LITERATURE AND NATIONAL POLICY
VOL. II.—SEPTEMBER, 1862.—NO. III.
* * * * *
HENRY THOMAS BUCKLE.
The death of Henry Thomas Buckle, at this period of his career, is no ordinary calamity to the literary and philosophical world. Others have been cut short in the midst of a great work, but their books being narrative merely, may close at almost any period, and be complete; or others after them may take up the pen and conclude that which was so abruptly terminated. So it was with Macaulay; he was fascinating, and his productions were literally devoured by readers of elevated taste, though they disagreed almost entirely with his conclusions. His volumes were read—as one reads Dickens, or Holmes, or De Quincey—to amuse in leisure hours.
But such are not the motives with which we take up the ponderous tomes of the historian of Civilization in England. He had no heroes to immortalize by extravagant eulogy, no prejudices seeking vent to cover the name of any man with infamy. He knew no William to convert into a demi-god; no Marlborough who was the embodiment of all human vices. His mind, discarding the ordinary prejudices of the historian, took a wider range, and his researches were not into the transactions of a particular monarch or minister, as such, but into the laws of human action, and their results upon the civilization of the race. Hence, while he wrote history, he plunged into all the depths of philosophy; and thus it is, that his work, left unfinished by himself, can never be completed by another. It is a work which will admit no broken link from its commencement to its conclusion.
Mr. Buckle was born in London, in the early part of the year 1824, and was consequently about thirty-eight years of age at the time of his death. His father was a wealthy gentleman of the metropolis, and thoroughly educated, and the historian was an only son. Devoted to literature himself, it is not surprising that the parent spared neither money nor labor to educate his child. He did not, however, follow the usual course; did not hamper the youthful mind by the narrow routine of the English academy, nor did he make him a Master of Arts at Oxford or Cambridge.
His early education was superintended by his father directly, but afterward private teachers were employed. But Mr. Buckle was by nature a close student, and much that he possessed he acquired without a tutor, as his energetic, self-reliant nature rendered him incapable of ever seeing insurmountable difficulties before him. By this means he became what the students of Oxford rarely are, both learned and liberal. As he mingled freely with the people, during his youth, a democratic sympathy entwined itself with his education, and is manifested in every page of his writings.
Mr. Buckle never married. After he had commenced his great work, he found no time to enjoy society, no hours of leisure and repose. His whole soul was engaged in the accomplishment of one great purpose, and nothing which failed to contribute directly to the object nearest his heart, received a moment's consideration. He collected around him a library of twenty-two thousand volumes, all choice standard works, in Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and English, with all of which languages he was familiar. It was the best private collection of books, said some one, in England. It was from this that the historian drew that inexhaustible array of facts, and procured the countless illustrations, with which the two volumes of his History of Civilization abound.
At what age he first conceived the project of writing his history, is not yet publicly known. He never figured in the literary world previous to the publication of his first volume. He appears to have early grasped at more than a mere temporary fame, and determined to stake all upon a single production. His reading was always systematic, and exceedingly thorough; and as he early became charmed with the apparent harmony of all nature, whether in the physical, intellectual, or moral world, he at once commenced tracing out the laws of the universe, to which, in his mind, all things were subject, with a view of illustrating that beautiful harmony, every where prevailing, every where unbroken. All this influenced every thing, 'and mind and gross matter, each performed their parts, in relative proportions, and according to the immutable laws of progress.'
With a view of discussing his subject thoroughly, and establishing his theory beyond controversy, as he believed, he proposed, before referring to the History of Civilization in England, to discover, so far as possible, all the laws of political and social economy, and establish the relative powers and influence of the moral faculties, the intellect, and external nature, and determine the part each takes in contributing to the progress of the world. To this, the first volume is exclusively devoted; and it is truly astonishing to observe the amount of research displayed. The author is perfectly familiar, not only with a vast array of facts of history, but with the principal discoveries of every branch of science; and as he regards all things as a unit, he sets out by saying that no man is competent to write history who is not familiar with the physical universe. A fascinating writer, with a fair industry, can write narrative, but not history.
This is taking in a wide field; and Mr. Buckle may be regarded as somewhat egotistic and vain; but the fact that he proves himself, in a great degree, the possessor of the knowledge he conceives requisite, rather than asserts it, is a sufficient vindication against all aspersions.
Mr. Buckle regards physical influences as the primary motive power which produces civilization; but these influences are fixed in their nature, and are few in number, and always operate with equal power. The capacity of the intellect is unlimited; it grows and expands, partially impelled by surrounding physical circumstances, and partially by its own second suggestions, growing out of those primary impressions received from nature. The moral influence, the historian asserts, is the weakest of the three, which control the destiny of man. Not an axiom now current, but was known and taught in the days of Plato, of Zoroaster, and of Confucius; yet how wide the gap intervening between the civilization of the different eras! Moral without intellectual culture, is nothing; but with the latter, the former comes as a necessary sequence.
All individual examples are rejected. As all things act in harmony, we can only draw deductions by regarding the race in the aggregate, and studying its progress through long periods of time. Statistics is the basis of all generalizations, and it is only from a close comparison of these, for ages, that the harmonious movement of all things can be clearly proved.
Mr. Buckle was a fatalist in every sense of the word. Marriages, deaths, births, crime—all are regulated by Law. The moral status of a community is illustrated by the number of depredations committed, and their character. Following the suggestions of M. Quetelot, he brings forward an array of figures to prove that not only, in a large community, is there about the same number of crimes committed each year, but their character is similar, and even the instruments employed in committing them are nearly the same. Of course, outside circumstances modify this slightly—such as financial failures, scarcity of bread, etc., but by a comparison of long periods of time, these influences recur with perfect regularity.
It is not the individual, in any instance, who is the criminal—but society. The murderer and the suicide are not responsible, but are merely public executioners. Through them the depravity of the public finds vent.
Free Will and Predestination—the two dogmas which have, more than any others, agitated the public mind—are discussed at length. Of course he accepts the latter theory, but under a different name. Free Will, he contends, inevitably leads to aristocracy, and Predestination to democracy; and the British and Scottish churches are cited as examples of the effect of the two doctrines on ecclesiastical organizations. The former is an aristocracy, the latter a democracy.
No feature of Mr. Buckle's work is so prominent as its democratic tendencies. The people, and the means by which they can be elevated, were uppermost in his mind, and he disposes of established usages, and aristocratic institutions, in a manner far more American than English. It is this circumstance which has endeared him to the people of this country, and to the liberals of Germany—the work having been translated into German. For the same reason, he was severely criticised in England.
Having devoted the first volume to a discussion of the laws of civilization, it was his intention to publish two additional volumes, illustrating them; taking the three countries in which were found certain prominent characteristics, which he conceived could be fully accounted for by his theories, but by no other, and above all, by none founded upon the doctrine of free will and individual responsibility. These countries were Spain, Scotland, and the United States—nations which grew up under the most diverse physical influences, and which present widely different civilizations.
The volume treating upon Spain and Scotland has been published about a year; and great was the indignation it created in the latter country. In Spain it is probable that the work is unknown; but it was caught up by the Scottish reviewers, who are shocked at any thing outside of regular routine, and whose only employment seems to be to strangle young authors. Blackwood, and the Edinburgh Review, contained article after article against the 'accuser' of Scotland; but the writers, instead of calmly sifting and disproving Mr. Buckle's untenable theories, new into a rage, and only established two things, to the intelligent public—their own malice and ignorance.
Amid all this abuse, our author stood immutable. But once did he ever condescend to notice his maligners, and then only to expose their ignorance, at the same time pledging himself never again to refer to their attacks. A thinking man, he could not but be fully aware that their style, and self-evident malice, could only add to his reputation.
As already remarked, he did not write to immortalize a hero, but to establish an idea; did not labor to please the fancy, but to reach the understanding; hence we read his books, not as we do the brilliant productions of Macaulay, the smooth narratives of Prescott, or the dramatic pages of Bancroft; but his thoughts are so well connected, and so systematically arranged, that to read a single page, is to insure a close study of the whole volume. We would not study him for his style, for although fair, it is not pleasing; we can not glide over his pages in thoughtless ease; but then, at the close of almost every paragraph, one must pause and think.
Being an original writer, Mr. Buckle naturally fell into numerous errors; but now is not the proper time to refute them. He gives more than due weight to the powers of nature, in the civilization of man; and although he probably intimates the fact, yet he does not add that as the intellect is enlightened, their influences become circumscribed, and must gradually almost entirely disappear. In the primitive state of the race, climate, soil, food, and scenery, are all-powerful; but among an enlightened people, the effects of heat and cold, of barren or exceedingly productive soils, etc., are entirely modified. This omission has given his enemies an excellent opportunity for a display of their refutory powers, of which they have not failed to avail themselves.
The historian is a theorist, yet no controversialist. He states his facts, and draws his conclusions, as if no ideas different from his own had ever been promulgated. He never attempts to show the fallacies of any other author, but readily understands that if he establishes his system of philosophy, all contrary ones must fall. How fortunate it would have been for the human race, if all innovators and reformers had done the same!
