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Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great
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Volume One
Little Journeys to the Homes of Good Men and Great

Publisher’s Preface • 800 Words
ORDER IT NOW
Elbert Hubbard
Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbard is dead, or should we say, has gone on his last Little Journey to the Great Beyond. But the children of his fertile brain still live and will continue to live and keep fresh the memory of their illustrious forebear.

Fourteen years were consumed in the preparation of the work that ranks today as Elbert Hubbard’s masterpiece. In Eighteen Hundred Ninety-four, the series of Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great was begun, and once a month for fourteen years, without a break, one of these little pilgrimages was given to the world. These little gems have been accepted as classics and will live. In all there are one hundred eighty Little Journeys that take us to the homes of the men and women who transformed the thought of their time, changed the course of empire, and marked the destiny of civilization. Through him, the ideas, the deeds, the achievements of these immortals have been given to the living present and will be sent echoing down the centuries.

Hubbard’s Little Journeys to the homes of these men and women have not been equaled since Plutarch wrote his forty-six parallel lives of the Greeks and Romans. And these were given to the world before the first rosy dawn of modern civilization had risen to the horizon. Without dwelling upon their achievements, Plutarch, with a trifling incident, a simple word or an innocent jest, showed the virtues and failings of his subject. As a result, no other books from classical literature have come down through the ages to us with so great an influence upon the lives of the leading men of the world. Who can recount the innumerable biographies that begin thus: “In his youth, our subject had for his constant reading, Plutarch’s Lives, etc.”? Emerson must have had in mind this silent, irresistible force that shaped the lives of the great men of these twenty centuries when he declared, “All history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons.”

Plutarch lived in the time of Saint Paul, and wrote of the early Greeks and Romans. After two thousand years Hubbard appeared, to bridge the centuries from Athens, in the golden age of Pericles, to America, in the wondrous age of Edison. With the magic wand of genius he touched the buried mummies of all time, and from each tomb gushed forth a geyser of inspiration.

Hugh Chalmers once remarked that, if he were getting out a Blue Book of America, he would publish Elbert Hubbard’s subscription-lists. Whether we accept this authoritative statement or not, there is no doubt that the pen of this immortal did more to stimulate the best minds of the country than any other American writer, living or dead. Eminent writers study Hubbard for style, while at the same time thousands of the tired men and women who do the world’s work read him for inspiration. Truly, this man wielded his pen like an archangel.

Not only as a writer does this many-sided genius command our admiration, but in many chosen fields, in all of which he excelled. As an institution, the Roycroft Shops would reflect credit upon the business acumen of the ablest men that America has produced in the field of achievement. The industry, it would seem, was launched to demonstrate the practicality of the high principles and philosophy preached by its founder, not only by the printed page, but from the platform. Right here let it be noted that, as a public speaker, Hubbard appeared before more audiences than any other lecturer of his time who gave the platform his undivided attention. Where, one asks in amazement, did this remarkable man find the inspiration for carrying forward his great work? It is no secret. It was drawn from his own little pilgrimages to the haunts of the great. Again like Plutarch, these miniature biographies were composed for the personal benefit of the writer. It was his own satisfaction and moral improvement that inspired the work.

Following Hubbard’s tragic death, the announcement was made from East Aurora that “The Philistine” Magazine would be discontinued—Hubbard had gone on a long journey and might need his “Philistine.” Besides, who was there to take up his pen? It was also a beautiful tribute to the father from the son.

The same spirit of devotion has prompted The Roycrofters to issue their Memorial Edition of the “Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great.” In no other way could they so fittingly perpetuate the memory of the founder of their institution as to liberate the influence that was such an important factor in molding the career of his genius. If he should cast a backward glance, he would nod his approval. If there is to be a memorial, certainly let it be a service to mankind. He would have us all tap the same source from which he drew his inspiration.

Autobiographical • 7,400 Words

The mintage of wisdom is to know that
rest is rust, and that real life is in love,
laughter and work.
Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbard
Elbert Hubbard

I have been asked to write an article about myself and the work in which I am engaged. I think I am honest enough to sink self, to stand outside my own personality, and answer the proposition.

Let me begin by telling what I am not, and thus reach the vital issue by elimination.

First, I am not popular in “Society,” and those who champion my cause in my own town are plain, unpretentious people.

Second, I am not a popular writer, since my name has never been mentioned in the “Atlantic,” “Scribner’s,” “Harper’s,” “The Century” or the “Ladies’ Home Journal.” But as a matter of truth, it may not be amiss for me to say that I have waited long hours in the entryway of each of the magazines just named, in days agone, and then been handed the frappe.

Third, I am not rich, as the world counts wealth.

Fourth, as an orator I am without the graces, and do scant justice to the double-breasted Prince Albert.

Fifth, the Roycroft Shop, to the welfare of which my life is dedicated, is not so large as to be conspicuous on account of size.

Sixth, personally, I am no ten-thousand-dollar beauty: the glass of fashion and the mold of form are far from mine.

Then what have I done concerning which the public wishes to know? Simply this:

In one obscure country village I have had something to do with stopping the mad desire on the part of the young people to get out of the country and flock to the cities. In this town and vicinity the tide has been turned from city to country. We have made one country village an attractive place for growing youth by supplying congenial employment, opportunity for education and healthful recreation, and an outlook into the world of art and beauty.

All boys and girls want to make things with their hands, and they want to make beautiful things, they want to “get along,” and I’ve simply given them a chance to get along here, instead of seeking their fortunes in Buffalo, New York or Chicago. They have helped me and I have helped them; and through this mutual help we have made head, gained ground upon the whole.

By myself I could have done nothing, and if I have succeeded, it is simply because I have had the aid and co-operation of cheerful, willing, loyal and loving helpers. Even now as I am writing this in my cabin in the woods, four miles from the village, they are down there at the Shop, quietly, patiently, cheerfully doing my work—which work is also theirs.

No man liveth unto himself alone: our interests are all bound up together, and there is no such thing as a man going off by himself and corraling the good.

When I came to this town there was not a house in the place that had a lavatory with hot and cold water attachments. Those who bathed, swam in the creek in the Summer or used the family wash tub in the kitchen in Winter. My good old partner, Ali Baba, has always prided himself on his personal cleanliness He is arrayed in rags, but underneath, his hide is clean, and better still, his heart is right. Yet when he first became a member of my household, he was obliged to take his Saturday-night tub out in the orchard, from Spring until Autumn came with withered leaves.

He used to make quite an ado in the kitchen, heating the water in the wash-boiler. Six pails of cistern-water, a gourd of soft soap, and a gunny-sack for friction were required in the operation. Of course, the Baba waited until after dark before performing his ablutions. But finally his plans were more or less disturbed by certain rising youth, who timed his habits and awaited his disrobing with o’erripe tomatoes. The bombardment, and the inability to pursue the enemy, turned the genial current of the Baba’s life awry until I put a bathroom in my house, with a lock on the door.

This bit of history I have mentioned for the dual purpose of shedding light on former bathing facilities in East Aurora, and more especially to show that once we had the hoodlum with us.

Hoodlumism is born of idleness; it is useful energy gone to seed. In small towns hoodlumism is rife, and the hoodlums are usually the children of the best citizens. Hoodlumism is the first step in the direction of crime. The hoodlum is very often a good boy who does not know what to do; and so he does the wrong thing. He bombards with tomatoes a good man taking a bath, puts ticktacks on windows, ties a tin can to the dog’s tail, takes the burs off your carriage-wheels, steals your chickens, annexes your horse-blankets, and scares old ladies into fits by appearing at windows wrapped in a white sheet. To wear a mask, walk in and demand the money in the family ginger-jar is the next and natural evolution.

To a great degree the Roycroft Shop has done away with hoodlumism in this village, and a stranger wearing a silk hat, or an artist with a white umbrella, is now quite safe upon our streets. Very naturally, the Oldest Inhabitant will deny what I have said about East Aurora—he will tell you that the order, cleanliness and beauty of the place have always existed. The change has come about so naturally, and so entirely without his assistance, that he knows nothing about it.

Truth when first presented is always denied, but later there comes a stage when the man says, “I always believed it.” And so the good old citizens are induced to say that these things have always been, or else they gently pooh-pooh them. However, the truth remains that I introduced the first heating-furnace into the town; bought the first lawn-mower; was among the first to use electricity for lights and natural gas for fuel; and so far, am the only one in town to use natural gas for power.

Until the starting of the Roycroft Shop, there were no industries here, aside from the regulation country store, grocery, tavern, blacksmith-shop and sawmill—none of which enterprises attempted to supply more than local wants.

There was Hamlin’s stock-farm, devoted to raising trotting-horses, that gave employment to some of the boys; but for the girls there was nothing. They got married at the first chance; some became “hired girls,” or, if they had ambitions, fixed their hearts on the Buffalo Normal School, raised turkeys, picked berries, and turned every honest penny towards the desire to get an education so as to become teachers. Comparatively, this class was small in number. Most of the others simply followed that undefined desire to get away out of the dull, monotonous, gossiping village; and so, craving excitement, they went away to the cities, and the cities swallowed them. A wise man has said that God made the country, man the city, and the devil the small towns.

The country supplies the city its best and its worst. We hear of the few who succeed, but of the many who are lost in the maelstrom we know nothing. Sometimes in country homes it is even forbidden to mention certain names. “She went to the city,” you are told—and there the history abruptly stops.

And so, to swing back to the place of beginning, I think the chief reason many good folks are interested in the Roycroft Shop is because here country boys and girls are given work at which they not only earn their living, but can get an education while doing it. Next to this is the natural curiosity to know how a large and successful business can be built up in a plain, humdrum village by simply using the talent and materials that are at hand, and so I am going to tell now how the Roycroft Shop came to start; a little about what it has done; what it is trying to do; and what it hopes to become. And since modesty is only egotism turned wrong side out, I will make no special endeavor to conceal the fact that I have had something to do with the venture.

In London, from about Sixteen Hundred Fifty to Sixteen Hundred Ninety, Samuel and Thomas Roycroft printed and made very beautiful books. In choosing the name “Roycroft” for our Shop we had these men in mind, but beyond this the word has a special significance, meaning King’s Craft—King’s craftsmen being a term used in the Guilds of the olden times for men who had achieved a high degree of skill—men who made things for the King. So a Roycrofter is a person who makes beautiful things, and makes them as well as he can. “The Roycrofters” is the legal name of our institution. It is a corporation, and the shares are distributed among the workers. No shares are held by any one but Roycrofters, and it is agreed that any worker who quits the Shop shall sell his shares back to the concern. This co-operative plan, it has been found, begets a high degree of personal diligence, a loyalty to the institution, a sentiment of fraternity and a feeling of permanency among the workers that is very beneficial to all concerned. Each worker, even the most humble, calls it “Our Shop,” and feels that he is an integral and necessary part of the Whole. Possibly there are a few who consider themselves more than necessary. Ali Baba, for instance, it is said, has referred to himself, at times, as the Whole Thing. And this is all right, too—I would never chide an excess of zeal: the pride of a worker in his worth and work is a thing to foster.

It’s the man who “doesn’t give a damn” who is really troublesome. The artistic big-head is not half so bad as apathy.

* * *

In the month of December, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-four, I printed the first “Little Journeys” in booklet form, at the local printing-office, having become discouraged in trying to find a publisher. But before offering the publication to the public, I decided to lay the matter again before G.P. Putnam’s Sons, although they had declined the matter in manuscript form. Mr. George H. Putnam rather liked the matter, and was induced to issue the periodical as a venture for one year. The scheme seemed to meet with success, the novel form of the publication being in its favor. The subscription reached nearly a thousand in six months; the newspapers were kind, and the success of the plan suggested printing a pamphlet modeled on similar lines, telling what we thought about things in general, and publishers and magazine-editors in particular.

There was no intention at first of issuing more than one number of this pamphlet, but to get it through the mails at magazine rates we made up a little subscription list and asked that it be entered at the post office at East Aurora as second-class matter. The postmaster adjusted his brass-rimmed spectacles, read the pamphlet, and decided that it surely was second class matter.

We called it “The Philistine” because we were going after the “Chosen People” in literature. It was Leslie Stephen who said, “The term Philistine is a word used by prigs to designate people they do not like.” When you call a man a bad name, you are that thing—not he. The Smug and Snugly Ensconced Denizens of Union Square called me a Philistine, and I said, “Yes, I am one, if a Philistine is something different from you.”

My helpers, the printers, were about to go away to pastures new; they were in debt, the town was small, they could not make a living. So they offered me their outfit for a thousand dollars. I accepted the proposition.

I decided to run “The Philistine” Magazine for a year—to keep faith with the misguided and hopeful parties who had subscribed—and then quit. To fill in the time, we printed a book: we printed it like a William Morris book—printed it just as well as we could. It was cold in the old barn where we first set up “The Philistine,” so I built a little building like an old English chapel right alongside of my house. There was one basement and a room upstairs. I wanted it to be comfortable and pretty, and so we furnished our little shop cozily. We had four girls and three boys working for us then. The Shop was never locked, and the boys and girls used to come around evenings. It was really more pleasant than at home.

I brought over a shelf of books from the library. Then I brought the piano, because the youngsters wanted to dance.

The girls brought flowers and birds, and the boys put up curtains at the windows. We were having a lot o’ fun, with new subscriptions coming in almost every day, and once in a while an order for a book.

The place got too small when we began to bind books, so we built a wing on one side; then a wing on the other side. To keep the three carpenters busy who had been building the wings, I set them to making furniture for the place. They made the furniture as good as they could—folks came along and bought it.

The boys picked up field-stones and built a great, splendid fireplace and chimney at one end of the Shop. The work came out so well that I said, “Boys, here is a great scheme—these hardheads are splendid building material.” So I advertised we would pay a dollar a load for niggerheads. The farmers began to haul stones; they hauled more stones, and at last they had hauled four thousand loads. We bought all the stone in the dollar limit, bulling the market on boulders.

Three stone buildings have been built, another is in progress, and our plans are made to build an art-gallery of the same material—the stones that the builders rejected.

An artist blew in on the way to Nowhere, his baggage a tomato-can. He thought he would stop over for a day or two—he is with us yet, and three years have gone by since he came, and now we could not do without him. Then we have a few Remittance-Men, sent to us from a distance, without return-tickets. Some of these men were willing to do anything but work—they offered to run things, to preach, to advise, to make love to the girls.

We bought them tickets to Chicago, and without violence conducted them to the Four-o’Clock train.

We have boys who have been expelled from school, blind people, deaf people, old people, jailbirds and mental defectives, and have managed to set them all at useful work; but the Remittance-Man of Good Family who smokes cigarettes in bed has proved too much for us—so we have given him the Four-o’Clock without ruth.

We do not encourage people from a distance who want work to come on—they are apt to expect too much. They look for Utopia, when work is work, here as elsewhere. There is just as much need for patience, gentleness, loyalty and love here as anywhere. Application, desire to do the right thing, a willingness to help, and a well-curbed tongue are as necessary in East Aurora as in Tuskegee.

We do our work as well as we can, live one day at a time, and try to be kind.

* * *

The village of East Aurora, Erie County, New York, the home of The Roycrofters, is eighteen miles southeast of the city of Buffalo. The place has a population of about three thousand people.

There is no wealth in the town and no poverty. In East Aurora there are six churches, with pastors’ salaries varying from three hundred to one thousand dollars a year; and we have a most excellent school. The place is not especially picturesque or attractive, being simply a representative New York State village. Lake Erie is ten miles distant, and Cazenovia Creek winds its lazy way along by the village.

The land around East Aurora is poor, and so reduced in purse are the farmers that no insurance-company will insure farm property in Erie County under any conditions unless the farmer has some business outside of agriculture—the experience of the underwriters being that when a man is poor enough, he is also dishonest; insure a farmer’s barn in New York State, and there is a strong probability that he will soon invest in kerosene.

However, there is no real destitution, for a farmer can always raise enough produce to feed his family, and in a wooded country he can get fuel, even if he has to lift it between the dawn and the day.

Most of the workers in the Roycroft Shop are children of farming folk, and it is needless to add that they are not college-bred, nor have they had the advantages of foreign travel. One of our best helpers, Uncle Billy Bushnell, has never been to Niagara Falls, and does not care to go. Uncle Billy says if you stay at home and do your work well enough, the world will come to you; which aphorism the old man backs up with another, probably derived from experience, to the effect that a man is a fool to chase after women, because, if he doesn’t, the women will chase after him.

The wisdom of this hard-headed old son of the soil—who abandoned agriculture for art at seventy—is exemplified in the fact that during the year just past, over twenty-eight thousand pilgrims have visited the Roycroft Shop—representing every State and Territory of the Union and every civilized country on the globe, even far-off Iceland, New Zealand and the Isle of Guam.

Three hundred ten people are on the payroll at the present writing. The principal work is printing, illuminating and binding books. We also have a furniture shop, where Mission furniture of the highest grade is made; a modeled-leather shop, where the most wonderful creations in calfskin are to be seen; and a smithy, where copper utensils of great beauty are hammered out by hand.

Quite as important as the printing and binding is the illuminating of initials and title-pages. This is a revival of a lost art, gone with so much of the artistic work done by the monks of the olden time. Yet there is a demand for such work; and so far as I know, we are the first concern in America to take up the hand-illumination of books as a business. Of course we have had to train our helpers, and from very crude attempts at decoration we have attained to a point where the British Museum and the “Bibliotheke” at The Hague have deigned to order and pay good golden guineas for specimens of our handicraft. Very naturally we want to do the best work possible, and so self-interest prompts us to be on the lookout for budding genius. The Roycroft is a quest for talent.

There is a market for the best, and the surest way, we think, to get away from competition is to do your work a little better than the other fellow. The old tendency to make things cheaper, instead of better, in the book line is a fallacy, as shown in the fact that within ten years there have been a dozen failures of big publishing-houses in the United States. The liabilities of these bankrupt concerns footed the fine total of fourteen million dollars. The man who made more books and cheaper books than any one concern ever made, had the felicity to fail very shortly, with liabilities of something over a million dollars. He overdid the thing in matter of cheapness—mistook his market. Our motto is, “Not How Cheap, But How Good.”

This is the richest country the world has ever known, far richer per capita than England—lending money to Europe. Once Americans were all shoddy—pioneers have to be, I’m told—but now only a part of us are shoddy. As men and women increase in culture and refinement, they want fewer things, and they want better things. The cheap article, I will admit, ministers to a certain grade of intellect; but if the man grows, there will come a time when, instead of a great many cheap and shoddy things, he will want a few good things. He will want things that symbol solidity, truth, genuineness and beauty.

The Roycrofters have many opportunities for improvement not the least of which is the seeing, hearing and meeting distinguished people. We have a public dining-room, and not a day passes but men and women of note sit at meat with us. At the evening meal, if our visitors are so inclined, and are of the right fiber, I ask them to talk. And if there is no one else to speak, I sometimes read a little from William Morris, Shakespeare, Walt Whitman or Ruskin. David Bispham has sung for us. Maude Adams and Minnie Maddern Fiske have also favored us with a taste of their quality. Judge Lindsey, Alfred Henry Lewis, Richard Le Gallienne, Robert Barr, have visited us; but to give a list of all the eminent men and women who have spoken, sung or played for us would lay me liable for infringement in printing “Who’s Who.” However, let me name one typical incident. The Boston Ideal Opera Company was playing in Buffalo, and Henry Clay Barnabee and half a dozen of his players took a run out to East Aurora. They were shown through the Shop by one of the girls whose work it is to receive visitors. A young woman of the company sat down at one of the pianos and played. I chanced to be near and asked Mr. Barnabee if he would not sing, and graciously he answered, “Fra Elbertus, I’ll do anything that you say.” I gave the signal that all the workers should quit their tasks and meet at the Chapel. In five minutes we had an audience of three hundred—men in blouses and overalls, girls in big aprons—a very jolly, kindly, receptive company.

Mr. Barnabee was at his best—I never saw him so funny. He sang, danced, recited, and told stories for forty minutes. The Roycrofters were, of course, delighted.

One girl whispered to me as she went out, “I wonder what great sorrow is gnawing at Barnabee’s heart, that he is so wondrous gay!” Need I say that the girl who made the remark just quoted had drunk of life’s cup to the very lees? We have a few such with us—and several of them are among our most loyal helpers.

* * *

One fortuitous event that has worked to our decided advantage was “A Message to Garcia.”

This article, not much more than a paragraph, covering only fifteen hundred words, was written one evening after supper in a single hour. It was the Twenty-second of February, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-Nine, Washington’s Birthday, and we were just going to press with the March “Philistine.” The thing leaped hot from my heart, written after a rather trying day, when I had been endeavoring to train some rather delinquent helpers in the way they should go.

The immediate suggestion, though, came from a little argument over the teacups when my son Bert suggested that Rowan was the real hero of the Cuban war. Rowan had gone alone and done the thing—carried the message to Garcia.

It came to me like a flash! Yes, the boy is right, the hero is the man who does the thing—does his work—carries the message.

I got up from the table and wrote “A Message to Garcia.”

I thought so little of it that we ran it in without a heading. The edition went out, and soon orders began to come for extra March “Philistines,” a dozen, fifty, a hundred; and when the American News Company ordered a thousand I asked one of my helpers which article it was that had stirred things up.

“It’s that stuff about Garcia,” he said.

The next day a telegram came from George H. Daniels, of the New York Central Railroad, thus: “Give price on one hundred thousand Rowan article in pamphlet form—Empire State Express advertisement on back—also state how soon can ship.”

I replied giving price and stated we could supply the pamphlets in two years. Our facilities were small, and a hundred thousand pamphlets looked like an awful undertaking.

The result was that I gave Mr. Daniels permission to reprint the article in his own way. He issued it in booklet form in editions of one hundred thousand each. Five editions were sent out, and then he got out an edition of half a million. Two or three of these half-million lots were sent out by Mr. Daniels, and in addition the article was reprinted in over two hundred magazines and newspapers. It has been translated into eleven languages, and been given a total circulation of over twenty-two million copies. It has attained, I believe, a larger circulation in the same length of time than any written article has ever before reached.

Of course, we can not tell just how much good “A Message to Garcia” has done the Shop, but it probably doubled the circulation of “The Philistine.” I do not consider it by any means my best piece of writing; but it was opportune—the time was ripe. Truth demands a certain expression, and too much had been said on the other side about the downtrodden, honest man, looking for work and not being able to find it. The article in question states the other side. Men are needed—loyal, honest men who will do their work. “The world cries out for him—the man who can carry a message to Garcia.”

The man who sent the message and the man who received it are dead. The man who carried it is still carrying other messages. The combination of theme, condition of the country, and method of circulation was so favorable that their conjunction will probably never occur again. Other men will write better articles, but they may go a-begging for lack of a Daniels to bring them to judgment.

* * *

Concerning my own personal history, I’ll not tarry long to tell. It has been too much like the career of many another born in the semi-pioneer times of the Middle West, to attract much attention, unless one should go into the psychology of the thing with intent to show the evolution of a soul. But that will require a book—and some day I’ll write it, after the manner of Saint Augustine or Jean Jacques.

But just now I ‘ll only say that I was born in Illinois, June Nineteenth, Eighteen Hundred Fifty-six. My father was a country doctor, whose income never exceeded five hundred dollars a year. I left school at fifteen, with a fair hold on the three R’s, and beyond this my education in “manual training” had been good. I knew all the forest-trees, all wild animals thereabout, every kind of fish, frog, fowl or bird that swam, ran or flew. I knew every kind of grain or vegetable, and its comparative value. I knew the different breeds of cattle, horses, sheep and swine.

I could teach wild cows to stand while being milked; break horses to saddle or harness; could sow, plow and reap; knew the mysteries of apple-butter, pumpkin pie pickled beef, smoked side-meat, and could make lye at a leach and formulate soft soap.

That is to say, I was a bright, strong, active country boy who had been brought up to help his father and mother get a living for a large family.

I was not so densely ignorant—don’t feel sorry for country boys: God is often on their side.

At fifteen I worked on a farm and did a man’s work for a boy’s pay. I did not like it and told the man so. He replied, “You know what you can do.”

And I replied, “Yes.” I went westward like the course of empire and became a cowboy; tired of this and went to Chicago; worked in a printing-office; peddled soap from house to house; shoved lumber on the docks; read all the books I could find; wrote letters back to country newspapers and became a reporter; next got a job as traveling salesman; taught in a district school; read Emerson, Carlyle and Macaulay; worked in a soap factory; read Shakespeare and committed most of “Hamlet” to memory with an eye on the stage; became manager of the soap-factory, then partner; evolved an Idea for the concern and put it on the track of making millions—knew it was going to make millions—did not want them; sold out my interest for seventy-five thousand dollars and went to Harvard College; tramped through Europe; wrote for sundry newspapers; penned two books (couldn’t find a publisher); taught night school in Buffalo; tramped through Europe some more and met William Morris (caught it); came back to East Aurora and started “Chautauqua Circles”; studied Greek and Latin with a local clergyman; raised trotting-horses; wrote “Little Journeys to the Homes of Good Men and Great.”

So that is how I got my education, such as it is. I am a graduate of the University of Hard Knocks, and I’ve taken several postgraduate courses. I have worked at five different trades enough to be familiar with the tools. In Eighteen Hundred Ninety-nine, Tufts College bestowed on me the degree of Master of Arts; but since I did not earn the degree, it really does not count.

I have never been sick a day, never lost a meal through disinclination to eat, never consulted a doctor, never used tobacco or intoxicants. My work has never been regulated by the eight-hour clause.

Horses have been my only extravagance, and I ride horseback daily now: a horse that I broke myself, that has never been saddled by another, and that has never been harnessed.

My best friends have been workingmen, homely women and children. My father and mother are members of my household, and they work in the Shop when they are so inclined. My mother’s business now is mostly to care for the flowers, and my father we call “Physician to The Roycrofters,” as he gives free advice and attendance to all who desire his services. Needless to say, his medicine is mostly a matter of the mind. Unfortunately for him, we do not enjoy poor health, so there is very seldom any one sick to be cured. Fresh air is free, and outdoor exercise is not discouraged.

* * *

The Roycroft Shop and belongings represent an investment of about three hundred thousand dollars. We have no liabilities, making it a strict business policy to sign no notes or other instruments of debt that may in the future prove inopportune and tend to disturb digestion. Fortune has favored us.

First, the country has grown tired of soft platitude, silly truism and undisputed things said in such a solemn way. So when “The Philistine” stepped into the ring and voiced in no uncertain tones what its editor thought, thinking men and women stopped and listened. Editors of magazines refused my manuscript because they said it was too plain, too blunt, sometimes indelicate—it would give offense, subscribers would cancel, et cetera. To get my thoughts published I had to publish them myself; and people bought for the very reason for which the editors said they would cancel. The readers wanted brevity and plain statement—the editors said they didn’t.

The editors were wrong. They failed to properly diagnose a demand. I saw the demand and supplied it—for a consideration.

Next I believed the American public. A portion of it, at least, wanted a few good and beautiful books instead of a great many cheap books. The truth came to me in the early Nineties, when John B. Alden and half a dozen other publishers of cheap books went to the wall. I read the R.G. Dun & Company bulletin and I said, “The publishers have mistaken their public—we want better books, not cheaper.” In Eighteen Hundred Ninety-two, I met William Morris, and after that I was sure I was right.

Again I had gauged the public correctly—the publishers were wrong, as wrong as the editors. There was a market for the best, and the problem was to supply it. At first I bound my books in paper covers and simple boards. Men wrote to me wanting fine bindings. I said, “There is a market in America for the best—cheap boards, covered with cloth, stamped by machinery in gaudy tinsel and gilt, are not enough.” I discovered that nearly all the bookbinders were dead. I found five hundred people in a book-factory in Chicago binding books, but not a bookbinder among them. They simply fed the books into hoppers and shot them out of chutes, and said they were bound.

Next the public wanted to know about this thing—”What are you folks doing out there in that buckwheat town?” Since my twentieth year I have had one eye on the histrionic stage. I could talk in public a bit, had made political speeches, given entertainments in crossroads schoolhouses, made temperance harangues, was always called upon to introduce the speaker of the evening, and several times had given readings from my own amusing works for the modest stipend of ten dollars and keep. I would have taken the lecture platform had it not been nailed down.

In Eighteen Hundred Ninety-eight, my friend Major Pond wanted to book me on a partnership deal at the Waldorf-Astoria. I didn’t want to speak there—I had been saying unkind things in “The Philistine” about the Waldorf-Astoria folks. But the Major went ahead and made arrangements. I expected to be mobbed.

But Mr. Boldt, the manager of the hotel, had placed a suite of rooms at my disposal without money and without price. He treated me most cordially; never referred to the outrageous things I had said about his tavern; assured me that he enjoyed my writings, and told me of the pleasure he had in welcoming me.

Thus did he heap hot cinders upon my occiput. The Astor gallery seats eight hundred people. Major Pond had packed in nine hundred at one dollar each—three hundred were turned away. After the lecture the Major awaited me in the anteroom, fell on my neck and rained Pond’s Extract down my back, crying: “Oh! Oh! Oh! Why didn’t we charge them two dollars apiece!”

The next move was to make a tour of the principal cities under Major Pond’s management. Neither of us lost money—the Major surely did not.

Last season I gave eighty-one lectures, with a net profit to myself of a little over ten thousand dollars. I spoke at Tremont Temple in Boston, to twenty-two hundred people; at Carnegie Hall, New York; at Central Music Hall, Chicago. I spoke to all the house would hold; at Chautauqua, my audience was five thousand people. It will be noted by the Discerning that my lectures have been of double importance, in that they have given an income and at the same time advertised the Roycroft Wares.

The success of the Roycroft Shop has not been brought about by any one scheme or plan. The business is really a combination of several ideas, any one of which would make a paying enterprise in itself. So it stands about thus:

First, the printing and publication of three magazines.

Second, the printing of books (it being well known that some of the largest publishers in America—Scribner and Appleton, for instance—have no printing-plants, but have the work done for them).

Third, the publication of books.

Fourth, the artistic binding of books.

Fifth, authorship. Since I began printing my own manuscript, there is quite an eager demand for my writing, so I do a little of Class B for various publishers and editors.

Sixth, the Lecture Lyceum.

Seventh, blacksmithing, carpenter-work and basket-weaving. These industries have sprung up under the Roycroft care as a necessity. Men and women in the village came to us and wanted work, and we simply gave them opportunity to do the things they could do best. We have found a market for all our wares, so no line of work has ever been a bill of expense.

I want no better clothing, no better food, no more comforts and conveniences than my helpers and fellow-workers have. I would be ashamed to monopolize a luxury—to take a beautiful work of art, say a painting or a marble statue, and keep it for my own pleasure and for the select few I might invite to see my beautiful things. Art is for all—beauty is for all. Harmony in all of its manifold forms should be like a sunset—free to all who can drink it in. The Roycroft Shop is for The Roycrofters, and each is limited only by his capacity to absorb.

* * *

Art is the expression of man’s joy in his work, and all the joy and love that you can weave into a fabric comes out again and belongs to the individual who has the soul to appreciate it. Art is beauty; and beauty is a gratification, a peace and a solace to every normal man and woman. Beautiful sounds, beautiful colors, beautiful proportions, beautiful thoughts—how our souls hunger for them! Matter is only mind in an opaque condition; and all beauty is but a symbol of spirit. You can not get joy from feeding things all day into a machine. You must let the man work with hand and brain, and then out of the joy of this marriage of hand and brain, beauty will be born. It tells of a desire for harmony, peace, beauty, wholeness—holiness.

Art is the expression of man’s joy in his work.

When you read a beautiful poem that makes your heart throb with gladness and gratitude, you are simply partaking of the emotion that the author felt when he wrote it. To possess a piece of work that the workman made in joyous animation is a source of joy to the possessor.

And this love of the work done by the marriage of hand and brain can never quite go out of fashion—for we are men and women, and our hopes and aims and final destiny are at last one. Where one enjoys, all enjoy; where one suffers, all suffer.

Say what you will of the coldness and selfishness of men, at the last we long for companionship and the fellowship of our kind. We are lost children, and when alone and the darkness gathers, we long for the close relationship of the brothers and sisters we knew in our childhood, and cry for the gentle arms that once rocked us to sleep. Men are homesick amid this sad, mad rush for wealth and place and power. The calm of the country invites, and we would fain do with less things, and go back to simplicity, and rest our tired heads in the lap of Mother Nature.

Life is expression. Life is a movement outward, an unfolding, a development. To be tied down, pinned to a task that is repugnant, and to have the shrill voice of Necessity whistling eternally in your ears, “Do this or starve,” is to starve; for it starves the heart, the soul, and all the higher aspirations of your being pine away and die.

At the Roycroft Shop the workers are getting an education by doing things. Work should be the spontaneous expression of a man’s best impulses. We grow only through exercise, and every faculty that is exercised becomes strong, and those not used atrophy and die. Thus how necessary it is that we should exercise our highest and best! To develop the brain we have to exercise the body. Every muscle, every organ, has its corresponding convolution in the brain. To develop the mind, we must use the body. Manual training is essentially moral training; and physical work is, at its best, mental, moral and spiritual—and these are truths so great and yet so simple that until yesterday many wise men did not recognize them.

At the Roycroft Shop we are reaching out for an all-round development through work and right living.

And we have found it a good expedient—a wise business policy. Sweat-shop methods can never succeed in producing beautiful things. And so the management of the Roycroft Shop surrounds the workers with beauty, allows many liberties, encourages cheerfulness and tries to promote kind thoughts, simply because it has been found that these things are transmuted into good, and come out again at the finger-tips of the workers in beautiful results. So we have pictures, statuary, flowers, ferns, palms, birds, and a piano in every room. We have the best sanitary appliances that money can buy; we have bathrooms, shower-baths, library, rest-rooms. Every week we have concerts, dances, lectures.

Besides being a workshop, the Roycroft is a School. We are following out a dozen distinct lines of study, and every worker in the place is enrolled as a member of one or more classes. There are no fees to pupils, but each pupil purchases his own books—the care of his books and belongings being considered a part of one’s education. All the teachers are workers in the Shop, and are volunteers, teaching without pay, beyond what each receives for his regular labor.

The idea of teaching we have found is a great benefit—to the teacher. The teacher gets most out of the lessons. Once a week there is a faculty meeting, when each teacher gives in a verbal report of his stewardship. It is responsibility that develops one, and to know that your pupils expect you to know is a great incentive to study. Then teaching demands that you shall give—give yourself—and he who gives most receives most. We deepen our impressions by recounting them, and he who teaches others teaches himself. I am never quite so proud as when some one addresses me as “teacher.” We try to find out what each person can do best, what he wants to do, and then we encourage him to put his best into it—also to do something else besides his specialty, finding rest in change.

The thing that pays should be the expedient thing, and the expedient thing should be the proper and right thing. That which began with us as a matter of expediency is often referred to as a “philanthropy.” I do not like the word, and wish to state here that the Roycroft is in no sense a charity—I do not believe in giving any man something for nothing. You give a man a dollar and the man will think less of you because he thinks less of himself; but if you give him a chance to earn a dollar, he will think more of himself and more of you. The only way to help people is to give them a chance to help themselves. So the Roycroft Idea is one of reciprocity—you help me and I’ll help you. We will not be here forever, anyway; soon Death, the kind old Nurse, will come and rock us all to sleep, and we had better help one another while we may: we are going the same way—let’s go hand in hand!

George Eliot • 3,900 Words

“May I reach
That purest heaven, be to other souls
The cup of strength in some great agony,
Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love,
Beget the smiles that have no cruelty—
Be the good presence of a good diffused,
And in diffusion ever more intense.
So shall I join the choir invisible
Whose music is the gladness of the world.”

George Eliot
George Eliot

Warwickshire gave to the world William Shakespeare. It also gave Mary Ann Evans. No one will question that Shakespeare’s is the greatest name in English literature; and among writers living or dead, in England or out of it, no woman has ever shown us power equal to that of George Eliot, in the subtle clairvoyance which divines the inmost play of passions, the experience that shows human capacity for contradiction, and the indulgence that is merciful because it understands.

Shakespeare lived three hundred years ago. According to the records, his father, in Fifteen Hundred Sixty-three, owned a certain house in Henley Street, Stratford-on-Avon. Hence we infer that William Shakespeare was born there. And in all our knowledge of Shakespeare’s early life (or later) we prefix the words, “Hence we infer.”

That the man knew all the sciences of his day, and had such a knowledge of each of the learned professions that all have claimed him as their own, we realize.

He evidently was acquainted with five different languages, and the range of his intellect was worldwide; but where did he get this vast erudition? We do not know, and we excuse ourselves by saying that he lived three hundred years ago.

George Eliot lived—yesterday, and we know no more about her youthful days than we do of that other child of Warwickshire.

One biographer tells us that she was born in Eighteen Hundred Nineteen, another in Eighteen Hundred Twenty, and neither state the day; whereas a recent writer in the “Pall Mall Budget” graciously bestows on us the useful information that “William Shakespeare was born on the Twenty-first day of April, Fifteen Hundred Sixty-three, at fifteen minutes of two on a stormy morning.”

Concise statements of facts are always valuable, but we have none such concerning the early life of George Eliot. There is even a shadow over her parentage, for no less an authority than the “American Cyclopedia Annual,” for Eighteen Hundred Eighty, boldly proclaims that she was not a foundling and, moreover, that she was not adopted by a rich retired clergyman who gave her a splendid schooling. Then the writer dives into obscurity, but presently reappears and adds that he does not know where she got her education. For all of which we are very grateful.

Shakespeare left five signatures, each written in a different way, and now there is a goodly crew who spell it “Bacon.”

And likewise we do not know whether it is Mary Ann Evans, Mary Anne Evans or Marian Evans, for she herself is said to have used each form at various times. William Winter—gentle critic, poet, scholar—tells us that the Sonnets show a dark spot in Shakespeare’s moral record. And if I remember rightly, similar things have been hinted at in sewing-circles concerning George Eliot. Then they each found the dew and sunshine in London that caused the flowers of genius to blossom. The early productions of both were published anonymously, and lastly they both knew how to transmute thought into gold, for they died rich.

Lady Godiva rode through the streets of Coventry, but I walked—walked all the way from Stratford, by way of Warwick (call it Warrick, please) and Kenilworth Castle.

I stopped overnight at that quaint and curious little inn just across from the castle entrance. The good landlady gave me the same apartment that was occupied by Sir Walter Scott when he came here and wrote the first chapter of “Kenilworth.”

The little room had pretty, white chintz curtains tied with blue ribbon, and similar stuff draped the mirror. The bed was a big canopy affair—I had to stand on a chair in order to dive off into its feathery depths—everything was very neat and clean, and the dainty linen had a sweet smell of lavender. I took one parting look out through the open window at the ivy-mantled towers of the old castle, which were all sprinkled with silver by the rising moon, and then I fell into gentlest sleep.

I dreamed of playing “I-spy” through Kenilworth Castle with Shakespeare, Walter Scott, Mary Ann Evans and a youth I used to know in boyhood by the name of Bill Hursey. We chased each other across the drawbridge, through the portcullis, down the slippery stones into the donjon-keep, around the moat, and up the stone steps to the topmost turret of the towers. Finally Shakespeare was “it,” but he got mad and refused to play. Walter Scott said it was “no fair,” and Bill Hursey thrust out the knuckle of one middle finger in a very threatening way and offered to “do” the boy from Stratford. Then Mary Ann rushed in to still the tempest. There’s no telling what would have happened had not the landlady just then rapped at my door and asked if I had called. I awoke with a start and with the guilty feeling that I had been shouting in my sleep. I saw it was morning. “No—that is, yes; my shaving-water, please.”

After breakfast the landlady’s boy offered for five shillings to take me in his donkey-cart to the birthplace of George Eliot. He explained that the house was just seven miles north; but Baalam’s express is always slow, so I concluded to walk. At Coventry a cab-owner proposed to show me the house, which he declared was near Kenilworth, for twelve shillings. The advantages of seeing Kenilworth at the same time were dwelt upon at great length by cabby, but I harkened not to the voice of the siren. I got a good lunch at the hotel, and asked the innkeeper if he could tell me where George Eliot was born. He did not know, but said he could show me a house around the corner where a family of Eliots lived.

Then I walked on to Nuneaton. A charming walk it was; past quaint old houses, some with straw-thatched roofs, others tile—roses clambering over the doors and flowering hedgerows white with hawthorn-flowers.

Occasionally, I met a farmer’s cart drawn by one of those great, fat, gentle Shire horses that George Eliot has described so well. All spoke of peace and plenty, quiet and rest. The green fields and the flowers, the lark-song and the sunshine, the dipping willows by the stream, and the arch of the old stone bridge as I approached the village—all these I had seen and known and felt before from “Mill on the Floss.”

I found the house where they say the novelist was born. A plain, whitewashed, stone structure, built two hundred years ago; two stories, the upper chambers low, with gable-windows; a little garden at the side bright with flowers, where sweet marjoram vied with onions and beets; all spoke of humble thrift and homely cares. In front was a great chestnut-tree, and in the roadway near were two ancient elms where saucy crows were building a nest.

Here, after her mother died, Mary Ann Evans was housekeeper. Little more than a child—tall, timid, and far from strong—she cooked and scrubbed and washed, and was herself the mother to brothers and sisters. Her father was a carpenter by trade and agent for a rich landowner. He was a stern man—orderly, earnest, industrious, studious. On rides about the country he would take the tall, hollow-eyed girl with him, and at such times he would talk to her of the great outside world where wondrous things were done. The child toiled hard, but found time to read and question—and there is always time to think. Soon she had outgrown some of her good father’s beliefs, and this grieved him greatly; so much, indeed, that her extra-loving attention to his needs, in a hope to neutralize his displeasure, only irritated him the more. And if there is soft, subdued sadness in much of George Eliot’s writing we can guess the reason. The onward and upward march ever means sad separation.

When Mary Ann was blossoming into womanhood her father moved over near Coventry, and here the ambitious girl first found companionship in her intellectual desires. Here she met men and women, older than herself, who were animated, earnest thinkers. They read and then they discussed, and then they spoke the things that they felt were true. Those eight years at Coventry transformed the awkward country girl into a woman of intellect and purpose. She knew somewhat of all sciences, all philosophies, and she had become a proficient scholar in German and French. How did she acquire this knowledge? How is any education acquired if not through effort prompted by desire?

She had already translated Strauss’s “Life of Jesus” in a manner that was acceptable to the author. When Ralph Waldo Emerson came to Coventry to lecture, he was entertained at the same house where Miss Evans was stopping. Her brilliant conversation pleased him, and when she questioned the wisdom of a certain passage in one of his essays the gentle philosopher turned, smiled, and said that he had not seen it in that light before; perhaps she was right.

“What is your favorite book?” asked Emerson.

“Rousseau’s ‘Confessions,’” answered Mary instantly.

It was Emerson’s favorite, too; but such honesty from a young woman! It was queer.

Mr. Emerson never forgot Miss Evans of Coventry, and ten years after, when a zealous reviewer proclaimed her the greatest novelist in England, the sage of Concord said something that sounded like “I told you so.”

Miss Evans had made visits to London from time to time with her Coventry friends. When twenty-eight years old, after one such visit to London, she came back to the country tired and weary, and wrote this most womanly wish: “My only ardent desire is to find some feminine task to discharge; some possibility of devoting myself to some one and making that one purely and calmly happy.”

But now her father was dead and her income was very scanty. She did translating, and tried the magazines with articles that generally came back respectfully declined.

Then an offer came as sub-editor of the “Westminster Review.” It was steady work and plenty of it, and this was what she desired. She went to London and lived in the household of her employer, Mr. Chapman. Here she had the opportunity of meeting many brilliant people: Carlyle and his “Jeannie Welsh,” the Martineaus, Grote, Mr. and Mrs. Mill, Huxley, Mazzini, Louis Blanc. Besides these were two young men who must not be left out when we sum up the influences that evolved this woman’s genius.

She was attracted to Herbert Spencer at once. He was about her age, and their admiration for each other was mutual. Miss Evans, writing to a friend in Eighteen Hundred Fifty-two, says, “Spencer is kind, he is delightful, and I always feel better after being with him, and we have agreed together that there is no reason why we should not see each other as often as we wish.” And then later she again writes: “The bright side of my life, after the affection for my old friends, is the new and delightful friendship which I have found in Herbert Spencer. We see each other every day, and in everything we enjoy a delightful comradeship. If it were not for him my life would be singularly arid.”

But about this time another man appeared on the scene, and were it not for this other man, who was introduced to Miss Evans by Spencer, the author of “Synthetic Philosophy” might not now be spoken of in the biographical dictionaries as having been “wedded to science.”

It was not love at first sight, for George Henry Lewes made a decidedly unfavorable impression on Miss Evans at their first meeting. He was small, his features were insignificant, he had whiskers like an anarchist and a mouthful of crooked teeth; his personal habits were far from pleasant. It was this sort of thing, Dickens said, that caused his first wife to desert him and finally drove her into insanity.

But Lewes had a brilliant mind. He was a linguist, a scientist, a novelist, a poet and a wit. He had written biography, philosophy and a play. He had been a journalist, a lecturer and even an actor. Thackeray declared that if he should see Lewes perched on a white elephant in Piccadilly he should not be in the least surprised.

After having met Miss Evans several times, Mr. Lewes saw the calm depths of her mind and he asked her to correct proofs for him. She did so and discovered that there was merit in his work. She corrected more proofs, and when a woman begins to assist a man the danger-line is being approached. Close observers noted that a change was coming over the bohemian Lewes. He had his whiskers trimmed, his hair was combed, and the bright yellow necktie had been discarded for a clean one of modest brown, and, sometimes, his boots were blacked. In July, Eighteen Hundred Fifty-four, Mr. Chapman received a letter from his sub-editor resigning her position, and Miss Evans notified some of her closest friends that hereafter she wished to be considered the wife of Mr. Lewes. She was then in her thirty-sixth year.

The couple disappeared, having gone to Germany.

Many people were shocked. Some said, “We knew it all the time,” and when Herbert Spencer was informed of the fact he exclaimed, “Goodness me!” and said—nothing.

After six months spent at Weimar and other literary centers, Mr. and Mrs. Lewes returned to England and began housekeeping at Richmond. Any one who views their old quarters there will see how very plainly and economically they were forced to live. But they worked hard, and at this time the future novelist’s desire seemed only to assist her husband. That she developed the manly side of his nature none can deny. They were very happy, these two, as they wrote, and copied, and studied, and toiled.

Three years passed, and Mrs. Lewes wrote to a friend:

“I am very happy; happy with the greatest happiness that life can give—the complete sympathy and affection of a man whose mind stimulates mine and keeps up in me a wholesome activity.”

Mr. Lewes knew the greatness of his helpmeet. She herself did not. He urged her to write a story; she hesitated, and at last attempted it. They read the first chapter together and cried over it. Then she wrote more and always read her husband the chapters as they were turned off. He corrected, encouraged, and found a publisher. But why should I tell about it here? It’s all in the “Britannica”—how the gentle beauty and sympathetic insight of her work touched the hearts of great and lowly alike, and of how riches began flowing in upon her. For one book she received forty thousand dollars, and her income after fortune smiled upon her was never less than ten thousand dollars a year.

Lewes was her secretary, her protector, her slave and her inspiration. He kept at bay the public that would steal her time, and put out of her reach, at her request, all reviews, good or bad, and shielded her from the interviewer, the curiosity-seeker, and the greedy financier.

The reason why she at first wrote under a nom de plume is plain. To the great, wallowing world she was neither Miss Evans nor Mrs. Lewes, so she dropped both names as far as title-pages were concerned and used a man’s name instead—hoping better to elude the pack.

When “Adam Bede” came out, a resident of Nuneaton purchased a copy and at once discovered local earmarks. The scenes described, the flowers, the stone walls, the bridges, the barns, the people—all was Nuneaton. Who wrote it? No one knew, but it was surely some one in Nuneaton. So they picked out a Mr. Liggins, a solemn-faced preacher, who was always about to do something great, and they said “Liggins.” Soon all London said “Liggins.” As for Liggins, he looked wise and smiled knowingly. Then articles began to appear in the periodicals purporting to have been written by the author of “Adam Bede.” A book came out called “Adam Bede, Jr.,” and to protect her publisher, the public and herself, George Eliot had to reveal her identity.

Many men have written good books and never tasted fame; but few, like Liggins of Nuneaton, have become famous by doing nothing. It only proves that some things can be done as well as others. This breed of men has long dwelt in Warwickshire; Shakespeare had them in mind when he wrote, “There be men who do a wilful stillness entertain with purpose to be dressed in an opinion of wisdom, gravity and profound conceit.”

Lord Acton in an able article in the “Nineteenth Century” makes this statement:

“George Eliot paid high for happiness with Lewes. She forfeited freedom of speech, the first place among English women, and a tomb in Westminster Abbey.”

The original dedication in “Adam Bede” reads thus:

“To my dear husband, George Henry Lewes, I give the manuscript of a work which would never have been written but for the happiness which his love has conferred on my life.”

Lord Acton of course assumes that this book would have been written, dedication and all, just the same had Miss Evans never met Mr. Lewes.

Once there was a child called Romola. She said to her father one day, as she sat on his knee: “Papa, who would take care of me—give me my bath and put me to bed nights—if you had never happened to meet Mamma?”

* * *

The days I spent in Warwickshire were very pleasant.

The serene beauty of the country and the kindly courtesy of the people impressed me greatly. Having beheld the scenes of George Eliot’s childhood, I desired to view the place where her last days were spent. It was a fine May day when I took the little steamer from London Bridge for Chelsea.

A bird-call from the dingy brick building where Turner died, and two blocks from the old home of Carlyle, is Cheyne Walk—a broad avenue facing the river. The houses are old, but they have a look of gracious gentility that speaks of ease and plenty. High iron fences are in front, but they do not shut off from view the climbing clematis and clusters of roses that gather over the windows and doors.

I stood at the gate of Number 4 Cheyne Walk and admired the pretty flowers, planted in such artistic carelessness as to beds and rows; then I rang the bell—an old pull-out affair with polished knob.

Presently a butler opened the door—a pompous, tall and awful butler in serious black and with side-whiskers. He approached; came down the walk swinging a bunch of keys, looking me over as he came, to see what sort of wares I had to sell.

“Did George Eliot live here?” I asked through the bars.

“Mrs. Cross lived ‘ere and died ‘ere, sir,” came the solemn and rebuking answer.

“I mean Mrs. Cross,” I added meekly; “I only wished to see the little garden where she worked.”

Jeemes was softened. As he unlocked the gate he said:

“We ‘ave many wisiters, sir; a great bother, sir; still, I always knows a gentleman when I sees one. P’r’aps you would like to see the ‘ouse, too, sir. The missus does not like it much, but I will take ‘er your card, sir.”

I gave him the card and slipped a shilling into his hand as he gave me a seat in the hallway.

He disappeared upstairs and soon returned with the pleasing information that I was to be shown the whole house and garden. So I pardoned him the myth about the missus, happening to know that at that particular moment she was at Brighton, sixty miles away.

A goodly, comfortable house, four stories, well kept, and much fine old carved oak in the dining-room and hallways; fantastic ancient balusters, and a peculiar bay window in the second-story rear that looked out over the little garden. Off to the north could be seen the green of Kensington Gardens and wavy suggestions of Hyde Park. This was George Eliot’s workshop. There was a table in the center of the room and three low bookcases with pretty ornaments above. In the bay window was the most conspicuous object in the room—a fine marble bust of Goethe. This, I was assured, had been the property of Mrs. Cross, as well as all the books and furniture in the room. In one corner was a revolving case containing a set of the “Century Dictionary” which Jeemes assured me had been purchased by Mr. Cross as a present for his wife a short time before she died. This caused my faith to waver a trifle and put to flight a fine bit of literary frenzy that might have found form soon in a sonnet.

In the front parlor, I saw a portrait of the former occupant that showed “the face that looked like a horse.” But that is better than to have the face of any other animal of which I know. Surely one would not want to look like a dog! Shakespeare hated dogs, but spoke forty-eight times in his plays in terms of respect and affection for a horse. Who would not resent the imputation that one’s face was like that of a sheep or a goat or an ox, and much gore has been shed because men have referred to other men as asses—but a horse! God bless you, yes!

No one has ever accused George Eliot of being handsome, but this portrait tells of a woman of fifty: calm, gentle, and the strong features speak of a soul in which to confide.

At Highgate, by the side of the grave of Lewes, rests the dust of this great and loving woman. As the pilgrim enters that famous old cemetery, the first imposing monument seen is a pyramid of rare, costly porphyry. As you draw near, you read this inscription:

To the memory of
ANN JEWSON CRISP
Who departed this life
Deeply lamented, Jan. 20, 1889.
Also,
Her dog, Emperor.

Beneath these tender lines is a bas-relief of as vicious-looking a cur as ever evaded the dog-tax.

Continuing up the avenue, past this monument just noted, the kind old gardener will show you another that stands amid others much more pretentious—a small gray-granite column, and on it, carved in small letters, you read:

“Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence.”

Here rests the body of
“GEORGE ELIOT”
(MARY ANN CROSS)
Born 22 November, 1819.
Died 22 December, 1880.

Thomas Carlyle • 4,100 Words

One comfort is that great men taken up in any way are profitable company. We can not look, however imperfectly, upon a great man without gaining something by it. He is the living fountain of life, which it is pleasant to be near. On any terms whatsoever you will not grudge to wander in his neighborhood for a while.
Heroes and Hero-Worship

Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle

While on my way to Dumfries I stopped overnight at Gretna Green, which, as all fair maidens know, is in Scotland just over the border from England.

To my delight I found that the coming of runaway couples to Gretna Green was not entirely a matter of the past, for the very evening I arrived a blushing pair came to the inn and inquired for a “meenister.” The ladye faire was a little stout and the worthy swain several years older than my fancy might have wished, but still I did not complain.

The landlord’s boy was dispatched to the rectory around the corner and soon returned with the reverend gentleman.

I was an uninvited guest in the little parlor, but no one observed that my wedding-garment was only a cycling costume, and I was not challenged.

After the ceremony, the several other witnesses filed past the happy couple, congratulating them and kissing the bride.

I did likewise, and was greeted with a resounding smack which surprised me a bit, but I managed to ask, “Did you run away?”

“Noo,” said the groom; “noo, her was a widdie—we just coom over fram Ecclefechan”; then, lowering his voice to a confidential whisper, “We’re goin’ baack on the morrow. It’s cheaper thaan to ha’ a big, spread weddin’.”

This answer banished all tender sentiment from me and made useless my plans for a dainty love-story, but I seized upon the name of the place whence they came.

“Ecclefechan! Ecclefechan! Why that’s where Carlyle was born!”

“Aye, sir, and he’s buried there; a great mon he was—but an infideel.”

Ten miles beyond Gretna Green is Ecclefechan—a little village of stucco houses all stretched out on one street. Plain, homely, rocky and unromantic is the country round about, and plain, homely and unromantic is the little house where Carlyle was born. The place is shown the visitor by a good old dame who takes one from room to room, giving a little lecture meanwhile in a mixture of Gaelic and English which was quite beyond my ken. Several relics of interest are shown, and although the house is almost precisely like all others in the vicinity, imagination throws round it all a roseate wreath of fancies.

It has been left on record that up to the year when Carlyle was married, his “most pleasurable times were those when he enjoyed a quiet pipe with his mother.”

To few men indeed is this felicity vouchsafed. But for those who have eaten oatmeal porridge in the wayside cottages of bonny Scotland, or who love to linger over “The Cotter’s Saturday Night,” there is a touch of tender pathos in the picture. The stone floor, the bare, whitewashed walls, the peat smoldering on the hearth, sending out long, fitful streaks that dance among the rafters overhead, and the mother and son sitting there watching the coal—silent. The woman takes a small twig from a bundle of sticks, reaches over, lights it, applies it to her pipe, takes a few whiffs and passes the light to her son. Then they talk in low, earnest tones of man’s duty to man and man’s duty to God.

And it was this mother who first applied the spark that fired Carlyle’s ambition; it was from her that he got the germ of those talents which have made his name illustrious.

Yet this woman could barely read and did not learn to write until her firstborn had gone away from the home nest. Then it was that she sharpened a gray goose-quill and labored long and patiently, practising with this instrument (said to be mightier than the sword) and with ink she herself had mixed—all that she might write a letter to her boy; and how sweetly, tenderly homely, and loving are these letters as we read them today!

James Carlyle with his own hands built, in Seventeen Hundred Ninety, this house at Ecclefechan. The same year he married an excellent woman, a second cousin, by name Janet Carlyle. She lived but a year. The poor husband was heartbroken, and declared, as many men under like conditions had done before and have done since, that his sorrow was inconsolable. And he vowed that he would walk through life and down to his death alone.

But it is a matter for congratulation that he broke his vow.

In two years he married Margaret Aitken—a serving-woman. She bore nine children. Thomas was the eldest and the only one who proved recreant to the religious faith of his fathers.

One of the brothers moved to Shiawassee County, Michigan, where I had the pleasure of calling on him, some years ago. A hard-headed man, he was: sensible, earnest, honest, with a stubby beard and a rich brogue. He held the office of school trustee, also that of pound-master, and I was told that he served his township loyally and well.

This worthy man looked with small favor on the literary pretensions of his brother Tammas, and twice wrote him long letters expostulating with him on his religious vagaries. “I knew no good could come of it,” sorrowfully said he, and so I left him.

But I inquired of several of the neighbors what they thought of Thomas Carlyle, and I found that they did not think of him at all. And I mounted my beast and rode away.

Thomas Carlyle was educated for the Kirk, and it was a cause of much sorrow to his parents that he could not accept its beliefs. He has been spoken of as England’s chief philosopher, yet he subscribed to no creed, nor did he formulate one. However, in “Latter-Day Pamphlets” he partially prepares a catechism for a part of the brute creation. He supposes that all swine of superior logical powers have a “belief,” and as they are unable to express it he essays the task for them.

The following are a few of the postulates in this creed of The Brotherhood of Latter-Day Swine:

“Question. Who made the Pig?

“Answer. The Pork-Butcher.

“Question. What is the Whole Duty of Pigs?

“Answer. It is the mission of Universal Pighood; and the duty of all Pigs, at all times, is to diminish the quantity of attainable swill and increase the unattainable. This is the Whole Duty of Pigs.

“Question. What is Pig Poetry?

“Answer. It is the universal recognition of Pig’s wash and ground barley, and the felicity of Pigs whose trough has been set in order and who have enough.

“Question, What is justice in Pigdom?

“Answer. It is the sentiment in Pig nature sometimes called revenge, indignation, etc., which if one Pig provoke, another comes out in more or less destructive manner; hence laws are necessary—amazing quantities of laws—defining what Pigs shall not do.

“Question. What do you mean by equity?

“Answer. Equity consists in getting your share from the Universal Swine-Trough, and part of another’s.

“Question. What is meant by ‘your share’?”

“Answer. My share is getting whatever I can contrive to seize without being made up into Side-Meat.”

I have slightly abridged this little extract and inserted it here to show the sympathy which Mr. Carlyle had for the dumb brute.

One of America’s great men, in a speech delivered not long ago, said, “From Scotch manners, Scotch religion and Scotch whisky, good Lord deliver us!”

My experience with these three articles has been somewhat limited; but Scotch manners remind me of chestnut-burs—not handsome without, but good within. For when you have gotten beyond the rough exterior of Sandy you generally find a heart warm, tender and generous.

Scotch religion is only another chestnut-bur, but then you need not eat the shuck if you fear it will not agree with your inward state. Nevertheless, if the example of royalty is of value, the fact can be stated that Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Empress of India, is a Presbyterian. That is, she is a Presbyterian about one-half the time—when she is in Scotland, for she is the head of the Scottish Kirk. When in England, of course she is an Episcopalian. We have often been told that religion is largely a matter of geography, and here is a bit of something that looks like proof.

Of Scotch whisky I am not competent to speak, so that subject must be left to the experts. But a Kentucky colonel at my elbow declares that it can not be compared with the Blue-Grass article; though I trust that no one will be prejudiced against it on that account.

Scotch intellect, however, is worthy of our serious consideration. It is a bold, rocky headland, standing out into the tossing sea of the Unknown. Assertive? Yes. Stubborn? Most surely. Proud? By all means. Twice as many pilgrims visit the grave of Burns as that of Shakespeare. Buckle declares Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” has had a greater influence on civilization than any other book ever writ—save none; and the average Scotchman knows his Carlyle a deal better than the average American knows his Emerson: in fact, four times as many of Carlyle’s books have been printed.

When Carlyle took time to bring the ponderous machinery of his intellect to bear on a theme, he saw it through and through. The vividness of his imagination gives us a true insight into times long since gone by; it shows virtue her own feature, vice her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. In history he goes beyond the political and conventional—showing us the thought, the hope, the fear, the passion of the soul.

His was the masculine mind. The divination and subtle intuitions which are to be found scattered through his pages, like violets growing among the rank swale of the prairies—all these sweet, odorous things came from his wife. She gave him of her best thought, and he greedily absorbed it and unconsciously wrote it down as his own.

There are those who blame and berate; volumes have been written to show the inconsiderateness of this man toward the gentle lady who was his intellectual comrade. But they know not life who do this thing.

It is a fact that Carlyle never rushed to pick up Jeannie’s handkerchief. I admit that he could not bow gracefully; that he could not sing tenor, nor waltz, nor tell funny stories, nor play the mandolin; and if I had been his neighbor I would not have attempted to teach him any of these accomplishments.

Once he took his wife to the theater; and after the performance he accidentally became separated from her in the crowd and trudged off home alone and went to bed forgetting all about her—-but even for this I do not indict him. Mrs. Carlyle never upbraided him for this forgetfulness, neither did she relate the incident to any one, and for these things I to her now reverently lift my hat.

Jeannie Welsh Carlyle had capacity for pain, as it seems all great souls have. She suffered—but then suffering is not all suffering and pain is not all pain.

Life is often dark, but then there are rifts in the clouds when we behold the glorious deep blue of the sky. Not a day passes but that the birds sing in the branches, and the tree-tops poise backward and forward in restful, rhythmic harmony, and never an hour goes by but that hope bears us up on her wings as the eagle does her young. And ever just before the year dies and the frost comes, the leaves take on a gorgeous hue and the color of the flowers then puts to shame for brilliancy all the plainer petals of Springtime.

And I know Mr. and Mrs. Carlyle were happy, so happy, at times, that they laughed and cried for joy. Jeannie gave all, and she saw her best thought used—carried further, written out and given to the world as that of another—but she uttered no protest.

Xantippe lives in history only because she sought to worry a great philosopher; we remember the daughter of Herodias because she demanded the head (not the heart) of a good man; Goneril and Regan because they trod upon the withered soul of their sire; Lady Macbeth because she lured her liege to murder; Charlotte Corday for her dagger-thrust; Lucrezia Borgia for her poison; Sapphira for her untruth; Jael because she pierced the brain of Sisera with a rusty nail (instead of an idea); Delilah for the reason that she deprived Samson of his source of strength; and in the “Westminster Review” for May, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-four, Ouida makes the flat statement that for every man of genius who has been helped by a woman, ten have been dragged down.

But Jeannie Welsh Carlyle lives in the hearts of all who reverence the sweet, the gentle, the patient, the earnest, the loving spirit of the womanly woman: lives because she ministered to the needs of a great man.

She was ever a frail body. Several long illnesses kept her to her bed for weeks, but she recovered from these, even in spite of the doctors, who thoroughly impressed both herself and her husband with the thought of her frailty.

On April the Twenty-first, Eighteen Hundred Sixty-six, she called her carriage, as was her custom, and directed the driver to go through the park. She carried a book in her hands, and smiled a greeting to a friend as the brougham moved away from the little street where they lived. The driver drove slowly—drove for an hour—two. He got down from his box to receive the orders of his mistress, touched his hat as he opened the carriage-door, but no kindly eyes looked into his. She sat back in the corner as if resting; the shapely head a little thrown forward, the book held gently in the delicate hands, but the fingers were cold and stiff—Jeannie Welsh was dead—and Thomas Carlyle was alone.

* * *

Along the Thames, at Chelsea, opposite the rows of quiet and well-kept houses of Cheyne Walk, is the “Embankment.” A parkway it is of narrow green, with graveled walks, bushes and trees, that here and there grow lush and lusty as if to hide the unsightly river from the good people who live across the street.

Following this pleasant bit of breathing space, with its walks that wind in and out among the bushes, one comes unexpectedly upon a bronze statue. You need not read the inscription: a glance at that shaggy head, the grave, sober, earnest look, and you exclaim under your breath, “Carlyle!”

In this statue the artist has caught with rare skill the look of reverie and repose. One can imagine that on a certain night, as the mists and shadows of evening were gathering along the dark river, the gaunt form, wrapped in its accustomed cloak, came stalking down the little street to the park, just as he did thousands of times, and taking his seat in the big chair fell asleep. In the morning the children that came to play along the river found the form in cold, enduring bronze.

At the play we have seen the marble transformed by love into beauteous life. How much easier the reverse—here where souls stay only a day!

Cheyne Row is a little, alley-like street, running only a block, with fifteen houses on one side, and twelve on the other.

These houses are all brick and built right up to the sidewalk. On the north side they are all in one block, and one at first sees no touch of individuality in any of them.

They are old, and solid, and plain—built for revenue only. On closer view I thought one or two had been painted, and on one there was a cornice that set it off from the rest. As I stood on the opposite side and looked at this row of houses, I observed that Number Five was the dingiest and plainest of them all. For there were dark shutters instead of blinds, and these shutters were closed, all save one rebel that swung and creaked in the breeze. Over the doorway, sparrows had made their nests and were fighting and scolding. Swallows hovered above the chimney; dust, cobwebs, neglect were all about.

And as I looked there came to me the words of Ursa Thomas:

“Brief, brawling day, with its noisy phantoms, its paper crowns, tinsel-gilt, is gone; and divine, everlasting night, with her star diadems, with her silences and her verities, is come.”

Here walked Thomas and Jeannie one fair May morning in Eighteen Hundred Thirty-four. Thomas was thirty-nine, tall and swarthy, strong; with set mouth and three wrinkles on his forehead that told of care and dyspepsia. Jeannie was younger; her face winsome, just a trifle anxious, with luminous, gentle eyes, suggestive of patience, truth and loyalty. They looked like country folks, did these two. They examined the surroundings, consulted together—sixty pounds rent a year seemed very high! But they took the house, and T. Carlyle, son of James Carlyle, stone-mason, paid rent for it every month for half a century, lacking three years.

I walked across the street and read the inscription on the marble tablet inserted in the front of the house above the lower windows. It informs the stranger that Thomas Carlyle lived here from Eighteen Hundred Thirty-four to Eighteen Hundred Eighty-one, and that the tablet was erected by the Carlyle Society of London.

I ascended the stone steps and scraped my boots on the well-worn scraper, made long, long ago by a blacksmith who is now dust, and who must have been a very awkward mechanic, for I saw where he had made a misstroke with his hammer, probably as he discussed theology with a caller. Then I rang the bell and plied the knocker and waited there on the steps for Jeannie Welsh to come bid me welcome, just as she did Emerson when he, too, used the scraper and plied the knocker and stood where I did then.

And my knock was answered—answered by a very sour and peevish woman next door, who thrust her head out of the window, and exclaimed in a shrill voice:

“Look ‘ere, sir, you might as well go rap on the curb-stone, don’t you know; there’s nobody livin’ there, sir, don’t you know!”

“Yes, madam, that is why I knocked!”

“Beggin’ your pardon, sir, if you use your heyes you’ll see there’s nobody livin’ there, don’t you know!”

“I knocked lest offense be given. How can I get in?”

“You might go in through the keyhole, sir, or down the chimney. You seem to be a little daft, sir, don’t you know! But if you must get in, perhaps it would be as well to go over to Mrs. Brown’s and brang the key,” and she slammed down the window.

Across the street Mrs. Brown’s sign smiled at me.

Mrs. Brown keeps a little grocery and bakeshop and was very willing to show me the house. She fumbled in a black bag for the keys, all the time telling me of three Americans who came last week to see Carlyle’s house, and “as how” they each gave her a shilling. I took the hint.

“Only Americans care now for Mr. Carlyle,” plaintively added the old lady as she fished out the keys; “soon we will all be forgot.”

We walked across the street and after several ineffectual attempts the rusty lock was made to turn. I entered. Cold, bare and bleak was the sight of those empty rooms. The old lady had a touch of rheumatism, so she waited for me on the doorstep as I climbed the stairs to the third floor. The noise-proof back room where “The French Revolution” was writ, twice over, was so dark that I had to grope my way across to the window. The sash stuck and seemed to have a will of its own, like him who so often had raised it. But at last it gave way and I flung wide the shutter and looked down at the little arbor where Teufelsdrockh sat so often and wooed wisdom with the weed brought from Virginia.

Then I stood before the fireplace, where he of the Eternities had so often sat and watched the flickering embers. Here he lived in his loneliness and cursed curses that were prayers, and here for near five decades he read and thought and dreamed and wrote. Here the spirits of Cromwell and Frederick hovered; here that pitiful and pitiable long line of ghostly partakers in the Revolution answered to his roll-call.

The wind whistled down the chimney gruesomely as my footfalls echoed through the silent chambers, and I thought I heard a sepulchral voice say:

“Thy future life! Thy fate is it, indeed! Whilst thou makest that thy chief question, thy life to me and to thyself and to thy God is worthless. What is incredible to thee thou shalt not, at thy soul’s peril, pretend to believe. Elsewhither for a refuge! Away! Go to perdition if thou wilt, but not with a lie in thy mouth—by the Eternal Maker, No!!”

I was startled at first, but stood still listening; then I thought I saw a faint blue cloud of mist curling up in the fireplace. Watching this smoke and sitting before it in gloomy abstraction was the form of an old man. I swept my hand through the apparition, but still it stayed. My lips moved in spite of myself and I said:

“Hail! hard-headed man of granite outcrop and heather, of fen and crag, of moor and mountain, and of bleak East wind, hail! Eighty-six years didst thou live. One hundred years lacking fourteen didst thou suffer, enjoy, weep, dream, groan, pray and strike thy rugged breast! And yet methinks that in those years there was much quiet peace and sweet content; for constant pain benumbs, and worry destroys, and vain unrest summons the grim messenger of death. But thou didst live and work and love; howbeit, thy touch was not always gentle, nor thy voice low; but on thy lips was no lie, in thy thought no concealment, in thy heart no pollution. But mark! thou didst come out of poverty and obscurity: on thy battered shield there was no crest and thou didst leave all to follow truth. And verily she did lead thee a merry chase!

“Thou hadst no Past, but thou hast a Future. Thou didst say: ‘Bury me in Westminster, never! where the mob surges, cursed with idle curiosity to see the graves of kings and nobodies? No! Take me back to rugged Scotland and lay my tired form to rest by the side of an honest man—my father.’

“Thou didst refuse the Knighthood offered thee by royalty, saying, ‘I am not the founder of the house of Carlyle and I have no sons to be pauperized by a title,’ True, thou didst leave no sons after the flesh to mourn thy loss, nor fair daughters to bedeck thy grave with garlands, but thou didst reproduce thyself in thought, and on the minds of men thou didst leave thy impress. And thy ten thousand sons will keep thy memory green so long as men shall work, and toil, and strive, and hope.”

The wind still howled. I looked out and saw watery clouds scudding athwart the face of the murky sky. The shutters banged, and shut me in the dark. I made haste to find the door, reached the stairway—slid down the banisters to where Mrs. Brown was waiting for me at the threshold.

We locked the door. She went across to her little bakeshop and I stopped a passing policeman to ask the way to Westminster. He told me.

“Did you visit Carlyle’s ‘ouse?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“With old Mrs. Brown?”

“Yes, she waited for me in the doorway—she had the rheumatism so she could not climb the stairs.”

“Rheumatism? Huh!—you couldn’t ‘ire ‘er to go inside. Why, don’t you know? They say the ‘ouse is ‘aunted!”

John Ruskin • 3,600 Words

Put roses in their hair, put precious stones on their breasts; see that they are clothed in purple and scarlet, with other delights; that they also learn to read the gilded heraldry of the sky; and upon the earth be taught not only the labors of it but the loveliness.
Deucalion

John Ruskin
John Ruskin

At Windermere, a good friend, told me that I must abandon all hope of seeing Mr. Ruskin; for I had no special business with him, no letters of introduction, and then the fact that I am an American made it final. Americans in England are supposed to pick flowers in private gardens, cut their names on trees, laugh boisterously at trifles, and often to make invidious comparisons. Very properly, Mr. Ruskin does not admire these things.

Then Mr. Ruskin is a very busy man. Occasionally he issues a printed manifesto to his friends requesting them to give him peace. A copy of one such circular was shown to me. It runs, “Mr. J. Ruskin is about to begin a work of great importance, and therefore begs that in reference to calls and correspondence you will consider him dead for the next two months.” A similar notice is reproduced in “Arrows of the Chace,” and this one thing, I think, illustrates as forcibly as anything in Mr. Ruskin’s work the self-contained characteristics of the man himself.

Surely if a man is pleased to be considered “dead” occasionally, even to his kinsmen and friends, he should not be expected to receive with open arms an enemy to steal away his time. This is assuming, of course, that all individuals who pick flowers in other folks’ gardens, cut their names on trees, and laugh boisterously at trifles, are enemies. I therefore decided that I would simply walk over to Brantwood, view it from a distance, tramp over its hills, row across the lake, and at nightfall take a swim in its waters. Then I would rest at the Inn for a space and go my way.

Lake Coniston is ten miles from Grasmere, and even alone the walk is not long. If, however, you are delightfully attended by “King’s Daughters” with whom you sit and commune now and then on the bankside, the distance will seem to be much less. Then there is a pleasant little break in the journey at Hawkshead. Here one may see the quaint old schoolhouse where Wordsworth when a boy dangled his feet from a bench and proved his humanity by carving his initials on the seat.

The Inn at the head of Coniston Water appeared very inviting and restful when I saw it that afternoon. Built in sections from generation to generation, half-covered with ivy and embowered in climbing roses, it is an institution entirely different from the “Grand Palace Hotel” at Oshkosh. In America we have gongs that are fiercely beaten at stated times by gentlemen of color, just as they are supposed to do in their native Congo jungles. This din proclaims to the “guests” and to the public at large that it is time to come in and be fed. But this refinement of civilization is not yet in Coniston, and the Inn is quiet and homelike. You may go to bed when you are tired, get up when you choose, and eat when you are hungry.

There were no visitors about when I arrived, and I thought I would have the coffeeroom all to myself at luncheon-time; but presently there came in a pleasant-faced old gentleman in knickerbockers. He bowed to me and then took a place at the table. He said that it was a fine day and I agreed with him, adding that the mountains were very beautiful. He assented, putting in a codicil to the effect that the lake was very pretty.

Then the waiter came for our orders.

“Together, I s’pose?” remarked Thomas, inquiringly, as he halted at the door and balanced the tray on his finger-tips.

“Yes, serve lunch for us together,” said the ruddy old gentleman as he looked at me and smiled; “to eat alone is bad for the digestion.”

I nodded assent.

“Can you tell me how far it is to Brantwood?” I asked.

“Oh, not far—just across the lake.”

He arose and flung the shutter open so I could see the old, yellow house about a mile across the water, nestling in its wealth of green on the hillside. Soon the waiter brought our lunch, and while we discussed the chops and new potatoes we talked Ruskiniana.

The old gentleman knew a deal more of “Stones of Venice” and “Modern Painters” than I; but I told him how Thoreau introduced Ruskin to America and how Concord was the first place in the New World to recognize this star in the East. And upon my saying this, the old gentleman brought his knife-handle down on the table, declaring that Thoreau and Whitman were the only two men of genius that America had produced. I begged him to make it three and include Emerson, which he finally consented to do.

