The company agreed that this last illustration was of superior excellence, or, in the phrase used by them, "Fust-rate." I acknowledged the compliment, but gently rebuked the expression. "Fust-rate," "prime," "a prime article," "a superior piece of goods," "a handsome garment," "a gent in a flowered vest,"—all such expressions are final. They blast the lineage of him or her who utters them, for generations up and down. There is one other phrase which will soon come to be decisive of a man's social status, if it is not already: "That tells the whole story." It is an expression which vulgar and conceited people particularly affect, and which well-meaning ones, who know better, catch from them. It is intended to stop all debate, like the previous question in the General Court. Only it don't; simply because "that" does not usually tell the whole, nor one half of the whole story.
——It is an odd idea, that almost all our people have had a professional education. To become a doctor a man must study some three years and hear a thousand lectures, more or less. Just how much study it takes to make a lawyer I cannot say, but probably not more than this. Now most decent people hear one hundred lectures or sermons (discourses) on theology every year,—and this, twenty, thirty, fifty years together. They read a great many religious books besides. The clergy, however, rarely hear any sermons except what they preach themselves. A dull preacher might be conceived, therefore, to lapse into a state of quasi heathenism, simply for want of religious instruction. And on the other hand, an attentive and intelligent hearer, listening to a succession of wise teachers, might become actually better educated in theology than any one of them. We are all theological students, and more of us qualified as doctors of divinity than have received degrees at any of the universities.
It is not strange, therefore, that very good people should often find it difficult, if not impossible, to keep their attention fixed upon a sermon treating feebly a subject which they have thought vigorously about for years, and heard able men discuss scores of times. I have often noticed, however, that a hopelessly dull discourse acts inductively, as electricians would say, in developing strong mental currents. I am ashamed to think with what accompaniments and variations and fioriture I have sometimes followed the droning of a heavy speaker,—not willingly,—for my habit is reverential,—but as a necessary result of a slight continuous impression on the senses and the mind, which kept both in action without furnishing the food they required to work upon. If you ever saw a crow with a king-bird after him, you will get an image of a dull speaker and a lively listener. The bird in sable plumage flaps heavily along his straight-forward course, while the other sails round him, over him, under him, leaves him, comes back again, tweaks out a black feather, shoots away once more, never losing sight of him, and finally reaches the crow's perch at the same time the crow does, having cut a perfect labyrinth of loops and knots and spirals while the slow fowl was painfully working from one end of his straight line to the other.
[I think these remarks were received rather coolly. A temporary boarder from the country, consisting of a somewhat more than middle-aged female, with a parchment forehead and a dry little "frisette" shingling it, a sallow neck with a necklace of gold beads, a black dress too rusty for recent grief, and contours in basso-rilievo, left the table prematurely, and was reported to have been very virulent about what I said. So I went to my good old minister, and repeated the remarks, as nearly as I could remember them, to him. He laughed good-naturedly, and said there was considerable truth in them. He thought he could tell when people's minds were wandering, by their looks. In the earlier years of his ministry he had sometimes noticed this, when he was preaching;—very little of late years. Sometimes, when his colleague was preaching, he observed this kind of inattention; but after all, it was not so very unnatural. I will say, by the way, that it is a rule I have long followed, to tell my worst thoughts to my minister, and my best thoughts to the young people I talk with.]
——I want to make a literary confession now, which I believe nobody has made before me. You know very well that I write verses sometimes, because I have read some of them at this table. (The company assented,—two or three of them in a resigned sort of way, as I thought, as if they supposed I had an epic in my pocket, and was going to read half a dozen books or so for their benefit.)—I continued. Of course I write some lines or passages which are better than others; some which, compared with the others, might be called relatively excellent. It is in the nature of things that I should consider these relatively excellent lines or passages as absolutely good. So much must be pardoned to humanity. Now I never wrote a "good" line in my life, but the moment after it was written it seemed a hundred years old. Very commonly I had a sudden conviction that I had seen it somewhere. Possibly I may have sometimes unconsciously stolen it, but I do not remember that I ever once detected any historical truth in these sudden convictions of the antiquity of my new thought or phrase. I have learned utterly to distrust them, and never allow them to bully me out of a thought or line.
This is the philosophy of it. (Here the number of the company was diminished by a small secession.) Any new formula which suddenly emerges in our consciousness has its roots in long trains of thought; it is virtually old when it first makes its appearance among the recognized growths of our intellect. Any crystalline group of musical words has had a long and still period to form in. Here is one theory.
But there is a larger law which perhaps comprehends these facts. It is this. The rapidity with which ideas grow old in our memories is in a direct ratio to the squares of their importance. Their apparent age runs up miraculously, like the value of diamonds, as they increase in magnitude. A great calamity, for instance, is as old as the trilobites an hour after it has happened. It stains backward through all the leaves we have turned over in the book of life, before its blot of tears or of blood is dry on the page we are turning. For this we seem to have lived; it was foreshadowed in dreams that we leaped out of in the cold sweat of terror; in the "dissolving views" of dark day-visions; all omens pointed to it; all paths led to it. After the tossing half-forgetfulness of the first sleep that follows such an event, it comes upon us afresh, as a surprise, at waking; in a few moments it is old again,—old as eternity.
[I wish I had not said all this then and there. I might have known better. The pale schoolmistress, in her mourning dress, was looking at me, as I noticed, with a wild sort of expression. All at once the blood dropped out of her cheeks as the mercury drops from a broken barometer-tube, and she melted away from her seat like an image of snow; a slung-shot could not have brought her down better. God forgive me!
After this little episode, I continued, to some few that remained balancing teaspoons on the edges of cups, twirling knives, or tilting upon the hind legs of their chairs until their heads reached the wall, where they left gratuitous advertisements of various popular cosmetics.]
When a person is suddenly thrust into any strange, new position of trial, he finds the place fits him as if he had been measured for it. He has committed a great crime, for instance, and is sent to the State Prison. The traditions, prescriptions, limitations, privileges, all the sharp conditions of his new life, stamp themselves upon his consciousness as the signet on soft wax;—a single pressure is enough. Let me strengthen the image a little. Did you ever happen to see that most soft-spoken and velvet-handed steam-engine at the Mint? The smooth piston slides backward and forward as a lady might slip her delicate finger in and out of a ring. The engine lays one of its fingers calmly, but firmly, upon a bit of metal; it is a coin now, and will remember that touch, and tell a new race about it, when the date upon it is crusted over with twenty centuries. So it is that a great silent-moving misery puts a new stamp on us in an hour or a moment,—as sharp an impression as if it had taken half a lifetime to engrave it.
It is awful to be in the hands of the wholesale professional dealers in misfortune; undertakers and jailers magnetize you in a moment, and you pass out of the individual life you were living into the rhythmical movements of their horrible machinery. Do the worst thing you can, or suffer the worst that can be thought of, you find yourself in a category of humanity that stretches back as far as Cain, and with an expert at your elbow that has studied your case all out beforehand, and is waiting for you with his implements of hemp or mahogany. I believe, if a man were to be burned in any of our cities to-morrow for heresy, there would be found a master of ceremonies that knew just how many fagots were necessary, and the best way of arranging the whole matter.
——So we have not won the Good-wood cup; au contraire, we were a "bad fifth," if not worse than that; and trying it again, and the third time, has not yet bettered the matter. Now I am as patriotic as any of my fellow-citizens,—too patriotic in fact, for I have got into hot water by loving too much of my country; in short, if any man, whose fighting weight is not more than eight stone four pounds, disputes it, I am ready to discuss the point with him. I should have gloried to see the stars and stripes in front at the finish. I love my country, and I love horses. Stubbs's old mezzotint of Eclipse hangs over my desk, and Herring's portrait of Plenipotentiary,—whom I saw run at Epsom,—over my fireplace. Did I not elope from school to see Revenge, and Prospect, and Little John, and Peacemaker run over the race-course where now yon suburban village flourishes, in the year eighteen hundred and ever-so-few? Though I never owned a horse, have I not been the proprietor of six equine females, of which one was the prettiest little "Morgin" that ever stepped? Listen, then, to an opinion I have often expressed long before this venture of ours in England. Horse-racing is not a republican institution; horse-trotting is. Only very rich persons can keep race-horses, and everybody knows they are kept mainly as gambling implements. All that matter about blood and speed we won't discuss; we understand all that; useful, very,—of course,—great obligations to the Godolphin "Arabian," and the rest. I say racing horses are essentially gambling implements, as much as roulette tables. Now I am not preaching at this moment; I may read you one of my sermons some other morning; but I maintain that gambling, on the great scale, is not republican. It belongs to two phases of society,—a cankered over-civilization, such as exists in rich aristocracies, and the reckless life of borderers and adventurers, or the semi-barbarism of a civilization resolved into its primitive elements. Real republicanism is stern and severe; its essence is not in forms of government, but in the omnipotence of public opinion which grows out of it. This public opinion cannot prevent gambling with dice or stocks, but it can and does compel it to keep comparatively quiet. But horse-racing is the most public way of gambling; and with all its immense attractions to the sense and the feelings,—to which I plead very susceptible,—the disguise is too thin that covers it, and everybody knows what it means. Its supporters are the Southern gentry,—fine fellows, no doubt, but not republicans exactly, as we understand the term,—a few Northern millionnaires more or less thoroughly millioned, who do not represent the real people, and the mob of sporting men, the best of whom are commonly idlers, and the worst very bad neighbors to have near one in a crowd, or to meet in a dark alley. In England, on the other hand, with its aristocratic institutions, racing is a natural growth enough; the passion for it spreads downwards through all classes, from the Queen to the costermonger. London is like a shelled corn-cob on the Derby day, and there is not a clerk who could raise the money to hire a saddle with an old hack under it that can sit down on his office-stool the next day without wincing.
