The Contributors' Club

THERE is as much missed as gained in traveling. Traveling has come to be so conventional a thing that it loses its chief interest as a separate experience for each individual, and the pictures, photographs, and descriptions of places being so easily accessible at present, most places, when seen, give one no sense of surprise. It is hardly true that no picture gives a real notion of a place, as is often unthinkingly said; on the contrary, the impression is usually so vivid as to lessen that of the reality, whenever you happen to come across the latter. The sort of itinerary which is almost a matter of course in traveling also destroys the spontaneity of the supposed pleasure ; though no necessity or law obliges you to it, you yet feel compelled to " do ” certain places, no matter whether you have an interest in them or not. An American who went to Europe, and neglected Rome or Paris, would feel uncomfortable at the omission ; an Englishman who came to the United States, and left New York, Philadelphia, or Boston out of his wanderings, would feel obliged to excuse himself and explain the short-coming. If you take an Oriental tour into your programme, and leave out Jerusalem or Damascus, people will wonder, and so on, until you feel that not till you have performed the “ regulation ” pilgrimage will you be free to see and do what you like abroad. The loss of time that regulation sights cost you is serious. Some of them will be blanks to you ; some mere impressions, as fleeting and useless as that produced by looking over an album. You probably have some taste prominent among others. Traveling will be a pleasure if you make this taste the guide of your travels ; but to assume a general appreciation of everything, however various the things, will fritter away time and make life a burden. It is no use toiling up and down Swiss mountains unless you enjoy the unique scenery they possess, or walking through miles of picture-galleries unless you have a real liking for paintings. The sensible way would be to be sure at the start of what you like best, what interests you most, or what you chiefly wish to learn, and shape your course accordingly. As to learning anything about the people, it is useless to expect doing it by flying visits to any place, and letters of introduction to a few reppresentative people. To learn anything of the nation, you must see the average, and see it leisurely ; see it in the rural neighborhoods, understand the language, and in fact give yourself to the study of humanity. Even the higher classes, who are easiest to get at and easiest to understand, seldom come within reach of travelers. It is notorious how English and American tourists, herd together in foreign cities, having their own hotels, restaurants, clubs, banks, etc., and spending more time in parties among themselves than on investigations worth remembrance. On the other hand, the Englishman, — he is almost the only tourist who comes here; of course I do not include emigrants, settlers, diplomats, etc., among travelers, — coming to America, generally manages to see a little more of Americans (their common language has much to do with that) ; but he never stays long enough to study any but chance types. A few men come to hunt, and they at least see a special phase of life, and have more opportunities of understanding it thoroughly. Most men amiably or bitterly — but in either case ignorantly — generalize to an alarming degree. If they come to pursue a certain line of investigation, they are taken in hand by kind entertainers, who show them all the specimen things and people, about which they knew beforehand in their own country, though perhaps vaguely and less in detail. If they belong to a certain set, they see and hear everything which can confirm their opinions, as a free-trader would, or an English abolitionist. A comprehensive and balanced picture of the whole country — I put aside its natural features — they never see, and never go to work the right way to see.

— Several years since, I journeyed by sea from New Orleans to New York in company with a goodly number of clergymen, who were on their way to attend some theological convention. While enjoying an after-dinner novel of some repute, I fell upon the following quotation: “ He who runs may read.”Turning to the most convenient clergyman, I inquired the road to the original, for I felt quite sure of its biblical origin. I was promptly referred to Habakkuk ii. 2, and looking up the passage later in the day discovered a “ point,” which I resolved to turn to account. I believe I have omitted to say that I am a shallow-minded person, fond of airing my superior knowledge when occasion offers, or rather when, by good luck, I happen to stumble upon an item that my betters have overlooked. I never could understand why everybody does n’t know what I have known for six weeks, and am intolerant accordingly. Awaiting a favorable opportunity, I expressed surprise to my clerical friend that he should be so ignorant of the Scriptures, and met his assertion that he could not be mistaken, for he had used the passage as a text for a sermon in times past, by coolly handing him the open Bible, and pointing to the words, “ He may run that readeth it.”Every day thereafter until we reached port I sacrificed a clergyman upon the altar of my vanity, and whenever the weather was bad I sacrificed two, by way of a needed extra stimulant. The supply of clergymen being more than sufficient, I perpetrated a general massacre on the day preceding our arrival at New York. Not one of them survived, nor was any resistance offered after the delivery of my final knock-down blow. Arriving on shore, I proceeded to turn my “ point ” to more substantial advantage. Betting with clergymen had of course been out of the question, but among my lay brethren I found many ready to wager that they could trace the quotation, and as they invariably brought up short at Habakkuk ii. 2 I was correspondingly happy. I would be ashamed to confess how many dinners I have achieved by means of this valuable “ point.”

