The Professor at the Breakfast-Table: What He Said, What He Heard, and What He Saw
You don't look so dreadful poor in the face as you did a while back. Bloated some, I expect.
This was the cheerful and encouraging remark with which the Poor Relation greeted the divinity-student one morning.
Of course every good man considers it a great sacrifice on his part to continue living in this transitory, unsatisfactory, and particularly unpleasant world. This is so much a matter of course, that I was surprised to see the divinity-student change color. He took a look at a small and uncertain-minded glass which hung slanting forward over the chapped sideboard. The image it returned to him had the color of a very young pea somewhat over-boiled. The scenery of a long tragic drama flashed through his mind as the lightning-ex presstrain whishes by a station : the gradual dismantling process of disease; friends looking on, sympathetic, but secretly chuckling over their own stomachs of iron and lungs of caoutchouc ; nurses attentive, but calculating their crop, and thinking how soon it will be ripe, so that they can go to your neighbor, who is good for a year or so longer; doctors assiduous, but giving themselves a mental shake, as they go out of your door, that throws off your particular grief as a duck sheds a rain-drop from his oily feathers; undertakers solemn, but happy ; then the great subsoil cultivator, who plants, but never looks for fruit in his garden ; then the stone-cutter, who finds the lie that has been waiting for you on a slab ever since the binds or beasts made their tracks on the new red sandstone ; then the grass and the dandelions and the buttercups, -Earth saying to the mortal body, with her sweet symbolism, “ You have scarred my bosom, but you are forgiven”; then a glimpse of the soul as a floating consciousness without very definite form or place, but dimly conceived of as an upright column of vapor or mist several times larger than life-size, so far as it could be said to have any size at all, wandering about and living a thin and half-awake life for want of good old-fashioned solid mailer to come down upon with foot and fist,- in fact, having neither foot nor fist, nor conveniences for taking the sitting posture.
And yet the divinity-student was a good Christian, and those heathen images which remind one of the childlike fancies of the dying Adrian were only the efforts of his imagination to give shape to the formless and position to the placeless. Neither did his thoughts spread themselves out and link themselves as I have displayed them. They came confusedly into his mind like a heap of broken mosaics,-sometimes a part of the picture complete in itself, sometimes connected fragments, and sometimes only single severed stones.
They did not diffuse a light of celestial joy over his countenance. On the contrary, the Poor Relation’s remark turned him pale, as I have said; and when the terrible wrinkled and jaundiced looking-glass turned him green in addition, and he saw himself in it, it seemed to him as if it were all settled, and his book of life were to be shut not vet haifread, and go back to the dust of the under-ground archives. He coughed a mild short cough, as if to point the direction in which his downward path was tending. It was an honest little cough enough, so far as appearances went. But coughs are ungrateful things. You find one out in the cold, take it up and nurse it and make everything of it, dress it up warm, give it all sorts of balsams and other food it likes, and carry it round in your bosom as if it were a miniature lapdog. And byand-by its little bark grows sharp and savage, and - confound the thing! - you find it is a wolf’s whelp that you have got there, and he is gnawing in the breast where he has been nestling so long,- The Poor Relation said that somebody’s surrup was good for folks that were gettin' into a bad way. The landlady had heard of desperate cases cured by cherry-pictorial.
Whiskey's the fellah, - said the young man John.-Make it into punch, cold at dinner-time ’n’ hot at bed-time. I'll come up ’n’ show you how to mix it. Haven’t any of you seen the wonderful fat man exhibitin’ down in Hanover Street?
Master Benjamin Franklin rushed into the dialogue with a breezy exclamation, that he had seen a great picter outside of the place where the fat man was exhibitin’. Tried to get in at half-price, but the man at the door looked at his teeth and said he was more’n ten year old.
It isn't two years.-said the young man John,--since that fat fellah was exhibitin' here as the Livin’ Skeleton. Whiskey-that's what did it,-real Burbon's the stuff. Hot water, sugar, ’u’ jest a little sharin’ of lemon-skin in it,-skin, mind you, none o’ your juice; take it off thin,-shape of one of' them flat curls the factory-girls wear on the sides of their foreheads.
