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UC-NRLF











THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

PRESENTED BY

PROF. CHARLES A. KOFOID AND
MRS. PRUDENCE W. KOFOID






ifrc*ja u e en r y



DOCTOR OLDHAM



AT GREYSTONES,



AXD



HIS TALK THERE




De omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis.



NEW YORK :
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY,

346 & 848 BKOADWAY.

LONDON: 16 LITTLE BRITAIN.

1860.



ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1S59, by

D. APPLETON fc CO.,

In the Clerk s Office of the District Court of the United States
for the Southern District of New York.




CONTENTS.



CHAPTER I.

The library table and Mrs. Oldham s opinion of it Idea-images ; the cau
tion necessary in reducing them to feet and inches Drawers made to
prevent husband and wife pulling together ; yet serving to a more lov
ing harmony Shattered ideals How Mrs. Oldham was like Sir Isaac
Newton s dog, and Doctor Oldham not like Sir Isaac The wisdom of
nonsense, 1

CHAPTER II.

Which grows out of the inartistic way this book began ; but gives the au
thor a chance to speak of the courteous reader of the last age ; and also
to explain himself to the courteous reader of the present day, . . 15

CHAPTER III.

"Which comes between the last chapter and the nest one The reader may
omit if he will ; but he will lose something if he does, . . . .20



IV CONTENTS.



CHAPTEE IV.

The library not made for the table The recess that was not realized and
the window that was The library as finished Doctor Oldham s opin
ion about good company He quotes Doctor Southey and discourses
about him, 27

CHAPTER V.

Greystones : and what Downing might have said if he had had the altering
of the plan of it, 33

CHAPTEE VI.

Henry Eeed Coleridge on Wordsworth s verses The Doctor s theory of
the distinction between man and the brutes, and also of the edible and
potable universe, as propounded to Professor Clare, . , . .49

CHAPTEE VII.

Short, if not sweet Difference between the author and Eabelais. and some
other celebrated writers, 62

CHAPTEE VIII.

The Doctor visits Mrs. Eossville s school And tells his wife what he said
to the little folks there Mr. Grim How God takes care the children
shall not be hurt by bad catechisms, . .66

CHAPTEE IX.

More talk about children The good Lord s contrivances to prevent their
being shut out of the world of fiction, . I "> . . . .76

CHAPTEE X.

Glimpses biographical and auto-biographical "With observations inter
spersed that are worth a chapter in themselves, 84



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER XL

How nature shows her gladness June and Junefulness "When a nose is a
good thing Is it an organ for the beautiful The glories of October
Nature s picture gallery Art and its limitations Mrs. Oldham asks
two very great questions, 93

CHAPTEE XII.

Professor Clare The Doctor s talk about the starry heavens Addison and
Shakspeare "Word-painting and other painting "Where the universe
ends and how it is filled Mrs. Oldham s two questions are not an
swered, . V . ". - . /" 104

CHAPTEE XIII.

More about the stars and the earth Pantheism Whether any thing can
become so small as to become nothing and yet remain something Time
and space Mrs. Oldham s two great questions again, and the way they
were answered, .117



CHAPTEE XIV.

The Doctor preaches to his daughter Quotes "Wordsworth and gets into
heroics Also he fulfils a scriptural duty Eemarkable street-sweepers
and knife-grinders Comforting doctrine concerning shirt-making and
stocking mending, . . . - . : . . . . . . . .133

CHAPTEE XV.

Wherein the Doctor says pshaw to something advanced by the author, and
advances his own notions Comfort and swill not the highest felicity
for rational beings The world needs martyrs, but Crooke Eacket not
the right type, .... .150



CHAPTEE XVI.

Lot s house in Sodom Jonah in New York The Doctor villifies univer
sal suffrage and an elective judiciary in a very shocking way ; and



VI CONTENTS.

PAGE

makes the most unsupposablo suppositions An extraordinary ticket
for city offices, 158

CHAPTER XVII.

A short chapter on judge-making Not amusing; and not so likely to be
interesting to those who need, as to those who do not need, the instruc
tion it contains, 176

CHAPTER XVIII.

Something oa universal suffrage and sacred rights Wherein is seen how
Professor Clare and Pelham Brief differ from each other, and the Doc
tor from them both, 183

CHAPTER XIX.

Hard and dry, perhaps But going to the bottom of a subject immensely
important to be understood in this country, 195

CHAPTER XX.

Very short, perhaps unpalatable Yet, if true, ought not to give offence to
any good man, 209

CHAPTER XXI.

