First Impressions of the English (5)

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CHAPTER XIII.


Birmingham; incessant clamour of the place—Toy-shop of Britain; serious character of the games in which its toys are chiefly employed—Museum—Liberality of the scientific English—Musical genius of Birmingham—Theory—Controversy with the Yorkers—Anecdote—The English language spoken very variously by the English; in most cases spoken very ill—English type of person—Attend a Puseyite chapel—Puseyism a feeble imitation of Popery—Popish cathedral—Popery the true resting-place of the Puseyite—Sketch of the rise and progress of the Puseyite principle; its purposed object not attained; hostility to science—English funerals.



THE sun had set ere I entered Birmingham through a long low suburb; in which all the houses seemed to have been built during the last twenty years.  Particularly tame-looking houses they are; and I had begun to lower my expectations to the level of a flat, mediocre, three-mile city of brick—a sort of manufactory in general, with offices attached—when the coach drove up through New Street, and I caught a glimpse of the Town Hall, a noble building of Anglesea marble, of which Athens in its best days might not have been ashamed.  The whole street is a fine one.  I saw the lamps lighting up under a stately new edifice—the Grammar School of King Edward the Sixth, which, like most recent erections of any pretension, either in England or among ourselves, bears the mediæval stamp: still farther on I could descry, through the darkening twilight, a Roman-looking building that rises over the market-place; and so I inferred that the humble brick of Birmingham, singularly abundant, doubtless, and widely spread, represents merely the business necessities of the place; and that, when on any occasion its taste comes to be to be displayed, it proves to be a not worse taste than that shown by its neighbours.  What first struck my ear as peculiar among the noises of a large town—and their amount here is singularly great—was what seemed to be somewhat irregular platoon firing, carried on, volley after volley, with the most persistent deliberation.  The sounds came, I was told, from the "proofing-house"—an iron-lined building, in which the gun-smith tests his musket-barrels, by giving them a quadruple charge of powder and ball, and then, after ranging them in a row, firing them from outside the apartment by means of a train.  Birmingham produces on the average a musket per minute, night and day, throughout the year: it, besides, furnishes the army with its swords, the navy with its cutlasses and pistols, and the busy writers of the day with their steel pens by the hundredweight and the ton; and thus it labours to deserve its name of the "Great Toy-shop of Britain," by fashioning toys in abundance for the two most serious games of the day—the game of war and the game of opinion-making.

    On the morrow I visited several points of interest connected with the place and its vicinity.  I found at the New Cemetery, on the north-western side of the town, where a party of Irish labourers were engaged in cutting deep into the hill-side, a good section, for about forty feet, of the Lower New Red Sandstone; but its only organisms—carbonized leaves and stems, by much too obscure for recognition—told no distinct story; and so incoherent is the enclosing sandstone matrix, that the labourers dug into it with their mattocks as if it were a bank of clay.  I glanced over the Geological Museum attached to the Birmingham Philosophical Institution, and found it, though small, beautifully kept and scientifically arranged.  It has its few specimens of New Red Sandstone fossils, chiefly Posidonomya, from the upper sandstone band which overlies the saliferous marls; but their presence in a middle place here, between the numerous fossils of the Carboniferous and Oolitic systems, serves but to show the great poverty in organic remains of the intermediate system, as developed in England.  Though of course wholly a stranger, I found free admission to both the Dudley and Birmingham Museums, and experienced, with but few exceptions, a similar liberality in my visits to all the other local collections of England which fell in my way.  We have still great room for improvement in this respect in Scotland.  We are far behind at least the laymen of England—its liberal mechanicians and manufacturers, and its cultivators of science and the arts—in the generosity with which they throw open their collections; and resemble rather that portion of the English clergy who make good livings better by exhibiting their consecrated places—not too holy, it would seem, to be converted into show-boxes—for paltry twopences and groats.  I know not a museum in Edinburgh or Glasgow, save that of the Highland Society, to which a stranger can get access at once so ready and so free as that which I obtained, in the course of my tour, to the Newcastle, Dudley, Birmingham, and British Museums.

    Almost all the larger towns of England manifest some one leading taste or other.  Some are peculiarly literary, some decidedly scientific; and the taste paramount in Birmingham seems to be a taste for music.  In no town in the world are the mechanical arts more noisy: hammer rings incessantly on anvil; there is an unending clang of metal, an unceasing clank of engines; flame rustles, water hisses, steam roars, and from time to time, hoarse and hollow over all, rises the thunder of the proofing-house.  The people live in an atmosphere continually vibrating with clamour; and it would seem as if their amusements had caught the general tone, and become noisy like their avocations. The man who for years has slept soundly night after night in the neighbourhood of a foundry, awakens disturbed if by some accident the hammering ceases: the imprisoned linnet or thrush is excited to emulation by even the screeching of a knife-grinder's wheel or the din of a copper smith's shop, and pours out its soul in music.  It seems not very improbable that the two principles on which these phenomena hinge—principles as diverse as the phenomena themselves—may have been influential in inducing the peculiar characteristic of Birmingham; that the noises of the place, grown a part of customary existence to its people—inwrought, as it were, into the very staple of their lives—exerts over them some such unmarked influence as that exerted on the sleeper by the foundry; and that, when they relax from their labours, they seek to fill up the void by modulated noises, first caught up, like the song of the bird beside the cutler's wheel or coppersmith's shop, in unconscious rivalry of the clang of their hammers and engines.  Be the truth of the theory what it may, there can be little doubt regarding the fact on which it hinges.  No town of its size in the empire spends more time and money in concerts and musical festivals than Birmingham; no small proportion of its people are amateur performers; almost all are musical critics; and the organ in its great hall, the property of the town, is, with scarce the exception of that of York, the largest in the empire, and the finest, it is said, without any exception.  But on this last point there hangs a keen controversy.

   
The Yorkers contend that their organ is both the greater and the finer organ of the two; whereas the Birminghamers assert, on the contrary, that theirs, though it may not measure more, plays vastly better.  "It is impossible," retort the Yorkers, "that it can play even equally well; nay, were it even as large and as fine an organ—which it is not—it would be inferior by a half and more, unless to an instrument such as ours you could add a Minster such as ours also."  "Ah," rejoin the Birminghamers, "fair play! organ to organ: you are coming Yorkshire over us now: the building is not in the case at issue.  You are surely conscious your instrument, single-handed, is no match for ours, or you would never deem it necessary to back it in this style by so imposing an auxiliary."  But the argument of the York controversialists I must give in their own words:—"It is worse than idle in the Birmingham people," say the authors of the "Guide to York Minster," "to boast of their organ being unrivalled: we will by and by show how much it falls short of the York organ in actual size.  But even were their instrument a fac-simile of ours, it would not avail in a comparison; for it would still lack the building, which, in the case of our magnificent cathedral, is the better half of the organ after all.  In this, old Ebor stands unrivalled among all competitors in this kingdom.  Even in the noble cathedrals that are dispersed through the country, no equal can be found to York Minster in dimensions, general proportions, grandeur of effect to the eye, and the sublimity and mellowness which it imparts to sound.  It is true, indeed, that such a building requires an instrument of vast power to fill it with sound; but when it is filled, as with its magnificent organ it now is, the effect is grand and affecting in the highest degree; and yet there are in this organ many solo stops of such beautifully vocal, soft, and varied qualities of toile, as actually to require (as they fascinatingly claim) the closest attention of the listener.  We beg it to be clearly understood that we have not the slightest intention of depreciating the real merits of the Birmingham organ, as it is confessedly a very complete and splendid instrument; but when we notice such unscrupulous violations of truth as have been so widely disseminated, we deem it a duty incumbent upon us to set the public right."

