S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
The day is still within the memory of many, when men on trial for their lives were not permitted to defend themselves by counsel, and this deprivation was made in the name of fairness, because, saith Coke, that the testimony and proof of the crime ought to be so clear and manifest that there can be no defence of it. If we travel back still farther, we come to a time when no prisoner was entitled to a copy of the indictment against him, of the panel, or of any of the proceedings.
It is curious to note how long and how steady has been the process of reform in the administration of our criminal justice. The spirit of English libertythe sense of equal rights among all citizenshas, in this one department of the law, prevailed against every unwholesome precedent, and has slowly raised our courts of criminal law to a character of which we have had, in the trial of the Poisoner, certainly a crowning illustration. They are undoubtedly the freest and the fairest courts of justicewe may say it most deliberatelyin the world.
I have had the misfortune to have a sum of money left to me by a will which has been drawn by an illogical (for I wont say roguish) lawyer; who has inserted a parenthesis in the most inconsiderate manner, in the very heart of the most important paragraph, totally at variance with the context, and only calculated to create heart-burnings and fees. The bequest is made to three families: and the only matter in dispute is, whether one of the third shares should be divided. I wished the Lord Chancellor, or one of the Vice Chancellors, as an authority on the subject, to give me his reading of the passage in question, and the consequence is that I am driven to the verge of insanity. Without there being the slightest question as to pedigree involved in the matter, I am required to produce somebody who knew my grandmother before her marriage seventy years ago; who knew when she was married, and where she was married, and whom she married; and who must swear in the most determined and awful manner that she had four children, and no more and no less, and so on, and so on. Of course there are writings produced, and marked with all the letters in the alphabet, from A to Z inclusive, attached to this swearing, which would have perplexed the Sphinx, and which are calculated to cause octogenarian witnesses to cast their spectacles into the dust in despair. Of course there is the difficulty of persuading anybody of eighty that mere signing his or her name to an affidavit and kissing the New Testament at two and sixpence a time, is such a harmless and common proceeding as the Court of Chancery insists it is.
The power of Nobody is becoming so enormous in England, and he alone is responsible for so many proceedings, both in the way of commission and omission; he has so much to answer for, and is so constantly called to account; that a few remarks upon him may not be ill-timed.
The hand which this surprising person had in the late war is amazing to consider. It was he who left the tents behind, who left the baggage behind, who chose the worst possible ground for encampments, who provided no means of transport, who killed the horses, who paralyzed the commissariat, who knew nothing of the business he proposed to know and monopolized, who decimated the English army. It was Nobody who gave out the famous unroasted coffee, it was Nobody who made the hospitals more horrible than language can describe, it was Nobody who occasioned all the dire confusion of Balaklava harbor, it was even Nobody who ordered the fatal Balaklava cavalry charge. The non-relief of Kars was the work of Nobody, and Nobody has justly and severely suffered for that infamous transaction.
The dull people decided years and years ago, as every one knows, that novel-writing was the lowest species of literary exertion, and that novel-reading was a dangerous luxury and an utter waste of time. They gave, and still give, reasons for this opinion, which are very satisfactory to persons born without Fancy or Imagination, and which are utterly inconclusive to every one else. But, with reason or without it, the dull people have succeeded in affixing to our novels the stigma of being a species of contraband goods.
I may mention, as a rule, that our novel-reading enjoyments have hitherto been always derived from the same sort of characters and the same sort of stories, varied, indeed, as to names and minor events, but fundamentally always the same, through hundreds on hundreds of successive volumes, by hundreds on hundreds of different authors. We none of us complain of this, so far; for we like to have as much as possible of any good thing; but we beg deferentially to inquire whether it might not be practicable to give us a little variety for the future. We believe we have only to prefer our request to the literary ladies and gentlemen who are so good as to interest and amuse us, to have it granted immediately. They cannot be expected to know when the reader has had enough of one set of established characters and events, unless the said reader takes it on himself to tell them.
A wordone respectful wordof remonstrance to the lady-novelists especially. We think they have put our Hero on horseback often enough. For the first five hundred novels or so, it was grand, it was thrilling, when he threw himself into the saddle after the inevitable quarrel with his lady-love, and galloped off madly to his bachelor home. It was grand to read this: it was awful to know, as we came to know at last by long experience, that he was sure before he got home to be spiltno, not spilt; that is another word suggestive of jocularitythrown, and given up as dead.
I know that it is a rule that, when two sisters are presented in a novel, one must be tall and dark, and the other short and light. I know that five-feet-eight of female flesh and blood, when accompanied by an olive complexion, black eyes, and raven hair, is synonymous with strong passions and an unfortunate destiny. I know that five-feet-nothing, golden ringlets, soft blue eyes, and a lily brow, cannot possibly be associated, by any well-constituted novelist, with anything but ringing laughter, arch innocence, and final matrimonial happiness.
In addition to the obvious and unavoidable difficulties which entomologists have to encounter, they have to bear up against the martyrdom of contempt which the vulgar-minded public inflicts upon them. They are ignominiously nicknamed bug-hunters, and are regarded as a species of lunatic at large. But astronomers and chemists have been equally despised. Galileo, Tycho Brahe, Priestley, and even Davy, have been pitied in their time, especially in the early part of their career, as foolish enthusiasts, whose proper place would be the mad-house, if they were not harmless.
But the world of insects lies not on our terrestrial map. Perhaps it may have a closer relationship with life as it goes in the planets Venus and Mercury, which, from their nearer approach to the sun, may abound with a gigantic insect population. We are cut off from all communion with insects; we cannot look into their eyes, nor catch the expression of their faces. Their very senses are merely conjectural to us; we know not exactly whether they have ears to hear, a palate to taste, or a voice to speak. For a noise mechanically produced is not a voice.
And why should not insects have a world of their own, just as well as you and I? Is the Butterflys Ball and the Grasshoppers Feast a bit more unreal than Almacks or the Carlton? Dont grasshoppers feast? dont they and their family connections, the locusts, gormandize, and devour, and swallow up everything? Dont butterflies flutter, and flirt, and perform the polka and the varsovienne in the air, and display their fine clothes with gratified vanity? Did no young dragon-fly, with brilliant prospects, ever get married to the horse-leechs daughter, and repent of the alliance after it was too late? If philosophic fiction has created a Micromegas, that is to say a Mr. Littlebig, romantic natural history may surely record the sayings and doings of the Megamicroses, or the Messieurs Biglittles. Vast souls often dwell in undersized bodies.
But how are you to fathom the mysteries of insect economy, if you do not pursue and familiarize yourself with insects? Notwithstanding which, it is quite true, as our secretary says, that society throws a wet blanket over entomology in all its branches. Take your water-net and go to a pond or stream in quest of water-beetles, and the passers-by, if they notice you at all, will invariably think you are foiling; or, if they see what you are taking, will ask you if your captures are for baits. If you say, Yes, they will think yours a profitable employment; if you say, No, you may add as much more in exculpation as you like, you will only pass for a fool. So much for the popular appreciation of natural history,and for your encouragement.
This is a protest against a growing and intolerable evil to which every reader of these lines will unhesitatingly put his name. Everybody is subject to the nuisance. Some pretend to despise it; some are good-natured, and dont care about it; others are so snobbish and vain that they positively like it; but all this is no argument why you and I should submit to it, or refrain from expressing our disgust and dissatisfaction.
I mean the pest of biography. What in the world have I done to have my life written? or my neighbour the doctor? or Softlie, our curate? We have never won battles, nor invented logarithms, nor conquered Scinde, nor done anything whatever out of the most ordinary course of the most prosaic existences. Indeed, I may say the two gentlemen I have mentioned are the dullest fellows I ever knew: they are stupid at breakfast, dinner, and tea; they never said a witty thing in their lives; they never tried to repeat a witty thing without entirely destroying it. I have no doubt they think and say precisely the same of me; and yet we are all three in the greatest danger of having our lives in print every day.
Gaolers are of various kinds; but the worst gaoler of all is the marital gaoler, as constituted by the laws of our illogical merrie old England. An absolute lord is this marital gaoler. He holds the person, property, and reputation of his conjugal prisoner in as fast a gaol as ever was built of granite and iron. Society and law are the materials, unsubstantial enough, out of which he has built his house of duresse; but in those airy cells lie more broken hearts than ever the sternest dungeon held. More injustice is committed there than in the vilest Austrian prison known. If the gaoler marital be a decent fellow, and in love with his prisoner, things may go on smoothly enough. But if he be a man of coarse or fickle passionsif he be a man without conscientiousness or honourif he be a man of violent temper, of depraved habits, of reckless life, he may ill treat, ruin, and destroy his prisoner at his pleasure, all in the name of the law, and by virtue of his conjugal rights. The prisoner-wife is not recognized by the law; she is her gaolers property, the same as his dog or his horse; with this difference, that he cannot openly sell her; and if he maim or murder her he is liable to punishment, as he would be to prosecution by the Cruelty to Animals Society if he maimed or ill treated his dog or his horse.
It was just coming on to the winter of that same year, a very raw, unpromising season I well recollect, when I received one morning, with Messrs. Sothebys respects, a catalogue of the extensive library of a distinguished person, lately deceased, which was about to be submitted to public competition. Glancing down its long files of names, my eye lit upon a work I had long sought and yearned for, and which, in utter despair, I had set down as introuvable. This coveted lot was no other than the famed Nuremberg Chronicle, primed in black-letter, and adorned with curious and primitive cuts. At different times, some stray copies had been offered to me, but these were decayed, maimed, cut-down specimens, very different from the one now before me, which, in the glowing language of the catalogue, was a Choice, clean copy, in admirable condition. Antiquerichly embossed binding and metal clasps. A unique and matchless impression. So it was undoubtedly. For the next few days I had no other thought but that one. I discoursed Nuremberg Chronicle; I ate, drank, and inhaled nothing but Nuremberg Chronicle. I dropped in at stray hours to look after its safety, and glared savagely at other parties who were turning over its leaves.
But the Chroniclethe famous Chronicle! I had utterly forgotten it! I felt a cold thrill all over me as I took out my watch. Just two oclock! I flew into a cab, and set off at a headlong pace for Sothebys. But my fatal presentiment was to be verified. It was over; I was too late. The great Chronicle, the choice, the beautiful, the unique, had passed from me forever, and beyond recall; and, as I afterwards learned, for the ridiculous sum of nineteen pounds odd shillings.
Let us go back to Bacons time, and hear what, on the prompting of that wise man, James the First said to his parliament: There be in the common law divers contrary reports and precedents; and this corruption doth likewise concern the statutes and acts of parliament, in respect that there are divers cross and cuffing statutes, and some so penned as they may be taken in divers, yea contrary senses; and therefore would I wish both those statutes and reports, as well in the parliament as common law, to be at once maturely reviewed and reconciled; and that not only all contrarieties should be scraped out of our books, but even that such penal statutes as were made but for the use of the time which do not agree with the condition of this our time, ought likewise to be left out of our books. And this reformation might, methinks, be made a worthy work, and well deserves a parliament to be sat of purpose for doing it.
