THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
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VOL. XII.—AUGUST, 1863.—NO. LXX.
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1863, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
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AN AMERICAN IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS.
Having in a former number of this magazine attempted to give some account of the House of Commons, and to present some sketches of its leading members, I now design to introduce my readers to the House of Lords.
[Footnote 1: Atlantic Monthly for December, 1861.]
It is obviously unnecessary to repeat so much of the previous description as applies to the general external and internal appearance of the New Palace of Westminster. It only remains to speak of the hall devoted to the sessions of the House of Lords. And certainly it is an apartment deserving a more extended notice than our limits will allow. As the finest specimen of Gothic civil architecture in the world, perfect in its proportions, beautiful and appropriate in its decorations, the frescoes perpetuating some of the most striking scenes in English history, the stained glass windows representing the Kings and Queens of the United Kingdom from the accession of William the Conqueror down to the present reign, the niches filled with effigies of the Barons who wrested Magna Charta from King John, the ceiling glowing with gold and colors presenting different national symbols and devices in most elaborate workmanship and admirable intricacy of design, it is undeniably worthy of the high purpose to which it is dedicated.
The House of Lords also contains the throne occupied by the reigning sovereign at the opening and prorogation of Parliament. Perhaps its more appropriate designation would be a State-Chair. In general form and outline it is substantially similar to the chairs in which the sovereigns of England have for centuries been accustomed to sit at their coronations. We need hardly add that no expense has been spared to give to the throne such intrinsic value, and to adorn it with such emblems of national significance, as to furnish renewed evidence of England's unwavering loyalty to the reigning house.
In pointing out what is peculiar to the House of Lords, I am aware that there is danger of falling into the error of stating what is already familiar to some of my readers. And yet a traveller's narrative is not always tiresome to the tourist who has himself visited the same localities and witnessed the same scenes. If anxious for the "diffusion of useful knowledge," he will cheerfully consent that the curiosity of others, who have not shared his good fortune, should be gratified, although it be at his expense. At the same time, he certainly has a right to insist that the extraordinary and improbable stories told to the too credulous voyageur by some lying scoundrel of a courier or some unprincipled valet-de-place shall not be palmed upon the unsuspecting public as genuine tales of travel and adventure.
The House of Lords is composed of lords spiritual and lords temporal. As this body is now constituted, the lords spiritual are two archbishops, twenty-four bishops, and four Irish representative prelates. The lords temporal are three peers of the blood royal, twenty dukes, nineteen marquises, one hundred and ten earls, twenty-two viscounts, two hundred and ten barons, sixteen Scotch representative peers, and twenty-eight Irish representative peers. There are twenty-three Scotch peers and eighty-five Irish peers who have no seats in Parliament. The representative peers for Scotland are elected for every Parliament, while the representative peers for Ireland are elected for life. As has been already intimated, this enumeration applies only to the present House of Lords, which comprises four hundred and fifty-eight members,—an increase of about thirty noblemen in as many years.
The persons selected from time to time for the honor of the peerage are members of families already among the nobility, eminent barristers, military and naval commanders who have distinguished themselves in the service, and occasionally persons of controlling and acknowledged importance in commercial life. Lord Macaulay is the first instance in which this high compliment has been conferred for literary merit; and it was well understood, when the great essayist and historian was ennobled, that the exception in his favor was mainly due to the fact that he was unmarried. With his untimely death the title became extinct. Lord Overstone, formerly Mr. Loyd, and a prominent member of the banking firm of Jones, Loyd, and Co. of London, elevated to the peerage in 1850, is without heirs apparent or presumptive, and there is good reason to believe that this circumstance had a material bearing upon his well-deserved promotion. But these infrequent exceptions, these rare concessions so ungraciously made, only prove the rigor of the rule. Practically, to all but members of noble families, and men distinguished for military, naval, or political services, or eminent lawyers or clergymen, the House of Lords is unattainable. Brown may reach the highest range of artistic excellence, he may achieve world-wide fame as an architect, his canvas may glow with the marvellous coloring of Titian or repeat the rare and delicate grace of Correggio, the triumphs of his chisel may reflect honor upon England and his age; the inventive genius of Jones, painfully elaborating, through long and suffering years of obscure poverty, the crude conceptions of his boyhood, may confer inestimable benefits upon his race; the scientific discoveries of Robinson may add incalculable wealth to the resources of his nation: but let them not dream of any other nobility than that conferred by Nature; let them be content to live and die plain, untitled Brown, Jones, and Robinson, or at best look forward only to the barren honors of knighthood. Indeed, it is not too much to say that for plebeian merit the only available avenues to the peerage are the Church and the Bar.
The proportion of law lords now in the House of Lords is unusually large,—there being, besides Lord Westbury, the present Lord-High-Chancellor, no fewer than six Ex-Lord-Chancellors, each enjoying the very satisfactory pension of five thousand pounds per annum. Lord Lyndhurst still survives at the ripe age of ninety-one; and Lord Brougham, now in his eighty-sixth year, has made good his promise that he would outlive Lord Campbell, and spare his friends the pain of seeing his biography added to the lives of the Lord-Chancellors to whom, in Lord Brougham's opinion, Lord Campbell had done such inadequate justice.
The course of proceeding in the House of Lords differs considerably from that pursued in the House of Commons. The Lord-High-Chancellor, seated on the wool-sack,—a crimson cushion, innocent of any support to the back, and by no means suggestive of comfort, or inviting deliberations of the peers, but is never addressed by the speakers. "My lords" is the phrase with which every peer commences his remarks.
Another peculiarity patent to the stranger is the small number usually present at the debates. The average attendance is less than fifty, and often one sees only fifteen or twenty peers in their seats. Two or three leading members of the Ministry, as many prominent members of the opposition, a bishop or two, a score of deluded, but well-meaning gentlemen, who obstinately adhere to the unfashionable notion, that, where great political powers are enjoyed, there are certain serious duties to the public closely connected therewith, a few prosy and pompous peers who believe that their constant presence is essential to the welfare and prosperity of the kingdom,—such, I think, is a correct classification of the ordinary attendance of noblemen at the House of Lords.
This body possesses several obvious advantages over any other deliberative assembly now existing. Not the least among these is the fact that the oldest son of every peer is prepared by a careful course of education for political and diplomatic life. Every peer, except some of recent creation, has from childhood enjoyed all conceivable facilities for acquiring a finished education. In giving direction to his studies at school and at the university, special reference has been had to his future Parliamentary career. Nothing that large wealth could supply, or the most powerful family-influence could command, has been spared to give to the future legislator every needed qualification for the grave and responsible duties which he will one day be called to assume. His ambition has been stimulated by the traditional achievements of a long line of illustrious ancestors, and his pride has been awakened and kept alive by the universal deference paid to his position as the heir apparent or presumptive of a noble house.
This view is so well presented in "The Caxtons," that I need offer no apology for making an extract from that most able and discriminating picture of English society. "The fact is, that Lord Castleton had been taught everything that relates to property (a knowledge that embraces very wide circumference). It had been said to him, 'You will be an immense proprietor: knowledge is essential to your self-preservation. You will be puzzled, ridiculed, duped every day of your life, if you do not make yourself acquainted with all by which property is assailed or defended, impoverished or increased. You have a stake in the country: you must learn all the interests of Europe, nay, of the civilized world; for these interests react on the country, and the interests of the country are of the greatest possible consequence to the interests of the Marquis of Castleton.' Thus, the state of the Continent, the policy of Metternich, the condition of the Papacy, the growth of Dissent, the proper mode of dealing with the spirit of democracy which was the epidemic of European monarchies, the relative proportions of the agricultural and manufacturing population, corn-laws, currency, and the laws that regulate wages, a criticism on the leading speakers in the House of Commons, with some discursive observations on the importance of fattening cattle, the introduction of flax into Ireland, emigration, the condition of the poor: these and such-like stupendous subjects for reflection—all branching more or less intricately from the single idea of the Castleton property—the young lord discussed and disposed of in half a dozen prim, poised sentences, evincing, I must say in justice, no inconsiderable information, and a mighty solemn turn of mind. The oddity was, that the subjects so selected and treated should not come rather from some young barrister, or mature political economist, than from so gorgeous a lily of the field."
But to all these preeminent advantages of early education and training there must be added the invaluable opportunities of enlarged and extended legislative experience in the House of Commons. If we examine the antecedents of some of the most prominent men now in the House of Lords, we shall discover abundant evidence of this fact. Earl Russell was a member of the House of Commons for more than thirty years; Earl Derby, more than twenty-five years; the Earl of Shaftesbury, for about twenty-four years; the Duke of Richmond, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and the Duke of Rutland, for about the same period. And of the present House of Commons more than fifty members are heirs apparent or presumptive to existing peerages.
And then there is the further circumstance that seats in the House of Lords are for life. Members of this body do not stand in fear of removal by the votes of disappointed or indignant constituents. Entirely independent of public opinion, they can defy the disapprobation of the masses, and smile at the denunciation of the press. Undoubtedly, this fact has a twofold bearing, and deprives the peers of that strong incentive to active exertion and industrious legislation which the House of Commons, looking directly to the people for support and continuance, always possesses. Yet the advantages in point of prolonged experience and ever increasing familiarity with the details of public business are unquestionable.
As a matter of course, there are many noblemen upon whom these rare facilities of education and this admirable training for public life would seem to have been wasted. As Americans, we must be pardoned for expressing our belief in the venerable doctrine that there is no royal road to learning. If a peer of the realm is determined to be a dunce, nothing in the English Constitution prevents him from being a dunce, and "not all the blood of all the Howards" can make him a scholar or a statesman. If, resting securely in the conviction that a nobleman does not need to be instructed, he will not condescend to study, and does not avail himself of his most enviable advantages, whatever may be his social rank, his ignorance and incapacity cannot be disguised, but will even become more odious and culpable in the view of impartial criticism by reason of his conspicuous position and his neglect of these very advantages.