Now just compare the racer with the trotter for a moment. The racer is incidentally useful, but essentially something to bet upon, as much as the thimble-rigger's "little joker." The trotter is essentially and daily useful, and only incidentally a tool for sporting men.
What better reason do you want for the fact that the racer is most cultivated and reaches his greatest perfection in England, and that the trotting horses of America beat the world? And why should we have expected that the pick—if it was the pick—of our few and far-between racing stables should beat the pick of England and France? Throw over the fallacious time-test, and there was nothing to show for it but a natural kind of patriotic feeling, which we all have, with a thoroughly provincial conceit, which some of us must plead guilty to.
We may beat yet. As an American, I hope we shall. As a moralist and occasional sermonizer, I am not so anxious about it. Wherever the trotting horse goes, he carries in his train brisk omnibuses, lively bakers' carts, and therefore hot rolls, the jolly butcher's wagon, the cheerful gig, the wholesome afternoon drive with wife and child,—all the forms of moral excellence, except truth, which does not agree with any kind of horse-flesh. The racer brings with him gambling, cursing, swearing, drinking, the eating of oysters, and a distaste for mob-caps and the middle-aged virtues.
And by the way, let me beg you not to call a trotting match a race, and not to speak of a "thorough-bred" as a "blooded" horse, unless he has been recently phlebotomized. I consent to your saying "blood horse," if you like. Also, if, next year, we send out Posterior and Posterioress, the winners of the great national four-mile race in 7 18-1/2, and they happen to get beaten, pay your bets, and behave like men and gentlemen about it, if you know how.
[I felt a great deal better after blowing off the ill-temper condensed in the above paragraph. To brag little,—to show—well,—to crow gently, if in luck,—to pay up, to own up, and to shut up, if beaten, are the virtues of a sporting man, and I can't say that I think we have shown them in any great perfection of late.]
——Apropos of horses. Do you know how important good jockeying is to authors? Judicious management; letting the public see your animal just enough, and not too much; holding him up hard when the market is too full of him; letting him out at just the right buying intervals; always gently feeling his mouth; never slacking and never jerking the rein;—this is what I mean by jockeying.
——When an author has a number of books out, a cunning hand will keep them all spinning, as Signor Blitz does his dinner-plates; fetching each one up, as it begins to "wabble," by an advertisement, a puff, or a quotation.
——Whenever the extracts from a living writer begin to multiply fast in the papers, without obvious reason, there is a new book or a new edition coming. The extracts are ground-bait.
——Literary life is full of curious phenomena. I don't know that there is anything more noticeable than what we may call conventional reputations. There is a tacit understanding in every community of men of letters that they will not disturb the popular fallacy respecting this or that electro-gilded celebrity. There are various reasons for this forbearance: one is old; one is rich; one is good-natured; one is such a favorite with the pit that it would not be safe to hiss him from the manager's box. The venerable augurs of the literary or scientific temple may smile faintly when one of the tribe is mentioned; but the farce is in general kept up as well as the Chinese comic scene of entreating and imploring a man to stay with you, with the implied compact between you that he shall by no means think of doing it. A poor wretch he must be who would wantonly sit down on one of these bandbox reputations. A Prince-Rupert's-drop, which is a tear of unannealed glass, lasts indefinitely, if you keep it from meddling hands; but break its tail off, and it explodes and resolves itself into powder. These celebrities I speak of are the Prince-Rupert's-drops of the learned and polite world. See how the papers treat them! What an array of pleasant kaleidoscopic phrases, that can be arranged in ever so many charming patterns, is at their service! How kind the "Critical Notices"—where small authorship comes to pick up chips of praise, fragrant, sugary, and sappy—always are to them! Well, life would be nothing without paper-credit and other fictions; so let them pass current. Don't steal their chips; don't puncture their swimming-bladders; don't come down on their pasteboard boxes; don't break the ends of their brittle and unstable reputations, you fellows who all feel sure that your names will be household words a thousand years from now.
"A thousand years is a good while," said the old gentleman who sits opposite, thoughtfully.
——Where have I been for the last three or four days? Down at the Island, deer-shooting.—How many did I bag? I brought home one buck shot.—The Island is where? No matter. It is the most splendid domain that any man looks upon in these latitudes. Blue sea around it, and running up into its heart, so that the little boat slumbers like a baby in lap, while the tall ships are stripping naked to fight the hurricane outside, and storm-stay-sails banging and flying in ribbons. Trees, in stretches of miles; beeches, oaks, most numerous;—many of them hung with moss, looking like bearded Druids; some coiled in the clasp of huge, dark-stemmed grape-vines. Open patches where the sun gets in and goes to sleep, and the winds come so finely sifted that they are as soft as swan's down. Rocks scattered about,—Stonehenge-like monoliths. Fresh-water lakes; one of them, Mary's lake, crystal-clear, full of flashing pickerel lying under the lily-pads like tigers in the jungle. Six pounds of ditto one morning for breakfast. EGO fecit.
The divinity-student looked as if he would like to question my Latin. No, sir, I said,—you need not trouble yourself. There is a higher law in grammar, not to be put down by Andrews and Stoddard. Then I went on.
Such hospitality as that island has seen there has not been the like of in these our New England sovereignties. There is nothing in the shape of kindness and courtesy that can make life beautiful, which has not found its home in that ocean-principality. It has welcomed all who were worthy of welcome, from the pale clergyman who came to breathe the sea-air with its medicinal salt and iodine, to the great statesman who turned his back on the affairs of empire, and smoothed his Olympian forehead, and flashed his white teeth in merriment over the long table, where his wit was the keenest and his story the best.
[I don't believe any man ever talked like that in this world. I don't believe I talked just so; but the fact is, in reporting one's conversation, one cannot help Blair-ing it up more or less, ironing out crumpled paragraphs, starching limp ones, and crimping and plaiting a little sometimes; it is as natural as prinking at the looking-glass.]
——How can a man help writing poetry in such a place? Everybody does write poetry that goes there. In the state archives, kept in the library of the Lord of the Isle, are whole volumes of unpublished verse,—some by well-known hands, and others, quite as good, by the last people you would think of as versifiers,—men who could pension off all the genuine poets in the country, and buy ten acres of Boston common, if it was for sale, with what they had left. Of course I had to write my little copy of verses with the rest; here it is, if you will hear me read it. When the sun is in the west, vessels sailing in an easterly direction look bright or dark to one who observes them from the north or south, according to the tack they are sailing upon. Watching them from one of the windows of the great mansion, I saw these perpetual changes, and moralized thus:—
As I look from the isle, o'er its billows of green To the billows of foam-crested blue, Yon bark, that afar in the distance is seen, Half dreaming, my eyes will pursue: Now dark in the shadow, she scatters the spray As the chaff in the stroke of the flail; Now white as the sea-gull, she flies on her way, The sun gleaming bright on her sail.
Yet her pilot is thinking of dangers to shun,— Of breakers that whiten and roar; How little he cares, if in shadow or sun They see him that gaze from the shore! He looks to the beacon that looms from the reef, To the rock that is under his lee, As he drifts on the blast, like a wind-wafted leaf, O'er the gulfs of the desolate sea.
Thus drifting afar to the dim-vaulted caves Where life and its ventures are laid, The dreamers who gaze while we battle the waves May see us in sunshine or shade; Yet true to our course, though our shadow grow dark, We'll trim our broad sail as before, And stand by the rudder that governs the bark, Nor ask how we look from the shore!
——Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked. Good mental machinery ought to break its own wheels and levers, if anything is thrust among them suddenly which tends to stop them or reverse their motion. A weak mind does not accumulate force enough to hurt itself; stupidity often saves a man from going mad. We frequently see persons in insane hospitals, sent there in consequence of what are called religious mental disturbances. I confess that I think better of them than of many who hold the same notions, and keep their wits and appear to enjoy life very well, outside of the asylums. Any decent person ought to go mad, if he really holds such or such opinions. It is very much to his discredit in every point of view, if he does not. What is the use of my saying what some of these opinions are? Perhaps more than one of you hold such as I should think ought to send you straight over to Somerville, if you have any logic in your heads or any human feeling in your hearts. Anything that is brutal, cruel, heathenish, that makes life hopeless for the most of mankind and perhaps for entire races,—anything that assumes the necessity of the extermination of instincts which were given to be regulated,—no matter by what name you call it,—no matter whether a fakir, or a monk, or a deacon believes it,—if received, ought to produce insanity in every well-regulated mind. That condition becomes a normal one, under the circumstances. I am very much ashamed of some people for retaining their reason, when they know perfectly well that if they were not the most stupid or the most selfish of human beings, they would become non-compotes at once.
[Nobody understood this but the theological student and the schoolmistress. They looked intelligently at each other; but whether they were thinking about my paradox or not, I am not clear.—It would be natural enough. Stranger things have happened. Love and Death enter boarding-houses without asking the price of board, or whether there is room for them. Alas, these young people are poor and pallid! Love should be both rich and rosy, but must be either rich or rosy. Talk about military duty! What is that to the warfare of a married maid-of-all-work, with the title of mistress, and an American female constitution, which collapses just in the middle third of life, and comes out vulcanised India-rubber, if it happen to live through the period when health and strength are most wanted?]
——Have I ever acted in private theatricals? Often. I have played the part of the "Poor Gentleman," before a great many audiences,—more, I trust, than I shall ever face again. I did not wear a stage-costume, nor a wig, nor moustaches of burnt cork; but I was placarded and announced as a public performer, and at the proper hour I came forward with the ballet-dancer's smile upon my countenance, and made my bow and acted my part. I have seen my name stuck up in letters so big that I was ashamed to show myself in the place by daylight. I have gone to a town with a sober literary essay in my pocket, and seen myself everywhere announced as the most desperate of buffos,—one who was obliged to restrain himself in the full exercise of his powers, from prudential considerations. I have been through as many hardships as Ulysses, in the pursuit of my histrionic vocation. I have travelled in cars until the conductors all knew me like a brother. I have run off the rails, and stuck all night in snowdrifts, and sat behind females that would have the window open when one could not wink without his eyelids freezing together. Perhaps I shall give you some of my experiences one of these days;—I will not now, for I have something else for you.
