"The law allows it, and the court awards."
Mr Blackwood will doubtless take care that your work shall not be completed too fast: and as long as the interminable "Napper Tandy" continues, the press of the fac-simile must stand still. Meanwhile, you commence a legitimate reprint, under the genuine Ebony arms, and reign as a kind of lord-lieutenant, under his ambrosial majesty, Christopher the Great. The stereotype plates of Maga reach you every month, and the American public discern the difference between a true fac-simile and a cunning counterfeit. Instead of the sham tete-de-Buchanan, they see the very "trick of Coeur-de-lion's face;" and finding themselves as little taxed for the original, as ever they were for the humbug, vote you a public benefactor, and send a round-robin to Congress demanding the instantaneous enactment of a universal copyright law, if not the grant of a gold medal to the beneficent Godfrey. I anticipate, however, your reply. Ten thousand copyrights would not tempt you to pass more than three months in the year away from your Kentish comforts and cousins! Very well—then perish dreams of lord-lieutenancy; and learn the inevitable fate of your neglected literary offspring. The same day that Import and Profits advertise their London copies of "Napper Tandy," at five dollars a volume, any number of shirtless little vagabonds will be crying it in a pamphlet edition from Astor House to Wall Street, and through all the thoroughfares, for a currency shilling. I wish you might see your own degradation, as I shall be forced to behold that of my friend. Think of an illustrated edition coming out, under the auspices of Napper Tandy M'Dermot, Esq., in which that namesake of your hero undertakes to give your biography, and describes you as the occupant of a garret, in the receipt of wages from government, for manufacturing false representations of characters inestimably dear to patriots, and odious to tyrants only! Think of that person actually taking out a copyright for his edition of your own book, on the grounds of his thus doing for your character the very thing which he reprobates as your detestable trade; and so enjoying for no very "limited time," the enormous profits of the "standard American edition" of your outcast work. Permit me to add, significantly—
"The fault, dear Godfrey, is not in the laws, But in yourself, if you are pirated!"
However, if you seriously ask me whether there is no chance of an alteration in the laws, even should you persist in refusing the invitation to America, I will candidly answer, that the progress of civilisation is probably independent even of you, and may very likely win the honours which would be yours, had you the boldness which fortune delights to favour. If you think me too sanguine, you can possibly obtain an interview with Mr Dickens, and qualify my representations by the discouraging views he will give you. They say here, that he came out to America on purpose to dun brother Jonathan, and it is still spoken of with surprise, that though shrewdly invited to dinner, he was not deterred from presenting his bill at the table. The slight misunderstanding to which such a manoeuvre very naturally gave rise, may have seemed to justify his doubts, as they did to check the good intentions of his entertainers, with regard to the speedy adjustment of grievances; yet I think I am not mistaken in believing that popular sentiment in this country is just now setting strongly in favour of a community of copyright between America and Great Britain.
As a mere question of ethics, it can hardly be expected that while doctors disagree, the popular conscience should be much disturbed by the flagrancy of the present laws; yet it is only justice to the tone of moral feeling which characterises what may fairly be called society in America, to say that it is correct, if not even generous. The leading periodicals, which may be taken as an index of the opinions of educated men in general, have always been true to principle in the discussion of this matter. The New York Review, which, during a brief but honourable career was regarded as speaking the high-toned sentiments of American churchmen, contained an elaborate article, as early as in 1839, in which the conduct of Congress, reference to the famous "British Authors' petition," was severely rebuked, and criticised as scandalously unprincipled and disgraceful. About the same time, under cover of its provincial blue and yellow, the North American, or, as Mr Cooper calls it, the East American came out in defence of justice as toweringly as even Maga herself. The "British Authors' petition" had been fiercely opposed by a "Boston booksellers' memorial," which, among other things addressed to the lowest passions of the mob, argued against a copyright law, that it would prevent them from altering and interpolating English books, to accommodate republican tastes! Hear then how the Boston reviewers—who in spite of that snobbish sectarian air of perkiness and pretension which is usually ascribed to them, can now and then do things very handsomely—pounce upon their townsmen's morality. "We cannot help expressing our surprise," say they, "that the strange and dishonourable ground assumed in that memorial, has not been more pointedly reprobated. We can only account for the adoption of such a document at all, by a body of respectable men, on the supposition that its piratical doctrine, respecting literary property, escaped the notice of the convention; ... for in our view, the doctrine to which those respectable gentlemen seemed to give their public support, was one to be mentioned, not in the company of honest men, but only in the society of footpads, housebreakers, and pickpockets." In an earlier number of the same work—which was lashed by the New York Review for its astounding ignorance of the most celebrated letters of Junius, and for quoting a judicial opinion of Lord Kaimes's as a speech in the House of Lords—the reviewer, whose blundering intrepidity is only saved from the ridiculous by the honesty of his attempt, comes down on a nobler quarry, and thwacks the memory of Lord Camden as if he had been another Thersites. Sir Joseph Yates gets a sound drubbing from the same sturdy avenger of literary property, for his share in the celebrated case of Millar versus Taylor, as given in Burrow's Reports. I have been pleased too with the succinct decision of a writer who has produced an elaborate work on political ethics, in which he lays it down that "the right of property in a book seems to be clearer and more easily to be deduced from absolute principle than any other." Except among the most ultra and radical of theorists, I have met with nothing in American society, but a most hearty subscription to such views as these: but, alas!—said one in conversation upon this subject,—it is nothing that we think right, nor would it be much to bring the people to agree with us, unless something shall force it upon our demagogues.
Public opinion is not always sovereign in America, as the remark of my friend implies. It is curious to see how often a written constitution deprives a people of the very privileges it was intended to perpetuate and secure; and how the practical working of the American constitution is frequently the very reverse of its design. By the constitutional provisions, it would seem apparent, for instance, that the president of this confederacy must always be the choice of a majority of the nation's wisest men, themselves the free choice of the majority of the people. Yet here I have lived under three successive presidents, General Harrison, Mr Tyler, and Mr Polk, not one of them succeeding by the free choice of any one, and Mr Tyler against the suffrages of all. The undefiled patriotism which is the hypothesis of the constitution, does not exist; party, which it seems hardly to anticipate, carries every thing; and parties are ruled by cabals. Thus the greatest national measures, instead of originating with the people, and taking shape in the hands of their servants, are begotten in closets and conclaves, dictated to time-servers and adventurers, and forced on the people, they cannot tell how—but in the name of democracy and freedom. Yet, after all, public opinion is important, because when even demagogues are inclined to do right, it is fatal to their action if public opinion be wrong. For this reason, it may be well for you to understand how far public opinion has advanced with regard to our question. Its progress has been slow, but I believe always in the right direction. Things promised well, when the Oregon dispute became the occasion of an unnatural animosity against Great Britain, and every measure which she was supposed to approve. In the hurly-burly of wind and dust that was blown up under that passing cloud, it is not to be wondered that Dickens and copyright were as completely forgotten as orthography, etymology, syntax and prosody, and whatever else goes to the art of using language correctly. A strip of land that would not purchase the copyright of an almanac, became the subject of the fiercest congressional interest; and the rights of authors, and with them the noblest relations of the republic to the other estates of the world, for the time were wholly lost sight of. "Copyright" then passed into a watchword with some of those underlings of literature, who thought to ride into favour as Cobden has been carried into fortune, by taking the tide at its ebb and ("like little wanton boys that swim on bladders") invoking the flood, as if their yelping and outcries would bring the turn any sooner. A copyright club was got up, it is said by a mere clique in this city, to which, from the mere justice of its proposed ends, large numbers of respectable men, throughout the country, gave in their nominal adhesion. I am not aware that it has accomplished any other result than to favour some ambitious young gentlemen in acquiring the autographs of eminent persons abroad, with whom they opened an officious correspondence; for it has been very generally voted a humbug, and has served to disgust many with the very sound of "copyright," which has thus been degraded into harmony with the scream of "Repeal" and "Free Trade." For awhile, none joined the vociferation, according to my informant, but persons whose stake in literary property was about as deep as the grievances of others in England under the income-tax, or the impost on wheel-carriages, hair-powder, and coats-of-arms.
From temporary stagnation, however, the question has again revived; and during the last six months it has been debated in the daily newspapers, with very encouraging tokens of an improvement in the moral sensibility of journalists. Even the tone of those who oppose the progress of principle, has become so much modified, that they rather excuse than defend the existing laws, representing them as practically less grievous than is imagined. A journal which has signalised itself by its resolute anti-copyright spirit, endeavours to support this representation, by asserting that about as much is now paid to British authors, for their proof-sheets, as would ordinarily be paid for their copyrights! It is asserted in this gazette, that Bulwer receives regularly from one hundred-and-fifty to two hundred guineas for a copy of every novel, which he sends out in advance of its publication in London. For similar proof-copies of their works, James is said to command very nearly as much; and such writers as Dr Dick, of Scotland, from fifty to a hundred guineas. What of it! It is plain that if a single edition of such books be worth these prices, the copyright must be considerably more valuable; and one would think it apparent, that such occasional premiums have no more to do with justice, than a levy of black mail, paid by its victim, because he would fare no worse. The New York Express exposes the sophistry of its contemporary, by simply asking what is paid to authors of less reputation, who may possess even superior merit; and The Literary World—a periodical of The Spectator class,—though it growls a little at Punch, and now and then takes too much in dudgeon the provocations of Maga, by no means allows its moral optics to be put out, by the pepper occasionally thrown into them by foreign jesters and critics. Perhaps it should be added, as somewhat significant, that Mr Bryant, the poet, a prominent democrat and editor of the New York Evening Post, has exerted himself in behalf of another memorial to Congress for justice to authors; which is the more observable, because Mr Legget, his late coadjutor and intimate friend, was perhaps the most radical writer on the other side that has ever appeared in this country, and regarded the maintenance of his extraordinary opinions as essential to genuine democracy. It seems evident to me that no one's political creed will be able to exclude much longer a principle, which, if not instinctively discerned to be sound by every man's conscience, commends itself so much the more forcibly to him who subjects it to a rigid and thorough examination.
