Still, she never thought of raising our pay, and as I improved, and felt myself quite mistress of my trade, I began to work over hours, at one or two houses where La Mamma had patrons, and in that way I got on very quickly. It was a proud day for me, signora, when I first began to give La Mamma something toward the housekeeping. I wanted to give her two-thirds of all I earned, but she would not let me. When I began to earn a franc and a half a day, she accepted half a franc, but she made me put away the franc for my dote. La Mamma always walked with me to the houses where I went to work, and in the evening either came for me herself or sent Marc Antonio. And she bade me be very careful and watchful and keep myself to myself. Often I thought her severe and suspicious, but now I thank God for the mother he gave us. We owe all the happiness of our lives to her.
I had been working for myself, as I have said, for more than five years. I had plenty of patrons, and was well thought of. Plain as I am, signora, I had not wanted for opportunities to go wrong; but, thank God, I never did. Once, too, I had thought of being married, but, happily for me, I found out in time that I had set my love on a bad man, so I broke off my engagement, and put the thought of marriage away from me. Fausta had been married a long time, and so had Marc Antonio. Flavia said that she never would leave La Mamma, and I thought that I would do the same. But it was not to be. One morning La Mamma, who had been sitting up with a sick baby at the Albergo della Stella, came home and told me that I was born to good fortune,—that Signorina Teodora, the landlord's daughter, was going to be married, and that I was wanted to work at the trousseau. It was all to be made at home, and the signorina engaged me for three months. It was the first time that I had ever gone to an hotel to work; and La Mamma gave me a great many counsels about my behavior. Signorina Teodora was very kind, and the work was just exactly what I liked to do. I used to sew in the guarda-roba (linen-room), where the linen-keeper, a very respectable woman, was busy all day, mending and arranging the linen. That was all well enough, but at meal-times I was very uncomfortable. I used to go down to the servants' dining-room, and there the talk, and the manners too, were coarse and rude. I did not like to complain, but my position was a very hard one. I had taught the men to keep their distance, and they did so, but they were cross and disagreeable to me, and nicknamed me "La Superba" (the proud one). The women-servants all said that I gave myself airs, and if they could do anything to annoy me they did. At last I proposed to Signorina Teodora that I should be allowed to take my meals in the guarda-roba, so that I might be nearer my work. But she said no, that would not do, but that I might have them in a little room next the padrone's dining-room, and that she would say that this was because I was wanted for trying on her dresses just at the time that the servants' dinner was served. The first time I went down to dinner alone I felt very much frightened; but my dinner was put on the table very nicely, and one of the men-servants, whom I had never spoken to before, waited on me. He did so just as politely as if I had been a lady, but he was very quiet. The next day he began to talk a little, and told me about his mother (who was dead), and about his childhood, and the customs of the Abruzzi, because he came from that part of Italy. We used to talk together so, day after day, while he waited on me, and we became very good friends. At last, when the time of my engagement was nearly run out, Luigi—that was the waiter's name—became very silent, but he served my dinner as nicely and carefully as ever. I was a little afraid that I had offended him, because every evening he used to say, as I rose from the table, "Are you coming back to-morrow?" And every time I said yes, he would answer, "Well, then, I can say what I have to say to-morrow," At last one night, when he said as usual, "Are you coming back to-morrow, sarta [dressmaker]?" I answered no,—that my work was over. "Well, then," says Luigi, "I must find courage to tell you to-night, sarta, that I love you, and I want you to be my wife!"
I sat still a moment, quite thunder-struck, and then I jumped up and ran out of the room. "I can say not a word," I said, as I passed him, "You know you ought to have spoken to La Mamma first."
"If that's all," says he, following me to the foot of the stairs, "I can speak to La Mamma to-morrow night."
"And then I may say no," I called out as I ran up-stairs.
Well, the next night he came to see La Mamma, and brought his uncle with him. This uncle was a very decent man, who had been gardener for thirty years in Count Gemiani's family. He was the only relation Luigi had in the world, and he gave him an excellent character. But I would not say a word. I told Luigi I could not tell whether I liked him or not until I saw him in borghese [i.e., dressed in ordinary clothes], because you know, signora, I had only seen him dressed in black, with a white cravat. Well, he was very patient, and, as soon as he was at liberty, he came again, dressed in borghese, and then he pleased me, and I made up my mind to have him.