Also short Not without interest for some minds But likely to displease
two sorts of readers and to shock one of them, 213

CHAPTER XXII.

The Doctor at a woman s rights convention "What he did not say there,
but would have said if he had said any thing, 220

CHAPTER XXIII.
On Dee-deeing, . ". 247



CONTENTS. Vll

PAGE

CHAPTER XXIY.
Tweedledum and Tweedledee, 254

CHAPTEE XXV.

Some of the Doctor s notions about conversation His practice is another
question, 258

CHAPTEE XXVI.
Preliminary to another, 263

CHAPTEE XXVIL
Of owls, 265

CHAPTEE XXVIII.

The Doctor says some things that sound very strange to Mrs. Garland-
Bad Christians and good heathen Mr. Grim The necessity for a good
God, 26G

CHAPTEE XXIX.

Professor Clare gets back to Japan, and the Doctor is unduly severe upoa
cant and the gospel of cotton fields, 278

CHAPTEE XXX.

Mr. Stockjob Pile Alderman Gubbins Hardhead Bullion Bob Slender
It takes something inside to make something which is declared at
the end of the chapter, 285

CHAPTEE XXXI.

About Caspar Tuberose and his wife TVith other things touching the con
stitution of a gentleman, 297

CHAPTEE XXXII.
The Doctor s horse What and why about him, 313



Vlll CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XXXIII.
All-hang-together-uess,



CHAPTER XXXIV.

L Enroy, perhaps Containing something natural And also something su
pernatural from which nothing came except some natural remarks of
the Doctor s, .33*



DOCTOR OLDHAM.



CHAPTER I.

THE LIBRARY TABLE AND MRS. OLDHAM s OPINION OF IT. IDEA-
IMAGES ; THE CAUTION NECESSARY IN REDUCING THEM! TO FEET
AND INCHES. DRAWERS MADE TO PREVENT HUSBAND AND WIFE

PULLING TOGETHER ; YET SERVING TO A MORE LOVING HAR
MONY. SHATTERED IDEALS. HOW MRS. OLDHAM WAS LIKE SIR

ISAAC NEWTON S DOG AND DOCTOR OLDHAM NOT LIKE SIR ISAAC.
THE WISDOM OF NONSENSE.

THE family were all gathered around the large
library table, as usual of an evening. I said the
large library table ; Mrs. Oldham thought it too
large, and besides she disliked the shape of it. It
was a square-cornered oblong table, and she would
have preferred it to be oval. The Doctor, I know,
secretly agreed with her ; at least he came to be of
the same way of thinking after she had expressed
her opinion a thing he was very apt to do. But



2 DOCTOR OLDHAM

he had not frankly confessed his whole mind to her
about it ; he had only told her that the oval shape
might perhaps have looked better, without much
diminishing the size of it, which he had all along
insisted was no larger than it ought to be to give
room for them all to sit around it a point he had
set his heart on from the beginning.

The truth was, Mrs. Oldham, with her homely,
honest way of speaking out her mind, had hurt the
Doctor s feelings, without knowing it or intending
it. But she had hurt them weeks before, the very
first time she saw the table. And this was the way
of it.

The Doctor had set his heart on having a Li
brary table, truly and properly such, a table for a
library, one to hold books, one that would allow a
good many books to lie on it, and large enough for
all the family to sit around it, and read and write
without interfering with each other, with room be
sides for any friend that might chance to drop in
upon them. Such was his ideal of a library table.
He had long indulged his mind s eye with the
pleasing image. It had grown, in fact, to be a
weakness of his, something that he in a sort doted
on realizing some day. So he had gone and be
spoken it six months before the library was finished



AT GREYSTONES. 3

and ready to receive it, before indeed the founda
tions of the newly-built part of Greystones were laid.
He had ordered it to be made six feet long and
three feet wide, going only by the image in his
mind s eye, and guessing even at the dimensions
of that without having ever measured and noted
any actual table of such a width and length. He
had done so too without consulting Mrs. Oldham,
which was something very unusual with him ; for
he had a high opinion of her good sense. Indeed
he was wont to say, that in point of practical wis
dom ho thought his wife very much his superior ;
but in the faculty of seeing through a speculative
millstone without any hole in it, he did not scruple
to say he did not consider her so highly gifted as
Jeremy Bent-ham or himself. This matter of the
library table was undoubtedly a practical affair, the
getting it made at least, and yet, owing, he sup
posed, to the pre-occupation of his mind with his
ideal, he had neglected to secure her advice and
sanction, I mean as to its exact form and dimen
sions for he had told her, in a general and passing
way, that he was going to have a library table
made but as she made no particular inquiries, not
imagining it was to be ordered so long beforehand,
it happened that nothing more was said.