So much for those great manufacturers and exponents of popular opinion, the periodical and daily press. The influence of "the trade" is next worthy of consideration; and I shall be able to report as favourably of it. Although the "Boston memorial" was the doing of a convention of booksellers, who faithfully represented, at that time, the sentiments of their brethren of the craft, it is now very evident that they are generally ashamed of it, and that another such convention would be very likely to terminate in precisely the opposite result. The North American Review some time since announced the conversion of no less important a personage than the chairman of the committee which emitted the remarkable memorial itself; and the gentleman is certainly to be congratulated upon the improved condition of his moral health. Perhaps you saw in The Times—I think it was in May last—the letter of an eminent American publisher, who not only resented the impeachment of his professional species, as "the Fagins of literature," but adroitly retorted the compliment upon divers respectable houses in London. You must have noticed his declaration, that the commercial house of which he is a member has uniformly exerted its influence on the side of right. With some qualification, I am happy to say that I believe the worthy bibliopole claims no more than his due. Theoretically, his house has encouraged the copyright movement; but I hope I am mistaken in fearing that it has not always exhibited a practical consistency. The "Proverbial Philosophy" of Mr Martin Farquhar Tupper was lately published in Philadelphia, with an announcement, by the author himself, that his publisher had purchased the privilege of its manufacture and sale; and this announcement was accompanied by an appeal to respectable booksellers to regard the moral right, in the absence of legal protection. The book has had remarkable success, and more than one publisher, who would be called respectable, has shown himself too weak to resist even the poor temptation to disregard this reasonable claim. I am sorry to add, that an advertising sheet is now lying on my table which describes the "Proverbial Philosophy" of Tupper as part of Messrs Wiley and Putnam's library of choice reading. Perhaps this internecine piracy among booksellers themselves has had something to do with the convictions of the craft, that the protection of authors would be their own best defence and security.
It needs now some resolute friend in Congress, and the copyright measure would not long fail of success. Unhappily, the gentleman who seemed best fitted for this purpose, and whose former exertions deserve honourable mention, Mr Senator Preston, of South Carolina, has retired from his public career, under the depressing influence of disease; and my knowledge of the public men of America does not enable me to mention any one who will immediately supply his place. Few men of letters sit in Congress. It is too much the paradise of hack politicians and menials of party. Great questions of right have little interest in the eyes of such men. Nothing gains from them a natural patronage, unless it be capable of being manufactured into "political capital." It is surprising that the Americans endure the selfishness with which their legislators will devote the greater part of a session of Congress to personal intrigues and private interests, while great national measures, demanded often by the whole people, are trifled with, or absolutely neglected. The great matter of "cheap postage," for example, though strongly urged by the mass of citizens, without distinction of party, can scarcely gain a hearing; and the fate of literary property must be the same, until some one arises to emulate the examples of Talfourd and Lord Mahon, and give completeness to their achievements, by carrying a corresponding measure through the American Congress. Till then, we must leave them to their responsibilities in "extending the area of freedom," which are, just now, too great to afford them an opportunity of doing as much for the area of copyright.
Meantime, I may safely say, that public sentiment cannot but mature into an eager desire of the consummation: not because of its justice, but because of its policy. I should look for a triumph of principle, rather than of interest, were I not pained to observe how seldom political leaders in America are wont to address the conscience, and rest any cause upon abstract right. The fathers of the republic knew better than to leave the moral powers of the people unexercised; but their successors seem to lack such faculties themselves, or to doubt their existence in the people. The copyright measure, however, may be safely left to the national sense of expediency. America is beginning to feel the value of literary eminence, and must be pardoned, on this account, for absurdly overrating at times the little that she already possesses. You will be surprised to see in how many ways her literature suffers by her present laws, and how safely avenging justice may be trusted to repair its own injuries. Let me show you.
The political theorist would say beforehand, that under the proposed copyright law the people would be deprived of cheap books; and this is one of the popular delusions that experience must dispel. The present laws do indeed make books very cheap, if cheapness is to be estimated only by the cost per copy, and if legibility, convenience, durability, and honesty are to go for nothing: and if the price which a whole nation pays for such books in many serious losses, is also to be excluded from the calculation. The present laws encourage the rapid manufacture of such books as will sell rapidly. Novels and light reading of all kinds are thus multiplied, to the exclusion of more valuable books, which sell slowly; and in consequence, an entire nation becomes infected with the depraved appetite of mawkish school-girls. But these novels must be printed at the lowest rate; for being unprotected, some one will bring them out as cheaply as possible, and he who does so command the market. Thus book-making becomes a mean and debased art; and books are crowded upon the public, at prices merely nominal; having much the appearance, and sharing the fate, of newspapers, which perish in the using. At the same time, these worthless books affect the prices of all books. Valuable works required for libraries must be printed with the least possible investment of capital, or not printed at all. If any one undertakes such publications, he must stint the editor, shave the papermaker, grind the printer, starve the stitchers, and make the binder slight his work. This is the kind of "living" which the report of Congress says is furnished to thousands of persons by the republishing of English works; and such it must be, where every publisher has to make books to sell. The books thus published are dear at any price; and the best works do not get before the public at all. No choice American editions can be found of Burke, of Gibbon, of Hume, or even of Robertson, the historian of the continent; but if one imports such an edition, he finds himself taxed at the Custom-house to pay for the miserable thing he refuses. You look in vain for an edition of Jeremy Taylor; and if you import that of Bishop Heber, you pay a guinea to the Customs to sustain the privilege of American publishers to publish it if they choose. The writings of Lord Clarendon cannot be had in an American edition; your importation is taxed, because at some future day it may be convenient for some one to get up the whole in one volume. The same is the case with the whole works of Milton, of Dryden, and many others quite as essential to libraries: but the case is still more provoking with the better class of modern works, such, for instance, as Alison's "History of Europe." Under a copyright law, it could be published in New York from the English plates, and sold almost as cheap as the poor affair now in the market, which cannot be better, because it would be immediately ruined by a less expensive rival reprint. Yet, if I import a copy, to save my eyesight, I must pay for refusing this. Thus every time an American buys a foreign book—and such books are bought by thousands—he is paying for the broad privilege of booksellers to make the books they import; a privilege which they do not in general care to use, except in the case of new and chiefly ephemeral works.
Cheap books are now furnished, because the manufacturers dread competition; but better books, for the same money, will be readily supplied when the publisher has the market to himself, and fears no competitor. You remember the article on Copyright, which appeared in Blackwood in January 1842, in which it is noticed that Campbell's "Pleasures of Hope" sells at a shilling; that Moore, Wordsworth, and Southey, are handsomely published at three shillings and sixpence a volume; and that such a work as "Hallam's Middle Ages," is as cheap in the London market as books can be made: yet all these pay their authors, and are published in cheap editions, because they find it for their interest. Under a community of copyright, the plates of these very editions would be sent to New York, and the works would be in the market at a slight advance upon the cost of press-work and paper—the latter item being much less expensive here than in England.
But the nation pays for its cheap books more dearly still, when you consider the effect of its present system upon its literary men. It forces this class of its citizens to "make brick without straw." For the reasons I have shown, the books from which authors collect their materials are not to be found at home, and can only be imported at an aggravated expense, and often with great delays and trouble. Think of my waiting ninety days in New York, to procure a work like "Lord Clarendon's History of the Rebellion!" Now, I hazard nothing in saying that many an American author has given up projected works of great importance, from the discouragement of similar delays; whilst proofs are manifold, that the chief defects of valuable works actually produced in America may be traced to such inconveniences. The patient author often confesses as much in his preface, without seeming to know that his country, in stimulating the almost exclusive, publication of trash, and taxing him to support such publications, is the fostering patron to which he owes his difficulties. Thus does America nip her young genius in the bud; and when it perchance comes to flower and fruit, she is not behind-hand with a blight. The unknown production of the American author is brought into a depressing competition with works which have been tried in England, and found certain of success in America. The popular British author, whom the public have long demanded, is furnished at the lowest price—while the yet unheard-of native aspirant, who can only hope for a limited patronage, an cannot dispense with his copyright, must of course be paid more. Whilst all the poems of Mr Tennyson, or his betters, maybe had for a dollar, the maiden effort of an American youth cannot be furnished for much less. Of course, his country has crushed her child, under the weight of an unnatural disadvantage; and in proportion as he is worth any thing, the chances are less that he will persevere against such odds. I know of a man of sterling genius, whose early writings attracted the notice of Maga, who has long since ceased to write for the public, in consequence of the evils I now depict. His country may thank herself that he has not taken rank with the first English authors of his class. But the same system which thus deprives American authors of natural patronage, destroys their chances abroad. Until their own country relieves them, by putting foreign works on a level with theirs as to chance of success, England gives them no copyright, and they cannot get aid from her as heretofore. Cooper and Irving were encouraged by England under a different state of things; and it is safe to say, that under present circumstances there will be no more Irvings and Coopers. I am surprised that American scholars submit with such equanimity to grievances under which genius must languish and emulation dies.
