Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 439 - Volume 17, New Series, May 29, 1852
Author: Various
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No. 439. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, MAY 29, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2d.


A distinguished general-officer being appointed to a command in which he would be called on to discharge judicial as well as military duties, expressed to Lord Mansfield his apprehensions, that he would execute his office but ill in the former respect, and that his inexperience and ignorance of technical jurisprudence would prove a serious impediment to his efficient administration of justice. 'Make your mind perfectly easy,' said the great judge; 'trust to your native good sense in forming your opinions, but beware of attempting to state the grounds of your judgments. The judgment will probably be right—the argument infallibly wrong.'

This is a common case, especially with practical men, who rarely have either leisure or inclination to recall the workings of their own minds, or observe the intellectual process by which they have been conducted to any conclusion. By what they are prone to consider as a kind of instinct—if by chance they are philosophers, and delight in what old Wilson, the essayist, calls 'inkhorn terms,' they designate it 'intuition'—they arrive at a truth, but have no recollection whatever of the road they travelled to reach it, and are able neither to retrace their own steps nor indicate to another the way they came. The poet, in describing and contrasting the intellectual characteristics of the two sexes, attributes to the softer something of this instinct as a distinguishing mental peculiarity, and seems to consider it as somewhat analogous in its constitution to those animal senses by means of which the mind becomes cognisant of external objects, of their existence, their qualities, and their relations. In his view, the reasoning process is vitally and essentially distinct, as it is exercised by men and by women—

'Her rapid mind decides while his debates; She feels a truth which he but calculates.'

And certainly this is a very pretty, very poetical, and very convenient way of accounting for a phenomenon that, if examined with common care, suggests a solution more accurate and complete, if not exactly so complimentary. In sober truth, a positive incapacity clearly to point out the precise manner in which a conviction has been formed, is one of the commonest of logical deficiencies, and no more to be ascribed exclusively to the softer sex, than it is an attribute of intellectual excellency in either.

When, in Euripides's beautiful play, the untranslatable Hippolylus, Phaedra's nurse is made to conclude that certain men she refers to cannot be otherwise than lax in their morals, because they have finished the roofs of their houses in a very imperfect manner, her reasoning is inconsequential enough; but not more so than that of the renowned French chancellor, Michael L'Hopital, who, when employed in negotiating a treaty between Charles IX. and our Elizabeth, insisted on the well-known line of the Latin poet—

'Et penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos,'

as a reason that Calais should not be returned to the English. The connection between the premises and the conclusion was not more real in one case than in the other. A learned member of the medical profession, in an elaborate work on the climate and the people of Malta, enjoins on the invalid a participation in the amusements of cheerful society; and the propriety of his injunction few will be disposed to dispute: they may well, however, marvel at the reason he assigns for such sensible advice—that, so far as invalids are concerned, society has a direct tendency to promote cutaneous perspiration!

Cardinal de Retz severely reprehends the historians of his time for their pedantic affectation of explaining and accounting for every event they record—the motives that actuated this statesman, the reasons which prompted that policy, the wherefore it was this enterprise miscarried, or that undertaking brought to a successful issue. It would not be difficult to furnish a lengthy catalogue of the blunders historical writers have perpetrated through their overweening addiction to this folly. Let two instances here suffice: When the Roman Church, about the middle of the eleventh century, was endeavouring to insure the celibacy of its priesthood, the married clergy, who braved its censures and contemned its authority, became known as Nicolaites; which name, grave writers assure us, was given them in consequence of the active share Pope Nicholas II. had taken in punishing their contumacy and effecting their suppression. The notion that any sect or class of religionists should have borrowed its name from that of its most zealous opponent and indefatigable persecutor, is worthy only of those critics, so severely reprehended by Quintilian, who professed to discover the etymon of the Latin word lucus, a grove, in the substantive lux, light; and vindicated the derivation on the ground, that in groves darkness usually prevailed. The familiar expression of lucus a non lucendo, owes its birth to this striking manifestation of critical sagacity.

Again: a certain portion of the eastern and southern coast of England was, in early times, denominated 'the Saxon Shore'—Littus Saxonicum—and was, during the days of Roman supremacy, under the government of a military court enjoying the appellative of Comes Littoris Saxonici. Acute historical critics inform us, that this tract was so denominated in consequence of its being open to the aggressions of the Saxons; that, in short, it received its name from its occasional invaders, and not from its permanent inhabitants. The absurdity of this explanation is the greater, inasmuch as, on the other side of the Channel, there was a large district bearing precisely the same name, and settled entirely by adventurers, Saxon in birth or by descent. This, one would have thought, would have suggested to our English antiquaries a more probable explanation of the name than that they adopted. The people of Genoa have, or had, in speaking, a peculiar way of clipping or cutting short their syllables. Their Italian has never been considered pure. You must not go to maritime towns for purity of language, especially to such as have been long and extensively engaged in commercial pursuits. Labat, however, gives a special and peculiar reason for the fashion of mutilated speech in which, he declares, the Genoese indulge, telling us they call their superb city Gena, and not Genoa. He refers their 'chopping' pronunciation to their habitual economy—an economy distinctly traceable to their mercantile habits. 'Telle est leur economie,' he says, 'ils rognent tout jusqu'aux paroles.'

The old English law-writer, Bracton, desiring to account for the ancient doctrine of English law, that inheritances shall lineally descend, and never lineally ascend, finds a reason in the fact, that a bowl being trundled, runs down a hill and never up a hill; and Littleton, the first great writer on English real property-law, traces the origin of the phrase 'hotchpot'—a familiar legal term—to the archaic denomination of a pudding, in our English tongue. 'It seemeth,'he says, 'that this word, hotchpot, is in English a pudding; for in this pudding is not commonly put one thing alone, and therefore it behoveth, in this case, to put the lands given in frank-marriage,' &c. Erasmus used to say of lawyers, that of ignorant people, they were the most learned. Questionless they are not always sound logicians. When the clown in Hamlet disserts so learnedly on 'crowner's quest-law,' he is only parodying, and that closely, a scarcely less ludicrous judgment which had actually been pronounced, not long before, in the Court of Queen's Bench. Dr Clarke, the traveller, tells an amusing story to the purpose. According to him, the Turkish lawyers recognise as an offence what they style 'homicide by an intermediate cause'—an instance of which offence our traveller details in these words: 'A young man, desperately in love with a girl of Stanchio—the ancient Cos, the birthplace of Hippocrates and Apelles, the lovely isle renowned for its lettuces and turpentine—eagerly sought to marry her. But his proposals were rejected. In consequence, he destroyed himself by poison. The Turkish police arrested the father of the obdurate fairy, and tried him for culpable homicide. "If the accused," they argued, with becoming gravity, "had not had a daughter, the deceased would not have fallen in love; consequently, he would not have been disappointed; consequently, he would not have died: but he (the accused) had a daughter, and the deceased had fallen in love," &c. &c. Upon all these counts he was called upon to pay the price of the young man's life; and this, being eighty piastres, was accordingly exacted.' When the amiable and gentle John Evelyn was in the Netherlands, a woman was pointed out to him who had had twenty-five husbands, and was then a widow; 'yet it could not be proved,' he says, that 'she had made any of her husbands away, though the suspicion had brought her several times to trouble.' However, the Dutch logicians made no difficulty of the matter; and arguing, from the number of the woman's husbands, that she could not be wholly innocent of their death, prohibited her from marrying again—which, her addiction to matrimony being considered, was perhaps, of all the 'troubles' she had undergone, by no means the least.

The logical faculty, which not only consists with the poetical, but is invariably and necessarily associated with it, whenever the latter exists in an advanced stage of development, is in no writer more conspicuous as an intellectual characteristic than in Schiller. In this respect he is not excelled even by Wordsworth himself; but Homer sometimes snoozes, and Schiller's reasoning is not always consequential: as, for instance, when he denies two compositions of Ovid—the Tristia and Ex Ponto—to be genuine poetry, on the ground that they were the results not of inspiration, but of necessity; just as if poetry were not a thing to be judged of by itself; and as if one could not determine whether it were present or absent in a composition, without knowing to what influences the author was subjected at the time the composition was produced!

