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them. It was one of those country dinners accompanied with green tea.
Every one disagreed with every one else, and you would n't wonder at
it, if you had seen them. They were people with whom good food wouldn't
agree. George Thompson was expected at the convention, and I remember
that there was almost a cordiality in the talk about him, until one
sallow brother casually mentioned that George took snuff, - when a chorus
of deprecatory groans went up from the table. One long-faced maiden in
spectacles, with purple ribbons in her hair, who drank five cups of tea
by my count, declared that she was perfectly disgusted, and did n't
want to hear him speak. In the course of the meal the talk ran upon the
discipline of children, and how to administer punishment. I was quite
taken by the remark of a thin, dyspeptic man who summed up the matter
by growling out in a harsh, deep bass voice, "Punish 'em in love!" It
sounded as if he had said, "Shoot 'em on the spot!"

THE PARSON. I supposed you would say that he was a minister. There is
another thing about those people. I think they are working against the
course of nature. Nature is entirely indifferent to any reform. She
perpetuates a fault as persistently as a virtue. There's a split in
my thumb-nail that has been scrupulously continued for many years, not
withstanding all my efforts to make the nail resume its old regularity.
You see the same thing in trees whose bark is cut, and in melons that
have had only one summer's intimacy with squashes. The bad traits in
character are passed down from generation to generation with as much
care as the good ones. Nature, unaided, never reforms anything.

MANDEVILLE. Is that the essence of Calvinism?

THE PARSON. Calvinism has n't any essence, it's a fact.

MANDEVILLE. When I was a boy, I always associated Calvinism and calomel
together. I thought that homeopathy - similia, etc. - had done away with
both of them.

OUR NEXT DOOR (rising). If you are going into theology, I'm off..





IV

I fear we are not getting on much with the joyousness of winter. In
order to be exhilarating it must be real winter. I have noticed that the
lower the thermometer sinks the more fiercely the north wind rages, and
the deeper the snow is, the higher rise the spirits of the community.
The activity of the "elements" has a great effect upon country folk
especially; and it is a more wholesome excitement than that caused by
a great conflagration. The abatement of a snow-storm that grows to
exceptional magnitude is regretted, for there is always the half-hope
that this will be, since it has gone so far, the largest fall of snow
ever known in the region, burying out of sight the great fall of 1808,
the account of which is circumstantially and aggravatingly thrown in our
way annually upon the least provocation. We all know how it reads: "Some
said it began at daylight, others that it set in after sunrise; but
all agree that by eight o'clock Friday morning it was snowing in heavy
masses that darkened the air."

The morning after we settled the five - or is it seven? - points
of Calvinism, there began a very hopeful snow-storm, one of those
wide-sweeping, careering storms that may not much affect the city,
but which strongly impress the country imagination with a sense of the
personal qualities of the weather, - power, persistency, fierceness, and
roaring exultation. Out-doors was terrible to those who looked out of
windows, and heard the raging wind, and saw the commotion in all the
high tree-tops and the writhing of the low evergreens, and could not
summon resolution to go forth and breast and conquer the bluster. The
sky was dark with snow, which was not permitted to fall peacefully
like a blessed mantle, as it sometimes does, but was blown and rent and
tossed like the split canvas of a ship in a gale. The world was taken
possession of by the demons of the air, who had their will of it. There
is a sort of fascination in such a scene, equal to that of a tempest at
sea, and without its attendant haunting sense of peril; there is no fear
that the house will founder or dash against your neighbor's cottage,
which is dimly seen anchored across the field; at every thundering onset
there is no fear that the cook's galley will upset, or the screw break
loose and smash through the side, and we are not in momently expectation
of the tinkling of the little bell to "stop her." The snow rises in
drifting waves, and the naked trees bend like strained masts; but so
long as the window-blinds remain fast, and the chimney-tops do not go,
we preserve an equal mind. Nothing more serious can happen than the
failure of the butcher's and the grocer's carts, unless, indeed, the
little news-carrier should fail to board us with the world's daily
bulletin, or our next-door neighbor should be deterred from coming to
sit by the blazing, excited fire, and interchange the trifling, harmless
gossip of the day. The feeling of seclusion on such a day is sweet, but
the true friend who does brave the storm and come is welcomed with a
sort of enthusiasm that his arrival in pleasant weather would never
excite. The snow-bound in their Arctic hulk are glad to see even a
wandering Esquimau.

