INTERNATIONAL WEEKLY MISCELLANY
Of Literature, Art, and Science.
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Vol. I. NEW YORK, JULY 22, 1850. No. 4.
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LITERARY COTERIES IN PARIS IN THE LAST CENTURY.
The revolutions of society are almost as sure if not as regular as those of the planets. The inventions of a generation weary after a while, but they are very likely to be revived if they have once ministered successfully to pleasure or ambition. The famous coteries in which learning was inter-blended with fashion in the golden age of French intelligence, are being revived under the new Republic, and women are again quietly playing with institutions and liberties, perhaps as dangerously as when Mesdames de Tencin, Pompadour, Geoffrin, Deffant, Popliniere and L'Espinasse assembled the destinies nightly in their drawing rooms.
The tendency to such associations is displayed also in most of our own cities. The Town and Country Club of Boston, the Wistar Parties in Philadelphia, the Literary Club in Charleston, the recent converzaziones at the houses of President Charles King of Columbia College, and others, and the well-known Saturday Evenings at Miss Lynch's, where literature and art and general speculation have for some seasons had a common center, all illustrate the disposition of an active and cultivated society, not engrossed by special or spasmodic excitements, to cluster by rules of feeling and capacity: and clusters of passion and mind are rarely for a long period inert. When they become common they are apt to assume the direction of private custom and public opinion and affairs.
In view of these things, we are sure that the readers of the International will be interested in the following translation of Professor Schlosser's brilliant survey of those bureaux d'esprit which so much distinguished society and influenced its history in Europe, from the beginning to the middle of the last century. Schlosser is a Privy Councillor and Professor of History in the University of Heidelberg. He is chiefly known in continental Europe by his great work, the History of the Eighteenth Century, and of the Nineteenth till the overthrow of the French Empire, a work which derives its value not merely from the profound and minute acquaintance of the author with the subject, from the new views which are presented and the hitherto unexamined sources from which much has been derived, but from his well-known independence of character—from the general conclusions which he draws from the comparative views of the resources, conduct, manners, institutions and literature of the great European nations, during a period unparalleled in the history of the world for the development of the physical and mental powers of mankind, for the greatness of the events which occurred, for the progress of knowledge, for the cultivation of the arts and sciences, for all that contributes to the greatness and prosperity of nations.
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If we venture to bring the Parisian evening, dinner and supper parties into connection with the general history of Europe, and the ladies also at whose houses these parties took place, we can neither be blamed for scrupulous severity, nor for paradoxical frivolity. It belongs to the character of the eighteenth century, that the historian who wishes to bring the true springs of conduct and sources of action to light, must condescend even so far. It must also be borne in mind, when the clever women and societies of Paris are spoken of, that the demands of the age and progressive improvement and culture were altogether unattended to at the court of Louis XV., as well before as after the death of Cardinal Fleury, and that all which was neglected at Versailles was cultivated in Paris. The court and the city had been hitherto united in their wants and in their judgment; the court ruled education, fashion and the general tone, as it ruled the state; now, however, they completely separated. Afterward the voice of the city was raised in opposition, and the voice of this opposition became the organ of the age and of the country; but it was felt and recognized in Versailles only when it was too late. How easy it would have been then, as Marmontel had shown very clearly in his memoirs, to fetter Voltaire, who was offensive to the people, and how important this would have been for the state, will appear in the following paragraphs, in which we shall show that even the Parisian theatre, whose boards were regarded as a model by all Europe, freed itself from the influence of the court, became dependent on the tone-giving circles of Paris, and assumed a decidedly democratic direction.
As early as the time of Louis XIV., the court had separated itself from the learned men of the age; and at the end of the seventeenth century the houses and societies could be historically pointed out, in which judgments were pronounced upon questions of literature in the same manner as the pit became the tribunal to which plays and play-actors must appeal; we shall not, however, go back so far, but keep the later times always in our view. In those associations in which the Abbe de Chaulieu and other friends of Vendome and Conti led the conversation, literature was brought wholly under the dominion of audacious pretension and immorality, in the time of the Regency and during the minority of Louis XV. In reference to the leaders there needs no proof. What could a Philip of Orleans or his Dubois take under his protection, except what corresponded with his ideas and mode of life?
The time of the minority of Louis XV. and that of the administration of Cardinal Fleury was for several reasons highly favorable to the formation of private societies, which entertained themselves with wit and satire, and carried on a quiet but continual contest with the persons and systems which were protected by the government and the clergy. Fleury regarded everything as sinful which had the appearance of worldly knowledge, or partook of the character of jests, novels, or plays; Louis, as he grew up, showed himself quite indifferent to everything which had no connection with religious ceremonies, hunting, or handsome women. Fleury spoke and wrote in that ecclesiastical phraseology which was laughed at in the world: he favored the clergy, school learning, the tone of the times of Louis XIV.; but the spirit of the age demanded something different from this. All that was regarded with disfavor by Fleury assembled around those celebrated men, who held their reunions in Paris, and this court soon became more important to the vain than the royal one itself, and it was proved by experience that reputation and glory might be gained without the aid or protection of the court at Versailles. This no one could have previously believed, but the public soon learnt to do homage to the tone-giving scholars, to the ladies and gentlemen who fostered them, as it had formerly paid its homage to the ministers of the court. This gave to the ladies, who collected around them the celebrated men of the time (for reputation was much more the question than merit,) and who protected and entertained them, a degree of weight in the political and literary world, which made them as important in the eighteenth century as Richelieu and Colbert had been in the seventeenth.
The queen, on her part, might have been able to exercise a beneficial influence, however little power she had in other respects, when compared with the mistresses of the king; but the daughter of Stanislaus Leckzinski was a gentle, admirable woman, although somewhat narrow-minded, and wholly given up to irrational devotional exercises and bigotry. Like her father, she was altogether in the hands of the Jesuits, blindly and unconditionally their servant; such an attachment to a religious order, and such blind devotedness as hers would be quite incredible, if we did not possess her own and her father's autograph letters, as proofs of the fact. We shall present our readers with some extracts from these letters, which are preserved in the archives of the French empire, when we come to speak of the abolition of the order of Jesuits.
As to the enlightened mistresses who had much more power and influence than the queen, Pompadour seemed, as we learn from Marmontel, desirous of participating in the literature of the age and of doing something for its promotion, when she saw how important writers and the influence of the press had become; but partly because both she and the king were altogether destitute of any sense for the beautiful in literature or art, and partly because the better portion of the learned men at the time neither could nor would be pleased with what a Bernis, Dueclos and Marmontel were disposed to be, who undoubtedly received some marks of favor from her. Voltaire is therefore quite right when he lays upon the court the blame of allowing the influence which literature then exercised upon the people, to be withdrawn altogether from king and his ministers, and to be transferred to the hands of the Parisian ladies and farmers-general, &c. Voltaire, in his well-known verses, admits, with great openness and simplicity, that he attached much importance to the applause of a court, although it neither possessed judgment nor feeling for the merits of a writer, nor for poetical beauties; and he complains at the same time that this court had neither duly estimated his tragedies nor his epic poems. It is characteristic both of the court and of Voltaire that he eagerly pressed himself forward for admission to its favor, and sought to attract attention by a work which be himself called a piece of trash, and that the court extended its approbation and applause to this miserable and altogether inappropriate piece, ('La Princesse de Navarre,') which he composed on the occasion of the Dauphin's marriage with the Infanta of Spain, whilst it entirely neglected his masterpieces.
The Paris societies had got full possession of the field of literature, and erected their tribunals before the middle of the century, whilst at Versailles nothing was spoken or thought of except amusements and hunting, Jesuits and processions, and the grossest sensuality prevailed. The members of the Parisian societies were not a whit more moral or decent in their behavior than those about the court at Versailles, but they carried on open war against hypocrisy, and all that was praised and approved of by the court.
We shall now proceed to mention three or four of the most distinguished of those societies, which have obtained an historical importance, not merely for the French literature and mental and moral culture of the eighteenth century, but for Europe in general, without however restraining ourselves precisely within the limits of the half century. The minute accounts which Grimm has given, for the most part affect only the later periods; we turn our attention therefore the rather to what the weak, vain, talkative Marmontel has related to us on the subject in his 'Autobiography,' because Rousseau was by far too one-sided in his notices, and drew public attention to the most demoralized and degraded members of the circle only.