    That I might be the better able to take an intelligent part in so interesting a controversy—a controversy in which, considering the importance of the point at issue, it is really no wonder though people should lose temper—I attended a musical meeting in the Town Hall, and heard the great organ.  The room—a very large one—was well filled, and yet the organ was the solo performer; for so musical is the community, that night after night, though the instrument must have long since ceased to be a novelty, it continues to draw together large audiences, who sit listening to it for hours.  I have unluckily a dull ear, and, in order to enjoy music, must be placed in circumstances in which I can draw largely on the associative faculty: I must have airs that breathe forth old recollections, and set me a-dreaming; and so, though neither Yorker nor Birminghamer, I may be deemed no competent authority in the organ controversy.  I may, however, at least venture to say, that the Birmingham instrument makes a considerably louder noise in its own limited sphere than that of York in the huge Minster; and that I much preferred its fine old Scotch melodies—though a country maiden might perhaps bring them out more feelingly in a green holm at a claes-lifting—to the "great Psalm-tune" of its rival.  When listening, somewhat awearied, to alternations of scientific music and the enthusiastic plaudits of the audience, I bethought me of a Birmingham musical meeting which held rather more than a century ago, and of the especial plaudit through which its memory has been embalmed in an anecdote.  One of the pieces performed on the occasion was the "Il Penseroso" of Milton set to music; but it went on heavily, till the well-known couplet ending


"Iron tears down Pluto's cheek"


at once electrified the meeting.  "Iron tears!"  "Iron tears!"  Could there be anything finer or more original?  Tears made of iron were the only kind of iron articles not manufactured in Birmingham.

    I visited the Botanic Gardens in the neighbourhood, but found them greatly inferior to those of Edinburgh; and made several short excursions into the surrounding country, merely to ascertain, as it proved, that unless one extends one's walk some ten or twelve miles into the Dudley, Hagley, Droitwich, or Hales Owen districts, there is not a great deal worth seeing to be seen.  Still, it was something to get the eye familiarized with the externals of English life, and to throw one's-self in the way of those chance opportunities of conversation with the common people, which loiterings by the lanes and road-sides present.  My ear was now gradually becoming acquainted with the several varieties of the English dialect, and my eye with the peculiarities of the English form and countenance.  How comes it that in Great Britain, and I suppose, everywhere else, every six or eight square miles of area, nay, every little town or village, has its own distinguishing intonations, phrases, modes of pronunciation, in short, its own style of speaking the general language, almost always sufficiently characteristic to mark its inhabitants?  There are not two towns or counties in Scotland that speak Scotch after exactly the same fashion; and I now found in the sister country, varieties of English quite as marked, parcelled out into geographical patches as minute.  In workmen's barracks, where parties of mechanics, gathered from all parts of the country, spend the greater part of a twelvemonth together at a time, I have, if I mistake not, marked these colloquial peculiarities in the forming.  There are few men who have not their set phrases and forms of speech, acquired inadvertently, in most cases at an early period, when the habit of giving expression to their ideas is in the forming—phrases and set forms which they learn to use a good deal oftener than the necessities of their thinking require; and I have seen, in the course of a few months, the peculiarities of this kind of some one or two of the more intelligent and influential mechanics of a party, caught all unwittingly by almost all its members, and thus converted, to a considerable extent, into peculiarities of the party itself; and peculiar tones, inflections, modes of pronunciation, at first, mayhap, chance-derived seem at least equally catching.  A single stuttering boy has been known to infect a whole class; and no young person, with the imitative faculty active within him, ever spent a few months in a locality distant from his home, without bringing back with him, on his return, a sensible twang of its prevalent intonations and idioms.  Of course, when the language of a town or district differs greatly from that of the general standard of the country, or very nearly approximates to it, there must have been some original cause of the peculiarity, which imparted aim and object to the imitative faculty.  For instance, the Scotch spoken in Aberdeen differs more from the pure English standard than that of any other town in Scotland; whereas the Scotch spoken in Inverness, if Scotch it may be called, most nearly approximates to it; and we may detect a producing cause in both cases.  The common dialect of Inverness, though now acquired by the ear, was originally, and that at no very remote period, the book-taught English of an educated Celtic people, to whom Gaelic was the mother tongue; while in Aberdeen—one of the old seats of learning in the country, and which seems to have been brought, in comparatively an early age, under the influence of the ancient Scotch literature—the language of Barbour [16] and Dunbar got a firm lodgment among the educated classes, which, from the remoteness of the place, the after influence of the English Court served but tardily to affect.  Obviously, in some other cases, the local peculiarity, when it involves a marked departure from the existing standard, has to be traced, not to literature, but to the want of it.  But at least the great secondary cause of all such peculiarities—the invariable, ever-operative cause in its own subordinate place—seems to be that faculty of unconscious imitation universally developed in the species, which the philosophic Hume deemed so actively operative in the formation of national character, and one of whose special vocations it is to transfer personal traits and characteristics from leading, influential individuals, to septs and communities.  Next to the degree of surprise that a stranger feels in England that the language should be spoken so variously by the people, is that of wonder that it should in most cases be spoken so ill.  Lord Nugent, in remarking, in his "Lands Classical and Sacred," that "the English language is the one which, in the present state of the habitable globe—what with America, India, and Australia—is spoken by the greatest number of people," guards his statement by a sly proviso; that is, he adds, if we recognise as English "what usually passes for such in most parts of Scotland and the United States."  Really, his Lordship might not have been so particular.  If the rude dialects of Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Northumberland, stand muster as part and parcel of the language written by Swift and Addison, and spoken by Burke and Bolingbroke, that of old Machar and Kentucky may be well suffered to pass.

    I had entered a considerable way into England ere I was struck by the peculiarities of the English face and figure.  There is no such palpable difference between the borderers of Northumberland and those of Roxburghshire, as one sometimes marks in the inhabitants of contiguous counties in Scotland itself; no such difference, for instance, as obtains between the Celtic population of Sutherland, located on the southern side of the Ord Hill, and the Scandinavian population of Caithness, located on its northern side.  But as the traveller advances on the midland counties, the English cast of person and countenance becomes very apparent.  The harder frame and thinner face of the northern tribes disappear shortly after one leaves Newcastle; and one meets, instead, with ruddy, fleshy, compactly-built Englishmen, of the true national type.  There is a smaller development of bone; and the race, on the average, seem less tall; but the shoulders are square and broad, the arms muscular, and the chest full; and if the lower part of the figure be not always in keeping with the upper, its inferiority is perhaps rather an effect of the high state of civilization at which the country has arrived, and the consequent general pursuit of mechanical arts that have a tendency to develop the arms and chest, and to leave the legs and thighs undeveloped, than an original peculiarity of the English as a race.  The English type of face and person seems peculiarly well adapted to the female countenance and figure; and the proportion of pretty women to the population—women with clear fair complexions, well-turned arms, soft features, and fine busts—seems very great.  Even the not very feminine employment of the naileresses of Hales Owen, though hereditary in their families for generations, has failed to render their features coarse or their forms masculine.  To my eye, however, my countrymen—and I have now seen them in almost every district of Scotland—present an appearance of rugged strength which the English, though they take their place among the more robust European nations, do not exhibit; and I find the carefully-constructed tables of Professor Forbes, based on a large amount of actual experiment, corroborative of the impression.  As tested by the dynamometer, the average strength of the full-grown Scot exceeds that of the full-grown Englishman by about one-twentieth—to be sure, no very great difference, but quite enough in a prolonged contest, hand to hand, and man to man, with equal skill and courage on both sides, decidedly to turn the scale.  The result of the conflict at Bannockburn, where, according to Barbour, steel rung upon armour in hot close fight for hours, and at Otterburn, where, according to Froissart, the English fought with the most obstinate bravery, may have a good deal hinged on this purely physical difference.