By and by the waiter cleared the table preparatory to bringing in the coffee. The old gentleman pushed his chair back, took the napkin from under his double chin, brushed the crumbs from his goodly front, and remarked:

“I’m going over to Brantwood this afternoon to call on Mr. Ruskin—just to pay my respects to him, as I always do when I come here. Can’t you go with me?”

I think this was about the most pleasing question I ever had asked me. I was going to request him to “come again” just for the joy of hearing the words, but I pulled my dignity together, straightened up, swallowed my coffee red-hot, pushed my chair back, flourished my napkin, and said, “I shall be very pleased to go.”

So we went—we two—he in his knickerbockers and I in my checks and outing-shirt. I congratulated myself on looking no worse than he, and as for him, he never seemed to think that our costumes were not exactly what they should be; and after all it matters little how you dress when you call on one of Nature’s noblemen—they demand no livery.

We walked around the northern end of Coniston Water, along the eastern edge, past Tent House, where Tennyson once lived (and found it “outrageous quiet”), and a mile farther on we came to Brantwood.

The road curves in to the back of the house—which, by the way, is the front—and the driveway is lined with great trees that form a complete archway. There is no lodge-keeper, no flowerbeds laid out with square and compass, no trees trimmed to appear like elephants, no cast-iron dogs, nor terra-cotta deer, and, strangest of all, no sign of the lawn-mower. There is nothing, in fact, to give forth a sign that the great Apostle of Beauty lives in this very old-fashioned spot. Big boulders are to be seen here and there where Nature left them, tangles of vines running over old stumps, part of the meadow cut close with a scythe, and part growing up as if the owner knew the price of hay. Then there are flowerbeds, where grow clusters of poppies and hollyhocks (purple, and scarlet, and white), prosaic gooseberry-bushes, plain Yankee pieplant (from which the English make tarts), rue and sweet marjoram, with patches of fennel, sage, thyme and catnip, all lined off with boxwood, making me think of my grandmother’s garden at Roxbury.

On the hillside above the garden we saw the entrance to the cave that Mr. Ruskin once filled with ice, just to show the world how to keep its head cool at small expense. He even wrote a letter to the papers giving the bright idea to humanity—that the way to utilize caves was to fill them with ice. Then he forgot all about the matter. But the following June, when the cook, wishing to make some ice-cream as a glad surprise for the Sunday dinner, opened the natural ice-chest, she found only a pool of muddy water, and exclaimed, “Botheration!” Then they had custard instead of ice-cream.

We walked up the steps, and my friend let the brass knocker drop just once, for only Americans give a rat-a-tat-tat, and the door was opened by a white-whiskered butler, who took our cards and ushered us into the library. My heart beat a trifle fast as I took inventory of the room; for I never before had called on a man who was believed to have refused the poet-laureateship. A dimly lighted room was this library—walls painted brown, running up to mellow yellow at the ceiling, high bookshelves, with a stepladder, and only five pictures on the walls, and of these three were etchings, and two water-colors of a very simple sort; leather-covered chairs; a long table in the center, on which were strewn sundry magazines and papers, also several photographs; and at one end of the room a big fireplace, where a yew log smoldered. Here my inventory was cut short by a cheery voice behind:

“Ah! now, gentlemen, I am glad to see you.”

There was no time nor necessity for a formal introduction. The great man took my hand as if he had always known me, as perhaps he thought he had. Then he greeted my friend in the same way, stirred up the fire, for it was a North of England summer day, and took a seat by the table. We were all silent for a space—a silence without embarrassment.

“You are looking at the etching over the fireplace—it was sent to me by a young lady in America,” said Mr. Ruskin, “and I placed it there to get acquainted with it. I like it more and more. Do you know the scene?” I knew the scene and explained somewhat about it.

Mr. Ruskin has the faculty of making his interviewer do most of the talking. He is a rare listener, and leans forward, putting a hand behind his right ear to get each word you say. He was particularly interested in the industrial conditions of America, and I soon found myself “occupying the time,” while an occasional word of interrogation from Mr. Ruskin gave me no chance to stop. I came to hear him, not to defend our “republican experiment,” as he was pleased to call the United States of America. Yet Mr. Ruskin was so gentle and respectful in his manner, and so complimentary in his attitude of listener, that my impatience at his want of sympathy for our “experiment” only caused me to feel a little heated.

“The fact of women being elected to mayoralties in Kansas makes me think of certain African tribes that exalt their women into warriors—you want your women to fight your political battles!”

“You evidently hold the same opinion on the subject of equal rights that you expressed some years ago,” interposed my companion.

“What did I say—really I have forgotten?”

“You replied to a correspondent, saying: ‘You are certainly right as to my views respecting the female franchise. So far from wishing to give votes to women, I would fain take them away from most men.’”

“Surely that was a sensible answer. My respect for woman is too great to force on her increased responsibilities. Then as for restricting the franchise with men, I am of the firm conviction that no man should be allowed to vote who does not own property, or who can not do considerably more than read and write. The voter makes the laws, and why should the laws regulating the holding of property be made by a man who has no interest in property beyond a covetous desire; or why should he legislate on education when he possesses none! Then again, women do not bear arms to protect the State.”

“But what do you say to Mrs. Carlock, who answers that inasmuch as men do not bear children, they have no right to vote: going to war possibly being necessary and possibly not, but the perpetuity of the State demanding that some one bear children?”

“The lady’s argument is ingenious, but lacks force when we consider that the bearing of arms is a matter relating to statecraft, while the baby question is Dame Nature’s own, and is not to be regulated even by the sovereign.”

Then Mr. Ruskin talked for nearly fifteen minutes on the duty of the State to the individual—talked very deliberately, but with the clearness and force of a man who believes what he says and says what he believes.

Thus, my friend, by a gentle thrust under the fifth rib of Mr. Ruskin’s logic, caused him to come to the rescue of his previously expressed opinions, and we had the satisfaction of hearing him discourse earnestly and eloquently.

Maiden ladies usually have an opinion ready on the subject of masculine methods, and, conversely, much of the world’s logic on the “woman question” has come from the bachelor brain.

Mr. Ruskin went quite out of his way on several occasions in times past to attack John Stuart Mill for heresy “in opening up careers for women other than that of wife and mother.”

When Mill did not answer Mr. Ruskin’s newspaper letters, the author of “Sesame and Lilies” called him a “cretinous wretch” and referred to him as “the man of no imagination.” Mr. Mill may have been a cretinous wretch (I do not exactly understand the phrase), but the preface to “On Liberty” is at once the tenderest, highest and most sincere compliment paid to a woman, of which I know.

The life of Mr. and Mrs. John Stuart Mill shows that perfect mating is possible; yet Mr. Ruskin has only scorn for the opinions of Mr. Mill on a subject which Mill came as near personally solving in a matrimonial “experiment” as any other public man of modern times, not excepting even Robert Browning. Therefore we might suppose Mr. Mill entitled to speak on the woman question, and I intimated as much to Mr. Ruskin.

“He might know all about one woman, and if he should regard her as a sample of all womankind, would he not make a great mistake?”

I was silenced.

In “Fors Clavigera,” Letter LIX, the author says: “I never wrote a letter in my life which all the world is not welcome to read.” From this one might imagine that Mr. Ruskin never loved—no pressed flowers in books; no passages of poetry double-marked and scored; no bundles of letters faded and yellow, sacred for his own eye, tied with white or dainty blue ribbon; no little nothings hidden away in the bottom of a trunk. And yet Mr. Ruskin has his ideas on the woman question, and very positive ideas they are too—often sweetly sympathetic and wisely helpful.

I see that one of the encyclopedias mentions Ruskin as a bachelor, which is giving rather an extended meaning to the word, for although Mr. Ruskin married, he was not mated. According to Collingwood’s account, this marriage was a quiet arrangement between parents. Anyway, the genius is like the profligate in this: when he marries he generally makes a woman miserable. And misery is reactionary as well as infectious. Ruskin is a genius.

Genius is unique. No satisfactory analysis of it has yet been given. We know a few of its indications—that’s all. First among these is ability to concentrate.

No seed can sow genius; no soil can grow it: its quality is inborn and defies both cultivation and extermination. To be surpassed is never pleasant; to feel your inferiority is to feel a pang. Seldom is there a person great enough to find satisfaction in the success of a friend. The pleasure that excellence gives is oft tainted by resentment; and so the woman who marries a genius is usually unhappy.

Genius is excess: it is obstructive to little plans. It is difficult to warm yourself at a conflagration; the tempest may blow you away; the sun dazzles; lightning seldom strikes gently; the Nile overflows. Genius has its times of straying off into the infinite—and then what is the good wife to do for companionship? Does she protest, and find fault? It could not be otherwise, for genius is dictatorial without knowing it, obstructive without wishing to be, intolerant unawares, and unsocial because it can not help it.

The wife of a genius sometimes takes his fits of abstraction for stupidity, and having the man’s interests at heart she endeavors to arouse him from his lethargy by chiding him. Occasionally he arouses enough to chide back; and so it has become an axiom that genius is not domestic.

A short period of mismated life told the wife of Ruskin their mistake, and she told him. But Mrs. Grundy was at the keyhole, ready to tell the world, and so Mr. and Mrs. Ruskin sought to deceive society by pretending to live together. They kept up this appearance for six sorrowful years, and then the lady simplified the situation by packing her trunks and deliberately leaving her genius to his chimeras; her soul doubtless softened by the knowledge that she was bestowing a benefit on him by going away. The lady afterwards became the happy wife and helpmeet of a great artist.

Ruskin’s father was a prosperous importer of wines. He left his son a fortune equal to a little more than one million dollars. But that vast fortune has gone—-principal and interest—gone in bequests, gifts and experiments; and today Mr. Ruskin has no income save that derived from the sale of his books. Talk about “Distribution of Wealth”! Here we have it.

The bread-and-butter question has never troubled John Ruskin except in his ever-ardent desire that others should be fed. His days have been given to study and writing from his very boyhood; he has made money, but he has had no time to save it.

He has expressed himself on every theme that interests mankind, except perhaps “housemaid’s knee.” He has written more letters to the newspapers than “Old Subscriber,” “Fiat Justitia,” “Indignant Reader” and “Veritas” combined. His opinions have carried much weight and directed attention into necessary lines; but perhaps his success as an inspirer of thought lies in the fact that his sense of humor exists only as a trace, as the chemist might say. Men who perceive the ridiculous would never have voiced many of the things which he has said.

Surely those Sioux Indians who stretched a hay lariat across the Union Pacific Railroad in order to stop the running of trains had small sense of the ridiculous. But it looks as if they were apostles of Ruskin, every one.

Some one has said that no man can appreciate the beautiful who has not a keen sense of humor. For the beautiful is the harmonious, and the laughable is the absence of fit adjustment.

Mr. Ruskin disproves the maxim.

But let no hasty soul imagine that John Ruskin’s opinions on practical themes are not useful. He brings to bear an energy on every subject he touches (and what subject has he not touched?) that is sure to make the sparks of thought fly. His independent and fearless attitude awakens from slumber a deal of dozing intellect, and out of this strife of opinion comes truth.

On account of Mr. Ruskin’s refusing at times to see visitors, reports have gone abroad that his mind was giving way. Not so, for although he is seventy-four he is as serenely stubborn as he ever was. His opposition to new inventions in machinery has not relaxed a single pulley’s turn. You grant his premises and in his conclusions you will find that his belt never slips, and that his logic never jumps a cog. His life is as regular and exact as the trains on the Great Western, and his days are more peaceful than ever before. He has regular hours for writing, study, walking, reading, eating, and working out of doors, superintending the cultivation of his hundred acres. He told me that he had not varied a half-hour in two years from a certain time of going to bed or getting up in the morning. Although his form is bowed, this regularity of life has borne fruit in the rich russet of his complexion, the mild, clear eye, and the pleasure in living in spite of occasional pain, which you know the man feels. His hair is thick and nearly white; the beard is now worn quite long and gives a patriarchal appearance to the fine face.

When we arose to take our leave, Mr. Ruskin took a white felt hat from the elk-antlers in the hallway and a stout stick from the corner, and offered to show us a nearer way back to the village. We walked down a footpath through the tall grass to the lake, where he called our attention to various varieties of ferns that he had transplanted there.

We shook hands with the old gentleman and thanked him for the pleasure he had given us. He was still examining the ferns when we lifted our hats and bade him good-day.

He evidently did not hear us, for I heard him mutter: “I verily believe those miserable Cook’s tourists that were down here yesterday picked some of my ferns.”

William E. Gladstone • 4,100 Words

As the aloe is said to flower only once in a hundred years, so it seems to be but once in a thousand years that Nature blossoms into this unrivaled product and produces such a man as we have here.
Gladstone, “Lecture on Homer

William E. Gladstone
William E. Gladstone

American travelers in England are said to accumulate sometimes large and unique assortments of lisps, drawls and other very peculiar things. Of the value of these acquirements as regards their use and beauty, I have not room here to speak. But there is one adjunct which England has that we positively need, and that is “Boots.” It may be that Boots is indigenous to England’s soil, and that when transplanted he withers and dies; perhaps there is a quality in our atmosphere that kills him. Anyway, we have no Boots.

When trouble, adversity or bewilderment comes to the homesick traveler in an American hotel, to whom can he turn for consolation? Alas, the porter is afraid of the “guest,” and all guests are afraid of the clerk, and the proprietor is never seen, and the Afro-Americans in the dining-room are stupid, and the chambermaid does not answer the ring, and at last the weary wanderer hies him to the barroom and soon discovers that the worthy “barkeep” has nothing to recommend him but his diamond-pin. How different, yes, how different, this would all be if Boots were only here! At the quaint old city of Chester I was met at the “sti-shun” by the Boots of that excellent though modest hotel which stands only a block away. Boots picked out my baggage without my looking for it, took me across to the Inn, and showed me to the daintiest, most homelike little room I had seen for weeks. On the table was a tastefully decorated “jug,” evidently just placed there in anticipation of my arrival, and in this jug was a large bunch of gorgeous roses, the morning dew still on them.

When Boots had brought me hot water for shaving he disappeared and did not come back until, by the use of telepathy (for Boots is always psychic), I had sent him a message that he was needed. In the afternoon he went with me to get a draft cashed, then he identified me at the post-office, and introduced me to a dignitary at the cathedral whose courtesy added greatly to my enjoyment of the visit.

The next morning after breakfast, when I returned to my room, everything was put to rights and a fresh bouquet of cut flowers was on the mantel. A good breakfast adds much to one’s inward peace: I sat down before the open window and looked out at the great oaks dotting the green meadows that stretched away to the north, and listened to the drowsy tinkle of sheep-bells as the sound came floating in on the perfumed breeze. I was thinking how good it was to be here, when the step of Boots was heard in the doorway. I turned and saw that mine own familiar friend had lost a little of his calm self-reliance—in fact, he was a bit agitated, but he soon recovered his breath.

“Mr. Gladstone and ‘is Lady ‘ave just arrived, sir—they will be ‘ere for an hour before taking the train for Lunnon, sir. I told ‘is clark there was a party of Americans ‘ere that were very anxious to meet ‘im, and he will receive you in the parlor in fifteen minutes, sir.”

Then it was my turn to be agitated. But Boots reassured me by explaining that the Grand Old Man was just the plainest, most unpretentious gentleman one could imagine; that it was not at all necessary that I should change my suit; that I should pronounce it Gladstun, not Glad-stone, and that it was Harden, not Ha-war-den. Then he stood me up, looked me over, and declared that I was all right.

On going downstairs I found that Boots had gotten together five Americans who happened to be in the hotel. He introduced us to a bright little man who seemed to be the companion or secretary of the Prime Minister; he, in turn, took us into the parlor where Mr. Gladstone sat reading the morning paper, and presented us one by one to the great man. We were each greeted with a pleasant word and a firm grasp of the hand, and then the old gentleman turned and with a courtly flourish said, “Gentlemen, allow me to present you to Mrs. Gladstone.”

Mr. Gladstone was wise: he remained standing; this was sure to shorten the interview. A clergyman in our party who had an impressive cough and bushy whiskers, acted as spokesman, and said several pleasant things, closing his little speech by informing Mr. Gladstone that Americans held him in great esteem, and that we only regretted that Fate had not decreed that he should have been born in the United States.

Mr. Gladstone replied, “Fate is often unkind.” Then he asked if we were going to London. On being told that we were, he spoke for five minutes about the things we should see in the Metropolis. His style was not conversational, but after the manner of a man who was much used to speaking in public or to receiving delegations. The sentences were stately, the voice rather loud and declamatory. His closing words were: “Yes, gentlemen, the way to see London is from the top of a ‘bus—from the top of a ‘bus, gentlemen.” Then there was an almost imperceptible wave of the hand, and we knew that the interview was ended. In a moment we were outside and the door was closed.

The five Americans who made up our little company had never met before, but now we were as brothers; we adjourned to a side-room to talk it over and tell of the things we intended to say but didn’t. We all talked and talked at once, just as people do who have recently preserved an enforced silence.

“How ill-fitting was that gray suit!”

“Yes, the sleeves too long.”

“Did you notice the absence of the forefinger of his left hand—shot off in Eighteen Hundred Forty-five while hunting, they say.”

“But how strong his voice is!”

“He looks like a farmer.”

“Eighty-five years of age! Think of it, and how vigorous!”

Then the preacher spoke and his voice was sorrowful:

“Oh, but I made a botch of it—was it sarcasm or was it not?”

“Was what sarcasm?”

“When Mr. Gladstone said that Fate was unkind in not having him born in the United States!”

And we were all silent. Then Boots came in, and we put the question to Boots, who decided it was not sarcasm.

The next day, when we went away, we rewarded Boots bountifully.

* * *

William Gladstone is England’s glory. Yet there is no English blood in his veins; his parents were Scotch. Aside from Lord Brougham, he is the only Scotchman who has ever taken a prominent part in British statecraft. The name as we first find it is Gled-stane, “gled” being a hawk—literally, a hawk that lives among the stones. Surely the hawk is fully as respectable a bird as the eagle, and a goodly amount of granite in the clay that is used to make a man is no disadvantage. The name fits.

There are deep-rooted theories in the minds of many men (and still more women) that bad boys make good men, and that a dash of the pirate, even in a prelate, does not disqualify. But I wish to come to the defense of the Sunday-school story-books and show that their very prominent moral is right after all: it pays to be “good.”

William Ewart Gladstone was sent to Eton when twelve years of age. From the first, his conduct was a model of propriety. He attended every chapel service, and said his prayers in the morning and before going to bed at night; he could repeat the catechism backwards or forwards, and recite more verses of Scripture than any other boy in school.

He always spoke the truth. He never played “hookey”; nor, as he grew older, would he tell stories of doubtful flavor, or allow others to relate such in his presence. His influence was for good, and Cardinal Manning has said that there was less wine drunk at Oxford during the Forties than would have been the case if Gladstone had not been there in the Thirties.

He graduated from Christchurch with the highest possible honors the college could bestow, and at twenty-two he seemed like one who had sprung into life full-armed.

At that time he had magnificent health, a fine form, vast and varied knowledge, and a command of language so great that he was a master of forensics. His speeches were fully equal to his later splendid efforts. In feature he was handsome: the face bold and masculine; eyes of piercing luster; and hair, which he tossed when in debate, like a lion’s mane. He could speak five languages, sing tenor, dance gracefully, and was on more than speaking terms with many of the best and greatest men in England. Besides all this he was rich in British gold.

Now, here is a combination of good things that would send most young men straight to perdition—not so Gladstone. He took the best care of his health, systematized his time as a miser might, listened not to the flatterers, and used his money only for good purposes. His intention was to enter the Church, but his father said, “Not yet,” and half-forced him into politics. So, at this early age of twenty-two, he ran for Parliament, was elected, and has practically never been out of the shadow of Westminster Palace during these sixty-odd years.

At thirty-three, he was a member of the Cabinet. At thirty-six, his absolute honesty compelled him for conscience’ sake to resign from the Ministry. His opponents then said, “Gladstone is an extinct volcano,” and they have said this again and again; but somehow the volcano always breaks out in a new place, stronger and brighter than ever. It is difficult to subdue a volcano.

When twenty-nine, he married Catherine Glynne, sister and heir of Sir Stephen Glynne, Baronet. The marriage was most fortunate in every way. For over fifty years this most excellent woman has been his comrade, counselor, consolation, friend—his wife.

“How can any adversity come to him who hath a wife?” said Chaucer.

If this splendid woman had died, then his opponents might truthfully have said, “Gladstone is an extinct volcano”; but she is still with him, and a short time ago, when he had to undergo an operation for cataract, this woman of eighty was his only nurse.

The influence of Gladstone has been of untold value to England. His ideals for national action have been high. To the material prosperity of the country he has added millions upon millions; he has made education popular, and schooling easy; his policy in the main has been such as to command the admiration of the good and great. But there are spots on the sun.

On reading Mr. Gladstone’s books I find he has vigorously defended certain measures that seem unworthy of his genius. He has palliated human slavery as a “necessary evil”; has maintained the visibility and divine authority of the Church; has asserted the mathematical certainty of the historic episcopate, the mystical efficacy of the sacraments; and has vindicated the Church of England as the God-appointed guardian of truth.

He has fought bitterly any attempt to improve the divorce-laws of England. Much has been done in this line, even in spite of his earnest opposition, but we now owe it to Mr. Gladstone that there is on England’s law-books a statute providing that if a wife leaves her husband he can invoke a magistrate, whose duty it will then be to issue a writ and give it to an officer, who will bring her back. More than this, when the officer has returned the woman, the loving husband has the legal right to “reprove” her. Just what reprove means the courts have not yet determined; for, in a recent decision, when a costermonger admitted having given his lady “a taste of the cat,” the prisoner was discharged on the ground that it was only needed reproof.

I would not complain of this law if it worked both ways; but no wife can demand that the State shall return her “man” willy-nilly. And if she administers reproof to her mate, she does it without the sanction of the Sovereign.

However, in justice to Englishmen, it should be stated that while this unique law still stands on the statute-books, it is very seldom that a man in recent years has stooped to invoke it.

On all the questions I have named, from slavery to divorce, Mr. Gladstone has used the “Bible argument.” But as the years have gone by, his mind has become liberalized, and on many points where he was before zealous he is now silent. In Eighteen Hundred Forty-one, he argued with much skill and ingenuity that Jews were not entitled to full rights of citizenship, but in Eighteen Hundred Forty-seven, acknowledging his error, he took the other side.

During the War of Secession the sympathies of England’s Chancellor of the Exchequer were with the South. Speaking at Newcastle on October Ninth, Eighteen Hundred Sixty-two, he said, “Jefferson Davis has undoubtedly founded a new nation.” But five years passed, and he publicly confessed that he was wrong.

Here is a man who, if he should err deeply, is yet so great that, like Cotton Mather, he might not hesitate to stand uncovered on the street-corners and ask the forgiveness of mankind. Such men are saved by their enemies. Their own good and the good of humanity require that their balance of power shall not be too great. Had the North gone down, Gladstone might never have seen his mistake. In this instance and in many others, he has not been the leader of progress, but its echo: truth has been forced upon him. His passionate earnestness, his intense volition, his insensibility to moral perspective, his blindness to the sense of proportion, might have led him into dangerous excess and frightful fanatical error, if it were not for the fact that such men create an opposition that is their salvation.

To analyze a character so complex as Mr. Gladstone’s requires the grasp of genius. We speak of “the duality of the human mind,” but here are half a dozen spirits in one. They rule in turn, and occasionally several of them struggle for the mastery.

When the Fisk Jubilee Singers visited England, we find Gladstone dropping the affairs of State to hear their music. He invited them to Hawarden, where he sang with them. So impressed was he with the negro melodies that he anticipated that idea which has since been materialized: the founding of a national school of music that would seek to perfect in a scientific way these soul-stirring strains.

He might have made a poet of no mean order; for his devotion to spiritual and physical beauty has made him a lifelong admirer of Homer and Dante. Those who have met him when the mood was upon him have heard him recite by the hour from the “Iliad” in the original. And yet the theology of Homer belongs to the realm of natural religion with which Mr. Gladstone has little patience.

A prominent member of the House of Commons once said, “The only two things that the Prime Minister really cares for are religion and finance.” The statement comes near truth; for the chief element in Mr. Gladstone’s character is his devotion to religion; and his signal successes have been in the line of economics. He believes in Free Trade as the gospel of social salvation. He revels in figures; he has price, value, consumption, distribution, import, export, fluctuation, all at his tongue’s end, ready to hurl at any one who ventures on a hasty generalization.

And it is a significant fact that in his strong appeal for the disestablishment of the Irish Church, the stress of his argument was put on the point that the Irish Church was not in the line of the apostolic succession.

Mr. Gladstone is grave, sober, earnest, proud, passionate, and at times romantic to a rare degree. He rebukes, refutes, contradicts, defies, and has a magnificent capacity for indignation. He will roar you like a lion, his eyes will flash, and his clenched fist will shake as he denounces that which he believes to be error. And yet among inferiors he will consult, defer, inquire, and show a humility, a forced suavity, that has given the caricaturist excuse.

In his home he is gentle, amiable, always kind, social and hospitable. He loves deeply, and his friends revere him to a point that is but little this side of idolatry. And surely their affection is not misplaced.

Some day a Plutarch without a Plutarch’s prejudice will arise, and with malice toward none, but with charity for all, he will write the life of the statesman, Gladstone. Over against this he will write the life of an American statesman. The name he will choose will be that of one born in a log hut in the forest; who was rocked by the foot of a mother whose hands meanwhile were busy at her wheel; who had no schooling, no wise and influential friends; who had few books and little time to read; who knew no formal religion; who never traveled out of his own country; who had no helpmeet, but who walked solitary—alone, a man of sorrows; down whose homely, furrowed face the tears of pity often ran, and yet whose name, strange paradox! stands in many minds as a symbol of mirth.

And when the master comes, who has the power to portray with absolute fidelity the greatness of these two men, will it be to the disadvantage of the American?

* * *

The village of Hawarden is in Flintshire, North Wales. It is seven miles from Chester. I walked the distance one fine June morning—out across the battlefield where Cromwell’s army crushed that of Charles; and on past old stone walls and stately elms.

There had been a shower the night before, but the morning sun came out bright and warm and made the raindrops glisten like beads as they clung to each leaf and flower. Larks sang and soared, and great flocks of crows called and cawed as they flew lazily across the sky. It was a time for silent peace, and quiet joy, and serene thankfulness for life and health.

I walked leisurely, and in a little over two hours reached Hawarden—a cluster of plain stone houses with climbing vines and flowers and gardens, which told of homely thrift and simple tastes. I went straight to the old stone church, which is always open, and rested for half an hour, listening to the organ on which a young girl was practising, instructed by a white-haired old gentleman.

The church is dingy and stained inside and out by time. The pews are irregular, some curiously carved, and all stiff and uncomfortable. I walked around and read the inscriptions on the walls, and all the time the young girl played and the old gentleman beat time, and neither noticed my presence. One brass tablet I saw was to a woman “who for long years was a faithful servant at Hawarden Castle—erected in gratitude by W.E.G.”

Near this was a memorial to W.H. Gladstone, son of the Premier, who died in Eighteen Hundred Ninety-one. Then there were inscriptions to various Glynnes and several others whose names appear in English history. I stood at the reading-desk, where the great man has so often read, and marked the spot where William Ewart Gladstone and Catherine Glynne knelt when they were married here in July, Eighteen Hundred Thirty-nine.

A short distance from the church is the entrance to Hawarden Park. This fine property was the inheritance of Mrs. Gladstone; the park itself seems to belong to the public. If Mr. Gladstone were a plain citizen, people, of course, would not come by hundreds and picnic on his preserve, but serving the State, he and his possessions belong to the people, and this democratic familiarity is rather pleasing than otherwise. So great has been the throng in times past, that an iron fence had to be placed about the ivy-covered ruins of the ancient castle, to protect it from those who threatened to carry it away by the pocketful. A wall has also been put around the present “castle” (more properly, house). This was done some years ago, I was told by the butler, after a torchlight procession of a thousand enthusiastic admirers had come down from Liverpool and trampled Mrs. Gladstone’s flowers into “smithereens.”

The park contains many hundred acres, and is as beautiful as an English park can be, and this is praise superlative. Flocks of sheep wander over the soft, green turf, and beneath the spreading trees are sleek cows which seem used to visitors, and with big, open eyes come up to be petted.

Occasional signs are seen: “Please spare the trees.” Some people suppose that this is an injunction which Mr. Gladstone himself has never observed. But when in his tree-cutting days, no monarch of the forest was ever felled without its case being fully tried by the entire household. Ruskin, once, visiting at Hawarden, sat as judge, and after listening to the evidence gave sentence against several trees that were rotten at the core or overshadowing their betters. Then the Prime Minister shouldered his faithful “snickersnee” and went forth as executioner.

I looked in vain for stumps, and on inquiry was told that they were all dug out, and the ground leveled so no trace was left of the offender.

The “lady of the house” at Hawarden is the second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone. All accounts agree that she is a most capable and excellent woman. She is her father’s “home secretary” and confidante, and in his absence takes full charge of the mail and looks after important business affairs. Her husband, the Reverend Harry Drew, is rector of Hawarden Church. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Drew and found him very cordial and perfectly willing to talk about the great man who is grandfather to his baby. We also talked of America, and I soon surmised that Mr. Drew’s ideas of “The States” were largely derived from a visit to the Wild West Show. So I put the question to him direct:

“Did you see Buffalo Bill?”

“Oh, yes.”

“And did Mr. Gladstone go?”

“Not only once, but three times, and he cheered as loudly as any boy.”

The Gladstone residence is a great, rambling, stone structure to which additions have been made from one generation to another. The towers and battlements are merely architectural appendiculæ, but the effect of the whole, when viewed from a distance, rising out of its wealth of green and backed by the forest, is very imposing.

I entered only the spacious front hallway and one room—the library. Bookshelves and books and more books were everywhere; several desks of different designs (one an American roll-top), as if the owner transacted business at one, translated Homer at another, and wrote social letters from a third. Then there were several large Japanese vases, a tiger-skin, beautiful rugs, a few large paintings, and in a rack a full dozen axes and twice as many “sticks.”

The whole place has an air of easy luxury that speaks of peace and plenty, of quiet and rest, of gentle thoughts and calm desires.

As I walked across toward the village, the church-bell slowly pealed the hour; over the distant valley, night hovered; a streak of white mist, trailing like a thin veil, marked the passage of the murmuring brook. I thought of the grand old man over whose domain I was now treading, and my wonder was, not that one should live so long and still be vigorous, but that a man should live in such an idyllic spot, with love and books to keep him company, and yet grow old.

J.M.W. Turner • 4,500 Words

I believe that these works of Turner’s are at their first appearing as perfect as those of Phidias or Leonardo, that is to say, incapable of any improvement conceivable by human mind.
John Ruskin

J.M.W. Turner
J.M.W. Turner

The beauty of the upper Thames with its fairy house-boats and green banks has been sung by poets, but rash is the minstrel who tunes his lyre to sound the praises of this muddy stream in the vicinity of Chelsea. As yellow as the Tiber and thick as the Missouri after a flood, it comes twice a day bearing upon its tossing tide a unique assortment of uncanny sights and sickening smells from the swarming city of men below.

Chelsea was once a country village six miles from London Bridge. Now the far-reaching arms of the metropolis have taken it as her own.

Chelsea may be likened to some rare spinster, grown old with years and good works, and now having a safe home with a rich and powerful benefactress. Yet Chelsea is not handsome in her old age, and Chelsea was not pretty in youth, nor fair to view in middle life; but Chelsea has been the foster-mother of several of the rarest and fairest souls who have ever made the earth pilgrimage.

And the greatness of genius still rests upon Chelsea. As we walk slowly through its winding ways, by the edge of its troubled waters, among dark and crooked turns, through curious courts, by old gateways and piles of steepled stone, where flocks of pigeons wheel, and bells chime, and organs peal, and winds sigh, we know that all has been sanctified by their presence. And their spirits abide with us, and the splendid beauty of their visions is about us. For the stones beneath our feet have been hallowed by their tread, and the walls have borne their shadows; so all mean things are transfigured and over all these plain and narrow streets their glory gleams.

And it is the great men and they alone that can render a place sacred. Chelsea is now to the lovers of the Beautiful a sacred name, a sacred soil; a place of pilgrimage where certain gods of Art once lived, and loved, and worked, and died.

Sir Thomas More lived here and had for a frequent guest Erasmus. Hans Sloane began in Chelsea the collection of curiosities which has now developed into the British Museum. Bishop Atterbury (who claimed that Dryden was a greater poet than Shakespeare), Dean Swift and Doctor Arbuthnot, all lived in Church Street; Richard Steele just around the corner and Leigh Hunt in Cheyne Row; but it was from another name that the little street was to be immortalized.

If France constantly has forty Immortals in the flesh, surely it is a modest claim to say that Chelsea has three for all time: Thomas Carlyle, George Eliot and Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Turner’s father was a barber. His youth was passed in poverty and his advantages for education were very slight. And all this in the crowded city of London, where merit may knock long and still not be heard, and in a country where wealth and title count for much.

When a boy, barefoot and ragged, he would wander away alone on the banks of the river and dream dreams about wonderful palaces and beautiful scenes; and then he would trace with a stick in the sands, endeavoring, with mud, to make plain to the eye the things that his soul saw.

His mother was quite sure that no good could come from this vagabondish nature, and she did not spare the rod, for she feared that the desire to scrawl and daub would spoil the child. But he was a stubborn lad, with a pug-nose and big, dreamy, wondering eyes, and a heavy jaw; and when parents see that they have such a son, they had better hang up the rod behind the kitchen-door and lay aside force and cease scolding. For love is better than a cat-o’-nine-tails, and sympathy saves more souls than threats.

The elder Turner considered that the proper use of a brush was to lather chins. But the boy thought differently, and once surreptitiously took one of his father’s brushes to paint a picture; the brush on being returned to its cup was used the next day upon a worthy haberdasher, whose cheeks were shortly colored a vermilion that matched his nose. This lost the barber a customer and secured the boy a thrashing.

Young Turner did not always wash his father’s shop-windows well, nor sweep off the sidewalk properly. Like all boys he would rather work for some one else than for “his folks.”

He used to run errands for an engraver by the name of Smith—John Raphael Smith. Once, when Smith sent the barber’s boy with a letter to a certain art-gallery with orders to “get the answer and hurry back, mind you!” the boy forgot to get the answer and to hurry back. Then another boy was dispatched after the first, and boy Number Two found boy Number One sitting, with staring eyes and open mouth, in the art-gallery before a painting of Claude Lorraine’s. When boy Number One was at last forcibly dragged away, and reached the shop of his master, he got his ears well cuffed for his forgetfulness. But from that day forth he was not the same being that he had been before his eyes fell on that Claude Lorraine.

He was transformed, as much so as was Lazarus after he was called from beyond the portals of death and had come back to earth, bearing in his heart the secrets of the grave.

From that time Turner thought of Claude Lorraine during the day and dreamed of him at night, and he stole his way into every exhibition where a Claude was to be seen. And now I wish that Claude Lorraine was the subject of this sketch, as well as Turner, for his life is a picture full of sweetest poetry, framed in a world of dullest prose.

The eyes of this boy, whom they had thought dreamy, dull and listless, now shone with a different light. He thirsted to achieve, to do, to become—yes, to become a greater painter than Claude Lorraine. His employer saw the change and smiled at it, but he allowed the lad to put in backgrounds and add the skies to cheap prints, just because the youngster teased to do it.

Then one day a certain patron of the shop came and looked over the shoulder of the Turner boy, and he said, “He has skill—perhaps talent.”

And I think the recording angel should give this man a separate page in the Book of Remembrance and write his name in illuminated colors, for he gave young Turner access to his own collection and to his library, and he never cuffed him nor kicked him nor called him dunce—whereat the boy was much surprised. But he encouraged the youth to sketch a picture in water-colors and then he bought the picture and paid him ten shillings for it; and the name of this man was Doctor Munro.

The next year, when young Turner was fourteen, Doctor Munro had him admitted to the Royal Academy as a student, and in Seventeen Hundred Ninety he exhibited a water-color of the Archbishop’s palace at Lambeth.

The picture took no prize, and doubtless was not worthy of one, but from now on Joseph M.W. Turner was an artist, and other hands had to sweep the barber-shop.

But he sold few pictures—they were not popular. Other artists scorned him, possibly intuitively fearing him, for mediocrity always fears when the ghost of genius does not down at its bidding.

Then Turner was accounted unsociable; besides, he was ragged, uncouth, independent, and did not conform to the ways of society; so the select circle cast him out—more properly speaking, did not let him in.

Still he worked on, and exhibited at every Academy Exhibition, yet he was often hungry, and the London fog crept cold and damp through his threadbare clothes. But he toiled on, for Claude Lorraine was ever before him.

In Eighteen Hundred Two, when twenty-seven years of age, he visited France and made a tour through Switzerland, tramping over many long miles with his painting-kit on his back, and he brought back rich treasures in way of sketches and quickened imagination.

In the years following he took many such trips, and came to know Venice, Rome, Florence and Paris as perfectly as his own London.

When thirty-three years of age he was still worshiping at the shrine of Claude Lorraine. His pictures painted at this time are evidence of his ideal, and his book, “Liber Studiorum,” issued in Eighteen Hundred Eight, is modeled after the “Liber Veritatis.” But the book surpasses Claude’s, and Turner knew it, and this may have led him to burst his shackles and cast loose from his idol. For, in Eighteen Hundred Fifteen, we find him working according to his own ideas, showing an originality and audacity in conception and execution that made him the butt of the critics, and caused consternation to rage through the studios of competitors.

Gradually, it dawned upon a few scattered collectors that things so strongly condemned must have merit, for why should the pack bay so loudly if there were no quarry! So to have a Turner was at least something for your friends to discuss.

Then carriages began to stop before the dingy building at Forty-seven Queen Anne Street, and broadcloth and satin mounted the creaking stairs to the studio. It happened about this time that Turner’s prices began to increase. Like the sibyl of old, if a customer said, “I do not want it,” the painter put an extra ten pounds on the price. For “Dido Building Carthage,” Turner’s original price was five hundred pounds. People came to see the picture and they said, “The price is too high.” Next day Turner’s price for the “Carthage” was one thousand pounds. Finally, Sir Robert Peel offered the painter five thousand pounds for the picture, but Turner said he had decided to keep it for himself, and he did.

In the forepart of his career he sold few pictures—for the simple reason that no one wanted them. And he sold few pictures during the latter years of his life, for the reason that his prices were so high that none but the very rich could buy. First, the public scorned Turner. Next, Turner scorned the public. In the beginning it would not buy his pictures, and later it could not.

A frivolous public and a shallow press, from his first exhibition, when fifteen years of age, to his last, when seventy, made sport of his originalities. But for merit there is a recompense in sneers, and a benefit in sarcasms, and a compensation in hate; for when these things get too pronounced a champion appears. And so it was with Turner. Next to having a Boswell write one’s life, what is better than a Ruskin to uphold one’s cause!

Success came slowly; his wants were few, but his ambition never slackened, and finally the dreams of his youth became the realities of his manhood.

At twenty, Turner loved a beautiful girl—they became engaged. He went away on a tramp sketching-tour and wrote his ladylove just one short letter each month. He believed that “absence only makes the heart grow fonder,” not knowing that this statement is only the vagary of a poet. When he returned the lady was betrothed to another. He gave the pair his blessing, and remained a bachelor—a very confirmed bachelor.

Perhaps, however, the reason his fiancee proved untrue was not through lack of the epistles he wrote her, but on account of them. In the British Museum I examined several letters written by Turner. They appeared very much like copy for a Josh Billings Almanac. Such originality in spelling, punctuation and use of capitals! It was admirable in its uniqueness. Turner did not think in words—he could only think in paint. But the young lady did not know this, and when a letter came from her homely little lover she was shocked, then she laughed, then she showed these letters to a nice young man who was clerk to a fishmonger and he laughed, then they both laughed. Then this nice young man and this beautiful young lady became engaged, and they were married at Saint Andrew’s on a lovely May morning. And they lived happily ever afterward.

Turner was small, and in appearance plain. Yet he was big enough to paint a big picture, and he was not so homely as to frighten away all beautiful women. But Philip Gilbert Hamerton tells us, “Fortunate in many things, Turner was lamentably unfortunate in this: that throughout his whole life he never came under the ennobling and refining influence of a good woman.”

Like Plato, Michelangelo, Sir Isaac Newton and his own Claude Lorraine, he was wedded to his art. But at sixty-five his genius suddenly burst forth afresh, and his work, Mr. Ruskin says, at that time exceeded in daring brilliancy and in the rich flowering of imagination, anything that he had previously done. Mr. Ruskin could give no reason, but rumor says, “A woman.”

The one weakness of our hero, that hung to him for life, was the idea that he could write poetry. The tragedian always thinks he can succeed in comedy; the comedian spends hours in his garret rehearsing tragedy; most preachers have an idea that they could have made a quick fortune in business, and many businessmen are very sure that if they had taken to the pulpit there would now be fewer empty pews. So the greatest landscape-painter of recent times imagined himself a poet. Hamerton says that for remarkable specimens of grammar, spelling and construction Turner’s verse would serve well to be given to little boys to correct.

One spot in Turner’s life over which I like to linger is his friendship with Sir Walter Scott. They collaborated in the production of “Provincial Antiquities,” and spent many happy hours together tramping over Scottish moors and mountains. Sir Walter lived out his days in happy ignorance concerning the art of painting, and although he liked the society of Turner, he confessed that it was quite beyond his ken why people bought his pictures.

“And as for your books,” said Turner, “the covers of some are certainly very pretty.”

Yet these men took a satisfaction in each other’s society, such as brothers might enjoy, but without either man appreciating the greatness of the other.

Turner’s temperament was audacious, self-centered, self-reliant, eager for success and fame, yet at the same time scorning public opinion—a paradox often found in the artistic mind of the first class; silent always—with a bitter silence, disdaining to tell his meaning when the critics could not perceive it.

He was above all things always the artist, never the realist. The realist pictures the things he sees; the artist expresses that which he feels. Children, and all simple folk who use pen, pencil or brush, describe the things they behold. As intellect develops and goes more in partnership with hand, imagination soars, and things are outlined that no man can see except he be able to perceive the invisible. To appreciate a work of art you must feel as the artist felt.

Now, it is very plain that the vast majority of people are not capable of this high sense of sublimity which the creative artist feels; and therefore they do not understand, and not understanding, they wax merry, or cynical, or sarcastic, or wrathful, or envious; or they pass by unmoved. And I maintain that those who pass by unmoved are more righteous than they who scoff.

If I should attempt to explain to my little girl the awe I feel when I contemplate the miracle of maternity, she would probably change the subject by prattling to me about a kitten she saw lapping milk from a blue saucer. If I should attempt to explain to some men what I feel when I contemplate the miracle of maternity, they would smile and turn it all into an unspeakable jest. Is not the child nearer to God than the man?

We thus see why to many Browning is only a joke, Whitman an eccentric, Dante insane and Turner a pretender. These have all sought to express things which the many can not feel, and consequently they have been, and are, the butt of jokes and jibes innumerable. “Except ye become as little children,” etc.—and yet the scoffers are often people of worth. Nothing so shows the limitation of humanity as this: genius often does not appreciate genius. The inspired, strangely enough, are like the fools, they do not recognize inspiration.

An Englishman called on Voltaire and found him in bed reading Shakespeare.

“What are you reading?” asked the visitor.

“Your Shakespeare!” said the philosopher; and as he answered he flung the book across the room.

“He’s not my Shakespeare,” said the Englishman.

Greene, Rymer, Dryden, Warburton and Doctor Johnson used collectively or individually the following expressions in describing the work of the author of “Hamlet”: conceit, overreach, word-play, extravagance, overdone, absurdity, obscurity, puerility, bombast, idiocy, untruth, improbability, drivel.

Byron wrote from Florence to Murray:

“I know nothing of painting, and I abhor and spit upon all saints and so-called spiritual subjects that I see portrayed in these churches.”

But the past is so crowded with vituperation that it is difficult to select—besides that, we do not wish to—but let us take a sample of arrogance from yesterday to prove our point, and then drop the theme for something pleasanter.

Pew and pulpit have fallen over each other for the privilege of hitting Darwin; a Bishop warns his congregation that Emerson is “dangerous”; Spurgeon calls Shelley a sensualist; Doctor Buckley speaks of Susan B. Anthony as the leader of “the short-haired”; Talmage cracks jokes about evolution, referring feelingly to “monkey ancestry”; and a prominent divine of England writes the World’s Congress of Religions down as “pious waxworks.” These things being true, and all the sentiments quoted coming from “good” but blindly zealous men, is it a wonder that the Artist is not understood?

A brilliant picture, called “Cologne—Evening,” attracted much attention at the Academy Exhibition of Eighteen Hundred Twenty-six. One day the people who so often collected around Turner’s work were shocked to see that the beautiful canvas had lost its brilliancy, and evidently had been tampered with by some miscreant. A friend ran to inform Turner of the bad news. “Don’t say anything. I only smirched it with lampblack. It was spoiling the effect of Laurence’s picture that hung next to it. The black will all wash off after the Exhibition.”

And his tender treatment of his aged father shows the gentle side of his nature. The old barber, whose trembling hand could no longer hold a razor, wished to remain under his son’s roof in guise of a servant; but the son said, “No; we fought the world together, and now that it seeks to do me honor, you shall share all the benefits.” And Turner never smiled when the little, wizened, old man would whisper to some visitor, “Yes, yes; Joseph is the greatest artist in England, and I am his father.”

Turner had a way of sending ten-pound notes in blank envelopes to artists in distress, and he did this so frequently that the news got out finally, but never through Turner’s telling, and then he had to adopt other methods of doing good by stealth.

I do not contend that Turner’s character was immaculate, but still it is very probable that worldlings do not appreciate what a small part of this great genius touched the mire.

To prove the sordidness of the man, one critic tells, with visage awfully solemn, how Turner once gave an engraving to a friend and then, after a year, sent demanding it back. But to a person with a groat’s worth of wit the matter is plain: the dreamy, abstracted artist, who bumped into his next-door neighbors on the street and never knew them, forgot he had given the picture and believed he had only loaned it. This is made still more apparent by the fact that, when he sent for the engraving in question, he administered a rebuke to the man for keeping it so long. The poor dullard who received the note flew into a rage—returned the picture—sent his compliments and begged the great artist to “take your picture and go to the devil.”

Then certain scribblers, who through mental disease had lost the capacity for mirth, dipped their pen in aqua fortis and wrote of the “innate meanness,” the “malice prepense” and the “Old Adam” which dwelt in the heart of Turner. No one laughed except a few Irishmen, and an American or two, who chanced to hear of the story.

Of Turner’s many pictures I will mention in detail but two, both of which are to be seen on the walls of the National Gallery. First, “The Old Temeraire.” This warship had been sold out of service and was being towed away to be broken up. The scene was photographed on Turner’s brain, and he immortalized it on canvas. We can not do better than borrow the words of Mr. Ruskin:

“Of all pictures not visibly involving human pain, this is the most pathetic ever painted.

“The utmost pensiveness which can ordinarily be given to a landscape depends on adjuncts of ruin, but no ruin was ever so affecting as the gliding of this ship to her grave. This particular ship, crowned in the Trafalgar hour of trial with chief victory—surely, if ever anything without a soul deserved honor or affection we owe them here. Surely, some sacred care might have been left in our thoughts for her; some quiet space amid the lapse of English waters! Nay, not so. We have stern keepers to trust her glory to—the fire and the worm. Nevermore shall sunset lay golden robe upon her, nor starlight tremble on the waves that part at her gliding. Perhaps where the low gate opens to some cottage garden, the tired traveler may ask, idly, why the moss grows so green on the rugged wood; and even the sailor’s child may not know that the night dew lies deep in the warrents of the old Temeraire.”

“The Burial of Sir David Wilkie at Sea” has brought tears to many eyes. Yet there is no burial. The ship is far away in the gloom of the offing; you can not distinguish a single figure on her decks; but you behold her great sails standing out against the leaden blackness of the night and you feel that out there a certain scene is being enacted. And if you listen closely you can hear the solemn voice of the captain as he reads the burial service. Then there is a pause—a swift, sliding sound—a splash, and all is over.

Turner left to the British Nation by his will nineteen thousand pencil and water-color sketches and one hundred large canvases. These pictures are now to be seen in the National Gallery in rooms set apart and sacred to Turner’s work. For fear it may be thought that the number of sketches mentioned above is a misprint, let us say that if he had produced one picture a day for fifty years it would not equal the number of pieces bestowed by his will on the Nation.

This of course takes no account of the pictures sold during his lifetime, and, as he left a fortune of one hundred forty-four thousand pounds (seven hundred twenty thousand dollars), we may infer that not all his pictures were given away.

At Chelsea I stood in the little room where he breathed his last, that bleak day in Eighteen-Hundred Fifty-one. The unlettered but motherly old woman who took care of him in those last days never guessed his greatness; none in the house or the neighborhood knew.

To them he was only Mr. Booth, an eccentric old man of moderate means, who liked to muse, read, and play with children. He had no callers, no friends; he went to the city every day and came back at night. He talked but little, he was absent-minded, he smoked and thought and smiled and muttered to himself. He never went to church; but once one of the lodgers asked him what he thought of God.

“God, God—what do I know of God, what does any one! He is our life—He is the All, but we need not fear Him—all we can do is to speak the truth and do our work. Tomorrow we go—where? I know not, but I am not afraid.”

Of art, to these strangers he would never speak. Once they urged him to go with them to an exhibition at Kensington, but he smiled feebly as he lit his pipe and said, “An Art Exhibition? No, no; a man can show on a canvas so little of what he feels, it is not worth the while.”

At last he died—passed peacefully away—and his attorney came and took charge of his remains.

Many are the hard words that have been flung off by heedless tongues about Turner’s taking an assumed name and living in obscurity, but “what you call fault I call accent.” Surely, if a great man and world-famous desires to escape the flatterers and the silken mesh of so-called society and live the life of simplicity, he has a right to do so. Again, Turner was a very rich man in his old age; he did much for struggling artists and assisted aspiring merit in many ways. So it came about that his mail was burdened with begging letters, and his life made miserable by appeals from impecunious persons, good and bad, and from churches, societies and associations without number. He decided to flee them all; and he did.

The “Carthage” already mentioned is one of his finest works, and he esteemed it so highly that he requested that when death came, his body should be buried, wrapped in its magnificent folds. But the wish was disregarded.

His remains rest in the crypt of Saint Paul’s, beside the dust of Reynolds. His statue, in marble, adorns a niche in the great cathedral, and his name is secure high on the roll of honor.

And if for no other reason, the name and fame of Chelsea should be deathless as the home of Turner.

Jonathan Swift • 4,100 Words

They are but few and meanspirited that live in peace with all men.
Tale of a Tub

Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift

Birrell, the great English essayist, remarks that, “Of writing books about Dean Swift there is no end.” The reason is plain: of no other prominent writer who has lived during the past two hundred years do we know so much. His life lies open to us in many books. Boswell did not write his biography, but Johnson did. Then followed whole schools of little fishes, some of whom wrote like whales. But among the works of genuine worth and merit, with Swift for a subject, we have Sir Walter Scott’s nineteen volumes, and lives by Craik, Mitford, Forster, Collins and Leslie Stephen.

The positive elements in Swift’s character make him a most interesting subject to men and women who are yet on earth, for he was essentially of the earth, earthy. And until we are shown that the earth is wholly bad, we shall find much to amuse, much to instruct, much to admire—aye, much to pity—in the life of Jonathan Swift.

His father married at twenty. His income matched his years—it was just twenty pounds per annum. His wife was a young girl, bright, animated, intelligent.

In a few short months this girl carried in her arms a baby. This baby was wrapped in a tattered shawl and cried piteously from hunger, for the mother had not enough to eat. She was cold, and sick, and in disgrace. Her husband, too, was ill, and sorely in debt. It was Midwinter.

When Spring came, and the flowers blossomed, and the birds mated, and warm breezes came whispering softly from the South, and all the earth was glad, the husband of this child-wife was in his grave, and she was alone. Alone? No; she carried in her tired arms the hungry babe, and beneath her heart she felt the faint flutter of another life.

But to be in trouble and in Ireland is not so bad after all, for the Irish people have great and tender hearts; and even if they have not much to bestow in a material way, they can give sympathy, and they do.

So the girl was cared for by kind kindred, and on November Thirtieth, Sixteen Hundred Sixty-seven, at Number Seven, Hoey’s Court, Dublin, the second baby was born.

Only a little way from Hoey’s Court is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. On that November day, as the tones from the clanging chimes fell on the weary senses of the young mother, there in her darkened room, little did she think that the puny bantling she held to her breast would yet be the Dean of the great church whose bells she heard; and how could she anticipate a whisper coming to her from the far-off future: “Of writing books about your babe there is no end!”

* * *

The man-child was given to an old woman to care for, and he had the ability, even then, it seems, to win affection. The foster-mother loved him and she stole him away, carrying him off to England.

Charity ministered to his needs; charity gave him his education. When Swift was twenty-one years old he went to see his mother. Her means were scanty to the point of hardship, but so buoyant was her mind that she used to declare that she was both rich and happy—and being happy she was certainly rich. She was a rare woman. Her spirit was independent, her mind cultivated, her manner gentle and refined, and she was endowed with a keen sense of humor.

From her, the son derived those qualities which have made him famous. No man is greater than his mother; but the sons of brave women do not always make brave men. In one quality Swift was lamentably inferior to his mother—he did not have her capacity for happiness. He had wit; she had humor.

We have seen how Swift’s father sickened and died. The world was too severe for him, its buffets too abrupt, its burden too heavy, and he gave up the fight before the battle had really begun. This lack of courage and extreme sensitiveness are seen in the son. But so peculiar, complex and wonderful is this web of life, that our very blunders, weaknesses and mistakes are woven in and make the fabric stronger. If Swift had possessed only his mother’s merits, without his father’s faults, he would never have shaken the world with laughter, and we should never have heard of him.

In her lowliness and simplicity the mother of Swift was content. She did her work in her own little way. She smiled at folly, and each day she thanked Heaven that her lot was no worse. Not so her son. He brooded in sullen silence; he cursed Fate for making him a dependent, and even in his youth he scorned those who benefited him. This was a very human proceeding.

Many hate, but few have a fine capacity for scorn. Their hate is so vehement that when hurled it falls short. Swift’s scorn was a beautifully winged arrow, with a poisoned tip. Some who were struck did not at the time know it.

His misanthropy defeated his purpose, thwarted his ambition, ruined his aims, and—made his name illustrious.

Swift wished for churchly preferment, but he had not the patience to wait. He imagined that others were standing in his way, and of course they were; for under the calm exterior of things ecclesiastic, there is often a strife, a jealousy and a competition more rabid than in commerce. To succeed in winning a bishopric requires a sagacity as keen as that required to become a Senator of Massachusetts or the Governor of New York. The man bides his time, makes himself popular, secures advocates, lubricates the way, pulls the wires, and slides noiselessly into place.

Swift lacked diplomacy. When matters did not seem to progress he grew wrathful, seized his pen and stabbed with it. But as he wrote, the ludicrousness of the whole situation came over him and, instead of cursing plain curses, he held his adversary up to ridicule! And this ridicule is so active, the scorn so mixed with wit, the shafts so finely feathered with truth, that it is the admiration of mankind. Vitriol mixed with ink is volatile. Then what? We just run Swift through a coarse sieve to take out the lumps of Seventeenth Century refuse, and then we give him to children to make them laugh. Surely no better use can be made of pessimists. Verily, the author of Gulliver wrote for one purpose, and we use his work for another. He wished for office, he got contempt; he tried to subdue his enemies, they subdued him; he worked for the present, and he won immortality.

Said Heinrich Heine, prone on his bed in Paris: “The wittiest sarcasms of mortals are only an attempt at jesting when compared with those of the great Author of the Universe—the Aristophanes of Heaven!”

Wise men over and over have wasted good ink and paper in bewailing Swift’s malice and coarseness. But without these very elements which the wise men bemoan, Swift would be for us a cipher. Yet love is life and hate is death, so how can spite benefit? The answer is that, in certain forms of germination, frost is as necessary as sunshine: so some men have qualities that lie dormant until the coldness of hate bursts the coarse husk of indifference.

But while hate may animate, only love inspires. Swift might have stood at the head of the Church of England; but even so, he would be only a unit in a long list of names, and as it is, there is only one Swift. Mr. Talmage averred that not ten men in America knew the name of the Archbishop of Canterbury until his son wrote a certain book entitled “Dodo.” In putting out this volume, young Benson not only gave us the strongest possible argument favoring the celibacy of the clergy, but at the same time, if Talmage’s statement is correct, he made known his father’s name.

In all Swift’s work, save “The Journal to Stella,” the animating motive seems to have been to confound his enemies; and according to the well-known line in that hymn sung wherever the Union Jack flies, we must believe this to be a perfectly justifiable ambition. But occasionally on his pages we find gentle words of wisdom that were meant evidently for love’s eyes alone. There is much that is pure boyish frolic, and again and again there are clever strokes directed at folly. He has shot certain superstitions through with doubt, and in his manner of dealing with error he has proved to us a thing it were well not to forget: that pleasantry is more efficacious than vehemence.

Let me name one incident by way of proof—the well-known one of Partridge, the almanac-maker. This worthy cobbler was an astrologer of no mean repute. He foretold events with much discretion. The ignorant bought his almanacs, and many believed in them as a Bible—in fact, astrology was enjoying a “boom.”

Swift came to London and found that Partridge’s predictions were the theme at the coffeehouses. He saw men argue and wax wroth, grow red in the face as they talked loud and long about nothing—just nothing. The whole thing struck Swift as being very funny; and he wrote an announcement of his intention to publish a rival almanac. He explained that he, too, was an astrologer, but an honest one, while Partridge was an impostor and a cheat; in fact, Partridge foretold only things which every one knew would come true. As for himself, he could discern the future with absolute certainty, and to prove to the world his power he would now make a prophecy. In substance, it was as follows: “My first prediction is but a trifle; it relates to Partridge, the almanac-maker. I have consulted the star of his nativity, and find that he will die on the Twenty-ninth day of March, next.” This was signed, “Isaac Bickerstaff,” and duly issued in pamphlet form. It had such an air of sincerity that both the believers and the scoffers read it with interest.

The Thirtieth of March came, and another pamphlet from “Isaac Bickerstaff” appeared, announcing the fulfilment of the prophecy. It related how toward the end of March Partridge began to languish; how he grew ill and at last took to his bed, and, his conscience then smiting him, he confessed to the world that he was a fraud and a rogue, that all his prophecies were impositions; he then passed away.

Partridge was wild with rage, and immediately replied in a manifesto declaring that he was alive and well, and moreover was alive on March Twenty-ninth.

To this “Bickerstaff” replied in a pamphlet more seriously humorous than ever, reaffirming that Partridge was dead, and closing with the statement that, “If an uninformed carcass still walks about calling itself Partridge, I do not in any way consider myself responsible for that.”

The joke set all London on a grin. Wherever Partridge went he was met with smiles and jeers, and astrology became only a jest to a vast number of people who had formerly believed in it seriously.

When Benjamin Franklin started his “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” twenty-five years later, in the first issue he prophesied the death of one Dart who set the pace at that time as almanac-maker in America. The man was to expire on the afternoon of October Seventeenth, Seventeen Hundred Thirty-eight, at three twenty-nine o’clock.

Dart, being somewhat of a joker himself, came out with an announcement that he, too, had consulted the oracle, and found he would live until October Twenty-sixth, and possibly longer.

On October Eighteenth, Franklin announced Dart’s death, and explained that it occurred promptly on time, all as prophesied.

Yet Dart lived to publish many almanacs; but Poor Richard got his advertisement, and many staid, broad-brimmed Philadelphians smiled who had never smiled before—not only smiled but subscribed.

Benjamin Franklin was a great and good man, as any man must be who fathers another’s jokes, introducing these orphaned children to the world as his own.

Perhaps no one who has written of Swift knew him so well as Delany. And this writer, who seems to have possessed a judicial quality far beyond most men, has told us that Swift was moral in conduct to the point of asceticism. His deportment was grave and dignified, and his duties as a priest were always performed with exemplary diligence. He visited the sick, regularly administered the sacraments, and was never known to absent himself from morning prayers.

When Harley was Lord Treasurer, Swift seems to have been on the topmost crest of the wave of popularity. Invitations from nobility flowed in upon him, beautiful women deigned to go in search of his society, royalty recognized him. And yet all this time he was only a country priest with a liking for literature.

Collins tells us that the reason for his popularity is plain: “Swift was one of the kings of the earth. Like Pope Innocent the Third, like Chatham, he was one to whom the world involuntarily pays tribute.”

His will was a will of adamant; his intellect so keen that it impressed every one who approached him; his temper singularly stern, dauntless and haughty. But his wit was never filled with gaiety: he was never known to laugh. Amid the wildest uproar that his sallies caused, he would sit with face austere—unmoved.

Personally, Swift was a gentleman. When he was scurrilous, abusive, ribald, malicious, it was anonymously. Is this to his credit? I should not say so, but if a man is indecent and he hides behind a “nom de plume,” it is at least presumptive proof that he is not dead to shame.

Leslie Stephen tells us that Swift was a Churchman to the backbone. No man who is a “Churchman to the backbone” is ever very pious: the spirit maketh alive, but the letter killeth. One looks in vain for traces of spirituality in the Dean. His sermons are models of churchly commonplace and full of the stock phrases of a formal religion. He never bursts into flame. Yet he most thoroughly and sincerely believed in religion. “I believe in religion, it keeps the masses in check. And then I uphold Christianity because if it is abolished the stability of the Church might be endangered,” he said.

Philip asked the eunuch a needless question when he inquired, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” No one so poorly sexed as Swift can comprehend spiritual truth: spirituality and sexuality are elements that are never separated. Swift was as incapable of spirituality as he was of the “grand passion.”

The Dean had affection; he was a warm friend; he was capable even of a degree of love, but his sexual and spiritual nature was so cold and calculating that he did not hesitate to sacrifice love to churchly ambition.

He argued that the celibacy of the Catholic clergy is a wise expediency. The bachelor physician and the unmarried priest have an influence among gentle womankind, young or old, married or single, that a benedict can never hope for. Why this is so might be difficult to explain, but discerning men know the fact. In truth, when a priest marries he should at once take a new charge, for if he remains with his old flock a goodly number of his “lady parishioners,” in ages varying from seventeen to seventy, will with fierce indignation rend his reputation.

Swift was as wise as a serpent, but not always as harmless as a dove. He was making every effort to secure his miter and crosier: he had many women friends in London and elsewhere who had influence. Rather than run the risk of losing this influence he never acknowledged Stella as his wife. Choosing fame rather than love, he withered at the heart, then died at the top.

The life of every man is a seamless garment—its woof his thoughts, its warp his deeds. When for him the roaring loom of time stops and the thread is broken, foolish people sometimes point to certain spots in the robe and say, “Oh, why did he not leave that out!” not knowing that every action of man is a sequence from off Fate’s spindle.

Let us accept the work of genius as we find it; not bemoaning because it is not better, but giving thanks because it is so good.

* * *

Well-fed, rollicking priest is Father O’Toole of Dublin, with a big, round face, a double chin, and a brogue that you can cut with a knife.

My letter of introduction from Monseigneur Satolli caused him at once to bring in a large, suspicious, black bottle and two glasses. Then we talked—talked of Ireland’s wrongs and woman’s rights, and of all the Irishmen in America whom I was supposed to know. We spoke of the illustrious Irishmen who had passed on, and I mentioned a name that caused the holy father to spring from his chair in indignation.

“Shwift is it! Shwift! No, me lad, don’t go near him! He was the divil’s own, the very worsht that ever followed the swish of a petticoat. No, no; if ye go to his grave it’ll bring ye bad luck for a year. It’s Tom Moore ye want—Tom was the bye. Arrah! now, and it’s meself phat’ll go wid ye.”

And so the reverend father put on a long, black coat and his Saint Patrick’s Day hat, and we started. We were met at the gate by a delegation of “shpalpeens” that had located me on the inside of the house and were lying in wait.

All American travelers in Ireland are supposed to be millionaires, and this may possibly explain the lavish attention that is often tendered them. At any rate, various members of the delegation wished “long life to the iligant ‘merican gintleman,” and hinted in terms unmistakable that pence would be acceptable. The holy father applied his cane vigorously to the ragged rears of the more presumptuous, and bade them begone, but still they followed and pressed close about.

“Here, I’ll show you how to get rid of the dirty gang,” said his holiness. “Have ye a penny, I don’t know?”

I produced a handful of small change, which the father immediately took and tossed into the street. Instantly there was a heterogeneous mass of young Hibernians piled up in the dirt in a grand struggle for spoils. It reminded me of football incidents I had seen at fair Harvard. In the meantime, we escaped down a convenient alley and crossed the River Liffey to Old Dublin; inside the walls of the old city, through crooked lanes and winding streets that here and there showed signs of departed gentility, where now was only squalor, want and vice, until we came to Number Twelve Angier Street, a quaint, three-story brick building now used as a “public.” In the wall above the door is a marble slab with this inscription: “Here was born Thomas Moore, on the Twenty-eighth day of May, Seventeen Hundred Seventy-eight.” Above this in a niche is a bust of the poet.

Tom’s father was a worthy greengrocer who, according to the author of “Lalla Rookh,” always gave good measure and full count. It was ever a cause of regret to the elder Moore that his son did not show sufficient capacity to be trusted safely with the business.

The upper rooms of the house were shown to us by an obliging landlady. Father O’Toole had been here before, and led the way to a snug little chamber and explained that in this room the future poet of Ireland was found under one of his father’s cabbage-leaves.

We descended to the neat little barroom with its sanded floor and polished glassware and shining brass. The holy father ordered ‘arf-and-’arf at my expense and recited one of Moore’s ballads. The landlady then gave us Byron’s “Here’s a Health to Thee, Tom Moore.” A neighbor came in. Then we had more ballads, more ‘arf-and-’arf, a selection from “Lalla Rookh,” and various tales of the poet’s early life, which possibly would be hard to verify.

And as the tumult raged, the smoke of battle gave me opportunity to slip away. I crossed the street, turned down one block, and entered Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

Great, roomy, gloomy, solemn temple, where the rumble of city traffic is deadened to a faint hum:

“Without, the world’s unceasing noises rise,
Turmoil, disquietude and busy fears;
Within, there are the sounds of other years,
Thoughts full of prayer and solemn harmonies
Which imitate on earth the peaceful skies.”

Other worshipers were there. Standing beside a great stone pillar I could make them out kneeling on the tiled floor. Gradually, my eyes became accustomed to the subdued light, and right at my feet I saw a large brass plate set in the floor and on it only this:

Swift
Died Oct. 19, 1745
Aged 78

On the wall near is a bronze tablet, the inscription of which, in Latin, was dictated by Swift himself:

“Here lies the body of Jonathan Swift, Dean of this Cathedral, where fierce indignation can no longer rend his heart. Go! wayfarer, and imitate, if thou canst, one who, as far as in him lay, was an earnest champion of liberty——”

Above this is a fine bust of the Dean, and to the right is another tablet:

“Underneath lie interred the mortal remains of Mrs. Hester Johnson, better known to the world as ‘Stella,’ under which she is celebrated in the writings of Doctor Jonathan Swift, Dean of this Cathedral. She was a person of extraordinary endowments and accomplishments, in body, mind and behavior; justly admired and respected by all who knew her, on account of her eminent virtues as well as for her great natural and acquired perfections.”

These were suffering souls and great. Would they have been so great had they not suffered? Who can tell? Were the waters troubled in order that they might heal the people?

Did Swift misuse this excellent woman, is a question that has been asked and answered again and again.

A great author has written:

“A woman, a tender, noble, excellent woman, has a dog’s heart. She licks the hand that strikes her. And wrong nor cruelty nor injustice nor disloyalty can cause her to turn.”

Death in pity took Stella first; took her in the loyalty of love and the fulness of faith from a world which for love has little recompense, and for faith small fulfilment.

Stella was buried by torchlight, at midnight, on the Thirtieth day of January, Seventeen Hundred Twenty-eight. Swift was sick at the time, and wrote in his journal: “This is the night of her funeral, and I am removed to another apartment that I may not see the light in the church which is just over against my window.” But in his imagination he saw the gleaming torches as their dull light shone through the colored windows, and he said, “They will soon do as much for me.”

But seventeen years came crawling by before the torches flared, smoked and gleamed as the mourners chanted a requiem, and the clods fell on the coffin, and their echoes intermingled with the solemn voice of the priest as he said, “Dust to dust, ashes to ashes.”

In Eighteen Hundred Thirty-five, the graves were opened and casts taken of the skulls. The top of Swift’s skull had been sawed off at the autopsy, and a bottle in which was a parchment setting forth the facts was inserted in the head that had conceived “Gulliver’s Travels.”

I examined the casts. The woman’s head is square and shapely. Swift’s head is a refutation of phrenology, being small, sloping and ordinary.

The bones of Swift and Stella were placed in one coffin, and now rest under three feet of concrete, beneath the floor of Saint Patrick’s.

So sleep the lovers joined in death.

Walt Whitman • 4,600 Words

All seems beautiful to me.
I can repeat over to men and women, You have done
such good to me I would do the same to you,
I will recruit for myself and you as I go.
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them.
Song of the Open Road

Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman

Max Nordau wrote a book—wrote it with his tongue in his cheek, a dash of vitriol in the ink, and with a pen that scratched.

And the first critic who seemed to place a just estimate on the work was Mr. Zangwill (he who has no Christian name). Mr. Zangwill made an attempt to swear out a “writ de lunatico inquirendo” against his Jewish brother, on the ground that the first symptom of insanity is often the delusion that others are insane; and this being so, Doctor Nordau was not a safe subject to be at large. But the Assize of Public Opinion denied the petition, and the dear people bought the book at from three to five dollars a copy. Printed in several languages, its sales have mounted to a hundred thousand volumes, and the author’s net profit is full forty thousand dollars. No wonder is it that, with pockets full to bursting, Doctor Nordau goes out behind the house and laughs uproariously whenever he thinks of how he has worked the world!

If Doctor Talmage is the Barnum of Theology, surely we may call Doctor Nordau the Barnum of Science. His agility in manipulating facts is equal to Hermann’s now-you-see-it and now-you-don’t, with pocket-handkerchiefs. Yet Hermann’s exhibition is worth the admittance fee, and Nordau’s book (seemingly written in collaboration with Jules Verne and Mark Twain) would be cheap for a dollar. But what I object to is Professor Hermann’s disciples posing as Sure-Enough Materializing Mediums, and Professor Lombroso’s followers calling themselves Scientists, when each goes forth without scrip or purse with no other purpose than to supply themselves with both.

Yet it was Barnum himself who said that the public delights in being humbugged, and strange it is that we will not allow ourselves to be thimblerigged without paying for the privilege.

Nordau’s success hinged on his audacious assumption that the public knew nothing of the Law of Antithesis. Yet Plato explained that the opposites of things look alike, and sometimes are alike—and that was quite a while ago.

The multitude answered, “Thou hast a devil.” Many of them said, “He hath a devil and is mad.” Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, thou art beside thyself.” And Nordau shouts in a voice more heady than that of Pilate, more throaty than that of Festus, “Mad—Whitman was—mad beyond the cavil of a doubt!”

In Eighteen Hundred Sixty-two, Lincoln, looking out of a window (before lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed) on one of the streets of Washington, saw a workingman in shirt-sleeves go by. Turning to a friend, the President said, “There goes a MAN!” The exclamation sounds singularly like that of Napoleon on meeting Goethe. But the Corsican’s remark was intended for the poet’s ear, while Lincoln did not know who his man was, although he came to know him afterward.

Lincoln in his early days was a workingman and an athlete, and he never quite got the idea out of his head (and I am glad) that he was still a hewer of wood. He once told George William Curtis that he more than half expected yet to go back to the farm and earn his daily bread by the work that his hands found to do; he dreamed of it nights, and whenever he saw a splendid toiler, he felt like hailing the man as brother and striking hands with him. When Lincoln saw Whitman strolling majestically past, he took him for a stevedore or possibly the foreman of a construction gang.

Whitman was fifty-one years old then. His long, flowing beard was snow-white, and the shock that covered his Jove-like head was iron-gray. His form was that of an Apollo who had arrived at years of discretion. He weighed an even two hundred pounds and was just six feet high. His plain, check, cotton shirt was open at the throat to the breast; and he had an independence, a self-sufficiency, and withal a cleanliness, a sweetness and a gentleness, that told that, although he had a giant’s strength, he did not use it like a giant. Whitman used no tobacco, neither did he apply hot and rebellious liquors to his blood and with unblushing forehead woo the means of debility and disease. Up to his fifty-third year he had never known a sick day, although at thirty his hair had begun to whiten. He had the look of age in his youth and the look of youth in his age that often marks the exceptional man.

But at fifty-three his splendid health was crowded to the breaking strain. How? Through caring for wounded, sick and dying men, hour after hour, day after day, through the long, silent watches of the night. From Eighteen Hundred Sixty-four to the day of his death in Eighteen Hundred Ninety-two, he was, physically, a man in ruins. But he did not wither at the top. Through it all he held the healthy optimism of boyhood, carrying with him the perfume of the morning and the lavish heart of youth.

Doctor Bucke, who was superintendent of a hospital for the insane for fifteen years, and the intimate friend of Whitman all the time, has said: “His build, his stature, his exceptional health of mind and body, the size and form of his features, his cleanliness of mind and body, the grace of his movements and gestures, the grandeur, and especially the magnetism, of his presence; the charm of his voice, his genial, kindly humor; the simplicity of his habits and tastes, his freedom from convention, the largeness and the beauty of his manner; his calmness and majesty; his charity and forbearance—his entire unresentfulness under whatever provocation; his liberality, his universal sympathy with humanity in all ages and lands, his broad tolerance, his catholic friendliness, and his unexampled faculty of attracting affection, all prove his perfectly proportioned manliness.”

But Whitman differed from the disciple of Lombroso in two notable particulars: He had no quarrel with the world, and he did not wax rich. “One thing thou lackest, O Walt Whitman!” we might have said to the poet; “you are not a financier.” He died poor. But this is no proof of degeneracy, save on ‘Change. When the children of Count Tolstoy endeavored to have him adjudged insane, the Court denied the application and voiced the wisest decision that ever came out of Russia: A man who gives away his money is not necessarily more foolish than he who saves it.

And with Horace L. Traubel I assert that Whitman was the sanest man I ever saw.

* * *

Some men make themselves homes; and others there be who rent rooms. Walt Whitman was essentially a citizen of the world: the world was his home and mankind were his friends. There was a quality in the man peculiarly universal: a strong, virile poise that asked for nothing, but took what it needed.

He loved men as brothers, yet his brothers after the flesh understood him not; he loved children—they turned to him instinctively—but he had no children of his own; he loved women, and yet this strongly sexed and manly man never loved a woman. And I might here say as Philip Gilbert Hamerton said of Turner, “He was lamentably unfortunate in this: throughout his whole life he never came under the ennobling and refining influence of a good woman.”

It requires two to make a home. The first home was made when a woman, cradling in her loving arms a baby, crooned a lullaby. All the tender sentimentality we throw around a place is the result of the sacred thought that we live there with some one else. It is “our” home. The home is a tryst—the place where we retire and shut the world out. Lovers make a home, just as birds make a nest, and unless a man knows the spell of the divine passion I hardly see how he can have a home at all. He only rents a room.

Camden is separated from the city of Philadelphia by the Delaware River. Camden lies low and flat—a great, sandy, monotonous waste of straggling buildings. Here and there are straight rows of cheap houses, evidently erected by staid, broad-brimmed speculators from across the river, with eyes on the main chance. But they reckoned ill, for the town did not boom. Some of these houses have marble steps and white, barn-like shutters, that might withstand a siege. When a funeral takes place in one of these houses, the shutters are tied with strips of mournful, black alpaca for a year and a day. Engineers, dockmen, express-drivers and mechanics largely make up the citizens of Camden. Of course, Camden has its smug corner where prosperous merchants most do congregate: where they play croquet in the front yards, and have window-boxes, and a piano and veranda-chairs and terra-cotta statuary; but for the most part the houses of Camden are rented, and rented cheap.

