George Streynsham Master.

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" No," she said, " bud a man wad godd
some *ouses to rend, muz ee nod boun* to
ged 'is rend ? "

" Boun* to ged — ah ! yez ee muz do 'is
possible to ged 'is rend. Oh! certain/if^.
Ee is ridge, bud ee need a lill money, bad,
bad. Fo' w'at ? " The excited speaker
rose to her feet under a sudden inspiration.
^^TeneZy Mademoiselle P^ She began to make
great show of unfastening her dress.

^^MaiSy comment t " demanded the suffer-
ing daughter.

" Yez ! " continued Aurore, keeping up
the demonstration, " you wand 'im to *ave
'is rend so bad! An' I godd honely my
cloze; so you juz tague diz to you* fine
gen'leman, 'Sieur Honor6 Grandissime."

" Ah-h-h-h ! " cried the martyr.

"An' you is righd," persisted the tor-
mentor, still unfastening; but the daughter's
tears gushed forth, and the repentant tease
threw herself upon her knees, drew her
child's head into her bosom and wept afiresh.

.Ah! there is a power in hydraulics of
which natural philosophy speaketh not.
There be tears that weaken and tears that
debase; but when two women are in trouble
— ^more trouble than they can speak, and
have none to cling to but each other, your
" good cry " mutually enjoyed, cools the air
like a Nile fireshet, revives fortitude, new-
fertilizes hope and gives the widow and the
fatherless strength to rise up and smile like
the fiiiitful fields.

Half an hour was passed in council ; at the
end of which they stood beneath their lofty
mantel-shelf, each with a foot on a brazen
fire-dog, and no conclusion reached.

"Ah, my child!" — ^they had come to
themselves now and were speaking in their
peculiar French — " if we had here in these
hands but the tenth part of what your papa
often played away in one night without once
getting angry ! But we have not. Ah !
hut your father was a fine fellow ; if he could

have lived for you to know him ! So ac-
complished! Ha, ha, ha! I can never
avoid laughing, when I remember him
teaching me to speak English; I used to
enrage him so!"

The daughter brought the conversation
back to the subject of discussion. There
were nineteen days yet allowed them. God
knows — by the expiration of that time they
might be able to pay. With the two music
scholars whom she then had and three
more whom she had some hope to get, she
made bold to say they could pay the rent

" Ah, Clotilde, my child," exclaimed Au-
rore, with sudden brightness, "you don't
need a mask and costume to resemble your
great-grandmother, the casket-girl!" Au-
rore felt sure, on her part, that with the
one embroidery scholar then imder her tute-
lage, and the three others who had declined
to take lessons, they could easily pay the
rent — and how kind it was of Monsieur, the
aged father of that one embroidery scholar,
to procure those invitations to the ball!
The dear old man ! He said he must see
one more ball before he should die.

Aurore looked so pretty in the reverie
into which she fell that her daughter was
content to admire her silently.

" Clotilde," said the mother, presently
looking up, " do you remember the evening
you treated me so ill ? "

The daughter smiled at the preposterous

" I did not treat you ill."

" Yes, don't you know — the evening you
made me lose my purse ? "

"Certainly, I know!" The daughter
took her foot fix)m the andiron; her eyes
lighted up aggressively. " For losing your
purse blame yourself. For the way you
found it again — which was far worse — thank
Palmyre. If you had not asked her to find
it and shared the gold with her we could
have returned with it to 'Sieur Frowenfel* ;
but now we are ashamed to let him see us.
I do not doubt he filled the purse."

" He ? He never knew it was empty.
It was M. Nobody who filled it. Palmyre
says that Papa L6bat "

" Ha ! " exclaimed Clotilde at this super-
stitious mention.

The mother tossed her head and turned
her back, swallowing the unendurable bit-
terness of being rebuked by her daughter.
But the cloud hung over but a moment

" Clotilde," she said, a minute after, turn-
ing with a look of sun-bright resolve, " I
am going to see him."

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'* To see whom ? " asked the other, look-
ing back from the window, whither she had
gone to recover from a reactionary trem-

** To whom, my child ? Why "

** You do not expect mercy from Honor6
Grandissime ? You would not ask it ? "

" No. There is no mercy in the Grand-
issime blood; but cannot I demand justice ?
Ha ! it is justice that I shall demand ! "

" And you will really go and see him ? '*

"You will see, Mademoiselle," replied
Aurore, dropping a broom with which she
had begim to sweep up some spilled buttons.