But then came another trouble. The match was not well looked upon by La Mamma and my brother and sisters, because Luigi was a person in service, and that had never happened in our family before. Babbo, as I have said, was a carrier; Mamma, a silk-weaver; Marc Antonio had married a cucitrice di bianco [shirt-maker]; Fausta, a candle-maker,—but, to be sure, her marriage did not matter, because her husband was a bad man. However, I was obstinate, and La Mamma liked Luigi in her heart, and so at last we were engaged. He used to come and see me two evenings in the week. Sometimes La Mamma sat with us, and sometimes Flavia. When it was Flavia's turn Luigi used to laugh and say the sentinel was changed. We had to keep our engagement very quiet, because you know that the men-servants at Italian hotels are not allowed to marry, and, though most of them are in reality married men, they always pretend to be bachelors. Gradually we made our preparations. Luigi had nearly eight hundred francs saved, and I had about four hundred. We spent about three hundred in getting our furniture and linen and so on, and Luigi took an apartment in the Borgo Santo Jacopo. I chose the house because it is directly opposite the Albergo della Stella, and I knew that I should feel happier if I could look across the river to the hotel lights and think that my Luigi was there. We were married on the morning of the 30th of August, and when we had been promessi sposi for six months. The religious marriage was just after the early mass [five o'clock], and we all walked over together to the church. I felt quite calm,—not frightened at all; but when, four hours later, we had to go over to the Palazzo Vecchio for the civil marriage, I was all tears and trembling. However, that passed, like other things. We had quite a fine wedding breakfast. Marc Antonio had brought a friend of his, a nice, quiet man, who was a very good cook. He was out of place just then, and he had offered to cook for us if we would give him his breakfast. We had a mixed fry, and macaroni, and ravaioli, and a melon, one course after another, just like signori. Everybody had a good appetite, except Luigi and me, and La Mamma said that it did her soul good to hear the sound of frying in the house. Poverina! she did not often hear it. Well, after breakfast we all took a walk in the country, and when we came home again Flavia began to prepare supper, but Luigi said no, we must go home, that our supper was waiting for us there. So I put my bonnet on, and then, when we were ready to say good-by, every one burst into tears,—La Mamma, and Flavia, and Fausta, and Marc Antonio and his wife, and I, and even Luigi, though he said afterward he was sure he did not know why. And how we all embraced! The signora would have thought that we were going over the sea, instead of just across the Ponte Vecchio. At last we went away arm in arm, and when we got to our own home there I found that Luigi had arranged the table so nicely, just as he used to do at the albergo, and had put a bunch of flowers in the centre. So we sat down to supper, and pretended to be signori just for that one evening.
The next day, being Sunday, we all went to high mass at the Duomo, and I wore my new wedding-gown of black cashmere. In the afternoon we went out to Certosa; and that was the end of my wedding-journey, for the next morning Luigi had to go back to his work at the albergo, and I had to take up my sewing again. It seemed so strange to be sitting down to work in my own house, and to look across the Arno at the great albergo and think that I had a husband there. Luigi could not come home as often as he longed to do, because he had but two free nights in the week. And he dared scarcely look out of the window, for fear some one should suspect that he was married, and then he would have lost his place. However, everything went well. We have been married eight years now, and, what with Luigi's fifty francs a month, and the incerti [pour-boires] and my work, we do pretty well. Luigi, thank God, is a good man, faithful and true and kind. I have never heard an angry word from him yet. And then he has no faults,—he does not smoke, or drink wine, or gamble; and regularly every month he brings me all his money to take care of. He is such a good son to La Mamma, too. He would never take a mouthful of food until he had helped her; and if a famine came to Florence, and there was but a piece of bread between Luigi and La Mamma, he would make her eat it, I know. Si, signora, we all live together now; La Mamma takes care of our little boy, and Flavia is head-woman in Madama Castagna's workroom, while I go out by the day, as I always did. It is a little harder for us this winter than usual, because there are so few forestieri. It really seemed as if the alberghi would never open. Luigi said that every evening there would be a crowd of people—waiters, and facchini, and so on—waiting at the door of the albergo and begging for work. And the padrone [landlord] used to say, "Find me the forestieri, and I'll find you the work." My Luigi is such a good servant that the padrone keeps him employed all the year round; but he felt very anxious this winter when he saw how few forestieri there were, and tried to save in every possible way. But, thank God, he never grudges La Mamma anything, and she often says that these are her happiest days. She still works at knitting stockings, and braiding straw, and such light work; and she takes our baby boy out to walk twice a day, and every day at noon, rain or shine, she goes to mass. Many a quiet hour she has now in church to pray for Babbo, whom she never forgets, and for all of us. Then when we all come home from our work we have such pleasant evenings. I tell about the fine gowns I make for my ladies, and Luigi has so many stories about the grand forestieri and all their strange caprices, and then Marc Antonio and his wife come in, and he tells us about the ladies and gentlemen he drives out in his vettura, and she describes the fine linen she makes for her ladies. Well, if signori live for nothing else, they give us a great deal of pleasure.
Si, signora, we still live in the same apartment in the Borgo Santo Jacopo, on the south side of the Arno. I would not go away, because when my husband is at the albergo I can look across the river and think that he is there. Very often when I sit up late at my work, and all the rest are asleep and Luigi at the albergo, I look over the river, and the lights at the "Stella" seem to keep me company. Luigi, too, watches my light. I always sit by my window and keep my lamp there, so that he may know how late I work. Well, here is the signora's gown quite finished, and the end of my poor story. So good-night, signora, and may the good Lord send the signora a happy New Year!
MARIE L. THOMPSON.
[B] This true history—a picture, in its general features, of thousands of lives—is given, as nearly as possible, exactly as it fell from the lips of the narrator.
OUR MONTHLY GOSSIP.
Tourgeneff's Idea of Bazaroff.
A volume containing several hundred of Tourgeneff's letters was published last winter in St. Petersburg by the "Society for Assisting Impecunious Authors and Scholars." It is to be followed by a second, and the proceeds are to be devoted to the foundation of a "Tourgeneff Memorial Fund." The whole collection will, we may hope, be translated into English. The following extracts relate chiefly to the character which is considered by many readers his finest creation, but which, as is well known, made him for a time very unpopular in Russia:
BOUGIVAL, August 18, 1871.
DEAR A. P.,—Although you do not ask me for a reply, and do not seem to wish for one, yet the confidence which you have reposed in me and the feeling of sympathy and respect which you have awakened in me make it my duty to say a few words to you about your letter.... What? You say, too, that I meant to caricature the youth of Russia in Bazaroff? you repeat this—pardon the frankness of the expression—nonsensical accusation? Bazaroff,—this is my favorite child, for whose sake I quarrelled with Katkoff, upon whom I used all the color at my command. Bazaroff, this fine mind, this hero, a caricature? But it seems that there is nothing to be done in the case. Just as people accuse Louis Blanc to this day, in spite of all his protestations, of having introduced the national workshops, they attribute to me a wish to represent our youth as a caricature. I have long regarded the slander with contempt: I did not expect the feeling to be renewed on reading your letter.