Rousseau, in one of his moods of bilious cynicism, falls foul of human reason altogether. No man despised it more in action; no one could more consistently decry it in speculation. In his opinion, the exercise of the reasoning powers is absolutely sinful—l'homme qui raisonne est l'homme qui peche. Franklin, on the other hand, in a familiar tone of playful banter, vindicates its utility, alleging that it is mightily 'convenient to be a rational animal, who knows how to find or invent a plausible pretext for whatever it has an inclination to do.' Examples of this convenience abound. The Barbary Jews were rich and industrious, and, accordingly, their wealth provoke the cupidity of the indolent and avaricious Mussulmans. These latter, whenever a long drought had destroyed vegetation, and the strenuous prayers offered up in the mosques had proved unavailing for its removal, were accustomed to argue—and a mighty convenient argument it was—that it was the foul breath of the Jews that had offended Heaven, and rendered the pious petitions of the faithful of none effect. The remedy for the drought, then, who could doubt? The true believers drove the Jews out of their cities, and quietly confiscated their goods. Dryden, anxious to congratulate Charles II. on his 'happy restoration,' amidst a thousand fulsome compliments—all tending to shew that that prince was the author of blessings, not only to his own kingdoms, but to universal humanity—declares, that it was to Charles, and to him only, Spain was indebted for her magnificent colonial possessions in either hemisphere. Addressing the sovereign, his words are—

'Spain to your gift alone her Indies owes, For what the powerful takes not, he bestows.'

A convenient fashion of reasoning truly: as convenient every whit as that of Daniel Burgess, a witty Presbyterian minister, devoted to the House of Brunswick and the principles of the Revolution, who was wont to affirm, as the reason the descendants of Jacob were called Israelites, and did not receive the original name of their progenitor, that Heaven was unwilling they should bear a name in every way so odious as that of Jacobites.

Once more: it appears from Dr Tschudi's valuable and interesting work on South America, that in Peru rice is cheap, and servants both lazy and dirty. Now, the servants in Lima have a theory about rice. They consider it possesses certain qualities antagonistic to water, so that, after eating, to touch water would be seriously injurious to health; and thus does their frequent consumption of rice supply them with a most convenient reason or excuse for their habitual abstinence from an operation they detest—that of washing their hands.

Verily, they are mighty fine and convenient words, THEREFORE and BECAUSE.


The whole population of the good city of Brussels was in a state of excitement. Talma, the great French tragedian, was that evening to close his engagement by appearing in his favourite character of Leonidas; and from an early hour in the morning, the doors of the theatre were beset with waiting crowds, extending to the very end of the large square in which it stood. It was evident that the building, spacious as it was, could not contain one-half of the eager expectants already assembled, and yet every moment brought a fresh accession to the number destined to be disappointed. The hero of this ovation, and the object of all this unusual excitement to the worthy and naturally phlegmatic beer-drinkers of old Brabant, was standing near a window in the White Cross Hotel, engaged most prosaically in shaving himself; and, from time to time, casting on the crowd, to which he was the magnet of attraction, the careless glance of a monarch become from habit almost insensible to the loyal enthusiasm of his subjects.

'So he will not come?' said the tragedian to an old friend who was with him. 'He is a cynical old fool; and yet, I assure you, my dear M. Lesec, that I had Leonidas got up expressly for him, thinking to tickle his old republican fancies, for to my mind it is as stupid a play as Germanicus, though I contrive to produce an effect with some of its high-sounding patriotic passages; and I thought the worthy David would have recognised his own picture vivified. But he will not come: he positively refused, you tell me. I might have known it. Age, exile, the memory of the past—all this has cut him up terribly: he is the David of the Consulate no longer.'

'I am just come from him,' answered Collector Lesec: 'he received me almost as Hermione receives Orestes in the fourth act of Andromache. To say the least of it, he was somewhat tart. "I never go to the theatre," he answered abruptly. "Tell my friend Talma, that I thank him for his kindness; but I always go to bed at nine. I should be very glad if he would come, before he left Brussels, and have a tankard and a smoke with me."'

'I see,' said Talma with a half-ironical smile, 'he is turned quite Flemish. Poor fellow! to what has he come?—to smoking tobacco, and losing all faith in art. Persecution does more harm than the guillotine,' added the tragedian in a tone of bitterness. 'There is a living death. David's exile has deprived us of many a chef-d'oeuvre. I can forgive the Restoration for surrounding itself with nobodies, but it need not banish our men of talent: they are not to be found now-a-days in every corner. But enough. Another word, and we should be talking politics.'

Leonidas finished shaving like any other man; and then turned suddenly to his friend: 'I bet you ten napoleons,' said he, 'that David would have come to the play had I gone myself to him with the invitation! I intended it, but I had not time; these rehearsals kill me—I might as well be a galley-slave. However, I have about three-quarters of an hour to myself now, and I will go beard the old Roman in his stronghold. What say you to going with me?'

It would have been difficult to name a place to which M. Lesec would not have gone, to have the honour of being seen arm-in-arm with the great Talma; and in another half hour they were on their way across the Place de la Monnaie into the Rue Pierre Plate.

'Now for a storm!' said Lesec. 'We are in for it: so be prepared. I leave it all on your shoulders, noble sir, for I must keep clear of him.'

'Is he, then, so entirely changed?' exclaimed Talma, quickening his pace. 'Poor exile! unhappy genius! torn from thy native soil, to languish and die!'

The visitors soon reached the large, though somewhat dilapidated mansion of the celebrated artist; and after they had been reconnoitred through a small grating by an old female servant, they were ushered into a rather gloomy apartment, presenting a singular discrepancy between its antique decorations and modern furniture.

The illustrious exile came out of an adjoining apartment in his dressing-gown, and advanced towards them with a quick yet almost majestic step, though his form was slightly bent, apparently by age. To Talma's great surprise, David received him most cordially, even throwing away his usually inseparable companion, a long pipe, to grasp both his hands. 'Welcome, welcome, my old friend!' he said; 'you could not have come at a better time. I have not for many a day felt so happy, and the sight of you is a great addition.' And the old painter kept rubbing his hands, a token with him of exuberant satisfaction.

Talma looked at Lesec as much as to say: 'The devil is not quite so black as he is painted;' while the worthy collector only shrugged his shoulders, and lifted his eyebrows in pantomimic expression of his inability to comprehend such a sudden change in the atmosphere.

'You must promise to come and dine with me to-morrow,' continued the painter, accompanying his invitation with a smile, or rather a grin, for David's face was very much disfigured by a wen on his cheek, which also, by causing a twitching of the jaw, rendered his articulation indistinct.

'To my great regret, I am obliged to decline your invitation, my dear friend,' said Talma. 'This is my last night here, and I must set off for Paris to-morrow.'

'Set off to-morrow!'

'Positively. Michelet and Dumas have the whole management on their shoulders, and are pressing my return; and Lemercier is only waiting for me to read to us a sort of Richard the Third.'

'Nevertheless, you dine with me to-morrow. One day longer will not matter to them, and is a great matter to me. I suspect Lemercier's Richard the Third is cold enough to keep a little longer. I am to have my friend Girodet with me; so dine with us you must. It will make me grow young again, man, and bring back the happy meetings at Moliker's, near the gate of the Louvre.'

The illustrious exile accompanied this sentence with another of his grim smiles. The actor was deeply moved by it, for in that bitter smile he read how the artist pined for his country. 'I will stay with you, I will stay with you, dear David!' now eagerly cried Talma. 'For your sake, I will desert my post, and steal a holiday from my Paris friends; but it can only be on condition that you, too, will make a little sacrifice for me, and come this evening to see me in Leonidas.'

'Well, I don't care if I do,' answered the painter, whom the sight of one friend, and the expectation of seeing another, had made quite a different being from the David of the morning. 'Here goes for Leonidas; but, remember, I give you fair warning—I shall go to sleep. I have scarcely ever been in a theatre that I did not take a sound nap.'

'But when Talma plays, plaudits will keep you awake, M. David,' said the courtly M. Lesec; and this seasonable compliment obtained for him a smile, and an invitation for the next day, so flattering to his vanity that, even at the risk of compromising himself with the Prince of Orange, he unhesitatingly accepted.

That evening, between six and seven o'clock, the old French painter, a Baron of the Empire, entered the theatre in full dress, and with a new red ribbon in his button-hole; but, as if shrinking from notice, he took his seat at the back of the stage-box, reserved for him by his friend Talma, with M. Lesec by his side, prouder, more elated, more frizzled and befrilled, than if he had been appointed first-commissioner of finance. But notwithstanding all the care of the modest artist to preserve his incognito, it was soon whispered through the theatre that he was one of the audience; and it was not long before he was pointed out, when instantly the whole house stood up respectfully, and repeated cheers echoed from pit to vaulted roof. The prince himself was among the first to offer this tribute to the illustrious exile, who, confused, agitated, and scarcely able to restrain his tears, bowed to the audience rather awkwardly, as he whispered to M. Lesec: 'So, then, I am still remembered. I thought no one at Brussels cared whether I was dead or alive.'

