Let a gifted but weakly lawyer go into a court-room and meet some bull-headed opponent with not half the keen insight or knowledge of the law, but one who has tenacity, ability to hold on, and nine times out ten the abler man of the two—mentally—goes home wearied and defeated, and the other man wins the case. Who are the men prominent in the pulpit? Are they weak, puny men, or men of physique? Who are the leaders in the Churches? They are not leaders on account of their intellectual brilliancy, but by their wholeness as men. They find sympathy with the people because they are good specimens of manhood. There might be many more such had they been better trained.
The best training-school for the body is the gymnasium. That is the purpose of all its appliances and apparatus. But it may be dispensed with if one has an adequate desire for physical training. Give a boy to understand that his body is not impure and vile, but that it is as much worth consideration as his mind, and that if he does not take carte of his body he can not do any thing with his mind, and ways of physical training will not be wanting.
All children should be examined at intervals by a physician, and a record kept of their development. I measure my little boy every year. I know how he is growing. If he has been subject to too much excitement, there will be larger relative growth of the head, and we adjust his manner of life accordingly. The object of education is to develop the boy, not to put him through so much of arithmetic or so much language. The object is to get out of the boy all there is in him. The first thing, then, is to have the boy examined. If, instead of calling a physician when the children are sick, he is called while they are well, it would be much better. Is he getting round-shouldered? Has he a crook in the back? Is he beginning to stoop? There are many things which can be stopped in a child which can never be changed after the habits are hardened. Too late the parent may find that his child is incapacitated for the highest education, because there is no room for the heart and lungs to play their parts. The boy is limited in his possibilities as a tree planted in unfavorable soil is limited. He is stunted. He will reach a certain limit, and no efforts on his part will carry him further. But if he has been taken in hand in time, and these suggestions acted upon, different results might have been produced. These efforts to develop the boy's body will awaken the interest of the boy himself. It does not awaken animalism. Let a man have pride in his body, and his morals will look out for themselves. If a a boy is thus examined, and a record kept, he will take a pride in keeping up his record. It is not necessary, then, to have appliances. He can make trees and clothes-horses and gates and fences take their place. Teach him the value of such opportunities. Teach him to increase the capacity of his lungs and heart, and what relation they bear to the brain, and thus awaken his interest. He will soon learn to exercise in the best way. When the parent has to watch a boy to see that he exercises, exercise is of little or no avail. But let the father and mother realize the full value and importance of the body, and the results will follow naturally. Every thing depends primarily upon the parent. If he simply commands exercise without sharing in it, he is like a father who lectures his sons about smoking and drinking while he smokes and drinks himself.
This is a great field. It is opening up broader every day. I do not know any field where a man can go more enthusiastically to work. It affects not only the physical, but the moral condition. We have brought about a higher moral tone at Harvard through physical training. There is less smoking and drinking by far than before the gymnasium was so universally used. Every thing that develops the whole man affects morals. Our Maker did not put us here merely to be trained for somewhere else. No one can walk through the streets of Boston without feeling that there is need enough of work to do right here, in bringing about a better condition of affairs; something which shall be nearer an ideal heaven on earth.—The Christian Union.
* * * * *
THE PATRONESS OF MUSIC-MYTHS CONCERNING THE ORIGIN OF MUSIC-ITS RELATION TO WORK AND BLESSEDNESS
Her legend relates that about the year 230, which would be in the time of the Emperor Alexander. Severus, Cecilia, a Roman lady, born of a noble and rich family, who in early youth had been converted to Christianity, and had made a vow of perpetual virginity, was constrained by her parents to marry a certain Valerian, a pagan, whom she succeeded in converting to Christianity without infringing the vow she had made. She also converted her brother-in-law, Tiburtius, and a friend called Maximius, all of whom were martyred in consequence of their faith.
It is further related, among other circumstances purely legendary, that Cecilia often united instrumental music to that of her voice, in singing the praises of the Lord. On this all her fame has been founded, and she has become the special patroness of music and musicians all the world over. Half the musical societies of Europe have been named after her, and her supposed musical acquirements have led the votaries of a sister art to find subjects for their work in episodes of her life. The grand painting by Domenichino, at Bologna, in which the saint is represented as rapt in an ecstasy of devotion, with a small "organ," as it is called—an instrument resembling a large kind of Pandean pipes—in her hand, is well known, as is also Dryden's beautiful ode. The illustration which accompanies this chapter, after a painting by one of the brothers Caracci, of the seventeenth century, represents Cecilia at the organ. Borne heavenward on the tide of music, she sees a vision of the holy family, the child Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, with an angel near at hand in quiet gladness.
God's harmony is written All through, in shining bars, The soul His love has smitten As heaven is writ with stars.
MYTHS CONCERNING THE ORIGIN OF MUSIC.
Music is so delightfully innocent and charming an art, that we can not wonder at finding it almost universally regarded as of divine origin. Pagan nations generally ascribe the invention of their musical instruments to their gods, or to certain superhuman beings of a godlike nature. The Hebrews attributed it to man, but as Jubal is mentioned as "the father of all such as handle the harp and organ" only, and as instruments of percussion were almost invariably in use long before people were led to construct stringed and wind instruments, we may suppose that, in the Biblical records, Jubal is not intended to be represented as the original inventor of all the Hebrew instruments, but rather as a great promoter of the art of music.
"However, be this as it may, this much is certain: there are among Christians at the present day not a few sincere upholders of the literal meaning of these records, who maintain that instrumental music was already practiced in heaven before the creation of the world. Elaborate treatises have been written on the nature and effect of that heavenly music, and passages from the Bible have been cited by the learned authors which are supposed to confirm indisputably the opinions advanced in their treatises.
"It may, at a first glance, appear singular that nations have not, generally, such traditional records respecting the originator of their vocal music as they have respecting the invention of their musical instruments. The cause is, however, explicable; to sing is-as natural to man as to speak, and uncivilized nations are not likely to speculate whether singing has ever been invented.
"There is no need to recount here the well-known mythological traditions of the ancient Greeks and Romans referring to the origin of their favorite musical instruments. Suffice it to remind the reader that Mercury and Apollo were believed to be the inventors of the lyre and cithara (guitar); that the invention of the flute was attributed to Minerva, and that Pan is said to have invented the syrinx. More worthy of our attention are some similar records of the Hindoos, because they have hitherto scarcely been noticed in any work on music.
"In the mythology of the Hindoos, the god Nareda is the inventor of the vina, the principal musical instrument of Hindoostan. Saraswati, the consort of Brahma, may be said to be considered as the Minerva of the Hindoos. She is the goddess of music as well as of speech. To her is attributed the invention of the systematic arrangement of the sounds into a musical scale. She is represented seated on a peacock and playing a stringed instrument of the guitar kind. Brahma, himself, we find depicted as a vigorous man with four handsome heads, beating with his hands upon a small drum. Arid Vishnu, in his incarnation as Krishna, is represented as a beautiful youth playing upon a flute. The Hindoos still possess a peculiar kind of flute which they consider as the favorite instrument of Krishna. Furthermore, they have the divinity of Genesa, the god of wisdom, who is represented as a man with the head of an elephant holding in his hands a tamboura, a kind of lute with a long neck.
"Among the Chinese, we meet with a tradition according to which they obtained their musical scale from a miraculous bird called Foung-hoang, which appears to have been a sort of phoenix. As regards the invention of musical instruments, the Chinese have various traditions. In one of these we are told that the origin of some of their most popular instruments dates from the period when China was under the 'dominion of the heavenly spirits called Ki. Another assigns the invention of several of their stringed instruments to the great Fohi, called the "Son of Heaven," who was, it is said, the founder of the Chinese Empire, and who is stated to have lived about B.C. 3000, which was long after the dominion of the Ki, or spirits. Again, another tradition holds that the most important Chinese musical instruments, and the systematic arrangement of the tones, are an invention of Niuva, a supernatural female, who lived at the time of Fohi, and who was a virgin-mother. When Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher, happened to hear, on a certain occasion, some divine music, he became so greatly enraptured that he could not take any food for three months. The music which produced the miraculous effect was that of Kouei, the Orpheus of the Chinese, whose performance on the king, a kind of harmonicon constructed of slabs of sonorous stone, would draw wild animals around him and make them subservient to his will.
"The Japanese have a beautiful tradition, according to which the Sun-goddess, in resentment of the violence of an evil-disposed brother, retired into a cave, leaving the universe in darkness and anarchy; when the beneficent gods, in their concern for the welfare of mankind, devised music to lure her forth from her retreat, and their efforts soon proved successful.
"The Kalmucks, in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea, adore a beneficient divinity called Maidari, who is represented as a rather jovial-looking man, with a mustache and imperial, playing upon an instrument with three strings, somewhat resembling the Russian balalaika.
"Almost all these ancient conceptions we meet with, also, among European nations, though more or less modified.
"Odin, the principal deity of the ancient Scandinavians, was the inventor of magic songs and Runic writings.
