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imagination, like that of most children, was
liveliest at first waking, and his prattle
was, when taken in moderation, a great
delight I accordingly found his pretty head
lying on my piUow at bed-time, and was
aroused the next morning, to listen with
drowsy ears to Mr. Dowdy in full career.
Nestiing close to me, the young narrator
proceeded. The excitements of the night
previous had added to his vocabulary a
new word; and, accordingly, " Mobs" ap-
peared on the scene as a new figure, a sort
of collective unit, antagonistic to all good —
a prince of the powers of evil — a malign
being who made unseemly noises, broke
benches in halls, and forced peaceful aimts
to flee for their lives. To " Mobs" malig-
nant enters the virtuous and triumphant
Dowdy, and the scene thus proceeds:

" Then Mobs come upstairs again, make
a noise, frighten the people, frighten Aunty.
Then Mr. Dowdy come; he set his dog on
Mobs ; eat him all up ; drive him away."

Then rising in bed, with an air of final
decision and resistless fate :

" It says in Queen Victoria's book, that
outragis Mobs must be put down-'tairs ! "

So heartily had I gone along with the flow
of narrative, that I hardly felt disposed to
question the infallible oracle thus ated, and
"The Koran or the Sword " seemed hardly
a more irresistible appeal than Queen Vic-
toria's book. I had not the slightest con-
ception what it meant ; but, on inquiry at
breakfast, I was shown one of those frightful
medical almanacs, such as are thrown in at
unoffending front doors. This, it seemed,
had been seized upon by one of the elder
boys, and one of its portraits had been
pronounced to look just like the pictures of
Prince Albert. It had afterward passed to
my little friend, who had christened it, for
the alleged resemblance, "Queen Victoria's
book," and had hung it on the wall, to be



henceforth cited solenmly, as containing tk
statutes of the imaginary reahn where tk
Dowdies dwelt

More commonly, I suppose, this idai
being is incarnated in a dolL I knevi
little girl who spent a winter wiA m
maiden ladies, and who had been preseina
by one of them with a paper ddl, gorgeoi&i
arrayed. She named it die Marquis, and £
once assigned to that nobleman die bear
and hand of her younger hostess. He w»
thenceforth always treated with the rcspca
due to the head of the house ; a chak acd
plate were assigned him at table, thoufk
for reasons of practical convenience, k
usually sat in the plate. " Good-morning'
must always be said to him. The best of
ever3rthing must be first ofiered to him, of
else Lizzie was much hurt, and the isn^,
were charged with discourteous n^ka
Indeed she always chose to take the urx
that he did not receive quite the consideia-
tion to which his rank and services entided
him ; and when she first awaked in die
morning, she would give reproving lecturfc
to his supposed spouse. " He does evm
thing for you," the child would say to iht
lady; "he earns money, and buysjouiS
that you have ; he shovels your paths ^
you" — this being perhaps on a snowy moit
mg when that process was audible— "in<J
yet you do not remember all his kindness.'
The whole assumed relationshq) was treated
as an absolute reality, and the lively 6w
lasted, with undiminished spirit, during tbe
whole of a New England winter.

It is matter for endless pondering. Whu
place does this sort of thing really occupy
m a child's mind ? It is not actually tai^
for truth ; the child will sometimes stop
full career and say : '' But this is all m^
believe, you know," and then fling '"Ss^
again into the imaginary drama, as sffdentlr
as ever. These Jittle people know the dis-
tinction between truth and fiadsehood, ^
all, and the great Turenne, when a boj.
challenged a grown-up oflicer for sajic^
that'Quintus Curtius was onlyaromaof*
These fancies are not real ; they are sifflj^
something that is closer than reality. 1^
makes the charm of that inexhaustibly ^
cinating book, "Alice in the Looking-CW
a book which charms every child, and wlwt^
I have yet heard quoted by the Presid^
of the London Philological Society in ^>>
annual address, and to the reading oi »
chapter of which I have seen Mr. Dar^
listen with boyish glee by his own ^
side. No other book comes so near to ti^



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361



very atmosphere of the dawning mind, that
citizen of an inverted world, where the visions
are half genuine, and the realities half visions.
After Alice in the story has once stepped
into the looking-glass, passing through it to
the world where everything is reversed, she
is at once amazed by everything and by
nothing. It does not seem in the least
strange to be talking with the queen of the
white chessmen, or to have her remember the
things that are not to happen till week after
next Alice in the pictures never loses the
sweet bewildered expression we know so
well, and yet she is "always very much
interested in questions of eating and drink-
ing," and is as human and charming as Pet
Marjorie. Who shall disentangle the pretty
complication ? The real and imreal overlap
and interpenetrate each other in a child's
mind, film upon film, till they can be detached
only by a touch as subtile as that of Swin-
burne, when he essays to separate the suc-
cessive degrees of remoteness in the portrait
of a girl looking at her own fiau:e in a mirror,
— a poem on the picture of a likeness, the
shadow of the shadow of a shade.

