Francis Whiting Halsey.

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gave him. Barrie's purpose would have missed

The reminiscences of Elizabeth Cady Stanton
reminded us how much women have done to increase
the delights men take in memoirs. What a store of
pleasure lies ready for any one who has not read
Caroline Fox's " Memories of Old Friends," and how
sweet and beneficent a life is unfolded in the recollec-
tions of Mary Cowden Clarke. Readers several
years ago saw in Mrs. Sherwood's " An Epistle to
Posterity " how wide a range of experience had been
possible to an American woman, with recollections
going back to childhood, — when, in riding from a
railway station to Marshfield, she sat on a box with
Daniel Webster, — and embracing Rome and Paris,


England and Switzerland. What profit and charm
also lie in the " Letters " of Dorothy Osborne, and
the biography of one of the sweetest and bravest of
New England women, as described in the memoir of
Louisa M. Alcott.

Mrs. Stanton's recollections, covering eighty years,
reached the public as a surprise, having been almost
unheralded. But they are interesting for more legiti-
mate reasons — the impressive and protracted public
career of the author ; her inflexible devotion to and
sincerity in a cause long unpopular. Whatever
ridicule may have descended upon the woman's
rights movement twenty or thirty years ago, one
finds little of it extant now, and to more than any
other cause this is due to Mrs. Stanton. She, from
the first, gave the movement character, dignity, and

Here was a woman — in the highest American
sense well born, well educated, at home in polite
society, welcome everywhere, a mother of many chil-
dren, a devoted wife, an ornament alike to society
and her sex. Twenty-five years ago, when a student
in an American college, one morning in a lecture room
there appeared in one of the front seats, to which
she had been escorted by the president of the college,
a woman with white hair, a round, cheerful, radiant
face, and beautifully clad, with a carriage all grace and
gentleness, to whom every boy in that crowded room
would gladly have made respectful obeisance. She
had a son in that class room, a boy whom we all


loved, who was the peer of our best, — and the woman
was Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 1

1 A brief list of other memoir writers may be given here. Among
literary men and women should at least be named : Sir Henry Taylor,
Evelyn, Crabbe Robinson, Greeley, Newman, Julia Ward Howe, John
Stuart Mill, Charles T. Congdon, and Henry F. Amiel. Among those
whose books relate to public affairs, political and military, are these :
General Grant, General Sherman, General Sheridan, Thomas H.
Benton, James G. Blaine, Gouverneur Morris, Reuben Davis, Meneval,
Bourrienne, Mme. Junot, Garibaldi, Cellini, Commines, Greville, Gram-
mont, Saint-Simon, Mme. Campan, and Pepys. Others who do not
readily fall into either of these classes are Franklin, Berlioz, Spurgeon,
Samuel Breck, Audubon, Joseph Jefferson, Arthur Young, and Lord
Herbert of Cherbury.

This list is not intended to be a select enumeration of the very
best; nor has it been chosen at random. Some thirty writers are
named. They are offered merely as among the best. Any restricted
list would be likely to include the most of them.



Of inadequate pecuniary rewards, where better
shall we find an illustration than in Burns ? Milton,
Hawthorne, Carlyle, Poe, and all that company who
struggled so long but not in vain, must yield first
place to him.

The river Ayr is closely identified with the greater
part of Burns's life. Dying at thirty-seven, all but
ten years of a short career was spent in the Scottish
shire to which this stream gives its name. Alloway,
the birthplace, lies only a few miles from the town
of Ayr, which has its site where the river enters the
sea. On its banks one of the largest villages is
Mauchline. The praise which Burns has bestowed
upon those waters need not be ascribed to mere partial-
ity. For half its course the Ayr is romantic and
picturesque. With precipitous and rocky banks
clothed with trees, its dark waters wind their way
to the sea.

