CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL
CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.
No. 420. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, JANUARY 17, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2d.
HOW IS THE WORLD USING YOU?
This is a very common question, usually put and answered with more or less levity. We seldom hear of any one answering very favourably as to the usage he experiences from the world. More generally, the questioned seems to feel that his treatment is not, and never has been, quite what it ought to be. It has sometimes occurred to me, that a great oversight is committed in our so seldom putting to ourselves the co-relative question: What have I done to make the world use me well? What merit have I shewn—by what good intention towards the world have I been animated—what has been the positive amount of those services of mine on which I found my pretensions to the world's rewards? All of these are interrogations which it would be necessary to answer satisfactorily before we could be truly entitled to take measure of the world's goodness to us in return; for surely it is not to be expected that the world is to pay in mere expectancy: time enough, in all conscience, when the service has been rendered, or at soonest, when a reasonable ground of hope has been established that it will not be withheld or performed slightingly. Only too much room there is to fear that, if these questions were put and faithfully answered, the ordinary result would be a conviction that the world had used us quite as well as we deserved.
Men are of course prevented from going through this process by their self-love. Unwillingness to see or own their shortcomings, keeps them in a sort of delusion on the subject. Well, I do not hope to make an extensive change upon them in this respect; but perhaps it may not be impossible to rouse one here and there to the correct view, and thus accomplish a little good.
Let us address ourselves to commercial life first, for the labour by which man lives is at the bottom of everything. Here we meet the now well-recognised principle in political economy, that generally wages, salaries, remunerations of all kinds, are in pretty exact relation to the value of the services performed—this value being of course determined, in a great degree, by the easiness or difficulty of the work, the commonness or rarity of the faculties and skill required for it, the risk of non-success in the profession, and so forth. Many a good fellow who feels that his income is inconveniently small, and wonders why it is not greater, might have the mystery solved if he would take a clear, unprejudiced view of the capacity in which he is acting towards the public. Is he a slave of the desk, in some office of routine business? Then let him consider how many hundreds of similar men would answer an advertisement of his seat being vacant. The fatal thing in his case evidently is, that the faculties and skill required in his situation are possessed by so many of his fellow-creatures. Is he a shopkeeper in some common line of business?—say a draper. Then let him consider how easy it is to be a draper, and how simple are the details of such a trade. While there are so many other drapers in the same street, his going out of business would never be felt as an inconvenience. He is perhaps not doing any real good to the public at all, but only interloping with the already too small business of those who were in 'the line' before him. Let him think of the many hours he spends in idleness, or making mere appearances of business, and ask if he is really doing any effective service to his fellow-creatures by keeping a shop at all. It may be a hardship to him to have failed in a good intention; but this cannot be helped. He may succeed better in some other scheme. Let him quit this, and try another, or set up in a place where there is what is called 'an opening'—that is, where his services are required—the point essential to his getting any reward for his work. We sometimes see most wonderful efforts made by individuals in an overdone trade; for example, those of a hatter, who feels that he must give mankind a special direction to his shop, or die. Half-a-dozen tortoise-like missionaries do nothing but walk about the streets from morning to night, proclaiming from carapace and plastron, that there are no hats equal to those at No. 98 of such a street. A van like the temple of Juggernauth parades about all day, propagating the same faith. 'If you want a good hat,' exclaims a pathetic poster, 'try No. 98.' As you walk along the street, a tiny bill is insinuated into your hand, for no other purpose, as you learn on perusing it, but to impress upon you the great truth, that there are no hats in the world either so good or so cheap as those at No. 98. The same dogma meets you in omnibuses, at railway platforms, and every other place where it can be expected that mankind will pause for a moment, and so have time to take in an idea. But it is all in vain if there be a sufficient supply of good and cheap hats already in that portion of the earth's surface. The superfluous hatter must submit to the all-prevailing law, that for labours not required, and an expenditure of capital useless as regards the public, there can be no reward, no return.
Sometimes great inconveniences are experienced in consequence of local changes; such as those effected by railways, and the displacement of hand-labour by machinery. A country inn that has supplied post-horses since the days of the civil war, is all at once, in consequence of the opening of some branch-line, deserted by its business. It is a pitiable case; but the poor landlord must not attempt to be an innkeeper without business, for then he would be a misapplied human being, and would starve. Now the world uses him a little hardly in the diversion of his customers; that may be allowed: we must all lay our account with such hardships so long as each person is left to see mainly after himself. But if he were to persist in keeping his house open, and thus reduce himself to uselessness, he would not be entitled to think himself ill-used by reason of his making no profits, seeing that he did nothing for the public to entitle him to a remuneration. The poor handloom weavers—I grieve to think of the hardships they suffer. Well do I remember when, in 1813 or 1814, a good workman in this craft could realise 36s. a week. There were even traditions then of men who had occasionally eaten pound-notes upon bread and butter, or allowed their wives to spend L.8 upon a fine china tea-service. There being a copious production of cotton-thread by machinery, but no machinery to make it into cloth, was the cause of the high wages then given to weavers. Afterwards came the powerloom; and weavers can now only make perhaps 4s. 6d. per week, even while working for longer hours than is good for their health. The result is most lamentable; but it cannot be otherwise, for the public will only reward services in the ratio of the value of these services to itself. It will not encourage a human being, with his glorious apparatus of intelligence and reflection, to mis-expend himself upon work which can be executed equally well by unthinking machinery. Were the poor weavers able so far to shake themselves free from what is perhaps a very natural prejudice, as to ask what do we do to entitle us to any better usage from the public, they would see that the fault lies in their continuing to be weavers at all. They are precisely as the innkeeper would be, if he kept his house open after the railway had taken all his customers another way.
There are many cases in the professional walks of life fully as deplorable as that of the weavers. Few things in the world are more painful to contemplate than a well-educated and able man vainly struggling to get bread as a physician, an artist, or an author. It is of course right that such a man should not be too ready to abandon the struggle as hopeless; for a little perseverance and well-directed energy may bring him into a good position. But if a fair experiment has been made, and it clearly appears that his services are not wanted, the professional aspirant ought undoubtedly to pause, and take a full unprejudiced view of his relation to the world. 'Am I,' he may say, 'to expect reward if I persist in offering the world what it does not want? Are my fellow-creatures wrong in withholding a subsistence from me, while I am rather consulting my own tastes and inclinations than their necessities?' It may then occur to him that the great law must somehow be obeyed—a something must be done for mankind which they require, and it must be done where and how they require it, in order that each individual may have a true claim upon the rest. To get into the right and fitting place in the social machine may be difficult; but there is no alternative. Let him above everything dismiss from his mind the notion, that others can seriously help him. Let him be self-helpful, think and do for himself, and he will have the better chance of success.
We now come to a second branch of the subject—namely, as regards our conduct and manners in the scenes of social life. One might suppose it to be a very clear thing, that a person possessing no pleasing accomplishment could never be so agreeable a member of society as one who possessed one or more of such qualifications. It might seem very evident, that a person who had never taken any trouble to acquire such accomplishments, did not deserve so much of society as one who had taken such trouble. Yet such is the blinding influence of self-love, that we continually find the dull and unaccomplished speaking and acting as if they considered themselves entitled to equal regard with others who, on the contrary, can contribute greatly to the enjoyments of their fellow-creatures. This is surely most unreasonable—it is, as in the case of the unnecessary shopkeeper or weaver, to desire the reward and yet not perform the service. Were such persons to clear themselves of prejudice, and take an unflattering view of their relation to society, they would see that the reward can only be properly expected where it has been worked for. They might in some instances be prompted to make efforts to attain some of those accomplishments which contribute to make the social hour pass agreeably, and thus attain to a true desert, besides 'advancing themselves in the scale of thinking beings.' If not, they might at least learn to submit unrepiningly to that comparatively moderate degree of notice and regard which is the due of those who are perfectly ordinary in their minds, and fit only to take a place amongst the audience.
Society, as is well known, has its favourites, and also its unpopular characters. If we dissect the character of the favourite, we shall invariably find a great substratum of the amiable. He will probably have accomplishments also, and thus be able to add to the happiness of his fellows. It is not improbable that in many cases a good share of love of approbation will be detected; but this is of no consequence in the matter. The general fact we assume to be, that the genuinely amiable is there in some force. It will, I believe, be likewise found that the unpopular character has something too much of the centripetal system about him—that is to say, desires things to centre in himself as much as possible—and neither has any great natural impulse to the amiable, nor will take the trouble to assume the complaisant. Now, it is not uncommon to observe traces of dissatisfaction in the unpopular characters, as if they felt themselves to be treated unjustly by the world. But can these persons reasonably expect to be received with the same favour as men who are at once gentle and inoffensive in their ordinary demeanour, and actively good among their fellow-creatures? Certainly not. Let us see here, too, the complaining party take an unprejudiced view of his relation to society. Let him understand that he only will be loved if he is lovable, and we may hope to see him taking some pains to correct his selfishness, and both seem and be a kind and genial man. Most assuredly, in no other way will his reputation and his treatment by the world be reversed.
