CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL
CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.
No. 448. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, JULY 31, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2d.
A book belongs in a peculiar manner to the age and nation that produce it. It is an emanation of the thought of the time; and if it survive to an after-time, it remains as a landmark of the progress of the imagination or the intellect. Some books do even more than this: they press forward to the future age, and make appeals to its maturer genius; but in so doing they still belong to their own—they still wear the garb which stamps them as appertaining to a particular epoch. Of that epoch, it is true, they are, intellectually, the flower and chief; they are the expression of its finer spirit, and serve as a link between the two generations of the past and the future; but of that future—so much changed in habits, and feelings, and knowledge—they can never, even when acting as guides and teachers, form an essential part: there is always some bond of sympathy wanting.
A single glance at our own great books will illustrate this—books which are constantly reprinted, without which no library can be tolerated—which are still, generation after generation, the objects of the national worship, and are popularly supposed to afford a universal and unfailing standard of excellence in the various departments of literature. These books, although pored over as a task and a study by the few, are rarely opened and never read by the many: they are known the least by those who reverence them most. They are, in short, idols, and their worship is not a faith, but a superstition. This kind of belief is not shaken even by experience. When a devourer of the novels of Scott, for instance, takes up Tom Jones, he, after a vain attempt to read, may lay it down with a feeling of surprise and dissatisfaction; but Tom Jones remains still to his convictions 'an epic in prose,' the fiction par excellence of the language. As for Clarissa Harlowe and Sir Charles Grandison, we have not heard of any common reader in our generation who has had the hardihood even to open the volumes; but Richardson as well as Fielding retains his original niche among the gods of romance; and we find Scott himself one of the high-priests of the worship. When wandering once upon the continent, we were thrown for several days into the company of an English clergyman, who had provided himself, as the best possible model in description, with a copy of Spenser; and it was curious to observe the pertinacity with which, from time to time, he drew forth his treasure, and the weariness with which in a few minutes he returned it to his pocket. Yet our reverend friend, we have no doubt, went home with his faith in Spenser unshaken, and recommends it to this day as the most delightful of all companions for a journey.
In the present century, the French and German critics have begun to place this reverential feeling for the 'classics' of a language upon a more rational basis. In estimating an author, they throw themselves back into the times in which he wrote; they determine his place among the spirits of his own age; and ascertain the practical influence his works have exercised over those of succeeding generations. In short, they judge him relatively, not absolutely; and thus convert an unreasoning superstition into a sober faith. We do not require to be told that in every book destined to survive its author, there are here and there gleams of nature that belong to all time; but the body of the work is after the fashion of the age that produced it; and he who is unacquainted with the thought of that age, will always judge amiss. In England, we are still in the bonds of the last century, and it is surprising what an amount of affectation mingles with criticism even of the highest pretensions. It is no wonder, then, that common readers should be mistaken in their book-worship. To such persons, for all their blind reverence, Dante must in reality be a wild beast—a fine animal, it is true, but still a wild beast—and our own Milton a polemical pedant arguing by the light of poetry. To such readers, the spectacle of Ugolino devouring the head of Ruggieri, and wiping his jaws with the hair that he might tell his story, cannot fail to give a feeling of horror and disgust, which even the glorious wings of Dante's angels—the most sublime of all such creations—would fail to chase away. The poetry of the Divine Comedy belongs to nature; its superstition, intolerance, and fanaticism, to the thirteenth century. These last have either passed away from the modern world or they exist in new forms, and with the first alone can we have any real healthy sympathy.
One of our literary idols is Shakspeare—perhaps the greatest of them all; but although the most universal of poets, his works, taken in the mass, belong to the age of Queen Elizabeth, not to ours. A critic has well said, that if Shakspeare were now living, he would manifest the same dramatic power, but under different forms; and his taste, his knowledge, and his beliefs would all be different. This, however, is not the opinion of the book-worshippers: it is not the poetry alone of Shakspeare, but the work bodily, which is preeminent with them; not that which is universal in his genius, but that likewise which is restricted by the fetters of time and country. The commentators, in the same way, find it their business to bring up his shortcomings to his ideal character, not to account for their existence by the manners and prejudices of his age, or the literary models on which his taste was formed. It would be easy to run over, in this way, the list of all our great authors, and to shew that book-worship, as contradistinguished from a wise and discriminating respect, is nothing more than a vulgar superstition.
We are the more inclined to put forth these ideas, at a time when reprints are the order of the day—when speculators, with a singular blindness, are ready to take hold of almost anything that comes in their way without the expense of copyright. It would be far more judicious to employ persons of a correct and elegant taste to separate the local and temporary from the universal and immortal part of our classics, and give us, in an independent form, what belongs to ourselves and to all time. A movement was made some years ago in this direction by Mr Craik, who printed in one of Charles Knight's publications a summary of the Faery Queen, converting the prosaic portions into prose, and giving only the true poetry in the rich and musical verses of Spenser. A travelling companion like this, we venture to assure our clerical friend, would not be pocketed so wearily as the original work. The harmony of the divine poet would saturate his heart and beam from his eyes; and when wandering where we met him, among the storied ruins of the Rhine, he would have by his side not the man Spenser, surrounded by the prejudices and rudenesses of his age, but the spirit Spenser, discoursing to and with the universal heart of nature. Leigh Hunt, with more originality—more of the quality men call genius, but a less correct perception of what is really wanted—has done the same thing for the great Italian poets; and in his sparkling pages Dante, Ariosto, Tasso, and the rest of the tuneful train, appear unfettered by the more unpleasing peculiarities of their mortal time. But the criticism by which their steps are attended, though full of grace and acuteness, is absolute, not relative. They are judged by a standard of taste and feeling existing in the author's mind: the Inferno is a magnificent caldron of everything base and detestable in human nature; and the Orlando, a paradise of love, beauty, and delight. Dante, the sublime poet, but inexorable bigot, meets with little tolerance from Leigh Hunt; while Ariosto, exhaustless in his wealth, ardent and exulting—full of the same excess of life which in youth sends the blood dancing and boiling through the veins—has his warmest sympathy. This kind of criticism is but a new form of the error we have pointed out; for both poets receive his homage—the one praised in the spontaneous outpourings of his heart, the other served with the rites of devil-worship.
When we talk of the great authors of one generation pressing forward to claim the sympathy of the maturer genius of the next, we mean precisely what we say. We are well aware that some of the great writers we have casually mentioned have no equals in the present world; yet the present world is more mature in point of taste than their own. That is the reason why they are great authors now. Some books last for a season, some for a generation, some for an age, or two, or more; always dropping off when the time they reach outstrips them. One of these lost treasures is sometimes reprinted; but if this is done in the hope of a renewed popularity, the speculation is sure to fail. Curious and studious men, it is true, are gratified by the reproduction; but the general reader would prefer a book of his own generation, using the former as materials, and separating its immortal part from its perishing body.
And the general reader, be it remembered, is virtually the age. It is for him the studious think, the imaginative invent, the tuneful sing: beyond him there is no appeal but to the future. He is superstitious, as we have seen, but his gods are few and traditional. He determines to make a stand somewhere; and it is necessary for him to do so, if he would not encumber his literary Olympus with a Hindoo-like pantheon of millions. But how voracious is this general reader in regard to the effusions of his own day! What will become of the myriads of books that have passed through our own unworthy hands? How many of them will survive to the next generation? How many will continue to float still further down the stream of time? How many will attain the honour of the apotheosis? And will they coexist in this exalted state with the old objects of worship? This last is a pregnant question; for each generation will in all probability furnish its quota of the great books of the language, and, if so, a reform in the superstition we have exposed is no longer a matter of mere expedience, but of necessity. We are aware that all this will be pronounced rank heresy by those who assume the style of critics, who usually make a prodigious outcry when a great author is mutilated, even by expunging a word which modern decency excludes from the vocabulary of social and family intercourse. This word, however—supposing it to represent the mortal and perishing part of an author's productions—belongs not to him, but to his age; not to the intellectual man, but to the external and fleeting manners of his day and generation. Such critics usually take credit to themselves for a peculiarly large and liberal spirit; but there seems to us, on the contrary, to be something mean and restricted in views that regard the man as an individual, not as a portion of the genius which belongs to the world. Yet, even as an individual, the man is safe in his entirety, for there is no project of cancelling the printed works extant in our libraries, public and private. The true question simply is: Are great authors to be allowed to become practically obsolete—and many of them have become so already—while we stand upon the delicacies and ceremonies of Book-worship?