But frequent as these instances are, it will not be for a moment supposed that the whole peerage would justly fall under such censure. Nor will it be thought surprising that the House of Lords contains a considerable number of men of sterling ability, statesmen of broad and comprehensive views, accustomed to deal with important questions of public interest and national policy with calm, deliberate judgment, and far-reaching sagacity. Hampered as they certainly are by a traditional conservatism often as much at variance with sound political philosophy as it is with the lessons of all history, and characterized as their attitude towards foreign nations always has been by a singular want of all generosity, still it must be confessed that their steady and unwavering adherence to a line of conduct which has made England feared and her power respected by every country in the world has a certain element of dignity and manly self-reliance which compels our admiration. And while they have been of late so frequently outwitted by the flexible, if not tortuous, policy of Louis Napoleon, it yet remains to be seen whether the firm and unyielding course of the English Ministry will not in the end prove quite as successful as the more Machiavellian management of the French Emperor.
I hardly know how to describe accurately the impression made upon the mind of an American by his first visit to the House of Lords. What memories haunt him of the Norman Conquest and the Crusades, of Magna Charta and the King-Maker, of noblemen who suffered with Charles I. and supped with Charles II., and of noblemen still later whose family-pride looked down upon the House of Hanover, and whose banded political power and freely lavished wealth checked the brilliant career of Napoleon, and maintained, the supremacy of England on sea and land!
Enter, then, the House of Lords with these stirring memories, and confess frankly to a feeling of disappointment. Here are seated a few well-behaved gentlemen of all ages, often carelessly dressed, and almost invariably in English morning-costume. They are sleepily discussing some uninteresting question, and you are disposed to retire in view of the more powerful attractions of Drury Lane or the Haymarket, or the chance of something better worth hearing in the House of Commons. Take my advice, and wait until the adjournment. It will not be long, and by leaving now you may lose an important debate and the sight of some men whose fame is bounded only by the limits of Christendom. Even now there is a slight stir in the House. A nobleman has entered whose movements you will do well to follow. He takes his place just at the left of the Lord-Chancellor, but remains seated only for a moment. If you are familiar with the pencil of Punch, you will recognize him at a glance. A thin, wiry, yet muscular frame, a singularly marked and expressive face and mobile features, a nose that defies description, a high cravat like a poultice covered with a black silk bandage, clothes that seem to have been made for a much larger man, and always a pair of old-fashioned checked trousers,—of course, this can only be Lord Brougham. He is eighty-five years old, and yet his physical activity would do no injustice to a man in the prime of life. If you watch him a few moments, you will have abundant evidence of his restless energy. While we look, he has crossed to the opposite side of the House, and is enjoying a hearty laugh with the Bishop of Oxford. The round, full face of "Slippery Sam" (as he is disrespectfully called throughout England) is beaming with appreciative delight; but before the Bishop has time to reply, the titled humorist is on the wing again, and in an instant we see him seated between Earl Granville and the Duke of Somerset, conversing with all the vivacity and enthusiasm of a school-boy. In a moment he is in motion again, and has shaken hands with half a dozen peers. Undeterred by the supernaturally solemn countenance of the Marquis of Normanby, he has actually addressed a joke to that dignified fossil, and has passed on without waiting to observe its effect. A few words with Earl Derby, a little animated talk with the Earl of Ellenborough, and he has made the circuit of the House, everywhere received with a welcoming smile and a kindly grasp of the hand, and everywhere finding willing and gratified listeners. Possibly that is pardoned to his age and eminence which would be resented as impertinence in a younger man, but certainly he enjoys a license accorded to no one else in this aristocratic assembly.
The dull debate of the past hour is now concluded, the House is thin, and there are indications of immediate adjournment. Remain a little longer, however, and your patience may possibly be richly rewarded. There is no order in the discussion of topics, and at any moment while the House continues in session there may spring up a debate calling out all the ability of the leading peers in attendance. After a short pause the quiet is broken by an aged nobleman on the opposition benches. He rises slowly and feebly with the assistance of a cane, but his voice is firm and his manner is forcible. That he is a man of mark is evident from the significant silence and the deferential attention with which his first words are received. You ask his name, and with ill-disguised amazement at your ignorance a gentleman by your side informs you that the speaker is Lord Lyndhurst.
Perhaps the life of no public man in England has so much of interest to an American as that of this distinguished nobleman. Born in Boston while we were still in a condition of colonial dependence, he has lived to see his native land emerge from her state of vassalage, pass through a long-protracted struggle for liberty with the most powerful nation on earth, successfully maintain her right to be free and independent, advance with giant strides in a career of unexampled prosperity, assume an undisputed position as one of the great powers of Christendom, and finally put forth the most gigantic efforts to crush a rebellion compared with which the conspiracy of Catiline was but the impotent uprising of an angry dwarf.
Lord Lyndhurst was called to the bar of England in 1804. It was before the splendid forensic successes of Erskine had been rewarded by a seat on the wool-sack, or Wellington had completed his brilliant and decisive campaign in India, or the military glory of Napoleon had culminated at Austerlitz, or Pitt, turning sadly from the map of Europe and saying, "Henceforth we may close that map for half a century," had gone broken-hearted to an early grave, or Nelson had defeated the combined navies of France and Spain at Trafalgar. Lord Byron had not yet entered Cambridge University, Sir Walter Scott had not published his first poem, and Canova was still in the height of his well-earned fame. It was before the first steamboat of Robert Fulton had vexed the quiet waters of the Hudson, or Aaron Burr had failed in his attempted treason, or Daniel Welter had entered upon his professional career, or Thomas Jefferson had completed his first official term as President of the United States.
Lord Lyndhurst's advancement to the highest honors of his profession and to a commanding place in the councils of his adopted country was rapid almost beyond precedent. He was appointed Solicitor-General in 1819, Attorney-General in 1823, Master of the Rolls in 1826, and Lord-Chancellor in 1827. He remained in this office until 1830, and retired only to be created Lord-Chief-Baron of the Exchequer. In 1835 he was again appointed Lord-Chancellor, and once more, for the third time, in 1841.
The characteristic qualities of the oratory of Lord Lyndhurst, when in his prime, were perfect coolness and self-possession, a most pleasing and plausible manner, singular ingenuity in dealing with a difficult question or in weakening the effect of an argument really unanswerable, a clear and musical voice, great ease and felicity of expression, and a wonderful command, always discreetly used, of all the weapons of irony and invective. He is, perhaps, the only nobleman in the House of Lords whom Lord Brougham has ever feared to encounter. All these elements of successful oratory Lord Lyndhurst has retained to an extraordinary degree until within a year or two.
I chanced to hear this remarkable man during an evening in the month of July, 1859. The House of Lords was thinly attended. There had been a short and uninteresting debate on "The Atlantic-Telegraph Bill," and an early adjournment seemed certain. But at this juncture Lord Lyndhurst rose, and, after adverting to the fact that he had previously given notice of his design to draw their lordships' attention to the military and naval defences of the country, proceeded to address the House upon this question. It should be borne in mind that this was a period of great and engrossing excitement in England, created by the supposed danger of invasion by France. Volunteer rifle-companies were springing up all over the kingdom, newspapers were filled with discussions concerning the sufficiency of the national defences, and speculations on the chances for and against such an armed invasion. There was, meanwhile, a strong peace-party which earnestly deprecated all agitation of the subject, maintained that the sentiments of the French Emperor and the French nation were most friendly to England, and contended that to incur largely increased expenses for additional war-preparations was unnecessary, impolitic, and ruinously extravagant. At the head of this party were Cobden and Bright.
It was to answer these arguments, to convince England that there was a real and positive peril, and to urge upon Her Majesty's Government the paramount importance of preparing to meet not only a possible, but a probable danger, that Lord Lyndhurst addressed the House of Lords. He began by impressing upon their lordships the fact that the policy which he advocated was not aggressive, but strictly defensive. He reviewed the history of previous attempts to invade England. He pointed out the significant circumstance, that these attempts had hitherto failed mainly by reason of the casualties to which sailing-vessels were always exposed. He pressed upon their attention the change which steam-navigation had recently wrought in naval warfare. He quoted the pithy remark of Lord Palmerston, that "steam had converted the Channel into a river, and thrown a bridge across it."
He demonstrated from recent history the facility with which France could transport large forces by sea to distant points. Then, in tones tremulous with emotion, he drew upon the resources of his own marvellous memory. "I have experienced, my lords, something like a sentiment of humiliation in going through these details. I recollect the day when every part of the opposite coast was blockaded by an English fleet. I remember the victory of Camperdown, and that of St. Vincent, won by Sir J. Jervis. I do not forget the great victory of the Nile, nor, last of all, that triumphant fight at Trafalgar, which almost annihilated the navies of France and Spain, I contrast the position which we occupied at that period with that which we now hold. I recollect the expulsion of the French from Egypt, the achievement of victory after victory in Spain, the British army established in the South of France, and then the great battle by which that war was terminated. I cannot glance back over that series of events without feeling some degree of humiliation when I am called upon to state in this House the measures which I deem it to be necessary to take in order to provide for the safety of the country."
Then pausing a moment and overcoming his evident emotion, he continued, with a force of manner and dignity of bearing which no words can fitly describe,—"But I may be asked, 'Why do you think such measures requisite? Are we not in alliance with France? Are we not on terms of friendship with Russia? What other power can molest us?' To these questions, my lords, my answer shall be a short and simple one. I will not consent to live in dependence on the friendship or forbearance of any country. I rely solely on my own vigor, my own exertion, and my own intelligence." It will be readily believed that cheer after cheer rang through the House when this bold and manly announcement was made.
