‘Another year! another year!
Oh! who shall see another year?
Shalt thou, old man, of hoary head,
Of eye-sight dim, and feeble tread?
Expect it not! Time, pain, and grief
Have made thee like an autumn leaf;
Ready, by blast or self-decay,
From its slight hold to drop away;
And some sad morn may gild thy bier,
Long, long before another year!
‘Another year! another year!
Oh! who shall see another year?
Shall you, ye young? or you, ye fair?
Ah! the presumptuous thought forbear!
Beside this church-yard’s peaceful bounds,
Pause ye, and ponder o’er the mounds:
Here beauty sleeps; that verdant length
Of grave contains what once was strength;
The child, the boy, the man are here—
Ye may not see another year!’
While however we give to emotions like these their appropriate vent, we are not called upon to forget that there is much that is inspiring and delightful in the commencement of the year. The time-honored custom of our metropolis has made it a point of peculiar radiance; a halcyon period, when heart’s-ease would seem to be the general feeling, and smiles the social insignia. Then the visit is exchanged between friends whom perhaps the departed year had somewhat alienated; old associations are revived, and cordialities that had well nigh been forgotten are strengthened and renewed. As the lip is wetted with friendly wine, the bosom expands in the generous warmth of honest enjoyment; the cold formalities of factitious station give place to undisguised welcome and open-handed cheer. The rich and the poor meet together, and the spirit of pleasure is with all. As the parties go their rounds, and familiar forms and faces appear to greeting eyes, the necessity of friendship and the desolation of its absence come home to the mind. It is felt that comfort is lost when allied to selfishness, and that it is good to be respected or beloved. And as those meet between whom the year has passed in sullen estrangement; upon whose anger many an evening sun has descended; a relenting spirit obeys the mingled voices of Memory and Friendship: the kind resolve is made and followed; so that instead of the thorn to goad and wound, there springs up in the pathway of the Reconciled the olive or the myrtle. How sweet is the sight of human goodness, struggling to surmount the petty passions which discolor its beauty, and bending to the benign suggestions of that pure and gentle principle, peace with man! Doubtless there are many severe strivings with natural pride, before these ends can be reached; but the new year awakens such throngs of conciliatory sentiments, that it is impossible to resist them. The call is made; the oversight or neglect explained; the breach is closed; and friendship is paramount! Months of reverses and cares and disappointments are lost in that initial day, whose span is golden from sun to sun; a lapse to be remembered with quiet satisfaction in trials to come. Indeed, a moment’s reflection will assure any contemplative mind that resentment is the most pitiful passion that can agitate the human breast. True, there is such a thing as ‘spirit,’ but how often is it ill-directed! How often magnified by little causes into an importance wholly incommensurate with the object desired! It is the province of new-year visits to crush these poisonous weeds of our path, to quench their noxious tendrils, and to substitute in their stead the balm of friendship and good-will. For such an object the morning of the year is most auspicious. The grand festival of our Saviour’s nativity has but lately ended, and a preservation of the era of good feeling is enjoined both by Precept and Hope. Who can resist such appeals to that kindness which increases the happiness of its possessor? With these reiterated words of counsel and of affection, let us take present leave of our readers, by wishing them in hackneyed phrase, but with unhackneyed spirit, a Happy New-Year!