I soon began to find this apparent misquotation meeting me at every turn ; magazine articles, novels, lectures, and even sermons seemed singularly peppered with the error. I have noticed that any matter attracting one’s special attention as being unusual is frequently followed by repetitions, that shortly become common to the verge of monotony. Meet one man in the street with a remarkably large nose, and he will be followed by a dozen more of the same sort. I suppose it is because we recognize promptly only that for which our consciousness is on the alert. At any rate, it seemed to me that never before had I met with a passage so often, and I marveled greatly that out of so many well-informed authors, not one escaped the pitfall in attempting to quote correctly.

I determined to make myself useful by calling upon The Atlantic to explode the error, and had mentally sketched an article for the Contributors’ Club which was to cover many a well-known author with shame and confusion. But one evening last week, while “ browsing ” along the shelves of a public library, I turned the leaves of Cowper’s Tirocinium, and at verse 80 I read, —

“ But truth, on which depends our main concern
That’t is our shame and misery not to learn,
Shines by the side of every path we tread,
With such a lustre he that runs may read.”

— A writer in the Contributors’ Club for February, commenting on the fact that so many heroes and heroines of fiction are motherless, — that “ from Richardson to Henry James, Jr., the novel has been little more than a half orphan asylum,” — adds, “ Who can tell us why ? ” It seems to me there are two good reasons : in the first place, the fact that a hero or heroine is thus bereaved appeals at once to our tenderest feelings, and bespeaks for him or her our immediate interest and sympathy; and, secondly, their half orphaned condition enables us easily to excuse, account for, and forgive whatever mental, moral, or social lack we may observe in them as their histories are unfolded. When we read that “ Romola’s young but wintry life had inherited nothing but memories of a dead mother,” we accept it as a natural consequence that she was “in a state of girlish simplicity and ignorance concerning the world outside of her father’s books,” and we judge her gently when she wastes the rich treasure of her love upon Tito Melema. When Jane Austen tells us that Emma’s mother “ died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses,” we readily condone the willfulness, self-confidence, and occasional impertinence of that blooming girl; and the same is true in regard to delightful Shirley Keeldar. We are sure that Effie Deans, Hetty Sorrel, and little Em’ly would have been less weakly trusting and vain, Di Vernon, Judith Hutter, and Esther Lyon less undisciplined, Dora less babyish, and Lady Glencora less exasperating, had they only had a mother’s guidance ; and we give double credit to the blameless ones like Rose Bradwardine, Little Nell, Anne Elliot, Agnes Wickford, John Halifax, Guy of Redclyffe, and Malcolm of Lossie, because they grew up so well without it.

But while thus assenting to and accounting for the absence of the mother in fiction, I cannot agree with the contributor’s other statement, that “ if she is introduced at all she is always an uncomfortable figure, always in the way.” Who does not admire and would not like to know Mary Garth’s mother, with her clear, vigorous mind, inflexible honor, and cheerful courage ? Or Mrs. Vincy, sweet as a peach; Mrs. Amos Barton, loveliest and tenderest of all George Eliot’s women; and even Mrs. Transome, a majestic figure in spite of her dark secret ?

Of Amyas Leigh’s mother it is said, “ She was lovely in face and figure, and still more lovely from the divine calm which brooded like the dove of peace and the Holy Spirit of God (which indeed it was) over every word and look and gesture; a sweetness which had been ripened by storm as well as by sunshine, which this world had not given, and could never take away.” In Dickens we do indeed find few mothers who are prominent figures, yet what would Barnaby Budge be without Mrs. Varden or sad Mrs. Rudge herself ? Mrs. Bagnet, Mrs. Kenwigs, Mrs. Nickleby, Mrs. Nubbles, Mrs. Jiniwin, Mrs. Micawber, Mrs. MacStinger, and Mrs. Bardell are, each in her way, inimitable and never to be forgotten. The writings of Mrs. Oliphant and Mrs. Craik are full of excellent mothers, both English and Scotch. In Sarah Tytler’s stories we have some notably fine women, like Citoyenne Jacqueline’s mother-in-law and M. Dupuy’s mother ; and in her last book, The Bride’s Pass, Mrs. Macdonald is, it seems to me, the finest and most original sketch in an unusually striking group of characters. Macleod of Dare’s mother was made of finer stuff than her son, and Janet, the old shepherd’s wife in Sir Gibbie, is an exquisite and noble creation. Hannah Dill in Sarah de Berenger is absolutely unmatched in life-long, self-effacing devotion to her children, dying at last perfectly satisfied, without recognition or gratitude.

