Mrs. Lawson was carried fainting from the room before the reading of the will was concluded. She was seized with violent fever, and her life was despaired of. She recovered, however, and from the verge of the eternal existence on which she had been, she returned to life with a less worldly and ostentatious nature, and a soul more alive to the impulses of kindness and charity.
* * * * *
HORACE VERNET, the painter, is in St. Petersburgh, and is soon expected in Vienna, where he will study the uniform, scenery, &c., in order to paint various scenes in the Hungarian war.
* * * * *
HARRO HARRING has escaped from Norway into England, whence he has issued a document, describing the circumstances of his departure, and protesting against the arbitrary and unjust conduct of the Norwegian Government. In this paper, which is drawn up with indignant eloquence, Harring appeals to the Norwegian Storthing of 1851, confident that he shall receive ample justice at the hands of the Representatives of Norway.
* * * * *
Miss H.M. WEBBER, an American, has issued a pamphlet in Brussels advocating the assumption of the male attire by her sex till they are married.
* * * * *
GARRIBALDI, the Italian general, is on his way to New York. He has written his "experiences," which will soon make their appearance in America, where, as in Europe, they will be eagerly read, as few men can throw so much light upon the recent important events in Italy.
* * * * *
Mrs. CHILD is passing the summer near Boston, and is still occupied with a book upon the History of the Religious Element in Society, which has several years engaged her attention. A new edition of her novel of The Rebels has just been published, and the degree to which it has been known is illustrated in the critical announcements of it. The Albany State Register, like other journals, seems to think it a fresh book, and observes of the writer:—"The author of Hobornok has always been a favorite with the public, though it is a long while since we have had the pleasure of welcoming anything from his pen. The present work, however, bears the impress of the talents which have always marked his writings!"
* * * * *
[FROM THE LEADER.]
Once in my childish days I heard A woman's voice that slowly read, How 'twixt two shadowy mountains sped Four colored steeds, four chariots whirr'd.
I watched until she laid the book On the white casement-ledge again; My heart beat high with joyful pain On that strange oracle to look.
Day after day I would ascend The staircase in that large old house, And still and timorous as a mouse I sat and made the book my friend.
I saw the birth of seas and skies, The first sweet woman, first brave man; I saw how morning light began, How faded—over Paradise.
I stood with the first Arab boy; I saw the mother and the child, Of Oriental vision wild, Laugh by the well for utter joy.
I saw the youth go forth at morn, A traveler to the Syrian land, And in the lonely evening stand An exile weary and forlorn.
I saw him by the roadside lay His sunken head upon a stone, And while he slumbered, still and lone, A dream fell on him, fair as day.
I saw a golden ladder reach From earth to heaven among the stars, And up and down its gleaming bars Trod stately angels, without speech.
What wonders did I not behold! Dark gorgeous women, turbaned men, White tents, like ships, in plain and glen, Slaves, palm trees, camels, pearls, and gold.
Ah! many an hour I sat and read, And God seemed with me all day long; Joy murmured a sweet undersong, I talkt with angels, with them fed.
It was an old deserted room; There was a skylight strait above, And the blue sky lookt thro' like love, Softening and coloring mortal gloom.
No playmate had I, knew no game, Yet sometimes left my book to run And blow bright bubbles in the sun— In after life we do the same.
That time is gone; you think me weak That I regret that perisht time, That I recall my golden prime With beating heart and blushing cheek.
That Book so prized, you tell me, friend, Is full of false and deadly tales: You say, "a palsied world bewails Its influence; but it soon shall end."
Thank God for that: I live for truth, Glad to resign each rainbow sham; But, still remembering what I am, I praise my sweet and saintly youth
It was so genial and sincere, My joy and wonder were so strong, So rare and delicate a song Young Life was singing in mine ear.
I therefore still in fancy climb Up to that old and faded room, Where feelings like fresh roses bloom Over the grave of that fair time.
* * * * *
LORD BROUGHAM has recently been engaged in the investigation of a peculiar phenomenon which he calls the "diflection of light." The experiment itself consists in causing a ray of light to fall upon the sharp edge of a knife or on the point of a needle; the ray is thus "diflected" by the edge or point, and becomes prismatic. Lord Brougham, in addition to other curious phenomena, has discovered that the ray, when once diflected, cannot be again diflected in the same direction, but may be diflected in an opposite direction.
* * * * *
[FROM THE SPECTATOR, OF JUNE 15.]
LIFE OF THE AUTHOR OF 'TREMAINE.'
The literary success of the author of Tremaine was owing to the worldly experience and means of observation which his official position gave him; but the sole interest which he possesses in the eyes of the world arises from his success as an author. As an office-holder, he was not a mere red-tapist, but one of those able, hard-working, experienced administrative men, who really carry on the business of government, and, except in the case of rare ability and courage in a "chief," are masters of the Ministers, though want of interest, ambition, or "gift of the gab," retains them in a subordinate post. As an author, Mr. Ward's temporary success was greater than his permanent prospects. His subjects were generally large enough, he was a man of extensive reading, and his tastes took in a wide range; but he was essentially bounded by the present. His earlier works, which procured him the patronage of Pitt, and with it a seat in Parliament and office, were on the Law of Nations: and though their most attractive part related to a temporary subject, the rights of belligerents and neutrals, there was enough in that branch of the subject to secure duration; but who reads them now? how few, indeed, know of their existence? He cannot be said to have originated the serio-didactic novel, for Hannah More and others had long cultivated that field; but he brought to it, what they could not bring, a well-bred scholarship, a wide knowledge of public and private life, seen in affairs as well as society, with less of a narrow sectarian spirit: yet it may be doubted whether Tremaine some thirty years hence will be more read than Coelebs in Search of a Wife. If Mr. Ward did not found the school of fashionable novelists, he was certainly among the founders; and he infused into the best of his works, De Vere, a real knowledge of Parliamentary life, a newer and truer view of statesmen and nobles, though a little en beau, and a great variety of actual characters. The circumstance of Wentworth's supposed resemblance to Canning, and the accident of publication at a time when the official conspiracy of the novel seemed acting in Parliament, gave De Vere a success with the world at large, which its length and longwindedness might have marred. Mr. Ward's essays (generally in the form of stories) were not so successful with the public as his fictions. We think he was by nature designed for an essayist—naturally given to discuss and expound; but nature had denied him that penetrating originality of perception, that vigor of thought, and (as a consequence) that terseness of style, which are necessary to render the essay attractive and to preserve it. As Robert Plumer Ward was essentially confined to the present, so he was dependent on it; he was nothing if not in the mode, and in his later works he rather fell behind the fashion.
His life as presented in these volumes was not very remarkable or eventful. His father was a merchant at Gibraltar, and also held the post of chief clerk of the civil department of the Ordnance in that garrison: his mother was a Spanish Jewess. Robert Ward was born in London, in 1765, on a visit of the family to England; and, after an education at private schools, was sent to Oxford, in 1783. He left the University in 1787, in debt; and soon after became a student of the Inner Temple. An affection of the knee-joint sent him to Bareges: he was speedily cured; but was so attracted by the pleasures of French society, that he remained in France till the Revolution; from which he had a narrow escape.
"It happened, unfortunately for him, that another 'Ward,' of about the same age and personal appearance, had incurred the suspicion of the Republican party, at a moment when suspicion lost all its doubts, and death followed close upon the heels of certainty. To use his own words, 'I was arrested for having the same name and the same colored coat and waistcoat as another Ward, guilty of treason; was ordered without trial to Paris, to be guillotined; and only escaped by their catching the real traitor: I was, however, banished the republic, merely for my name's sake.'"
On his return to England he was called to the bar, in June 1790; and but for a singular circumstance might have passed through life as a literary barrister, with middling success in law and letters.
"He was, early in 1794, leaving his chambers in the Temple for the purpose of paying a visit in the Northern outskirts of London. Upon crossing Fleet Street he had to traverse Bell Yard; and as he passed a watchmaker's shop his attention was attracted by a placard in the window, of a very revolutionary character, convening a meeting of a certain society, that evening, at the watchmaker's. Many a man would have passed it unnoticed, or contented himself with a feeling of regret or indignation at the prevalence during that period of similar views: not so was it with young Ward; he was fresh from all the horrors which the success of such principles in a neighboring country had entailed; he at once determined to enter the watchmaker's shop and provoke a discussion with him. For two hours did the young student contest with the Republican the justice of his sentiments; for two hours did he labor to impress upon him, not only by argument but by his own experience, the horrors to which success must lead; but at the end of that time he was obliged to leave him, apparently unmoved, or at all events unconvinced. He paid his distant visit, and late in the evening returned homeward through the same alley. Desparing of success, he paid no second visit to the disputant of the morning, though he did remark with pleasure that the revolutionary placard had been withdrawn. Hardly, however, had he passed the shop twenty yards, when he heard some one running after and calling to him. He looked back and beheld the Republican watchmaker. The manner of the man was changed from the dogged imperturbability with which he had listened to Mr. Ward's arguments in the morning to a frank and eager confidence. 'I have called you in,' said he, 'to say I have done nothing but think over your words: I feel their truth; I shudder at the precipice on which I stood, at the evil I was about to do; and am now as anxious to communicate and prevent as I was before to conceal all our schemes.' He then communicated to him the existence of a most fearful plot against the Government, which, with his newly-awakened feelings, he longed to frustrate by immediately informing the authorities, if he who had convinced would also accompany and support him.
"They went to the Chief Magistrate, Sir Richard Ford; who attached so much importance to the communication, that the three were at once ushered into the presence of Pitt and his colleagues, assembled with Macdonald and Scott, the Attorney and Solicitor-General. The singular history was duly narrated in detail; the arguments carried on by the young Mentor, the misgivings of the Republican, and then the details of the impending danger. The countenance of Pitt was turned with interest on the young lawyer, who seemed not only to share that horror of revolutionary movements with which he was himself so strongly imbued, but who had so gallantly acted upon it. 'What was your motive, young gentleman,' he inquired, 'for thus entering the shop?' 'I, Sir,' answered young Ward, 'am not long returned from France, and have there seen in practice what sounds so fine in theory.'"
