I SUPPOSE I express the feeling of hundreds of your readers in saying that I was intensely interested in Mr. Richard Grant White’s article On the Acting of Iago; nay, more, — that I was absorbed and fascinated by it. One might search the magazines for a year without discovering a more brilliant essay on any subject. And with the substance of most of it I heartily agree. Iago’s outer personality is depicted with vivid justness ; and Mr. White’s argument amounts to exact demonstration when he shows how essential the Venetian’s frank and winning manners were to the accomplishment of his schemes, and therefore how faulty is the performance which makes his hypocrisy apparent, and deprives him of his peculiar power of gaining and inspiring confidence. Per contra, Mr. White’s analysis of Iago’s imier nature seems to me so grossly incorrect that I can account for its existence only upon the theory that he allowed a desire to complete his own clever parallel between Iago and the selfish modern society man to run away with him, and to “ seel ” his “eyes up, close as oak,” to what is plainly written on the poet’s page. Upon this part of his theme, naturally, he does not argue at all, condescends to cite neither chapter nor verse, and contents himself with straightforward and, as I think, unverified assertions.
Mr. White’s propositions wdth regard to Iago’s character are in substance these: that he is a “ heartless,” “selfish,” “ cold blooded,” “ unprincipled,” “good-natured,” “utterly unscrupulous scoundrel; ” but that he is not “ malicious ” or spontaneously “ malignant,” and, by implication, has not a “ soul full of hatred.” In one place Mr. White says that Iago shows “ no disposition to malice, or even to needless mischief ; ” in another that “ he had no inclination to do harm to any one ; ” and in still another that he had “ no special preference for wrong-doing.” Mr. White finds that all of Iago’s villainy springs from selfishness, pure and simple, working itself out in a nature absolutely unscrupulous, and having “ for right and wrong in themselves neither like nor dislike.” In opposition to this ingenious theory I assert that Iago was malevolent, malignant, and exceedingly malicious ; that his soul was full of envy, cruelty, and hatred ; and that, while supremely selfish and scheming always in the first instance for his own advantage, he took intense delight in evil and evil-doing for their own sake.
When Mr. White applies his theory of Iago’s moral constitution to Iago’s conduct, the theory goes to pieces at once on the rocks of the dramatist’s text. Let us see if it does not. Mr. White says, Iago’s “ main purpose, indeed his only real purpose, was to ruin Cassio and get his place: ” and this extraordinary statement is the real key-stone of his comment on the plot. In the first of the soliloquies Iago, direct as always when talking to himself, goes straight to the central truth. And what is his foremost word ?
And [not for, observe] it is thought abroad that ’twixt my sheets
He has done my office: I know not if ’t be true;
But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,
Will do as if for surety.”
Could the spirit of malignancy be more perfectly uttered than in the words which are in italics? But go farther in the speech, and trace the working of Iago’s mind: —
“ Let me see now;
To get his [Cassio’s] place and to plume up my will
In double knavery.”
That is to say, to secure my own promotion and to accomplish my will to injure Othello. And soon after, in his second soliloquy, he returns to the same idea in the words, —
Both before and afterward in his talks with Roderigo he shows his hatred for Othello, assigning his non-promotion as the cause, but by his intensity plainly indicating other reasons. Just how far Iago believed that his wife had played the wanton with Othello, and just how much he was moved by his belief, it would be hard to say. But Mr. White’s comment is quite inadequate and misleading : “He did not quite like it, for some unexplained reason, that there was reason to suspect his wife with Othello.” (Let me say, in passing, that Shakespeare nowhere says or implies that there was “reason to suspect ” Emilia of infidelity.) But see how lago utters his “ not quite liking it: ” —
Doth, like a poisonous mineral, gnaw mg inwards;
And nothing can or shall content my soul
Till I am evened with him, wife for wife.
Or, failing so, yet that I put the Moor
At least into a jealousy so strong
That judgment cannot cure.”
In the whole of the great soliloquy from which the above quotation is made the getting of the lieutenancy is only once mentioned, and then indirectly: gratification of his hatred and his desire for revenge is the mainspring of his purpose. His particular disappointment may have struck the spark, but the magazine had been stored and the train laid long before, and some other occasion would have served the same end. Mr. White’s inability to account for Iago’s “ not quite liking” the idea of his wife’s unfaithfulness is of a piece with his unphilosophical view of Iago’s nature. But rightly viewed, how simple it all is ! A cynical, selfish, and malevolent nature is almost always furiously jealous and envious. And this is just Iago’s case : he knows his own wickedness, and therefore suspects every one ; he does not care theoretically for any woman’s purity, but the idea that any one should get an advantage over him fills him with rage; he hates so easily that “ mere suspicion in this kind ” serves for “ surety,” and with such absurd eagerness that he “ fears Cassio with ” his “ nightcap too.” Moreover, in obedience to the great law of life, he detests those whom he sees, in spite of his cynicism, to be of a noble strain.
It is as plain as can be that Iago’s hatred of Othello is rooted in a consciousness of the Moor’s moral superiority ; the two ideas are constantly coupled in the text. Even Cassio he dislikes principally because of the Florentine’s fair nature: —
He hath a daily beauty in his life
That makes me ugly.”
(Act V. Scene 1.)
Desdemona’s virtue he rejoices to “ turn into pitch,” and “ out of her goodness ” to “ make the net that shall enmesh them all.” Roderigo, a man of no moral worth, as well as of no force, he does not condescend to hate.
But it is especially in his maliciousness that Iago shows his true spirit. Instead of “ having no inclination to harm any one,” he plunges into the doing of injury with the intensest relish. It seems almost absurd to verify this statement by quotation, for Iago’s speeches and actions are literally saturated with malice. But a few citations will not be amiss. Hear a bit of his dialogue with Roderigo, as he moves that foolish youth to set the story of Othello’s elopement afloat: —
Rouse him [that is, Othello] : make after him, poison his delight.
Proclaim him in the streets; incense her kinsmen,
And, though he in a fertile climate dwell,
Plague him with flies; though that his joy be joy
Yet throw such changes of vexation on't
As it may lose some color.
Roderigo. Here is her father’s house; I’ll call aloud. Iago. Do: with like timorous accent and dire yell
As when (by night and negligence) the fire
Is spied in populous cities.”
In the scene with Brabantio, which follows. Iago runs the serious risk of discovery for the purpose merely of torturing the senator, and addresses himself to the business with the keenest gusto, his own intervention being in no way material to his schemes. In his practice upon Othello and Desdemona, with all his hypocritical smoothness, he shows the same passionate maliciousness over and over again ; and the badgering of Roderigo he evidently looks upon in the light of a comforting recreation.
If I am right in my view of Iago’s character, the impersonation of the part is more difficult than Mr. White admits. For the actor is bound not only to show how Iago appeared to others, but what he actually was. Through the soliloquies and asides the deeper malevolence of Iago’s nature is to be displayed, and while the actor follows Mr. White’s admirable advice as to his bearing toward the other persons of the drama, he should lose none of the countless chances of speech and action to exhibit Iago’s intense, satanic maliciousness. Our performers have erred, no doubt, in dwelling upon one half of the truth, but it will be unfortunate if they run to the opposite extreme, and represent the man as other than the great lover and promoter of evil whom Shakespeare has drawn. Mr. Booth, in my judgment, comes very near the just and desirable mean.
— Among the Russian exiles in the mines of Siberia about the year 1848 was one young man who accepted his lot and its terrible surroundings with an admirable courage. He did the labor, ate the poor fare, and dragged the chain of the galley-slave in the daily companionship of ordinary criminals, assassins, incendiaries, and villains of the worst sort.
Instead of avoiding these miserable beings, he observed them with a powerful penetration, which was yet so tender and so patient that it made its way into the darkest places of their hearts. What he there found confirmed in him the convictions and ideas for whose sake he was in bondage with them; and the thrill of hope for Russia felt in these moral discoveries recompensed him for the physical degradation and suffering of his exile.
Thirty years later came to this convict’s widow the sympathetic message of Alexander II., granting to her a life pension and to her children education by the state, in return for the invaluable treasure of her husband’s life work ; and she read through her tears the reverent greeting of the grand duke, now Alexander III., and from the younger grandsons of the Czar Nicolas this eloquent tribute : —
“ We compassionate with our whole hearts the sorrowful loss that has befallen you. We knew your husband personally, and we have always appreciated his grand powers, his heart so filled with love for his country and his neighbor, and the salutary influence he has exercised. We share deeply in the universal mourning, and we comprehend the grandeur of this loss. May God sustain yon in your profound affliction.
In the year 1845, a young man, hardly more than a boy, sought out an eminent editor of St. Petersburg, M. Nekassoff, to whom he timidly offered for publication a manuscript novel entitled The Poor People.
The celebrated critic Bielinsky, to whom the manuscript was in turn submitted, took it up with the usual coldness of a much-manuscripted man, but was electrified by its power and originality, and pronounced it a masterpiece, the work not of an imitator but of an independent student and lover of the great Gogol. To the small but gifted literary cirele of St. Petersburg then grouped around Bielinsky belonged the brilliant editor Nekassoff and M. Dimitri Grigorovitch, author of Anton Goremika and Ribaki, which graphically picture the life of the Russian lower classes. These young writers sat up all night reading The Poor People together, and were so carried away by the generous enthusiasm it excited that they ran at daybreak to the young author’s lodgings and wakened him in his bed to give him instantly their testimony of admiration. Thus delightfully came to Théodore Dostoïevsky the first greetings of a fame and love which, keeping pace with his labors, has been commensurate with his splendid desert.
The day of the publication of The Poor People — written when Dostoïevsky was only twenty-three years old — the author’s name flashed through Russia. Everybody was asking who, what, and where this Dostoïevsky was. He was young, surely, for the book was hot with a fervor which belongs only to youth. But its theme, the history of the struggling lives of a group of poor people, such as nineteen years later Victor Hugo classed under the name, henceforth generic, of Les Misérables, was this the theme a young man would choose ? And its wonderfully tender and calmly resolute vindication of the rights of the humble and disinherited of earth had the authority and the courage of ripe experience. The emotion excited by this book was the grander because of the benumbing surveillance sitting like the Old Man of the Sea on the shoulders of Russian literature, lest sentiments already suspected of wide germination in Russian minds should get to the surface and develop into organization.
But he who could thus agitate Russia’s repressed thought was a marked man.
Three years passed, and in them appeared three more novels from Dostoïevsky’s pen; then the young author was arrested on the charge of complicity with Petroschevsky in the revolutionary “ plot” of 1848.
It is now well established that this plot was in reality nothing worse than the meeting of a considerable number of young men who dreamed and talked over social reforms which should as a matter of course entirely regenerate Russia by the simple process of eliminating all elements adverse to her moral progress. Petroschevsky, principally by reason of the strong personal attraction felt by all who approached him, was the natural centre of this group; and even if he advocated or would have carried into effect rash and dangerous measures, his adherents stopped at the point of passionately desiring a better order of things, and of innocently experimenting toward the good end. Nevertheless, Dostoïevsky, who was among these guileless enthusiasts, was condemned, with more than thirty others, to death ; and only at the last moment, and in sight of the pillars where the condemned were to be bound for execution, was his sentence commuted to hard labor.
During four years of the prime of his early manhood he endured the slavery of the Siberian mines. Then, passing into the category of the simply deported, he was permitted to enter the military service, and was enrolled in the local body of troops then known as the Battalion of the Line, in which he served wearing the uniform of a common foot soldier until the opening of Alexander II.’s reign. He was finally promoted to be an officer, and a little later allowed to retire, with authorization to return to European Russia, but to remain exclusively at Tver. Early in 1860 this last restriction was removed, and he was free, after twelve years of exile, to return to St. Petersburg.
The restriction laid on his literary activity had been lifted in 1856, and his work entitled One Resuscitated had appeared, followed by The Uncle’s Dream, The Manor of Stepantchikovo and its Inmates, and other writings of minor importance. It was known that he had brought from the mines the terrible evil of epilepsy, and it was feared that his rare creative faculty had succumbed to the half paralysis of his physical and mental tortures. Under the shadow of these sympathetic apprehensions the exile arrived in St. Petersburg; and just when the splendid announcement that twenty-two million serfs were set free was kindling every patriotic Russian’s heart with the most ardent hope for his country’s future, Dostoïevsky felt the silent but powerful rush of new currents in the life channels of his thought. The next year, in connection with his brother Michael, he started a monthly review entitled The Times. At that time the literary impulse of St. Petersburg was imitative, and especially imitative of English characteristics. Michael Katkoff led this movement at the head of his review, The Russian Messenger. Yet Gogol’s Dead Souls had shown that wit, humor, satire, and the subtle power which welds these weapons into one keen edge could be genuinely Russian ; and Turgenieffs strong, gloomy, but suggestive Fathers and Sons (first published in 1861) is so Russian as to evade English translation.
Another key was struck in the programme of The Times. Dostoïevsky adopted a simple formula. The soil, he said, must first be understood, in order to know how to build anything solid upon it. He resisted the popular current mightily. He affirmed that if Russians, with their marked and diverse characteristics, their distinct and ineradicable peculiarities, were ever to attain the higher individual development which results in national coherence and progress, it must be first through the study of Russia and Russians ; and that from this study no time could at this epoch be spared for the imitation of foreign literatures, or for reflection upon evils and reforms which did not touch, and could afford neither inspiration nor relief in the grave questions that concerned Russia’s future.
In the midst of hot discussions provoked by this new doctrine appeared, close upon each other, blow upon blow, The Misunderstood and Prison Memories, books which will remain the most perfect and permanent of Dostoïevsky’s works.1
Russians have not yet forgotten the emotion produced by these two new creations of the author of The Poor People. It was the unexpected and glorious fulfillment of the promise of his youth. These works were a touching and sublime proof that while in the gloomy school of the Siberian mines Dostoïevsky had hardly observed his own sufferings, as they silently took their abiding hold upon his life, so deeply had he been engrossed in studying the sources and causes of human misery ; and he had come forth, not to move the public with eloquent repinings, but to show Russians to themselves, in pictures so startling and by an appeal so powerful as to stir the dullest comprehension, and galvanize the slenderest moral purpose. Russia had indeed a great genius and a courageous champion. And still this Great-Heart of the weak and the oppressed did not urge resistance or violent redress. He sought to convince, as an advocate pleading with a jury whom he believes ill-informed and prejudiced, but whose desire for justice he will not doubt.
He held his immense audience with irresistible power while the curtain rose upon the darkest scenes enacted on the stage of Russian history ; and while the heart quivered and the imagination shrank, the same curtain rose on the possible transformation for which he labored. In this advocacy, so burning yet so calm, so patient yet so unhesitating, Dostoïevsky differed essentially from all who felt and labored in the same cause with him ; by it he gained the mighty moral influence which he exercised during twenty years over a society composed of the most irreconcilable elements ; for the social turmoil in Russia, if not well understood, is certainly widely known. His novel Crime and Punishment added yet new lustre to the author’s fame.
“ This terrible and heart-rending epopee of the intellectual proletariat of Russia,” says a leading St. Petersburg journal, “stirred up all hearts from their depths. By a singular coincidence, in studying attentively the moral surroundings of the characters in his new novel, Dostoïevsky foreshadowed the possibility of a crime which some months later was actually committed, under circumstances almost entirely analogous to those he had described. The chapters telling of the murder of a usurer by Raskolnikoff appeared in The Russian Messenger just as the details of the murder of a usurer in Moscow by a student named Danieloff became known to justice. The coincidence was so striking that the publication of the novel was checked for some months, until it had been positively ascertained that the last chapters published were yet in the hands of the editors as manuscript at the time the crime actually occurred.”
In the full tide of success, The Times was suppressed for its publication of an article upon the Polish question. Dostoïevsky started The Epoch in its stead, with the same editorial staff, but was obliged to suspend because of the death of his brother Michael, whose affairs were found in a bad condition. The novelist assumed the liquidation of his brother’s debts, and from this date published most of his works in the Russian Messenger, which, having abandoned its previous policy, now sought for great names.
The Gamester, The Idiot, and The Demons, somewhat less coherent than his earlier novels, but of unabated power, appeared successively in The Russian Messenger. In The Demons, Dostoïevsky put in action a whole group of young conspirators, and the universal comment was, “Oh, how improbable!” But a few months afterward the legal proceedings in a celebrated case revealed the actual existence of just such a group. For many reasons the author could never have visited this coterie ; he had literally divined its existence by the alchemy of his thorough knowledge of the elements at work.
His next book appeared in The National Annals. Then came the events of 1876-77. Sharing in both the agitation and enthusiasm of the time, Dostoïevsky, desiring to speak with entire freedom, founded his unique periodical, The Diary of a Writer, a publication written wholly by himself. Its success, deemed so problematical, surpassed not only the public’s but the founder’s expectation. These serious, fervid monologues, which had the peculiar charm of appearing to be, as in the deepest sense they were, personally addressed to the individual reader, were eagerly sought for. In them Dostoïevsky said the hardest things with an immovable conviction of having the right to speak them, which held the attention and commanded the reflection of those who liked them least.
He continued to issue this periodical for two years, during the second year occupying himself more particularly in battling with the propaganda of the revolutionary party ; and in this struggle he was indeed grand, deliberately risking his moral ascendency over young Russia, which so ardently loved him. Believing in the reforms they desired with an earnestness that transcended theirs, he could not approve their methods, and there was a quality in the passionate sincerity of his words which made them insusceptible of other than his own interpretation. It seemed that he could not be misunderstood, and instead of being estranged by his unswerving fidelity to conviction, the youth of Russia attached themselves more and more to the man who did not withhold from them the sharpest truths. He relates a little incident, showing the perfectness of this relation, which deeply touched him. In 1879 a pamphlet attacking Russian students of both sexes appeared in Central Russia. It was written with energy and sarcasm, and caused a great sensation, resulting in a furious polemic. A great portion of the press seemed disposed to defend the students. But it was not to the papers that the students looked for their defense ; by one impulse they turned to Dostoïevsky. “ I cannot defend you,” said Dostoïevsky to their appeal. “ In this brochure there are absurd calumnies, intermixed with incontestable truth. In refuting what is false I should be obliged to admit that the rest was true, and this would do you more harm than the brochure itself.”
“ That is true, Théodore Michaelovitch ! ” exclaimed the students.
Some months after, when Dostoïevsky took part in a public reading, he became the object of the warmest ovation from a body of these same students, who crowded around him with every mark of veneration, confidence, and affection.
The Diary of a Writer was temporarily neglected that he might complete The Karamasoff Brothers. Afterward he went to Moscow (in which city he was born, October 30, 1821), to take part in the fêtes to the memory of Pushkine. He delivered a noble oration, and received warm demonstrations of the public love. Yet he had in no wise disarmed his adversaries. His exceptional ascendency over the Russian public did not mean an equally universal acquiescence in his ideas, and it is probable that the reappearance of The Diary of a Writer would have intensified the contest. But only one number of this republication has appeared, and it will have no successor.
There is in St. Petersburg a little narrow street, famous because of one modest dwelling, with the way to whose threshold the feet of all young Russia have long been familiar, and which no Russian, young or old, of whatsoever distinction. party, or opinion, has touched but with venerating thoughts. It is the home of Théodore Dostoïevsky. Here, after the triumphs of last summer, his popularity deepening under tests which had seemed seriously to threaten it, life began for the first time to appear to him in itself sweet and desirable. His championship of truth had risen to a pedestal where none assailed it. His wife and his little son and daughter were with him, his work opened freshly before him, his financial situation was less difficult, and the future seemed to smile on the man whose existence had hitherto been one of constant suffering. But the exile and hard labor in youth, the battle and the poverty in ripe years, epilepsy with its consequent acute physical distresses, — these, no public love, no private peace, no smile of fortune, could undo.
The sudden rupture of an artery in the lungs was followed by copious hæmorrhages. These, alternating with apparent improvements, lasted four days, and then, on the evening of Wednesday, January 28 (February 9), 1881, he died, sinking away softly and without agony.
The news of Dostoïevsky’s death electrified the Russian public. It had happened almost without being observed. Early the next morning the room where his body lay — august with the scars of the convict’s chain and the enfeebling rigors of slavery — was filled with people. Drawn from the most divergent circles of thought and condition, the throng grew, till not only the house but the whole street was packed, and by evening the press had become so great that the lamps went out for lack of air. Between the hours of seven and nine that night more than six thousand people — among them the highest public functionaries, littérateurs, artists, and celebrities of all grades and views — had saluted in common lamentation the mortal remains of this beloved Russian.
— The authorities connected with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts have set about making a collection of costumes for the use of art students and artists generally. They started with the costumes of the “ olden times ” in New England, and by a system of diligent inquiry, aided by voluntary contributions, which have begun and are most likely to continue, they expect to make a very valuable and, eventually, nearly complete collection. The idea was suggested by resident artists who desired to paint historical genre illustrative of events and home life in old New England, and who had met with the greatest difficulty in procuring trustworthy information upon the details of the costumes worn in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and the first years of the present century. The complaint among figurepainters in America, that historical and legendary motifs are practically inaccessible on account of the extreme difficulty of acquiring a knowledge of the necessary details, is very general, and the fact has undoubtedly deterred capable and ambitious artists from attempting to delineate such subjects. The assistance that can be furnished only by the testimony of accessories — whether original and authentic or accurate reproductions — is precisely what the committee hope to be the means of providing. They intend to collect whatever they can in the way of old costumes, or even the smallest parts of old costumes, beginning as far back as possible, and to select the most desirable for exhibition and use in the life classes. It is proposed to place them at the disposal of artists, under proper restrictions, and to make such a display of the articles as will best interest visitors. In the neighborhood of those localities in Massachusetts which were first settled there are many families who treasure among their heir-looms parts of costumes or bits of embroidery dating back two centuries, and efforts will be made to secure the loan of them, if they cannot be bought.
At the same time the committee are at work in another direction, which from the very beginning has been fertile in valuable results. In connection with the school a course of lectures upon Greek costumes was given in Boston last winter, and the costumes, made according to the most trustworthy data, became the property of the Museum. This plan is to be followed out until a study has been made of the costumes of all nations. The white costume worn by Œdipus, in the Greek play performed at Harvard, in May, was loaned from this collection. In continuing the study of Greek and Roman costumes, attention will not be confined to the costumes of any particular class or sex. The soldiers, gladiators, and slaves, the poorest as well as the most opulent and honored citizens, will be carefully studied, and the costumes prescribed for the different stations and occupations in life will all be reproduced and retained as the property of the Museum. When completed it will be such a collection as does not now exist either in this country or abroad. Any art school, or persons who are sufficiently interested, will be privileged to duplicate what has already been done in part or whole, and every facility will undoubtedly be afforded those who apply.
— I was talking, the other day, with a literary man about novels of the old school, notably Miss Burney’s. Can anybody read them now ? Yet look at the popularity they had in their day, the encomiums Dr. Johnson growled over them, the flutter they created in London; and to-day they are crude and dull. Miss Austen’s admirers are dying out, too, though I remember the late Mr. Edmund Quincy once saying to me that he measured the mental status of any new acquaintance by asking if he liked Miss Austen’s novels ; if he did not, he was put out of Mr. Quincy’s good graces instantly. To me the strong mannerism of the stories is unpleasant; character is subtly drawn and situations are sharply painted, but there is a repetition of phrase, a sort of verbal monotony, that deprives the narrations of sparkle, vivacity, life-likeness.
— Borrowing the ring of Canace for a little while, the other day, I obtained, through its magic agency, much curious gossip afloat in the feathered world. Among other results of my eavesdropping, I ascertained that every winged creature, from the eagle to the titmouse, has strong convictions on the subject of fire-arms and the posterity of Nimrod. I was not so much surprised at this information, since it completely tallied with all my previous observations and surmises. Had I not frequently noted the hysterical outcry of my old friend, the robin, at the report of some marksman’s pistol, not so very close at hand, and certainly not in itself a more ominous sound than many constantly occurring in the neighborhood? The rambler who carries a field-glass with him, and uses it in pursuance of a closer acquaintance with the birds, may have observed that he becomes the object of universal suspicion. They doubtless imagine he is leveling some new destructive patent at their silly heads, — the tradition of the “ optic glass ” being slow to obtain against the older tradition of the shot-gun. Disarming his eye of the offensive instrument, he is frequently permitted to push his investigations much more familiarly and successfully. It is a well - known fact that sportsmen, when in the vicinity of a covey, keep their guns out of sight until the moment of requisition, a fact which Would indicate a precocious intelligence and wariness in the bird’s-eye view of the situation.
In this connection, I recently heard of a very ingenious hunting strategy. It was a “wild goose chase,”—one, however, that succeeded. A certain farmer saw a splendid specimen of the anserine family in the border of his wheat-field, and resolved to secure the prize. His method of procedure was novel and suggestive : instead of calling up his yeomen, unleashing the pack, or setting the falcon free, the man took his gun, went through the barn-yard, and drove his cattle out into the lane close to the field of enterprise, himself walking among them. The bird was not afraid of the cattle, and did not perceive the man. The artifice was successful, and ultimately the commodore of many autumnal migrations, suspended by his glossy neck at the market door, became the wonder and admiration of the village.
If the birds have not this tradition of fire-arms among them, are not suspicious of sporting proclivities in every member of the human family, why should they not manifest the same distrust and shyness in their associations with the cow and the horse and other large animals ? It is plain that the bird of the air is on terms of exceptional confidence with the beast of the field. I can readily believe the somewhat apocryphal story Herodotus tells of the amiable and obliging conduct of the trochilus towards the crocodile; also the modern traveler’s story about the little bird in the African jungle that warns his leonine friend of the hunter’s approach. Elsewhere I read significant testimony in the account of a traveler who had penetrated to a portion of the Ethiopian interior which, it was believed, had never before been visited by man. He found the birds and other small animals, usually accredited with a large share of cautionary instinct, absolutely without fear of the new arrival.
I fancy, if bird-shooting were to become a lost sport, that an Orpheus of quite indifferent musical accomplishment would be able to gather the birds about him. When the kingdom of Arcadia comes (as in that virginal, mid-African region), there will be no fear of the fowler or of the trapper.
— It is hard for lovers of domestic animals, dogs and horses especially, to believe that there is no future life for creatures found capable of being made companions of by man in a very real though imperfect way. If their existence end with their short span on earth, there seems something in their lot that does not exactly square with our ideas of just dealing towards them. It is sad to think there is no compensation in store for the trials of their dependent condition. Dogs and horses have too much genuine sensibility for the human superior who pretends to sensibility himself to acquiesce in the notion that they are created solely for his use and pleasure, and have no rights that he is bound to respect. But it may be that with some of us this is the deepest source of our kindliness of feeling to our dogs and horses. If there is to be nothing beyond for them, we say, let us at least do what we can to render their poor brief lives here happy. And it is for this reason that I am often troubled on their account; where there is so much sensibility I wish there were more intelligence, for it is really impossible at times to avoid hurting a good dog’s feelings for want of a better mode of communication between us.
Those who have made dogs their intimates must have noted the marked individuality to be found in them, which seems one of the arguments in favor of their possible evolution into higher existences. There is my friend Roderick: he is like a man of whom we say that he will ho a boy all bis life, if he lives to be eighty. There is an incurable childishness of nature in him : a simple, merry, affectionate, slightly stupid boy he will be to the end of his days. In contrast with him was a dog I once owned. It may seem specially absurd to associate dignity with a small Skye terrier, yet this terrier’s chief characteristic was his personal dignity ; and to remark upon his intelligence in his presence. as implying that he could be without it, would have seemed almost as much of an insult as to speak thus of any gentleman of my acquaintance. Buck was without exception the most thorough little aristocrat imaginable. He was never known to provide against possible hard times of scanty fare by burying the bones of to-day’s dinner ; in the absence of his family he refused to console himself with the company of servants ; he disdained the fellowship of plebeian canines altogether. There was always in his carriage the unmistakable air noble; a tinge of reserve marked his manner with Strangers, while with his friends he was affable and cordial; but it was only in the family circle that he ever relaxed into genial joviality of intercourse. It was impossible for Buck to commit a gaucherie; his savoir faire was perfect. His pride was his only fault; though it kept him from low associates, at the mere sight of whom indeed his tail curled high with contempt, there is no doubt that with him it was a virtue in excess, leading him sometimes to despise the proffered friendship of a worthy animal against whom there was nothing but the lack of a pedigree as clearly traceable as was the little gentleman’s own. Another dear dog friend was my lamented Colin, who possessed an individuality as distinct, although less easily describable. Refined to the tips of his paws, his refinement was less the result of birth and breeding than the flower of native sensibility ; he was above all things a dog of sentiment, as one look into his large melancholy brown eyes would reveal to the discriminating observer. He was a beautiful creature, but entirely without pride ; of a sensitive, loving nature, devoted to his family, but extremely shy of strangers. Buck, although far too dignified to pick quarrels, was always prompt to maintain his honor against the greatest odds, and when hostilities seemed imminent, head and legs would grow fairly rigid with proud determination ; but Colin, though sufficiently courageous, and even a fierce combatant when driven to engage, decidedly preferred peace if possible.
No words could have told more plainly than his conduct the distress and struggle of mind he underwent on one occasion, when another dog of ours with whom Colin had lived from pupipyhood was being punished for the crime of chicken-killing. The offender, Fritz, was a handsome, fascinatingly saucy, but unintelligent Spitz, a perfect devil-maycare of a chap. He was being severely castigated, but the scamp was tough in body and mind, and it took a good deal to draw a cry from him. Poor Colin hovered about the scene in an agony, yet Compelled to remain a miserable spectator, until at last Fritz uttered a howl of pain, when Colin, unable to endure the sight of his comrade’s suffering any longer, made a frenzied dash at the leg of his beloved master and tore his trouser through to the leather of the boot beneath ; then, overwhelmed with the sense of what he had been impelled to do, he fled in despair, and did not reappear till nightfall. The incorrigible Fritz meanwhile, reckless of disgrace, and forgetful of his pain the moment he was released, betook himself unconcernedly to his usual sports, wondering a little, it may be, what had become of his mate. They were an incongruous pair to be chums, certainly, but that the gentle Colin was fond of such a ne’erdo-weel as Fritz proves the power of the habit of early friendship among dogs as among men.
- So far as we are aware, only one of Dostoïevsky’s novels has appeared in English translation, Buried Alive, or Ten Years of Penal Servitude in Siberia. (New York: Henry Holt & Co.)↩