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Full text of "Rab, and Marjorie Fleming. John Leech. Thackeray's literary career"


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RAB, AND MARJORIE FLEMING. 

JOHN LEECH. 

THACKERAY'S LITERARY CAREER. 

BY 

JOHN BROWN, M. D. 

• ILLUSTRATED. 




BOSTON: 
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY. 



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RAB, AND MARJORIE FLEMING. 



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CONTENTS. 

Page 
RAB AND HISj FRIENDS 9 

MARJORIE PLEMIXG 43 



*^2sveS^ 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 

IvAB ......... Frontispiece. 

Page 
"A white bull-terrier is throttling a large shepherd's 
dog" 15 

" Then taking Jess by the head, he moved away " . .89 

" The shepherd strode off with his Iamb, — Maida gam- 
bolling through the snow " 53 

•* There sat Maidie in white" 85 



TO 

MY TWO FRIENDS 

At Busby, Renfrewshire, 

IN EESTEMBRAXCE OF A JOURNEY PROM CARSTAIR3 
JUNCTIOX TO TOLEDO AXD BACK, 



^fjis Storg 



OF 

RAB A>'D HIS FRIENDS' 

IS INSCRIBED. 



? 



RAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 



lOUR-AND-THIRTY years ago. Bob 
Ainslie and I were coming up Infirm- 
ary Street from the Edniburs^h Hi,di 



School, our heads together, and our arms inter- 
twisted, as only lovers and boys know how, or 
why. 

When we got to the top of the street, and 
turned north, we espied a crowd at the Tron 
Church. "A dog-fight!" shouted Bob, and 
was off; and so was I, both of us all but pray- 
ing that it might not be over before we got up ! 
And is not this boy-nature ? and human nature 
too ? and don't we all wish a house on fire not 
to be out before we see it ? Dogs like fight- 
ing ; old Isaac says they " delight " in it, and 
for the best of all reasons ; and boys are not 
cruel because they like to see the fight. They 
see three of the great cardinal virtues of dog 



14 RAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 

or man — courage, endurance, and skill — in 
intense action. This is very different from a 
love of making dogs fight, and enjoying, and 
aggravating, and making gain by their pluck. 
A boy, be he ever so fond himself of fighting, 
if he be a good boy, hates and despises all this, 
but he would have run oflF ^ith Bob and me 
fast enough : it is a natural, and a not wicked 
interest, that all boys and men have in witness- 
ing intense energy in action. 

Does any curious and finely ignorant woman 
wish to know how Bob's eye at a glance an- 
nounced a dog-fight to his brain ? He did not, 
he could not see the dogs fighting; it was 
a flash of an inference, a rapid induction. 
The crowd round a couple of dogs fighting is 
a crowd masculine mainly, with an occasional 
active, compassionate woman, fluttering wildly 
round the outside, and using her tongue and 
her hands freely upon the men, as so many 
*' brutes " ; it is a crowd annular, compact, and 
mobile ; a crowd centripetal, having its eyes 
and its heads all bent downwards and inwards, 
to one common focus. 

Well, Bob and I are up, and find it is not 
over : a small, thoroughbred, white bull-terrier 
is busy throttling a large shepherd's dog, unac- 



EAB AND HIS FRIEXDS. 17 

customed to war, but not to be trifled with. 
They are hard at it ; the scientific little fellow- 
doing his work in great style, his pastoral 
enemy fighting wildly, but with the sharpest of 
teeth and a great courage. Science and breed- 
ing, however, soon had their own; the Game 
Chicken, as the premature Bob called him, 
working his way up, took his final grip of poor 
Yarrow's throat, — and he lay gasping and done 
for. His master, a brown, handsome, big young 
sheplierd from Tweedsmuir, would have liked to 
have knocked down any man, would "drink 
up Esil, or eat a crocodile," for that part, if he 
had a chance : it was no use kicking the little 
dog ; that would only make him hold the closer. 
Many were the means shouted out in mouth- 
fuls, of the best possible ways of ending it. 
" Water ! " but there was none near, and many 
cried for it who might have got it from the well 
at Blackfriars Wynd. " Bite the tail ! " and 
a large, vague, benevolent, middle-aged man, 
more desirous than wise, with some struggle 
got the bushy end of Yarroic's tail into his 
ample mouth, and bit it with all his might 
This was more than enough for the much- 
enduring, much-perspiring shepherd, who, with 
a gleam of joy over his broad visage, delivered 



18 RAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 

a terrific facer upon our large, vague, benevo- 
lent, middle-aged friend, — uho went down 
like a shot. 

Still the Chicken holds ; death not far off. 
" Snuff ! a piuch of snuff ! " observed a calm, 
highly dressed young buck, with an eye-glass 
in his eye. " Snuft', indeed ! " growled the 
angry crowd, affronted and glaring. " Snuff ! 
a pinch of snuff ! " again observes the buck, but 
with more urgency ; whereon were produced 
several open boxes, and from a mull which may 
have been at Culloden, he took a pinch, knelt 
down, and presented it to the nose of the 
Chicken. The laws of physiology and of snuff 
take their course ; the Chicken sneezes, and 
YaiTow is free ! 

The young pastoral giant stalks off with 
Yarrow in his arms, — comforting him. 

But the Bull Terrier's blood is up, and his 
soul unsatisfied ; he grips the first dog he 
meets, and discovering she is not a dog, in 
Homeric phrase, he makes a brief sort oi amende, 
and is off. The boys, with Bob and me at their 
head, are after him : down Niddry Street he 
goes, bent on mischief ; up the Cowgate like 
an arrow, — Bob and I, and our small men, pant- 
ing behind,- 



RAB AND HIS FRIEXDS. 19 

Tliere, under the single arch of the South 
Bridge, is a huge mastiff, sauntering down the 
middle of the causeway, as if with his hands in 
his pockets : he is old, gray, brindled, as big 
as a little Highland bull, and has the Shake- 
spearian dewlaps shaking as he goes. 
^ The Chicken makes straight at him, and fast- 
ens on his throat. To our astonishment, the 
great creature does nothing but stand still, hold 
himself up, and roar, — yes, roar ; a long, seri- 
ous, remonstrative roar. How is this ? Bob and 
I are up to them. He is muzzled ! The bailies 
had proclaimed a general muzzling, and his 
master, studying strength and economy mainly, 
had encompassed his huge jaws in a home-made 
apparatus, constructed out of the leather of 
some ancient breechin. His mouth was open 
as far as it could ; his hps curled up in rage, — 
a sort of terrible grin ; his teeth gleaming, ready, 
from out the darkness ; the strap across his 
mouth tense as a bowstring ; his whole frame 
stiff with indignation and surprise ; his roar 
asking us all round, "Did you ever see the like 
of this ? " He looked a statue of anger and 
astonishment, done in Aberdeen granite. 

We soon had a crowd: the Chicken held 
on. "A knife!" cried Bob; and a cobbler 



20 RAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 

gave him his knife : you know the kind of knife, 
worn away obhquely to a point, and always 
keen. I put its edge to the tense leather; it 
ran before it ; and then ! — one sudden jerk of 
that enormous head, a sort of dirty mist about 
his mouth, no noise, — and the briglit and tierce 
little fellow is dropped, limp and dead. A 
solemn pause : this was more than any of us 
had bargained for. I turned the little fellow 
over, and saw he was quite dead ; the nu\slifl' 
had taken him by tlie small of the back like a 
rat, and broken it. 

He looked down at his victim appsased, 
ashamed, and amazed ; snuffed him all over, 
stared at him, and taking a sudden thought, 
turned round and trotted oft". Boh took the 
dead dog up, and said, "John, we'll bury him 
after tea." " Yes," said I, and was ofif after 
the mastiff. He made up the Cowgate at a 
rapid swing ; he liad forgotten some engage- 
ment. He turned up the Caudlemaker Row, 
and stopped at the Harrow Inn. 

There was a carrier's cart ready to start, and 
a keen, thiu, impatient, blacka-vised little mnii, 
his hand at his gray horse's head, looking about 
angrily for something. 

" Rab. ye thief I " said he, aiming a kick at 



RAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 'Zl 

my great friend, who drew cringing up, and 
avoiding the heavy shoe with more agility than 
dignity, and watching his master's eye, slunk 
dismayed under the cart, — his ears down, and 
as much as he had of tail down too. 

What a man tliis must be, — thought I, — tc 
whom ray tremendous hero turns tail ! The 
carrier saw the muzzle hanging, cut and useless, 
from his neck, and 1 eagerly told him the story, 
which Bob and I always thought, and still 
think, Homer, or King David, or Sir Walter 
alone were worthy to rehearse. The severe 
little man was mitigated, and condescended to 
say, " Rab, my man, puir Rabbie," — where- 
upon the stump of a tail rose up, the ears were 
cocked, the eyes filled, and were comforted ; 
the two friends were reconciled. " Hupp ! "" 
and a stroke of the whip were given to Jess ; 
and off went the three. 

Bob and 1 buried the Game Chicken that 
night (we had not much of a tea) in the back- 
green of his house in Melville Street, IS'o. 17, 
with considerable gravity and silence ; and 
being at the time in the Iliad, and, like all 
Doys, Trojans, we called him Hector, of course. 



'2-Z RAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 

Six years have passed, — a long time for a 
boy and a dog : Bob Ainslie is off to the wars ; 
I am a medical student, and clerk at Minto 
House Hospital. 

Rab I saw almost every week, on the 
Wednesday ; and we had much pleasant inti- 
macy. I found the way to his heart by frequent 
scratching of his huge head, and an occasional 
bone. When 1 did not notice him he would 
plant himself straight before me, and stand 
wagging that bud of a tail, and looking up, with 
his head a little to the one side. His master I 
occasionally saw ; he used to call me " Maister 
John," but was laconic as any Spartan. 

One fine October afternoon, 1 was leaving 
the hospital, when I saw the large gate open, and 
in walked Rab, with that great and easy saun- 
ter of his. He looked as if taking general posses- 
sion of the place ; like the Duke of WeUington 
entering a subdued city, satiated with victory 
and peace. After him came Jess, now white 
from age, with her cart; and in it a woman, 
carefully wrapped up, — the carrier leading the 
horse anxiously, and looking back. When lie 
saw me, James (for his name was James Noble) 
made a curt and grotesque " boo," and said, 
" Maister John, this is the mistress; she 's got 



EAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 23 

trouble^ia l4er breest, ^some kiud o' an iiicome 
we 're thmkiaV^ 

By tliis time I saw the woman's face ; she 
was sitting on a sack filled with straw, her 
husband's plaid round her, and his big-coat, 
with its large white metal buttons, over her feet. 

I never saw a more unforgetable face, — pale, 
serious, lonely, '^^ delicate, sweet, without being 
at all what we call fine. She looked sixty, and 
had on a mutch, white as snow, with its black 
ribbon ; her silvery, smooth hair setting off her 
dark-gray eyes, — eyes such as one sees only 
twice or thrice in a lifetime, full of suffering, 
full also of the overcomiug of it : her eyebrows 
black and delicate, and her mouth firm, patient, 
and contented, which few mouths ever are. 

As I have said, I never saw a more beautiful 
countenance, or one more subdued to settled 
quiet. "Ailie," said James, "this is Maister 
John, the young doctor ; Rab's freend, ye ken. 
We often speak aboot you, doctor." She 
smiled, and made a movement, but said nothing ; 
and prepared to come down, putting her plaid 
aside and rising. Had Solomon, in all his glory, 
been handing down the Queen of Sheba at his 

* It is not easy giving this look by one word; it was 
expressive of her being so much of her life alone. 



24 RAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 

palace gate, lie could not have done it more 
daintily, more tenderh% more like a gentleman, 
than did James the Howgate carrier, when he 
lifted down Ailie his wife. The contrast of his 
small, swarthv, weather-beaten, keen, worldly 
face to hers — pale, subdued, and beautiful — 
was something wonderful. Rab looked on 
concerned and puzzled, but ready for anything 
that might turn up, — were it to strangle the 
nurse, the porter, or even me. Ailie and he 
seemed great friends. 

"As I was sayin', she 's got a kind o' trouble 
in her breest, doctor; wuU ye tak' a look at 
it ? " "VYe walked into the consulting-room, 
all four ; Rab grim and comic, willing to be 
happy and confidential if cause could be shown, 
wilhng also to be the reverse, on the same 
terms. Ailie sat down, nndid her open gown 
and her lawn handkerchief round her neck, and 
without a word showed me her right breast. I 
looked at and examined it carefully, — she and 
James watching me, and R.ab eying all three. 
What could I say ? there it was, that had once 
been so soft, so shapely, so white, so gracious 
and bountiful, so "full of all blessed condi- 
tions," — hard as a stone, a centre of horrid 
pain, makmg that pale face, with its gray, 



RAB AND HIS FHIENDS. 25 

lucid, reasonable eyes, and its sweet, resolved 
mouth, express the full measure of suttering 
overcome. "Why was thaf geutle, modest, 
sweet womau, clean and lovable, condemned 
by God to bear such a burden ? 
—I got her away to bed. "May Rab and me 
bide "r " said James. " You may ; and Rab, if 
he will behave himself." " I 'se warrant he 's 
do that, doctor " ; and in slank the faithful 
beast. I wish you could have seen him. There 
are no such dogs now. He belonged to a lost 
tribe. As I have said, he was brindled and 
gray like Rubislaw granite ; his hair short, 
hard, and close, like a lion's ; his body thick- 
set, like a little bull, — a sort of compressed 
Hercules of a dog. He must have been nuiety 
pounds' weight, at the least; he had a large 
blunt head ; his muzzle black as night, his 
mouth blacker than any night, a tooth or too 
— being all he had — gleaming out of his jaws 
of darkness. His head was scarred with the 
records of old wounds, a sort of series of fields 
of battle all over it; one eye out, one ear 
cropped as close as was Archbishop Leighton's 
father's ; the remaining eye had the power of 
two ; and above it, and in constant communica- 
tion with it, was a tattered rag of an ear, which 



'26 RAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 

was forever unfurling itself, like an old flag ; 
and then that bud of a tail, about one inch 
long, if it could in any sense be said to be long, 
being as broad as long, — the mobility, the in- 
stantaneousness of that bud Avere very funny 
and surprising, and its expressive tAviukliugs 
and winkings, the intercommunications between 
the eye, the ear, and it, were of the oddest and 
swiftest. 

Rab had the dignity and simplicity of great 
size ; and having fought his way all along the 
road to absolute supremacy, he Avas as mighty 
in his own line as Julius Caesar or the Duke 
of Wellington, and had the gravity * of all 
great fighters. 

You must have often observed the likeness 
of certain men to certain animals, and of cer- 
tain dogs to men. Now, I never looked at 
Rab without thinking of the great Baptist 
preacher, Andrew Fuller.f The same large, 

* A Iligliland game-keeper, when asked why a certaifi 
terrier, of singular pluck, was so much more solemn than 
the other clogs, said, " 0, sir, life 's full o' sairiousness to 
him, — he just never can get enuff o' feclitiu'." 

t Fuller was, in early life, when a farmer lad at Soham, 
famous as a boxer; not quarrelsome, but not without "the 
stern delight " a man of strength and courage feels in their 
exercise. Dr. Charles Stewart, of Dunearn, whose rare gifts 
and graces as a physician, a divine, a scholar, and a gentle- 



k' 



RAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 27 

heavy, menacing, combative, sombre, honest 
countenance, the same deep inevitable eye, 
the same look, — as of thunder asleep, but 
ready, — neither a dog nor a man to be trifled 
with. 

Next day, my master, the surgeon, examined 
Ailie. There was no doubt it must kill her, 
and soon, lit could be removed — it might 
never return ^^ it would give her speedy relief 
— she should have it done?' \' She courtesied, 
looked at James, and said, ^'^When ? " " To- 
morrow," said the kind surgeon, — a man of 
few words. She and James and Rab and I 
retired. I noticed that he and she spoke little, 
but seemed to anticipate everything in each 
other. The following day, at noon, the stu- 
dents came in, hurrying up the great stair. 
At the first landing-place, on a small, well- 
known blackboard, was a bit of paper fastened 
by wafers, and many remains of old wafers 

man live only in the memory of those few who knew and 
survive him, liked to tell how Mr. Fuller used to say, that 
when lie was in tlie pulpit, and saw a buirdly man come 
along the passage, he would instinctively draw himself up, 
measure his imaginary antagonist, and forecast how he 
would deal with him, his hands meanwhile condensing into 
fists, and tending to " square." He must have heen a hard 
liitter if he boxed as he preached, — what " The Fancy " 
ft'ould call " an ugly customer." 



28 UAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 

beside it. On the paper were the words, — 
" An operation to-day. J. B. Clerk." 

Up ran the youths, eager to secure good 
places •. in they crowded, full of interest and 
talk. " What 's the case ? " " Which side is 
it?" 

Don't think them heartless ; they are neither 
better nor worse than you or I ; they get over 
their professional horrors, and into their proper 
work, — and in them pity, as an emotion, 
ending in itself or at best in tears and a long- 
drawn breath, lessens, while pity as a motioe 
is quickened, and gains power and purpose. 
It is well for poor human nature that it is so. 

The operating theatre is crowded ; much 
talk and fun, and all the cordiality and stir of 
youth. Tlie surgeon with his staff of assistants 
is there. In comes Ailie : one look at her 
quiets and abates the eager students. That 
beautiful old woman is too much for them ; 
they sit down, and are dumb, and gaze at her. 
These rough boys feel the power of her pres- 
ence. She walks in quickly, but without haste ; 
dressed in her mutch, her neckerchief, her 
white dimity short-gown, her black bombazine 
petticoat, showing her white worsted stockings 
and her carpet-shoes. Behind her was James 



UAB AND HIS rE,IEX?)S. 29 

with Rab. James sat down in the distance, 
and took that huge and noble head between 
his knees. Rab looked perplexed and danger- 
ous ; forever cocking his ear and dropping it 
as fast. 

Ailie stepped up on a seat, and laid herself 
on the table, as her friend the surgeon told 
her; arranged herself, gave a rapid look at 
James, shut her eves, rested herself on me, 
and took my hand. The operation was at once 
begun ; it was necessarily slow ; and chloro- 
form — one of God's besl^gifts to his suffering 
children — was then unknown. The surgeon 
did his work. The pale face showed its pain, 
but was still and silent. Rab's soul was work- 
ing within him ; he saw that something strange 
was going on, — blood flowing from his mis- 
tress, and she sufFering; his ragged ear was 
up, and importunate; he growled, and gave 
now and tlien a sharp, impatient yelp ; he 
would have liked to have done something to 
that man. But James had him iirm, and gave 
him a glower from time to time, and an intima- 
tion of a possible kick ; — all the better for 
James, it kept his eye and his mind off Ailie. 

It is over : she is dressed, steps gently and 
decentlv down from the table, looks for James ; 



30 RAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 

then turning to the surgeon and the students, 
she courtesies, —and in a low, clear voice, 
begs their pardon if she has behaved ill. The 
students — all of us — wept like children ; the 
surgeon happed her up carefully, — and, rest- 
ing on James and me, Ailie went to her room, 
Rab following. We put her to bed, James 
took off his heavy shoes, crammed with tack- 
ets, heel-capt and toe-capt, and put them care- 
fully under the table, saying, " Maister John, 
I 'm for naue o' yer strynge nurse bodies for 
Ailie. I '11 be her mirse, and I '11 gang aboot 
on my stockin' soles as canny as pussy." And 
so he did ; and handy and clever, and swift 
and tender as any woman, was that horny- 
handed, snell, peremptory little man. Every- 
thing she got he gave her : he seldom slept ; 
and often I saw his small shrewd eyes out 
of the darkness, fixed on her. As before, 
they spoke little. 

llab behaved well, never moving, showing 
us how meek and gentle he could be, r.-nd occa- 
sionally, in his sleep, letting us know that he 
was demolishing some adversary. He took a 
walk with me every day, generally to the Can- 
dlemaker Row ; but he was sombre and mild ; 
declined doing battle, though some fit cases 



RAB AND HIS FRIEXDS. 31 

oiFered, and indeed submitted to sundry indig- 
nities ; and was always very ready to turn, 
and came faster back, and trotted up the stair 
with much hghtness, and went straight to that 
door. 

Jess, the mare, had been sent, with her 
weather-worn cart, to Howgate, and had doubt- 
less her own dim and placid meditations and 
confusions, on the absence of her master and 
Rab, and her unnatural freedom from the road 
and her cart. 

Tor some days Ailie did well. The wound 
healed "by the first intention" ; fori^s James 
said, " Oor Ailie's skin 's ower clean to beil.'* 
The students came in quiet and anxious, and 
surrounded her bed. She said she liked to see 
their young, honest faces. Tlte-^tiTgeon dressed 
her, and spoke to her in his own short, kind 
way, pitying her through his eyes, Rab and 
, James outside the circle, — Rab being now 
reconciled, and even cordial, and having made 
up his mind that as yet nobody required worry- 
ing, but, as you may suppose, semper paratus. 

So far well : but, four days after the opera- 
tion, my patient had a sudden and loiig shiver- 
ing, a "groosinV as she called it. fl saw her 
soon after ; her eyes were too bright, her cheek 



32 RAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 

colored ; she was restless, and ashamed of being 
so ; the balance was lost ; mischief had begun. 
On looking at the wound, a blush of red told 
the secret : her pulse was rapid, her breathing 
aiixious and quick, she was n't herself, as she 
said, and was vexed at her restlessness. We 
tried what we could. James did everything, 
was everywhere ; never in the way, never out 
of it ; Rab subsided under the table into a 
dark place, and was motionless, all but his eye, 
which followed every one. Ailie got worse ; 
began to wander in her mind, gently ; was more 
demonstrative in her ways to James, rapid in 
her questions, and sharp at times. He was 
vexed, and said, "She was never that way 
afore ; no, never." For a time she knew her 
head was wrong, and was always asking our 
pardon, — the dear, gentle old woman: then 
deliri-um set in strong, without pause. Her 
brain gave way, and then came that terrible 
spectacle, — 

" The intellectual power, througli words and things. 
Went sounding on its dim aiul perilous way " ; 

she sang bits of old songs and Psalms, stop- 
ping suddenly, mingling the Psalms of David 
and the diviner words of his Son and Lord 



RAB AXD HIS FEIENDS. 33 

with homely odds and ends and scraps of bal- 
lads. 

Xotbing more touching, or in a sense more 
strangely beautiful, did I ever witness. Her 
tremulous, rapid, affectionate, eager Scotch 
voice, — the swift, aimless, bewildered mind, 
the baffled utterance, the bright and perilous 
eye ; some wild words, some household cares, 
something for James, the names of the dead, 
Rab called rapidly and in a " fremyt " voice, 
and he starting up surprised, and shnking off 
as if he were to blame somehow, or had been 
dreaming he heard ; many eager questions and 
beseechings which James and I could make 
nothing of, and on which she seemed to set her 
all, and then sink back ununderstood. It was 
very sad, but better than many things that are 
not called sad. James hovered about, put out 
and miserable, but active and exact as ever; 
read to her, when there was a lull, short bits 
from the Psalms, prose and metre, chanting 
the latter in his own rude and serious way, 
showing great knowledge of the fit words, 
bearing up like a man, and doating over her 
as his "ain Ailie." "Ailie, ma woman!" 
" Ma ain bonnie wee dawtie ! " 
/.' The end was drawing on : the golden bowl 



34 RAB AND HIS I'RIENDS. 

was breaking ; the silver cord was fast being 
loosed, — that cinimula blandula, vagida, hos- 
pes, comesqne, was about to flee. The body 
and the soul — ■ companions for sixty years — 
were being sundered, and taking leave. She 
was walknig alone tii rough the valley of that 
shadow into which one day we must all enter. 

— and yet she was not alone, for Ave know 
whose rod and stafl" were comforting her. 

One night she had fallen quiet, and, as we 
hoped, asleep ; her eyes were shut. We put 
down the gas, and sat watching her. Suddenly 
she sat up in bed, and taking a bedgown which 
was lying on it rolled up, she held it eagerly to 
her breast, — to the right side. We could see 
her eyes bright with a surprising tenderness 
and jo^y, bending over this bundle of clothes. 
She held it as a woman holds her sucking 
child ; opening out her nightgown impatiently, 
and holding it close, and brooding over it, and 
murmuring foolisli little words, as over one 
whom his mother comforteth, and who sucks 
and is satisfied. It was pitiful and strange to 
see her wasted dying look, keen and yet vague, 

— her immense love. 

" Preserve me ! " groaned James, giving 
way. And then she rocked back and forward, 



/ 



EAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 35 

as if to make it sleep, Imshing it, and wasting 
on it her infinite fondness. " Wae 's me, doc- 
tor ; I declare she 's thinkin' it 's that baim." 
"What bairn?" "The only bairn we ever 
had ; our wee Mysie, and she 's in the King- 
dom, forty years and mair." It was plainly 
true : the pain in the breast, telling its urgent 
story to a bewildered, ruined brain, was mis- 
read and mistaken; it suggested to her the 
uneasiness of a breast full of milk, and then 
the child ; and so again ouce more they were 
together, and she had her am wee Mysie in her 
bosom. 

This was the close. She sank rapidly : the 
delirium left her ; but, as she whispered, she 
was " clean silly " ; it was the lightening 
before the final darkness. After having for 
some time lain still, her eyes shut, she said, 
" James I " He came close to her, and lifting 
up her calm, clear, beautiful eyes, she gave 
him a long look, turned to me kindly but 
shortly, looked for Rab but could not see him, 
then turned to her husband agam, as if she 
would never leave off looking, shut her eyes, 
and composed herself. She lay for some time 
breathing quick, and passed away so gently, 
that when we thought she was gone, James, in 



36 RAB AND HIS TEIENDS. 

his old-fashioned way, lield tlie mirror to her 
face. After a long pause, one small spot of 
dimness was breathed out ; it vanished away, 
and never returned, leaving the blank clear 
darkness of the mirror without a stain. " What 
is our life ? it is even a vapor, which appeareth 
for a little time, and then vanisheth away." 

Rab all this time had been full awake and 
motionless ; he came forward beside us : Ailie's 
hand, which James had held, was hanging 
down ; it was soaked with his tears ; Rab 
licked it all over carefully, looked at her, and 
returned to his place under the table. 

James and I sat, I don't know how long, 
but for some time, — saying nothing: he 
started up abruptly, and witli some noise went 
to the table, and putting his right fore and 
middle fingers each into a shoe, pulled them 
out, and put them on, breaking one of the 
leather latchets, and muttering in anger, "I 
never did the like o' that afore ! " 

I believe he never did ; nor after either. 
"Rab!" he said roughly, and pointing with 
his thumb to the bottom of tlie bed. Rab 
leapt up, and settled himself; his head and 
eye to the dead face. " Maister John, ye '11 
wait for me," said the carrier ; and disappeared 



I 



RAB AND HIS FEIEXDS. 37 

ill the darkness, tliimdering down stairs in his 
heavy shoes. I ran to a front window ; there 
he was, already round the liouse, and out at 
the gate, fleeing like a shadow. 

I was afraid about him, and yet not afraid ; 
so I sat down beside Rab, and being wearied, 
fell asleep. I awoke from a sudden noise out- 
side. It was November, and there had been 
a heavy fall of snow, Rab was in statu quo ; 
he heard the noise too, and plainly knew it, 
but never moved. I looked out ; and there, 
at the gate, in the dim morning — for the sun 
was not up — was Jess and the cart, — a cloud 
of steam rising from the old mare. I did not 
see James ; he was already at the door, and 
came up the stairs, and met me. It was 
less than three hours since he left, and he 
must have posted out — who knows how? — 
to Howgate, full nine miles off, yoked Jess, 
and driven her astonished into town. He had 
an armful of blankets, and was streaming with 
perspiration. He nodded to me, spread out 
on the floor two pairs of clean old blankets 
having at their corners, "A. G., 1794," in 
large letters in red worsted. These were the 
initials of Alison Grseme, and James may have 
looked in at her from without, — himself un- 



38 RAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 

seen but not untliouglit of, — when lie was 
" wat, wat, and weary," and after liaving 
walked many a mile over the hills, may have 
seen her sitting, while " a' the lave were sleep- 
in' " ; and by the firelight working her name 
on the blankets, for her ain James's bed. 

He motioned Rab down, and taking his wife 
in his arms, laid her in the blankets, and happed 
her carefully and firmly up, leaving the face 
uncovered; and then lifting her, he nodded 
again sharply to me, and with a resolved but 
utterly miserable' face strode along the passage, 
and down stairs, followed by Rab. I followed 
with a light ; but he did n't need it. I went out, 
holding stupidly the candle in my hand in the 
calm frosty air ; we were soon at the gate. I 
could have helped him, but I sav,^ he was not 
to be meddled with, and he was strong, and 
did not need it. He laid her down as tenderly, 
as safely, as he had lifted her out ten days 
before, — as tenderly as when he had lier first 
in his arms when she was only"A. G.," — 
sorted her, leaving that beautiful sealed face 
open to the heavens ; and then taking Jess by the 
head, he moved away. He did not notice me, 
neither did Rab, who presided behind the cart. 
I stood till they passed through the long 



STATE NORMAL 

Lo8 Arigeies 

HAB AND HIS FRIEXDS. 41 

shadow of the College, and turned up i\ icolson 
Street. I heard the solitary cart sound through 
the streets, and die away and come again ; and 
I returned, thinking of that company going up 
Libberton Brae, then along Roslin Muir, the 
morning light touching the Pentlauds and 
making them like on-looking ghosts ; then 
down the hill through Auchiudinny woods, past 
" haunted Woodhouselee " ; and as daybreak 
came sweeping up the bleak Lammermuirs,. 
and fell on his own door, the company would 
stop, and James would take the key, and lift 
Ailie up again, laying her on her own bed, and, 
having put Jess up, would return with Rab 
and shut the door. 

James buried his wife, with his neighbors 
mourning, Rab inspecting the solemnity from a 
distance. It was snow, and that black ragged 
hole would look strange in the midst of the 
swelling spotless cushion of white. James 
looked after everj^thing ; then rather suddenly 
fell ill, and took to bed ; was insensible when 
the doctor came, and soon died. A sort of 
low fever was prevailing in the village, and 
his want of sleep, his exhaustion, and his misery 
made him apt to take it. The grave was not 
difficult to reopen. A fresh fall of snow ha<^ 



4:Z RAB AND HIS FRIENDS. 

again made all things white and smooth ; Eab 
once more looked on, and slunk home to the 
stable. 

And what of Rab ? I asked for him next 
week at the new carrier who got the good- 
will of James's business, and was now master of 
Jess and her cart. " How 's llab ? " He put 
me off, and said rather rudely, " What 's your 
business Avi' the dowg?" I was not to be so 
put off. " Wliere 's Rab ? " He, getting con- 
fused and red, and intermeddling with his hair, 
said, " 'Deed, sir, Rab 's deid." " Dead ! what 
did he die of? " " Weel, sir," said he, getting 
redder, " he didna exactly dee ; he was killed. 
I had to brain him wi' a rack-pin ; there was 
nae doin' wi' him. He lay in the treviss wi' 
the mear, and wadna come oot. I tempit him 
wi' kail and meat, but he wad tak naething, and 
keepit me frae feedin' the beast, and he was 
aye gur gurrin', and grup gruppin' me by the 
legs. I was laith to make awa wi' the auld 
dowg, his like wasna atween this and Thornhill, 
— but, 'deed, sir, I could do naething else." 
I believed him. Fit end for Rab, quick and 
complete. His teeth and his friends gone, why 
should he keep the peace, and be civil ? 



MARJORIE FLEMING. 



TO 

MISS FLEMING, 

TO WHOM I Ail IXDFIBTKD TOR ALL ITS MATERIALS, 

Cfjis fHcmorial 

OF HER DEAR AND UXFORGOTTEN 

"MAIDIE 

IS GRATEFULLY IXSCRIBED. 



-^^Sr 



MARJORIE FLEMING. 



NE jNTovember afternoon in 1810 — the 
year in which Waverleij was resumed 
and laid aside again, to be finished off, 
its last two volumes in three weeks, and made 
immortal in 1814, and when its author, by the 
death of Lord Melville, narrowly escaped get- 
ting a civil appointment in India — three men, 
evidently lawyers, might have been seen es- 
caping like school-boys from the Parliament 
House, and speeding arm-in-arm down Bank 
Street and the Mound, in the teeth of a surly 
blast of sleet. 

The three friends sought the hield of the low 
wall old Edinburgh boys remember well, and 
sometimes miss now, as they struggle with the 
stout west -wind. 

The three were curiously unlike each other. 
One, " a little man of feeble make, who would 



48 MATtJOUIE FLEMIXG. 

be imliappy if his pony got beyond a foot pace," 
slight, with " small, elegant features, hectic 
cheek, and soft hazel eyes, the index of the 
quick, sensitive spirit within, as if he had the 
warm heart of a woman, her genuine enthusi- 
asm, and some of her weaknesses." Another, 
as unlike a woman as a man can be ; homely, 
almost common, in look and figure ; his hat 
and his coat, and indeed his entire covering, 
worn to the quick, but all of the best material ; 
what redeemed him from vulgarity and mean- 
ness were his eyes, deep set, heavily thatched, 
keen, hungry, shrewd, with a slumbering glow 
far in, as if they could be dangerous ; a man 
to care nothing for at first glance, but some- 
how to give a second and not-fargetting look 
at. The third was the biggest of the three, 
and though lame, nimble, and all rough and 
alive with power, had you met him anywhere 
else, you would say he was a Liddesdale store- 
farmer, come of gentle blood ; " a stout, blunt 
carle," as he says of himself, with the swing 
and stride and the eye of a man of the hills, — 
a large, sunny, out-of-door air all about him. 
On his broad and somewhat stooping shoulders 
was set that head which, with Shakespeare's 
and Bonaparte's, is the best known in all the 
world. 



JIAEJOEIE FLEMIXG. 49 

He was in high spirits, keeping his compan- 
ions and himself in roars of laughter, and 
every now and then seizing them, and stopping, 
that they might take their fill of the fim ; there 
they stood shaking with laughter, "not an 
inch of their body free" from its grip. At 
George Street they parted, one to Rose Court, 
behind St. Andrew's Church, one to Albany 
Street, the other, our big and limping friend, 
to Castle Street. 

^Ye need hardly give their names. The first 
was William Erskine, afterwards Lord Kinned- 
der, chased out of the world by a calumny, 
killed by its foul breath, — 

" And at the touch of wrong, -without a strife, 
Slipped in a moment out of life." 

There is nothing in literature more beautiful 
or more pathetic than Scott's love and sorrow 
for this friend of his youth. 

The second was William Clerk, — the Darsie 
Latimer of Redr/auntlet ; "a man," as Scott 
says, " of the most acute intellects and power- 
ful apprehension," but of more powerful indo- 
lence, so as to leave the world with little more 
than the report of what he might have been, — 
a humorist as genuine, though not quite so 



50 MARJOEIE FLEMING. 

savagely Swiftian as his brother, Lord Eldin, 
neither of whom had much of that commonest 
and best of all the humors, called good. 

The third we all know. Wliat has he not 
done for every one of us? Wlio else ever, 
except Shakespeare, so diverted mankind, en- 
tertained and entertains a world so liberally, 
so wholesomely ? We are fain to say, not 
even Shakespeare, for his is something deeper 
than diversion, something higher than ipleasure, 
and yet who would care to split this hair ? 

Had any one watched him closely before and 
after the parting, wliat a change he would see ! 
The bright, broad laugh, the shrewd, jovial 
word, the man of the Parliament House and of 
the world ; and next step, moody, the light of 
his eye withdrawn, as if seeing things that were 
invisible ; his shut mouth, like a child's, so im- 
pressionable, so innocent, so sad ; he was now 
all within, as before he was all without ; hence 
his brooding look. As the snow blattered in 
his face, he muttered, " How it raves and drifts ! 
On-ding o' snaw, — ay, that 's the word, — ou- 
ding — " He was now at his own door, 
" Castle Street, No. 39." He opened the door, 
and went straight to his den ; that wondrous 
workshop, where, in one year, IS 23, when he 



MAEJORIE FLEMING. 51 

was fifty-t"wo, he wrote Peveril of the Peak, 
Quenti/i Duncard, and St. Ronan's Well, be- 
sides much else. We once took the foremost 
of our noveUsts, the greatest, we would say, 
shice Scott, into this room, and could not but 
mark the solemnizing effect of sitting where 
the great magician sat so often and so long, 
and looking out upon that little shabby bit of 
sky and that back green, where faithful Camp 
lies.* 

He sat down in his large green morocco 
elbow-chair, drew himself close to his table, and 
glowered and gloomed at his writing apparatus, 
"a very handsome old box, richly carved, 
lined with crimson velvet, and containing ink- 
bottles, taper-stand, etc., in silver, the whole 
in such order that it might have come from 
the silversmith's window half an hour before." 
He took out his paper, then starting up angrily, 
said, " ' Go spin, you jade, go spin.' No, d — 
it, it won't do, — 

* This favorite dog: " died about Januaiy, 1809, and was 
buried in a fine moonlight nijrht in the little garden behind 
the liouse in Castle Street. My vLfe tells nie she remem- 
bers the whole family in tears about the grave as her father 
himself smoothed the turf above Camp, with the saddest 
face she had ever seen. He had been engaged to dine 
abroad that day, but apologized, on account of the death of 
' a dear old friend.' " — Lockhakt's Ufe of Scott. 



