The Contributors' Club
SHE was English, but for twenty years had been tied to a little old dried-up Hungarian, a rabid revolutionist, who had been banished from his own country, when a young man, for trying to overthrow the government.
The morning she first called on me her husband accompanied her, and remained in the hall — having been taken by the servant as an attendant only — until I sent a special messenger to ask him into the parlor.
“ Quite an old man, I assure you, my dear lady. You will not mind. He speaks seven languages with facility, I assure you; and he is such a good soul, but so unsettled 1 I assure you, strange as it may seem to you, we have moved dozens of times. I can’t just say that I married him for love, you know, but then I think we have been quite as happy as most people, after all, thank God ! We had a beautiful ’ome in London [she used to forget and drop her h’s, once in a way] ; a house, I assure you, Mrs. Brown, I would not ’ave been ashamed to receive her royal ’ighness the Princess of Wales in. And I had my own carriage, too, and as pretty a span as any in the Ladies’ Mile.
“ We were really quite rich, and a house full of children, too, thank God. But one day my husband took it into his head to go to Jersey and buy a farm. You see he is so set in his way. All men are, don’t you think so ? The easiest way to get along with ’em is just to pretend you think as they do. And nothing to do but we must pack off at once, selling things at ruinous prices, too, when I was so ’appy in London.
“ We had four beautiful children, and now we are all alone, — we two old people,” and the tears glistened in her kind blue eyes. “ The eldest would have been eighteen now, and such a comfort; but we have each other left, please God, and I assure you we think a great deal of each other, even if Mr. Aubrey is a little peculiar. We have to put up with those things, you know, my dear. After we had got nicely settled on our estate and everything in quite a thriving condition, and had just begun to feel at home again, our three little girls sickened and died, one after another, poor things ; and Mr. Aubrey was so broken down that he insisted he could not stay there any longer, where everything reminded him of the dear children, and so we took our little boy and went to the south of France. We hired a pretty villa in Cannes, surrounded by beautiful grounds, and I had begun to feel a little contented again, when the fever took away our last darling, and we were indeed desolate. You see, my dear lady, I have seen much trouble, but God has been good, and one must go on living, in spite of everything. We spent two years at Cannes, and I had begun to pick up a little patois and to feel quite at home, when Mr. Aubrey’s term of banishment expired, and he took a notion to visit his only remaining relative, an old uncle, whom he had not seen for twenty years. So we pulled up stakes again, and started for Pesth. We were received at the station by very kind strangers, who informed us at first that Mr. Aubrey’s uncle was from home, afterwards that he was quite ill. and would we rest a while with them, who were close friends of the family; and not until after much pressing did we learn the real facts in the case, —that my husband’s uncle had very suddenly expired. It was all very sad, I assure you, my dear lady. But my husband, good soul, stayed and settled up his poor uncle’s affairs, and then we came on here [“ here ” means a cosmopolitan Oriental capital, which shall be nameless] to see an agent for his uncle’s widow, and thought we might as well stay on, you know ; and we have been prospered, thank God. Mr. Aubrey really seems quite contented sometimes, though I must say my heart is in dear old England, where everybody speaks the same language. My husband is a very fine chemist, and spends much time in his laboratory, and I have been much prospered in my profession.”
Her profession, by the way, was medicine, and she confined herself principally to children’s diseases. Her motto was, “ One may as well laugh as cry,” and so, when the baby had been particularly restless from teething, it was a comfort to see her broad, good-natured face, with its kindly blue eyes, and hear her cheery laugh, which was always contagious. It is impossible to reproduce the cordial, benevolent way in which she said, “ Good morning, my dear Mrs. Brown. How are you this morning, and how is the dear baby ? Much better, I hope. I could n’t sleep last night for thinking of it. A little ailing, of course ; you must expect those things, my dear. And Mr. Brown, too, — how is he, poor thing? Quite well, I hope. Why, my dear lady, your husband is one of a thousand. Such a kind, thoughtful soul, and so devoted to you ” —
“ Yes — but, Madame Aubrey, the baby ” —
“ Oh, certainly ! my dear, the baby. It won’t do to give babies much medicine, you know. Nature must have her way. Have you given it a camomile bath, with a little drop of vinegar in it? No? Not so very strange, either, my dear. How should you know, to be sure ? And a drop of gin, too, you know, is so warming. Not that I believe in spirits at all, my dear, — not in the least. But once in a while, you know, nothing else answers the same purpose,” and she fanned herself vigorously, while the feathers on her hat nodded good-naturedly. Her toilets, indeed, were a study in themselves, particularly her bonnets, which she assured me she very frequently trimmed herself, and I was not loath to credit the assertion. Every time she came she had on a new specimen, quite outrivaling the last. They were always very large, overhanging her forehead, from which her gray hair was brushed straight back, innocent of curls or crimps, and tucked into a net at the back of her head. Her eye had evidently not been trained to harmony of colors, for while a bunch of full-blown roses would be perched on top of her bonnet, a bright yellow feather would be tucked in in close proximity, a black one on the other side, an abundance of purple ribbon adorning the crown, while a bouquet of cornflowers filled up the brim, from the edge of which dangled and twinkled a row of jet fringe. About her ample throat, often innocent of collar or ruche, would be a magenta silk handkerchief fastened with a large cameo. An ancient magenta silk polonaise, bountifully trimmed with black fringe, over a well-worn black silk petticoat, completed a favorite costume with her. She used to say, “ One cannot dress, you know, running about as I do.” Her hands were very beautiful, small, — quite un-English, by the way, — white, and as dimpled as a girl’s, while her fingers were always sparkling with rings, sometimes half a dozen on each hand. Bracelets encircled her fair arms, and jewels depended from her ears. Yet one could not call her vain. It was simply want of taste which led her to decorate herself in this way.