Then, after alluding to the immense armament by sea and land which France had hurled with such incredible rapidity upon the Austrian Empire during the recent war in Italy, he concluded by saying,—"Are we to sit supine on our own shores, and not to prepare the means necessary in case of war to resist that power? I do not wish to say that we should do this for any aggressive purpose. What I insist upon is, that we are bound to make every effort necessary for our own shelter and protection. Beside this, the question of expense and of money sinks into insignificance. It is the price we must pay for our insurance, and it is but a moderate price for so important an insurance. I know there are persons who will say, 'Let us run the risk.' Be it so. But, my lords, if the calamity should come, if the conflagration should take place, what words can describe the extent of the calamity, or what imagination can paint the overwhelming ruin that would fall upon us? I shall be told, perhaps, that these are the timid counsels of old age. My lords, for myself, I should run no risk. Personally I have nothing to fear. But to point out possible peril and how to guard effectively against it,—that is surely to be considered not as timidity, but as the dictate of wisdom and prudence. I have confined myself to facts that cannot be disputed. I think I have confined myself to inferences that no man can successfully contravene. I hope what I have said has been in accordance with your feelings and opinions. I shall terminate what I have to say in two emphatic words, 'Voe victis!'—words of solemn and most significant import."
So spoke the Nestor of the English nation. Has our country no lesson to learn from the well-considered words of this aged and accomplished statesman? Are we not paying a large insurance to secure permanent national prosperity? And is it not a wise and profitable investment, at any cost of blood and treasure, if it promises the supremacy of our Constitution, the integrity of our Union, and the impartial enforcement of our laws?
When it is remembered that Lord Lyndhurst was at this time in his eighty-eighth year, this speech of nearly an hour in length, giving no evidence from first to last of physical debility or mental decay, delivered in a firm, clear, and unfaltering voice, admirable for its logical arrangement, most forcible and telling in its treatment of the subject, and irresistible in its conclusions, must be considered as hardly finding a parallel in ancient or modern times. We might almost call it his valedictory; for his lordship's subsequent speeches have been infrequent, and, with, we believe, a single exception, short, and he is now rarely, if ever, seen in the House of Lords.
I shall not dwell upon the speeches that followed this earnest and eloquent appeal to the wisdom and patriotism of the listening peers. They were mainly confined to grateful recognition of the service which Lord Lyndhurst had rendered to the nation by his frank and fearless avowal of those principles which alone could preserve the honor and independence of England. The opposition urged the most vigorous preparations for resisting invasion, while Her Majesty's ministers disclaimed any intention of weakening or neglecting the national defences. As the speeches, however exhibited little worthy of mention beyond the presentation of these points, I have supposed that a more general description of some of the leading members of the Upper House would be more interesting to my readers than a detailed account of what was said upon this particular occasion.
I have already alluded to the personal appearance and bearing of Lord Brougham. By reason of his great age, his long Parliamentary experience, (he has been in the House of Commons and House of Lords for nearly fifty years,) his habit of frequent speaking, and the commanding ability of many of his public efforts, his name as an orator is perhaps more widely known, and his peculiar style of declamation more correctly appreciated, than those of any other man now living. It would therefore seem unnecessary to give any sketch of his oratory, or of his manner in debate. Very few educated men in this country are unfamiliar with his eloquent defence of Queen Caroline, or his most bitter attack upon Mr. Canning, or his brilliant argument for Mr. Williams when prosecuted by the Durham clergy. Lord Brougham retains to this day the same fearless contempt of all opposition, the same extravagant and often inconsistent animosity to every phase of conservative policy, and the same fiery zeal in advocating every measure which he has espoused, that have ever characterized his erratic career. The witty author of "The Bachelor of the Albany" has tersely, and not without a certain spice of truth, described him as "a man of brilliant incapacity, vast and various misinformation, and immense moral requirements."
The Duke of Argyle deserves more than a passing mention. Although comparatively a young man, he has already had a most creditable career, and given new lustre to an old and honored name. In politics he is a decided and consistent Liberal, and he merits the favorable consideration of all loyal Americans from the fact that he has not failed on every proper occasion to advocate our cause with such arguments as show clearly that he fully understands our position and appreciates the importance of the principles for which we are contending. It is a curious coincidence, that his style of address bears a close resemblance to what may be called the American manner. Rapid, but distinct, in utterance, facile and fluent in speech, natural and graceful in gesticulation, he might almost be transplanted to the halls of Congress at Washington without betraying his foreign birth and education.
Lord Derby is undoubtedly the most skillful Parliamentary tactician and the most accomplished speaker in the House of Lords. In 1834, (when he was a member of the House of Commons,) Macaulay said of him, that "his knowledge of the science of parliamentary defence resembled an instinct." He is the acknowledged leader of the Tories or Conservatives in England, and dictates the policy of his party with absolute despotism. Belonging to one of the oldest peerages in the kingdom, having already filled some of the most important offices in Her Majesty's Government, occupying the highly honorable position of Chancellor of the University of Oxford, (as successor of the first Duke of Wellington,) an exact and finished scholar, enjoying an immense income, and the proprietor of vast landed estates, he may be justly considered one of the best types of England's aristocracy. He has that unmistakable air of authority without the least alloy of arrogance, that "pride in his port," which quietly asserts the dignity of long descent. As a speaker, his manner is impressive and forcible, with a rare command of choice language, an accurate and comprehensive knowledge of all subjects connected with the administration of public affairs, and that entire self-control which comes from life-long contact on terms of equality with the best society in Europe and a thorough confidence in his own mental resources. Lord Derby is preeminently a Parliamentary orator, and furnishes one of the unusual instances where a reputation for eloquence earned in the House of Commons has been fully sustained by a successful trial in the House of Lords.
Another debater of marked ability in this body is Dr. Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford. He is the third son of William Wilberforce, the celebrated philanthropist, but by no means inherits the simplicity of character and singular absence of all personal ambition which made his father so widely beloved and respected. He is known as the leading exponent of High-Church views, and has been heard in the House of Lords on every question directly or indirectly affecting the interests of the Establishment. It was long ago said of him, that, had he been in political life, he would surely and easily have risen to the position of Premier. He has for years been charged with a marked proclivity to the doctrines of the Puseyites; and his adroitness in baffling all attempted investigation into the manner in which he has conducted the discipline of his diocese has perhaps contributed more than any other cause to fasten upon him the significant sobriquet to which I have already alluded.
Any sketch of the prominent members of the House of Lords would be imperfect which should omit to give some account of Lord Westbury, the present Lord-High-Chancellor. Having been Solicitor-General in two successive Administrations, he was filling for the second time the position of Attorney-General, when, upon the death of Lord Campbell, he was raised to the wool-sack. As a Chancery practitioner he was for years at the head of his profession, and is supposed to have received the largest income ever enjoyed by an English barrister. During the four years next preceding his elevation to the peerage his average annual earnings at the bar were twenty thousand pounds. In the summer of 1860 it was my good fortune to hear the argument of Lord Westbury (then Sir Richard Bethell) in a case of great interest and importance, before Vice-Chancellor Wood. The point at issue involved the construction of a marriage-settlement between the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Prince Borghese of Rome, drawn up on the occasion of the marriage of the Prince with Lady Talbot, second daughter of the Earl. The interpretation of the terms of the contract was by express stipulation to be in accordance with the Roman common law. A commission sent to Rome to ascertain the meaning of certain provisions contained in the contract resulted in several folio volumes, embodying "the conflicting opinions of the most eminent Roman lawyers," supported by references to the Canonists, the decisions of the "Sacred Rota," the great text-writers upon jurisprudence, the Institutes and Pandects, and ascending still higher to the laws of the Roman Republic and the Augustan era.
The leading counsel in the kingdom were retained in the case, and unusual public interest was enlisted. The amount at stake was twenty thousand pounds, and it was estimated that nearly, if not quite, that amount had already been consumed in costs. Legal proceedings are not an inexpensive luxury anywhere; but "the fat contention and the flowing fee" have a significance to English ears which we can hardly appreciate in this country.
It will be at once apparent even to the unprofessional reader that most difficult and complicated questions were presented by this case,—questions turning on the exact interpretation of contracts, involving delicate verbal distinctions, and demanding a thorough comprehension of an immense and unwieldy mass of Roman law embraced in the dissenting dicta of Roman lawyers. It required the exercise of the very highest legal ability, trained and habituated by long and patient discipline to grapple with great issues.
The argument of Sir Richard Bethell abundantly demonstrated his capacity to satisfy the demands of the occasion, and displayed most triumphantly his perfect mastery of the whole subject. As the time drew near when he was expected to close for the defence, barristers and students-at-law began to flock into the small and inconveniently arranged courtroom. A stranger and a foreigner could not but see at once that the Attorney-General was the cynosure of all eyes. And, indeed, no one in the room more thoroughly appreciated the fact that he was the central and controlling attraction than Sir Richard himself. I must be pardoned for using an English slang-phrase, but I can convey the impression which he inevitably makes upon a spectator in no other way than by saying that he is "a most magnificent swell." And I do this with the more confidence as I have heard him characterized in precisely these words by members of the English bar. Every motion, every attitude, indicates an intense self-consciousness. The Earl of Chatham had not a greater passion for theatrical effect, nor has a more consummate and finished actor ever graced the stage. If the performance had been less perfect, it would have been ludicrous in the extreme; for it did not overlook the minutest details. He could not examine his brief, or make a suggestion to one of his associates, or note an important point in the argument of opposing counsel, or listen to an intimation of opinion from the Bench, without an obvious eye to dramatic propriety. During the trial, an attorney's clerk handed him a letter, and the air with which it was opened, read, and answered was of itself a study. Yet it was all in the highest style of the art. No possible fault could be found with the execution. Not a single spectator ventured to smile. The supremacy of undoubted genius was never more apparent, and never exacted nor received more willing worship. Through the kindness of a friendly barrister I was introduced to one of the juniors of the Attorney-General,—a stripling of about fifty years of age. While we were conversing about the case, Sir Richard turned and made some comment upon the conduct of the trial; but my friend would no more have thought of introducing me to the leader of the bar than he would have ventured to stop the carriage of the Queen in Hyde Park and present me then and there to Her Majesty.