But I am a teetotaller,--said the divinity-student, in a subdued tone ;-not noticing the enormous length of the bowstring the young fellow had just drawn.
He took up his hat and went out.
I think you have worried that young man more than you meant,-I said.-I don’t believe he will jump off of one of the bridges, for he has too much principle; but I mean to follow him and see where he goes, for he looks as if his mind were made up to something.
I followed him at a reasonable distance. He walked doggedly along, looking neither to the right nor the left, turned into State Street, and made for a wellknown Life-Insurance Office. Luckily, the doctor was there and overhauled him on the spot. There was nothing the matter with him, he said, and he could have his life insured as a sound one. He came out in good spirits, and told me this soon after.
This led me to make some remarks the next morning on the manners of well-bred and ill-bred people.
I began,-The whole essence of true gentle-breeding (one does not like to say gentility) lies in the wish and the art to be agreeable. Good-breeding is surface-Christianity. Every look, movement, tone, expression, subject of discourse, that may give pain to another is habitually excluded from conversational intercourse. This is the reason why rich people are apt to be so much more agreeable than others.
----I thought you were a great champion of equality,-said the discreet and severe lady who had accompanied our young friend, the Latin Tutor’s daughter.
I go politically for equality,-I said,- and socially for the quality.
Who are the “quality,”-said the Model, etc.,-in a community like ours ?
I confess I find this question a little difficult to answer,- I said.- Nothing is better known than the distinction of social ranks which exists in every community, and nothing is harder to define. The great gentlemen and ladies of a place are its real lords and masters and mistresses ; they are the quality, whether in a monarchy or a republic; mayors and governors and generals and senators and ex-presidents are nothing to them. How well we know this, and how seldom it finds a distinct expression! Now I tell you truly, I believe in man as man, and I disbelieve in all distinctions except such as follow the natural lines of cleavage in a society which has crystallized according to its own true laws. But the essence of equality is to be able to say the truth; and there is nothing more curious than these truths relating to the stratification of society.
Of all the facts in this world that do not take hold of immortality, there is not one so intensely real, permanent, and engrossing as this of social position,-as you see by the circumstance that the core of all the great social orders the world has seen has been, and is still, for the most part, a privileged class of gentlemen and ladies arranged in a regular scale of precedence among themselves, but superior as a body to all else.
Nothing but an ideal Christian equality, which we have been getting farther away from since the days of the Primitive Church, can prevent this subdivision of society into classes from taking place everywhere,'-in the great centres of our republic as much as in old European monarchies. Only there position is more absolutely hereditary, - here it is more completely elective.
----Where is the election held? and what are the qualifications? and who are the electors?-said the Model.
Nobody ever sees when the vote is taken; there never is a formal vote. The women settle it mostly ; and they know wonderfully well what is presentable, and what can’t stand the blaze of the chandeliers and the critical eye and ear of people trained to know a staring shade in a ribbon, a false light in a jewel, an ill-bred tone, an angular movement, everything that betrays a coarse fibre and cheap training. As a general thing, you do not get elegance short of two or three removes from the soil, out of which our best blood doubtless comes,- quite as good, no doubt, as if it came from those old prize-fighters with iron pots on their heads, to whom some great people are so fond of tracing their descent through a line of small artisans and petty shopkeepers whose veins have held base fluid enough to fill the Cloaca Maxima !
Does not money go everywhere ? - said the Model.
Almost. And with good reason. For though there are numerous exceptions, rich people are, as I said, commonly altogether the most agreeable companions. The influence of a fine house, graceful furniture, good libraries, wellordered tables, trim servants, and, above all, a position so secure that one becomes unconscious of it, gives a harmony and refinement to the character and manners which we feel, even if we cannot explain their charm. Yet we can get at the reason of it by thinking a little.