"In the Finnish mythology the divine Vainamoinen is said to have constructed the five-stringed harp, called kantele, the old national instrument of the Finns. The frame he made out of the bones of a pike, and the teeth of the pike he used for the tuning-pegs. The strings he made of hair from the tail of a spirited horse. When the harp fell into the sea and was lost, he made another, the frame of which was birchwood, with pegs made out of the branch of an oak-tree. As strings for this harp he used the silky hair of a young girl. Vainamoinen took his harp, and sat down on a hill, near a silvery brook. There he played with so irresistible an effect that he entranced whatever came within hearing of his music. Men and animals listened, enraptured; the wildest beasts of the forests lost their ferocity; the birds of the air were drawn toward him; the fishes rose to the surface of the water and remained immovable; the trees ceased to wave their branches; the brook retarded its course and the wind its haste; even the mocking echo approached stealthily, and listened with the utmost attention to the heavenly sounds. Soon the women began to cry; then the old men and the children also began to cry, and the girls and the young men—all cried for delight. At last Vainamoinen himself wept, and his big tears ran over his beard and rolled into the water and became beautiful pearls at the bottom of the sea.
"Several other musical gods, or godlike musicians, could be cited; and, moreover, innumerable minor spirits, all bearing evidence that music is of divine origin.
"True, people who think themselves more enlightened than their forefathers, smile at these old traditions, and say that the original home of music is the human heart. Be it so. But do not the purest and most beautiful conceptions of man partake of a divine character? Is not the art of music generally acknowledged to be one of these? And is it not, therefore, even independently of myths and mysteries, entitled to be called the divine art?"
THE RELATION OF MUSIC TO WORK AND BLESSEDNESS.
"Give us," says Carlyle, "O, give us the man who sings at his work! Be his occupation what it may, he is equal to any of those who follow the same pursuit in silent sullenness. He will do more in the same time—he will do it better—he will persevere longer. One is scarcely sensible of fatigue whilst he marches to music. The very stars are said to make harmony as they revolve in their spheres. Wondrous is the strength of cheerfulness, altogether past calculation its powers of endurance. Efforts, to be permanently useful, must be uniformly joyous—a spirit all sunshine—graceful from very gladness—beautiful because bright."
Again, this author says, who had so much music in his heart, though not of the softest kind—rather of the epic sort:
"The meaning of song goes deep. Who is there that, in logical words, can express the effect music has on us? A kind of inarticulate, unfathomable speech, which leads to the edge of the infinite, and lets us for moments gaze into that!"
The late Canon Kingsley certainly conceived much of the height and depth, and length and breath of song, when he wrote:
"There is music in heaven, because in music there is no self-will. Music goes on certain rules and laws. Man did not make these laws of music; he has only found them out; and, if he be self-willed and break them, there is an end of his music instantly: all he brings out is discord and ugly sounds: The greatest musician in the world is as much bound by those laws as the learner in the school; and the greatest musician is one who, instead of fancying that because he is clever he may throw aside the laws of music, knows the laws of music best, and observes them most reverently. And therefore it was that the old Greeks, the wisest of the heathens, made a point of teaching their children music; because, they said, it taught them not to be self-willed and fanciful, but to see the beauty, the usefulness of rule, the divineness of laws. And, therefore, music is fit for heaven; therefore music is a pattern and type of heaven, and of the everlasting life of God which perfect spirits live in heaven; a life of melody and order in themselves; a life of harmony with each other and with God.
"If thou fulfillest the law which God has given thee, the law of love and liberty, then thou makest music before God, and thy life is a hymn of praise to God.
"If thou act in love and charity with thy neighbors, thou art making sweeter harmony in the ears of our Lord Jesus Christ than psaltery, dulcimer, and all other kinds of music.
"If thou art living a righteous and a useful life, doing thy duty orderly and cheerfully where God has put thee, then thou art making sweeter melody in the ears of the Lord Jesus Christ than if thou hast the throat of the nightingale; for then thou, in thy humble place, art humbly copying the everlasting harmony and melody by which God made the worlds and all that therein is, and, behold, it was very good, in the day when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy over the new-created earth, which God made to be a pattern of his own perfection."
The minstrel's heart in sadness Was wrestling with his fate; "Am I the sport of madness," He sighed, "and born too late?"
"No gifts are ever given," A friendly voice replied, "On which the smile of Heaven Does not indeed abide.
God's harmony is written All through, in shining bars, The soul his love has smitten, As heaven is writ with stars.
The major notes and minor Are waiting for their wings; Pray thou the great Diviner To touch the secret springs.
He may not give expression In any ocean-tide, But music, like confession, Will waft thee to his side;
Where thou, as on a river, The current deep and strong, Shalt sail with him forever Into the land of song."
* * * * *
THOMAS DE QUINCEY.
(BORN 1786—DIED 1859.)
A LIFE OF WONDER AND WARNING.
The "English Opium-eater" himself told publicly, throughout a period of between thirty and forty years, whatever is known about him to any body; and in sketching the events of his life, the recorder has little more to do than to indicate facts which may be found fully expanded in Mr. De Quincey's "Confessions of an Opium-eater" and "Autobiographic Sketches." The business which he, in fact, left for others to do is that which, in spite of obvious impossibility, he was incessantly endeavoring to do himself—that of analyzing and forming a representation and judgment of his mind, and of his life as molded by his mind. The most intense metaphysician of a time remarkable for the predominance of metaphysical modes of thought, he was as completely unaware, as smaller men of his mental habits, that in his perpetual self-study and analysis he was never approaching the truth, for the simple reason that he was not even within ken of the necessary point of view. "I," he says, "whose disease it was to meditate too much and to observe too little." And the description was a true one, as far as it went. And the completion of the description was one which he could never have himself arrived at. It must, we think, be concluded of De Quincey that he was the most remarkable instance in his time of a more than abnormal, of an artificial, condition of body and mind—a characterization which he must necessarily be the last man to conceive of. To understand this, it is necessary to glance at the events of his life. The briefest notice will suffice, as they are within the reach of all, as related in his own books.
Thomas De Quincey was the son of a merchant engaged in foreign commerce, and was born at Manchester in 1786. He was one of eight children, of whom no more than six were ever living at once, and several of whom died in infancy. The survivors were reared in a country home, the incidents of which, when of a kind to excite emotion, impressed themselves on this singular child's memory from a very early age. We have known only two instances, in a rather wide experience of life, of persons distinctly remembering so far back as a year and a half old. This was De Quincey's age when three deaths happened in the family, which he remembered, not by tradition, but by his own contemporary emotions. A sister of three and a half died, and he was perplexed by her disappearance, and terrified by the household whisper that she had been ill-used just before her death by a servant. A grandmother died about the same time, leaving little impression, because she had been little seen. The other death was of a beloved kingfisher, by a doleful accident. When the boy was five, he lost his playfellow and, as he says, intellectual guide, his sister Elizabeth, eight years old, dying of hydrocephalus, after manifesting an intellectual power which the forlorn brother recalled with admiration and wonder for life. The impression was undoubtedly genuine; but it is impossible to read the "Autobiographical Sketch" in which the death and funeral of the child are described without perceiving that the writer referred back to the period he was describing with emotions and reflex sensations which arose in him and fell from the pen at the moment. His father, meantime, was residing abroad, year after year, as a condition of his living at all; and he died of pulmonary consumption before Thomas was seven years old. The elder brother, then twelve, was obviously too eccentric for home management, if not for all control; and, looking no further than these constitutional cases, we are warranted in concluding that the Opium-eater entered life under peculiar and unfavorable conditions.
He passed through a succession of schools, and was distinguished by his eminent knowledge of Greek. At fifteen he was pointed out by his master (himself a ripe scholar) to a stranger in the remarkable words, "That boy could harangue an Athenian mob better than you or I could address an English one." And it was not only the Greek, we imagine, but the eloquence, too, was included in this praise. In this, as in the subtlety of the analytical power (so strangely mistaken for entire intellectual supremacy in our day), De Quincey must have strongly resembled Coleridge. Both were fine Grecians, charming discoursers, eminent opium-takers, magnificent dreamers and seers; large in their promises, and helpless in their failure of performance. De Quincey set his heart upon going to college earlier than his guardians thought proper; and, on his being disappointed in this matter, he ran away from his tutor's house, and was lost for several months, first in Wales and afterward in London. He was then sixteen. His whole life presents no more remarkable evidence of his constant absorption in introspection than the fact that, while tortured with hunger in the streets of London, for many weeks, and sleeping (or rather lying awake with cold and hunger) on the floor of an empty house, it never once occurred to him to earn money. As a classical corrector of the press, and in other ways, he might no doubt have obtained employment; but it was not till afterward asked why he did not, that the idea ever entered his mind. How he starved, how he would have died but for a glass of spiced wine in the middle of the night on some steps in Soho Square, the Opium-eater told all the world above thirty years since; and also of his entering college; of the love of wine generated by the comfort it had yielded in his days of starvation; and again, of the disorder of the functions of the stomach which naturally followed, and the resort to opium as a refuge from the pain. It is to be feared that the description given in those extraordinary "Confessions" has acted more strongly in tempting young people to seek the eight years' pleasures he derived from laudanum than, that of his subsequent torments in deterring them. There was no one to present to them the consideration that the peculiar organization of De Quincey, and his bitter sufferings, might well make a recourse to opium a different thing to him than to any body else. The quality of his mind and the exhausted state of his body enhanced to him the enjoyments which he called "divine," whereas there is no doubt of the miserable pain by which men of all constitutions have to expiate an habitual indulgence in opium. Others than De Quincey may or may not procure the pleasures he experienced; but it is certain that every one must expiate his offense against the laws of the human frame. And let it be remembered that De Quincey's excuse is as singular as his excess. Of the many who have emulated his enjoyment, there can hardly have been one whose stomach had been well-nigh destroyed by months of incessant, cruel hunger.
