A Magazine of Literature, Art, and Politics.
VOL. XV.—JUNE, 1865.—NO. XCII.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1865, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
A LETTER ABOUT ENGLAND.
Dear Mr. Editor,—The name of your magazine shall not deter me from sending you my slight reflections But you have been across, and will agree with me that it is the great misfortune of this earth that so much salt-water is still lying around between its various countries. The steam-condenser is supposed to diminish its bulk by shortening the transit from one point to another; but a delicate conscience must aver that there is a good deal left. The ocean is chiefly remarkable as the element out of which the dry land came. It is only when the land and sea combine to frame the mighty coast-line of a continent, and to fringe it with weed which the tide uncovers twice a day, that the mind is saluted with health and beauty. The fine instinct of Mr. Thoreau furnished him with a truth, without the trouble of a single game at pitch and toss with the mysterious element; for he says,—
"The middle sea contains no crimson dulse, Its deeper waves cast up no pearls to view, Along the shore my hand is on its pulse, And I converse with many a shipwrecked crew."
On the broad Atlantic there is no smell of the sea. That comes from the brown rocks whence iodine is exhaled to brace the nerves and the fancy, while summer woods chasten all the air. At best, the ocean is austere and unsympathetic; and a sensible, that is, a sensitive, stomach understands it to be demoralized by the monstrous krakens which are viciously brooding in its depths. (If the pronoun "it," in the last sentence, should refer to stomach, the sense will still be clear.) In fact, this water has been left over from the making of the earth: like the Dodo and the Moa, it should have evaporated. How pleasant it is to be assured by Sir Charles Lyell that the land is still rising in so many quarters of the globe! for we may anticipate that millennial epoch when there shall be "no more sea."
However, the old impression which great spaces used to make upon the imagination gives way to the new sensation of annihilating spaces. It would be more correct now to speak of differences than of distances. The difference between one country and another is all that now makes the distance between them. For man is now overcoming space faster than he is obliterating national peculiarities. And when one goes abroad, the universal humanity in whose interest all material and political triumphs are gained is not felt by him so soon as the specific divergence which makes the character of lands and people. Oaks and elms, hawthorn and beeches, are on either side the ocean; but you measure the voyage by their unlikeness to each other, and wonder how soon you have got so far. The strawberry ripens with a different flavor and texture. The sun is less racy in all the common garden-stuff whose names we know. Pears and peaches we are disappointed in recognizing; they seem as if ripened by the sun's proxy, the moon; and our boys would hardly pick up the apples in the fields. But England undulates with grass that seems to fix the fluent color of the greenest waves on either hand. And our eagle-eyed blue sky droops its lid over the island, as the moisture gathers, with a more equable compassion than we know for all shrubs and blades and grazing cattle.
Both the pain and the tonic in being absent from your home and country are administered by difference. In gulping that three thousand miles the taste is austere, but the stimulus is wholesome. We learn to appreciate, but also to correct, the fare we have at home.
The difference is twofold between England and America. England differs, first, in the inveterate way in which the people hold on to all that they have inherited; second, in the gradual, but equally inveterate, way in which they labor to improve their inheritance. The future is gained by the same temper in which the past is held; so that, if the past is secure, the future is also: none the less because the past seems so irrevocably built, but rather in consequence of that, because it betrays the method of the builders.
These two characteristics, apparently irreconcilable, are really organic, and come of position, climate, diet, and slowly amalgamated races of men. Herne's oak in Windsor Forest and the monarchy in Windsor Castle grew on the same terms. Branch after branch the oak has fallen, till on the last day of the summer of 1863 the wind brought the shattered remnant to the ground. Whether the monarchy decay like this or not, it has served to shelter a great people; and the English people is still vital with its slow robustness, and is good for depositing its annual rings these thousand years.
Let us look a little more closely at this apparent contradiction.
The superficial view of England breeds a kind of hopelessness in the mind of the observer. He says to himself,—"All these stereotyped habits and opinions, these ways of thinking, writing, building, living, and dying, seem irrepealable; and the worst fault of their comparative excellence is, that they appear determined not to yield another inch to improvement." The Englishman says that America is forever bullying with her restlessness and innovation. The American might at first say that England bullied by never budging,—bullied the future, and every rational or humane suggestion, by planting a portly attitude to challenge the New Jerusalem in an overbearing chest voice, through which the timid clarion of the angels is not heard.
If an observer knows anything of the history of England, he cannot deny that vast changes have been made in every department of life: domestic habits, social economics, the courts of law, the Church, the liberty of the press and of speech, in short, all the roads, whether material or mental, by which mankind travels to its ultimate purpose, have been graded, widened, solidly equipped and built. A thousand years have converted three or four races into one people,—and all that time and weather have made upon it such strong imprints that you cannot see the difference between a pyramid and a cathedral sooner than you can the distinctive nationality of England. But for that very reason you despair of it, just as you do of a cathedral which cannot be adapted to the wants of a new religious age. At the same time that you venerate the history of England, and are thankful for the great expansion which she gave to human rights, you almost quarrel with it, because at first it seems like an old stratum with its men and women imbedded; its institutions, once so softly and lightly deposited, now become a tough clay; its structures, once so curiously devised for living tenants, now crusts and shells; its tracks of warm and bleeding feet now set in a stiff soil that will take no future impression.
All this is due to the first glance you get at the hard, realistic England of to-day. You have noticed a machine clutch its raw material and twist and turn it through its relentless bowels. That is the way the habits of England seize you when you land, and begin to appropriate your personality. This is the first offence of England in the eyes of an American, whose favorite phrase, "the largest liberty," is too synonymous with the absence of any settled habits. Prescribed ways of doing everything are the scum which a traveller first gathers in England. Perhaps he thinks that he has caught the English nationality in his skimmer; and as he rather contemptuously examines these topmost and handiest traits, he grumbles to himself that these are the habits of a very old nation, that lives on an island, and keeps up a fleet, not to bridge, but to widen narrow seas. Such respect for routine and observance can nowhere else be perceived. An American is so little prepared for this that he is disposed to quarrel with it even in railway-stations, where it is most excellent. But it penetrates all forms and institutions; the Established Church itself is a specimen of complete arranging and engineering; the worshippers are classified, ticketed, and despatched safely rolling on the broad gauge of the Liturgy, in confidence of being set down at last where the conductors have contracted to take them. How accurately everybody in England knows his own place!—and he accepts it, however humble, with a determined feeling that it is inevitable. The audience is so packed that everybody remains quiet. The demeanor of the servants is as settled and universally deferential as Westminster Abbey is Gothic. Mr. Lindsay or Mr. Roebuck might forget to revile America, or Lord Palmerston, England's right hand, forget his cunning, as soon as a servant might forget his place. A thousand years have settled him in it; and you are supposed by him to have had the benefit of as many years in determining your own position and relation to him. You are electrified when a waiter first touches his hat to you; it is as if he had discharged something into you by the gesture, which is likely to exhaust him, and you expect to have to offer him a chair. But his deference is an integral part of the stability of England. When he forgets it, look for a panic in the Exchange, the collapse of credit, and the assassination of the Queen.
This mutual deference in a country that is so strictly apportioned into castes becomes an unconscious toadyism, which is saved from being very repulsive only by the frank and childlike ways of the people. If it is carried too far, they are the first to see it. The "Times" could not report a case of murder without remarking, as it described the direction of the fatal shot, "What was a very singular fact, a part of the charge, after crossing the apartment, entered a picture of her Majesty the Queen on the opposite wall";—that is, in committing the murder, the charge of powder went too far; it ought to have stuck to its business, instead of violating one of the chief proprieties of a limited monarchy. But when the Queen went down to Greenwich summer before last to embark for Belgium, an over-zealous official issued an order that no person should be admitted into the yard of the dock, no workman should cross the yard while she was in it, and no one should look out of a window until she had gone. This was his British sense of the behavior due to a Queen who was in mourning for her husband, and might dislike to be observed. But the whole press derided this order, and subjected it to indignant criticism; the officer was styled flunky and tyrant, and the Queen herself was obliged to rebuke and disavow it.
In doing everything in England, there is so little excitement, because it is felt to be irregular. The temper of the people is well kept by the smooth and even island air; the moist southwestern winds come and soothe with calm lips the check. The thermometer, like everything else, knows its place; and when once it succeeded in passing through twenty degrees in the course of a day, the oldest inhabitant of London grew anxious; it was feared that stocks, too, would fall. The thunderstorms understand propriety, and simply growl, like the dissatisfied Englishman. Vivid effects, sharp contrasts, violent exertions, cannot be sustained in that insular atmosphere. It seems as if London, like a lover of the weed, were pacified by its own smoke. I saw two huge wagons turn from opposite quarters into a narrow lane. The drivers kept their horses moving till the heads of the leaders touched; then they sat still and looked at each other. Both were determined that it was a point of honor to stay where they were. After a few words of rather substantial English had passed between them, both subsided into a dogged equanimity. A crowd gathered instantly, but with as little tumult as ants make; it regarded the occurrence as a milder form of pugilism, and watched the result with interest. A policeman passed blandly from one wagon to the other, represented the necessities of the public traffic, hoped they would settle it shortly, urged the matter as an intimate friend of the parties, till at length the man who was conscious that he turned into the lane the last gathered up his reins and backed out of it. It was a little index of the popular disposition; and I expected that as soon as the country became convinced that it had driven rashly into our civil strait, it would deliberately back out of it. And this it is now slowly engaged in doing.