4 DOCTOR OLDHAM

So the table was made and brought home and
set in its place. Mrs. Oldhani looked at it for a
moment or two, and then said :

" Husband, I don t like it. It is too large, and
the shape of it doesn t please me. Altogether, it
looks like a table for a bank parlor or for an insur
ance office."

Dear woman ! She little thought how inwardly
aghast her words struck the Doctor. In the placid
sincerity of her womanly and wifely heart, there
was the most perfect, and at the same time per
fectly unreflected and unconscious confidence in the
impossibility of her saying anything, or of his tak
ing anything she could say, in any other than a
kindly spirit. So she had spoken as she felt, with
out thinking of it even as a matter in which there
might be a difference of taste between them, still
less dreaming that she was giving him pain. She
knew nothing of his visions and his images. She
did not know this table was his realized ideal.
She knew nothing of all he had been dreaming
about so long, and which of late, as the time of
fulfilment drew near, had so filled his mind s eye.
He had never told her ; although he is one of the
most open-hearted persons I ever knew, and com
municative to a fault, as his wife often told him,



AT GREYSTONES. 5

and as he himself has had too many occasions to "be
conscious of, when he has, in his frank, confiding
way, laid himself open to the stupid, the brutal, or
the malicious. Yet he had never told anybody,
not even her. You may think this strange, but I
do not. On the contrary, I think it altogether
natural ; for always in your dreaming, speculative
natures, like the Doctor s, there are some cherished
fancies which, with all their frankness and unre
serve, they are shy of revealing to any human crea
ture from a half consciousness of their weakness
about them and their inability to bear any exposure
of it to the unsympathetic, and yet an instinctive
sense of the impossibility of anybody but them
selves fully sympathizing with them. You may
think this an over deep and wise lesson in human
nature to bring in here to explain such a trifling
thing as the Doctor s not telling his wife his secret
fancies about a table. But it is a true lesson, and
one that everybody ought to learn ; one that will
explain a great many other things besides the Doc
tor s silence ; and you ought to be thankful for a
lesson of wisdom, however trivial the occasion that
leads me to give it to you.

But so it was, the Doctor had never told even
his wife, not, of course, from any deliberate pur-



6 DOCTOR OLDHAM

pose of concealment, but unconsciously, from the
influence of the feeling I have mentioned ; and so
she could not know what she was trampling upon.
She would not have hurt his feelings for the world.
But she had. She had demolished his ideal ; she
had shattered his vision. He could not stand up
against her opinion. He never could in such mat
ters. He had never been able all the time they
had lived together to think right well of anything
that did not suit her taste.

But now the shock was great. He could not
bring himself to show how much he was wounded.
He tried to hold up. He even defended his vilified
ideal.

" Too large, my dear ? Why, it is only large
enough for us all to sit about it of an evening in
that comfortable pleasant way, which I am sure
you think so nice. Besides, see here ! " turning her
attention away from the size of the table, "here
are six drawers, one for each of us, three on one
side and three on the other. This one is for me ;
that opposite is yours ; here is Phil s ; there
Fred s ; this is Lilly s ; and this is for Cousin
Kitty when she comes. It is so pleasant to have
one s own drawer to put one s things into which
one does not wish to leave lying on the table, and
yet wants to have always near at hand."



ATGREYSTONES. 7

" I see/ said she, taking hold of her drawer
and pulling it out, "but, husband, your six draw
ers are only three, each of them running through
the whole width of the table and drawing out on
either side. See, your drawer and mine are only
one drawer with a partition across the middle and
knobs on both ends ; so, when you open your
drawer on your side of the table, you draw mine
after it out of my reach. What shall we do if we
both wish to use our drawers at the same time ? "

" Do ? " said the Doctor, disconcerted at this
new discovery to the discredit of his ideal, " do ?
do ? Well, my dear/ 7 pinching his nose between
the thumb and forefinger of his left hand, his usual
resource in such cases, " I do not know that I can
tell you what we must do. But I can tell you
what we must not do. We must not do what you
and I have always done hitherto."

" What do you mean ? " she inquired.

