CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL
CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.
No. 441. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, JUNE 12, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2d.
It is with a feeling doubtless somewhat analogous to that of the angler, that the London shopkeeper from time to time regards the moneyless crowds who throng in gaping admiration around the tempting display he makes in his window. His admirers and the fish, however, are in different circumstances: the one won't bite if they have no mind; the others can't bite if they should have all the mind in the world. Yet the shopkeeper manages better than the angler; for while the fish are deaf to the charming of the latter, charm he never so wisely, the former is able, at a certain season of the year, to convert the moneyless gazers into ready-money customers. This he does by the force of logic. 'You are thinking of Christmas,' says he—'yes, you are; and you long to have a plum-pudding for that day—don't deny it. Well, but you can't have it, think as much as you will; it is impossible as you manage at present. But I'll tell you how to get the better of the impossibility. In twenty weeks, we shall have Christmas here: now if, instead of spending every week all you earn, you will hand me over sixpence or a shilling out of your wages, I'll take care of it for you, since you can't take care of it for yourself; and you shall have the full value out of my shop any time in Christmas-week, and be as merry as you like, and none the poorer.'
This logic is irresistible. Tomkins banks his 6d. for a plum-pudding and the etceteras with Mr Allspice the grocer; and this identical pudding he enjoys the pleasure of eating half-a-dozen times over in imagination before the next instalment is due. He at length becomes so fond of the flavour, that he actually—we know, for we have seen him do it—he actually, to use his own expression, 'goes in for a goose' besides with Mr Pluck the poulterer. Having once passed the Rubicon, of course he cannot go back; the weekly sixpences must be paid, come what will: it would be disgraceful to be a defaulter. So he practises a little self-denial, for the sake of a little self-esteem—and the goose and pudding in perspective. He finds, to his astonishment, that he can do quite as much work with one pot of beer a day as he could with two, and he drops the superfluous pot, and not only pays his instalments to the Christmas-bank, but gets a spare shilling in his pocket besides. Thus, under the tuition of the shopkeeper, he learns the practice of prudence in provisioning his family with plum-pudding, and imbibes the first and foremost of the household virtues, on the same principle as a wayward child imbibes physic—out of regard to the dainty morsel that is to come afterwards.
Passing one day last autumn through a long and populous thoroughfare on the southern side of the Thames, we happened to light upon Mr Allspice's appeal to the consciences and the pockets of the pudding-eating public. 'If you are wise,' said the admonitory placard, 'you will lose no time in joining Allspice's Plum-pudding Club.' Remembering the retort of a celebrated quack: 'Give me all the fools that come this way for my customers, and you are welcome to the wise men,' we must own we felt rather doubtful of the prosperity of the puddings; but having an interest in the matter, we resolved, notwithstanding, to ascertain, if possible, whether the Wisdom who uttereth her voice in the streets had on this special occasion spoken to any purpose, and whether any, and how many, had proved themselves wise in the acceptation of Mr Allspice. On making the necessary inquiries after the affair had gone off, we learned, to our surprise and gratification, that the club had been entirely successful. Upwards of a hundred persons of a class who are never worth half-a-crown at a time, had subscribed 6d. a week each for eighteen weeks, and thus entitled themselves to 9s. worth of plum-pudding ingredients, besides a certain quantity of tea and sugar. Thus the club had prospered exceedingly, and had been the instrument of introducing comfort and festive enjoyment to no small number of persons who might, and in all probability would, have had little to eat or drink, and, consequently, little cause for merriment, at that season. This is really a very pleasant fact to contemplate, connected though it be with a somewhat ludicrous kind of ingenuity, which must be exercised in order to bring it about. To anybody but a London shopkeeper, the attempt would appear altogether hopeless, to transform a hundred poor persons, who were never worth half-a-crown a piece from one year's end to the other, into so many 9s. customers; and yet the thing is done, and done, too, by the London grocer in a manner highly satisfactory, and still more advantageous to his customers. Is it too much to imagine that the lesson of provident forethought thus agreeably learned by multitudes of the struggling classes—for these clubs abound everywhere in London, and their members must be legion—have a moral effect upon at least a considerable portion of them? If one man finds a hundred needy customers wise enough to relish a plum-pudding of their own providing, surely they will not all be such fools as to repudiate the practice of that very prudence which procured them the enjoyment, and brought mirth and gladness to their firesides! Never think it! They shall go on to improve, take our word for it; and having learned prudence from plum-pudding, and generosity from goose—for your poor man is always the first to give a slice or two of the breast, when he has it, to a sick neighbour—they shall learn temperance from tea, and abstinence, if they choose, from coffee, and ever so many other good qualities from ever so many other good things; and from having been wise enough to join the grocer's Plum-pudding Club, they shall end by becoming prosperous enough to join the Whittington Club, or the Gresham Club, or the Athenaeum Club, or the Travellers' Club; or the House of Commons, or the House of Lords either, for all that you, or we, or anybody else, can say or do to the contrary.
We know nothing of the original genius who first hit upon this mode of indoctrinating the lower orders in a way so much to their advantage; we hope, however, as there is little reason to doubt, that he found his own account in it, and reaped his well-deserved reward. Whoever he was, his example has been well followed for many years past. In the poorer and more populous districts of the metropolis, this practice of making provision for inevitable wants, by small subscriptions paid in advance, prevails to a large extent. As winter sets in, almost every provision-dealer, and other traders as well, proffers a compact to the public, which he calls a club, though it is more of the nature of a savings-bank, seeing that, at the expiration of the subscribing period, every member is a creditor of the shop to the amount of his own investments, and nothing more. Thus, besides the Plum-pudding Clubs, there are Coal Clubs, by which the poor man who invests 1s. a week for five or six of the summer months, gets a ton of good coal laid in for the winter's consumption before the frost sets in and the coal becomes dear. Then there is the Goose Club, which the wiser members manage among themselves by contracting with a country dealer, and thus avoid the tipsy consummation of the public-house, where these clubs have mostly taken shelter. Again, there is the Twelfth-cake Club, which comes to a head soon after Christmas, and is more of a lottery than a club, inasmuch as the large cakes are raffled for, and the losers, if they get anything, get but a big bun for their pains and penalties. All these clubs, it will be observed, are plants of winter-growth, or at least of winter-fruiting, having for their object the provision of something desirable or indispensable in the winter season. There is, however, another and a very different species of club, infinitely more popular than any of the above, the operations of which are aboundingly visible throughout the warm and pleasant months of summer, and which may be, and sometimes is, called the Excursion Club.
The Excursion Club is a provision which the working and labouring classes of London have got up for themselves, to enable them to enjoy, at a charge available to their scanty means, the exciting pleasures—which are as necessary as food or raiment to their health and comfort—of a change of air and scene. It is managed in a simple way. The foreman of a workshop, or the father of a family in some confined court, or perhaps some manageress of a troop of working-girls, contracts with the owner of a van for the hire of his vehicle and the services of a driver for a certain day. More frequently still, the owner of the van is the prime mover in the business, but then the trip is not so cheap. The members club their funds, the men paying 1s. each, the wives, 6d., the children, 3d. or 4d.; and any poor little ragged orphan urchin, who may be hanging about the workshop, gets accommodated with a borrowed jacket and trousers, and a gratuitous face-washing from Mrs Grundy, and is taken for nothing, and well fed into the bargain. The cost, something over a guinea, is easily made up, and if any surplus remains, why, then, they hire a fiddler to go along with them. On the appointed morning, at an early hour, rain or shine, they flock to the rendezvous to the number of forty or fifty—ten or a dozen more or less is a trifle not worth mentioning. Each one carries his own provisions, and loaded with baskets, cans, bottles, and earthen-jars, mugs and tea-kettles, in they bundle, and off they jog—pans rattling, women chattering, kettles clinking, children crowing, fiddle scraping, and men smoking—at the rate of six or seven miles an hour, to Hampton Court or Epping Forest. It is impossible for a person who has never witnessed these excursions in the height of summer, to form an adequate notion of the merry and exciting nature of the relaxation they afford to a truly prodigious number of the hardworking classes. Returning from Kingston to London one fine Monday morning in June last, we met a train of these laughter-loaded vans, measuring a full mile in length, and which must have consisted of threescore or more vehicles, most of them provided with music of some sort, and adorned with flowers and green boughs. As they shot one at a time past the omnibus on which we sat, we were saluted by successive volleys of mingled mirth and music, and by such constellations of merry-faced mortals in St Monday garb, as would have made a sunshine under the blackest sky that ever gloomed. Arrived at Hampton Court, the separate parties encamp under the trees in Bushy Park, where they amuse themselves the livelong day in innocent sports, for which your Londoner has at bottom a most unequivocal and hearty relish. They will most likely spend a few hours in wandering through the picture-galleries in the palace, then take a stroll in the exquisite gardens, where the young fellow who is thoughtless enough to pluck a flower for his sweetheart, is instantly and infallibly condemned to drag a heavy iron roller up and down the gravel-walk, to the amusement of a thousand or two of grinning spectators. Having seen the palace and the gardens, they pay a short visit, perhaps, to the monster grape-vine, with its myriads of clusters of grapes, all of which Her Gracious Majesty is supposed to devour; and then they return to their dinner beneath some giant chestnut-tree in the park. The cloth is spread at the foot of the huge trunk; the gashed joints of the Sunday's baked meats, flanked by a very mountainous gooseberry pie, with crusty loaves and sections of cheese and pats of butter, cut a capital figure among the heterogeneous contribution of pitchers, preserve-jars, tin-cans, mugs and jugs, shankless rummers and wineglasses, and knives and forks of every size and pattern, from the balance handles and straight blades of to-day, to the wooden haft and curly-nosed cimeter of a century back. Their sharpened appetites make short work of the cold meats and pies. Treble X of somebody's own corking fizzes forth from brown jar and black bottle, and if more is wanted, it is fetched from the neighbouring tavern. Dinner done, the fiddle strikes up, and a dance on the greensward by the young people, while the old ones, stretched under the trees, enjoy a quiet gossip and a refreshing pipe, fills up the afternoon. There is always somebody at this crisis who is neither too old to dance nor too young to smoke a gossipping pipe, and so he does both at intervals—rushing now into the dance, drawn by the irresistible attraction of the fiddle, and now sidling back again to his smoke-puffing chums, impelled by the equally resistless charms of tobacco. Then and therefore he is branded as a deserter, and a file of young lasses lay hands on him, and drag him forth in custody to the dance; and after a good scolding from laughing lips, and a good drubbing from white handkerchiefs, they compromise the business at last by allowing him to dance with his pipe in his mouth.