I have now in my mind the case of a man of learning—whom I should rejoice to name—of whom this country might well be proud, but whom she hardly knows; a man, of whom I venture to say, that had he been born an Englishman, he would have bequeathed his country another immortal name. He would have done as much to ennoble his native land, had she known how to foster instead of depressing his early enthusiasm. With a mind fitted for the deepest and most accurate research, and an education, of which the perfection is attributable to his natural love of learning, he undertook, in the prime of life, to accomplish a certain literary work, still a desideratum. With untiring zeal and diligence under many discouragements, he devoted to his grand design the best years of his manhood. In the collection of materials—doubly difficult by reason of the evils of which I have spoken—he spent much time, and exhausted his patrimony. After gathering a noble store, and traversing the ocean to perfect his acquirements in foreign libraries, he at length completed his task, and laid before competent judges the results. These were pronounced of the richest intrinsic value, and the earnest of future works in the same department of letters, yet more honourable to their author and more important to learning. But the very devotedness with which my admirable friend has pursued his one great object, has deprived him of a popular reputation. Though by birth and habits of life a gentleman, refined by intercourse with the choice society of Europe, and furnished with the best introductions, his overtures to publishers here were repulsed with a rudeness of negative, which would have shocked the sensibilities of a footman. Who cared for him, with his parcel of manuscript, when some European work, which had gone through the experiment of success, could be produced with a smaller expenditure, and without per centage to the author! Can it be wondered at that Harpy & Co. refused to treat with him, when a new treatise on the inside of the moon, for which lunatics in general were gaping, and for which twenty guineas had actually been paid to the learned Dr Snooks, of North Britain, was actually waiting its turn for immediate reproduction? Would Snatchett and Brothers cast an eye on their compatriot's scrawled and blotted quires, when they had just run the pen-knife through a new "Dombey," for which fifty compositors waited stick-in-hand, and which the million expected with insatiable greediness? The excellent person to whom I refer ran the gauntlet of such patrons with no better success than my questions imply; and if the dignified production to which I have referred shall ever see the light, I am informed that it will first issue from the English press; for should its author publish it here, at his own expense, he will be forced to put it at a price which, compared with the pirated works of British authors, will appear unreasonable, and kill it in the birth. No American is patriot enough to buy a book, simply because it is valuable, and the product of national genius: and Congress takes care that if any be found to do so, they shall be roundly taxed for their patriotism.
I have given this instance because it has come under my immediate notice; but you will not doubt, dear Godfrey, that the country which, even in existing circumstances, has bred such writers, in their several departments, as Prescott, and Audubon, and Wheaton, and Kent, and Story, has crushed at least as many more by the pressure of her copyright laws: and, if so, America has deprived herself of intellectual sons, whose gifts, in their stimulated exercise, would have made her rich, as well as illustrious in the sure sequel of their fame. The "Calamities of Authors" are indeed proverbial, but few are the unnatural mothers who, to prevent them, destroy genius in the embryo. Yet there is an ingenuity of mischief in this government, from which every thing that can be of benefit to letters, is sure to suffer. Even the poor permission to import books duty free, which has heretofore been enjoyed by the few public libraries that are struggling into existence from private liberality, was, by the tariff of 1846, peremptorily withdrawn; whether through a niggard parsimony, or a besotted indifference to learning, more worthy of Caliph Omar than of an enlightened state, it is difficult to conjecture.
If things continue as they are, one thing is certain—it will be long before America will have a literature. Nor am I disposed to sneer, when I think of it, at the alarm of the New York Gazette, which is afraid lest the Tories of Maga should gain a preponderating influence in the minds of educated American youth. Why is it absurd to suppose that, if given up to such teachers, the next generation of educated Americans will be less democratic? In republican countries, the studiosi novarum rerum are always the well-bred and the travelled. Wealth and foreign associations must produce, in a nation, the same effects that fortune and admission to society create in a family. A love of simplicity and of home give place to a sense of the importance of fashion, and the value of whatever is valued by the world at large. Give us a king that we may be like other nations, was not an outcry peculiar to antiquity and to the Hebrews. In like circumstances, 'tis the language of man's heart. It is an appetite to which all nations come at last. Cincinnatus and his farmer's frock may do at the beginning; but the end must be Caesar and the purple. Republics breed in quick succession their Catilines and their Octavius. They run to seed in empire, and so fructify into kingdoms—the staple form of nations. The instinctive yearning for the first change is sure to be developed as soon as the exhilaration of conquest makes evident the importance of concentrated strength, and imperial splendour. If so, the hour that will try the stability of this republic cannot be distant. Already I have heard Americans complaining of the thanklessness of bleeding for such a government as theirs; and remarking, that under an empire, the army would return from Mexico with Field-Marshal the Earl of Buena Vista, and Generals Lord Viscount Vera-Cruz, Lord Worth of Monterey; Sir John Wool, Bart, and Sir Peter Twiggs, Knight; and that the other officers would have as many decorations on their breasts as feathers in their caps! The truth is, that for lack of such baubles, they will all take their turns as Presidents of the United States. But I cannot say that honest democrats are altogether to be laughed at, for rightly estimating the effects of a literature exclusively foreign, and generally adverse to the manners and institutions of a people whose strength is to "dwell alone, and not to be numbered among the nations."
If you are meditating an article for Maga on American copyright, you may employ my information for the purpose; but it will not be fair to leave out of view the most efficient objections which are urged by anti-copyright politicians, two of which I have not as yet mentioned. It is said to be against American interests to grant copyright, because the American value of British copyrights will far exceed the British value of American copyrights. Whether this be true or not, the argument is worth nothing, unless it be followed by the conclusion—therefore it is expedient to steal. Yet, perhaps, if the experiment were tried, the assertion would not prove to be true. The most valuable American copyrights are those of children's schoolbooks, in which extraordinary ingenuity has been shown, and which are generally such as, with small emendations, would become very popular in England. But however it may be at present—since the present standard literature of England can never be copyrighted, who can doubt that, with a more liberal system, the land of Washington Irving would breed such popular authors, as would soon very nearly equalize the exchanges, while America would still be immensely the gainer in the increase of her celebrated men, commanding no longer a merely provincial reputation, but taking rank in the broad world, and ensuring foreign rewards, with universal renown. At all events—honesty is always policy. Rising to the great standard of right, this country would soon find her reward; if but in that wealth of self-respect which comes only with a conscience void of offence, and which no country can possess that is not nationally great and generous, or at least honest enough to pay for what it needs, and appropriates, and enjoys.
The only remaining objection which need be mentioned has been very operative with the vulgar, for whom alone it could have been intended. It is said that England, however nearly allied, is still a foreign country; that her writers write for their own countrymen; that, so far as they are concerned, America is a mere accident; and that, consequently, right has nothing to do with the case. It is conceded that the comity of nations may furnish grounds for a fair consideration of what is policy; but it is denied that moral obligation invests the British author with any claim to literary property in America. I must let you know how handsomely the answer has been put by Americans themselves. The Boston reviewers say,—"It is true we are distinct nations—scarcely more so, however, than the different Italian states. We have, like them, a community of language, and although an ocean rolls between us, the improvements in navigation have brought us nearer to each other, for all practical purposes, than is the case with some of the nations of Italy. Yet such is the indifference of our government to the interests of a national literature, that our authors are still open to the depredations of foreign pirates; and what is not less disgraceful, the British author, from whose stores of wisdom and wit we are nourished, is turned over, in like manner, to the tender mercies of our gentlemen of trade, for their own exclusive benefit, and with perfect indifference to his equitable claims." The New York Review strongly reprobates the same outrages, "especially between two nations descended from a common stock, speaking the same language, whose political and civil institutions, though differing in form, are essentially the same in their liberal spirit and free principles—between two nations who are ONE PEOPLE." This is a sentiment which even you, my dear Tory, will not be unwilling to reciprocate; and I'll tell you when I felt its truth with peculiar force. I was walking in a quiet part of this city the other day, when I saw at a little distance a mutilated statue of marble, representing some one of senatorial dignity in a Roman toga. As I drew near I discovered an inscription at its foot, which informed me that it was a grateful tribute, erected by the people of the province of New York in 1775, to WILLIAM PITT. During the revolution which immediately followed, it had been lost, and was only dug up this year from the dirt and rubbish of an obscure part of this great metropolis. It comes again to light, to remind America that, when she reckons up the earliest champions of her rights, she must never forget how much she owes to that noble British statesman. It thrilled me to stand before that silent witness of a brotherhood which revolutions cannot change. That England and America are twain is politically for the benefit of each; that they are one flesh is the unalterable fact which perfects the prosperity of both. The reality of their union, which that marble attests, is as fixed as the immoveable past; and I felt it enough that each people can boast,—
"That CHATHAM'S language is their mother tongue."
How good it is, then, to strengthen the bond by which Almighty God has made two households still one family, especially when so many ties of mutual interests, commerce, and literature work together to corroborate the operation of nature!