"Pull together, my dear. We have always
pulled together. But it will not do for us to pull
our drawers together. We must pull them in the
spirit of compromise, in the spirit of mutual com
promise, my dear Mrs. Oldham, and then this very
peculiarity in the make of our drawers, a pecu
liarity for which I confess I do not see any good



8 DOCTOR OLDHAM

mechanical reason will become, I will not say a
memento to the practice of a virtue which even
prudence, in a case like this, would dictate to
merely selfish natures, but will become as all out
ward things, however trivial, do become to right
loving hearts a sermon and a sacrament of
divines t charity/

The Doctor paused, inwardly elated with the
gentle excitement of his small sermon. The justice
of his wife s objection was palpable, and there was
not a single compensating advantage. But he did
not like to own that the drawers were made in this
absurd way by his own special direction, from a
notion they would be handier a notion he had got,
not from ever actually seeing and handling any real
drawers made in this fashion, but solely from con
templating the idea-image in his mind s eye.

He was glad to get off from the subject. But
the truth is that, from this time,

. . . . The glory and the gleam,
The consecration and the poet s dream,

began to fade from his realized ideal. He began
to see his table through his wife s eyes. At length
every time he looked at the long square-cornered



AT GR E Y ST ONES.

thing, with its shining bronze imitation leather top,
he saw it was not the thing he ought to have or
dered. It was too large for the room, though he
was still sure it was not too large for them all to
sit at together ; still, as a matter of proportion and
good looks, it was too large ; its shape was bad :
and it looked too much like a " bank table " he
could not but confess it to himself, although he
had felt that to be the unkindest cut in his wife s
speech. He could not but secretly think how much
better a nicely proportioned oval table, with a rich
cloth cover of suitable color, would look.

But he had never brought himself to acknowl
edge it to her in a full, frank way, before this even
ing ; because it was only this evening that he had
got fairly over the chagrin and soreness of having
the glory so torn from the vision of his long
dreams. But to night he felt no difficulty in mak
ing the admission.

" Mrs. Oldham, my dear," said he, as they were
drawing up to the table, " you were right. This is
not the table we should have had. It is too large.
It is not the right shape. It does look too much
like a bank table."

" Husband," said she, in her kind placid voice
there was no triumph, no gratified vanity in her tone
l*



10 DOCTOROLDHAM

or look, any more thairin her honest heart "hus
band, you had better have consulted me before get
ting it made."

" I am sure of it, my dear/ answered the Doc
tor, " you are an oracle of practical wisdom, Mrs.
Oldham ; I never neglect to obtain your advice and
sanction in any matter of affairs, without finding rea
son to regret it in the end. But my forethoughts,
you know, are very much like the Irishman s : they
come afterwards. I am as full of notions as a Yan
kee, and as eager and incautious in realizing them
as an Irishman, or, as my friend Idleman calls me,
a very sanguinary man/ I have done many hasty
things in my life that I repented of when they were
past help. But there is one thing I have never re
pented of."

" What is that, husband ? "

"Offering myself to you, Mrs. Oldham. You
have been my good angel, my dear."

Mrs. Oldham s cheeks still ruddy and round,
though nearly a score of years had passed away
since the event to which the Doctor referred her
matronly cheeks flushed slightly at this speech of
her husband s ; the more perhaps that not only the
children and cousin Kitty were present, but also
Maggie Crampton, who had come up from town on



ATGKEYSTONES. 11

a visit, and was sitting at the moment between the
Doctor and her.

He went on, however :

" But, in regard to this table, you do not know
what a shock you inflicted upon me. I have reason
to say to you, as the great Sir Isaac Newton said to
his dog Diamond, Diamond, Diamond, thou
little knowest what harm thou hast done me ! "
" Bless me, husband, what have I done ? "
" Shattered my ideal."
" Shattered your what ? "

" My ideal, the vision of my mind. It is all in
fragments. And the mischief you have done me,
my dear, is not like that which Diamond did his
master. That great philosopher could collect the
scattered fragments and reproduce what Diamond
had destroyed. But my ideal is irretrievable it is
shattered and lost forever."

" My dear husband," said she, in a pitying tone,
" I am so sorry for your shattered ideal. But we
will have a new and more beautiful one by and by.
But indeed I do believe," she added, seeing the
smallest trace of a twinkle in the Doctor s eye,
" you are not sorry at all that you got so ugly a
table made, seeing it has given you a chance to talk
so much nonsense."



12 DOCTOR OLDHAM

"Nonsense, my dear," said he, "I hope you
think it charming nonsense. I trust you have a
proper esteem for nonsense. It has in it the soul
of the deepest wisdom. Like the motley of the
Middle Ages, it often covers up more wit and sense
than the knight s helmet, the earl s cap of mainte
nance, or the abbot s mitre. I declare to you some
of the most solemn wise things I ever read have
not seldom seemed to me the most painfully foolish
or the most ridiculously absurd things in the world,
while on the other hand, many things that Mrs.
Slender thought very foolish, Miss Prim quite im
proper, and Doctor Kigid highly irreverent, have
been to me the most charming lessons of virtue and
religion, the purest goodness and the holiest wor
ship, as full of pathos as of fun, making me laugh
and making me cry, and making me better by both
operations, filling my heart with more love to God
and man than a dozen of Doctor Selah Solemn s
Sermons on Sanctity, or Mrs. Softly s Serious
Thoughts."