Soon Talma appeared as Leonidas; and in his turn engrossed every eye, every thought of that vast assembly. A triple round of applause hailed every speech uttered by the generous Spartan. The painter of the Sabines, of Brutus, of the Horatii, of the Coronation, seemed to heed neither the noisy acclamations nor the deep silence that succeeded each other. Mute, motionless, transfixed, he heard not the plaudits: it was not Talma he saw, not Talma he was listening to. He was at Thermopylae by the side of Leonidas himself; ready to die with him and his three hundred heroes. Never had he been so deeply moved. He had talked of sleep, but he was as much alive, as eager, as animated, as if he were an actual sharer in the heroic devotedness that was the subject of the drama. For some moments after the curtain fell, he seemed equally absorbed; it was not till he was out of the theatre, and in the street, that he recovered sufficiently to speak; and then it was only to repeat every five minutes: 'What a noble talent it is! What a power he has had over me!'

A night of tranquil sleep, and dreams of bright happy days, closed an evening of such agreeable excitement to the poor exile; and so cheering was its effect upon him, that he was up the next morning before day, and his old servant, to her surprise, saw her usually gloomy and taciturn master looking almost gay while charging her to have breakfast ready, and to be sure that dinner was in every way befitting the honoured guests he expected.

'And are you going out, sir, and so early?' exclaimed the old woman; now, for the first time, perceiving that her master had his hat on and his cane in his hand.

'Yes, Dame Rebecca,' answered David, as he gained the outer gate. 'I have grown a great boy, and may be trusted to go alone.'

'But it is scarcely daylight yet. None of the shops are open.'

'I do not want to make any purchases.'

'Then, where in the world can you be going, sir, at this hour?'

'Sacre bleu!' returned the painter, losing all patience: 'could you not guess, you old fool, that I am going as far as the Flanders-gate to meet my old friend Girodet?'

'O that, indeed! But are you sure he will come that way? And did he tell you the exact time?'

'What matter, you old torment? Suppose I have to wait a few minutes for him, I can walk up and down, and it will be exercise for me, which, you know, Dr Fanchet has desired me to take. Go along in, and don't let the dinner be spoiled.' And the old man went on his way with an almost elastic step. Once more was he young, gay, happy. Was he not soon to see the friend dearer to him than all the world? But his eagerness had made him anticipate by two hours the usual time for the arrival of the diligence, and he was not made aware of his miscalculation till after he had been a good while pacing up and down the suburb leading to the Flanders-gate. The constant companion alike of his studio and his exile, his pipe, he had left behind him, forgotten in his hurry; so that he had no resource but to continue his solitary walk, the current of his happy thoughts flowing on, meanwhile, uninterrupted, save by an occasional greeting from labourers going to their work, or the countrywomen hastening, as much as their Flemish embonpoint would allow, to the city markets. When sauntering about alone, especially when waiting, we, like children, make the most of everything that can while away the time, or give even the semblance of being occupied: a flower-pot in a window, a parrot in a cage, nay, even an insect flying past, is an absolute gain to us. David felt it quite a fortunate chance when he suddenly caught sight of a sign-painter carrying on his work in the open air. Though evidently more of a whitewasher than a painter, yet, from the top of his ladder, he was flourishing his brush in a masterly style, and at times pausing and contemplating his work with as much complacency as Gros could have done his wonderful cupola of Sainte-Genevieve.

The painter of Napoleon passed the self-satisfied dauber twice, not without some admiring glances at the way in which he was plastering the background of his landscape with indigo, by way of making a sky. At top of the sign, now nearly finished, was traced, in large characters, 'Break of Day;' a precaution as indispensable to point out the artist's design, as the inscription, 'Dutch and Flemish Beer,' was to announce the articles dealt in by the owner of the house upon which this masterpiece was to figure.

'Here's a pretty fellow!' said the artist to himself; 'with as much knowledge of perspective as a carthorse; and yet, I doubt not, thinking himself a second Rubens. He brushes away as if he were polishing a pair of boots. And what matter? Why should he not enjoy himself in his own way?' But when he passed the ladder for the third time, and saw a fresh layer of indigo putting over the first, his patience could hold out no longer, and he exclaimed, without stopping or even looking at the offender: 'There is too much blue!'

'Eh! Do you want anything, sir?' said the sign-painter; but he who had ventured the criticism was already at a distance.

Again, David passed by. Another glance at the 'Break of Day,' and another exclamation: 'Too much blue, you blockhead!' The insulted plasterer turned round to reconnoitre the speaker, and as if concluding, from his appearance, that he could be no very great connoisseur, he quietly set to work again, shrugging his shoulders in wonder how it could possibly be any business of his whether the sky was red, green, or blue. For the fourth time the unknown lounger repeated his unwelcome criticism: 'Too much blue!'

The Brussels Wouvermans coloured, but said, in the subdued tone of a man wishing to conceal anger he cannot help feeling: 'The gentleman may not be aware that I am painting a sky.' By this time he had come down from the ladder, and was standing surveying his work with one eye closed, and at the proper distance from it to judge of its effect; and his look of evident exultation shewed that nothing could be more ill-timed than any depreciation of his labours.

'It is because I suppose you do want to paint a sky, that for that very reason I wished to give you this little piece of advice, and to tell you that there is too much blue in it.'

'And pray, Mr Amateur, when was there ever a sky seen without blue?'

'I am no amateur; but I tell you once more, that there is too much blue. And now do as you like; and if you do not think you have enough, you can put more.'

'This is entirely too bad!' cried the now exasperated sign-painter. 'You are an old fool, and know nothing of painting. I should like to see you make a sky without blue.'

'I do not say I am a good hand at a sky; but if I did set about it, there should be no blue.'

'A pretty job it would be!'

'It would look like something, at all events.'

'That is as much as to say mine is like nothing at all.'

'No indeed, for it is very like a dish of spinach, and very like a vile daub, or like anything else you please.'

'A dish of spinach! a vile daub!' cried the artist of Brabant in a rage. 'I, the pupil of Ruysdael—I, fourth cousin to Gerard Dow! and you pretend to know more of my art than I do—an art I have practised with such credit at Antwerp, Louvain, and Liege! A dish of spinach, indeed!' And by this time the fury of the insulted painter had increased to such a degree, that he seized David by the arm, and shaking him violently, added: 'Do you know, you old dotard, that my character has been long established? I have a red horse at Mechlin, a stag at Namur, and a Charlemagne at Aix-la-Chapelle, that no one has ever seen without admiring!'

'This is beyond all patience,' said David; and suddenly extricating himself from the man's grasp, and snatching his palette from him, he was up the ladder in an instant, shouting: 'Wait awhile, and you shall have yourself to admire, with your fool's pate and your ass's ears!'

'Stop, stop, you villain!' roared the luckless artist, pale with consternation. 'My splendid sign! A painting worth thirty-five francs! I am ruined and undone!' And he continued shaking the ladder, and pouring out a torrent of abuse upon David, who, caring neither for the reproaches of his victim, nor for the crowd that the sudden clamour had attracted, went on pitilessly effacing the 'Break of Day,' and mingling in one confused mass sky and sun, and trees and figures; or what was intended, at least, to represent them. And now—not less rapid in creating than in destroying—and with the lightest possible touch of his brush, the new sign-painter sketched and finished, with magic rapidity, a sky with the gray tints of early dawn, and a group of three men, glass in hand, watching the rising sun; one of these figures being a striking likeness of the whitewasher, shewn at once by his bushy eyebrows and snub-nose.

The crowd, that had at first shewn every inclination to take the part of their countryman against a stranger unfairly interfering with him, now stood quietly watching the outlines as they shone through the first layers of colour, and shouts of applause burst from them as the figures grew beneath the creative hand of the artist. The tavern-keeper himself now swelled the number of admirers, having come out to ascertain the cause of the tumult; and even the fourth-cousin of Gerard Dow felt his fury fast changing into admiration.

'I see it all now,' he said to those nearest him in the crowd. 'He is a French or Dutch sign-painter, one of ourselves, and he only wanted to have a joke against me. It is but fair to own that he has the real knack, and paints even better than I do.'

The artist to whom this equivocal compliment was paid, was now coming down from the ladder amid the cheers of the spectators, when a new admirer was added to them in the person of a man who, mounted on a fine English horse, seemed inclined to ride over the crowd in his eagerness to get a good view of the painting.

'That picture is mine!' he exclaimed; 'I will have it. I will buy it, even if I have to cover it with guineas!'

'What do you mean?' asked the tavern-keeper.

'I mean, that I will give any price you choose to name for that sign,' answered the stranger.

'The picture is not to be sold, young man; I could not think of parting with it,' said the whitewasher with as much paternal pride as if it had been indeed his workmanship.

'Certainly not,' said the vender of beer; 'for it has been already sold, and partly paid for in advance. The picture is mine; and, though not very anxious to dispose of it, yet, perhaps, we may come to some understanding, and make a bargain.'

