Indeed this class to which I have adverted of licensed fortune-hunters is so numerous; the fortunes themselves except to the initiated are so uncertain; and the entire want of that most useful profession, les courtiers de mariage, is so grievous to all incidental visitors, that I have often thought how admirable the arrangement would be, if the young ladies were at once to adopt as a fashionable decoration some tasteful head ornament, on which should be inscribed, in distinct but graceful characters, some one of such legends as the following, which should indicate the incontestible possessions of the wearer:
$30,000 State of New-York Fives.
My face is my fortune.
$200,000 Indiana State Bonds.
2 lots on Broadway, 4 in the Bowery and 1 on Union-Square.
Nothing but truth, discretion, intelligence and grace.
$60,000 Alabama Sterling Bonds.
The Tongues, and what you see.
$27,000 on indefeasible Bond and Mortgage.
A House and Shop in Maiden-Lane with fixtures, and a careful tenant at 1400 a year on lease three years unexpired.
Musick—four pianos done up since this time last year.
30,000 Pine trees and three saw-mills in Saint Lawrence county: N. B., well situated!
A large Manufacturing Establishment with unbounded Water-privileges, in Ulster.
Life and Trust—40 shares daily recovering.
The young gentlemen might wear appended to the third button-hole of the left breast, epigrammatical notices of 'THE EXPECTATIONS' in which they so generally abound, as follows:
Uncle Asa has the phthisick, I am his heir.
As I STAND, less my tailor's bill of $1800.
Plenty of LOTS, covered partly with water, partly with parchment.
In full and successful business, owing only four times our capital, due us five times, chiefly in Mississippi. Expect to retire in two years and enjoy life.
Two-and-six-pence in my pocket, with great but indefinable hopes.
A promising young member of the Bar. Three suits;—[Symbol: pointing hand] one of them in court. Grant me my fourth!
A young lady, whose nice tact and discriminating judgment are only rivalled by her sweetness of disposition and exquisite personal attractions, has divided the world of beaux into three generick classes:
1. The Rich who are afraid of us;
2. The Poor whom we are afraid of;
3. The Detrimentalists.
The plan I propose would aid manifestly in the due classification of all assistants at a ball. It is not to be thought that the sex is governed by any mercenary motive; but in the present organization of society a certain degree of attention to the mode in which matrimonial establishments are to be sustained is absolutely imperative.
Conceive then Mr. Editor how this explicit course would remove the ordinary impediments on both sides. One single tour de Valse and the whole affair might be adjusted! The gentleman forsakes the lady's eyes and fixes his own upon her tiara; she hers upon his eloquent button-hole. During the slow movement they have deciphered the mottoes, have ascertained, (no small desideratum in a crowded ball-room!) each the exact value of his or her partner; they have arrived in thought, as far as mere expediency goes, each at a decision; and are ready for question and answer at the close of the accelerated step.
By the way, as the waltz is now conducted, the employment of the eyes during the slow sentimental movement seems frequently to the lady a matter of some degree of embarrassment; and the method I propose would effectually remove any thing of the sort. There could be no want of an object on which to rest them; no looking with a fixed gaze over the partner's shoulder; no consulting of the cornice; no care-fraught expression; no reluctant or displeased look, as if the lady would have fain declined; no indeterminate thoughts, no indefinite sensations; no languishment; and above all never more the portentous, the ominous look which often in that entrancing dance exhibits to us the mysticism of the Sybil, without one ray of her inspiration.
No; then would the lady look, read, decide, and dance the while. 'This might do!'—then would she sparkle. 'Ah this would never do!'—then would she become placid, tranquil, and complete her tour with contentment; for as I think some one else has before me wisely observed, the end of doubt is the beginning of repose. Then would the faces of the ladies generally become vastly more attractive than at present during the enjoyment of the waltz; for singular as may seem the remark, although I have assisted at several New-York balls, I have met two countenances only throughout the whole galaxy of beauty that, in dancing the Waltz, have indicated either joy or undisturbed gratification: the one, is that of a little sylph-like beam of pleasure, who might well carry upon her beautiful hair, 'unincumbered lots,' as her wedding-portion; who gains our hearts while she laughs at us; and who, because I chance to be within half a score of her father's years, threatens to call me her vieux cheri—while the name of the other, if I dared write it, would recall the most tasteful and fashionable costumes of France, with the sweetest poetry of Scotland.
But alas my master! I have gone prattling on without saying a word of my own pretensions until my letter has gained such a length that I am forced to defer them to another number, while I subscribe myself, dear Mr. Editor of the KNICKERBOCKER,
Your most faithful servant, JAMES JESSAMINE.
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN OF MATTHISSON BY WILLIAM PITT PALMER.
GROVE! embathed in peace celestial, As in dew the rose's bowers, Where Hesperia's golden fruitage Ripens amid silver flowers; Where a rosy-colored ether Ever cloudless bends above, Through whose calm abysses never Breathed the sigh of slighted love.
PSYCHE, with a strange emotion, Half enraptured, half dismayed, Just escaped her earthly vesture, Trembling greets thy glimmering shade: Where, O joy! no misty mantle Veils her primal purity; And her immaterial pinions, Like an angel's, wander free.
Ha! e'en now o'er paths of roses, Glorious shape of light, she sweeps, Tow'rd the shadow-peopled valley Where the sacred Lethe sleeps; Thither drawn by magic suasion, As by gentle spirits led, Fain she sees the silver billows, And their flowery shores outspread.
Kneeling low with sweet foreboding Griefs oblivious draught to taste, Softly shines her trembling image In that faithful mirror traced; As from ocean's tranquil waters Fair the cloudless moon outbeams, Or from crystal stream reflected Hesper's golden cresset gleams.
Not in vain she quaffs of Lethe; For, anon, within the stream Sinks the night-part of her being, Like the phantom of a dream; And from out the vale of shadows Bright she soars on fearless wing, To the hills whose golden blossoms Smile in everlasting spring.
What an awe-inspiring silence! Softer calm than zephyr breathes Murmurs in the laurel foliage And the amaranthine wreaths: Thus in sacred stillness rested Air and wave—in such repose Slumbered nature, when from ocean ANADYOMENE rose.
What an unaccustomed glory! Earth! though fair Aurora be, Never from her vernal features Shone such magic light for thee: Lo! the ivy's glossy tendrils Bathed in purple lustre gleam, And the flowers that crown each fountain With a starry splendor beam!
Thus in silvan wilds the dawning, When the modest Cynthia spied From the skies her sleeping lover, And descended to his side; While the fields were bathed in brightness, And in magic tones expressed, Heavenly greetings murmured sweetly— Hail, ENDYMION the blest!
GANGUERNET: OR, 'A CAPITAL JOKE.'
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY JOHN HUNTER.
Mine is called Ganguernet: I say mine, for you have all had yours; every one, at least once in his life-time, has met with one of those little fat, ruddy, burly men, with straight close-cropped hair, low forehead, grey eyes, broad nose, puffed-up cheeks, the neck between the shoulders, the shoulders in the stomach, the stomach upon the legs; a sort of a Punch figure, rolling, bawling, laughing, hallooing; one of those fellows who come stealthily behind you, clap their hands on your head, and cry out suddenly: 'Who's this?' Who pull away your chair at the moment you are going to sit down; who snatch from you your handkerchief just when you wish to use it; and who, on these occasions, when you look at them with an angry air, answer you with a broad grin, and a stare of imperturbable assurance: 'A capital joke!'
You have had yours; and mine is named Ganguernet. My first acquaintance with him was at Rheims. He was a complete adept in his profession, and as a regular joke-player, master of all the tricks of his trade. Well skilled was he in the art of attaching a piece of meat to the bell-rope of a porter's lodge, so that all the wandering dogs about town would snap at the tempting bait, and awaken the mystified domestics ten times a night. Very expert was he also at cutting tradesmen's signs in two pieces, and substituting one for another. On one occasion he took the sign of a hair-dresser, cut it in two, and added the latter part to that of one of my neighbours; so that it read as follows: Monsieur Roblot lets out carriages and false toupees, after the Paris fashion.
But if M. Ganguernet was not the most agreeable companion in the city, still less so was he in the country, where indeed his presence, to me at least, was always a perfect nuisance. He knew how to scatter the hair, adroitly clipped from a brush, between the sheets of a friend, so that the victim, before he had been a quarter of an hour in bed, would become furious with the itching. He would pierce the partition between two sleeping apartments, so as to pass through it a piece of twine which he had cunningly fastened to your bed-clothes, and then, when he found that you were asleep, he would gently pull the string, until the covering was all drawn down to your feet. You awake half-frozen, for Ganguernet always chooses a cold damp night for this trick, draw up the covering, wrap yourself carefully up, and very innocently resume your slumbers; then Ganguernet, gently pulling his cord, again strips you naked; again you are benumbed with cold; and when you begin to utter imprecations in the dark, his detestable voice is heard bawling through the hole: 'What a capital joke!'