To this day we are still asking for this mature revision and reconciliation; while we add heap to heap confusedly, and mingle living laws with dead. There are on the books ten thousand dead statutes for England alone, relating to subjects as vain as the carrying of coals to Newcastle. The living die in the arms of the dead, said Bacon; and we are at this day only echoing his warning.
Said Lord Bacon, So great is the accumulation of the statutes, so often do those statutes cross each other, and so intricate are they, that the certainty of the law is entirely lost in the heap. Lord Bacon said this when the number of our public statutes was two thousand one hundred and seventy-one. Thus, the profoundest brain that ever a wig covered, pronounced itself to be lost in the maze of a law constructed of two thousand one hundred and seventy-one disjointed statutes. From his day to our own, the maze has been incessantly in progress of enlargement. New laws are hung on to the outskirts of the rest, faster than new streets on the outskirts of this our metropolis; new legal neighbourhoods spring up, new streets of law are pushed through the heart of old established legislation, and all this legal building and improvement still goes on with little or no carting away of the old building materials and other rubbish .
If, therefore, two thousand statutes perplexed Bacon, what sort of a legal genius must he be who can feel easy with eighteen thousand on his mind? It is manifest that in these law-making days it should need nine Bacons to make one Judge.
There have been several efforts made with various success in the way of law amendment. Thirty years ago. Sir Robert Peel in three statutes consolidated a large mass of the old criminal law. Five years afterwards, Lord Melbourne consolidated the whole law relating to offences against the person. The Chief Baron of the Exchequer procured the passing of a law which brought together all the regulations scattered among many local acts with reference to notices of action, statutes of limitation, and double and treble costs. Better still in the way of superseding old, bad law, with better; two acts of Parliamentthe act which established County Courts and that which regulated a fresh Common Law Procedure, for which we have Mr. Baron Martin, Mr. Baron Brumwell, and Mr. Justice Willes to thankhave saved a million a year to the law-needing part of the community.
The famous code of Justinian was perfected in less than four years; fourteen months of which were spent in winnowing the chaff out of the legal grain accumulated in a thousand years. Trebonian, aided by a staff of seventeen lawyers, in three years reduced three million sentences to one hundred and fifty thousand; so perfecting the pandects and institutes. For the framing of the Code Napoléon a commission of jurists was appointed on the twelfth of August in the year eighteen hundred. In four months it delivered its report, which was then open to criticism. The council of state afterwards completed the discussion of it in one hundred and two sittings.
But one touch more is needed to complete this rough sketch of the union between law and order on our statute-books and records. Of the legislation thus conducted no proper accounts are kept. We have, indeed, some consolidation of the criminal law, and some effort to supply annually criminal statistics. But while in France the whole relation of crime to the population is set forth by tables of the results of accusations and decisions, carefully recorded, we have no returns whatever from our civil courts; none with regard to the common law, and none from any of the courts of equity. Even the returns we have are almost useless.
With a telescope directed towards one end of things created, and a microscope towards the other, we sigh to think how short is life, and how long is the list of acquirable knowledge. Alas! what is man in the nineteenth century! It is provoking that, now we have the means of learning most, we have the least time to learn it in. If we had but the longevity of the antediluvian patriarchs, we might have some hope, not of completing our education, but of passing a respectable previous examination prior to our admittance into a higher school. The nearer we approach to infinite minuteness, the more we appreciate the infinite beauty and the infinite skill in contrivance and adaptation which marks every production of the one great creative hand.
But another microscopic eraan epoch of absolute regenerationhas commenced, dating from about twenty years ago. The real improvements effected of late in the instrument have justly raised it into high favour, both with learned inquirers into the mysteries of nature, and with amateurs, who seek no more than the means of interesting information and varied amusement. Glasses have been made truly achromatic; that is, they show objects clearly, without any coloured fringe or burr around them; several clever contrivances for making the most of light have been adopted; and, besides all that, the mechanical working of the instrument has been made so steady, delicate, and true, that a very little practice renders the student competent to make the most of his tools.
We complain with reason that the teachers of girls schools are seldom guided by any definite principles in educating the feelings and the intellect of their pupils; but expect what is good and right to come of itself as a result of teaching: much as if a watch could be set in accurate movement by labor spent upon the polishing and decoration of its dial-plate. The power of self-control is seldom diligently exercised; the power of reflection, of looking inwards, of gaining self-knowledge in its true sense, is left to be the growth of chance: and the purely intellectual faculty, the power of comprehension, instead of being constantly employed upon objects within its grasp, is neglected, in order to overload the memory. Often joined to all this is a forcing system which encourages over-exertion of the growing brain, with all its concomitant and attendant evils; and which, among the elder girls, or among pupil teachers, who are excited by emulation or necessity to neglect the friendly warnings of fatigue, is often a source of lamentable bodily and mental failure.
The illustration will be found in the very common, perhaps universal, custom of furnishing a school with stools and forms in lieu of ordinary chairs. This is a direct sacrifice of health to parsimony. The stools cost little, and are conveniently moved from one room to another. All mistresses know, however, that the spine of a growing girl is unable to support constantly the weight of her head and shoulders. Nature teaches leaning as a means of relief, by which the weight is lessened, and the free action of the chest not impeded. But a girl who sits on a stool cannot lean, and her spine bends. The resulting deformity may be permanent or temporary; an abiding curvature to one or other side, or a mere rounding of the back removable at will. But all such distortions, while they last, if only for five minutes, have a bad effect that is commonly forgotten. They confine the chest and hinder respiration, limiting the quantity of air admitted into the lungs, and producing effects similar to those of a vitiated atmosphere. This is no light thing.
We hear a great deal of lamentation nowadays, proceeding mostly from elderly people, on the decline of the Art of Conversation among us. Old ladies and gentlemen, with vivid recollections of the charms of society fifty years ago, are constantly asking each other why the great talkers of their youthful days have found no successors in this inferior present time. Wherethey inquire mournfullywhere are the illustrious men and women gifted with a capacity for perpetual outpouring from the tongue, who used to keep enraptured audiences deluged in a flow of eloquent monologue for hours together? Where are the solo talkers in this degenerate age of nothing but choral conversation? Embalmed in social tradition, or imperfectly preserved in books for the benefit of an ungrateful posterity, which reviles their surviving contemporaries, and would perhaps even have reviled them, as Bores.
What a change seems indeed to have passed over the face of society since the days of the great talkers! If they could rise from the dead, and wag their unresting tongues among us now, would they win their reputations anew, just as easily as ever? Would they even get listeners? Would they be actually allowed to talk? I should venture to say, decidedly not. They would surely be interrupted and contradicted; they would have their nearest neighbours at the dinner-table talking across them; they would find impatient people opposite, dropping things noisily, and ostentatiously picking them up; they would hear confidential whispering and perpetual fidgeting in distant corners, before they had got through their first half-dozen of eloquent opening sentences. Nothing appears to me so wonderful as that none of these interruptions (if we are to believe report) should ever have occurred in the good old times of the great talkers.
Mr. Spoke Wheeler is one of those mena large class, as it appears to mewho will talk, and who have nothing whatever in the way of a subject of their own to talk about. His constant practice is to lie silently in ambush for subjects started by other people, to take them forthwith from their rightful owners, turn them coolly to his own uses, and then cunningly wait again for the next topic, belonging to somebody else, that passes within his reach. It is useless to give up, and leave him to take the leadhe invariably gives up, too, and declines the honour. It is useless to start once more, hopefully, seeing him apparently silencedhe becomes talkative again the moment you offer him the chance of seizing on your new subjectdisposes of it without the slightest fancy, taste, or novelty of handling, in a momentthen relates into utter speechlessness as soon as he has silenced the rest of the company by taking their topic away from them.
Mrs. Marblemug has one subject of conversationher own vices. On all other topics she is sarcastically indifferent and scornfully mute. General conversation she consequently never indulges in; but the person who sits next to her is sure to be interrupted as soon as he attracts her attention by talking to her, by receiving a confession of her vicesnot made repentantly, or confusedly, or jocularlybut slowly declaimed with an ostentatious cynicism, with a hard eye, a hard voice, a hardno, an adamantinemanner. In early youth, Mrs. Marblemug discovered that her business in life was to be eccentric and disagreeable, and she is one of the women of England who fulfils her mission.
The advertisements which appear in a public journal take rank among the most significant indications of the state of society of that time and place. The wants, the wishes, the means, the employments, the books, the amusements, the medicines, the trade, the economy of domestic households, the organization of wealthy establishments, the relation between masters and servants, the wages paid to workmen, the rents paid for houses, the prices charged for commodities, the facilities afforded for travelling, the materials and fashions for dress, the furniture and adornments of houses, the varieties and systems of schools, the appearance and traffic of towns,all receive illustration from such sources. It would be possible to write a very good social history of England during the last two centuries from the information furnished by advertisements alone.
Such was the orthodox theory; but, in the same way that the knowing ones on the race-course often make the most astounding mistakes in their forecastings, to their own great pecuniary disadvantage and the edification of a censorious world, so will it frequently occur that professed scientific men, too mindful of abstract theories to make practical innovations, find themselves suddenly confronted with some new application of those theories, or some complete reversal of them. These audacious exhibitions of scientific heterodoxy have of late years been more common in America. The active, volatile, knowing States man is as little disposed to submit to antiquated authority in intellectual matters as in political affairs.
It is a private opinion of mine that the dull people in this countryno matter whether they belong to the Lords or the Commonsare the people who, privately as well as publicly, govern the nation. By dull people I mean people, of all degrees of rank and education, who never want to be amused. I dont know how long it is since these dreary members of the population first hit on the cunning ideathe only idea they ever had or will haveof calling themselves Respectable; but I do know that, ever since that time, this great nation has been afraid of them,afraid in religious, in political, and in social matters.
The ideal physician of Hippocrates is, in this country, the apothecary of the present day. Galen says that he had an apotheké in which his drugs were kept, and where his medicines were always made under his own eye, or by his hand. For one moment we pause on the word apotheké, whence apothecary is derived. It meant among the Greeks a place where anything is put by and preserved,especially, in the first instance, wine. The Romans had no wine-cellars, but kept their wine-jars upon upper floors, where they believed that the contents would ripen faster. The small floors were called fumaria, the large ones apothecæ. The apotheca, being a dry, airy place, became, of course, the best possible store-room for drugs, and many apothecas became drug-stores, with an apothecarius in charge. It is a misfortune thenif it be oneattached to the name of apothecary that it has in it association with the shop. But, to say nothing of Podalirius and Machaon, Cullen and William Hunter dispensed their own medicines.
In the year one thousand three hundred and forty-five, Coursus de Gangeland, called an apothecary of London, serving about the person of King Edward the Third, received a pension of sixpence a day as a reward for his attendance on the king during a serious illness which he had in Scotland. Henry the Eighth gave forty marks a year to John Soda, apothecary, as a medical attendant on the Princess Mary, who was a delicate, unhealthy young woman; so that we thus have the first indications of the position of an English apothecary, as one whose calling for two hundred years maintained itself, and continued to maintain itself till a few years after the establishment of the College of Physicians, as that of a man who might be engaged even by kings in practice of the healing art. But in the third year of Queen Marys reign, thirty-seven years after the establishment of the College of Physicians, both surgeons and apothecaries were prohibited the practising of physic. In Henry the Eighths time it had been settled, on the other hand, that surgery was an especial part of physic, and any of the company or fellowship of physicians were allowed to engage in it.