This event of his life, his resort to opium, absorbed all the rest. There is little more to tell in the way of incident. His existence was thenceforth a series of dreams, undergone in different places, now at college, and now in a Westmoreland cottage, with a gentle, suffering wife, by his side, striving to minister to a need which was beyond the reach of nursing. He could amuse his predominant faculties by reading metaphysical philosophy and analytical reasoning on any subject, and by elaborating endless analyses and reasonings of his own, which he had not energy to embody. Occasionally the torpor encroached even on his predominant faculties, and then he roused himself to overcome the habit; underwent fearful suffering in the weaning; began to enjoy the vital happiness of temperance and health, and then fell back again. The influence upon the moral energies of his nature was, as might be supposed, fatal. Such energy he once had, as his earlier efforts at endurance amply testify. But as years passed on, he had not only become a more helpless victim to his prominent vice, but manifested an increasing insensibility to the most ordinary requisitions of honor and courtesy, to say nothing of gratitude and sincerity. In his hungry days, in London, he would not beg nor borrow. Five years later he wrote to Wordsworth, in admiration and sympathy; received an invitation to his Westmoreland Valley; went, more than once, within a few miles, and withdrew and returned to Oxford, unable to conquer his painful shyness; returned at last to live there, in the very cottage which had been Wordsworth's; received for himself, his wife, and a growing family of children, an unintermitting series of friendly and neighborly offices; was necessarily admitted to much household confidence, and favored with substantial aid, which was certainly not given through any strong liking for his manners, conversation, or character. How did he recompense all this exertion and endurance oh his behalf? In after years, when living (we believe) at Edinburgh, and pressed by debt, he did for once exert himself to write, and what he wrote was an exposure of every thing about the Wordsworths which he knew merely by their kindness. He wrote papers, which were eagerly read, and, of course, duly paid for, in which Wordsworth's personal foibles were malignantly exhibited with ingenious aggravations. The infirmities of one member of the family, the personal blemish of another, and the human weaknesses of all, were displayed, and all for the purpose of deepening the dislike against Wordsworth himself, which the receiver of his money, the eater of his dinners, and the dreary provoker of his patience strove to excite. Moreover, he perpetrated an act of treachery scarcely paralleled, we hope, in the history of literature. In the confidence of their most familiar days, Wordsworth had communicated portions of his posthumous poem to his guest, who was perfectly well aware that the work was to rest in darkness and silence till after the poet's death. In these magazine articles DeQuincey, using for this atrocious purpose his fine gift of memory, published a passage, which he informed us was of far higher merit than any thing else we had to expect. And what was Wordsworth's conduct under this unequaled experience of bad faith and bad feeling? While so many anecdotes were going of the poet's fireside, the following ought to be added: An old friend was talking with him by that fireside, and mentioned DeQuincey's magazine articles. Wordsworth begged to be spared any account of them, saying that the man had long passed away from the family life and mind, and that he did not wish to ruffle himself in a useless way about a misbehavior which could not be remedied. The friend acquiesced, saying: "Well, I will tell you only one thing that he says, and then we will talk of other things. He says your wife is too good for you." The old poet's dim eyes lighted up instantly, and he started from his seat and flung himself against the mantel-piece, with his back to the fire, as he cried with loud enthusiasm: "And that's true! There he is right!" And his disgust and contempt for the traitor were visibly moderated.
During a long course of years DeQuincey went on dreaming always, sometimes scheming works of high value and great efficacy, which were never to exist; promising largely to booksellers and others, and failing through a weakness so deep-seated that it should have prevented his making any promises. When his three daughters were grown up, and his wife was dead, he lived in a pleasant cottage at Lasswade, near Edinburgh, well-known by name to those who have never seen its beauties as the scene of Scott's early married life and first great achievements in literature. There, while the family fortunes were expressly made contingent on his abstinence from his drug, DeQuincey did abstain, or observe moderation. His flow of conversation was then the delight of old acquaintance and admiring strangers, who came to hear the charmer and to receive the impression, which could never be lost, of the singular figure and countenance and the finely modulated voice, which were like nothing else in the world. It was a strange thing to look upon the fragile form and features, which might be those of a dying man, and to hear such utterances as his—now the strangest comments and insignificant incidents; now pregnant remarks on great subjects, and then malignant gossip, virulent and base, but delivered with an air and a voice of philosophical calmness and intellectual commentary such as caused the disgust of the listener to be largely qualified with amusement and surprise. One good thing was, that nobody's name and fame could be really injured by any thing DeQuincey could say. There was such a grotesque air about the mode of his evil speaking, and it was so gratuitous and excessive, that the hearer could not help regarding it as a singular sort of intellectual exercise, or an effort in the speaker to observe, for once, something outside of himself, rather than as any token of actual feeling towards the ostensible object.
Let this strange commentator on individual character meet with more mercy and a wiser interpretation than he was himself capable of. He was not made like other men; and he did not live, think, or feel like them. A singular organization was singularly and fatally deranged in its action before it could show its best quality. Marvelous analytical faculty he had; but it all oozed out in barren words. Charming eloquence he had; but it degenerated into egotistical garrulity, rendered tempting by the gilding of his genius. It is questionable whether, if he had never touched opium or wine, his real achievements would have been substantial, for he had no conception of a veritable stand-point of philosophical investigation; but the actual effect of his intemperance was to aggravate to excess his introspective tendencies, and to remove him incessantly further from the needful discipline of true science. His conditions of body and mind were abnormal, and his study of the one thing he knew any thing about—the human mind—was radically imperfect. His powers, noble and charming as they might have been, were at once wasted and weakened through their own partial excess. His moral nature relaxed and sank, as must always be the case where sensibility is stimulated and action paralyzed; and the man of genius who, forty years before his death, administered a moral warning to all England, and commanded the sympathy and admiration of a nation, lived on, to achieve nothing but the delivery of some confidences of questionable value and beauty, and to command from us nothing more than a compassionate sorrow that an intellect so subtle and an eloquence so charming in its pathos, its humor, its insight, and its music, should have left the world in no way the better for such gifts, unless by the warning afforded in "Confessions" first, and then, by example, against the curse which neutralized their influence and corrupted its source.—HARRIET MARTINEAU.
* * * * *
A VISION OF TIME.
O did you not see him that over the snow Came on with a pace so cautious and slow?—
That measured his step to a pendulum-tick, Arriving in town when the darkness was thick?
In the midst of a vision of mind and heart, A drama above all human art,
I saw him last night, with locks so gray, A long way off, as the light died away.
And I knew him at once, so often before Had he silently, mournfully passed at my door.
He must be cold and weary, I said, Coming so far, with that measured tread.
I will urge him to linger awhile with me Till his withering chill and weariness flee.
A story—who knows?—he may deign to rehearse, And when he is gone I will put it in verse.
I turned to prepare for the coming guest, With curious, troublous thoughts oppressed.
The window I cheered with the taper's glow Which glimmered afar o'er the spectral snow.
My anxious care the hearth-stone knew, And the red flames leaped and beckoned anew.
But chiefly myself, with singular care, Did I for the hoary presence prepare.
Yet with little success, as I paced the room, Did I labor to banish a sense of gloom.
My thoughts were going and coming like bees, With store from the year's wide-stretching leas;
Some laden with honey, some laden with gall, And into my heart they dropped it all!
O miserable heart! at once overrun With the honey and gall thou can'st not shun.
O wretched heart! in sadness I cried, Where is thy trust in the Crucified?
And in wrestling prayer did I labor long That the Mighty One would make me strong.
That prayer was more than a useless breath: It brought to my soul God's saving health.
The hours went by on their drowsy flight, And came the middle watch of the night;
In part unmanned in spite of my care, I beheld my guest in the taper's glare,
A wall of darkness around him thick, As onward he came to a pendulum-tick.
Then quickly I opened wide the door, And bade him pass my threshold o'er,
And linger awhile away from the cold, And repeat some story or ballad old,—
His weary limbs to strengthen with rest, For his course to the ever-receding West.
Through the vacant door in wonder I glanced, And stood—was it long?—as one entranced.
Silence so awful did fill the room, That the tick of the clock was a cannon's boom.
And my heart it sank to its lowest retreat, And in whelming awe did muffle its beat.
For now I beheld, as never before; And heard to forget—ah, nevermore!
For with outstretched hand, with scythe and glass, With naught of a pause did the traveler pass.
And with upturned face he the silence broke, And thus, as he went, he measuredly spoke:
My journey is long, but my limbs are strong; And I stay not for rest, for story, or song.
It is only a dirge, that ever I sing; It is only of death, the tale that I bring;
Of death that is life, as it cometh to pass; Of death that is death, alas! alas!
And these I chant, as I go on my way, As I go on my way forever and aye.
Call not thyself wretched, though bitter and sweet In thy cup at this hour intermingle and meet.
Some cloud with the sunshine must ever appear, And darkness prevails till morning is near.
But who doth remember the gloom and the night, When the sky is aglow with the beautiful light?
O alas! if thou drinkest the bitter alone, Nor heaven nor earth may stifle thy moan!
Thy moan!—and the echo died away— Thy moan! thy moan forever and aye!