"Art thon the ^ost, my sister, —

White sister Uierc ?.
Am 1 the ^ost, — who knows ?
My hand, a fidlen rose,

Lies snow-white on white snows, and
takes no care."

Nor does it recjuire any peculiarly gifted
temperament to bring forth these phenomena
of childhood. Given the dawning mind as
agent, and the wonderful universe as mate-
rial, and all else follows of itself. Some of
the most remarkable stories I have ever
known were told of children whose maturer
years revealed nothing extraordinary, just as
I heard the other day of a girl who could
hum the second to a musical air before she
could speak, and who, on growing up, proved
to have hardly any ear for music. There
never was a child so matter-of-fact, perhaps,
but his mind, on coming in contact with the
outer world, encountered experiences as
hazy as the most dreamy poet could depict
In older people we can discriminate between
different temperaments, but childhood is in
itself a temperament, or does the work of
one j and it is brought face to face with a uni-
verse of realities so vast and bewildering that
you may add all the realm of the impossible
and hardly make the puzzle more profound.

In Hans Andersen's story, the old hen
assures her chickens that the world is very
much larger than is commonly supposed —
that indeed it stretches to the other side of



the parson's orchard, for she has looked
through a hole in the fence and has seen.
But to the child, the whole realm of knowl-
edge is the parson's orchard, and all experi-
ence is only a glimpse through some new
hole in the fence. What deceives us elders
is, that the child placidly keeps on his way
through this world of delusion, full of his
school and his play, and accepting every-
thing as easily as we accept the impossibili-
ties of our dreams. He is no more con-
cerned with your philosophical analysis of
his mental processes than were the pigeons
reared by Darwin with the inferences he
drew fi:om their plumage and their shapes.
Holding in himself, could we but understand
him, the key to all mysteries, the urchin does
not so much as suspect that there is a key to
be sought If he bestows one thought upon
the problem of his existence, he dismisses
it easily with the assumption that grown-up
people understand it all. But his indiffer-
ence lulls the grown-up people also, and even
as we watch him his childhood passes, and his
fJEincies "fade into the light of common day."
Thus much for the forms which a child's
fancy wears. They might be fiirther illus-
trated by endless examples, but let us now
consider the influence exerted by this faculty
upon the other powers. It is certain, to
begin with, that the imagination is, next to
love, the most purifying influence of a
child's life. In proportion as the little creat-
ure absorbs itsdf in an ideal world, it has a
mental pre-occupation " driving far off each
thing of sin and guilt" Indolence or selfish
reverie may come in, doubtiess, but not
coarseness. In a strongly imaginative child-
ish nature, even if evil seems to enter, it
leaves little trace behind, and the soul
insensibly dears itself once more. The
foundations of virtue are laid in the imagi-
nation, before conscience and reason have
gained strength. This is according to
Plato's theory of the true education, as
given in the second book of " The Laws."
**I mean by education," he says, "that
training which is given by suitable habits to
the first instincts of virtue in children*; when

f>leasure and fiiendship, and pain and hatred
of vice] are righdy implanted in souls not
yet capable of understanding the nature of
them, and who find them, when they have
attained reason, to be in harmony with her.
This harmony of the soul, when perfected, is
virtue."

I do not, by any means, assert that the
ideal temperament tends to keep a child
fi-om all faults— only firom the grosser faults.



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CHILDHOOnS FANCIES.