By five o'clock, Mrs Grundy has managed, with the connivance of Jack the driver, somehow or other to boil the kettle, and a cup of tea is ready for all who are inclined to partake. The young folks for the most part prefer the dance: they can have tea any day—they will not dance on the grass again till next year perhaps; so they make the most of their time. By and by, the fiddler's elbow refuses to wag any longer: he is perfectly willing himself, as he says, 'to play till all's blue; but you see,' he adds, 'bones won't do it.' 'Never mind,' says the Beau Nash of the day: 'sack your badger, old boy, and go and get some resin. Now, then, for kiss in the ring!' Then while the fiddler gets his resin, which means anything he likes to eat or drink, the whole party, perhaps amounting to three or four van-loads in all, form into a circle for 'kiss in the ring.' The ring is one uproarious round of frolic and laughter, which would 'hold both its sides,' but that it is forced to hold its neighbours' hands with both its own, under which the flying damsel who has to be caught and kissed bobs in and out, doubling like a hare, till she is out of breath, and is overtaken at last, and led bashfully into the centre of the group, to suffer the awful penalty of the law. While this popular pastime is prolonged to the last moment, the van is getting ready to return; the old folks assist in stowing away the empty baskets and vessels; and an hour or so before sun-down, or it may be half an hour after, the whole party are remounted, and on their way home again, where they arrive, after a jovial ride, weary with enjoyment, and with matter to talk about for a month to come.
At Epping Forest, the scene is very different, but not a whit the less lively. There are no picture-galleries or pleasure-gardens, but there is the Forest to roam in, full of noble trees, in endless sinuous avenues, crowned with the 'scarce intruding sky,' among which the joyous holiday-makers form a finer picture than was ever painted yet. Then there are friendly foot-races and jumping-matches, and leap-frogging, and black-berrying, and foot-balling, and hockey-and-trapping, and many other games besides, in addition to the dancing and the ring-kissing. Epping and Hainault Forests are essentially the lungs of Whitechapel and Spitalfields. Their leafy shades are invaded all the summer long by the van-borne hosts of laborious poverty. Clubs, whose members invest but a penny a week, start into existence as soon as the leaves begin to sprout in the spring; with the first gush of summer, the living tide begins to flow into the cool bosom of the forest; and until late in the autumn, unless the weather is prematurely wintry, there is no pause for a day or an hour of sunshine in the rush of health-seekers to the green shades. The fiat has gone forth from the government for the destruction of these forests, for the felling of the trees and the enclosure of the land. Will the public permit the execution of the barbarous decree? We trust not.
Notwithstanding all that has been said, and so justly said, of the notorious improvidence of the poor, it will be seen from the above hasty sketches, that they yet can and do help themselves to many things which are undeniably profitable and advantageous to them: they only want, in fact, a motive for so doing—a foregone conviction that the thing desiderated is worth having. Now, here is ground for hope—an opening, so to speak, for the point of the wedge. That the very poor may be taught to practise self-denial, in the prospect of a future benefit, these clubs have proved; and we may confess to a prejudice in their favour, not merely from what they have accomplished, but from a not unreasonable hope, that they may perchance foster a habit which will lead to far better things than even warm chimney-corners, greenwood holidays, roast geese, and plum-pudding.
ARAGO ON THE SUN.
In the Annuaire of the Bureau des Longitudes, recently published in Paris, appears a paper by the distinguished astronomer Arago—'On the Observations which have made known the Physical Constitution of the Sun and of different Stars; and an Inquiry into the Conjectures of the Ancient Philosophers, and of the Positive Ideas of Modern Astronomers on the Place that the Sun ought to occupy among the Prodigious Number of Stars which stud the Firmament'—in which all that appertains to the subject is so ably condensed, as to afford material for a popular summary, which we purpose to convey in the present article. The eclipse of the sun of last July, by enabling observers to repeat former observations and test their accuracy, furnished some of the results which serve to complete the paper in question, and which may be considered as settled, owing to the improvements continually taking place in the construction of instruments. Although astronomy is the exactest of sciences, its problems are not yet all fully solved; and for the determination of some of these, observers have to wait for years—in certain instances, for a century or more, until all the circumstances combine for a favourable observation. From the days of the Epicurean philosopher, who, judging from appearances, declared the sun to be no more than a foot in diameter, to those of living calculators, who give to the orb a diameter of 883,000 miles, there has been a marvellous advance. In these dimensions, we have a sphere one million four hundred thousand times larger than the earth. 'Numbers so enormous,' says M. Arago, 'not being often employed in ordinary life, and giving us no very precise idea of the magnitudes which they imply, I recall here a remark that will convey a better understanding of the immensity of the solar volume. If we imagine the centre of the sun to coincide with that of the earth, its surface would not only reach the region in which the moon revolves, but would extend nearly as far again beyond.' By the transit of Venus in 1769, it was demonstrated that the sun is 95,000,000 miles from the earth; and yet, distant as it is, its physical constitution has been determined; and the history of the successive steps by which this proof has been arrived at, forms one of the most interesting chapters in the progress of science.
It was in 1611 that Fabricius, a Dutch astronomer, first observed spots on the eastern edge of the sun, which passed slowly across the disk to the western edge, and disappeared after a certain number of days. This phenomenon having been often noted subsequently, the conclusion drawn therefrom is, that the sun is a spherical body, having a movement of rotation about its centre, of which the duration is equal to twenty-five days and a half. These dark spots, irregular and variable, but well defined on their edge, are sometimes of considerable dimensions. Some have been seen whose size was five times that of the earth. They are generally surrounded by an aureola known as the penumbra, and sensibly less luminous than the other portions of the orb. From this penumbra, first observed by Galileo, many apparently singular deductions have been made: namely, 'The sun is a dark body, surrounded at a certain distance by an atmosphere which may be compared to that of the earth, when the latter is charged with a continuous stratum of opaque and reflecting clouds. To this first atmosphere succeeds a second, luminous in itself, called the photosphere. This photosphere, more or less remote from the inner cloudy atmosphere, would determine by its outline the visible limits of the orb. According to this hypothesis, there would he spots on the sun every time that there occurred in the two concentric atmospheres such corresponding clear spaces as would allow of our seeing the dark central body uncovered.'
This hypothesis is considered by the most competent judges to render a very satisfactory account of the facts. But it has not been universally adopted. Some writers of authority have lately represented the spots as scoriae floating on a liquid surface, and ejected from solar volcanoes, of which the burning mountains of the earth convey but a feeble idea. Hence observations become necessary as to the nature of the incandescent matter of the sun; and when we remember the immense distance of that body, such an attempt may well appear to be one of temerity.
The progress of optical science, however, has given us the means of determining this apparently insoluble question. It is well known, that physicists are enabled at present to distinguish two kinds of light—natural light and polarised light. A ray of the former exhibits the same properties on any part of its form; not so the latter. A polarised ray is said to have sides, and the different sides have different properties, as demonstrated by many interesting phenomena. Strange as it may seem, these rays thus described as having sides, could pass through the eye of a needle by hundreds of thousands without disturbing each other. Availing themselves, therefore, of the assistance of polarised light, and an instrument named the polariscope, or polarising telescope, observers obtain a double image of the sun, both alike, and both white; but on reflecting this image on water, or a glass mirror, the rays become polarised; the two images are no longer alike or white, but are intensely coloured, while their form remains unchanged. If one is red, the other is green, or yellow and violet, always producing what are called the complementary colours. With this instrument, it becomes possible to tell the difference between natural and polarised light.
Another point for consideration is, that for a long time it was supposed, that the light emanating from any incandescent body always came to the eye as natural light, if in its passage it had not been reflected or refracted. But experiment by the polariscope shewed, that the ray departing from the surface at an angle sufficiently small was polarised; while at the same time, it was demonstrated that the light emitted by any gaseous body in flame—that of street-lamps, for instance—is always in the natural state, whatever be its angle of emission. From these remarks, some idea will be formed of the process necessary to prove whether the substance which renders the sun visible is solid, liquid, or gaseous. On looking at the sun in the polariscope, the image, as before observed, is seen to be purely white—a proof that the medium through which the luminous substance is made visible to us is gaseous. If it were liquid, the light would be coloured; and as regards solidity, that is out of the question—the rapid change of spots proves that the outer envelope of the sun is not solid. On whatever day of the year we examine, the light is always white. Thus, these experiments remove the theory out of the region of simple hypothesis, and give certainty to our conclusions respecting the photosphere.