Did Ganguernet chance to fall in with one of those simple-minded individuals, whose countenances invite mystification, he would steal from him during his sleep his coat and pantaloons, whose dimensions with needle and thread he would contrive greatly to diminish. He would then awaken his victim, begging him to dress himself as soon as possible, and join a hunting-party. The unsuspecting subject of the joke, thus suddenly roused, would try to put on his pantaloons, but could not get into them. 'Good Heavens!' exclaims Ganguernet, with affected astonishment; 'why, what is the matter, my dear Sir?—you are terribly swollen!' 'Am I?' 'You are indeed, prodigiously!' 'Do you really mean it?' 'I may be mistaken, but come dress yourself, and let us go down, and see what the others say.'
'But I cannot get on my clothes.'
'Ah! that's it, you are so puffed up. It must be a thundering attack of the dropsy!'
And this would continue, the poor fellow, pale and trembling, in vain endeavoring to get on his clothes, until the tormentor, with a hideous chuckle, would come out with his famous sentence: 'Ha! ha! a capital joke!'
There was one of his tricks which appeared to me to be truly abominable. He played it upon a person reputed to be a brave man, but who was nevertheless horribly frightened. One night, after getting snugly into bed, this gentleman felt something cold and slimy along side of him, he touched it with his foot; it seemed a round elongated body; he placed his hand upon it; it was a serpent coiled upon itself! In an ecstacy of terror, he leaped from the bed with a cry of disgust and horror, when Ganguernet made his appearance, shaking his fat sides and roaring out: 'What a capital joke!' It was an eel-skin filled with water, that had caused the panic. The enraged gentleman would have broken the head of the joker, but Ganguernet throwing a pitcher of water over the sans-culotte sufferer, made his escape, yelling out at the top of his voice: 'A capital joke!—a capital joke!' The master of the house and his guests came running in at the outcry, and with much difficulty succeeded in pacifying the mystified individual; assuring him that Ganguernet, though fond of fun, was in the main a charming good fellow, a pleasant boon companion, and one without whom, especially in the country, it was impossible to drive away ennui.
Our readers may perhaps think with us, that, on the contrary, this man was one of those insufferable beings who are constantly intruding upon the pleasures and comforts of others; like a dog in a game of nine-pins, overturning with his paws all the arrangements of your joys and sorrows; more insupportable, and more difficult to get rid of than the dog, they lie in ambush to pounce upon you, and disconcert by a word or a trick the feelings you may enjoy, or the projects you intend.
Among characters of this description, there are some whom their common-place attempts at wit consign to contempt. These performers confine themselves to vulgar and stale jokes. To thrust the head through the paper window-pane of a cobbler, and ask him the address of a minister of finances, or an archbishop; to stretch a cord across a staircase, so as to cause those who descend to take, in the words of a punster, a voyage sur la rein, or 'a voyage upon the Rhine;' to wake up a notary in the middle of the night, and send him in great haste to draw up a will for a client, whom he finds in good health; these and a thousand other silly pranks of the same nature, are the stock in trade of a jester; and no one knew them better than did Ganguernet.
He had, moreover, invented some original tricks, which had given him a colossal reputation among the admirers of this branch of the fine arts. The only truly witty one I ever knew him to perpetrate, took place at a country-house where a large party of us were assembled. Among the guests, Ganguernet had singled out a lady of some thirty years, rather fantastic in her manners and appearance, who was doatingly fond of Parisian elegance, and who preferred the pale face of a well-looking youth of rather shallow intellect, to the coarse, purple visage of Ganguernet. Our humourist endeavored in vain to render this youth ridiculous in the eyes of the lady, who regarded his simplicity as a poetical absence of mind, and his credulity as an indication of sincerity and honest good faith. One evening, after a brisk defence of the pale-faced youth on the part of the lady, which was listened to by Ganguernet with a patience and a peculiar expression of the eye which boded no good, we had all retired to our apartments. In about half an hour, the house resounded with loud outcries of 'fire! fire!' which seemed to proceed from the hall upon the ground-floor. Every one hastened thither, men and women half-dressed, or half-undressed, which ever you please. They entered pell-mell, candlestick in hand, and there found Ganguernet stretched upon a sofa. To the reiterated questions that were put him as to the cause of the clamor, he answered not a word; but taking the pale-faced young man by the hand in a very solemn manner, and leading him up to the fine lady, gravely said to her: 'I have the honor, Madam, of presenting to you the most poetic genius of the company in a cotton night-cap.' We all burst into a shout of laughter, but the lady never forgave Ganguernet, nor the cotton night-cap.
All the jokes which Ganguernet played, however, were not prompted by vengeance; a spirit of fun merely being the grand principle of most of his tricks. Before we come to the occurrence which showed this man to me in his true colors, I must relate a few more of the humorous pranks in which he took the greatest pride. Opposite his residence at Rennes there dwelt a worthy pair of venerable citizens, who were the sole occupants of a small house, which was their only possession. Once a week this honest couple were in the habit of dining, and having a little game of piquet with a relation, who resided at some distance from their abode. On these occasions they were usually regaled with curds and whey, which they moistened with sparkling cider; and not unfrequently a bowl of punch concluded the repast; so that the worthy pair commonly returned home about eleven o'clock, singing and staggering along in a state of happy elevation.
On a certain fatal Sunday evening, these good folks returned to their abode, both of them pretty much, 'how came you so.' They arrived at the door of their next neighbour, which they recognized, and then proceeded on ten paces farther, which was just the distance to their own door. The husband, after fumbling in his pocket for the key of the street-door, pulled it out, and sought the key-hole; but no key-hole was to be found. 'What has become of the key-hole?' cried he. 'You have drank too much cider, Monsieur Larquet,' said his wife; 'you are looking for the key-hole, and we are still before the wall of neighbour Bompart.'
'That is true,' replied Monsieur Larquet; 'we must go a few paces farther.' They walked on; but this time they went too far, for as they had before recognized the door of their right-hand neighbor, they now found themselves in front of that of their neighbor on the left hand. Their own door ought to be between these two doors. They return, groping along the wall until they come to a door, which to their consternation they again find to be that of their right-hand neighbor! The honest couple become alarmed about the soundness of their wits, and begin to suspect that they must certainly both be tipsy. They recommence their inspections from the door of their neighbor on the right, and again come to the door of their neighbor on the left. They constantly find these two doors, but not a vestige of their own: their door has disappeared—vanished! Who could have taken away their door? Terror seizes them; they ask each other if they have become demented; and dreading the ridicule which would be cast upon honest citizens who could not find their own street-door, they grope about for more than an hour, feeling, poking, inspecting, measuring; but alas! there is no door; there is nothing but a wall, an unknown wall, an implacable wall, a desperate wall! At length, terror completely overpowers them; they utter loud cries, and call lustily for assistance. The neighbors are attracted by the noise, and after some time, it is ascertained that the door of the distracted couple has been carefully bricked up, and plastered over; and when all are trying to discover who could have played such a pitiful trick upon these honest people, Ganguernet, who from an opposite window, in company with some kindred spirits, had been enjoying the tribulation and despair of Monsieur and Madame Larquet, Ganguernet shouts out his everlasting refrain: 'A capital joke!' But, answered the neighbors, these poor folks will take their death of cold.
'Bah!' replies he; 'a capital joke!'
The incensed neighbors petitioned the king's attorney to moderate Monsieur Ganguernet's strong inclination to play his mischievous pranks; and the magistrate sent our hero to prison for some days, in spite of his skilful defence, which consisted in incessantly repeating: 'A capital joke!—what a capital joke, Mr. Magistrate!'
Notwithstanding his excessive vanity, Ganguernet did not, however, make boast of all his exploits; and there was one, the authorship of which he constantly denied, possibly in consequence of a threat that was held out of cutting off the author's ears, should he be detected. The trick in question was prompted by the contempt in which he was held in a certain aristocratic circle; and the subject was no less a personage than an ancient dame of high birth, and great pretensions, who mingled in the most fashionable society of Rennes.
Among other customs of the old school, which this lady retained, were the following: First, that of never mixing in the society of those of plebeian descent, such as Ganguernet: and secondly; that of always being carried in a sedan-chair by porters, when she went abroad. One evening she went to a ball, given by the first president of the court of assizes, a ball at which Ganguernet was also present. She left about midnight, carried as usual in her sedan-chair through a pelting shower of rain. At the moment she got under one of those loop-holes in the eaves-gutters, through which the rain pours down into the street in long dashing cascades, two or three shrill whistles were heard on the right and left hand. Immediately four men in masks made their appearance, at sight of whom the porters, abandoning their charge, took to their heels; but at the moment when the noble dame believed herself on the point of being assassinated, a terrible dash of cold water upon her head took away her breath, and almost deprived her of consciousness. The top of the chair had disappeared as if by magic, and the gutter poured its contents directly into the vehicle, the occupant of which in vain attempted to force open the door. She beat and thumped against it with fury, mounted the seat, and like an incarnate fiend, invoked the divine wrath upon the vile miscreants, who were giving her such a cruel shower-bath; and who only replied to her invectives by profound bows, and the most humble salutations. The worst part of this wicked trick was, that the lady wore hair-powder, and the mystifiers carried umbrellas.