Private theatricals, as I have figured in them in country lyceum-halls, are one thing,—and private theatricals, as they may be seen in certain gilded and frescoed saloons of our metropolis, are another. Yes, it is pleasant to see real gentlemen and ladies, who do not think it necessary to mouth, and rant, and stride, like most of our stage heroes and heroines, in the characters which show off their graces and talents; most of all to see a fresh, unrouged, unspoiled, highbred young maiden, with a lithe figure, and a pleasant voice, acting in those love-dramas that make us young again to look upon, when real youth and beauty will play them for us.
——Of course I wrote the prologue I was asked to write. I did not see the play, though. I knew there was a young lady in it, and that somebody was in love with her, and she was in love with him, and somebody (an old tutor, I believe) wanted to interfere, and, very naturally, the young lady was too sharp for him. The play of course ends charmingly; there is a general reconciliation, and all concerned form a line and take each others' hands, as people always do after they have made up their quarrels,—and then the curtain falls,—if it does not stick, as it commonly does at private theatrical exhibitions, in which case a boy is detailed to pull it down, which he does, blushing violently.
Now, then, for my prologue. I am not going to change my caesuras and cadences for anybody; so if you do not like the heroic, or iambic trimeter brachycatalectic, you had better not wait to hear it.
THIS IS IT.
A Prologue? Well, of course the ladies know;—
I have my doubts. No matter,—here we go!
What is a Prologue? Let our Tutor teach: Pro means beforehand; logos stands for speech. 'Tis like the harper's prelude on the strings, The prima donna's courtesy ere she sings;— Prologues in metre are to other pros As worsted stockings are to engine-hose.
"The world's a stage,"—as Shakspeare said, one day; The stage a world—was what he meant to say. The outside world's a blunder, that is clear; The real world that Nature meant is here. Here every foundling finds its lost mamma; Each rogue, repentant, melts his stern papa; Misers relent, the spendthrift's debts are paid, The cheats are taken in the traps they laid; One after one the troubles all are past Till the fifth act comes right side up at last, When the young couple, old folks, rogues, and all, Join hands, so happy at the curtain's fall. —Here suffering virtue ever finds relief, And black-browed ruffians always come to grief. —When the lorn damsel, with a frantic screech, And cheeks as hueless as a brandy-peach, Cries, "Help, kyind Heaven!" and drops upon her knees On the green—baize,—beneath the (canvas) trees,— See to her side avenging Valor fly:— "Ha! Villain! Draw! Now, Terraitorr, yield or die!" —When the poor hero flounders in despair, Some dear lost uncle turns up millionnaire,— Clasps the young scapegrace with paternal joy, Sobs on his neck, "My boy! My Boy!! MY BOY!!!"
Ours, then, sweet friends, the real world to-night Of love that conquers in disaster's spite. Ladies, attend! While woful cares and doubt Wrong the soft passion in the world without, Though fortune scowl, though prudence interfere, One thing is certain: Love will triumph here!
Lords of creation, whom your ladies rule,— The world's great masters, when you're out of school,— Learn the brief moral of our evening's play: Man has his will,—but woman has her way! While man's dull spirit toils in smoke and fire, Woman's swift instinct threads the electric wire,— The magic bracelet stretched beneath the waves Beats the black giant with his score of slaves. All earthly powers confess your sovereign art But that one rebel,—woman's wilful heart. All foes you master; but a woman's wit Lets daylight through you ere you know you're hit. So, just to picture what her art can do, Hear an old story made as good as new.
Rudolph, professor of the headsman's trade, Alike was famous for his arm and blade. One day a prisoner Justice had to kill Knelt at the block to test the artist's skill. Bare-armed, swart-visaged, gaunt, and shaggy-browed, Rudolph the headsman rose above the crowd. His falchion lightened with a sudden gleam, As the pike's armor flashes in the stream. He sheathed his blade; he turned as if to go; The victim knelt, still waiting for the blow. "Why strikest not? Perform thy murderous act," The prisoner said. (His voice was slightly cracked.) "Friend, I have struck," the artist straight replied; "Wait but one moment, and yourself decide." He held his snuff-box,—"Now then, if you please!" The prisoner sniffed, and, with a crashing sneeze, Off his head tumbled,—bowled along the floor,— Bounced down the steps;—the prisoner said no more!
Woman! thy falchion is a glittering eye; If death lurks in it, oh, how sweet to die! Thou takest hearts as Rudolph took the head; We die with love, and never dream we're dead!
The prologue went off very well, as I hear. No alterations were suggested by the lady to whom it was sent, for as far as I know. Sometimes people criticize the poems one sends them, and suggest all sorts of improvements. Who was that silly body that wanted Burns to alter "Scots wha hae," so as to lengthen the last line, thus?—
"Edward!". Chains and slavery!
Here is a little poem I sent a short time since to a committee for a certain celebration. I understood that it was to be a festive and convivial occasion, and ordered myself accordingly. It seems the president of the day was what is called a "teetotaller." I received a note from him in the following words, containing the copy subjoined, with the emendations annexed to it:
"Dear Sir,—Your poem gives good satisfaction to the committee. The sentiments expressed with reference to liquor are not, however, those generally entertained by this community. I have therefore consulted the clergyman of this place, who has made some slight changes, which he thinks will remove all objections, and keep the valuable portions of the poem. Please to inform me of your charge for said poem. Our means are limited, etc., etc., etc.
"Yours with respect."
HERE IT IS,—WITH THE SLIGHT ALTERATIONS!
Come! fill a fresh bumper,—for why should we go
logwood While the still reddens our cups as they flow?
decoction Pour out the still bright with the sun,
dye-stuff Till o'er the brimmed crystal the shall run.
half-ripened apples The <purple-globed-clusters> their life-dews have bled;
taste sugar of lead How sweet is the of the <fragrance they shed>!
rank poisons wines!!! For summer's lie hid in the
stable-boys smoking long-nines. That were garnered by <maidens who laughed through the vines.>
scowl howl scoff sneer Then a , and a , and a , and a ,
strychnine and whiskey, and ratsbane and beer! For <all the good-wine, and we've some of it here>
In cellar, in pantry, in attic, in hall,
Down, down, with the tyrant that masters us all! <Long live the gay servant that laughs for us all!>
The company said I had been shabbily treated, and advised me to charge the committee double,—which I did. But as I never got my pay, I don't know that it made much difference. I am a very particular person about having all I write printed as I write it, I require to see a proof, a revise, a re-revise, and a double re-revise, or fourth-proof rectified impression of all my productions, especially verse. Manuscripts are such puzzles! Why, I was reading some lines near the end of the last number of this journal, when I came across one beginning
"The stream flashes by,"—
Now as no stream had been mentioned, I was perplexed to know what it meant. It proved, on inquiry, to be only a misprint for "dream." Think of it! No wonder so many poets die young.
I have nothing more to report at this time, except two pieces of advice I gave to the young women at table. One relates to a vulgarism of language, which I grieve to say is sometimes heard even from female lips. The other is of more serious purport, and applies to such as contemplate a change of condition,—matrimony, in fact.
—The woman who "calc'lates" is lost.
—Put not your trust in money, but put your money in trust.
THOMAS CARLYLE is a name which no man of this generation should pronounce without respect; for it belongs to one of the high-priests of modern literature, to whom all contemporary minds are indebted, and by whose intellect and influence a new spiritual cultus has been established in the realm of letters. It is yet impossible to estimate either the present value or the remote issues of the work which he has accomplished. We see that a revolution in all the departments of thought, feeling, and literary enterprise has been silently achieved amongst us, but we are yet ignorant of its full bearing, and of the final goal to which it is hurrying us. One thing, however, is clear respecting it: that it was not forced in the hot-bed of any possible fanaticism, but that it grew fairly out of the soil, a genuine product of the time and its circumstances. It was, indeed, a new manifestation of the hidden forces and vitalities of what we call Protestantism,—an assertion by the living soul of its right to be heard once more in a world which seemed to ignore its existence, and had set up a ghastly skeleton of dry bones for its oracle and God. It was that necessary return to health, earnestness, and virtuous endeavor which Kreeshna speaks of in the Hindoo Geeta: "Whenever vice and corruption have sapped the foundations of the world, and men have lost their sense of good and evil, I, Kreeshna, make myself manifest for the restoration of order, and the establishment of justice, virtue, and piety." And so this literary revolution, of which we are speaking, brought us from frivolity to earnestness, from unbelief and all the dire negations which it engenders, to a sublime faith in human duty and the providence of God.