His measured voice I heard no more; But not till I stand on eternity's shore,
And the things of time be forgotten all, Shall I cease that traveler's words to recall.
As onward he moved to a pendulum-tick, The gloom and the darkness around him thick,
I fell on my knees and breathed a prayer; And it rose, I ween, through the midnight air,
To a God who knoweth the wants and all The evil and good of this earthly thrall;
To One who suffered as on this day, And began our sins to purge away:
To Him who hath promised to heed our cry, And a troubled heart to purify.
And I feel that the gall will ever grow less, Till I see His face in righteousness.
And now my soul is filled with cheer For the march of a bright and happy New Year.
As years roll on, whether sun doth shine Or clouds overcast, I will never repine;
For I know, when the race of time is run, I shall enter a realm of Eternal Sun.
* * * * *
(BORN 1628—DIED 1688.)
FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT.
John Bunyan, the most popular religious writer in the English language, was born at Elstow, about a mile from Bedford, in the year 1628. He may be said to have been born a tinker. The tinkers then formed a hereditary caste, which was held in no high estimation. They were generally vagrants and pilferers, and were often confounded with the gypsies, whom, in truth, they nearly resembled. Bunyan's father was more respectable than most of the tribe. He had a fixed residence, and was able to send his son to a village school, where reading and writing were taught.
The years of John's boyhood were those during which the Puritan spirit was in the highest vigor all over England; and nowhere had that spirit more influence than in Bedfordshire. It is not wonderful, therefore, that a lad to whom nature had given a powerful imagination, and sensibility which amounted to a disease, should have been early haunted by religious terrors. Before he was ten, his sports were interrupted by fits of remorse and despair; and his sleep was disturbed by dreams of fiends trying to fly away with him. As he grew older, his mental conflicts became still more violent. The strong language in which he described them has strangely misled all his biographers except Mr. Southey. It has long been an ordinary practice with pious writers to cite Bunyan as an instance of the supernatural power of divine grace to rescue the human soul from the lowest depths of wickedness. He is called in one book the most notorious of profligates; in another, the brand plucked from the burning. He is designated in Mr. Ivimey's "History of the Baptists" as the depraved Bunyan, the wicked tinker of Elstow. Mr. Ryland, a man once of great note among the Dissenters, breaks out into the following rhapsody: "No man of common sense and common integrity can deny that Bunyan was a practical atheist, a worthless, contemptible infidel, a vile rebel to God and goodness, a common profligate, a soul-despising, a soul-murdering, a soul-damning, thoughtless wretch as could exist on the face of the earth. Now, be astonished, O heavens, to eternity! and wonder, O earth and hell, while time endures! Behold this very man become a miracle of mercy, a mirror of wisdom, goodness, holiness, truth, and love." But whoever takes the trouble to examine the evidence, will find that the good men who wrote this had been deceived by a phraseology which, as they had been hearing it and using it all their lives, they ought to have understood better. There can not be a greater mistake than to infer, from the strong expressions in which a devout man bemoans his exceeding sinfulness, that he has led a worse life than his neighbors. Many excellent persons, whose moral character from boyhood to old age has been free from any stain discernible to their fellow-creatures, have, in their autobiographies and diaries, applied to themselves, and doubtless with sincerity, epithets as severe as could be applied to Titus Oates or Mrs. Brownrigg. It is quite certain that Bunyan was, at eighteen, what, in any but the most austerely Puritan circles, would have been considered as a young man of singular gravity and innocence. Indeed, it may be remarked that he, like many other penitents who, in general terms, acknowledged themselves to have been the worst of mankind, fired up and stood vigorously on his defense whenever any particular charge was brought against him by others. He declares, it is true, that he had let loose the reins on the neck of his lusts, that he had delighted in all transgressions against the divine law, and that he had been the ringleader of the youth of Elstow in all manner of vice. But, when those who wished him ill accused him of licentious amours, he called on God and the angels to attest his purity. No woman, he said, in heaven, earth, or hell could charge him with having ever made any improper advances to her. Not only had he been strictly faithful to his wife, but he had, even before marriage, been perfectly spotless. It does not appear from his own confessions, or from the railings of his enemies, that he ever was drunk in his life. One bad habit he contracted, that of using profane language; but he tells us that a single reproof cured him so effectually that he never offended again. The worst that can be laid to the charge of this poor youth, whom it has been the fashion to represent as the most desperate of reprobates, as a village Rochester, is that he had a great liking for some diversions, quite harmless in themselves, but condemned by the rigid precisians among whom he lived, and for whose opinion he had a great respect. The four chief sins of which he was guilty were dancing, ringing the bells of the parish church, playing at tip-cat, and reading the "History of Sir Bevis of Southampton." A rector of the school of Laud would have held such a young man up to the whole parish as a model. But Bunyan's notions of good and evil had been learned in a very different school; and he was made miserable by the conflict between his tastes and his scruples.
When he was about seventeen, the ordinary course of his life was interrupted by an event which gave a lasting color to his thoughts. He enlisted in the Parliamentary army, and served during the decisive campaign of 1645. All that we know of his military career is that, at the siege of Leicester, one of his comrades, who had taken his post, was killed by a shot from the town. Bunyan ever after considered himself as having been saved from death by the special interference of Providence. It may be observed that his imagination was strongly impressed by the glimpse which he had caught of the pomp of war. To the last he loved to draw his illustrations of sacred things from camps and fortresses, from guns, drums, trumpets, flags of truce, and regiments arrayed, each under its own banner. His Greatheart, his Captain Boanerges, and his Captain Credence are evidently portraits, of which the originals were among those martial saints who fought and expounded in Fairfax's army.
In a few months Bunyan returned home and married. His wife had some pious relations, and brought him as her only portion some pious books. And now his mind, excitable by nature, very imperfectly disciplined by education, and exposed, without any protection, to the infectious virulence of the enthusiasm which was then epidemic in England, began to be fearfully disordered. In outward things he soon became a strict Pharisee. He was constant in attendance at prayers and sermons. His favorite amusements were, one after another, relinquished, though not without many painful struggles. In the middle of a game at tip-cat he paused, and stood staring wildly upward with his stick in his hand. He had heard a voice asking him whether he would leave his sins and go to heaven, or keep his sins and go to hell; and he had seen an awful countenance frowning on him from the sky. The odious vice of bell-ringing he renounced; but he still for a time ventured to go to the church-tower and look on while others pulled the ropes. But soon the thought struck him that, if he persisted in such wickedness, the steeple would fall on his head; and he fled in terror from the accursed place. To give up dancing on the village green was still harder; and some months elapsed before he had the fortitude to part with this darling sin. When this last sacrifice had been made, he was, even when tried by the maxims of that austere time, faultless. All Elstow talked of him as an eminently pious youth. But his own mind was more unquiet than ever. Having nothing more to do in the way of visible reformation, yet finding in religion no pleasures to supply the place of the juvenile amusements which he had relinquished, he began to apprehend that he lay under some special malediction; and he was tormented by a succession of fantasies which seemed likely to drive him to suicide or to Bedlam.
At one time he took it into his head that all persons of Israelite blood would be saved, and tried to make out that he partook of that blood; but his hopes were speedily destroyed by his father, who seems to have had no ambition to be regarded as a Jew.
At another time, Bunyan was disturbed by a strange dilemma: "If I have not faith, I am lost; if I have faith, I can work miracles." He was tempted to cry to the puddles between Elstow and Bedford, "Be ye dry," and to stake his eternal hopes on the event.
Then he took up a notion that the day of grace for Bedford and the neighboring villages was passed; that all who were to be saved in that part of England were already converted; and that he had begun to pray and strive some months too late.
Then he was harassed by doubts whether the Turks were not in the right, and the Christians in the wrong. Then he was troubled by a maniacal impulse which prompted him to pray to the trees, to a broomstick, to the parish bull. As yet, however, he was only entering the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Soon the darkness grew thicker. Hideous forms floated before him. Sounds of cursing and wailing were in his ears. His way ran through stench and fire, close to the mouth of the bottomless pit. He began to be haunted by a strange curiosity about the unpardonable sin, and by a morbid longing to commit it. But the most frightful of all the forms which his disease took was a propensity to utter blasphemy, and especially to renounce his share in the benefits of the redemption. Night and day, in bed, at table, at work, evil spirits, as he imagined, were repeating close to his ear the words, "Sell him! sell him!" He struck at the hobgoblins; he pushed them from him; but still they were ever at his side. He cried out in answer to them, hour after hour, "Never, never! not for thousands of worlds—not for thousands!" At length, worn out by this long agony, he suffered the fatal words to escape him, "Let him go, if he will." Then his misery became more fearful than ever. He had done what could not be forgiven. He had forfeited his part of the great sacrifice. Like Esau, he had sold his birthright, and there was no longer any place for repentance. "None," he afterward wrote, "knows the terrors of those days but myself." He has described his sufferings with singular energy, simplicity, and pathos. He envied the brutes; he envied the very stones in the street, and the tiles on the houses. The sun seemed to withhold its light and warmth from him. His body, though cast in a sturdy mould, and though still in the highest vigor of youth, trembled whole days together with the fear of death and judgment. He fancied that this trembling was the sign set on the worst reprobates, the sign which God had put on Cain. The unhappy man's emotion destroyed his power of digestion. He had such pains that he expected to burst asunder like Judas, whom he regarded as his prototype.