My acquaintance with Ganguernet continued about ten years. In the low and vulgar circles of society which he was fond of frequenting, he was held up as the most jovial, the best-natured, and the most amusing fellow in the world; although there were some, whose sense of propriety and moral feelings were not entirely destroyed, who held him in merited contempt. For my own part, I always had a dread of the man. That odious smile, forever hanging on those large red lips, singularly annoyed me; that imperturbable gayety, exhibited on all occasions of life, troubled me like the constant presence of a hideous phantom; that phrase, which he appended like a moral to every thing he did, that detested phrase, 'A capital joke,' sounded in my ears as doleful and sombre as the Trappists' motto, 'Brother, we must die!'
There was a fatality about the man; and it was destined that a life should be sacrificed to his mad propensity for mischief. A day came, on which his famous words, 'A capital joke!' was to be pronounced over a tomb.
On the eve of my departure from Rennes, some friends invited me to join a hunting-party, of which I learned that Ganguernet was to make one. This name took from me in advance half the pleasure I had anticipated. I however repaired early in the morning to the house of one of our friends, Ernest de B——. On my arrival I found Ganguernet there with some others of the party. Ernest had just finished a letter, which he sealed, directed, and placed upon the chimney-piece. Ganguernet, in his usual inquisitive and impertinent manner, took it up, and read the direction. 'Ah ha!' said he; 'so you correspond with your pretty cousin, do you?'
'Yes,' said Ernest, with an air of indifference; 'I have informed her that we intend visiting her chateau this evening, at about seven o'clock, to take dinner there. There are fifteen of us I think, and we shall run some risk of having but poor fare, if she does not get timely notice.'
Ernest rang for a servant, and gave him the letter, without any of us noticing that Ganguernet disappeared for a moment with him. We set off on our expedition. While engaged in the chase, it so happened that Ganguernet and myself took one side of the plain on which we were hunting, while the rest of the party pursued their sport on the other.
'We shall have some fun this evening,' said he to me.
'How so?' replied I.
'Would you believe it? I have given a louis to the servant that he should not carry the letter to its address.'
'And have you taken it?'
'No, pardieu! I told him we were going to have a little joke this evening, and that he must carry the letter to the lady's husband. He is sitting this moment as president of the court of assizes, and when he finds that he is going to have fifteen stout fellows, with keen appetites, at his house this evening, he will be in a devil of a rage. He is as miserly as Harpagon; and the idea of our laying his kitchen and wine-cellar under contribution will put him in such a humor, that he will have no scruple in condemning a dozen innocent men, so that he may reach his country-house in time to prevent the pillage.'
'If this is the case,' said I to Ganguernet, 'it seems to me to be a very malicious jest.'
'Bah! a capital joke! And the best of it will be when we all arrive at the chateau. The others, ravenous with hunger and thirst, will expect to find there an excellent supper. But there will be nothing—absolutely nothing!'
'And do you think, Sir,' replied I, 'that this will be any pleasanter to me than to the rest of the party? And you yourself, will you not be one of the principal dupes of your frolic?'
'Let me alone for that! Look you here; I've got a cold fowl and a bottle of Bordeaux in my game-bag, and you shall have half.'
'I thank you,' said I, 'but I had rather find Ernest, and notify him of your trick.'
'Ah! good heavens! my dear Sir,' said Ganguernet, 'you cannot take a joke.'
I left him, and apprising our friends of the affair, inquired where I could find Ernest. I was told that he had gone in the direction of the chateau of his cousin, toward which I proceeded, intending to give Madame de L—— notice of the trick of Ganguernet. At a turn of the road I perceived Ernest at a distance, going toward the chateau. I increased my speed in order to overtake him, and made so much haste that I arrived almost at the same moment with him, so that he had just passed the gate as I reached it. As I was about entering, the gate was violently pulled to, and immediately I heard the report of a pistol, and then a voice cried out: 'Villain! since I have missed you, defend yourself!'
I hastily sprang to a grating in the wall, about the height of my head, which opened into the court-yard, and there witnessed a frightful spectacle. The husband, sword in hand, was attacking Ernest with desperate fury. 'Ah! you love her and she loves you!' cried he, in a voice hoarse with passion; 'you love her, do you? and she loves you! Your turn first, and then hers!'
The letter from Ernest to his cousin, conveyed by the malicious interference of Ganguernet to her husband, had apprised him of a secret which had remained hidden for more than four years; and before redressing the wrongs of society as a magistrate, the president of the court had hastened to avenge his own as a husband.
In vain I cried, in vain I called by name the two cousins. Monsieur de L—— with blind fury drove Ernest from one corner of the court to another. Suddenly a window opened, and Madame de L——, pale, with dishevelled hair, and terror painted on her countenance, appeared.
'Leonie!' cried Ernest, 'withdraw!'
'No! let her remain!' exclaimed Monsieur de L——, 'she is a prisoner; you need not fear that she will come to separate us.' And he again rushed upon his cousin with such fury that the fire flew from their swords.
'It is I—it is I who deserve death!' cried Madame de L——; 'kill me!'
I added my cries to theirs. I shouted, I shook the grating. I tried to scale the wall, when suddenly, urged on by despair, bewildered, distracted, Madame de L—— threw herself from the window and fell between her lover and her husband. The latter, completely beside himself with passion, directed his sword toward her. But Ernest turned it aside, and in his turn casting off all restraint, exclaimed with vehemence: 'Madman! would you kill her? Well, then—defend yourself!' And immediately he commenced a violent assault upon his antagonist.
I could do nothing to separate them; neither could Madame de L——. The unfortunate woman had broken a limb in the fall, and lay groaning upon the pavement. It was a dreadful combat. Nothing can express the violent terror which seized me. Already the blood of the two cousins began to flow, which only served to increase their rage. I had succeeded with some difficulty in climbing to the top of the wall, and was about to leap into the court, when I perceived some of our friends approaching. Ganguernet was at their head; he drew near, calling to me:
'Halloo! what's this? Why, you bawl like a man getting flayed; we heard you a quarter of a league off. What the devil is the matter?'
At the sight of this detested wretch, I rushed upon him, seized him by the throat, and forcing him violently against the grating, I cried to him in my turn: 'Look there, miserable jester!—'a capital joke!' is it not?—a 'capital joke!''
Monsieur de L——, pierced through the heart by a plunge of his antagonist's sword, was lying by the side of his wife.
Ernest has left France to die in a foreign land. Madame de L—— committed suicide the day after this horrible duel.
'A CAPITAL JOKE!'
APOSTROPHE TO AN OLD HAT.
BY JOHN G. SAXE.
COME forth, Old Hat! I'll pluck thee from the ditch, Where thou hadst well nigh found a grave, 'unwept, Unhonor'd and unsung.' I'll rescue thee A moment longer from oblivion, Albeit thou art old, bereaved of rim, And like a prince dethroned, no more canst boast A crown! Would thou couldst talk! I'd e'en consent That thou shouldst steal my prating grandame's tongue, And so procure her silence and thy history.
Time-worn, adust, degraded as thou art, Thine ancient quality doth still appear; And this fine web, malgre thy present mien, (A batter'd cylinder of dingy brown,) Proclaims that once, some dozen years ago, Thou wert a good and fashionable hat.
Perchance thou first wert perch'd right jauntily A-top some dandy's poll; a most convenient block To keep thee in good shape, and serve beside One purpose more—to advertise thy brethren.
Mayhap a lawyer, in thy pristine years And his, with thy possession much enhanced His meagre sum of personal estate; And, in phrase professional, call'd thee 'chattel'— A vile distinction for a beaver hat! A lawyer's hat!—alack! what teeming store-house oft Of mischiefs dire; ill-boding parchment; 'writs,' With hieroglyphics mystical inscribed; Invention curious of graceless men, And in sad mock'ry named 'the grace of God!' What mighty 'suits at law,' begot and born Within thy strait enclosure, yet survive Thy tenth successor! And what mighty 'suits In chancery,' (so named from CHANCE, who sits Alternate there and in the legal courts,) Still flourish, endless as the heap of words Which mark the spot where Justice lies entomb'd!
Perhaps at first thou wert allow'd to crown The 'honorable' head of some grave senator; Or judge astute; or member of 'the other House;' pregnant perforce with weighty matters; 'Petitions' humbly praying to abolish Slavery and 'hard times.' 'Bills' to promote The better culture of morality And morus multicaulis! Mayhap a brief And formal letter to a brother member, In courteous phrase requesting leave to shoot him. 'Notes,' 'Resolutions,' 'Speeches' of vast length, And just adapted to produce what thou Hast wanted many a year—a decent nap.