52 MARJORIE FLEMING. 

' My spinnin' -nheel is auld and stiff, 

The rock o't wunna stand, sir, 
To keep tlie temper-pin in tiff 
Employs ower aft nly liand, sir.' 

I am off the fang.* I can make iiotliing of 
Waverley to-day ; I '11 awa' to Marjorie. Come 
wi' me, Maida, you thief." The great crea- 
ture rose slowly, and the pair were off, Scott 
taking a maud (a plaid) "with him. " White 
as a frosted plum-cake, by jingo! " said he, 
when he got to the street. Maida gambolled 
and whisked among the snow, and his master 
strode across to Young Street, and through it to 
1 North Charlotte Street, to the house of his 
dear friend, Mrs. "William Keith, of Corstor- 
phine Hill, niece of Mrs. Keith, of Ravelston, 
of whom he said at her death, eight years after, 
"Much tradition, and that of the best, has 
died with this excellent old lady, one of the^ 
few persons whose spirits and cleanliness and 
freshness of mind and body made old age 
lovely and desirable." 

Sir Walter was in that house almost every 
day, and had a key, so in he and the hound 
went, shaking themselves in the lobby. " Mar- 

* Applied to a pump when it is dry, and its valve has lost 
its " fang " ; from the German /aw^/CH, to hold. 



MARJORIE FLEMING. o.j 

jorie ! Marjorie ! " shouted her fiientl, " where 
are ye, my boiinie wee croodUn doo ? " lu a 
moment a bright, eager child of seven was in 
his arms, and lie was kissing her all over. 
Out came Mrs. Keith. " Come yer ways in, 
Wat tie." " No, not now. I am going to take 
Marjorie wi' me, and you may come to your 
tea in Duncan Roy's sedan, and bring the bairn 
home in your lap." " Tak' Marjorie, and it 
on-ding d snaic I'' said Mrs. Keith. He said 
to himself, " On-ding, — that 's odd, — that is 
the very word." " Hoot, awa ! look here," 
and he displayed the corner of his plaid, made 
to hold lambs (the true shepherd's plaid, con- 
sisting of two breadths sewed together, and 
uncut at one end, making a poke or cid de sac). 
"Tak' yer lamb," said she, laughing at the 
contrivance ; and so the Pet was first well hap- 
pit up, and then put, laughing silently, into the 
plaid neuk, and the shepherd strode off with 
his lamb, — Maida gambolling through the 
snow, and running races in her mirth. 

Did n't he face " the angry airt," and make 
her bield his bosom, and into his own room 
with her, and lock the door, and out w4th the 
warm, rosy little wifie, who took it all with 
great composure ! There the two remained 



56 MARJOEIE FLEMING. 

for three or more hours, making the house ring 
with their laughter ; you can fancy the big 
man's and Maidie's laugh. Having made the 
fire cheery, he set her down in his ample chair, 
and standing sheepishly before her, began to 
say his lesson, which happened to be, • — " Zic- 
cott}^, diccotty, dock, the mouse ran up the 
clock, the clock struck wan, down the mouse 
ran, ziccotty, diccotty, dock." This done re- 
peatedly till she was pleased, she gave him his 
new lesson, gravely and slowly, timing it upon 
her small fingers, — he saying it after her, — 

" Wonery, twoery, tickery, seven ; 
Alibi, crackaby, ten, and eleven ; 
Pin, pan, musky, dan ; 
Tweedle-um, twoddle-um, 
Twenty-Man ; eerie, orie, ourie. 
You, are, out." 

He pretended to great diificidty, and she re- 
buked him with most comical gravity, treating 
him as a child. He used to say that when he 
came to Alibi Crackaby he broke down, and 
Pin-Pan, Musky -Dan, Tweedle-um Twoddle-um 
made him roar with laughter. He said Mu.skj/- 
Dan especially was beyond endurance, bringing 
up an Irishman and his hat fresh from the Spice 
Islands and odoriferous Ind ; she getting quite 



MARJORIE FLEMING. 57 

bitter in lier displeasure at liis ili-beliavior and 
stupidness. 

Then be would read ballads to lier in bis 
own glorious way, tbe two getting wild witb 
excitement over Gil Morrice or tbe Baroti of 
Sinailholm ; and be would take ber on bis 
knee, and make ber repeat Constance's speecbes 
in Kiiuj John, till be swayed to and fro, sob- 
bing bis fill. Fancy the gifted little creature, 
like one possessed, repeating, — 

" For I am sick, and capable of fears, 
Oppressed with wrong, and therefore full of fears ; 
A widow, hushandless, suljject to fears ; 
A woman, naturally born to fears." 

"If thou that bidst me be content, wert grim. 
Ugly and slanderous to thy mother's womb. 
Lame, foolish, crooked, swart, prodigious — " 

Or, drawing berself up " to tbe beigbt of ber 
great argument," — 

" I will instruct my sorrows to be proud. 
For grief is proud, and makes his owner stout. 
Here 1 and sorrow sit." 

Scott used to say tbat be was amazed at ber 
power over bim, saying to Mrs. Keitb, " Sbe 's 
tbe most extraordinary creature I ever met 
mtb, and ber repeating of Sbakespeare over- 
powers me as notbing else does." 



58 MAllJORIE FLEMING. 

Tlianks to tlie miforgetting sister of tliis dear 
child, who has much of the sensibilitv and fun 
of her who has been in lier small grave these 
fifty and more years, we liave now before us 
the letters and journals of Pet Marjorie, — be- 
fore us lies and gleams her rich brown hair, 
bright and sunny as if yesterday's, with tlie 
words on the paper, " Cut out in her last ill- 
ness," and two pictures of her by her beloved 
Isabella, whom she worshipped ; there are the 
faded old scraps of paper, hoarded still, over 
which her warm breath and her warm little 
heart had poured themselves ; there is the old 
water-mark, "Lingard, ISOS." The two por- 
traits are very like each other, but plainly done 
at different times ; it is a chubby, healthy face, 
deep-set, brooding eyes, as eager to tell what is 
going on within as to gather in all the glories 
from without ; quick with the wonder and the 
pride of life ; they are eyes that would not be 
soon satisfied with seeing ; e^^es that would de- 
vour their object, and yet childlike and fear- 
less ; and that is a mouth that will not be soon 
satisfied with love ; it has a curious hkeness to 
Scott's own, which has always appeared to us 
his sweetest, most mobile and speaking feat- 
ure. 



MARJORIE FLEMING. 59 

There she is, looking straight at us as she 
did at him, — fearless and full of love, passion- 
ate, Tvild, wilful, fancy's child. One cannot 
look at it without thinking of Wordsworth's 
Lines on poor Hartley Coleridge : — 

" blessed vision, happy child ! 
Thou art so exquisitely wild, 
I thought of thee with many fears. 
Of what might be thy lot in future years. 
I thought of times when Pain might he thy guest. 
Lord of thy house and hospitality ; 
And Grief, uneasy lover ! ne'er at rest. 
But when she sat within the touch of thee. 
0, too industrious folly ! 
0, vain and causeless melancholy ! 
Nature will either end thee quite. 
Or, lengthening out thy season of delight, 
Preser\ e for thee by individual right 
A young lamb's heart among the full-grown flock." 

^Ind we can imagine Scott, when holding his 
warm, plump little playfellow in his arms, re- 
peating that stately friend's lines : — 

" Loving she is, and tractable, though wild. 
And Innocence hath privilege in her. 
To dignify arch looks and laughing eyes. 
And feats of cunning ; and the pretty round 
Of trespasses, affected to provoke 
Mock chastisement and partnership in play. 
And, as a fagot sparkles on the hearth. 
Not less if unattended and alone, 
Than wlien both voung and old sit gathered round. 



60 MARJORIE FLEMING. 

And take delight in its activity, 
Even so this happy creature of herself 
Is all-sufficient; solitude to her 
Is blithe society; she tills the air 
With gladness and involuntary songs " 

But we will let lier disclose herself. Wft 
need hardly say that all this is true, and that 
these letters are as really Marjorie's as was 
this light brown hair ; indeed, you could as 
easily fabricate the one as the other. 

There was an old servant, Jeanie Robertson, 
who was forty years in her grandfather's fam- 
ily. Marjorie Fleming, or, as slie is called in 
the letters, and by Sir Walter, Maidie, Avas the 
last child she kept. Jeanie's wages never ex- 
ceeded £ 3 a year, and, when she left ser- 
vice, slie had saved £ 40. She was devotedly 
attached to Maidie, rather despising and ill- 
using her sister Isabella, — a beautiful and 
gentle child. This partiality made Maidie apt 
at times to domineer over Isabella. " I men- 
tion this " (writes her surviving sister) " for 
the purpose of telling you an instance of Mai- 
die's generous justice. When only five years 
old, when walking in Raith grounds, the two 
children had nni on before, and old Jeanie re- 
membered they might come too near a danger- 
ous mill-lade. She called to them to turn back. 



MARJORIE FLEMING. 61 

Maidie heeded her not, rushed all the faster 
on, and fell, and would have been lost, had lier 
sister not pulled her back, savmg her life, but 
tearing her clothes. Jeanie flew on Isabella to 
' give it her ' for spoiling lier favorite's dress ; 
Maidie rushed in between, crying out, ' Pay 
(whip) Maidjie as much as you like, and I '11 
not say one word ; but touch Isy, and I '11 roar 
like a bull ! ' Years after Maidie was resting 
in her grave, my mother used to take me to 
the place, and told the story always in the ex- 
act same words." This Jeanie must have been 
a character. She took great pride in exhibit- 
ing Maidie's brother William's Calvinistic ac- 
quirements, when nineteen months old, to the 
officers of a militia regiment then quartered in 
Kirkcaldy. This performance was so amusing 
that it was often repeated, and the little theo- 
logian was presented by them with a cap and 
feathers. Jeanie's glory was "putting him 
through the carritcli " (catechism) in broad 
Scotcli, beginning at the beginning witli^, " Wha 
made ye, ma bonnie man ? " For the correct- 
ness of this and the three next replies Jeanie 
had no anxiety, but the tone changed to men- 
ace, and the closed nieve (fist) was shaken in 
the child's face as she demanded, " Of what 



62 MARJOEIE FLEMING. 

are you made ? " " Dirt," was the answer 
uniformly given. "Wull ye never learn to say 
dust, ye tlirawn deevil ? " with a cuff from the 
opened hand, was the as inevitable rejoinder. 

Here is Maidie's first letter before she was 
six. The spelling unaltered, and there are no 
" commoes." 

"My dear Isa, — I now sit down to an- 
swer all your kind and beloved letters which 
you was so good as to write to me. This iS 
the first time I ever wrote a letter in my Life. 
There are a great many Girls m the Square and 
they cry just like a pig when we are under the 
painfull necessity of putting it to Death. Miss 
Potune a Lady of my acquaintance praises me 
dreadfully. I repeated something out of Dean. 
Swift, and she said I was fit %x the stage, and 
you may think I was primmed up with majes- 
tick Pride, but upon my word I felt myselfe 
turn a little birsay — birsay is a word which is 
a word that William composed which is as you 
may suppose a little enraged. This horrid fat 
simpliton says that my Aunt is beautifull which 
is intirely impossible for that is not her nature." 

What a peppery little pen we wield ! What 
could that have been out of the Sardonic Dean ? 
what other child of that age would have used 



MARJORIE FLEMING. 63 

" beloved " as she does ? This power of affec- 
tion, this faculty of i^i^ioving-, and wild hunger 
to be beloved, comes out more and more. Slie 
perilled her all upon it, and it may have been 
as well — we know, indeed, that it was far 
better — for her that this wealth of love was 
so soon withdrawn to its one only infinite Giver 
and Receiver. This must have been the law 
of her earthly life. Love was indeed "her 
Lord and King " ; and it was perhaps well for 
her that she found so soon that her and our only 
Lord and King himself is Love. 

Here are bits from her Diary at Braehead : 
" The day of my existence here has been 
delightful and enchanting. On Saturday I 
.expected no less than three well made Bucks 
the names of whom is here advertised. Mr. 
Geo. Crakey (Craigie), and Wm. Keith and Jn. 
Keith — the first is the fumiiest of every one of 
them. Mr. Crakey and walked to Crakyhall 
(Craigiehall) hand in hand in Innocence and 
matitation (meditation) sweet thinking on the 
kind love which flows in our tender hearted 
mind which is overflowing with majestic pleas- 
ure no one was ever so polite to me in the hole 
state of my existence. Mr. Craky you must 
know is a great Buck and pretty good-looking. 



64 MAEJORIE FLEMING. 

" I am at Ravelston enjoying nature's fresli 
air. The birds are singing sweetly — the call 
doth frisk and nature shows her glorious face." 

Here is a confession : " I confess I have 
been very more like a little young divil than a 
creature for when Isabella went up stairs to 
teach me religion and my multiplication and to 
be good and all my other lessons I stamped 
■with my foot and threw my new hat which she 
had made on the ground and was sulky and 
was dreadfully passionate, but she never whiped 
me but said Marjory go into another room and 
think what a great crime you are committing 
letting your temper git the better of you. But 
I went so sulkily that the Devil got the better 
of me but she never never never whips me so 
that I think I would be the better of it and the 
next time that I behave ill I think she should 

do it for she never does it Isabella has 

given me praise for checking my temper for I 
was sulky even when she was kneeling an hole 
hour teaching me to write." 

Our poor little wifie, she has no doubts of the 
personality of the Devil ! " Yesterday I behave 
extremely ill in God's most holy church for I 
would never attend myself nor let Isabella 
attend which was a great crime for she often, 



MARJORIE FLEMING. 65 

often tells me that when to or three are 
geathered together God is in the midst of 
them, and it was the very same Divil that 
tempted Job that tempted me I am sure ; but he 
resisted Satan though he had boils and many 
many other niisfortunes which I have escaped. 
.... I am now going to tell you the horible 
and wretched plaege (plague) that my multipli- 
cation gives me you can't conceive it the most 
Devilish thing is 8 times 8 and 7 times 7 it is 
what nature itself cant endure." 

This is delicious ; and what harm is there in 
her " Devilish " ? it is strong language merely; 
even old Rowland Hill used to say " he grudged 
the Devil those rough and ready words." " I 
walked to that delightful place Crakyhall with a 
delightful young man beloved by all his friends 
especially by me his loveress, but I must not 
talk any more about him for Isa said it is not 
proper for to speak oi gentalmen but I will 
never forget him ! .... I am very very glad 
that satan has not given me boils and many 
other misfortunes — In the holy bible these 
words are written that the Devil goes Hke a 
roaring lyon in search of his pray but the lord 
lets us escape from him but we" {pauvre pe- 
tite !) " do not strive with this awfull Spirit. 



66 MARJORIE FLEMING. 

.... To-day I pronunced a word which sliould 
never come out of a lady's lips it was that 1 
called John a Impudent Bitch. I will tell you 
what I think made me in so bad a humor is I 
got one or two of that bad bad sina (senna) tea 
to-day," — a better excuse for bad humor and 
bad language than most. 

She has been reading the Book of Esthei- : 
"It, was a dreadful thing that Haman was 
hanged on the very gallows which he had pre- 
pared for Mordeca to hang him and his ten 
sons thereon and it Avas very wrong and cruel 
to hang his sons for they did not commit tlie 
crime ; bief then Jesus teas not the)i come to 
teach ns to he merciful^ This is wise and 
beautiful, — has upon it the very dew of youth 
and of holiness. Out of the mouths of' babes 
and sucklings He perfects his praise. 

"This is Saturday and I am very glad of it 
because I have play half the Day and I get 
money too but alas I owe Isabella !• pence for 
I am finned 2 pence whenever I bite my nails. 
Isabella is teaching me to make simme col- 
ings nots of interrigations peorids commoes, 

■ etc As this is Sunday I will meditate 

upon Senciable and Religious subjects. Tirst 
I should be very thankful I am not a begger." 



MARJORIE FLEMING. 67 

This amount of meditation and thankfulness 
seems to have been all she was able for. 

" I am going to-morrow to a delightfull 
place, Braehead by name, belonging to Mrs. 
Crraford, where there is ducks cocks hens bub- 
blyjocks 2 dogs 2 cats and swine which is de- 
lightful. I think it is shocking to think that the 
dog and cat should bear them " (this is a medi- 
tation physiological), " and they are drowned 
after all. I would rather have a man-dog than 
a woman-dog, because they do not bear like 
women-dogs ; it is a hard case — it is shocking. 
1 cam here to enjoy natures delightful breath it 
is sweeter than a fial (phial) of rose oil." 

Braehead is the farm the historical Jock 
Howison asked and got from our gay James 
the Fifth, " the gudeman o' Ballengiech," as a 
reward for the services of his flail when the 
King had the worst of it at Cramond Brig with 
the gypsies. The farm is unchanged in size 
from that time, and still in the unbroken line 
of the ready and victorious thrasher. Brae- 
head is held on the condition of the possessor 
being ready to present the King with a ewer 
and basin to wash his hands, Jock having done 
this for his unknown king after the splore, and 
when George the Fourth came to Edinburgh 



68 MARJORIE FLEMING. 

this ceremony was performed in silver at Holy- 
tood. It is a lovely neuk this Braehead, pre- 
served almost as it was two hundred years ago. 
" Lot and his wife," mentioned by Maidie, — 
two quaintly cropped yew-trees, — still thrive ; 
the burn runs as it did in her time, and sings 
the same quiet tune, — as much the same and 
as different as Now and The)i. The house full 
of old family relics and pictures, the sun shin- 
ing on them through the small deep windows 
with their plate-glass ; and there, blinking at 
the sun, and chattering contentedly, is a par- 
rot, that might, for its looks of eld, have been 
in the ark, and domineered over and deaved 
the dove. Everything about the place is old 
and fresh. 

This is beautiful : " I am very sorry to say 
that I forgot God — that is to say I forgot to 
pray to-day and Isabella told me that I should 
be thankful that God did not forget me — if 
he did, O what become of me if 1 was in dan- 
ger and God not friends with me — -I must 
go to unquenchable fire and if I was tempted to 
sin — how could I resist it no I will never 
do it again — no no — r if I can help it." 
(Canny wee wifie !) " My religion is greatly 
falling off because 1 dont pray with so much 



MAEJOllIE FLEMING. 69 

attention when I am saying niv prayers, and 
niy charecter is lost among the Braehead peo- 
ple. I hope I will be religious again — but as 
for regaining my charecter I despare for it." 
(Poor little " habit and repute " l) 

Her temper, her passion, and her " badness " 
are almost daily confessed and deplored : " ] 
will never again trust to my own power, for ] 
see that I cannot be good without God's assist- 
auce — I will not trust in my own selfe, and 
Isa's health will be quite ruined by me — it 
will indeed." " Isa has giving me advice, 
which is, that when I feal Satan beginning to 
tempt me, that I flea him and he would flea 
me." " Remorse is the worst thing to bear, 
and I am afraid that I will fall a marter to it." 

Poor dear little sinner ! — Here comes thff 
world again : " In my travels I met with a 
handsome lad named Charles Balfour Esq., 
and from him I got ofers of marage — offers ot 
marage, did I say ? Nay plenty heard me." 
A fine scent for " breach of promise " ! 

This is abrupt and strong : " The Divd is 
curced and all works. 'T is a fine work New- 
ton Oil the profecies. I wonder if there is 
another book of poems comes near the Bible. 
The Divil alwavs girns at the sisrht of the 



70 MARJORIE FLEMING. 

Bible." "Miss Potime" (her "simpliton" 
friend) " is very fat ; slie pretends to be very 
learned. She says she saw a stone that dropt 
from the skies ; but she is a good Christian." 
Here come her views on church government : 
"An Annibabtist is a thing I am not a 
member of — I am a Pisplekan (Episcopalian) 
just now, and" (0 you little Laodicean and 
Latitudinarian !) " a Prisbeteran at Kirk- 
caldy ! " — {Blandda ! Vagula ! ccelim et ani- 
mum mutas quce tracts mare (i. e. trans Bodo- 
triam)-curris /) — " my native town." " Sen- 
timent is not what I am acquainted with as 
yet, though I wish it, and should like to prac- 
tise it"(!) "I wish I had a great, great 
deal of gratitude in my heart, in all my body." 
"There is a new novel published, named Se/f- 
Control'' (Mrs. Brunton's) — " a very good 
maxim foi-sooth ! " Tiiis is shocking: "Yes- 
terday a marrade man, named Mr. John Bal- 
four, Esq., offered to kiss me, and offered to 
marry me, though the man " (a fine directness 
this !) " was espused, and his wife was present 
and said he must ask her permission ; but he 
did not. I think he was ashamed and con- 
founded before 3 gentelman — Mr. Jobson 
and 2 Mr. Kings." " Mr. Banester's " (Ban- 



I 



MAHJORIE FLEMING. 71 

Ulster's) "Budjet is to-iiiglit; I hope it will 
be a good one. A great many authors have 
expressed themselves too sentimentally." You 
are right, Marjorie. "A Mr. Burns writes a 
beautiful song on Mr. Cunhaming, whose wife 
desarted him — truly it is a most beautiful 
one." " I like to read the Fabulous historys, 
about the histerys of Robin, Dickey, flapsay, 
and Peccay, and it is very amusing, for some 
were good birds and others bad, but Peccaj 
was the most dutiful and obedient to her pari- 
ents." " Thomson is a beautiful author, and 
Pope, but nothing to Shakespear, of which I 
have a little knolege. Macbeth is a pretty 
composition, but awful one." " The Newgate 
Calender is very instructive " (!) " A sailor 
called here to say farewell ; it must be dread- 
ful to leave his native country when he might 
get a wife ; or perhaps me, for I love him very 
much. But O I forgot, Isabella forbid me to 
speak about love." This antiphlogistic regi- 
men and lesson is ill to learn by our Maidie, 
for here she sins again : " Love is a very papi- 
thatick thing " (it is almost a pity to correct 
this into pathetic), "as well as troublesome 
and tiresome — but Isabella forbid me to 
speak of it." Here are her reflections on a 



72 MAllJOlllE FLEMING. 

pineapple : " I think the price of a pine-apple 
is very dear : it is a whole bright goulden 
guinea, that might have sustained a poor fam- 
ilv." Here is a new vernal simile : " Tlie 
hedges are sprouting like chicks from the eggs 
when they are newly hatched or, as the vulgar 
say, clacked." " Doctor Swift's works are 
very funny ; I got some of them by heart." 
" Moreheads sermons are I hear much praised, 
but I never read sermons of any kind ; but J 
read novelettes and my Bible, and I never for- 
get it, or my prayers." Bravo, Marjorie ! 

She seems now, when still about six, to have 
broken out into song : — 

Ephibol (Epigram or Epitaph — who knows which ?) 
ON JiY DEAR Love Isabella. 

" Here lies sweet Isabell in betl, 
With a iiiglit-cap on her head ; 
Her skin is soft, lier face is fair. 
And she has very pretty hair; 
Siie and 1 in bed lies nice. 
And undisturbed by rats or mice ; 
She is disgusted with Mr. Worgan, 
Though he plays upon the organ. 
Her nails are neat, her tcetli are Avliite, 
Her eyes are very, very Ijright; 
In a conspicuous town slie lives. 
And to the poor her money gives : 
Here ends sweet Isabella's story, 
And may it be much to her glory." 



MARJORIE FLEMING. I 6 

Here are some bits at random : — 

" Of summer I am very fond, 
And love to bathe into a pond ; 
The look of sunshine dies away. 
And will not let me out to play; 
I love the morning's sun to spy 
Glittering through the casement's eye. 
The rays of light are very sweet. 
And puts away the taste of meat ; 
The balmy breeze comes down from heaven, 
And makes us like for to be living." 

"The casawary is an curious bird, and so 
is the gigantic crane, and the pehcan of the 
wilderness, whose mouth holds a bucket of fish 
and water. Fighting is what ladies is not 
qualyfied for, they would not make a good 
figure in battle or in a duel. Alas ! we females 
are of little use to our country. The history 
of all the malcontents as CA'er was hanged 
is amusing." Still harping on the Newgate 
Calendar ! 

"Braehead is extremely pleasant to me by 
the companie of swine, geese, cocks, etc., and 
they are the dehght of my soul." 

"I am going to tell you of a melancholy 
story. A young turkie of 2 or 3 months old, 
would you believe it, the father broke its leg, 
and he killed another ! I think he ought to be 
transported or hanged." 



74' MAIIJOEIE FLExMING. 

" Queen Street is a very gay one, and so is 
Princes Street, for all the lads and lasses, be- 
sides bucks and beggars, parade there." 

" I should like to see a play very much, for 
I never saw one in all my life, and don't 
believe I ever shall ; but I hope 1 can be con- 
tent without going to one. I can be quite 
happy without my desire being granted." 

" Some days ago Isabella had a terrible fit 
of the toothake, and she walked with a long 
night-shift at dead of night like a ghost, and I 
thought she was one. She prayed for nature's 
sweet restorer — balmy sleep — but did not 
get it — a ghostly figure indeed she was, 
enough to make a sahit tremble. It made me 
quiver and shake from top to toe. Super- 
stition is a very mean thing, and should be 
despised and shunned." 

Here is her Aveakness and her strength 
again : "In the love-novels all the heroines 
are very desperate. Isabella will not allow me 
to speak about lovers and heroins, and 'tis too 
refined for my taste." " Miss Egward's (Edge- 
worth's) tails are very good, particularly some 
that are very much adapted for youth (!) as 
Laz Laurance and Tareltou, False Keys, etc. 
etc." 



MARJORIE FLEMING. 75 

" Tom Jones and Grey's Elegey in a coun- 
try churcliyard are both excellent, and much 
spoke of by both sex, particularly by the men." 
Are our Marjories nowadays better or worse 
because they cannot read Tom Jones un- 
harmed ? More better than worse ; but who 
among them can repeat Gray's Lines on a 
Distant Prospect of Eton College as could our 
Maidie ? 

Here is some more of her prattle : " I went 
into Isabella's bed to make her smile like the 
Genius Demedicus " (the Venus de Medicis) 
" or the statute in an ancient Greece, but she 
fell asleep in my very face, at which my anger 
broke forth, so that I awoke her from a com- 
fortable nap. All was now hushed up again, 
but again my anger burst forth at her biding 
me get up." 

She begins thus loftily, — 

" Death the righteous love to see, 
But from it doth the wicked flee." 

Then suddenly breaks off (as if with laugh- 
ter),— 

" I am sure they fly as fast as their legs can carry them 1" 

" There is a thing I love to see, 
That is our monkey catch a flee." 



76 MARJORIE FLEMING. 

" 1 love in Isa's bed to lie, 
Oh, such a joy and luxury ! 
The Ijottoni of the bed I sleep, 
And with ^rcat care within I creep ; 
Oft I embrace her feet of lillys. 
But she has goton all the pillys. 
Her neck I never can embrace, 
But 1 do hug her feet in place." 

How cliildisli and yet how strong and h^ 
is her use of words ! " I lay at the foot ol 
the bed because Isabella said I disturbed her 
by continial fighting and kicking, but I was 
very dull, and continially at work reading the 
Arabian Nights, which I could not have done 
if I had slept at the top. I am reading the 
Mysteries of Udolpho. I am much interested 
in the fate of poor, poor Emily." 

Here is one of her swains : — 

" Very soft and white his cheeks. 
His hair is red, and grey his breeks ; 
His tooth is like the daisy fair, 
His only fault is in his hair." 

This is a higher flight : — 

"Dedicated to Mrs. H. Crawford by the Author, 
M. F. 

"Throe turkeys fair their last have breathed. 
And now this world forever leaved; 
Their father, and their mother too. 
They sigh and weep as well as you ; 
Indeed, the rats their bones have crunched. 



MARJOEIE FLEMING. 77 

Into eternity theire laanched. 
A direful death indeed tlicy had. 
As ^vad put any parent mad ; 
But slie vras more than usual calm, 
She did not give a single dam." 

This last word is saved from all sin by its 
tender age, not to speak of the want of the u. 
We fear " she " is the abandoned mother, in 
spite of her previous sighs and tears. 

" Isabella says when we pray we should pray 
fervently, and not rattel over a prayer — for 
that we are kneeling at the footstool of our 
Lord and Creator, who saves us from eternal 
damnation, and from- unquestionable fire and 
brimston." 

She lias a long poem on Mary Queen ot 
Scots : — 

" Qaeea Mary was much loved by all, 
Both by the great and by the small. 
But hark ! her soul to heaven doth rise ! 
And I suppose she has gained a prize — 
Tor I do think she would not go 
Into the awful place below ; 
There is a thing that I must tell, 
Elizabeth went to fire and hell ; 
He who would teach her to be civil, 
It must be her great friend the divil ! " 

She hits off Darnley well : — 

"A noble's son, a handsome lad. 
By some queer way or other, had 



78 MARJOEIE FLEMING. 

Got quite the better of her heart, 
Witli liim she always talked apart; 
Silly he was, but very fair, 
A greater buck was not found there." 

" By some queer way or other " ; is not this 
the general case and the mystery, young ladies 
and gentlemen ? Goethe's doctrine of " elec- 
tive affinities " discovered by our Pet Maidie. 

Sonnet to a Monkey. 

" lively, most charming pug 
Thy graceful air, and heavenly mug; 
The beauties of his mind do sliine, 
And every bit is shaped and fine. 
Your teeth are whiter than the snow, 
Your a great buck, your a great beau ; 
Your eyes are of so nice a shape, 
More like a Christian's than an ape ; 
Your cheek is like the rose's blume, 
Your hair is like the raven's plume ; 
Ilis nose's cast is of the Roman, 
He is a very pretty woman. 
I could not get a rhyme for Roman, 
So was obliged to call him woman." 

This last joke is good. She repeats it when 
writing of James tlie Second being killed at 
Roxburgh : — 

" lie was killed by a cannon splinter. 
Quite in the middle of the winter; 
Perhaps it was not at that time, 
But I can get no other rhyme ! " 



MAIUORIE FLEMING. 79 

Here is one of her last letters, dated Kirk- 
caldy, 12th October, 1811. You can see how 
her nature is deepening and enrichhig : " My 
Dear Mother, — You will think that I en- 
tirely forget you but I assure you that you 
are greatly mistaken. I think of you always 
and often sigh to think of the distance between 
us two loving creatures of nature. We have 
regular hours for all our occupations first at 
7 o'clock we go to the dancing and come home 
at 8 we then read our Bible and get our re- 
peating and then play till ten then we get our 
music till 11 when we get our writing and ac- 
counts we sew from 12 till 1 after which I get 
my gramer and then work till five. At 7 we 
come and knit till 8 when we dont go to the 
dancing. This is an exact description. I must 
take a hasty farewell to her whom I love, rever- 
ence and doat on and who I hope thinks the 
same of 

" ^Marjory Fleming. 

"P. S. — Au old pack of cards (I) would be 
very exeptible." 

This other is a month earlier : " My dear 
LITTLE Mama, — I was truly happy to hear 
that you were all well. We are surrounded 



80 MAEJOTxIE FLEMING. 

vritli measles at present on every side, for the 
Herons got it, and Isabella Heron was near 
Heath's Hoor, and one night her father lifted 
her out of bed, and she fell down as they 
thought lifeless. Mr. Heron said, ' That las- 
sie 's deed noo ' — 'I 'm no deed yet.' She then 
threw up a big worm nine inches and a half 
long. I have begun dancing, but am not very 
fond of it, for the boys strikes and mocks me. 
— I have been another night at tlie dancing ; 
I like it better. I will write to you as often 
as I can ; but I am afraid not every week. I 
lo7ig for you icith the longings of a child to em- 
brace you — to fold you in my arms. I respect 
you tcith all the respect due to a mother. You 
dont knoio how I love you. So I shall remain, 
your loving child — JM. Fleming." 

What rich involution of love in the words 
marked ! Here are some lines to her beloved 
Isabella, in July, ISll : — 

" There is a thing that I do want, 
AVitli you tliese beauteous walks to haunt. 
We would be happy if you would 
Try to come over if you could. 
Then I would all quite happy be 
Isow and for all eternity. 
My mother is so very sweet, 
And checks mv appetite to eat ; 



MARJORIE FLEMIXG. 81 

My father shows us what to do ; 

But I 'ni sure that I want yo'vi- 

I liave no more of poetry ; 

O Isa do remember me. 

And try to love your Marjory." 

In a letter from '•' Isa " to 

'•' Miss Muff Maidie Marjory Fleming. 
favored by Rare Rear- Admiral Fleming," 

she says : " I long much to see you, and talk 
over all our old stories together, and to hear 
you read and repeat. I am pining for my old 
friend Cesario, and poor Lear, and wicked 
Richard. How is the dear Multiphcation 
table going on ? are you still as much attached 
to 9 times 9 as you used to be ? " 

But this dainty, bright thiug is about to flee, 
— to come " quick to confusion." The measles 
she writes of seized her, and she died on the 
I9th of December, 1811. The day before her 
death, Sunday, she sat up in bed, worn and 
tliiu, her eye gleaming as with the hght of a 
commg world, and with a tremulous, old voice 
repeated the following lines by Burns, — heavy 
with the shadow of death, and lit with the 
fantasy of the judgment-seat, — the pubUcan's 
prayer in paraphrase : — 

" Why am I loth to leave this earthly scene ? 
Have I so found it full of pleasing charms ? 



8:^ MARJORIE FLEMING. 

Some drops of joy, with draughts of ill between, 
Some gleams of sunshine 'mid renewing storms. 
Is it departing pangs my soul alanns? 

Or death's unlovely, dreary, dark ahode ? 
For guilt, for guilt my terrors are in arms ; 

I tremble to approach an angry God, 
And justly smart beneath his sin-avenging rod. 

" Fain would I say, forgive my foul offence. 

Fain promise never more to disobey ; 

But should my Author health again dispense. 

Again I might forsake fair virtue's way, 

Again in folly's path might go astray. 

Again exalt the brute and sink the man. 

Then how should I for heavenly mercy pray, 
Who act so counter heavenly mercy's plan, 
" Who sin so oft have mourned, yet to temptation ran ? 

" thou great Governor of all below. 
If I might dare a lifted eye to thee, 
Thy nod can make the tempest cease to blow, 
And still the tumult of the raging sea ; 
With that controlling power assist even me 
Those headstrong furious passions to confine. 

For all unfit I feel my powers to be 
To rule their torrent in the allowed line; 
O aid me with thy help, Omnipotexce Dtvink." 

It is more affecting tlian we care to say to 
read her mother's and Isabella Keith's letters 
written immediately after her death. Old and 
withered, tattered and pale, they are now : 
but when you read them, how quick, how 
throbbing with life and love ! how rich in that 
language of affection which onlv Avomen, and 



MAEJORIE FLEMING. 83 

Shakespeare, and Luther can use, — that 
power of detaining the soul over the beloved 
object and its loss. 

"K. Philip to Constance. 

You are as fond of grief as of your child. 
Const. Grief fills tlie room up of my absent child, 

Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me ; 
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words, 
Remembers me of all his gracious parts, 
StufiPs out his vacant garments with his form. 
Then I have reason to be fond of grief." 

What variations cannot love play on this one 
string ! 

In her first letter to Miss Keith, Mrs. Flem- 
ing says of her dead Maidie : '"' Never did I 
behold so beautiful an object. It resembled 
the finest wax-work. There was in the counte- 
nance an expression of sweetness and serenity 
which seemed to indicate that the pure spirit 
had anticipated the joys of heaven ere it quit- 
ted the mortal frame. To tell you what your 
Maidie said of you would fill volumes ; for you 
was the constant theme of her discourse, the 
subject of her thoughts, and ruler of her actions. 
The last time she mentioned you was a few 
hours before all sense save that of suffering 
was suspended, when she said to Dr. Johnstone, 
* If vou will let me out at the New Year, I will 



84 MARJORIE FLEMING. 

be quite contented.' I asked what made her so 
anxious to get out then. ' I want to purchase 
a 'New Year's gift for Isa Keith with the six- 
pence you gave me for being patient in the mea- 
sles ; and I would like to choose it myself.' 
I do not remember her speaking afterwards, 
except to complain of her head, till just before 
she expired, when she articulated, ' mother ! 
mother ! ' " 

Do we make too much of this little child, who 
has been in her grave in Abbotshall Kirkyard 
these fifty and more years ? We may of her 
cleverness, — not of her affectionateness, her 
nature. What a picture the animosa infans 
gives us of herself, her vivacity, her passionate- 
ness, her precocious love-making, her passion 
for nature, for swine, for all living things, her 
reading, her turn for expression, her satire, her 
frankness, her little sins and rages, her great 
repentances ! We don't wonder Walter Scott 
carried her off in the neuk of his plaid, and 
played himself with her for hours. 