Neither the books which Bunyan read nor the advisers whom he consulted were likely to do much good in a case like his. His small library had received a most unseasonable addition—the account of the lamentable end of Francis Spira. One ancient man of high repute for piety, whom the sufferer consulted gave an opinion which might well have produced fatal consequences. "I am afraid," said Bunyan, "that I have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost." "Indeed," said the old fanatic, "I am afraid that you have."
At length the clouds broke; the light became clearer and clearer, and the enthusiast, who had imagined that he was branded with the mark of the first murderer, and destined to the end of the arch-traitor, enjoyed peace and a cheerful confidence in the mercy of God. Years elapsed, however, before his nerves, which had been so perilously overstrained, recovered their tone. When he had joined a Baptist society at Bedford, and was for the first time admitted to partake of the Eucharist, it was with difficulty that he could refrain from imprecating destruction on his brethren while the cup was passing from hand to hand. After he had been some time a member of the congregation he began to preach; and his sermons produced a powerful effect. He was, indeed, illiterate; but he spoke to illiterate men. The severe training through which he had passed had given him such an experimental knowledge of all the modes of religious melancholy as he could never have gathered from books; and his vigorous genius, animated by a fervent spirit of devotion, enabled him not only to exercise a great influence over the vulgar, but even to extort the half-contemptuous admiration of scholars. Yet it was long before he ceased to be tormented by an impulse which urged him to utter words of horrible impiety in the pulpit.
Counter-irritants are of as great use in moral as in physical diseases. It should seem that Bunyan was finally relieved from the internal sufferings which had embittered his life by sharp persecution from without. He had been five years a preacher when the Restoration put it in the power of the Cavalier gentlemen and clergymen all over the country to oppress the Dissenters; and, of all the Dissenters whose history is known to us, he was, perhaps, the most hardly treated. In November, 1660, he was flung into Bedford jail; and there he remained, with some intervals of partial and precarious liberty, during twelve years. His persecutors tried to extort from him a promise that he would abstain from preaching; but he was convinced that he was divinely set apart and commissioned to be a teacher of righteousness, and he was fully determined to obey God rather than man. He was brought before several tribunals, laughed at, caressed, reviled, menaced, but in vain. He was facetiously told that he was quite right in thinking that he ought not to hide his gift; but that his real gift was skill in repairing old kettles. He was compared to Alexander the coppersmith. He was told that, if he would give up preaching, he should be instantly liberated. He was warned that, if he persisted in disobeying the law, he would be liable to banishment; and that if he were found in England after a certain time, his neck would be stretched. His answer was, "If you let me out to-day, I will preach again to-morrow." Year after year he lay patiently in a dungeon, compared with which the worst prison now to be found in the island is a palace. His fortitude is the more extraordinary because his domestic feelings were unusually strong. Indeed, he was considered by his stern brethren as somewhat too fond and indulgent a parent. He had several small children, and among them a daughter who was blind, and whom he loved with peculiar tenderness. He could not, he said, bear even to let the wind blow on her; and now she must suffer cold and hunger, she must beg, she must be beaten. "Yet," he added, "I must, I must do it." While he lay in prison, he could do nothing in the way of his old trade for the support of his family. He determined, therefore, to take up a new trade. He learned to make long tagged thread-laces; and many thousands of these articles were furnished by him to the hawkers. While his hands were thus busied, he had other employment for his mind and his lips. He gave religious instruction to his fellow-captives, and formed from among them a little flock, of which he was himself the pastor. He studied indefatigably the few books which he possessed. His two chief companions were the Bible and Fox's "Book of Martyrs." His knowledge of the Bible was such that he might have been called a living concordance; and on the margin of his copy of the "Book of Martyrs" are still legible the ill-spelled lines of doggerel in which he expressed his reverence for the brave sufferers, and his implacable enmity to the mystical Babylon.
At length he began to write, and though it was some time before he discovered where his strength lay, his writings were not unsuccessful. They were coarse, indeed, but they showed a keen mother-wit, a great command of the homely mother-tongue, an intimate knowledge of the English Bible, and a vast and dearly bought spiritual experience. They, therefore, when the corrector of the press had improved the syntax and the spelling, were well received by the humbler class of Dissenters.
Much of Bunyan's time was spent in controversy. He wrote sharply against the Quakers, whom he seems always to have held in utter abhorrence. It is, however, a remarkable fact that he adopted one of their peculiar fashions; his practice was to write, not November or December, but eleventh month and twelfth month.
He wrote against the liturgy of the Church of England. No two things, according to him, had less affinity than the form of prayer and the spirit of prayer. Those, he said with much point, who have most of the spirit of prayer are all to be found in jail; and those who have most zeal for the form of prayer are all to be found at the ale-house. The doctrinal articles, on the other hand, he warmly praised, and defended against some Arminian clergymen who had signed them. The most acrimonious of all his works is his answer to Edward Fowler, afterward bishop of Gloucester, an excellent man, but not free from the taint of Pelagianism.
Bunyan had also a dispute with some of the chiefs of the sect to which he belonged. He doubtless held with perfect sincerity the distinguishing tenet of that sect, but he did not consider that tenet as one of high importance, and willingly joined in communion with pious Presbyterians and Independents. The sterner Baptists, therefore, loudly pronounced him a false brother. A controversy arose which long survived the original combatants. In our own time the cause which Bunyan had defended with rude logic and rhetoric against Kiffin and Danvers was pleaded by Robert Hall with an ingenuity and eloquence such as no polemical writer has ever surpassed.
During the years which immediately followed the Restoration Bunyan's confinement seems to have been strict; but as the passions of 1660 cooled, as the hatred with which the Puritans had been regarded while their reign was recent gave place to pity, he was less and less harshly treated. The distress of his family, and his own patience, courage, and piety, softened the hearts of his persecutors. Like his own Christian in the cage, he found protectors even among the crowd of Vanity Fair. The bishop of the diocese, Dr. Barlow, is said to have interceded for him. At length the prisoner was suffered to pass most of his time beyond the walls of the jail, on condition, as it should seem, that he remained within the town of Bedford.
He owed his complete liberation to one of the worst acts of one of the worst governments that England has ever seen. In 1671 the Cabal was in power. Charles II had concluded the treaty by which he bound himself to set up the Roman Catholic religion in England. The first step which he took toward that end was to annul, by an unconstitutional exercise of his prerogative, all the penal statutes against the Roman Catholics; and in order to disguise his real design, he annulled at the same time the penal statutes against Protestant Non-conformists. Bunyan was consequently set at large. In the first warmth of his gratitude, he published a tract in which he compared Charles to that humane and generous Persian king who, though not himself blessed with the light of the true religion, favored the chosen people, and permitted them, after years of captivity, to rebuild their beloved temple. To candid men, who consider how much Bunyan had suffered, and how little he could guess the secret designs of the court, the unsuspicious thankfulness with which he accepted the precious boon of freedom will not appear to require any apology.
Before he left his prison he had begun the book which has made his name immortal. The history of that book is remarkable. The author was, as he tells us, writing a treatise, in which he had occasion to speak of the stages of the Christian progress. He compared that progress, as many others had compared it, to a pilgrimage. Soon his quick wit discovered innumerable points of similarity which had escaped his predecessors. Images came crowding on his mind faster than he could put them into words: quagmires and pits, steep hills, dark and horrible glens, soft vales, sunny pastures; a gloomy castle, of which the courtyard was strewn with the skulls and bones of murdered prisoners; a town all bustle and splendor, like London on the Lord Mayor's Day; and the narrow path, straight as a rule could make it, running on uphill and down hill, through city and through wilderness, to the Black River and the Shining Gate. He had found out—as most people would have said, by accident; as he would doubtless have said, by the guidance of Providence—where his powers lay. He had no suspicion, indeed, that he was producing a masterpiece. He could not guess what place his allegory would occupy in English literature, for of English literature he knew nothing. Those who suppose him to have studied the "Fairy Queen," might easily be confuted, if this were the proper place for a detailed examination of the passages in which the two allegories have been thought to resemble each other. The only work of fiction, in all probability, with which he could compare his pilgrim, was his old favorite, the legend of Sir Bevis of Southampton. He would have thought it a sin to borrow any time from the serious business of his life, from his expositions, his controversies, and his lace tags, for the purpose of amusing himself with what he considered merely as a trifle. It was only, he assures us, at spare moments that he returned to the House Beautiful, the Delectable Mountains, and the Enchanted Ground. He had no assistance. Nobody but himself saw a line till the whole was complete. He then consulted his pious friends. Some were pleased. Others were much scandalized. It was a vain story, a mere romance about giants, and lions, and goblins, and warriors, sometimes fighting with monsters, and sometimes regaled by fair ladies in stately palaces. The loose, atheistical wits at Will's might write such stuff to divert the painted Jezebels of the court; but did it become a minister of the Gospel to copy the evil fashions of the world? There had been a time when the cant of such fools would have made Bunyan miserable. But that time was passed, and his mind was now in a firm and healthy state. He saw that in employing fiction to make truth clear and goodness attractive, he was only following the example which every Christian ought to propose to himself; and he determined to print.