'Not so fast,' said the dauber; 'the sign belongs to me, and my brother-artist was only kindly giving me a helping-hand. It is my lawful property; and if this gentleman wants to buy it, he must deal with me for it.'

'I tell you,' replied the tavern-keeper, 'that the "Break of Day" is my property, as sure as it is now hanging in front of my house.'

The dispute was waxing louder and louder, when David broke in: 'And am I to go for nothing in the matter? Methinks I might be allowed a voice in it.'

'And a good right you have, brother,' said the sign-painter; 'and I am sure you and I shall have no difference about it. But the open street is no place for all this. We had better go into the house, and settle the matter over a pot of beer.'

David, wishing to escape the continually increasing crowd, consented to the adjournment, which, however, had no effect upon the disputants, and the contest waged more fiercely than ever; nor did the Englishman's reiterated offers to give for the picture its weight in gold tend to allay it.

'But what will you say, if I won't let it be sold?' cried David, at length losing all patience.

'Ah, good sir,' said the tavern-keeper, 'you would not deprive a poor, struggling man like me of this opening for getting a little ready money to enable me to lay in a stock of beer. As for that sign-painter, he is a drunken sot, who has left himself without as much as a stiver to give his daughter, who ought to have been married a year ago.'

'Do not believe him, sir,' cried David's brother-artist. 'Every one knows there is not a fonder father in the whole town; and more shame to me if I were not, for never was there such a good daughter as my dear, pretty Lizette. I have no money to give her, to be sure, but she is betrothed to an honest fellow, who is glad to get her, poor as she is. He is a young Frenchman, a cabinet-maker, and no better workman in the whole city; and they are to be married whenever he has anything saved.'

'A good child, and a good workman, and only waiting for wherewithal to live! This alters the matter entirely,' said David; 'and the young couple shall have the picture. We leave it to this gentleman's liberality to name the price he is willing to give for it.'

'Illustrious artist,' said the Englishman, 'I rejoice in the decision you have come to: Solomon himself could not have given a wiser one. As for me, I have already offered a hundred guineas for the sign as it stands; but I will give two hundred, if you will consent to inscribe on it the two words "Pierre David."'

The name was no sooner pronounced, than a cry of astonishment and delight burst from all present; and the poor sign-painter, with tears in his eyes, implored pardon for all his rudeness and presumption, and poured out grateful thanks for the Master's kind intentions in favour of the young couple.

By this time the news had reached the crowd without, and was received with repeated shouts, and cries of 'Long live David!' 'Long live the prince of artists!' But the cheers became almost deafening, when the pretty Lizette, having heard the wonderful story of a sign having been painted that was to hasten her marriage, and give her a dowry of 200 guineas, made her appearance, and, without a moment's hesitation, threw her arms about the neck of her benefactor, who returned her caresses most cordially; declaring that, all things considered, he did not know any one who had a better right to a kiss from the bride.

At this instant Talma, followed by Girodet and the collector, hurriedly entered the tavern. Not finding David at his house, and being told of his having left home very early, they became uneasy lest some accident had befallen him, and set off in search of him.

'Thank Heaven, we have found him!' said Girodet.

'And very well employed, too, I declare,' cried Talma. 'If I could be sure of meeting such a kind welcome from a pretty girl, I should not mind getting up early myself!'

'Bravo, bravo, my old friend!' said Girodet, as, after a warm embrace from him, he turned to examine the picture: 'I never expected to hear of your changing your style, and turning Flemish sign-painter. But it is no shame for David to end as Rembrandt began.'


A good biography is ever welcome; and if it be the biography of a good and a great man, the cordiality of the bienvenu is doubled. Mr Prescott remarks,[2] that there is no kind of writing, having truth and instruction for its main object, which, on the whole, is so interesting and popular as biography: its superiority, in this point of view, to history, consisting in the fact, that the latter has to deal with masses—with nations, which, like corporate societies, seem to have no soul, and whose chequered vicissitudes may be contemplated rather with curiosity for the lessons they convey, than with personal sympathy. Among contemporary biographers, Mr Hepworth Dixon has already established for himself a name of some distinction by his popular lives of William Penn and John Howard; nor will his credit suffer a decline in the instance of the memoir now before us—that of the gallant and single-minded patriot, Robert Blake. Of this fine old English worthy, republican as he was, the Tory Hume freely affirms, that never man, so zealous for a faction, was so much respected and even esteemed by his opponents. 'Disinterested, generous, liberal; ambitious only of true glory, dreadful only to his avowed enemies; he forms one of the most perfect characters of the age, and the least stained with those errors and vices which were then so predominant.'[3] Yet hitherto the records of this remarkable man have been scanty in matter, and scattered in form—the most notable being Dr Johnson's sketch in the Gentleman's Magazine, and another in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Mr Dixon has consulted several scarce works, of genuine though obsolete authority, and a large mass of original documents and family papers, in preparing the present able and attractive memoir; not omitting a careful examination of the squibs, satires, and broadsides of that time, in his endeavour to trace, in forgotten nooks and corners, the anecdotes and details requisite, as he says, to complete a character thus far chiefly known by a few heroic outlines. We propose taking a brief survey of his life-history of the great admiral and general at sea—the 'Puritan Sea-King,' as Mr Dixon more characteristically than accurately calls his hero. A sea-king he was, every inch of him; but to dub him Puritan, is like giving up to party what was meant for British mankind. To many, the term suggests primarily a habit of speaking through the nose; and Blake had thundered commands through too many a piping gale and battle blast for that.

Robert Blake was born at Bridgewater, in August 1599. His father, Humphrey Blake, was a merchant trading with Spain—a man whose temper seems to have been too sanguine and adventurous for the ordinary action of trade, finally involving him in difficulties which clouded his latter days, and left his family in straitened circumstances: his name, however, was held in general respect; and we find that he lived in one of the best houses in Bridgewater, and twice filled the chair of its chief magistrate. The perils to which mercantile enterprise was then liable—the chance escapes and valorous deeds which the successful adventurer had to tell his friends and children on the dark winter nights—doubtless formed a part of the food on which the imagination of young Blake, 'silent and thoughtful from his childhood,' was fed in the 'old house at home.' At the Bridgewater grammar-school, Robert received his early education, making tolerable acquaintance with Latin and Greek, and acquiring a strong bias towards a literary life. This penchant was confirmed by his subsequent career at Oxford, where he matriculated at sixteen, and where he strove hard but fruitlessly for scholarships and fellowships at different colleges. His failure to obtain a Merton fellowship has been attributed to a crotchet of the warden's, Sir Henry Savile, in favour of tall men: 'The young Somersetshire student, thick-set, fair complexioned, and only five feet six, fell below his standard of manly beauty;' and thus the Cavalier warden, in denying this aspirant the means of cultivating literature on a little university oatmeal, was turning back on the world one who was fated to become a republican power of the age. This shining light, instead of comfortably and obscurely merging in a petty constellation of Alma Mater, was to become a bright particular star, and dwell apart. The avowed liberalism of Robert may, however, have done more in reality to shock Sir Henry, than his inability to add a cubit to his stature. It is pleasant to know, that the 'admiral and general at sea' never outgrew a tenderness for literature—his first-love, despite the rebuff of his advances. Even in the busiest turmoil of a life teeming with accidents by flood and field, he made it a point of pride not to forget his favourite classics. Nor was it till after nine years' experience of college-life, and when his father was no longer able to manage his res angusta vitae, that Robert finally abandoned his long-cherished plans, and retired with a sigh and last adieu from the banks of the Isis.

When he returned to Bridgewater, in time to close his father's eyes, and superintend the arrangements of the family, he was already remarkable for that 'iron will, that grave demeanour, that free and dauntless spirit,' which so distinguished his after-course. His tastes were simple, his manners somewhat bluntly austere; a refined dignity of countenance, and a picturesque vigour of conversation, invested him with a social interest, to which his indignant invectives against court corruptions gave distinctive character. To the Short Parliament he was sent as member for his native town; and in 1645, was returned by Taunton to the Long Parliament. At the dissolution of the former, which he regarded as a signal for action, he began to prepare arms against the king; his being one of the first troops in the field, and engaged in almost every action of importance in the western counties. His superiority to the men about him lay in the 'marvellous fertility, energy, and comprehensiveness of his military genius.' Prince Rupert alone, in the Royalist camp, could rival him as a 'partisan soldier.' His first distinguished exploit was his defence of Prior's Hill fort, at the siege of Bristol—which contrasts so remarkably with the pusillanimity of his chief, Colonel Fiennes. Next comes his yet more brilliant defence of Lyme—then a little fishing-town, with some 900 inhabitants, of which the defences were a dry ditch, a few hastily-formed earth-works, and three small batteries, but which the Cavalier host of Prince Maurice, trying storm, stratagem, blockade, day after day, and week after week, failed to reduce or dishearten. 'At Oxford, where Charles then was, the affair was an inexplicable marvel and mystery: every hour the court expected to hear that the "little vile fishing-town," as Clarendon contemptuously calls it, had fallen, and that Maurice had marched away to enterprises of greater moment; but every post brought word to the wondering council, that Colonel Blake still held out, and that his spirited defence was rousing and rallying the dispersed adherents of Parliament in those parts.' After the siege was raised, the Royalists found that more men of gentle blood had fallen under Blake's fire at Lyme, than in all the other sieges and skirmishes in the western counties since the opening of the war. The details of the siege are given with graphic effect by Mr Dixon, and are only surpassed in interest by those connected with Blake's subsequent and yet more celebrated defence of Taunton, to which the third chapter of this biography is devoted.