Perchance an editor, by some mysterious accident Made passing rich with five-and-forty shillings, First bore thee off in triumph; 'tis pity then Thou canst not speak; else should we hear Of much before unpublished; of countless 'bills' Unpaid; of libels prudently suppress'd; Of 'Stanzas' much, of 'Lines' innumerable; And love-sick 'Songs' to goddesses mundane, All wickedly committed to the Persian's god!
Thou mayst have crown'd a parson, and couldst tell, If thou hadst power of verbal utterance, Of 'the divinity that stirred within thee' In shape of sermons; faithful or smooth-tongued, As he who wrote them chanced to covet most The smile of God or man. A lover's hat Thou surely wert, (since all men love, Who have a head,) and oft no doubt hast given To scented billet-doux and amorous rhymes Thy friendly guardianship; secure from aught Save lifting winds and porter's curious eye.
At second-hand 'tis ten to one thou wert A Jew's possession, got in honest barter; Next, John the ostler's; last of all, past doubt A vagrant's hat; the equitable purchase Of an ill-sung song. Till quite worn out With rain, and wind, and sleet, and other 'ills Thy race is heir to,' the beggar cast thee From his plebeian pate—and here thou liest.
St. Alban's, Vermont.
There is something very pleasant in the country, particularly about Thanksgiving-time, when families gather together from north, south, east and west, around the huge roast turkey, and many pairs of jaws masticate vigorously in gratitude for blessings received. At this season of the year the bird which was fortunate enough to excite the enthusiasm of Brillat-Savarin, and to be the theme of many chapters in his immortal 'Physiologie,' is the emblem of our republic. A bald eagle indeed! Who ever heard of a roast eagle? But a turkey:
'The state of a fat turkey, the decorum He marches in with, all the train and circumstance! 'Tis such a matter, such a glorious matter! And then his sauce with oranges and onions; And he displayed in all parts! for such a dish now, And at my need, I would betray my father.'
What native American does not respond Amen! from the depths of his stomach to these appetizing verses of Beamount and Fletcher? But higher far rises the gastronomic phrenzy of the Travelled, who have known the bird, grand in his stuffing of chestnuts, sublime when swelling with the bliss-bringing truffle!
And the country is at all seasons a pleasant idea, if properly considered; but beware of the man of one idea, if that one be Country, as you would of the homo unius libri. If you cannot distinguish timothy from clover, and beets from carrots; if, agriculturally speaking, you don't 'know beans;' he will annihilate you with his rural wisdom. For his whole existence is in the soil. He worships things under the earth. Dust he is, and to dust he shall return; (the sooner the better!) He prattles of potatoes, talks of turnips, harangues about horse-radish, knows no composition except compost. Speak to him of manners, and he will answer of manures. Like the Egyptians, he worships a bull; and has all the fondness of Pythagoras for beans. His only literature is Liebig's Animal Chemistry; his lighter reading, the Cultivator and the New-England Farmer.
Such an one was whilom a citizen with protruding abdomen and white cravat, who having realized a something in business, exchanges the counter for the country; buys his acre or two, erects his manor-house, with a grass-plat in front and a tree or two behind; and with a little straw hat on his head, a linen coat on his back, and a hoe in his hand, saunters around his limited possessions, as leisurely and as frequently as an old horse in a mill, perfectly content with his place, his plans, and himself.
Call not upon him unless with double-soled boots and strapless trowsers; and choose a cool day for the visit, if it must be made; for not over 'hill and dale,' but over rock and gully you must march; through ploughed land and through weeds, through bowers of grape-vines and bosquets of Lima beans; scratched by the thorns of the gooseberry and brushed by the long dew-covered leaves of the Indian corn. Numberless shrubs from a foot to eighteen inches in height he will point out to you, and name them with long names: 'This is the Prota Goras,' 'and that the Demo Creitus;' shrubs which, if you had encountered them when alone, you might have eradicated as weeds, in a moment of generous activity. And when muddy, breathless and dripping, you reach the highest point of his possessions, he will wave his hand majestically over some twenty feet of grass, and pointing to three trees and a white fence in the distance, talk of scenery!
Nevertheless, convinced as we are that the taste for country-places is on the increase, we think it advisable to suggest a few hints for the instruction of the aspirants after rural felicity. Saratoga and the like are no longer indispensable places of resort, but it is indispensable to be out of town for three months of the year, if you would not be out of fashion during the remaining nine. Select then a bare and stony spot, for as your object is employment, the more improvements you can make the better you will be pleased, as you take it for granted of course that improvements cost almost nothing. On the highest part of this ground you will build your house: an airy situation is invaluable in warm weather; and then a view is so desirable. In the choice of a style of architecture some difficulty arises. You may either have a clap-board Parthenon, with Corinthian columns in front and Doric columns in the rear, painted white, to flash back the rays of the sun, or which is perhaps more fashionable, a Gothic cottage, with steep roof, rustic pillars, fantastic barge-boards, and numerous pinnacles painted brown, with oak-stained doors. This style looks well in the situation we have described; the absence of trees bringing out more fully the beauties of the architecture. It is attended with one or two inconveniences; scarcely however, worth mentioning: Gothic windows always leak, and the sloping roof makes the second story a little ovenish in temperature, and garrety in smell. Whichever of the two styles you adopt, you must not fail to refer your plans to some bustling little architect, who will be sure to write articles about himself in one of the weeklies, and will probably give a drawing of your house, and call you the 'intelligent, gentlemanly, and high-minded proprietor.' After you have removed the stones, manured the ground, and planted grass, you will have a lawn; and after you have dug deep holes and set out tall thin consumptive trees, you have a wood. Secure the whole with white fences; throw rustic bridges over the impassable streams; sprinkle red dahlias and tiger-lilies here and there; buy a bull-dog to set on any small child who may be reckless enough to trespass; and lo! you have a country-seat as well as a town-house, and can invite your city friends to fill your one spare room in regular rotation.
In the important matter of a name, you must decide for yourself; but surely with Walter Scott and Lord Byron and the innumerable What-d'ye-call-'em dales, Thingumbob brooks, and So-and-so woods, to choose from, you can have no difficulty in fixing upon a suitable one.
But, says an amateur rustic, I have no fondness for floriculture, horticulture, or agriculture; what am I to do? Buy a horse, and take a gallop of some twenty miles or so, and if the horse does not shy you off, or bolt you off, or kick you off, and you do not fall off, or he does not fall under you, you will probably arrive at home safe; but as you walk from the stable to the house, you will quote from George Colman's parody of the Lady of the Lake:
'Hunter rest, for thou must own Leather lost and empty belly,' etc.
Have you a fondness for fire-arms? Then procure a gun and dog, and sally forth before day-light. Walk five miles through swamp and thicket without starting a bird. Sky cloudless; heat intense. Suddenly dog's tail begins to beat half-seconds; up whirrs a bird, who is out of sight in a moment; so is the dog, who indulges in an animated chase. You shout yourself hoarse; at length succeed in catching dog, and try to thresh him with decayed sticks. A little while after, dog comes to a point again. This time he stands beautifully. You walk slowly up, trembling with excitement, both barrels cocked. Why don't the bird get up? You glance inquiringly around, and at length discern a wood-turtle fast asleep near the stump of a tree. Then, if an irascible man, you curse. So passes the day. Now and then a bird springs; off fly both of your barrels, aimed at vacancy, and hurling showers of No. 8 into space; and you arrive at home late in the afternoon, sore-footed from much travel and stiffness of boots, and alas! without a feather except a small quail which your dog caught in his mouth.
No more shooting? Try fishing then. Sit all day on a rock watching your float, or cork, or dobber, as the Dutch boys call it, dance merrily over the waves, occasionally disappearing under the surface, when the hook catches a weed. Does not even this suit you? Then, dear friend, buy a boat of from four to six tons burthen, properly rigged and ballasted; also buy a red shirt, a small low-crowned straw hat, some tar to smear over your hands, and learn the first stanza of 'The sea! the sea!' to make every thing seem more nautical and ship-shape. Hoist jib and mainsail, and venture out. After you have drifted a mile or two, it will fall a dead calm, and the boat (Gazelle? Wave? Gull?) will float two or three hours, the sun flashing back from the glassy surface of the water, burning your face to the color of bricks, and almost frying the eyes out of your head. Then is the time to sing 'The sea! the sea!' and to take some Monongahela to still the qualmishness you begin to experience. At length the wind rises, and your boat, after many yawings, dashes away before it. Suddenly, without any voluntary or visible agency on your part, the main-boom sweeps from one side to the other, carrying your hat overboard in its passage, and dipping the gunwale deep under water. Agitated by this significant gesture, you steer straight for the wharf. In attempting to round-to, the bowsprit comes in contact with the piles and renounces its allegiance to the bow. The boat drifts away from the landing, and finally deposits you high and dry on the beach.
What! Disgusted with this, too? Then take our advice, and like a reasonable man, stay in town.
TO AN EVENING CLOUD.
BY A YOUNG LADY.