On such a day I recall the great snow-storms on the northern New England
hills, which lasted for a week with no cessation, with no sunrise or
sunset, and no observation at noon; and the sky all the while dark with
the driving snow, and the whole world full of the noise of the rioting
Boreal forces; until the roads were obliterated, the fences covered,
and the snow was piled solidly above the first-story windows of the
farmhouse on one side, and drifted before the front door so high that
egress could only be had by tunneling the bank.

After such a battle and siege, when the wind fell and the sun struggled
out again, the pallid world lay subdued and tranquil, and the scattered
dwellings were not unlike wrecks stranded by the tempest and half buried
in sand. But when the blue sky again bent over all, the wide expanse of
snow sparkled like diamond-fields, and the chimney signal-smokes could
be seen, how beautiful was the picture! Then began the stir abroad,
and the efforts to open up communication through roads, or fields, or
wherever paths could be broken, and the ways to the meeting-house
first of all. Then from every house and hamlet the men turned out with
shovels, with the patient, lumbering oxen yoked to the sleds, to break
the roads, driving into the deepest drifts, shoveling and shouting as
if the severe labor were a holiday frolic, the courage and the hilarity
rising with the difficulties encountered; and relief parties, meeting at
length in the midst of the wide white desolation, hailed each other as
chance explorers in new lands, and made the whole country-side ring with
the noise of their congratulations. There was as much excitement and
healthy stirring of the blood in it as in the Fourth of July, and
perhaps as much patriotism. The boy saw it in dumb show from the
distant, low farmhouse window, and wished he were a man. At night there
were great stories of achievement told by the cavernous fireplace;
great latitude was permitted in the estimation of the size of particular
drifts, but never any agreement was reached as to the "depth on a
level." I have observed since that people are quite as apt to agree upon
the marvelous and the exceptional as upon simple facts.





V

By the firelight and the twilight, the Young Lady is finishing a letter
to Herbert, - writing it, literally, on her knees, transforming thus the
simple deed into an act of devotion. Mandeville says that it is bad for
her eyes, but the sight of it is worse for his eyes. He begins to doubt
the wisdom of reliance upon that worn apothegm about absence conquering
love.

Memory has the singular characteristic of recalling in a friend absent,
as in a journey long past, only that which is agreeable. Mandeville
begins to wish he were in New South Wales.

I did intend to insert here a letter of Herbert's to the Young
Lady, - obtained, I need not say, honorably, as private letters which get
into print always are, - not to gratify a vulgar curiosity, but to show
how the most unsentimental and cynical people are affected by the master
passion. But I cannot bring myself to do it. Even in the interests
of science one has no right to make an autopsy of two loving hearts,
especially when they are suffering under a late attack of the one
agreeable epidemic.

All the world loves a lover, but it laughs at him none the less in his
extravagances. He loses his accustomed reticence; he has something of
the martyr's willingness for publicity; he would even like to show the
sincerity of his devotion by some piece of open heroism. Why should he
conceal a discovery which has transformed the world to him, a secret
which explains all the mysteries of nature and humanity? He is in that
ecstasy of mind which prompts those who were never orators before to
rise in an experience-meeting and pour out a flood of feeling in the
tritest language and the most conventional terms. I am not sure that
Herbert, while in this glow, would be ashamed of his letter in print,
but this is one of the cases where chancery would step in and protect
one from himself by his next friend. This is really a delicate matter,
and perhaps it is brutal to allude to it at all.