That which adds to the regrets occasioned by his loss, which must be entertained by every American, is the circumstance that his forthcoming volume was to be devoted to the social and political condition of the United States, as an example of a country in which existed a general diffusion of knowledge. Knowing, as all his readers do, that his sympathies are democratic, and in favor of the elevation of the masses, we had a right to expect a vindication-the first we ever had—from an English source. At the time of his death he was traveling through Europe and Asia for his health, intending to arrive in this country in autumn, to procure facts as a basis for his third volume, and the last of his introduction.
Although his work is an unfinished one, it will remain a lasting monument to the industry of its author. He has done enough to exhibit the necessity of studying and writing history, henceforth as a science; and of replacing the chaotic fragments of narrative, called history, with which the world abounds, by a systematic statement of facts, and philosophical deductions. Some other author, with sufficient energy and industry, will—not finish the work of Mr. Buckle, but—write another in which the faults of the original will be corrected, and the omissions filled; who will go farther in defining the relative influences of the three powers which control civilization, during the different stages of human progress.
AN ANGEL ON EARTH.
Die when you may, you will not wear At heaven's court a form more fair Than beauty at your birth has given; Keep but the lips, the eyes we see, The voice we hear, and you will be An angel ready-made for heaven.
THE MOLLY O'MOLLY PAPERS.
Better than wealth, better than hosts of friends, better than genius, is a mind that finds enjoyment in little things—that sucks honey from the blossom of the weed as well as from the rose—that is not too dainty to enjoy coarse, everyday fare. I am thankful that, though not born under a lucky star, I wasn't born under a melancholy one; that, though there were at my christening no kind fairies to bestow on me all the blessings of life—there was no malignant elf to 'mingle a curse with every blessing.' I'd rather have a few drops of pure sweet than an overflowing cup tinctured with bitterness.
Not that sorrow has never blown her chill breath on my spirit—yet it has never been so iced over that it would not here and there bubble forth with a song of gladness.... There are depths of woe that I have never fathomed, or rather, to which I have never sunken—for there are no line and plummet to sound the dreary depths—yet the waves have overwhelmed me, as every human being, but I soon rose above them.
'One by one thy griefs shall meet thee, Do not fear an armed band; One shall fade as others greet thee— Shadows passing through the land.'
I have found this true—I know there are some to whom it is not true—that, though sorrows come not to them 'in battalions,' the shadow of the one huge Grief is ever on their path, or on their heart; that at their down-sittings and their up-risings it is with them, even darkening to them the night, and making them almost curse the sunshine; for it is ever between them and it—not a mere shadow, nor yet a substance, but a vacuum of light, casting also a shadow. Neither substance nor shadow, it must be a phantom—it may be of a dead sin—and against such, exorcism avails. I opine this exorcism lies in no cabalistic words, no crossing of the forehead, no holy name, in nothing that one can do unto or for himself, but in entire self-forgetfulness—in doing for, in sympathizing with, others. So shall this Grief step aside from your path, get away from between you and the sunshine, till finally it shall have vanished.
I know—not, however, by experience—that a great sorrow-berg, with base planted in the under-current of a man's being, has been borne at a fearful rate, right up against all his nobly-built hopes and projects, making a complete wreck of them. May God help him then! But must his being ever after be like the lonely Polar Sea on which no bark was ever launched?
But surely we have troubles enough without borrowing from the future or the past, as we constantly do. It is often said, it is a good thing that we can't look into the future. One would think that that mysterious future, on which we are the next moment to enter, in which we are to live our everyday life—one would think it a store-house of evils. Do you expect no good—are there for you no treasures there?
How often life has been likened to a journey, a pilgrimage, with its deserts to cross, its mountains to climb!... The road to—— Lake, distant from my home some eight or ten miles, partly lies through a mountain pass. You drive a few miles—and a beautiful drive it is, with its pines and hemlocks, their dark foliage contrasting with the blue sky—on either hand high mountains; now at your left, then at your right, and again at your left runs now swiftly over stones, now lingering in hollows, making good fishing-places, a creek, that has come many glad miles on its way to the river. But how are you to get over that mountain just before you? Your horse can't draw you up its rocky, perpendicular front! Never mind, drive along—there, the mountain is behind you—the road has wound around it. Thus it is with many a mountain difficulty in our way, we never have it to climb. There is now and then one, though, that we do have to climb, and we can't be drawn or carried up by a faithful nag, but our weary feet must toil up its steep and rugged side. But many a pilgrim before us has climbed it, and we will not faint on the way. 'What man has done, man may do.' ... Yet, till I have found out to a certainty, I never will be sure that the mountain that seemingly blocks up my way, has not a path winding round it.
Then the past.... Some one says we are happier our whole life for having spent one pleasant day. Keats says: 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever.' I believe this: to me the least enjoyment has been like a grain of musk dropped into my being, sending its odor into all my after-life—it may be that centuries hence it will not have lost its fragrance. Who knows?
But sorrows—they should, like bitter medicines, be washed down with sweet; we should get the taste of them out of our mouth as soon as possible.
We are as apt to borrow trouble from the might-have-beens of our past life as from any thing else. We mourn over the chances we've missed—the happiness that eel-like has slipped through our fingers. This is folly; for generally there are so many ifs in the way, that nearly all the might-have-beens turn into couldn't-have-beens. Even if they do not, it is well for us when we don't know them.... The object of our weary search glides past us like Gabriel past Evangeline, so near, did we only know it: happy is it for us if we do not, like her, too late learn it; for
'Of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these—it might have been!'
So sad are they, that they would be a suitable refrain to the song of a lost spirit.
Well, I might have been ——, but am ——
If one wishes to know how barren one's life is of events, the best way is to try to keep a journal. I tried it in my boarding-school days. With a few exceptions, the record of one day's outer life was sufficient for the week; the rest might have been written ditto, ditto. Even then, the events were so trifling that, like entries in a ledger, they might have been classed as sundries. How I tried to get up thoughts and feelings to make out a decent day's chronicle! How I threw in profound remarks on what I had read, sketches of character, caricatures of the teachers, even condescending to give the bill of fare; here, too, there might have been a great many dittos. Had I kept a record of my dream-life, what a variety there would have been! what extravagances, exceeded by nothing out of the Arabian Nights' Entertainments. Then, if I could have illuminated each day's page with my own fancy portrait of myself, the Book of Beauty would not have been a circumstance to my journal. Certainly, among these portraits would not have been that plain, snub-nosed daguerreotype, sealed and directed to a dear home friend; but to the dear home friend no picture in the Book of Beauty or my fancy journal would have had such charms; and if the daguerreotype would not have illuminated this journal, it was itself illuminated by the light of a mother's love. Alas! this light never more can rest on and irradiate the plain face of Molly O'Molly.
After all, what a dull, monotonous life ours would be, if within this outer life there were not the inner life, the 'wheel within the wheel,' as in Ezekiel's vision. Though this inner wheel is 'lifted up whithersoever the spirit' wills 'to go,' the outer—unlike that in the vision—is not also lifted up; perhaps hereafter it will be.
The Mohammedans believe that, although unseen by mortals, 'the decreed events of every man's life are impressed in divine characters on his forehead.' If so, I shouldn't wonder if there was generally a large margin of forehead left, unless there is a great deal of repetition.... The record (not the prophecy) of the inner life, though it is hieroglyphed on the whole face too, is a scant one; not because there is but little to record, but because only results are chronicled. Like the Veni, vidi, vici, of Caesar. Veni; nothing of the weary march. Vidi; nothing of the doubts, fears, and anxieties. Vici; nothing of the fierce struggle.
One thing is certain; though we can not read the divine imprint on the forehead, we know that either there or on the face, either as prophecy or record, is written, grief. Grief, the burden of the sadly-beautiful song of the poet; yet we find, alas! that grief is grief. And the poet's woe is also the woe of common mortals, though his soul is so strung that every breeze that sweeps over it is changed to melody. The wind that wails, and howls, and shrieks around the corners of streets, among the leafless branches of trees, through desolate houses, is the same wind that sweeps the silken strings of the AEolian harp.
Then there is care, most often traced on the face of woman, the care of responsibility or of work, sometimes of both. A man, however hard he may labor, if he loses a day, does not always find an accumulation of work; but with poor, over-worked woman, it is, work or be overwhelmed with work, as in the punishment of prisoners, it is, pump or drown. I can not understand how women do get along who, with the family of John Rogers' wife, assisted only by the eldest daughter, a girl of thirteen, wash, iron, bake, cook, wash dishes, and sew for the family, coats and pantaloons included, and that too without the help of a machine. Oh! that pile of sewing always cut out, to be leveled stitch by stitch; for, unlike water, it never will find its own level, unless its level be Mont Blanc, for to such a hight it would reach if left to itself. I could grow eloquent on the subject, but forbear.
