CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL
CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.
No. 462. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2d.
THE MANAGING PARTNER.
She is neither your partner, nor ours, nor anybody else's in particular. She is in general business, of which matrimony is only a department. How she came to be concerned in so many concerns, is a mystery of nature, like the origin of the Poet—or rather of black Topsy. The latter, you know, was not born at all, she never had no father nor mother, she was not made by nobody—she growed; and so it is with the managing partner, who was a managing partner from her infancy. It is handed down by tradition that she screamed lustily in the nurse's arms when anything went wrong, or as she would not have it; and this gave rise, among superficial observers, to the notion, that Missy was naturally cross. But the fact is, her screams were merely substitutes for words, like the inarticulate cries by which dumb persons express their emotions. When language came, she gave up screaming—but not managing. She did not so much play, as direct the play—distributing the parts to her companions, and remaining herself an abstraction. If she was ever seen cuffing a doll on the side of the head, or shaking it viciously by the arm, this was merely a burst of natural impatience with the stupid thing; but in general, she contented herself with desiring the mother of the offender to bestow the necessary chastisement. Her orders were usually obeyed; for they were seen to proceed from no selfish motive, but from an innate sense of right. This fact was obvious from the very words in which they were conveyed: You should be so and so; you should do so and so; you should say so and so. Her orders were, in fact, a series of moral maxims, which the other partners in the juvenile concern took upon trust.
As she grew up into girlhood, and then into young-womanhood, business multiplied upon her hands. She was never particular as to what business it was. Like Wordsworth, when invited in to lunch, she was perfectly willing to take a hand in 'anything that was going forward;' and that hand was sure to be an important one: she never entered a concern of which she did not at once become the managing partner. In another of these chalk (and water) portraits, we described the Everyday Young Lady as the go-between in numberless love affairs, but never the principal in any. This is precisely the case with the young lady we are now taking off—yet how different are the functions of the two! The former listens, and sighs, and blushes, and sympathises, pressing the secret into the depths of her bosom, turning down her conscious eyes from the world's face, and looking night and day as if she was haunted by a Mystery. She is, in fact, of no use, but as a reservoir into which her friend may pour her feelings, and come for them again when she chooses, to enjoy and gloat over them at leisure. Her nerves are hardly equal to a message; but a note feels red-hot in her bosom, and when she has one, she looks down every now and then spasmodically, as if to see whether it has singed the muslin. When the affair has been brought to a happy issue, she attends, in an official capacity, the busking of the victim; and when she sees her at length assume the (lace) veil, and prepare to go forth to be actually married—a contingency she had till that moment denied in her secret heart to be within the bounds of possibility—she falls upon her neck as hysterically as a regard for the frocks of both will allow, and indulges in a silent fit of tears, and terror, and triumph.
But the managing partner is altogether of a more practical character. She no sooner gets an inkling of what is going forward, than she steps into the concern as confidently as if any number of parchments had been signed and scaled. She is not assumed as a partner (in the Scottish phrase), but assumes to be one, and her assumption is unconsciously submitted to. To the other young lady the bride-expectant goes for sympathy, to this one for advice. And what she receives is advice, and nothing but advice. The Manager does not put her own hand to the business: she dictates what is to be done; she carries neither note nor message, but suggests the purport of both, and the messenger to be employed; she repeats the moral maxims of her childhood—You should be so and so; you should do so and so; you should say so and so. Sometimes she makes a mistake—but what then? she has plenty of other businesses to attend to, and the average is sure to come up well. In philosophy, she is a decided utilitarian; bearing with perfect never-mindingness the misfortunes of individuals, and holding by the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
When the managing partner is herself married, the sphere of her exertions widens, and her perfect unselfishness becomes more and more apparent. She directs the affairs of her husband, of her friends, of her neighbours—everybody's affairs, in short, but her own. She has the most uncomfortable house, the most uncared-for children, the most untidy person in the parish: but how could it be otherwise, since all her thoughts and cares are given to her neighbours? Some people suppose that ambition is at the bottom of all this; but we do not share the opinion. The woman of the world is ambitious, for the aggrandisement of herself or family is the main-spring of all her management; but our manager finds in the trouble she takes its own reward. The other would not stir hand or tongue without some selfish end in view; while she will work morning, noon, and night, without the faintest dream of remuneration. Again, Bottom the weaver is an ambitious character. Not satisfied with playing Pyramus—'An' I may hide my face,' says he, 'let me play Thisbe too!' And so likewise, when the lion is mentioned, he would fain play the lion in addition to both, promising to aggravate his voice in such a way as to roar you as gently as any sucking-dove. The managing partner would shrink from this kind of active employment. She would compose the play, distribute the parts, shift the scenes, and snuff the candles; but she would take no part in the performance. This makes her character a difficult study; but though difficult, it is not impossible for those who are gifted in that way to get to the bottom of it. Our theory is, that the fundamental motive of the managing partner is PHILANTHROPY.
In order to understand this, we must remember that she is original and unique only in the length to which she carries a common principle in human nature. Society is full of advisers on a small scale. If you ask your way to such a place in the street, the Mentor you invoke is instantaneously seized with a strong desire to befriend you. He calls after you a supplement to his directions; and if you chance to turn your head, you will observe him watching to see whether you do take the right hand. When the opinions of two advisers, no matter on what subject, clash, mark the heat and obstinacy with which they are defended. Each considers himself in the right; and believing your wellbeing to depend upon the choice you make, is humanely solicitous that you should give the preference to him. The managing partner merely carries out this feeling to a noble, not to say sublime extent, and becomes the philanthropist par excellence. Philanthropy is virtue, and virtue, we all know, is its own reward—that is, we all say; for in reality the idea is somewhat obscure. Perhaps we mean that it is the feeling of being virtuous which rewards the act of virtue, and if so, how happy must the managing partner be! Troubled by no vulgar ambition, by no hankering after notoriety, by no yearning to join ostensibly in the game of life, she shrouds herself in obscurity, as the widow Bessie Maclure in Old Mortality did in an old red cloak, and directs with a whisper the way of the passer-by. There is a certain awful pride which must swell at times in that woman's bosom, as she thinks of the events which her counsel is now governing, and of the wheels that are now turning and twirling in obedience to the impulse they received from her!
The managing partner manages a great many benevolent societies, but it is unnecessary here to mention more than one. This is the Advice-to-the-poor-and-needy-giving Ladies' Samaritan Association. The business of this admirable institution is carried on by the lady-collectors, who solicit subscriptions, chiefly from the bachelors on their beat; and the lady-missionaries, who visit the lowest dens in the place, to distribute, with a beautiful philanthropy, moral Tracts, and Exhortations to be good, tidy, church-going, and happy, to the ragged and starving inmates. Although these, however, are the functionaries ostensible to the public, it is the managing partner who sets them in motion. She is neither president nor vice-president, nor treasurer nor secretary, nor collector nor missionary; but she is a power over all these, supreme, though nameless. She is likewise the editor (with a sub-editor for work) of the tracts and exhortations; and in the course of this duty she mingles charity with business in a way well worthy of imitation. The productions in question are usually received gratuitously, for advice of all kinds, as we have remarked, is common and plenty; but sometimes the demand is so great as to require the aid of a purchased pen. On such occasions the individual employed by the managing partner is a broken-down clergyman, who was deprived at once of his sight and his living by the visitation of God, and who writes for the support of a wife and fourteen children. This respectable character is induced, by fear of competition, and the strong necessity of feeding sixteen mouths with something or other, to use his pen for the Association at half-price; while he is compelled by his circumstances to reside in the very midst of the destitution he addresses, where he learns in suffering what he teaches in prose-ing. But, notwithstanding all this beautiful management, her schemes, being of human device, sometimes fail. An example of this is offered by the one she originated on hearing the first terrible cry of Destitution in the Highlands. Under her auspices, the Female Benevolent Trousers Society became extremely popular. Its object, of course, was to supply these garments gratuitously to the perishing mountaineers, in lieu of the cold unseemly kilt. It was discovered, however, after a time, that the Highlanders do not wear kilts at all; and the society was broken up, and its funds handed over, at the suggestion of the institutor, for the Encouragement of the interesting Mieau tribe of Old Christians in Abyssinia. The tenets of this tribe, you are aware, are in several instances wonderfully similar to our own; only, they abjure in their totality the filthy rags of the moral law, which has drawn upon them the bitter persecution of the heathenish Mohammedans in their neighbourhood.
We have observed that the managing partner is impatient of another counsellor. This is a remarkable trait in her character. Even the woman of the world looks with approbation upon the doings of a congener, when they do not come into collision with her own; even the everyday married lady bends her head confidentially towards her double, as they sit side by side, and rises from the tete-a-tete charmed and edified: the managing partner alone is solitary and unsocial. This is demanded by the lofty nature of her duties. Every business, great and small, should have a single head to direct; and she feels satisfied, after dispassionate reflection, that the best head of all is her own. This makes her wish conscientiously that there was only one business on the earth, that all mankind were her clients, and that there was not another individual of her class extant.
