LITERATURE AND NATIONAL POLICY.
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VOL. I.—FEBRUARY, 1862.—NO. II.
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OUR WAR AND OUR WANT.
Can this great republic of our forefathers exist with slavery in it?
Whether we like or dislike the question, it must be answered. As the war stands, we have gone too far to retreat. It clamors for a brave and manly solution. Let us see if we can, laying aside all prejudices, all dislikes whatever, discover an honest course, simply with a view to preserve the Union and insure its future prosperity. Let us avoid all foregone conclusions, all extraneous issues, adhering strictly to the one great need of the hour—how to conquer the foe, reestablish the Union, and do this in a manner most consonant with our future national prosperity.
It is manifest enough that in a continent destined at no distant day to contain its hundred millions, the question whether these shall form one great nation or a collection of smaller states is one of fearful importance. He who belongs to a great nation is thereby great of himself. He has the right to be proud, and will work out his life more proudly and vigorously and freely than the dweller in a corner-country. Do those men ever reflect, who talk so glibly of this government as too large, and as one which must inevitably be sundered, to what a degradation they calmly look forward! No; Union,—come what may,—now and ever. Greatness is to every brave man a necessity. Out on the craven and base-hearted who aspire to being less than the co-rulers of a continent. See how vile and mean are those men who in the South have lost all national pride in a small-minded provincial attachment to a State, who love their local county better still, and concentrate their real political interests in the feudal government of a plantation. Shall we be as such,—we, the men who hold the destinies of a hemisphere within our grasp? Never,—God help us,—never!
On the basis of free labor we are pressing onward over the mighty West. Two great questions now require grappling with. The one is, whether slavery shall henceforth be tolerated; the other, whether we shall strengthen this great government of the Union so as to preserve it in future from the criminal intrigues of would-be seceding, ambitious men of no principle. Now is the time to decide.
We must not be blind to a great opportunity which may be lost, of forever quelling a foul nuisance which would, if neglected now, live forever. Do we not see, feel, and understand what sort of white men are developed by slavery, and do we intend to keep up such a race among us? Do we want all this work to do over again every ten or five years or all the time? For a quarter of a century, slavery and nothing else has kept us in a growing fever, and now that it has reached a crisis the question is whether we shall calm down the patient with cool rose-water. In the crisis comes a physician who knows the constitution of his patient, and proposes searching remedies and a thorough cure,—and, lo! the old nurse cries out that he is interfering and acting unwisely, though he is quite as willing to adopt her cooling present solace as she.
If we had walked over the war-course last spring without opposition,—if we had conquered the South, would we have put an end to this trouble? Does any one believe that we would? This is not now a question of the right to hold slaves, or the wrong of so doing. All of that old abolition jargon went out and died with the present aspect of the war. So far as nine-tenths of the North ever cared, or do now care, slaves might have hoed away down in Dixie, until supplanted, as they have been in the North, by the irrepressible advance of manufactures and small farms, or by free labor. 'Keep your slaves and hold your tongues,' was, and would be now, our utterance. But they would not hold their tongues. It was 'rule or ruin' with them. And if, as it seems, a man can not hold slaves without being arrogant and unjust to others, we must take his slaves away.
And why is not this the proper time to urge emancipation? Divested of all deceitful and evasive turns, the question reduces itself to this,—are we to definitely conquer the enemy once and for all, the great enemy Oligarchy, by taking out its very heart? or are we to keep up this strife with slaveholders forever? It is a great and hard thing to do, this crushing the difficulty, but we must either do it or be done for. In a few months 'the tax-gatherer will be around.' If anybody has read the report of the Secretary of the Treasury without a grave sensation, he is very fortunate. How would such reports please us annually for many years? So long as there exists in the Union a body of men disowning allegiance to it, puffed up in pride, loathing and scorning the name of free labor, especially as the ally of capital, just so long will the tax-gatherer be around,—and with a larger bill than ever.
To such an extent is this arrogance carried of urging utter silence at present on the subject of slavery, that one might almost question whether the right of free speech or thought is to be left at all, save to those who have determined on a certain course of conduct. When it is remembered that those who wish to definitely conclude this great national trouble are in the great majority, we stand amazed at the presumption which forbids them to utter a word. One may almost distrust his senses to hear it so brazenly urged that because he happens to think that our fighting and victories may go hand in hand with a measure which is to prevent future war, he is 'opposed to the Administration,' is 'a selfish traitor thinking of nothing but the Nigger,' and altogether a stumbling-block and an untimely meddler. If he protest that he cares no more for the welfare of the Negro than for that of the man in the moon, he is still reviled as an 'abolitionist.' If he insist that emancipation will end the war, his 'conservative' foe becomes pathetic over his indifference as to what is to become of the four millions of 'poor blacks.' And, in short, when he urges the great question whether this country is to tolerate slavery or no, he is met with trivial fribbling side-issues, every one of which should vanish like foam before the determined will and onward march of a great, free people.
Now let every friend of the Union boldly assume that so far as the settlement of this question is concerned he does not care one straw for the Negro. Leave the Negro out altogether. Let him sink or swim, so far as this difficulty goes. Men have tried for thirty years to appeal to humanity, without success, for the Negro, and now let us try some other expedient. Let us regard him not as a man and a brother, but as 'a miserable nigger,' if you please, and a nuisance. But whatever he be, if the effect of owning such creatures is to make the owner an intolerable fellow, seditious and insolent, it becomes pretty clear that such ownership should be put an end to. If Mr. Smith can not have a horse without riding over his neighbor, it is quite time that Smith were unhorsed, no matter how honestly he may have acquired the animal. And if the Smiths, father and sons, threaten to keep their horse in spite of law,—nay, and breed up a race of horses from him, whereon to roughride everybody who goes afoot,—then it becomes still more imperative that the Smith family cease cavaliering it altogether.
There is yet another point which the stanch Union-lover must keep in view. In pushing on the war with heart and soul, we inevitably render slaveholding at any rate a most precarious institution, and one likely to be broken up altogether. Seeing this, many unreflectingly ask, 'Why then meddle with it?' But it must be considered in some way, and provided for as the war advances, or we shall find ourselves in such an imbroglio as history never saw the like of. He who cuts down a tree must take forethought how it may fall, or he will perchance find himself crushed. He who in a tremendous conflagration would blow up a block of houses with powder, must, even amid the riot and roar, so manage the explosion that lives be not wantonly lost. We must clear the chips away as our work advances. The matter in hand is the war—if you choose, nothing but the war. But pushing on singly and simply at the war implies some wisdom and a certain regard to the future and to consequences. The mere abolitionist of the old school, who regards the Constitution as a league with death and a covenant with hell, may, if he pleases, see in the war only an opportunity to wreak vengeance on the South and free the black. But the 'emancipationist' sees this in a very different light. He sees that we are not fighting for the Negro, or out of hatred to anybody. He knows that we are fighting to restore the Union, and that this is the first great thought, to be carried out at all hazards. But he feels that this carrying out involves some action at the same time on the great trouble which first caused the war, and which, if neglected, will prolong the war forever. He feels that the future of the greatest republic in existence depends on settling this question now and forever, and that if it be left to the chances of war to settle itself, there is imminent danger that even a victory may not prevent a disrupture of the Union. For, disguise it as we may, there is a vast and uncontrollable body at the North who hate slavery, and pity the black, and these men will not be silent or inactive. Did the election of Abraham Lincoln involve nothing of this? We know that it did. Will this 'extreme left,' this radical party, keep quiet and do nothing? Why they are the most fiercely active men on our continent. Let him who would prevent this battle degenerating into a furious strife between radical abolition and its opponents weigh this matter well. There are fearful elements at work, which may be neutralized, if we who fight for the Union will be wise betimes, and remove the bone of contention.
Above all, let every man bear in mind that, even as the war stands, something must be done to regulate and settle the Negro question. After what has been already effected in the border States and South Carolina, it would be impossible to leave the Negro and his owner in such an undefined relation as now exists. And yet this very fact—one of the strongest which can be alleged to prove the necessity of legislation and order—is cited to prove that the matter will settle itself. Take, for instance, the following from the correspondence of a daily cotemporary:—
THE ARMY SPOILING THE SLAVES.—Whatever may be the policy of the government in regard to the status of the slaves, one thing is certain, that wherever our army goes, it will most effectually spoil all the slaves and render them worthless to their masters. This will be the necessary result, and we think it perfectly useless to disturb the administration and distract the minds of the people with the everlasting discussion of this topic. Soon our army will be in Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana, and the soldiers will carry with their successful arms an element of liberty that will infuse itself into every slave in those States. The only hope for the South, if, indeed, it has not passed away, is to throw down their arms and submit unconditionally to the government.