I remember as well as if it were but yesterday how attorneys and junior counsel listened with the utmost deference to every suggestion which he condescended to address to them, how narrowly the law-students watched him, as if some legal principle were to be read in his cold, hard countenance, and, as he at last rose slowly and solemnly to make his long-expected argument, how court, bar, and by-standers composed themselves to hear. He spoke with great deliberation and distinctness, with singular precision and propriety of language, without any parade of rhetoric or attempt at eloquence. After a very short and appropriate exordium, he proceeded directly to the merits of the case. His words were well-weighed, and his manner was earnest and impressive. It was, in short, the perfection of reason confidently addressed to a competent tribunal.
And yet his manner was by no means that of a man seeking to persuade a superior, but rather that of one comparing opinions with an equal, if not an inferior mind, elevated by some accident to a position of factitious importance. One could not but feel that here was a power behind the throne greater than the throne itself.
It cannot be doubted that this consciousness of mental and professional preeminence, sustained by the unanimous verdict of public opinion, has given to Lord Westbury a defiant, if not an insolent bearing. The story is current at the English bar, that, some years ago, when offered a seat on the Bench, with a salary of five thousand pounds, he promptly declined, saying, "I would rather earn ten thousand pounds a year by talking sense than five thousand pounds a year by hearing other men talk nonsense." Anecdotes are frequent in illustration of his supercilious treatment of attorneys and clients while he was a barrister. And since his elevation to the wool-sack there has been no abatement or modification of his offensive manner. His demeanor toward counsel appearing before him has been the subject of constant and indignant complaint. It will be remembered by some of my readers, that, not long since, during a session of the House of Lords, he gave the lie direct to one of the peers,—an occurrence almost without precedent in that decorous body. Far different from this was the tone in which Lord Thurlow, while Lord-Chancellor, asserted his independence and vindicated his title to respect in his memorable rebuke addressed to the Duke of Grafton. If the testimony of English travellers in this country is to be believed, the legislative assemblies of our own land have hitherto enjoyed the unenviable monopoly of this species of retort.
The House of Lords contains other peers of marked ability and protracted Parliamentary experience, among whom are Earl Granville, the Earl of Ellenborough, the Duke of Somerset, and the Earl of Shaftesbury; but we cannot dwell in detail upon their individual characteristics as speakers, or upon the share they have severally taken in the public councils, without extending this article beyond its legitimate limits.
As genius is not necessarily or usually transmitted from generation to generation, while a seat in the House of Lords is an inheritable privilege, it will be readily believed that there is a considerable number of peers with no natural or acquired fitness for legislative duties,—men whose dullness in debate, and whose utter incapacity to comprehend any question of public interest or importance, cannot be adequately described. They speak occasionally, from a certain ill-defined sense of what may be due to their position, yet are obviously aware that what they say is entitled to no weight, and are greatly relieved when the unwelcome and disagreeable duty has been discharged. They are the men who hesitate and stammer, whose hats and canes are always in their way, and who have no very clear notions about what should be done with their hands. A visitor who chances to spend an evening in the House of Lords for the first and last time, while noblemen of this stamp are quieting their tender consciences by a statement of their views upon the subject under discussion, will be sure to retire with a very unfavorable and wholly incorrect estimate of the speaking talent of English peers.
It would hardly seem necessary to devote time or space to those members of the House of Lords who are rarely, if ever, present at the debates. As has been already stated, the whole number of peers is about four hundred and sixty, of whom less than twenty-five are minors, while the average attendance is less than fifty. The right to vote by proxy is a peculiar and exclusive privilege of the Upper House, and vicarious voting to a great extent is common on all important issues. Macaulay, many years ago, pronounced the House of Lords "a small and torpid audience"; and certainly, since the expression of this opinion, there has been no increase of average attendance. A considerable proportion of the absentees will be found among the "fast noblemen" of the kingdom,—the men who prostitute their exalted social position to the basest purposes, squandering their substance and wasting their time in degrading dissipation, the easy prey of accomplished sharpers, and a burning disgrace to their order. Sometimes, indeed, they pause on the brink of utter ruin, only to become in their turn apostles of iniquity, and to lure others to a like destruction. The unblushing and successful audacity of these titled roues is beginning to attract the attention and awaken the fears of the better part of the English people. Their pernicious example is bearing most abundant and bitter fruit in the depraved morals of what are called the "lower classes" of society, and their misdeeds are repeated in less fashionable quarters, with less brilliant surroundings. Against this swelling tide of corrupting influence the press of England is now raising its warning voice, and the statements which are publicly and unreservedly made, and the predictions which are confidently given, are very far from being welcome to English eyes or grateful to English ears.
Another class of the House of Lords, and it is a large one, is most happily characterized by Sydney Smith in his review of "Granby." "Lord Chesterton we have often met with, and suffered a good deal from his lordship: a heavy, pompous, meddling peer, occupying a great share of the conversation, saying things in ten words which required only two, and evidently convinced that he is making a great impression; a large man, with a large head, and a very landed manner; knowing enough to torment his fellow-creatures, not to instruct them; the ridicule of young ladies, and the natural butt and target of wit. It is easy to talk of carnivorous animals and beasts of prey; but does such a man, who lays waste a whole civilized party of beings by prosing, reflect upon the joy he spoils and the misery he creates in the course of his life, and that any one who listens to him through politeness would prefer toothache or ear-ache to his conversation? Does he consider the great uneasiness which ensues, when the company has discovered a man to be an extremely absurd person, at the same time that it is absolutely impossible to convey by words or manner the most distant suspicion of the discovery?"
Now, most unfortunately, the noble House of Chesterton is still extant, and its numerous representatives cherish with jealous care every inherited absurdity of the family. Their favorite field of operations is the House of Lords, partly because the strict proprieties of the place protect them from rude and inconvenient interruption, and partly because they can be sure of a "fit audience found, though few,"—an audience of equals, whom it is no condescension to address. In the House of Commons they would be coughed down or groaned down before they had wasted ten minutes of the public time, and that they escape as swift suppression in the House of Lords is much more creditable to the courtesy of that body than to its just appreciation of the shortness of human life. There is rarely a debate of importance in the House of Lords during which some one of the Chesterton family does not contribute his morsel of pompous imbecility, or unfold his budget of obsolete and exploded prejudices, or add his mite of curious misinformation. That such painful exhibitions of callow and contracted bigotry should so frequently be made in a body claiming for itself the finest culture and the highest civilization in Christendom is certainly a most mortifying circumstance, and serves to show that narrow views and unstatesmanlike opinions are not confined to democratic deliberative assemblies, and that the choicest advantages of education, literary and political, are not at all inconsistent with ignorance and arrogance.
But we will allow his lordship to tell his own story. Here is his set speech, only slightly modified from evening to evening, as may be demanded by the difference in the questions under debate.
"My lords, the noble lord who has just taken his seat, although, I am bound to say, presenting his view of the case with that candor which my noble friend (if the noble lord will allow me to call him so) always displays, yet, my lords, I cannot but add, omitted one important feature of the subject. Now, my lords, I am exceedingly reluctant to take up the time of your lordships with my views upon the subject-matter of this debate; yet, my lords, as the noble and learned lord who spoke last but one, as well as the noble earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government, and the noble marquis who addressed your lordships early in the evening, have all fallen into the same mistake, (if these noble lords will permit me to presume that they could be mistaken,) I must beg leave to call your lordships' attention to the significant fact, that each and all of these noble lords have failed to point out to your lordships, that, important and even conclusive as the arguments and statistics of their lordships may at first sight appear, yet they have not directed your lordships to the very suspicious circumstance that our noble ancestors have never discovered the necessity of resorting to this singular expedient.
"For myself, my lords, I confess that I am filled with the most gloomy forebodings for the future of this country, when I hear a question of this transcendent importance gravely discussed by noble lords without the slightest allusion to this vital consideration. I beg to ask noble lords, Are we wiser than our forefathers? Are any avenues of information open to us which were closed to them? Were they less patriotic, less intelligent, less statesmanlike, than the present generation? Why, then, I most earnestly put it to your lordships, should we disregard, or, certainly, lose sight of their wisdom and their experience? I implore noble lords to pause before it is too late. I solemnly call upon them to consider that the proposed measure is, after all, only democracy under a thin disguise. Has it never occurred to noble lords that this project did not originate in this House? that its warmest friends and most ardent and persevering advocates are found among those who come from the people, and who, from the very nature of the case, are incompetent to decide upon what will be for the, best interests of the kingdom? My lords, I feel deeply upon this subject, and I must be pardoned for expressing myself in strong terms. I say again, that I see here the clearest evidence of democratic tendencies, a contempt for existing and ancient institutions, and an alarming want of respect for time-honored precedents, which, I am bound to say, demand our prompt and indignant condemnation," etc., etc., etc.