In her last moments, and only then, this great-minded woman thinks of herself—if that can be said to be herself which remains in the world after she is defunct. She thinks of what is to become of her body, and feels a melancholy pleasure in arranging the ceremonies of its funeral. Everything must be ordered by herself; and when the last is said, her breath departs in a sigh of satisfaction. But sometimes death is in a hurry, or her voice low and indistinct. It happened in a case of this kind, that a doubt arose in the minds of the bystanders as to the shoulder she intended to be taken by one of the friends. They looked at her; but her voice was irretrievably gone, and they considered that, in so far as this point was concerned, the management had devolved upon them. Not so: the dying woman could not speak; but with a convulsive effort, she moved one of her hands, touched the left shoulder, and expired.
De mortuis nil nisi bonum is an excellent maxim; but in concluding this sketch, there can be no harm in at least regretting the imperfection of human nature. If its eminent subject, instead of spending abroad upon the world her great capacity, had been able to concentrate it in some measure upon herself and family, there can be little doubt that she would have been regarded in society with less of the contempt which genius, and less of the dislike which virtue inspires in the foolish and wicked, and that fewer unreflecting readers would at this moment be whispering to themselves the concluding line of Pope's malignant libel—
Alive ridiculous, and dead forgot!
THE MOUNTAIN OF THE CHAIN AND ITS LEGEND.
The neighbourhood of Gebel Silsilis, or the Mountain of the Chain, is very interesting in many respects. After flowing for some distance through the usual strip of alluvial plain, bordered by not very lofty undulating ground, the Nile suddenly sweeps into a gap between two imposing masses of rock that overhang the stream for above a mile on either hand. The appearance of the precipices thus hemming in and narrowing so puissant a volume of water, covered with eddies and whirlpools, would be picturesque enough in itself; but we have here, in addition, an immense number of caves, grottos, quarries, and rock-temples, dotting the surface of the rock, and suggesting at first sight the idea of a city just half ground down and solidified into a mountain. On the western bank, numerous handsome facades and porticos have indeed been hewn out; and mightily interesting they were to wander through, with their elaborate tablets and cursory inscriptions, their hieroglyphical scrolls, their sculptured gods and symbols, and all the luxury of their architectural ornaments. But the grandest impressions are to be sought for on the other side, whence the materials of whole capital cities must have been removed. There is, in fact, a wilderness of quarries there, approached by deep perpendicular cuts, like streets leading from the river's bank, which must have furnished a wonderful amount of sandstone to those strange old architects who, whilst they sometimes chose to convert a mountain into a temple, generally preferred to build up a temple into a mountain. It takes hours merely to have a glimpse at these mighty excavations, some of which are cavernous, with roofs supported by huge square pillars, but most of which form great squares worked down to an enormous depth.
The rock's on the western bank are not isolated, but seem to be the termination of a range projecting from the interior of the desert; and a minor range, branching off, hugs the river to the northward pretty closely for a great distance; but those on the other side are separated by what may almost be called a plain from the Arabian chain of hills, and might be supposed by the fanciful to have been formerly surrounded by the rapid waters of the Nile. They are admirably placed for the purpose to which they were applied; and although I have not the presumption to fix dates, and say under what dynasty the quarries first began to be worked, there is no rashness in presuming that it must have been at a very early period indeed. The sandstone is excellent for building purposes—far superior to the friable limestone found lower down—and has been removed not only from this one block, but from both sides, here and there, for a considerable distance to the north. Many quarries likewise no doubt remain still undiscovered and unexplored in this neighbourhood. We found the mountains worked more or less down as far as Ramadeh; and inscriptions and sculptures, evidently dating from very ancient times, are met with in many.
The people who inhabit the villages and hamlets of this district are not all fellahs; indeed, I question whether, properly speaking, any members of that humble race are to be found here. Their place is supplied by Bedawin Arabs of the Ababde tribe, who have, to a certain extent, abjured their wandering habits, and settled down on the borders of a narrow piece of land given to them by the Nile. The villages of Rasras and Fares, above the pass on the western bank, and of El-Hamam below, as well as the more extensive and better-favoured establishment of Silwa, with its little plain, are all peopled by men of the same race. With the exception of El-Hamam, which has a territory only a few feet wide, the cultivable land belonging to each village seems adequate to its support. They have a few small groves of palms; had just harvested some fair-sized dhourra-fields when we were last there; and had some fields of the castor-oil plant. Perhaps cultivation might be extended; a good deal of ground that seemed fitted for spade or plough was overrun with a useless but beautiful shrub called the silk-tree. Its pod, which, when just ripe, has a blush that might rival that on the cheek of a maiden, was beginning to wither and shrivel in the sun, and opening to scatter flakes of a silky substance finer than the thistle's beard, leaving bare the myriad seeds arranged something like a pine-cone.
I have called the plant useless, because vain have been the attempts made to apply its produce to manufacturing purposes; but Arab mothers procure from the stem a poisonous milky substance, with which they sometimes blind their infants, to save them in after-life from the conscription. How strangely love is corrupted in its manifestations by the influence of tyranny! I have seen youths who have exhibited a foot or a hand totally disabled and shrivelled up, and who boasted that their mothers, in passionate tenderness and solicitude for them, had thrust their young limbs into the fire, that they might retain their presence through war, though maimed and rendered almost incapable of work.
Few plants or trees of any value grow here spontaneously. The pretty shrub called el-egl droops beneath the rocks of Silsilis over the water, accompanied sometimes by a dwarf willow; and the sandy earth, washed down the gullies on the western bank in winter, produces a plentiful crop of the sakaran—a plant bearing a seed which has intoxicating qualities, as the name imports, and which is said to be used by robbers to poison or stupify persons whom they wish to rifle at their leisure. Some colocynth is gathered here and there, and dried in the hollows of the rocks.
It is not legal, or rather not allowed in Egypt, to be in possession of arms without a permit; but throughout the whole of the upper country, it is found difficult to enforce such a regulation. Men with spears are often to be met. I saw some parties coming from Silwa armed with long straight swords, with a cross hilt. Most men are provided with a dagger fastened round their arm above the elbow with a thong; others have clubs heavily loaded, or covered at one end with crocodile scales; and guns are not unfrequent, though powder and shot are exceedingly scarce. Our two guides, Ismaeen and Abd-el-Mahjid, had each a single-barrelled fowling-piece—value from twenty-five to thirty shillings. They were both expert shots, as we had occasion to witness when we went hare-shooting with them. In fact, with their assistance, we had hare every day for dinner during our stay. They were very chary of their powder, and only fired when pretty sure of success. For catching doves, and other small game, they had ingenious little traps.
During my wanderings one day among the rocks with Ismaeen, who had constituted himself my especial guide, I felt somewhat fatigued at a distance from the boats, and sat down to rest under the shade of a projecting rock. On all sides yawned the openings of quarries, cut sheer down into the heart of the mountain to a depth which I could not fathom from my vantage-ground. I seemed surrounded by abysses. In front, I could see the Nile whirling its rapid current between the overhanging rocks which closed up to the north; in the other direction, spread a desert plain intersected by a ribbon of bright water between two strips of brighter vegetation. Far away to the north-west, a solitary heap of mountains marked the spot where the unvisited ruins of Bergeh are said to lie.
[Transcriber's Note: A dieresis (umlaut) diacritical mark appears above the letter 'g' in the word Bergeh in the above sentence in the original.]
Ismaeen sat before me, answering the various questions which the scene suggested. He was a fine open-faced young man, without any of the clownishness of the fellah, and spoke in a free and easy but gentle manner. He told me that he and Abd-el-Mahjid had been sworn friends from infancy; that they scarcely ever separated; that where one went, the other went; and that what one willed, the other willed. They were connected by blood and marriage—the sister of Ismaeen having become the wife of Abd-el-Mahjid. Both had seen what to them was a good deal of the world. They had driven horses, camels, sheep, goats, donkeys, as far as Keneh, even as far as Siout, for sale; and the desert was familiar to them. The salt sea had rolled its blue waves beneath their eyes; and they had been as far as the Gebel-el-Elbi, that mysterious stronghold of the Bisharee, far to the south, in the wildest region of the desert. Ismaeen, it is true, did not seem to think much of these wild and romantic journeyings. He laid more stress on having seen the beautiful city of Siout, where I have no doubt he felt the mingled contempt and admiration ascribed to the Yorkshireman when he first visits London.