    I attended public worship on the Sabbath, in a handsome chapel, in connexion with the Establishment, which rises in an outer suburb of the town.  There were many conversions taking place at the time from Puseyism to Popery; almost every newspaper had its new list; and as I had learned that the clergyman of the chapel was a high, Puseyite, [Ed.—An Anglican High Churchman, so called after Dr. Pusey of Oxford] I went to acquaint myself, at first hand, with the sort of transition faith that was precipitating so much of the altered Episcopacy of England upon Rome.  The clergyman was, I was told, a charitable, benevolent man, who gave the poor proportionally much out of his little—for his living was a small one—and who was exceedingly diligent in the duties of his office; but his congregation, it was added, had sadly fallen away.  The high Protestant part of it had gone off when he first became decidedly a Puseyite; and latterly, not a few of his warmer friends had left him for the Popish Cathedral on the other side of the town.  The hive ecclesiastical had cast off its two swarms—its best Protestants and its best Puseyites.  I saw the clergyman go through the service of the day, and deemed his various Puseyitic emendations rather poor things in a pictorial point of view.  They reminded me—for the surrounding atmosphere was by much too clear—of the candle-light decorations of a theatre, when submitted to the blaze of day, in all the palpable rawness of size and serge, ill jointed carpentry, and ill-ground ochre.  They seemed sadly mistimed, too, in coming into being in an age such as the present; and reminded one of maggots developed into flies by artificial heat amid the chills of winter.  The altar stood in the east end of the building; there was a golden crucifix inwrought in the cloth which covered it; and directly over, a painting of one of our Saviour's miracles, and a stained window.  But the tout ensemble was by no means striking; it was merely fine enough to make one miss something finer.  The clergyman prayed with his back to the people; but there is nothing grand in the exhibition of a back where a face should be.  He preached in a surplice, too; but a surplice is a poor enough thing in itself, and in no degree improves a monotonous discourse.  And the appearance of the congregation was as little imposing as that of the service: the great bulk of the people seemed drowsily inattentive.  The place, like a bed of residuary cabbage-plants twice divested of its more promising embryos, had been twice thinned of its earnestness—first of its Protestant earnestness, which had flowed over to the meeting-house and elsewhere—next of its Puseyite earnestness, which had dribbled out into the Cathedral; and there had been little else left to it than a community of what I shall venture to term cat-Christians—people whose attachments united them, not to the clergyman or his doctrines, but simply, like those of the domestic cat, to the walls of the building.  The chapel contained the desk from which their banns had been proclaimed, and the font in which their children had been baptized; and the corner in which they had sat for so many years was the only corner anywhere in England in which they could fairly deem themselves "at church."  And so there were they to be found, Sabbath after Sabbath, regardless of the new face of doctrine that flared upon them from the pulpit.  The sermon, though by no means striking as a piece of composition or argument, was fraught with its important lesson.  It inscribed the "Do this and live" of the abrogated covenant, so congenial to the proud confidence of the unsubdued human heart, on a substratum of that lurking fear of unforgiving trespass, not less natural to man, which suggests the mediation of the merely human priest, the merit of penance, and the necessity of the confessional.  It represented man as free to will and work out his own salvation; but exhibited him also as a very slave, because he had failed to will and to work it.  It spoke of a glorious privilege, in which all present had shared—the privilege of being converted through baptism; but left every one in doubt whether, in his individual case, the benefit had not been greatly more than neutralized by transgression since committed, and whether he were not now in an immensely more perilous state of reprobation than if he had never been converted.  Such always is the vaulting liberty of a false theology, when held in sincerity.  Its liberty invariably "overleaps itself, and falls on the other side."  It is a liberty which "gendereth to bondage."

    I next visited the Popish Cathedral, and there I found in perfection all that Puseyism so palpably wanted.  What perhaps first struck was the air of real belief—of credulity all awake and earnest—which characterized the congregation.  The mind, as certainly as the body, seemed engaged in the kneelings, the bowings, the responses, the crossings of the person, and the dippings of the finger-tip in the holy water.  It was the harvest season, and the passages of the building were crowded with Irish reapers—a ragged and many-patched assemblage.  Of the corresponding class in England and Scotland, Protestantism has no hold—they have broken loose from her control; but Popery in Ireland has been greatly more fortunate: she is peculiarly strong in the ignorant and the reckless, and formidable in their possession.  In the services of the Cathedral everything seemed in keeping.  The altar, removed from the congregation by an architectural screen, and enveloped in a dim obscurity, gave evidence, in its picturesque solemnity—its twinkling lights and its circling incense—that the church to which it belonged had fully mastered the principles of effect.  The musically modulated prayer, sounding in the distance from within the screen—the imposing procession—the mysterious genuflexions and frequent kneelings—the sudden music, rising into paroxysms of melody in the crises of the passing ceremony—the waving of the smoking censer—the tolling of the great bell at the elevation of the host—all spoke of the accumulative art of more than a thousand years.  The trick of scenic devotion had been well caught—the theatric religion that man makes for himself had been skilfully made.  The rites of Puseyism seem but poor shadows in comparison—mere rudimentary efforts in the way of design, that but serve to beget a taste for the higher style of art.  I did not wonder that such of the Puseyites of the chapel as were genuine admirers of the picturesque in religion should have found their way to the Cathedral.

    In doctrine, however, as certainly as in form and ceremony, the Romish Church constitutes the proper resting-place of the Puseyite.  The ancient Christianity, as it exists in the Anglican Church, is a mere inclined slide, to let him down into it.  It furnishes him with no doctrinal resting-place of its own.  In every form of Christianity in which men are earnest, there must exist an infallibitity somewhere.  By the Episcopalian Protestant, as by the Presbyterian, that infallibility is recognised as resting in the Scriptures; and by the consistent Papist that infallibility is recognised as resting in the Church.  But where does the infallibility of the Puseyite rest?  Not in the Scriptures; for, repudiating the right of private judgment, he is necessarily ignorant of what the Scriptures truly teach.  Not in tradition; for he has no trustworthy guide to show him where tradition is right, or where wrong.  Not in his church; for his church has no voice; or, what amounts to exactly the same thing, her voice is a conflicting gabble of antagonistic sounds.  Now one bishop speaks after one fashion—now another bishop speaks after another—and anon the Queen speaks, through the ecclesiastical courts, in tones differing from them all.  Hence the emphatic complaint of Mr. Ward, in the published letter in which he assigns his reasons for entering the communion of Rome: "He can find," he says, "no teaching" in the English Church; and, repudiating, as he does, the right of private judgment, there is logic in his objection.  "If we reverence," he argues, "the fact of the apostolicity of creeds on the authority of the English Church, so far as we do not believe the English Church to be infallibly directed, exactly so far we do not believe the creeds to be infallibly true."  Consistent Puseyism can find its desiderated infallibility in Rome only.

    The rise and progress of this corruption in the Church of England promises to form a curious episode in the ecclesiastical history of the age.  It is now rather more than ten years since Whiggism, yielding to the pressure of re-invigorated Popery, suppressed the ten Irish bishoprics, and a body of politic churchmen met to deliberate how best, in the future, such deadly aggressions on their church might be warded off.  They saw her unwieldy bulk lying in a state of syncope before the spoiler; and concluded that the only way to save was to rouse and animate her, by breathing into her some spirit of life.  Unless they succeeded in stirring her up to defend herself, they found defence would be impracticable; it was essential to the protection of her goods and chattels that she should become a living soul, too formidable to be despoiled; and, in taking up their line of policy, they seem to have set themselves as coolly to determine respecting the nature and kind of spirit which they should breathe into her, as if they were a conclave of chemists deliberating regarding the sort of gas with which a balloon was to be inflated.  They saw two elements of strength in the contemporary churches, and but two only—the Puritanic and the Popish element; and, making their choice between them, they selected the Popish one, as that with which the Church of England should be animated. [17]  On some such principle, it would seem, as that through which the human body is enabled to resist, by means of the portion of the atmospheric air within, the enormous pressure of the atmospheric air without, strength was sought in an internal Popery from the pressure of the aggressive Popery outside.  An extensive and multifarious machinery was set in motion, in consequence of the determination, with the scarce concealed design of "unprotestantizing the English Church."  Ceremonies less imposing than idle were introduced into her services; altars displaced at the Reformation were again removed to their prescribed site in the east; candles were lighted at noon-day; crucifixes erected; the clergyman, after praying with his back to the people, ascended the pulpit in his surplice to expatiate on the advantages of the confessional, and the real presence in the sacrament; enticing pictures were held up to the suffering poor of the comforts and enjoyments of their class in the middle ages; and the pew-battle was fought for them, that they might be brought under the influence of the revived doctrines.  To the aristocracy, hopes were extended of a return to the old state of implicit obedience on the part of the people, and of absolute authority on the part of the people's lords.  The whole artillery of the press was set in requisition—from the novelette and poem for the young lady, and the tale for the child, to the high-priced review for the curious theologian, and the elaborate "Tract for the Times."  Nay, the first journal in the world was for a season engaged in advocating the designs of the party.  And the exertions thus made were by no means fruitless.  The unprotestantizing leaven introduced into the mass of the English Establishment began to ferment, and many of the clergy, and not a few of the laity, were infected.