Many of the domiciles are frame and have the happy tumbledown look of the back streets in Charleston or Richmond—those streets where the white trash merges off into prosperous colored aristocracy. Old hats do duty in keeping out the fresh air where Providence has interfered and broken out a pane; blinds hang by a single hinge; bricks on the chimney-tops threaten the passersby; stringers and posts mark the place where proud picket fences once stood—the pickets having gone for kindling long ago. In the warm, Summer evenings, men in shirt-sleeves sit on the front steps and stolidly smoke, while children pile up sand in the streets and play in the gutters.

Parallel with Mickle Street, a block away, are railway-tracks. There noisy switch-engines that never keep Sabbath, puff back and forth, day and night, sending showers of soot and smoke when the wind is right (and it usually is) straight over Number 328, where, according to John Addington Symonds and William Michael Rossetti, lived the mightiest seer of the century—the man whom they rank with Socrates, Epictetus, Saint Paul, Michelangelo and Dante.

It was in August of Eighteen Hundred Eighty-three that I first walked up that little street—a hot, sultry Summer evening. There had been a shower that turned the dust of the unpaved roadway to mud. The air was close and muggy. The houses, built right up to the sidewalks, over which, in little gutters, the steaming sewage ran, seemed to have discharged their occupants into the street to enjoy the cool of the day. Barefooted children by the score paddled in the mud. All the steps were filled with loungers; some of the men had discarded not only coats but shirts as well, and now sat in flaming red underwear, holding babies.

They say that “woman’s work is never done,” but to the women of Mickle Street this does not apply—but stay! perhaps their work IS never done. Anyway, I remember that women sat on the curbs in calico dresses or leaned out of the windows, and all seemed supremely free from care.

“Can you tell me where Mr. Whitman lives?” I asked a portly dame who was resting her elbows on a windowsill.

“Who?”

“Mr. Whitman!”

“You mean Walt Whitman?”

“Yes.”

“Show the gentleman, Molly; he’ll give you a nickel, I’m sure!”

I had not seen Molly. She stood behind me, but as her mother spoke she seized tight hold of one of my fingers, claiming me as her lawful prey, and all the other children looked on with envious eyes as little Molly threw at them glances of scorn and marched me off. Molly was five, going on six, she told me. She had bright-red hair, a grimy face and little chapped feet that made not a sound as we walked. She got her nickel and carried it in her mouth, and this made conversation difficult. After going one block she suddenly stopped, squared me around and pointing said, “Them is he!” and disappeared.

In a wheeled rattan chair, in the hallway, a little back from the door of a plain, weather-beaten house, sat the coatless philosopher, his face and head wreathed in a tumult of snow-white hair.

I had a little speech, all prepared weeks before and committed to memory, that I intended to repeat, telling him how I had read his poems and admired them. And further I had stored away in my mind a few blades from “Leaves of Grass” that I purposed to bring out at the right time as a sort of certificate of character. But when that little girl jerked me right-about-face and heartlessly deserted me, I stared dumbly at the man whom I had come a hundred miles to see. I began angling for my little speech, but could not fetch it.

“Hello!” called the philosopher, out of the white aureole. “Hello! come here, boy!”

He held out his hand and as I took it there was a grasp with meaning in it.

“Don’t go yet, Joe,” he said to a man seated on the step smoking a cob-pipe.

“The old woman’s calling me,” said the swarthy Joe.

Joe evidently held truth lightly. “So long, Walt!”

“Good-by, Joe. Sit down, lad; sit down!”

I sat in the doorway at his feet.

“Now isn’t it queer—that fellow is a regular philosopher and works out some great problems, but he’s ashamed to express ‘em. He could no more give you his best than he could fly. Ashamed, I s’pose, ashamed of the best that is in him. We are all a little that way—all but me—I try to write my best, regardless of whether the thing sounds ridiculous or not—regardless of what others think or say or have said. Ashamed of our holiest, truest and best! Is it not too bad?

“You are twenty-five now? Well, boy, you may grow until you are thirty and then you will be as wise as you ever will be. Haven’t you noticed that men of sixty have no clearer vision than men of forty? One reason is that we have been taught that we know all about life and death and the mysteries of the grave. But the main reason is that we are ashamed to shove out and be ourselves. Jesus expressed His own individuality perhaps more than any other man we know of, and so He wields a wider influence than any other. And this though we only have a record of just twenty-seven days of His life. Now that fellow that just left is an engineer, and he dreams some beautiful dreams; but he never expresses them to any one—only hints them to me, and this only at twilight. He is like a weasel or a mink or a whippoorwill—he comes out only at night.

“‘If the weather was like this all the time, people would never learn to read and write,’ said Joe to me just as you arrived. And isn’t that so? Here we can count a hundred people up and down this street, and not one is reading, not one but that is just lolling about, except the children—and they are happy only when playing in the dirt. Why, if this tropical weather should continue we would all slip back into South Sea Islanders! You can raise good men only in a little strip around the North Temperate Zone—when you get out of the track of a glacier, a tender-hearted, sympathetic man of brains is an accident.”

Then the old man suddenly ceased and I imagined that he was following the thought out in his own mind. We sat silent for a space. The twilight fell, and a lamplighter lit the street lamp on the corner. He stopped an instant to salute the poet cheerily as he passed. The man sitting on the doorstep, across the street, smoking, knocked the ashes out of his pipe on his boot-heel and went indoors. Women called their children, who did not respond, but still played on. Then the creepers were carried in, to be fed their bread-and-milk and put to bed; and, shortly, shrill feminine voices ordered the other children indoors, and some obeyed.

The night crept slowly on.

I heard Old Walt chuckle behind me, talking incoherently to himself, and then he said, “You are wondering why I live in such a place as this?”

“Yes; that is exactly what I was thinking of!”

“You think I belong in the country, in some quiet, shady place. But all I have to do is to shut my eyes and go there. No man loves the woods more than I—I was born within sound of the sea—down on Long Island, and I know all the songs that the seashell sings. But this babble and babel of voices pleases me better, especially since my legs went on a strike, for although I can’t walk, you see I can still mix with the throng, so I suffer no loss.

“In the woods, a man must be all hands and feet. I like the folks, the plain, ignorant, unpretentious folks; and the youngsters that come and slide on my cellar-door do not disturb me a bit. I’m different from Carlyle—you know he had a noise-proof room where he locked himself in. Now, when a huckster goes by, crying his wares, I open the blinds, and often wrangle with the fellow over the price of things. But the rogues have got into a way lately of leaving truck for me and refusing pay. Today an Irishman passed in three quarts of berries and walked off pretending to be mad because I offered to pay. When he was gone, I beckoned to the babies over the way—they came over and we had a feast.

“Yes, I like the folks around here; I like the women, and I like the men, and I like the babies, and I like the youngsters that play in the alley and make mud pies on my steps. I expect to stay here until I die.”

“You speak of death as a matter of course—you are not afraid to die?”

“Oh, no, my boy; death is as natural as life, and a deal kinder. But it is all good—I accept it all and give thanks—you have not forgotten my chant to death?”

“Not I!”

I repeated a few lines from “Drum-Taps.”

He followed me, rapping gently with his cane on the floor, and with little interjectory remarks of “That’s so!” “Very true!” “Good, good!” And when I faltered and lost the lines he picked them up where “The voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird.”

In a strong, clear voice, but a voice full of sublime feeling, he repeated those immortal lines, beginning, “Come, lovely and soothing Death.”

“Come, lovely and soothing Death,
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,
In the day, in the night, to all, to each,
Sooner or later, delicate Death.
Praised be the fathomless universe
For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious,
And for love, sweet love—but praise! praise! praise
For the sure enwinding arms of cool, enfolding Death.
Dark Mother, always gliding near with soft feet,
Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome?
Then I chant for thee, I glorify thee above all,
I bring thee a song that when thou must indeed come, come unfalteringly.
Approach, strong deliveress,
When it is so, when thou hast taken them
I joyously sing the death,
Lost in the loving, floating ocean of thee,
Laved in the flood of thy bliss, O Death.
From me to thee glad serenades,
Dances for thee I propose, saluting thee, adornments and feastings for thee,
And the sights of the open landscape and the high spread sky are fitting,
And life and the fields, and the huge and thoughtful night.
The night in silence under many a star,
The ocean shore and the husky whispering wave whose voice I know,
And the soul turning to thee, O vast and well-veil’d Death,
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.
Over the tree-tops I float thee a song,
Over the rising and sinking waves, over the myriad fields and the prairies wide,
Over the dense-packed cities all, and the teeming wharves, and ways,
I float this carol with joy, with joy to thee, O Death.”

The last playing youngster had silently disappeared from the streets. The doorsteps were deserted—save where across the way a young man and maiden sat in the gloaming, conversing in low monotone.

The clouds had drifted away.

A great, yellow star shone out above the chimney-tops in the East.

I arose to go.

“I wish you’d come oftener—I see you so seldom, lad,” said the old man, half-plaintively.

I did not explain that we had never met before—that I had come from New York purposely to see him. He thought he knew me. And so he did—as much as I could impart. The rest was irrelevant. As to my occupation or name, what booted it!—he had no curiosity concerning me. I grasped his outstretched hand in both of my own.

He said not a word; neither did I.

I turned and made my way to the ferry—past the whispering lovers on the doorsteps, and over the railway-tracks where the noisy engines puffed. As I walked on board the boat, the wind blew up cool and fresh from the West. The star in the East grew brighter, and other stars came out, reflecting themselves like gems in the dark blue of the Delaware.

There was a soft sublimity in the sound of the bells that came echoing over the waters. My heart was very full, for I had felt the thrill of being in the presence of a great and loving soul.

It was the first time and the last that I ever saw Walt Whitman.

* * *

A good many writers bear no message: they carry no torch. Sometimes they excite wonder, or they amuse and divert—divert us from our work. To be diverted to a certain degree may be well, but there is a point where earth ends and cloud-land begins, and even great poets occasionally befog the things they would reveal.

Homer was seemingly blind to much simple truth; Vergil carries you away from earth; Horace was undone without his Mæcenas; Dante makes you an exile; Shakespeare was singularly silent concerning the doubts, difficulties and common lives of common people; Byron’s corsair life does not help you in your toil, and in his fight with English Bards and Scotch Reviewers we crave neutrality; to be caught in the meshes of Pope’s “Dunciad” is not pleasant; and Lowell’s “Fable for Critics” is only another “Dunciad.” But above all other poets who have ever lived, the author of “Leaves of Grass” was the poet of humanity.

Milton knew all about Heaven, and Dante conducts us through Hell, but it was left for Whitman to show us Earth. His voice never goes so high that it breaks into an impotent falsetto, neither does it growl and snarl at things it does not understand and not understanding does not like. He was so great that he had no envy, and his insight was so sure that he had no prejudice. He never boasted that he was higher, nor claimed to be less than any of the other sons of men. He met all on terms of absolute equality, mixing with the poor, the lowly, the fallen, the oppressed, the cultured, the rich—simply as brother with brother. And when he said to an outcast, “Not till the sun excludes you will I exclude you,” he voiced a sentiment worthy of a god.

He was brother to the elements, the mountains, the seas, the clouds, the sky. He loved them all and partook of them all in his large, free, unselfish, untrammeled nature. His heart knew no limits, and feeling his feet mortised in granite and his footsteps tenoned in infinity he knew the amplitude of time.

Only the great are generous; only the strong are forgiving. Like Lot’s wife, most poets look back over their shoulders; and those who are not looking backward insist that we shall look into the future, and the vast majority of the whole scribbling rabble accept the precept, “Man never is, but always to be blest.”

We grieve for childhood’s happy days, and long for sweet rest in Heaven and sigh for mansions in the skies. And the people about us seem so indifferent, and our friends so lukewarm; and really no one understands us, and our environment queers our budding spirituality, and the frost of jealousy nips our aspirations: “O Paradise, O Paradise, the world is growing old; who would not be at rest and free where love is never cold.” So sing the fearsome dyspeptics of the stylus. O anemic he, you bloodless she, nipping at crackers, sipping at tea, why not consider that, although evolutionists tell us where we came from, and theologians inform us where we are going to, yet the only thing we are really sure of is that we are here!

The present is the perpetually moving spot where history ends and prophecy begins. It is our only possession: the past we reach through lapsing memory, halting recollection, hearsay and belief; we pierce the future by wistful faith or anxious hope; but the present is beneath our feet.

Whitman sings the beauty and the glory of the present. He rebukes our groans and sighs—bids us look about on every side at the wonders of creation, and at the miracles within our grasp. He lifts us up, restores us to our own, introduces us to man and to Nature, and thus infuses into us courage, manly pride, self-reliance, and the strong faith that comes when we feel our kinship with God.

He was so mixed with the universe that his voice took on the sway of elemental integrity and candor. Absolutely honest, this man was unafraid and unashamed, for Nature has neither apprehension, shame nor vainglory. In “Leaves of Grass” Whitman speaks as all men have ever spoken who believe in God and in themselves—oracular, without apology or abasement—fearlessly. He tells of the powers and mysteries that pervade and guide all life, all death, all purpose. His work is masculine, as the sun is masculine; for the Prophetic Voice is as surely masculine as the lullaby and lyric cry are feminine.

Whitman brings the warmth of the sun to the buds of the heart, so that they open and bring forth form, color, perfume. He becomes for them aliment and dew; so these buds become blossoms, fruits, tall branches and stately trees that cast refreshing shadows.

There are men who are to other men as the shadow of a mighty rock in a weary land—such is Walt Whitman.

Victor Hugo • 5,400 Words

Man is neither master of his life nor of his fate. He can but offer to his fellowmen his efforts to diminish human suffering; he can but offer to God his indomitable faith in the growth of liberty.
Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo

The father of Victor Hugo was a general in the army of Napoleon, his mother a woman of rare grace and brave good sense. Victor was the third of three sons. Six weeks before the birth of her youngest boy, the mother wrote to a very dear friend of her husband, this letter:

“To General Victor Lahorie,

“Citizen-General:

“Soon to become the mother of a third child, it would be very agreeable to me if you would act as its godfather. Its name shall be yours—one which you have not belied and one which you have so well honored: Victor or Victorine. Your consent will be a testimonial of your friendship for us.

“Please accept, Citizen-General, the assurance of our sincere attachment.

“Femme Hugo.”

Victorine was expected, Victor came. General Lahorie acted as sponsor for the infant.

A soldier’s family lives here or there, everywhere or anywhere. In Eighteen Hundred Eight, General Hugo was with Joseph Bonaparte in Spain. Victor was then six years old. His mother had taken as a residence a quaint house in the Impasse of the Feullantines, Paris.

It was one of those peculiar old places occasionally seen in France. The environs of London have a few; America none of which I know. This house, roomy, comfortable and antiquated, was surrounded with trees and a tangle of shrubbery, vines and flowers; above it all was a high stone wall, and in front a picket iron gate. It was a mosaic—a sample of the Sixteenth Century inlaid in this; solitary as the woods; quiet as a convent; sacred as a forest; a place for dreams, and reverie, and rest. At the back of the house was a dilapidated little chapel. Here an aged priest counted his beads, said daily mass, and endeavored to keep moth, rust and ruin from the house of prayer. This priest was a scholar, a man of learning: he taught the children of Madame Hugo.

Another man lived in this chapel. He never went outside the gate and used to take exercise at night. He had a cot-bed in the shelter of the altar; beneath his pillow were a pair of pistols and a copy of Tacitus. This man lived there Summer and Winter, although there was no warmth save the scanty sunshine that stole in through the shattered windows. He, too, taught the children and gave them little lectures on history. He loved the youngest boy and would carry him on his shoulder and tell him stories of deeds of valor.

One day a file of soldiers came. They took this man and manacled him. The mother sought to keep her children inside the house so that they should not witness the scene, but she did not succeed. The boys fought their mother and the servants in a mad frenzy trying to rescue the old man. The soldiers formed in columns of four and marched their prisoner away.

Not long after, Madame Hugo was passing the church of Saint Jacques du Haut Pas: her youngest boy’s hand was in hers. She saw a large placard posted in front of the church. She paused and pointing to it said, “Victor, read that!” The boy read. It was a notice that General Lahorie had been shot that day on the plains of Grenville by order of a court martial.

General Lahorie was a gentleman of Brittany. He was a Republican, and five years before had grievously offended the Emperor. A charge of conspiracy being proved against him, a price was placed upon his head, and he found a temporary refuge with the mother of his godson.

That tragic incident of the arrest, and the placard announcing General Lahorie’s death, burned deep into the soul of the manling, and who shall say to what extent it colored his future life?

When Napoleon met his downfall, it was also a Waterloo for General Hugo. His property was confiscated, and penury took the place of plenty.

When Victor was nineteen, his mother having died, the family life was broken up. In “Les Miserables” the early struggles of Marius are described; and this, the author has told us, may be considered autobiography. He has related how the young man lived in a garret; how he would sweep this barren room; how he would buy a pennyworth of cheese, waiting until dusk to get a loaf of bread, and slink home as furtively as if he had stolen it; how carrying his book under his arm he would enter the butcher’s shop, and after being elbowed by jeering servants till he felt the cold sweat standing out on his forehead, he would take off his hat to the astonished butcher and ask for a single mutton-chop. This he would carry to his garret, and cooking it himself it would be made to last for three days.

In this way he managed to live on less than two hundred dollars a year, derived from the proceeds of poems, pamphlets and essays. At this time he was already an “Academy Laureate,” having received honorable mention for a poem submitted in a competition.

In his twentieth year, fortune came to him in triple form: he brought out a book of poems that netted him seven hundred francs; soon after the publication of this book, Louis the Eighteenth, who knew the value of having friends who were ready writers, bestowed on him a pension of one thousand francs a year; then these two pieces of good fortune made possible a third—his marriage.

Early marriages are like late ones: they may be wise and they may not. Victor Hugo’s marriage with Adele Foucher was a most happy event.

A man with a mind as independent as Victor Hugo’s is sure to make enemies. The “Classics” were positive that he was defiling the well of Classic French, and they sought to write him down. But by writing a man up you can not write him down; the only thing that can smother a literary aspirant is silence.

Victor Hugo coined the word when he could not find it, transposed phrases, inverted sentences, and never called a spade an agricultural implement. Not content with this, he put the spade on exhibition and this often at unnecessary times, and occasionally prefaced the word with an adjective. Had he been let alone he would not have done this.

The censors told him he must not use the name of Deity, nor should he refer so often to kings. At once, he doubled his Topseys and put on his stage three Uncle Toms when one might have answered. Like Shakespeare, he used idioms and slang with profusion—anything to express the idea. Will this convey the thought? If so, it was written down, and, once written, Beelzebub and all his hosts could not make him change it. But in the interest of truth let me note one exception:

“I do not like that word,” said Mademoiselle Mars to Victor Hugo at a rehearsal of “Hernani”; “can I not change it?”

“I wrote it so and it must stand,” was the answer.

Mademoiselle Mars used another expression instead of the author’s, and he promptly asked her to resign her part. She wept, and upon agreeing to adhere to the text was reinstated in favor.

Rehearsal after rehearsal occurred, and the words were repeated as written. The night of the performance came. Superb was the stage-setting, splendid the audience. The play went forward amid loud applause. The scene was reached where came the objectionable word. Did Mademoiselle Mars use it? Of course not; she used the word she chose—she was a woman. Fifty-three times she played the part, and not once did she use the author’s pet phrase; and he was wise enough not to note the fact. The moral of this is that not even a strong man can cope with a small woman who weeps at the right time.

The censorship forbade the placing of “Marion Delorme” on the stage until a certain historical episode in it had been changed. Would the author be so kind as to change it? Not he.

“Then it shall not be played,” said M. de Martignac.

The author hastened to interview the minister in person. He got a North Pole reception. In fact, M. de Martignac said that it was his busy day, and that playwriting was foolish business anyway; but if a man were bound to write, he should write to amuse, not to instruct. And young Hugo was bowed out.

When he found himself well outside the door he was furious. He would see the King himself. And he did see the King. His Majesty was gracious and very patient. He listened to the young author’s plea, talked book-lore, recited poetry, showed that he knew Hugo’s verses, asked after the author’s wife, then the baby, and—said that the play could not go on. Hugo turned to go. Charles the Tenth called him back, and said that he was glad the author had called—in fact, he was about to send for him. His pension thereafter should be six thousand francs a year.

Victor Hugo declined to receive it. Of course, the papers were full of the subject. All cafedom took sides: Paris had a topic for gesticulation, and Paris improved the opportunity.

Conservatism having stopped this play, there was only one thing to do: write another; for a play of Victor Hugo’s must be put upon the stage. All his friends said so; his honor was at stake.

In three weeks another play was ready. The censors read it and gave their report. They said that “Hernani” was whimsical in conception, defective in execution, a tissue of extravagances, generally trivial and often coarse. But they advised that it be put upon the stage, just to show the public to what extent of folly an author could go. In order to preserve the dignity of their office, they drew up a list of six places where the text should be changed.

Both sides were afraid, so each was willing to give in a point. The text was changed, and the important day for the presentation was drawing nigh. The Romanticists were, of course, anxious that the play should be a great success; the Classics were quite willing that it should be otherwise; in fact, they had bought up the claque and were making arrangements to hiss it down. But the author’s friends were numerous; they were young and lusty; they held meetings behind locked doors, and swore terrible oaths that the play should go.

On the day of the initial performance, five hours before the curtain rose, they were on hand, having taken the best seats in the house. They also took the worst, wherever a hisser might hide. These advocates of liberal art wore coats of green or red or blue, costumes like bullfighters, trousers and hats to match or not to match—anything to defy tradition. All during the performance there was an uproar. Theophile Gautier has described the event in most entertaining style, and in “L’Historie de Romanticisme” the record of it is found in detail.

Several American writers have touched upon this particular theme, and all who have seen fit to write of it seem to have stood under umbrellas when God rained humor. One writer calls it “the outburst of a tremendous revolution in literature.” He speaks of “smoldering flames,” “the hordes that furiously fought entrenched behind prestige, age, caste, wealth and tradition,” “suppression and extermination of heresy,” “those who sought to stop the onward march of civilization,” etc. Let us be sensible. A “cane-rush” is not a revolution, and “Bloody Monday” at Harvard is not “a decisive battle in the onward and upward march.”

If “Hernani” had been hissed down, Victor Hugo would have lived just as long and might have written better.

Civilization is not held in place by noisy youths in flaming waistcoats; and even if every cabbage had hit its mark, and every egg bespattered its target, the morning stars would still sing together.

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” was next turned out—written in five months—and was a great success. Publishers besieged the author for another story, but he preferred poetry. It was thirty years before his next novel, “Les Miserables,” appeared. But all the time he wrote—plays, verses, essays, pamphlets. Everything that he penned was widely read. Amid storms of opposition and cries of bravo, continually making friends, he moved steadily forward.

Men like Victor Hugo can be killed or they may be banished, but they can not be bought; neither can they be intimidated into silence. He resigned his pension and boldly expressed himself in his own way.

He knew history by heart and toyed with it; politics was his delight. But it is a mistake to call him a statesman. He was bold to rashness, impulsive, impatient and vehement. Because a man is great is no reason why he should be proclaimed perfect. Such men as Victor Hugo need no veneer—the truth will answer: he would explode a keg of powder to kill a fly. He was an agitator. But these zealous souls are needed—not to govern or to be blindly followed, but rather to make other men think for themselves. Yet to do this in a monarchy is not safe.

The years passed, and the time came for either Hugo or Royalty to go; France was not large enough for both. It proved to be Hugo; a bounty of twenty-five thousand francs was offered for his body, dead or alive. Through a woman’s devotion he escaped to Brussels. He was driven from there to Jersey, then to Guernsey.

It was nineteen years before he returned to Paris—years of banishment, but years of glory. Exiled by Fate that he might do his work!

* * *

Each day a steamer starts from Southampton for Guernsey, Alderney and Jersey. These are names known to countless farmers’ boys the wide world over.

You can not mistake the Channel Island boats—they smell like a county fair, and though you be blind and deaf it is impossible to board the wrong craft. Every time one of these staunch little steamers lands in England, crates containing mild-eyed, lusty calves are slid down the gangplank, marked for Maine, Iowa, California, or some uttermost part of the earth. There his vealship (worth his weight in gold) is going to found a kingdom.

I stood on the dock watching the bovine passengers disembark, and furtively listened the while to an animated argument between two rather rough-looking, red-faced men, clothed in corduroys and carrying long, stout staffs. Mixed up in their conversation I caught the names of royalty, then of celebrities great, and artists famous—warriors, orators, philanthropists and musicians. Could it be possible that these rustics were poets? It must be so. And there came to me thoughts of Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Joaquin Miller, and all that sublime company of singers in shirt-sleeves.

Suddenly the wind veered and the veil fell; all the sacred names so freely bandied about were those of “families” with mighty milk-records.

When we went on board and the good ship was slipping down The Solent, I made the acquaintance of these men and was regaled with more cow-talk than I had heard since I left Texas.

We saw the island of Portsea, where Dickens was born, and got a glimpse of the spires of Portsmouth as we passed; then came the Isle of Wight and the quaint town of Cowes. I made a bright joke on the latter place as it was pointed out to me by my Jersey friend, but it went for naught.

A pleasant sail of eight hours and the towering cliffs of Guernsey came in sight. Foam-dashed and spray-covered they rise right out of the sea at the south, to the height of two hundred seventy feet. About them great flocks of sea-fowl hover, swirl and soar. Wild, rugged and romantic is the scene.

The Isle of Guernsey is nine miles long and six wide. Its principal town is Saint Peter Port, a place of about sixteen thousand inhabitants, where a full dozen hotel porters meet the incoming steamer and struggle for your baggage.

Hotels and boarding-houses here are numerous and good. Guernsey is a favorite resort for invalids and those who desire to flee the busy world for a space. In fact, the author of “Les Miserables” has made exile popular.

Emerging from my hotel at Saint Peter Port I was accosted by a small edition of Gavroche, all in tatters, who proposed showing me the way to Hauteville House for a penny. I already knew the route, but accepted the offer on Gavroche’s promise to reveal to me a secret about the place. The secret is this: The house is haunted, and when the wind is east, and the setting moon shows only a narrow rim above the rocks, ghosts come and dance a solemn minuet on the glass roof above the study.

Had Gavroche ever seen them? No, but he knew a boy who had. Years and years—ever so many years ago—long before there were any steamboats, and when only a schooner came to Guernsey once a week, a woman was murdered in Hauteville House. Her ghost came back with other ghosts and drove the folks away. So the big house remained vacant—save for the spooks, who paid no rent.

Then after a great, long time Victor Hugo came and lived in the house. The ghosts did not bother him. Faith! they had been keeping the place just a’ purpose for him. He rented the house first, and liked it so well that he bought it—got it at half-price on account of the ghosts. Here, every Christmas, Victor Hugo gave a big dinner in the great oak hall to all the children in Guernsey: hundreds of them—all the way from babies that could barely creep, to “boys” with whiskers. They were all fed on turkey, tarts, apples, oranges and figs; and when they went away, each was given a bag of candy to take home.

Climbing a narrow, crooked street we came to the great, dark, gloomy edifice situated at the top of a cliff. The house was painted black by some strange whim of a former occupant.

“We will leave it so,” said Victor Hugo; “liberty is dead, and we are in mourning for her.”

But the gloom of Hauteville House is only on the outside. Within all is warm and homelike. The furnishings are almost as the poet left them, and the marks of his individuality are on every side.

In the outer hall stands an elegant column of carved oak, its panels showing scenes from “The Hunchback.” In the dining-room there is fantastic wainscoting with plaques and porcelain tiles inlaid here and there. Many of these ornaments were presents, sent by unknown admirers in all parts of the world.

In “Les Miserables” there is a chance line revealing the author’s love for the beautiful as shown in the grain of woods. The result was an influx of polished panels, slabs, chips, hewings, carvings, and in one instance a log sent “collect.” Samples of redwood, ebony, calamander, hamamelis, suradanni, tamarind, satinwood, mahogany, walnut, maples of many kinds and oaks without limit—all are there. A mammoth ax-helve I noticed on the wall was labeled, “Shagbark-hickory from Missouri.”

These specimens of wood were sometimes made up into hatracks, chairs, canes, or panels for doors, and are seen in odd corners of these rambling rooms. Charles Hugo once facetiously wrote to a friend: “We have bought no kindling for three years.” At another time he writes:

“Father still is sure he can sketch and positive he can carve. He has several jackknives, and whittles names, dates and emblems on sticks and furniture—we tremble for the piano.”

In the dining-room, I noticed a huge oaken chair fastened to the wall with a chain. On the mantel was a statuette of the Virgin; on the pedestal Victor Hugo had engraved lines speaking of her as “Freedom’s Goddess.” This dining-room affords a sunny view out into the garden; on this floor are also a reception-room, library and a smoking-room.

On the next floor are various sleeping-apartments, and two cozy parlors, known respectively as the red room and the blue. Both are rich in curious draperies, a little more pronounced in color than some folks admire.

The next floor contains the “Oak Gallery”: a ballroom we should call it. Five large windows furnish a flood of light. In the center of this fine room is an enormous candelabrum with many branches, at the top a statue of wood, the whole carved by Victor Hugo’s own hands.

The Oak Gallery is a regular museum of curiosities of every sort—books, paintings, carvings, busts, firearms, musical instruments. A long glass case contains a large number of autograph-letters from the world’s celebrities, written to Hugo in exile.

At the top of the house and built on its flat roof is the most interesting apartment of Hauteville House—the study and workroom of Victor Hugo. Three of its sides and the roof are of glass. The floor, too, is one immense slab of sea-green glass. Sliding curtains worked by pulleys cut off the light as desired. “More light, more light,” said the great man again and again. He gloried and reveled in the sunshine.

Here, in the Winter, with no warmth but the sun’s rays, his eyes shaded by his felt hat, he wrote, always standing at a shelf fixed in the wall. On this shelf were written all “The Toilers,” “The Man Who Laughs,” “Shakespeare” and much of “Les Miserables.” The leaves of manuscript were numbered and fell on the floor, to remain perhaps for days before being gathered up.

When Victor Hugo went to Guernsey he went to liberty, not to banishment. He arrived at Hauteville House poor in purse and broken in health. Here the fire of his youth came back, and his pen retrieved the fortune that royalty had confiscated. The forenoons were given to earnest work. The daughter composed music; the sons translated Shakespeare and acted as their father’s faithful helpers; Madame Hugo collected the notes of her husband’s life and cheerfully looked after her household affairs.

Several hours of each afternoon were given to romp and play; the evenings were sacred to music, reading and conversation.

Horace Greeley was once a prisoner in Paris. From his cell he wrote, “The Saint Peter who holds the keys of this place has kindly locked the world out; and for once, thank Heaven, I am free from intrusion.”

Lovers of truth must thank exile for some of our richest and ripest literature. Exile is not all exile. Imagination can not be imprisoned. Amid the winding bastions of the brain, thought roams free and untrammeled.

Liberty is only a comparative term, and Victor Hugo at Guernsey enjoyed a thousand times more freedom than ever ruling monarch knew.

Standing at the shelf-desk where this “Gentleman of France” stood for so many happy hours, I inscribed my name in the “visitors’ book.”

I thanked the good woman who had shown me the place, and told me so much of interest—thanked her in words that seemed but a feeble echo of all that my heart would say.

I went down the stairs—out at the great carved doorway—and descended the well-worn steps.

Perched on a crag waiting for me was little Gavroche, his rags fluttering in the breeze. He offered to show me the great stone chair where Gilliatt sat when the tide came up and carried him away. And did I want to buy a bull calf? Gavroche knew where there was a fine one that could be bought cheap. Gavroche would show me both the calf and the stone chair for threepence.

I accepted the offer, and we went down the stony street toward the sea, hand in hand.

* * *

On the Twenty-eighth day of June, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-four, I took my place in the long line and passed slowly through the Pantheon at Paris and viewed the body of President Carnot.

The same look of proud dignity that I had seen in life was there—calm, composed, serene. The inanimate clay was clothed in the simple black of a citizen of the Republic; the only mark of office being the red silken sash that covered the spot in the breast where the stiletto-stroke of hate had gone home.

Amid bursts of applause, surrounded by loving friends and loyal adherents, he was stricken down and passed out into the Unknown. Happy fate! to die before the fickle populace had taken up a new idol; to step in an instant beyond the reach of malice—to leave behind the self-seekers that pursue, the hungry horde that follows, the zealots who defame; to escape the dagger-thrust of calumny and receive only the glittering steel that at the same time wrote his name indelibly on the roll of honor.

Carnot, thrice happy thou! Thy name is secure on history’s page, and thy dust now resting beneath the dome of the Pantheon is bedewed with the tears of thy countrymen.

Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, died in Five Hundred Twelve. She was buried on a hilltop, the highest point in Paris, on the left bank of the Seine. Over the grave was erected a chapel which for many years was a shrine for the faithful. This chapel with its additions remained until Seventeen Hundred Fifty, when a church was designed which in beauty of style and solidity of structure has rarely been equaled. The object of the architect was to make the most enduring edifice possible, and still not sacrifice proportion.

Louis the Fifteenth laid the cornerstone of this church in Seventeen Hundred Sixty-four, and in Seventeen Hundred Ninety the edifice was dedicated by the Roman Catholics with great pomp. But the spirit of revolution was at work; and in one year after, a mob sacked this beautiful building, burned its pews, destroyed its altar, and wrought havoc with its ecclesiastical furniture.

The Convention converted the structure into a memorial temple, inscribing on its front the words, “Aux grandes Hommes la patrie reconnaisante,” and they named the building the Pantheon.

In Eighteen Hundred Six, the Catholics had gotten such influence with the government that the building was restored to them. After the revolution of Eighteen Hundred Thirty, the church of Saint Genevieve was again taken from the priests. It was held until Eighteen Hundred Fifty-one, when the Romanists in the Assembly succeeded in having it again reconsecrated. In the meantime, many of the great men of France had been buried there.

The first interment in the Pantheon was Mirabeau. Next came Marat—stabbed while in the bath by Charlotte Corday. Both bodies were removed by order of the Convention when the church was given back to Rome.

In the Pantheon, the visitor now sees the elaborate tombs of Voltaire and Rousseau. In the dim twilight he reads the glowing inscriptions, and from the tomb of Rousseau he sees the hand thrust forth bearing a torch—but the bones of these men are not here.

While robed priests chanted the litany, as the great organ pealed, and swinging censers gave off their perfume, visitors came, bringing children, and they stopped at the arches where Rousseau and Voltaire slept side by side, and they said, “It is here.” And so the dust of infidel greatness seemed to interfere with the rites. A change was made. Let Victor Hugo tell:

“One night in May, Eighteen Hundred Fourteen, about two o’clock in the morning, a cab stopped near the city gate of La Gare at an opening in a board fence. This fence surrounded a large, vacant piece of ground belonging to the city of Paris. The cab had come from the Pantheon, and the coachman had been ordered to take the most deserted streets. Three men alighted from the cab and crawled into the enclosure. Two carried a sack between them. Other men, some in cassocks, awaited them. They proceeded towards a hole dug in the middle of the field. At the bottom of the hole was quicklime. These men said nothing, they had no lanterns. The wan daybreak gave a ghastly light; the sack was opened. It was full of bones. These were the bones of Jean Jacques and of Voltaire, which had been withdrawn from the Pantheon.

“The mouth of the sack was brought close to the hole, and the bones rattled down into that black pit. The two skulls struck against each other; a spark, not likely to be seen by those standing near, was doubtless exchanged between the head that made ‘The Philosophical Dictionary’ and the head that made ‘The Social Contract,’ When that was done, when the sack was shaken, when Voltaire and Rousseau had been emptied into that hole, a digger seized a spade, threw into the opening the heap of earth, and filled up the grave. The others stamped with their feet upon the ground, so as to remove from it the appearance of having been freshly disturbed. One of the assistants took for his trouble the sack—as the hangman takes the clothing of his victim—they left the enclosure, got into the cab without saying a word, and, hastily, before the sun had risen, these men got away.”

The ashes of the man who wrote these vivid words now rest next to the empty tombs of Voltaire and Rousseau. But a step away is the grave of Sadi-Carnot.

When the visitor is conducted to the crypt of the Pantheon, he is first taken to the tomb of Victor Hugo. The sarcophagus on each side is draped with the red, white and blue of France and the stars and stripes of America. With uncovered heads, we behold the mass of flowers and wreaths, and our minds go back to Eighteen Hundred Eighty-five, when the body of the chief citizen of Paris lay in state at the Pantheon and five hundred thousand people passed by and laid the tribute of silence or of tears on his bier.

The Pantheon is now given over as a memorial to the men of France who have enriched the world with their lives. Over the portals of this beautiful temple are the words, “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.” Across its floors of rarest mosaic echo only the feet of pilgrims and those of the courteous and kindly old soldiers who have the place in charge. On the walls color revels in beautiful paintings, and in the niches and on the pedestals is marble that speaks of greatness which lives in lives made better.

The history of the Pantheon is one of strife. As late as Eighteen Hundred Seventy the Commune made it a stronghold, and the streets on every side were called upon to contribute their paving-stones for a barricade. Yet it seems meet that Victor Hugo’s dust should lie here amid the scenes he loved and knew, and where he struggled, worked, toiled, achieved; from whence he was banished, and to which he returned in triumph, to receive at last the complete approbation so long withheld.

Certainly not in the quiet of a mossy graveyard, nor in a church where priests mumble unmeaning words at fixed times, nor yet alone on the mountain-side—for he chafed at solitude—but he should have been buried at sea. In the midst of storm and driving sleet, at midnight, the sails should have been lowered, the great engines stopped, and with no requiem but the sobbing of the night-wind and the sighing of the breeze through the shrouds, and the moaning of the waves as they surged about the great, black ship, the plank should have been run out, and the body wrapped in the red, white and blue of the Republic: the sea, the infinite mother of all, beloved and sung by him, should have taken his tired form to her arms, and there he would rest.

If not this, then the Pantheon.

Wm. Wordsworth • 3,700 Words

Even such a shell the universe itself
Is to the ear of Faith; and there are times,
I doubt not, when to you it doth impart
Authentic tidings of invisible things;
Of ebb and flow and ever-during power;
And central peace subsisting at the heart
Of endless agitation. Here you stand,
Adore and worship, when you know it not;
Pious beyond the intention of your thought;
Devout above the meaning of your will
.—Wordsworth

William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth

Some one has told us that Heaven is not a place but a condition of mind, and it is possible that he is right.

But if Heaven is a place, surely it is not unlike Grasmere. Such loveliness of landscape—such sylvan stretches of crystal water—peace and quiet and rest!

Great, green hills lift their heads to the skies, and all the old stone walls and hedgerows are covered with trailing vines and blooming flowers. The air is rich with song of birds, sweet with perfume, and the blossoms gaily shower their petals on the passer-by. Overhead, white, billowy clouds float lazily over their background of ethereal blue. Cool June breezes fan the cheek. Distant knolls are dotted with flocks of sheep whose bells tinkle dreamily; and drowsy hum of beetle makes the bass, while lark song forms the air of the sweet symphony that Nature plays. Such was Grasmere as I first saw it.

To love the plain, homely, common, simple things of earth, of these to sing; to make the familiar beautiful and the commonplace enchanting; to cause each bush to burn with the actual presence of the living God: this is the poet’s office. And if the poet lives near Grasmere, his task does not seem difficult.

From Seventeen Hundred Ninety-nine to Eighteen Hundred Eight, Wordsworth lived at Dove Cottage. Thanks to a few earnest souls, the place is now secured to the people of England and the lovers of poetry wherever they may be. A good old woman has charge of the cottage, and for a slight fee shows you the house and garden and little orchard and objects of interest, all the while talking: and you are glad, for, although unlettered, she is reverent and honest. She was born here, and all she knows is Wordsworth and the people and the things he loved. Is not this enough?

Here Wordsworth lived before anything he wrote was published in book form: here his best work was done, and here Dorothy—splendid, sympathetic Dorothy—-was inspiration, critic, friend. But who inspired Dorothy? Coleridge perhaps more than all others, and we know somewhat of their relationship as told in Dorothy’s diary. There is a little Wordsworth Library in Dove Cottage, and I sat at the window of “De Quincey’s room” and read for an hour. Says Dorothy:

“Sat until four o’clock reading dear Coleridge’s letters.”

“We paced the garden until moonrise at one o’clock—we three, brother, Coleridge and I.” “I read Spenser to him aloud and then we had a midnight tea.”

Here in this little, terraced garden, behind the stone cottage with its low ceilings and wide window-seats and little, diamond panes, she in her misery wrote:

“Oh, the pity of it all! Yet there is recompense; every sight reminds me of Coleridge, dear, dear fellow; of our walks and talks by day and night; of all the bright and witty, and sad sweet things of which we spoke and read. I was melancholy and could not talk, and at last I eased my heart by weeping.”

Alas, too often there is competition between brother and sister, then follow misunderstandings; but here the brotherly and sisterly love stands out clear and strong after these hundred years have passed, and we contemplate it with delight. Was ever woman more honestly and better praised than Dorothy?

“The blessings of my later years
Were with me when I was a boy.
She gave me eyes, she gave me ears,
And humble cares and gentle fears,
A heart! the fountain of sweet tears,
And love and thought and joy.
And she hath smiles to earth unknown,
Smiles that with motion of their own
Do spread and sink and rise;
That come and go with endless play,
And ever as they pass away
Are hidden in her eyes.”

And so in a dozen or more poems, we see Dorothy reflected. She was the steel on which he tried his flint. Everything he wrote was read to her, then she read it alone, balancing the sentences in the delicate scales of her womanly judgment. “Heart of my heart, is this well done?” When she said, “This will do,” it was no matter who said otherwise.

Back of the house on the rising hillside is the little garden. Hewn out of the solid rock is “Dorothy’s seat.” There I rested while Mrs. Dixon discoursed of poet lore, and told me of how, many times, Coleridge and Dorothy had sat in the same seat and watched the stars.

Then I drank from “the well,” which is more properly a spring; the stones that curb it were placed in their present position by the hand that wrote “The Prelude.” Above the garden is the orchard, where the green linnet still sings, for the birds never grow old.

There, too, are the circling swallows; and in a snug little alcove of the cottage you can read “The Butterfly” from a first edition; and then you can go sit in the orchard, white with blossoms, and see the butterflies that suggested the poem. And if your eye is good you can discover down by the lakeside the daffodils, and listen the while to the cuckoo call.

Then in the orchard you can see not only “the daisy,” but many of them, and, if you wish, Mrs. Dixon will let you dig a bunch of the daisies to take back to America; and if you do, I hope that yours will prosper as have mine, and that Wordsworth’s flowers, like Wordsworth’s verse, will gladden your heart when the blue sky of your life threatens to be o’ercast with gray.

Here Southey came, and “Thalaber” was read aloud in this little garden. Here, too, came Clarkson, the man with a fine feminine carelessness, as Dorothy said. Charles Lloyd sat here and discoursed with William Calvert. Sir George Beaumont forgot his title and rapped often at the quaint, hinged door. An artist was Beaumont, but his best picture they say is not equal to the lines that Wordsworth wrote about it. Sir George was not only a gentleman according to law, but one in heart, for he was a friend, kind, gentle and generous. With such a friend Wordsworth was rich indeed. But perhaps the friends we have are only our other selves, and we get what we deserve.

We must not forget the kindly face of Humphry Davy, whose gracious playfulness was ever a charm to the Wordsworths. The safety-lamp was then only an unspoken word, and perhaps few foresaw the sweetness and light that these two men would yet give to earth.

Walter Scott and his wife came to Dove Cottage in Eighteen Hundred Five. He did not bring his title, for it, like Humphry Davy’s, was as yet unpacked down in London town. They slept in the little cubby-hole of a room in the upper southwest corner. One can imagine Dorothy taking Sir Walter’s shaving-water up to him in the morning; and the savory smell of breakfast as Mistress Mary poured the tea, while England’s future laureate served the toast and eggs: Mr. Scott eating everything in sight and talking a torrent the while about art and philosophy as he passed his cup back, to the consternation of the hostess, whose frugal ways were not used to such ravages of appetite. Of course she did not know that a combined novelist and rhymster ate twice as much as a simple poet.

Afterwards Mrs. Scott tucked up her dress, putting on one of Dorothy’s aprons, and helped do the dishes.

Then Coleridge came over and they all climbed to the summit of Helm Crag. Shy little De Quincey had read some of Wordsworth’s poems, and knew from their flavor that the man who penned them was a noble soul. He came to Grasmere to call on him: he walked past Dove Cottage twice, but his heart failed him and he went away unannounced. Later, he returned and found the occupants as simple folks as himself.

Happiness was there and good society; few books, but fine culture; plain living and high thinking.

Wordsworth lived at Rydal Mount for thirty-three years, yet the sweetest flowers of his life blossomed at Dove Cottage. For difficulty, toil, struggle, obscurity, poverty, mixed with aspiration and ambition—-all these were here. Success came later, but this is naught; for the achievement is more than the public acknowledgment of the deed.

After Wordsworth moved away, De Quincey rented Dove Cottage and lived in it for twenty-seven years. He acquired a library of more than five thousand volumes, making bookshelves on four sides of the little rooms from floor to ceiling. Some of these shelves still remain. Here he turned night into day and dreamed the dreams of “The Opium-Eater.”

And all these are some of the things that Mrs. Dixon told me on that bright Summer day. What if I had heard them before! no difference. Dear old lady, I salute you and at your feet I lay my gratitude for a day of rare and quiet joy.

“Farewell, thou little nook of mountain ground,
Thou rocky corner in the lowest stair
Of that magnificent temple which does bound
One side of our whole vale with gardens rare,
Sweet garden-orchard, eminently fair,
The loveliest spot that man has ever found,
Farewell! We leave thee to Heaven’s peaceful care,
Thee, and the Cottage which thou dost surround.”

* * *

At places of pleasure and entertainment in the Far West, are often found functionaries known as “bouncers.” It is the duty of the bouncer to give hints to objectionable visitors that their presence is not desired. And inasmuch as there are many men who can never take a hint without a kick, the bouncer is a person selected on account of his peculiar fitness—psychic and otherwise—for the place. We all have special talents, and these faculties should be used in a manner that will help our fellowmen on their way.

My acquaintanceship with the bouncer has been only general, not particular. Yet I have admired him from a distance, and the skill and eclat that he sometimes shows in a professional way has often excited my admiration.

In social usages, America borrows constantly from the mother country. But like all borrowing it seems to be one-sided, for seldom, very, very seldom, in point of etiquette and manners does England borrow from us. Yet there are exceptions.

It is a beautiful highway that skirts Lake Windermere and follows up through Ambleside. We get a glimpse of the old home of Harriet Martineau, and “Fox Howe,” the home of Matthew Arnold. Just before Rydal Water is reached comes Rydal Road, running straight up the hillside, off from the turnpike. Rydal Mount is the third house up on the left-hand side, I knew the location, for I had read of it many times, and in my pocketbook I carried a picture taken from an old “Frank Leslie’s,” showing the house.

My heart beat fast as I climbed the hill. To visit the old home of one who was Poet Laureate of England is no small event in the life of a book-lover. I was full of poetry and murmured lines from “The Excursion” as I walked. Soon rare old Rydal Mount came in sight among the wealth of green. I stopped and sighed. Yes, yes, Wordsworth lived here for thirty-three years, and here he died; the spot whereon I then stood had been pressed many times by his feet. I walked slowly, with uncovered head, and approached the gate. It was locked. I fumbled at the latch; and just as there came a prospect of its opening, a loud, deep, guttural voice dashed over me like a wave:

“There—you! now, wot you want?”

The owner of this voice was not ten feet away, but he was standing up close to the wall and I had not seen him. I was somewhat startled at first. The man did not move. I stepped to one side to get a better view of my interlocutor, and saw him to be a large, red man of perhaps fifty. A handkerchief was knotted around his thick neck, and he held a heavy hoe in his hand. A genuine beefeater he was, only he ate too much beef and the ale he drank was evidently Extra XXX.

His scowl was so needlessly severe and his manner so belligerent that I—thrice armed, knowing my cause was just—could not restrain a smile. I touched my hat and said, “Ah, excuse me, Mr. Falstaff, you are the bouncer?”

“Never mind wot I am, sir—’oo are you?”

“I am a great admirer of Wordsworth——”

“That’s the way they all begins. Cawn’t ye hadmire ‘im on that side of the wall as well as this?”

There is no use of wasting argument with a man of this stamp; besides that, his question was to the point. But there are several ways of overcoming one’s adversary: I began feeling in my pocket for pence. My enemy ceased glaring, stepped up to the locked gate as though he half-wished to be friendly, and there was sorrow in his voice: “Don’t tempt me, sir; don’t do ut! The Missus is peekin’ out of the shutters at us now.”

“And do you never admit visitors, even to the grounds?”

“No, sir, never, God ‘elp me! and there’s many an honest bob I could turn by ut, and no one ‘urt. But I’ve lost my place twic’t by ut. They took me back though. The Guv’ner ‘ud never forgive me again. ‘It’s three times and out, Mister ‘Opkins,’ says ‘ee, only last Whitsuntide.”

“But visitors do come?”

“Yes, sir; but they never gets in. Mostly ‘mer’cans; they don’t know no better, sir. They picks all the ivy orf the outside of the wall, and you sees yourself there’s no leaves on the lower branches of that tree. Then they carries away so many pebbles from out there that I’ve to dump in a fresh weelbarrel full o’ gravel every week, sir, don’t you know.”

He thrust a pudgy, freckled hand through the bars of the gate to show that he bore me no ill-will, and also, I suppose, to mollify my disappointment. For although I had come too late to see the great poet himself and had even failed to see the inside of his house, yet I had at least been greeted at the gate by his proxy. I pressed the hand firmly, pocketed a handful of gravel as a memento, then turned and went my way.

And all there is to tell about my visit to Rydal Mount is this interview with the bouncer.

* * *

Wordsworth lived eighty years. His habitation, except for short periods, was never more than a few miles from his birthplace. His education was not extensive, his learning not profound. He lacked humor and passion; in his character there was little personal magnetism, and in his work there is small dramatic power.

He traveled more or less and knew humanity, but he did not know man. His experience in so-called practical things was slight, his judgment not accurate. So he lived—quietly, modestly, dreamily.

His dust rests in a country churchyard, the grave marked by a simple slab. A gnarled, old yew-tree stands guard above the grass-grown mound. The nearest railroad is fifteen miles away.

As a poet, Wordsworth stands in the front rank of the second class. Shelley, Browning, Mrs. Browning, Tennyson, far surpass him; and the sweet singer of Michigan, even in uninspired moments, never “threw off” anything worse than this:

“And he is lean and he is sick:
His body, dwindled and awry,
Rests upon ankles swollen and thick;
His legs are thin and dry
One prop he has, and only one,
His wife, an aged woman,
Lives with him near the waterfall,
Upon the village common.”

Jove may nod, but when he makes a move it counts.

Yet the influence of Wordsworth upon the thought and feeling of the world has been very great. He himself said, “The young will read my poems and be better for their truth.” Many of his lines pass as current coin: “The child is father of the man,” “The light that never was on land nor sea,” “Not too bright and good for human nature’s daily food,” “Thoughts that do lie too deep for tears,” “The mighty stream of tendency,” and many others. “Plain living and high thinking” is generally given to Emerson, but he discovered it in Wordsworth, and recognizing it as his own he took it. In a certain book of quotations, “The still sad music of humanity” is given to Shakespeare; but to equalize matters we sometimes attribute to Wordsworth “The Old Oaken Bucket.”

The men who win are those who correct an abuse. Wordsworth’s work was a protest—mild yet firm—against the bombastic and artificial school of the Eighteenth Century. Before his day the “timber” used by poets consisted of angels, devils, ghosts, gods; onslaught, tourneys, jousts, tempests of hate and torrents of wrath, always of course with a very beautiful and very susceptible young lady just around the corner. The women in those days were always young and ever beautiful, but seldom wise and not often good. The men were saints or else “bad,” generally bad. Like the cats of Kilkenny, they fought on slight cause.

Our young man at Hawkshead School saw this: it pleased him not, and he made a list of the things on which he would write poems. This list includes: sunset, moonrise, starlight, mist, brooks, shells, stones, butterflies, moths, swallows, linnets, thrushes, wagoners, babies, bark of trees, leaves, nests, fishes, rushes, leeches, cobwebs, clouds, deer, music, shade, swans, crags and snow. He kept his vow and “went it one better,” for among his verses I find the following titles: “Lines Left Upon a Seat in a Yew-Tree,” “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” “To a Wounded Butterfly,” “To Dora’s Portrait,” “To the Cuckoo,” “On Seeing a Needlebook Made in the Shape of a Harp,” etc.

Wordsworth’s service to humanity consists in the fact that he has shown us old truth in a new light, and has made plain the close relationship that exists between physical nature and the soul of man. Is this much or little? I think it is much. When we realize that we are a part of all that we see, or hear, or feel, we are not lonely. But to feel a sense of separation is to feel the chill of death.

Wordsworth taught that the earth is the universal Mother and that the life of the flower has its source in the same universal life from whence ours is derived. To know this truth is to feel a tenderness, a kindliness, a spirit of fraternalism, toward every manifestation of this universal life. No attempt was made to say the last word, only a wish to express the truth that the spirit of God is manifest on every hand.

Now this is a very simple philosophy. No far-reaching, syllogistic logic is required to prove it; no miracle, nor special dispensation is needed; you just feel that it is so, that’s all, and it gives you peace. Children, foolish folks, old men, whose sands of life are nearly run, comprehend it. But heaven bless you! you can’t prove any such foolishness. Jeffrey saw the ridiculousness of these assumptions and so he declared, “This will never do,” and for twenty years “The Edinburgh Review” never ceased to fling off fleers and jeers—and to criticize and scoff. That a great periodical, rich and influential, in the city which was the very center of learning, should go so much out of its way to attack a quiet countryman living in a four-roomed cottage, away off in the hills of Cumberland, seems a little queer.

Then, this countryman did not seek to found a kingdom, nor to revolutionize society, nor did he force upon the world his pattypan rhymes about linnets, and larks, and daffodils. Far from it: he was very modest—diffident, in fact—and his song was quite in the minor key, but still the chain-shot and bombs of literary warfare were sent hissing in his direction.

There is a little story about a certain general who figured as division-commander in the War of Secession: this warrior had his headquarters, for a time, in a typical Southern home in the Tennessee Mountains. The house had a large fireplace and chimney; in this chimney, swallows had nests. One day, as the great man was busy at his maps, working out a plan of campaign against the enemy, the swallows made quite an uproar. Perhaps some of the eggs were hatching; anyway, the birds were needlessly noisy in their domestic affairs, and it disturbed the great man—he grew nervous. He called his adjutant. “Sir,” said the mighty warrior, “dislodge those damn pests in the chimney, without delay.”

Two soldiers were ordered to climb the roof and dislodge the enemy. Yet the swallows were not dislodged, for the soldiers could not reach them.

So Jeffrey’s tirades were unavailing, and Wordsworth was not dislodged.

“He might as well try to crush Skiddaw,” said Southey.

William M. Thackeray • 3,600 Words

TO MR. BROOKFIELD
September 16, 1849

Have you read Dickens? Oh, it is charming! Brave Dickens! “David Copperfield” has some of his prettiest touches, and the reading of the book has done another author a great deal of good.
—W.M.T.

W.M. Thackeray
W.M. Thackeray

There are certain good old ladies in every community who wear perennial mourning. They attend every funeral, carrying black-bordered handkerchiefs, and weep gently at the right time. I have made it a point to hunt out these ancient dames at their homes, and, over the teacups, I have discovered that invariably they enjoy a sweet peace—a happiness with contentment—that is a great gain. They seem to be civilization’s rudimentary relic of the Irish keeners and the paid mourners of the Orient.

And there is just a little of this tendency to mourn with those who mourn in all mankind. It is not difficult to bear another’s woe—and then there is always a grain of mitigation, even in the sorrow of the afflicted, that makes their tribulation bearable.

Burke affirms, in “On the Sublime,” that all men take a certain satisfaction in the disasters of others. Just as Frenchmen lift their hats when a funeral passes and thank God that they are not in the hearse, so do we in the presence of calamity thank Heaven that it is not ours.

Perhaps this is why I get a strange delight from walking through a graveyard by night. All about are the white monuments that glisten in the ghostly starlight, the night-wind sighs softly among the grassy mounds—all else is silent—still.

This is the city of the dead, and of all the hundreds or thousands who have traveled to this spot over long and weary miles, I, only I, have the power to leave at will. Their ears are stopped, their eyes are closed, their hands are folded—but I am alive.

One of the first places I visited on reaching London was Kensal Green Cemetery. I quickly made the acquaintance of the First Gravedigger, a rare wit, over whose gray head have passed full seventy pleasant summers. I presented him a copy of “The Shroud,” the organ of the American Undertakers’ Association, published at Syracuse, New York. I subscribe for “The Shroud” because it has a bright wit-and-humor column, and also for the sweet satisfaction of knowing that there is still virtue left in Syracuse.

The First Gravedigger greeted me courteously, and when I explained briefly my posthumous predilections we grasped hands across an open grave (that he had just digged) and were fast friends.

“Do you believe in cremation, sir?” he asked.

“No, never; it’s pagan.”

“Aye, you are a gentleman—and about burying folks in churches?”

“Never! A grave should be out under the open sky, where the sun by day and the moon and stars——”

“Right you are. How Shakespeare can ever stand it to have his grave walked over by a boy choir is more than I can understand. If I had him here I could look after him right. Come, I’ll show you the company I keep!”

Not twenty feet from where we stood was a fine but plain granite block to the memory of the second wife of James Russell Lowell.

“Just Mr. Lowell and one friend stood by the grave when we lowered the coffin—just two men and no one else but the young clergyman who belongs here. Mr. Lowell shook hands with me when he went away. He gave me a guinea and wrote me two letters afterward from America; the last was sent only a week before he died. I’ll show ‘em to you when we go to the office. Say, did you know him?”

He pointed to a slab, on which I read the name of Sydney Smith. Then we went to the graves of Mulready, the painter; Kemble, the actor; Sir Charles Eastlake, the artist. Next came the resting-place of Buckle—immortal for writing a preface—dead at thirty-seven, with his history unwrit; Leigh Hunt sleeps near, and above his dust a column that explains how it was erected by friends. In life he asked for bread; when dead they gave him a costly pile of stone.

Here are also the graves of Madame Tietjens; of Charles Mathews, the actor; and of Admiral Sir John Ross, the Arctic explorer.

“And just down the hill aways another big man is buried. I knew him well; he used to come and visit us often. The last time I saw him I said as he was going away, ‘Come again, sir; you are always welcome!’

“‘Thank you, Mr. First Gravedigger,’ says he; ‘I will come again before long, and make you an extended visit.’ In less than a year the hearse brought him. That’s his grave—push that ivy away and you can read the inscription. Did you ever hear of him?”

It was a plain, heavy slab placed horizontally, and the ivy had so run over it that the white of the marble was nearly obscured. But I made out this inscription:

WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY
Born July 18, 1811
Died Dec. 24, 1863
ANNE CARMICHAEL SMYTH
Died Dec. 18, 1864, aged 72—his mother
by her first marriage

The unpoetic exactness of that pedigree gave me a slight chill. But here they sleep—mother and son in one grave. She who gave him his first caress also gave him his last; and when he was found dead in his bed, his mother, who lived under the same roof, was the first one called. He was the child of her girlhood—she was scarcely twenty when she bore him. In life they were never separated, and in death they are not divided. It is as both desired.

Thackeray was born in India, and was brought to England on the death of his father, when he was six years of age. On the way from Calcutta the ship touched at the Island of Saint Helena. A servant took the lad ashore and they walked up the rocky heights to Longwood, and there, pacing back and forth in a garden, they saw a short, stout man.

“Lookee, lad, lookee quick—that’s him! He eats three sheep every day and all the children he can get!”

“And that’s all I had to do with the Battle of Waterloo,” said “Old Thack,” forty years after. But you will never believe it after reading those masterly touches concerning the battle, in “Vanity Fair.”

Young Thackeray was sent to the Charterhouse School, where he was considered rather a dull boy. He was big and good-natured, and read novels when he should have studied arithmetic. This tendency to “play off” stuck to him at Cambridge—where he did not remain long enough to get a degree, but to the relief of his tutors went off on a tour through Europe.

Travel as a means of education is a very seductive bit of sophistry. Invalids whom the doctors can not cure, and scholars whom teachers can not teach, are often advised to take “a change.” Still there is reason in it.

In England Thackeray was intent on law; at Paris he received a strong bent toward art; but when he reached Weimar and was introduced at the Court of Letters and came into the living presence of Goethe, he caught the infection and made a plan for translating Schiller.

Schiller dead was considered in Germany a greater man than Goethe living, as if it were an offense to live and a virtue to die. And young William Makepeace wrote home to his mother that Schiller was the greatest man that ever lived and that he was going to translate his books and give them to England.

No doubt there are certain people born with a tendency to infectiousness in regard to certain diseases; so there are those who catch the literary mania on slight exposure.

“I’ve got it,” said Thackeray, and so he had.

He went back to England and made groggy efforts at Blackstone, and Somebody’s Digest, and What’s-His-Name’s Compendium, but all the time he scribbled and sketched.

The young man had come into possession of a goodly fortune from his father’s estate—enough to yield him an income of over two thousand dollars a year. But bad investments and signing security for friends took the money the way that money usually goes when held by a man who has not earned it.

“Talk about riches having wings,” said Thackeray; “my fortune had pinions like a condor, and flew like a carrier-pigeon.”

When Thackeray was thirty he was eking out a meager income writing poems, reviews, criticisms and editorials. His wife was a confirmed invalid, a victim of mental darkness, and his sorrows and anxieties were many.

He was known as a bright writer, yet London is full of clever, unsuccessful men. But in Thackeray’s thirty-eighth year “Vanity Fair” came out, and it was a success from the first.

In “Yesterdays With Authors,” Mr. Fields says: “I once made a pilgrimage with Thackeray to the various houses where his books had been written; and I remember when we came to Young Street, Kensington, he said, with mock gravity, ‘Down on your knees, you rogue, for here “Vanity Fair” was penned; and I will go down with you, for I have a high opinion of that little production myself.’”

Young Street is only a block from the Kensington Metropolitan Railway-Station. It is a little street running off Kensington Road. At Number Sixteen (formerly Number Thirteen), I saw a card in the window, “Rooms to Rent to Single Gentlemen.”

I rang the bell, and was shown a room that the landlady offered me for twelve shillings a week if I paid in advance; or if I would take another room one flight up with a “gent who was studying hart” it would be only eight and six. I suggested that we go up and see the “gent.” We did so, and I found the young man very courteous and polite.

He told me that he had never heard Thackeray’s name in connection with the house. The landlady protested that “no man by the name o’ Thack’ry has had rooms here since I rented the place; leastwise, if he has been here he called hisself by sumpthink else, which was like o’nuff the case, as most ev’rybody is crooked now’days—but surely no decent person can blame me for that!”

I assured her that she was in no wise to blame.

From this house in Young Street the author of “Vanity Fair” moved to Number Thirty-six Onslow Square, where he wrote “The Virginians.” On the south side of the Square there is a row of three-storied brick houses. Thackeray lived in one of these houses for nine years. They were the years when honors and wealth were being heaped upon him; and he was worldling enough to let his wants keep pace with his ability to gratify them. He was made of the same sort of clay as other men, for his standard of life conformed to his pocketbook and he always felt poor.

From this fine house on Onslow Square he moved to a veritable palace, which he built to suit his own taste, at Number Two Palace Green, Kensington. But mansions on earth are seldom for long—he died here on Christmas Eve, Eighteen Hundred Sixty-three. And Charles Dickens, Mark Lemon, Millais, Trollope, Robert Browning, Cruikshank, Tom Taylor, Louis Blanc, Charles Mathews and Shirley Brooks were among the friends who carried him to his rest.

* * *

To take one’s self too seriously is a great mistake. Complacency is the unpardonable sin, and the man who says, “Now I’m sure of it,” has at that moment lost it.

Villagers who have lived in one little place until they think themselves great, having lost the sense of proportion through lack of comparison, are generally “in dead earnest.”

Surely they are often intellectually dead, and I do not dispute the fact that they are in earnest. All those excellent gentlemen in the days gone by who could not contemplate a celestial bliss that did not involve the damnation of those who disagreed with them were in dead earnest.

Cotton Mather once saw a black cat perched on the shoulder of an innocent, chattering old gran’ma. The next day a neighbor had a convulsion; and Cotton Mather went forth and exorcised Tabby with a hymn-book, and hanged gran’ma by the neck, high on Gallows Hill, until she was dead.

Had the Reverend Mr. Mather possessed but a mere modicum of humor he might have exorcised the cat, but I am sure he would never have troubled old gran’ma. But alas, Cotton Mather’s conversation was limited to yea, yea, and nay, nay—generally, nay, nay—and he was in dead earnest.

In the Boston Public Library is a book written in Sixteen Hundred Eighty-five by Cotton Mather, entitled, “Wonders of the Invisible World.” This book received the endorsement of the Governor of the Province and also of the President of Harvard College. The author cites many cases of persons who were bewitched; and also makes the interesting statement that the Devil knows Greek, Latin and Hebrew, but speaks English with an accent. These facts were long used at Harvard as an argument in favor of the Classics. And when Greek was at last made optional, the Devil was supposed to have filed a protest with the Dean of the Faculty.

The Reverend Francis Gastrell, who razed New Place, and cut down the poet’s mulberry-tree to escape the importunities of visitors, was in dead earnest. Attila, and Herod, and John Calvin were in dead earnest. And were it not for the fact that Luther had lucid intervals when he went about with his tongue in his cheek he surely would have worked grievous wrong.

Recent discoveries in Egyptian archeology show that in his lifetime Moses was esteemed more as a wit than as a lawmaker. His jokes were posted upon the walls and explained to the populace, who it seems were a bit slow.

Job was a humorist of a high order, and when he said to the wise men, “No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you,” he struck twelve. When the sons of Jacob went down into Egypt and Joseph put up the price of corn, took their money, and then secretly replaced the coin in the sacks, he showed his artless love of a quiet joke.

Shakespeare’s fools were the wisest and kindliest men at court. When the master decked a character in cap and bells, it was as though he had given bonds for the man’s humanity. Touchstone followed his master into exile; and when all seemed to have forsaken King Lear the fool bared himself to the storm and covered the shaking old man with his own cloak. And if Costard, Trinculo, Touchstone, Jaques and Mercutio had lived in Salem in Sixteen Hundred Ninety-two, there would have been not only a flashing of merry jests, but a flashing of rapiers as well, and every gray hair of every old dame’s head would have been safe so long as there was a striped leg on which to stand.

Lincoln, liberator of men, loved the motley. In fact, the individual who is incapable of viewing the world from a jocular basis is unsafe, and can be trusted only when the opposition is strong enough to laugh him into line.

In the realm of English letters, Thackeray is prince of humorists. He could see right through a brick wall, and never mistook a hawk for a hernshaw. He had a just estimate of values, and the temperament that can laugh at all trivial misfits. And he had, too, that dread capacity for pain which every true humorist possesses, for the true essence of humor is sensibility.

In all literature that lives there is mingled like pollen an indefinable element of the author’s personality. In Thackeray’s “Lectures on English Humorists” this subtle quality is particularly apparent. Elusive, delicate, alluring—it is the actinic ray that imparts vitality.

When wit plays skittles with dulness, dulness gets revenge by taking wit at his word. Vast numbers of people taking Thackeray at his word consider him a bitter pessimist.

He even disconcerted bright little Charlotte Bronte, who went down to London to see him, and then wrote back to Haworth that “the great man talked steadily with never a smile. I could not tell when to laugh and when to cry, for I did not know what was fun and what fact.”

But finally the author of “Jane Eyre” found the combination, and she saw that beneath the brusk exterior of that bulky form there was a woman’s tender sympathy.

Thackeray has told us what he thought of the author of “Jane Eyre,” and the author of “Jane Eyre” has told us what she thought of the author of “Vanity Fair.” One was big and whimsical, the other was little and sincere, but both were alike in this: their hearts were wrung at the sight of suffering, and both had tears for the erring, the groping, and the oppressed.

A Frenchman can not comprehend a joke that is not accompanied by grimace and gesticulation; and so M. Taine chases Thackeray through sixty solid pages, berating him for what he is pleased to term “bottled hate.”

Taine is a cynic who charges Thackeray with cynicism, all in the choicest of biting phrase. It is a beautiful example of sinners calling the righteous to repentance—a thing that is often done, but seldom with artistic finish.

The fun is too deep for Monsieur, or mayhap the brand is not the yellow label to which his palate is accustomed, so he spews it all. Yet Taine’s criticism is charming reading, although he is only hot after an aniseed trail of his own dragging. But the chase is a deal more exciting than most men would lead, were there real live game to capture.

If pushed, I might suggest several points in this man’s make-up where God could have bettered His work. But accepting Thackeray as we find him, we see a singer whose cage Fate had overhung with black until he had caught the tune. The “Ballad of Boullabaisse” shows a tender side of his spirit that he often sought to conceal. His heart vibrated to all finer thrills of mercy; and his love for all created things was so delicately strung that he would, in childish shame, sometimes issue a growl to drown its rising, tearful tones.

In the character of Becky Sharp, he has marshaled some of his own weak points and then lashed them with scorn. He looked into the mirror and seeing a potential snob he straightway inveighed against snobbery. The punishment does not always fit the crime—it is excess. But I still contest that where his ridicule is most severe, it is Thackeray’s own back that is bared to the knout.

The primal recipe for roguery in art is, “Know Thyself.” When a writer portrays a villain and does it well—make no mistake, he poses for the character himself. Said gentle Ralph Waldo Emerson, “I have capacity in me for every crime.”

The man of imagination knows those mystic spores of possibility that lie dormant, and like the magicians of the East who grow mango-trees in an hour, he develops the “inward potential” at will. The mere artisan in letters goes forth and finds a villain and then describes him, but the artist knows a better way: “I am that man.”

One of the very sweetest, gentlest characters in literature is Colonel Newcome. The stepfather of Thackeray, Major Carmichael Smyth, was made to stand for the portrait of the lovable Colonel; and when that all-round athlete, F. Hopkinson Smith, gave us that other lovable old Colonel he paid high tribute to “The Newcomes.”

Thackeray was a poet, and as such was often caught in the toils of doubt—the crux of the inquiring spirit. He aspired for better things, and at times his imperfections stood out before him in monstrous shape, and he sought to hiss them down.

In the heart of the artist-poet there is an Inmost Self that sits over against the acting, breathing man and passes judgment on his every deed. To satisfy the world is little; to please the populace is naught; fame is vapor; gold is dross; and every love that has not the sanction of that Inmost Self is a viper’s sting. To satisfy the demands of the God within is the poet’s prayer.

What doubts beset, what taunting fears surround, what crouching sorrows lie in wait, what dead hopes drag, what hot desires pursue, and what kindly lights do beckon on—ah! “’tis we musicians know.”

Thackeray came to America to get a pot of money, and was in a fair way of securing it, when he chanced to pick up a paper in which a steamer was announced to sail that evening for England. A wave of homesickness swept over the big boy—he could not stand it. He hastily packed up his effects and without saying good-by to any one, and forgetting all his engagements, he hastened to the dock, leaving this note for the kindest of kind friends: “Good-by, Fields; good-by, Mrs. Fields—God bless everybody, says W.M.T.”

Charles Dickens • 5,900 Words

I hope for the enlargement of my mind, and for the improvement of my understanding. If I have done but little good, I trust I have done less harm, and that none of my adventures will be other than a source of amusing and pleasant recollection. God bless you all!
Pickwick

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens

The path of progress in certain problems seems barred as by a flaming sword.

More than a thousand years before Christ, an Arab chief asked, “If a man die shall he live again?” Every man who ever lived has asked the same question, but we know no more today about the subject than did Job.

There are one hundred five boy babies born to every one hundred girls. The law holds in every land where vital statistics have been kept; and Sairey Gamp knew just as much about the cause why as Brown-Sequard, Pasteur, Agnew or Austin Flint.

There is still a third question that every parent, since Adam and Eve, has sought to solve: “How can I educate this child so that he will attain eminence?” And even in spite of shelves that groan beneath tomes and tomes, and advice from a million preachers, the answer is: Nobody knows.

“There is a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.”

Moses was sent adrift, but the tide carried him into power. The brethren of Joseph “deposited him into a cavity,” but you can not dispose of genius that way!

Demosthenes was weighted (or blessed) with every disadvantage; Shakespeare got into difficulty with a woman eight years his senior, stole deer, ran away, and—became the very first among English poets; Erasmus was a foundling.

Once there was a woman by the name of Nancy Hanks; she was thin-breasted, gaunt, yellow and sad. At last, living in poverty, overworked, she was stricken by death. She called her son—homely as herself—and pointing to the lad’s sister said, “Be good to her, Abe,” and died—died, having no expectation for her boy beyond the hope that he might prosper in worldly affairs so as to care for himself and his sister. The boy became a man who wielded wisely a power mightier than that ever given to any other American. Seven college-bred men composed his cabinet; and Proctor Knott once said that “if a teeter were evenly balanced, and the members of the cabinet were all placed on one end, and the President on the other, he would send the seven wise men flying into space.”

On the other hand, Marcus Aurelius wrote his “Meditations” for a son who did not read them, and whose name is a symbol of profligacy; Charles Kingsley penned “Greek Heroes” for offspring who have never shown their father’s heroism; and Charles Dickens wrote “A Child’s History of England” for his children—none of whom has proven his proficiency in historiology.

Charles Dickens himself received his education at the University of Hard Knocks. Very early in life he was cast upon the rocks and suckled by the she-wolf. Yet he became the most popular author the world has ever known, and up to the present time no writer of books has approached him in point of number of readers and of financial returns. These are facts—facts so hard and true that they would be the delight of Mr. Gradgrind.

At twelve years of age, Charles Dickens was pasting labels on blacking-boxes; his father was in prison. At sixteen, he was spending odd hours in the reading-room of the British Museum. At nineteen, he was Parliamentary reporter; at twenty-one, a writer of sketches; at twenty-three, he was getting a salary of thirty-five dollars a week, and the next year his pay was doubled. When twenty-five, he wrote a play that ran for seventy nights at Drury Lane Theater. About the same time he received seven hundred dollars for a series of sketches written in two weeks. At twenty-six, publishers were at his feet.

When Dickens was at the flood-tide of prosperity, Thackeray, one year his senior, waited on his doorstep with pictures to illustrate “Pickwick.”

He worked steadily, and made from eight to twenty-five thousand dollars a year. His fame increased, and the “New York Ledger” paid him ten thousand dollars for one story which he wrote in a fortnight. His collected works fill forty volumes. There are more of Dickens’ books sold every year now than in any year in which he lived. There were more of Dickens’ books sold last year than any previous year.

“I am glad that the public buy his books,” said Macready; “for if they did not he would take to the stage and eclipse us all.”

“Not So Bad As We Seem,” by Bulwer-Lytton, was played at Devonshire House in the presence of the Queen, Dickens taking the principal part. He gave theatrical performances in London, Liverpool and Manchester, for the benefit of Leigh Hunt, Sheridan Knowles and various other needy authors and actors. He wrote a dozen plays, and twice as many more have been constructed from his plots.

He gave public readings through England, Scotland and Ireland, where the people fought for seats. The average receipts for these entertainments were eight hundred dollars per night.