Having exhausted present topics, our conversation naturally turned to the past; and I began to be inquisitive about the legends of the place. I knew there was a local tradition as to the origin of the name Gebel Silsilis—the Mountain of the Chain—passed over usually with supercilious contempt in guide-books; and I desired much to hear the details. Ismaeen at first did not seem to attach any importance to the subject, gave me but a cursory answer, and proceeded to relate how he had sold donkeys for sixty piastres at Siout which were only worth thirty at most at Fares; but I returned to the charge, and after looking at me somewhat slyly perhaps, to ascertain if I was not making game of him by affecting an interest in these things, the young Ababde, with the sublime inattention to positive geography and record history characteristic of Eastern narrative, spoke nearly as follows:—
* * * * *
In ancient times, there was a king named Mansoor, who reigned over Upper Egypt and over the Arabs in both deserts. His capital city was at this place (Silsilis), which he fortified; and his name was known and respected as far as the North Sea (the Mediterranean), and in all the countries of the blacks to the south. Kings, and princes, and emperors sent messages and presents to him, so that his pride was exalted, and his satisfaction complete. He reigned a period of fifty years, at the end of which the vigour of his frame was impaired, and his beard flowed white as snow upon his breast; and during all that time, he was different from every other man, in that he had not cared to have children, and had not repined when Heaven forbore to bestow that blessing upon him. One day, however, when he was well-stricken in years, he happened to feel weary in his mind; he yawned, and complained that he knew not what to do for occupation or employment. So his wezeer said to him: 'Let us clothe ourselves in the garments of the common people, and go forth into the city and the country, and hear what is said, and see what is done, and perhaps we may find matter of diversion.' The idea was pleasing to the king; and so they dressed in a humble fashion, and going out by the gate of the garden, entered at once into the streets and the bazaars. On other occasions, the bustle, and the noise, and the jokes they heard, and the accidents that used to happen, were agreeable to King Mansoor; but now he found all things unpleasant, and even became angry when hustled by the porters. He thought all the people he met insolent and ill-bred, and took note of a barber, who splashed him with the contents of his basin as he emptied it into the street, vowing that he would certainly cause him to be hanged next day. So the wezeer, afraid that he might be irritated into discovering himself, advised him to go forth into the country; and they went forth into a woody district, the king moving moodily on, neither looking to the right hand nor to the left. Suddenly, he heard a woman's voice speaking amidst the trees, and thought he distinguished the sound of his own name; so he stepped aside, and, cautiously advancing, beheld a young mother sitting by a fountain of water, dancing an infant on her knees, and singing: 'I have my Ali, I have my child; I am happier than King Mansoor, who has no Ali, no child.' The king frowned as black as thunder, and he understood wherefore he was unhappy: he had no child to play on his knee when care oppressed his heart. As he thought of this, rage increased within him, and drawing a concealed sword, before the wezeer could interpose with his wisdom, he smote the infant, crying: 'Woman, be as miserable as King Mansoor.' Then he dropped the sword, and alarmed by the shrieks of the poor mother, thought that if he was found in that costume, the people might do vengeance on him; so he fled by bypaths, and returned to his palace.
Having been accustomed to deal death around, the murder of the infant did not prey upon his mind; but the words of the mother he never forgot. 'I am miserable, because I am childless,' he repeated every day; and he ordered all the women of his harem to be well beaten. But he was compelled to admit, that there was now little chance of his wishes being fulfilled. However, as a last resort, he consulted a magician, a man of Persian origin, who had recently arrived with merchandise in that country. This magician, after many very intricate calculations, told him that he was destined to have a son by the daughter of an Abyssinian prince, now betrothed to the son of the sultan of Damascus; but that her friends would endeavour to take her secretly down the river in a boat before the year was out, lest he might behold and covet her. The magician also asked him wherefore he had thrown away the 'sword of good-luck;' and explained by saying, that the ancestors of King Mansoor had always been in possession of a sword which brought them prosperity, and that the dynasty was to come to an end if it were lost.
Upon this, the king gave, in the first place, orders to his servants and his guards to search for the sword he had lost; but the woman, who had concealed it, thinking it might afford some clue to the assassin of her child, instantly understood, on hearing these inquiries, that Mansoor was the man. So she vowed vengeance; and being a daughter of the Arabs of the desert, retired to a distant branch of her tribe with the sword, and effectually escaped all pursuit. Her name was Lulu; from that time forth she abjured all feminine pursuits, and became a man in action, riding a fierce horse, and wielding sword and spear; 'For I,' said she, 'when the period is fulfilled, will smite down this king who has slain my child.'
Meanwhile, Mansoor had also given orders to stretch an enormous chain across the river between the two parts of his city, so as to prevent all boats from passing until searched for the daughter of the Abyssinian prince; and this is the origin of the name of these mountains. For a long time, no such person could be discovered; but at length, when the year was nearly out, a maiden of surpassing loveliness was found concealed in a mean kanjia, and being brought before the king, and interrogated, confessed that she was the daughter of Sala-Solo, Prince of Gondar. Mansoor upon this explained the decrees of Heaven; and although she wept, and said that she was betrothed to the son of the sultan of Damascus, he paid no heed to her, but took her to wife, and in due course of time had a son by her, whom he named Ali; and he would thereafter smile grimly to, himself, and say: 'I now have an Ali, I now have a child.'
The magician, who returned about this time, being consulted, said that if the boy passed the critical period of fifteen years, he would live, like his father, to a good old age. So Mansoor caused a subterranean palace to be hewn out of the mountain, in the deeper chambers of which, fitted up with all magnificence, he caused Ali to be kept by a faithful nurse; whilst he himself dwelt in the front chambers that overlooked the river, and gave audience to all who came and floated in boats beneath his balconies; but no one was allowed to ascend, except the wezeer and a few proved friends: [There, said Ismaeen, pointing to one of the largest excavations on the opposite side, there is the palace of King Mansoor.]
Other things happened meanwhile. The mother of Ali refusing to be comforted, was divorced, and sent to the son of the king of Damascus, who loved her, and who took her to wife. She hated King Mansoor, but she yearned after her first-born, and she endeavoured to persuade her husband to raise an army, and march to Upper Egypt, to slay the one and seize the other. For many years he was not able to comply with her wishes; but at length he collected a vast power, and crossing the desert of Suwez, advanced rapidly towards the dominions of King Mansoor.
It came to pass, that about the same time the fame of a mighty warrior grew among the Arabs, one who scoffed at the king's name, attacked his troops, and plundered his cultivated provinces. All the forces that could be collected, were despatched to reduce this rebel, but in vain. They were easily defeated, almost by the prowess of their chief's unassisted arm; and it became known that the capital itself was to be attacked before long. At this juncture, the intelligence arrived that a hostile army was approaching from the north, and had already reached the Two Mountains (Gebelein); and then, that another army had shewn itself to the south, about the neighbourhood of the Cataracts—the former, under the command of the sultan of Damascus; and the latter, under that of Sala-Solo, his father-in-law, Prince of Gondar. All misfortunes seemed to shower at once upon the unfortunate Mansoor. He made what military preparations he could, although his powers had already been taxed nearly to the utmost to repress the Arabs, and sent ambassadors to soften the wrath of his enemies. They would accept, however, no composition; and continued to close in upon him, one from the north, the other from the south, threatening destruction to the whole country.
The miserable king now began to repent of having wished for a child. But he could not help loving Ali, in spite of all things; indeed, he perhaps loved him the more for the misfortunes he seemed to have brought. At anyrate, he spent night and day by his side, saying to himself, that yet a few days, and the fifteen years would be passed, and the boy at least would be safe. He was encouraged to hope by the slow progress of the two armies, which seemed bent more on enjoying themselves, than on performing any feats of arms.
But there was an enemy more terrible than these two—namely, Lulu, the mother of the murdered child Ali, who had thrown aside her woman's garments, and become a mighty warrior, for the sake of her revenge. She wielded the 'sword of good-luck;' and hearing of the approach of the two armies, feared that her projects might be interfered with by them. So she collected her forces, marched down to the city-walls, attacked them at night, was victorious, and before morning entirely possessed the place, with the exception of the subterranean retreat of King Mansoor, which it seemed almost impossible to take by force. She manned a large number of boats, came beneath the water-wall, and summoned the garrison to surrender; but they remained silent, and looked at the king, who stood upon the terrace, with his long white beard reaching to his knees, offering to parley, in order to gain time. Lulu, however, drawing the 'sword of good-luck,' ordered ladders to be placed, and mounting to the storm, gained a complete victory—all the garrison being slain, and Mansoor flying to his child in the interior chambers. Here the bereaved mother, hot for vengeance, followed, her flaming weapon in hand, and thrusting the trembling old man aside, smote the youth to the heart, crying: 'King Mansoor, be as miserable as Lulu, the mother of Ali.' He understood who it was, and cried and beat his breast, incapable of other action. Then Lulu slew him likewise, and returning to her followers, who were pillaging the city, related what she had done. The report soon spread abroad, and readied the two hostile armies, both of which were indignant at the death of Ali; so they advanced rapidly, and surrounding the place, attacked and utterly destroyed the followers of Lulu. She herself was taken prisoner, and being led before the queen of Damascus, was condemned by her to a cruel death, which she suffered accordingly. The city afterwards fell gradually to ruin, and the neighbouring country became desert.
* * * * *
This sanguinary story, though containing some of the staple machinery of Eastern fiction, was evidently rather of Bedawin than civilised origin; and, as such, interested me, in spite of the inartificial manner in which it was told, the meagre details, and the repulsive incidents. Ismaeen's only qualities as a historian were animation and faith. He had heard the narrative from his father, to whom, likewise, it had been handed down hereditarily. Everybody in the country knew it to be true. I might ask Abd-el-Mahjid. A shot close at hand announced the presence of that worthy, who soon appeared with a fine large hare. On being appealed to, the cunning rogue—perhaps anxious to be thought a philosopher—said that, for his part, though most people certainly believed the story, he really had no decided opinion about the matter.