    But there was a danger in thus animating with the Popish spirit the framework of the English Church, on which the originators of the scheme could not have fully calculated.  It has been long held in Scotland as one of the popular superstitions of the country, that it is a matter of extreme danger to simulate death or personate the dead.  There is a story told in the far north of a young fellow, who, going out one night, wrapped in a winding-sheet, to frighten his neighbours, was met, when passing through the parish churchyard, by a real ghost, that insisted, as their vocation was the same, on their walking together; and so terrible, says the story, was the shock which the young fellow received, that in a very few days he became a real ghost too.  There is another somewhat similar story told of a lad who had, at a lyke-wake, taken the place of the corpse, with the intention of rising in the middle of the night to terrify the watchers, and was found, when a brother wag gave the agreed signal, deaf to time; for in the interval he had become as true a corpse as the one whose stretching-board he had usurped.  Now, the original Puseyites, in dressing out their clerical brethren in the cerements of Popery, and setting them a-walking, could hardly have foreseen that many of them were to become the actual ghosts which they had decked them to simulate.  They did not know that the old Scotch superstition, in at least its relation to them, was not an idle fancy, but a sober fact; and that these personators of the dead were themselves in imminent danger of death.  Some suspicion of the kind, however, does seem to have crossed them.  Much that is peculiar in the ethics of the party appears to have been framed with an eye to the uneasinesses of consciences not quite seared, when bound down by the requirements of their position to profess beliefs of one kind, and by the policy of their party to promulgate beliefs of another—to be ostensibly Protestant, and yet to be instant in season and out of season in subverting Protestantism; in short, in the language of Mr. Ward, "to be Anglican clergymen, and yet hold Roman Catholic doctrine."  But the moral sense in earnest Puseyism is proving itself a too tender and sensitive thing to bear with the morality which politic Puseyism, ere it gathered heat and life, had prepared for its use.  It finds that the English Church is not the Church of Rome—that the Convocation is not the Vatican, nor Victoria the Pope—that it is not honest to subvert Protestantism under cloak of the Protestant name, nor to muster in its ranks, and eat its bread, when in the service of the enemy.  And so Puseyism, in its more vital scions, is fast ceasing to be Puseyism.  The newspapers still bear their lists of conversions to Rome; and thus the means so invidiously resorted to of strengthening the English Establishment against Popery, is fast developing itself into a means of strengthening Popery at the expense of the English Establishment.

    The influence on science of this medieval Christianity, so strangely revived, forms by no means the least curious part of its history.  It would appear as if the doctrine of authority, as taught by Puseyism and Popery—the doctrine of a human infallibility in religious matters, whether vested in Popes, Councils, or Churches—cannot co-exist in its integrity, as a real belief, with the inductive philosophy.  It seems an antagonist force; for wherever the doctrine predominates, the philosophy is sure to decline.  The true theologic counterpart to the inductive scheme of Bacon is that Protestant right of private judgment, which, dealing by the Word of God, as the inductive philosophy deals by the works of God, involves as its principle what may be termed the inductive philosophy of theology.  There is certainly nothing more striking in the history of the resuscitation of the mediaeval faith within the English Church, than its marked hostility to scientific truth, as exhibited in the great educational institutions of England.  Every product of a sound philosophy seems disappearing under its influence, like the fruits and flowers of the earth when the chilling frosts of winter set in.  But it is impossible to state the fact more strongly than it has been already stated by Mr. Lyell, in his lately published "Travels in America."  "After the year 1839," he says, "we may consider three-fourths of the sciences still nominally taught at Oxford to have been virtually exiled from the University.  The class-rooms of the professors were some of them entirely, others nearly deserted.  Chemistry and botany attracted, between the years 1840 and 1844, from three to seven students; geometry, astronomy, and experimental philosophy, scarcely more; mineralogy and geology, still taught by the same professor who, fifteen years before, had attracted crowded audiences, from ten to twelve; political economy still fewer; even ancient history and poetry scarcely commanded an audience; and, strange to say, in a country with whose destinies those of India are so closely bound up, the first of Asiatic scholars gave lectures to one or two pupils, and these might have been absent, had not the cherished hope of a Boden scholarship for Sanscrit induced them to attend."  I may state, in addition, on the best authority, that the geological professor here referred to—Dr. Buckland—not only one of the most eminent masters of his science, but also one of the most popular of its exponents, lectured, during his last course, to a class of three.  Well may it be asked whether the prophecy of Pope is not at length on the eve of fulfilment:—


She comes! she comes! the sable throne behold,
Of Night primeval and of Chaos old,
As, one by one, at dread Medea's strain,
The sickening stars fade off the ethereal plain—
As Argus' eyes, by Hermes' wand oppressed,
Close one by one in everlasting rest.
Thus, at her felt approach and secret might,
Art after art goes out, and all is night.


    The anti-scientific influences of the principle have, however, not been restricted to the cloisters of the University.  They have been creeping of late over the surface of English society, as that sulphurous fog, into which the arch-fiend in Milton transformed himself when he sought to dash creation into chaos, crept of old over the surface of Eden.  The singularly extended front of opposition presented last autumn by the newspaper press of England to the British Association, when holding its sittings at Southampton, and the sort of running fire kept up for weeks after on its more distinguished members—men such as Sir Roderick Murchison, Dr. Buckland, and Mr. Lyell—seem to have been an indirect consequence of a growing influence in the country on the part of the revived superstition.  One of the earliest assaults made on the Association, as hostile in its nature and tendencies to religion, appeared several years ago in the leading organ of Tractarianism, the "British Critic;" but the "Critic" in those days stood much alone.  Now, however, though no longer in the field, it has got not a few successors in the work, and its party many an active ally.  The mediæval miasma, originated in the bogs and fens of Oxford, has been blown aslant over the face of the country; and not only religious but scientific truth is to experience, it would seem, the influence of its poisonous blights and rotting mildews.

    It is not difficult to conceive how the revived superstition of the middle ages should bear no good-will to science or its institutions.  Their influences are naturally antagonistic.  The inductive scheme of interrogating nature, that takes nothing for granted, and the deferential, submissive scheme, that, in ecclesiastical matters, yields wholly to authority, and is content though nothing should be proved, cannot well co-exist in one and the same mind.  "I believe because it is impossible," says the devout Medievalist; "I believe because it is demonstrable," says the solid Baconian.  And it is scarce in the nature of things that one and the same individual should be a Baconian in one portion of his mind and a Medivevalist in another—that in whatever relates to the spiritual and ecclesiastical he should take all on trust, and in whatever relates to the visible and material, believe nothing without evidence.  The Baconian state of mind is decidedly anti-mediæval; and hence the avowed Puseyite design of unprotestantizing the English Church finds a scarce more determined enemy in the truth elicited by the enlightened and well-directed study of the Word of God, than in the habit of mind induced by the enlightened and well-directed study of the works of God.  Nor is it in any degree matter of wonder that modern Tractarianism should on this principle be an especial enemy of the British Association—an institution rendered peculiarly provoking by its peripatetic propensities.  It takes up the empire piecemeal, by districts and squares, and works its special efforts on the national mind much in the way that an agriculturist of the modern school, by making his sheepfold walk bit by bit over the area of an entire moor, imparts such fertility to the soil, that the dry unproductive heaths and mosses wear out and disappear, and the succulent grasses spring up instead.  A similar Association located in London or Edinburgh would be, to borrow from Dr. Chalmers, a scientific institute on merely the attractive scheme: men in whom the love of science had been already excited would seek it out, and derive profit and pleasure in that communion of congenial thought and feeling which it created; but it could not be regarded as a great intellectual machine for the production of men of science, and the general formation of habits of scientific inquiry.  But the peripatetic character of the Association constitutes it a scientific institute on the aggressive system.  It sets itself down every year in a new locality; excites attention; awakens curiosity; furnishes the provincial student with an opportunity of comparing the fruits of his researches with those of labours previously directed by resembling minds to similar walks of exploration; enables him to test the value of his discoveries, and ascertain their exact degrees of originality; above all, brings hundreds around him to experience an interest they never felt before in questions of science; imparts facts to them never to be forgotten, and habits of observation not to be relinquished; in short, communicates to all its members a disposition of mind exactly the reverse of that indolent and passive quiescence of mood which Puseyism so strongly inculcates by homily and novelette, on at least its lay adherents.  Truly, it is by no means strange that the revived principle, and those organs of the public press which it influences, should be determined enemies of the British Association.  It is, however, but just to add, that Tractarianism and its myrmidons have not been the only assailants.  Tractarianism first raised the fog, but not a few good simple people of the opposite party have since got bewildered in it; and, through the confusion incident on losing their way, they have fallen in the quarrel into the ranks of their antagonists, and have been doing battle in their behalf. [18]

    On quitting the Puseyite chapel, I met a funeral, the first I had seen in England.  It was apparently that of a person in the middle walks, and I was a good deal struck with its dissimilarity, in various points, to our Scotch funerals of the same class.  The coffin of planed elm, finished off with all the care usually bestowed on pieces of household furniture made of the commoner forest hardwood, was left uncoloured, save on the edges, which, like those of a mourning card, were belted with black.  There was no pall covering it; and instead of being borne on staves, or on the shoulders, it was carried, basket-like, by the handles.  An official, bearing a gilded baton, marched in front; some six or eight gentlemen in black paced slowly beside the bearers; a gentleman, and lady, in deep mourning, walked arm in arm at the coffin-head; and a boy and girl, also arm in arm, and in mourning, came up behind them.  Such was the English funeral—one of those things which, from their familiarity, are not described by the people of the country to which they belong, and which prove unfamiliar, in consequence, to the people of other countries.  On the following Monday I took an outside seat on a stage-coach, for Stratford-on-Avon.