The "Pilgrim's Progress" stole silently into the world. Not a single copy of the first edition is known to be in existence. The year of publication has not been ascertained. It is probable that during some months, the little volume circulated only among poor and obscure sectaries. But soon the irresistible charm of a book which gratified the imagination of the reader with all the action and scenery of a fairy tale, which exercised his ingenuity by setting him to discover a multitude of curious analogies, which interested his feelings for human beings, frail like himself, and struggling with temptations from within and from without, which every moment drew a smile from him by some stroke of quaint yet simple pleasantry, and nevertheless left on his mind a sentiment of reverence for God and of sympathy for man, began to produce its effect. In Puritanical circles, from which plays and novels were strictly excluded, that effect was such as no work of genius, though it were superior to the "Iliad," to "Don Quixote," or to "Othello," can ever produce on a mind accustomed to indulge in literary luxury. In 1668 came forth a second edition, with additions; and then the demand became immense. In the four following years the book was reprinted six times. The eighth edition, which contains the last improvements made by the author, was published in 1682, the ninth in 1684, the tenth in 1685. The help of the engraver had early been called in, and tens of thousands of children looked with terror and delight on execrable copperplates, which represented Christian thrusting his sword into Apollyon or writhing in the grasp of Giant Despair. In Scotland and in some of the colonies, the Pilgrim was even more popular than in his native country. Bunyan has told us, with very pardonable vanity, that in New England his Dream was the daily subject of the conversation of thousands, and was thought worthy to appear in the most superb binding. He had numerous admirers in Holland and among the Huguenots of France. With the pleasure, however, he experienced some of the pains of eminence. Knavish booksellers put forth volumes of trash under his name, and envious scribblers maintained it to be impossible that the poor ignorant tinker should really be the author of the book which was called his.
He took the best way to confound both those who counterfeited him and those slandered him. He continued to work the gold-field which he had discovered, and to draw from it new treasures; not, indeed, with quite such ease and in quite such abundance as when the precious soil was still virgin, but yet with success which left all competition far behind. In 1684 appeared the second part of the "Pilgrim's Progress." It was soon followed by the "Holy War," which, if the "Pilgrim's Progress" did not exist, would be the best allegory that ever was written.
Bunyan's place in society was now very different from what it had been. There had been a time when many Dissenting ministers, who could talk Latin and read Greek, had affected to treat him with scorn. But his fame and influence now far exceeded theirs. He had so great an authority among the Baptists that he was popularly called Bishop Bunyan. His episcopal visitations were annual. From Bedford he rode every year to London, and preached there to large and attentive congregations. From London he went his circuit through the country, animating the zeal of his brethren, collecting and distributing alms, and making up quarrels. The magistrates seem in general to have given him little trouble. But there is reason to believe that, in the year 1685, he was in some danger of again occupying his old quarters in Bedford jail. In that year, the rash and wicked enterprise of Monmouth gave the government a pretext for prosecuting the Non-conformists; and scarcely one eminent divine of the Presbyterian, Independent, or Baptist persuasion remained unmolested. Baxter was in prison; Howe was driven into exile; Henry was arrested. Two eminent Baptists, with whom Bunyan had been engaged in controversy, were in great peril and distress. Danvers was in danger of being hanged, and Kiffin's grandsons were actually hanged. The tradition is, that during those evil days, Bunyan was forced to disguise himself as a wagoner, and that he preached to his congregation at Bedford in a smock-frock, with a cart-whip in his hand. But soon a great change took place. James the Second was at open war with the Church, and found it necessary to court the Dissenters. Some of the creatures of the government tried to secure the aid of Bunyan. They probably knew that he had written in praise of the indulgence of 1672, and therefore hoped that he might be equally pleased with the indulgence of 1687. But fifteen years of thought, observation, and commerce with the world had made him wiser. Nor were the cases exactly parallel. Charles was a professed Protestant; James was a professed papist. The object of Charles's indulgence was disguised; the object of James's indulgence was patent. Bunyan was not deceived. He exhorted his hearers to prepare themselves by fasting and prayer for the danger which menaced their civil and religious liberties, and refused even to speak to the courtier who came down to remodel the corporation of Bedford, and who, as was supposed, had it in charge to offer some municipal dignity to the bishop of the Baptists.
Bunyan did not live to see the Revolution. In the Summer of 1688 he undertook to plead the cause of a son with an angry father, and at length prevailed on the old man not to disinherit the young one. This good work cost the benevolent intercessor his life. He had to ride through heavy rain. He came drenched to his lodgings on Snow Hill, was seized with a violent fever, and died in a few days. He was buried in Bunhill Fields; and the spot where he lies is still regarded by the Non-conformists with a feeling which seems scarcely in harmony with the stern spirit of their theology. Many Puritans, to whom the respect paid by Roman Catholics to the relics and tombs of saints seemed childish or sinful, are said to have begged with their dying breath that their coffins might be placed as near as possible to the coffin of the author of the "Pilgrim's Progress."
The fame of Bunyan during his life, and during the century which followed his death, was indeed great, but was almost entirely confined to religious families of the middle and lower classes. Very seldom was he, during that time, mentioned with respect by any writer of great literary eminence. Young coupled his prose with the poetry of the wretched D'Urfey. In the "Spiritual Quixote," the adventures of Christian are ranked with those of Jack the Giant-killer and John Hickathrift. Cowper ventured to praise the great allegorist, but did not venture to name him. It is a significant circumstance that, till a recent period, all the numerous editions of the "Pilgrim's Progress" were evidently meant for the cottage and the servants' hall. The paper, the printing, the plates were all of the meanest description. In general, when the educated minority and the common people differ about the merit of a book, the opinion of the educated minority finally prevails. The "Pilgrim's Progress" is perhaps the only book about which, after the lapse of a hundred years, the educated minority has come over to the opinion of the common people.—MACAULAY.
O king without a crown, O priest above the line Whose course is through the ages down, What wondrous eyes were thine!
As in the sea of glass, So pictured in those eyes Were all the things that come to pass Beneath, above the skies;
Between two worlds the way, The sun, the cloud, the snares, The pilgrim's progress day by day, The gladness God prepares.
Enough, enough this vision, By thee built into story, To crown thy life by Heaven's decision, With monumental glory.
* * * * *
(BORN 1754—DIED 1793.)
THE MOST REMARKABLE WOMAN OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION—THE IPHIGENIA OF FRANCE.
Marie-Jeanne Phlipon, for this was her maiden name, was born in Paris in the year 1754. Her father was an engraver. The daughter does not delineate him in her memoirs with such completeness as she has sketched her mother, but we can infer from the fleeting glimpses which she gives of him that he was a man of very considerable intellectual and physical force, but also of most irregular tendencies, which in his later years debased him to serious immoralities. He was a superior workman, discontented with his lot. He sought to better it by speculative operations outside his vocation. As his daughter expresses it, "he went in pursuit of riches, and met with ruin on his way." She also remarks of him, "that he could not be said to be a good man, but he had a great deal of what is called honor."
Her mother was evidently an angelic woman. Many passages in the memoirs indicate that she possessed uncommon intellectual endowments; but so exceeding were her virtues that, when her face rose to the daughter's view in the night of after years, and gazed compassionately on her through prison bars, the daughter, writing in the shadow of death, presents her in the light only of purest, noblest womanhood.
Marie was so precocious that she could not remember when she was unable to read. The first book she remembered reading was the Old and New Testament. Her early religious teaching was most sufficient, and was submitted to by a mind which, although practical and realistic, was always devout and somewhat affected by mystical, vague, and enthusiastic tendencies. She was a prodigy in the catechism, and was an agent of terror to the excellent priest who taught her and the other children, for she frequently confounded him in open class by questions which have vexed persons of maturest years. She was taught the harp, the piano, the guitar, and the violin. She was proficient in dancing. Such was her astonishing aptitude in all studies that she says, "I had not a single master who did not appear as much flattered by teaching me as I was grateful for being taught; nor one who, after attending me for a year or two, was not the first to say that his instructions were no longer necessary." It was her habit in childhood, after she had read any book, to lay it aside and reconstruct its contents by the processes of a most powerful memory, and while doing so, to meditate upon, analyze, and debate with it in the severest spirit of criticism and controversy.
When nine years of age she was reading Appian, the romances of Scarron, which disgusted and did not taint her; the memoirs of De Paites and of Madame de Montpensier. She mastered a treatise on heraldry so thoroughly that she corrected her father one day when she saw him engraving a seal inconformably to some minor rule of that art. She essayed a book on contracts, but it did not entice her to a complete perusal.
She took great delight in Plutarch, which she often carried to church instead of her missal. She read the "Candide" of Voltaire, Fenelon on the education of girls, and Locke on that of children. During all this time her mind was troubled by those unanswerable and saddening reflections upon those recondite theological subjects which often torture such children, and which grown up people are too often so forgetful of their own childhood that they fail to sympathize with them. She regarded with disapproval the transformation of the Devil into a serpent, and thought it cruel in God to permit it. Referring to the time when her first communion drew near, she writes: "I felt a sacred terror take possession of my soul."