About one hundred and fifty years ago, talking like an apothecary was a proverbial phrase for talking nonsense; and our early dramatists when they produced an apothecary on the stage always presented him as a garrulous and foolish man. It was in what may be called the middle period of the history of the apothecarys calling in this country that it had thus fallen into grave contempt. At first it was honoured, and it is now, at last, honoured again. At first there were few of the fraternity. Dr. Freind mentions a time when there was only one apothecary in all London. Now [August, 1856] there are in England and Wales about seven thousand gentlemen who, when tyros, took their freedom out to kill (or cure)
Where stands a structure on a rising hill,
Nigh where Fleet Ditch descends in sable streams
To wash his sooty Naiads in the Thames,
namely, at the Hall of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in Blackfriars. Of course apothecaries do not monopolize the license to kill, or we never should have heard of that country in which it was a custom to confer upon the public executioner, after he had performed his office on a certain number of condemned people, the degree of doctor apothecary.
Life is, in fact, a system of relations rather than a positive and independent existence; and he who would be happy himself, and make others happy, must carefully preserve these relations. He cannot stand apart in surly and haughty egotism: let him learn that he is as much dependent on others as others are on him. A law of action and reaction prevails, from which he can be no more exempt than his more modest fellow-men; and, sooner or later, arrogance, in whatever sphere of the intellectual or moral development it may obtain, will, nay must, meet its appropriate punishment. The laws of nature, and the demonstrations of mathematics, are not more certain than those of our spiritual life, whether manifested in the individual or in society.
But this evil of isolation belongs not exclusively to the one transcendent genius, or to the favoured few who have gained the highest eminences of thought or labour. Those who have advanced only a little way beyond their acquaintance in literary, artistic, or scientific attainments, are not a little proud of their acquisitions, and sometimes set up for much greater people than they really are. They claim privileges to which they have but a very slender title, if any, and become boastful, presumptuous, and overbearing. Alas! in the crudity of their knowledge, they are unaware of the lamentable extent of their ignorance, as also of the fatal boundary which necessarily limits the information of the most learned and the most knowing. They have not been taught with how much truth Socrates made the celebrated affirmation that All he knew was that he knew nothing.
Yes, Man is the slave of association; and if there ever once has existed an argumentum ad hominem for or against a thing or a person, it is more than probable that, in exact accordance to the personal argument, we shall love or hate that thing or person forever after. An infantine surfeit of oysters may so extend its influence over a whole life as to make us forever regard with aversion that admirable mollusc; a whipping at school, while we were learning Greek or English history, may, according to the period it was inflicted in, impart to us doubts of the justice of Aristides, or absolute nausea respecting the patriotic virtue of Hampden. On the other hand, it may be questioned whether the eulogists of Saint Dunstan, of Bloody Queen Mary, and other execrated notabilities, may not have had holidays and sugar-plums, or a plum-cake from home, just at the moment when they were successfully getting over the Dunstan or Mary period.
There is great truth in Alphonse Karrs remark that modern men are ugly because they dont wear their beards. Take a fine man of forty with a handsome round Medicean beard (not a pointed Jews beard); look at him well, so as to retain his portrait in your minds eye; and then shave him close, leaving him, perhaps, out of charity, a couple of mutton-chop whiskers, one on each cheek, and you will see the humiliating difference. And if you select an old man of seventy for your experiment, and convert a snowy-bearded head that might sit for a portrait in a historical picture, into a close-scraped weazen-faced visage, like an avaricious French peasant on his way to haggle for swine at a monthly franc-marché, the descent from the sublime to the ridiculous is still more painfully apparent.
During hundreds of years it was the custom in England to wear beards. It became, in course of time, one of our Insularities to shave close. Whereas, in almost all the other countries of Europe, more or less of moustache and beard was habitually worn, it came to be established in this speck of an island, as an Insularity from which there was no appeal, that an Englishman, whether he liked it or not, must hew, hack, and rasp his chin and upper lip daily. The inconvenience of this infallible test of British respectability was so widely felt, that fortunes were made by razors, razor-strops, hones, pastes, shaving-soaps, emollients for the soothing of the tortured skin, all sorts of contrivances to lessen the misery of the shaving process and diminish the amount of time it occupied.
The fashion of the day should always be reflected in a womans dress, according to her position and age; the eye craves for variety as keenly as the palate; and then, I honestly protest, a naturally good-looking woman is always handsome. For, happily, there exists more than one kind of beauty. There is the beauty of infancy, the beauty of youth, the beauty of maturity, and, believe me, ladies and gentlemen, the beauty of age, if you do not spoil it by your own want of judgment. At any age, a woman may be becomingly and pleasingly dressed.
Leanness, hitherto, has been considered a reproach, rather than a merit, either in an individual or a nation . We cannot fancy a fat Macbeth; a corpulent traitor in Venice Preserved, or an obese Iago, are impossibilities. Assuredly. Falstaff was not scrupulously honest or honourable; but what was he, after all, but a merry rogue? Plumpness and beauty have often been regarded as inseparable Siamese twins, from the illustrious regent whose ideal of female loveliness was summed up in fat, fair, and forty, to the Egyptians who fattened their dames systematically, by making them sit in a bath of chicken-broth; the etiquette being that the lady under treatment is to eat, while sitting in the broth-bath, one whole chicken of the number of those of which the bath was made, and that she is to repeat both bath and dose for many days. A doubt, one should think, must have sometimes arisen, whether the beauty thus in training would fatten or choke first.
We often make a great blunder when, snatching up an old fairy-tale book, hap-hazard, we fancy we can revive those pleasant days of our childhood, in which we thought that the absence of a supernatural godmother was a serious defect in modern christenings; that a gentlemans second wife was sure to persecute the progeny of the first, who were (or was) always pretty, and equally sure to bring into the family an ugly bratthe result of a former marriage on her own partwhom she spoiled and petted, less from motives of affection than from a desire to spite all the rest; that where there were three or seven children in a household, the youngest was invariably the shrewdest of the lot; and that no great and glorious end could be obtained without overthrowing three successive obstacles, each more formidable than the obstacle preceding.
I have no objection whatever to being a bore. My experience of the world has shown me that, upon the whole, a bore gets on much better in it, and is much more respected and permanently popular, than what is called a clever man. A few restless people, with an un-English appetite for perpetual variety, have combined to set up the bore as a species of bugbear to frighten themselves, and have rashly imagined that the large majority of their fellow-creatures could see clearly enough to look at the formidable creature with their eyes. Never did any small minority make any greater mistake as to the real extent of its influence! English society has a placid enjoyment in being bored. If any man tells me that this is a paradox, I, in return, defy him to account on any other theory for three-fourths of the so-called recreations which are accepted as at once useful and amusing by the British nation.
Our most secret doings, nay, what we imagine to be our inmost thoughts, are often the open talk and jeer of hundreds of people with whom we have never interchanged a word. That more people know Tom Fool than Tom Fool knows, is, though at once a truism and a vulgarism, a profound and philosophic axiom. Despise not the waiter, for he may know you thoroughly. Be careful what you do or say, for there are hundreds of machicolated crevices in every dead wall, whence spy-glasses are pointed at you; and the sky above is darkened with little birds, eager to carry matters concerning you. Dio ti vede (God sees thee) they write on the walls in Italy. A mans own heart should tell him this; but his common sense should tell him likewise that men are also always regarding him; that the streets are full of eyes, the walls of ears.
Here is another magistrate propounding from the seat of justice the stupendous nonsense that it is desirable that every person who gives alms in the streets should be fined for that offence. This to a Christian people, and with the New Testament lying before himas a sort of dummy, I suppose, to swear witnesses on. Why does my so-easily-frightened nationality not take offence at such things? My hobby shies at shadows; why does it amble so quietly past these advertising-vans of Blockheads seeking notoriety?
Hang me all the thieves in Gibbet Street to-morrow, and the place will be crammed with fresh tenants in a week; but catch me up the young thieves from the gutter and the door-steps; take Jonathan Wild from the breast; send Mrs. Sheppard to Bridewell, but take hale young Jack out of her arms; teach and wash me this young unkempt vicious colt, and he will run for the Virtue Stakes yet; take the young child, the little lamb, before the great Jack Sheppard ruddles him and folds him for his own black flock in Hades; give him some soap, instead of whipping him for stealing a cake of brown Windsor; teach him the Gospel, instead of sending him to the treadmill for haunting chapels and purloining prayer-books out of pews; put him in the way of filling shop-tills, instead of transporting him when he crawls on his hands and knees to empty them; let him know that he has a body fit and made for something better than to be kicked, bruised, chained, pinched with hunger, clad in rags or prison gray, or mangled with gaolers cat; let him know that he has a soul to be saved. In Gods name, take care of the children, somebody; and there will soon be an oldest inhabitant in Gibbet Street, and never a new one to succeed him!
Suppose, again, that a teacher is gentle-spirited and of a loving disposition; the first soon dwindles into a feeble non-resistance of injuries, and the last hungers and thirsts often until it perishes of inanition. I know it is a shocking thing to say, but the children are mostly selfish: so long as you are administering to their amusement or comfort, they will love you, but the moment it becomes necessary to thwart a whim or control a passion, you are altogether hateful; and they hate you for the time being, very cordially. I have been loved and hated myself a dozen times a week; and I know a little damsel now who, when her temper is crossed, tells her governess that she hates her pet cat, and is not above giving the innocent pussy a sly blow or kick as proxy for its much-enduring mistress.
Fortunately, we are able to reassure our fat friends; no operation is involved in the modern system of treating their superfluities. Dr. Dancels grand principle is this: to diminish embonpoint without affecting the health, the patient must live principally on meat (eating but a small quantity of other aliment) and drinking but little, and that little not water. In a hundred parts of human fat, there are seventy-nine of carbon, fifteen and a fraction of hydrogen, and five and a fraction of oxygen. But water is nothing but the protoxide of hydrogen; and hydrogen is one of the main elements of fat. Therefore, the aspirant after leanness must eat but few vegetables, or watery messes, or hot rolls, puddings, tarts, potatoes, haricots, pease-soup, charlottes, sweet biscuits, apple-rolls, nor cakes in any of their protean forms; because all these dainties have carbon and oxygen for their principal bases. If he will persist in living on leguminous, farinaceous, and liquid diet, he will make fat as certainly as the bee makes honey by sucking flowers.
To return to my own case. It is very hard, I think, that no provision is made for bashful men like me, who want to declare the state of their affections, who are not accustomed to female society, and who are habitually startled and confused, even on ordinary occasions, whenever they hear the sound of their own voices. There are people ready to assist us in every other emergency of our lives; but in the greatest difficulty of all, we are inhumanly left to help ourselves. There have been one or two rare occasions, on which one or two unparalleled women have nobly stepped forward and relieved us of our humiliating position as speechless suitors, by taking all the embarrassment of making the offer on their own shoulders.