The Rights of Women.—We wish it were possible to transfer to this printed page the beautiful chirography of the annexed communication, which proceeds from the pen of a lady who, with a few others of her gentle sex, sat out the reading of the lecture upon the ‘Rights of Women,’ by Mr. John Neal, at the Broadway Tabernacle last winter, and which was so heartily laughed at by the press and the town for a day or two after. It is gratifying to remark that women themselves have been the prominent satirists of the characteristic absurdities put forth on the occasion alluded to. But to our fair correspondent: ‘Appear, bright Spirits of the ancient Nine! (for you were women, and can well appreciate my appeal) arrayed in all the panoply of your charms! Thou, Minerva! aid me with thy wisdom! Ye, most lovely Graces! attend me with the power of honey-like persuasiveness! And thou, John Neal! arrayed in the drapery of the softer sex, gracefully to maintain the lofty eminence whereon thou standest, assist me with the glorious power of thy overwhelming eloquence, while I assert the high prerogative of Woman! Yet when I dwell on the brilliant efforts accomplished by thy mighty genius in our behalf, the pen falls powerless from my despairing hand, and I can merely point to thee as the potent champion of our down-trodden rights! Instead of dwelling in dull obscurity, victims to the caprice of men; mending their thread-bare clothing and scolding servants—base, unwomanly pursuits!—instead of listening in silence to the storms of political debate; instead of remaining within the shadow of our own roofs, and gathering around the domestic hearth the thornless roses of existence; rendering home a haven of rest to the weary and care-worn; instead of slumbering idly, in the security of our mansions, when the torrent of war rolls over the land; instead of girding then our brothers for the stormy fight, bidding them God-speed; instead of ignobly bending before the tyrannical power of Man, thou, O! astute Neal! wouldst have us pluck the laurel-wreath from our kinsman’s brow, and bind it on our own. Thou wouldst have us rise in all the dignity of offended ‘equality,’ and boldly assert the holy right of ‘free suffrage to all!’ Why, forsooth, should we rather be confined to the narrow circle of home than our friends of the other sex? Are we not as capable of sounding the loud alarm of war, of mingling in the strife and tumult of the battle-hour, as the ladies of antique Amazonia, or the warrior-men of our own day? Have we not intellect enough to cope with the Websters, the Clays, and the Wrights, in the halls of Congress? Is not our dignity sufficient to maintain, with honor to our country and ourselves, the various offices of the government? Why may not our superior talents elevate us to the lofty station of the presidential chair?—to become Ambassadresses, Generalesses, 80Stateswomen? Surely our intellect is as lofty, as noble, and as clear as that in which proud man exults. Arise then, Women of America! Study immediately the tactics of military discipline; proceed to the green savannahs of Florida; wrest their authority from those who now possess it, and deck your own brows of loveliness with the wreaths of conquest and of glory. March to the halls of legislation; demand from statesmen there assembled the concession of ‘woman’s rights,’ and desert them not till that ‘vantage ground’ is well secured. Then, ladies, will you be enabled to cast aside with disdain the bonds of domestic confinement, which insure merely your peace and happiness; to mingle your shrill cries with the tumult of contending armies, confounding confusion itself with your loud clamors! You may then unite your voices with the shouts of opposing factions at the momentous periods of election, huzzaing for your candidates, and gathering all your influence to win success for them. So shall you nobly fulfil the high destiny allotted you, instead of longer enduring the degrading cares attendant on the happiness of your fathers’ and your husbands’ homes. So shall you take by storm the hearts of men as well as the citadels of your enemies; forcing them to admire those female ‘braves’ who so kindly relieve them of the weighty burden of their cares.’ Capital! This mock-heroic is just the vein for a theme so ridiculous as the insane crudities here touched upon. By the by; a private note advises us that ‘there have been recent symptoms of chuckling exhibited by the ‘champion of women,’ on the supposition, real or assumed, that the attention of the legislatures of several States had been diverted toward ‘woman’s rights’ in the matter of personal property between man and wife, by reason of the lecture aforesaid!’ It is unnecessary perhaps to add, in justice to the public sense, that the action of three or four States upon this subject had a far different origin, as their legislative records will abundantly show.