That is to say, we are to free the slave, only we must not say so! Rather than take a bold, manly stand, avow what we are actually doing, and adopt a measure which would at once conciliate and harmonize the whole North, we are to suffer a tremendous disorder to spring up and make mischief without end! Can we never get over this silly dread of worn-out political abuse and grapple fairly with the truth? Are we really so much afraid of being falsely called abolitionists and negro-lovers that we can not act and think like men! Here we are frightened at names, dilly-dallying and quarreling over idle words, when a tremendous crisis calls for acts. But this can not last forever. Something must be done right speedily for the myriad of blacks whom we shall soon have on our hands. Barracooning contrabands by thousands may do for the present, but how as to the morrow? Let it be repeated again and again, that they who argue against touching the Negro question at present are putting off from day to day an evil which becomes terrible as it is delayed. It can not be let alone. Already those in power at Washington are terrified at its extent, but fear to act, owing to 'abolition,' while all the time the foul old political ties and intrigues are gathering closely about. Let us cut the knot betimes, act bravely and manfully, and settle the difficulty ere it settles us. Something must be done, and that right early.
But what is to become of the freed blacks? Again and again does this preposterous bugbear rise up to prove, by the terror which it excites, the vast ignorance of the subject which prevails in this country, and the small amount of deliberate reasoning generally bestowed on matters of the most vital importance. Reader, if you would answer it, go to facts. You have probably all your life accepted as true the statement that the black when free promptly becomes an idle, worthless vagabond. You have believed that a majority of the free blacks in the North are good for nothing. Now I tell you calmly and deliberately, and challenging inquiry, that this is not true. Admitting that about one-fifth of them are so, you have but a weak argument. As for the forlorn, unacclimated exiles in Canada, where there is no demand for the labor which they are peculiarly fit to render, they are not a case in point. The black servants, cooks, barbers, white-washers, carpet-beaters and grooms of Baltimore and Philadelphia, which form the four-fifths majority of free blacks in those cities, are not idle vagabonds. Above all, reader, I beg of you to read the dispassionate and calmly written Cotton Kingdom of Frederick Law Olmstead, recently published by Mason Brothers, of New York. You will there find the fact set forth by closest observation that the negroes in part are indeed lazy vagabonds, but that the majority, when allowed to work for themselves, and when free, do work, and that right steadily. In the Virginia tobacco factories slaves can earn on an average as much money for themselves, in the 'over hours' allowed them, as the manufacturer pays their owner for their services during the day. There are cases in which slaves, hired for one hundred dollars a year, have made for themselves three hundred.[A]
[Footnote A: 'If the slaves be emancipated, what with their own natural ability and such aids and appliances as the government and 20,000,000 of people in the North can furnish, I do not believe but that they will get employment, and pay, and, of course, subsistence.'—HON. GEORGE S. BOUTWELL.]
But the vagabond surplus,—the minority? Is it possible that with Union or disunion before us we can hesitate as to taking on this incumbrance? In a hard-working land vagabonds must die off,—'tis a hard case, but the emergency for the white men of this and a coming age is much harder. After all, there are only some fifteen hundred or two thousand lazy free negroes in New York city,—the climate, we are told, is too severe for them,—and this among well-nigh a million of inhabitants. We think it would be possible to find one single alderman in that city who has wasted as much capital, and injured the commonwealth quite as much, in one year, as all the negroes there put together, during the same time. It would be absurd to imagine that the emancipation of every negro in America to-morrow would add one million idlers and vagabonds to our population. But what if it did? Would their destiny or injury to us be of such tremendous importance that we need for it peril our welfare as a nation? The standing armies of Germany absorb about one-fifth of the entire capital of the land. Better one million of negative negroes than a million of positive soldiers!
There was never yet in history a time when such a glorious future offered itself to a nation as that which is now within our grasp. In its greatness and splendor it is beyond all description. The great problem of Republicanism—the question of human progress—has reached its last trial. If we keep this mighty nation one and inseparable, we shall have answered it forever; if not, why then those who revile man as vile and irreclaimably degraded may raise their paeans of triumph; the black spectres of antique tyrants may clap their hands gleefully in the land of accursed shadows, and hell hold high carnival, for, verily, it would seem as if they had triumphed, and that hope were a lie.
But who are they who dare accuse us of wishing to weaken the administration and impede its course? Bring the question to light! If there be one thing more than another which those who demand emancipation desire, it is that the central government should be strengthened—aye, strengthened as it has never been before; so that, in future, there can be no return of secession. We have never been a republic—only an aggregate of smaller republics. If we had been one, the first movement toward disunion would have hurled the traitors urging it to the dust. Aye, strengthen the government; and let its first manifestation of strength and will be the settling of the negro question. Give the administration as full power as you please—the more the better; it is only conferring strength on the people. There is no danger that the men of the North will ever lose a shadow of individual rights. They are too powerful.
And now let the freemen of America speak, and the work will be done. A great day is at hand; hasten it. The hour which sees this Union re-united will witness the most glorious triumph of humanity,—the greatest step towards realizing the social aim of Christianity, and of Him who died for all,—the recognition of the rights of every one. Onward!
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BROWN'S LECTURE TOUR.
I.—HOW HE CAME TO DO IT.
My last speculation had proved a failure. I was left with a stock of fifty impracticable washing-machines on my hands, and a cash capital of forty-four cents. With the furniture of my room, these constituted my total assets. I had an unsettled account of forty dollars with Messrs. Roller & Ems, printers, for washing-machine circulars, cards, etc.; and—
Rap, rap, rap!
'Mr. Peck says as how you'll please call around to his office and settle up this afternoon, sure.'
New York, Nov. 30, 1859.
Mr. GREEN D. BROWN,
TO JOHN PECK, Dr.
To Rent of Room to date $9 00
I came to the emphatic conclusion that I was 'hard up.'
I kept bachelor's hall in Franklin Street, in apartments not altogether sumptuous, yet sufficiently so for my purposes,—to wit, to sit in and to sleep in; and inasmuch as I took my meals amid the gilded splendors of the big saloon on the corner of Broadway, I was not disposed to reproach myself with squalor. Yet the articles of furniture in my room were so far removed, separately or in the aggregate, from anything like the superfluous, that when I calmly deliberated what to part with, there was nothing which struck me as a luxury or a comfort as distinct from a necessary of life. I took a second mental inventory: two common chairs, a table, a mirror, a rocking-chair, a bed, a lounge, and a single picture on the wall.
I declare, thought I, here's nothing to spare.
But things were getting to a crisis. I must 'make a raise,' somehow. Borrow? Ah, certainly—where was the benevolent moneyed individual? My credit had gone with my cash; both were sunk in the washing-machines.
I lighted my pipe, and surveyed my household goods once more.
There was the picture: couldn't I do without that?
Possibly. But that picture I had had—let me see—fifteen, yes, sixteen years. That picture was a third prize for excellence in declamation, presented me at the school exhibition in —— Street, when I was twelve years old. That was in 1843, and here, on the first of December, 1859, I sat deliberately meditating its sale for paltry bread and butter!
No, no; I'd go hungry a little longer, before I'd part with that old relic—remembrancer of the proudest day of my life. What a pity I hadn't permitted that day to give a direction to my life, instead of turning my attention to the paltry expedients for money-making followed by the common herd! I might have been an accomplished orator by this time, capable of drawing crowds and pocketing a thousand a month, or so. But my tastes had run in other channels since the day when I took that prize.
Still, when I thought of it deliberately, I made bold to believe there was that yet in me which could meet the expectant eyes of audiences nor quail before them.
A thought struck me! Was not here an 'opening' for an enterprising young man? Was not the lecture-season at hand? Did not lecturers get from ten to two hundred dollars per night? Couldn't I talk off a lecture with the best of them, perhaps? Well, perhaps I could, and perhaps not, but if I wouldn't try it on, I hoped I might be blessed—that—was all.
I thought proper, after having reached this conclusion, to calculate my wealth in the way of preliminary requisites to success. By preliminary requisites to success, I mean those which lead to the securing of invitations to lecture. I flattered myself that all matters consequent to this point in my career would very readily turn themselves to my advantage. The preliminary requisites were as follows:—
1. Notoriety. I could boast of nothing in this line. I had no reputation whatever. I had never written a line for publication.
When I had satisfied myself that I lacked this grand requisite, I turned my attention to the subject again only to find that No. 1 was quite alone in its glory. It was the Alpha and Omega of the preliminary requisites. I should never be able to get a solitary invitation.
