A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, and Politics.
VOL. XVII.—APRIL, 1866.—NO. CII.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1866, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
Transcriber's Note: Minor typos have been corrected and footnotes moved to the end of the article.
LAST DAYS OF WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR.
When, in October, 1864, the European steamer brought us the intelligence of Walter Savage Landor's death, which occurred the month previous at Florence, newspaper readers asked, "Who is Landor?" The few who remember him remotely through the medium of Mr. Hillard's selections from his writings exclaimed, "What! Did he not die long ago?" The half-dozen Americans really familiar with this author knew that the fire of a genius unequalled in its way had gone out. Two or three, who were acquainted with the man even better than with his books, sighed, and thanked God! They thanked God that the old man's prayer had at last been answered, and that the curtain had been drawn on a life which in reality terminated ten years before, when old age became more than ripe. But Landor's walk into the dark valley was slow and majestic. Death fought long and desperately before he could claim his victim; and it was not until the last three years that body and mind grew thoroughly apathetic. "I have lost my intellect," said Landor, nearly two years ago: "for this I care not; but alas! I have lost my teeth and cannot eat!" Was it not time for him to go?
"Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."
The glory of old age ceases when second childishness and oblivion begin; therefore we thanked God for His goodness in taking the lonely old man home.
Long as was Landor's life and literary career, little is known of him personally. There are glimpses of him in Lady Blessington's Memoirs; and Emerson, in his "English Traits," describes two interviews with him in 1843 at his Florentine villa. "I found him noble and courteous, living in a cloud of pictures.... I had inferred from his books, or magnified from some anecdotes, an impression of Achillean wrath,—an untamable petulance. I do not know whether the imputation were just or not, but certainly on this May-day his courtesy veiled that haughty mind, and he was the most patient and gentle of hosts." According to the world's opinion, it was not always "May-day" with Landor, for the world neither preaches nor practices that rarity, human charity. Its instinct is a species of divining-rod, the virtue of which seems to be limited to a fatal facility in discovering frailty. Great men and women live in glass houses, and what passer-by can resist the temptation to throw stones? Is it generous, or even just, in scoffers who are safely hidden behind bricks and mortar, to take advantage of the glass? Could they show a nobler record if subjected to equally close scrutiny? Worshippers, too, at the shrines of inspiration are prone to look for ideal lives in their elect, forgetting that the divine afflatus is, after all, a gift,—that great thoughts are not the daily food of even the finest intellects. It is a necessity of nature for valleys to lie beneath the lofty mountain peaks that daringly pierce the sky; and it would seem as though the artist-temperament, after rising to sublime heights of ecstasy, plunged into corresponding depths, showing thereby the supremacy of the man over the god. Then is there much sighing and shaking of heads at the failings of genius, whereas genius in its depths sinks no lower than the ordinary level of mankind. It simply proves its title-deeds to mortality. Humanity at best is weak, and can only be divine by flashes. The Pythia was a stupid old woman, saving when she sat upon the tripod. Seeing genius to the best advantage in its work,—not always, but most frequently,—they are wisest who love the artist without demanding personal perfection. It is rational to conclude that the loftiest possible genius should be allied to the most perfect specimen of man, heart holding equal sway with head. A great man, however, need not be a great artist,—that is, of course, understood; but time ought to prove that the highest form of art can only emanate from the noblest type of humanity. The most glorious inspirations must flow through the purest channels. But this is the genius of the future, as far removed from what is best known as order is removed from chaos. The genius most familiar is not often founded on common sense; the plus of one faculty denotes the minus of another; and matter-of-fact people, who rule the world,—as they should,—and who have never dreamed of an inclination from the perpendicular, bestow little patience and less sympathy on vagaries, moral and mental, than, partly natural, are aggravated by that "capacity for joy" which "admits temptation."
Landor's characteristic fault, in fact his vice, was that of a temper so undisciplined and impulsive as to be somewhat hurricanic in its consequences, though, not unlike the Australian boomerang, it frequently returned whence it came, and injured no one but the possessor. Circumstances aggravated, rather than diminished, this Landorian idiosyncrasy. Born in prosperity, heir to a large landed estate, and educated in aristocratic traditions, Walter Savage Landor began life without a struggle, and throughout a long career remained master of the situation, independent of the world and its favors. Perhaps too much freedom is as unfortunate in its results upon character as too much dependence. A nature to be properly developed should receive as well as give; otherwise it must be an angelic disposition that does not become tyrannical. All animated nature is despotic, the strong preying upon the weak. If men and women do not devour one another, it is merely because they dare not. The law of self-preservation prevents them from becoming anthropophagi. A knowledge that the eater may in his turn be eaten, is not appetizing. Materially and professionally successful, possessed of a physique that did honor to his ancestors and Nature, no shadows fell on Landor's path to chasten his spirit. Trials he endured of a private nature grievous in the extreme, yet calculated to harden rather than soften the heart,—trials of which others were partially the cause, and which probably need not have been had his character been understood and rightly dealt with. There is a soothing system for men as well as horses,—even for human Cruisers,—and the Rarey who reduces it to a science will deserve the world's everlasting gratitude. Powerful natures are likely to be as strong in their weaknesses as in their virtues; this, however, is a reckoning entirely too rational to be largely indulged in by the packed jury that holds inquest over the bodies, rather than the souls, of men. In his old age at least, Landor's irascibility amounted to temporary madness, for which he was no more responsible than is the sick man for the feverish ravings of delirium. That miserable law-suit at Bath, which has done so much to drag the name of Landor into the mire, would never have been prosecuted had its instigators had any respect for themselves or any decent appreciation of their victim.
But Landor in his best moods was chivalry incarnate. His courtly manners toward ladies were particularly noticeable from the rarity of so much external polish in the new school of Anglo-Saxon gallantry. It was a pleasure to receive compliments from him; for they generally lay imbedded in the sauce piquante of a bon mot. Having one day dropped his spectacles, which were picked up and presented to him by an American girl, Landor quickly exclaimed, with a grace not to be translated into words, "Ah, this is not the first time you have caught my eyes!" It was to the same young lady that he addressed this heretofore unpublished poem:—
"TO K. F.
"Kisses in former times I've seen, Which, I confess it, raised my spleen; They were contrived by Love to mock The battledoor and shuttlecock. Given, returned,—how strange a play, Where neither loses all the day, And both are, even when night sets in, Again as ready to begin! I am not sure I have not played This very game with some fair maid. Perhaps it was a dream; but this I know was not; I know a kiss Was given me in the sight of more Than ever saw me kissed before. Modest as winged angels are, And no less brave and no less fair, She came across, nor greatly feared, The horrid brake of wintry beard.
"WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR.
"Sienna, July, 1860."
The following papers, in so far as they relate to Landor personally, are not reminiscences of him in the zenith of fame. They contain glimpses of the old man of Florence in the years 1859, 1860, and 1861, just before the intellectual light began to flicker and go out. Even then Landor was cleverer, and, provided he was properly approached, more interesting than many younger men of genius. I shall ever esteem it one of the great privileges of my life that I was permitted to know him well, and call him friend. These papers are given to the public with the hope that they may be of more than ordinary interest to the intelligent reader, and that they may delineate Landor in more truthful colors than those in which he has heretofore been painted. In repeating conversations, I have endeavored to stand in the background, where I very properly belong. For the inevitable egotism of the personal pronoun, I hope to be pardoned by all charitable souls. That Landor, the octogenarian, has not been photographed by a more competent person, is certainly not my fault. Having had the good fortune to enjoy opportunities beyond my deserts, I should have shown a great want of appreciation had I not availed myself of them. If, in referring to Landor, I avoid the prefix "Mr.," it is because I feel, with Lady Blessington, that "there are some people, and he is of those, whom one cannot designate as 'Mr.' I should as soon think of adding the word to his name, as, in talking of some of the great writers of old, to prefix it to theirs."
It was a modest house in a modest street that Landor inhabited during the last six years of his life. Tourists can have no recollection of the Via Nunziatina, directly back of the "Carmine" in the old part of Florence; but there is no loving lounger about those picturesque streets that does not remember how, strolling up the Via dei Seragli, one encounters the old shrine to the Madonna, which marks the entrance to that street made historical henceforth for having sheltered a great English writer. There, half-way down the via, in that little two-story casa, No. 2671, dwelt Walter Savage Landor, with his English housekeeper and cameriera. Sitting-room, bed-room, and dining-room opened into each other; and in the former he was always found, in a large arm-chair, surrounded by paintings; for he declared he could not live without them. His snowy hair and beard of patriarchal proportions, clear, keen, gray eyes, and grand head made the old poet greatly resemble Michel Angelo's world-renowned masterpiece of "Moses"; nor was the formation of Landor's forehead unlike that of Shakespeare. "If, as you declare," said he, jokingly, one day, "I look like that meekest of men, Moses and Shakespeare, I ought to be exceedingly good and somewhat clever."