Thou beautiful cloud, a glorious hue is thine! I cannot think, as thy bright dyes appear To my enraptured gaze, that thou wert born Of Evening's exhalations: more sublime, Light-giver! is thy birth-place, than of earth. Wert thou not formed to herald in the day, And clothe a world in thy unborrowed light? Or art thou but a harbinger of rains To budding May?—or in thy subtle screen Nursest the lightnings that affright the world? Or wert thou born of th' thin aerial mist That shades the sea, or shrouds the mountain's brow? Whate'er thou art, I gaze on thee with joy.
Spread thy wings o'er the empyrean, and away Fleetly athwart the untravelled wilds of space, To where the Sun-light sheds his earliest beams, And blaze the stars, that vision vainly scans In distant regions of the universe! Tell me, Air-wanderer! in what burning zone Thou wilt appear, when from the azure vault Of our high heaven thy majesty shall fade; Tell me, winged Vapor! where hath been thy home Through the unchangeable serene of noon? Whate'er thy garniture, where'er thy course, Would I could follow thee in thy far flight, When the south wind of eve is low and soft, And my thought rises to the mighty source Of all sublimity! O fleeting cloud, Would I were with thee in the solemn night!
HISTORY OF THE CONQUEST OF MEXICO, with a Preliminary View of the Ancient Mexican Civilization, and the Life of the Conqueror, HERNANDO CORTES. By WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT. In three volumes. New-York: HARPER AND BROTHERS.
We have awaited the appearance of these very elegant volumes with deep and anxious interest. The ability, industry and taste which the author displayed in his 'History of Ferdinand and Isabella,' which won for him a noble reputation in the most cultivated states of Europe, still more endeared his name to his own countrymen, and led them to look, with the highest hope and the most pleasant anticipations, to the future efforts of his elegant and fascinating pen. We have for some time known that he was assiduously engaged in collecting materials, and preparing from them a history of the famous Conquest of Mexico; an event which, although of a very splendid and romantic character, was still but vaguely known, even in accomplished and well-informed literary circles. The facts relating to it were nowhere recorded in an authentic and connected form; for it has not been until within the last fifty years that the attention of historians and general scholars has been turned in this direction. The labors of Spanish antiquarians since that time, conducted as they have been with great skill and industry, and under the supervision and encouragement of the government itself, have been abundantly rewarded; and a vast number of original documents have been accumulated in the public and private libraries, which shed floods of light upon all historical events connected with the conquests of Spanish armies, or the discoveries of Spanish fleets, and have thus placed within the reach of writers at the present day materials for lack of which even the able histories of ROBERTSON and his contemporaries became meagre and unattractive. The historians of our era are making the best possible use of these copious and invaluable collections. The first result of their efforts was WASHINGTON IRVING'S magnificent 'Life of COLUMBUS,' one of the most polished and perfect works of its class in the English language, and which has done as much for American literature abroad as it has for its eminent author at home. Then followed PRESCOTT'S 'Ferdinand and Isabella,' pronounced by the best critics on both sides the Atlantic to be one of the most interesting and valuable histories ever published: and here we have, in his 'History of the Conquest of Mexico,' drawn from the same rich source, a work eminently worthy to succeed its brilliant and most 'illustrious predecessors.'
Within the limits which restrain us, we can of course do nothing more than intimate very vaguely the general character and scope of this great work; nor are we sure that even this is not quite a useless labor, as it must find its way at once into the library of every literary gentleman throughout the country, and be read with the greatest avidity by men of every class. One of the most valuable portions of the history is the extended view which Mr. PRESCOTT has presented, at the opening of the work, of the character and civilization of the ancient inhabitants of Mexico. The Spaniards conquered no tribe of untutored savages, roaming, in the wild lawlessness of the aborigines of our section of the western continent, over the sunny plains and smiling fields of Anahuac: they found a people there who, centuries before the discovery of the western world by Columbus, possessed the arts of civilization, and had reached a point of intellectual and moral culture in many respects surpassing that of the most renowned nations of the other world. We are surprised to find the high degree of refinement which they had reached. The sciences, especially of mathematics and astronomy, were understood to a degree of nicety scarcely attained by the Romans in their palmiest days. Their political organization was of a wonderfully perfect character; and their laws, and especially the organization of the judiciary, the department by which they were to be interpreted and administered, were stamped by a clear insight into the nature of moral obligation, and the mutual duties and rights of the members of society, which strike us with the utmost astonishment. Their mythology, with the single exception of the sanction it gives to human sacrifices, indicates a much nearer approach to a knowledge of the true God than the popular faith of the Greeks or Romans; and sentiments are recorded as having been uttered by a prince of the Tezcucan tribe, guided solely by the light of his own indwelling reason, which were worthy of Plato or of any sage that has ever lived, unenlightened by the hopes of revelation on which Christians build their faith. The history of such a people, dwelling centuries ago upon our own continent, shrouded as it has heretofore been in darkness and vague uncertainty, under the lucid and brilliant pen of Mr. PRESCOTT becomes more attractive than any offspring of the fancy or imaginative fiction could possibly be. This preliminary sketch occupies nearly half of the first volume; and we have never read any similar effort of the same extent with equal gratification.
We can of course give no outline of the main portion of the work, the history of the train of events by which the whole Mexican empire fell into the hands of the conquering Spaniard. It is one of the most romantic narratives which ever bore the seal of truth. Its prominent actors are men of eminent genius, who performed exploits worthy the greatest captains of Europe or Asia; and the history of their lives abounds with interest and instruction. Mr. PRESCOTT has a most happy historical style, glowing with all the warmth and shining with a far more substantial brilliancy than that of BANCROFT; and blending the strict truth of accurate narrative with the free flow of a fine imagination, all under the control of an exquisite taste, with more success than that of any other American writer, IRVING perhaps alone excepted. The authorities upon which he relies for his facts are uniformly given in notes, and the fullest information is presented in the same form, on all points which concern the accuracy and completeness of the work. We read the following passage in our author's preface with profound regret: 'For one thing, I may reasonably ask the reader's indulgence. Owing to the state of my eyes, I have been obliged to use a writing-case made for the blind, which does not permit the writer to see his own manuscript; nor have I ever corrected, or even read, my own original draft.' Mr. PRESCOTT may well consider this as an ample excuse for any errors of typography; of which, by the way, we have not discovered even one. We were already aware, on the best authority, that WASHINGTON IRVING had prepared to take up the ground so ably occupied by our author; a fact to which Mr. Prescott alludes in the following graceful terms:
'It was not till I had become master of my rich collection of materials, that I was acquainted with this circumstance; and had he persevered in his design, I should unhesitatingly have abandoned my own, if not from courtesy, at least from policy; for though armed with the weapons of Achilles, this could give me no hope of success in a competition with Achilles himself. But no sooner was that distinguished writer informed of the preparations I had made, than with the gentlemanly spirit which will surprise no one who has the pleasure of his acquaintance, he instantly announced to me his intention of leaving the subject open to me. While I do but justice to Mr. IRVING by this statement, I feel the prejudice it does to myself in the unavailing regret I am exciting in the bosom of the reader.'
We cannot take leave of this splendid book without making mention of the truly elegant style in which it has been issued by its liberal publishers. It yields in no respect to the finest issue of the Boston, and we had almost added, of the London press. The three volumes are large octavo, of about five hundred pages each, containing elegant portraits and illustrative maps; and yet the whole is sold for six dollars!
THE AENEID OF VIRGIL, WITH ENGLISH NOTES, CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY; a Metrical Clavis and an Historical, Geographical and Mythological Index. By CHARLES ANTHON, LL. D. New-York: HARPER AND BROTHERS.
The cause of sound classical education in America is more deeply indebted to Professor ANTHON than to any other scholar in the country; and the debt of gratitude already incurred is almost daily increased by the unwearied efforts of this distinguished linguist. Beside the voluminous and unequalled Dictionaries which he has compiled and published, he has in course of preparation a series of the most popular Latin authors, in which his principal aim is to adapt them to the use of scholars in our academies and higher schools. Another volume of this series, containing the AEneid, has just been issued. It is usually among the earliest Latin works placed in the pupil's hands, and yet there are few which require a more intimate and extended acquaintance with Roman history, domestic habits, mythology, geography, and indeed with every thing relating to the Romans as a nation and society, in order to a perfect understanding of its character, and a genuine relish of its beauties, than this. We doubt the policy, or propriety indeed, of placing in the hands of those who are learning the elements of a foreign language, poems of an elaborate and elevated character for text-books. No one, for the purpose of learning English, would take up MILTON'S Paradise Lost before the Vicar of Wakefield or BUNYAN'S Pilgrim's Progress; for aside from the fact that he would not thus be introduced to the simple dialect of ordinary life, its classical and doctrinal allusions, its technical terms, and the profound knowledge of men, of books, and of nature which it embraces, would render it almost a sealed volume to any but those who have already become cultivated and accomplished scholars. And although the case is materially different in learning the ancient languages, since the object is not to speak or write them, but to become familiar with the great works which are written in them, it would be unwise if not useless to teach a pupil to read VIRGIL without at the same time providing him with the means of thoroughly understanding and appreciating his poetry. For these he is usually dependent upon the verbal expositions of his teacher, who, even if he chance to be well qualified for the task, seldom has sufficient time for its proper discharge.