Here I was for a moment disheartened; but, persevering in my newly-assumed part of literary philosopher, I proceeded to the consideration of the consequent requisites:—
1. Literary ability. To say the truth, my literary abilities had hitherto been kept in the background. I was glad they were now going to come forward. For present purposes, it was sufficient that the Astor Library was handy, and that I could string words together respectably.
2. Oratorical ability. As already indicated, I was conscious of no mean alloy of the Demosthenic gold tempering the baser metal of my general composition. My voice was deep and strong.
3. Facial brass. I felt brazen enough to set up a bell-foundery on my personal curve. My cheeks were of that metalline description that never knew a blush, before an audience of one or many.
4. Personal appearance. I consulted my mirror on that point. It showed me a young man of only twenty-eight, and tall and shapely proportions; a well-dressed young man, with light-colored hair, prominent nose, and heavy red beard and moustache. I twisted the latter institution undecidedly, and ventured the belief that by shaving myself clean and bridging my nose with a pair of black-bowed spectacles I could pass muster.
The result total was satisfactory. I resolved to disregard the preliminary respecting invitations, and to make a modest effort of my own to secure an audience, by going into the country, and advertising myself in proper form. I commenced the work of writing a lecture forthwith; and in a few days I had ready what I deemed a rather superior production.
II.—HOW HE PROCEEDED TO DO IT.
I gave up my lodgings in town, sold all my salable possessions, settled up with my landlord, paid my printers in the usual way (i.e., with promises), and, supplied with a satchel-full of hand-bills (from a rival establishment), started for the country. My ticket was for Sidon—a place I knew nothing whatever about; the only circumstance of a positive character connected with it was, that it was the farthest point from New York which I could reach by the Rattle and Smash Railroad for the net amount of funds in my pocket. I stepped into the streets of Sidon with a light heart, and looked out on the scene of my contemplated triumph. I made up my mind at once that if ancient Sidon was no more of a place than modern Sidon, it couldn't lay claim to being much of a town. The houses, including shops and stores, would not exceed one hundred. I walked to the tavern, and delivered my satchel to the custody of a rough-looking animal, whom I subsequently found to be landlord, hostler, bar-tender, table-waiter, and general manager-at-all-work. He was a very uninviting subject; but, being myself courteously inclined, and having also a brisk eye to business, I inquired if there was a public hall or lecture-room in the place.
'I've got a dance-hall up-stairs. Be you a showman?'
I said I was a lecturer by profession, and asked if churches were ever used for such purposes in Sidon.
'Never heard of any. 'Ain't got no church. Be you goin' to lecter?'
I replied that I thought some of it, and inquired if it was common to use his hall for lectures.
'Wal, Sidon ain't much of a place for shows anyhow. When they is any, I git 'em in, if they ain't got no tent o' their own.'
I would look at the hall.
We went up a rickety stairway, into a dingy room. The plaster had fallen from the ceiling in several places, and the room had a mouldy smell. There was a platform at one end, where the musicians sat when saltatory fetes were held, and on this I mounted to 'take a view.' I didn't feel called upon to admire the hall in audible terms; but as I stood there an inspiring scene arose before my mental vision—a scene of up-turned faces, each representing the sum of fifteen cents, that being the regular swindle for getting into shows round here, the landlord said. I struck a bargain for the hall, at once—a bargain by which I was to have it for two dollars if I didn't do very well, or five dollars if I had a regular big crowd; bill-stickers and doorkeeper included, free.
In the evening, I went to the village post-office, which was merely a corner of the village store, and inquired if there was a letter there for Professor Green D. Brown. I knew very well there was not, of course, but I had the not unexpected pleasure of seeing the postmaster's eyes dilate inquiringly, so that I felt called upon to say:—
'I am a stranger, sir, in Sidon, at present, but I hope to enjoy the honor of making the acquaintance of a large number of your intelligent citizens during my brief stay with you. I propose lecturing in this village to-morrow evening, on a historical, or perhaps I should say biographical, subject.'
The postmaster, who appeared like an intelligent gentleman, said he was glad to see me, and glad to hear I was going to lecture; and he shook hands with me cordially. The store contained about half the adult population of the village, lounging about the warm stove, talking and dozing; and the postmaster introduced me to Squire Johnson, and Dr. Tomson, and Mr. Dickson, and Mr. Dobson and Mr. Potkins, who, five, constituted the upper ten of Sidon. With these gentlemen I held a very entertaining conversation, during which I remember I was struck with the extreme deference paid to my opinion, and the extreme contempt manifested for the opinions of each other. They all agreed, however, that my visit would be likely to prove of the greatest importance to Sidon in a literary and educational point of view.
I returned to the hotel, and retired with heart elate.
In the morning, it was with emotions of a peculiarly pleasurable nature that I observed, profusely plastered on posts and fences, the announcement, in goodly capitals:—
* * * * *
PROF. G.D. BROWN,
OF NEW YORK CITY,
WILL LECTURE THIS EVENING, DECEMBER 14,
IN JONES'S HALL, SIDON,
AT 7 O'CLOCK.
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SUBJECT: 'EURIPIDES, THE ATHENIAN POET.'
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ADMISSION 15 CENTS. DOORS OPEN AT 6 O'CLOCK.
The critical reader may experience a desire to propound to me a question:—'Professor of what?'
Now I profess honesty, as an abstract principle—being, perhaps the conscientious reader will think, more of a professor than a practicer herein. But the truth is, in the present mendicant state of the word 'Professor,' I conceived I had a perfect right and title to it, by virtue of my poverty, and so appropriated it for the behoof and advantage of Number One. Which explanation, it is hoped, will do.
Friday passed in cultivating still farther the acquaintance of the previous evening, and receiving the most cordial assurances of interest on their part in my visit and its object. I was candidly (and I thought kindly) informed by my good friends, not to get my expectations too high, as a very large house could scarcely, they feared, be expected; but I deemed an audience of even no more than fifty or seventy-five a fair beginning,—a very fair beginning,—and had no fears.
I retired to my room at five o'clock, and remained locked in, with my lecture before me, oblivious of all external affairs, until a few minutes past seven, when I concluded my audience had gathered. I then smoothed my hair, adjusted my spectacles, took my MS. in my hand, and proceeded to the lecture-room. The doorkeeper was fast asleep, and the long wicks of the tallow candles were flaring wildly and dimly on a scene of emptiness. Not an auditor was present!
I descended to the bar-room. It was full of loungers, smoking, dozing, and drinking. Without entering, I hastened across the way to the post-office. There was the courteous postmaster, engaged in a sleepy talk with Squire Johnson and Dr. Tomson and Mr. Dickson and Mr. Dobson and Mr. Potkins, who sat precisely as they sat the evening previous.
I returned to the hotel and called out the landlord.
'There's no audience, I perceive,' said I.
'Wal, I didn't cal'late much of anybody'd go in. They gen'ally go over to Tyre when they want shows. Tyre's quite a town. You'd do better over thar; 's on'y seven mile over to Tyre.'
I explained my position to the landlord at once, and threw myself on his mercy. I told him I had no money, but would walk over to Tyre that very evening, rather than task his hospitality longer. After making a little money in Tyre, I would return to Sidon and settle his little bill. To which the generous-hearted fellow responded,—
'Yas, I think likely; but ye see I'm some on gettin' my pay outen these show chaps that go round. I reckon that thar satchel o' yourn's got the wuth o' my bill in it. I'll hold on to it till ye git back, ye know.'
Remonstrance was in vain. I found that my sharp landlord had entered my room while I was looking in at the post-office door, and had taken my carpet-bag, with everything I had, even my overcoat, and stowed all in a cupboard under the bar, under lock and key. He would not so much as allow me a clean shirt; and I started for Tyre, wishing from the bottom of my heart that the inhuman landlord might engage in a washing-machine speculation, and involve with himself Mr. Potkins and Mr. Dobson and Mr. Dickson and Dr. Tomson and Squire Johnson.
I reached Tyre at ten o'clock, and found that I had not been deceived respecting its size. It was quite a large Tillage, with well laid out streets, handsome residences, two large hotels, and three or four churches. I took this inventory of the principal objects in Tyre with considerable more anxiety than I had ever supposed it possible for me to entertain concerning any country town in Christendom. I was interested in the prosperity of Tyre. I sincerely hoped that the hard times had not entered its quiet and beautiful streets. The streets certainly were both quiet and beautiful, as I looked upon them in the clear moonlight of ten o'clock at night, an hour when honest people in the country are, for the most part, asleep. I entered the handsomest of the hotels, and registered my name in a bran-new book on the clerk's counter.
Prof. D.G. Brown, N.Y. City. Lecture in Tyre.
'Beautiful evening, sir,' said the clerk, who was also the landlord, but not also the bar-tender and the hostler.
