THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS
Abb de l'Epe, the Agassiz's Natural History Akin by Marriage American Antiquity Aquarium, my Architecture, Domestic Art Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, the
Battle of Lepanto, the Beecher, Henry Ward Beethoven Branger Birds and their Ways Books British Gallery in New York, the British India Buchanan's Administration Burr, Aaron Button-Rose, the
Carlyle, Thomas Catacombs of Rome, the Child-Life by the Ganges Cretins and Idiots
Diamond Lens, the
Financial Flurry, the Florentine Mosaics
Ghost Redivivus, the Great Failure, the Grindwell Governing Machine, the
Hundred Days, the
Illusions India, British Indian Revolt, the Intellectual Character
Jerrold, Douglas Journal to my Cousin Mary
Kansas Usurpation, Review of the
Lepanto, the Battle of L'Epe, the Abb de Librarian's Story, the Loo Loo
Mamoul Manchester Exhibition, the Maya, the Princess Mourning Veil, the Music My Aquarium My Journal to my Cousin Mary
New England Ministers Notes on Domestic Architecture
Our Birds and their Ways
Pendlam, a Modern Reformer Persian Poetry Pictures, Something about President's Message, the Prima Donna, Who paid for the Pure Pearl of Diver's Bay, the
Queen of the Red Chessmen, the
Robin Hood Roger Pierce Round Table, the
Saints, and their Bodies Sally Parsons's Duty Solitude and Society Something about Pictures Spartacus
Tea Tiflin of Paragraphs Turkey Tracks
Welsh Musical Festival Where will it End? Who is the Thief? Who paid for the Prima Donna? Wichern, Dr., and his Pupils Winds and the Weather, the
Amours de Voyage
Beauty Brahma Burying-Ground, the Old Busts of Goethe and Schiller, the By the Dead
Camille Catawba Wine Charley's Death Chartist's Complaint, the Cornucopia
Daybreak Daylight and Moonlight Days Didactic Poetry, the Origin of
Epigram on J.M.
Gift of Tritemius, the Goethe and Schiller, the Busts of Golden Milestone, the
Karin, the Story of
Lucknow, the Relief of
Mercedes Milestone, the Golden My Portrait Gallery
Old Burying-Ground, the Origin of Didactic Poetry, the
Relief of Lucknow, the Rommany Girl, the
Sandalphoa Santa Filomena Sculptor's Funeral, the Skipper Ireson's Ride Sonnets Story of Karin, the
Tacking Ship off Shore Telling the Bees Thy Psyche Two Rivers
Wedding Veil, the Wind and Stream, the Word to the Wise
American Cyclopdia, the New Anglais, les, et l'Inde
Bayne, Peter, Essays in Biography and Criticism Beatrice Cenci, by Guerrazzi Brazil and the Brazilians
City Poems, by Alexander Smith Clerical Life, Scenes of Comic and Humorous German Poetry Cyclopdia, the New American
Dante's Hell, by J.C. Peabody De Vere, Aubrey, May Carols by Dichtung, die deutsche komische und humoristische, seit Beginn des 16. Jahrhunderts bis auf unsere Zeit Dunglison's Dictionary of Medical Science
Elements of Drawing, by Ruskin Et dans le Sahara, une
France au XVI. Sicle, Histoire de
Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain, by Dr. Waagen German Poetry, Comic and Humorous Greyson Letters, the, by Henry Rogers
Hamilton, Alexander, History of U.S. as traced in the Writings of Handbook of Railroad Construction Handel, Schoelcher's Life of Harford's Life of Michel Angelo Helps's History of the Spanish Conquest Homoeopathic Domestic Physician Hunt, Leigh, Poetical Works of
Kane, Dr. E.K., Elder's Life of Kraft und Stoff, von C. Bchner
Libert, la, par Emile de Girardin Library of Old Authors, Smith's
Materie und Geist, von Bchner May Carols, by Aubrey de Vere Michel Angelo Buonarotti, Harford's Life of Michelet, Histoire de France par
Norwge, la, par Louis Enault
Parthenia, by Mrs. Lee Prudhomme, M. Joseph, Memoires de
Reichspostreiter, der, in Ludwigsburg Revolution Francaise, Histoire de la Roumania, by Jas. O. Noyes, M.D. Ruskin's Elements of Drawing
Sahara, une Et dans le Scenes of Clerical Life Smith, Alexander, City Poems by Spanish Conquest in America, the Spurgeon, Rev. C.H., Sermons of
Thringer Naturen, von Otto Ludwig Twin Roses
Waagen, Dr., Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain by Waverley Novels White Lies, by Charles Reade
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY
VOL. I.—NOVEMBER, 1857.—NO. I.
My personal acquaintance with Douglas Jerrold began in the spring of 1851. I had always had a keen relish for his wit and fancy; I felt a peculiar interest in a man who, like myself, had started in life in the Navy; and one of the things poor Douglas prided himself on was his readiness to know and recognize young fellows fighting in his own profession. I shall not soon forget the dinner he gave at the Whittington Club that spring. St. Clement's had rung out a late chime before we parted; and it was a drizzly, misty small hour as he got into a cab for Putney, where he was then living. I had found him all I expected; and he did not disappoint, on further acquaintance, the promise of that first interview. It will be something to remember in afterlife, that one enjoyed the friendship of so brilliant a man; and if I can convey to my readers a truer, livelier picture of his genius and person than they have been able to form for themselves hitherto, I shall be delighted to think that I have done my duty to his memory. The last summer which he lived to see is now waning; let us gather, ere it goes, the "lilies" and "purple flowers" that are due to his grave.
Jerrold's Biography is still unwritten. The work is in the hands of his eldest son,—his successor in the editorship of "Lloyd's,"—and will be done with pious carefulness. Meanwhile I cannot do more than sketch the narrative of his life; but so much, at all events, is necessary as shall enable the reader to understand the Genius and Character which I aspire to set before him.
Douglas William Jerrold was, I take it, of South-Saxon ancestry,—dashed with Scotch through his grandmother, whose maiden name was Douglas, and who is said to have been a woman of more than ordinary energy of character. As a Scot, I should like to trace him to that spreading family apostrophized by the old poet in such beautiful words,—
"O Douglas, O Douglas, Tender and true!"
But I don't think he ever troubled himself on the subject; though he had none of that contempt for a good pedigree which is sometimes found in men of his school of politics. As regarded fortune, he owed every thing to nature and to himself; no man of our age had so thoroughly fought his own way; and no man of any age has had a much harder fight of it. To understand and appreciate him, it was, and is, necessary to bear this fact in mind. It colored him as the Syrian sun did the old crusading warrior. And hence, too, he was in a singular degree a representative man of his age; his age having set him to wrestle with it,—having tried his force in every way,—having left its mark on his entire surface. Jerrold and the century help to explain each other, and had found each other remarkably in earnest in all their dealings. This fact stamps on the man a kind of genuineness, visible in all his writings,—and giving them a peculiar force and raciness, such as those of persons with a less remarkable experience never possess. We are told, that, in selling yourself to the Devil, it is the proper traditionary practice to write the contract in your blood. Douglas, in binding himself against him, did the same thing. You see his blood in his ink,—and it gives a depth of tinge to it.
He was the son of a country manager named Samuel Jerrold, and was born in London on the 3d of January, 1803. His father was for a long time manager of the seaport theatres of Sheerness and Southend,—which stand opposite each other, just where the Thames becomes the sea. Douglas spent most of his boyhood, therefore, about the sea-coast, in the midst of a life that was doubly dramatic,—dramatic as real, and dramatic as theatrical. There were sea, ships, sailors, prisoners, the hum of war, the uproar of seaport life, on the one hand; on the other, the queer, rough, fairy world (to him at once fairy world and home world) of the theatre. It was a position to awaken precociously, one would think, the feelings of the quick-eyed, quick-hearted lad. No wonder he took the sea-fever to which all our blood is liable, and tried a bout of naval life. At eleven years of age he became a middy, and served a short time—not two years in all—in a vessel stationed in the North Sea. Naval life was a rough affair in those days. Jerrold's most remarkable experience seems to have been bringing over the wounded of Waterloo from Belgium; which stamped on his mind a sense of the horrors of war that never left him, but is marked on his writings everywhere, in spite of a certain combative turn and an admiration of heroes which also belonged to him. To the last, he had an interest in sea matters, and spoke with enthusiasm of Lord Nelson. But the literary use he made of his nautical experience ended with "Black-eyed Susan." He was a boy when he came ashore and threw himself on the very different sea of London; and it is the influence of London that is most perceptible in his mature works. Here his work was done, his battles fought, his mind formed; and you may observe in his writings a certain romantic and ideal way of speaking of the country, which shows that to him it was a place of retreat and luxury, rather than of sober, practical living. This is not uncommon with literary men whose lot has been cast in a great city, if they possess, as Jerrold did, that poetic temperament which is alive to natural beauty.
He now became an apprentice in a printing-office, and went through the ordinary course of a printer's life. He felt genius stirring in him, and he strove for the knowledge to give it nourishment, and the field to give it exercise. He read and wrote, as well as worked and talked. It would be a task for antiquarian research to recover his very earliest lucubrations scattered among the ephemeral periodicals of that day. Plays of his might be dug out, whose very names are unknown to his most intimate friends. He scattered his early fruit far and wide,—getting little from the world in exchange. Literature was then a harder struggle than in our days. Jerrold did not know the successful men who presided over it. He had no patrons; and he had few friends. The isolation and poverty in which he formed his mind and style deepened the peculiarity which was a characteristic of these. They gave to his genius that intense and eccentric character which it has; and no doubt (for Fortune has a way of compensating) the chill they breathed on the fruits of his young nature enriched their ripeness, as a touch of frost does with plums. The grapes from which Tokay is made are left hanging even when the snow is on them;—all the better for Tokay!