"And I with you?"

" No I To a counting-room ? To the
presence of the chief of that detestable
race ? No I "

" But you don't know where his office is."

" Anybody oln teU me."

Preparation began at once. By and

" Clotilde."

Clotilde was stooping behind her mother,
with a ribbon between her lips, arranging a

" M-m-m."

"You must not watch me go out of
sight ; do you hear ? • • But it is dan-
gerous. I knew of a gentleman who watched
his wife go out of his sight and she never
came back ! "

" Hold still !" said Clotilde.

" But when my hand itches," retorted
Aurore in a high key, " haven't I got to put
it instantly into my pocket if I want the
money to come there ! Well, then ! "

The daughter proposed to go to the kitchen
and tell Alphonsina to put on her shoes.

" My child," cried Aiurore, " you are
crazy ! Do you want Alphonsina to be
seized for the rent ? "

" But you cannot go alone — and on foot ! "
"I must go alone; and — can you lend
me your carriage? Ah, you have none?
Certainly I must go alone and on foot if I
am to say I cannot pay the rent It is no
indiscretion of mine. If anything happens to
me it is M. Grandissime who is responsible."
Now she is ready for the adventurous
errand. She darts to the mirror. The
high-water marks are gone from her eyes.
She wheels half around and looks over her
shoulder. The flaring bonnet and loose rib-
bons gave her a more girlish look than ever.
" Now which is the older, little old
woman ?" she chirrups, and smites her
daughter's cheek softly with her palm.
" And you are not afraid to go alone ? "
" No ; but remember ! look at that dog ! "
The brute sinks apologetically to the
floor. Clotilde opens the street door, hands
Aurore the note, Aurore lays a frantic kiss
upon her lips, pressing it on tight so as to
get it again when she comes back, and —
while Clotilde calls the cook to gather up
the buttons and take away the broom, and
while the cook, to make one trip of it, gath-
ers the hound into her bosom and carries
broom and dog out together — ^Aurore sallies
forth, leaving Clotilde to resume her sewing
and await the coming of a guitar scholar.

" It will keep her ftiUy an hour," thought
the girl, far from imagining that Aurore had
set about a little private business which she
proposed to herself to accomplish before
she even started in the direction of M.
Grandissime's counting-rooms.

(To be coDttnued).

Vol. XIX.— 20.


What honey in the year's last flowers can hide.
These little yellow butterflies may know:
With falling leaves they waver to and fro.

Or on the swinging tops of asters ride.

But I am weary of the summer's pride
And sick September's simulated show:
Why do the colder winds delay to blow

And bring the pleasant hours that we abide ;

To curtained alcove and sweet household talks.
Or sweeter silence by our flickering Lars,

Returning late from autumn evening walks
Upon the frosty hills, while reddening Mars

Hangs low between the withered mullein stalks
And upward throngs the host of winter stars ?

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Taylor's versatility is shown in his lyr-
ical remains. Much of his poedy does not
bear its maker's hand-mark so distinctly as
that of Longfellow or Whittier is wont to
do. His subjects and modes of treatment
are exceedingly varied, and the former may
be assorted in groups, — the classical pieces,
the dithyrambic lyrics, the poems of travel,
and those of hearth and home. In any
mood he was apt to reach a certain stan-
dard of merit ; he rarely failed. But there
was one field — though he scarcely seemed
to realize its value — so much his own as to
breed for him a number of rough imitators.
From it he made such studies of the rural
scenes and characters he best knew, as
"John Reid," "The Old Pennsylvania
Farmer," and that lovely ballad, unexcelled
in truth and tenderness of feeling — "The
Quaker Widow " :

"Thee finds me in the garden, Hannah, — come

in I Tis kind of thee
To wait until the Friends were gone, who came

to comfort me.
The still and quiet company a peace may give,

But blessed is the single heart that comes to us

at need.

•* Come, sit thee down ! Here is the bench where

Benjamin would sit
On First-day afternoons in spring, and watch the

swallows flit;
He loved to smell the sprouting box, and hear the

pleasant bees
Go Humming round the lilacs and through the


"I think he loved the spring— not that he cared

for flowers. Most men
Think such things foolishness — but we were first

acquainted then.
One spring: the next, he spoke his mind; the

third, I was his wife.
And in the spring (it happened so) our children

entered life."