The imagination may sometimes make him
appear cowardly, for instance, through the
vividness with which he imagines dangers
that do not touch the nerves of the stolid
or prosaic. On the other hand, the same
faculty may make him brave, when excited
by a great purpose, excluding all immediate
fears. So the imagination may make him
appear cruel sometimes, when it takes the
form of an intense desire to solve the mys-
tery of life and death, and to assert the
wondrous fact of human control over them ;
an impulse beginning when the boy kills his
first bird, and not always satiating itself in
the most experienced hunter. But the same
imaginative power may also make him
humane, if it be led to dwell on the suffer-
ings of the animal, the bereaved nest, the
dying young. " God gives him wings and
I shoot him down," says Bettine. "Ah,
no; that chimes not in tune." I suppose
we are all at times more sentimental than
we consent to acknowledge, and at other
times more hard-hearted ; and it is for edu-
cation so to direct our imaginative power
that it shall help us in the contest between
right and wrong.

Nevertheless parents, as must be owned,
often regard the imagination as a faculty
to be dreaded for their children. People
are like Mr. Peter Magnus in Pickwick,
who disliked anything original, and did not
see the necessity for it. They assume that
this faculty is a misleading gift, tending
to untruth— making a boy assert that a hun-
dred cats are fighting in the garden, when
there are only his own and another. Yet
even this extreme statement is not to be
ranked among deliberate falsehoods — it is
only an intense expression, what the
Greeks called a plural of reverence. For the
boy two cats are as good or as bad as a
hundred, if thejr only scratch and sputter
enough, which, mdeed, they are apt to do.
He cannot report the batde as greater than
his imagination sees it. Objectively there
may be but two cats, subjectively there are
a thousand. Indeed, each single animal
expands before his eyes like that dog in
Leech's "Brown, Jones, and Robinson,"
which IS first depicted as it seemed to those
travelers — vast, warlike, terrific; — and after-
ward, as it would have seemed to the unim-
aginative observer, only a poor little baric-
ing cur. To give the fiill value of the
incident both pictures are needful, and it
is only when the power of expression
matures that we learn to put both into one,
sectiring vividness without sacrificing truth.



Professor Jared Sparks, the most painstaking
of historians, used to tell us in college that
no man could write history well without
enough of imaginative power to make it
graphic.

The fables of children and of child-like
nations, even where they give tongues to
animals and trees, have an element of truth
which causes them now to be collected for
the purposes of science. While the philos-
opher looks for the signs of human emotion
in the facial expression of animals, children
boldly go farther, and attribute words as well
as signs. " I was never so be-ihymed," says
Shakespeare's Rosalind, " since P5rthagoras'
time, that I was an Irish rat, which I
can hardly remember." But children, as
Heine says, stiD remember when they
were animals and trees ; and the theory of
transmigration always has great fescination
for them, as all tiiose who were brought
up on " Evenings at Home " will recall.
Even the conception of their own pre-
existence sometimes gets into their heads.
A meditative little fellow, the son of a
fiiend of mine, waked one morning with
the mystical remark on his lips : " Mamma,
we have all been here more than once,
and I was only the last that was sent." In
the thought of God and of the fiiture life,
too, their imaginations have play, some-
times leading to the most familiar and
amusing utterances, and then to words
that help older minds to trust a higher
guidance, and to keep an outlook into
spheres unseen. The easy fisuth of children
strengthens our own, and reminds us that
the very word "juvenile" comes firom the
Latin juvo^ which means " to help."

Every autumn I collect in my room the
young seed-vessels of the common milk-
weed, which may be found by every road-
side. They presently open, and all winter
long the graceful tufts of sheeny silk are
slowly detaching themselves with constant,
tireless, noiseless motion; each mounting
into the currents of warm air and silently
floating away. You cannot keep these little
voyagers down ; you cannot guide them as
they soar ; they are presendy found clinging
in unexpected places and are set firee at a
touch, to float away again; they occupy
the room with a delicate aerial life of their
own. Like these winged things are the
fancies of childhood, giving to the vital seed
of thought its range ; bearing it lightly over
impurities and obstructions, till it falls into
some fitting soil' at last, there to recreate
itself and t^ar fiiiit a hundred fold.



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HOOKS AND EYES.



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HOOKS AND EYES.



" Why, it looks like hooks and eyes ! " said
a friend to whom the book was shown. It did
look L*ke hooks and eyes. But, then, what
can one expect of Tamil ? It is bad enough
to have a Sanskrit text forced on one's atten-
tion, although its solid letters are of con-
siderable beauty, and augur well for the nobil-
ity of the language ; but Tamil ! Why
should not Tamil look like hooks and eyes ?

