A MAGAZINE OF
Literature, Science, Art, and Politics.
BOSTON: TICKNOR AND FIELDS, 124 TREMONT STREET.
LONDON: TRUeBNER AND COMPANY.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1865, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
PRINTED BY S. Chism,—Franklin Printing House, 112 Congress Street, Boston.
ELECTROTYPED BY WELCH, BIGELOW, & CO., CAMBRIDGE.
Page Assassination C. C. Hazewell 85
Bentham, Jeremy John Neal 575 Blackwood, William John Neal 660 Books for our Children Samuel Osgood 724 Bright, John, and the English Radicals G. W. Towle 177
Candle-Ends, A Paper of Charles J. Sprague 61 Chicago Conspiracy, The 108 Chimney-Corner, The Mrs. H. B. Stowe 100, 232, 347, 419, 567, 672 Clemency and Common Sense Charles Sumner 745 Coupon Bonds J. T. Trowbridge 257, 399
Deep-Sea Damsels G. W. Hosmer 77 Doctor Johns Donald G. Mitchell 66, 211, 300, 457, 546, 713 Down the River Harriet E. Prescott 468
Edgeworths, A Visit to the Mrs. John Farrar 356 Electric Telegraph, The Progress of the George B. Prescott 605 Ellen Author of "Life in the Iron-Mills" 22
Forge, The 586, 684
Gettysburg, The Field of J. T. Trowbridge 616 Griffith Gaunt: or, Jealousy Charles Reade 641
Hamilton, Alexander C. C. Hazewell 625 Honey-Makers, Among the Harriet E. Prescott 129
Jelly-Fishes, Mode of Catching A. Agassiz 736 Jordan, John Edmund Kirke 434
King James the First Gail Hamilton 701
Libraries, The Visible and Invisible in Mrs. R. C. Waterston 525 Luck of Abel Steadman, The Author of "Life in the Iron-Mills" 331
Militia System, Our Future T. W. Higginson 371 Mull, Around Maria S. Cummins 11, 167
Needle and Garden 47, 185, 283, 419 New Art Critic, A Eugene Benson 325
Old Shoes, On a Pair of Charles J. Sprague 360
Procter, Adelaide Anne Charles Dickens 739
Reconstruction and Negro Suffrage E. P. Whipple 238 "Running at the Heads" 342
St. John's River, Up the T. W. Higginson 311 St. Petersburg, Winter Life in Bayard Taylor 34 Saints who have had Bodies G. Reynolds 385 "Saul," The Author of Bayard Taylor 412 Scientific Farming Gail Hamilton 290 Second Capture, My W. W. Wiltbank 195 Silent Friend, Letter to a 221 Strategy at the Fireside Epes Sargent 151
Toepffer, Rodolphe Mrs. H. M. Fletcher 556
Why the Putkammer Castle was destroyed Robert Dale Owen 513 Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship D. A. Wasson 273, 448
Young Housekeeper, Letter to a C. P. Hawes 535 Young Men in History E. P. Whipple 1
Page Accomplices T. B. Aldrich 107
Agassiz, A Farewell to O. W. Holmes 584
Bay Ridge, Long Island, At T. B. Aldrich 341
Beyond J. T. Trowbridge 744
Changeling, The John G. Whittier 20
Countess Laura George H. Boker 143
Dios Te De C. C. Coxe 737
Lincoln, Abraham H. H. Brownell 491
Master's Mate, The Rhyme of the 519
Noeel H. W. Longfellow 446
No Time like the Old Time O. W. Holmes 398
Ode recited at the Harvard Commemoration James Russell Lowell 364
Parting of Hector and Andromache, The William Cullen Bryant 657
Peace Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney 237
Peace Autumn, The John G. Whittier 545
Peacock, Natural History of the T. W. Parsons 310
Skipper Ben Lacy Larcom 84
Sleeper, The Bayard Taylor 611
Twilight Mrs. Celia Thaxter 282
Willow, The Mrs. E. A. C. Akers 194
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
Arnold's Essays in Criticism 255
Raxley's What I saw on the West Coast of America 379
Brooks's Hesperus 510
Dall' Ongaro's La Rosa dell' Alpi 125
Forsyth's Life and Times of Cicero 380
Gentle Life, The 250
Greene's Historical View of the American Revolution 127
Hall's Arctic Researches 125
Hedge's Reason in Religion 383
Higginson's Epictetus 761
Holley's Treatise on Ordnance and Armor 126
Johnson, Andrew, Speeches of 763
Kingsley's Hillyars and Burtons 121
Le Fanu's Uncle Silas 121
Mann, Horace, Life of 247
Mill's Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy 762
Mueller's Lectures on the Science of Language 128
Muloch's Christian's Mistake 121
Nota's La Fiera 125
Parkman's France and England in North America 505
Spencer's Social Statics 381
Stevens's History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States 123
Stone's Life and Times of Sir William Johnson 121
Taylor's Holy Living and Holy Dying 122
Thoreau's Letters 504
White's Memoirs of Shakespeare 637
RECENT AMERICAN PUBLICATIONS 256, 384, 640
A Magazine of Literature, Art, and Politics.
VOL. XVI.—JULY, 1865.—NO. XCIII.
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.
YOUNG MEN IN HISTORY.
History is an imperfect record of nations and races, diverse in their position and capacities, but identical in nature and one in destiny. Viewed comprehensively, its individuals and events comprise the incidents of an uncompleted biography of man, a biography long, obscure, full of puzzling facts for thought to interpret, and more puzzling breaks for thought to bridge, but, on the whole, exhibiting man as moving and man as moving forward. If we scrutinize the character of this progress, we shall find that the forces which propel society in the direction of improvement, and the ideas we form of the nature of that improvement, are the forces and the ideas of youth. The world, indeed, moves under the impulses of youth to realize the ideals of youth. It has youth for its beginning and youth for its end; for youth is alive, and progress is but the movement of life to attain fuller, higher, and more vivid life. Youth, too, is nearer to those celestial fountains of existence whence inspiration pours into the heart and light streams into the brain. Indeed, all the qualities which constitute the life of the soul, and which preserve in vigor and health even the practical faculties of the mind,—freshness, ardor, generosity, love, hope, faith, courage, cheer,—all these youth feels stirring and burning in its own breast, and aches to see fulfilled in the common experience of the race. But in age these fine raptures are apt to be ridiculed as the amiable follies of juvenile illusions. In parting, however, with what it derides as illusions, does not age part with the whole of joy and by far the most important element of wisdom? The world it so sagaciously aims to inaugurate, what is it but a stationary and decrepit world,—a world which would soon decay, and drop into the abyss of nothingness, were it not for the rejuvenating vitality poured into it by the youth it cynically despises? True wisdom, indeed, springs from the wide brain which is fed from the deep heart; and it is only when age warms its withering conceptions at the memory of its youthful fire, when it makes experience serve aspiration, and knowledge illumine the difficult paths through which thoughts thread their way into facts,—it is only then that age becomes broadly and nobly wise.
If we thus discern in the sentiments and faculties of youth the animating and impelling soul of historical events,—if, wherever in history we mark a great movement of humanity, we commonly detect a young man at its head or at its heart,—we must still, I admit, discriminate between youth and young men, between the genial action of youthful qualities and the imperfections and perversions of youthful character. Youth we commonly represent under the image of morn,—clear, fresh, cheerful, radiant, the green sward trembling and gleaming with ecstasy as the rising sun transfigures its dew-drops into diamonds; but then morn is sometimes black with clouds, and foul with vapors, and terrible with tempests. In treating, therefore, of the position and influence of young men in history, let us begin with those in whom the energies of youth were early perverted from their appropriate objects, and fell under the dominion of sensual appetites or malignant passions.
And first, it is important we should bear in mind, that, in this misdirection of youth, all that constitutes the spirit, the power, the charm of youth is extinguished. The young man becomes prematurely old. We have all witnessed that saddest of spectacles, the petulant child developing into the ruffian boy, and hurrying into the ruffian man,—rude, hard-natured, swaggering, and self-willed, a darkness over his conscience, a glare over his appetites, insensible to duty or affection, and only tamed into decencies by the chains of restraint which an outraged community binds on his impulses. Now give this young savage arbitrary power, let him inherit the empire of the world, remove all restraints on his will, and allow him to riot in the mad caprices of sensuality and malevolence, and he makes his ominous appearance in history as a Caligula, a Domitian, a Nero. More fit for a madhouse than a throne, his advent is the signal of a despotism controlled by no guiding principles, but given over to that spirit of freak and mischief which springs from the union of the boy's brain with the man's appetites; and his fate is to have that craze of the faculties and delirium of the sensations which he calls his life abruptly closed by suicide or assassination: by suicide, when he has become intolerable to himself; by assassination, when, as is more common, he has become intolerable to the world. Evil, however, as history shows him, it must still be said that his career does not exhibit the consistent depravity and systematic wickedness which characterize some of the Roman Emperors of maturer years; and even the giddy ferocities of the youthful Nero can be contemplated with less horror than the Satanic depth of malignity which morosely brooded over shadowy plans of gigantic crime in the dark spirit of the aged Tiberius.