 
CHAPTER XIV.


Drive from Birmingham to Stratford rather tame—Ancient building in a modern-looking street; of rude and humble appearance—"The Immortal Shakspere born in this house"—Description of the interior—The walls and ceiling covered with names—Albums—Shakspere, Scott, Dickens; greatly different in their intellectual stature, but yet all of one family—Principle by which to take their measure—No dramatist ever draws an intellect taller than his own—Imitative faculty—The Reports of Dickens—Learning of Shakspere—New Place—The Rev. Francis Gastrall—Stratford Church—The poet's grave; his bust; far superior to the idealized representations—The Avon—The jubilee, and Cowper's description of it—The true hero-worship—Quit Stratford for Olney—Get into bad company by the way—Gentlemen of the Fancy—Adventure.



THE drive from Birmingham, for the greater part of the way, is rather tame.  There is no lack of fields and hedge-rows, houses and trees; but from the great flatness of the country, they are doled out to the eye in niggardly detail, at the rate of about two fields and three hedge-rows at a time.  Within a few miles of Stratford-on-Avon, however, the scenery improves.  We are still on the Upper New Red Sandstone, and on this formation the town is built: but the Lias beyond shoots out, just in the line of our route, into a long promontory, capped by two insulated outliers, that, projected far in advance, form the outer piquets of the newer and higher system; and for some four or five miles ere we enter the place, we coast along the tree-mottled shores of this green headland and its terminal islands.  A scattered suburb introduces us to a rather commonplace-looking street of homely brick houses, that seem as if they had all been reared within the last half century; all, at least, save one, a rude, unsightly specimen of the oak-framed domicile of the days of Elizabeth and James.  Its walls are incrusted with staring white-wash, its beams carelessly daubed over with lamp-black; a deserted butcher's shop, of the fifth-rate class, with the hooks still sticking in the walls, and the sill-board still spread out, as if to exhibit the joints, occupies the ground-floor; the one upper storey contains a single rickety casement, with a forlorn flower-pot on the sill; and directly in front of the building there is what seems a rather clumsy signboard, hung between two poles, that bears on its weather-beaten surface a double line of white faded letters on a ground of black.  We read the inscription, and this humblest of dwellings—humble, and rather vulgar to boot—rises in interest over the palaces of kings:—"The immortal Shakspere was born in this house."  I shall first go and see the little corner his birthplace, I said, and then the little corner his burial-place: they are scarce half a mile apart; nor, after the lapse of more than two centuries, does the intervening modicum of time between the two events, his birth and his burial, bulk much larger than the modicum of space that separates the respective scenes of them; but how marvellously is the world filled with the cogitations which employed that one brain in that brief period!  Could it have been some four pounds' weight of convoluted matter, divided into two hemispheres, that, after originating these buoyant immaterialities, projected them upon the broad current of time, and bade them sail onwards and downwards for ever?  I cannot believe it: the sparks of a sky-rocket survive the rocket itself but a very few seconds.  I cannot believe that these thoughts of Shakspere, "that wander through eternity," are the mere sparks of an exploded rocket—the mere scintillations of a little galvanic battery, made of fibre and albumen, like that of the torpedo, and whose ashes would now lie in the corner of a snuff box.

    I passed through the butcher's shop, over a broken stone pavement, to a little gloomy kitchen behind, and then, under charge of the guide, up a dark narrow stair, to the low-browed room in which the poet was born.  The floor of old oak, much worn in the seams, has apparently undergone no change since little Bill, be-frocked and be-booted in woollen prepared from the rough material by the wool-comber, his father, coasted it along the walls, in bold adventure, holding on, as he went, by tables and chairs.  The ceiling, too, though unluckily covered up by modern lath and plaster, is in all probability that which stretched over the head of the boy.  It presents at least no indication of having been raised.  A man rather above the middle size may stand erect under its central beam with his hat on, but with certainly no room to spare; and it seems more than probable that, had the old ceiling been changed for another, the new one would have been heightened.  But the walls have been sadly altered.  The one window of the place is no longer that through which Shakspere first saw the light; nor is the fireplace that at which he stealthily lighted little bits of stick, and twirled them in the air, to see the fiery points converted into fiery circles.  There are a few old portraits and old bits of furniture, of somewhat doubtful lineage, stuck round the room; and, on the top of an antique cabinet, a good plaster cast of the monumental bust in the church, in which, from its greater accessibility, one can better study than in the original the external signs affixed by nature to her mind of largest calibre.  Every part of the walls and ceiling is inscribed with names.  I might add mine, if I chose, to the rest, the woman told me; but I did not choose it.  Milton and Dryden would have added theirs; he, the sublimest of poets, who, ere criticism had taken the altitude of the great writer whom he so fervently loved and admired, could address him in the fondness of youthful enthusiasm as "my Shakspere;" and he, the sympathetic critic, who first dared to determine that "of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, Shakspere had the largest and most comprehensive soul."  Messrs Wiggins and Tims, too, would have added their names; and all right.  They might not exactly see for themselves what it was that rendered Shakspere so famous; but their admiration, entertained on trust, would be at least a legitimate echo of his renown; and so their names would have quite a right to be there as representative of the outer halo—the second rainbow, if I may so express myself—of the poet's celebrity.  But I was ashamed to add mine.  I remembered that I was a writer; that it was my business to write—to cast, day after day, shavings from off my mind—the figure is Cowper's—that went rolling away, crisp and dry, among the vast heap already on the floor, and were never more heard of; and so I didn't add my name.  The woman pointed to the album, or rather set of albums, which form a record of the visitors, and said her mother could have turned up for me a great many names that strangers liked to look at; but the old woman was confined to her bed, and she, considerably less at home in the place, could show me only a few.  The first she turned up was that of Sir Walter Scott; the second, that of Charles Dickens.  "You have done remarkably well," I said; "your mother couldn't have done better.  Now, shut the book."

    It was a curious coincidence.  Shakspere, Scott, Dickens!  The scale is a descending one; so is the scale from the lion to the leopard, and from the leopard to the tiger cat; but cat, leopard, and lion, belong to one great family; and these three poets belong unequivocally to one great family also.  They are generically one; masters, each in his own sphere, not simply of the art of exhibiting character in the truth of nature—for that a Hume or a Tacitus may possess—but of the rarer and more difficult dramatic art of making characters exhibit themselves.  It is not uninstructive to remark how the peculiar ability of portraying character in this form is so exactly proportioned to the general intellectual power of the writer who possesses it.  No dramatist, whatever he may attempt, ever draws taller men than himself: as water in a bent tube rises to exactly the same height in the two limbs, so intellect in the character produced rises to but the level of the intellect of the producer.  Milton's fiends, with all their terrible strength and sublimity, are but duplicates of the Miltonic intellect united to vitiated moral natures; nor does that august and adorable being, who perhaps should not have been dramatically introduced into even the "Paradise Lost," excel as an intelligence the too daring poet by whom He is exhibited.  Viewed with reference to this simple rule, the higher characters of Scott, Dickens, and Shakspere, curiously indicate the intellectual stature of the men who produced them.  Scott's higher characters possess massive good sense, great shrewdness, much intelligence: they are always very superior, if not always great men; and by a careful arrangement of drapery, and much study of position and attitude, they play their parts wonderfully well.  The higher characters of Dickens do not stand by any means so high; the fluid in the original tube rests at a lower level; and no one seems better aware of the fact than Dickens himself.  He knows his proper walk; and, content with expatiating in a comparatively humble province of human life and character, rarely stands on tiptoe, in the vain attempt to portray an intellect taller than his own.  The intellectual stature of Shakspere rises, on the other hand, to the highest level of man.  His range includes the loftiest and the lowest characters, and takes in all between.  There was no human greatness which he could not adequately conceive and portray; whether it was a purely intellectual greatness, as in Hamlet; or a purely constitutional greatness—forceful and massive—as in Coriolanus and Othello; or a happy combination of both, as in Julius Cæsar.  He could have drawn with equal effect, had he flourished in an after period, the Lord Protector of England and the Lord Protector's Latin Secretary; and men would have recognised the true Milton in the one, and the genuine Cromwell in the other.