Burns was living on the Mossgiel farm when he
published his first volume — that famous Kilmarnock
edition of " Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect,"
now one of the scarcest volumes in the literature of
that time, a single copy of it being worth several



times more than the whole edition cost the pub-
lishers. Kilmarnock lies not far from Mossgiel —
to the northwest of it in the same Scotch shire.
From the sale of this edition Burns derived ^20,
which sum he intended to use in paying for his
passage to Jamaica. Great was the immediate popu-
larity of the volume, with old and young alike,
throughout Ayrshire. "I can well remember," wrote
Robert Heron years afterward, "how even ploughboys
and maidservants would have gladly bestowed the
wages they earned most hardly, and with which they
wanted to purchase necessary clothing, if they might
procure the works of Burns." It was this volume
which led the great Dugald Stewart to seek the
acquaintance of Burns. But it led to a more momen-
tous event in Burns's life — that triumphant visit to
Edinburgh, the journey being made on a borrowed
pony, which he rode from his home to the famous
capital of the north, where the greatest honours a poet
could receive awaited him.

It is worth while recalling here some of the inci-
dents of that Edinburgh visit. Lion that he became
in what was then perhaps the most exclusive literary
society in the world, he lodged there for weeks with
an old Mauchline acquaintance, sharing with him a
single room and bed, for which they together paid three
shillings a week. He sought out alone the neglected
grave of Fergusson, knelt and kissed the sod above
it, and resolved to erect the monument he afterward
did raise there. Without a single letter of introduc-


tion, there was opened to him every door in Edin-
burgh. He not only won the good opinion of
patrician men, but of high-born ladies, one of
whom, a duchess, declared that he was the only
man who in his behaviour and conversation had ever
taken her off her feet. Francis Jeffrey, then a lad,
saw him in the street, and never forgot the sight.
Walter Scott, whose age was only fifteen, chanced
to be in a room where Burns was entertained. The
boy was able to supply him with some information
which no one else happened to possess, whereupon
Burns, as Scott afterward said, "rewarded me with
a look and a word, which, though of mere civility,
I then received with very great pleasure."

With every person whom he met Burns held his
own in that intellectual capital. He showed, as
Lockhart said, that in the society of the most emi-
nent men of Scotland, he was where " he was entitled
to be." Every one was struck by his manly bearing,
and with the extraordinary vigour of his conversation.
" Nothing perhaps was more remarkable," said
Dugald Stewart, " among his various attainments,
than the fluency, precision, and originality of his
language when he spoke in company." Plainly
dressed in his best farmer clothes, Burns mani-
fested genuine freedom of spirit and originality of
thought. Whatever might be the social superiority
of those whom he met, he through higher intellectual
gifts dominated the scene. It was this Edinburgh
triumph, following the Kilmarnock success, which


finally induced Burns to abandon his Jamaica scheme
and remain in Scotland, where only ten years of life
remained ere the light of that heaven-inspired genius
should go out forever amid such ignoble sorrow.

The birthplace of Burns, the cottage of clay which
his father built with his own hands, may still be seen
at the roadside as one travels from Ayr toward the
bridge that crosses the Doon, — a cottage almost as
familiar in the world as the famous Stratford cottage,
— a bridge which Burns's own song has celebrated
for all time. Not far from the cottage rise the small
roofless walls of " the auld haunted kirk," forever
connected with the story of Tarn O'Shanter. Within
the same enclosure of green sleep the forefathers
of the hamlet, and among them the father of Burns.
William Burns cultivated a nursery garden at Allo-
way and was a devout man of stern probity and firm
temper — " a pleasant saint of the old Scottish
stamp," Principal Shairp calls him. For that immor-
tal picture of peasant life, "The Cotter's Saturday
Night," Burns's own home at Alloway served as the
model, after sketching which he declared with honest
pride, —

From scenes like these Old Scotia's grandeur springs.

Burns was seven years old when the father gave '
up his nursery garden at Alloway and leased another
farm two miles distant, bearing the name Mount
Oliphant. Here the poet lived from his seventh to
his eighteenth year, and here he received all the


education from teachers that he ever had — first
from Murdoch, whom his father, combining with
four neighbours, hired for the purpose, and second
from the father himself. Murdoch's reminiscences
of that time describe Gilbert Burns as having " all
the mirth and liveliness," while Robert " wore gen-
erally a grave and thoughtful look."