In Eighteen Hundred Sixty-three, he made a six months’ tour of the United States, giving a series of readings. The prices of admission were placed at extravagant figures, but the box-office was always besieged until the ticket-seller put out his lights and hung out a sign: “The standing-room is all taken.”

The gross receipts of these readings were two hundred twenty-nine thousand dollars; the expenses thirty-nine thousand dollars; net profit, one hundred ninety thousand dollars.

Charles Dickens died of brain-rupture in Eighteen Hundred Seventy, aged fifty-eight. His dust rests in Westminster Abbey.

* * *

“To know the London of Dickens is a liberal education,” once said James T. Fields, who was affectionately referred to by Charles Dickens as “Massachusetts Jemmy.” And I am aware of no better way to become acquainted with the greatest city in the world than to follow the winding footsteps of the author of “David Copperfield.”

Beginning his London life when ten years of age, he shifted from one lodging to another, zigzag, tacking back and forth from place to place, but all the time making head, and finally dwelling in palaces of which nobility might be proud. It took him forty-eight years to travel from the squalor of Camden Town to Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.

He lodged first in Bayham Street. “A washerwoman lived next door, and a Bow Street officer over the way.” It was a shabby district, chosen by the elder Dickens because the rent was low. As he neglected to pay the rent, one wonders why he did not take quarters in Piccadilly.

I looked in vain for a sign reading, “Washin dun Heer,” but I found a Bow Street orf’cer who told me that Bayham Street had long since disappeared.

Yet there is always a recompense in prowling about London, because if you do not find the thing you are looking for, you find something else equally interesting. My Bow Street friend proved to be a regular magazine of rare and useful information—historical, archeological and biographical.

A Lunnun Bobby has his clothes cut after a pattern a hundred years old, and he always carries his gloves in his hand—never wearing them—because this was a habit of William the Conqueror.

But never mind; he is intelligent, courteous and obliging, and I am perfectly willing that he should wear skirts like a ballet-dancer and a helmet too small, if it is his humor.

My perliceman knew an older orf’cer who was acquainted with Mr. Dickens. Mr. Dickens ‘ad a full perliceman’s suit ‘imself, issued to ‘im on an order from Scotland Yard, and he used to do patrol duty at night, carrying ‘is bloomin’ gloves in ‘is ‘and and ‘is chinstrap in place. This was told me by my new-found friend, who volunteered to show me the way to North Gower Street.

It’s only Gower Street now and the houses have been renumbered, so Number Four is a matter of conjecture; but my guide showed me a door where were the marks of a full-grown plate that evidently had long since disappeared. Some days afterward I found this identical brass plate at an old bookshop in Cheapside. The plate read: “Mrs. Dickens’ Establishment.” The man who kept the place advertised himself as a “Bibliopole.” He offered to sell me the plate for one pun ten; but I did not purchase, for I knew where I could get its mate with a deal more verdigris—all for six and eight.

Dickens has recorded that he can not recollect of any pupils coming to the Establishment. But he remembers when his father was taken, like Mr. Dorrit, to the Debtors’ Prison. He was lodged in the top story but one, in the very same room where his son afterwards put the Dorrits. It’s a queer thing to know that a book-writer can imprison folks without a warrant and even kill them and yet go unpunished—which thought was suggested to me by my philosophic guide.

From this house in Gower Street, Charles used to go daily to the Marshalsea to visit Micawber, who not so many years later was to act as the proud amanuensis of his son.

The next morning after I first met Bobby he was off duty. I met him by appointment at the Three Jolly Beggars (a place pernicious snug). He was dressed in a fashionable, light-colored suit, the coat a trifle short, and a high silk hat. His large, red neckscarf—set off by his bright, brick-dust complexion—caused me to mistake him at first for a friend of mine who drives a Holborn bus.

Mr. ‘Awkins (for it was he) greeted me cordially, pulled gently at his neck-whiskers, and, when he addressed me as Me Lud, the barmaid served us with much alacrity and things.

We went first to the church of Saint George; then we found Angel Court leading to Bermondsey, also Marshalsea Place. Here is the site of the prison, where the crowded ghosts of misery still hover; but small trace could we find of the prison itself, neither did we see the ghosts. We, however, saw a very pretty barmaid at the public in Angel Court. I think she is still prettier than the one to whom Bobby introduced me at the Sign of the Meat-Axe, which is saying a good deal. Angel Court is rightly named.

The blacking-warehouse at Old Hungerford Stairs, Strand, in which Charles Dickens was shown by Bob Fagin how to tie up the pots of paste, has rotted down and been carted away. The coal-barges in the muddy river are still there, just as they were when Charles, Poll Green and Bob Fagin played on them during the dinner-hour. I saw Bob and several other boys, grimy with blacking, chasing each other across the flatboats, but Dickens was not there.

Down the river aways there is a crazy, old warehouse with a rotten wharf of its own, abutting on the water when the tide is in, and on the mud when the tide is out—the whole place literally overrun with rats that scuffle and squeal on the moldy stairs. I asked Bobby if it could not be that this was the blacking-factory; but he said, No, for this one allus wuz.

Dickens found lodgings in Lant Street while his father was awaiting in the Marshalsea for something to turn up. Bob Sawyer afterward had the same quarters. When Sawyer invited Mr. Pickwick “and the other chaps” to dine with him, he failed to give his number, so we can not locate the house. But I found the street and saw a big, wooden Pickwick on wheels standing as a sign for a tobacco-shop. The old gentleman who runs the place, and runs the sign in every night, assured me that Bob Sawyer’s room was the first floor back. I looked in at it, but seeing no one there whom I knew, I bought tuppence worth of pigtail in lieu of fee, and came away.

If a man wished to abstract himself from the world, to remove himself from temptation, to place himself beyond the possibility of desire to look out of the window, he should live in Lant Street, said a great novelist. David Copperfield lodged here when he ordered that glass of Genuine Stunning Ale at the Red Lion and excited the sympathy of the landlord, winning a motherly kiss from his wife.

The Red Lion still crouches (under another name) at the corner of Derby and Parliament Streets, Westminster. I daydreamed there for an hour one morning, pretending the while to read a newspaper. I can not, however, recommend their ale as particularly stunning.

As there are authors of one book, so are there readers of one author—more than we wist. Children want the same bear story over and over, preferring it to a new one; so “grown-ups” often prefer the dog-eared book to uncut leaves.

Mr. Hawkins preferred the dog-eared, and at the station-house, where many times he had long hours to wait in anticipation of a hurry-up call, he whiled away the time by browsing in his Dickens. He knew no other author, neither did he wish to. His epidermis was soaked with Dickensology, and when inspired by gin and bitters he emitted information at every pore. To him all these bodiless beings of Dickens’ brain were living creatures. An anachronism was nothing to Hawkins. Charley Bates was still at large, Quilp was just around the corner, and Gaffer Hexam’s boat was moored in the muddy river below.

Dickens used to haunt the publics, those curious resting-places where all sorts and conditions of thirsty philosophers meet to discuss all sorts of themes. My guide took me to many of these inns which the great novelist frequented, and we always had one legend with every drink. After we had called at three or four different snuggeries, Hawkins would begin to shake out the facts.

Now, it is not generally known that the so-called stories of Dickens are simply records of historic events, like What-do-you-call-um’s plays! F’r instance, Dombey and Son was a well-known firm, who carried over into a joint stock company only a few years ago. The concern is now known as The Dombey Trading Company; they occupy the same quarters that were used by their illustrious predecessors.

I signified a desire to see the counting-house so minutely described by Dickens, and Mr. Hawkins agreed to pilot me thither on our way to Tavistock Square. We twisted down to the first turning, then up three, then straight ahead to the first right-hand turn, where we cut to the left until we came to a stuffed dog, which is the sign of a glover. Just beyond this my guide plucked me by the sleeve; we halted, and he silently and solemnly pointed across the street. Sure enough! There it was, the warehouse with a great stretch of dirty windows in front, through which we could see dozens of clerks bending over ledgers, just as though Mr. Dombey were momentarily expected. Over the door was a gilt sign, “The Bombay Trading Co.”

Bobby explained that it was all the same.

I did not care to go in; but at my request Hawkins entered and asked for Mister Carker, the Junior, but no one knew him.

Then we dropped in at The Silver Shark, a little inn about the size of a large dustbin of two compartments and a sifter. Here we rested a bit, as we had walked a long way.

The barmaid who waited upon us was in curl-papers, but she was even then as pretty if not prettier than the barmaid at the public in Angel Court, and that is saying a good deal. She was about as tall as Trilby or as Ellen Terry, which is a very nice height, I think.

As we rested, Mr. Hawkins told the barmaid and me how Rogue Riderhood came to this very public, through that same doorway, just after he had his Alfred David took down by the Governors Both. He was a slouching dog, was the Rogue. He wore an old, sodden fur cap, Winter and Summer, formless and mangy; it looked like a drowned cat. His hands were always in his pockets up to his elbows, when they were not reaching for something, and when he was out after game his walk was a half-shuffle and run.

Hawkins saw him starting off this way one night and followed him—knowing there was mischief on hand—followed him for two hours through the fog and rain. It was midnight and the last stroke of the bells that tolled the hour had ceased, and their echo was dying away, when all at once——

But the story is too long to relate here. It is so long that when Mr. Hawkins had finished it was too late to reach Tavistock Square before dark. Mr. Hawkins explained that as bats and owls and rats come out only when the sun has disappeared, so there are other things that can be seen best by night. And as he did not go on until the next day at one, he proposed that we should go down to The Cheshire Cheese and get a bite of summat and then sally forth.

So we hailed a bus and climbed to the top.

“She rolls like a scow in the wake of a liner,” said Bobby, as we tumbled into seats. When the bus man came up the little winding ladder and jingled his punch, Hawkins paid our fares with a heavy wink, and the guard said, “Thank you, sir,” and passed on.

We got off at The Cheese and settled ourselves comfortably in a corner.

The same seats are there, running along the wall, where Doctor Johnson, “Goldy” and Boswell so often sat and waked the echoes with their laughter. We had chops and tomato-sauce in recollection of Jingle and Trotter. The chops were of that delicious kind unknown outside of England. I supplied the legend this time, for my messmate had never heard of Boswell.

Hawkins introduced me to “the cove in the white apron” who waited upon us, and then explained that I was the man who wrote “Martin Chuzzlewit.”

He kissed his hand to the elderly woman who presided behind the nickel-plated American cash-register. The only thing that rang false about the place was that register, perked up there spick-span new. Hawkins insisted that it was a typewriter, and as we passed out he took a handful of matches (thinking them toothpicks) and asked the cashier to play a tune on the thingumabob, but she declined.

We made our way to London Bridge as the night was settling down. No stars came out, but flickering, fluttering gaslights appeared, and around each post was a great, gray, fluffy aureole of mist. Just at the entrance to the bridge we saw Nancy dogged by Noah Claypole. They turned down towards Billingsgate Fish-Market, and as the fog swallowed them, Hawkins answered my question as to the language used at Billingsgate.

“It’s not so bloomin’ bad, you know; why, I’ll take you to a market in Islington where they talk twice as vile.”

He started to go into technicalities, but I excused him.

Then he leaned over the parapet and spat down at a rowboat that was passing below. As the boat moved out into the glimmering light we made out Lizzie Hexam at the oars, while Gaffer sat in the stern on the lookout.

The Marchioness went by as we stood there, a bit of tattered shawl over her frowsy head, one stocking down around her shoetop. She had a penny loaf under her arm, and was breaking off bits, eating as she went.

Soon came Snagsby, then Mr. Vincent Crummels, Mr. Sleary, the horseback-rider, followed by Chops, the dwarf, and Pickleson, the giant. Hawkins said there were two Picklesons, but I saw only one. Just below was the Stone pier and there stood Mrs. Gamp, and I heard her ask:

“And which of all them smoking monsters is the Anxworks boat, I wonder? Goodness me!”

“Which boat do you want?” asked Ruth.

“The Anxworks package—I will not deceive you, Sweet; why should I?”

“Why, that is the Antwerp packet, in the middle,” said Ruth.

“And I wish it was in Jonidge’s belly, I do,” cried Mrs. Gamp.

We came down from the bridge, moved over toward Billingsgate, past the Custom-House, where curious old sea-captains wait for ships that never come. Captain Cuttle lifted his hook to the brim of his glazed hat as we passed. We returned the salute and moved on toward the Tower.

“It’s a rum place; let’s not stop,” said Hawkins. Thoughts of the ghosts of Raleigh, of Mary Queen of Scots and of Lady Jane Grey seemed to steady his gait and to hasten his footsteps.

In a few moments we saw just ahead of us David Copperfield and Mr. Peggotty following a woman whom we could make out walking excitedly a block ahead. It was Martha, intent on suicide.

“We’ll get to the dock first and ‘ead ‘er orf,” said ‘Awkins. We ran down a side street. But a bright light in a little brick cottage caught our attention—men can’t run arm in arm anyway. We forgot our errand of mercy and stood still with open mouths looking in at the window at little Jenny Wren hard at work dressing her dolls and stopping now and then to stab the air with her needle. Bradley Headstone and Charlie and Lizzie Hexam came in, and we then passed on, not wishing to attract attention.

There was an old smoke-stained tree on the corner which I felt sorry for, as I do for every city tree. Just beyond was a blacksmith’s forge and a timber-yard behind, where a dealer in old iron had a shop, in front of which was a rusty boiler and a gigantic flywheel half buried in the sand.

There were no crowds to be seen now, but we walked on and on—generally in the middle of the narrow streets, turning up or down or across, through arches where tramps slept, by doorways where children crouched; passing drunken men, and women with shawls over their heads.

Now and again the screech of a fiddle could be heard or the lazy music of an accordion, coming from some “Sailors’ Home.” Steps of dancing with rattle of iron-shod boot-heels clicking over sanded floors, the hoarse shout of the “caller-off,” and now and again angry tones with cracked feminine falsettos broke on the air; and all the time the soft rain fell and the steam seemed to rise from the sewage-laden streets.

We were in Stepney, that curious parish so minutely described by Walter Besant in “All Sorts and Conditions of Men”—the parish where all children born at sea were considered to belong. We saw Brig Place, where Walter Gay visited Captain Cuttle. Then we went with Pip in search of Mrs. Wimple’s house, at Mill-Pond Bank, Chink’s Basin, Old Green Copper Rope Walk; where lived old Bill Barley and his daughter Clara, and where Magwitch was hidden. It was the dingiest collection of shabby buildings ever squeezed together in a dark corner as a club for tomcats.

Then, standing out in the gloom, we saw Limehouse Church, where John Rokesmith prowled about on a ‘tective scent; and where John Harmon waited for the third mate Radfoot, intending to murder him. Next we reached Limehouse Hole, where Rogue Riderhood took the plunge down the steps of Leaving Shop.

Hawkins thought he saw the Artful Dodger ahead of us on the dock. He went over and looked up and down and under an old upturned rowboat, then peered over the dock and swore a harmless oath that if we could catch him we would run him in without a warrant. Yes, we’d clap the nippers on ‘im and march ‘im orf.

“Not if I can help it,” I said; “I like the fellow too well.” Fortunately Hawkins failed to find him.

Here it was that the Uncommercial Traveler did patrol duty on many sleepless nights. Here it was that Esther Summerson and Mr. Bucket came. And by the light of a match held under my hat we read a handbill on the brick wall: “Found Drowned!” The heading stood out in big, fat letters, but the print below was too damp to read, yet there is no doubt it is the same bill that Gaffer Hexam, Eugene Wrayburn and Mortimer Lightwood read, for Mr. Hawkins said so.

As we stood there we heard the gentle gurgle of the tide running under the pier, then a dip of oars coming from out the murky darkness of the muddy river: a challenge from the shore with orders to row in, a hoarse, defiant answer and a watchman’s rattle.

A policeman passed us running and called back, “I say, Hawkins, is that you? There’s murder broke loose in Whitechapel again! The reserves have been ordered out!”

Hawkins stopped and seemed to pull himself together— his height increased three inches. A moment before I thought he was a candidate for fatty degeneration of the cerebrum, but now his sturdy frame was all atremble with life.

“Another murder! I knew it. Bill Sykes has killed Nancy at last. There ‘s fifty pun for the man who puts the irons on ‘im—I must make for the nearest stishun.”

He gave my hand a twist, shot down a narrow courtway—and I was left to fight the fog, and mayhap this Bill Sykes and all the other wild phantoms of Dickens’ brain, alone.

* * *

A certain great general once said that the only good Indian is a dead Indian. Just why the maxim should be limited to aborigines I know not, for when one reads obituaries he is discouraged at the thoughts of competing in virtue with those who have gone hence.

Let us extend the remark—plagiarize a bit—and say that the only perfect men are those whom we find in books. The receipt for making them is simple, yet well worth pasting in your scrapbook. Take the virtues of all the best men you ever knew or heard of, leave out the faults, then mix.

In the hands of “the lady novelist” this composition, well molded, makes a scarecrow, in the hair of which the birds of the air come and build their nests. But manipulated by an expert a figure may appear that starts and moves and seems to feel the thrill of life. It may even take its place on a pedestal and be exhibited with other waxworks and thus become confounded with the historic And though these things make the unskilful laugh, yet the judicious say, “Dickens made it, therefore let it pass for a man.”

Dear old M. Taine, ever glad to score a point against the British, and willing to take Dickens at his word, says, “We have no such men in France as Scrooge and Squeers!”

But, God bless you, M. Taine, England has no such men either.

The novelist takes the men and women he has known, and from life, plus imagination, he creates. If he sticks too close to nature he describes, not depicts: this is “veritism.” If imagination’s wing is too strong, it lifts the luckless writer off from earth and carries him to an unknown land. You may then fall down and worship his characters, and there is no violation of the First Commandment.

Nothing can be imagined that has not been seen; but imagination can assort, omit, sift, select, construct. Given a horse, an eagle, an elephant, and the “creative artist” can make an animal that is neither a horse, an eagle, nor an elephant, yet resembles each. This animal may have eight legs (or forty) with hoofs, claws and toes alternating; a beak, a trunk, a mane; and the whole can be feathered and given the power of rapid flight and also the ability to run like the East Wind. It can neigh, roar or scream by turn, or can do all in concert, with a vibratory force multiplied by one thousand.

The novelist must have lived, and the novelist must have imagination. But this is not enough. He must have power to analyze and separate, and then he should have the good taste to select and group, forming his parts into a harmonious whole.

Yet he must build large. Life-size will not do: the statue must be heroic, and the artist’s genius must breathe into its nostrils the breath of life.

The men who live in history are those whose lives have been skilfully written. “Plutarch is the most charming writer of fiction the world has ever known,” said Emerson.

Dickens’ characters are personifications of traits, not men and women. Yet they are a deal funnier—they are as funny as a box of monkeys, as entertaining as a Punch-and-Judy show, as interesting as a “fifteen puzzle,” and sometimes as pretty as chromos. Quilp munching the eggs, shells and all, to scare his wife, makes one shiver as though a Jack-in-the-box had been popped out at him. Mr. Mould, the undertaker, and Jaggers, the lawyer, are as amusing as Humpty-Dumpty and Pantaloon. I am sure that no live lawyer ever gave me half the enjoyment that Jaggers has, and Doctor Slammers’ talk is better medicine than the pills of any living M.D. Because the burnt-cork minstrel pleases me more than a real “nigger” is no reason why I should find fault!

Dickens takes the horse, the eagle and the elephant and makes an animal of his own. He rubs up the feathers, places the tail at a fierce angle, makes the glass eyes glare, and you are ready to swear that the thing is alive.

By rummaging over the commercial world you can collect the harshness, greed, avarice, selfishness and vanity from a thousand men. With these sins you can, if you are very skilful, construct a Ralph Nickleby, a Scrooge, a Jonas Chuzzlewit, an Alderman Cute, a Mr. Murdstone, a Bounderby or a Gradgrind at will.

A little more pride, a trifle less hypocrisy, a molecule extra of untruth, and flavor with this fault or that, and your man is ready to place up against the fence to dry.

Then you can make a collection of all the ridiculous traits—the whims, silly pride, foibles, hopes founded on nothing and dreams touched with moonshine—and you make a Micawber. Put in a dash of assurance and a good thimbleful of hypocrisy, and Pecksniff is the product. Leave out the assurance, replacing it with cowardice, and the result is Doctor Chillip or Uriah Heap. Muddle the whole with stupidity, and Bumble comes forth.

Then, for the good people, collect the virtues and season to suit the taste and we have the Cheeryble Brothers, Paul Dombey or Little Nell. They have no development, therefore no history—the circumstances under which you meet them vary, that’s all. They are people the like of whom are never seen on land or sea.

Little Nell is good all day long, while live children are good for only five minutes at a time. The recurrence with which these five-minute periods return determines whether the child is “good” or “bad.” In the intervals the restless little feet stray into flowerbeds; stand on chairs so that grimy, dimpled hands may reach forbidden jam; run and romp in pure joyous innocence, or kick spitefully at authority. Then the little fellow may go to sleep, smile in his dreams so that mamma says angels are talking to him (nurse says wind on the stomach); when he awakens the five-minute good spell returns.

Men are only grown-up children. They are cheerful after breakfast, cross at night. Houses, lands, barns, railroads, churches, books, racetracks are the playthings with which they amuse themselves until they grow tired, and Death, the kind old nurse, puts them to sleep.

So a man on earth is good or bad as mood moves him; in color his acts are seldom pure white, neither are they wholly black, but generally of a steel-gray. Caprice, temper, accident, all act upon him. The North Wind of hate, the Simoon of Jealousy, the Cyclone of Passion beat and buffet him. Pilots strong and pilots cowardly stand at the helm by turn. But sometimes the South Wind softly blows, the sun comes out by day, the stars at night: friendship holds the rudder firm, and love makes all secure.

Such is the life of man—a voyage on life’s unresting sea; but Dickens knows it not. Esther is always good, Fagin is always bad, Bumble is always pompous, and Scrooge is always—Scrooge. At no Dickens’ party do you ever mistake Cheeryble for Carker; yet in real life Carker is Carker one day and Cheeryble the next—yes, Carker in the morning and Cheeryble after dinner.

There is no doubt that a dummy so ridiculous as Pecksniff has reduced the number of hypocrites; and the domineering and unjust are not quite so popular since Dickens painted their picture with a broom.

From the yeasty deep of his imagination he conjured forth his strutting spirits; and the names he gave to each are as fitting and as funny as the absurd smallclothes and fluttering ribbons which they wear.

Shakespeare has his Gobbo, Touchstone, Simpcox, Sly, Grumio, Mopsa, Pinch, Nym, Simple, Quickly, Overdone, Elbow, Froth, Dogberry, Puck, Peablossom, Taurus, Bottom, Bushy, Hotspur, Scroop, Wall, Flute, Snout, Starveling, Moonshine, Mouldy, Shallow, Wart, Bullcalf, Feeble, Quince, Snag, Dull, Mustardseed, Fang, Snare, Rumor, Tearsheet, Cobweb, Costard and Moth; but in names as well as in plot “the father of Pickwick” has distanced the Master. In fact, to give all the odd and whimsical names invented by Dickens would be to publish a book, for he compiled an indexed volume of names from which he drew at will. He used, however, but a fraction of his list. The rest are wisely kept from the public, else, forsooth, the fledgling writers of penny-shockers would seize upon them for raw stock.

Dickens has a watch that starts and stops in a way of its own—never mind the sun. He lets you see the wheels go round, but he never tells you why the wheels go round. He knows little of psychology—that curious, unseen thing that stands behind every act. He knows not the highest love, therefore he never depicts the highest joy. Nowhere does he show the gradual awakening in man of Godlike passion—nowhere does he show the evolution of a soul; very, very seldom does he touch the sublime.

But he has given the Athenians a day of pleasure, and for this let us all reverently give thanks.

Oliver Goldsmith • 6,200 Words

Jarvis: A few of our usual cards of compliments—that’s all. This bill from your tailor; this from your mercer; and this from the little broker in Crooked Lane. He says he has been at a great deal of trouble to get back the money you borrowed.

Honeydew: But I am sure we were at a great deal of trouble in getting him to lend it.

Jarvis: He has lost all patience.

Honeydew: Then he has lost a good thing.

Jarvis: There’s that ten guineas you were sending to the poor man and his children in the Fleet. I believe that would stop his mouth for a while.

Honeydew: Ay, Jarvis; but what will fill their mouths in the meantime?

Goldsmith, “The Good-Natured Man”

Oliver Goldsmith
Oliver Goldsmith

The Isle of Erin has the same number of square miles as the State of Indiana; it also has more kindness to the acre than any other country on earth.

Ireland has five million inhabitants; once it had eight. Three millions have gone away, and when one thinks of landlordism he wonders why the five millions did not go, too. But the Irish are a poetic people and love the land of their fathers with a childlike love, and their hearts are all bound up in sweet memories, rooted by song and legend into nooks and curious corners, so the tendrils of affection hold them fast.

Ireland is very beautiful. Its pasture-lands and meadow-lands, blossom-decked and water-fed, crossed and recrossed by never-ending hedgerows, that stretch away and lose themselves in misty nothingness, are fair as a poet’s dream. Birds carol in the white hawthorn and the yellow furze all day long, and the fragrant summer winds that blow lazily across the fields are laden with the perfume of fairest flowers.

It is like crossing the dark river called Death, to many, to think of leaving Ireland—besides that, even if they wanted to go they haven’t money to buy a steerage ticket.

From across the dark river called Death come no remittances; but from America many dollars are sent back to Ireland. This often supplies the obolus that secures the necessary bit of Cunard passport.

Whenever an Irishman embarks at Queenstown, part of the five million inhabitants go down to the waterside to see him off. Not long ago I stood with the crowd and watched two fine lads go up the gangplank, each carrying a red handkerchief containing his worldly goods. As the good ship moved away we lifted a wild wail of woe that drowned the sobbing of the waves. Everybody cried—I wept, too—and as the great, black ship became but a speck on the Western horizon we embraced each other in frenzied grief.

There is beauty in Ireland—physical beauty of so rare and radiant a type that it makes the heart of an artist ache to think that it can not endure. On country roads, at fair time, the traveler will see barefoot girls who are women, and just suspecting it, who have cheeks like ripe pippins; laughing eyes with long, dark, wicked lashes; teeth like ivory; necks of perfect poise; and waists that, never having known a corset, are pure Greek.

Of course, these girls are aware that we admire them—how could they help it? They carry big baskets on either shapely arm, bundles balanced on their heads, and we, suddenly grown tired, sit on the bankside as they pass by, and feign indifference to their charms.

Once safely past, we admiringly examine their tracks in the soft mud (for there has been a shower during the night), and we vow that such footprints were never before left upon the sands of time.

The typical young woman in Ireland is Juno before she was married; the old woman is Sycorax after Caliban was weaned. Wrinkled, toothless, yellow old hags are seen sitting by the roadside, rocking back and forth, crooning a song that is mate to the chant of the witches in “Macbeth” when they brew the hellbroth.

See that wizened, scarred and cruel old face—how it speaks of a seared and bitter heart! so dull yet so alert, so changeful yet so impassive, so immobile yet so cunning—a paradox in wrinkles, where half-stifled desperation has clawed at the soul until it has fled, and only dead indifference or greedy expectation is left to tell the tragic tale.

“In the name of God, charity, kind gentlemen, charity!” and the old crone stretches forth a long, bony claw. Should you pass on she calls down curses on your head. If you are wise, you go back and fling her a copper to stop the cold streaks that are shooting up your spine. And these old women were the most trying sights I saw in Ireland.

“Pshaw!” said a friend of mine when I told him this; “these old creatures are actors, and if you would sit down and talk to them, as I have done, they will laugh and joke, and tell you of sons in America who are policemen, and then they will fill black ‘dhudeens’ out of your tobacco and ask if you know Mike McGuire who lives in She-ka-gy.”

The last trace of comeliness has long left the faces of these repulsive beggars, but there is a type of feminine beauty that comes with years. It is found only where intellect and affection keep step with spiritual desire; and in Ireland, where it is often a crime to think, where superstition stalks, and avarice rules, and hunger crouches, it is very, very rare.

But I met one woman in the Emerald Isle whose hair was snow-white, and whose face seemed to beam a benediction. It was a countenance refined by sorrow, purified by aspiration, made peaceful by right intellectual employment, strong through self-reliance, and gentle by an earnest faith in things unseen. It proved the possible.

When the nations are disarmed, Ireland will take first place, for in fistiana she is supreme.

James Russell Lowell once said that where the “code duello” exists, men lift their hats to ladies, and say “Excuse me” and “If you please.” And if Lowell was so bold as to say a good word for the gentlemen who hold themselves “personally responsible,” I may venture the remark that men who strike from the shoulder are almost universally polite to strangers.

A woman can do Ireland afoot and alone with perfect safety. Everywhere one finds courtesy, kindness and bubbling good-cheer.

Nineteen-twentieths of all lawlessness in Ireland during the past two hundred years has been directed against the landlord’s agent. This is a very Irish-like proceeding—to punish the agent for the sins of the principal. When the landlord himself comes over from England he affects a fatherly interest in “his people.” He gives out presents and cheap favors, and the people treat him with humble deference. When the landlord’s agent goes to America he gets a place as first mate on a Mississippi River Steamboat; and before the War he was in demand in the South as overseer. He it is who has taught the “byes” the villainy that they execute; and it sometimes goes hard, for they better the instruction.

But there is one other character that the boys occasionally look after in Ireland, and that is the “Squire.” He is a merry wight in tight breeches, red coat, and a number-six hat. He has yellow side-whiskers and ‘unts to ‘ounds, riding over the wheatfields of honest men. The genuine landlord lives in London; the squire would like to but can not afford it. Of course, there are squires and squires, but the kind I have in mind is an Irishman who tries to pass for an Englishman. He is that curious thing—a man without a country.

There is a theory to the effect that the Universal Mother in giving out happiness bestows on each and all an equal portion—that the beggar trudging along the stony road is as happy as the king who rides by in his carriage. This is a very old belief, and it has been held by many learned men. From the time I first heard it, it appealed to me as truth.

Yet recently my faith has been shaken; for not long ago in New York I climbed the marble steps of a splendid mansion and was admitted by a servant in livery who carried my card on a silver tray to his master. This master had a son in the “Keeley Institute,” a daughter in her grave, and a wife who shrank from his presence. His heart was as lonely as a winter night at sea. Fate had sent him a coachman, a butler, a gardener and a footman, but she took his happiness and passed it through a hole in the thatch of a mud-plastered cottage in Ireland, where, each night, six rosy children soundly slept in one straw bed.

In that cottage I stayed two days. There was a stone floor and bare, whitewashed walls; but there was a rosebush climbing over the door, and within health and sunny temper that made mirth with a meal of herbs, and a tenderness that touched to poetry the prose of daily duties.

But it is well to bear in mind that an Irishman in America and an Irishman in Ireland are not necessarily the same thing. Often the first effect of a higher civilization is degeneration. Just as the Chinaman quickly learns big swear-words, and the Indian takes to drink, and certain young men on first reading Emerson’s essay on “Self-Reliance” go about with a chip on their shoulders, so sometimes does the first full breath of freedom’s air develop the worst in Paddy instead of the best.

As one tramps through Ireland and makes the acquaintance of a blue-eyed “broth of a bye,” who weighs one hundred and ninety, and measures forty-four inches around the chest, he catches glimpses of noble traits and hints of mystic possibilities. There are actions that look like rudiments of greatness gone, and you think of the days when Olympian games were played, and finger meanwhile the silver in your pocket and inwardly place it on this twenty-year-old, pink-faced, six-foot “boy” that stands before you.

In Ireland there are no forests, but in the peat-bogs are found remains of mighty trees that once lifted their outstretched branches to the sun. Are these remains of stately forests symbols of a race of men that, too, have passed away?

In any wayside village of Leinster you can pick you a model for an Apollo. He is in rags, is this giant, and can not read, but he can dance and sing and fight. He has an eye for color, an ear for music, a taste for rhyme, a love of novelty and a thirst for fun. And withal he has blundering sympathy and a pity whose tears are near the surface.

Now, will this fine savage be a victim of arrested development, and sink gradually through weight of years into mere animal stupidity and sodden superstition?

The chances are that this is just what he will do, and that at twenty he will be in his intellectual zenith. Summer does not fulfil the promise of Spring.

But as occasionally there is one of those beautiful, glowing Irish girls who leaves footsteps that endure (in bettered lives), instead of merely transient tracks in mud, so there has been a Burke, a Wellington, an O’Connell, a Sheridan, a Tom Moore and an Oliver Goldsmith.

* * *

While Goldsmith was an Irishman, Swift was an Englishman who chanced to be born of Irish parents in Dublin. In comparing these men Thackeray says: “I think I would rather have had a cold potato and a friendly word from Goldsmith than to have been beholden to the Dean for a guinea and a dinner. No; the Dean was not an Irishman, for no Irishman ever gave but with a kind word and a kind heart.”

Charles Goldsmith was a clergyman, passing rich on forty pounds a year. He had a nice little family of eight children, and what became of the seven who went not astray I do not know. But the smallest and homeliest one of the brood became the best-loved man in London. These sickly boys who have been educated only because they were too weak to work—what a record their lives make!

Little Oliver had a pug-nose and bandy legs, and fists not big enough to fight, but he had a large head, and because he was absent-minded, lots of folks thought him dull and stupid, and others were sure he was very bad. In fact, let us admit it, he did steal apples and rifle birds’ nests, and on “the straggling fence that skirts the way,” he drew pictures of Paddy Byrne, the schoolmaster, who amazed the rustics by the amount of knowledge he carried in one small head. But Paddy Byrne did not love art for art’s sake, so he applied the ferule vigorously to little Goldsmith’s anatomy, with a hope of diverting the lad’s inclinations from art to arithmetic. I do not think the plan was very successful, for the pockmarked youngster was often adorned with the dunce-cap.

“And, Sir,” said Doctor Johnson, many years after, “it must have been very becoming.”

It seems that Paddy Byrne “boarded round,” and part of the time was under the roof of the rectory. Now we all know that schoolmasters are dual creatures, and that once away from the schoolyard, and having laid aside the robe of office, are often good, honest, simple folks. In his official capacity Paddy Byrne made things very uncomfortable for the pug-nosed little boy, but, like the true Irishman that he was, when he got away from the schoolhouse he was sorry for it. Whether dignity is the mask we wear to hide ignorance, I am not sure, yet when Paddy Byrne was the schoolmaster he was a man severe and stern to view; but when he was plain Paddy Byrne he was a first-rate good fellow.

Evenings he would hold little Oliver on his knee, and instead of helping him in his lessons would tell him tales of robbers, pirates, smugglers—everything and anything in fact that boys like: stories of fairies, goblins, ghosts; lion-hunts and tiger-killing in which the redoubtable Paddy was supposed to have taken a chief part. The schoolmaster had been a soldier and a sailor. He had been in many lands, and when he related his adventures, no doubt he often mistook imagination for memory. But the stories had the effect of choking the desire in Oliver for useful knowledge, and gave instead a thirst for wandering and adventure.

Byrne also had a taste for poetry, and taught the lad to scribble rhymes. Very proud was the boy’s mother, and very carefully did she preserve these foolish lines.

All this was in the village of Lissoy, County Westmeath; yet if you look on the map you will look in vain for Lissoy. But six miles northeast from Athlone and three miles from Ballymahon is the village of Auburn.

When Goldsmith was a boy Lissoy was:

“Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheered the laboring swain,
Where smiling Spring the earliest visits paid,
And parting Summer’s lingering blooms delayed—
Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
Seats of my youth, when every sport could please—
How often have I loitered o’er thy green,
Where humble happiness endeared each scene;
How often have I paused on every charm,
The sheltered cot, the cultivated farm,
The never-failing brook, the busy mill,
The decent church, that topped the neighboring hill,
The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade
For talking age and whispering lovers made:
How often have I blessed the coming day,
When toil remitting lent its turn to play,
And all the village train from labor free,
Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree—
While many a pastime circled in the shade,
The young contending as the old surveyed;
And many a gambol frolicked o’er the ground,
And sleights of art and feats of strength went round.”

In America, when a “city” is to be started, the first thing is to divide up the land into town-lots and then sell these lots to whoever will buy. This is a very modern scheme. But in Ireland whole villages belong to one man, and every one in the place pays tribute. Then villages are passed down from generation to generation, and sometimes sold outright, but there is no wish to dispose of corner lots. For when a man lives in your house and you can put him out at any time, he is, of course, much more likely to be civil than if he owns the place.

But it has happened many times that the inhabitants of Irish villages have all packed up and deserted the place, leaving no one but the village squire and that nice man, the landlord’s agent. The cottages then are turned into sheep-pens or hay-barns. They may be pulled down, or, if they are left standing, the weather looks after that. And these are common sights to the tourist.

Now the landlord, who owned every rood of the village of Lissoy, lived in London. He lived well. He gambled a little, and as the cards did not run his way he got into debt. So he wrote to his agent in Lissoy to raise the rents. He did so, threatened, applied the screws, and—the inhabitants packed up and let the landlord have his village all to himself. Let Goldsmith tell:

“Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn,
Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn:
Amidst thy bowers the tyrant’s hand is seen,
And desolation saddens all thy green;
One only master grasps the whole domain,
And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain.
No more thy glassy brook reflects the day,
But choked with sedges, works its weedy way;
Along thy glades, a solitary guest,
The hollow-sounding bittern guards its nest;
Amidst thy desert walks the lapwing flies,
And tires their echoes with unvaried cries.
Sunk are thy bowers in shapeless ruin all,
And the long grass overtops the moldering wall;
And, trembling, shrinking from the spoiler’s hand,
Far, far away, thy children leave the land.”

A titled gentleman by the name of Napier was the owner of the estate at that time, and as his tenantry had left, he in wrath pulled down their rows of pretty white cottages, demolished the schoolhouse, blew up the mill, and took all the material and built a splendid mansion on the hillside.

The cards had evidently turned in his direction, but anyway, he owned several other villages, so although he toiled not neither did he spin, yet he was well clothed and always fed. But my lord Napier was not immortal, for he died, and was buried; and over his grave they erected a monument, and on it are these words: “He was the friend of the oppressed.”

The records of literature, so far as I know, show no such moving force in a simple poem as the re-birth of the village of Auburn. No man can live in a village and illuminate it by his genius. His fellow townsmen and neighbors are not to be influenced by his eloquence except in a very limited way. His presence creates an opposition, for the “personal touch” repels as well as attracts. Dying, seven cities may contend for the honor of his birthplace; or after his departure, knowledge of his fame may travel back across the scenes that he has known, and move to better things.

The years went by and the Napier estate got into a bad way and was sold. Captain Hogan became the owner of the site of the village of Lissoy. Now, Captain Hogan was a poet in feeling, and he set about to replace the village that Goldsmith had loved and immortalized. He adopted the name that Goldsmith supplied, and Auburn it is even unto this day.

In the village-green is the original spreading hawthorn-tree, all enclosed in a stone wall to preserve it. And on the wall is a sign requesting you not to break off branches.

Around the trees are seats. I sat there one evening with “talking age” and “whispering lovers.” The mirth that night was of a quiet sort, and I listened to an old man who recited all “The Deserted Village” to the little group that was present. It cost me sixpence, but was cheap for the money, for the brogue was very choice. I was the only stranger present, and quickly guessed that the entertainment was for my sole benefit, as I saw that I was being furtively watched to see how I took my medicine.

A young fellow sitting near me offered a little Goldsmith information, then a woman on the other side did the same, and the old man who had recited suggested that we go over and see the alehouse “where the justly celebhrated Docther Goldsmith so often played his harp so feelin’ly.” So we adjourned to The Three Jolly Pigeons—a dozen of us, including the lovers, whom I personally invited.

“And did Oliver Goldsmith really play his harp in this very room?” I asked.

“Aye, indade he did, yer honor, an’ ef ye don’t belave it, ye kin sit in the same chair that was his.”

So they led me to the big chair that stood on a little raised platform, and I sat in the great oaken seat which was surely made before Goldsmith was born. Then we all took ale (at my expense). The lovers sat in one corner, drinking from one glass, and very particular to drink from the same side, and giggling to themselves.

The old man wanted to again recite “The Deserted Village,” but was forcibly restrained. And instead, by invitation of himself, the landlord sang a song composed by Goldsmith, but which I have failed to find in Goldsmith’s works, entitled, “When Ireland Is Free.” There were thirteen stanzas in this song, and a chorus and refrain in which the words of the title are repeated. After each stanza we all came in strong on the chorus, keeping time by tapping our glasses on the tables.

Then we all drank perdition to English landlords, had our glasses refilled, and I was called on for a speech. I responded in a few words that were loudly cheered, and the very good health of “the ‘Merican Nobleman” was drunk with much fervor.

The Three Jolly Pigeons is arranged exactly to the letter:

“The whitewashed walls, the nicely sanded floor,
The varnished clock that clicked behind the door;
The chest contrived a doubly debt to pay,
A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day;
The pictures placed for ornament and use,
The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose.”

And behold, there on the wall behind the big oak chair are “the twelve good rules.”

The next morning I saw the modest mansion of the village preacher “whose house was known to all the vagrant train,” then the little stone church, and beyond I came to the blossoming furze, unprofitably gay, where the village master taught his little school. A bright young woman teaches there now, and it is certain that she can write and cipher too, for I saw “sums” on the blackboard, and I also saw where she had written some very pretty mottoes on the wall with colored chalk, a thing I am sure that Paddy Byrne never thought to do.

Below the schoolhouse is a pretty little stream that dances over pebbles and untiringly turns the wheel in the old mill; and not far away I saw the round top of Knockrue hill, where Goldsmith said he would rather sit with a book in hand than mingle with the throng at the court of royalty.

Goldsmith’s verse is all clean, sweet and wholesome, and I do not wonder that he was everywhere a favorite with women. This was true in his very babyhood. For he was the pet of several good old dames, one of whom taught him to count by using cards as object-lessons He proudly said that when he was three years of age he could pick out the “ten-spot.” This love of pasteboard was not exactly an advantage, for when he was sixteen he went to Dublin to attend college, and carried fifty pounds and a deck of cards in his pocket. The first day in Dublin he met a man who thought he knew more about cards than Oliver did—and the man did: in three days Oliver arrived back in Sweet Auburn penniless, but wonderfully glad to get home and everybody glad to see him. “It seemed as if I ‘d been away a year,” he said.

But in a few weeks he started out with no baggage but a harp, and he played in the villages and the inns, and sometimes at the homes of the rich. And his melodies won all hearts.

The author of “Vanity Fair” says: “You come hot and tired from the day’s battle, and this sweet minstrel sings to you. Who could harm the kind vagrant harper? Whom did he ever hurt? He carries no weapon—only the harp on which he plays to you; and with which he delights great and humble, young and old, the captains in the tent or the soldiers round the fire, or the women and children in the villages at whose porches he stops and sings his simple songs of love and beauty.”

* * *

When Goldsmith arrived in London in Seventeen Hundred Fifty-six, he was ragged, penniless, friendless and forlorn. In the country he could always make his way, but the city to him was new and strange. For several days he begged a crust here and there, sleeping in the doorways at night and dreaming of the flowery wealth of gentle Lissoy, where even the poorest had enough to eat and a warm place to huddle when the sun went down.

He at length found work as clerk or porter in a chemist’s shop, where he remained until he got money enough to buy a velvet coat and a ruffled shirt, and then he moved to the Bankside and hung out a surgeon’s sign. The neighbors thought the little doctor funny, and the women would call to him out of the second-story window that it was a fine day, but when they were ill they sent for some one else to attend them.

Goldsmith was twenty-eight, and the thought that he could make a living with his pen had never come to him. Yet he loved books, and he would loiter about bookshops, pricing first editions, and talking poetry to the patrons. He chanced in this way to meet Samuel Richardson, who, because he wrote the first English romance, has earned the title of Father of Lies. In order to get a very necessary loaf of bread, Doctor Goldsmith asked Richardson to let him read proof. So Richardson gave him employment, and in correcting proof the discovery was made that the Irish doctor could turn a sentence, too.

He became affected with literary eczema, and wrote a tragedy which he read to Richardson and a few assembled friends. They voted it “vile, demnition vile.” But one man thought it wasn’t so bad as it might be, and this man found a market for some of the little doctor’s book reviews, but the tragedy was fed to the fireplace. With the money for his book reviews the doctor bought goose quills and ink, and inspiration in bottles.

Grub Street dropped in, shabby, seedy, empty of pocket but full of hope, and little suppers were given in dingy coffeehouses where success to English letters was drunk.

Then we find Goldsmith making a bold stand for reform. He hired out to write magazine articles by the day; going to work in the morning when the bell rang, an hour off at noon, and then at it again until nightfall. Mr. Griffiths, publisher of the “Monthly Review,” was his employer. And in order to hold his newly captured prize, the publisher boarded the pockmarked Irishman in his own house. Mrs. Griffiths looked after him closely, spurring him on when he lagged, correcting his copy, striking out such portions as showed too much genius and inserting a word here and there in order to make a purely neutral decoction, which it seems is what magazine readers have always desired.

Occasionally these articles were duly fathered by great men, as this gave them the required specific gravity.

It is said that even in our day there are editors who employ convict labor in this way. But I am sure that this is not so, for we live in an age of competition, and it is just as cheap to hire the great men to supply twaddle direct as it is to employ foreign paupers to turn it out with the extra expense of elderly women to revise.

After working in the Griffith literary mill for five months, Goldsmith scaled the barricade one dark night, leaving behind, pasted on the wall, a ballad not only to Mrs. Griffiths’ eyebrow, but to her wig as well.

Soon after this, when Goldsmith was thirty years of age, his first book, “Enquiry Into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe,” was published. It brought him a little money and tuppence worth of fame, so he took better lodgings, in Green Arbor Court, proposing to do great things.

Half a century after the death of Goldsmith, Irving visited Green Arbor Court:

“At length we came upon Fleet Market, and traversing it, turned up a narrow street to the bottom of a long, steep flight of stone steps called Breakneck Stairs. These led to Green Arbor Court, and down them Goldsmith many a time risked his neck. When we entered the Court, I could not but smile to think in what out of the way corners Genius produces her bantlings. The Court I found to be a small square surrounded by tall, miserable houses, with old garments and frippery fluttering from every window. It appeared to be a region of washerwomen, and lines were stretched about the square on which clothes were dangling to dry. Poor Goldsmith! What a time he must have had of it, with his quiet disposition and nervous habits, penned up in this den of noise and vulgarity.”

One can imagine Goldsmith running the whole gamut of possible jokes on Breakneck Stairs, and Green Arbor Court, which, by the way, was never green and where there was no arbor.

“I’ve been admitted to Court, gentlemen!” said Goldsmith proudly, one day at The Mitre Tavern.

“Ah, yes, Doctor, we know—Green Arbor Court! and any man who has climbed Breakneck Stairs has surely achieved,” said Tom Davies.

In Seventeen Hundred Sixty, Goldsmith moved to Number Six Wine-Office Court, where he wrote the “Vicar of Wakefield.” Boswell reports Doctor Johnson’s account of visiting him there:

“I received, one morning, a message from poor Goldsmith that he was in great distress, and, as it was not in his power to come to me, begging that I would come to him as soon as possible. I sent him a guinea and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly went to him as soon as I was dressed, and found that his landlady had arrested him for his rent, at which he was in a violent passion. I perceived that he had already changed my guinea, and had half a bottle of Madeira and a glass before him. I put the cork in the bottle, desired he would be calm, and began to talk to him of the means by which he might be extricated. He then told me he had a novel ready for the press, which he produced for me. I looked into it and saw its merits; told the landlady I would soon return, and having gone to a bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I brought Goldsmith the money, and he discharged the rent, not without rating his landlady for having used him so ill.”

For the play of “The Good-Natured Man” Goldsmith received five hundred pounds. And he immediately expended four hundred in mahogany furniture, easy chairs, lace curtains and Wilton carpets. Then he called in his friends. This was at Number Two Brick Court, Middle Temple. Blackstone had chambers just below, and was working as hard over his Commentaries as many a lawyer’s clerk has done since. He complained of the abominable noise and racket of “those fellows upstairs,” but was asked to come in and listen to wit while he had the chance.

I believe the bailiffs eventually captured the mahogany furniture, but Goldsmith held the quarters. They are today in good repair, and the people who occupy the house are very courteous, and obligingly show the rooms to the curious. No attempt at a museum is made, but there are to be seen various articles which belonged to Goldsmith and a collection of portraits that are interesting.

When “The Traveler” was published Goldsmith’s fame was made secure. As long as he wrote plays, reviews, history and criticism he was working for hire. People said it was “clever,” “brilliant,” and all that, but their hearts were not won until the poet had poured out his soul to his brother in that gentlest of all sweet rhymes. I pity the man who can read the opening lines of “The Traveler” without a misty something coming over his vision:

“Where’er I roam, whatever realms I see,
My heart untraveled fondly turns to thee;
Still to my brother turns, with ceaseless pain,
And drags at each remove a lengthening chain.”

This is the earliest English poem which I can recall that makes use of our American Indian names:

“Where wild Oswego spreads her swamps around,
And Niagara stuns with thundering sound.”

Indeed, we came near having Goldsmith for an adopted citizen. According to his own report he once secured passage to Boston, and after carrying his baggage aboard the ship he went back to town to say a last hurried word of farewell to a fair lady, and when he got back to the dock the ship had sailed away with his luggage.

His earnest wish was to spend his last days in Sweet Auburn.

“In all my wand’rings round this world of care,
In all my griefs—and God has given my share—
I still had hopes, my latest hours to crown,
Amidst those humble bowers to lay me down;
To husband out life’s taper at its close,
And keep the flame from wasting by repose.
I still had hopes—for pride attends us still—
Amidst the swains to show my book-learned skill,
Around my fire an evening group to draw,
And tell of all I felt and all I saw.
And as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue,
Pants to the place from whence at first she flew,
I still had hopes, my long vexations past,
Here to return—and die at home at last.”

But he never saw Ireland after he left it in Seventeen Hundred Fifty-four. He died in London in Seventeen Hundred Seventy-four, aged forty-six. On the plain little monument in Temple Church where he was buried are only these words:

Here Lies Oliver Goldsmith.

Hawkins once called on the Earl of Northumberland and found Goldsmith waiting in an outer room, having come in response to an invitation from the nobleman. Hawkins, having finished his business, waited until Goldsmith came out, as he had a curiosity to know why the Earl had sent for him.

“Well,” said Hawkins, “what did he say to you?”

“His lordship told me that he had read ‘The Traveler,’ and that he was pleased with it, and that inasmuch as he was soon to be Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and knowing I was an Irishman, asked what he could do for me!”

“And what did you tell him?” inquired the eager Hawkins.

“Why, there was nothing for me to say, but that I was glad he liked my poem, and—that I had a brother in Ireland, a clergyman, who stood in need of help——”

“Enough!” cried Hawkins, and left him.

To Hawkins himself are we indebted for the incident, and after relating it Hawkins adds:

“And thus did this idiot in the affairs of the world trifle with his fortunes!”

Let him who wishes preach a sermon on this story. But there you have it! “A brother in Ireland who needs help——”

The brother in London, the brother in America, the brother in Ireland who needs help! All men were his brothers, and those who needed help were first in his mind.

Dear little Doctor Goldsmith, you were not a hustler, but when I get to the Spirit World, I’ll surely hunt you up!

William Shakespeare • 4,200 Words

It is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness.
As You Like It

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

I have on several occasions been to the Shakespeare country, approaching it from different directions, but each time I am set down at Leamington. Perhaps this is by some Act of Parliament—I really do not know; anyway, I have ceased to kick against the pricks and now meekly accept my fate.

Leamington seems largely under subjection to that triumvirate of despots—the Butler, the Coachman and the Gardener. You hear the jingle of keys, the flick of the whip and the rattle of the lawnmower; and a cold, secret fear takes possession of you—a sort of half-frenzied impulse to flee, before smug modernity takes you captive and whisks you off to play tiddledywinks or to dance the racquet.

But the tram is at the door—the outside fare is a penny, inside it’s two—and we are soon safe, for we have reached the point where the Leam and the Avon meet.

Warwick is worth our while. For here we see scenes such as Shakespeare saw, and our delight is in the things that his eyes beheld.

At the foot of Mill Street are the ruins of the old Gothic bridge that leads off to Banbury. Oft have I ridden to Banbury Cross on my mother’s foot, and when I saw that sign and pointing finger I felt like leaving all and flying thence. Just beyond the bridge, settled snugly in a forest of waving branches, we see storied old Warwick Castle, with Cæsar’s Tower lifting itself from the mass of green.

All about are quaint old houses and shops, with red-tiled roofs, and little windows, with diamond panes, hung on hinges, where maidens fair have looked down on brave men in coats of mail. These narrow, stony streets have rung with the clang and echo of hurrying hoofs; the tramp of Royalist and Parliamentarian, horse and foot, drum and banner; the stir of princely visits, of mail-coach, market, assize and kingly court. Colbrand, armed with giant club; Sir Guy; Richard Neville, kingmaker, and his barbaric train, all trod these streets, watered their horses in this river, camped on yonder bank, or huddled in this castle yard. And again they came back when Will Shakespeare, a youth from Stratford, eight miles away, came here and waved his magic wand.

Warwick Castle is probably in better condition now than it was in the Sixteenth Century. But practically it is the same. It is the only castle in England where the portcullis is lowered at ten o’clock every night and raised in the morning (if the coast happens to be clear) to tap of drum.

It costs a shilling to visit the castle. A fine old soldier in spotless uniform, with waxed white moustache and dangling sword, conducts the visitors. He imparts full two shillings’ worth of facts as we go, all with a fierce roll of r’s, as becomes a man of war.

The long line of battlements, the massive buttresses, the angular entrance cut through solid rock, crooked, abrupt, with places where fighting men can lie in ambush, all is as Shakespeare knew it.

There are the cedars of Lebanon, brought by Crusaders from the East, and the screaming peacocks in the paved courtway: and in the Great Hall are to be seen the sword and accouterments of the fabled Guy, the mace of the “Kingmaker,” the helmet of Cromwell, and the armor of Lord Brooke, killed at Litchfield.

And that Shakespeare saw these things there is no doubt. But he saw them as a countryman who came on certain fete-days, and stared with open mouth. We know this, because he has covered all with the glamour of his rich, boyish imagination that failed to perceive the cruel mockery of such selfish pageantry. Had his view been from the inside he would not have made his kings noble nor his princes generous; for the stress of strife would have stilled his laughter, and from his brain the dazzling pictures would have fled. Yet his fancies serve us better than the facts.

Shakespeare shows us many castles, but they are always different views of Warwick or Kenilworth. When he pictures Macbeth’s castle he has Warwick in his inward eye:

“This castle hath a pleasant seat: the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses.
This guest of Summer,
The temple-haunting martlet, does approve,
By his loved mansionry, that the heaven’s breath
Smells wooingly here: no jutty, frieze,
Buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird
Hath made his pendent bed, and procreant cradle;
Where they most breed and haunt, I have observed,
The air is delicate.”

Five miles from Warwick (ten, if you believe the cab-drivers) are the ruins of Kenilworth Castle.

In Fifteen Hundred Seventy-five, when Shakespeare was eleven years of age, Queen Elizabeth came to Kenilworth. Whether her ticket was by way of Leamington I do not know. But she remained from July Ninth to July Twenty-seventh, and there were great doings ‘most every day, to which the yeomanry were oft invited. John Shakespeare was a worthy citizen of Warwickshire, and it is very probable that he received an invitation, and that he drove over with Mary Arden, his wife, sitting on the front seat holding the baby, and all the other seven children sitting on the straw behind. And we may be sure that the eldest boy in that brood never forgot the day. In fact, in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” he has called on his memory for certain features of the show. Elizabeth was forty-one years old then, but apparently very attractive and glib of tongue. No doubt Kenilworth was stupendous in its magnificence, and it will pay you to take down from its shelf Sir Walter’s novel and read about it. But today it is all a crumbling heap; ivy, rooks and daws hold the place in fee, each pushing hard for sole possession.

It is eight miles from Warwick to Stratford by the direct road, but ten by the river. I have walked both routes and consider the latter the shorter.

Two miles down the river is Barford, and a mile farther is Wasperton, with its quaint old stone church. It is a good place to rest: for nothing is so soothing as a cool church where the dim light streams through colored windows, and out of sight somewhere an organ softly plays. Soon after leaving the church a rustic swain hailed me and asked for a match. The pipe and the Virginia weed—they mean amity the world over. If I had questions to ask, now was the time! So I asked, and Rusticus informed me that Hampton Lucy was only a mile beyond and that Shakespeare never stole deer at all; so I hope we shall hear no more of that libelous accusation.

“But did Shakespeare run away?” I demanded.

“Ave coorse he deed, sir; ‘most all good men ‘ave roon away sometime!”

And come to think of it Rusticus is right.

Most great men have at some time departed hastily without leaving orders where to forward their mail. Indeed, it seems necessary that a man should have “run away” at least once, in order afterward to attain eminence. Moses, Lot, Tarquin, Pericles, Demosthenes, Saint Paul, Shakespeare, Rousseau, Voltaire, Goldsmith, Hugo—but the list is too long to give.

But just suppose that Shakespeare had not run away! And to whom do we owe it that he did leave—Justice Shallow or Ann Hathaway, or both? I should say to Ann first and His Honor second. I think if Shakespeare could write an article for “The Ladies’ Home Journal” on “Women Who Have Helped Me,” and tell the whole truth (as no man ever will in print), he would put Ann Hathaway first.

He signed a bond when eighteen years old agreeing to marry her; she was twenty-six. No record is found of the marriage. But we should think of her gratefully, for no doubt it was she who started the lad off for London.

That’s the way I expressed it to my new-found friend, and he agreed with me, so we shook hands and parted.

Charlcote is as fair as a dream of Paradise. The winding Avon, full to its banks, strays lazily through rich fields and across green meadows, past the bright red-brick pile of Charlcote Mansion. The river-bank is lined with rushes, and in one place I saw the prongs of antlers shaking the elders. I sent a shrill whistle and a stick that way, and out ran four fine deer that loped gracefully across the turf. The sight brought my poacher instincts to the surface, but I bottled them, and trudged on until I came to the little church that stands at the entrance to the park.

All mansions, castles and prisons in England have chapels or churches attached. And this is well, for in the good old days it seemed wise to keep in close communication with the other world. For often, on short notice, the proud scion of royalty was compelled hastily to pack a ghostly valise and his him hence with his battered soul; or if he did not go himself he compelled others to do so, and who but a brute would kill a man without benefit of the clergy! So each estate hired its priests by the year, just as men with a taste for litigation hold attorneys in constant retainer.

In Charlcote Church is a memorial to Sir Thomas Lucy; and there is a glowing epitaph that quite upsets any of those taunting and defaming allusions in “The Merry Wives.” At the foot of the monument is a line to the effect that the inscription thereon was written by the only one in possession of the facts, Sir Thomas himself.

Several epitaphs in the churchyard are worthy of space in your commonplace book, but the lines on the slab to John Gibbs and wife struck me as having the true ring:

“Farewell, proud, vain, false, treacherous world,
We have seen enough of thee:
We value not what thou canst say of we.”

When the Charlcote Mansion was built, there was a housewarming, and Good Queen Bess (who was not so awful good) came in great state; so we see that she had various calling acquaintances in these parts. But we have no proof that she ever knew that any such person as W. Shakespeare lived. However, she came to Charlcote and dined on venison, and what a pity it is that she and Shakespeare did not meet in London afterward and talk it over!

Some hasty individual has put forth a statement to the effect that poets can only be bred in a mountainous country, where they could lift up their eyes to the hills. Rock and ravine, beetling crag, singing cascade, and the heights where the lightning plays and the mists hover are certainly good timber for poetry—after you have caught your poet—but Nature eludes all formula. Again, it is the human interest that adds vitality to art—they reckon ill to leave man out.

Drayton before Shakespeare’s time called Warwick “the heart of England,” and the heart of England it is today—rich, luxuriant, slow. The great colonies of rabbits that I saw at Charlcote seemed too fat to frolic, save more than to play a trick or two on the hounds that blinked in the sun. Down toward Stratford there are flat islands covered with sedge, long rows of weeping-willows, low hazel, hawthorn, and places where “Green Grow the Rushes, O.” Then, if the farmer leaves a spot untilled, the dogrose pre-empts the place and showers its petals on the vagrant winds. Meadowsweet, forget-me-nots and wild geranium snuggle themselves below the boughs of the sturdy yews.

The first glimpse we get of Stratford is the spire of Holy Trinity; then comes the tower of the new Memorial Theater, which, by the way, is exactly like the city hall at Dead Horse, Colorado.

Stratford is just another village of Niagara Falls. The same shops, the same guides, the same hackmen—all are there, save poor Lo, with his beadwork and sassafras. In fact, a “cabby” just outside of New Place offered to take me to the Whirlpool and the Canada side for a dollar. At least, this is what I thought he said. Of course, it is barely possible that I was daydreaming, but I think the facts are that it was he who dozed, and waking suddenly as I passed gave me the wrong cue.

There is a Macbeth livery-stable, a Falstaff bakery, and all the shops and stores keep Othello this and Hamlet that. I saw briarwood pipes with Shakespeare’s face carved on the bowl, all for one-and-six; feather fans with advice to the players printed across the folds; the “Seven Ages” on handkerchiefs; and souvenir-spoons galore, all warranted Gorham’s best.

The visitor at the birthplace is given a cheerful little lecture on the various relics and curiosities as they are shown. The young ladies who perform this office are clever women with pleasant voices and big, starched, white aprons. I was at Stratford four days and went just four times to the old curiosity-shop. Each day the same bright British damsel conducted me through, and told her tale, but it was always with animation, and a certain sweet satisfaction in her mission and starched apron that was very charming.

No man can tell the same story over and over without soon reaching a point where he betrays his weariness, and then he flavors the whole with a dash of contempt; but a good woman, heaven bless her! is ever eager to please. Each time when we came to that document certified to by

Her
“Judith X Shakespeare,”
Mark

I was told that it was very probable that Judith could write, but that she affixed her name thus in merry jest.

John Shakespeare could not write, we have no reason to suppose that Ann Hathaway could, and this little explanation about the daughter is so very good that it deserves to rank with that other pleasant subterfuge, “The age of miracles is past”; or that bit of jolly claptrap concerning the sacred baboons that are seen about certain temples in India: “They can talk,” explain the priests, “but being wise they never do.”

Judith married Thomas Quiney. The only letter addressed to Shakespeare that can be found is one from the happy father of Thomas, Mr. Richard Quiney, wherein he asks for a loan of thirty pounds. Whether he was accommodated we can not say; and if he was, did he pay it back, is a question that has caused much hot debate. But it is worthy of note that, although considerable doubt as to authenticity has smooched the other Shakespearian relics, yet the fact of the poet having been “struck” for a loan by Richard Quiney stands out in a solemn way as the one undisputed thing in the master’s career. Little did Mr. Quiney think, when he wrote that letter, that he was writing for the ages. Philanthropists have won all by giving money, but who save Quiney has reaped immortality by asking for it!

The inscription over Shakespeare’s grave is an offer of reward if you do, and a threat of punishment if you don’t, all in choice doggerel. Why did he not learn at the feet of Sir Thomas Lucy and write his own epitaph?

But I rather guess I know why his grave was not marked with his name. He was a play-actor, and the church people would have been outraged at the thought of burying a “strolling player” in that sacred chancel. But his son-in-law, Doctor John Hall, honored the great man and was bound he should have a worthy resting-place; so at midnight, with the help of a few trusted friends, he dug the grave and lowered the dust of England’s greatest son.

Then they hastily replaced the stones, and over the grave they placed the slab that they had brought:

“Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here,
Blest be the man who spares these stones,
And cursed be he who moves my bones.”

A threat from a ghost! Ah, no one dare molest that grave—besides they didn’t know who was buried there—neither are we quite sure. Long years after the interment, some one set a bust of the poet, and a tablet, on the wall over against the grave.

Under certain circumstances, if occasion demands, I might muster a sublime conceit; but considering the fact that ten thousand Americans visit Stratford every year, and all write descriptions of the place, I dare not in the face of Baedeker do it. Further than that, in every library there are Washington Irving, Hawthorne, and William Winter’s three lacrimose but charming volumes.

And I am glad to remember that the Columbus who discovered Stratford and gave it to the people was an American: I am proud to think that Americans have written so charmingly of Shakespeare: I am proud to know that at Stratford no man besides the master is as honored as Irving, and while I can not restrain a blush for our English cousins, I am proud that over half the visitors at the birthplace are Americans, and prouder still am I to remember that they all write letters to the newspapers at home about Stratford-on-Avon.

* * *

In England poets are relegated to a “Corner.” The earth and the fulness thereof belongs to the men who can kill; on this rock have the English State and Church been built.

As the tourist approaches the city of London for the first time, there are four monuments that probably will attract his attention. They lift themselves out of the fog and smoke and soot, and seem to struggle toward the blue.

One of these monuments is to commemorate a calamity—the conflagration of Sixteen Hundred Sixty-six—and the others are in honor of deeds of war.

The finest memorial in Saint Paul’s is to a certain eminent Irishman, Arthur Wellesley. The mines and quarries of earth have been called on for their richest contributions; and talent and skill have given their all to produce this enduring work of beauty, that tells posterity of the mighty acts of this mighty man. The rare richness and lavish beauty of the Wellington mausoleum are only surpassed by a certain tomb in France.

As an exploiter, the Corsican overdid the thing a bit—so the world arose and put him down; but safely dead, his shade can boast a grave so sumptuous that Englishmen in Paris refuse to look upon it.

But England need not be ashamed. Her land is spiked with glistening monuments to greatness gone. And on these monuments one often gets the epitomized life of the man whose dust lies below.

On the carved marble to Lord Cornwallis I read that, “He defeated the Americans with great slaughter.” And so, wherever in England I see a beautiful monument, I know that probably the inscription will tell how “he defeated” somebody. And one grows to the belief that, while woman’s glory is her hair, man’s glory is to defeat some one. And if he can “defeat with great slaughter” his monument is twice as high as if he had only visited on his brother man a plain undoing.

In truth, I am told by a friend who has a bias for statistics, that all monuments above fifty feet high in England are to the honor of men who have defeated other men “with great slaughter.” The only exceptions to this rule are the Albert Memorial—which is a tribute of wifely affection rather than a public testimonial, so therefore need not be considered here—and a monument to a worthy brewer who died and left three hundred thousand pounds to charity. I mentioned this fact to my friend, but he unhorsed me by declaring that modesty forbade carving truth on monuments, yet it was a fact that the brewer, too, had brought defeat to vast numbers and had, like Saul, slaughtered his thousands.

When I visited the site of the Globe Theater and found thereon a brewery, whose shares are warranted to make the owner rich beyond the dream of avarice, I was depressed. In my boyhood I had supposed that if ever I should reach this spot where Shakespeare’s plays were first produced, I should see a beautiful park and a splendid monument; while some white-haired old patriarch would greet me, and give a little lecture to the assembled pilgrims on the great man whose footsteps had made sacred the soil beneath our feet.

But there is no park, and no monument, and no white-haired old poet to give you welcome—only a brewery.

“Ay, mon, but ain’t ut a big un?” protested an Englishman who heard my murmurs.

Yes, yes, I must be truthful—it is a big brewery, and there are four big bulldogs in the courtway; and there are big vats, and big workmen in big aprons. And each of these workmen is allowed to drink six quarts of beer each day, without charge, which proves that kindliness is not dead. Then there are big horses that draw the big wagons, and on the corner there is a big taproom where the thirsty are served with big glasses. The founder of this brewery became rich; and if my statistical friend is right, the owners of these mighty vats have defeated mankind with “great slaughter.”

We have seen that, although Napoleon, the defeated, has a more gorgeous tomb than Wellington, who defeated him, yet there is consolation in the thought that although England has no monument to Shakespeare he now has the freedom of Elysium; while the present address of the British worthies who have battened and fattened on poor humanity’s thirst for strong drink, since Samuel Johnson was executor of Thrale’s estate, is unknown.

We have this on the authority of a solid Englishman, who says: “The virtues essential and peculiar to the exalted station of British Worthy debar the unfortunate possessor from entering Paradise. There is not a Lord Chancellor, or Lord Mayor, or Lord of the Chamber, or Master of the Hounds, or Beefeater in Ordinary, or any sort of British bigwig, out of the whole of British Beadledom, upon which the sun never sets, in Elysium. This is the only dignity beyond their reach.”

The writer quoted is an honorable man, and I am sure he would not make this assertion if he did not have proof of the fact. So, for the present, I will allow him to go on his own recognizance, believing that he will adduce his documents at the proper time.

But still, should not England have a fitting monument to Shakespeare? He is her one universal citizen. His name is honored in every school or college of earth where books are prized. There is no scholar in any clime who is not his debtor.

He was born in England; he never was out of England; his ashes rest in England. But England’s Budget has never been ballasted with a single pound to help preserve inviolate the memory of her one son to whom the world uncovers.

Victor Hugo has said something on this subject which runs about like this:

Why a monument to Shakespeare?

He is his own monument and England is its pedestal. Shakespeare has no need of a pyramid; he has his work.

What can bronze or marble do for him? Malachite and alabaster are of no avail; jasper, serpentine, basalt, porphyry, granite: stones from Paros and marble from Carrara—they are all a waste of pains: genius can do without them.

What is as indestructible as these: “The Tempest,” “The Winter’s Tale,” “Julius Cæsar,” “Coriolanus”? What monument sublimer than “Lear,” sterner than “The Merchant of Venice,” more dazzling than “Romeo and Juliet,” more amazing than “Richard III”?

What moon could shed about the pile a light more mystic than that of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”? What capital, were it even in London, could rumble around it as tumultuously as Macbeth’s perturbed soul? What framework of cedar or oak will last as long as “Othello”? What bronze can equal the bronze of “Hamlet”?

No construction of lime, or rock, of iron and of cement is worth the deep breath of genius, which is the respiration of God through man. What edifice can equal thought? Babel is less lofty than Isaiah; Cheops is smaller than Homer; the Colosseum is inferior to Juvenal; the Giralda of Seville is dwarfish by the side of Cervantes; Saint Peter’s of Rome does not reach to the ankle of Dante.

What architect has the skill to build a tower so high as the name of Shakespeare? Add anything if you can to mind! Then why a monument to Shakespeare?

I answer, not for the glory of Shakespeare, but for the honor of England!

Thomas A. Edison • 5,800 Words

The mind can not conceive what man will do in the
Twentieth Century with his chained lightning.
Thomas A. Edison

THOMAS A. EDISON—Photogravure from drawing by Gaspard
THOMAS A. EDISON—Photogravure from drawing by Gaspard

Some years ago, a law was passed out in Ohio, making any man ineligible to act as a magistrate who had not studied law and been duly admitted to the bar. Men who had not studied law were deemed lacking in the sense of justice. This law was designed purely for one man—Samuel M. Jones of Toledo. Was ever a Jones so honored before?

In Athens, of old, a law was once passed declaring that every man, either of whose parents was an alien, was not a citizen and therefore ineligible to hold office.

This law was aimed at the head of one man—Themistocles.

“And so you are an alien?” was the taunting remark flung at the mother of Themistocles.

And the Greek matron proudly answered, “Yes, I am an alien—but my son is Themistocles.”

Down at Lilly Dale the other day, a woman told me that she had talked with the mother of Edison, and the spirit-voice had said: “It is true I was a Canadian schoolteacher, and this at a time when very few women taught, but I am the mother of him you call Thomas A. Edison. I studied and read and wrote and in degree I educated myself. I had great ambition—I thirsted to know, to do, to become. But I was hampered and chained in an uncongenial atmosphere. My body struggled with its bonds, so that I grew weak, worried, sick, and died, leaving my boy to struggle his way alone. My only regret at death was the thought that I was leaving my boy. I thought that through my marriage I had killed my career—sacrificed myself. But my boy became heir to all my hunger for knowledge, and he has accomplished what I dimly dreamed. He has made plain what I only guessed. From my position here I have whispered secrets to him that only the freed spirits knew. I once thought my life was a failure, but now I know that the word ‘failure’ is a term used only by foolish mortals. In the universal sense there is no such thing as failure.”

Just here it seems to me that some one once said that we get no mind without brain. But we had here the brain of the medium, otherwise this alleged message from the spirit realm would not be ours. So we will not now tarry to discuss psychic phenomena, but go on to other things. But the woman from Lilly Dale said something, just the same.

* * *

Edison was born at the little village of Milan, Ohio, which lies six miles from Norwalk on the road between Cleveland and Toledo.

On the breaking out of the Civil War the boy was fourteen years old. His parents had moved to Sarnia, Canada, and then across to Port Huron.

Young Edison used to ride up and down from Detroit on the passenger-boats and sell newspapers. His standing with the Detroit “Free Press,” backed up by his good-cheer and readiness to help the passengers with their babies and bundles, gave him free passage on all railroads and steamboat-lines.

There was a public library at Detroit where any one could read, but books could not be taken away.

All Edison’s spare time was spent at the library, which to him was a gold-mine. All his mother’s books had been sold, stolen or given away.

And ahoy there, all you folks who have books! Do you not know what books are to a child hungry for truth, that has no books?

Of course you do not!

Books to a boy like young Edison are treasures-trove, in which is stored the learning of all great and good and wise who have ever lived.

And the boy has to read, and read for a decade, in order to find that books are not much after all.

When Edison saw the inside of that library and was told he could read any or all of the books, he said, “If you please, Mister, I’ll begin here.” And he tackled the first shelf, mentally deciding that he would go through the books ten feet at a time.

A little later he bought at an auction fifty volumes of the “North American Review,” and moving the books up to his home at Port Huron proceeded to read them.

The war was on—papers sold for ten cents each and business was good.

Edison was making money—and saving it. He only plunged on books.

Over at Mount Clemens, at the Springs, folks congregated, and there young Edison took weekly trips selling papers.

On one such visit he rescued the little son of the station-agent from in front of a moving train. In gratitude, the man took the boy to his house and told him he must make it his home while in Mount Clemens; and then after supper the youngster went down to the station; and what was more, the station-agent took him in behind the ticket-window, where the telegraph-instrument clicked off dots and dashes on a long strip of paper.

Edison looked on with open mouth.

“Would you like to become a telegraph-operator?” asked the agent.

“Sure!” was the reply.

Already the boy had read up on the subject in his library of the “North American Review,” and he really knew the history of the thing better than did the agent.

Edison was now a newsboy on the Grand Trunk, and he arranged his route so as to spend every other night at Mount Clemens.

In a few months he could handle the key about as well as the station-agent.

About this time the ice had carried out the telegraph-line between Port Huron and Sarnia. The telegraph people were in sore straits. Edison happened along and said to the local operator, “Come out here, Bill, on this switch-engine and we’ll fix things!” By short snorts of the whistle for dots and long ones for dashes, they soon caught the ear of the operator on the other side. He answered back, “What t’ell is the matter with you fellows?” And Edison and the other operator roared with laughter, so that the engineer thought their think-boxes needed re-babbitting.

And that scheme of telegraphy with a steam-whistle was Edison’s first invention.

* * *

Instead of going to college Edison started a newspaper—a kind of amateur affair, in which he himself wrote editorials, news-items and advertisements—this when he was seventeen years old.

The best way to become a skilled writer is to write; and if there is a better way to learn than by doing, the world has not yet discovered it.

Also, if there is a finer advantage for a youth who would be a financier than to have a shiftless father, it has not been recorded.

When nineteen, Edison had two thousand dollars in cash—more money than his father had ever seen at any one time.

The Grand Trunk folks found that their ex-trainboy could operate, and so they called on him to help them out, up and down the line. Then the Western Union wanted extra good men, and young Edison was given double pay to go to New Orleans, where there was a pitiful dearth of operators, the Southern operators being mostly dead, and Northern men not caring to live in the South.