Ole Bull.—We confess ourselves among the uninitiated in the mysteries of music. We are quite aware that it is not a little dangerous for one who would not lose caste in society to assert that he does not greatly admire that ill-assorted compound of ‘strains’ which is usually designated by the hackneyed phrases of ‘brilliant execution’ and ‘difficult passages;’ passages which Dr. Johnson wished were ‘not only difficult but impossible:’ we cannot force an admiration nor affect an enthusiasm which we do not feel. Indeed, we have always had great sympathy for the amateur of fashion who aspired to great refinement of taste, to exhibit which, in one branch of art, he gave on one occasion an entertainment of instrumental music. While the musicians were all at work, he seemed delighted with the performance; but when one instrument chanced to be engaged upon a solo, he inquired, in a towering passion, why the others were remaining idle? ‘It is a pizzicato for one instrument,’ replied the operator. ‘I can’t help that,’ replied the virtuoso; ‘let the trumpets pizzicato along with you; they’re paid to do it!’ Now in regard to musical knowledge and taste, this hopeful amateur has many a counterpart in this day and generation, and in this same city of Gotham. In the case of Ole Bull, however, there has been no call for affected admiration. He has compelled not only admiration but enthusiasm; not indeed by mere artistical ‘execution,’ although in this he is acknowledged to be preëminent, but by the creations of genius, which ‘take the full heart captive.’ Let the distant reader imagine an audience of three thousand persons awaiting in breathless expectance the entrance upon the Park-stage of this great Master. The curtain rises, and after the lapse of a moment, a tall manly person, with a frank, ingenuous expression of countenance, emerges with an embarrassed salutation from the wing, and with another somewhat less constrained, stands in front of the orchestra, the focus of every eye and glass in that brilliant assemblage. Pausing for a brief space, as if to collect himself, he raises his bow, and with a slight motion, beckons to each member of the orchestra in turn, who ‘start into sound’ at his bidding as if touched by the wand of Ithuriel. When the tide of harmony has reached its flood, and is gradually ebbing back to fainter sounds, the Master raises his instrument to 81his shoulder and lays his ear upon it, as if listening for his key-note amidst the tones that are serpentining through his brain. When to the audience ‘nothing lives ’twixt these and silence,’ a strain which has at first a dying fall imperceptibly swells on the ear. It is the instrument, beyond all peradventure; and from that moment you are ‘all ear.’ While you are wondering why you never knew before that there was such a volume of sound in a violin, a passage of infinite pathos arrests your heart, and you find your eyes moistening under its influence. It subsides into tremulous tones that retreat farther and farther from the ear, until they seem to come from a mile’s distance; anon, they begin to approach again, and swelling gradually upon the ‘aching sense,’ almost overpower you with their fulness of melody. This transcendent effort of genius reminded us of the phantasmagora, or ‘magic lantern;’ for what the lessening and enlarging figures of that instrument are to the eye, Ole Bull’s magic sounds are to the ear. We had intended to allude in detail to several of the performances of this great Master; but we lack the requisite space. We can only instance the ‘Norwegian Rondo,’ the ‘Themes from Bellini,’ and the ‘Carnival at Venice,’ as eminently justifying the fervent enthusiasm which they excited. It was no unnatural combination of splendid sinuosities, of small notes split into hexagonals, and attenuated into tremors that were ‘no great shakes’ after all, which entranced the audience; it was full, rich tones; it was melody, harmony, that won their loud and almost irrepressible applause. We have not yet had the pleasure to hear Vieux-Temps, the distinguished violinist recently arrived among us. His numerous friends and countrymen in the metropolis rank him even above Ole Bull. We are inclined, however, to trust the comparison made by an eminent brother-artist, who assisted at his first concert: ‘Vieux-Temps,’ said he, ‘is a very accomplished artist; but Ole Bull is a magnificent genius.’ We shall have something to say of Vieux-Temps, Artot, and Sig. Cassela, in a subsequent number of the Knickerbocker, should time and occasion serve.