We have no room here to trace either the foreign or the native influences which, operating as antagonism or as inspiration upon the minds of Coleridge, Carlyle, and others, produced finally these great and memorable results. It is but justice, however, to recognize Coleridge as the pioneer of the new era. His fine metaphysical intellect and grand imagination, nurtured and matured in the German schools of philosophy and theology, reproduced the speculations of their great thinkers in a form and coloring which could not fail to be attractive to all seeking and sincere minds in England. The French Revolution and the Encyclopedists had already prepared the ground for the reception of new thought and revelation. Hence Coleridge, as writer and speaker, drew towards his centre all the young and ardent men of his time,—and among others, the subject of the present article. Carlyle, however, does not seem to have profited much by the spoken discourses of the master; and in his "Life of Sterling" he gives an exceedingly graphic, cynical, and amusing account of the oracular meetings at Highgate, where the philosopher sat in his great easy-chair, surrounded by his disciples and devotees, uttering, amid floods of unintelligible, mystic eloquence, those radiant thoughts and startling truths which warrant his claim to genius, if not to greatness. It is curious to observe how at this early period of Carlyle's life, when all the talent and learning of England bowed at these levees before the gigantic speculator and dreamer, he, perhaps alone, stood aloof from the motley throng of worshippers,—with them, but not of them,—coolly analyzing every sentence delivered by the oracle, and sufficiently learned in the divine lore to separate the gold from the dross. What was good and productive he was ready to recognize and assimilate; leaving the opium pomps and splendors of the discourse, and all the Oriental imagery with which the speaker decorated his bathos, to those who could find profit therein. It is still more curious and sorrowful to see this great Coleridge, endowed with such high gifts, of so various learning, and possessing so marvellous and plastic a power over all the forms of language, forsaking the true for the false inspiration, and relying upon a vile drug to stimulate his large and lazy intellect into action. Carlyle seems to have regarded him at this period as a sort of fallen demigod; and although he sneers, with an almost Mephistophelean distortion of visage, at the philosopher's half inarticulate drawling of speech, at his snuffy, nasal utterance of the ever-recurring "omnject" and "sumnject" yet gleams of sympathy and affection, not unmixed with sorrow, appear here and there in what he says concerning him. And indeed, although the immense fame of Coleridge is scarcely warranted by his printed performances, he was, nevertheless, worthy both of affection and homage. For whilst we pity the weakness and disease of his moral nature, under the influence of that dark and terribly enchanting weed, we cannot forget either his personal amiabilities or the great service which he rendered to letters and to society. Carlyle himself would be the last man to deny this laurel to the brows of "the poet, the philosopher, and the divine," as Charles Lamb calls him; and it is certain that the thinking of Coleridge helped to fashion Carlyle's mind, and not unlikely that it directed him to a profounder study of German writers than he had hitherto given to them.
Coleridge had already formed a school both of divinity and philosophy. He had his disciples, as well as those far-off gazers who looked upon him with amazement and trembling, not knowing what to make of the phenomenon, or whether to regard him as friend or foe to the old dispensation and the established order of things. He had written books and poems, preached Unitarian sermons, recanted, and preached philosophy and Church-of-Englandism. To the dazzled eyes of all ordinary mortals, content to chew the cud of parish sermons, and swallow, Sunday after Sunday, the articles of common belief, he seemed an eccentric comet. But a better astronomy recognized him as a fixed star, for he was unmistakable by that fitting Few whose verdict is both history and immortality.
But a greater than Coleridge, destined to assume a more commanding position, and exercise a still wider power over the minds of his age, arose in Thomas Carlyle. The son of a Scotch farmer, he had in his youth a hard student's life of it, and many severe struggles to win the education which is the groundwork of his greatness. His father was a man of keen penetration, who saw into the heart of things, and possessed such strong intellect and sterling common sense that the country people said "he always hit the nail on the head and clinched it." His mother was a good, pious woman, who loved the Bible, and Luther's "Table Talk," and Luther,—walking humbly and sincerely before God, her Heavenly Father. Carlyle was brought up in the religion of his fathers and his country; and it is easy to see in his writings how deep a root this solemn and earnest belief had struck down into his mind and character. He readily confesses how much he owes to his mother's early teaching, to her beautiful and beneficent example of goodness and holiness; and he ever speaks of her with affection and reverence. We once saw him at a friend's house take up a folio edition of the "Table Talk" alluded to, and turn over the pages with a gentle and loving hand, reading here and there his mother's favorite passages,—now speaking of the great historic value of the book, and again of its more private value, as his mother's constant companion and solace. It was touching to see this pitiless intellect, which had bruised and broken the idols of so many faiths, to which Luther himself was recommended only by his bravery and self-reliance and the grandeur of his aims,—it was touching, we say, and suggestive also of many things, to behold the strong, stern man paying homage to language whose spirit was dead to him, out of pure love for his dear mother, and veneration also for the great heart in which that spirit was once alive that fought so grand and terrible a battle. Carlyle likes to talk of Luther, and, as his "Hero-Worship" shows, loves his character. A great, fiery, angry gladiator, with something of the bully in him,—as what controversialist has not, from Luther to Erasmus, to Milton, to Carlyle himself?—a dread image-breaker, implacable as Cromwell, but higher and nobler than he, with the tenderness of a woman in his inmost heart, full of music, and glory, and spirituality, and power; his speech genuine and idiomatic, not battles only, but conquests; and all his highest, best, and gentlest thoughts robed in the divine garments of religion and poetry;—such was Luther, and as such Carlyle delights to behold him. Are they not akin? We assuredly think so. For the blood of this aristocracy refuses to mix with that of churls and bastards, and flows pure and uncontaminated from century to century, descending in all its richness and vigor from Piromis to Piromis. The ancient philosopher knew this secret well enough when he said a Parthian and a Libyan might be related, although they had no common parental blood; and that a man is not necessarily my brother because he is born of the same womb.
We find that Carlyle in his student-life manifested many of those strong moral characteristics which are the attributes of all his heroes. An indomitable courage and persistency meet us everywhere in his pages,—persistency, and also careful painstaking, and patience in sifting facts and gathering results. He disciplined himself to this end in early youth, and never allowed any study or work to conquer him. Speaking to us once in private upon the necessity of persevering effort in order to any kind of success in life, he said, "When I was a student, I resolved to make myself master of Newton's 'Principia,' and although I had not at that time knowledge enough of mathematics to make the task other than a Hercules-labor to me, yet I read and wrought unceasingly, through all obstructions and difficulties, until I had accomplished it; and no Tamerlane conqueror ever felt half so happy as I did when the terrible book lay subdued and vanquished before me." This trifling anecdote is a key to Carlyle's character. To achieve his object, he exhausts all the means within his command; never shuffles through his work, but does it faithfully and sincerely, with a man's heart and hand. This outward sincerity in the conduct of his executive faculty has its counterpart in the inmost recesses of his nature. We feel that this man and falsehood are impossible companions, and our faith in his integrity is perfect and absolute. Herein lies his power; and here also lies the power of all men who have ever moved the world. For it is in the nature of truth to conserve itself, whilst falsehood is centrifugal, and flies off into inanity and nothingness. It is by the cardinal virtue of sincerity alone—the truthfulness of deed to thought, of effect to cause—that man and nature are sustained. God is truth; and he who is most faithful to truth is not only likest to God, but is made a participator in the divine nature. For without truth there is neither power, vitality, nor permanence.
Carlyle was fortunate that he was comparatively poor, and never tempted, therefore, as a student, to dissipate his fine talents in the gay pursuits of university life. Not that there would have been any likelihood of his running into the excesses of ordinary students, but we are pleased and thankful to reflect that he suffered no kind of loss or harm in those days of his novitiate. It is one of the many consolations of poverty that it protects young men from snares and vices to which the rich are exposed; and our poor student in his garret was preserved faithful to his vocation, and laid up day by day those stores of knowledge, experience, and heavenly wisdom which he has since turned to so good account. It would be deeply interesting, if we could learn the exact position of Carlyle's mind at this time, with respect to those profound problems of human nature and destiny which have occupied the greatest men in all ages, ceaselessly and pertinaciously urging their dark and solemn questions, and refusing to depart until their riddles were in some sort solved. That Carlyle was haunted by these questions, and by the pitiless Sphinx herself who guards the portals of life and death,—that he had to meet her face to face, staring at him with her stony, passionless eyes,—that he had to grapple and struggle with her for victory,—there are proofs abundant in his writings. The details of the struggle, however, are not given us; it is the result only that we know. But it is evident that the progress of his mind from the bog-region of orthodoxy to the high realms of thought and faith was a slow proceeding,—not rolled onward as with the chariot-wheels of a fierce and sudden revolution, but gradually developed in a long series of births, growths, and deaths. The theological phraseology sticks to him, indeed, even to the present time, although he puts it to new uses; and it acquires in his hands a power and significance which it possessed only when, of old, it was representative of the divine.
Carlyle was matured in solitude. Emerson found him, in the year 1833, on the occasion of his first visit to England, living at Craigenputtock, a farm in Nithsdale, far away from all civilization, and "no one to talk to but the minister of the parish." He, good man, could make but little of his solitary friend, and must many a time have been startled out of his canonicals by the strange, alien speeches which he heard. It is a pity that this minister had not had some of the Boswell faculty in him, that he might have reported what we should all be so glad to hear. Over that period of his life, however, the curtain falls at present, to be lifted only, if ever, by Carlyle himself. Through the want of companionship, he fell back naturally upon books and his own thoughts. Here he wrote some of his finest critical essays for the reviews, and that "rag of a book," as he calls it, the "Life of Schiller." The essays show a catholic, but conservative spirit, and are full of deep thought. They exhibit also a profoundly philosophical mind, and a power of analysis which is almost unique in letters. They are pervaded likewise by an earnestness and solemnity which are perfectly Hebraic; and each performance is presented in a style decorated with all the costly jewels of imagination and fancy,—a style of far purer and more genuine English than any of his subsequent writings, which are often marred, indeed, by gross exaggerations, and still grosser violations of good taste and the chastities of language. What made these writings, however, so notable at the time, and so memorable since, was that sincerity and deep religious feeling of the writer which we have already alluded to. Here were new elements introduced into the current literature, destined to revivify it, and to propagate themselves, as by seminal vitality, in myriad minds and forms. These utterances were both prophetic and creative, and took all sincere minds captive. Dry and arid in comparison as Egyptian deserts, lay all around him the writings of his contemporaries. No living waters flowed through them; all was sand, and parch, and darkness. The contrast was immense: a living soul and a dead corpse! Since the era of the Commonwealth,—the holy, learned, intellectual, and earnest age of Taylor, Barrow, Milton, Fuller,—no such pen of fire had wrought its miracles amongst us. Writers spoke from the intellect, believed in the intellect, and divorced it from the soul and the moral nature. Science, history, ethics, religion, whenever treated of in literary form, were mechanized, and shone not with any spiritual illumination. There was abundance of lawyer-like ability,—but of genius, and its accompanying divine afflatus, little. Carlyle is full of genius; and this is evidenced not only by the fine aroma of his language, but by the depths of his insight, his wondrous historical pictures,—living cartoons of persons, events, and epochs, which he paints often in single sentences,—and the rich mosaic of truths with which every page of his writings is inlaid.