[Footnote 2: If any one of my readers is inclined to suspect that I have drawn upon my imagination for this specimen speech, I will only say, that, if he were my bitterest enemy, I could wish him no more severe punishment than to undergo as I have done, (horresco referens,) an hour of the Marquis of Normanby, the Earl of Malmesbury, and a few other kindred spirits. If he have no opportunity of subjecting the truth of my statement and the accuracy of my report to this most grievous test, I beg to assure him that I have given no fancy sketch, but that I have heard speeches from these noblemen in precisely this tone and to exactly this effect.]
This is the regular speech, protracted in the same strain for perhaps half an hour. Of the manner of the noble orator I will not venture a description. Any attempt to convey an idea of the air of omniscience with which these dreary platitudes are delivered would surely result in failure. It is enough to say that the impression which the noble lord leaves upon an unprejudiced and un-English mind is in all respects painful. Indeed, one sees at a glance how absolutely hopeless would be any finite effort to convince him of the absurdity of his positions or the weakness of his understanding. There he stands, a solemn, shallow, conceited, narrow-minded, imperturbable, impracticable, incorrigible blockhead, on whom everything in the shape of argument is utterly wasted, and from whom all the arrows of wit and sarcasm fall harmless to the ground. In fact, he is perfectly proof against any intellectual weapons forged by human skill or wielded by mortal arm, and he awaits and receives every attack with a stolid and insulting indifference which must be maddening to an opponent.
I hasten to confess my entire incapacity to describe the uniform personal bearing of a Chesterton in or out of the House of Lords. It is strictly sui generis. It has neither the quiet, unassuming dignity of the Derbys, the Shaftesburys, or the Warwicks, nor the vulgar vanity of the untravelled Cockney. It simply defies accurate delineation. Dickens has attempted to paint the portrait of such a character in "Bleak House"; but Sir Leicester Dedlock, even in the hands of this great artist, is not a success,—merely because, in the case of the Baronet, selfishness and self-importance are only a superficial crust, while with your true Chesterton these attributes penetrate to the core and are as much a part of the man as any limbs or any feature of his face. A genuine Chesterton is as unlike his stupid caricature in our own theaters in the person of "Lord Dundreary," as the John Bull of the French stage, leading a woman by a halter around her neck, and exclaiming, "G—— d——! I will sell my wife at Smithfield," is unlike the Englishman of real life. Lord Chesterton does not wear a small glass in his right eye, nor commence every other sentence with "Aw! weally now." He does not stare you out of countenance in a cafe, nor wonder "what the Devil that fellaw means by his insolence." So much by way of negative description. To appreciate him positively, one must see him and hear him. No matter when or where you encounter him, you will find him ever the same; and you will at last conclude that his manners are not unnatural to a very weak man inheriting the traditions of an ancient and titled family, and educated from childhood to believe that he belongs to a superior order of beings.
Of course the strong point of a Chesterton is what he calls his "conservatism." He values everything in proportion to its antiquity, and prefers a time-honored abuse to a modern blessing. With a former Duke of Somerset, he would pity Adam, "because he had no ancestors." His sympathies, so far as he has any sentiments which deserve to be dignified by that name, are ever on the side of tyranny. He condescends to give his valuable sanction to the liberal institutions of England, not because they are liberal, but because they are English. Next after the Established Church, the reigning sovereign and the royal family, his own order and his precious self, his warmest admiration is bestowed on some good old-fashioned, thorough-going, grinding despotism. He defends the Emperor of Austria, and considers the King of Naples a much-abused monarch.
If his lordship has ever been in diplomatic life,—an event highly probable,—he becomes the most intolerable nuisance that ever belied the noblest sentiments of civilized society or blocked the wheels of public debate. Flattered by the interested attention of despotic courts, his poor weak head has been completely turned. He has seen everything en couleur de rose. He assures their lordships that he has never known a single well-authenticated case of oppression of the lower classes, while it is within his personal knowledge that many of the best families (in Italy, for instance) have been compelled to leave all their property behind them, and fly for their lives before an insolent and unreasoning mob. How he deluges the House with distorted facts and garbled statistics! How he warns noble lords against the wiles of Mazzini, the unscrupulous ambition of Victor Emmanuel, and the headlong haste of Garibaldi!
Of course, his lordship's bitterest hatred and intensest aversion are reserved for democratic institutions. Against these he wages a constant crusade. Armed cap-a-pie in his common-sense-proof coat of mail, he charges feebly upon them with his blunt lance, works away furiously with his wooden sword, and then ambles off with a triumphant air very ludicrous to behold. Democracy is the bete noir of all the Chestertons. They attack it not only because they consider it a recent innovation, but also because it threatens the permanence of their order. About the practical working of a republic they have no better information than they have about the institutions of Iceland or the politics of Patagonia. It is quite enough for them to know that the theory of democracy is based on the equality of man, and that where democracy prevails a privileged class is unknown.
It is hardly necessary to add, that the present condition of the United Stales is a perfect godsend to the whole family of Chestertons. Have they not long predicted our disgrace and downfall? Have they not, indeed, ever since our unjustifiable Declaration of Independence, anticipated precisely what has happened? Have they not always and everywhere contended that a republic had no elements of national cohesion? In a word, have they not feared our growing power and population as only such base and ignoble spirits can fear the sure and steady progress of a rival nation? Unhappily, their influence in the councils of the kingdom is by no means inconsiderable. The prestige of an ancient family, the obsequious deference paid in England to exalted social position, and the power of patronage, all combine to confer on the Chestertons a commanding and controlling authority absurdly out of proportion to their intrinsic ability.
There has been a prevalent notion in this country that England was slowly, but certainly, tending towards a more democratic form of government, and a more equal and equitable distribution of power among the different orders of society. This is very far from being the case. It has been well said, that "it is always considered a piece of impertinence in England, if a man of less than two or three thousand a year has any opinions at all upon important subjects." But if this income is quadrupled, and the high honor of a seat in the House of Lords is superadded, it is not difficult to understand that the titled recipient of such a revenue will find that his opinions command the greatest consideration. The organization of the present Cabinet of England is a fresh and conclusive illustration of this principle. It is not too much to say, that at this moment the home and foreign administration of the government is substantially in the hands of the House of Lords. Indeed, the aristocratic element of English society is as powerful to-day as it has been at any time during the past century. To fortify this statement by competent authority, we make an extract from a leader in the London "Times," on the occasion of the elevation of Lord John Russell to the peerage. "But however welcome to the House of Lords may be the accession of Lord John Russell, the House of Commons, we apprehend, will contemplate it with very little satisfaction. While the House of Lords does but one-twentieth part of the business of the House of Commons, it boasts a lion's share of the present administration. Three out of our five Secretaries of State, the Lord-Chancellor, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Lord-President of the Council, the Postmaster-General, the Lord Privy Seal, all hold seats in the Upper House, while the Home-Secretary, and the Secretary for India, the First Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the President of the Board of Trade, the President of the Poor-Law Board, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the Secretary for Ireland hold seats in the House of Commons. Lord John Russell goes to give more to that which had already too much. At the present moment, the two ministers whose united departments distribute between twenty and thirty millions of the national revenue sit in the House which does not represent the people. In voting the army and navy estimates, the House of Commons received this year from the Under-Secretaries that information which they ought to have from the best and most authentic, sources. To these is now added the all-important department of Foreign Affairs; so that, if things remain as they are, the representatives of the people must be content to feed on second-hand information.... Most of us can remember a time when it was a favorite topic with popular agitators to expatiate on the number of lords which a government contained, as if every peer of Parliament wielded an influence necessarily hostile to the liberties of the country. We look down in the present age with contempt on such vulgar prejudices; but we seem to be running into the contrary extreme, when we allow almost all the important offices of our government to be monopolized by a chamber where there is small scope for rhetorical ability, and the short sittings and unbusiness-like habits of which make it very unsuited for the enforcement of ministerial responsibility. The statesmen who have charge of large departments of expenditure, like the army and navy, and of the highest interests of the nation, ought to be in the House of Commons, is necessarily superior to a member of the House of the House of Lords, but it is to the House of Commons that these high functionaries are principally accountable, and because, if they forfeit the confidence of the House of Commons, the House of Lords can avail them but little. The matter is of much importance and much difficulty. We can only hope that the opportunity of redressing this manifest imperfection in the structure of the present government will not be lost, and that the House of Commons may recover those political privileges which it has hitherto been its pride to enjoy."
This distribution of power in the English Cabinet furnishes a sufficient solution of the present attitude of the English Government towards this country. The ruling classes of England can have no sincere sympathy with the North, because its institutions and instincts are democratic. They give countenance to the South, because at heart and in practice it is essentially an aristocracy. To remove the dangerous example of a successful and powerful republic, where every man has equal rights, civil and religious, and where a privileged order in Church and State is impossible, has become in the minds of England's governing classes an imperious necessity. Compared with the importance of securing this result, all other considerations weigh as nothing. Brothers by blood, language, and religion, as they have been accustomed to call us while we were united and formidable, we are now, since civil war has weakened us and great national questions have distracted our councils, treated as aliens, if not as enemies. On the other hand, the South, whose leaders have ever been first to take hostile ground against England, and whose "peculiar institution" has drawn upon us the eloquent and unsparing denunciations of English philanthropists, is just now in high favor with the "mother-country." Not only has the ill-disguised dislike of the Tories ripened into open animosity, not only are we the target for the shallow scorn of the Chestertons, (even a donkey may dare to kick a dying lion,) but we have lost the once strongly pronounced friendship of such ardent anti-slavery men as Lord Brougham and the Earl of Shaftesbury. Why is this? Does not the explanation lie in a nutshell? We were becoming too strong. We were disturbing the balance of power. We were demonstrating too plainly the inherent activity and irresistible energy of a purely democratic form of government. Therefore Carthago delenda est. "But yet the pity of it, Iago!" Mark how a Christian nation deals with a Christian ally. Our destruction is to be accomplished, not by open warfare, but by the delusive and dastardly pretence of neutrality. There is to be no diplomatic recognition of an independent Southern Confederacy, but a formidable navy is to be furnished to our enemies, and their armies are to be abundantly supplied with the munitions of war. But how? By the English Government? Oh, no! This would be in violation of solemn treaties. Earl Russell says, "We have long maintained relations of peace and amity" with the United States. England cannot officially recognize or aid the South without placing herself in a hostile attitude towards this country. Yet meanwhile English capitalists can publicly subscribe to the loan which our enemies solicit, and from English ship-yards a fleet of iron-clad war-vessels can be sent to lay waste our commerce and break our blockade of Southern ports. What the end will be no one may venture to foretell; but it needs no prophet to predict that many years will not obliterate from the minds of the American people the present policy of the English Cabinet, controlled as it is by the genius of English aristocracy.