In fine, we would have all who are inclined to doubt whether the world uses them well or not, to ask of themselves, in the first place, how they use the world. If they find that they do little for it—are stupid, illiterate, possessed of not one graceful accomplishment, neither useful nor ornamental, but selfish, sulky, and unamiable, then let them try whether a remedy cannot be found in themselves. It is not to be expected of all that they are to be greatly serviceable in any way to the world, or very agreeable either; but it is the duty of all who desire the world's good treatment, to do the best they can for the general interest, and to be as good and amiable as possible. At the worst, if they cannot make any change on themselves, let them resign themselves to be comparatively poor and neglected, as such is, by the rules of Providence, their inevitable fate.
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[Footnote 1: The upper and under plates of the tortoise are so called by naturalists.]
THE SISTERS OF CHARITY IN BOHEMIA.
In continental countries, much of that charitable ministration which with us is left to rates and institutions, is the work of individuals acting directly under a religious impulse. The difference is perhaps not entirely in favour of the countries of the Romish faith; but there is no denying that it leads to our being presented with pictures of heroic self-devotion and generous self-sacrifice, such as it would be gratifying to see in our own country. Many of the forms of charity met with in Catholic states had their rise in one enthusiastically benevolent man, the celebrated Vincent de St Paul. Born in 1576, on the skirts of the Pyrenees, and brought up as a shepherd-boy—possessed of course of none of the advantages of fortune, this remarkable man shewed a singular spirit of charity before he had readied manhood. He became a priest; he passed through a slavery in one of the African piratical states, and with difficulty made his escape. At length we see him in the position of a parish pastor in France, exerting himself in plans for the improvement of the humbler classes, exactly like those which have become fashionable among ourselves only during the last twenty years. His exertions succeeded, and generous persons of rank enabled him to extend them. In a short time, he saw no fewer than twenty-five establishments founded in his own country, in Piedmont, Poland, and other states, for charitable purposes. Stimulated by this success to increase his exertions, he quickly formed associations of charitable persons, chiefly females, for the succour of distressed humanity. It was a most wonderful movement for the age, and must be held as no little offset against the horrible barbarities arising from religious troubles in the reign of Louis XIII. Among Vincent's happiest efforts, was that which established the Sisters of Charity, a sodality of self-devoted women, which exists in vigour at the present day.
During a lengthened residence in Prague, we have had much satisfaction in visiting the establishment of the Sisters, and inquiring into their doings. The house, which was founded in the seventeenth century, and contains seventy inmates, is situated near to the palace of Prince Lobkowitz, in the Kleine Seite, or that part of the city which lies on the right bank of the Moldau. It has much the character of a suburban villa, being surrounded by a kind of plaisance, enclosed in high walls, and containing shrubberies, alleys, and large clumps of chestnuts. In this pleasant retreat may often be found such of the Sisters as are not engaged in the more pressing kind of duties—never quite idle, however; for, even while seeking recreation, they will be found busied in preparing clothing for the poor, or perhaps in making medicines from herbs, if not imparting instruction to children let loose from the school which forms a part of their establishment. The place is remarkable for its perfumes, there being assembled here not merely the usual amount of roses, lilacs, jasmines, tuberoses, and lilies, but a profusion of aromatic plants, cultivated either for medicinal purposes, or to serve in the fabrication of essences and powders, which the Sisters distribute over the world in tiny bottles and small pillow-cases and bags, in order to raise funds for the poor.
In the house, which, having been erected for a private family, is not well suited for its present purpose, everything is an example of cleanliness and order. The hospital is in the main part of the building, and is fitted up with every possible convenience. A large apothecaries' hall is attached to it, furnished with every appliance that medical art has devised, and under the superintendence of a highly-educated professional man. It is most affecting to enter the great sick-room, and see the gentle Sisters in their modest attire ministering to the patients, bending over them with their sweet and cheerful countenances, as if they felt that relief from pain and restoration to life and its enjoyments depended on their smiles. It is scarcely necessary to say, that the hospital is almost always full. Sometimes, indeed, the floor is occupied with extra beds; for the Sisters will never close their doors to any who apply, even though they should have to abandon their own simple places of repose to the new-comer, and stretch themselves on the bare floor.
We observed, in one of our visits, an old woman who was lying in one of the beds of the hospital, in a kind of trance, neither sleeping nor waking, apparently suffering no pain, but quite insensible to everything which passed around her. Her complaint was that of extreme old age, mere physical exhaustion. She had been for many years a pensioner, fed and clothed by the Sisters: having outlived all her relations, and having no friends in the world but them, she had come in, as she said herself, 'to die in peace among them.' Not far from her lay a girl, about sixteen or seventeen years of age, whose extreme paleness, or rather marble whiteness, vied with the snowy sheets which covered all but that lily face; and but for the quivering of the little frill of her cap, and the slow movement of her large blue eyes, it would have been difficult to believe that it was not the alabaster figure of some saint that reposed there. The superior looked kindly and sadly upon her, bent down, kissed her pale forehead, and went on; and though the sufferer did not move or speak, nor the feeble head turn, her large blue eyes followed the reverend mother with an expression which was all its own—an expression to be felt, deeply, intensely, but which cannot be described. And who was she, that pale, silent girl? She was an orphan, neglected by the world, betrayed and abandoned by one who appeared the only friend she had. Crushed in spirit, enfeebled by want and misery, without a roof to shelter her young drooping head, she had been found by the Sisters of Charity sitting alone, her eyes fixed on the river. They took her in, clothed, fed, and warmed her. They poured into her heart the blessed words of peace and comfort, till that poor breaking heart gushed forth in a wild tide of feeling too strong for the feeble frame; and we now saw her slowly recovering from a frightful fever, the result of past sufferings, and of that agitation which even a reaction towards hope had occasioned.
It would be too much for the present sketch to describe the many invalids before whom we passed in our visits to the sick-chambers of the Sisters of Charity, though every single case would be a lesson to humanity. The homeless, the forsaken, the orphan, each had his or her own bitter history, previous to reposing within the sanctuary of that blessed retreat; each was attended by some of those benevolent beings, whose gentle steps and sweet sunny smiles brought peace to their hearts. None who are destitute are rejected at that gate of mercy. Whatever their faults may have been, whatever their frailties, if overtaken by want or sickness—if, deserted and trampled upon, they sink without any visible hand being stretched out to save them from despair and death—then do the Sisters of Charity interpose to succour and to save. To them it is sufficient that the sufferer requires their aid. There every medical assistance is promptly given; every comfort, and even luxury.
Most surprising it is to the common worldling to see these gentle beings thus living entirely for others, seeking no reward but that inspired by Christian promises and hopes. Nor is it mere drudgery and self-denial which constitute their great merit. When humanity calls from the midst of danger, whether in the shape of pestilence or of war, they are equally unfailing. It has been our lot to see a city taken by storm, the streets on fire and half-choked with ruins, and these ruins thickly strewed with the dead and dying. There, before the wild scene had been in the least calmed—amid smoke, and rain, and the frequent rattling fire of musketry—we have seen the black dresses and long white kerchiefs of the Sisters of Charity flitting about, emblems of mercy in a world which might otherwise seem only fit for demons. The place we speak of was Arcis-sur-Aube. Napoleon, who looked on the system of this sisterhood 'as one of the most sublime conceptions of the human mind,' was then in the act of falling back with 30,000 men, after having been attacked the evening before (March 19, 1814) by 130,000 Austrians. He was within three weeks of the prostration of his power, and he must have felt bitterly the crushing reverses he was experiencing. Yet he stopped on the nearly demolished bridge of the town, and ordered 300 Napoleons to be given out of his then scanty resources to the Sisters of Charity, of whose devotion he had been an eye-witness from the commencement of the attack. As he crossed the bridge immediately afterwards, part of it gave way, and he was precipitated into the Aube, but, by the help of his horse, soon gained the safe bank.
The good works of the Sisters do not stop with their exertions for the sick and miserable. They have also their schools for orphans and foundlings. Here the tender human plant, perhaps deserted by a heartless mother, often gains more than it has lost. It is only to infants in these extraordinary circumstances that they are called upon to give shelter, for the children of the poor in general are provided for in public establishments. When we last visited the convent in Prague, we found about thirty girls entertained as inmates. As soon as they are capable of learning, they are instructed in every branch of domestic economy; and as they grow up, and their several talents develop themselves, they are educated accordingly: some for instructresses, either in music or any general branch of education; others, as seamstresses, ladies-maids, cooks, laundry-maids, house-maids. In short, every branch of useful domestic science is taught.
When the girls attain sufficient age and experience to occupy the several situations for which they have been instructed—that is, from seventeen to eighteen, the superior of the convent procures them a place in the family of some of her friends or acquaintance, and always, so far as lies in her power, with a mistress as much as possible suited to the intelligence and instruction of her protegee. The day of separation, however, is always painful. It is, in fact, the parting of a mother and her child. We have seen the orphan cling to her adopted mother, and as she knelt to receive her blessing, bathe her hands in tears of gratitude and affection; while the reverend superior would clasp her to her bosom, and recommend to her adopted child the blessed principles which she had inculcated from her infancy. Nor do they leave the home of their childhood empty. Each girl on quitting the convent is provided with a little trousseau or outfit for her first appearance in the world: this consists of two complete suits of clothes—an ordinary and a better one, four petticoats, four chemises, six pair of stockings, the same number of gloves, and two pair of shoes. We have seen many of these orphans and foundlings in after-life; some of them occupying the most respectable situations, as the wives of opulent citizens, and others filling places of the most important trust in some of the highest families of the empire; we have also had several in our own service, and have always had reason to congratulate ourselves on our good-fortune in engaging them.