The year before she died, when in Edinburgh, 
she was at a Twelfth Night supper at Scott's, 
in Castle Street. The company had all come, — 
all but Marjorie. Scott's familiars, whom we all 



Ml 




MARJORIE FLEMING. ^7 

know, were there, — all were come but Marjo- 
rie ; and all were dull because Scott was dull. 
" Where 's that bairn ? what can have come over 
her ? I '11 go mvself aud see." And he was 
getting up, and would have gone, when the 
bell rang, and in came Duncan Roy and his 
henchman Tougald, with the sedan-chair, which 
was brought right into the lobby, and its top 
raised. And there, in its darkness and dingy old 
cloth, sat Maidie in white, her eyes gleaming, 
and Scott bending over her in ecstasy, — " hung 
over her enamored." " Sit ye there, my dau- 
tie, till they all see you " ; and forthwith he 
brought them all. You can fancy the scene. 
And he lifted her up and marched to his seat 
with her on his stout shoulder, and set her down 
beside him ; and then began the night, and such 
anight ! Those who knew Scott best said that 
night was never equalled ; Maidie and he were 
the stars ; and she gave them Constance's 
speeches and Hehellyn, the ballad then much 
in vogue, and all her repertoire, — Scott 
showing her off, and being ofttimes rebuked 
by her for his intentional blunders. 

We are indebted for the following — and 
our readers will be not unwillino: to share our 



88 MARJOEIE FLEMIXG. 

obligations — to her sister : " Her birtli was 
IStli January, 1S03 ; her deatli, 19th Decem- 
ber, 1811. I take this from her Bibles* I be- 
lieve she was a child of robust health, of much 
vigor of body, and beautifully formed arms, 
and until her last illness, never w^as an hour in 
bed. She was niece to Mrs. Keith, residing in 
No. 1 North Charlotte Street, who was not 
Mrs. Murray Keith, although very intimately 
acquainted with that old lady. My aunt Avas 
a daughter of Mr. James Rae, surgeon, and 
married the younger son of old Keith of 
Kavelstone. Corstorphine Hill belonged to 
my aunt's husband ; and his eldest son, Sir 
Alexander Keith, succeeded his uncle to both 
Ravelstone and Dunnottar. The Keiths were 
not connected by relationship with the Howi- 
sons of Braehead ; but my grandfather and 
grandmother (who was), a daughter of Cant of 
Thurston and Giles-Grange, were on the most 
intimate footing with our Mrs. Keith's grand- 
father and grandmother ; and so it has been 
for three generations, and the friendship con- 
summated by my cousin William Keith marry- 
ing Isabella Craufurd. 

* " Her Bible is before me ; a })air, as then called; tlie 
faded marks are just as she placed them. There is one at 
David's lament over Jonathan." 



MARJORIE FLEMING. 89 

''As to my aunt and Scott, they were on 
a very intimate footing. He asked my aunt to 
be godmother to his eldest daughter, Sophia 
Charlotte. I had a copy of !Miss Edgeworth's 
' Rosamond, and Harry and Lucy ' for long, 
which was 'a gift to Marjorie from Walter 
Scott,' probably the first edition of that attrac- 
tive series, for it wanted ' Frank,' which is 
always now published as part of the series, 
under the title of Earlij Lessons. I regret to 
say these little volumes have disappeared." 

" Sir Walter was no relation of Marjorie's, 
but of the Keiths, through the Swintons ; and, 
like Marjorie, he stayed much at Ravelstone in 
his early days, with his grand-aunt Mrs. Keith ; 
and it was while seeing him there as a boy, 
that another aunt of mine composed, when he 
was about fourteen, the lines prognosticating 
his future fame that Lockhart ascribes in his 
Life to Mrs. Cockburn, authoress of ' The 
Flowers of the Forest ' : — 

' Go on, dear joutli, the glorious path pursue 
Whicli bounteous Nature kindly smooths for you ; 
Go bid the seeds her hands have sown arise, 
By timely culture, to their native skies ; 
Go, and employ the poet's heavenly art, 
Tsot merely to delight, but mend the heart.' 

Mrs. Keir was my aunt's name, another of Dr. 



90 MARJORIE FLEMING. 

Rae's daughters." We cannot better end than 
in words from this same pen : " I have to 
ask you to forgive my anxiety in gathering up 
the fragments of Marjorie's last days, but I 
have an ahnost sacred feehng to all that per- 
tains to her. You are quite correct in stating 
that measles were the cause of her death. My 
mother was struck by the patient quietness 
manifested by Marjorie during this illness, un- 
like her ardent, impulsive nature ; but love and 
poetic feeling were unquenched. When Dr. 
Johnstone rewarded her submissiveness \vith a 
sixpence, the request speedily followed that she 
might get out ere New Year's day came. When 
asked why she was so desirous of gettiug out, 
she immediately rejoined, '0, 1 am so anxious 
to buy something with my sixpence for my 
dear Isa Keith.' Again, when lying very still, 
her mother asked her if there was anything 
she wished: ' O yes ! if you would just leave 
the room door open a wee bit, and play " The 
Land o' the Leal," and I will lie and think, 
and enjoy myself (this is just as stated to me 
by her mother and mine). Well, the happy 
day came, alike to parents and child, when 
Marjorie was allowed to come forth from the 
nursery to the parlor. It was Sabbath even- 



MARJORIE FLEMING. 91 

iug, and after tea. My father, who idolized 
this child, and never afterwards in my hearing 
mentioned her name, took her in his arms ; and 
while walking her up and down the room, she 
said, ' Father, I will repeat something to you ; 
what would you Uke ? ' He said, ' Just choose 
yourself, Maidie.' She hesitated for a moment 
between the paraphrase, ' Few are thy days, and 
full of woe,' and the lines of Burns already 
quoted, but decided on the latter, a remarkable 
choice for a child. The repeating these lines 
seemed to stir up the depths of feeling in her 
soul. She asked to be allowed to wiite a 
poem ; there was a doubt whether it would be 
right to allow her, in case of hurting her 
eyes. She pleaded earnestly, ' Just this once ' ; 
the point was yielded, her slate was given 
her, and with great rapidity she wrote an ad- 
dress of fourteen lines, ' to her loved cousiu 
on the author's recovery,' her last work on 
earth : — 

' Oil ! Isa, pain did visit me, 
1 was at the last extremity ; 
How often did I think of you, 
i wished your graceful form to view, 
To clasp you La my weak embrace, 
Indeed I thought I 'd run my race : 
Good care, I 'm sure, was of me taken, 



92 MARJORIE FLEMING. 

But still indeed I was much shaken. 

At last I daily strength did gain, 
And oh ! at last, away went pain ; 
At length the doctor tliought I might 
Stay in the parlor all the night ; 
I now continue so to do. 
Farewell to Nancy and to you.' 

She went to bed apparently well, awoke in the 
middle of the night with the old cry of woe to 
a mother's heart, ' My head, my head ! ' Three 
days of the dire malady, ' water in the head/ 
followed, and the end came." 

" Soft, silken primrose, fading timelessly." 

It is needless, it is impossible, to add any- 
thing to thic : the fervor, the sweetness, the 
flush of poetic ecstasy, the lovely and glowing 
eye, the perfect nature of that bright and 
warm intelligence, that darling child, — Lady 
Nairne's words, and the old tune, steahng up 
from the depths of the human heart, deep call- 
ing unto deep, gentle and strong like the waves 
of the great sea hushing themselves to sleep 
in the dark ; — the words of Burns touching 
the kindred chord, her last numbers " wildly 
sweet" traced, with thin and eager fingers, 
already touched by the last enemy and friend, 
— moriens eanit, — and that love which is so 



MARJORIE FLEMING. 



93 



soon to be her everlasting light, is her soug's 
burden to the end. 

" She set as sets the raorning star, which goes 
Not dowa behind the darkened west, nor hides 
Obscured among the tempests of the sky, 
But melts away into the light of heaven." 




STATE NORMAL SCHiflL, 

Los Arigetes. Cai. 





JOHN LEECH. 




F man is made to mourn, he also, 
poor fellow ! and without doubt 
therefore, is made to laugh. He needs it 
all, and he gets it. For human nature 
maj say of herself, in the words of the bal- 
lad, " Werena my heart licht, I wad die." 

Man. is the only animal that laughs ; it is 
as peculiar to him as his chin and his hippo- 
campus minor.^ The perception of a joke, 



* Xo other animal lias a chin proper ; and it is 
a comfort, in its own small way, that Mr. Huxley 
has not yet found the lesser sea-hoi'se iu our grand- 
father's brain. 



b JOHN LEECH. 

the smile, the sense of the ludicrous, the 
quiet laugh, the roar of laughter, are all our 
own ; and we may be laughed as well as 
tickled to death, as in the story of the French 
nun of mature years, who, during a vehement 
lifc of laughter, was observed by her sisters to 
sit suddenly still and look very " gash " (like 
the Laird of Garscadden *), this being con- 
sidered a further part of the joke, when they 
found she was elsewhere. 

In books, old and new, there is no end of 
philosophizing upon the ludicrous and its 
cause ; from Aristotle, who says it is some 
error in truth or propriety, but at the same 
time neither painful nor pernicious ; and 
Cicero, who defines it as that which, without 
impropriety, notes and exposes an impro- 
priety ; to Jean Paul, who says it is the op- 
posite of the sublime, the infinitely great, 

* Vide Dean Ramsay's Reminiscences. 



JOHN LEECH. 7 

and is therefore the infinitely little ; and 
Kant, who gives it as the sudden conversion 
into nothing of a long raised and highly 
wrought expectation ; many have been the 
attemps to unsphere the spirit of a joke and 
make it tell its secret ; but we agree with 
our excellent and judicious friend Quinc- 
tilian, that its ratio is at best anceps. There 
is a certain robust felicity about old Hobbes's 
saying, that '• it is a sudden glonj, or sense of 
eminency above others or our former selves." 
There is no doubt at least about the sudden- 
ness and the glory ; all true laughter must 
be involuntary, must come and go as it lists, 
must take us, and shake us heartily and by 
surprise. No man can laugh any more than 
he can sneeze at will, and he has nearly as 
little to do with its ending : it dies out, dis- 
daining to be killed. He may grin and guf- 
faw, because these are worked by muscles 
under the dominion of volition ; but vour 



8 JOHN LEECH. 

diaphragm, the midriff, into which your 
joker pokes his elbow, he is the great organ 
of genuine laughter and the sudden glory, and 
he, as you all know, when made absurd by 
hiccup, is masterless as the wind, " untama- 
ble as flies" ; therefore is he called by the grave 
Haller, nohilissimus jpost cor musculus ; for, 
ladies and gentlemen, your heart is only a 
(often very) hollow muscle. If you wish to 
know what is done in your interior when 
you laugh, here it is from Dr. Carpenter. 
He classes it along with sobbing and hiccup, 
and says : " In it the muscles of expiration 
are in convulsive movement, more or less 
violent, and send out the breath in a series 
of jerks, the glottis being open," — the glottis 
being the little chink at the top of the wind- 
pipe. 

As to the mental impression on the senso- 
rium that sets these jerks agoing, and arches 
that noble muscle, we, as already said, think 



JOHN LElI'H. 9 

it may be left to a specific sense of its own, 
and that laughter is the effect and very often 
the cause of the laughable, and therefore of 
itself, — a definition which has the merit of 
being self-contained. But is it not well that 
we are made to laugh, that, from the first 
sleepy gleam moving like sunshine over an 
infant's cheek, to the cheery and feeble chir- 
rup of his great-grandfather by the fireside, 
we laugh at the laughable, when the depths of 
our strange nature are dappled and rippled, 
or tossed into wildest laughter by anything, 
so that it be droll, just as we shudder when 
soused with cold Avater. — because we can't 
help it ? 

But we are drifting into disquisition, and 
must ])eware. What is it to us or the public 
that the pneumogastric and phrenic nerves 
are the telegraphs from their headr^uarters 
in the brain to this same midriff ; that if cut, 
there would be an end of our funnv mes- 



10 JOHN LEECH. 

sages, and of a good deal more ; that the 
musculus nohilissimus, if wounded in its feel- 
ings from without or from within, takes to 
outrageous laughter of the dreariest sort ; 
that if anything goes wrong at the central 
thalami, as they are called, of these nerves, 
the Vehicles of will and feeling, they too 
make sad fools of themselves by sending 
down absurd, incoherent telegrams " at 
lairge " ? 

One might be diffuse upon the various 
ways in which laughter seizes upon and deals 
with mankind : how it excruciates some, 
making them look and yell as if caught in 
a trap. How a man takes to crowing like 
a cock, or as if imder permanent hooping- 
cough, ending his series of explosions vic- 
toriously with his well-known " clarion wild 
and shrill." How provocative of laughter 
such a musical performance always is to 
his frie^ds, leading them to lay snares for 



JOHN LEECH. 11 

him ! We knew an excellent man — a coun- 
try doctor — "vvho, if wanted in the village, 
might be traced ont by his convivial crow. 
It was droll to observe him resisting inter- 
nally and on the sly the beginnings of his 
bravura ; how it always prevailed. How 
another friend, huge, learned, and wise, 
Avhom laughter seizes and rends, is made 
desperate, and at times ends in crashing his 
chair, and concluding his burst on its ruins, 
andon the floor. In houses where he is fa- 
miliar, a special chair is set for him, braced 
with iron for the stress. 

Then one might discourse on the uses of 
laughter as a muscular exercise ; on its draw- 
ing into action lazy muscles, supernumera- 
ries, which get off easily under ordinary cir- 
cumstances ; how much good the convulsive 
succussion of the vrhole man does to his 
chylo-poietic and other viscera ; how it 
laughs to scorn care and malaise of all kinds : 



12 JOHx\ LEECH. 

liovv it makes you cry without sorroAV, and 
ache every inch of you without wrong done 
to any one ; how it clears the liver and en- 
livens the spleen, and makes the very cockles 
of the heart to tingle. By the by, what are 
these cockles of tradition but the columnce 
carnem, that pull aAvay at the valves, and 
keep all things tight ? 

But why should w^e trouble ourselves and 
you wdth either the physiology or the philos- 
ophy of laughter, when all that anybody 
needs to say or to hear is said, so as to make 
all after saying hopeless and needless, by 
Sydney Smith, in his two chapters on Wit 
and Humor, in his Notes of Lectures on Moral 
Philosophy ? Why it is that wlien any one 
— except possibly Mr. Tupper — hears for 
the first time that wisest of wits' joke to his 
doctor, when told by him to " take a walk 
on an empty stomach " ; — " on whose ? " — 
he laughs right out, loud and strong, may 



JOHN LEECH. 13 

be a question as liai'd to ausvver as the why 
he curio up his nose when tickled with a 
straw, or onoe^es vvhen he looks at the sun ; 
but it is not hard to be thankful for the 
joke, and for the tickle, and for the sneeze. 
Our business rather is now gratefully to 
acknowledge the singular genius, the great 
personal and artistic worth, of one of our best 
masters of " heart-easing mirth," than to dis- 
course upon the why and how he makes us 
laugh so pleasantly, so wholesomely and well, 
— and to deplore, along with all his friends, 
(who has not in him lost a friend ?) his md- 
den and irreparable loss. It was as if some- 
thing personal to every one was gone ; as if 
.1 fruit we all ate and rejoiced in had van- 
ished forever ; a something good and cheery, 
and to be thankful for, which came every 
week as sure as Thursday — never to come 
again. Our only return to him for all his 
unfailing goodness and cheer is the memory 



14 JOHN LEECH. 

of the heart ; and he has it if any man in 
the British empire has. The noble, honest, 
kindly; diligent, sound-hearted, modest, and 
manly John Leech, — the very incarnation 
in look, character, and work of the best in 
an Englishman. 

As there is and has always been, since we 
had letters or art of our own, a rich abound- 
ing power and seiise of humor and of fun in 
the English nature, so ever since that same 
nature was pleased to divert and express 
itself and its jokes in art as well as in books. 
we have had no lack of depicters of the droll, 
the odd, the terrible, and the queer. Ho- 
garth is the first and greatest of them all, the 
greatest master in his own terribilc via the 
world has ever seen. If you want to know 
his worth and the exquisite beauty of his 
coloring, study his pictures, and possess his 
prints, and read Charles Lamb on his genius. 
Then came the savage Gillrav, strong and 



JOHN LEECH. 15 

coarse as Chiircliill, the very Tipton Slasher 
of political caricature ; then we had Bun- 
biiry, Eowlandson, and Woodward^ more vio- 
lent than strong, more odd than droll, and 
often more disgusting than either. Smirke, 
with his delicate, pure, pleasant humor, as 
seen in his plates to Don Quixote, which are 
not unworthy of that marvellous book, the 
most deeply and exquisitely humorous piece 
of genius in all literature ; then Edwin Land- 
seer's Monkeyana, forgotten by and we fear 
unknown to many, so wickedly funny, so 
awfully human, as almost to convert us to 
Mr. Huxley's pedigree, — The Duel, for 
instance. Then we had Henry Aiken in 
the Hunting Field, and poor Heath, the ex- 
Captain of Dragoons, facile and profuse, un- 
scrupulous and clever. Then the greatest 
since Hogarth, though limited in range and 
tending to excess, George Cruickshank, who 
happily still lives and plies his matchless 



16 JOHN LEECH. 

needle ; — it would take an entire paper to 
expound bis keen, penetrating power, kis 
moral intensity, his gift of wild grimace, the 
dexterity and super-subtlety of bis etching, 
its firm and delicate lines. Then came poor 
short-lived tragical Seymour, whom Thack- 
eray wished to succeed as artist to PicJcwicJc ; 
he embodied Pickwick as did " Phiz," — 
Hablot Browne, — Messrs. Quilp and Peck- 
sniff, and Micky Free., and whose steeple- 
chasing Irish cocktails we all know and 
relish ; but his manner is too much for him 
and for us, and his ideas are neither deep 
nor copious, hence everlasting and weak repe- 
titions of himself. Kenny MeadoAvs, with 
more genius, especially for fiends and all 
eldritch fancies, and still more mannerism. 
Sibson and Hood, whose drawings were 
quaint and queer enough, but his words bet- 
ter and queerer. Thackeray, -very great, 
answering wonderfully his own idea. We 



JOHN LEECH. 17 

wonder that his Snobs and Modern Novelists 
and miscellaneous papers were ever published 
without his own cuts. What would Mrs. 
Perkins's Ball be without The Mulligan, as 
the spread-eagle, frantic and glorious, doing 
the mazurka, without Miss Bunyon, and them 
all ; and the good little Nightingale, singing 
'• Home, Sweet Home " to that young, pre- 
mature brute Hewlett, in ]Jr. Birch. But we 
have already recorded our estimate of Mr. 
Thackeray's worth as an artist ; * and all his 
drolleries and quaint bits of himself, — his 
comic melancholy, his wistful children, his 
terrific soldans in the early Punches. They 
should all be collected, — w^herever he escapes 
from his pen to his pencil, they should never 
be divorced. Then Doyle, with his wealth 
of dainty fantasies, his glamourie, his won- 

* North British Review, No. LXXIX., Februa- 
ry, 1864. 



18 JOHN LEECH. 

derfui power of expressing the weird and un- 
cann}--, his fairies and goblins, his enchanted 
castles and maidens, his plump caracolling 
pony chargers, his charm of color and of un- 
earthly beauty in his water-colors. No one 
is more thoroughly himself and alone than 
Doyle. We need only name his father, 
" H. B.," the master of gentlemanly, politi- 
cal satire, — as Gillray was of brutal. Ten- 
niel we still have, excellent, careful and 
often strong and effective ; but more an artist 
and a draughtsman than a genius or a hu- 
morist. 

John Leech is different from all these, 
and, taken as a whole, surpasses them all, 
even Cruickshank, and seats himself next, 
though below, William Hogarth. Well 
might Thackeray, in his delightful notice 
of his friend and fellow-Carthusian in The 
Quarterly, say, " There is no blinking the 
fact, that in Mr. Punch's Cabinet John Leech 



JOHN LEECH. 19 

is the right-hand man. Fancy a number of 
Punch without Leech's picture I What would 
you give for it 1 " This was said ten years 
ago. How much more true it is now ! "We 
don't need to fannj it any longer. And yet, 
doubtless, Nature is already preparing some 
one else — she is forever filling her horn — 
whom we shall never think better, or in his 
own way, half so good, but who like him 
will be, let us trust, new and true, modest 
and good ; let us, meanwhile, rest and be 
thankful, and look back on the past. We'll 
move on by and by, "to fresh fields and pas- 
tures new," we suppose, and hope. 

We are not going to give a biography, or a 
studied appraisement of this great artist, — 
that has been already well done in the Corn- 
hill, — and we trust the mighty " J. 0.,"' who 
knew him and loved him as a brother, and 
whose strong and fine hand — its truth, 
nicety, and power — we think we recognize 



20 JOHN LEECH. 

ill an admirable short notice of Leech as one 
of the " Men of Mark," in the London Review 
of May 31, 1862, — may employ his leisure 
in giving us a memorial of his friend. No 
one could do it better, not ev»n the judicious 
Tom Taylor, and it is worth his while to go 
down the great stream side by side with such 
a man. All that we shall now do is to give 
some particulars, not, so far as we know, 
given to the public, and end with a few 
selected woodcuts from Punch, — illustrative 
of his various moods and gifts, — for which 
we are indebted to the kindness of Messrs. 
Bradbury and Evans, — two men to whom 
and to whose noble generosity and enterprise 
Ave owe it that Punch is what he is ; men 
who have made their relation to him and to 
his staff of writers and artists a labor of love ; 
dealing in everything, from the quality of 
the paper up to the genius, with truly disin- 
terested liberality ; and who, to give only one 



JOHN LEECH. 21 

instance, must have given Mr. Leech, dur- 
ing his twenty-three years^ connection with 
them, upwards of £40,000, — money richly 
deserved, and well won, for no money could 
pay in full what he Avas to them and to us ; 
but still not the less honorable to them than 
to him.* 

* When the history of the rise and progress of 
Punch comes to be written, it will be found that 
the Weekly Dinner has been one of the chief things 
which contributed to its success. Almost from the 
foundation of that journal it has been the habit of 
the contributors every Wednesday to dine together. 
In the winter months, the dinner is usually held in 
the front room of the first floor of No. 11 Bouverie 
Street, Whitefriars, — the business offices of the 
proprietors, Messrs. Bradbury and Evans. Some- 
times these dinners are held at the Bedford Hotel, 
Covent Garden. During the summer months, it is 
customary to have ten or twelve dinners at places 
in the neighborhood of London, Greenwich, Rich- 
mond, Blackwall, etc. And once a year they 



22 JOHN LEECH. 

John Leech, we believe remotely of Irish 
extraction, was a thoroughly London hoy, 

attend the annual dinner of the firm, at Avhich 
compositors, readers, printers, machinemen, clerks, 
etc., dine. This dinner is called the "Way Goose," 
and is often referred to in Punch. 

At the weekly dinner the contents of the forth- 
coming number of Punch are discussed. When 
the cloth is removed, and dessert is laid on the 
table, the first question put by the editor is, 
' ' What shall the Cartoon be ? " 

Du]-iiig the lifetimes of Jerrold and Tliackeray, 
the discussions after dinner ran very high, owing to 
the constitutional antipathy existing between these 
two, Jerrold being the oldest, as well as the noisi- 
est, generally came off victorious. In these rows 
it required all the suavity of Mark Lemon (and he 
lias a great deal of that quality) to calm the storm ; 
his award always being final. 

The tliird edition of Wednesday's Sun is gener- 
ally brought in to give the latest intelligence, so as 
t-o bring the Cartoon down to the latest date. On 



JOHN LEECH. 23 

though never one whit of a Cockney in na- 
ture or look. He was Lorn in 1817, being 

the Thursday morning following, the editor calls at 
the houses of the artists to see what is being done. 
On Friday night all copy is delivered and put into 
type, and at two o'clock on Saturday proofs are 
revised, the forms made up, and with the last 
movement of the engine, the whole of the type is 
jjlaced under the press, which cannot be moved 
iintil the Monday morning, when the steam is again 
up. This precaution is taken to prevent waggish 
tricks on the part of practical joking compositors. 

At these dinners none but those connected Avith 
the staff proper are permitted to attend ; the only 
occasional exceptions, we believe, have been Sir 
Joseph Paxtou, Mr. Layard, the present Foreign 
Under-Secretary, Charles Dickens, and Charles 
Dickens, junior. As an illustration of the benefit 
arising from tliese meetings, we may mention that 
Jerrold always use to say, " It is no use any of us 
quarrelling, because next Wednesday must come 
round with its dinner, Avhen we will all have to 



24 JOHN LEECH. 

thus six years j^ounger than Thackeray, both 
of them Charterhouse boys. We rejoice to 
learn that Lord Russell has, in the kindest 
way, given to Mr. Leech's eldest boy a pres- 
entation to this famous school, where the 
best men of London birth have so long had 
their training, as Brougham and Jeffrey, 
Scott and Cockburn, had at the Edinburgh 
High School. This gift of our Foreign Min- 
ister is twice blessed, and is an act the coun- 
try may well thank him for. 

When between six and seven years of age, 
some of Leech's drawings were seen by the 
great Flaxman, and, after carefully looking 
at them and the boy, he said, "That boy 

shake hands again." By means of these meetings, 
the discussions arising on all questions helped both 
caricaturist and wit to take a broad view of things, 
as well as enabled the editor to get his team to 
di-aw well together, and give a uniformity of tone 
to all the contributions. 



JOHN LEECH. 25 

must be an artist ; he will be nothing else or 
less." This was said in full consciousness 
of what is involved in advising such a step. 
His father wisely, doubtless, thought other- 
vrise, and put him to the medical profession 
at St. Bartholomew's, under Mr. Stanley. 
He was very near being sent to Edinburgh, 
and apprenticed to Sir George Ballingall. 
If he had come to us then, he Avould have 
found one student, since famous, with whom 
he would have cordialized, — Edward, after- 
wards Professor Forbes, who to his other 
great gifts added that of drawing, especially 
of all sorts of wild, fanciful, elfish pleasan- 
tries and freaks, most original and ethereal, 
and the specimens of which, in their many 
strange resting-places, it would be worth the 
while to reproduce in a volume. Leech soon 
became known among his fellow-students for 
his lifelike, keen, but always good-natured 
caricatures : he was forever drawing. He 



26 JOHN LEECH. 

never had any regular art-lessons, but his 
medical studies furnished him with a knowl- 
edge of the structure and proportions of the 
human form, which gives such reality to his 
drawing ; and he never parades his knowl- 
edge, or is its slave ; he values expression 
ever above mere form, never falsifying, but 
often neglecting, or rather subordinating, the 
latter to the former. This intense realism 
and insight, this pure intense power of ob- 
servation it is that makes the Greek sculp- 
tors so infinitely above the Roman. 

We believe the Greeks knew nothing of 
what was under the skin, — it was considered 
profane to open the human body and dissect 
it ; but they studied form and action with 
that keen, sure, unforgetting, loving eye, that 
purely realistic faculty, which probably they, 
as a race, had in more exquisite perfection 
than any other people before or since. Ob- 
jective truth they read, and could repeat as 



JOHX LEECH. 27 

li'om a book. The Romans, Avith tlieir hardy, 
penetrating, audacious natme, — rerum Do- 
mini, — wanted to know not only what ap- 
pears, but what is, and what makes appear. 
They had no misgivings or shyness at cutting 
into and laying bare their dead fellows, as 
little as they had in killing them or being 
themselves killed ; and as so often happens, 
their strength Avas their weakness, their pride 
their fall. They must needs show off their 
knowledge and their muscles, and therefore 
they made their statues as if without skin, 
and put on as violent and often impossible 
action as ever did Buonarotti. Compare the 
LaocGon and his boys (small men, rather) 
with the Elgin marbles ; the riders on the 
frieze so comely in their going, so lissome ; 
their skin slipping sweetly over their mus- 
cles ; their modestly representing, not of 
what they know, but of what they see. 
In John Leech and Tenniel you see some- 



28 



JOHN LEECH. 



thing of the same contrast : the one knows 
more than he needs, and shows it accord- 
ingly ; the other knowing by instinct, or from 
good sense, that drawing has only to do with 
appearances, with things that may be seen, 
not with things that may be known, drew 
merely what he saw ; but then with what 
an inevitable, concentrated eye and hand he 
did draw^ that ! This made him so pre-emi- 
nent in reproducing the expression of action, 
— esi3ecially intense and rapid action. No 
knowledge of what muscles were acting, and 
what are their attachments, etc., could teach 
a man how a horse trots, or how he gathers 
himself up to leap, or how a broken-backed 
cab-horse wouhl lie and look, or even how 
Mr. Briggs — excellent soul — w^hen return- 
ing home, gently, and coj^iously ebriose from 
Epsom on his donkey, would sway about on 
his podg}^ legs, when instructing his amazed 
and ancient groom and friend as to putting 



JOHN LEECH. 29 

up and rubbing do^\'n — the nmre. But ob- 
servation such as the Greeks had, that aicpt- 
/3f I'a, or accuracy, — carefulness, as they 
called it, — enabled Leech to do all this to 
the life. 

All through his course, more and more, he 
fed upon Nature, and he had his reward in 
having perpetually at hand her freshness, 
her variety, her endlessness. There is a 
pleasant illustration of this given in a letter 
in Xotes and Queries for November 5, 1864 : 
" On one occasion he and I were riding to 
town in an omnibus, when an elderly gentle- 
man, in a very peculiar dress, and with very 
marked features, stepped into the vehicle, 
and sat down immediately in front of us. 
He stared so hard and made such wry faces 
at us, that / could hardly refrain from laugh- 
ter. My discomfiture was almost completed 
when Leech suddenly exclaimed, 'By the 
way, did Prendergast ever show you that 



30 JOHN LEECH. 

extraordinary account which lias been lately 
forwarded to him V and, producing his note- 
book, added, 'Just run your eye up that 
column, and tell me what you can make of 
it.' The page was blank; but two minutes 
afterwards the features of that strange old 
gentleman gaping at us were reflected with 
lifelike fidelity upon it." There is humor 
in the choice of the word " Prendergast." 
This is the true way to nurse invention, to 
preen and let grow imagination's wings, on 
which she soars I'orth into the ideal, " sailing 
with supreme dominion through the azure 
depths of air." It is the man who takes in 
who can give out. The man who does not 
do the one, soon takes to spinning his own 
fancies out of his interior, like a spider, and 
he snares himself at last as well as his victims. 
It is the bee that makes honey, and it is out 
of the eater that there comes forth meat, out 
of the strong that there comes forth sweetness. 



JOHN LEECH. 31 

In the letter we refer to, -whicli is well worth 
reading, there is a good remark, that Leech 
had no mere minutice, as Turner had none ; 
everything was subordinated to the main 
jDurpose he had ; hut he had exquisite ^/incs^e 
and delicacy when it was that he wanted. 
Look at his drawing of our '" Jocund Morn," 
from the Loots to the swallows. His pencil- 
work on wood Avas marvellous for freedom 
and loveliness. 

The bent of his genius and external causes 
made him, when about seventeen, give up 
the study of medicine and go in stoutly and 
for life for art. His diligence vras amazing, 
as witnessed by the list we give, by no means 
perfect, of his works ; in Bentley they are in 
multitudes ; and in Punch alone, up to 1862, 
there are more than three thousand separate 
drawings I with hardly the vestige of a repe- 
tition ; it may be the same tune, but it is a 
new variation. In nothing is his realistic 



32 JOHN LEECH. 

power more seen than in those delightful rec- 
ords of his own holidays in Punch. A geol- 
ogist will tell you the exact structure of that 
rock in the Tay at Campsie Linn, where Mr. 
Briggs is carrying out that huge salmon in 
his arms, tenderly and safely, as if it were 
his first-born. All his seascapes, — Scarbor- 
ough, Folkestone, Biarritz, etc., etc., — any 
one who has been there does not need to be 
told their names, and, as we have already 
said, his men are as native as his rocks, his 
bathers at Boulogne and Biarritz, his game- 
keepers and gillies in Blair- Athole and Loch- 
aber, — you have seen them there, the very 
men ; Duncan Koy is one of them ; and 
those men and women at Galway, in the 
Claddich, they are liker than themselves, 
more Irish than the Irish. In this respect 
his foreigners are wonderful, one of the rarest 
artistic achievements. Thackeray also could 
draw a foreigner, — as witness that dreary 



JOHN LEECH. 33 

woman outworker in the Kickleburys. Mr. 
Frith can't. Then as to dress ; this was one 
of the things Leech very early mastered and 
knew the meaning and power of ; and it is 
worth mastering, for in it, the dress, is much 
of the man, both given and received. To 
see this, look at almost his first large drawing 
in Punchy two months after it started, called 
" Foreign Affairs." Look, too, at what is still 
one of his richest works, ^\ith all the fervor 
and abundance, the very dew of his youth, — 
the Comic Latin Grammar. Look at the 
dress of Menelaus, who threatens to give 
poor Helen, his wife, '•' a good hiding." Look 
at his droll etchings and woodcuts for the 
otherwise tiresomely brilliant Comic Histo- 
ries, by Gilbert A'Beckett, with their too 
much puns. 

Leech was singularly modest, both as a 
man and as an artist. This came by nature, 
and was indicative of the harmony and sweet- 



34 JOHX LEECH. 

iiess of his essence ; but doubtless the per- 
petual going to Nature, and drawing out of 
her fulness, kept him humble, as well as 
made him rich, made him, what every man 
of sense and power must be, conscious of his 
own strength ; but before the great mother 
he was simple and loving, attentive to her 
lessons, as a child, forever learning and doing. 
This honesty and modesty Avere curiously 
brought out when he was, after much per- 
suasion, induced to make the colored draw- 
ings for that exhibition which was such a 
splendid success, bringing in nearly £ 5,000. 
Nothing could induce him to do what was 
wanted, call them imintings. " They are 
mere sketches," he said, " and very crude 
sketches too, and I have no wish to be made 
a laughing-stock by calling them what thev 
are not." Here was at once modesty and 
honest pride, or rather that truthfulness 
which lay at the root of his character, and 



JOHN LEECH. 35 

was also its " bright, consummate flower " ; 
and he went further than this, in having 
printed in the Catalogue the following words : 
" These sketches have no claim to be regarded 
or tested as finished pictures. It is impossi- 
ble for any one to know the fact better than 
I do. They have no pretensions to a higher 
name than that I have given them, — 
Sketches in Oil."' 

We have had, by the kindness of Mr. John 
Heugh, their possessor, the privilege of hav- 
ing beside us for some time two of the best 
of those colored sketches, and we feel at once 
the candor and accuracy of their authoi-'s 
title. It is quite touching the unaccus- 
tomedness, the boyish, anxious, laborious 
workmanship of the practised hand that had 
done so much, so rapidly and perfectly in 
another style. They do not make us regret 
much that he did not earlier devote himself 
to painting proper, because then what would 



36 JOHN LEECH. 

have become of these three thousand cues 
in Punch ?- But he shows, especially, true 
powers of landscape painting, a pure and 
deep sense of distance, translucency, and 
color, and the power of gleams and shadows 
on water. His girls are lovelier without 
color, — have, indeed, " to the eye and pros- 
pect of the soul," a more exquisite bloom, 
the bloom within the skin, the brightness in 
the dark eye, all more expressed than in 
those actually colored. So it often is ; give 
enough to set the looker-on a-painting, im- 
agining, realizing, bringing np " the shows of 
things to the desires of the mind," and no 
one but the highest painter can paint like 
that. This is the true office of the masters 
of all the ideal arts, to evoke, as did the ris- 
ing sun on Memnon, the sleeping beauty and 
music and melody of another's sou], to make 
every reader a poet, every onlooker an artist, 
every listener eloquent and tuneful, so be it 



JOHN LEECH. 37 

that they have the seeing eye, the hearing 
ear, the loving and understanding heart. 

As is well known, this exhibition took 
London captive. It was the most extraordi- 
nary record, by drawing, of the manners and 
customs and dress of a people ever produced. 
It was full " from morn to dewy eve," and as 
full of mirth ; at times this made it like 
a theatre convulsed as one man by the vis 
comica of one man. The laughter of special, 
often family groups, broke out opposite each 
dran'ing, spread contagiously effervescing 
throughout, lulling and waxing again and 
again like waves of the sea. From his re- 
serve, pride, and nicety, Leech could never 
be got to go when any one was in the room ; 
he had an especial horror of being what he 
called '• caught and talked at by enthusiastic 
people." It is worth mentioning here, as it 
shows his true literary turn as a humorist, 
and adds greatly to the completeness of his 



38 JOHN LEECH. 

drawings and of his genius, that all the 
funny, witty, and often most felicitous titles 
and wordings of all sorts were written by him- 
self ; he was most particular about this. 

