written a paper on "Borrow's Spanish Rambles." A man of great erudition and extensive travel, he is thoroughly master of many languages, and, in writing about foreign countries and people, steers clear of the absurd blunders into which some of his contemporaries, of respectable talents and attainments, not unfrequently fall. His English officer and lady in Colomba are excellent; very different from the absurd caricatures of Englishmen one is accustomed to see in French novels. He is equally truthful in his Spanish characters. A great lover of things Spanish, he has frequently visited, and still visits, the Peninsula. In 1831 he published, in the Revue de Paris, three charming letters from Madrid. The action of most of his tales passes in Spain or Corsica, or the South of France, although he now and then dashes at Parisian society. With this he has unquestionably had ample opportunity to become acquainted, for he is a welcome guest in the best circles of the French capital. Still we must hope there is some flaw in the glasses through which he has observed the gay world of Paris. The "Vase Etrusque" is one of his sketches of modern French life, in the style of the "Double Meprise," but better. It is a most amusing and spirited tale, but unnecessarily immoral. Had the heroine been virtuous, the interest of the story would in no way have suffered, so far as we can see; and that which attaches to her, as a charming and unhappy woman, would have been augmented. This opinion, however, would be scoffed at on the other side of the Channel, and set down as a piece of English prudery. And perhaps, instead of grumbling at M. Merimee for making the Countess Mathilde the mistress of Saint Clair—which nothing compelled him to do—we ought thankfully to acknowledge his moderation in contenting himself with a quiet intrigue between unmarried persons, instead of favouring us with a flagrant case of adultery, as in the "Double Meprise," or initiating us into the very profane mysteries of operatic figurantes, as in "Arsene Guillot." Even in France, where he is so greatly and justly admired, this last tale was severely censured, as bringing before the public eye phases of society that ill bear the light. Fidelity to life in his scenes and characters is a high quality in an author, and one possessed in a high degree by M. Merimee; but he has been sometimes too bold and cynical in the choice and treatment of his subjects. "La Partie de Tric-trac," and "L'Enlevement de la Redoute," are amongst his happiest efforts. Both are especially remarkable for their terse and vigorous style. We have been prodigal of extracts from "Charles IX."—for it is a great favourite of ours—and, although well known and much esteemed by all habitual readers of French novels, it is hitherto, we believe, untranslated into English. But we shall still make room for—


"I rejoined the regiment on the evening of the 4th September. I found the colonel at the bivouac. At first he received me rather roughly; but after reading General B's. letter of recommendation, he changed his manner, and spoke a few obliging words. He presented me to my captain, who had just returned from a reconnoissance. This captain, whom I had little opportunity to become acquainted with, was a tall dark man, of hard and repulsive physiognomy. He had been a private soldier, and had won his cross and his epaulets on the battle-field. His voice, hoarse and weak, contrasted strangely with his gigantic stature. They told me he was indebted for this singular voice to a bullet that had passed completely through his body at Jena.

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