* * * * *
THEODORE WINTHROP'S WRITINGS.
"The first time I saw Theodore Winthrop," said one to me a few days ago, "he came into my office with a common friend. They were talking as they entered, and Winthrop said, 'Yes, the fellows who came over in the Mayflower can't afford to do that!'
"'There,' thought I to myself, 'there's another of the Mayflower men! I wish to my soul that ship had sunk on her voyage out!' But when I came to know him, I quickly learned that with him origin was not a matter of vain pride, but a fact inciting him to all nobleness of thought and life, and spurring him on to emulate the qualities of his ancestor."
That is to say, he was not a prig, or a snob, but a gentleman. And if he remembered that he "came over in the Mayflower," it was because he felt that that circumstance bound him to higher enterprises, to better work, than other men's. And he believed in his heart, as he wrote in the opening chapter of "John Brent," that "deeds of the heroic and chivalric times do not utterly disdain our day. There are men," he continues, "as ready to gallop for love and strike for love now as in the age of Amadis." Ay, and for a nobler love than the love of woman—for love of country, and of liberty—he was ready to strike, and to die.
Ready to do, when the time came; but also—what required a greater soul—ready to wait in cheerful content till the fitting time should come. Think of these volumes lying in his desk at home, and he, their author, going about his daily tasks and pleasures, as hearty and as unrepining as though no whisper of ambition had ever come to his soul,—as though he had no slightest desire for the pleasant fame which a successful book gives to a young man. Think of it, O race of scribblers, to whom a month in the printer's hands seems a monstrous delay, and who bore publishers with half-finished manuscripts, as impatient hens begin, untimely, to cackle before the egg is laid.
That a young man, not thirty-three when he died, should have written these volumes, so full of life, so full of strange adventure, of wide reading, telling of such large and thorough knowledge of books and men and Nature, is a remarkable fact in itself. That he should have let the manuscripts lie in his desk has probably surprised the world more. But, much as he wrote, Winthrop, perhaps, always felt that his true life was not that of the author, but of the actor. He has often told me that it was a pleasure to write,—probably such a pleasure as it is to an old tar to spin his yarns. His mind was active, stored with the accumulated facts of a varied experience. How keen an observer of Nature he was, those who have read "John Brent" or the "Canoe and Saddle" need not be told; how appreciative an observer of every-day life, was shown in that brilliant story which appeared in these pages some eighteen months ago, under the title of "Love and Skates." Our American life lost by his death one who, had he lived, would have represented it, reported it to the world, soul and body together; for he comprehended its spirit, as well as saw its outer husk; he was in sympathy with all its manifestations.
That quick, intelligent eye saw everything; that kindly, sympathetic spirit comprehended always the soul of things; and no life, however common, rugged, or coarse, was to him empty. If he added always something of his own nobility of heart, if he did not pry out with prurient eyes the meannesses of life around him, the picture he drew was none the less true,—was, indeed, it seems to me, all the more true. Therefore I say that his early death was a loss to American literature, or, to speak more accurately, to that too small part of our literature which concerns itself with American life. To him the hard-featured Yankee had something besides hard features and ungainly manners; he saw the better part as well as the grosser of the creature, and knew that
"Poor lone Hannah, Sitting by the window, binding shoes,"
had somewhat besides coarse hands and red eyes. He was not tainted with the vicious habit of caricature, which is the excuse with which superficial and heartless writers impose their false art upon the public. Nor did he need that his heroes should wear kid gloves,—though he was himself the neatest-gloved man I knew. "Armstrong of Oregon" was a rough figure enough; but how well he knew how to bring out the kindly traits in that rude lumberman's character! how true to Nature is that sketch of a gentleman in homespun! And even Jake Shamberlain, the Mormon mail-carrier, a rollicking, untidy rover, fond of whiskey, and doubtless not too scrupulous in a "trade," has yet, in Winthrop's story, qualities which draw us to him.
To sit down to "John Brent" after rending one of the popular novels of these days, by one of the class of writers who imagine photography the noblest of arts, is like getting out of a fashionable "party" into the crisp air of a clear, starlight, December night. And yet Winthrop was a "society" man; one might almost say he knew that life better than the other, the freer, the nobler, which he loved to describe, as he loved to live it.
A neat, active figure of a man, carefully dressed, as one who pays all proper honor to the body in which he walks about; a gentleman, not only in the broader and more generous sense, but also according to the narrower, conventional meaning of the term; plainly a scholarly man, fond of books, and knowing the best books; with that modest, diffident air which bookish men have; with a curious shyness, indeed, as of one who was not accustomed and did not like to come into too close contact with the every-day world: such Theodore Winthrop appeared to me. I recollect the surprise with which I heard—not from him—that he had ridden across the Plains, had camped with Lieutenant Strain, had "roughed it" in the roughest parts of our continent. But if you looked a little closely into the face, you saw in the fine lines of the mouth the determination of a man who can bear to carry his body into any peril or difficulty; and in the eye—he had the eye of a born sailor, an eye accustomed to measure the distance for a dangerous leap, quick to comprehend all parts of a novel situation—you saw there presence of mind, unfaltering readiness, and a spirit equal to anything the day might bring forth.
In the Memoir prefixed to "Cecil Dreeme" Curtis has drawn a portrait, tender and true, of his friend and neighbor. The few words which have written themselves here tell of him only as he appeared to one who knew him less intimately, who saw him not often.
I come now to speak of the writings which Winthrop left. These have the singular merit, that they are all American. From first to last, they are plainly the work of a man who had no need to go to Europe for characters or scenery or plot,—who valued and understood the peculiar life and the peculiar Nature of this continent, and, like a true artist and poet, chose to represent that life and Nature of which he was a part. His stories smack of the soil; his characters—especially in "John Brent," where his own ride across the continent is dramatized—are as fresh and as true as only a true artist could make them. Take, for instance, the "Pike," the border-ruffian transplanted to a California "ranch,"—not a ruffian, as he says, but a barbarian.
"America is manufacturing several new types of men. The Pike is one of the newest. He is a bastard pioneer. With one hand he clutches the pioneer vices; with the other he beckons forward the vices of civilization. It is hard to understand how a man can have so little virtue in so long a body, unless the shakes are foes to virtue in the soul, as they are to beauty in the face.
"He is a terrible shock, this unlucky Pike, to the hope that the new race on the new continent is to be a handsome race. I lose that faith, which the people about me now have nourished, when I recall the Pike. He is hung together, not put together. He inserts his lank fathom of a man into a suit of molasses-colored homespun. Frowzy and husky is the hair Nature crowns him with; frowzy and stubby the beard. He shambles in his walk. He drawls in his talk. He drinks whiskey by the tank. His oaths are to his words as Falstaff's sack to his bread. I have seen Maltese beggars, Arab camel-drivers, Dominican friars, New-York aldermen, Digger Indians; the foulest, frowziest creatures I have ever seen are thorough-bred Pikes."
This is not complimentary, but any one who has seen the creature knows that it is a portrait done by a first-rate artist.
Take, again, that other vulgarer ruffian, "Jim Robinson," "a little man, stockish, oily, and red in the face, a jaunty fellow, too, with a certain shabby air of coxcombry even in his travel-stained attire,"—and how accurately does he describe the metamorphosis of this nauseous grub into a still more disgusting butterfly!
"I can imagine him when he arrives at St. Louis, blossomed into a purple coat with velvet lappels, a brocaded waistcoat, diamond shirt-studs, or a flamboyant scarf pinned with a pinchbeck dog, and red-legged, patent-leather boots, picking his teeth on the steps of the Planters' House."
Or, once more, that more saintly villain, the Mormon Elder Sizzum.
"Presently Sizzum appeared. He had taken time to tone down the pioneer and develop the deacon in his style, and a very sleek personage he had made of himself. He was clean shaved: clean shaving is a favorite coxcombry of the deacon class. His long black hair, growing rank from a muddy skin, was sleekly put behind his ears. A large white blossom of cravat expanded under his nude, beefy chin, and he wore a black dress-coat, creased with its recent packing. Except that his pantaloons were thrust into boots with the maker's name (Abel Gushing, Lynn, Mass.) stamped in gold on a scarlet morocco shield in front, he was in correct go-to-meetin' costume,—a Chadband of the Plains."
When you see one of these men, you will know him again. Winthrop has sketched these rascals with a few touches, as felicitous as any of Dickens's, and they will bear his mark forever: T.W. fecit.
As for Jake Shamberlain, with his odd mixture of many religious and irreligious dialects, what there is of him is as good as Sam Weller or Mrs. Poyser.