Croakers to the contrary notwithstanding, there is in the record of our past lives, or in the prophecy of our future, another word than grief or care; it is joy. My friend, could your history be truthfully written, and printed in the old style, are there not many passages that would shine beautifully in golden letters? I say truthfully written; for we are so apt to forget our joys, while we remember our griefs. Perhaps this is because joy and its effects are so evanescent. Leland talks beautifully of 'the perfumed depths of the lotus-word, joyousness;' but in this world we only breathe the perfume. Could we eat the lotus!... The fabled lotus-eater wished never to leave the isle whence he had plucked it. Wrapped in dreamy selfishness, unnerved for the toil of reaching the far-off shore, he grew indifferent to country and friends.... So earth would be to us an enchanted isle. The stern toil by which we are to reach that better land, our home, would become irksome to us. It is well for us that we can only breathe the perfume.
Then, too, the deepest woe we may know—not the highest joy—that is bliss beyond even our capacity of dreaming. Some one, in regard to the ladder Jacob saw in his dream, says: 'But alas! he slept at the foot.' That any ladder should be substantial enough for cumbersome mortality to climb to heaven, was too great an impossibility even for a dream.
But read for yourself the faces that swirl through the streets of a city. Now and then there is one on which the results of all evil passions are traced. Were it not for the brute in it, it might be mistaken for the face of a fiend. Though such are few, too many bear the impress of at least one evil passion. Every passion, unbitted and unbridled, hurries the soul bound to it—as Mazeppa was bound to the wild horse—to certain destruction.... But I—as all things hasten to the end—will mention one word more—the finis of the prophecy—the stamp on the seal of the record—Death.... We will not dwell on it. Who more than glances at the finis, who studies the plain word stamped on the seal?
Yours, MOLLY O'MOLLY.
I have read of a young Indian girl, disguised as her lover, whom she had assisted to escape from captivity, fleeing from her pursuers, till she reached the brink of a deep ravine; before her is a perpendicular wall of rock; behind, the foe, so near that she can hear the crackling of the dry branches under their tread; yet nearer they come; she almost feels their breath on her cheek; it is useless to turn at bay; there is hardly time to measure with her eye the depth of the ravine, or its width. A step back, another forward, an almost superhuman leap, and she has cleared the awful chasm.... 'Look before you leap,' is one of caution's maxims. We may stand looking till it is too late to leap. There are times when we must put our 'fate to the touch, to win or lose it all;' there are times when doubt, hesitation, caution is certain destruction. You are crossing a frozen pond, firm by the shore, but as you near the centre, the ice beneath your feet begins to crack; hesitate, attempt to retrace your steps, and you are gone. Did you ever cross a rapid stream on an unhewn foot-log? You looked down at the swift current, stopped, turned back, and over you went. You would climb a steep mountain-side. Half-way up, look not from the dizzy hight, but press on, grasping every tough laurel and bare root; but hasten, the laurel may break, and you lose your footing. 'If thy heart fail thee, climb not at all;' but once resolved to climb, leave thy caution at the foot. Before you give battle to the enemy, be cautious, reckon well your chances of winning or losing; above all, be sure of the justice of your cause; but once flung into the fierce fight, then with 'Dieu et mon droit!' for your battle-cry, let not 'discretion' be any 'part of' your 'valor.'
Then your careful, hesitating people are cautious where there is no need of caution, they feel their way on the highways and by-ways of life, as you have seen a person when fording a stream with whose bed he was unacquainted. I'd rather fall down and pick myself up a dozen times a day, than thus grope my way along.
There is Nancy Primrose. I have good reason to remember her. She was, in my childhood, always held up to me as a pattern. She used to come to school with such smooth, clean pantalets, while mine were splashed with mud, drabbled by the wet grass, or all wrinkles from having been rolled up. She would go around a rod to avoid a mud-puddle, or if she availed herself of the board laid down for the benefit of pedestrians, she never, as I was sure to do, stepped on one end, so the other came down with a splash. The starch never was taken out of her sun-bonnet by the rain, for if there was 'a cloud as big as a man's hand,' she took an umbrella. It was well that she never climbed the mountain-side, for she would have surely fallen. It was well that she never crossed a foot-log, unless it was hewn and had a railing, for she would have certainly been ducked. It was well she never went on thin ice, (she didn't venture till the other girls had tried it,) she would have broken through. Her caution, I must say, was of the right kind; it always preceded her undertaking. She had such a 'wholesome fear of consequences,' that she never played truant, as one whom I could mention did. Indeed, antecedents and consequents were always associated in her mind. She never risked any thing for herself or any one else.... Of course, she is still Miss Nancy, (I am 'Aunt Molly' to all my friends' children,) though it is said that she might have been Mrs.——. Mr.——, a widower of some six months' standing, thinking it time to commence his probation—the engagement preparatory to being received into the full matrimonial connection—made some advances toward Miss Nancy, she being the nearest one verging on 'an uncertain age,' (you know widowers always go the rounds of the old maids.) Though, in a worldly point of view, he was an eligible match, she, from her fixed habits of caution, half-hesitated as to whether it was best to receive his attentions—he got in a hurry (you know widowers are always in a hurry) and married some one else.... I don't think Miss Nancy would venture to love any man before marriage—engagements are as liable to be broken as thin ice, and it isn't best to throw away love. As for her giving it unasked!... How peacefully her life flows along—or rather, it hardly flows at all, about as much as a mill-pond—with such a small bit of heaven and earth reflected in it. Oh! that placidity!—better have some great, heavy, splashing sorrow thrown into it than that ever calm surface.... As for me—it was a good thing that I was a girl—rash, never counting the cost, without caution, it is well that I have to tread the quiet paths of domestic life. Had I been a boy, thrown out into the rough, dangerous world, I'd have rushed over the first precipice, breaking my moral, or physical neck, or both. As it is, had I been like Miss Nancy, I would have been spared many an agony, and—many an exquisite joy.
You may be sure that I have well learned all of caution's maxims; they have, all my life, been dinged into my ears. Now I hate most maxims. Though generally considered epitomes of wisdom, they should, almost all of them, be received with a qualification. What is true in one case is not true in another; what is good for one, is not good for another. You, as far as you are concerned, in exactly the same manner draw two lines, one on a plane, the other on a sphere; one line will be straight, the other curved. So does every truth, even, make a different mark on different minds. This is one reason that I hate most maxims, they never accommodate themselves to circumstances or individuals. The maxim that would make one man a careful economist, would make another a miser. 'One man's meat is another man's poison;' one man's truth is another man's falsehood.
But how many mistaken ideas have been embodied in maxims—fossilized, I may say! It would have been better to let them die the natural death of falsehood, and they might have sprung up in new forms of truth—truth that never dies. What a vitality it has—a vitality that can not be dried out by time, nor crushed out by violence. You know how in old mummy-cases have been found grains of wheat, which, being sown, sprang up, and bore a harvest like that which waved in the breeze on the banks of the Nile. You know how God's truth—all truth is God's truth—was shut up in that old mummy-case, the monastery, and how, when found by one Luther, and sown broadcast, it sprang up, and now there is hardly an island, or a river's bank, on which it has not fallen and does not bear abundant fruit. The 'heel of despotism' could not crush out its life; ages hence it will be said of it: 'It still lives.'
And still lives, yours,
'THAT LAST DITCH.'
Many reasons have been assigned for the Chivalry's determining to die in that last ditch. One William Shakspeare puts into the mouth of Enobarbus, in Antony and Cleopatra, the best reason we have yet seen. 'Tis thus:
'I will go seek Some ditch wherein to die: THE FOUL BEST FITS MY LATTER PART OF LIFE.'
HOPEFUL TACKETT—HIS MARK.
BY RICHARD WOLCOTT, 'TENTH ILLINOIS.'
'An' the Star-Spangle' Banger in triump' shall wave O! the lan dov the free-e-e, an' the ho mov the brave.'
Thus sang Hopeful Tackett, as he sat on his little bench in the little shop of Herr Kordwaener, the village shoemaker. Thus he sang, not artistically, but with much fervor and unction, keeping time with his hammer, as he hammered away at an immense 'stoga.' And as he sang, the prophetic words rose upon the air, and were wafted, together with an odor of new leather and paste-pot, out of the window, and fell upon the ear of a ragged urchin with an armful of hand-bills.
'Would you lose a leg for it, Hope?' he asked, bringing to bear upon Hopeful a pair of crossed eyes, a full complement of white teeth, and a face promiscuously spotted with its kindred dust.
'For the Banger?' replied Hopeful; 'guess I would. Both on 'em—an' a head, too.'
'Well, here's a chance for you.' And he tossed him a hand-bill.
Hopeful laid aside his hammer and his work, and picked up the hand-bill; and while he is reading it, let us briefly describe him. Hopeful is not a beauty, and he knows it; and though some of the rustic wits call him 'Beaut,' he is well aware that they intend it for irony. His countenance runs too much to nose—rude, amorphous nose at that—to be classic, and is withal rugged in general outline and pimply in spots. His hair is decidedly too dingy a red to be called, even by the utmost stretch of courtesy, auburn; dry, coarse, and pertinaciously obstinate in its resistance to the civilizing efforts of comb and brush. But there is a great deal of big bone and muscle in him, and he may yet work out a noble destiny. Let us see.