Some of the touches are perfect :

*'*Tis hard to change so late in life, but we must

be resigned;
The Lord l(#oks down contentedly upon a willing


The poet more rarely expressed that pas-
sion which feeds itself on rapture or heart-

break and the ecstasy of despair. Even
his noon-day health and manliness blunted
his delicacy of touch. One might well re-
fer, in illustration of the difference between
the suggestive, idealistic use of a theme and
the reverse, to Heine's couplets on "The
Palm and the Pine" and Taylor's longer
poem with that title. And yet, when he
felt with his whole heart, he could be not
only refined, but highly imaginative, as in
" Euphorion," — a poem addressed to friends
who had lost a dreamy and beautiful child :

" For, through the crystal of your tears,
His love and beauty fairer shine;

The shadows of advancing years

Draw back, and leave him all divine.

"And Death, that took him, cannot claim
The smallest vesture of his birth, —

The little life, a dancing flame
That hovered o*er the hills of earth, —

"The finer soul, that unto ours
A subtle perfume seemed to be.

Like incense blown from April flowers
Beside the scarred and thorny tree, —

"The wondering eyes, that ever saw
Some fleeting mystery in the air.

And felt the stars of evening draw

His heart to silence, childhood's prayer ! *'

These stanzas are at the top mark, I think,
of Taylor's lyrical genius. The man who
could write them, and who composed the
Bedouin Song and the Pennsylvanian idyls,
was an American poet whose fame should
be dear to his countrymen. But he did
much more. Of what kind, and imder
what conditions ? Here comes in the les-
son of his life as a poet, apd it is chiefly as a
poet that we are considering him.

Authors are most sure to give us some-
thing of value when they render the feeling
of localities to which they belong. A sym-
pathetic poet is in danger of losing his
birthright through much knowledge of the
world at large. Shelley wandered every-
where, but never was there a poet more
subjective. He found in the haunted
chambers of his own soul the music, the
prophesy, which he uttered afar. The mur-
mur of the Appenines, the mist of the Eu-
ganean Hills, were merely the voice and
drapery of his own imagining, and with

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him the ideal was the real. Byron, again,
used all skies, all persons, as the mirror of
himself, and forced every region to contrib-
ute to the study of his personal nature.
Brummagem Byrons more than once have
aped his princely progress, but Taylor
was too honest and sincere to figure among
these. His Byronism ended with his
youth. He was patriotic, always Ameri-
can, and should have exhibited the national
spirit in his verse no less than in his career.
I think he was a poet whose mark would
have been still higher had his relations been
confined, if not to the section that gave
him birth, at most to his own land and

To venture, for once, upon comparisons,
I would say that the native qualities of
Taylor were not unlike those of Bums and
Whittier ; that these three poets were more
similar, as they came from the mold, than
any others whom I call to mind. Bums
was a healthy country lad, full of the prod-
igal force of Nature, blown on by her
breezes, nurtured by her soil, thrilled by
poetic emotions as he felt the rich sap of
youth coursing through his veins. His in-
fluences were those of his own people.
His first efforts imitated the didactic plod-
ding of the "Caledonian Bards." When
somewhat matured, he awoke to the beauty
of the true Scottish minstrelsy, and adapted
his own song to it. Suppose that opportu-
nities for travel, wider culture, varied read-
ing, the mastery of languages, had been
given him. One nail drives out another.
He might have been hampered with his ac-
quisitions; his Muse would have subdued
her strength in diverse strains; he would
no longer have been the fine, untrammeled
specialist^ — and might have wholly lost his
native wood-notes wild.

Whittier, another national poet, owes his
6une, as one of the most genuine, to his
seclusion — ^voluntary or involuntary — and
to his presentation of the themes and feel-
ing nearest the heart of New £ngland.
His work has the greater value because it
pertains to these distinctive things, and thus
is a specific addition to American song.
His early pieces, like those of Bums, were
artificial. It was not until after growth and
fervid conviction that his lips were really
touched with fire.