Many attempts have been made to supply this want, and some of them have been attended with very fair, though not full, success. COOPER'S edition has had the most copious notes, but they are not always accurate, and are often upon passages of comparatively little difficulty. GOULD'S notes are better, but they are much more sparingly introduced, and do not indeed elucidate the really intricate points. The historical and mythological references in both these editions are quite scanty; and they must both in our judgment speedily give place to this of Dr. ANTHON. The critical and explanatory notes to this are all that could be desired. They occupy more than six hundred pages, or quite two-thirds of the book, and relate to every point of interest or of doubt in the whole AEneid. They are full, accurate, and perfectly satisfactory. The author tells us in the preface that they comprise the results of all the study and research of modern European scholars, and embrace every thing which has been brought to light up to the present time. They are very copiously and clearly illustrated by neat and perspicuous engravings, which frequently do more than pages of description to give a distinct impression to the scholar's mind. The construction of Roman ships, the mode of a naval battle, the style of conducting a siege, the form of chaplets, of temples, of household utensils, of coins, ornaments, and in fine, the exact structure and appearance of every thing pertaining to Roman history or Roman life, are thus rendered more familiar to the eye than they ever could be to the ear of the student. The metrical clavis scans all the difficult lines contained in the book, and the general index clearly and briefly elucidates all the references which the poem contains to men, incidents, and localities. With these recommendations, aided by the typographical clearness and beauty which the publishers have given to it, this edition of the AEneid must be heartily welcomed by scholars and students (all rivalry to the contrary) throughout the United States.
MEXICO: AS IT WAS AND AS IT IS. By BRANTZ MAYER, Late Secretary of Legation to Mexico. In one volume, octavo, pp. 426. 'New World' press: J. WINCHESTER.
We looked through a large portion of this work while all its sheets were not yet through the press, and were enabled with some confidence to predict that it would create no small sensation in the literary world. Mr. MAYER has a free, unpretending style, which renders all that he writes eminently readable; a merit in which many far more practised writers are as signally deficient. The programme furnished in the announcement of the work has been well filled up. Many of the ruins and antiquities here described have never before been visited or mentioned by any traveller. A detailed account is furnished of the present social and political condition of Mexico; an elaborate description is given of the antiquities to be found in the museum of the capital, and of the ancient remains strewn from California to Odjaca. A record is presented of the author's journeys to Tezcoco, and through the tierra-caliente; and a full account of the agriculture, manufactures, commerce, resources, mines, coinage, and general statistics of Mexico is given. There is beside a complete view of the past and present history of the country, with vivid pictures of the domestic manners and customs of the people. The whole is illustrated by numerous drawings from the pencil of Mr. MAYER, which have been engraved on wood by BUTLER, in that excellent artist's best style. We scarcely remember to have met with a work so profusely embellished; and the literary and pictorial artist being one and the same person, the reader is helped to a far more life-like view of the scenes and things described and depicted than he could have obtained under circumstances less favorable to the strict fidelity of pen and pencil. The publisher has evinced great liberality in the pictorial department of the volume, having expended upward of twelve hundred dollars on the illustrations alone. The volume is printed upon a fine and white (though somewhat too thin) paper, with a large clear type. The work can scarcely fail to attain, what indeed it well deserves, a wide diffusion.
SCENES AND SCENERY IN THE SANDWICH ISLANDS, AND A TRIP THROUGH CENTRAL AMERICA: being Observations from my Note-book, during the years 1837, to 1842. By JAMES J. JARVES, Member of the Oriental Society, etc. In one vol. pp. 341. Boston: JAS. MUNROE AND COMPANY.
Those of our readers who may have seen a previous work of Mr. JARVES, on the history of the Sandwich Islands, which was noticed in this Magazine, will perhaps remember the following passage in the preface: 'It was designed to interweave with the civil and political account of the nation, a series of sketches, illustrative of their present life and condition, and other interesting points, which would have enlivened a bare narrative of facts; also to have pictured the wondrous natural phenomena of that prolific portion of the Pacific, the great volcanic eruption of 1840; and a full account of the mightiest of craters, the gigantic Lua Pele, of Kilanea, in Hawaii. But it would have swelled the volume to an unwieldy size. At an early period will be presented an additional volume, which, without being connected with the present, will give in detail all that is necessary to form a correct view of the Hawaiian Islands, their condition, prospects, the every-day concerns of the people, and missionary life as it now exists; the two to form a succinct whole, illustrating each other.' The volume before us has been written in fulfilment of the foregoing pledge. In it the writer has attempted to delineate that which came within his immediate observation, during a residence of four years on the Group. As a description of the familiar life of a people, in a novel and interesting position, one which may with propriety be termed a state of transition from barbarism to civilization, it will attract the attention, and interest the sympathies of readers of all classes. A portion of the sketches have been previously published in journals, and had some circulation both at home and abroad. The volume is executed by the eminent Boston printer, DICKINSON, and is illustrated with fine maps and plates.
THE NEW YEAR.—We are standing once more together, reader, at that fairy vestibule which opens rich with hope and bright to expectation upon another twelve-month; a coming lapse of time that like a swell of the ocean tossing with its fellows, heaves onward to the land of Death and Silence. At such a time, although it seem not meet, it may be, to indulge in sad thoughts and pensive recollections, who can refrain from giving a backward glance to years that have passed like a weaver's shuttle, and woven our 'checkered web of life?' Shall we not for one moment remember too, even at this joyous season, the loved and lost who have gone before us, to solve the great mystery of life, and the momentous secrets of death and the grave? Shall we not remember that we too are passing away; and in thoughtful mood, pause to ask with the poet:
'ANOTHER year! another year! Oh! who shall see another year? Shalt thou, old man, of hoary head, Of eye-sight dim, and feeble tread? Expect it not! Time, pain, and grief Have made thee like an autumn leaf; Ready, by blast or self-decay, From its slight hold to drop away; And some sad morn may gild thy bier, Long, long before another year!
'Another year! another year! Oh! who shall see another year? Shall you, ye young? or you, ye fair? Ah! the presumptuous thought forbear! Beside this church-yard's peaceful bounds, Pause ye, and ponder o'er the mounds: Here beauty sleeps; that verdant length Of grave contains what once was strength; The child, the boy, the man are here— Ye may not see another year!'
While however we give to emotions like these their appropriate vent, we are not called upon to forget that there is much that is inspiring and delightful in the commencement of the year. The time-honored custom of our metropolis has made it a point of peculiar radiance; a halcyon period, when heart's-ease would seem to be the general feeling, and smiles the social insignia. Then the visit is exchanged between friends whom perhaps the departed year had somewhat alienated; old associations are revived, and cordialities that had well nigh been forgotten are strengthened and renewed. As the lip is wetted with friendly wine, the bosom expands in the generous warmth of honest enjoyment; the cold formalities of factitious station give place to undisguised welcome and open-handed cheer. The rich and the poor meet together, and the spirit of pleasure is with all. As the parties go their rounds, and familiar forms and faces appear to greeting eyes, the necessity of friendship and the desolation of its absence come home to the mind. It is felt that comfort is lost when allied to selfishness, and that it is good to be respected or beloved. And as those meet between whom the year has passed in sullen estrangement; upon whose anger many an evening sun has descended; a relenting spirit obeys the mingled voices of Memory and Friendship: the kind resolve is made and followed; so that instead of the thorn to goad and wound, there springs up in the pathway of the Reconciled the olive or the myrtle. How sweet is the sight of human goodness, struggling to surmount the petty passions which discolor its beauty, and bending to the benign suggestions of that pure and gentle principle, peace with man! Doubtless there are many severe strivings with natural pride, before these ends can be reached; but the new year awakens such throngs of conciliatory sentiments, that it is impossible to resist them. The call is made; the oversight or neglect explained; the breach is closed; and friendship is paramount! Months of reverses and cares and disappointments are lost in that initial day, whose span is golden from sun to sun; a lapse to be remembered with quiet satisfaction in trials to come. Indeed, a moment's reflection will assure any contemplative mind that resentment is the most pitiful passion that can agitate the human breast. True, there is such a thing as 'spirit,' but how often is it ill-directed! How often magnified by little causes into an importance wholly incommensurate with the object desired! It is the province of new-year visits to crush these poisonous weeds of our path, to quench their noxious tendrils, and to substitute in their stead the balm of friendship and good-will. For such an object the morning of the year is most auspicious. The grand festival of our SAVIOUR'S nativity has but lately ended, and a preservation of the era of good feeling is enjoined both by Precept and Hope. Who can resist such appeals to that kindness which increases the happiness of its possessor? With these reiterated words of counsel and of affection, let us take present leave of our readers, by wishing them in hackneyed phrase, but with unhackneyed spirit, a HAPPY NEW-YEAR!
THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN.—We wish it were possible to transfer to this printed page the beautiful chirography of the annexed communication, which proceeds from the pen of a lady who, with a few others of her gentle sex, sat out the reading of the lecture upon the 'Rights of Women,' by Mr. JOHN NEAL, at the Broadway Tabernacle last winter, and which was so heartily laughed at by the press and the town for a day or two after. It is gratifying to remark that women themselves have been the prominent satirists of the characteristic absurdities put forth on the occasion alluded to. But to our fair correspondent: 'APPEAR, bright Spirits of the ancient Nine! (for you were women, and can well appreciate my appeal) arrayed in all the panoply of your charms! Thou, MINERVA! aid me with thy wisdom! Ye, most lovely GRACES! attend me with the power of honey-like persuasiveness! And thou, JOHN NEAL! arrayed in the drapery of the softer sex, gracefully to maintain the lofty eminence whereon thou standest, assist me with the glorious power of thy overwhelming eloquence, while I assert the high prerogative of Woman! Yet when I dwell on the brilliant efforts accomplished by thy mighty genius in our behalf, the pen falls powerless from my despairing hand, and I can merely point to thee as the potent champion of our down-trodden rights! Instead of dwelling in dull obscurity, victims to the caprice of men; mending their thread-bare clothing and scolding servants—base, unwomanly pursuits!—instead of listening in silence to the storms of political debate; instead of remaining within the shadow of our own roofs, and gathering around the domestic hearth the thornless roses of existence; rendering home a haven of rest to the weary and care-worn; instead of slumbering idly, in the security of our mansions, when the torrent of war rolls over the land; instead of girding then our brothers for the stormy fight, bidding them GOD-speed; instead of ignobly bending before the tyrannical power of Man, thou, O! astute NEAL! wouldst have us pluck the laurel-wreath from our kinsman's brow, and bind it on our own. Thou wouldst have us rise in all the dignity of offended 'equality,' and boldly assert the holy right of 'free suffrage to all!' Why, forsooth, should we rather be confined to the narrow circle of home than our friends of the other sex? Are we not as capable of sounding the loud alarm of war, of mingling in the strife and tumult of the battle-hour, as the ladies of antique Amazonia, or the warrior-men of our own day? Have we not intellect enough to cope with the WEBSTERS, the CLAYS, and the WRIGHTS, in the halls of Congress? Is not our dignity sufficient to maintain, with honor to our country and ourselves, the various offices of the government? Why may not our superior talents elevate us to the lofty station of the presidential chair?—to become Ambassadresses, Generalesses, Stateswomen? Surely our intellect is as lofty, as noble, and as clear as that in which proud man exults. Arise then, Women of America! Study immediately the tactics of military discipline; proceed to the green savannahs of Florida; wrest their authority from those who now possess it, and deck your own brows of loveliness with the wreaths of conquest and of glory. March to the halls of legislation; demand from statesmen there assembled the concession of 'woman's rights,' and desert them not till that 'vantage ground' is well secured. Then, ladies, will you be enabled to cast aside with disdain the bonds of domestic confinement, which insure merely your peace and happiness; to mingle your shrill cries with the tumult of contending armies, confounding confusion itself with your loud clamors! You may then unite your voices with the shouts of opposing factions at the momentous periods of election, huzzaing for your candidates, and gathering all your influence to win success for them. So shall you nobly fulfil the high destiny allotted you, instead of longer enduring the degrading cares attendant on the happiness of your fathers' and your husbands' homes. So shall you take by storm the hearts of men as well as the citadels of your enemies; forcing them to admire those female 'braves' who so kindly relieve them of the weighty burden of their cares.' Capital! This mock-heroic is just the vein for a theme so ridiculous as the insane crudities here touched upon. By the by; a private note advises us that 'there have been recent symptoms of chuckling exhibited by the 'champion of women,' on the supposition, real or assumed, that the attention of the legislatures of several States had been diverted toward 'woman's rights' in the matter of personal property between man and wife, by reason of the lecture aforesaid!' It is unnecessary perhaps to add, in justice to the public sense, that the action of three or four States upon this subject had a far different origin, as their legislative records will abundantly show.
OLE BULL.—We confess ourselves among the uninitiated in the mysteries of music. We are quite aware that it is not a little dangerous for one who would not lose caste in society to assert that he does not greatly admire that ill-assorted compound of 'strains' which is usually designated by the hackneyed phrases of 'brilliant execution' and 'difficult passages;' passages which Dr. JOHNSON wished were 'not only difficult but impossible:' we cannot force an admiration nor affect an enthusiasm which we do not feel. Indeed, we have always had great sympathy for the amateur of fashion who aspired to great refinement of taste, to exhibit which, in one branch of art, he gave on one occasion an entertainment of instrumental music. While the musicians were all at work, he seemed delighted with the performance; but when one instrument chanced to be engaged upon a solo, he inquired, in a towering passion, why the others were remaining idle? 'It is a pizzicato for one instrument,' replied the operator. 'I can't help that,' replied the virtuoso; 'let the trumpets pizzicato along with you; they're paid to do it!' Now in regard to musical knowledge and taste, this hopeful amateur has many a counterpart in this day and generation, and in this same city of Gotham. In the case of OLE BULL, however, there has been no call for affected admiration. He has compelled not only admiration but enthusiasm; not indeed by mere artistical 'execution,' although in this he is acknowledged to be preeminent, but by the creations of genius, which 'take the full heart captive.' Let the distant reader imagine an audience of three thousand persons awaiting in breathless expectance the entrance upon the Park-stage of this great Master. The curtain rises, and after the lapse of a moment, a tall manly person, with a frank, ingenuous expression of countenance, emerges with an embarrassed salutation from the wing, and with another somewhat less constrained, stands in front of the orchestra, the focus of every eye and glass in that brilliant assemblage. Pausing for a brief space, as if to collect himself, he raises his bow, and with a slight motion, beckons to each member of the orchestra in turn, who 'start into sound' at his bidding as if touched by the wand of ITHURIEL. When the tide of harmony has reached its flood, and is gradually ebbing back to fainter sounds, the Master raises his instrument to his shoulder and lays his ear upon it, as if listening for his key-note amidst the tones that are serpentining through his brain. When to the audience 'nothing lives 'twixt these and silence,' a strain which has at first a dying fall imperceptibly swells on the ear. It is the instrument, beyond all peradventure; and from that moment you are 'all ear.' While you are wondering why you never knew before that there was such a volume of sound in a violin, a passage of infinite pathos arrests your heart, and you find your eyes moistening under its influence. It subsides into tremulous tones that retreat farther and farther from the ear, until they seem to come from a mile's distance; anon, they begin to approach again, and swelling gradually upon the 'aching sense,' almost overpower you with their fulness of melody. This transcendent effort of genius reminded us of the phantasmagora, or 'magic lantern;' for what the lessening and enlarging figures of that instrument are to the eye, OLE BULL'S magic sounds are to the ear. We had intended to allude in detail to several of the performances of this great Master; but we lack the requisite space. We can only instance the 'Norwegian Rondo,' the 'Themes from BELLINI,' and the 'Carnival at Venice,' as eminently justifying the fervent enthusiasm which they excited. It was no unnatural combination of splendid sinuosities, of small notes split into hexagonals, and attenuated into tremors that were 'no great shakes' after all, which entranced the audience; it was full, rich tones; it was melody, harmony, that won their loud and almost irrepressible applause. We have not yet had the pleasure to hear VIEUX-TEMPS, the distinguished violinist recently arrived among us. His numerous friends and countrymen in the metropolis rank him even above OLE BULL. We are inclined, however, to trust the comparison made by an eminent brother-artist, who assisted at his first concert: 'VIEUX-TEMPS,' said he, 'is a very accomplished artist; but OLE BULL is a magnificent genius.' We shall have something to say of VIEUX-TEMPS, ARTOT, and Sig. CASSELA, in a subsequent number of the KNICKERBOCKER, should time and occasion serve.