The first lady who must be mentioned, is Madame de Tencin. She belonged to the period within which we must confine ourselves, and she gained for herself such a name, not only in Paris, but in all Europe, that she was almost regarded as the creator of that new literature which stood in direct and bold opposition to the prevailing taste, inasmuch as she received at her house, entertained and cherished, those who were really its originators and supporters. This lady could not boast of the morality of her early years, nor of her respect even for common propriety. She is not only notorious for having exposed, when a child, the celebrated D'Alembert, who was her natural son, and for regarding with indifference his being brought up by the wife of a common glazier as her own son; but stories still worse than even these are told of her. She enriched herself, as many others did, in the time of Law's scheme, by no very creditable means; and fell under such a serious suspicion of having been privy to the death of one of those who had carried on an intrigue with her, that she was imprisoned and involved in a criminal prosecution, from which she escaped, not through her own innocence, but by means of the powerful influence of her distinguished relations and friends.
All this did not prevent Pope Benedict XIV., who, as Cardinal Lambertini, had been often at her house, as a member of the society of men of talents who met there, from carrying on a continual intercourse with her by letter; he also sent her his picture as a testimony of kind remembrance. This lady succeeded in procuring for her brother the dignity of a cardinal, and through him had great weight with Fleury, with the court, and with the city in general; she is also known as an authoress. As we are not writing a history of literature properly speaking, we pass by her novels in silence, with this remark only, that people are accustomed to place the 'Comte de Comminges,' written by Madame de Tencin, on the same footing with the 'Princess de Cleve,' by Madame de Lafayette.
The society in the house of Madame de Tencin consisted of well-known men of learning, and some younger men of distinguished name and family; she united, in later years, a certain amiability with her care for the entertainment and recreation of those whom she had once received into her house. This society, after the death of De Tencin, assembled in the house of Geoffrin. It appears, however, that Madame de Tencin, as well as the whole fashionable world to which she belonged, could never altogether disavow their contempt for science, if indeed it be true, that she was accustomed to call her society by the indecent by-name of her menagerie. Fontenelle, Montesquieu, Mairan, Helvetius who was then quite young and present rather as a hearer than a speaker, Marivaux and Astruc, formed the nucleus of this clever society and led the conversation. Marmontel, who was not well suited to this society, in which more real knowledge and a deeper train of thought was called for than he possessed, informs us what the tone of this society was, and speaks of their hunting after lively conceits and brilliant flashes of wit, in a somewhat contemptuous manner. Marmontel, however, himself admits, that he was only once in the society, and that in order to read his 'Aristomenes,' and that greater simplicity and good humor prevailed there than in the house of Madame Geoffrin, in which he was properly at home.
Madame de Tencin's influence upon the new literature of the opposition party, or rather upon the spirit of the age, may be best judged of from the fact, that she largely contributed to the first preparation and favorable reception of Montesquieu's "Spirit of Laws." It is certain, at least, that she bought a large number of copies and distributed them amongst her friends. Madame Geoffrin went further; the society which had previously met at Madame de Tencin's, no sooner held their reunions in her house, than she drew together the whole literary and the fashionable world, foreign ministers, noblemen and princes who were on their travels, etc. Marmontel also says, that the aged Madame de Tencin had guessed quite correctly the intentions of Madame Geoffrin, when she said, that she merely came to her house so often in order to see what part of her inventory she could afterward make useful.
Madame Geoffrin became celebrated all over Europe, merely by devoting a portion of her income and of her time to the reception of clever society. She had neither the knowledge, the mind, nor the humility of Madame de Tencin, which the latter at least affected toward the close of her life; she was cold, egotistical, calculating, and brought into her circle nothing more than order, tact and female delicacy. Geoffrin also assumed the tone of high life, which always treats men of learning, poets and artists, as if they were mantua-makers or hair-dressers; and which must ever value social tact and the tone which is only to be acquired in good society, higher than all studies and arts upon which any one possessed of these properties is in a condition to pass judgment without having spent any time in their investigation. Marmontel is therefore honest enough to admit that he and his friends, as well as Madame Geoffrin herself, were accustomed to make a full parade when foreign princes, ministers, and celebrated men or women dined at the house. On such occasions especially, Madame Geoffrin displayed all the charms of her mind, and called to us, "now let us be agreeable."
Geoffrin's house was the first school of bon ton in Europe: Stanislaus Poniatowsky, even after he became King of Poland, addressed her by the tender name of mother, invited her to Warsaw, and received her as a personage of high distinction. All the German courts which followed the fashion, paid correspondents in order to be made acquainted with the trifles which occupied that circle. Catherine II. had no sooner mounted the throne than she began to pay a commissioner at this literary court, and even Maria Theresa distinguished Madame Geoffrin in a remarkable manner, on her return from Poland. Besides, we are made acquainted by Marmontel, who ranked his hostess among the gods of this earth, with the anxiety and cautiousness of this lady of the world, who afterward broke altogether with the chiefs of the new literature, and most humbly did homage to the old faith, because she had never wholly forsaken her old prejudices.
The able writers of the time were used by Geoffrin only as means to promote her objects, to gain a reputation for splendor, and to glorify France. The King of Prussia sought her society, in order to refresh and cheer his mind when he was worn out with the cares and toils of government.
Madame Geoffrin opened her house regularly on Mondays for artists, and on Wednesdays for men of learning; but as she neither understood the arts nor sciences, she took part in the conversation only so far as she could do so without exposing her weak side. She understood admirably how to attract the great men to her house, to whose houses she herself very seldom went; and as long as the appearance of fashionable infidelity and of scoffing, which was then the mode in the higher circles, was necessary to this object, she carefully concealed her real religious opinions.
The weak Marmontel, who, according to his own description, was only fitted for superficial conversation and writing, boasts of the prudence, foresight and skill of his protectress, and shows how she understood the way to gain the confidence of others without ever yielding her own. This distinguished art made the house of Madame Geoffrin invaluable to the great world, and to those learned men who wished to shine in this kind of society, and to cultivate and avail themselves of it, for such people must learn above all things neither to say too much nor too little. This society, indeed, was not calculated for any length of time for a Rousseau or a Diderot. Even the great admirers of Geoffrin admit that savoir vivre was her highest knowledge, she had very few ideas with respect to anything besides; but in the knowledge of all that pertained to the manners and usage of good society, in the knowledge of men, and particularly of women, she was deeply learned, and was able to give some very useful instructions.
It would lead us too far into the history of the following period, to enumerate and characterize the members of these regular societies. It may suffice to mention, that in addition to all the guests who frequented Madame de Tencin's, all the friends of Voltaire's school, and at first also Rousseau, made a part of the society at the house of Madame Geoffrin. We have already remarked that no prince, minister, or distinguished man of all Europe came to Paris who did not visit Madame Geoffrin, and think it an honor to be invited to her house, because he there found united all that was exclusively called talent in Europe.
Kaunitz also, who was then only a courtier in Versailles, came to Madame Geoffrin's parties. He was a man who combined in a most surprising manner true philosophy and a deep knowledge of political economy, with the outward appearance of a fop and a trifler. Among the other distinguished men who lived in Paris, Marmontel names with high praise the Abbe Galliani, Caraccioli, who was afterward Neapolitan ambassador, and the Swedish ambassador, Count Creutz.
Marmontel was so much delighted with this society, even at a very advanced age, that he gives us also accounts of their evening parties: "As I was in the habit of dining with the learned and with the artists at Madame Geoffrin's, so was I also of supping with her in her more limited and select circle. At these petits soupers there was no carousing or luxuries,—a fowl, spinach and pancakes constituted the usual fare. The society was not numerous: there met together only five or six of her particular friends, or even persons of the highest rank, who were suited to each other, and therefore enjoyed themselves." It appears distinctly from the passage already quoted from Marmontel, how the high nobility on these occasions treated the learned, and how the learned demeaned themselves toward the nobility. It appears, therefore, that Rousseau was not in error when he alleged that emptiness and wantonness only were cherished in these societies, and that the literature which was then current was only a slow poison.
Madame du Deffant appeared on the stage of the great world contemporaneously with Geoffrin, and attained so high a degree of celebrity, that the Emperor Joseph paid her a visit in her advanced period of life, and thus afforded her the opportunity of paying him that celebrated compliment which is found related in every history of France. With respect to Deffant, however, we must not listen to Marmontel; she stood above his rhymes, his love tales, his sentimental wanton stories, and besides, he knew her only when she had become old. What we Germans name feminine and good morals formed no part of the distinction of Deffant, but talents only. Like Tencin, she was ill-reputed in her youth on account of her amours, and reckoned the Regent among her fortunate wooers; at a later period she turned her attention to literature.