But the procession grows too long, and I forbear.

— A very curious instance of a lifelong ghostly guardianship came to my knowledge a few years before leaving France. I had heard many circumstances relating to it freely discussed and commented on long before I knew the parties. At length the introduction of a mutual friend brought me into intimate acquaintance with two of the most delightful people it was ever my lot to know. Madame St. L., the widow of a French gentleman of rank and fortune, and her sister, Miss R., were two elderly ladies, well known to a large circle of friends for their piety, benevolence, and rare accomplishments. They lived in a pretty château with beautiful grounds, the property of the elder lady. They were daughters of an English gentleman, whose extravagance had dissipated a large fortune, but at whose death they each came into possession of a competence, which, having been settled upon themselves, he had been unable to touch. Their acquaintance with their self-constituted guardian began when they were young girls, and residing with their father, Mr. R., at a house close to the " Paul Brique,” which lies some miles from Calais on the road to Guisnes, part of that debatable land which during the occupation of Calais by the English had been in turn the battle-field of English, French, and Spaniards. On the site of their house had been in that far-off time a fortress, which had been besieged, taken, and burnt to the ground after the slaughter of all in it, by a mixed army of French and Spaniards. They were often left alone with a younger brother for many weeks and even months at a time, their father preferring the gayeties of Paris to the seclusion of their country home. It was during one of these intervals that their brother was taken very ill, and his sisters were one night so alarmed about him that they agreed to sit up together for the whole night, which they had not done before. A little past midnight they were roused by shrieks and cries for help, coming apparently from the garden below their window. Shortly after their maid-servant rushed into the room half wild with terror, saying that she heard men placing ladders against each side of the house and vociferating loudly. The young ladies distinctly heard the same, but the sick brother never once awoke from his sleep. His sisters dared neither look out of the window nor go outside the hall door to investigate, for they were alone in the house with one servant, and even the gardener lived in a cottage some distance off. Their fears came to a climax when the windows began to shake violently, and the looking-glass in their room was shivered to atoms. A perfect lull succeeded, and after a time they became aware of the presence of a tall, shadowy figure draped in a long Spanish cloak, evidently an officer. He spoke to them in French, and told them not to be alarmed; that he was a spirit, and not corporeal; that he was a Spanish officer killed hundreds of years ago in the siege of the fortress which had then occupied the site of their house; that his name was Gaspar; and that he would always attend them, and through life be their faithful and devoted friend. He then vanished from their sight, leaving them in a state of utter bewilderment. When I made their acquaintance forty years had gone by since that memorable night, and nobly had Gaspar redeemed his voluntary promise. He accustomed them to hold long conversations with him, and always gave them the soundest advice. He mixed invisibly in all their amusements : played on his guitar to their piano playing ; accompanied their voices when they sang, so that many of their friends were astonished at the strength and sweetness of their performance; would take a hand at cards, and be one of any little party they gave. He was rarely visible even to themselves, but many heard his voice joining in the conversation. He rescued them from many an unpleasant dilemma. Once, when they went to a ball, and by some mistake the carriage which brought them, and which ought to have returned to take them back, went home with some other party, they were left quite helpless. A drenching rain was falling, all their friends had left, and it was long past midnight. They were in the greatest perplexity, when suddenly their names were called, a carriage being at the door to convey them home. They were most thankful, but made no inquiry till, on getting out, Miss R. asked the driver how he came to know their names and where to come, as his was not the carriage they had ordered. The man replied that he had been going home for the night, when an officer in a long cloak stopped him and engaged his vehicle for two ladies, giving their names and telling him where to go for them. Nor did Gaspar, while they were yet girls and unmarried, disdain to join in any harmless freak tending to their amusement. They were once talking in their own drawing-room of a private fancy ball to be given by a friend in Calais, and to which they were specially invited. Speaking of some of their young acquaintances, they mentioned one whose affectation made her generally disagreeable, and who was at the same time so exceedingly plain that it was difficult to find partners for her at any of the parties where they met.

