Graham's Magazine, Vol. XXXIV, No. 5, May 1849 online

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species of magnetism incomprehensible but irresistible and _never
resisted_—that this genius which demonstrates itself in the simplest
gesture—or even by the absence of all—this genius which speaks without
a voice and flashes from the unopened eye—is but the result of
generally large mental power existing in a state of _absolute
proportion_—so that no one faculty has undue predominance. _That_
factitious “genius”—that “genius” in the popular sense—which is but
the manifestation of the abnormal predominance of some one faculty over
all the others—and, of course, at the expense and to the detriment, of
all the others—is a result of mental disease or rather, of organic
malformation of mind:—it is this and nothing more. Not only will such
“genius” fail, if turned aside from the path indicated by its
predominant faculty; but, even when pursuing this path—when producing
those works in which, certainly, it is _best_ calculated to
succeed—will give unmistakeable indications of _unsoundness_, in
respect to general intellect. Hence, indeed, arises the just idea that

“Great wit to madness nearly is allied.”

I say “_just_ idea;” for by “great wit,” in this case, the poet intends
precisely the pseudo-genius to which I refer. The true genius, on the
other hand, is necessarily, if not universal in its manifestations, at
least capable of universality; and if, attempting all things, it
succeeds in one rather better than in another, this is merely on account
of a certain bias by which _Taste_ leads it with more earnestness in the
one direction than in the other. With equal zeal, it would succeed
equally in all.

To sum up our results in respect to this very simple, but much _vexata

What the world calls “genius” is the state of mental disease arising
from the undue predominance of some one of the faculties. The works of
such genius are never sound in themselves and, in especial, always
betray the general mental insanity.

The _proportion_ of the mental faculties, in a case where the general
mental power is _not_ inordinate, gives that result which we distinguish
as _talent_:—and the talent is greater or less, first, as the general
mental power is greater or less; and, secondly, as the proportion of the
faculties is more or less absolute.

The proportion of the faculties, in a case where the mental power is
inordinately great, gives that result which _is_ the true _genius_ (but
which, on account of the proportion and seeming simplicity of its works,
is seldom acknowledged to _be_ so;) and the genius is greater or less,
first, as the general mental power is more or less inordinately great;
and, secondly, as the proportion of the faculties is more or less

An objection will be made:—that the greatest excess of mental power,
however proportionate, does not seem to satisfy our idea of genius,
unless we have, in addition, sensibility, passion, energy. The reply is,
that the “absolute proportion” spoken of, when applied to inordinate
mental power, gives, as a result, the appreciation of Beauty and horror
of Deformity which we call sensibility, together with that intense
vitality, which is implied when we speak of “Energy” or “Passion.”


“And Beauty draws us by a single hair.”—Capillary attraction, of


It is by no means clear, as regards the present revolutionary spirit of
Europe, that it is a spirit which “moveth altogether if it move at all.”
In Great Britain it may be kept quiet for half a century yet, by placing
at the head of affairs an experienced medical man. He should keep his
forefinger constantly on the pulse of the patient, and exhibit _panem_
in gentle doses, with as much _circenses_ as the stomach can be made to

[_Conclusion in our next._

* * * * *




(_Concluded from page 266._)