Speaking of Chatham, I am reminded of America's great friend in the other House, and wish I could quote to Congress what was uttered in her behalf, in her darkest hour, by the noble-hearted Burke.—"Every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter. We balance inconveniences; we give and take; we remit some rights that we may enjoy others.... As we must give away some natural liberty to enjoy civil advantages, so we must sacrifice some civil liberties for the advantages to be derived from the communion and fellowship of a great empire." This is what the orator called so beautifully "the chords of a man;" and when America has well digested a principle thus laid down for her sake in the Parliament of England, she will feel that her political right to refuse just protection to the British author will be a moral right only when she is able to forego the advantages of literary communion and fellowship with the British empire.
This matter of copyright has been so naturally debated as concerning the Anglo-Saxon race alone, that I too have written as if the same principles (though with less glaring necessity) did not extend to all nations and languages of the earth. But I, for one, shall not be content with less than their universal application. Happy, indeed, will be the day when a British author puts pen to paper, feeling that he addresses himself at once to—what is almost equivalent to posterity—twenty millions of men in another hemisphere, and extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the mouths of the St Lawrence, among whom the author's is a sacred name, and when the aspiring American youth can thank his Government for making him proprietor of his literary creations wherever the law of England prevails upon the surface of the round world. But there are interests in which all men are brethren, and in which their brotherhood should be mutually and heartily conceded. Next to our holy religion is that interest which belongs to the interchange of ideas and a knowledge of each other's humanities. Best of all will be the time, then, when the literature of all Christian nations acquires an essential unity, not by spoliation and wrong, but by mutual good offices; promoting the fraternization of contemporary literatures, and holding together that precious wealth bequeathed to the world by the bountiful and often suffering genius of bygone generations.
Forgive me, dear Godfrey, that my letter, which began with a song, should thus conclude with a sermon. It is a very long letter, and I wish I could advise you to defer the reading of it till our friend the Vicar comes again to dine at the Hall. I would get you to read the first half to him, and ask him to declaim the remainder to you; but I know you would fall into your inveterate failing of shutting your eyes to meditate, and going into a sound sleep at the most interesting point of the discourse. Yours, &c.
To Godfrey Godfrey, Esq., &c. &c. &c.
 N. A. Review, vol. lvi. p. 227.
 N. A. Review, vol. xlviii. p. 257.
 Vol. iv. 2354.
 Lieber's Political Ethics, vol. i. p. 132.
 Vol. lvi., p. 227.
 North American Review, vol. liv., p. 355.
 Vol. iv., p. 300.
 Speech on Conciliation with America.
EVENINGS AT SEA.—NO. II.
Our next narrator was a retired officer of the army, who had become a settler in South America, after many years unprofitable service at home and abroad. He had rapidly advanced in worldly wealth in the country of his adoption, but memory seemed ever to do him a kindness, when it bore him back to the days when he first entered on life's journey; his sword, and a hopeful heart, his sole possessions. When the subjects of our discourse chanced to awaken any of these recollections, he would usually hold forth with such an energy of prosiness, that we were fain to submit with as good a grace as possible, where there was no escape, and endeavour to interest ourselves in the adventures he had met with, and the fates and fortunes of the companions of his youth. The story I give here, was one he told us of a young officer, who had served in the regiment with him.
In the Gazette, dated "War Office, 14th June, 1828," was contained the following announcement:—"Henry Wardlaw Meynell, gentleman, to be ensign"—the regiment does not matter, but its mess-room was honoured by the presence of the above-named military aspirant one day, about two months after the date of his commission. He was introduced to his brother officers, examined by them from head to foot, shown into a bare uncomfortable garret—of which he was installed proprietor, allotted a tough old grenadier as his valet-de-chambre, and then left to his own devices till dinner-time.
While the iron-fingered veteran was extracting the smart new uniform from the travelling chest, and arranging it on the oak table, under the directing eye of his master, the officers in the mess-room were forming their opinions of the appearance of the newcomer, with the balmy assistance, in this mental effort, of strong military cigars. His age was nearly twenty-one years, and he looked perhaps older. His figure was tall, slight, and graceful, more formed than is usual in early youth, and bespeaking strength and activity. His face was almost beautiful in feature and form when silent, but as he spoke, a certain thinness of the lips betrayed itself, and somewhat marred its singular attractiveness. Dark brown hair, high clear forehead, teeth perfect, in regularity and whiteness, oval outline, head and neck shapely, and well set on—in short altogether such a person as one rarely sees, either in a regiment, or elsewhere.
As the "who is he?" is always a most important point of English introduction, and I would fain hope that you may take some interest in this person as we proceed, you should be told, that he is the second son of the only brother of a bachelor squire of very large estate in Yorkshire; his father, a profligate and spendthrift living at Boulogne, while he and his brother are adopted by the uncle. His poor broken-hearted mother has slept sweetly for many years near the village church where she was wed.
Eton received him when very young; he there lost his Yorkshire manners, learnt to row and swim, and acquired a certain precocious knowledge of the world, and proficiency in tying a white neckcloth. The labours of the classics and science were alike distasteful to him; study of any kind he abhorred; yet so acquisitive was his intellect, retentive his memory, and powerful his ability, that when he left Eton at eighteen, few youths presented a more showy surface of information. He had had one or two narrow escapes from expulsion for offences, in which the vices of maturer years were mixed up with boyish turbulence; but a certain element of depth and caution, even in these outbreaks, saved him from incurring their usual penalties. He was admirable in all active exercises, had a magnificent voice, and singular taste and talent for music and painting. As a social companion, he was brilliant when he thought fit to exert himself; at other times he was silent and rather thoughtful, perhaps too thoughtful for his years. Though he always lived with the most dissipated and uproarious set, in his vices there was a degree of refinement, less of the brute, more of the devil; he did not err from impulse, but when opportunity presented itself, he considered whether the pleasure were worth the sinning, and if he thought it was, he sinned. He was more admired than liked among his young companions; and those in authority over him were quite uncertain whether he would turn out a hero or a villain.
From Eton he went to Oxford, there took to dissipation and extravagance, neglected all rules and application, wore out the patience of the authorities, and the liberality of his uncle, and, after about a year's trial, was withdrawn from the University to save him from retiring by compulsion. He was then sent to travel for a year under the prudent care of his elder brother. It will be unnecessary to track them through their wanderings; suffice it to say, that they did what young gentlemen travelling usually do, and visited the places that every body visits, but with this difference, with regard to Henry Meynell, that he acquired the principal European languages as he went along, and travelled with his eyes open; what was gained with great labour by others seemed to be as a gift to him. He had also begun to consider that he might at last provoke his uncle too much, and injure his prospects; so that he conducted himself with caution and tolerable steadiness during his time of travel. To finish this apparent reformation, a commission was obtained for him in an infantry regiment under a martinet colonel, and a moderate allowance provided for his support. Having given this sketch of his appearance, family, character, and antecedents, he is now fairly entitled to take his seat at the mess-table.
His corps was what the young warriors of the present day, call "rather slow," it had, indeed, been very much distinguished in the Peninsula, but since then a severe course of Jamaica and Demerara had excluded from it all wealthy and aristocratic elements; and the tablets it left behind in the West Indies were only raised to the memory of Smiths and Joneses, whose respective vacancies had since been filled up with Joneses and Smiths. In those days the rotation system had not been yet adopted, and the young gentlemen in "crack regiments," only knew of yellow fevers and land-crabs, through reading of them in books; and even through that channel, it would, perhaps, be unsafe to assert that they were much informed on these subjects, or indeed on any other.
At the head of the mess-table sat a gray-headed captain, who had been frost-bitten in Canada, wounded in the Peninsula, and saved by an iron constitution from the regimental doctor and yellow fever on Brimstone Hill, St Kitts; and, despite his varied adventures and ailments, had contrived to accumulate an immense rotundity in his person, and quantity and vividness of colour in his countenance. At the foot, was a tall young gentleman, with high cheekbones and a Celtic nose, who had lately joined from Tipperary. The colonel sat in the centre of one side of the table, stiff in attitude, sententious in discourse, invulnerable in vanity; a fierce-looking navy captain, and the meek mayor of the town, supported him to the right and left. A few diners out, fathers of families, and men who played a good game of billiards, and preferred the society of ensigns, were the remainder of the guests; the other gentlemen in red were variations on the fat captain and the Tipperary lieutenant.
The mess-room was long and narrow, with a profusion of small windows on both sides, causing the light to fall on every one's face. There were two doors at each end of the room, and one at the side, which last, as it led nowhere, and made a draught like a blow-pipe, had been lately stopped up with a different coloured plaster from the rest of the wall. But indeed there was such a curious variety of draughts, that one was scarcely missed; every door and window in the room sent in its current of air, to search under the table, flare the candles, bear in in triumph the smell of burnt fat from the kitchen, and poke into the tender places of rheumatic patients; while, in spite of all these, the room was so close and redolent of dinner, that fish, flesh, and fowl were breathed in every breath. A scant and well-worn carpet covered the space on which the dinner-table stood; and portable curtains of insufficient number and enormous size ornamented a few favoured windows, waved in the erratic draughts, and tripped up incautious attendants, diffusing all the while the stale odour of tobacco smoke through the other varied smells. At one end of the room was a round table with a faded red cloth, strewn with newspapers, the corners of which had generally been abstracted for the purpose of lighting cigars,—the "Army List," the king's regulations, and the Racing Calendar. At the other end, a large screen, battered at the edges from frequent packings, diverted the course of the kitchen steam which entered by the door next it; this piece of furniture was covered with prints, some caricatures of other days, some sporting sketches—breaking cover—the Derby—fast coaches—the ring, &c.—some opera beauties, on whom sportive and original ensigns had depicted enormous moustaches, and others of rather an equivocal description.