So Edison traveled North and South and East and West, gathering gear. He had studied the science of telegraphy closely enough to see that it could be improved upon. One message at a time for one wire was absurd—why not two, or four, and why not send messages both ways at once!

It was the general idea then that electricity traveled: Edison knew better—electricity merely rendered the wire sensitive.

Edison was getting a reputation among his associates. He had read everything, and when his key was not busy, there was in his hand a copy of Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall.”

He wrote a hand like copperplate and could “take” as fast as the best could send. And when it came to “sending,” he had made the pride of Chicago cry quits.

The Western Union had need of a specially good man at Albany while the Legislature was in session, and Edison was sent there. He took the key and never looked at the clock—he cleaned up the stuff. He sat glued to his chair for ten hours, straight.

At one time, the line suddenly became blocked between Albany and New York. The manager was in distress, and after exhausting all known expedients went to Edison. The lanky youth called up a friend of his in Pittsburgh and ordered that New York give the Pittsburgh man the Albany wire. “Feel your way up the river until you find me,” were the orders.

Edison started feeling his way down the river.

In twenty minutes he called to the manager, “The break is two miles below Poughkeepsie—I’ve ordered the section-boss at Poughkeepsie to take a repairer on his handcar and go and fix it!”

Of course, this plain telegraph-operator had no right to order out a section-boss; but nevertheless he did it. He shouldered responsibility like Tom Potter of the C., B. & Q.

Not long after the Albany experience, Edison was in New York, not looking for work as some say, but nosing around Wall Street investigating the “Laws Automatic Ticker.” The machine he was looking at suddenly stopped, and this blocked all the tickers on the line. An expert was sent for, but he could not start it.

“I’ll fix it,” said a tall, awkward volunteer, the same which was Edison.

History is not yet clear as to whether Edison had not originally “fixed” it, and Edison so far has not confessed.

And there being no one else to start the machine, Edison was given a chance, and soon the tickers were going again. This gave him an introduction to the stock-ticker folks, and the Western Union people he already knew.

This was in Eighteen Hundred Seventy, and Edison was then twenty-three years old.

He studied out how stock-reporting could be bettered and invented a plan which he duly patented, and then laid his scheme before the Western Union managers.

A stock company was formed, and young Edison, aged twenty-four, was paid exactly forty thousand dollars for his patent, and retained by the Company as Electrical Adviser at three hundred dollars a month.

In Eighteen Hundred Seventy-four, when he was twenty-seven, he had perfected his duplex telegraph apparatus and had a factory turning out telegraph-instruments and appliances at Newark, New Jersey, where three hundred men were employed.

In Eighteen Hundred Seventy-six, the year of the Centennial Exposition, Edison told the Exposition Managers that if they would wait a year or so he would light their show with electricity.

He moved to the then secluded spot of Menlo Park to devote himself to experiments, spending an even hundred thousand dollars in equipment as a starter. Results followed fast, and soon we had the incandescent lamp, trolley-car, electric pen and many other inventions. It was on the night of October the Twenty-third, Eighteen Hundred Seventy-nine, that Edison first turned the current through an incandescent burner and got the perfect light. He sat and looked at the soft, mild, beautiful light and laughed a joyous peal of laughter that was heard in the adjoining rooms. “We’ve got it, boys!” he cried, and the boys, a dozen of them, came tumbling in. Arguments started as to how long it would last. One said an hour. “Twenty-four hours,” said Edison. They all vowed they would watch it without sleep until the carbon film was destroyed and the light went out. It lasted just forty hours.

Around Edison grew up a group of great workers—proud to be called “Edison Men”—and some of these went out and made for themselves names and fortunes.

Edison was born in Eighteen Hundred Forty-seven. Consequently, at this writing he is sixty-three years old. He is big and looks awkward, because his dusty-gray clothes do not fit, and he walks with a slight stoop. When he wants clothes he telephones for them. His necktie is worn by the right oblique, his iron-gray hair is combed by the wind. On his cherubic face usually sits a half-quizzical, pleased smile, that fades into a look plaintive and very gentle. The face is that of a man who has borne burdens and known sorrow, of one who has overcome only after mighty effort. I was going to say that Edison looks like a Roman Emperor, but I recall that no Roman Emperor deserves to rank with him—not even Julius Cæsar! The face is that of Napoleon at Saint Helena, unsubdued.

The predominant characteristics of the man are his faith, hope, good-cheer and courage. But at all times his humor is apt to be near the surface.

Had Edison been as keen a businessman as Rockefeller, and kept his own in his own hands, he would today be as rich as Rockefeller.

But Edison is worth, oh, say, two million dollars, and that is all any man should be worth—it is all he needs. Yet there are at least a hundred men in the world today, far richer than Edison, who have made their fortunes wholly and solely by appropriating his ideas.

Edison has trusted people, and some of them have taken advantage of his great, big, generous, boyish spirit to do him grievous wrong. But the nearest I ever heard him come to making a complaint was when he said to me, “Fra Elbertus, you never wrote but one really true thing!”

“Well, what was that, Mr. Edison?”

“You said, ‘There is one thing worse than to be deceived by men, and that is to distrust them.’ Now people say I have been successful, and so I have, in degree, and it has been through trusting men. There are a few fellows who always know just what I am doing—I confide in them—I explain things to them just to straighten the matter out in my own mind.”

But of the men who have used Edison’s money and ideas, who have made it a life business to study his patents and then use them, evading the law, not a word!

From Eighteen Hundred Seventy to Eighteen Hundred Ninety, Edison secured over nine hundred patents, or at the rate of one patent every ten days. Very few indeed of these patents ever brought him any direct return, and now his plan is to invent and keep the matter a secret in his “family.”

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it,” he said to me. “You patent a thing and the other fellow starts even with you. Keep it to yourself and you have the machinery going before the other fellow is awake. Patents may protect some things, and still others they only advertise. Up in Buffalo you have a great lawyer who says he can drive a coach and four through any will that was ever made—and I guess he can. All good lawyers know how to break wills and contracts, and there are now specialists who secure goodly fees for busting patents. If you have an idea, go ahead and invent a way to use it and keep your process secret.”

* * *

The Edison factories at West Orange cover a space of about thirty acres, all fenced in with high pickets and barb-wire. Over two thousand people are employed inside that fence. There are guards at the gates, and the would-be visitor is challenged as if he were an enemy. If you want to see any particular person, you do not go in and see him—he comes to you and you sit in a place like the visitors’ dock at Sing-Sing.

With me it was different: I had a note that made the gates swing wide. However, one gatekeeper scrutinized the note and scrutinized me, and then went back into a maze of buildings for advice. When he came back, the General Manager was with him and was reproving him. In a voice full of defense the County Down watchman said: “Ah, now, and how did I know but that it was a forgery? And anyhow, I’d never let in a man what looks like that, even if he had an order from Bill Taft.”

The Edison factories, all enclosed in the high fence and under guard, include four separate and distinct corporations, each with its own set of offices. Edison himself owns a controlling interest in each corporation, and the rest of the stock is owned by the managers or “family.” With his few trusted helpers he is most liberal. Not only do they draw goodly salaries, but they have an interest in the profits that is no small matter.

The secrets of the place are protected by having each workman stick right to one thing and work in one room. No running around is allowed—each employee goes to a certain place and remains there all day. To be found elsewhere is a misdemeanor, and while spies at the Edison factory are not shot, they have been known to disappear into space with great velocity.

To make amends for the close restrictions on workers, an extra wage is paid and the eight-hour day prevails, so help is never wanting.

Ninety-nine workers out of a hundred want their wages, and nothing else. Promotion, advancement and education are things that never occur to them. But for the few that have the stuff in them, Edison is always on the lookout. His place is really a college, for to know the man is an education. He radiates good-cheer and his animation is catching.

To a woman who wanted him to write a motto for her son, Edison wrote, “Never look at the clock!” The argument is plain—get the thing done.

And around the Edison laboratory there is no use of looking at the clock, for none of them runs. That is the classic joke of the place. Years ago Edison expressed his contempt for the man who watched the clock, and now every Christmas his office family take up a collection and buy him a clock, and present it with great ceremony. He replies in a speech on the nebular hypothesis and all are very happy. One year the present assumed the form of an Ingersoll Dollar Watch, which the Wizard showed to me with great pride. In the stockade is a beautiful library building and here you see clocks galore, some of which must have cost a thousand dollars a piece, all silent. One clock had a neatly printed card attached, “Don’t look at this clock—it has stopped.” And another, “You may look at this clock, for you can’t stop it!” It was already stopped.

One very elegant clock had a solid block of wood where the works should have been, but the face and golden hands were all complete.

However, one clock was running, with a tick needlessly loud, but this clock had no hands.

The Edison Library is a gigantic affair, with two balconies and bookstacks limitless.

The intent was to have a scientific library right at hand that would compass the knowledge of the world. The Laboratory is quite as complete, for in it is every chemical substance known to man, all labeled, classified and indexed. Seemingly, Edison is the most careless, indifferent and slipshod of men, but the real fact is that such a thorough business general the world has seldom seen. If he wants, say, the “Electrical Review” for March, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-One, he hands a boy a slip of paper and the book is in his hands in five minutes. Edison of all men understands that knowledge consists in having a clerk who can quickly find the thing. In his hands the card-index has reached perfection.

Edison has no private office, and his desk in the great library has not had a letter written on it since Eighteen Hundred Ninety-five. “I hate to disturb the mice,” he said as he pointed it out indifferently.

He arrives at the stockade early—often by seven o’clock, and makes his way direct to the Laboratory, which stands in the center of the campus. All around are high factory buildings, vibrating with the suppressed roar and hum of industry.

In the Laboratory, Edison works, secure and free from interruption unless he invites it. Much of his time is spent in the Chemical Building, a low, one-story structure, lighted from the top. It has a cement floor and very simple furniture, the shelves and tables being mostly of iron. “We are always prepared for fires and explosions here,” said Edison in half-apology for the barrenness of the rooms.

The place is a maze of retorts, kettles, tubes, siphons and tiny brass machinery. In the midst of the mess stood two old-fashioned armchairs—both sacred to Edison. One he sits in, and the other is for his feet, his books, pads and paper.

Here he sits and thinks, reads or muses or tells stories or shuffles about with his hands in his pockets. Edison is a man of infinite leisure. He has the faculty of throwing details upon others. At his elbow, shod in sneakers silent, is always a stenographer. Then there is a bookkeeper who does nothing but record the result of every experiment, and these experiments are going on constantly, attended to by half a dozen quiet and alert men, who work like automatons. “I have tried a million schemes that will not work—I know everything that is no good. I work by elimination,” says Edison.

When hot on the trail of an idea he may work here for three days and nights without going home, and his wife is good enough and great enough to leave him absolutely to himself. In a little room in the corner of the Laboratory is a little iron cot and three gray army blankets. He can sleep at any time, and half an hour’s rest will enable him to go on. When he can’t quite catch the idea, he closes up his brain-cells for ten minutes and sleeps, then up and after it again.

Mrs. Edison occasionally sends meals down for the Wizard when he is on the trail of a thought and does not want to take time to go home.

One day the dinner arrived when Edison was just putting salt on the tail of an idea. There was no time to eat, but it occurred to the inventor that if he would just quit thinking for ten minutes and sleep, he could awaken with enough brain-power to throw the lariat successfully. So he just leaned back, put his feet in the other chair and went to sleep.

The General Manager came in and saw the dinner on the table and Edison sleeping, so he just sat down and began to eat the dinner. He ate it all, and tiptoed out.

Edison slept twenty minutes, awoke, looked at the empty dishes, pulled down his vest, took out his regular after-dinner cigar, lighted it and smoked away in sweet satisfaction, fully believing that he had had his dinner; and even after the General Manager had come in and offered to bet him a dollar he hadn’t, he was still of the same mind.

This spirit of sly joking fills the place, set afloat by the master himself. Edison dearly loves a joke, and will quit work any time to hear one. It is the five minutes’ sleep and the good laugh that keep his brain from becoming a hotbox—he gets his rest!

“When do you take your vacation, Mr. Edison?” a lady asked him.

“Election night every November,” was the reply. And this is literally true, for on that night there is a special wire run into the Orange Clubhouse, and Edison takes the key and sits there until daylight taking the returns, writing them out carefully in that copperplate Western Union hand. He is as careful about his handwriting now as if he were writing out train-orders.

“If I wanted to live a hundred years I would use neither tobacco nor coffee,” said Edison as we sat at lunch. “But you see I’d rather get a little really good work done than live long and do nothing to speak of. And so I spur what I am pleased to call my mind, at times with coffee and a good cigar—just pass the matches, thank you! Some day some fellow will invent a way of concentrating and storing up sunshine to use instead of this old, absurd Prometheus scheme of fire. I’ll do the trick myself if some one else doesn’t get at it. Why, that is all there is about my work in electricity—you know, I never claimed to have invented electricity—that is a campaign lie—nail it!”

“Sunshine is spread out thin and so is electricity. Perhaps they are the same, but we will take that up later. Now the trick was, you see, to concentrate the juice and liberate it as you needed it. The old-fashioned way inaugurated by Jove, of letting it off in a clap of thunder, is dangerous, disconcerting and wasteful. It doesn’t fetch up anywhere. My task was to subdivide the current and use it in a great number of little lights, and to do this I had to store it. And we haven’t really found out how to store it yet and let it off real easy-like and cheap. Why, we have just begun to commence to get ready to find out about electricity. This scheme of combustion to get power makes me sick to think of—it is so wasteful. It is just the old, foolish Prometheus idea, and the father of Prometheus was a baboon.”

“When we learn how to store electricity, we will cease being apes ourselves; until then we are tailless orangutans. You see, we should utilize natural forces and thus get all of our power. Sunshine is a form of energy, and the winds and the tides are manifestations of energy.”

“Do we use them? Oh, no! We burn up wood and coal, as renters burn up the front fence for fuel. We live like squatters, not as if we owned the property.

“There must surely come a time when heat and power will be stored in unlimited quantities in every community, all gathered by natural forces. Electricity ought to be as cheap as oxygen, for it can not be destroyed.

“Now, I am not sure but that my new storage-battery is the thing. I’d tell you about that, but I don’t want to bore you. Of course, I know that nothing is more interesting to the public than a good lie. You see, I have been a newspaperman myself—used to run a newspaper—in fact, Veritas and Old Subscriber once took exception to one of my editorials and threw me into the Detroit River—that is where I got my little deafness—what’s that? No, I did not say my deftness—I got that in another way. But about lies, you have heard that one about my smoking big, black cigars! Well, the story is that the boys in the office used to steal my cigars, and so I got a cigarmaker to make me up a box that looked just like my favorite brand, only I had ‘em filled with hemp, horsehair and a touch of asafetida. Then I just left the box where the boys would be sure to dip into it; but it seems the cigarman put them on, and so they just put that box into my own private stock and I smoked the fumigators and never knew the difference.

“That whole story is a pernicious malrepresentation invented by the enemy of mankind in order to throw obloquy over a virtuous old telegraph-operator—brand it!”

Witness, therefore, that I have branded it, forevermore!

* * *

Once upon a day I wrote an article on Alexander Humboldt. And in that article among other things I said, “This world of ours, round like an orange and slightly flattened at the Poles, has produced but five educated men.”

And ironical ladies and gents from all parts of the United States wrote me on postal cards, begging that I should name the other four. Let us leave the cynics to their little pleasantries, and make our appeal to people who think.

Education means evolution, development, growth. Education is comparative, for there is no fixed standard—all men know more than some men, and some men know more than some other men. “Every man I meet is my master in some particular,” said Emerson. But there are five men in history who had minds so developed, and evolved beyond the rest of mankind so far, that they form a class by themselves, and deserve to be called Educated Men.

The men I have in mind were the following: Pericles, Builder of Athens.

Aristotle, tutor of Alexander, and the world’s first naturalist.

Leonardo, the all-round man—the man who could do more things, and do them well, than any other man who every lived.

Sir Isaac Newton, the mathematician, who analyzed light and discovered the law of gravitation.

Alexander von Humboldt, explorer and naturalist, who compassed the entire scientific knowledge of the world, issued his books in deluxe limited editions at his own expense, and sold them for three thousand dollars a set.

Newton and Humboldt each wore a seven and three-fourths hat. Leonardo and Aristotle went untaped, but Pericles had a head so high and so big that he looked like a caricature, and Aristophanes, a nice man who lived at the same time, said that the head of Pericles looked like a pumpkin that had been sat upon. All the busts of Pericles represent him wearing a helmet—this to avoid what the artists thought an abnormality, the average Greek having a round, smooth chucklehead like that of a Bowery bartender.

America has produced two men who stand out so far beyond the rest of mankind that they form a class by themselves: Benjamin Franklin and Thomas A. Edison.

Franklin wore a seven and a half hat; Edison wears a seven and three-fourths.

The difference in men is the difference in brain-power. And while size does not always token quality, yet size and surface are necessary to get power, and there is no record of a man with a six and a half head ever making a ripple on the intellectual sea. Without the cells you get no mind, and if mind exists without the cells, it has not yet been proven. The brain is a storage-battery made up of millions of minute cells.

The weight of an average man’s brain is forty-nine ounces. Now, Humboldt’s brain weighed fifty-six ounces, and Newton’s and Franklin’s weighed fifty-seven. Let us hope the autopsist will not have a chance to weigh Edison’s brain for many years, but when he does the mark will register fifty-seven ounces.

An orang-utan weighs about the same as a man, but its brain weighs only a pound, against three pounds for a man. Give a gorilla a brain weighing fifty ounces, and he would be a Methodist Presiding Elder. Give him a brain the same size of Edison’s, say fifty-seven ounces, and instead of spending life in hunting for snakes and heaving cocoanuts at monkeys as respectable gorillas are wont, he would be weighing the world in scales of his own invention and making, and measuring the distances of the stars.

Pericles was taught by the gentle Anaxagoras, who gave all his money to the State in order that he might be free. The State reciprocated by cutting off his head, for republics are always ungrateful.

Aristotle was a pupil of Plato and worked his way through college, sifting ashes, washing windows and sweeping sidewalks.

Leonardo was self-taught and gathered knowledge as a bee gathers honey, although honey isn’t honey until the bee digests it.

Sir Isaac Newton was a Cambridge man. He held the office of Master of the Mint, and to relieve himself of the charge of atheism he anticipated the enemy and wrote a book on the Hebrew Prophets, which gave the scientists the laugh on him, but made his position with the State secure. Newton is the only man herein mentioned who knew anything about theology, all the others being “infidels” in their day, devoting themselves strictly to this world. Humboldt was taught by the “natural method,” and never took a college degree.

Franklin was a graduate of the University of Hard Knocks, and Edison’s Alma Mater is the same.

There is one special characteristic manifested by the Seven Educated men I have named—good-cheer, a great welling sense of happiness! They were all good animals: they gloried in life; they loved the men and women who were still on earth; they feasted on the good things in life; breathed deeply; slept soundly and did not bother about the future. Their working motto was, “One world at a time.”

They were all able to laugh.

Genius is a great fund of joyousness.

Each and all of these men influenced the world profoundly. We are different people because they lived. Every house, school, library and workshop in Christendom is touched by their presence.

All are dead but Edison, yet their influence can never die. And no one in the list has influenced civilization so profoundly as Edison. You can not look out of a window in any city in Europe or America without beholding the influence of his thought. You may say that the science of electricity has gone past him, but all the Sons of Jove have built on him.

He gave us the electric light and the electric car and pointed the way to the telephone—three things that have revolutionized society. As Athens at her height was the Age of Pericles, so will our time be known as the Age of Edison.

Volume Two
Little Journeys To the Homes of Famous Women

Elbert Hubbard II by Bert Hubbard • 1,000 Words

We are not sent into this world to do anything into which we can not put our hearts. We have certain work to do for our bread and that is to be done strenuously, other work to do for our delight and that is to be done heartily; neither is to be done by halves or shifts, but with a will; and what is not worth this effort is not to be done at all.
John Ruskin

I am Elbert Hubbard’s son, and I am entirely familiar with the proposition that “Genius never reproduces.”

Heretofore, it has always been necessary to sign my name, “Elbert Hubbard II”—but now there is an embarrassment in that signature, an assumption that I do not feel.

There is no Second Elbert Hubbard. To five hundred Roycrofters, to the Village of East Aurora, and to a few dozen personal friends scattered over the face of the earth, I am Bert Hubbard, plain Bert Hubbard—and as Bert Hubbard I want to be known to you.

I lay no claim to having inherited Elbert Hubbard’s Genius, his Personality, his Insight into the Human Heart. I am another and totally different sort of man.

I know my limitations.

Also, I am acquainted with such ability as I possess, and I believe that it can be directed to serve you.

I got my schooling in East Aurora.

I have never been to College. But I have traveled across this Country several times with my Father.

I have traveled abroad with him. One time we walked from Edinburgh to London to prove that we could do it.

My Father has been my teacher—and I do not at all envy the College Man.

For the last twenty years I have been working in the Roycroft Shops.

I believe I am well grounded in Business—also, in Work.

When I was twelve years old my father transferred Ali Baba to the garden—and I did the chores around the house and barn for a dollar a week. From that day forward I earned every dollar that ever came to me.

I fed the printing-press at four dollars a week. Then, when we purchased a gas-engine, I was promoted to be engineer, and given a pair of long overalls.

Two or three years later I was moved into the General Office, where I opened mail and filled in orders.

Again, I was promoted into the Private Office and permitted to sign my name under my Father’s, on checks.

Then the responsibility of purchasing materials was given me.

One time or another I have worked in every Department of the Roycroft Shops.

My association with Elbert Hubbard has been friendly, brotherly. I have enjoyed his complete confidence—and I have tried to deserve it.

He believed in me, loved me, hoped for me. Whether I disappointed him at times is not important. I know my average must have pleased him, because the night he said Farewell to the Roycrofters he spoke well of me, very well of me, and he left the Roycroft Institution in my charge.

He sailed away on the “Lusitania” intending to be gone several weeks. His Little Journey has been prolonged into Eternity.

But the work of Elbert and Alice Hubbard is not done. With them one task was scarcely under way when another was launched. Whether complete or incomplete, there had to be an end to their effort sometime, and this is the end.

Often Elbert Hubbard would tell the story of Tolstoy, who stopped at the fence to question the worker in the field, “My Man, if you knew you were to die tomorrow, what would you do today?” And the worker begrimed with sweat would answer, “I would plow!”

That’s the way Elbert Hubbard lived and died, and yet he did more—he planned for the future. He planned the future of the Roycroft Shop. Death did not meet him as a stranger. He came as a sometime-expected friend. Father was not unprepared.

The plan that would have sustained us the seven weeks he was in Europe will sustain us seven years—and another seven years.

Elbert Hubbard’s work will go on.

I know of no Memorial that would please Elbert Hubbard half so well as to broaden out the Roycroft Idea.

So we will continue to make handmade Furniture, hand-hammered Copper, Modeled Leather. We shall still triumph in the arts of Printing and Bookmaking.

The Roycroft Inn will continue to swing wide its welcoming door, and the kind greeting is always here for you.

“The Fra” will not miss an issue, and you who have enjoyed it in the past will continue to enjoy it!

“The Philistine” belonged to Elbert Hubbard. He wrote it himself for just twenty years and one month. No one else could have done it as he did. No one else can now do it as he did.

So, for very sentimental reasons—which overbalance the strong temptation to continue “The Philistine”—I consider it a duty to pay him the tribute of discontinuing the little Magazine of Protest.

The Roycrofters, Incorporated, is a band of skilled men and women. For years they have accomplished the work that has invited your admiration. You may expect much of them now. The support they have given me, the confidence they have in me, is as a great mass of power and courage pushing me on to success.

This thought I would impress upon you: It will not be the policy of The Roycrofters to imitate or copy. This place from now on is what we make it. The past is past, the future spreads a golden red against the eastern sky.

I have the determination to make a Roycroft Shop—that Elbert Hubbard, leaning out over the balcony, will look down and say, “Good boy, Bert—good boy!”

I have Youth and Strength.

I have Courage.

My Head is up.

Forward—all of us—March!

Elizabeth B. Browning • 5,500 Words

I have been in the meadows all the day,
And gathered there the nosegay that you see;
Singing within myself as bird or bee
When such do fieldwork on a morn of May.
Irreparableness

Elizabeth B. Browning
Elizabeth B. Browning

Writers of biography usually begin their preachments with the rather startling statement, “The subject of this memoir was born”——Here follows a date, the name of the place and a cheerful little Mrs. Gamp anecdote: this as preliminary to “launching forth.”

It was the merry Andrew Lang, I believe, who filed a general protest against these machine-made biographies, pleading that it was perfectly safe to assume the man was born; and as for the time and place it mattered little. But the merry man was wrong, for Time and Place are often masters of Fate.

For myself, I rather like the good old-fashioned way of beginning at the beginning. But I will not tell where and when Elizabeth was born, for I do not know. And I am quite sure that her husband did not know. The encyclopedias waver between London and Herefordshire, just according as the writers felt in their hearts that genius should be produced in town or country. One man, with opinions pretty well ossified on this subject, having been challenged for his statement that Mrs. Browning was born at Hope End, rushed into print in a letter to the “Gazette” with the countercheck quarrelsome to the effect, “You might as well expect throstles to build nests on Fleet Street ‘buses, as for folks of genius to be born in a big city.” As apology for the man’s ardor I will explain that he was a believer in the Religion of the East and held that spirits choose their own time and place for materialization.

Mrs. Ritchie, authorized by Mr. Browning, declared Burn Hill, Durham, the place, and March Sixth, Eighteen Hundred Nine, the time. In reply, John H. Ingram brings forth a copy of the Tyne “Mercury,” for March Fourteenth, Eighteen Hundred Nine, and points to this:

“In London, the wife of Edward M. Barrett, of a daughter.”

Mr. Browning then comes forward with a fact that derricks can not budge, that is, “Newspapers have ever had small regard for truth.” Then he adds, “My wife was born March Sixth, Eighteen Hundred Six, at Carlton Hall, Durham, the residence of her father’s brother.” One might ha’ thought that this would be the end on’t, but it wasn’t, for Mr. Ingram came out with this sharp rejoinder: “Carlton Hall was not in Durham, but in Yorkshire. And I am authoritatively informed that it did not become the residence of S. Moulton Barrett until some time after Eighteen Hundred Ten. Mr. Browning’s latest suggestions in this matter can not be accepted. In Eighteen Hundred Six, Edward Barrett, not yet twenty years of age, is scarcely likely to have already been the father of the two children assigned to him.” And there the matter rests. Having told this much I shall proceed to launch forth.

The earlier years of Elizabeth Barrett’s life were spent at Hope End, near Ledbury, Herefordshire. I visited the place and thereby added not only one day, but several to my life, for Ali counts not the days spent in the chase. There is a description of Hope End written by an eminent clergyman, to whom I was at once attracted by his literary style. This gentleman’s diction contains so much clearness, force and elegance that I can not resist quoting him verbatim: “The residentiary buildings lie on the ascent of the contiguous eminences, whose projecting parts and bending declivities, modeled by Nature, display astonishing harmoniousness. It contains an elegant profusion of wood, disposed in the most careless yet pleasing order; much of the park and its scenery is in view of the residence, from which vantage-point it presents a most agreeable appearance to the enraptured beholder.” So there you have it!

Here Elizabeth Barrett lived until she was twenty. She never had a childhood—’t was dropped out of her life in some way, and a Greek grammar inlaid instead. Of her mother we know little. She is never quoted; never referred to; her wishes were so whisperingly expressed that they have not reached us. She glides, a pale shadow, across the diary pages. Her husband’s will was to her supreme; his whim her conscience. We know that she was sad, often ill, that she bore eight children. She passed out seemingly unwept, unhonored and unsung, after a married existence of sixteen years.

Elizabeth Barrett had the same number of brothers and sisters that Shakespeare had; and we know no more of the seven Barretts who were swallowed by oblivion than we do of the seven Shakespeares that went not astray.

Edward Moulton Barrett had a sort of fierce, passionate, jealous affection for his daughter Elizabeth. He set himself the task of educating her from her very babyhood. He was her constant companion, her tutor, adviser, friend. When six years old she studied Greek, and when nine made translations in verse. Mr. Barrett looked on this sort of thing with much favor, and tightened his discipline, reducing the little girl’s hours for study to a system as severe as the laws of Draco. Of course, the child’s health broke. From her thirteenth year she appears to us like a beautiful spirit with an astral form; or she would, did we not perceive that this beautiful form is being racked with pain. No wonder some one has asked, “Where then was the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children?”

But this brave spirit did not much complain. She had a will as strong as her father’s, and felt a Spartan pride in doing all that he asked and a little more. She studied, wrote, translated, read and thought.

And to spur her on and to stimulate her, Mr. Barrett published several volumes of her poems. It was immature, pedantic work, but still it had a certain glow and gave promise of the things yet to come.

One marked event in the life of Elizabeth Barrett occurred when Hugh Stuart Boyd arrived at Hope End. He was a fine, sensitive, soul—a poet by nature and a Greek scholar of repute. He came on Mr. Barrett’s invitation to take Mr. Barrett’s place as tutor. The young girl was confined to her bed through the advice of physicians; Boyd was blind.

Here at once was a bond of sympathy. No doubt this break in the monotony of her life gave fresh courage to the fair young woman. The gentle, sightless poet relaxed the severe hours of study. Instead of grim digging in musty tomes they talked: he sat by her bedside holding the thin hands (for the blind see by the sense of touch), and they talked for hours—or were silent, which served as well. Then she would read to the blind man and he would recite to her, for he had the blind Homer’s memory. She grew better, and the doctors said that if she had taken her medicine regularly, and not insisted on getting up and walking about as guide for the blind man, she might have gotten entirely well.

In that fine poem, “Wine of Cyprus,” addressed to Boyd, we see how she acknowledges his goodness. There is no wine equal to the wine of friendship; and love is only friendship—plus something else. There is nothing so hygienic as friendship.

Hell is a separation, and Heaven is only a going home to our friends.

Mr. Barrett’s fortune was invested in sugar-plantations in Jamaica. Through the emancipation of the blacks his fortune took to itself wings. He had to give up his splendid country home—to break the old ties. It was decided that the family should move to London. Elizabeth had again taken to her bed. The mattress on which she lay was borne down the steps by four men; one man might have carried her alone, for she weighed only eighty-five pounds, so they say.

* * *

Crabb Robinson, who knew everything and everybody, being very much such a man as John Kenyon, has left on record the fact that Mr. Kenyon had a face like a Benedictine monk, a wit that never lagged, a generous heart, and a tongue that ran like an Alpine cascade.

A razor with which you can not shave may have better metal in it than one with a perfect edge. One has been sharpened and the other not. And I am very sure that the men who write best do not necessarily know the most; Fate has put an edge on them—that’s all. A good kick may start a stone rolling, when otherwise it rests on the mountain-side for a generation.

Kenyon was one type of the men who rest on the mountain-side. He dabbled in poetry, wrote book-reviews, collected rare editions, attended first nights, spoke mysteriously of “stuff” he was working on; and sometimes confidentially told his lady friends of his intention to bring it out when he had gotten it into shape, asking their advice as to bindings, etc. Men of this type rarely bring out their stuff, for the reason that they never get it into shape. When they refer to the novel they have on the stocks, they refer to a novel they intend to write. It is yet in the ink-bottle. And there it remains—all for the want of one good kick—but perhaps it’s just as well.

Yet these friendly beings are very useful members of society. They are brighter companions and better talkers than the men who exhaust themselves in creative work and at odd times favor their friends with choice samples of literary irritability. John Kenyon wrote a few bright little things, but his best work was in the encouragement he gave others. He sought out all literary lions and tamed them with his steady glance. They liked his prattle and good-cheer, and he liked them for many reasons—one of which was because he could go away and tell how he advised them about this, that and the other. Then he fed them, too.

And so unrivaled was Kenyon in this line that he won for himself the title of “The Feeder of Lions.” Now, John Kenyon—rich, idle, bookish and generous—saw in the magazines certain fine little poems by one Elizabeth Barrett. He also ascertained that she had published several books. Mr. Kenyon bought one of these volumes and sent it by a messenger with a little note to Miss Barrett telling how much he had enjoyed it, and craved that she would inscribe her name and his on the fly-leaf and return by bearer. Of course she complied with such a modest request so gracefully expressed; these things are balm to poets’ souls. Next, Mr. Kenyon called to thank Miss Barrett for the autograph. Soon after, he wrote to inform her of a startling fact that he had just discovered: they were kinsmen, cousins or something—a little removed, but cousins still. In a few weeks they wrote letters back and forth beginning thus: Dear Cousin.

And I am glad of this cousinly arrangement between lonely young people. They grasp at it; and it gives an excuse for a bit of closer relationship than could otherwise exist with propriety. Goodness me! is he not my cousin? Of course he may call as often as he chooses. It is his right.

But let me explain here that at this time Mr. Kenyon was not so very young—that is, he was not absurdly young: he was fifty. But men who really love books always have young hearts. Kenyon’s father left him a fortune, no troubles had ever come his way, and his was not the temperament that searches them out. He dressed young, looked young, acted young, felt young.

No doubt John Kenyon sincerely admired Elizabeth Barrett, and prized her work. And while she read his mind a deal more understandingly than he did her poems, she was grateful for his kindly attention and well-meant praise. He set about to get her poems into better magazines and to find better publishers for her work. He was not a gifted poet himself, but to dance attendance on one afforded a gratification to his artistic impulse. He could not write sublime verse himself, but he could tell others how. So Miss Barrett showed her poems to Mr. Kenyon, and Mr. Kenyon advised that the P’s be made bolder and the tails to the Q’s be lengthened. He also bought her a new kind of manuscript paper, over which a quill pen would glide with glee: it was the kind Byron used. But best of all, Mr. Kenyon brought his friends to call on Miss Barrett; and many of these friends were men with good literary instincts. The meeting with these strong minds was no doubt a great help to the little lady, shut up in a big house and living largely in dreams.

Mary Russell Mitford was in London about this time on a little visit, and of course was sought out by John Kenyon, who took her sightseeing. She was fifty years old, too; she spoke of herself as an old maid, but didn’t allow others to do so. Friends always spoke of her as “Little Miss Mitford,” not because she was little, but because she acted so. Among other beautiful sights that Mr. Kenyon wished to show gushing little Mary Mitford was a Miss Barrett who wrote things. So together they called on Miss Barrett.

Little Miss Mitford looked at the pale face in its frame of dark curls, lying back among the pillows. Little Miss Mitford bowed and said it was a fine day; then she went right over and kissed Miss Barrett, and these two women held each other’s hands and talked until Mr. Kenyon twisted nervously and hinted that it was time to go.

Miss Barrett had not been out for two months, but now these two insisted that she should go with them. The carriage was at the door, they would support her very tenderly, Mr. Kenyon himself would drive—so there could be no accidents and they would bring her back the moment she was tired. So they went, did these three, and as Mr. Kenyon himself drove there were no accidents.

I can imagine that James the coachman gave up the reins that day with only an inward protest, and after looking down and smiling reassurance Mr. Kenyon drove slowly towards the Park; little Miss Mitford forgot her promise not to talk incessantly; and the “dainty, white-porcelain lady” brushed back the raven curls from time to time and nodded indulgently.

Not long ago I called at Number Seventy-four Gloucester Place, where the Barretts lived. It is a plain, solid brick house, built just like the ten thousand other brick houses in London where well-to-do tradesmen live. The people who now occupy the house never heard of the Barretts, and surely do not belong to a Browning Club. I was told that if I wanted to know anything about the place I should apply to the “Agent,” whose name is ‘Opkins and whose office is in Clifford Court, off Fleet Street. The house probably has not changed in any degree in these fifty years, since little Miss Mitford on one side and Mr. Kenyon on the other, tenderly helped Miss Barrett down the steps and into the carriage.

I lingered about Gloucester Place for an hour, but finding that I was being furtively shadowed by various servants, and discovering further that a policeman had been summoned to look after my case, I moved on.

That night after the ride, Miss Mitford wrote a letter home and among other things she said: “I called today at a Mr. Barrett’s. The eldest daughter is about twenty-five. She has some spinal affection, but she is a charming, sweet young woman who reads Greek as I do French. She has published some translations from Æschylus and some striking poems. She is a delightful creature, shy, timid and modest.”

The next day Mr. Kenyon gave a little dinner in honor of Miss Mitford, who was the author of a great book called, “Our Village.” That night when Miss Mitford wrote her usual letter to the folks down in the country, telling how she was getting along, she described this dinner-party. She says: “Wordsworth was there—an adorable old man. Then there was Walter Savage Landor, too, as splendid a person as Mr. Kenyon himself, but not so full of sweetness and sympathy. But best of all, the charming Miss Barrett, who translated the most difficult of the Greek plays, ‘Prometheus Bound.’ She has written most exquisite poems, too, in almost every modern style. She is so sweet and gentle, and so pretty that one looks at her as if she were some bright flower.” Then in another letter Miss Mitford adds: “She is of a slight, delicate figure, with a shower of dark curls falling on either side of a most expressive face; large tender eyes, richly fringed by dark lashes; a smile like a sunbeam, and such a look of youthfulness that I had some difficulty in persuading a friend that she was really the translator of Æschylus and the author of the ‘Essay on Mind.’”

When Miss Mitford went back home, she wrote Miss Barrett a letter ‘most every day. She addresses her as “My Sweet Love,” “My Dearest Sweet,” and “My Sweetest Dear.” She declares her to be the gentlest, strongest, sanest, noblest and most spiritual of all living persons. And moreover she wrote these things to others and published them in reviews. She gave Elizabeth Barrett much good advice and some not so good. Among other things she says: “Your one fault, my dear, is obscurity. You must be simple and plain. Think of the stupidest person of your acquaintance, and when you have made your words so clear that you are sure he will understand, you may venture to hope it will be understood by others.”

I hardly think that this advice caused Miss Barrett to bring her lines down to the level of the stupidest person she knew. She continued to write just as she chose. Yet she was grateful for Miss Mitford’s glowing friendship, and all the pretty gush was accepted, although perhaps with good large pinches of the Syracuse product.

Of course there are foolish people who assume that gushing women are shallow, but this is jumping at conclusions. A recent novel gives us a picture of “a tall soldier,” who, in camp, was very full of brag and bluster. We are quite sure that when the fight comes on this man with the lubricated tongue will prove an arrant coward; we assume that he will run at the first smell of smoke. But we are wrong—he stuck; and when the flag was carried down in the rush, he rescued it and bore it bravely so far to the front that when he came back he brought another—the tawdry, red flag of the enemy!

I slip this in here just to warn hasty folk against the assumption that talkative people are necessarily vacant-minded. Man has a many-sided nature, and like the moon reveals only certain phases at certain times. And as there is one side of the moon that is never revealed at all to dwellers on the planet Earth, so mortals may unconsciously conceal certain phases of soul-stuff from each other.

Miss Barrett seems to have written more letters and longer ones to Miss Mitford than to any of her other correspondents, save one. Yet she was aware of this rather indiscreet woman’s limitations and wrote down to her understanding.

To Richard H. Horne she wrote freely and at her intellectual best. With this all-round, gifted man she kept up a correspondence for many years; and her letters now published in two stout volumes afford a literary history of the time. At the risk of being accused of lack of taste, I wish to say that these letters of Miss Barrett’s are a deal more interesting to me than any of her longer poems. They reveal the many-sided qualities of the writer, and show the workings of her mind in various moods. Poetry is such an exacting form that it never allows the author to appear in dressing-gown and slippers; neither can he call over the back fence to his neighbor without loss of dignity.

Horne was author, editor and publisher. His middle name was Henry, but following that peculiar penchant of the ink-stained fraternity to play flimflam with their names, he changed the Henry to Hengist; so we now see it writ thus: R. Hengist Horne.

He found a market for Miss Barrett’s wares. More properly, he insisted that she should write certain things to fit certain publications in which he was interested. They collaborated in writing several books. They met very seldom, and their correspondence has a fine friendly flavor about it, tempered with a disinterestedness that is unique. They encourage each other, criticize each other. They rail at each other in witty quips and quirks, and at times the air is so full of gibes that it looks as if a quarrel were appearing on the horizon—no bigger than a man’s hand—but the storm always passes in a gentle shower of refreshing compliments.

Meantime, dodging in and out, we see the handsome, gracious and kindly John Kenyon.

Much of the time Miss Barrett lived in a darkened room, seeing no one but her nurse, the physician and her father. Fortune had smiled again on Edward Barrett—a legacy had come his way, and although he no longer owned the black men in Jamaica, yet they were again working for him. Sugar-cane mills ground slow, but small.

The brilliant daughter had blossomed in intellect until she was beyond her teacher. She was so far ahead that he called to her to wait for him. He could read Greek; she could compose in it. But she preferred her native tongue, as every scholar should. Now, Mr. Barrett was jealous of the fame of his daughter. The passion of father for daughter, of mother for son—there is often something very loverlike in it—a deal of whimsy! Miss Barrett’s darkened room had been illumined by a light that the gruff and goodly merchant wist not of. Loneliness and solitude and physical pain and heart-hunger had taught her things that no book recorded nor tutor knew. Her father could not follow her; her allusions were obscure, he said, wilfully obscure; she was growing perverse.

Love is a pain at times. To ease the hurt the lover would hurt the beloved. He badgers her, pinches her, provokes her. One step more and he may kill her.

Edward Barrett’s daughter, she of the raven curls and gentle ways, was reaching a point where her father’s love was not her life. A good way to drive love away is to be jealous. He had seen it coming years before; he brooded over it; the calamity was upon him. Her fame was growing: some one called her the Shakespeare of women. First, her books had been published at her father’s expense; next, editors were willing to run their own risks, and now messengers with bank-notes waited at the door and begged to exchange the bank-notes for manuscript. John Kenyon said, “I told you so,” but Edward Barrett scowled. He accused her foolishly; he attempted to dictate to her—she must use this ink or that. Why? Because he said so. He quarreled with her to ease the love-hurt that was smarting in his heart.

Poor, little, pale-faced poet! Earthly success has nothing left for thee! Thy thoughts, too great for speech, fall on dull ears. Even thy father, for whom thou first took up pen, doth not understand thee! and a mother’s love thou hast never known. And fame without love—how barren! Heaven is thy home. Let slip thy thin, white hands on the thread of life and glide gently out at ebb of tide—out into the unknown. It can not but be better than this—God understands! Compose thy troubled spirit, give up thy vain hopes. See! thy youth is past, little woman; look closely! there are gray hairs in thy locks, thy face is marked with lines of care, and have I not seen signs of winter in thy veins? Earth holds naught for thee. Come, take thy pen and write, just a last good-by, a tender farewell, such as thou alone canst say. Then fold thy thin hands, and make peace with all by passing out and away, out and away—God understands!

* * *

Elizabeth Barrett was thirty-seven, and Miss Mitford, up to London from the country for a couple of days, wrote home that she had lost her winsome beauty.

John Kenyon had turned well into sixty, but he carried his years in a jaunty way. He wore a moss-rose bud in the lapel of his well-fitting coat. His linen was immaculate, and the only change people saw in him was that he wore spectacles in place of a monocle.

The physicians allowed Mr. Kenyon to visit the darkened room whenever he chose, for he never stayed so very long, neither was he ever the bearer of bad news.

Did the greatest poetess of the age (temporarily slightly indisposed) know one Browning—Robert Browning, a writer of verse? Why, no; she had never met him, but of course she knew of him, and had read everything he had written. He had sent her one of his books once. He was surely a man of brilliant parts—so strong and farseeing! He lives in Italy, with the monks, they say. What a pity the English people do not better appreciate him!

“But he may succeed yet,” said Mr. Kenyon. “He is not old.”

“Oh, of course, such genius must some day be recognized. But he may be gone then—how old did you say he was?”

Mr. Kenyon had not said; but he now explained that Mr. Browning was thirty-four, that is to say, just the age of himself, ahem! Furthermore, Mr. Browning did not live in Italy—that is, not now, for at that present moment he was in London. In fact, Mr. Kenyon had lunched with him an hour before. They had talked of Miss Barrett (for who else was there among women worth talking of!) and Mr. Browning had expressed a wish to see her. Mr. Kenyon had expressed a wish that Mr. Browning should see her, and now if Miss Barrett would express a wish that Mr. Browning should call and see her, why, Mr. Kenyon would fetch him—doctors or no doctors.

And he fetched him.

And I’m glad, aren’t you?

Now Robert Browning was not at all of the typical poet type. In stature, he was rather short; his frame was compact and muscular. In his youth, he had been a wrestler—carrying away laurels of a different sort from those which he was to wear later. His features were inclined to be heavy; in repose his face was dull, and there was no fire in his glance. He wore loose-fitting, plain, gray clothes, a slouch-hat and thick-soled shoes. At first look you would have said he was a well-fed, well-to-do country squire. On closer acquaintance you would have been impressed with his dignity, his perfect poise and his fine reserve. And did you come to know him well enough you would have seen that beneath that seemingly phlegmatic outside there was a spiritual nature so sensitive and tender that it responded to all the finer thrills that play across the souls of men. Yet if there ever was a man who did not wear his heart upon his sleeve for daws to peck at, it was Robert Browning. He was clean, wholesome, manly, healthy, inside and out. He was master of self.

Of course, the gentle reader is sure that the next act will show a tender love-scene. And were I dealing with the lives of Peter Smith and Martha the milkmaid, the gentle reader might be right.

But the love of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett is an instance of the Divine Passion. Take off thy shoes, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground! This man and woman had gotten well beyond the first flush of youth; there was a joining of intellect and soul which approaches the ideal. I can not imagine anything so preposterous as a “proposal” passing between them; I can not conceive a condition of hesitancy and timidity leading up to a dam-bursting “avowal.” They met, looked into each other’s eyes, and each there read his fate: no coyness, no affectation, no fencing—they loved. Each at once felt a heart-rest in the other. Each had at last found the other self.

That exquisite series of poems, “Sonnets From the Portuguese,” written by Elizabeth Barrett before her marriage and presented to her husband afterward, was all told to him over and over by the look from her eyes, the pressure of her hands, and in gentle words (or silence) that knew neither shame nor embarrassment.

And now it seems to me that somewhere in these pages I said that friendship was essentially hygienic. I wish to make that remark again, and to put it in italics. The Divine Passion implies the most exalted form of friendship that man can imagine.

Elizabeth Barrett ran up the shades and flung open the shutters. The sunlight came dancing through the apartment, flooding each dark corner and driving out all the shadows that lurked therein. It was no longer a darkened room.

The doctor was indignant; the nurse resigned.

Miss Mitford wrote back to the country that Miss Barrett was “really looking better than she had for years.”

As for poor Edward Moulton Barrett—he raved. He tried to quarrel with Robert Browning, and had there been only a callow youth with whom to deal, Browning would simply have been kicked down the steps, and that would have been an end of it. But Browning had an even pulse, a calm eye and a temper that was imperturbable. His will was quite as strong as Mr. Barrett’s.

And so it was just a plain runaway match—the ideal thing after all. One day when the father was out of the way they took a cab to Marylebone Parish Church and were married. The bride went home alone, and it was a week before her husband saw her; because he would not be a hypocrite and go ask for her by her maiden name. And had he gone, rung the bell and asked to see Elizabeth Barrett Browning, no one would have known whom he wanted. At the end of the week, the bride stole down the steps alone, leading her dog Flush by a string, and met her lover-husband on the corner. Next day, they wrote back from Calais, asking forgiveness and craving blessings, after the good old custom of Gretna Green. But Edward Moulton Barrett did not forgive—still, who cares!

Yet we do care, too, for we regret that this man, so strong and manly in many ways, could not be reconciled to this exalted love. Old men who nurse wrath are pitiable sights. Why could not Mr. Barrett have followed the example of John Kenyon?

Kenyon commands both our sympathy and admiration. When the news came to him that Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett were gone, it is said that he sobbed like a youth to whom has come a great, strange sorrow. For months he was not known to smile, yet after a year he visited the happy home in Florence. When John Kenyon died he left by his will fifty thousand dollars “to my beloved and loving friends, Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, his wife.”

The old-time novelists always left their couples at the church-door. It was not safe to follow further—they wished to make a pleasant story. It seems meet to take our leave of the bride and groom at the church: life often ends there. However, it sometimes is the place where life really begins. It was so with Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning—they had merely existed before; now, they began to live.

Much, very much has been written concerning this ideal mating, and of the life of Mr. and Mrs. Browning in Italy. But why should I write of the things of which George William Curtis, Kate Field, Anthony Trollope and James T. Fields have written? No, we will leave the happy pair at the altar, in Marylebone Parish Church, and while the organ peals the wedding-march we will tiptoe softly out.

Madame Guyon • 5,900 Words

To me remains nor place nor time;
My country is in every clime;
I can be calm and free from care,
On any shore, since God is there.

While place we seek or place we shun,
The soul finds happiness in none;
But with a God to guide our way,
‘Tis equal joy to go or stay.

Could I be cast where Thou art not,
That were indeed a dreadful lot;
But regions none remote I call,
Secure of finding God in all.

God Is Everywhere

Madame Guyon
Madame Guyon

Jeanne Marie Bouvier sat one day writing at her little oaken desk, when her father approached and, kissing her very gently on the forehead, told her that he had arranged for her marriage, and that her future husband was soon to arrive. Jeanne’s fingers lost their cunning, the pen dropped; she arose to her feet, but her tongue was dumb.

Jeanne Marie was only sixteen, but you would have thought her twenty, for she was tall and dignified—she was as tall as her father: she was five feet nine. She had a splendid length of limb, hips that gave only a suggestion of curve line, a slender waist, a shapely, well-poised neck, and a head that might have made a Juno envious. The face and brow were not those of Venus—rather they belonged to Minerva; for the nose was large, the chin full, and the mouth no pea’s blossom. The hair was light brown, but when the sun shone on it people said it was red. It was as generous in quantity and unruly in habits as the westerly wind. Her eyes were all colors, changing according to her mood. Withal, she had freckles, and no one was ever so rash as to call her pretty.

Now, Jeanne’s father had not kissed her for two years, for he was a very busy man: he had not time for soft demonstration. He was rich, he was religious, and he was looked upon as a model citizen in every way.

The daughter had grown like a sunflower, and her intellect had unfolded as a moss-rose turns from bud to blossom. This splendid girl had thought and studied and dreamed dreams. She had imagined she heard a voice speaking to her: “Arise, maiden, and prepare thee, for I have a work for thee to do!”

Her wish and prayer was to enter a convent, and after consecrating herself to God in a way that would allow of no turning back, to go forth and give to men and women the messages that had come to her. And these things filled the heart of the worthy bourgeois with alarm; so he said to his wife one day: “That girl will be a foot taller than I am in a year, and even now when I give her advice, she opens her big eyes and looks at me in a way that thins my words to whey. She will get us into trouble yet! She may disgrace us! I think—I think I’ll find her a husband.”

Yet that would not have been a difficult task. She was loved by a score of youths, but had never spoken to any of them. They stood at corners and sighed as she walked by; and others, with religious bent, timed her hours for mass and took positions in church from whence they could see her kneel. Still others patroled the narrow street that led to her home, with hopes that she might pass that way, so that they might touch the hem of her garment.

These things were as naught to Jeanne Marie. She had never yet seen a man for whose intellect she did not have both a pity and a contempt.

But Claude Bouvier did not pick a husband for his daughter from among the simple youths of the town. He wrote to a bachelor friend, Jacques Guyon by name, and told him he could have the girl if he wanted her—that is, after certain little preliminaries had been arranged.

Now, Jacques Guyon had been at the Bouvier residence on a visit three months before, and had looked the lass over stealthily with peculiar interest, and had intimated that if Monsieur Bouvier wished to get rid of her it could be brought about. So, after some weeks had passed, Monsieur bethought him of the offer of Jacques Guyon, and he concluded that inasmuch as Guyon was rich and respectable it would be a good match.

So he wrote to Guyon, and Guyon replied that he would come, probably within a fortnight—just as soon as his rheumatism got better.

Monsieur Claude Bouvier read the letter, and walking into the next room, surprised Jeanne Marie by kissing her tenderly on her forehead—all as herein truthfully recorded.

* * *

So Jacques Guyon came, came in his carriage, with two servants riding on horseback in front and another riding on horseback behind. Jeanne Marie sat on the floor, tailor fashion, up in her little room of the old stone house, and peeked out of the diamond-paned gable-window very cautiously; and she was sorely disappointed.

In some of her dreams (and these dreams she thought were very bad), she had pictured a lover coming alone on a foam-flecked charger; and as the steed paused, the rider leaped lightly from saddle to ground, kissing his hand to her as she peeked through the curtains. For he discovered her when she hoped he would not, but she did not care much if he did.

But Monsieur Guyon’s eyes did not search the windows. He got out of the carriage with difficulty, and his breath came wheezy and short as he mounted the steps. His complexion was dusty blue, his nose tinged with carmine, his eyes watery, and his girth aldermanic. He was growing old, and, saddest of all, he was growing old rebelliously and therefore ungracefully—dyeing his whiskers purple.

That evening when Jeanne Marie was introduced to Monsieur Guyon at dinner she found him very polite and very gracious. His breeches were real black velvet and his stockings were silk, and the buckles on his shoes were polished silver and the frill of his shirt was finest lace. His conversation was directed mostly to Jeanne’s father, so Jeanne did not feel nearly so uncomfortable as she had expected.

The next day a notary came, and long papers were written out, and red and green seals placed on them, and then everybody held up his right hand as the notary mumbled something, and then all signed their names. The room seemed to be teetering up and down, and it looked quite like rain. Monsieur Bouvier stood on his tiptoes and again kissed his daughter on the forehead, and Monsieur Guyon, taking her hand, lifted the long, slender fingers to his lips, and told her that she would soon be a great lady and the mistress of a splendid mansion, and have everything that one needed to make one happy.

And so they were married by a bishop, with two priests and three curates to assist. The ceremony was held at the great stone church; and as the procession came out, the verger had a hard time to keep the crowd back, so that the little girls in white could go before and strew flowers in their pathway. The organ pealed, and the chimes clanged and rang as if the tune and the times were out of joint; then other bells from other parts of the old town answered, and across the valley rang mellow and soft the chapel-bell of Montargis Castle.

Jeanne was seated in a carriage—how she got there she never knew; by her side sat Jacques Guyon. The post-boys were lashing their horses into a savage run, like devils running away with the souls of innocents, and behind clattered the mounted, liveried servant. People on the sidewalks waved good-bys and called God-bless-yous. Soon the sleepy old town was left behind and the horses slowed down to a lazy trot. Jeanne looked back, like Lot’s wife: only a church-spire could be seen. She hoped that she might be turned into a pillar of salt—but she wasn’t. She crouched into the corner of the seat and cried a good honest cry.

And Monsieur Jacques Guyon smiled and muttered to himself, “Her father said she was a bit stubborn, but I’ll see that she gets over it!”

And this was over three hundred years ago. It doesn’t seem like it, but it was.

* * *

Read the lives of great men and you will come to the conclusion that it is harder to find a gentleman than a genius. While the clock ticks off the seconds, count on your fingers—within five minutes, if you can—five such gentlemen as Sir Philip Sidney! Of course, I know before you speak that Fenelon will be the first on your tongue. Fenelon, the low-voiced, the mild, the sympathetic, the courtly, the gracious! Fenelon, favored by the gods with beauty and far-reaching intellect! Fenelon, who knew the gold of silence. Fenelon, on whose lips dwelt grace, and who by the magic of his words had but to speak to be believed and to be beloved.

When Louis the Little made that most audacious blunder which cost France millions in treasure and untold loss in men and women, Fenelon wrote to the Prime Minister: “These Huguenots have many virtues that must be acknowledged and conserved. We must hold them by mildness. We can not produce conformity by force. Converts made in this manner are hypocrites. No power is great enough to bind the mind—thought forever escapes. Give civil liberty to all, not by approving all religions, but by permitting in patience what God allows.”

“You shall go as missionary to these renegades!” was the answer—half-ironical, half-earnest.

“I will go only on one condition.”

“And that is?”

“That from my province you withdraw all armed men—all sign of compulsion of every sort!”

Fenelon was of noble blood, but his sympathies were ever with the people. The lowly, the weak, the oppressed, the persecuted—these were ever the objects of his solicitude—these were first in his mind.

It was in prison that Fenelon first met Madame Guyon. Fenelon was thirty-seven, she was forty. He occasionally preached at Montargis, and while there had heard of her goodness, her piety, her fervor, her resignation. He had small sympathy for many of her peculiar views, but now she was sick and in prison and he went to her and admonished her to hold fast and to be of good-cheer.

Twelve years before this Madame Guyon had been left a widow. She was the mother of five children—two were dead. The others were placed under the care of kind kinsmen; and Madame Guyon went forth to give her days to study and to teaching. This action of placing her children partly in the care of others has been harshly criticized. But there is one phase of the subject that I have never seen commented upon—and that is that a mother’s love for her offspring bears a certain ratio to the love she bore their father. Had Madame Guyon ever carried in her arms a love-child, I can not conceive of her allowing this child to be cared for by others—no matter how competent.

The favor that had greeted Madame Guyon wherever she went was very great. Her animation and devout enthusiasm won her entrance into the homes of the great and noble everywhere. She organized societies of women that met for prayer and conversation on exalted themes. The burden of her philosophy was “Quietism”—the absolute submission of the human soul to the will of God. Give up all, lay aside all striving, all reaching out, all unrest, cease penance and lie low in the Lord’s hand. He doeth all things well. Make life one continual prayer for holiness—wholeness—harmony; and thus all good will come to us—we attract the good; we attract God—He is our friend—His spirit dwells with us. She taught of power through repose, and told that you can never gain peace by striving for it like fury.

This philosophy, stretching out in limitless ramifications, bearing on every phase and condition of life, touched everywhere with mysticism, afforded endless opportunity for thought.

It is the same philosophy that is being expressed by thousands of prominent men and women today. It embraced all that is vital and best in our so-called “advanced thought”; for in good sooth none of our new “liberal sects” has anything that has not been taught before in olden time.

But Madame Guyon’s success was too great. The guardians of a dogmatic religion are ever on the scent for heresy. They are jealous, and fearful, and full of alarm lest their “institution” shall topple. Quietism was making head, and throughout France the name of Madame Guyon was becoming known. She went from town to town, and from city to city, and gave courses of lectures. Women flocked to hear her, they organized clubs. Preachers sometimes appeared and argued with her, but by the high fervor of her speech she quickly silenced them. Then they took revenge by thundering sermons against her after she had gone. As she traveled she left in her wake a pyrotechnic display of elocutionary denunciation. They dared her to come back and fight it out. The air was full of challenges. One prelate was good enough to say, “This woman may teach primitive Christianity—but if people find God everywhere, what’s to become of us!”

And although the theme is as great as Fate and as serious as Death, one can not suppress a smile to think how the fear of losing their jobs has ever caused men to run violently to and fro and up and down in the earth, crying peace, peace, when there is no peace.

Now, it was the denunciation and wild demonstration of her fearing foes that advertised the labors of Madame Guyon. For strong people are not so much advertised by their loving friends as by their rabid enemies.

This happened quite a while ago; but as mankind moves in a circle (and not always a spiral, either) it might have happened yesterday. Make the scene Ohio: slip Bossuet out and Doctor Buckley in; condense the virtues of Miss Frances E. Willard and Miss Susan B. Anthony into one, and let this one stand for Madame Guyon; call it New Transcendentalism, dub the Madame a New Woman, and there you have it!

But with this difference: petitions to the President of the United States to arrest this female offender and shut her up in the Chicago jail, indefinitely, after a mock trial, would avail not. Yet persecution has its compensation, and the treatment that Madame Guyon received emphasized the truths she taught and sent them ringing through the schools and salons and wherever thinking people gathered themselves together. Yes, persecution has its compensation. In its state of persecution a religion is pure, if ever; its decline begins when its prosperity commences. Prosperous men are never wise and seldom good. Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you!

Surely, persecution has its compensation! When Madame Guyon was sick and in prison, was she not visited by Fenelon? Ah, ’twas worth the cost. Sympathy is the first attribute of love as well as its last. And I am not sure but that sympathy is love’s own self, vitalized mayhap by some divine actinic ray. Only a thorn-crowned, bleeding Christ could win the adoration of the world. Only the souls who have suffered are well loved. Thus does Golgotha find its recompense. Hark ye and take courage, ye who are in bonds! Gracious spirits, seen or unseen, will minister to you now, where otherwise they would have passed without a sign! But from the day Fenelon met Madame Guyon his fortune began to decline. People looked at him askance. By a grim chance he was made one of a committee of three to investigate the charges brought against the woman. The court took a year for its task. Fenelon read everything that Madame Guyon had published, conversed much with her, inquired into her history and when asked for his verdict said, “I find no fault in her.”

He talked with Madame de Maintenon, and Madame de Maintenon talked with the King, and the offender was released.

Soon Fenelon began to utter in his sermons the truths he had learned from Madame Guyon. And he gave her due credit. He explained that she was a good Catholic—that she loved the Church—that she lived up to all the Church taught, and besides knowing all that Churchmen knew she knew many things beside.

Have a care, Archbishop of Cambrai! Enemies are upon thy track. Defend not defenseless womanhood: knowest thou not what they have said of her? Speak what thou art taught and keep thy inmost thoughts for thyself alone. Have a care, Fenelon! thy bishopric hangs by a spider’s thread.

The years kept slipping past as the years will. Twelve summers had come, and twelve times had autumn leaves known their time to fall. Madame Guyon was again in prison. A stranger was Archbishop of Cambrai: Fenelon no longer a counselor of kings—a tutor of royalty. His voice was silenced, his pen chained. He was allowed to retire to a rural parish. There he lived with the peasants—revered, beloved. The country where he dwelt was battle-scarred and bleeding; the smoke of devastation still hung over it. Not a family but had been robbed of its best. Death had stalked rampant. Fenelon shared the poverty of the people, their lowliness, their sorrows. All the tragedy of their life was his; he said to them, “I know, I know!”

Twelve years of Madame Guyon’s life were spent in prison. Toward the last she was allowed to live in nominal freedom. But despotism, with savage leer and stealthy step, saw that Fenelon was kept far away. In those declining days, when the shadows were lengthening toward the east, her time and talents were given to teaching the simple rudiments of knowledge to the peasantry, to alleviating their material wants and to ministering to the sick. It was a forced retirement, and yet it was a retirement that was in every way in accord with her desires. But in spite of the persecution that followed her, and the obloquy heaped upon her name, and the bribe of pardon if she would but recant, she never retracted nor wavered in her inward or outward faith, even in the estimation of a hair. The firm reticence as to the supreme secrets of her life, and her steadfast loyalty to that which she honestly believed was truth, must ever command the affectionate admiration of all those who prize integrity of mind and purity of purpose, who hold fast to the divinity of love, and who believe in the things unseen which are eternal.

* * *

The town of Montargis is one day’s bicycle journey from Paris. As for the road, though one be a wayfaring man and from the States he could not err therein. You simply follow the Seine as if you were intent on discovering its source, keeping to the beautiful highway that follows the winding stream. And what a beautiful, clear, clean bit of water it is! In Paris, your washerwoman takes your linen to the river, just as they did in the days of Pharaoh, and the bundle comes back sweet as the breath of June. Imagine the result of such recklessness in Chicago!

But as I rode out of Paris that bright May day it seemed Monday all along the way; for dames with baskets balanced on their heads were making their way to the waterside, followed by troops of barefoot or sabot-shod children. There was one fine young woman with a baby in her arms, and the innocent firstborn was busily taking its breakfast as the mother walked calmly along, bearing on her well-poised head the family wash. And a mile farther on, as if she had seen her rival and gone her one better, was another woman with a two-year-old cherub perched secure on top of the gently swaying basket, proud as a cardinal about to be consecrated. It was a study in balancing that I have never seen before nor since; and I only ask those to believe it who know things so true that they dare not tell them. As the day wore on, I saw that the wash was being completed, for the garments were spread out on the greenest of green grass, or on the bushes that lined the way. By ten o’clock I was nearing Fontainebleau, and the clothes were nearly ready to take in—but not quite. For while waiting for the warm sun and the gentle breeze to dry them, the thrifty dames, who were French and make soup out of everything, put in the time by laundering the children. It seemed like that economic stroke of good housewives who use the soapy wash-water for scrubbing the kitchen-floor. There they were, dozens of hopefuls on whom the fate of the nation rested—creepers to ten-year-olds—being scrubbed and dipped, or playing parlez-vous tag in lieu of towel, as innocent of clothes as Carlyle’s imaginary House of Lords.

And so I passed off from the road that traced the Seine to a road that kept company with the canal. I followed the towpath, even in spite of warnings that ‘t was ‘gainst the law. It was a one-horse canal, for many of the gaily painted boats were drawn only by a single, shaggy-limbed Percheron. The boats were sharp-prowed and narrow; and on some were bareheaded women knitting, and men carving curious things out of blocks of wood, as they journeyed. And I said to myself, if “it is the pace that kills,” these people are making a strong bid for immortality. I hailed the lazily moving craft, waving my hat, and the slow-going tourists called back cheerily.

By and by I came to a great, wide plain that stretched away like a tideless summer sea. The wheat and lentils and pulse were planted in long strips. In one place I thought I could trace the good old American flag (that you never really love unless you are on a foreign shore) made with alternate strips of millet and peas, with a goodly patch of cabbages in the corner for stars. But possibly this was imagination, for I had been thinking that in a week it would be the Fourth of July and I was far from home—in a land where firecrackers are unknown.

Coming to a little rise of ground, I could see, lying calm and quiet amid the world of rich, growing grain, the town of Montargis. Across on the blue hillside was Montargis Castle, framed in a mass of foliage. I stopped to view the scene, and the echo of vesper-bells came pealing gently over the miles, as the nodding poppies at my feet bowed reverently in the breeze.

Villages in France viewed from a distance seem so restful and idyllic. There is no sound of strife, no trace of rivalry, no vain pride; only white houses—the homes of good men and gentle women, and cherub children; and all the church-steeples truly point to God. Yet on closer view—but what of that!

When I reached the town, the church whose spire I had seen from the distance beckoned me first. I turned off from the wide thoroughfare, intending just to get a glance at the outside of the building as I passed. But the great iron gates thrown invitingly open, and a rusty, dusty dog of Flanders lying in the entry waiting for his master, told me that there was service within. So I entered, passing through the noiseless, swinging door, and into the dim twilight of the house of prayer. A score of people were there, and standing in the aisle was a white-robed priest. He was speaking, and his voice came so gently, so sure withal, so exquisitely modulated, that I paused and, leaning against a pillar, listened. I think it was the first time I ever heard a preacher speaking in a large church who did not speak so loud that an echo chased his sentences round and round the vaulted dome and strangled the sense. The tone was conversational and the manner so free from canting conventionality that I moved up closer to get a view of the face.

It was too dark to see well, but I came under the spell of the man’s earnest eloquence. The sacred stillness, the falling night, the odor from incense and banks of flowers piled about the feet of an image of the Holy Virgin—evidently brought by the peasantry, having nothing else to give—made a combination of melting conditions that would have subdued a heart of stone.

The preacher ceased to speak, and as he raised his hands in benediction, I, involuntarily, with the other worshipers, knelt on the stone floor and bowed my head in silent reverie.

Suddenly, I was aroused by a crashing noise at my elbow, and glancing round saw that an old man near me had merely dropped his cane. A heavy cudgel it was that falling on the stone flagging sent a thundering reverberation through the vaulted chambers.

The worshipers were slipping out, one by one, and soon no one was left but the old man of the cudgel and myself. He wore wooden shoes, and was holding the cordwood fast between his knees, rolling his hat nervously in his big hands. “He’s a stranger, too,” I said to myself; “he is the man who owns the rusty dog of Flanders, and he is waiting to give the priest some message!”

I leaned over towards my neighbor and asked, “The priest—what is his name?”

“Father Francis, Monsieur!” and the old man swayed back and forward in his seat as if moved by some inward emotion, still fingering his hat.

Just then the priest came out from behind the altar, wearing a black robe instead of the white one. He moved down with a sort of quiet majesty straight towards us. We arose as one man; it was as though some one had pressed a button.

Father Francis walked by me, bowing slightly, and shook hands with my old neighbor. They stood talking in an undertone.

A last struggling ray of light from the dying sun came in over the chancel and flooded the great room for an instant. It allowed me to get a good look at the face of the priest. As I stood there staring at him I heard him say to the old man as he bade him good-by, “Yes, tell her I’ll be there in the morning.”

Then he turned to me, and I was still staring. And as I stared I was repeating to myself the words the people said when Dante used to pass, “There is the man who has been to Hell!”

“You are an Englishman?” said Father Francis to me pleasantly as he held out his hand. “Yes,” I said; “I am an Englishman—that is, no—an American!”

I was wondering if he had really heard me make that Dante remark; and anyway, I had been rudely staring at him and listening with both ears to his conversation with the old man. I tried to roll my hat, and had I a cudgel I would surely have dropped it; and with it all I wondered if the dog of Flanders waiting outside was not getting impatient for me!

“Oh, an American! I’m glad—I have very dear friends in America!”

Then I saw that Father Francis did not look so much like the exiled Florentine as I had thought, for his smile was winning as that of a woman, the corners of his mouth did not turn down, and the nose had not the Roman curve. Dante was an exile: this man was at home—and would have been, anywhere.

He was tall, slender and straight; he must have been sixty years old, but the face in spite of its furrows was singularly handsome. Grave, yet not depressed, it showed such feminine delicacy of feeling, such grace, such high intellect, that I stood and gazed as I might at a statue in bronze. But plain to see, he was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief. The face spake of one to whom might have come a great tribulation, and who by accepting it had purchased redemption for all time from all the petty troubles of earth.

“You must stay here as long as you wish, and you will come to our old church again, I hope!” said the Father. He smiled, nodded his head and started to leave me alone.

“Yes, yes, I’ll come again—I’ll come in the morning, for I want to talk with you about Madame Guyon—she was married in this church they told me—is that true?” I clutched a little. Here was a man I could not afford to lose—one of the elect!

“Oh, yes; that was a long time ago, though. Are you interested in Madame Guyon? I am glad—not to know Fenelon seems a misfortune. He used to preach from that very pulpit, and Madame was baptized at that font and confirmed here. I have pictures of them both; and I have their books—one of the books is a first edition. Do you care for such things?”

When I was broke in London, in the Fall of Eighty-nine! Do I care for such things? I can not recall what I said, but I remembered that this brown-skinned priest with his liquid, black eyes, and the look of sorrow on his handsome face, stood out before me like the picture of a saint.

I made an engagement to meet him the next morning, when he bethought him of his promise to the old man of the cudgel and wooden shoes.

“Come now, then—come with me now. My house is just next door!”

And so we walked up the main aisle of the old church, around the altar where Madame Guyon used to kneel, and by a crooked, little passageway entered a house fully as old as the church. A woman who might have been as old as the house was setting the table in a little dining-room. She looked up at me through brass-rimmed spectacles, and without orders or any one saying a word she whisked off the tablecloth, replaced it with a snowy, clean one, and put on two plates instead of one. Then she brought in toasted brown bread and tea, and a steaming dish of lentils, and fresh-picked berries in a basket all lined with green leaves.

It was not a very sumptuous repast, but ‘t was enough. Afterward I learned that Father Francis was a vegetarian. He did not tell me so, neither did he apologize for absence of fermented drink, nor for his failure to supply tobacco and pipes.

Now, I have heard that there be priests who hold in their cowled heads choice recipes for spiced wines, and who carry hidden away in their hearts all the mysteries of the chafing-dish; but Father Francis was not one of these. His form was thin, but the bronze of his face was the bronze that comes from red corpuscles, and the strongly corded neck and calloused, bony hands told of manly abstinence and exercise in the open air, and sleep that follows peaceful thoughts, knowing no chloral.

After the meal, Father Francis led the way to his little study upstairs. He showed me his books and read to me from his one solitary “First Edition.” Then he unlocked a little drawer in an old chiffonier and brought out a package all wrapped in chamois. This parcel held two miniature portraits, one of Fenelon and one of Madame Guyon.

“That picture of Fenelon belonged to Madame Guyon. He had it painted for her and sent it to her while she was in prison at Vincennes. The other I bought in Paris—I do not know its history.”

The good priest had work to do, and let me know it very gently, thus: “You have come a long way, brother, the road was rough—I know you must be weary. Come, I’ll show you to your room.”

He lighted a candle and took me to a bedroom at the end of the hall. It was a little room, very clean, but devoid of all ornament, save a picture of the Madonna and her Babe, that hung over the head of the little iron bedstead. It was a painting—not very good. I think Father Francis painted it himself; the face of the Holy Mother was very human—divinely human—as motherhood should be.

Father Francis was right: the way had been rough and I was tired.

The treetops sang a cooing lullaby and the nightwinds sighed solemnly as they wandered through the hallway and open doors. It did not take me long to go to sleep. Later, the wind blew up fresh and cool. I was too sleepy to get up and hunt for more covering, and yet I was cold as I curled up in a knot and dreamed I was first mate with Peary on an expedition in search of the North Pole. And the last I remember was a vision of a gray-robed priest tiptoeing across the stone floor; of his throwing over me a heavy blanket and then hastily tiptoeing out again.

The matin-bells, or the birds, or both, awoke me early, but when I got downstairs I found my host had preceded me. His fine face looked fresh and strong, and yet I wondered when he had slept.

After breakfast, the old housekeeper hovered near.

“What is it, Margaret?” said the Father, gently.

“You haven’t forgotten your engagement?” asked the woman, with just a quaver of anxiety.

“Oh no, Margaret”; then turning to me, “Come, you shall go with me—we will talk of Fenelon and Madame Guyon as we walk. It is eight miles and back, but you will not mind the distance. Oh, didn’t I tell you where I’m going? You saw the old man at the church last night—it is his daughter—she is dying—dying of consumption. She has not been a good girl. She went away to Paris, three years ago, and her parents never heard from her. We tried to find her, but could not;and now she has come home of her own accord—come home to die. I baptized her twenty years ago—how fast the time has flown!”

The priest took a stout staff from the corner, and handing me its mate we started away. Down the white, dusty highway we went; out on the stony road where yesterday, as the darkness gathered, trudged an old man in wooden shoes and with a cordwood cudgel—at his heels a dog of Flanders.

Harriet Martineau • 5,400 Words

You better live your best and act your best and think your best today; for today is the sure preparation for tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that follow.
Life’s Uses

Harriet Martineau
Harriet Martineau

I believe it was Thackeray who once expressed a regret that Harriet Martineau had not shown better judgment in choosing her parents.

She was born into one of those big families where there is not love enough to go ’round. The mother was a robustious woman with a termagant temper; she was what you call “practical.” She arose each morning, like Solomon’s ideal wife, while it was yet dark, and proceeded to set her house in order. She made the children go to bed when they were not sleepy and get up when they were. There was no beauty-sleep in that household, not even forty winks; and did any member prove recreant and require a douse of cold water, not only did he get the douse but he also heard quoted for a year and a day that remark concerning the sluggard, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: so shall thy poverty come as one that traveleth, and thy want as an armed man.”

This big, bustling Amazon was never known to weep but once, and that was when Lord Nelson died. To show any emotion would have been to reveal a weakness, and a caress would have been proof positive of folly. Life was a stern business and this earth-journey a warfare. She cooked, she swept, she scrubbed, she sewed.

And although she withheld every loving word and kept back all demonstration of affection, yet her children were always well cared for: they were well clothed, they had plenty to eat, and a warm place to sleep. And in times of sickness this mother would send all others to rest, and herself would watch by the bedside until the shadows stole away and the sunrise came again. I wonder where you have lived all your life if you have never known a woman like that?

In the morning, as soon as the breakfast things were done and the men folks had gone to the cloth-factory, Mrs. Martineau would marshal her daughters in the sitting-room to sew. And there they sewed for four hours every forenoon for more than four years; and as they sewed some one would often read aloud to them, for Mrs. Martineau believed in education—education gotten on the wing.