As a quarter of a century has not elapsed since the commencement of iron ship-building, its history is soon told. Previous to 1838, it may be said to have had no proper existence, the builders being mere tyros in their profession, and their efforts only experimental. The first specimen made its appearance some twenty years ago on the Clyde—the cradle of steam-navigation. The inconsiderable Cart, however, claims the honour of for ever deciding the contest between iron and timber—a contest which can never be renewed with even a remote chance of success. In the year referred to, and subsequent years, an engineering firm in Paisley, with the aid of scientific oversight and skilful workmen, constructed a fleet of iron vessels upon entirely novel principles, which maintained the sovereignty of the waters for a lengthened period, and whose main features are retained in the most approved models of the present day. Their characteristics were speed, buoyancy, comfort, and elegance—a combination of every requisite for the safe and advantageous prosecution of passenger-traffic on streams and estuaries. About the same period, the Glasgow engineers succeeded in applying somewhat similar principles to the construction of sea-going vessels of large tonnage, and, in spite of deeply-rooted prejudices, have ultimately demonstrated the immense superiority of such constructions over the old wooden vessels. If proof of this were wanting, the removal of the costly, cumbersome steamers formerly engaged in the carrying-traffic between Glasgow and Liverpool, and the substitution in their room of light, capacious iron vessels, equally strong, and manageable with greater ease and at a considerable saving of expense—as, likewise the successful establishment of steam communication between the former city and New York, deemed impracticable under the old system—might serve to remove the doubts of the most incredulous.
Although an infant in years, this new branch of engineering skill has already attained gigantic proportions and mature development. Its triumphs are on every sea, and on many waters never before traversed by the agency of steam. The vessels already afloat are numerically a trifle compared with those in contemplation; and perhaps the most astonishing feature of all, is the almost infinite number of new channels of trade they have opened, and are opening up. Ten years ago, one-half the vessels plying on the Clyde were built of timber, and all the larger ones, with a few solitary exceptions: at the present hour, one could not count ten in a fleet of sixty—the immense majority are of iron. The advertising columns of one newspaper gave notice recently, in a single day, of the establishment of three several routes of communication with foreign ports hitherto denied the means of direct intercourse with this country, all to be carried on by means of iron vessels. A sailing-vessel, constructed of this material, was announced at Lloyd's a few months ago, as having performed one of the speediest homeward passages from Eastern India yet recorded.
A rough estimate of the extent to which this branch of industrial skill is carried, may be formed from the number of separate establishments in active operation on the Clyde. There are five of these in the neighbourhood of Govan, about two miles below Glasgow Bridge; two at Renfrew; three at Dumbarton, which is, more correctly speaking, on the Leven, but generally falls to be reckoned in common with the other places mentioned as a Clyde port; two below Port Glasgow; and three at Greenock—in all, fifteen establishments, employing between 4000 and 5000 hands in the construction of iron hulls alone. This, of course, does not include the army of labourers dependent for their very existence upon the demand thus created for materials—such as iron-smelters, forgemen, rivet-makers, &c.; nor those artisans employed alike on vessels of iron and timber—such as painters, blacksmiths, blockmakers, riggers, and others. As from the laying of a keel to the launching of a ship a longer period than six months rarely elapses, some idea may be formed of the continued press of work necessary to keep these thousands in full employment, as well as the dispatch exercised in the completion of orders. From ten to a dozen ships have been launched from the same building-yard within twelve months; and a vessel exceeding 1000 tons burden has been commenced, completed, and fully equipped for sea in little more than five. On one occasion lately, a passenger-steamer, 160 feet long, 16 feet broad, and capable of accommodating 600 passengers with ease, was made ready for receiving her machinery in twelve working-days. At this rate, one would be inclined to fear that business must necessarily soon come to a dead stop: but there is not the slightest appearance of such result, nor is it even apprehended. In an age of steam and electricity, when time and space are threatened with annihilation, it became necessary to look abroad for some new agent by means of which the sea, the great highway of nations, might be made still more subservient to its legitimate purpose. The agent being found, its use will be commensurate with the growth of commerce, until its fitness is questioned in turn, and some improved method of conveyance drives its services from the field. After all, it may be but a step in the proper direction, an improvement upon the wisdom of our ancestors—another adaptation of the limitless resources placed at our disposal for satisfying the growing wants of a race toiling towards a development as yet unascertained.
The benefits already experienced, and likely still to flow from this large and growing accession to our marine strength, need scarcely be commented on. They are self-evident, and recommend themselves alike to the merchant, the trader, and the mere man of pastime, all of whom are in some degree participators. Besides the regularity and security attendant on the transmission of all sorts of merchandise, there is an immense saving of time and cost. Travelling by sea has changed entirely the aspect of this kind of transit. With spacious saloons, well-aired sleeping-apartments, roomy promenades protected from the weather, and a steady-going ship, a voyage even to distant lands is now little more than an excursion of pleasure. Eight miles an hour was considered fair work for the steamers of a dozen years ago; the present average rate of steaming on the Clyde is fourteen miles an hour. A very fine vessel, named the Tourist, which was exhibited on the Thames during the holding of the 'world's show' last summer, performed seventeen miles with perfect ease. What may be expected next?
How far, as a material in the construction of sailing-bottoms, the use of iron is likely to supersede that of timber, is a question for the speculative. At present, our commercial activity affords ample employment for both. There can be no doubt, however, that in connection with the steam-engine, and that admirable invention of modern date, the screw-propeller, iron ship-building is destined to attain and enjoy an enlarged existence; to the full maturity of which its present condition, healthful and prosperous as it appears, is but a promising adolescence.
We recently set out from Glasgow, to pay a visit to an iron ship-building yard on rather an interesting occasion. On rounding the base of Dumbarton Rock, where the waters of the Clyde and the Leven mingle in loving sisterhood, a scene of the gayest description presented itself. Gaudy banners floated in all directions; the vessels in the harbour and on the stocks were festooned with flaunting drapery, and everything wore a holiday appearance. So impressed were we with the pervading air of joyousness, that on reaching the town, and finding the inhabitants at their ordinary avocations, we could not help feeling disappointed, and we confess to having vented a sigh for grovelling humanity, which dared not venture upon one day of pure abandonment, separate from the counter and its cares. The joyous demonstrations, we learned, were in honour of an intended launch; but this created no stir beyond the circle more immediately interested in its successful accomplishment.
On entering the building-yard, we found the ceremony was not to take place for an hour, and we had therefore time to make acquaintance with the interior of the works. An intelligent foreman acted as cicerone, and performed the duties with very gratifying cheerfulness.
The Model-room of the establishment is first thrown open to the visitor. It is an oblong, well-lighted apartment, in a range of buildings termed the offices. A large flat table, with smooth surface, occupies the entire centre, around which are scattered a few chairs for the accommodation of the draughtsmen when at work. Beyond this, there is no furniture. The objects of interest are the models pegged to the unadorned walls. These are numerous, and kept with almost religious care; attached to each there 'hangs a tale,' which your conductor 'speaks trippingly,' and with no effort at concealment of satisfaction in the recital. A draughtsman's models are the trophies of his personal prowess—his letters of introduction—his true business-card. In the shapely blocks of wood placed for inspection, you are invited to contemplate the man in connection with his creations. He points to his model, dilates upon its beauties, criticises its defects, and leaves you to judge of him from his works.
Crossing from the Model-room, you enter the Moulding-loft—a long, spacious apartment, not lofty but drearily spacious, and amazingly airy. Here the draughtsman's lines are extended into working dimensions, and transferred to wooden moulds, after which they are put into the hands of the carpenter. Proceeding down stairs, you are shewn the joiner's shop, filled with benches, work in an unfinished state, and busy workmen. Underneath this, again, are the saw-pits, where logs are cut into deals of all dimensions—a laborious and painful process when performed by manual labour, as must have been apparent to all who have witnessed it—and who has not? The sawn timber is stowed in 'racks' in the rear of the building.
Proceeding to the centre of the yard, your attention is directed to an enormous furnace, near the mouth of which a score of partly undressed workmen are grouped in attitudes of repose. Around are strewn the implements of labour—large cast-iron blocks, wooden mallets hooped with iron, crowbars, and pincers. But, see! the cavern yawns, and from its glowing recesses the white plates are dragged with huge tongs. Laid on the block, each plate is beaten with the mallets into the requisite shape, and thrown aside to cool. In the meantime, the furnace has been recharged, to vomit forth again when the proper heat has been obtained.
Behind are the cutting and boring machines, to each of which is attached a gang of five or six men. Here the plates, when cool, obtain the desired form, and are bored from corner to corner with two parallel rows of holes for admitting the rivets. They are now in readiness for the rivetter at work upon the ship's side, to whom they are borne on the shoulders of labourers employed for the purpose.
Descending to the water's edge, we were shewn an immense mass of uprights—inverted arches of angle-iron—the framework of a hull intended to float 1500 tons of merchandise. Being in a chrysalis state, it afforded us little enlightenment, so we passed on to an adjoining one of similar dimensions, proceeding rapidly towards completion. Here the secrets of the trade—if there be any—lay patent, as the several branches of skilled labour were seen in thorough working order. On 'stages,' as the workmen call them, or temporary wooden galleries passing from stem to stern, and rising tier above tier, were the rivetters 'with busy hammers closing rivets up,' and keeping the echoes awake with their ceaseless, and, to unaccustomed ears, painful din. The rivet-boys, alike alarmed and amused us, as they leaped from gallery to gallery with fearless agility, brandishing their red-hot bolts, and replying in imp-like screechings to the hoarse commands of their seniors. The decks were filled with carpenters, the cabins with joiners, the rigging with painters, and all with seeming bluster and confusion: only seeming, however, for on attentive examination everything was found to be working sweetly, and under a superintending vigilance not to be trifled with or deceived with impunity.