Though, according to report, Pitt was not the man to overlook rising talent or lose sight of a useful adherent, eight years elapsed before much came of this singular introduction; during which the young barrister published two books or pamphlets on the Laws of Nations, married a sister of Lady Mulgrave, and was slowly working his way at the bar. In 1802, Pitt, in a stiff enough letter, offered Mr. Ward a seat for Cockermouth, one of the Lowther boroughs; and when he returned to power, his protege became Under-Secretary of State for the Foreign Department, (his brother-in-law, Lord Mulgrave, being Principal Secretary,) after he had published a pamphlet in justification of Pitt's highhanded seizure of the Spanish treasure-ships. Of course he went out on the accession of All the Talents after Pitt's death; and came in again on their expulsion, as a Lord of the Admiralty, still under Lord Mulgrave. In 1812, he was moved to the Ordnance, as "Clerk." In 1823, he quitted office, withdrew from Parliament, and began novel-writing as an amusement, at fifty-eight. He died in 1846, in his eighty-second year; having lived long enough to see his son, the present Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, Secretary to the Admiralty under a Whig Ministry. He was thrice married, and each time advantageously. His first wife, as we have seen, was a sister-in-law of Lord Mulgrave; the second, whom he wedded at the age of sixty-three, was the widow of Mr. Plumer of Gilston Park, which became his through the marriage; his third alliance, when he was nearly seventy, gave him the advantage of a jointure of 1,000l. per annum allowance as guardian, and a couple of mansions. His writings would lead to the notion that Robert Ward was everything tender and amiable; and so he might be as long as he was pleased; but he would seem to have had a quiet implacability, that was offended on slight grounds, and obdurate in displeasure. He quarreled with his son on account of his politics: he received some slight from an official friend and repulsed all attempts at explanation, till a letter written when Ward was seventy-two and his correspondent turned of seventy produced a reconciliation rather dry on his part. It would have been satisfactory to know that some relenting, some interest beyond a "suspicion" of the writer, had been shown on the receipt of the following manly letter, written after the publication of De Vere. After alluding to the internal traits by which he had identified the author, the anonymous correspondent continues:
"It surprises me, I confess, that the feeling, judgment, and sagacity, which sufficed to produce the work that I have been commending, should have suffered the golden opinions of me, which you entertained, to be filched and adulterated by mere traducers, whose reports the hearer's own experience could have almost refuted, and whose testimony was so obviously liable to be warped by prejudice.
"We live in a strange world. Before my feelings and dispositions had changed from wavering and transient to permanent and fixed,—before the desultory ramblings, which almost became our age, had terminated in a path, and that, I trust, a right and honorable one, and from which, with moderate allowance for human inferiority, I have not deviated since,—before my principles had attained their vigor, and generated those correct habits which it was their province to produce,—in short, while, like most young men, I might be said to have as yet 'no character at all,' I obtained your friendship. How I lost it, I have already told you. When, remains to tell you. I lost it when any fruits which my youth may have promised had appeared; lost it all at once, under circumstances scarcely more annoying to my feelings than revolting to my sense of what was right and just.
"I am not seeking to penetrate what is to me, indeed, no secret; neither do I form the unavailing wish that our expired intercourse should revive. C'en est fait. A knot which has been loosened or untied may be formed again, but this knot has been cut. Accordingly, I neither address you by your name nor subscribe my own. My hand-writing, though not disguised, is, like yourself, much changed; and, though this were not the case, you could not, after the lapse of so much time, have recognized it.
"My regard you continue to possess, though I am not certain of your title to retain it. But you have, by means of your estrangement, sustained a loss. In ceasing to entertain a feeling of esteem and cordiality toward me, you have lost that which is a source of soothing gratification to the mind in which it is cherished, and which, I flatter myself, I as well deserved to have retained with regard to me as any other of your early friends, be that other who he may. Again: though you have not lost a friend, (for my sentiments toward you continue friendly,) you have elected to lose the usual and not unpalatable fruits of friendship in my case: and this at a time of life (for we are much of the same age) when old friends can the less be spared, because new friendships are rarely formed.
"When our earliest meetings and the commencements of a bygone friendship are called up before me by the letter which, I scarcely know why, I am writing, I feel myself softened as well as depressed by the recollection; and, as I write farewell, it gives me pain to think that I might add to it the words—probably forever. God bless you."
There is nothing in Robert Ward's life or literary eminence to require or even justify so large a space as his nephew has bestowed upon it. Strictly speaking, indeed, the biography occupies but a small portion of these bulky volumes, which are chiefly filled with remains or correspondence; and much of that little is not distinguished for matter or character. The correspondence is indifferent. The latter portion of it is mainly devoted to literary criticism, or compliments, having for subject the author's works or those of his praisers; and is weak and flimsy to a degree. The earlier portion principally relates to politics, especially to the intrigues carried on by Canning and Malmesbury during the Addington Ministry to procure Pitt's premature return to office. To this Lord Mulgrave was judiciously opposed; and although there is nothing very new or particular in the account, and the letters are rather flat, it gives the Mulgrave version of the business. The most valuable part of the book, and which was, indeed, well worthy of separate publication, is a diary that Mr. Ward kept through a considerable portion of his official life, beginning in June 1809, and continuing with a short interruption till the death of Perceval, when it ceased till 1819; after which it was maintained to a later period than Mr. Phipps thinks it proper to publish it. This diary consists of gossip, anecdote, on dits, and confidential communications made to Mr. Ward on various occasions and at critical times, together with his own observations and reflections on affairs, or remarks on characters. As he was much in the confidence of Perceval, saw a good deal of the Duke of Wellington, (Master-General of the Ordnance during the era of the Manchester massacre and Sidmouth's spy doings,) and was continually behind the scenes, the diary is both curious and amusing. Allowance must of course be made for the writer's position as a partisan, and some of his later notions are those of the "laudator temporis acti," speaking without responsibility; but it is sufficiently interesting to raise a desire for the whole, published as a diary, and not mixed up with other matters to which it has small relation.
The diary begins with Canning's intrigue against Castlereagh; and Canning is occasionally brought forward in the earlier period, and painted with a good deal of shadow, (he was then in a sort of opposition to Perceval,) and altogether a very different personage from the Wentworth of De Vere. Lord Palmerston, then a "very fine young man," and a promising candidate for place, with no other faults, in Mr. Ward's estimation, than what he has certainly got rid of long since—nervousness and modesty!—also figures in the pages, and at a critical conjuncture of his fortunes.
"Lord Palmerston came to town, sent for by Perceval. He was so good as to confide to me that three things were offered to him,—the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, Secretaryship at War, or a seat at the Treasury, by way of introduction to the seals, if he was afraid of entering upon them at once. These offers were, however, in the alternative of there being any of them declined by Milnes (Member for Pomfret), to whom they were made in the first instance. Lord P. consulted me very frankly upon them, and asked if I thought he would be equal to the seals either in Cabinet or Parliament, particularly the latter, where he had barely made his debut. I told him, and was most sincere, that in common with all his friends whom I had ever heard speak on the subject, I thought him quite equal to them in point of capacity, but as to nerves in Parliament, (of which he seemed most to doubt,) nobody could judge but himself. He said, Petty (whom I had mentioned) had come forward after having felt his way and got possession of himself in the House, and that if he had done the same, he perhaps would not hesitate. As it was, he inclined to the second place, but had written to Lord Malmesbury. We walked up to Hyde Park discussing the subject. Among other topics which I urged, one seemed to impress him much; which was, the great difference there would be in his situation and pretensions upon a return to office, in the event of our going out, if he retired as a Cabinet Minister instead of a subordinate capacity. He allowed it much flattered his ambition, but feared the prejudice it would occasion to his own reputation and the interest of his friends if he failed. I left him inclining to the Secretary at War; and admired his prudence, as I have long done the talents and excellent understanding, as well as the many other good qualities as well as accomplishments, of this very fine young man."
One portion of the diary relates to the Regency. New facts are scarcely advanced, but we think some freshness is given from the light and coloring of the author. Unless Sheridan really persuaded the Prince to throw over the Whigs, out of revenge for Whig hauteur, his Royal Highness would seem to have acted entirely from himself. The arrogance of Grey and Grenville comes out very strongly in the painting of his opponent. After all, however, it is doubtful whether they could have come in. The Tories would have been strong in Opposition; the Whigs could scarcely form a Government without the Canning votes, and the hatred with which the old Whigs regarded their leader rendered that junction impossible: what was more than all, their cowardly anti-national policy would have rendered their position one of great difficulty with the country. The fact is, that poor in point of talent as the Perceval Ministry was, it best represented the opinion of the country; as the Whigs now are in a similar position. Some of these points are well put in this report of a conversation in the House of Commons; which will also give an idea of the manner of the diary.