" What would become of us, my dear," he con
tinued, " if all the books that Mrs. Slender thinks
foolish, Miss Prim improper, and Doctor Kigid ir
reverent, were banished from the world ; no more
Mother Goose s Melodies, nor the tragical fate of



AT GKEYSTONES. 13

Cock Robin, nor the immoral exploits of Puss in
Boots, nor the mournful tale of Little Bopeep s
Sheep s Tails, nor the story of the Three Bears
with their three porridge pots and chairs and beds,
and the mysterious old woman that got in at their
door and out at their bedroom window, and has
never been heard of since, no more these and a
thousand other nonsensical stories of foolish impos
sibilities for the little people to laugh over, and
weep over, and wonder over ; and no more Rabelais
with his Pantagruel and Panurge, Cervantes with
his Knight and Squire, Shakespeare with his more
talkers of wise nonsense than I can name here ; no
more Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim ; no more Doc
tor Primrose and Moses, nor Elia, nor Doctor Dove,
nor Diedrick Knickerbocker, nor Mr. Sparrowgrass,
for the delight of old folks and young folks both ;
but all these, and hundreds of others, great like
these in nonsense, done away with from the face of
the earth, gone from human memory, and nothing
left for the young people but Mrs. Sweet s Infant
Hymns, and Professor Savethought s Great Things
made Small, and nothing for the older folks but
Dr. Solernn s Sermons and Mrs. Softly s Serious
Thoughts ! Think of it, my dear Mrs. Oldham !
I really do not believe it would be good for the
world."



14 DOCTOROLDHAM

The Doctor paused, quite affected by the pic
ture he had drawn.

" But, husband/ said Mrs. Oldham, " it is not
every one that can see the soul of wisdom and
goodness in those books of nonsense as well as you
can, and therefore we ought to be glad there are
such writings as Doctor Solemn s Sermons and
Mrs. Softly s Serious Thoughts."

"True, my dear, true/ replied the Doctor,
" but let us also honor wise and holy nonsense."



CHAPTER II.

WHICH GROWS OUT OF THE INARTISTIC WAT THIS BOOK BEGAN; BUT
GIVES THE AUTHOR A CHANCE TO SPEAK OF THE COURTEOUS
READER OF THE LAST AGE ; AND ALSO TO EXPLAIN HIMSELF TO
THE COURTEOUS READER OF THE PRESENT DAY.

WHAT a fine old personage was the " Courteous
Header " for whom the writers of the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries wrote their books. How
delightful the image or EIDOLON of him that rises
before the mind s eye, as we notice in the writings
of that time the thousand little tokens of thorough
good understanding and mutual respect between
the author and his reader. The picture is as
distinct and agreeable as that of Sir Koger de
Coverley : and we feel a positive regard for him
such as we cannot help feeling for the good old
Knight who was himself undoubtedly one of the
most courteous of the courteous readers of his
day.

I trust the generation of them is not extinct,



16 DOCTOR OLDHAM

although I do not so often perceive them to be
expressly addressed in the books of our day : but
this, I would fain believe, is owing only to that
same change in the fashion and manner of the
times which makes the polite forms of social inter
course to be so much more brief and simple, and
causes so much to be now tacitly taken for granted
in the way of courteous and kindly. feeling which
it was the custom to give ample and ceremonious
expression to in those days.

So I am apt to think. Why not ? Does any
body imagine Sir Koger de Coverley to be dead ?
I for one will never believe it. You will not indeed
find him in the same fashion of dress, nor journey
ing along the road in the same way, nor with the
same accidents of position and circumstance ; but
putting out of view the different way in which
modern tailors make up men, and the different
modes of travelling all the accidents of the case,
I am bold to say that every body has met him
more than once on the steamboats and in the rail
way cars ; some perhaps without knowing him, but
some of us know him well have been out in fact
at his house, and found him the same personage, as
fresh and delightful as ever, the same charming
mixture of benevolence, old-fashioned politeness,



AT GBEYS TONES. 17

simplicity, charity, and love of country life and
country pleasures.


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Online LibraryC. S. (Caleb Sprague) HenryDoctor Oldham at Greystones, and his talk there → online text (page 1 of 17)