London has been often compared to a wilderness—a wilderness of brick, and so in one sense it is; because you may live in London all the days of your life if you choose—and, indeed, if you don't choose, if you happen to be very poor—without exciting observation, or provoking any further questioning than is comprised in a demand for accurate guidance from one place to another, a demand which might be made upon you in an Arabian desert, if there you chanced to meet a stranger. But London is something else besides a wilderness—indeed it is everything else. It is a great world, containing a thousand little worlds in its bosom; and pop yourself down in it in any quarter you will, you are sure to find yourself in the centre of some peculiar microcosm distinguished from all others by features more or less characteristic.
One such little world we have lived in for a round number of years; and as we imagine it presents a picture by no means disagreeable to look upon, we will introduce the reader, with his permission, into its very limited circle, and chronicle its history for one day as faithfully as it is possible for anything to do, short of the Daguerreotype and the tax-gatherer. Our Terrace, then—for that is our little world—is situated in one of the northern, southern, eastern, or western suburbs—we have reasons for not being particular—at the distance of two miles and three-quarters from the black dome of St Paul's. It consists of thirty genteel-looking second-rate houses, standing upon a veritable terrace, at least three feet above the level of the carriage-way, and having small gardens enclosed in iron palisades in front of them. The garden gates open upon a pavement of nine feet in width; the carriage-road is thirty feet across; and on the opposite side is another but lower terrace, surmounted with handsome semi-detached villas, with ample flower-gardens both in front and rear, those in the front being planted, but rather sparingly, with limes, birches, and a few specimens of the white-ash, which in summertime overshadow the pavement, and shelter a passing pedestrian when caught in a shower. At one end of Our Terrace, there is a respectable butcher's shop, a public-house, and a shop which is perpetually changing owners, and making desperate attempts to establish itself as something or other, without any particular partiality for any particular line of business. It has been by turns a print-shop, a stationer's, a circulating library, a toy-shop, a Berlin-wool shop, a music and musical-instrument shop, a haberdasher's shop, a snuff and cigar shop, and one other thing which has escaped our memory—and all within the last seven years. Each retiring speculator has left his stock-in-trade, along with the good-will, to his successor; and at the present moment it is a combination of shops, where everything you don't want is to be found in a state of dilapidation, together with a very hungry-looking proprietor, who, for want of customers upon whom to exercise his ingenuity, pulls away all day long upon the accordion to the tune of We're a' noddin'. The other end of Our Terrace has its butcher, its public-house, its grocer, and a small furniture-shop, doing a small trade, under the charge of a very small boy. Let thus much suffice for the physiology of our subject. We proceed to record its history, as it may be read by any one of the inhabitants who chooses to spend the waking hours of a single day in perusing it from his parlour window.
It is a fine morning in the middle of June, and the clock of the church at the end of the road is about striking seven, when the parlour shutters and the street doors of the terrace begin to open one by one. By a quarter past, the servant-girls, having lighted their fires, and put the kettle on to boil for breakfast, are ostensibly busy in sweeping the pathways of the small front-gardens, but are actually enjoying a simultaneous gossip together over the garden railings—a fleeting pleasure, which must be nipped in the bud, because master goes to town at half-past eight, and his boots are not yet cleaned, or his breakfast prepared. Now the bedroom-bell rings, which means hot water; and this is no sooner up, than mistress is down, and breakfast is laid in the parlour. At a quarter before eight, the eggs are boiled, and the bacon toasted, and the first serious business of the day is in course of transaction. Mr Jones of No. 9, Mr Robinson of No. 10, and Mr Brown of No. 11, are bound to be at their several posts in the city at nine o'clock; and having swallowed a hasty breakfast, they may be seen, before half-past eight has chimed, walking up and down the terrace chatting together, and wondering whether 'that Smith,' as usual, means to keep the omnibus waiting this morning, or whether he will come forth in time. Precisely as the half hour strikes, the tin horn of the omnibus sounds its shrill blast, and the vehicle is seen rattling round the corner, stopping one moment at No. 28, to take up Mr Johnson. On it comes, with a fresh blast, to where the commercial trio are waiting for it; out rushes Smith, wiping his mouth, and the 'bus,' swallowing up the whole four, rumbles and trumpets on to take up Thompson, Jackson, and Richardson, who, cigars in mouth, are waiting at a distance of forty paces off to ascend the roof. An hour later, a second omnibus comes by on the same benevolent errand, for the accommodation of those gentlemen, more favoured by fortune, who are not expected to be at the post of business until the hour of ten. As Our Terrace does not stand in a direct omnibus route, these are all the 'buses' that will pass in the course of the day. The gentlemen whom they convey every morning to town are regular customers, and the vehicles diverge from their regular course in order to pick them up at their own doors.
About half-past nine, or from that to a quarter to ten, comes the postman with his first delivery of letters for the day. Our Terrace is the most toilsome part of his beat, for having to serve both sides of the way, his progress is very like that of a ship at sea sailing against the wind. R'tat he goes on our side, then down he jumps into the road—B'bang on the other side—tacks about again, and serves the terrace—off again, and serves the villas, and so on till he has fairly epistolised both sides of the way, and vanished round the corner. The vision of his gold band and red collar is anxiously looked for in the morning by many a fair face, which a watchful observer may see furtively peering through the drawing-room window-curtains. After he has departed, and the well-to-do merchants and employers who reside in the villas opposite have had time to look over their correspondence, come sundry neat turn-outs from the stables and coach-houses in the rear of the villas: a light, high gig, drawn by a frisky grey, into which leaps young Oversea the shipbroker—a comfortable, cushioned four-wheel drawn by a pair of bay ponies, into which old Discount climbs heavily, followed perhaps by his two daughters, bound on a shopping-visit to the city—and a spicy-looking, rattling trap, with a pawing horse, which has a decided objection to standing still, for Mr Goadall, the wealthy cattle-drover. These, with other vehicles of less note, all roll off the ground by a quarter after ten o'clock or so; and the ladies and their servants, with some few exceptions, are left in undisputed possession of home, while not a footfall of man or beast is heard in the sunshiny quiet of the street.
The quiet, however, is broken before long by a peculiar and suggestive cry. We do not hear it yet ourselves, but Stalker, our black cat and familiar, has caught the well-known accents, and with a characteristic crooning noise, and a stiff, perpendicular erection of tail, he sidles towards the door, demanding, as plainly as possible, to be let out. Yes, it is the cats-meat man. 'Ca' me-e-et—me-yet—me-e-yet!' fills the morning air, and arouses exactly thirty responsive feline voices—for there is a cat to every house—and points thirty aspiring tails to the zenith. As many hungry tabbies, sables, and tortoise-shells as can get out of doors, are trooping together with arched backs upon the pavement, following the little pony-cart, the cats' commissariat equipage, and each one, anxious for his daily allowance, contributing most musically his quota to the general concert. We do not know how it is, but the cats-meat man is the most unerring and punctual of all those peripatetic functionaries who undertake to cater for the consumption of the public. The baker, the butcher, the grocer, the butterman, the fishmonger, and the coster, occasionally forget your necessities, or omit to call for your orders—the cats-meat man never. Other traders, too, dispense their stock by a sliding-scale, and are sometimes out of stock altogether: Pussy's provider, on the contrary, sticks to one price from year's end to year's end, and never, in the memory of the oldest Grimalkin, was known to disappoint a customer. A half-penny for a cat's breakfast has been the regulation-price ever since the horses of the metropolis began to submit to the boiling process for the benefit of the feline race.
By the time the cats have retired to growl over their allowance in private, the daily succession of nomadic industrials begin to lift up their voices, and to defile slowly along Our Terrace, stopping now and then to execute a job or effect a sale when an opportunity presents itself. Our limits will not allow us to notice them all, but we must devote a few paragraphs to those without whom our picture would be incomplete.
First comes an ingenious lass of two or three-and-twenty, with a flaming red shawl, pink ribbons in her bonnet, and the hue of health on a rather saucy face. She carries a large basket on her left arm, and in her right hand she displays to general admiration a gorgeous group of flowers, fashioned twice the size of life, from tissue-paper of various colours. She lifts up her voice occasionally as she marches slowly along, singing, in a clear accent: 'Flowers—ornamental papers for the stove—flowers! paper-flowers!' She is the accredited herald of summer—a phenomenon, this year, of very late appearance. We should have seen her six weeks ago, if the summer had not declined to appear at the usual season. She is the gaudy, party-coloured ephemera of street commerce, and will disappear from view in a fortnight's time, to be seen no more until the opening summer of '53. Her wares, which are manufactured with much taste, and with an eye to the harmony of colours, are in much request among the genteel housewives of the suburbs. They are exceedingly cheap, considering the skill which must be applied in their construction. They are all the work of her own hands, and have occupied her time and swallowed up her capital for some months past. She enjoys almost a monopoly in her art, and is not to be beaten down in the price of her goods. She knows their value, and is more independent than an artist dares to be in the presence of a patron. Her productions are a pleasant summer substitute for the cheerful fire of winter; and it is perhaps well for her that, before the close of autumn, the faded hues of the flowers, and the harbour they afford to dust, will convert them into waste paper, in spite of all the care that may be taken to preserve them.