She dearly loved her cup of tea, — as what Englishwoman does not, —and chatting over our lunch the lights and shades of her character and life came out quite unconsciously. “ Mr. Aubrey and I had quite a little tiff this morning,” she said one day. “He got really quite grumpy, don’t you think. I almost always laugh, you know, but this morning I did a little crying, which I am heartily ashamed of, I assure you. One mav as well laugh as cry, though I do get tired sometimes trotting around all day, trying to understand the abominable languages, while Mr. Aubrey keeps house, and so get a little nervous sometimes, though I never allow it in my patients.
“ He has taken it into his head to go to Roumania, — just after the rent has been paid for another year, too, and he must needs go and try to find a tenant for the house, — and wanted me to pack right up and be off next week, ‘ Very well,’ I said, ‘ Mr. A., you can go if you wish, I shall stay here. I will pack up your shirts this morning, if you like.’
“ He took his hat and went down town, and I acted like a silly school-girl : I sat down and cried. I assure you, I don’t come to that pass once in a year. But he came home to dinner as sweet as a peach. Did he beg my pardon ? No ; men never do that, you know. But he said he had been thinking of making me a present for a long time, and would I have a pony phaeton or a handsome set of jewelry ! Of course, my dear, I chose the phaeton, and now I shall take you to drive to the Gardens in my own carriage. My husband is such a kind soul, but he is a little quick, you know, my dear. One must put up with those things in a man ! I am going to try to make him forget all about the Roumanian scheme, and propose a trip to Mt. Olympus, where he can have his cigarette in peace.
But I really must go, my dear Mrs. Brown. I have to visit one of the royal princesses this afternoon. She is suffering terribly, poor thing, and the court physicians can’t do anything for her. I am to go in her own carriage. Give my love to Mr. Brown, poor thing. You have so much to be thankful for, my dear, in having such a good husband! He quite adores you, I am sure; ” and she gathered up her reticule and her purse and her gloves, and came back to find her handkerchief and say good by again, and ask me to be sure and give her very best compliments to Mr. Brown, good creature, and then she bustled away.
I met her on the street, one day, resplendent in amber silk of the stiffest quality, with exquisitely embroidered crepe drapery, surmounted by her wellworn black mantilla, ten or a dozen years old, and a Dolly Varden of rough white straw, trimmed with pink rosebuds, perched on her head, while her hands were encased in shabby brown kids. “ So glad to see you, my dear ! Really, you must come in and see me. You must, indeed. Shopping is so tiresome. You really must have a cup of tea before you go home.” And so, cowardly wretch that I was, mustering up all my moral courage, and inwardly trembling lest we should meet some of my acquaintances, I accompanied her to her own hired house. It was a pleasant four-story stone building, in a pretty, quiet street. But as soon as the door was opened by the slatternly servant-girl I was taken aback by the absolute untidiness of the interior. Mr. Aubrey sat in the back part of the stone hall, which was raised two or three-steps from the entrance, quietly lunching in his shirt-sleeves. He immediately put on his yellow nankeen coat, and came forward to welcome me in the most obsequious manner, bowing over my hand nearly to the floor, and assuring me in Oriental terms and broken English that I had done them the greatest honor in visiting their humble abode.
We proceeded up a very dirty flight of wooden stairs, and turned into a shabby little room, furnished with sofa and chairs upholstered in faded crimson damask, a large mahogany table with a beautifully embroidered Turkish table cover, and the inevitable upright piano. Tea was served in thick white cups like those used on shipboard, from the daintiest of silver tea-pots, while the creamjug was a marvel in itself of exquisitely wrought silver. The sugar was in a common white cracked bowl, and the spoons were so brassy that it required much courage to put one deliberately and with malice aforethought to one’s lips. But my hostess presided with as much grace as though the service had been of gold, the room in a palace, and herself a queen. Her conversation ranged world-wide, and embraced all topics, from art, literature, and science, and the Russo-Turkish war, to the latest recipe for salad. She was never at a loss for a word, an expression, or an opinion ; always racy, cheery, and good-tempered, breaking into musical peals of laughter, interspersing her conversation with judicious flattery ; not always careful, to be sure, about dates or localities, but giving you the impression all the while of conversing with a thoroughly cultivated woman, as well as a thoroughly charming one. What if you found yourself in a whirl, sometimes, in attempting to follow her? It was impossible to converse with her half an hour without feeling one’s own stupidity, even if vanity asserted that in point of education, cultivation, depth of character, and various other attributes and virtues, too numerous to mention, you might claim superiority. But withhold admiration you could not. Brilliancy carried the day.