His youth, then, was a long and hard struggle to get bread in exchange for wit;—a struggle like that of the poor girls who sell violets in the streets. He was wont to talk of those early days very freely,—passionately, even to tears, when he got excited,—and always bravely, heartily, and with the right "moral" to follow. When Diderot had passed a whole day without bread, he vowed that if he ever got prosperous, he would save any fellow-creature that he could from such suffering. Jerrold had learned the same lesson. Through life, he took the side of the poor and weak. It was the secret, at once, of his philosophy and his politics. He got endless abuse for his eternal tirades against the great and the "respectable,"—against big-wigs of every size and shape. But the critics who attacked him for this negative pole of his intellectual character overlooked the positive one. He had kindness and sympathy enough; but he always gave them first to those who wanted them most. And as humorist and satirist he had a natural tendency to attack power,—to play Pasquin against the world's Pope. In fact, his radicalism was that of a humorist. He never adopted the utilitarian, or, as it was called, "philosophical," radicalism which was so fashionable in his younger days;—not, indeed, the Continental radicalism held by a party in England;—but was an independent kind of warrior, fighting under his own banner, and always rather with the weapons of a man of letters than those of a politician. For the business aspect of politics he never showed any predilection from first to last.
Well, then,—picture him to yourself, reader, a small, delicate youth, with fair, prominent features,—long, thin hair,—keen, eager, large, blue eyes, glancing out from right to left, as he walks the streets of Babylon,—and seizing with a quick impulsiveness every feeling of the hour. Still young,—and very young,—he has married for love. He is living in a cottage or villakin on the outskirts of town, where there is just a peep of green to keep one's feelings fresh; and he is writing for the stage. It is hard work, and sometimes the dun is at the door, and contact is inevitable with men who don't understand the precious jewel he weareth in his head;—but the week's hard work is got through somehow; and on Sundays he sallies forth for rural air with a little knot of friends, and the talk is of art, and letters, and the world. So quick and keen a nature as his had immense buoyancy in it. Nay, for the very dun young Douglas had an epigram,—as bright, but not as welcome, as a sovereign. A saying of those early days has found its way into a comedy,—but not the less belongs to his authentic biography. A threatening attorney shakes his fist at the villakin where at the window the wit is parleying with him. "I'll put a man in the house, Sir!" "Couldn't you," says Douglas, (and of course the right-minded reader is shocked,) "couldn't you make it a woman?" What a scandalous way to treat a man of business! Between Douglas and the lawyers, for many years, there was open war. He was a kind of Robin Hood to these representatives of the Crown,—adopting the plucky and defiant gaiety of the old outlaw, and shooting keen arrows at them with a bow that never grew weak.
The theatres were his regular sources of employment for many years, and he wrote dramas at a salary. Tradition and family connection must have led him chiefly to this walk; for though he had some of the most important qualities of a dramatist, very few of his dramas seem likely to live,—and even these are not equal to his works in other departments. The "Man made of Money" will outlast his best play. His most popular drama,—"Black-eyed Susan,"—though clever, pretty, and tender, is not, as a work of art, worthy of his genius; nor did he consider it so himself. In his dramas we find, I think, rather touches of character, than characters,—scenes, rather than plots,—disjecta membra of dramatic genius, rather than harmonious creations of it. He could not separate himself from his work sufficiently for the purposes of the higher stage. As Johnson says of "Cato," "We pronounce the name of Cato, but we think on Addison,"—so one may say of any character of Jerrold's, that it suggests and refers us to its author. All the gold has his head on it. To be sure, there is plenty of gold; and I wish somebody would put his scores of plays, big and little, into a kind of wine-press and give us the wine. There is always the wit of the man, whether the play be "Gertrude's Cherries," or "The Smoked Mixer," or "Fifteen Years of a Drunkard's Life,"—or what not. That quality never failed him. He dresses up all his characters in that brilliant livery. But dialogue is not enough for the stage, and compared with the attraction of an intense action is nothing. Besides, Jerrold found the modern taste for spectacle forming thirty years ago. In his prefaces he complains bitterly of the preference of the public for the mechanical over the higher attractions of the art. And the satirical war he waged against actors and managers showed that he looked back with little pleasure to the days when his life was chiefly occupied with them and their affairs. It may be mentioned here, that he was very shabbily treated by several people who owed fame and fortune to his genius. I have heard a curious story about his connection with Davidge, manager of the Surrey,—the original, as I take it, of his Bajazet Gay. They say that he had used Douglas very ill,—that Douglas invoked this curse upon him,—"that he might live to keep his carriage, and yet not be able to ride in it,"—and that it was fulfilled, curiously, to the letter. The ancient gods, we know, took the comic poet under their protection and avenged him. Was this a case of the kind,—or but a flying false anecdote? I would not be certain;—but at least, when Davidge died one evening, and Douglas was informed of the hour, he remarked, "I did not think he would have died before the half-price came in!" Sordid fellows are not safe from genius even in the grave. It spoils their sepulchral monuments,—as the old heralds tore the armorial blazonry from plebeian tombs.
His first fame and success, however, were owing to the Drama; and though his non-dramatic labors were greater and still more successful, he never altogether left the stage. I repeat, that I value his plays, most, because they helped to discipline him for his after-work; and I thank the theatre chiefly for ripening in its heat the philosophic humorist. That was the real character of the man. He tried many things, and he produced much; but the root of him was that he was a humorous thinker. He did not write first-rate plays, or first-rate novels, rich as he was in the elements of playwright and novelist. He was not an artist. But he had a rare and original eye and soul,—and in a peculiar way he could pour out himself. In short, to be an Essayist was the bent of his nature and genius. English literature is rich in such men,—in men whose works are cherished for the individuality they reveal. What the Song is in poetry the Essay is in prose. The producer pours out himself in his own way, and cannot be separated even in thought from that which he has produced. Jerrold's characters in plays and novels are interesting to me because they are Jerrold in masquerade.
But none of us are just what we should like to be. Fortune has her say in the matter; and as Bacon observes, a man's fortune works on his nature, and his nature on his fortune. Many a play Jerrold no doubt wrote when he would rather have been writing something else,—and so on, as life rolled by, and the day that was passing over him required to be provided for. His fight for fame was long and hard; and his life was interrupted, like that of other men, by sickness and pain. In the stoop in his gait, in the lines in his face, you saw the man who had reached his Ithaca by no mere yachting over summer seas. And hence, no doubt, the utter absence in him of all that conventionalism which marks the man of quiet experience and habitual conformity to the world. In the streets, a stranger would have known Jerrold to be a remarkable man; you would have gone away speculating on him. In talk, he was still Jerrold;—not Douglas Jerrold, Esq., a successful gentleman, whose heart and soul you were expected to know nothing about, and with whom you were to eat your dinner peaceably, like any common man. No. He was at all times Douglas the peculiar and unique,—with his history in his face, and his genius on his tongue,—nay, and after a little, with his heart on his sleeve. This made him piquant; and the same character makes his writings piquant. Hence, too, he is often quaint,—a word which describes what no other word does,—always conveying a sense of originality, and of what, when we wish to be condemnatory, we call egotism, but which, when it belongs to genius, is delightful.
As he became better known, he wrote in higher quarters. "Men of Character" appeared in "Blackwood,"—a curious collection of philosophical stories;—for artist he was not; he was always a thinker. He had a way of dressing up a bit of philosophical observation into a story very happily. He had much feeling for symbol, and, like the old architects, would fill all things, pretty or ugly, with meaning. When one reads these stories, one does not feel as if it were the writer's vocation to be a story-teller, but as if he were using the story as a philosophical toy. And it was fortunate for him that he fell on an age of periodicals, a class of works which just suited his genius. He and the modern development of periodical literature grew up together, and grew prosperous together. He was never completely known in England till after the establishment of "Punch." An independent and original organ just suited him, above all; for there he had the full play which he required as a humorist, and as a self-formed man with a peculiar style and experience. "Punch" was the "Argo" which conveyed him to the Golden Fleece.
Up to the time of the appearance of this journal, Jerrold had scattered himself very freely over periodical literature. He had conquered a position. He had formed his mind. He had seen the world in many phases, and besides his knowledge of London, had varied his experience of that city by a lengthened residence in France. Still, he had not yet caught the nation,—there being many degrees of celebrity below that stage of it; and now, in middle life, his best and crowning success was to begin.
I believe that Jerrold had long desiderated a "Punch"; but it is certain that the present famous periodical of that name was started by his son-in-law, Mr. Henry Mayhew. For a while it had no great success, and the copyright was sold for a small sum to Messrs. Bradbury and Evans. Success came, and such a success that "Punch" must always last as part of the comic literature of England. That literature is rich in political as well as other forms of satire; and from various causes, about the time of "Punch," political satire was at a low ebb. The newspapers no longer published squibs as they once had done. The days of the Hooks and Moores had gone by; there was nobody to do with the pen what H. B. did with the pencil. So "Punch" was at once a novelty and a necessity,—from its width of scope, its joint pictorial and literary character, and its exclusive devotion to the comic features of the age. "Figaro" (a satirical predecessor, by Mr. Beckett) had been very clever, but wanted many of "Punch's" features, and was, above all, not so calculated to hit "society" and get into families.