Paper Poll, as the servants call her, is hardly out of sight, and not out of hearing, when a young fellow and his wife come clattering along the pavement, appealing to all who may require their good offices in the matter of chair-mending. The man is built up in a sort of cage-work of chairs stuck about his head and shoulders, and his dirty phiz is only half visible through a kind of grill of legs and cross-bars. These are partly commissions which, having executed at home, he is carrying to their several owners. But as everybody does not choose to trust him away with property, he is ready to execute orders on the spot; and to this end his wife accompanies him on his rounds. She is loaded with a small bag of tools suspended at her waist, and a plentiful stock of split-cane under one arm. He will weave a new cane-seat to an old chair for 9d., and he will set down his load and do it before your eyes in your own garden, if you prefer that to intrusting him with it; that is, he will make the bargain, and his wife will weave the seat under his supervision, unless there happen to be two to be repaired, when husband and wife will work together. We have noticed that it is a very silent operation, that of weaving chair-bottoms; and that though the couple may be seated for an hour and more together rapidly plying the flexible canes, they never exchange a word with each other till the task is accomplished. Sometimes the wife is left at a customer's door working alone, while the husband wanders further on in search of other employment, returning by the time she has finished her task. But there are no chairs to mend this morning on Our Terrace, and our bamboo friends may jog on their way.
Now resounds from a distance the cry of 'All a-growin' an' a-blowin'—all a-blowin', a-blowin' here!' and in a few minutes the travelling florist makes his appearance, driving before him a broad-surfaced handcart, loaded in profusion with exquisite flowers of all hues, in full bloom, and, to all appearance, thriving famously. It may happen, however, as it has happened to us, that the blossoms now so vigorous and blooming, may all drop off on the second or third day; and the naked plant, after making a sprawling and almost successful attempt to reach the ceiling for a week or so, shall become suddenly sapless and withered, the emblem of a broken-down and emaciated sot—and, what is more, ruined from the self-same cause, an overdose of stimulating fluid. It may happen, on the other hand, that the plant shall have suffered no trick of the gardener's trade, and shall bloom fairly to the end of its natural term. The commerce in blossoming flowers is one of the most uncertain and dangerous speculations in which the small street-traders of London can engage. When carried on under favourable circumstances, it is one of the most profitable, the demand for flowers being constant and increasing; but the whole stock-in-trade of a small perambulating capitalist may be ruined by a shower of rain, which will spoil their appearance for the market, and prevent his selling them before they are overblown. Further, as few of these dealers have any means of housing this kind of stock safely during the night, they are often compelled to part with them, after an unfavourable day, at less than prime cost, to prevent a total loss. Still, there are never wanting men of a speculative turn of mind, and the cry of 'All a-blowin' an' a-growin'' resounds through the streets as long as the season supplies flowers to grow and to blow.
The flower-merchant wheels off, having left a good sprinkling of geraniums in our neighbours' windows; and his cousin-german, 'the graveller,' comes crawling after him, with his cart and stout horse in the middle of the road, while he walks on one side of the pavement, and his assistant on the other. This fellow is rather a singular character, and one that is to be met with probably nowhere upon the face of the earth but in the suburbs of London. He is, par excellence, the exponent of a feeling which pervades the popular mind in the metropolis on the subject of the duty which respectable people owe to respectability. It is impossible for a housekeeper in a neighbourhood having any claims to gentility, to escape the recognition of this feeling in the lower class of industrials. If you have a broken window in the front of your house, the travelling glazier thinks, to use his own expression, that you have a right to have it repaired, and therefore that he, having discovered the fracture, has a right to the job of mending it. If your bell-handle is out of order or broken off, the travelling bellman thinks he has a right to repair it, and bores you, in fact, until you commission him to do so—and so on. In the same manner, and on the same principle, so soon as the fine weather sets in, and the front-gardens begin to look gay, the graveller loads his cart with gravel, and shouldering his spade, crawls leisurely through the suburbs with his companion, peering into every garden; and wherever he sees that the walks are grown dingy or moss-grown, he knocks boldly at the door, and demands to be set to work in mending your ways. The best thing you can do is to make the bargain and employ him at once; if not, he will be round again to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, and bore you into consenting at last. You live in a respectable house, and you have a right to keep your garden in a respectable condition—and the graveller is determined that you shall do so: has he not brought gravel to the door on purpose? it will cost you but a shilling or two. Thus he lays down the law in his own mind; and sooner or later, as sure as fate, he lays down the gravel in your garden.
While the graveller is patting down the pathway round Robinson's flower-bed, we hear the well-known cry of a countryman whom we have known any time these ten years, and who, with his wife by his side, has perambulated the suburbs for the best part of his life. He has taken upon himself the patronage of the laundry department, and he shoulders a fagot of clothes-poles, ten feet long, with forked extremities, all freshly cut from the forest. Coils of new rope for drying are hanging upon his arm, and his wife carries a basket well stocked with clothes-pins of a superior description, manufactured by themselves. The cry of 'Clo'-pole-line-pins' is one long familiar to the neighbourhood; and as this honest couple have earned a good reputation by a long course of civility and probity, they enjoy the advantage of a pretty extensive connection. Their perambulations are confined to the suburbs, and it is a question if they ever enter London proper from one year's end to another. It is of no use to carry clothes-poles and drying-lines where there are no conveniences for washing and drying.
Next comes a travelling umbrella-mender, fagoted on the back like the man in the moon of the nursery rhyme-book. He is followed at a short distance by a travelling tinker, swinging his live-coals in a sort of tin censer, and giving utterance to a hoarse and horrible cry, intelligible only to the cook who has a leaky sauce-pan. Then comes the chamois-leather woman, bundled about with damaged skins, in request for the polishing of plate and plated wares. She is one of that persevering class who will hardly take 'No' for an answer. It takes her a full hour to get through the terrace, for she enters every garden, and knocks at every door from No. 1 to No. 30. In the winter-time, she pursues an analogous trade, dealing in what may strictly be termed the raw material, inasmuch as she then buys and cries hare-skins and rabbit-skins. She has, unfortunately, a notoriously bad character, and is accused of being addicted to the practice of taking tenpence and a hare-skin in exchange for a counterfeit shilling.
By this time it is twelve o'clock and past, and Charley Coster, who serves the terrace with vegetables, drives up his stout cob to the door, and is at the very moment we write bargaining with Betty for new potatoes at threepence-half-penny a pound. Betty declares it is a scandalous price for potatoes. 'Yes, dear,' says Charley; 'an' another scanlous thing is, that I can't sell 'em for no less.' Charley is the most affectionate of costers, and is a general favourite with the abigails of the terrace. His turn-out is the very model of a travelling green-grocer's shop, well stocked with all the fruits and vegetables of the season; and he himself is a model of a coster, clean shaved, clean shod, and trimly dressed, with a flower in his button-hole, an everlasting smile upon his face, and the nattiest of neck-ties. The cunning rogue pretends to be smitten with Betty, and most likely does the same with all the other Bettys of the neighbourhood, to all of whom he chatters incessantly of everything and everybody—save and except of the wife and three children waiting for him at home. He will leave a good portion of his stock behind him when he quits the terrace.
After Charley has disappeared, there is a pause for an hour or two in the flow of professionals past Our Terrace. The few pedestrians that pass along are chiefly gentlefolks, who have come abroad this fine morning for an airing—to take a constitutional, and to pick up an appetite for dinner. You may chance to hear the cry of 'Oranges and nuts,' or of 'Cod—live cod,' and you may be entertained by a band of musicians in a gaily-coloured van patrolling for the purpose of advertising the merits of something or other which is to be had for nothing at all, or the next thing to it, if you can prevail upon yourself to go and fetch it. Perhaps Punch and Judy will pitch their little citadel in front of your dwelling; or, more likely still, a band of mock Ethiopians, with fiddle, castanets, and banjo, may tempt your liberality with a performance of Uncle Ned or Old Dan Tucker; or a corps of German musicians may trumpet you into a fit of martial ardour; or a wandering professor of the German flute soothe you into a state of romance.