“ Would it not be curious,” said the elder Miss R., “if Gaspar were to go to the ball in his full dress as a Spanish officer, and with a profusion of bows solicit the honor of dancing with her? ”

“ Yes ! ” replied the other sister, “ and when the dance was ended take her back to her mamma, with a complimentary speech on the elegance of her daughter’s dancing.” They then made up a speech for the occasion, and laughed heartily at their own conjectures. The day on which the ball was to be given arrived, and in the afternoon the sisters walked into Calais, as they were to dress, and afterwards sleep, at their friend’s house. During their walk they incessantly heard footsteps behind them, yet on looking back no one was in sight. On entering the streets of Calais they distinctly heard the clanking of spurs on the pavement, and made sure that some officer was following them, but could see no one. Having dressed in costume in the evening, they joined the gay circle in the ballroom, and at first sat down with a few young friends, the young lady of whom they had spoken, as well as her mamma, being present. Great was their astonishment when a Spanish officer, masked and in full costume (they knew it was Gaspar), walked up, without once looking at them, and asked the young lady to dance ! When the dance was finished, he took her back to her mamma, and with a number of courtly bows made a speech, word for word the same that the Misses R. had improvised for him at home.

Years passed on; the elder Miss R. married Monsieur St. L., and inseparable from her sister they all went to the pretty château near Cologne, where they still lived when I knew them. Gaspar went with them, and was much talked of in the neighborhood. The peasants said that he might often be seen, after night-fall, pacing slowly backwards and forwards on a bridge which led to the neighboring town of St. Pierre, and many of them went by choice the lower road by the canal, to avoid the chance of meeting him. Madame St. L. had only two children, both sons, who at the proper age entered the French army. They had hardly attained to manhood when Monsieur St. L. died, rather suddenly, after a long and distressing illness. Soon afterwards, the two ladies had a law-suit in England decided in their favor, but found a vexatious opposition made to their taking possession of the small property which had been in question, as the person inhabiting the house positively refused to give it up. At last Madame St. L.’s English lawyer wrote to advise then coming over to try their personal influence with the opposing party. They went, and on paying a visit to the lady, their opponent, were agreeably surprised to find that all difficulties had been smoothed away by the visit, a few days before, of a Spanish gentleman, who had fully explained every circumstance connected with the property, and had placed in a very clear light the justice of Madame St. L.’s claim. The lady agreed to leave the house in the course of a day or two, and to send the keys to Madame St. L., which was done.

The two sons of this lady were naturally subjected to much quizzing on the part of their acquaintances, and always strenuously denied having the slightest faith in the family ghost; indeed, were very angry if any allusion were made to it. The elder son, however, being at home on leave, and overhearing his mother and aunt talking of Gaspar, pondered much on the subject, and, unknown to his family, resolved to watch for one night in the room where his father died, and where Gaspar was said to be continually present, as it was much used by the family; their evenings were also spent there, and supper partaken of in one end of the room. It was always Madame St. L.’s custom to remove the wine decanters and glasses into a large cupboard, which stood at the end of the room nearest the door, and also any dish from supper which would be required for the next day ; having done this, she invariably locked the cupboard, and took the keys up with her to bed. On the night in question the young man prepared for his lonely vigil by placing his lamp and book on the table at the far end of the room ; he then laid his loaded gun within reach of his hand, and also his drawn sword. Two well-trained dogs, used for sporting, and thoroughly obedient to his voice, were his only companions, and having carefully secured the door and windows he sat down to read, the dogs lying at his feet. When his few preparations were completed, it was about eleven o’clock, and he read quietly for nearly an hour. When the clock was on the stroke of midnight, a strange agitation seemed to pervade the room. The dogs at their master’s feet began to howl and whine and crouch to the ground, with every symptom of terror, and at length, quite regardless of his voice, slunk under the table at which he was sitting, the heavy cover of which hid them from view. As the clock struck twelve, young St. L. distinctly saw Gaspar, as he had always been described to him, enter through the closed door, and stop opposite the cupboard where the wine and supper had been put away. With a bunch of keys, which the young man clearly recognized as his mother’s, Gaspar opened the cupboard quite wide, Cut a slice of paté, and began to eat; then poured out some wine and drank. When he had finished, he turned and looked fiercely at the appalled young man, who tried to rise, but felt chained down by some invisible power. He stretched out his hand for his gun, and pointed it at the figure, but it fell from his hand on to the carpet, without even exploding, and under the mysterious influence of Caspar’s steady gaze he fell back in his chair utterly insensible, and remembered no more till the broad sunlight streaming into the room roused him, to find the gun lying at his feet, the dogs still hardly recovered from their terror, the cupboard locked as usual, and himself alone in the room, where no trace of Gaspar’s presence remained; but when the cupboard was opened, there was a remnant of paté on one of the plates, and a portion of wine in one of the glasses. On being questioned, Madame St. L. declared that the keys of the cupboard had never left her dressingtable till she brought them down that morning.