Jerrold's first papers of mark in "Punch" were those signed "Q." His style was now formed, as his mind was, and these papers bear the stamp of his peculiar way of thinking and writing. Assuredly, his is a peculiar style in the strict sense; and as marked as that of Carlyle or Dickens. You see the self-made man in it,—a something sui generis,—not formed on the "classical models," but which has grown up with a kind of twist in it, like a tree that has had to force its way up surrounded by awkward environments. Fundamentally, the man is a thinking humorist; but his mode of expression is strange. The perpetual inversions, the habitual irony, the mingled tenderness and mockery, give a kind of gnarled surface to the style, which is pleasant when you get familiar with it, but which repels the stranger, and to some people even remains permanently disagreeable. I think it was his continual irony which at last brought him to writing as if under a mask; whereas it would have been better to write out flowingly, musically, and lucidly. His mixture of satire and kindliness always reminds me of those lanes near Beyrout in which you ride with the prickly-pear bristling alongside of you, and yet can pluck the grapes which force themselves among it from the fields. Inveterately satirical as Jerrold is, he is even "spoonily" tender at the same time; and it lay deep in his character; for this wit and bon-vivant, the merriest and wittiest man of the company, would cry like a child, as the night drew on, and the talk grew serious. No theory could be more false than that he was a cold-blooded satirist,—sharp as steel is sharp, from being hard. The basis of his nature was sensitiveness and impulsiveness. His wit is not of the head only, but of the heart,—often sentimental, and constantly fanciful, that is, dependent on a quality which imperatively requires a sympathetic nature to give it full play. Take those "Punch" papers which soon helped to make "Punch" famous, and Jerrold himself better known. Take the "Story of a Feather," as a good expression of his more earnest and tender mood. How delicately all the part about the poor actress is worked up! How moral, how stoical, the feeling that pervades it! The bitterness is healthy,—healthy as bark. We cannot always be
"Seeing only what is fair, Sipping only what is sweet,"
in the presence of such phenomena as are to be seen in London alongside of our civilization. If any feeling of Jerrold's was intense, it was his feeling of sympathy with the poor. I shall not soon forget the energy and tenderness with which he would quote these lines of his favorite Hood:—
"Poor Peggy sells flowers from street to street, And—think of that, ye who find life sweet!— She hates the smell of roses."
He was, therefore, to be pardoned when he looked with extreme suspicion and severity on the failings of the rich. They at least, he knew, were free from those terrible temptations which beset the unfortunate. They could protect themselves. They needed to be reminded of their duties. Such was his view, though I don't think he ever carried it so far as he was accused of doing. Nay, I think he sometimes had to prick up his zeal before assuming the flagellum. For a successful, brilliant man like himself,—full of humor and wit,—eminently convivial, and sensitive to pleasure,—the temptation rather was to adopt the easy philosophy that every thing was all right,—that the rich were wise to enjoy themselves with as little trouble as possible,—and that the poor (good fellows, no doubt) must help themselves on according as they got a chance. It was to Douglas's credit that he always felt the want of a deeper and holier theory, and that, with all his gaiety, he felt it incumbent on him to use his pen as an implement of what he thought reform. Indeed, it was a well-known characteristic of his, that he disliked being talked of as "a wit." He thought (with justice) that he had something better in him than most wits, and he sacredly cherished high aspirations. To him buffoonery was pollution. He attached to salt something of the sacredness which it bears in the East. He was fuller of repartee than any man in England, and yet was about the last man that would have condescended to be what is called a "diner-out". It is a fact which illustrates his mind, his character, and biography.
The "Q." papers, I say, were the first essays which attracted attention in "Punch." In due time followed his "Punch's Letters to his Son," and "Complete Letter-Writer," with the "Story of a Feather", mentioned above. A basis of philosophical observation, tinged with tenderness, and a dry, ironical humor,—all, like the Scottish lion in heraldry, "within a double tressure-fleury and counter-fleury" of wit and fancy,—such is a Jerroldian paper of the best class in "Punch." It stands out by itself from all the others,—the sharp, critical knowingness, sparkling with puns, of Beckett,—the inimitable, wise, easy, playful, worldly, social sketch of Thackeray. In imagery he had no rivals there; for his mind had a very marked tendency to the ornamental and illustrative,—even to the grotesque. In satire, again, he had fewer competitors than in humor;—sarcasms lurk under his similes, like wasps in fruit or flowers. I will just quote one specimen from a casual article of his, because it happens to occur to my memory, and because it illustrates his manner. The "Chronicle" had been attacking some artists in whom he took an interest. In replying, he set out by telling how in some vine countries they repress the too luxuriant growths by sending in asses to crop the shoots. Then he remarked gravely, that young artists required pruning, and added, "How thankful we ought all to be that the 'Chronicle' keeps a donkey!" This is an average specimen of his playful way of ridiculing. In sterner moods he was grander. Of a Jew money-lender he said, that "he might die like Judas, but that he had no bowels to gush out";—also, that "he would have sold our Saviour for more money." An imaginative color distinguished his best satire, and it had the deadly and wild glitter of war-rockets. This was the most original quality, too, of his satire, and just the quality which is least common in our present satirical literature. He had read the old writers,—Browne, Donne, Fuller, and Cowley,—and was tinged with that richer and quainter vein which so emphatically distinguishes them from the prosaic wits of our day. His weapons reminded you of Damascus rather than Birmingham.
A wit with a mission,—this was the position of Douglas in the last years of his life. Accordingly he was a little ashamed of the immense success of the "Caudle Lectures,"—the fame of which I remember being bruited about the Mediterranean in 1845,—and which, as social drolleries, set nations laughing. Douglas took their celebrity rather sulkily. He did not like to be talked of as a funny man. However, they just hit the reading English,—always domestic in their literary as in their other tastes,—and so helped to establish "Punch" and to diffuse Jerrold's name. He began now to be a Power in popular literature; and coming to be associated with the liberal side of "Punch," especially, the Radicals throughout Britain hailed him as a chief. Hence, in due course, his newspaper and his magazine,—both of which might have been permanently successful establishments, had his genius for business borne any proportion to his genius for literature.
This, however, was by no manner of means the case. His nature was altogether that of a literary man and artist. He could not speak in public. He could not manage money matters. He could only write and talk,—and these rather as a kind of improvvisatore, than as a steady, reading, bookish man, like a Mackintosh or a Macaulay. His politics partook of this character, and I always used to think that it was a queer destiny which made him a Radical teacher. The Radical literature of England is, with few exceptions, of a prosaic character. The most famous school of radicalism is utilitarian and systematic. Douglas was, emphatically, neither. He was impulsive, epigrammatic, sentimental. He dashed gaily against an institution, like a picador at a bull. He never sat down, like the regular workers of his party, to calculate the expenses of monarchy or the extravagance of the civil list. He had no notion of any sort of "economy." I don't know that he had ever taken up political science seriously, or that he had any preference for one kind or form of government over another. I repeat,—his radicalism was that of a humorist. He despised big-wigs, and pomp of all sorts, and, above all, humbug and formalism. But his radicalism was important as a sign that our institutions are ceasing to be picturesque; of which, if you consider his nature, you will see that his radicalism was a sign. And he did service to his cause. Not an abuse, whether from the corruption of something old, or the injustice of something new, but Douglas was out against it with his sling. He threw his thought into some epigram which stuck. Praising journalism once, he said, "When Luther wanted to crush the Devil, didn't he throw ink at him?" Recommending Australia, he wrote, "Earth is so kindly there, that, tickle her with a hoe, and she laughs with a harvest." The last of these sayings is in his best manner, and would be hard to match anywhere for grace and neatness. Here was a man to serve his cause, for he embodied its truths in forms of beauty. His use to his party could not be measured like that of commoner men, because of the rarity and attractive nature of the gifts which he brought to its service. They had a kind of incalculable value, like that of a fine day, or of starlight.
He was now immersed in literary activity. He had all kinds of work on hand. He brought out occasionally a five-act comedy, full as usual of wit. He wrote in "Punch,"—started a newspaper,—started a magazine,—published a romance,—all within a few years of each other. The romance was "A Man made of Money," which bids fair, I think, to be read longer than any of his works. It is one of those fictions in which, as in "Zanoni," "Peter Schlemil," and others, the supernatural appears as an element, and yet is made to conform itself in action to real and every-day life, in such a way that the understanding is not shocked, because it reassures itself by referring the supernatural to the regions of allegory. Shall we call this a kind of bastard-allegory? Jericho, when he first appears, is a common man of the common world. He is a money-making, grasping man, yet with a bitter savour of satire about him which raises him out of the common place. Presently it turns out, that by putting his hand to his heart he can draw away bank-notes,—only that it is his life he is drawing away. The conception is fine and imaginative, and ought to rank with the best of those philosophical stories so fashionable in the last century. Its working-out in the every-day part is brilliant and pungent; and much ingenuity is shown in connecting the tragic and mysterious element in Jericho's life with the ordinary, vain, worldly existence of his wife and daughters. It is startling to find ourselves in the regions of the impossible, just as we are beginning to know the persons of the fable. But the mind reassures itself. This Jericho, with his mysterious fate,—is not he, in this twilight of fiction, shadowing to us the real destiny of real money-grubbers whom we may see any day about our doors? Has not the money become the very life of many such? And so feeling, the reader goes pleasantly on,—just excited a little, and raised out of the ordinary temperature in which fiction is read, by the mystic atmosphere through which he sees things,—and ends, acknowledging that with much pleasure he has also gathered a good moral. For his mere amusement the best fireworks have been cracking round him on his journey. In short, I esteem this Jerrold's best book,—the one which contains most of his mind. Certain aspects of his mind, indeed, may be seen even to better advantage in others of his works; his sentimental side, for instance, in "Clovernook," where he has let his fancy run riot like honeysuckle, and overgrow every thing; his wit in "Time works Wonders," which blazes with epigrams like Vauxhall with lamps. But "A Man made of Money" is the completest of his books as a creation, and the most characteristic in point of style,—is based on a principle which predominated in his mind,—is the most original in imaginativeness, and the best sustained in point and neatness, of the works he has left.