At a given signal, the covers were removed, and some dozen of iron-heeled soldiers, dressed in various liveries, commenced scattering the soup and fish about with the same reckless indifference to consequences with which they would have stormed a breach. While Meynell was gradually coughing himself into a recovery from the effects of some fiercely peppered mulligatawney, he was asked by the stiff colonel to take wine, when the fat captain, and all the others at brief intervals followed the example. For some time, there was steady attention paid to eating and drinking, and but few words spoken, beyond "mutton if you please—thank you—rather under done—glass of sherry—with pleasure—your health—I'll trouble you for a wing, &c." But as the dinner progressed, and the fiery wine began to tell, horses and dogs, wine and women, guards and grievances, promotion and patronage, began to exert their influence on the discourse, and by the time the cloth was removed, every one seemed to talk louder than his neighbour, and the din was almost insupportable. Then, through the roar of the many voices, was heard an ominous shuffling behind the screen, now extended all across the room; an attuning scream of the clarionet, moan of the violin, and grunt of the bassoon, faintly foretold the coming storm, which in a few seconds burst upon the ears in the most furious form of the "overture to Zampa" by the regimental band; this continued, with variations, but scarcely a lull, for a couple of hours.
Meanwhile the bottles pass freely round, and the roar of voices continues louder and thicker than ever; some of the younger officers, mere boys, have yielded to their potent draughts, and sought their rooms; others, maddened with the wine and din, shout snatches of songs, argue vociferously, and loudly offer absurd bets, which the sporting gentlemen, who are strong in billiards, note down in little pocket-books. The band retires, whist tables are laid, brandy and water and cigars make their appearance, and the mess-room is soon in a cloud. After a couple of rubbers of whist, the colonel, and most of the older officers and guests, retire. As the door closes behind them, a flushed youth with swimming eyes and uncertain step, rushes to the table and shouts, "Now we'll make a night of it,—the bones! the bones!" Dice are soon brought, and the work of mischief begins. "Don't you play, Meynell?" said the flushed youth. "Not to-night, thank you," was the answer. Not to-night—for to-night he is cautiously feeling his way,—the scene's new to him,—he does not yet find himself at home, or on his strong point. He sits quietly down on the well-worn sofa and looks on; his head, in spite of the fiery wine and distracting band, is quite cool; he has watched himself and drunk but sparingly, and now he watches others.
The players are seated at the round table, with eager faces and straining eyes watching the chances of the game. One of the guests is among them, a man with black moustaches and rather foreign appearance, a billiard-room acquaintance of the flushed youth; a capital fellow, they said, up to every thing, and very amusing. It was unlucky, however, for the cause of conviviality, that he was rather indisposed that day, and could take very little wine. But fortune now seemed to make amends to him for this deprivation, for he won at almost every throw. The flushed youth curses his luck, but doubles his stakes till he has lost a heavy sum. Meynell's quick eye observed that the foreign-looking gentleman lowered his hand under the table before each of these very successful throws. "You had better change the game," said he coolly to the loser, "luck is against you." The youth dashed the dice on the floor, seized the cards, and challenged the party to "vingt-et-un;" as he had been the heaviest loser, the others agreed, and the cards were dealt rapidly around.
It is by this time well on towards the dawn, the gray light already shows the shadowy outline of the distant hills, the dewy morning air breathes softly in through the open windows, on the parched lips and fevered brows of the gamblers; but it is an unheeded warning. Stake after stake is lost, some light, others heavy, all, perhaps, more than can be spared; but the worst loser is losing still. The loss is very great, ruinous indeed; the pale man with the black moustaches has the same strange luck as ever; he says he quite wonders at it himself. He is dealer, and turns up a "vingt-et-un" almost every time. Now the flushed youth flushes deeper, his teeth are set—his eyes fixed on the table—an enormous sum is risked upon this chance, he has drawn winning cards, but the dealer may have a "vingt-et-un," and beat him still. The foreigner's hand is pressed on the table, outspread close to his cards. All this time Meynell had keenly watched the play; he had risen from the sofa noiselessly, taken a large carving-fork from the supper table, and, unobserved by any of the excited players, stood behind the dealer's chair; his thin lips firmly compressed, and the fork grasped in his right hand, he leant over the table. This was at the point of the game when the decisive card was to be turned. Quick as thought, Meynell drives down the heavy fork through the dealer's hand, nailing it to the table—there is an ace underneath it; writhing with pain and shame, the unmasked cheat is hunted from the house.
Meynell at once became the leading man of the regiment; petted by the colonel on account of his aristocratic connexions, admired by the older officers for his knowledge of the world, and looked up to by the younger as the most daring in adventure, the most reckless in dissipation and expense. He repaid himself for the moderation of the first night at mess, when he was feeling his ground, by constant self-indulgence when he knew his power,—while the influence of his popularity and extraordinary social gifts, drew most of the youths, already, perhaps, too much disposed for such pleasures, to follow his example. The regiment had been rather dissipated before, but Meynell's presence in it was oil to the flame; drinking, waste, and gambling, became general, ruining the circumstances and constitution of many, and injuriously affecting the morals of all. Scarcely a year had passed after this time, when several mere boys, who had entered this fatal corps with fair prospects and uncorrupted minds, were sent back to their unhappy parents with blasted characters and broken fortunes. In these sad catastrophes Meynell found a secret pleasure, strange as it was diabolical. Though he used all his address to gain followers and companions in his career, there was something flattering to his malignant pride when any one broke down in the attempt to keep pace with him. Sometimes after deep play, in which he was rarely a loser, he would confer apparent kindnesses on the sufferers, forgive them their liabilities, and render them pecuniary assistance; but such help only postponed for a season the ruin that was almost sure to follow his fatal patronage, while his seeming generosity increased his influence, and silenced those who might have spoken against him. In equipage, appearance, and manners, he was the ornament of the regiment, and considered by those authorities who did not inquire into morals, as a most promising young officer of high character and attainments.
I shall not weary you with any details of the next five years of his military life, of his peace campaigns, and marches from one town to another. But his track was marked with mischief wherever he went. He had several times, from his expensive mode of living, been obliged to appeal to his uncle for assistance, which was always rendered, accompanied, of course, by long and ineffectual lectures on the necessity of reformation. But the old man was flattered at his nephew's popularity, and pleased with his varied powers and accomplishments; by plausible representations, too, he was convinced that the irregularities which occasionally reached even his ears, were but the exuberance of youth, and the effervescence of a high spirit. Latterly, however, when the applications for money became more frequent, and the rumours of his dissipated life more numerous and authentic, the Squire, after having discharged all existing debts, communicated his determination to limit his nephew strictly within the allowance for the future, and to refuse to meet any further liabilities.
Cautious, cool-headed, and able as Meynell was, he was wanting in that self-command necessary to alter his mode of life; his expensive habits and vices had, through long indulgence, become almost necessaries of existence. With his eyes fully open to his danger, he still kept on in the dark path that led to the ruin to which he had ruthlessly consigned many an other, supported the while by a vague hope that some lucky chance would turn up to carry him through his difficulties. Tradesmen became pressing with their accounts,—he drew bills on his agent, renewed these when they became due, and drew others. This could not last long; the value of his commission was soon mortgaged; he borrowed money of advertising bill-discounters at enormous interest, and, in short, by the summer of 1834, Henry Meynell was a ruined man.
At this period he had just marched with his regiment into a large seaport town in the south of England, where they were to be quartered for some time. About two miles inland from this town there is a small country place of singular beauty. The house stands on the brow of a green hill, the front looking over a magnificent neighbouring park, varied with grove, and lake, and rivulet. At the back is a trimly kept garden of tufts of flowers, like enormous bouquets thrown on the green velvet sward, with here and there a sombre cypress or cedar in pleasant contrast. A succession of small terraces, with steep grassy steps, leads down to a rapid brook that forms a little waterfall below. Half an arch of a bridge, ruined, no one knows how, many years ago, now covered with thick clustering ivy, projects over the stream. Beyond, lie rich undulating pastoral lands, where cattle and sheep are grazing peacefully; on either side of the garden thick woods of beech and sycamore reach from the brook up to the house, shutting in this lonely spot with their dark green wall. The dwelling was originally Elizabethan, but had been so often added to or diminished, that it would be hard to say now what it is; but somehow the confusion of gables and excrescences have altogether a very picturesque effect, and luxuriant clematis and ivy conceal the architectural irregularities, or at least divert the eye from their observation. At the entrance to the house from the garden there is a porch, up a short flight of gray stone steps; its sides are of trellis-work, covered with flowering creepers.
One sunny afternoon towards the end of June, in the year mentioned above, a fresh breeze rustled through the leaves, shook the rich clusters of fragrant roses that hung about the porch, and fanned the cheek of a young girl standing on the steps, who looked as fair and innocent as the flowers themselves. She was her mother's only child, and had seen but eighteen years. Her father had been a gallant sailor, knighted for his conduct in one action, and slain in the next. Her mother, Lady Waring, was thus left widowed while yet young; but her loved husband's memory, and the care of her little daughter Kate, proved enough of earthly interests for her, and she remained single ever afterwards. Sir William Waring had possessed a considerable share, as sleeping partner, in an old-established banking-house that bore the name of his family, as well as the residence I have tried to describe, so that his widow and child were left in very affluent circumstances. He was a first cousin of old Mr Meynell, the Yorkshire squire.