Sewing-machines and knitting-machines have done more to emancipate women than all the preachers. Think of the days when every garment worn by men, women and children was made by the never-resting hands of women!

And as the girls in that thrifty Norwich household sewed and listened to the reader, they occasionally spoke in monotone of what was read—-all save Harriet: Harriet sewed. And the other girls thought Harriet very dull, and her mother was sure of it, and called her stupid, and sometimes shook her and railed at her, endeavoring to arouse her out of her lethargy.

Harriet has herself left on record somewhat of her feelings in those days. In her child-heart there was a great aching void. Her life was wrong—the lives about her were wrong—she did not know how, and could not then trace the subject far enough to tell why. She was a-hungered, she longed for tenderness, for affection and the close confidence that knows no repulse. She wanted them all to throw down their sewing for just five minutes, and sit in the silence with folded hands. She longed for her mother to hold her on her lap so, that she could pillow her head on her shoulder with her arms about her neck, and have a real good cry. Then all her troubles and pains would be gone.

But the slim little girl never voiced any of these foolish thoughts; she knew better. She choked back her tears and leaning over her sewing tried hard to be “good.”

“She is so stupid that she never listens to what one reads to her,” said her mother one day.

One of that family still lives. I saw him not long ago and talked with him face to face concerning some of the things here written—Doctor James Martineau, ninety-two years old.

The others are all dead now—all are gone. In the cemetery at Norwich is a plain, slate slab, “To the Memory of Elizabeth Martineau, Mother of Harriet Martineau.” * * * And so she sleeps, remembered for what? As the mother of a stupid little girl who tried hard to be good, but didn’t succeed very well, and who did not listen when they read aloud.

* * *

It seems sometimes that there is no such thing as a New Year—it is only the old year come back. These folks about us—have they not lived before? Surely they are the same creatures that have peopled earth in the days agone; they are busy about the same things, they chase after the same trifles, they commit the same mistakes, and blunder as men have always blundered.

Only last week, a teacher in one of the primary schools of Chicago reported to her principal that a certain little boy in her room was so hopelessly dull and perverse that she despaired of teaching him anything. The child would sit with open mouth and look at her as she would talk to the class, and five minutes afterward he could not or would not repeat three words of what had been said. She had scolded him, made him stand on the floor, kept him in after school, and even whipped him—but all in vain. The principal looked into the case, scratched his head, stroked his whiskers, coughed, and decided that the public-school funds should not be wasted in trying to “teach imbeciles,” and so reported to the parents. He advised them to send the boy to a Home for the Feeble-Minded, sending the message by an older brother. So the parents took the child to the Home and asked that he be admitted. The Matron took the little boy on her lap, talked to him, read to him, showed him pictures and said to the astonished parents, “This child has fully as much intelligence as any of your other children, perhaps more—but he is deaf!”

Harriet Martineau from her twelfth year was very deaf, and she was also devoid of the senses of taste and smell.

“Oh, these are terrible tribulations to befall a mortal!” we exclaim with uplifted hands. But on sober second thought I am not sure that I know what is a tribulation and what a blessing. I’m not positive that I would know a blessing should I see it coming up the street. For as I write it comes to me that the Great Big Black Things that have loomed against the horizon of my life, threatening to devour me, simply loomed and nothing more. They harmed me not. The things that have really made me miss my train have always been sweet, soft, pretty, pleasant things of which I was not in the, least afraid.

Mother Nature is kind, and if she deprives us of one thing she gives us another, and happiness seems to be meted out to each and all in equal portions. Harriet’s afflictions caused her to turn her mind to other things than those which filled the hearts of girls of her own age. Society chatter held nothing for her, she could not hear it if she would; and she ate the food that agreed with her, not that which was merely pleasant to the taste. She began to live in a world of thought and ideas. The silence meant much.

“The first requisite is that man should be a good animal.” I used to think that Herbert Spencer in voicing this aphorism struck twelve. But I am no longer enthusiastic about the remark. The senses of most dumb animals are far better developed than those of man. Hounds can trace footsteps over flat rocks, even though a shower has fallen in the interval; cats can see in the dark; rabbits hear sounds that men never hear; horses detect an impurity in water that a chemical analysis does not reveal, and homing pigeons would gain nothing by carrying a compass. And so I feel safe in saying that if any man were so good and perfect an animal that he had the hound’s sense of smell, the cat’s eyesight, the rabbit’s sense of hearing, the horse’s sense of taste, and the homing pigeon’s “locality,” he would not be one whit better prepared to appreciate Kipling’s “Dipsy Chanty,” and not a hair’s breadth nearer a point where he could write a poem equal to it.

No college professor can see so far as a Sioux Indian, neither can he hear so well as a native African. There are rays of light that no unaided human eye can trace, and there are sounds subtler than human ear can detect. These five bodily faculties that we are pleased to call the senses were developed by savage man. He holds them in common with the brute. And now that man is becoming partly civilized he is in danger of losing them. Faculties not used are taken away. Dame Nature seems to consider that anything you do not utilize is not needed; and as she is averse to carrying dead freight she drops it out.

But man can think, and the more he thinks and the further he projects his thought, the less need he has for his physical senses. Homer’s matchless vision was the rich possession of a blind man; Milton never saw Paradise until he was sightless, and Helen Keller knows a world of things that were neither told to her in lectures nor read from books. The far-reaching intellect often goes with a singularly imperfect body, and these things seem to point to the truth that the body is one thing and the soul another.

I make no argument for impoverished vitality, nor do I plead the cause of those who enjoy poor health. Yet how often do we find that the confessional of a family or a neighborhood is the bedside of one who sees the green fields only as did the Lady of Shalott, by holding a looking-glass so that it reflects the out-of-doors. Let me carry that simile one step further, and say that the mirror of the soul when kept free from fleck and stain, reveals the beauties of the universe. And I am not sure but that the soul, freed from the distractions of sense and the trammels of flesh, glides away to a height where things are observed for the first time in their true proportions.

“The soul knows all things,” says Emerson, “and knowledge is only a remembering.”

* * *

The Martineaus were Huguenots, a stern, sturdy stock that suffered exile rather than forego the right of free-thought and free speech. These are the people who are the salt of the earth. And yet as I read history I see that they are the people who have been hunted by dogs, and followed by armed men carrying fagots. The driving of the Huguenots from France came near bankrupting the land, and the flight of Jews and Huguenots into England helped largely to make that country the counting-house of the world. Take the Quakers, Puritans, Huguenots and other refugees from America and it is no longer the land of the free or the home of the brave.

Of the seven Presidents who presided over the deliberations of that first Continental Congress in Philadelphia, three were Huguenots: Henry Laurens, John Jay and Elias Boudinot, and in the seats there were Puritans not a few.

“By God, Sir, we can not afford to persecute the Quakers,” said a certain American a long while ago. “Their religion may be wrong, but the people who cling to an idea are the only people we need. If we must persecute, let us persecute the complacent.”

Harriet Martineau had all the restless independence of will that marked her ancestry. She set herself to acquire knowledge, and she did. When she was twenty she spoke three languages and could read in four. She knew history, astronomy, physical science, and it crowded her teacher in mathematics very hard to keep one lesson in advance of her. Besides, she could sew and cook and “keep house.” Yet it was all gathered by labor and toil and lift. By taking thought she had added cubits to her stature.

But at twenty, a great light suddenly shone around her. Love came and revealed the wonders of Earth and Heaven. She had ever been of a religious nature, but now her religion was vitalized and spiritualized. Deity was no longer a Being who dwelt at a great distance among the stars, but the Divine Life was hers. It flowed through her, nourished her and gave her strength.

Renan suggests that one reason why religion remains on such a material plane for many is because they have never known a great and vitalizing love—a love where intellect, spirit and sex find their perfect mate. Love is the great enlightener. And in my own mind I am fully persuaded that comparatively few mortals ever experience this rebirth that a great love gives. We grope our way through life. Nature’s first thought is for reproduction of the species; she has so overloaded physical passion that men and women marry when the blood is warm and intellect callow. Girls marry for life the first man that offers, and forever put behind them the possibilities of a love that would enable them to lift up their eyes to the hills from whence cometh their help. Very, very seldom do the years that bring a calmer pulse reveal a mating of mind and spirit.

When love came to Harriet, she began to write, her first book being a little volume called “Devotional Exercises.” These daily musings on Divine things and these sweetly limpid prayers were all written out first for herself and her lover. But it came to her that what was a help to them might be a help to others. A publisher was found, and the little work had a large sale and found appreciative readers for many years.

Today, out under the trees, I read this first book written by Miss Martineau. How gently sweet and perfect are these prayers asking for a clean heart and a right spirit! And yet at this time Harriet Martineau had gotten well beyond the idea that God was a great, big man who could be beseeched and moved to alter His plans because some creature on the planet Earth asked it. Her religion was pure Theism, with no confounding dogmas about who was to be saved and who damned. The state of infants who died unbaptized and of the heathen who passed away without ever having heard of Jesus did not trouble her at all. She already accepted the truth of necessity, believing that every act of life was the result of a cause. We do what we do, and are what we are, on account of impulses given us by previous training, previous acts or conditions under which we live and have lived.

If then, everything in this world happens because something else happened a thousand years ago or yesterday, and the result could not possibly be different from what it is, why besiege Heaven with prayers?

The answer is simple. Prayer is an emotional exercise; an endeavor to bring the will into a state of harmony with the Divine Will; a rest and a composure that gives strength by putting us in position to partake of the strength of the Universal. The man who prays today is as a result stronger tomorrow, and thus is prayer answered. By right thinking does the race grow. An act is only a crystallized thought; and this young girl’s little book was designed as a help to right thinking. The things it taught are so simple that no man need go to a theological seminary to learn them: the Silence will tell him all if he will but listen and incline his heart. Love had indeed made Harriet’s spirit free. And to no woman can love mean so much as to one who is aware that she is physically deficient. Homely women are apt to make the better wives, and in all my earth-pilgrimage I never saw a more devoted love—a diviner tenderness—than that which exists between a man of my acquaintance, sound in every sense and splendid in physique, and his wife, who has been blind from her birth. For weeks after I first met this couple there rang in my ears that expression of Victor Hugo’s, “To be blind and to be loved—what happier fate!”

But Harriet’s lover was poor in purse and his family was likewise poor, and the thrifty Martineaus vigorously opposed the mating. In fact, Harriet’s mother hooted at it and spoke of it with scorn; and Harriet answered not back, but hid her love away in her heart—biding the time when her lover should make for himself a name and a place, and have money withal to command the respect of even mill-owners.

So the days passed, and the months went by, and three years counted themselves with the eternity that lies behind. Harriet’s lover had indeed proved himself worthy. He had worked his way through college, had been graduated at the Divinity School, and his high reputation for character and his ability as a speaker won for him at once a position to which many older than he aspired. He became the pastor of the Unitarian Church at Manchester—and this was no small matter!

Now Norwich, where the Martineaus lived, is a long way from Manchester, where Harriet’s lover preached, or it was then, in stagecoach times. It cost money, too, to send letters.

And there was quite an interval once when Harriet sent several letters, and anxiously looked for one; but none arrived.

Then word came that the brilliant young preacher was ill; he wished to see his betrothed. She started to go to him, but her parents opposed such an unprecedented thing. She hesitated, deferred her visit—intending soon to go at all hazards—hoping all the while to hear better news.

Word came that Harriet’s lover was dead. Soon after this the Martineau mills, through various foolish speculations, got into a bad way. Harriet’s father found himself with more debts than he could pay; his endeavors to buffet the storm broke his health—he gave up hope, languished and died.

Mrs. Martineau and the family were thus suddenly deprived of all means of support. The boys were sent to work in the mills, and the two older girls, having five sound senses each, found places where they could do housework and put money in their purses. Harriet Martineau stayed at home and kept house. She also studied, read and wrote a little—there was no other way!

* * *

Six years passed, and the name of Harriet Martineau was recognized as a power in the land. Her “Illustrations of Political Economy” had sold well up into the hundred thousands. The little stories were read by old and young, rich and poor, learned and unlearned. Sir Robert Peel had written Harriet a personal letter of encouragement; Lord Brougham had paid for and given away a thousand copies of the booklets; Richard Cobden had publicly endorsed them; Coleridge had courted the author; Florence Nightingale had sung her praises, and the Czar of Russia had ordered that “all the books of Harriet Martineau’s found in Russia shall be destroyed.” Besides, she had incurred the wrath of King Philippe of France, who after first lavishly praising her and ordering the “Illustrations” translated into French, to be used in the public schools, suddenly discovered a hot chapter entitled, “The Error Called the Divine Right of Kings,” and although Philippe was only a “citizen-king” he made haste to recall his kind words.

And I wish here to remark in parentheses that the author who has not made warm friends and then lost them in an hour by writing things that did not agree with the preconceived idea of these friends, has either not written well or not been read. Every preacher who preaches ably has two doors to his church—one where the people come in and another through which he preaches them out. And I do not see how any man, even though he be divine, could expect or hope to have as many as twelve disciples and hold them for three years without being doubted, denied and betrayed. If you have thoughts, and honestly speak your mind, Golgotha for you is not far away.

Harriet Martineau was essentially an agitator. She entered into life in its fullest sense, and no phase of existence escaped her keen and penetrating investigation. From writing books giving minute directions to housemaids, to lengthy advice to prime ministers, her work never lagged. She was widely read, beloved, respected, feared and well hated.

When her political-economy tales were selling their best, the Government sent her word that on application she could have a pension of two hundred pounds a year for life. A pension of this kind comes nominally as a reward for excellent work or heroic service. But a pension may mean something else: it often implies that the receiver shall not offend nor affront the one that bestows it. Could we trace the true inner history of pensions granted by monarchies, we would find that they are usually diplomatic moves.

Harriet made no response to the generous offer of a lifelong maintenance from the State, but continued to work away after her own methods. Yet the offer of a pension did her good in one way: it suggested the wisdom of setting aside a sum that would support her when her earning powers were diminished. From her two books written concerning her trip to America she received the sum of seven thousand five hundred dollars. With this she purchased an insurance policy in the form of a deferred annuity, providing that from her fiftieth year to her death she should receive the annual sum of five hundred dollars. Nowhere in all the realm of Grub Street do we find a man who set such an example of cool wisdom for this crippled woman. At this time she was supporting her mother, who had become blind, and also a brother, who was a slave to drink.

Twenty-five years after the first offer of pension, the Government renewed the proposition. But Harriet said that her needs were few and her wants simple; that she had enough anyway, and besides, she could not consent to the policy of pensioning one class of persons for well-doing and forgetting all the toilers who have worked just as conscientiously, but along lowly lines; if she ever did need aid, she would do as other old women were obliged to do, that is, apply to the parish.

Miss Martineau wrote for the “Daily London News” alone, sixteen hundred forty-two editorials. She also wrote more than two hundred magazine articles, and published upwards of fifty books. Her work was not classic, for it was written for the times. That her influence for good on the thought of the times was wide and far-reaching, all thoughtful men agree. And he who influences the thought of his times influences all the times that follow. He has made his impress on eternity.

* * *

Opinions may differ as to what constitutes Harriet Martineau’s best work, but my view is that her translation and condensation of Auguste Comte’s six volumes into two will live when all her other work is forgotten. Comte’s own writings were filled with many repetitions and rhetorical flounderings. He was more of a philosopher than a writer. He had an idea too big for him to express, but he expressed at it right bravely. Miss Martineau, trained writer and thinker, did not translate verbally: she caught the idea, and translated the thought rather than the language. And so it has come about that her work has been literally translated back into French and is accepted as a textbook of Positivism, while the original books of the philosopher are merely collected by museums and bibliophiles as curiosities.

Comte taught that man passes through three distinct mental stages in his development: First, man attributes all phenomena to a “Personal God,” and to this God he servilely prays. Second, he believes in a “Supreme Essence,” a “Universal Principle” or a “First Cause,” and seeks to discover its hiding-place. Third, he ceases to hunt out the unknowable, and is content to live and work for a positive present good, fully believing that what is best today can not fail to bring the best results tomorrow.

Harriet had long considered that one reason for the very slow advancement of civilization was that men had ever busied themselves with supernatural concerns; and in fearsome endeavors to make themselves secure for another world had neglected this. Man had tried to make peace with the skies instead of peace with his neighbor. She also thought she saw clearly that right living was one thing, and a belief in theological dogma another. That these things sometimes go together, she of course admitted, but a belief in a “vicarious atonement” and a “miraculous conception” she did not believe made a man a gentler husband, a better neighbor or a more patriotic citizen. Man does what he does because he thinks at the moment it is the best thing to do. And if you could make men believe that peace, truth, honesty and industry were the best standards to adopt—bringing the best results—all men would adopt them.

There are no such things as reward and punishment, as these terms are ordinarily used: there are only good results and bad results. We sow, and reap what we have sown.

Miss Martineau had long believed these things, but Comte proved them—proved them in six ponderous tomes—and she set herself the task to simplify his philosophy.

There is one point of attraction that Comte’s thought had for Harriet Martineau that I have never seen mentioned in print—that is, his mental attitude on the value of love in a well-ordered life.

In the springtime of his manhood, Auguste Comte, sensitive, confiding, generous, loved a beautiful girl. She did not share his intellectual ambitions, his divine aspiration: she was only a beautiful animal. Man proposes, but is not always accepted. She married another, and Comte was disconsolate—for a day.

He pondered the subject, read the lives of various great men, talked with monks and sundry friars gray, and after five years wrote out at length the reasons why a man, in order to accomplish a far-reaching and splendid work, must live the life of a celibate. “To achieve,” said Comte, “you must be married to your work.”

Comte lived for some time content in this philosophy, constantly strengthening it and buttressing it against attack; for we believe a thing first and skirmish for our proof afterward. But when past forty, and his hair was turning to silver, and crow’s-feet were showing themselves in his fine face, and when there was a halt in his step and his laughter had died away into a weary smile, he met a woman whose nature was as finely sensitive and as silkenly strong as his own. She had intellect, aspiration, power. She was gentle, and a womanly woman withal; his best mood was matched by hers, she sympathized with his highest ideal.

They loved and they married.

The crow’s-feet disappeared from Comte’s face, the halt in his step was gone, the laugh returned, and people said that the silver in his hair was becoming.

Shortly after, Comte set himself to work overhauling all the foolish things he had said about the necessity of celibacy. He declared that a man without his mate only stumbled his way through life. There was the male man and the female man, and only by working together could these two souls hope to progress. It requires two to generate thought. Comte felt sure that he was writing the final word. He avowed that there was no more to say. He declared that should his wife go hence the fountains of his soul would dry up, his mind would famish, and the light of his life would go out in darkness.

The gods were envious of such love as this.

Comte’s mate passed away.

He was stricken dumb; the calamity was too great for speech or tears.

But five years after, he got down his books and went over his manuscripts and again revised his philosophy of what constitutes the true condition for the highest and purest thought. To have known a great and exalted love and have it fade from your grasp and flee as shadow, living only in memory, is the highest good, he wrote. A great sorrow at one stroke purchases a redemption from all petty troubles; it sinks all trivial annoyances into nothingness, and grants the man lifelong freedom from all petty, corroding cares. His feelings have been sounded to their depths—the plummet has touched bottom. Fate has done her worst: she has brought him face to face with the Supreme Calamity, and thereafter there is nothing that can inspire terror.

The memory of a great love can never die from out the heart. It affords a ballast ‘gainst all the storms that blow. And although it lends an unutterable sadness, it imparts an unspeakable peace.

A great love, even when fully possessed, affords no complete gratification. There is an essence in it that eludes all ownership. Its highest use seems to be a purifying impulse for nobler endeavor. It says at the last, “Arise, and get thee hence, for this is not thy rest.”

Where there is this haunting memory of a great love lost there is always forgiveness, charity, and a sympathy that makes the man brother to all who endure and suffer. The individual himself is nothing; he has nothing to hope for, nothing to gain, nothing to win, nothing to lose; for the first time and the last he has a selflessness that is wide as the world, and wherein there is no room for the recollection of a wrong. In this memory of a great love, there is a nourishing source of strength by which the possessor lives and works; he is in communication with elemental conditions.

Harriet Martineau was a lifelong widow of the heart. That first great passion of her early womanhood, the love that was lost, remained with her all the days of her life: springing fresh every morning, her last thought as she closed her eyes at night. Other loves came to her, attachments varying in nature and degree, but in this supreme love all was fused and absorbed. In this love, you get the secret of power.

A great love is a pain, yet it is a benison and a benediction. If we carry any possession from this world to another it is the memory of a great love. For even in the last hour, when the coldness of death shall creep into the stiffening limbs, and the brain shall be stunned and the thoughts stifled, there shall come to the tongue a name, a name not mentioned aloud for years—there shall come a name; and as the last flickering rays of life flare up to go out on earth forever, the tongue will speak this name that was long, long ago burned into the soul by the passion of a love that fadeth not away.

Charlotte Bronte • 4,500 Words

I was not surprised, when I went down into the hall, to see that a brilliant June morning had succeeded to the tempest of the night, and to feel through the open glass door the breathing of a fresh and fragrant breeze. Nature must be gladsome when I was so happy. A beggar woman and her little boy, pale, ragged objects both, were coming up the walk, and I ran down and gave them all the money I happened to have in my purse—some three or four shillings: good or bad they must partake of my jubilee. The rooks cawed and blither birds sung, but nothing was so merry or so musical as my own rejoicing heart.
Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Bronte

Rumor has it that there be Americans who are never happy unless passing for Englishmen. And I think I have discovered a like anomaly on the part of the sons of Ireland—a wish to pass for Frenchmen. On Continental hotel-registers the good, honest name of O’Brian often turns queer somersaults, and more than once in “The States” does the kingly prefix of O evolve itself into Van or De, which perhaps is quite proper, seeing they all mean the same thing. One cause of this tendency may lie in the fact that Saint Patrick was a native of France; although Saint Patrick may or may not have been chosen patron saint on account of his nationality. But the patron saint of Ireland being a Frenchman, what more natural, and therefore what more proper, than that the whole Emerald Isle should slant toward the people who love art and rabbit-stew! Anyway, from the proud patronymic of Patricius to plain Pat is quite a drop, and my heart is with Paddy in his efforts to get back.

When Patrick Prunty of County Down, Ireland, shook off the shackles of environment, and the mud of the peat-bog, and went across to England, presenting himself at the gates of Saint John’s College, Cambridge, asking for admittance, I am glad he handed in his name as Mr. P. Bronte, accent on the last syllable.

There is a gentle myth abroad that preachers are “called,” while other men adopt a profession or get a job, but no Protestant Episcopal clergyman I have ever known, and I have known many, ever made any such claim. They take up the profession because it supplies honors and a “living.” Then they can do good, too, and all men want to do good. So they hie them to a divinity school and are taught the mysteries of theological tierce and thrust; and interviewing a clerical tailor they are ready to accept the honors and partake of the living. After a careful study of the life of Patrick Bronte I can not find that his ambition extended beyond the desirable things I have named—that is to say, inclusively, honors and a living.

He was tall, athletic, dark, and surely a fellow of force and ambition to set his back on the old and boldly rap for admittance at the gates of Cambridge. He was a pretty good student, too, although a bit quarrelsome and sometimes mischievous—throwing his force into quite unnecessary ways, as Irishmen are apt to do. He fell in love, of course, and has not an Irishman in love been likened to Vesuvius in state of eruption? We know of at least one charming girl who refused to marry him, because he declined, unlike Othello, to tell the story of his life. And it was assumed that any man who would not tell who “his folks” were, was a rogue and a varlet and a vagrom at heart. And all the while Monsieur Bronte had nothing worse to conceal than that he was from County Down and his name Prunty. He wouldn’t give in and tell the story of his life to slow music, and so the girl wept and then stormed, and finally Bronte stormed and went away, and the girl and her parents were sure that the Frenchman was a murderer escaping justice. Fortunate, aye, thrice fortunate is it for the world that neither Bronte nor the girl wavered even in the estimation of a hair.

Bronte got through school and came out with tuppence worth of honors. When thirty, we find him established as curate at the shabby little town of Hartshead, in Yorkshire. Little Miss Branwell, from Penzance, came up there on a visit to her uncle, and the Reverend Mr. Bronte at once fell violently in love with her dainty form and gentle ways. I say “violently,” for that’s the kind of man Bronte was. Darwin says, “The faculty of amativeness is not aroused except by the unfamiliar.” Girls who go away visiting, wearing their best bib and tucker, find lovers without fail. One-third of all marriages in the United States occur in just this way: the bib and tucker being sprung on the young man as a surprise, dazzles and hypnotizes him into an avowal and an engagement.

And so they were married—were the Reverend Patrick Bronte and Miss Maria Branwell. He was big, bold and dictatorial; she was little, shy and sensitive. The babies came—one in less than a year, then a year apart. The dainty little woman had her troubles, we are sure of that. Her voice comes to us only as a plaintive echo. When she asked to have the bread passed, she always apologized. Once her aunt sent her a present of a pretty silk dress, for country clergymen’s wives do not have many luxuries—don’t you know that?—and Patrick Bronte cut the dress into strips before her eyes and then threw the pieces, and the little slippers to match, into the fireplace, to teach his wife humility. He used to practise with a pistol and shoot in the house to steady the lady’s nerves, and occasionally he got plain drunk. A man like Bronte in a little town with a tired little wife, and with inferior people, is a despot. He busies himself with trifles, looks after foolish details, and the neighbors let him have his own way and his wife has to, and the result is that he becomes convinced in his own mind that he is the people and that wisdom will die with him.

And yet Bronte wrote some pretty good poetry, and had faculties that rightly developed might have made him an excellent man. He should have gone down to London (or up, because it is south) and there come into competition with men as strong as himself. Fate should have seized him by the hair and bumped his head against stone walls and cuffed him thoroughly, and kicked him into line, teaching him humility, then out of the scrimmage we might have gotten a really superior product.

Mrs. Bronte became a confirmed invalid. A man can not always badger a woman; God is good—she dies. Little Maria Branwell had been married eight years; when she passed out she left six children, “all of a size,” a neighbor woman has written. Over her grave is a tablet erected by her husband informing the wayfarer that “she has gone to meet her Savior.” At the bottom is this warning to all women: “Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.”

Five of these motherless children were girls and one a boy.

As you stand there in that stone church at Haworth reading the inscription above Maria Branwell’s grave, you can also read the death record of the babes she left. The mother died on September Fifteenth, Eighteen Hundred Twenty-one; her oldest daughter, Maria, on May Sixth, Eighteen Hundred Twenty-five; Elizabeth, June Fifteenth, Eighteen Hundred Twenty-five; Patrick Branwell, on September Twenty-fourth, Eighteen Hundred Forty-eight; Emily, December Nineteenth, Eighteen Hundred Forty-eight; Anne, May Twenty-eighth, Eighteen Hundred Forty-nine; and Charlotte, on March Thirty-first, Eighteen Hundred Fifty-five. Those whom the gods love die young: the Reverend Patrick Bronte lived to be eighty-five years old.

* * *

I got out of the train at Keighley, which you must pronounce “Keethley,” and leaving my valise with the station-master started on foot for Haworth, four miles away.

Keighley is a manufacturing town where various old mansions have been turned into factories, and new factories have sprung up, square, spick-span, trimmed-stone buildings, with fire-escapes and red tanks on top.

One of these old mansions I saw had a fine copper roof that shone in the sun like a monster Lake Superior agate. It stands a bit back from the road, and on one great gatepost is a brass plate reading “Cardigan Hall,” and on the other a sign, “No Admittance—Apply at the Office.” So I applied at the office, which is evidently the ancient lodge, and asked if Mr. Cardigan was in. Four clerks perched on high stools, crouching over big ledgers, dropped their pens and turning on their spiral seats looked at me with staring eyes, and with mouths wide open. I repeated the question and one of the quartette, a wheezy little old man in spectacles and with whiskers on his neck, clambered down from his elevated position and ambled over near, walking around me, eying me curiously.

“Go wan wi’ yer wurruk, ye idlers!” he suddenly commanded the others. And then he explained to me that Mr. Cardigan was not in, neither was Mr. Jackson. In fact, Mr. Cardigan had not been in for a hundred years—being dead. But if I wanted to look at goods I could be accommodated with bargains fully five per cent below Lunnon market. The little old man was in such serious earnest that I felt it would be a sin to continue a joke. I explained that I was only a tourist in search of the picturesque, and thereby did I drop ten points in the old man’s estimation. But this did I learn, that Lord Cardigan has won deathless fame by attaching his name to a knit jacket, just as the name Jaeger will go clattering down the corridors of time attached to a “combination suit.”

This splendid old mansion was once the ancestral home of a branch of the noble family of Cardigan. But things got somewhat shuffled, through too many hot suppers up to London (being south), and stacks of reds and stacks of blues were drawn in towards the dealer, and so the old mansion fell under the hammer of the auctioneer. What an all-powerful thing is an auctioneer’s hammer! And now from the great parlors, and the library, and the “hall,” and the guest-chambers echo the rattle of spinning-jennies and the dull booming of whirling pulleys. And above the song of whirring wheels came the songs of girls at their work—voices that alone might have been harsh and discordant, but blending with the monotone of the factory’s roar were really melodious.

“We cawn’t keep the nasty things from singin’,” said the old man apologetically.

“Why should you?” I asked.

“Huh, mon! but they sing sacred songs, and chaunts, and a’ that, and say all together from twenty rooms, a hundred times a day, ‘Aws ut wuz in th’ beginnin,’ uz now awn ever shawl be, worl’ wi’out end, Aamen.’ It’s not right. I’ve told Mr. Jackson. Listen now, didn’t I tell ye?”

“Then you are a Churchman?”

And the old man wiped his glasses and told me that he was a Churchman, although an unworthy one, and had been for fifty-four years, come Michaelmas. Yes, he had always lived here, was born only across the beck away—his father was gamekeeper for Lord Cardigan, and afterwards agent. He had been to Haworth many times, although not for ten years. He knew the Reverend Patrick Bronte well, for the Incumbent from Haworth used to preach at Keighley once a year, and sometimes twice. Bronte was a fine man, with a splendid voice for intoning, and very strict about keeping out all heresies and such. He had a lot of trouble, had Bronte: his wife died and left him with eight or ten children, all smart, but rather wild. They gave him a lot of bother, especially the boy. One of the girls married Mr. Bronte’s curate, Mr. Nicholls, a very decent kind of man who comes to Keighley once a year, and always comes to the factory to ask how things are going.

Yes, Mr. Nicholls’ first wife died years and years ago. She used to write things—novels; but no one should read novels; novels are stories that are not so—things that never happened; they tell of folks that never was.

Having no argument to present in way of rebuttal, I shook hands with the old man and started away. He walked with me to the road to put me on the right way to Haworth.

Looking back as I reached the corner, I saw four “clarks” watching me intently from the office windows, and above the roar and jangle of machinery was borne on the summer breeze the sound of sacred song—shrill feminine voices:

“Aws ut wuz in th’ beginnin’, uz now awn ever shawl be, worl’ wi’out end—Aamen!”

* * *

As one moves out of Keighley the country becomes stony; the trees are left behind, and there rises on all sides billow on billow of purple heather. The way is rough as the Pilgrim’s Progress road to Paradise. These hillside moors are filled with springs that high up form rills, then brooks, then cascades or “becks,” and along the Haworth road, wherever one of these hurrying, scurrying, dancing becks crosses the highway, there is a factory devoted to keeping alive the name of Cardigan. Next to the factory is a “pub.,” and publics and factories checker themselves all along the route. Mixed in with these are long rows of tenement-houses well built of stone, with slate roofs, but with a grimy air of desolation about them that surely drives their occupants to drink. To have a home a man must build it himself. Forty houses in a row, all alike, are not homes at all.

I believe an observant man once wrote of the hand being subdued to what it works in. The man who wrote that surely never tramped along the Haworth road as the bell rang for twelve o’clock. From out the factories poured a motley mob of men, women and children, not only with hands dyed, but with clothing, faces and heads as well. Girls with bright-green hair, and lemon-colored faces, leered and jeered at me as they hastened pellmell with hats askew, and stockings down, and dragging shawls, for home or public-house. Red and maroon children ran, and bright-scarlet men smoked stolidly, taking their time with genuine grim Yorkshire sullen sourness.

“How far is it to Haworth?” I asked one such specimen.

“Ef ye pay th’ siller for a double pot a’ ‘arf and ‘arf. Hi might tell ye”; and he jerked his thumb over his shoulder toward a ginshop near by.

“Very well,” said I; “I’ll buy you a double pot of ‘arf and ‘arf, this time.”

The man seemed a bit surprised, but no smile came over his spattered rainbow face as he led the way into the drink-shop. The place was crowded with men and women scrambling for penny sandwiches and drinks fermented and spirituous. Some of these women had babies at their breasts, the babies being brought by appointment by older children who stayed at home while the mothers worked. And as the mothers gulped their Triple XXX, and swallowed hunks of black bread, the little innocents dined. The mothers were rather kindly disposed, though, and occasionally allowed the youngsters to take sips out of their foaming glasses, or at least to drain them. Suddenly a woman with purple hair spied me and called in falsetto:

“Ah, Sawndy McClure has caught a gen’l’mon. Why didn’t I see ‘im fust an’ ‘arve ‘im fer a pet?”

There was a guffaw at my expense and ‘arf and ‘arf as well, for all the party, or else quarrel. As it was, my stout stick probably saved me from the “personal touch.” I stayed until the factory-bells rang, and out my new-found friends scurried for fear of being the fatal five minutes late and getting locked out. Some of them shook my hand as they went, and others pounded me on the back for luck, and several of the girls got my tag and shouted, “You’re it!”

I used to think that Yorkshire folks were hopelessly dull and sublimely stupid, quarrelsome withal and pigheaded to the thirty-second degree; but I have partially come to the conclusion that their glum ways often conceal a peculiar kind of grim humor, and beneath the tough husk is considerable good nature.

The absence of large trees makes it possible to see the village of Haworth several miles away. It seems to cling to the stony hillside as if it feared being blown into space. There is a hurrying, rushing rill here, too, that turns a little woolen-mill. Then there is a “Black Bull” tavern, with a stable-yard at the side and rows of houses on the one street, all very straight up and down. One misses the climbing roses of the ideal merry England, and the soft turf and spreading yews and the flowering hedgerows where throstles and linnets play hide-and-seek the livelong day. It is all cold gray stone, lichen-covered, and the houses do not invite you to enter, and the gardens bid no welcome, and only the great purple wastes of moorland greet you as a friend and brother.

Outside the Black Bull sits a solitary hostler, who feels it would be a weakness to show any good humor. So he bottles his curiosity and scowls from under red, bushy eyebrows.

Turning off the main street is a narrow road leading to the church—square and gray and cold. Next to it is the parsonage, built of the same material, and beyond is the crowded city of the dead.

I plied the knocker at the parsonage door and asked for the rector. He was away at Kendal to attend a funeral, but his wife was at home—a pleasant, matronly woman of near sixty, with smooth, white hair. She came to the door knitting furiously, but from her regulation smile I saw that visitors were not uncommon.

“You want to see the home of the Brontes? That’s right, come right in. This was the study of the Reverend Patrick Bronte, Incumbent of this Parish for fifty years.”

She sang her little song and knitted and shifted the needles and measured the foot, for the stocking was nearly done. It was a blue stocking (although she wasn’t) with a white toe; and all the time she led me from room to room telling me about the Brontes—how there were the father, mother and six children. They all came together. The mother died shortly, and then two of the little girls died. That left three girls and Branwell the boy. He was petted and made too much of by his father and everybody. He was the one that always was going to do great things. He made the girls wait on him and cuffed them if they didn’t, and if they did, and all the time told of the things he was going to do. But he never did them, for he spent most of his time at the taverns. After a while he died—died of the tremens.

The three Bronte girls, Emily, Charlotte and Annie, wrote a novel apiece, and never showed them to their father or to any one. They called ‘emselves Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, and their novels were the greatest ever written—they wrote them ‘emselves with no man to help. Their father was awful mad about it, but when the money began to come in he felt better. Emily died when she was twenty-seven. She was the brightest of them all; then Annie died, and only Charlotte and the old man were left. Charlotte married her father’s curate, but old Mr. Bronte wouldn’t go to the wedding: he went to the Black Bull instead. Miss Wooler gave the bride away—some one had to give her away, you know. The bride was thirty-eight. She died in less them a year, and old Mr. Bronte and Charlotte’s husband lived here alone together.

This was Charlotte’s room; this is the desk where she wrote “Jane Eyre”—leastwise they say it is. This is the chair she sat in, and under that framed glass are several sheets of her manuscript. The writing is almost too small to read; and so fine and yet so perfect and neat! She was a wonderful tidy body, very small and delicate and gentle, yet with a good deal of her father’s energy.

Here are letters she wrote: you can look at them if you choose. This footstool she made and covered herself. It is filled with heather-blossoms—just as she left it. Those books were hers, too—many of them given to her by great authors. See, there is Thackeray’s name written by himself, and a letter from him pasted inside the front cover. He was a big man they say, but he wrote very small, and Charlotte wrote just like him, only better, and now there are hundreds of folks write like ‘em both. Then here’s a book with Miss Martineau’s name, and another from Robert Browning—do you know who he was?

Yes, the church is always open. Go in and stay as long as you choose; at the door is a poorbox and if you wish to put something in you can do so—a sixpence most visitors put in, or a shilling if you insist upon it. You know we are not a rich parish—the wool all goes to Manchester now, and the factory-hands are on half-pay and times are scarce. You will come again some time, come when the heather is in bloom, won’t you? That’s right. Oh, stay! the boxwood there in the garden was planted by Charlotte’s own hands—perhaps you would like a sprig of it—there, I thought you would!

* * *

All who write concerning the Brontes dwell on the sadness and the tragedy of their lives. They picture Charlotte’s earth-journey as one devoid of happiness, lacking all that sweetens and makes for satisfaction. They forget that she wrote “Jane Eyre,” and that no person utterly miserable ever did a great work; and I assume that they know not of the wild, splendid, intoxicating joy that follows a performance well done. To be sure, “Jane Eyre” is a tragedy, but the author of a tragedy must be greater than the plot—greater than his puppets. He is their creator, and his life runs through and pervades theirs, just as the life of our Creator flows through us. In Him we live and move and have our being. And I submit that the writer of a tragedy is not cast down or undone at the time he pictures his heroic situations and conjures forth his strutting spirits. When the play ends and the curtain falls on the fifth act, there is still one man alive, and that is the author. He may be gorged with crime and surfeited with blood, but there is a surging exultation in his veins as he views the ruin that his brain has wrought.

Charlotte loved the great stretch of purple moors, hill on hill fading away into eternal mist. And the wild winds that sighed and moaned at casements or raged in sullen wrath, tugging at the roof, were her friends. She loved them all, and thought of them as visiting spirits. They were her properties, and no writer who ever lived has made such splendid use of winds and storm-clouds and driving rain as did Charlotte Bronte. People who point to the chasing, angry clouds and the swish of dripping rosebushes blown against the cottage-windows as proof of Charlotte Bronte’s chronic depression know not the eager joy of a storm walk. And I am sure they never did as one I know did last night: saddle a horse at ten o’clock and gallop away into the darkness; splash, splash in the sighing, moaning, bellowing, driving November rain. There’s joy for you! ye who toast your feet on the fender and cultivate sick headache around the base-burner—there’s a life that ye never guess!

But Charlotte knew the clouds by night and the swift-sailing moon that gave just one peep out and disappeared. She knew the rifts where the stars shone through, and out alone in the breeze that blew away her cares she lifted her voice in thankfulness for the joy of mixing with the elements, and that her spirit was one with the boisterous winds of heaven.

People who live in beautiful, quiet valleys, where roses bloom all the year through, are not necessarily happy.

Southern California—the Garden of Eden of the world—evolves just as many cases per capita of melancholia as bleak, barren Maine. Wild, rocky, forbidding Scotland has produced more genius to the acre than beautiful England: and I have found that sailor Jack, facing the North Atlantic winter storms, year after year, is a deal jollier companion than the Florida cracker whose chief adversary is the mosquito.

Charlotte Bronte wrote three great books: “Jane Eyre,” “Shirley” and “Villette.” From the lonely, bleak parsonage on that stony hillside she sent forth her swaying filament of thought and lassoed the world. She lived to know that she had won. Money came to her, all she needed, honors, friends and lavish praise. She was the foremost woman author of her day. Her name was on every tongue. She had met the world in fair fight; without patrons, paid advocates, or influential friends she made her way to the very front. Her genius was acknowledged. She accomplished all that she set out to do and more—far more. The great, the learned, the titled, the proud—all those who reverence the tender heart and far-reaching mind—acknowledged her as queen.

So why prate of her sorrows! Did she not work them up into art? Why weep over her troubles when these were the weapons with which she won? Why sit in sackcloth on account of her early death, when it is appointed unto all men once to die, and with her the grave was swallowed up in victory?

Christina Rossetti • 4,500 Words

My life is but a working-day,
Whose tasks are set aright:
A while to work, a while to pray,
And then a quiet night.
And then, please God, a quiet night
Where Saints and Angels walk in white.
One dreamless sleep from work and sorrow,
But reawakening on the morrow.

In Patience

Christina Rossetti
Christina Rossetti

As a study in heredity, the Rossetti family is most interesting. Genius seems so sporadic a stuff that when we find an outcrop along the line of a whole family we are wont to mark it on memory’s chart in red. We talk of the Herschels, of Renan and his sister, of the Beechers, and the Fields, in a sort of awe, mindful that Nature is parsimonious in giving out transcendent talent, and may never do the like again. So who can forget the Rossettis—two brothers, Dante Gabriel and William Michael, and two sisters, Maria and Christina—each of whom stands forth as far above the ordinary, yet all strangely dependent upon one another?

The girls sing songs to the brothers, and to each other, inscribing poems to “my loving sister”; when Dante Gabriel, budding forth as artist, wishes a model for a Madonna, he chooses his sister Christina, and in his sketch mantles the plain features with a divine gentleness and heavenly splendor such as only the loving heart can conjure forth. In the last illness of Maria, Christina watches away the long, lagging hours of night, almost striving with her brothers for the right of serving; and at Birchington-on-the-Sea, Dante Gabriel waits for death, wearing out his friends by insane suspicions, and only the sister seems equal to ministering to this mind diseased, plucking from memory its rooted sorrow.

In a few years Christina passes out, and of the four, only William is left; and the task of his remaining years is to put properly before the world the deathless lives of his brother and sisters gone.

Gabriel Rossetti, father of the illustrious four, was an Italian poet who wrote patriotic hymns, and wrote them so well that he was asked to sing them elsewhere than in Italy. This edict of banishment was followed by an order that the poet be arrested and executed.

The orders of banishment and execution appear quite Milesian viewed across the years, but to Rossetti it was no joke. To keep his head in its proper place and to preserve his soul alive, he departed one dark night for England. He arrived penniless, with no luggage save his lyre, but with muse intact. Yet it was an Italian lyre, and therefore of small avail for amusing Britons. Very naturally, Rossetti made the acquaintance of other refugees, and exile makes fast friends. It is only in prosperity that we throw our friends overboard.

He came to know the Polidori family—Tuscan refugees—proud, intellectual and rich. He loved one of the daughters of Seignior Polidori, and she loved him. He was forty and she was twenty-three—but what of that! A position as Professor of Languages was secured for him in King’s College. He rented the house at Thirty-eight Charlotte Street, off Portland Place, and there, on February Seventeenth, Eighteen Hundred Twenty-seven, was born their first child, Maria Francesca; on May Twelfth, Eighteen Hundred Twenty-eight, was born Dante Gabriel; on September Twenty-fifth, Eighteen Hundred Twenty-nine, William Michael; on December Fifth, Eighteen Hundred Thirty, Christina Georgiana. The mother of this quartette was a sturdy little woman with sparkling wit and rare good sense. She used to remark that her children were all of a size, and that it was no more trouble to bring up four than one, a suggestion thrown in here gratis for the benefit of young married folks, in the hope that they will mark and inwardly digest. In point of well-ballasted, all-round character, fit for Earth or Heaven, none of the four Rossetti children was equal to his parents. They all seem to have had nerves outside of their clothes. Perhaps this was because they were brought up in London. A city is no place for children—nor grown people either, I often think. Birds and children belong in the country. Paved streets, stone sidewalks, smoke-begrimed houses, signs reading, “Keep Off the Grass”, prying policemen, and zealous ash-box inspectors are insulting things to greet the gaze of the little immigrants fresh from God. Small wonder is it, as they grow up, that they take to drink and drugs, seeking in these a respite from the rattle of wheels and the never-ending cramp of unkind condition. But Nature understands herself: the second generation, city-bred, is impotent.

No pilgrim from “the States” should visit the city of London without carrying two books: a Baedeker’s “London” and Hutton’s “Literary Landmarks.” The chief advantage of the former is that it is bound in flaming red, and carried in the hand, advertises the owner as an American, thus saving all formal introductions. In the rustle, bustle and tussle of Fleet Street, I have held up my book to a party of Americans on the opposite sidewalk, as a ship runs up her colors, and they, seeing the sign, in turn held up theirs in merry greeting; and we passed on our way without a word, ships that pass in the afternoon and greet each other in passing. Now, I have no desire to rival the flamboyant Baedeker, nor to eclipse my good friend Laurence Hutton. But as I can not find that either mentions the name “Rossetti,” I am going to set down (not in malice) the places in London that are closely connected with the Rossetti family, nothing extenuating.

London is the finest city in the world for the tourist who desires liberty as wide as the wind, and who wishes to live cheaply and live well. In New York, if you want lodgings at a moderate price, you must throttle your pride and forsake respectability; but they do things different in Lunnon, you know. From Gray’s Inn Road to Portland Place, and from Oxford Street to Euston Road, there is just about a square mile—a section, as they say out West—of lodging-houses. Once this part of London was given up to the homes of the great and purse-proud and all that. It is respectable yet, and if you are going to be in London a week you can get a good room in one of these old-time mansions, and pay no more for it than you would pay for a room in an American hotel for one day. And as for meals, your landlady will get you anything you want and serve it for you in the daintiest style, and you will also find that a shilling and a little courtesy will go a very long way in securing creature comforts. American women in London can live in this way just as well as men. If you are a schoolma’am from Peoria, taking your vacation, follow my advice and make your home in the “Bedford District,” within easy reach of Stopford Brooke’s chapel, and your London visit will stand out forever as a bright oasis in memory’s desert waste. All of which I put in here because Larry Hutton forgot to mention it and Mein Herr Baedeker didn’t think it worth while.

When in London I usually get a room near the British Museum for ten shillings a week; and when I want to go anywhere I walk up to the Gower Street Station, past the house where the mother of Charles Dickens had her Young Ladies’ Establishment, and buying a ticket at the “Booking-Office” am duly set down near the desired objective point. You can go anywhere by the “Metropolitan,” or if you prefer to take Mr. Gladstone’s advice, you climb to the top of an OxfordStreet bus, and if you sit next the driver you have a directory, guide and familiar friend all at your service.

Charlotte Street is a narrow little passage running just two squares, parallel with Portland Place. The houses are built in blocks of five (or more), of the plainest of plain bricks. The location is not far from the Gower Street Station of the Metropolitan Railway, and only a few minutes’ walk from the British Museum. Number Thirty-eight is the last but one on the east side of the street. When I first saw it, there was a sign in the window, “Apartments,” and back of this fresh cambric curtains. Then the window had been cleaned, too, for a single day of neglect in London tells its tale, as does the record of crime on a rogue’s face. I paused and looked the place over with interest. I noted that the brass plate with the “No. 38″ on it had been polished until it had been nearly polished out of sight, like a machine-made sonnet too much gone over. The steps had been freshly sanded, and a little lemon-tree nodding in one of the windows made the rusty old house look quite inviting. A stout little woman with a big market-basket, bumped into me and apologized, for I had stepped backwards to get a better look at the upstairs windows. The stout little woman set down her basket on the steps, took a bunch of keys from a pocket under her big, white, starched apron, selected one, turned to me, smiled, and asked, “Mebbe, Sir, you wasn’t looking for apartments, I dunno?” Then she explained that the house was hers, and that if I would step in she would show me the rooms. There were two of ‘em she could spare. The first floor front was already let, and so was the front parlor—to a young barrister. Her husband was a ticket-taker at Euston Station, and didn’t get much since last cutdown. Would I care to pay as much as ten shillings, and would I want breakfast? It would only be ninepence, and I could have either a chop or ham and eggs. She looked after her boarders herself, just as if they were her own folks, and only took respectable single gentlemen who came well recommended. She knew I would like the room, and if ten shillings was too much I could have the back room for seven and six.

I thought the back room would answer; but explained that I was an American and was going to remain in London only a short time. Of course the lady knew I was an American: she knew it from my hat and from my foreign accent and—from the red book I had in my hand. And did I know the McIntyres that lived in Michigan?

I evaded the question by asking if she knew the Rossettis who once lived in this house. “Oh, yes; I know Mr. William and Miss Christina. They came here together a year ago, and told me they were born here and that their brother Dante and their sister, too, were born here. I think they were all writin’ folks, weren’t they? Miss Rossetti anyway writes poetry, I know that. One of my boarders gave me one of her books for Christmas. I’ll show it to you. You don’t think seven and six is too much for a room like this, do you?”

I inwardly noted that the ceilings were much lower than those of my room in Russell Square and that the furniture was old and worn and that the room looked out on an army of sooty chimney-pots, but I explained that seven and six seemed a very reasonable price, and that ninepence for breakfast with ham and eggs was cheap enough, provided the eggs were strictly fresh.

So I paid one week’s rent in advance on the spot, and going back to Russell Square told my landlady that I had found friends in another part of the city and would not return for two days. My sojourn at Number Thirty-eight Charlotte Street developed nothing further than the meager satisfaction of sleeping for two nights in the room in which Dante Gabriel Rossetti was born, and making the acquaintance of the worthy ticket-taker, who knew all four of the Rossettis, as they had often passed through his gate.

Professor Rossetti lived for twelve years at Thirty-eight Charlotte Street; he then moved to Number Fifty in the next block, which is a somewhat larger house. It was here that Mazzini used to come. The house had been made over somewhat, and is now used as an office by the Registrar of Vital Statistics. This is the place where Dante Gabriel and a young man named Holman Hunt had a studio, and where another young artist by the name of William Morris came to visit them; and here was born “The Germ,” that queer little chipmunk magazine in which first appeared “Hand and Soul” and “The Blessed Damozel,” written by Dante Gabriel when eighteen, the same age at which Bryant wrote “Thanatopsis.” William Bell Scott used to come here, too. Scott was a great man in his day. He had no hair on his head or face, not even eyebrows. Every follicle had grown aweary and quit. But Mr. Scott was quite vain of the shape of his head, for well he might be, since several choice sonnets had been combed out of it. Sometimes when the wine went round and things grew merry, then sentimental, then confidential, Scott would snatch off his wig to display to the company his fine phrenological development, and tell a story about Nelson, who, too, used to wear a wig just like his, and after every battle would take it off and hand it over to his valet to have the bullets combed out of it.

The elder Rossetti died in this house, and was carried to Christ Church in Woburn Square, and thence to Highgate. His excellent wife waited to see the genius of her children blossom and be acknowledged. She followed thirty years later, and was buried in the same grave with her husband, where, later, Christina was to join them.

Frances Mary Polidori was born at Forty-two Broad Street, Golden Square, the same street in which William Blake was born. I found the street and Golden Square, but could not locate the house. The policeman on the beat declared that no one by the name of Rossetti or Blake was in business thereabouts; and further he never heard of Polly Dory. William Michael Rossetti’s home is one in a row of houses called Saint Edmund’s Terrace. It is near the Saint John’s Road Station, just a step from Regent’s Park, and faces the Middlesex Waterworks. It is a fine old house, built of stone I should judge, stuccoed on the outside. With a well-known critic I called there, and found the master wearing a long dressing-gown that came to his heels, a pair of new carpet slippers and a black plush cap, all so dusty that we guessed the owner had been sifting ashes in the cellar. He was most courteous and polite. He worships at the shrine of Whitman, Emerson and Thoreau, and regards America as the spot from whence must come the world’s intellectual hope. “Great thoughts, like beautiful flowers, are produced by transplantation and the commingling of many elements.” These are his words, and the fact that the Rossetti genius is the result of transplanting need not weigh in the scale as ‘gainst the truth of the remark. Shortly after this call, at an Art Exhibition, I again met William Michael Rossetti. I talked with him some moments—long enough to discover that he was not aware we had ever met. This caused me to be rather less in love with the Rossetti genius than I was before.

The wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti died, aged twenty-nine, at Fourteen Chatham Place, near Blackfriars Bridge. The region thereabouts has been changed by the march of commerce, and if the original house where the artist lived yet stands I could not find it. It was here that the Preraphaelites made history: Madox Brown, Burne-Jones, Ruskin, William Morris and the MacDonalds. Burne-Jones married one of the MacDonald daughters; Mr. Poynter, now Director of the National Gallery, another; Mr. Kipling still another—with Rudyard Kipling as a result, followed in due course by Mulvaney, Ortheris and Learoyd, who are quite as immortal as the rest.

At this time Professor Rossetti was dead, and William Michael, Maria, Christina and the widowed mother were living at One Hundred Sixty-six Albany Street, fighting off various hungry wolves that crouched around the door. Albany Street is rather shabby now, and was then, I suppose. At One Hundred Twelve Albany Street lives one Dixon, who takes marvelous photographs of animals in the Zoological Gardens, with a pocket camera, and then enlarges the pictures a hundred times. These pictures go the round world over and command big prices. Mr. Dixon was taking for me, at the National Gallery, the negatives from which I made photogravures for my Ruskin-Turner book. Mr. Dixon knows more in an artistic and literary way than any other man in London (I believe), but he is a modest gentleman and only emits his facts under cross-examination or under the spell of inspiration. Together we visited the house at One Hundred Sixty-six Albany Street.

It was vacant at the time, and we rummaged through every room, with the result that we concluded it makes very little difference where genius is housed. On one of the windows of a little bedroom we found the word “Christina” cut with a diamond. When and by whom it was done I do not know. Surely the Rossettis had no diamonds when they lived here. But Mr. Dixon had a diamond and with his ring he cut beneath the word just noted the name, “Dante Gabriel Rossetti.” I have recently heard that the signature has been identified as authentic by a man who was familiar with Rossetti’s handwriting.

When the firm of Morris and Company, Dealers in Art Fabrics, was gotten under way, and Dante Gabriel had ceased to argue details with that pre-eminently sane man, William Morris, his finances began to prosper. Morris directed and utilized the energies of his partners. He marshaled their virtues into a solid phalanx and marched them on to victory. No doubt that genius usually requires a keeper. But Morris was a genius himself and a giant in more ways than one, for he ruled his own spirit, thus proving himself greater than one who taketh a city.

In Eighteen Hundred Sixty-two, we find Dante Gabriel throwing out the fact that his income was equal to about ten thousand dollars a year. He took the beautiful house at Eighteen Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, near the little street where lived a Scotchman by the name of Thomas Carlyle, and in the same block where afterwards lived George Eliot, and where she died. He wanted his brother and sisters and his mother to share his prosperity, and so he planned that they should all come and live with him; and besides, Mr. Swinburne and George Meredith were to come, too. It was to be one big happy family. But the good old mother knew the human heart better than did her brilliant son. She has left on record these words: “Yes, my children all have talent, great talent; I only wish they had a little commonsense!”

So for the present she remained with William, her daughters, and her two aged unmarried sisters in the plain old house in Albany Street. But Dante Gabriel moved to Cheyne Walk, and began that craze for collecting blue china that has swept like a blight over the civilized world. His collection was sold for three thousand five hundred dollars some years after—to pay his debts—less than one-half of what it had cost him. Yet when he had money he generously divided it with the folks up in Albany Street. But by and by William, too, got to making money, and the quarters at Number One Hundred Sixty-six were abandoned for something better.

William was married and had taken a house of his own—I don’t know where. The rest of the household consisted of the widow, Mrs. Rossetti, Miss Charlotte Lydia Polidori, Maria and Christina—and seven cats. And so we find this family of five women living in peace and comfort, with their books and pictures and cats, at Thirty Torrington Square, in a drowsy, faded, ebb-tide mansion. Maria was never strong; she fell into a decline and passed away. The management of the household then devolved on Christina. Her burdens must have been heavy in those days, or did she make them light by cheerful doing? She gave up society, refused the thought of marriage, and joined that unorganized sisterhood of mercy—the women who toil that others may live. But she sang at her work, as the womanly woman ever does. For although a woman may hold no babe in her arms, the lullaby leaps to her tongue, and at eventide she sings songs to the children of her brain—sweet idealization of the principle of mother-love.

Christina Rossetti comes to us as one of those splendid stars that are so far away they are seen only at rare intervals. She never posed as a “literary person”—reading her productions at four-o’clocks, and winning high praise from the unbonneted and the discerning society editor. She never even sought a publisher. Her first volume of verses was issued by her grandfather Polidori unknown to her—printed by his own labor when she was seventeen and presented to her. What a surprise it must have been to this gentle girl to have one of her own books placed in her hands! There seems to have been an almost holy love in this proud man’s heart for his granddaughter. His love was blind, or near-sighted at least, as love is apt to be (and I am glad!), for some of the poems in this little volume are sorry stuff. Later, her brothers issued her work and found market for it; and once we find Dante Gabriel almost quarreling with that worthy Manxman, Hall Caine, because the Manxman was compiling a volume of the best English sonnets and threatening to leave Christina Rossetti out.

Christina had the faculty of seizing beautiful moments, exalted feelings, sublime emotions, and working them up into limpid song that comes echoing to us as from across soft seas. In all her lines there is a half-sobbing undertone—the sweet minor chord that is ever present in the songs of the Choir Invisible, whose music is the gladness as well as the sadness of the world.

I have a dear friend who is an amateur photographic artist, which be it known is quite a different thing from a kodak fiend. The latter is continually snapping a machine at incongruous things; he delights in catching people in absurd postures; he pictures the foolish, the irrelevant, the transient and the needless. But what does my friend picture? I’ll tell you. He catches pictures only of beautiful objects: swaying stalks of goldenrod, flights of thistle-down, lichen on old stone walls, barks of trees, oak-leaves, bunches of acorns, single sprays of apple-blossoms. Last Spring he found two robins building a nest in a cherry-tree: he placed his camera near them, and attaching a fine wire to spring the shutter, took a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Robin Redbreast laying down the first coarse straws for their nest. Then he took a picture every day for thirty days of that nest—from the time four blue eggs are shown until four, wide-open mouths are held hungrily for dainty grubs. This series of photographs forms an Epic of Creation. So, if you ask me to solve the question of whether photography is art, I’ll answer: it all depends upon what you picture, and how you present it.

Christina Rossetti focused her thought on the beautiful object and at the best angle, so the picture she brings us is nobly ordered and richly suggestive.

And so the days passed in study, writing, housework, and caring for old ladies three. Dante Gabriel, talented, lovable, erratic, had gotten into bad ways, as a man will who turns night into day and tries to get the start of God Almighty, thinking he has found a substitute for exercise and oxygen. Finally he was taken to Birchington, on the Isle of Thanet (where Octave found her name). He was mentally ill, to a point where he had through his delusions driven away all his old-time friends.

Christina, aged fifty-one, and the mother, aged eighty-two, went to take care of him, and they did for him with all the loving tenderness what they might have done for a sick baby; but with this difference—they had to fight his strength. Yet still there were times when his mind was sweet and gentle as in the days of old; and toward the last these periods of restful peace increased, and there were hours when the brother, sister and aged mother held sweet converse, almost as when children they were taught at this mother’s knee. Dante Gabriel Rossetti died April Ninth, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-two. His grave is in the old country churchyard at Birchington.

Two years afterward the mother passed out; in Eighteen Hundred Ninety, Eliza Polidori died, aged eighty-seven; and in Eighteen Hundred Ninety-three, her sister Charlotte joined her, aged eighty-four. In Christ’s Church, Woburn Square, you can see memorial tablets to these fine souls, and if you get acquainted with the gentle old rector he will show you a pendant star and crescent, set with diamonds, given by the Sultan during the Crimean war, “To Miss Charlotte Lydia Polidori for distinguished services as Nurse.” And he will also show you a silver communion set marked with the names of these three sisters, followed by that of “Christina Georgiana Rossetti.”

And so they all went to their soul’s rest and left Christina alone in the big house with its echoing halls—too big by half for its lonely, simple-hearted mistress and her pets. She felt that her work was done, and feeling so, the end soon came. She died December Twenty-ninth, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-four—passing from a world that she had never much loved, where she had lived a life of sacrifice, suffering many partings, enduring many pains. Glad to go, rejoicing that the end was nigh, and soothed by the thought that beyond lay a Future, she fell asleep.

Rosa Bonheur • 5,800 Words

The boldness of her conceptions is sublime. As a Creative Artist I place her first among women, living or dead. And if you ask me why she thus towers above her fellows, by the majesty of her work silencing every detractor, I will say it is because she listens to God, and not to man. She is true to self.

Victor Hugo

Rosa Bonheur
Rosa Bonheur

When I arrive in Paris I always go first to the Y.M.C.A. headquarters in the Rue de Treville—that fine building erected and presented to the Association by Banker Stokes of New York. There’s a good table-d’hote dinner there every day for a franc; then there tare bathrooms and writing-rooms and reading-rooms, and all are yours if you are a stranger. The polite Secretary does not look like a Christian: he has a very tight hair-cut, a Vandyke beard and lists of lodgings that can be had for twenty, fifteen or ten francs a week. Or, should you be an American Millionaire and be willing to pay thirty francs a week, the secretary knows a nice Protestant lady who will rent you her front parlor on the first floor and serve you coffee each morning without extra charge.

Not being a millionaire, I decided, the last time I was there, on a room at fifteen francs a week on the fourth floor. A bright young fellow was called up, duly introduced, and we started out to inspect the quarters.

The house we wanted was in a little side street that leads off the Boulevard Montmartre. It was a very narrow and plain little street, and I was somewhat disappointed. Yet it was not a shabby street, for there are none such in Paris; all was neat and clean, and as I caught sight of a birdcage hanging in one of the windows and a basket of ferns in another I was reassured and rang the bell.

The landlady wore a white cap, a winning smile and a big white apron. A bunch of keys dangling at her belt gave the necessary look of authority. She was delighted to see me—everybody is glad to see you in Paris—and she would feel especially honored if I would consent to remain under her roof. She only rented her rooms to those who were sent to her by her friends, and among her few dear friends none was so dear as Monsieur ze Secretaire of ze Young Men Christians.

And so I was shown the room—away up and up and up a dark winding stairway of stone steps with an iron balustrade. It was a room about the size of a large Jordan-Marsh drygoods-box.

The only thing that tempted me to stay was the fact that the one window was made up of little diamond panes set in a leaden sash, and that this window looked out on a little courtway where a dozen palms and as many ferns grew lush and green in green tubs and where in the center a fountain spurted. So a bargain was struck and the landlady went downstairs to find her husband to send him to the Gare Saint Lazare after my luggage.

What a relief it is to get settled in your own room! It is home and this is your castle. You can do as you please here; can I not take mine ease in mine inn?

I took off my coat and hung it on the corner of the high bedpost of the narrow, little bed and hung my collar and cuffs on the floor; and then leaned out of the window indulging in a drowsy dream of sweet content. ‘Twas a long, dusty ride from Dieppe, but who cares—I was now settled, with rent paid for a week!

All around the courtway were flower-boxes in the windows; down below, the fountain cheerfully bubbled and gurgled, and from clear off in the unseen rumbled the traffic of the great city. And coming from somewhere, as I sat there, was the shrill warble of a canary. I looked down and around, but could not see the feathered songster, as the novelists always call a bird. Then I followed the advice of the Epworth League and looked up, not down, out, not in, and there directly over my head hung the cage all tied up in chiffon (I think it was chiffon). I was surprised, for I felt sure it could not be possible there was a room higher than mine—when I had come up nine stairways! Then I was more surprised; for just as I looked up, a woman looked down and our eyes met. We both smiled a foolish smile of surprise; she dodged in her head and I gazed at the houses opposite with an interest quite unnecessary.

She was not a very young woman, nor very pretty—in fact, she was rather plain—but when she leaned out to feed her pet and found a man looking up at her she proved her divine femininity beyond cavil. Was there ever a more womanly action? And I said to myself, “She is not handsome—but God bless her, she is human!”

Details are tiresome—so suffice it to say that next day the birdcage was lowered that I might divide my apple with Dickie (for he was very fond of apple). The second day, when the cage was lowered I not only fed Dickie but wrote a message on the cuttlefish. The third day, there was a note twisted in the wires of the cage inviting me up to tea.

And I went.

* * *

There were four girls living up there in one attic-room. Two of these girls were Americans, one English and one French. One of the American girls was round and pink and twenty; the other was older. It was the older one that owned the bird, and invited me up to tea. She met me at the door, and we shook hands like old-time friends. I was introduced to the trinity in a dignified manner, and we were soon chatting in a way that made Dickie envious, and he sang so loudly that one of the girls covered the cage with a black apron.

With four girls I felt perfectly safe, and as for the girls there was not a shadow of a doubt that they were safe, for I am a married man. I knew they must be nice girls, for they had birds and flower-boxes. I knew they had flower-boxes, for twice it so happened that they sprinkled the flowers while I was leaning out of the window wrapped in reverie.

This attic was the most curious room I ever saw. It was large—running clear across the house. It had four gable-windows, and the ceiling sloped down on the sides, so there was danger of bumping your head if you played pussy-wants-a-corner. Each girl had a window that she called her own, and the chintz curtains, made of chiffon (I think it was chiffon), were tied back with different-colored ribbons. This big room was divided in the center by a curtain made of gunny-sack stuff, and this curtain was covered with pictures such as were never seen on land or sea. The walls were papered with brown wrapping-paper, tacked up with brass-headed nails, and this paper was covered with pictures such as were never seen on sea or land.

The girls were all art students, and when they had nothing else to do they worked on the walls, I imagined, just as the Israelites did in Jerusalem years ago. One half of the attic was studio, and this was where the table was set. The other half of the attic had curious chairs and divans and four little iron beds enameled in white and gold, and each bed was so smoothly made up that I asked what they were for. White Pigeon said they were bric-a-brac—that the Attic Philosophers rolled themselves up in the rugs on the floor when they wished to sleep; but I have thought since that White Pigeon was chaffing me.

White Pigeon was the one I saw that first afternoon when I looked up, not down, out, not in. She was from White Pigeon, Michigan, and from the very moment I told her I had a cousin living at Coldwater who was a conductor on the Lake Shore, we were as brother and sister. White Pigeon was thirty or thirty-five, mebbe; she had some gray hairs mixed in with the brown, and at times there was a tinge of melancholy in her laugh and a sort of half-minor key in her voice. I think she had had a Past, but I don’t know for sure.

Women under thirty seldom know much, unless Fate has been kind and cuffed them thoroughly, so the little peachblow Americaine did not interest me. The peachblow was all gone from White Pigeon’s cheek, but she was fairly wise and reasonably good—I’m certain of that. She called herself a student and spoke of her pictures as “studies,” but she had lived in Paris ten years. Peachblow was her pupil—sent over from Bradford, Pennsylvania, where her father was a “producer.” White Pigeon told me this after I had drunk five cups of tea and the Anglaise and the Soubrette were doing the dishes. Peachblow the while was petulantly taking the color out of a canvas that was a false alarm.

White Pigeon had copied a Correggio in the Louvre nine years before, and sold the canvas to a rich wagon-maker from South Bend. Then orders came from South Bend for six more Louvre masterpieces. It took a year to complete the order and brought White Pigeon a thousand dollars. She kept on copying and occasionally receiving orders from America; and when no orders came, potboilers were duly done and sent to worthy Hebrews in Saint Louis who hold annual Art Receptions and sell at auction paintings painted by distinguished artists with unpronounceable names, who send a little of their choice work to Saint Louis, because the people in Saint Louis appreciate really choice things.

“And the mural decorations—which one of you did those?” I remarked, as a long pause came stealing in.

“Did you hear what Mr. Littlejourneys asked?” called White Pigeon to the others.

“No; what was it?”

“He wants to know which one of us decorated the walls!”

“Mr. Littlejourneys meant illumined the walls,” jerked Peachblow, over her shoulder.

Then Anglaise gravely brought a battered box of crayon and told me I must make a picture somewhere on the wall or ceiling: all the pictures were made by visitors—no visitor was ever exempt.

I took the crayons and made a picture such as was never seen on land or sea. Having thus placed myself on record, I began to examine the other decorations. There were heads and faces, and architectural scraps, trees and animals, and bits of landscape and ships that pass in the night. Most of the work was decidedly sketchy, but some of the faces were very good.

Suddenly my eye spied the form of a sleeping dog, a great shaggy Saint Bernard with head outstretched on his paws, sound asleep. I stopped and whistled.

The girls laughed.

“It is only the picture of a dog,” said Soubrette.

“I know; but you should pay dog-tax on such a picture—did you draw it?” I asked White Pigeon.

“Did I! If I could draw like that, would I copy pictures in the Louvre?”

“Well, who drew it?”

“Can’t you guess?”

“Of course I can guess. I am a Yankee—I guess Rosa Bonheur.”

“Well, you have guessed right.”

“Stop joking and tell me who drew the Saint Bernard.”

“Madame Rosalie, or Rosa Bonheur, as you call her.”

“But she never came here!”

“Yes, she did—once. Soubrette is her great-grandniece, or something.”

“Yes, and Madame Bonheur pays my way and keeps me in the Ecole des Beaux Arts. I’m not ashamed for Monsieur Littlejourneys to know!” said Soubrette with a pretty pout; “I’m from Lyons, and my mother and Madame Rosalie used to know each other years ago.”

“Will Madame Rosalie, as you call her, ever come here again?”

“Perhaps.”

“Then I’ll camp right here till she comes!”

“You might stay a year and then be disappointed.”

“Then can’t we go to see her?”

“Never; she does not see visitors.”

“We might go visit her home,” mused Soubrette, after a pause.

“Yes, if she is away,” said Anglaise.

“She’s away now,” said Soubrette; “she went to Rouen yesterday.”

“Well, when shall we go?”

“Tomorrow.”

* * *

And so Soubrette could not think of going when it looked so much like rain, and Anglaise could not think of going without Soubrette, and Peachblow was getting nervous about the coming examinations, and must study, as she knew she would just die if she failed to pass.

“You will anyway—sometime!” said White Pigeon.

“Don’t urge her; she may change her mind and go with you,” dryly remarked Anglaise with back towards us as she dusted the mantel.

Then I expressed my regret that the trinity could not go, and White Pigeon expressed her regret because they had to stay at home. And as we went down the stairs together we chanted the Kyrie eleison for our small sins, easing conscience by the mutual confession that we were arrant hypocrites.

“But still,” mused White Pigeon, not quite satisfied, “we really did not tell an untruth—that is, we did not deceive them—they understood—I wouldn’t tell a real whopper, would you?”

“I don’t know—I think I did once.”

“Tell me about it,” said White Pigeon.

But I was saved, for just as we reached the bottom stair there was a slight jingling of keys, and the landlady came up through the floor with a big lunch-basket. She pushed the basket into my hands and showering us with Lombardy French pushed us out of the door, and away we went into the morning gray, the basket carried between us. The basket had a hinged cover, and out of one corner emerged the telltale neck of a bottle. It did not look just right; suppose we should meet some one from Coldwater?

But we did not meet any one from Coldwater. And when we reached the railway-station we were quite lost in the crowd, for there were dozens of picnickers all carrying baskets, and from the cover of each basket emerged the neck of a bottle. We felt quite at home packed away in a Classe Trois carriage with a chattering party of six High-School botanizing youngsters. When the guard came to the window, touched his cap, addressing me as Le Professeur, and asked for the tickets for my family, they all laughed.

Fontainebleau was the fourth stop from Paris. My family scampered out and away and we followed leisurely after. Fontainebleau is quite smug. There is a fashionable hotel near the station, before which a fine tall fellow in uniform parades. He looked at our basket with contempt, and we looked at him in pity. Just beyond the hotel are smart shops with windows filled with many-colored trifles to tempt the tourist. The shops gradually grew smaller and less gay, and residences with high stone walls in front took their places, and over these walls roses nodded. Then there came a wide stretch of pasture, and the town of Fontainebleau was left behind.

The sun came out and came out and came out; birds chirruped in the hedgerows and the daws in the high poplars called and scolded. The mist still lingered on the distant hills, and we could hear the tinkle of sheep-bells and the barking of a dog coming out of the nothingness.

White Pigeon wore flat-soled shoes and measured off the paces with an easy swing. We walked in silence, filled with the rich quiet of country sounds and country sights. What a relief to get away from noisy, bustling, busy Paris! God made the country!

All at once the mists seemed to lift from the long range of hills on the right and revealed the dark background of forest, broken here and there with jutting rocks and beetling crags. We stopped and sat down on the bank-side to view the scene. Close up under the shadow of the dark forest nestled a little white village. Near it was the red-tile roof of an old mansion, half-lost in the foliage. All around this old mansion I could make out a string of small buildings or additions to the original chateau.

I looked at White Pigeon and she looked at me.

“Yes; that is the place!” she said.

The sun’s rays were growing warmer. I took off my coat and tucked it through the handle of the basket. White Pigeon took off her jacket to keep it company, and toting the basket, slung on my cane between us, we moved on up the gently winding way to the village of By. Everybody was asleep at By, or else gone on a journey. Soon we came to the old, massive, moss-covered gateposts that marked the entrance to the mansion. A chain was stretched across the entrance and we crawled under. The driveway was partly overgrown with grass, and the place seemed to be taking care of itself. Half a dozen long-horned Bonnie Brier Bush cows were grazing on the lawn, their calves with them; and evidently these cows and calves were the only mowing-machines employed. On this wide-stretching meadow were various old trees; one elm I saw had fallen split through the center—each part prostrate, yet growing green.

Close up about the house there was an irregular stone wall and an ornamental iron gate with a pull-out Brugglesmith bell at one side. We pulled the bell and were answered by a big shaggy Saint Bernard that came barking and bouncing around the corner. I thought at first our time had come. But this giant of a dog only approached within about ten feet, then lay down on the grass and rolled over three times to show his goodwill. He got up with a fine, cheery smile shown in the wag of his tail, just as a little maid unlocked the gate.

“Don’t you know that dog?” asked White Pigeon.

“Certainement—he is on the wall of your room.”

We were shown into a little reception-parlor, where we were welcomed by a tall, handsome woman, about White Pigeon’s age.

The woman kissed White Pigeon on one cheek, and I afterwards asked White Pigeon why she didn’t turn to me the other, and she said I was a fool.

Then the tall woman went to the door and called up the stairway: “Antoine, Antoine, guess who it is? It’s White Pigeon!”

A man came down the stairs three steps at a time, and took both of White Pigeon’s hands in his, after the hearty manner of a gentleman of France. Then I was introduced.

Antoine looked at our lunch-basket with the funniest look I ever saw, and asked what it was.

“Lunch,” said White Pigeon; “I can not tell a lie!”

Antoine made wild gesticulations of displeasure, denouncing us in pantomime.

But White Pigeon explained that we only came on a quiet picnic in search of ozone and had dropped in to make a little call before we went on up to the forest. But could we see the horses?

Antoine would be most delighted to show Monsieur Littlejourneys anything that was within his power. In fact, everything hereabouts was the absolute property of Monsieur Littlejourneys to do with as he pleased.

He disappeared up the stairway to exchange his slippers for shoes, and the tall woman went in another direction for her hat. I whispered to White Pigeon, “Can’t we see the studio?”

“Are we from Chicago, that we should seek to prowl through a private house, when the mistress is away? No; there are partly finished canvases up there that are sacred.”

“Come this way,” said Antoine. He led us out through the library, then the dining-room and through the kitchen.

It is a very comfortable old place, with no extra furniture—the French know better than to burden themselves with things.