At Landor's feet was always crouched a beautiful Pomeranian dog, the gift of his kind American friend, William W. Story. The affection existing between "Gaillo" and his master was really touching. Gaillo's eyes were always turned towards Landor's; and upon the least encouragement, the dog would jump into his lap, lay his head most lovingly upon his master's neck, and generally deport himself in a very human manner. "Gaillo is such a dear dog!" said Landor, one day, while patting him. "We are very fond of each other, and always have a game of play after dinner; sometimes, when he is very good, we have two. I am sure I could not live, if he died; and I know that, when I am gone, he will grieve for me." Thereupon Gaillo wagged his tail, and looked piteously into padrone's face, as much as to say he would be grieved indeed. Upon being asked if he thought dogs would be admitted into heaven, Landor answered: "And, pray, why not? They have all of the good and none of the bad qualities of man." No matter upon what subject conversation turned, Gaillo's feelings were consulted. He was the only and chosen companion of Landor in his walks; but few of the Florentines who stopped to remark the vecchio con quel bel canino, knew how great was the man upon whom they thus commented.
It is seldom that England gives birth to so rampant a republican as Landor. Born on the 30th of January, two years before our Declaration of Independence, it is probable that the volcanic action of those troublous times had no little influence in permeating the mind of the embryo poet with that enthusiasm for and love of liberty for which he was distinguished in maturer years. From early youth, Landor was a poor respecter of royalty and rank per se. He often related, with great good-humor, an incident of his boyhood which brought his democratic ideas into domestic disgrace. An influential bishop of the Church of England, happening to dine with young Landor's father one day, assailed Porson, and, with self-assumed superiority, thinking to annihilate the old Grecian, exclaimed "We have no opinion of his scholarship." Irate at this stupid pronunciamento against so renowned a man, young Landor looked up, and, with a sarcasm the point of which was not in the least blunted by age, retorted, "We, my Lord?" Of course such unheard of audacity and contempt of my Lord Bishop's capacity for criticism was severely reprobated by Landor Senior; but no amount of reproof could force his son into a confession of sorrow.
"At Oxford," said Landor, "I was about the first student who wore his hair without powder. 'Take care,' said my tutor. 'They will stone you for a republican.' The Whigs (not the wigs) were then unpopular; but I stuck to my plain hair and queue tied with black ribbon."
Of Landor's mature opinion of republics in general we glean much from a passage of the "Pentameron," in which the author adorns Petrarca with his own fine thoughts.
"When the familiars of absolute princes taunt us, as they are wont to do, with the only apothegm they ever learnt by heart,—namely, that it is better to be ruled by one master than by many,—I quite agree with them; unity of power being the principle of republicanism, while the principle of despotism is division and delegation. In the one system, every man conducts his own affairs, either personally or through the agency of some trustworthy representative, which is essentially the same: in the other system, no man, in quality of citizen, has any affairs of his own to conduct; but a tutor has been as much set over him as over a lunatic, as little with his option or consent, and without any provision, as there is in the case of the lunatic, for returning reason. Meanwhile, the spirit of republics is omnipresent in them, as active in the particles as in the mass, in the circumference as in the centre. Eternal it must be, as truth and justice are, although not stationary."
Let Europeans who, having predicted dismemberment of our Union, proclaimed death to democracy, and those thoughtless Americans who believe that liberty cannot survive the destruction of our Republic, think well of what great men have written. Though North America were submerged to-morrow, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans rushing over our buried hopes to a riotous embrace, republicanism would live as long as the elements endure,—borne on every wind, inhaled in every breath of air, abiding its opportunity to become an active principle. Absorbed in our own peculiar form of egotism, we believe that a Supreme Being has cast the cause of humanity upon one die, to prosper or perish by the chances of our game. What belittling of the Almighty! what magnifying of ourselves!
Though often urged, Landor never became a candidate for Parliamentary honors. Political wire-pulling was not to the taste of a man who, notwithstanding large landed interests, could say: "I never was at a public dinner, at a club or hustings. I never influenced or attempted to influence a vote, and yet many, and not only my own tenants, have asked me to whom they should give theirs." Nor was he ever presented at court, although a presentation would have been at the request of the (at that time) Regent. Landor would not countenance a system of court-favor that opens its arms to every noodle wearing an officer's uniform, and almost universally turns its back upon intellect. He put not his faith in princes, and of titles says: "Formerly titles were inherited by men who could not write; they now are conferred on men who will not let others. Theirs may have been the darker age; ours is the duller. In theirs a high spirit was provoked; in ours, proscribed. In theirs the bravest were pre-eminent; in ours, the basest."
Although a democrat, Landor was not indifferent to the good name of his own ancestors, not because of a long pedigree, but because many of these ancestors were historical personages and served their country long and well. That stock must be worthy of honorable mention which, extending with its ramifications over several centuries, gives to the world its finest fruit in its latest scion. It is a satisfaction to spring from hidalgo blood when the advantages of gentle rearing are demonstrated by being greater than one's fathers. In Lander's most admirable "Citation and Examination of William Shakespeare," the youngster whom Sir Silas Gough declares to be as "deep as the big tankard" says, "out of his own head":—"Hardly any man is ashamed of being inferior to his ancestors, although it is the very thing at which the great should blush, if, indeed, the great in general descended from the worthy. I did expect to see the day, and, although I shall not see it, it must come at last, when he shall be treated as a madman or an impostor who dares to claim nobility or precedency, and cannot show his family name in the history of his country. Even he who can show it, and who cannot write his own under it in the same or as goodly characters, must submit to the imputation of degeneracy, from which the lowly and obscure are exempt." Good old Penn, too, is made a lay figure upon which Landor dressed his thoughts, when the Quaker tells Lord Peterborough: "Of all pride, however, and all folly, the grossest is where a man who possesses no merit in himself shall pretend to an equality with one who does possess it, and shall found this pretension on no better plea or title than that, although he hath it not, his grandfather had. I would use no violence or coercion with any rational creature; but, rather than that such a bestiality in a human form should run about the streets uncured, I would shout like a stripling for the farrier at his furnace, and unthong the drenching horn from my stable-door." Landor could write his name under that of his family in as goodly characters, therefore he was not ashamed to relate anecdotes of his forefathers. It was with honest satisfaction that he perpetuated the memory of two of these worthies in the "Imaginary Conversations" between King Henry IV. and Sir Arnold Savage, and Oliver Cromwell and Walter Noble. "Sir Arnold, according to Elsynge, 'was the first who appears upon any record' to have been appointed to the dignity of Speaker in the House of Commons, as now constituted. He was elected a second time, four years afterwards, a rare honor in earlier days; and during this presidency he headed the Commons, and delivered their resolutions in the plain words recorded by Hakewell." These "plain words" were, that no subsidy should be granted to Henry IV. until every cause of public grievance had been removed. Landor came rightly by his independence of thought. "Walter Noble represented the city of Lichfield; he lived familiarly with the best patriots of the age, remonstrated with Cromwell, and retired from public life on the punishment of Charles."
Landor was very fond of selecting the grand old Roundheads for his conversations. In their society he was most at home, and with them he was able to air his pet opinions. Good Andrew Marvell, a man after the author's own heart, discourses upon this matter of family: "Between the titled man of ancient and the titled man of recent date, the difference, if any, is in favor of the last. Suppose them both raised for merit, (here, indeed, we do come to theory!) the benefits that society has received from him are nearer us.... Some of us may look back six or seven centuries, and find a stout ruffian at the beginning." In England, where the institutions are such that a title of nobility is considered by the majority to be the highest reward attainable by merit, it is not surprising that the great god of Rank should be worshipped at the family altar of Form. In England, too, it must be acknowledged that men of rank are men of education, frequently of culture, and are useful to the nation as patrons of art and of science; therefore nobility frequently means absolute gentility. But in America what good can be said of those who, living upon the fortunes of fathers or grandfathers, amassed in honest trade,—residents of a particular street which is thereby rendered pluperfectly genteel,—with no recommendation but that derived from fashion and idleness,—draw the lines of social demarcation more closely than they are drawn in Europe, intellect and accomplishments being systematically snubbed where the possessors cannot show their family passes? Is not this attempt to graft the foibles of an older and more corrupt civilization upon our institutions, a disgrace to republicanism? Were the truth known, we should be able to report the existence of many advocates of monarchy, a privileged class, and an established church, among those into whose ancestry it would be unsafe to dig deeper than a second generation; by digging deeper we might touch sugar or tumble into a vat of molasses, and then what blushes for false pride!