Lady Waring was seated on a rustic bench in the garden with a book in her hand, but her eye fixed with fond admiration on her daughter. The fair girl stood on the steps in the porch as on a pedestal surrounded with a frame-work of flowers. A straw hat, with a wide leaf, was placed coquettishly on one side of her head, and from its shade an abundance of black glossy ringlets fell over the sunshine of her face. She had never known a moment's sickness or sorrow; her eye had never met a frown; her ears never heard a chiding. She seemed almost radiant with health and happiness—her joyous smile the overflow of her glad heart.
Lady Waring beckoned her over, and as she moved to obey the summons, the shadow of her graceful sinuous figure scarcely appeared to touch the sward more lightly than herself. Kate sat down beside her mother, put an arm round her, and looked up joyfully into her face. It was one of those peculiar English days, when the sun shines with a fierce heat, but the east wind is sharp and cold, and the air ungenial where the rays do not reach. At the moment when Kate joined her mother, a thick cloud passed above their heads, throwing a heavy shade over them, while a breeze sweeping up from the brook cast a sudden chill. With an involuntary shudder they pressed for a moment closer together. At the same time a servant ushered a tall, strange gentleman into the garden, "Mr Henry Meynell," he announced, and then withdrew.
The kinsman received a cordial greeting, and, of course, an invitation to remain that day, which was accepted. The charm of his manner and conversation was irresistible when he strove to please: he strove his utmost that night, and fully succeeded—mother and daughter were alike won by him. When he rode away from the door at a late hour, Lady Waring was eloquent in his praise. Kate's eloquence was silence, but it spake quite as much, and that night she did not sleep so tranquilly as was her wont.
As Henry Meynell galloped home over the lonely road, the bland and winning smile which had played over his face all the evening contracted into a moody and sinister expression. The thin lips became compressed, and his arched brows extended into a hard dark line over his eyes. He was planning evil, and had no witness; at such times his features seemed to take this peculiar appearance as their natural cast; yet it was scarcely possible to believe that one, before so handsome, could suddenly become repulsive and painful to behold. His self-indulgent and dissipated life had already marked him with some of the symptoms of premature decay. Though still in early manhood, a slight wrinkle or two was perceptible; his cheek was pale when not flushed with excitement; and his eye, betimes glassy and bloodshot, would betray the excesses of the previous night. But still, with the assistance of a judicious toilet, he could make his appearance present a very respectable degree of youthfulness; and this had been an occasion where no pains were spared to create a favourable impression. He had an object in view. In the desperate state of his finances, an advantageous marriage suggested itself to him as the easiest and readiest mode of extricating himself from his difficulties, and continuing his career of self-indulgence. His regiment having been ordered into the neighbourhood of his wealthy cousin appeared an opportunity too favourable to be neglected, so he had not lost a day in making her acquaintance. He hated the prospect of marriage as an inconvenience, but mocked at the idea of its being a restraint. The fair girl he had marked for his own rather pleased him; he liked her beauty, and was amused at her trusting innocence. He probably would have made love to her for pastime even had she not been rich. As it was, the sacrifice to his necessities which he intended to make was somewhat mitigated in its severity. "I must have her money, so I am in for the stupid folly of virtuous love-making and marriage," was the sum of his thoughts as he dismounted at his stable-door. His spaniel had been watching for his return, and ran out, barking joyously, and leaping upon him. He was irritated at being thus disturbed in his calculating reverie, and struck the faithful brute with his heavy whip, driving it yelping away. "Go, stupid cur, you plague me with your fondness," cried he, as he struck at the dog again. Alas for the fair girl who filled this bad man's thoughts, and who thought but of him that night! down in his cold heart she may not find one solitary gem of tenderness or love to light her with its ray to hope and happiness.
Henry Meynell's visits to the Warings became very frequent, and at length daily occurrences. These simple-minded people, who had lived so long secluded from the world, had little opportunity of hearing the unfavourable rumours of their guest's character, which were pretty generally abroad; and if now and then a suspicion was suggested to the elder lady, the tact and plausibility with which it was discovered and removed, rather tended to strengthen than weaken his position in her esteem. As for Kate, the advice and cautions of meddling friends of course only fixed her more firmly in her preference.
About six weeks thus passed away. He had played his game coolly and steadily; his attentions were evident, but they were yet so mixed up with respectful regard to Lady Waring and apparent interest in her conversation, that the good lady had been more accustomed to look upon him as the kinsman and friend of the family than as the suitor of her child. So gradual had been his advances, that one, day, when she found her daughter depressed and weeping, and at length guessed that Meynell's temporary absence was the cause, the state of affairs flashed upon her with the suddenness of a surprise. When enlightened, she wondered with reason at her dulness in not having before discovered a matter of such surpassing interest. "Why should I have any secret from you, mother?" said Kate; "it is true I love him, and dearly, and I am sure he loves me too, though he has never told me so. I wonder why he has not come to-day; he promised to bring me the song he sang to us last night on the broken bridge." Nevertheless, Meynell came not that day; and it was getting late in the evening when Kate's quick ear recognised the sound of his horse's feet on the approach—the sweetest music she could hear.
She was alone in the house when he entered, her mother being in the garden on the favourite rustic seat. After the usual greetings, and some hurried apologies for his late arrival on the ground of business or duty, they walked out together to where Lady Waring sat. Her mind was on them as they drew near; she had thought of them for hours in anxious consultation within herself. She reflected on the lonely condition of her child in case of her death; the apparent attachment of the young people to each other; the amiable manners and brilliant accomplishments of her kinsman; and her own affluence, which would enable her to make amends for the want of fortune on his part. When she looked on the manly and graceful soldier bending to her daughter's ear, and saw the pale cheek of the fair girl become red, and the face, lately sad and tearful, now beaming with happiness and content, she thought she had found a fitting protector for her child, and that to him it should be given to love her, comfort her, honour and keep her, in sickness and in health.
The mother held out a hand to each as they joined her, and welcomed Henry Meynell with peculiar kindness of manner; then, as they strolled down the terrace to the brook side, followed them with loving eyes, suffused and dim with tears of pleasure.
I would fain dwell upon this happy meeting and lengthen it to the utmost. Why do the shadows fall so quickly? Why does dark night chase away this gentle twilight, and the murmur of the brook grow loud and hoarse, as all other sounds are sinking into silence? The winged hours have flown rapidly away; the fair girl still wanders by the water's edge, or leans over the parapet of the broken bridge. Through the stillness of the evening air a voice has fallen softly on her ear that fills her heart with happiness. Joy! joy! his love is spoken; his manly troth is plighted. And she, too, in a few broken words of maiden modesty but deep affection, has pledged away her faith, wealth, youth, and beauty. Then the fond mother comes to seek her child; she needs no tongue to tell her what has passed, for that fair young face is radiant with happiness, bright and pure as a star in heaven; and Henry Meynell's glance is full of fond and silent admiration. She bestows an approving blessing. But while the group stands, as it would seem, lost to all consciousness of the world beyond, the night has fallen dark and sombre, and louder and hoarser than before is heard the murmur of the brook in the silence of all other sounds.
Meynell had been detained in the morning by a most disagreeable visit from one of his discounting acquaintances. A large bill had become due that day, and the man to whom it was owed insisted on immediate settlement, under the threat of an arrest for the amount. Of course there were no funds forthcoming, and credit was quite exhausted. Something was necessary to be done; the scandal of being seized would probably damage his hopes of success with Kate Waring; and he felt that if he could only stave off this difficulty for a week or a little more till the affair was concluded and her property in his power, that all might yet be well. When other persuasions, entreaties, and promises had failed to move his obdurate creditor, he at length confided the hopes which he entertained of being very soon able, by a judicious marriage, to meet his engagements; and gave a full account of the progress which, he flattered himself, he had made in the lady's good graces. The only terms, however, that he could obtain were, that he should have two hours more allowed him to be introduced to a Jewish gentleman, who might perhaps advance him the money required at a remunerative rate of interest. There was nothing for him but to accept this offer, and the Jewish gentleman was shown into his room.
The money-lender was a slight, sallow man, with black hair, cut very short, and face close shaven. As Meynell was introduced, he thought he had a confused recollection of having met the man before, but a second glance persuaded him that the face was strange. Exorbitant terms were required and acceded to for the loan of the required sum for a fortnight, but that signified little; he had no doubt of success, and then a few hundreds more or less would be of little consequence. He was, to say truth, agreeably surprised at the loan being given at any price under his apparently desperate circumstances, when the only security was the chance of a mercenary marriage. The usurer seemed, indeed, quite in a hurry to write the check and receive the bond for the debt. As he wrote, Meynell leant over him and observed that he moved his pen with some difficulty and stiffness; on the back of his right hand were two small, but deep scars close together.
Never was bridegroom more eager to hasten the hour of his happiness. The tedious arrangement of the necessary legal affairs was hurried on by every means in his power; a fortnight was but little law, and he now knew well that he must fall into the hands of one that would not spare him; for though he did not appear to have recognised the detected and punished cheat of his first night's mess party in the money-lender, nor did the other show any knowledge of him, he could not but suspect that there was something more than an accident in his being thus put into the power of a man he had so dangerously provoked. Lady Waring and Kate only attributed his pressing haste to the ardour of affection, and with undoubted confidence received his plausible explanations. The tenth day after that eventful evening was fixed for the marriage—but the hour of wo was nearer still; the storm was about to burst over the widow and her child.