Deffant brought together at her house all those persons whom Voltaire visited when he was in Paris; among these the President Henault, and, at a later period of which we now speak, D'Alembert attracted to this circle distinguished foreigners and Frenchmen, who made any pretensions to culture and education. Deffant assumed quite a different tone among the learned from that of Geoffrin. She set up for a judge in questions of philosophy and taste, and carried on a constant correspondence with Voltaire. Among celebrated foreigners, the Englishman Horace Walpole played the same character in this house which the Swede Creutz had assumed in that of Geoffrin. Deffant and her Walpole became celebrated throughout Europe by their printed correspondence, which, on account of its smoothness and emptiness, like all books written for the great world, found very numerous readers.
Deffant, moreover, like Geoffrin. was faithless to her friends; she wished indeed to enjoy the most perfect freedom in their society, but she was unwilling that they should publish abroad this freedom. And she strongly disapproved of the vehemence with which her friends assailed the existing order of things.
When she afterward lost a considerable part of her property, and became blind, she occupied a small dwelling in an ecclesiastical foundation in Paris, but continued to receive philosophers, poets and artists in her house; and in order to give a little more life to the conversation, she invited a young lady whose circumstances were straitened to be her companion. This was Mademoiselle l'Espinasse. L'Espinasse was not beautiful, but she was young, amiable, lively, and more susceptible than we in Germany are accustomed either to allow or to pardon. Deffant, on the other hand, was witty and intelligent, but old, bitter, and withal egotistically insensible. The boldest scoffers assembled around L'Espinasse, and there was afterward formed around her a circle of her own. Deffant turned day into night, and night into day. She and the Duchess of Luxembourg, who was inseparable from her, received learned distinguished personages and foreigners, from six o'clock in the evening during the greater part of the night.
The importance in which such ladies and such societies were held, not merely in France but in all Europe, may be judged of from the fact, that the breach between Deffant and her young companion was treated in some measure as a public European event. The French minister and foreign ambassadors took part in it, and the whole literary world felt its effect. After this breach there were two tone-giving tribunals for the guidance of public opinion in matters of literature and taste, and their decisions were circulated by letter over all Europe. Horace Walpole, Henault, Montesquieu. Voltaire, whose correspondence with Deffant has been published in the present century, remained true to her cause. D'Alembert, whose correspondence with Deffant, as well as that of the Duchess of Maine, have also been published in our century, went over to L'Espinasse. This academician, whose name and influence was next in importance to that of Voltaire, formed the nucleus of a new society in the house of L'Espinasse, and was grievously tormented by his inamorata, who pursued one plan of conquest after another when she saw one scheme of marriage after another fail of success. It appears from the whole of the transactions and consequences connected with this breach, however surprising it may be, that this formation of a new circle in Paris for evening entertainment may be with truth compared to the institution of a new academy for the promotion of European culture and refinement. The Duchess of Luxembourg, who continued to be a firm friend of Deffant, took upon herself to provide suitable apartments for the society, whilst the minister of the day (the Duc de Choiseul) prevailed upon the king to grant a pension of no inconsiderable amount to L'Espinasse.
This new circle was the point of union for all the philosophical reformers. Here D'Alembert and Diderot led the conversation; and the renowned head of the political economists, Tuergot, who was afterward minister of state, was a member of this bolder circle of men who became celebrated and ill-renowned under the name of Encyclopaedists. We shall enter upon a fuller consideration of the tone and taste which reigned in this assembly, as well as in the society which met in the house of Holbach, and of the history of the Encyclopaedia, in the following period, and shall only now mention at the conclusion of the present, and that very slightly, some of the other clever societies of Parisians who were all in their day celebrated in Europe. It is scarcely possible for us to judge of the charm which these societies possessed in the great world. This may be best learned from their own writings and conversation, a specimen of which may be found in Marmontel's 'Memoirs,' and formed the subject of a conversation between him and the Duke of Brunswick (who fell at Jena in 1806) and his duchess.
The society of beaux esprits which met at the house of Madame de Popliniere, in the time of Madame de Tencin, was only short-lived, like the good fortune of the lady herself. In her house there assembled members of the great world who were addicted to carousing and debauchery, and learned men who sought to obtain their favor and approbation. The same sort of society was afterward kept up in the house of Holbach. A smaller society, which frequented the house of the farmer-general Pelletier, consisted of unmarried people, who were known as persons who indulged in malicious and licentious conversation. Colle, the younger Crebillon and Bernard, who, notwithstanding his helplessness, was called le gentil, played the chief characters in this reunion, and the Gascon nature of Marmontel, which was always forward and intrusive, helped him into this society also. Baron Holbach, who was a native of the Palatinate, and the able Helvetius who was wanton merely from vanity, brought together expressly and intentionally at a later period, around their well-spread table, all those who declared open war against religion and morality. We must, however, return to these men in the following period.
Holbach for a whole quarter of a century had regular dinner-parties on Sundays, which are celebrated in the history of atheism. All those were invited, who were too bold and too out-spoken for Geoffrin; and even D'Alembert also at a later period withdrew from their society.
Grimm, whose copious correspondence has also been published in the nineteenth century, gives minutes and notices of all the memorable sayings and doings that served to entertain and occupy the polite world in Europe. Grimm also entertained and feasted these distinguished gentlemen. He was not at that time consul for Gotha, or employed and paid by that court or the Empress Catherine to collect Parisian anecdotes, neither had he then been made a baron, but was merely civil secretary of Count von Friese. Both J.J. Rousseau and Buffon belonged at first to these societies; but the former, in great alarm, broke off all intercourse with the people who then played the first parts in Paris, and the other quietly retired.
[Footnote 1: Mon Henri quatre et ma Zaire, Et mon Americaine Alzire, Ne m'ont valu jamais un seul regard du roi; J'eus beaucoup d'ennemis avec tres-peu de gloire. Les honneurs et les biens pleuvent enfin sur moi Pour une farce de la foire.—La Princesse de Navarro.]
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THE ATHENAEUM UPON HAWTHORNE.
The London Athenaeum, of the 15th June, has the following remarks upon the last work of NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE:
"This is a most powerful and painful story. Mr. Hawthorne must be well known to our readers as a favorite of the Athenaeum. We rate him as among the most original and peculiar writers of American fiction. There in his works a mixture of Puritan reserve and wild imagination, of passion and description, of the allegorical and the real, which some will fail to understand, and which others will positively reject,—but which, to ourselves, is fascinating, and which entitles him to be placed on a level with Brockden Brown and the author of 'Rip Van Winkle.' 'The Scarlet Letter' will increase his reputation with all who do not shrink from the invention of the tale; but this, as we have said, is more than ordinarily painful. When we have announced that the three characters are a guilty wife, openly punished for her guilt,—her tempter, whom she refuses to unmask, and who during the entire story carries a fair front and an unblemished name among his congregation,—and her husband, who, returning from a long absence at the moment of her sentence, sits himself down betwixt the two in the midst of a small and severe community to work out his slow vengeance on both under the pretext of magnanimous forgiveness,—when we have explained that 'The Scarlet Letter' is the badge of Hester Prynne's shame, we ought to add that we recollect no tale dealing with crime so sad and revenge so subtly diabolical, that is at the same time so clear of fever and of prurient excitement. The misery of the woman is as present in every page as the heading which in the title of the romance symbolizes her punishment. Her terrors concerning her strange elvish child present retribution in a form which is new and natural:—her slow and painful purification through repentance is crowned by no perfect happiness, such as awaits the decline of those who have no dark and bitter past to remember. Then, the gradual corrosion of heart of Dimmesdale, the faithless priest, under the insidious care of the husband, (whose relationship to Hester is a secret known only to themselves,) is appalling; and his final confession and expiation are merely a relief, not a reconciliation. We are by no means satisfied that passions and tragedies like these are the legitimate subjects for fiction: we are satisfied that novels such as 'Adam Blair,' and plays such as 'The Stranger,' maybe justly charged with attracting more persons than they warn by their excitement. But if Sin and Sorrow in their most fearful forms are to be presented in any work of art, they have rarely been treated with a loftier severity, purity, and sympathy than in Mr. Hawthorne's 'Scarlet Letter.' The touch of the fantastic befitting a period of society in which ignorant and excitable human creatures conceived each other and themselves to be under the direct 'rule and governance' of the Wicked One, is most skillfully administered. The supernatural here never becomes grossly palpable:—the thrill is all the deeper for its action being indefinite, and its source vague and distant."