Great crimes are commonly produced either out of a cold intensity of selfishness, or out of a hot intensity of passion. It is not difficult for any one to say which will lead to the more detestable results. The visible ferocity, the glare of envy or wild hatred in the criminal who slays his enemyfoul and detestable as it must ever beis not so loathsome as the tranquil good humour of the wretch utterly lost in self-content, ready without a particle of malice or compunction to pluck neighbours lives, as fruit, for his material refreshment.
The moralist warns us that life is but the antechamber of death; that as, on the first day of life, the foot is planted on the lowest of a range of steps, which man scales painfully, only to arrive at the altar of corporeal death. The chemist comes to proclaim that, from infancy to old age, the quantity of earthy matter continually increases. Earth asserts her supremacy more and more, and calls us more loudly to the dust. In the end a Higher Will interposes, the bond of union is unloosed, the immortal soul wings its flight upward to the Giver of all Being. Earth claims its own, and a little heap of ashes returns to the dust. It was a man. It is now dust; our ashes are scattered abroad to the winds over the surface of the earth. But this dust is not inactive. It rises to walk the earth again; perhaps to aid in peopling the globe with fresh forms of beauty, to assist in the performance of the vital processes of the universe, to take a part in the worlds life. In this sense the words of Goethe are strictly applicable, Death is the parent of life.
The tragedy of Hamlet, for example, is critically considered to be the masterpiece of dramatic poetry; and the tragedy of Hamlet is also, according to the testimony of every sort of manager, the play, of all others, which can invariably be depended on to fill a theatre with the greatest certainty, act it when and how you will.
Dreaming is not hallucination, and hallucination is not dreaming, but there are obvious resemblances between them. In dreaming, the brain is neither quite awake nor quite asleep. The mind is a wizard chamber of dissolving views. In dreams, the picturing power of the mind is active, whilst the attention, the judgment, and the will are dormant. In dreams, the pictures pass of themselves, the dissolving views roll on, the images of the imagination shine and mingle uncorrected by the sensations and uncontrolled by the will. All the pictures apparently come and go incoherently. The recollections of dreams are confused and chaotic, but the recollections are not the dreams. The incoherence is not real. Proof of this fact is to be found in the observation that there is a similar incoherence in the successive pictures of the waking mind, when the images of the chamber of imagery are neither dominated by the will nor observed with attention. There is always a relation to the order of occurrence of the sensations in the order of the ideas. The incoherence of the dreams of the sound mind is simply imperfect recollection, and the absence or dormancy of attention and volition.
Love, in modern times, has been the tailors best friend. Every suitor of the nineteenth century spends more than his spare cash on personal adornments. A faultless fit, a glistening hat, tight gloves, and tighter boots proclaim the imminent peril of his position.
Declining ladies, especially married ladies, are more given, I think, than men, to neglect their personal appearance, when they are conscious that the bloom of their youth is gone. I do not speak of state occasions, of set dinner-parties and full-dress balls, but of the daily meetings of domestic life. Now, however, is the time, above all others, when the wife must determine to remain the pleasing wife, and retain her John Andersons affections to the last, by neatness, taste, and appropriate variety of dress. That a lady has fast-growing daughters, strapping sons, and a husband hard at work at his office all day long, is no reason why she should ever enter the family circle with rumpled hair, soiled cap, or unfastened gown. The prettiest woman in the world would be spoiled by such sins in her toilette.
I do not speak of the time dear to the hearts of patriotic Englishmen, when King Stephen resided here, and probably provided himself in his native capital with those expensive habiliments which Shakspeare has not disdained to celebrate. And what a fine touch of character it is, to make that gross and coarse rival of Matilda break forth into such vulgar reflections on the tradesman who supplied the clothes!
His best waistcoat (which I remember, poor fellow, to have been the same for a long course of years) retained to the last a brilliancy of which words can give but a feeble idea; it represented, by sprigs and threads formed of the precious metals, upon a satin ground, the firmament,sun, moon, and stars competing upon it altogether with an equal fervency; and this celestial waistcoat was Mr. Jantys pride. One of the few ushers whom I ever saw assert his personal dignity was this gentleman, on the occasion of an insult being offered to his favourite garment. A boy of the name of Jones pointed out this miracle of art, one Sunday, with his finger, to the rest of us, as not being altogether the sort of pattern that is worn for morning costume; and Mr. Janty knocked him down with a box upon his right ear, picking him up with a box upon his left immediately, observing that he hoped he (Mr. Janty) knew how to dress himself like a gentleman.
Some years ago, we, the writer, not being in Griggs and Bodgers, took the liberty of buying a great-coat which we saw exposed for sale in the Burlington Arcade, London, and which appeared to be in our eyes the most sensible great-coat we had ever seen. Taking the further liberty to wear this great-coat after we had bought it, we became a sort of Spectre, eliciting the wonder and terror of our fellow-creatures as we flitted along the streets. We accompanied the coat to Switzerland for six months; and, although it was perfectly new there, we found it was not regarded as a portent of the least importance. We accompanied it to Paris for another six months; and, although it was perfectly new there too, nobody minded it. This coat, so intolerable to Britain, was nothing more nor less than the loose wide-sleeved mantle, easy to put on, easy to put off, and crushing nothing beneath it, which everybody now wears.
A girl may be shown how to darn and how to patch, how to bake and how to brew, how to scrub and how to rub, how to buy penny-worths with pennies, and yet be sent out to the rich man a defective servant, and to the poor man an unthrifty uncomfortable wife. On the other hand, she may have received formal instruction in no one of these things, and yet he able to overcome every difficulty as it arises, by help of the spirit that has been put into her, and will not only soon do well, but will perpetually advance towards perfection in whatever ministry may be demanded of her by the circumstances of her future life. If she has been trained to live by How and Why,always pouring down through these conductors, the whole energy of the mind upon the matter actually in hand,she will surely make a wise wife or a clever servant.
We do not believe in great stupidity as a common natural gift. Doubtless, it sometimes is so; but, as seen among grown-up people, it is often artificial. The bad teacher complains of the pupil. There is a well-known instance of a girl who, at fifteen, was thought so stupid that her father despairingly abandoned the attempt to educate her. This girl was Elizabeth Carter, who lived to be, perhaps, the most learned woman that England has ever produced.
Why are we so fond of talking about ourselves as eminently a practical people? Are we eminently a practical people? In our national works, for example; our public buildings, our public places, our columns, the lines of our new streets, our monstrous statues; do we come so very practically out of all that? No, to be sure; but we have our railroads, results of private enterprise, and they are great works. Granted. Yet, is it very significant of an eminently practical people that we live under a system which wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds in law and corruption before an inch of those roads could be made? Is it a striking proof of an eminently practical people having invested their wealth in making them, that in point of money return, in point of public accommodation, in every particular of comfort, profit, and management, they are at a heavy discount when compared with the railways on the opposite side of a sea-channel five and twenty miles across, though those were made under all the disadvantages consequent upon unstable governments and shaken public confidence? Why do we brag so?
It is often remarked by our neighbours on the Continent, and it is seldom denied among ourselves, that we are a nation of grumblers. Grumbling letters to the editor, for example, and grumbling articles in support of those letters, form two of the characteristics which are peculiar to English newspapers. Grumbling speeches, again, in virtue of their steady burden of complaint, secure a favourable reception for those patriots at our public meetings who have no oratorical recommendations of any sort to give them a personal claim on the attention of an audience. And a grumbling conversation is well known to everybody as the safe neutral ground on which two Englishmen, strangers to each other, can generally contrive to meet with the completest sense of ease and comfort. Unquestionably we are a race of grumblers; and grumbling is one of the very few national defects which we happen to be clever enough to discover for ourselves.
The best and most agreeable way of learning the state of the English language as it existed during the latter part of the fourteenth century is to read John Wycliffes version of the New Testament, and Geoffrey Chaucers Canterbury Tales. In these works the two streams combine, though perhaps not in equal proportions; for the writings of Wycliffe, being designed for the people, contain a larger proportion of Saxon words; and those of Chaucer, composed for readers who were not unacquainted with the French metrical romances, include a number of terms used in romance and chivalry; and, as we have seen, most of these terms were Norman. It is to be regretted that more attention is not paid by English readers to Wycliffe and Chaucer.
Yes! There it goes! One of those mighty buzzers, these enormous flesh-fliesemblems of gigantic fussiness, types of terrific power of boredomhas just whirled into the apartment, and continues sharply to whir about, stirring up the smaller fly gentry, making a preponderant base to their tiresome treble, dashing furiously against walls, ceiling, window-panes; of course never finding its stupid way out through any widely-opened casementbuzz, buzz, buzz! Ah! he is silent! Is he gone? No, only entangled in the muslin curtain, where he now makes (most unmusical, most melancholy) a quivering, dithering sound, like a watch running down when the main-spring is broken. Then loose again, and da-capo, with his buzz, buzz! fuss, fuss!then really resting for a few moments, only to get up fresh energy and make his drone the worse for the short relief of silence. I must let out my rage.
I have beheld with my own eyes what an old grudge is that of man against the flies. Our injuries are of a long date. At Pompeii, in the old Roman guard-house, I have seen written a soldiers malediction on the many flies. I have seen it (I will not plague my reader with the original, which, besides, I have forgotten) scrawled in red chalk, covered up for centuriesrestored fresh as to-day to bear witness to eternal truth.
Who plagued Io, and made her scream out (as well she might) that fearful antistrophe,
Ah, ah! dost thou vex me so
That I madden and shiver?
Who but the gadfly, as that wonderful fount of information, every school-boy, knows? Who drives the lion mad amidst the Libyan sands? The gadfly, as Mansfield Parkyns will inform you. Who made a spot on my Madonnas nose? (Madonna said to be by Carlo Dolce.) The blue-bottle fly.
In every period of English literary history, authors have sought to hold the mirror up to nature by means of essays describing the manners, opinions, and peculiarities of certain classes of the community. In the beginning of the seventeenth century, essays of this kind issued from the press in great profusion, and were more in demand than they have ever subsequently been: a circumstance to be explained with probability on two grounds: first, that the superficial differences separating class from class were then very marked and evident; secondly, that tales and novels had scarcely begun to exercise the ingenuity of writers. Indeed, contemporaneously with the appearance of Mrs. Behns romances there was a marked diminution in the number of character books given to the public,the loves of Oronooco and Imoinda, and the licentious drama of the Restoration, having effectually superseded, in the estimation of most readers, the grave, concise, and epigrammatic satires in which the essayists of a former generation had lashed the follies of mankind.
Life is a constant battle between the dead matter of earth, which strives continually to free itself from the tyranny of organic laws, and the chemical energies of the body, which incessantly force upon it forms proper for its use in the animal structures. For a time the powers of gravitation, cohesion, and crystallization are kept down and defied by the organizing forces; but we forecast the end, we know that earth will triumph over the frame, the house built of dust will crumble, and the glories of the sacred temple of the soul fade into the palpable ruins of a mud-built tenement.