During the years of which I have just been speaking, Jerrold lived chiefly in a villa at Putney, and afterwards at St. John's Wood,—the mention of which fact leads me to enter on a description of him in his private, social, and friendly relations. Now-a-days it is happily expected of every man who writes of another to recognize his humanity,—not to treat him as a machine for the production of this or that—scientific, or literary, or other—material. Homo sum is the motto of the biographer, and so of the humbler biographic sketcher. Jerrold is just one of those who require and reward this kind of personal sympathy and attention;—so radiant was the man of all that he put into his books!—so quick, so warm, so full of light and life, wit and impulse! He was one of the few who in their conversation entirely come up to their renown. He sparkled wherever you touched him, like the sea at night.
The first thing I have to remark, in treating of Jerrold the man, is the entire harmony between that figure and Jerrold the writer. He talked very much as he wrote, and he acted in life on the principles which he advocated in literature. He united, remarkably, simplicity of character with brilliancy of talk. For instance, with all his success, he never sought higher society than that which he found himself gradually and by a natural momentum borne into, as he advanced. He never suppressed a flash of indignant sarcasm for fear of startling the "genteel" classes and Mrs. Grundy. He never aped aristocracy in his household. He would go to a tavern for his oysters and a glass of punches simply as they did in Ben Jonson's days; and I have heard of his doing so from a sensation of boredom at a very great house indeed,—a house for the sake of an admission to which, half Bayswater would sell their grandmothers' bones to a surgeon. This kind of thing stamped him in our polite days as one of the old school, and was exceedingly refreshing to observe in an age when the anxious endeavour of the English middle classes is to hide their plebeian origin under a mockery of patrician elegance. He had none of the airs of success or reputation,—none of the affectations, either personal or social, which are rife everywhere. He was manly and natural,—free and off-handed to the verge of eccentricity. Independence and marked character seemed to breathe from the little, rather bowed figure, crowned with a lion-like head and falling light hair,—to glow in the keen, eager, blue eyes glancing on either side as he walked along. Nothing could be less commonplace, nothing less conventional, than his appearance in a room or in the streets.
His quick, impulsive nature made him a great talker, and conspicuously convivial,—yea, convivial, at times, up to heights of vinous glory which the Currans and Sheridans shrank not from, but which a respectable age discourages. And here I must undertake the task of saying something about his conversational wit,—so celebrated, yet so difficult (as is notoriously the case with all wits) to do justice to on paper.
The first thing that struck you was his extreme readiness in conversation. He gave the electric spark whenever you put your knuckle to him. The first time I called on him in his house at Putney, I found him sipping claret. We talked of a certain dull fellow whose wealth made him prominent at that time. "Yes," said Jerrold, drawing his finger round the edge of his wineglass, "that's the range of his intellect,—only it had never any thing half so good in it." I quote this merely as one of the average bons-mots which made the small change of his ordinary conversation. He would pun, too, in talk, which he scarcely ever did in writing. Thus he extemporized as an epitaph for his friend Charles Knight, "GOOD NIGHT!"—When Mrs. Glover complained that her hair was turning gray,—from using essence of lavender (as she said),—he asked her "whether it wasn't essence of thyme?" On the occasion of starting a convivial club, (he was very fond of such clubs,) somebody proposed that it should consist of twelve members, and be called "The Zodiac,"—each member to be named after a sign. "And what shall I be?" inquired a somewhat solemn man, who feared that they were filled up. "Oh, we'll bring you in as the weight in Libra," was the instant remark of Douglas. A noisy fellow had long interrupted a company in which he was. At last the bore said of a certain tune, "It carries me away with it." "For God's sake," said Jerrold, "let somebody whistle it."—Such dicteria, as the Romans called them, bristled over his talk. And he flashed them out with an eagerness, and a quiver of his large, somewhat coarse mouth, which it was quite dramatic to see. His intense chuckle showed how hearty was his gusto for satire, and that wit was a regular habit of his mind.
I shall set down here some Jerroldiana current in London,—some heard by myself, or otherwise well authenticated. Remember how few we have of George Selwyn's, Hanbury Williams's, Hook's, or indeed any body's, and you will not wonder that my handful is not larger.
When the well-known "Letters" of Miss Martineau and Atkinson appeared, Jerrold observed that their creed was, "There is no God, and Miss Martineau is his prophet."
"I have had such a curious dinner!" said C. "Calves' tails."—"Extremes meet," Douglas said, instantly.
He admired Carlyle; but objected that he did not give definite suggestions for the improvement of the age which he rebuked. "Here," said he, "is a man who beats a big drum under my windows, and when I come running down stairs has nowhere for me to go."
A wild Republican said profanely, that Louis Blanc was "next to Jesus Christ"—"On which side?" asked the wit.
Pretty Miss ——, the actress, being mentioned, he praised her early beauty. "She was a lovely little thing," he said, "when she was a bud, and"—(a pause)—"before she was a blowen'."—This was in a very merry vein, and the serious reader must forgive me.
He called a small, thin London littrateur of his acquaintance, "a pin without the head or the point."
When a plain, not to say ugly, gentleman intimated his intention of being godfather to somebody's child, Jerrold begged him not to give the youngster his "mug."
A dedication to him being spoken of,—"Ah!" said he, with mock gravity, "that's an awful power that —— has in his hands!"
Carlyle and a much inferior man being coupled by some sapient review as "biographers,"—"Those two joined!" he exclaimed. "You can't plough with an ox and an ass."
"Is the legacy to be paid immediately?" inquired somebody,—apropos of a will which made some noise.—"Yes, on the coffin-nail," answered he.
Being told that a recent play had been "done to order,"—he observed, that "it would be done to a good many 'orders,' he feared."
It may be honestly said that these are average specimens of the pleasantries which flowed from him in congenial society. His talk was full of such, among friends and acquaintance, and he certainly enjoyed the applause which they excited. But in his graver and tenderer moods, in the country walks and lounges of which he was fond, his range was higher and deeper. For a vein of natural poetry and piety ran through the man,—wit and satirist as he was,—and appeared in his speech, occasionally, as in his writings.
A long habit of indulgence in epigram had made him rather apt to quiz his friends. But we are to remember that he was encouraged in this, and that a self-indulgent man is only too liable to have the nicety of his sensitiveness spoiled. Certainly, he had a kind heart and good principles. He would lend any man money, or give any man help,—even to the extent of weakness and imprudence. This was one reason why he died no better off,—and one reason why his friends have so much exerted themselves to pay a tribute to his memory in the shape of an addition to the provision he had made for his family. The quickness of feeling which belonged to him made him somewhat ready to take offence. But if he was easily ruffled, he was easily smoothed. Of few men could you say, that their natural impulses were better, or that, given such a nature and such a fortune, they would have arrived at fifty-four years of age with so young a heart.
The last literary event of any magnitude in Jerrold's life was his assuming the editorship of "Lloyd's Newspaper." This journal, which before his connection with it had no position to brag of, rose under his hands to great circulation and celebrity. Every week, there you traced his hand at its old work of embroidering with queer and fanciful sarcasm some bit of what he thought timely and necessary truth. Against all tyrants, all big-wigged impostors, black, white, or gray, was his hammer ringing, and sparks of wit were flying about as ever under his hand. He was getting up in years; but still there seemed many to be hoped for him, yet. Though not so active in schemes as formerly, he still talked of works to be done; and at "Our Club," and such-like friendly little associations, the wit was all himself, and came to our stated meetings as punctually as a star to its place in the sky. He had suffered severely from illness, especially from rheumatism, at various periods of life; and he had lived freely and joyously, as was natural to a man of his peculiar gifts. But, death! We never thought of the brilliant and radiant Douglas in connection with the black river. He would have sunk Charon's boat with a shower of epigrams, one would have fancied, if the old fellow, with his squalid beard, had dared to ask him into the stern-sheets. To more than one man who knew him intimately the first announcement of his decease was made by the "Times."
On the evening of the 19th of May, I met him,—as I frequently did on Saturday evenings,—and on no evening do I remember him more lively and brilliant. Next Saturday, I believe, he was at the same kindly board; but some accident kept me away;—I never saw him again. Soon after, he was taken ill. There passed a week of much suffering. June had come, warm and rainy, but our friend was dying. The nature of the illness might be doubtful, but there could be no doubt that the end was near. He prepared himself to meet it. He sent friendly messages of farewell to those he loved, begging, too, that if what he had ever said had pained any one, he might now be forgiven. His mind was made up, and his children were all about him. On a fine evening in the first week of June, he was moved to the window, that he might see the sun setting. On Monday, the eighth of that month, being perfectly conscious almost till the very last, he died.
The time is not yet come to discuss what his ultimate place will be in the literature of his century. It will not be denied that he was a man of rare gifts, and of a remarkable experience in life; and his life and the popularity of his writings will by and by help posterity to understand this our generation. Meanwhile I shall leave him in his resting-place in Norwood, among the hills and fields of Surrey, near the grave of the friend of his youth, the gentle and gifted Laman Blanchard, where he was laid on the 15th of June, amidst a concourse of people not often assembled round the remains of one who has begun life as humbly as he did.
His death made a great impression; and the acuteness with which his friends felt it said more than could be said in a long dissertation for the kindly and love-inspiring qualities of the man. As soon as it appeared that his family were left in less prosperous circumstances than had been hoped, their interest took an active form. A committee met to organize a plan by which the genius of those who had known Jerrold might be employed in raising a provision for his family. The rest has been duly recorded in the newspapers, where the success of these benevolent exertions may be read.