As I walked slowly down street I meditated on her really heroic life. Thrown among strangers in a foreign land, with her fortune to carve out, — for one could see that she was the true head of the family, — an appendage in the way of a husband whose early education and tastes differed so much from her own, winning her way by the charm of her manner, showing her true English pluck in a determination to succeed, one could not call her a fraud. One even forgot her little oddities in the way of dress, and her disregard of what some would call the necessities of life. Her occupation led to constant recourse to the crowded Bosphorus steamers conveying the busy population of the large city to and from its numerous suburbs, which line the banks of that beautiful stream. The stern of the boat is appropriated to the Turkish women, who are discreetly curtained from idle gazers of the male persuasion, and then mercilessly tied in to prevent a rush at the time of landing. The great Gatalco bridge across the Golden Horn is the starting-point and the destination of these numerous steamers, and as a consequence the chances of collision and disaster are constantly multiplied. One sunny afternoon, Madame Aubrey, returning from one of her errands of mercy, was comfortably ensconced on the deck of a steamer under the white awning, watching the marble palaces set in emerald gardens; the scores of graceful minarets on every hand pointing to the sky ; the streets thronged with men of every nation, each habited in his own peculiar garb ; and the gilded caïques, with their white-robed boatmen, dancing on the blue waters, — all making a never-to-be-forgotten picture, — when suddenly a whistle sounded, quick and sharp ; then a hurried order from the captain to back, — an order, however, which came too late, — and crash ! into the side of the boat, cutting her half in two, came an English grain steamer bound for the Black Sea. In an instant the water was filled with people, and the air rang with the frantic screams and even curses of the Turkish women, who were struggling with each other to gain possession of the small boats which swarmed to the wreck like flies. My friend was carried along with the crowd at the time of the accident, and found herself in the water, side by side with a woman holding a tiny baby tight to her breast. They both caught at a dangling rope ; a sudden lurch of the steamer, and it was wrenched from the grasp of each. The shock loosened the hold of the mother upon the child, and with a cry of horror she saw it fall into the cruel water. At the same time the poor mother disappeared under the wheel, and my friend, comprehending the situation in her own peril, with a desperate clutch caught the child in one band, as it rose to the surface, by the little knotted girdle, and with the other hand made an effort to reach an oar held out to her from a passing caïque. The first essay was fruitless ; then the boat swung nearer, and with another and almost superhuman effort, she succeeded in grasping it without letting go her hold upon the child, who was lifted in by kind hands ; and then she was drawn up, almost unconscious, and conveyed on shore with her little charge.
The harbor was filled with ships of war and multitudes of other craft, and from these life-boats were sent at once to the relief of the frightened passengers, who were nearly all rescued. What mattered a few poor Turkish women P They had no souls, any way. And so the busy throng went its way.
My poor friend was taken home in a carriage, and in her pitiable plight was met at the door by her husband. Holding up his hands in dismay, he broke forth in a torrent of ejaculations concerning her distressing appearance. She briefly explained the accident. “ Merciful heavens! and I not there to risk my life for you ! ” — inwardly thanking his stars for escaping such a fate. Then he saw she was not alone. “ But what piece of baggage is this ? You don’t mean you have saddled yourself with a baby for us to take care of! ” And here the poor man groaned aloud. “ Leave it in the carriage ! Throw it in the gutter ! Carry it to the almshouse ! Why, we have n’t enough for our poor little dogs ! ’ And he fumed and fretted, and muttered imprecations at the driver for not interfering in his behalf. All in vain. Madame Aubrey gathered up her dripping skirts, took the baby firmly under one arm, and faced her irascible mate. “ This child has no mother. It shall have a home with me until some responsible person comes to claim it. If you don’t like it, Monsieur Aubrey, you can take your lodgings out, until you feel more humanity in your soul 1 ” And her strong will carried the day. “ But I shall have to give up the poor little thing,” she said to me afterwards, " and it is enough to break my heart. My husband can’t abide the poor little thing because of its Eastern parentage, and no one has come to claim it. It is only a girl, you know, and very glad its friends are to be rid of it, poor thing ; ” and the tears came into the kind blue eyes as she thought of its probable fate. “ I could n’t love it more if it were my very own,” she said.
But her husband, unknown to her, was working against her. Advertisements were inserted in the daily papers, of the language of which she was entirely ignorant, and one day a relative, pretended or otherwise, of the child called, and, identifying it, claimed it in the name of the family, and once more poor madame’s heart was wrung with anguish, while monsieur rubbed his hands in malicious triumph at having outwitted his wife and settled so easily what might have become a very difficult matter, considering his wife’s English obstinacy.
Sadly she took up her work again, but her laugh was no longer cheery and ringing, and seldom heard.