She became profoundly humble and inexpressibly timid. As she grew older she learned that she was to live in a world of errors, sorrows, and sins, and the mere knowledge of their existence, by some peculiar process of her wonderful mind, seemed to be the signal for their combined attack upon her soul. She watched her thoughts until forbidden topics were generated in her mind by the very act of watchfulness. She then regarded herself as an accomplice with every profane image which invaded her innocent imagination. She subjected herself to physical mortifications and austerities of a whimsical yet severe character. She aspired to the fate of holy women of old, who had suffered martyrdom, and she finally resolved to enter a convent. She was then eleven years old. She was placed in such an institution ostensibly for further education, but with the intention on her part there to always remain. It was like entering the vestibule of heaven. She records of her first night there: "I lifted up my eyes to the heavens; they were unclouded and serene; I imagined that I felt the presence of the Deity smiling on my sacrifice, and already offering me a reward in the consolatory peace of a celestial abode."
She was always an acute observer and a caustic commentator, and she soon discovered that the cloister is not necessarily a celestial abode, and that its inmates do not inevitably enjoy consolatory peace. She found feminine spite there of the same texture with that wreaked by worldly women upon each other, and she notes the cruel taunts which good, old, ugly, and learned sister Sophia received from some stupid nuns, who, she says, "were fond of exposing her defects because they did not possess her talents." But her devotional fervor did not abate. She fainted under the feeling of awe in the act of her first communion, for she literally believed that her lips touched the very substance of her God, and thereafter she was long brooded over by that perfect peace which passeth understanding.
She remained there a year, when her destiny was changed by some domestic events which made her services necessary to her parents, and she returned home. Her resolution was unchanged, and she read and meditated deeply upon the Philotee of Saint Francis de Sales, upon the manual of Saint Augustine, and upon the polemical writings of Bossuet. But by this time the leaven of dissent began to work in that powerful intellect, for she remarks upon these works, that "favorable as they are to the cause which they defended, they sometimes let me into the secret of objections which might be made to it, and set me to scrutinizing the articles of my faith;" and she states that "this was the first step toward a skepticism at which I was destined to arrive after having been successively Jansenist, Cartesian, Stoic, and Deist." By this skepticism she doubtless meant merely skepticism as to creeds, for in her memoirs, written in daily expectation of death, and in most intense self-communion, she writes upon the great subjects of immortality, Deity, and providence in language of astonishing eloquence. "Can," she writes, "can the sublime idea of a Divine Creator, whose providence watches over the world, the immateriality of the soul and its immortality, that consolatory hope of persecuted virtue, be nothing more than amiable and splendid chimeras? But in how much obscurity are these difficult problems involved? What accumulated objections arise when we wish to examine them with mathematical rigor? No! it is not given to the human mind to behold these truths in the full day of perfect evidence; but why should the man of sensibility repine at not being able to demonstrate what he feels to be true? In the silence of the closet and the dryness of discussion, I can agree with the atheist or the materialist as to the insolubility of certain questions; but in the contemplation of nature my soul soars aloft to the, vivifying principle which animates it, to the intellect which pervades it, and to the goodness which makes it so glorious. Now, when immense walls separate me from all I love, when all the evils of society have fallen upon us together, as if to punish us for having desired its greatest blessings, I see beyond the limits of life the reward of our sacrifices. How, in what manner, I can not say. I only feel that so it ought to be." She read incongruously. Condillac, Voltaire, the Lives of the Fathers, Descartes, Saint Jerome, Don Quixote, Pascal, Montesquieu, Burlamaqui, and the French dramatists, were read, annotated, and commented on. She gives an appalling list of obsolete devotional books, which she borrowed of a pious abbe, and returned with marginal notes which shocked him. She read the Dictionnaire Philosophique, Diderot, D'Alembert, Raynal, Holbach, and took delight in the Epistles of Saint Paul. She was, while studying Malebranche and Descartes, so convinced, that she considered her kitten, when it mewed, merely a piece of mechanism in the exercise of its functions. The chilling negations and arid skepticism of Helvetius shocked her, and she writes: "I felt myself possessed of a generosity of soul of which he denied the existence." She concluded at this time that a republic is the true form of government, and that every other form is in derogation of man's natural rights.
She mastered Clairaut's geometry by copying the book, plates, and all, from beginning to end. She read Pufendorf's folio on the law of nature. She learned English, and read the life of Cromwell. She read the great French preachers, Bossuet, Flechier, Bourdaloue, and Massillon. She was vexed by the terrorism of their arguments. She thought that they overrated the importance of the devil. She did not believe him to be as powerful as they feared. She thought that they might teach oftener what seemed to her the potent element of Christian faith—love—and leave the devil out sometimes, and so she herself wrote a sermon on brotherly love, with which that personage had nothing to do, and in which his name was not even mentioned. She also read the Protestant preachers—Blair especially. She entangled herself in the acute skepticism of Bayle.
She seemed possessed of one of those assimilative intellects which extract by glances the substance from a book as the flash of lightning demagnetizes the lodestone. Her acquisitions were consequently immense. Though very yielding in the grasp of the mighty thinkers whom she encountered, yet she read them in the spirit of criticism, controversy, and dissent.
She was, nevertheless, the farthest in the world from becoming a literary dragon. All this did not impair the freshness of girlhood. She was meek and pure. Passages in her autobiography, which I can not repeat, yet which ought to be read, establish this. She was throughout entirely domestic. She did the marketing, cooked the food; nursed her mother; kept a sharp eye on the apprentices; nearly fell in love, for when the young painter, Taborel, who was twenty, and blushed like a girl, visited her father's workshop, she always had a crayon or something else to seek there, but at the sight of him ran away trembling, without saying a word.
It was not difficult for her to be both scholar and housewife. Writing in after years, of domestic cares, she says: "I never could comprehend how the attention of a woman who possesses method and activity can be engrossed by them.... Nothing is wanting but a proper distribution of employments, and a small share of vigilance.... People who know how to employ themselves always find leisure moments, while those who do nothing are in want of time for any thing.... I think that a wife should keep the linen and clothes in order, or cause them to be so kept; nurse her children; give directions concerning the cookery, or superintend it herself, but without saying a word about it, and with such command of her temper, and such management of her time, as may leave her the means of talking of other matters, and of pleasing no less by her good humor than by the graces natural to her sex.... It is nearly the same in the government of states as of families. Those famous housewives who are always expatiating on their labors are sure either to leave much in arrears, or to render themselves tiresome to every one around them; and, in like manner, those men in power so talkative and so full of business, only make a mighty bustle about the difficulties they are in because too awkward or ignorant to remove them."
An acquaintance which one of her uncles, who was an ecclesiastic, had with an upper servant of the royal household, enabled her to spend some days at the palace of Versailles. She was lodged with the servants, and enjoyed the servant's privilege of seeing every thing and sparing nothing. Royalty was never put in the focus of eyes so critical. Her comments upon this visit are very brief. She expresses her detestation of what she saw, saying, "It gives me the feeling of injustice, and obliges me every moment to contemplate absurdity."
The studies and experiences which have been described bring us to her fifteenth year. She was then a beautiful woman. In her memoirs she declines to state how she looked when a child, saying that she knows a better time for such a sketch. In describing herself at fifteen, she says: "I was five feet four inches tall; my leg was shapely; my hips high and prominent; my chest broad and nobly decorated; my shoulders flat; ... my face had nothing striking in it except a great deal of color, and much softness and expression; my mouth is a little too wide—you may see prettier every day—but you will see none with a smile more tender and engaging; my eyes are not very large; the color of the iris is hazel; my hair is dark brown; my nose gave me some uneasiness; I thought it a little too flat at the end.... It is only since my beauty has faded that I have known what it has been in its bloom. I was then unconscious of its value, which was probably augmented by my ignorance."
That she understated her personal charms, the concurrent admiration of contemporary men and women fully attests. Her physical beauty was marvelous, and when great men were subjected to its influence, to the imperial functions of her intellect, and to the persuasions of an organization exceedingly spiritual and magnetic, it is no wonder that her influence, domestic woman, housewife, as she always was, became so effectual over them.
Let me here warn my hearers not to forestall this woman in their judgments. She was not a manlike female. No better wife ever guided her husband anonymously by her intuitions, or assisted him by her learning. In the farm house and in the palace she was as wifely and retiring as any of the excellent women who have been the wives of American statesmen. Every one knew her abilities and her stupendous acquirements, and she felt them herself, but, notwithstanding, she never would consent to write a line for publication and avow it as her own, and never did, until that time when her husband was an outlaw, when her child was torn from her, when she herself stood in the shadow of the guillotine, and writhed under the foulest written and spoken calumnies that can torture outraged womanhood into eloquence. She then wrote, in twenty-six days, her immortal Appeal to Posterity, and those stirring letters and papers incident to her defense, from which some extracts have been here presented. She was mistress of a faultless style. Her command over the resources of her language was despotic. She could give to French prose an Italian rhythmus. She had wit and imagination—a reasoning imagination. She was erudite. Probably no woman ever lived better entitled to a high position in literature. But she never claimed it. She holds it now only as a collateral result of her defense in the struggle in which her life was the stake, and in which she lost. She says: "Never, however, did I feel the smallest temptation to become an author. I perceived at a very early period that a woman who acquires this title loses far more than she gains. She forfeits the affections of the male sex, and provokes the criticisms of her own. If her works be bad, she is ridiculed, and not without reason; if good, her right to them is disputed; or if envy be forced to acknowledge the best part to be her own, her character, her morals, her conduct, and her talents are scrutinized in such a manner that the reputation of her genius is fully counterbalanced by the publicity given to her defects. Besides, my happiness was my chief concern, and I never saw the public intermeddle with that of any one without marring it.... During twelve years of my life I shared in my husband's labors as I participated in his repasts, because one was as natural to me as the other. If any part of his works happened to be quoted in which particular graces of style were discovered, or if a flattering reception was given to any of the academic trifles, which he took a pleasure in transmitting to the learned societies, of which he was a member, I partook of his satisfaction without reminding him that it was my own composition.... If during his administration an occasion occurred for the expression of great and striking truths, I poured forth my whole soul upon the paper, and it was but natural that its effusions should be preferable to the laborious teemings of a secretary's brain. I loved my country. I was an enthusiast in the cause of liberty. I was unacquainted with any interest or any passions that could enter into competition with that enthusiasm; my language, consequently, could not but be pure and pathetic, as it was that of the heart and of truth.... Why should not a woman act as secretary to her husband without depriving him of any portion of his merit? It is well known that ministers can not do every thing themselves; and, surely, if the wives of those of the old governments, or even of the new, had been capable of making draughts of letters, of official dispatches, or of proclamations, their time would have been better employed than in intriguing first for one paramour and then for another." "An old coxcomb, enamored of himself, and vain of displaying the slender stock of science he has been so long in acquiring, might be in the habit of seeing me ten years together without suspecting that I could do more than cast up a bill or cut out a shirt."