In truth, the letter would hardly be interesting in print. Love has a
marvelous power of vivifying language and charging the simplest words
with the most tender meaning, of restoring to them the power they had
when first coined. They are words of fire to those two who know their
secret, but not to others. It is generally admitted that the best
love-letters would not make very good literature. "Dearest," begins
Herbert, in a burst of originality, felicitously selecting a word whose
exclusiveness shuts out all the world but one, and which is a whole
letter, poem, confession, and creed in one breath. What a weight of
meaning it has to carry! There may be beauty and wit and grace and
naturalness and even the splendor of fortune elsewhere, but there is one
woman in the world whose sweet presence would be compensation for the
loss of all else. It is not to be reasoned about; he wants that one; it
is her plume dancing down the sunny street that sets his heart beating;
he knows her form among a thousand, and follows her; he longs to run
after her carriage, which the cruel coachman whirls out of his sight. It
is marvelous to him that all the world does not want her too, and he is
in a panic when he thinks of it. And what exquisite flattery is in that
little word addressed to her, and with what sweet and meek triumph she
repeats it to herself, with a feeling that is not altogether pity for
those who still stand and wait. To be chosen out of all the available
world - it is almost as much bliss as it is to choose. "All that long,
long stage-ride from Blim's to Portage I thought of you every moment,
and wondered what you were doing and how you were looking just that
moment, and I found the occupation so charming that I was almost sorry
when the journey was ended." Not much in that! But I have no doubt the
Young Lady read it over and over, and dwelt also upon every moment, and
found in it new proof of unshaken constancy, and had in that and the
like things in the letter a sense of the sweetest communion. There is
nothing in this letter that we need dwell on it, but I am convinced that
the mail does not carry any other letters so valuable as this sort.

I suppose that the appearance of Herbert in this new light unconsciously
gave tone a little to the evening's talk; not that anybody mentioned
him, but Mandeville was evidently generalizing from the qualities
that make one person admired by another to those that win the love of
mankind.

MANDEVILLE. There seems to be something in some persons that wins them
liking, special or general, independent almost of what they do or say.

THE MISTRESS. Why, everybody is liked by some one.

MANDEVILLE. I'm not sure of that. There are those who are friendless,
and would be if they had endless acquaintances. But, to take the case
away from ordinary examples, in which habit and a thousand circumstances
influence liking, what is it that determines the world upon a personal
regard for authors whom it has never seen?

THE FIRE-TENDER. Probably it is the spirit shown in their writings.

THE MISTRESS. More likely it is a sort of tradition; I don't believe
that the world has a feeling of personal regard for any author who was
not loved by those who knew him most intimately.

THE FIRE-TENDER. Which comes to the same thing. The qualities, the
spirit, that got him the love of his acquaintances he put into his
books.

MANDEVILLE. That does n't seem to me sufficient. Shakespeare has put
everything into his plays and poems, swept the whole range of human
sympathies and passions, and at times is inspired by the sweetest spirit
that ever man had.

THE YOUNG LADY. No one has better interpreted love.

MANDEVILLE. Yet I apprehend that no person living has any personal
regard for Shakespeare, or that his personality affects many, - except
they stand in Stratford church and feel a sort of awe at the thought
that the bones of the greatest poet are so near them.

THE PARSON. I don't think the world cares personally for any mere man or
woman dead for centuries.

MANDEVILLE. But there is a difference. I think there is still rather a
warm feeling for Socrates the man, independent of what he said, which is
little known. Homer's works are certainly better known, but no one cares
personally for Homer any more than for any other shade.

OUR NEXT DOOR. Why not go back to Moses? We've got the evening before us
for digging up people.

MANDEVILLE. Moses is a very good illustration. No name of antiquity
is better known, and yet I fancy he does not awaken the same kind of
popular liking that Socrates does.

OUR NEXT DOOR. Fudge! You just get up in any lecture assembly and
propose three cheers for Socrates, and see where you'll be. Mandeville
ought to be a missionary, and read Robert Browning to the Fijis.

THE FIRE-TENDER. How do you account for the alleged personal regard for
Socrates?

THE PARSON. Because the world called Christian is still more than half
heathen.

MANDEVILLE. He was a plain man; his sympathies were with the people; he
had what is roughly known as "horse-sense," and he was homely. Franklin
and Abraham Lincoln belong to his class. They were all philosophers of
the shrewd sort, and they all had humor. It was fortunate for Lincoln
that, with his other qualities, he was homely. That was the last
touching recommendation to the popular heart.

THE MISTRESS. Do you remember that ugly brown-stone statue of St.
Antonio by the bridge in Sorrento? He must have been a coarse saint,
patron of pigs as he was, but I don't know any one anywhere, or the
homely stone image of one, so loved by the people.