A friend’s house was infected with a contagious disease, and a dear one lay dangerously ill. Near friends, even, feared to cross the threshold. But although she was not the attending physician, Madame Aubrey’s hearty sympathy led her to risk danger and expose herself to a terrible disease, in order to give a word of cheer and show her warm interest in a time of sure distress. But that act of devotion proved her last one. Her system, weakened by exposure and the constantly enervating influence of a foreign climate, was not able to bear up under the test, and after a short struggle with disease the brave heart was still, and another English grave was made under the cypresses on the shore of the blue Bosphorus.
— Was Shakespeare a “racker of orthography ”? Mr. Richard Grant White does not often leave his readers in doubt as to either his purposes or his opinions ; but if the following passage in EveryDay English is no exception, it certainly suggests the question I have just asked. In praising what he calls the Irish pronunciation, he says : “ As to the silent l in calm and calf, and other clipped and silent letters, there is an illustration in Love’s Labor’s Lost. Holofernes, the schoolmaster, speaking of Armado, whom he ridicules and scoffs at for his affectation in speech, says that he abhors ‘such rackers of orthography as to speak dout, fine, when he should say doubt; det, when he should pronounce debt, — d e b t, not d e t; he clepeth a calf cauf, half hauf neighbour vocatur nebour; neigh abbreviated ne.' And I have myself heard the l pronounced in talk and such like words in Cheshire, England. There is no doubt that most of these now silent letters were heard in Elizabethan English.”
I have not the most unbounded confidence in rhymes as indicating the proper pronunciation of words, and yet they undoubtedly have a value ; for it would be gratuitously absurd to suppose that any poet would make a false rhyme in preference to a true one. It is quite interesting, therefore, to notice some of the rhymes in the very play from which Mr. White quotes.
Boyet, one of the lords attending on the Princess of France, in disclosing to her the plan of the King of Navarre and his companions “ to woo these girls of France . . . and win them too,’ says, —
Presence majestical would put him out.”
A little later the princess herself declares, —
The rest will ne’er come in, if he be out.”
Could Armado himself have been more “ abhominably ” regardless of the sound of the b ?
Biron, one of the king’s attendants, seems to have spoken “ det, when he should pronounce debt,” for he remarks as Boyet goes out,—
Pay him the due of honey-tongued Boyet.”
Rosaline, too, must have been among the abhorred, to judge from this exclamation : —
My red dominical, my golden letter.”
On the other hand, I believe there is not in Love’s Labor’s Lost a single rhyme in which there is reason to suppose that Shakespeare sounded a letter that is now silent; so that if the words which he puts into the mouth of Holofernes are to be regarded as pointing out the best pronunciation of the Elizabethan era, I do not see how to escape the conclusion that the great dramatist himself was a “ racker.”
— To speak of a man’s warming his hands in his own parlor by the heat of a fire a mile distant suggests an exploit of sorcery ; yet for several years such a thing lias been possible to the citizen of Lockport, N. Y. If he will, he may break up his stoves and sell them for old iron: one furnace is henceforth to do the work of a thousand, and distribute its heat to the houses of an entire city by the agency of the good servant, steam. The process was invented and put into practical operation by Mr. Birdsill Holly.
Near the centre of the city stands a plain brick building, from whose one tall chimney clouds of black smoke are constantly ascending. This is the boilerhouse, and here in a row are the four great boilers in which the steam is generated. Three are horizontal, fifteen feet in length by five in diameter. The fourth is of about the same capacity as its companions, but different in shape ; it looks like a gigantic bell dropped down upon the furnace, and is familiarly known to the workmen, not as “ the upright,” but as “ the nigger.” An iron pipe, eight inches in diameter, receives the steam from these boilers; yonder, back of the nigger, it passes into the ground. Outside the building, we might trace its course along the street by the black line of bare soil, from which it has melted away the snow.
This pipe is laid at a depth of three feet below the surface, sheathed in nonconducting materials, and inserted in logs of wood bored for the purpose. As the distance from the boiler-house increases, it diminishes in size from eight inches to one or one half, to correspond with the amount of steam passed through it. At intervals of one or two hundred feet are placed wooden “ service boxes,” in which the expansion and contraction of the pipe under different temperatures is provided for by a nickel joint; from these boxes, also, the branches of the main diverge, and the service pipes are sent out to the buildings heated. The whole distributing system is divided into sections, from any one of which, in case of necessity. the steam can be excluded, without affecting the others.
As it is but a few years since this new method of heating had its origin in Lockport, we cannot expect to find it universally adopted. But here is a pleasant, home-like, private house warmed these two winters by the city furnace, from which it is distant perhaps half a mile. It is a cold, January day, but, as the outer door closes behind us, we find ourselves in a genial, summer-like atmosphere. No cheerfully glowing grate, no ugly black register, is to be seen in the parlor ; against the wall stands the radiator, with its polished marble cap and single row of delicately painted tubes. It is a hint of the housekeeper’s millennium, when dust and coal-ashes, her omnipresent foes, shall be brought into subjection.