'You are right, sir,' said I; 'it is truly a lovely evening. I have rarely seen moonlight so beautiful. Indeed, such were the beauties of the evening, that I have positively been tempted so far as to walk over here from Sidon this evening, leaving my baggage to follow me in the morning.'
'Ah! lectured in Sidon perhaps?'
'Well, ah! um! yes; that is, I intend to do so, but unforeseen circumstances induced me to relinquish that purpose. Sidon is very small.'
'Yes, sir, small place. Never heard of a lecture, or any kind of a performance, there before. Fact is, they're a hard set over to Sidon, and the place is better known by the name of Sodom around here.'
I felt much encouraged at hearing this; for, to tell the truth, my cogitations as I tramped over the rough road between Tyre and Sidon had been anything but cheerful. This was a realization of my fond dreams of a ten-to-fifty-dollars-a-night lecture tour, such as I had hardly anticipated, and as I drew nigh unto Tyre I had been thinking whether I had not better try to get a situation as a farm-hand or dry-goods clerk before my troubles should have crushed me and driven me to suicide.
But the landlord cheered me. Tyre was a model town. Tyre had a newspaper, and Tyre patronized literary entertainments. There was a good hall in Tyre, and the Tyrians had filled it to overflowing last winter when Chapin spoke there. I went to bed under the benignant influence of my cheerful host, and dreamed of lecturing to an audience of many thousands in a hall a trifle larger than the Academy of Music, and with every nook and corner crowded with enthusiastic listeners, whose joy culminated with my peroration into such a tumult of delight that they rushed upon the stage and hoisted me on their shoulders amid cheers so boisterous that they awoke me. I found I had left my bed and mounted into a window, with the intention, doubtless, of stepping into the street and concluding my career at once, lest an anti-climax should be my fate.
In the morning, I called on the editor of the newspaper.
I desire to recommend my reader to subscribe at once to The Tyre Times, and thus aid to sustain the paper of a gentleman and a scholar, who was, as editors usually are, a plain-spoken, sensible man, conscious of the presence of talent in his sanctum, by 'sympathetic attraction.' The editor of the Times looked into the circumstances of my case with an experienced and kindly eye, and then said to me,—
'My dear sir, you can not succeed here with a lecture. We have had several in our village within a few years, but never one which 'paid,' unless it was one on phrenology, or physiology, or psychology, and plentifully spiced with humor of the coarsest sort. If you want to make money in Tyre, you'll take my advice and get a two-headed calf, a learned pig, or a band of nigger minstrels. Any of these things will answer your purpose, if you want money; but if you have ambition to gratify, if you want to lecture for the sake of lecturing, that's a different thing. At all events, you shall have my good wishes, and I'll do all I can to get you a house. But it won't pay.'
The reader knows that if I had not been a fool I would have understood and heeded a statement so plain as this, made by an editor. But then, if I hadn't been a fool, you know I should never have started on a lecture tour at all. So, being a fool, I had bills printed, hired a hall (at ten dollars), and was duly announced to lecture in Tyre on the coming Tuesday evening. The same afternoon, The Tyre Times appeared, and its editorial column contained the following notice, which I read with great interest, it being my first appearance in any periodical:—
LECTURE AT GRECIAN HALL.—We take pleasure in announcing that Prof. GREEN D. BROWN, of New York city, will favor the citizens of Tyre with a lecture on Tuesday evening next. From what we know of the gentleman, we are satisfied our citizens will not regret attending the lecture. We trust he may not be met with an audience so small as lectures have heretofore drawn out in Tyre. The apathy of our citizens in these matters, we have before stated, is disgraceful. Let there be a good turn-out.
But there was not a good turn-out. The receipts were two dollars and a half. The proprietor of the hall consented to take the receipts for his pay, and I returned to the hotel to muse over my unhappy fortunes.
The landlord took occasion the next morning, as I was passing out of the house, to remind me that my baggage had not arrived.
'No,' said I, 'but, as I soon leave Tyre, I shan't need it.'
The landlord looked at my dirty collar and bosom as if he doubted either my sanity or my decency, and remarked that perhaps I knew his rules compelled him to present the bills of strangers semi-weekly.
'O, yes! that's all right,' said I; 'I'll see you when I come back from the printing-office.'
I noticed that mine host stood watching to see that I entered the printing-office safely.
The editor remarked, after I had told him all the experience narrated here, commencing with the washing-machines,—
'It's a bad case, and I don't admire your experience at all, to speak candidly; but I have a little idea of my own to work out, and you can help me do it, perhaps. In the first place, though, I want to know whether you intend to continue in this line of business,—eh?'
'Not I,' was my fervent reply; 'I'm satisfied to leave lecturing to those who have a reputation, and to earn my bread and butter in a, for me, more legitimate way. But what is it you have in view?'
'Come and see me this evening, when I am at leisure, and I'll tell you what my enterprise is. Meantime, will you sell me your lecture? I can't afford to pay much for it, but I'll agree to settle your hotel bill if you'll part with it. Not that I think it's worth it, but you need to be helped somehow right away.'
I jumped at the chance, and thanked my friend heartily. He asked if I would please go and send the landlord to him, and I retired to perform that errand.
I was punctual to my appointment in the evening, and listened to the project my editorial angel had in view; a plan by which he proposed to inflict a lesson on the negligent Tyrians, and at the same time replenish my purse. He explained to me the part I was to perform in this enterprise, and I found I could enter heartily into the spirit of it. We shook hands in the best of humors, and parted that evening understanding each other perfectly.
III.—HE MAKES A HIT IN TYRE.
The next day, the entire jobbing facilities of the Times office were brought into requisition, and toward evening a mammoth bill was posted around the town, which read as follows:—
MONS. BELITZ'S CELEBRATED AND MAGNIFICENT EXHIBITION, THE GREAT TRAVELING HUMBURG! The most wonderful entertainment, whether CAININE, PRISTINE, OR QUININE, ever brought before the astonished Public's visual organs!!!
* * * * *
The avant courier of this monster troupe has the honor of announcing to the ladies and gentlemen of Tyre, that Mons. BELITZ, accompanied by his entire retinue of attaches and supes, Female Dancers and Dogs, Operatic Vocalists and Vixens, Royal Musicians and Monsters, Bengal Tigers and Time-servers, Magicians and Madmen, Flying Birds, Swimming Fishes, Walking Cats and Dogs, Crawling Reptiles, and various other extraordinary and impossible arrangements, the like of which never before appeared in Bog county, until the arrival of the present occasion, to wit:—
AT GRECIAN HALL, TYRE,
On Saturday Evening, December 22, 1859.
* * * * *
—-> LOOK AT THE ARRAY OF TALENT! <—-
* * * * *
MONS. BELITZ, the celebrated Magician from Egypt, performer general to
THE GRAND FOO FOO, and professor of the Black Art to all the crowned heads of the Cannibal Islands and Ham Sandwichlands!!
MADEMOISELLE HELIOTROPE, the charming Danseuse from all the city theatres, but most recently from the Imperial Deutscher Yolks Garten, Liverpool, Ireland!
SIGNOR STRAWSTEKOWSKI, the celebrated Demagogue and Snake eater, whose unrivaled feat with a living Gryllus, whose fangs have never been extracted, fills thousands with awe and delight!
YANKEE SHOCKWIG, the mirth-splitting and side-provoking delineator of down-east horse peculiarities. Must be appreciated to be seen.
HERR BALAMSASS, the distinguished Vocalist from Italy, whose lower notes, as recently discovered by the celebrated examination before the Council of Trent, reach so far below the epigastrium as to be utterly inaudible to the most acute auricular organs!
BRUDDER GEORGE AND AUNTY CLAWSON, the never-to-be-sufficiently-equaled delineators of Ethiopian eccentricities, whose performances during the winter of 1869 delighted overflowing houses in the Cape Cod Lunatic Asylum for 4000 consecutive nights.
BENJAMIN BOLT, Esq., the justly-celebrated trumpeter from the splendid orchestral band attached to Marnum's Buseum, New York city, for the past fifty years!
FANTADIMO FANTODIMUS, the graceful and efficient master of ceremonies, whose efforts have been awarded by the entire available population of Blackwell's Island, in a series of resolutions of the most pathetic description!
* * * * *
Owing to future engagements, the stay of this troupe in Tyre will be POSITIVELY FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY, when the Programme will be specified in small bills of the evening.
Admittance, 25 cents. Doors open at 6; Master of Ceremonies makes his bow at 7.
PROF. BROWN D. GREEN, AGENT.
Against the advice of the editor of the Times, I dispatched an agent over to Sidon, with a supply of blanked bills from the same form, with instructions to arrange for a similar 'sell' on the following Monday evening in that charming village.