This ruffian type of the young man is rarely exhibited on the historical theatre in its full combination of animal fury with mental feebleness. In most young men who acquire prominence in the history of the world there is some genius, however dashed it may be with depravity; and genius is itself an inlet of youth, checks the downward drag of the spiritual into the animal nature, intensifies appetites into passions, and lends impetus to daring ambition, if it does not always purify the motives which prompt its exercise. This genius divorced from wisdom, scornful of moral obligations, and ravenous for notoriety, is especially marked by wilfulness, presumptuous self-assertion, the curse and plague-spot of the perverted soul. Alcibiades in politics and Byron in literature are among its most conspicuous examples. Their defiance of rule was not the confident daring which comes from the vision of genius, but the disdainful audacity which springs from its wilfulness. Alcibiades, a name closely connected with those events which resulted in the ruin of the Athenian empire, was perhaps the most variously accomplished of all those young men of genius who have squandered their genius in the attempt to make it insolently dominant over justice and reason. Graceful, beautiful, brave, eloquent, and affluent, the pupil of Socrates, the darling of the Athenian democracy, lavishly endowed by Nature with the faculties of the great statesman and the great captain, with every power and every opportunity to make himself the pride and glory of his country, he was still so governed by an imp of boyish perversity and presumption, that he renounced the ambition of being the first statesman of Athens in order to show himself its most restless, impudent and unscrupulous trickster; and, subjecting all public objects to the freaks of his own vanity and selfishness, ever ready to resent opposition to his whim with treason against the state, he stands in history a curious spectacle of transcendent gifts belittled by profligacy of character, the falsest, keenest, most mischievous, and most magnificent demagogue the world has ever seen.
If we turn from Alcibiades the politician to Byron the poet, we have a no less memorable instance of intellectual power early linked with moral perversity and completely bewitched and bedevilled by presumptuous egotism. What, in consequence, was his career? Petulant, passionate, self-willed, impatient of all external direction, the slave and victim of the moment's impulse, yet full of the energies and visions of genius, this arrogant stripling passes by quick leaps from boyhood into the vices of age, and, after a short experience of the worst side of life, comes out a scoffer and a misanthrope, fills the world with his gospel of desperation and despair, and, after preaching disgust of existence and contempt of mankind as the wisdom gleaned from his excesses, he dies, worn out and old, at thirty-six.
Now neither in Byron's works nor Byron's life do we recognize the spirit of youth,—the spirit which elevates as well as stimulates, which cheers as well as inflames. Compare him in this respect with a man of vaster imagination and mightier nature,—compare him with Edmund Burke, in what we call Burke's old age; and as you read one of Burke's immortal pamphlets, composed just before his death, do you not feel your blood kindle and your mind expand, as you come into communion with that bright and broad intellect, competent to grapple with the most complicated relations of European politics,—with that audacious will, whose purposes glow with immortal life,—and especially with that large and noble soul, rich in experience, rich in wisdom, but richer still in the freshness, the ardor, the eloquence, the chivalrous daring of youth? Byron is old at twenty-five; Burke is young at sixty-six.
The spirit of youth may thus, as in the case of Byron, be burnt out of the young man by the egotism of passion; but it may also be frozen up in his breast by the egotism of opinion. Woe to the young shoulders afflicted with the conceit that they support old heads! When this mental disease assumes the form of flippancy, it renders a young person happily unconscious that Nature has any stores of wisdom which she has not thought fit to deposit in his cranium, or that his mind can properly assume any other attitude towards an opponent than that of placid and pitying contempt.
But this intellectual presumption, ridiculous in its flippant or pompous, becomes terrible in its malignant, expression. Thus, the headstrong young men who pushed the French Revolution of 1789 into the excesses of the Reign of Terror were well-intentioned reformers, driven into crime by the fanaticism of mental conceit. This is especially true of Robespierre and St. Just. Their hearts were hardened through their heads. The abstract notions of freedom and philanthropy were imbedded in their brains as truths, without being rooted in their characters as sentiments; and into the form of these inexorable notions they aimed to shape France. They were of course opposed by human nature. Opposition made them personally cruel, because it made them intellectually remorseless. With no instincts of humanity to guide their ideas of its rights, it was but natural that offended pride of opinion should fester into that malignant passion which puts relentlessness into the will. Everything and everybody that opposed the onward movement of the great cause ought, they conceived, to be removed. The readiest way to remove them was by tyranny, terror, and murder; for the swiftest method of answering objections is to knock out the brains that propound them. All the instituted rights of men were accordingly violated in the fierce desire to establish the abstract rights of man. A government founded on reason was to be created by a preliminary and provisional government founded on the guillotine. The ideals of Rousseau were to be realized by practices learned in the school of Draco; and a celestial democracy of thought was to spring from a demonized democracy of fact. Now we are accustomed to call these wretches young men. But there was no youth in them. Young in respect to age, their intellectually irritated egotism made them as bigoted, as inhuman, as soulless as old familiars of the Inquisition.
In truth, the real young man of that Revolution, as of our own Revolution, was Lafayette. His convictions regarding the rights of man were essentially the same as those held by Robespierre and St. Just; but they were convictions that grew out of the inherent geniality, benevolence, and rectitude of his nature, and were accordingly guided and limited in their application by the sanity and sweetness of the sentiments whence they drew their vitality. Whilst they made him capable of any self-sacrifice for freedom and humanity, they made him incapable of crime; and misfortune and failure never destroyed his faith in freedom, because his faith in freedom had not been corrupted by experience in blood.
In Nero and Caligula, in Alcibiades and Byron, in Robespierre and St. Just, we have attempted to sketch the leading perversions of youthful energy and intelligence. Let us now proceed to exhibit their more wholesome, and, we trust, their more natural action. And first, in respect to the emotions, these may all be included in the single word enthusiasm, or that impulsive force which liberates the mental powers from the ice of timidity as Spring unloosens the streams from the grasp of Winter, and sends them forth in a rejoicing rush. The mind of youth, when impelled by this original strength and enthusiasm of Nature, is keen, eager, inquisitive, intense, audacious, rapidly assimilating facts into faculties and knowledge into power, and above all teeming with that joyous fulness of creative life which radiates thoughts as inspirations, and magnetizes as well as informs. Now the limit of this youth of mind observation decides to be commonly between thirty-five and forty; but still it is not so properly marked by years as by the arrest of this glad mental growth and development. In some men, like Bacon and Burke, it is not arrested at sixty. The only sign of age, indeed, which is specially worth considering, is the mental sign; and this is that gradual disintegration of the mind's vital powers by which intelligence is separated from force, and experience from ability. Experience detached from active power is no longer faculty of doing, but mere memory of what has been done; and principles accordingly subside into precedents, intuitions into arguments, and alertness of will into calculation of risks. The highest quality of mind, the quality which stamps it as an immortal essence, namely, that power, the fused compound of all other powers, which sends its eagle glance over a whole field of particulars, penetrates and grasps all related objects in one devouring conception, and flashes a vivid insight of the only right thing to be done amid a thousand possible courses of action,—the power, in short, which gives confidence to will because it gives certainty to vision, and is as much removed from recklessness as from irresolution,—this power fades in mental age into that pausing, comparing, generalizing, indecisive intelligence, which, however wise and valuable it may be in those matters where success is not the prize of speed, is imbecile in those conjunctures of affairs where events match faster than the mind can syllogize, and to think and act a moment too late is defeat and ruin.
It is for this reason that the large portion of history which relates to war is so much the history of the triumphs of young men. Thus, Scipio was twenty-nine when he gained the Battle of Zana; Charles the Twelfth, nineteen when he gained the Battle of Narva; Conde, twenty-two when he gained the Battle of Rocroi. At thirty-six, Scipio the younger was the conqueror of Carthage; at thirty-six, Cortes was the conqueror of Mexico; at thirty, Charlemagne was master of France and Germany; at thirty-two, Clive had established the British power in India. Hannibal, the greatest of military commanders, was only thirty, when, at Cannae, he dealt an almost annihilating blow at the republic of Rome; and Napoleon was only twenty-seven, when, on the plains of Italy, he outgeneralled and defeated, one after another, the veteran marshals of Austria. And in respect to the wars which grew out of the French Revolution, what are they but the record of old generals beaten by young generals? And it will not do to say, that the young generals were victorious merely in virtue of their superiority in courage, energy, and dash; for they evinced a no less decisive superiority in commonsense and judgment,—that is, in instantaneous command of all their resources in the moment of peril, in quickness to detect the enemy's weak points, and, above all, in resolute sagacity to send the full strength of the arm to second at once the piercing glance of the eye. The old generals, to be sure, boasted professional experience, but, having ossified their experience into pedantic maxims, they had less professional skill. After their armies had been ignominiously routed by the harebrained young fellows opposed to them, they could easily prove, that, by the rules of war, they had been most improperly beaten; but their young opponents, whose eager minds had transmuted the rules of war into instincts of intelligence, were indifferent to the scandal of violating the etiquette of fighting, provided thereby they gained the object of fighting. They had, in fact, the quality which the old generals absurdly claimed, namely, practical sagacity, or, the Yankee phrased it, "the knack of hitting it about right the first time."