The ground-area of these works is of great extent, running parallel with the banks of the river, and flanked by the buildings lately visited. Between 400 and 500 workmen are employed upon the premises; labourers' wages rating 10s. and 12s. weekly; and those of skilled artisans ranging from 16s. to 23s. A small steam-engine, kept in constant motion, contributes to the lightening of toil, and the division of labour is practised wherever it can be done with advantage. With these facilities at command, no time is lost in the execution of orders, nor would present circumstances permit such extravagance, as a contract for 6000 tons of shipping must be fulfilled before midsummer. The vessel about to be launched, 1500 tons burden, had been on the stocks for a period of five mouths. But this reminds us that the fixed hour has come, the notes of preparation are already dinning in our ears.
The yard was now filled with spectators, who discussed the merits of the vessel, while they watched with evident anxiety, and some measure of curiosity, the train of preparations for loosening her stays, and committing the monster fabric to her destined element. The shores around were lined with peering faces and a well-attired throng; the bosom of the stream was agreeably dotted with numerous row-boats, freighted with living loads, passing and repassing in a diversity of tracks. The sight, as a whole, was magnificent in its variety; and it was associated with a feeling of satisfaction, which so many happy faces wearing the bright flush of anticipation could alone produce. But, boom! boom! the signal has been given for her release, and with a stately smile and queenly bearing the proud beauty takes her departure, bearing with her the best wishes of a joyous and excited multitude. 'Hurrah! hurrah!' shout the frenzied workmen, as, in token of success, they pelt the unconscious object of their solicitude with missiles of every conceivable size and shape. 'Hurrah! hurrah!' repeat the delighted multitude, as they toss their arms, and wave their hats and handkerchiefs in the air. 'Hurrah! hurrah!' exclaims a voice at my elbow. 'There flies the Australian like a shaft from a bow, the first steamship, destined to convey Her Britannic Majesty's mail to the Australasian continent. May good fortune attend her!'
SCIENCE OF POLITENESS IN FRANCE.
For ages past, the amenity of foreign manners in general, and French manners in particular, has been the theme of every tongue; and the bold Briton, who would fain look down upon all other nations, cannot deny the superiority of his continental neighbours in this respect at least. Why this should be, it is difficult to say, but there is no doubt that it is so; and even the coarse German is less repulsive in his manner to strangers than the true-born and true-bred English man or woman. The French of all ranks teach their children, from their earliest years, politeness by rule, as they do grammar or geography, or any other branch of a sound education. From La Civilite Puerile et Honnete, up to works which treat of the etiquettes of polite society, there are books published for persons of every class in life; and although of late years one sees the same sort of writings advertised in England, they have certainly not as yet produced any apparent effect upon us—perhaps from being written by incompetent people, or perhaps from the author dwelling too exclusively upon usages which change with the fashion of the day, instead of being based upon right and kind feelings, or, at anyrate, the appearance of them. I have lately met with a little French book, entitled Manuel Complet de la Bonne Compagnie, ou Guide de la Politesse, et de la Bienseance, which, amid much that is, according to our ideas, unnecessary and almost ridiculous, contains a great deal we should do well to practise.
It begins with treating of the proper behaviour to be observed in churches of all denominations and forms of faith. Keep silence, or at least speak rarely, and in a very low tone of voice, if you positively must make a remark: look grave, walk slowly, and with the head uncovered. Whether it be a Catholic church, a Protestant temple, or a Jewish synagogue, remember that it is a place where men assemble to honour the Creator of the universe, to seek consolation in affliction, and pardon for sin. When you visit a sacred edifice from curiosity only, try to do so at a time when no religious service is going forward; and beware of imitating those Vandals who sully with their obscure and paltry names the monuments of ages. Do not wait to be asked for money by the guides, but give them what you judge a sufficient recompense for their civility, and this without demanding change, with which you should on such occasions always be provided beforehand. Whether you give or refuse your mite to a collection, do so with a polite bow, and never upon any account push or press forward in the house of God, or shew by your manner that you hold in contempt any unaccustomed ceremony you may happen to witness. Never in conversation ridicule or abuse any form of belief; it grieves the sincerely pious, gives rise to the expression of angry feeling in those more fanatical or prejudiced, and offends even the sceptic as a breach of good manners in any one—but in a woman peculiarly disgusting—even when the listeners are themselves deficient in Christian faith.
In speaking of family duties, persons who have had educational advantages beyond those of their parents, are particularly recommended never to appear sensible of their superior cultivation, and to be even more submissive and respectful. All near relatives, whether by blood or marriage, are directed, whatever their feelings may be, 'to keep up a kindly intercourse by letter, word of mouth, trifling presents, and so forth, treating your husband or wife's connections in company as you do your own, merely introducing a little more ceremony.' Those newly-married couples who go into company to look at, dance with, and talk to each other, are held up to ridicule, and advised to follow the example of the English, who wisely remain secluded for a month, in order to be surfeited with each other's society, and repeat extravagantly fond epithets until they themselves feel the folly of them; and their mothers or maiden aunts—who are now sometimes found at large in France, since the practice of sending poor or plain girls into convents has ceased to be so general—come under reproof. 'Consider, O ye affectionate-hearted women, that others feel no interest in the children who to your eyes seem so perfect, and have no inclination to act as inquisitors over their little talents and accomplishments. Spare your friends the thousand-and-one anecdotes of the extraordinary cleverness, vivacity, or piety of the little people you love so blindly: do not excoriate their ears by making them listen to recitations or the strumming of sonatos; or weary their eyes by requesting them to watch the leaping and kicking of small stick-like legs.' You only render your boys and girls conceited, and make them appear positive pests to your visitors, whose politeness in giving the praise you angle for is seldom sincere; and thus, by committing a fault yourself, you force your friends to do the like in a different way. 'But even this is better than finding fault with either children or servants in the presence of strangers; this is such gross ill-breeding, one feels astonished it should be necessary to take notice of it at all, and to the little ones themselves it is absolutely ruinous:' it makes them miserable in the meanwhile, and in the end, careless of appearances, indifferent to shame.
I must leave out, or at least pass slightly over, a great deal which sounds most strange to us, such as, the necessity of preventing servants from 'sitting down in your presence, more especially when serving at table;' permitting ladies to wear curl papers on rising, but hinting that they should be hid under a cambric cap; and although taking it for granted a lady would 'not put on stays' at the same early hour, reminding her that she may still wear a bodice, and begging her not to make hot weather an excuse for going about with naked arms 'and legs and feet thrust into slippers,' but to adopt fine thin stockings; 'and,' says our author, 'although the tenue du lever for a gentleman is a cotton or silk night-cap, a waistcoat with sleeves, or a dressing-gown, he is recommended to abandon cette mise matinale as early as may be, that so attired he may receive none but intimate friends.' Unmarried women, until they pass thirty, are debarred from wearing diamonds or expensive furs and shawls, or from venturing across so much as a narrow street without being accompanied by their mother or a female attendant; desired never to inquire after the health of gentlemen; nor, indeed, should married women permit themselves to do 'so, unless the person inquired after is very ill or very old.' When you dine out, you are requested 'not to pin your napkin to your shoulders;' not to say bouilli for boeuf, volaille for poularde dindon, or whatever name the winged animal goes by; or champagne simply, instead of vin-de-champagne, which is de rigueur; not 'to turn up the cuffs of your coat when you carve,' eat your egg from the 'small end, or neglect to break it on your plate when emptied, with a coup de couteau; to cut, instead of break your bread;' and so on.
There is a great deal of sensible advice upon dress. Ladies sur le retour—that is, those who are cinquante ans sonnes—are recommended never to wear gay colours, dresses of slight materials, flowers, feathers, or much jewellery; always to cover their hair, wear high-made gowns, and long sleeves; not to adopt a new fashion the very moment it appears; and all women, old or young, rich or poor, are reminded that what is new and fashionably made, and, above all, fresh and clean, looks infinitely better and more ladylike than the richest, most expensive dresses, caps, or bonnets that are the least tarnished, faded, or of a peculiar cut no longer worn. Those candid ladies who persist in wearing gray hair—a mode the author rather approves of, except where nature, which she sometimes does, silvers the locks while the countenance still continues youthful—are requested not to render themselves absurd by intermingling artificial flowers; and a great deal of ridicule is also directed against the English, who not only caricature the French fashions they copy, but go about grinning in incongruous colours, instead of tasteful contrasts, jumbling old bonnets with new gowns and half-dirty shawls, and who walk the streets in carriage costume. Brides bearing about orange-flowers longer than the day of their marriage are unmercifully quizzed; as likewise the habit of wearing satins in summer, or straw in winter—sins exclusively British. Young married women are told not to go into public without their husbands or some steady middle-aged matron; they may take a walk with an unmarried friend, although this last must never attempt to fly in the face of propriety by promenading with a companion like herself; and no lady of any age can possibly enter a library, museum, or picture-gallery alone, unless she wishes to study as an artist.