All these appliances are to shield the sensibility from disagreeable contacts, and to soothe it by varied natural and artificial influences. In this way the mind, the taste, the feelings, grow delicate, just as the hands grow white and soft when saved from toil and incased in soft gloves. The whole nature becomes subdued into suavity. I confess I like the quality-ladies better than the common kind even of literary ones. They haven’t read the last book, perhaps, but they attend better to you when you are talking to them. If they are never learned, they make up for it in tact and elegance. .Besides, I think, on I he whole, there is less self-assertion in diamonds than in dogmas. I don’t know where you will find a sweeter portrait of humility than in Esther, the poor play-girl of King Ahasnerus ; yet Esther put on her royal apparel when she went before her lord. I have no doubt she was a more gracious and agreeable person than Deborah, who judged the people and wrote the story of Sisera. The wisest woman you talk with is ignorant of something that you know, but an elegant woman never forgets her elegance.
Dowdyism is clearly an expression of imperfect vitality. The highest fashion is intensely alive,-not alive necessarily to the truest and best things, but with its blood tingling, as it were, in all its extremities and to the farthest point of its surface, so that the feather in its bonnet is as fresh as the crest of a lighting-rock, and the rosette, on its slipper as clean-cut and pimpant (pronounce it English fashion,- it is a good word) as a dahlia. As a general rule, that society where flattery is acted is much more agreeable than that where it is spoken. Don’t you see why ? Attention and deference don’t require you to make fine speeches expressing your sense of unworthiness (lies) and returning all the compliments paid you. This is one reason.
—A woman of sense ought to be above flattering any man,.— said the Model.
[My reflection. Oh ! oh ! no wonder you didn’t get married. Served you right.] My remark. Surely, Madam,— if you mean by flattery telling people boldly to their fares that they are this or that, which they are not. But a woman who does not carry a halo of good feeling and desire to make everybody contented about with her wherever she goes,- an atmosphere of grace, mercy, and peace, of at least six feet radius, which wraps every human being upon whom she voluntarily bestows her presence, and so flatters him with the comfortable thought that she is rather glad he is alive than otherwise, isn’t worth the trouble of talking to, as a woman ; she may do well enough to hold discussions with.
—I don’t think the Model exactly liked this. She said,—a little spitefully, I thought,—that a sensible man might stand a little praise, but would of course soon get sick of it, if he were in the habit of getting much.
Oh, yes,— I replied,-just as men get sick of tobacco, it is notorious bow apt they are to get tired of that vegetable.
—That’s so!-said the young fellow John,—I’ve got tired of my cigars and burnt ’em all up.
I am heartily glad to hear it,—said the Model,— I wish they were all disposed of in the same way.
So do I,—said the young fellow John.
Can’t you get your friends to finite with you in committing those odious instruments of debauchery to the flames in which you have consumed your own ?
I wish I could,—said the young fellow John.
It would be a noble sacrifice,-said the Model,- and every American woman would be grateful to you. Let us burn them all in a heap out in the yard.
That a’n’t my way,-said the young fellow John;-I burn ’em one 't' time, -little end in my mouth and big end outside.
—I watched for the effect of this sudden change of programme, when it should reach the calm stillness of the Model’s interior apprehension, as a boy watches tor the splash of a stone which he has dropped into a well. But before it had fairly reached the water, poor Iris, who had followed the conversation with a certain interest until it turned this sharp corner, (for she seems rather to fancy the young fellow John,) laughed out such a clear, loud laugh, that it started us all off, as the locust-cry of some full-throated Soprano drags a multitudinous chorus after it. It was plain that some dam or other had broken in the soul of this young girl, and she was squaring up old scores of laughter, out of which she had been cheated, with a grand flood of merriment that swept all before it. So we had a great laugh all round, in which the Model-who, if she had as many virtues as there are spokes to a wheel, all compacted with a personality as round and complete as its tire, yet wanted that one little addition of grace, which seems so small, and is as important as the linchpin in trundling over the rough ways of life-had not the tact to join. She seemed to be “stuffy” about it, as the young fellow John said. In fact, I was afraid the joke would have cost us both our new lady-boarders. It had no effect, however, except, perhaps, to hasten the departure of the elder of the two, who could, on the whole, be spared.