"J.W. Ward told me what he called a bon mot, and seemed much to enjoy, of Lady ——'s. He had said there was a difficulty in getting people to accept of offices just now; she answered, she thought Lord Grenville would be not unwilling to accept them all in his own person. Oh strange union, where this, by one of their party, is thought characteristic and told with glee! I understand, however, that Tierney has confessed a difficulty. The Prince, it seems, wants them to accept, and they are afraid to accept. They are therefore reduced to tell the Prince, We would accept if it were to do ourselves good; but not when it is inconvenient, though to do you good. The remarkable part of the evening was a conversation with Brand, who came over to sit by me. Though he had spoken, and strongly, against us in the debate, he opened immediately upon the merits of Perceval; he admired his conduct and ability so much, that if he had ever given him a vote in his life, he said, he would have supported him on these questions; that his character had enabled him to commence the stand he had made, and character had attached his party so much to him as to continue the majority all through; that this sentiment was not peculiar to him in the Opposition, but partaken by many—indeed, all without exception admired him; that this would give him extraordinary influence as the head of an Opposition, which must give great trouble, to the new Government when it was formed: nevertheless, he thought we were not going out, it was too dangerous to come in; probably, he added, laughing, the Regent will keep Perceval three months as his father's Minister, and then 'fall so much in love with him' (that was the expression) that he will continue him as his own. He then entered much on the comparison between him and Canning; the latter of whom, he said, spite of his abilities, was discarded by all parties; that he could tell me it was finally resolved not to admit him in the new Government, into which some on account of those abilities had wished to introduce him. I may say, he observed, that I had some share in the rejection: I protested against such a junction whenever it was talked of; I told my friends it would ruin that without which they never could make a Government, character; that the eyes of a great number whom they could by no means command were upon them: I bade them look at the back rows on the side of Opposition, and asked them if they could count such men as Nicholson, Calvert, Halsey, Coke of Norfolk, &c., &c., as their regular supporters, unless it was from an esteem for their character—and if that character would not sustain a deep wound in the outset—if, for the sake of power, they allied themselves with a man who had deserted all alliances he had ever made; that he had deserted them before, after a treaty made, and had then deserted Perceval, after endeavoring to undermine Castlereagh; his conduct to whom had injured himself with the public in the most serious manner, in having allowed him to retain his office and undertake that melancholy expedition, five months after he had declared him so incapable that he put his own resignation upon his dismissal, that to ally with such a man could be only lowering themselves in public esteem without gaining anything but a hollow support. I would inform Canning myself, he added, that this was my protest, if he asked me."
The heads of the "great Whig families," however, were more sanguine, and hoped, or at least were occupied, to the last. Their treatment by the Prince was characteristic; and one can fancy the magnates at Adam's announcement in the following extract:
"What most offended them was the manner in which the Prince announced his resolution. They were in the very act of forming the Administration, filling offices, &c., &c., when Adam came in from the Prince. They said they could not be disturbed; he said he must disturb them, for he had a message from the Prince: they replied that it was for the Prince they were at work, for they were making the Government; Adam told them to spare all trouble, for no Government was to be made. This was on Friday the 1st, in the evening; and what affronted them was, that after having had such a task committed to them, the Prince should have presumed to take a counter resolution by himself without first consulting them."
This is a characteristic trait of the Duke of Wellington's way of getting through, business.
"He was fond of relating, that soon after the Duke's appointment, he was leaving his office at the usual hour, when, on coming out at the Park entrance, he perceived his new chief just in the act of getting on horseback. He went up to the Duke, and mentioned that there were some matters connected with the department on which he would like to communicate with him when he had time. 'No time like the present,' said the Duke, and, at once dismissing his horse, returned with Mr. Ward into the Ordnance Office. There, then, he remained closeted with the Duke till past eight, listening to and answering his pertinent queries upon manifold points connected with the department. From that moment the Duke appeared to be au fait of the business in hand, and ready to cope with the details as they from time to time presented themselves."
The Duke seems to have been more alarmed at the state of the nation about 1819 than the nature of the case justified; deceived, probably, by the official "reports" of Messrs. Castles and Co. The following remark, however, exhibits his penetration:
"He said, if the rising broke out anywhere, it would be at Glasgow and Paisley; where many rich merchants and all they supported would be sure to suffer, while no one could certainly foretell how soon it might be put down. This led him to his favorite notion, that the loyal should be taught to rely more upon themselves, and less upon the Government, in their own defense against the disloyal. It was this, he thought, that formed and kept up a national character: while every one was accustomed to rely upon the Government, upon a sort of commutation for what they paid to it, personal energy went to sleep, and the end was lost: that in England, he observed, every man who had the commonest independence, one, two, five or six hundred, or a thousand a year, had his own little plan of comfort—his favorite personal pursuit, whether his library, his garden, his hunting, or his farm, which he was unwilling to allow anything (even his own defense) to disturb; he therefore deceived himself into a notion that if there was a storm it would not reach him, and went on his own train till it was actually broke in upon by force. This led to supineness and apathy as to public exertion; which would in the end ruin us: the disposition therefore must be changed, by forcing them to exert themselves; which would not be if Government did everything in civil war, they nothing: hence his wish for a volunteer force. All this was exceedingly sound, and showed the reach of his reflecting mind as an observer of human nature, as well as a statesman and soldier, more than anything I have yet seen."
There is a curious passage touching Pitt's dying moments.
"At the time Mr. Ward accepted the post of Under-Secretary of State, (resigning that of Welsh Judge,) it had been promised him that the apparent risk of such a step to the future prospects of his family should be guarded against by the grant of a pension, to commence when he should cease to hold office. He had been but a year in the post thus accepted, and amid the pressure of other matters the contemplated arrangement had never been completed. More than once in his last illness did Pitt allude to his unfulfilled promise, and speak with kindness of him to whom it had been made. Later on, when he could no longer continuously articulate, he made the name 'Robert Ward' audible, and added signs for paper and ink. His trembling hand having feebly traced a number of wandering characters, and added what could be easily recognized as his well-known signature, he sank back. The precious paper (precious, whatever may have been its unknown import, as a proof of remembrance at so solemn a moment) was afterward handed over by the physician in attendance, Sir Walter Farquhar, to Mr. Ward; and many a time did he declare, as he displayed it to me, that he would give anything he valued most in the world to be able to decipher its unformed characters."
Some posthumous compositions of Mr. Ward are appended to the Memoirs. They consist of "characters," similar to those of Chesterfield and other writers, and of "sketches" and essays; these last being set in a species of framework, intended to connect them into a series. They are not the best specimens of the author's composition; and perhaps were hardly worth publication. Allowance is to be made, as Mr. Phipps remarks, for their unrevised state; and revision might have removed crudities and imparted more closeness and strength. It would not, however, have altered their main defects; which may be summed up by saying that they belonged to another age, without reaching the peculiar force and finish which alone can give interest to an obsolete mode.
[Footnote 3: Memoirs of the Political and Literary Life of Robert Plumer Ward, Esq., Author of "The Law of Nations," "Tremaine," "De Vere," &c. With Selections from his Correspondence, Diaries, and unpublished Literary Remains. By the Honorable Edmund Phipps. In two volumes. Published by Murray.]
* * * * *
THE BAGPIPE.—In Gothic sculpture and tracery angels are sometimes portrayed practising on the bagpipe. It was occasionally used in churches before the introduction of the organ, which occurred early in the fifteenth century. Written music came into use about the same time, and both were loudly denounced by many of the old school-men as unnecessary and vain innovations.
* * * * *
THE IVORY MINE:
A TALE OF THE FROZEN SEA.
Yakoutsk is one of the principal cities of Siberia, a country the name of which excites exaggerated ideas of sterility and desolation. Watered by rivers, which in every direction do the work of railways, with richly-wooded mountains and valleys, with green slopes, cultivated fields, soft meadows, gardens, and grassy islands in the great streams, with all the common vegetables in pretty fair abundance, with an endless source of commerce in furs and ivory, Siberia, except in its extreme northern provinces, presents, like most other lands, a very considerable amount of compensation for considerable rigor of climate. Yakoutsk is a completely northern town on the great river Lena, with wide streets and miserable huts, all of wood, in many of which ice is still used in winter for panes of glass. A very eminent traveler tells us that on his visit there were 4000 people living in 500 houses; with three stone churches, two wooden ones, and a convent. It had once an antiquity to show—the ancient Ostrog or fortress built in 1647 by the Cossacks; but which menaced ruin more and more every day, being not of stone, but of wood, and at last disappeared. Even here progress is observable, and wretched cabins give way gradually to houses, some of which are even elegantly arranged in the interior. It is a great commercial center: from the Anubra to Behring's Straits, from the banks of the Frozen Sea to Mount Aldana, from Okhotsk and even Kamschatka, goods are brought hither, consisting chiefly of furs, seals' teeth and mammoths' tusks, which afford excellent ivory, all of which are sold in the summer to itinerant traders, who give in return powerfully-flavored tobacco, corn and flour, tea, sugar, strong drinks, Chinese silks and cottons, cloth, iron and copper utensils, and glass.
The inhabitants of the town are chiefly traders, who buy of the Yakouta hunters their furs at a cheap rate, and then sell them in a mysterious kind of fashion to the agents who come from Russia in search of them. During the annual fair they stow up their goods in private rooms; and here the Irkoutsk men must come and find them. These traders are the Russian inhabitants, the native Yakoutas being the only artisans. In this distant colony of the human race, the new-born child of a Russian is given to a Yakouta woman to nurse, and when old enough, learns to read and write, after which he is brought up to the fur trade, and his education is finished.
Ivan Ivanovitch was a young man born and bred at Yakoutsk. His parents had given him the usual amount of tuition, and then allowed him for a time to follow the bent of his inclination. Ivan took to the chase. Passionately fond of this amusement, he had at an early age started with the Yakouta trappers, and become learned in the search for sables, ermines, and lynxes; could pursue the reindeer and elk on skates; and had even gone to the north in quest of seals. He thus at the age of twenty, knew the whole active part of his trade, and was aware of all the good hunting-grounds on which the Siberians founded their prosperity. But when he was called on to follow the more quiet and sedentary part of his occupation, he was not one-half so quick. His rough and rude life made town existence distasteful to him, and he evinced all that superb contempt for shop-keeping which characterizes the nomadic man, whether Red Indian, Arab, Tartar, or Siberian.