    It has frequently occurred to me, that the peculiar dramatic faculty—developed so prominently in these three authors, that, notwithstanding their disparities of general intellect, we regard it as constituting their generic stamp, and so range them together in one class—seems, in the main, rather a humble one, when dissociated from the auxiliary faculties that exist in the mind of genius. Like one of our Scotch pebbles, so common in some districts in their rude state that they occur in almost every mole-hill, it seems to derive nearly all its value and beauty from the cutting and the setting. A Shakspere without genius would have been merely the best mimic in Stratford. He would have caught every peculiarity of character exhibited by his neighbours—every little foible, conceit, and awkwardness—every singularity of phrase, tone, and gesture. However little heeded when he spoke in his own character, he would be deemed worthy of attention when he spoke in the character of others; for whatever else his viva voce narratives might want, they would be at least rich in the dramatic; men would recognise in his imitations peculiarities which they had failed to remark in the originals, but which, when detected by the keen eye of the mimic, would delight them as " natural, though not obvious;" and though perhaps regarded not without fear, he would, at all events, be deemed a man of infinite amusement.  But to this imitative faculty—this mere perception of the peculiarities that confer on men the stamp of individuality—there was added a world-wide invention, an intellect of vast calibre, depths unsounded of the poetic feeling, with a breadth of sympathy which embraced all nature; and the aggregate was a Shakspere.  I have seen this imitative ability, so useless in the abstract, rendered valuable by being set in very humble literary attainment—that of the newspaper reporter; and have had to estimate at a different rate of value the respective reports of gentlemen of the press, equal in their powers of memory and in general acquirement, and unequal merely in the degree in which they possessed the imitative faculty.  In the reports of the one class I have found but the meaning of the speakers; in those of the other, both the meaning and the speakers too.  Dickens, ere he became the most popular of living English authors, must have been a first-class reporter; and the faculty that made him so is the same which now leads us to speak of him in the same breath with Shakspere.  Bulwer is evidently a man of greater reflective power; but Bulwer, though a writer of novels and plays, does not belong to the Shaksperian genius.  Like those dramatists of English literature that, maugre their playwriting propensities, were not dramatic—the Drydens and Thomsons of other days—he lacks the imitative power.  By the way, in this age of books, I marvel no bookseller has ever thought of presenting the public with the Bow Street reports of Dickens.  They would form assuredly a curious work—not less so, though on a different principle, than the Parliamentary reports of Dr. Samuel Johnson.

    No one need say what sort of a building the church of Stratford-on-Avon is: no other edifice in the kingdom has half so often employed the pencil and the burine.  I may just remark, however, that it struck me at a little distance, rising among its graceful trees, beside its quiet river, as one of the finest old English churches I had yet seen.  One passes, in approaching it from the poet's birthplace, through the greater part of Stratford.  We see the town-hall, a rather homely building—the central point of the bizarre Jubilee Festival of 1769—with a niche in front, occupied by a statue of Shakspere, presented to the town by David Garrick, the grand master of ceremonies on the occasion.  We then pass a lane, which leads down to the river, and has a few things worth looking at on either hand.  There is an old Gothic chapel on the one side, with so ancient a school attached to it that it existed as such in the days of the poet's boyhood; and in this school, it is supposed, he may have acquired the little learning that served fairly to enter him on his after-course of world-wide attainment.  Little, I suppose, would have served the purpose: a given knowledge of the alphabet, and of the way of compounding its letters into words as his premises, would have enabled the little fellow to work out the rest of the problem for himself.  There has been much written on the learning of Shakspere, but not much to the purpose: one of our old Scotch proverbs is worth all the dissertations on the subject I have yet seen.  "God's bairns," it says, "are eath to lear," i.e., easily instructed.  Shakspere must, I suppose, have read many more books than Homer (we may be sure, every good one that came in his way, and some bad ones), and yet Homer is held to have known a thing or two: the more ancient poet was unquestionably as ignorant of English as the more modern one of Greek; and as the one produced the "Iliad" without any acquaintance with "Hamlet," I do not see why the other might not have produced "Hamlet" without any acquaintance with the "Iliad."  Johnson was quite in the right in holding, that though the writings of Shakspere exhibit "much knowledge, it is often such knowledge as books did not supply."  He might have added further, that the knowledge they display which books did supply, is of a kind which might be all found in English books at the time—fully one-half of it, indeed, in the romances of the period.  Every great writer, in the department in which he achieves his greatness, whether he be a learned Milton or an unlearned Burns, is self-taught.  One stately vessel may require much tugging ere she gets fairly off the beach, whereas another may float off, unassisted, on the top of the flowing tide; but when once fairly prosecuting their voyage in the open sea, both must alike depend on the spread sail and the guiding rudder, on the winds of heaven and the currents of the deep.

    On the opposite side of the lane, directly fronting the chapel, and forming the angle where lane and street unite, there is a plain garden-wall, and an equally plain dwelling-house; and these indicate the site of Shakspere's domicile—the aristocratic mansion—one of the "greatest," it is said, in Stratford—which the vagrant lad, who had fled the country in disgrace, returned to purchase for himself, when still a young man—no longer a vagrant, however, and "well-to-do in the world."  The poet's wildnesses could not have lain deep in his nature, or he would scarce have been a wealthy citizen of Stratford in his thirty-third year.  His gardens extended to the river side—a distance of some two or three hundred yards; and doubtless the greater part of some of his later dramas must have been written amid their close green alleys and straight-lined walks—for they are said to have been quaint, rich, and formal, in accordance with the taste of the period; and so comfortable a mansion was the domicile, that in 1643, Queen Henrietta, when at Stratford with the Royalist army, made it her place of residence for three weeks.  I need scarce tell its subsequent story.  After passing through several hands, it was purchased, about the middle of the last century, by the Rev. Francis Gastrall—a nervous, useless, ill-conditioned man, much troubled by a bad stomach and an unhappy temper.  The poet's mulberry tree had become ere now an object of interest; and his reverence, to get rid of the plague of visitors, cut it down and chopped it into faggots.  The enraged people of the town threw stones and broke his reverence's windows; and then, to spite them still more, and to get rid of a poor-rate assessment to boot, he pulled down the poet's house.  And so his reverence's name shares, in consequence, in the celebrity of that of Shakspere—"pursues the triumph and partakes the gale."  The Rev. Francis Gastrall must have been, I greatly fear, a pitiful creature; and the clerical prefix in no degree improves the name.

    The quiet street gets still quieter as one approaches the church.  We see on either side a much greater breadth of garden-walls than of houses—walls with the richly-fruited branches peeping over; and at the churchyard railing, thickly overhung by trees, there is so dense a mass of foliage, that of the church, which towers so high in the distance, we can discern no part save the door.  A covered way of thick o'er-arching limes runs along the smooth flat gravestones from gateway to doorway.  The sunlight was streaming this day in many a fantastic patch on the lettered pavement below, though the chequering of shade predominated; but at the close of the vista the Gothic door opened dark and gloomy, in the midst of broad sunshine.  The Avon flows past the churchyard wall.  One may drop a stone at arm's length over the edge of the parapet, into four-feet water, and look down on shoals of tiny fish in play around the sedges.  I entered the silent church, and passed along its rows of old oak pews, on to the chancel.  The shadows of the trees outside were projected dark against the windows, and the numerous marbles of the place glimmered cold and sad in the thickened light.  The chancel is raised a single step over the floor—a step some twelve or fourteen inches in height; and, ranged on end along its edge, just where the ascending foot would rest, there lie three flat tombstones.  One of these covers the remains of "William Shakspere, Gentleman," the second, the remains of his wife, Anne Hathaway; while the third rests over the dust of his favourite daughter Susanna, and her husband John Hall.  And the well-known monument—in paly tints of somewhat faded white lead—is fixed in the wall immediately above, at rather more than a man's height from the floor.