By the time he had spelled out the hand-bill, and found that Lieutenant —— was in town and wished to enlist recruits for Company ——, —— Regiment, it was nearly sunset; and he took off his apron, washed his hands, looked at himself in the piece of looking-glass that stuck in the window—a defiant look, that said that he was not afraid of all that nose—took his hat down from its peg behind the door, and in spite of the bristling resistance of his hair, crowded it down over his head, and started for his supper. And as he walked he mused aloud, as was his custom, addressing himself in the second person, 'Hopeful, what do you think of it? They want more soldiers, eh? Guess them fights at Donelson and Pittsburg Lannen 'bout used up some o' them ridgiments. By Jing!' (Hopeful had been piously brought up, and his emphatic exclamations took a mild form.) 'Hopeful, 'xpect you'll have to go an' stan' in some poor feller's shoes. 'Twon't do for them there blasted Seceshers to be killin' off our boys, an' no one there to pay 'em back. It's time this here thing was busted! Hopeful, you an't pretty, an' you an't smart; but you used to be a mighty nasty hand with a shot-gun. Guess you'll have to try your hand on old Borey's [Beauregard's] chaps; an' if you ever git a bead on one, he'll enter his land mighty shortly. What do you say to goin'? You wanted to go last year, but mother was sick, an' you couldn't; and now mother's gone to glory, why, show your grit an' go. Think about it, any how.'
And Hopeful did think about it—thought till late at night of the insulted flag, of the fierce fights and glorious victories, of the dead and the dying lying out in the pitiless storm, of the dastardly outrages of rebel fiends—thought of all this, with his great warm heart overflowing with love for the dear old 'Banger,' and resolved to go. The next morning, he notified his 'boss' of his intention to quit his service for that of Uncle Sam. The old fellow only opened his eyes very wide, grunted, brought out the stocking, (a striped relic of the departed Frau Kordwaener,) and from it counted out and paid Hopeful every cent that was due him. But there was one thing that sat heavily upon Hopeful's mind. He was in a predicament that all of us are liable to fall into—he was in love, and with Christina, Herr Kordwaener's daughter. Christina was a plump maiden, with a round, rosy face, an extensive latitude of shoulders, and a general plentitude and solidity of figure. All these she had; but what had captivated Hopeful's eye was her trim ankle, as it had appeared to him one morning, encased in a warm white yarn stocking of her own knitting. From this small beginning, his great heart had taken in the whole of her, and now he was desperately in love. Two or three times he had essayed to tell her of his proposed departure; but every time that the words were coming to his lips, something rushed up into his throat ahead of them, and he couldn't speak. At last, after walking home from church with her on Sunday evening, he held out his hand and blurted out:
'Well, good-by. We're off to-morrow.'
Christina didn't faint. She didn't take out her delicate and daintily perfumed mouchoir, to hide the tears that were not there. She looked at him for a moment, while two great real tears rolled down her cheeks, and then—precipitated all her charms right into his arms. Hopeful stood it manfully—rather liked it, in fact. But this is a tableau that we've no right to be looking at; so let us pass by how they parted—with what tears and embraces, and extravagant protestations of undying affection, and wild promises of eternal remembrance; there is no need of telling, for we all know how foolish young people will be under such circumstances. We older heads know all about such little matters, and what they amount to. Oh! yes, certainly we do.
The next morning found Hopeful, with a dozen others, in charge of the lieutenant, and on their way to join the regiment. Hopeful's first experience of camp-life was not a singular one. He, like the rest of us, at first exhibited the most energetic awkwardness in drilling. Like the rest of us, he had occasional attacks of home-sickness; and as he stood at his post on picket in the silent night-watches, while the camps lay quietly sleeping in the moonlight, his thoughts would go back to his far-away home, and the little shop, and the plentiful charms of the fair-haired Christina. So he went on, dreaming sweet dreams of home, but ever active and alert, eager to learn and earnest to do his duty, silencing all selfish suggestions of his heart with the simple logic of a pure patriotism.
'Hopeful,' he would say, 'the Banger's took care o' you all your life, an' now you're here to take care of it. See that you do it the best you know how.'
It would be more thrilling and interesting, and would read better, if we could take our hero to glory amid the roar of cannon and muskets, through a storm of shot and shell, over a serried line of glistening bayonets. But strict truth—a matter of which newspaper correspondents, and sensational writers, generally seem to have a very misty conception—forbids it.
It was only a skirmish—a bush-whacking fight for the possession of a swamp. A few companies were deployed as skirmishers, to drive out the rebels.
'Now, boys,' shouted the captain, 'after'em! Shoot to kill, not to scare 'em!'
'Ping! ping!' rang the rifles.
'Z-z-z-z-vit!' sang the bullets.
On they went, crouching among the bushes, creeping along under the banks of the brook, cautiously peering from behind trees in search of 'butternuts.'
Hopeful was in the advance; his hat was lost, and his hair more defiantly bristling than ever. Firmly grasping his rifle, he pushed on, carefully watching every tree and bush, A rebel sharp-shooter started to run from one tree to another, when, quick as thought, Hopeful's rifle was at his shoulder, a puff of blue smoke rose from its mouth, and the rebel sprang into the air and fell back—dead. Almost at the same instant, as Hopeful leaned forward to see the effect of his shot, he felt a sudden shock, a sharp, burning pain, grasped at a bush, reeled, and sank to the ground.
'Are you hurt much, Hope?' asked one of his comrades, kneeling beside him and staunching the blood that flowed from his wounded leg.
'Yes, I expect I am; but that red wamus over yonder's redder 'n ever now. That feller won't need a pension.'
They carried him back to the hospital, and the old surgeon looked at the wound, shook his head, and briefly made his prognosis.
'Bone shattered—vessels injured—bad leg—have to come off. Good constitution, though; he'll stand it.'
And he did stand it; always cheerful, never complaining, only, regretting that he must be discharged—that he was no longer able to serve his country.
And now Hopeful is again sitting on his little bench in Mynheer Kordwaener's little shop, pegging away at the coarse boots, singing the same glorious prophecy that we first heard him singing. He has had but two troubles since his return. One is the lingering regret and restlessness that attends a civil life after an experience of the rough, independent life in camp. The other trouble was when he first saw Christina after his return. The loving warmth with which she greeted him pained him; and when the worthy Herr considerately went out of the room, leaving them alone, he relapsed into gloomy silence. At length, speaking rapidly, and with choked utterance, he began:
'Christie, you know I love you now, as I always have, better 'n all the world. But I'm a cripple now—no account to nobody—just a dead weight—an' I don't want you, 'cause o' your promise before I went away, to tie yourself to a load that'll be a drag on you all your life. That contract—ah—promises—an't—is—is hereby repealed! There!' And he leaned his head upon his hands and wept bitter tears, wrung by a great agony from his loving heart.
Christie gently laid her hand upon his shoulder, and spoke, slowly and calmly: 'Hopeful, your soul was not in that leg, was it?'
It would seem as if Hopeful had always thought that such was the case, and was just receiving new light upon the subject, he started up so suddenly.
'By jing! Christie!' And he grasped her hand, and—but that is another of those scenes that don't concern us at all. And Christie has promised next Christmas to take the name, as she already has the heart, of Tackett. Herr Kordwaener, too, has come to the conclusion that he wants a partner, and on the day of the wedding a new sign is to be put up over a new and larger shop, on which 'Co.' will mean Hopeful Tackett. In the mean time, Hopeful hammers away lustily, merrily whistling, and singing the praises of the 'Banger.' Occasionally, when he is resting, he will tenderly embrace his stump of a leg, gently patting and stroking it, and talking to it as to a pet. If a stranger is in the shop, he will hold it out admiringly, and ask:
'Do you know what I call that? I call that 'Hopeful Tackett—his mark.''
And it is a mark—a mark of distinction—a badge of honor, worn by many a brave fellow who has gone forth, borne and upheld by a love for the dear old flag, to fight, to suffer, to die if need be, for it; won in the fierce contest, amid the clashing strokes of the steel and the wild whistling of bullets; won by unflinching nerve and unyielding muscle; worn as a badge of the proudest distinction an American can reach. If these lines come to one of those that have thus fought and suffered—though his scars were received in some unnoticed, unpublished skirmish, though official bulletins spoke not of him, 'though fame shall never know his story'—let them come as a tribute to him; as a token that he is not forgotten; that those that have been with him through the trials and the triumphs of the field, remember him and the heroic courage that won for him by those honorable scars; and that while life is left to them they will work and fight in the same cause, cheerfully making the same sacrifices, seeking no higher reward than to take him by the hand and call him 'comrade,' and to share with him the proud consciousness of duty done. Shoulder-straps and stars may bring renown; but he is no less a real hero who, with rifle and bayonet, throws himself into the breach, and, uninspired by hope of official notice, battles manfully for the right.
Hopeful Tackett, humble yet illustrious, a hero for all time, we salute you.
JOHN BULL TO JONATHAN.