I was sufficiently busy during the interval that lay between this and Saturday evening in rehearsing my part for the entertainment thus advertised. I was not entirely free from doubts of the success of a 'take-in' so palpable and ridiculous, and even if a house-full of numbsculls should gather, I deemed the experiment a dangerous one for me; but my editorial friend took the risk, remarking that he had calculated his chances, and knew what he was about. Nevertheless, it was not without some trepidation that I entered Grecian Hall by the private door, at a little before seven o'clock, and laid my hat behind the temporary curtain that had been erected for the accommodation of the great Humbug Troupe. Applying my eye to a chink in the cloth, I perceived that the hall was crowded to suffocation. My editorial friend sat in a prominent position near the stage, and the audience was manifesting those signs of impatience which seem to be equally orthodox among the news-boys in the pit of the old Bowery Theatre and the coarse young rustics who go to 'shows' in the back villages of ruraldom. I tinkled a bell. The uproar grew quiet. I drew aside my curtain, and made my bow, amid the silent wonderment of my auditors. Then I said:—
'Ladies and gentlemen: You now see before you the redoubtable Fantadimo Fantodimus, master of ceremonies for the Great Humbug Troupe. You also see before you, ladies and gentlemen, Mons. Belitz, the renowned magician, Mademoiselle Heliotrope, the graceful danseuse, Signor Strawstekowski, Herr Balamsass; and, in short, ladies and gentlemen, you see before you the sum and substance of the Great Humbug Troupe, as it exists in all its original splendor. We salute you!
'My friends, you were drawn here to-night by the extravagantly worded and outlandish representations of a poster which promised you only one single thing, namely, that you should behold a Great Traveling Humbug. Nothing could be more honest, though some things might be more straightforward. Force of circumstances compels me this evening to represent the Great Traveling Humbug you came to see. I am this evening the greatest of humbugs. I travel. A week ago, I traveled into this village with the laudable intention of giving you a sensible lecture on EURIPIDES, a historical personage of whom some of you may have heard. I traveled over to this hall on the evening of my lecture, and spoke to a beggarly array of empty seats. To-morrow morning, I intend to travel to church in your beautiful village, repent of my sins, and on Monday travel home to New York, where I shall at once take measures to rid myself of the title I wear this evening, by earning my bread in the old-fashioned way, by the sweat of my brow.
'Humbug, ladies and gentlemen, is a pill not at all disagreeable to take, when gilded carefully. My pill has been prepared by the hand of a novice, and you have swallowed it with your eyes open. May it benefit you!'
Symptoms of a disturbance immediately became manifest, when my editorial angel arose and spread his wings over the troubled audience.
'People of Tyre,' said he, 'the exhibition of the Great Humbug Troupe is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting and least objectionable that ever appeared in our village. It remains for us to make it instructive. I propose that we give three cheers for our brave entertainer,—hip, hip,
'Hurrah! HURRAH! HURRAH!'
Like young thunder the last cheer arose; and my bacon was saved!
The receipts placed me in possession of fifty dollars, after defraying all expenses in Tyre and settling my bill and recovering my satchel from Sidon—which I did by a messenger the same evening after the lecture. My editorial friend advised me now to stop at Sidon only long enough to take the first train home, leaving the Sidonites to discover the sell without expense. But I scouted the idea. I was flushed with the success of the previous evening (a success mainly due, as the sagacious reader knows, to the editor of the Times and his corps of confidants distributed at intervals over the hall); I was chagrined at the turn my original enterprise had taken, but determined to carry it out 'to the death;' and, more than all, I was burning to revenge myself on the perfidious postmaster of Sidon, and Dr. Tomson and Squire Johnson and Mr. Dickson and Mr. Dobson and Mr. Potkins. And on Monday evening I faced an audience in Jones's Hall, Sidon, prominent among whom I noticed, the principal objects of my ire.
IV.—HE DON'T MAKE A HIT IN SIDON, THOUGH SOME PERSON IN THE AUDIENCE DOES.
No time for contemplation was left on my hands, however; for as soon as I had articulated the words 'ladies and gentlemen,' an offensive missile hit me between my eyes, exploded, and deluged me with an odor in comparison with which that of Limberger cheese would be mere geranium. I was betrayed. Tyre had sent over a detachment of spies, and the Sidonites were armed. I briskly dodged several companion eggs whose foulness was permitted to adorn the walls of Jones's Hall behind me, and then undertook to escape. Simultaneously with the explosion of the first shot, a howl had burst from the audience, which boded no good for any prospects of comfort and profit I might entertain. Escaping on my part became no joke; and I beg the reader to believe that my chagrin was quite overwhelmed in the all-impressive desire to protect myself from total annihilation. In my subsequent gratitude at having accomplished this feat, I overlooked the little discomforts of an eye in mourning, a broken finger, and garments perfumed throughout in defiance of la mode.
At present, I am engaged in a business which I deem far more respectable and lucrative than lecturing, to wit, explaining the merits and advantages of a patent needle-threader to interested crowds on Broadway. Here my oratorical abilities are advantageously displayed, my audiences are attentive, and my profits are good.
* * * * *
'Trust in the Lord, and keep your powder dry!' So cried stout OLIVER in the storm, before That redder rain on bloody Marston Moor, Which whelmed the flower of English chivalry. Repeat the watchword when the sullen sky Stoops with its weight of terror, while the roar Of the far thunder deepens, and no more God's gracious sunshine greets the lifted eye! Not Faith alone, but Faith with Action armed, Shall win the battle, when the anointed host Wars with the alien armies, and, unharmed, Snatch victory from a field where all seemed lost. Front Death and Danger with a level eye; Trust in the Lord, and keep your powder dry!
* * * * *
TINTS AND TONES OF PARIS.
It is a curious test of national character to compare the prevalent impressions of one country in regard to another whereof the natural and historical description is quite diverse: and in the case of France and England, there are so many and so constantly renewed incongruities, that we must discriminate between the effect of immediate political jealousy, in such estimates, and the normal and natural bias of instinct and taste. To an American, especially, who may be supposed to occupy a comparatively disinterested position between the two, this mutual criticism is an endless source of amusement. In conversation, at the theatre, on the way from Calais or Dover to either capital, at a Paris cafe, or a London club-house, he hears these ebullitions of prejudice and partiality, of self-love or generous appreciation, and finds therein an endless illustration of national character as well as of human nature. But perhaps the literature of the two countries most emphatically displays their respective points of view and tone of feeling. While a popular French author sums up the elements of life in England as being la vie de famille, la politique, et les affaires,—'domestic life, politics, and business,'—he complacently infers that le fond du caractere Anglais, 'the basis of the English character,' is nothing more nor less than le manque de bonheur—'a want of anything like happiness.' An English thinker, on the other hand, finds in the very language of France the evidence of superficial emotion and unaspiring, irreverent intelligence. 'How exactly,' writes Julius Ham, 'do esprit and spirituel express what the French deem the highest glory of the human mind! A large part of their literature is mousseux; and whatever is so, soon grows flat. Our national quality is sense, which may, perhaps, betray a tendency to materialism; but which, at all events, comprehends a greater body of thought, that has settled down and become substantiated in maxims.'[A] How far a Frenchman is from appreciating this distinction, as unfavorable to his own race, we can realize from the following estimate of the historical evil which an admired modern writer considers that race has suffered from the English, and from the character of the latter as recognized by another equally a favorite:—
[Footnote A: Guesses at Truth.]
'Iniquitous England,' writes a popular novelist, 'the vile executioner of all in which France most exulted, murdered grace in Marie Stuart, as it did inspiration in Jeanne d'Arc, and genius in Napoleon;'—'a race,' says another, 'gifted with a national feeling which well-nigh approaches superstition, yet which has chosen the whole world for its country. The gravity of these beings, accidentally brought together and isolated by mere interest, their life of mechanical activity, and of labor without relaxation as without life, all interest, yet freeze you at the same time.' 'The Englishman has made unto himself a language appropriate to his placid manners and silent habits. This language is a murmur interrupted by subdued hisses,'—'un murmure entre-coupe de sifflements doux.'