One day a sporting nobleman visited the 
gallery with his huntsman, whose naive 
and knowing criticisms greatly amused his 
master. At last, coming to one of the 
favorite hunting pictures, he said, " Ah ! my 
Lord, nothing but a party as knows 'osses 
cud have draw'd them ere 'unters." The 
origin and means of these sketches in oil is 
curious. Mr. Leech had often been asked to 
undertake works of this character, but he 
had for so many years been accustomed to 
draw with the pencil, and that only on small 
blocks, that he had little confidence in bis 
ability to draw on a large scale. The idea 
originated with Mr. Mark Lemon, his friend 
and colleague, who saw that by a new inven- 
tion — a beautiful piece of machinery — the 



JOHN LEECH. 39 

impression, of a block in Punch, being first 
taken on a sheet of india-rubber, was en- 
larged ; when, by a lithograj)hic process, the 
copy thus got could be transferred to the 
stone, and impressions printed upon a largo 
sheet of canvas. Having thus obtained an 
outline groundwork consisting of his own 
lines enlarged some eight times the area of 
the original block, Leech proceeded to color 
these. His knowledge of the manipulation 
of oil-colors was very slight, and it was 
under the guidance of his friend, John 
Everett ^lillais, that his first attempts were 
made, and crude enough they were. He 
used a kind of transparent color which 
allowed the coarse lines of the enlargement 
to show through, so that the production pre- 
sented the appearance of indifferent litho- 
graphs, slightly tinted. In a short time, 
however, he obtained great mastery over oil- 
color, and instead of allowing the thick fatty 



40 JOHN LEECH. 

lines of printers' ink to remain on the can- 
vas, he, by the use of turpentine, removed 
the ink, particularly with regard to the lines 
of the face and figure. These he redrew with 
his own hand in a fine and delicate manner. 
To this he added a delicacy of finish, partic- 
ularly in flesh-color, which greatly enhanced 
the value and beauty of his later works. 
To any one acquainted with these sketches, 
we may mention, for illustration of these 
remarks, No. 65 in the Catalogue. This 
work presents all the incompleteness and 
crudity of his early style. The picture rep- 
resents Piscator seated on a wooden fence 
on a raw morning in a pelting shower of 
rain, the lines necessary to give the effect of 
a leaden atmosphere being very numerous 
and close. The works %vhich illustrated his 
later style are best shown in Nos. 36 and 
41. In the framing of these sketches he per- 
sisted in leaving a margin of white canvas, 



JOHN LEECH. 41 

somewhat after the manner of water-color 
sketches. 

Of all art satirists none have such a per- 
vading sense and. power of girlish and ripe 
womanly beauty as Leech. Hogarth alone, 
as in his Poor Poet's Wife, comes near him. 
There is a genuine domesticity about his 
scenes that could come only from a man 
who was much at his owii fireside, and in 
the nui-seiy when baby was washed. You 
see he is himself paterfamilias, with no Bo- 
hemian taint or raffish turn. What he 
draws he has seen. What he asks you to 
live in and laugh at and vni\\, he has 
laughed at and lived in. It is this whole- 
someness, and, to use the right word, this 
goodness, that makes Leech more than a 
drawer of funny pictures, more even than a 
great artist.^ It makes him a teacher and 

* It is honorable to the regular art of this 
fountry that many of its best men early recognized 



42 JOHN LEECH. 

ail example of virtue in its Avidest sense, 
from that of manliness to the sweet devotion 
of woman, and the loving, open mouth and 
eyes of 'parvula on your knee. ' How differ- 
ent is the same class of art in France ! you 
dare not let your wife or girls see their 
Leech ; he is not for our virgins and boys. 
Hear what Thackeray says on this point : — 
" Now, while Mr. Leech has been making 
his comments upon our society and manners, 
one of the -wittiest and keenest observers has 
been giving a description of his own country 
of France, in a thousand brilliant pages ; 
and it is a task not a little amusing and 
curious for a student of manners to note the 

in Leech a true brother. Millais and Ehriore and 
others were his constant friends ; and we know 
that more than twelve years ago Mr. Harvey, now 
the perspicacious Presideiit of the Koyal Scottish 
Academy, wished to make Leech and Thackeray 
honorary members of that body. 



JOHN LEECH. 43 

difference between the two satirists, — per- 
haps between the societies which they de- 
scribe. Leech's Enghmd is a country peo- 
pled by noble elderly squires, riding large- 
boned horses, followed across country by love- 
ly beings of the most gorgeous proportions, 
by respectful retainers, by gallant little boys 
emulating the courage and pluck of the 
sire. The joke is the precocious courage 
of the child, his gallantry as he charges at 
his fences, his coolness as he eyes the glass 
of port or tells grandpapa that he likes 
his champagne dry. How does Gavarni 
represent the family-fotber, the sire, the 
old gentleman in his country, the civilized 
country ? Paterfamilias, in a dyed wig and 
whiskers, is leering by the side of Mademoi- 
selle Coralie on her sofa in the Rue de 
Breda ; Paterfamilias, with a mask and a 
nose half a yard long, is hobbling after her 
at the ball. The enfant terrible is making 



44 JOHX LEECH. 

Papa and Mamma alike ridiculous by show- 
ing us Mamma's lover, who is lurking behind 
the screen. A thousand volumes are written 
protesting against the seventh command- 
ment. The old man is forever hunting after 
the young woman, the wife is forever cheat- 
ing the husband. The fun of the old comedy 
never seems to end in France ; and we have 
the word of their own satirists, novelists, 
painters of society, that it is being played 
from day to day. 

" In the works of that barbarian artist 
Hogarth, the subject which affords such 
playful sport to the civilized Frenchman is 
stigmatized as a fearful crime, and is visited 
by a ghastly retribution. The English sav- 
age never thinks of such a crime as funny, 
and, a hundred years after Hogarth, our 
modern 'painter of mankind,' still retains 
his barbarous modesty, is tender with chil- 
dren, decorous before women, has never once 



JOHN LEECH. 45 

thought that he had a right or calling to 
wound the modesty of either. 

" Mr. Leech surveys society from the gen- 
tleman's point of view. In old days, when 
Mr. Jerrold lived and wrote for that cele- 
brated periodical, he took the other side : he 
looked up at the rich and great with a fierce, 
sarcastic aspect, and a threatening posture ; 
and his outcry or challenge was : ' Ye rich 
and great, look out ! AYe, the people, are as 
good as you. Have a care, ye priests, wal- 
lowing on the tithe pig, and rolling in car- 
riages and four ; ye landlords grinding the 
poor ; ye vulgar fine ladies bullying innocent 
governesses, and what not, — we will expose 
your vulgarity, we will put down your op- 
pression, we will vindicate the nobility of 
our common nature,' and so forth. A great 
deal is to be said on the Jerrold side ; a 
great deal was said ; perhaps even a great 
deal too much. It is not a little curious 



46 JOHX LEECH. 

to speculate upon the works of these two 
famous contributors of Punch, these two 
' preachers/ as the phrase is. ' Woe to you, 
you tyrant and heartless oppressor of the 
}ioor ! ' calls out Jerrold as Dives's carriage 
rolls by. ' Beware of the time when your 
bloated coachman shall be hurled from his 
box, when your gilded flunky shall be cast 
to the earth from his perch, and your pam- 
pered horses shall run away with you and 
your vulgar wife, and smash you into ruin. 
The other philosopher looks at Dives and his 
cavalcade in his own peculiar manner. He 
admires the horses, and copies with the most 
curious felicity their form and action. The 
footman's calves and powder, the coachman's 
red face and floss wig, the over-dressed lady 
and plethoric gentleman in the carriage, he 
depicts with the happiest strokes ; and if 
there is a pretty girl and a rosy child on the 
back seat, he ' takes them up tenderly ' and 



JOHN LEECH. 47 

touches them with a hand that has a caress 
in it. This artist is very tender towards all 
the little people. It is hard to say whether 
he loves boys or girls most, — those delight- 
ful little men on their ponies in the hunt- 
ing-fields, those charming little Lady Adas 
flirting at the juvenile ball ; or Tom the 
butcher's boy, on the slide ; or ragged little 
Emly pulling the go-cart freighted with 
Elizarann and her doll. Steele, Fielding, 
Goldsmith, Dickens, are similarly tender in 
their pictures of children. ' We may be 

barbarians, IMonsieur ; but even the 

savages are occasionally kind to their pap- 
pooses.' "When are the holidays ? Mothers 
of families ought to come to this exhibition 
and bring the children. Then there are the 
full-grown young ladies — the very full- 
grown young ladies — dancing in the ball- 
room, or reposing by the sea-shore ; the men 
can peep at w^hole seraglios of these beauties 



48 JOHN LEECH. 

for the moderate charge of one shilling, and 
bring away their charming likenesses in the 
illustrated catalogue (two-and-six). In the 
' Mermaids' Haunt,' for example, there is a 
siren combing her golden locks, and anothar 
dark-eyed witch actually sketching you as 
you look at her, whom Ulysses could not 
resist. To Avalk by the side of the much- 
sounding sea, and come upon such a bevy 
of beauties as this, what bliss for a man or 
a painter ! The mermaids in that hannt, 
haunt the beholder for hours after. Where 
is the shore on which those creatures were 
sketched ? The sly catalogue does not tell ns. 
" The outdoor sketcher will not fail to re- 
mark the excellent fidelity with which Mr. 
Leech draws the backgrounds of his little 
pictures. The homely landscape, the sea, 
the winter wood by which the huntsmen 
ride, the light and clouds, the birds float- 
ing overhead, are indicated by a few strokes 



JOHN LEECH. 49 

which show the artist's untiring watchfulness 
and love of nature. He is a natural truth- 
teller, and indulges in no flights of fancy, as 
Hogarth was before him. He speaks his mind 
out quite honestly, like a thorough Briton. 
He loves horses, dogs, river and field sports. 
He loves home and children, that you can 
see. He holds Frenchmen in light esteem. 
A bloated ' Mosoo ' walking Leicester Square, 
with a huge cigar and a little hat, with ' bil- 
lard ' and ' estaminet ' written on his flaccid 
face, is a favorite study with him ; the un- 
shaven jowl, the waist tied with a string, the 
boots which pad the Quadrant pavement, 
this dingy and disreputable being exercises a 
fascination over Mr. Punch's favorite artist. 
"We trace, too, in his works a prejudice against 
the Hebrew nation, against the natives of an 
island much celebrated for its verdure and 
its A\Tongs ; these are lamentable prejudices 
indeed, but what man is without his own 1 



50 JOHN LEECH. 

No man has ever depicted the little ' Snob * 
with such a delightful touch. Leech fondles 
and dandles this creature as he does the chil- 
dren. To remember one or two of those dear 
gents is to laugh. To watch them looking at 
their o\vn portraits in this pleasant gallery 
will be no small part of the exhibition ; and 
as we can all go and see our neighbors carica- 
tured here, it is just possible that our neigh- 
bors may find some smart likenesses of their 
neighbors in these brilliant, lifelike, good-na- 
tured sketches in oil." — Times, June 21, 1862. 
We could not resist giving this long extract. 
What perfection of thought and word !. It 
is, alas ! a draught of a wine we can no more 
get ; the vine is gone. What flavor in his 
"dear prisoned spirit of the impassioned 
grape " ! What a bouquet ! Why is not every- 
thing that hand ever wrote reproduced ? shall 
we ever again be regaled with such ccnanthic 
acid and ether ? — the volatile essences by 



JOHX LEECH. 51 

which a wine is itself and none other, — its 
flower and Ijloom ; the reason why Chamber- 
tin is not Sherry, and Sauterne neither. Our 
scientific friends will remember that these 
same delicate acids and oils are compounds 
of the lightest of all bodies, hydrogen, and 
the brightest when concentrated in the dia- 
mond, carbon ; and these in the same propor- 
tion as sugar ! Moreover, this ethereal oil 
and acid of wine, what we may call its genius, 
never exceeds a forty-thousandth part of the 
wine ! the elevating powers of the fragrant 
Burgundies are supposed to be more due to 
this essence than to its amount of alcohol. 
Thackeray, Jeremy Taylor, Charles Lamb, 
old Fuller, Sydney Smith, Ruskin, each have 
the felicity of a specific cenanthic acid and oil, 
— a bouquet of his own ; others' wines are 
fruity or dry or brandied, or "from the Cape," 
or from the gooseberry, as the case may be. 
For common household use. commend us to 



OZ JOHN LEECH. 

the stout home-brewed from the Swift, Defoe, 
Cobbet, and Southey taps. 

Much has been said about the annoyance 
which organ-grinding caused to Leech, but 
there were other things which also gave him 
great annoyance, and amongst these was his 
grievance against the wood-engravers. 

His drawings on the polished and chalked 
surface of the wood-block were beautiful to 
look at. Great admiration has been bestowed 
upon the delicacy and artistic feeling shown 
in the wood-blocks as they appeared in 
Punch ; but any one who saw these exquisite 
little gems as they came from his hands would 
scarcely recognize the same things when they 
appeared in print in Punch. When he had 
finished one of his blocks, he would show it 
to his friends and say, " Look at this, and 
w^atch for its appearance in Punch." Some- 
times he would point to a little beauty in a 
landscape, and calling particular attention to 



JOHX LEECH. 53 

it, would say that probably all his fine little 
touches would be " cut away," in a still more 
literal sense than that in which he uses the 
word in his address. 

When, however, we come to consider the 
circmnstances and pressure under which these 
blocks were almost always engraved, the won- 
der will be that they were so perfect. The 
blocks upon which he drew were composed 
of small sc^uares, fastened together at the 
back, so that when the drawing was completed 
on the block, it was unscrewed, and the va- 
rious pieces handed over to a number of 
engravers, each having a square inch or two 
of landscape, figure, or face, as the case might 
be, not knowing what proportion of light and 
shade each piece bore to the whole. 

Had these blocks b^en carefully and 
thoughtfully engraved /by one hand, and 
then been printed by the hand instead of the 
steam press, we might have seen some of the 



54 JOHN LEECH. 

finesse and beauty which the dIa^viTlg showed 
before it was " cut away." 

There was nothing that was so great a 
mark of the gentleness of his nature as his 
steady abstinence from personality. His cor- 
respondence was large, and a perusal of it 
only shows how careful he must have been, 
to have shunned the many traps that were 
laid for him to make him a partisan in per- 
sonal quarrels. Some of the most wonderful 
suggestions were forwarded to him, but he 
had a most keen scent for everything in the 
.shape of personality. 

We need do little more than allude to the 
singular purity and good taste manifested in 
everything he drew or wrote. We do not 
know any finer instance of blamelessness in 
art or literature, such perfect delicacy and 
cleanness of mind, — nothing coarse, nothing 
having the slightest taint of indecency, no 
double entendre, no laughing at virtue, no 



JOHN LEECH. 55 

glorifying or glozing of vice, — nothing to 
make any one of his own lovely girls blush, 
or his own handsome face hide itself. This 
gentleness and thorough gentlemanliness per- 
vades all his works. They are done by a 
man you would take into your family and to 
your heart at once. To go over his four vol- 
umes of Pictures of Life and Character is not 
only a wholesome pleasure and diversion ; it 
is a liberal education. And then he is not 
the least of a soft or goody man, no small 
sentimentalism or petit mattre work : he is a 
man and an Englishman to the backbone ; 
who rode and fished as if that were his chief 
business, took his fences fearlessly, quietly, 
and mercifully, and knew how to run his 
salmon and land him. He was, what is 
better still, a public-spirited man ; a keen, 
hearty, earnest politician, with strong con- 
victions, a Liberal deserving the name. His 
political pencillings are as full of good, ener- 



5G JOHN LEECH. 

getic politics as they are of strong portraiture 
arid drawing. He is almost always on the 
right side, — sometimes, like his great chief, 
Mr. Punch, not on the popular one. 

From the wonderful fidelity with which he 
rendered the cabmen and gamins of London, 
we might suppose he had them into his room 
to sit to him as studies. He never did this ; 
he liked actions better than states. He was 
perpetually taking notes of all he saw ; but 
this was the whole, and a great one. With 
this, and with his own vivid memory and 
bright informing spirit, he did it all. One 
thing we may be pardoned for alluding to 
as illustrative of his art. His wife, who was 
every way worthy of him, and without whom 
he was scarce ever seen at any place of pub- 
lic amusement, was very beautiful ; and the 
appearance of those lovely English maidens 
we all so delight in, with their short fore- 
heads, arch looks, and dark laughing eyes, 



JOHN LEECH. 61 

sketches in Tlie Times, Leech was hugely de- 
lighted, — rejoiced in it like a child, and said, 
'• That "s like putting £1,000 in my pocket." 
With all the temptations he had to Club life, 
he never went to the Garrick to spend the 
evenings, except on the Saturdays, which 
he never missed. On Sunday afternoons, in 
summer, Thackeray and he might often be 
seen regaling themselves with their fellow- 
creatures in the Zoological Gardens, and mak- 
ing their o\xu queer observations, to which, 
doubtless, we are indebted for our baby hip- 
popotamus and many another four-footed 
joke. He never would go to houses where 
he knew he was asked only to be seen and 
trotted out. He was not a frequenter of Mrs. 
Leo Huntei^s at homes. 

We now give a few typical woodcuts. It 
is impossible, from the size of our page, to 
give any of the larger, and often more com- 



62 JOHN LEECH. 

plete and dramatic drawings. We hope ours 
will send everybody to the volumes them- 
selves. There should immediately be made, 
so long as it is possible, a complete collection 
of his works ; and a noble monument to in- 
dustry and honest work, as well as genius 
and goodness, it would be. We begin with 
the British Lion : — 




-^ 



Tlie State of the Nation. — Disraeli measuring the British 
Lion. 

This is from a large Cartoon, but we have 
only space for the British Lion's head. He 
is dressed as a farm-laborer. He has his hat 



JOHN LEECH. 63 

and a big stick in his hand, and his tail inno- 
cently draggling under his smock-frock, which 
has the usual elaborate needlework displayed. 
Disraeli, who is taking his measure for re- 
habilitating the creature, is about a third 
shorter, and we would say six times lighter. 
What a leonine simpleton I What a vis- 
age I How much is in it, and how much 
not 1 Look at his shirt-collar and chubby 
cheek ! What hair ! copious and rank as the 
son of ]Manoah's, each particular hair grow- 
ing straight out into space, and taking its 
own noway particular way ; his honest, sim- 
ple eyes, well apart ; his snub, infimtile nose ; 
his long upper lip, um^eclaimed as Xo-man's- 
land, or the Libyan desert, unstubbed as 
" Thornaby Waaste " ; his mouth closed, 
and down at the corner, partly from stomach 
in discontent (Giles is always dyspeptic), 
partly from contempt of the same. He is 
submitting to be measured and taken ad van- 



64 JOHN LEECH. 

tage of behind his back by his Semitic 
brother. He will submit to this and much 
more, but not to more than that. He draws 
his line like other people, when it occurs to 
him ; and he keeps his line, and breaks yours 
if you don't look to it. 

He may be kicked over, and take it mildly, 
smiling, it may be, as if he ought somehow to 
take it well, though appearances are against 
it. You may even knock him down, and 
he gets up red and flustered, and with his 
hands among his hair, and his eyes rounder 
and brighter, and his mouth more linear, his 
one leg a little behind the other ; but if you 
hit him again, calling him a liar or a coward, 
or his old woman no better than she should 
be, then he means mischief, and is at it and 
you. For he is like Judah, a true lion's 
whelp. Let us be thankful he is so gentle,- 
and can be so fierce and stanch. 

Did you ever see such a wind ? How it is 



JOHN LEECH. 67 

making game of everj-thing ; how everything 
scuds I Look at hLs whiskers. Look at the 
tail of his descending friend's horse. Look 
at another's precursory " Lincoln and Ben- 
nett " bowling along ! Look at his horse's 
head, — the jaded but game old mare ; the 
drawing of her is exquisite ; indeed, there is 
no end of praising his horses. They are all 
different, and a dealer could t^ll you their 
ages and price, possibly their pedigree. 

There is a large Avoodcut in the Illustrated 
London Xews (any one who has it should 
frame it, and put the best plate-glass over 
it) ; it is called " Very Polite. The party on 
the gray, having invited some strangers to 
lunch, shows them the nearest way (by half 
a mile) to his house." The " party " is a big 
English squire — sixteen stone at least — 
with the handsome, insolent face of many of 
his tribe, and the nose of William the Con- 
queror. He has put the gray suddenly and 



68 JOHN LEECH. 

quite close to a hurdle-fence, that nobody 
hut such a man would face, and nothing but 
such blood and bone could take. He is re- 
turning from a " run," and is either ashamed 
of his guests, and wants to tail them off, or 
would like to get home and tell his wife that 
" some beggars " are coming to lunch ; or it 
may be merely of the nature of a sudden 
lark, for the escape of his own and his gray's 
unsatisfied " go." The gray is over it like a 
bird. The drawing of this horse is marvel- 
lous ; it is an action that could only last a 
fraction of a second, and yet the artist has 
taken it. Observe the group in the road of 
the astounded " strangers." There is the big 
hulking, sulky young cornet, '' funking," as 
it is technically called ; our friend Tom 
Noddy behind him, idiotic and ludicrous as 
usual, but going to go at it like a man such 
as he is, — the wintrv elms, the hm hedger 
;it his work on his knees, — all done to the 




■' And jocund day 
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain-tops." 



JOHN LEECH. . 7i ' 

quick. But the finest bit of all is the eye of 
the mare. She knows well it is a short cut 
home ; and her cheery, fearless, gentle eye is 
keenly fixed, not on where she is about to 
land, — that's all right, — but on the dis- 
tance, probably her own staljle belfry. This 
woodcut is very valuable, and one of the 
largest he ever did. 

How arch I how lovely I how maidenly in 
this their " sweet hour of prime " the two 
conspirators* are ! What a clever bit of com- 
position ! how workmanlike the rustic seat ! 
how jauntily the approaching young swells 
are bearing down upon them, keeping time 
with their long legs ! you know how they 
will be chaffing all together in a minute ; 
what ringing laughs I 

And is not she a jocund morn ? day is too 
old for her. She is in "the first garden of 
her simpleness," — in " the innocent bright- 

* S?e frontispiece. 



72 JOHN LEECH. 

ness of her new-born day." How iDlumb she 
stands ! How firm these dainty heels ! — 
leaning forward just a little on the wind ; 
her petticoat, a mere hint of its wee bit of 
scolloped work, done by herself, doubtless ; 
the billowy gown ; the modest little sonjpgon 
of the white silk stockings, anybody else 
would have shown none, or too much ; the 
shadow of puffing papa approaching to help 
her down ; the wonderful sense of air and 
space. The only thing we question is, Would 
papa's hat's shadow show the rim across, in- 
stead of only at the sides ] 

This belongs to a set of drawings made 
when down in Staffordshire, his wife's county. 
They are all full of savage strength. They 
show how little he drew from fancy, and how 
much from nature, memory, and invention 
proper, which, as does also true imagination, 
postulate a foundation in materials and fact. 
A mere Cockney, — whose idea of a rouf^di 




UT FR03I THE MINIXG DISTRICTS. 



First. W'nt tak' thy quoat ofl", then 1 Oi tell the. 
oi'm as good a uiou as thee ! 

Second. Thes anion! Whoy, thou be'est only wril'.c 
in' abnot to save thy funeral expenses. 



JOHN LEECH. 75 

was that of a London ruftian, — Avoiild have 
put Staffordshire clothes on the Bill Sykes 
he may have seen in the flesh or more likely 
on the stage, and that would be all : Leech 
gives you the essence, the clothes, and the 
county. Look at these two fellows, brutal as 
their own bull-dogs and as stanch, — haA'ing 
their own virtues too, in a way, — what a 
shoulder, what a deltoid and biceps ! the up- 
per man developed largely by generations of 
arm work, the legs well enough, but not in 
proportion, — their education having been 
neglected. Contrast these men with Leech's 
Highlandmen in Briggs' Salmon and Grouse 
Adventures : there matters are reversed, be- 
cause so are the conditions of growth. A 
StafiFordshire upper-man on Rannoch or 
Liddesdale legs would be an ugly customer. 
Observe the pipe fallen round from the 
mouth's action in speaking, and see how the 
potteries are indicated by the smoking brick 
cupola. 



to JOHX LEECH. 

This is delicious ! What comic vis ! Pluck 
and perspiration ! bewilderment and bott(nn ! 
He '11 be at it again presently, give him time. 
This is only one of the rounds, and the boot- 
hooks are ready for the next. Look at the 
state of his back-hair, his small, determined 
^ye ! the braces burst with the stress ! The 
affair is being done in some remote, solitary 
room. The hat is ready, looking at him, and 
so are the spurs and the other boot, standing 
bolt upright and impossible ; but he '11 do it ; 
apoplexy and asphyxia may be imminent ; 
but doubtless these are the very boots he won 
the steeplechase in. A British lion this too, 
not to be " done," hating that bite of a wonl 
" impossible " as much as Bonaparte did, and 
as Briggs does him. "We have an obscure 
notion, too, that he has put the wrong foot 
into the boot ; never mind. 

The character of Mr. Briggs, throughout all 
predicaments in Punch, is, we think, better 



JOHX LEECH. 79 

sustained, more real, more thoroughly respect- 
able and comic, than even Mr. Pickwick's. 
Somehow, though the latter worthy is always 
very delightful and like himself when he is 
M'ith us, one does n't know what becomes of 
him the rest of the day ; and if he was asked 
to be, we fear he could n't live through an 
hour, or do anything for himself. He is for 
the stage. Brir/gs is a man you have seen, — 
he is a man of business, of sense, and energy ; 
a good husband and citizen, a true Briton and 
Christian, peppery, generous, plucky, obsti- 
nate, faithful to his spouse and Ijill ; only lie 
has this craze about hunting and sport in 
general. 

This is from the Little Tour in Ireland, in 
which, by the by, is one of the only two 
drawings he ever made of himself, — at page 
141 ; it is a back view of him, riding with 
very short stirrups a rakish Irish pony ; he is 
In the Gap of Dunloe, and listening to a bare- 



80 JOHN LEECH. 

footed master of blarney. The other likeness 
is in a two-page Cartoon, — " Mr. Punch's 
Fancy Ball," January, 1847. In the orches- 
tra are the men on the Punch staff at the 
time. The first on the left is Mayhew, play- 
ing the cornet, then Percival Leigh the double 
bass, Gilbert A'Beckett the violin, Doyle the 
clarionette, Leech next playing the same, — 
tall, handsome, and nervous, — Mark Lemon, 
the editor, as conductor, appealing to the fell 
Jerrold to moderate his bitter transports on 
the drum. Mooning over all is Thackeray, 
— big, vague, childlike, — playing on the 
piccolo ; and Tom Taylor earnestly pegging 
away at the piano. What a change from 
such a fancy to this sunset and moonrise on 
the quiet, lonely Connemara Bay, — nothing 
living is seen but the great winged sea-bird 
flapping his way home, close to the " charmed 
wave." The whole scene radiant, sacred, and 
still ; " the gleam, the shadow, and the peace 



JOHN LEECH. 83 

supreme." The man who could feel this, 
and make us feel it, had the soul and the 
hand of a great painter. 

This speaks for itself. Nobody needs to be 
told which is Freddy ; and you see the book 
from which Arthur got his views of Genesis 
and the mystery of being ; and the motherly, 
tidy air of the beds ! Freddy's right thumb 
in his belt ; the artistic use of that mass of 
white beyond his head ; the drawing of his 
right sole ; the tremendous bit of theology 
in that " only," — do any of us know much 
more about it now than does Arthur ? — only 
surely nobody would now say, according to 
Pet Marjory's brother, that our Arthur, as he 
now sits, clean and caller, all tucked up in 
his nightgown, — made of soft cotton, thick 
and (doubtless) tweeled, — and ready for any 
amount of discussion, is only " dirt." "^ 

* This word, in conjunction with cliildren, brings 
into our mind a joke which happened to Dr. Nor- 



84: JOHN LEECH. 

We have said he Avas greater in humor 
than in caricature or even satire, and, like all 
true humorists, he had the tragic sense and 

man M'Leod, andAvhicli he tells as only he can tell 
his own stones. He was Avatching some barelegged 
Glasgow street children who were busied in a great 
mud-work in the kennel. "What's that ?" said 
he, stooping down. "It's a kirk," said they, 
never looking np. " Where 's the door ?" " There 's 
the door," points a forefinger, that answers young 
Fleming's account of the constitution of man. 
" Where 's the steeple ? " " There 's the steej)le," 
— a defunct spunk .slightly off the perpendicular. 
"Where's the poopit ? " "There's the poopit," 
said the biggest, his finger making a hole in a 
special bit of clay he had been fondly rounding in 
his palms. " And where 's the minister ? " " 0, ye 
see," looking as vacant as a congregation in such 
circunrstances should, and as the hole did when he 
withdrew his finger, " Ou're run oot o' dirt ; " but 
jumping up, and extinguishing for the 'time, witli 
Ills liare foot, the entire back gallery, he exclaims, 




A MORAL LE.-SON FROM THE XURSERY. 



Arthur. Do you know, Freddy, that we are only made 
of dust ? 

Freddy. Are we ? Then I 'm sure we ought to be very 
careful how we pitch into each other so, for fear we 
Inight crumble each other all to pieces. 



JOHN LEECH. 87 

power ; for as is the height so is the depth, 
as is the mirth so is the melancholy ; Loch 
Lomond is deepest when Ben dips into it. 
Look at this. Mr. Merrynian and his dead 

" There 's Airchie comin', he's got a bit." Airchie 
soon converted his dirt into a minister, who was 
made round, and put into his hole, the gallery 
repaired, and the '•'call" vociferously unanimous 
and ''sustained." Would n't that jovial piece of 
professional "dirt" chew his cud of droll fancies as 
he walked off, from the fall of man to the Aberdeen 
Act, and the entire subject of dirt. 

"Where did Adam fall T' said his kindly old 
minister to " Wee Peter " at the examination. 
"Last nicht, at the close-mooth, sir" (Adam, like 
his oltl namesake, was in the way of frequenting a 
certain forbidden tree, his was "The Lemon Tree," 
— it was in Aberdeen), "and he's a' glaur yet," 
(glaur being Scottice et Scotorum, wet dirt). " Ay, 
ay, my wee man," said the benevolent Calvinist, 
patting his head, ' ' he 's a' glaur yet, — he 's a' 
glaur vet." 



88 JOHN LEECH. 

\\ ife, — there is nothing in Hogarth more 
tragic and more true. It is a travelling cir- 
cus ; its business at its height ; the dying 
woman has just made a glorious leap through 
the papered hoop ; the house is still ringing 
with the applause ; she fell and was hurt 
cruelly ; but, saying nothing, crept into this 
caravan room ; she has been prematurely 
delivered, and is now dead ; she had been 
begging her Bill to come near her, and to 
hear her last words ; Bill has kissed her, 
taken her to his heart, — and she is gone. 
Look into this bit of misery and nature ; 
look at her thin face, white as the waning 
moon 

" Stranded on tlie pallid shove of morn " ; 

the women's awe-stricken, pitiful looks (the 
great Gomersal, with his big blue-black un- 
whiskered cheek, his heavy mustache, his 
business-like, urgent thumb, — even he is 
being solemnized and hushed) ; the trunk 



JOHN LEECH. 91 

pulled out for the poor baby's clothes secretly 
prepared at by-hours by the poor mother ; 
the neatly mended tear in Mary's frock ; the 
coronet, the slippers, the wand Avith its glit- 
tering star ; the nearness of the buzzing 
multitude ; the dignity of death over the 
whole. "We do not know who '•' S. H." is, 
who tells, with his strong simplicity, the 
story of " The Queen of the Arena," — it is 
in the first volume of Once a Week, — but we 
can say nothing less of it than that it is 
worthy of this woodcut ; it must have been 
true. Here, too, as in all Leech's works, 
there is a manly sweetness, an overcoming 
of evil by good, a gentleness that tames the 
anguish ; you find yourself taking off your 
shoes, and bow as in the presence of the Su- 
preme, — who gives, who takes away, — Avho 
restores the lost.* 

* We remember many years ago, in St. Andrews, 
on the fair-day in September, standing befoi"e a 



92 JOHN LEECH. 

We end as we began, by being thankful 
for our gift of laughter, and for our makers 
of the same, for the pleasant joke, for the 

show, where some wonderful tumbling and music 
and dancing was being done. It was called by way 
of Tlie Tempest, a ballet, and Miranda was pirou- 
/itting away all glorious with her crown and rouge 
r.nd tinsel. She was young, with dark, wild, rich 
('yes and hair, and shapely, tidy limbs. The Mas- 
ler of ceremonies, a big fellow of forty, with an 
/ onest, merry face, was urging the young lady to 
io her best, when suddenly I saw her start, and 
->hought I heard a child's cry in the midst of the 
rough music. She looked eagerly at the big man, 
ivho smiled, made her jump higher than ever, at 
die same time winking to some one within. Up 
tame the bewitching Ferdinand, glorious, too, but 
old and ebriose ; and under cover of a fresh round 
of cheers from the public, Miranda vanished. 
Presently the cry stopped, and the big man smiled 
again, and thumped his drum more fiercely. I 
stepped out of the crowd, and getting to the end of 



JOHN LEECH. 93 

inirtli that heals and heartens, and never 
wounds, that assuages and diverts. This, 
like all else, is a gift from the Supreme Giver, 
to be used as not abused, to be kept in its 
proper place, neither despised nor estimated 
and cultivated overmuch ; for it has its per- 
ils as well as its pleasures, and is not always, 
as in this case, on the side of truth and 
virtue, modesty and sense. If you wish 
to know from a master of the art what are 
the dangers of giving one's self too much up 

the caravan, peered through a broken panel. There 
was our gum-flower-crowned Miranda sitting be- 
side a cradle, on an old regimental drum, with her 
baby at her breast. how lovely, how blessed, 
how at peace they looked, how all in all to each 
other! and the fat handy-pandy patting its plump, 
snowy, unfailing friend ; it was like Hagar and 
young Ishmael by themselves. 1 learned that the 
big man was her husband, and \ised her well in his 
own gruff wav. 



94 JOHH LEECH. 

to the comic view of things, how it demoral- 
izes the whole iiicUi, read what we have already 
earnestly commended to you, Sydney Smith's 
two lectures, in which there is something 
quite pathetic in the earnestness with which 
he speaks of the snares and the degradations 
that mere wit, comicality, and waggery bring 
upon the best of men. We end with his con- 
cluding words : — 

" I have talked of the danger of wit and 
humor : I do not mean by that to enter into 
commonplace declamation against faculties 
because they ai'e dangerous. Wit is dan- 
gerous, eloquence is dangerous, a talent for 
observation is dangerous, every thing is dan- 
gerous that has efficacy and vigor for its 
characteristics ; nothing is safe but medioc- 
crity. The business is in conducting the 
understanding well, to risk something ; to 
aim at uniting things that are commonly in- 
compatible. The meaning of an extraordi- 



JOHN LEECH. 95 

nary man is, that he is eight men, not one man ; 
that he has as much wit as if he had no 
sense, and as much sense as if he had no wit ; 
that his conduct is as judicious as if he were 
the dullest of human beings, and his imagi- 
nation as brilliant as if h^were irretrievably 
ruined. But when wit is combined with 
sense and information ; when it is softened 
by benevolence, and restrained by strong 
principle ; when it is in the hands of a man 
who can use it and despise it, who can be 
witty and something much better than witty, 
who loves honor, justice, decency, good- 
nature, morality, and religion ten thousand 
times better than wit, — wit is then a beau- 
tiful and delightful part of our nature. 
There is no more interesting spectacle than 
to see the effects of wit upon the different 
characters of men ; than to observe it expand- 
ing caution, relaxing dignity, unfreezing cold- 
ness, — teaching age and care and pain to 



96 JOHN LEECH. 

smile, — extorting reluctant gleams of pleas- 
ure from melancholy, and charming even the 
pangs of grief. It is pleasant to observe how 
it penetrates through the coldness and awk- 
wardness of society, gi-adually bringing men 
nearer together, and, like the combined force 
of wine and oil, giving every man a. glad 
heart and a shining countenance. Genuine 
and innocent wit and humor like this is surely 
the flavor cf the mind I Man could direct his 
ways hy jjlain reason, and sujyport his life hy 
tasteless food; hut God has given us wit, and 
flavor, and brightness, and laughter, and per- 
fumes, to enliven the days of man's pilgrimage, 
and to ' charm his pained steps over the burn- 
ing marie.' " 



THACKERAY'S LITERARY 
CAREER. 



L<»^i 



j^'^\ \ V 'J ^^'^.^N^ivgK^^HaM^iS 




THACKERAY'S LITERARY 
CAREER. 



''HAT Mr. Thackeray was born in India in 
' 1811 ; that he Avas educated at Charter 
I House and Cambridge ; that he left the 
Cniversity after a few terms' resid^nce without a 
degree ; that he devoted himself at first to art ; that 
in pursuit thereof he lived much abroad '"' for study, 
for sport, for society " ; that about the age of twenty- 
five, married, without fortune, without a profession, 
he began the career which has made him an Eng- 
lish classic ; that he pursued that career steadily till 
his d:>ath, — -all this has, within the last few weeks, 
been told again and again. 