As the afternoon wears on, the tranquillity grows more profound. The villas opposite stand asleep in the sunshine; the sound of a single footstep is heard on the pavement; and anon you hear the feeble, cracked voice of old Willie, the water-cress man, distinctly articulating the cry of 'Water-cresses; fine brown water-cresses; royal Albert water-cresses; the best in London—everybody say so.' The water-cresses are welcomed on the terrace as an ornament and something more to the tea-table; and while tea is getting ready for the inhabitants of the terrace, the dwellers in the opposite villas are seen returning to dinner. The lame match-man now hobbles along upon his crutches, with his little basket of lucifers suspended at his side. He is thoroughly deaf and three parts dumb, uttering nothing beyond an incomprehensible kind of croak by way of a demand for custom. He is a privileged being, whom nobody thinks of interfering with. He has the entree of all the gardens on both sides of the way, and is the acknowledged depositary of scraps and remnants of all kinds which have made their last appearance upon the dinner or supper table.
About five o'clock, the tinkling note of the muffin-bell strikes agreeably upon the ear, suggestive of fragrant souchong and bottom-crusts hot, crackling, and unctuous. Now ensues a delicate savour in the atmosphere of the terrace kitchens, and it is just at its height when Smith, Brown, Jones, and Robinson are seen walking briskly up the terrace. They all go in at Smith's, where the muffin-man went in about half an hour before, and left half his stock behind him. By six o'clock, the lords and ladies of Our Terrace are congregated round their tea-urns; and by seven, you may see from one of the back-windows a tolerable number of the lords, arrayed in dressing-gowns and slippers, and some of them with corpulent meerschaums dangling from their mouths, strolling leisurely in the gardens in the rear of their dwellings, and amusing themselves with their children, whose prattling voices and innocent laughter mingle with the twittering of those suburban songsters, the sparrows, and with the rustling of the foliage, stirred by the evening breeze. These pleasant sounds die away by degrees. Little boys and girls go to bed; the gloom of twilight settles down upon the gardens; candles are lighted in the drawing-rooms, and from a dozen houses at once pianofortes commence their harmony. At No. 12, the drawing-room windows are open, though the blinds are down; and the slow-pacing policeman pauses in his round, and leans against the iron railings, being suddenly brought up by the richly-harmonious strains of a glee for three voices: Brown, Jones, and Robinson are doing the Chough and Crow; and Smith, who prides himself on his semi-grand, which he tunes with his own hands once a week, is doing the accompaniment in his best style. The merry chorus swells delightfully upon the ear, and is heard half way down the terrace: the few foot-passengers who are passing stop under the window to listen, till one of them is imprudent enough to cry 'Encore,' when down go the windows, and the harmonious sounds are shut in from vulgar ears.
It is by this time nearly half-past nine o'clock, and now comes the regular nightly 'tramp, tramp' of the police, marching in Indian file, and heavily clad in their night-gear. They come to replace the guardians of the day by those of the night. One of the number falls out of the line on the terrace, where he commences his nocturnal wanderings, and guarantees the peace and safety of the inhabitants for the succeeding eight hours: the rest tramp onwards to their distant stations. The echoes of their iron heels have hardly died away, when there is a sudden and almost simultaneous eruption from every garden-gate on the terrace of clean-faced, neat-aproned, red-elbowed servant-girls, each and all armed with a jug or a brace of jugs, with a sprinkling of black bottles among them, and all bound to one or other of the public-houses which guard the terrace at either end. It is the hour of supper; and the supper-beer, and the after-supper nightcaps, for those who indulge in them, have to be procured from the publican. This is an occasion upon which Betty scorns to hurry; but she takes time by the forelock, starting for the beer as soon as the cloth is laid, and before master has finished his pipe, or his game of chess, or Miss Clementina her song, in order that she may have leisure for a little gossip with No. 7 on the one hand, or No. 9 on the other. She goes out without beat of drum, and lets herself in with the street-door key without noise, bringing home, besides the desiderated beverage, the news of the day, and the projects of next-door for the morrow, with, it may be, a plan for the enjoyment of her next monthly holiday.
Supper is the last great business of the day upon Our Terrace, which, by eleven at night, is lapped in profound repose. The moon rides high in mid-sky, and the black shadows of the trees lie motionless on the white pavement. Not a footfall is heard abroad; the only sound that is audible as you put your head out of the window, to look up at the glimmering stars and radiant moon, is the distant and monotonous murmur of the great metropolis, varied now and then by the shrill scream of a far-off railway-whistle, or the 'cough, cough, cough' of the engine of some late train. We are sober folks on the terrace, and are generally all snug abed before twelve o'clock. The last sound that readies our ears ere we doze off into forgetfulness, is the slow, lumbering, earthquaky advance of a huge outward-bound wagon. We hear it at the distance of half a mile, and note distinctly the crushing and pulverising of every small stone which the broad wheels roll over as they sluggishly proceed on their way. It rocks us in our beds as it passes the house; and for twenty minutes afterwards, if we are awake so long, we are aware that it is groaning heavily onwards, and shaking the solid earth in its progress—till it sinks away in silence, or we into the land of dreams.
SLAVES IN BRITAIN.
It has sometimes been predicted, not without plausibility, that if this great empire should sink before the rising genius of some new state, when all it has accomplished in arts and arms, and its wealth, its literature, its machinery, are forgotten, its struggles for humanity in the abolition of negro slavery will stand forth in undiminished lustre. All the steps of this mighty operation are interesting. It is a peculiarity of England and its institutions, that many of the most momentous constitutional conflicts have taken place in the courts of law. In despotic countries, this seldom occurs, because the rulers can bend the courts of law to their pleasure; but here, even under the worst governments, whatever degree of freedom was really warranted by law, could be secured by the courts of justice. When it was said that the air of Britain was too pure for a slave to breathe in—that his shackles fell off whenever he reached her happy shore—the sentiment was noble; but the question depended entirely on the law and its technical details. The trials resulting in a decision against slavery, have thus much interest from the influence they exercised on human progress.
There seemed to be every probability that the interesting question, whether ownership in slaves continued after they had reached Britain, would have been tried in Scotland. In the middle of last century, a Mr Sheddan had brought home from Virginia a negro slave to be taught a trade. He was baptised, and, learning his trade, began to acquire notions of freedom and citizenship. When the master thought he had been long enough in Scotland to suit his purpose, the negro was put on board a vessel for Virginia. He got a friend, however, to present for him a petition to the Court of Session. The professional report of the case in Morison's Dictionary of Decisions says: 'The Lords appointed counsel for the negro, and ordered memorials, and afterwards a hearing in presence, upon the respective claims of liberty and servitude by the master and the negro; but during the hearing in presence, the negro died, so the point was not determined.' In the English case, to which we shall presently advert, it was maintained, that from the known temper and opinions of the court, the decision, would undoubtedly have been in the negro's favour. At the time when Mr Grenville Sharp, to his immortal honour, took up in the courts of law the question of personal liberty as a legal right, there was a more serious risk of Britain becoming a slave state than it is now easy to imagine. There was no chance of negroes being employed in gangs in the field or in manufactories, but there was imminent danger of their being brought over and kept in multitudes as domestic servants, just as they are still in some of the southern states of America. Mr Sharp drew attention to the following advertisement in the Public Advertiser of 28th March 1769, as one of a kind becoming too common:
'To be sold, a Black Girl, the property of J. B——, eleven years of age, who is extremely handy, works at her needle tolerably, and speaks English perfectly well; is of an excellent temper and willing disposition.
'Inquire of Mr Owen, at the Angel Inn, behind St Clement's Church in the Strand.'
Mr Sharp's early conflicts in the law-courts are more romantic than the last and decisive one. He and his brother had found a poor mendicant negro, called Jonathan Strong, in rags on the streets of London. They took him into their service, and after he had become plump, strong, and acquainted with his business, the man who had brought him from the colonies, an attorney, seeing him behind a carriage, set covetous eyes on him. The lad was waylaid on a false message to a public-house, seized, and committed to the Compter, where, however, he managed to make Mr Sharp acquainted with his position. The indefatigable philanthropist had him brought before the lord mayor as sitting magistrate. After hearing the case stated, his lordship said: 'The lad had not stolen anything, and was not guilty of any offence, and was therefore at liberty to go away.' A captain of a vessel, saying he had been employed by a person who had just bought the youth, to convey him to Jamaica, seized him by the arm as his employer's property. A lawyer standing behind Mr Sharp, who seems to have been puzzled how to proceed, whispered, 'Charge him.' Sharp charged the captain with an assault, and as he would have been immediately committed by the lord mayor if he persisted, he let go his hold. The philanthropist was threatened with a prosecution for abstraction of property, but it was abandoned.