The capital of Tuscany—according to its most respectable and veracious chroniclers—is the oldest city extant. Its history is traced with great accuracy up to the Deluge, which is as much as could be reasonably expected. The egg of Florence is Fiesole. This city, according to the conscientious and exhaustive Villani, [Footnote: Cronica. Lib. I. c. vii.] was built by a grandson of Noah, Attalus by name, who came into Italy in order "to avoid the confusion occasioned by the building of the Tower of Babel." [Footnote: "per evitare la confusione creata per la edificazione della torre di Babel," etc.] Noah and his wife had, however, already made a visit to Tuscany, soon after the Deluge; so that it is not remarkable that "King Attalus" should have felt inclined to visit the estates of his ancestor. At the same time, it is obvious that the Noahs had not been satisfied with the locality, and had remigrated; for Attalus, upon his arrival, found Italy entirely without inhabitants. He, therefore, with great propriety claimed jurisdiction over the whole country, elected himself king, and his wife Electra queen; built himself a palace, with a city attached to it; and in short, made himself, generally, at home. We are also fortunate in having some genealogical particulars as to his wife's antecedents; and it is to be regretted that modern historians, of the skeptical, the irreverent, and the startling schools, could not imitate the gravity, the good faith, and the respect for things established, by which the elder chroniclers were inspired. The apothecaries of the Middle Ages never dealt so unkindly with the Pharaohs of Egypt, as the historical excavators of more recent times have done with the embalmed, crowned, and consecrated mummies which they have been pleased to denounce as delusions. Your Potiphars or your Mizraims, even when converted into balsam, or employed as a styptic, were at least not denuded of their historical identity by the druggists who reduced their time-honored remains to a powder. Their dust was made merchandise, but their characters were respected. Moreover, there was an object and a motive, even if mistaken ones, on the part of the medival charlatans. But what ointment, what soothing syrup, what panacea has been the result of all this pulverizing of Semiramis and Sardanapalus, Mucius Scvola and Junius Brutus? Are all the characters graven so deeply by the stylus of Clio upon so many monumental tablets, and almost as indelibly and quite as painfully upon school-boy memory, to be sponged out at a blow, like chalk from a blackboard? We, at least, cling fondly to our Tarquins; we shudder when the abyss of historic incredulity swallows up the familiar form of Mettus Curtius; we refuse to be weaned from the she-wolf of Romulus. Your unbelieving Guy Faux, who approaches the stately superstructures of history, not to gaze upon them with the eye of faith and veneration, but only that he may descend to the vaults, with his lantern and his keg of critical gunpowder, in order to blow the whole fabric sky-high,—such an ill-conditioned trouble-tomb should be burned in effigy once a year.
Electra, then, wife of Attalus, founder and king of Fiesole, was of very brilliant origin, being no less than one of the Pleiades, and the only one of the sisters who seems to have married into a patriarchal family. "The reason why the seven stars are seven is a pretty reason"; but it is not "because they are not eight," as Lear suggests, but, as we now discover by patient investigation, because one of them had married and settled in Tuscany. We are not informed whether the lost Pleiad, thus found on the Arno, was happy or not, after her removal from that more elevated sphere which she had just begun to move in. But if respectability of connection and a pleasant locality be likely to insure contentment to a fallen star, we have reason to believe that she found herself more comfortable than Lucifer was after his emigration.
Great care must be taken not to confound Attalus with Tantalus,—a blunder which, as Villani observes, [Footnote: Cron. Lib. I. c. vii.] is often committed by ignorant chroniclers. But Tantalus, as we all very well know, was the son of Jupiter, and grandson of Saturn. Now we are quite sure that Noah never married a daughter of Saturn, because that voracious heathen ate up all his children except Jupiter. This simple fact precludes all possibility of a connection with Saturn by the mother's side, and illustrates the advantage of patient historical investigation, when founded upon a reverence for traditional authority. Had it not been for such an honest chronicler as Giovanni Villani, our historic thirst might have been tantalized for seven centuries longer with this delusion. Certainly, to confound Tantalus, ancestor of all the Trojans, with Attalus, ancestor of all the Tuscans, would be worse than that "confusion of Babel" which the quiet-loving potentate came to Florence to avoid.
Attalus brought with him from Babel an eminent astrologer and civil engineer, who assured him, after careful experiments, that, of all places in Europe, the mount of Fiesole was the healthiest and the best. He was therefore ordered to build the city there at once. When finished, it was called Fia sola, because of its solitariness; Attalus, in consequence of his participation in the Babel confusion, having become familiar with Tuscan several thousand years before that language was invented. The city, thus auspiciously established, flourished forty or fifty centuries, more or less, without the occurrence of any event worth recording, down to the time of Catiline. The Fiesolans, unfortunately, aided and comforted that conspirator in his designs against Rome, and were well punished for their crime by Julius Csar, who battered their whole town about their ears, in consequence, and then ploughed up their territory, and sowed it with salt. The harvest of that agricultural operation was reaped by Florence; for the conqueror immediately afterwards, by command of the Roman Senate, converted a little suburb at the bottom of the hill into a city. Into this the Fiesolans removed at once, and found themselves very comfortable there; being saved the trouble of going up and down a mountain every time they came out and went home again. Florence took its name from one Fiorino, marshal of the camp, in the Roman army, who was killed in the battle of Fiesole. As he was the flower of chivalry, his name was thought of good augury; the more so, as roses and lilies sprang forth plenteously from the spot where he fell. Hence the fragrant and poetical name which the City of Flowers has retained until our days; and hence the cognizance of the three flowers-de-luce which it has borne upon its shield. Julius Csar, whose sword had severed the infant city from its dead mother in so Csarean a fashion, had set his heart upon calling the town after himself, and took the contrary decree of the Roman Senate very much in dudgeon. He therefore left the country in a huff, and revenged himself by annihilating vast numbers of unfortunate Gauls, Britons, Germans, and other barbarians, who happened to come in his way.
The first public edifice of any importance erected in the city was a temple to Mars, with a colossal statue of that divinity in the midst of it. This is the present baptistery, formerly cathedral, of Saint John; for the temple never was destroyed, and never can be destroyed, until the day of judgment. This we know on the authority of more than one eminent historian. It is also proved by an inscription to that effect in the mosaic pavement, which any one may inspect who chooses to do so. [Footnote: Villani, Cron. Lib. I. c. xlii.]
The town was utterly destroyed A.D. 450, by Totila, Flagellum Dei, who, with great want of originality, immediately rebuilt Fiesole; thus repeating, but reversing, the achievement of the Romans five hundred years before. So Fiesole and Florence seem to have alternately filled and emptied themselves, like two buckets in a well, down to the time of Charlemagne. That emperor rebuilt Florence, but experienced some difficulty in doing so, by reason of the statue of Mars, which had been thrown into the Arno. The temple, converted to Christian purposes, had been the only building to escape the wrath of Totila; but owing to the pagan incantations practised when the town was originally consecrated to the god of war, the statue of that divinity would not consent to lie quietly and ignominiously in the bed of the Arno, while his temple and town were appropriated to other purposes. The river was dragged. The statue was found and set upon a column near the edge of the river, on a spot which is now the head of the Ponte Vecchio. True to its pugnacious character, it brought nothing but turbulence and bloodshed upon the town. The long and memorable feuds between the Guelphs and Ghibellines began by the slaying of Buondelmonte in his wedding dress, at the base of the statue. (A.D. 1215.)
There could be no better foundation for romance or drama than the famous Buondelmonte marriage, before which, sings Dante, Florence had never cause to shed a tear, and after which the white lily of her escutcheon was dyed red in her heart's blood. There were four noble families in Florence, of surpassing importance,—the Buondelmonti, the Uberti, the Donati, and the Amidei. A match-making widow of the Donati has a daughter of extraordinary beauty, whom she intends to bestow in marriage upon the young chief of the Buondelmonti. Before she has time to complete her arrangements, however, Buondelmonte betroths himself to a daughter of the house of Amidei. Signora Donati waylays him, as he passes the door, and suddenly displays to him the fatal beauty of her daughter. "She should have been your bride," said the widow, "had you not been so hasty." The gentleman, dazzled by the beauty of the girl, and satisfied by the prudent mother as to the dowry, marries Signorina Donati upon the spot. Next day, riding across the Ponte Vecchio upon a white horse, he is beset by a party of friends and relatives of the deserted damsel, and killed close by the statue of Mars. All the nobles of Florence take part in the question; upon one side the Nerli, the Frescobaldi, the ——; but "courage, gentle reader," as Tristram Shandy observes, in his famous historical chapter upon Calais; "I scorn it; 'tis enough to have thee in my power; but to make use of the advantage which the fortune of the pen has now gained over thee would be too much."
Thirty years long, then, the town gates were all fastened, and the streets all chained, so as to make many little compact inclosures for slaughtering purposes; while the whites and blacks, Guelphs and Ghibellines, red caps and brown, all buffeted each other pell-mell. To the exhaustion thus produced of noble blood is often ascribed the establishment of a popular government at the close of the thirteenth century. The causes lay really much deeper, however,—in the great revolutions consequent upon the extinction of the Suabian dynasty, and in the wonderful progress in culture made by the Florentine democracy.
O Buondelmonte, quanto mal fuggisti Le nozze sue per gli altrui conforti! Molti sarebber lieti, che son tristi, Se Dio t' avesse conceduto ad Ema La prima volta ch' a citt venisti. Ma conveniasi a quella pietra scema Che guarda il ponte, che Fiorenza fesse Vittima nella sua pace postrema. Con queste genti, e con altre con esse, Vid' io Fiorenza in s fatto riposo, Che non avea cagione onde piangesse. Con queste genti vid' io glorioso E giusto il popol suo tanto, che 'l giglio Non era ad asta mai posto a ritroso, N per division fatto vermiglio. Paradiso, XVI. 140-154.
The walk to the church of San Miniato is a paved, steep path, through olive orchards fringed by a row of cypresses, to the little church of San Salvadore; thence, through a garden of roses and cabbages, fresh and fragrant in the December sun, to the convent of Miniato. From the terrace is one of the best views of the city; not so fine, however, as that from Bello Sguardo. The gentle, beautiful chain of hills which encircle Florence smile cheerfully in the sunshine, clapping their hands and skipping like lambs, if little hills ever did make such a demonstration. These environs of the town are like a frame of golden filigree, almost too fantastic a one for so shadowy and sombre a city. The green hill-sides and plains are sown thickly with palaces and villas glancing whitely through silvery forests of olives and myrtle; while the distant Apennines, like guardian giants, lift their icy shields in the distance.