Now to turn to your "elderly lady,"—that is, to current criticism, to the public. Like every elderly person, she holds fast to preconceived ideas, however preposterous they may be. For example, she is perpetually asserting that since my "Annals of a Sportsman" my works are weak, because, having lived abroad, I cannot know Russia. But this accusation can touch only what I have written since 1863; for until then—i.e., until my forty-fifth year—I lived almost uninterruptedly in Russia, except in 1848-49, when I wrote the "Annals of a Sportsman," while "Roudine," "A Nest of Nobles," "Ellen," and "Fathers and Sons" were written in Russia. But all that means nothing to the "elderly person:" son siege est fait.
The second weakness of the elderly one is that she persistently follows the fashion. At present the fashion in literature is politics. Everything non-political is for her rubbish and nonsense.
It is somewhat inconvenient to defend one's own works; but—fancy it!—I cannot even admit that "Stuk-Stuk" is nonsense. "What is it, then?" you will ask. It is this: it is a study of the Russian suicide epidemic, which rarely presents anything poetic or pathetic, but almost always results, on the contrary, from ambition, narrowness, with a mixture of mysticism or fatalism. You will object that my study is not successful. Possibly not; but I wished to point you to the right and fitness of investigating purely psychological (non-political and non-social) questions.
The elderly person reproaches me further with having no convictions. As an answer to that, my thirty years of literary activity will suffice. For no line which I have written have I had cause to blush, none have I had occasion to repudiate. Let another say this of himself. However, let the elderly person babble. I have not heeded her hitherto: I shall not begin now.
I do not know whether I shall write my novel; and I know in advance that it will have many defects.... But, permit me, dear A. P., why do not the oncoming young people take this task upon themselves? The old ones would gladly yield them place and honor, and would be the first to rejoice at the accession of new forces. But in the literary arena there figure the contributors to the "Djelo"[C] such as H.
You see, dear A. P., that you are not alone in being able to speak the whole truth, regardless of consequences. I hope you too will not be angry because of it, and will at least take notice of what I am saying.
I am still suffering from gout,—have reached Bougival, but still go about upon crutches, and shall hardly reach Paris within a month. You may be sure that I shall return the portfolio safely.
BOUGIVAL, September 11, 1874.
Your letter is so sweet and friendly, dear A. P., that I shall not delay answering it. You began with Bazaroff; I will begin with him too. You look for him in real life, and you do not find him. I will tell you why, at once. The times are changed; Bazaroffs are not needed now. For the social activity that is before us neither extraordinary talent nor even extraordinary mental power is needed; nothing great, distinguished, very individual. Industry and patience are required. Men and women must be ready to sacrifice themselves without fame or glory, must be able to conquer, having no fear of petty, obscure, necessary, elementary work. What, for instance, can be more necessary or elementary than teaching the peasant to read and write, helping him to get hospitals, etc.? Of what use are talents, even learning, for such work? One needs only a heart that can sacrifice its own egotism. You cannot even speak of a profession in the case (much less of our friend Blank's star). A sense of duty, the magnificent feeling of patriotism in the true sense of the word,—that is all that is needed. Bazaroff was the type of "one sent with a message," a great figure, gifted with a definite charm, not without a certain aureole. All that is not needed now, and it is ridiculous to speak of heroes and artists of work. Brilliant figures in literature will probably not appear. Those who plunge into politics will only destroy themselves in vain. This is all true; but many cannot reconcile themselves at first to the fact, to the uncongenial milieu, to this modest resolve, especially such responsive and enthusiastic women as yourself. They may say what they please, they want to be charmed, carried away. You yourself say that you wish to bow in reverence; but before useful people one does not bow in reverence. We are entering an era of merely useful people; and these will be the best. Of these there will probably be many, of beautiful, charming workers very few. And in the very search for a Bazaroff—a living one—is perhaps unconsciously betrayed the thirst for beauty, naturally of a single peculiar type. All these illusions one must get rid of.
I should not have reproached your acquaintances with a want of talent if they had not made pretensions. If they were plodding workers, they would leave nothing to be desired; but when they loom up and claim admiration, one cannot pass on without reminding them that they have no right to our admiration.
Ah, A. P.! we shall see no typical characters, none of those new creations of whom people talk so much. The life of the people is undergoing a process of development and—throughout the whole mass—of decomposition and recomposition: it needs helpers, not leaders, and only at the end of this period will important, original figures appear. I have just said that you will not see them. You are still young. You will live to see the day: as for me, that is another thing.
For the present, let us learn our A, B, C, and teach others, do good gradually, in which you are already making progress. The letter from your son, which I herewith return, is warm and good. May he, too, enter the ranks of the useful workers and servants of the people, as we once had servants of the Czar!
PARIS, January 3, 1876.
TO M. E. SALTIKOFF:[D]—I received your letter yesterday, dear Michael Jefgrafowitch, and, as you see, I do not delay the answer. Your letter is by no means "dull and blunt," as you say. On the contrary, it is very good and sensible. It gave me pleasure. There hovers about it some power and better health, in sharp contrast with its immediate predecessor, which was an extremely gloomy production. Besides, I am by no means cheerful myself at present: this is the third day in bed with gout.