In the kitchen the family washing is in progress without any aid from the stove. Heat is conveyed to the boiler and tubs through rubber tubes attached to the service pipes. The water in the bath-room above is heated by a similar arrangement. There is no nerve-startling hiss as the steam escapes ; that ingenious invention called the “ anti-thunder box ” reduces it to perfect quiet.
In the basement, also, we find the regulator. Perhaps at this moment the pressure in the boiler and mains may be forty or sixty pounds ; in the house, as we ascertain by glancing at the gauge, it is only five. This reduction of pressure is due in part to the fact that, upon reaching the regulator valve, the water of condensation contained in the pipes is wire-drawn, and thus to a great extent reconverted into steam before being diffused through the building. Connected with the regulator is a steammetre, which registers the number of pounds consumed daily, and also the hour at which each radiator in the house is opened or closed.
What becomes of the used steam ? It is condensed upon leaving the radiator, and, in the form of hot water, returns to the basement. There, within a brick-walled inclosure, it circulates through several coils of pipe, exposed to a current of cold air. This air, warmed in its progress through the cooler, passes upward by a register into the apartment above, which it serves to ventilate. The water accumulates in a tank, the surplus being discharged into the sewer. Dip up a glassful from the tank. It is purer than a draught from any spring; it is the distilled water of chemistry. Should steam-heating ever become universal in our cities, there will be no danger of drawing up death from the well, no need of building expensive aqueducts and reservoirs; the same pipes that warm our houses will furnish us with water for every domestic purpose.
Steam has been made as subservient to the comfort of man as gas. What will science do for us next ? Will the model city of the future be lighted by electricity, heated by one central furnace, and have its dinners sent in from the common kitchen through pneumatic tubes ?
— In certain ways, Quakers represent the most respectable social development we have in this democratic country. What mortal can be more respectable than an Arch Street Philadelphia Quaker ? Is he not the very incarnation of moral dignity and honest worth ? Above all, does he not count equally worthy ancestors back to the time of William Penn? Prosperity, also, shines very generally on the modern Quaker, and the recollection of ancient adversity only heightens by contrast the intensity of the present glow of his abundant peace and plenty. Nothing tends to make a person more highly respectable than doing the same thing over and over again, year by year, with the grave regularity that comports with profoundest dignity. As a logical result, however, dead formalism has been the outcome of this Quaker respectability, regularity, and regard for old customs. Not all dead though, for sweet, quaint homes belong to these staid Quakers, and out of them have come many pure and earnest natures. But oh, the discipline of the society ! Pictures, music, and gayety of the most innocent kind have been literally under a ban. The loveliness of simple healthy Quaker home life has been too often clouded by the habits of the ascetic. From the first, the professed religion of Friends has been distinctly spiritual. They have always, as a body, consciously sought to live more or less directly under the influence and power of the Divine Light, but, strange to say, the effort to attain this very devotion and the continuous spirituality which is necessary to sustain such a life has led grosser natures to lapse into passive asceticism, mysticism, and spiritual pride. The gift of preaching with unction, and indeed all preaching, has passed away in some places, and, as a consequence, many young people, earnest and careless alike, sought more living and articulate influences. The High Church Quaker, sitting in dead formality, adhered strictly to the customs of his ancestors, which were in his eyes almost as worthy of reverence as the Bible. He, the advocate of absolute simplicity and informality of worship, thus came to govern himself according to the strictest terms of a complex law. What is the result of this widespread deadness and formality of a society the acts of which have so often “ made for righteousness,” as Matthew Arnold would say ? Is extinction at hand ? Some people conceive this to be the case. But let such as incline to this view first study the history of Friends for the last twenty years, and they will see how the elements of good in the society, its spirituality, practical morality, and unselfish simplicity, are tending to renew its life almost in spite of itself. It is strange, but again true, that, although during their worst torpor there have not been wanting among Quakers men of high Christian endowment and training entirely worthy to control a new movement, the change has come almost imperceptibly and without a distinct leader. Perhaps as far as was specially visible this change was first noticeable in the character and increasing numbers of the general meetings held by Friends throughout the country, where ministers as well as all earnest folks gathered. A new spirit swayed them. They said it was a returning to the ways of Early Friends, and it is true that Early Friends were given to holding these general meetings in much the same manner. Sunday-schools increased in size and numbers. Bible study became popular after having been sadly neglected, and many features of Quaker formalism rapidly lost importance. Friends who married out of meeting were not disowned, if they expressed unity with the views of Friends and a desire to remain with them. Less prejudice was felt against music and pictures, while simplicity still continued to be the rule in most places. Many conservative Friends lamented these changes as sure signs of increasing decay in the society, of a lapsing into Methodism, and what not. In reality it was a reaction from dead formalism, which was best proved by the new spirit leading directly to the study of the Bible. The inspiration to follow the leadings of the Divine Light was an inheritance that, combined with a noble •‘intellectual seriousness” and desire to do whatever would “make for righteousness,” was sure to lift them out of the slough of deadening formality when they once realized the necessity for change. Friends may have been helped more and more, doubtless, by the growing spirituality of the age. Yet their rich funds of homely virtues and healthful home life have, I believe, next to the increased study of the Bible, done most to renew their religious life. And to appreciate how this religious life has been renewed requires only a visit to one of the general meetings, where the single thought seems to be to secure the illumination of Divine Light. If less is said sometimes about the leading of the Inner Light, the feeling is none the less present in like degree as of old. Conduct of life as taught by the Bible, simple active Christianity with little doctrinal discourse, forms the body of the preaching. Eccentricities crop out now and then, as they will to some extent in every gathering the members of which are in earnest and possessed of strong individuality ; but the regular established discipline of Quakers stands them now in good stead. It would be hard indeed to instance a revival of religion anywhere more devoid of cant, hypocrisy, and self-seeking, more sober, devout, and reverential.