Here an example occurs of the aids and confirmations which science may derive from apparently trivial circumstances. Complaint was made at a large warehouse in Paris, that the gas-fitters had thrown the light on the goods from the narrow, and not from the broad side of the flame. Experiments were instituted, which proved that the amount of light was the same whether emitted from the broad or narrow surface. It was shewn also, that a gaseous substance in flame appears more luminous when seen obliquely than perpendicular, which explains what are known as faculae and lucules, being those parts of the solar disk that shew themselves brighter than other portions of the surface. These are due to the presence of clouds in the solar atmosphere; the inclined portions of the clouds appearing brightest to the spectator. The notion, that there were thousands on thousands of points distinguishing themselves from the rest by a greater accumulation of luminous matter, is thus disposed of.
Still, there remained something more to be determined. The existence of the photosphere being proved, the question arose—was there nothing beyond? or did it end abruptly? and this could only be determined at the period of a total eclipse, at the very moment when the obscuration of the sun being greatest, our atmosphere ceases to be illuminated. Hence the interest felt in an eclipse of the sun of late years.
In July 1842, at a total eclipse of the sun visible in several parts of the continent, the astronomers noticed, just as the sun was hidden by the moon, certain objects, in the form of rose-coloured protuberances, about two or three minutes high, astronomically speaking, projected from the surface of the moon. These appearances were variously explained: some supposed them to be lunar mountains; others saw in them effects of refraction or diffraction; but no precise explanation could be given; and mere guesses cannot be accepted as science. Others, again, thought them to be mountains in the sun, the summits stretching beyond the photosphere; but at the most moderate calculation, their height would have been about 60,000 miles—an elevation which, as is said, the solar attraction would render impossible. Another hypothesis was, that they were clouds floating in a solar, gaseous atmosphere.
M. Arago considers the last as the true explanation: it remained the great point to be proved. If it could be ascertained, that these red protuberances were not in actual contact with the moon, the demonstration would be complete. Speculation was busy, but nothing could be done in the way of verification until another eclipse took place. There was one in August 1850 total to the Sandwich Islands, at which, under direction of the French commandant at Tahiti, observations were made, the result being that the red prominences were seen to be separated by a fine line from the moon's circumference. Here was an important datum. It was confirmed by the observations of July 1851, by observers of different nations at different localities, who saw that the coloured peaks were detached from the moon; thus proving that they are not lunar mountains.
If it be further ascertained, that these luminous phenomena are not produced by the inflexion of rays passing over the asperities of the moon's disk, and that they have a real existence, then there will be a new atmosphere to add to those which already surround the sun; for clouds cannot support themselves in empty space.
We come next to that part of the subject which treats of the true place of the sun in the universe. In the year 448 B.C., Archelaus, the last of the Ionian philosophers, without having made any measurements, taught that the sun was a star, but only somewhat larger than the others. Now, the nearest fixed star is 206,000 times further from us than the sun: 206,000 times 95,000,000 of miles—a sum beyond all our habits of thought. The light from the star Alpha of the Centaur is three years in its passage to the earth, travelling at the rate of 192,000 miles per second; and there are 86,400 seconds in a day, and 365 days in a year. Astounding facts! If the sun, therefore, were removed to the distance of a Centauri, its broad disk, which takes a considerable time in its majestic rising and setting above and below the horizon, would have no sensible dimensions, even in the most powerful telescopes; and its light would not exceed that of stars of the third magnitude—facts which throw the guess of Archelaus into discredit. If our place in the material universe is thus made to appear very subordinate, we may remember, as M. Arago observes, that man owes the knowledge of it entirely to his own resources, and thereby has raised himself to the most eminent rank in the world of ideas. Indeed, astronomical investigations might not improperly excuse a little vanity on our part.'
Among the stars, Sirius is the brightest; but twenty thousand millions of such stars would be required to transmit to the earth a light equal to that of the sun. And if it were difficult to ascertain the nature and quality of the sun, it would appear to be still more so to determine these points with regard to the stars; for the reason, that the rays, coming from all parts of their disk, at once are intermingled, and of necessity produce white. This difficulty did not exist in similar investigations on the sun, because its disk is so large, that the rays from any one part of it may be examined while the others are excluded. Under these circumstances, further proof might seem to be hopeless; but advantage was taken of the fact, that there are certain stars which are sometimes light, sometimes dark, either from having a movement of rotation on their own axis, or because they are occasionally eclipsed by a non-luminous satellite revolving around them. It is clear, that while the light is waxing or waning, it comes from a part only of the star's disk; consequently, the neutralisation of rays, which takes place when they depart from the whole surface at once, cannot then occur; and from the observations on the portion of light thus transmitted, and which is found to remain white under all its phases, we are entitled to conclude, in M. Arago's words, that 'our sun is a star, and that its physical constitution is identical with that of the millions of stars strewn in the firmament.'
BARBARA'S SEA-SIDE EXCURSION.
It certainly appeared a most improbable circumstance, that any event should occur worthy of being recorded, to vary the even tenor of life which Mr and Mrs Norman enjoyed in the holy state of matrimony. They were young folks—they had married from affection—and, moreover, their union had been a strictly prudent one; for their income was more than sufficient for all their unaspiring wants and tastes; and it was also a 'certainty,' a great good in these days of speculation and going ahead. Charles Norman held a government situation, with a small but yearly increasing salary; his residence was at Pentonville; and his domestic circle comprised, besides his good, meek helpmeet, two little children, and an only sister, some years Charles's junior: indeed, Bab Norman had not very long quitted the boarding-school. Bab and Charles were orphans, and had no near relatives in the world; therefore Bab came home to live with her dear brother and his wife until she had a home of her own—a contingency which people whispered need not be far off, if Miss Barbara Norman so inclined. This piece of gossip perhaps arose from the frequent visits of Mr Norman's chosen friend, Edward Leslie—a steady and excellent young man, who filled an appointment of great trust and confidence in an old-established commercial house. Edward Leslie was not distinguished for personal attractions or captivating manners; but he was an honest, manly, generous-hearted fellow, and sensitive enough to feel very keenly sometimes that the pretty spoiled little Barbara laughed at and snubbed him. Notwithstanding Bab's folly, however, it would have given her great pain had Edward Leslie courted another. He was patient and forbearing; and she fluttered and frisked about, determined to make the most of her liberty while it lasted. 'Of course she meant to marry some day,' she said with a demure smile, 'but it would take a long time to make up her mind.'
Charles quite doted on his pretty sister, and often could not find it in his heart to rebuke her, because she was motherless, and had only him and Cary to look to; and Cary's office was not to rebuke any one, much less her dear little sister-in-law. So Barbara was spoiled and humoured; while the children were kept in high order—a proper discipline being exercised in the nursery, as became a well-regulated and nicely-decorated house. Cary thought Bab a beauty, and so did Charles; the young lady herself was not at all backward in estimating her own charms; and it was a pity to see them so often obscured by affectation, for Bab had a kind heart and an affectionate disposition. One day when Charles returned home after business-hours were over, Bab flew towards him with an unusually animated countenance, holding an open letter in her hand, and exclaiming: 'Oh, dear Charles, read this! You'll let me go—wont you? I never was at the sea-side in my life, you know; and it will do me such a deal of good.'
Charles smiled, took the letter, and tapping his sister's dimpled rosy cheek, he said fondly: 'I don't think, Bab, that you want "doing good to" so far as health is concerned. The sea-air cannot improve these roses.'
'Well, well, Charles, never mind the roses—there's a dear. They only ask me to go for a fortnight, and I should so like it; it will be so nice to be with one's schoolmates at the sea. Bell and Lucy Combermere are such bathers, they say; and as for me, I do believe, Charles, I shall drown myself for love of the sea! Oh, you must let me go—do!'
There was no resisting this coaxing; so Charles said he 'would see about it, and talk the matter over with Caroline.'
'Cary thinks it will be delightful for me,' exclaimed Barbara: 'she's always a good-natured darling.' And Bab felt sure of going, if Charles talked the matter over with Cary; so she flew off in an ecstasy of joy, dancing and singing, and forthwith commenced preparations, by pulling off the faded pink ribbons which adorned her bonnet, and substituting gay bright new streamers.
The invitation in question came from Mrs Combermere, who, with her two unmarried daughters, were sojourning at a favourite watering-place—always crowded during the season—and where Mr Combermere, a rich citizen, could join his family every week, and inhale a breath of pure air. Charles did not particularly like the Combermeres. Mrs Combermere was a fussy woman, full of absurd pretension, and with a weakness for forming aristocratic acquaintance, which had more than once led her into extravagance, ending in disappointment and mortification. The Misses Combermere inherited their mamma's weakness; they were comely damsels, and expectant sharers of papa's wealth, who was 'very particular' on whom he bestowed his treasures. Bell and Lucy had been at school with Barbara Norman, and a strong friendship—a school friendship—had been struck up amongst the trio, whom the French dancing-master denominated 'the Graces.' And now Barbara had received an invitation to stay with them for a fortnight, a private postscript being inserted by Miss Bell, to the effect that 'Bab must be sure to come very smart, for there were most elegant people there, and such beaux!'