This was probably the last time that Gaspar appeared in a visible form to any of the family. A long time before he had told the two ladies that it would be impossible for him to let them see and hear him as they had been accustomed to do ; that he would never leave them, and that wherever they went he would go, but that his presence would be manifested only by noises of different kinds ; that should any misfortune threaten the family, or any great changes be impending, they should without fail receive timely warning. This promise was literally fulfilled; for when they took refuge for a time in England, during the Franco-German war, when both Madame St. L.’s sons were engaged in the struggles of the French army, she always received some intimation of the arrival of letters, which indeed reached her safely in the most mysterious manner. when oftentimes the young men had either lost them in the confusion of a camp or been utterly unable to post them. Any loss by death was also communicated in some unmistakable fashion. Both sisters found themselves unable to sleep one night, from a soft, continuous tapping on their window pane, accompanied by a low moaning, which continued for many hours. In a day or two, they heard of the death on that very night of a beloved friend, who had been their school-fellow in early days. Such were a few of the anecdotes of Gaspar which I gathered from the lips of the dear ladies whose guardian angel he undoubtedly proved himself to be. For one of them the enigma of his influence has been solved in another world; two years ago Miss R. died, to the deep regret of an endeared circle of friends. Madame St. L. lives in Paris with her eldest son, who is married and of high rank in the French army.

— The art of letting other people alone is — one of the lost arts.

— A recent communication in the Contributors’ Club challenged the United States to produce an epigram on “ the art of letting other people alone.” I am not sure that I know an epigram when I see one; but here is the plain truth: —

“ The art of letting other people alone demands too much wisdom of the benevolent and too much benevolence of the wise.”

— To attain an impartial frame of mind is almost the highest aim of intellectual education. It is needless to say that the attainment is very difficult. Almost invariably we make up our minds beforehand on any subject we approach. Early prejudgments beset us on every hand; an atmosphere of association colors everything, however newly brought into our range of sight; we have rules by which we judge automatically the truth of new facts which may clash with old theories. Or, again, having passionately renounced all such drags on the wheel of progress, we put the same intense partisanship, the same instinct of one-sided devotion, to the service of some new theory, borne out indeed by certain facts, yet not necessarily proved absolute by these. Such is the essence of the present hostility, on the whole quite outspoken and undisguised, between religion and science. Unconscious that in each body there exist, for the most part, two sections with distinguishing shades of opinion on matters of more than detail, each as a unit flings defiance at the other, with many hard words and more misinterpretations of the other’s dearest formulas. Blindly they fight,—fighting rather their own fancied estimates of each other than the real entity which those estimates travesty. But outside of that typical and prominent struggle of our time, there are millions of silent personal struggles of the same nature going on wherever men think, believe, or investigate. It is impossible at present to stagnate in one unchallenged faith; what a man believes he must justify to himself through his reason, and to his neighbors through his deeds. Outward forms, conventional practices, official formulas, do not suffice; if the opponents of your belief do not challenge you, your own teachers will vehemently examine you. No party is content unless with an army of willing recruits ; the half-hearted, the vacillating, are expelled not only as useless allies, but—a far more dangerous thing—as discreditable blots on the fair fame of the party. No cause at present can afford to stretch its mantle over those who may disgrace it; the enemy’s scrutiny is too lynx-eyed to be faced unless with a bevy of picked representatives. This necessity of an age of vehement questioning is fatal to the cultivation of impartiality, and yet without at least a show of impartiality no individual can hope to become prominent in any party. A century practically intolerant, though with a new kind of intolerance, professes to worship impartiality. It courts those whose smooth periods are like bright scales in which all thought and all knowledge are weighed. In reality the impartiality is but apparent. The most passionless writers are prejudiced ; their coldness conceals, if not an opinion, a tendency; and after all, though facts may rain upon them, the old proverb holds good, and convinced against their will they are “of the same opinion still.” There are two sides to every argument; only some call them the right side and the wrong, others the inside and the out. Practically there are few historical questions on which it is safe to be dogmatic, and few moral questions on which it is safe to be impartial. Yet the contrary is the rule in our times. Historical and political questions are dissected in a more intolerant and virulent spirit than any moral or spiritual questions; precisely those things that are most beyond the reach of clear explanation and absolute proof are those most willingly handled by contemporary writers. Impartiality is the new name for masked advocacy of any given principle, useful at present to any given cause. The real thing escapes our search, or rather stands by us in the dark, while we pretend to turn our lamp in search of it in the opposite direction. If a man would study for himself, he could scarcely help finding an impartial judgment his best staff, but most men now study and write to uphold a foregone conclusion, and take good care, therefore, not to come across such an inconvenient guide.