You grow too fast, my child! Your stalwart limbs, Herculean in might, now rival mine; The starry light upon your forehead dims The lustre of my crown—distasteful sign. Contract thy wishes, boy! Do not insist Too much on what's thine own—thou art too new! Bend and curtail thy stature! As I list, It is my glorious privilege to do. Take my advice—I freely give it thee— Nay, would enforce it. I am ripe in years— Let thy young vigor minister to me! Restrain thy freedom when it interferes! No rival must among the nations be To jeopardize my own supremacy!
JONATHAN TO JOHN BULL.
Thanks for your kind advice, my worthy sire! Though thrust upon me, and but little prized. The offices you modestly require, I reckon, will be scarcely realized. My service to you! but not quite so far That I will lop a limb, or force my lips To gratify your longing. Not a star Of my escutcheon shall your fogs eclipse! Let noble deeds evince my parentage. No rival I; my aim is not so low: In nature's course, youth soon outstrippeth age, And is survivor at its overthrow. Freedom is Heaven's best gift. Thanks! I am free, Nor will acknowledge your supremacy!
AMERICAN STUDENT LIFE.
SOME MEMORIES OF YALE.
'Through many an hour of summer suns, By many pleasant ways, Like Hezekiah's, backward runs The shadow of my days. I kiss the lips I once have kissed; The gas-light wavers dimmer; And softly through a vinous mist, My college friendships glimmer.'
—Will Waterproof's Lyrical Monologue.
It is now I dare not say how many years since the night that chum and I, emerging from No. 24, South College, descended the well-worn staircase, and took our last stroll beneath the heavy shadows that darkly hung from the old elms of our Alma Mater. Commencement, with its dazzling excitement, its galleries of fair faces to smile and approve, its gathered wisdom to listen and adjudge, was no longer the goal of our student-hopes; and the terrible realization that our joyous college-days were over, now pressed hard upon us as we paced slowly along, listening to the low night wind among the summer leaves overhead, or looking up at the darkened windows whence the laugh and song of class-mates had so oft resounded to vex with mirth the drowsy ear of night—and tutors. I thought then, as I have often thought since, that our student-life must be 'the golden prime' compared with which all coming time would be as silver, brass, or iron. Here youth with its keenness of enjoyment and generous heartiness; freedom from care, smooth-browed and mirthful; liberal studies refining and elevating withal; the Numbers, whose ready sympathy had divided sorrow and multiplied joy, were associated as they never could be again; and so I doubt not many a one has felt as he stood at the door of academic life and looked away over its sunny meadows to the dark woodlands and rugged hillsides of world-life. How throbbed in old days the wandering student's heart as on the distant hill-top he turned to take a last look at disappearing Bologna and remembered the fair curtain-lecturing Novella de Andrea—fair prototype of modern Mrs. Caudle; how his spirits rose when, like Lucentio, he came to 'fair Padua, nursery of arts;' or how he mused for the last time wandering beside the turbid Arno, in
'Pisa, renowned for grave citizens,'
we wot not. Little do we know either of the ancient 'larks' of the Sorbonne, of Leyden, Utrecht, and Amsterdam; somewhat less, in spite of gifted imagining, of The Student of Salamanca. But Howitt's Student Life in Germany, setting forth in all its noisy, smoking, beer-drinking conviviality the significance of the Burschenleben,
'I am an unmarried scholar and a free man;'
Bristed's Five Years in an English University, congenial in its setting forth of the Cantab's carnal delights and intellectual jockeyism; The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an Oxford Freshman, wherein one 'Cuthbert Bede, B.A.' has by 'numerous illustrations' of numerous dissipations, given as good an idea as is desirable of the 'rowing men' in that very antediluvian receptacle of elegant scholarship; are all present evidences of the affectionate interest with which the graduate reverts to his college days. In like manner Student Life in Scotland has engaged the late attention of venerable Blackwood, while the pages of Putnam, in Life in a Canadian College, and Fireside Travels, have given some idea of things nearer home, some little time ago. But while numerous pamphlets and essays have been written on our collegiate systems of education, the general development and present doings of Young America in the universities remain untouched.
The academic influences exerted over American students are, it must be premised, vastly different from those of the old world. Imprimis, our colleges are just well into being. Reaching back into no dim antiquity, their rise and progress are traceable from their beginnings—beginnings not always the greatest. Thus saith the poet doctor of his Alma Mater:
'Pray, who was on the Catalogue When college was begun? Two nephews of the President, And the Professor's son, (They turned a little Indian by, As brown as any bun;) Lord! how the Seniors knocked about That Freshman class of one!'
From small beginnings and short lives our colleges have gathered neither that momentum of years heavy with mighty names and weighty memories, nor of wealth heaping massive piles and drawing within their cloistered walls the learning of successive centuries which carries the European universities crashing down the ages, though often heavy laden with the dead forms of mediaeval preciseness. No established church makes with them common cause, no favoring and influential aristocracy gives them the careless security of a complete protection. Their development thus far has been under very different influences. Founded in the wilderness by our English ancestors, they were, at first, it is true, in their course of study and in foolish formula of ceremony an imperfect copy of trans-Atlantic originals. Starting from this point, their course has been shaped according to the peculiar genius of our institutions and people. Republican feeling has dispensed with the monastic dress, the servile demeanor toward superiors, and the ceremonious forms which had lost their significance. The peculiar wants of a new country have required not high scholarship, but more practical learning to meet pressing physical wants. Again, our numerous religious sects requiring each a nursery of its own children, and the great extent of our country, have called, or seemed to call (in spite of continually increasing facility of intercourse) for some one hundred and twenty colleges within our borders. Add to this a demand not peculiar but general—the increased claim of the sciences and of modern languages upon our regard—and the accompanying fallacy of supposing Latin and Greek heathenish and useless, and we have a summary view of the influences bearing upon our literary institutions. Hence both good and evil have arisen. Our colleges easily conforming in their youthful and supple energy, have met the demands of the age. They have thrown aside their monastic gowns and quadrangular caps. They have in good degree given up the pedantic follies of Latin versification and Hebrew orations. Their walls have arisen alike in populous city and lonely hamlet, and in poverty and insignificance they have been content could they give depth and breadth to any small portion of the national mind. They have conceded to Science the place which her rapid and brilliant progress demanded. On the other hand, however, we see long and well-proven systems of education profaned by the ignorant hands of superficial reformers. We see the colleges themselves dragging on a precarious life, yet less revered than cherished by fostering sects, and more hooted at by the advocates of potato-digging and other practical pursuits, than defended by their legitimate protectors. It is not to be denied that there is a powerful element of Materialism among us, and that too often we neither appreciate nor respect the earnest, abstruse scholar. The progress of humanity must be shouted in popular catch-words from the house-tops, and the noisy herald appropriates the laudation of him who in pain and weariness traced the hidden truth. We hear men of enlarged thought and lofty views derided as old fogies because beyond unassisted appreciation, until we are half-tempted to believe the generation to be multiplied Ephraims given to their idols, who had best be let alone.
The American student, under these influences, differs somewhat from his European brethren. He is younger by two or three years. Though generally from the better class, he is more, perhaps, identified with the mass of the people, and is more of a politician than a scholar. His remarks upon the Homeric dialects, however laudatory, are most suspiciously vague, and though he escape such slight errors as describing the Gracchi as a barbarous tribe in the north of Italy or the Piraeus as a meat-market of Athens, you must beware of his classical allusions. On the other hand he is more moral, a more independent thinker and a freer man than his prototype across the sea. His fault is, as Bristed says, that he is superficial; his virtue, that he is straightforward and earnest in aiming at practical life.
Such may suffice for a few general remarks. But some memories of one of our most important universities will better set forth the habits and customs of the joyous student-life than farther wearisome generality.
The pleasant days are gone that I dreamed away beneath the green arcades of the fair Elm City. But still come the budding spring and the blooming summer to embower those quiet streets and to fill the morning hour with birds' sweet singing. Still comes the gorgeous autumn—the dead summer lain in state—and the cloud-robed winter to round the circling year. Still streams the golden sunlight through the green canopies of tented elms, and still, I ween, do pretty school-girls (feminine of student) loiter away in flirting fascination the holiday afternoons beneath their shade. Still do our memories haunt those old walks we loved so well: the avenue shaded and silent like grove of Academe, fit residence of colloquial man of science or genial metaphysician; the old cemetery with its brown ivy-grown wall, its dark, massive evergreens, and moss-grown stones, that, before years had effaced the inscription, told the mortal story of early settler; elm-arched Temple street, where the midnight moon shone so softly through the dark masses of foliage and slept so sweetly on the sloping green. Still do those old wharves and warehouses—ancient haunts of colonial commerce and scenes of continental struggle—rest there in dusty quiet, hearing but murmurs of the noisy merchant-world without; and the fair bay lies silent among those green hills that slope southward to the Sound. Methinks I hear the ripple of its moonlit waves as in the summer night it upbore our gallant boat and its fair freight; the far-off music stealing o'er the bright waters; the distant rattling of some paid-out cable as a newly arrived bark anchors down the bay; or the lonely baying of a watch-dog at some farm-house on the hight. I see the sail-boats bending under their canvas and dashing the salt spray from their bows as they rush through the smooth water, and the oyster-boats cleaving the clear brine like an arrow, bound for Fair Haven, of many shell-fish; while sturdy sloops and schooners—suggestive of lobsters or pineapples—bow their big heads meekly and sway themselves at rest. I see again those long lines of green-wooded slope, here crowned by a lonely farm-house musing solitary on the hills as it looks off on the blue Sound, there ending abruptly in a weather-worn cliff of splintered trap, or anon bringing down some arable acres to the very beach, where a gray old cottage, kept in countenance by two or three rugged poplars, like the fisher's hut,
'In der blauen Fluth sich beschaut.'