It was Taylor's good fortune, as a man
who would live his Ufe, — his ill fortune, it
may be, as a poet, — to obtain the culture
and experience for which his youth had
longed. We admire his pluck and advent-

ure, but lament what was lost to poetry.
At just the time when his fine spirit, bound
within a home range, would have made the
most of its surroundings, he was able to
travel, and to gratify without stint his love
of action and observation. Unconsciously,
his Muse became bewildered. His gift and
his poetic yearning were always by him ;
but surely he lost much in exchange for
what he gained. One can readily conceive
the lyrical genius of Whittier as subject to
be diffused or perplexed under similar con-
ditions. The question lies between personal
attainment and the extreme utilization of an
artist's special gift. Taylor chose the former.
He said, ** If I have any ambition, it is to
enjoy as large a store of experience as this
earth can furnish." Circumstances aided
him in his choice. As a youth, he thought
little of the effect upon his poetic career,
or possibly thought he was promoting it
Later on, however "rich and ample" his
life, he felt a sense of uneasiness. He cared
most of all, in his heart of hearts, to be a
poet, and saw that, while going afar to in-
voke the Muse, he had given her the less
chance to seek him, as she sought out one
who said, "The Poetic Genius of my country
found me at the plow and threw her inspir-
ing mantle over me." When she does visit
her favorite, it is not safe to bid her wait
for a more convenient season. She may hide
herself when summoned, or permit a mislead-
ing phantom to take her place.

Choose between the ideal and the actual
— such is the alternative of art. Few can
eat their cake and have it, too. Delight of
life and action has tumed aside many a swift
runner, as I have shown in reference to Do-
mett and Home, poets of a less indomitable
industry than Taylor's, who found the joys
of adventure even more alluring than he
did, and dallied with their art for long and
almost irremediable spaces.

Whatever may be said of the benefits and
disadvantages of culture, it often has been
a practical injury to the poet — since no one
is sure of life's full limit — to set before him
too high and broad an ideal. It may not
always be best to aim at the sun. We ask
of a man the one thing he can do better
than other men, and often, as in the legend
of Caspar Becerra, " that is best which lieth
nearest." Then there are hindrances bom
of success itself, and to these Taylor was
unusually subjected. He became involved
with the literary life of New York, and at a
trying time. It was just early enough for
him to receive a good word from Poe, and

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late enough for him to witness the rout of
the " literati." Even a sham literary feeling
may be better than no feeling at all. The
pursuit of letters now was mainly left to the
Boston writers, while the New York wits and
authors betook themselves to journalism,
and with material success.

Has New York gained since then as a
literary center? Yes, and no. It is now
the base from which our authors draw their
supplies. The great journals, the most
profitable magazines, the largest publishing
houses, are located there. It is the chief
center of distribution, and will so remain
until some future period shall establish a dif-
ferentiation between the typical literatures
of this vast country, and number as many
great centers of distribution as there shall
be characteristic sections. But the atmos-
phere, — the public feeling which alone can
foster rising art and make its workmen glad
and creative, — this gathers more slowly.
Authors are tolerated, respected, valued as
accessories; but not always understood, nor
often intrusted with the care of important
movements. New York has a sufficiency
of writers and of literary elements for the
needs of many smaller cities ; but the former
are without concert of action, and do not
feel themselves sustained by that sympathetic
interest which, for example, encourages the
music of Naples, the art of Paris or Rome.
What intellectual quality exists must be
found among the writers, artists, savants,— of
themselves numerous enough to make an
audience or colonize a university town.
New York is great in material progress, gener-
ous in charities ; but still too practical even
to affect an aesthetic sentiment. True, her
wealthy classes are groping toward the com-
prehension of what is beautiful. They have
schools of design, and are surpassing not
only the troglodytes, but our more immedi-
ate ancestors, in mural decoration. But
what is intellectually fine we have yet to
pursue with any general ardor. The city
took a pride in Bryant, for instance, as a
man and as a picturesque figure on state
occasions ; but how many of his townsmen
had read the most of his poems, or cared to
read them ? Meanwhile, in Boston, phrases,
such as " Emerson says," or " Lowell says,"
have been a staple part of ordinary conver-
sation. Herein is no reason for complaint ;
all is as it should be. If individuals are not
coddled in New York, they at least have an
equal chance, and there are not lacking
assurances of a speedy and rich develop-
ment. Already it is the fashion to seek

admission to the Century and the University
clubs. The cry of " Asses and savants to
the center 1" is no longer possible. The
present longing for aesthetic luxury in New
York is a sign that her ideal advance has
begun. Her golden age of art and literature
cannot be far distant; the public temper
will of itself breed her artists and poets.