Bab went accordingly on Saturday, escorted by Mr Combermere, who always returned on the following Monday. Never before had Bab beheld so gay a scene; never till now had she looked on the glorious ocean; never had she promenaded to the sounds of such exhilarating music. Her pretty little head was quite bewildered, though in the midst of all her delight she wished for Charles and Cary, and the children; there was such delicious bathing for the tiny ones; such digging with their little spades in the golden sands! Innocent, happy gold-diggers they!
She found Mrs Combermere and the girls in the full swing of sea-side dissipation—quite open-house kept, free-and-easy manners, which at home would not have been tolerated. But it came only once a year, and they could afford it. Quite established as an intimate, was a tall young gentleman, with delicate moustache, who seemed to be on terms of friendly familiarity with half the aristocracy of the nation. Mrs Combermere whispered to Bab, that Mr Newton was a most 'patrician person,' of the 'highest connections;' they had met with him on the sands, where he had been of signal use in assisting Mrs Combermere over the shingles on a stormy day. He was so gentlemanly and agreeable, that they could not do otherwise than ask him in; he had remained to tea, and since then had been a regular visitor.
Mr Newton had been at first treated with great coolness by Mr Combermere; the latter gentleman did not like strangers, and always looked on a moustache with suspicion. But Mr Newton was so deferential, so unexceptionable in deportment, and prudent in his general sentiments, warmly advocating Mr Combermere's political opinions, that he had at last won the good opinion even of the father of the family. Besides, he paid no particular attention to the Misses Combermere: there was no danger of his making up to them—that was clear; and Mrs Combermere, mother-like, felt a little mortified and chagrined at such palpable indifference. But when pretty Bab Norman appeared, the case was different: her brunette complexion and sparkling dark eyes elicited marked admiration from the patrician Mr Newton; and he remarked in an off-hand way—sotto voce, as if to himself: 'By Jupiter! how like she is to dear Lady Mary Manvers.' Bab felt very much flattered by the comparison, and immediately began to like Mr Newton immensely; he was so distingue, so fascinating, so refined. Bab did not add, that he had singled her out as an especial object of attention, even when the fair dashing Misses Combermere challenged competition.
The fortnight passed swiftly away—too swiftly, alas! thought little Barbara Norman; for at the expiration of the term, Mrs Combermere did not ask her to prolong the visit, but suffered her to depart, again under the escort of Mr Combermere, without a word of regret at parting. Cruel Mrs Combermere! she wished to keep Mr Newton's society all to herself and her daughters! However, the young gentleman asked Barbara for permission to pay his respects to her when he returned to the metropolis; this had been accorded by Barbara, who, on her return to Pentonville, for the first time found that comfortable home 'insufferably dull and stupid.' Edward Leslie, too—how dull and stupid even he was, after the chattering perfumed loungers of the elysium she had just quitted! Yet Edward was never considered either dull or stupid by competent judges; but, quite the contrary—a sensible, well-informed, gentlemanly personage. But, then, he had no great friends, no patrician weaknesses; he knew nothing about racing, or betting, or opera-dancers, or slang in general. In short, he seemed flat and insipid to Bab, who had been compared to the beautiful Lady Mary Manvers by the soft and persuasive tongue of Lady Mary Manvers's dear friend. Yet, in her secret heart of hearts, Bab drew comparisons by no means disadvantageous to Edward Leslie. 'Yes,' thought Bab, 'I like Mr Newton best by the sea-side in summer-time, when harp-music floats on the balmy air; then I should always like him, if summer was all the year round. But for everyday life, for winter hours, for home, in short, I'm sure I like Edward Leslie best—I'm sure I love Edward Leslie;' and Bab blushed and hesitated, though she was quite alone. Cary listened good-naturedly to all Bab's descriptions of the happiness she had enjoyed; and Cary thought, from all Bab said, that Mr Newton must be at least some great lord in disguise. She felt quite nervous at the idea of his coming to such a humble house as theirs, when he talked of parks, and four-in-hands, and baronial halls, as things with which he was familiar, and regarded as matters of course. Cary hoped that Charles and Edward Leslie would be present when Mr Newton called, because they were fit to associate with royalty itself. Cary had a very humble opinion of herself—sweet, gentle soul! Charles often wished his dear sister Bab might closely resemble her. At length, Bell Combermere wrote to say, they were about returning to town; and Mr Newton declared he could not remain behind. Bab's heart fluttered and palpitated at each sound the knocker gave; and she was thankful that Cary's cousin, Miss Ward, was staying with them, to call attention off from herself.
Miss Ward was an accomplished, charming woman of middle age, who for years had resided in the Earl of St Elmer's family as governess—greatly valued for her many estimable qualities. Not being in robust health, she had absented herself for a short season from her onerous duties, and in her dear friend and cousin's house, sought and obtained quiet and renovation. Miss Ward often found difficulty in repressing a smile at Bab's superfluous graces and animated gestures; but it was a kindly smile, for the stately conventionalities amongst which she usually existed, rendered these traits of less refined manners rather refreshing than otherwise. Miss Ward was out when Mrs Combermere's equipage drove up to Mr Norman's door; and that large lady, with her daughter Bell, accompanied by Mr Newton, made their way up stairs to Mrs Norman's drawing-room. Mrs Combermere was always astoundingly grand and patronising when she honoured Cary with a call; Mrs Combermere liked to call upon folks whom she denominated inferiors—to impress them with an overwhelming idea of her importance. But on the simple-minded literal Cary, this honour was lost, she received it with such composure and unconscious placidity: on Bab it produced, indeed, the desired effect; but whether it was Mrs Combermere's loud talking and boasting, or Mr Newton's easy negligence and patronising airs, that caused her to colour and hesitate, it is not possible to define. Bab was not herself; and she began to be ashamed of living in Pentonville, when Mr Newton spoke of Belgravia. Miss Ward, who had returned from her shopping excursion, glided into the room unnoticed, in the middle of a description Mr Newton was giving of a magnificent place, belonging to a dear friend, with whom he had been staying, ere he had the 'unspeakable felicity of meeting Mrs Combermere.'
'Your description is a graphic one, John Blomfield,' said Miss Ward in a low voice close to his ear; 'but how came you here—in this company?'
John Blomfield, alias John Newton, started as if an adder had bitten him, and gazed franticly upon the intruder. 'Miss Ward, madam,' he exclaimed involuntarily, 'don't say more, and I'll go this instant!'
'Then go,' continued Miss Ward majestically, pointing to the door; 'and beware, John Blomfield, how you dare to enter a gentleman's house unauthorised again.'
Pale and crest-fallen, the young gentleman and dear friend of Lady Mary Manvers vanished; nor did he require a second bidding to rush down stairs, and out at the front-door, which was slammed violently after him.
'What does this mean, ma'am?' inquired Mrs Combermere, very red in the face, and looking terribly frightened—'what does this all mean, ma'am?'
'Only,' replied Miss Ward quietly, 'that this individual, who calls himself Mr Newton, and whose conversation I overheard after entering the apartment, is in reality John Blomfield, ci devant valet to Lord Lilburne, the eldest son of the Earl of St Elmer, in whose family I have the honour to be governess. His lordship shewed toleration and kindness unprecedented towards the ungrateful young man, on account of his respectable parentage, and the excellent abilities and aptitude for instruction he displayed. But I grieve to say, John Blomfield was discharged from Lord Lilburne's service, under circumstances which left no doubt on our minds that he was guilty of dishonest practices—of pilfering, in short, to a considerable extent. We heard that he still continued his evil course; but though knowing him to possess both skill and effrontery, I was almost as much startled as the delinquent himself, to behold him thus playing the fine gentleman, and lounging on Cary's sofa.'
A faint groan escaped from Miss Combermere as she ejaculated: 'Oh, my pearl necklace!' and a still deeper and more audible sigh from her mamma, as the words burst forth: 'Oh, my diamond bandeau!' which led to an explanation from the distressed and bewildered ladies, of how they had intrusted these precious jewels to Mr Newton, who urged them on returning to town to have them reset, volunteering to take them himself to Lady Mary Manvers's own jeweller, a 'first-rate fellow, who worked only for the aristocracy.' 'They must not be in a hurry,' Mr Newton said, 'for the first-rate fellow was so torn to pieces by duchesses and countesses, that even weeks might elapse before their comparatively trifling order could be attended to.'
'I fear,' said Miss Ward commiseratingly, 'that you will not see your valuables again. John Blomfield is a clever rascal, and has good taste too,' continued Miss Ward smiling, 'for he invariably selects pretty things. I hope, my dear'—turning to Bab, who sat silent and petrified—'your beautiful gold repeater set with brilliants is safe, and that it did not require repairs or alterations, to induce you to part with it into Mr Newton's hands? I doubt not he had an eye to it eventually.'
Poor Bab—what a blow to her vanity! She could only murmur something about the watch being very dear to her, because it had belonged to her deceased mother, and that she always wore it round her neck.
'And I don't think that Bab would part with it out of her hands to any one,' said Cary, 'if we except ourselves, save to Edward Leslie; but he is such a careful soul, that one would not mind intrusting him with the most precious treasure on earth.'