That German literature, with which at this time Carlyle had been more or less acquainted for ten years, had done much to foster and develop his genius there can be no doubt; although the book which first created a storm in his mind, and awoke him to the consciousness of his own abundant faculty, was the "Confessions" of Rousseau,—a fact which is well worthy of record and remembrance. He speaks subsequently of poor Jean Jacques with much sympathy and sorrow; not as the greatest man of his time and country, but as the sincerest,—a smitten, struggling spirit,—
"An infant crying in the night, An infant crying for the light, And with no language but a cry."
From Rousseau, and his strange thoughts, and wild, ardent eloquence, the transition to German literature was easy. Some one had told Carlyle that he would find in this literature what he had so long sought after,—truth and rest,—and he gladly learned the language, and addressed himself to the study of its masters; with what success all the world knows, for he has grafted their thoughts upon his own, and whoever now speaks is more or less consciously impregnated by his influence. Who the man was that sent Carlyle to them does not appear, and so far as he is concerned it is of little moment to inquire; but the fact constitutes the grand epoch in Carlyle's life, and his true history dates from that period.
It was natural that he should be deeply moved on his introduction to German literature. He went to it with an open and receptive nature, and with an earnestness of purpose which could not fail to be productive. Jean Paul, the beautiful!—the good man, and the wise teacher, with poetic stuff in him sufficient to have floated an argosy of modern writers,—this great, imaginative Jean Paul was for a long time Carlyle's idol, whom he reverently and affectionately studied. He has written a fine paper about him in his "Miscellanies," and we trace his influence not only in Carlyle's thought and sentiment, but in the very form of their utterance. He was, indeed, warped by him, at one period, clear out of his orbit, and wrote as he inspired. The dazzling sunbursts of Richter's imagination, however,—its gigantic procession of imagery, moving along in sublime and magnificent marches from earth to heaven, from heaven to earth,—the array, symbolism, and embodiment of his manifold ideas, ceased in the end to enslave, though they still captivated Carlyle's mind; and he turns from him to the thinkers who deal with God's geometry, and penetrate into the abysses of being,—to primordial Kant, and his behemoth brother, Fichte. Nor does Hegel, or Schelling, or Schlegel, or Novalis escape his pursuit, but he hunts them all down, and takes what is needful to him, out of them, as his trophy. Schiller is his king of singers, although he does not much admire his "Philosophical Letters," or his "Aesthetic Letters." But his grandest modern man is the calm and plastic Goethe, and the homage he renders him is worthy of a better and a holier idol. Goethe's "Autobiography," in so far as it relates to his early days, is a bad book; and Wordsworth might well say of the "Wilhelm Meister," that "it was full of all manner of fornication, like the crossing of flies in the air." Goethe, however, is not to be judged by any fragmentary estimate of him, but as an intellectual whole; for he represented the intellect, and grasped with his selfish and cosmical mind all the provinces of thought, learning, art, science, and government, for purely intellectual purposes. This entrance into, and breaking up of, the minds of these distinguished persons was, however, a fine discipline for Carlyle, who is fully aware of its value; and whilst holding communion with these great men, who by their genius and insight seemed to apprehend the essential truth of things at a glance, it is not wonderful that he should have been so merciless in his denunciations of the mere logic-ability of English writers, as he shows himself in the essays of that period. Logic, useful as it is, as a help to reasoning, is but the dead body of thought, as Novalis designates it, and has no place in the inspired regions where the prophets and the bards reside.
Carlyle's fame, however, had not reached its culminating point when Emerson visited him. The English are a slow, unimpressionable people, not given to hasty judgments, nor too much nor too sudden praise; requiring first to take the true altitude of a man, to measure him by severe tests; often grudging him his proper and natural advantages and talents, buffeting and abusing him in a merciless and sometimes an unreasoning and unreasonable manner, allowing him now and then, however, a sunbeam for his consolation, until at last they come to a settled understanding of him, and he is generously praised and abused into the sanctuary of their worthies. This was not the case, however, at present, with Carlyle; for although he had the highest recognitions from some of those who constitute the flower and chivalry of England, he was far better known and more widely read in America than in his own country. Emerson, then a young man, with a great destiny before him, was attracted by his writings, and carried a letter of introduction to him at Craigenputtock. "He was tall and gaunt, with a cliff-like brow; self-possessed, and holding his extraordinary powers of conversation in easy command; clinging to his northern accent with evident relish; full of lively anecdote, and with a streaming humor which floated everything he looked upon." He is the same man, in his best moods, in the year 1857, as he was in 1833. His person, except that he stoops slightly, is tall, and very little changed. He is thinner, and the once ruddy hues of his cheek are dying away like faint streaks of light in the twilight sky of a summer evening. But he is strong and hearty on the whole; although the excitement of continuous writing keeps him in a perpetual fever, deranges his liver, and makes him at times acrid and savage as a sick giant. Hence his increased pugnacity of late,—his fierceness, and angry hammering of all things sacred and profane. It is but physical and temporary, however, all this, and does not affect his healthy and serene moments. For no man lives who possesses greater kindness and affection, or more good, noble, and humane qualities. All who know him love him, although they may have much to pardon in him; not in a social or moral sense, however, but in an intellectual one. His talk is as rich as ever,—perhaps richer; for his mind has increased its stores, and the old fire of geniality still burns in his great and loving heart. Perhaps his conversation is better than his printed discourse. We have never heard anything like it. It is all alive, as if each word had a soul in it.
How characteristic is all that Emerson tells us of him in his "English Traits"!—a book, by the way, concerning which no adequate word has yet been spoken; the best book ever written upon England, and which no brave young Englishman can read, and ever after commit either a mean or a bad action. We are therefore doubly thankful to Emerson, both for what he says of England, and for what he relates of Carlyle, whose independent speech upon all subjects is one of his chief charms. He reads "Blackwood," for example, and has enjoyed many a racy, vigorous article in its pages; but it does not satisfy him, and he calls it "Sand Magazine." "Fraser's" is a little better, but not good enough to be worthy of a higher nomenclature than "Mud Magazine." Excessive praise of any one's talents drives him into admiration of the parts of his own learned pig, now wallowing in the stye. The best thing he knew about America was that there a man could have meat for his labor. He did not read Plato, and he disparaged Socrates. Mirabeau was a hero; Gibbon the splendid bridge from the old world to the new. It is interesting also to hear that "Tristram Shandy" was one of the first books he read after "Robinson Crusoe," and that Robertson's "America" was an early favorite. Rousseau's "Confessions" had discovered to him that he was not a dunce. Speaking of English pauperism, he said that government should direct poor men what to do. "Poor Irish folks come wandering over these moors. My dame makes it a rule to give to every son of Adam bread to eat, and supplies his wants to the next house. But here are thousands of acres which might give them all meat, and nobody to bid those poor Irish go to the moor and till it. They burned the stacks, and so found a way to force the rich people to attend to them." Here is the germ of his book on "Chartism." Emerson and he talk of the immortality of the soul, seated on the hill-tops near Old Criffel, and looking down "into Wordsworth's country." Carlyle had the natural disinclination of every nimble spirit to bruise itself against walls, and did not like to place himself where no step can be taken; but he was honest and true, and cognizant of the subtile links that bind ages together, and saw how every event affects all the future. "Christ died on the tree; that built Dunscore Kirk yonder; that brought you and me together. Time has only a relative existence."
Such is Emerson's account of his first visit to our author, whose eyes were already turned towards London as the heart of the world, whither he subsequently went, and where he now abides.
From Craigenputtock, with its savage rocks and moorlands, its sheepwalk solitudes, its isolation and distance from all the advantages of civil and intellectual life, to London and the living solitude of its unnumberable inhabitants, its activities, polity, and world-wide ramifications of commerce, learning, science, literature, and art, was a change of great magnitude, whose true proportions it took time to estimate. Carlyle, however, was not afraid of the huge mechanism of London life, but took to it bravely and kindly, and was soon at home amidst the everlasting whirl and clamor, the roar and thunder of its revolutions. For although a scholar, and bred in seclusion, he was also a genuine man of the world, and well acquainted with its rough ways and Plutonic wisdom. This knowledge, combined with his strong "common sense,"—as poor Dr. Beattie calls it, fighting for its supremacy with canine ferocity,—gave Carlyle high vantage-ground in his writings. He could meet the world with its own weapons, and was cunning enough at that fence, as the world was very shortly sensible. He was saved, therefore, from the contumely which vulgar minds are always ready to bestow upon saints and mystics who sit aloof from them, high enthroned amidst the truths and solemnities of God. The secluded and ascetic life of most scholars, highly favorable as it undoubtedly is to contemplation and internal development, has likewise its disadvantages, and puts them, as being undisciplined in the ways of life, at great odds, when they come to the actual and practical battle. A man should be armed at all points, and not subject himself, like good George Fox, Jacob Behmen, and other holy men, to the taunts of the mob, on account of any awkward gait, mannerism, or ignorance of men and affairs. Paul had none of these absurdities about him; but was an accomplished person, as well as a divine speaker. His doctrine of being all things to all men, that he might win souls to Christ, is, like good manners and politeness, a part of that mundane philosophy which obtains in every society, both as theory and performance; not, however, in its literal meaning, which would involve all sorts of hypocrisy and lies as its accessories, but in the sense of ability to meet all kinds of men on their own grounds and with their own enginery of warfare.