At Mount Oliphant stern was the struggle the
family had. Robert thrashed corn at thirteen, and
at fifteen was his father's chief labourer in the
field — a life which he afterward described as
combining "the cheerless gloom of a hermit with
the unceasing moil of a galley slave." Under
Murdoch's influence he was started in knowledge
of history and literature. He read lives of Hanni-
bal and Wallace, and the writings of Fergusson.
Smollett, Pope, and Addison became familiar to
him. French he acquired readily. The landlord of
Mount Oliphant had been generous in his treatment
of the family, but he died while they were tenants.
Their condition soon became hard, owing to a merci-
less factor, — a man "who wrote letters which set
the whole family in tears." His name is forgotten,
but his portrait the poet has drawn for all times.

Here, on this sterile soil, indications were first
given of that genius for writing verse which was
to win for the ploughman's son renown through the
world. Burns's earliest lines, called sometimes " O,
once I loved a Bonnie Lass," and sometimes " Hand-
some Nell," were composed at Mount Oliphant.


Nellie Kilpatrick, a young woman who laboured in
the fields with Burns, was the heroine of this song.

Unable to endure at Mount Oliphant the rapaci-
ties of the factor whose letter set the family in
tears, the poet's father in 1777 (the year of Bur-
goyne's surrender) removed to Lochlea, an upland,
undulating farm of 130 acres in the Parish of Tar-
bolton. Here seven years were spent, and they
were years of greater comfort than the family had
known before.

Now began that absorbing pastime to which so
many of Burns's early years were to be given — the
making of love. Gilbert Burns has told us how
his brother was in the secret of half the love
affairs of the whole Parish of Tarbolton, and how
he was never without at least one affair of his
own. Robert had always a particular jealousy of
people richer than himself or of more consequence ;
so that his love rarely settled on persons of this

In the Parish of Mauchline and two or three
miles distant from Lochlea lies the farm of Moss-
giel, to which in 1783 went the Burns brothers.
They had taken a lease of it on their own account.
Their father's affairs had been threatened with a
crash. A few months later the father died and was
buried in the old Alloway kirkyard. The widowed
mother and the younger children then joined the
brothers at Mossgiel — a farm of 118 upland acres,
the soil one of clay, and poor.


Burns began life at Mossgiel with good resolu-
tions, but to no successful results. " I read farm-
ing books," he says, " I calculated crops, I attended
markets, and, in short, in spite of the devil, the
world, and the flesh, I should have been a wise
man; but the first year from unfortunately buying
bad seed, the second from a late harvest, we lost
half our crops. This overset all my wisdom."

Four years were spent at Mossgiel. Three
things, says Principal Shairp, were witnessed by
that bare moorland farm — "the wreck of his hopes
as a farmer, the revelation of his genius as a poet,
and the frailty of his character as a man." Love-
making was a pastime which had filled a large
part of his thoughts at Mossgiel. But he was not
given to conviviality, for his brother has declared
that his private outlays, including his clothing,
never exceeded seven pounds a year. The farm-
house at Mossgiel still stands, although its walls
have been raised and a slate roof has supplanted
the thatched roof of the poet's time. The house
stands sixty yards back from the roadway, from
which it was shut out by a hedge of thorn, which
the brothers are said to have planted. Back of
the house lies the field where Burns ploughed up the
daisy. It was in another field near this house that
Burns overturned with his plough the mouse's nest.

The poems in which these events are commem-
orated were written here — in an upper room, or
garret, reached by trap stairs. " Thither," says


Chambers, "when he had returned from his day's
work, the poet used to retire and seat himself at a
small deal table lighted by a narrow skylight in
the roof to transcribe the verses which he had
composed in the fields. His favourite time for com-
position was at the plough. Long years after, his
sister, Mrs. Begg, used to tell how, when her
brother had gone forth again to field work, she
would steal up to the garret, and search the drawer
of the deal table for the verses which Robert had
newly transcribed." Here at Mossgiel were written
not only "To a Mountain Daisy," but "The Cot-
ter's Saturday Night " and many other compositions
which gave to his first-published volume its imme-
diate popularity all over Ayrshire.

Such were the scenes and such the privations
amid which from her own soil Nature raised up that
prince among Scotsmen, — the man in homespun,
to whom in Edinburgh was easily accorded his in-
tellectual inheritance, before whom the first minds
and the first personalities of that capital, so soon as
he appeared among them, gracefully made way.
Elemental talents, — how greater far are they than
all we may ever acquire in schools, and how to them
the world bows down, casting aside its constructed
framework of worldly rank, power, and wealth, and
all its pretensions to superiority !