This occurred in 1767. The next important case was that of a negro named Lewis. He 'had formerly,' says Mr Sharp's biographer, 'been a slave in possession of a Mr Stapylton, who now resided at Chelsea. Stapylton, with the aid of two watermen, whom he had hired for that purpose, in a dark night seized the person of Lewis, and, after a struggle, dragged him on his back into the water, and thence into a boat lying in the Thames, where, having first tied his legs, they endeavoured to gag him by running a stick into his mouth; and then rowing down to a ship bound for Jamaica, whose commander was previously engaged in the wicked conspiracy, they put him on board, to be sold as a slave on his arrival in the island.' The negro's cries, however, were heard; the struggle was witnessed; and information given in the quarter whence aid was most likely to come. Mr Sharp lost no time in obtaining a writ of habeas corpus. The ship in the meantime had sailed from Gravesend, but the officer with the writ was able to board her in the Downs. There he saw the negro chained to the mast. The captain was at first furious, and determined to resist; but he knew the danger of deforcing an officer with, such a writ as a habeas corpus, and found it necessary to yield. The writ came up before Lord Mansfield. He did not go into the general question of slavery, for there was an incidental point on which the case could be decided on the side of humanity—the captain and the persons employing him could not prove their property in the slave, supposing such property lawful. He was not only liberated, but his captors were convicted of assault.
These cases, however, did not decide the wide question, whether it was lawful to hold property in negroes in this country. It came at last to be solemnly decided in 1771, on a habeas corpus in the King's Bench. Affidavits having been made before Lord Mansfield, that a coloured man, named Somerset, was confined in irons on board a vessel called the Ann and Mary, bound for Jamaica, he granted a habeas corpus against the captain, to compel him to give an account of his authority for keeping the man in custody. Somerset had been a slave in Virginia, the property of a Mr Stewart; and the captain of the vessel stated that the owner had put him on board, to be conveyed to Jamaica, and there sold. In what was called the return to the writ, the justification for keeping Somerset in restraint was thus quaintly stated:—'That at the time of bringing the said James Somerset from Africa, and long before, there were, and from thence hitherto there have been, and still are, great numbers of negro slaves in Africa; and that during all the time aforesaid, there hath been, and still is a trade, carried on by his majesty's subjects from Africa, to his majesty's colonies or plantations of Virginia and Jamaica, in America, and other colonies and plantations belonging to his majesty in America, for the necessary supplying of the foresaid colonies and plantations with negro slaves.' It proceeded to relate with the same verbosity, that the slaves so brought from Africa 'have been and are saleable and sold as goods and chattels; and upon the sale thereof, have become, and been, and are, the slaves and property of the purchasers thereof.' It was stated that Mr Stewart, who resided in Virginia, had Somerset as a domestic slave or valet—that having business to transact in London, he took his usual attendant there, intending to take him back to Virginia. Somerset, however, made his escape; and when he was apprehended, his master, probably believing that he would thenceforth be rather a troublesome valet, changed his intention, and put the negro into the hands of the captain of a vessel bound for Jamaica, that he might be sold there.
The pleadings upon the legality of this proceeding were solemn and full. The question was, Whether it was to be held a just inference, from the fact of the slave, being undoubtedly by the law of the day property in the colonies, that, while his colonial master made a temporary stay in Britain, he should be property there also, without any direct law to that effect. Had it been a question of inanimate goods, there would be no reason why the property should not continue in the colonial owner. It would be all one to the inanimate object what hands it was in, and regularity and justice would decree that the person who was owner of it in one country should be so in another. But in these cases there was a separate adverse interest of a very strong character. Was the uniformity of this right of possession sufficient to overrule another right—that which every man, black or white, had to the freedom of his own person, unless there was special law to restrain it? The counsel for the negro not only pleaded strongly on this his personal right, but on the consequence to the moral condition of the British Empire, if the inhabitants of slave countries could bring their slaves hither. From the strictness of the laws, and the uniformity of the course of justice, if slaves were permitted in England, it was the very place where property in them would be most secure. Thus the country might become a resort of slaveholders, and its boasted purity and freedom would be sadly contaminated. 'If that right,' said Mr Hargrave, 'is here recognised, domestic slavery, with its horrid train of evils, may be lawfully imported into this country, at the discretion of every individual, foreign and native. It will come not only from our own colonies, and those of other European nations, but from Poland, Russia, Spain, and Turkey—from the coast of Barbary, from the western and eastern coasts of Africa—from every part of the world where it still continues to torment and dishonour the human species.'
The counsel on the other side was the celebrated Mr Dunning, afterwards Lord Ashburton, a friend of freedom, who seems to have undertaken the cause on notions of professional duty, and without any great inclination for it. His first words were: 'It is incumbent on me to justify Captain Knowles's detainer of the negro.' He was careful to shew, that he did not in the meantime maintain that there was an absolute property in Somerset—it was sufficient to shew, that there was a sufficient presumption of property to authorise the shipmaster in detaining him until the absolute question of right was solemnly settled. He proceeded to say: 'It is my misfortune to address an audience, the greater part of which I fear are prejudiced the other way. But wishes, I am well convinced, will never be allowed by your lordships to enter into the determination of the point. This cause must be what in fact and law it is. Its fate, I trust, therefore, depends on fixed and variable rules, resulting by law from the nature of the case. For myself, I would not be understood to intimate a wish in favour of slavery by any means; nor, on the other side, to be supposed the maintainer of an opinion contrary to my own judgment. I am bound in duty to maintain those arguments which are most useful to Captain Knowles, as far as is consistent with truth; and if his conduct has been agreeable to the laws throughout, I am under a further indispensable duty to support it.'
Much reference was made to the ancient laws of villenage, or semi-slavery, in Britain. Mr Dunning maintained, that these were testimony that a slave was not an utter anomaly in the country. The class of villeins had disappeared, and the law regarding them was abolished in the reign of Charles II. But he maintained, that there was nothing in that circumstance to prohibit others from establishing a claim upon separate grounds. He said: 'If the statute of Charles II. ever be repealed, the law of villenage revives in its full force.' It was stated that there were in Britain 15,000 negroes in the same position with Somerset. They had come over as domestics during the temporary sojourn of their owner-masters, intending to go back again. Then it was observed, that many of the slaves were in ships or in colonies which had not special laws for the support of slavery; and by the disfranchisement of these, British subjects would lose many millions' worth of property, which they believed themselves justly to possess.
British justice, however, has held at all times the question of human liberty to be superior to considerations of mere expediency. If the question be, who gains or loses most, there never can be a doubt that the man whose freedom has been reft from him has the greatest of all claims for indulgence. Accordingly, Lord Mansfield, the presiding judge, looking in the face all the threatened evils to property, held that nothing but absolute law could trench on personal freedom. He used on the occasion a Latin expression, to the effect that justice must be done at whatever cost; it has found its way into use as a classical expression, and as no one has been able to find it in any Latin author, it is supposed to have been of Lord Mansfield's own coining. 'Mr Stewart,' he said, 'advances no claims on contract; he rests his whole demand on a right to the negro as slave, and mentions the purpose of detainure of him to be the sending him over to be sold in Jamaica. If the parties will have judgment, fiat justitia ruat coelum—Let justice be done whatever be the consequence.' In finally delivering judgment, he concluded in these simple but expressive terms: 'The state of slavery is of such a nature, that it is incapable of being introduced, on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasion, and time itself, for which it was created, are erased from memory. It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from the decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged.'
A few years afterwards—in 1778—a case occurred in Scotland, where the question of a master's rights over a negro slave in Britain was at issue. The right claimed in this case, however, was not of so offensive a nature. The master did not claim the power of seizing the negro as his property. He maintained, however, that their mutual position gave him a right to claim the negro's services, as if he had engaged himself as a servant for life. Mr Wedderburn had bought in Jamaica a negro named Knight, about twelve years old. He came to Scotland as Mr Wedderburn's personal servant, married in the country, and for some years seemed contented with his position. Probably at the suggestion of some one who wished to try the question, as it had been tried in England, Knight went off, avowing his intention of being free. Mr Wedderburn applied to a justice of peace, who at once issued a warrant for the negro's apprehension. The matter, however, came before the sheriff, a professional judge, who decided that the colonial laws of slavery do not extend to Scotland, and that personal service for life is just another term for slavery. After a tedious litigation, this view was affirmed by the Court of Session, and the negro was declared free. The case acquired notice from the interest taken in it by Dr Johnson, and the frequent mention of it in Boswell's well-known work.