One of the first principles of education in the orphan schools of the Sisters of Charity is economy: while they spare nothing in the cause of humanity, so far as their means will go, the strictest frugality reigns throughout, and is always inculcated as the foundation of the means of doing good. Consequently, all of whom we have had any experience, who were educated in these charitable institutions, never failed, however humble their situation, to make some little savings: one whom we have at this moment in our eye, and who not many years since served us in the capacity of cook, and fulfilled her charge with great fidelity and zeal, has, by her extraordinary industry and economy, collected in the savings' bank in Prague no less than 700 florins, or L.70 sterling. And yet with all this economy she was so charitable and liberal in giving of her own to the poor, that we have often had to caution her against extravagance in that respect. By this spirit of economy, we have also known several of the orphans and foundlings arrive at a degree of independence which enables them in their turn to assist the deserted generation of to-day, and to do for them as they themselves had been done by. Many also have been the means of rescuing others from crime and starvation by conducting them to that blessed institution, to which, under Heaven, they owe all their prosperity and happiness in life.
Of these charitable communities there are many orders, which differ from the above chiefly in name, and in the Sisters never quitting their sanctuary or the precincts of their gardens. The Sisters of Charity, properly so called, not being vowed to seclusion, are more generally known to the world, who see them, and therefore believe that they exist for charitable purposes, while of those of whom they see nothing they know nothing; and should the casual observer meet in the street on a festival, or day of examination, a column of from 300 to 800 children, from six to ten or twelve years of age, neatly clothed, and whose happy countenances and beautiful behaviour bespeak the care with which their early education has been conducted—it never once occurs to him that these are the children of the poor, the children of the free schools of the 'Sisters' of the Ursaline Convent, or of the Congregation of Notre Dame, or of some other religious establishment of the kind. But perhaps we shall have an opportunity hereafter of introducing these invisible Sisters of Charity to the notice of our readers.
Suffice it now to say, that the 'Sisters of Mercy,' the 'Ursalines,' the 'Congregations of Notre Dame,' the 'English Ladies,' and many others, are all in practice Sisters of Charity.
It is not uncommon to hear their condition deplored, as one from which all earthly enjoyments are excluded, or as a kind of death in life. But personal observation has given us different ideas on this subject. Within those lofty, and sometimes sullen-looking walls which enclose the convents of the sisterhoods we speak of, we have spent some of the most agreeable hours of our life, conversing with refined and enlightened women on the works of beneficence in which they were engaged; everything bearing an aspect of that cheerfulness and animation which only can be expected in places where worthy duties are well performed.
ADVENTURES OF AN ARMY PHYSICIAN.
Robert Jackson, the son of a small landed proprietor of limited income but respectable character in Lanarkshire, was born in 1750, at Stonebyres, in that county. He received his education first at the barony school of Wandon, and afterwards under the care of Mr Wilson, a teacher of considerable local celebrity at Crawford, one of the wildest spots in the Southern Highlands. He was subsequently apprenticed to Mr William Baillie, of Biggar; and in 1766 proceeded, for the completion of his professional training, to the university of Edinburgh, at that time illustrated and adorned by the genius and learning of such men as the Monros, the Cullens, and the Blacks.
In pursuing his studies at this favoured abode of science and literature, young Jackson is said to have evinced all that purity of morals and singleness of heart which characterised him in after-life, and to have resisted the allurements of dissipation by which, in those days especially, the youthful student was tempted to wander from the paths of virtuous industry. His circumstances were, however, distressingly narrow; and not only was he forced to forego the means of professional improvement open only to the more opulent student; but in order to meet the expenses of the winter-sessions, he was obliged to employ the summer, not in the study but in the practice of his profession. He engaged himself as medical officer to a Greenland whaler, and in two successive summers visited, in that capacity, 'the thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice;' returning on each occasion with a recruited purse and a frame strengthened and invigorated by exposure and exercise. During these expeditions he occupied his leisure with the study of the Greek and Roman languages, and the careful and repeated perusal of the best authors in both.
His third winter-sessions at Edinburgh having passed away, he was induced to go out and seek his fortune in Jamaica, and accordingly proceeded thither in a vessel commanded by one Captain Cunningham, who had previously been employed as master of a transport at the siege of Havannah. It is far from improbable that it was from his conversations with this individual that Jackson derived those hints, of which at a future time he availed himself, respecting the transmission of troops by sea without injury to their health; but it is quite certain his conviction of the enormous value of cold-water affusions as a curative agent in the last stage of febrile affections, was imbibed from this source.
Arriving in Jamaica, he in 1774 became assistant to an eminent general practitioner at Savana-la-Mar, Dr King, who was also in medical charge of a detachment of the first battalion of the 60th regiment. This latter he consigned to Jackson's care; and well worthy of the trust did our young adventurer, though but twenty-four years of age, approve himself—visiting three or four times a day the quarters of the troops to detect incipient disease, and studying with ardour and intelligent attention the varied phenomena of tropical maladies. Four years thus passed profitably away, and they would have been as pleasant as profitable, but for one circumstance. The existence of slavery and its concomitant horrors appears to have made a deep impression on Jackson's mind, and, at last, to have produced in him such sentiments of disgust and abhorrence, that he resolved on quitting the island altogether, and, as the phrase is, trying his luck in North America, where the revolutionary war was then raging. This resolution—due perhaps, as much to his love of travel as to the motive assigned—was not altogether unfortunate, for shortly after his departure, October 3, 1780, Savana-la-Mar was totally destroyed, and the surrounding country for a considerable distance desolated, by a terrible hurricane and sweeping inroad of the sea, in which Dr King, his family and partner, together with numbers of others, unhappily perished.
The law of Jamaica forbade any one to leave the island without having given previous notice of his intention, or having obtained the bond of some respectable person as security for such debts as he might have outstanding. Jackson, when he embarked for America, had no debts whatever, and was, moreover, ignorant of the law, with whose requirements therefore he did not comply. Nor did he become aware of his mistake until, when off the easternmost point of the island, the master of the vessel approached him and said: 'We are now, sir, off Point-Morant; you will therefore have the goodness to favour me with your security-bond. It is a mere legal form, but we are obliged to respect it.' Finding this 'legal form' had not been complied with, the master then, in spite of Jackson's protestations and entreaties, set him on shore, and the vessel continued on her voyage. What was to be done? Almost penniless, landed on a part of the coast where he knew not a soul, Jackson well-nigh gave himself up to despair. There was a vessel for New York loading, it was true, at Lucea; but Lucea was 150 miles distant, on the westernmost side of the island, and not to be reached by sea, whilst our adventurer's purse would not suffer him to hire a horse. No choice was left him but to walk, and that in a country where the exigencies of the climate make pedestrianism perilous in the extreme to the white man. Having reached Kingston, which was in the neighbourhood, in a boat, and obtained the necessary certificate, he started on his dangerous expedition, and on the first day walked eighteen miles, being sheltered at night in the house of a benevolent planter. The next day he pushed on for Rio Bueno, which he had almost reached, when, overcome by thirst, he stopped by the way to refresh himself, and imprudently standing in an open piazza exposed to a smart easterly breeze, whilst his lemonade was preparing, contracted a severe chill that almost took from him the power of motion, and left him to crawl along the road slowly and with pain, until he reached his destination.
Having finally arrived, friendless and moneyless, in New York, then in the occupation of the British, he endeavoured first to obtain a commission in the New York volunteers, and afterwards employment as mate in the Naval Hospital. In his endeavours, he was kindly assisted by a Jamaica gentleman, a fellow-passenger, whose regard during the voyage he had succeeded in conciliating by his amiable manners and evident abilities; but his efforts were all in vain, and poor Jackson, familiar with poverty from childhood, began now to experience the misery of destitution. In truth, starvation stared him in the face, and a sense of delicacy withheld him from seeking from his Jamaica friend the most trifling pecuniary assistance. In this, his state of desperation, he determined upon passing the British lines, and endeavouring to obtain amongst the insurgents the food he had hitherto sought in vain; resolving, however, under no circumstances to bear arms against his native country. Whilst moodily and slowly walking towards the British outposts to carry into execution this scheme, having in one pocket a shirt, and in another a Greek Testament and a Homer, he was met half-way by a British officer, who fixed his eyes steadily on him in passing. Jackson in his agitation thought he read in the glance a knowledge of his purpose and a disapprobation of it. Struck by the incident, he turned back, and, after a moment's reflection, resolved on offering himself as a volunteer in the first battalion of the 71st regiment (Sutherland Highlanders), then in cantonment near New York. Arriving at the place, he presented himself to the notice of Lieutenant-Colonel (afterwards Sir Archibald) Campbell, who, having first ascertained that he was a Scotsman, inquired to whom he was known at New York. Jackson replied, to no one; but that a fellow-passenger from Jamaica would readily testify to his being a gentleman. 'I require no testimony to your being a gentleman,' returned the kind-hearted colonel. 'Your countenance and address satisfy me on that head. I will receive you into the regiment with pleasure; but then I have to inform you, Mr Jackson, that there are seventeen on the list before you, who are of course entitled to prior promotion.' The next day, at the instance of Colonel Campbell, the regimental-surgeon, Dr Stuart, appointed Jackson acting hospital or surgeon's mate—a rank now happily abolished in the British army; for those who filled it, whatever might be their competency or skill, were accounted and treated no better than drudges. Although discharging the duties that now devolve on the assistant-surgeon, they were not, like him, commissioned, but only warrant-officers, and therefore had no title to half-pay.