Nor can I soon forget those wild hillsides, so glorious both when the summer floods of foliage came pouring down their sides, and when autumn, favorite child of the year, donned his coat of many colors and came forth to join his brethren. Then, on holiday-afternoon, free from student-care, we climbed the East or West Rock, and looked abroad over the distant city-spires, rock-ribbed hillside and sail-dotted sea; or threading the devious path to the Judges' Cave, where tradition said that in colonial times the regicides, Goffe and Whalley, lay hidden, read on the lone rock that in the winter wilderness overhung their bleak hiding-place, in an old inscription carved not without pain, in quaint letters of other years, the stern and stirring old watchword:
'RESISTANCE TO TYRANTS IS OBEDIENCE TO GOD.'
Or, going further, we climbed Mount Carmel, and looked from its steep cliff down into the solitary rock-strewn valley—
'Where storm and lightning from that huge gray wall, Had tumbled down vast blocks, and at the base Dashed them in fragments.'
Or went on to the Cheshire hillside, where the Roaring Brook, tumbling down the steep ravine, flashed its clear waters into whitest foam, and veiled the unsightly rocks with its snowy spray; or, perchance, in cumbrous boat, floated upon Lake Saltonstall, hermit of ponds, set like a liquid crystal in the emerald hills—an eyesore to luckless piscatory students, but highly favored of all lovers of ice, whether applied to the bottoms of ringing High Dutchers, or internally in shape of summer refrigerators.
In the midst of these pleasant haunts and this fair city, lies a sloping green of twenty or twenty-five acres, girt and bisected by rows of huge elms, and planted with three churches, whose spires glisten above the tall trees, and with a stuccoed State House, whose peeled columns and crumbling steps are more beautiful in conception than execution. On the upper side, looking down across, stretched out in a long line of eight hundred feet, the buildings of the college stand, in dense shade. Ugly barracks, four stories high, built of red brick, without a line of beautifying architecture, they yet have an ancient air of repose, buried there in the deep shade, that pleases even the fastidious eye. In the rear, an old laboratory, diverted from its original gastronomic purpose of hall, which in our American colleges has dispensed with commons, a cabinet, similarly metamorphosed, and containing some magnificent specimens of the New World's minerals; a gallery of portraits of college, colonial and revolutionary worthies—a collection of rare historical interest; a Gothic pile of library, built of brown sandstone, its slender towers crowned with grinning, uncouth heads, cut in stone, which are pointed out to incipient Freshmen as busts of members of the college faculty; and a castellated Gothic structure of like material, occupied by the two ancient literary fraternities, and notable toward the close of the academic year as the place where isolated Sophomores and Seniors write down the results of two years' study in the Biennial Examination—make up the incongruous whole of the college proper.
Such is the place where, about the middle of September, if you have been sojourning through the very quiet vacation in one of the almost deserted hotels of New-Haven, you will begin to be conscious of an awakening from the six weeks' torpor, (the long vacation of hurried Americans who must study forty weeks of the year.) Along the extended row of brick you will begin to discern aproned 'sweeps' clearing the month and a half's accumulated rubbish from the walks, beating carpets on the grass-plots, re-lining with new fire-brick the sheet-iron cylinder-stoves, more famous for their eminent Professor improver (may his shadow never be less!) than for their heating qualities, or furbishing old furniture purchased at incredibly low prices, of the last class, to make good as new for the Freshmen, periphrastically known as 'the young gentlemen who have lately entered college.' It may be, too, that your practiced eye will detect one of these fearful youths, who, coming from a thousand miles in the interior—from the prairies of the West or the bayous of the South—has arrived before his time, and now, blushing unseen, is reconnoitering the intellectual fortress which he hopes soon to storm with 'small Latin and less Greek,' or, perchance, remembering with sad face the distance of his old home and the strangeness of the new. A few days more, and hackmen drive down Chapel street hopefully, and return with trunks and carpet-bags outside and diversified specimens of student-humanity within—a Freshman, in spite of his efforts, showing that his as yet undeveloped character is 'summa integritate et innocentia;' a Sophomore, somewhat flashy and bad-hatted, a hard student in the worse sense, with much of the 'fortiter in re' in his bearing; a Junior, exhibiting the antithetical 'suaviter in modo;' a Senior, whose 'otium cum dignitate' at once distinguishes him from the vulgar herd of common mortals. Then succeed hearty greetings of meeting friends, great purchase of text-books, and much changing of rooms; students being migratory by nature, and stimulated thereto by the prospect of choice of better rooms conceded to advanced academical standing. In which state of things the various employes of college, including the trusty colored Aquarius, facetiously denominated Professor Paley, under the excitement of numerous quarters, greatly multiply their efforts.
But the chief interest of the opening year is clustered around the class about to unite its destinies with the college-world. A new century of students—
'The igneous men of Georgia, The ligneous men of Maine,'
the rough, energetic Westerner, the refined, lethargic metropolitan, with here and there a missionary's son from the Golden Horn or the isles of the Pacific or even a Chinese, long-queued and meta-physical, are to be divided between the two rival literary Societies. These having during the last term with great excitement elected their officers for the coming 'campaign,' and held numerous 'indignation meetings,' where hostile speeches and inquiries into the numbers to be sent down by the various academies were diligently prosecuted to the great neglect of debates and essays, now join issue with an adroitness on the part of their respective members which gives great promise for political life. Committees at the station-house await the arrival of every train, accost every individual of right age and verdancy; and, having ascertained that he is not a city clerk nor a graduate, relapsed into his ante-academic state, offer their services as amateur porters, guides, or tutors, according to the wants of the individual. Having thus ingratiated themselves, various are the ways of procedure. Should the new-comer prove confiding, perhaps he is told that 'there is one vacancy left in our Society, and if you wish, I will try and get it for you,' which, after a short absence, presumed to be occupied with strenuous effort, the amiable advocate succeeds in doing, to the great gratitude of his Freshman friend. But should he prove less tractable, and wish to hear both sides, then some comrade is perhaps introduced as belonging to the other Society, and is sorely worsted in a discussion of the respective excellencies of the two rival fraternities. Or if he be religious, the same disguised comrade shall visit him on the Sabbath, and with much profanity urge the claims of his supposititious Society. By such, and more honorable means, the destiny of each is soon fixed, and only a few stragglers await undecided the so-called 'Statement of Facts,' when with infinite laughter and great hustling of 'force committees,' they are preaedmitted to 'Brewster's Hall' to hear the three appointed orators of each Society laud themselves and deny all virtue to their opponents; which done, in chaotic state of mind they fall an easy prey to the strongest, and with the rest are initiated that very evening with lusty cheers and noisy songs and speeches protracted far into the night.
Nor less notable are the Secret Societies, two or three of which exist in every class, and are handed down yearly to the care of successors. With more quiet, but with busy effort, their members are carefully chosen and pledged, and with phosphorous, coffins, and dead men's bones, are awfully admitted to the mysteries of Greek initials, private literature, and secret conviviality. Being picked men, and united, they each form an imperium in imperio in the large societies much used by ambitious collegians. Curious as it may seem, too, many of these societies have gained some influence and notoriety beyond college walls. The Psi Upsilon, Alpha Delta Phi, and Delta Kappa Epsilon Societies, are now each ramified through a dozen or more colleges, having annual conventions, attended by numerous delegates from the several chapters, and by graduate members of high standing in every department of letters. Yet they have no deep significance like that of the Burschenschaft.
Close treading on the heels of Society movements, comes the annual foot-ball game between the Freshmen and Sophomores. The former having ad mores majorum given the challenge and received its acceptance, on some sunny autumn afternoon you may see the rival classes of perhaps a hundred men each, drawn up on the Green in battle and motley array, the latter consisting of shirt and pants, unsalable even to the sons of Israel, and huge boots, perhaps stuffed with paper to prevent hapless abrasion of shins. The steps of the State House are crowded with the 'upper classes,' and ladies are numerous in the balconies of the New-Haven Hotel. The umpires come forward, and the ground is cleared of intruders. There is a dead silence as an active Freshman, retiring to gain an impetus, rushes on; a general rush as the ball is warned; then a seizure of the disputed bladder, and futile endeavors to give it another impetus, ending in stout grappling and the endeavor to force it through. Now there is fierce issue; neither party gives an inch. Now there is a side movement and roll of the struggling orb as to relieve the pressure. Now one party gives a little, then closes desperately in again on the encouraged enemy. Now a dozen are down in a heap, and there is momentary cessation, then up and pressing on again. Here a fiery spirit grows pugnacious, but is restrained by his class-mates; there another has his shirt torn off him, and presents the picturesque appearance of an amateur scarecrow. There are, in short, both
'Breaches of peace and pieces of breeches,'
until the stronger party carries the ball over the bounds, or it gets without the crowd unobserved by most, and goes off hurriedly under the direction of some swift-footed player to the same goal. Then mighty is the cheering of the victors, and woe-begone the looks, though defiant the groans of the vanquished. And thus, with much noise and dispute, and great confounding of umpire, they continue for three, four, or five games, or until the evening chapel-bell calls to prayers. In the evening the victors sing paeans of victory by torch-light on the State House steps, and bouquets, supposed to be sent by the fair ones of the balconies, are presented and received with great glorification.