THE OLD HOUSEKEEPER'S TALE.
After my good and excellent mistress, Mrs Dacre, departed this life for a better, it seemed as if nothing ever prospered in the family, whom I had the honour of serving in the capacity of confidential housekeeper. Mr Dacre became morose and careless of his affairs; his sons were a source of great misery to him, pursuing a course of reckless extravagance and heartless dissipation; while the five young ladies—the youngest of whom, however, had attained the age of twenty-four—cared for little else than dress, and visiting, and empty show. These five young ladies had not amiable dispositions or gentle manners; but they were first-rate horsewomen, laughed and talked very loud, and were pronounced fine dashing women. There was another member of the family, an orphan niece of my master's, who had greatly profited by my lamented lady's teaching and companionship. Miss Marion had devoted herself to the sick-room with even more than a daughter's love; and for two years she had watched beside the patient sufferer, when her more volatile and thoughtless cousins refused to credit the approach of death. Miss Marion had just entered her twentieth year; life had not been all summer with her; for she remembered scenes of privation and distress, ere the decease of her parents left her, their only child, to the care of affluent relatives. She was a serious and meek, but affectionate creature; of a most goodly countenance and graceful carriage; and I used sometimes to think that the Misses Dacre were jealous of the admiration she excited, and kept her in the background as much as possible. It was not difficult to do this, for Miss Marion sought and loved retirement. After Mrs Dacre's decease, she had expressed an urgent wish to earn her bread by filling the situation of a governess. But the pride of the Dacres revolted at this; besides, Miss Marion was a comfort to her uncle, when his daughters were absent or occupied. So the dear young lady gave up her own wishes, and strove to do all she could for her generous benefactor, as she was wont to call my master.
Circumstances, which it were needless to detail, except to say that, although I had served one mistress satisfactorily, I found it impossible to serve five, determined me to resign the situation I had creditably filled for so many years. I deeply grieved to leave my beloved Miss Marion; and she, sweet, humble soul, on her part, yearned towards me, and wept a farewell on my bosom. I betook myself, in the first instance, to my brother Thomas Wesley and his wife—a worthy couple without children, renting a small farm nearly a hundred miles off. A very pleasant, small farm it was, situated in a picturesque valley, through which tumbled and foamed a limpid hill-stream, washing the roots of fine old trees, and playing all sorts of antics. This valley was a resort of quiet anglers, and also of artists during the summer season; and Thomas and Martha Wesley often let a neat parlour and adjoining bedroom to such respectable, steady people as did not object to observe the primitive hours and customs enforced at Fairdown Farm. Here I enjoyed the privilege of writing to, and hearing from, my dear Miss Marion; and though she never complained, or suffered a murmur to escape her, yet from the tenor of her letters I had great cause to fear things were all going very wrong at Mr Dacre's, and that her own health, always delicate, was giving way beneath the pressure of anxiety and unkindness.
In less than six months after I had quitted the family, a climax, which I had long anticipated with dread, actually arrived. Mr Dacre, suddenly called to his account, was found to have left his temporal affairs involved in inextricable and hopeless ruin; and amid the general crash and desolation, who was to shield or befriend the poor dependent, the orphan niece, Miss Marion? She was rudely cast adrift on the cold world; her proffered sympathy and services tauntingly rejected by those who had now a hard battle to fight on their own account. Broken down in health and spirits, the poor young lady flew to me, her humble, early friend, gratefully and eagerly availing herself of Thomas Wesley's cordial invitation, to make his house her home for the present.
My brother was a kind-hearted, just man; he had once been to see me when I lived at Mr Dacre's; and that gentleman, in his palmy days, was truly hospitable and generous to all comers. Thomas never forgot his reception, and now he was a proud and happy man to be enabled thus to offer 'a slight return,' as he modestly said, to one of the family. With much concern we all viewed Miss Marion's wan and careworn looks, so touching in the young; 'But her dim blue een will get bright again, and she'll fill out—never fear,' said Martha Wesley to me, by way of comfort and encouragement, 'now we've got her amongst us, poor dear. I doubt those proud Misses Dacre were not over-tender with such a one as sweet Miss Marion'——
'Dame, dame, don't let that tongue of thine wag so fast,' interrupted Thomas, for he never liked to hear people ill spoken of behind their backs, though he would speak out plainly enough to everybody's face.
A few days after Miss Marion's arrival at Fairdown (it was just at the hay-making season, and the earth was very beautiful—birds singing and flowers blooming—soft breezes blowing, and musical streamlets murmuring rejoicingly in the sunshine), a pedestrian was seen advancing leisurely up the valley, coming in a direction from the neighbouring town—a distance, however, of some miles, and the nearest point where the coach stopped. The stranger, aided in his walk by a stout stick, was a short, thickset, elderly man, clad in brown habiliments from head to foot: a brown, broad-brimmed beaver, an antiquated brown spencer (a brown wig must not be omitted), brown gaiters, and brown cloth boots, completed his attire. His linen was spotless and fine, his countenance rubicund and benevolent; and when he took off his green spectacles, a pair of the clearest and honestest brown eyes ever set in mortal's head looked you full in the face. He was a nice, comfortable-looking old gentleman; and so Thomas and I both thought at the same moment—for Martha was out of the way, and I shewed the apartments for her; the stranger, who gave his name as Mr Budge, having been directed to our house by the people of the inn where the coach stopped, who were kin to Martha, and well-disposed, obliging persons.
Mr Budge said he wanted quietness for some weeks, and the recreation of fishing; he had come from the turmoil of the great city to relax and enjoy himself, and if Thomas Wesley would kindly consent to receive him as a lodger, he would feel very much obliged. Never did we listen to so pleasant and obliging a mode of speaking; and when Mr Budge praised the apartments, and admired the country, the conquest of Thomas's heart was complete. 'Besides,' as Martha sagaciously remarked, 'it was so much better to have a steady old gentleman like this for a lodger, when pretty Miss Marion honoured them as a guest.' I thought so too; my dear young lady being so lone and unprotected by relatives, we all took double care of her.
So Mr Budge engaged the rooms, and speedily arrived to take possession, bringing with him a spick-and-span new fishing-rod and basket. He did not know much about fishing, but he enjoyed himself just as thoroughly as if he did; and he laughed so good-humouredly at his own Cockney blunders, as he called them, that Thomas would have been quite angry had any one else presumed to indulge a smile at Mr Budge's expense. A pattern lodger in all respects was Mr Budge—deferential towards Martha and myself, and from the first moment he beheld Miss Marion, regarding her as a superior being, yet one to be loved by a mortal for all that. Mr Budge was not a particularly communicative individual himself, though we opined from various observations, that, although not rich, he was comfortably off: but somehow or other, without appearing in the least inquisitive, he managed to obtain the minutest information he required. In this way, he learned all the particulars respecting Miss Marion; and gathered also from me, my own desire of obtaining a situation, such as I had held at Mr Dacre's, but in a small and well-regulated household. As to Miss Marion, the kind old gentleman could never shew kindness enough to her; and he watched the returning roses on her fair cheeks with a solicitude scarcely exceeded by mine. I never wondered at anybody admiring and loving the sweet, patient girl; but Mr Budge's admiration and apparent affection so far exceeded the bounds of mere conventional kindness in a stranger, that sometimes I even smilingly conjectured he had the idea of asking her to become Mrs Budge, for he was a widower, as he told us, and childless.
Such an idea, however, had never entered Miss Marion's innocent heart; and she, always so grateful for any little attention, was not likely to receive with coldness those so cordially lavished on her by her new friend, whom she valued as a truly good man, and not for a polished exterior, in which Mr Budge was deficient. Nay, so cordial was their intimacy, and so much had Miss Marion regained health and cheerfulness, that with unwonted sportiveness, on more than one occasion she actually hid the ponderous brown snuff-box, usually reposing in Mr Budge's capacious pocket, and only produced it when his distress became real; whereupon he chuckled and laughed, as if she had performed a mighty clever feat, indulging at the same time, however, in a double pinch.