Why does the cook spoil the potatoes? Why does she make our meat our misery, and dinner the extinction of all powers of thought for the next two hours? Cook works by tradition, or at best by cookery-books, and puts no mind of her own into her work. It is stark nonsense to suppose that cooking can be done by rule, when, all the books being nearly the same, there is a failure in the very first condition of successful imitation. No two kitchen fires are alike as to the degree and the way in which they give out heat. In qualities of water, in saucepans, in the season of the year, in the constantly varying quality or texture of the same article employed as food or condiment, the cook, who is merely, after the custom of the day, a creature of rules which she has gathered round her as the defence of her own secret ignorance and incapacity, can only spoil food; and does spoil it.
Man, they said at first, is made up of air; and his food is air solidified. He springs from air, he lives on air, to air he shall return. The proofs are made out in this wise: Man feeds on plants directly, or through the mediation of herbivorous animals; plants feed on carbonic acid gas, ammonia, and waterwhich impregnate the atmosphere. Plants, then, feed on air; and man also, through the direct mediation of plants, or, indirectly, through that of the herbivorous animals he eats. When death overtakes him, he dissolves into ammonia, carbonic acid gas, and water; and this again returns to air.
Beef contains a great deal of iron; its ash contains six per cent. Animal food is, of course, the natural source of iron to the system. But iron has been used medicinally since very early times, with the knowledge that it had a strengthening power. Prince Iphicles was the first patient who was treated with steel-wine. He suffered from pallor and debility thirty-five hundred years ago. An oracle desired him to seek a knife which, years before, he had driven into a sacred chestnut-tree, to sleep it in wine, and drink the solution of its rust. A modern oracle would have prescribed a more elegant form of steel-wine for the fee of one guinea. Since that time, the alchymists called it Mars.
Suffice it to say that iron is found in all our food; that iron is organized in all our tissues; that its presence is necessary to health, its absence productive of chlorosis, a common form of disease. But although so generally present, and so essential to health, the whole bulk of iron in the body is very small. If we should carry into action Shakspeares idea, and coin the heart and drop the blood for drachmas, we should be but very little the wealthier. All the iron in the body would not be of the value of a halfpenny nor the size of a walnut;on such small things does life depend.
So far is salt from being useless, that man and animals have from the earliest times sought it with incredible pains and devoured it with marvellous avidity. Its use has been held to be a privilege essential to pleasure and to health: its deprivation a punishment productive of pain and disease. Its uses in the economy are manifold and important. Without it there would be no assimilation of food, no formation of gastric juice. Nutrition would cease; life would languish and utterly waste. Salt, moreover, would appear to ward off low forms of fever. It deals death to parasite growth.
We may question those learned in the mysteries of the animal and human frame if we would learn the secret of this strange yearning after salt which ages have not diminished, nor civilization annihilated. Salt occurs in every part of the human body. It is organized in the solids, and dissolved in the fluids; it creeps into every corner of the frame, and plays a part in all the complicated processes of life, without which the machinery would be arrested in its operation. Thus, all our nutritive food consists either of fibrin, albumen, or casein; and neither of these could be assimilated, and used in building up the flesh that walls about our life, unless salt were present: neither being soluble except in a saline fluid.
Phosphate of lime reaches us in all flesh, and in most articles of vegetable food, but especially in some of the cereals. A striking illustration of the value of phosphate of lime, as a constituent of our dietary, may be found in the fact that nearly all the nations of the earth feed either on wheat or rye, or on barley or oats, and these grains appear to be specially adapted for human use by reason of the large quantities of phosphate of lime which they contain. There is plenty of phosphate of lime in soups, and this may be a useful way of getting at this mineral, where there is a deficiency in the system. For this phosphate is a necessary constituent of all the soft tissues and fluids of the body, of cartilage, muscle, milk, blood, of gastric and pancreatic juices.
The uses of potash in the body have been elucidated in investigating the causes of scurvy. Until lately this scourge carried off from one-sixth to one-tenth of a ships crew on a long voyage. Scurvy results from a continued diet of salt meat; not because the salt is in excess, but because the potash and other mineral constituents are in defect. When meat is placed in brine, the salt enters, driving out the potash and other salts, usurping their place, and, like other usurpers, doing a vast amount of mischief.
Of magnesia we have but little to say. It is always found in the human body. But what it does there, and why it is there, and in what precise form, are questions not yet clearly answered. Probably magnesia has the same qualities as potash and sodium, and does their work occasionally, when from an ill-selected diet these are absent from the body without leave. The dietetic relation of magnesia has been made famous by its discovery in oats.
One of the largest promises of science is, that the sum of human happiness will be increased, ignorance destroyed, and, with ignorance, prejudice and superstition, and that great truth taught to all, that this world and all it contains were meant for our use and service; and that where nature by her own laws has defined the limits of original unfitness, science may by extract so modify those limits as to render wholesome that which by natural wildness was hurtful, and nutritious that which by natural poverty was unnourishing. We do not yet know half that chemistry may do by way of increasing our food.
Bear with me, indignant wivesbear with me, if I recall the long-past time when one of the handsomest women I ever saw, took my dearest friend away from me, and destroyed, in one short day, the whole pleasant edifice that we two had been building up together since we were boys at school. I shall never be as fond of any human being again, as I was of that one friend, and, until the beautiful woman came between us, I believe there was nothing in this world that he would not have sacrificed and have done for me. Even while he was courting, I kept my hold on him. Against opposition on the part of his bride and her family, he stipulated bravely that I should be his best man on the wedding-day. The beautiful woman grudged me my one small corner in his heart, even at that time.
I know a little of governess-life. We complain in England that so few employments are open to women;which is partly the fault of the women themselves, or rather of the friends who have influence over them. All female employment must be so excessively genteel! There is no rule without exceptions; but this I say deliberately: if I had twenty daughters whom I could not maintain (as would be probable in such a hypothesis), but whom I must send forth to earn their living, I would rather see them ladies-maids, cooks, waitresses at inns, milliners, assistants in shops, clerks and bookkeepers, where they would be accepted as such, confectioners, haberdashers,I would rather marry them to some honest hard-working emigrant, kissing them, as they went on board ship, with the prospect of never more beholding them in this world,than sentence them to the ambiguous, the solitary, the pitied and pitiable, the precarious, the dependent position of a governess.
I had time to make these reflections before I was bid to Look over with that lady in a curt impatient tone; I sat down, all obedience, and read the entries of page after page, selecting here and there a curiosity. One lady demanded a first-rate governess for thirty pounds; another, wished for a widow; a third, for a good-tempered person who did not wear spectacles; a fourth, offered a situation to any lady who, possessing large acquirements, would be satisfied with a small salary and the consciousness that she was doing good; and a fifthconcluding the list of accomplishmentsdesired in the following remarkable manner: No one need apply who has not confidence in her own good temper. The salaries, generally speaking, were lowvery low; sixteen, twenty, and from that to forty pounds being the average; a few were fifty and sixty. One family offered eighty, and one a hundred; but all demanded much more than the value of their money.
Altogether, my study of that Register for Governesses did not please me; it made me a convert to Miss Greens opinions of the hardships of her class. A governess at twenty pounds a year gets thirteen pence per day; reckoning her to work only six hours a daywhich is almost the lowest averageshe gets a fraction more than twopence an hour. Twopence for an hour at the piano, twopence for an hour at chalk-drawing, twopence for an hour of English lessons, twopence for an hour of French, twopence for an hour of German, twopence for an hour of singing songs and doing Italian lessons, and the odd penny for the natural philosophy and physical geography thrown in as make-weights.
The reflection was forced upon my mind that many ladies who want governesses must be profoundly foolish to imagine that women like themselves can be proficients in half a dozen arts and sciences which, separately and singly, form the whole life-study of able men. The cheap system prevails to a ruinous extent amongst governesses; it has lowered them as they never ought to have been lowered; they are compelled to seem to know what it is impossible that they should know.
But, my dear young perusers, exactly such is the state of your relations with every individual member of the united society of fogeys, governors, maiden aunts, old nurses, worn-out workmen, and the rest of them. Their berths are taken, entered, and ticketed (although the date and number is left blank to human eyes) on board a ship bound for a long voyage, whence there is no return. Will you embitter the unavoidable starting on that journey by any previous unpleasantness which you can possibly avoid?by offensive neglect, by insulting contempt, by perverse resistance, or by open rebellion? I am certain you will not. To the hand that fed you when you could not feed yourself, to the head that thought for you when you had no thought of your own, to the heart that loved you when you were incapable of loving in return, you will procure all possible pleasure and satisfaction, before the bell sounds to give warning that the vessel has her steam up, and will immediately leave the shores trodden by living men.
We are quite sure that living languages are better means of teaching boys or men to think than even mathematics. Let there be no lack of mathematical teaching, only let it not occupy a wrong place in the theory of education. It is the groundwork of exact science; by help of it the pupil rises to a nobler view of all the glories of creation, which we would have all, whom it is professed liberally to educate, taught to study; but of the reasoning that belongs to the affairs of human life, about which it is practically most important that we should be taught to reflect wisely, it supplies little or nothing. The mere study of words is in this respect more to be valued.
Again, not only were men accused of felonies refused the right to look at the indictments framed against them, but, until the twelfth year of the reign of George the Second, the indictments themselves, with the pleas, verdicts, judgments, and so forth, were all uttered in an unknown tongue, and written in a law-hand with ambiguous abbreviations; some of which it was allowable to interpret in more ways than one. And in this languagewhich was neither Latin, French, nor English, but a compound of all threein this language rather than in his innocence lay the accused mans best chance of acquittal.
To expect the prisoner to plead not guilty being guilty, and to say that he does not therein add one more untruth to his offences because it is not falsehood you ask of him but only a legal form, is, in truth, the reverse of a solemn and true opening of a most true and solemn trial. Upon the holding up of the hand, Lord Bacon tells a story of a Welshman who, when the judge told him to hold up his hand, believed that his lordship was about to tell his fortune.
There were some niceties connected with the judicial treatment of the law of Escheat, or Confiscation, which led even to a necessity for bringing torture into common use. If prisoners liable to confiscation of their goods were mutes, that is to say, refused to plead, there could be no attainder, and, consequently, no escheat. For this reason, in Sir Matthew Hales time it was the constant practice at Newgate to tie together with whipcord the two thumbs of any refractory person, and the whipcord with the aid of a parson soon produced the desired effect. If more were required, recourse was had to the peine forte et dure, the more horrible form of torture.
When a traitor was condemned to be hung, drawn, and quartered, that sentence was commonly preceded by the order that he should be carried on a hurdle to the place of execution. This hurdle was a merciful invention of the monks. The original sentence had been that the object of a royal vengeance should be dragged at the tail of a horse over the stones and through the mud; and so brought, already bruised and bleeding, to his death.
There used to beas, we suppose, there are stilla great many delicacies in the laws having reference to homicide and burglary; but in Sir Matthew Hales time, the knotty question of what was passable Latin for burglarious and burglar in the framing of indictments was THE delicacy of the season. More offenders escaped by the writing of burgariter, or burgenter, for burglariter, than by proof of innocence; but, although these errors were common and fatal flaws in an indictment, it was ruled that burglariter was good Latin enough to serve the purposes of law.