The gregarious hotel life in America commends itself to the time-saving habits of a busy race; but the love of speciality in France modifies this advantage: in our inns a stated price covers all demands except for wine; here each separate necessity is a specific charge—the sheet of writing paper, the cake of soap, and the candle figure among the innumerable items of the bill. Thus an infinite subdivision makes all business tedious, involving so many distinct processes and needless conditions; at every step we realize of how much less comparative value is time in the Old World. On the other hand, the rigid system that governs municipal life, the means adopted to render all public institutions both accessible and attractive, claim perpetually the gratitude of artists, students, and philosophers. A programme of exploration may be arranged at will, yielding a complete insight, and, when achieved, such has been the order, communicativeness and facility, that we have a more distinct and reliable idea of the whole circle of observation than it is possible to obtain elsewhere. We are continually reminded of Buffon's maxim: 'la genie est la patience.' A curious illustration of this systematic habit of the French occurred at Constantinople, during the Crimean war, where they immediately numbered the houses and named the streets, to the discomfiture of the passive Turks—one of whom, in his wonder at the mechanical superiority of these Frank allies, asked a soldier if the high fur cap on his head would come off. The concierge beneath each porte cochere, the social distinction which makes each cafe and restaurant the nucleus of a particular class, the organized provision for all exigencies of human life in Paris, illustrate the same trait on a larger and more useful scale. If we survey the institutions and the monuments with care, and refer to their origin, associations and purposes, the historical and economical national facts are revealed with the utmost clearness and unity. The old Bastile represented, in its gloomy stolidity, the whole tragedy of the Revolution; and St. Genevieve combines the holy memories of the early church with that of the first French kings; the site of a fosse commune attests the valor of republican martyrs; the Champs Elysees are the popular earthly fields of a French paradise. One cafe is famed for the beauty of its mistress, another for the great chess-players who make it a resort; one is the daily rendezvous of the liberals, another of royalists, one of military men, another of artists; they flourish and fade with dynasties, and are respectively the favorites of provincials and citizens, gourmands and traders, men of letters and men of state.[A] The Monte de Piete acquaints us with the vicissitudes and expedients of fortune; the Hotel Dieu is a temple of ancient charity; the Hospice des Enfants Trouvees startles us with the astounding fact that half the children born in Paris are illegitimate; and the Morgue yields no less appalling statistics of suicide. In Vernet's studio we feel the predominance of military taste and education in France; in the Ecole Polytecnique, the policy by which her youth are bred to serve their country; at the manufactories of the Gobelines and Sevres china, we perceive how naturally the mechanical genius of the race finds development in pottery and fabrics instead of ships and machines, as across the Channel and beyond the ocean; and in the self-possession, knowledge of affairs, and variety of occupation of the middle class of women, we see why they have no occasion to advocate their rights and complain of the inequality of the sexes.
[Footnote A: 'Mes habitudes de diner chez les restaurants,' says a Parisian philosopher, 'ont ete pour moi une source intarrissable de surprises, de decouvertes, et de revelations sur l'humanite.']
All large cities furnish daily material for tragedy, and life there, keenly observed and aptly narrated, proves continually how much more strange is truth than fiction; but the impressive manners and melo-dramatic taste of the people, as well as their intricate police system, bring out more vividly these latent points of interest, as a reference to the Causes Celebres and the Memoirs of Vidocq illustrate. A friend of mine, returning from a trip to Lyons, became acquainted in the rail-car with an English gentleman, and when they reached the station, just before midnight, the two left for their hotels in the same cab. After a short drive, the vehicle suddenly came to a halt, the cabman sprang to the ground, and his passengers were left to surmise the occasion of their abrupt abandonment: presently a crowd collected, a shout was raised, and they learned that a valise had been stolen from the top of the carriage, and its owner had set off in pursuit of the thief. He ran with great swiftness, doubled corners, sprang over obstacles, and was in a fair way to distance his pursuer, when a soldier thrust out his foot and tripped up the fugitive, who was taken to the nearest police station. Confronted with the owner of the valise, he declared it was his own property, placed by mistake on the wrong cab. The official authorized to settle the difficulty not being present, my friend and his companion were informed they must leave the article in dispute, and the case itself, until the following morning, when a hearing would be had before one of the courts. On reaching their destination, the gentlemen parted with the understanding that they would dine together at a certain restaurant the next day. The appointed hour came, but not the Englishman; and my friend's appetite and patience were keen set, when, after an hour's delay, the truant made his appearance, looking pale, triste and exhausted. He soon explained the cause of his detention. He had gone to the police court to prove and regain his valise, and found at the bar a young man of genteel address and remarkable beauty; his costume was in the latest fashion, though somewhat soiled and torn from his fall and rough handling the previous night; but his countenance was intelligent and refined, and his bearing that of a gentleman. Upon a table lay the valise and the contents of the prisoner's pockets, among them a large penknife; he held convulsively to the rail and kept his eyes cast down; the judge had taken his seat, and a crowd of idlers and gens d'armes filled the room. The claimant immediately satisfied the court that the valise belonged to him by mentioning several articles it contained and producing the key. In the mean time the accused, earnestly watching the entrance, started and turned pale and red by turns as a beautiful girl, in the dress of a prosperous grisette, pushed her way into the crowd, stood on tiptoe, and exchanged glances with the prisoner. The latter, when asked his name, replied, 'I have brought disgrace enough upon it already,' and, seizing the penknife, thrust it into his heart, and fell dead. He was the descendant of a noble house in one of the southern provinces, and came to Paris as a medical student, and, through a devoted attachment to his mistress, whose costly tastes soon drained his purse, was induced to steal the trunks of travelers as they left the railway stations at night. In his apartment was found a large wardrobe; and a month's purloining was thus summarily expiated. Similar incidents occur elsewhere, but the details, when the scene is laid in Paris, are more picturesque and dramatic.
Two instances which I heard related will illustrate this same dramatic significance in the municipal system. After an emeute, the chef of police in a certain arrondissement, while engaged in superintending the removal of corpses from a barricade, noticed the body of a female whose delicate hands and finely-wrought robe were so alien to the scene as to excite suspicion. He ordered it to be placed in a separate apartment for examination. A more careful inspection confirmed his surmise that this was the body of no amazonian whose warlike zeal or accidental presence in such an affray could explain its discovery. There was no trace whereby the remains could be identified except a geranium leaf that was found imbedded in her long and disheveled tresses. This was given to a celebrated botanist, with orders to learn, if possible, from what plant it had been taken. The man of science visited all the houses of the neighborhood, and critically examined every specimen of the shrub he could find. At length, in the elegant library of a young abbe, he not only discovered one of the species, but, by means of a powerful microscope, detected the very branch whence the leaf had been nipped. By dexterous management the chef, thus scientifically put on the track, brought home the charge to the priest, who confessed the murder of the young lady in a fit of jealousy, and, by depositing her body, at night, amid the dead of humbler lineage, who had fallen in the revolutionary strife, thought to conceal all knowledge of his crime.
The lessee of an extensive 'hotel' had reason to believe that a child had entered and left the world in one of his tenants' apartments, without the cognizance of a human being except the mother; and, aware, as a landlord in Paris should be, of his responsibility to the municipal government, he communicated his suspicions to the authorities. The rooms were searched, the charge denied, and no proof elicited to warrant further action; and here the matter would have ended in any other country. But the police agent entrusted with the inquiry raked over the contents of a pigsty in the courtyard, and discovered a square inch of thin bone, which he exhibited to an anatomist, who pronounced it a fragment of a new-born infant's skull; the hogs were instantly killed, the contents of their stomachs examined, and small portions of the body found. The question then arose whether the child was born alive; pieces of the lungs were placed in a basin of water, and the fact that they floated on its surface proved, beyond a doubt, that the child had breathed; the crime of infanticide was then charged upon the unhappy mother, who, appalled by this evidence of her guilt, confessed.
In the gray of the dawn a watchful observer may behold the two extremes of Paris life ominously hinted;—a cloaked figure stealthily dropping a swathed effigy of humanity, just 'sent into this breathing world,' in the rotary cradle of the asylum for enfants trouves, and a cart full of the corpses of the poor, driven into the yard of a hospital for dissection.
