Henry Cabot Lodge.

The Best of the World's Classics, Restricted to Prose, Vol. X (of X) - America - II, Index online

. (page 4 of 17)
Online LibraryHenry Cabot LodgeThe Best of the World's Classics, Restricted to Prose, Vol. X (of X) - America - II, Index → online text (page 4 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


"The Professor has a friend, now living at a distance, who has been
with him in many of his changes of place, and who follows him in
imagination with tender interest wherever he goes. In that little
court, where he lived in gay loneliness so long - in his autumnal
sojourn by the Connecticut, where it comes loitering down from its
mountain fastnesses like a great lord, swallowing up the small
proprietary rivulets very quietly as it goes, until it gets proud and
swollen and wantons in huge luxurious oxbows about the fair
Northampton meadows, and at last overflows the oldest inhabitant's
memory in profligate freshets at Hartford and all along its lower
shores - up in that caravansary on the banks of the stream where
Ledyard launched his log canoe, and the jovial old Colonel used to
lead the commencement processions - where blue Ascutney looked down
from the far distance, and the hills of Beulah, as the Professor
always called them, rolled up the opposite horizon in soft climbing
masses, so suggestive of the Pilgrim's Heavenward Path that he used to
look through his old 'Dollond' to see if the Shining Ones were not
within range of sight - sweet visions, sweetest in those Sunday walks
that carried them by the peaceful common, through the solemn village
lying in cataleptic stillness under the shadows of the rod of Moses,
to the terminus of their harmless stroll - the 'patulous fage,' in the
Professor's classic dialect - the spreading beech, in more familiar
phrase - [stop and breathe here a moment, for the sentence is not done
yet, and We have another long journey before us.]

" - and again once more up among those other hills that shut in the
amber-flowing Housatonic - dark stream, but clear, like the lucid orbs
that shine beneath the lids of auburn-haired, sherry-wine-eyed
demiblondes - in the home overlooking the winding stream and the
smooth, flat meadow; looked down upon by wild hills, where the tracks
of bears and catamounts may yet sometimes be seen upon the winter
snow; facing the twin summits which rise in the far North, the highest
waves of the great land storm in this billowy region - suggestive to
mad fancies of the breasts of a half-buried Titaness, stretched out by
a stray thunderbolt, and hastily hidden away beneath the leaves of
the forest - in that home where seven blest summers were passed, which
stand in memory like the seven golden candlesticks in the beatific
vision of the holy dreamer -

" - in that modest dwelling we were just looking at, not glorious, yet
not unlovely in the youth of its drab and mahogany - full of great and
little boys' playthings from top to bottom - in all these summer or
winter nests he was always at home and always welcome.

"This long articulated sigh of reminiscences - this calenture which
shows me the maple-shadowed plains of Berkshire and the
mountain-circled green of Grafton beneath the salt waves that come
feeling their way along the wall at my feet, restless and
soft-touching as blind men's busy fingers - is for that friend of mine
who looks into the waters of the Patapsco and sees beneath them the
same visions that paint themselves for me in the green depths of the
Charles."

Did I talk all this off to the schoolmistress? Why, no - of course not.
I have been talking with you, the reader, for the last ten minutes.
You don't think I should expect any woman to listen to such a sentence
as that long one, without giving her a chance to put in a word?

What did I say to the schoolmistress? Permit me one moment. I don't
doubt your delicacy and good-breeding; but in this particular case, as
I was allowed the privilege of walking alone with a very interesting
young woman, you must allow me to remark, in the classic version of a
familiar phrase, used by our Master Benjamin Franklin, it is _nullum
tui negotii_.

When the schoolmistress and I reached the schoolroom door, the damask
roses I spoke of were so much heightened in color by exercise that I
felt sure it would be useful to her to take a stroll like this every
morning, and made up my mind I would ask her to let me join her again.




IV

OF WOMEN WHO PUT ON AIRS[14]


I can't say just how many walks she (the schoolmistress) and I had
taken together before this one. I found the effect of going out every
morning was decidedly favorable on her health. Two pleasing dimples,
the places for which were just marked when she came, played, shadowy,
in her freshening cheeks when she smiled and nodded good-morning to me
from the schoolhouse steps.

[Footnote 14: From Part XI of "The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table."
Published by Houghton, Mifflin Company.]