I will rather pass on to my friends, the High Priests of the Mysteries, whose business it is to frame the laws of which I am an humble expositor. On the members of the legislature of this happy country I look advisedly as my best friends. Their persevering ingenuityonly to be acquired by the most diligent study of precedentin burying all simple facts designed for the public guidance, beneath a dense medley of verbiage, tautology, reiteration, and verbal mysticism, that puts the legal acumen of the most consummate rogue (as myself, for example) to a severe test to disentangle one single thread of any practical utility from the mass; their constant passing of Acts to amend Acts of which nobody (save themselves and the Queens printer) has been aware of the existence; their incessant passing of other Acts to repeal other Acts still, until it requires the most gimblet-eyed clairvoyance to discover which are Acts in force and which notthese kindnesses place them in the first rank of our (the rogues) benefactors.
If it was said in the indictment of the act of a man who had slain another, murdredavit instead of murdravit, or of a felonious act, that it was done feloniter, when it should have been said felonice, the indictment was quashed, and the criminal set free. In Queen Elizabeths time one John Webster, a brutal murderer, was acquitted because the letter h was omitted in the Latin word for arm. The indictment had sinistro bracio instead of sinistro brachio; and another man was liberated because it was judged material that u was put instead of a in the Latin for the phrase otherwise called. It was A. B. alius dictus A. C. butcher; when the law ruled it to be essential to write A. B. alias dictus A. C. butcher. These niceties were in the highest degree arbitrary. Gross blunders were sometimes held to be within the bounds of legal language; and whether right or wrong, the terms of the indictment, except for any flaws they might contain, mattered not much to the accused.
The idle subtleties that have been spent by criminal lawyers upon the subject of theft could scarcely be seen to more advantage than in the consideration of that element in thieving which consists in carrying the stolen thing away; or, as the books called it, the asportavit. Thus, it was held that if a prisoner removed a package from the head to the tail of a wagon, the asportavit was complete; but if he moved it only by lifting it up where it lay, and standing it on end, for the purpose of ripping it open, the asportavit was not complete, because every part of the package was not shown to be moved. The central point of it might be exactly where it was before. This was understood by the poet who declared the asportavit to be complete as against him when the Knave of Hearts he stole some tarts, andtook them quite away.
A fair trial! However great may be the defects of English law, certain it is that we have attained at last to a complete respect for the liberty of the subject, in the administration of justice as regards felonies and capital crimes. There is a great deal to be amended in the dealing with lesser offences at our petty and quarter sessions; but, in our more solemn courts of criminal justice, no honest mans liberty or life is endangered. It was not so in Scotland, neither was it altogether so in England, sixty years ago.
Tyrannical deeds were done in criminal courts in the years seventeen hundred and ninety-three and four, which prompted the late Lord Cockburn to write an impression, the general acceptance of which is singularly illustrated by one of the events of the day in which his Memorials are published,namely, that the existence of circumstances, such as the supposed clearness and greatness of their guilt, tending to prejudice prisoners on their trials, gives them a stronger claim than usual on that sacred judicial mildness, which, far more than any of the laws terrors, procures respect for authority, and without which courts, let them punish as they may, only alienate and provoke.
There are one or two legal terms of which the meaning is not perhaps generally known. We need remind no one that lunacy is derived from an idea that madness is connected with the moon; but many may not be aware that felony is derived from an idea that felons are prompted by excess of gall. Felonies were crimes committed felleo animo, with a mind affected by the gall; and Hale was of opinion that the reason why a lunatic cannot be guilty of a crime, is a want of gall. Then, again, maiming is not any kind of wounding, but such wounding as lessens a mans power of battling in his own defence. Therefore, it was ruled that to knock out a mans front tooth is to maim him; but that he is not maimed by the knocking out of a grinder; because with a front tooth he can bite and tear an enemy, but with a grinder he can only masticate his food.
I wonder why I feel a glow of complacency in a court of justice, when I hear the learned judges taking uncommon pains to prevent the prisoner from letting out the truth. If the object of the trial be to discover the truth, perhaps it might be as edifying to hear it, even from the prisoner, as to hear what is unquestionably not the truth from the prisoners advocate. I wonder why I say, in a flushed and rapturous manner, that it would be un-English to examine the prisoner. I suppose that with common fairness it would be next to impossible to confuse him, unless he lied; and if he did lie, I suppose he could hardly be brought to confusion too soon.
The popular dramatists of all ageswho hold the mirror up to naturehave invariably introduced members of my profession amongst their dramatis personæ, in this capacity: sometimes as ferrety, vivacious, impudent rogues; occasionally as heavy, solemn, oleaginous specimens of the class: invariably with some sinister design upon the happiness of the hero and heroine of the piece.
It happens, however, that we, though rogues, are not banished without the pale of friendship, but participate in the amenities of life, in common with the exciseman, the sexton, and even Jack Ketch, I am happy, for example, to own a friend in the parson. In the greater part of the disputed will cases which come before me in my roguish capacity, I recognize the kind hand of my clerical friend. The delightful ambiguity which exists in his mind with respect to such phrases as heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns; tenants in common, joint tenants, tenants in tail, etc., together with his insuperable partiality for making the will of a parishioner, which he commencesThis is the last Will and Testament, etc., and burdens with legal phrases, until it presents much the appearance of an Act of Parliament in convulsions, are esteemed by me as evidences of the sincerity of his affection. That he may long continue thus to attend to the temporal as well as spiritual concerns of his flock, is the sincere desire ofWeasel.
The microscope declares that creative perfection is measured neither by stature nor volume, and that the tiniest creatures often reveal in their structures a more marvellous reach of adaptive art than animals which at first sight appear more perfect. It was thought that the functions of life were simple. Experiments on living animals have proved the most unexpected complexity in every vital act and in every organ. Thus observation daily reveals fresh instances of the infinity of creation. Nature is a standing proof not only of the beneficence of the One Great Power, but also of His omniscience and His omnipotence.
This conviction of a common defect applying in different stages and degrees to every rate of capacity or accomplishment, should naturally beget a fraternity of feeling, and make even the most ambitious or prosperous still feel himself to be a man with his fellow-men,and not deport himself as a god who has condescended to walk among men, but who is not of them,to tread the path they tread, but not to share in their sorrows or short-comings. And be it remembered that even of the godlike the conception just announced has more in it of heathen prejudice than of Christian sentiment.
Why does a young woman of prepossessing appearance, glossy hair, and neat attire, taken from any station of life and put behind the counter of a Refreshment Room on an English Railroad, conceive the idea that her mission in life is to treat me with scorn? Why does she disdain my plaintive and respectful solicitations for portions of pork-pie or cups of tea? Why does she feed me like a hyena? What have I done to incur the young ladys displeasure? Is it that I have come there to be refreshed? It is strange that she should take that ill, because her vocation would be gone if I and my fellow-travellers did not appear before her, suing in humility to be allowed to pay out a little money. Yet I never offered her any other injury. Then, why does she wound my sensitive nature by being so dreadfully cross to me? She has relations, friends, acquaintances, with whom to quarrel. Why does she pick me out for her natural enemy?
But I know menI am sure they are tyrants at home, bully their servants, pester their wives, and beat their childrenwho seem to take a delight in harassing, badgering, objurgating the waiter; setting pitfalls in the reckoning that he may stumble, and giving him confused orders that he may trip himself up. These are the men who call in the landlord and demand the waiters instant dismissal because their mutton-chop has a curly tail; these are the pleasant fellows who threaten to write to the Times because the cayenne pepper wont come out of the caster. These are the jocund companions who quarrel with the cabmen and menace them with ruin and the treadmill.
But I do confess that if there be one character more than another that rouses my usually bland temper into combativeness, it is the character of the patter-down upon system. In his atmosphere of forked lightning and thunder my milk of human kindness naturally curdles. If he be a complete master of fence, I dislike him all the more. I have a prejudice against duellists in general, but I feel positive aversion to him who is profuse in his challenges because he never misses his man. The professed putter-down, if urged by the love of display, is ungenerous; if by the love of combativeness, is ungenial; if by the love of causing pain, is cowardly. The last is the bravo of society.
Can there he a lower idea of Marriage than the idea which makes it, in fact, an institution for the development of selfishness on a large and respectable scale? If I am not justified in using the word selfishness, tell me what character a good husband presents (viewed plainly as a man) when he goes out into the world, leaving all his sympathies in his wifes boudoir, and all his affections up-stairs in the nursery, and giving to his friends such shreds and patches of formal recognition, in place of true love and regard, as consist in asking them to an occasional dinner-party and granting them the privilege of presenting his children with silver mugs? He is a model of a husband, the ladies will say. I dare not contradict them; but I should like to know whether he is also a model of a friend?
This, then, is marriage; on the one side a gaoler, on the other a prisoner for life, a legal nonentity, classed with infants or idiots;or, if there should ever come liberty, coming only through that poor prisoners hopeless ruin, ruin she is powerless to avert, be she the most innocent of Gods creatures. Neither property nor legal recognition, neither liberty nor protection has she, nothing but a mans fickle fancy and a mans frail mercy between her and misery, between her and destruction. This is marriage as by the law of England.
The prisoner-wife has no property. All that she possessed before her marriage, and all that she may earn, save, or inherit after her marriage, belongs to her husband. He may squander her fortune at the gaming-table, or among his mistresses; he may bequeath it to his illegitimate children, leaving his wife and her children to beggary; he may do with it as he will; the law makes him lord and gaoler, and places the poor trembling victim unreservedly in his hands. The like may he do with the earnings, the savings of his wife, during his incarceration, if he have committed a crime; during his desertion, if he have taken a fancy to desert her for someone else; during a separation, forced on him by her friends to protect her from his brutality. Whatever be the cause which has thrown the wife on her own resources, and made her work and gain, he may swoop down like a bird of prey on the earnings gained by her own work while she was alone; he may seize and carry them off unhindered, leaving her to the same terrible round of toil and spoliation, until one or the other may die.
It really and truly depends upon her, in more cases than I should like to enumerate, whether her husbands friendships are to be continued, after his marriage, in all their integrity, or are only to be maintained as a mere social form. It is hardly necessary for me to repeatbut I will do so, in order to avoid the slightest chance of misconstructionthat I am here speaking only of the worthiest, the truest, the longest-tried friends of a mans bachelor days. Towards these every sensible married woman feels, as I believe, that she owes a duty for her husbands sake. But, unfortunately, there are such female phenomena in the world as fond wives and devoted mothers, who are anything rather than sensible women the moment they are required to step out of the sphere of their conjugal and maternal instincts. Women of this sort have an unreasonable jealousy of their husbands in small things; and on the misuse of their influence to serve the interests of that jealousy, lies but too often the responsibility of severing such friendships as no man can hope to form for the second time in the course of his life.