Summoned one evening at dusk to the sick chamber of a countryman, I realized the shadows of life in Paris. From the dazzling Boulevard the cab soon wound through dim thoroughfares, up a deserted acclivity, to a gloomy porch. A cold mist was falling, and I heard the bell sound through a vaulted arch with desolate echoes. When the massive door opened, a lamp suspended from a chain revealed a paved entresol and broad staircase; there was something prison-like even in the patrician dimensions of the edifice; the light nickered at every gust. Ascending, I pulled a cordon bleu, and was admitted into the apartment. It consisted of four places or rooms, the furniture of which was in the neatest French style, both of wood and tapestry; but the fireplace was narrow, and so ill-constructed that while the heat ascended the chimney the smoke entered the room. A nurse, with one of those keen, self-possessed faces and that efficient manner so often encountered in Paris, ushered me to the invalid's presence. He was a fair specimen of a philosophic bachelor inured to the life of the French metropolis; everything about him was in good taste, from the model of the lamp to the cover of the arm-chair; and yet an indescribable cheerlessness pervaded his elegant lodging. The last play of Scribe, the day's Journal des Debats, a bouquet, and a Bohemian glass, were on the marble table at his side. His languid eye brightened and his feverish hand tightened convulsively over mine; years had elapsed since he left our native town; he had drunk of the cup of pleasure, and cultivated the resources of literature and science in this their great centre; but now, in the hour of physical weakness, the yearning for domestic and home scenes filled his heart; and his mind reacted from the blandishments of a luxurious materialism and a refined egotism of life. It was like falling back upon the normal conditions of existence thus to behold the 'ills that flesh is heir to' in the midst of a city where such rich outward provision for human activity and enjoyment fills the senses. Excessive civilization has its morbid tendencies, and great refinement in one direction is paralleled by an equal degree of savagery in another. There is in absolute relation between the facilities for pleasure and the frequency of suicide. Of all places in the world, Paris is the most desolate to an invalid stranger. The custom of living there in lodgings isolates the visitor; the occupants of the dwelling are not alive to the claims of neighborhood; with his landlord he has only a business and formal connection; thus thrown upon himself, without the nerve or the spirits for external amusement, few situations are more forlorn. The Parisian French are intensely calculating and selfish; illness and grief are so alien to their tastes that, to the best of their ability, they ignore and abjure them. As long as health permits, out-of-door life or companionship solaces that within; the stranger may be enchanted; but when confined to his apartment and dependent on chance visitors or hireling services, he longs for a land where domestic life and household comfort are better cultivated and understood.
The stranger's funeral is peculiarly sad everywhere, but in Paris its melancholy is enhanced by the interference of foreign usages. Over the dead as well as the living the municipal authorities claim instant power, and the bereaved must submit to their time and arrangements in depositing the mortal remains of the loved in the grave. The black scarfs and chapeaux of the undertakers and their prescriptive orders were strangely dissonant to the group of Americans collected at the obsequies of a young countryman, and seemed incongruous when associated with the simple Protestant ceremonial performed in another tongue. Under the direction of those sable officials we entered the mourning coaches and followed the plumed hearse. It is an impressive custom—one of the humanities of the Catholic—to lift the hat at the sight of such a procession; such an act, performed like this by prince and beggar in the crowded street, so gay, busy, self-absorbed, bears affecting witness to the common vicissitudes and instincts of mankind. The dead leaves strewed the avenue of Pere la Chaise, and the bare trees creaked in the gale as we threaded sarcophagi, tablets, and railed cenotaphs; in the distance, smoke-canopied, stretched the vast city; around were countless effigies of the dead of every rank, from the plain slab of the undistinguished citizen to the wreathed obelisk of the hero, from the ancient monument of Abelard and Heloise to the broken turf on the new grave of poverty only designated by a wooden cross; gray clouds flitted along the zenith, and a pale streak of light defined the wide horizon; Paris with its frivolity, temples, business, pleasures, trophies and teeming life, sent up a confused and low murmur in the distance; only the wind was audible among the tombs. Never had the beautiful Church of England services appeared to me so grand and pathetic as when here read over the coffin of one who had died in exile, and with only a few of his countrymen, most of them unacquainted even with his features, to attend his burial.
However a change of government may interfere with a Parisian's freedom of speech and pen, the autocrat is yet to appear who dares place an interdict on his culinary aptitudes. The science of dining in Paris has, notwithstanding, its new mysteries; and in order to be abreast of the times, it is wise, instead of drawing on past experience, to take counsel of a friend who holds the present clue to the labyrinth of bills of fare and fair bills. The little cabinet of my favorite restaurant, sacred to the initiated, had the same marble table, cheerful outlook, pictured ceiling and breezy curtains,—the same look of elegant snugness; but, when we had seated ourselves in garrulous conclave over the carte, it was to the member of our party whose knowledge was of the latest acquisition that we submitted the choice of a repast; and as he discoursed of the mysterious excellences of cotelletes a la Victoria, rissoles a la Orleans, pates de fois gras a la Bonaparte, paupicettes de veau a la Demidoff, truffes a la Perigord, etc., we realized that the same incongruous blending of associations, the same zest for glory and dramatic instinct, ruled the world of cookery as of letters, and that, with all the political vicissitudes since our last dinner in Paris, her prandial distinction had progressed.
From the restaurant to the theatre, is, in Paris, a most natural transition; and the play and players of the day will be found far more closely representative of the social tone, the political creed, the artistic tastes of the hour, than elsewhere. The drama, for instance, in vogue not long since at the Vaudeville Theatre in the Place de la Bourse, is one we can scarcely imagine successful in another city, at least to such a degree. It was Les Filles de Marbre; and this is the plot. The opening scene is at Athens, in the studio of Phidias. It is the day after that on which Alcibiades cut off his dog's tail; and, exulting in the effect produced by that exploit, he enters with the rich Gorgias, who has ordered and paid Phidias in advance for statues of his three friends, Lais, Phryne, and Aspasia. He finds Phidias unwilling to part with the statues, on which he has worked so long and ardently till, like Pygmalion of old, he has fallen in love with his own creation; he will not even allow Gorgias to see them, and the latter departs swearing vengeance. Diogenes enters, and a satirical brisk dialogue ensues, at the end of which Phidias draws aside a curtain and shows his work to Diogenes, who, stoic as he is, can not refrain from an exclamation of delight. The group is admirably arranged on the stage, and the effect is very fine as Theae, a young slave, holds back the drapery from the group while the moon illumines it with a soft light. At this moment an approaching tumult is heard. Theae drops the curtain, and Gorgias with his friends, heated with Cyprus wine, enters, accompanied by the 'myrmidons of the law.' He again demands the statues, for which Phidias has already received his gold. Phidias expostulates, then entreats,—no, Gorgias will have his statues. At this, Theae, who had long loved Phidias, unknown to him, hardly noticed, never requited, throws herself at Gorgias's feet and cries, 'Take me, sell me; I am young and strong, but leave Phidias his statues.' Gorgias says, 'Who are you? Poor creature, you are not worth over fifty drachmas! Away! Guards, do your duty! Slaves, seize the statues.' Then Diogenes, hitherto half asleep on a mat in the corner, cries, 'Stop, Gorgias! You always profess justice, strict justice. Why don't you ask with whom of you the statues will prefer to stay?' A shout of laughter from his jolly companions makes Gorgias accede to this droll proposal. 'So be it!' cries he; and Diogenes draws aside the curtain, and holds up his lantern, which, with a strong French reflector, throws a powerful light on the upper part of the group, with a fine and startling effect. The group represents Aspasia seated, with a scroll and stylus, Lais leaning over her, and Phryne at her feet looking up, all draped, artistically posed, and the three beautiful girls that perform the parts look as like marble as possible.
'Now, Phidias,' cries Diogenes, 'come, what have you to say to your marble girls?'
'Lais, Aspasia, Phryne, I am Phidias. You owe me your existence, and I love you; you know it, and that I am poor.'
'That's a bad argument, Phidias,' says Diogenes.
'I am poor, and have nothing but you. Stay by him to whom you owe your glory and your immortality!'
The statues remain immovable.
Gorgias addresses them: 'I am Gorgias, the rich Athenian; I alone am as rich as all the kings of Asia, and I offer you a palace paved with gold. Aspasia, Lais, Phryne, which of us do you choose?'
The statues turn their heads and smile faintly on Gorgias, who starts and stands as if petrified. The Athenians look horror-struck. Phidias covers his face with his hands, and, uttering a cry, falls to the ground. A soft and enervating strain of music fills the air.
'By all the gods!' cries Gorgias, 'I believe the statues moved their lips as if to smile upon me.'
'I know you by that smile, O girls of marble,' says Diogenes,—'courtesans of the past, courtesans of the future!' and he returns to his mat.
At this moment Theae's voice is heard in the far distance, singing a few mystical, mournful bars of music, and the curtain falls.
This is the 'argument,'—the other four acts work it out.
The next act opens in a restaurant of to-day in the Bois de Boulogne, near Paris. A young artist lives there, and falls desperately in love with an actress, for whom he leaves his art, his mother, and his betrothed, is ruined in purse, and returns at last, heart-broken, to his old home, to die; the actress all the while sees his despair with indifference, and proves herself therefore a 'fille de marbre'
In another recent piece, we are told that a 'procession of nuns, dressed in white, sing a lay at midnight. In the intervals, a chorus of frogs in the neighboring swamp croak the refrain in unison. Sax, the great brass-founder, who made the Last Trumpets for the 'Wandering Jew,' and the instruments for the Band of the Guides, is engaged upon the frogpipes required. The illusion will be heightened by characteristic scenery and mephitic exhalations. M. Sax visited the pool in the Bois de Boulogne, known as the Maree d'Auteuil, and brought back many useful ideas in reference to the quadruped with whose vocal powers he desired to become acquainted. The frog voices will be a series of eight, representing a full octave.'