Some pleasant weeks to us all had thus glided away, and Miss Marion was earnestly consulting me about her project of governessing, her health being now so restored; and I, for my part, wanted to execute my plans for obtaining a decent livelihood, as I could not think of burdening Thomas and Martha any longer, loath as they were for me to leave them. Some pleasant weeks, I say, had thus glided away, when Mr Budge, with much ceremony and circumlocution, as if he had deeply pondered the matter, and considered it very weighty and important, made a communication which materially changed and brightened my prospects. It was to the effect, that an intimate friend of his, whom he had known, he said, all his life, required the immediate services of a trustworthy housekeeper, to take the entire responsible charge of his house. 'My friend,' continued Mr Budge, tapping his snuff-box complacently, his brown eyes twinkling with the pleasure of doing a kind act, for his green specs were in their well-worn case at his elbow—'My friend is about my age—a sober chap, you see, Mrs Deborah; 'here a chuckle—'and he has no wife and no child to take care of him'—here a slight sigh: 'he has lately bought a beautiful estate, called Sorel Park, and it is there you will live, with nobody to interfere with you, as the lady-relative who will reside with my friend is a most amiable and admirable young lady; and I am sure, Mrs Deborah, you will become much attached to her. 'By the by, Mrs Deborah,' he continued, after pondering for a moment, 'will you do me a favour to use your influence to prevent Miss Marion from accepting any appointment for the present, as after you are established at Sorel Park, I think I know of a home that may suit her?'
I do not know which I felt most grateful or delighted for—my own prospects, or my dear Miss Marion's; though certainly hers were more vague and undefined than mine, for the remuneration offered for my services was far beyond my expectation, and from Mr Budge's description of Sorel Park, it seemed to be altogether a place beyond my most sanguine hopes. I said something about Miss Marion, and my hope that she might be as fortunate as myself; and Mr Budge, I was happy to see, was quite fervent in his response. 'My friend,' said he, at the close of the interview, 'will not arrive to take possession of Sorel Park until you, Mrs Deborah, have got all things in order; and as I know that he is anxious for the time to arrive, the sooner you can set out on your journey thither the better. I also must depart shortly, but I hope to return hither again.' Important business required Mr Budge's personal attention, and with hurried adieus to us all, he departed from Fairdown; and in compliance with his request, I set off for Sorel Park, leaving my beloved Miss Marion to the care of Thomas and Martha for the present.
The owner of this fine place was not as yet known there; for Mr Budge, being a managing man, had taken everything upon himself, and issued orders with as lordly an air as if there was nobody in the kingdom above the little brown man. The head-gardener, and some of the other domestics, informed me they had been engaged by Mr Budge himself, who, I apprehended, made very free and busy with the concerns of his friend. Sorel Park was a princely domain, and there was an air of substantial comfort about the dwelling and its appointments, which spoke volumes of promise as to domestic arrangements in general. I soon found time to write a description of the place to Miss Marion, for I knew how interested she was in all that concerned her faithful Deborah; and I anxiously awaited the tidings she had promised to convey—of Mr Budge having provided as comfortably for her as he had for me. I at length received formal notification of the day and hour the owner of Sorel Park expected to arrive, accompanied by his female relative. This was rather earlier than I had been led to expect; but all things being in order for their reception, I felt glad at their near approach, for I was strangely troubled and nervous to get this introduction over. I was very anxious, too, about my dear Miss Marion; for I knew that some weighty reason alone prevented her from answering my letter, though what that reason could be, it was impossible for me to conjecture.
The momentous day dawned; the hours glided on; and the twilight hour deepened. The superior servants and myself stood ready to receive the travellers, listening to every sound; and startled, nevertheless, when the rapid approach of carriage-wheels betokened their close proximity. With something very like disappointment, for which I accused myself of ingratitude, I beheld Mr Budge, browner than ever, alight from the chariot, carefully assisting a lady, who seemed in delicate health, as she was muffled up like a mummy. Mr Budge returned my respectful salutation most cordially, and said, with a smile, as he bustled forwards to the saloon, where a cheerful fire blazed brightly on the hearth—for it was a chill evening: 'I've brought your new mistress home, you see, Mrs Deborah; but you want to know where your new master is—eigh? Well, come along, and this young lady will tell you all about the old fellow.'
I followed them into the apartment; Mr Budge shut the door; the lady flung aside her veil, and my own dear, sweet Miss Marion clasped me round the neck, and sobbed hysterically in my arms.
'Tell her, my darling,' said Mr Budge, himself quite husky, and turning away to wipe off a tear from his ruddy cheek—'tell her, my darling, you're the mistress of Sorel Park; and when you've made the good soul understand that, tell her we'd like a cup of tea before we talk about the master.'
'O my dear Miss Marion!' was all I could utter; 'what does this mean? Am I in a dream?' But it was not a happy dream; for when I had a moment to reflect, my very soul was troubled as I thought of the sacrifice of all her youthful aspirations, made by that poor, gentle creature, for the sake of a secure and comfortable home in this stormy world. I could not reconcile myself to the idea of Mr Budge and Marion as man and wife; and as I learned, ere we retired to rest that night, I had no occasion to do so. Mr Budge was Miss Marion's paternal uncle, her mother, Miss Dacre, having married his elder brother. These brothers were of respectable birth, but inferior to the Dacres; and while the elder never prospered in any undertaking, and finally died of a broken heart, the younger, toiling in foreign climes, gradually amassed a competency. On returning to his native land, he found his brother no more, and the orphan girl he had left behind placed with her mother's relatives.
Mr Budge had a great dread of appearing before these proud patrician people, who had always openly scorned his deceased brother; and once accidentally encountering them at a public fete, the contumelious bearing of the young ladies towards the little brown gentleman deterred him from any nearer approach. No doubt, he argued, his brother's daughter was deeply imbued with similar principles, and would blush to own a 'Mr Budge' for her uncle! This name he had adopted as the condition of inheriting a noble fortune unexpectedly bequeathed by a plebeian, but worthy and industrious relative, only a few years previous to the period when Providence guided his footsteps to Fairdown Farm and Miss Marion.
The moderate competency Mr Budge had hitherto enjoyed, and which he had toiled hard for, now augmented to ten times the amount, sorely perplexed and troubled him; and after purchasing Sorel Park, he had flown from the turmoil of affluence, to seek peace and obscurity for awhile, under pretext of pursuing the philosophical recreation of angling. How unlike the Misses Dacre was the fair and gracious creature he encountered at Fairdown! And not a little the dear old gentleman prided himself on his talents for what he called diplomacy—arranging his plans, he said, 'just like a book-romance.' After my departure, he returned to Fairdown, and confided the wonderful tidings to Thomas and Martha Wesley, more cautiously imparting them to Miss Marion, whose gentle spirits were more easily fluttered by sudden surprise.
For several years, Mr Budge paid an annual visit to Fairdown, when the trout-fishing season commenced; and many useful and valuable gifts found their way into Thomas's comfortable homestead, presented by dear Miss Marion. In the course of time, she became the wife of one worthy of her in every respect—their lovely children often sportively carrying off the ponderous box of brown rappee, and yet Uncle Budge never frowning.
These darlings cluster round my knees, and one, more demure than the rest, thoughtfully asks: 'Why is Uncle Budge's hair not snowy white, like yours, dear Deb? For Uncle Budge says he is very old, and that God will soon call him away from us.'
ADVENTURES IN JAPAN.
For above two hundred years, the unknown millions of Japan have been shut up in their own islands, forbidden, under the severest penalties, either to admit foreigners on their shores, or themselves to visit any other realm in the world. The Dutch are permitted to send two ships in a year to the port of Nangasaki, where they are received with the greatest precaution, and subjected to a surveillance even more degrading than was that formerly endured by the Europeans at Canton. Any other foreigner whom misfortune or inadvertence may land on their shores, is doomed to perpetual imprisonment; and even if one of their own people should pass twelve months out of the country, he is, on his return, kept for life at the capital, and suffered no more to join his family, or mingle at large in the business or social intercourse of life. In pursuance of this policy, it is believed that the Japanese government now holds in captivity several subjects of the United States, and it is expected that an armament will be sent to rescue them by force.
Since this announcement has been made, and the general expectation has been raised that Japan will soon have to submit, like China, to surrender its isolation, and enter into relations with the rest of the civilised world, there has seasonably appeared an English reprint of a work hitherto little known among us—a personal narrative of a Japanese captivity of two years and a half, by an officer in the Russian navy. If we may judge from its details, our transatlantic friends had need to keep all their eyes wide open in dealing with this people.