We cannot, of course, leave the subject of young military commanders without a reference to Alexander of Macedon, in many respects the greatest young man that ever, as with the fury of the untamable forces of Nature, broke into history. But even in the "Macedonian madman," as he is called, it will be found that fury obeyed sagacity. A colossal soul, in whom barbaric passions urged gigantic powers to the accomplishment of insatiable desires, he seems, on the first view, to be given over to the wildest ecstasies of imaginative pride; but we are soon dazzled and confounded by the irresistible energy, the cool, clear, fertile, forecasting intelligence, with which he pursues and realizes his vast designs of glory and dominion. Strong and arrogant as the fabled Achilles, with a military genius which allies him to Caesar and Napoleon, he was tortured by aspirations more devouring than theirs; for, exalted in his own conception above humanity by his constant success in performing what other men declared impossible, he aimed to conquer the world,—not merely to be obeyed as its ruler, but worshipped as its god. But this self-deified genius, who could find nothing on our planet capable of withstanding his power, was mortal, and died, by what seemed mere accident, at the age of thirty-two,—died, the master of an empire, conquered by himself, covering two millions and a half of square miles,—died, in the full vigor of his faculties, at the time his brain was teeming with magnificent schemes of assimilating the populations of Europe and Asia, and of remaking man after his own image by stamping the nature of Alexander on the mind and feelings of the world.
One incident, the type of his career, has passed into the most familiar of proverbs. When, in his invasion of Asia, he arrived at Gordium, he was arrested, not by an army, but by something mightier than an army,—namely, a superstition. Here was the rude wagon of Gordius, the yoke of which was fastened to the pole by a cord so entangled that no human wit or patience could untwist it; yet the oracle had declared that the empire of Asia was reserved to him alone by whom it should be untied. After vainly attempting to overcome its difficulties with his fingers, Alexander impatiently cut it with his sword. The multitude applauded the solution; he soon made it good by deeds; and, in action, youth has ever since shown its judgment, as well as its vigor, in thus annihilating seemingly hopeless perplexities, by cutting Gordian knots.
In passing from the field of battle to the field of politics, from young men as warriors to young men as statesmen, we must bear in mind that high political station, unless a man is born to it, is rarely reached by political genius, until political genius has been tried by years and tested by events. At the time Mr. Calhoun's influence was greatest, at the time it was said that "when he took snuff all South Carolina sneezed," he was really not so great a man as when he was struggling for eminence. Statesmen are thus forces long before they are leaders of party, prime-ministers, and presidents; and are not the energies employed in preparing the way for new laws and new policies of more historic significance than the mere outward form of their enactment and inauguration? Thus, it required thirty-five years of effort and agitation before the old Earl Grey of 1832 could accomplish the scheme of Parliamentary reform eagerly pressed by the young Mr. Grey of 1797. The young Chatham, when he was merely "that terrible cornet of horse," whose rising to speak in the House of Commons was said to give Sir Robert Walpole "a pain in the back,"—when, in his own sarcastic phrase, he "was guilty of the atrocious crime of being a young man,"—was still day by day building himself up in the heart and imagination of the English people, and laboriously opening the path to power of the old Chatham, whose vehement soul was all alive with the energies of youth, though lodged in the shattered frame of age. And he so familiarly known to the American people as old John Adams,—did he lose in mature life a single racy or splenetic characteristic of the young statesman of the Colonial period? Is there, indeed, any break in that unity of nature which connects the second President of the United States with the child John Adams, the boy John Adams, the tart, blunt, and bold, the sagacious and self-reliant, young Mr. Adams, the plague and terror of the Tories of Massachusetts? And his all-accomplished rival and adversary, Alexander Hamilton,—is he not substantially the same at twenty-five as at forty-five? Though he has not yet imprinted his mind on the constitution and practical working of the government, the qualities are still there:—the poised nature whose vigor is almost hidden in its harmony; the power of infusing into other minds ideas which they seem to originate; the wisdom, the moderation, the self-command, the deep thought which explores principles, the comprehensive thought which regards relations, the fertile thought which devises measures,—all are there as unmistakably at twenty-five as on that miserable day, when, in the tried completeness of his powers, the greatest of American statesmen died by the hand of the greatest of American reprobates.
But there are also in history four examples of men who seem to have been statesmen from the nursery,—who early took a leading part in great designs which affected the whole course of human affairs,—and whom octogenarians like Nesselrode and Palmerston would be compelled to call statesmen of the first class. These are Octavius Caesar, more successful in the arts of policy than even the great Julius, never guilty of youthful indiscretion, or, we are sorry to say, of youthful virtue; Maurice of Saxony, the preserver of the Reformed religion in Germany, in that contest where his youthful sagacity proved more than a match for the veteran craft of Charles the Fifth; the second William of Orange, the preserver of the liberties of Europe against the ambition of Louis XIV., and who, as a child, may be said to have prattled treaties and lisped despatches; and William Pitt, Prime-Minister of England at the age of twenty-four, and stereotyped on the French imagination as he whose guineas were nearly as potent as Napoleon's guns.
But it is not so much by eminent examples of young statesmen as it is by the general influence of young men in resisting the corrupting tendencies of politics, that their influence in the social state is to be measured. They oppose the tendency of political life to deprave political character, to make it cold, false, selfish, distrustful, abandoned to the greed of power and the greed of gain. They interfere with the projects of those venerable politicians who are continually appealing to the public to surrender, bit by bit, its humanity, its morality, its Christianity, for what are ludicrously misnamed practical advantages, and who slowly sap the moral vitality of a people through an insinuating appeal to their temporary interests. The heart of a nation may be eaten out by this process, without its losing any external signs of prosperity and strength; but the process itself is resisted, and the nation kept alive and impelled forward, by the purifying, though disturbing forces, which come from the generous sentiments and fervid aspirations of youth. Wise old heads may sneer as much as they please at the idea of heart in politics; but if history teaches anything, it teaches that human progress is possible only because the benevolent instincts of the heart are permanent, while the reasonings of the head are shifting. "When God," says Montesquieu, "endowed human beings with brains, he did not intend to guaranty them." And the sarcasm of the French philosopher is fully justified, when we reflect that nothing mean, base, or cruel has ever been done in this world, which has not been supported by arguments. To the mere head every historical event, whether it be infamous or glorious, is like the case at law which attracted the attention of the Irish barrister. "It was," he said, "a very pretty case, and he should like a fee of a hundred pounds to argue it either way." Who is there, indeed, who has not heard the most atrocious measures recommended by the most convincing arguments? Why, the persecutions of the early Christians, the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, the Spanish Inquisition, the Reign of Terror, the institution of Slavery, the coup d' etat of Louis Napoleon, are under the condemnation of history from no lack of arguments in their favor which it might puzzle a plain man to answer. But opinion in such matters is not determined by arguments, but by instincts. God, in his wrath, has not left this world to the mercy of the subtlest dialectician; and all arguments are happily transitory in their effect, when they contradict the primal intuitions of conscience and the inborn sentiments of the heart. And if wicked institutions, laboriously organized by dominant tyranny and priestcraft, and strong with the might, not merely of bad passions, but of perverted learning and prostituted logic,—if these have been swept away in the world's advancing movement, it has been by the gradual triumph of indestructible sentiments of freedom and humanity, kept fresh and bright in the souls of the young.