Nor less exciting and interesting in college annals, is the Burial of Euclid. The incipient Sophomores, assisted by the other classes, must perform duly the funeral rites of their friend of Freshman-days, by nocturnal services at the 'Temple.' Wherefore, toward midnight of some dark Wednesday evening in October, you may see masked and fantastically-dressed students by twos and threes stealing through the darkness to the common rendezvous. An Indian chief of gray leggins and grave demeanor goes down arm in arm with the prince of darkness, and a portly squire of the old English school communes sociably with a patriotic continental. Here is a reinforcement of 'Labs,' (students of chemistry,) noisy with numerous fish-horns; there a detachment of 'Medics,' appropriately armed with thigh-bones, according to their several resources. Then, when gathered within the hall, a crowded mass of ugly masks, shocking bad hats, and antique attire, look down from the steep slope of seats upon the stage where lies the effigy of Father Euclid, in inflammable state. After a voluntary by the 'Blow Hards,' 'Horne Blenders,' or whatever facetiously denominated band performs the music, there is a mighty singing of some Latin song, written with more reference to the occasion than to correct quantities, of which the following opening stanza may serve as a specimen:
'Fundite nunc lacrymas, Plorate Yalenses: Euclid rapuerunt fata, Membra et ejus inhumata Linquimus tres menses.'
The wild, grotesque hilarity of those midnight songs can never be forgotten. Then come poem and funeral oration, interspersed with songs, and music by the band—'Old Grimes is dead,' 'Music from the Spheres,' and other equally solemn and rare productions. Then are torches lighted, and two by two the long train of torch-bearers defiles through the silent midnight streets to the sound of solemn music, and passing by the dark cemetery of the real dead, bear through 'Tutor's Lane' the coffin of their mathematical ancestor. They climb the hill beyond, and commit him to the flames, invoking Pluto, in Latin prayer, and chanting a final dirge, while the flare of torches, the fearful grotesqueness of each uncouth disguised wight, and the dark background of the encircling forest, make the wild mirth almost solemn.
So ends the fun of the closing year; and with the exception of the various excitements of burlesque debate on Thanksgiving eve, when the smallest Freshman in either Society is elected President pro tempore; of the noctes ambrosianae of the secret societies; of appointments, prize essays, and the periodical issue of the Yale Literary, now a venerable periodical of twenty years' standing; the severe drill of college study finds little relaxation during the winter months. Three recitations or lectures each day, a review each day of the last lesson, review of and examination on each term's study, with two biennial examinations during the four years' course, require great diligence to excel, and considerable industry to keep above water. But with the returning spring the unused walks again are paced, and the dry keels launched into the vernal waters. Again, in the warm twilight of evening, you hear the laugh and song go up under the wide-spreading elms. Now, too, comes the Exhibition of the Wooden Spoon, where the low-appointment men burlesque the staid performances of college, and present the lowest scholar on the appointment-list with an immense spoon, handsomely carved from rosewood, and engraved with the convivial motto: 'Dum vivimus vivamus.'
Then, too, come those summer days upon the harbor, when the fleet club-boats, and their stalwart crews, like those of Alcinous,
[Greek: 'kouroi anarriptein ala pedo,']
in their showy uniforms, push out from Ryker's; some bound upward past the oyster-beds of Fair Haven, away up among the salt-marsh meadows, where the Quinnipiac wanders under quaint old bridges among fair, green hills; some for the Light, shooting out into the broad waters of the open bay, their feathered oars flashing in the sunlight; some for Savin's Rock, where among the cool cedars that overshadow the steep rock, they sing uproarious student-songs until the dreamy beauty of ocean, with its laughing sunlight, its white sails, and green, quiet shores, like visible music, shall steal in and fill the soul until the noisy hilarity becomes eloquent silence. And now, as in the twilight-hour they are again afloat, you may hear the song again:
'Many the mile we row, boys, Merry, merry the song; The joys of long ago, boys, Shall be remembered long. Then as we rest upon the oar, We raise the cheerful strain, Which we have often sung before, And gladly sing again.'
But perhaps the most interesting day of college-life is 'Presentation-Day,' when the Seniors, having passed the various ordeals of viva voce and written examinations, are presented by the senior tutor to the President, as worthy of their degrees. This ceremony is succeeded by a farewell poem and oration by two of the class chosen for the purpose, after which they partake of a collation with the college faculty, and then gather under the elms in front of the colleges. They seat themselves on a ring of benches, inside of which are placed huge tubs of lemonade, (the strongest drink provided for public occasions,) long clay pipes, and great store of mildest Turkey tobacco. Here, led on by an amateur band of fiddlers, flutists, etc., through the long afternoon of 'the leafy month of June,' surrounded by the other classes who crowd about in cordial sympathy, they smoke manfully, harangue enthusiastically, laugh uproariously, and sing lustily, beginning always with the glorious old Burschen song of 'Gaudeamus':
'Gaudeamus igitur Juvenes dum sumus: Post jucundam juventutem, Post molestam senectutem, Nos habebit humus.'
* * * * *
'Pereat tristitia, Pereant osores, Pereat diabolus, Quivis antiburschius Atque irrisores.'
Then as the shadows grow long, perhaps they sing again those stirring words which one returning to the third semi-centennial of his Alma Mater, wrote with all the warmth and power of manly affection:
* * * * *
'Count not the tears of the long-gone years, With their moments of pain and sorrow; But laugh in the light of their memories bright, And treasure them all for the morrow. Then roll the song in waves along, While the hours are bright before us, And grand and hale are the towers of Yale, Like guardians towering o'er us.
* * * * *
'Clasp ye the hand 'neath the arches grand That with garlands span our greeting. With a silent prayer that an hour as fair May smile on each after meeting: And long may the song, the joyous song, Roll on in the hours before us, And grand and hale may the elms of Yale For many a year bend o'er us.'
Then standing in closer circle, they pass around to give, each to each, a farewell grasp of the hand; and amid that extravagant merriment the lips begin to quiver, and eyes grow dim. Then, two by two, preceded by the miscellaneous band, playing 'The Road to Boston,' and headed by a huge base-viol, borne by two stout fellows, and played by a third, they pass through each hall of the long line of buildings, giving farewell cheers, and at the foot of one of the tall towers, each throws his handful of earth on the roots of an ivy, which, clinging about those brown masses of stone, in days to come, he trusts will be typical of their mutual, remembrance as he breathes the silent prayer: 'Lord, keep our memories green!'
So end the college-days of these most uproarious of mirth-makers and hardest of American students; and the hundred whose joys and sorrows have been identified through four happy years, are dispersed over the land. They are partially gathered again at Commencement, but the broken band is never completely united. On the third anniversary of their graduation, the first class-meeting takes place; and the first happy father is presented with a silver cup, suitably inscribed. On the tenth, twentieth, and other decennial years, the gradually diminishing band, in smaller and smaller numbers, meet about the beloved shrine, until only two or three gray-haired men clasp the once stout hand and renew the remembrance of 'the days that are gone.'
'They come ere life departs, Ere winged death appears. To throng their joyous hearts With dreams of sunnier years: To meet once more Where pleasures sprang, And arches rang With songs of yore.'
[Footnote 1: 'In the fourteenth century, Novella de Andrea, daughter of the celebrated canonist, frequently occupied her father's chair; and her beauty was so striking, that a curtain was drawn before her in order not to distract the attention of the students.']
[Footnote 2: Vol. i. p. 392.]
[Footnote 3: Vol. iii. pp. 379 and 473.]
[Footnote 4: The Linonian Society was founded in 1753; The Brothers in Unity, fifteen years later, in 1768.]
GO IN AND WIN.
Will nothing rouse the Northmen To see what they can do? When in one day of our war-growth The South are growing two? When they win a victory it always counts a pair, One at home in Dixie, and another over there!
North, you have spent your millions! North, you have sent your men! But if the war ask billions, You must give it all again. Don't stop to think of what you've done—it's very fine and true— But in fighting for our life, the thing is, what we've yet to do.
Who dares to talk of party, And the coming President, When the rebels threaten 'bolder raids,' And all the land is rent? How dare we learn 'they gather strength,' by every telegraph, If an army of a million could have scattered them like chaff!