The Provincial, at Paris, is a standard theme for playwrights; what the Scotch were to Johnson, Lamb, and Sidney Smith, is the native of Provence or Brittany to the comic writers of the metropolis,—a nucleus for wit and an occasion for practical jokes. One of the late pieces, called 'My Uncle,' turned upon the devices of a wild youth to obtain money from his simple-hearted relative in the country. For months a pretended love affair, a marriage, and the birth of an heir, elicited remittances, which were expended upon banquets, at which a bevy of gay students applauded the ingenuity of their entertainer. At last the uncle comes to town, and it becomes quite a study to carry on the game, which yields occasion for innumerable salient contrasts between rustic simplicity and city acumen. A diagnosis of the provincial's ways in Paris, like every form of life there, has been given by a shrewd observer, who mentions among other signs that the novice may be recognized by the fact that he keeps his toothpick after dinner and carries it to the theatre.
I found that marvelous actress, Rachel, before her visit to America, much attenuated; indeed, she resembled a bundle of nerves electrified with vitality; her bleached skin, thin arms, large, scintillating eyes, and that indescribable something which marks the Jewish physiognomy, gave her a weird, sibyl-like appearance, as of one wasted by long vigils. There was in her glance and action the spasmodic inspiration observable in Malibran towards the close of her career. The play was Racine's Andromache, and the depth and energy of Hermione's emotions were illustrated by a sudden transition of tone, a working of the features, that a painter might study forever, and a gesture, bearing, look and utterance which were the consummation of histrionic art; yet so exclusively was this the ease, that admiration never lost itself in sympathy; it was the perfection of acting, not of nature; it won and chained the scrutinizing mind, but failed to sway the heart; it lacked the magnetic element; and while the critic was baffled in the attempt to pick a flaw, and the elocutionist in raptures at the sublime possibilities of his art, it was Rachel, not Hermione, the genius of the performer, not the reality of the character, that won the earnest attention, and woke the constant plaudits. [A] That over-consciousness which belongs to the French nature, so evident in their 'Confessions,' their oratory, their manners, their conversation, and their life, and which is the great reason of their want of persistence and self-dependence in political affairs, modifies their ideal representations on the stage as well as in literature. The process described so philosophically by Coleridge, to lose 'self in an idea dearer than self,' is the condition of all greatness. It sublimated the life of Washington, and made it unique in the annals of nations; it enabled Shakspeare to incarnate the elements of humanity in dramatic creations, and Kean to reproduce them on the stage; it is the grand law of the highest achievements in statesmanship, in letters, and in art, without which they fall short of wide significance and enduring vitality.
[Footnote A: The very description of her enthusiastic admirers suggests that such were the original traits and the special character of Rachel. At first we are told by the patron who earliest recognized her genius, 'a delirious popularity surrounded the young tragedienne, and with her the antique tragedy which she had revived.' How different from the original relation of Kemble, Kean, or Siddons to the Shaksperian drama! Then the manner in which she prepared herself for artistic triumph is equally suggestive of the artificial and the conventional: 'Elle se drape,' we are told, 'avec un art merveilleux; au theatre elle fait preuve d'etudes intelligentes de la statuaire antique.' It was in the external form rather than by sympathetic emotion that she wooed the tragic muse. Veron compares her to Thiers. 'C'est la meme nettete de vues, la meme ardeur, les memes ruses vigereuses, la meme fecondite d'expedients, la meme tableau phllosophique que ne la comprend ni la vengeance ni les haines, qui se contente de negocier avec les inimities, d'apaiser les rancunes et de conquerir toutes les influences, toutes les amities qui peuvent devenir utiles.']
Although thus destitute of great central principles, nowhere is human life more enriched by minor philosophy; it may be a fate, a routine, a drudgery, and an accident in other parts of the world, but in Paris it is or can easily be made an art. The science of substitution, the law of compensation, nowhere more obviously triumphs; taste cheaply gratified atones for limited destinies; manners yield a charm, which, for the time, renders us oblivious of age; tact proves as good a resource as learning, wit as beauty, cheerfulness as fortune. The boudoir, by means of chintz, gauze, and human vivacity, is as prolific of fine talk and good company as the drawing-room. A bunch of violets or a box of mignonnette suggests to sensitive imaginations the whole cornucopia of Flora. Perhaps the eclectic provision for enjoyment in the French capital was never more apparent than during the sojourn of the allied armies there after the battle of Waterloo. It was as good as a play illustrative of national manners and taste, to note how Russian, German, Cossack, and English, hussar, diplomat, and general, found the dish, the pastime, and the observance each most coveted, when that vast city was like a bivouac of the soldiers of Europe.
The communicative habit and social tendency of life, under every aspect, in Paris, often promotes success by making individuals famous,—a process far easier of achievement there than in any other metropolis. A poor fellow who opened a cafe, and had so little patronage as at the end of his first quarter to be on the verge of bankruptcy, resorted, one day, to the expedient of firing a heavily-charged musket in the midst of his neat but unfrequented saloon. The report instantly brought half a score of policemen, two gens d'armes, and a crowd of idlers, to the spot; curiosity was on tiptoe to hear of a murder, a suicide, or an infernal machine; strange rumors began to spread from the crowd within to the street; and a long investigation was held on the premises. Meantime people wanted refreshments, which the hitherto indolent waiters of the cafe supplied; the place was found to be quite snug and tasteful, and the proprietor quite a lion; thenceforth his credit was established in the neighborhood, and a regular set of customers liberally sustained his enterprise. Dr. Veron informs us that, after waiting six weeks for a patient, upon first commencing practice, he had the good fortune to stop the bleeding nose of a concierge, in his vicinity, which had resisted all the usual appliances; the news of his exploit was soon noised abroad, its merit exaggerated, and he was astonished to receive six or seven patients a day, attracted by his sudden reputation. Unfortunately, however, one day an old lady, of much consideration in that quartier, requested him to bleed her; she was so fat that he made two or three unsuccessful attempts to open a vein, when she rose indignantly and pronounced him an imbecile,—a judgment which was so quickly adopted by the gossips, that in less than a week he sank into his original obscurity.
Another speciality of Parisian life occurred in the person of an old man, who came hither in youth, and while pursuing his studies received news of the loss of his fortune,—a pittance only remained; and so enamored had he become of the means of study and the monastic freedom here possible for the poor dreamer, that, hiring a cheap and obscure lodging, he remained a voluntary exile, unallured by the attractions of American enterprise, which soon revived the broken fortunes of his brothers. A more benign cosmopolite or meek disciple of learning it would be difficult to find; unlike his restless countrymen, he had acquired the art of living in the present;—the experience of a looker-on in Paris was to him more satisfactory than that of a participant in the executive zeal of home.
Such instances form a pleasing contrast to the outward gayety we habitually associate with Paris. It boasts a world of patient labor. Emile Souvestre has drawn some faithful and charming pictures of these scenes, wherein philosophy and cheerfulness illumine the haunts of modest toil. In England and America only artists of great merit enjoy consideration; but in Paris the pursuit itself insures countenance and sympathy, which in themselves yield vast encouragement. There are more odd characters ensconced in the nooks of this capital than anywhere else in Europe;—men who have become unconsciously metropolitan friars—living in celibate dens, haunting libraries and gardens, subsisting on a bare competence, and working out some darling theory or speculative problem; lonely in the midst of a crowd, and content in their self-imposed round of frugality and investigation.
I found the dissatisfied spirit of a young artist, whom I had known in America, here completely soothed; instead of feeling himself overpowered by the commercial spirit of his own country, one of a neglected minority, striving in vain to excite interest in a vocation too profitless for a community absorbed in trade, politics, and fashion, he now experienced the advantage of a recognized class, and the excitement of a fraternity in art; his life, studies, aims were those of hundreds as limited in their circumstances and as ideal in their aspirations; galleries, studios, lectures, models, criticism, illustrious men, noble examples, friendly words and true companionship, made his daily life, independent of its achievements, one of self-respect, of growing knowledge, and assured satisfaction. Without some pursuit thus enlisting the higher powers and justifying, as it were, the independent career of a resident, it is astonishing how the crust of selfishness gathers over the heart in Paris; the habit of living with an exclusive view to personal enjoyment, where the arrangements of life are so favorable, becomes at last engrossing; and a soulless machine, with no instincts but those of self-gratification, is often the result, especially if no ties of kindred mitigate the hardihood of epicurism.