The hero's fame had become a spell in the west: it was seen that he rivalled Rupert in rapid and brilliant execution, and excelled him in the caution and sagacity of his plans. He took Taunton—a place so important at that juncture, as standing on and controlling the great western highway—in July 1644, within a week of Cromwell's defeat of Rupert at Marston Moor. All the vigour of the Royalists was brought to bear on the captured town; Blake's defence of which is justly characterised as abounding with deeds of individual heroism—exhibiting in its master-mind a rare combination of civil and military genius. The spectacle of an unwalled town, in an inland district, with no single advantage of site, surrounded by powerful castles and garrisons, and invested by an enemy brave, watchful, numerous, and well provided with artillery, successfully resisting storm, strait, and blockade for several months, thus paralysing the king's power, and affording Cromwell time to remodel the army, naturally arrested the attention of military writers at that time; and French authors of this class bestowed on Taunton the name of the modern Saguntum. The rage of the Royalists at this prolonged resistance was extreme. Reckoning from the date when Blake first seized the town, to that of Goring's final retreat, the defence lasted exactly a year, and under circumstances of almost overwhelming difficulty to the besieged party, who, in addition to the fatigue of nightly watches, and the destruction of daily conflicts, suffered from terrible scarcity of provisions. 'Not a day passed without a fire; sometimes eight or ten houses were burning at the same moment; and in the midst of all the fear, horror, and confusion incident to such disasters, Blake and his little garrison had to meet the storming-parties of an enemy brave, exasperated, and ten times their own strength. But every inch of ground was gallantly defended. A broad belt of ruined cottages and gardens was gradually formed between the besiegers and the besieged; and on the heaps of broken walls and burnt rafters, the obstinate contest was renewed from day to day.' At last relief arrived from London; and Goring, in savage dudgeon, beat a retreat, notwithstanding the wild oath he had registered, either to reduce that haughty town, or to lay his bones in its trenches.

Blake was now the observed of all observers; but, unlike most of his compeers, he abstained from using his advantages for purposes of selfish or personal aggrandisement. He kept aloof from the 'centre of intrigues,' and remained at his post, 'doing his duty humbly and faithfully at a distance from Westminster; while other men, with less than half his claims, were asking and obtaining the highest honours and rewards from a grateful and lavish country.' Nor, indeed, did he at any time side with the ultras of his party, but loudly disapproved of the policy of the regicides. This, coupled with his influence, so greatly deserved and so deservedly great, made him an object of jealousy with Cromwell and his party; and it was owing, perhaps, to their anxiety to keep him removed from the home-sphere of action, that the hero of Taunton was now appointed to the chief naval command.

Hitherto, and for years afterwards, no state, ancient or modern, as Macaulay points out, had made a separation between the military and the naval service. Cimon and Lysander, Pompey and Agrippa, had fought by sea as well as by land: at Flodden, the right wing of the English was led by her admiral, and the French admiral led the Huguenots at Jarnac, &c. Accordingly, Blake was summoned from his pacific government at Taunton, to assume the post of 'General and Admiral at Sea;' a title afterwards changed to 'General of the Fleet.' Two others were associated with him in the command; but Blake seems at least to have been recognised as primus inter pares. The navy system was in deplorable need of reform; and a reformer it found in Robert Blake, from the very day he became an admiral. His care for the well-being of his men made him an object of their almost adoring attachment. From first to last, he stood alone as England's model-seaman. 'Envy, hatred, and jealousy dogged the steps of every other officer in the fleet; but of him, both then and afterwards, every man spoke well.' The 'tremendous powers' intrusted to him by the Council of State, he exercised with off-handed and masterly success—startling politicians and officials of the ancien regime by his bold and open tactics, and his contempt for tortuous bypaths in diplomacy. His wondrous exploits were performed with extreme poverty of means. He was the first to repudiate and disprove the supposed fundamental maxim in marine warfare, that no ship could attack a castle, or other strong fortification, with any hope of success. The early part of his naval career was occupied in opposing and defeating the piratical performances of Prince Rupert, which then constituted the support of the exiled Stuarts, and which Mr Dixon refuses to interpret in such mild colours as Warburton and others. Blake's utmost vigilance and activity were required to put down this extraordinary system of freebooting; and by the time that he had successively overcome Rupert, and the minor but stubborn adventurers, Grenville and Carteret, he was in request to conduct the formidable war with Holland, and to cope with such veterans as Tromp, De Witt, De Ruyter, &c. Of the various encounters in which he thus signalised himself, his biographer gives most spirited descriptions, such as their length alone deters us from quoting. On one occasion only did Blake suffer a defeat; and this one is easily explained by—first, Tromp's overwhelming superiority of force; secondly, the extreme deficiency of men in the English fleet; and thirdly, the cowardice or disaffection of several of Blake's captains at a critical moment in the battle. Notwithstanding this disaster, not a whisper was heard against the admiral either in the Council of State or in the city; his offer to resign was flatteringly rejected; and he soon found, that the 'misfortune which might have ruined another man, had given him strength and influence in the country.' This disaster, in fact, gave him power to effect reforms in the service, and to root out abuses which had defied all his efforts in the day of his success. He followed it up by the great battle of Portland, and other triumphant engagements.

Then came his sweeping tours de force in the Mediterranean; in six months he established himself, as Mr Dixon says, as a power in that great midland sea, from which his countrymen had been politically excluded since the age of the Crusades—teaching nations, to which England's very name was a strange sound, to respect its honours and its rights; chastising the pirates of Barbary with unprecedented severity; making Italy's petty princes feel the power of the northern Protestants; causing the pope himself to tremble on his seven hills; and startling the council-chambers of Venice and Constantinople with the distant echoes of our guns. And be it remembered, that England had then no Malta, Corfu, and Gibraltar as the bases of naval operations in the Mediterranean: on the contrary, Blake found that in almost every gulf and island of that sea—in Malta, Venice, Genoa, Leghorn, Algiers, Tunis, and Marseilles—there existed a rival and an enemy; nor were there more than three or four harbours in which he could obtain even bread for love or money.

After this memorable cruise, he had to conduct the Spanish war—a business quite to his mind; for though his highest renown had been gained in his conflicts with the Dutch, he had secretly disliked such encounters between two Protestant states; whereas, in the case of Popish Spain, his soul leaped at the anticipation of battle—sympathising as he did with the Puritan conviction, that Spain was the devil's stronghold in Europe. At this period, Blake was suffering from illness, and was sadly crippled in his naval equipments, having to complain constantly of the neglect at home to remedy the exigencies of the service. 'Our ships,' he writes, 'extremely foul, winter drawing on, our victuals expiring, all stores failing, our men falling sick through the badness of drink, and eating their victuals boiled in salt water for two months' space' (1655.) His own constitution was thoroughly undermined. For nearly a year, remarks his biographer, 'he had never quitted the "foul and defective" flag-ship. Want of exercise and sweet food, beer, wine, water, bread, and vegetables, had helped to develop scurvy and dropsy; and his sufferings from these diseases were now acute and continuous.' But his services were indispensable, and Blake was not the man to shrink from dying in harness. His sun set gloriously at Santa Cruz—that miraculous and unparalleled action, as Clarendon calls it, which excited such grateful enthusiasm at home. At home! words of fascination to the maimed and enfeebled veteran,[4] who now turned his thoughts so anxiously towards the green hills of his native land. Cromwell's letter of thanks, the plaudits of parliament, and the jewelled ring sent to him by his loving countrymen, reached him while homeward bound. But he was not again to tread the shores he had defended so well.