Amintor should have cultivated as a moral duty the habit of linking the past to the present, and encouraged his love to ripen into esteem and gratitude. He should have been careful that a purification of the mind accompanied its intellectual advances, and have supplied with a moral sentiment the hiatusthe intellectual and social chasmthat was growing between his own and his wifes mental condition. Perhaps, too, some pains on his own part might have made it much less, or even prevented it altogether. He might, from time to time, have communicated to her what he had himself acquired, and thus, by enabling her to advance with him, preserved more closely the original relation.
His wife, affectionate and faithful, willingly became his co-labourer, and bore with him the burthen and the yoke of his struggling days,partook with him the fever and the fret of aspiring ambition. Well-directed energy led to fortunate results. In the course of years, Amintor has gained a competency, a respectable station in life, and connections valuable to him, either on the score of talent or fashion, or both. People of genius are his companions, and people of taste invite him to their parties of pleasure. Too late he makes the discovery, that while he has been improving his position in the world without, his wife, engrossed in domestic cares, has contracted the habits and manners of a household drudge, and, though sympathizing in his pursuits, has acquired no skill in conversing on them with propriety or elegance. Much discomfort ensues. The husband is ashamed to introduce his homely partner into society; she herself even is disinclined to enter scenes for which she feels herself unqualified.
The deeper we penetrate inwardly, the more finely we subdivide, the wider we separate atomic particles and dissect them by the scalpel of microscopic vision, the more we want to subdivide and analyze still. We find living creatures existing which bear about the same relation to a flea, in respect to size, as the flea does to the animal whose juices it sucks. The most powerful microscopes, so far from giving a final answer to our curious inquiries, only serve to make us cognizant of organized beings whose anatomy and even whose general aspect we shall never discover till we can bring to bear upon them, in their magnified state, another microscope concentrated within the microscope, by which alone we are enabled to view them at all. In short, as there is clearly no boundary to infinite space, above, below, and around; so, there would appear to be no discoverable limit to the inconceivable multiplicity of details of minuteness. A drop of water is a universe. The weakness of our eyes and the imperfection of our instruments, and not the physical constitution of the drop itself, are the sole reasons, as far as we know at present, why we do not behold infinity within the marvellous drop.
This mother and her son,they will be together, that is something, at least for this one journey. Her loving eyes, her clasping hand, are making very much of him while he is yet within her gaze and grasp. Tearless eyes and steady hands she has. She comes of a sturdy race; an Englishwoman born and bred: sorrow and she have been far too long acquainted for her to fear him now. By the delicate white fingers, by the grace about the silvering hair, by the voice so low and musical, she has been nurtured tenderly, and known ease and comfort, if not wealth; but by those well-worn and coarse widows-weeds, there has been a long divorcement. The boy has everything about him bright and new: the blue jacket and the band of gold round his capwhich he especially delights inproclaim the middy; and he is going to join his ship for the first time. There will be a little trembling of the lip at the very last, but that will be all. He is his mothers son, and, if I read him aright, he will not fear the wildest of seas nor the fiercest of battles; and what would I not give to see his mothers looks when first she reads his name in the Gazette of victory!
Again, in music, the Don Giovanni of Mozart, which is the admiration even of the direst pedant producible from the ranks of musical connoisseurs, is also the irresistible popular attraction which is always sure to fill the pit and gallery at the opera.
For it is association which gives all their music, and all their poetry, and all their proud significance, to territorial and family names, as to other things. Coward and Howard are nearly identical in sound. If Howard had been the expression for a craven, and Coward had been the surname of the Norfolk dukedom, Popes lines might have remained, with a very slight alteration:
What can ennoble fools, or sots, or Howards?
Not all the noble blood of all the Cowards!
Make Hamilton, Bamilton; make Douglas, Puglas; make Percy, Bercy; and Stanley, Tanley; and where would be the long-resounding march and energy divine of the roll-call of the peerage? Why, exactly where they are now: the dark Puglas and the Hotspur Bercy would be the heroes of Chevy Chace; the princely Bamilton would head the nobility of Scotland, and the noble Tanley would be the fierce Rupert of debate. Since this is the case, why should one of the quiet patronymicsthe Snookses, Timses, Tubbsesrepine? The time may come when a conqueror of India, of our race and family, will make the title of Tubbs as grand in mens ears as Wellington.
In a great town, where it is said no man knows his neighbour, less is to be observed of nature; more of man. It is well not to know ones neighbours; but it is ill not to observe them. Friends and associates are chosen in a great town upon higher grounds than the mere accident of the position of a house; and, if there be no perfectly distinct reason for a personal acquaintance, it is best not to know so much as the names of those persons who live within sight of ones windows. But they should all be studied carefully as problems through the window-pane. But why they, rather than other people? Because they are there.
Watching them in that manner, we can care much about their births, marriages, and deaths; can become strongly interested in them, living, working, loving, erring, shifting out of sight, and giving place to others. The row of homes over the way adds, thus, to the ever-changing problem offered by the stream of people passing up and down the street, not a few of the mysteries attached to men and women gathered in a settled habitation.
A novelist of genius, who has closely observed human nature, is able to assume mentally the characteristics of the leading varieties of mankind. A Thackeray, a Balzac, a Molière, a Shakspere, can be for a time murderers, misers, heartless worldlings, weak hypochondriacs, ambitious prelates, heart-broken parents, delicate-minded women. Every phase of life is theirs to learn, to put on, and to wear, as they were to the manner born.
A lady, on seeing the sea at Brighton for the first time, exclaimed, What a beautiful field! She had never seen such a beautiful green, moving, sparkling, grassy prairie. Mr. Leigh Hunt lavished a page of admiration in The Liberal upon a line of Ariostos describing the waves as
Neptunes white herds lowing oer the deep.
Anacreon exclaims, in language appropriate to calm seas and smooth sand-beaches, How the waves of the sea kiss the shore! Saint-Lambert, in his Saisons, has four lines descriptive of the waves of a stormy sea dashing upon the beach, which have been much admired by writers upon imitative harmony. Neptune has raised up his turbulent plains, the sea falls and leaps upon the trembling shores. She remounts, groans, and with redoubled blows makes the abyss and the shaken mountains resound.
But the circumstances under which we ponder over any piece of information may make a vast difference in our estimate of the said piece of informationespecially if it come to us through that doubtful and convertible medium which we call historic lore. According as we are sick, in love, and have not dined, or as we are stout, heart-whole, and in that replenished mood which Shakespeare says inclines great men to grant favoursI mean full of a good dinner (barring indigestion)according, I say, as we are thus depressed or cheered, we are apt to look upon the dark or bright side of things, to go even beyond the gloomy decisions of the historian, or to take up the cudgel in defence of the very man whom he loads with obloquyin short, to doubt a Trajan, or to acquit a Nero.
That I am correct in these views is proved by the fact that both the best and the worst of historic personages have never wanted either a detractor or an apologist; and how account for such a phenomenon otherwise than by supposing, in each case, the judge to have been biased either ab extra or ad intra? And what bias is so great as that of a mans own mood and temper, especially if lashed up and exasperated by Circumstancethat unspiritual god?
Millions of people are provided with their thoughts as with their clothes; authors, printers, booksellers, and newsmen stand, in relation to their minds, simply as shoemakers and tailors stand, to their bodies. Certain ideas come up and are adopted, as long-tailed great coats or skeleton petticoats are adopted. No doubt, if we all thoughteach man only a littleof the spirit and meaning of each act of life, the business of life would be done with an earnestness quite frightful to be told about; though glorious to think about, if one were by chance to think.
Among gentlemen, the power to quote certain scraps of Horace, to repeat as intelligent conversation what has been read in last weeks newspaper, are common things; but the power of independent thoughtwhich ought to be the commonest of things among our educated classesis so rare, that a man passes into an exceptional class, and makes or mars his fortune, when he thus marches out of the ranks and becomes a thinker. The naked little worm found under water, that spends all its life in the collection of morsels of sticks and chips, which it glues round about its person, accurately typifies our own intellectual career. We are constantly seeking, under a pool of printers ink, a stick from this book, or a chip from that journal, covering ourselves with what we might call information, and thus casing our minds with mere fragments. We are well content to be as caddis worms, and to count him the best informed, who yields most of the glue of memory with which to fix the particles that form his intellectual surroundings.
A general chorus of learned authorities tells me that Michael Angelo and Raphael are the two greatest painters that ever lived; and that the two recognized masterpieces of the Highest Art are the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, and the Transfiguration, in the Vatican. It is not only Lanzi and Vasari, and hosts of later sages running smoothly after those two along the same critical grooves, who give me this information. Even the greatest of English portrait-painters, the true and tender-hearted gentleman, Sir Joshua Reynolds, sings steadily with the critical chorus, note for note.
We are aptand by we I mean, of course, we people getting into yearsnot to give our young friends half the credit they deserve for being able to manage for themselves. We like to continue to handle the reins and the whip; which is quite right while we are driving our own private carriage, but not right when we want to conduct the omnibus of our posterity. We must interfere and put matters to rights continually; we cannot let the young people alone; they must ask our advice at every step; we must exercise a veto on every movement; nothing can go on properly if they do not consult us. Now, there, I opine, we are greatly mistaken.
The time will be comingis come, perhapswhen your young people must decide on the course and main occupation of their future lives. You will expect to have a voice in the matter. Quite right, if a voice of counsel, of remonstrance, of suggestion, of pointing out unsuspected difficulties, of encouragement by developing the means of success. Such a voice as that from an elder will always be listened to. But perhaps you have already settled in your own mind the calling to be followed, and you mean simply to call on the youngster to accept and register your decree on the opening pages of his autobiography. A questionable proceeding, my dear sir, unless you are perfectly assured of what the young mans own unbiassed choice will be.
There is, however, an unkind measure by which a few persons strive to avoid living by themselves in their old age, which I will merely mention: they selfishly prevent their children (principally their daughters) from marrying, in order to retain them around them at home. Certainly, matches are now and then projected which it is the duty of a parent to oppose; but there is a conscientious and sorrowful opposition, and an egotistical and captious opposition; and men and women, in their self-deception, may sometimes mistake the one for the other. Many your daughters, lest they marry themselves, and run off with the ploughman or the groom, is an axiom of worldly wisdom. Marry your daughters, I say, if you can do so satisfactorily, that they may become happy wives and mothers, fulfilling the destiny allotted to them by their Great Creator. Marry them, if worthy suitors offer, lest they remain single and unprotected after your departure. Marry them, lest they say in their bitter disappointment and loneliness, Our parents thought only of their own comfort and convenience. We now find that our welfare and settlement in life was disregarded! But I am sure, my kind-hearted comrade in years, you are more generous to your own dear girls than to dream of preventing the completion of their little romance, in order to keep them at home in domestic slavery, drudging and pining as your waiting-maids.
Much as we love our youngsters, we must manifest our affection for them moderately and discreetly. I do assure you we shall be greatly to blame, if we utterly yield to them the key, either of the castle or the strong-box. Let us hold our own, my worthy associates; let us remain masters of what we have; let us continue to be the heads of the family, and not its patronized dependants, till the very last moment. Abdication in any form is a sorrowful and a disastrous step, as has been proved from poor King Lears time, downwards. People who have given up all, or a great deal, to their children during their lifetime, have seldom found the measure turn out well.