The long line of brick stables seemed made up of a beggarly array of empty stalls. We stopped at a paddock, and Antoine opened the gate and said, “There they are!”

“What?”

“The horses.”

“But these are broncos.”

“Yes; I believe that is what you call them. Monsieur Bill of Buffalo, New York, sent them as a present to Madame Rosalie when he was in Paris.”

There they were—two ewe-necked cayuses—one a pinto with a wall-eye; the other a dun with a black line down the back.

I challenged Antoine to saddle them and we would ride. The tall lady took it in dead earnest, and throwing her arms around Antoine’s neck begged him not to commit suicide.

“And the Percherons—where are they?”

“Goodness! we have no Perches.”

“Those that served as models for the ‘Horse Fair,’ I mean.”

White Pigeon took me gently by the sleeve, and turning to the others apologized for my ignorance, explaining that I did not know the “Marche aux Chevaux” was painted over forty years ago, and that the models were all Paris cart-horses.

Antoine called up a little old man, who led out two shaggy little cobs, and I was told that these were the horses that Madame drove. A roomy, old-fashioned basket phaeton was backed out; White Pigeon and I stepped in to try it, and Antoine drew us once around the stable-yard. This is the only carriage Madame uses. There were doves, and chickens, and turkeys, and rabbits; and these horses we had seen, with the cows on the lawn, make up all the animals owned by the greatest of living animal-painters.

Years ago Rosa Bonheur had a stableful of horses and a kennel of dogs and a park with deer. Many animals were sent as presents. One man forwarded a lion, and another a brace of tigers, but Madame made haste to present them to the Zoological Garden at Paris, because the folks at By would not venture out of their houses—a report having been spread that the lions were loose.

“An animal-painter no more wants to own the objects he paints than a landscape-artist wishes a deed for the mountain he is sketching,” said Antoine.

“Or to marry his model,” interposed White Pigeon.

“If you see your model too often, you will lose her,” added the Tall Lady.

We bade our friends good-by and trudged on up the hillside to the storied Forest of Fontainebleau. We sat down on a log and watched the winding Seine stretching away like a monstrous serpent, away down across the meadow; just at our feet was the white village of By; beyond was Thomeray, and off to the left rose the spires of Fontainebleau.

“And who is this Antoine and who is the Tall Lady?” I asked, as White Pigeon began to unpack the basket.

“It’s quite a romance; are you sure you want to hear it?”

“I must hear it.”

And so between bites White Pigeon told me the story.

The Tall Lady is a niece of Madame Rosalie’s. She was married to an army officer at Bordeaux when she was sixteen years old. Her husband treated her shamefully; he beat her and forced her to write begging letters and to borrow money of her relatives, and then he would take this money and waste it gambling and in drink. In short, he was a Brute.

Madame Rosalie accidentally heard of all this, and one day went down to Bordeaux and took the Tall Lady away from the Brute and told him she would kill him if he followed.

“Did she paint a picture of the Brute?”

“Keep quiet, please!”

She told him she would kill him if he followed, and although she is usually very gentle I believe she would have kept her word. Well, she brought the Tall Lady with her to By, and this old woman and this young woman loved each other very much.

Now, Madame Rosalie had a butler and combination man of business, by name of Jules Carmonne. He was a painter of some ability and served Madame in many ways right faithfully. Jules loved the Tall Lady, or said he did, but she did not care for him. He was near fifty and asthmatic and had watery eyes. He made things very uncomfortable for the Tall Lady.

One night Jules came to Madame Rosalie in great indignation and said he could not consent to remain longer on account of the way things were going on. What was the trouble? Trouble enough, when the Tall Lady was sneaking out of the house after decent folks were in bed, to meet a strange man down in the evergreens! Well I guess so!!

How did he know?

Ah, he had followed her. Moreover, he had concealed himself in the evergreens and waited for them, to make sure.

Yes, and who was the man?

A young rogue of a painter from Fontainebleau named Antoine de Channeville.

Madame Rosalie took Jules Carmonne at his word. She said she was sorry he could not stay, but he might go if he wished to, of course. And she paid him his salary on the spot—with two months more to the end of the year.

The next day Madame Rosalie drove her team of shaggy ponies down to Fontainebleau and called on the young rogue of an artist. He came out bareheaded and quaking to where she sat in the phaeton waiting. She flecked the off pony twice and told him that as Carmonne had left her she must have a man to help her. Would he come? And she named as salary a sum about five times what he was then making.

Antoine de Channeville seized the wheel of the phaeton for support, gasped several gasps, and said he would come.

He was getting barely enough to eat out of his work, anyway, although he was a very worthy young fellow. And he came.

He and the Tall Lady were married about six months after.

“And about the Brute and—and the divorce!”

“Gracious goodness! How do I know? I guess the Brute died or something; anyway, Antoine and the Tall Lady are man and wife, and are devoted lovers besides. They have served Madame Rosalie most loyally for these fifteen years. They say Madame Rosalie has made her will and has left them the mansion and everything in it for their ownest own, with a tidy sum besides to put on interest.”

It was four o’clock when we got back to the railroad-station at Fontainebleau. We missed the train we expected to take, and had an hour to wait. White Pigeon said she did not care so very much, and I’m sure I didn’t. So we sat down in the bright little waiting-room, and White Pigeon told me many things about Madame Rosalie and her early life that I had never known before.

* * *

Early in the century there lived in Bordeaux a struggling artist (artists always struggle, you know) by the name of Raymond Bonheur. He found life a cruel thing, for bread was high in price and short in weight, and no one seemed to appreciate art except the folks who had no money to buy. But the poor can love as well as the rich, and Raymond married. In his nervous desire for success, Raymond Bonheur said that if he could only have a son he would teach him how to do it, and the son would achieve the honors that the world withheld from the father.

So the days came and went, and a son was expected—a firstborn—an heir. There wasn’t anything to be heir to except genius, but there was plenty of that. The heir was to bear the name of the father—Raymond Bonheur.

Prayers were offered and thanksgivings sung.

The days were fulfilled. The child was born.

The heir was a girl.

Raymond Bonheur cursed wildly and tousled his hair like a bouffe artist. He swore he had been tricked, trapped, seduced, undone. He would have bought strong drink, but he had no money, and credit, like hope, was gone.

The little mother cried.

But the baby grew, although it wasn’t a very big baby. They named her Rosa, because the initial was the same as Raymond, but they always called her Rosalie.

Then in a year another baby came, and that was a boy. In two years another, but Raymond never forgave his wife that first offense. He continued to struggle, trying various styles of pictures and ever hoping he would yet hit on what the public desired. Mr. Vanderbilt had not yet made his famous remark about the public, and how could Raymond plagiarize it in advance?

At last he got money enough to get to Paris—ah, yes, Paris, Paris, there talent is appreciated!

In Paris another baby was born—it was looked upon as a calamity. The poor little mother of the four little shivering Bonheurs ceased to struggle. She lay quite still, and they covered her face with a white sheet and talked in whispers, and walked on tiptoe, for she was dead.

When an artist can not succeed, he begins to teach art—that is, he shows others how. Raymond Bonheur put his four children out among kinsmen in four different places, and became drawing-master in a private school. Rosa Bonheur was ten years old: a pug-nosed, square-faced little girl in a linsey-woolsey dress, wooden shoon, with a yellow braid hanging down her back tied with a shoestring. She could draw—all children can draw—and the first things children draw are animals.

Her father had taught her a little and laughed at her foolish little lions and tigers, all duly labeled.

When twelve years of age the good people with whom she lived said she must learn dressmaking. She should be an artist of the needle. But after some months she rebelled and, making her way across the city to where her father was, demanded that he should teach her drawing. Raymond Bonheur hadn’t much will—this controversy proved that—the child mastered, and the father, who really was an accomplished draftsman, began giving daily lessons to the girl. Soon they worked together in the Louvre, copying pictures.

It was a queer thing to teach a girl art—there were no women artists then. People laughed to see a little girl with yellow braid mixing paints and helping her father in the Louvre; others said it wasn’t right.

“Let’s cut off the braid, and I’ll wear boy’s clothes and be a boy,” said funny little Rosalie.

Next day, Raymond Bonheur had a close-cropped boy in loose trousers and blue blouse to help him.

The pictures they copied began to sell. Buyers said the work was strong and true. Prosperity came that way, and Raymond Bonheur got his four children together and rented three rooms in a house at One Hundred Fifty-seven Faubourg Saint Honore.

Rosalie saw that her father had always tried to please the public; she would please no one but herself. He had tried many forms; she would stick to one. She would paint animals and nothing else.

When eighteen years old, she painted a picture of rabbits, for the Salon. The next year she tried again. She made the acquaintance of an honest old farmer at Villiers and went to live in his household. She painted pictures of all the livestock he possessed, from rabbits to a Norman stallion. One of the pictures she then made was that of a favorite Holland cow. A collector came down from Paris and offered three hundred francs for the picture.

“Merciful Jesus!” said the pious farmer; “say nothing, but get the money quick! The live cow herself isn’t worth half that!”

The members of the Bonheur family married, one by one, including the father. Rosa did not marry: she painted. She discarded all teachers, all schools; she did not listen to the suggestions of patrons, and even refused to make pictures to order.

And be it said to her credit, she never has allowed a buyer to dictate the subject. She followed her own ideas in everything; she wore men’s clothes, and does even unto this day.

When she was twenty-five, the Salon awarded her a gold medal. The Ministere des Beaux Arts paid her three thousand francs for her “Labourge Nivernais.”

Raymond Bonheur grew ill in Eighteen Hundred Forty-nine, but before he passed out he realized that his daughter, then twenty-seven years old, was on a level with the greatest masters, living or dead.

She began “The Horse Fair” when twenty-eight. It was the largest canvas ever attempted by an animal-painter. It was exhibited at the Salon in Eighteen Hundred Fifty-three, and all the gabble of jealous competitors was lost in the glorious admiration it excited. It became the rage of Paris. All the honors the Salon could bestow were heaped upon the young woman, and by special decision all her work henceforth was declared exempt from examination by the Jury of Admission. Rosa Bonheur, five feet four, weighing one hundred twenty pounds, was bigger than the Salon.

But success did not cause her to swerve a hair’s breadth from her manner of work or life. She refused all social invitations, and worked away after her own method as industriously as ever. When a picture was completed, she set her price on it and it was sold.

In Eighteen Hundred Sixty she bought this fine old house at By, that she might work in quiet. Society tried to follow her, and in Eighteen Hundred Sixty-four the Emperor Napoleon and Empress Eugenie went to By, and the Empress pinned to the blue blouse of Rosa Bonheur the Cross of the Legion of Honor, the first time, I believe, that the distinction was ever conferred on a woman.

And now at seventy-four she is still in love with life, and while taking a woman’s tender interest in all sweet and gentle things, has yet an imagination that in its strength and boldness is splendidly masculine.

Rosa Bonheur has received all the honors that man can give. She is rich; no words of praise that tongue can utter can add to her fame; and she is loved by all who know her.

Madame de Stael • 5,500 Words

Far from gaining assurance in meeting Bonaparte oftener, he intimidated me daily more and more. I confusedly felt that no emotion of the heart could possibly take effect upon him. He looks upon a human being as a fact or as a thing, but not as a fellow-creature. He does not hate any more than he loves; there is nothing for him but himself; all other things are so many ciphers. The force of his will lies in the imperturbable calculation of his selfishness.

Reflections

Madame de Stael
Madame de Stael

Fate was very kind to Madame De Stael.

She ran the gamut of life from highest love to direst pain—from rosy dawn to blackest night. Name if you can another woman who touched life at so many points! Home, health, wealth, strength, honors, affection, applause, motherhood, loss, danger, death, defeat, sacrifice, humiliation, illness, banishment, imprisonment, escape. Again comes hope—returning strength, wealth, recognition, fame tempered by opposition, home, a few friends, and kindly death—cool, all-enfolding death.

If Harriet Martineau showed poor judgment in choosing her parents, we can lay no such charge to the account of Madame De Stael.

They called her “The Daughter of Necker,” and all through life she delighted in the title. The courtier who addressed her thus received a sunny smile and a gentle love-tap on his cheek for pay. A splendid woman is usually the daughter of her father, just as strong men have noble mothers.

Jacques Necker was born in Geneva, and went up to the city, like many another country boy, to make his fortune. He carried with him to Paris innocence, health, high hope, and twenty francs in silver. He found a place as porter or “trotter” in a bank. Soon they made him clerk.

A letter came one day from a correspondent asking for a large loan, and setting forth a complex financial scheme in which the bank was invited to join. M. Vernet, the head of the establishment, was away, and young Necker took the matter in hand. He made a detailed statement of the scheme, computed probable losses, weighed the pros and cons, and when the employer returned, the plan, all worked out, was on his desk, with young Necker’s advice that the loan be made.

“You seem to know all about banking!” was the sarcastic remark of M. Vernet.

“I do,” was the proud answer.

“You know too much; I’ll just put you back as porter.”

The Genevese accepted the reduction and went back as porter without repining. A man of small sense would have resigned his situation at once, just as men are ever forsaking Fortune when she is about to smile; witness Cato committing suicide on the very eve of success.

There is always a demand for efficient men; the market is never glutted; the cities are hungry for them—but the trouble is, few men are efficient.

“It was none of his business!” said M. Vernet to his partner, trying to ease conscience with reasons.

“Yes; but see how he accepted the inevitable!”

“Ah! true, he has two qualities that are the property only of strong men: confidence and resignation. I think—I think I was hasty!”

So young Necker was reinstated, and in six months was cashier, in three years a partner.

Not long after, he married Susanna Curchod, a poor governess.

But Mademoiselle Curchod was rich in mental endowment: refined, gentle, spiritual, she was a true mate to the high-minded Necker. She was a Swiss, too, and if you know how a young man and a young woman, countryborn, in a strange city are attracted to each other, you will better understand this particular situation.

Some years before, Gibbon had loved and courted the beautiful Mademoiselle Curchod in her quiet home in the Jura Mountains. They became engaged. Gibbon wrote home, breaking the happy news to his parents.

“Has the beautiful Curchod of whom you sing, a large dowry?” inquired the mother.

“She has no dowry! I can not tell a lie,” was the meek answer. The mother came on and extinguished the match in short order.

Gibbon never married. But he frankly tells us all about his love for Susanna Curchod, and relates how he visited her, in her splendid Paris home. “She greeted me without embarrassment,” says Gibbon, resentfully; “and in the evening Necker left us together in the parlor, bade me good-night, and lighting a candle went off to bed!”

Gibbon, historian and philosopher, was made of common clay (for authors are made of clay, like plain mortals), and he could not quite forgive Madame Necker for not being embarrassed on meeting her former lover, neither could he forgive Necker for not being jealous.

But that only daughter of the Neckers, Germaine, pleased Gibbon—pleased him better than the mother, and Gibbon extended his stay in Paris and called often.

“She was a splendid creature,” Gibbon relates; “only seventeen, but a woman grown, physically and mentally; not handsome, but dazzling, brilliant, emotional, sensitive, daring!”

Gibbon was a bit of a romanticist, as all historians are, and he no doubt thought it would be a fine denouement to life’s play to capture the daughter of his old sweetheart, and avenge himself on Fate and the unembarrassed Madame Necker and the unpiqued husband, all at one fell stroke—and she would not be dowerless either. Ha, ha!

But Gibbon forgot that he was past forty, short in stature, and short of breath, and “miles around,” as Talleyrand put it.

“I quite like you,” said the daring daughter, as the eloquent Gibbon sat by her side at a dinner.

“Why shouldn’t you like me—I came near being your papa!”

“I know, and would I have looked like you?”

“Perhaps.”

“What a calamity!”

Even then she possessed that same bubbling wit that was hers years later when she sat at table with D’Alembert. On one side of the great author was Madame Recamier, famous for beauty (and later for a certain “Beauty-Cream”), on the other the daughter of Necker.

“How fortunate!” exclaimed D’Alembert with rapture; “how fortunate I sit between Wit and Beauty!”

“Yes, and without possessing either,” said Wit.

No mistake, the girl’s intellect was too speedy even for Gibbon. She fenced all ’round him and over him, and he soon discovered that she was icily gracious to every one, save her father alone. For him she seemed to outpour all the lavish love of her splendid womanhood. It was unlike the usual calm affection of father and daughter. It was a great and absorbing love, of which even the mother was jealous.

“I can’t just exactly make ‘em out,” said Gibbon, and withdrew in good order.

Before Necker was forty he had accumulated a fortune, and retired from business to devote himself to literature and the polite arts.

“I have earned a rest,” he said; “besides, I must have leisure to educate my daughter.”

Men are constantly “retiring” from business, but someway the expected Elysium of leisure forever eludes us. Necker had written several good pamphlets and showed the world that he had ability outside of money-making. He was appointed Resident Minister of Geneva at the Court of France. Soon after he became President of the French East India Company, because there was no one else with mind broad enough to fill the place. His house was the gathering-place of many eminent scholars and statesmen. Necker was quiet and reserved; his wife coldly brilliant, cultured, dignified, religious. The daughter made good every deficiency in both.

She was tall, finely formed, but her features were rather heavy, and in repose there was a languor in her manner and a blankness in her face. This seeming dulness marks all great actors, but the heaviness is only on the surface; it often covers a sleeping volcano. On recognizing an acquaintance, Germaine Necker’s face would be illumined, and her smile would light a room. She could pronounce a man’s name so he would be ready to throw himself at her feet, or over a precipice for her. And she could listen in a way that complimented; and by a sigh, a nod, an exclamation, bring out the best—such thoughts as a man never knew he had. She made people surprise themselves with their own genius; thus proving that to make a good impression means to make the man pleased with himself. “Any man can be brilliant with her,” said a nettled competitor; “but if she wishes, she can sink all women in a room into creeping things.”

She knew how to compliment without flattering; her cordiality warmed like wine, and her ready wit, repartee, and ability to thaw all social ice and lead conversation along any line, were accomplishments which perhaps have never been equaled. The women who “entertain” often only depress; they are so glowing that everybody else feels himself punk. And these people who are too clever are very numerous; they seem inwardly to fear rivals, and are intent on working while it is called the day.

Over against these are the celebrities who sit in a corner and smile knowingly when they are expected to scintillate. And the individual who talks too much at one time is often painfully silent at another—as if he had made New-Year resolves. But the daughter of Necker entered into conversation with candor and abandon; she gave herself to others, and knew whether they wished to talk or to listen. On occasion, she could monopolize conversation until she seemed the only person in the room; but all talent was brighter for the added luster of her own. This simplicity, this utter frankness, this complete absence of self-consciousness, was like the flight of a bird that never doubts its power, simply because it never thinks of it. Yet continual power produces arrogance, and the soul unchecked finally believes in its own omniscience.

Of course such a matrimonial prize as the daughter of Necker was sought for, even fought for. But the women who can see clear through a man, like a Roentgen ray, do not invite soft demonstration. They give passion a chill. Love demands a little illusion; it must be clothed in mystery. And although we find evidences that many youths stood in the hallways and sighed, the daughter of Necker never saw fit by a nod to bring them to her feet. She was after bigger game—she desired the admiration and approbation of archbishops, cardinals, generals, statesmen, great authors.

Germaine Necker had no conception of what love is.

Many women never have. Had this fine young woman met a man with intellect as clear, mind as vivid, and heart as warm as her own, and had he pierced her through with a wit as strong and keen as she herself wielded, her pride would have been broken and she might have paused. Then they might have looked into each other’s eyes and lost self there. And had she thus known love it would have been a complete passion, for the woman seemed capable of it.

A better pen than mine has written, “A woman’s love is a dog’s love.” The dog that craves naught else but the presence of his master, who is faithful to the one and whines out his life on that master’s grave, waiting for the caress that never comes and the cheery voice that is never heard—that’s the way a woman loves! A woman may admire, respect, revere and obey, but she does not love until a passion seizes upon her that has in it the abandon of Niagara. Do you remember how Nancy Sikes crawls inch by inch to reach the hand of Bill, and reaching it, tenderly caresses the coarse fingers that a moment before clutched her throat, and dies content? That’s the love of woman! The prophet spoke of something “passing the love of woman,” but the prophet was wrong—there’s nothing does.

So Germaine Necker, the gracious, the kindly, the charming, did not love. However, she married—married Baron De Stael, the Swedish Ambassador. He was thirty-seven, she was twenty. De Stael was good-looking, polite, educated. He always smiled at the right time, said bright things in the right way, kept silence when he should, and made no enemies because he agreed with everybody about everything. Stipulations were made; a long agreement was drawn up; it was signed by the party of the first and duly executed by the party of the second part; sealed, witnessed, sworn to, and the priest was summoned.

It was a happy marriage. The first three years of married life were the happiest Madame De Stael ever knew, she said long afterward.

Possibly there are hasty people who imagine they detect tincture of iron somewhere in these pages: these good people will say, “Gracious me! why not?”

And so I will at once admit that these respectable, well-arranged, and carefully planned marriages are often happy and peaceful.

The couple may “raise” a large family and slide through life and out of it without a splash. I will also admit that love does not necessarily imply happiness—more often ‘t is a pain, a wild yearning, and a vague unrest; a haunting sense ofheart-hunger that drives a man into exile repeating abstractedly the name “Beatrice! Beatrice!” And so all the moral I will make now is simply this: the individual who has not known an all-absorbing love has not the spiritual vision that is a passport to Paradise. He forever yammers between the worlds, fit for neither Heaven nor Hell.

* * *

Necker retired from business that he might enjoy peace; his daughter married for the same reason. It was stipulated that she should never be separated from her father. She who stipulates is lost, so far as love goes—but no matter! Married women in France are greater lions in society than maidens can possibly hope to be. The marriage-certificate serves at once as a license for brilliancy, daring, splendor, and it is also a badge of respectability. The marriage-certificate is a document that in all countries is ever taken care of by the woman and never by the man.

And this document is especially useful in France, as French dames know. Frenchmen are afraid of an unmarried woman—she means danger, damages, a midnight marriage and other awful things. An unmarried woman in France can not hope to be a social leader; and to be a social leader was the one ambition of Madame De Stael.

It was called the salon of Madame De Stael now. Baron De Stael was known as the husband of Madame De Stael. The salon of Madame Necker was only a matter of reminiscence. The daughter of Necker was greater than her father, and as for Madame Necker, she was a mere figure in towering headdress, point lace and diamonds. Talleyrand summed up the case when he said, “She is one of those dear old things that have to be tolerated.”

Madame De Stael had a taste for literature from early womanhood. She wrote beautiful little essays and read them aloud to her company, and her manuscripts had a circulation like unto her father’s bank-notes. She had the faculty of absorbing beautiful thoughts and sentiments, and no woman ever expressed them in a more graceful way. People said she was the greatest woman author of her day. “You mean of all time,” corrected Diderot. They called her “the High Priestess of Letters,” “the Minerva of Poetry,” “Sappho Returned,” and all that. Her commendation meant success and her indifference failure. She knew politics, too, and her hands were on all wires. Did she wish to placate a minister, she invited him to call, and once there he was as putty in her hands. She skimmed the surface of all languages, all arts, all history, but best of all she knew the human heart.

Of course there was a realm of knowledge she wist not of—the initiates of which never ventured within her scope. She had nothing for them—they kept away. But the proud, the vain, the ambitious, the ennui-ridden, the people-who-wish-to-be, and who are ever looking for the strong man to give them help—these thronged her parlors.

And when you have named these you have named all those who are foremost in commerce, politics, art, education, philanthropy and religion. The world is run by second-rate people. The best are speedily crucified, or else never heard of until long after they are dead.

Madame De Stael, in Seventeen Hundred Eighty-eight, was queen of the people who ran the world—-at least the French part of it.

But intellectual power, like physical strength, endures but for a day. Giants who have a giant’s strength and use it like a giant must be put down. If you have intellectual power, hide it!

Do thy daily work in thine own little way and be content. The personal touch repels as well as attracts. Thy presence is a menace—thy existence an affront—beware! They are weaving a net for thy feet, and hear you not the echo of hammering, as of men building a scaffold?

Go read history! Thinkest thou that all men are mortal save thee alone, and that what has befallen others can not happen to thee?

The Devil has no title to this property he now promises. Fool! thou hast no more claim on Fate than they who have gone before, and what has come to others in like conditions must come to thee. God himself can not stay it; it is so written in the stars. Power to lead men! Pray that thy prayer shall ne’er be granted—’t is to be carried to the topmost pinnacle of Fame’s temple tower, and there cast headlong upon the stones beneath. Beware! beware!!

* * *

Madame De Stael was of an intensely religious nature throughout her entire life; such characters swing between license and asceticism. But the charge of atheism told largely against her even among the so-called liberals, for liberals are often very illiberal. Marie Antoinette gathered her skirts close about her and looked at the “Minerva of Letters” with suspicion in her big, open eyes; cabinet officers forgot her requests to call, and when a famous wit once coolly asked, “Who was that Madame De Stael we used to read about?” people roared with laughter.

Necker, as Minister of Finance, had saved the State from financial ruin; then had been deposed and banished; then recalled. In September, Seventeen Hundred Ninety, he was again compelled to flee. He escaped to Switzerland, disguised as a pedler. The daughter wished to accompany him, but this was impossible, for only a week before she had given birth to her first child.

But favor came back, and in the mad tumult of the times the freedom of wit and sparkle of her salon became a need to the poets and philosophers, if city wits can be so called.

Society shone as never before. In it was the good nature of the mob. It was no time to sit quietly at home and enjoy a book—men and women must “go somewhere,” they must “do something.” The women adopted the Greek costume and appeared in simple white robes caught at the shoulders with miniature stilettos. Many men wore crape on their arms in pretended memory of friends who had been kissed by Madame Guillotine. There was fever in the air, fever in the blood, and the passions held high carnival. In solitude, danger depresses all save the very strongest, but the mob (ever the symbol of weakness) is made up of women—it is an effeminate thing. It laughs hysterically at death and cries, “On with the dance!” Women represent the opposite poles of virtue.

The fever continues: a “poverty party” is given by Madame De Stael, where men dress in rags and women wear tattered gowns that ill conceal their charms. “We must get used to it,” she said, and everybody laughed. Soon, men in the streets wear red nightcaps, women appear in nightgowns, rich men wear wooden shoes, and young men in gangs of twelve parade the avenues at night carrying heavy clubs, hurrahing for this or that.

Yes, society in Paris was never so gay.

The salons were crowded, and politics was the theme. When the discussion waxed too warm, some one would start a hymn and all would chime in until the contestants were drowned out and in token of submission joined in the chorus.

But Madame De Stael was very busy all these days. Her house was filled with refugees, and she ran here and there for passports and pardons, and beseeched ministers and archbishops for interference or assistance or amnesty or succor and all those things that great men can give or bestow or effect or filch. And when her smiles failed to win the wished-for signature, she still had tears that would move a heart of brass.

About this time Baron De Stael fades from our vision, leaving with Madame three children.

“It was never anything but a ‘mariage de convenance’ anyway, what of it ?” and Madame bursts into tears and throws herself into Farquar’s arms.

“Compose yourself, my dear—you are spoiling my gown,” says the Duchesse.

“I stood him as long as I could,” continued Madame.

“You mean he stood you as long as he could.”

“You naughty thing!—why don’t you sympathize with me?”

Then both women fall into a laughing fit that is interrupted by the servant, who announces Benjamin Constant.

Constant came as near winning the love of Madame De Stael as any man ever did. He was politician, scholar, writer, orator, courtier. But with it all he was a boor, for when he had won the favor of Madame De Stael he wrote a long letter to Madame Charriere, with whom he had lived for several years in the greatest intimacy, giving reasons why he had forsaken her, and ending with an ecstacy in praise of the Stael.

If a man can do a thing more brutal than to humiliate one woman at the expense of another, I do not know it. And without entering any defense for the men who love several women at one time, I wish to make a clear distinction between the men who bully and brutalize women for their own gratification and the men who find their highest pleasure in pleasing women. The latter may not be a paragon, yet as his desire is to give pleasure, not to corral it, he is a totally different being from the man who deceives, badgers, humiliates, and quarrels with one who can not defend herself, in order that he may find an excuse for leaving her.

A good many of Constant’s speeches were written by Madame De Stael, and when they traveled together through Germany he no doubt was a great help to her in preparing the “De l’Allemagne.”

But there was a little man approaching from out the mist of obscurity who was to play an important part in the life of Madame De Stael. He had heard of her wide-reaching influence, and such an influence he could not afford to forego—it must be used to further his ends.

Yet the First Consul did not call on her, and she did not call on the First Consul. They played a waiting game, “If he wishes to see me, he knows that I am home Thursdays!” she said with a shrug.

“Yes, but a man in his position reverses the usual order: he does not make the first call!”

“Evidently!” said Madame, and the subject dropped with a dull thud.

Word came from somewhere that Baron De Stael was seriously ill. The wife was thrown into a tumult of emotion. She must go to him at once—a wife’s duty was to her husband first of all. She left everything, and hastening to his bedside, there ministered to him tenderly. But death claimed him. The widow returned to Paris clothed in deep mourning. Crape was tied on the door-knocker and the salon was closed.

The First Consul sent condolences.

“The First Consul is a joker,” said Dannion solemnly, and took snuff.

In six weeks the salon was again opened. Not long after, at a dinner, Napoleon and Madame De Stael sat side by side. “Your father was a great man,” said Napoleon.

He had gotten in the first compliment when she had planned otherwise. She intended to march her charms in a phalanx upon him, but he would not have it so. Her wit fell flat and her prettiest smile brought only the remark, “If the wind veers north it may rain.”

They were rivals—that was the trouble. France was not big enough for both.

Madame De Stael’s book about Germany had been duly announced, puffed, printed. Ten thousand copies were issued and—seized upon by Napoleon’s agents and burned.

“The edition is exhausted,” cried Madame, as she smiled through her tears and searched for her pocket-handkerchief.

The trouble with the book was that nowhere in it was Napoleon mentioned. Had Napoleon never noticed the book, the author would have been woefully sorry. As it was she was pleased, and when the last guest had gone she and Benjamin Constant laughed, shook hands, and ordered lunch.

But it was not so funny when Fouche called, apologized, coughed, and said the air in Paris was bad.

So Madame De Stael had to go—it was “Ten Years of Exile.” In that book you can read all about it. She retired to Coppet, and all the griefs, persecutions, disappointments and heartaches were doubtless softened by the inward thought of the distinction that was hers in being the first woman banished by Napoleon and of being the only woman he thoroughly feared.

When it came Napoleon’s turn to go and the departure for Elba was at hand, it will be remembered he bade good-by personally to those who had served him so faithfully. It was an affecting scene when he kissed his generals and saluted the swarthy grenadiers in the same way. When told of it Madame picked a petal or two from her bouquet and said, “You see, my dears, the difference is this: while Judas kissed but one, the Little Man kissed forty.”

Napoleon was scarcely out of France before Madame was back in Paris with all her books and wit and beauty. An ovation was given the daughter of Necker such as Paris alone can give.

But Napoleon did not stay at Elba, at least not according to any accounts I have read.

When word came that he was marching on Paris, Madame hastily packed up her manuscripts and started in hot haste for Coppet.

But when the eighty days had passed and the bugaboo was safely on board the “Bellerophon,” she came back to the scenes she loved so well and to what for her was the only heaven—Paris.

She has been called a philosopher and a literary light. But she was only socio-literary. Her written philosophy does not represent the things she felt were true—simply those things she thought it would be nice to say. She cultivated literature, only that she might shine. Love, wealth, health, husband, children—all were sacrificed that she might lead society and win applause. No one ever feared solitude more: she must have those about her who would minister to her vanity and upon whom she could shower her wit. As a type her life is valuable, and in these pages that traverse the entire circle of feminine virtues and foibles she surely must have a place.

In her last illness she was attended daily by those faithful subjects who had all along recognized her sovereignty—in Society she was Queen. She surely won her heart’s desire, for to that bed from which she was no more to rise, courtiers came and kneeling kissed her hand, and women by the score whom she had befriended paid her the tribute of their tears.

She died in Paris aged fifty-one.

* * *

When you are in Switzerland and take the little steamer that plies on Lake Leman from Lausanne to Geneva, you will see on the western shore a tiny village that clings close around a chateau, like little oysters around the parent shell. This is the village of Coppet that you behold, and the central building that seems to be a part of the very landscape is the Chateau De Necker. This was the home of Madame De Stael and the place where so many refugees sought safety.

“Coppet is Hell in motion,” said Napoleon. “The woman who lives there has a petticoat full of arrows that could hit a man were he seated on a rainbow. She combines in her active head and strong heart Rousseau and Mirabeau; and then shields herself behind a shift and screams if you approach. To attract attention to herself she calls, ‘Help, help!’”

The man who voiced these words was surely fit rival to the chatelaine of this vine-covered place of peace that lies smiling an ironical smile in the sunshine on yonder hillside.

Coppet bristles with history.

Could Coppet speak it must tell of Voltaire and Rousseau, who had knocked at its gates; of John Calvin; of Montmorency; of Hautville (for whom Victor Hugo named a chateau); of Fanny Burney and Madame Recamier and Girardin (pupil of Rousseau); and Lafayette and hosts of others who are to us but names, but who in their day were greatest among all the sons of men.

Chief of all was the great Necker, who himself planned and built the main edifice that his daughter “might ever call it home.” Little did he know that it would serve as her prison, and that from here she would have to steal away in disguise. But yet it was the place she called home for full two decades. Here she wrote and wept and laughed and sang: hating the place when here, loving it when away. Here she came when De Stael had died, and here she brought her children. Here she received the caresses of Benjamin Constant, and here she won the love of pale, handsome Rocco, and here, “when past age,” gave birth to his child. Here and in Paris, in quick turn, the tragedy and comedy of her life were played; and here she sleeps.

In the tourist season there are many visitors at the chateau. A grave old soldier, wearing on his breast the Cross of the Legion of Honor, meets you at the lodge and conducts you through the halls, the salon and the library. There are many family portraits, and mementos without number, to bring back the past that is gone forever. Inscribed copies of books from Goethe and Schiller and Schlegel and Byron are in the cases, and on the walls are to be seen pictures of Necker, Rocco, De Stael and Albert, the firstborn son, decapitated in a duel by a swinging stroke from a German saber, on account of a king and two aces held in his sleeve.

Beneath the old chateau dances a mountain brook, cold from the Jura; in the great courtway is a fountain and fish-pond, and all around are flowering plants and stately palms. All is quiet and orderly. No children play, no merry voices call, no glad laughter echoes through these courts. Even the birds have ceased to sing.

The quaint chairs in the parlors are pushed back with precision against the wall, and the funereal silence that reigns supreme seems to say that death yesterday came, and an hour ago all the inmates of the gloomy mansion, save the old soldier, followed the hearse afar and have not yet returned.

We are conducted out through the garden, along gravel walks, across the well-trimmed lawn; and before a high iron gate, walled in on both sides with massive masonry, the old soldier stops, and removes his cap. Standing with heads uncovered, we are told that within rests the dust of Madame De Stael, her parents, her children, and her children’s children—four generations in all.

The steamer whistles at the wharf as if to bring us back from dream and mold and death, and we hasten away, walking needlessly fast, looking back furtively to see if grim spectral shapes are following after. None is seen, but we do not breathe freely until aboard the steamer and two short whistles are heard, and the order is given to cast off. We push off slowly from the stone pier, and all is safe.

Elizabeth Fry • 5,800 Words

When thee builds a prison, thee had better build with the thought ever in thy mind that thee and thy children may occupy the cells.
Report on Paris Prisons, Addressed to the King of France

Elizabeth Fry
Elizabeth Fry

The Mennonite, Dunkard, Shaker, Oneida Communist, Mormon and Quaker are all one people, varying only according to environment.

They are all Come-Outers.

They turn to plain clothes, hard work, religious thought, eschewing the pomps and vanities of the world—all for the same reasons. Scratch any one of them and you will find the true type. The monk of the Middle Ages was the same man, his peculiarity being an extreme asceticism that caused him to count sex a mistake on the part of God. And this same question has been a stumbling-block for ages to the type we now have under the glass. A man who gives the question of sex too much attention is very apt either to have no wife at all or else four or five. If a Franciscan friar of the olden time happened to glance at a clothesline on which, gaily waving in the wanton winds, was a smock-frock, he wore peas in his sandals for a month and a day.

The Shaker does not count women out because the founder of the sect was a woman, but he is a complete celibate and depends on Gentiles to populate the earth. The Dunkard quotes Saint Paul and marries because he must, but regards romantic love as a thing of which Deity is jealous, and also a bit ashamed. The Oneida Community clung to the same thought, and to obliterate selfishness held women in common, tracing pedigree, after the manner of ancient Sparta, through the female line, because there was no other way. The Mormon incidentally and accidentally adopted polygamy.

The Quakers have for the best part looked with disfavor on passionate love. In the worship of Deity they separate women from men. But all oscillations are equalized by swingings to the other side. The Quakers have often discarded a distinctive marriage-ceremony, thus slanting toward natural selection. And I might tell you of how in one of the South American States there is a band of Friends who have discarded the rite entirely, making marriage a private and personal contract between the man and the woman—a sacred matter of conscience; and should the man and woman find after a trial that their mating was a mistake, they are as free to separate as they were to marry, and no obloquy is attached in any event. Harriet Martineau, Quaker in sympathy, although not in name, being an independent fighter armed with a long squirrel-rifle of marvelous range and accuracy, pleaded strongly and boldly for a law that would make divorce as free and simple as marriage. Harriet once called marriage a mouse-trap, and thereby sent shivers of surprise and indignation up a bishop’s back.

But there is one thing among all these quasi-ascetic sects that has ever been in advance of the great mass of humanity from which they are detached parts: they have given woman her rights; whereas, the mass has always prated, and does yet, mentioning it in statute law, that the male has certain natural “rights,” and the women only such rights as are granted her by the males. And the reason of this wrong-headed attitude on part of the mob is plain. It rules by force, whereas the semi-ascetic sects decry force, using only moral suasion, falling back on the Christ doctrine of non-resistance. This has given their women a chance to prove that they have just as able minds as the men, if not better.

That these non-resistants are the salt of the earth none who know them can deny. It was the residents of the monasteries in the Middle Ages who kept learning and art from dying off the face of Europe. They built such churches and performed such splendid work in art that we are hushed into silence before the dignity of the ruins of Melrose, Dryburgh and Furness. There are no paupers among the Quakers, a “criminal class” is a thing no Mennonite understands, no Dunkard is a drunkard, the Oneida Communists were all well educated and in dollars passing rich, while the Mormons have accumulated wealth at the rate of over eleven hundred dollars a man per year, which is more than three times as good a record as can be shown by New York or Pennsylvania. And further, until the Gentiles bore down upon her, Utah had no use for either prisons, asylums or almshouses. Until the Gentiles crowded into Salt Lake City, there was no “tenderloin district,” no “dangerous class,” no gambling “dives.” Instead, there was universal order, industry, sobriety. It is well to recognize the fact that the quasi-ascetic, possessed of a religious idea, persecuted to a point that holds him to his work, is the best type of citizen the world has ever known. Tobacco, strong drink, and opium alternately lull and excite, soothe and elevate, but always destroy; yet they do not destroy our ascetic, for he knows them not. He does not deplete himself by drugs, rivalry, strife or anger. He believes in co-operation, not competition. He works and prays. He keeps a good digestion, an even pulse, a clear conscience; and as man’s true wants are very few, our subject grows rich and has not only ample supplies for himself, but is enabled to minister to others. He is earth’s good Samaritan. It was Tolstoy and his daughter who started soup-houses in Russia and kept famine at bay. Your true monk never passed by on the other side; ah, no! the business of the old-time priest was to do good. The Quaker is his best descendant—he is the true philanthropist.

If jeered, hooted and finally oppressed, these protesters will form a clan or sect and adopt a distinctive garb and speech. If persecuted, they will hold together, as cattle on the prairies huddle against the storm. But if left alone the Law of Reversion to Type catches the second generation, and the young men and maidens secrete millinery, just as birds do a brilliant plumage, and the strange sect merges into and is lost in the mass. The Jews did not say, Go to, we will be peculiar, but, as Mr. Zangwill has stated, they have remained a peculiar people simply because they have been proscribed.

The successful monk, grown rich and feeling secure, turns voluptuary and becomes the very thing that he renounced in his monastic vows. Over-anxious bicyclists run into the object they wish to avoid. We are attracted to the thing we despise; and we despise it because it attracts. A recognition of this principle will make plain why so many temperance fanatics are really drunkards trying hard to keep sober. In us all is the germ of the thing we hate; we become like the thing we hate; we are the thing we hate. Ex-Quakers in Philadelphia, I am told, are very dressy people. But before a woman becomes a genuine admitted non-Quaker, the rough, gray woolen dress shades off by almost imperceptible degrees into a dainty silken lilac, whose generous folds have a most peculiar and seductive rustle; the bonnet becomes smaller, and pertly assumes a becoming ruche, from under which steal forth daring, winsome ringlets; while at the neck, purest of cream-white kerchiefs jealously conceal the charms that a mere worldly woman might reveal. Then the demi-monde, finding themselves neglected, bribe the dressmakers and adopt the costume.

Thus does civilization, like the cyclone, move in spirals.

* * *

In a sermon preached at the City Temple, June Eighteenth, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-six, Doctor Joseph Parker said: “There it was—there! at Smithfield Market, a stone’s throw from here, that Ridley and Latimer were burned. Over this spot the smoke of martyr fires hovered. And I pray for a time when they will hover again. Aye, that is what we need! the rack, the gallows, chains, dungeons, fagots!”

Yes, those are his words, and it was two days before it came to me that Doctor Parker knew just what he was talking about. Persecution can not stamp out virtue, any more than man’s effort can obliterate matter. Man changes the form of things, but he does not cancel their essence. And this is as true of the unseen attributes of spirit as it is of the elements of matter. Did the truths taught by Latimer and Ridley go out with the flames that crackled about their limbs? Were their names written for the last time in smoke? ‘T were vain to ask. The bishop who instigated their persecution gave them certificates for immortality. But the bishop did not know it—bishops who persecute know not what they do.

Let us guess the result if Jesus had been eminently successful, gathering about him, with the years, the strong and influential men of Jerusalem! Suppose he had fallen asleep at last of old age, and, full of honors, been carried to his own tomb, patterned after that of Joseph of Arimathea, but richer far—what then? And if Socrates had apologized and had not drunk of the hemlock, how about his philosophy, and would Plato have written the “Phædo”?

No religion is pure except in its state of poverty and persecution; the good things of earth are our corrupters. All life is from the sun, but fruit too well loved of the sun falls first and rots. The religion that is fostered by the State and upheld by a standing army may be a pretty good religion, but it is not the Christ religion, call you it “Christianity” never so loudly.

Martyr and persecutor are usually cut off the same piece. They are the same type of man; and looking down the centuries they seem to have shifted places easily. As to which is persecutor and which is martyr is only a question of transient power. They are constantly teaching the trick to each other, just as scolding parents have saucy children. They are both good people; their sincerity can not be doubted. Marcus Aurelius, the best emperor Rome ever had, persecuted the Christians; while Caligula, Rome’s worst emperor, didn’t know there were any Christians in his dominions, and if he had known would not have cared.

The persecutor and the martyr both belong to the cultus known as “Muscular Christianity,” the distinguishing feature of which is a final appeal to force. We should, however, respect it for the frankness of the name in which it delights—Muscular Christianity being a totally different thing from Christianity, which smitten turns the other cheek.

But the Quaker, best type of the non-resistant quasi-ascetic, is the exception that proves the rule; he may be persecuted, but he persecutes not again. He is the best authenticated type living of primitive Christian. That the religion of Jesus was a purely reactionary movement, suggested by the smug complacency and voluptuous condition of the times, most thinking men agree. Where rich Pharisees adopt a standard of life that can only be maintained by devouring widows’ houses and oppressing the orphan, the needs of the hour bring to the front a man who will swing the pendulum to the other side. When society plays tennis with truth, and pitch-and-toss with all the expressions of love and friendship, certain ones will confine their speech to yea, yea, and nay, nay. When men utter loud prayers on street corners, some one will suggest that the better way to pray is to retire to your closet and shut the door. When self-appointed rulers wear purple and scarlet and make broad their phylacteries, some one will suggest that honest men had better adopt a simplicity of attire. When a whole nation grows mad in its hot endeavor to become rich, and the Temple of the Most High is cumbered by the seats of money-changers, already in some Galilean village sits a youth, conscious of his Divine kinship, plaiting a scourge of cords.

The gray garb of the Quaker is only a revulsion from a flutter of ribbons and a towering headgear of hues that shame the lily and rival the rainbow. Beau Brummel, lifting his hat with great flourish to nobility and standing hatless in the presence of illustrious nobodies, finds his counterpart in William Penn, who was born with his hat on and uncovers to no one. The height of Brummel’s hat finds place in the width of Penn’s.

Quakerism is a protest against an idle, vain, voluptuous and selfish life. It is the natural recoil from insincerity, vanity and gormandism which, growing glaringly offensive, causes these certain men and women to “come out” and stand firm for plain living and high thinking. And were it not for this divine principle in humanity that prompts individuals to separate from the mass when sensuality threatens to hold supreme sway, the race would be snuffed out in hopeless night. These men who come out effect their mission, not by making all men Come-Outers, but by imperceptibly changing the complexion of the mass. They are the true and literal saviors of mankind.

* * *

Norwich has several things to recommend it to the tourist, chief of which is the cathedral. Great, massive, sullen structure—begun in the Eleventh Century—it adheres more closely to its Norman type than does any other building in England.

Within sound of the tolling bells of this great cathedral, aye, almost within the shadow of its turrets, was born, in Seventeen Hundred Eighty, Elizabeth Gurney. Her line of ancestry traced directly back to the De Gournays who came with William the Conqueror, and laid the foundations of this church and of England’s civilization. To the sensitive, imaginative girl this sacred temple, replete with history, fading off into storied song and curious legend, meant much. She haunted its solemn transepts, and followed with eager eyes the carved bosses on the ceiling, to see if the cherubs pictured there were really alive. She took children from the street and conducted them thither, explaining that it was her grandfather who laid the mortar between the stones and reared the walls and placed the splendid colored windows, on which reflections of real angels were to be seen, and where Madonnas winked when the wind was east. And the children listened with open mouths and marveled much, and this encouraged the pale little girl with the wondering eyes, and she led them to the tomb of Sir William Boleyn, whose granddaughter, Anne Boleyn, used often to come here and garland with flowers the grave above which our toddlers talked in whispers, and where, yesterday, I, too, stood.

And so Elizabeth grew in years and in stature and in understanding; and although her parents were not members of the Established Religion, yet a great cathedral is greater than sect, and to her it was the true House of Prayer. It was there that God listened to the prayers of His children. She loved the place with an idolatrous love and with all the splendid superstition of a child, and thither she went to kneel and ask fulfilment of her heart’s desire. All the beauties of ancient and innocent days moved radiant and luminous in the azure of her mind. But time crept on and a woman’s penetrating comprehension came to her, and the dreams of youth shifted off into the realities of maturity, and she saw that many who came to pray were careless, frivolous people, and that the vergers did their work without more reverence than did the stablemen who cared for her father’s horses. And once when twilight was veiling the choir, and all the worshipers had departed, she saw a curate strike a match on the cloister-wall, to light his pipe, and then with the rector laugh loudly, because the bishop had forgotten and read his “Te Deum Laudamus” before his “Gloria in Excelsis.”

By degrees it came to her that the lord bishop of this holy place was in the employ of the State, and that the State was master too of the army and the police and the ships that sailed away to New Zealand, carrying in their holds women and children, who never came back, and men who, like the lord bishop, had forgotten this and done that when they should have done the other.

Once, in the streets of Norwich she saw a dozen men with fetters riveted to their legs, all fastened to one clanking chain, breaking stone in the drizzle of a winter rain. And the thought came to her that the rich ladies, wrapped in furs, who rolled by in their carriages, going to the cathedral to pray, were no more God’s children than these wretches breaking stone from the darkness of a winter morning until darkness settled over the earth again at night.

She saw plainly the patent truth that, if some people wore gaudy and costly raiment, others must dress in rags; if some ate and drank more than they needed, and wasted the good things of earth, others must go hungry; if some never worked with their hands, others must needs toil continuously.

The Gurneys were nominally Friends, but they had gradually slipped away from the directness of speech, the plainness of dress, and the simplicity of the Quakers. They were getting rich on government contracts—and who wants to be ridiculous anyway? So, with consternation, the father and mother heard the avowal of Elizabeth to adopt the extreme customs of the Friends. They sought to dissuade her. They pointed out the uselessness of being singular, and the folly of adopting a mode of life that makes you a laughing-stock. But this eighteen-year-old girl stood firm. She had resolved to live the Christ-life and devote her energies to lessening the pains of earth. Life was too short for frivolity; no one could afford to compromise with evil. She became the friend of children; the champion of the unfortunate; she sided with the weak; she was their friend and comforter. Her life became a cry in favor of the oppressed, a defense of the downtrodden, an exaltation of self-devotion, a prayer for universal sympathy, liberty and light. She pleaded for the vicious, recognizing that all are sinners and that those who do unlawful acts are no more sinners in the eyes of God than we who think them so.

The religious nature and sex-life are closely akin. The woman possessing a high religious fervor is also capable of a great and passionate love. But the Norwich Friends did not believe in a passionate love, except as the work of the devil. Yet this they knew, that marriage tames a woman as nothing else can. They believed in religion, of course—but not an absorbing, fanatical religion! Elizabeth should get married—it would cure her mental maladies: exaltation of spirit in a girl is a dangerous thing anyway. Nothing subdues like marriage.

It may not be generally known, but your religious ascetic is a great matchmaker. In all religious communities, especially rural communities, men who need wives need not advertise—there are self-appointed committees of old ladies who advise and look after such matters closely. The immanence of sex becomes vicarious, and that which once dwelt in the flesh is now a thought: like men-about-town, whose vices finally become simply mental, so do these old ladies carry on courtships by power of attorney.

And so the old ladies found a worthy Quaker man who would make a good husband for Elizabeth. The man was willing. He wrote a letter to her from his home in London, addressing it to her father. The letter was brief and businesslike. It described himself in modest but accurate terms. He weighed ten stone and was five feet eight inches high; he was a merchant with a goodly income; and in disposition was all that was to be desired—at least he said so. His pedigree was standard.

The Gurneys looked up this Mr. Fry, merchant, of London, and found all as stated. He checked O.K. He was invited to visit at Norwich; he came, he saw, and was conquered. He liked Elizabeth, and Elizabeth liked him—she surely did or she would never have married him.

Elizabeth bore him twelve children. Mr. Fry was certainly an excellent and amiable man. I find it recorded, “He never in any way hampered his wife’s philanthropic work,” and with this testimonial to the excellence of Mr. Fry’s character we will excuse him from these pages and speak only of his wife.

Contrary to expectations, Elizabeth was not tamed by marriage. She looked after her household with diligence; but instead of confining her “social duties” to following hotly after those in station above her, she sought out those in the stratum beneath. Soon after reaching London she began taking long walks alone, watching the people, especially the beggars. The lowly and the wretched interested her. She saw, girl though she was, that beggardom and vice were twins.

In one of her daily walks, she noticed on a certain corner a frowsled woman holding a babe, and thrusting out a grimy hand for alms, telling a woeful tale of a dead soldier husband to each passer-by. Elizabeth stopped and talked with the woman. As the day was cold, she took off her mittens and gave them to the beggar, and went her way. The next day she again saw the woman on the same corner and again talked with her, asking to see the baby held so closely within the tattered shawl. An intuitive glance (mother herself or soon to be) told her that this sickly babe was not the child of the woman who held it. She asked questions that the woman evaded. Pressed further, the beggar grew abusive, and took refuge in curses, with dire threats of violence. Mrs. Fry withdrew, and waiting for nightfall followed the woman: down a winding alley, past rows of rotting tenements, into a cellar below a ginshop. There, in this one squalid room, she found a dozen babies, all tied fast in cribs or chairs, starving, or dying of inattention. The woman, taken by surprise, did not grow violent this time: she fled, and Mrs. Fry, sending for two women Friends, took charge of the sufferers.

This sub-cellar nursery opened the eyes of Mrs. Fry to the grim fact that England, professing to be Christian, building costly churches, and maintaining an immense army of paid priests, was essentially barbaric. She set herself to the task of doing what she could while life lasted to lessen the horror of ignorance and sin.

Newgate Prison then, as now, stood in the center of the city. It was necessary to have it in a conspicuous place so that all might see the result of wrongdoing and be good. Along the front of the prison were strong iron gratings, where the prisoners crowded up to talk with their friends. Through these gratings the unhappy wretches called to strangers for alms, and thrust out long wooden spoons for contributions, that would enable them to pay their fines. There was a woman’s department; but if the men’s department was too full, men and women were herded together.

Mrs. Fry worked for her sex, so of these I will speak. Women who had children under seven years of age took them to prison with them; every week babes were born there, so that at one time, in the year Eighteen Hundred Twenty-six, we find there were one hundred ninety women and one hundred children in Newgate. There was no bedding. No clothing was supplied, and those who had no friends outside to supply them clothing were naked or nearly so, and would have been entirely were it not for that spark of divinity which causes the most depraved of women to minister to one another. Women hate only their successful rivals. The lowest of women will assist one another when there is a dire emergency.

In this pen, awaiting trial, execution or transportation, were girls of twelve to senile, helpless creatures of eighty. All were thrust together. Hardened criminals, besotted prostitutes, maidservants accused of stealing thimbles, married women suspected of blasphemy, pure-hearted, brave-natured girls who had run away from brutal parents or more brutal husbands, insane persons—all were herded together. All the keepers were men. Patroling the walls were armed guards, who were ordered to shoot all who tried to escape. These guards were usually on good terms with the women prisoners—hobnobbing at will. When the mailed hand of government had once thrust these women behind iron bars, and relieved virtuous society of their presence, it seemed to think it had done its duty. Inside, no crime was recognized save murder. These women fought, overpowered the weak, stole from and maltreated each other. Sometimes, certain ones would combine for self-defense, forming factions. Once, the Governor of the prison, bewigged, powdered, lace-befrilled, ventured pompously into the women’s department without his usual armed guard; fifty hags set upon him. In a twinkling his clothing was torn to shreds too small for carpet-rags, and in two minutes by the sand-glass, when he got back to the bars, lustily calling for help, he was as naked as a cherub, even if not as innocent.

Visitors who ventured near to the grating were often asked to shake hands, and if once a grip was gotten upon them the man was drawn up close, while long, sinewy fingers grabbed his watch, handkerchief, neckscarf or hat—all was pulled into the den. Sharp nailmarks on the poor fellow’s face told of the scrimmage, and all the time the guards on the walls and the spectators roared with laughter. Oh, it was awfully funny!

One woman whose shawl was snatched and sucked into the maelstrom complained to the police, and was told that folks inside of Newgate could not be arrested, and that a good motto for outsiders was to keep away from dangerous places.

Every morning at nine a curate read prayers at the prisoners. The curate stood well outside the grating; while all the time from inside loud cries of advice were given and sundry remarks tendered him concerning his personal appearance. The frightful hilarity of the mob saved these wretches from despair. But the curate did his duty: he who has ears to hear let him hear. Waiting in the harbor were ships loading their freight of sin, crime and woe for Botany Bay; at Tyburn every week women were hanged. Three hundred offenses were punishable with death; but, as in the West, where horse-stealing is the supreme offense, most of the hangings were for smuggling, forgery or shoplifting. England being a nation of shopkeepers could not forgive offenses that might injure a haberdasher.

Little Mrs. Fry, in the plainest of Quaker gray dress, with bonnet to match, stood outside Newgate and heard the curate read prayers. She resolved to ask the Governor of the prison if she might herself perform the office. The Governor was polite, but stated there was no precedent for such an important move—he must have time to consider. Mrs. Fry called again, and permission was granted, with strict orders that she must not attempt to proselyte, and, further, she had better not get too near the grating.

Mrs. Fry gave the great man a bit of fright by quietly explaining thus: “Sir, if thee kindly allows me to pray with the women, I will go inside.”

The Governor asked her to say it again. She did so, and a bright thought came to the great man: he would grant her request, writing an order that she be allowed to go inside the prison whenever she desired. It would teach her a lesson and save him from further importunity.

So little Mrs. Fry presented the order, and the gates were swung open and the iron quickly snapped behind her. She spoke to the women, addressing the one who seemed to be leader as sister, and asked the others to follow her back into the courtway away from the sound of the street, so they could have prayers. They followed dumbly. She knelt on the stone pavement and prayed in silence. Then she arose and read to them the One Hundred Seventh Psalm. Again she prayed, asking the others to kneel with her. A dozen knelt. She arose and went her way amid a hush of solemn silence.

Next day, when she came again, the ribaldry ceased on her approach, and after the religious service she remained inside the walls an hour conversing with those who wished to talk with her, going to all the children that were sick and ministering to them.

In a week she called all together and proposed starting a school for the children. The mothers entered into the project gladly. A governess, imprisoned for theft, was elected teacher. A cell-room was cleaned out, whitewashed, and set apart for a schoolroom, with the permission of the Governor, who granted the request, explaining, however, that there was no precedent for such a thing. The school prospered, and outside the schoolroom door hungry-eyed women listened furtively for scraps of knowledge that might be tossed overboard.

Mrs. Fry next organized classes for these older children, gray-haired, bowed with sin—many of them. There were twelve in each class, and they elected a monitor from their numbers, agreeing to obey her. Mrs. Fry brought cloth from her husband’s store, and the women were taught to sew. The Governor insisted that there was no precedent for it, and the guards on the walls said that every scrap of cloth would be stolen, but the guards were wrong.

The day was divided up into regular hours for work and recreation. Other good Quaker women from outside came in to help; and the taproom kept by a mercenary guard was done away with, and an order established that no spirituous liquors should be brought into Newgate. The women agreed to keep away from the grating on the street, except when personal friends came; to cease begging; to quit gambling. They were given pay for their labor. A woman was asked for as turnkey, instead of a man. All guards were to be taken from the walls that overlooked the women’s department. The women were to be given mats to sleep on, and blankets to cover them when the weather was cold. The Governor was astonished! He called a council of the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen. They visited the prison, and found for the first time that order had come out of chaos at Newgate.

Mrs. Fry’s requests were granted, and this little woman awoke one morning to find herself famous.

From Newgate she turned her attention to other prisons; she traveled throughout England, Scotland and Ireland, visiting prisons and asylums. She became well feared by those in authority, for her firm and gentle glance went straight to every abuse. Often she was airily turned away by some official clothed in a little brief authority, but the man usually lived to know his mistake.

She was invited by the French Government to visit the prisons of Paris and write a report, giving suggestions as to what reforms should be made. She went to Belgium, Holland and Germany, being received by kings and queens and prime ministers—as costume, her plain gray dress always sufficing. She treated royalty and unfortunates alike—simply as equals. She kept constantly in her mind the thought that all men are sinners before God: there are no rich, no poor; no high, no low; no bond, no free. Conditions are transient, and boldly did she say to the King of France that he should build prisons with the idea of reformation, not revenge, and with the thought ever before him that he himself or his children might occupy these cells—so vain are human ambitions. To Sir Robert Peel and his Cabinet she read the story concerning the gallows built by Haman. “Thee must not shut out the sky from the prisoner; thee must build no dark cells—thy children may occupy them,” she said.

John Howard and others had sent a glimmering ray of truth through the fog of ignorance concerning insanity. The belief was growing that insane people were really not possessed of devils after all. Yet still, the cell system, strait jacket and handcuffs were in great demand. In no asylum were prisoners allowed to eat at tables. Food was given to each in tin basins, without spoons, knives or forks. Glass dishes and china plates were considered especially dangerous; they told of one man who in an insane fit had cut his throat with a plate, and of another who had swallowed a spoon.

Visiting an asylum at Worcester, Mrs. Fry saw the inmates receive their tin dishes, and, crouched on the floor, eating like wild beasts. She asked the chief warden for permission to try an experiment. He dubiously granted it. With the help of several of the inmates she arranged a long table, covered it with spotless linen brought by herself, placed bouquets of wild flowers on the table, and set it as she did at her own home. Then she invited twenty of the patients to dinner. They came, and a clergyman, who was an inmate, was asked to say grace. All sat down, and the dinner passed off as quietly and pleasantly as could be wished.

And these were the reforms she strove for, and put into practical execution everywhere. She asked that the word asylum be dropped, and home or hospital used instead. In visiting asylums, by her presence she said to the troubled spirits, Peace, be still! For half a century she toiled with an increasing energy and a never-flagging animation. She passed out full of honors, beloved as woman was never yet loved—loved by the unfortunate, the deformed, the weak, the vicious. She worked for a present good, here and now, believing that we can reach the future only through the present. In penology nothing has been added to her philosophy, and we have as yet not nearly carried out her suggestions.

Generation after generation will come and go, nations will rise, grow old, and die, kings and rulers will be forgotten, but so long as love kisses the white lips of pain will men remember and revere the name of Elizabeth Fry, Friend of Humanity.

Mary Lamb • 5,200 Words

Her education in youth was not much attended to, and she happily missed all the train of female garniture which passeth by the name of accomplishments. She was tumbled early, by accident or providence, into a spacious closet of good old English reading, without much selection or prohibition, and browsed at will upon that fair and wholesome pasturage. Had I twenty girls they should be brought up exactly in this fashion. I know not whether their chance in wedlock might not be diminished by it, but I can answer for it that it maketh (if worse comes to worst) most incomparable old maids.
Essays of Elia

Mary Lamb
Mary Lamb

I sing the love of brother and sister. For he who tells the tale of Charles and Mary Lamb’s life must tell of a love that was an uplift to this brother and sister in childhood, that sustained them in the desolation of disaster, and was a saving solace even when every hope seemed gone and reason veiled her face.

This love caused the flowers of springtime to bloom for them again and again, and attracted such a circle of admirers that, as we read the records of their lives, set forth in the letters they received and wrote, we forget poverty, forget calamity, and behold only the radiant, smiling faces of loving, trusting, trustful friends.

The mother of Charles and Mary Lamb was a woman of fine natural endowment, of spirit and of aspiration. She married a man much older than herself. We know but little about John Lamb; we know nothing of his ancestry. Neither do we care to. He was not good enough to attract, nor bad enough to be interesting. He called himself a scrivener, but in fact he was a valet. He was neutral salts; and I say this just after having read his son’s amiable mention of him under the guise of “Lovel,” and with the full knowledge also that “he danced well, was a good judge of vintage, played the harpsichord, and recited poetry on occasion.”

When a woman of spirit stands up before a priest and makes solemn promise to live with a man who plays the harpsichord and is a good judge of vintage, and to love until either he or she dies, she sows the seeds of death and disorder. Of course, I know that men and women who make promises before priests know not at the time what they do; they find out afterwards.

And so they were married, were John Lamb and Elizabeth Field; and probably very soon thereafter Elizabeth had a premonition that this union only held in store a glittering blade of steel for her heart. For she grew ill and dispirited, and John found companionship at the alehouse, and came stumbling home asking what the devil was the reason his wife couldn’t meet him with a smile and a kiss and a’ that, as a dutiful wife should!

Elizabeth began to live more and more within herself. We often hear foolish men taunt women with inability to keep secrets. But women who talk much often do keep secrets—there are nooks in their hearts where the sun never enters, and where those nearest them are never allowed to look. More lives are blasted by secrecy than by frankness—ay! a thousand times. Why should such a thing as a secret ever exist? ‘Tis preposterous, and is proof positive of depravity. If you and I are to live together, my life must be open as the ether and all my thoughts be yours. If I keep back this and that, you will find it out some day and suspect, with reason, that I also keep back the other. Ananias and Sapphira met death, not so much for simple untruthfulness as for keeping something back.

Elizabeth Lamb sought to protect herself against an unappreciative mate by secrecy (perhaps she had to), and the habit grew until she kept secrets as a business—she kept foolish little secrets. Did she get a letter from her aunt, she read it in suggestive silence and then put it in her pocket. If visitors called she never mentioned it, and when the children heard of it weeks afterward they marveled.

And so shy little Mary Lamb wondered what it was her mother kept locked up in the bottom drawer of the bureau, and Mary was told that children must not ask questions—little girls should be seen and not heard.

At night, Mary would dream of the things that were in that drawer, and sometimes great, big, black things would creep out through the keyhole and grow bigger and bigger until they filled the room so full that you couldn’t breathe, and then little Mary would cry aloud and scream, and her father would come with a strap that was kept on a nail behind the kitchen-door and teach her better than to wake everybody up in the middle of the night.

Yet Mary loved her mother, and sought in many ways to meet her wishes, and all the time her mother kept the bureau-drawer locked, and away somewhere on a high shelf was hidden all tenderness—all the gentle, loving words and the caresses which children crave.

And little Mary’s life seemed full of troubles, and the world a grievous place where everybody misunderstands everybody else; and at nighttime she would often hide her face in the pillow and cry herself to sleep.

But when she was ten years of age a great joy came into her life—a baby brother came! And all the love in the little girl’s heart was poured out for the puny baby boy. Babies are troublesome things, anyway, where folks are awful poor and where there are no servants and the mother is not so very strong. And so Mary became the baby’s own little foster-mother, and she carried him about, and long before he could lisp a word she had told him all the hopes and secrets of her heart, and he cooed and laughed, and lying on the floor, kicked his heels in the air and treated hope and love and ambition alike.

I can not find that Mary ever went to school. She stayed at home and sewed, did housework, and took care of the baby. All her learning came by absorption. When the boy was three years old she taught him his letters, and did it so deftly and well that he used to declare he could always read—and this is as it should be. When seven years of age the boy was sent to the Blue-Coat School. This was brought about through the influence of Mr. Salt, for whom John Lamb worked. Mr. Salt was a Bencher, and be it known a Bencher in England is not exactly the same thing as a Bencher in America. Mr. Salt took quite a notion to little Mary Lamb, and once when she came to his office with her father’s dinner, the honorable Bencher chucked her under the chin, said she was a fine little girl, and asked her if she liked to read. And when she answered, “Oh, yes, sir!” and then added, “If you please!” the Bencher laughed, and told her she was welcome to take any book in his library. And so we find she spent many happy hours in the great man’s library; and it was through her importunities that Mr. Salt got banty Charles the scholarship in Christ’s Hospital School.

Now the Blue-Coat boys are a curiosity to every sight-seer in London—and have been for these hundred years and more. Their long-tailed blue coats, buckle-shoes, and absence of either hats or caps bring the Yankee up with a halt. To conduct an American around to the vicinity of Christ’s Hospital and let him discover a “Blue-Coat” for himself is a sensation. The costume is exactly the same as that worn by Edward, “the Boy King,” who founded the school; and these youngsters, like the birds, never grow old. You lean against the high iron fence, and looking through the bars watch the boys frolic and play, just as visitors looked in the Eighteenth Century; and I’ve never been by Christ’s Hospital yet when curious people did not stand and stare. And one thing the Blue-Coats seem to prove, and that is that hats are quite superfluous.

One worthy man from Jamestown, New York, was so impressed by these hatless boys that he wrote a book proving that the wearing of hats was what has kept the race in bondage to ignorance all down the ages. By statistics he proved that the Blue-Coats had attained distinction quite out of ratio to their number, and cited Coleridge, Leigh Hunt, Charles Lamb and many others as proof. This man returned to Jamestown hatless, and had he not caught cold and been carried off by pneumonia, would have spread his hatless gospel, rendering the name of Knox the Hatter infamous, and causing the word “Derby” to be henceforth a byword and a hissing.

When little Charles Lamb tucked the tails of his long blue coat under his belt and played leap-frog in the school-yard every morning at ten minutes after ‘leven, his sister, wan, yellow and dreamy, used to come and watch him through these selfsame iron bars. She would wave the corner of her rusty shawl in loving token, and he would answer back and would have lifted his hat if he had had one. When the bell rang and the boys went pellmell into the entry-way, Charles would linger and hold one hand above his head as the stone wall swallowed him, and the sister knowing that all was well would hasten back to her work in Little Queen Street, hard by, to wait for the morrow when she could come again.

“Who is that girl always hanging ’round after you?” asked a tall, handsome boy, called Ajax, of little Charles Lamb.

“Wh’ why, don’t you know—that, wh’ why that’s my sister Mary!”

“How should I know when you have never introduced me!” loftily replied Ajax.

And so the next day, at ten minutes after ‘leven, Charles and the mighty Ajax came down to the fence, and Charles had to call to Mary not to run away, and Charles introduced Ajax to Mary and they shook hands through the fence. And the next week Ajax, who was known in private life as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, called at the house in Little Queen Street where the Lambs lived, and they all had gin and water, and the elder Lamb played the harpsichord, a secondhand one that had been presented by Mr. Salt, and recited poetry, and Coleridge talked the elder Lamb under the table and argued the entire party into silence. Coleridge was only seventeen then, but a man grown, and already took snuff like a courtier, tapping the lid of the box meditatively and flashing a conundrum the while on the admiring company.

Mary kept about as close run of the Blue-Coat School as if she had been a Blue-Coat herself. Still, she felt it her duty to keep one lesson in advance of her brother, just to know that he was progressing well.

He continued to go to school until he was fourteen, when he was set to work in the South Sea Company’s office, because his income was needed to keep the family. Mary was educating the boy with the help of Mr. Salt’s library, for a boy as fine as Charles must be educated, you know. By and by the bubble burst, and young Lamb was transferred to the East India Company’s office, and being promoted was making nearly a hundred pounds a year.

And Mary sewed and borrowed books and toiled incessantly, but was ill at times. People said her head was not just right—she was overworked and nervous or something! The father had lost his place on account of too much gin and water, especially gin; the mother was almost helpless from paralysis, and in the family was an aged maiden aunt to be cared for. The only regular income was the salary of Charles.

There they lived in their poverty and lowliness, hoping for better things!

Charles was working away over the ledgers, and used to come home fagged and weary, and Coleridge was far away, and there was no boy to educate now, and only sick and foolish and quibbling people on whom to strike fire. The demnition grind did its work for Mary Lamb as surely as it is today doing it for countless farmers’ wives in Iowa and Illinois.

Thus ran the years away.

Mary Lamb, aged thirty-two, gentle, intelligent and wondrous kind, in sudden frenzy seized a knife from the table and with one thrust sank the blade into her mother’s heart. Charles Lamb, in an adjoining room, hearing the commotion, entered quickly and taking the knife from his sister’s hand, put his arm about her and tenderly led her away.

Returning in a few moments, the mother was dead.

Women often make a shrill outcry at sight of a mouse; men curse roundly when large, buzzing, blue-bottle flies disturb their after-dinner nap; but let occasion come and the stuff of which heroes are made is in us all. I think well of my kind.

Charles Lamb made no outcry, he shed no tears, he spoke no word of reproach. He met each detail of that terrible issue as coolly, calmly and surely as if he had been making entries in his journal. No man ever loved his mother more, but she was dead now—she was dead. He closed the staring eyes, composed the stiffening limbs, kept curious sightseers at bay, and all the time thought of what he could do to protect the living—she who had wrought this ruin.

Charles was twenty-one—a boy in feeling and temperament, a frolicsome, heedless boy. In an hour he had become a man.

It requires a subtler pen than mine to trace the psychology of this tragedy; but let me say this much, it had its birth in love, in unrequited love; and the outcome of it was an increase in love.

O God! how wonderful are Thy works! Thou makest the rotting log to nourish banks of violets, and from the stagnant pool at Thy word springs forth the lotus that covers all with fragrance and beauty!

* * *

Coleridge in his youth was brilliant—no one disputes that. He dazzled Charles and Mary Lamb from the very first. Even when a Blue-Coat he could turn a pretty quatrain, and when he went away to Cambridge and once in a long while wrote a letter down to “My Own C.L.,” it was a feast for the sister, too. Mary was different from other girls: she didn’t “have company,” she was too honest and serious and earnest for society—her ideals too high. Coleridge—handsome, witty, philosophic Coleridge—was her ideal. She loved him from afar.

How vain it is to ponder in our minds the what-might-have-been! Yet how can we help wondering what would have been the result had Coleridge wedded Mary Lamb! In many ways it seems it would have been an ideal mating, for Mary Lamb’s mental dowry made good Coleridge’s every deficiency, and his merits equalized all that she lacked. He was sprightly, headstrong, erratic, emotional; she was equally keen-witted, but a conservative in her cast of mind. That she was capable of a great and passionate love there is no doubt, and he might have been. Mary Lamb would have been his anchor to win’ard, but as it was he drifted straight on to the rocks. Her mental troubles came from a lack of responsibility—a rusting away of unused powers in a dull, monotonous round of commonplace. Had her heart found its home I can not conceive of her in any other light than as a splendid, earnest woman—sane, well-poised, and doing a work that only the strong can do. Coleridge has left on record the statement that she was the only woman he ever met who had a “logical mind”—that is to say, the only woman who ever understood him when he talked his best.

Coleridge made progress at the Blue-Coat School: he became “Deputy Grecian,” or head scholar. This secured him a scholarship at Cambridge, and thither he went in search of honors. But his revolutionary and Unitarian principles did not serve him in good stead, and he was placed under the ban.

At the same time a youth by the name of Robert Southey was having a like experience at Oxford. Other youths had tried in days agone to shake Cambridge and Oxford out of their conservatism, and the result was that the embryo revolutionists speedily found themselves warned off the campus. So through sympathy Coleridge and Southey met. Coleridge also brought along a young philosopher and poet, who had also been a Blue-Coat, by the name of Lovell.

These three young men talked philosophy, and came to the conclusion that the world was wrong. They said society was founded on a false hypothesis—they would better things. And so they planned packing up and away to America to found an Ideal Community on the banks of the Susquehanna. But hold! a society without women is founded on a false hypothesis—that’s so—what to do? Now in America there are no women but Indian squaws.

But resource did not fail them—Southey thought of the Fricker family, a mile out on the Bristol road. There were three fine, strong, intelligent girls—what better than to marry ‘em? The world should be peopled from the best. The girls were consulted and found willing to reorganize society on the communal basis, and so the three poets married the three sisters—more properly, each of the three poets married a sister. “Thank God,” said Lamb, “that there were not four of those Fricker girls, or I, too, would have been bagged, and the world peopled from the best!”

Southey got the only prize out of the hazard; Lovell’s wife was so-so, and Coleridge drew a blank, or thought he did, which was the same thing; for as a man thinketh so is she. The thought of a lifetime on the banks of the Susquehanna with a woman who was simply pink and good, and who was never roused into animation even by his wildest poetic bursts, took all ambition out of him.

Funds were low and the emigration scheme was temporarily pigeonholed. After a short time Coleridge declared his mind was getting mildewed and packed off to London for mental oxygen and a little visit, leaving his wife in Southey’s charge.

He was gone two years.

Lovell soon followed suit, and Southey had three sisters in his household, all with babies.

In the meantime we find Southey installed at “Greta,” just outside of the interesting town of Keswick, where the water comes down at Lodore. Southey was a general: he knew that knowledge consists in having a clerk who can find the thing. He laid out research work and literary schemes enough for several lifetimes, and the three sisters were hard at it. It was a little community of their own—all working for Southey, and glad of it. Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy lived at Grasmere, thirteen miles away, and they used to visit back and forth. When you go to Keswick you should tramp that thirteen miles—the man who hasn’t tramped from Keswick to Grasmere has dropped something out of his life. In merry jest, tipped with acid, some one called them “The Lake Poets,” as if there were poets and lake poets. And Lamb was spoken of as “a Lake Poet by grace.” Literary London grinned, as we do when some one speaks of the Sweet Singer of Michigan or the Chicago Muse. But the term of contempt stuck and, like the words Methodist, Quaker and Philistine, soon ceased to be a term of reproach and became something of which to be proud.