Dr Stuart, who appears to have been a man superior to vulgar prejudice, and to have appreciated at once the extent of Jackson's acquirements and the vigour of his intellect, relinquished to him, almost without control, the charge of the regimental hospital. Here it was that this able young officer began to put in practice that amended system of army medical treatment which since his time, but in conformity with his teachings, has been so successfully carried out as to reduce the mortality amongst our soldiery from what it formerly was—something like 15 per cent.—to what it is now, about 2-1/2 per cent.
In the army hospitals, at the period Jackson commenced a career that was to eventuate so gloriously, there was no regulated system of diet, no classification of the sick. What are now well known as 'medical comforts,' were things unheard of; the sick soldier, like the healthy soldier, had his ration of salt-beef or pork, and his allowance of rum. The hospital furnished him with no bedding; he must bring his own blanket. Any place would do for an hospital. That in which Jackson began his labours had originally been a commissary's store; but happily its roof was water-tight—an unusual occurrence—and its site being in close proximity to a wood, our active surgeon's mate managed, by the aid of a common fatigue party, to surround the walls with wicker-work platforms, which served the patients as tolerably comfortable couches. A further and still more important change he effected related to the article of diet. He suggested, and the suggestion was adopted—honour to the courageous humanity which did not shrink from so righteous an innovation!—that instead of his salt ration and spirits, which he could not consume, the sick soldier should be supplied with fresh meat, broth, &c.; and that, as the quantity required for the invalid would be necessarily small, the quarter-master should allow the saving on the commuted ration to be expended in the common market on other comforts, such as sago, &c. suitable for the patient. Thus proper hospital diet was furnished, without entailing any additional expense on the state.
Indefatigable in the discharge of his interesting duties, Mr Jackson speedily obtained the confidence of his military superiors, who remarked with admiration not only his intelligent zeal in performing his hospital functions, but his calmness, quickness of perception, and generous self-devotion when in the field of battle. On one occasion, although suffering at the time from severe indisposition, he remained, under a heavy fire, succouring the wounded, in spite of the remonstrances of the officers present. On another, having observed the British commander, Colonel (afterwards General) Tarleton, in danger of falling into the hands of the enemy, who had routed the royalist troops, he galloped up to the colonel—whom a musket-ball had just dismounted—pressed him to mount his own horse and escape, whilst he himself, with a white handkerchief displayed, quietly proceeded in the direction of the advancing foe, and surrendered himself at once. The American commander, who did not know what to make of such conduct, asked him who he was? He replied: 'I am assistant-surgeon in the 71st regiment. Many of the men are wounded, and in your hands. I come, therefore, to offer my services in attending them.' He was accordingly sent to the rear as a prisoner; but was well treated, and spent the first night of his captivity in dressing his soldiers' wounds, taking off his shirt, and tearing it up into bandages for the purpose. He afterwards did the same good office for the American sufferers; and when the wounded English could be exchanged, Washington sent him back, not only without exchange, but even without requiring his parole. At a subsequent period during the same unhappy war, when the British under Lord Cornwallis were in full retreat, the sick and wounded were placed in a building which the colonists, on their approach, began to riddle with shot. Several surgeons, not caring to incur the risk of entering so exposed an edifice, agreed to cast lots who should go in and see to the invalids; but Jackson, with characteristic nerve and simplicity, at once stepped forward: 'No, no,' said he, 'I will go and attend to the men!' He did so, and returned unhurt.
After this we find him a prisoner in the hands of the Americans and French at New York Town, Virginia. As on the former occasion, he was treated with all imaginable kindness; and, being released on parole, returned to Europe early in 1782, and proceeded by way of Cork, Dublin, and Greenock to Edinburgh, where he abode for a short time. Thence he started for London; and, desirous of testing the best way of sustaining physical strength during long marches, and urged perhaps also by economical considerations, he resolved to make the journey on foot. His West Indian and American experience had taught him that spare diet consisted best with pedestrian efficiency, and it was accordingly his practice, during this long walk, to abstain from animal food until the close of day, nor often then to partake of it. He would walk some fourteen miles before breakfast—a meal of tea and bread; rest then for an hour or an hour and a half; then pace on until bedtime—a salad, a tart, or sometimes tea and bread, forming his usual evening fare. He found that on this diet he arose every morning at dawn with alacrity, and could prosecute without inconvenience his laborious undertaking. By way of experiment he twice or thrice varied his plan—dining on the road off beefsteaks, and having a draught of porter in the course of the afternoon; but the result justified his anticipations. The stimulus of the beer soon passing off, lassitude succeeded the temporary strength it had lent him; and, worse than all, his disposition to early rising sensibly diminished.
His stay in London, which he reached in this primitive fashion, was not long. His kind friend Dr Stuart, who had exchanged into the Royal Horse-Guards, gave him the shelter of his roof; but so poor was Mr Jackson, that, although ardently desirous of improving himself in his profession, he was unable to attend any one of the medical schools with which London abounds.
The peace of 1783 having opened the continent to the curiosity of the British traveller, Jackson curtly announced to his friends, that 'he was going to take a walk.' His poverty allowed him no other mode of locomotion; so off he set on the grand tour, carrying with him a map of France, a bundle of clothes, and a scanty supply of money. Crossing the channel, he reached Calais, a place which Horace Walpole, writing from Rome, declared had astonished him more than anything he had elsewhere seen, but in which our adventurer found nothing more astonishing than a superb Swiss regiment. He proceeded to Paris, and thence through Switzerland, by Geneva and Berne, into Germany, at a town of which—Guenz in Suabia—he met with a comical enough adventure.
On entering the town he was challenged by a soldier, who, having learned he had no passport, carried him before a magistrate, by whom he was forthwith condemned as a vagabond, and remitted to the custody of a recruiting sergeant. This worthy, in turn, introduced him to the commanding officer, who politely gave our traveller the choice of serving his Imperial and Apostolic Majesty, the Emperor of Germany, either in his cavalry or his infantry forces. But Jackson, strangely insensible to the honour, flatly refused to serve his Majesty in these or any other ways, and desired to be at once set free, and suffered to continue his journey. The officer, doubtless amazed at such presumption, desired the sergeant to convey him to the barracks, where he was placed in a large room, in which were congregated some two hundred or so involuntary recruits like himself—harmless travellers, who, being destitute of passports, the emperor forcibly enlisted into his service. Jackson found his co-mates in misfortune very dirty, very ragged, but perfectly civil and good-tempered. Having a little recovered his serenity—for it is easy to see, though our hero is described as a man of placid demeanour and somewhat Quakerly appearance, he could be not a little fiery at times—he sat down and wrote to the commanding officer, entreating leave to sleep at an inn, and proffering the deposit of all his money as a pledge for his reappearance next morning. The reply was an order that he should surrender his writing materials. At seven o'clock, the appointed sleeping hour, the sergeant returned and gave the signal for bed by rapping with his cane on the floor, which was speedily covered by a number of dirty bags of mouldy straw—the regulation mattresses, it would seem, for involuntary recruits. Jackson—peppery again—refused to lie down, but was at last compelled to do so, and between two of the dirtiest fellows of the lot, each of whom had a leg chained to an arm. The next morning, at his own request, he was brought before the commandant of the town, who had only arrived late the preceding evening, and whom he found seated in his bedroom, 'with all his officers standing round him receiving orders,' says Jackson, 'with more humility than orderly-sergeants.' The commandant repeated the offer of 'cavalry or infantry;' adding that a war was about to commence with the Turks, and that good-behaviour would insure promotion. However, finding Jackson obstinately persistent in his refusal, he quietly observed, in conclusion, that the emperor, as a matter of rule and of right, 'impressed' into his army all such as entered his dominions without certificates of character. 'The order was so tyrannical,' declares our detenu, 'that I could not contain myself. "Put me in chains, if you please," I said, "but I tell you, all Germany shall not make me carry a musket for the emperor."' This impetuous burst of indignation seems to have alarmed the phlegmatic commandant, who accordingly let our adventurer go, counselling him, however, to write to the English ambassador at Vienna for a passport, lest he should get into further trouble.