Pepys's Diary is one of the curiosities of all litera-
ture. Written as it was in cipher and solely for its
author's pleasure, it lays bare an inner soul in its
most secret thoughts. Never again are we likely
to see so clearly exposed a man's follies and weak-
nesses. The reader is often at loss to understand
how any one possessed of sanity could have written
as Pepys wrote. His mental operations seem not
infrequently like those of the underwitted, or as if
a child's mind were at work. And yet Pepys had
very considerable parts; he was a man of mark in
his own day, intellectually and morally superior to
his immediate environment.

The period the diary covers is about ten years.
It lay in Magdalen College long neglected. In fact,
it was not until the year 1819 — or 115 years after
the death of Pepys — that Mr. John Smith, an under-
graduate of St. John's College, Cambridge, under-
took, at the instance of the Master of Magdalen, a
translation of the formidable manuscript. He was
engaged on the work nearly three years, and occu-
pied himself with it from twelve to fourteen hours
each day. During his labours John Smith must



have shared many of the delightful sensations of
another man of the same name when making ex-
plorations on the coast of North America. Four
years after its completion Lord Braybrooke, a brother
of the Master of Magdalen, published Smith's trans-
lation, with notes and a brief preface in which he
boldly declared, what everybody has since admitted,
that " there never was a publication more implicitly
to be relied upon for the authenticity of its statements
and the exactness with which every fact is detailed."

The Mynors Bright edition was published in Lon-
don in six volumes several years ago, the last volume
appearing in 1879. Mynors Bright was President
and Senior Fellow of Magdalen College, Cambridge,
when, in 1872, he had learned the cipher in which
the book was written, and at the suggestion of a
friend undertook to read the Diary afresh. The
cipher used by Pepys was not the system known as
" Rich's," as stated by Lord Braybrooke, but a sys-
tem composed by Shelton and detailed in a book
called " Tachy-graphy, or Short Writing : The most
Easie, Exact, and Speedie." With the help of the
edition of Shelton, published in 1671, Mr. Bright
deciphered the whole manuscript, and the chief re-
sult was about one-third more matter than any former
edition contained.

Mr. Bright's edition was at the time commonly
accepted as final, although in his preface he acknow-
ledged that he had neglected to use those parts
which gave accounts of Pepys's daily work in office.


It appears, however, that whereas Mr. Bright added
new matter equal to a third of the whole, he left
imprinted about one-fifth of the whole. But he
had translated the entire diary from that formi-
dable manuscript in cipher filling six volumes and
covering 3000 closely written pages, and he be-
queathed his transcript to Magdalen College.

Mr. Wheatley's later and now the most complete
edition is the result of a decision to print those por-
tions of the translation which Bright did not print.
In this edition we do not possess Pepys's entire work,
for exception was made in the case of u a few pas-
sages which cannot possibly be printed." Mr.
Wheatley, anticipating the charge of unnecessary
squeamishness that has since come from readers,
insisted that there was nothing squeamish about his
decision and begged readers "to have faith in the
judgment of the editor." Still the fact remains that
the edition lacks completeness, and that nothing
short of a personal examination of the manuscript at
Oxford — certainly a difficult task even if a possible
one — can enable any student of the work to know
what these passages are.

Pepys wrote them sometimes in French, again in
Latin or Greek, and even made use of Spanish. Mr.
Bright, in making the translation, was at first sur-
prised at these frequent uses of foreign tongues, and
we may readily imagine what the feelings of the
reverend gentleman were, once he had found their
equivalents in his own tongue. There does not


seem to exist any good reason why Mr. Wheatley
might not have allowed these passages to remain in
the several foreign tongues used by Pepys, either as
foot-notes or in the text. Certainly a custom which
had before been employed, and notably in the case of
Suetonius, might with advantage have been resorted
to for the purpose of giving the world an absolutely
complete version of this most famous and most inter-
esting of all diaries ever written.