Nevertheless the dictionary says that it is
a language spoken by some ten millions of
thriving aboriginals of Lower India, and ten
millions of human beings are not to be put
aside irreverently; neither do hooks and
eyes, delicately shaped and arranged in line
across a page from left to right, form such an
ongraceful sight, after all; the open-handed
fling of some of the Tamil letters gives the
character a decided individuality. One who
tdb fbrtimes by the handwriting would say
that the writers of Tamil must have been im-
aginative persons of a romantic turn of mind.

It was a piece of chance-work that Tamil
turned up at all. In Ann street, on a spot
now occupied by an ugly iron hive for
offices, there stood formerly an old book-
store, infested, as if he were a spider, by a
taD and grimy seller of second-hand books.
He is gone, and his memory is embalmed in
two popular reports, — one that New Orleans
and an immense fortune has claimed him,
the other that he is dead. Peace be with
him in any case, for one day he stood on a
table in the back part of his shop, and, mur-
muring words which he called English, but
which none but a Creole Frenchman could
understond, began stirring about in the
thick dust of a certain shelf. Among a
shower of Oriental manuscripts, old English
books minus their covers, and the usual run
of an old book-shop, there was one flat, gray
octavo, which, being gingerly pried open,
proved to be all hooks and eyes — ^in fact the
Grammatica Damulica. If the question
should arise why Damulica and Tamil are
interchangeable, let it be understood that the
Indians are to blame. They do not care a
button whether jrou pronounce it D or T.

The next thmg to do was to attempt
roughly the deciphering of one or two letters
of the curious alphabet. The hook which
represented K was not only oftenest recur-
reit in the words, but looked strangely like
the same letter in Sanskrit ; much thinner, it
is true, and very much curled. Then there
was a nasal formed of three joined slim O's,



which, together with a down-stroke, looked
the shadow of that Sanskrit '* n " which is pro-
nounced from the roof of the mouth. Pro-
ceeding in this manner, the likeness of the
Tamil written character to Sanskrit became
patent, and memory hastened to recall a
passage in a paper of Professor Wm. D wight
Whitney on India — now published in his
second series of "Oriental and Linguistic
Studies " — in which he alludes to the Tamils
as a people found in India by that Sanskrit-
speaking race calling itself Aiya which
imposed its religion and letters on the occu-
pants of the soil. This, then, was a Grammar
of that people, and its written character
showed the foreign source. In one alphabet,
as in the other, the lengthening of words by a
down-stroke placed immediately behind them
is almost the same, as also the signs for the
vowels " o " and " i " when they occur in the
middle of a word. The same sign for " e **
has been shifted from above the consonant
to a position before it, and receives in Tamil
hands a fine spiral sweep which gives it the
shape of a pine shaving. As a consequence,
the open, rolling text scorns space and that
economy of paper which produces compact-
ness in other languages. The writer of Tamil
has no taste for the Sanskrit dot above the
line which represents an " m," just as Western
monks abbreviated the same letter in Latin.
His " m " is an open right angle with a long
foot ending in a flourish. But another fact
of later discovery accounted for the peculiar
length of Tamil words. Like all nations, it
has its own fashion of articulation and proba-
bly its own individuality in the organs of
speech. This consists in the inability or dis-
like to pronounce many combinations of con-
sonants. Consequently short syllables con-
taining one consonant take the place of two or
three consonants, somewhat as Italian appears
when compared to German. The tendency
is shown in words of Sanskrit origin ; thus,
Brahma becomes Biruma. A single sound
will sometimes take up half an inch of paper
if the characters be printed on the scale, as
to height, of the capitals on this page.

But curiosity once satisfied as to the iden-
tity of Grammatica Damulica, the next point
of interest was the title-page. There Bar-
tholomaeus Ziegenbalg, Missionary of his
Most Serene King of Denmark in the
Oriental Indies, informs us that his book was
composed on a travel through Eiu:ope, tr,- on
a Danish ship. Such particularity of state-



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HOOKS AND EYES.



ment on a red and black title-page, dated
MDCCXVI, having invited in an immediate
dipping into the Latin prefece, it appeared
that it was by the nod of God (nutu JDd),
as well as the command of the Most Serene
Frederick IV., that Bartholomaeus abode for
ten years in the Danish colony of Tranque-
bar on the east coast above Ceylon.