It is a common saying that the lives of men of 
letters are uneventful. In an obvious sense this is 
true. They are seldom called on to take part in 
events which move the world, in politics, in the con- 
fli;-t3 of nations ; while the exciting incidents of 
sensation-novels are as rare in their lives as in the 



6 Thackeray's literary career. 

lives of other men. But men of letters are in no 
way exempt from the changes and chances of for- 
tune ; and the story of these, and of the eflfects 
which came from them, must possess an interest for 
all. Prosperity succeeded by cruel reverses ; hap- 
piness, and the long prospect of it, suddenly clouded ; 
a hard fight, with aims as yet uncertain, and powers 
unknown ; success bravely won ; the austerer vic- 
tory of failure manfully borne, — these things make 
a life truly eventful, and make the story of that life 
full of interest and instruction. They will all faj 
to be narrated when Mr. Thackeray's life shall be 
written ; we have only now to do with them so far 
as they illustrate his literary career, of which Ave 
propose to lay before our readers an account as com- 
plete as is in our power, and as impartial as our 
warm admiration for the great writer we have lost 
will allow. 

Many readers know Mr. Thackeray only as the 
Thackeray of Vanity Fair, Fendenuis, The New- 
comes, and The Virginians, the quadrilateral of his 
fame, as they were called by the writer of an able 
and kindly notice in the Illustrated News. The 
four volumes of Miscellanies published in 1857, 
though his reputation had been then established, are 
less known than they should be. But ^Mr. Thack- 
eray wrote much which does not appear even in the 
Miscellanies ; and some account of his early labors 
may not be unacceptable to our readers. 



THACKERAY S LITERARY CAREER. 7 

His first attempt was ambitious. He became 
connected as editor, and also, we suspect, in some 
measure, as proprietor, with a weekly literary jour- 
nal, the fortunes of which were not prosperous. "We 
believe the journal to have been one which bore the 
imposing title of " The National Standard and Jour- 
nal of Literature, Science, ^Music, Theatricals, and 
the Fine Arts."' Thackeray's editorial reign began 
about the 19th Number, after which he seems to 
have done a good deal of work, — reviews, letters, 
criticisms, and verses. As the National Standard 
is now hardly to be met with out of the British 
Museum, we give a few specimens of these first 
efforts. There is a mock sonnet by W. Words- 
worth, illustrative of a drawing of Braham in stage 
nautical costume, standing by a theatrical sea-shore ; 
in the background an Israelite, with the clothes-bag 
and triple hat of his ancient race ; and in the sky, 
constellation-wise, appears a Jew's harp, with a 
chaplet of bays round it. The sonnet runs : — 

Say not that Judali's harp hath lost its tone, 
Or tliat no bard liath found it wliere it hung 
Broken and lonely, voiceless and unstrung, 
Beside the sluggish streams of Babylon : 
Slowman * repeats the strains his father sung, 

* " It is needless to speak of the eminent vocalist and ira- 
provisatore. lie nightly delights a numerous and respect- 
able audience at the Cider Cellar; and while on this subject, 
I cannot refrain from mentioning the kindness of Mr. Evans, 
the worthy proprietor of that estai)li?hni"nt. N. B. — A 
^N^ 'fh/jte every Friday. — W. Wordsworth." 



8 THACKERAY S LITERARY CAREER. 

And Judah's burning lyre is Braliam's own ! 

Behold him here ! Here view the wondrous niau, 

Majestical and lonely, as when first, 

In music on a wondering world he burst, 

And charmed the ravished ears of Sov'reign Anne.* 

Mark well the form, reader ! nor deride 

Tlie sacred symbol ^ Jew's harp glorified — 

Which, circled with a l>looming wreath, is seen 

Of verdant bays ; and thus arc typified 

The pleasant music, and the baize of green, 

Whence issues out at eve Braham with front sei'cne." 

We have here the germ of a style in which Thack- 
eray became famous, though the hiim.or of att)nb- 
uting this nonsense to AVordswodh, and of making 
Braham coeval with Queeii Anne, is not now very 
plain. There is a yet more characteristic touch in 
a review of INIontgomery's " AVcman ihe Angel of 
Life," winding up with a quotation of some dozen 
lines, the order of which he says has been reversed 
by the printer, but as they read quite as well the 
one way as ihe other, he does not think it worth 
while 1o correct the mistake ! A comical talc, called 
the " Devil's AVager," afterwards reprinted in the 
Paris Sketch-Book, also appeared in the National 
Standard, with a capital woodcut, representing the 
Devil as sailing through the air, dragging after him 
the fat Sir Roger de Rollo by means of his tail, 
"which is wound round Sir Roger's neck. The idea 
of this tale is characteristic. The venerable knight, 

*"Mr. Braham made his first appearance in England in 
the reign of Queen Anne. — W. W." 



Thackeray's jjt::kakv career. 9 

already iii the other world, has m-ide a foolish bet 
with the Devil involving very seriously his future 
prospects there, which he can only win by persuad- 
ing some of his relatives on earth to say an Ave for 
him. He fails to obtain this slight boon from a 
kinsman successor for obvious reasons ; and from a 
beloved niece, owing to a musical lover whose sere- 
nading quite puts a stop to her devotional exercises ; 
and succeeds at last, only when, giving up all hope 
from coinpassion or generosity, he appeals by a pious 
fraud to the selfishness of a brother and a monk. 
'I he story ends with a very Thackerean touch : 
" The moral of this story wiU be given in several 
successive numbers " ; the last three words are in 
the Sketch-Book changed into "the second edition." 
Perhaps best of all is a portrait of Louis Phi- 
lippe, presenting the Citizen King under the Robert 
Maeaire aspect, the adoption and popularity of which 
Thackeray so carefully explains and illustrates in his 
Essay on " Caricatures and Lithography in Paris." 
Below the poi-trait are these lines, not themselves 
very remarkable, but in which, esi)ecially in the al- 
lusion to Snobs by the destined enemy of the race, 
we catch glimpses of the future : — 

"Like 'the king in the parlor' he 's fumbling his money. 
Like ' the queen iu the kitchen ' his speech is all honey, 
Except -when he talks ir, like Emperor Nap, 
Of his wonderful feats at T'leunis and Jemappe ; 
But alas ! all his zeal for the multitude 's gone, 
And of no numbers thinking except Xuniber One! 



10 Thackeray's literary career. 

No huzzas greet his coming, no patriot chib licks 

The hand of ' the best of created republics ' : 

He stands in Paris, as you see him before ye, 

Little more than a snob. That 's an end of the story." 

The journal seems to have been an attempt to sub- 
stitute vigorous and honest criticism of books and 
of art for the partiality and slipslop general then, 
and now not perhaps quite unknown. It failed, 
however, partly, it may be, from the inexperience 
of its managers, but doubtless still more from the 
Want of the capital necessary to establish anything 
of the sort in the face of similar journals of old 
standing. People get into a habit of taking cer- 
tain periodicals unconsciously, as they take snuff. 
*Ihe Katio)iaI Standard, etc., etc., came into exist- 
ence on the oth January, 1833, and ceased to be on 
the 1st February, 1834. 

His subsequent writings contain several allusions 
to this misadventure ; from some of which we would 
Infer that the breakdown of the journal was attended 
with circumstances more unpleasant than mere lit- 
erary failure. Mr. Adolphus Simcoe * {Punch, Vol. 



* Tlie portrait of Mr. Adolphus, stretched out, " careless 
diffused," — seedy, hungry^ and diabolical, in his fashion- 
able cheap Imt, his dirty -Hhite duck trousers strapped 
tightly down, as being the mode and possibly to conceal his 
bare legs; a half-smoked, probably nnsmokably bad cigar, 
in his hand, which is lying over the arm of a tavern bench, 
from whence he is casting a greedy and ruffian eye upon some 
unseen fellows, supping plcnteously and with cheer, — is, 
for power and drawing, not unworthy of Hogarth. 



Thackeray's literary career. 11 

lll.\ when in a bad way from a love of literature 
and drink, completed his ruin by purchasing: and 
conductins: for six months that celebrated miscel- 
lany called the Lach/s Lute, after which time "its 
chords wei-e rudely snapped asunder, and he who 
had swept them aside with such joy Avent forth a 
Avretched and heart-broken man."' And in Lovel 
ilie Widoicer, Mr. Batchelor narrates similar expe- 
riences : — 

"I dare say I gave myself airs as editor of that con- 
founded Museum, and proposed to educate the public taste, 
to diffuse morality and sound literature throughout the 
nation, and to pocket a liberal salary in return for my ser- 
vices. I dare say I printed my own sonnets, my own trag- 
edy, my own verses i to a being who shall l)e nameless, but 
whose conduct has caused a laitliful heart to bleed not a 
little). I dare say I wrote satirical articles, in wliich I 
piqued myself on the fineness of my wit and criticisms, got 
up for the nonce, out of enryclojjfedias and biographical dic- 
tiouaries ; so that 1 would be actually astonished at my own 
knowledge. I dare say I made a gaby of myself to the 
world ; pray, my good friend, hast thou never done likewise ? 
If thou hast never been a fool, be sure thou wilt never be a 
wise man." 

Silence for a while seems to have followed upon 
this failure; but in 1S36 his first attempt at inde- 
pendent authorship appeared simultaneously at Lon- 
don and Paris. This publication, at a time when 
he still hoped to make his bread by art, is, like in- 
deed everything: he either said or did, so character- 
istic, and has been so utterly forgotten, that an ac- 



12 Thackeray's literary career. 

count of it may not he out of place, perhajis more 
minute tban its absolute merits deserve. 

It is a small folio, with six litbocraphs, sligbtly 
tinted, entitled Fi'ore et Zephyr, Ballet Mijiholo- 
giqne dedie d — par T/ieopJiile Wagstaffe. Be- 
tween " d. " and " par " on the cover is the exquisite 
Flore hei'self, all alone in some rosy and bedizened 
bower. She has the old jaded smirk, and, with eye- 
bro\vs up and eyelids dropt, she is looking dowm 
oppressed with modesty and glory. Her nose, 
which is long, and has a ripe droop, gives to the 
semicircular smirk of the large mouth, down upon 
the centre of which it comes in the funniest way, 
an indescribably sentimental absurdity. Her thin, 
sinewy arms and large hands are crossed on her 
breast, and her petticoat stands out like an inverted 
white tulip — of muslin — out of which come her 
professional legs, in the only position which human 
nature never puts its legs into ; it is her special 
jiose. Of course, also, you are aware, by that smirk, 
that look of being looked at, that though alone in 
maiden meditation in this her bower, and sighing 
for her Zephyi-, she is in front of some thousand 
pairs of eyes, and under the fire of many double- 
barrelled lorgnettes, of which she is the focus. 

In the first place. La Bansefait ses offrandes sitr 
^'autel dc Vh:n-inonie, in the shapes of Flore and 
Zephyr coming trippingly to the footlights, and j):;y- 
ing no manner of regard to the altar of ha:u:oiiy, 



Thackeray's literary career. 13 

represented by a fiddle with an old and dreary face, 
and a laurel-wreath on its head, and veiy great re- 
crard to the unseen but perfectly understood " house." 
Next is Tr'iste ct abattit, les sidactions des yi/tnphes 
If (Zephi/r) tentent en vain. Zephyr looking theat- 
rically sad. Then Flore (with one lower extremity 
at more than a right angle to the other) deplore 
r absence de Zepht/r. The man in the orchestra en- 
deavoring to combine business with pleasure, so as 
to play the flageolet and read his score, and at the 
same time miss nothing of the deploring, is intensely 
comic. Next Zephyr has his turn, and dans un pas 
seal exprime sa siipreoie disespoir, — the extrem- 
ity of despair being expressed by doubling one leg 
so as to touch ths knee of the other, and then whirl- 
ing round so as to suggest the regulator of a steam- 
engine run off. Next is the rapturous reconcilia- 
tion, when the faithful creature bounds into his 
arms, and is held up to the house by the waist in 
the wonted fashion. Then there is La Uelraite de 
Flore, where we find her with ber mother and two 
admirers, — Zephyr, of course, not one. This is 
in Thackeray's strong, unflinching line. One lover 
is a young dandy without forehead or chin, sitting 
idiotically astride his chair. To him the old lady, 
who has her slight rouge, too, and is in a homely 
shawl and muflF, having walked, is making faded 
love. In the centre is the fair darling herself, still 
on tiptoe, and wrapped up, but not too much, for 



14 Thackeray's literary career. 

her fiacre. With his back to the comfortable tire, 
and staring wickedly at her, is the other lover, a 
big, burly, elderly man, probably well to do on the 
Bourse, and with a wife and family at home in their 
beds. The last exhibits Les dtlasseinents de Zf^phijr. 
That hard-working and homely personage is resting 
his arm on the chimney-piece, taking a huge pinch 
of snutf from the box of a friend, with a refreshing 
expression of satisfaction, the only bit of nature as 
yet. A dear little innocent pot-boy, such as only 
Thackeray knew how to draw, is gazing and waiting 
upon the two, holding up a tray from the nearesf 
tavern, on which is a great pewter-pot of foaming 
porter for Zephyr, and a rummer of steaming brandy 
and water for his friend, who has come in from the 
cold air. These drawings are lithographed by Ed- 
ward Morton, son of " Speed the Plough," and are 
done with that delicate strength and truth for which 
this excellent but little known artist is always to be 

praised. In each corner is the monogram ■\)lf/' 

which appears so often afterwards with the ]M added, 
and is itself superseded by the well-known pair of 
spectacles. Thackeray must have been barely tive- 
and-twcnty when this was published by Mitch- 
ell in Bond Street. It can hardly be said to have 
sold. 

Now it is worth noticing how in this, as always, 
he ridiculed the u<j;lv and the absurd in truth aud 



thackeray'8 literary career, 15 

pureness. There is, as we may Avell kno\Y, mucli 
that is wicked (though not so much as the judging 
community are apt to thiukj and miserable in such 
a life. There is much that a young man and artist 
might have felt and drawn in depicting it, of which 
in after years he would be ashamed ; but " Theo- 
phile Wagstaffe " has done nothing of this. The 
effect of looking over these Javeni/ia — these first 
shafts from that mighty bow, now, alas ! unbent — 
is good, is moral ; you are sorry for the hard-wrought 
slaves ; perhaps a little contemptuous towards the 
idle people who go to see them ; and you feel, more- 
over, that the Ballet, as thus done, is ugly as well 
as bad, is stupid as well as destructive of decency. 

His dream of editorship being ended, Mr. Thack- 
eray thenceforward contented himself with the more 
lowly, but less responsible, position of a contribu- 
tor, especially to Frasers Mayazme. The youth 
of Fraser was full of vigor and genius. ^Ye know 
no better reading than its early volumes, unsparing 
indeed, but brilliant with scholarship and original- 
ity and fire. In these days, the staff of that peri- 
odical included such men as Maginn, " Barry Corn- 
wall," Coleridge, Carlyle, Hogg, Gait, Theodore 
Hook, Delta, Gleig, Edward Irving, and, now among 
the greatest of them all, Thackeray. The first of the 
Yelhmplush Correspoiidence appeared in Novem- 
ber, 1837. The world should be grateful to Mr. 
John Henry Skelton, who in that year wrote a book 



16 Thackeray's literary career. 

called Ml/ Book, or the Anatomi/ of Conduct, for 
to him is owing the existence of Mr. Charles Yellow- 
plush as a critic, and as a narrator of " fashnable 
fax and polite annygoats." Mr Yellowplush, on 
reading Mr. Skelton's book, saw at once that only 
a gentleman of his distinguished profession could 
competently criticise the same ; and this was soon 
succeeded by the wider conviction that the great 
subject of fashionable life should not be left to any 
"common writin creatures," but <hat an authentic 
picture thereof must be supplied by " one of us." 
In the words of a note to the first paper, with the 
initials O. Y., but which it is easy to recognize as 
the work of Mr. Charles himself without the plush : 
" He who looketh from a tower sees more of the 
battle than the knights and captains engaged in it ; 
and, in like manner, he who stands behind a fash- 
ionable table knows more of society than the guests 
who sit at the board. It is from this source that 
our great novel-writers have drawn their experi- 
ence, retailing the truths which they learned. It 
is not impossible that Mr. Yellowplush may con- 
tinue his communications, when we shall be able 
to present the reader with the only authentic pic- 
ture of lashionable life which has been given to the 
world in our time." The idea was not carried out 
very fully. The only pictures sketched by Mr. 
Yellowplush were the farce of " Miss Shum's Hus- 
oand " and the terrible tragedy of '" Deuceace," 



Thackeray's literary career. 17 

neither of them exactly "pictures of foshionable 
life." We rather fancy that, in the story of Mr. 
Deuceace, Mr. Yellowpliish was carried away from 
his original plan, a return to which he found im- 
possible after that Avonderful m?dley of rascality, 
grim humor, and unrelieved b3d3\ ilry of all kinds. 
But in 1838 he reverted to his original critical 
tendencies, and demolished all that The Q^aarterlij 
had left of a book which made some noise in its 
day, called A D'ar>/ lUv.stratice of the Times of 
George the Fourth ; and wrote from his pantry one 
of the "Epistles to the Literati," expressing bis 
views of Sir Edward Lytton's Sea Captain, than 
which we know of no more good-natured, tren- 
chant, and conclusive piece of criticism. All the 
Yellowplush papers except the first arc republished 
in the Miscellanies. 

In 1839 appeared the story of Catherine, by Ikey 
Solomon. This story is little known, and it throws 
us back upon one still less known. In 1832, when 
Mr. Thackeray was not more than twenty-one, Elis- 
abeth Brovmrigge : a Tale, was narrated in the 
August and September numbers of Fraser. This 
tale is dedicated to the author of Eugene Aram, 
and the author describes himself as a young man 
who has for a length of time apjdied himself to 
literature, but entirely failed in deriving any emol- 
uments from his exertions. Depressed by failure 
he sends for the popular novel of Eugene Aram to 



18 Thackeray's literary career. 

gain instruction therefrom. He soon discovers liis 
mistake : — 

"From the frequent perusal of older works of imagina- 
tion I had learnt so to weave the incidents of my story as 
to interest the feelings of the reader in favor of virtue, and 
to increase his detestation of vice. I have been taught by 
Eugene Aram to mix vice and virtue up together in such an 
inextricable confusion as to render it impossible that any 
preference should be given to either, or that the one, indeed, 

should be at all distinguishable from the other In 

taking my subject from the walk of life to which you had 
directed my attention, many motives conspired to fix my 
choice on the heroine of the ensuing tale ; she is a classic 
personage, — her name has been already 'linked to immor- 
tal verse ' by the muse of Canning. Besides, it is extraor- 
dinary that, as you had commenced a tragedy under the title 
of Eugene Aram, I had already sketched a burletta with the 
title of EUsaheth Broicnrififie. I had, indeed, in my dramatic 
piece, been guilty of an egregious and unpardona1)le error: 
I had attempted to excite the sympathies of the audience in 
favor of the murdered apprentices, but your novel has dis- 
abused me of so vulgar a prejudice, and, in my present ver- 
sion of her case, all the interest of the reader and all the 
pathetic powers of the author will be engaged on the side 
of the murderess." 

According to this conception the tale proceeds, 
with incidents and even names taken directly from 
the Nem/ate Calendar, hut rivalling Eiigpne Jrnm 
itself in magnificence of diction, absurdity of senti- 
ment, and pomp of Greek quotation. The trial 
scene nnd the speecli for the defence are especially 
well hit off. If Elisabeth Brownrir/r/e was written 
6y Thackeray, and the internal evidence seems to 



Thackeray's literary career. 19 

us strong, the following is surprising criticism from 
a youth of twenty-one, — the very Byron and Bul- 
wer age : — 

" I am inclined to regard yon (the author of Eugene Aram) 
as an original discoverer in the world of literary enterprise, 
and to reverence you as the father of a new ' Insus ncitura; 
school.' There is no other title by which your manner could 
he so aptly designated. I am told, for instance, that in a 
former work, having to paint an adulterer, you described 
him as belonging to the class of country curates, among 
whom, perhaps, such a criminal is not met with once in a 
hundred years ; while, on the contrary, being in search of 
a tender-hearted, generous, sentimental, high-minded hero 
of romance, you turned to the pages of the Nev:gate Calen- 
dar, and looked for him in the list of men who have cut 
throats for money, among whom a person in possession of such 
qualities could never have been met with at all. Wanting a 
shrewd, selfish, worldly, calculating valet, you describe him 
as an old soldier, though he bears not a single trait of the 
character which might have been moulded by a long course 
of military service, but, on the contrary, is marked by all 
the distinguishing features of a bankrupt attorney, or a lame 
duck from the Stock Exchange. Having to paint a cat, you 
endow her witli the idiosyncrasies of a dog." 

At the end, the author intimates that he is ready 
to treat with any liberal publisher for a series of 
works in the same style, to be called Tales of the 
Old B^i^f'!/, or Romances of Ti/bnr.i Tree. The 
proposed series is represeuted only by Catherine, 
^ longer and more elaborate effort in the same di- 
rection. It is the narrative of the misdeeds of ^Nlrs. 
Catherine Hayes, — an allusion to whose criminal- 



20 Thackeray's literary career. 

ity in after days brouglit down upon the autlior of 
Tendeiinis an amusing outpouring of fury from 
Irish patriotism, forgetting in its excitement that 
the name was borne by a heroine of the Neiogate 
Calendar, as well as by the accomplished singer 
whom we all regret. The purpose of Catherine is 
the same as that of Elisabeth Brownrigge, — to ex- 
plode the lusus natiirce school ; but the plan adopted 
is slightly different. Things had got worse than 
they were in 1832. The public had called for 
coarse stimulants and had got them. Jack Shep- 
pard had been acquiring great popularity in Bent- 
leifs Miscellanij ; and the true feeling and pathos 
of many parts of Oliver Twist had been marred by 
the unnatural sentimentalism of Nancy. Mr. Ikey 
Solomon objected utterly to these monstrosities of 
literature, and thought the only cure was a touch 
of realism ; an attempt to represent blackguards in 
some measure as they actually are : — 

"In this," he says, "we have consulted nature and his- 
tory ratlier than the prevailing^ taste and the general manner 
of authors. The amusing novel of Ernest JIaltrarers, for 
instance, opens with a seduction ; but tlien it is performed 
by people of the strictest virtue on l)otli sides; and there is 
so.much religion and philosopliy in the heart of the seducer, 
so much tender innocence in the soul of the seduced, that — 
bless the little dears! — their very peccadilloes make one 
interested in them ; and their naughtiness becomes quite 
sacred, so deliciously is it described. IS'ow, if avc are to be 
interested by rascally actions, let us have them -ivilh jilain 
**--es, and let them be perfonned, not by virtuous philoso- 



Thackeray's LiiijRARY career. 21 

pliers, but by rascals. Another clever class of novelists 
adopt ilic conti-ai-y system, and create interest by making 
their rascals perform virtuous actions. Against these popu- 
lar plans we here solemnly appeal. We say, let your rogues 
in novels act like rogues, and your honest men like honest 
men; don't let us have any juggling and thimblerigging 
wlAi virtue and vice, so that, at the end of three volumes, 
the be-svildered reader shall not know which is which; don't 
let us fmd ourselves kindling at the generous qualities of 
thieves and sympathizing wiih the rascalities of noble 
hearts. For our own part, we know what the public likes, 
and have chosen rogues for our characters, and liave taken 
a story from the Nnvjate Cahndur, which we hope to follow 
out to cdiiication. Among the rogues at least, we will have 
nothing that shall be mistaken for virtue. And if the Brit- 
ish public (after calling for three or four editions; shall give 
up, not only our rascals, but the rascals of all other authors, 
— we shall be content. We shall apply to government for 
a pension, and think tliat our duty is done." 

Again, further on in the same story : — 

" The public wiU hear of nothing but rogues ; and the only 
way in which poor authors, who must live, can act honestly 
by the public and themselves, is to paint such thieves as 
they are ; not dandy, poetical, rose-water thieves, but real 
downright scoundrels, leading scoundrelly lives, drunken, 
profligate, dissolute, low, as scoundrels will be. They don't 
quote Plato like Eugcn.- xVram, or live like gentlemen, and 
sing the pleasantest ballads in the world, like jolly Dick 
Turpin ; or prate eternally abouc to Ka\6v, like that precious 
canting Maltravers, whom we all of us ha\ e read about and 
pitied; or die whitewashed saints, like poor Biss Dadsy, in 
Oliver Twist. ISo, my dear madam, you and your daughters 
have no right to admire and sympathize with any such per- 
sons, fictitious or real : you oughr to be made cordially to 
detest, scorn, loathe, abhor, and abominate all people of this 



22 Thackeray's literary career. 

kidney. Men of genius, like those -w-hose works we have 
above alluded to, have no business to make these characters 
interesting or agreeable, to be feeding your morbid fancies, 
or indulging their own with such monstrous food. For our 
parts, young ladies, we beg you to bottle up your tears, and 
not waste a single drop of them on any one of the heroes 
or heroines in this history ; they are all rascals, every soul 
of them, and behave 'as sich.' Keep your sympathy for 
those who deserve it ; don't carry it, for preference, to the 
Old Bailey, and grow maudlin over the company assembled 
there." 

Neither of these tales, thoitgh it is very curious 
to look back at them now, can be considered quite 
successful. And the reason of this is not hard to 
find. It was impossible that they could be at- 
tractive as stories ; while, on the other hand, the 
humor was not broad enough to command attention 
for itself. They Avere neither sufficiently interest- 
ing nor sufficiently amusing. They are caricatures 
without the element of caricature. In Elisabeth, 
we have little but the story of a crime committed 
by a criminal actuated by motives and overflowing 
with sentiments of the Eugene Aram type. Cath- 
erine is more ambitious. In it an attempt is made 
to construct a story, — to delineate character. The 
rival loves of Mr. Bullock and Mr. Hayes, and the 
adventures of the latter on his marriage-day, show, 
to some extent, the future novelist ; while in the 
pictures of the manners of the times, slight though 
they are, in the characters of Corporal Brock and 
Cornet Galgeustein, and M. I'Abbe O'Flaherty, we 



THAfKERAV's LITERARY CAREER. 23 

cau trace, or at least we uow fancy we can trace, 
tlie author of Bamj Ltjiidon aud Henri/ Esmond. 
Catherine herself, in her gradual progress from the 
village jilt to a murderess, is the most striking 
thing iu the story, and is a sketch of remarkahle 
power. Bat nothing could make a story interest- 
ing which consists of little more than the seduction 
of a girl, the intrigues of a mistrtss, the discontent 
of a wife growing into hatred and ending iu murder. 
At the close, indeed, the \vrit;»i' resorts to the true 
way of making such a jea d' esprit attractive, — 
burlesque. He concludes, though too late alto- 
gether to save the piece, in a blaze of theatrical 
blue-lire ; aud it was this idea of burlesque or ex- 
travagant caricature which led to the perfected suc- 
cesses of George de Barnwell aud Codlingsby. In 
a literary point of view, it is well worth wliile to 
go back upon those early efforts ; and we have 
dwelt upon them the more willingly that their pur- 
jiosa and the literary doctrine they contend for 
would be well remembered at this very time. "VN'e 
have given up writing about discovered criminals, 
only to write more about crimiuals not yet found 
out ; the lusiis natura sc-hool has given place to the 
sensational ; the literature of the Xewr/ate Calendar 
has been supplauted by the literature of the detective 
officer, — a style rather the worse aud decidedly the 
more stupid of the two. The republication of Cath- 
erine might be a useful, and would be a not uupleas- 



Z-t THACKERAY S LITERARY CAREER. 

iug specific in the present diseased state of literary 
taste. We have said that the hand of the master 
is traceable in the characters of this tale. We have 
also a good example of what was always a marked 
peculiarity, both in his narrative Avriting and in his 
representations of composite natures, what some 
one has called his "sudden pathos," an effect of 
natural and unexpected contrast always deeply po- 
etical in feeling, such as the love of Barry Lyndon 
for his son, the association of a murderess eying 
her victim, with images of beauty and happiness 
and peace. We quote the passage, although, as is 
always the case with the best things of the best 
w^riters, it suffers greatly by separation from the 
context, the force of the contrast being almost en- 
tirely lost : — 

" Mrs. Hayes sat up in the bed sternly regarding her 
husband. There is, to be sure, a strong magnetic influence 
in wakeful eyes so examining a sleeping person; do not 
you, as a boy, remember waking of briglit summer morn- 
ings and finding your mother looking over you ? liad not 
the gaze of her tender eyes stolen into your senses long 
before you woke, and cast over your slumbering spirit a 
sweet spell of peace, and love, and fresh-springing joy ? " 

In 1840, the Shahhy Genteel Sfor// appeared in 
Traser, which broke off sorrowfully enough, as we 
are told, '" at a sad period of the Avriter's •wn life," 
to be afterwards taken up in The Adventures of 
Philip. The story is not a pleasant one, nor can 
We read it without pain, although we know that 



THACKERAY S> LITERARY CAREER. ZO 

the after Ibrtunes of the Little Sister are not alto- 
gcther unhappy. But it shows clear indications 
of growing power and range ; Brandon, Tufthunt, 
the Gann family, and Lord Cinqbars, can fairly 
claim the dignity of ancestors. The Great Hog- 
r/arti/ Blaniond came in 1841. This tale was al- 
ways, we are informed in the preface to a separate 
edition in 1849, a great favorite with the author, — 
a judgment, however, in which at first he stood 
almost alone. It Avas refused by one magazine be- 
fore it found a place in Fraser ; and when it did 
appear it was little esteemed, or, indeed, noticed in 
any way. The late Mr. John Sterling took a differ- 
ent view, and wrote Mr. Thackeray a letter which 
" at that time gave me great comfort and pleasure.'"' 
Few will now venture to express doubts of Mr. 
Sterling's discernment. But in reality we suspect 
that this story is not very popular. It is said to 
want humor and power ; but, on the other hand, 
in its beauty of pathos and tenderness of feeling, 
quite indescribable, it reaches a higher point of art 
than any of the minor tales ; and these qualities 
have gained for it admirers very enthusiastic if not 
numerous. Fraser for June of the same year has 
a most enjoyable paper called " Memorials of Gor- 
mandizing," in which occurs the well-known adap- 
tation of the '•' Persicos Odi," — " Dear Lucy, you 
know what my wish is " ;. a paper better than any- 
thing in the " Original," better because simpler 



26 Thackeray's literary career. 

than Hayward's Jrt of Dining, and Avliich should 
certainly be restored to a dinner-eating world. To 
say nothing of its quiet humor and comical earnest- 
ness, it has a real practical value. Tt would be in- 
valuable to all the hungry Britons in Paris who 
lower our national character, and, Avhat is a far 
greater calamity, demoralize even French cooks, by 
their well-meant but ignorant endeavors to dine. 
There is a description of a dinner at the Cafe Foy 
altogether inimitable ; so graphic that the reader 
almost fancies himself in the actual enjoyment of 
the felicity depicted. Several of the Fitz-Boodle 
papers, which appeared in 1842-43, are omitted in 
the Miscellanies. But in spite of the judgment of 
the author himself Ave venture to think that Mr. 
Fitz-Boodle's love experiences as recorded in "Miss 
Lowe " (October, 1842), " Dorothea " (January, 
1843), and "Ottilia" (February, 1843j, are not 
unworthy of a place beside the " Ravenswing," and 
should be preserved as a warning to all fervent 
young men. And during these hard-working years 
we have also a paper on "Dickens in France," con- 
taining an amazing description of Nicholas Nickle- 
by, as translated and adapted (bless thee. Bottom, 
thou art translated indeed !) to the Parisian stage, 
followed by a hearty defence of Boz against the 
criticism of Jules Janiu ; aud " Bluebeard's Ghost," 
in its idea — that of carrying on a Avell-known 
story beyond its proper end — the forerunner of 



THACKERAY S LITERARY CAREER. 'It 

Rebecca and Rowena. "Little Travels" is the 
title of two papers, in ]May and October, 1844, — 
sketches frcin Bdgiuin, closely resembling, cer- 
tainly not ini'erior, to the roundabout paper called 
a " Week's Holiday ' ; and our enumeration of his 
contributions to Fra-ser closes with the incompar- 
able '■ Barry Lyndon." " The Hoggarty Dia- 
mond '" is better and purer, and must therefore 
rank higher; but "Barry Lyndon" in its own 
line stands, we think, unrivalled ; immeasurably 
superior, if we must have comparative criticism, to 
" Count Fathom " ; superior even to the history of 
" Jonathan Wild." It seems to us to equal the 
sarcasm and remorseless irony of Fielding's mas- 
terpiece, with a wider range and a more lively 
interest. 

Mr. Thackeray's connection Avitli Pnnch began 
very early in the history of that periodical, and he 
continued a constant contributor at least up to 
1850. The acquisition was an invaluable one to 
Mr. Punch. Without undue disparagement of that 
august dignitary, it may now be said that at first 
he was too exclusively metropolitan in his tone, too 
much devoted to "natural histories" of medical 
students and London idlers, — in fact, somewhat 
Coc-kney. Mr. Thackeray at once stamped it with 
;i different tone ; made its satire univei"sal, adapted 
its fun to the appreciation of cultivated men. On 
the other hand, the connection with Punch must 



28 Thackeray's literary career. 

have been of the utiiiost value to 'Mr. Thackeray. 
He had the Avidest range, could write without re- 
straint, and without the finish and com])lcteness 
necessary in more foi-mal publications. The unre- 
strained practice in P/aic//, besides the improve- 
ment in style and in modes of thought which prac- 
tice always gives, probably had no small share in 
teaching him wherein his real strength lay. For 
it is worthy of notice in Mr. Thackeray's literary 
career that this knowledge did not come easily or 
soon, but only after hard work and much experi- 
ence. His early writings both in Fraser and 
Flinch were as if groping. In these periodicals 
his happier efforts come last, and after many pre- 
ludes, — some of them broken off abruptly. " Cath- 
erine " is lost in " George de Barnwell " ; " Yel- 
lowplush " and "Fitz-Boodlc " are the preambles 
to "Barry Lyndon" and "The Hoggarty Dia- 
mond " ; Fundi s " Continental Tour " and the 
"Wanderings of the Fat Contributor" close un- 
timely, and are succeeded by the " Snob Papers " 
and the kindly wisdom of the elder Brown. Fame, 
indeed, was not now far off; but ere it could be 
reached there remained yet repeated effort and fre- 
quent disappointment. "With peculiar pleasure we 
now recall the fact that these weary days of strug- 
gle and obscurity were cheered in no inconsiderable 
degree by the citizens of Edinburgh. 

There happened to be placed in the window of au 



Thackeray's literary career. 29 

Edinburgh jeweUer a silver statuette of Jfr. Panc/i, 
with his dress en rhjiteur, — his comfortable and 
tidy paunch, with all its buttons ; his hunch ; his 
knee-breeches, with their tie ; his compact little 
legs, one foot a little forward ; and the intrepid 
and honest, kindly little fellow firmly set on his 
pins, with his customary look of up to and good for 
anything. In his hand was his weapon, a pen ; 
his skull was an iukhorn, and his cap its lid. A 
pass'jr-by — who had long been grateful to our 
author, as to a dear unknown and enriching friend, 
for his writings in Fraser and in Fanch, and had 
longed for some way of reaching him, and telling 
him how his work was relished and valued — be- 
thought himself of sending this inkstand to Mr. 
Thackeray. He v.ent in, and asked its price. " Ten 
jiUineas, sir." He said to himself, " There are many 
who feel as I do ; why should n't we send him up 
to him ? I '11 get eighty several half-crowns, and 
thai will do it " (lie had ascertained that there 
would be discount for ready money). "With the 
help of a friend, who says he awoke to Thackeray, 
and divined his great future, wheu he came, one 
evening, in Fraser for May, 1844, on the word 
Ic'uiopiiim ,^ the half-crowns were soon forthcoming, 

* Here is the passage. It is from Little Travels and 
Roadside Sketches. Why are they not republished? We 
must have liis Opera Omnia. He is on the top of the Rich- 
mond omnibus. " If 1 wtre a great prince, and rode out- 



30 Thackeray's literary career. 

and it is pleasant to remember, that in the "octo- 
Jiint " are the names of Lord Jeffrey and Sir Wil- 
liam Hamilton, who gave their half-crowns with 
the heartiest good will. A short note was written 
telling the story. The little man in silver was dnly 
packed, and sent with the following inscription 
round the base : — 

GULIELMO MAKEPEACE THACKERAY. 

ARM A VI RUM QUE 
GRATI XECNON GRAT.E EDINENSES 

LXXX. 

D. D. D. 

To this the following reply was made : — 

13 Young Street, Kexsingto.v Square, 

May 11, 1848. 

" My dear Sir, — The anus and the man arrived in 

safety yesterday, and I am glad to know tlie names of two 

of the eighty Edinburgh friends who liave taken such a 

side of coaches (as I should if I were a great prince), I 
would, whether I smoked or not, have a case of the best 
llavanas in my pocket, not for my own smoking, but to 
give them to the snobs on the coach, who smoke tlie vilest 
crheroots. Tliey jjoisoa the air with the odor of their filthy 
weeds. A man at all easy in circumstances would spare 
himself much annoyance by taking the above simple pre- 
caution. 