A Second ‘Ralph Ringwood.’—We have a western correspondent, a ‘man of mark’ in his region, and far from unknown elsewhere, who has seen a good deal of the world, and whose entertaining epistles always remind us of the graphic ‘Experiences of Ralph Ringwood,’ as recorded in these pages by Washington Irving. Here is a fragment of youthful reminiscence, fresh from his mint, ‘which it is hoped may please;’ and if it does, we will use our ‘selectest influence’ to induce him to write out for us a series of papers containing his complete autobiography, which we have good reason to believe would overflow with romance and strange vicissitude: ‘I was raised,’ he writes, ‘as we western folks term it, in a small village some fifteen miles from Boston, and when about sixteen years of age I paid a visit to the metropolis for the first time in my life. When I first arrived there I spent some hours in trying to hunt up an old play-mate who had been bound apprentice to a Boston mechanic some two years previous. I could hear nothing of him, however, and so gave up the search. But one day, while sauntering down the main-street, and wondering at all I saw, I suddenly encountered a strange sight. It was a sheep, dead and dressed, but moving along the side-walk in an upright position, and apparently without help! Puzzled at this phenomenon, I turned round as it passed me, in order to observe it more closely; when to my astonishment I discovered a boy behind it, who with the sheep on his back was shuffling along the walk, stern-foremost. I was still more astonished when I recognized in this lad my old and long-sought playmate. ‘Dick, my boy!’ said I, grasping his hand warmly. Dick seemed a little embarrassed at first; but after a moment’s hesitation, he threw down his load spitefully, and seizing my hand returned my grasp as cordially as it had been given. ‘For God’s sake, Dick,’ inquired I, ‘how long is it since you commenced walking backward?’ ‘Not a great while,’ replied he, with a grin. ‘To tell you the truth, Frank, I saw you looking in the jeweller’s window there, and knew you at once; and as I didn’t care to 82be seen by an old comrade with a sheep on my back, I was in hopes to escape your observation by walking in the manner in which you saw me.’ ‘And that was the very thing which led me to discover you,’ I replied; ‘you might have passed me in the ordinary way, nineteen times in every twenty, without being recognized.’ ‘Well, it’s all one now, since you have found me out,’ said Dick. ‘But what, after all, are you going to do with that measly-looking animal?’ I inquired. ‘Eat it,’ replied he, with a comical twist of the nose; ‘I have to lug one home every day; we apprentices live on them altogether. I’m a sheep myself, almost; b-a-a-h!’ and here he imitated the cry of that animal so naturally, that I had no doubt of the truth of his statement. After a few moments’ conversation, chiefly about home, the clock struck ten, when Dick suddenly resumed his load, and after giving me the directions to the ‘old man’s’ house, and exacting a promise to call and see him in the evening, he started for home. At the appointed hour in the evening, I called to see him, as agreed upon, and found him waiting for me. But what a different-looking personage from the one I met in the morning! He was now very smartly dressed in a small black frock-coat, and drab gaiter-trowsers strapped tightly over a pair of nicely-polished boots. On his head a black velvet cap, from which two enormous tassels were swinging, was setting jauntily on one side, while in his hand he carried a little silver-headed cane, with which he occasionally rapped his legs. In my unsophisticated eyes he was a very paragon of gentility, and I couldn’t help contrasting him with my own countrified appearance. However, I had but a moment for reflection; for sallying into the street, with me at his heels, Dick at once proposed going to the theatre. I agreed without hesitation, for the big play-bills had been staring me in the face all day, and on them were emblazoned in large capitals the names of Cooper and Finn, who were to play together that evening in one of Shakspeare’s comedies. When we arrived at the play-house, Dick took me aside, and pointing to the little window in the office, proposed that I should go and purchase the tickets; ‘because,’ said he, ‘the box-keeper knows me.’ I couldn’t exactly comprehend why the fact of his being known to the box-keeper should prevent his purchasing the tickets himself. However, I supposed it was all right, and so I crowded up to the little window, and after awaiting my turn, obtained two pit-tickets, for which I had to pay out of my own pocket, of course. Dick took them from me when I returned, and then again resuming the lead, he conducted me into the lobby of the play-house. Here he handed the tickets to the door-keeper, at the same time nodding his head toward me, in order to intimate to that gentleman that I was under his special patronage, and that the other admission was intended for me. Once seated in the centre of the pit, Dick seemed to be in his glory. He ogled the ladies in the boxes, and whistled and shouted and stamped, and cried ‘Physic!’ until I thought he would split his throat. But when at last the gloomy curtain rose and the stars of the evening stood glittering before us, he clapped and shouted so much louder and longer than all the rest, that the whole audience gazed at him with admiration. He would have gone on applauding, I verily believe, until the end of the play, had not a tall gentleman, with a red handkerchief round his throat, and carrying a long pole, rapped him over the head, and peremptorily shouted ‘Silence!’ From that moment Dick was as mute as a Quaker, until the end of the play; when rushing out and dragging me after him, he proposed that we should go and finish the evening at a celebrated coffee-house, kept by ‘a particular friend of his,’ and where he had agreed to meet some half-dozen fellow-apprentices. Here we stayed until a very late hour, drinking and smoking, telling stories and singing songs. As it grew later, our companions one by one walked or reeled out of the bar-room, until we two were left the only tenants, save the landlord. The latter then commenced closing the house, and hinted pretty strongly that it was high time we were going. I turned to Dick, who had been remarkably silent for some time, when to my utter dismay I discovered that he was perfectly insensible from drink. I looked up to the landlord for counsel. He was a short, squab man, with a bulbous excresence growing out from between his shoulders, that I suppose passed for a head, though it looked like a wen; a kind of expletive, to wear a hat on, or to fill up the hollow of a shabby wig. ‘What shall we do with him?’ said I. 83‘Hustle him out!’ cried he; ‘hustle him out! he didn’t get his liquor here: I’ve no room for such company!’ I then endeavored to put my companion upon his feet, but his legs bent under him, and his whole body seemed as limber and lifeless as a wet rag. ‘You can’t do any thing with him in that way,’ continued the landlord; ‘if you want to get him home to-night, you must take him on your back and carry him there yourself. He’ll be bright enough in the morning.’ I saw no other way of proceeding; and so, being strong and athletic myself, while Dick was of slight proportions, I managed, with the assistance of the landlord, to get him upon my back, and then started for his master’s house. As my burthen was perfectly speechless, I had plenty of time for uninterrupted thought as I trudged along; and I couldn’t help contrasting the apprentice of the morning with the apprentice of the present moment. Then, though rather coarsely dressed, and smooched with the marks of labor, he blushed at being caught with a sheep on his back, though he had come honestly by it; but now, though bedecked in the habiliments of a gentleman, he was being carried home himself like a beast on the back of a companion. On reaching his master’s house I laid him down upon the door-sill, where he commenced breathing intensely through his nose, while I fumbled round for the handle of the bell, which I rang. The ‘old man’ himself came to the door, and looking down at his apprentice, shook his head sorrowfully. Then turning to a black domestic, who with a candle in her hand stood grinning behind him, he said, ‘Here’s Dick come home drunk again, Dinah; you must take him up stairs and get him to bed in the best way you can.’ The old gentleman turned away with a tear in his eye, and I also departed, leaving Dick, who had come to his senses a little, struggling in the arms of the brawny black, and vainly trying to kiss her polished cheek. Thus ended my first youthful adventure in a city.’
Gossip with Readers and Correspondents.—We encounter in our personal correspondence not a few comments, pro and con, upon the papers on ‘Mind and Instinct,’ which appeared in the last two numbers of the Knickerbocker. Our friend and correspondent, ‘Harry Franco,’ among others, in a gossiping epistle to the Editor, writes as follows:
‘I have been considerably interested in your correspondent’s paper on mind and instinct; only I rather wonder at his laboring to prove a theory which few are inclined to question. But he does not after all, it appears to me, draw the right conclusions from his argument. All living beings have a mind, or reason, or what you will, which prompts them to do all that their animal functions are capable of performing. In this respect man is as much governed by instinct as a brute. My neighbor’s dog every night when I come home walks up to me, wags his tail, and looks in my face, and says in his way, ‘How are you?’ His master gives me a nod, takes his pipe from his mouth, and says the same. But when a stranger comes to my door, neither the dog nor his master salutes him; but were he to fall into the brook, they would both run to pull him out. Are they not both influenced by exactly the same feelings? If I should ask my neighbor to endorse my note, he would look sulky, hem! and haw! and refuse; if I should attempt to take a bone from his dog, the brute would snarl and growl, and perhaps bite me. Do you see any marvellous difference between the two animals? A near neighbor of mine, about six months since, had a little boy of four years old, who had a spaniel of which he was very fond. One day during the absence of the father, the child was taken ill with the croup; the mother was alarmed, and it so happened that her servants were away, and she had no one to send for a physician. The poor woman was in great tribulation, for in spite of all her efforts the child grew worse. In about an hour after the child was taken ill, her father’s carriage stopped at the door, and her mother made her appearance. Her father’s house was about two miles distant. The grandmother said that Carlo, the sick child’s dog, ‘came running into the house, all bespattered with mud, and flew about and acted so strangely that she knew something must be the matter with little Billy, her grandson, and she came to see what it was.’ Until then, the mother of the child had not noticed the absence of the dog from the room, for the boy was playing with him when he was taken sick. The child remained ill three or four days, and then died; and during the whole time the dog never left his bed-side; he watched by the corpse until it was buried, and then took possession of the little boy’s chair, which he would 84allow no one to touch, not even the child’s mother. Every day he absented himself for three or four hours; and the father one day going to look at his child’s grave, found that the dog had almost scratched his way down to the coffin. He was after this kept within doors; but he refused to eat, and in a short time died in the chair of his little master. If I had time, I could tell you a story almost as touching, in relation to a pig, an animal that phrenologically speaking has generally been looked upon as somewhat deficient in the region of the sentiments.’