Now a line or two as to "Fathers and Sons," seeing that you have mentioned the subject. Do you really believe that all that you reproach me with never entered my own mind? For this reason I wish not to vanish from the scene before I finish my comprehensive novel, which I think will clear up many misunderstandings and place me where and as I belong. However, I do not wonder that Bazaroff has remained a riddle for many persons: I cannot understand clearly how I conceived him. There was—do not laugh—something more powerful than the author himself, something independent of him. I know only this,—there was no preconceived idea in me then, no "novel with a purpose" in my thought: I wrote naively, as if I myself wondered at what came of it....
Tell me, on your conscience, whether comparison with Bazaroff could be an affront to any one. Don't you perceive yourself that he is the most congenial of all my characters? "A certain fine perfume" is an invention of the reader's; but I am prepared to admit (and have already admitted in print in my "Recollections") that I had no right to give our reactionary mob an opportunity to make of a nickname a name. The author ought to have sacrificed himself to the citizen; and I therefore recognize as justified the estrangement of our youth from me, and all possible reproaches. The question of the time was more important than artistic truth, and I ought to have known this in advance.
I have only to say once more, wait for my novel, and, until then, do not be indignant that, in order not to grow unaccustomed to the pen, I write slight insignificant things. Who knows?—perhaps it may yet be given to me to fire the hearts of men.
An entertaining writer in the sense of G——wa I shall never be. I would rather be a stupid writer.
I greet you and press your hand most cordially.
IVAN SERGEWITCH TOURGENEFF.
Old Songs and Sweet Singers.
I cannot sing the old songs now: It is not that I deem them low, But that I have forgotten how They go,
wrote Calverley in his delightful drollery about the advances of old age. Nevertheless he made a mistake, for old songs cling tenaciously to the consciousness; and memory, are retained when everything else in heart and mind has been blurred over, and of all the magic mirrors which reflect back our lives for us the most effective is a melody linked to words which moved us in our youth. When an orchestra stops playing its waltzes and mazourkas of the latest fashion and takes up the strains of "Kathleen Mavourneen," "Oft in the Stilly Night," or "Robin Adair," one may readily observe a change come over the older part of the crowd who listen. The familiar air is like a shell murmuring in their ears sweet, far-off, imperishable memories of youth, and that special epoch of youth best described as "les heureux jours ou l'on etait si malheureux!" It is an experience worth having to have heard the great singers, but it is not of the great singers that I wish to speak here. I fancy that it is with others as with myself, and, in my early days at least, music wrought its chief enchantments and most perfectly allied itself with the great world of fantasy and imagination when I heard it in my own home, or at least quietly and privately, and when its influence was of a constant and regular kind. Why is it that literature, which enshrines so much of what is personal and actual and a part of ideal autobiography, says so little of singers, although the song which moves us, rummaging among our old memories and, to our surprise and delight, bringing back clear pictures, is generally linked to the sweet singer who sang it, who interpreted it for us and made it a part of our imaginative possessions? Heroines of novels are rarely singers, or, if they sing, abstain from effective music, and have soft, soothing voices, "as if they only sang at twilight." Heroines of course have to be heroines and nothing else. "Soothing, unspeakable charm of gentle womanhood," wrote George Eliot, "which supersedes all acquisitions, all accomplishments. You would never have asked at any period of Mrs. Amos Barton's life if she sketched or played the piano. You would perhaps have been rather scandalized if she had descended from the serene dignity of being to the assiduous unrest of doing." However, when he recalls the female singers he has known, any man will grant that they have been almost without exception very charming women. A really good singer must possess in absolute equipoise ardor and calm. But the first singer I ever heard who made me feel upborne by the music and floated as by the sweep of wings was a man with a high, melancholy, piercingly sweet tenor voice. He had a pale, striking face, with a mobile mouth, intensely brilliant blue eyes, a lofty forehead, and his fine, scanty brown hair hung low on his neck. As he sang with lifted head and eyes which gazed steadfastly before him, he seemed rapt and inspired. Were I to paint an angel I should try to seize his lineaments and the glory shining on his pale face. The song I loved best to hear him sing was Schubert's "Erl-King," which thrilled me with a sense of terror and mystery and made me tremble like a harp-string in response to his piercingly clear tones. Ever and anon, as I listened to the child's cry of "Oh, father, my father!" I was clutched by the icy hand of the awful phantom he had invoked. Does anybody sing Schubert's songs nowadays, or are they invariably left to the violins, which can interpret their "eternal passion, eternal pain," so thrillingly? I never, I regret to say, heard the "Serenade" sung in a way which seemed to me adequate,—not to compare with the way in which Remenyi plays it. Those wonderful lyrical instruments the violin, the 'cello, and the flute have an almost exclusive right nowadays to some of the greatest songs. Few singers attempt the "Adelaide" or "Che faro?"
I like to recall the first time I ever heard "Che faro senza Eurydice?" A musical matinee was given to an elegant elderly woman, Mrs. P——, who had had a wide social reputation as an accomplished singer. She was still mistress of all the technique of her art, but her voice was worn and it was not easily conceded that she was a delightful vocalist. Many of her songs seemed like the ghosts of the blissful happy songs she had sung in her youth. There was something half painful in their jocund gayety and archness. I went far away from the piano and seated myself with a group of young people, paying little attention to the music. Presently, however, a strain sought me out, a sweet, passionately reiterated strain: it seemed to be supplicating, imploring; it filled me with a restless pain. That cry of "Eurydice!" "Eurydice!" so beseeching, so passionate, so exhausted by longing, drew me with an irresistible power. Gluck certainly achieved the effect he attempted, and showed us what the fabled power of Orpheus was.