" A gentleman sitting beliind me tapped me on the back, 
and asked for a light. He Mas a footman, or rather valet. 
He had no livery, but the three friends who accompanied 



Thackeray's literary career. 31 

kind method of sbowing; their n:ood-will towards me. If 
you are ^rati I aai gratior. Such tokens of regard & sym- 
pathy are very precious to a writer like myseh", who have 
some ditticulty still in making people understand what you 
have been good enough to tind out in Edinburgh, that 
under tiie mask satirical there walks about a sentimental 
gentleman who means hot unkindly to any mortal person. 
1 can see exactly the same expression under the vizard of 
my liiile friend in silver, and hope some day to shake the 
whole octogint by the hand gratos Sc grata?, and thank 
them for their friendliness and regard. I think I had best 
say no more on the subject, lest 1 should be tempted into 
some enthusiastic writing of wi» I am afraid. I assure you 
these tokens of what I can't help acknowledging as iwpu- 
larity — make me huml)le as well as grateful — and make 
me feel an almost awful sense of the responsibility wi» falls 
upon a man in such a station. Is it deserved or unde- 
served ? Who is this that sets up to preach to mankind, 
and to laugh at many things w^ men reverence ? 1 hope I 
may be able to tell the truth always, & to see it aright, ac- 
cording to tlie eyes wb God Almighty gives me. And if, in 
the e.vercise of my calling I get friends, and find encourage- 



hini were tall men in pepper-and-salt undress jackets, with 
a duke's coronet on their buttons. 

"After tapping me on the back, and when he had finished 
liis cheroot, the gentleman produced another wind instru- 
ment, which he called a ' kinopiuni,' a sort of trumpet, on 
which he showed a great inclination to play. lie began 
puffing out of the kinopium an abominable air, which he 
,aid was the 'Duke's March.' It was played by the par- 
ticular request of the pepper-and-salt gentry. 

" The noise was so abominable, that even the coachman 
jbjected, and said it was not allowed to play on his bus. 

■ Very well,' said the valet, ' we 're only of the Duke of B 's 

establishment, THAT 'S ALL.'" 



32 Thackeray's literary career. 

ment and sympathy, I need not tell you liow much I feel 
and am thankful for this support. Indeed I can't reply 
lightly upon this subject or feel otherwise than very grave 
when people begin to praise me as you do. "Wishing you 
and my Edinburgh friends all health and happiness believe 
me my dear Sir most faithfully yours 

"AV. M. Thackeray." 

How like the man is this geutle and serious let- 
ter, written these long years ago ! He tells us 
frankly his '" calling " : he is a preacher to man- 
kind. He '"laughs," he does not sneer. He asks 
home questions at himself as well as the world : 
" AVho is this?" Then his feeling "not other- 
wise than very grave " when people begin to praise, 
is true conscientiousness. This servant of his 
Master hoped to be able "to tell the truth always, 
and to see it aright, according to the eyes which 
God Almighty gives me," His picture by himself 
Avill be received as correct noir, " a sentimental 
gentleman, meaning not unkindly to any mortal 
person," — sentimental in its good old sense, and a 
gentleman in heart and speech. And that little 
tourh about enthusiastic writing, proving all the 
more that the enthusiasm itself was there. 

Of his work in Punch, the " Ballads of Pleace- 
aaan X," the " Snob Papers," " Jeames' Diary," the 
"Travels and Sketches in London," a "Little Din- 
ner at Timmins'," are now familiar to most readers. 
But besides these he wrote much which has found 



Thackeray's literary career. 33 

no place iu the MiscsUanies. M. de la Pluche 
discoursed touching many matters other than his 
own rise and fall, "Our Fat Contributor" wan- 
dered over the face of the earth gaining and im- 
parting much wisdom and experience, if little in- 
formation ; Dr. Solomon Pacitico "prosed" on 
various things besides the "pleasures of being a 
Fogy " ; and even two of the " Novels by Eminent 
Hands," Cruinfme and Stars and Stripes have been 
left to forgetfulness. " Mrs. Tickletoby's Lectures 
on the History of England," in Vol. III. are es- 
pecially good reading. Had they been completed, 
they would have formed a valuable contribution to 
the philosophy of history. His contributions to 
Punch became less frequent about 1S50, but the 
connection was not entirely broken off tiU much 
later; we remember, in 1854, the "Letters from 
the Seat of War, by our own Bashi-Bazouk," who 
was, in foct, Major Gahagan again, always fore- 
most in his country's cause. To the last, as ^[r. 
Punch has himself informed us, he continued to be 
an adviser and warm friend, and was a constant 
guest at the Aveekly sj/tuposia. 

In addition to all this work for periodicals, Mr. 
Thackeray had ventured on various independent 
publications. We have already alluded to Flore et 
Zephyr, his first attempt. In 1840, he again tried 
fortune with "The Paris Sketch-Book," which is 
at least remarkable for a dedication possessing the 



34 Thackeray's literary career. 

quite peculiar merit of expressing real feeling. It 
is addresssd to M. Aretz, Tailor, 27 Hue Richelieu, 
Paris ; and we quote it the more readily that, ow- 
iug to the failure of these volumes to attract public 
attention, the rare virtues of that gentleman have 
been less ^Yidely celebrated than they deserve : — 

" SiK, — It becomes every man in his station to acknowl- 
edge and praise virtue wlieresosver lie may find it, and to 
point it out for the admiration and example of his fellow- 
men. 

" Some montlis since, when you presented to the writer 
of these pages a small account for coats and pantaloons 
manufactured l)y you, and when you were met by a state- 
ment from your debtor that an immediate settlement of your 
bill would be extremely inconvenient to him, your reply was, 
' Mon dieu, sir, let not that annoy you; if you want money, 
as a gentleman often does in a strange country, I have a 
thousand-franc note at my house, which is quite at your ser- 
vice.' History or experience, sir, makes us acquainted with 
so few actions that can be compared to yours, — an offer like 
this from a stranger and a tailor seems to me so astonishing, 
— that you must pardon me for making your virtue pul)lic, 
and acquainting the English nation with your merit and 
your name. Let me add, sir, that you live on the first floor ; 
that your cloths and fit are excellent, and your charges 
moderate and just; and, as a humble tribute of my admira- 
tion, permit me to lay these volumes at your feet. 

" Your obliged faithful servant, 

"M. A. TIT5IARSTI." 

Some of the papers in these two volumes were 
reprints, as " Little Poinsinet" and "Cartouche," 
from Fraser for 1839; "Mary Ancel," from T/ie 
New Monthly for 1839 ; others appeared then for 



Thackeray's literary career. 35 

the first time. Tbey are, it must be confessed, of 
unequal merit. "A Caution to Travellers" is a 
swindliug business, afterwards narrated in Penden- 
nls, by Aniory or Altamont as among his own re- 
spectable adventures; "Mary Ancel " and "The 
Painter's Bargain " are amusing stories ; while a 
" Gambler's Death " is a tale quite awful in the 
every-day reality of its horror. There is much 
forcible criticism on the French school of painting 
and of novel-writing, and two papers especially 
good, called "Caricatures and Lithography in Paris," 
and "Meditations at Versailles," the former of 
Avhich gives a picture of Parisian manners and feel- 
ing in the Orleans times in no way calculated to 
make us desire those days back again ;. the latter an 
expression of the thoughts called up by the splendor 
of Versailles and the beauty of the Petit Trianon, 
in its truth, sarcasm, and half-melancholy, worthy 
of his best days. All these the public, we think, 
would gladly Avelcome in a more accessible form. 
Of the rest of the Sketch-Book the same can hardly 
be said, and yet we should ourselves much regret 
never to have seen, for example, the four graceful 
imitations of Beranger. 

The appreciative and acquisitive tendencies of our 
Yankee fi-iends forced, we are told, independent au^ 
thorship on Lord Macaulay and Sir James Stephen. 
We owe to tLe same cause the publication of the 
"Comic Tales and Sketches " in 1841 ; Mr. Yellow- 



36 Thackeray's literary career, 

pliisli's nftmoirs having been more than once re- 
printed in America before that date. The memoirs 
were accompanied with " The Fatal Boots " (from 
the Comic Almanack) ; the '•' Bedford Row Con- 
spiracy," and the Reminiscences of that astonishing 
Major Gahagan (both from the Neio Montkhj Mag- 
azine, 1838-1840, a periodical then in great glory, 
Avith Hood, Marryatt, Jerrold, and Laman Blan- 
chard among its contribntors) ; all now so known 
and so appreciated that the failure of this third 
effort seems altogether unaccountable. In 1843, 
however, the " Irish Sketch-Book " Avas, Ave believe, 
tolerably successful; and in 1846 the "Journey 
from CornhiU to Grand Cairo " Avas stiU more so ; 
in which year also VanUy Fair began the career 
which has giA'en him his place and name in English 
literature. 

"We have gone into these details concerning Mr, 
Thackeray's early literary life, not only because 
they seem to us interesting and instructive in them- 
selves ; not only because Ave think his severe judg- 
ment rejecting so many of his former efforts should 
in several instances be reversed ; but because they 
give us much aid in arriving at a true estimate of 
his genius. He began literature as a profession 
early in life, — about the age of tAAcnty-five, — but 
even then he was, as he says of Addison, " fuU and 
ripe." Yet it AAas long before he attained the meas- 
ure of his strength, or discovered the true bent of 



r 



I 



Thackeray's literary career. 37 

Lis powers. His was no sudden leap into fame. 
On the contrary, it was by slow degrees, and after 
many and vain endeavors, that he attained to any- 
thing like success. "Were it only to show how hard 
these endeavors were, the above retrospect would be 
well worth while ; not that the retrospect is any- 
thing like exhaustive. In addition to all we have 
mentioned, he wrote for the Westminster, for the 
Examiner and the Times; was connected with the 
Constitutional, and also, it is said, with the Torch 
and the Parthenon, — these last three being papers 
which enjoyed a brief existence. No man ever more 
decidedly refuted the silly notion which disassociates 
genius from labor. His industry must have been 
unremitting, for he worked slowly, rarely retouch- 
ing, writing always with great thought and habit- 
ual correctness of expression. His writing would 
of itself show this ; always neat and plain ; capable 
of great beauty and minuteness. He used to say 
that if all trades failed, he would earn sixpences by 
writing the Lord's Prayer and the Creed (not the 
Athanasian) in the size of one. He considered and 
practised caligraphy as one of the fine arts, as did 
Porson and Dr. Thomas Young. He was contin- 
ually catching new ideas from passing things, and 
seems frequently to have carried his work in his 
pocket, and when a thought, or a tura, or a word 
struck him, it was at once recorded. In the ful- 
ness of his experience, he was well pleased when he 



38 Thackeray's literary career. 

wrote six pages of Esmotid in a day ; and he al- 
ways worked in the day, not at night. He never 
threw away his ideas ; if at any time they passed 
unheeded, or were carelessly expressed, he repeats 
them, or works them up more tellingly. In these 
earlier writings we often stumble upon the germ of 
an idea, or a story, or a character with which his 
greater works have made us already familiar ; thus 
the swindling scenes during the sad days of Becky's 
decline and fall, and the Baden sketches in the 
Newcomes, the Deuceaces, and Punters, and Loders, 
are all in the Yellov-plush Papers and the Pans 
Sketch-Book ; the University pictures of Penden^ 
nis are sketched, though slightly, in the Shahby- 
Genteel Story; the anecdote of the child whose 
admirer of seven will learn that she has left town 
'■' from the newspapers," is transferred from the 
" Book of Snobs " to Ethel Newcome ; another 
child, in a different rank of life, whose acquisition 
of a penny gains for her half a dozen sudden fol- 
lowers and friends, appears, we think, three times ; 
" Canute," neglected in Punch, is incorporated in 
Rebecca a/id Rowena. And his names, on which 
he bestowed no ordinary care, and which have a 
felicity almost deserving an article to themselves, 
are repeated again and again. He had been ten 
years engaged in literary work before the concep- 
tion of Vanity Fair grew up. Fortunately for him 
it was declined by at least one magazine, and, as 



Thackeray's literary career. 39 

we can well believe, not without much anxiety and 
many misgivings he sent it out to the world alone. 
Its progress was at first slow ; but we cannot think 
its success was ever doubtful. A friendly notice in 
the Edhihunjh, when eleven numbers had appeared, 
did something, the book itself did the rest ; and 
before Van'tt;/ Fair was completed, the reputation 
of its author was established. 

Mr. Thackeray's later literary life is familiar to 
all. It certainly was not a life of idleness. Vanitij 
Fair, Fendermis, Esmond, The IS^ewcomes, The Vir- 
ginians, Philip ; the Lectures on the " Humorists " 
and the " Georges " ; and that wonderful series of 
Christmas stories, Mrs. Perkins's Ball, Our Street, 
Br. Birch, Ptelecca and Rovjena, and The Rose and 
the Pang, represent no small labor on the part of 
the writer, no small pleasure and improvement on 
the part of multitudes of readers. For the sake of 
the Cornhill Magazine he reverted to the editorial 
avocations of his former days, happily with a very 
different result both on the fortunes of the periodi- 
cal and his own, but, we should think, with nearly 
as much discomfort to himself. The public, how- 
ever, were the gainers, if only they owe to this ed- 
itorship the possession of Lovel the Widov:er. "We 
believe that Lovel was Avritten for the stage, and 
was refused by the raanogement of the Olympic 
about the year 1854. Doubtless the decision was 
wise, and Lovel might have failed as a comedv. 



40 Thackeray's literary career. 

But as a tale it is quite unique, — full of humor, 
and curious experience of life, and insight ; witli a 
condensed vigor, and grotesque effects and situa- 
tions which betray its dramatic origin. The tone 
of many parts of the book, particularly the descrip- 
tion of the emotions of a disappointed lover, shows 
the full maturity of the author's powers ; but there 
is a daring and freshness about other parts of it 
which would lead us to refer the dramatic sketch 
even to an earlier date than 1854. This imperfect 
sketch of his literary labors may be closed, not in- 
appropriately, with the description which his "faith- 
ful old Gold Pen " give's us of the various tasks he 
set it to : — 

" Since he my faitliful service did engage 
To follow him through his queer pilgrimage, 
I 've drawn and written many a line ar.d page. 

" Caricatures T scribhled have, and rhymes, 
And dinner-cards, and picture pantomimes, 
And merry little children's books at times. 

" I 've writ the foolish fancy of his brain ; 
The aimless jest that, striking, hath caused pain; 
Tlie idle word that he 'd wish back again. 

" I 've helped him to pen many a line for bread ; 
To joke, with sorrow aching in his head ; 
And make your laughter when his own heart bled, 

" Feasts that were ate a thousand days ago, 
Biddings to wine that long hath ceased to flow, 
Gay meetings with good fellows long laid low ; 



Thackeray's literary career. 41 

" Summons to bridal, banquet, burial, ball, 
Tradesman's polite reminders of his small 
Account due Christmas last, — I 've answered all. 

" Poor Diddler's tenth petition for a half- 
Guinea ; Miss Bunyan's for an autograph ; 
So I refuse, accept, lament, or laugh, 

" Condole, congratulate, invite, praise, scoff. 
Day after day still dipping in my trough. 
And scribbling pages after pages off. 

" Xor pass the -srords as idle phrases by ; 
Stranger 1 I never writ a flattery, 
yor signed the page that registered a lie." 

"En realite," says the writer of an iuterestincj 
notice in Le Temj)s, '"' I'auteur de Vanitij Fair (la 
Foire aux vanites) est un satiriste, un moraliste, un 
humoriste, auquel il a manque, pour etre tout-a-fait 
grand, d'etre un artiste. Je dis tout-a-fait grand ; 
car s'il est douteux que, corame humoriste, on le 
puisse comparer soit a Lamb, soit a Sterne, il est 
bien certain, du moins, que comme satiriste, il ne 
connait pas de superieurs, pas meme Dry den, pas 
meme Swift, pas meme Pope. Et ce qui le dis- 
tingue d'eux, ce qui I'eleve au dessus d'eux, ce qui fait 
de lui un genie essentiellement original, c'est que sa 
colere, pour qui est capable d'en penetrer le secret, 
n'est au fond que la re'action d'une nature tendre, 
furieus3 d'avoir ete de'sappointe'e." Beyond doubt 
the French critic is right in holding Thackeray's 



42 thackekay's literary career. 

special powers to have been those of a satirist or hu 
morist. We shall form but a very inadequate co\ ■ 
ception of his genius if we look at him exclusively', 
or even chiefly, as a novelist. His gifts Avere not 
those of a teller of stories. He made up a story in 
which his characters played their various parts, be- 
cause the requirement of interest is at the present 
day imperative, and because stories are Avell paid for, 
and also because to do this was to a certain extent 
an amusement to himself ; but it Avas often, Ave sus- 
pect, a great Avorry and puzzle to him, and never 
resulted in any marked success. It is not so much 
that he is a bad constructor of a plot, as that his 
stories have no plot at all. AVe say nothing of such 
masterpieces of constructive art as Tom Jones; he 
is far from reaching even the careless poAver of the 
stories of Scott. None of his novels end with the 
orthodox marriage of hero and heroine, except Pen- 
dennis, AA'hich might just as well have ended without 
it. The stereotyped matrimonial wind-up in novels 
can of com'se very easily be made game of; but it 
has a rational meaning. "When a man gets a Avife 
and a certain number of hundreds a year, he groAvs 
stout, and his adventures are over. Hence novelists 
naturally take this as the crisis in a man's life to 
Avhich all that has gone before leads up. But for 
Mr. Thackeray's purposes a man or Avoman is as 
good after marriage as before, — indeed, rather bet- 
ter. To some extent this is intentional ; a charac- 



Thackeray's literary career. 43 

t2r, as he says somewhere, is too valuable a property 
to b3 easily parted with. H:s:dcs, he is not quite 
persuaded that imrringe concludes all that is in- 
terestino; in the life of a man : " As the hero and 
heroine pass the matrimonial barrier, the novelist 
generally drops the curtain, as if the drama were 
over then, the doubts and struggles of life ended ; 
as if, once landed in the marriage country, all were 
green and pleasant there, and wife and husband had 
nothing but to link each other's arms together, and 
wander gently downwards towards old age in happy 
and perfect fruition." But he demurs to this view^ ; 
and as he did not look on a man's early life as merely 
an introduction to matrimony, so neither did he re- 
gard that event as a linal conclusion. Rejecting, 
then, this natural and ordinary catastrophe, he 
makes no effort to provide another. His stories 
stop, but they don't come to an end. There seems 
no reason why they should not go on further, or 
why they shoidd not have ceased before. Nor does 
this want of finish result from weariness on the part 
of the Avriter, or from that fear of weariness on the 
part of readers which Mr. Jedediah Cleishbotham ex- 
presses to jNliss Martha Buskbody : '"' Really, madam, 
you must be aware that every volume of a narrative 
tm-ns less and less interesting as the author draws 
to a conclusion ; just like your tea, which, though 
excellent hyson, is necessarily w^eaker and more in- 
sipid in the last cup. Now, as I think the one is 



44 Thackeray's literary career. 

by no means improved by the luscious lump of half- 
dissolved sugar usually found at the bottom of it, so 
I am of opinion that a history, growing already 
vapid, is but dully crutched up by a detail of cir- 
cumstances which every reader must have antici- 
pated, even though the author exhaust on them every 
floAvery epithet in the language." It arises from 
the want of a plot, from the Avant often of any hero 
or heroine round whom a plot can centre. Most 
novelists know how to let the life out towards the 
end, so that the story dies quite naturally, having 
been wound up for so long. But his airy nothings, 
if once life is breathed into them, and they ai-e 
made to speak and act, and love and hate, will not 
die ; on the contrary, they grow in force and vital- 
ity under our very eye • the curtain comes sheer 
down upon them when they are at their best. Hence 
his trick of re-introducing his characters in subse- 
quent works, as fresh and lifelike as ever. He does 
not indeed carry this so far as Dumas, whose char- 
acters are traced with edifying minuteness of detail 
from boyhood to the grave ; Balzac or our own Trol- 
lope afford, perhaps, a closer comparison, although 
neither of these Avriters — certainly not Mv. Trol- 
lope — rivals Thackeray in the skill with which 
such reappearances are managed. In the way of 
delineation of character we know of few things 
more striking in its consistency and truth than Bea- 
trix Esmond grown into the Baroness Bernstein ; 
the attempt was hazardous, the success complete. 



I 



Thackeray's literary career. 45 

Yet this deficiency in constructive art was not in- 
consistent with dramatic power of the highest order. 
Curiously enough, if his stories for the most jjart 
end abruptly, they also for the most part open well. 
Of some of them, as Pendennis and the Neiccomes, 
the beginnings arc peculiarly felicitous. But his 
dramatic power is mainly displayed in his inven- 
tion and representation of character. In invention 
his range is perhaps limited, though less so than is 
commonly said. He has not, of course, the sweep 
of Scott, and, even where a comparison is fairly 
open, he does not show Scott's creative faculty; 
thus, good as his high life below stairs may be, he 
has given us no Jenny Dennison. He does not 
attempt artisan life like George Eliot, nor, like 
other writers of the day, affect rural simplicity, or 
delineate provincial peculiarities (the Malligan and 
Costigan are national), or represent special views or 
opinions. But he does none of these things, — not 
so much because his range is limited as because his 
art is universal. There are many phases of human 
life on which he has not touched ; few developments 
of human nature. He has caught those traits which 
are common to all mankind, peer and artisan alike, 
and he may safely omit minor points of distinction. 
It is a higher art to draw men, than to draw noble- 
men or workingmen. If the specimen of our na- 
ture be brought before us, it matters little whether 
it be dressed in a lace coat or a fustian jacket. 



46 Thackeray's literary career. 

Among novelists lie stands, in this joarticular, 
hardly second to Scott. His pages are tilled with 
those touches of nature which make the whole 
world kin. iUmost eveiy passion and emotion of 
the heart of man finds a place in his pictures. 
These pictures are taken mainly from the upper 
and middle classes of society, with an occasional 
excursion into Bohemia, sometimes even into depths 
beyond that pleasant land of lawlessness. In va- 
riety, truth, and consistency, they are unrivalled. 
They are not caricatures, they are not men of 
humors ; they are the men and women whom we 
daily meet ; they are, in the fullest sense of the 
word, rei)resentative ; and yet they are drawn so 
sharply and finely that we never could mistake or 
confound them. Pendennis, Clive Nevvcome, Philip, 
are all placed in circumstances very much alike, and 
yet they are discriminated throughout by delicate 
and certain touches, which we hardly perceive even 
while we feel their effect. Only one English wri- 
ter of fiction can be compared to ^Mr. Thackeray in 
this power of distinguishing ordinary characters, — 
the authoress of Fride and Prejudice. But with 
this power he combines, in a very singular manner, 
the power of seizing humors, or peculiarities, when 
it so pleases him. Jos. Sc^dley, Charles Honey nr.m, 
Fred Bayham, ]Major Pendennis, arc so marked as 
to be fairly classed as men of humors ; and in what 
a masterly way the nature in each is caught au'J 



Thackeray's literary career. 47 

held firm throughout ! In national peculiarities he 
i? especially happy. The Irish he knows well : the 
FreuL-h, perhaps, still better. How wonderfully 
clever is the sketch of "Mary, Queen of Scots" 
and the blustering Gascon, and the rest of her dis- 
reputable court at Baden ! And what can those 
who object to Thackeray's women say of that gen- 
tle lady 3Iadame de Florae, — a sketch of ideal 
beauty, with her early, never-forgotten sorrow, her 
pure, holy resignation ? To her inimitable son no 
•vords can do justice. The French-English of his 
speech would make the fortune of any ordinary 
novel. It is as unique, and of a more delicate 
humor, than the orthography of Jeames. Per- 
haps more remarkable than even his invention is 
the fidelity with which the conception of his char- 
acters is preserved. This never fails. They seem 
to act, as it were, of themselves. The author 
having once projected them, appears to have noth- 
ing more to do with them. They act somehow 
according to their own natures, unprompted by him, 
and beyond his control. He tells us this himself in 
one of those delightful and most characteristic Kouud- 
about Papers, which are far too much and too gen- 
erally undervalued : " I have been surprised at the 
observations made by some of my characters. It 
seems as if an occult power was moving the pen. 
The personage does or says something, and I ask, 
How the dickens did he come to think of that"? .... 



48 Thackeray's literary career. 

We spake anon of tlie inflated style of some writers. 
What also if there is an offlcded style; when a wri- 
ter is like a Pythoness, or her oracle tripod, and 
mighty words, words which he cannot help, come 
hlowing, and bellowing, and whistling, and moaning 
through the speaking pipes of his bodily organ?" 
Take one of his most subtle sketches, — though it 
is but a sketch, — Elizabeth, in Lovel the Wid- 
ower. The woman has a character, and a strong 
one ; she shows it, and acts up to it ; but it is as 
great a puzzle to us as the character of Hamlet ; 
the author himself does not understand it. This is, 
of course, art; and it is the highest perfection of 
art ; it is the art of Shakespeare ; and hence it is 
that Thackeray's novels are interesting irrespective 
of the plot, or story, or whatever we choose to call 
it. His characters come often without much pur- 
pose : they go often without much reason ; but they 
are always welcome, and for the most part we wish 
them well. Dumas makes up for the want of a plot 
by wild incident and spasmodic writing ; Thackeray 
makes us forget a like deficiency by the far higher 
means of true conceptions, and consistent delinea- 
tions of human nature. Esmond, alone of all his 
more important fictions, is artistically constructed. 
The marriage indeed of Esmond and Lady Castle- 
wood marks no crisis in their lives ; on the con- 
trary, it might have happened at any time, and 
makes little change in their relations; but the work 



Thackeray's literary career. 49 

derives completeness from the skill Avitli which the 
events of the time are connected with the fortunes 
of the chief actors in the story, — the historical plot 
leading up to the catastrophe of Bjatrix, the failure 
of the conspiracy, and the exile of the conspirators, 
in Esmond, too, Thackeray's truth to nature is es- 
pecially conspicuous. In all his hooks the dialogue 
is surprising in its naturalness, in its direct bearing 
on the subject in hand. Never before, we think, in 
fiction did characters so uniformly speak exactly like 
the men and women of real life. In Esmond — 
owing to the distance of the scene — this T'are ex- 
cellence was not easy of attainment, yet it has been 
attained. Every one not only acts, but speaks in 
accordance certainly with the ways of the time, but 
always like a rational human being ; there is no 
trace of that unnaturalness which otFends us even 
in Scott's historical novels, and which substitutes 
for intelligible converse long.harangi\es in pompous 
diction, garnished with strange oaths, — a style of 
communicating their ideas never adopted, we may 
be very sure, by any mortals upon this earth. Add 
to these artistic excellences a tenderness of feeling 
and a beauty of style which even Thackeray has not 
elsewhere equalled, and we come to understand why 
the best critics look on Esmond as his masterpiece. 
Nor, in speaking of Thackeray as a novelist, 
should we forget to mention — though but in a 
word — his command of the element of tragedy. 



50 Thackeray's literary career. 

The parting; of George Osborne with Amelia, the 
stern grief of old Osborne for the loss of his son, 
the later life of Bjati-ix Esmond, the death of 
Colonel Newcome, are in their various styles per- 
fect, and remarkable for nothing more than for the 
good taste which controls and subdues them all. 

But, as we said before, to criticise Mr. Thackeray 
as a novelist is to criticise what was in him only an 
accident. lie wrote stories, because to do so was 
the mode ; his stories are natural and naturally sus- 
tained, because he could do nothing otherwise than 
naturally ; but to be a teller of stories was not his 
vocation. His great object in writing was to ex- 
press himself, — his notions of life, all the compli- 
cations and variations which can be plnyed by a 
master on this one everlasting theme. Composite 
human nature as it is, that sins and sutfers, enjoys 
and does virtuously, that was " the main haunt and 
region of his song." To estimate him fairly, we 
must look at him as taking this wider range ; nuist 
consider him as a humorist, using the word as he 
used it himself. "The humorous writer professes 
to awaken and direct your love, your pity, your 
kindness ; your scorn for untruth, pretension, im- 
\-osture ; your tenderness for the weak, the poor, 
he oppressed, the unhappy. To the best of his 
nieans and ability, he comments on all the ordinary 
actions and passions of life almost. He takes upon 
himself to be the week-day preacher, so to spef.k. 



Thackeray's literary career. 51 

Accordingly, as he finds and speaks and feels the 
truth best, we regard him, esteem him, — some- 
times luve him." Adopting this point of view, 
and applying this standard, it seems to us that no 
one of the great humorists of whom he has s2)okeu 
is desei*ving equally with himself of our respect, 
esteem, aud love ; — respect for intellectual power, 
placing him on a level even with Swift and Pope ; 
esteem for manliness as thorough as the manliness 
of Fielding, and rectitude as unsullied as the recti- 
tude of Addison ; love for a nature as kindly as that 
of Steele. Few will deny the keen insight, the pas- 
sion for truth of the week-day preacher we have 
lost ; few will now deny the kindliness of his dis- 
position, but many will contend that the kindliness 
was too much restrained ; that the passion for truth 
was allowed to degenerate into a love of detecting 
hidden faults. The sermons on women have been 
objected to with especial vehemence and especial 
want of reason. Xo one who has read Mr. Brown's 
letters to his nephew, — next to the Snob Papers 
and Sydney Smith's Lectures, the best modern work 
on moral philosophy, — Avill deny that Mr. Thack- 
eray can at least appreciate good women, and de- 
scribe them : — 

" Sir, I do not mean to tell yon tliat tlicve are no M'omen 
in* the world, vnlg:av and ill-liumored, rancorous and nar- 
row-minded, mean schemers, son-in-law hunters, slaves of 
fashion, hypocrites; hut I do respect, admire, and almost 



52 Thackeray's literary career. 

worship good women ; and I tliiuk there is a very fair miiu- 
ber of such to be found in this world, and I have no doubt, 
in e^ ery educated Englishman's circle of society, whether 
he finds that circle in palaces in Belgravia and May Fair, 
in snug little suburban villas, in ancient comfortable old 
Bloomsbury, or in back parlors behind the shop. It has 
been my fortune to meet with excellent English ladies in 
every one of these places, — wives graceful and affectionate, 
matrons tender and good, daugiitcrs happy and pure-mind- 
ed ; and I urge the society of such to you, because I defy 
you to think evil in their company. AValk into the drawing- 
room of Lady Z., that great lady: look at her charming 
face, and hear lier voice. You know that she can't but be 
good, with such a face and such a voice. She is one of 
those fortunate beings on whom it has pleased Heaven to 
bestow all sorts of its most precious gifts and richest' 
worldly favors. With what grace she receives you ; with 
Avhat a frank kindness and natural sweetness and dignity ! 
Her looks, her motions, her words, her thoughts, all seem 
to be l)eautiful and harmonious quite. See her with lier 
children ; what woman can be more simple and loving ? 
After you have talked to her for a while, you very likely 
find that she is ten times as mcU read as you are : she has 
a luindred accomplislinients wliich she is not in the least 
anxious to show off, and makes no more account of them 
than of her diamonds, or of the splendor round about lier, 
— to all of Avhich she is born, and has a happy, admirable 
claim of nature and possessioii, — admirable and happy for 
her and for us too ; for is it not a happiness for us to ad- 
mire her? Does anybody grudge lier e.xccUence to that 
paragon? Sir, we may be thankful to be admitted to con- 
teniplate such consummate goodness and beauty ; and as, in 
looking at a tine landscape or a fine work of art, every 
generous heart must be delighted and imjjroved, and ought 
to feel grateful afterwards, so one may feel charmed and 
thankful for having the opportunity of knowing an almost 
perfect woman. Madam, if the gout ami the custom of the 



Thackeray's literary career. 53 

world permitted, I would kneel down aad kiss the hem of 
your ladyship's rohe. To see your gracious face is a com- 
fort, — to see you walk to your carriage is a holiday. Drive 
her faithfully, tiiou silver-wigged coachaian I drive to all 
sorts of splendors and honors and royal festivals. And for 
us, let us be glad that we should have the privilege to 
admire her. 

" Now, transport yourself in spirit, my good Bob, into 
another drawing-room. There sits an old lady of nior^ 
than fourscore years, serene and kind, and as beautiful in 
her age now as in her youth, when History toasted her. 
AVliat has she not seen, and is she not ready to tellr All 
the fame and wit, all the rank and beauty, of more than 
half a century, have passed through those rooms where 
you liave the honor of making your best bow. She is as 
simple now as if she had never had any flattery to dazzle 
her: she is never tired of being pleased and being kind. 
Can that have been anything but a good life which, after 
more than eighty years of it are spent, is so calm ? Could 
she look to the end of it so cheerfully, if its long course had 
not been pure? Respect her, I say, for being so happy, 
now that she is old. We do not know what goodness and 
charity, v.hat affections, what trials, may have gone to 
make that charming sweetness of temper, and complete 
that perfect manner. But if we do not admire and rev- 
erence such an old age as that, and get good from contem- 
plating it, what are we to respect and admire ? 

"Or shall we walk through the shop (while N. is recom- 
mending a tall copy to an amateur, or folding up a two- 
pennyworth of letter-paper, and l)owing to a poor customer 
in a Jacket and apron with just as much respectful gravity 
as he would show while waiting upon a duke), and see 
Mrs. >'. playing with the child in the back parlor until N. 
shall come into tea ? They diink tea at five o'clock ; and 
are actually as well-bred as tliose gentlefolks who dine 
three hours later. Or will you please to step into Mrs. J.'s 
V)dging-s who is waiting, and at work, until her husband 



54 Thackeray's literary career. 

comes home from Chambers? She blushes and puts the 
work away on hearing the knock, but when she sees who 
the visitor is, she takes it witli a smile from behind the sofa 
cushion, and behold, it is one of J.'s waistcoats on which 
she is sewing buttons. She might have been a countess 
blazing in diamonds, had I'ate so willed it, and the liigher 
her station the more she would have adorned it. But she 
looks as charming m hile plying her needle as the great lady 
in the palace whose equal she is — in beauty, iQ goodness, 
in high-bred grace and simplicity ; at least, I can't fancy 
her better, or any peeress being more than her peer." 

But then he is accused of not having represented 
this. " It is said," to quote a friendly critic, in the 
Edinburgh Review for 1848, " that having with 
great skill put together a creature of which the 
principal elements are indiscriminatiug affection, 
ill-requited devotion, ignorant partiality, a weak will 
and a narrow intellect, he calls on us to worship his 
poor idol as the type of female excellence. This is 
true." Feminine critics enforce similar charges yet 
more vehemently. Thus, Miss Bronte says : " As 
usual, he is unjust to women, quite unjust. There 
is hardly any punishment he does not deserve for 
making Lady Castlewood peep through a keyhole, 
listen at a door, and be jealous of a boy and a milk- 
maid." Mrs. Jameson criticises him more elabo- 
rately : "No woman resents his Rebecca, — inimi- 
table Becky ! No woman but feels and acknowledges 
with a shiver the completeness of that wonderful 
and finished artistic creation ; but every woman re- 
sents the selfish, inaue Amelia Laura in Fen- 



THACKERAY S LITERARY CAREER. DO 

dennis is a yet more fatal mistake. She is drawn 
Avith every generous feeling, eveiy good gift. ^Ve 
do not complain that she loves that poor creature 
Pendennis, for she loved him in her childhood. She 
grew up with that love in her heart ; it came be- 
tween her and the perception of his faults ; it is a 
necessity indivisible from her nature. Hallowed, 
through its constancy, therein alone would lie its 
best excuse, its beauty and its truth. But Laura, 
faithless to that first affection ; Laura waked up to 
the appreciation of a far more manly and noble na- 
ture, in love with AVarriugton, and then going back 
to Pendennis, and marrying him ! Such iutirmity 
might be true of some women, but uot of such a 
woman as Laura ; we resent the inconsistency, the 
indelicacy of the portrait. And then Lady Castle- 
wood, — so evidently a lavorite of the author, what 
•^ball we say of her '? The vii'tuous woman, jyar 
■\rce//e/ice, who 'never sins and never forgives'; 
■vbo never resents, nor relents, nor repents ; the 
mother Avho is the rival of her daughter ; the 
Aiother, who for years is the confidante of a man's 
lelirious passion for her own child, and then con- 
soles him by marrying him herself! O ]Mr. 
Thackeray ! this will never do ! Such women may 
exist, but to hold them up as examph^s of excel- 
lence, and fit objects of our best sympathies, is a 
fault, and proves a low standard in ethics and in 
ai-t." 



yb THACKERAY S LITERARY CAREER. 