OUR NEXT DOOR. Ugliness being trump, I wonder more people don't win.
Mandeville, why don't you get up a "centenary" of Socrates, and put up
his statue in the Central Park? It would make that one of Lincoln in
Union Square look beautiful.

THE PARSON. Oh, you'll see that some day, when they have a museum there
illustrating the "Science of Religion."

THE FIRE-TENDER. Doubtless, to go back to what we were talking of,
the world has a fondness for some authors, and thinks of them with an
affectionate and half-pitying familiarity; and it may be that this
grows out of something in their lives quite as much as anything in
their writings. There seems to be more disposition of personal liking
to Thackeray than to Dickens, now both are dead, - a result that would
hardly have been predicted when the world was crying over Little Nell,
or agreeing to hate Becky Sharp.

THE YOUNG LADY. What was that you were telling about Charles Lamb,
the other day, Mandeville? Is not the popular liking for him somewhat
independent of his writings?

MANDEVILLE. He is a striking example of an author who is loved. Very
likely the remembrance of his tribulations has still something to do
with the tenderness felt for him. He supported no dignity and permitted
a familiarity which indicated no self-appreciation of his real rank in
the world of letters. I have heard that his acquaintances familiarly
called him "Charley."

OUR NEXT DOOR. It's a relief to know that! Do you happen to know what
Socrates was called?

MANDEVILLE. I have seen people who knew Lamb very well. One of them told
me, as illustrating his want of dignity, that as he was going home late
one night through the nearly empty streets, he was met by a roystering
party who were making a night of it from tavern to tavern. They fell
upon Lamb, attracted by his odd figure and hesitating manner, and,
hoisting him on their shoulders, carried him off, singing as they went.
Lamb enjoyed the lark, and did not tell them who he was. When they were
tired of lugging him, they lifted him, with much effort and difficulty,
to the top of a high wall, and left him there amid the broken bottles,
utterly unable to get down. Lamb remained there philosophically in the
enjoyment of his novel adventure, until a passing watchman rescued him
from his ridiculous situation.

THE FIRE-TENDER. How did the story get out?

MANDEVILLE. Oh, Lamb told all about it next morning; and when asked
afterwards why he did so, he replied that there was no fun in it unless
he told it.





SIXTH STUDY




I

The King sat in the winter-house in the ninth month, and there was a
fire on the hearth burning before him.... When Jehudi had read three or
four leaves he cut it with the penknife.

That seems to be a pleasant and home-like picture from a not very remote
period, - less than twenty-five hundred years ago, and many centuries
after the fall of Troy. And that was not so very long ago, for Thebes,
in the splendid streets of which Homer wandered and sang to the kings
when Memphis, whose ruins are older than history, was its younger rival,
was twelve centuries old when Paris ran away with Helen.

I am sorry that the original - and you can usually do anything with
the "original" - does not bear me out in saying that it was a pleasant
picture. I should like to believe that Jehoiakim - for that was the
singular name of the gentleman who sat by his hearthstone - had just
received the Memphis "Palimpsest," fifteen days in advance of the date
of its publication, and that his secretary was reading to him that
monthly, and cutting its leaves as he read. I should like to have seen
it in that year when Thales was learning astronomy in Memphis, and Necho
was organizing his campaign against Carchemish. If Jehoiakim took the
"Attic Quarterly," he might have read its comments on the banishment
of the Alcmaeonida, and its gibes at Solon for his prohibitory laws,
forbidding the sale of unguents, limiting the luxury of dress, and
interfering with the sacred rights of mourners to passionately bewail
the dead in the Asiatic manner; the same number being enriched with
contributions from two rising poets, - a lyric of love by Sappho, and an
ode sent by Anacreon from Teos, with an editorial note explaining that
the Maces was not responsible for the sentiments of the poem.

But, in fact, the gentleman who sat before the backlog in his
winter-house had other things to think of. For Nebuchadnezzar was coming
that way with the chariots and horses of Babylon and a great crowd of
marauders; and the king had not even the poor choice whether he would
be the vassal of the Chaldean or of the Egyptian. To us, this is only
a ghostly show of monarchs and conquerors stalking across vast historic
spaces. It was no doubt a vulgar enough scene of war and plunder. The
great captains of that age went about to harry each other's territories
and spoil each other's cities very much as we do nowadays, and for
similar reasons; - Napoleon the Great in Moscow, Napoleon the Small in
Italy, Kaiser William in Paris, Great Scott in Mexico! Men have not
changed much; - The Fire-Tender sat in his winter-garden in the third
month; there was a fire on the hearth burning before him. He cut
the leaves of "Scribner's Monthly" with his penknife, and thought of
Jehoiakim.