— In this time of apple-blossoms, I read over with pathetic interest a note of Bryant’s, written little more than a year before his death, in which, speaking of some pictured clusters sent him, he says : “ They do not exactly suit the last days of life’s December, but they agree charmingly with that new spring-time of existence, my entrance to which cannot be far off, and where I hope to find the orchards of Paradise in full blossom.” When such a lover of woods and fields and flowers, after a life-time of devotional feeling and thought, passes from them all, the fancy comes that Nature herself must feel the loss! When before has the yellow violet bloomed without being remembered by a heart as childish in its love as it was strong in its manhood ! In another letter occurs this passage : “ The yellow violet of which you sent me a sample is not my yellow violet, which I think is never found in your region, though it sprinkled the floor of the forests in the neighborhood in which I was born as soon as the snow melted from the ground.” While opposed to Wordsworth’s character in its active interest concerning city and state, Bryant’s reminds us of his in its intense love of nature. What the daisy and the celandine were to the poet of Rydal Mount, the yellow violet and the fringed gentian were to Bryant, both in his affection and poetic expression. Regarding the latter flower, he writes in the autumn, “ I have just returned from Cummington, where I found the fringed gentian, of which you speak as not a common thing, creeping in at places where it was never seen in my boyhood. There is also another species, very pretty, the soapwort gentian, gentiana saponaria, which I never saw in my boyhood, now becoming frequent.”

The transition from flowers to spirits, from flower life to the spiritual, is surely easy ; nor can I forbear, as far as it lies in my power, to improve this opportunity of correcting a not infrequent, although not general, impression regarding the poet’s belief. “ I answer your question by saying that I am not a spiritualist, although I am perfectly willing that spiritualism should be true. I have some friends — excellent people — who firmly believe in it, and find in it what is very desirable, an infallible confirmation of the doctrine of a future life. But the evidence I have seen has not convinced me of the reality of their communications with the spirits of the departed.” If the heart-felt convictions of our deepest and wisest thinkers were put into words, would they not be these ? Not half who are reported as believers in this system are such. They are merely “ willing to be,” if sufficient evidence be attested; but on the other hand they are too just and liberal to condemn without stint a faith some features of which have certainly benefited individuals; they are too sensible and charitable to denounce as senseless and knavish those who desire comfort from such a faith. The poet, it is certain, held that sage attitude which characterizes a judgment not based on the mere failure or success of those material arts which lie in the juggler’s province. What the poetic and metaphysical mind perceives in this belief is beyond the reach of being affected by wax or paraffine trickery ; but at the same time its perceptions are too vague and reedlike to be denominated faith, or to be leaned on as such.