Bab blushed very deeply at this speech, because she saw a covert smile on Miss Ward's speaking countenance. That lady, notwithstanding her amiability and philanthropic character, rather enjoyed the consternation and confusion of Mrs and Miss Combermere, who retreated more humbly than they had entered, having received a lesson which, it is to be hoped, they profited by for the remainder of their lives. The pearl necklace and diamond bandeau were not recovered, though a reward was offered by the enraged Mr Combermere for the apprehension of the thief; yet Miss Bell with tears declared, that she would far rather lose her pearl necklace than give evidence against one whose attractive qualities she could not cease to remember.
Very shortly after this affair, Barbara had another short trip to the sea-side, and with a companion whose happiness equalled her own: it was the honeymoon excursion, and Edward Leslie was Bab's companion for life. After this second sea-side sojourn, the bride returned to a pretty house of her own, quite near to Charles and Cary; and Barbara was never heard to complain of finding it dull or stupid, though summer does not last all the year round with any of us.
MR JERDAN'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY.
The first of a series of volumes, designed to contain the literary, political, and social reminiscences of Mr Jerdan during the last fifty years, has just seen the light. It will be found to be one of the most amusing books of the day, and also not without a moral of its own kind. We presume it is of no use to debate how far it is allowable to bring before the public matters pertaining to private life, and about which living individuals may feel a delicacy. The time for such questions seems past. Assuming so much, we at least feel pretty sure that the lives and characters of living men could scarcely be in gentler or more genial hands than those of William Jerdan.
Mr Jerdan is chiefly known as having been for a third of a century the editor of the London Literary Gazette, a work which used to report on literature with a sympathy for authors strikingly in contrast with the tone of some of its contemporaries, in whom it would almost appear as if the saying of a kind word, or even the doing of simple justice towards a book, were felt as a piece of inexcusable weakness. He is now, at seventy, relieved from his cares, with little tangible result from his long and active career; but for this the readers of his autobiography will be at no loss to account. Jerdan has evidently been a kind-hearted, mirth-making, tomorrow-defying mortal all his days, as if he had patriotically set himself from the beginning to prove that Scotland could produce something different from those hosts of staid, sober, calculating men for which it has become so much distinguished. We speak here, indeed, according to the English apprehension of the Scotch character, for in Scotland, strange to say—that is, to Englishmen it will appear strange—the people believe themselves to be remarkable for want of foresight—'aye wise ahint the hand,' is their own self-portraiture—and for a certain ardour of genius which leads them into all sorts of scrapes. The issue is, after all, a hard one, and viewing the long services of Mr Jerdan to the literary republic, we would hope that a cheerful life-evening is still in store for him.
Our autobiographer tells, with all due modesty, of his early days at Kelso—the respectable friends by whom he was surrounded—his acquiring the reputation of a clever youth, and running nigh being a good deal spoilt in consequence. At nineteen, he went to London, to enter the counting-house of a mercantile uncle, and during two years spent there, formed an acquaintance with a group of young men, several of whom have since become distinguished. Among these were Messrs Pirie and Lawrie, since Lord Mayors of London—David, William, and Frederick Pollock, of whom the last is now Chief Baron of Exchequer—and Mr Wilde, who has since been Lord Chancellor. Interrupted in his career by a severe illness, he returned to Scotland to recruit, and soon after was placed with an Edinburgh writer to the Signet, to study the mysteries of law. The Scottish capital was then a much more frolicsome place than now, and Jerdan entered heartily into all its humours, spent merry evenings with Tom Sheridan and Joseph Gillan, attended mason-lodges, joined the Volunteers, and, seeing a fountain one day, wished to be it, for then he should have nothing to do but play. The natural result followed in a second severe illness, out of which his kind master, Corrie Elliott, endeavoured to recover him by a commission to ride through a range of mountain parishes in the south, in order to search for genealogical particulars illustrative of a case between Lady Forbes, born Miss Hunter of Polmood, and two gentlemen named Hunter, who claimed her estate.
'I travelled,' says our autobiographer, 'from manse to manse, and received unbounded hospitalities from the ministers, whilst I examined their kirk-registers, and extracted from them every entry where the name of Hunter or Welsh was to be found. Never was task more gratifying. The bonhomie of the priests, and the simplicity of their parishioners, were a new world to me, whilst they, the clergy, men of piety and learning, considered themselves as out of the world altogether. The population was thin and scattered, the mode of living primitive in the extreme, and the visit of a stranger, so insignificant as myself, quite enough to make a great sensation in these secluded parts. I found the ministers ingenuous, free from all puritanism, and generally well informed.... The examination of the parish books was also a labour of love and source of endless amusement. They mostly went as far back as a century and a half, and were, in the elder times, filled with such entries as bespoke a very strange condition of society. The inquisitorial practices and punitive power of the ministry could not be exceeded in countries enslaved by the priesthood of the Church of Rome. Forced confessions, the denial of religious rites even on the bed of death, excommunication, shameful exposures, and a rigid and minute interference in every domestic or private concern, indicated a state of things which must have been intolerable. High and low were obliged to submit to this offensive discipline and domination.... My duty was thus pleasantly and satisfactorily performed. My note-book was full. My skill in deciphering obsolete manuscript was cultivated and improved; and my health was restored as if by miracle. Of other incidents and results I shall only state, that on one occasion, to rival Bruce in Abyssinia, I dined off mutton whilst the sheep nibbled the grass upon the lawn, our fare being the amputated tails of the animals, which made a very dainty dish—that on reaching Edinburgh, my hackney, having from a dark gallop over a ground where a murder had been committed not long before, and being put into a cold stable, lost every hair on its hide like a scalded pig, subjected me to half his price in lieu of damage—and that the famous and ancient Polmood remained in the possession of Lord Forbes, as inherited from the charter of King Robert, who gave the lands for ever, "as high up as heaven, and as low down as hell," to the individual named in the grant, which was witnessed "by Meg, my wife, and Marjory, my nourice."'
Despairing of doing any good in Edinburgh, Mr Jerdan, while still only twenty-three, resorted once more to London, though without any definite object in view. While pursuing his usual light-hearted career, he got into debt and difficulties, and experienced the consequent annoyances with the sense of being an injured man, 'whereas it was I who had wronged myself.' 'It was now,' he adds, 'that I got my first lesson of that fatal truth—that debt is the greatest curse which can beset the course of a human being. It cools his friends and heats his enemies; it throws obstacles in the way of his every advance towards independence; it degrades him in his own estimation, and exposes him to humiliation from others, however beneath him in station and character; it marks him for injustice and spoil; it weakens his moral perceptions and benumbs his intellectual faculties; it is a burden not to be borne consistently with fair hopes of fortune, or that peace of mind which passeth all understanding, both in a worldly and eternal sense. But I shall have much to say on the subject in the future pages of this biography, though I cannot omit the opportunity afforded by my earliest taste of the bitter fruit which poisons every pulse of existence, earnestly to exhort my youthful readers to deny themselves every expense which they cannot harmlessly afford, and revel on bread and water and a lowly couch, in humility and patience, rather than incur the obligation of a single sixpence beyond their actual means.'
At length, about 1806, he gravitated into what was perhaps his natural position—the press; taking a concern in a daily paper called the Aurora, which was got up by the hotel-keepers of London. This speculation did not answer. It was destined to verify a late saying: 'If you want anything spoilt or ruined, you cannot do better than confide it to a committee.' 'Our rulers,' says Jerdan, 'though intelligent and sensible men, were neither literary nor conversant with journalism. Under any circumstances, their interference would have been injurious, but it was rendered still more fatal by their differences in political opinion, and two or three of the number setting up to write "leaders" themselves. The clashing and want of ensemble was speedily obvious and detrimental; our readers became perfect weathercocks, and could not reconcile themselves to themselves from day to day. They wished, of course, to be led, as all well-informed citizens are, by their newspaper; and they would not blow hot and cold in the manner prescribed for all the coffee-room politicians in London. In the interior, the hubbub and confusion of the republic of letters was meanwhile exceedingly amusing to the looker-on; we were of all parties and shades of opinion: the proprietor of the King's Head was an ultra Tory, and swore by George III. as the best of sovereigns—the Crown Hotel was very loyal, but more moderate—the Bell Inn would give a strong pull for the Church—whilst the Cross-Keys was infected with Romish predilections. The Cockpit was warlike; the Olive-Tree, pacific; the Royal Oak, patriotic; the Rummer, democratic; the Hole-in-the-Wall, seditious. Many a dolorous pull at the porter-pot and sapientious declination of his head had the perplexed and bemused editor, before he could effect any tolerable compromise of contradictions for the morning's issue: at the best, the sheet appeared full of signs and wonders!' In short, the paper failed.
Mr Jerdan passed through various situations on various papers, as the elegant language of Cockneydom hath it, and thus he has been enabled to give some curious sketches of the personnel of the press in those days. In the Morning Post, he took a strong part against the Mary-Anne-Clarke investigation, and caused a marvellous sinking of the circulation in consequence. He, nevertheless, consented to go and see that celebrated lady, and confesses to have been softened by her blandishments. One of the most remarkable occurrences of that period was his witnessing the assassination of the prime minister, Perceval, in May 1812. He had saluted the premier, as he was passing into the lobby of the House of Commons, and had held back the spring-door to allow him precedence in entering, when instantly there was a noise within. 'I saw a small curling wreath of smoke rise above his head, as if the breath of a cigar; I saw him reel back against the ledge on the inside of the door; I heard him exclaim: "O God!" or "O my God!" and nothing more or longer (as reported by several witnesses), for even that exclamation was faint; and then, making an impulsive rush, as it were, to reach the entrance to the House on the opposite side for safety, I saw him totter forward, not half way, and drop dead between the four pillars which stood there in the centre of the space, with a slight trace of blood issuing from his lips.