I grieve to say, in that portion which is devoted to modesty and propriety of behaviour, the extreme freedom of manner and conversation in which young English females indulge, are both severely reprobated; their imprudence in walking about and sitting apart with young men held up as an example to be sedulously avoided by well-bred French girls; their so frequently taking complimens d'usage for real admiration, and either fancying the poor man, innocently repeating mere words of course, to be a lover, or else blushing and looking offended, as if he meant to insult, is sneered at rather ill-naturedly. You are next told how you should enter a shop, which, however small, you must term a magasin, not a boutique; and the marchand himself also receives his lesson: he is to salute his customer with a low bow and a respectful air, offer a seat, and display with alacrity all that is asked for; and however imperious or whimsical he or she may be, to continue the utmost urbanity of manner; though, if any positive impertinence is shewn, the shopman is permitted to be silent and grave; he must apologise if forced to give copper money in change, and treat his humblest customer with as much respect and attention as those who give large orders. But as politeness ought in all cases to be reciprocal, the purchaser is instructed to raise his hat on entering, and ask quietly and civilly for what he wishes to see. No one should say: 'I want so and so;' 'Have you such and such a thing?' but, 'Will you be so good as shew me?' or, 'I beg of you to let me look at,' &c. Should you not succeed in suiting yourself, always express regret for the trouble you have given. If the price be above what you calculated upon, ask simply if it is the lowest; say you think you may find the article cheaper elsewhere; but should this be a mistake, you will certainly give the person you are speaking to the preference, &c. We ought to strive to be agreeable to every one.
Les gens de bureau come next under discussion. They are, it seems, not renowned for politeness; and one should not, therefore, be displeased if, instead of rising from his seat and placing a chair, the banker merely bows and points to one. Lawyers, on the contrary, are expected to behave like any other gentlemen; so also physicians. The patient is directed in both cases to relate his grievances in short, pithy sentences; answer all questions clearly; apologise for taking up their time by asking them in turn—in consequence, he must say, of his own ignorance; and then finish by warmly thanking them for the attention they give to his affairs. Authors and artists must affect great modesty if their performances are brought upon the tapis and complimented, and say nothing that can lead to the supposition, that they are envious of any confrere by criticising him. Their entertainers ought to talk to them in praise of their books, pictures, or performances; and if not connoisseurs, at least declare themselves amateurs of the particular sort their guest excels or would be thought to excel in; but not confining the conversation to this, as if you supposed it was the only subject the person you wished to please was capable of taking any interest in.
Politeness in the streets is a chapter in itself, and a long one. To give the wall to females, old age, or high public dignitaries, is very right in France, where there seems to be no rule for going right or left. In England, however, it is surely more easy for all parties to keep to their proper side of the way; but in both countries burden-bearers, those of babies excepted, should give way, go into the kennel, and never presume to incommode passengers of any rank. You are entreated neither to elbow, push, nor jostle, but stand sideways to let elderly people or ladies pass, who in their turn should express their thanks by a slight inclination of the head. We are further directed to tread on the middle of the stone, and not slip carelessly into the mud, and run the risk of splashing our neighbour. An Englishwoman, it is observed, either allows her petticoats to sweep the streets, or lifts them in an awkward manner, sometimes even using both hands; whereas a Parisian with her right hand gathers all the folds to that side, and raises the whole dress a little above the ankle, without fuss or parade. We would recommend our fair countrywomen to practise this elegant mode of avoiding soiled garments, and likewise doing what is termed s'effarer—that is, to avoid as much as possible touching or being touched by those who pass; mutually giving way, instead of charging forward a l'Anglaise, careless of whom you run against, so as only you make your own way. Here follows what sounds strange to us—namely, that if you are overtaken by a heavy shower, and see a stranger walking in the same direction with an umbrella, you may, without a breach of good manners, request to share it. The umbrella-bearer should on his side, it is remarked, cheerfully accord you shelter; and if the end of your respective promenades are too distant from each other for him to conduct you to your residence, he should make an apology at being forced to deprive you of the accommodation, which, 'but for being obliged to be at home at such an hour, or some excuse,' it would otherwise have given him so much pleasure to afford you. 'Those little graceful turns of language,' which we might think downright falsehoods, are not to be more so considered than—'I am happy to see you,' or 'I am your obedient servant' at the end of a letter. They are, it is argued, understood forms of speech, which every well-bred person practises—some of the 'sweet small courtesies of life, which help to smooth its road.' When walking with a friend, should he raise his hat to an acquaintance whom you never even saw before, you are bound to pay the same compliment; and this idea is so much de rigueur, that formerly very polite persons would rather affect not to see their friends than force their companions to salute them also. Now, however, the proper style is to say: 'I take the liberty to salute Monsieur So-and-so,' to which the answer is: 'Je vous en prie monsieur.' 'Never,' says our author, 'appear to see any one who is looking out of his window or door, both improper practices, especially the latter.' When a gentleman speaks to one much older than himself, or to a lady, he not only raises his hat quite off his head—for none 'but an ignorant boor or a fier Anglais' ever does otherwise—but holds it in his hand until requested to replace it. When you ask your way, even of a street-porter or an apple-woman, it is necessary slightly to half-raise the hat, and address them as Monsieur or Madame, 'which is the way to,' &c.; and really these courteous habits, which give little trouble, are, we must own, as pleasing as our own rough ones are the reverse.
The chapter on visiting is very French. You are reminded that, when you make your calls, you should avoid doing so upon days when a cold or headache prevents you from looking well or conversing agreeably. From twelve to five are the hours mentioned for morning visits, instead of from two to six, which we think a better time. You must be dressed with evident care, but as plainly as possible if you walk: hold your card-case in the hand with an embroidered and lace-trimmed pocket-handkerchief, 'pour donner un air de bon gout.' You may inscribe your title on your card, but it is better merely to put your name, such as 'Monsieur' or 'Madame de la Tarellerie,' with an earl or viscount's coronet, or whatever your rank, above; and if you have no title, your name without the 'Monsieur,' as 'Alfred Buntal;' however, when you visit with your wife, you write 'Monsieur et Madame Buntal.' When, instead of sending your cards by your servant, you call yourself, you add 'E. P.' (en personne); but this is only allowable in very great people. 'In visiting people of distinction, you leave your parasol, umbrella, clogs, cloak, footman, nurse, child, and dog, in the ante-room among the servants, who are there to announce you;' but in ordinary life, after ascertaining from the concierge, or the cook in the kitchen, that your friend is at home, you only tap at the door, and on hearing 'Entrez,' step in. You advance with grace, bow with dignified respect, seat yourself (if a man who visits a lady) at the lower end of the room, and never quit hat or cane until desired, and not then till la troisieme sommation. The placing this said hat properly, seems to be an affair of the utmost moment. You may place it on the bottom of a table, on a stand, or even upon the floor, but are warned not to put it on the bed, for as that always belongs to the lady of the house, it should not be approached by the visiting gentleman. The receiver should both appear and express him or herself enchanted and charmed to welcome their monde, assure them of the great regret felt at their departure—however you may wish them gone—say, or repeat as said by others, what will please; and never allude, even indirectly, to anything that can possibly hurt or mortify any one. When other visitors are announced, those who have been above ten minutes, had better go: a man should slip away without leave-taking. If discovered, and begged to remain by the mistress of the house, he must be asked and refuse three times before he consents; then sit down for two minutes only, rising then, and saying an affair of consequence obliges him to quit la charmante societe. No gentleman will permit, of course, any one to reconduire him when his friends are engaged with other company, but shut the door himself, vivement, after a general salut and a pretty compliment. But it will better give an idea of the minute directions considered necessary, if I translate a sentence entire:—When, during a 'visit of half-ceremony,' you are earnestly requested to remain a little longer, it is better to yield; but in a few minutes rise again. Should your hostess still further insist, taking you by the hands, and forcing you again to seat yourself, it would be scarcely polite not to comply; but, at the same time, after a short interval, you must make your adieus a third time, and positively depart.
When several meet together, polite persons contrive to make those who went last into one room enter first into the next; and as hosts distribute attentions to all in turn—handing the lady of highest rank, or greatest age, into a dinner or supper room—he or she recommends a particular dish first to the second in consideration, proposes to a third to examine a picture, or any pretty thing, before handing it to others; and so on—making, as it were, every one of consequence, and socially promoting liberte, egalite, and fraternite. Those who are poor, and have no servant to attend at their home during absence, should place a slate and slate-pencil at their door, in order that those who visit them may write their names and business.