The church is built upon the grave of the eminent saint, Miniato. This personage was, it seems, the son of the king of Armenia,—very much as all the heroes in the Arabian Nights are sons of the emperor of China. Having been converted to Christianity, he was offered by the emperor Decius great honors and rewards suitable to his royal rank, if he would renounce his faith. (A.D. 250.) He refused, and the emperor cut off his head. The execution took place in Florence, on the north side of the Arno. The holy man was not so easily disposed of, however; for he immediately clapped his head upon his shoulders again, and holding it on with both hands, waded across the river, and marched steadily up the hill on the other side. Arrived at the top, he gave up his head and the ghost. Hence the convent and church of San Miniato.
The church, to an architectural student, is interesting and important. A man needs a good eye and a good education to feel and thoroughly appreciate the grand symphonies which this wonderful architectural music of the Middle Ages has so long been silently playing. San Miniato belongs to the close of the Romanesque or Latin period. The early Christian school had expired in the midst of the general convulsions of the ninth and tenth centuries,—in the struggles of an effete and expiring antiquity with the brutal, blundering, but vigorous infancy of medival Europe. During the three centuries which succeeded, there was rather a warming into unnatural life of the mighty corpse, than the birth of a new organism, capable of healthy existence and unlimited reproduction. The Romanesque art seems to have dealt with the ancient forms, without moulding any thing essentially and vitally new. Where there seemed originality, it was, after all, only a theft from the Saracenic or Byzantine, and the plagiarism became incongruity when engrafted upon the Roman. Thus a Latin church was often but an early Christian basilica with a Moorish arcade.
The San Miniato has an arcade, of course not pointed, upon the faade and the interior. Its tessellated marble work, its ancient mosaics, with its Roman capitals and columns, all make it interesting. These last show that at the close of the epoch, even as at its beginning, the chain which binds the school to the ancient Roman is fastened anew.
The frescos in the sacristy, by Spinello Aretino, painted at the end of the fourteenth century, are singularly well preserved,—fresh as if painted yesterday. 'Tis a great pity that the works of other masters of the same age, Spinello's superiors, could not have been as fortunate. If the frescos of Orgagna, and of Benozzo Gozzoli in the Campo Santo at Pisa, were in as good condition, it would be much more satisfactory.
These pictures of Spinello are drawn with much boldness and energy, but it is not the fortunate audacity of Orgagna. They are much more the work of a mechanic, not self-distrustful, but with comparatively little feeling for the higher range of artistic expression. They are quite destitute of sentiment, but are not without a strong, rough, hardy humor. The drawing is far from accurate, but the coloring is well laid on. They represent the life and adventures of Saint Benedict, are of colossal size, and depict the saint in various striking positions. Here he is portrayed as rescuing a brother friar from the inconveniences resulting from a house having fallen upon him; in another he is miraculously mending a crockery jug belonging to his nurse; and in a third he is unsuccessfully attempting to move a large stone, upon which the Devil has seated himself, much to Benedict's discomfiture. The fiend is drawn, con amore, in black, with hairy hide, bat's wings, and a monkey's tail; the traditional Devil who has come down to us unharmed through all the vicissitudes of the Middle Ages. The saints and friars are generally attired in mazarine blue.
ACADEMY OF THE FINE ARTS.
There is here a large hall, containing a brief chronicle of the progress of painting from Cimabue to—Carlo Dolce! There may be a still deeper descent; but that is bathos sufficient for any lover of his species.
It is desirable to look at these painters of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries with some reference to the political condition of Florence and of Italy at that time. In truth, Florence during the period of its life was Italy,—the vivida vis, creative, contemplative, ornative, impulsive to the clay of Europe. The art of painting seems to spring full-grown into existence, with the appearance of Cimabue in the latter part of the thirteenth century. Even so the Italian language suddenly crystallizes itself into a brilliant and perpetual type, at the same epoch as the wondrous poem of Dante flashes forth from the brooding chaos,—the fiat lux of a new intellectual world.
The Emperor Frederic II., last of the imperial Hohenstaufens, died in 1250. Chivalrous, adventurous, despotic, as became the head of the conquering German races at their epoch of triumph,—imaginative, poetical, debauched, atheistical, as might be expected of a prince born in Italy, he seemed to justify the somewhat incongruous eagerness with which the Florentine mind sought political salvation in the bosom of the Church. Yet here seems the fatal flaw in the liberal system of Italy at that period. The Ghibelline party was at least consistent. To be an imperialist, a Hohenstaufenite, was at least definite; as much so as to be an absolutist, a Habsburgite, a Napoleonite to-day. But to be a Guelph,—to be in favor of municipal development, local self-government, intellectual progress, and to fight for all these things under the banner of the Church, in an age which witnessed the establishment of the Inquisition, in an age when the mighty spirit of Hildebrand was rising every day from his grave in more and more influential and imposing shape,—this was to place one's self in a false position. Dante, no doubt, felt all this to the core of his being. A poet by nature, with that intense, morbid, proud, uncomfortable, alternately benevolent and misanthropical temperament which occasionally accompanies the poetic faculty, he had little in common with the bustling, vivacious character of his fellow-townsmen. Fiorentino di nascita, non di costumi, as he describes himself, he had slight sympathy with Blacks or Whites, Guelphs or Ghibellines. A Guelph by birth, a Ghibelline by banishment, he was in reality an absolutist in politics, and a bigot in religion. Had a hell never been heard of, he would have invented one, for the mere comfort of roasting his enemies in it, and his friends along with them,—the solitary enjoyment of his lifetime. His part in public affairs has been much magnified. He was prior in 1300; but almost any citizen of Florence might be prior. He was once sent to Rome, on a diplomatic errand; but he was only the envoy of a party, only one of a set of delegates appointed by the Whites. He was banished for his political opinions, and afterwards condemned to death; but even this was no distinction; for six hundred other persons, most of them obscure men, were included in the same sentence, for the same offence. They all happened, in short, to belong to the party opposed to the one which was successful. His merits of style can hardly be exaggerated. Alone of mankind he almost created a language. Imagine the English, or the German, or the French poetry of the year 1300 flowing musically and familiarly from the lips of 1857! The culture, too, of his epoch might almost be measured by his personal accomplishments. The Aristotle, the Bacon, the Humboldt of Florence was one of the world's great poets into the bargain; but he was any thing but a statesman or a politician.
In his poetry, accordingly, written when the Florentine democracy was young, vigorous, and mischievous, there is no chord of sympathy with the polity of his native place. On the contrary, the whole magnificent "Commedia" is a De profundis chanted out of an oppressed and scornful bosom, a fiery protest, an excoriating satire against the liberty upon which the Commonwealth prided itself. Florence banished and would have burned her poet. The poet banished and burned Florence in the great hell which his imagination created and peopled. His ashes,—so often and so vainly implored for by the repentant and sorrowing mother, who had driven him from her bosom with curses, to wander and to starve, "to eat the bitter bread of exile, and to feel that sharpest arrow in the bow of exile, the going up and down in another's house,"—his ashes are not the property of the Republic. Are his laurels? Yes. The "Divina Commedia" is a splendid proof of the vitality which pervades a republican atmosphere. There was little of justice perhaps, and less of security and comfort; but there was at any rate life, intellectual development, thought, pulsation, fierce collision of mind with mind, attrition of human passions and divine faculties, out of which an elemental fire was created which flamed over the civilized world, and has lighted the torches of civilization for centuries. He who would study the artes humaniores must turn of necessity to two fountain heads; and he finds them in the trampled marketplaces of two noisy, turbulent, unreasonable, pestilent little democratic cities,—Athens and Florence. Extinguish the architecture and the sculpture, the poetry and the philosophy of Attica; obliterate from the sum of civilization the names of Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Machiavelli,—of Cimabue, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Brunelleschi, Michel Angelo,—of Brunetto, Ficino, Politian; and how much diminished will be the remainder!
Nevertheless, it is in vain to look for any special seal set by the spirit of liberty upon the artistic productions of the earlier age in Florence. The works of the great painters bear the impress of the Church. If the spirit of liberty be present at all, it is veiled and hooded by monastic garments. But it should never be forgotten, that, in this age, the Church embodied an element of liberty. The keys of Saint Peter were brandished against the universal sceptre of the Suabians; cultivated intellect was matched, and often successfully, against brutal violence. The Pope was the rival of Csar.
The first great painting in the Academy—to return from this digression—is the famous Madonna of Cimabue. This picture is astonishing. Although considered by many critics to manifest lingering traces of the Byzantine bandages, it seems to us, on the contrary, to be wonderfully free from stiffness and conventionality. The genius of Cimabue extricates itself at a bound from the trammels of preceding systems, and flies vigorously towards nature.
The Madonna is colossal. She wears a hood, and holds her child in her arms. There is a strong human, yet spiritualized expression upon the face. The drapery is gracefully arranged, not folded like mummy cloths; and the color is strong and liberally laid on, without any attempt, however, at transparency of shadow. There is little indication of the technical glories of succeeding centuries. Perhaps the best part of the picture is in the lower margin. Here are four heads of saints, painted with a breadth and energy absolutely startling, when one recollects by whom and when they were executed. Dominic Ghirlandaio, two hundred years later, could hardly have put more masculine expression into a quartet of heads.