At any rate, open to criticism or not, this movement, which, it is asserted, indicates a return to the ways of Early Quakerism, is making a living body of the Society of Friends. There are States in the West where the numbers of the society have increased by thousands in a few years, and the Bible, alike in Sunday-school and at home, is studied with a thoroughness and regularity to be found in scarcely any other denomination. In short, it is very evident that Friends are once more entering on a phase of profound religious activity, equipped with other weapons of warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil than mere external separatism and rigid ascetic discipline, bound up, though they be, with excellent spiritual doctrine.
—Mr. Stopford Brooke has won a very honorable position as a critic of English literature, and his remarks about Shelley, in his volume of extracts from that poet, cannot fail to be of service to the reader. At first sight there always seems to be something derogatory to a writer in printing extracts from his works. We are accustomed to gird at our ancestors for their undeniable affection for Dodd’s Beauties of Shakespeare, and we rather plume ourselves upon our superiority in rejecting that once famous book. Yet, after all, the art of reading consists in great measure in knowing what to skip, and the books are few that we do read through from cover to cover without considerable exercise of choice. Of poets this is especially true. Byron said, it will he remembered, “ You say that one half [of Don Juan] is very good ; you are wrong ; for, if it were, it would be the finest poem in existence. Where is the poetry of which one half is good ? . . . No, — no ; no poetry is generally good, — only by fits and starts ; and you are lucky to get a sparkle here and there. You might as well want a midnight all stars as rhyme all perfect.” And while it is well to read at least once all that a poet has written, where is the poet whose works we read without omissions ? Mr. Brooke acknowledges this by editing a volume of extracts, and the selections he has made are not mere scrappy, teasing bits, but they include the whole of Alastor, the Adonais, etc., etc.
A valuable part of the book consists of the editor’s comments, yet it is too much to say that they will give unalloyed satisfaction. Shelley is too ethereal a poet to be fully described in prose, and if all that his poetry expresses and implies could be put down in a preface we may be sure that the number of extracts would be very small. It is not too much to say that there is no English poet who so successfully defies analysis as he. He was in so many respects incomprehensible, so like embodied poetry of which other bards get but faint glimpses, that an analysis of his pictures of dawns and sunsets leaves the reader cold. His verse is what he has described to us as the song of the skylark. He really unfolds to us things that seem beyond mortal vision ; he does what Goethe failed to do in the second part of Faust, and lie stands in a company with Pindar and iEschylus.
These be big words, and they partake of the tumidity which generally overtakes those who try to describe the indescribable ; yet they hardly overstate the enthusiasm that Shelley-lovers feel, even if they convey no definite notions to other people. Mr. Brooke, at least, has the advantage of avoiding tumidity, and he says many things of real value, He shows in what respects Shelley was like, and in what unlike, other poets, and by so doing he helps us to classify this remarkable man, and he points out some of the effects that the circumstances of his life had upon the poet’s work. Here, for instance, is a good bit of criticism: “ The huddling rush of images, the changeful crowd of thoughts, are found on almost every page. It is often only the oneness of the larger underlying emotion or idea which makes the work clear. We strive to grasp a Proteus as we read. In an instant the thought or the feeling Shelley is expressing becomes impalpable, vanishes, reappears in another form, and then in a multitude of other forms, each in turn eluding the grasp of the intellect, until at last we seize the god himself, and know what Shelley meant, or Shelley felt. In all this he resembles, at a great distance, Shakespeare ; and has, at that distance, and in this aspect of his art, a strength and a weakness similar to, but not identical with, that which Shakespeare possessed, — the strength of changeful activity of imagination, the weakness of being unable, through eagerness, to omit, to select, to coördinate, his images.”
What is new about Shelley’s life is the distinct statement of his love for Mrs. Williams, to whom, it is said, he composed his Ariel to Miranda, The Invitation, The Recollection, etc. It is new, too, to find Shelley praised for his good influence in behalf of Christianity.
— It is a fact of very considerable interest that the last work of Mr. Spencer on Ethics—in some regards the weakest and the least satisfying, both to the author and the reader, of all his works—should have received, on the whole, up to this hour, relatively more commendation than his earlier and far stronger writings, that are the foundation of his reputation and will be the support of his fame.