But Ivan was told he must make his way in the world. His parents who died before he attained to manhood, left him a small fortune in rubles and furs, which, if he chose to be industrious and persevering, might pave the way to the highest position in his native town. Acting on the pressing advice of his friends, he gave up his wanderings, and went to reside in the house of his fathers, piled up his skins and ivory, bought new ones, and prepared for the annual fair. The merchants from Irkoutsk, the capital, came, and Ivan, who was sharp and clever, did a good trade. But when his furs and teeth were changed into tea, tobacco, brandy, cloth, &c., he did not feel a whit happier. Ivan longed for the arid hills, and lofty mountains, and pellucid lakes—for the exciting hunt and the night bivouac, when gray-headed Yakoutas would, with their ganzis—the Irish duddeen—in their mouths, tell terrible and wonderful stories of ancient days. When eating town fare, his stomach yearned after frozen Yakouta butter, cut up with axes, and for strouganina or frozen fish, with reindeer brains, and other northern delicacies. And then his kind friends told him that he wanted a wife—a possession without which, they assured him, life was dull, adding that in her society he would cease to long for communion with bears and savages.
Ivan believed them, and, following their advice, launched into society—that is, he went more than usual to the noisy festivities of the town, which form the occupation of the dull season. The good people of Yakoutsk—like all people approaching to a savage state, especially in northern climes—consider eating the great business of life. Fabulous legends are told of the enormous capacity for food, approaching that of the Esquimaux; but however this may be, certain it is that a Yakoutsk festival was always commenced by several hours of laborious eating and drinking of fat and oily food and strong brandy. When the utmost limits of repletion were reached, the patriarchs usually took to pipes, cards, and punch, while the ladies prepared tea, and ate roasted nuts, probably to facilitate digestion. The young men conversed with them, or roasted their nuts for them, while perhaps a dandy would perform a Siberian dance to the music of the violin or gousli, a kind of guitar. Ivan joined heartily in all this dissipation: he smoked with the old men; he drank their punch; he roasted nuts for the ladies, and told them wonderful stories which were always readily listened to, except when some new fashion, which for several years before had been forgotten in Paris—found its way via St. Petersburgh, Moscow, and Irkoutsk, to the deserts of Siberia. Then he was silent; for the ladies had ample subject of discourse, not forgetting the great tea-table topic—scandal; causing the old men to shake their heads, and declare such things were not when they were young. Ivan, however, had one unfailing subject of popularity with the ladies. Like most Russians who have had occasion to travel much in cold places, he relished a cup of tea even better than the punch, as he had learned by experience that there was more genuine warmth in the pot than in the bowl. Most Russian officers are known to share this opinion.
Ivan had several times had his attention directed to Maria Vorotinska, a young and rich widow, who was the admiration of all Yakoutsk. Her husband had left her a fortune in knowledge of the fur trade and in rubles, with a comfortable house nicely furnished, in Siberia the very height of human felicity. It was commonly reported that Maria, young as she was, was the best bargainer in the land. She got her skins for less than anybody else, and sold them for a higher price. With these qualifications, she must, it was said, prove a jewel to Ivan, who was not a close buyer nor a hard seller. But Ivan for some time remained perfectly insensible both to these social advantages and the great beauty of the lady. He met her often, and even roasted her more nuts than any one else, which was a strong case of preference; but he did not seem caught in the fair one's toils. He neither ate, nor slept, nor amused himself one whit the less than when he first knew her. One evening, however, as Maria handed him his tea, with a hot cake, Ivan, whether owing to some peculiar smile on her face, or to the domestic idea which the act suggested, seemed certainly very much struck, and next day formally proposed. Maria laughed, and tossed her head, and spoke a few good-natured words; and then, without either accepting or rejecting him, hinted something about his youth, his want of devotion to business, and his want of fortune. Ivan, a little warmly, declared himself to be the best hunter in Yakoutsk, and hence the most practically-experienced of any in the trade, and then gave the sum-total of his possessions.
"Just one quarter of what good old Vorotinska left me!" replied the prudent Maria.
"But if I liked," replied Ivan, "I could be the richest merchant in Siberia."
"How?" asked Maria a little curiously, for the mere mention of wealth was to her like powder to the war-horse.
"Being almost the only Russian who has lived among the Yakoutas, I know the secret of getting furs cheaper and easier than any one else. Beside, if I chose to take a long journey, I could find ivory in vast heaps. A tradition is current of an ivory mine in the north, which an old Yakouta told me to be truth."
"Very likely," said Maria, to whom the existence of the fossil ivory of the mammoth in large masses was well known; "but the promich lenicks—trading companies—have long since stripped them."
"Not this," cried Ivan; "it is a virgin mine. It is away, away in the Frozen Sea, and requires courage and enduring energy to find. Two Yakoutas once discovered it. One was killed by the natives; the other escaped, and is now an old man."
"If you could find that," said Maria, "you would be the first man in Siberia, and the Czar himself would honor you."
"And you?" asked Ivan humbly.
"Ivan Ivanovitch," replied Maria calmly, "I like you better than any man in Yakoutsk, but I should adore the great ivory merchant."
Ivan was delighted. He was a little puzzled by the character of the lady, who, after marrying an old man for his fortune, seemed equally desirous of reconciling her interest and her affections in a second marriage. But very nice ideas are not those of the half-civilized, for we owe every refinement both of mind and body to civilization, which makes of the raw material man—full of undeveloped elements—what cooking makes of the potato root. Civilization is the hot water and fire which carry off the crudities, and bring forth the good qualities.
However this maybe, Ivan nursed his idea. Apart from the sudden passion which had invaded him, he had long allowed this fancy to ferment in his brain. During his wandering evenings, a noted hunter named Sakalar, claiming descent from the supposed Tartar founder of the Yakoutas, had often narrated his perilous journey on sledges across the Frozen Sea, his discovery of an ivory mine—that is, a vast deposit of mammoths' tusks, generally found at considerable depth in the earth, but here open to the grasp of all. He spoke of the thing as a folly of his youth, which had cost the life of his dearest friend, and never hinted at a renewed visit. But Ivan was resolved to undertake the perilous adventure, and even to have Sakalar for his guide.
II. THE YAKOUTA HUNTER.
Ivan slumbered not over his project. But a few days passed before he was ready to start. He purchased the horses required, and packed up all the varied articles necessary for his journey, and likely to please his Yakouta friend, consisting of tea, rum, brandy, tobacco, gunpowder, and other things of less moment. For himself he took a couple of guns, a pair of pistols, some strong and warm clothes, an iron pot for cooking, a kettle for his tea, with many minor articles absolutely indispensable in the cold region he was about to visit. All travelers in the north have found that ample food, and such drinks as tea, are the most effectual protection against the climate; while oily and fat meat is also an excellent preservative against cold. But Ivan had no need to provide against this contingency. His Yakouta friend knew the value of train-oil and grease, which are the staple luxuries of Siberians, Kamschatkans, and Esquimaux alike.
The first part of Ivan's journey was necessarily to the yourte, or wigwam of Sakalar, without whom all hopes of reaching the goal of his wishes were vain. He had sufficient confidence in himself to venture without a guide toward the plain of Mioure, where his Yakouta friend dwelt. He started at early dawn, without warning of his departure any one save Maria, and ventured courageously on the frozen plain which reaches from Yakoutsk to the Polar Sea. The country is here composed of marshes, vast downs, huge forests, and hills covered with snow in the month of September, the time when he began his journey. He had five horses, each tied to the tail of the one before him, while Ivan himself was mounted on the first. He was compelled to ride slowly, casting his eyes every now and then behind to see that all was right. At night he stretched a bearskin under a bush, lit a huge fire, cooked a savory mess, and piling clothes over himself, slept. At dawn he rose, crammed his kettle full of clean snow, put it over the embers, and made himself tea. With this warm beverage to rouse him, he again arranged his little caravan, and proceeded on his way. Nothing more painful than this journey can be conceived. There are scarcely any marks to denote the road, while lakes, formed by recent inundations, arrest the traveler every half hour, compelling him to take prodigious rounds, equally annoying and perplexing.
On the morning of the third day Ivan felt a little puzzled about the road. He knew the general direction from the distant mountains, and he wished to avoid a vast morass. Before him was a frozen stream, and on the other side a hillock. Leaving the others to feed as well as they could, he mounted his best horse, and rode across. The ice bent under him as he went, and he accordingly rode gently; but just as he reached the middle, it cracked violently right across, and sank visibly under him. Ivan looked hurriedly round him. The ice was everywhere split, and the next minute his horse, plunging violently, fell through. Instead, however, of falling into a stream of cold water, Ivan found himself in a vast and chilly vault, with a small trickling stream in the middle, and at once recollected a not unfrequent phenomenon. The river had been frozen over when high with floods, but presently the water sinking to its ordinary level, the upper crust of ice alone remained. But Ivan had no desire to admire the gloomy, half-lit vault, extending up and down out of sight; but standing on his horse's back, clambered up as best he might upon the surface, leaving the poor animal below. This done, he ran to the shore, and used the well-remembered Yakouta device for extracting his steed: he broke a hole in the ice near the bank, toward which the sagacious brute at once hurried, and was drawn forth. Having thus fortunately escaped a serious peril, he resumed his search on foot, and about midday pursued his journey.
A few hours brought him to the curious plain of the Mioure, where he expected to find the camp of his friend Sakalar. Leaving an almost desert plain, he suddenly stood on the edge of a hollow, circular in form and six miles across, fertile in the extreme, and dotted with numerous well-stocked fish-ponds. The whole, as may plainly be seen, was once a lake. Scattered over the soil were the yourtes of the Yakoutas, while cattle and horses crowded together in vast flocks. Ivan, who knew the place well, rode straight to a yourte or cabin apart from the rest, where usually dwelt Sakalar. It was larger and cleaner than most of them, thanks to the tuition of Ivan and the subsequent care of a daughter, who, brought up by Ivan's mother while the young man wandered, had acquired manners a little superior to those of her tribe.