The two great parties of the Church and Liberalism are blocking each other in the same manner; but in this case Liberalism has turned into the great thoroughfare of the world's movement, and finds the Church, like a disabled omnibus, disputing the passage by simply lying across it. Dr. Temple and one hundred liberal Fellows of Oxford sent up to Parliament a petition which prayed for the abolition of the subscription test. At Oxford two subscriptions are required as a qualification for academic degrees: one to the Thirty-Nine Articles, and one to the third article of the thirty-sixth Canon. Liberal clergymen and members of the Church of England find this test odious, because it constrains the conscience to accept ancient formulas of belief without the benefit of private interpretation. The conservatives desire to maintain the test, thinking that it will be a barrier to the tide of private interpretation which is just now mounting so high. The petitioners perceive that no test can prevent a man from having his own thoughts; that it is therefore obsolete; that it drives out of the Church the best men,—those, namely, who think with independent vigor, and whose activity would put a new soul into the old Establishment. When this petition came up for debate in the House of Commons, the conservative speakers accused the petitioners of wishing to set up a new school of theological belief and criticism. Mr. Gladstone made a speech, full of grace and an even vigor, to the effect that he could not conceive of religion disconnected from definite statements such as those which the Church possessed; the idea was to his mind as absurd as to conceive of manifestations of life without a body. Mr. Goschen, the new member from London, made his maiden speech on this occasion. It was very earnest and liberal, and reminded one of American styles of speaking, being less even and conversational than the style which Englishmen admire. His opinion was, that all tests should be abolished, and that inclusion was safer than exclusion: meaning that the Church ought to keep herself so organized as to absorb the best vitality of every generation, instead of turning it out to become cold and hostile. The phrase which he used is the very essence of a republican policy. It represents the tendency of the people of England, as distinguished from its ministers and the traditions of its government. That phrase will one day be safely driven clear through the highway where the omnibus is now lying; but for the present, the abolition of tests and church-rates, the recognition of every shade of dissent, and the graver political reformation which waits behind all these are held in check by the vis inertiae of an Establishment that lies across the road.
During the exciting anti-church-rate contests of 1840, the Church party in Rochdale, which had been defeated in an attempt to levy a church-rate where for several years none had been collected, held a meeting to try the matter over again. It was adjourned from the church to the graveyard. The vicar, as chairman, occupied one tombstone, and John Bright stood upon another to make one of his strong defences of the rights of Voluntaryism. In the course of the discussion, the vicar's warden rendered an account of the dilapidations of the building which the proposed rate was to repair, and stated, with great simplicity, that "the foundations were giving way,"—a significant remark, which the meeting, though held in a grave place, received with shouts of laughter. Such a statement may well be taken as symbolical of the condition of the Establishment, when liberal criticism, represented by Colenso, Stanley, Jowett, Baden Powell, and a respectable minority, is silently crumbling the underpinning, while the full service is intoned above and the pampered ceremonial swells the aisles.
If the opponents of liberal thinking ever bring an action against a prominent dissenter from their views, the Privy Council gets rid of the case by deciding it upon the purely technical position of the Church,—as in the case of Dr. Williams, whose offence was the publication of his Essay on Bunsen, and Mr. Wilson, whose essay was entitled "Seances Historiques de Geneve—The National Church." The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council decide that they have no power to define what is true and what is false doctrine, but only what has been established to be the law of the Church upon the true and legal construction of her Articles and Formularies.
I. The Church does not require her clergy to believe in the inspiration of all portions of the Scriptures.
II. Nor that the Atonement operates by substitution of Christ's suffering for our sins.
III. Nor that the phrase "everlasting fire," in the Athanasian Creed, is to be received as a final and hopeless statement.
As a specimen of the popular element which is at work among the uneducated classes to make the people itself of England its real church, it is worth while to observe what Mr. Spurgeon is doing. His chapel stands on the southern side of the Thames, between the Victoria and Surrey Theatres, where the British subject is served with the domestic and nautical drama. On those stages the language struts and aspirates, and the effects are borrowed from Vauxhall and Cremorne for plays which are constructed to hold the greatest possible amount of cockneyism and grotesqueness, with the principal object of showing how villany and murder are uniformly overcome by virtue, whose kettle sings upon the hob above a pile of buttered muffins at last; and the pit, which came in for a shilling, pays the extra tribute of a tear. These shop-keepers of the Surrey side sit on Sunday beneath Mr. Spurgeon's platform, whose early preaching betrayed the proximity of the theatres, but was for that very reason admirably seasoned to attract his listeners. If he ever did slide down the rail of his pulpit-stairs, as reported, in order to dramatize the swift descent of the soul into iniquity, and then painfully climb up again to show its difficult return, the action was received, doubtless, in its full ethical import, and shook the suburban heart. His blunt and ordinary language, sinning frequently against taste, and stooping sometimes to be coarse, was the very vehicle to take his hearers up at the pit-door, theatrical or theological, and send them in wholesomer directions. It was a fortunate—his co-religionists would say providential—adaptation of an earnest and religious man to the field of his labor. For, as time passed, the phrases and demeanor of his preaching improved,—their absurdities have, no doubt, been caricatured by the London press,—and the temper of the man was more plainly observed to be sincere, fervent, and devoted to a certain set of religious preconceptions. The want of culture and of general intelligence was not so lamentable in such a neighborhood. He led, by many lengths, the Victoria and Surrey stage. If he had more deeply reflected upon the subjects which he handled like a simple-hearted boy, he would have failed to keep four thousand men and women warm in the hollow of his hand from Sunday to Sunday, for a dozen years, and to organize their whole moral and religious activity in forms that are admirably adapted to carry on the work of popular dissent.
His audience represents the district, and is an advertisement of the kind of spiritual instruction which it needs and gets. Not many large heads sit in the pews; narrowness, unreflecting earnestness, and healthy desires are imprinted upon the faces upturned towards his clear and level delivery. He is never exactly vapid, and he never soars. His theology is full of British beer; but the common-sense of his points and illustrations relative to morals and piety is a lucid interval by which the hearers profit. They follow his textual allusions in their little Bibles, and devoutly receive the crude and amusing interpretations as utterances of the highest exegetical skill. But their faces shine when the discourse moralizes; it seems to take them by the button, so friendly it is,—but it looks them closely in the eye, without heat and distant zeal, with great, manly expostulation, rather, and half-humorous argument, that sometimes make the tears stand upon the lids. The florid countenances become a shade paler with listening, the dark complexions glow with a brooding religiosity. It is plain that he has a hungry people, and feeds them with what suits their frames the best. His clear voice, well fuelled by a full, though rather flabby frame, rolls into all the galleries and corners of the vast building without effort; his gestures are even and well balanced; and you are, in fact, surprised to see how good a natural orator he is. You went to hear him, expecting to find some justification for the stories which impute to him a low and egotistic presence, and a delivery that depends upon broadness for its effects. But he appears unpretending, in spite of the satisfied look which he casts around the congregation when he first steps to the railing of the platform. He is evidently conscious that he owns the building and the audience; but, content with that, he makes no attempt to put them in his pocket; on the contrary, he almost instantly becomes seriously engaged in transferring into them his lesson for the day. His style of extemporaneous speaking is conversational,—the better English suspect all other styles,—and this of itself shows what improvement has taken place in the Surrey region. If at first he indulged in rant, he has now subsided into an even vein; he puts things plumply, and tells his feelings gravely, and makes his points without quackery. So it is plain that when he gives notice of a contribution for his college, in which young men are trained for the ministry, and states simply, in justification, that one hundred and fifty have already left it, and are now engaged in preaching the dissenting word, he is to be regarded as one of the decided influences which are now at work to bring the people up to self-consciousness, self-respect, and political importance.
It is very characteristic that the National Church is called an Establishment,—in other words, something that stays where it was put some time ago. The thing which ought to move first, and move continually through all the avenues of the public life, to keep them clear of the obstructions of ignorance and superstition, and prevent the great travel and intercourse of thought from stagnating, is the thing in England which is most unwilling to stir. Already a fearful accumulation of passengers and vehicles, whose patience is nearly exhausted, is anxious to be let through in time to keep appointment with the world's grave business. Young thoughts are hurrying to be indorsed; mature paper dreads to be protested; the hour of the world's liberal exchange is about to strike. Depend upon it, at the critical moment, when the pressure in the rear becomes the most emphatic, the people in the omnibus will have to get out and assist the passengers in drawing it to one side, where it will remain a long time unmolested.