Taylor's lot was thus cast in a somewhat
uncongenial city, and he often found him-
self praised and courted where he needed
the stimulus of intelligent sympathy. Again,
he took to journalism, and it was his main-
stay through life. During the last thirty
years. New York journalism has absorbed
much of our best talent, and well it might,
for it demands the best. No severer test
can be applied to a writer than that of his
ability to furnish leading articles regularly.
More than one, who has succeeded easily
as a bookwright or essayist, hafi found his
equipment and his power of composition
inadequate to the off-hand production of
compact, polished, well-informed leaders,
such as are needed for the editorial pages
of our great newspapers. Journalism is an
art ; but under our system it brings little be-
yond his weekly stipend to the sub-journal-
ist. The stipend is sure, and that means a
great deal to one who lives by his pen.
Newspapers thus far have supplied the
readiest market to a writer, and the maga-
zines next to them. In a chapter upon
Hood, London's journalist-poet, I have
claimed that the task of daily writing for the
press, while a good staff, is a poor crutch ;
It diffuses the heat of authorship, checks
ideahsm, retards the construction of master-
pieces. Besides, it brings an author into
attrition with members of the craft who
possibly know him so familiarly as to under-
rate him. He is subjected to local jealousies,
to the over-praise of the newspaper which
befiiends him, and sometimes to the unjust
or ungenerous treatment of rival sheets.
All this may be thought an evil peculiar to
New York, and one which we shall outgrow.
But the same phenomena are visible in the
matured newspaper-life of the capitals of
England and France, and must be accepted
as part of a journalist's warfare and surround-

Newspaper-work, then, to which Taylor
owed so much of his current reputation, also
restricted his advance as a creative author.
He always was compelled, by this and by
lecturing, to hold the popularity he had
gained, and to obtain the means of carrying
out his scheme of life. As a man of note, his

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home-pride grew upon him. He chose to
realize a dream of possessing a sightly house
and broad acres in Kennett, — a manor-home
where he could place his parents, and find a
retreat in times of rest. All this he did,
in his early prime; such a man can have
anything for which he will pay the price.
Its cost to him, no doubt, was a lessening
of his quality as a poet. Even in 1854 he
had begun to lecture, and the practice be-
came a lucrative source of income. Like
journalism, it broke up his art-life, which
was renewed at unfrequent intervals. A
pressure of social and professional duties —
meetings, speeches, correspondence — soon
bore upon him severely. Under it he made
a good fight ; hopefiil, generous, considerate,
trying to do something in a field where the
laborers were too few. How gladly would
he have exchanged it for one of thought
and imaginative work! But men do not
escape firom tasks they once assume, and he
had undertaken to earn a large income and
survey the world, on the one hand, and to
hold the Muse by her pinions on the other.
His poetry had to be composed " between
spells " and on the wing; more than all, the
versatile habit of his life became a second
nature to him.

One need not dwell upon the desirable-
ness of calm and seclusion for the production
of the best literature. With individuals, as
with nations, stirring periods of action are not
favorable to idealistic art. There is much
unfisiimess, however, in the blame to which
public men in this country are subjected for
their overwork. This is rather a matter of
necessity than of choice. People in the old
world largely inherit their means and meth-
ods from their forbears; new men, even there,
often have the habit of overwork fixed up-
on them by the time their footholds are
secured. But the statesmen and thinkers
of Europe start with assmed incomes more
commonly than do our own, and are not
forced to earn their bread as they go along.
Our Wilsons, Evartses, Curtises, have had
to consider first the means of living, and to
be statesmen or writers in addition. Our
Eastern Brahmins, happily, have had for the
most part resources which they have enlarged
by the help of such gentle, scholarly pur-
suits as the service of a university aflfords.
They have shown themselves quite willing
to indulge a spirit of restfulness and calm.
So long as Americans who do not inherit
estates have the Anglo-Saxon pride and
domestic tenderness, they wiD be tempted to
do woric elsewhere than in a garret, and rarely

be able to drive from their minds the thought

Online LibraryGeorge Streynsham MasterThe Century, Volume 19 → online text (page 47 of 160)