And in the baptism of fire and blood through which our politics are passing to their purification, who can fitly estimate our indebtedness to the young men who are now making American history the history of so much ardent patriotism and heroic achievement? When the civilization of the country prepared to engage in a death-grapple with its barbarism,—when the most beneficent of all governments was threatened by the basest of all conspiracies, the most infamous of all treasons, the most thievish of all rebellions,—and when that government was sustained by the most glorious uprising that ever surged up from the heart of a great people to defend the cause of liberty and honesty and law,—did not the hot tide of that universal patriotism sparkle and seethe and glow with special intensity in the breasts of our young men? Did you ever hear from them that contented ignominy was Christian peace? Did not meanness, falsehood, fraud, tyranny, treason, find in them, not apologetic critics, but terrible and full-armed foes? Transient defeat,—what did it but add new fiery stimulants to energies bent on an ultimate triumph? To hint to them that Davis would succeed was not only recreancy to freedom, but blasphemy against God. Better, to their impassioned patriotism, that their blood should be poured forth in an unstinted stream,—better that they, and all of us, should be pushed into that ocean whose astonished waves first felt the keel of the Mayflower, as she bore her precious freight to Plymouth Rock,—than that America should consent to be under the insolent domination of a perjured horde of slave-holders and liberticides. But that consent should never be given, and that consent could never be extorted. Minds, like theirs, which had been nurtured on the principles of constitutional freedom,—hearts, like theirs, which had caught inspiration from the heroes and martyrs of liberty,—good right arms, like theirs, which wielded the implements of war as readily as the implements of labor, all scouted the very thought of such unutterable abasement. By the patriotism which abhors treason, by the fortitude which endures privation, by the intrepidity which faces death, they proved themselves worthy of the great continent they inhabit by showing themselves capable of upholding the principles it represents.
In passing from the sphere of politics to the serener region of literature, art, science, and philosophy, there is an increasing difficulty in estimating youth by years and an increasing necessity to estimate it by qualities. One thing, however, is certain,—that the invention of new methods, the discovery of new truth, and the creation of new beauty,—intellectual acts which are among the most-important of historical events,—all belong to that thoroughly live condition of mind which we have called young. In this sense of youth, it may be said that Raphael, the greatest painter of moral beauty, and Titian, the greatest painter of sensuous beauty, were both almost equally young, though Raphael died at thirty-seven, while Titian was prematurely cut off by the plague when he was only a hundred. These, of course, are the extreme cases. But, it maybe asked, were not the greatest poems of the world, the "Iliad" of Homer, the "Divina Commedia" of Dante, the "Paradise Lost" of Milton, the creations of comparative old age? The answer to this question is, that each was probably organized round a youthful conception, and all were coextensive with the whole growth and development of their creators. Thus, we do not call Milton old when he produced "Paradise Lost," but when this mental growth was arrested; and accordingly "Paradise Regained" and "Samson Agonistes," works produced after his prime, are comparatively bleak and bare products of a withering imagination and a shrunken personality.
But, confining the matter to the mere question of years, it may be said, that, allowing for some individual exceptions, the whole history of the human intellect will bear out the general assertion, that the power in which great natures culminate, and which fixes fatal limits to their loftiest aspirations, namely, that flashing conceptive and combining genius which fuses force and insight in one executive intelligence, which seizes salient points and central ideas, which darts in an instant along the whole line of analogies and relations, which leaps with joyous daring the vast mental spaces that separate huddled facts from harmonizing laws,—that this power, to say the least, rarely grows after thirty-five or forty. The mental stature is then reached, though it may not dwindle and be dwarfed until long afterwards. Thus, Shakspeare completed "Hamlet" when he was about thirty-six. Mozart, the Shakspeare of composers, died at thirty-six. But why enumerate? Amid the scores of instances which must crowd into every mind, let us select five men, of especial historic significance, and who are commonly imaged to our minds with heads silvered over with age,—let us take Goethe in poetry, Newton in science, Bacon in philosophy, Columbus in discovery, Watt in mechanics. Now, how stand the facts? The greatest works of Goethe were conceived and partly executed when he was a young man; and if age found him more widely and worldly wise, it found him weak in creative passion, and, as a poet, living on the interest of his youthful conceptions. Newton, in whose fertile and capacious intellect the dim, nebulous elements of truth were condensed by patient thinking into the completed star, discovered the most universal of all natural laws, the law of gravitation, before he was twenty-five, though an error of observation, not his own, prevented him from demonstrating it until he was forty. Bacon had "vast contemplative ends," and had taken "all knowledge for his province," had deeply meditated new methods and audaciously doubted old ones, before the incipient beard had begun timidly to peep from his youthful chin. The great conception of Columbus sprang from the thoughts and studies of his youth; and it was the radiance shed from this conception which gave him fortitude to bear the slow martyrdom of poverty, contempt, and sickness of heart, which embittered the toiling years preceding its late realization. The steam-engine was invented by James Watt before he was thirty; but then Watt was a thinker from his cradle. Everybody will recollect his grandmother's reproof of what she called his idleness, at the time his boyish brain was busy with meditations destined to ripen in the most marvellous and revolutionizing of all industrial inventions,—an invention which, of itself alone, has given Great Britain an additional productive power equal to ten millions of workmen, at the cost of only a halfpenny a day,—an invention which supplies the motive power by which a single county in England is enabled to produce fabrics representing the labor of twenty-one millions of men,—an invention which, combined with others, annually, in England, weaves into cloth a length of cotton thread equal to fifty-one times the distance between the earth and the sun, five thousand millions of miles,—an invention which created the wealth by which England was enabled to fight or subsidize the whole continent of Europe from 1793 to 1815, and which made that long war really a contest between the despotic power of Napoleon Bonaparte and the productive genius of James Watt. All this vast and teeming future was hidden from the good grandmother, as she saw the boy idling over the teakettle. "James," she said, "I never saw such an idle young fellow as you are. Do take a book and employ yourself usefully. For the last half-hour you have not spoken a single word. Do you know what you have been doing all this time? Why, you have taken off, and replaced, and taken off again, the tea-pot lid, and you have held alternately in the steam, first a saucer and then a spoon; and you have busied yourself in examining and collecting together the little drops formed by the condensation of the steam on the surface of the china and the silver. Now are you not ashamed to waste your time in this disgraceful manner?" Was ever idleness so productive before?
If we turn from intellectual powers to sentiments, which are the soul of powers, we shall find renewed proofs that the spirit which animates the kingdoms of mind is the youthful spirit of health and hope and energy and cheer. In the regretful tenderness with which all great thinkers have looked back upon their youth do not we detect the source of their most kindling inspirations? Time may have impaired their energies, clipped their aspirations, deadened their faith; but there, away off in the past, is the gladdening vision of their youthful years; there the joyous tumult of impulses and aims; there the grand and generous affections; there the sweet surprise of swift-springing thoughts from never-failing fountains; there the pure love of truth and beauty which sent their minds speeding out beyond the limits of positive knowledge; and there the thrills of ecstasy as new worlds opened on their view. What, to them, is the assured possession of fame, compared with that direct perception of truth and that immediate consciousness of power?
But the question arises, Cannot this youth be preserved, or, at least, perpetually renewed? We have seen, in this rapid glance at history, that it is preserved as long as the mind retains its hold on the life of things; and we have seen, both in men of action and in men of meditation, this hold weakened by age. But would it be weakened, if the loftiest meditation issued in deeds instead of thoughts? Would youth depart, if the will acted on the same high level that the mind conceived? This, also, is a question which has been historically answered. It has been answered by heroes, reformers, saints, and martyrs,—by men who have demonstrated, that, the higher the life, the more distant the approaches of age,—by men whose souls on earth have glanced into that region of spiritual ideas and spiritual persons where youth is perpetual, where ecstasy is no transient mood, but a permanent condition, and where dwell the awful forces which radiate immortal life into the will. In these men, contemplation, refusing to abide in the act by which it mounts above the world, reacts with tenfold force on the world. Using human ends simply as divine means, they wield war, statesmanship, literature, art, science, and philosophy with almost superhuman energy in the service of supernatural ideas; and history gleams with an imperfect passage, through human agents, of the life of God into the life of man. The subject is too vast, the agents too various and numerous, to be more than hinted here; and in the limitation of our theme, not only to the young in years, but to the male in sex, we are precluded from celebrating one who stands in history as perhaps the loveliest human embodiment of all that is more winning and inspiring in youth,—one whose celestial elevation of sentiment, ecstatic ardor of imagination, and power at once to melt the heart and amaze the understanding, will forever associate the saintliest heroic genius with the name of Joan of Arc. But among the crowd of great men in this exalted sphere of influence, let us select one who was the head and heart of the most memorable movement of modern times,—the German peasant, Martin Luther. With a nature originally rougher, more earth-born, and of less genial goodness than that of Joan of Arc, but with a shaping imagination of the same realizing intensity, the beautiful myths of Romish superstition, which her innocent soul transfigured into gracious ministering spirits of seraphic might and seraphic tenderness, glared in upon his more morbid spiritual vision as menacing angels, or grinning imps, or scoffing fiends. But still the tortured soul toiled sturdily on through the anguish of its self-created hells, the mind crazed and shattered, the heart hungry for peace, the will resolute that it should have no peace until it found peace in truth. Yet, our of this prodigious mental and moral anarchy, with its devil's dance of dogmas and delusions, the young Luther organized, before he was thirty, the broadest, raciest, and strongest character that ever put on the armor and hurled the bolts of the Church Militant. Casting doubt and fear under his feet, and growing more practically efficient as he grew more morally exalted, at the age of thirty-seven he had hooted out of Germany the knavish agent of a deistical Pope,—had nailed to the Wittenberg Church his intellectual defiance of the theory of Indulgences,—had cast the excommunication and decretals of the Pontiff into the flames,—and, before the principalities and power of the Empire, one German against all Germany, had simply and sublimely indicated the identity of his doctrine with his nature, by declaring that he not merely would not, but could not, recant.