[Footnote 2: The Scarlet Letter: a Romance. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. Boston: Ticknor & Co.]
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The Emperor Nicholas has just published an ordonnance, which regulates the pensions to which Russian and foreign actors at the imperial theaters at St. Petersburgh shall be entitled. This ordonnance divides the actors (national as well as foreign) into four classes. The first class obtains, after twenty years' service, pensions averaging from 300 to 1140 silver rubles. The others, after fifteen years' service, will receive pensions from 285 to 750 silver rubles.
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CHEMICALLY AND PHYSIOLOGICALLY CONSIDERED.—Each hair is a tube, containing an oil, of a color similar to its own. Hair contains at least ten distinct substances: sulphate of lime and magnesia, chlorides of sodium and potassium, phosphate of lime, peroxide of iron, silica, lactate of ammonia, oxide of manganese and margaim. Of these, sulphur is the most prominent, and it is upon this that certain metallic salts operate in changing the color of hair. Thus when the salts of lead or of mercury are applied, they enter into combination with the sulphur, and a black sulphuret of the metal is formed. A common formula for a paste to dye the hair, is a mixture of litharge, slacked lime, and bicarbonate of potash. Different shades may be given by altering the proportions of these articles. Black hair contains iron and manganese and no magnesia; while fair hair is destitute of the two first substances, but possesses magnesia.
No one ever possessed all the requisites of masculine or feminine beauty without a profusion of hair. This is one of the crowning perfections of the human form, upon which poets of all ages have dwelt with the most untiring satisfaction. However perfect a woman may be in other respects; however beautiful her eyes, her mouth, teeth, lips, nose or cheeks; however brilliant her expression, in conversation or excitement, she is positively disagreeable without this ornament of nature. The question is sometimes asked, "What will cure love?" We answer, scissors. Let the object be shorn of hair, and you may take the word of a physiologist, that the tender passion will lose its distinctiveness; it may subside into respect: it is more likely to change into a less agreeable emotion.
In man, the hair is an excellent index of character. As the beard distinguishes man from woman, so its full and luxuriant growth often indicates strength and nobleness, intellectual and physical; while a meager beard suggests an uncertain character—part masculine, part feminine. Was there ever a truly great man, or one with a generous disposition, with a thin beard and a weazen face? On the other hand, show me a man with "royal locks," and I will trust his natural impulses in almost every vicissitude. When we see a genuine man, upon whom Nature has declined to set this seal of her approval, we cannot help an involuntary emotion of admiration for the virtuous and persevering energy with which he must have overcome his destiny.
Pertinent hereto: we have read with unusual satisfaction the arguments for Beards in Dr. Marcy's Theory and Practice of Medicine and the pleasant essays in the same behalf which John Waters has printed in the Knickerbocker. Our conservatism yields before these reformers, who would bring custom to the proprieties of nature.
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WHAT'S IN A NAME?—A good deal, sometimes. Thus, the truth of the adage of "give a dog a bad name," &c., has lately been exemplified in a singular manner. Eugene Sue, you may remember, causes some of the most terrible events in the Mysteres de Paris to occur in the Allee des Venves, a fine avenue in the Champs Elysees. This has had the effect of giving the unfortunate Allee—though as quiet, modest, well-behaved, moral street as need be—a detestable reputation; people have shunned it as if it were a cavern of cutthroats—those condemned to live in it have felt themselves quasi-infamous—its rents have fallen, its shops stood empty, its business has dwindled away. The owners of its houses, and its few remaining inhabitants and shopkeepers, have for months past been pestering the municipality of Paris to devise means of restoring its fallen prosperity, and removing the monstrous stigma attached to it. At last, moved by compassion, the municipality has given permission to have the name changed to "Avenue de Montaigne." The ex-Allee, says the writer who informs us of the circumstance, is in great jubilation, and is crying with enthusiasm "Je suis sauvee!"
* * * * *
"NAMES HIGH INSCRIBED."—It is stated that the names of nearly every distinguished man in every department of literature and science, from the remotest antiquity down to the present time, are inscribed in letters of gold on the outside of the new Bibliotheque de Sainte Genevieve, which is now rapidly approaching completion. The list is naturally one of tremendous length, and covers not less than three whole sides of the vast building. It is impossible not to admire the spirit in which it has been devised, and the impartiality with which it has been executed. Altogether, it does the highest credit to the Parisians, and especially to their municipal authorities. The names are arranged in chronological order, but without date, and without regard to the nationality of, or to the peculiar distinction achieved by the individual; thus the two last names are those of Berzelius, the Swedish savant, and Chateaubriand; and a little above them figures Walter Scott, Byron, and other English immortals. Living celebrities are of course excluded.
* * * * *
MR. HARTLEY, a benevolent English gentleman, directed in his will that L200 should be set apart as a prize for the best essay on Emigration, and appointed the American Minister trustee of the fund. The Vice Chancellor has decided that the bequest is void, for the reason that such an essay would encourage people to emigrate to the United States, and so to throw off their allegiance to the Queen! Another decision equally wise was made at the same time in regard to a prize for a treatise on Natural Theology. The learned Vice Chancellor regarded it as calculated to "subvert the Church."
* * * * *
* * * * *
ROBERT EGLESFELD GRIFFITH, M.D., died in Philadelphia, on the 27th ult., in the fifty-third year of his age. Dr. Griffith possessed fine talents; in addition to a thorough knowledge of his profession, he was familiar with most of the branches of natural science, while in botany and conchology he stood second to few in this country; and his social and moral qualities were of the highest order. He filled in succession the chairs of Materia Medica and Pharmacy in the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy; of Materia Medica, Therapeutics, Hygiene, and Medical Jurisprudence in the University of Virginia. Whilst laboring in the latter station his health failed him, and he was induced to seek a winters residence in the West Indies in hopes of its restoration. It became evident, however, that his health was permanently broken, and for the last four years he has resided in his native city, Though suffering much, his energy and industry never flagged: and he has given the results of his labors in his Medical Botany and his Universal Formulary, two works which will secure him a permanent reputation. He also enriched by his annotations a number of works republished in this country, among which we may mention Christison's Dispensatory, Taylor's Medical Jurisprudence, Ryan's Medical Jurisprudence, Ballard and Garrod's Materia Medica.
* * * * *
F. MANSELL REYNOLDS, the eldest son of the late F. Reynolds, the dramatic author, died recently at Fontainebleau. He was long intimate with and favorably known to literary circles in England, counting such men as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Bernal, Lockhart, Hook, and many others, among his personal friends. As the editor of "Heath's Keepsake," when it started, he proved himself a person of taste and ability. He was also the author of "Miserrimus," which excited a considerable sensation when published, and of one or two other works of fiction, which, together with his contributions to several serials, displayed much variety of talent.
* * * * *
JOHN ROBY, author of "Traditions of Lancashire," and other works, which have been as popular as any of their class, is mentioned as one of the persons lost in the "Orion" steamer. Mr. Roby was long a banker in Rochdale, and partner of Mr. Fielden, and though an excellent man of business, his mind was deeply interested in literary pursuits and in cultivating the friendly intercourse of literary men.
* * * * *
Prof. CANSTATT, of the University of Erlangen, died on the 10th of March, after a long and painful illness. Dr. C. was one of the most distinguished physicians of our times, and had won for himself a lasting reputation by his work on the diseases of old age.
* * * * *
* * * * *
The following graphic picture of domestic happiness in humble life, was written by Townsend Haines, Esq., late Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and now Register of the Treasury, at Washington. Mr. Haines is an eloquent and accomplished lawyer, with fine capacities for literature, to which it may be regretted that he has recently given so little attention.
I once knew a plowman, Bob Fletcher his name, Who was old and was ugly, and so was his dame; Yet they lived quite contented, and free from all strife, Bob Fletcher the plowman, and Judy his wife.
As the morn streaked the east, and the night fled away They would rise up for labor, refreshed for the day, And the song of the lark, as it rose on the gale, Found Bob at the plow, and his wife at the pail.