Certain songs of indifferent worth often gain charm to us, although it is only the greatest music which has the supreme power of expressing the highest thoughts of man and the most ardent longings of his soul. But there was a time when I found inconceivable sweetness in certain ballads of Abt, and the like. Sara X——, a lovely youthful creature, with a frank, beautiful smile, used to sing them, sitting down at the piano and going on from one song to another, generally beginning with "The Bells are Hushed," which silenced the room when twenty people were buzzing flirtation and gossip. One line of that song, as she sang it, draws the heart out of me still as I remember it:
Sleep well, sleep well, And let thy lovely eyelids close.
The sentiment such songs arouse is soft but poignant. Some songs—the "Adelaide," for example—are songs to make one commit suicide. But this sort of music stirs and delights while it mocks with the sweetness which soothes us not. "She kept me awake all night, as a strain of Mozart's might do," Keats wrote of his Charmian. There was no song this special songstress sang which she did not make her own by a peculiar and powerful effort. Her instinct was to rouse, charm, fascinate her little audience. Not to move her hearers was to her not to sing, and when she sang as she wished she could sweep away his world of ideas from her listener and recreate a new one. In one song, an Italian composition called "The Dream," she always seemed to be carried beyond herself. In reading Tourgeneff's description of Iakof's singing I could only think of Sara X——: "Iakof became more and more excited; completely master of himself, he gave himself up entirely to the inspiration that had taken possession of him. His voice no longer trembled; it no longer betrayed anything but the emotion of passion, that emotion that so rapidly communicates itself to the hearers. One evening I was by the sea when the tide was coming in; the murmur of the waves was becoming more and more distinct. I saw a gull motionless on the shore, with its white breast facing the purplish sea; from time to time it spread its enormous wings and seemed to greet the incoming waves and the disk of the sun. This came to my mind at that moment." And as I read these words of Tourgeneff's, Sara X—— singing "The Dream" came to my mind.
A less dramatic singer, but an incomparable singer of Scotch ballads, and indeed of all ballads, at the same period of my life made an imperishable impression upon my mind. Nothing can surpass certain Scotch ballads for the faculty of quickening into susceptibility the elementary poetry which underlies human nature. Every man and every woman becomes again an individual man, an individual woman, who is moved by "John Anderson, my Jo, John," or "Auld Robin Gray." Never was so sweet a voice as this singer's, never did woman have a higher gift of rescuing the soul from every-day use and wont and giving it glimpses from the mountain-summit and the thrill and inspiration which come from the wider view and the purer air. She gave her gift, she enriched the world, and her songs are still incorporate in the hearts and souls of those who loved her.
We do not hear songs enough in our every-day life; and even from the singers on the boards the best songs are rarely heard. There are many songs I should like to repeat the mere name of, so much it means to me; but it might not carry the same music to others. Dr. Johnson said of a certain work, "There should come out such a book every thirty years, dressed in the words of the times." So there should appear at least twice in every decade of each man's and woman's life an unsurpassed singer of old songs, who should give us not only the "Adelaide," but "Mignon," "The Serenade," the "Adieu," and all the many-colored ballads on love,—plain, fantastic, descriptive, sad, and sweet,—so that we might enjoy an epitome of our life-long musical pleasures, and not have to cry, like Faust, but in vain, "Give me my youth again."
A Chess Village.
The all-pervading influence of chess observable in that peculiar region described in "Through the Looking-Glass" is hardly less perceptible in the little, antiquated German village of Stroebeck, not far from Halberstadt. In the eleventh century this village was noted for the devotion of its people to chess, and they have kept this characteristic feature down to the present day. All the inhabitants, except the very small children, are chess-players of more or less skill, and the game is to them what the world-renowned Passion-play is to the Oberammergauers.
A great many notable men have visited Stroebeck at various times on account of its reputation as a chess-playing community. The council-house contains numerous memorials of these visits, which the villagers take pride in showing to strangers. Among the most highly prized of these memorials are a board and chessmen which were presented to the village in 1651 by Kurfuerst Frederick William of Brandenburg.
In June, 1885, the chess societies of the Hartz districts held a "Schachcongress," or chess convention, at this appropriate place. Besides the regularly-appointed delegates, a large number of visitors came from various parts of Germany, many of whom were players of wide repute. Among the latter was Herr Schalopp, well known as one of the best chess-players of Berlin. While at Stroebeck, Schalopp played games with thirty-seven persons at the same time. He won thirty-four of the games, and two of the three opponents whom he did not defeat were an old woman of the village, and her grandson, a boy of thirteen.
The convention lasted several days, and the villagers won a large proportion of the silver-ware, chess-boards, and other prizes offered for victory. Every house contains prizes which had been won in such contests on former occasions. The visitors were very much surprised at the fine playing of the village children, who, before the convention adjourned, gave a special exhibition of their skill in the game. The time characteristically chosen for this juvenile tournament was Sunday afternoon. Of course the early development of these small chess-players must have been caused principally by frequent practice and constant study of the game; but students of psychology might find in it an instance of transmitted tendency and the inherited effect of a certain habit of thought.
Such a rustic society as Stroebeck could hardly exist anywhere but in Germany. The Italian peasants, who give so much of their time to loto, are generally too lazy to make the mental exertion required for chess, while in most other European countries the rural population of the lower class entertain themselves chiefly with fights between dogs, cocks, or men who are but little superior to either. Here in the United States there are, no doubt, lovers of chess in nearly every village or small town, as well as in the cities; but in comparison with that of base-ball or roller-skating its popularity is nowhere great enough to be taken into account as an indication of mental tendencies or characteristics.
W. W. C.
[C] A review of which the belles-lettres department is feeble, but which publishes excellent articles in other departments.