Jackson passed through the Tyrol into Italy, everywhere indulging his love of scenery and still greater love of adventure; studying with all the acuteness of his countrymen the varied characters of the people he met with, and in his correspondence with home friends, sketching them in language striking for its force, its propriety, and originality. Some of his remarks on men and manners are conceived in a truly Goldsmithian vein, whilst all testify at once to the goodness of his heart and the quickness of his perceptions. At Venice he says that he felt it to be 'such a feast of enjoyment as seldom falls to the lot of man, and never to the lot of any but a poor man, who has nothing conspicuous about him to attract the notice of the crowd,' to possess such facilities as he did for learning what the people of foreign countries really were.
At Albenga, in Piedmont, Jackson arrived one night, tired, hungry, and drenched with rain. Intending to put up at the 'Albergo di San Dominico,' which he had been informed was the best inn, he went by accident to the convent of the same name, and entering, called loudly to be shewn to a private room. 'Instead of telling me I was wrong,' he says, 'the young brethren looked waggish, and began to laugh: when a man is cold and hungry, he can ill brook being the sport of others;' so accordingly—peppery again—he shook his stick angrily at the young monks. And at last one of the most courteous and demure of the number, coming forward, said that although theirs was not exactly a public-house, still the stranger was heartily welcome to walk in, rest, and refresh himself. Discovering his mistake, Jackson of course lost no time in making his bow, his apologies, and acknowledgments.
He returned to England by way of France, having but six sous in his pockets when he reached Bordeaux, where an English merchant, a total stranger, advanced him a few pounds. On the road, he was frequently taken for an Irishman, and not seldom for an Irish priest; under which impression, many civilities were paid him by the simple inhabitants of the country he traversed. Ultimately he landed at Southampton, with just four shillings in his possession; his once black coat having turned a rusty brown, his hat shovel-shaped by ill-usage, and his whole aspect so comical, that the mob hooted him, under the belief that he was a Methodist preacher. Proceeding inland on foot, in the direction of Southampton, he overtook a poor man walking along the road whose looks of unutterable misery induced our traveller to stop and inquire what ailed him. He told Jackson he had a son and daughter dying of a disorder apparently contagious, and that no physician would attend them, as he was too poor to pay the fees. Jackson at once offered his services, which were gratefully accepted. He saw his patients, and prescribed for them, and his heart was touched by their simple expressions of gratitude. 'Their thankfulness,' he says, 'for a thing that would perhaps do them no good, gave me more pleasure than a fee of, I believe, twenty guineas, much in need of it as I was.' The night had gathered in before he reached Winchester, where, at a respectable inn, he partook of such refreshment as his means afforded, and then desired to be shewn to his bedroom. The answer was, that the house contained no bedroom for such as he, and he was finally driven out with the coarsest abuse into the streets. The hour was ten o'clock, the month December, and the severity of the weather may be guessed from the fact, that the snow lay deep on the ground. After wandering about for some time, he at last obtained shelter in a small house in the outskirts of the city. The next day he fared little better. 'On Sunday morning,' he relates, 'I was sixty-four miles from London, and had only one shilling in my pocket. I was hungry, but durst not eat; thirsty, and I durst not drink, for fear of being obliged to lie all night at the side of a hedge in a cold night in December. After dark, I travelled over to Bagshot; was denied admittance into some of the public-houses, ill used in others.' He sought in vain permission even to lie in a barn; but a labourer he fortunately fell in with conducted him to a house, where, at the sacrifice of his last shilling, he secured at length a bed. The next day—foot-sore, penniless, and starving—he entered London. After remaining there a brief space—January 1784—in spite of the inclement season, he set off, again on foot, to Perth—a journey that occupied him three weeks, as he was detained on the way by some friends whom he visited. At Perth, where his old regiment then lay previous to its disbandment, he amused himself by studying Gaelic, and the controversy respecting Ossian and his poems. Quitting Perth, he travelled, still on foot, through the Highlands, the inhabitants of which he was, in the first instance, disposed to class with savages; but when he had observed the originality of conception, the breadth of humour, and the elevated sentiments which mark the Celt, his opinions underwent a total revolution. He was especially delighted with a ragged old reiver or cattle-lifter whom he encountered, and who had given shelter to the Young Chevalier in the braes of Glenmoriston after the battle of Culloden.
On his return to Edinburgh, Jackson married a lady of fortune, the daughter of Dr Stephenson, and niece of his old friend Colonel Francis Shelley, of the 71st regiment; and was enabled by this accession to his means once again to visit Paris, where he not only resumed his medical studies, but acquired the mastery of several languages, Arabic amongst the rest. Having graduated M.D. at Leyden, he came back again to England, and commenced practice at Stockton-upon-Tees, in Durham. Although his reputation speedily became considerable, especially in cases of fever, he seems scarcely to have liked his new avocation. He found solace, however, in his favourite study of languages, which he pursued with unremitting ardour—constantly reading through the Greek and Latin classics, and not only rendering himself familiar with the best works of the modern continental authors, but also with the literature of the Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, and Gaelic tongues. The Bostan of Saadi is said to have been one of his most favourite poems.
On the war breaking out in 1793, Dr Jackson—who, in 1791, had published a valuable work on the fevers of Jamaica and continental America—applied for employment as army-physician; but Mr Hunter, the director-general of the medical department of the army, considering none eligible for such employment who had not served as staffer regimental surgeon, or apothecary to the forces, Jackson agreed to accept, in the first instance, the surgeoncy of the 3d Buffs, on the understanding, that at a future time, he should be nominated physician as he desired. Mr Hunter, however, died soon after this; and his promise was not fulfilled by the Board which succeeded him in the medical direction of the army, and which appears to have pursued Dr Jackson with uniform hostility.
Returning to England with the troops, it was offered to him to accompany, in the capacity of chief medical officer, Sir Ralph Abercromby's expedition against some of the West India islands; and although no employment could possibly have been more agreeable to his taste, he, much to Sir Ralph's chagrin, declined the flattering proposal, on the grounds, that lower terms had been offered to him than to another professional man. Nothing but a sense of professional delicacy, it is plain, governed him in this transaction, for he immediately afterwards embarked (April 1796) as second medical officer in another expedition to San Domingo. During his abode in this island, he was unwearied in enlarging his acquaintance with tropical diseases—observing the rule he had followed in Holland of noting down by the patient's bedside the minutest particulars of every case he attended, the effects of the treatment pursued, and whatever else might shed light on the intricacies of pathological science. He also gave a larger practical operation to the scheme he had years before devised of amending the dietaries of military hospitals.
After the evacuation of San Domingo in 1798, our physician paid a visit to the United States, where he was received with signal distinction, his reputation having preceded him. The latter part of the year found him again at Stockton, publishing a work on contagious and endemic fevers, 'more especially the contagious fever of ships, jails, and hospitals, vulgarly called the yellow-fever of the West Indies;' together with 'an explanation of military discipline and economy, with a scheme for the medical arrangements of armies.' He undertook, about this time, by desire of Count Woronzow, the Russian ambassador, the medical charge of seventeen hundred Russian soldiers, who were stationed in the Channel Islands in a sad state of disease and disorganization; and so admirably did he acquit himself, and so perfect were the hospital provisions he made, that (1800) the commander-in-chief nominated him physician and head of the army-hospital depot at Chatham—as he says, 'without any application or knowledge on his part.' This appointment was the cause of his subsequent misfortunes.
At Chatham, with the warm approbation of Major-General Hewett, commanding the depot, he introduced that system of hospital reform which had elsewhere operated so successfully. The changes he effected, as soon as they were made, became known to the Medical Board, and were publicly approved of by one of its members. However, shortly afterwards, an epidemic broke out in the depot (then removed to the Isle of Wight), arising from the fact, that the barracks were overcrowded with young recruits, but which the Medical Board ascribed to Jackson's innovations, and reported so to the Horse-Guards. The commander-in-chief directed an inquiry to take place before a medical board impannelled for the purpose, and the result of that inquiry may be guessed from a communication made by the War-Office to the commandant of the depot. This states 'the unanimous opinion of the Board to have exculpated Dr Jackson from all improper treatment of diseases in the sick,' and the commander-in-chief's gratification, 'that an opportunity has thus been given to that most zealous officer of proving his fitness for the important situation in which he is placed.' The result of this wretched intrigue, however, was that Jackson, disgusted with the whole affair, requested to be placed on half-pay, to which request the Duke of York, with marked reluctance, at last (March 1803) acceded.
In his retirement at Stockton, Jackson put forth two valuable works, one on the medical economy of armies, and another on that of the British army in particular, and was much gratified by an offer to accompany, as military secretary, General Simcoe, just appointed commander-in-chief in India. The general's sudden death, however, put an end to this plan; and Jackson continued at Stockton, addressing frequent representations to government on the defective medical arrangements in the military service—representations the very receipt of which were not acknowledged by Mr Pitt, to whom they were forwarded. The Peninsular war commencing, Dr Jackson was again named Inspector of Hospitals, but was not, thanks to the persevering enmity of the Medical Board, sent on foreign service, although he volunteered to sink his rank, and go in any capacity. The Board even succeeded, by calumnious statements that he had purchased his diploma—statements he readily confuted—in preventing his appointment to the Spanish liberating army; although the British government had formally requested him to accept such an appointment, and agreed to give credentials testifying to his capacity and trustworthiness. This last disappointment led him, in an unguarded moment—peppery to the last—to inflict a slight personal chastisement on the surgeon-general, for which he was imprisoned six months in the King's Bench.