Giotto's Madonna is the pendant to that of Cimabue; but although painted twenty-five years later, it shows less progress in art than might be expected. Giotto's triumphs are to be found in the frescos of the Santa Croce. In that unequalled series, the art-student recognizes, almost at a glance, the power of the master. Largeness, rhythm, and harmony of composition,—dramatic movement, and individual beauty of expression,—heads which have brains, eyes which can smile, lips which can speak, fluent limbs which can move, or remain in natural repose,—the whole surrounded and inspired by that atmosphere of piety, that effluence of religious ecstasy, which can never be imitated, and which came from the unquestioning faith of the artist;—such wonders were for the first time revealed by Giotto. The shepherd boy, whom Cimabue found drawing pictures upon a stone in the open field, nobly repaid his patron and master, by extending still farther the domain of art,—by throwing its doors wide open to the cool breath of nature and the liberal sunshine. To pass from the Byzantines into the school of Giotto is to come out from the catacombs into the warm precincts of the cheerful day.
Of the pictures of the early part of the fifteenth century, none are more worthy of attention in this collection than those of Fra Angelico of Fiesole. (1387-1455.) Nevertheless, it seems no great progress from Cimabue, Giotto, and Orgagna, whose compositions are so full of energetic life and human passion, to these careful, gentle miniatures upon an expanded scale. The Fra was a miniatore, after all,—a manuscript illuminator of the first class. His effort to represent a descent from the cross in a large and dramatic manner is feeble and flat. This flight seems beyond his strength; and his waxy little wings, which sustained him so well within his own sphere, melted at once in this higher region.
Far better is an exquisite little picture in his very best manner, a work which hangs in the apartment De' Piccoli Quadri. This is a Judgment Day, and a cheerful painting of its class. There is an old conceit, very cleverly carried out through the whole composition, of representing all the just made perfect as actually converted into little children. Kings with crowns, popes, bishops, cardinals in hats and mitres, monks cowled and robed in conventual habiliments, are all philandering together through gardens of amaranth and asphodel towards the Grecian portico of heaven; and all these fortunate personages, whether monarchs, priests, fine ladies, or beggars, are depicted with perfectly infantine faces. To do this well lay exactly in the quaint, delicate nature of the angelic Frater; and this portion of the picture is most exquisitely handled. The other moiety, where devils with rabbits' ears, tiger faces, and monkeys' tails, are forking over the damned into frying-pans, while Satan devours them as fast as cooked, is common-place and vulgar. At the same time, it is certain that the whole composition shows much poetry of invention and delicacy of finish.
Andrew Castagno's Magdalen, like Donatello's Wooden Statue of the same penitent in the Baptistery, seems a female Robinson Crusoe,—hirsute, cadaverous, fleshless, uncombed and uncomely,—certainly a more edifying spectacle than the voluptuous, Titianesque exhibitions of fair frailty which became the fashion afterwards.
Of Gentile da Fabriano, a very rare master, there hangs an Adoration of the Magi, marked May, 1423. One always feels grateful to such of the Quattrocentisti as enlarged the sphere of artistic action, by going out of the conventional circle of holy families, nativities, and entombments. There is a dash about Gentile, a fresh, cavalier-like gentility, quite surprising, and altogether his own. A showy, flippant frivolity in several of the figures enlivens and refreshes us with its mundane sparkle and energy. One of the three kings, in particular,—a young, well-dressed, vivacious, goguenard-looking personage, with a very glittering pair of spurs, which his groom is just unbuckling, while another holds a highly bedizened war-horse, who is throwing up his head, showing all his teeth, and crying ha, ha, with all his might,—has a very dramatic effect.
Of the Lippo Lippis, the Lorenzo di Credis, the Ghirlandaios, the Peruginos, and the other great masters of the fifteenth century, of whom are many masterpieces in this collection, there shall, for the present, not a word be said.
There is also a portrait of Savonarola, by Fra Bartolommeo. The face is neither impressive nor attractive. The head is shorn, except the monastic coronal, and shows a small organ of benevolence, and a very large one of self-esteem. The profile is not handsome,—the nose being regularly aquiline, while the mouth is heavy with a projecting upper lip. A strong, blue beard, closely shaven, but very visible, darkens and improves the physiognomy.
SANTA MARIA NOVELLA.
This church was so beloved by Michel Angelo as to be called his bride. It must be confessed that the great artist was determined in his choice less by the external charms than by the interior excellence of his sposa; for although she has now got herself a new front and vamped herself up a little, thus looking a trifle younger than she must have done three hundred years ago, still she has any thing but a bridal or virginal aspect.
This church and monastery belong to the earlier German period of Italy, if such a thing as Italian Gothic can be said to have ever existed. The truth is, that with the exception of Milan cathedral, which is modern, exotic, and exceptional, the German, or, to use the common and senseless expression, the Gothic system of architecture never fairly took root in Italy. Certainly, the pointed windows and arches of the Florence duomo and its campanile do not constitute it a Gothic church. The square cornices, vast masses of wall, heavy pilasters, and, in general, the horizontal outlines and heavy expression of all these churches, have a character very remote from that of the airy, upspringing, fantastic German architecture, in which every shaft, arch, vault-girdle, pillar, window-frame, pinnacle, seems struggling and panting upward with an almost audible eloquence. This is not the expression of the duomo here. There is no perpetual Excelsior ringing from point, spire, and turret. On the contrary, the grave, almost rigid aspect of the ancient basilica—the Roman business-hall, compounded of Greek elements, and transformed into a Grecian temple—is ever at work repressing that devotional ecstasy which is the characteristic of the Gothic church. The Italian language in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was like the Italian architecture of the same period. The different intellectual manifestations, subjected to the same influences, obeyed one general law. The conquering German mind of the Dark Ages easily impressed itself where the soil was still virgin. Throughout savage Europe the dominion was yielded at once to the new power which succeeded to the decrepit empire of Rome. Gaul, Germany, Britain, Iberia obeyed instinctively the same impulse. The children born of that vigorous embrace were of fresh and healthy beauty. The manifestations of the German mind in the cathedrals of Paris, Cologne, Antwerp are undimmed and unrivalled. The early German architecture in the actual realms of Germany is as romantic, energetic, and edifying as its poetry at the same epoch. A great German cathedral is a religious epic in stone. All the ornaments, all the episodes, spring from and cluster around one central, life-giving principle.
In Italy, on the other hand, the architecture of the so-called Gothic period embodies a constant struggle between the ancient and the new-born mind,—a contest in which the eventual triumph of the elder is already foreshadowed, even while the new has apparently gained the ascendency. Why was this? Because in Italy the German conquerors had invaded the land of ancient culture, of settled and organized form. The world could not be created de novo, as in the shaggy deserts of Hercynia and Belgica. The seeds of human speech, planted in those vast wildernesses, sprouted readily into new and luxuriant languages. English, Flemish, German, French spring from German roots hidden in Celtic soil. The Latin element, afterwards engrafted, is exotic, excrescent, and not vital to the organization. In Italy, where a language, a grammar, a literature already existed in full force, the German element was almost neutralized. The Goths could only deface the noble language of Rome. They gave it auxiliary verbs,—that feeblest form of assistance to human eloquence,—and they took away its declensions. Architecture presented the same phenomenon. It submitted to what seemed the German tyranny for a time, but it submitted under a perpetual and visible protest. [Footnote: Compare Kugler, Kunstgeschichte, pp. 590, 591.] The Gothic details in the campanile and the duomo look altogether extraneous and compulsory; they are not assimilated into the constitution of the structure. The severe Roman profile is marked as distinctly as ever, notwithstanding the foreign ornaments which it has been forced to assume.
Santa Maria Novella, then, is as good a German Italian church as can be found; but, for the reasons stated, it is not particularly interesting as a piece of architecture. Its wealth is in its frescos. In the quadrangle of the cloister is a series of pictures by Paolo Uccello, who, by the introduction of linear perspective, of which he is esteemed the inventor, made a new epoch in art. In the "chapel of the Spaniards" is a famous collection of frescos by Giotto's scholars. A large, thoughtful, and attractive composition is called the Wisdom of the Church. On the opposite side is a very celebrated painting, entitled the Church Militant and Triumphant; the militating and triumphing business being principally confided to the dogs of the Lord,—videlicet, Domini-canes. A large number of this dangerous fraternity is represented as a pack of hounds, fighting, pulling, biting, and howling most vigorously in a life-and-death-struggle with the wolves of heresy. In the centre of the composition are introduced various portraits. These were thought for a long time to represent Cimabue (in a white night-cap), Petrarch (in long petticoats), Laura (in short ones), and various other celebrities. Vasari is the original authority [Footnote: Vite da Vasari, ed. Lemonnier, 1846. Sim. and Lippo Memmi, p. 90, and notes.] for this opinion, which has ceased to be entertained by cognoscenti. It is also no longer believed that the pictures are the work of Taddeo Gaddi and Simon Memmi. The custode clings to both delusions,—the portraits and the painters. Whether red Murray, and that devoted band of English and Americans who follow his flag, patronize the Vasari theory or more modern ones, we are at this moment unable to state.
By what subtile threads are international hearts bound together! Two great nations have wrangled for a century; but they have a common property in Shakspeare and Tupper,—and—most precious of all joint-possessions—in the hand-books of Murray. We feel with one throb upon all sthetic subjects. We admire the same great works of art. We drop a tear upon exactly the same spots, hallowed in ancient or modern history. The fraternity is absolute.
In the Strozzi chapel are an altar-piece and several wall-pictures by Andrew Orgagna. They are not so grandly conceived as that wondrous composition of his, the Triumph of Death, in the Pisan Campo Santo; but they are additional proofs of his intense and Dante-like genius. No doubt Dante influenced him deeply, as he did all his contemporaries, whose minds were fertile enough to ripen such seed. The large picture on the left—a view of paradise—is full of energetic and beautiful figures, combined with much dramatic effect and great technical skill. The opposite pictures, representing hell, were not by Andrew, but by Bernard Orgagna, a man of far inferior calibre. They have, moreover, been entirely revamped.