A very different idea of a great man from that of the vulgar do we get out of Landor's writings. His Diogenes tells us, (and very like the original seeker after honesty do we take him to be,) that "the great man is he who hath nothing to fear and nothing to hope from another. It is he who, while he demonstrates the iniquity of the laws and is able to correct them, obeys them peaceably. It is he who looks on the ambitious both as weak and fraudulent. It is he who hath no disposition or occasion for any kind of conceit, no reason for being or for appearing different from what he is. It is he who can call together the most select company when it pleases him." And Petrarca says that "Time the Sovran is first to discover the truly great." Yet, though we put faith in the justice of posterity, even Time plays many a one false through misplaced favoritism. "They, O Timotheus," exclaims the imaginary Lucian, "who survive the wreck of ages, are by no means, as a body, most worthy of our admiration. It is in these wrecks as in those at sea,—the best things are not always saved. Hencoops and empty barrels bob upon the surface, under a serene and smiling sky, when the graven or depicted images of the gods are scattered on invisible rocks, and when those who most resembled them in knowledge and beneficence are devoured by cold monsters below." We claim, however, that Lucian's theory is good for this world only, as we believe that soul, though it may be temporarily wrecked, speeds on to the inevitable justice of eternity. And can we, now that the fever of military glory is upon us, remember that, great as may be the man who conquers his country's enemies upon the battle-field, he is far greater who conquers the prejudices of his age and instils into groping masses the doctrines of a more glorious civilization?
"For civilisation perfected Is fully developed Christianity."
Every generation has two or three such men; no age has enough moral courage to give birth to more. They live under protest,—thought alone is free,—and when these men, fifty years in advance of their times, proclaim God's truth with the enthusiasm begotten of religion, grub-worms that rule the great status quo sting the prophets with all the virus of their nature, and render each step forward as difficult as was once the passage of the Simplon. There is no stumbling-block like that of ignorance, and he who would remove it must wear the holy crown of thorns. We speak of the horrors of the Inquisition as things of the past. Are we so sure of this? Has not prejudice invented most exquisite tortures for reformers of all ages? America has her sins to answer for in this respect.
"Because ye prosper in God's name, With a claim. To honor in the old world's sight, Yet do the fiend's work perfectly In strangling martyrs,—for this lie This is the curse."
On the stubbornness of Status Quo none have written better than Landor. "Unbendingness, in the moral as in the vegetable world, is an indication as frequently of unsoundness as of strength. Indeed, wise men, kings as well as others, have been free from it. Stiff necks are diseased ones."
It was impossible to be in Landor's society a half-hour and not reap advantage. His great learning, varied information, extensive acquaintance with the world's celebrities, ready wit, and even readier repartee, rendered his conversation wonderfully entertaining. He would narrate anecdote after anecdote with surprising accuracy, being possessed of a singularly retentive memory, that could refer to a catalogue of notables far longer than Don Giovanni's picture-gallery of conquests. Names, it is true, he was frequently unable to recall, and supplied their place with a "God bless my soul, I forget everything"; but facts were indelibly stamped upon his mind. He referred back to the year one with as much facility as a person of the rising generation invokes the shade of some deed dead a few years. I looked with wonder upon a person who remembered Napoleon Bonaparte as a slender young man, and listened with delight to a voice from so dim a past. "I was in Paris," said Landor one day, "at the time that Bonaparte made his entrance as First Consul. I was standing within a few feet of him when he passed, and had a capital good look at him. He was exceedingly handsome then, with a rich olive complexion and oval face, youthful as a girl's. Near him rode Murat, mounted upon a gold-clad charger,—and very handsome he was too, but coxcombical."
Like the rest of human kind, Landor had his prejudices,—they were very many. Foremost among them was an antipathy to the Bonaparte family. It is not necessary to have known him personally to be aware of his detestation of the first Napoleon, as in the conversation between himself, an English and a Florentine visitor, he gives expression to a generous indignation, which may well be inserted here, as it contains the pith of what Landor repeated in many a social talk. "This Holy Alliance will soon appear unholy to every nation in Europe. I despised Napoleon in the plenitude of his power no less than others despise him in the solitude of his exile: I thought him no less an impostor when he took the ermine, than when he took the emetic. I confess I do not love him the better, as some mercenaries in England and Scotland do, for having been the enemy of my country; nor should I love him the less for it, had his enmity been principled and manly. In what manner did this cruel wretch treat his enthusiastic admirer and humble follower, Toussaint l'Ouverture? He was thrown into a subterranean call, solitary, dark, damp, pestiferously unclean, where rheumatism racked his limbs, and where famine terminated his existence." Again, in his written opinions of Caesar, Cromwell, Milton, and Bonaparte, Landor criticises the career of the latter with no fondness, but with much truth, and justly says, that "Napoleon, in the last years of his sovereignty, fought without aim, vanquished without glory, and perished without defeat."
Great as was Landor's dislike to the uncle, it paled before his detestation of the reigning Emperor,—a detestation too general to be designated an idiosyncrasy on the part of the poet. We always knew who was meant when a sentence was prefaced with "that rascal" or "that scoundrel,"—such were the epithets substituted for the name of Louis Napoleon. Believing the third Napoleon to be the worst enemy of his foster-mother, Italy, as well as of France, Landor bestowed upon him less love, if possible, than the majority of Englishmen. Having been personally acquainted with the Emperor when he lived in England as an exile, Landor, unlike many of Napoleon's enemies, acknowledged the superiority of his intellect. "I used to see a great deal of the Prince when he was in London. I met him very frequently of an evening at Lady Blessington's, and had many conversations with him, as he always sought me and made himself particularly civil. He was a very clever man, well informed on most subjects. The fops used to laugh at him, and call him a bore. A coxcombical young lord came up to me one evening after the Prince had taken his leave, and said, 'Mr. Landor, how can you talk to that fool, Prince Napoleon?' To which I replied, 'My Lord, it takes a fool to find out that he is not a wise man!' His Lordship retired somewhat discomfited," added Landor with a laugh, "The Prince presented me with his work on Artillery, and invited me to his house. He had a very handsome establishment, and was not at all the poor man he is so often said to have been." Of this book Landor writes in an article to the "Quarterly Review" (I think): "If it is any honor, it has been conferred on me to have received from Napoleon's heir the literary work he composed in prison, well knowing, as he did, and expressing his regret for, my sentiments on his uncle. The explosion of the first cannon against Rome threw us apart forever." I shall not soon forget Landor's lively narration of Napoleon's escape from the prison at Ham, given in the same language in which it was told to him by the Prince. I would feign repeat it here, were it not that an account of this wonderful escape found its way into print some years ago. Apropos of Napoleon, an old friend of Landor's told me that, while in London, the Prince was in the habit of calling upon him after dinner. He would sip cafe noir, smoke a cigar, ply his host with every conceivable question, but otherwise maintain a dignified reticence. It seems then that Louis Napoleon is indebted to nature, as well as to art, for his masterly ability in keeping his own counsel.
Among other persons of note encountered by Landor at Lady Blessington's was Rachel. It was many years ago, before her star had attained its zenith. "She took tea with her Ladyship, and was accompanied by a female attendant, her mother I think. Rachel had very little to say, and left early, as she had an engagement at the theatre. There was nothing particularly noticeable in her appearance, but she was very ladylike. I never met her again."
Landor entertained a genuine affection for the memory of Lady Blessington. "Ah, there was a woman!" he exclaimed one day with a sigh. "I never knew so brilliant and witty a person in conversation. She was most generous too, and kind-hearted. I never heard her make an ill-natured remark. It was my custom to visit her whenever the laurel was in bloom; and as the season approached, she would write me a note, saying, 'Gore House expects you, for the laurel has begun to blossom.' I never see laurel now, that it does not make me sad, for it recalls her to me so vividly. During these visits I never saw Lady Blessington until dinner-time. She always breakfasted in her own room, and wrote during the morning. She wrote very well, too; her style was pure. In the evening her drawing-room was thrown open to her friends, except when she attended the opera. Her opera-box faced the Queen's, and a formidable rival she was to her Majesty."