But all these criticisms, even if sound, go to 
this only, that Mr. Thackeray's rejn'eseutations of 
women are unjust : they are confined solely to his 
novels. Now, if the view we have taken of Mr. 
Thackeray's genius be the true one, such a limita- 
tion is unfair. He is not to be judged only by his 
novels as a representer of character, he must be 
judged also by all his writings together as a describer 
and analyzer of character. In the next place, the 
said criticisms are based upon wonderfully hasty 
generalizations. Miss Bronte kncAv that she would 
not have listened at a keyhole, and she jumps at 
once to the conclusion that neither would Lady Cas- 
tlewood. But surely the character of that lady is 
throughout represented as marred by many feminine 
weaknesses falling little short of unamiability. Is 
the existence of a woman greedy of affection, jeal- 
ous, and unforgiving, an impossibility? Her early 
love for Esmond we cannot quite approve ; her later 
marriage with him we heartily disapprove ; but nei- 
ther of these things is the fault of the writer. With 
such a woman as Lady Castlewood, deprived of her 
husband's affection, the growth of an attachment 
towards her dependant into a warmer feeling Avas a 
matter of extreme probability ; and her subsequent 
marriage to Esmond, affectionate, somewhat weak, 
and above all, disappointed elsewhere, was, in llieir 
respective relations, a mere certainty. Not to have 
married them would have been a mistake in art. 



THACKERAY S LITERARY CAREER. Ol 

Thus, when a friend remonstrated with him for hav- 
ing made Esmond ■'"'marry his mother-in-law," he 
repliL^d, "I didn't make him do it; they did it 
themselves." But as to Lady Castlevvood's being a 
favorite with the author, which is the gravamen of 
the charge, that is a pure assumption on the part 
of Mrs. Jameson. We confess to having always 
received, in reading the book, a clear impression to 
the contrary. Laura, again, we do not admire ve- 
hemently ; but we cannot regard her returning to 
her first love, after a transient attachment to an- 
other, as utterly unnatural. Indeed, wc think it 
the very thing a girl of her somewhat commonplace 
stamp of character would certainly have done. She 
never is much in love with Pendennis either first or 
last, but she marries him nevertheless. She might 
have loved Warrington, had the Fates permitted it, 
very differently ; and as his wife, would never have 
displayed those airs of self-satisfaction and moral 
superiority which make her so tediously disagree- 
able. But all this fault-finding runs up into the 
grand objection, that Thackeray's good women are 
denied brains ; that he preserves an essential alliance 
between moral worth and stupidity ; and it is curi- 
ous to see how women themselves dislike this, — 
how, in their admiration of intellect, they admit the 
truth of Becky willingly enough, but indignantly 
aeny that of Amelia. On this question Mr. Brown 
^hus expresses himself: — 



58 Thackeray's literary career. 

"A set has been made against clever women from all times. 
Take all Shakespeare's heroines : they all seem to me pretty 
much the same, affectionate, motherly, tender, that sort of 
thing. Take Scott's ladies, and other writers, each man 
seems to draw from one model an exquisite slave is what 
we want for the most part, a humble, flattering, smiling, 
cldld- loving, tea- making, pianoforte -playing being, who 
laughs at our jokes however old they may be, coaxes and 
wheedles us in our humors, and fondly lies to us through 
life." 



In the face of Rosalind, Beatrice, and Portia, it 
is impossible to concur Avith Mr. Brown in his no- 
tions about Shakespeare's women ; but otherwise he 
is right. Yet it is but a poor defence for the defi- 
ciencies of a man of genius, that others have shown 
the like short-comings. And on Mr. Thackeray's be- 
half a much better defence may be pleaded ; though 
it may be one less agreeable to the sex which he is 
said to have maligned. That defence is a simple 
plea of not guilty ; a denial that his women, as a 
class, want intellectual poAver to a greater extent 
than is consistent with truth. They vary between 
the extremes of pure goodness and pure intellect — 
Becky and Amelia — just as women do in real life. 
The moral element is certainly too prominent in 
Amelia ; but not more so than in Colonel Newcome, 
and we can't see anything muvh amiss in Helen 
Pendennis. Laura, as JNIiss Bdl, is clever enough 
for any man ; and, though she afterwards becomes 
exceedingly tiresome and a prig, she docs not be- 



I 



THACKERAY S LITERARY CAREER. D\) 

come a fool. And what man would bj bold enough 
to disparage the inlcllcctual powers of EtlicI New- 
come ? Pier moral nature is at first incomplete 
owina: to a faulty edur-ation ; but when this has been 
j)erfected thron<rh sorrow, wherein is the character 
deficient ? Besides, we mnst bear in mind that vir- 
tue in action is undoubtedly "slow." Goodness is 
not in itself entertaining, while ability is; and the 
novelist therefore, whose aim is to entertain, natu- 
raDy labors most Avith the characters possessing the 
latter, in Avhich characters the reader too is most 
interested. Hence they acquire greater prominence 
both as a matter of fact in the story and also in our 
minds. Becky, Blanche Amory, "Trix, are undenia- 
bly more interesting, and in their points of contrast 
and resemblance afford far ric her materials for study 
than Amelia, Helen Pendennis, and Laura. But 
this is in the nature of things ; and the writer must 
not be blamed for it any more than the readers. 
Taking, however, the Thackerean gallery as a whole, 
we cannot admit that either in qualities of heart or 
head his women are inferior to the women we gen- 
erally meet. Perhaps he has never — not even in 
Ethel — combined these qualities in their fullest 
perfection ; but then how often do we find them so 
combined ? It seems to us that Thackeray has 
drawn women more carefully and more truly than 
any novelist in the language, except Miss Austen ; 
ana it is small reproach to any writer, that he has 



GO Thackeray's literary career, 

drawn no female eliaracter so evenly good as Anne 
Elliot or Elizabeth Bennet. 

If this is true of his women, we need not labor 
in defence of his men. For surely it cannot be 
questioned that his representations of the ruder 
sex are true, nay, are on the whole an impi-ove- 
ment on reality ? The ordinary actors ayIio crowd 
his scene are not worse than the people we meet 
Avith every day ; his heroes, to use a stereotyped 
expression, are rather better than the average ; 
while one such character as George Warrington is 
■worth a wilderness of commonplace excellence called 
into unnatural life. But then it is said his general 
tone is bitter ; he settles at once on the weak points 
of humanity, and to lay them bare is his congenial 
occupation. To a certain extent this was his busi- 
ness. " Dearly beloved," he says, "neither in nor 
out of this pulpit do I profess to be bigger, or clev- 
erer, or wiser, or better than any of you." Never- 
theless he was a preacher, though an unassuming 
one ; and therefore it lay upon him to point out 
faults, to correct rather than to flatter. Yet it must 
be confessed that his earlier writings arc sometimes 
too bitter in their tone, and too painful in their 
theme. This may be ascribed partly to the infec- 
tions vehemence of Tracer in those days, partly to 
the influence of such experiences as arc drav/n Vipcn 
in some parts of the Faris Sketch -B oolc ; but, how- 
ever accounted for, it must be condemned as an 



Thackeray's literary career. 61 

error in art. As a disposition to doubt and de- 
spond in youth betrays a narrow intellect, or a per- 
verted education ; so in the beginning of a literary 
career, a tendency towards gloom and curious re- 
search after hidden evil reveals artistic error, or an 
unfortunate experience. Both in morals and art 
these weaknesses are generally the result of years 
and sorrow ; and thus the common transition is 
tVoni the joyousness of youth to sadness, it may be 
to moroseness, in old age. But theirs is the higher 
and truer development, who reverse this process, — 
who, beginning with false tastes or distorted views, 
shake these off as they advance into a clearer air, 
in whom knowledge but strengthens the nobler 
powers of the soul, and Avhose kindliness and 
generosity, based on a firmer foundation than the 
buoyancy of mere animal life, are purer and more 
enduring. Such, as it appears to us, was the his- 
tory of Thackeray's genius. ^Yhatever may have 
been the severity of his earlier writings, it was 
latterly laid aside. In the Neiccomes he follows 
the critical dogma -which he lays down, that "fic- 
tion has no business to exist unless it be more 
beautiful than reality " ; and truthful kindliness 
marks all his other writings of a later date, from 
the letters of ^Ir. Brown and iNIr. Spec in Punch, 
down to the pleasant egotism of the " Roundabout 
Papers." He became disinclined for severe writ- 
ino: even where deserved : " I have militated in 



62 Thackeray's literary career. 

former limes, and not without glory, but I grow 
peaceable r.s I grow old." The only things to- 
Avards whieh he never grew peaceable were preten- 
tiousness and falsehood. But he preferred to busy 
liimself with what was innocent and brave, to at- 
tacking even these ; he forgot the satirist, and 
loved rather honestly to praise or defend. The 
" Roundabout Papers " show this on every page, 
especially, perhaps, those on Tunbridgc Toys, on 
Ribbons, on a Joke I heard from the late Thomas 
Hood, and that entitled A^il nisi hoiiim. The very 
last paper of all was an angry defence of Lord Clyde 
against miserable club gossip, unnecessary perhaps, 
but a thing one likes now to think that Thackeray 
felt stirred to do. " To be tremblingly alive to 
gentle impressions," says Foster, " and yet be able 
to preserve, when occasion requires it, an immov- 
able heart, even amidst the most imperious causes 
of subduing emotion, is perhaps not an impossible 
constitution of mind, but it is the utmost and rarest 
condition of humanity." These words do not de- 
scribe the nature of a man who would pay out of 
his own pocket for contributions he could not in- 
sert in the CoruJiUf ; but if for heart we substitute 
intellect, they will perfectly describe his literary 
genius. He was always tremblingly alive to gentle 
impressions, but his intellect amidst any emotiuus 
remained clear and immovable ; so that good taste 
was never absent, and false sentiment never came 



Thackeray's literary career. G3 

near him. He makes the sorrows of "Weiiher 
tlie favorite reading of the executioner at Stras- 
bourg.* 

Few men have written so much that appeals di- 
rectly to our emotions, and yet kept so entirely aloof 
from anything tawdry, from all falsetto. " If my 
tap," says he, "is not genuine, it is naught, and no 
man should give himself the trouble to diink it." 
It was at all times thoroughly genuine, and is there- 
iore everything to us. Truthfulness, in fact, eager 
and uncompromising, was his main characteristic ; 
truthfulness not only in speech, but, what is a 
far more uncommon and precious virtue, truth in 

* Among Lis ballads we have the following somewhat lit- 
eral analysis of this work : — 

" Werther liad a love for Charlotte 
Such as words could never utter; 
Would you know how first he met her? 
She was cutting bread and butter. 
" Charlotte was a married lady, 
And a moral man was Werther, 
And, for all the wealth of Indies, 
Would do nothing for to hurt her. 

" So he sighed and pined and ogled, 
And his passion boiled and bubbled. 
Till he blew his silly brains out. 
And no more was by it troubled. 

" Charlotte, having seen his body 
Borne before her on a shutter. 
Like a well-conducted person, 
Went on cutting bread and butter." 



64 Thackeray's literary career. 

thought. His entire mental macliinery acted under 
this law of truth. He strove always to tied and 
show things as they really are, — true nobleness 
apart from trappings, unaffected simplicity, generos- 
ity without ostentation ; contident that so he would 
best convince every one that what is truly good 
pleases most, and lasts longest, and that what is 
otherwise soon becomes tiresome, and, worst of all, 
ridiculous. A man to whom it has been given con- 
sistently to devote to such a purpose the highest 
powers of sarcasm, ridicule, sincere pathos, and, 
though sparingly used, of exhortation, must be held 
to have fulfilled a career singularly honorable and 
useful. To these noble ends he was never unfaith- 
ful. True, he made no boast of this. Disliking 
cant of all kinds, he made no exception in favor of 
the cant of his own profession. " ^Vhat the dense," 
he writes to a friend, " our twopenny reputations 
get us at least twopence-halfpenny ; and then comes 
nox fabulaque manes, and the immortals perish." 
The straightforward Mr. Yellowplush stoutly main- 
tains, in a similar strain, that people who write 
books are no whit better, or actuated by more ex- 
alted motives, than their neighbors : " Away with 
this canting about great motifs ! Let ns not be too 
prowd, and fansy ourselves marters of the truth, 
marters or apostels. We are but tradesmen, work- 
ing for bread, and not for righteousness' sake. 
Let 's try and work honestly ; but don't let us be 



Thackeray's literary career. 65 

prayting pompisly about our 'sacred calling.'" 
And George "Warrington, in Peiide/inis, is never 
■vveary of preaching the same wholesome doctrine. 
Thackeray had no sympathy with swagger of any 
kind. His soul revolted from it; he always talked 
under what he ftlt. At the same time, indiflference 
had no part in this want of pretence. So far from 
being indifferent, he was peculiarly sensitive to the 
opinions of otheis ; too much so for his own hap- 
piness. He hated to be called a cynical satirist-, 
the letter we have quoted to his Edinburgh friends 
shows how he valued any truer appreciation. Merc 
slander he could despise like a man; he winced 
under the false estimates and injurious imputations 
too frequent from people who should have known 
better. But he saw his profession as it really was, 
and spoke of it with his innate simplicity and dis- 
like of humbug. And in this matter, as in the 
ordinary afTairs of life, those Avho profess little, re- 
taining a decent reserve as to their feelings and 
motives, are far more to be relied on than those 
Avho protest loudly. "Whether authors are moved 
by love of fame, or a necessity for daily bread, does 
not greatly signify. The world is not concerned 
with this in the least ; it can only require that, as 
Mr. Yellowplush puts it, they should " try to work 
honestly"; and herein he never failed. He never 
wrote but in accordance with his convictions ; he 
spared no ])riins that his convictions should be in 



66 Thackeray's literary career. 

accordance with truth. For one quality we cannot 
give him too great praise •, that is the sense of the 
distinction of right and of w'rong. He never puts 
bitter for sweet, or sweet for bitter; never calls 
evil things good, or good things evil ; there is no 
haziness or muddle ; no " topsyturvifications," like 
Madame Sand's, in his moralities: — Avith an im- 
mense and acute compassion for all suffering, with 
a power of going out of himself, and into almost 
every human feeling, he vindicates at all times the 
supremacy of conscience, the sacredness and clear- 
ness of the law written in our hearts. 

His keenness of observation and his entire truth- 
fulness found expression in a style worthy of them 
in its sharpness and distinctness. The specimens 
Avc have quoted of his earlier writings show that 
these qualities marked his style from the first. He 
labored to improve those natural gifts. He steadily 
observed iNIr. Yellowplush's recommendation touch- 
ing poetical composition : " Take my advise, hon- 
rabble sir — listen to a humble footmiu: it's gcn- 
rally best in poatry to understand puflfickly what 
you mean yourself, and to ingspress your meaning 
clearly afterwoods — in the simpler words the bet- 
ter, praps." He always expressed his meaning 
clearly and in simple words. But as, Avith in- 
creasing experience, his meanings deepened and 
Avidened, his expression became richer. The lan- 
g-uage continued to the last simple and direct, but 



Thackeray's literary career. 67 

it became more copious, more appropriate, more 
susceptible of rhythmical combiuations : in other 
words, it rose to be the worthy vehicle of more 
varied and more poetical ideas. This strange pe- 
culiarity of soberness in youth, of fancy coming 
into being at the command and for the service of 
the mature judgment, has maiiied some of the great- 
est writers. The words in which Lord Macaulay 
has described it Avith regard to Bacon may be 
applied, with little reservation, to Thackeray : '•' He 
observed as vigilantly, meditated as deeply, and 
judged as temperately, when he gave his first work 
to the world, as at the close of his long career. 
But in eloquence, in sweetness and variety of ex- 
pression, and in richness of illustration, his later 
writings are far superior to those of his youth." 
Confessedly at the last he was the greatest master 
of pure English in our day. His style is never 
ornate, on the contrary is always marked by a cer- 
tain reserve which surely betokens thought and real 
feeling : is never forced or loaded, only entirely 
appropriate and entirely beautiful ; like crystal, at 
once clear and splendid. We quote two passages, 
both from books ^vritten in his prime, not merely 
as justifying these remarks, but because they illus- 
trate qualities of his mind second only to his truth- 
fulness, —his sense of beauty and his sense of 
pathos. And yet neither passage has any trace 
of what he calls the "•' sin of grandiloquence, or 



68 Thackeray's literary career. 

tall-talkiug." The first is the end of the Kickle- 
burys on the Rhine : — 

"The next morning we had passed by the rocks and 
towers, the old familiar landscapes, the gleaming: towers by 
the river-side, and the green vineyards coml)ed along the 
hills ; and when I woke up, it was at a great hotel at Co- 
logne, and it was not sunrise yet. Deutz lay opposite, and 
over Deutz the dusky sky was reddened. The hills were 
veiled in the mist and the gray. The gray river flowed un- 
derneath us ; the steamers were roosting along the quays, a 
light keeping watch in the caljins here and there, and its 
reflection quivering in the water. As I look, the sky-linf 
towards the east grows redder and redder. A long troop t 
gray horsemen winds down the river road, and passes over 
the bridge of boats. You might take them for ghosts, those 
gray horsemen, so shadowy do they look ; but you hear the 
trample of their hoofs as they pass over the planks. Every 
minute the dawn twinkles up into the twilight ; and over 
Deutz the heaven blushes brighter. Tlie quays begin to fill 
with men ; the carts begin to creak and rattle ; and wake 
the sleeping echoes. Ding, ding, ding, the steamers' bells 
beo-in to ring ; the people on board to stir and wake ; the 
lights may be extinguished, and take their turn of sleep; 
the active" boats sliake tliemselves, and push out into the 
river ; the great bridge opens and gives them passage ; ihe 
church-bells of the city begin to clink ; the cavalry trum- 
pets blow from the opposite bank ; the sailor is at the wheel, 
the porter at his burden, the soldier at his musket, and the 

priest at his prayers And lo ! in a flash of crimson 

splendor, with blazing scarlet clouds running before his 
chariot, and heralding his majestic approach, God's sun 
rises upon the world, and all nature wakens and brightens. 
glorious spectacle of light and life ! O beatific symbol 
of Power, Love, Joy, Beauty! Let us look at thee with 
liumble wonder, and thankfully acknoMledge and adore. 



Thackeray's literary career. 69 

What gracious forethought is it, — what generous and lov- 
inj provision, that deigns to prepare for our eyes and to 
soothe our hearts with such a splendid mor-ning festival '. For 
these raaguificent bounties of Heaven to us, let us he thank- 
ful, even that we can feel thankful for thanks surely is the 
noblest effort, as it is the greatest delight, of the gentle 
soul) ; and so, a grace for this feast, let all say who partake 

of it See ! the mist clears off Drachenfels, and it 

looks out from the distance, and bids us a friendly farewell." 

Our second quotation describes Esmond at his 

mother's grave, — one of the most deeply affecting 
pieces of writing in the language : — 

"Esmond came to this spot in one sunny evening of 
spring, and saw amidst a thousand black crosses, casting 
their shadows across the grassy mounds, that particular one 
which marked his mother's resting-place. Many more of 
those poor creatures that lay there had adopted that same 
name with which sorrow had rebaptized her, and which 
fondly seemed to hint their individual story of love and 
grief. He fancied her, in tears and darkness, kneeling at 
the foot of her cross, under which her cares were buried. 
Surely he knelt down, and said his own prayer there, not 
in sorrow so much as in awe i^for even his memory had no 
recollection of her), and in pity for the pangs which the 
gentle soul in life had been made to suflFer. To this cross 
she i)rought them ; for this heavenly bridegroom she ex- 
changed the husljand who had wooed her, the traitor who 
had left her. A thousand such hillocks lay round about, 
the gentle daisies springing out of the grass over them, and 
each bearing its cross and reqniescat. A nun, veiled in black, 
was kneeling hard by, at a sleeping sister's bedside i so fresh 
made, that the spring had scarce had time to spin a coverlid 
for it) ; beyond the cemetery walls you had glimpses of life 
and the world, and the spires and gables of the city. A 
bird came down from a roof opposite, and lit first on 



70 Thackeray's literary career. 

. cross, and then on the grass below it, whence it flew 
iway presently with a leaf in its mouth : tlien came a 
sound of chanting, from the chapel of the sisters hard by : 
others had long since tilled the place which poor Mary 
Magdalene once had there, were kneeling at the same stall 
and hearing the same hymns and prayers in Avhich her 
stricken heart had found consolation. Might she sleep in 
peace, — might she sleep in peace; and we, too, when our 
struggles and pains are over ! But the earth is the Lord's 
as the heaven is ; we are alike his creatures here and 
yonder. I took a little flower off the hillock and kissed 
it, and went my way like the bird that had just lighted en 
the cross by me, back into the world again. Silent recep- 
tacle of deatli, tranquil depth of calm, out of reach of tem- 
pest and trouble. 1 felt as one who had been walking below 
the sea, and treading amidst the bones of shipwrecks." 

Looking at Mr. Thackeray's writings as a whole, 
he would be more truthfully described as a senti- 
mentalist than as a cynic. Even when the neces- 
sities of his story compel him to draw bad charac- 
ters, he gives them as much good as he can. We 
don't remember in his novels any utterly unre- 
deemed scoundrel except Sir Francis Clavering. 
Even Lord Steyne has something like genuine sym- 
pathy with Major Pendennis's grief at the illness 
of his nephew. And if reproof is the main burden 
of his discourse, we must remember that to reprove, 
not to praise, is the business of the preacher. Still 
further, if his reproof appears sometimes unduly 
severe, we must remember that such severity may 
spring from a belief that better things are possible. 
Here lies the secret of Thackeray's seeming bitter- 



Thackeray's literary career. 71 

ness. His nature was, in tlie words of the critic 
in Le Temps, "furieuse cVavoir etc desappoi)itee.'^ 
He condemns sternly men as they often are, because 
he had a high ideal of what they might be. The 
feeling of this contrast runs through all his writ- 
ings. " He could not have painted Vanity Fair as 
he has, unless Eden had been shining brightly before 
his eyes."* And this contrast could never have 
been felt, the glories of Eden could never have been 
seen, by the mere satirist or by the misanthrope. 
It has been often urged against him that he does 
not make us think better of our fellow-men. No, 
truly. But he does what is far greater than this, 
— he makes us think worse of ourselves. There 
is no great necessity that we should think well of 
other people ; there is the utmost necessity that we 
should know ourselves in our every fault and weak- 
ness ; and such knowledge his writings will supply. 
In Mr. Hannay's Memoir, f which we have read 
Avith admiration and pleasure, a letter from Thack- 
eray is quoted, very illustrative of this view of his 
character: " I hate Juvenal; I mean, I think him 
a truculent brute, and I love Horace better than you 
do, and rate Churchill much lower; and as for 
Swift, you have n't made me alter my opinion. I 

* Essays l)y George Biiniley. Second edition. Cani- 
Ijridge, 1860. A collection of singularly good critical papers. 

t A Brief Memoir of the late Mr. Thackeray. By James 
Hannav. Edinburirli, 186i. 



72 Thackeray's literary career. 

jidmire, or rather admit, liis power as much as you 
do ; but I don't admire that kind of power so much 
as I did iifteen years ago, or twenty shall we say. 
Loceis a higher intellectual exercise than hatred." 
We think the terrible Dean had love as well as hate 
strong within him, and none the worse in that it 
was more special than general ; " I like Tom, Dick, 
and Harry," he used to say ; "I hate the race"; 
but nothing can be more characteristic of Thack- 
eray than this judgment. Love was the central 
necessity of his understanding as well as of his af- 
fections ; it was his fullilling of the law ; and unlike 
the Dean, he could love Tom, and also like and pity 
as well as rebuke the race. 

Mr. Thackeray has not written any history for- 
mally so called. But it is known that he purposed 
doing so, and in Hsmond and the Lectures he has 
given ns much of the real essence of history. The 
Saturday lleiiew, however, in a recent article, has 
announced that this was a mistake ; that history was 
not his line. Such a decision is rather startling. 
In one or two instances of historical representation, 
Mr. Thackeray may have failed. Johnson and Rich- 
ardson do not appear in the Virginians Avith much 
eifect. But surely in the great majority of in- 
stances he has been eminently successful. Horace 
Walpole's letter in the Virginians, the fictitious 
" Spectator " in Esmond, are very felicitous literary 
imitations. Good-natured trooper Steele comfort- 



ing the boy in the lonely country-house ; Addison, 
serene and dignified, " with ever so slight a touch 
of merum in his voice" occasionally; Bolingbroke, 
with a good deal of merum in his voice, talking 
reckless Jacobitisni at the dinner at General Webbe's, 
are wonderful portraits. And, though the estimate 
of Marlborough's character may be disputed, the 
power with which that character is represented can- 
not be questioned. But the historical genius dis- 
played in ^?/«o«^ goes beyond this. We know of 
no history in which the intrigues and confusion of 
parties at the death of Queen Anne are sketched so 
firmly as in the third volume of that work ; in fact, 
a more thorough historical novel was never written. 
It is not loaded with historical learning ; and yet it 
is most truly, though or rather because unpretend- 
ingly, a complete representation of the time. It 
reads like a veritable memoir. And it will hardly 
be disputed, that a good historical novel cannot be 
written save by one possessed of great historical 
powers. What are the qualities necessary to a his- 
torian? Knowledge, love of truth, insight into 
human nature, imagination to make alive before him 
the times of which he writes. All these Mr. Thack- 
eray had. His knowledge was accurate and minute, 
— indeed, he could not have written save of what 
he knew well ; a love of truth was his main char- 
acteristic ; for insight into human nature he ranks 
second to Shakespeare alone ; and, while he wanted 



74 Thackeray's literary career. 

that highest creative imagination which makes the 
poet, he had precisely that secondary imagination 
which serves the historian, which can realize the 
past and make the distant near. Had he heen al- 
lowed to carry out his cherished design of recording 
the reign of Queen Anne, a great gap in the history 
of our countiy would have been tilled up by one of 
the most remarkable books in the language. "We 
might have had less than is usual of the " dignity 
of history," of battles and statutes and treaties ; 
but we should have had more of human natui-e, — 
the actors in the drama would have been brought 
before us living and moving, their passions and hid- 
den motives made clear ; the life of England would 
have been sketched by a subtle artist ; the literature 
of England, during a period which this generation 
often talks about, but of which it knows, we sus- 
pect, very little, would have been presented to us 
lighted up by appreciative and competent criticism. 
The Saturday Reviewer gives a reason for ]\Ir. 
Thackeray's failure as a historian, which will seem 
strange to those who have been accustomed to re- 
gard him as a cynic. " He was so carried away by 
worth," says this ingenious critic bent on fault-find- 
ing, " and so impatient of all moral obliquity, that he 
could not value fairly the services which had been 
rendered by bad men." And the instance given is 
that a sense of what Ave owe to the Hanoverian 
succession was not allowed to temper ^^'^ severity 



Thackeray's literary career. 75 

of the estimate given of the first two Georges ; — 
aa unfortunate instance, as the critic would have 
discovered had he read the following passage in the 
lecture on George the Second : — 

" But for Sir Roljcrt "Walpolc, we shoultl liave had the Pre- 
temlei- back again. But for his ol)stinate love of peace, we 
slioukl have liatl wars wliich tlie nation was not strong 
enough nor united enough to endure. But for his resolute 
counsels and good-humored resistance, we might liave had 
German despots attempting a Hanoverian regimen over us; 
we should have had revolt, commotion, want, and tyrannous 
misrule, in place of a quarter of a century of peace, freedom, 
and material prosperity, such as the country never enjoyed, 
until that corrupter of parliaments, tliat dissolute, tipsy 
cynic, that courageous lover of peace and liberty, that great 
citizen, ])atriot, and statesman governed it." 

The truth is, that :\Ir. Thackeray, while fully 
appreciating the hlessings of the Hanoverian suc- 
cession, knew well that the country did not in the 
least degree owe the stability of that succession to 
the Hanoverian kings, hut, on the contrary, to that 
great .minister, whose character is sketched, in a 
powerful passage, of which the above quotation is a 
part. In fact, Mr. Thackeray judged no man harsh- 
ly. Xo attentive student of his Avorks can fail to 
see that he understood the duty of " making allow- 
ance," not less with regard to historical characters, 
than with regard to characters of his own creation. 
He does full justice, for example, to the courage 
and conduct of Marlboroush, as to whose moral 



( b THACKERAY S LITERARY CAREER. 

character the opinion of Colonel Esmond is in cu- 
rious accordance with the historical judgment given 
later to the public by Lord Macaulay. 

These "Lectures on the Georges " were made the 
ground of a charge against Mr. Thackeray of dis- 
loyalty. This charge was urged with peculiar of- 
fensiveness by certain journals, Avhich insinuated 
that the failings of English kings had been selected 
as a theme grateful to the American audiences who 
first heard the lectures delivered. INIr. Thackeray 
felt this charge deeply, and repelled it in language 
which Ave think Avorthy to be remembered. At 
a dinner given to him in Edinburgh, in 1857, he 
said : — 

"I had thought tliat in these lectures I liad spoken in 
terms not of disrespect or uukiudness, and in feelings and 
in language not un-English, of her Majesty the Queen ; and 
wherever I have liad to mention her name, whether it was 
upon the banks of the Clyde or upon those of the Missis- 
sippi, whether it was in New England or in Old England, 
whether it was in some great hall in London to the artisans 
of the suburbs of the metropolis, or to the politer audiences 
of the western end, — wherever I had to mention lier name, 
it was received with shouts of applause, and with the most 
hearty cheers. And why was this ? It was not on account 
of the speaker ; it was on account of the truth ; it was be- 
cause the English and the Americans — the people of New 
Orleans a year ago, the people of Aberdeen a week ago — 
all received and acknowledged with due allegiance the great 
claims to lionor which that lady has who worthily liolds 
that great and awful situation which our Queen occupies. 
It is my loyalty that is called in question, and it is my 



Thackeray's literary career. 77 

loyalty that I am trying to plead to you. Suppose, for ex- 
ample, in America, — in Philadelphia or in >"ew York, — 
that I liad spoken about George IV. in terms of praise and 
affected reverence, do you believe they would have hailed 
his name with cheers, or have heard it with anything like 
respect? They would have laughed in my face if I had so 
spoken of him. They know what I know and you know, 
and what numbers of squeamish loyalists who affect to cry 
out against my lectures know, that that man's life was not 
a good life, — that that king v.-as not such a king as we ought 
to love, or regard, or honor. And I believe, for my part, that 
in speaking the truth, as we hold it, of a bad sovereign, we 
are paying no disrespect at all to a good one. Far from it. 
On the contrary, we degrade our own honor and the Sover- 
eign's by unduly and unjustly praising him ; and the mere 
slaverer and flatterer is one who comes forward, as it were, 
with flash notes, and pays with false coin liis tribute to 
Caesar. I don't disguise that I feel somehow ou my trial 
here for loyalty, for honest English feeling." 

The judgment pronounced by the accomplished 
Scotch judge who presided at this dinner-trial, a 
man far removed, both by tastes and position, from 
any sympathy with vulgar popularity-hunting, will 
be accepted by every candid person as just : — 

'•' I don't," said Lord Xeaves, " for my part, regret if there 
are some painful truths told in these lectures to those who 
had before reposed in the pleasing delusion that everything 
royal was immaculate. I am not sorry that some of the false 
trappings of royalty or of a court life should be stripped 
off. We live under a Sovereign whose conduct, both pub- 
lic and private, is so une.xceptionable, that we can afford 
to look all the facts connected with it in the face ; and woe 
be to the country or to the crown when the voice of truth 
shall be stifled as to any such matters, or when the only 
tongue that is allowed to be heard is that of fl.attery." 



78 Thackeray's literary career. 

It was said of Pontenelle ttat he had as good a 
heart as could be made out of brains. Adapting; 
the observation, we may say of Thackeray that he 
was as good a poet as could be made out of brains. 
The highest gifts of the poet of course he Avanted. 
His imagination, to take Ruskin's distinction, was 
more penetrative than associative or contemplative. 
His mind was too much occupied with realities for 
persistent ideal work. But manliness and common 
sense, combined with a perfect mastery of language, 
go a long way at least to the making of very ex- 
cellent verses. More than this, he had the sensi- 
bility, the feeling of time and of numbers essential 
to versifying ; and his mind fulfilled the condition 
required by our greatest living poet : — 

" Clear and bright it should be ever, 
Flowing like a crystal river." 

His verse-making was a sort of pleasaunce, — a 
flower-garden in the midst of spacious policies. It 
was the ornamentation of his intellect. His bal- 
lads do not perhaps show poetic feeling more pro- 
found than is possessed by many men ; they derive, 
for the most part, their charm from the same high 
qualities as mark his prose, with the attraction of 
music and rhyme superadded. "Writing them seems 
to have given him real pleasure. The law of self- 
imposed restraint, of making the thought often wait 
upon the sound, necessary in rhythmical composi- 



Thackeray's literary career. 79 

tion, rather than, as in prose, the sound upon the 
sense, — this measuring of feeling and of expres- 
sion had plainly a great charm for his rich and 
docile genius. His verses give one the idea of hav- 
ing been a great delight to himself, like humming 
a favorite air ; there is no trace of effort, and yet 
the trick of the verse is perfect. His rhymes are 
often as good as Swift's and Hood's. This feeling 
of enjoyment, as also the abounding fertility in 
strange rliymes, is very marked in the White Squall ; 
and hardly less in the ease and gayety of Peg of 
Limavaddy. Take, for instance, the description of 
the roadside inn where Peg dispenses liquor : — 

"Limavaddy inn 's 

But a liiinible baithouse, 
"Where you may procure 

Whiskey and potatoes ; 
Landlord at the door 

Gives a smiling welcome 
To the shivering wights 

Who to his hotel come. 
Landlady within 

Sits and knits a stocking. 
With a M'ary foot 

Baby's cradle rocking. 
To the chimney nook. 

Having found admittance. 
There I watch a pup 

Playing with two kittens ; 
(Playing round the fire, 

Which of Ijlazing turf is, 
Roaring to the pot 

Which bubbles with the murphies) 



80 Thackeray's literary career. 

And the cradled babe 

Fond the mother nursed it. 
Singing it a song 

As she twists the worsted ! " 

Peg herself and her laugh, — 

" Such a silver peal ! 

In the meadows listening, 
You who 've heard the bells 

Ringing to a christening ; 
You who ever heard 

Caradori pretty, 
Smiling like an angel. 

Singing ' Giovinetti ' ; 
. Fancy Peggy's laugh, 

Sweet, and clear, and cheerful. 
At my pantaloons 

With lialf a pint of beer full ! 
See her as she moves ! 

Scarce the ground she touches, 
Airy as a fay. 

Graceful as a duchess ; 
Bare her rounded arm. 

Bare her little leg is, 
Vestris never showed 

Ankles like to Peggy's ; 
Braided is her hair. 

Soft her look and modest. 
Slim her little waist 

Comfortably bodiced." 

In a similar light and graceful style are the Cane- 
Bottomed Chair, Piscator and Piscatrix, the Car- 
men Lilliense, etc. ; and all the Lyra Hiberuica, 
especially the rollicking Battle of Limerick, are 
rich in Irish absurdity. That compact little epic, 



Thackeray's literary career, 81 

the Chronicle of the Drum, the well-known Bouil- 
labaisse, and At the Church Gate, — the iirst lit- 
erary effort of Mr. Arthur Pendennis, — seem to us 
in their various styles to rise into the region of real 
poetry. The Chronicle of the Drum is a grand 
martial composition, and a picture of the feelings 
of the French soldiery which strikes on us at once 
as certainly true. The Ballads of Pleacemai X. 
are unique in literature, — as startlingly original 
as Tarn OShanter. Jacob Homniura's Hoss is 
perhaps the most amusing, the Foundling of Shore- 
ditch the most serious ; but through them all there 
runs a current of good sense, good feeling, and 
quaint fun which makes them most pleasant read- 
ing. They remind one somehow of John Gilpin, — 
indeed there is often the same playful fancy and 
delicate pensiveness in Thackeray as in Cowper. 
"We should like to quote many of these ; but we 
give in preference Miss -Tickletobi-'s ballad on King 
Canute, long thongli it be, because it is not in- 
cluded in the collected ballads, and has not, we fear, 
obtained great popularity by being incorporated 
into Rebecca and Hoicena, — a rendering of poeti- 
cal justice less generally read than it shoidd be : — 

KING CANUTE. 

King Canute was weary-hearted ; he had reigned for years 

a score ; 
Battling, struggling, pushing, fighting, killing much and 

robbins more. 



82 Thackeray's literary career. 

And he tliought upon his actions, walking bj^ the wild sea- 
shore. 

'Twixt the chancellor and bishop walked the king with 

steps sedate, 
Chamberlains and grooms came after, silver sticks and gold 

sticks great. 
Chaplains, aides-de-camp, and pages, — all the officers of 

state. 

Sliding after like his shadow, pausing when he chose to 

pause ; 
If a frown liis face contracted, straight the courtiers 

dropped their jaws ; 
If to laugh the king was minded, out they burst in loud 

hee-haws. 

But that day a something vexed him, that was clear to old 

and young -. 
Thrice his grace had yawned at table, when his favorite 

gleeman sung ; 
Once the queen would have consoled him, but he bade her 

hold her tongue. 

"Something ails my gracious master," cried the keeper of 

the seal ; 
" Sure, my lord, it is the lampreys served at dinner, or the 

veal ! " 
Tsha! " exclaimed the angry monarch, "keeper, 't is not 

that I feel. 