Now that our attention has been awakened to the subject, we find in our casual reading the testimony in favor of ‘mind in animals’ greatly to increase and multiply. Oleus Magnus, Bishop of Norway, in a work written in Latin some two centuries ago, tells us of a fox that, in order to get rid of the fleas which infested his skin, was accustomed to swim out into a lake with a straw band held high and dry in his mouth. When the water-hating vermin had all escaped from his submerged body to the dry straw, down dived Reynard, leaving his tormentors ‘at sea,’ and rising again beyond the scope of safe jumping. ‘Curious, isn’t it?’ A correspondent at Rochester, ‘who experienced much satisfaction in the perusal of the article’ above alluded to, was yet ‘a little dissatisfied with the closing portion of it.’ The proposition of the writer to ‘abstain entirely from animal food,’ on the score of humanity, he considers ‘especially ridiculous.’ He has ‘the gravest authority for stating, that every drop of water that quenches our thirst or laves our bodies, contains innumerable insects, which are sacrificed to our necessities or comforts; each ingredient in the simplest vegetable fare conveys to inevitable destruction thousands of the most beautiful and harmless of created beings. From the first to the last gasp of our lives, we never inhale the air of heaven without butchering myriads of sentient and innocent creatures. Can we upbraid ourselves then for supporting our lives by the death of a few animals, many of whom are themselves carnivorous, when the infant who has lived for a single day has killed an infinitely greater number of human beings than the longest life would suffice to murder by design? Or, if we sacrifice either our lives or our comforts by scrupulously denying ourselves the use of animal food, can we derive much consolation from considering that we spare a few scores of beings, when we involuntarily, but knowingly, are every moment massacreing more than the longest life-time would suffice to enumerate?’ ••• A reference to the case of ‘Rachael Baker, the American Somnambulist,’ in a late London Magazine, has recalled that remarkable phenomenon very forcibly to our mind. Rachael Baker resided within four miles of ‘the house where we were born;’ and the first exhibitions of her religious exercises during sleep took place alternately at the homestead and the residence of a relation in its near vicinity. We remember as it were but yesterday the solemnity which sat upon the faces of the assembled neighbors, as they awaited the signal-groan from an adjoining apartment, to which, at about seven P. M., the Somnambulist usually retired for the night. When the door was opened the crowd pressed in. The sleeper, dressed in white muslin, lay straight and motionless in bed; her eyes closed, her face white and inflexible as marble; and her fingers with livid marks beneath the nails, clasped meekly upon her bosom. Flecks of foam were visible at the corners of her mouth, and her lips moved ‘as if they would address themselves to speech,’ for some seconds before any audible sound came from them. At length, however, in a clear silvery voice she opened with prayer; a prayer fervent, devotional, and evidently direct from the heart. When this was concluded, and after the lapse of a brief space, she began an exhortation, in language pure, beautiful, often eloquent, and occasionally rising to a noble sublimity; and then closed with prayer. If interrupted with a question, as she frequently was, by clergymen, medical gentlemen, and others, she answered it with readiness, and with a felicity of language surpassing belief. ‘Rachael,’ said a clergyman to her in our hearing one evening, while in the midst of her discourse, ‘why do you engage in these exercises? and why——’ She interrupted the speaker with words to this effect: ‘I, even I, a worm of the dust, am but a feeble instrument in the hands of Him who hath declared, ‘I will pour out of my spirit upon you; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And 85on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my spirit, and they shall prophesy.’ Even so Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight!’ The girl was of bashful demeanor; altogether uneducated; could scarcely read; knew little of the Bible; and indeed in her waking hours conversed in a language that was far from being respectable English; but neither in her prayers nor in her exhortations was she ever at fault; nor did she at any time exhibit the slightest hesitation or confusion. Her answers to questions were brief, pointed, and invariably correct. Crowds flocked to see her, until the public curiosity overran all bounds. She was visited by many persons from New-York; and finally, under the direction of a committee of medical gentlemen from the city, was brought to the metropolis, where she created a great sensation. A pamphlet was written upon her case by Dr. Mitchell; and we should feel greatly obliged to any reader who would place it for a short time in our hands. ••• A valued friend and correspondent, to whose kindness we have frequently been indebted, has sent us a ‘Massachusetts Centinel,’ printed in Boston sixty years ago; in which, among many other curious and amusing matters, there is a copy of an original letter written by the celebrated George Alexander Stevens, author of ‘Lecture on Heads,’ etc., dated at ‘Yarmouth Jail, County of Norfolk,’ which runs thus:
‘Sir: When I parted from you at Doncaster, I imagined, long before this, to have met with some oddities worth acquainting you with. It is grown a fashion of late to write lives; I have now, and for a long time have had, leisure enough to undertake mine, but want materials for the latter part of it; for my existence now cannot properly be called living, but what the painters term still life; having ever since February 13, been confined in this town-goal for a London debt.
‘As a hunted deer is always shunned by the happier herd, so am I deserted by the company,7 my share taken off, and no support left me, save what my wife can spare me out of hers:
‘Deserted in my utmost need
By those my former bounty fed.’
‘With an economy, which until now I was a stranger to, I have made shift to victual hitherto my little garrison, but then it has been with the aid of my good friends and allies—my clothes. This week’s eating finishes my last waistcoat; and next, I must atone for my errors upon bread and water.
‘Themistocles had so many towns to furnish his table, and a whole city bore the charge of his meals. In some respects I am like him, for I am furnished by the labors of a multitude. A wig has fed me two days; the trimming of a waistcoat as long; a pair of velvet breeches paid my washerwoman, and a ruffled shirt has found me in shaving. My coats I swallowed by degrees. The sleeves I breakfasted upon for weeks; the body, skirts, etc., served me for dinner two months. My silk stocking have paid my lodgings, and two pair of new pumps enabled me to smoke several pipes. It is incredible how my appetite, (barometer like) rises in proportion as my necessities make their terrible advances. I here could say something droll about a good stomach, but it is ill jesting with edge tools, and I am sure that is the sharpest thing about me. You may think I can have no sense of my condition, that while I am thus wretched, I should offer at ridicule: but, Sir, people constituted like me, with a disproportioned levity of spirits, are always most merry when they are most miserable; and quicken like the eyes of the consumptive, which are always brightest the nearer the patient approaches his dissolution. However, Sir, to show you I am not lost to all reflection, I think myself poor enough to want a favor, and humble enough to ask it here. Sir, I might make an encomium on your good nature, humanity, etc.; but I shall not pay so bad a compliment to your understanding, as to endeavor, by a parade of phrases, to win it over to my interest. If you could, any night at a concert, make a small collection for me, it might be a means of my obtaining my liberty; and you well know, Sir, the first people of rank abroad will perform the most friendly offices for the sick; be not, therefore, offended at the request of a poor (though a deservedly punished) debtor.