"D'Orsay was an Apollo in beauty, very amiable, and had considerable talent for modelling." Taking me into his little back sitting-room, Landor brought out a small album, and, passing over the likenesses of several old friends, among whom were Southey, Porson, Napier, and other celebrities, he held up an engraving of Lady Blessington. Upon my remarking its beauty, Landor replied: "That was taken at the age of fifty, so you can imagine how beautiful she must have been in her youth. Her voice and laugh were very musical." Then, turning to a young lady present, Landor made her an exceedingly neat compliment, by saying, "Your voice reminds me very vividly of Lady Blessington's. Perhaps," he continued with a smile, "this is the reason why my old, deaf ears never lose a word when you are speaking." Driving along the north side of the Arno, one summer's day, Landor gazed sadly at a terrace overlooking the water, and said: "Many a delightful evening have I spent on that terrace with Lord and Lady Blessington. There we used to take our tea. They once visited Florence for no other purpose than to see me. Was not that friendly? They are both dead now, and I am doomed to live on. When Lady Blessington died, I was asked to write a Latin epitaph for her tomb, which I did; but some officious person thought to improve the Latin before it was engraved, and ruined it."
This friendship was fully reciprocated by Lady Blessington, who, in her letters to Landor, refers no less than three times to those "calm nights on the terrace of the Casa Pelosi." "I send you," she writes, "the engraving, and have only to wish that it may sometimes remind you of the original.... Five fleeting years have gone by since our delicious evenings on the lovely Arno,—evenings never to be forgotten, and the recollections of which ought to cement the friendships then formed." Again, in her books of travel,—the "Idler in France" and "Idler in Italy,"—Lady Blessington pays the very highest tribute to Landor's heart, as well as intellect, and declares his real conversations to be quite as delightful as his imaginary ones. She who will live long in history as the friend of great men now lies "beneath the chestnut shade of Saint Germain"; and Landor, with the indignation of one who loved her, has turned to D'Orsay, asking
"Who was it squandered all her wealth, And swept away the bloom of health?"
Although a Latinist, Landor did not approve of making those who have passed away doubly dead to a majority of the living by Latin eulogy. In an interesting conversation he gives the following opinion: "Although I have written at various times a great number of such inscriptions" (Latin), "as parts of literature, yet I think nothing is so absurd, if you only inscribe them on a tomb. Why should extremely few persons, the least capable, perhaps, of sympathy, be invited to sympathize, while thousands are excluded from it by the iron grate of a dead language? Those who read a Latin inscription are the most likely to know already the character of the defunct, and no new feelings are to be excited in them; but the language of the country tells the ignorant who he was that lies under the turf before them; and, if he was a stranger, it naturalizes him among them; it gives him friends and relations; it brings to him and detains about him some who may imitate, many who will lament him. We have no right to deprive any one of a tender sentiment, by talking in an unknown tongue to him, when his heart would listen and answer to his own; we have no right to turn a chapel into a library, locking it with a key which the lawful proprietors cannot turn."
I once asked Landor to describe Wordsworth's personal appearance. He laughed and replied: "The best description I can give you of Wordsworth is the one that Hazlitt gave me. Hazlitt's voice was very deep and gruff, and he peppered his sentences very bountifully with 'sirs.' In speaking to me of Wordsworth, he said: 'Well, sir, did you ever see a horse, sir?' 'Yes.' 'Then, sir, you have seen Wordsworth, sir! He looks exactly like a horse, sir, and a very long-faced horse at that, sir!' And he did look like a horse," added Landor.
Those who have seen good likenesses of Wordsworth will readily remark this resemblance. A greater length of ear would liken the Lake poet to an animal of less dignity.
Continuing the conversation thus begun, Landor said: "I saw a great deal of Hazlitt when he was in Florence. He called upon me frequently, and a funny fellow he was. He used to say to me: 'Mr. Landor, I like you, sir,—I like you very much, sir,—you're an honest man, sir; but I don't approve, sir, of a great deal that you have written, sir. You must reform some of your opinions, sir.'" And again Landor laughed with great good-will.
"I regret that I saw Charles Lamb but once," replied Landor, in answer to many questions asked concerning this delightful man and writer. "Lamb sent word by Southey" (I think it was Southey) "that he would be very happy to see me, whereupon we made him a visit. He had then retired from the India House, and lived at Enfield. He was most charming in conversation, and his smile impressed me as being particularly genial. His sister also was a very agreeable person. During my visit, Lamb rose, went to a table in the centre of the room, and took up a book, out of which he read aloud. Soon shutting it, he turned to me, saying: 'Is not what I have been reading exceedingly good?' 'Very good,' I replied. Thereupon Lamb burst out laughing, and exclaimed: 'Did one ever know so conceited a man as Mr. Landor? He has actually praised his own ideas!' It was now my turn to laugh, as I had not the slightest remembrance of having written what Lamb had read."
Are there many to whom the following lines will not be better than new?
"Once, and only once, have I seen thy face, Elia! once only has thy tripping tongue Run o'er my breast, yet never has been left Impression on it stronger or more sweet. Cordial old man! what youth was in thy years, What wisdom in thy levity! what truth In every utterance of that purest soul! Few are the spirits of the glorified I'd spring to earlier at the gate of Heaven."
Being asked if he had met Byron, Landor replied: "I never saw Byron but once, and then accidentally. I went into a perfumery shop in London to purchase a pot of the ottar of roses, which at that time was very rare and expensive. As I entered the shop a handsome young man, with a slight limp in his walk, passed me and went out. The shopkeeper directed my attention to him, saying: 'Do you know who that is, sir?' 'No,' I answered. 'That is the young Lord Byron.' He had been purchasing some fancy soaps, and at that time was the fashion. I never desired to meet him."
As all the world knows, there was little love lost between these two great writers; but it was the man, not the poet, that Landor so cordially disliked.
FOR THE "BOYS OF '29."
How long will this harp which you once loved to hear Cheat your lips of a smile or your eyes of a tear? How long stir the echoes it wakened of old, While its strings were unbroken, untarnished its gold?
Dear friends of my boyhood, my words do you wrong; The heart, the heart only, shall throb in my song; It reads the kind answer that looks from your eyes,— "We will bid our old harper play on till he dies."
Though Youth, the fair angel that looked o'er the strings, Has lost the bright glory that gleamed on his wings, Though the freshness of morning has passed from its tone, It is still the old harp that was always your own.
I claim not its music,—each note it affords I strike from your heart-strings, that lend me its chords; I know you will listen and love to the last, For it trembles and thrills with the voice of your past.
Ah, brothers! dear brothers! the harp that I hold No craftsman could string and no artisan mould; He shaped it, He strung it, who fashioned the lyres That ring with the hymns of the seraphim choirs.
Not mine are the visions of beauty it brings, Not mine the faint fragrance around it that clings; Those shapes are the phantoms of years that have fled, Those sweets breathe from roses your summers have shed.
Each hour of the past lends its tribute to this, Till it blooms like a bower in the Garden of Bliss; The thorn and the thistle may grow as they will, Where Friendship unfolds there is Paradise still.
The bird wanders careless while Summer is green, The leaf-hidden cradle that rocked him unseen; When Autumn's rude fingers the woods have undressed, The boughs may look bare, but they show him his nest.
Too precious these moments! the lustre they fling Is the light of our year, is the gem in its ring, So brimming with sunshine, we almost forget The rays it has lost, and its border of jet.
While round us the many-hued halo is shed, How dear are the living, how near are the dead! One circle, scarce broken, these waiting below, Those walking the shores where the asphodels blow!
Not life shall enlarge it, nor death shall divide,— No brother new-born finds his place at my side; No titles shall freeze us, no grandeurs infest,— His Honor, His Worship, are boys like the rest.
Some won the world's homage,—their names we hold dear,— But Friendship, not Fame, is the countersign here; Make room by the conqueror crowned in the strife For the comrade that limps from the battle of life!
What tongue talks of battle? Too long we have heard In sorrow, in anguish, that terrible word; It reddened the sunshine, it crimsoned the wave, It sprinkled our doors with the blood of our brave.
Peace, Peace, comes at last, with her garland of white; Peace broods in all hearts as we gather to-night; The blazon of Union spreads full in the sun; We echo its words,—We are One! We are One!
WERE THEY CRICKETS?
About seven years ago, (it is possible that some of my readers may recall it,) the following paragraph appeared in the New York daily papers;—
"MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE.—A young man named George Snyder left the residence of his parents in Thirty-Third Street, last Friday evening without his hat and taking nothing with him but the suit which he was wearing (dark doeskin pants, and invisible-green coat), and has not yet been heard from. It is feared that he has wandered, in some sudden mental derangement, off the wharves. Any information which may lead to his discovery will be gratefully received by the distressed parents."