When Parisian society had passed the dread ordeal which bears the name
of the Reign of Terror, through continual scenes of blood and tears, it
seemed by a strange and almost unaccountable impulse to be impelled to
mirth and festivity. On the day after the disappearance of the
guillotine French frivolity resumed its sway with a thousand whims and
vagaries, to which the stern muse of history would pay no attention, but
to which, in this sketch of the follies of humanity, we may aptly
attend. One of the whimsicalities peculiar to the day is that in memory
of the sad toilette of the guillotine, when the hair was cropped by the
shears of the executioner, a similar _coiffure_ was the _mode_. Women
laid aside their luxuriant locks for a _coiffure à la victime_, and wore
a band of blood-red velvet around the neck, as if in derision of the
fall of the axe. This fashion, emanating in France, where recklessness
had been produced by the constant presence of danger, went the round of
the world, and the _coiffure à la victime_ was worn by both sexes in
quiet neighborhoods, which had learned only by report of the fearful
atrocities committed in the capital of civilization. Balls _à la
victime_ also became the vogue, and none were at first admitted to them
except those who had lost relations on the scaffold. To some of these
balls it was requisite not to have lost collaterals only, but a parent,
or brother, sister, husband or wife. There were exclusives even there,
and a new nobility of the scaffold was created. This was the era of
corsets _à la justice_ and bonnets _à la humanité_.

Away with care! Bring in the violin and minstrels! was the cry. A mania
for the dance pervaded all society. High and low, aristocrats and
people, antiques and moderns all danced. The chapel of the old Carmelite
convent became a ballroom, and the Jesuits’ college a place of
festivity, as did also the convents of _Saint-Sulpice_ of the _Filles de
Saint-Marie_. In the _guinguettes_ and in the most elegant society all
danced. “If the traces of crime and degradation were seen every where
else,” says a writer of that age, “a man of taste had at least the
consolation to find in these brilliant assemblages society not unlike
that which made Paris once the wonder of the world. The winter-balls are
the asylum of good taste, elegance and propriety. In them a young man
may purify himself by the spectacle of triumphant VIRTUE.” Yet the only
requisite to admission to these balls was a subscription of 96 francs,
(about $19.20.) A cotemporary thus describes one of the most celebrated
of these reunions, that at the Hotel Richelieu, in a manner to make us
skeptical about the virtue. “It is,” says he, “an arch of _transparent
robes_ of lace, head-dresses of gold and diamonds. A subscription is
required, and the visiter is ushered into the society of perfumed
goddesses, crowned with flowers, who float about in Athenian robes, and
receive the lisping flattery of the _incroyables_, who prate of their
_parole d’honneur_.” It need not be said this is a mere _phase_ of
Parisian society, fortunately not reflected by the rest of the world.

The ball of the Opera was revived, and to it we must look for the most
striking specimens of costume. The plain black domino exclusively worn
at such places during the monarchy had disappeared, and was replaced by
a similar garment of the most striking colors. Turks, Chinese and the
old traditional characters were exiled to the places of popular
amusement, and the great room of the Opera was filled with Caius Marius,
Dentatus, Cicero, Mutius Scævola, Pericles, Lycurgus, Cymon and
Herodotus. The charm, however, was gone; the new society had no
traditions; the people composing it were almost ignorant of each other,
and the playful badinage of which the old balls had been the scene was
lost forever. The _Jeunesse Dorée_, as the courtiers of the Directory
and Consulate were called, frequented these balls most faithfully, but
the old prestige was destroyed, and families were not seen as they had
been in the days of old.

It is strange with what rapidity from the epoch of the Directory a taste
for luxury and pleasure sprung up in the minds of the people. Music
again resumed its sway, and a hundred places of public amusement were
opened. One of the most significant evidences that the late or present
French Revolution is not yet over, is the fact that as yet public
amusements do not thrive, and that the people look elsewhere for
excitement than to the stage and concert. The most curious of all
spectacles is the stormy deliberation of the Assembly, and the artistes
of the Executive power the most attractive of all performers.