—I had meant to make this note of our conversation a text for a few axioms on the matter of breeding. But it so happened, that, exactly at this point of my record, a very distinguished philosopher, whom several of our boarders and myself go to hear, and whom no doubt many of my readers follow habitually, treated this matter of manners, Up to this point, if I have been so fortunate as to coincide with him in opinion, and so unfortunate as to try to express what he has more felicitously said, nobody is to blame ; for what has been given thus far was all written before the lecture was delivered. But what shall I do now ? He told us it was childish to lay down rules for deportment,- but he could not help laying down a few.
Thus,—Nothing so vulgar as to be in a hurry.—True, but hard of application. People with short legs step quickly, because legs are pendulums, and swing more times in a minute the shorter they are. Generally a natural rhythm runs through the whole organization: quick pulse, fast breathing, hasty speech, rapid trains of thought, excitable temper. Stillness of person and steadiness of features are signal marks of good-breeding. Vulgar persons can’t sit still, or, at least, they must work their limbs or features.
Talking of one's own ails and grievances,-Bad enough, but not so bad as insulting the person you talk with by remarking on his ill-looks, or appearing to notice any of his personal peculiarities.
Apologizing.—A very desperate habit,-one that is rarely cured. Apology is only egotism wrong side out. Nine times out of' ten, the first thing a man’s companion knows of his shortcoming is from his apology. It is mighty presumptuous on your part to suppose your small failures of so much consequence that you must make a talk about them.
Good dressing, quiet ways, low tones of voice, lips that can wait, and eyes that do not wander,—shyness of personalities, except in certain intimate communions, -to be light in hand in conversation, to have ideas, but to be able to make talk, if necessary, without them, -to belong to the company you are in, and not to yourself,- to have nothing in your dress or furniture so fine that you cannot afford to spoil it and get another like it, yet to preserve the harmonies throughout your person and dwelling: I should say that this was a fair capital of manners to begin with.
Under bad manners, as under graver faults, lies very commonly an overestimate of our special individuality, as distinguished from our generic humanity. It is just here that the very highest society asserts its superior breeding. Among truly elegant people of the highest ton, you will find more real equality in social intercourse than in a country village. As nuns drop their birth-names and become sister Margaret and Sister Mary, so high-bred people drop their personal distinctions and become brothers and sisters of conversational charity. Nor are fashionable people without their heroism. I believe there are men that have shown as much self-devotion in carrying a lone wall-flower down to the supper-table as ever saint or martyr in the act that has canonized his name. There are Florence Nightingales of the ballroom, whom nothing can hold back from their errands of mercy. They find out the red-handed, gloveless undergraduate of bucolic antecedents, as he squirms in his corner, and distil their soft words upon him like dew upon the green herb. They reach even the poor relation, whose dreary apparition saddens the perfumed atmosphere of the sumptuous drawing-room. I have known one of these angels ask, of her own accord, that a desolate middle-aged man, whom nobody seemed to know, should be presented to her by the hostess. He wore no shirt-collar,-he had on black gloves,-and was flourishing a red bandanna handkerchief! Match me this, ye proud children of poverty, who boast of your paltry sacrifices for each other! Virtue in humble life! What is that to the glorious self-renunciation of a martyr in pearls and diamonds ? As I saw this noble woman bending gracefully before the social mendicant,-the white billows of her beauty heaving under the foam of the traitorous laces that half revealed them,-I should have wept with sympathetic emotion, but that tears, except as a private demonstration, are an ill-disguised expression of self-consciousness and vanity, which is inadmissible in good society.