No information was ever received until the 1st of April last, when the missing man himself returned to his father's house, as mysteriously as he went, and was welcomed as one risen from the dead. I am that George Snyder, and propose to give now a brief account of that strange going and coming. Since April last I have been engaged, as well as the excitement of listening to the narrative of the great events which had taken place in my native land during my absence would allow me, in preparing for publication a history of my observations, made during the six years' absence; but of this history I can now give merely an outline.
On the night of my departure, November 5, 1858, I was sitting in my own room, studying Gauss's "Theoria Motus"; and, as was often the case with me, I grew so absorbed in the study as to lose all consciousness of outward things beyond the limits of the single page before me. I had forgotten the time of night,—nay, I could not have recalled the time of my life, whether I was in college or had graduated, whether I had entered on my profession or was preparing for it. My loss of the sense of space was as absolute as my loss of the sense of time, and I could not have said whether I was in my father's house in New York, or in my room in Wentworth Hall, or in my office in Jersey City. I only knew that the page, illuminated by a drop gas-light, was before me, and on it the record of that brilliant triumph of the human intellect, the deduction of a planet's entire orbit from observations of its position.
As I sat thus absorbed, my attention was partially diverted by a slight tapping, as if upon the very table upon which my book was resting. Without raising my eyes from the page, I allowed my thoughts to wander, as I inquired within myself what could have produced the noise. Could it be that I was thus suddenly "developed as a medium," and that the spirit of some departed friend wished to communicate with me? I rejected the thought instantly, for I was no believer in modern necromancy. But no sooner had I mentally decided that this was not the true explanation than I began to feel my right hand tremble in an unnatural manner, and my fingers close against my will around a pencil which I had been loosely holding. Then suddenly, upon the paper on which I had been occasionally filling out the omitted links in Gauss's mathematical reasoning, my hand, against my will, legibly scrawled, "Copernicus,"—upon which a renewed tapping was heard upon the table. I sprang out of my chair, as one startled out of sleep, and looked about the room. My full consciousness of time and place returned, and I saw nothing unusual about my apartment; there were the books, the chairs, and even the table, standing in motionless silence as usual. I concluded that my late hours and excessive concentration on my studies had made me nervous, or else that I had had a dream. I closed the book and prepared to go to bed. Like school-boy whistling to keep his courage up, I began to talk aloud, saying: "I wish Copernicus would really come and carry me off to explore the solar system; I fancy that I could make a better report than Andrew Jackson Davis has done."
I tremble even now as I recall the instantaneous effect of those words. While I was still speaking, all earthly things vanished suddenly from my sight. There was no floor beneath me, no ceiling above, no walls around. There was even no earth below me, and no sky above. Look where I would, nothing was visible but my own body. My clothing shone with a pale blue light, by which I could peer into the surrounding darkness to the distance, as I should judge, of about twenty or thirty feet. I was apparently hanging, like a planet, in mid-ether, resting upon nothing. Horrible amazement seized me, as the conviction flashed through me like an electric shock that I must have lost my reason. In a few moments, however, this terror subsided; I felt certain that my thoughts were rational, and concluded that it was some affection of the optic nerve. But in a very few seconds I discovered by internal sensations that I was in motion, in a rapid, irregular, and accelerating motion. Awful horror again seized me; I screamed out a despairing cry for help, and fainted.
When I recovered from the swoon, I found myself lying on a grassy bank near a sea-shore, with strange trees waving over me. The sun was apparently an hour high. I was dressed as on the preceding evening, without a hat. The air was deliciously mild, the landscape before me lovely and grand. I said to myself: "This is a beautiful dream; it must be a dream." But it was too real, and I said, "Can it be that I am asleep?" I pinched my arms, I went to the sea and dipped my head in the waters,—'t was in vain; I could not awake myself, because I was already awake.
"No!" I replied, "you are not awake." Do you not remember that saying of Engel, that when men dream of asking whether they are awake, they always dream that they answer yes? But I said, I will apply two tests of my own which have often, when I was dreaming, convinced me that I was asleep and thus enabled me to awake. I gathered some pebbles and began to count them and lay them in heaps, and count them over again. There were no discrepancies between my counts; I was awake. Then I took out my pencil and memorandum-book to see whether I could solve an equation. But my hand was seized with trembling, and wrote without my assistance or guidance these words: "I, Copernicus, will comfort your friends. Be calm, be happy, you shall return and reap a peculiar glory. You, first of the inhabitants of Earth, have visited another planet while in the flesh. You are on an island in the tropical regions of Mars. I will take you home when you desire it,—only not now."
It would be in vain for me to attempt to recall and to describe the whirling tumult of thoughts and emotions which this message created. I sat down upon the grass, and for a time was incapable of deliberate thought or action. At length I arose and paced up and down the turf, staring around upon the changeless blue of the seaward horizon, the heaving swell of the ocean, the restless surf fretting against the shore, and the motionless hills that rose behind each other inland, and lured the eye to a distant group of mountains. The coloring of sea and land was wonderfully fine; both seemed formed of similar translucent purple; and despite the excited state of my feelings and the stupendous nature of the words which I had just seen written by my own pencil, I was impressed with a sense of grandeur and of beauty which presently filled me with faith and hope. I assured myself that the spirit to whom permission had been given thus to transport me from my home was as kind as he was powerful. He had set me down in a beautiful country, he had promised to return me home when I desired it,—"only not now";—by which I concluded that he wished me to think calmly over the question before asking to return. And why, I added, should I be in haste? Copernicus, if it be he, promises to comfort my parents,—the island looks fertile,—if I find no inhabitants, I can be a new Robinson Crusoe,—and when I have explored the island thoroughly, I will ask this spirit to carry me back to New York, where I shall publish my observations, and add a new chapter to our knowledge of the solar system.
I walked toward the mountains, among strange shrubs, and under strange trees. Some were in blossom, others laden with fruit, all in luxuriant foliage. As I walked on, the scenery became more and more charming; but I saw no signs of man, nor even of birds, nor beasts. Beautiful butterflies and other insects were abundant; in a little stream I saw minnows, and a fish elegantly striped with silver and gold; and as I followed up the brook, occasionally a frog, startled at my approach, leaped from the bank and dived into the water with a familiar cry. I wandered on until I judged it to be nearly noon, and, growing hungry, ventured to taste a fruit which looked more edible than any I had seen. To my delight I found it as delicious as a paw-paw. I dined on them heartily, and, sitting under the shade of the low trees from which I had gathered them, I fell into a reverie which ended in a sound sleep.
When I awoke it was night. I walked out of the little grove in which I was sheltered, that I might have a clearer view of the stars. I soon recognized the constellations with which I had been familiar for years, though in somewhat new positions. Conspicuous near, the horizon was the "Milk Dipper" of Sagittarius, and I instantly noticed, with a thrill of intense surprise, that the planet Mars was missing! When I had first awakened, and stepped out of the grove, I had only a dim remembrance in my mind of having rambled in the fields and fallen asleep on the grass; but this planet missing in the constellation Sagittarius recalled to me at once my miraculous position on the planet Mars. Here was a confirmation unexpected and irrefragable of the truth of what Copernicus had written by my hand. The excited whirl of thoughts and emotions thus revived banished sleep, and I walked back and forward under the grove, and out on the open turf, gazing again and again at the constellation in which, only two days before, I had from the Jersey City ferryboat seen the now missing planet. At length Sagittarius sank behind the mountains, and the Twins arose out of the sea. With new wonder and admiration I beheld in Castor's knee the steady lustre of a planet which I had not known before,—an overwhelming proof of the reality of my asserted position on the planet Mars. For as this new planet was exactly in the opposite pole of the point whence Mars was missing, what could it be but my native Earth seen as a planet from that planet which had now become my earth? You may imagine that this new vision excited me too much to allow sleep to overpower me again until nearly daybreak.