Professor Denslow, in his work on Modern Thinkers, holds that human motives of virtue have their source in the triumphs of the strong over the weak ; the terms right and wrong, he might say, are but the echoes of forgotten conflicts for life or property in which the stronger party is victorious.
The very existence of such a criticism, in the way in which it was evolved, is itself a phenomenon. In the columns of a daily newspaper, by the side of dark-head-lined politics and murders, these compact discussions of unpopular problems first came into being. In no other era than ours, in no other land but this, in almost no other centre of trade, would this have been likely or possible.
Of the nine philosophers whose lives, thoughts, and fancies Professor Denslow reviews, not one was of American birth ; only one dwelt with us, and that one but for a fraction of his life. During these centuries hundreds of millions of human beings — the products of the most intellectual of modern races — have entered upon and disappeared from our stage ; but, to this hour, no one of all these generations has held our own or the world’s attention by the deliverance of any new truth, or image of truth, in social science; and a people to whom all other peoples come for inventive and practical force must itself go to all other peoples for ideas, —the country that in directly usable discoveries is the greatest of originators, in philosophy has been but a timid borrower and importer.
Is there an inherent antagonism between federalism and thought ?
Must it ever be that theological and political liberty shall be compensated by intellectual slavery; and shall the least creative thinking be done by those who have the most freedom? Is it a psychological necessity that the mind ceases to originate as soon as its chains are removed and it has liberty to work as it pleases ? Is a nation that has liberated four millions of slaves to remain forever incompetent to deliver fifty millions of whites from the bondage of the demonstrably false? Is there any just reason for asserting that, in the parceling out of the products of the two hemispheres, nature assigned thought exclusively to the Eastern, and action exclusively to the Western? Is there anything in the peculiarities of our climate — the dryness of the air, or the extremes of temperature — that, while it fosters intellection in the middle realms, paralyzes it in the very highest realm, that of creative philosophy ?
For myself, I hold on these themes views that may be considered the extreme of optimistic ; and, in little works like this, I see the signs of the coming of the reign of ideas on this continent, when, as in old Greece and modern Germany, it shall be no disgrace to be a thinker, and the young men who are organized for finding truth, and who are in harmony with their organizations, shall no longer be considered as outlaws, but rather as worthy and honorable forces in society, even while living.
A century hence, some acute critic like Professor Denslow shall write of American thinkers, and shall proclaim theories and reasonings of which these are but intimations and adumbrations.
— I cannot join with a recent writer in the Club in welcoming the possible advent of a time when the thing called style shall pass out of literature, leaving to readers only the satisfaction of feeling themselves in the company of a “ just and wholesome mind.” However, the coming of such a styleless era, I suppose, need not be seriously deprecated, for a literature can hardly exist without literary styles, good or less good. Literature being a fine art, as I understand it, a literary man can no more help having a style than a painter his ; it may be more or less strongly marked, finished or faulty, but it cannot be altogether bad, or even indifferent. There is an ideal of literary expression which looks upon language as best employed when it becomes the perfectly transparent medium of thought,—like plateglass, as the advocates of this theory phrase it. It is of course always in good taste to be simple, and a plainness approaching to baldness is infinitely better than the “ fine ” language, socalled, indulged in by pseudo-cultivated writers. But I have never been able to accept the plate-glass theory, and cannot help fancying that it is the unconscious refuge of writers and readers without any keen apprehension of the charms of literary style. Ease and unaffectedness are indeed prime requisites of a good style, but why should we forego the pleasure to be had from other and more positive qualities than these ? The imperishable charm belonging to certain writers lies in their style ; it is their unique expression of their thought, more than the thought itself, we care for, as witness many of Lamb’s most delightful sketches ; and in the most original writers this characteristic quality of expression is so much a part of their genius that it is scarcely possible to separate between substance and form, the ideas and their embodiment. In fact, one is sometimes tempted to call the thought the grosser particle in this combination or interpenetration, so subtle and exquisite may be the charm of mere words, not only in poetry, but in imaginative prose.
— A correspondent in the Contributors’ Club for January, while allowing the altered tone of English literature towards Americans, seriously impugns English hospitality. Being able to compare the present with the long past, I should like to be allowed to bear testimony to their improved virtues in this resspect, and to the great change which has taken place in their manners during the last forty years.
The traditional John Bull is, we know, gruff, closing his doors to strangers and his lips to conversation with them, but the modern traveler must see that he has cast his aggressive horns, and that he is quite safe to approach. Touchett no doubt was perfectly right in his judgment at the time he wrote, for even as late as from 1845 to 1850 the idea of British roughness and exclusiveness was prevalent and in a measure justifiable. At that time self-respecting Americans were cautious how they made any advances to the roaming English, it being usually the rule to let them speak first, as overtures might be met with coldness and rudeness. They certainly could not then be called a pleasant or hospitable people. Letters of introduction might insure visits and social attentions in their homes, but the traveling multitude were reserved and rough.