But the triumph of his enemies was not of long duration. In 1810 the Board was dissolved, and the control of the medical department vested in a director-general, with three principal inspectors subordinate to him. Then did Jackson return to active service, and from 1811 to 1815 was employed in the West Indies; his reports from whence embracing every topic relating to medical topography, to sanitary arrangements, and to the observed phenomena of tropical disease, are it is not too much to say, invaluable. His hints as to the choice of sites for barracks, the propriety of giving to soldiers healthy employment and recreation, as a means of averting sickness, his suggestions as to the treatment of fevers and other endemic diseases, may be found in the various works he has published, embodying the fruits of his West Indian experience.
In 1819, he was sent by government to Spain, where the yellow-fever had broken out, and his report upon its characteristics has been universally admitted to supply the fullest information on the subject that had hitherto been communicated to the public. He availed himself of his presence in that part of Europe to pay a visit to Constantinople and the Levant; and, retaining his energy to the last, when a British force was sent to Portugal in 1827, he desired permission to accompany it. The sands of his life, however, were then fast running out, and on the 6th of April in the same year he died, after a short illness, at Thursby, near Carlisle, in the 77th year of his age. Thus closed a long career of usefulness; for it is not too much to say, that few men of his time laboured harder to benefit his fellow-creatures than did Dr Robert Jackson.
* * * * *
[Footnote 2: The late Admiral Sir Edward Codrington, when in command, during the war, of a frigate on the coast of Calabria, finding sickness appear amongst his crew, purchased on his own responsibility some bullocks, for the purpose of supplying them with fresh meat. Lord Collingwood having heard of this, and considering it a breach of discipline, sent for Codrington, and addressed him: 'Captain Codrington, pray have you any idea of the price of a bullock in this place?' 'No, my lord,' was the reply, 'I have not; but I know well the value of a British sailor's life!']
THE MYSTERIOUS LADY.
It is thirty years since we first met the Mysterious Lady at a fashionable sea-side boarding-house, and on our introduction, we found that her brother, General Jerningham, was well known to some members of our family. For five-and-twenty years afterwards she haunted us at intervals; and so singularly and secretly conducted were all her movements, that had she lived in the days of the Inquisition, Miss Jerningham might have proved one of its most valuable agents and coadjutors. She was a thin, middle-aged personage, or, more correctly speaking, of uncertain age, and without anything remarkable in her exterior, which was decidedly lady-like, if we except a pair of the very smallest and most restless brown eyes that were ever set in mortal's head. These eyes expressed suspicion, together with intelligence and close observation. They were clear and sparkling, and shaded by no drooping fringes; and some folks declared that Miss Jerningham slept with her eyes open. On conversing with her, she appeared to have been everywhere and to know everything; but the moment any allusion was made to the future, any attempt to discuss her prospective plans, then did the little brown eyes assume a reddish tinge, their expression passing from suspicion and alarm to the most stubborn resolve. All this was somewhat ludicrous, because nobody really felt particular interest in her movements, or desired to pry into her actions; but on discovering what appeared to be the weak point in her character—because it was out of all proportion strong—idle people, in search of amusement, availed themselves of the knowledge to lead her a very uncomfortable life. Her most intimate friends never knew, for months together, where she was to be found; and it was currently reported that General Jerningham had once advertised in the Times for his sister. Certain it is, she always conned the newspapers with avidity, particularly the portion devoted to anonymous communications and the mystical interchange of sentiments; and we frequently suspected that her interest arose from a deeper source than mere curiosity. The simple query: 'Where do you think of passing this autumn, Miss Jerningham?' threw her into a state of strange excitement; and she always commenced her answer somewhat in the following strain: 'Letters of importance, daily looked for, will determine me—circumstances over which I have no control: it is possible that I may visit Cowes;' but a possibility declared in this way by Miss Jerningham was never known to come to pass. Wherever she chanced to be seen, former acquaintances popped upon her with uplifted hands, exclaiming: 'What! you here? Why, we thought you were at Ilfracombe'—or some other far-away place. 'How long have you been here?—how long do you stay?' were questions easily parried; but if a more searching investigation commenced, then the Mysterious Lady turned, and twisted, and doubled painfully; but somehow always managed to elude and baffle her persecutors.
Miss Jerningham's moral rectitude and unimpeachable propriety of conduct—unsullied by the breath of detraction—rendered her in a great measure impervious to downright ill-nature; but still she was open to teasing and bantering; and the more she was teased, and the more she was bantered, the more impenetrable she became. We endeavoured to find out from herself—but unsuccessfully—if she had always led such a roving kind of existence, and also how it originated; for General Jerningham had a nice villa near the metropolis, and a small, amiable, domestic circle, ready to receive and welcome the wanderer. But no: she came upon them unawares, and at periods when they least expected her, and disappeared again as suddenly, they knew not why nor whither. In this way she vanished from the boarding-house where we first met her, with no intimation of her intention even to our hostess, till her baggage was ready and the coach at the door.
'Where is Miss Jerningham?' was the unanimous cry when she did not appear in her usual place.
'She left us early this morning,' quietly replied the landlady.
'Gone—really gone?' was repeated in various tones of disappointment; and one old gentleman, who had paid the absent lady marked attention, demanded in a chagrined voice: 'Pray, where has she gone? Can you tell us that, ma'am?—heigh!'
'No, sir, I cannot,' replied our hostess. 'All I can say is, that Miss Jerningham is a very honourable and generous lady, and wherever she is, I wish her well.'
'Humph!' said the old gentleman gruffly; 'she must have a good fortune to do as she does.'
'Yes, sir, she must,' was the reply: 'and go where she will, I believe that Miss Jerningham always gives plentiful alms. It seems her settled habit, like.'
'Settled habit!' muttered the old gentleman: 'she hasn't got a settled habit, ma'am: she is a most unsettled and extraordinary individual.'
'Well, sir, perhaps so,' replied Mrs Smith; 'but Miss Jerningham is quite the lady.' And in that opinion we all coincided, supposing our hostess by the word lady to have meant gentlewoman.
A few months afterwards she called upon us in London. She was not staying with her brother, but declined giving her address, remarking that it was not worth while, as she was about to change her abode immediately. By accident, however, we discovered afterwards that Miss Jerningham had lodged for the whole period within a dozen doors of us. Our surprise was lessened in after-years at the pertinacity with which she continued to appear to us, although always at uncertain intervals; for a service rendered by our father, referring to some banking transaction, apparently never escaped her memory, and she invariably alluded to this act of kindness with expressions of gratitude. This circumstance operated, we conjectured, as an encouragement to bestow on us an unusual mark of confidence and friendship, for such Miss Jerningham considered it when requesting permission to add our address to an advertisement she was about inserting in the Times for 'eligible board and lodging.' She knew that newspapers were prohibited articles in our circle, consequently we had no opportunity of finding out that portion of the transaction she wished to conceal. In what locality this 'eligible board and lodging' was advertised for, we never inquired, judging it would be needless to do so, but we consented to receive the letters Miss Jerningham expected in answer.
Poor Miss Jerningham! great was her amazement as well as our own when, in the course of three days, we had amassed for her consideration and perusal no less than seventy-seven letters directed to 'X.Y.Z.' What temptations were held forth in the advertisement which elicited so many replies we never were made acquainted with: Miss Jerningham counted the letters, tied them up, and carried them off in triumph. Next day we received a handsome present of some chimney-ornaments, with 'Miss Jerningham's regards and best thanks;' but we saw no more of the Mysterious Lady for some years. When we did meet again in a quiet country town, she had been to America, and we had experienced vicissitude and bereavement. Our altered mode of living made no difference to Miss Jerningham: she accompanied us home, for we met in the market-place; but as it is not so easy to keep one's place of abode secret in a small gossipping community, for once in her life she made a virtue of necessity, and openly divulged the fact of her locale, number and all specified. She did not know a creature in the town or in the suburbs—she came there for solitude. Conjecture was afloat in all quarters as to who or what she could be. Some said she must be a gentlewoman, because she wore velvet and satin, and gold chains—moreover, paid well for everything. Others affirmed she might be a gentlewoman—gentlewomen did queer things sometimes—but there must be some very strange reason for a lone and unknown female to drop from the skies, as it were, in the midst of strangers. For our own part, our mind was easier on her account, now that she had broken through her rule of secrecy; and we even hoped that when we saw her again, she might go a step farther, and throw off the veil entirely.