    At the risk of being deemed sadly devoid of good taste, I must dare assert that I better like the homely monumental bust of the poet, low as is its standing as a work of art, than all the idealized representations of him which genius has yet transferred to marble or canvas.  There is more of the true Shakspere in it.  Burns complained that the criticisms of Blair, if adopted, would make his verse "too fine for either warp or woof;" and such has been the grand defect of the artistic idealisms which have been given to the world as portraits of the dramatist.  They make him so pretty a fellow, all redolent of poetic odours, "shining so brisk" and "smelling so sweet," like the fop that annoyed Hotspur, that one seriously asks if such a person could ever have got through the world.  No such type of man, leaving Stratford penniless in his twenty-first year, would have returned in his thirty-third to purchase the "capital messuage" of New Place, "with all the appurtenances," and to take rank amid the magnates of his native town.  The poet of the artists would never have been "William Shakspere, Gentleman," nor would his burying-ground have lain in the chancel of his parish church.  About the Shakspere of the stone bust, on the contrary, there is a purpose-like strength and solidity.  The head, a powerful mass of brain, would require all Dr. Chalmers's hat; the forehead is as broad as that of the doctor, considerably taller, and of more general capacity; and the whole countenance is that of a shrewd, sagacious, kindly-tempered man, who could, of course, be poetical when he willed it—vastly more so, indeed, than anybody else—but who mingled wondrous little poetry in the management of his everyday business.  The Shakspere of the stone bust could, with a very slight training, have been Chancellor of the Exchequer; and in opening the budget, his speech would embody many of the figures of Cocker, judiciously arranged, but not one poetical figure.

    On quitting the church, I walked for the better part of two miles upwards along the Avon—first on the Stratford side to the stone bridge, which I crossed, and then on the side opposite, through quiet, low-lying meadows, bordered by fields.  Up to the bridge the stream is navigable, and we may see the occasional sail gleaming white amid the green trees, as it glides past the resting-place of the poet.  But on the upper side there are reaches through which even a slight shallop would have difficulty in forcing her way.  The bulrush attains, in the soft oozy soil that forms the sides and bottom of the river, to a great size: I pulled stems from eight to ten feet in height; and in the flatter inflections, where the current stagnates, it almost chokes up the channel from side to side.  Here it occurs in tall hedge-like fringes that line and overtop the banks—there, in island-like patches, in the middle of the stream—yonder, in diffused tranverse thickets, that seem to connect the fringes on the one side with the fringes on the other.  I have rarely seen anything in living nature—nature recent and vital—that better enabled me to realize the luxuriant aquatic vegetation of the Coal Measures.  The unbroken stream dimples amid the rushes; in the opener depths we may mark, as some burnished fly flutters along the surface, the sullen plunge of the carp; the eel, startled by the passing shadow, wriggles outward from its bank of mud; while scores of careless gudgeons, and countless shoals of happy minnows, dart hither and thither, like the congregated midges that dance unceasingly in the upper element, but a few inches over them.  For the first mile or so, the trees which line the banks are chiefly old willow pollards, with stiff rough stems and huge bunchy heads.  Shrubs of various kinds, chiefly however the bramble and the woody nightshade, have struck root a-top into their decayed trunks, as if these formed so many tall flower-pots; and we may catch, in consequence, the unwonted glitter of glossy black and crimson berries from amid the silvery leaves.  The scenery improves as we ascend the stream.  The willow pollards give place to forest trees, carelessly grouped, that preserve, unlopped and unmutilated, their proper proportions.  But the main features of the landscape remain what they were.  A placid stream, broadly befringed with sedges, winds in tortuous reaches through rich meadows; and now it sparkles in open sunlight, for the trees recede; and anon it steals away, scarce seen, amid the gloom of bosky thickets.  And such is the Avon—Shakspere's own river.  Here must he have wandered in his boyhood, times unnumbered.  That stream, with its sedges and its quick glancing fins—those dewy banks, with their cowslips and daffodils—trees chance-grouped, exactly such as these, and to which these have succeeded—must all have stamped their deep impress on his mind; and, when an unsettled adventurer in London, they must have risen before him in all their sunshiny peacefulness, to inspire feelings of sadness and regret; and when, in after days, he had found his true vocation, their loved forms and colours must have mingled with the tissue of his poetry.  And here must he have walked in sober middle life, when fame and fortune had both been achieved, haply to feel amid the solitude that there is but little of solid good in either, and that, even were it otherwise, the stream of life glides away to its silent bourne, from their gay light and their kindly shelter, to return no more for ever.  What would his thoughts have been, if, after spending in these quiet recesses his fiftieth birthday, he could have foreseen that the brief three score and ten annual revolutions—few as certainly as evil—which have so long summed up the term of man's earthly existence, were to be mulcted, in his caw, of full seventeen years!

    How would this master of human nature have judged of the homage that has now been paid him for these two centuries? and what would have been his theory of "Hero Worship?"  Many a bygone service of this inverted religion has Stratford-on-Avon witnessed.  The Jubilee devised by Garrick had no doubt much of the player in it; but it possessed also the real devotional substratum, and formed the type, on a splendid scale, not less in its hollowness than in its groundwork of real feeling, of those countless acts of devotion of which the poet's birth and burial places have been the scene.  "Man praises man;" Garrick, as became his occupation, was a little more ostentatious and formal in his Jubilee services—more studious of rich ceremonial and striking forms—more High Church in spirit—than the simpler class of hero-devotees who are content to worship extempore; but that was just all.


He drew the Liturgy, and framed the rites
And solemn ceremonial of the day,
And called the world to worship on the banks
Of Avon, famed in song.   Ah! pleasant proof
That piety has still in human hearts
Some place, a spark or two not yet extinct.
The mulberry-tree was hung with blooming wreaths
The mulberry-tree stood centre of the dance;
The mulberry-tree was hymned with dulcet airs;
And from his touchwood trunk the mulberry-tree
Supplied such relics as devotion holds
Still sacred, and preserves with pious care.
So 'twas a hallowed time; decorum reigned,
And mirth without offence.   No few returned
Doubtless much edified, and all refreshed.


    Such was Cowper's estimate—to be sure, somewhat sarcastically expressed—of the services of the Jubilee.  What would Shakspere's have been of the deeply-based sentiment, inherent, it would seem, in human nature, in which the Jubilee originated?  An instinct so widely diffused and so deeply implanted cannot surely be a mere accident: it must form, however far astray of the proper mark it may wander, one of the original components of the mental constitution, which we have not given ourselves.  What would it be in its integrity?  It must, it would appear, have humanity on which to rest—a nature identical with our own; and yet, when it finds nothing higher than mere humanity, it is continually running, as in the case of the Stratford Jubilee, into grotesque idolatry.  Did Shakspere, with all his vast knowledge, know where its aspirations could be directed aright?  The knowledge seems to have got somehow into his family; nay, she who appears to have possessed it was the much-loved daughter on whom his affections mainly rested


Witty above her sexe; but that's not all—
Wise to salvation was good Mistress Hall.


    So says her epitaph in the chancel, where she sleeps at the feet of her father.  There is a passage in the poet's will, too, written about a month ere his death, which may be, it is true, a piece of more form, but which may possibly be something better.  "I commend my soul into the hands of God my Creator, hoping, and assuredly believing, through the only merits of Jesus Christ, my Saviour, to be made partaker of life everlasting."  It is, besides, at least something, that this play-writer, and play-actor, with wit at will, and a shrewd appreciation of the likes and dislikes of the courts and monarchs he had to please, drew for their amusement no Mause Headriggs or Gabriel Kettledrummles.  Puritanism could have been no patronizer of the Globe Theatre.  Both Elizabeth and James hated the principle with a perfect hatred, and strove hard to trample it out of existence; and such a laugh at its expense as a Shakapere could have raised, would have been doubtless a high luxury; nay, Puritanism itself was somewhat sharp and provoking in those days, and just a little coarse in its jokes, as the Martin Mar-Prelate tracts survive to testify; but the dramatist, who grew wealthy under the favour of Puritan-detesting monarchs, was, it would seem, not the man to make reprisals.  There are scenes in his earlier dramas, from which, as eternity neared upon his view, he could have derived little satisfaction; but there is no "Old Mortality" among them.  Had the poor player some sense of what his beloved daughter seems to have clearly discovered—the true "Hero Worship?"  In his broad survey of nature and of man, did he mark one solitary character standing erect amid the moral waste of creation, untouched by taint of evil or of weakness—a character infinitely too high for even his vast genius to conceive, or his profound comprehension to fathom?  Did he draw near to inquire, and to wonder, and then fall down humbly to adore?