But the first thing which you say concerning the men and institutions of England is, that they are established. In America some things are finished before they are done; but there are no tottering trestle-bridges in the routes of English enterprise to let the travellers through. When a business firm becomes fairly built up, it lasts a hundred years or more. Shop-signs are not taken down except by the weather; new fronts grow so slowly along the ancient streets that they appear to be deposited by secretion, like corals and shells. I took a book to a printer, and found he was the grandson of the man who published "Junius" in 1769, doing business in the same dingy court and office, with the old regularity and deliberation. When I said, that, for want of time, I should have to risk formidable errata and print at the rate of sixty-four pages a day, he plainly suspected me of derangement and of a desire to impart my condition to his machinery. On repeating it with calmness, he set it down for Yankee braggadocio, and assured me that not an author in England could print at that rate. Then he went to work. They detest being hurried, but their latent momentum is very great. Limited suffrage and many administrative abuses will feel it soon, as similar things have felt it before.
But you are deceived at first, and anticipate deterioration rather than improvement for the people of England. The city of London, with its two and a half millions of inhabitants, looks like a huge stone that has been pried over a sweet well; nobody need expect to draw water there any more; fresh ones must be dug, we say, in America, in Russia, to reach primitive human nature again, and set it free to make the wilderness blossom. London looks as if it had slowly grown from the soil and the climate, like a lichen that clings closely to its rocky site. The heavy, many-storied buildings of Portland stone are blackened by the smoke till they appear more like quarries then habitations; the swarms of human beings look ephemeral as moths. The finest architecture becomes in a few years indistinguishable, and delicate ornamentation is as much superfluous as among the weather-stained cliffs and boulders of the coast. Monumental inscriptions are smutted and half-obliterated, but the scurf protects the monument. Under the huge pile of St. Paul's the ceaseless traffic of human passions passes as through a defile of the hills. When the lights spring forth towards evening, and sparkle on the great dull masses, it seems as if the buildings had been there forever, and forever would be, endowed with some elemental process which puts forth the lighting. Newgate itself, without windows towards the street, a huge angle of dead walls, with heavy iron fetters suspended over the gateways, and statues so blackened in their niches as to dispel the illusion that they ever did or could suggest humanity, is a settled gloom in the midst of the city, like the thought of a discouraged and defeated man. It has a terrible suggestion that crime is established in London,—immutable methods of being guilty and of being condemned—all old, old, and irrepealable.
From Primrose Hill, beyond Regent's Park, and towards the open country, the profile of the city can be seen at one view, as it emerges from the smoke, is heavily described athwart it, and plunges into it again, like a great, silent feature of the earth itself, lifted in an atmosphere whose density seems to be a part of the antiquity. Hidden in that smoke the streets roll night and day, like great arteries, to feed, replace, repair, business, pleasure, and misery, but to change it no more than the blood changes the tricks of an old brain or the settled beating of a stubborn heart.
These are some of the physical aspects which seduce a traveller into the impression that the vigor and glory of England have culminated, and would fall apart sooner than take on new forms or yield to the moulding power of popular ideas.
The impression is deepened by the feeling of hostility to American institutions, and by the special dislike of the North, which the past four years have betrayed. The commercial and ruling classes had been skilfully prepared, by applications of Southern sentiment, for the declaration of neutrality, which was supposed to contain the triple chance of destroying a dangerous republic, of securing unlimited supplies of cotton by free-trade, and of erecting in the South an oligarchic form of government. Under the circumstances, they felt that neutrality was a kind of merit in them, and a magnanimity which the declining North ought to have hailed with enthusiasm, as it showed that England scorned to take a more deadly advantage of our perilous position. This anti-Northern feeling is, and always has been, confined to the Tory classes, in and out of the Government, to the rich and their dependants, to the confirmed High-Churchmen. Even an American resident, if he was wealthy, and liked the Church of England, and had settled down into a British country-seat with British ways of living, would be sure to misrepresent the North, to be pleased at its defeats and annoyed by its successes, partly from commercial and partly from pro-slavery considerations. The America which he remembered, and regretted that he could not still be proud of, was the America where Pierce and Buchanan were Presidents, where Jefferson Davis and John B. Floyd were Secretaries of War. He had, in short, become a Tory; for Toryism is regard for usages at the expense of men. He and the English Tory desired the triumph of Slavery, because it was the best thing for the negro, and the quietest thing for trade and government. The only difference between them is, that he would own slaves, if he had an opportunity, while the Englishman would not, partly because his own servants are so excellent. But both of them would subscribe to the Boston "Courier." The English Tory hates to have the poor classes of London use the railways on the Lord's Day, to go and find God's beauty in the Crystal Palace and the daisy-haunted fields. One of the most striking spectacles in London is found on Sunday, by standing on some bridge that spans the Thames, to watch the little river-steamers, black with human beings, that shoot like big water-bugs from the piers every five minutes, and fussily elbow their way down-stream to various places of resort. On that day people cluster like bees all over the omnibuses, till the vehicle looks like a mere ball of humanity stuck together, rolling down to some excursion-train. This is a bitter sight to an old-fashioned Churchman.[A] The American Tory will hate any day that releases the poor and the oppressed into God's glorious liberty. One of the most worthy and offensive men you can meet in London is the American Tory of this description: worthy, because honest and clean and free from vice; offensive, because totally destitute of republican principle. If stripped of his wealth, he might become a rich man's invaluable flunky, and carry the decorous prayer-book to church, bringing up the rear of the family with formalism. Toryism has a profound respect for external godliness, and remembers that the Southerner sympathizes with bishops, who, like Meade of Virginia, preach from the text, "Servants, obey your masters," and, like Polk of Louisiana, convert old sermons upon the divine sanction of Slavery into cartridge-paper. We must recollect, too, that a good many educated Englishmen dislike republican institutions because they have identified the phrase with all the atrocious things which successive pro-slavery administrations have conceived and perpetrated; for the Englishman is dull at understanding foreign politics, and reads the "Times," though he strongly avers that he is not influenced by it. An administration appears to an Englishman to be the country; he has not yet heard an authoritative interpretation of republicanism, for a Washington cabinet has not till lately spoken the mind of the common people. But when he understands us better he will dread us all the more, because the people in all countries speak the same language in expressing the same wants; and when universal suffrage puts universal justice on its throne in America, injustice will everywhere uneasily await the ballot which shall place it in the minority. The dislike of the English Tory is already passing into this second stage, when his hope of a dissolved Union gives place to his dread of a regenerated country that hastens to propagate its best ideas.
There were three elements in this anti-Northern feeling. First, a sympathy with the smaller and feebler party. This is a trait which puts the English people by the side of the Turk in the Crimea, the Circassian in the Caucasus, the Pole, the Dane,—which inspired Milton's famous letter, in the name of Cromwell, that espoused the cause of the Waldenses. In fact, wherever the smaller and weaker party has no relations with England, the country hurries to protect it. But where, as in the case of the Irish, the Sepoy, the New-Zealander, the Caffre, and the Chinese, England's interest is touched by the objections of people to her own harsh and inveterate rule, she has no magnanimity, and forgets the sentiments of her nobler minds. The same Cromwell who threatened Europe in behalf of the Waldenses contrived the massacre of the Irish at Drogheda. So when sympathy with the distant South harmonized with dread of the North, she was willingly misled by Southern agents to see a war of conquest and aggression.
The second element is a fear of the ultimate consequences of a Union reconstructed without Slavery; for then Mr. Bright may argue in favor of universal suffrage, uninterrupted by allusions to the arrogance and coarseness, the boastful and aggressive spirit belonging to a pro-slavery America. "Why do you desire the dissolution of the Union?" asked one Englishman of another. "Oh, I have no reason, except that the Americans are so bounceable I want to see them humbled." But we were the weakest when Slavery made us so loud-mouthed and vaporing; we shall be strongest when the cause of our boasting has disappeared. When a country is fully conscious of the principles that belong to it, and sees them cleansed with her children's blood, through eyes that stand full with tears, she will invite, but no longer threaten; and the flag which she once waved in the face of all mankind to exasperate will rain persuasion as often as it is unfurled.
But it will be a long time before the Englishman appreciates the altered condition of this country and resigns his prejudices, in consequence of another element in this un-American feeling, namely, insular ignorance. Among the contraband articles which are with difficulty smuggled into any point of the English coast is an accurate knowledge of the polity and condition of another country. Indifference is the coastguard which protects, without moving, every inlet and harbor. The Englishman is surprised, if all the world is not intimately acquainted with the British Constitution, which is not a written document, but a practical result that appears in all the administrative forms of the country, and can be studied only on the spot; but he will not take the trouble to inquire into the relation which the separate States bear to the Federal government; and he seems prevented by some congenital deficiency from understanding how the latter is the direct result of the independence of the former. The question he asks most frequently is, "Why has not an independent State the right to secede?" He is infected by nature with Mr. Calhoun's fallacy. You cannot make a Tory understand that powers are derived from the consent of the governed, and that the consent is itself an institution. "What becomes of State rights?" he asks. And when you reply, that the concentred function of each State is contained within a diffused popular will whose centre is at Washington, and that thirty-four concentrations of this kind are nothing more than thirty-four general conveniences, he takes you slowly by the button, looks pityingly in your face, and says, "That is a Northern crotchet, which this civil war has come to cure," and then he leaves you. It is in vain that you shout after him, "That is a Northern principle, which this war has come to confirm": he was out of hearing before he left. You feel that you are a stranger in the house of your own mother. You walk about among these slow, good-natured men, with plump boys' faces and men's chests, and hear them speak your language without your sense. They have a limited one, like their monarchy. How admirably it keeps the square miles of their own island! how shockingly it tends the acres of Ireland! how haughtily it ignored and trampled upon the instincts of the Hindoo! how unwilling it is to see a difference between the circumstances of Australia and those of England! How it blundered into a neutrality which was a recognition of infamy! This is the distance which Toryism spreads between the mother country and our own.