[D] Known in Russian literature as Tschtedrin, one of the ablest satirists, editor until last year of the leading scientific literary review, now suppressed on account of its radical tendencies.
LITERATURE OF THE DAY
"The Congo, and the Founding of its Free State: A Story of Work and Exploration." By Henry M. Stanley. Two Volumes. New York: Harper & Brothers.
It is not as the geographical discoverer and explorer—except incidentally and to a limited extent—that Mr. Stanley appears in these volumes. It is as Bula Matari,—"Breaker of Rocks,"—making roads and bridges, establishing stations, pushing the outposts of civilization into the heart of Africa. He no longer fights his way through hostile tribes or seeks to avoid their notice, anxious only to penetrate an unknown region, secure his own safety and that of his followers, and report his achievements, leaving no trace behind except a recollection as of some fiery meteor that had vanished without its portents being apprehended. He returns to make the signification clear, a harbinger not of disasters, but of a wonderful new era of peace and prosperity. He bestows lavish gifts, negotiates treaties, purchases territorial rights, and devotes himself to the task of opening avenues to trade and preparing the way for colonization. The same energy and pluck, the same spirit of persistence, that triumphed over the obstacles and dangers of his earlier enterprises are again called into play, combined with the suavity and patience demanded for the attainment of the present object and permitted by the ample means at his disposal and the freedom from any necessity for impetuous haste or hazardous adventures. Experience, counsel, and the sense of higher responsibilities have brought a calmer judgment and greater steadiness of action, but the boyish temperament has not lost its sway, and more than one crisis is brought to a happy issue by methods in which a love of fun mingles with sagacity and foresight and renders their measures more effective.
The work undertaken by the Association of which Mr. Stanley was the agent is of a purely initiatory character. The acquisition of territory and of certain rights of sovereignty under treaties with local chiefs constitutes the "founding" of the "Congo Free State," which has obtained the recognition of the European powers and become one of the contracting parties to the articles adopted by the recent Conference at Berlin for regulating the commercial and political status of the river-basins of Central Africa. Under these articles absolute freedom of trade, intercourse, and settlement is secured to the people of all nations throughout a region of vast extent and unsurpassed fertility, rich in natural products, not so densely peopled as to resist or restrict any conceivable schemes of colonization, yet offering in its numerous village populations material sufficiently available for the needs of industry and commerce and amenable to philanthropic influences. The preparatory labors, which leave no room for doubt on this point, have been already accomplished, with the exception of what Mr. Stanley regards as the sure and indispensable means of opening up the resources of the country,—viz., the construction of a railway around the rapids that impede the navigation of the Congo. That this crowning enterprise would be highly and immediately remunerative he considers easily demonstrable. "To-day," he writes, "fifty-two thousand pounds are paid per annum for porterage between Stanley Pool and the coast, by native traders, the International Association, and three missions, which is equal to five and one-half per cent. on the nine hundred and forty thousand pounds said to be needed to construct the railway to the Pool. But let the Vivi and Stanley Pool railroad be constructed, and it would require an army of grenadiers to prevent the traders from moving on to secure the favorite places in the commercial El Dorado of Africa." It is, of course, to European capitalists that Mr. Stanley addresses his appeal; and when it is remembered that their least profitable investments have not been those which aided in the development of barbarous countries, it seems not improbable that at no remote period a sufficient portion of the riches that so continually make themselves wings and fly away to distant quarters of the globe may seek the banks of the Congo in preference to those of the Hudson or the Wabash.
While holding out this tempting bait to merchants, manufacturers, and the moneyed classes generally, Mr. Stanley declines to dilate upon the advantages of the Congo basin as a field for immigration. That portion of it which in his view "is blessed with a temperature under which Europeans may thrive and multiply" is at present inaccessible to settlers. It is "the cautious trader, who advances, not without the means of retreat," who is to act as the pioneer and the missionary of civilization, stimulating and directing the industry of the natives. The suppression of the internal slave-trade is another object to be aimed at,—one which Mr. Stanley, in an address recently delivered in London, held up as capable of accomplishment by an outlay of five thousand pounds a year. What rebate should be made, on this point and on others, from the anticipations which a sanguine temperament, that has enabled its possessor to struggle with so many difficulties and to achieve so many enterprises, would naturally tend to heighten and render glowing, is a question that may be reserved for those whom it directly concerns. Equatorial Africa is not likely ever to become the home of a white population, but it need not for that reason be left to "stew in its own juice." On the contrary, it offers on that very account a fit subject for the experiment, which has nowhere yet been adequately tried, of developing latent capacities for progress in races that have raised themselves above the level of absolute savagery without attaining to those ideals which, never wholly realized, are essential to continuous improvement. It has been found easy to enslave, to debase, to exterminate races in this condition, while the ill success of efforts to enlighten and elevate them has led to the inference that this is impracticable. The trial, however, will not have been made till the counteracting influences have ceased to act, or at least to predominate, and time has been allowed for hidden forces that may possibly exist to be called into play. As Mr. Stanley observes, "It is out of the fragments of warring myriads that the present polished nations of Europe have sprung. Had a few of those waves of races flowing and eddying over Northern Africa succeeded in leaping the barrier of the equator, we should have found the black aboriginal races of Southern Africa very different from the savages we meet to-day."