What means it when the people Are prompt with blood and gold, That this devil-born rebellion Is growing two years old? The Nigger feeds them as of old, and keeps away their fears, While 'gayly into battle' go the 'Southern cavaliers.'
And the Richmond Whig, which lately Lay groveling in mud, Shows its mulatto insolence, And prates of 'better blood:' 'We ruled them in the Union; we can thrash them out of bounds: Ye are mad, ye drunken Helots—cap off, ye Yankee hounds!'
Yet the Northman has the power, And the North would not be still! Rise up! rise up, ye rulers! Send the people where ye will! Don't organize your victories—fly to battle with your bands— If you can find the brains to lead, we'll find the willing hands!
John Neal was born at the close of the last century, in Portland, Maine, where he now resides; and during sixty years it has not been decided whether he or his twin sister was the elder.
He was born in 1793. When he was four weeks old, he was fatherless. His school education began early, as his mother was a celebrated teacher. From his mother's school he went to the town school, where he once declared in our hearing that he 'got licked, frozen, and stupefied.' That he had a rough time, may be inferred from the fact that his parents were Quakers, and he, notwithstanding his peaceful birthright, fought his way through the school as 'Quaker Neal.' He went barefoot in those days through a great deal of trouble. Somewhere in his early life, he went to a Quaker boarding-school at Windham, where he always averred that they starved him through two winters, till it was a luxury to get a mouthful of brown bread that was not a crumb or fragment that some one had left. At this school the boys learned to sympathize in advance with Oliver Twist—to eat trash, till they would quarrel for a bit of salt fish-skin, and to generalize in their hate of Friends from very narrow data. We have heard Neal speak of the two winters he spent in that school as by far the most miserable six or eight months of his whole life.
Very early, we think at the age of twelve years, he was imprisoned behind a counter, and continued there till he was near twenty; and by the time he was twenty one, he had worked his way to a retail shop of his own in Court street, Boston. We next track him to Baltimore, where, in 1815, if we are not out in our chronology, John Pierpont, John Neal, and Joseph L. Lord were in partnership in a wholesale trade. Neal's somersets in business—from partnership to wholesale jobbing, which he went into on his own hook with a capital of one hundred and fifty dollars, and as he once said, in speaking of this remarkable business operation, 'with about as much credit as a lamp-lighter'—may not be any more interesting to the public than they were to him then; so we shall not be particular about them in this chapter of chronicles.
At Baltimore he was very successful, after he got at it, in making money, but failed after the peace in 1816. This failure made him a lawyer. With his characteristic impetuosity, he renounced and denounced trade, determined to study law, and beat the profession with its own weapons.
This impulse drove him at rather more than railroad speed. He studied as if a demon chased him. By computation of then Justice Story, he accomplished fourteen years' hard work in four. During this time he was reading largely in half-a-dozen languages that he knew nothing of when he began, and maintaining himself by writing, either as editor of The Telegraph, coeditor of The Portico, (for which he wrote near a volume octavo in a year or two,) and also as joint-editor of Paul Allen's Revolution, besides a tremendous avalanche of novels and poetry. We have amused ourself casting up the amount of this four years' labor. It seems entirely too large for the calibre of common belief, and we suppose Neal will hardly believe us, especially if he have grown luxurious and lazy in these latter days. Crowded into these four years, we find: for the Portico and Telegraph, and half-a-dozen other papers, ten volumes; 'Keep Cool,' two volumes; 'Seventy-Six,' two volumes; 'Errata,' two volumes; 'Niagara and Goldau,' two volumes; Index to Niles' Register, three volumes; 'Otho,' one volume; 'Logan,' four volumes; 'Randolph,' two volumes; Buckingham's Galaxy, Miscellanies, and Poetry, two volumes; making the incredible quantity of thirty volumes. He could no more have gone leisurely and carefully through this amount of work, than a skater could walk a mile a minute on his skates. The marvel is, that he got through it on any terms, not that he won his own disrespect forever. We do not wonder that he manufactured more bayonets than bee-stings for his literary armory, but we wonder that he became a literary champion at all. With all the irons Neal had in the fire, we are not to expect Addisonian paragraphs; and yet he has in his lifetime been mistaken for Washington Irving, as we can show by an extract from an old letter of his, which we will give by and by.
A power that could produce what Neal produced between 1819 and 1823, properly disciplined and economized, might have performed tasks analogous to those of the lightning, since it has been put in harness and employed to carry the mail. When genius has its day of humiliation for the wasted water of life, Neal may put on sackcloth, for he never economized his power; but for the soul's fire quenched in idleness, or smothered in worldliness, certainly for these years, he need wear no weeds.
His novels are always like a rushing torrent, never like a calm stream. They all are dignified with a purpose, with a determination to correct some error, to remedy some abuse, to do good in any number of instances. They are not unlike a field of teasels in blossom—there are the thorny points of this strange plant, and the delicate and exceedingly beautiful blossom beside, resting on the very points of a hundred lances, with their lovely lilac bloom. Those who have lived where teasels grow will understand this illustration. We doubt not it will seem very pointed and proper to Neal. It must be remembered that the teasel is a very useful article in dressing cloth, immense cards of them being set in machinery and made to pass over the cloth and raise and clean the nap. A criticism taking in all the good and bad points of these novels, would be too extensive to pass the door of any review or magazine, unless in an extra. They are full of the faults and virtues of their author's unformed character. Rich as a California mine, we only wish they could be passed through a gold-washer, and the genuine yield be thrown again into our literary currency.
The character of his poems is indicated by their titles, 'Niagara' and 'Goldau,' and by the nom de plume he thought proper to publish them under, namely, 'Jehu O. Cataract.' But portions of his poetry repudiate this thunderous parentage, and are soft as the whispering zephyr or the cooing of doves. The gentleness of strength has a double beauty: its own, and that of contrast. Still, the predominating character of Neal's poetry is the sweep of the wild eagle's wing and the roar of rushing waters.
We read his 'Otho' years since, when we were younger than now, and our pulse beat stronger; and we read it 'holding our breath to the end'—or this was the exact sensation we felt, as nearly as we can remember, twelve years ago.
The character of Neal's periodical writing was just suited to a working country, that was in too great a hurry to dine decently. People wanted to be arrested. If they could stop, they had brains enough to judge you and your wares; but they needed to be lassoed first, and lashed into quietness afterward, and then they would hear and revere the man who had been 'smart' enough to conquer them. John Neal seemed to be conscious of this without knowing it. A veritable woman in his intuitions, he spoke from them, and the heart of the people responded. The term 'live Yankee' was of his coinage, and it aptly christened himself.
Neal went to Europe in 1823, and remained three years. That an American could manage to maintain himself in England by writing, which Neal did, is a pregnant fact. But his power is better proved than in this way. He left America with a vow of temperance during his travels; he returned with it unbroken. Honor to the strong man! He had traveled through England and France, merely wetting his lips with wine. He wrote volumes for British periodicals, and also his 'Brother Jonathan' in three volumes. After looking over the catalogue of his labors for an hour, we always want to draw a long breath and rest. There is no doubt that since his return from Europe in 1826, he has written and published, in books and newspapers, what would make at least one hundred volumes duodecimo. It would be a hard fate for such an author to be condemned to read his own productions, for he would never get time to read any thing else.
Neal's peculiar style caused many oddities and extravagances to be laid at his door that did not belong there. From this fact of style, people thought he could not disguise himself on paper. This is a mistake, for his papers in Miller's European Magazine were attributed to Washington Irving. We transcribe the paragraph of a letter from Neal, promised above, and which we received years since:
'The papers I wrote for Miller's European Magazine have been generally attributed to no less a person than Washington Irving—a man whom I resemble just about as much in my person as in my writing. He, Addisonian and Goldsmithian to the back-bone, and steeped to the very lips in what is called classical literature, of which I have a horror and a loathing, as the deadest of all dead languages; he, foil of subdued pleasantry, quiet humor, and genial blandness, upon all subjects. I, altogether—but never mind. He is a generous fellow, and led the way to all our triumphs in that 'field of the cloth of gold' which men call the literary'.
Neal went to England a sort of Yankee knight-errant to fight for his country. He had the wisdom to fight with his visor down, and quarter on the enemy. He took heavy tribute from Blackwood and others for his articles vindicating America, which came to be extravagantly quoted and read. His article for Blackwood on the Five Presidents and the Five Candidates, portraying General Jackson to the life as he afterward proved to be, was translated into most of the European languages. I transcribe another paragraph from an old letter. It is too characteristic to remain unread by the public:
'For my paper on the Presidents, Blackwood sent me five guineas, and engaged me as a regular contributor, which I determined to be. But I ventured to write for other journals without consulting him; whereat he grew tetchy and impertinent, and I blew him up sky-high, recalled an article in type for which he had paid me fifteen guineas, (I wish he had kept it,) refunded the money, (I wish I hadn't,) and left him forever. But this I will say: Blackwood behaved handsomely to me from first to last, with one small exception, and showed more courage and good feeling toward 'my beloved country' while I was at the helm of that department, than any and all the editors, publishers, and proprietors in Britain. Give the devil his due, I say!'