Strength, whether of mind or body, is sure to command respect, even though it be used against ourselves; for we Anglo-Saxons are all pugilists. A man, therefore, who accredits his metal by the work he accomplishes, will be readily enough heard when he comes to speak and labor upon higher platforms. This was the case with Carlyle; and when he published that new Book of Job, that weird and marvellous Pilgrim's Progress of a modern cultivated soul, the "Sartor Resartus," in "Fraser's Magazine," strange, wild, and incomprehensible as it was to most men, they did not put it contemptuously aside, but pondered it, laughed at it, trembled over it and its dread apocalyptical visions and revelations, respecting its earnestness and eloquence, although not comprehending what manner of writing it essentially was. Carlyle enjoyed the perplexity of his readers and reviewers, neither of whom, with the exception of men like Sterling, and a writer in one of the Quarterlies, seemed to know what they were talking about when they spoke of it. The criticisms upon it were exceedingly comical in many instances, and the author put the most notable of these together, and always alluded to them with roars of laughter. The book has never yet received justice at the hands of any literary tribunal. It requires, indeed, a large amount of culture to appreciate it, either as a work of art, or as a living flame-painting of spiritual struggle and revelation. In his previous writings he had insisted upon the sacredness and infinite value of the human soul,—upon the wonder and mystery of life, and its dread surroundings,—upon the divine significance of the universe, with its star pomp, and overhanging immensities,—and upon the primal necessity for each man to stand with awe and reverence in this august and solemn presence, if he would hope to receive any glimpses of its meaning, or live a true and divine life in the world; and in the "Sartor" he has embodied and illustrated this in the person and actions of his hero. He saw that religion had become secular; that it was reduced to a mere Sunday holiday and Vanity Fair, taking no vital hold of the lives of men, and radiating, therefore, none of its blessed and beautiful influences about their feet and ways; that human life itself, with all its adornments of beauty and poetry, was in danger of paralysis and death; that love and faith, truth, duty, and holiness, were fast losing their divine attributes in the common estimation, and were hurrying downwards with tears and a sad threnody into gloom and darkness. Carlyle saw all this, and knew that it was the reaction of that intellectual idolatry which brought the eighteenth century to a close; knew also that there was only one remedy which could restore men to life and health,—namely, the quickening once again of their spiritual nature. He felt, also, that it was his mission to attempt this miracle; and hence the prophetic fire and vehemence of his words. No man, and especially no earnest man, can read him without feeling himself arrested as by the grip of a giant,—without trembling before his stern questions, inculcations, and admonitions. There is a God, O Man! and not a blind chance, as governor of this world. Thy soul has infinite relations with this God, which thou canst never realize in thy being, or manifest in thy practical life, save by a devout reverence for him, and his miraculous, awful universe. This reverence, this deep, abiding religious feeling, is the only link which binds us to the Infinite. That severed, broken, or destroyed, and man is an alien and an orphan; lost to him forever is the key to all spiritual mystery, to the hieroglyph of the soul, to the symbolism of nature, of time, and of eternity. Such, as we understand it, is Carlyle's teaching. But this is not all. Man is to be man in that high sense we have spoken his robes of immortality around him, as if God had done with him for all practical purposes, and he with God,—but for action,—action in a world which is to prove his power, his beneficence, his usefulness. That spiritual fashioning by the Great Fashioner of all things is so ordained that we ourselves may become fashioners, workers, makers. For it is given to no man to be an idle cumberer of the ground, but to dig, and sow, and plant, and reap the fruits of his labor for the garner. This is man's first duty, and the diviner he is the more divinely will he execute it.
That such a gospel as this could find utterance in the pages of the "Edinburgh Review" is curious enough; and it is scarcely less surprising that the "Sartor Resartus" should make its first appearance in the somewhat narrow and conservative pages of Fraser. Carlyle has clearly written his own struggles in this book,—his struggles and his conquests. From the "Everlasting No,"—that dreadful realm of enchantment, where all the forms of nature are frozen forever in dumb imprisonment and despair,—the great vaulted firmament no longer serene and holy and loving as God's curtain for his children's slumbers, but flaming in starry portents, and dropping down over the earth like a funeral pall; through this region of life-semblance and death-reality the lonely and aching pilgrim wanders,—questioning without reply,—wailing, broken, self-consuming,—looking with eager eyes for the waters of immortality, and finding nothing but pools of salt and Marahs of bitterness. Herein is no Calvary, no Cross-symbolism, by whose miraculous power he is relieved of his infinite burden of sorrow, starting onward with hope and joy in his heart; nor does he ever find his Calvary until the deeps of his spiritual nature are broken up and flooded with celestial light, as he knocks reverently at the portals of heaven for communion with his Father who is in heaven. Then bursts upon him a new significance from all things; he sees that the great world is but a fable of divine truth, hiding its secrets from all but the initiated and the worthy, and that faith, and trust, and worship are the cipher, which unlocks them all. He thus arrives at the plains of heaven in the region of the "Everlasting Yes." His own soul lies naked and resolved before him,—its unspeakable greatness, its meaning, faculty, and destiny. Work, and dutiful obedience to the laws of work, are the outlets of his power; and herein he finds peace and rest to his soul.
That Carlyle is not only an earnest, but a profoundly religious man, these attempted elucidations of his teachings will abundantly show. His religion, however, is very far remote from what is called religion in this day. He has no patience with second-hand beliefs,—with articles of faith ready-made for the having. Whatsoever is accepted by men because it is the tradition of their fathers, and not a deep conviction arrived at by legitimate search, is to him of no avail; and all merely historical and intellectual faith, standing outside the man, and not absorbed in the life as a vital, moving, and spiritual power, he places also amongst the chaff for burning. This world is a serious world, and human life and business are also serious matters,—not to be trifled with, nor cheated by shams and hypocrisies, but to be dealt with in all truth, soberness, and sincerity. No one can thus deal with it who is not himself possessed of these qualities, and the result of a life is the test of what virtue there is in it. False men leave no mark. It is truth alone which does the masonry of the world,—which founds empires, and builds cities, and establishes laws, commerce, and civilization. And in private life the same law abides, indestructible as God. Carlyle's teaching tends altogether in this direction; and whilst he belongs to no church and no creed, he is tolerant of all, and of everything that is heartily and unfeignedly believed in by his fellows. He is no Catholic; and yet for years he read little else than the forty volumes of the "Acta Sanctorum," and found, he says, all Christian history there, and much of profane history. Neither is he a Mahometan; but he nevertheless makes a hero of Mahomet, whom he loves for his Ishmaelite fierceness, bravery, and religious sincerity,—and because he taught deism, or the belief in one God, instead of the old polytheism, or the belief in many gods,—and gave half the East his very good book, called the Koran, for his followers to live and die by.
Whether this large catholicism, this worship of heroes, is the best of what now remains of religion on earth is certainly questionable enough; and if we regard it in no other light than merely as an idolatry of persons, there is an easy answer ready for it. But considering that religion is now so far dead that it consists in little else than formalities, and that its divine truth is no longer such to half the great world, which lies, indeed, in dire atrophy and wickedness,—and if we further consider and agree that the awakened human soul is the divinest thing on earth, and partakes of the divine nature itself, and that its manifestations are also divine in whomsoever it is embodied, we can see some apology for its adoption; inasmuch as it is the divine likeness to which reverence and homage are rendered, and not the person merely, but only so far as he is the medium of its showing. Christianity, however, will assuredly survive, although doubtless in a new form, preserving all the integrity of its message,—and be once more faith and life to men, when the present old, established, decaying cultus shall be venerated only as history.
Carlyle clings to the Christian formulary and the old Christian life in spite of himself. He is almost fanatical in his attachment to the mediaeval times,—to the ancient worship, its ceremonial, music, and architecture, its monastic government, its saints and martyrs. And the reason, as he shows in the "Past and Present," is, that all this array of devotion, this pomp and ceremony, this music and painting, this gorgeous and sublime architecture, this fasting and praying, were real,—faithful manifestations of a religion which to that people was truly genuine and holy. They who built the cathedrals of Europe, adorned them with carvings, pictures, and those stately windows with their storied illuminations which at this day are often miracles of beauty and of art, were not frivolous modern conventicle-builders, but poets as grand as Milton, and sculptors whose genius might front that of Michel Angelo. It was no dead belief in a dead religion which designed and executed these matchless temples. Man and Religion were both alive in those days; and the worship of God was so profound a prostration of the inmost spirit before his majesty and glory, that the souls of the artists seem to have been inspired, and to have received their archetypes in heavenly visions. Such temples it is neither in the devotion nor the faculty of the modern Western world to conceive or construct. Carlyle knows all this, and he falls back in loving admiration upon those old times and their worthies, despising the filigree materials of which the men of to-day are for the most part composed. He revels in that picture of monastic life, also, which is preserved in the record of Jocelyn de Brakelonde. He sees all men at work there, each at his proper vocation;—and he praises them, because they fear God and do their duty. He finds them the same men, although with better and devouter hearts, as we are at this day. Time makes no difference in this verdant human nature, which shows ever the same in Catholic monasteries as in Puritan meeting-houses. We have a wise preachment, however, from that Past, to the Present, in Carlyle's book, which is one of his best efforts, and contains isolated passages which for wisdom and beauty, and chastity of utterance, he has never exceeded.
We have no space to speak here of all his books with anything like critical integrity. The greatest amongst them, however, is, perhaps, his "French Revolution, a History,"—which is no history, but a vivid painting of characters and events as they moved along in tumultuous procession. No one can appreciate this book who is not acquainted with the history in its details beforehand. Emerson once related to us a striking anecdote connected with this work, which gives us another glimpse of Carlyle's character. He had just completed, after infinite labor, one of the three volumes of his History, which he left exposed on his study table when he went to bed. Next morning he sought in vain for the manuscript, and had wellnigh concluded with Robert Hall, who was once in a similar dilemma, that the Devil had run away with it, when the servant-girl, on being questioned, confessed that she had burnt it to kindle the fire. Carlyle neither stamped nor raved, but sat down without a word and rewrote it.