" 'T is the heart and not the dinner, fool, that doth my rest 

impair ; 
Can a king be great as I am, prithee, and yet know no 

care? 
"0 I'm sick, and tired, and weary." — Some one cried, 

"The king's arm-chair 1 " 



Thackeray's literary career. 83 

Then towards the lackeys turning, quick my lord the 

keeper nodded, 
Straight the king's great chair was brought him, by two 

footmen alile-bodied ; 
Languidly he sank into it : it was comfortably wadded. 

" Leading on my fierce companions," cried he, " over storm 

and brine, 
I haA-e fought and I have conquered! "Where was gloiy 

like to mine! " 
Loudly all the courtiers echoed, " Where is glory like to 

thine ? " 

" "UTiat avail me all my kingdoms ? Wearv am I now, and 

old ; 

Those fair sons I have begotten long to see me dead and 

cold; 
Would I were, and quiet buried, underneath the silent 

mould ! 

"0 remoi-se, the writhing sei-pent ! at my bosom tears and 

bites ! 
Horrid, horrid thiuirs I look on, though I put out all the 

lights ; 
Ghosts of ghastly recollections troop about my bed of 

nights. 

'•' Cities burning, convents blazing, red with sacrilegious 

fires ; 
Mothers weeping, Airgins screaming, vainly for their 

slaughtered sires — " 
— " Such a tender conscience," cries the bishop, " every 

one admires. 

"But for such unpleasant bygones, cease, my gracious lord, 

to search, 
They 're forgotten and foi-given by our holy Mother Church; 
Never, never does she leave her benefactors in the lurch. 



84 Thackeray's literary career. 

" Look ! the land is croAvned with minstersj which your 

Grace's bounty raised ; 
Abbeys tilled Mith lioly men, where you and Heaven are 

daily praised ; 
You, my lord, to think of dying ? on my conscience, I 'm 

amazed ! " 

" Nay, I feel," replied King Canute, " that my end is 

drawing near." 
" Don't say so," exclaimed the courtiers (striving each to 

squeeze a tear), 
" Sure your Grace is strong and lusty, and may live this 

fifty year." 

"Live these fifty years! " the bishop roared, Avith actions 

made to suit, 
" Are you mad, my good lord keeper, thus to speak of King 

Canute ? 
Men have lived a thousand years, and sure his Majesty will 

do 't." 

" Adam, Enoch, Lamech, Canan, Mahaleel, Methusela, 
lived nine hundred years apiece, and may n't the king as 

well as they ? " 
"Fervently," exclaimed the keeper, "fervently, I trust he 

may." 

" He to die," resumed the bishop. " He a mortal like to vs ? 
D^ath was not for him intended, though commums omnibus ; 
Keeper, you are irreligious, for to talk and cavil thus. 

"With his wondrous skill in healing ne'er a doctor can 

compete, 
.loathsome lepers, if he touch them, start up clean upon 

their feet ; 
riurely he could raise the dead up, did his Highness think it 

meet. 



Thackeray's literary career. 85 

"Did not once the Jewish captain stay the sun upon the hill, 
And, the while he slew the foemen, hid the silver moon stand 

stiU? 
So, no douht, could gracious Canute, if it were his sacred 

will." 

" Might I stay the sun above us, good Sir Bishop ? " Canute 

cried ; 
"Could I bid the silver moon to pause upon her heavenly 

ride? 
If the moon obeys my orders, sure I can command the tide. 

" Will the advancing waves obey me, bishop, if I make tlie 

sign ? " 
Said the bishop, bowing lowly, "Land and sea, my lord, are 

thine." 
Canute turned towards the ocean, — " Back ! " he said, 

"thou foaming brine. 

"From the sacred shore I stand on, I command thee to 

retreat ; 
Venture not, thou stormy rebel, to approach thy master's 

seat ; 
Ocean, be thou still ! I bid thee come not nearer to my 

feet ! " 

But the sullen ocean answered with a louder, deeper roar. 
And the rapid waves drew nearer, falling sounding on the 

shore ; 
Back the keeper and the bishop, back the king and courtiers 

bore. 

And he sternly bade them never more to kneel to human 

clay. 
But alone to praise and worship that which earth and seas 

obey ; 
And his golden crown of empire never wore he from that 

day. 
King Cflnute is dead and gone : parasites e.vist alway. 



86 Thackeray's literary career. 

We must say a few words ou his merits as an ar- 
tist and a critic of art. We can hardly agree with 
those who hold that he failed as an artist, and then 
took to his pen. There is no proof of failure ; his 
art accomplishes all he sets it to. Had he, instead 
of being a gentleman's son, brought up at the Char- 
ter-house and Cambridge, been born in the parish 
of St. Bartholomew the Great, and apprenticed, let 
us say, when thirteen years old, to Raimbach the 
engraver, we might have had another, and in some 
ways a subtler Hogarth. He diaws well; his 
moutbs and noses, his feet, his children's heads, all 
his ugly and queer "mugs," are wonderful for ex- 
pression and good drawing. With beauty of man 
or woman he is not so happy ; but his fun is, we 
think, even more abounding and fim?ner in his cuts 
than in his words. The love of fun in him was 
something quite peculiar. Some writers have been 
more witty ; a few have had a more delicate humor ; 
but none, we think, have had more of that genial 
quality which is described by the homely word f/oi. 
It lay partly in imitation, as in the " Novels by 
Eminent Hands." There were few things more 
singular in his intellectual organization than the 
coincidence of absolute originality of thought and 
style with exquisite mimetic power. But it oftener 
showed itself in a pure love of nonsense, — only 
nonsense of the highest order. He was very fond 
of abandoning himself to this temper : witness the 
" Story a la Mode " in the Cornhill, some of the 



THACKERAY S LITERARY CAREER. 87 

reality-giving touches in which would have done 
credit to Gulliver. Major Gahagan is far funnier 
than Baron Munchausen ; and where is there more 
exquisite nonsense than "The Rose and the Ring," 
with the " little heggar haby that laughed and sang 
as droll as may be " ? There is much of this spirit 
in his ballads,* especially, as we have already said, 

* "We subjoin an astonisliing piece of nonsense, — a species 
of song, or ditty, which he chanted, we believe, extempore 
[in singing, each line to be repeated twice] : — 

LITTLE BILLEE. 

There were 3 sailors in Bristol city. 
Who took a boat and went to sea. 

But first with beef and captain's biscuit. 
And pickled pork they loaded she. 

There was guzzling Jack and gorging Jimmy, 
And the youngest he was Little Billee. 

. ]S'ow very soon, they were so greedy. 
They did n't leave not one split pea. 

Says guzzling Jack to gorging Jimmy, 
" I am extremely hungaree." 

Says gorging Jim to guzzling Jacky, 

" We have no provisions, so we must eat we." 

Says guzzling Jack to gorging Jimmy, 
" O gorging Jim, what a fool you be ! 

"There 's little Bill is young and tender. 
We 're old and tough, so let 's eat he. " 

" Bill, we 're going to kill and eat you. 
So undo the collar of vour chemie." 



88 Thackeray's literary career. 

the series by Pleaceman X. ; but we are inclined to 
think that it finds most scope in his drawings. We 
well remember our surprise on coming upon some 
of his earlier works for Punch. Best of aU was an 
impressive series illustrative of the following pas- 
sage in the Times of December 7, 1843 : " The 
agents of the tract societies have lately had recourse 
to a new method of introducing their tracts into 
Cadiz. The tracts were put into glass bottles se- 
curely corked ; and, taking advantage of the tide 

When Bill received this infumation 
He used Lis pocket-handkerchie. 

" let me say my catechism. 

As my poor mammy taught to me." 

" Make haste, make haste," says guzzling Jacky, 
While Jim pulled out his snickersnee. 

So Bill went up the maintop-gallant mast, 
"Where down he fell on his bended knee. 

He scarce had come to the Twelfth Commandment, 
When up he jumps, "There 's land, I see. 

•' There 's Jenisaleni and Madagascar, 
And North and South Amerikee. 

" There 's the British fleet a riding at anchor. 
With Admiral Nelson, K. C. B." 

So when they came to the admiral's vessel. 
He hanged fat Jack and flogged Jimmee. 

But as for little Bill, he made him 
The captain of a seventy-three. 



Thackeray's literary career. 89 

flowing iuto the harbor, they were committed to 
the waves, on whose surface they floated towards 
the town, where the inhabitants eagerly took them 
up on their arriving at the shore. The bottles were 
then uncorked, and the tracts they contain are sup- 
posed to have been read with much interest." The 
purpose of the series is to hold up to public odium 
the Dissenting tract-smuggler, — Tractistero dis- 
sentero contrabandistero. The first cut represents 
a sailor, " thirsty as the seaman naturally is,"' rush- 
ing through the surf to seize the bottle which has 
been bobbing towards him. '" Sherry, perhaps," he 
exclaims to himself and his friend. Second cut : 
the thirsty expectant has the bottle in position, and 
is drawing the cork, another mariner, and a little 
wondering boy, capitally drawn, looking on. '"' Rum, 
I hope," is the thought of each. Lastly we have 
the awful result : our friend holds up on the cork- 
screw to his companion and the universe " a Span- 
ish translation of the Cow-boy of Kensington Com- 
mon," with an indignant " Tracts, by jingo ! " 
Then there is John Balliol, in Miss Ticldetohys 
Lectures, ''cutting" into England on a ragged 
sheltie, which is trotting like a maniac over a series 
of bowlders, sorely discomposing the rider, Avhose 
kilt is of the shortest. Even better is the cut illus- 
trative of the ballad of " King Canute," the king 
and his courtiers on the shore, with bathing-ma- 
chines and the Union-jack in the distance ; and a 



90 Thackeray's literary career. 

most preposterous representation of the non Angl'i 
sed Angli story. "We wish Mr. Thackeray's excel- 
lent friends, the proprietors of Punch, would re- 
print all his odds aud ends, with their woodcuts. 
They will get the laughter and gratitude of mankind 
if they do. 

He is, as far as Ave recollect, the only great au- 
thor Avho illustrated his own works. This gives a 
singular completeness to the result. "When his pen 
has said its say, then comes his pencil and adds its 
own felicity. Take the original edition of the Book 
of Snohs, all those delicious Christmas little quartos, 
especially Mrs. Perkins's Ball and the Pi.ose and the 
Ping (one of the most perfectly realized ideas we 
know of), and see how complete is the duet between 
the eye and the mind, between word and figure. 
There is an etching in the Paris Sketch-Book which 
better deserves to be called " high art " than most 
of the class so called. It is Majesty in the person 
of " Le Grand Monarque " in and stripped of its ex- 
ternals, Avhich are there also by themselves. The 
lean and slippered old pantaloon is tottering peev- 
ishly on his staff, his other hand in his waistcoat 
pocket ; his head absolutely bald ; his whole aspect 
pitiable and forlorn, querulous and absurd. To his 
left is his royal self, in all his glory of high-heeled 
boots, three-storied flowing wig, his orders, aud 
sword, and all his " dread magnificence," as we 
know him in his pictures ; on his right we behold. 



Thackeray's literary career. 91 

aud somehow feel as if the old creature, too, is in 
awe of them, — his clothes, per se, — the " prop- 
erties "' of the great European actor, set ingeniously 
up, and looking as grand and much steadier than 
with him inside. The idea and the execution are 
lull of genius. The frontispiece of the same book 
contains a study of Heads, than which Hogarth 
certainly never did anything better. These explan- 
atory lines are below the picture : — 

" Numljer 1 '5 an ancient Carlist ; number 3 a Paris artist ; 
Gloomily there stands het^^-een them number 2, a Bona- 

partist ; 
In the middle is King Louis Philip standing at his ease. 
Guarded by a loyal grocer, and a serjeant of police ; 

4 '3 the people in a passion ; 6 a priest of pious mien ; 

5 a gentleman of fashion copied from a magazine." 

Xo words can do justice to the truth and power of 
this group of characters : it gives a history of France 
during the Orleans dynasty. 

We give a facsimile * of a drawing sent by him to 
a friend, with the following note : — 

'•' Behold a drawing instead of a letter. I 've been think- 
ing of writing you a beautiful one ever so long, but, etc., 
etc. And instead of doing my duty this morning, I began 
this here drawing, and will pay your debt some other day, 
— no, fart of your debt. I. intend to owe the rest, and 
like to owe it, and tliink I 'm sincerely grateful to you 
alwavs, mv dear sooJ friends. 

'^W. M. T." 

* See Troutispiece. 



92 Thackeray's literary career. 

This drawing is a good specimen of liis work ; it 
tells its own story, as every drawing slioiild. Here 
is the great lexicographer, with his ponderous, shuf- 
fling tread, his thick lips, his head bent down, his 
book close to his purblind eyes, himself totvs in illo, 
reading as he fed, greedily and fast. Beside him 
simpers the clumsy and inspired Oliver, in his new 
plum-colored coat ; his eyes bent down in an ecstasy 
of delight, for is he not far prouder of his visage, 
and such a visage ! and of his coat, than of his art- 
less genius ? We all know' about that coat, and how 
INIr. Filby never got paid for it. There he is be- 
hind his Avindow in sartorial posture, his uplifted 
goose arrested, his eye following w^istfully, and not 
without a sense of glory and dread, that coat and 
man. His journeyman is grinning at him ; he is 
paid Aveekly, and has no risk. And then what a 
genuine bit of Thackeray, the street boy and his 
dear little admiring sister ! — there they are, step- 
ping out in mimicry of the great two. Observe 
the careful, honest Avork, and how the turn of the 
left foot of the light-hearted and heeled gamin, — 
whose toes, much innocent of shoes, have a prehen- 
sile look about them, suggestive of the Huxley 
gi-andfather, — is corrected, as also Dr. Goldsmith's. 
He could never let anything remain if it was un- 
true. 

It would not be easy to imagine better criticisms 
of art than those from Mr. Thackerav's hand in 



Thackeray's literary career. 93 

Fraser, in Punch, in a kindly and beautiful paper 
on our inimitable John Leech in the Quarterly, in 
a Roundabout on Rubens, and throughout his sto- 
ries, — especially the Neiocomes, — wherever art 
conies in. He touches the matter to the quick, — 
and touches nothing else ; and, while sensitive to 
all true and great art, he detects and detests all that 
is false or mean. He is not so imaginative, not so 
impassioned anA glorious, not so amazing in illus- 
tration, and in painting better than pictures, as Mr. 
Ruskin, who has done more for art and its true in- 
terests than all other writers. But he is more to 
be trusted because he is more objective, more cool, 
more critical in the true sense. He sees everything 
by the lumen siccum, though it by no means follows 
that he does not feel as well as see ; but here, as in 
everything else, his art " has its seat in reason, and 
is judicious." Here is his description of Tm-ner's 
Old Temeraire, from a paper on the Royal Academy 
in Fraser. We can give it no higher praise than 
that it keeps its own with Ruskin's -. — 

"I must request you to turn your attention to a noble 
river piece, by J. W. M. Turner, Esq., R. A., ' The Fighting 
Temeraire,' as grand a painting as ever figured on the -walls 
of any academy, or came from the easel of any painter. 
Tlie old Temeraire is dragged to her last home by a little, 
spiteful, diabolical steamer. A mighty red sun, amidst a host 
of flaring clouds, sinks to rest on one side of the picture, 
and illumines a river that seems interminable, and a count- 
less navy that fades away into such a wonderful distance as 



94 Thackeray's literary career. 

never was painted before. The little demon of a s^eaoier 
is belching out a volume (.why do 1 say a volume V not a hun- 
dred volumes could express it) of foul, lurid, red-hot, .malig- 
nant smoke, paddling furiously, and lashing up the weter 
round about it; while behind it (a cold, gray moon looking 
down on it), slow, siad, and majestic, follows the brave old 
ship, with death, as it v^cre, written on her it is ab- 
surd, you will say isnd with a great deal of reason), for Tit- 
marsh or any other Briton to grow so politically enthusiastic 
aijout a four-foot ci/ivas, representing a ship, a steamer, a 
river, and a sunset. Rut herein surely lies the power of the 
great artist, lie makes you see and think of a great deal 
more than the objects before you ; he knows how to soothe 
or to intoxicate, to hre o'c to depress, by a few notes, oi 
forms, or colors, of whica we v~:annot trace the eftect to the 
source, but only acknowledge the power. I recollect some 
years ago, at the theatre at AVeiniar, hearing Beethoven's 
' Battle of Vittoria,' in which, amidst the storm of glorious 
music, the air of 'God save the King' was introduced. 
Tlie very instant it begun, every Englishman in the house 
was bolt upright, and so stood reverently until the air was 
played out. Why so ? rroin some such thrill of excitement 
as makes us glow and rejoice over Mr. Turner and his 
' Fighting Temeraire,' which I am sure, when the art of 
translating colors into poetry or music shall be discovered, 
will be found to be a magniticent national ode or piece of 
music." 

When speaking of T/ie Slave Ship by the same 
amazing artist, he says, with delightful naivete : " I 
don't know whether it is sublime or ridiculous," — 
a characteristic instance of his outspoken truthful- 
ness ; and he lays it down that the '' first quality of 
an artist is to have a large heart," believing that all 
art, all imaginative work of the highest order, must 



Thackeray's literary career. 95 

originate iu and be addressed to the best powers of 
the soul, must " submit the shows of things to the 
desires of the mind." 

Mr. TroUope says, in the Cornhill for this Feb- 
niary, "that which the world will most want to 
know of Thackeray is the eflfect which his writings 
have produced." In one sense of the word, the 
world is not likely ever to find this out ; it is a 
matter which each man must detennine for himself. 
But the world can perhaps ascertain what special 
services Mr. Thackeray has rendered ; and it is this 
probably which jNIr. TroUope means. His great 
service has been in his exposure of the prevailing 
faults of his time. Among the foremost are the 
faults of affectation and pretence, but there is one yet 
more grievous than these, - — • the sceptical spirit of 
the age. This he has depicted in the gentlest and 
saddest of all his books, Pendennis : — 

"And it will be seen that the lamentable stage to -wliich 
his logic at present has brought him" (Arthur Pendennis) 
" is one of general scepticism and sneering acquiescence in 
tlie world as it is ; or if you like so to call it, a belief quali- 
fied with scorn in all things extant And to what does 

this easy and sceptical life lead a man ? Friend Arthur was 
a Sadducee, and the Baptist might be in the wilderness 
shouting to the poor, who were listening with all their 
might and faith to the preacher's awful accents and denun- 
ciations of wrath or woe or salvation ; and our friend the 
Sadducee would turn his sleek mule with a shrug and a 
smile from the crowd, and go liome to the shade of his ter- 
race, and muse over preacher and audience, and tiu'n to his 



96 Thackeray's literary career. 

roll of Plato, or his pleasant Greek song-book babbling of 
honey and Hybla, and nymphs and fountains and love. To 
what, -vve say, does this scepticism lead? It leads a man to 
a shameful loneliness and selfishness, so to speak, — the 
more shameful because it is so good-humored and conscience- 
less and serene. Conscience! What is conscience ? Why 
accept remorse ? What is public or private faith ? Myth- 
uses alike enveloped in enormous tradition." 

The delineation is not a pleasant one, but it is 
true. The feeling hardly deserves to be called scep- 
ticism ; it is rather a calm indiffcrentism, a putting 
aside of all things sacred. And as the Sadducees of 
Judsea were, on the -whole, better men than the 
Pharisees, so this modern Sadducean feeling pre- 
vails not only among the cultivated classes, but 
among those conspicuously honorable and upright. 
These men, in fact, want spiritual guides and teach- 
ers. The clergy do not supply this want ; most of 
them refuse to acknowledge its existence ; Mr. 
Thackeray, Avith his fearless truthfulness, sees it and 
tells it. To cure it is not within his province. As 
a lay-preacher, only the secondary principles of mo- 
rality are at his command. " Be each, pray God, a 
gentleman," is his highest sanction. But though 
he cannot tell the afflicted whither to turn, it is no 
slight thing to have laid bare the disorder from 
which so many suffer, and which all, with culpable 
cowardice, study to conceal. And he does more 
than lay bare the disorder ; he convinces us how 
serious it is. He does this bv showing us its evil 



THACKERAY S LITERARY CAREER. \)i 

effect on a good and kindly nature. Xo teaching 
can be more impressive than the contrast between 
Pendennis under the influence of this sceptical 
spirit, and Harrington, over whom, crushed as he 
is by hopeless misfortune, it has no power. 

The minor vices of aff"ectation and pretension he 
assails directly. To do this was his especial mission 
from the first. What success may have attended 
his efforts we cannot certainly tell. It is to be 
feared, however, that, despite his teaching, snobs, 
like poverty, will never cease out of the land. But 
all who feel guilty, — and every one of us is guilty 
more or less, — and who desire to amend, should 
use the means : the " Book of Snobs " should be 
read carefully at least once a year. His was not 
the hortatoiy method. He had no notion that much 
could be done by telling people to be good. He 
found it more telling to show that by being other- 
wise they were in danger of becoming unhappy, 
ridiculous, and contemptible. Yet he did not alto- 
gether neglect positive teaching. Many passages 
might be taken from his works — even from the 
remorseless "Book of Snobs" itself — which in- 
culcate the beauty of goodness ; and the whole ten- 
dency of his writings, from the first to the last line, 
he penned during a long and active literary life, has 
invariably been to inspire reverence for manliness 
and purity and truth. And to sum up all, in rep- 
rrs'utirg a ter his measure the characteristics of the 



98 Thackeray's literaey career. 

age, Mr. Thackeray has discharged one of the high- 
est functions of a Avriter. His keen insight into 
modern life has enabled him to show his readers 
that life fully ; his honesty and high tone of mind 
has enabled him to do this truly. Hence he is the 
healthiest of writers. In his pages we find no false 
stimulus, no pernicious ideals, no vulgar aims. We 
are led to look at things as they really are, and to 
rest satisfied with our place among them. Each 
man learns that he can do much if he preserves 
moderation ; that if he goes beyond his proper 
sphere he is good for nothing. He teaches us to 
find a fitting field for action in our peculiar studies 
or business, to reap lasting happiness in the affec- 
tions which are common to all. Our vague long- 
ings are quieted ; our foolish ambitions checked ; we 
are soothed into contentment Avith obscurity, — en- 
couraged in an honest determination to do our duty. 
A "Roundabout Paper" on the theme Nil nisi 
bo7inm concludes thus : — 

" Here arc two literary men gone to their account ; and, 
lans Deo, as far as we know, it is fair, and open, and clean. 
Here is no need of apologies for shortcomings, or expla- 
nations of vices which would have been virtues but for 
unavoidable, etc. Here are two examples of men most dif- 
ferently gifted: each pursuing his calling; each speaking 
his truth as God bade him ; each honest in his life ; just and 
irreproachable in his dealings ; dear to his friends ; honored 
by his country; beloved at his fireside. It has been the 
fortunate lot of both to give incalculable happiness and 
delight to the world, which thanks tliem in return with an 



THACKERA'X'S LITERARY CAREER. 99 

immense kindliness, respect, aifection. It may not 1)e our 
chance, brotlier-scribe, to be endowed witli such merit or 
rewarded with such fame. But the rewards of these men 
are rewards paid to our service. We may not win the baton 
or epaulettes ; but God give us strength to guard the honor 
of the flag ! " 

The prayer was granted : he had strength given 
liim always to guard the honor of the flag ; and 
now his name is worthy to be placed beside the 
names of Washington Irving and Lord Macaulay, 
as of one no whit less deserving the praise of these 
noble words. 

We have seen no satisfactory portrait of Mr. 
Thackeray. We like the photographs better than 
the prints ; and we have an old daguerreotype of 
him without his spectacles which is good ; but no 
photograph can give more of a man than is in any 
one ordinary — often very ordinaiT — look of him; 
it is only Sir Joshua and his brethren who can 
paint a man liker than himself. Lawrence's first 
drawing has much of his thoroughbred look, but 
the head is too much tossed up and nif. The pho- 
tograph from the later drawing by the same hand 
we like better : he is alone, and reading with his 
book close up to his eyes. This gives the prodig- 
ious size and solidity of his head, and the sweet 
mouth. We have not seen that by Mr. Watts, but, 
if it is as full of power and delicacy as his Tenny- 
son, it will be a comfort. 

Though in no sense a selfish man, he had a won- 



100 Thackeray's literary career. 

derful interest in himself as au object of study, and 
nothing could be more delightful and unlike any- 
thing else than to listen to him on himself. He 
often draws his own likeness in his books. In the 
" Fraserians," by Maclise, in Fmser, is a slight 
sketch of him in his unknown youth ; and there 
is an excessively funny and not unlike extravaganza 
of him by Doyle or Leech, in the Month, a little 
short-lived periodical, edited by Albert Smith. He 
is represented lecturing, when certainly he looked 
his best. We give below what is like him in face 
as well as in more. The tired, young, kindly wag 




is sitting and looking into space, his mask and his 
jester's rod lying idly on his knees. 

The foregoing estimate of his genius must stand 
instead of any special portraiture of the man. Yet 
we would mention two leading traits of character 
traceable, to a large extent, in his works, though 
finding no appropriate place in a literary criticism 



Thackeray's literary i areeh. 101 

of them. One was the deep steady melaucholy of 
his nature. He was fond of telling how on one 
occasion, at Paris, he found himself in a great 
crowded salon ; and looking from the one end 
across the sea of heads, being in Swift's place of 
calm in a crowd,* he saw at the other end a strange 
visage, staring at hira with an expression of comi- 
cal woebegoneness. After a little he found that 
this rueful being was himself in the miiTor. He 
was not, indeed, morose. He was alive to and 
thankful for every-day blessings, great and small : 
for the happiness of heme, for friendship, for wit 
and music, for ber-ty of all kinds, for the pleas- 
ures of the " faithful old gold pen " ; now running 
into some felicitous expression, now playing itself 
into some droll initial letter; uay, even for the 
creature comforts. But his persistent state, es- 
pecially for the later half of his life, was pro- 
foundly niorne, — there is no other word for it. 
This arose in part from temperament, from a quick 
sense of the littleness and wretchedness of man- 
kind. His keen perception of the meanness and 
vulgarity of the realities around him contrasted 
with the ideal present to his mind could produce 
no other effect. This feeling, embittered by disap- 
pointment, acting on a harsh and savage nature, 
ended in the sava indigna.tio of Swift ; acting ou 

* " An inch or two above it." 



102 Thackeray's literary career. 

the kindly and too sensitive natui'e of Mr. Thack- 
eray, it led only to compassionate sadness. In part, 
too, this melancholy was the result of private ca- 
lamities. He alludes to these often in his Avritings 
and a knowledge that his sorrows were great is 
necessary to the perfect appreciation of much of 
his deepest pathos. We allude to them here, pain- 
ful as the subject is, mainly because they have given 
rise to stories, — some quite untrue, some even 
cruelly injurious. The loss of his second child in 
infancy was al\va3s an abiding sorrow, — described 
in the " Hoggarty Diamond," in a passage of sur- 
passing tenderness, too sacred to be severed from 
its context. A yet keener and more constantly 
present affliction was the illness of his wife. He 
married her in Paris when he was "mewing his 
mighty youth," preparing for the great career which 
awaited him. One likes to think on these early 
days of happiness, when he could draw and write 
with that loved compauion by his side : he has him- 
self sketched the picture : " The humblest painter, 
be he ever so poor, may have a friend watching at 
his easel, or a gentle wife sitting by with her work 
in her lap, and with fond smiles or talk or silence, 
cheering his labors." After some years of mar- 
riage, Mrs. Thackeray caught a fever, brought on 
by imprudent exposure at a time when the effects 
of such ailments are more than usually lasting both 
on the svstem and the nerves. She never after- 



Thackeray's literary career. 103 

wards recovered so as to be able to be Aviih her 
husband and children. But she has been from the 
first intrusted to the good offices of a kind family, 
tenderly cared for, surrounded with every comfort 
by his unwearied affection. The beautiful lines in 
the ballad of the '"' Bouillabaisse " are well known : — 

" Ah me ! how quick tlic days are flitting ! 

1 mind me of a time that 's gone, 
When here I 'd sit as now I 'm sitting, 

In this same j^lace, — but not alone. 
A fair young form was nestled near me, 

A dear, dear face looked fondly up, 
And sweetly spoke and smiled to cheer mc, 

— There 's no one now to share my cup." 

In one of the latest Roundabouts we have this 
touching confession : " I own for my part that, in 
reading pages which this hand penned formerly, I 
often lose sight of the text under my eyes. It is 
not the words I see ; but that past day ; that by- 
gone page of life's history ; that tragtdy, comedy 
it may be, which our little home-company was en- 
acting; that merry-making Avhich wc shared; that 
funeral which we followed ; that bitter, bitter grief 
which we buried." But all who knew him know 
well, and love to recall, how these sorrows were 
soothed and his home made a place of happiness by 
his two daughters and his mother, who were his 
perpetual companions, delights, and blessings, and 
whose feeling of inestimable loss now will be best 



104 Thackeray's literary career. 

borne and comforted by remembering how they 
were everything to him, as he was to them. 

His sense of a higher Power, his reverence and 
godly fear, is felt more than expressed — as indeed 
it mainly should always be — ■ in everything he 
wrote. It comes out at times quite suddenly, and 
stops at once, in its full strength. We could read- 
ily give many instances of this. One we give, as 
it occurs very early, when he was probably little 
more than six-and-twenty ; it is from the paper, 
" Madame Sand and the New Apocalypse." Refer- 
ring to Henri Heine's frightful Avords, '"' Bieu qui se 
menrt,'' " Dieu est mort," and to the Avild godless- 
ness of Spiridion, he thus bursts out : "0 awful, 
awful name of God ! Light unbearable ! mysteiy 
unfathomable! vastness immeasurable! "Who are 
these who come forward to explain the mystery, 
and gaze unblinking into the depths of the light, 
and measure the immeasurable vastness to a hair ? 
O name that God's people of old did fear to utter ! 
O light that God's prophet would have perished 
had he seen ! who are these now so familiar with 
it'?" In ordinary intercourse the same sudden 
'• Te Beum " would occur, always brief and intense, 
like lightning from a cloudless heaven ; he seemed 
almost ashamed, — not of it, but of his giving it 
expression. 

"We cannot resist here recalling one Sunday even- 
ing in December, when he was walking with two 



Thackeray's literary career. 105 

friends along the Dean road, to the west of Edin- 
burgh, — one of the noblest outlets to any city. It 
was a lovely evening, — such a sunset as one never 
forgets ; a rich dark bar of cloud hovered over the 
sun, going down behind the Highland hills, lying 
bathed in amethystine bloom ; between this cloud 
and the hills there was a naiTow^ slip of the pure 
ether, of a tender cowslip color, lucid, and as if it 
were the very body of heaven in its clearness ; every 
object standing out as if etched upon the sky. The 
northwest end of Corstorphine Hill, with its trees 
and rocks, lay in the heart of this pure radiance, 
and there a wooden crane, used in the quarry below, 
was so placed as to assume the figiu-e of a cross ; 
there it was, unmistakable, lifted up against the crys- 
talline sky. All three gazed at it silently. As they 
gazed, he gave utterance in a tremulous, gentle, and 
rapid voice, to what all were feeling, in the word 
"Calvary!" The friends walked on in silence, 
and then turned to other things. All that evening 
he was very gentle and serious, speaking, as he sel- 
dom did, of divine things, — of death, of sin, of 
eternity, of salvation ; expressing his simple faith 
in God and in his Saviour. 

There is a passage at the close of the " Rounda- 
bout Paper," Xo. XXIII., Be Finibus, in which a 
sense of the ebb of life is very marked : the Avhole 
paper is like a soliloquy. It opens with a drawing 
of Mr. Punch, with unu^uallv mild eve. retirin? 



106 Thackeray's literary career. 

for the nigfit; he is putting out his high-heeled 
shoes, and before disappeai-ing gives a wistful look 
into the passage, as if bidding it and all else good- 
night. He will be in bed, his candle out, and in 
darkness, in five minutes, and his shoes found next 
morning at his door, the little potentate all the while 
in his final sleep. The whole paper is worth the 
most careful study ; it reveals not a little of his real 
nature, and unfolds very curiously the secret of his 
work, the vitality, and abiding power of his own 
creations; how he "invented a certain Costigan, 
out of scraps, heel-taps, odds and ends of charac- 
ters," and met the original the other day, without 
surprise, in a tavern parlor. The folloAving is beau- 
tiful : " Years ago I had a quarrel with a certain 
well-known person (I believed a statement regard- 
ing him which his friends imparted to me, and 
which turned out to be quite incorrect). To his 
dying day that quarrel was never quite made up. 1 
said to his brother, ' "Why is your brother's soul still 
dark against me ? It is I v;ho ought to be angry 
and unforgiving, for I was in the icrovg.' " Odisse 
quern tceseris was never better contravened. But 
what Ave chiefly refer to now is the profound pen- 
siveness of the following strain, as if written v.ith 
a presentiment of what was not then very far off: 
"Another Finis written : another milestone on this 
journey from birth to the next world. Sure it is a 
subject for solemn cogitation. Shall we continue 



Thackeray's literary career. 107 

this story-telling business, and be voluble to the 
end of our age ? " " Will it not be presently time, 
prattler, to hold your tongue ? " And thus he 
ends : — 

" 01), the sad old pages, the dull old pages ; oh, the cares, 
the ennui, the squabliles, the repetitions, the old conversa- 
tions over and over again I But now and again a kind 
thought is recalled, and now and again a dear memory. Yet 
a few chapters more, and then the last ; after which, behold 
Finis itself comes to an end, and the Infinite begins." 

He sent the proof of this paper to his "dear 
neighbors," in Onslow Square, to whom he owed so 
much almost daily pleasure, with his corrections, 
the whole of the last paragraph in manuscript, and 
above a first sketch of it also in MS., which is fuller 
and more impassioned. His fear of " enthusiastic 
writing" had led him, we think, to sacrifice some- 
thing of the sacred power of his first words, which 
we give with its interlineations : — 

"Another Finis, another slice of life which Tempiis edax 
has devoured ! And I may have to write the word once or 
twice perhaps, and then an end of Ends. Finite is over, 
•ai^ TTi^Tc-l n r 'j-;,ir.:--"-.:g . Oh the troubles, the cares, the 

dispiites, 
ennui, the c-gTs-p- lk' j- ti rr- ns , the repetitions, the old conversa- 
tions over and over again, and here and there and oh the 
dehghtful passages, the dear, the brief, the forever remem- 
bered! ^i*=-tfeii A few chapters more, and then the la^t, 
and then behold Finis itself coming to an end and the Infi- 
nite beginning ! " 



108 Thackeray's literary career. 

How like music this, — like one trying the same 
air in different ways ; as it were, searching out and 
sounding all its depths. " The dear, the brief, the 
forever remembered"; these are like a bar out of 
Beethoven, deep and melancholy as the sea ! He 
had been suffering on Sunday from an old and cruel 
enemy. He fixed with his friend and surgeon to 
come again on Tuesday ; but with that dread of an- 
ticipated pain, which is a common condition of sen- 
sibility and genius, he put him off with a note from 
"yours unfaithfully, W. M. T." He went out on 
Wednesday for a little, and came home at ten. He 
went to his room, suffering much, but declining his 
man's offer to sit with him. He hated to make 
others suffer. He was heard moving, as if in pain, 
about twelve, on the eve of 

"That the happy morn, 
Wherein the Son of Heaven's eternal King, 
Of wedded maid, and virgin-mother born, 
Our great redemption from above did bring." 

Then all was quiet, and then he must have died — 
in a moment. Next morning his man went in, and 
opening the windows found his master dead, his 
arms behind his head, as if he had tried to take one 
more breath. We think of him as of our Chal- 
mers ; found dead in like manner ; the same child- 
like, unspoiled open face : the same gentle mouth ; 
the same spaciousness and softness of nature ; the 
same look of power. "What a thing to think of, — 



Thackeray's literary career. 109 

his lying there alone in the dark, in the midst of his 
own mighty London ; his mother and his daughters 
asleep, and, it may be, dreaming of his goodness. 
God help them, and us all ! AVhat would become of 
us, stumbling along this our path of life, if Ave could 
not, at our utmost need, stay ourselves on Him ? 

Long years of sorrow, labor, and pain had killed 
him before his time. It was found after death how 
little life he had to live. He looked always fresh 
Avith that abounding, silver}' hair, and his young, 
almost infantine face, but he was worn to a shadow, 
and his hands wasted as if by eighty years. "With 
him it is the end of Ends ; finite is over, and infi- 
nite begun. AVhat we all felt and feel can never be 
so well expressed as in his own words of sorrow for 
the early death of Charles Bullei- : — 

" Who kuows the inscrutable design ? 

Blest be He who took and gave ! 
"Why should your mother, Charles, not mine. 

Be weeping at her darling's grave ? 
"We bow to Heaven that willed it so, 

That darkly riiies the fate of all, 
That sends tlie respite or the blow, 

That 's free to give, or to recall." 



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