The leading circumstances connected with Captain Golownin's captivity were the following:—In the year 1803, the Chamberlain Resanoff was sent by the Emperor Alexander, to endeavour to open friendly relations with Japan, and sailed from the eastern coasts in a merchant vessel belonging to the American Company. But receiving a peremptory message of dismissal, and refusal of all intercourse, he returned to Okhotsk, and died on his way to St Petersburg. Lieutenant Chwostoff, however, who had commanded the vessel, put to sea again on his own responsibility, attacked and destroyed several Japanese villages on the Kurile Islands, and carried off some of the inhabitants. In the year 1811, Captain Golownin, commander of the imperial war-sloop Diana, lying at Kamtschatka, received orders from head-quarters to make a particular survey of the southern Kurile Islands, and the coast of Tartary. In pursuance of his instructions, he was sailing without any flag near the coast of Eetooroop (Staaten), when he was met by some Russian Kuriles, who informed him that they had been seized, and were still detained prisoners, on account of the Chwostoff outrage. They persuaded the captain to take one of them on board as an interpreter, and proceed to Kunashir, to make such explanations as might exonerate the Russian government in this matter. The Japanese chief of the island further assured the Russians, that they could obtain a supply of wood, water, and fresh provisions at Kunashir; and he furnished them with a letter to its governor. The reception of the Diana at Kunashir was, in the first instance, a vigorous but ineffective discharge of guns from the fortress, the walls of which were so completely hung with striped cloth, that it was impossible to form any opinion of the size or strength of the place. After some interchange, however, of allegorical messages, conveyed by means of drawings floated in empty casks, Golownin was invited on shore by the beckoning of white fans. Concealing three brace of pistols in his bosom, and leaving a well-armed boat close to the shore, with orders that the men should watch his movements, and act on his slightest signal, he ventured on a landing, accompanied by the Kurile Alexei and a common sailor. The lieutenant-governor soon appeared. He was in complete armour, and attended by two soldiers, one of whom carried his long spear, and the other his cap or helmet, which was adorned with a figure of the moon. 'It is scarcely possible,' says the narrator, 'to conceive anything more ludicrous than the manner in which the governor walked. His eyes were cast down and fixed on the earth, and his hands pressed closely against his sides, whilst he proceeded at so slow a pace, that he scarcely moved one foot beyond the other, and kept his feet wide apart. I saluted him after the European fashion, upon which he raised his left hand to his forehead, and bowed his whole body towards the ground.'
In the conversation that ensued, the governor expressed his regret that the ignorance of the Japanese respecting the object of this visit should have occasioned them to fire upon the Diana. He then closely interrogated the captain as to the course and objects of his voyage, his name, the name of his emperor, and whether he knew anything of Resanoff. On the first of these heads, Golownin deemed it prudent to use some deception, and he stated that he was proceeding to St Petersburg, from the eastern extremity of the Russian Empire; that contrary winds had considerably lengthened his voyage; and that, being greatly in want of wood and fresh water, he had been looking on the coasts for a safe harbour where these might be procured, and had been directed by an officer at Eetooroop to Kunashir. To all the other questions, he returned suitable answers, which were carefully written down. The conference ended most amicably, and the captain was invited to smoke tobacco, and partake of some tea, sagi, and caviar. Everything was served on a separate dish, and presented by a different individual, armed with a poniard and sabre; and these attendants, instead of going away after handing anything to the guests, remained standing near, till at length they were surrounded by a formidable circle of armed men. Golownin would not stoop to betray alarm or distrust, but having brought some French brandy as a present to the governor, he desired his sailors to draw a bottle, and took this opportunity of repeating his order, that they should hold themselves in readiness. There appeared, however, no intention of resorting to violence. When he prepared to depart, the governor presented a flask of sagi, and some fresh fish, pointing out to him at the same time a net which had been cast to procure a larger supply. He also gave him a white fan, with which he was to beckon, as a sign of amity, when he came on shore again. The whole draught of fish was sent on board in the evening.
On the following day, the captain, according to appointment, paid another visit on shore, accompanied by two officers, Alexei, and four seamen carrying the presents intended for the Japanese. On this occasion, the former precautions were dispensed with; the boat was hauled up to the shore, and left with one seaman, while the rest of the party proceeded to the castle. The result was, that after a renewal of the friendly explanations and entertainments of the preceding day, the treacherous Japanese threw off the mask, and made prisoners of the whole party.
'The first thing done, was to tie our hands behind our backs, and conduct us into an extensive but low building, which resembled a barrack, and which was situated opposite to the tent in the direction of the shore. Here we were placed on our knees, and bound in the cruelest manner with cords about the thickness of a finger; and as though this were not enough, another binding of smaller cords followed, which was still more painful. The Japanese are exceedingly expert at this work; and it would appear that they conform to some precise regulation in binding their prisoners, for we were all tied exactly in the same manner. There was the same number of knots and nooses, and all at equal distances, on the cords with which each of us was bound. There were loops round our breasts and necks; our elbows almost touched each other, and our hands were firmly bound together. From these fastenings proceeded a long cord, the end of which was held by a Japanese, and which, on the slightest attempt to escape, required only to be drawn to make the elbows come in contact with the greatest pain, and to tighten the noose about the neck to such a degree as almost to produce strangulation. Besides all this, they tied our legs in two places—above the knees and above the ankles; they then passed ropes from our necks over the cross-beams of the building, and drew them so tight, that we found it impossible to move. Their next operation was searching our pockets, out of which they took everything, and then proceeded very quietly to smoke tobacco. While they were binding us, the lieutenant-governor shewed himself twice, and pointed to his mouth, to intimate, perhaps, that it was intended to feed, not to kill us.'
After some hours, the legs and ankles of the prisoners were partially loosed, and preparations were made for removing them to Matsmai, which seems to be the head-quarters of government for the Kurile dependencies of Japan. The journey, which occupied above a month, was performed partly in boats, which were dragged along the shore, and even for miles over the land; and partly on foot, the captives being marched in file, each led with a cord by a particular conductor, and having an armed soldier abreast of him. It was evident, however, that whatever was rigorous in their treatment, was not prompted by personal feelings of barbarity, but by the stringency of the law, which would have made the guards answerable for their prisoners with their own lives. They were always addressed with the greatest respect; and, as soon as it was deemed safe, their hands, which were in a dreadfully lacerated state, were unbound, and surgically treated; but not till their persons had been again most carefully searched, that no piece of metal might remain about them, lest they might contrive to destroy themselves. Suicide is, in Japan, the fashionable mode of terminating a life which cannot be prolonged but in circumstances of dishonour: to rip up one's own bowels in such a case, wipes away every stain on the character. The guards of the Russian captives not only used every precaution against this, but carefully watched over their health and comfort, carrying them over the shallowest pools and streamlets, lest their feet should be wet, and assiduously beating off the gnats and flies, which would have been annoying. At every village, crowds of both sexes, young and old, turned out to see these unfortunate men; but there was nothing like insult or mockery in the demeanour of any—pity appeared to be the universal feeling: many begged permission from the guards to offer sagi, comfits, fruits, and other delicacies; and these were presented often with tears of compassion, as well as gestures of respect.
The prison to which Golownin and his companions were finally committed had been constructed expressly for their habitation in the town of Matsmai. It was a quadrangular wooden building, 25 paces long, 15 broad, and 12 feet high. Three sides of it were dead-wall, the fourth was formed of strong spars. Within this structure were two apartments, formed likewise of wooden spars, so as to resemble cages: one was appropriated to the officers, the other to the sailors and Alexei. The building was surrounded by a high wall or paling, outside of which were the kitchen, guard-house, &c., enclosed by another paling. This outer enclosure was patrolled by common soldiers; but no one was allowed within, except the physician, who visited daily, and the orderly officers, who looked through the spars every half-hour. Of course, it was rather a cold lodging; but, as winter advanced, a hole was dug a few feet from each cage, built round with freestone, and filled with sand, upon which charcoal was afterwards kept burning. Benches were provided for them to sleep on, and two of the orderlies presented them with bear-skins; but the native fashion is to lie on a thick, wadded quilt, folded together, and laid on the floor, which, even in the poorest dwellings, is covered with soft straw-mats. A large wadded dress, made of silk or cotton, according to the circumstances of the wearer, serves for bed-clothes—which seem to be quite unknown; and while the poorer classes have only a piece of wood for a pillow, the richer fasten a cushion on the neat boxes which contain their razors, scissors, pomatum, tooth-brushes, and other toilet requisites.