A neat little cottage in front of a grove, Where in youth they first gave their young hearts up to love, Was the solace of age, and to them doubly dear, As it called up the past, with a smile or a tear.
Each tree had its thought, and the vow could impart, That mingled in youth, the warm wish of the heart: The thorn was still there, and the blossoms it bore, And the song from its top seemed the same as before.
When the curtain of night over nature was spread, And Bob had returned from the plow to his shed, Like the dove on her nest, he reposed from all care, If his wife and his youngsters contented were there.
I have passed by his door when the evening was gray, And the hill and the landscape were fading away, And have heard from the cottage, with grateful surprise, The voice of thanksgiving, like incense arise.
And I thought on the proud, who look down with scorn, On the neat little cottage, the grove and the thorn, And felt that the riches and tinsels of life, Were dross, to contentment, with Bob and his wife.
* * * * *
[FROM DICKENS'S HOUSEHOLD WORDS.]
A lamb strayed for the first time into the woods, and excited much discussion among the other animals. In a mixed company, one day, when he became the subject of a friendly gossip, the goat praised him.
"Pooh!" said the lion, "this is too absurd. The beast is a pretty beast enough, but did you hear him roar? I heard him roar, and, by the manes of my fathers, when he roars he does nothing but cry ba-a-a!" And the lion bleated his best in mockery, but bleated far from well.
"Nay," said the deer, "I do not think so badly of his voice. I liked him well enough until I saw him leap. He kicks with his hind legs in running and, with all his skipping, gets over very little ground."
"It is a bad beast altogether," said the tiger. "He cannot roar, he cannot run, he can do nothing—and what wonder? I killed a man yesterday, and, in politeness to the new comer, offered him a bit; upon which he had the impudence to look disgusted, and say, 'No, sir, I eat nothing but grass.'"
So the beasts criticized the lamb, each in his own way; and yet it was a good lamb, nevertheless.
* * * * *
AUTHORS AND BOOKS.
* * * * *
E.P. WHIPPLE was the Fourth of July orator of the city of Boston. The Morning Post says, "his ability is so agile, elegant, and hilarious, that his readers generally do not discern the profundity and comprehensiveness of his nature or the progressive power of thought manifested in his writings. We await impatiently the publication of his late oration. It will be an apt opportunity, by the way, to compare Mr. E. Everett with him, each having just spoken on a similar national occasion. His level, 'fairspoken, immaculate regularity' will contrast widely with the bold, vital vigor and originality of Mr. W. No man of constitutional timidity, feeble will, and shallow thought can ever have a real right to the title of orator. Men of minds cultivated overmuch, and elaborately trained, are apt to lack central spiritual vitality, as some fruits grown to great size by art of the gardener fail of their native flavor, become insipid, and even hollow at the center."
* * * * *
THE "HISTORY OF RELIGION," by the celebrated John Evelyn, author of "Sylva," &c., now first published from the original MS. in the Library at Wotton, with notes by the Rev. R.M. Evanson, is among the books announced by Colburn, for the first of July. The journals, in anticipation, express some curiosity upon the subject, whether it be pedantic, orthodox, and trimming, like the author, or whether it contain any of the Chubb and Toland spirit. Two new and important works, ethically related to this, have just been issued; the one in France, called Qu'est-ce que la Religion, d'apres la Nouvelle Philosophie Allemande, wherein Feuerbach's daring evolutions of Hegel's principles are translated for the benefit of those who cannot read German; the other, called The Progress of Intellect, showing the various developments of religious ideas through history.
* * * * *
LEIGH HUNT, it is apprehended, will be appointed laureate. The Athenaeum objects, and we think very properly urges, that if the office is to be continued, it should be given to the finest living poet of her Majesty's own sex, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This appropriation of the laurel would in a manner recompense two poets by a single act.
* * * * *
Mr. ROBERT LEMON, of the State Paper Office, to whom we are indebted for the discovery of the MS. of Milton's Treatise on Christian Doctrine, is to be editor of an extensive publication of Calendars of the Domestic Papers in possession of the Government, from the reign of Edward the Sixth to the close of the reign of Elizabeth. The Athenaeum suggests that it will be of great advantage to the literary world for its important documents illustrative of facts and manners.
* * * * *
Dr. GUTZLAFF, who is preaching at Berlin and Potsdam on behalf of the Chinese mission, lately introduced into the closing prayer of the service, at the garrison church at the latter place, besides the name of the King and the royal family, a supplication for his Emperor of China, and the ministers and people of that nation. Dr. Gutzlaff expresses a confident hope that the Emperor of Japan will become converted to Christianity.
* * * * *
MEETINGS have been held at the house of Mr. Justice Coleridge, in London, at which a committee has been formed, with the Bishop of London at its head, to initiate a subscription to do honor to the memory of the poet Wordsworth, by placing a whole length effigy of him in Westminster Abbey, and, if the funds suffice, by erecting a monument to his memory near Grassmere.
* * * * *
Mr. E.G. SQUIER, our Charge d'Affaires to Central America, is now in New York, and will soon publish an essay upon the antiquities of that country, similar in design, probably, to his important volume on the remains of ancient works in the valley of the Mississippi, printed for the Smithsonian Institute.
* * * * *
FRANCIS BOWEN, the editor of the North American Review, has been appointed Professor of History and Political Economy in Harvard College, and it is understood that the Latin Professorship, made vacant by the resignation of Dr. Beck, will be tendered to Mr. George M. Lane, now in Europe.
* * * * *
THE FRENCH ACADEMY has decreed to M. Emile Augier, the author of Gabrielle, the prize of seven thousand francs, for the best dramatic work inculcating principles of rectitude and morality.
* * * * *
CHARLES LUCIEN BONAPARTE (Prince of Canino) is now at Berlin, where he occupies himself exclusively with scientific pursuits, and the society of learned men.
* * * * *
THE UNIVERSITY OF DURHAM has conferred the honorary degree of M.A. on Robert Stephenson, and on Mr. Henry Taylor, the author of "Philip Van Artevelde."
* * * * *
JOHN G. SAXE has been elected by the Mercantile Library Association of Montreal, to deliver the poem at the opening of their winter course of lectures.
* * * * *
THE SULTAN of Turkey has granted to the Princess Belgioiso, for herself and the Italian emigrants, some extensive tracts of land on the gulf of Nicomedia.
* * * * *
THE NEW OPERA, on which M. Strakosch is now engaged, is to be called La Regina di Napoli. The plot is taken from the history of the unfortunate Queen Joana of Sicily, and abounds in scenes of dramatic interest.
* * * * *
[FROM THE DUBLIN UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE FOR JULY.]
THE OLD MAN'S BEQUEST;
A STORY OF GOLD.
Through the ornamented grounds of a handsome country residence, at a little distance from a large town in Ireland, a man of about fifty years of age was walking with a bent head, and the impress of sorrow on his face.
"Och, yer honor, give me one sixpence, or one penny, for God's sake," cried a voice from the other side of a fancy paling which separated the grounds in that quarter from a thoroughfare. "For heaven's sake, Mr. Lawson, help me as ye helped me before. I know you've the heart and the hand to do it."
The person addressed as Mr. Lawson looked up and saw a woman whom he knew to be in most destitute circumstances, burdened with a large and sickly family, whom she had struggled to support until her own health was ruined.
"I have no money—not one farthing," answered John Lawson.
"No money!" reiterated the woman, in surprise: "isn't it all yours, then?—isn't this garden yours, and that house, and all the grand things that are in it yours?—ay, and grand things they are—them pictures, and them bright shinin' things in that drawing-room of yours; and sure you deserve them well, and may God preserve them long to you, for riches hasn't hardened your heart, though there's many a one, and heaven knows the gold turns their feelin's to iron."
"It all belongs to my son, Henry Lawson, and Mrs. Lawson, and their children—it is all theirs," he sighed heavily, and deep emotion was visible in every lineament of his thin and wrinkled face.
The poor woman raised her blood-shot eyes to his face, as if she was puzzled by his words. She saw that he was suffering, and with intuitive delicacy she desisted from pressing her wants, though her need was great.
"Well, well, yer honor, many's the good penny ye have given me and the childer, and maybe the next time I see you you'll have more change."