And whom could he not abjure? Does not this question point to Him who is the central Person and Power of the past eighteen hundred years of history?—to Him who will be the central Person and Power of the whole future of history?—to Him who came into the world in the form of a young man, and whom a young man announced, crying in the wilderness?—to Him who clasps in his thought and in his love the whole humanity whose troubled annals history recounts, and who divinized the spirit of youth when He assumed its form?
We had come from Dumbarton, (my temporary home,) the Bailie, Christie, and I, for a week's tour along the western coast and among the Highlands. Sallying forth from Strathleven cottage one sunny morning in August, we had footed it to the river-side, (I learned the full use of my feet in Scotland.) had stepped on board a wee bonnie boat, just large enough for us and our light baggage, exclusive of the space occupied by a single oarsman,—and dropping down the Leven, and past the Castle, had gained the broad Clyde, drifted into mid-stream, and there, lying on our oars, had patiently waited until the great puffing steamer of the Hutcheson line, from Glasgow, hove in sight. Then, raising one oar as a signal, we had hailed the monster, which, condescendingly relaxing her speed, had suffered our boat, tossing like a feather on the steamer's mighty swell, to come in palpitating, timid fashion under the shadow of her paddle-box, where the strong arms of men stationed on the portable ladder let down from her side had caught our skiff by the prow and held the inconstant thing for one instant firmly enough to suffer us to spring to their precarious stairway and so secure our passage to Ardrishalg. Thence, after two hours' sail by track-boat through the Crinan Canal, and a second passage by steamer,—literally an ocean passage, for it took us out into the deep Atlantic,—we had bent our course awhile among the islands that lie nearer the rocky shore, and had at length, just at nightfall, gained the little land-locked harbor of Oban,—sweet, smiling Oban, nestling securely within her rocky bulwarks, the glistening curve of her white sea-wall, her little fleet of safely moored vessels, her clustering cottages, her neat tempting inns, all challenging our wonder and delight, as, skirting the headland which had hitherto jealously hidden the mimic seaport, the entire picture flashed instantaneously on our view.
Nothing in this hospitable spot turns its back on the voyager who there seeks refuge. The sea-wall curving like a half-moon round the bay, and the pebbled esplanade above it, occupy all the foreground. The principal street of Oban skirts this artificial quay, where the shipping of the place lies at anchor, and on its farther side the buildings all front the sea. Thus the whole place smiles a welcome; its white garniture—for everything in Oban seems freshly whitewashed—reflects the last rays of the western sunlight, or, if night has already clothed the neighboring islands and headlands in gloom, the lights from the numerous windows of the dwelling-houses, shops, and hotels, which face you as you make the port, excite a glad surprise, and promise the weary traveller, what he is sure to find, shelter, comfort, and good cheer in Oban.
More than these I found there; for, leaving the spot always in the morning to pursue our excursions, and returning on successive occasions at nightfall, the charm of the place grew upon me, until I came to view it not merely a refuge from exposure and fatigue, a nook screened and protected by Nature's benediction from wintry storms and Hebridean gloom, but as a sanctum for the spirit, an ideal resting-place for restless souls,—a place to be loved and longed for forevermore. If I have said too much, and you convict me of romance and exaggeration, fellow-travellers, who like me have sometimes made this haven, then sunlight and moonlight and soft breezes and sweet sounds have been kinder to me than to you, and you did not see Oban in the light and the air that I did.
One would scarcely expect, judging from the size of the town, that Oban could contain more than a single comfortable inn; still, besides the Caledonian Hotel, of which alone I can testify from experience, there are at least two or three similar public-houses, and I know not how many lodging-houses of lesser pretension; for Oban is the centre of no little travel, and is the rallying-point and rendezvous for tourists, especially during the months of August and September, the popular season in the Highlands.
At the Caledonian, an hotel not dissimilar to our best summer resorts in the White Mountains and other picturesque districts, we were comfortably, I may say luxuriously, entertained. The accommodations, as with us, included ladies' parlor and table d'hote, and, after a brief lounge in the former and a substantial meal at the latter, we were ready to set forth for an evening stroll through the town, a stroll never omitted by us at that hour in Oban, a delightful and essential sedative after the fatigues or excitements of the day,—strolls the charm of which I could never quite define, and the impression from which is incommunicable. There would seem to be little that was pleasant or memorable in our perambulations of the main street of a little fishing-town,—the Bailie, with his stump of a pipe for company, always choosing the esplanade, while Christie and I as frequently idled along the opposite pavement, pausing now and then at the little shop-windows and gazing at their mean or meagre displays, illumined by a farthing candle, with a keener zest than I had ever experienced in the Rue Rivoli or the Palais Royal. Our walk rarely extended beyond either extremity of this street; it was uniform, monotonous, unvaried by any more striking incident than a lunge into the most humble and ill-furnished of the shops to procure a penny pipe for the Bailie, whose smoky stump had accidentally come to grief, or a continuation of our stroll as far as the remotest point of the arc formed by the quay, where, seated on a wall of rough stones, we took in at one glance the moonlit bay, and the quiet, peaceful town, scarce a hum from which reached our ears, so hushed and still was the place at this hour.
A couple of little girls of true Gaelic blood came and gazed curiously at us one evening, as we thus sat. The elder of the two, a head shorter than her companion, responded readily to the Bailie's questions,—among other things naively accounted to us for her diminutive size, as if it were a foregone and inevitable result of her lot, by the grave statement, "Oh, I am the eldest, Sir; I tended all the rest"; and then, at his request, they united in singing us a genuine Erse song, the guttural accents of which, softened by their childish tongues, harmonized wonderfully with the Hebridean landscape, redeemed from its otherwise rigidity and gloom by Oban gleaming like a pearly jewel from its rude setting of stone. It was the only incident that I can recall connected with our moonlight ramblings. Was it not, perhaps, the absence of incident or adventure, the holy calm, the unbroken stillness of the scene, that lulled our hearts then to pensive musings, and that still whispers to our memories, "Peace"?
The Caledonian, though it found room for us, was wellnigh overflowing with visitors. Besides our fellow-passengers and those of another steamer of the same line, which had arrived almost simultaneously from the northern or opposite direction, there were not a few who had either been waiting in Oban, or had returned thither from some excursion in the neighborhood, to be in readiness for the first opportunity for a voyage around Mull. This trip, which occupies twelve hours, is during the travelling season advertised for every alternate day; but, as the pleasure, oftentimes the possibility, of the excursion is dependent on wind and weather, persevering tourists are often detained for a week or more in default of sunshine and a fair breeze. The elements on the morning after our arrival being in all respects favorable, the great household was early astir. Though breakfast is served on board the luxurious pleasure-boat, we preferred to rise at the earliest notice and make all possible haste with our toilets, for the sake of breakfasting on terra firma. Many were of the same mind with ourselves; and the crowded tables, the good-natured jostling of elbows, and the eager scrambling for food, with the bells of variously bound steamers at the neighboring pier already ringing out their warning, exhilarated us with a sense of companionship and excited us to activity. Indeed, the analogy which I detected between hotel life in the Highlands and in our own country may have been partly due to these hasty breakfasts, which the necessity of securing a long day rendered as inevitable to tourists as hurriedly bolted meals so often are to travellers on our interminable routes, or to our time-saving business-men of callous digestion.
After all, we had the mortification of feeling that we had been deceived like children and huddled like sheep as an atonement for the sluggishness or obstinacy of that less alert and punctual class of travellers who, as the experience of steamboat agents had proved, could be aroused only by successive bell-ringings and repeated threats of a forfeited passage. We had some compensation and revenge, however, as, seated in our early secured best places, we watched our fellow-excursionists come straggling on board.