That seems as real as the other. In the garden, which is a room of the
house, the tall callas, rooted in the ground, stand about the fountain;
the sun, streaming through the glass, illumines the many-hued flowers. I
wonder what Jehoiakim did with the mealy-bug on his passion-vine, and
if he had any way of removing the scale-bug from his African acacia? One
would like to know, too, how he treated the red spider on the Le Marque
rose. The record is silent. I do not doubt he had all these insects in
his winter-garden, and the aphidae besides; and he could not smoke them
out with tobacco, for the world had not yet fallen into its second stage
of the knowledge of good and evil by eating the forbidden tobacco-plant.

I confess that this little picture of a fire on the hearth so many
centuries ago helps to make real and interesting to me that somewhat
misty past. No doubt the lotus and the acanthus from the Nile grew in
that winter-house, and perhaps Jehoiakim attempted - the most difficult
thing in the world the cultivation of the wild flowers from Lebanon.
Perhaps Jehoiakim was interested also, as I am through this ancient
fireplace, - which is a sort of domestic window into the ancient
world, - in the loves of Bernice and Abaces at the court of the Pharaohs.
I see that it is the same thing as the sentiment - perhaps it is the
shrinking which every soul that is a soul has, sooner or later, from
isolation - which grew up between Herbert and the Young Lady Staying With
Us. Jeremiah used to come in to that fireside very much as the Parson
does to ours. The Parson, to be sure, never prophesies, but he grumbles,
and is the chorus in the play that sings the everlasting ai ai of "I
told you so!" Yet we like the Parson. He is the sprig of bitter herb
that makes the pottage wholesome. I should rather, ten times over,
dispense with the flatterers and the smooth-sayers than the grumblers.
But the grumblers are of two sorts, - the healthful-toned and the
whiners. There are makers of beer who substitute for the clean bitter of
the hops some deleterious drug, and then seek to hide the fraud by some
cloying sweet. There is nothing of this sickish drug in the Parson's
talk, nor was there in that of Jeremiah, I sometimes think there is
scarcely enough of this wholesome tonic in modern society. The Parson
says he never would give a child sugar-coated pills. Mandeville says he
never would give them any. After all, you cannot help liking Mandeville.





II

We were talking of this late news from Jerusalem. The Fire-Tender was
saying that it is astonishing how much is telegraphed us from the East
that is not half so interesting. He was at a loss philosophically to
account for the fact that the world is so eager to know the news of
yesterday which is unimportant, and so indifferent to that of the day
before which is of some moment.

MANDEVILLE. I suspect that it arises from the want of imagination.
People need to touch the facts, and nearness in time is contiguity. It
would excite no interest to bulletin the last siege of Jerusalem in a
village where the event was unknown, if the date was appended; and yet
the account of it is incomparably more exciting than that of the siege
of Metz.

OUR NEXT DOOR. The daily news is a necessity. I cannot get along without
my morning paper. The other morning I took it up, and was absorbed in
the telegraphic columns for an hour nearly. I thoroughly enjoyed the
feeling of immediate contact with all the world of yesterday, until
I read among the minor items that Patrick Donahue, of the city of New
York, died of a sunstroke. If he had frozen to death, I should have
enjoyed that; but to die of sunstroke in February seemed inappropriate,
and I turned to the date of the paper. When I found it was printed in
July, I need not say that I lost all interest in it, though why the
trivialities and crimes and accidents, relating to people I never knew,
were not as good six months after date as twelve hours, I cannot say.

THE FIRE-TENDER. You know that in Concord the latest news, except
a remark or two by Thoreau or Emerson, is the Vedas. I believe the
Rig-Veda is read at the breakfast-table instead of the Boston journals.

THE PARSON. I know it is read afterward instead of the Bible.

MANDEVILLE. That is only because it is supposed to be older. I have


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