She was turning sadly away, when John Lawson requested her to remain, and he made inquiries into the state of her family; the report he heard seemed to touch him even to the forgetfulness of his own sorrows; he bade her stop for a few moments and he would give her some relief.
He walked rapidly toward the house and proceeded to the drawing-room. It was a large and airy apartment, and furnished with evident profusion; the sunlight of the bright summer-day, admitted partially through the amply-draperied windows, lit up a variety of sparkling gilding in picture-frames, and vases, and mirrors, and cornices; but John Lawson looked round on the gay scene with a kind of shudder; he had neither gold, silver, nor even copper in his pocket, or in his possession.
He advanced to a lady who reclined on a rose-colored sofa, with a fashionable novel in her hand, and after some slight hesitation he addressed her, and stating the name and wants of the poor woman who had begged for aid, he requested some money.
As he said the words "some money," his lips quivered, and a tremor ran through his whole frame, for his thoughts were vividly picturing a recently departed period, when he was under no necessity of asking money from any individual.
"Bless me, my dear Mr. Lawson!" cried the lady, starting up from her recumbent position, "did I not give you a whole handful of shillings only the day before yesterday; and if you wasted it all on poor people since, what am I to do? Why, indeed, we contribute so much to charitable subscriptions, both Mr. Lawson and I, you might be content to give a little less to common beggars."
Mrs. Lawson spoke with a smile on her lips, and with a soft caressing voice, but a hard and selfish nature shone palpably from her blue eyes. She was a young woman, and had the repute of beauty, which a clear pink-and-white complexion, and tolerable features, with luxuriant light hair, generally gains from a portion of the world. She was dressed for the reception of morning visitors whom she expected, and she was enveloped in expensive satin and blond, and jewelry in large proportions.
John Lawson seemed to feel every word she had uttered in the depths of his soul, but he made a strong effort to restrain the passion which was rising to his lips.
"Augusta, my daughter, you are the wife of my only and most beloved child—I wish to love you—I wish to live in peace with you, and all—give me some money to relieve the wants of the unfortunate woman to whom I have promised relief, and who is waiting without. I ask not for myself, but for the poor and suffering—give me a trifle of money, I say."
"Indeed, Mr. Lawson, a bank would not support your demands for the poor people; that woman for whom you are begging has been relieved twenty times by us. I have no money just now."
She threw herself back on the sofa, and resumed her novel; but anger, darting from her eyes, contrasted with the trained smile which still remained on her lips.
A dark shade of passion and scorn came over John Lawson's face, but he strove to suppress it, and his voice was calm when he spoke.
"Some time before my son married you, I gave up all my business to him—I came to live here amongst trees and flowers—I gave up all the lucrative business I had carried on to my son, partly because my health was failing, and I longed to live with nature, away from the scenes of traffic; but more especially because I loved my son with no common love, and I trusted to him as to a second self. I was not disappointed—we had one purse and one heart before he married you; he never questioned me concerning what I spent in charity—he never asked to limit in any way my expenditure—he loved you, and I made no conditions concerning what amount of income I was to receive, but still I left him in entire possession of my business when he married you. I trusted to your fair, young face, that you would not controvert my wishes—that you would join me in my schemes of charity."
"And have I not?" interrupted Mrs. Lawson, in a sharp voice, though the habitual smile still graced her lips; "do I not subscribe to, I don't know how many, charitable institutions? Charity, indeed—there's enough spent in charity by myself and my husband. But I wish to stop extravagance—it is only extravagance to spend so much on charity as you would do if you could; therefore, you shall not have any money just now."
Mrs. Lawson was one of those women who can cheerfully expend a most lavish sum on a ball, a dress, or any other method by which rank and luxury dissipate their abundance, but who are very economical, and talk much of extravagance when money is demanded for purposes not connected with display or style.
"Augusta Lawson, listen to me"—his voice quivering with passion—"my own wants are very few; in food, in clothes, in all points my expenditure is trifling. I am not extravagant in my demands for the poor, either. All I have expended in charity during the few years since you came here, is but an insignificant amount as contrasted with the income which I freely gave up to my son and you; therefore, some money for the poor woman who is waiting, I shall now have; give me some shillings, for God's sake, and let me go." He advanced closer to her, and held out his hand.
"Nonsense!" cried Mrs. Lawson; "I am mistress, here—I am determined to stop extravagance. You give too much to common beggars; I am determined to stop it—do not ask me any further."
A kind of convulsion passed over John Lawson's thin face; but he pressed his hand closely on his breast, and was silent for some moments.
"I was once rich, I believe. Yes—it is not a dream," he said, in a slow, self-communing voice. "Gold and silver, once ye were plenty with me; my hands—my pockets were filled—guineas, crowns, shillings—now I have not one penny to give to that starving, dying woman, whose face of misery might soften the very stones she looks on—not one penny."
"Augusta," he said, turning suddenly toward her, after a second pause of silence, "give me only one shilling, and I shall not think of the bitter words you have just said."
"No; not one shilling," answered Mrs. Lawson, turning over a leaf of her novel.
"One sixpence, then—one small, poor sixpence. You do not know how even a sixpence can gladden the black heart of poverty when starvation is come. One sixpence, I say—let me have it quickly."
"Not one farthing I shall give you. I do beg you will trouble me no further."
Mrs. Lawson turned her back partially to him, and fixed all her attention on the novel.
"Woman! I have cringed and begged; I would not so beg for myself, from you—no: I would lie down and die of want before I would, on my own account, request of you—of your hard heart—one bit of bread. All the finery that surrounds you is mine—it was purchased with my money, though now you call it yours; and, usurping the authority of both master and mistress here, you—in what you please to call your economical management—dole out shillings to me when the humor seizes you, or refuse me, as now, when it pleases you. But, woman, listen to me. I shall never request you for one farthing of money again. No necessity of others shall make me do it. You shall never again refuse me, for I shall never give you the opportunity."
He turned hastily from the room, with a face on which the deep emotion of an aroused spirit was depicted strongly.
In the lobby he met his son, Henry Lawson. The young man paused, something struck by the excited appearance of his father.
"Henry," said the father, abruptly, "I want some money; there is a poor woman whom I wish to relieve—will you give me some money for her?"
"Willingly, my dear father; but have you asked Augusta? You know I have given her the management of the money-matters of the establishment, she is so very clever and economical."
"She has neither charity, nor pity, nor kindness; she saves from me—she saves from the starving poor—she saves, that she may waste large sums on parties and dresses. I shall never more ask her for money—give me a few shillings. My God! the father begs of the son for what was his own—for what he toiled all his youth—for what he gave up out of trusting love to that son. Henry, my son, I am sick of asking and begging—ay, sick—sick; but give me some shillings now."
"You asked Augusta, then," said Henry, drawing out his purse, and glancing with some apprehension to the drawing-room door.
"Henry," cried Mrs. Lawson, appearing at that instant with a face inflamed with anger—"Henry, I would not give your father any money to-day, because he is so very extravagant in giving it all away."
Henry was in the act of opening his purse; he glanced apprehensively to Mrs. Lawson; his face had a mild and passive expression, which was a true index of his yielding and easily-governed nature. His features were small, delicate, and almost effeminately handsome; and in every lineament a want of decision and force of character was visible.
"Henry, give me some shillings, I say—I am your father—I have a just right."
"Yes, yes, surely" said Henry, making a movement to open his purse.
"Henry, I do not wish you to give him money to waste in charity, as he calls it."
Mrs. Lawson gave her husband an emphatic, but, at the same time, cunningly caressing and smiling look.
"Henry, I am your father—give me the money I want."
"Augusta, my love, you know it was all his," said Henry, going close to her, and speaking in a kind of whisper.
"My dearest Henry, were it for any other purpose but for throwing away, I would not refuse. I am your father's best friend, and your best friend, in wishing to restrain all extravagance."
"My dear father, she wishes to be economical, you know."
He dangled the purse, undecidedly, in his fingers.
"Will you give me the money at once, and let me go?" cried John Lawson, elevating his voice.
"My dear Augusta, it is better—"
"Henry, do not, I beg of you."
"Henry, my son, will you let me have the money?"
Mrs. Lawson articulated but the one word; there was enough of energy and determination in it to make her husband close the purse he had almost opened.
"I ask you only this once more—give me the few shillings?"
John Lawson bent forward in an eager manner; a feverish red kindled on his sallow cheeks; his eyes were wildly dilated, and his lips compressed. There was a pause of some moments.