I am afraid I did the greater part of the talking. At any rate, if I
should try to report all that I said during the first half-dozen walks
we took together, I fear that I might receive a gentle hint from my
friends the publishers that a separate volume, at my own risk and
expense, would be the proper method of bringing them before the
public.

I would have a woman as true as death. At the first real lie which
works from the heart outward she should be tenderly chloroformed into
a better world, where she can have an angel for a governess, and feed
on strange fruits which will make her all over again, even to her
bones and marrow. Whether gifted with the accident of beauty or not,
she should have been molded in the rose-red clay of love before the
breath of life made a moving mortal of her. Love capacity is a
congenital endowment; and I think, after a while, one gets to know the
warm-hued natures it belongs to from the pretty pipe-clay counterfeits
of it. Proud she may be, in the sense of respecting herself; but
pride, in the sense of contemning others less gifted than herself,
deserves the two lowest circles of a vulgar woman's Inferno, where the
punishments are smallpox and bankruptcy. She who nips off the end of a
brittle courtesy, as one breaks the tip of an icicle, to bestow upon
those whom she ought cordially and kindly to recognize, proclaims the
fact that she comes not merely of low blood, but of bad blood.
Consciousness of unquestioned position makes people gracious in proper
measure to all; but if a woman puts on airs with her real equals, she
has something about herself or her family she is ashamed of, or ought
to be. Middle, and more than middle-aged people, who know family
histories, generally see through it. An official of standing was rude
to me once. "Oh, that is the maternal grandfather," said a wise old
friend to me, "he was a boor." Better too few words, from the woman we
love, than too many: while she is silent, Nature is working for her;
while she talks, she is working for herself. Love is sparingly soluble
in the words of men; therefore they speak much of it; but one
syllable of woman's speech can dissolve more of it than a man's heart
can hold.

Whether I said any or all of these things to the schoolmistress or
not - whether I stole them put of Lord Bacon - whether I cribbed them
from Balzac - whether I dipt them from the ocean of Tupperian
wisdom - or whether I have just found them in my head (laid there by
that solemn fowl, Experience, who, according to my observation,
cackles oftener than she drops real, live eggs), I can not say. Wise
men have said more foolish things - and foolish men, I don't doubt,
have said as wise things. Anyhow, the schoolmistress and I had
pleasant walks and long talks, all of which I do not feel bound to
report.

You are a stranger to me, Ma'am. - I don't doubt you would like to know
all I said to the schoolmistress. - I shan't do it; I had rather get
the publishers to return the money you have invested in this. Besides,
I have forgotten a good deal of it. I shall tell only what I like of
what I remember.




MARGARET FULLER

Born in Massachusetts in 1810; lost in a shipwreck off Fire
Island in 1850; edited _The Dial_ in 1840-42; literary
critic for the New York _Tribune_ in 1844-46; went to Europe
in 1846; married the Marquis d'Ossoli in 1847; in Rome
during the Revolution of 1848-49; published "A Summer on the
Lakes" in 1843, "Woman in the Nineteenth Century" in 1845,
"Papers on Art and Literature" in 1846.




I

HER VISIT TO GEORGE SAND[15]


It is the custom to go and call on those to whom you bring letters,
and push yourself upon their notice; thus you must go quite ignorant
whether they are disposed to be cordial. My name is always murdered by
the foreign servants who announce me. I speak very bad French; only
lately have I had sufficient command of it to infuse some of my
natural spirit in my discourse. This has been a great trial to me, who
am eloquent and free in my own tongue, to be forced to feel my
thoughts struggling in vain for utterance.

[Footnote 15: From a letter to Elizabeth Hoar, written in 1847 and
printed in the "Memoirs."]

The servant who admitted me was in the picturesque costume of a
peasant, and as Madame Sand afterward told me, her goddaughter, whom
she had brought from her province. She announced me as "Madame
Salère," and returned into the anteroom to tell me, "Madame says she
does not know you." I began to think I was doomed to rebuff among the
crowd who deserve it. However, to make assurance sure, I said, "Ask if
she has received a letter from me." As I spoke Madame Sand opened the
door, and stood looking at me an instant. Our eyes met.