When you receive company, your apartment should unite French elegance with English comfort. If not rich, and able to keep many servants, appoint one day in the week to see your friends, and keep to that day always. Let your dress, and that of your domestic, and the arrangement of your small domicile, be all in order: however poor and simple, be clean and tidy; have flowers, and whatever small elegances you can collect. 'It is better to receive in the salon, if you have one, than in your bedroom; but that should be preferred before the salle a manger.'—To understand this, we must remember, that in ordinary life—especially in the provinces—the dining-room resembles in general a servants-hall—deal-table, brick floor, or at best boarded, with no carpet; and so forth; the lady's bedroom, on the contrary, except the bed, might pass for a boudoir, everything unseemly being removed during the day.—And when you give a party, you can take coffee in your own private apartment, and receive your morning-visitors there always. When any one enters, rise, go to meet him, and say how glad you are to see him. A lady you take by the hand, and seat her on the sofa, where the lady of the house may place herself likewise; but the monsieur must not presume on such a liberty, but draw his chair to a convenient distance from it for conversation. You offer a young man an easy-chair, but an old gentleman you insist upon occupying it. If the best place in the room be filled by a young woman, and one to whom respect is due enters, the former cedes it to the last arrival, and modestly places herself opposite the fire, which in winter is considered the least honourable situation, as the side is the most so. People of bon ton present their guests with footstools, not chaufferettes, as is the comfortable custom in grades less distinguished. Those who are occupied working or drawing, must lay both aside when but slightly acquainted with their visitor; if, on the contrary, it is one whom you see frequently, you comply with the request which she ought to make, that you will continue it. But should it be a relative, or very intimate friend, you yourself beg permission to go on with your employment, if at least it is one you can pursue and converse easily at the same time; but it should be quite subservient to your visitor's entertainment.
When a new guest arrives, the others rise as well as the master and mistress of the house; it is considered very ill-bred not to do so, or not to treat with politeness every one you meet at a house where you visit—conversing agreeably, and not looking at a stranger with a stony stare, like a stiff Englishman, as if you supposed they were not as fit for society as yourself, a style of insular manners considered insolent in that 'nation whose inhabitants give laws of politeness to the world.' If there are many people present at a morning-call, the earlier comers should retire. During extremely hot weather, or to an author reading his production, you may offer a glass of sirup, or eau sucree, or if a lady becomes faint, some fleur d'orange and water; but it is provincial to propose anything else; and, indeed, the French never eat between meals, or in any rank above the very lowest will one be seen to partake of anything in the street, fruit or cake, or even give them to their children, it being considered quite mob-manners to do so.
It need hardly be said, in conclusion, that the French exercise considerable tact in the matter of introducing one person to another. They know who should be introduced to each other, and who should not. In our own country, people sometimes think they are performing an act of politeness in introducing one person to another, whereas they are probably giving offence to one of the parties. And with this hint on an important subject, we close our observations on the laws of politeness.
The next native fruits which demand our notice are the strawberry, raspberry, and the varieties of the bramble tribe, all of which are to be classed under the third section of the natural order Rosaceae, and form the ninth genus of that order. The general characteristics of these are—the calyx flattish at the bottom, and five-cleft; five petals; many stamens inserted into the calyx with the petals; many fleshy carpels arranged on a somewhat elevated receptacle, with lateral style, near the points of the carpels.
We will begin with the strawberry (Fragaria.) The last fruits of which we spoke—the plum and cherry—though the produce of much larger plants, nay, one of them of a tree which ranks among the timber-trees of our land, are not of superior, if of equal value to those which are about to engage our attention. An old writer quaintly remarks: 'It is certain that there might have been a better berry than the strawberry, but it is equally certain that there is not one;' and I suppose there are few in the present day who will be disposed to dispute this opinion, for there are few fruits, if any, which are in more general repute, or more highly prized, than the strawberry and raspberry; and though the cultivated species have now nearly, if not quite superseded the wild, yet we must not forget that there was a time when none but the latter were to be obtained in England, and that the native sorts of which we are now to speak are the parents of almost all the rich varieties which at present exist in the land. There are doubtless many among the inhabitants of our towns and cities who have never gathered or seen the strawberry in its wild state; and many, very many more who are wholly unacquainted with the peculiar and interesting structure of this fruit and its allies—the raspberry, blackberry, dewberry, and their congeners. The plant which bears the strawberry, whether the wild or garden species, is an herb with three-partite leaves, notched at the edge with a pair of largo membraneous stipules at their base. When growing, this plant throws out two kinds of shoots—one called runners, which lie prostrate on the ground, and end in a tuft of leaves—these root into the soil, and then form new plants—and another growing nearly upright, and bearing at the end a tuft of flowers which produce the fruit. The calyx, which is flat, green, and hairy, is divided into ten parts, called sepals, and there are five petals; the stamens, which are very numerous, and grow out of the calyx, are placed in a crowded ring round the pistil. This pistil consists of a number of carpels, arranged in many rows very regularly on a central receptacle; each carpel has a style, ending in a slightly-lobed stigma; and an ovary, wherein lies one single ovule, or young seed. The course of the transformation of this apparatus into fruit is highly curious and interesting. First, the petals fall off, and the calyx closes over the young fruit; immediately the receptacle on which the carpels grow begins to swell, and soon after the carpels themselves increase in size, and become shining, whilst their styles begin to shrivel. The receptacle increases in size so much more and faster than the carpels, which soon cease to enlarge at all, that they speedily begin to be separated by it, and the surface of the receptacle to become apparent. In a little time, the carpels are completely scattered in an irregular manner over the surface of the receptacle, which has become soft and juicy, and has all along been pushing aside the calyx, which finally falls back almost out of sight. The receptacle finally assumes a crimson colour, grows faster and faster, and becomes sweet and fragrant. Those which we commonly call the seeds of the strawberry, then lie on the surface, and these, if carefully examined, will prove to be the carpels containing the seeds in a little thin shell like a small nut. The strawberry is, therefore, not, properly speaking, a fruit; it is a fleshy receptacle, bearing the fruit on it, which fruit is, in fact, the ripe carpels. Now this structure is, as I have said, common to all strawberries, each variety having, however, its own peculiarities of growth and appearance.
There are but nine distinct species of the tribe Fragaria: one native in Germany, where it is called Erdbeere; two in North, and one in South America; one in Surinam; and one in India; the remaining three being indigenous in Britain, where, besides these three wild species, there are at least sixty mongrel varieties, the results of cultivation; some of which, recently produced from seed, are of great excellence. The finest of these native British species is the wood-strawberry (Fragaria vesca), which is common everywhere; the second, the hautboy (F. elatior), is much less frequently found, and is by Hooker supposed to be scarcely indigenous; and the third, the one-leaved strawberry (F. monophylla), is unknown to me, and only named by some writers as a species. The common wood-strawberry bears leaves smaller, more sharply notched, and more wrinkled in appearance, than any of the cultivated species. The earliest formed are closely covered, as is the stem, with white silvery hairs, and the leaves turn red early in the autumn, or in dry weather. The blossoms appear very early in the spring, throwing up their delicate white petals on every bank and hedgerow, among the clusters of violets and primroses, and even not unfrequently before these sweet harbingers of spring venture to unfold and give promise of abundant fruit. But though the blossoms are so common, from some reason or other the fruit seldom ripens freely, unless along some of the more remote and secluded woodpaths, where the bright red berries lurk on every sunny bank, between the trunks of the old beech and oak trees, and are overhung by the beautiful bunches of polypody and foxglove, and other free-growing wild-plants which spring in such solitudes, providing the flocks of varied song-birds which frequent such delightful glades with many a juicy meal.
Few things can be more agreeable than a day of strawberry-picking in the woods and glens where they abound, when troops of happy little children are scattered about, singly, or in groups of three or four, each with a basket to receive the delicious spoil, and all grubbing among the moss and herbage, and shouting with exultation as one cluster after another reveals itself to their eager researches. Some are too much engaged in the quest to notice the brilliant flowers which at another time would have engrossed all their thoughts; whilst others, wreathed round with the bright blue wood-vetch, the shining broad-leaved bryony, and the rose and honeysuckle, will have to lay down the large handfuls of flowers with which they have encumbered themselves, before they can share in the enjoyment of collecting the fragrant berries. Then comes the hour of assembling, to take their tea and eat the sweet, fresh fruit, and talk over their adventures with the happy parents who have awaited the gathering together of the young ones. Perhaps this assembling takes place in the nearest farmhouse, where fresh milk and rich cream are added to the repast; or it may be under the boughs of one of those masters of the forest, which we may fancy to have seen such gatherings, year by year, for centuries past, and could tell us tales of groups of little people, arranged in the costumes depicted by Holbein, Vandyk, or Lely, the garb of ancient days, seated by their stately seniors, whilst the antlered deer, then the free denizens of the forest, stood at bay, half-startled at the merry party which had invaded their solitude; and the squirrel, little more vivacious in its furry jacket than the stiffly-dressed little bipeds, sprang from bough to bough overhead; and the hare and rabbit bounded along over the distant upland. But we must return to our description of
The blushing strawberry, Which lurks close shrouded from high-looking eyes, Shewing that sweetness low and hidden lies.
The whole tribe takes its generic name from its fragrance; the word fragrans, sweet-smelling, being that from which Fragaria is derived. The wood-strawberry is seldom larger than a horse-bean, of a brilliant red, and the flesh whiter than that of any cultivated species; the flavour is remarkably clear and full—a pleasant subacid, with more of the peculiar strawberry perfume in the taste than any other. They are very wholesome, indeed considered valuable medicinally. The other wild species is the hautboy: this is larger than F. vesca, more hairy, and its fruit a deeper red; the flavour, like that of the garden-hautboy, rather musty; in its uses and qualities, it resembles F. vesca. The strawberry does not seem to have been noticed by the ancients, though it is slightly named by Virgil, Ovid, and Pliny. It appears to have been cultivated in England early, as an old writer, Tusser, says:
'Wife, into the garden, and set me a plot, With strawberry-roots the best to be got; Such growing abroad among thorns in the wood, Well chosen and pricked, prove excellent good.'