I have sometimes thought, with a pang, of the position in which political chance or contrivance might hereafter place some one of our fellow-citizens. It has happened hitherto, so far as my limited knowledge goes, that the President of the United States has always been what might be called in general terms a gentleman, But what if at some future time the choice of the people should fall upon one on whom that lofty title could not, by any stretch of charity, be bestowed ? This may happen,--how soon the future only knows. Think of this miserable man of coming political possibilities,--an unpresentable boor, sucked into office by one of those eddies in the flow of papular sentiment which carry straws and chips into the public harbor, while the prostrate trunks of the monarchs of the forest hurry down on the senseless stream to the gulf of political oblivion ! Think of him, I say, and of the concentrated gaze of good society through its thousand eyes, all confluent, as it were, in one great burning-glass of ice that shrivels its wretched object in fiery torture, itself cold as the glacier of an unsunned cavern ! No,-there will be angels of goodbreeding then as now, to shield the victim of free institutions from himself' and from his torturers. I can fancy a lovely woman playfully withdrawing the knife which he would abuse by making it an instrument for the conveyance of food, -or, failing in this kind artifice, sacrificing herself by imitating his use of that implement ; how much harder than to plunge it into her bosom, like Lucretia ! I can see her studying his provincial dialect until she becomes the Champollion of New England or Western or Southern barbarisms. She has learned that häow means what ; that thinkin' is the same thing as thinking ; or she has found out the meaning of that extraordinary monosyllable, which no single-tongued phonographer can make legible, prevailing on the banks of the Hudson and at its embouchure, and elsewhere,—what they say when they think they say first, (fe-eest,-fe as in the French le),-or that cheer means chair,-or that urritation means irritation,-and so of other enormities, Nothing surprises her. The highest breeding, you know, comes round to the Indian standard,-to take everything coolly,-nil admirari,-if you happen to be learned and like the Roman phrase for the same thing.
If you like the company of people that stare at you from head to foot to see it there is a hole in your coat, or if you have not grown a little older, or if your eyes are not yellow with jaundice, or if your complexion is not a little faded, and so on, and then convey the fact to you, in the style in which the Poor Relation addressed the divinity-student,- go with them as much as you like. I hate the sight of the wretches. Don’t for mercy's sake think I hate them ; the distinction is one my friend or I drew long ago. No matter where you find such people ; they are clowns. The rich woman who looks and talks in this way is not half so much a lady as her Irish servant, whose pretty "saving your presence,” when she has to say something which offends her natural sense of good manners, has a hint in it of the breeding of courts, and the blood of old Milesian kings, which very likely runs in her veins,-thinned by two hundred years of potato, which, being an underground fruit, tends to drag down the generations that are made of it to the earth from which it came, and, filling their veins with starch, turn them into a kind of human vegetable.
I say, if you like such people, go with them. But I am going to make a practical application of the example at the beginning of this particular record, which some young people who are going to choose professional advisers by-and-by may remember and thank me for. If you are making choice of a physician, be sure you get one, if possible, with a cheerful and serene countenance. A physician is not-at least, ought not to be-an executioner; and a sentence of death on his face is as bad as a warrant tor execution signed by the Governor. As a general rule, no man has a right to tell another by word or look that he is going to die. It may be necessary in some extreme cases ; but as a rule, it is the last extreme of impertinence which one human being can offer to another. “You have killed me,” said a patient once to a physician who had rashly told him he was incurable. He ought to have lived six months, but he was dead in six weeks. If we will only let Nature and the God of Nature alone, persons will commonly learn their condition as early as they ought to know it, and not be cheated out of their natural birthright of hope of recovery, which is intended to accompany sick people as long as life is comfortable, and is graciously replaced by the hope of heaven, or at least of rest, when life has become a burden which the bearer is really to let fall.
Underbred people tease their sick and dying friends to death. The chance of a gentleman or lady with a given mortal ailment to live a certain time is as good again as that of the common sort of coarse people. As you go down the social scale, you reach a point at length where the common talk in sick rooms is of churchyards and sepulchres, and a kind of perpetual vivisection is forever carried on, upon the person of the miserable sufferer.
And so, in choosing your clergyman, other things being equal, prefer the one of a wholesome and cheerful habit of mind and body. If you can get along with people who carry a certificate in their faces that their goodness is so great as to make them very miserable, your children cannot. And whatever offends one of these little ones cannot be right in the eyes of Him who loved them so well.