Readers of the Diary have seldom been impressed
with its author as a man of elevated mind, large
capacity for usefulness, or dignity of person, and yet
we know that Pepys was much esteemed in his own
day, and that the honours which came to him were
fairly earned. No better evidence of this should be
required than that which the pure-minded and enlight-
ened John Evelyn wrote on the day of Pepys's death.
" A very worthy, industrious, and curious person was
Pepys," said he ; " none in England exceeding him
in knowledge of the navy." After his retirement
from office, Evelyn described him as living at Clap-
ham "in a very noble and sweet place, where he
enjoyed the fruits of his labours in great prosperity."

Pepys was no inconsiderable personage in his time.
Collier, who was his contemporary, affirms that he
" was without exception the greatest and most useful
minister that ever filled the same situations in Eng-
land." The rules and establishments at the Admi-
ralty, which remained in force when Collier wrote,
were of Pepys's own introduction, and he was "a


most studious promoter " of order and discipline.
In all persons whom he advanced in office the essen-
tials required were "sobriety, diligence, capacity,
loyalty, and subjection to command," and when these
were wanting "no interest or authority were capable
of moving him in favour of the highest pretender."
He discharged his duty "with perfect integrity"
and neglected his own fortune. He was held in
great esteem for his learning and judgment, and he
was uncommonly munificent in the advancement of
industry, learning, and the arts. Collier regarded his
morality as " the severest morality of a philosopher."
Morality is, of course, relative. Collier's statement,
true of Pepys in his time, could not be true in ours.
Better testimony than the words of Collier is the
fact that John Evelyn was Pepys's friend. Scott said
of Evelyn that his "Sylva" was still the manual of
English planters, and that his life, manners, and prin-
ciples, as illustrated in his memoirs, ought equally to
be the manual of English gentlemen. Evelyn re-
cords that Pepys " had been for near forty years so
much my particular friend that Mr. Jackson sent me
complete mourning, desiring me to be one to hold
up the pall of his magnificent obsequies," and adds
that Pepys " was universally beloved, hospitable, gen-
erous, learned in many things, skilled in music, and
a very great cherisher of learned men, of whom he
had the conversation." Pepys died in reduced cir-
cumstances, though he had seen very prosperous


The integrity of Pepys was beyond question, the
esteem in which he was held was great, and his learn-
ing found admirers. Many public enterprises were
directly benefited by him, and when he rose to office
as Secretary to the Admiralty the appointment was
strictly a reward of merit, no man in England being
thought to possess equal qualifications. How well
he conducted himself in office needs no proof further
than what is on record. He, along with very few,
had the courage to remain at his post in London
during the awful plague which desolated that town
in the time of the second Charles.

Not only did Pepys survive all the mutations of
office in Charles's time, but he held on into the reign
of the second James, at whose coronation, such was
the rank to which he had risen, Pepys marched in
the procession immediately behind the canopy of the
King. Pepys, we are to remember (and be this said
to his lasting honour), in that dissolute age of adven-
ture, while still without settled means of support,
made no ambitious marriage : his wife was Elizabeth
St. Michael, her parents French, "a beautiful and
portionless girl of fifteen."

The most trivial and casual items in this Diary
show a thousand times the complete sincerity with
which Pepys everywhere discloses his real nature.
Sir Arthur Helps long ago remarked that his diary
was the truest book ever written. Thackeray's praise
of "Tom Jones," as affording a rare picture of a real
man, may be applied to the Diary of Pepys ; for no-


where among the writings of men, either in books
intended for publication, letters intended for the per-
son to whom they were addressed, or in other writ-
ings of which we know, can be found so thorough a
revelation of the secret impulses, actual feelings, and
pleasures which pervade the life-history of a human

Pepys, using a cipher, felt absolutely secure in his
privacy. He never poses, never writes for any one
but himself, and probably never before, among all
the records human hands have made with pens, was
so lucid and trustworthy a record made of the secret
workings of a man's heart. Pepys, after his time,
was a worldly-minded man, ambitious to be with the
great, but faithful in the discharge of trusts. He had
more than one human weakness, — a marked love of
himself, more or less inexcusable self-indulgence, and
in many things was vain. These facts are incon-

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Online LibraryFrancis Whiting HalseyOur literary deluge and some of its deeper waters → online text (page 12 of 15)