When I awoke, the sun was far above the waves. I breakfasted upon my newly tasted fruit, and resumed my journey toward the mountains in the west. An hour's walk brought me to the spot where I first saw the inhabitants of the island. I shall never forget a single feature of that landscape. The mingled delight at seeing them, and astonishment after looking a few moments at them, have photographed the whole surrounding scene to its minutest details indelibly upon my memory. I had ascended a little eminence in the principal valley of a brook, (which I had been following nearly from its outlet,) when suddenly the mountains, of which I had lost sight for a time, rose up before me in sublime strength, no longer of translucent purple, but revealing, under the direct light, their rugged solidity. On my right, in the foreground, were lofty black cliffs, made darker by being seen lying in their own shadow. On my left, green hills, in varying forms, stretched almost an interminable distance, varying also in their color and depth of shade. At the foot of the cliffs, in full sight, but too distant to be distinctly heard, the brook leaped along its rocky bed in a succession of scrambling cataracts, until it was in a perfect foam with the exertion. I sat upon a stone, gazing upon this valley, calmed, soothed, charmed with its beauty, and was speculating upon the cause of the ruddy purplish hue which I still noticed in the landscape, as I had the day before, when I heard a choir of half a dozen voices, apparently on the nearest cliff, joining in a Haydn-like hymn of praise. I drew nearer to the spot, and soon satisfied myself that all the sounds proceeded from one man sitting alone on a projecting rock. I listened to him attentively, vainly endeavoring to imagine how he produced such a volume of sounds, and delighted with the beautiful melody and exquisite harmony of his polyphonous song. When he ceased to sing, I stepped out in front of him and hailed him with a hearty "Good morning!" What was my astonishment to see him instantly unfurl a prodigious pair of wings, and fly off the rock. Hovering over me for a little while, evidently as much astonished at me as I at him, he flew away, and presently returned with a companion. They alighted near me, and began, as I thought, to sing, but in a very fragmentary way. I afterwards found that they were in conversation. I spoke to them, and, concealing my fears, endeavored by various signs to intimate my friendly disposition. They were not very backward in meeting my advances; and yet I soon discovered that, although they were two to one against me, they were as much alarmed as I; whereupon I became greatly reassured. It was not long before we had exchanged presents of wild fruits, and they had begun, by dumb show, and beckoning, and the utterance of soothing sounds, to invite me to accompany them. We proceeded slowly, for they could not be satisfied in their examination of me, nor I in my examination of them; and yet we rather preferred to keep out of each other's reach. Two points in them chiefly attracted my attention. One was their prodigious wings, which they folded into a very small compass when they walked. The other was their peculiar language, not being any articulate speech, but only the utterance of vowel-sounds of musical quality, which seemed to come from several voices at once, and that not from the mouth, but, as I then thought, from all parts of their bodies.
At length we reached a charming arbor, into which they conducted me. This arbor was built of some sort of bamboo or cane, woven together into a coarse lattice-work, the roof being made of the same and covered with huge leaves, perhaps of some palm. I call it an arbor, because the latticed sides were covered with flowering vines, of great variety and beauty. Within were bamboo seats and a table, whose material I afterward discovered was the dried leaves of a gigantic flag, flattened and made hard by a peculiar process of drawing them between joints of bamboo, somewhat as cane is pressed between rollers. Upon the table were numerous manuscripts, written, as I afterwards learned, on a paper made of the same flag. These manuscripts were removed, and a repast set on the table by servants, as I then took them to be, who brought it in from an adjoining arbor; but I found afterwards that they were members of the family, and that the relation of servant and master was not known among the inhabitants of the island. When these new members of the family first came to the arbor in which I and my two captors, as they considered themselves, were sitting, they started back, terrified at my appearance; and it was with great difficulty that my captors prevailed upon them to enter. This further encouraged me in the faith that they were a timid and inoffensive people. Their noonday meal, of which they gave me a part, (although they did not invite me to come to the table with them,) gave me still greater assurance, since I found it composed wholly of fruits and cereals. After their dinner, during which it was evident that they were engaged in a very lively discussion of their visitor or captive, some of the family flew away, and in the course of an hour returned, accompanied by half a dozen others, whom I afterwards found were the most learned naturalists of my captor's acquaintance. I was invited by pantomime to walk out into the open air, and of course accepted the invitation. Never was there such a Babel of musical tones as that which assailed my ears while these six learned—(what shall I call them? since their own name is not expressible by the letters of any alphabet)—learned men discussed me from every point of view. The mild and inoffensive appearance of the people, and the evident kindness mingled with their curiosity, had entirely disarmed my suspicions, and I as gladly showed them what I could do as I watched to see their habits. The whole afternoon was passed in exhibiting to these strange beings all of the various gaits and modes of motion and gymnastic exercises which I had ever learned.
After supper my captor led me to a separate arbor, and pointed to a bed of soft, white straw, upon which I immediately stretched myself, and he retired. Presently I arose and attempted to go out, but found that he had fastened the door on the outside. It was not pleasant to find myself a prisoner; but that subject was instantly driven from my mind as I looked out through the lattice and saw Sagittarius, with no signs of the planet Mars. I returned to my straw; and, after the excitement of the day had subsided, I fell asleep and slept until after sunrise. My captor soon after appeared, bringing a basket of delicious fruits and bread. When I had eaten freely, he allowed me to wander at will, setting first a boy on top of my arbor, apparently to watch that I did not wander out of sight. I walked about and found that the homestead of my captor consisted of seven arbors in a grove of fruit-trees, with about a dozen acres of corn adjoining. This corn is a perennial, like our grass, and a field once planted yields in good land fifteen or twenty crops with only the labor of gathering. It then becomes exhausted, and the canes are burnt at a particular season, which destroys the roots, and prepares the ground admirably for fruit-trees. There were no stables about the place, and there are no horses nor cows on the island,—indeed, frogs and toads are the highest vertebrates known there.
About the middle of the forenoon, my host, or captor, came, guided by his boy, who, flying from arbor to arbor and from tree to tree, had kept me in sight during my ramble. He brought with him seven others, bearing a hammock through the air, four flying on either side, and lowered it near me in the field. He then made signs to me to lie in the hammock. It was with some difficulty that I persuaded myself to risk it; but I thought at last that, after coming safely from the Earth to Mars, I would not shrink from a little excursion in the atmosphere of that planet. I laid myself in the hammock, and soon saw that the seven friends of my host were as much afraid of taking it up as I had been of getting in it. However, they mustered courage, and, spreading their wings, raised me up in the air. I was, I suppose, a deal heavier than they expected; for they set me down upon the top of the first knoll in their path, and set me down so suddenly that I was aware of their intention only by being dashed against the ground. I sprang up, and began to rub the bruised spots, while my winged bearers folded their wings, and lay panting on the turf. They had not taken me a half-mile. When they were rested, my host motioned to me to resume my place; and the eight again bore me, with more deliberate stroke, a full mile before dropping me again. But they were so much exhausted, and took so long to rest, that I suggested, by signs and motions, that I should rather walk; and so for the next mile they carried the empty hammock, flying very slowly, while I walked rapidly, or ran, after them. When, in my turn, I became exhausted, they motioned me into the hammock again. In this way, partly by being carried and partly on my own feet, I at length reached an immense arbor, in which several hundred of these creatures were assembled. It was the regular day of meeting for their Society of Natural History. One of our party first went in, and, I suppose, announced our arrival, then came out and spoke to my captor, who beckoned me to follow, and led me in. I was placed on a platform, and he then made a polyphonous speech, without a consonant sound in it; describing, as I afterwards learned, the history of my discovery and capture, and going into some speculations on my nature. Then the principal men crowded about me and felt me, and led me about the hall, until, what with the landings of the hammock and the handling of these sons of Mars, I was sore and wearied beyond expression.
At length I was taken to a small arbor, where I was allowed to rest and to take food. The Society then, as I have since been told, held a long discussion, and finally appointed a committee to examine me, observe my habits, and report at the next regular meeting. There is no moon at Mars; but the regular meeting was on the twenty-eighth day following,—the seven notes of music having given them the idea of weeks.
Extra ropes were then attached to the hammock, (which was built for the use of the infirm and aged, but the weight of these creatures is scarce half that of men,) and sixteen of them carried me back to my captor's homestead. That night I fell asleep before it was dark enough to see the stars, and assure myself, by a glance at the Milk Dipper, that it was not all a dream; but I awoke before daylight, and gazed through the lattice at the Twins, and at the Earth, shining with steady lustre upon Castor's knee.
I will not weary the reader with details from my journal of each succeeding day. The committee came day after day and studied me. They induced me to lay aside part of my clothing that they might examine me more minutely, especially about the joints of the ankle, the knee, shoulder, and elbow; and were never weary of examining my neck and spinal column. I could not talk to them, and they had never seen a vertebrate higher in organization than their frogs and toads; wherefore, at the end of four weeks, they reported "that I was a new and wonderful gigantic Batrachian"; that "they recommended the Society to purchase me, and, after studying my habits thoroughly, dissect me, and mount my skeleton." Of which report I was, of course, in blessed ignorance for a long, long while.