Among the facetiæ of the ‘Centinel’ we find a clever hit at two prominent official characters of the name of Day: ‘Titus, a Roman emperor, we are told, once lamented that ‘he had lost a Day.’ If the commonwealth of Massachusetts were to lose two Days, it would not be the cause of much lamentation!’ A correspondent elsewhere observes, that in a procession on a certain solemn occasion in this city, the place of the physician was immediately before the corpse; which, he adds, was ‘exactly consonant with the etiquette observed at capital executions in ancient times; the executioner always going before!’ By the way, ‘speaking of Stevens;’ perhaps the reader of good things at second-hand may not be aware how much he is indebted to this author’s ‘Lectures on Heads’ for amusement and instruction. They were very popular throughout Great Britain; and as illustrated by the author, after the manner of ‘Old Matthews,’ they are said to have been irresistible. It 86was in this collection that the law-cases of ‘Bullum vs. Boatum’ and ‘Daniel vs. Dishclout’ had their origin. They are familiar to every school-boy, not less for their wit than the canine Latinity in which they abound; ‘Primus strokus est provokus; now who gave the primus strokus? Who gave the first offence?’ Or, ‘a drunken man is ‘homo duplicans,’ or a double man, seeing things double,’ etc., etc. We annex an example or two of the writer’s individuality. The first is a sketch of a nil admirari critic and amateur, who has travelled long enough abroad to fall in love with every thing foreign, and despise every thing belonging to his own country except himself: ‘He pretended to be a great judge of paintings, but only admired those done a great way off, and a great while ago; he could not bear any thing painted by any of his own countrymen. One day being in an auction-room where there was a number of capital pictures, and among the rest an inimitable painting of fruits and flowers, the connoisseur would not give his opinion of the picture until he had examined his catalogue; when, finding it was done by one of his own countrymen, he pulled out his eye-glass, exclaiming: ‘This fellow has spoiled a fine piece of canvass; he’s worse than a sign-post dauber; there’s no keeping, no perspective, no fore-ground, no chiar’oscuro. Look you, he has attempted to paint a fly upon that rose-bud! Why, it is no more like a fly than I am like an ——’ But as the connoisseur approached his finger to the picture, the fly flew away. It happened to be the real insect!’ Is not the following a forcible picture of a mercurial, hero-loving Frenchman? ‘Has he property? An edict from the Grand Monarque can take it, and he is satisfied. Pursue him to the Bastile, or the dismal dungeon in the country to which a lettre-de-cachet conveys him, and buries him for life: there see him in all his misery; ask him ‘What is the cause?’ ‘Je ne sai pas; it is the will of the Grand Monarque.’ Give him a soup-maigre, a little sallad, and a hind-quarter of a frog, and he’s in spirits. ‘Fal, lal, lal! Vive le Roi? Vive la bagatelle!’’ Here we have a Materialist proving the affinity of matter: ‘All round things are globular, all square things flat-sided. Now, if the bottom is equal to the top, and the top equal to the bottom, and the bottom and top are equal to the four sides, then all matter is as broad as it is long.’ But the materialist ‘had not in his head matter sufficient to prove matter efficient; and being thus deficient, he knew nothing of the matter.’ One of Stevens’s ‘heads’ was that of a heartless, devil-may-care sort of person, in some respects like the hero of ‘A Capital Joke’ in preceding pages, who is always ‘keeping it up.’ He illustrates his own character very forcibly: ‘I’ll tell you how it was; you see, I was in high spirits, so I stole a dog from a blind man, for I do so love fun! So then the blind man cried for his dog, and that made me laugh; so says I to the blind man. ‘Halloo, master! do you want your dog?’ ‘Yes, Sir, indeed, indeed I do,’ says he. Then says I to the blind man, says I, ‘Go look for him! Keep it up!’ I always turn sick when I think of a parson; and my brother, he’s a parson too, and he hates to hear any body swear; so I always swear when I am along with him, just to roast him. I went to dine with him one day last week; and as soon as I arrived, I began to swear. I never swore so well in all my life; I swore all my new oaths. At last my brother laid down his knife and fork, and lifting up his hands and eyes, he calls out: ‘O Tempora! O Mores.’ ‘Oh, ho! brother,’ says I, ‘don’t think to frighten me by calling all your family about you. I don’t mind you nor your family neither. Only bring Tempora and Moses here—that’s all! I’ll box ’em for five pounds. Keep it up!’ •••
There is many a bereaved heart that will be touched by the following sad, sad lines, from the pen of John Rudolph Sutermeister, a young and gifted poet, whose mortal part has ‘been ashes these many a year,’ and whom the reader may remember as the author of a little poem widely quoted and admired many years ago, commencing:
‘O! for my bright and faded hours!
When life was like a summer stream,
On whose gay banks the virgin flowers
Blushed in the morning’s rosy beam,
Or danced upon the breeze that bare
Its store of rich perfume along,
While the wood-robin poured on air
The ravishing delights of song!’
To us, who are familiar with the painful circumstances under which they were written, and the deep affliction which they deplore, they seem almost to sob with irrepressible grief: