W. T. (William Tenney) Brewster.

English composition and style; a handbook for college students online

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His inability to criticize works of poetry and fiction extended to
their chief subject — the human heart; and it may be noticed that
the remarkable interest he often awakens in a story which he
tells so admirably, is nearly always the interest of adventure, never
the interest of psychological analysis. Events and outward actions
are told with incomparable clearness and vigor — but a thick cur-
tain hangs before the inward theater of the mind, which is never
revealed on his stage. He had a favorite theory on which he often
insisted, that children were the only true poets: and this, because
of the vividness of their impressions. No man, whatever his sensi-



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128 English Composition and Style

bility may be, is ever affected by Hamlet, or Lear, as a little girl
is affected by the story of poor little Red Riding-hood, — as if the
force of the impression were everything, and its character nothing.
By this rule, wax-work should be finer art than the best sculpture
in stone. The impressiveness of remote suggestive association by
which high art touches the deepest chords of feeling, Macaulay, ap-
parently, did not recognize. He had no ear for the finer harmonies
of the inner life.

19. Another reason why people have sought Macaulay is, that he
has in one way or another something to tell them about many of
the most striking personages and interesting events in the history
of mankind. And he does really tell them something. If any one
will be at the trouble to count up the number of those names that
belong to the world and time, about which Macaulay has found not
merely something, but something definite and pointed to say, he will
be astonished to see how large a portion of the wide historic realm
is traversed in that ample flight of reference, allusion, and illustra-
tion, and what unsparing copiousness of knowledge gives substance,
meaning, and attraction to that splendid blaze of rhetoric.

20. In politics De Quincey was an English Tory. In the two
papers entitled A Tory's Account of Toryism, Whiggism, and Rad-
icalism, and On the Political Parties of Modern England, he avows
his partizanship. Toryism asserts itself also in the article on Dr.
Parr, and tinges some of the other papers. It is interesting, in-
deed, to observe how much of the "John Bull element," as Mr.
Page calls it, there was, all in all, in the feeble little man. His
patriotism was of the old type of the days of Pitt and Nelson.
He exulted in the historic glories of England and her imperial
ascendency in so many parts of the globe, and would have had
her do battle for any punctilio of honor, as readily as for any
more visible interest, in her dealings with foreigners. He had
a good deal of the old English anti-Gallican prejudice; and,
though he has done justice, over and over again, to some of the
finer characteristics of the French, the total effect of his remarks
on the French, politically and intellectually, is irritating to the
admirers of that great nation. He knew them only through books
or by casual observation of stray Frenchmen he met; for he was
never out of the British Islands, and never experienced that sudden
awakening of a positive affection for the French which comes
infallibly from even a single visit to their lightsome capital. On
the other hand, though Scotland was his home for so large a part
of his life, he seems never to have contracted the least sympathy
with anything distinctively Scottish. Even his Toryism was spe-
cially English or South-British. But, like all other parts of his
creed, his Toryism was of a highly intellectual kind, with fea-



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tures of its own. In such questions* for example, as that of
the continuance of flogging and other brutal forms of punishment
in the army and navy and elsewhere, he parted company with
the ordinary mass of Tories, leaving his curse with them in that
particular, and went with the current of Radical sentiment and
opinion. How far he was carried, by his candor of intellect and
depth and accuracy of scholarship, from the ordinary rut of party
commonplace, may be judged also from his little paper entitled
Falsification of English History, It is a gallant little paper, and
one of the best rebukes in our language to that systematic vilifica-
tion of the Puritan Revolution, the English Commonwealth, and
the Reign of Cromwell, which has come down in the Anglican
mind as an inheritance from the Restoration, and still vulgarizes
so much of our scholarship and our literature.

21. But it will be the measure of the progress and prosperity of
future generations, how far they are able to look tranquilly back
on Carlyle's errors, and pityingly see in them finger-posts to dan-
gerous places in the past march of humanity, places where blinded
men painfully stumbled and fell. Nay, even now, even in the act
of rigorous judgment, we can avoid ill-will, profiting by his own
example. His worst error was to cherish a host of blind repul-
sions, so that at length he came to speak as if the universe were a
mere medley of forces of evil. Let us above all things shun the
darkness into which he fell. We are even now just beginning, as
a nation, to acknowledge the central truth on which he insisted,
that our affairs will never go aright if we proceed on the prin-
ciple of each for himself, with an ever wider area of dwarfed life,
a mere spurious semblance of civilization. At such a time it is
fitting that, in the act of scanning narrowly the counsels of all who
offer guidance, we should deny none the credit of having at least
seen that the road ahead lay among the precipices and morasses,
in which of old whole nations have sunk, and nations may sink
again.

22. While Thoreau studied with respectful attention the minks
and woodchucks, his neighbors, he looked with utter contempt on
the august drama of destiny of which his country was the scene,
and on which the curtain had already risen. He was converting us
back to a state of nature " so eloquently," as Voltaire said of Rous-
seau, " that he almost persuaded us to go on all fours," while the
wiser fates were making it possible for us to walk erect for the
first time. Had he conversed more with his fellows, his sympathies
would have widened with the assurance that his peculiar genius
had more appreciation, and his writings a larger circle of readers,
or at least a warmer one, than he dreamed of.

2Z. Whatever may have been Hawthorne's private lot, he has the
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130 English Composition and Style

importance of being the most beautiful and most eminent repre-
sentative of a literature. The importance of the literature may be
questioned, but at any rate, in the field of letters, Hawthorne is
the most valuable example of the American genius. That genius
has not, as a whole, been literary; but Hawthorne was on his lim-
ited scsde a master of expression. He is the writer to whom his
countrymen most confidently point when they wish to make a
claim to have enriched the mother-tongue, and, judging from pres-
ent appearances, he will long occupy this honorable position. If
there is something very fortunate for him in the way that he
borrows an added relief from the absence of competitors in his
own line, and from the general flatness of the literary field that
surrounds him, there is abo, to a spectator, something abnost
touching in his situation. He was so modest and delicate a genius
that we may fancy him appealing from the lonely honor of a rep-
resentative attitude — perceiving a painful incongruity between his
imponderable literary baggage and the large conditions of Ameri-
can life.

24. Far more of our mistakes come from want of fresh knowl-
edge than from want of correct reasoning; and, therefore, letters
meet a greater want in us than does logic The idea of a triangle
is a definite and ascertained thing, and to deduce the properties
of a triangle from it is an affair of reasoning. There are heads
unapt for this sort of work, and some of the blundering to be
found in the world is from this cause. But how far more of the
blundering to be found in the world comes from people fancying
that some idea is a definite and ascertained thing, like the idea
of a triangle, when it is not; and proceeding to deduce properties
from it, and to do battle about them, when their first start was
a mistake! And how liable are people with a talent for hard,
abstruse reasoning, to be tempted to this mistake 1 And what can
clear up such a mistake except a wide and familiar acquaintance
with the human spirit and its productions, showing how ideas and
terms arose, and what is their character? And this is letters and
history, not logic.

25. The evil is stated, in my opinion, as it exists. The remedy
must be where power, wisdom, and information, I hope, are more
united with 'good intentions than they can be with me. I have
done with this subject, I believe, forever. It has given me many
anxious moments for the last two years! If a great change is
to be made in human affairs, the minds of men will be fitted to it;
the general opinions and fedings will draw that way. Every fear,
every hope will forward it; and then they who persist in opposing
this mighty current in human affairs, will appear rather to resist



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the decrees of Providence itself, than the mere designs of men.
They will not be resolute and firm, but perverse and obstinate.

26. I know them thoroughly, and have walked in all their king*
doms. Three sisters they are, of one mysterious household; and
their paths are wide apart ; but of their dominion there is no end.
Them I saw often conversing with Levana, and sometimes about
myself. Do they talk, then? O, no! Mighty phantoms like these
disdain the infirmities of language. They may utter voices through
the organs of man when they dwell in human hearts, but amongst
themselves there is no voice nor sound; eternal silence reigns in
their kingdoms. They spoke not, as they talked with Levana ; they
whispered not; they sang not; though oftentimes methought they
might have sung: for I upon earth had heard their mysteries often-
times deciphered by harp and timbrel, by dulcimer and organ. Like
God, whose servants they are, they utter their pleasure, not by
sounds that perish, or by words that go astray, but by signs in
heaven, by changes on earth, by pulses in secret rivers, heraldries
painted in darkness, and hieroglyphics written on the tablets of the
brain. They wheeled in mazes; / spelled the steps. They tele-
graphed from afar; / read the signals. They conspired together;
and on the mirrors of darkness my eye traced the plots. Theirs
were the symbols; mine are the words.

What is it the sisters are? What is it that they do? Let me
describe their form and their presence: if form it were that still
fluctuated in its outline, or presence it were that forever advanced
to the front or for ever receded amongst shades.

The eldest of the three is named Mater Lachrymarum, Our Lady
of Tears. She it is that night and day raves and moans, calling
for vanished faces. She stood in Rama, where a voice was heard
of lamentation, — Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing
to be comforted. She it was that stood in Bethlehem on the night
when Herod's sword swept its nurseries of innocents, and the
little feet were stiffened forever, which, heard at times as they
tottered along floors overhead, woke pulses of love in household
hearts that were not unmarked in heaven. Her eyes are sweet
and subtle, wild and sleepy, by turns; oftentimes rising to the
clouds, oftentimes challenging the heavens. She wears a diadem
round her head. And I knew by childish memories that she could
go abroad upon the winds, when she heard the sobbing of litanies
or the thundering of organs, and when she beheld the mustering
of summer clouds. This sister, the eldest, it is that carries keys
more than papal at her girdle, which open every cottage and every
palace. She, to my knowledge, sat all last summer by the bedside
of the blind beggar, him that so often and so gladly I talked with.



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whose pious daughter, eight years old, with the sunny countenance,
resisted the temptations of play and village mirth to travel all day
long on dusty roads with her afflicted father. For this did God
send her a great reward. In the spring time of the year, and
whilst her own spring was budding, he recalled her to himself.
But her blind father mourns forever over her; still he dreams at
midnight that the little guiding hand is locked within his own ; and
still he awakens to a darkness that is now within a second and a
deeper darkness. This Mater Lachrymarum also has been sitting
all this winter of 1844-5 within the bedchamber of the Czar, bringing
before his eyes a daughter, not less pious, that vanished to God
not less suddenly, and left behind her a darkness not less profound.
By the power of the keys it is that Our Lady of Tears glides, a
ghostly intruder, into the chambers of sleepless men, sleepless
women, sleepless children, from Ganges to the Nile, from Nile to
Mississippi. And her, because she is the first-born of her house,
and has the widest empire, let us honor with the title of Madonna.
The second sister is called Mater Suspiriorum, Our Lady of
Sighs. She never scales the clouds, nor walks abroad upon the
winds. She wears no diadem. And her eyes, if they were ever
seen, would be neither sweet nor subtle; no man could read their
story; they would be found filled with perishing dreams, and with
wrecks of forgotten delirium. But she raises not her eyes; her
head, on which sits a dilapidated turban, droops forever, forever
fastens on the dust. She weeps not She groans not But she
sighs inaudibly at intervals. Her sister. Madonna, is oftentimes
stormy and frantic, raging in the highest against, heaven, and de-
manding back her darlings. But Our Lady of Sighs never clamors,
never defies, dreams not of rebellious aspirations. She is humble to
abjectness. Hers is the meekness that belongs to the hopeless.
Murmur she may, but it is in her sleep. Whisper she may, but it
is to herself in the twilight Mutter she does at times, but it is
in solitary places that are desolate as she is desolate, in ruined
cities, and when the sun has gone down to his rest This sister
is the visitor of the Pariah, of the Jew, of the bondsman to the
oar in the Mediterranean galleys; of the English criminal in Nor-
folk Island, blotted out from the books of remembrance in sweet
far-oflF England; of the baffled penitent reverting his eyes forever
upon a solitary grave, which to him seems the altar overthrown of
some past and bloody sacrifice, on which altar no oblations can
now be availing, whether towards pardon that he might implore,
or towards reparation that he might attempt Every slave that at
noonday looks up to the tropical sun with timid reproach, as he
points with one hand to the earth, our general mother, but for
him a stepmother, — as he points with the other hand to the Bible,



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our general teacher, but against him sealed and sequestered ; every
woman sitting in darkness, without love to shelter her head, or
hope to illumine her solitude, because the heaven-born instincts
kindling in her nature germs of holy affections, which God im-
planted in her womanly bosom, having been stifled by social neces-
sities, now bum sullenly to waste, like sepulchral lamps amongst
the ancients; every nun defrauded of her unreturning Maytime
by wicked kinsmen, whom God will judge; all that are betrayed,
and all that are rejected; outcasts by traditionary law, and children
of hereditary disgrace: — all these walk with Our Lady of Sighs.
She also carries a key, but she needs it little. For her kingdom
is chiefly amongst the tents of Shem, and the houseless vagrant of
every clime. Yet in the very highest walks of man she finds chapels
of her own; and even in glorious England there are some that,
to the worl4 carry their heads as proudly as the reindeer, who yet
secretly have received her mark upon their foreheads.

But the third sister, who is also the youngest — I Hush! whisper
whilst we talk of her! Her kingdom is not large, or else no flesh
should live ; but within that kingdom all power is hers. Her head,
turreted like that of Cybele, rises almost beyond the reach of sight.
She droops not; and her eyes, rising so high, might be hidden by
distance. But, being what they are, they cannot be hidden ; through
the treble veil of crape which she wears, the fierce light of a
blazing misery, that rests not for matins or for vespers, for noon
of day or noon of night, for ebbing or for flowing tide, may be
read from the very ground. She is the defier of God. She is also
the mother of lunacies and the suggestress of suicides. Deep lie
the roots of her power, but narrow is the nation that she rules.
For she can approach only those in whom a profound nature has
been upheaved by central convulsions, in whom the heart trembles
and the brain rocks under conspiracies of tempest from without
and tempest from within. Madonna moves with uncertain steps,
fast or slow, but still with tragic grace. Our Lady of Sighs creeps
timidly and stealthily. But this youngest sister moves with incal-
culable motions, bounding, and with tiger's leaps. She carries no
key; for, though coming rarely amongst men, she storms all doors
at which she is permitted to enter at all. And her name is Mater
Tenebrarum, Our Lady of Darkness.

27. After hearing that tale from Loma, I went home in sorry
spirits, having added fear for her, and misery about her, to all
my other ailments. And was it not quite certain now, that she
being owned full cousin to a peer and lord of Scotland (although
he was a dead one), must have nought to do with me, a yeoman's
son, and bound to be the father of more yeomen? I had been
sorry, when first I heard about that poor young popinjay, and



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would gladly have fought hard for him : hut now it struck me that
after all he had no right to be there, prowling (as it were) for
Lorna, without any invitation: and we farmers love not trespass.
Still, if I had seen the thing, I must have tried to save him.

Moreover, I was greatly vexed with my own hesitation, stupidity,
or shyness, or whatever else it was, which had held me back from
saying, ere she told her story, what was in my heart to say, videlicet,
that I must die unless she let me love her. Not that I was fool
enough to think that she would answer me according to my liking,
or begin to care about me for a long time yet; if indeed she ever
should, which I hardly dared to hope. But that I had heard from
men more skilful in the matter, that it is wise to be in time, that
so the maids may begin to think, when they know that they are
thought of. And, to tell the truth, I had bitter fears, on account
of her wondrous beauty, lest some young fellow of higher birth, and
finer parts, and finish, might steal in before poor me, and cut me
out altogether. Thinking of which, I used to double my great
fist, without knowing it, and keep it in my pocket ready.

But the worst of all was this, that in my great dismay and
anguish to see Loma weeping so, I had promised not to cause her
any further trouble from anxiety and fear of harm. And this,
being brought to practice, meant that I was not to show myself
within the precincts of Glen Doone, for at least another month.
Unless indeed (as I contrived to edge into the agreement) any-
thing should happen to increase her present trouble and every day's
uneasiness. In that case, she was to throw a dark mantle, or cov-
ering of some sort, over a large white stone, which hung within
the entrance to her retreat — I mean the outer entrance — and
which, though unseen from the valley itself, was (as I had ob-
served) conspicuous from the height where I stood with Uncle
Reuben.

Now coming home so sad and weary, yet trying to console myself
with the thought that love o'erleapeth rank, and must still be lord
of all, I found a shameful thing going on, which made me very
angry. For it needs must happen that young Marwood de Whiche-
halse, only son of the Baron, riding home that very evening, from
chasing of the Exmoor bustards, with his hounds and serving-
men, should take the short cut through our farmyard, and being
dry from his exercise, should come and ask for drink. And it
needs must happen also that there should be none to give it to him
but my sister Annie. I more than suspect that he had heard
some report of our Annie's comeliness, and had a mind to satisfy
himself upon the subject. Now, as he took the large oxhom of our
quarantine apple cider (which we always keep apart from the rest,
being too good except for the quality), he let his fingers dwell



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on Annie's, by some sort of accident, while he lifted his beaver
gallantly, and gazed on her face in the light from the west Then
what did Annie do (as she herself told me afterwards) but make
her very best courtesy to him, being pleased that he was pleased
with her, while she thought what a fine young man he was, and
so much breeding about him! And in truth he was a dark, hand-
some fellow, hasty, reckless, and changeable, with a look of sad
destiny in his black eyes that would make any woman pity him.
What he was thinking of our Annie is not for me to say ; although
I may think that you could not have found another such maiden
on Exmoor, except (of course) my Loma.

Though young Squire Marwood was so thirsty, he spent much
time over his cider, or at any rate over the oxhom, and he made
many bows to Annie, and drank health to all the family, and spoke
of me as if I had been his very best friend at Blundell's ; whereas
he knew well enough, all the time, that we had nought to say to
one another; he being three years older, and therefore loftily dis-
daining me. But while he was casting about perhaps for some
excuse to stop longer, and Annie was beginning to fear lest mother
should come after her, or Eliza be at the window, or Betty up in
pigs' house, suddenly there came up to them, as if from the very
heart of the earth, that long, low, hollow, mysterious sound, which
I spoke of in the winter.

The young man started in his saddle, let the horn fall on the
horse steps, and gazed all around in wonder; while as for Annie,
she turned like a ghost, and tried to slam the door, but failed
through the violence of her trembling; for never till now had
any one heard it so close at hand (as you might say), or in the
mere fall of the twilight And by this time there was no man, at
least in our parish, but knew — for the Parson himself had told
us so — that it was the devil groaning, because the Doones were too
many for him.

Marwood de Whichehalse was not so alarmed but what he saw
a fine opporttmity. He leaped from his horse, and laid hold of
dear Annie in a highly comforting manner; and she never would
tell us about it (being so shy and modest), whether in breathing
his comfort to her, he tried to take some from her pure lips. I
hope he did not, because that to me would seem not the deed of a
gentleman, and he was of good old family.

At this very moment, who should come in to the end of the
passage upon them, but the heavy writer of these doings, I, John
Ridd myself, and walking the faster, it may be, on account of the
noise I mentioned? I entered the house with some wrath upon
me at seeing the gazehounds in the yard ; for it seems a cruel thing
to me to harass the birds in the breeding time. And to my amaze-



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ment there I saw Squire Marwood among the milk pans, with his
arm around our Annie's waist, and Annie all blushing and coax-
ing him off, for she was not come to scold yet.

Perhaps I was wrong; God knows, and if I was, no doubt I
shall pay for it; but I gave him the fiat of my hand on his head,
and down he went in the thick of the milk pans. He would have
had my fist, I doubt, but for having been at school with me; and
after that, it is like enough he would never have spoken another
word. As it was, he lay stunned, with the cream running on liim ;
while I took poor Annie up, and carried her in to mother, who
had heard the noise, and was frightened.

Concerning this matter I asked no more, but held myself ready
to bear it out in any form convenient, feeling that I had done my



Online LibraryW. T. (William Tenney) BrewsterEnglish composition and style; a handbook for college students → online text (page 12 of 43)