But this must not be accepted as a final statement of the prospects of England, or of its relation to America. There is, in the first place, a great popular sympathy with the North, and it prophesies the future condition of England. When you use the phrase, "people of England," understand that the Toryism which governs England is left out. Bigoted Churchmen, who are afraid that the island will drag its anchor because Bishop Colenso notices some errors in the Pentateuch,—shifty politicians, like Russell and Palmerston,—sour ones, like Roebuck,—scandalous ones, like Lindsay,—and conservatives, like Cecil and Gladstone, now make all the political blunders which they call governing England. Their constituents are two thirds of the merchants, nearly all the literary men, nearly all the clergymen, half the University fellows and professors. But the people of England have not yet been mentioned. They govern England at this moment, and yet John Bright sits almost alone for them in Parliament; John Stuart Mill, Professors Cairnes, Newman, Goldwin Smith, are almost their only powerful writers. The people of England put the broad arrow of their Queen upon the Rebel rams. They stay at home, and by taking the penny papers slowly undermine the "Times." They have defeated every attempt to organize a party for Southern recognition, by simply staying away from the public meetings which the sympathizers called. Once they uttered their opinion by the lips of starving operatives, when the distress in the manufacturing districts was deepest, and capitalists were chary of their aid. The Southern agent was busy then, in all the towns and villages where the misery dwelt. "You are starving."—"Yes."—"And it is for want of cotton."—"So it seems."—"Well, do you mean to sit here? Come out in great force, as in the old Chartist times; tell the manufacturer and the minister to break that blockade and let bread into the mouths of your little ones." And the answer was, "We prefer that they should starve." Again and again, the answer was, "We would rather starve." And this haggard patience was saving the manufacturer himself from ruin, who had been engaged in over-manufacturing, till his warehouses groaned with an enormous stock which the cotton blockade enabled him to work off. Great fortunes have been made in this way, while the operative slowly went to rags, road-mending, and the poor-rates. In London, hard upon midnight, I have often been attracted by the sound of street-music to a little group, in the centre of which stood half a dozen pallid and threadbare men, playing gentle tunes upon the faithful instruments which clung to their sad fortunes. And on a square of canvas, lighted by a lantern, or set in the flaring gas, I have read, to the sound of these paupers' music, the story of America: "Lancashire Weavers out of Work," "Poor Operatives' Band,—a penny, if you please." That music keeps the heart of England quiet while your cannons roar. It is the pulse of the people of England, responding in the faint distance to the throb of victory.
Another sight which can be seen by day in London streets belongs also to the people of England. When there was a dearth of troops during the Crimean War, the coast forts were stripped of their garrisons, and there was a call made by Government for volunteers to fill their places. Citizens came forward and manned the forts. This was the origin of the volunteer force of England, which has grown to be very formidable,—since jealousy of France, dread of invasion, and the need of troops for India have always deterred the Government from recalling the arms which it first put into the hands of the people. The force now comprises infantry, cavalry, light and heavy artillery, organized like the regular army, and under the control of the Horse Guards. Rifle-corps and target-practice have become a mania. The Government encourages it by magnificent reviews and prizes for the best shooting, utterly unconscious that Government itself may one day be the target. But a bloody revolution can hardly occur again in England. It will only be necessary, at some critical moment, for the London volunteers to march as far as Charing-Cross on their way towards Parliament and the Palace. The concession would be there before them.
Mr. Holyoake, who is one of the most vigorous champions of free thought and popular rights in England, says,—"Revolution is no longer necessary in English politics. Our wise and noble forefathers, of those old times of which modern radicals in many towns know too little, laid broad foundations of freedom in our midst. It only needs that we build upon these, and the English educated classes, who always move in the grooves of precedent, will acquiesce with a reasonable readiness."[B]
The feeling of the radical class of English workmen is elsewhere illustrated by Mr. Holyoake with a story from the Allendale mining district. "Four miners published a volume of poems. One of these four in his poem talks of tyranny falling at a moment's notice. Tyranny is not in such a hurry. A 'voice of thunder' is to proclaim its doom. Alas, it is the voice of steady intelligent purpose, much more difficult to elicit, and not that of 'thunder,' which is to accomplish that. The poet of course has a vision about the 'equal share' which the fall of tyranny is to end in. The 'equal share' system would not last a day, as everybody who reflects knows, and would give endless trouble to renew it every morning."[C]
It is a striking characteristic of English Toryism, that it gives way just in time. Every reform has hitherto been granted as it was on the point of being extorted. Official carriages roll over the very spot where Charles I. dropped his self-willed head; Lady Macbeth might wash her hands as soon as the English people their memories of the civil bloodstain. Toryism knows one thing well: that no water-pipes can be made strong enough to withstand the sudden stoppage of a long column of water. They will burst and overflow. No matter what material may be in motion, if the motion be suddenly arrested, heat, in a direct ratio to the motion, is developed. A decided popular tendency will never be peremptorily stopped in England.
It is therefore a grand sight to an American, when the well-appointed companies of London riflemen march up Fleet Street and the Strand, through Temple-Bar, that bars nothing any longer, and stands there a decaying symbol of Toryism itself. The brass bands may play, "Britannia rules the Waves," or "God save the Queen," but to the American ear they sound, "The Waves rule Britannia," "God save the Common People!" Every shouldered musket shall be a vote; the uniform shall represent community of interest and sentiment. The rhythm of the living column is the march of England's steady justice into coal-mines and factories, Church and State.
For this reason we ought to cultivate pacific relations with the Government of England. Beware lest the question of the Alabama break loose to prey upon the true commerce of mankind! A war would put back the people of England for fifty years. When England is at war, the people are apt to rally to the Government. The island is so small, that, when a feeling once gets started, it sweeps all men away into an inconsiderate and almost savage support of the public honor. If Toryism cannot secure to itself the benefit of a war upon some point that involves an English prejudice or interest, it cannot prevent the rising strength of the people from going into opposition. Dissenters of every class are emptying the pews of the Establishment; liberal thinkers now hold University fellowships only to avoid surrendering all the ground to a reactionary party. The abolition of the stamp-tax has freed the daily press, and expensive newspapers no longer represent little cliques, but belong to the people of England, who take their pennyworth of honest criticism every morning; and the best of these newspapers have been for three years on the side of Northern republicanism. This is the instinct of human nature, which knows its rights and hungers to possess them.
We are maintaining half a million of men in the field, half a million outlets of our heart's blood, because we believe that inclusion is better than exclusion. The nation's instinct for that truth has gone into camp. It is a belief that the life of the Republic depends upon including every State, and including every citizen, and including every emigrant, and including every slave, in the right to live, labor, and be happy, and excluding none. We feel that the blood we lose in fighting for that plain maxim of republican economy will make again fast enough when the maxim has prevailed. The weaver of Lancashire, who plays out his hunger in London streets, and our seamen who make the weaver wait while they watch three thousand miles of seaboard, are both listening to the rote of the same great truth, as it dashes on the shores of Time, and brings bracing air to the people who are sick with waiting. If we are gaining battles because we love the rights of the common people, our success will include the English weaver, Dissenters will build churches on our corner-stone of Liberty, the taxed will borrow our ballot-boxes to contain their votes, and none shall be excluded but the betrayers of mankind.
[A] Mr. Holyoake, in an article upon the condition of the lead-miners of Middlesborough, says, while urging the need of excursions and some forms of recreation,—"The rough, uncultivated workman is driven to seek in beer and licentiousness that recreation which a wise piety ought to provide for him amid the refining scenes of Nature. If excursions were possible and encouraged, the wife must go as well as the husband; and if the mother went, the children would go; and if the children went, it would be impossible to take them in rags and dirt. The pride of the father would be awakened. His pipe and pot would often be laid upon the shelf, and the proceeds spent in Sunday clothes for the children. The steamboat and excursion-train are as great moralizers in their way as the church and the preacher. We call the attention of the British Association to this matter, for here their influence would bring about an improvement. They will send a board of geologists to examine the condition of the earth of Cleveland, which can very well take care of itself. Let them send a board of their eminent physicians to look after the condition of the people."
[B] From an admirable oration, delivered at Rochdale, Feb. 2, 1864, upon the political services and career of the late Alderman Livesey.
[C] From a very lively and instructive report of a visit of the British Association, in 1863, to Mr. Beaumont's lead mines at Allenheads, fifty miles from Newcastle.