This was really needful, for the Yakoutas, a pastoral people of Tartar origin, are singularly dirty, and even somewhat coarse and unintellectual—like all savage nations, in fact, when judged by any one but the poet or the poetic philosopher, who, on examination, will find that ignorance, poverty, misery, and want of civilization, produce similar results in the prairies of America and the wilds of Siberia, in an Irish cabin, and in the wynds and closes of our populous cities. But the chief defect of the Yakouta is dirt. Otherwise he is rather a favorable specimen of a savage. Since his assiduous connection with the Russians he has become even rich, having flocks and herds, and at home plenty of koumise to drink and horse's flesh to eat. He has great endurance, and can bear tremendous cold. He travels in the snow, with his saddle for a pillow, his horse-cloth for a bed, his cloak for a covering, and so sleeps. His power of fasting is prodigious, and his eyesight is so keen that a Yakouta one day told an eminent Russian traveler that he had seen a great blue star eat a number of little stars, and then cast them up. The man had seen the eclipses of Jupiter's satellites. Like the red Indian, he recollects every bush, every stone, every hillock, every pond necessary to find his way, and never loses himself, however great the distance he may have to travel.
His food is boiled beef and horse's flesh, cow's and mare's milk. But his chief delicacy is raw and melted fat, while quantity is always the chief merit of a repast. He mixes likewise a mess of fish, flour, milk, fat, and a kind of bark, the latter to augment the volume. Both men and women smoke inordinately, swallowing the vapor, as do many dwellers in civilized lands—a most pernicious and terrible habit. Brandy is their most precious drink, their own koumise having not sufficient strength to satisfy them. In summer they wander about in tents collecting hay, in winter they dwell in the yourte or hut, which is a wooden frame, of beehive shape, covered with grass, turf, and clay, with windows of clear ice. The very poor dig three feet below the soil; the rich have a wooden floor level with the adjacent ground, while rude benches all round serve as beds, divided one from the other by partitions. The fireplace is in the middle, inclining toward the door. A pipe carries away the smoke.
It was almost dark when Ivan halted before the yourte of Sakalar. It was at once larger and cleaner to the eye than any of those around. It had also numerous outhouses full of cows, and one or two men to tend these animals were smoking their pipes at the door. Ivan gave his horses to one of them, who knew him, and entered the hut. Sakalar, a tall, thin, hardy man of about fifty, was just about to commence his evening meal. A huge mass of boiled meat, stewed fish, and a sort of soup, were ready; and a young girl about eighteen, neatly dressed, clean, and pretty—all owing to her Yakoutsk education—was serving the hunter.
"Spirit of the woods protect me!" shrieked the girl, spilling half of the soup upon the floor.
"What wild horses have you seen, Kolina?" cried the hunter, who had been a little scalded; and then seeing Ivan, added, "A Yakouta welcome to you, my son! My old heart is glad, and I am warm enough to melt an iceberg at the sight of you, Ivan. Kolina, quick! another platter, a fresh mug, the best bottle of brandy, and my red pipe from Moscow!"
No need was there for the hunter to speak. Kolina, alert as a reindeer, had sprung up from the low bench, and quickly brought forth all their holiday ware, and even began to prepare a cake, such as Ivan himself had taught her to make, knowing that be liked some sort of bread with his meals.
"And where are you going?" cried Sakalar when the young man had somewhat appeased his hunger.
"To the North Sea, in search of the great ivory mine!" said Ivan, abruptly.
Kolina started back in terror and surprise, while Sakalar fixed his keen eye on the youth with sorrow and curiosity, and almost unequivocally, testified his belief that his favorite pupil in the chase was mad. But Ivan rose and bade the serving-man of the rich Yacouta bring in his boxes, and opened up his store of treasures. There was tea for Kolina; and for Sakalar, rum, brandy, powder, guns, tobacco, knives—all that could tempt a Yakouta. The father and daughter examined them with pleasure for some time, but presently Kolina shook her head.
"Ivan," said Sakalar, "all this is to tempt the poor Yakouta to cross the wilderness of ice. It is much riches, but not enough to make Sakalar mad. The mine is guarded by evil beings. But speak, lad, why would you go there?"
"Let Kolina give me a pipe and I will tell my story," said Ivan; and filling his glass, the young fur-trader told the story of his love, and his bargain with the prudent widow.
"And this cold-hearted woman," exclaimed Kolina with emotion, "has sent you to risk life on the horrible Frozen Sea. A Yakouta girl would have been less selfish. She would have said, 'Stay at home—let me have Ivan: the mammoth teeth may lie forever on the Frozen Sea!'"
"But the lad will go, and he will be drowned like a dog," said Sakalar, more slowly, after this ebullition of feminine indignation.
"You must go with him, father," continued Kolina, with a compassionate look at Ivan; "and as your child cannot remain alone, Kolina will go too!"
"We will start when the horses have had five days' hay," said Sakalar gravely—the animals alluded to being only fed when about to go a journey—"and Kolina shall go too, for Ivan will be two years on his way."
Ivan listened in amazement: in the first place, at the sudden decision and warmth of his attached friends, with whom he had dwelt twelve years; then at the time required. He felt considerable doubts as to the widow remaining unmarried such a time; but the explanation of Sakalar satisfied him that it was impossible to perform the journey even in two years. The hunter told him that they must first join the tribes dwelling round Nijnei-Kolimsk (New-Kolimsk), where alone he could get dogs and sledges for his journey across the Frozen Sea. This, with the arrangements, would consume the winter. In the summer nothing could be done. When the winter returned he must start toward the north pole—a month's journey at least—and if he hit on the place, must encamp there for the rest of the winter. That summer would be spent in getting out the ivory, fattening up the dogs, and packing. The third winter would be occupied by the journey home. On hearing this, Ivan hesitated; but in describing the journey the spirit of the old hunter got roused, and before night he was warm in his desire to see over again the scenes of his youthful perils. Kolina solemnly declared she must be of the party; and thus these experienced savages, used to sudden and daring resolves, decided in one night on a journey which would perhaps have been talked of half a century elsewhere before it was undertaken.
Kolina slept little that night. In a compartment near her was one who had since childhood been the ideal of her future. She had loved Ivan as a playmate—she loved him as a man; and here, he whom she had longed for all the winter, and he whom she had hoped to see once more the next summer, had suddenly come, starting on a perilous journey of years, to win the hand of an avaricious, but young and beautiful widow. Kolina saw all her fairest dreams vanish, and the idol of her heart crumble into dust. And yet she felt no ill-will to Ivan, and never changed her resolve to be the faithful companion and attendant of her father and his friend in their wild journey to the supposed islands in the Frozen Sea.
The five days fixed by Sakalar for preparing for the journey were wholly devoted to the necessary arrangements. There was much to be done, and much to be talked of. They had to travel a long way before they reached even the real starting-point of their adventurous voyage. Sakalar, duly to impress Ivan with the dangers and perils of the search, narrated once more in minute detail all his former sufferings. But nothing daunted the young trader. He was one of those men, who, under more favorable circumstances, would have been a Cook, a Parry, or a Franklin, periling everything to make farther discovery in the science of geography.
The five horses of Ivan were exchanged for others more inured to the kind of journey they were about to undertake. There was one for each of the adventurers and four to carry the luggage, consisting chiefly of articles with which to pay for the hire of dogs and sledges. All were well armed, while the dress of all was the same—Kolina adopting for the time the habits and appearance of the man. Over their usual clothes they put a jacket of foxes' skins and a fur-breast cover; the legs being covered by hare-skin wrappers. Over these were stockings of soft reindeer leather, and high strong boots of the same material. The knees were protected by knee-caps of fur, and then, above all, was a coat with loose sleeves and hood of double deerskin. This was not all. After the chin, nose, ears, and mouth had been guarded by appropriate pieces, forming together a mask, they had received the additional weight of a pointed fur cap. Our three travelers when they took their departure looked precisely like three animated bundles of old clothes.
All were well armed with gun, pistol, hatchet, and hunting-knife, while the girdle further supported a pipe and tobacco-pouch. They had not explained whither they were going, but the whole village knew that they must be about to undertake some perilous journey, and accordingly turned out to cheer them as they went, while several ardent admirers of Kolina were loud in their murmurs at her accompanying the expedition. But the wanderers soon left the plain of Mioure behind them, and entered on the delectable roads leading to the Frozen Sea. Half-frozen marshes and quagmires met them at every step; but Sakalar rode first, and the others followed one by one, and the experienced old hunter, by advancing steadily without hurry, avoided these dangers. They soon reached a vast plain three hundred miles across, utterly deserted by the human race; a desert composed half of barren rock and half of swampy quagmire, soft above, but at a foot deep solid and perpetual ice. Fortunately, it was now frozen hard, and the surface was fit to bear the horses. But for this the party must have halted and waited for a severe frost. The rivers were not frozen when large in volume, and the Aldana had to be crossed in the usual flat-bottomed boat kept for travelers. At night they halted, and with a bush and some deer-skins made a tent. Kolina cooked the supper, and the men searched for some fields of stunted half-frozen grass to let the horses graze. This was the last place where even this kind of food would be found, and for some days their steeds would have to live on a stinted portion of hay.
On they went over the arid plain, which, however, affords nourishment for some trees, fording rivers, floundering through marshes, and still meeting some wretched apology for grass, when, on the third day, down came the snow in a pelting cloud, and the whole desert changed in an instant from somber gray to white. The real winter was come. Now all Sakalar's intelligence was required. Almost every obvious sign by which to find his way had disappeared, and he traversed the plain wholly guided by distant hills, and by observing the stars at night. This Sakalar did assiduously, and when he had once started under the guidance of the twinkling lights of the heavens, rarely was he many yards out at the next halt. He always chose the side of a hillock to camp, where there was a tree or two, and half-rotten trunks with bushes to make a huge fire.