"You will not give it me?" he said, in a voice deep-toned and singularly calm, as contrasted with his convulsed face.
Henry dangled the purse again in his hand, and looked uneasily and irresolutely toward his wife.
"No, he will not give it—you will get no money to squander on poor people this day," Mrs. Lawson said, in a very sharp and decided voice.
John Lawson did not say another word; he turned away and slowly descended the stairs, and walked out of the house.
He did not return that evening. He had been seen on the road leading to the house of a relative who was in rather poor circumstances. Henry felt rather annoyed at his fathers absence; he had no depth in his affection, but he had been accustomed to see him and hear his voice every day, and therefore he missed him, but consoled himself with the thought that they would soon meet again, as it never entered his imagination that his father had quitted the house for a lengthened period. Mrs. Lawson felicitated herself on the event, and hoped that the old man would remain for some time with his relative.
The following day a letter was handed to Henry; it was from his father, and was as follows:
"TO MY SON HENRY—I have at last come to the resolution of quitting your house, which I can no longer call mine, in even the least degree. For weeks—for months—ever since you married—ever since your wife took upon herself what she calls the management of your house and purse, I have felt bound down under the weight of an oppressive bondage. I could not go and take a pound or a shilling from our common stock, as I used to do before you married, when you and I lived in one mind, and when I believed that the very spirit of your departed, your angel mother, dwelt in you, as you had, and have still, her very face and form. No, no, we had no common stock when you married. She put me on an allowance—ay, an allowance. You lived, and saw me receiving an allowance; you whom I loved with an idolatry which God has now punished; you to whom I freely gave up my business—my money-making business. I gave it you—I gave all to you—I would have given my very life and soul to you, because I thought that with your mother's own face you had her noble and generous nature. You were kind before you married; but that marriage has proved your weakness and want of natural affection. Yes, you stood at my side yesterday; you looked on my face—I, the father who loved you beyond all bounds of fatherly love—you stood and heard me beg for a few shillings; you heard me supplicate earnestly and humbly, and you would not give because your wife was not willing. Henry, I could force you to give me a share of the profits of your business; but keep it—keep it all. You would not voluntarily give me some shillings, and I shall not demand what right and justice would give me. Keep all, every farthing.
"It was for charity I asked the few shillings; you know it. You know from whom I imbibed whatever I possess of the blessed spirit of charity. I was as hard and unpitying as even your wife before your mother taught me to feel and relieve the demands of poverty. Yes, and she taught you; you cannot forget it. She taught you to give food to the starving, in your earliest days. She strove to impress your infant mind with the very soul of charity; and yesterday she looked down from the heaven of the holy departed, and saw you refusing me, your father, a few shillings to bestow on charity.
"Henry, I can live with you and your wife no more. I should grow avaricious in my old age, were I to remain with you. I should long for money to call my own. Those doled out shillings which I received wakened within me feelings of a dark nature—covetousness, and envy, and discontent—which must have shadowed the happiness of your mother in heaven to look down upon. I must go and seek out an independent living for myself, even yet, though I am fifty-two. Though my energies for struggling with the world died, I thought, when your mother died, and, leaving my active business to you, I retired to live in the country, I must go forth again, as if I were young, to seek for the means of existence, for I feel I was not made to be a beggar—a creature hanging on the bounty of others; no, no, the merciful God will give me strength yet to provide for myself, though I am old, and broken down in mind and body. Farewell; you who were once my beloved son, may God soften and amend your heart."
When Henry perused this letter, he would immediately have gone in search of his father, in order to induce him to return home; but Mrs. Lawson was at his side, and succeeded in persuading him to allow his father to act as he pleased, and remain away as long as he wished.
* * * * *
Ten years rolled over our world, sinking millions beneath the black waves of adverse fortune and fate, and raising the small number who, of the innumerable aspirants for earthly good, usually succeed. Henry Lawson was one of those whom time had lowered in fortune. His business speculations had, for a lengthened period, been rather unsuccessful, while Mrs. Lawson's expensive habits increased every day. At length affairs came to such a crisis, that retrenchment or failure was inevitable. Henry had enough of wisdom and spirit to insist on the first alternative, and Mrs. Lawson was compelled by the pressure of circumstances to yield in a certain degree; the country-house, therefore, was let, Mrs. Lawson assigning as a reason, that she had lost all relish for the country after the death of her dear children, both of whom had died, leaving the parents childless.
It was the morning of a close sultry day in July, and Mrs. Lawson was seated in her drawing-room. She was dressed carefully and expensively as of old, but she had been dunned and threatened at least half-a-dozen times for the price of the satin dress she wore. Her face was thin and pale, and there was a look of much care on her countenance; her eyes were restless and sunken, and discontent spoke in their glances as she looked on the chairs, sofas, and window-draperies, which had once been bright-colored, but were now much faded. She had just come to the resolution of having new covers and hangings, though their mercer's and upholsterer's bills were long unsettled, when a visitor was shown into the room. It was Mrs. Thompson, the wife of a very prosperous and wealthy shopkeeper.
Mrs. Lawson's thin lips wreathed themselves into bright smiles of welcome, whilst the foul demon took possession of her soul. Mrs. Thompson's dress was of the most costly French satin, whilst hers was merely British manufacture. They had been old school companions and rivals in their girlish days. During the first years of the married life of each, Mrs. Lawson had outshone Mrs. Thompson in every respect; but now the eclipsed star beamed brightly and scornfully beside the clouds which had rolled over her rival. Mrs. Thompson was, in face and figure, in dress and speech, the very impersonation of vulgar and ostentatious wealth.
"My goodness, it's so hot!" she said, loosening the fastening of her bonnet, the delicate French blond and white satin and plume, of which that fabric was composed, contrasting rather painfully at the same time with her flushed mahogany-colored complexion, and ungracefully-formed features. "Bless me, I'm so glad we'll get off to our country-house to-morrow. It's so very delightful, Mrs. Lawson, to have a country residence to go to. Goodness me, what a close room, and such a hot, dusty street. It does just look so queer to me after Fitzherbert-square."
To this Mrs. Lawson made a response as composed as she could; she would have retorted bitterly and violently, but her husband had a connection with the Thompson establishment, and for strong reasons she considered it prudent to refrain from quarreling with Mrs. Thompson. She therefore spoke but very little, and Mrs. Thompson was left at full liberty to give a lengthened detail of Mr. Thompson's great wealth and her own great profusion. She began first with herself, and furnished an exact detail of all the fine things she had purchased in the last month, down to the latest box of pins. Next, her babies occupied her for half an hour—the quantity of chicken they consumed, and the number of frocks they soiled per diem were minutely chronicled. Then her house came under consideration: she depicted the bright glory of the new ponceau furniture, as contrasted with shocking old faded things—and she glanced significantly toward Mrs. Lawson's sofas and chairs. Next she made a discursive detour to the culinary department, and gave a statement of the number of stones of lump sugar she was getting boiled in preserves, and of the days of the week in which they had puddings, and the days they had pies at dinner.
"But, Mrs. Lawson dear, have you seen old Mr. Lawson since he came home?" she said, when she was rising to depart: "but I suppose you haven't, for they say he won't have anything to do with his relations now—he won't come near you I have heard. They say he has brought such a lot of money with him from South America."
At this intelligence every feature of Mrs. Lawson's face brightened with powerful interest. She inquired where Mr. Lawson stopped, and was informed that he had arrived at the best hotel in town about three days previously, and that every one talked of the large fortune he had made abroad, as he seemed to make no secret of the fact.
A burning eagerness to obtain possession of that money entered Mrs. Lawson's soul, and she thought every second of time drawn out to the painful duration of a long hour, while Mrs. Thompson slowly moved her ample skirts of satin across the drawing-room, and took her departure. Mrs. Lawson dispatched a messenger immediately for her husband.
Henry Lawson came in, and listened with surprise to the intelligence of his father's return. He was taking up his hat to proceed to the hotel in quest of him, when a carriage drove to the door. Mrs. Lawson's heart palpitated with eagerness—if it should be her husband's father in his own carriage—how delightful!—that horrible Mrs. Thompson had not a carriage of her own yet, though she was always talking of it. They, Mrs. Lawson and her husband, had just been about setting up a carriage when business failed with them. She ran briskly down the stairs—for long years she had not flown with such alertness—rapid visions of gold, of splendor, and triumph seemed to bear her along, as if she had not been a being of earth.