Gradually a disposition _to make a figure_ inoculated society. As the
Revolution became distant luxury increased. Yet it was not the _faste_
of old monarchy, but a new splendor, which the persons left on the
surface of society by the _bouleversement_ of all orders threw around
them. The women in the lowness of the bosoms of their dresses descended
below even the modesty required by the Regency, and the _incroyables_
became more fantastic than the _marquis_. The following was the costume
they adopted, and a more tasteless one can scarcely be conceived:


They were not so richly dressed as their predecessors, nor were they so
elegant and graceful, but their manners were quite as affected. Then
came again the taste for gallant acrostics and love songs, which caused
the poetry of the Cheniers to be forgotten for _fantasies_ addressed to
the popular actresses. This prodigality was the more criminal because it
had a contrast in alarming want. The Revolution did not make France more
rich, nor did the hecatombs slain in defence of the liberty of the
country make the cornfields and vineyards more fruitful. French
prodigality was imitated everywhere, and to this recklessness may we
attribute the fact of the great increase of the expense of dress in
every grade of society over all the civilized world.

The mode of wearing the hair for men had long become fixed; it was
cropped and _au naturel_, and has thus remained to our own day. The male
costume became every day more and more inelegant. Frocks were worn
short, loose and broad; pantaloons loose as a sailor’s lasted to a late
day of the empire. This costume had but one merit, simplicity, a quality
inspection of the following engraving will show it to have possessed in
a great degree.


All embroidery was abandoned. In 1803 the coat had taken its definite
form, where there is every prospect that it will remain permanent. It
had an immense collar and was very short before, but it was yet a coat.
Pantaloons were by no means what they are now, yet still the garment is
unchanged. The hat had become round, and the cravat was stationary.

This brings us to the end of our subject. From the doublet of Louis XIV.
costume has been traced to our time, and an impartial observer will be
satisfied we have lost nothing by the change; for none who compare the
garments of the _schneiders_ of our own era with those of the Latours or
Justins of old, will think good taste has retrograded, or dream of
comparing the bucket-like things which once were worn on the head, with
the tasteful and artistic hats of Oakford. Thus ends this disquisition
on dress, which, believe me, is no trifle; and the evidence of it is,
that nothing more ridiculous can be conceived, than would be a
President, a Senate, or a Supreme Court _in puris naturalibus_.

* * * * *





The Cat-Bird is one of our earliest morning songsters, beginning
generally before break of day, and hovering from bush to bush with great
sprightliness when there is scarcely light sufficient to distinguish
him. His favorite note is the one from which he takes his name, and is
known to every farmer’s boy in the United States. It so exactly
resembles the mewing of a kitten as to be invariably taken for it by the
uninitiated; and when a number of these birds get together it is
difficult to resist the impression that all the feline residents of an
entire village are gravely discussing some important subject. But in
addition to this rather singular tone, the Cat-Bird has a variety of
others, made up, it is true, mostly of imitations, but blended together
with considerable strength and melody. The Cat-Bird is indeed no mean
songster, and when listened to attentively is capable of at once
pleasing and interesting. He is one of the most familiar of the
feathered race, seeming to have very little dread of man, and building
his nest in every garden hedge. His confidence is but too often repaid
with death; and notwithstanding his friendly habits he is persecuted
with singular and unrelenting prejudice by every inmate of the
farm-house. It must be acknowledged that he sometimes revenges himself
by drafts upon the strawberry-beds and cherry-trees.

The Cat-Bird is one of the most prolific of the feathered race, and were
he to fly in flocks would darken the air. He probably winters in
Florida, from whence he reaches Georgia early in March. In the following
month he appears in Pennsylvania. His nest is generally finished by the
beginning of May. The place is usually a hawthorn fence, a small tree,
briers, brambles or a thick vine. The female lays four eggs, of a
greenish blue color, and sometimes raises three broods in a season. In
affection and attention to their young the Cat-Bird is unsurpassed. The
cry of man imitating their brood will frequently throw her apparently
into fits; and in their defence both male and female often risk their
lives. He boldly attacks the black-snake, striking him on the head with
his bill, until the baffled reptile is glad to withdraw from the coveted
nest. It is rare that the female forsakes her eggs, even after they have
been handled by man. If one or two be broken she continues to sit upon
the others; and if strange eggs are put in she, with the assistance of
her mate, turns them out. If the nest be removed to another situation
she follows it and continues to sit as before.