So my captor and his friends took the kindest care of me, and endeavored to amuse and instruct me, and also to find out what I would do if left to myself,—taking notes assiduously for the memoirs of their Society. I can assure the reader that I, on my part, was not idle, but took notes of them with equal diligence, at which imitation of their actions they were greatly amused. But I flatter myself that, when my notes, now in the hands of the Smithsonian Institution, are published, with the comments of the learned naturalists to whom the Institution has referred them, they will be found to embody the most valuable contributions to science. My own view of the inhabitants of Mars is that they are Rational Articulates. Rational they certainly are, and, although I am no naturalist, I venture to pronounce them Articulates. I do not mean anything disrespectful to these learned inhabitants of Mars in saying that their figure and movements reminded me of crickets: for I never have watched the black field-crickets in New England, standing on tiptoe to reach a blade of grass, without a feeling of admiration at their gentlemanly figure and the gracefulness of their air. But what is more important, I am told that Articulates breathe through spiracles in the sides of their bodies; and I know that these planetary men breathe through six mouths, three on either side of the body, entirely different in appearance and character from the seventh mouth in their face, through which they eat.
In the volumes of notes which will be published by the Smithsonian Institution as soon as the necessary engravings can be finished, will also appear all that I was able to learn concerning the natural history of that planet, under the strict limitation, to which I was subjected, of bringing to Earth nothing but what I could carry about my own person.[A]
I was, myself, particularly interested in investigating the Martial language, which differs entirely from our terrestrial tongues in not being articulate. Each of the six lateral mouths of these curious men is capable of sounding only one vowel, and of varying its musical pitch about five or six semitones. Thus, their six mouths give them a range of two and a half or three octaves. The right-hand lowest mouth is lowest in pitch, and gives a sound resembling the double o in moon; the next lowest in pitch is the lowest left-hand mouth, and its vowel is more like o in note. Thus they alternate, the highest left-hand mouth being highest in pitch, and uttering a sound resembling a long ee. The sound of each of the six is so individual, that, before I had been there six months, I could recognize, even in a stranger, the tones of each one of the six mouths. But they seldom use one mouth at a time. Their simplest ideas, such as the names of the most familiar objects, are expressed by brief melodic phrases, uttered by one mouth alone. Closely allied ideas are expressed by the same phrase uttered by a different mouth, and so with a different vowel-sound. But most ideas are complex; and these are expressed in the Mavortian speech by chords, or discords, produced by using two or more mouths at once. A few music types will illustrate this, by examples, better than any verbal description can do.
The signification of these chords is by no means arbitrary; but, on the contrary, their application is according to fixed rules and according to aesthetic principles; so that the highest poetry of these people becomes, in the very process of utterance, the finest music; while the utterance of base sentiments, or of fustian, becomes, by the very nature of the language, discordant, or at best vapid and unmelodious.
It will readily be imagined that I was a very long while in learning to understand a speech so entirely different in all its principles from our earthly tongues. And when I began to comprehend it, as spoken by my new friends, I was unable, having but one mouth, to express anything but the simplest ideas. However, I had Yankee ingenuity enough to supply in some measure my want of lateral mouths.
My captor daily allowed me more and more freedom, and at length permitted me to wander freely over the whole island, simply taking the precaution to send a boy with me as a companion and guide, in case I should lose my way. In one of these rambles I discovered a swamp of bamboos, and by the aid of my pocket-knife cut down several and carried them home. Then, with great difficulty and interminable labor, I managed to make a sort of small organ, a very rude affair, with six kinds of pipes, six of each kind. A bamboo pipe, with a reed tongue of the same material, or even one with a flute action, was not so sweet in tone as the voice of my friends; but they saw what I was trying to do, and could, after growing familiar with the sound of my pipes, decipher my meaning. The astonishment of my captor and his family at finding that their monster Batrachian could not only express simple ideas with his one mouth, but all the most complex notions by pieces of bamboo fastened together and held on his knees before him, was beyond measure. From this time my progress in learning their speech was very rapid; and within a year from the completion of my organ I could converse fluently with them. Of course, I had not mastered all the intricacies of their tongue, and even up to the time of my leaving them I felt that I was a mere learner; nevertheless, I could understand the main drift of all that they said; and what was equally gratifying to me, I could express to them almost anything expressible in English, and they understood me.
My life now became a very happy one; I became sincerely attached to my captor and to his family, and was charmed with their good sense and their kind feeling. I flatter myself also that they, in their turn, were not only proud of their Batrachian, but grew fond of him. They showed me more and more attention, gave me a seat at their table, and furnished me with clothes of their own fashion. I must confess, however, that the openings on the sides for their mouths, and on the back for their wings, were rather troublesome to me, and occasioned me several severe colds, until I taught them to make my vesture close about my chest.
When visitors came to their house I was always invited to bring out my organ and converse with them. Strangers found some difficulty in understanding me; but with the family I conversed with perfect ease, and they interpreted for me. I found that the universal theory concerning me was, that I came from beyond a range of mountains on the nearest continent, beyond which no explorations had ever been made. Concerning my mode of crossing the steep and lofty barrier on the continent, and the deep, wide strait which separated the island from the mainland, they speculated in vain. I humored this theory at first, as far as I could without positive statements of falsehood, for I knew that, if I told the truth, it would be absolutely incredible to them; and I did not reveal to my Martial friends my own terrestrial, to them celestial character, until just before my departure.
But my psychical character perplexed them much more than my zooelogical. It seems that these islanders had been accustomed to call themselves, in their own tongue, "rational animals with sentiments of justice and piety,"—all which, be it remembered, is expressed in their wonderful language by a simple harmonic progression of four full chords.[B] But here was a Batrachian,—one of the lower orders of creation, in their view,—from whom the Almighty had withheld the gift of a rational soul, who nevertheless appeared to reason as soundly as they,—to understand all their ideas,—not only repeating their sentences on his bamboo pipes, but commenting intelligently on them; and who not only gave these proofs of an understanding mind, but of a heart and soul, manifesting almost Mavortian affection for his captor's family, and occasionally betraying even the existence of some religious sentiments. Was all this delusive? Did this Batrachian really possess a rational soul, with sentiments of piety and justice, or only a wonderfully constructive faculty of imitation?
Reader, in your pride of Caucasian blood, you may think it incredible that such doubts should have been entertained concerning a man whose father is from one of the best families in Holland, whose mother is descended from, good English stock, and who himself exhibits sufficient intelligence to write this narrative; but nevertheless such doubts were actually entertained by a large proportion of the inhabitants of the island. Not only did the members of their Society of Natural History become warmly interested in the discussion, but finally the whole population of the island took sides on the question, and debated it with great warmth. The area of their country is about the same as that of Great Britain; but as they have no law of primogeniture, nor entailment of estates, nor hereditary rank, they have no poverty and no over-population; all of the inhabitants were happy and well-educated, all had abundant leisure, and all were ready to examine the evidence concerning the wonderful Batrachian that was said to have come ashore on the eastern side of their island.
But alas! even in this well-governed and happy community, not every man's opinion was free from error, nor every man's temper free from prejudice and passion. Those who insisted that my bamboo music was only a parrot-like imitation of their speech accused those who held that I was really rational of the crime of exalting a Batrachian into equality with "rational animals with sentiments of justice and piety"; and the accused party, after a little natural shrinking from so bold a position, finally confessed the crime, by acknowledging that they thought that I was at least entitled to all the rights of their race. Here was the beginning of a feud which presently waxed as hot as that between the Big-Endians and the Little-Endians of Liliput.
I have no doubt in my own mind that the temper displayed in this controversy sprang partly from causes which had been in operation for many years before my visit. Somewhere about the middle of the last century, (I am speaking now of terrestrial dates, translating their long years and odd numeral scale into ours,) a colony from the mainland had settled at one end of their island, and were still living among them. These continental men differed somewhat in figure and stature from the islanders, and their wings were of a dusky hue, while the islanders' wings were distinctly purple in their tone. These colonists were looked upon by most of the islanders as an inferior race, and there had been very few cases of intermarriage between them. These few cases had, however, led to some earnest discussions. Some maintained that it was only a want of good taste in a Purple-wing to be willing to marry a Dusky-wing, but that it was not a thing forbidden by morality or to be forbidden by law. Others maintained that such intermarriage was against nature, against public order and morality, and should be prohibited. Nay, some went so far as to say that these Dusky-wings were intruders, who ought to be sent back to their native continent; that the island was the Purple-wings' country, and that the Purple-wings should have absolute control over it, and ought not to suffer any other race to participate in its advantages.