It was the spirit in which Mr. Stanley labored—the ardor and hopefulness, the unfailing patience and good temper, with which he applied himself to the task of cultivating the good will and securing the co-operation of the natives—that made his enterprise a success. With some exceptions, for which he gives ample credit, his European subordinates seem to have been a constant source of embarrassment. Possibly there may have been on his own part a lack of that administrative ability which, acquired through discipline, imparts the skill and power to enforce it. At all events, it is the sympathy and humor with which he portrays his innumerable "blood-brothers"—greedy, cunning, and capricious, but untainted with ferocity, and consequently manageable, like children, by a judicious blending of severity and indulgence—that give interest and charm to his narrative. It has many faults and deficiencies which in a work of greater literary pretensions would be inexcusable. The grammatical blunders with which it abounds are the least annoying, since their grossness makes it easy for the reader to supply mentally the needed correction without effort or consideration. Looseness of diction, repetitions and redundancies of all kinds, and, above all, a frequent lack of clearness and vividness both in statement and description, are more serious impediments to the wish to gain comprehension and instruction. Like most untrained writers, Mr. Stanley imagines that, with a sufficiency of matter, it is only necessary to refrain from striving after picturesque effects or ornate embellishments in order to attain the qualities of clearness and simplicity. Happily, the impulsiveness that betrays itself in his style seems to have been kept well under control in the management of his enterprise. It is always, indeed, apparent as a leading characteristic, but it breaks loose only on occasions when it may be safely and not unattractively displayed.
"Life of Frank Buckland." By his Brother-in-Law, George C. Bompas. London: Smith, Elder & Co. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company.
There is a story told of Sir Edwin Landseer's being presented to the King of Portugal, who impressively greeted the famous painter with, "I am rejoiced to make your acquaintance, Sir Edwin Landseer, I am so fond of beasts." An equally ardent sympathy with Frank Buckland's specialty was necessary to his friends while he was alive, and is required by those who read this delightful, bizarre, and admirable history of a man whose fellow-feeling for all creatures endowed with life was as broad and comprehensive as Dame Nature's for all her children. He had, it might seem, no antipathies. Everything excited his interest, curiosity, and tenderness. Bears, eagles, vipers, jackals, hedgehogs, and snakes roomed with him. He not only lived on intimate terms with his zoological curiosities, petting them, training them, studying them, but he finally ate them. As Douglas Jerrold said of the New Zealanders, "Very economical people. We only kill our enemies; they eat 'em. We hate our foes to the last: while there's no learning in the end how Zealanders are brought to relish 'em."
It had been the elder Buckland's habit to try strange dishes. While he was Dean of Westminster, hedgehogs, tortoises, potted ostrich, and occasionally rats, frogs, and snails, were served up for the delectation of favored guests, and alligator was considered a rare delicacy. "Party at the Deanery," one guest notes: "tripe for dinner; don't like crocodile for breakfast." Thus freed, to begin with, from the trammels of habit and prejudice, there was little in the way of fish, flesh, or fowl which Frank Buckland did not sooner or later try, with various results. For instance, to quote from his diary:
"March 9. Party of Huxley, Blagden, Rolfs. Had the lump-fish for dinner; very good,—something like turtle.
"March 10. Rather seedy from lump-fish."
"B—— called: had a viper for luncheon."
He held a theory that from popular ignorance and superstition much wholesome material is wasted which might be made useful not only in satisfying hunger, but in cheapening the prices of the foods which new control the market. The "Acclimatization Society" was formed by his influence, at the inaugural dinner of which everything that grows on the face of the earth and under the waters was partaken of, from kangaroo hams to sea-slugs. These various studies and experiments, all entered into with unequalled spirit and audacity, led up finally to the great work of Frank Buckland's life, which was the restocking of the watercourses of his own and other countries with the trout and salmon which had once teemed in them, but had been driven away by man's encroachments. The success of his system of fish-culture is too well known to require comment, having had the happiest results in all countries in which it has been introduced. But the perils and vicissitudes encountered in procuring the ova are little realized by most people. "Salmon-egg collecting," Frank Buckland wrote in 1878, "is one of the most difficult, and I may say dangerous, tasks that fall to my lot." And it was, indeed, the frightful exposure attending this search for spawn on a bitter January day in the icy waters of the North Tyne that shortened his bright, useful career.
The biography is most instructive and valuable, besides being highly interesting. And Frank Buckland's life was by far too rich and too many-sided to allow anything less than his full history to give an adequate idea of his patience, his fidelity of purpose, his love of work, and his joy in accomplishment. The birthday entries in his diary almost invariably disclose his satisfaction and comfort in his own life and endeavors: "December 17, 1870. My birthday. I am very thankful to God to allow me so much prosperity and happiness on my forty-fourth birthday, and that I have been enabled to work so well. I trust he may spare me for many more years to go on with my work."
The book abounds in droll stories, some quite new, and some already given in his lectures and natural-history papers. He generally travelled with some curious collections in his pockets or in bottles; and, whether these were rats, vipers, snails, or frogs, by some strange fatality they were certain to get loose and turn up among his fellow-passengers in car or diligence. To twine snakes around the necks and arms of young ladies playing quadrilles was another harmless joke. "Don't be afraid," he would say: "they won't hurt you. And do be a good girl, and don't make a fuss." He possessed an easy gift of adapting scientific theories and deductions to popular interest and comprehension, and his "Curiosities in Natural History" and other writings undoubtedly gave a strong impulse to the tastes of this generation, of which the many out-of-doors papers on birds, game, and the habits of all living creatures are the result.
"George Eliot's Poetry, and Other Studies." By Rose Elizabeth Cleveland. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
Miss Cleveland's book shows wide reading, study, painstaking discrimination, enthusiastic zeal, and, above all, the never-failing impulse of an individual idea. It reveals on every page a healthy, well-poised womanly nature, and the opinions advanced are a part of the conscience and moral being as well as of the intellect. The author has fed her mind and heart with high dreams and lofty ideals, and it is not only a pleasure to her to disclose them, but a sacred duty as well.