In summing up the present results of Carlyle's labor, foolish men of the world and small critics have not failed to ask what it all amounts to,—what the great Demiurgus is aiming at in his weary battle of life; and the question is significant enough,—one more proof of that Egyptian darkness of vision which he is here to dispel. "He pulls down the old," say they; "but what does he give us in place of it? Why does he not strike out a system of his own? And after all, there is nothing new in him." Such is the idle talk of the day, and such are the men who either guide the people, or seek to guide them. Poor ignorant souls! who do not know the beginning of the knowledge which Carlyle teaches, nor its infinite importance to life and all its concerns:—this, namely, as we have said before, that the soul should first of all be wakened to the consciousness of its own miraculous being, that it may be penetrated by the miracles of the universe, and rise by aspiration and faith to the knowledge and worship of God, in whom are all things; that this attitude of the soul, and its accompanying wisdom, will beget the strength, purity, virtue, and truth which can alone restore order and beauty upon the earth; that all "systems," and mechanical, outward means and appliances to the end, will but increase the Babel of confusion, as things unfitted to it, and altogether extraneous and hopeless. "Systems!" It is living, truthful men we want; these will make their own systems; and let those who doubt the truth humbly watch and wait until it is manifest to them, or go on their own arid and sorrowful ways in what peace they can find there.
The catholic spirit of Carlyle's works cannot be better illustrated than by the fact that he has received letters from all sorts and conditions of men, Methodists and Shakers, Churchmen and Romanists, Deists and Infidels, all claiming his fellowship, and thinking they find their peculiarities of thought in him. This is owing partly, perhaps, to the fact that in his earlier writings he masked his sentiments both in Hebraic and Christian phraseology; and partly to the lack of vision in his admirers, who could not distinguish a new thought in an old garment. His "Cromwell" deceived not a few in this respect; and we were once asked in earnest, by a man who should have been better informed, if Carlyle was a Puritan. Whatever he may be called, or believed to be, one thing is certain concerning him: that he is a true and valiant man,—all out a man!—and that literature and the world are deeply indebted to him. His mission, like that of Jeremy Collier in a still baser age, was to purge our literature of its falsehood, to recreate it, and to make men once more believe in the divine, and live in it. So earnest a man has not appeared since the days of Luther, nor any one whose thoughts are so suggestive, germinal, and propagative. All our later writers are tinged with his thought, and he has to answer for such men as Kingsley, Newman, Froude, and others who will not answer for him, nor acknowledge him.
In private life Carlyle is amiable, and often high and beautiful in his demeanor. He talks much, and, as we have said, well; impatient, at times, of interruption, and at other times readily listening to those who have anything to say. But he hates babblers, and cant, and sham, and has no mercy for them, but sweeps them away in the whirlwind and terror of his wrath. He receives distinguished men, in the evening, at his house in Chelsea; but he rarely visits. He used occasionally to grace the saloons of Lady Blessington, in the palmy days of her life, when she attracted around her all noble and beautiful persons, who were distinguished by their attainments in literature, science, or art; but he rarely leaves his home now for such a purpose. He is at present engaged in his "Life of Frederick the Great," whom he will hardly make a hero of, and with whom, we learn, he is already very heartily disgusted. The first volume will shortly appear.
And now we must close this imperfect paper,—reserving for a future occasion some personal reminiscences of him, which may prove both interesting and illustrative.
I fear I have not what is called "a taste for flowers." To be sure, my cottage home is half buried in tall shrubs, some of which are flowering, and some are not. A giant woodbine has wrapped the whole front in its rich green mantle; and the porch is roofed and the windows curtained with luxuriant honeysuckles and climbing wild-roses. But, though I have tried for it many times, I never yet had a successful bed of flowers. My next neighbor, Mrs. Smith, is "a lady of great taste"; and when she leads me proudly through her trim alleys edged with box, and displays her hyacinths and tulips, her heliotropes, cactuses, and gladioluses, her choice roses, "so extremely double," and all the rare plants which adorn her parterre, I conclude it must be that I have no taste at all. I beg her to save me seeds and bulbs, get fresh directions for laying down, and inoculating, grafting, and potting, and go home with my head full of improvements. But the next summer comes round with no change, except that the old denizens of the soil (like my maids and my children) have grown more wild and audacious than ever, and I find no place for beds of flowers. I must e'en give it up; I have no taste for flowers, in the common sense of the words. In fact, they awaken in me no sentiment, no associations, as they stand, marshalled for show, "in beds and curious knots"; and I do not like the care of them.
Yet let me find these daughters of the early year in their native haunts, scattered about on hillside and in woody dingle, half hidden by green leaves, starting up like fairies in secluded nooks, nestling at the root of some old tree, or leaning over to peep into some glassy bit of water, and no heart thrills quicker than mine at the sight. There they seem to me to enjoy a sweet wild life of their own; nodding and smiling in the sunshine or verdant gloom, caring not to see or to be seen. Some of the loveliest of my early recollections are of rambles after flowers. There was a certain "little pink and yellow flower" (so described to me by one of my young cousins) after which I searched a whole summer with unabated eagerness. I was fairly haunted by its ideal image. Henry von Ofterdingen never sought with intenser desire for his wondrous blue flower, nor more vainly; for I never found it. One day, this same cousin and myself, while wandering in the woods, found ourselves on the summit of a little rocky precipice, and at its foot, lo! in full bloom, a splendid variety of the orchis, (a flower I had never seen before,) looking to my astonished eyes like an enchanted princess in a fairy tale. With a scream of joy we both sprang for the prize. Harriet seized it first, but after gazing at it a moment with a quiet smile, presented it to me. "Kings may be blest, but I was glorious!" I never felt so rich before or since.
But there was one flower,—and I must confess that I made acquaintance with it in a garden, but at an age when I thought all things grew out of the blessed earth of their own sweet will,—which, as it is the first I remember to have loved, has maintained the right of priority in my affections to this day. Nay, many an object of deep, absorbing interest, more than one glowing friendship, has meantime passed away, leaving no memorial but sad and bitter thoughts; while this wee flower still lives and makes glad a little green nook in my heart. It was a Button-Rose of the smallest species, the outspread blossom scarce exceeding in size a shilling-piece. It stood in my grandfather's garden,—that garden which, at my first sight of it, (I was then about five years old,) seemed to me boundless in extent, and beautiful beyond aught that I had seen or thought before. It was a large, old-fashioned kitchen-garden, adorned and enriched, however, as then the custom was, with flowers and fruit-trees. Several fine old pear-trees and a few of the choicest varieties of plum and cherry were scattered over it; currants and gooseberries lined the fences; the main alley, running through its whole extent, was thickly bordered by lilacs, syringas, and roses, with many showy flowers intermixed, and terminated in a very pleasant grape-arbor. Behind this rose a steep green hill covered with an apple-orchard, through which a little thread of a footpath wound up to another arbor which stood on the summit relieved against the sky. It was but little after sunrise, the first morning of my visit, when I timidly opened the garden gate and stood in full view of these glories. All was dewy, glittering, fragrant, musical as a morn in Eden. For a while I stood still, in a kind of enchantment. Venturing, at length, a few steps forward, gazing eagerly from side to side, I was suddenly arrested by the most marvellously beautiful object my eyes had ever seen,—no other than the little Button-Rose of our story! So small, so perfect! It filled my infant sense with its loveliness. It grew in a very pretty china vase, as if more precious than the other flowers. Several blossoms were fully expanded, and many tiny buds were showing their crimson tips. As I stood lost in rapture over this little miracle of beauty, a humming-bird, the smallest of its fairy tribe, darted into sight, and hung for an instant, its ruby crest and green and golden plumage flashing in the sun, over my new-found treasure. Were it not that the emotions of a few such moments are stamped indelibly on the memory, we should have no conception in maturer life of the intenseness of childish enjoyment. Oh for one drop of that fresh morning dew, that pure nectar of life, in which I then bathed with an unconscious bliss! Methinks I would give many days of sober, thoughtful, rational enjoyment for one hour of the eager rapture which thrilled my being as I stood in that enchanted garden, gazing upon my little rose, and that gay creature of the elements, that winged blossom, that living fragment of a rainbow, that glanced and quivered and murmured over it.
But, dear as the Button-Rose is to my memory, I should hardly think of obtruding it on the notice of others, were it not for a little tale of human interest connected with it. While I yet stood motionless in the ecstasy of my first wonder, a young man and woman entered the garden, chatting and laughing in a very lively manner. The lady was my Aunt Caroline, then in the fresh bloom of seventeen; the young man I had never seen before. Seeing me standing alone in the walk, my aunt called me; but as I shrunk away shy and blushing at sight of the stranger, she came forward and took hold of my hand.
"This is our little Katy, Cousin Harry," said she, leading me towards him.
"Our little Katy's most obedient!" replied he, taking off his broad-brimmed straw hat, and making a flourishing bow nearly to the ground.
"Don't be afraid of him, Katy dear; he's nobody," said my aunt, laughing.