'All this took place ere, with moderate speed, you could count five! Great confusion, and almost as immediately great alarm, ensued. Loud cries were uttered, and rapidly conflicting orders and remarks on every hand made a perfect Babel of the scene; for there were above a score of people in the lobby, and on the instant no one seemed to know what had been done or by whom. The corpse of Mr Perceval was lifted up by Mr William Smith, the member for Norwich, assisted by Lord Francis Osborne, a Mr Phillips, and several others, and borne into the office of the Speaker's secretary, by the small passage on the left hand, beyond and near the fireplace. Pallid and deadly, close by the murderer, it must have been; for in a moment after, Mr Eastaff, one of the clerks of the Vote Office at the last door on that side, pointed him out, and called: "That is the murderer!" Bellingham moved slowly to a bench on the hither side of the fireplace, near at hand, and sat down. I had in the first instance run forward to render assistance to Mr Perceval, but only witnessed the lifting of his body, followed the direction of Mr Eastaff's hand, and seized the assassin by the collar, but without violence on one side, or resistance on the other. Comparatively speaking, a crowd now came up, and among the earliest Mr Vincent Dowling, Mr John Norris, Sir Charles Long, Sir Charles Burrell, Mr Henry Burgess, and, in a minute or two, General Gascoigne from a committee-room up stairs, and Mr Hume, Mr Whitbread, Mr Pole, and twelve or fifteen members from the House. Meanwhile, Bellingham's neckcloth had been stripped off, his vest unbuttoned, and his chest laid bare. The discharged pistol was found beside him, and its companion was taken, loaded and primed, from his pocket. An opera-glass, papers, and other articles, were also pulled forth, principally by Mr Dowling, who was on his left, whilst I stood on his right hand; and except for his frightful agitation, he was as passive as a child. Little was said to him. General Gascoigne on coming up, and getting a glance through the surrounding spectators, observed that he knew him at Liverpool, and asked if his name was Bellingham, to which he returned no answer; but the papers rendered further question on this point unnecessary. Mr Lynn, a surgeon in Great George Street, adjacent, had been hastily sent for, and found life quite extinct, the ball having entered in a slanting direction from the hand of the tall assassin, and passed into his victim's heart. Some one came out of the room with this intelligence, and said to Bellingham: "Mr Perceval is dead! Villain! how could you destroy so good a man, and make a family of twelve children orphans?" To which he almost mournfully replied: "I am sorry for it." Other observations and questions were addressed to him by bystanders; in answer to which he spoke incoherently, mentioning the wrongs he had suffered from government, and justifying his revenge on grounds similar to those he used, at length, in his defence at the Old Bailey.
'I have alluded to Bellingham's "frightful agitation" as he sat on the bench, and all this dreadful work was going on; and I return to it, to describe it as far as words can convey an idea of the shocking spectacle. I could only imagine something like it in the overwrought painting of a powerful romance-writer, but never before could conceive the physical suffering of a strong muscular man, under the tortures of a distracted mind. Whilst his language was cool, the agonies which shook his frame were actually terrible. His countenance wore the hue of the grave, blue and cadaverous; huge drops of sweat ran down from his forehead, like rain on the window-pane in a heavy storm, and, coursing his pallid cheeks, fell upon his person, where their moisture was distinctly visible; and from the bottom of his chest to his gorge, rose and receded, with almost every breath, a spasmodic action, as if a body, as large or larger than a billiard-ball, were choking him. The miserable wretch repeatedly struck his chest with the palm of his hand to abate this sensation, but it refused to be repressed.'
Our author makes a curious remark on the case—namely, that the first examinations are calculated to give the future historian a more faithful idea of the transaction than the record of the trial. Even in the short interval of four days, witnesses had become confused in their recollections, mistaking things which they had only heard of for things they had beheld. The unhappy culprit perished on the scaffold only a week after his crime.
Jerdan, who assumed the editorship of the Sun in 1813, was a flaming Tory of the style of that day, and accordingly enjoyed the triumph of Europe over Bonaparte. In Paris, immediately after the Allies had entered it, he feasted his eyes with the singular spectacles presented, and the personal appearance of the heroes he had been employed for some years in celebrating. Here is a scene at Beauvillier's restaurant in the Rue de Richelieu, where 700 people dined every day. 'It was on the first or second day, that a fair Saxon-looking gentleman came and seated himself at my table. I think he chose the seat advertently, from having observed or gathered that I was fresh from London. We speedily entered into conversation, and he pointed out to me some of the famous individuals who were doing justice to the Parisian cookery at the various tables around—probably about twenty in all. As he mentioned their names, I could not repress my enthusiasm—a spirit burning over England when I left it only a few days before—and my new acquaintance seemed to be much gratified by my ebullitions. "Well," said he to a question from me, "that is Davidoff, the colonel of the Black Cossacks." I shall not repeat my exclamations of surprise and pleasure at the sight of this terrific leader, who had hovered over the enemy everywhere, cut off so many resources, and performed such incredible marches and actions as to render him and his Cossacks the dread of their foes. "Is this," inquired my companion, "the opinion of England?" I assured him it was, and let out the secret of my editorial consequence, in proof that I was a competent witness. On this, a change of scene ensued. My incognito walked across to Davidoff, who forthwith filled, and sent me a glass of his wine—the glass he was using—and drank my health. I followed the example, and sent mine in return, and the compliment was completed. But it did not stop with this single instance. My new fair-complexioned friend went to another table, and spoke with a bronzed and hardy-looking warrior, from whom he came with another similar bumper to me, and the request that I would drink wine with General Czernicheff. I was again in flames; but it is unnecessary to repeat the manner in which I, on that to me memorable day, took wine with half a dozen of the most distinguished generals in the allied service.
'Whilst this toasting-bout was going on, a seedy-looking old gentleman came in, and I noticed that some younger officers rose and offered him a place, which he rejected, till a vacancy occurred, and then he quietly sat down, swallowed his two dozen of green oysters as a whet, and proceeded to dine with an appetite. By this time, my vis-a-vis had resumed his seat, and, after what had passed, I felt myself at liberty to ask him the favour of informing me who he himself was! I was soon answered. He was a Mr Parish, of Hamburg, whose prodigious commissariat engagements with the grand army had been fulfilled in a manner to prosper the war; and I was now at no loss to account for his intimacy with its heroes. It so happened that I knew, and was on friendly terms with some of his near relations; and so the two hours I have described took the value of two years. But the climax had to come. Who was the rather seedy-looking personage whom the aids-de-camp appeared so ready to accommodate? Oh, that was Blucher! If I was outrageous before, I was mad now. I explained to Mr Parish the feeling of England with regard to this hero; and that, amid the whole host of great and illustrious names, his had become the most glorious of all, and was really the one which filled most unanimously and loudly the trump of fame. He told me that an assurance of this would be most gratifying to the marshal, who thought much of the approbation of England, and asked my leave to communicate to him what I had said. I could have no objection; but after a short colloquy, Blucher did not send his glass to me—he came himself; and I hobnobbed with the immortal soldier. I addressed him in French, to which he would not listen; and I then told him in English of the glorious estimation in which he was held in my country, which Mr Parish translated into German; and if ever high gratification was evinced by man, it was by Blucher on this occasion. I had the honour of breakfasting with him at his hotel next morning, when the welcome matter was discussed more circumstantially; and he evinced the greatest delight.'
Here we must part with Mr Jerdan, but only, we hope, to meet him again ere long in a second volume.
THE SOMERSET AND OVERBURY TRAGEDY.
The history of the unworthy favourites whom James I. of England raised to a power so extravagant, has always been surrounded with a tragic mystery. One of them, Buckingham, was stabbed by an assassin; the other, Somerset, was condemned to death for murder. The extravagant dignities and emoluments heaped on these unworthy men, are utterly beyond the belief of those who live under the constitutional government of the present day. Nor was it enough that they obtained the highest titles in the peerage, and large grants out of the public money; they were rewarded in a manner still more dangerous to the public welfare, by being invested with the great, responsible offices of state, which were thus held by young men totally inexperienced, instead of responsible and capable ministers. Of course, they distributed all the inferior offices among their relations and connections; and a witty annalist of the day describes the children of the reigning favourite's kindred as swarming about the palaces, and skipping up and down the back-stairs like so many fairies. They had been raised in early youth from a humble condition to this dazzling elevation, and it was only too much in accordance with the frailty of human nature that they should lose head—feel as if they were under no responsibility to their fellow-men—and, as Shakspeare says, 'play such fantastic tricks before high Heaven, as make the angels weep.' Such rapid and ill-founded prosperity never lasts; and generally he who has ascended like a blazing rocket, tumbles to the earth like its charred and blackened socket.
Carr, afterwards made Earl of Somerset, was a raw Scotch youth, without education or training, when he was first brought under the notice of the king by chancing to have his leg broken in the royal presence in an attempt to mount a fiery horse. When once taken into favour, the king did not care whom he offended, or what injustice he did, to enrich the fortunate youth. When he was besought to spare the heritage of the illustrious and unfortunate Raleigh, he said peevishly: 'I mun have it for Carr—I mun have it for Carr!' The favourite desired to have for his wife the Lady Frances Howard, who had been married to the Earl of Essex. The holiest bonds must be broken to please him, and the marriage was shamefully dissolved. This did no great injury, indeed, to Essex. The union had been one entirely of interest, contracted when both were mere children. He was the same Essex who afterwards figured in the civil war—a grave, conscientious, earnest man, who could have had little sympathy with a woman so giddy and unprincipled. She suited better with the profligate Somerset; but had it not been that the king's favourite demanded it to be dissolved, the original union would have been held sacred.