    I took the evening coach for Warwick, on my way to Olney, and passed through the town for the railway station, a few minutes before sunset.  It was a delightful evening, and the venerable castle and ancient town, with their surrounding woods and quiet river, formed in the red light a gorgeous picture.  I could fain have waited for a day to explore Guy's Cliff, famous of old for its caves and its hermits, and to go over the ancient castle of king-making Warwick—at once the most extensive and best-preserved monument in the kingdom of the bygone feudal grandeur.  The geology of the locality, too, is of considerable interest.  From Stratford to the western suburbs of Warwick, the substratum of the landscape is composed, as every fallow field which we pass certifies, in its flush of chocolate red, of the saliferous marls.  Just, however, where the town borders on the country, the lower pavement of sandstone, on which the marls rest, comes to the surface, and stretches away northward in a long promontory, along which we find cliffs and quarries, and altogether bolder features than the denuding agents could have sculptured out of the incoherent marls.  Guy's Cliff, and the cliff on which Warwick Castle stands, are both composed of this sandstone.  It is richer, too, in remains of vertebrate animals than the Upper New Red anywhere else in England.  It has its bone bed, containing, though in a sorely mutilated state, the remains of fish, chiefly teeth, and the remains of the teeth and vertebræ of saurians.  The saurian of Guy's Cliff, with the exception of the saurian of the Dolomitic Conglomerate, near Bristol, is the oldest British reptile known to geologists.  Time pressed, however; and leaving behind me the antiquities of Warwick, geologic and feudal, I took my seat in the railway train for the station nearest Olney—that of Wolverton.  And the night fell ere we had gone over half the way.

    I had now had some little experience of railway travelling in England, and a not inadequate idea of the kind of quiet, comfortable-looking people whom I might expect to meet in a second-class carriage.  But my fellow-passengers this evening were of a different stamp.  They were chiefly, almost exclusively indeed, of the male sex—vulgar, noisy, ruffian-like fellows, full of coarse oaths and dogged asseverations, and singularly redolent of gin; and I was quite glad enough, when the train stopped at the Wolverton station, that I was to get rid of them.  At the station, however, they came out en masse.  All the other carriages disgorged similar cargoes; and I found myself in the middle of a crowd that represented very unfairly the people of England.  It was now nine o'clock.  I had intended passing the night in the inn at Wolverton, and then walking on in the morning to Olney, a distance of nine miles; but when I came to the inn, I found it all ablaze with light, and all astir with commotion.  Candles glanced in every window; and a thorough Babel of sound—singing, quarrelling, bell-ringing, thumping, stamping, and the clatter of mugs and glasses—issued from every apartment.  I turned away from the door, and met, under the lee of a fence which screened him from observation, a rural policeman.  "What is all this about?" I asked.  "Do you not know?" was the reply.  "No; I am quite a stranger here."  "Ah, there are many strangers here.  But do you not know?"  "I have no idea whatever," I reiterated; "I am on my way to Olney, and had intended spending the night here, but would prefer walking on, to passing it in such a house as that."  "Oh, beg pardon; I thought you had been one of themselves: Bendigo of Nottingham has challenged Caunt of London to fight for the championship.  The battle comes on tomorrow, somewhere hereabouts; and we have got all the blackguards in England, south and north, let loose upon us.  If you walk on to Newport Pagnell just four miles—you will no doubt get a bed; but the way is lonely, and there have been already several robberies since nightfall."  "I shall take my chance of that," I said. "Ah,—well—your best way, then, is to walk straight forwards, at a smart pace, keeping the middle of the highway, and stopping for no one."  I thanked the friendly policeman, and took the road.  It was a calm pleasant night; the moon in her first quarter, was setting dim and lightless in the west; and an incipient frost, in the form of a thin film of blue vapour, rested in the lower hollows.

    The way was quite lonely enough; nor were the few straggling travellers whom I met of a kind suited to render its solitariness more cheerful.  About half-way on, where the road runs between tall hedges, two fellows started out towards me, one from each side of the way.  "Is this the road," asked one, "to Newport Pagnell?"  "Quite a stranger here," I replied, without slackening my pace; "don't belong to the kingdom even."  "No!" said the same fellow, increasing his speed, as if to overtake me; "to what kingdom, then?"  "Scotland," I said, turning suddenly round, somewhat afraid of being taken from behind by a bludgeon.  The two fellows sheered off in double quick time, the one who had already addressed me, muttering, "More like an Irishman, I think;" and I saw no more of them.  I had luckily a brace of loaded pistols about me, and had at the moment a trigger under each fore-finger; and though the ruffians—for such I doubt not they were—could scarcely have been cognizant of the fact, they seemed to have made at least a shrewd approximation towards it.  In the autumn of 1842, during the great depression of trade, when the entire country seemed in a state of disorganization, and the law in some of the mining districts failed to protect the lieges, I was engaged in following out a course of geologic exploration in our Lothian Coal Field; and, unwilling to suspend my labours, had got the pistols, to do for myself, if necessary, what the authorities at the time could not do for me.  But I had fortunately found no use for them, though I had visited many a lonely hollow and little-frequented water-course—exactly the sort of place in which, a century ago, one would have been apt to raise footpads as one now starts hares; and in crossing the Borders, I had half resolved to leave them behind me.  They gave confidence, however, in unknown neighbourhoods, or when travelling alone in the night-time; and so I had brought them with me into England, to support, if necessary, the majesty of the law and the rights of the liege subject, and certainly did not regret this evening that I had.

    I entered Newport Pagnell a little after ten o'clock, and found all its inns exactly such scenes of riot and uproar as the inn at Wolverton.  There was the same display of glancing lights in the windows, and the same wild hubbub of sound.  On I went.  A decent mechanic, with a white apron before him, whom I found in the street, assured me there was no chance of getting a bed in Newport Pagnell, but that I might possibly get one at Skirvington, a village on the Olney road, about three miles further on.  And so, leaving Newport Pagnell behind me, I set out for Skirvington.  It was now wearing late, and I met no more travellers: the little bit of a moon had been down the hill for more than an hour, the fog rime had thickened, and the trees by the wayside loomed through the clouds like giants in dominos.  In passing through Skirvington, I had to stoop down and look between me and the sky for sign posts.  There were no lights in houses, save here and there in an upper casement; and all was quiet as in a churchyard.  By dint of sky-gazing, I discovered an inn, and rapped hard at the door.  It was opened by the landlord sans coat and waiscoat.  There was no bed to be had there, he said; the beds were all occupied by travellers who could get no accommodation in Newport Pagnell; but there was another inn in the place further on, though it wasn't unlikely, as it didn't much business, the family had gone to bed.  This was small comfort.  I had, however, made up my mind that if I failed in finding entertainment at inn the second, I should address myself to hay-rick the first; but better fortune awaited me.  I sighted my way to the other sign-post of the village: the lights within had gone up stairs to the attics; but as I tapped and tapped, one of them came trippingly down; it stood pondering behind the door for half a second, as if in deliberation, and then bolt and bar were withdrawn, and a very pretty young Englishwoman stood in the door-way.  "Could I get accommodation there for a night—supper and bed?"  There was a hesitating glance at my person, followed by a very welcome "yes;" and thus closed the adventures of the evening.  On the following morning I walked on to Olney.  It was with some little degree of solicitude that, in a quiet corner by the way, remote from cottages, I tried my pistols to ascertain what sort of a defence I would have made had the worst come to the worst in the encounter of the previous evening.  Pop, pop!—they went off beautifully, and sent their bullets through an inch board; and so in all probability I should have succeeded in astonishing the "fancy-men."



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NOTES.

 
16.    Barbour was Archdeacon of Aberdeen.
 
17.    I am far from asserting here that they had it as much in their power to avail themselves of the Puritanic as of the popish element; or yet that if they had, any more considerations of policy would have led them to adopt it.  As shown by such publications as Keble's "Sacred Year," and Froud's "Remains," the current of tendency in the English Church had begun to flow for several years previous in a mediæval channel, and the members of this meeting had already got afloat on the stream.
 
18.    As shown by the assaults on the Association of such organs of the Low Church party as the Dublin "statesman "and London "Record."

 


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