— If a prize had been offered for the dullest story, one might suppose the mass of English novelists filled with anxious desire to earn the distinction of having written it. At first sight, this really seems the only way of accounting for the uniform success with which they escape the least liveliness of conversation, or the least variation from the commonly accepted, well-known types of character. Take such a book as Miss Tabor’s Little Miss Primrose, for instance, and see how you will find yourself disappointed in your most moderate hopes of entertainment. At the first page you are set down in the cathedral town which furnishes the scene for most of this lady’s tales, and already with the first few paragraphs a sense of drowsiness begins to steal over you ; but you struggle against it, and read on. The heroine is a nice little thing, and you are glad when the prospect opens for her of seeing something beside the cathedral towers and hearing something else than the chanting of the chorister boys. Little Miss Primrose, who is said to have much taste in such matters, is called into consultation about Nelly’s new dresses. The white muslin and blue ribbons for evening wear which she recommends will do, but it seems a pity that she cannot suggest anything better than “ stonecolored batiste, with a knot of olive ribbon at the throat,” for afternoons. However, perhaps the charms of youth and freshness will tell upon the hero, in spite of the repellent effect of the stone-color and olive combination. She starts upon the path of destiny, and the hero soon appears ; a man of thirty, lately returned from India. What would the British novelist do without India ? He is quickly successful in winning Nelly’s affections, though how he does it is largely left to the reader’s imagination to discover, for it may be said without exaggeration that he scarcely opens his lips the book through. The prettiest part of the book, however, is the delicate description of this almost wordless wooing. “ They had got a little farther,” the author says, “ along the wildwood path which leads through the Gate Beautiful into the paradise of actual betrothal; and perhaps there is nothing so sweet in life as going along that path, knowing, and yet seeming not to know, where it will end. Within the gate are the proud queen roses and lilies of the love that has told itself out and need not fear; and there beyond them is the marriage temple, the crown and completion of all. And yet, somehow, when the gate is passed, one looks back with a sort of regret to the wildwood path that led to it, to the sweet little hidden blossoms which no other eye has seen, and the mossy paths, the leafy shadow, the stillness, and the rest which were for ourselves alone, when as yet no admiring public had been admitted to share the happiness and give its advice as to the best way of reaching the temple. Because, once inside the gate, one may gather queen lilies and roses; but one must at the same time think of table-linen and how many servants one can afford to keep, to say nothing of Queen Anne dadoes and the pattern of the dinner plates.” But after straying a little while with the lovers in the pleasant woodland path, we are brought into a world surely too commonplace, prosaic, and uninteresting to be worth depicting. Is social scheming really so prominent a feature of English life, or is it that the novelists lack invention? We are introduced in this quiet tale to no less than three intriguers : there is the vulgar aristocrat, who schemes to marry her scapegrace heir to a plebeian with money, which is to set the impoverished old family up again; there is an under-bred schemer, who toadies the high-bred one; and an under-bred sister, who, after doing all the mischief she can to the hero and heroine, schemes successfully to marry the scapegrace. These people are all unpleasant in the dull, conventional way. There is nothing tragic about the misunderstandings of the lovers, and the hero, who goes off on a journey at the wrong time, when he is wanted at home to explain matters, comes back before his sweetheart has time to grow any gray hairs. And as regards lack of originality in conception and charm of style, this book is a sample of hundreds of novels, whose authors seem to feel entirely irresponsible for their readers’ entertainment. They jog calmly on their tedious way, never suspecting that the public are not contentedly accompanying them at this slow regulation pace. In want of a little good pastime, you recall the names of authors which, appear on publishers’ lists, and what are they ? The names of Miss Mulock, and Mary Cecil Hay, and Mrs. Oliphant, who— more’s the pity !— had some talent to start with. Fatally dull they all are; but where else to turn, except to the fast and vulgar society to be met in the novels of Annie Thomas, and Florence Marryatt, and Rhoda Broughton ?

Mr. Black has certainly discovered a new set of materials to work with, and is so pleased with his happy finding that he keeps on combining them again and again. He must have a sort of chemical formula for the production of one of his tales, as : fine description of scenery, one fifth ; narration of the mildest occurrences, one tenth ; conversation of a slight and gently facetious kind, one fifth ; remarks by Gaelic characters, one fifth ; old ballads sung by the heroine, one fifth ; interjectional commentary by the author, one tenth. Perhaps this is not doing justice to Mr. Black’s subtlety ; it may be that what guides him is not the formula of the practical chemist, but the recipe for a plat, which it needs the inspired touch of the culinary artist to put together. We might only make a bungling failure of it if we were to attempt what Mr. Black has succeeded in. The proof that the materials are not badly commingled is that a good many people eat of the pudding. Since the concoction of that lucky dish named the Princess of Thule, which commended itself to the palate of royalty, and has doubtless, therefore, been found relishing by all truly loyal subjects, Mr. Black has followed the discreet example of that cordon bleu, Monsieur Alcide Mirobolant (vide Pendennis), who, having ascertained what dishes the blonde Miss Amory most frequently partook of, advised himself to serve up such dainty little repasts as should suit the delicate taste and move the heart of his fair mistress above-stairs. Mr. Black’s last finished effort of genius was, I believe, more highly flavored than common, but in the work which he has now in hand he seems to have returned to mixing the same old ingredients in the old, familiar way.