"'Hillo, Shamberlain!' hailed Brent, riding up to the train.
"'Howdydo? Howdydo? No swap!' responded Jake, after the Indian fashion. 'Bung my eyes, ef you're not the mate of all mates I'm glad to see! Pax vobiscrum, my filly! You look as fresh as an Aperel shad. Praised be the Lord,' continued he, relapsing into Mormon slang, 'who has sent thee again, like a brand from the burning, to fall into paths of pleasantness with the Saints, as they wander from the Promised Land to the mean section where the low-lived Gentiles ripen their souls for hell!'"
Or Jake's droll commentary on the story of Old Bridger, ousted from his fort, and robbed of his goods, by the Saints, in the name of the Prophet Brigham.
"'It's olluz so,' says Jake; 'Paul plants, and Apollyon gets the increase. Not that Bridger's like Paul, any more 'n we're like Apollyon; but we're goan to have all the cider off his apple-trees.'"
Or, again, Jake's compliments to "Armstrong of Oregon," that galloping Vigilant Committee of one.
"I'll help you, if I know how, Armstrong. I ha'n't seen no two in my life, Old Country or New Country, Saints or Gentiles, as I'd do more for 'n you and your brother. I've olluz said, ef the world was chock full of Armstrongs, Paradise wouldn't pay, and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob mout just as well blow out their candle and go under a bushel-basket,—unless a half-bushel would kiver 'em."
But the true hero of the book is the horse Don Fulano. It is easy to see that Winthrop was a first-rate horseman, from the loving manner in which he describes and dwells on the perfections of the matchless stallion. None but one who knew every point of a horse, none but one of the Centaur breed, could have drawn Don Fulano,—just as none but a born skater could have written those inimitable skating-scenes in his story of "Love and Skates."
"He was an American horse,—so they distinguish in California one brought from the old States,—A SUPERB YOUNG STALLION, PERFECTLY BLACK, WITHOUT MARK. It was magnificent to see him, as he circled about me, fire in his eye, pride in his nostril, tail flying like a banner, power and grace from tip to tip. No one would ever mount him, or ride him, unless it was his royal pleasure. He was conscious of his representative position, and showed his paces handsomely."
This is the creature who takes the lead in that stirring and matchless "Gallop of Three" to the Luggernel Spring, to quote from which would be to spoil it. It must be read entire.
In the "Canoe and Saddle" is recorded Winthrop's long ride across the continent. Setting out in a canoe, from Port Townsend, in Vancouver's Island, he journeyed, without company of other white men, to the Salt Lake City and thence to "the States,"—a tedious and barbarous experience, heightened, in this account of it, by the traveller's cheery spirits, his ardent love of Nature, and capacity to describe the grand natural scenery, of the effect of which upon himself he says, at the end,—
"And in all that period, while I was so near to Nature, the great lessons of the wilderness deepened into my heart day by day, the hedges of conventionalism withered away from my horizon, and all the pedantries of scholastic thought perished out of my mind forever."
He bore hardships with the courage and imperturbable good-nature of a born gentleman. It is when men are starving, when the plating of romance is worn off by the chafe of severe and continued suffering,—it is then that "blood tells." Winthrop had evidently that keen relish for rough life which the gently nurtured and highly cultivated man has oftener than his rude neighbor, partly because, in his case, contrast lends a zest to the experience. Thus, when he camps with a gang of "road-makers," in the farthest Western wilderness,—a part of Captain McClellan's Pacific Railroad Expedition,—how thoroughly he enjoys the rough hospitality and rude wit of these pioneers!
"In such a Platonic republic as this a man found his place according to his powers. The cooks were no base scullions; they were brethren, whom conscious ability, sustained by universal suffrage, had endowed with the frying-pan."
"My hosts were a stalwart gang.... Their talk was as muscular as their arms. When these laughed, as only men fresh and hearty and in the open air can laugh, the world became mainly grotesque: it seemed at once a comic thing to live,—a subject for chuckling, that we were bipeds, with noses,—a thing to roar at, that we had all met there from the wide world, to hobnob by a frolicsome fire with tin pots of coffee, and partake of crisped bacon and toasted dough-boys in ridiculous abundance. Easy laughter infected the atmosphere. Echoes ceased to be pensive, and became jocose. A rattling humor pervaded the forest, and Green River rippled with noise of fantastic jollity. Civilization and its dilettante diners-out sneer when Clodpole at Dives's table doubles his soup, knifes his fish, tilts his plate into his lap, puts muscle into the crushing of his meringue, and tosses off the warm beaker in his finger-bowl. Camps by Tacoma sneer not at all, but candidly roar, at parallel accidents. Gawky makes a cushion of his flapjack. Butterfingers drops his red-hot rasher into his bosom, or lets slip his mug of coffee into his boot drying at the fire,—a boot henceforth saccharine. A mule, slipping his halter, steps forward unnoticed, puts his nose into the circle, and brays resonant. These are the jocular boons of life, and at these the woodsmen guffaw with lusty good-nature. Coarse and rude the jokes may be, but not nasty, like the innuendoes of pseudo-refined cockneys. If the woodsmen are guilty of uncleanly wit, it differs from the uncleanly wit of cities as the mud of a road differs from the sticky slime of slums.
"It is a stout sensation to meet masculine, muscular men at the brave point of a penetrating Boston hooihut,—men who are mates,—men to whom technical culture means nought,—men to whom myself am nought, unless I can saddle, lasso, cook, sing, and chop,—unless I am a man of nerve and pluck, and a brother in generosity and heartiness. It is restoration to play at cudgels of jocoseness with a circle of friendly roughs, not one of whom ever heard the word bore,—with pioneers, who must think and act, and wrench their living from the closed hand of Nature."
And here is a dinner "in the open."
"Upon the carte du jour at Restaurant Sowee was written Grouse. 'How shall we have them?' said I, cook and convive, to Loolowcan, marmiton and convive. 'One of these cocks of the mountain shall be fried, since gridiron is not,' responded I to myself, after meditation; 'two shall be spitted and roasted; and, as Azrael may not want us before breakfast to-morrow, the fourth shall go upon the carte de dejeuner'.
"'O Pork! what a creature thou art!' continued I, in monologue, cutting neat slices of that viand with my bowie-knife, and laying them fraternally, three in a bed, in the frying-pan. 'Blessed be Moses, who forbade thee to the Jews, whereby we, of freer dispensations, heirs of all the ages, inherit also pigs more numerous and bacon cheaper! O Pork! what could campaigners do without thy fatness, thy leanness, thy saltness, thy portableness?'
"Here Loolowcan presented me the three birds, plucked featherless as Plato's man. The two roasters we planted carefully on spits before a sultry spot of the fire. From a horizontal stick, supported on forked stakes, we suspended by a twig over each roaster an automatic baster, an inverted cone of pork, ordained to yield its spicy juices to the wooing flame, and drip bedewing on each bosom beneath. The roasters ripened deliberately, while keen and quick fire told upon the frier, the first course of our feast. Meanwhile I brewed a pot of tea, blessing Confucius for that restorative weed, as I had blessed Moses for his abstinence from porkers.
"Need I say that the grouse were admirable, that everything was delicious, and the Confucian weed first chop? Even a scouse of mouldy biscuit met the approval of Loolowcan. Feasts cooked under the greenwood tree, and eaten by their cooks after a triumphant day of progress, are sweeter than the conventional banquets of languid Christendom."
"Life in the Open Air"—containing sketches of travel among the mountains and lakes of Maine, as well as the story of "Love and Skates," which has been spoken of, "The March of the Seventh Regiment," "Washington as a Camp," an essay descriptive of Church's great picture, "The Heart of the Andes," and two fragments, one of them the charming commencement of a story which promised to be one of his best and most enjoyable efforts in this direction—is the concluding volume of Winthrop's collected writings. I speak of it in this place, because it is in some part a companion-book to the volumes we have been discussing. It is as full of buoyant life, of fresh and noble thought, of graceful wit and humor, as those; in parts it contains the most finished of his literary work. Few Americans who read it at the time will ever forget that stirring description of the march of the New-York Seventh; it is a piece of the history of our war which will live and be read as long as Americans read their history. It moved my blood, in the reading, tonight, as it did in those days—which seem already some centuries old, so do events crowd the retrospect—when we were all reading it in the pages of the "Atlantic." In the unfinished story of "Brightly's Orphan" there is a Jew boy from Chatham Street, an original of the first water, who, though scarce fairly introduced, will, I am sure, make a place for himself and for his author in the memories of all who relish humor of the best kind.
"Cecil Dreeme" and "Edwin Brothertoft" are quite other books than these we have spoken of. Here Winthrop tried a different vein,—two different veins, perhaps. Both are stories of suffering and crime, stories of the world and society. In one it is a woman, in the other a man, who is wronged. One deals with New York city-life of the very present day; the other is a story of the Revolutionary War, and of Tories and Patriots. The popular verdict has declared him successful, even here. "Cecil Dreeme" has run through no less than fifteen editions.
In this story we are shown New York "society" as doubtless Winthrop knew it to be. Yet the book has a curious air of the Old-World; it might be a story of Venice, almost. It tells us of Old-World vices and crimes, and the fittings and furnishings are of a piece. The localities, indeed, are sketched so faithfully, that a stranger to the city, coming suddenly, in his wanderings, upon Chrysalis College Buildings, could not fail to recognize them at once,—as indeed happened to a country friend of mine recently, to his great delight. But the men are Americans, bred and formed—and for the most part spoiled—in Europe; Americans who have gone to Paris before their time, if it be true, what a witty Bostonian said, that good Americans go to Paris when they die. With all this, the book has a strange charm, so that it takes possession of you in spite of yourself. It is as though it drew away the curtain, for one slight moment, from the mysteries which "society" decorously hides,—as though he who drew the curtain stood beside it, pointing with solemn finger and silent indignation to the baseness of which he gives you a glimpse. Yet even here the good carries the day, and that in no maudlin way, but because the true men are the better men.