Going abroad again from 1872 to 1874, we were struck with the alteration in the Anglo manner. Wherever we met the English we found them friendly and polite, and this was the experience of all Americans to whom we spoke of the remarkable change. It was probably owing to the more frequent intercourse between the countries. Englishmen had found that there was a middle ground between the barren offering of a seat in church, a drive to Mount Auburn in their favorite city of Boston, and the mad homage paid to Dickens. They had seen our best people and examined our institutions, and our countrymen had met with a hearty welcome in the home of their ancestors. It frequently happened, on our last visit to the Continent, that our most agreeable neighbors were English, and the unfavorable opinions of a quarter of a century before were greatly modified.
They seemed a new race with new feelings. The national characteristics of bluntness, directness, and pride remained, but there was no offensive reserve or hauteur, and this change was not only observable in transient amenities, but invitations were frequently given to visit them in England to those they had known a few days. It may be said with truth that for a much - enduring American housekeeper to entertain the English is more of a virtue than for them to reciprocate, delegating all cares, as they do, to a corps of well-trained servants ; but without sifting motives or means I merely wish to assert that the modern educated Englishman is not only apt to be hospitable to the modern educated American, but is surprisingly and imprudently so, and that he goes beyond our compatriots in these rash attentions.
— If there were any doubt that The Wreck of the Grosvenor was written by an able seaman it is dispelled by bis second yarn, A Sailor’s Sweetheart. The author launches his story as though it were a ship. The amateur seafarer, who generally goes below, and who regards the sea as an unpleasant but inevitable after-dinner confidant, will not care to follow Mr. Russell very closely through the first chapters. For one, I am willing to admit that I hardly escaped a slight touch of mal de mer, what with my own temerity and the narrator’s zeal for detail. Here is the realistic novel with a vengeance, —Zola with his sea legs on. I have heard of a girl — an American girl, of course, — who, when her whole system was in revolt, expressed herself as “ so thankful for the experience.” But I am inclined to regard the instance as apochryphal, and I think the readers of The Atlantic will bear me out in the assertion that seasickness is neither enjoyable subjectively as a phenomenon, nor objectively as a word painting.
On another count this latest sea tale is open to indictment in a literary court. The author asserts that the incidents of his story are impregnable facts, based upon two narratives and one personal experience, to which it is sufficient to answer that an incident must have another apology for its narration in a novel beyond the bald fact of its truth. It must be interesting per se. It must derive an additional charm from the manner in which it is told. And, above all, it must harmonize with its environment. There are few situations in a work of fiction, however startling, that have not had their counterpart in real life. You shall find material for a circulating Mudie in the columns of one daily newspaper. Curious coincidences, hair-breadth escapes, strange disappearances, all the anonymous tragedies of a great city, are the legitimate quarry of the romancer. But his art is not to string these together as one would make a necklace, or lay them cunningly side by side in a mosaic. He must suffuse his canvas with their various colors, and fill in the crude outlines of fact with the delicate shadings of his imaginations until all parts are in fair proportion and become merged into one artistic conception. Apply these criteria to Mr. Russell’s book, and it will be seen that he has sometimes misused truth in the interest of melodrama. The incident of the Jesse Jackson is vigorous and vivid in its transcription, and it may be veritable, but in its setting it is superfluous. The most careless reading will show that it has nothing to do with the wreck of the Waldeshare. A more practiced artisan, like Collins or Reade, would have used elsewhere the eighth chapter of The Wreck of the Grosvenor.
— When Lord Beaconsfield puts into the mouth of one of the characters in Endymion the saying that “ style is everything, especially in fiction,” he furnishes his critics with a telling weapon against himself; for anything more slipshod than the style employed in Endymion it would be difficult to find.
The misplacement of clauses is at times so marked as to be perfectly grotesque and to remind us of the examples of such carelessness that we studied in our text-books at school. Take, for instance, this : “ ' And what do you think of this ?’ asked Lord Montfort of Nigel Penruddock, who, in a cassock that swept the ground, had been stalking about the glittering saloons like a prophet who had been ordained in Mayfair, but who had now seated himself beside his host.”
If we are to trust Mr. Disraeli’s statement, it becomes evident that it is the metaphorical prophet, and not the actual Mr. Penruddock, who has placed himself in juxtaposition to Lord Montfort.
Observe, too, the awkwardness of this sentence : “ ‘ No,’ said Mr. Neuchatel, with a laughing eye and who saw through everybody’s purpose though his own manner was one of simplicity amounting almost to innocence.” And of this: Baron Sergius never spoke except to Endymion and then chiefly social inquiries about Lord and Lady Roehampton.” In addition to all this, there occur on almost every page little blemishes such as the following : —
“ There was a dinner twice a week at which Waldershare was rarely absent,” and, “ The snow was falling about the time when the Swindon coach was expected.” And, in conclusion, observe the following examples of two grammatical errors that occur in continual repetition throughout the book: —
“ Lady Roehampton had really intended to have gone,” and, “ The Count of Ferroll says there is a chance of Lady Montfort coming here.”