As the ships rolled through the Bay of Biscay, his sickness increased, and affectionate adherents saw with dismay that he was drawing near to the gates of the grave. 'Some gleams of the old spirit broke forth as they approached the latitude of England. He inquired often and anxiously if the white cliffs were yet in sight. He longed to behold once more the swelling downs, the free cities, the goodly churches of his native land.... At last, the Lizard was announced. Shortly afterwards, the bold cliffs and bare hills of Cornwall loomed out grandly in the distance. But it was too late for the dying hero. He had sent for the captains and other great officers of his fleet, to bid them farewell; and while they were yet in his cabin, the undulating hills of Devonshire, glowing with the tints of early autumn, came full in view.... But the eyes which had so yearned to behold this scene once more were at that very instant closing in death. Foremost of the victorious squadron, the St George rode with its precious burden into the Sound; and just as it came into full view of the eager thousands crowding the beach, the pier-heads, the walls of the citadel, &c. ready to catch the first glimpse of the hero of Santa Cruz, and salute him with a true English welcome—he, in his silent cabin, in the midst of his lion-hearted comrades, now sobbing like little children, yielded up his soul to God.'

The corpse was embalmed, and conveyed to Greenwich, where it lay in state for some days. On the 4th of September 1657, the Thames bore a solemn funeral procession, which moved slowly, amid salvos of artillery, to Westminster, where a new vault had been prepared in the noble abbey. The tears of a nation made it hallowed ground. A prince, of whom the epigram declares that, if he never said a foolish thing, he never did a wise one—saw fit to disturb the hero's grave, drag out the embalmed body, and cast it into a pit in the abbey-yard. One of Charles Stuart's most witless performances! For Blake is not to be confounded—though the Merry Monarch thought otherwise—with the Iretons and Bradshaws who were similarly exhumed. The admiral was a moderate in the closest, a patriot in the widest sense.

In the chivalric disposition of the man, there was true affinity to the best qualities of the Cavalier, mingled sometimes with a certain grim humour, all his own. Many are the illustrations we might adduce of this high-minded and generous temperament. For instance: meeting a French frigate of forty guns in the Straits, and signaling for the captain to come on board his flag-ship, the latter, considering the visit one of friendship and ceremony, there being no declared war between the two nations—though the French conduct at Toulon had determined England on measures of retaliation—readily complied with Blake's summons; but was astounded, on entering the admiral's cabin, at being told he was a prisoner, and requested to give up his sword. No! was the surprised but resolute Frenchman's reply. Blake felt that an advantage had been gained by a misconception, and scorning to make a brave officer its victim, he told his guest he might go back to his ship, if he wished, and fight it out as long as he was able. The captain, we are told, thanked him for his handsome offer, and retired. After two hours' hard fighting, he struck his flag; like a true French knight, he made a low bow, kissed his sword affectionately, and delivered it to his conqueror. Again: when Blake captured the Dutch herring-fleet off Bochness, consisting of 600 boats, instead of destroying or appropriating them, he merely took a tithe of the whole freight, in merciful consideration towards the poor families whose entire capital and means of life it constituted. This 'characteristic act of clemency' was censured by many as Quixotic, and worse. But, as Mr Dixon happily says: 'Blake took no trouble to justify his noble instincts against such critics. His was indeed a happy fate: the only fault ever advanced by friend or foe against his public life, was an excess of generosity towards his vanquished enemies!' His sense of the comic is amusingly evidenced by the story of his ruse during a dearth in the same siege. Tradition reports, that only one animal, a hog, was left alive in the town, and that more than half starved. In the afternoon, Blake, feeling that in their depression a laugh would do the defenders as much good as a dinner, had the hog carried to all the posts and whipped, so that its screams, heard in many places, might make the enemy suppose that fresh supplies had somehow been obtained. According to his biographer, never man had finer sense of sarcasm, or used that weapon with greater effect—loving to find expression for its scorn and merriment in the satires of Horace and Juvenal; and thus in some degree relieving the stern fervour of Puritan piety with the more easy graces of ancient scholarship.

The moral aspects of his character appear in this memoir in an admirable light. If he did not stand so high as some others in public notoriety, it was mainly because, to stand higher than he did, he must plant his feet on a bad eminence. His patriotism was as pure as Cromwell's was selfish. Mr Dixon alludes to the strong points of contrast, as well as of resemblance, between the two men. Both, he says, were sincerely religious, undauntedly brave, fertile in expedients, irresistible in action. Born in the same year, they began and almost closed their lives at the same time. Both were country gentlemen of moderate fortune; both were of middle age when the revolution came. Without previous knowledge or professional training, both attained to the highest honours of the respective services. But there the parallel ends. Anxious only for the glory and interest of his country, Blake took little or no care of his personal aggrandisement. His contempt for money, his impatience with the mere vanities of power, were supreme. Bribery he abhorred in all its shapes. He was frank and open to a fault; his heart was ever in his hand, and his mind ever on his lips. His honesty, modesty, generosity, sincerity, and magnanimity, were unimpeached. Cromwell's inferior moral qualities made him distrust the great seaman; yet now and then, as in the case of the street tumult at Malaga, he was fain to express his admiration of Robert Blake. The latter was wholly unversed in the science of nepotism, and 'happy family' compacts; for although desirous of aiding his relatives, he was jealous of the least offence on their part, and never overlooked it. Several instances of this disposition are on record. When his brother Samuel, in rash zeal for the Commonwealth, ventured to exceed his duty, and was killed in a fray which ensued, Blake was terribly shocked, but only said: 'Sam had no business there.' Afterwards, however, he shut himself up in his room, and bewailed his loss in the words of Scripture: 'Died Abner as a fool dieth!' His brother Benjamin, again, to whom he was strongly attached, falling under suspicion of neglect of duty, was instantly broken, and sent on shore. 'This rigid measure of justice against his own flesh and blood, silenced every complaint, and the service gained immeasurably in spirit, discipline, and confidence.' Yet more touching was the great admiral's inexorable treatment of his favourite brother Humphrey, who, in a moment of extreme agitation, had failed in his duty. The captains went to Blake in a body, and argued that Humphrey's fault was a neglect rather than a breach of orders, and suggested his being sent away to England till it was forgotten. But Blake was outwardly unmoved, though inwardly his bowels did yearn over his brother, and sternly said: 'If none of you will accuse him, I must be his accuser.' Humphrey was dismissed from the service. It is affecting to know how painfully Blake missed his familiar presence during his sick and lonely passage homewards, when the hand of death was upon that noble heart. To Humphrey he bequeathed the greater part of his property.

In the rare intervals of private life which he enjoyed on shore, Blake also compels our sincere regard. When released for awhile from political and professional duties, he loved to run down to Bridgewater for a few days or weeks, and, as his biographer says, with his chosen books, and one or two devout and abstemious friends, to indulge in all the luxuries of seclusion. 'He was by nature self-absorbed and taciturn. His morning was usually occupied with a long walk, during which he appeared to his simple neighbours to be lost in profound thought, as if working out in his own mind the details of one of his great battles, or busy with some abstruse point of Puritan theology. If accompanied by one of his brothers, or by some other intimate friend, he was still for the most part silent. Always good-humoured, and enjoying sarcasm when of a grave, high class, he yet never talked from the loquacious instinct, or encouraged others so to employ their time and talents in his presence. Even his lively and rattling brother Humphrey, his almost constant companion when on shore, caught, from long habit, the great man's contemplative and self-communing gait and manner; and when his friends rallied him on the subject in after-years, he used to say, that he had caught the trick of silence while walking by the admiral's side in his long morning musings on Knoll Hill. A plain dinner satisfied his wants. Religious conversation, reading, and the details of business, generally filled up the evening until supper-time; after family prayers—always pronounced by the general himself—he would invariably call for his cup of sack and a dry crust of bread, and while he drank two or three horns of Canary, would smile and chat in his own dry manner with his friends and domestics, asking minute questions about their neighbours and acquaintance; or when scholars or clergymen shared his simple repast, affecting a droll anxiety—rich and pleasant in the conqueror of Tromp—to prove, by the aptness and abundance of his quotations, that, in becoming an admiral, he had not forfeited his claim to be considered a good classic.'

The care and interest with which he looked to the well-being of his humblest followers, made him eminently popular in the fleet. He was always ready to hear complaints and to rectify grievances. When wounded at the battle of Portland, and exhorted to go on shore for repose and proper medical treatment, he refused to seek for himself the relief which he had put in the way of his meanest comrade. Even at the early period of his cruise against the Cavalier corsairs of Kinsale, such was Blake's popularity, that numbers of men were continually joining him from the enemy's fleet, although he offered them less pay, and none of that licence which they had enjoyed under Prince Rupert's flag. They gloried in following a leader sans peur et sans reproche—one with whose renown the whole country speedily rang—the renown of a man who had revived the traditional glories of the English navy, and proved that its meteor flag could 'yet terrific burn.'


[1] Robert Blake: Admiral and General at Sea. By Hepworth Dixon. London: Chapman and Hall. 1852.

[2] Biographical and Critical Miscellanies.

[3] History of Great Britain, c. lxi.