In the choir are the renowned frescos of Dominic Ghirlandaio,—scenes from the lives of John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary. These, however, are but names and frames. The great merit of these paintings is that they were the first, or among the first, to introduce the actual into the world of conventional and conventual art. They form a series of full-length portraits,—sometimes of celebrated contemporaries, as Politian, Marsilio Ficino, and others,—but always of flesh-and-blood people, living, moving, and having a being. That group of Platonists, with their looks of profound wisdom and dogmatic eloquence, are lifting their forefingers, pricking up their ears, opening their mouths, (each obviously interrupting the flow of the others' rhetoric,) in most lifelike fashion. One almost catches the winged syllogisms as they fly from lip to lip. We are almost drawn into the dispute ourselves, and are disposed to ventilate a score of outrageous paradoxes, for the mere satisfaction of contradicting such wiseacres. These heads are painted with a vivacity and an energy worthy of the Dutch great masters of the seventeenth century. In fact, there is something caught, no doubt, from the early schools of Flanders; for Dominic was the contemporary of the glorious masters protected by Philip the Good of Burgundy,—the only good thing he ever did in his life,—the man who opened the road for that long triumphant procession which for two centuries was to march through the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. There is no want, however, of historical dignity in these compositions. Each one has a stately rhythm, an harmonious grandeur of conception and execution, which, in connection with the lifelike fidelity and unaffected beauty of the heads, stamp their creator as a dramatic genius of a higher order than any of his contemporaries.
The Madonna of Cimabue, which hangs at the end of the south transept, resembles the one in the Academy. In place of the powerful saints' heads, is a group of angels of much grace and purity, supporting a shrine. This picture is considered a bolder and more untrammelled composition than the other. It is the world-renowned masterpiece of the thirteenth century, which all Florence turned out in procession to honor when it left the painter's hands; and which even Charles of Anjou, dripping in blood, and stalking through the scenes of that great tragedy whose catastrophe was the Sicilian vespers, paused on his way to admire.
In this church, which the admirers of Brunelleschi must study, are two small, but most exquisite masterpieces of Lippo Lippi. All the works of this most profligate of friars are tender and holy beyond description. They have also that distinguishing charm of the Florentine school of the fifteenth century, navet,—a fresh, gentle, and loving appreciation of the beautiful and the natural. It is evident that the Fra went through the world with his eyes open, looking for beauty wherever it was visible; and in his works, at least, there is no lingering trace of Byzantinism. A scholar of Masaccio, of a far inferior mind both to Masaccio and Maselino, and without the force of hand of either, he is still, more than both together, the founder of the natural school of Florence.
One of his pictures is in this church,—a Madonna with the child on her lap. The Christ is leaning forward and playing with a cross which the infant Saint John holds in his hand. Nothing can be more suggestive or touching than this prophetic infantile movement. Although the color of the picture is rather feeble and washy, as frequently may be observed of Lippo's paintings, the whole expression is bathed in purity and piety. Yet the Fra was such an incorrigible mauvais sujet, that when he was employed to decorate the palazzo of Cosmo Vecchio, the Pater Patri was obliged to lock up his artist in the chamber which he was painting. The holy man was not easily impounded, however; for he cut his bedclothes into strips, let himself into the street from an upper-story window, and departed on his usual adventures; so that it was weeks before Cosmo could hear of his painter again.
[Concluded in the next Number.]
Whene'er a noble deed is wrought, Whene'er is spoken a noble thought, Our hearts, in glad surprise, To higher levels rise.
The tidal wave of deeper souls Into our inmost being rolls, And lifts us unawares Out of all meaner cares.
Honor to those whose words or deeds Thus help us in our daily needs, And by their overflow Raise us from what is low!
Thus thought I, as by night I read Of the great army of the dead, The trenches cold and damp, The starved and frozen camp,—
The wounded from the battle-plain, In dreary hospitals of pain, The cheerless corridors, The cold and stony floors.
Lo! in that house of misery A lady with a lamp I see Pass through the glimmering gloom And flit from room to room.
And slow, as in a dream of bliss, The speechless sufferer turns to kiss Her shadow, as it falls Upon the darkening walls.
As if a door in heaven should be Opened, and then closed suddenly, The vision came and went, The light shone and was spent.
On England's annals, through the long Hereafter of her speech and song, That light its rays shall cast From portals of the past.
A lady with a lamp shall stand In the great history of the land, A noble type of good, Heroic womanhood.
Nor even shall be wanting here The palm, the lily, and the spear, The symbols that of yore Saint Filomena bore.
SALLY PARSONS'S DUTY.
The sun that shines on eastern Massachusetts, specially on buttercups and dandelions, and providentially on potatoes, looks down on no greener fields in these days than it saw in the spring of 1775, fenced in and fenced off by the zigzag snake-fences of 'Zekiel Parsons's farm.
"About this time," as almanacs say, young orchards were misty with buds, red maples on the highway shone in the clear light, and a row of bright tin pans at the shed door of the farm-house testified to a sturdy arm and skilful hand within,—arm and hand both belonging to no less a person than Miss Sally, 'Zekiel Parsons's only daughter, and the prettiest girl in Westbury; a short, sturdy, rosy little maid, with hair like a ripe chestnut shell, bright blue eyes full of mischief, and such a sunny, healthy, common-sense character, one is almost afraid to tell of it, it is so out of date now.
But of what use is it to describe her? How can I impress upon moderns how enlivening and refreshing was her aspect, as she spun, or scoured pans, in a linsey-woolsey petticoat and white short gown, wearing her pretty curls in a crop? George Tucker knew it all without telling; and so did half a dozen of the Westbury boys, who haunted the picket fence round 'Zekiel's garden every moonlight night in summer, or scraped their feet by the half hour together on his door-step in winter evenings. Sally was a belle; she knew it and liked it, as every honest girl does;—and she would have been a belle without the aid of her father's wide farm and pine-tree shillings; for she was fresh and lovely, with a spice of coquetry, but a true woman's heart beneath it all.
It was very hard to discover whom Sally Parsons favored among her numerous beaux. Her father seriously inclined to George Tucker; not because he was rich,—for 'Zekiel had not arrived at fashionable principles,—but because he was honest, kind-hearted, and reliable; but as yet Sally showed no decided preference; time and the hour were near, but not in sight.
One Sunday night, early in April, after the nine o'clock bell had scattered Sally's admirers far and wide, and old 'Zekiel sat by the chimney corner, watching his sister, Aunt Poll, rake up the rest of the hickory log in the ashes, while he rubbed away sturdily at his feet, holding in one hand the blue yarn stockings, "wrought by no hand, as you may guess," but that of Sally; the talk, that had momentarily died away, began again, and with a glance at Long Snapps,—a lank, shrewd-faced old sailor, who, to use his own speech, had "cast anchor 'longside of an old ship-met fur a spell, bein' bound fur his own cabin up in Lenox,"—'Zekiel spoke after this wise:—
"I expect, Long, you sailors hev a drefful hard, onsartain time navigatin', don't ye?"
"Well, skipper! that are depen's on folks. I don't calk'late to hev no sort of a hard time, ef I don't get riled with it; but these times I doo rile easy."
"What onsettles ye, Snapps?"
"Well, there's a squall to wind'ard, skipper; 'ta'n't no cat's-paw neither; good no-no-east, ef it's a flaw. And you landlubbers are a-goin' to leeward, some on ye."
"You don't say! what be you a hintin' at?"
"Well, there's a reel blow down to Bostin, Zekle; there's no more gettin' out o' harbour with our old sloop; she's ben an' gone, an' got some 'tarnal lawyer's job spliced to her bows, an' she's laid up to dry; but that's a pesky small part o' judgment. Bostin's full o' them Britishers, sech as scomfishkated the Susan Jane, cos our skipper done suthin' he hedn't oughter, or didn't do suthin' he hed oughter; and I tell yew the end o' things is nigh about comin' on here!"
Sally, in the chimney corner, heard Long Snapps with open eyes, and hitching her wooden chair nearer, inquired solemnly,—
"What do you mean, Mister Snapps? Is the end of the world comin' here?"
"Bless your pooty little figger-head, Sally! I don't know as 'tis, but suthin' nigh about as bad is a-comin. Them Britishers is sot out for to hev us under hatches, or else walk the plank; and they're darned mistook, ef they think men is a-goin' to be steered blind, and can't blow up the cap'en no rate. There a'n't no man in Ameriky but what's got suthin' to fight for, afore he'll gin in to sech tyrints; and it'll come to fightin', yet, afore long!"
"Oh my! oh goody! the land's sakes! yew don't mean ter say that, Long?" wofully screeched Aunt Poll, whose ideas of war were derived in great measure from the tattered copy of Josephus extant in the Parsons family; and who was at present calculating the probable effect of a battering-ram on their back buttery, and thinking how horrid it would be to eat up Uncle 'Zekiel in case of famine,—even after long courses of rats and dogs.
"Well, I dew, Aunt Poll; there'll be some poppin' an' stickin' done in these parts, afore long!"
"The Lord deliver us! an' the rest on't!" devoutly ejaculated Poll, whose piety exceeded her memory; whereat 'Zekiel, pulling on the other blue stocking that had hung suspended in his fingers, while the sailor discoursed, exhorted a little himself.
"Well, the Lord don't deliver nobody, without they wriggle for themselves pretty consider'ble well fust. This a'n't the newest news to me; I've been expectin' on't a long spell, an' I've talked consider'ble with Westbury folks about it; and there a'n't nobody much, round about here, but what'll stand out agin the Britishers, exceptin' Tucker's folks; they're desp'rit for Church an' King; they tell as ef the Lord gin the king a special license to set up in a big chair an' rewl creation; an' they think it's perticular sin to speak as though he could go 'skew anyhow. Now I believe the Lord lets folks find out what He does, out o' Scriptur; and I han't found nothin' yet to tell about kings bein' better than their neighbours, and it don't look as ef this king was so clever as common. I s'pose you ha'n't heerd what our Colony Congress is a-doin', hev ye, Snapps?"