At these encouraging words I glanced up at the merry pair, and thought them almost as pretty as the rose and hummingbird. My Aunt Caroline's beauty was of a somewhat peculiar character,—if beauty that can be called which was rather spirit, brilliancy, geniality of expression, than symmetrical mould of features. The large, full eye was of the deepest violet hue; the finely arched forehead, a little too boldly cast for feminine beauty, was shaded by masses of rich chestnut hair; the mouth,—but who could describe that mouth? Even in repose, some arch thought seemed ever at play among its changeful curves; and when she spoke or laughed, its wonderful mobility and sweetness of expression threw a perfect witchery over her face. She was quite short, and, if the truth must be told, a little too stout in figure; but this was in a great measure redeemed by a beautifully moulded neck, on which her head turned with the quickness and grace of a wild pigeon. Every motion was rapid and decided, and her whole aspect beamed with genius, gayety, and a cordial friendliness, which took the heart at first sight. And then, her voice, her laugh!—not so low as Shakspeare commends in woman, but clear, musical, true-hearted, making one glad like the song of the lark at sunrise.
Cousin Harry was a very tall, very pale, very black-haired and black-eyed young gentleman, with a high, open brow, and a very fascinating smile.
The remainder of the garden scene was to me but little more than dumb show. Perhaps it was more vividly remembered for that very reason. I recollect being busy filling a little basket with strawberries, while I watched with a pleased, childish curiosity the two young people, as they passed many times up and down the gravelled walk between the rows of flowers. I was not far from the Button-Rose, and I had nearly filled my basket, when my aunt came to the spot and stooped over the little plant. Her face was towards me, and I saw several large tears fall from her eyes upon the leaves. She broke off the most beautiful blossom, and tying it up with some sprigs of mignonette, presented it to Cousin Harry. They then left the garden.
The next day I heard it said that Cousin Harry was gone away. The little rose was brought into the house and installed in the bow-window of my aunt's room, where it was watched and tended by us both with the greatest care.
Some time after this, the news came that Cousin Harry was married. The next morning I missed my little favorite from the window. My aunt was reading when I waked.
"Oh, Aunty!" I cried, "where is our little rose?"
"It was too much trouble, Katy," said she, quietly; "I have put it into the garden."
"But isn't it going to stand in our window any more?"
"No, dear, I am tired of it."
"Oh, do bring it back! I will take the whole care of it," said I, beginning to cry.
"Katy," said my aunt, taking me into her lap, and looking steadily, but kindly, into my face, "listen to me. I do not wish to have that rose in my room any more; and if you love me, you will never mention it again."
Something in her manner prevented my uttering a word more in behalf of the poor little exile. As soon as I was dressed, I ran down into the garden to visit it. It looked very lonely, I thought; I could hardly bear to leave it. The day following, it disappeared from the garden, and old Nanny, the housemaid, told me that my aunt had given it away. I never saw it again.
Thus ended my personal acquaintance with the little Button-Rose. But that first strong impression on my fancy was indelible. The flower still lived in my memory, surrounded by associations which gave it a mystic charm. By degrees I ceased to miss it from the window; but that strange garden scene grew more and more vivid, and became a cabinet picture in one of the little inner chambers of memory, where I often pondered it with a delicious sense of mystery. The rose and humming-bird seemed to me the chief actors in the magic pantomime, and they were some way connected with my dear Aunt Linny and the black-eyed young man; but what it all meant was the great puzzle of my busy little brain. It has sometimes been a matter of curious speculation to me, what share that diminutive flower had in the development of my mind and character. With it, so it seems to me, began the first dawn of a conscious inner life. I can still recollect with wonderful distinctness what I have thought and felt since that date, while all the preceding years are vague and shadowy as an ill-remembered dream. From them I can only conjure up, as it were, my outward form,—a happy animal existence, with which scarce a feeling of self is connected; but from the time when I bore a part in this little fragment of a romance the current of identity flows on unbroken. From that light waking touch, perchance, the whole subsequent development took form and tone.—But, gentle reader, your pardon! This is nothing to my story.
Ten years had slipped away, and I was now in my sixteenth year. Of course, my little cabinet picture had been joined by many others. It was now but one in an extensive gallery; and the modest little gem, dimmed with dust, and hidden by larger pieces, had not been thought of for many a day.
External circumstances had remained much the same with us; only one great change, the death of my dear grandmother, having occurred in the family. My aunt presided over her father's household, and the admirable order and good taste which pervaded every department bore witness how well she understood combining the elements of a home.
Aunt Linny, now twenty-seven years of age, had lost nothing of her former attractiveness. The brilliant, impulsive girl had but ripened into the still more lovely woman. Her cheek was not faded nor her eye dimmed. There was the same frankness, the same heart in her glance, her smile, the warm pressure of her hand, but tempered by experience, reflection, and self-control. One felt that she could be loved and trusted with the whole heart and judgment. Her personal attractions, and yet more the charm of her sensible, genial, and racy conversation, brought to our house many pleasant visitors, and made her the sparkling centre of every circle into which she could be drawn. But it was rarely that she could be beguiled from home; for, since her mother's death, she had devoted herself heart and soul to her widowed father.
The relation between myself and my aunt was somewhat peculiar. Neither of us having associates of our own age in the family, I had become her companion, and even friend, to a degree which would have been impossible in other circumstances. She had scarcely outgrown the freshness and simplicity of childhood when I first came to live with her, and my mind and feelings had expanded rapidly under the constant stimulus of a nature so full of rich life; so that at the date I now speak of, we lived together more as sisters than as aunt and niece. An inexpressible charm rests on those days, when we read, wrote, rambled together, shared the same room, and had every pleasure, every trouble in common. All show of authority over me had gradually melted away; but her influence with me was still unbounded, for I loved her with the passionate earnestness of a first, full-hearted friendship.—But to proceed with my story.
One sweet afternoon in early summer, we two were sitting alone. The windows towards the garden were open, and the breath of lilacs and roses stole in. I had been reading to her some verses of my own, celebrating the praise of first love as an imperishable sentiment. My fancy had just been crazed with the poetry of L.E.L., who was then shining as the "bright particular star" in the literary heavens.
"The lines are very pretty," said my aunt, "but I trust it's only poetizing, Kate; I should be sorry indeed to have you join the school of romantic misses who think first love such a killing matter."
"But, Aunty," I cried, "what a horribly prosy, matter-of-fact affair life would be in any other view! I believe poetry itself would become extinct."
"So, then, if a woman is disappointed in first love, she is bound to die for the benefit of poetry!"
"But just think, Aunt Linny—if Ophelia, instead of going mad so prettily, and dying in a way to break everybody's heart, had soberly set herself to consider that there were as fine fish yet in the sea as ever were caught, and that it was best, therefore, to cheer up and wait for better times! Frightful!"
"Never trouble your little head, Kate, with fear that there will not be Ophelias enough, as long as the world stands. But I wouldn't be one, if I were you, unless I could bespeak a Shakspeare to do me into poetry. That would be an inducement, I allow. How would you fancy being a Sukey Fay, Kate?"
"Oh, the poor old wretch, with her rags and dirt and gin-bottle! Has she a story?"
"Just as romantic a one as Ophelia, only she lacks a poet. But, in sober truth, Katy, why is there not as true poetry in battling with feeling as in yielding to it? To me there seems something far more lofty and beautiful in bearing to live, under certain circumstances, than in daring to die."
"If you only spoke experimentally, dear Aunty! Oh that Plato, or John Milton, or Sir Philip Sydney would reappear, and lay all his genius and glory at your feet! I wonder if you'd be of the same mind then!"
"And then, of course, this sublime suitor must die, or desert me, to show how I would behave under the trial.—Katy," continued my aunt, after a little pause, with a smile and slight blush, "I have half a mind to tell you a little romance of my early days, when I was just your age. It may be useful to you at this point of your life."
"Is it possible?" cried I,—"a romance of your early days! Quick, let me hear!"
"I shouldn't have called it a romance, Katy; for as a story, it is just nothing. It has no interest except as marking the beginning of my education,—the education, I mean, of real life."
"But let me hear; there's some spice of poetry in it, I know."
"Well, then, it's like many another story of early fancy. In my childhood I had a playmate. Our fathers' houses stood but a few rods apart, and the families lived in habits of the closest intimacy. From my earliest remembrance, the brave little boy, four years older than I, was my sworn friend and protector; and as we increased in years, an affection warm and frank as that of brother and sister grew up between us. A love of nature and of poetry, and a certain earnestness and enthusiasm of character, which separated us both from other children, drew us closely together. At fifteen he left us to fit for college at a distant school, and thenceforward he was at home only for brief visits, till he was graduated with distinguished honor at the age of twenty-one. During those six years of separation our relation to each other had suffered no change. We had corresponded with tolerable regularity, and I had felt a sister's pride in his talents and literary honors. When, therefore, he returned home to recruit his health, which had been seriously impaired by study and confinement, I welcomed him with great joy, and with all the frankness of former times.
"Again we read, chatted, and rambled together. I found him unchanged in character, but improved, cultivated, to a degree which delighted, almost awed me. When he read our favorite authors with his rich, musical voice, and descanted on their beauties with discriminating taste and fervent poetic feeling, a new light fell on the page. Through his eyes I learned to behold in nature a richness, a grace, a harmony, a meaning, only vaguely felt before. It was as if I had just received the key to a mysterious cipher, unlocking deep and beautiful truths in earth and sea and sky, by which they were invested with a life and splendor till now unseen. But it was his noble sentiments, his generous human sympathies, his ardent aspirations after honorable distinction to be won by toil and self-denial, which woke my heart as by an electric touch. My own unshaped, half-conscious aims and aspirations, stirred with life, took wing and soared with his into the pure upper air. Ah! it was a bright, beautiful dream, Kate, the life of those few months. I never once thought of love, nor of the possibility of separation. All flowed so naturally from our life-long intimacy, that I had not the slightest suspicion of the change which had come over me. But the hour of waking was at hand. We had looked forward to the settled summer weather for a marked improvement in his health. But June had come and he still seemed very delicate. His physician prescribed travelling and change of climate; and though his high spirits had deceived me as to his real danger, I urged him to go. He left us to visit an elder brother residing in one of the Middle States. Ten years this very month!" added Aunt Linny, with an absent air.