Suitors, she writes, came numerously from her fifteenth year. She marches them off en masse in her memoirs. As is the custom in France, the first overture was made to her father, and usually by letter. Her music teacher was her first devotee. He was followed by her dancing master, who, as a propitiatory preparation had a wen cut out of his cheek; then came a wealthy butcher; then a man of rank; then a dissolute physician, from marrying whom she narrowly escaped; then a jeweler, and many others. The merits of these gentlemen—particularly those of the energetic butcher—-were warmly commended by their female friends, who, in France, are brokers in this business on a very extensive scale. It is a unique proof of her ascendancy over every person near her that the letters which her father received, requesting his permission to address her, were submitted by him to her to draft the answer he was to send. So she placed herself loco parentis, and wrote the most paternal letters of refusal; all of which her father dutifully copied and sent, with many a pang when she let riches and rank pass by her. The suitors were dismissed, one and all, and she resumed her books and studies.
Her mother died in 1775. She became the mistress of the house. Her father formed disreputable connections. Late in that year her future husband, Roland de la Platiere, presented himself, with a letter from a friend of her girlhood. He was forty years old; he was a student; his form was awkward and his manners were stiff; his morals were irreproachable, his disposition was exacting, but his ability was great. He was capable of instructing even her on many subjects, and they became well acquainted by the elective sympathy of scholarship. She became the critic and depositary of his manuscripts. Finally, one day, after asking leave, in her father's presence the worthy man actually kissed her, on his departure for Italy. Her father, sinking lower and lower, squandered her little fortune of about three thousand dollars, wasted his own business, and then treated her with brutality. Her only amusement at this time was playing the violin, accompanied by an old priest who tortured a bass viol, while her uncle made a flute complain.
Finally, after an acquaintance of five years, Roland, by letter to her father, proposed marriage. The purity of Roland's life was esteemed by Phlipon such a reproach to his own dissoluteness that he revenged himself by an insulting refusal. He then made his daughter's life at home so insupportable that she took lodgings in a convent. She was visited there by Roland, and they were finally married, without again consulting her father. During the year next succeeding their marriage they remained at Paris. From Paris they went to Amiens, and lived there four years, where her daughter was born. She assisted her husband in the preparation of several statistical and scientific articles for the Encyclopedic. She made a hortus siccus of the plants of Picardy.
In 1784 they removed to the family estate of Roland at Villefranche, near Lyons. She had, in the course of her studies, acquired considerable knowledge of medicine. There was no physician in that little community, and she became the village doctor. Some of her experiences were quite whimsical. A country-woman came several leagues, and offered her a horse if she would save the life of her husband, whom a physician had given up to die. She visited the sick man, and he recovered, but she had great difficulty in resisting the importunities of his wife that she should take the horse.
In 1784 they went to England, and in 1787 they made the tour of Switzerland. Roland was elected member of the constitutional assembly from Lyons, and they went to Paris.
I am compelled now to pass from the uneventful first ten years of her married life with the single remark that, through them all, she was the devoted wife and mother, the kind neighbor, and the most assiduous student. But her mind bore, as on a mirror, prophetic, shadowy, and pictured glimpses of those awful events which were marching out of futurity toward France. Her letters written during this period show that she gazed upon them with a prescient eye, and heard with keenest ear the alarum of the legions which were gathering for attack. The young men of Lyons, where she and her husband spent the Winters, gathered in her parlors, and heard from the lips of this impassioned seeress of liberty words which, in such formative periods of a nation's life, hasten events with a power that seems like absolute physical force.
Her husband was chosen a member of the national assembly, and she went with him again to Paris in 1791.
Here ends the peaceful period of her life. Here close upon her forever the doors of home; and here open to her the doors of history, which too often admits its guests only to immolate them in splendid chambers, as it immolated her. From this time we miss the pure womanliness of her character, in which she is so lovely, and see her imperial beauty and her regal intellect in all their autocratic power, until that time when her husband, home, child, power, and hope were all forever gone, and her womanhood again shone out, like a mellow and beauteous sunset, when life's day drew near its close.
Nothing had become more certain than that the monarchy would undergo radical constitutional changes. Of this every one was conscious except the king and the nobility. They were struck with that blindness which foreruns ruin. They constituted one party, and this party was the common object of attack by two political and revolutionary divisions, the Girondists and the Jacobins. The Gironde wished reform, a constitution, a monarchy, but one limited and constitutional, equality in taxes. They did not wish to destroy utterly, but they were willing to dislocate and then readjust, the machinery of state. The Jacobins at first said much, but proposed little. They aspired to the abolition of the throne and the establishment of a republic; they wished to overthrow the altar; they promised, vaguely, to wreak upon the rich and titled full revenge for the wrongs of the poor and lowly. Every political and social dream which had found expression for twenty years, every skeptical attack upon things ancient and holy, found in this body of men a party and an exponent. Up to a certain point both of these parties necessarily made common war upon the old order of things. But, beyond that point, it was equally certain that they would attack each other. The Girondists would wish to stop, and the Jacobins would wish to go on.
During the session of this assembly the influence of Madame Roland on men of all modes of thought became most marked. Her parlors were the rendezvous of eminent men, and men destined to become eminent. It is impossible to discover, from the carping records of that time, that she asserted her powers by an unwomanly effort. Men felt in her presence that they were before a great intellectual being—a creative and inspiring mind—and it shone upon them without effort, like the sun. Among these visitors was Maximilien Robespierre, who afterwards took her life. He was then obscure, despised, and had been coughed down when he rose to speak. She discerned his talents, and encouraged him. He said little, but was always near her, listening to all she said; and in his after days of power, he reproduced, in many a speech, what he had heard this wondrous woman say. In this time of his unpopularity she unquestionably saved him from the guillotine by her own personal and persistent intercession with men in power.
By the time that the session of this assembly drew near its close the ground-swell began to be felt of that tempest of popular wrath which eventually swept over France, and which the Jacobins rode and directed until it dashed even them upon the rocks. Squalor came forth and consorted with cleanliness; vice crept from its dens and sat down by the side of purity in high places; atheism took its stand at the altar, and ministered with the priest.
This assembly adjourned, and the Rolands returned, for a short time, to Platiere. By this time it was evident that the monarchy could not stand against the attacks of both its enemies; the king was compelled to yield; he threw himself into the arms of the Girondists, as his least obnoxious foes. He formed a new cabinet, and to Roland was given the ministry of the interior. It was a very great office. Its incumbent had administrative charge of all the internal affairs of France. The engraver's daughter was now the mistress of a palace. From the lowly room where she had read Plutarch until her mind was made grand with ideas of patriotic glory, until she loved her country as once she loved her God, she had gone by no base degrees to an eminence where her beloved France, with all its hopes and woes and needs and resources, lay like a map beneath her—a map for her and hers to change.
By this time the titled refugees had brought the Prussian armies to the frontier; a majority of the clergy had identified themselves with the reaction, were breaking down the revolution among the people, and were producing a reversionary tendency to absolutism. The king was vacillating and timid, but the queen had all the spirit and courage of her mother, Maria Theresa. It is very evident from Madame Roland's memoirs and letters, that these two women felt that they were in actual collision. It is a strange contrast; the sceptered wife, looking from her high places with longing and regret over centuries of hereditary succession, divine right and unquestioned prerogative, calling on her house of Hapsburg for aid, appealing to the kings of the earth for assistance in moving back the irreversible march of destiny:—from another palace the daughter of the people looking not back, but forward, speaking of kings and monarchies as gone, or soon to go, into tables of chronology, listening to what the ancient centuries speak from Grecian and Roman tombs, summoning old philosophies to attest the inalienable rights of man, looking beyond the mobs of kings and lords to the great nation-forming people, upon which these float and pass away like the shadows of purple Summer clouds; and stranger still, the ending of the contrast in the identification of these typical women in their death, both going to the same scaffold, discrowned of all their hopes. Of all the lessons which life has taught to ambition, none are more touching than when it points to the figures of these women as they are hurried by the procession in which they moved to a common fate.