This division of opinion and feeling concerning the Dusky-wings, although deep and earnest, had not led to much open debate; the people of the island were very hospitable and polite, and they refrained to a great extent from showing their prejudices against the colonists. But my arrival gave them an opportunity of saying with open frankness many things which, although said concerning me, were meant and understood as referring to the immigrants from the continent. The Dusky-wings themselves said but little; they were quiet, inoffensive, affectionate people, who were somewhat wounded occasionally by the scorn of a Purple-wing, but simply went on minding their own business, and showing kindness to all persons alike.
The aborigines of the island, outnumbering the others by twenty to one, discussed me and my position with eager warmth. On the one hand, it was argued that I was a Batrachian,—of a high species, it was granted, but still only an animal; that, if I really had reason and sentiments, they must be of a low order; that certainly I had no social nor legal rights which their race were bound to respect; that I was the property of my captor, by right of discovery, and he had absolute rights over me as a chattel; that he might sell me or use me as lawfully as he could sell or use clothing, food, or books; that he might compel me to work for him; and that he even had a right to poison me (as they poisoned troublesome insects) whenever he was tired of the burden of my support, or wished to study my anatomy.
On the other hand, it was maintained that the fact of my being a Batrachian had no bearing on my moral rights, and ought not to have upon my social and legal rights. The capacity which I had for understanding the moral law and for feeling injustice gave me a claim to justice. Whoever has the moral sense to claim rights is by that very endowment vested with rights. "The true brotherhood between us rational animals," said this party, "is founded in our rationality and in our sentiments of justice and piety, and not in our animal nature. But this Batrachian, although belonging to the lower orders of animal nature, partakes with us of reason and of the sentiments of justice and piety. He is therefore our brother, and his rights are as sacred as our own. He is the guest, and not the chattel, of the family who discovered him. To sell him or to buy him, to force him to labor against his will, to hold his life less sacred than our own, would be criminal."
Of course I knew nothing of all this until I had been there for several years, and acquired a tolerable familiarity with their speech. Indeed, it required a considerable time for the feud to arrive at its highest. But at length party strife concerning me and concerning the relative superiority of the two races rose to such a pitch, that I seriously feared lest I should be the innocent cause of a civil war in this once happy island. Moreover, I saw that my presence was becoming a source of serious inconvenience to my host and to his family. They were attached to me, that I could not doubt; but neither could I doubt that it was unpleasant to them to have old acquaintances decline any further intercourse with them because they had allowed a Batrachian to sit at table with them.
Very reluctantly I decided that I would ask Copernicus to restore me to my own family on Earth. First I broke the matter cautiously to my host, and explained to him confidentially my real origin and my intended return. He was astonished beyond measure at my revelation, and I could with difficulty persuade him that I was not of celestial nature. We talked it over daily for several weeks, and then explained it to the family, and afterwards to a select circle of friends, who were to publish it after my departure, and give to the whole island their first notions of terrestrial geography and history. Finally, I decided upon a night in which I would depart, and at bed-time bade the family good by. At midnight I filled my pockets and sundry satchels with my note-books, specimens of dried plants, insects, fragments of minerals, etc., and, hanging these satchels on my arms, called on Copernicus to fulfil his promise. Instantly all things disappeared again from my view; I was floating with my satchels in mid-ether, and fell into a trance. When I awaked, I was in my father's house in New York. How long the passage required, I have no means of determining.
The present brief sketch of my life upon the planet Mars is designed partly to call attention to the volumes which I am preparing, in conjunction with more learned and more scientific collaborateurs, for immediate publication by the Smithsonian Institution, and partly for the gratification of readers who may never see those ponderous quartos.
I will only add, that, since my return to Earth, I have never been able to obtain any information either from Copernicus or from any other of the illustrious dead, except through the pages of their printed works.
[A] The strangeness of my adventures will be so apt to breed incredulity among those unacquainted with my character, that I add some certificates from the highest names known to science.
"New York, June 13, 1865.—Three plants, submitted to me by Mr. George Snyder for examination, prove to be totally unlike any botanical family hitherto known or described in any books to which I have access.
"ROBERT BROWN, Prof. Bott. Col., Coll. N. Y."
"New York, June 15, 1865.—Mr. George Snyder. Dear Sir: Your mineral gives, in the spectroscope, three elegant red bands and one blue band; and certainly contains a new metal hitherto unknown to chemistry.
"R. BUNSEN, Prof. Chem., N. Y. Free Acad."
"Cambridge, Mass., June, 18, 1863.—Mr. George Snyder has placed in my hands three insects, belonging to three new families of Orthoptera, differing widely from all previously known.
"KIRBY SPENCE, Assist. Ent., Mus. Comp. Zoeol."
[B] These chords are those of E, A, B, E, whence the creatures might be called Eabes.
MADAM WALDOBOROUGH'S CARRIAGE.
On a bright particular afternoon, in the month of November, 1855, I met on the Avenue des Champs Elysees, in Paris, my young friend Herbert J——.
After many desolate days of wind and rain and falling leaves, the city had thrown off her wet rags, so to speak, and arrayed herself in the gorgeous apparel of one of the most golden and perfect Sundays of the season. "All the world" was out of doors. The Boulevards, the Bois de Boulogne, the bridges over the Seine, all the public promenades and gardens, swarmed with joyous multitudes. The Champs Elysees, and the long avenue leading up to the Barriere de l'Etoile, appeared one mighty river, an Amazon of many-colored human life. The finest July weather had not produced such a superb display; for now the people of fashion, who had passed the summer at their country-seats, or in Switzerland, or among the Pyrenees, reappeared in their showy equipages. The tide, which had been flowing to the Bois de Boulogne ever since two o'clock, had turned, and was pouring back into Paris. For miles, up and down, on either side of the city-wall, extended the glittering train of vehicles. The three broad, open gateways of the Barriere proved insufficient channels; and far as you could see, along the Avenue de l'Imperatrice, stood three seemingly endless rows of carriages, closely crowded, unable to advance, waiting for the Barriere de l'Etoile to discharge its surplus living waters. Detachments of the mounted city guard, and long lines of police, regulated the flow; while at the Barriere an extra force of customhouse officers fulfilled the necessary formality of casting an eye of inspection into each vehicle as it passed, to see that nothing was smuggled.
Just below the Barriere, as I was moving with the stream of pedestrians, I met Herbert. He turned and took my arm. As he did so, I noticed that he lifted his bran-new Parisian hat towards heaven, saluting with a lofty flourish one of the carriages that passed the gate.
It was a dashy barouche, drawn by a glossy-black span, and occupied by two ladies and a lapdog. A driver on the box, and a footman perched behind, both in livery,—long coats, white gloves, and gold bands on their hats,—completed the establishment The ladies sat facing each other, and their mingled, effervescing skirts and flounces filled the cup of the vehicle quite to over-foaming, like a Rochelle powder, nearly drowning the brave spaniel, whose sturdy little nose was elevated, for air, just above the surge.
Both ladies recognized my friend, and she who sat, or rather reclined, (for such a luxurious, languishing attitude can hardly be called a sitting posture.) fairy-like, in the hinder part of the shell, bestowed upon him a very gracious, condescending smile. She was a most imposing creature,—in freshness of complexion, in physical development, and, above all, in amplitude and magnificence of attire, a full-blown rose of a woman,—aged, I should say, about forty.
"Don't you know that turn-out?" said Herbert, as the shallop with its lovely freight floated on in the current.
"I am not so fortunate," I replied.
"Good gracious! miserable man! Where do you live? In what obscure society have you buried yourself? Not to know MADAM WALDOBOROUGH'S CARRIAGE!"
This was spoken in a tone of humorous extravagance which piqued my curiosity. Behind the ostentatious deference with which he had raised his hat to the sky, beneath the respectful awe with which he spoke the lady's name, I detected irony and a spirit of mischief.
"Who is Madam Waldoborough? and what about her carriage?"
"Who is Madam Waldoborough?" echoed Herbert, with mock astonishment; "that an American, six months in Paris, should ask that question! An American woman, and a woman of fortune, sir; and, which is more, of fashion; and, which is more, as pretty a piece of flesh as any in Messina or elsewhere;—one that occupies a position, go to! and receives on Thursday evenings, go to! and that hath ambassadors at her table, and everything handsome about her! And as for her carriage," he continued, coming down from his Dogberrian strain of eloquence, "it is the very identical carriage which I didn't ride in once!"
"How was that?"
"I'll tell you; for it was a curious adventure, and as it was a very useful lesson to me, so you may take warning by my experience, and, if ever she invites you to ride with her, as she did me, beware! beware! her flashing eyes, her floating hair!—do not accept, or, before accepting, take Iago's advice, and put money in your purse: PUT MONEY IN YOUR PURSE! I'll tell you why.