A PROSE HENRIADE.
People sometimes talk about the quiet of the country. I should like to know where they find it. I never saw any in this part of the world. The country seems to me to be the place of all places where everything is going on. Especially in Spring one becomes almost distracted. What is Spring in the city? Dead bricks under your feet; dead rocks all around you. There are beautiful things in the shop-windows, but they never do anything. It is just the same as it was yesterday and as it will be to-morrow. I suppose a faint sense of warmth and fragrance does settle down into the city's old cold heart, and at a few breathing-holes—little irregular patches, lovely, but minute, called "Central Park," or "Boston Common"—Nature comes up to blow. And there are the Spring bonnets. Still, as a general thing, I should not think it could make much difference whether it were June or January.
But Spring in the country,—O season rightly named!—a goddess-queen glides through the heavens and the earth, and all that is therein springs up to meet her and do obeisance. We, gross and heavy, blind and deaf, are slow to catch the flutter of her robes, the music of her footfall, the odor of her breath; the shine of her far-off coming. We call it cold and Winter still. We huddle about the fires and wonder if the Spring will never come; and all the while, lo, the Spring is here! Ten thousand watching eyes, ten thousand waiting ears, laid along the ground, have signalled the royal approach. Ten thousand times ten thousand voices sound the notes of preparation. Everywhere there is hurrying and scurrying. Every tiny, sleeping germ of animal and vegetable life springs to its feet, wide awake, and girded for the race. Now you must be wide awake too, or you will be ignominiously left behind among the baggage.
The time of the singing of birds is come, and the time of the cackling of homely, honest barn-yard fowls, who have never had justice done them. Why do we extol foreign growths and neglect the children of the soil? Where is there a more magnificent bird than the Rooster? What a lofty air! What a spirited pose of the head! Note his elaborately scalloped comb, his stately steppings, the lithe, quick, graceful motions of his arching neck. Mark his brilliant plumage, smooth and lustrous as satin, soft as floss silk. What necklace of a duchess ever surpassed in beauty the circles of feathers which he wears, layer shooting over layer, up and down, hither and thither, an amber waterfall, swift and soundless as the light, but never disturbing the matchless order of his array? What plume from African deserts can rival the rich hues, the graceful curves, and the palm-like erectness of his tail? All his colors are tropical in depth and intensity. With every quick motion the tints change as in a prism, and each tint is more splendid than the last; green more beautiful than any green, except that of a duck's neck; brown infiltrated with gold, and ranging through the whole gamut of its possibilities. I am not sure that this last is correct in point of expression, but it is correct in point of sense, as any one who ever saw a red rooster will bear witness.
Hens are not intrinsically handsome, but they abundantly prove the truth of the old adage, "Handsome is that handsome does." Lord Kaimes describes one kind of beauty as that founded on the relations of objects. And I am sure that the relation of a hen to a dozen fair, white, pure eggs, and the relation of those eggs to puddings and custards, and the twenty-five cents which they can have for the asking, make even an ungainly hen, like many heroines in novels, "not beautiful, but very interesting." "Twenty thousand dollars," said a connoisseur in such matters, "is a handsome feature in any lady's face." And the "cut-cut-cut-ca-D-A-H-cut" of a hen, whose word is as good as her bond for an egg a day, is a handsome feather in any bird's coat. Once, however, this trumpet of victory deceived me, though by no fault of the hen's. I heard it sounding lustily, and I ransacked the barn on tiptoe to discover the new-made nest and the exultant mater-familias. But instead of a white old hen with yellow legs, who had laid her master many eggs, there, on a barrel, stood brave Chanticleer, cackling away for dear life,—Hercules holding the distaff among his Omphales! Now—for there are many things to be learned from hens—mark the injustice of the tyrant man. From time immemorial, girls—at least country girls—have been taught that
"A whistling girl and a crowing hen Always come to some bad end";
but not a word is said about a cackling rooster! Worse still, a crowing hen is so rare a thing that its very existence is problematical. I never heard of one out of that couplet. I have made diligent inquiry, but I have not been able to find any person who had heard, or who had ever seen or heard of any one who had heard, a crowing hen. But these very hands have fed, these very eyes seen, and these ears heard a cackling rooster! Where is manly impartiality, not to say chivalry? Why do men overlook the crying sins of their own sex, and expend all their energies in attempting to eradicate sins which never existed in the other?
I have lived among hens lately, and I know all about them. They are just like people. Not a few only, but the whole human race, are chicken-hearted.
Hens are fond of little mysteries. With tons of hay at their disposal, they will steal a nest in a discarded feeding-trough. With nobody in the world to harbor an evil thought against them, they will hide under the corn-stalks as carefully as if a sheriff were on their track. They will not go to their nests while you are about, but tarry midway and meditate profoundly on fixed fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute, till you are tired of watching and waiting, and withdraw. No, you did not know it all before. The world is in a state of Cimmerian darkness regarding hens. There were never any chickens hatched till three weeks from a week before Fast Day. How should you, my readers, know anything about them? Be docile, and I will enlighten you.
Hens must have a depression where the bump of locality should be, for they have no manner of tenderness for old haunts. "Where are the birds in last year's nests?" queries the poet; but he might have asked quite as pertinently, "Where are the birds in last month's nests?" Echo, if she were at all familiar with the subject, would reply, "The birds are all right, but where are the nests?" Hens very sensibly decide that it is easier to build a new house than to keep the old one in order; and having laid one round of eggs, off they go to erect, or rather to excavate, another dwelling. You have scarcely learned the way to their nook above the great beam when it is abandoned, and they betake themselves to a hole at the very bottom of the haystack. I wish I could tell you a story about a Hebrew prophet crawling under a barn after hen's eggs, and crawling out again from the musty darkness into sweet light with his clothes full of cobwebs, his eyes full of dust, his hands full of eggs, to find himself winking and blinking in the midst of a party of ladies and gentlemen who had come lion-hunting from a farre countrie. I cannot tell you, because it would be a breach of confidence; but I am going to edit my Sheikh's Life and Letters, if I live long enough, and he does not live too long, and then you shall have the whole story, with names, dates, and costumes.
Another very singular habit hens have, of dusting themselves. They do not seem to care for bathing, like canary-birds; but in warm afternoons, when they have eaten their fill, they like to stroll into the highway, where the dust lies ankle-deep in heaps and ridges, and settle down and stir and burrow in it till it has penetrated through all their inmost feathers, and so filled them, that, when they arise and shake themselves, they stand in a cloud of dust. I do not like this habit in the hens; yet I observe how a correspondence exists in all the Vertebrata; for do not fine ladies similarly dust themselves? They do not, indeed, sit in the road a la Turque. They box up the dust, and take it to their dressing-rooms, and, because Nature has not provided them with feathers, ingenuity more than supplies the deficiency with the softest of white down brushes, that harbor and convey the coveted dust. I doubt not through the races one resembling purpose runs; and many a stately matron and many a lovely maiden might truly say unto the hen, "Thou art my sister."
Did I say I knew all about hens? The half was not told you, for I am wise about chickens too. I know their tribe from "egg to bird," as the country people say, when they wish to express the most radical, sweeping acquaintance with any subject,—a phrase, by the way, whose felicity is hardly to be comprehended till experience has unfolded its meaning.
When hens have laid a certain number of eggs,—twelve or twenty,—they evince a strong disposition, I might almost say a determination, to sit.[D] In every such case, it is plain that they ought to be allowed to sit. It is a violation of Nature to souse them in cold water in order to make them change their minds; and I believe, with Marcus Antoninus, that nothing is evil which is according to Nature. But people want eggs, and they do not care for Nature; and the consequence is, that hens are obliged to undergo "heroic treatment" of various kinds. Sometimes it is the cold bath; sometimes it is the hospital. One I tied to the bottom of a post of the standards; but, eager to escape, and ignorant of the qualities of cord, she flew up over the top rail, and, the next time I entered the barn, presented the unpleasing spectacle of a dignified and deliberate fowl hanging in mid-air by one leg. Greatly alarmed, I hurried her down. Life was not extinct, except in that leg. I rubbed it tenderly till warmth was restored, and then it grew so hot that I feared inflammation would set in, and made local applications to reduce the tendency, wondering in my own mind whether, in case worse should come to worst, she could get on at all with a Palmer leg. The next morning the question became unnecessary, as she walked quite well with her own. The remaining hens were put in hospital till they signified a willingness to resume their former profitable habits,—except one who was arbitrarily chosen to be foster-mother of the future brood. Fifteen eggs, fair and fresh, reserved for the purpose, I counted out and put into her nest; and there she sat day after day and all day long, with a quietness, a silent, patient persistence, which I admired, but could not in the least imitate; for I kept continually poking under her and prying her up to see how matters stood. Many hens would have resented so much interference, but she knew it was sympathy, and not malice; besides, she was very good-natured, and so was I, and we stood on the best possible footing towards each other. A. G. says, "A hen's time is not much to her"; and in this case his opinion was certainly correct.
One morning I thought I heard a faint noise. Routing out the good old creature, that I might take observations, eggs still, and no chickens, were discernible, but the tiniest, little, silvery, sunny-hearted chirp that you ever heard, inside the eggs, and a little, tender pecking from every imprisoned chick, standing at his crystal door, and, with his faint, fairy knock, knock, knock, craving admission into the great world. Never can I forget or describe the sensations of that moment; and, as promise rapidly culminated in performance,—as the eggs ceased to be eggs, and analyzed themselves into shattered shells and chirping chickens,—it seemed as if I had been transported back to the beginning of creation. Right before my eyes I saw, in my hands I held, the mystery of life. These eggs, that had been laid under my very eyes as it were, that I had my own self hunted and found and confiscated and restored,—these eggs that I had broken and eaten a thousand times, and learned of a surety to be nothing but eggs,—were before me now; and, lo, they were eyes and feathers and bill and claws! Yes, little puff-ball, I saw you when you were hard and cold and had no more life than a Lima bean. I might have scrambled you, or boiled you, or made a pasch-egg of you, and you would not have known that anything was happening. If you had been cooked then, you would have been only an omelet; now you may be a fricassee. As I looked at the nest, so lately full only of white quiet, now swarming with downy life, and vocal with low, soft music,
"I felt a newer life in every gale."
Oh, no one can tell, till he has chickens of his own, what delicious emotions are stirred in the heart by their downy, appealing tenderness!
Swarming, however, as the nest seemed, it soon transpired that only seven chickens had transpired. Eight eggs still maintained their integrity. I remarked to the hen, that she would better keep on awhile longer, and I would take the seven into the house, and provide for them. She assented, having, justly enough, all confidence in my sagacity; and I put them into a warm old worsted hood, and brought them into the house. But the hood was not a hen, though it was tucked around them almost to the point of suffocation; and they filled the house with dolorous cries,—"yapping" it is called in the rural districts. Nothing would soothe them but to be cuddled together in somebody's lap, and brooded with somebody's hand. Then their shrill, piercing shrieks would die away into a contented chirp of heartfelt satisfaction. I took a world of comfort in those chickens,—it is so pleasant to feel that you are really making sentient beings happy. The tiny things grew so familiar and fond in a few hours that they could hardly tell which was which,—I or the hen. They would all fall asleep in a soft, stirring lump for five seconds, and then rouse up, with no apparent cause, but as suddenly and simultaneously as if the drum had beat a reveille, and go foraging about in the most enterprising manner. One would snap at a ring, under the impression that it was petrified dough, I suppose; and all the rest would rush up determinedly to secure a share in the prize. Next they would pounce upon a button, evidently thinking it curd; and though they must have concluded, after a while, that it was the hardest kind of coagulated milk on record, they were not restrained from renewing the attack in squads at irregular intervals. When they first broke camp, we put soaked and sweetened cracker into their bills; but they developed such an appetite, that, in view of the high price of sugar, we cut off their allowance, and economized on Indian meal and bread-water. Every night they went to the hen, and every morning they came in to me; and still Dame Partlett sat with stolid patience, and still eight eggs remained. I concluded, at length, to let the eggs take their chance with another hen, and restore the first to freedom and her chickens. But just as I was about to commence operations, some one announced, that, if eggs are inverted during the process of incubation, the chickens from them will be crazy. Appalled at the thought of a brood of chickens laboring under an aberration of mind, yet fired with the love of scientific investigation, I inverted one by way of experiment, and placed it in another nest. The next morning, when I entered the barn, Biddy stretched out her neck, and declared that there was no use in waiting any longer, and she was determined to leave the place, which she accordingly did, discovering, to my surprise, two little dead, crushed, flattened chickens, Poor things! I coaxed them on a shingle, and took them into the house to show to a person whose name has been often mentioned in these pages, and who, in all experimental matters, considers my testimony good for nothing without the strongest corroborative evidence. Notice now the unreasoning obstinacy with which people will cling to their prejudices in the face of the most palpable opposing facts.
"Where did these come from?" I asked.
"Probably the hen trod on them and killed them," he said.
"But there were seven whole eggs remaining, and the insane one was in another nest."
"Well, he supposed some other hen might have laid in the nest after the first had begun to sit. They often did."
"No, for I had counted them every day."
Here, then, was an equation to be produced between fifteen original eggs on one side, and seven whole eggs, seven live chickens, two dead chickens, and another egg on the other. My theory was, that two of the eggs contained twins.
"But no," says Halicarnassus,—"such a thing was never known as two live chickens from one egg.
"But these were dead chickens," I affirmed.
"But they were alive when they pecked out. They could not break the shell when they were dead."
"But the two dead chickens may have been in the same shell with two live ones, and, when the live ones broke the shell, the dead ones dropped out."
"But here are the facts, Mr. Gradgrind,—seven live chickens, two dead chickens, seven whole eggs, and another egg to be accounted for, and only fifteen eggs to account for them."
Yet, as if a thing that never happened on our farm is a thing that never can happen, oblivious of the fact that "a pair of chickens" is a common phrase enough,—simply because a man never saw twin chickens, he maintains that there cannot be any such thing as twin chickens. This, too, in spite of one egg I brought in large enough to hold a brood of chickens. In fact, it does not look like an egg; it looks like the keel of a man-of-war.
The problem remains unsolved. But never, while I remember my addition table, can you make me believe that seven whole——But the individual mentioned above is so sore on this point, that, the moment I get as far as that, he leaves the room, and my equation remains unstated.
There is a great deal of human nature in hens. They have the same qualities that people have, but unmodified. A human mother loves her children, but she is restrained by a sense of propriety from tearing other mothers' children in pieces. A hen has no such checks; her motherhood exists without any qualification. Her intense love for her own brood is softened by no social requirements. If a poor lost waif from another coop strays into her realm, no pity, no sympathy springing from the memory of her own offspring, moves her to kindness; but she goes at it with a demoniac fury, and would peck its little life out, if fear did not lend it wings. She has a self-abnegation great as that of human mothers. Her voracity and timidity disappear. She goes almost without food herself, that her chicks may eat. She scatters the dough about with her own bill, that it may be accessible to the little bills, or, perhaps, to teach them how to work. The wire-worms, the bugs, the flies, all the choice little tidbits that her soul loves, she divides for her chicks, reserving not a morsel for herself. All their gambols and pranks and wild ways she bears with untiring patience. They hop up by twos and threes on her back. They peck at her bill. One saucy little imp actually jumped up and caught hold of the little red lappet above her beak, and, hanging to it, swung back and forth half a dozen times; and she was evidently only amused, and reckoned it a mark of precocity.
Yet, with all her intense, absorbing parental love, she has very serious deficiencies,—deficiencies occasioned by the same lack of modification which I have before mentioned. Devoted to her little ones, she will scratch vigorously and untiringly to provide them food, yet fails to remember that they do not stand before her in a straight line out of harm's way, but are hovering around her on all sides in a dangerous proximity. Like the poet, she looks not forward nor behind. If they are beyond reach, very well; if they are not, all the same; scratch, scratch, scratch in the soil goes her great, strong, horny claw, and up flies a cloud of dust, and away goes a poor unfortunate, whirling involuntary somersets through the air without the least warning. She is a living monument of the mischief that may be done by giving undue prominence to one idea. I only wonder that so few broken heads and dislocated joints bear witness to the falseness of such philosophy. I am quite sure, that, if I should give the chickens such merciless impulses, they would not recover from the effects so speedily. Unlike human mothers, too, she has no especial tenderness for invalids. She makes arrangements only for a healthy family. If a pair of tiny wings droop, and a pair of tiny legs falter, so much the worse for the poor unlucky owner; but not one journey the less does Mother Hen take. She is the very soul of impartiality; but there is no cosseting. Sick or well, chick must run with the others, or be left behind. Run they do, with a remarkable uniformity. I marvel to see the perfect understanding among them all. Obedience is absolute on the one side, and control on the other, and without a single harsh measure. It is pure Quaker discipline, simple moral suasion. The specks understand her every word, and so do I—almost. When she is stepping about in a general way,—and hens always step,—she has simply a motherly sort of cluck, that is but a general expression of affection and oversight. But the moment she finds a worm or a crumb or a splash of dough, the note changes into a quick, eager "Here! here! here!" and away rushes the brood pell-mell and topsy-turvy. If a stray cat approaches, or danger in any form, her defiant, menacing "C-r-r-r-r!" shows her anger and alarm.
See how, in Bedford jail, John Bunyan turned to good account the lessons learned in barn-yards. "'Yet again,' said he, 'observe and look.' So they gave heed and perceived that the hen did walk in a fourfold method towards her chickens. 1. She had a common call, and that she hath all day long; 2. She had a special call, and that she had but sometimes; 3. She had a brooding note; and, 4. She had an outcry. 'Now,' said he, 'compare this hen to your king, and these chickens to his obedient ones. For, answerable to her, himself has his methods which he walketh in towards his people: by his common call he gives nothing; by his special call he always has something to give; he has also a brooding voice for them that are under his wing; and he has an outcry to give the alarm when he seeth the enemy come. I chose, my darlings, to lead you into the room where such things are, because you are women, and they are easy for you.'" Kind Mr. Interpreter!
To personal fear, as I have intimated, the hen-mother is a stranger; but her power is not always equal to her pluck. One week ago this very day,—ah, me! this very hour,—the cat ran by the window with a chicken in her mouth. Cats are a separate feature in country establishments. In the city I have understood them to lead a nomadic, disturbed, and somewhat shabby life. In the country they attach themselves to special localities and prey upon the human race. We have three steady and several occasional cats quartered upon us. One was retained for the name of the thing,—called derivatively Maltesa, and Molly "for short." One was adopted for charity,—a hideous, saffron-hued, forlorn little wretch, left behind by a Milesian family, called, from its color, Aurora, contracted into Rory O'More. The third was a fierce black-and-white unnamed wild creature, of whom one never got more than a glimpse in her savage flight. Cats are tolerated here from a tradition that they catch rats and mice, but they don't. We catch the mice ourselves and put them in a barrel, and put a cat in after them; and then she is frightened out of her wits. As for rats, they will gather wherever corn and potatoes congregate, cats or no cats. It is said in the country, that, if you write a polite letter to rats, asking them to go away, they will go. I received my information from one who had tried the experiment, or known it to be tried, with great success. Standing ready always to write a letter on the slightest provocation, you may be sure I did not neglect so good an opportunity. The letter acknowledged their skill and sagacity, applauded their valor and their perseverance, but stated, that, in the present scarcity of labor, the resident family were not able to provide more supplies than were necessary for their own immediate use and for that of our brave soldiers, and they must therefore beg the Messrs. Rats to leave their country for their country's good. It was laid on the potato-chest, and I have never seen a rat since!
While I have been penning this quadrupedic episode, you may imagine Molly, formerly Maltesa, as Kinglake would say, bearing off the chicken in triumph to her domicile. But the alarm is given, and the whole plantation turns out to rescue the victim or perish in the attempt. Molly takes refuge in a sleigh, but is ignominiously ejected. She rushes per saltum under the corn-barn, and defies us all to follow her. But she does not know that in a contest strategy may be an overmatch for swiftness. She is familiar with the sheltering power of the elevated corn-barn, but she never conjectures to what base uses a clothes-pole may come, until one plunges into her sides. As she is not a St. Medard Convulsionist, she does not like it, but strikes a bee-line for the piazza, and rushes through the lattice-work into the darkness underneath. We stoop to conquer, and she hurls Greek fire at us from her wrathful eyes, but cannot stand against a reinforcement of poles which vex her soul. With teeth still fastened upon her now unconscious victim, she leaves her place of refuge, which indeed was no refuge for her, and gallops through the yard and across the field; but an unseen column has flanked her, and she turns back only to fall into the hands of the main army,—too late, alas! for the tender chick, who has picked his last worm and will never chirp again. But his death is speedily avenged. Within the space of three days, Molly, formerly Maltesa, is taken into custody, tried, convicted, sentenced, remanded to prison in an old wagon-box, and transported to Botany Bay, greatly to the delight of Rory O'More, formerly Aurora, who, in the presence of her overgrown contemporary, was never suffered to call her soul her own, much less a bone or a crust. Indeed, Molly never seemed half so anxious to eat, herself, as she was to bind Rory to total abstinence. When a plate was set for them, the preliminary ceremony was invariably a box on the ear for poor Rory, or a grab on the neck, from Molly's spasmodic paw, which would not release its hold till armed intervention set in and enforced a growling neutrality. In short, like the hens, these cats held up a mirror to human nature. They showed what men and women would be, if they were—cats; which they would be, if a few modifying qualities were left out. They exhibit selfishness and greed in their pure forms, and we see and ought to shun the unlovely shapes. Evil propensities may be hidden by a silver veil, but they are none the less evil and bring forth evil fruit. Let cats delight to snarl and bite, but let men and women be generous and beneficent.
Little chickens, tender and winsome as they are, early discover the same disposition. When one of them comes into possession of the fore-quarter of a fly, he does not share it with his brother. He does not even quietly swallow it himself. He clutches it in his bill and flies around in circles and irregular polygons, like one distracted, trying to find a corner where he can gormandize alone. It is no matter that not a single chicken is in pursuit, nor that there is enough and to spare for all. He hears a voice we cannot hear, telling him that the Philistines be upon him. And every chicken snatches his morsel and radiates from every other as fast as his little legs can carry him. His selfishness overpowers his sense,—which is, indeed, not a very signal victory, for his selfishness is very strong and his sense is very weak. It is no wonder that Hopeful was well-nigh moved to anger, and queried, "Why art thou so tart, my brother?" when Christian said to him, "Thou talkest like one upon whose head is the shell to this very day." To be compared to a chicken is disparaging enough; but to be compared to a chicken so very young that he has not yet quite divested himself of his shell must be, as Pet Marjorie would say, "what Nature itself can't endure." A little chicken's greedy crop blinds his eyes to every consideration except that of the insect squirming in his bill. He is beautiful and round and full of cunning ways, but he has no resources for an emergency. He will lose his reckoning and be quite out at sea, though only ten steps from home. He never knows enough to turn a corner. All his intelligence is like light, moving only in straight lines. He is impetuous and timid, and has not the smallest presence of mind or sagacity to discern between friend and foe. He has no confidence in any earthly power that does not reside in an old hen. Her cluck will he follow to the last ditch, and to nothing else will he give heed. I am afraid that the Interpreter was putting almost too fine a point upon it, when he had Christiana and her children "into another room, where was a hen and chickens, and bid them observe awhile. So one of the chickens went to the trough to drink, and every time she drank she lift up her head and her eyes towards heaven. 'See,' said he, 'what this little chick doth, and learn of her to acknowledge whence your mercies come, by receiving them with looking up.'" Doubtless the chick lift her eyes towards heaven, but a close acquaintance with the race would put anything but acknowledgment in the act. A gratitude that thanks Heaven for favors received and then runs into a hole to prevent any other person from sharing the benefit of those favors is a very questionable kind of gratitude, and certainly should be confined to the bipeds that wear feathers.
Yet, if you take away selfishness from a chicken's moral make-up, and fatuity from his intellectual, you have a very charming little creature left. For, apart from their excessive greed, chickens seem to be affectionate. They have sweet social ways. They huddle together with fond caressing chatter, and chirp soft lullabies. Their toilet performances are full of interest. They trim each other's bills with great thoroughness and dexterity, much better indeed than they dress their own heads,—for their bungling, bungling little claws make sad work of it. It is as much as they can do to stand on two feet, and they naturally make several revolutions when they attempt to stand on one. Nothing can be more ludicrous than their early efforts to walk. They do not really walk. They sight their object, waver, balance, decide, and then tumble forward, stopping all in a heap as soon as the original impetus is lost, generally some way ahead of the place to which they wished to go. It is delightful to watch them as drowsiness films their round, bright, black eyes, and the dear old mother croons them under her ample wings, and they nestle in perfect harmony. How they manage to bestow themselves with such limited accommodations, or how they manage to breathe in a room so close, it is difficult to imagine. They certainly deal a staggering blow to our preconceived notions of the necessity of oxygen and ventilation, but they make it easy to see whence the Germans derived their fashion of sleeping under feather-beds. But breathe and bestow themselves they do. The deep mother-heart and the broad mother-wings take them all in. They penetrate her feathers, and open for themselves unseen little doors into the mysterious, brooding, beckoning darkness. But it is long before they can arrange themselves satisfactorily. They chirp, and stir, and snuggle, trying to find the warmest and softest nook. Now an uneasy head is thrust out, and now a whole tiny body, but it soon reenters in another quarter, and at length the stir and chirr grow still. You see only a collection of little legs, as if the hen were a banyan-tree, and presently even they disappear, she settles down comfortably, and all are wrapped in a slumberous silence. And as I sit by the hour, watching their winning ways, and see all the steps of this sleepy subsidence, I can but remember that outburst of love and sorrow from the lips of Him who, though He came to earth from a dwelling-place of ineffable glory, called nothing unclean because it was common, found no homely detail too trivial or too homely to illustrate the Father's love, but from the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, the lilies of the field, the stones in the street, the foxes in their holes, the patch on a coat, the oxen in the furrow, the sheep in the pit, the camel under his burden, drew lessons of divine pity and patience, of heavenly duty and delight. Standing in the presence of the great congregation, seeing, as never man saw, the hypocrisy and the iniquity gathered before Him,—seeing too, alas! the calamities and the woe that awaited this doomed people, a god-like pity overbears His righteous indignation, and cries out in passionate appeal, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"
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The agriculturist says that women take care of young chickens much better than men. I do not know how that may be, but I know that my experiments with chickens have been attended with a success so brilliant that unfortunate poultry-fanciers have appealed to me for assistance. I have even taken ailing chickens from the city to board. A brood of nineteen had rapidly dwindled down to eleven when it was brought to me, one even then dying. His little life ebbed away in a few hours; but of the remaining ten, nine, now in the third week of their abode under my roof, have recovered health, strength, and spirits, and bid fair to live to a good old age, if not prematurely cut off. One of them, more feeble than the others, needed and received especial attention. Him I tended through dreary days of east wind and rain in a box on the mantel-piece, nursing him through a severe attack of asthma, feeding and amusing him through his protracted convalescence, holding him in my hand one whole Sunday afternoon to relieve him of home-sickness and hen-sickness, and being rewarded at last by seeing animation and activity come back to his poor sickly little body. He will never be a robust chicken. He seems to have a permanent distortion of the spine, and his crop is one-sided; and if there is any such thing as blind staggers, he has them. Besides, he has a strong and increasing tendency not to grow. This, however, I reckon a beauty rather than a blemish. It is the one fatal defect in chickens that they grow. With them, youth and beauty are truly inseparable terms. The better they are, the worse they look. After they are three weeks old, every day detracts from their comeliness. They lose their plump roundness, their fascinating, soft down, and put out the most ridiculous little wings and tails and hard-looking feathers, and are no longer dear, tender chicks, but small hens,—a very uninteresting Young America. It is said, that, if you give chickens rum, they will not grow, but retain always their juvenile size and appearance. Under our present laws it is somewhat difficult, I suppose, to obtain rum, and I fear it would be still more difficult to administer it. I have concluded instead to keep some hen sitting through the summer, and so have a regular succession of young chickens. The growth of my little patient was not arrested at a sufficiently early stage to secure his perpetual good looks, and, as I intimated, he will never, probably, be the Windship of his race; but he has found his appetite, he is free from acute disease, he runs about with the rest, under-sized, but bright, happy, and enterprising, and is therefore a well-spring of pleasure. Indeed, in view of the fact that I have unquestionably saved his life, we talk seriously of opening a Hotel des Invalides, a kind of Chicken's Home, that the benefits which he has received may be extended to all his unfortunate brethren who stand in need.
[D] I say sit out of regard to the proprieties of the occasion; but I do not expose myself to ridicule by going about among the neighbors and talking of a sitting hen! Everywhere, but in the "Atlantic," hens set.
"The rest is silence."—HAMLET.
The message of the god I seek In voice, in vision, or in dream,— Alike on frosty Dorian peak, Or by the slow Arcadian stream: Where'er the oracle is heard, I bow the head and bend the knee; In dream, in vision, or in word, The sacred secret reaches me.
Athwart the dim Trophonian caves, Bat-like, the gloomy whisper flew; The lisping plash of Paphian waves Bathed every pulse in fiery dew: From Phoebus, on his cloven hill, A shaft of beauty pierced the air, And oaks of gray Dodona still Betrayed the Thunderer's presence there.
The warmth of love, the grace of art, The joys that breath and blood express, The desperate forays of the heart Into an unknown wilderness,— All these I know: but sterner needs Demand the knowledge which must dower The life that on achievement feeds, The grand activity of power.
What each reveals the shadow throw Of something unrevealed behind; The Secret's lips forever close To mock the secret undivined: Thence late I come, in weary dreams The son of Isis to implore, Whose temple-front of granite gleams Across the Desert's yellow floor.
Lo! where the sand, insatiate, drinks The steady splendor of the air, Crouched on her heavy paws, the Sphinx Looks forth with old, unwearied stare! Behind her, on the burning wall, The long processions flash and glow: The pillared shadows of the hall Sleep with their lotus-crowns below.
A square of dark beyond, the door Breathes out the deep adytum's gloom: I cross the court's deserted floor, And stand within the awful room. The priests repose from finished rite; No echo rings from pavements trod; And sits alone, in swarthy light, The naked child, the temple's god.
No sceptre, orb, or mystic toy Proclaims his godship, young and warm: He sits alone, a naked boy, Clad in the beauty of his form. Dark, solemn stars, of radiance mild, His eyes illume the golden shade, And sweetest lips that never smiled The finger hushes, on them laid.
Oh, never yet in trance or dream That falls when crowned desire has died, So breathed the air of power supreme, So breathed, and calmed, and satisfied! Did then those mystic lips unclose, Or that diviner silence make A seeming voice? The flame arose, The deity his message spake:
"If me thou knowest, stretch thy hand And my possessions thou shalt reach: I grant no help, I break no band, I sit above the gods that teach. The latest-born, my realm includes The old, the strong, the near, the far,— Serene beyond their changeful moods, And fixed as Night's unmoving star.
"A child, I leave the dance of Earth To be my horned mother's care: My father Ammon's Bacchic mirth, Delighting gods, I may not share. I turn from Beauty, Love, and Power, In singing vale, on laughing sea; From Youth and Hope, and wait the hour When weary Knowledge turns to me.
"Beneath my hand the sacred springs Of Man's mysterious being burst, And Death within my shadow brings The last of life, to greet the first. There is no god, or grand or fair, On Orcan or Olympian field, But must to me his treasures bear, His one peculiar secret yield.
"I wear no garment, drop no shade Before the eyes that all things see; My worshippers, howe'er arrayed, Come in their nakedness to me. The forms of life like gilded towers May soar, in air and sunshine drest,— The home of Passions and of Powers,— Yet mine the crypts whereon they rest.
"Embracing all, sustaining all, Consoling with unuttered lore, Who finds me in my voiceless hall Shall need the oracles no more. I am the knowledge that insures Peace, after Thought's bewildering range; I am the patience that endures; I am the truth that cannot change!"
I went down to the farm-yard one day last month, and as I opened the gate I heard Pat Malony say, "Biddy! Biddy!" I thought at first he was calling a hen, but then I remembered the hens were all shut into the poultry-house that day, to be sorted, and numbered, and condemned: so I looked again, thinking perhaps Pat's little lame sister had strayed up from the village and gone into the barn after Sylvy's kittens, or a pigeon-egg, or to see a new calf; but, to my surprise, I saw a red cow, of no particular beauty or breed, coming out of the stable-door, looking about her as if in search of somebody or something; and when Pat called again, "Biddy! Biddy! Biddy!" the creature walked up to him across the yard, stretched out her awkward neck, sniffed a little, and cropped from his hand the wisp of rowen hay he held, as composedly as if she were a tame kitten, and then followed him all round the yard for more, which I am sorry to say she did not get. Pat had only displayed her accomplishments to astonish me, and then shut her in her stall again. I afterward hunted out Biddy's history, and here it is.
On the Derby turnpike, just before you enter Hanerford, everybody that ever travelled that road will remember Joseph German's bakery. It was a red brick house, with dusty windows toward the street, and just inside the door a little shop, where Mr. German retailed the scalloped cookies, fluted gingerbread, long loaves of bread, and scantly filled pies, in which he dealt, and which were manufactured in the long shop, where in summer you caught glimpses of flour-barrels all a-row, and men who might have come out of those barrels, so strewed with flour were all their clothes,—paper-cap and white apron scarcely to be distinguished from the rest of the dress, as far as color and dustiness went. Here, too, when her father drove out the cart every afternoon, sitting in front of the counter with her sewing or her knitting, Dely German, the baker's pretty daughter, dealt out the cakes and rattled the pennies in her apron-pocket with so good a grace, that not a young farmer came into Hanerford with grain or potatoes or live stock, who did not cast a glance in at the shop-door, going toward town, and go in on his return, ostensibly to buy a sheet of gingerbread or a dozen cookies for his refreshment on the drive homeward. It was a curious thing to see how much hungrier they were on the way home than coming into town. Though they might have had a good dinner in Hanerford, that never appeased their appetites entirely, while in the morning they had driven their slow teams all the way without so much as thinking of cakes and cheese! So by the time Dely was seventeen, her black eyes and bright cheeks were well known for miles about, and many a youth, going home to the clean kitchen where his old mother sat by the fire knitting, or his spinster sister scolded and scrubbed over his muddy boot-tracks, thought how pretty it would look to see Dely German sitting on the other side, in her neat calico frock and white apron, her black hair shining smooth, and her fresh, bright face looking a welcome.
But Dely did not think about any one of them in a reciprocal manner; she liked them all pretty well, but she loved nobody except her father and mother, her three cats and all their kittens, the big dog, the old horse, and a wheezy robin that she kept in a cage, because her favorite cat had half killed it one day, and it never could fly any more. For all these dumb things she had a really intense affection: as for her father and mother, she seemed to be a part of them; it never occurred to her that they could leave her, or she them; and when old Joe German died one summer day, just after Dely was seventeen, she was nearly distracted. However, people who must work for their living have to get over their sorrows, practically, much sooner than those who can afford time to indulge them; and as Dely knew more about the business and the shop than anybody but the foreman, she had to resume her place at the counter before her father had been buried a week. It was a great source of embarrassment to her rural admirers to see Dely in her black frock, pale and sober, when they went in; they did not know what to say; they felt as if their hands and feet had grown very big all at once, and as if the cents in their pockets never could be got at, at which they turned red and hot and got choked, and went away, swearing internally at their own blundering shyness, and deeper smitten than ever with Dely, because they wanted to comfort her so very much, and didn't know how!