It was nearly dawn on the fifth morning after entering the plain, and Ivan and Kolina yet slept. But Sakalar slept not. They had nearly reached the extremity of the horrible desert, but a new danger occupied the thoughts of the hunter. They were now in the track of the wild and savage Tchouktchas, and their fire might have betrayed them. Had Sakalar been alone, he would have slept in the snow without fire; for he knew the peril of an encounter with the independent Tchouktchas, who have only recently been nominally brought into subjection to Russia.
The heavy fall of snow of the two previous days rendered the danger greater. Sakalar sat gravely upon a fallen tree—a pipe in his mouth, and his eye fixed on the distant horizon. For some time nothing remarkable caught his gaze; but at last he saw a number of dark objects on the snow, galloping directly toward the camp. Sakalar at once recognized a number of reindeer. It was the Tchouktchas on their sledges, bounding with lightning speed along the frozen surface!
"Up!" cried the hunter. And when his companions were on their feet, "Quick with your guns! The enemy are on us! But show a bold front, and let them feel the weight of lead!"
Ivan and Kolina quietly took up their post, and awaited the orders of Sakalar. No time was lost, and fortunately, for the savages were already near, and were the next minute alighting from their sledges: hand in hand they advanced along the snow, with their long ice shoes, to the number of a dozen. A simultaneous discharge of the heavy-metalled guns of the camp—one of which, that of Sakalar, wounded the foremost man—checked their career, and they fell back to hold a conference. It became evident at once that they had no firearms, which removed almost all idea of danger. Ivan and Kolina now proceeded to load the horses, and when all was ready, the whole party mounted, and rode off, followed at a respectful distance by the Siberian Arabs.
The travelers, however, received no further annoyance from them, and camped the next night on the borders of the Toukyulane, at the foot of the mountains of Verkho-Yansk. After the usual repose, they began the severest part of the journey. Rugged rocks, deep ravines, avalanches, snow, and ice, all were in their way. Now they rode along the edge of frightful precipices, on a path so narrow, that one false step was death; now they forced their way through gulleys full of snow, where their horses were buried to their girths, and they had to drag them out by main force. Fortunately the Siberian horse, though small, is sturdy and indefatigable, living during a three months' journey on faded grass and half-rotten herbage. That evening they camped on the loftiest part of the road, where it winds through still elevated rocks.
The middle of the next day brought them to another plain not much superior to that they had passed through, but yet less miserable looking, and with the additional advantage of having yourtes here and there to shelter the traveler. The cold was now intense; and glad indeed was Ivan of the comforts of his Siberian dress, which had at first appeared so heavy. The odd figures which Kolina and Sakalar presented under it made him smile at the notion which Maria Vorotinska would have formed of her lover under a garb that doubled his natural volume. Several halts took place, and caused great delay, from the slippery state of the ice on the rivers. The unshod horses could not stand. A fire had to be lit; and when sufficient ashes were procured, it had to be spread across in a narrow pathway, and the nags led carefully along on this track—one of the many artifices required to combat the rigorous character of the climate. And thus, suffering cold and short commons, and making their way for days through frosty plains over ice and snow, amid deep ravines and over lofty hills, they at length reached Nijnei-Kolimsk, though not without being almost wholly knocked up, especially Kolina, who was totally unused to such fatigues.
They had now almost reached the borders of the great Frozen Sea. The village is situated about eighteen degrees farther north than London, and is nearly as far north as Boothia Felix, the scene of Captain Ross's four years' sojourn in the ice. It was founded two hundred years ago by a wandering Cossack; though what could have induced people to settle in a place which the sun lights, but never warms, is a mystery; where there is a day that lasts fifty-two English days, and a night that lasts thirty-eight; where there is no spring and no autumn, but a faint semblance of summer for three months, and then winter; where a few dwarf willows and stunted grass form all the vegetation; and where, at a certain distance below the surface, there is frost as old as the "current epoch" of the geologist. But by way of compensation, reindeer and elks, brown and black bears, foxes and squirrels, abound; there are also wolves, and the isatis or polar fox; there are swans, and geese, and ducks, partridges and snipes, and in the rivers abundance of fish. And yet, though the population be now so scanty, and the date of the peopling of Kolimsk is known, there was once a numerous race in these regions, the ruins of whose forts and villages are yet found. The population is about 5000, including the whole district, of whom about 300 are Russians, the descendants of Siberian exiles. They dwell in houses made of wood thrown up on the shore, and collected by years of patience, and of moss and clay. The panes of the windows in winter are of ice, six inches thick; in summer, of skins. The better class are neatly and even tastefully dressed, and are clean, which is the very highest praise that can be given to half-civilized as well as to civilized people.
They are a bold, energetic, and industrious race. Every hour of weather fit for out-door work is spent in fishing and hunting, and preparing food for the winter. In the light sledge, or on skates, with nets and spears, they labored at each of these employments in its season. Toward the end of the long winter, just as famine and starvation threaten the whole population, a perfect cloud of swans, and geese, and ducks, and snipes, pour in; and man and woman, boy and girl, all rush forth to the hunt. The fish come in next, as the ice breaks; and presently the time for the reindeer hunt comes round. Every minute of the summer season is consumed in laying in a stock of all these aliments for a long and dreary season, when nothing can be caught. The women collect herbs and roots. As the summer is just about to end, the herrings appear in shoals, and a new source of subsistence is opened up, Later still, they fish by opening holes in the newly-formed ice. Nor is Kolimsk without its trade. The chief traffic of the region is at the fair of Ostrovnoye, but Nijnei-Kolimsk has its share. The merchants who come to collect the furs which the adventurous Tchouktchas have acquired, even on the opposite side of Behring's Straits, from the North American Indians, halt here, and sell tea, tobacco, brandy, and other articles.
The long night had set in when Ivan and his companions entered Kolimsk. Well it was they had come, for the cold was becoming frightful in its intensity, and the people of the village were much surprised at the arrival of travelers. But they found ready accommodation, a Cossack widower giving them half his house.
* * * * *
[FROM DICKENS'S HOUSEHOLD WORDS.]
THE BELGIAN LACE-MAKERS.
The indefatigable, patient, invincible, inquisitive, sometimes tedious, but almost always amusing German traveler, Herr Kohl, has recently been pursuing his earnest investigations in Belgium. His book on the Netherlands has just been issued, and we shall translate, with abridgments, one of its most instructive and agreeable chapters;—that relating to Lace-making.
The practical acquaintance of our female readers with that elegant ornament, lace, is chiefly confined to wearing it, and their researches into its quality and price. A few minutes' attention to Mr. Kohl will enlighten them on other subjects connected with what is to them a most interesting topic, for lace is associated with recollections of mediaeval history, and with the palmy days of the Flemish school of painting. More than one of the celebrated masters of that school have selected, from among his laborious countrywomen, the lace-makers (or, as they are called in Flanders, Speldewerksters), pleasing subjects for the exercise of his pencil. The plump, fair-haired Flemish girl, bending earnestly over her lace-work, whilst her fingers nimbly ply the intricately winding bobbins, figure in many of those highly esteemed representations of homely life and manners which have found their way from the Netherlands into all the principal picture-galleries of Europe.
Our German friend makes it his practice, whether he is treating of the geology of the earth, or of the manufacture of Swedish bodkins, to begin at the very beginning. He therefore commences the history of lace-making, which, he says, is, like embroidery, an art of very ancient origin, lost, like a multitude of other origins, "in the darkness of by-gone ages." It may, with truth, be said that it is the national occupation of the women of the Low Countries, and one to which they have steadily adhered from very remote times. During the long civil and foreign wars waged by the people of the Netherlands, while subject to Spanish dominion, other branches of Belgic industry either dwindled to decay, or were transplanted to foreign countries; but lace-making remained faithful to the land which had fostered and brought it to perfection, though it received tempting offers from abroad, and had to struggle with many difficulties at home. This Mr. Kohl explains by the fact that lace-making is a branch of industry chiefly confined to female hands, and, as women are less disposed to travel than men, all arts and handicrafts exclusively pursued by women, have a local and enduring character.
Notwithstanding the overwhelming supply of imitations which modern ingenuity has created, real Brussels lace has maintained its value, like the precious metals and the precious stones. In the patterns of the best bone lace, the changeful influence of fashion is less marked than in most other branches of industry; indeed, she has adhered with wonderful pertinacity to the quaint old patterns of former times. These are copied and reproduced with that scrupulous uniformity which characterizes the figures in the Persian and Indian shawls. Frequent experiments have been tried to improve these old patterns, by the introduction of slight and tasteful modifications, but these innovations have not succeeded, and a very skillful and experienced lace-worker assured Mr. Kohl, that the antiquated designs, with all their formality, are preferred to those in which the most elegant changes have been effected.
Each of the lace-making towns of Belgium excels in the production of one particular description of lace: in other words, each has what is technically called its own point. The French word point, in the ordinary language of needlework, signifies stitch; but in the terminology of lace-making, the word is sometimes used to designate the pattern of the lace, and sometimes the ground of the lace itself. Hence the terms point de Bruxelles, point de Malines, point de Valenciennes, &c. In England we distinguish by the name Point, a peculiarly rich and curiously wrought lace formerly very fashionable, but now scarcely ever worn except in Court costume. In this sort of lace the pattern is, we believe, worked with the needle, after the ground has been made with the bobbins. In each town there prevail certain modes of working, and certain patterns which have been transmitted from mother to daughter successively, for several generations. Many of the lace-workers live and die in the same houses in which they were born, and most of them understand and practice only the stitches which their mothers and grandmothers worked before them. The consequence has been, that certain points have become unchangeably fixed in particular towns or districts. Fashion has assigned to each its particular place and purpose; for example:—the point de Malines (Mechlin lace) is used chiefly for trimming night-dresses, pillow-cases, coverlets, &c.; the point de Valenciennes (Valenciennes lace) is employed for ordinary wear or neglige; but the more rich and costly point de Bruxelles (Brussels lace) is reserved for bridal and ball dresses, and for the robes of queens and courtly ladies.