She was not disappointed, for there, at the open door, stood John Lawson. He was enveloped in a cloak of fur, the costliness of which told Mrs. Lawson that it was the purchase of wealth; a servant in plain livery supported him, for he seemed a complete invalid.
Mrs. Lawson threw her arms around his neck, and embraced him with a warmth and eagerness which brought a cold and bitter smile over the white, thin lips of John Lawson. He replied briefly to the welcomings he had received. He threw aside his cloak, and exhibited the figure of an exceedingly emaciated and feeble old man, who had all the appearance of ninety years, though he was little more than sixty; his face was worn and fleshless to a painful degree; his hair was of the whitest shade of great age, but his eyes had grown much more serene in their expression than in his earlier days, notwithstanding a cast of suffering which his whole countenance exhibited. He was plainly, but most carefully and respectably dressed; a diamond ring of great value was on one of his fingers; the luster of the diamonds caught Mrs. Lawson's glance on her first inspection of his person, and her heart danced with rapture—Mrs. Thompson had no such ring, with all her boasting of all her finery.
"I have come to see my child before I die," said the old man, gazing on his son with earnest eyes; "you broke the ties of nature between us on your part, when, ten years ago, you refused your father a few shillings from your abundance, but—"
He was interrupted by Mrs. Lawson, who uttered many voluble protestations of her deep grief at her having, even though for the sake of economy, refused the money her dear father had solicited before he left them. She vowed that she had neither ate, nor slept, nor even dressed herself for weeks after his departure; and that, sleeping or waking, she was perpetually wishing she had given him the money, even though she had known that he was going to throw it into the fire, or lose it in any way. Her poor, dear father—oh, she wept so after she heard that he had left the country. To be sure, Henry could tell how, for two or three nights, her pillow was soaked with tears.
A cold, bitter smile again flitted across the old man's lips; he made no response to her words, but in the one look which his hollow eyes cast on her, he seemed to read the falsehood of her assertions.
"I was going to add," he said, "that though you forgot you were my son, and refused to act as my son, when you withheld the paltry sum for which I begged, yet I could not refrain from coming once more to look on my child's face—to look on the face of my departed wife in yours—for I know that a very brief period must finish my life now. I should not have come here, I feel—I know it is the weakness of my nature—I should have died amongst strangers, for the strangers of other countries, the people of a different hue and a different language, I have found kind and pitiful, compared with those of my own house."
"Oh, don't say so—don't say so—you are our own beloved father; ah, my heart clings to every feature of your poor, dear old face: there are the eyes and all that I used to talk to Henry so much about. Don't talk of strangers—I shall nurse you and attend to you night and day."
She made a movement, as if she would throw her arms around his neck again, but the old man drew back.
"Woman! your hypocritical words show me that your pitiless heart is still unchanged—that it has grown even worse. You forced me out to the world in my old age, when I should have had no thoughts except of God and the world to come; you forced me to think of money-making, when my hair was gray and my blood cold with years. Yes, I had to draw my thoughts from the future existence, and to waste them on the miserable toils of traffic, in order to make money: for it was better to do this than to drag out my life a pensioner on your bounty, receiving shillings and pence, which you gave me as if it had been your own heart's blood, though I only asked my own. Woman! the black slavery of my dependence on you was frightful; but now I can look you thanklessly in the face, for I have the means of living without you. I spent sick and sleepless days and nights, but I gained an independence; the merciful God blessed the efforts of the old man, who strove to gain his livelihood—yes, I am independent of you both. I came to see my son before I die—that is all I want."
Mrs. Lawson attempted a further justification of herself, but the words died on her lips. The stern looks of the old man silenced her.
After remaining for a short time, he rose to take his departure; but, at the earnest solicitations of his son, he consented to remain for a few days, only on condition that he should pay for his board and lodging. To this Mrs. Lawson made a feint of resistance, but agreed in the end, as the terms offered by the old man were very advantageous.
"I shall soon have a lodging for which no mortal is called on to pay—the great mother-earth," said the old man, "and I am glad, glad to escape from this money-governed world. Do not smile so blandly on me, both of you, and attend me with such false tenderness. There, take it away," he said, as Mrs. Lawson was placing her most comfortable footstool under his feet; "there was no attendance, no care, not a civil action or kind look for me when I was poor John Lawson, the silly, most silly old man, who had given up all to his son and his son's wife, for the love of them, and expected, like a fool as he was, to live with them on terms of perfect equality, and to have the family purse open to him for any trifling sums he wished to take. Go, go for God's sake; try and look bitterly on me now, as you did when you forced me out of your house. I detest your obsequious attentions—I was as worthy of them ten years ago, before I dragged down my old age to the debasing efforts of money-making. You know I am rich; you would worship my money in me now. Not a smiling look, not a soft word you bestow on me, but is for my riches, not for me. Ay, you think you have my wealth in your grasp already; you know I cannot live long. Thank God that my life is almost ended, and I hope my death will be a benefit to you, in softening your hard hearts."
Mrs. Lawson drew some hope from his last words, and she turned away her head to hide the joy which shone on her face.
In a few days the old man became seriously ill, and was altogether confined to his room. As death evidently approached, his mind became serene and calm, and he received the attentions which Mrs. Lawson and his son lavished on him with a silent composure, which led them to hope that he had completely forgotten their previous conduct to him.
The night on which he died, he turned to his son, and said a few words, a very few words, regarding worldly matters. He exhorted Henry to live in a somewhat less expensive style, and to cultivate a spirit of contentment without riches; then he blessed God that he was entering on a world in which he could hear no more of money or earthly possession. He remained in a calm sleep during the greater part of the night, they thought, but in the morning they found him dead.
The funeral was over, and the time was come in which the old man's will was to be opened. Mrs. Lawson had waited for that moment—she would have forcibly dragged time onward to that moment—she had execrated the long hours of night since the old man's death—she had still more anathemized the slowly passing days, when gazing furtively through a corner of the blinded window, she saw fine equipages and finely-dressed ladies passing, and she planned how she would shine when the old man's wealth would be her own. She drew glorious mental pictures of how she would burst from behind the shadowing cloud of poverty, and dazzle all her acquaintances. Her dress, her carriage, her style of living would be unique in her rank of life for taste and costliness. She would show them she had got money—money at last—more money than they all.
Now at last she sat and saw the will being opened; she felt that it was a mere formality, for the old man had none but them to whom he could leave his money; she never once doubted but all would be theirs; she had reasoned and fancied herself into the firm conviction. Her only fear was, that the amount might not be so large as she calculated on.
She saw the packet opened. Her eyes dilated, her lips became parched, her heart and brain burned with a fierce eagerness—money! money at last! uttered the griping spirit within her.
The will, after beginning in the usual formal style, was as follows:
"I bequeath to my son Henry's wife, Augusta Lawson, a high and noble gift"—Mrs. Lawson almost sprung from her seat with eagerness—"the greatest of all legacies, I bequeath to Augusta Lawson—Charity! Augusta Lawson refused me a few shillings which I wished to bestow on a starving woman; but now I leave her joint executrix, with my son Henry, in the distribution of all my money and all my effects, without any reservation, in charity, to be applied to such charitable purposes as in this, my last will and testament, I have directed."
Then followed a statement of his effects and money, down to the most minute particular. The money amounted to a very considerable sum; his personal effects he directed to be sold, with the exception of his very valuable diamond ring, which he bequeathed to the orphan daughter of the poor relation in whose house he had taken refuge, and remained for a short time, previous to his going abroad. All the proceeds of his other effects, together with the whole amount of his money, he bequeathed for different charitable purposes, and gave minute directions as to the manner in which various sums were to be expended. The largest amount he directed to be distributed in yearly donations amongst the most indigent old men and women within a circuit of ten miles of his native place. Those who were residing with their sons and their sons' wives, were to receive by far the largest relief. He appointed as trustees two of the most respectable merchants of the town, to whom he gave authority to see the provisions of his will carried out, in case his son and Mrs. Lawson should decline the duties of executorship which he had bequeathed to them. The trustees were to exercise a surveillance over Mr. and Mrs. Lawson, to see that the will should in every particular be strictly carried into effect. The will was dated and duly signed in the town in South America where the old man had for some years resided. A codicil, containing the bequest of the ring, with some further particulars regarding the charities, had been added a few days previous to the old man's death.