On calling at her lodgings, however, the next day, we learned that the lodger had decamped, after placing in the landlady's hand the solatium of another week's rent, as specified in the agreement—a week's notice or a week's money. Thus, for the space of five-and-twenty years, every now and then, did the Mysterious Lady turn up. Whenever we left home on a visit, we were sure, on our return, to find a card on the table, inscribed with the mystical characters—'Miss Jerningham.' No message left, no address given. The last time we ever saw her was in Hyde Park, walking arm-in-arm with her brother the general; and soon after we heard from the worthy veteran, that 'Bessie had gone on her travels again.'
If Miss Jerningham has really ceased to exist, her end was as mysterious and uncertain as the movements of her life. We say if, because we feel by no means sure on the subject, and should neither faint nor scream if she were to enter the apartment at this moment. It is about five years since General Jerningham set hurriedly off, in considerable dismay, for the scene of a direful conflagration in a northern county, wherein several unfortunate individuals had perished. The fire originated at a hotel, and the General had reasons for fearing that his sister might be among the number of the sufferers, for she was known to have followed that route. A notification likewise had appeared in the public prints, respecting an unknown lady, whose remains awaited the coroner's inquest, but afforded no clue whatever to recognition.
General Jerningham, however, came to the conclusion that he indeed beheld the mortal remains of his poor sister, although the only evidence he could obtain was the description given of her appearance by those who had seen her in life. He may have been influenced, likewise, by the fact, that the unfortunate lady had arrived at the hotel only on the previous day, and that no one knew who she was, whence she had come, or whither she was going. After making every possible inquiry, but without obtaining more satisfactory information, the General and his family put on mourning. The shock he had sustained produced bad effects on an already enfeebled constitution, and accelerated the veteran's decease. During his last days, he frequently alluded to 'poor Bessie' in affectionate terms; and we then gathered at least one fact relating to her past history. Her lover, it seems, had been suddenly carried off by malignant fever on the eve of their wedding-day, bequeathing to Bessie all his property; and Bessie, who had never known serious sorrow before, gave no sign, by sigh or lamentation, that she bemoaned the untimely fate of her betrothed, but withdrew herself from friends and connections, and became the restless, homeless, harmless being at whose peculiarities we had so often laughed, little thinking that tears of secret anguish had probably bedewed the pathway of her early wanderings. This very concealment of her grief, however, may have arisen from the peculiar idiosyncrasy which procured for her among all who knew her the name of the Mysterious Lady. But we will not talk of her in the past tense. We are so sure of her being alive, that we are even now anxious to conclude our visit to the pleasant house where this is indited, feeling a presentiment we cannot overcome, that the first interesting object we shall see on returning home is that mystical card which has so often startled and baffled our curiosity—'Miss. Jerningham.'
CASH, CORN, AND COAL MARKETS.
A circle of a few hundred yards only in diameter, of which the centre should be the Duke of Wellington's statue in front of the Royal Exchange, London, would enclose within its magic girdle a far greater amount of real, absolute power, than was ever wielded by the most magnificent conqueror of ancient or modern times. There can be no doubt of this; for is it not the mighty heart of the all but omnipotent money force of the world, whose aid withheld, invincible armies become suddenly paralysed, and the most gallant fleets that ever floated can neither brave the battle nor the breeze? And this stupendous power, say moralists, has neither a god, a country, nor a conscience! To-day, upon security, it will furnish arms and means to men struggling to rescue their country from oppression, themselves from servitude and chains—to-morrow, upon the assurance of a good dividend, it will pay the wages of the soldiery who have successfully desolated that country, and exterminated or enslaved its defenders. Trite, if sad commonplaces these, to which the world listens, if at all, with impatient indifference. I have not a very strong faith in the soundness of the commercial evangel upon this subject; still, the very last task I should set myself would be a sermon denunciative of mammon-worship—mammon-love—mammon-influence—and so on; and this for two quite sufficient reasons—one, that I have myself, I blushingly confess, a very strong partiality for notes of the governor and company of the Bank of England and sovereigns of full weight and fineness; the other, that the very best and fiercest discourse I ever heard fulminated against the debasing love of gold, especially characteristic, it is said, of these degenerate days, was delivered by a gentleman who, having lived some seventy useful and eloquent years at the rate of about three hundred a year or thereabout, was found to have died worth upwards of L.60,000, all secured by mortgages bearing 7 per cent interest on the Brazilian slave-estates of a relative by marriage. But as an illustration of power—and power under any form of development has a singular fascination for most minds—I have thought it may not be uninteresting to glance briefly at a few of the more salient features of the metropolitan mammoth markets.
Standing, then, by the statue of the Iron Duke, we have the Royal Exchange directly in front, Princes Street and the Poultry immediately behind, Lombard Street and Cornhill on the right, Threadneedle Street and Lothbury on the left hand. What an Aladin glitter seems to dance upon the paper as the names of these remarkable localities are jotted down, containing as they do so large a number of world-famous banking and commercial establishments whose operations and influence are limited only by the boundaries of civilisation! Let us look closely at one or two of the chief potentates, principalities, and powers which are there enthroned.
The Royal Exchange, it is well known, owes its origin to the public spirit of Sir Thomas Gresham, who, close upon three centuries ago, built the first Exchange upon the spot now before us. It was destroyed by fire in 1666; the next more costly erection met the same fate in 1838, and has been replaced by the present very handsome edifice. On the entablature is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, who inaugurated Sir Richard Gresham's structure—the centre figure of a number of others emblematic of the all-embracing commerce of this country, and surmounted by the words: 'The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.' If you ascend the steps of the Royal Exchange, and pass into the body of the building, you will find a considerable number of business-looking, sleek, earnest men there, eagerly engaged in canvassing the general affairs of the world, and more especially their own particular ventures, hopes, anticipations, investments therein. If you are an artist, or indeed at all impressionable in matters of taste, you will, I fear, be painfully affected by a marble figure near the centre of the hall, which many persons assert to be a statue of the Queen of these realms—a calumny which I, as a loyal subject, feel bound most emphatically to deny. But the chief interest attached to this building is that it is here the celebrated association known as 'Lloyd's' has its offices—that Lloyd's, whose name is familiar as a household word in every country the sea touches, and who underwrite the maritime ventures of every commercial nation of the globe. Very marvellous has been the rapid development of this gigantic institution, from the small beginnings of a few persons meeting in a coffee-house, till now, when it may be said well-nigh to monopolise the maritime-assurance business of the world. Not even America has been able to set up a rival to it at all worthy of the name; and hundreds of the long-voyage vessels of the States, as well as of all European powers, are insured here. There is, to be sure, a continental association that has borrowed its name without leave, and dubbed itself the 'Austrian Lloyd's'—a designation which forcibly reminds one of the remark of Coleridge when told that Kotzebue assumed to be the German Shakspeare: 'Quite so,' replied the author of the Ancient Mariner, 'a very German Shakspeare indeed.' The correspondence of the true Lloyd's is of course immense—enormous: their agents are everywhere; and so admirably regulated does the vast machine appear to be that litigation between owners and underwriters is almost unknown. This is doubtless one of the causes of the prodigious success of the institution.
There is little more to notice in the Royal Exchange, except that the interior decorations are very tastefully executed; and therefore turn we now to this leviathan Bank of England—to the long, irregular, and by no means imposing line of building on our left. This is William Cobbett's Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, whose rickety constitution and failing powers—according to that bold and blundering financier—betokened almost immediate dissolution more than a quarter of a century ago. Other men, less dominated by unreasoning prejudice than the author of the 'Political Register,' deceived themselves into the same notion; and it is very possible that there are even now persons who hold the faith as it was in Cobbett—just as we are told in one of Mr Disraeli's novels, that the Greek mythology is still the creed of a fragment of humanity existing somewhere in the mountains of Syria. At all events, since the late Sir Robert Peel placed it beyond the power of the governor and company to indulge in dangerous or erratic courses, it is abundantly manifest that to doubt of the perfect stability of the Bank of England is tantamount to questioning the infallibility of arithmetic. In the vaults and coffers of this huge establishment there is at present—as we learn from the published weekly-returns, a device of Sir Robert's—the bewildering amount of between L.14,000,000 and L.15,000,000 sterling in gold and silver!—a sum of which the figures glide smoothly and glibly enough off the pen or tongue, but a mass of treasure, nevertheless, that few persons can realise to themselves a distinct and accurate conception of. And yet—and what an idea does the fact present of the multitudinous resources, the unrivalled industry, the latent power of this country!—all that heap of precious metals, all that is besides in circulation, with the addition of the bank-note currency, is comparatively nothing when weighed against the true and real exchangeable wealth of Great Britain; wealth of which this coined and convertible paper-money is merely the standard sign of value, the recognised medium by which all things are bartered. It is easy to give one or two significant and startling illustrations of this fact—significant and startling in other respects than in enabling us to see pretty clearly through the currency-cobwebs industriously woven from time to time amongst us. All the money in the three kingdoms, the whole circulating medium of the realm—gold, silver, copper, paper—does not certainly exceed, if it reaches, which is very doubtful, the national revenue for one year, to say nothing of local rates and burdens! And it would, moreover, require all the money circulating in Great Britain and Ireland, including notes to the last farthing, to pay for the spirits, beer, and tobacco consumed annually by the people of the United Kingdom! The note-issues of the Bank of England are about L.19,000,000; its reserve in gold and silver, as we have seen, is upwards of L.14,000,000 sterling: these amounts added together would no more than about discharge the alcohol and weed score of the country for little more than seven months! Lightning-flashes these, that throw vivid gleams over the industrial activity, resources, powers, plague-spots of this mighty, restless, enterprising, but far from sufficiently instructed or disciplined British people.