After all, as you are a gentleman or a lady, you will probably select gentlemen for your bodily and spiritual advisers, and then all will be right.
This repetition of the above words,- gentleman and lady,-which could not be conveniently avoided, reminds me how much use is made of them by those who ought to know what they mean. Thus, at a marriage ceremony, once, of two very excellent persons who had been at service, instead of, Do you take this man, etc. ? and, Do you take this woman ? how do you think the officiating clergyman put the questions? It was, Do you, Miss So and So, take this GENTLEMAN ? and, Do you, MR. This or That, take this LADY ?! What would any English duchess, ay, or the Queen of England herself, have thought, if the Archbishop of Canterbury had called her and her bridegroom anything but plain woman and man at such a time ?
I don’t doubt the Poor Relation thought it was all very fine, if she happened to have been in the church; but if the worthy man who uttered these monstrous words-monstrous in such a connection -had known the ludicrous surprise, the convulsion of inward disgust and contempt, that seized upon many of the persons who were present,-had guessed what a sudden flash of light it threw on the Dutch gilding, the pinchbeck, the shabby, perking pretension belonging to certain social layers, - so inherent in their whole mode of being, that the holiest offices of religion cannot exclude its impertinences,-the good man would have given his marriage-fee twice over to recall that superb and full-blown vulgarism. Any persons whom it could please have no better notion of what the words referred to signify than of the meaning of apsides and asymptotes.
MAN! Sir! WOMAN ! Sir! Gentility is a fine thing, not to be undervalued, as I have been trying to explain ; but humanity comes before that.
“ When Adam delved and Eve span,
Where was then the gentleman? ”
The beauty of that plainness of speech and manners which comes from the finest training is not to be understood by those whose habitat is below a certain level. Just as the exquisite sea-anemones and all the graceful ocean-flowers die out at some fathoms below the surface, the elegances and suavities of life die out one by one as we sink through the social scale. Fortunately, the virtues are more tenacious of life, and last pretty well until we get down to the mud of absolute pauperism, where they do not flourish greatly.
—I had almost forgotten about our boarders. As the Model of all the Virtues is about to leave us, I find myself wondering what is the reason we are not all very sorry. Surely we all like good persons. She is a good person. Therefore we like her.-Only we don’t.
This brief syllogism, and its briefer negative, involving the principle which some English conveyancer borrowed from a French wit and embodied in the lines by which Dr. Fell is made unamiably immortal, - this syllogism, I say, is one that most persons have had occasion to construct and demolish, respecting somebody or other, as I have done tor the Model. “Pious and painefull.” Why has that excellent old phrase gone out of use ? Simply because these good painefull or painstaking persons proved to be such nuisances in the long run, that the word “ painefull” came, before people thought of it, to mean paingiving instead of painstaking.
—So, the old fellah’s off to-morrah, -said the young man John.
Old fellow ?-said I,— whom do you mean ?
Why, the chap that came with our little beauty,-the old boy in petticoats.
—Now that means something,—said I to myself.-These rough young rascals very often hit the nail on the head, if they do strike with their eyes shut. A real woman does a great many things without knowing why she does them; but these pattern machines mix up their intellects with everything they do, just like men. They can’t help it, no doubt; but we can’t help getting sick of them, either. Intellect is to a woman’s nature what her watchspring skirt is to her dress; it ought to underlie her silks and embroideries, but not to show itself too staringly on the outside.-You don’t know, perhaps, but I will tell you; -the brain is the palest of all the internal organs, and the heart the reddest. Whatever comes from the brain carries the hue of the place it came from, and whatever comes from the heart carries the heat and color of its birthplace.
The young man John did not hear my soliloque, of course, but sent up one more bubble from our sinking conversation, in the form of a statement, that she was at liberty to go to a personage who receives no visits, as is commonly supposed, from virtuous people.