— Should not the dictionaries revise their definitions of the word tramp, now that legislation in so many of our States has made the person a criminal ? Massachusetts, following her New England sisters, offers the tramp the advantages of her state work-house and houses of correction, but in such a compulsory way as to deprive the boon of the attraction which it might otherwise have for him. For the tramp is too sincere a lover of liberty to be grateful for any act which relieves him of it, even while insuring him those two prime necessaries of his life, free board and lodging. The selection of a work-house as his place of confinement is a peculiar indignity to the tramp, whose existence is based on the avoidance of work. Whether his practice in this respect is the result of a thoughtful consideration of labor as the primal or consequential curse, or is based on an intuitive perception of the value of leisure, it is not now necessary to inquire. It is enough to emphasize the rigor of laws which not only assume the criminality of the tramp, but affix to it a punishment which is especially offensive to his sensibilities. And yet we affect sympathy as a means of reforming even the worst offenders !

Perhaps the most serious evil of treating the tramp as a vulgar criminal is the inevitable loss of the poetic element which has long been associated with him. This is due, it seems to me, to his independence of conventional ways, which is strikingly shown in his roving life and his opposition to artificial distinctions, whether of property or cleanliness. He is a perpetual illustration of the economy of nomadism and the picturesqueness of dirt. Lowell touches a true and delicate chord in his confession of attachment to the “ dusty tramp : ” —

“I cannot help
Liking this creature, lavish summer’s bedesman,
Who from the almshouse steals when nights grow warm,
Himself his large estate and only charge,
To be the guest of haystack or of hedge,
Nobly superior to the household gear
That forfeits us our privilege of nature.
I bait him with my match-box and my pouch,
Nor grudge the uncostly sympathy of smoke,
His equal now, divinely unemployed.
Some smack of Robin Hood is in the man,
Some secret league with wild-wood wandering things;
He is our ragged duke, our barefoot earl,
By right of birth exonerate from toil,
Who levies rent from us his tenants all,
And serves the state by merely being.”

It is worthy of note that the word tramp is of comparatively recent origin. I have looked in such English dictionaries of the eighteenth century as Bailey’s, Johnson’s, Fenning’s, Ash’s, Sheridan’s, Kenrick’s, Lemon’s, Barclay’s, and Perry’s, without finding it either as verb or noun. Coming down to the present century, it is noticeable that the tramp has a better reputation in England than he has in this country. Latham defines tramper or tramp — the monosyllable, he adds, being the commoner word — as an itinerant workman or hawker of small wares, distinguished both from the mere beggar and from the gypsy. Halliwell, in his Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, sets the tramper above the tramp, the former being styled a traveling mechanic, and the latter a walking beggar. Grose also calls the tramp a beggar, while Richardson, quoting North, defines tramps as strollers, whether beggars or peddlers. When David Copperfield ran away from Murdstone and Grinby’s to take refuge with his aunt, Miss Betsy Trotwood, his fears were excited by the vicious looks of the trampers whom he passed on the road. But George Eliot, in Felix Holt, speaks of “ big, bold, gin-breathing tramps

In the edition of Webster’s Dictionary of 1828, the noun tramp does not appear, but tramper figures as a stroller, a vagrant. In later editions, the tramp is set down as simply a foot-traveler. Worcester, however, holds to the definition of tramp, or tramper, as a vagrant. Bartlett, in his Dictionary of Americanisms, 1877, says that while in England a tramp is a foot traveler, here he is a strolling vagabond, and then adds that tramps are “ men without employment, strolling about cities and in the country, begging food, unwilling to work, and often ready to steal.”

The causes which have affected the character of the tramp and given to the word such a variety of meaning possess historical and social significance. The people who, early in the century, jolted in clumsy, comfortless, slow-going vehicles along the then wretched English roads could not well despise the tramp, for he had the advantage of going on foot. Nor was there anything degrading in the condition of the mechanic who took to the road when the progress of industrial development deprived artisans of their independence by massing them in factories. The tramp, as peddler, was a peculiarly useful member of society when his wares spared the farmer’s family a tedious journey to the nearest town or village. It was not till the close of the wars with Napoleon that tramps in England were regarded as rogues and vagabonds. Here, again, it was their misfortune, and not their fault, that these epithets were applied to them. They consisted of disbanded soldiers and sailors, and agricultural laborers out of work, and it was in search of employment that they wandered about the country. By the operation of the absurd law of settlement, every parish was interested in making these poor fellows vagrants. The authorities had them carted about from one work-house to another, instead of permitting them to remain where they could support themselves by their voluntary industry. In like manner, the enforced idleness which resulted from the close of our civil war, and from the overproductiveness caused by inflation of values, not only increased the number of tramps, but developed in them brutal characteristics, which were happily wanting in the harmless strollers of earlier days. A continuance of the present improved condition of business will do more than repressive legislation to remedy the evils of which the most degraded tramps are effects rather than causes.