But let us enter the great money-temple. Very imposing to me has always appeared the army of clerks seated in saturnine silence at the desks, or gliding with grave celerity about the place, and variously employed in balancing enormous accounts, shovelling up heaps of sovereigns, receiving and distributing bank-paper of vast value as coolly and unconcernedly as if engaged in counting out so many chestnuts. A strange feeling must, I suspect, perturb the mind of a newly-appointed clerk amidst all that astounding wealth, until the genius of the place has so moulded his thoughts and perceptions, that he has come to regard himself as but one of the dumb and dead parts of a mighty machine, over whose action he has no more control than he has over the courses of the stars. All these issue, cheque, gold, bullion departments, with their numerous busy officials, are in truth but the husk and body of the establishment. They by whose will and breath it is animated and directed are nowhere at this hour to be seen. They met on this as on every other morning in their hall of inquisition—the Bank parlour—and decided there, without appeal, without reasons assigned, in the absence of the parties whose commercial reputation was trembling in the balance, upon the course of financial action to be pursued, and upon whose paper should or should not be discounted. A terrible stroke, sharper than a dagger could inflict, politely, blandly as it is performed, is that which falls upon a merchant for the first time informed that the Bank must decline to discount his bills! The announcement is usually received as smilingly as it is made. 'It is a matter of very slight consequence, etcetera;' but if you had been near enough, you might have noticed, as the clerk did, the quiver of the lip beneath that sickly smile, and that the face was as white as the rejected paper the merchant's trembling fingers were replacing in his pocket-book. And no wonder that he should be thus agitated, for the refusal has, he well knew, thrust him down the first steps of the steep and slippery descent, at the bottom of which lies bankruptcy—ruin! But these are ordinary downfalls, by the wrecks of which the busy haunts of commercial enterprise are paved; and we have other places to look in at. Before leaving the Bank, however, let us step a few paces to the left of the chief entrance. Now who would believe that in the very midst of this Mammon-temple, where space is of incalculable value, a large plot of greensward should have been jealously preserved, from which spring two fine elms, that from out the heat and turmoil of the place lift up their fresh leaves to the sky—bright, waving leaves, that as often as the sun kisses them, laugh out in sparkling triumph over the heated, anxious, jaded toilers and schemers below? Yet so it is.
Again in Threadneedle Street, and turning to the left, we reach, at the termination of the Bank-front, Bartholomew Lane, famous for nothing that I am aware of, save Capel Court, situate at about the centre, on the right-hand side. At the end of Capel Court is the Stock-Exchange, within whose sacred precincts subscribers only, and their clerks, may enter—a regulation strictly enforced by the liveried guardian at the door. But you can hear enough of the stentorian gabble going on within where we now are. Hark! 'A thousand pounds' consols at 96-3/4-96-1/2.' 'Take 'em at 96-1/4,' is the vociferous reply of a buyer. 'Mexican at 27-1/2-27; Portuguese fours at 32-7/8-32-1/2; Spanish fives at 21; Dutch two-and-halfs at 50-1/2-50-1/4:' and so roars on the distracting Babel till the hour for closing strikes. Much of this business is no doubt legitimate—the bona fide sale and purchase of stock by the brokers, for which they charge their clients the very moderate commission of 2s. 6d. per L.100. The ruinous gambling of the Stock-Exchange is another matter, and is chiefly carried on by 'time' bargains—a sham-business, managed in this way:—A nominally buys of B L.100,000 worth of stock in consols, to be delivered at a fixed price, say 96, on the next settling-day. It is plain that if the market-price of consols shall have fallen, by the day named, to 94, B wins L.2000—the difference between L.100,000 estimated at 96 and 94 per cent. A must pay these L.2000, or, which amounts to the same thing, receive from B consols to the amount of L.100,000 at 96, that in reality are procurable at 94. It is simply and entirely a gambling bet upon what the price of funds will be on the next settling-day. These transactions have been pronounced fraudulent by the superior courts, and liabilities so contracted cannot be legally recovered. It is, for all that, quite certain that these 'debts of honour' entail misery, ruin, often death, on the madmen who habitually peril everything upon the turn of the Stock-Exchange dice—dice loaded, too, by every fraudulent device that the ingenuity of the two parties engaged in the struggle can discover or invent. To the 'Bears,' who speculate for a fall, national calamity is a God-send. Especially a failure of the harvest, or a great military disaster like that which befell the Cabool expedition, is an almost priceless blessing—a cause of jubilant thanksgiving and joy. The 'Bulls,' on the other hand, whose gains depend upon a rise in the funds, are ever brimful of boasts, and paint all things couleur de rose. If the facts bear out the assertions of these bands of speculators—we prefer a mild term—why so much the better for the facts; but if not, sham-facts will answer the purpose, and to manufacture them 'is as easy as lying.' It is a remarkable fact, by the way, that out of the multitude of British fundholders there are not more than about 25,000 persons who are liable from that source to the income-tax—that is, who receive dividends to the amount of L.150 and upwards annually. The most numerous class of the national creditors eleven years ago—and there has, we believe, been no later return—were those whose annual dividends did not exceed L.50. These numbered 98,946: the next largest class, 85,069, were creditors whose yearly dividends did not exceed L.5; whilst only 192 persons were in the receipt of annual dividends exceeding L.2000.
But leaving these haunts of money-dealers, let us pass over to Leadenhall Street, turn down Billiter Street, and walk on till we reach Mark Lane and the plain, spacious, substantial, Doric-fronted building on the left hand, in which the great London Corn Market is held every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—the chief market, however, being that of Monday. There are no clamorous shoutings here. These crowds of staid, well-dressed, respectable people fly no kites, deal in no flimsy paper-schemes and shares. Their commerce is in corn, flour, seeds—the sustenance of man, in short. There are sober traders in realities, and the busy hum of voices has a smack of healthy traffic in it. It would so appear at all events, if we care not to look beneath the surface; and, in sooth, since the abolition of the sliding-scale has rendered the corn-supply continuous and regular as other staples, gambling to any ruinous extent has become almost impossible.
There is another great change apparent here; albeit this has been a very gradual one. A stranger will have remarked with surprise that there are but few, very few, of the knee-breeched, top-booted, double-chinned, jolly, old-class farmers amongst the numerous groups who are either watching their sample-bags and waiting for customers, or chewing and smelling handfuls of wheat and barley, and casting what they do not swallow on the flags, already carpeted with grain. Still in addition to a strong sprinkling of 'Friends,' there are, he perceives, a goodly number of stalwart, handsomely-dressed individuals, many of them wearing kid gloves, and carrying silk umbrellas neatly ensconced in oil-skin cases. There is a group, one of whom has just refused 45s. per quarter for a sample of prime white wheat. If we approach nearer to them, we shall perhaps discover their quality. As I guessed! These gentlemen are distressed agriculturists, who prefer selling their own corn to sending it to any of the numerous highly-respectable salesmen who occupy the offices round the two markets. There are scores here of these well-attired, healthy-faced, hearty-looking, stout-limbed, but distressed individuals present, with not one of whom I should have the slightest objection to dine to-day, or on any other day, for that matter. But we must beware of rash judgments. Appearances are often deceitful, and we know, besides, from high authority, that grief is apt to puff up and swell a man sadly at times.
There is no possibility, an eminent salesman informed us, of making even a proximate guess at the quantity of business done; neither, it appears, is there any reliance to be placed upon the amount of 'arrivals' as given, either in the newspapers, or in the private circulars issued weekly to the trade. Corn, in this market, is usually sold at a month's credit, with discount for cash. The buyer secures a sample of his purchase in a small canvas bag, and the seller is of course bound to deliver the quantity agreed for at the same weight and quality. There is one patent fact highly creditable to our British cultivators, which I gather from a trade-circular dated September 29, 1851, and this is, that foreign grains, wheats especially, do not command anything like such prices as the English varieties. The highest price of English white wheat is set down at 45s. per quarter; all foreign wheat is marked considerably lower: Russian is quoted at from 31s. to 33s.; whilst Egyptian and Turkish are marked from 24s. to 26s. per quarter; and fine American flour is quoted at a price considerably under 'English Households.' These are not signs of decrepit or faint-hearted farming.
Being so near, we may as well look in for a few moments at the New Coal Exchange opposite Billingsgate Market; a sightly, circular building, of rich interior decoration, that will well repay a visit. It is one of our newest 'lions,' and is certainly a very significant sign and monument of the enormous and swiftly-increasing commercial activity of the country. On the tesselated wooden floor—with the anchor in the centre, an emblem not long to be appropriate to such a place, as we shall presently see—thousands of tons of coal are disposed of with marvellous rapidity; the days of sale being the same as those of the Mark-Lane Market.