There is a lead-pencil factory at Keswick, established in the year Eighteen Hundred. Pencils are made there today exactly as they were made then, and when you see the factory you are willing to believe it. All visitors at Keswick go to the pencil-factory and buy pencils, such as Southey used, and get their names stamped on each pencil while they wait, without extra charge. On the wall is a silhouette picture of Southey, showing a needlessly large nose, and the gentlemanly old proprietor will tell you that Dorothy Wordsworth made the picture; and then he will show you a letter written by Charles Lamb, framed under glass, wherein C.L. says all pencils are fairish good, but no pencils are so good as Keswick pencils.

For a while, when times were hard, Coleridge’s wife worked here making pencils, while her archangel husband (a little damaged) went with Wordsworth to study metaphysics at Gottingen. When Coleridge came back and heard what his wife had done, he reproved her—gently but firmly. Mrs. Ajax in a pencil-factory wearing a check apron with a bib!—huh!!

Southey had concluded that if Coleridge and Lovell were good samples of socialism he would stick to individualism. So he joined the Church of England, became a Monarchist, sang the praises of royalty, got a pension, became Poet Laureate, and rich—passing rich.

“Wh-wh-when he secured for himself the services of three good women he made a wise move,” said C.L.

And all the time Coleridge and Lamb were in correspondence: and when Coleridge was in London he kept close run of the Lambs. The father and old aunt had passed out, and Charles and Mary lived together in rooms. They seemed to have moved very often—their record followed them. When the other tenants heard that “she’s the one that killed her mother,” they ceased to let their children play in the hallways, and the landlord apologized, coughed, and raised the rent. Poor Charles saw the point and did not argue it. He looked for other lodgings and having found ‘em went home and said to Mary, “It’s too noisy here. Sister—I can’t stand it—we’ll have to go!”

Charles was a literary man now: a bookkeeper by day and a literary man by night. He wrote to please his sister, and all his jokes were for her. There is a genuine vein of pathos in all true humor, but think of the fear and the love and the tenderness that are concealed in Charles Lamb’s work that was designed only to fight off dread calamity! And Mary copied and read and revised for her brother, and he told it all to her before he wrote it, and together they discussed it in detail. Charles studied mathematics, just to keep his genius under, he declared. Mary smiled and said it wasn’t necessary.

Coleridge used to drop in, and the Stoddarts, Hazlitts, Godwin and Lovell, too. Then Southey was up in London and he called, and so did Wordsworth and Dorothy, for Coleridge had spread Lamb’s fame. And Dorothy and Mary kissed each other and held hands under the table, and when Dorothy went back to Grasmere she wrote many beautiful letters to Mary and urged her to come and visit her—yes, come to Grasmere and live. The one point they held in common wasa love for Coleridge; and as he belonged to neither there was no room for jealousy. The Fricker girls were all safely married, but Charles and Mary could not think of going—they needs must hide in a big city. “I hate your damned throstles and larks and bobolinks,” said C.L., in feigned contempt. “I sing the praises of the ‘Salutation and the Cat’ and a snug fourth-floor back.”

They could not leave London, for over them ever hung that black cloud of a mind diseased.

“I can do nothing—think nothing. Mary has another of her bad spells—we saw it coming, and I took her away to a place of safety,” writes Charles to Coleridge.

One writer tells of seeing Charles and Mary walking across Hampstead Heath, hand in hand, both crying. They were on the way to the asylum.

Fortunately these “illnesses” gave warning and Charles would ask his employer leave for a “holiday,” and stay at home trying by gentle mirth and work to divert the dread visitor of unreason.

After each illness, in a few weeks the sister would be restored to her own, very weak and her mind a blank as to what had gone before. And so she never remembered that supreme calamity. She knew the deed had been done, but Heaven had absolved her gentle spirit from all participation in it. She often talked of her mother, wrote of her, quoted her, and that they should sometime be again united was her firm faith.

The “Tales from Shakespeare” was written at the suggestion of Godwin, seconded by Charles. The idea that she herself could write seemed never to have occurred to Mary, until Charles swore with a needless oath that all the ideas he ever had she supplied.

“Charles, dear, you’ve been drinking again!” said Mary. But the “Tales” sold and sold well; fame came that way and more money than the simple, plain, homekeeping bodies needed. So they started a pension-roll for sundry old ladies, and to themselves played high and mighty patron, and figured and talked and joked over the blue teacups as to what they should do with their money—five hundred pounds a year! Goodness gracious, if the Bank of England gets in a pinch advise C.L., at Thirty-four Southampton Buildings, third floor, second turning to the left but one.

A Mrs. Reynolds was one of the pensioners, but no one knew it but Mrs. Reynolds, and she never told. She was a Lady of the Old School, and used often to dine with the Lambs and get her snuffbox filled. Her husband had been a ship-captain or something, and when the tea was strong she would take snuff and tell the visitors about him and swear she had ever been true to his memory, though God knows all good-looking and clever widows are sorely tried in this scurvy world!

Mrs. Reynolds met Thomas Hood at a “Saturday Evening” at the Lambs’, and he was so taken with her that he has told us “she looked like an elderly wax doll in half-mourning, and when she spoke it was as if by an artificial process; she always kept up the gurgle and buzz until run down.”

Mrs. Reynolds’ sole claim to literary distinction was the fact that she had known Goldsmith and he had presented her with an inscribed copy of “The Deserted Village.”

But we all have a tender place in our hearts for the elderly wax doll because the Lambs were so gentle and patient with her, and once a year went to Highgate and put a shilling vase of flowers over the grave of the Captain to whose memory she was ever true.

These friendless old souls used to meet and mix at the Lambs’ with those whose names are now deathless. You can not write the history of English Letters and leave the Lambs out. They were the loved and loving friends of Southey, Wordsworth, Coleridge, De Quincey, Jeffrey and Godwin. They won the recognition of all who prize the far-reaching intellect—the subtle imagination. The pathos and tenderness of their lives entwine us with tendrils that hold our hearts in thrall.

They adopted a little girl, a beautiful little girl by the name of Emma Isola. And never was there child that was a greater joy to parents than was Emma Isola to Charles and Mary. The wonder is they did not spoil her with admiration, and by laughing at all her foolish little pranks. Mary set herself the task of educating this little girl, and formed a class the better to do it—a class of three: Emma Isola, William Hazlitt’s son and Mary Victoria Novello. I met Mary Victoria once; she’s over eighty years of age now. Her form is a little bent, but her eye is bright and her smile is the smile of youth. Folks call her Mary Cowden-Clarke.

And I want you to remember, dearie, that it was Mary Lamb who introduced the other Mary to Shakespeare, by reading to her the manuscript of the “Tales.” And further, that it was the success of the “Tales” that fired Mary Cowden-Clarke with an ambition also to do a great Shakespearian work. There may be a question about the propriety of calling the “Tales” a great work—their simplicity seems to forbid it—but the term is all right when applied to that splendid life-achievement, the “Concordance,” of which Mary Lamb was the grandmother.

Emma Isola married Edward Moxon, and the Moxon home was the home of Mary Lamb whenever she wished to make it so, to the day of her death. The Moxons did good by stealth, and were glad they never awoke and found it fame.

“What shall I do when Mary leaves me, never to return?” once said Charles to Manning. But Mary lived for full twenty years after Charles had gone, and lived only in loving memory of him who had devoted his life to her. She seemed to exist just to talk of him and to garland the grave in the little old churchyard at Edmonton, where he sleeps. Wordsworth says, “A grave is a tranquillizing object: resignation in time springs up from it as naturally as wild flowers bespread the turf.” Her work was to look after the “pensioners” and carry out the wishes of “my brother Charles.”

But the pensioners were laid away to rest, one after the other, and the gentle Mary, grown old and feeble, became a pensioner, too, but thanks to that divine humanity that is found in English hearts, she never knew it. To the last, she looked after “the worthy poor,” and carried flowers once a year to the grave of the gallant Captain Reynolds at Highgate, and never tired of sounding the praises of Charles and excusing the foibles of Coleridge. She lived only in the past, and its loving memories were more than a ballast ‘gainst the ills of the present.

And so she went down into the valley and entered the great shadow, telling in cheerful, broken musings of a brother’s love.

And then she was carried to the churchyard at Edmonton. There she rests in the grave with her brother. In life they were never separated, and in death they are not divided.

Jane Austen • 4,600 Words

Delaford is a nice place I can tell you; exactly what I call a nice, old-fashioned place, full of comforts, quite shut in with great garden-walls that are covered with fruit-trees, and such a mulberry-tree in the corner. Then there is a dovecote, some delightful fish-ponds, and a very pretty canal, and everything, in short, that one could wish for; and moreover it’s close to the church and only a quarter of a mile from the turnpike road.
Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen
Jane Austen

It was at Cambridge, England, I met him—a fine, intelligent clergyman he was, too.

“He’s not a ‘Varsity man,” said my new acquaintance, speaking of Doctor Joseph Parker, the world’s greatest preacher. “If he were, he wouldn’t do all these preposterous things, you know.”

“He’s a little like Henry Irving,” I ventured apologetically.

“True, and what absurd mannerisms—did you ever see the like! Yes, one’s from Yorkshire and the other’s from Cornwall, and both are Philistines.”

He laughed at his little joke and so did I, for I always try to be polite.

So I went my way, and as I strolled it came to me that my clerical friend was right—a university course might have taken all the individuality out of these strong men and made of their genius a purely neutral decoction. And when I thought further and considered how much learning has done to banish wisdom, it was a satisfaction to remember that Shakespeare at Oxford did nothing beyond making the acquaintance of an inn-keeper’s wife.

It hardly seems possible that a Harvard degree would have made a stronger man of Abraham Lincoln; or that Edison, whose brain has wrought greater changes than that of any other man of the century, was the loser by not being versed in physics as taught at Yale.

The Law of Compensation never rests, and the men who are taught too much from books are not taught by Deity. Most education in the past has failed to awaken in its subject a degree of intellectual consciousness. It is the education that the Jesuits served out to the Indian. It made him peaceable, but took all dignity out of him. From a noble red man he descended into a dirty Injun, who signed away his heritage for rum.

The world’s plan of education has mostly been priestly—we have striven to inculcate trust and reverence. We have cited authorities and quoted precedents and given examples: it was a matter of memory; while all the time the whole spiritual acreage was left untilled.

A race educated in this way never advances, save as it is jolted out of its notions by men with either a sublime ignorance of, or an indifference to, what has been done and said. These men are always called barbarians by their contemporaries: they are jeered and hooted. They supply much mirth by their eccentricities. After they are dead the world sometimes canonizes them and carves on their tombs the word “Savior.”

Do I then plead the cause of ignorance? Well, yes, rather so. A little ignorance is not a dangerous thing. A man who reads too much—who accumulates too many facts-gets his mind filled to the point of saturation; matters then crystallize and his head becomes a solid thing that refuses to let anything either in or out. In his soul there is no guest-chamber. His only hope for progress lies in another incarnation.

And so a certain ignorance seems a necessary equipment for the doing of a great work. To live in a big city and know what others are doing and saying; to meet the learned and powerful, and hear their sermons and lectures; to view the unending shelves of vast libraries is to be discouraged at the start. And thus we find that genius is essentially rural—a country product. Salons, soirees, theaters, concerts, lectures, libraries, produce a fine mediocrity that smiles at the right time and bows when ‘t is proper, but it is well to bear in mind that George Eliot, Elizabeth Barrett, Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen were all country girls, with little companionship, nourished on picked-up classics, having a healthy ignorance of what the world was saying and doing.

* * *

It is over a hundred years since Jane Austen lived. But when you tramp that five miles from Overton, where the railroad-station is, to Steventon, where she was born, it doesn’t seem like it. Rural England does not change much. Great fleecy clouds roll lazily across the blue, overhead, and the hedgerows are full of twittering birds that you hear but seldom see; and the pastures contain mild-faced cows that look at you with wide-open eyes over the stone walls; and in the towering elm-trees that sway their branches in the breeze crows hold a noisy caucus. And it comes to you that the clouds and the blue sky and the hedgerows and the birds and the cows and the crows are all just as Jane Austen knew them—no change. These stone walls stood here then, and so did the low slate-roofed barns and the whitewashed cottages where the roses clamber over the doors.

I paused in front of one of these snug, homely, handsome, pretty little cottages and looked at the two exact rows of flowers that lined the little walk leading from gate to cottage-door. The pathway was made from coal-ashes and the flowerbeds were marked off with pieces of broken crockery set on edge. ‘T was an absent-minded, impolite thing to do—to stand leaning on a gate and critically examine the landscape-gardening, evidently an overworked woman’s gardening, at that.

As I leaned there the door opened and a little woman with sleeves rolled up appeared. I mumbled an apology, but before I could articulate it, she held out a pair of scissors and said, “Perhaps, sir, you’d like to clip some of the flowers—the roses over the door are best!”

Three children hung to her skirts, peeking, round faces from behind, and quite accidentally disclosing a very neat ankle.

I took the scissors and clipped three splendid Jacqueminots and said it was a beautiful day. She agreed with me and added that she was just finishing her churning and if I’d wait a minute until the butter came, she’d give me a drink of buttermilk.

I waited without urging and got the buttermilk, and as the children had come out from hiding I was minded to give them a penny apiece. Two coppers were all I could muster, so I gave the two boys each a penny and the little girl a shilling. The mother protested that she had no change and that a bob was too much for a little girl like that, but I assumed a Big-Bonanza air and explained that I was from California where the smallest change is a dollar.

“Go thank the gentleman, Jane.”

“That’s right, Jane Austen, come here and thank me!”

“How did you know her name was Jane Austen—Jane Austen Humphreys?”

“I didn’t know—I only guessed.”

Then little Mrs. Humphreys ceased patting the butter and told me that she named her baby girl for Jane Austen, who used to live near here a long time ago. Jane Austen was one of the greatest writers that ever lived—the Rector said so. The Reverend George Austen preached at Steventon for years and years, and I should go and see the church—the same church where he preached and where Jane Austen used to go. And anything I wanted to know about Jane Austen’s books the Rector could tell, for he was a wonderful learned man was the Rector—”Kiss the gentleman, Jane.”

So I kissed Jane Austen’s round, rosy cheek and stroked the tousled heads of the boys by way of blessing, and started for Steventon to interview the Rector who was very wise.

And the clergyman who teaches his people the history of their neighborhood, and tells them of the excellent men and women who once lived thereabouts, is both wise and good. And the present Rector at Steventon is both—I’m sure of that.

* * *

It was a very happy family that lived in the Rectory at Steventon from Seventeen Hundred Seventy-five to Eighteen Hundred One. There were five boys and two girls, and the younger girl’s name was Jane. Between her and James, the oldest boy, lay a period of twelve years of three hundred and sixty-five days each, not to mention leap-years.

The boys were sent away to be educated, and when they came home at holiday time they brought presents for the mother and the girls, and there was great rejoicing.

James was sent to Oxford. The girls were not sent away to be educated—it was thought hardly worth while then to educate women, and some folks still hold to that belief. When the boys came home, they were made to stand by the door-jamb, and a mark was placed on the casing, with a date, which showed how much they had grown. And they were catechized as to their knowledge, and cross-questioned and their books inspected; and so we find one of the sisters saying, once, that she knew all the things her brothers knew, and besides that she knew all the things she knew herself.

There was plenty of books in the library, and the girls made use of them. They would read to their father “because his eyesight was bad,” but I can not help thinking this a clever ruse on the part of the good Rector.

I do not find that there were any secrets in that household or that either Mr. or Mrs. Austen ever said that children should be seen and not heard. It was a little republic of letters—all their own. Thrown in on themselves for not many of the yeomanry thereabouts could read, there was developed a fine spirit of comradeship among parents and children, brothers and sisters, servants and visitors, that is a joy to contemplate. Before the days of railroads, a “visitor” was more of an institution than he is now. He stayed longer and was more welcome; and the news he brought from distant parts was eagerly asked for. Nowadays we know all about everything, almost before it happens, for yellow journalism is so alert that it discounts futurity.

In the Austen household had lived and died a son of Warren Hastings. The lad had so won the love of the Austens that they even spoke of him as their own; and this bond also linked them to the great outside world of statecraft. The things the elders discussed were the properties, too, of the children.

Then once a year the Bishop came—came in knee-breeches, hobnailed shoes, and shovel hat, and the little church was decked with greens. The Bishop came from Paradise, little Jane used to think, and once, to be polite, she asked him how all the folks were in Heaven. Then the other children giggled and the Bishop spilt a whole cup of tea down the front of his best coat, and coughed and choked until he was very red in the face.

When Jane was ten years old there came to live at the Rectory a daughter of Mrs. Austen’s sister. She came to them direct from France. Her name was Madame Fenillade. She was a widow and only twenty-two. Once, when little Jane overheard one of the brothers say that Monsieur Fenillade had kissed Mademoiselle Guillotine, she asked what he meant and they would not tell her.

Now Madame spoke French with grace and fluency, and the girls thought it queer that there should be two languages—English and French—so they picked up a few words of French, too, and at the table would gravely say “Merci, Papa,” and “S’il vous plait, Mamma.” Then Mr. Austen proposed that at table no one should speak anything but French. So Madame told them what to call the sugar and the salt and the bread, and no one called anything except by its French name. In two weeks each of the whole dozen persons who sat at that board, as well as the girl who waited on table, had a bill-of-fare working capital of French. In six months they could converse with ease.

And science with all its ingenuity has not yet pointed out a better way for acquiring a new language than the plan the Austens adopted at Steventon Rectory. We call it the “Berlitz Method” now.

Madame Fenillade’s widowhood rested lightly upon her, and she became quite the life of the whole household.

One of the Austen boys fell in love with the French widow; and surely it would be a very stupid country boy that wouldn’t love a French widow like that!

And they were married and lived happily ever afterward.

But before Madame married and moved away she taught the girls charades, and then little plays, and a theatrical performance was given in the barn.

Then a play could not be found that just suited, so Jane wrote one and Cassandra helped, and Madame criticized and the Reverend Mr. Austen suggested a few changes. Then it was all rewritten. And this was the first attempt at writing for the public by Jane Austen.

* * *

Jane Austen wrote four great novels, “Pride and Prejudice” was begun when she was twenty and finished a year later. The old father started a course of novel-reading on his own account in order to fit his mind to pass judgment on his daughter’s work. He was sure it was good, but feared that love had blinded his eyes, and he wanted to make sure. After six months’ comparison he wrote to a publisher explaining that he had the manuscript of a great novel that would be parted with for a consideration. He assured the publisher that the novel was as excellent as any Miss Burney, Miss Edgeworth, or any one else ever wrote.

Now publishers get letters like that by every mail, and when Mr. Austen received his reply it was so antarctic in sentiment that the manuscript was stored away in the garret, where it lay for just eleven years before it found a publisher. But in the meantime Miss Austen had written three other novels—not with much hope that any one would publish them, but to please her father and the few intimate friends who read and sighed and smiled in quiet.

The year she was thirty years of age her father died—died with no thought that the world would yet endorse his own loving estimate of his daughter’s worth.

After the father’s death financial troubles came, and something had to be done to fight off possible hungry wolves. The manuscript was hunted out, dusted, gone over, and submitted to publishers. They sniffed at it and sent it back. Finally a man was found who was bold enough to read. He liked it, but wouldn’t admit the fact. Yet he decided to print it. He did so. The reading world liked it and said so, although not very loudly. Slowly the work made head, and small-sized London drafts were occasionally sent by publishers to Miss Austen with apologies because the amounts were not larger.

Now, in reference to writing books it may not be amiss to explain that no one ever said, “Now then, I’ll write a story!” and sitting down at table took up pen and dipping it in ink, wrote. Stories don’t come that way. Stories take possession of one—incident after incident—and you write in order to get rid of ‘em—with a few other reasons mixed in, for motives, like silver, are always found mixed. Children play at keeping house: and men and women who have loved think of the things that have happened, then imagine all the things that might have happened, and from thinking it all over to writing it out is but a step. You begin one chapter and write it this forenoon; and do all you may to banish the plot, the next chapter is all in your head before sundown. Next morning you write chapter number two, to unload it, and so the story spins itself out into a book. All this if you live in the country and have time to think and are not broken in upon by too much work and worry—save the worry of the ever-restless mind. Whether the story is good or not depends upon what you leave out.

The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed. Really happy people do not write stories—they accumulate adipose tissue and die at the top through fatty degeneration of the cerebrum. A certain disappointment in life, a dissatisfaction with environment, is necessary to stir the imagination to a creative point. If things are all to your taste you sit back and enjoy them. You forget the flight of time, the march of the seasons, your future life, family, country—all, just as Antony did in Egypt. A deadly, languorous satisfaction comes over you. Pain, disappointment, unrest or a joy that hurts, are the things that prick the mind into activity.

Jane Austen lived in a little village. She felt the narrowness of her life—the inability of those beyond her own household to match her thoughts and emotions. Love came that way—a short heart-rest, a being understood, were hers. The gates of Paradise swung ajar and she caught a glimpse of the glories within, and sighed and clasped her hands and bowed her head in a prayer of thankfulness.

When she arose from her knees the gates were closed; the way was dark; she was alone—alone in a little quibbling, carping village, where tired folks worked and gossiped, ate, drank, slept. Her home was pleasant, to be sure, but man is a citizen of the world, not of a house.

Jane Austen began to write—to write about these village people. Jane was tall, and twenty—not very handsome, but better, she was good-looking. She looked good because she was. She was pious, but not too pious. She used to go calling among the parishioners, visiting the sick, the lowly, the troubled. Then when Great Folks came down from London to “the Hall,” she went with the Rector to call on them too, for the Rector was servant to all—his business was to minister: he was a Minister. And the Reverend George Austen was a bit proud of his younger daughter. She was just as tall as he, and dignified and gentle: and the clergyman chuckled quietly to himself to see how she was the equal in grace and intellect of any Fine Lady from London town.

And although the good Rector prayed, “From all vanity and pride of spirit, good Lord, deliver us,” it never occurred to him that he was vain of his tall daughter Jane, and I’m glad it didn’t. There is no more crazy bumblebee gets into a mortal’s bonnet than the buzzing thought that God is jealous of the affection we have for our loved ones. If we are ever damned, it will be because we have too little love for our fellows, not too much.

But, egad! brother, it’s no small delight to be sixty and a little stooped and a trifle rheumatic, and have your own blessed daughter, sweet and stately, comb your thinning gray locks, help you on with your overcoat, find your cane, and go trooping with you, hand in hand, down the lane on merciful errand bent. It’s a temptation to grow old and feign sciatica; and if you could only know that, some day, like old King Lear, upon your withered cheek would fall Cordelia’s tears, the thought would be a solace.

So Jane Austen began to write stories about the simple folks she knew. She wrote in the family sitting-room at a little mahogany desk that she could shut up quickly if prying neighbors came in to tell their woes and ask questions about all those sheets of paper! And all she wrote she read to her father and to her sister Cassandra. And they talked it all over together and laughed and cried and joked over it. The kind old minister thought it a good mental drill for his girls to write and express their feelings. The two girls collaborated—that is to say, one wrote and the other looked on. Neither girl had been “educated,” except what their father taught them. But to be born into a bookish family, and inherit the hospitable mind and the receptive heart, is better than to be sent to Harvard Annex. Preachers, like other folks, sometimes assume a virtue when they have it not. But George Austen didn’t pretend—he was. And that’s the better plan, for no man can deceive his children—they take his exact measurement, whether others ever do or not—and the only way to win and hold the love of a child (or a grown-up) is to be frank and simple and honest. I’ve tried both schemes.

I can not find that George Austen ever claimed he was only a worm of the dust, or pretended to be more or less than he was, or to assume a knowledge that he did not possess. He used to say: “My dears, I really do not know. But let’s keep the windows open and light may yet come.”

It was a busy family of plain, average people—not very rich, and not very poor. There were difficulties to meet, and troubles to share, and joys to divide.

Jane Austen was born in Seventeen Hundred Seventy-five; “Jane Eyre” in Eighteen Hundred Sixteen—one year before Jane Austen died.

Charlotte Bronte knew all about Jane Austen, and her example fired Charlotte’s ambition. Both were daughters of country clergymen. Charlotte lived in the North of England on the wild and treeless moors, where the searching winds rattled the panes and black-faced sheep bleated piteously. Jane Austen lived in the rich quiet of a prosperous farming country, where bees made honey and larks nested. The Reverend Patrick Bronte disciplined his children: George Austen loved his. In Steventon there is no “Black Bull”; only a little dehorned inn, kept by a woman who breeds canaries, and will sell you a warranted singer for five shillings, with no charge for the cage. At Steventon no red-haired Yorkshiremen offer to give fight or challenge you to a drinking-bout.

The opposites of things are alike, and that is why the world ties Jane Eyre and Jane Austen in one bundle. Their methods of work were totally different: their effects gotten in different ways. Charlotte Bronte fascinates by startling situations and highly colored lights that dance and glow, leading you on in a mad chase. There’s pain, unrest, tragedy in the air. The pulse always is rapid and the temperature high.

It is not so with Jane Austen. She is an artist in her gentleness, and the world is today recognizing this more and more. The stage now works its spells by her methods—without rant, cant or fustian—and as the years go by this must be so more and more, for mankind’s face is turned toward truth.

To weave your spell out of commonplace events and brew a love-potion from every-day materials is high art. When Kipling takes three average soldiers of the line, ignorant, lying, swearing, smoking, dog-fighting soldiers, who can even run on occasion, and by telling of them holds a world in thrall—that’s art! In these soldiers three we recognize something very much akin to ourselves, for the thing that holds no relationship to us does not interest us—we can not leave the personal equation out. This fact is made plain in “The Black Riders,” where the devils dancing in Tophet look up and espying Steve Crane address him thus: “Brother!”

Jane Austen’s characters are all plain, every-day folks. The work is always quiet. There are no entangling situations, no mysteries, no surprises.

Now, to present a situation, an emotion, so it will catch and hold the attention of others, is largely a knack—you practise on the thing until you do it well. This one thing I do. But the man who does this thing is not intrinsically any greater than those who appreciate it—in fact, they are all made of the same kind of stuff. Kipling himself is quite a commonplace person. He is neither handsome nor magnetic. He is plain and manly and would fit in anywhere. If there was a trunk to be carried upstairs, or an ox to get out of a pit, you’d call on Kipling if he chanced that way, and he’d give you a lift as a matter of course, and then go on whistling with hands in his pockets. His art is a knack practised to a point that gives facility.

Jane Austen was a commonplace person. She swept, sewed, worked, and did the duty that lay nearest her. She wrote because she liked to, and because it gave pleasure to others. She wrote as well as she could. She had no thought of immortality, or that she was writing for the ages—no more than Shakespeare had. She never anticipated that Southey, Coleridge, Lamb, Guizot and Macaulay would hail her as a marvel of insight, nor did she suspect that a woman as great as George Eliot would declare her work flawless.

But today strong men recognize her books as rarely excellent, because they show the divinity in all things, keep close to the ground, gently inculcate the firm belief that simple people are as necessary as great ones, that small things are not necessarily unimportant, and that nothing is really insignificant. It all rings true.

And so I sing the praises of the average woman—the woman who does her work, who is willing to be unknown, who is modest and unaffected, who tries to lessen the pains of earth, and to add to its happiness. She is the true guardian angel of mankind!

No book published in Jane Austen’s lifetime bore her name on the title-page; she was never lionized by society; she was never two hundred miles from home; she died when forty-two years of age, and it was sixty years before a biography was attempted or asked for. She sleeps in the cathedral at Winchester, and not so very long ago a visitor, on asking the verger to see her grave, was conducted thither, and the verger asked: “Was she anybody in particular? So many folks ask where she’s buried, you know!”

But this is changed now, for when the verger took me to her grave and we stood by that plain black marble slab, he spoke intelligently of her life and work. And many visitors now go to the cathedral, only because it is the resting-place of Jane Austen, who lived a beautiful, helpful life and produced great art, yet knew it not.

Empress Josephine • 5,700 Words

You have met General Bonaparte in my house. Well—he it is who would supply a father’s place to the orphans of Alexander de Beauharnais, and a husband’s to his widow. I admire the General’s courage, the extent of his information, for on all subjects he talks equally well, and the quickness of his judgment, which enables him to seize the thoughts of others almost before they are expressed; but, I confess it, I shrink from the despotism he seems desirous of exercising over all who approach him. His searching glance has something singular and inexplicable, which imposes even on our Directors; judge if it may not intimidate a woman. Even—what ought to please me—the force of a passion, described with an energy that leaves not a doubt of his sincerity, is precisely the cause which arrests the consent I am often on the point of pronouncing.
Letters of Josephine

Empress Josephine
Empress Josephine

It was a great life, dearie, a great life! Charles Lamb used to study mathematics to subdue his genius, and I’ll have to tinge truth with gray in order to keep this little sketch from appearing like a red Ruritania romance.

Josephine was born on an island in the Caribbean Sea, a long way from France. The Little Man was an islander, too. They started for France about the same time, from different directions—each, of course, totally unaware that the other lived. They started on the order of that joker, Fate, in order to scramble Continental politics, and make omelet of the world’s pretensions.

Josephine’s father was Captain Tascher. Do you know who Captain Tascher was? Very well, there is satisfaction then in knowing that no one else does either. He seems to have had no ancestors; and he left no successor save Josephine.

We know a little less of Josephine’s mother than we do of her father. She was the daughter of a Frenchman whom the world had plucked of both money and courage, and he moved to the West Indies to vegetate and brood on the vanity of earthly ambitions. Young Captain Tascher married the planter’s daughter in the year Seventeen Hundred Sixty-two. The next year a daughter was born, and they called her name Josephine.

Not long after her birth, Captain Tascher thought to mend his prospects by moving to one of the neighboring islands. His wife went with him, but they left the baby girl in the hands of a good old aunt, until they could corral fortune and make things secure, for this world at least.

They never came back, for they died and were buried.

Josephine never had any recollection of her parents. But the aunt was gentle and kindly, and life was simple and cheap. There was plenty to eat, and no clothing to speak of was required, for the Equator was only a stone’s throw away; in fact, it was in sight of the house, as Josephine herself has said.

There was a Catholic church near, but no school. Yet Josephine learned to read and write. She sang with the negroes and danced and swam and played leap-frog. When she was nine years old, her aunt told her she must not play leap-frog any more, but she should learn to embroider and to play the harp and read poetry. Then she would grow up and be a fine lady.

And Josephine thought it a bit hard, but said she would try.

She was tall and slender, but not very handsome. Her complexion was rather yellow, her hands bony. But the years brought grace, and even if her features were not pretty she had one thing that was better, a gentle voice. So far as I know, no one ever gave her lessons in voice culture either. Perhaps the voice is the true index of the soul. Josephine’s voice was low, sweet, and so finely modulated that when she spoke others would pause to listen—not to the words, just to the voice.

Occasionally, visitors came to the island and were received at the old rambling mansion where Josephine’s aunt lived. From them the girl learned about the great, outside world with its politics and society and strife and rivalry; and when the visitor went away Josephine had gotten from him all he knew. So the young woman became wise without school and learned without books. A year after the memorable year of Seventeen Hundred Seventy-six, there came to the island, Vicomte Alexander Beauharnais. He had come direct from America, where he had fought on the side of the Colonies against the British. He was full of Republican principles. Paradoxically, he was also rich and idle and somewhat of an adventurer.

He called at the old aunt’s, Madame Renaudin’s, and called often. He fell violently in love with Josephine. I say violently, for that was the kind of man he was. He was thirty, she was fifteen. His voice was rough and guttural, so I do not think he had much inward grace. Josephine’s fine instincts rebelled at thought of accepting his proffered affection. She explained that she was betrothed to another, a neighboring youth of about her own age, whose thoughts and feelings matched hers.

Beauharnais said that was nothing to him, and appealed to the old folks, displaying his title, submitting an inventory of his estate; and the old folks agreed to look into the matter. They did so and explained to Josephine that she should not longer hold out against the wishes of those who had done so much for her.

And so Josephine relented and they were married, although it can not truthfully be said that they lived happily ever afterward. They started for France, on their wedding-tour. In six weeks they arrived in Paris. Returned soldiers and famed travelers are eagerly welcomed by society; especially is this so when the traveler brings a Creole wife from the Equator. The couple supplied a new thrill, and society in Paris is always eager for a new thrill.

Vicomte Beauharnais and his wife became quite the rage. It was expected that the Creole lady would be beautiful but dull; instead, she was not so very beautiful, but very clever. She dropped into all the graceful ways of polite society intuitively.

In a year, domestic life slightly interfered with society’s claims—a son was born. They called his name Eugene.

Two more years and a daughter was born. They called her name Hortense.

Josephine was only twenty, but the tropics and social experience and maternity had given ripeness to her life. She became thoughtful and inclined rather to stay at home with her babies than chase fashion’s butterflies.

Beauharnais chased fashion’s butterflies, and caught them, too, for he came home late and quarreled with his wife—a sure sign.

He drank a little, gamed more, sought excitement, and talked politics needlessly loud in underground cafes.

Men who are woefully lax in their marriage relations are very apt to regard their wives with suspicion. If Beauharnais had been weighed in the balances he would have been found wanton. He instituted proceedings against Josephine for divorce.

And Josephine packed up a few scanty effects and taking her two children started for her old home in the West Indies. It took all the money she had to pay passage.

It was the old, old story—a few years of gay life in the great city, then cruelty too great for endurance, tears, shut white lips, a firm resolve—and back to the old farm where homely, loyal hearts await, and outstretched arms welcome the sorrowful, yet glad return.

Beauharnais failed to get his divorce. The court said “no cause for action.” He awoke, stared stupidly about, felt the need of sympathy in his hour of undoing, and looked for—Josephine.

She was gone.

He tried absinthe, gambling, hot dissipation; but he could not forget. He had sent away his granary and storehouse; his wand of wealth and heart’s desire. Two ways opened for peace, only two: a loaded pistol—or get her back.

First he would try to get her back, and the pistol should be held in reserve in case of failure.

Josephine forgave and came back; for a good woman forgives to seventy times seven.

Beauharnais met her with all the tenderness a lover could command. The ceremony of marriage was again sacredly solemnized. They retired to the country and with their two children lived three of the happiest months Josephine ever knew; at least Josephine said so, and the fact that she made the same remark about several other occasions is no reason for doubting her sincerity. Then they moved back to Paris.

Beauharnais sobered his ambitions, and kept good hours. He was a soldier in the employ of the king, but his sympathies were with the people. He was a Republican with a Royalist bias, but some said he was a Royalist with a Republican bias.

Josephine looked after her household, educated her children, did much charitable work, and knew what was going on in the State.

But those were troublous times. Murder was in the air and revolution was rife. That mob of a hundred thousand women had tramped out to Versailles and brought the king back to Paris. He had been beheaded, and Marie Antoinette had followed him. The people were in power and Beauharnais had labored to temper their wrath with reason. He had even been Chairman of the Third Convention. He called himself Citizen. But the fact that he was of noble birth was remembered, and in September of Seventeen Hundred Ninety-three, three men called at his house. When Josephine looked out of the window, she saw by the wan light of the moon a file of soldiers standing stiff and motionless.

She knew the time had come. They marched Citizen Beauharnais to the Luxembourg.

In a few feverish months, they came back for his wife. Her they placed in the nunnery of the Carmelites—that prison where, but a few months before, a mob relieved the keepers of their vigils by killing all their charges.

Robespierre was supreme. Now, Robespierre had come into power by undoing Danton. Danton had helped lug in the Revolution, but when he touched a match to the hay he did not really mean to start a conflagration, only a bonfire.

He tried to dampen the blaze, and Robespierre said he was a traitor and led him to the guillotine. Robespierre worked the guillotine until the bearings grew hot. Still, the people who rode in the death-tumbrel did not seem so very miserable. Despair pushed far enough completes the circle and becomes peace—a peace like unto security. It is the last stage: hope is gone, but the comforting thought of heroic death and an eternal sleep takes its place.

When Josephine at the nunnery of the Carmelites received from the Luxembourg prison a package containing a generous lock of her husband’s hair, she knew it had been purchased from the executioner.

Now the prison of the Carmelites was unfortunately rather crowded. In fact, it was full to the roof-tile. Five ladies were obliged to occupy one little cell. One of these ladies in the cell with Josephine was Madame Fontenay. Now Madame Fontenay was fondly loved by Citizen Tallien, who was a member of the Assembly over which Citizen Robespierre presided. Citizen Tallien did not explain his love for Madame to the public, because Madame chanced to be the wife of another. So how could Robespierre know that when he imprisoned Madame he was touching the tenderest tie that bound his friend Tallien to earth?

Robespierre sent word to the prison of the Carmelites that Madame Fontenay and Madame Beauharnais should prepare for death—they were guilty of plotting against the people.

Now, Tallien came daily to the prison of the Carmelites, not to visit of course, but to see that the prisoners were properly restrained. A cabbage-stalk was thrown out of a cell-window, and Tallien found in the stalk a note from his ladylove to this effect: “I am to die in two days; to save me you must overthrow Robespierre.”

The next day there was trouble when the Convention met. Tallien got the platform and denounced Robespierre in a Cassius voice as a traitor—the arch-enemy of the people—a plotter for self. To emphasize his remarks he brandished a glittering dagger. Other orations followed in like vein. All orders that Robespierre had given out were abrogated by acclamation. Two days and Robespierre was made to take a dose of the medicine he had so often prescribed for others. He was beheaded by Samson, his own servant, July Fifteenth, Seventeen Hundred Ninety-four.

Immediately all “suspects” imprisoned on his instigation were released.

Madame Fontenay and the widow Beauharnais were free. Soon after this Madame Fontenay became Madame Tallien. Josephine got her children back from the country, but her property was gone and she was in sore straits. But she had friends, yet none so loyal and helpful as Citizen Tallien and his wife. Their home was hers. And it was there she met a man by the name of Barras, and there too she met a man who was a friend of Barras; by name, Bonaparte—Napoleon Bonaparte. Bonaparte was twenty-six. He was five feet two inches high and weighed one hundred twenty pounds. He was beardless and looked like a boy, and at that time his face was illumined by an eruption.

Out of employment and waiting for something to turn up, he yet had a very self-satisfied manner.

His peculiar way of listening to conversation—absorbing everything and giving nothing out—made one uncomfortable. Josephine, seven years his senior, did not like the youth. She had had a wider experience and been better brought up than he, and she let him know it, but he did not seem especially abashed.

* * *

Exactly what the French Revolution was, no one has yet told us. Read “Carlyle” backward or forward and it is grand: it puts your head in a whirl of heroic intoxication, but it does not explain the Revolution.

Suspicion, hate, tyranny, fear, mawkish sentimentality, mad desire, were in the air. One leader was deposed because he did nothing, and his successor was carried to the guillotine because he did too much. Convention after convention was dissolved and re-formed.

On the Fourth of October, Seventeen Hundred Ninety-five, there was a howl and a roar and a shriek from forty thousand citizens of Paris.

No one knew just what they wanted—the forty thousand did not explain. Perhaps it was nothing—only the leaders who wanted power. They demanded that the Convention should be dissolved: certain men must be put out and others put in.

The Convention convened and all the members felt to see if their heads were in proper place—tomorrow they might not be. The room was crowded to suffocation. Spectators filled the windows, perched on the gallery-railing, climbed and clung on the projecting parts of columns.

High up on one of these columns sat the young man Bonaparte, silent, unmoved, still waiting for something to turn up.

The Convention must protect itself, and the call was for Barras. Barras had once successfully parleyed with insurrection—he must do so again. Barras turned bluish-white, for he knew that to deal with this mob successfully a man must be blind and deaf to pity. He struggled to his feet—he looked about helplessly—the Convention silently waited to catch the words of its savior.

High up on a column Barras spied the lithe form of the artillery major, whom he had seen, with face of bronze, deal out grape and canister at Toulon. Barras raised his hand and pointing to the young officer cried, “There, there is the man who can save you!”

The Convention nominated the little man by acclamation as commander of the city’s forces. He slid down from his perch, took half an hour to ascertain whether the soldiers were on the side of the mob or against it—for it was usually a toss-up—and decided to accept the command. Next day the mob surrounded the Tuileries in the name of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality. The Terrorists entreated the soldiers to throw down their arms, then they reviled and cajoled and cursed and sang, and the women as usual were in the vanguard. Paris recognized the divine right of insurrection. Who dare shoot into such a throng!

The young artillery major dare. He gave the word and red death mowed wide swaths, and the balls spat against the walls and sang through the windows of the Church of Saint Roche where the mob was centered. Again and again he fired. It began at four by the clock, and at six all good people, and bad, had retired to their homes, and Paris was law-abiding. The Convention named Napoleon, General of the Interior, and the French Revolution became from that moment a thing that was.

* * *

Of course, no one in Paris was so much talked of as the young artillery officer. Josephine was a bit proud that she had met him, and possibly a little sorry that she had treated him so coldly. He only wished to be polite!

Josephine was an honest woman, but still, she was a woman. She desired to be well thought of, and to be well thought of by men in power. Her son Eugene was fifteen, and she had ambitions for him; and to this end she saw the need of keeping in touch with the Powers. Josephine was a politician and a diplomat, for all women are diplomats. She arrayed Eugene in his Sunday-best and told him to go to the General of the Interior and explain that his name was Eugene Beauharnais, that his father was the martyred patriot, General Beauharnais, and that this beloved father’s sword was in the archives over which Providence had placed the General of the Interior. Furthermore, the son should request that the sword of his father be given him so that it might be used in defense of France if need be.

And it was so done.

The whole thing was needlessly melodramatic, and Napoleon laughed. The poetry of war was to him a joke. But he stroked the youth’s curls, asked after his mother, and ordered his secretary to go fetch that sword.

So the boy carried the sword home and was very happy, and his mother was very happy and proud of him, and she kissed him on both cheeks and kissed the sword and thought of the erring, yet generous man who once had carried it. Then she thought it would be but proper for her to go and thank the man who had given the sword back; for had he not stroked her boy’s curls and told him he was a fine young fellow, and asked after his mother!

So the next day she went to call on the man who had so graciously given the sword back. She was kept waiting a little while in the anteroom, for Napoleon always kept people waiting—it was a good scheme. When admitted to the presence, the General of the Interior, in simple corporal’s dress, did not remember her. Neither did he remember about giving the sword back—at least he said so. He was always a trifler with women, though; and it was so delicious to have this tearful widow remove her veil and explain—for gadzooks! had she not several times allowed the mercury to drop to zero for his benefit?

And so she explained, and gradually it all came back to him—very slowly and after cross-questioning—and then he was so glad to see her. When she went away, he accompanied her to the outer door, bareheaded, and as they walked down the long hallway she noted the fact that he was not so tall as she by three inches. He shook hands with her as they parted, and said he would call on her when he had gotten a bit over the rush.

Josephine went home in a glow. She did not like the man—he had humiliated her by making her explain who she was, and his manner, too, was offensively familiar. And yet he was a power, there was no denying that, and to know men of power is a satisfaction to any woman. He was twenty years younger than Beauharnais, the mourned—twenty years! Then Beauharnais was tall and had a splendid beard and wore a dangling sword. Beauharnais was of noble birth, educated, experienced, but he was dead; and here was a beardless boy being called the Chief Citizen of France. Well, well, well!

She was both pleased and hurt—hurt to think she had been humbled, and pleased to think such attentions had been paid her. In a few days the young general called on the widow to crave forgiveness for not having recognized her when she had called on him. It was very stupid in him, very! She forgave him.

He complimented Eugene in terse, lavish terms, and when he went away kissed Hortense, who was thirteen and thought herself too big to be kissed by a strange man. But Napoleon said they all seemed just like old friends. And seeming like old friends he called often.

Josephine knew Paris and Parisian society thoroughly. Fifteen years of close contact in success and defeat with statesmen, soldiers, diplomats, artists and literati had taught her much. It is probable that she was the most gifted woman in Paris. Now, Napoleon learned by induction as Josephine had, and as all women do, and as genius must, for life is short—only dullards spend eight years at Oxford. He absorbed Josephine as the devilfish does its prey. And to get every thought and feeling that a good woman possesses you must win her completest love. In this close contact she gives up all—unlike Sapphira—holding nothing back.

Among educated people, people of breeding and culture, Napoleon felt ill at ease. With this woman at his side he would be at home anywhere. And feeling at once that he could win her only by honorable marriage he decided to marry her.

He was ambitious. Has that been remarked before? Well, one can not always be original—still I think the facts bear out the statement.

Josephine was ambitious, too, but some way in this partnership she felt that she would bring more capital into the concern than he, and she hesitated.

But power had given dignity to the Little Man; his face had taken on the cold beauty of marble. Success was better than sarsaparilla. Josephine was aware of his growing power, and his persistency was irresistible; and so one evening when he dropped in for a moment, her manner told all. He just took her in his arms, and kissing her very tenderly whispered, “My dear, together we will win,” and went his way. When he wished to be, Napoleon was the ideal lover; he was master of that fine forbearance, flavored with a dash of audacity, that women so appreciate. He never wore love to a frazzle, nor caressed the object of his affections into fidgets; neither did he let her starve, although at times shemight go hungry.

However, the fact remains that Josephine married the man to get rid of him; but that’s a thing women are constantly doing.

The ceremony was performed by a Justice of the Peace, March Ninth, Seventeen Hundred Ninety-six. It was just five months since the bride had called to thank the groom for giving back her husband’s sword, and fifteen months after this husband’s death. Napoleon was twenty-seven; Josephine was thirty-three, but the bridegroom swore he was twenty-eight and the lady twenty-nine. As a fabricator he wins our admiration.

Twelve days after the marriage, Napoleon set out for Italy as Commander-in-Chief of the army. To trace the brilliant campaign of that year, when the tricolor of France was carried from the Bay of Biscay to the Adriatic Sea, is not my business. Suffice it to say that it placed the name of Bonaparte among the foremost names of military leaders of all time. But amid the restless movement of grim war and the glamour of success he never for a day forgot his Josephine. His letters breathe a youthful lover’s affection, and all the fond desires of his heart were hers. Through her he also knew the pulse and temperature of Paris—its form and pressure.

It was a year before they saw each other. She came on to Milan and met him there. They settled in Montebello, at a beautiful country seat, six miles from the city. From there he conducted negotiations for peace—and she presided over the gay social circles of the ancient capital. “I gain provinces; you win hearts,” said Napoleon. It was a very Napoleonic remark.

Napoleon had already had Eugene with him, and together they had seen the glory of battle. Now Hortense was sent for, and they were made Napoleon’s children by adoption. These were days of glowing sunshine and success and warm affection.

And so Napoleon with his family returned to France amid bursts of applause, proclaimed everywhere the Savior of the State, its Protector, and all that. Civil troubles had all vanished in the smoke of war with foreign enemies. Prosperity was everywhere, the fruits of conquest had satisfied all, and the discontented class had been drawn off into the army and killed or else was now cheerfully boozy with success.

Napoleon made allies of all powers he could not easily undo, and proffered his support—biding his time. Across the English Channel he looked and stared with envious eyes. Josephine had tasted success and known defeat. Napoleon had only tasted success. She begged that he would rest content and hold secure that which he had gained. Success in its very nature must be limited, she said. He laughed and would not hear of it. For the first time she felt her influence over him was waning. She had given her all; he greedily absorbed, and now had come to believe in his own omniscience. He told her that on a pinch he could get along without her—within himself he held all power. Then he kissed her hand in mock gallantry and led her to the door, as he would be alone.

When Napoleon started on the Egyptian campaign, Josephine begged to go with him; other women went, dozens of them. They seemed to look upon it as a picnic party. But Napoleon, insisting that absence makes the heart grow fonder, said his wife should remain behind.

Josephine was too good and great for the wife of such a man. She saw through him. She understood him, and only honest men are willing to be understood. He was tired of her, for she no longer ministered to his vanity. He had captured her, and now he was done with her. Besides that, she sided with the peace party, and this was intolerable. Still he did not beat her with a stick; he treated her most graciously, and installing her at beautiful Malmaison, provided her everything to make her happy. And if “things” could make one happy, she would have been.

And as for the Egyptian campaign, it surely was a picnic party, or it was until things got so serious that frolic was supplanted by fear. You can’t frolic with your hair on end like quills upon the fretful porcupine. Napoleon did not write to his wife. He frolicked. Occasionally his secretary sent her a formal letter of instruction, and when she at last wrote him asking an explanation for such strange silence, the Little Man answered her with accusations of infidelity.

Josephine decided to secure a divorce, and there is pretty good proof that papers were prepared; and had the affair been carried along, the courts would have at once allowed the separation on statutory grounds. However, the papers were destroyed, and Josephine decided to live it out. But Napoleon had heard of these proposed divorce proceedings and was furious. When he came back, it was with the intention of immediate legal separation—in any event separation.

He came back and held out haughtily for three days, addressing her as “Madame,” and refusing so much as to shake hands. After the three days he sued for peace and cried it out on his knees with his head in her lap. It was not genuine humility, only the humility that follows debauch. Napoleon had many kind impulses, but his mood was selfish indifference to the rights or wishes of others. He did not hold hate, yet the thought of divorce from Josephine was palliated in his own mind by the thought that she had first suggested it. “I took her at her word,” he once said to Bertram, as if the thing were pricking him.

And so matters moved on. There was war, and rumors of war, alway; but the vanquished paid the expenses. It was thought best that France should be ruled by three consuls. Three men were elected, with Napoleon as First Consul. The First Consul bought off the Second and Third Consuls and replaced them with two wooden men from the Tenth Ward.

Josephine worked for the glory of France and for her husband: she was diplomat and adviser. She placated enemies and made friends.

France prospered, and in the wars the foreigner usually not only paid the bills, but a goodly tribute beside. Nothing is so good as war to make peace at home. An insurrectionist at home makes a splendid soldier abroad. Napoleon’s battles were won by the “dangerous class.” As the First Consul was Emperor in fact, the wires were pulled, and he was made so in name. His wife was made Empress: it must be so, as a breath of disapproval might ruin the whole scheme. Josephine was beloved by the people, and the people must know that she was honored by her husband. With a woman’s intuition, Josephine saw the end—power grows until it topples. She pleaded, begged—it was of no avail—the tide swept her with it, but whither, whither? she kept asking.

Meantime Hortense had been married to Louis, brother of Napoleon. In due time Napoleon found himself a grandfather. He both liked it and didn’t. He considered himself a youth and took a pride in being occasionally mistaken for a recruit, and here some newspaper had called him “granddaddy,” and people had laughed! He was not even a father, except by law—not Nature—and that’s no father at all, for Nature does not recognize law. He joked with Josephine about it, and she turned pale.

There is no subject on which men so deceive themselves as concerning their motives for doing certain things. On no subject do mortals so deceive themselves as their motives for marriage. Their acts may be all right, but the reasons they give for doing them never are. Napoleon desired a new wife, because he wished a son to found a dynasty.

“You have Eugene!” said Josephine.

“He’s my son by proxy,” said Napoleon, with a weary smile.

All motives, like ores, are found mixed, and counting the whole at one hundred, Napoleon’s desire for a son after the flesh should stand as ten—other reasons ninety. All men wish to be thought young. Napoleon was forty, and his wife was forty-seven. Talleyrand had spoken of them as Old Mr. and Mrs. Bonaparte.

A man of forty is only a giddy youth, according to his own estimate. Girls of twenty are his playfellows. A man of sixty, with a wife forty, and babies coming, is not old—bless me! But suppose his wife is nearly seventy—what then! Napoleon must have a young wife. Then by marrying Marie Louise, Austria could be held as friend: it was very necessary to do this. Austria must be secured as an ally at any cost—even at the cost of Josephine. It was painful, but must be done for the good of France. The State should stand first in the mind of every loyal, honest man: all else is secondary.

So Josephine was divorced, but was provided with an annuity that was preposterous in its lavish proportions. It amounted to over half a million dollars a year. I once knew a man who, on getting home from the club at two o’clock in the morning, was reproached by his wife for his shocking condition. He promptly threw the lady over the banisters. Next day he purchased her a diamond necklace at the cost of a year’s salary, but she could not wear it out in society for a month on account of her black eye.

Napoleon divorced Josephine that he might be the father of a line of kings. When he abdicated in Eighteen Hundred Fifteen, he declared his son, the child of Marie Louise, “Napoleon the Second, Emperor of France,” and the world laughed. The son died before he had fairly reached manhood’s estate. Napoleon the Third, son of Hortense, Queen of Holland, the grandson of Josephine, reigned long and well as Emperor of France. The Prince Imperial—a noble youth—great-grandson of Josephine, was killed in Africa while fighting the battle of the nation that undid Napoleon.

Josephine was a parent of kings: Napoleon was not.

When Bonaparte was banished to Elba, and Marie Louise was nowhere to be seen, Josephine wrote to him words of consolation, offering to share his exile.

She died not long after—on the Second of June, Eighteen Hundred Fourteen.

After viewing that gaudy tomb at the Invalides, and thinking of the treasure in tears and broken hearts that it took to build it, it will rest you to go to the simple village church at Ruel, a half-hour’s ride from the Arc de Triomphe, where sleeps Josephine, Empress of France.

Mary W. Shelley • 5,500 Words

Shelley, beloved! the year has a new name from any thou knowest. When Spring arrives, leaves that you never saw will shadow the ground, and flowers you never beheld will star it, and the grass will be of another growth. Thy name is added to the list which makes the earth bold in her age, and proud of what has been. Time, with slow, but unwearied feet, guides her to the goal that thou hast reached; and I, her unhappy child, am advanced still nearer the hour when my earthly dress shall repose near thine, beneath the tomb of Cestius.
Journal of Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley

When Emerson borrowed from Wordsworth that fine phrase about plain living and high thinking, no one was more astonished than he that Whitman and Thoreau should take him at his word. He was decidedly curious about their experiment. But he kept a safe distance between himself and the shirt-sleeved Walt; and as for Henry Thoreau—bless me! Emerson regarded him only as a fine savage, and told him so. Of course, Emerson loved solitude, but it was the solitude of a library or an orchard, and not the solitude of plain or wilderness. Emerson looked upon Beautiful Truth as an honored guest. He adored her, but it was with the adoration of the intellect. He never got her tag in jolly chase of comradery; nor did he converse with her, soft and low, when only the moon peeked out from behind the silvery clouds, and the nightingale listened. He never laid himself open to damages. And when he threw a bit of a bomb into Harvard Divinity School it was the shrewdest bid for fame that ever preacher made.

I said “shrewd”—that’s the word.

Emerson had the instincts of Connecticut—that peculiar development of men who have eked out existence on a rocky soil, banking their houses against grim Winter or grimmer savage foes. With this Yankee shrewdness went a subtle and sweeping imagination, and a fine appreciation of the excellent things that men have said and done. But he was never so foolish as to imitate the heroic—he, simply admired it from afar. He advised others to work their poetry up into life, but he did not do so himself. He never cast the bantling on the rocks, nor caused him to be suckled with the she-wolf’s teat. He admired “abolition” from a distance. When he went away from home it was always with a return ticket. He has summed up Friendship in an essay as no other man ever has, and yet there was a self-protective aloofness in his friendship that made icicles gather, as George William Curtis has explained.

In no relation of his life was there a complete abandon. His “Essay on Self-Reliance” is beef, iron and wine, and “Works and Days” is a tonic for tired men; and yet I know that, in spite of all his pretty talk about living near Nature’s heart, he never ventured into the woods outside of hallooing distance from the house. He could neither ride a horse, shoot, nor sail a boat—and being well aware of it, never tried. All his farming was done by proxy; and when he writes to Carlyle late in life, explaining how he is worth forty thousand dollars, well secured by first mortgages, he makes clear one-half of his ambition.

And yet, I call him master, and will match my admiration for him ‘gainst that of any other, six nights and days together. But I summon him here only to contrast his character with that of another—another who, like himself, was twice married.

In his “Essay on Love” Emerson reveals just an average sophomore insight; and in his work I do not find a mention or a trace of influence exercised by either of the two women he wedded, nor by any other woman. Shelley was what he was through the influence of the two women he married.

Shelley wrecked the life of one of these women. She found surcease of sorrow in death; and when her body was found in the Serpentine he had a premonition that the hungry waves were waiting for him, too. But before her death and through her death, she pressed home to him the bitterest sorrow that man can ever know: the combined knowledge that he has mortally injured a human soul and the sense of helplessness to minister to its needs. Harriet Westbrook said to Shelley, drink ye all of it. And could he speak now he would say that the bitterness of the potion was a formative influence as potent as that of the gentle ministrations of Mary Wollstonecraft, who broke over his head the precious vase of her heart’s love and wiped his feet with the hairs of her head.

In the poetic sweetness, gentleness, lovableness and beauty of their natures, Emerson and Shelley were very similar. In a like environment they would have done the same things. A pioneer ancestry with its struggle for material existence would have given Shelley caution; and a noble patronymic, fostered by the State, lax in its discipline, would have made Emerson toss discretion to the winds.

Emerson and Shelley were both apostles of the good, the true and the beautiful. One of them rests at Sleepy Hollow, his grave marked by a great rough-hewn boulder, while overhead the winds sigh a requiem through the pines. The ashes of the other were laid beneath the moss-grown wall of the Eternal City, and the creeping vines and flowers, as if jealous of the white, carven marble, snuggle close over the spot with their leaves and petals.

Yet both of these men achieved immortality, for their thoughts live again in the thoughts of the race, and their hopes and their aspirations mingle and are one with the men and women of earth who think and feel and dream.

* * *

It was Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin who awoke in Shelley such a burst of song that men yet listen to its cadence. It was she who gave his soul wings: her gentle spirit blending with his made music that has enriched the world. Without her he was fast beating out his life against the bars of unkind condition, but together they worked and sang. All his lines were recited to her, all were weighed in the critical balances of her woman’s judgment. She it was who first wrote it out, and then gave it back. Together they revised; and after he had passed on, she it was who collected the scattered leaves, added the final word, and gave us the book we call “Shelley’s Poems.” Perhaps we might call all poetry the child of parents, but with Shelley’s poems this is literally true. Mary Shelley delighted in the name Wollstonecraft. It was her mother’s name; and was not Mary Wollstonecraft the foremost intellectual woman of her day—a woman of purpose, forceful yet gentle, appreciative, kind?

Mary Wollstonecraft was born in Seventeen Hundred Fifty-nine; and tiring of the dull monotony of a country town went up to London when yet a child and fought the world alone. By her own efforts she grew learned; she had all science, all philosophy, all history at her fingers’ ends. She became able to speak several languages, and by her pen an income was secured that was not only sufficient for herself, but ministered to the needs of an aged father and mother and sisters as well.

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote one great book (which is all any one can write): “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” It sums up all that has since been written on the subject. Like an essay by Herbert Spencer, it views the matter from every side, anticipates every objection—exhausts the subject. The literary style of Mary Wollstonecraft’s book is Johnsonese, but its thought forms the base of all that has come after. It is the great-great-grandmother of all woman’s clubs and these thousand efforts that women are now putting forth along economic, artistic and social lines. But we have nearly lost sight of Mary Wollstonecraft. Can you name me, please, your father’s grandmother? Aye, I thought not; then tell me the name of the man who is now Treasurer of the United States!

And so you see we do not know much about other people, after all. But Mary Wollstonecraft pushed the question of woman’s freedom to its farthest limit; I told you that she exhausted the subject. She prophesied a day when woman would have economic freedom—that is, be allowed to work at any craft or trade for which her genius fitted her and receive a proper recompense. Woman would also have social freedom: the right to come and go alone—the privilege of walking upon the street without the company of a man—the right to study and observe. Next, woman would have political freedom: the right to record her choice in matters of lawmaking. And last, she would yet have sex freedom: the right to bestow her love without prying police and blundering law interfering in the delicate relations of married life.

To make herself understood. Mary Wollstonecraft explained that society was tainted with the thought that sex was unclean; but she held high the ideal that this would yet pass away, and that the idea of holding one’s mate by statute law would become abhorrent to all good men and women. She declared that the assumption that law could join a man and a woman in holy wedlock was preposterous, and that the caging of one person by another for a lifetime was essentially barbaric. Only the love that is free and spontaneous and that holds its own by the purity, the sweetness, the tenderness and the gentleness of its life is divine. And further, she declared it her belief that when a man had found his true mate such a union would be for life—it could not be otherwise. And the man holding his mate by the excellence that was in him, instead of by the aid of the law, would be placed, loverlike, on his good behavior, and be a stronger and manlier being. Such a union, freed from the petty, spying and tyrannical restraints of present usage, must come ere the race could far advance.

Mary Wollstonecraft’s book created a sensation. It was widely read and hotly denounced. A few upheld it: among these was William Godwin. But the air was so full of taunt and threat that Miss Wollstonecraft thought best to leave England for a time. She journeyed to Paris, and there wrote and translated for certain English publishers. In Paris she met Gilbert Imlay, an American, seemingly of very much the same temperament as herself. She was thirty-six, he was somewhat younger. They began housekeeping on the ideal basis. In a year a daughter was born to them. When this baby was three months old, Imlay disappeared, leaving Mary penniless and friendless.

It was a terrible blow to this trusting and gentle woman. But after a good cry or two, philosophy came to her rescue and she decided that to be deserted by a man who did not love her was really not so bad as to be tied to him for life. She earned a little money and in a short time started back for England with her babe and scanty luggage—sorrowful, yet brave and unsubdued. She might have left her babe behind, but she scorned the thought. She would be honest and conceal nothing. Right must win.

Now, I am told that an unmarried woman with a babe at her breast is not received in England into the best society. The tale of Mary’s misfortune had preceded her, and literary London laughed a hoarse, guttural guffaw, and society tittered to think how this woman who had written so smartly had tried some of her own medicine and found it bitter. Publishers no longer wanted her work, old friends failed to recognize her, and one man to whom she applied for work brought a rebuke upon his head, that lasted him for years.

Godwin, philosopher, idealist, enthusiast and reformer, who made it his rule to seek out those in trouble, found her and told a needless lie by declaring he had been commissioned by a certain nameless publisher to get her to write certain articles about this and that. Then he emptied his pockets of all the small change he had, as an advance payment, and he hadn’t very much, and started out to find the publisher who would buy the prospective “hot stuff.” Fortunately he succeeded.

After a few weeks, Mr. Godwin, bachelor, aged forty, found himself very much in love with Mary Wollstonecraft and her baby. Her absolute purity of purpose, her frankness, honesty and high ideals surpassed anything he had ever dreamed of finding incarnated in woman. He became her sincere lover; and she, the discarded, the forsaken, reciprocated; for it seems that the tendrils of affection, ruthlessly uprooted, cling to the first object that presents itself.

And so they were married; yes, these two who had so generously repudiated the marriage-tie were married March Twenty-ninth, Seventeen Hundred Ninety-seven, at Old Saint Pancras Church, for they had come to the sane conclusion that to affront society was not wise.

On August Thirtieth, in the year Seventeen Hundred Ninety-seven, was born to them a daughter. Then the mother died—died did brave Mary Wollstonecraft, and left behind a girl baby one week old. And it was this baby, grown to womanhood, who became Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

* * *

William Godwin wrote one great book: “Political Justice.” It is a work so high and noble in its outlook that only a Utopia could ever realize its ideals. When men are everywhere willing to give to other men all the rights they demand for themselves, and co-operation takes the place of competition, then will Godwin’s philosophy be not too great and good for daily food. Among the many who read his book and thought they saw in it the portent of a diviner day was one Percy Bysshe Shelley.

And so it came to pass that about the year Eighteen Hundred Thirteen, this Percy Bysshe Shelley called on Godwin, who was living in a rusty, musty tenement in Somerstown. The young man was twenty: tall and slender, with as handsome a face as was ever given to mortal. The face was pale as marble: the features almost feminine in their delicacy: thin lips, straight nose, good teeth, abundant, curling hair, and eyes so dreamy and sorrowful that women on the street would often turn and follow the “angel soul garbed in human form.”

This man Shelley was sick at heart, bereft, perplexed, in sore straits, and to whom should he turn for advice in this time of undoing but to Godwin, the philosopher! Besides, Godwin had been the husband of Mary Wollstonecraft, and the splendid precepts of these two had nourished into being all the latent excellence of the youth. Yes, he would go to Godwin, the Plato of England!

And so he went to Godwin.

Now, this young man Shelley was of noble blood. His grandfather was Sir Bysshe Shelley, Bart., and worth near three hundred thousand pounds, all of which would some day come to our pale-faced youth. But the youth was a republican—he believed in the brotherhood of man. He longed to benefit his fellows, to lift them out of the bondage of fear, and sin, and ignorance. After reading Hume, and Godwin, and Wollstonecraft, he had decided that Christianity as defined by the Church of England was a failure: it was only an organized fetish, kept in place by the State, and devoid of all that thrills to noble thinking and noble doing.

And so young Shelley at Oxford had written a pamphlet to this end, explaining the matter to the world.

A copy being sent to the headmaster of the school, young Shelley was hustled off the premises in short order, and a note was sent to his father requesting that the lad be well flogged and kept several goodly leagues from Oxford.

Shelley the elder was furious that his son should so disgrace the family name, and demanded he should write another pamphlet supporting the Church of England and recanting all the heresy he had uttered. Young Percy replied that conscience would not admit of his doing this. The father said conscience be blanked: and further used almost the same words that were used by Professor Jowett some years later to a certain skeptical youth.

Professor Jowett sent for the youth and said, “Young man, I am told that you say you can not find God. Is this true?”

“Yes, sir,” said the youth.

“Well, you will please find Him before eight o’clock tonight or get out of this college.”

Shelley was not allowed to return home, and moreover his financial allowance was cut off entirely.

And so he wandered up to London and chewed the cud of bitter fancy, resolved to starve before he would abate one jot or tittle of what he thought was truth. And he might have starved had not his sisters sent him scanty sums of money from time to time. The messenger who carried the money to him was a young girl by the name of Harriet Westbrook, round and smooth and pink and sixteen. Percy was nineteen. Harriet was the daughter of an innkeeper and did not get along very well at home. She told Percy about it, and of course she knew his troubles, and so they talked about it over the gate, and mutually condoled with each other.

Soon after this Harriet had a fresh quarrel with her folks; and with the tears yet on her pretty lashes ran straight to Shelley’s lodging and throwing herself into his arms proposed that they cease to fight unkind Fate, and run away together and be happy ever afterward.

And so they ran away.

Shelley’s father instanced this as another proof of depravity and said, “Let ‘em go!” The couple went to Scotland. In a few months they came back from Scotland, because no one can really be happy away from home. Besides they were out of money—and neither one had ever earned any money—and as the Westbrooks were willing to forgive, even if the Shelleys were not, they came back. But the Westbrooks were only willing to forgive in consideration of Percy and Harriet being properly married by a clergyman of the Church of England. Now, Shelley had not wavered in his Godwin-Wollstonecraft theories, but he was chivalrous and Harriet was tearful, and so he gracefully waived all private considerations and they were duly married. It was a quiet wedding.

In a short time a baby was born.

Harriet was amiable, being healthy and having very moderate sensibilities. She had no opinion on any subject, and in no degree sympathized with Shelley’s wild aspirations. She thought a title would be nice, and urged that her husband make peace by renouncing his “infidelity.” Literature was silly business anyway, and folks should do as other folks did. If they didn’t, lawks-a-daisy! there was trouble!!

And so, with income cut off, banished from home, from school, out of employment, with a wife who had no sympathy with him—who could not understand him—whose pitiful weakness stung him and wrung him, he thought of Godwin, the philosopher: for at the last philosophy is the cure for all our ills.

Godwin was glad to see Shelley—Godwin was glad to see any one. Godwin was fifty-five, bald, had a Socratic forehead, was smooth-cheeked, shabby and genteel. Yes, Godwin was the author of “Political Justice”—but that was written quite a while before, twenty years!

One of the girls was sent out for a quart of half-and-half, and the pale visitor cast his eyes around this family room, which served for dining-room, library and parlor. Godwin had married again—Shelley had heard that, but he was a bit shocked to find that the great man who was once mate to Mary Wollstonecraft had married a shrew. The sound of her high-pitched voice convinced the visitor at once that she was a very commonplace person.

There were three girls and a boy in the room, busy at sewing or reading. None of them was introduced, but the air of the place was Bohemian, and the conversation soon became general. All talked except one of the girls: she sat reading, and several times when the young man glanced over her way she was looking at him. Shelley stayed an hour, spending a very pleasant time, but as he had no opportunity of stating his case to the philosopher he made an engagement to call again.

As he groped his way downstairs and walked homewards he mused. The widow Clairmont, whom Godwin had married, was a worldling, that was sure; her daughter Jane was good-looking and clever, but both she and Charles, the boy, were the children of their mother—he had picked them out intuitively. The little young woman with brown eyes and merry ways was Fanny Godwin, the first child of Mary Wollstonecraft and adopted daughter of Godwin. The tall slender girl who was so very quiet was the daughter of Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft.

“Ye gods, what a pedigree!” said Shelley.

The young man called again, and after explaining his situation was advised to go back home and make peace with his wife and father at any cost of personal intellectual qualms. Philosophy was all right; but life was one thing and philosophy another. Live with Harriet as he had vowed to do—love was a good deal glamour, anyway; write poetry, of course, if he felt like it, but keep it to himself. The world was not to be moved by enthusiastic youth. Godwin had tried it—he had been an enthusiastic youth himself, and that was why he now lived in Somerstown instead of Piccadilly. Move in the line of least resistance.

Shelley went away shocked and stunned. Going by Old Saint Pancras Church he turned back to step in a moment and recover his scattered senses. He walked through the cool, dim, old building, out into the churchyard, where toppling moss-covered gray slabs marked the resting-places of the sleeping dead. All seemed so cool and quiet and calm there! The dead are at rest: they have no vexatious problems.

A few people were moving about, carelessly reading the inscriptions. The young man unconsciously followed their example; he passed slowly along one of the walks, scanning the stones. His eye fell upon the word “Wollstonecraft,” marked on a plain little slate slab. He paused and, leaning over removed his hat and read, and then glancing just beyond, saw seated on the grass—the tall girl. She held a book in her hands, but she was looking at him very soberly. Their eyes met, and they smiled just a little. The young man sat down on the turf on the other side of the grave from the girl, and they talked of the woman by whose dust they watched: and the young man found that the tall girl was an Ancestor-Worshiper and a mystic, and moreover had a flight of soul that held him in awe. Besides, in form and feature, she was rarely beautiful. She was quiet, but she could talk.

The next day, as Percy Shelley strolled through the churchyard of Old Saint Pancras, the tall girl was there again with her book, in the same place.

* * *

When Shelley made that first call at the Godwins he was twenty. The three girls he met were fifteen, sixteen and seventeen, respectively. Mary being the youngest in years, but the most mature, she would have easily passed for the oldest. Now, all three of these girls were dazzled by the beauty and grace and intellect of the strange, pale-faced visitor.

He came to the house again and again during the next few months. All the girls loved him violently, for that’s the way girls under eighteen often love. Mr. Godwin soon discovered the fact that all his girls loved Shelley. They lost appetite, and were alternately in chills of fear and fevers of ecstacy. Mr. Godwin, being a kind man and a good, took occasion to explain to them that Mr. Shelley was a married man, and although it was true he did not live on good terms with his wife, yet she was his lawful wife, and marriage was a sacred obligation: of course, pure philosophy or poetic justice took a different view, but in society the marriage-tie must not be held lightly. In short, Shelley was married and that was all there was about it.

Shelley still continued to call, coming via Saint Pancras Church. In a few months, Mary confided to Jane that she and Shelley were about to elope, and Jane must make peace and explain matters after they were gone.

Jane cried and declared she would go, too—she would go or die: she would go as servant, scullion—anything, but go she would. Shelley was consulted, and to prevent tragedy consented to Jane going as maid to Mary, his well-beloved.

So the trinity eloped. It being Shelley’s second elopement, he took the matter a little more coolly than did the girls, who had never eloped before. Having reached Dover, and while waiting at a hotel for the boat, the landlord suddenly appeared and breathlessly explained to Shelley, “A fat woman has just arrived and swears that you have run away with her girls!”

It was Mrs. Godwin.

The party got out by the back way and hired a small boat to take them to Calais. They embarked in a storm, and after beating about all night, came in sight of France the next morning as the sun arose.

Godwin was very much grieved and shocked to think that Shelley had broken in upon established order and done this thing. But Shelley had read Godwin’s book and simply taken the philosopher at his word: “The impulses of the human heart are just and right; they are greater than law, and must be respected.”

The runaways seemed to have had a jolly time in France as long as their money lasted. They bought a mule to carry their luggage, and walked. Jane’s feet blistered, however, and they seated her upon the luggage upon the mule, and as the author of “Queen Mab” led the patient beast, Mary with a switch followed behind. After some days Shelley sprained his ankle, and then it was his turn to ride while Mary led the mule and Jane trudged after.

Thus they journeyed for six weeks, writing poetry, discussing philosophy; loving, wild, free and careless, until they came to Switzerland. One morning they counted their money and found they had just enough to take them to England.

Arriving in London the Godwins were not inclined to take them back, and society in general looked upon them with complete disfavor.

Shelley’s father was now fully convinced of his son’s depravity, but doled out enough money to prevent actual starvation. Shelley began to perceive that any man who sets himself against the established order—the order that the world has been thousands of years in building up—will be ground into the dust. The old world may be wrong, but it can not be righted in a day, and so long as a man chooses to live in society he must conform, in the main, to society usages. These old ways that have done good service all the years can not be replaced by the instantaneous process. If changed at all they must change as man changes, and man must change first. It is man that must be reformed, not custom.

Shelley and Mary Godwin were mates if ever such existed. In a year Mary had developed from a child into splendid womanhood—a beautiful, superior, earnest woman. By her own efforts, of course aided by Shelley (for they were partners in everything), she became versed in the classics and delved deeply into the literature of a time long past. Unlike her mother, Mary Shelley could do no great work alone. The sensitiveness and the delicacy of her nature precluded that self-reliant egoism which can create. She wrote one book, “Frankenstein,” which in point of prophetic and allegorical suggestion stamps the work as classic: but it was written under the immediate spell of Shelley’s presence. Shelley also could not work alone, and without her the world’s disfavor must have whipped him into insanity and death.

As it was they sought peace in love and Italy, living near Lord Byron in great intimacy, and befriended by him in many ways.

But peace was not for Shelley. Calamity was at the door. He could never forget how he had lifted Harriet Westbrook into a position for which she was not fitted and then left her to flounder alone. And when word came that Harriet had drowned herself, his cup of woe was full. Shortly before this, Fanny Godwin had gone away with great deliberation, leaving an empty laudanum-bottle to tell the tale.

On December Thirtieth, Eighteen Hundred Sixteen, Shelley and Mary Godwin were married at Saint Mildred’s Church, London. Both had now fully concluded with Godwin that man owes a duty to the unborn and to society, and that to place one’s self in opposition to custom is at least very bad policy. But although Shelley had made society tardy amends, society would not forgive; and in a long legal fight to obtain possession of his children, Ianthe and Charles, of whom Harriet was the mother, the Court of Chancery decided against Shelley, on the grounds that he was “an unfit person, being an atheist and a republican.”

About this time was born little Allegra, “the Dawn,” child of Lord Byron and Jane Clairmont. Then afterwards came bickerings with Byron and threats of a duel and all that.

Finally there was a struggle between Byron and Miss Clairmont for the child: but death solved the issue and the beautiful little girl passed beyond the reach of either.

And so we find Shelley’s heart wrung by the sorrows of others and by his own; and when Mary and he laid away in death their bright boy William and their baby girl Clara, the Fates seemed to have done their worst. But man seems to have a certain capacity for pain, and beyond this even God can not go.

Shelley struggled on and with Mary’s help continued to write.

Another babe was born and the world grew brighter. They were now on the shores of the Mediterranean with a little group of enthusiasts who thought and felt as they did. For the first time they realized that, after all, they were a part of the world, and linked to the human race—not set off alone, despised, forsaken.

Then to join their little community were coming Leigh Hunt and his wife—Leigh Hunt, who had lain in prison for the right of free thought and free speech. What a joy to