As the different sorts of lace, from the narrowest and plainest to the broadest and richest, are innumerable; so the division of labor among the lace-workers is infinite. In the towns of Belgium there are as many different kinds of lace-workers as there are varieties of spiders in Nature. It is not, therefore, surprising that in the several departments of this branch of industry there are as many technical terms and phrases as would make up a small dictionary. In their origin, these expressions were all Flemish; but French being the language now spoken in Belgium, they have been translated into French, and the designations applied to some of the principal classifications of the work-women. Those who make only the ground, are called Drocheleuses. The design or pattern, which adorns this ground, is distinguished by the general term "the Flowers;" though it would be difficult to guess what flowers are intended to be portrayed by the fantastic arabesque of these lace-patterns. In Brussels the ornaments or flowers are made separately, and afterward worked into the lace-ground; in other places the ground and the patterns are worked conjointly. The Platteuses are those who work the flowers separately; and the Faiseuses de point a l'aiguille work the figures and the ground together. The Striquese is the worker who attaches the flowers to the ground. The Faneuse works her figures by piercing holes or cutting out pieces of the ground.
The spinning of the fine thread used for lace-making in the Netherlands, is an operation demanding so high a degree of minute care and vigilant attention, that it is impossible it can ever be taken from human hands by machinery. None but Belgian fingers are skilled in this art. The very finest sort of this thread is made in Brussels, in damp underground cellars; for it is so extremely delicate, that it is liable to break by contact with the dry air above ground; and it is obtained in good condition only, when made and kept in a humid subterraneous atmosphere. There are numbers of old Belgian thread-makers who, like spiders, have passed the best part of their lives spinning in cellars. This sort of occupation naturally has an injurious effect on the health, and, therefore, to induce people to follow it, they are highly paid.
To form an accurate idea of this operation, it is necessary to see a Brabant Thread-spinner at her work. She carefully examines every thread, watching it closely as she draws it off the distaff; and that she may see it the more distinctly, a piece of dark blue paper is used as a background for the flax. Whenever the spinner notices the least unevenness, she stops the evolution of her wheel, breaks off the faulty piece of flax, and then resumes her spinning. This fine flax being as costly as gold, the pieces thus broken off are carefully laid aside to be used in other ways. All this could never be done by machinery. It is different in the spinning of cotton, silk, or wool, in which the original threads are almost all of uniform thickness. The invention of the English flax-spinning machine, therefore, can never supersede the work of the Belgian fine thread spinners, any more than the bobbinnet machine can rival the fingers of the Brussels lace-makers, or render their delicate work superfluous.
The prices current of the Brabant spinners usually include a list of various sorts of thread suited to lace-making, varying from 60 francs to 1800 francs per pound. Instances have occurred, in which as much as 10,000 francs have been paid for a pound of this fine yarn. So high a price has never been attained by the best spun silk; though a pound of silk, in its raw condition, is incomparably more valuable than a pound of flax. In like manner, a pound of iron may, by dint of human labor and ingenuity, be rendered more valuable than a pound of gold.
Lace-making, in regard to the health of the operatives, has one great advantage. It is a business which is carried on without the necessity of assembling great numbers of workpeople in one place, or taking women from their homes, and thereby breaking the bonds of family union. It is, moreover, an occupation which affords those employed in it a great degree of freedom. The spinning-wheel and lace-pillows are easily carried from place to place, and the work may be done with equal convenience in the house, in the garden, or at the street-door. In every Belgian town in which lace-making is the staple business, the eye of the traveler is continually greeted with pictures of happy industry attended by all its train of concomitant virtues. The costliness of the material employed in the work, viz., the fine flax thread, fosters the observance of order and economy, which, as well as habits of cleanliness, are firmly engrafted among the people. Much manual dexterity, quickness of eye, and judgment, are demanded in lace-making; and the work is a stimulator of ingenuity and taste; so that, unlike other occupations merely manual, it tends to rouse rather than to dull the mind. It is, moreover, unaccompanied by any unpleasant and harassing noise; for the humming of the spinning-wheel, and the regular tapping of the little bobbins, are sounds not in themselves disagreeable, or sufficiently loud to disturb conversation, or to interrupt the social song.
In Belgium, female industry presents itself under aspects alike interesting to the painter, the poet, and the philanthropist. Here and there may be seen a happy-looking girl, seated at an open window, turning her spinning-wheel or working at her lace-pillow, whilst at intervals she indulges in the relaxation of a curious gaze at the passers-by in the street. Another young Speldewerkster, more sentimentally disposed, will retire into the garden, seating herself in an umbrageous arbor, or under a spreading tree, her eyes intent on her work, but her thoughts apparently divided between it and some object nearer to her heart. At a doorway sits a young mother, surrounded by two or three children playing round the little table or wooden settle on which her lace-pillow rests. Whilst the mother's busy fingers are thus profitably employed, her eyes keep watch over the movements of her little ones, and she can at the same time spare an attentive thought for some one of her humble household duties.
Dressmakers, milliners, and other females employed in the various occupations which minister to the exigencies of fashion, are confined to close rooms, surrounded by masses of silk, muslin, &c. They are debarred the healthful practice of working in the open air, and can scarcely venture even to sit at an open window, because a drop of rain or a puff of wind may be fatal to their work and its materials. The lace-maker, on the contrary, whose work requires only her thread and her fingers, is not disturbed by a refreshing breeze or a light shower; and even when the weather is not particularly fine, she prefers sitting at her street-door or in her garden, where she enjoys a brighter light than within doors.
In most of the principal towns of the Netherlands there is one particular locality which is the focus of lace-making industry; and there, in fine weather, the streets are animated by the presence of the busy work-women. In each of these districts there is usually one wide open street which the Speldewerkers prefer to all others, and in which they assemble and form themselves into the most picturesque groups imaginable. It is curious to observe them, pouring out of narrow lanes and alleys, carrying with them their chairs and lace-pillows, to take their places in the wide open street, where they can enjoy more of bright light and fresh air than in their own places of abode.
"I could not help contrasting," says Kohl, "the pleasing aspect of these streets with the close and noisy workrooms in woolen and cotton manufactories. There the workpeople are all separated and classified according to age and sex, and marshaled like soldiers. Their domestic and family ties are rudely broken. There chance or exigency separates the young factory girl from her favorite companions, and dooms her to association with strangers. There social conversation and the merry song are drowned in that stunning din of machinery, which in the end paralyzes even the power of thought."
Our German friend is a little hard upon factory life. Though not so picturesque, it does not, if candidly viewed, offer so very unfavorable a contrast to that passed by the Belgian Lace Workers.
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[FROM BENTLEY'S MISCELLANY.]
THE TOMB OF LADY BLESSINGTON.
BY MRS. ROMER.
"[Greek: Eudeis all ou seio lelasmenoi esmen]!" "Thou sleepest, but we do not forget thee!"
It is too much the way of the world in this our civilized Europe to neglect the receptacles of the dead. Those loved ones even, whose dwellings, while living, were thronged by admiring friends, are deserted when laid in their last narrow home. The breath once gone,—the last sad offices performed,—the funeral pomp over,—and the sepulchre closed,—all the requisites of affection and respect appear to have been fulfilled, and the spot that holds the dust once so doted upon, is forever abandoned! Witness the damp graves overgrown with rank nettles and thorns, the degraded tombstones, the illegible moss-covered epitaphs of our church-yards! Witness the dreary oblivion of our over-crowded vaults, where the eye of affection has never shed a tear, the hand of friendship never scattered a flower over the mouldering relics they inclose! It is not that the dead are forgotten—it is not that their memory has ceased to be dear and sacred to their friends—but it is that the gay and the worldly-minded shrink from the dark images called forth by the aspect of the grave; they recoil from the idea of familiarizing themselves with the inevitable spot where they must one day lie in "cold obstruction's apathy;" they deem it fond folly to nourish grief by keeping before their eyes that which perpetually reminds them of the loss they have sustained, and thus they fly from the dwellings of the dead, and abandon what was once dearest to them to darkness and the worm.
A tenderer and more reverent spirit prevails in the East. There the Cities of the Dead are the constant resort of the living. The tombs of friends and kindred are as carefully tended, as regularly visited as their habitations were while yet they were dwellers upon earth. The grave of a departed relative is a spot consecrated to sweet and solemn recollections, where the followers of Mohammed love to meditate and to pray. In the mausoleum of the Viceroys of Egypt carpets and cushions are spread around the various tombs it contains, and once in every week the wives and daughters of the dead repair thither and pass the greater part of the day in contemplation and self-communion. In the public cemeteries alms are distributed at the graves of the pious: even the winged wanderers of the air find refreshment there, for on each sepulchral stone a small receptacle is hollowed out to collect the dews of heaven, where the birds, as they flutter past, may slake their thirst. On each succeeding Sabbath fresh green branches adorn the headstones, and vailed mourners, seated by them, keep silent watch, in the fond belief that the lifeless occupant of the tomb is conscious of their presence there.
The loftier, purer character of our faith leads us to reject such fancies as gross superstitions; and yet there is something touching in them! We treasure a lock of hair—a glove—a ribbon—a flower, once worn by an absent loved one; why should we not more tenderly treasure the dust that has once been ennobled by enshrining the immortal spirit of a departed friend, or deem it weakness to watch over these mouldering relics as fondly as though they were still conscious of our care? And surely if the enfranchised spirit is permitted to be cognisant of that which passes upon earth—if, from those blessed abodes whither it has winged its course, a care can be bestowed upon the earthly coil it has thrown off, or upon the creatures of clay who still toil and grovel here below, may we not suppose that it contemplates with pitying complacency the clinging tenderness which binds the hearts of the living to the ashes of the dead, the desperate affection with which we look our last upon the lifeless form which never more can respond to all our love and all our sorrow, and the fond fidelity which leads us to hover round the tomb that has forever shut it from our view?