One morning, as Meynell was preparing to ride out to his daily visit, a brother officer entered the room with a newspaper in his hand, and the eager air of a man who has news of interest to communicate. "These bankers, from the name, are probably some relations of your friends," said he; "it seems a tremendous smash; a shilling in the pound, or something of that sort, is talked of."
Meynell's thin lips closed like a vice for one moment, but the next he asked to see the paragraph spoken of, in a tone of apparent indifference. He read it coolly, laid the paper aside, and changed the conversation. When he was again alone his face grew dark as night, and that demon expression swept over it like a tempest as, with an awful curse, he struck his clenched hand on the table. He remained motionless for many minutes, holding counsel in his ruthless, selfish mind. Not a thought of others' wo suggested itself—not one doubt or hesitation held him back from trampling on a trusting and devoted heart. "But it may still not be true!" The hope, faint as it was, aroused him to exertion. He rang the bell, and with his usual calmness of manner and voice, said that he should not want his horse that day, but that he might probably have to go away for a short time, and gave directions to have every thing ready for his departure in an hour. He then walked out into the town, made some inquiries, which resulted in confirming the disastrous intelligence, wrote a cold and hurried note to Lady Waring, in which "circumstances over which I have no control" held a principal place, and a "necessary absence" was announced. Before the message was despatched, he was on his route for the Continent.
The news of her ruin had also reached poor Lady Waring that morning; she was for a time stupified by the suddenness and severity of the blow, and, pale and speechless, still held up the letter before her eyes. Kate, alarmed at her mother's silence, hastened to her side, and a glance over the fatal paper told the cause. She put her soft, white arm round the widow's neck, and looked into her face with a smile of love and hopeful courage that, even in the first moment of misfortune, made the burthen light.
"I wish Henry were come, mother," said she. "He will cheer you. All shall still be well. We shall be just as happy in poverty as we were in wealth, and be kinder than ever. How I hope he may not hear of this till we tell him! He would be so pained for our sakes; but when he sees we bear it bravely he will rejoice."
Alas, poor child! while you were speaking these words of trusting consolation, he on whom you placed your fond faith, with cool head and icy heart, was tracing the lines that were to tell of his base desertion.
It was long ere Kate could receive the dreadful conviction of the truth. There was the note. Could she mistake the handwriting? The bearer, too, had said that Meynell was gone; and the distant, chilling tone—and no mention made of his return—and the news of her sudden poverty! None but a woman that loved with a trusting and devoted heart could doubt what all this meant. Days, weeks, months passed away, till time wore out hope, for he never came. As some fainting wretch in a famine visits his scanty store in trembling secrecy, bit by bit consumes it to the last, and then despairs, so she lived on till her faith grew less and less, and she hid its last remnant in her heart, lest it should be torn from her; but it wasted fast away, and not a shred was left.
In the meantime Lady Waring had sold her place, discharged her servants, except those who were indispensable, and made arrangements to reside in a small house in the neighbouring town, where her pension and the remnant of her fortune might enable her to live in comfort and respectability. But, in the first instance, she went to live for a time with some relations near their former residence, while the necessary preparations were being made for the change. Kate's state of mind and health were constant and increasing anxieties to the poor mother, almost to the exclusion of the recollection of her other misfortunes. Henry Meynell was never mentioned, but his handiwork was plainly seen. Kate had rapidly grown old; the look of radiant happiness and trustingness was gone. Her spirits were not altogether depressed, but rather subject to pitiful variations; and at times the hectic excitement of her manner was even more distressing than her fits of despondency.
Her kind friends tried to engage her in any amusements and occupations that were attainable, and prevailed upon her to enter into the society and gaiety of the town, where she was no sooner known than she became a universal favourite. Lady Waring was conscious that Kate submitted to these instances only to please her, and induce her to believe that she was recovering her tranquillity of mind. But the mother felt that the effort, however painful, might be useful, and in the end attain to realise what was then but an appearance; so she always accompanied her daughter, and did her utmost to maintain a cheerful countenance. This painful struggle and simulation continued with more or less of success till the end of August, when a newspaper announcement informed them that Henry Meynell had been married a fortnight before at Rome to his cousin Miss Susan Meynell, a lady some years older than himself, who had always lived with his uncle as the prime favourite, and had accompanied him to the Continent that year, on a journey undertaken for his health. Henry had joined them not long before, in a state of great poverty, but by the influence of an old preference which the lady entertained for him, he had been reconciled to his uncle, who made a comfortable settlement upon his favourite and the professedly reformed prodigal. The news of his conduct to the Warings had not reached the old man at that time.
Lady Waring was astonished, indeed alarmed at the calmness with which Kate appeared to receive the news of the consummation of Henry Meynell's treacherous desertion. For an hour or two she seemed depressed and absent, but afterwards set about the usual pursuits of the day without any apparent change of manner. They were to be present at a large ball that night; and Lady Waring could not but wonder when she saw her daughter busied in arranging some simple ornaments for the dress she was to wear, and preparing for the evening gaieties as if nothing had occurred to disturb the current of her thoughts. At the ball she entered into the spirit of the dance with apparently more than usual zest: some among the many who sought her, almost fancied they were gaining ground in her good graces, and that this unwonted gaiety was the result of her being pleased with them. Her mother watched her with alarm and surprise; her cheek was flushed, her eye bright, her smile beaming on all around her. Was this real or unreal? Could one so fair and good be without heart, and indifferent to the unworthiness of him to whom she had given her troth?
The weary ball is at last ended,—they reach home,—she bids her mother good-night; as they separate, her cheek flushes furiously, and her eye is brighter than ever, but she speaks quite calmly—so calmly, indeed, that her mother is almost re-assured, and overcome with fatigue lies down to rest and sleeps. Kate occupies the adjoining room.
At about six o'clock in the morning, Lady Waring, awoke from a troubled and unrefreshing sleep. She fancied she heard light footsteps in her daughter's chamber; they seemed regular and measured, as of some one pacing slowly. She tried to collect her scattered thoughts, and separate her confused dreams from her waking perceptions. The gray light of morning already crept in through the crevices of the closed windows, and threw a cold uncertain light on the familiar objects around, only rendering them strange and indistinguishable. While yet she lay uncertain, the footsteps left the next room and approached hers, with the same light but measured sound. Her door opened and Kate entered, still in her ball-dress, with her long black ringlets forced back off her forehead. She drew the curtains aside gently and leant over the bed, then pressed her little white hands over her temples, and muttering some indistinct words, gazed upon her mother.
Were the widow's life to be lengthened out into eternity itself, she never might forget that look of her lost child. As a flash of the destroying lightning, it blasted her heart's hope, and turned it to ashes. She sprang up and clasped her arms round her daughter: "Mercy, mercy, Kate!" she cried, "speak to me once more. Are you ill? Do you suffer?" Oh! the sad, sad voice! Each word the poor girl spoke in answer, froze her hearer's blood, as though that gentle breath had been the ice-blast of the pole. "I do not know, mother," she replied, "but I have such a pain here." She pressed her hands slowly over her brow, and with her white taper fingers put back the loosened hair. Then in hurried accents whispered,—"Do not tell him—do not let them take me away—but God help me, mother!" she added wildly: "I think I am MAD!" and it was true. She sank beneath her first and only sorrow. In the effort to bear up against it, her mind gave way; and she who might have diffused happiness on all around her, as a fountain sends forth its waters, is to smile no more.
She was attacked that morning by a violent fever which lasted many weeks. At length she gradually seemed to amend, but remained quite unconscious of her mother's unceasing care. The bright red spot that burned upon her pale cheek, and the sharp hard cough that every now and then shook her wasted frame, forbade awakening hope. "When she is able to move," said her medical attendant, "the climate of Malta may be beneficial, but it is my sad duty to say that there is no prospect of her mind being re-established." "Save her for me," said the wretched mother, "even should I never hear her bless me again. Darkened though she may be, she is still the lesser light that rules my night."
After some time they went to Malta, and for nearly two years, Lady Waring watched the alternations of her daughter's health with fond and unceasing care. Almost a hope sometimes arose, but there soon again came a relapse, and month by month she was plainly sinking, but very, very slowly; the decay was so gradual, that her evidently approaching end came on her wretched mother suddenly at last. She had been for some time unable to leave her bed, or indeed even to move, and her breathing became painful and difficult.
It was on a January morning that the doctor felt it necessary to tell Lady Waring that the end of her hopes and fears was at hand, for the patient could not last beyond that day. So she sat down by the bedside in calm despair to watch the expiring lamp. About seven in the evening, a sudden change seemed to come over the dying girl,—an animation of countenance, and a look of re-awaking intelligence. She motioned feebly with her hand that her bed might be moved close to the window, and when there, looked out anxiously upon the strange sea and sky. She appeared to be making some mental effort, and after a little while, turned her eyes towards the watcher, and murmured one blessed word of recognition,—"Mother."
Her setting sun, long hid by heavy mists, ere it sank below the horizon, threw one level ray of pure unclouded light back over the troubled sea of life. At the approach of death—out of the chaos of her mind—the memories of the past rose up, and stood in a broad picture before her sight; and from the ruins of her broken heart its first and holiest affection ascended like an incense. "God will love you, as you have loved me, mother;" she said. "Forgive him—I pray for him—God will forgive him, and watch over you—good-bye—kiss me, mother." As she lay wan, wasted, feeble, her voice was so faint and low that it almost seemed to come from beyond the portals of the grave itself, to pardon and to bless.