Having studied this Damulic language for
the space of eight months, he not only
understood the speech and writings of the
" barbarians,'' but himself began to speak
" with an Indian lip." He used the long
return voyage to write his Grammar, and
does not fail to tell us why he is competent
For in the second year of his sojourn he
began to penetrate more deeply into the
nature and sources of Indian superstition, in
order to its more complete overthrow. To
this end such Damulic books as he can get
by prayers or purchase were compared and
studied day and night, not without assistance
of interpreters. " For it has its own rough
spots, this Damulic literature; it has almost
mexplicable labyrinths; nay, rather the super-
stition and idol-mania latent in it has vul-
garities imbearable by the wise man, mixed
up with the most absurd fables which cohere
like the dreams of a sick man." This is the
petulance of the missionary; on the ground
of taste and science he is more liberal :

" For the Malabar people — so called by
Europeans — ^if we consider them in the way
of leamedness, are, in their own manner, most
cultivated with respect to letters, and almost
every kind of knowledges; moreover, by
reason of climate and a quick nature, skillful,
ingenious, and most wide-awake (eoccitatis-
sima)y abounding in books which they make
from leaves of certain trees, and inscribe with
wonderful quickness and elegance by means
of iron and steel pens without any assistance
of table or other rest for the arm, but suspen-
ded in their hands. Especially rich are they
in the poetic art and in metrical writings."

In 17 12 the arrival at the colony of men
who not only imderstood type-setting, but
type-founding, allowed Bartholomaeus to put
the New Testament before Tamils and Por-
tuguese in their respective tongues, so that
Europeans, half-castes, and natives should
not want the sacred book. But they were
much in need of paper, and the keen mis-
sionary, as if it were a pity such a fiber
should not be used, advises that the natives
make paper from their " flax-bearing plant
(Gossipium)," which abounded on the Coro-
mandel coast. This was cotton, which was
not imported into England from India till



the close of the century. Ziegenbalg eo^
his preface with a grand flourish of tnimpe&
in honor of the Serenities and Most LearDe6
who sent him to Tranquebar and assbied
him when there.

Here truly was a man worth meedag
again I A fortunate circimistance soon aki
drew attention to another book of his, m
which the spirit of the imcompromisi^
missionary could take a stronger flight thas
in a Latin preface of a Grammar. This a
called "Thirty-four Conferences between
Danish Missionaries and Malabarian Bb-
mans." London, 17 19.

Here Ziegenbalg is in his element li
March of 1708 he takes a journey to Dinik-
uddeur, and, entering the Garden of the
Brahmans' Inn, seats himself on the grasL
The Brahmans flock around, and he exixi&
them ; after which he distributes twenty^
sermons, printed by himself in the Tamii
tongue. Presently a Brahman arises, aoi
with great courtesy, asks for news, for ligit
for instruction concerning the missionaiT^
faith. Then Ziegenbalg, a subject of the
King of Prussia, the trsuislator cal^ him.
opens his mouth after this wise :

" How can you believe the foul nonsense
in your sacred books ? Buddireu, Wisdifim
and Biruma quarreled together about I^
cedence, whereupon Buddireu Subb'd
Wischtnu and struck of Biruma's Head
The God Raschanidizen ran raving Mad
for a considerable time. Ramen and Letb-
schemen wag'd such bloody Wais widi
Rawanen as ended in the utter Destroctia
of all the Three Fighting Deities. Yof
God Ischokkanaden acted Sixty-four CoID^
dies in this Country (1 1) ; Wischtnu is slojh
ing upon Serpents m a Sea of Milk ; ^
Pulleiar is Continually eating and diiDbsf
on a Milky Sea, sweetened with the ficea
Sugar; Isuren is everlastingly Dancingr
These are the atchievments of your G06
thro* whom you expect Eternal Happincssj"

The poor heathen have no chana "^
Ziegenbalg, who does not hesitate to call »
spade a spade. Ofi one occasion he ride*
near a Pagoda, and is suddenly pelted witk
maledictions by Brahmans. Instantly ^
alights, and asks the reason. HeisW'
for the fray. "Why should I not ride hj)
horse in the neighborhood of your Uoodj
idols of wood and paint ? " Fortunately
a number of Mohammedans present joi^
with him in ridiculing the idol-woiship^
who slink away. On another occasi^
infuriates the Brahmans by offering to deflK?**
ish their gods if they wiD protect him from tbf



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HOOKS AND EYES.



365



rage of the multitude, but with all provoca-
tion they are seldom angry or uncivil. A
plaintive tone pervades their words, even as
reported by Ziegenbalg. They acknowledge



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 62 of 163)