Great court pageants and festivities hailed the marriage of Carr with the divorced Lady Essex, and the proudest of England's nobility vied with each other in doing honour to the two vile persons thus unpropitiously united. The chief-justice, Coke, and the illustrious Bacon, bowed in the general crowd before their ascendancy. It has been maintained that Ben Jonson, in his rough independence, refused to write a masque for the occasion of these wicked nuptials; but this has been denied; and it is said, that the reason why his works contain no avowed reference to the occasion, is because they were not published until Somerset's fall. The event took place in 1613: three years afterwards, the same crowd of courtiers and great officers were assembled in Westminster Hall, to behold the earl and countess on their trial for murder.
Sir Thomas Overbury, a man of great talent, who lived, like many other people of that period, by applying his capacity to state intrigues, had been committed to the Tower at the instigation of Somerset. He died there suddenly; and a suspicion arose that he had been poisoned by Somerset and his countess. A curious account of the transactions which immediately followed, has been preserved in a work called A Detection of the State and Court of England during the last Four Reigns. It is the more curious, as the author, Roger Coke, was a grandson of Sir Edward, the great chief-justice, who was a principal actor in the scene. The king was at Royston, accompanied by Somerset, when it appears that Sir Ralph Winwood informed his majesty of the suspicions that were abroad against the favourite. The king immediately determined to inform Coke; but it is feared that the determination arose not from a desire to execute strict justice, but because another favourite, George Villiers, who afterwards became Duke of Buckingham, had already superseded Somerset in the king's esteem.
A message was immediately despatched to Sir Edward Coke, who lived in the Temple. He was in bed when it arrived, and his son, even for one who came in the king's name, would not disturb him; 'For I know,' he said, 'my father's disposition to be such, that if he be disturbed in his sleep, he will not be fit for any business; but if you will do as we do, you shall be welcome; and about two hours hence my father will rise, and you may then do as you please.' This was at one o'clock of the morning. Precisely at three, a little bell rang, announcing that the most laborious and profound lawyer whom England has ever produced, had begun the toilsome business of the day. It was his practice to go to bed at nine in the evening, and wake at three, and, in every other detail of his life, he pursued this with clock-work uniformity. When he saw the papers laid before him by the messenger, he immediately granted a warrant against Somerset, on a charge of murder.
The favourite, little knowing what a pitfall had been dug in his seemingly prosperous path, was still at Royston, enjoying the most intimate familiarity with the king, when the messenger returned. Deception was so much of an avowed principle with King James, and was so earnestly supported by him, as one of the functions and arts of kingcraft, that in his hands it almost lost its treacherous character, and assumed the appearance of sincerity. He held that a king who acted openly and transparently, neglected his duty, as the vicegerent of the Deity; and that, for the sake of good government and the happiness of his people, he was bound always to conceal his intentions under false appearances, or, when necessary, under false statements. Somerset was sitting beside the king, whose hand rested familiarly on his shoulder, when the warrant was served on him. The haughty favourite frowned, and turned to his master with an exclamation against the insolence of daring to arrest a peer of the realm in the presence of his sovereign. But the king gave him poor encouragement, pretending to be very much alarmed by the power of the chief-justice, and saying: 'Nay, man, if Coke were to send for me, I must go.' Somerset was obliged to accompany the messenger. The king, still keeping up his hypocrisy, wailed over his departure—pathetically praying that their separation might not be a long one. It was said by the bystanders, that when Somerset was out of hearing, he was heard to say: 'The deil go wi' thee—I shall never see thy face more.'
The earl and countess were formally indicted before their peers on a charge of murder. It is now that the mystery of the story begins. It has never appeared clearly what motive they could have had for murdering Sir Thomas Overbury, and the evidence against them is very indistinct and incoherent; yet the countess confessed, and her husband was found guilty. It was attempted to be shewn, that Overbury had opposed the divorce of the Earl and Countess of Essex, and so had done his best to prevent the union of the favourite with the lady; but whatever opposition he had offered had been overcome; and it is difficult to suppose the revengeful passions so gratuitously pertinacious as to produce a deep assassination-plot from such a cause. So far as one can judge from the extremely disjointed notices of the evidence in the State Trials and elsewhere, it was very inconclusive. Sir Thomas certainly died of some violent internal attack. Other persons had been forming plans to poison him, and apparently were successful. The connection of these persons with the earl and countess was, however, faint. They were in communication with Overbury, and it is true some mysterious expressions were used by them—such as the lady saying to some one, that her lord had written to her how 'he wondered things were not yet despatched,' and such-like expressions. Then there was a story about the conveyance from the countess of 'a white powder,' intended as a medicine for Sir Thomas, and subsequently of some tarts. As to the latter, there was a letter from the countess to the lieutenant of the Tower, saying: 'I was bid to bid you say, that these tarts came not from me;' and again, 'I was bid to tell you, that you must take heed of the tarts, because there be letters in them, and therefore neither give your wife nor children of them, but of the wine you may, for there are no letters in it.' Through Somerset's influence, Sir W. Wade had been superseded as lieutenant of the Tower, and Sir Jervis Elwes appointed. It was said, that this was done for the purpose of having better opportunity for committing the murder. Elwes in his examination, however, hinted at the more commonplace crime of bribery as the cause of his elevation. 'He saith Sir T. Monson told him that Wade was to be removed, and if he succeeded Sir W. Wade, he must bleed—that is, give L.2000.' To bleed is supposed, when so employed, to be a cant term of modern origin. It is singular how many of these terms, supposed to be quite ephemeral, are met with in old documents. 'Bilking a coachman' occurs in a trial of the reign of Charles II.—that of Coal for the murder of Dr Clench. In an important part of the trial of Somerset there occurs another cant word: it is in the speech of Sir Randal Crew, one of the king's sergeants, against the accused. He represents the ghost of Overbury apostrophising his murderers in this manner: 'And are you thus fallen from me, or rather are you thus heavily fallen upon me to overthrow—to oppress him thus cruelly, thus treacherously, by whose vigilance, counsel, and labour, you have attained your honourable place, your estimation in the world for a worthy and well-deserving gent.?' After using this now well-known slang expression, the learned sergeant continues to say: 'Have I not waked, that you might sleep; cared, that you might enjoy? Have not I been the cabinet of your secrets, which I did ever keep faithfully, without the loss of any one to your prejudice; but by the officious, trusty, careful, and friendly use of them, have gained unto you a sweet and great interest of honour, love, reputation, wealth, and whatsoever might yield contentment and satisfaction to your desires? Have I done all this, to suffer this thus by you, for whom I have so lived as if my sand came in your hour-glass?'
This, though it does not divulge the secret of these strange proceedings, brings us apparently on their scent. It appears that Overbury had acted as the tutor and prompter of Somerset as a statesman. There is an expression sometimes used in politics at the present day, when an inexperienced person, who has the good-fortune to rise to some high office which he has not sufficient knowledge to administer, seeks instruction and guidance from some veteran less fortunate. He is then said to be put to nurse with him. A young ensign under training by a veteran sergeant is a good instance of this. Somerset, raw, uneducated, and untrained, had for his nurse as a courtier and politician the accomplished but less fortunate Sir Thomas Overbury. In the course of this function, Overbury could not fail to acquire some state secrets. It is supposed to have been on account of his possession of these secrets that Somerset poisoned him. But the affair goes further still, for we find that the king was much alarmed for himself on the occasion—was very anxious that the whole position of matters between Somerset and Overbury should not come out in the trial; and gave ground for the obvious inference, that whatever secrets there might be, his majesty was as deeply interested in their being kept as any one.
It was evident that the countess had been prevailed on to confess, and that the utmost pains had been used to get Somerset himself to follow her example, though, much to the king's vexation, he held out, and rendered a trial necessary. On this trial, however, there was nothing like satisfactory evidence—the peers were prepared to convict, and they did so on a few trifling attestations, which gave them a plausible excuse for their verdict. The illustrious Bacon aided the king in his object. He had on other occasions shewn abject servility to James—using towards him such expressions of indecorous flattery as these: 'Your majesty imitateth Christ, by vouchsafing me to touch the hem of your garment.' He was attorney-general, and had in that capacity to conduct the prosecution. Seeing distinctly the king's inclination, he sent a letter to him, praying, 'First, that your majesty will be careful to choose a steward [meaning a lord high-steward to preside at the trial in the House of Lords] of judgment, that will be able to moderate the evidence, and cut off digressions; for I may interrupt, but I cannot silence; the other, that there may be special care taken for ordering the evidence, not only for the knitting but the list, and, to use your majesty's own words—the confining of it. This to do, if your majesty vouchsafe to direct it yourself, that is the best; but if not, I humbly pray you to require my lord chancellor, that he, together with my lord chief-justice, will confer with myself and my fellows that shall be used for the marshalling and bounding of the evidence, that we may have the help of his opinion, as well as that of my lord chief-justice; whose great travails as I much commend, yet this same pleropluria, or overconfidence, doth always subject things to a great deal of chance.'