I never shall forget her look at that moment. The doorway made a frame
for her figure; she is large but well formed. She was drest in a robe
of dark-violet silk, with a black mantle on her shoulders, her
beautiful hair drest with the greatest taste; her whole appearance and
attitude, in its simple and ladylike dignity, presented an almost
ludicrous contrast to the vulgar caricature idea of George Sand. Her
face is a very little like the portraits, but much finer; the upper
part of the forehead and eyes are beautiful, the lower strong and
masculine, expressive of a hardy temperament and strong passions, but
not in the least coarse; the complexion olive, and the air of the
whole head Spanish (as, indeed, she was born at Madrid, and is only on
one side of French blood).

All these I saw at a glance; but what fixt my attention was the
expression of goodness, nobleness, and power that pervaded the
whole - the truly human heart and nature that shone in the eyes. As our
eyes met, she said, "_C'est vous_," and held out her hand. I took it,
and went into her little study; we sat down a moment; then I said,
"_Il me fait de bien de vous voir_," and I am sure I said it with my
whole heart, for it made me very happy to see such a woman, so large
and so developed in character, and everything that is good in it so
really good. I loved, shall always love her.

She looked away, and said, _"Ah! vous m'avez écrit une lettre
charmante_." This was all the preliminary of our talk, which then went
on as if we had always known one another.... Her way of talking is
just like her writing - lively, picturesque, with an undertone of deep
feeling, and the same happiness in striking the nail on the head every
now and then with a blow.... I heartily enjoyed the sense of so rich,
so prolific, so ardent a genius. I liked the woman in her, too, very
much; I never liked a woman better.... For the rest, she holds her
place in the literary and social world of France like a man, and seems
full of energy and courage in it. I suppose she has suffered much, but
she has also enjoyed and done much.




II

TWO GLIMPSES OF CARLYLE[16]


Of the people I saw in London you will wish me to speak first of the
Carlyles. Mr. Carlyle came to see me at once, and appointed an evening
to be passed at their house. That first time I was delighted with him.
He was in a very sweet humor - full of wit and pathos, without being
overbearing or oppressive. I was quite carried away with the rich
flow of his discourse; and the hearty, noble earnestness of his
personal being brought back the charm which once was upon his writing,
before I wearied of it. I admired his Scotch, his way of singing his
great full sentences, so that each one was like the stanza of a
narrative ballad. He let me talk, now and then, enough to free my
lungs and change my position, so that I did not get tired. That
evening he talked of the present state of things in England, giving
light, witty sketches of the men of the day, fanatics and others, and
some sweet, homely stories he told of things he had known of the
Scotch peasantry. Of you he spoke with hearty kindness; and he told
with beautiful feeling a story of some poor farmer or artizan in the
country, who on Sunday lays aside the cark and care of that dirty
English world, and sits reading the "Essays" and looking upon the
sea....

[Footnote 16: From a letter to Emerson, written in 1846, and printed
in the "Memoirs."]

The second time Mr. Carlyle had a dinner party, at which was a witty,
French, flippant sort of a man, named Lewes,[17] author of a "History
of Philosophy," and now writing a life of Goethe, a task for which he
must be as unfit as irreligion and sparkling shallowness can make him.
But he told stories admirably, and was allowed sometimes to interrupt
Carlyle a little - of which one was glad, for that night he was in his
acrid mood; and tho much more brilliant than on the former evening,
grew wearisome to me, who disclaimed and rejected almost everything
he said....

[Footnote 17: George Henry Lewes, whose relations to George Eliot
began after Margaret Fuller's visit. Lewes was not a Frenchman, but of
Welsh descent, born in London, and a grandson of Charles Lee Lewes,
the actor.]

Accustomed to the infinite wit and exuberant richness of his writings,
his talk is still an amazement and a splendor scarcely to be faced
with steady eyes. He does not converse, only harangues. It is the
usual misfortune of such marked men - happily not one invariable or
inevitable - that they can not allow other minds room to breathe, and
show themselves in their atmosphere, and thus miss the refreshment and
instruction which the greatest never cease to need from the experience
of the humblest. Carlyle allows no one a chance, but bears down all
opposition, not only by his wit and onset of words, resistless in
their sharpness as so many bayonets, but by actual physical
superiority - raising his voice and rushing on his opponent with a
torrent of sound. This is not in the least from unwillingness to allow
freedom to others. On the contrary, no man would more enjoy a manly
resistance in his thoughts. But it is the impulse of a mind accustomed
to follow out its own impulse, as the hawk its prey, and which knows
not how to stop in the chase.

Carlyle indeed is arrogant and overbearing; but in his arrogance there
is no littleness, no self-love. It is the heroic arrogance of some old
Scandinavian conqueror; it is his nature, and the untamable impulse
that has given him power to crush the dragons. He sings rather than
talks. He pours upon you a kind of satirical, heroical, critical poem,
with regular cadences, and generally catching up, near the beginning,
some singular epithet which serves as a refrain when his song is
full, or with which, as with a knitting-needle, he catches up the
stitches, if he has chanced now and then to let fall a row. For the
higher kinds of poetry he has no sense, and his talk on that subject
is delightfully and gorgeously absurd. He sometimes stops a minute to
laugh at it himself, then begins anew with fresh vigor; for all the
spirits he is driving before him as Fata Morgana,[18] ugly masks, in
fact, if he can but make them turn about; but he laughs that they seem
to others such dainty Ariels. His talk, like his books, is full of
pictures; his critical strokes masterly. Allow for his point of view,
and his survey is admirable. He is a large subject. I can not speak
more or wiselier of him now, nor needs it; his works are true, to
blame and praise him - the Siegfried of England, great and powerful, if
not quite invulnerable, and of a might rather to destroy evil than
legislate for good.

[Footnote 18: Fata (a fairy) Morgana, sister of King Arthur, is a
leading figure in the "Morte d'Arthur" and other romances, including
Italian.]




HORACE GREELEY

Born in New Hampshire in 1811, died in 1872; came to New
York in 1831, where he edited the _Log Cabin_ during the
Harrison-Tyler campaign; in 1841 founded _The Tribune;_
member of Congress in 1848-49; prominent as an anti-slavery
leader and supporter of the Union cause; nominated for
president by the Liberal-Republican and Democratic parties
in 1872, but defeated by Gen. Grant; published
"Recollections of a Busy Life" in 1868, and "The American
Conflict" in 1864-66.




I

THE FATALITY OF SELF-SEEKING IN EDITORS AND AUTHORS[19]


It only remains to me to speak more especially of my own vocation - the
editor's - which bears much the same relation to the author's that the
bellows-blower's bears to the organist's, the player's to the
dramatist's, Julian or Liszt to Weber or Beethoven. The editor, from
the absolute necessity of the case, can not speak deliberately; he
must write to-day of to-day's incidents and aspects, tho these may be
completely overlaid and transformed by the incidents and aspects of
to-morrow. He must write and strive in the full consciousness that
whatever honor or distinction he may acquire must perish with the
generation that bestowed them - with the thunders of applause that
greeted Kemble or Jenny Lind, with the ruffianism that expelled
Macready, or the cheerful laugh that erewhile rewarded the sallies of
Burton or Placide.[20]

[Footnote 19: Printed with the "Miscellanies" In the "Recollections of
a Busy Life."]

[Footnote 20: Henry Placide, an American actor born in Charleston, who
excelled in the parts of Sir Peter Teazle and Sir Anthony Absolute.]

No other public teacher lives so wholly in the present as the editor;
and the noblest affirmations of unpopular truth - the most
self-sacrificing defiance of a base and selfish public sentiment that
regards only the most sordid ends, and values every utterance solely
as it tends to preserve quiet and contentment, while the dollars fall
jingling into the merchant's drawer, the land-jobber's vault, and the
miser's bag - can but be noted in their day, and with their day
forgotten. It is his cue to utter silken and smooth sayings - to
condemn vice so as not to interfere with the pleasures or alarm the
conscience of the vicious - to praise and champion liberty so as not to
give annoyance or offense to slavery, and to commend and glorify labor
without attempting to expose or repress any of the gainful
contrivances by which labor is plundered and degraded. Thus sidling
dextrously between somewhere and nowhere, the able editor of the
nineteenth century may glide through life respectable and in good
ease, and lie down to his long rest with the non-achievements of his
life emblazoned on the very whitest marble, surmounting and glorifying
his dust.

There is a different and sterner path - I know not whether there be any
now qualified to tread it - I am not sure that even one has ever
followed it implicitly, in view of the certain meagerness of its
temporal rewards and the haste wherewith any fame acquired in a sphere
so thoroughly ephemeral as the editor's must be shrouded by the dark
waters of oblivion. This path demands an ear ever open to the plaints
of the wronged and the suffering, tho they can never repay advocacy,
and those who mainly support newspapers will be annoyed and often
exposed by it; a heart as sensitive to oppression and degradation in
the next street as if they were practised in Brazil or Japan; a pen as
ready to expose and reprove the crimes whereby wealth is amassed and
luxury enjoyed in our own country at this hour as if they had only
been committed by Turks or pagans in Asia some centuries ago.

Such an editor, could one be found or trained, need not expect to lead
an easy, indolent, or wholly joyous life - to be blest by archbishops
or followed by the approving shouts of ascendent majorities; but he
might find some recompense for their loss in the calm verdict of an
approving conscience; and the tears of the despised and the
friendless, preserved from utter despair by his efforts and
remonstrances, might freshen for a season the daisies that bloomed
above his grave.

Literature is a noble calling, but only when the call obeyed by the
aspirant issues from a world to be enlightened and blest, not from a
void stomach clamoring to be gratified and filled. Authorship is a
royal priesthood; but wo to him who rashly lays unhallowed hands on
the ark or the altar, professing a zeal for the welfare of the race
only that he may secure the confidence and sympathies of others, and
use them for his own selfish ends! If a man have no heroism in his
soul - no animating purpose beyond living easily and faring
sumptuously - I can imagine no greater mistake on his part than that of
resorting to authorship as a vocation. That such a one may achieve
what he regards as success I do not deny; but, if so, he does it at
greater risk and by greater exertion than would have been required to
win it in any other pursuit. No; it can not be wise in a selfish, or
sordid, or sensual man to devote himself to literature; the fearful
self-exposure incident to this way of life - the dire necessity which
constrains the author to stamp his own essential portrait on every
volume of his works, no matter how carefully he may fancy he has
erased, or how artfully he may suppose he has concealed it - this
should repel from the vestibule of the temple of fame the foot of
every profane or mocking worshiper.

But if you are sure that your impulse is not personal nor sinister,
but a desire to serve and ennoble your race, rather than to dazzle and
be served by it; that you are ready joyfully to "scorn delights, and
live laborious days," so that thereby the well-being of mankind may be
promoted - then I pray you not to believe that the world is too wise to
need further enlightenment, nor that it would be impossible for one so
humble as yourself to say aught whereby error may be dispelled or good
be diffused. Sell not your integrity; barter not your independence;
beg of no man the privilege of earning a livelihood by authorship;
since that is to degrade your faculty, and very probably to corrupt
it; but seeing through your own clear eyes, and uttering the impulses
of your own honest heart, speak or write as truth and love shall
dictate, asking no material recompense, but living by the labor of
your hands, until recompense shall be voluntarily tendered to secure
your service, and you may frankly accept it without a compromise of
your integrity or a peril to your freedom. Soldier in the long warfare
for man's rescue from darkness and evil, choose not your place on the
battle-field, but joyfully accept that assigned you; asking not
whether there be higher or lower, but only whether it is here that you
can most surely do your proper work, and meet your full share of the
responsibility and the danger.

Believe not that the heroic age is no more; since to that age is only
requisite the heroic purpose and the heroic soul. So long as ignorance
and evil shall exist so long there will be work for the devoted, and
so long will there be room in the ranks of those who, defying obloquy,
misapprehension, bigotry, and interested craft, struggle and dare for
the redemption of the world. "Of making many books there is no end,"
tho there is happily a speedy end of most books after they are made;
but he who by voice or pen strikes his best blow at the impostures and
vices whereby our race is debased and paralyzed may close his eyes in
death, consoled and cheered by the reflection that he has done what he
could for the emancipation and elevation of his kind.




JOHN LOTHROP MOTLEY

Born in 1814, died in 1877; graduated from Harvard in 1831;
studied at Göttingen and Berlin; returned to America in 1834
and admitted to the bar, but soon took up the study of
history; United States minister to Austria in 1861-68, and
to Great Britain in 1869-70; published his "Rise of the
Dutch Republic" in 1856, "History of the United Netherlands"
in 1860-67, and "John of Barneveld" in 1874.




I

CHARLES V AND PHILIP II IN BRUSSELS[21]

(1555)


The Emperor, like many potentates before and since, was fond of great
political spectacles. He knew their influence upon the masses of
mankind. Altho plain even to shabbiness in his own costume, and


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryHenry Cabot LodgeThe Best of the World's Classics, Restricted to Prose, Vol. X (of X) - America - II, Index → online text (page 4 of 17)