Why, I ask again, (of my reader,) should a person who never did anybody any wrong, but, on the contrary, is an estimable and intelligent, nay, a particularly enlightened and exemplary member of society, fail to inspire interest, love, and devotion ? Because of the reversed current in the flow of thought and emotion. The red heart sends all its instincts up to the white brain to be analyzed, chilled, blanched, and so become pure reason, which is just exactly what we do not want of woman as woman. The current should run the other way. The nice, calm, cold thought, which in women shapes itself so rapidly that they hardly know it as thought, should always travel to the lips viâ the heart. It does so in those women whom all love and admire. It travels the wrong way in the Model. That is the reason why the Little. Gentleman said, “I hate her, I hate her.” That is the reason why the young man John called her the “old fellah,” and banished her to the company of the great Unpresentable. That is the reason why I, the Professor, am picking her to pieces with scalpel and forceps. That is the reason why the young girl whom she has befriended repays her kindness with gratitude and respect, rather than with the devotion and passionate fondness which lie sleeping beneath the calmness of her amber eyes. I can see her, as she sits between this estimable and most correct of personages and the misshapen, crotchety, often violent and explosive little man on the other side of her, leaning and swaying towards him as she speaks, and looking into his sad eyes as if she found some fountain in them at which her soul could quiet its thirst.
Women like the Model are a natural product of a chilly climate and high culture. It is not
“ The frolic wind that breathes the spring,
Zephyr with Aurora playing,”
when the two meet
—“on beds of violets blue,
And fresh-blown roses washed in dew,”
that claim such women as their offspring, It is rather the east wind, as it blows out of the fogs of Newfoundland, and clasps a clear-eyed wintry noon on the chill bridal couch of a New England icequarry.-Don’t throw up your cap now, and hurrah as if this were giving up everything, and turning against the best growth of our latitudes,-the daughters of the soil. The brain-women never interest us like the heart-women; white roses please loss than red. But our Northern seasons have a narrow green streak of spring, as well as a broad white zone of winter,-they have a glowing band of summer and a golden stripe of autumn in their many-colored wardrobe ; and women are born to us that wear all these hues of earth and heaven in their souls. Our ice-eyed brain-women are really admirable, if we only ask of them just what they can give, and no more. Only compare them, talking or writing, with one of those babbling, chattering dolls, of warmer latitudes, who do not know enough even to keep out of print, and who are interesting to us only as specimens of arrest of development for our psychological cabinets.
Good-bye, Model of all the Virtues ! We can spare you now. A little clear perfection, undiluted with human weakness, goes a great way. Go! be useful, be honorable and honored, be just, be charitable, talk pure reason, and help to disenchant the world by the light of an achromatic understanding. Good-bye ! Where is my Béranger ? I must read "Frétillon."
Fair play for all. But don’t claim incompatible qualities for anybody. Justice is a very rare virtue in our community. Everything that public sentiment cares about is put into a Papin’s digester, and boiled under high pressure till all is turned into one homogeneous pulp, and the very bones give up their jelly. What are all the strongest epithets of our dictionary to us now ? The critics and politicians, and especially the philanthropists, have chewed them, till they are mere wads of syllable-fibre, without a suggestion of their old pungency and power.
Justice ! A good man respects the rights even of brute matter and arbitrary symbols. If he writes the same word twice in succession, by accident, he always erases the one that stands second; has not the first-comer the prior right ? This act of abstract justice, which I trust many of my readers, like myself, have often performed, is a curious anti-illustration, by the way, of the absolute wickedness of human dispositions. Why doesn’t a man always strike out the first of the two words, to gratify his diabolical love of injustice ?
So, I say, we owe a genuine, substantial tribute of respect to these filtered intellects which have left their womanhood on the strainer. They are so clear that it is a pleasure at times to look at the world of thought through them. But the rose and purple tints of richer natures they cannot give us, and it is not just to them to ask it.