The full significance of these cautious expressions about confining and bounding the evidence, was not appreciated until the discovery of some further documents, relating to this dark subject, a few years ago. The expressions were then found to correspond with others, equally cautious, in Bacon's correspondence. Thus he talks of supplying the king with pretexts that 'might satisfy his honour for sparing the earl's life;' and in another place he says: 'It shall be my care so to moderate the matter of charging him, as it might make him not odious beyond the extent of mercy.'
The drift of all this is, in the first place, that as little of the real truth as possible should be divulged in the trial, and that Bacon and others should manage so as to let out enough to get a conviction and no more; hence the evidence is so fragmentary and unsatisfactory, that none but a tribunal prepared to be very easily satisfied could have formed any conclusion from it. In the second place, it was the king's object that Somerset should be assured all along that his life would be spared. The object of this certainly was to prevent him, in his despair, from uttering that secret, whatever it was, about which the king was so terribly alarmed. The reader may now expect some further elucidation of this part of the mystery.
In Sir Anthony Weldon's Court and Character of King James (p. 36), we have the following statement in reference to the trial:—
'And now for the last act, enters Somerset himself on the stage, who being told (as the manner is) by the lieutenant, that he must go next day to his trial, did absolutely refuse it, and said they should carry him in his bed; that the king had assured him he should not come to any trial—neither durst the king bring him to trial. This was in a high strain, and in a language not well understood by Sir George Moore, then lieutenant in Elwes's room—that made Moore quiver and shake. And however he was accounted a wise man, yet he was near at his wits' end.' This conversation had such an effect on the lieutenant, that though it was twelve o'clock at night, he sped instantly to Greenwich, to see the king. Then he 'bownseth at the back-stair, as if mad;' and Loweston, the Scotch groom, aroused from sleep, comes in great surprise to ask 'the reason of that distemper at so late a season.' Moore tells him, he must speak with the king. Loweston replies: 'He is quiet'—which, in the Scottish dialect, is fast asleep. Moore says: 'You must awake him.' We are then told that Moore was called in, and had a secret audience. 'He tells the king those passages, and requires to be directed by the king, for he was gone beyond his own reason to hear such bold and undutiful expressions from a faulty subject against a just sovereign. The king falls into a passion of tears: "On my soul, Moore, I wot not what to do! Thou art a wise man—help me in this great straight, and thou shalt find thou dost it for a thankful master;" with other sad expressions. Moore leaves the king in that passion, but assures him he will prove the utmost of his wit to serve his majesty—and was really rewarded with a suit worth to him L.1500.'
Moore returned to his prisoner, and told him, 'he had been with the king, found him a most affectionate master unto him, and full of grace in his intentions towards him; but,' he continued, 'to satisfy justice, you must appear, although you return instantly again without any further proceedings—only you shall know your enemies and their malice, though they shall have no power over you.' Somerset seemed satisfied; but Weldon states, that Moore, to render matters quite safe, set two men, placed one on each side of Somerset during his trial, with cloaks hanging on their arms, 'giving them withal a peremptory order, if that Somerset did anyway fly out on the king, they should instantly hoodwink him with that cloak, take him violently from the bar, and carry him away—for which he would secure them from any danger, and they should not want also a bountiful reward. But the earl finding himself overreached, recollected a better temper, and went calmly on his trial, when he held the company until seven at night. But who had seen the king's restless motion all that day, sending to every boat he saw landing at the bridge, cursing all that came without tidings, would have easily judged all was not right, and there had been some grounds for his fears of Somerset's boldness; but at last one bringing him word that he was condemned, and the passages, all was quiet.'
Weldon solemnly states, that he obtained all these facts from Moore's own lips. He was, however, a sarcastic, discontented writer; and being what was called an upstart, he was supposed to have a malice against kings and courts. For such reasons as these, his narrative was distrusted until its fundamental character, at all events, was confirmed by the late discovery of a bundle of letters addressed by the king to Sir George Moore. The bundle was found carefully wrapped up, and appropriately endorsed, in the repositories of Sir George's descendant. The letters will be found printed in the eighteenth volume of the Archaeologia, or transactions of the English Antiquarian Society. The following brief extracts from them may suffice for the present occasion—the spelling is modernised:—
'GOOD SIR GEORGE—I am extremely sorry that your unfortunate prisoner turns all the great care I have of him not only against himself, but against me also, as far as he can. I cannot blame you that ye cannot conjecture what this may be, for God knows it is only a trick of his idle brain, hoping thereby to shift his trial; but it is easy to be seen, that he would threaten me with laying an aspersion upon me of being in some sort accessory to his crime.... Give him assurance in my name, that if he will yet, before his trial, confess cheerily unto the commissioners his guiltiness of this fact, I will not only perform what I promised by my last messenger both towards him and his wife, but I will enlarge it, according to the phrase of the civil law, &c. I mean not, that he shall confess if he be innocent, but ye know how evil likely that is; and of yourself ye may dispute with him what should mean his confidence now to endure a trial, when, as he remembers, that this last winter he confessed to the chief-justice that his cause was so evil likely as he knew no jury could acquit him. Assure him, that I protest upon my honour my end in this is for his and his wife's good. Ye will do well, likewise, of yourself, to cast out unto him, that ye fear his wife shall plead weakly for his innocency; and that ye find the commissioners have, ye know not how, some secret assurance that in the end she will confess of him—but this must only be as from yourself.'
That there was some secret of the divulgence of which the king was in the utmost terror, is thus beyond a doubt. What, then, was it? There are no means of deciding. James, it will be seen, hints to Moore, that it was a charge of accession to the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury. But, in the same letter, James lets us see that Moore himself did not know the exact secret; and we may fairly conjecture, that the hint was intended to put him on a wrong scent.
The earl and countess were permitted to live, spending a miserable existence with the fear of punishment hanging over them. The accounts given of the condition into which the once beautiful and too fascinating woman fell, are too disgusting to be repeated. There were many other proceedings connected with the charges for poisoning Sir Thomas Overbury, which throw a curious light on the habits of the court, and especially on the criminal attempts to get rid of rivals and enemies by poison and sorcery. They may perhaps form a suitable subject for a separate paper.
A NIGHT IN A GERMAN WOOD.
So numerous are the forests here which grow in lofty and romantic sites, that a very extensive and interesting tour might be made, having them alone for its object. Such fascinating excursions should not, however, be embarked in without a guide, or a compass at the least; for these German woods are often very intricate, and run into one another in a most puzzling manner. This I learned to my cost a few months ago; and as a warning to other pedestrian tourists who may be as unpractised in such matters as I myself then was, I would now bespeak the reader's attention to my experiences of A Night in a German Wood.
Early in the autumn of the past year, whilst on a visit to a German friend who resides in one of the hilliest and best-wooded districts in Westphalia, on the confines of the classic Teutoburger Forest—after having been engaged nearly all the day in writing, I was tempted out by the freshness of the evening air and the glories of the setting sun, to take a turn in the park, which, by the by, is one of the handsomest and best laid out I have seen in any part of the continent, and a proof in itself that such things can be done—and well done too—even out of England. My intention was merely to stretch my cramped legs by a stroll to the southern angle of the demesne, and so be back in time for the quiet, early supper of the family. After moving along for a quarter of an hour under the shade of some fine old beech-trees, at the foot of a steep bank which overhangs the level meadow-ground, I came upon the outskirts of the plantations; and then turning sharp to the left, walked up along them till I had reached, as I thought, their extremity. Here, facing round, I began to turn my steps homeward; and by way of varying my route a little, struck into a shady path cut through the wood, which seemed to lead, as well as I could judge from my bearings, almost as directly back to the schloss—as all great country mansions here are called—as the one by which I had gone out. But after pushing rapidly along for some time in my dusky alley, I eventually emerged, much to my surprise, on an immense ploughed field, that, sloping gradually up to the spot where the sun had just set, seemed to terminate only with the visible horizon, which, however, from the very inclined angle at which the ground rose, was not very distant. Confident in the general correctness of my direction, I went on, right ahead, fancying I had only to cross this upland to be at home; but after floundering about for a good half-hour, and, in consequence of a water-course which cut it obliquely, being turned a little out of my straight direction, I found myself by moonlight on the verge of a patch of forest which was quite unknown to me. Such was my infatuation, however, and so firm my conviction of having taken correctly the relative bearings of the moon, which was now in her second quarter, and of the house, that I plunged unhesitatingly among the trees, expecting every moment to see the path through them open out upon some familiar spot in the demesne, or some portion of the surrounding country which I might have already perambulated by daylight. Though in utter darkness, from the close interweaving of the foliage, still, by raising my feet high, like a blind horse, to get over the inequalities of the way, and flourishing my stick perpetually around my head as I proceeded, to avoid coming in contact with any stray tree, or chance branch projecting into the pathway, I got prosperously through this portion of wood. But again I came out on something which was totally strange to me—a narrow valley, stretching, as well as I could judge by the last glimmerings of twilight, to a considerable distance, flanked on each side by gloomy woods, about a quarter of a mile apart, and laid down in rye, which was nearly ready for the sickle, and dripping wet in the night-dew. Matters now began to look serious. I was completely at fault, and had entirely lost all confidence in my own pilotage. The moon had proved a faithless guide, or rather I had misconstrued her position; and my little pocket-compass was not forthcoming, thanks to the importunities of my youngest boy, who prizes it above all his own toys.