"When a high thought comes," she writes in "Reciprocity," "we owe that thought to the world. A great deal of this interment of our best thought-life is justified to ourselves by the plea that such thoughts are too sacred for utterance: a wretched sophistry, a miserable excuse for what is really our fear of criticism." There is nothing trivial or false about the critical and ethical views which Miss Cleveland gives bravely, although they are not invariably rendered with the felicity and pointed phrase which come from a careful selection of words and symbols. She is a little dazzled by the flowers and fruitage of a fancy which most of us are compelled to curb and prune to meet the requisitions of time and space. These papers were prepared chiefly, the dedication tells us, for schools and colleges, and a little of the pedantry and ample leisure of a teacher who has his audience safe under his own control is apparent in them. Little goes without saying; the whole story is told; yet it is always easy to put aside the parasitical growth and get at the solid and useful idea. The book was not written for critics who desire to have everything summed up in a single sentence, and who are apt to praise the volumes which encumber the book-seller's shelves rather than those which run through seven editions in as many days.
Like most other American essayists, she has couched many of her phrases and ideas in the Emersonian mould. Her sentences are short; she uses a homely illustration by preference. "Independence," she says, "in an absolute sense is an impossibility. The nature of things is against it. The human soul was not made to contain itself. It was made to spill over, and it does and will spill over, always as quid pro quo, wherever lodged, to the end of time."... "There is a vast amount of thinking which ought to be in the market. We hold our best thoughts and give our second best."... "We do a good deal of shirking in this life on the ground of not being geniuses. The truth is, there is an immense amount of humbug lurking in the folds of those specious theories about genius. Let a man or woman go to work at a thing, and the genius will take care of itself."
Miss Cleveland has gathered a large audience, and it is a satisfaction to feel in reading her book that she holds her place before them with invariable good sense, high faith, and a dignity which commands respect.
"Aulnay Tower." By Blanche Willis Howard. Boston: Ticknor & Co.
There is a good situation in "Aulnay Tower," but the book may be said to be all situation, with little movement, no development, and the very slightest free play of character and motive. The scene is laid at the chateau of the Marquis de Montauban, not far from Paris, at the moment in the Franco-German war when Sedan had been fought, the emperor was a prisoner, and the Germans were investing the capital. The marquis, his niece the Countess Nathalie de Vallauris, and his chaplain the Abbe de Navailles, in spite of orders from General Trochu, have remained at this country-seat, apparently indifferent to passing events. Thus it is a rude awakening when they find the Germans knocking at the castle doors and demanding entertainment for the officers of the Saxon grenadiers, who are quartered upon them during most of the time occupied by the siege of Paris.
Here, then, is the situation. The Countess Nathalie, a widow of twenty-three, "a beautiful woman, young, pale, fair-haired, stately and forbidding," confronts these invaders of her private peace and enemies of her country, intending to freeze them by her haughtiness, her indifference, her disdain, but carries away even from the first encounter a haunting and rankling recollection of a tall man in blue; while the tall man in blue, Adjutant von Nordenfels, "from the moment she stood before the officers in her cold protest and unrelenting pride," was madly in love with the countess. The feelings of these two young people being thus from the first removed from the region of doubt and conjecture, what few slight obstacles contrive to separate them for a time carry little weight with the reader. There is a dearth of incident which the side-play of the coquettish maid, Nathalie's femme-de-chambre, fails to relieve. The marquis and Manette are the traditional nobleman and soubrette, and flourish before us all the adjuncts of the stage. We give a fragment from a soliloquy of Manette's which suggests the foot-lights and an enforced "wait" in a comedy during a change of dress for the principal actors: "I adore Countess Nathalie, and am thankful for my blessings. And yet I have my disappointments, my chagrins. To-day, for example, what a field for genius! what a chance for never-to-be-forgotten impressions! A dozen officers! Not a woman in Aulnay but madame and me. Oh, just heaven, what possibilities! My rich imagination dressed us both in the twinkling of an eye. For the Countess Nathalie gentle severity was the key-note of my composition,—heavy black silk, of course. There it lies. Elegance and dignity in the train. Happy surprises in the drapery. Fascination in the sleeves. Defiance, pride, and patriotism in the high collar, tempered by regret in the soft ruche.... She would have been a problem and a poem; while I, in my cheerful reds, my dazzling white, my decisive short skirts, my piquant shoes, my audacious apron, am a conundrum, a pleasantry, an epigram." This would be very pretty on the stage, but a waiting-maid who calls herself an "epigram" passes our imagination under any other circumstances. In fact, Miss Howard seems to us to be altogether on a false tack in this novel,—to have utterly abandoned realism, and in its place to have imposed upon us scenes, characters, and actuating motives which have figured over and over again in book and play, and to which she has not succeeded in imparting any special vivacity or charm. The novel falls far below "Guenn," in which the author riveted and deepened the impression of her first clever little book, "One Summer."
"Married for Fun." Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co.
The title of "Married for Fun," and the plot of the book itself, might easily suggest its being a screaming farce; and that may actually have been the intention of the author, although she is at times painfully serious. A young lady who, after going through a form of marriage to an utter stranger in a stupid charade, believes herself to be legally his wife, seems to be practically unfitted for the position of heroine in anything except a farce. But there is no fun in the book, and a whole series of absurd and incoherent incidents fail to produce any effect upon the reader save one of deadly ennui. The narrative, if such a host of incongruities and imbecilities can be called a narrative, is perpetually adorned by choice reflections of the author's own, and the itinerancy of an extended European tour is condensed and added to the other attractions.