Gerarde speaks of them as growing 'in hills and valleys, likewise in woods, and other such places as be something shadowie; they prosper well in gardens, the red everywhere; the other two, white and green, more rare, and are not to be founde save only in gardens.' Shakspeare speaks of this fruit. We find the Bishop of Ely, when conversing with the Archbishop of Canterbury on the change of conduct manifested by the young King Henry V., on his coming to the throne, says:
'The strawberry grows underneath the nettle, And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best Neighboured by fruits of baser quality, And so the prince,' &c.
And the Duke of Gloster, when counselling in the Tower with his allies, and plotting to strip his young nephew of his crown and honours, says:
'My Lord of Ely, when I was last in Holborn, I saw good strawberries in your garden there: I do beseech you send for some of them.'
Parkinson speaks, in 1629, of their having been introduced 'but of late days.' As an article of diet, this fruit offers but little nourishment, but it is considered useful in some diseases, and generally wholesome, though there are some constitutions to which it is injurious. Linnaeus states, that he was twice cured of the gout by the free use of strawberries; and Gerarde and other old authors enlarge much on their efficacy in consumptive cases. Phillips tells us, that 'in the monastery of Batalha is the tomb of Don John, son of King John I. of Portugal, which is ornamented by the representation of strawberries, this prince having chosen them for his crest, to shew his devotion to St John the Baptist, who lived on fruits.' This is rather a curious notion, for though the Scripture tells us of St John the Baptist, that when in the wilderness 'his meat was locusts and wild honey,' we have no reason to suppose that he lived always even on these. What these locusts were is problematical, but it is likely they were the fruit of the locust-tree, Hymenaea, which bears a pod containing a sort of bean, enclosed in a whitish substance of fine filaments, as sweet as sugar or honey. The wild bees frequent these trees, and it is probable that here St John found his twofold aliment; but we have no particular reason to suppose that he wholly lived on fruit, and certainly could have little to do with strawberries, as there is no species indigenous in the Holy Land.
But we must now proceed to examine and record the structure of the raspberry, raspis, or hindberry, by all which names it is called. This is a species of the Rubus, of which Hooker records only ten species as native in Britain, though Loudon extends the number to thirteen; of which one, the dwarf crimson (Rubus araticus), is to be found only in Scotland. We cannot, of course, notice each of these species separately, nor will it be necessary to do so, as the varieties which mark the different kinds of common bramble are such as would not be observed except by an accurate botanist. This tribe, which takes its name from the Celtic rub, which signifies red, and is supposed to be so named from the red tint of its young shoots, as well as from the colour of the juice of its berry, consists chiefly of shrub-like plants, with perennial roots, most of which produce suckers or stolons from the roots, which ripen and drop their leaves one year, and resume their foliage, produce blossom shoots, flowers, and fruit, and die the next year, of which the raspberry and common bramble are examples. In some of the species the stem is upright, or only a little arched at the top, but in the greater number it is prostrate and arched, the ends of the shoots rooting when they reach the ground, and forming new plants, sometimes at the distance of several yards from the parent root. The branches and stems are all more or less prickly; those of the common bramble being armed with strong and sharp spines, and even the leaf-stems lined with very sharp reflected prickles, which hitch in everything they come near, and inflict sharp wounds. The corolla is formed of an inferior calyx of one leaf, divided into five segments, of five petals in some species; and in others pink, but always of very light and fragile texture, and more or less crumpled, on which the caterpillar of the beautiful white admiral butterfly (Limenitis camilla) sometimes feeds. It has many stamens, arranged like those of the strawberry; and the pistil is composed, as that is, of a number of carpels rising out of a central receptacle.
But now let us examine the structure of the fruit, which we shall find differs materially from that of the strawberry in its formation. We will take that of the raspberry as our example; for though the berries of the whole tribe are on the same construction, we cannot have one better known or which would better illustrate the subject. If you pull off the little thimble-shaped fruit from its stem, you will find beneath a dry, white cone; this is the receptacle, and the very part which you eat in the strawberry. If you look attentively at a ripe raspberry, you will find that it is composed of many separate little balls of fleshy and juicy substance, each entirely covered by a thin, membraneous skin, which separates it wholly from its neighbour, and from the cone. Each of these contains a single seed, and from each a little dry thread, which is the withered style, projects. You will find none of the dry grains which lie on the surface of the strawberry, the part which corresponds with the inner part of those, lying in the juicy pulp below, whilst that which once corresponded with their outer part or shell, has itself been transformed into that juicy pulp which covers them: the fact is, that the carpels of the raspberry, instead of remaining dry like the strawberry, swell as they ripen, and acquire a soft, pulpy coat, which in time becomes red, juicy, and sweet. These carpels are so crowded together, that they at last grow into one mass, and form the little thimble-shaped fruit which we eat, the juices of the receptacle being all absorbed by the carpels, which eventually separate from it, and leave the dry cone below. Lindley says: 'In the one case, the receptacle robs the carpels of all their juice, in order to become gorged and bloated at their expense; in the other case, the carpels act in the same selfish manner on the receptacle.'
If you observe the berries of the common brambles, the dewberry, and the cloudberry, you will find them to be all thus formed, though the number of grains, as these swollen carpels are called, differ materially—the dewberry often maturing only one or two, while the raspberry, and some kinds of the brambleberry, present us with twenty and more.
The raspberry was but little noticed by the ancients. Pliny speaks of a sort of bramble called by the Greeks Idaeus, from Mount Ida, but he seems to value it but little. He says, however: 'The flowers of this raspis being tempered with honey, are good to be laid to watery or bloodshotten eyes, as also in erysipelas; being taken inwardly, and drunk with water, it is a comfortable medicine to a weak stomach.' Gerarde speaks of it under the name of hindeberry, as inferior to the blackberry. The wild raspberry, which is the stock whence we get the garden red raspberry, grows freely in many parts of England. It is found in Wilts, Somerset, Devonshire, and other counties, but is most abundant in the north. Except in size, it is little inferior to the cultivated kinds, and possesses the same colour, scent, and flavour. This fruit, and the strawberry, are especially suitable for invalids, as they do not engender acetous fermentation in the stomach. In dietetic and medicinal qualities, these fruits are also much alike. The bramble, which grows everywhere, creeping on every hedge, and spreading on the earth in all directions, abounds in useful properties, most parts of the plant being good for use. The berries make very tolerable pies, and are much in request for such purposes, and for making jam in farmhouses and cottages, where they are often mixed with apples to correct thereby the rather faint and vapid flavour that they possess when used by themselves. This jam, as well as the raw fruit, is considered good for sore throats, and for inflammation of the gums and tonsils. We are also told, that the young green shoots, eaten as salad, will fix teeth which are loose; probably (if it be so) it is from the astringent qualities in the juice strengthening and hardening the gums. The leaves pounded, are said to be a cure for the ringworm; and they are also made into tea by some of the cottagers, which is very useful in some ailments; and the roots boiled in honey, are said to be serviceable in dropsy. The green twigs are used to dye silk and woollen black; and silk-worms will feed on them, though the silk produced by those so fed is not equal to that of those fed on the mulberry. The long trailing shoots are important to thatchers for binding thatch, and are also used for binding straw-mats, beehives, &c.; and even the flowers were anciently supposed to be remedies against the most dangerous serpents. Loudon says: 'The berries, when eaten at the moment they are ripe, are cooling and grateful; a little before, they are coarse and astringent; and a little after, disagreeably flavoured or putrid.' He adds: 'Care is requisite in gathering the fruit, for one berry of the last sort will spoil a whole pie.' Great quantities of them are collected by the women and children in the country, and sold in the neighbouring towns by the quart. There is a double-flowered species of bramble, and one which bears white berries. The fruit of the dwarf crimson (R. araticus), and that of the cloudberry (R. chamaemorus), are highly prized in Scotland and Sweden, and in the latter country are much used in sauces and soups, and for making vinegar; and Dr Clarke says, that he was cured of a bilious fever by eating great quantities. The cloudberry, which grows on the tops of the highest mountains, is the badge of the clan Macfarlane. The bramble seems to be of almost universal extent, at least it is found at the utmost limits of phaenogamous vegetation; and we are led to remark the goodness of God in thus providing a plant which combines so many valuable qualities, and so many useful parts, capable of extending itself so freely in defiance of all impediments, and of standing so many vicissitudes of climate, without the aid of culture or care. The bramble is emphatically the property of the poor; its fruit may be gathered without restriction; its shoots, both in their young medicinal state, and in their harder and tougher growth, are theirs to use as they will; and their children may enjoy the sport of blackberry-picking, and the profits of blackberry-selling, none saying them nay; and many a pleasant and wholesome pudding or pie is to be found on tables in blackberry season, where such dainties are not often seen at any other time, unless, indeed, we except the whortleberry season. The poet Cowper sings of—