The Pioneer, strongly built for service in the open sea, and of ample dimensions, must have boasted this day something like two hundred passengers. So ample were the accommodations, so widely scattered the parties, that I should scarcely believe the number to have been so considerable, but for my vivid recollection of the successive and, as it seemed, never-ending boat-companies, each of a dozen or more, that were rowed ashore at the points where we made land. Of course there was but a fractional part of these people whose individuality made any impression on me. In one respect we were a unit: all were pleasure-seekers, and the Pioneer, unlike most of the steaming monsters which ply on regular routes, was dedicated to beauty, sacred to the adventurous and the picturesque. She carried no mail; she was destined to none of the ends of traffic or profit. Her freight was all human, Nature was her mistress, and the love of Nature her inspiration and motive-power.
But as she lay there at the pier, puffing off steam and ringing perpetual bells, she gave evidence of business-like impatience; and her human cargo, as they came on board, had scarcely yet awakened to any other emotions than those of unwillingness and discomfort. Some were yet chewing the cud of unfinished breakfasts, the crumbs of which still clung to their garments; others had the blue, ghostly look of unwonted early risers, shivering with the chill morning air and the faint heart which a fasting stomach entails; some, the latest comers of all, were quite breathless, and were nervously holding on to the gloves, veils, shawls, or over-shoes caught up at the last moment and only half put on or adjusted.
Here comes a party of young people, however, lads and lasses, whose high spirits triumph over all the inconveniences of the hour, and who, as they rush laughingly on board, seem to defy the steamer to have started without so important an addition to the joyousness of the occasion as they represent. A group of elderly Scotch folk, anxious, bewildered, and fussy, are congratulating themselves, on the contrary, that they are just in time and "weel ower" the perils of embarkation. Here is a sallow clergyman whose dress and expression proclaim him an English churchman; he and his cadaverous wife, who seems, from her slightly pretentious air, to have, as the English say, "blood" (a very little blood I should judge in this case); both have a worn and melancholy appearance, which is, I suspect, chronic, and not wholly due to the occasion. And, why, whom have we here? we have certainly seen those girls before, who are hurrying across the plank just as the last bell is ringing its last stroke. Yes, to be sure, they are the same trio whom we found on board the steamer which we took at Inversnaid on Loch Lomond, one day, when we were returning toward sunset from a visit to Loch Katrine and the Trosachs. Christie and I remember them perfectly, they and their young brother seated in a picturesque group on the little upper deck, each with open sketch-book copying Nature at the moment, or carrying out some design conceived earlier in the day; their mother, the same self-poised mammoth Englishwoman of marvellous physique and perfect equanimity of forces who accompanies them to-day, seated at a little distance, the occasional superintendent and invariable referee of their work and progress. Their "papa" is of the party this time,—a tall, gray-haired gentleman, old enough to be venerable, young enough to have the promise of half a score of years or more yet in which to serve his country,—a gentleman whose sweet dignity and serene self-possession entitle him at a glance to the encomium once bestowed involuntarily by some English friends of mine upon one of our gifted historians, "Why, he might be a duke!" Our fellow-traveller was only Sir Thomas, however,—Sir Thomas Somebody,—I have forgotten what, a London baronet, holding some high office or other under Government. We may imagine it anything we please, for I have forgotten that too. Indeed, the little we ever knew of him was learned at a later day, I suspect, from a buxom lawyer's wife, up North with her husband for the vacation, and who, as well as Sir Thomas's family, was of our travelling company on an ensuing journey, and had her little gossip with Christie. Other acquaintance than that of accidental companionship we never had with any of the Pioneer's passengers; but what a charm there is in that involuntary knowledge one comes to have of these chance fellow-travellers whom we meet, pass, fall behind, and come up with again, until they become at last familiar features of our route!
But we have been long enough getting on board. It is well that these laggards are the last, for it is high time we were off.
The wind being fair for our purpose, we are able to take the northern course and commence the circuit of the island by striking directly for the Sound of Mull, much the most favorable route, as it introduces the traveller at once to some of the most picturesque objects of the excursion.
The first of these, standing like a sentinel to the land-locked bay of Oban, is Dunolly Castle, which commands the bold promontory around which we bend our course, as, emerging from our little harbor, we gain the comparatively open sea. The only remnant of this once proud dwelling of the Lords of Lorn which remains entire is the old mossy tower or keep, around which are grouped numerous ivy-grown fragments, attesting the former greatness of a stronghold whose chieftain once had power to defy and defeat Robert Bruce. Many are the traditions and associations that cluster about this spot, but none, perhaps, more ancient and suggestive than that which still points out the Clach-nacau, or the Dog's Pillar,—a huge, upright pillar, a detached fragment of rock,—which stands at the very edge of the promontory, and which is still pointed out as the stake to which Fingal, chief of the race of Morven, mighty in the hunt as well as in battle, was accustomed to bind his white-breasted Bran, that "long-bounding son of the chase." "Raise high the mossy stones Of their fame," sang the poet of Scandinavian heroes. The fame of the huntsman and hound "is in the desert no more"; but as "the sons of the feeble" pass along, they see, as did Fingal at the tomb of Ryno, "how peaceful lies the stone of him who was the first at the chase!"
But we may not pause to muse upon Dunolly, with its dreams of other days. As we sweep round the base of the promontory, a scene bursts on our view so wildly grand that any single feature of the imposing landscape shrinks abashed and owns its insignificance. We are making direct for the entrance to the Sound of Mull; but behind and to the north of us is stretched out a panorama of rock and hill and deeply indented coast of incomparable grandeur. To the left of us rise the rugged and desolate shores of Mull, while far away to the northeast extends the lofty range of dark, resounding Morven,—the prospect in that direction terminated and crowned by the huge and precipitous Cruachan Ben, while in a more northerly direction the Adnamurchan Hills shut in our horizon.
And when, at length, the eye is satisfied with gazing on the prospect in its entirety, one after another, the moss-grown fortresses and other hoary relics of ancient Erse architecture claim our reverent attention; for the Hebridean chieftains, an amphibious race, almost invariably chose the extreme verge of ocean-precipice for the site of their fortresses, thus securing facilities for friendly communication, and defence against the attacks of hostile clans. Dunstaffnage, though left some distance to our right, is still sufficiently in view for us to discern its regal proportions. On the opposite shore, and farther up the coast, glimpses may be had here and there of many a solitary tower,
"that, steep and gray, Like falcon-nest, o'erhangs the bay."
And as Imagination travels on, she sees each misty eminence crowned with its airy castle, its ancient beacon,—
"Each on its own dark cape reclined, And listening to its own wild wind, From where Mingarry, sternly placed, O'erawes the woodland and the waste, To where Dunstaffnage hears the raging Of Connal with his rocks engaging."
But that we are bound to the steamer's track, we should be continually darting off our course to explore the deep indentations of island and coast, many of which are the entrances to romantic inland lochs. Could we spread white sails to the winds of Morven, and linger at pleasure in this picturesque region, we should leave no haunted castle or lonely watch-tower unexplored, from Castle Stalker, on its island-rock, to Kin-Loch-Aline, on the copsy bank of Loch Aline, "one of the most picturesque of the Highland castles," so says the Guidebook, and one which brought material reward to its builder too; for tradition tells us that it was built by Dubh-Chal, an Amazon of the Clan McInnes, who paid the architect with its bulk in butter. What a dairy-woman, as well as warrior, must this Dubh-Chal have been in her day! And what a fortune this architect would have realized, could he have lived in ours!
We are now entering the Sound of Mull; and on our left, at the eastern-most point of the island, Duart Castle, which commands the entrance to the Sound, looks down upon us from its rocky promontory. We have just passed the Lady Rock, which, bare and black at ebb-tide, but wave-washed at high-water, is the scene of a legend which has given a wicked notoriety to one of the ancient lairds of this same Duart. It gave rise to Campbell's poem of "Glenara," and forms the basis of Joanna Baillie's tragedy of "The Family Legend." But we have neither at hand to consult at this moment, even if the steamer would pause to indulge us in literary pastime; so we must wait the leisure of some winter evening for poem and tragedy, and content ourselves with the prose account given by James Wilson, (the Professor's brother,) which is as much as we can digest en passant.
From this it seems that "Lauchlan Catenach Maclean of Duart had married a daughter of Archibald, second Earl of Argyll, with whom it may be presumed he lived on bad terms, whatever may have been the cause, although the character of the act alluded to depends in some measure on that cause. No man has a right to expose his wife, in consequence of any ordinary domestic disagreement, upon a wave-washed rock, with the probability of her catching cold in the first place, and the certainty of her being drowned in the second. But some accounts say that she had twice attempted her husband's life, and so assuredly she deserved to be most severely reprimanded. Be this as it may, Lauchlan carried the lady to the rock in question, where he left her at low water, no doubt desiring that at high water she would be seen no more. However, it so chanced that her cries, 'piercing the night's dull ear,' were heard by some passing fishermen, who, subduing their fear of water-witches, or perhaps thinking that they had at last caught a mermaid, secured the fair one, and conveyed her away to her own people, to whom, of course, she told her own version of the story. We forget what legal steps were taken, (a sheriff's warrant probably passed for little in those days, at least in Mull,) but considerable feudal disorders ensued in consequence, and the Laird of Duart was eventually assassinated in bed one night, (in Edinburgh,) by Sir John Campbell of Calder, the brother of the bathed lady. We hope that this was the means of reconciling all parties."
Next comes, on our right, Ardtornish Castle,
"on her frowning steep, Twixt cloud and ocean hung,"
the opening scene of Scott's "Lord of the Isles," and the stronghold of that hero chieftain. It is now, for the most part, in ruins. One old keep, or tower, still remains standing: the same, perhaps, of which Sir Walter says,—
"The turret's airy head, Slender and steep and battled round, O'erlooked, dark Mull, thy mighty Sound, Where thwarting tides with mingled roar Part they swarth hills from Morven's shore."
And if we would form a conception of the inaccessible character of this and similar ocean-washed fortresses, we have but to recall the poet's description of the approach to it by Bruce and his companions on the seaward side:—
"Hewn in the rock, a passage there Sought the dark fortress by a stair So straight, so high, so steep, With peasant's staff one valiant hand Might well the dizzy pass have manned, And plunged then in the deep."
Other ancient castles meet our view, both on the right and left, during the passage of the Sound. None of these rough, but romantic ruins constitute the present residence of their owners, who could be better accommodated in the poorest fishing-hut. They serve, however, to give interest and dignity to the modern residence or miniature village which nestles demurely under the shelter of their pristine fame. At Tobermory, or the Well of Mary, the metropolis of Mull, the steamer stops to deposit and receive passengers,—this, and one or two other pauses for a similar practical purpose, constituting, in favor of a few chance travellers, an exception to her otherwise strict character of an excursion- or pleasure-boat. Indeed, in the eyes of the Islanders, the services she thus renders may constitute her a business agent, though we tourists, being so much in the majority, recognize her only in her festive and recreative capacity. And, after all, who knows but this scheme of touching at Tobermory originated in the design to accommodate us with the lovely view which is presented by the picturesque, straggling town, its terraced walks, its green copses, and its mountainous background and inclosure, which combine to form the landscape that greets us as we enter the little bay?
We leave Tobermory and the shelter of the Sound almost simultaneously; and now, as we emerge into open ocean, the long wave of the Atlantic, on which the steamer is rolling, no less than the grand ocean prospect, unbroken, except by the numerous small islands among which our course lies, betrays the fact that we are getting out to sea. We have passed the westernmost extremity of the main land, and are outside of and beyond the great island whose circuit we are making. The romantic and legendary character of the scenery has now given place to the sublime; and, the attention no longer diverted by a succession of objects close at hand, we can give ourselves uninterruptedly to the contemplation of Nature in her grandeur. The chief objects of our voyage already dawning upon us. As we pass the Point of Callioch, a stormy headland on the northeastern shore of Mull, we share the experience of the poet Campbell, who, living for some months in his youth as a tutor at Sunipol House, just in this neighborhood, wrote to a friend, "The Point of Callioch commands a magnificent prospect of thirteen Hebrid islands, among which are Staffa and Icolmkill, which I visited with enthusiasm." Thus we have the poet's warrant, as well as that of travellers and sages of many centuries, for the enthusiasm with which we had embarked on an excursion, the principal objects of which were Staffa and its far-famed Fingal's Cave, and Icolmkill, otherwise the sacred island of Iona.
But these objects of engrossing interest are still far off in the distance. Staffa, the smaller and nearer of the two, presents but an unimposing front from the quarter by which we approach, being oval in form, low, and with a gently undulating surface, in which respect it does not differ materially, except in its dimensions, from the inferior islands among which we are steering our course, and which, cold, bald, and of a monotonous and desolate uniformity, betray their near relationship to the conical, heather-covered hills of the Highlands. It almost seems, indeed, as if these islands were some old acquaintances of the mainland, which have slipped their moorings and drifted out to sea. A sense of loneliness and melancholy steals over one amid this bleak, wild scenery,—a sense of having one's self drifted away from the haunts of men, almost from those of vegetation, so much sameness is there in the landscape, so little of promise or growth on the soil. No wonder that Dr. Johnson, to whom London streets and atmosphere alone were congenial, and who brought with him to the Hebrides his strong antipathy to everything Scotch, was often a prey to discontent and murmuring in these latitudes, and that in a moment of ill-humor he should have exclaimed to Boswell,—"Oh, Sir, a most dolorous country!" No wonder, that, his suspicions excited by the nakedness of the land and his preconceived notions of Scotch cupidity, he should, on occasion of losing his stout oaken stick, while crossing the Island of Mull on a Highland sheltie, have vowed to Boswell that it had been stolen by the natives, justifying the charge by the argument,—"Consider, Sir, the value of such a piece of timber here!"
Campbell, so his biographer tells us, "felt the loneliness of his situation at Sunipol House acutely at first, though he soon became reconciled to a country which, though bleak and wild, was peculiarly romantic and nourished the poetry in his soul." Even a creature of a lower order than philosophers, poets, or even us poor tourists, has been known to feel the chilling influence of Nature in these her wildest forms, and though weaned from softer airs, perhaps reconciled to its stern lot, has cherished in its innermost bosom a memory so warm, so strong, as to assert itself at last with a force that fired and burst the little breast in which it had unconsciously smothered. Witness Campbell's little poem, "The Parrot," the incident of which he learned in the Island of Mull, from the family to whom the bird belonged,—an incident which inspired the poet to a strain so touchingly sweet that I cannot resist the temptation to quote it entire.
"The deep affections of the breast, That Heaven to living things imparts, Are not exclusively possessed By human hearts.
"A parrot from the Spanish Main, Full young, and early caged, came o'er With bright wings to the bleak domain Of Mulla's shore.
"To spicy groves where he had won His plumage of resplendent hue, His native fruits and skies and sun, He bade adieu.
"For these he changed the smoke of turf, A heathery land and misty sky, And turned on rocks and raging surf His golden eye.
"But, petted, in our climate cold He lived and chattered many a day, Until, with age, from green and gold His wings grew gray.
"At last, when, blind, and seeming dumb, He scolded, laughed, and spoke no more, A Spanish stranger chanced to come To Mulla's shore.
"He hailed the bird in Spanish speech; The bird in Spanish speech replied, Flapped round his cage with joyous screech, Dropped down, and died."
If perfect sunshine, gentle breezes, and a smooth sea could lure one into unconsciousness of the surrounding desolation and into forgetfulness of the elemental warfare to which these Hebridean regions are exposed, we had complete antidotes to melancholy or dread, so perfect was the day chosen for our excursion; and yet I never think of that part of our passage in which we threaded the islands lying north of Staffa without a gentle shade of sadness mingling with my recollections. But that the sage Johnson, the romantic Campbell, and the unreflecting parrot all indorse these emotions as instinctive, I should feel bound in honor (honor to the landscape) to ascribe them to that occasional thrill of homesickness which I have known take possession of me in the crowded streets of London or Edinburgh as well as here, making me inwardly exclaim, like the old woman from the wilds of Vermont, on her first visit to the metropolis, "All this may be very fine, but I wonder the folks can bear to live so far away."
That I was the victim of a momentary sense of exile is rendered the more probable from the fact that about this time Christie was stretched in the cabin below, a victim to sea-sickness, in spite of the comparatively smooth sea, and that the Bailie had gone forward to smoke a pipe, thus leaving me alone with my meditations. That they were not wholly of the regretful or sentimental cast is evident, however, from the fact that I improved this opportunity to indulge in more than one observation upon the company, my gossip (that is, my imagination) and I making many a little comment on my human surroundings, especially those three specimens of English girls whom, as I had met them once before, I was beginning to recognize as acquaintances.
And what we commented on them, I and another friendly gossip, namely, memory, often rehearse; for that trio still stand out to my recollection as excellent, let us hope average, types of English maidenhood of the best blood and breeding,—blood not a whit purer, to my thinking, than flows in any honest veins,—breeding no higher than may be attained in the humblest household in which Christian politeness is the ruling standard.
"How pretty they were!" says Memory.
I. Yes,—just pretty enough to gladden a mother's heart now and a lover's by-and-by, but mercifully sparing us those ecstasies on their beauty which are so tiresome.
Memory. Theirs was chiefly the beauty of youth, health, and happiness; they were all well-featured, though, and had faces which grew more and more interesting on acquaintance.
I. How hard it was to distinguish them one from another!
Memory. Yes, at first. But you must recollect that on closer observation one proved to be the taller, one the plumper, and one decidedly the younger of the three; then, although they were dressed so exactly alike,—according to what be, I suspect, a sumptuary law in England—and although their stout travelling-dresses, drab cloaks, thick boots, the shaggy shawls severally carried by each on one arm, the faded blue cravats tied round their throats, were so precisely alike and had been subjected to so exactly the same amount of wear that you could have sworn each article was its fellow, you know you did detect a trifling difference in the feathers of their hats, sufficient to prove afterwards a distinguishing badge.
Here Reflection steps in and suggests whether this exact uniformity of dress among British children of one family may not be the outward sign of that harmony and subjection to rule which, far as I have had an opportunity of judging, prevail in English households, Where could you find such a degree of conformity among American girls as to induce unqualified submission to one standard of taste, and that the maternal? I am not sure that it is desirable to quench all individuality, even in a matter so comparatively insignificant as that of dress. But who can prize too highly the reverence for authority, the sweet feminine modesty, the domestic harmony, which are expressed in this sisterly uniformity of costume? All this might have been spurious in the case just cited, and this harmonious effect at only after an infinite amount of petty squabbling and rebellion; but such unworthy skepticism is rebuked by my faithful Memory, who reminds me of the filial respect combined with girlish gayety and absence of all self-consciousness which forbade the idea for a moment that these young lives were regulated by harsh or compulsory discipline Still it was discipline, there could be no doubt of that, and of the most healthy order, which gave such a charm to Sir Thomas's daughters. Perhaps they had reaped in their family circle all and more than all the benefits which school-training and contact with numbers are capable of affording, without out the loss of home-influences; for I overheard their mother (rather a loud-voiced woman, by the way) telling somebody,—the clergyman's wife, I suspect,—that she had already married off two similar trios of daughters, and that these were the younger children. Blessings on the children who belong to so well filled a quiver, if they all attain to such a degree of sweetness and decorum as to impress the most casual observer, and one of their own sex, too, with such lasting recollections of their maiden loveliness! I saw them under various circumstances, both flattering and the reverse: saw them, when, with their own servants in attendance, and the advantages of social position, they might not unnaturally have laid claim to precedence; saw them and their drawing-materials shuffled hastily from the steamer's cabin one rainy day, to make way for the dinner-cloth, in accordance with steamboat regulations, and in spite of their mild expostulations; saw one of them, at least, subjected to the presumptuous advances of a chance admirer: but I never saw any instance in which their behavior was not marked by modesty and good-nature, accompanied by a quiet dignity and self-respect which repelled intrusion so effectually as to justify their experienced mother in giving them the freedom of steamboats, rocks, caves, and crowds, to a degree which is seldom exceeded by the boasted independence of American girls.
But Memory reminds me that I did not see all this during that noonday hour when the Pioneer was bearing down upon Staffa, and that long before these English girls had established themselves so high in my good opinion we had skirted nearly the whole of the eastern shore of the island. The steamer is now gradually slackening her speed, preparatory to coming to a full stop not far from the southeastern extremity, and we realize that the first goal of this day's hopes is gained.
For the fairest maid in Hampton They needed not to search, Who saw young Anna Favor Come walking into church,—
Or bringing from the meadows, At set of harvest-day, The frolic of the blackbirds, The sweetness of the hay.
Now the weariest of all mothers, The saddest two-years bride, She scowls in the face of her husband, And spurns her child aside.
"Rake out the red coals, goodman,— For there the child shall lie, Till the black witch comes to fetch her, And both up chimney fly.
"It's never my own little daughter, It's never my own," she said; "The witches have stolen my Anna, And left me an imp instead.
"Oh, fair and sweet was my baby, Blue eyes, and hair of gold; But this is ugly and wrinkled, Cross, and cunning, and old.
"I hate the touch of her fingers, I hate the feel of her skin; It's not the milk from my bosom, But my blood, that she sucks in.
"My face grows sharp with the torment; Look! my arms are skin and bone!— Rake open the red coals, goodman, And the witch shall have her own.
"She'll come when she hears it crying, In the shape of an owl or bat, And she'll bring us our darling Anna In place of her screeching brat."
Then the goodman, Ezra Dalton, Laid his hand upon her head: "Thy sorrow is great, O woman! I sorrow with thee," he said.
"The paths to trouble are many, And never but one sure way Leads out to the light beyond it: My poor wife, let us pray."
Then he said to the great All-Father, "Thy daughter is weak and blind; Let her sight come back, and clothe her Once more in her right mind.
"Lead her out of this evil shadow, Out of these fancies wild; Let the holy love of the mother Turn again to her child.
"Make her lips like the lips of Mary Kissing her blessed Son; Let her hands, like the hands of Jesus, Rest on her little one.
"Comfort the soul of thy handmaid, Open her prison-door, And thine shall be all the glory And praise forevermore."
Then into the face of its mother The baby looked up and smiled; And the cloud of her soul was lifted, And she knew her little child.
A beam of the slant west sunshine Made the wan face almost fair, Lit the blue eyes' patient wonder, And the rings of pale gold hair.
She kissed it on lip and forehead, She kissed it on cheek and chin And she bared her snow-white bosom To the lips so pale and thin.
Oh, fair on her bridal morning Was the maid who blushed and smiled, But fairer to Ezra Dalton Looked the mother of his child.
With more than a lover's fondness He stooped to her worn young face, And the nursing child and the mother He folded in one embrace.
"Blessed be God!" he murmured. "Blessed be God!" she said; "For I see, who once was blinded,— I live, who once was dead.
"Now mount and ride, my goodman, As thou lovest thy own soul! Woe's me, if my wicked fancies Be the death of Goody Cole!"
His horse he saddled and bridled, And into the night rode he,— Now through the great black woodland, Now by the white-beached sea.
He rode through the silent clearings, He came to the ferry wide, And thrice he called to the boatman Asleep on the other side.
He set his horse to the river, He swam to Newbury town, And he called up Justice Sewall In his nightcap and his gown.
And the grave and worshipful justice (Upon whose soul be peace!) Set his name to the jailer's warrant For Goodwife Cole's release.
Then through the night the hoof-beats Went sounding like a flail; And Goody Cole at cockcrow Came forth from Ipswich jail.
If the publishers of the "Atlantic" will permit me, I should like to tell a little incident, growing out of the War, which came under my notice in the summer of 1861. I can give it only as a fragment, for I never heard the end of it, and that, to be candid, is my principal reason for telling it at all,—in the hope, slight enough, it is true, that some chance reader may be able to supply to me what is wanting. For this reason I shall give the true names of persons and places, and the dates also, as nearly as I can recollect them. It is only a simple story of a private in the Twenty-Fourth Ohio Volunteer Militia, and his sister, and may not touch others as it did me, for I can give but the bald facts; but I, seeing the reality, can remember nothing in the war which troubles me with such a sense of pain and simple pathos.
* * * * *
About thirty years ago, a family named Carrol, or Carryl, emigrated from the North of Ireland, and settled in Coldwater, a little fishing-village of Michigan.
They were sober and hard-working, but dull and ignorant, and in no way different from others of their class, except in their unusual strong affection for each other. Old Carrol, however, a rheumatic old man of sixty, with this weak, jealous pride in his "b'ys," working late and early to keep them clothed, to pay his wife's doctor's-bills, and trying to lay up enough to buy the two girls a feather-bed and a clock when they were married, stood in no need of whiskey or dances to keep him alive; this and his wife's ill health separated them from the fighting, rollicking Irish crew of the hamlet,—set them apart, so to speak, to act upon each other. Carrol, with one of his sons, worked in a saw-mill, and the other boys, as they grew old enough, easily found jobbing, being known as honest, plodding fellows. The little drama of their lives bade fair to be quiet, and the characters wrought out of it commonplace enough, had not Death thrust his grim face into the scene.
The youngest child was a girl, Ellen, born long after the others, and, like most children coming in the advanced age of their parents, was peculiar: the family traits had worn themselves out, new elements came in. The Irish neighbors, seeing how closely the girl was kept in-doors, and the anxious guard held over her by her father and brothers, thought her a "natural" or "innocent," whether she was or not. The Carrols kept their own counsel, and warded off gossip as best they could. It was from Ellen I heard how the change came among them first. "It was a fever," she said. "John took it, and little Phil, and then Jane. Jane was the oldest of us; it was she as nursed mother and kept the house. She looked as old as mother. Evenings she'd put on a white apron, and take me on her knee and sing for us. But she took the fever, and they're all three gone away"; which was always Ellen's phrase for death. She stopped there, adding afterwards quietly, that it was about that time the trouble in her head first came. Ellen took her sister's place in "keeping the house"; she had enough mind to learn the daily routine of cleaning and the little cooking. Her mother was a cripple for life, confined to her bed most of the time: a credulous, nervous woman,—the one idea in her narrow brain a passionate love for her husband and children.