These, then, are Winthrop's writings,—the literary works of a young man who died at thirty-two, and who had spent a goodly part of his mature life in the saddle and the canoe, exploring his own country, and in foreign travel. As we look at the volumes, we wonder how he found time for so much; but when we have read, we wonder yet more at the excellence of all he wrote. In all and through all shines his own noble spirit; and thus these books of his, whose printed pages he never saw, will keep his memory green amongst us; for, through them, all who read may know that there wrote a true gentleman.
Once he wrote,—
"Let me not waste in skirmishes my power, In petty struggles. Rather in the hour Of deadly conflict may I nobly die, In my first battle perish gloriously."
Even so he fell; but in these written works, as in his gallant death, he left with us lessons which will yet win battles for the good cause of American liberty, which he held dearest in his heart.
* * * * *
Hilary, Summer calls thee, o'er the sea! Like white flowers upon the tide, In and out the vessels glide; But no wind on all the main Sends thy blithe soul home again: Every salt breeze moans for thee, Hilary!
Hilary, Welcome Summer's step will be, Save to those beside whose door Doleful birds sit evermore Singing, "Never comes he here Who made every season's cheer!" Dull the June that brings not thee, Hilary!
Hilary, What strange world has sheltered thee? Here the soil beneath thy feet Rang with songs, and blossomed sweet; Blue skies ask thee yet of Earth, Blind and dumb without thy mirth: With thee went her heart of glee, Hilary!
Hilary, All things shape a sigh for thee! O'er the waves, among the flowers, Through the lapse of odorous hours, Breathes a lonely, longing sound, As of something sought, unfound: Lorn are all things, lorn are we, Hilary!
Hilary, Oh, to sail in quest of thee, To the trade-wind's steady tune, Past the hurrying monsoon, Into torrid seas, that lave Dry, hot sands,—a breathless grave,— Sad as vain the search would be, Hilary!
Hilary, Chase the sorrow from the sea! Summer-heart, bring summer near, Warm, and fresh, and airy-clear! —Dead thou art not: dead is pain; Now Earth sees and sings again: Death, to hold thee, Life must be, Hilary!
* * * * *
On a cheery June day Mrs. Penelope Carroll and her niece Debby Wilder were whizzing along on their way to a certain gay watering-place, both in the best of humors with each other and all the world beside. Aunt Pen was concocting sundry mild romances, and laying harmless plots for the pursuance of her favorite pastime, match-making; for she had invited her pretty relative to join her summer jaunt, ostensibly that the girl might see a little of fashionable life, but the good lady secretly proposed to herself to take her to the beach and get her a rich husband, very much as she would have proposed to take her to Broadway and get her a new bonnet; for both articles she considered necessary, but somewhat difficult for a poor girl to obtain.
Debby was slowly getting her poise, after the excitement of a first visit to New York; for ten days of bustle had introduced the young philosopher to a new existence, and the working-day world seemed to have vanished when she made her last pat of butter in the dairy at home. For an hour she sat thinking over the good-fortune which had befallen her, and the comforts of this life which she had suddenly acquired. Debby was a true girl,—with all a girl's love of ease and pleasure; and it must not be set down against her that she surveyed her pretty travelling-suit with much complacency, rejoicing inwardly that she could use her hands without exposing fractured gloves, that her bonnet was of the newest mode, needing no veil to hide a faded ribbon or a last year's shape, that her dress swept the ground with fashionable untidiness, and her boots were guiltless of a patch,—that she was the possessor of a mine of wealth in two of the eight trunks belonging to her aunt, that she was travelling like any lady of the land with man-and maid-servant at her command, and that she was leaving work and care behind her for a month or two of novelty and rest.
When these agreeable facts were fully realized, and Aunt Pen had fallen asleep behind her veil, Debby took out a book, and indulged in her favorite luxury, soon forgetting past, present, and future in the inimitable history of Martin Chuzzlewit. The sun blazed, the cars rattled, children cried, ladies nodded, gentlemen longed for the solace of prohibited cigars, and newspapers were converted into sun-shades, nightcaps, and fans; but Debby read on, unconscious of all about her, even of the pair of eyes that watched her from the opposite corner of the car. A gentleman with a frank, strong-featured face sat therein, and amused himself by scanning with thoughtful gaze the countenances of his fellow-travellers. Stout Aunt Pen, dignified even in her sleep, was a "model of deportment" to the rising generation; but the student of human nature found a more attractive subject in her companion, the girl with an apple-blossom face and merry brown eyes, who sat smiling into her book, never heeding that her bonnet was awry, and the wind taking unwarrantable liberties with her ribbons and her hair.
Innocent Debby turned her pages, unaware that her fate sat opposite in the likeness of a serious, black-bearded gentleman, who watched the smiles rippling from her lips to her eyes with an interest that deepened as the minutes passed. If his paper had been full of anything but "Bronchial Troches" and "Spalding's Prepared Glue," he would have found more profitable employment; but it wasn't, and with the usual readiness of idle souls he fell into evil ways, and permitted curiosity, that feminine sin, to enter in and take possession of his manly mind. A great desire seized him to discover what book so interested his pretty neighbor; but a cover hid the name, and he was too distant to catch it on the fluttering leaves. Presently a stout Emerald-Islander, with her wardrobe oozing out of sundry paper parcels, vacated the seat behind the two ladies; and it was soon quietly occupied by the individual for whom Satan was finding such indecorous employment. Peeping round the little gray bonnet, past a brown braid and a fresh cheek, the young man's eye fell upon the words the girl was reading, and forgot to look away again. Books were the desire of his life; but an honorable purpose and an indomitable will kept him steady at his ledgers till he could feel that he had earned the right to read. Like wine to many another was an open page to him; he read a line, and, longing for more, took a hasty sip from his neighbor's cup, forgetting that it was a stranger's also.
Down the page went the two pairs of eyes, and the merriment from Debby's seemed to light up the sombre ones behind her with a sudden shine that softened the whole face and made it very winning. No wonder they twinkled, for Elijah Pogram spoke, and "Mrs. Hominy, the mother of the modern Gracchi, in the classical blue cap and the red cotton pocket-handkerchief, came down the room in a procession of one." A low laugh startled Debby, though it was smothered like the babes in the Tower; and, turning, she beheld the trespasser scarlet with confusion, and sobered with a tardy sense of his transgression. Debby was not a starched young lady of the "prune and prism" school, but a frank, free-hearted little body, quick to read the sincerity of others, and to take looks and words at their real value. Dickens was her idol; and for his sake she could have forgiven a greater offence than this. The stranger's contrite countenance and respectful apology won her good-will at once; and with a finer courtesy than any Aunt Pen would have taught, she smilingly bowed her pardon, and, taking another book from her basket, opened it, saying, pleasantly,—
"Here is the first volume, if you like it, Sir. I can recommend it as an invaluable consolation for the discomforts of a summer day's journey, and it is heartily at your service."
As much surprised as gratified, the gentleman accepted the book, and retired behind it with the sudden discovery that wrong-doing has its compensation in the pleasurable sensation of being forgiven. Stolen delights are well known to be specially saccharine; and much as this pardoned sinner loved books, it seemed to him that the interest of the story flagged, and that the enjoyment of reading was much enhanced by the proximity of a gray bonnet and a girlish profile. But Dickens soon proved more powerful than Debby, and she was forgotten, till, pausing to turn a leaf, the young man met her shy glance, as she asked, with the pleased expression of a child who has shared an apple with a playmate,—
"Is it good?"
"Oh, very!"—and the man looked as honestly grateful for the book as the boy would have done for the apple.
Only five words in the conversation, but Aunt Pen woke, as if the watchful spirit of propriety had roused her to pluck her charge from the precipice on which she stood.
"Dora, I'm astonished at you! Speaking to strangers in that free manner is a most unladylike thing. How came you to forget what I have told you over and over again about a proper reserve?"
The energetic whisper reached the gentleman's ear, and he expected to be annihilated with a look when his offence was revealed; but he was spared that ordeal, for the young voice answered, softly,—
"Don't faint, Aunt Pen; I only did as I'd be done by; for I had two books, and the poor man looked so hungry for something to read that I couldn't resist sharing my 'goodies.' He will see that I'm a countrified little thing in spite of my fine feathers, and won't be shocked at my want of rigidity and frigidity; so don't look dismal, and I'll be prim and proper all the rest of the way,—if I don't forget it."
"I wonder who he is; may belong to some of our first families, and in that case it might be worth while to exert ourselves, you know. Did you learn his name, Dora?" whispered the elder lady.
Debby shook her head, and murmured, "Hush!"—but Aunt Pen had heard of matches being made in cars as well as in heaven; and as an experienced general, it became her to reconnoitre, when one of the enemy approached her camp. Slightly altering her position, she darted an all-comprehensive glance at the invader, who seemed entirely absorbed, for not an eyelash stirred during the scrutiny. It lasted but an instant, yet in that instant he was weighed and found wanting; for that experienced eye detected that his cravat was two inches wider than fashion ordained, that his coat was not of the latest style, that his gloves were mended, and his handkerchief neither cambric nor silk. That was enough, and sentence was passed forthwith,—"Some respectable clerk, good-looking, but poor, and not at all the thing for Dora"; and Aunt Pen turned to adjust a voluminous green veil over her niece's bonnet, "To shield it from the dust, dear," which process also shielded the face within from the eye of man.