The Cat-Bird is nine inches long, of a deep slate color above, which
fades into a lighter tint on the breast and throat. The legs, bill and
tail are black, with some red about the latter. He is sometimes
domesticated, and in the cage will eat fruit, insects, bread, cakes, and
nearly every kind of vegetable. He is fond of the water, and, when wild,
frequently dashes through it with great velocity. The species is said to
reach as far north as Kamschatka.

The author of the American Ornithology thus philosophizes on the
ungrounded antipathy against this harmless and interesting bird:

“Even those by whom it is entertained, can scarcely tell you why; only
they ‘hate Cat-Birds;’ as some persons tell you they hate Frenchmen,
they hate Dutchmen, etc., expressions that bespeak their own narrowness
of understanding and want of liberality. Yet, after ruminating over in
my own mind all the probable causes, I think I have at last hit upon
some of them; the principal of which seems to me to be a certain
similarity of taste, and clashing of interest, between the Cat-Bird and
the farmer.

“The Cat-Bird is fond of large, ripe garden-strawberries; so is the
farmer, for the good price they bring in the market; the Cat-Bird loves
the best and richest early cherries; so does the farmer, for they are
sometimes the most profitable of the early fruit; the Cat-Bird has a
particular partiality for the finest, ripe mellow pears; and these are
also particular favorites with the farmer. But the Cat-Bird has
frequently the advantage of the farmer, by snatching off the first
fruits of these delicious productions; and the farmer takes revenge by
shooting him down with his gun, as he finds old hats, wind-mills, and
scare-crows are no impediments in his way to these forbidden fruits; and
nothing but this resource—the ultimatum of farmers as well as
kings—can restrain his visits. The boys are now set to watch the
cherry-trees with the gun; and thus commences a train of prejudices and
antipathies, that commonly continue through life. Perhaps, too, the
common note of the Cat-Bird, so like the mewing of the animal whose name
it bears, and who itself sustains no small share of prejudice, the
homeliness of its plumage, and even his familiarity, so proverbially
known to beget contempt, may also contribute to this mean, illiberal and
persecuting prejudice; but with the generous and the good, the lovers of
nature and rural charms, the confidence which the familiar bird places
in man, by building in his garden, under his eye, the music of his song,
and the interesting playfulness of his manners, will always be more than
a recompense for all the little stolen morsels he snatches.”



This bird is also known as the Black-capt Titmouse. It is an active,
hardy animal, abounding in the Northern and Middle States, Canada, and
as far north as the 60th parallel. It is a familiar and amusing bird,
often making its appearance in our cities in fall or winter, and
approaching near to man, in order to glean from his bounty or
carelessness a supply of food. During the same seasons large flocks
scour the fields and woods in search of insects, larvæ, seeds and
berries. Kernels containing oil, and the fat of animals are greedily
devoured by them. When all these fail, they enter barns, sheds, and the
roofs of houses, clearing them of moths, eggs of insects, spiders and
wood-worms. They appear to be very little affected by extreme cold,
being provided with thick downy feathers, and a constitution naturally
robust. In winter, numbers collect on a snow-bank, and swallow small
pieces, either to slake thirst or for pleasure. On such occasions, and
generally when collecting food, they keep up a continual chattering,
which renders their places of haunt easy of discovery.

The Chicadee builds in the hollows of trees, the nest being constructed
of moss, feathers, and similar soft materials. The eggs are from six to
a dozen in number, white, speckled with red. They rear two broods in a
season. The young are strong and lively, requiring little assistance
from the old ones, but living with them, as one family, through the fall
and winter.