A SECOND 'RALPH RINGWOOD.'—We have a western correspondent, a 'man of mark' in his region, and far from unknown elsewhere, who has seen a good deal of the world, and whose entertaining epistles always remind us of the graphic 'Experiences of Ralph Ringwood,' as recorded in these pages by WASHINGTON IRVING. Here is a fragment of youthful reminiscence, fresh from his mint, 'which it is hoped may please;' and if it does, we will use our 'selectest influence' to induce him to write out for us a series of papers containing his complete autobiography, which we have good reason to believe would overflow with romance and strange vicissitude: 'I was raised,' he writes, 'as we western folks term it, in a small village some fifteen miles from Boston, and when about sixteen years of age I paid a visit to the metropolis for the first time in my life. When I first arrived there I spent some hours in trying to hunt up an old play-mate who had been bound apprentice to a Boston mechanic some two years previous. I could hear nothing of him, however, and so gave up the search. But one day, while sauntering down the main-street, and wondering at all I saw, I suddenly encountered a strange sight. It was a sheep, dead and dressed, but moving along the side-walk in an upright position, and apparently without help! Puzzled at this phenomenon, I turned round as it passed me, in order to observe it more closely; when to my astonishment I discovered a boy behind it, who with the sheep on his back was shuffling along the walk, stern-foremost. I was still more astonished when I recognized in this lad my old and long-sought playmate. 'DICK, my boy!' said I, grasping his hand warmly. DICK seemed a little embarrassed at first; but after a moment's hesitation, he threw down his load spitefully, and seizing my hand returned my grasp as cordially as it had been given. 'For GOD's sake, DICK,' inquired I, 'how long is it since you commenced walking backward?' 'Not a great while,' replied he, with a grin. 'To tell you the truth, FRANK, I saw you looking in the jeweller's window there, and knew you at once; and as I didn't care to be seen by an old comrade with a sheep on my back, I was in hopes to escape your observation by walking in the manner in which you saw me.' 'And that was the very thing which led me to discover you,' I replied; 'you might have passed me in the ordinary way, nineteen times in every twenty, without being recognized.' 'Well, it's all one now, since you have found me out,' said DICK. 'But what, after all, are you going to do with that measly-looking animal?' I inquired. 'Eat it,' replied he, with a comical twist of the nose; 'I have to lug one home every day; we apprentices live on them altogether. I'm a sheep myself, almost; b-a-a-h!' and here he imitated the cry of that animal so naturally, that I had no doubt of the truth of his statement. After a few moments' conversation, chiefly about home, the clock struck ten, when DICK suddenly resumed his load, and after giving me the directions to the 'old man's' house, and exacting a promise to call and see him in the evening, he started for home. At the appointed hour in the evening, I called to see him, as agreed upon, and found him waiting for me. But what a different-looking personage from the one I met in the morning! He was now very smartly dressed in a small black frock-coat, and drab gaiter-trowsers strapped tightly over a pair of nicely-polished boots. On his head a black velvet cap, from which two enormous tassels were swinging, was setting jauntily on one side, while in his hand he carried a little silver-headed cane, with which he occasionally rapped his legs. In my unsophisticated eyes he was a very paragon of gentility, and I couldn't help contrasting him with my own countrified appearance. However, I had but a moment for reflection; for sallying into the street, with me at his heels, DICK at once proposed going to the theatre. I agreed without hesitation, for the big play-bills had been staring me in the face all day, and on them were emblazoned in large capitals the names of COOPER and FINN, who were to play together that evening in one of SHAKSPEARE'S comedies. When we arrived at the play-house, DICK took me aside, and pointing to the little window in the office, proposed that I should go and purchase the tickets; 'because,' said he, 'the box-keeper knows me.' I couldn't exactly comprehend why the fact of his being known to the box-keeper should prevent his purchasing the tickets himself. However, I supposed it was all right, and so I crowded up to the little window, and after awaiting my turn, obtained two pit-tickets, for which I had to pay out of my own pocket, of course. Dick took them from me when I returned, and then again resuming the lead, he conducted me into the lobby of the play-house. Here he handed the tickets to the door-keeper, at the same time nodding his head toward me, in order to intimate to that gentleman that I was under his special patronage, and that the other admission was intended for me. Once seated in the centre of the pit, DICK seemed to be in his glory. He ogled the ladies in the boxes, and whistled and shouted and stamped, and cried 'Physic!' until I thought he would split his throat. But when at last the gloomy curtain rose and the stars of the evening stood glittering before us, he clapped and shouted so much louder and longer than all the rest, that the whole audience gazed at him with admiration. He would have gone on applauding, I verily believe, until the end of the play, had not a tall gentleman, with a red handkerchief round his throat, and carrying a long pole, rapped him over the head, and peremptorily shouted 'Silence!' From that moment DICK was as mute as a Quaker, until the end of the play; when rushing out and dragging me after him, he proposed that we should go and finish the evening at a celebrated coffee-house, kept by 'a particular friend of his,' and where he had agreed to meet some half-dozen fellow-apprentices. Here we stayed until a very late hour, drinking and smoking, telling stories and singing songs. As it grew later, our companions one by one walked or reeled out of the bar-room, until we two were left the only tenants, save the landlord. The latter then commenced closing the house, and hinted pretty strongly that it was high time we were going. I turned to DICK, who had been remarkably silent for some time, when to my utter dismay I discovered that he was perfectly insensible from drink. I looked up to the landlord for counsel. He was a short, squab man, with a bulbous excresence growing out from between his shoulders, that I suppose passed for a head, though it looked like a wen; a kind of expletive, to wear a hat on, or to fill up the hollow of a shabby wig. 'What shall we do with him?' said I. 'Hustle him out!' cried he; 'hustle him out! he didn't get his liquor here: I've no room for such company!' I then endeavored to put my companion upon his feet, but his legs bent under him, and his whole body seemed as limber and lifeless as a wet rag. 'You can't do any thing with him in that way,' continued the landlord; 'if you want to get him home to-night, you must take him on your back and carry him there yourself. He'll be bright enough in the morning.' I saw no other way of proceeding; and so, being strong and athletic myself, while DICK was of slight proportions, I managed, with the assistance of the landlord, to get him upon my back, and then started for his master's house. As my burthen was perfectly speechless, I had plenty of time for uninterrupted thought as I trudged along; and I couldn't help contrasting the apprentice of the morning with the apprentice of the present moment. Then, though rather coarsely dressed, and smooched with the marks of labor, he blushed at being caught with a sheep on his back, though he had come honestly by it; but now, though bedecked in the habiliments of a gentleman, he was being carried home himself like a beast on the back of a companion. On reaching his master's house I laid him down upon the door-sill, where he commenced breathing intensely through his nose, while I fumbled round for the handle of the bell, which I rang. The 'old man' himself came to the door, and looking down at his apprentice, shook his head sorrowfully. Then turning to a black domestic, who with a candle in her hand stood grinning behind him, he said, 'Here's DICK come home drunk again, Dinah; you must take him up stairs and get him to bed in the best way you can.' The old gentleman turned away with a tear in his eye, and I also departed, leaving DICK, who had come to his senses a little, struggling in the arms of the brawny black, and vainly trying to kiss her polished cheek. Thus ended my first youthful adventure in a city.'
GOSSIP WITH READERS AND CORRESPONDENTS.—We encounter in our personal correspondence not a few comments, pro and con, upon the papers on 'Mind and Instinct,' which appeared in the last two numbers of the KNICKERBOCKER. Our friend and correspondent, 'HARRY FRANCO,' among others, in a gossiping epistle to the Editor, writes as follows:
'I HAVE been considerably interested in your correspondent's paper on mind and instinct; only I rather wonder at his laboring to prove a theory which few are inclined to question. But he does not after all, it appears to me, draw the right conclusions from his argument. All living beings have a mind, or reason, or what you will, which prompts them to do all that their animal functions are capable of performing. In this respect man is as much governed by instinct as a brute. My neighbor's dog every night when I come home walks up to me, wags his tail, and looks in my face, and says in his way, 'How are you?' His master gives me a nod, takes his pipe from his mouth, and says the same. But when a stranger comes to my door, neither the dog nor his master salutes him; but were he to fall into the brook, they would both run to pull him out. Are they not both influenced by exactly the same feelings? If I should ask my neighbor to endorse my note, he would look sulky, hem! and haw! and refuse; if I should attempt to take a bone from his dog, the brute would snarl and growl, and perhaps bite me. Do you see any marvellous difference between the two animals? A near neighbor of mine, about six months since, had a little boy of four years old, who had a spaniel of which he was very fond. One day during the absence of the father, the child was taken ill with the croup; the mother was alarmed, and it so happened that her servants were away, and she had no one to send for a physician. The poor woman was in great tribulation, for in spite of all her efforts the child grew worse. In about an hour after the child was taken ill, her father's carriage stopped at the door, and her mother made her appearance. Her father's house was about two miles distant. The grandmother said that Carlo, the sick child's dog, 'came running into the house, all bespattered with mud, and flew about and acted so strangely that she knew something must be the matter with little Billy, her grandson, and she came to see what it was.' Until then, the mother of the child had not noticed the absence of the dog from the room, for the boy was playing with him when he was taken sick. The child remained ill three or four days, and then died; and during the whole time the dog never left his bed-side; he watched by the corpse until it was buried, and then took possession of the little boy's chair, which he would allow no one to touch, not even the child's mother. Every day he absented himself for three or four hours; and the father one day going to look at his child's grave, found that the dog had almost scratched his way down to the coffin. He was after this kept within doors; but he refused to eat, and in a short time died in the chair of his little master. If I had time, I could tell you a story almost as touching, in relation to a pig, an animal that phrenologically speaking has generally been looked upon as somewhat deficient in the region of the sentiments.'