The widow bent over the death-bed, and—oh, how tenderly!—pressed the cold lips of her lost darling. At that loved touch, the failing tide of life flowed back for a moment and flushed the pale cheek with joy unspeakable—then ebbed away for ever.
Now that we have left poor Kate where "the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest," we must follow the dark course of him for whom she died. His marriage had but a short time taken place, when he resumed his former habits, and totally neglected his wife. She at first tried to win him back by increased tenderness, but he spurned it; then by tears and entreaties, but he derided them. As a last effort, she tried to pique him by coldness—this pleased him best, for it relieved him from her presence. He made no attempt to conceal his dislike and contempt for his unhappy helpmate, or to throw a veil over his irregularities and dissipation. He had been much disappointed in the discovery that he could not obtain possession of any of the capital of his wife's fortune; and the sale of his commission, which was soon arranged, proved far from sufficient to meet the liabilities awaiting him on his return to England. This knowledge of the nature of the settlement was the ostensible ground of a quarrel with his wife, which ended in her returning to her uncle's house, and his establishing himself at a fashionable hotel in London, soon after their return from the Continent.
He had not been many days in England, before the implacable creditor who held the largest bond against him found him out, and arrested him for the amount, while riding in the Park, with all the insulting vexation that the greatest publicity could create. That he could raise the sum required for his release, appeared very unlikely indeed, under the present circumstances, to be accomplished. When within the precincts of the jail, Henry Meynell did not hesitate to write imploringly to the wife he had outraged and the uncle he had so often deceived, praying that they would pity his fallen condition, and release him from the grasp of the law. He was not sparing in words of humiliation and penitence, and promises of future good conduct. These arts had been so often tried before, that they might well have lost their effect on those to whom they were addressed; but his poor wife, who was still fondly attached to him, in spite of his unpardonable misconduct, could not bear the idea of his wasting in a jail, and used her utmost efforts to get together whatever means she was possessed of, and to persuade her uncle to assist him once more.
After some months' delay the necessary sum was procured, and to the chagrin and surprise of his creditor, Henry Meynell was once more at liberty. He visited his wife for a short time, but very soon left her again; she had deprived herself of the means of giving him any future assistance by her sacrifices on this occasion. He, having no further object to gain, determined to be burthened with her no more.
From this time he appears to have been utterly lost; but little is known of his proceedings for the next year and a-half. He was seen occasionally haunting the billiard tables and gambling houses in London and Paris, where his polished manners and prepossessing appearance gave him many advantages, in carrying on his designs against those inexperienced victims who were unfortunate enough to attract his notice. But he was evidently liable to great reverses of fortune at this time, for he was met by a former brother officer on one occasion at Boulogne, so much reduced that he was fain to make himself known, and pray for a small sum to take him over to London. Finally, in the summer of 1836, he was concerned in some swindling transaction which, on its discovery, brought him within the grasp of the law. He had, however, so extensive an acquaintance and influence among such as himself, who were in no small number in London at that time, that for a while he managed, with their assistance, to elude the police, and in a well-contrived disguise, as an old man, still ventured to frequent houses of play.
One night he recognised among the crowd, at a table in Leicester Square, the well-known face of the detected cheat. He watched narrowly to observe whether or not he was recognised. He feared to leave the room suddenly lest it might excite a suspicion, but was reassured when he saw that the pale man seemed so much absorbed in his game, as not to notice the other faces round the board.
When, after a time, the object of his anxiety rose much excited and left the room, having lost all the money he appeared to possess, he felt convinced that the danger had passed, and breathed freely again.
It was early morning before he sallied out from the polluted atmosphere where he had passed the night. He was proceeding slowly along toward home, when, from out a narrow court, as he passed, a policeman pounced upon him, and grasped him by the collar, while the inveterate enemy from whom he thought he had escaped without recognition, seized him at the same time. Henry Meynell saw at a glance that there was no hope but in escape, so with all the exertion of his powerful strength, he shook off his assailants. The foreigner fell heavily to the ground, but the policeman tried to close again, till a blow from Meynell struck him violently to the earth. Before they recovered themselves, the object of their attack was beyond the reach of capture.
Meynell did not venture to go again to his lodgings: he changed his dress at the house of an acquaintance, and, warned by his narrow escape, determined at once to leave England. He wandered along by the wharves, making inquiries about any vessels that were to sail immediately, little caring what their destination might be. It so happened that he heard of one at hand that was to sail for Canada that day. He was at once resolved. A favourable night's play had put him in possession of sufficient funds. He purchased a few necessary articles for the voyage, and before evening fell, was sailing down the river—an exile—an outcast from the land of his birth, which he was never to see again.
During the voyage, his great powers of conviviality made him a special favourite of the captain of the vessel; of course, he bore an assumed name, and professed to be merely going out with the intention of becoming a settler, if he liked the promise of the country. He also made up a plausible story, of having been disappointed in his passage by another ship, and forced at the last moment to hurry on board this one. With the captain, however, he held a greater confidence; and although no particulars were entered into, it transpired during their carouses that he and the law were at variance.
The voyage passed without any event worth recording, and early on a bright September morning they awoke under the shade of the bold headland of Quebec. Meynell's critical taste was gratified by the mingled grandeur and softness of the scene; he was in no hurry to go ashore, friendless and objectless as he was, so he leant his head upon his hand, and gazed out quietly over the side of the vessel, enjoying the view so far as his diseased mind was capable of receiving gratification from a harmless pleasure. He took little notice of the boats that came to, and left the ship, nor did he ask the news of any one. What cared he for news? He saw old friends or long separated relatives meet on the deck with warm and happy recognition. But there was none to welcome him. It would be hard to say what thoughts then crossed the dark stage of his mind; some long hidden spring of feeling may have been touched by what was passing round that lost and lonely man; by little and little his head sank lower and lower, till his face was buried in his hands, and so he stood.
He had remained for a long time silent and motionless, when he was suddenly aroused by a hand being placed on his shoulder. He turned round with surprise, and found the captain of the ship by his side, who said to him hurriedly. "The sooner you are out of this the better, friend. A chap has been looking after you already, and I am sure he will be back again." The post had arrived long before them, and Meynell's implacable enemy had contrived to find out his destination, and to prepare the authorities for his arrival by a description of his person, that they might arrest him at once. In this difficulty his friend the captain proved a ready counsellor. There chanced to be a schooner alongside freighted with stores for the Indians of the Saguenay, that was to sail almost immediately; the captain knew the skipper of this craft, and arranged with him to take Meynell, who was to remain in that remote part of the country till the danger blew over.
In a short time Meynell was steering down the river again, on his way to the lonely Saguenay, little caring where he went; indeed, perhaps, he would have chosen this adventure to a remote district, with the novelty of the Indian life, as readily as any thing else, even had he not been impelled to it by necessity.
It may not be known to all that the Saguenay is a large river that flows from a lake of considerable size, eastward into the St Lawrence, which it joins on the north side, a hundred and forty miles below Quebec. It is of great depth, the waters dark and gloomy, and the scenery through which they pass magnificent, but of a desolate and barren character. About seventy miles up this great tributary is an infant settlement called Chicontimi, a station of the fur-traders. Here the navigation ends, and, beyond, the labour of man has left but slight traces. At the time of Meynell's arrival this district was inhabited, or rather hunted over, by a tribe called by the Canadians, "Montaignais Indians,"—a friendly honest race, expert fishers and hunters, and valuable neighbours to the fur-traders. The schooner was laden with stores of various kinds, to be exchanged with those people for the produce of the chase.
In three days Meynell reached Chicontimi. The fur-traders were surprised at the unexpected visitor, but as he proved to be a smart active fellow, and was not without means, they did not object to his presence, and in a short time he made himself very useful. At this period of the year, the Montaignais tribe always encamped near the settlement, and bargained for the guns, powder and shot, blankets, and other necessaries, for the hunting expeditions of the winter. Meynell soon became a favourite among them; his facility in learning their language, his strength and activity, and skill with the rifle, gave him a great influence over their simple minds. He particularly attached himself to an old hunter of much consideration, called Ta-ou-renche, who had an orphan niece under his care, Atawa by name, the acknowledged beauty of the tribe. After a time Meynell adopted altogether the Indian mode of life. His days were passed in the chase, or in wandering with his rod and gun by the shores of the beautiful and almost unknown lakes of that lone and distant land. He soon became as expert as the Montaignais themselves in their simple craft.
The autumn passed away, and winter closed in with its accustomed severity, locking up all nature in its icy grasp. The fish in the lakes were then only to be obtained by laboriously cutting channels in the massive ice, and all the birds and smaller animals had gone into their mysterious exile. It was then time for the tribe to make their usual journey to the distant hunting grounds of the north-east, where the Moose and Carribboo deer were wont to supply them with abundance for their winter's store. Meynell determined to accompany them, and imitated and improved upon their simple preparations. He obtained from the stores of the fur-dealers warm clothes, blankets, and ammunition for the expedition; a small supply of pemican or preserved meat, and a little flour, completed the loading of the light sleigh he was to drag after him over the snow; this tobogan, as the Indians call it, is of a very light structure, and carries a burthen of fifty or sixty pounds weight, with but little labour to him who draws it along.