Beside the usual chicking note of this bird, from whence its name, it
has a harsh angry tone, to express anger or fright, and a kind of
melancholy wail, approaching a song. Sometimes its voice is said to
resemble the noise produced by sharpening a saw. “These birds,” says
Wilson, “sometimes fight violently with each other, and are known to
attack young and sickly birds that are incapable of resistance, always
directing their blows against the skull. Being in the woods one day, I
followed a bird for some time, the singularity of whose notes surprised
me. Having shot him from off the top of a very tall tree, I found it to
be the Black-Headed Titmouse, with a long and deep indentation in the
cranium, the skull having been evidently at some former time drove in
and fractured, but was now perfectly healed. Whether or not the change
of voice could be owing to this circumstance, I cannot pretend to
decide.” The unnatural practice of destroying their sick is however
denied of these birds by late writers.

The Chicadee is five and a half inches in length, and six in extent. The
whole upper part of the head and neck is black, and the body a
mouse-color. It has often been confounded with the European Marsh
Titmouse, but there seems good reason to consider this as an error. The
foreign bird is never seen in flocks, frequents streams or
water-courses, and has a note quite different from that of the Chicadee.
It is also an inch shorter.

* * * * *



Now the frosty stars are gone:
I have watched them, one by one,
Fainting on the shores of Dawn.
Round and full the glorious sun
Walks with level step the spray,
Through his vestibule of Day,
While the wolves that howled anon
Slink to dens and coverts foul,
Guarded by the demon owl,
Who, last night, with mocking croon
Wheeled athwart the chilly moon,
And with eyes that blankly glared
On my direful torment stared.

The lark is flickering in the light;
Still the nightingale doth sing—
All the isle, alive with Spring,
Lies, a jewel of delight
On the blue sea’s heaving breast:
Not a breath from out the West,
But some balmy smell doth bring
From the sprouting myrtle buds,
Or from meadows wide, that lie
Each a green and dazzling sky,
Paved with yellow cowslip-stars,
Cloud-like, crossed by roseate bars
Of the bloomy almond woods,
And lit, like heaven, with fairest sheen
Of the sun that hangs between.
All is life that I can spy,
To the farthest sea and sky,
And my own the only pain
Within this ring of Tyrrhene main.

In the gnarled and cloven Pine
Where that hell-born hag did chain me,
All this orb of cloudless shine,
All this youth in Earth’s old veins
Tingling with the Spring’s sweet wine,
With a sharper torment pain me.
Pansies, in soft April rains
And April’s sun, from Thea’s lap
Fill their stalks with honeyed sap,
But the sluggish blood she brings
To the tough Pine’s hundred rings,
Closer locks their cruel hold,
Closer draws the scaly bark
Round my prison, lightning-riven;
So when Winter, wild and dark,
Vexes wave and writhing wold
And with murk vapor swathes the heaven,
I must feel the vile bat creep
In my narrow cleft, to sleep.
By this coarse and alien state
Is my dainty essence wronged;
The fine sense that erst belonged
To my nature, chafes at Fate,
Till the happier elves I hate,
Who in moonlight dances turn
Underneath the palmy fern,
Or in light and twinkling bands
Follow on with linked hands
To the Ocean’s yellow sands.

The primrose-bells each morning ope
In their cool, deep beds of grass;
Violets make the airs that pass
Tell-tales of their fragrant slope.
I can see them where they spring
Never brushed by fairy wing.
All those corners I can spy
In the island’s solitude,
Where the dew is never dry,
Nor the miser bees intrude.
Cups of rarest hue are there,
Full of perfumed wine undrained—
Mushroom banquets, ne’er profaned,
Canopied by maiden-hair.
Pearls I see upon the sands,
Never touched by other hands,
And the rainbow bubbles shine
On the ridged and frothy brine,
Tenantless of voyager
Till they burst in vacant air.
O the songs that sung might be
And the mazy dances woven,
Had that witch ne’er crossed the sea
And the Pine been never cloven!

Many years my direst pain
Has made the wave-rocked isle complain.

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Online LibraryVariousGraham's Magazine, Vol. XXXIV, No. 5, May 1849 → online text (page 11 of 15)