Fashionable society gets at these rich natures very often in a way one would hardly at first think of. It loves vitality above all things, sometimes disguised by affected languor, always well kept under by the laws of good-breeding,-but still it loves abundant life, opulent and showy organizations,-the spherical rather than the plane trigonometry of female architecture,-plenty of red blood, flashing eves, tropical voices, and forms that bear the splendors of dress without growing pale beneath their lustre. Among these you will find the most delicious women you will ever meet, - women whom dress and flattery and the round of city gayeties cannot spoil, - talking with whom, you forget their diamonds and laces, - and around whom all the nice details of elegance, which the coldblooded beauty next them is scanning so nicely, blend in one harmonious whole, too perfect to be disturbed by the petulant sparkle of a jewel, or the yellow glare of a bangle, or the gay toss of a feat her.
There are many things that I, personally, love better than fashion or wealth. Not to speak of those highest objects of our love and loyalty. I think I love ease and independence better than the golden slavery of perpetual matinées and soirées, or the pleasures of accumulation.
' But fashion and wealth are two very solemn realities, which the frivolous class of moralists have talked a great deal of silly stuff about. Fashion is only the attempt to realize Art in living forms and social intercourse. What business has a man who knows nothing about the beautiful, and cannot pronounce the word view, to talk about fashion to a set of people who, if one of the quality left a card at their doors, would contrive to keep it on the very top of their heap of the names of their two-story acquaintances, till it was as yellow as the Codex Vatican us ?
Wealth, too,-what an endless repetition of the same foolish trivialities about it ! Take the single fact of its alleged uncertain tenure and transitory character. In old times, when men were all the time fighting and robbing each other, -in those tropical countries where the Sabeans and the Chaldeans stole all a man’s cattle and camels, and there were frightful tornadoes and rains of fire from heaven, it was true enough that riches took wings to themselves not unfrequently in a very unexpected way. But, with common prudence in investments, it is not so now. In fact, there is nothing earthly that lasts so well, on the whole, as money. A man’s learning dies with him; even his virtues fade out of remembrance; but the dividends on the stocks he bequeathes to his children live and keep his memory green.
I do not think there is much courage or originality in giving utterance to truths that everybody knows, but which get overlaid by conventional trumpery. The only distinction which it is necessary to point out to feeble-minded folk is this : that, in asserting the breadth and depth of that significance which gives to fashion and fortune their tremendous power, we do not indorse the extravagances which often disgrace the one, nor the meanness which often degrades the other.
A remark which seems to contradict a universally current opinion is not generally to be taken “ neat,” but watered with the ideas of common-sense and commonplace people. So, if any of my young friends should be tempted to waste their substance on white kids and “ all-rounds,” or to insist on becoming millionnaires at once, by anything I have said, I will give them references to some of the class referred to, well known to the public as literary diluents, who will weaken any truth so that there is not an old woman in the land who cannot take it with perfect impunity.
I am afraid some of the blessed saints in diamonds will think I mean to flatter them. I hope not; - if I do, set it down as a weakness. But there is so much foolish talk about wealth and fashion. (which, of course, draw a good many heartless and essentially vulgar people into the glare of their candelabra, but which have a real respectability and meaning, if we will only look at them stereoscopically, with both eyes instead of one,) that I thought it a duty to speak a few words for them. Why can’t somebody give us a list of things that everybody thinks and nobody says, and another list of things that everybody says and nobody thinks ?
Lest my parish should suppose we have forgotten graver matters in these lesser topics, I beg them to drop these trifles and read the following lesson for the day.
THE TWO STREAMS.
Behold the rocky wall
That down its sloping sides
Pours the swift rain-drops, blending, as they fall,
In rushing river-tides!
Yon stream, whose sources run
Turned by a pebble's edge,
Is Athabasca, rolling toward the sun
Through the cleft mountain-ledge.
The slender rill had strayed,
But for the slanting stone,
To evening’s ocean, with the tangled braid
Of foam-flecked Oregon.
So from the heights of Will
Life's parting stream descends,
And, as a moment turns its slender rill,
Each widening torrent bends,—
From the same cradle's side,
From the same mother’s knee,—
One to long darkness and the frozen tide,
One to the Peaceful Sea!