[4] He had been lamed for life, by a wound in the thigh, at the battle of Portland, 1653.


In the dominions of the Czar, the backs of the serfs suffer a weekly titillation as insufferable, although not so deadly, as the less frequent knout. When it comes to Wednesday, they begin to imagine that they are not exactly comfortable; on Thursday, the natural moisture of their skin seems fast drying up, and they are in an incipient fit of the fidgets; on Friday, the epidermis cracks all over, or makes-believe to do so; and on Saturday, the whole population, with a shout of impatient joy, rush to the bath-house of the village, like a herd of bullocks in the dog-days to the river, and boil themselves in steam. When thoroughly done, they come out, beautifully plumped, as the cooks say, and feeling fresh and vigorous, and as fit as ever they were in their lives to encounter a new week of serfdom.

An annual process analogous to this takes place in our own country. In spring, we begin to look wistfully at the garden, to watch the opening of the lettuces, and count the colours of the pansies. As the season advances, we wander into the fields, examine curiously the thin grass, and turn an admiring eye towards the green hills in the distance. As May breaks upon us in sunlight, though the east wind is still chill, we half persuade ourselves that this really is the season of love and sentiment; and when the month ripens into June, when the grass beneath our feet actually deserves the name of a carpet, when the trees are rich and umbrageous, when the birds are in full song, and the roses in full blow—then the hitherto indefinite longing of our heart acquires strength and purpose. The dry streets look unnatural; the formal lines of houses offend the taste; the air is close and hot; the younger children look pale, and their elder sisters languish. The month is at length out, and we wonder how we have survived it. The thing can no longer be borne: the town looks and breathes like a pest-house; while hill-sides glimmer in our waking dreams, broad seas stretch away till they are lost in the golden light—

'And dying winds and waters near Make music to the lonely ear:'

still worse—everybody that is anybody is off to the country and the sea, and we rush madly after.

But the country? Where is the country? That is the puzzle. In our youth, we knew many a quiet village, many a fine beach, many a sheltered bay, where one might wander, or swim, or muse, or rusticate in any way he chose. The village has grown into a town; the beach is lined with villas; the bay swarms with vessels, and its shores with population. Every eligible spot on the coast becomes the resort of country-goers, till it is no longer the country. All local advantages are taken advantage of, till they disappear. The citizen, charmed with the countryness of the spot, builds his box by the water-side; the speculator runs up lines of houses; a handsome inn rises in the midst; and benevolent individuals hasten to the new centre of attraction, loaded with every kind of commodity men stand in need of, and are likely to buy. Here, in Scotland, on the Clyde, which is the grand sanatorium of the east as well as the west country, this process of change is remarkable. The once wildly beautiful shores, wherever there is not a town or a village, are dotted with trim white villas, glimmering here and there among the trees. The angles of the lochs, where these diverge from the parent stream, are covered with houses. The Gair Loch, which we remember as one of the sweetest mysteries of a mountain lake whose banks ever echoed to the songs of poetry and love, is a snug suburban retreat. The entrance of the Holy Loch, and of the dark and awful Loch Long, are fortified against the spirit of nature by groups of streets. At the heretofore quiet village of Dunoon, slumbering at the foot of its almost obliterated castle, you might lose yourself in the wilderness of new habitations. Gourock, on the opposite side, where in our boyhood the fairies disported round the Kempuck Stane, is a bustling town, with a suburb stretching along the Clyde, nearly as long as the long town of Kirkaldy, on the Forth; and at Largs, the barrows of the ancient Danes have become the cellars of the sons of little men, who confine spirits in them, as the prophet Solomon used to do, with a sealed cork. The once solitary island of Cumbrae is the town of Milport; the hoary ruins of Rothsay Castle are almost buried in a congeries of seaport streets and lanes; and, smoking, sputtering, and flapping their water-wings, scores of steamers ply in endless succession among these and a multitude of other places of renown.

All this, we may be told, is as it should be; a house is better than a hut, and the conveniences of civilised life better than roughing it in the desert: but we will not be comforted. Roughing it! that is just what the smoke-dried citizen wants occasionally, to prevent his blood from stagnating, and keep his faculties in working order. Physically, at least, we are not half the men we were when we used to rumble, and sometimes tumble, in stage-coaches, exposed to all the excitement and adventures of a journey; or to get as sick as forty dogs, tossing about whole days and nights in a sailing vessel. Then, when we landed, how delightful were the miseries of a cottage; the makeshifts, the squeezing, the dirt, the hunger—that veal-pie was always left behind!—the hunting of the neighbourhood for eggs for the children, the compulsory abstinence for three days out of four from butcher-meat, and the helpless dependence upon the chapter of accidents for everything else!

Now, we get into a railway carriage, or the cabin of a steamer, and after taking a book or a nap for an hour or two, raise our heads, and find ourselves, somehow or other, fifty miles off—in the country. The country is a genteel house in a genteel street, or a nice villa in a row of nice villas, where we are surrounded with all the conveniences we enjoy at home. The very society is the same; for our friends, Thomson and Smith, and the whole of that set, have brought their families to the same place for summer lodgings—it is so agreeable to be among one's acquaintances. Then we begin to enjoy ourselves: we have conversation-parties, and dancing-parties, and balls, all the same as at home. We enjoy our newspaper, as usual, in our comfortable reading-room. In the morning, we take a stroll or a dip, or drink water at the Wells, which, although undoubtedly nasty, is undeniably wholesome. Then there is a steamer in sight, and we all hasten to the pier, to ascertain if we know anybody on board. Then we dine early, for one must dine early in the country. Then we take a nap; then another stroll; then there is another steamer to watch; then we drink tea; then to the pier again. This time, the vessel's head is pointed homewards; and as she breaks away from the land, we follow her with our eyes till she is swallowed up in the distance. Then we turn away with a sigh; go back to our lodgings; lounge into bed; and fall asleep in the midst of the delightful sensation of having nothing to do, and being in the country.

All this is delightful, no doubt; every bit as good as being at home. Our aim, in fact, is to carry home with us—to feel as if we had never left No. 24. The closer the resemblance between our country lodgings and our town-house, the better we are off; for we then get what we have come for—change of air—without any sacrifice of comfort.

But we doubt whether 'change of air' has so limited a meaning. Hygienically speaking, it includes, we suspect, change of habits, change of diet, change of company, change of thought. The miseries of the old country lodgings were better for the health than the comforts of the new. The very grumbling they gave rise to was a wholesome exercise. The short allowance was worth a whole pharmacopoeia. The ravenous appetite that fastened upon things common and unclean was a glorious symptom. We came back strengthened in mind as well as body. Our country sojourn had the effect of foreign travel in opening the heart and expanding the intellect; it smoothed away prejudices and upset conventionalities; and the ruddy glow of our sunburnt cheeks was the external token of the healthy natural tone of the feelings within. No; this passion for comfort and gentility in the wilderness, is a bad sign of the generation: it bespeaks effeminacy of character, and a vanity which, however graceful it may be thought in the town, shews mean and ridiculous among the hills, and woods, and waters of the country.

Among our neighbours on the continent, the summer move is not so universal as with us. In Paris, for instance, everything is considered the country that is outside the barriers; and in the fine season, every bourgeois family is outside the barriers at least once a week—eating, drinking, dancing, and singing. Then there are the walks in the Bois de Boulogne, and the picnics at St Cloud, and the excursions to Versailles: wherever there is green turf and shady trees, you hear the sounds of mirth and music rising in the clearest, brightest atmosphere in the world. Thus a sojourn out of town is not a necessity. They take change of air by instalments, and pass the summer in a state of chronic excitement.

In other parts of the world, the move is as entire as with us; and in at least one instance, all classes of the population desert the cities at the same time, and flock to the same sea-side. To be sure, this sea-side is somewhat extensive, and there need be no more crowding than is social and comfortable. An amusing account of the migration, and of the summer lodgings of Central America is given in Mr Squier's Nicaragua, recently published. The state of Nicaragua occupies that part of the Isthmus lying between the lake of the same name and the Pacific, the distance between being in some places only about fifteen miles. In this narrow tract there are several large towns, such as Grenada and Leon, which, in spite of the breath of the two oceans, get smoke-dried by the time the dry season advances into March. Then comes on the 'Paseo al mar,' or bathing-season, when a great portion of the population, taken not merely from the upper classes, but from the bourgeoisie and Indian peasantry, rush down to the shores of the Pacific. 'At that time,' says Mr Squier, 'a general movement of carts and servants takes place in the direction of the sea, and the government despatches an officer and a guard, to superintend the pitching of the annual camp upon the beach, or rather upon the forest-covered sand-ridge which fringes the shore. Each family builds a temporary cane-hut, lightly thatched with palm-leaves, and floored with petates or mats. The whole is wickered together with vines, or woven together basketwise, and partitioned in the same way, by means of coloured curtains of cotton cloth. This constitutes the penetralia, and is sacred to the bello sexo and the babies. The more luxurious ladies bring down their neatly-curtained beds, and make no mean show of elegance in the interior arrangements of their impromptu dwellings. Outside, and something after the fashion of their permanent residences, is a kind of broad and open shed, which bears a very distant relation to the corridor. Here hammocks are swung, the families dine, the ladies receive visitors, and the men sleep.... The establishments here described pertain only to the wealthier visitors, the representatives of the upper classes. There is every intermediate variety, down to those of the mozo and his wife, who spread their blankets at the foot of a tree, and weave a little bower of branches above them—an affair of ten or a dozen minutes. And there are yet others who disdain even this exertion, and nestle in the dry sand.'

This kind of gipsying expedition to the sea in summer would hardly suit the form of European, or at least British civilisation; but we do not see why, in the one continent more than in the other, one's country lodgings should be required to resemble a town-house. In the Clyde, which we have mentioned as a resort for summer loiterers, there is one exceptional place—the island of Arran. Here the Marquis of Douglas has determined, with much good taste, that his property shall not be vulgarised by the new style of country lodgings, and so far from feuing the ground, he will not permit even a pier to be built for the accommodation of visitors. The village, accordingly, is simply a line of thatched cottages, which, in the fine season, are filled to overflowing. A few houses of more pretension stand on the other side of the bay; but, in general, no one sets his foot in Brodick who has not made up his mind to rough it pretty much in the fashion of the last generation. Sometimes, on the occasion of a holiday in Glasgow, which is six hours' steaming distant, the village is flooded with a moving population that can neither find house-room on the island nor means of quitting it the same day. Then comes a scene of something more than Mexican roughness. Shawls, cloaks, plaids, are the only substitute for tents, and a bush or a tree the only shelter from the summer wind. Such wandering companies are rarely short of provisions, for they have a wholesome dread of Highland hunger; and hearty is the feast and loud the merriment, as they sit thus, houseless and homeless outcasts of the Clyde. The night comes on, neither dark nor unpleasantly cold, and the trooping stars assemble in the heavens, and look down on the slumbrous waters, as bright and new as they were seen of old from the hill-tops of Chaldea. Higher swell the hearts of the spectators for a time, till, yielding to the influence of the hour, lower and lower sink their pulses of emotion, like the tide of the lately panting deep. Their voices fall; their words are few and whispered, then heard no more; the lights of the village disappear one by one; the last door is heard to shut; there is silence on the earth.

We never heard of anybody being the worse of this adventure, although it is a kind of roughing we would not positively recommend to Miss Laura Matilda, or any of her fair sisters. We would give them a thatched roof over their heads, a weather-tight room for their slumbers, and a substantial wall between them and the couple of cows that yield their warm milk in the morning. We would afford them a homely sitting-room, with no temptation to keep them within doors for a single moment, except during their brief and humble meals. We would plant their tabernacle in some lonely place on a hillside, or on the shores of a romantic loch, an hour's smart walk from any society they are accustomed to at home. We would have them make acquaintances of the said two cows; of both the dogs, even the surly one, which cannot for some time understand who or what they are, or what business they have there; of the hens, that present them with newly-laid eggs to breakfast; of the five or six sheep, to whom they are evidently objects of curiosity and admiration; of that sociable goat, which accompanies the sheep to the hill like one of themselves; and more especially of the little boy, who is proud of being called the herd; and of the cotter and his old mother, and his wife and two young daughters. We would insist upon their feeling a kindly interest in these new friends, one and all; on their taking leave of them individually when coming away; and on their carrying home with them an impression which would sometimes, in the crowded street, or the hot room, well suddenly up in their hearts like a fresh stream, or pass across their cheeks like a breath of mountain air.

Depend upon it, we lose much humanising feeling, much true refinement, much of the poetry of life, in parting with the roughness of our Summer Lodgings.


The origin or prototype of so many of our European arts and customs has been found in the 'central flowery land,' that it is not surprising to hear of the Chinese having begun to use paper-money as currency in the second century preceding the Christian era. At that time, the coinage of the Celestials was of a more bulky and ponderous nature than it is at the present day; and we may easily believe that a people so cunning and ingenious, would contrive not a few schemes to avoid the burden of carrying it about; as the man did, who scratched the figure of an ox on a piece of leather, and went from door to door with that until he had found a customer, leaving the animal, meantime, at home in the stall. There was a deficiency, too, in the ways and means of the government: money was never plentiful enough in the imperial coffers. At last, to get out of the difficulty, it was determined to try the effect of a paper-currency, and an issue was made of assignats or treasury-warrants, which, being based on the credit of the highest authorities, were regarded as secure; which fact, with their facility of transfer, soon brought them into circulation. Of course, a good deal of legislation was expended on the measure, before it could be got to work satisfactorily, and it underwent many fluctuations in its progress towards permanence. The intestine wars to which China was exposed at that period, by overturning dynasty after dynasty, led one government to disavow the obligations of its predecessor, and the natural consequences of bad faith followed. After circulating with more or less success for five hundred years, the government paper-money disappeared.

This happened under the Ming dynasty: the Manchus, who succeeded, gave themselves no trouble to restore the paper-currency; on which the trading portion of the community took the matter into their own hands, and by the time that their Tatar conquerors were quietly settled in their usurped authority, the merchants had revived the use of paper. They were too sensible of its great utility not to make the attempt; and since that time, they have gone on without any aid from the state, developing their plans as experience suggested, and so cautiously as to insure success. This result is, however, far below what has been obtained by Europeans. In comparison with ours, the banking-system of China is in a very primitive condition; theirs is extremely limited in its application, each city restricting itself to its own method; and while the means of intercommunication are imperfect, there is little prospect of improvement.

One example may be taken as an illustration of the whole; and we avail ourselves of a communication made by Mr Parkes to the Royal Asiatic Society on the paper-currency of Fuhchowfoo, for the substance of the present article. As in other places, the system was started in the city of Fuhchow by private individuals, who began by circulating among each other notes payable on demand. As the convenience of such a medium became apparent, the circulation was extended, and ultimately offices were opened for the special purpose of issuing notes; but as the only guarantee for their security was the character of those who put them forth, the circulation remained comparatively trifling, until their credit was recognised and established. Not till the first quarter of the present century did the use of paper become extensive or permanent; and now, everybody in Fuhchowfoo prefers notes to coin.

As no licence is required, any one may commence the banking business, and at first considerable mischief resulted from this liberty. Speculators who forced their notes largely into circulation, not unfrequently met with a reverse, with the usual consequences of distress and embarrassment to their connection. Although this for a time brought paper into disfavour, it has now recovered, and the great competition is found to have the effect of mitigating the evils of failure. Where so many are concerned, individual suffering must be comparatively slight. The banks, moreover, are not banks of deposit; the proprietors prefer not to receive deposits, so that private parties run no risk of a great and sudden loss, beyond that of such notes as they may hold at the time of a stoppage. On the other hand, the usefulness of a bank is limited by this arrangement; there can be no paying of cheques; but very few of the banking establishments can transact business beyond the city or the department in which they may be located, and seldom or never beyond the limits of the province. Hence the convenience and safety of making payments at places remote from each other, through the medium of a banker, is almost unknown in China.

Within certain limits, the large bankers undertake mercantile exchanges; they also refine the sycee, or silver, for the receivers of taxes. The government will take no silver under a standard quality; the collector delivers his sycee to the banker, who weighs, refines, and casts it into ingots, for a consideration, giving a receipt, which is handed to the treasurer of the department, who calls for the amount when required.

The small banks transact their business on an extremely petty scale. On first starting in business, their notes are seldom in circulation above a few hours, and they have always to be watchful to avoid a 'run.' It is among this class that failures most frequently occur, the time of the crash being the end of the year, owing to the demand for specie which then arises. As a precautionary measure, some of them mostly circulate the notes of the large banks, which do not return to them as their own would. Their own are sure to come back once at least in the twenty-four hours, as the large banks make a rule of sending all petty bank-notes to their issuers every day, and exchanging them for specie or larger notes. The petty establishments resort to various expedients for the sake of profit; one is, to locate themselves in a good situation: if far from a large bank, they charge a higher rate of discount on notes presented for payment, than is charged by their more powerful competitor; and the people who live in the neighbourhood submit to this charge, rather than take the trouble of going to the large bank. On the contrary, if the great and the small are near together, the latter charge lower, and make their profit by placing base coin among the strings of copper cash which they pay to their customers in exchange for notes. The inferior cash is manufactured for the purpose, in the same way as Birmingham halfpence used to be for distribution by the keepers of toll-gates.

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