We quote only one days medicine, prescribed by a physician, and administered by an apothecary to a fever patient. The list of medicine given on each other day is quite as long, and every bolus is found in the same way duly specified in Mr. Parret the apothecarys bill, sent in to Mr. A. Dalley, who was a mercer on Ludgate Hill. We quote the supply for the fourth days illness:
August 10, 1615.
Another Pearl Julap
Another Hypnotick Draught
A Cordial Bolus
A Cordial Draught
A Cordial Pearl Emulsion
Another Pearl Julap
Another Cordial Julap
A Pearl Julap
A Cordial Draught
An Anodyne Mixture
A Glass of Cordial Spirits
A Cooling Mixture
A Blistering Plaister to the Neck
Two more of the same to the Arms
Spirit of Hartshorn
Plaister to dress the Blisters
One days medicinal treatment is here represented, as it was often to be met with in the palmy days of physic, when
Some fell by laudanum, and some by steel,
And death in ambush lay in evry pill.
Then truly might Dr. Garth write of his neighbours how
Once upon a time, says Herodotus, in the land of the wise there were no doctors. In Egypt and Babylon the diseased were exposed in the most public streets, and passers-by were invited to look at them, in order that they who had suffered under similar complaints and had recovered might tell what it was that cured them. Nobody, says Strabo, was allowed to go by without offering his gratuitous opinion and advice. Then, since it was found that this practical idea did not work to perfection, the Egyptian priests made themselves students of medicine, each man binding himself to the study of one sole disease.
In Galens time, respectable physicians would not undertake small cases, but they had acquired the habit of compounding secret nostrums, which continued in full force for generations, and was common also in the sixteenth century, when all classical customs were revived. Aetius complains much, in his writings, of the immense price asked for respectable nostrums. Nicostratus used to ask two talents for his isotheos, or antidote against the colic. At last Valentinian established in Rome fourteen salaried physicians to attend gratuitously on the poor, and obliged, by the same law, every other physician to accept the voluntary donation of every other patient, when he had recovered from his disease, without making express charge, or taking advantage of any promises rashly made under suffering. Here we have not the fee system, but most probably the groundwork of it. This model of after-payment remained for many centuries the custom of the empire. A physician of the fifteenth century, Ericus Cordus, complained much of the reluctance of his patients to reward him properly when they were well, for service done to them in sickness.
In this country there are, at this time, three classes of men following the healing art,physicians, surgeons, and those who are best defined under the name of general practitioners. Elsewhere there are two classes only. Celsus and Galen both of them lay down the divisions of the profession distinctly. There were first the men who cured by study of the processes of nature in the human body, and by adapting to them regimen and diet: these were the original physicians, nature-students as their name pronounces them. Secondly, there were the chirurgeons or surgeons (hand-workers is the meaning of their name), who attended to the wounds and other ailments curable by hand. Thirdly, there were the pharmacists, who cured by drugs. Some of the first class of practitioners used drugs; but by many the use of them was repudiated. This triple division of the healing art was still acknowledged in the sixteenth century, when there were few great physicians who wrote books and did not write on diet and the art of cookery. Thus the physicians were, at first, in close alliance with the cooks. Sometimes, indeed, the alliance was more close than wholesome.
In passing, we will express an opinion that Nature never writes a bad hand. Her writing, as it may be read in the human countenance, is invariably legible, if we come at all trained to the reading of it. Some little weighing and comparing are necessary.
This is the season of the year when Christmas-trees have to be furnished, when children are to be rewarded, when country cousins and all those hospitable houses where we go to shoot, or fish, have to receive some small token of our gratitude and sense of favours to come.
Of all the old times that are gone, there is none gone more completely and more finally than the old time when to take heed against poison was one of the waking thoughts common to all; when deadly poison, it was thought, might be administered either by look or word as well as by deed, and when life was made uneasy by the constant rising of a horrible mistrust. For centuries this tenor was an element of social life in Europe, and if it was greater than the danger, yet the danger was not small. Death feuds were frequent, lust of gain was held less in check than it is now; a mans life was of less account than we now make it, and the means of positive detection were so utterly inadequate that a remote possibility of rank and stake, when weighed against the certainty of gain, pressed little on the mind of any criminal.
It is but the old story of the many punished for the faults of a few. You, I, thousands, are coerced, stinted in our enjoyments, comforts, amusements, liberties, rights, and are defamed and vilified as drunkards and ruffians, because one bull-necked, thick-lipped, scowling beast of a fellow drinks himself mad with alcohol, beats his wife, breaks windows, and roams about Drury Lane with a life-preserver. Thousandswhose only crime it is to have no money, no friends, no clothes, no place of refuge equal even to the holes that the foxes have in Gods wide worldsee the hand of charity closed, and the door of mercy shut, because Alice Grey is an impostor, and Bamfylde Moore Carew a cheat; and because there have been such places as the Cour des Miracles, and Rats Castle. Go there and be merry, you rogue, says Mr. Sharplynx, facetiously. So the destitute go into the streets and die. They do die; although you may continue talking and tabulating till Doomsday.
I abide by the assertion, that men and women die nightly in our golden streets, because they have no bread to put into their miserable mouths, no roofs to shelter their wretched heads. It is no less a God-known man-neglected fact, that in any state of society in which such things can be, there must be something essentially bad and rotten.
I grant the workhouses, relieving officers, hospitals, infirmaries, station-houses, boards, minutes and schedules, the Mendicity Society, and the Guildhall Solomons. But I stand with Galileo; Si muove! and asseverate that, in the city paved with gold, there are people who are destitute, and die on door-steps, in the streets, on staircases, under dark arches, in ditches, and under the lees of walls. The police know it. Some day, perhaps, the government will condescend to know it too, and instruct a gentleman at a thousand a year to see about it.
Undoubtedly there have been witchesfor in that category must Mother Shipton be classedwho have played the oracle as well as she; but, as generally happens, the multitude are lost sight of in the course of time, and the wisdom of the many is eventually ascribed to one. Homer, Æsop, Solomonto say nothing of that friend of the destitute, Joe Millerare amongst a thousand instances of concentrated reputation. Every hours experience, indeed, affords example of this tendency to special attribution; and there are very few of us, perhaps, who have not, at one time or other, contributed our mite to set up the popular sect of the day.
When a Reviewer or other Writer has crammed himself to choking with some particular abstruse piece of information, why does he introduce it with the casual remark, that every school-boy knows it? He didnt know it himself last week; why is it indispensable that he should let off this introductory cracker among his readers? We have a vast number of extraordinary fictions in common use, but this fiction of the school-boy is the most unaccountable to me of all. It supposes the school-boy to know everything. The school-boy knows the exact distance, to an inch, from the moon to Uranus. The school-boy knows every conceivable quotation from the Greek and Latin authors. The school-boy is up at present, and has been these two years, in the remotest corners of the maps of Russia and Turkey; previously to which display of his geographical accomplishments he had been on the most intimate terms with the whole of the gold regions of Australia. If there were a run against the monetary system of the country to-morrow, we should find this prodigy of a school-boy dawn upon us with the deepest mysteries of banking and the currency. We have nearly got rid of the Irishman who stood by us so long, and did so much public service, by enabling the narrators of facetious anecdotes to introduce them with As the Irishman said. We have quite got rid of the Frenchman who was for many years in partnership with him. Are we never, on any terms, to get rid of the school-boy?
The training of the feelings is a most important point in the management of girls, especially when much exposed, as they often are, to the subtle emotional influence of music. But most teachers are content to repress by discipline the external signs of temper and other passions, and then think that they have done enough. Human feelings, however, are highly elastic, and will be sure to re-assert their power when such pressure is removed, and when the events of life call them into activity. This is seldom the case during the first few years after leaving school, often the sunniest period of a girls existence. But, when this period is past, how many homes are embittered by fretfulness or jealousy, how many illnesses aggravated by peevishness or discontent, for want of knowing how to commence the difficult task of self-control!
To explain how I kept up my courage, I must not tell either my religion or my character; but I can tell what means I employed besides to overcome the dreaded horrors of confinement. The first rule is to throw away, as soon as possible, every hope:
Hope, eager hope, the assassin of our joys,
All present blessings treading under foot,
Is scarce a milder tyrant than despair.
One comes only to a settled state, which permits even a kind of enjoyment, when all is done with hope. Accepting, then, the years of solitude as perfectly inevitable, one must consider how to pass them, how to keep oneself occupied and amused. Recollections of the past will very soon be exhausted as a means of killing time. Sometimes, however, one is not disposed for any other thing. In such a frame of mind I wrote down more than four hundred names of young men who had been with me in the cadet-house, and was absorbed in this occupation for several weeks. Very often I rose in the midst of the night to write down with chalk any name which I had been endeavouring for days to recollect. This will only do for a short time; and one must needs try to create little joys where great ones are denied.
We all know that an Englishman, if he will, is able to speak easily and clearly; also he can, if he please, write in such a manner as to send the common people to their dictionaries at least once in every page. Let him write Saxon, and the Saxons understand him; let him use Latin forms that have been long in use, and they will also understand him; but let him think proper to adopt Latin or Greek expressions which are new, or at all events new to the many, and they will be puzzled. We can all read with comfort the works of Thomas Fuller, Swift, Bunyan, Defoe, Franklin, and Cobbett; there sense is clear, feeling is homely, and the writers take care that there shall be no misunderstanding. But in Robertson, Johnson, and Gibbon, one word in every three is an alien; and so an Englishman who happens to have, like Shakespeare, small Latin and less Greek is by no means quite at home in their society.
It seems to mewho have passed a very long and varied school-lifethat there is no such pitiable class in a civilized community as that of ushers, and at the same time none so mysterious. No man is born an usher, no man achieves (if he can help it) ushership. Ushership is always thrust upon him. Born an usher! What offence could father or mother have committed, to have it visited so roughly upon their innocent? Could its cheeks have ever been chubby, and dimpled into smiles? Had it ever at any time a will of its own? Could the boy as he grew up have ever laughed out honestly among his fellows? enjoyed himself in the play-ground like the rest? Could he have shirked impositions, broken bounds, and hated and despised his ushers? Could he ever have had holidays, gone home? Heaven knows! but, from what I have seen of him since he became a man, I scarcely think it.
It is a remarkable quality in a watering-place out of the season, that everything in it will and must be looked at. I had no previous suspicion of this fatal truth; but the moment I sat down to write, I began to perceive it. I had scarcely fallen into my most promising attitude, and dipped my pen in the ink, when I found the clock upon the piera red-faced clock with a white rimimportuning me in a highly vexatious manner to consult my watch and see how I was off for Greenwich time. Having no intention of making a voyage or taking an observation, I had not the least need of Greenwich time, and could have put up with watering-place time as a sufficiently accurate article. The pier-clock, however, persisting, I felt it necessary to lay down my pen, compare my watch with him, and fall into a grave solicitude about half-seconds. I had taken up my pen again, and was about to commence that valuable chapter, when a Custom-house cutter under the window requested that I would hold a naval review of her, immediately.