I love to think that such may be the case; nor can I separate the idea, weak and idle though it may be, that the souls of the departed mourn over the neglect and abandonment of their earthly remains, as the first step toward forgetfulness of their memory. To me, the grave of a friend possesses an attraction, which, although tinged with deepest sadness, is wholly distinct from the horror with which the imagination so often invests it. My heart yearns to look upon the last resting-place of those I have loved.
I would shelter those sacred spots from the beating rain, screen them from the wintry winds, plant around them the flowers that were once preferred by their unconscious tenants, and inscribe over the entrance of every cemetery the beautiful line of Koerner's
"Vergiss die treuen Todten nicht!" "Forget not the faithful dead!"
It was in this spirit that, one day during my recent visit to Paris, I escaped from the busy idleness of that gay and ever-bustling city, to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of one whose surpassing qualities of mind, and heart, and person, had endeared her to all who knew her—whose brilliant career had been closed with awful suddenness—and whose lamented death has left a void in the circle over which she presided with such graceful urbanity, which no other can hope to fill. By a strange coincidence, it was precisely on that day, the year before, that she had paid me her farewell visit in London; little did either of us then foresee how and where that visit would be returned by me! The regret of parting was then softened by our mutual conviction that many meetings were in store for us in the new home she had chosen for herself in a foreign land. Alas! before many weeks had elapsed she was suddenly summoned to her eternal home! In the midst of health, and hope, and enjoyment, Death insidiously laid his icy grasp upon her; but so gently was the blow dealt, that neither sigh nor struggle marked her passage from life to immortality; and before her stunned friends could bring themselves to believe that her warm heart had indeed grown cold, the vaults of the Madeleine had received all that was left on earth of the once beautiful and gifted Marguerite Blessington.
But not to remain there. A tomb was constructed for her, far from the crowded cemeteries of the capital, in a spot which she herself would have selected, could her wishes have been consulted. On the confines of the quiet village of Chambourey, a league beyond St. Germain-en-Laye, a green eminence, crowned with luxuriant chestnut-trees, divides the village church-yard from the grounds of the Duke de Gramont. On that breezy height, overlooking the magnificent plain that stretches between St. Germain and Paris, a mausoleum has been erected worthy of containing the mortal remains of her whom genius and talent had delighted to honor—
"Whom Lawrence painted and whom Byron sung!"
A pyramid composed of large blocks of white stone, and similar in form to the ancient monuments of Egypt, rises from a platform of solid black granite, which has been completely isolated from the surrounding surface by a deep dry moat, whose precipitous slopes are clothed with softest greenest turf. A bronze railing incloses the whole, within which has been planted a broad belt of beautiful evergreens and flowering shrubs; and beyond these the lofty chestnut trees "wave in tender gloom," and form a leafy canopy to shelter that lonely tomb from the winds of heaven. Solid, simple, and severe, it combines every requisite in harmony with its solemn destination; no meretricious ornaments, no false sentiment, mar the purity of its design. The genius which devised it has succeeded in cheating the tomb of its horrors, without depriving it of its imposing gravity. The simple portal is surmounted by a plain massive cross of stone, and a door, secured by an open work of bronze, leads into a sepulchral chamber, the key of which had been confided to me.
All within breathes the holy calm of eternal repose; no gloom, no mouldering damp, nothing to recall the dreadful images of decay. An atmosphere of peace appears to pervade the place, and I could almost fancy that a voice from the tomb whispered, in the words of Dante's Beatrice—
"Io sono in pace!"
The light of the sun, streaming through a glazed aperture above the door, fell like a ray of heavenly hope upon the symbol of man's redemption—a beautiful copy, in bronze, of Michael Angelo's crucified Savior—which is affixed to the wall facing the entrance. A simple stone sarcophagus is placed on either side of the chamber, each one surmounted by two white marble tablets, incrusted in the sloping walls. That to the left incloses the coffin of Lady Blessington—that to the right is still untenanted; long may it remain so!
The affection she most valued, the genius and talent she most admired, have contributed to do honor to the memory of that gifted woman. Her sepulchre is the creation of Alfred d'Orsay, her epitaphs are the composition of Barry Cornwall and Walter Savage Landor. Upon the two tablets placed over her tomb, are inscribed the following tributary lines:—
"In Memory of Marguerite Countess of Blessington, who died on the 4th of June, 1849. In her lifetime she was loved and admired for her many graceful writings, her gentle manners, her kind and generous heart. Men famous for art and science, in distant lands, sought her friendship; and the historians and scholars, the poets, and wits, and painters of her own country, found an unfailing welcome in her ever hospitable home. She gave cheerfully, to all who were in need, help and sympathy, and useful counsel; and she died lamented by many friends. They who loved her best in life, and now lament her most, have reared this tributary marble over her place of rest. BARRY CORNWALL."
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"Infra sepultum est Id omne quod sepeliri potest, Mulieris quondam pulcherrimae. Ingenium suum summo studio coluit, Aliorum pari adjuvit. Benefacta sua celare novit, ingenium non ita. Erga omnes erat larga bonitate, Peregrinis eleganter hospitalis. Venit Lutetiam Parisiorum Aprili mense, Quarto Junii die supremum suum obiit."
"WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR."
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Her last resting-place will not be neglected. The eye of faithful affection watches over it as vigilantly as though the dust that sleeps within were conscious of his care. But lately a sentiment of exquisite tenderness suggested the addition of its most touching and appropriate embellishment. A gentleman in the County Tipperary had been commissioned to send over to Chambourcy a root of ivy from Lady Blessington's birthplace to plant near her grave. He succeeded in obtaining an off-shoot from the parent stem that grows over the house in which she was born. It has been transplanted to the foot of the railing that surrounds her monument—it has taken root and spread—and thus the same ivy that sheltered her cradle will overshadow her tomb!
[Footnote 4: The Egyptian Mahommedans believe that for some time after death the body is conscious of its actual state, and of what is passing immediately around it. In this persuasion, mothers will remain days and nights near the graves of their recently buried children, in order that they may not feel terrified at being left alone.]
[Footnote 5: R. Bernal Osborne, Esq., M.P.]
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A British Meteorological Society is projected, with Mr. Whitbread as President. Its objects will be the observation and collection of all meteorological phenomena, and the encouragement of the science in every branch. This sort of subdivision of literary and philosophical pursuits is very injurious, for it tends to starve a number instead of supporting one with sufficient resources.
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GOLDEN RULES OF LIFE.—All the air and the exercise in the universe, and the most generous and liberal table, but poorly suffice to maintain human stamina if we neglect other co-operatives—namely the obedience to the laws of abstinence, and those of ordinary gratification. We rise with a headache, and we set about puzzling ourselves to know the cause. We then recollect that we had a hard day's fag, or that we feasted over-bounteously, or that we stayed up very late: at all events we incline to find out the fault, and then we call ourselves fools for falling into it. Now, this is an occurrence happening almost every day; and these are the points that run away with the best portion of our life, before we find out what is for good or evil. Let any single individual review his past life: how instantaneously the blush will cover his cheek, when he thinks of the egregious errors he has unknowingly committed—say unknowingly, because it never occurred to him that they were errors until the effects followed that betrayed the cause. All our sickness and ailments, and a brief life, mainly depend upon ourselves. There are thousands who practice errors day after day, and whose pervading thought is, that everything which is agreeable and pleasing cannot be hurtful. The slothful man loves his bed; the toper his drink, because it throws him into an exhilarative and exquisite mood; the gourmand makes his stomach his god; and the sensualist thinks his delights imperishable. So we go on, and at last we stumble and break down. We then begin to reflect, and the truth stares us in the face how much we are to blame.
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PROGRESS OF MILTON'S BLINDNESS.—It is now, I think, about ten years (1654) since I perceived my vision to grow weak and dull; and, at the same time I was troubled with pain in my kidneys and bowels, accompanied with flatulency. In the morning, as I began to read, as was my custom, my eyes instantly ached intensely, but were refreshed after a little corporeal exercise. The candle which I looked at seemed as if it were encircled by a rainbow. Not long after the sight of the left part of the left eye (which I lost some years before the other) became quite obscured, and prevented me from discerning any object on that side. The sight in my other eye has now been gradually and sensibly vanishing away for about three years; some months before it had entirely perished, though I stood motionless, every thing which I looked at seemed in motion to and fro. A stiff cloudy vapor seemed to have settled on my forehead and temples, which usually occasions a sort of somnolent pressure upon my eyes, and particularly from dinner till evening. So that I often recollect what is said of the poet Phineas in the Argonautics:
"A stupor deep his cloudy temples bound, And when he waked he seemed as whirling round, Or in a feeble trance he speechless lay."
I ought not to omit that, while I had any sight left, as soon as I lay down on my bed, and turned on either side, a flood of light used to gush from my closed eyelids. Then, as my sight became daily more impaired, the colors became more faint, and were emitted with a certain crackling sound; but at present every species of illumination being, as it were, extinguished, there is diffused around me nothing but darkness, or darkness mingled and streaked with an ashy brown. Yet the darkness in which I am perpetually immersed seems always, both by night and day, to approach nearer to a white than black; and when the eye is rolling in its socket, it admits a little particle of light as through a chink. And though your physician may kindle a small ray of hope, yet I make up my mind to the malady as quite incurable; and I often reflect, that as the wise man admonishes, days of darkness are destined to each of us. The darkness which I experience, less oppressive than that of the tomb, is owing to the singular goodness of the Deity, passed amid the pursuits of literature and the cheering salutations of friendship. But if, as it is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God, why may not any one acquiesce in the privation of his sight, when God has so amply furnished his mind and his conscience with eyes?—Milton's Prose Works.