Brief Biographies III.
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SOME thirty years since, we happened to visit the High Courts of Session, held in Edinburgh, in the purlieus of the old Scotch Parliament-House.  These are the chief law courts of Scotland; and though they are always objects of interest to a visitor, they were perhaps more so at that time than they are now, in consequence of their being then professionally frequented by several men of world-wide reputation.

    We remember well the striking entrance to those courts; they occupy one side of a square, opposite to the old cathedral church of St. Giles's where Jenny Geddes initiated the great Rebellion of two centuries back, by hurling her "cuttystool" at the head of the officiating bishop, on his proposing to read the collect for the day.  "Diel colic the wame o' thee!" shouted Jenny, as she hurled her stool at the bishop; and from that point the Revolution began.  John Knox, at an earlier period, used to deliver his thrilling harangues in the same church; and in the space now forming the square—which was used as a cemetery previous to the Reformation—the mortal remains of that undaunted reformer were laid; of whom the Regent Murray said, as he was lowered into his grave, "There lies one who never feared the face of man."  Another portion of the square was formerly occupied by the old jail or Tolbooth of Edinburgh, celebrated throughout the world by Scott's novel of "The Heart of Mid-Lothian." [p.137]  But it had been demolished some years before the period of our visit.

    Entering the courts by a door in the southwest corner of the square, and crossing a spacious vestibule, we passed through a pair of folding doors, and found ourselves in the famous Parliament-House.  It is a noble hall, upwards of one hundred and twenty feet long, and about fifty wide.  Its lofty roof is oak, arched with gilt pendants, in the style of Westminster Hall.  This was the place in which the Scottish Parliament held its sittings for about seventy years previous to the Union.  It was in a bustle, as it usually is during the sittings of the court, with advocates promenading in their wigs and gowns; writers (Anglice solicitors), with their blue and red bags crammed with bundles of legal documents, scudding hither and thither; litigants, with anxious countenances, collected in groups, anxiously discussing the progress of their "case;" whilst above the din and hum which filled the hall there occasionally rose the loud voice of the criers, summoning the counsel in the different causes to appear before their lordships.

    All the courts open into this hall, and we entered one of these; we think it was the Justiciary Court.  We have no recollection of the cause that was being tried; some petty horse-warranty affair or other, about which a great deal of clever sarcasm and eloquence was displayed.  But though we have forgotten the cause that was tried, we have not forgotten the pleader.  He rose immediately after his burly opponent had seated himself,—Patrick Robertson, for a long time the wit of the Parliament-House,—the author of a book of poems, published a few years ago, full of gravity, but without poetry,—afterwards Lord Robertson.  The advocate who rose to reply was a man the very opposite in feature, form, and temperament to Patrick Robertson.  A little, slender, dark-eyed man, of a highly intellectual appearance; his head was small,—indeed, the opponents of phrenology have asserted that his head was so small, that it was enough of itself to overthrow that science,—but then it was exquisitely formed, the organs were beautifully balanced, the bulk of the brain lay over the forehead, and the outline was such as to give one the impression of the finest possible organization.  He wore no wig; and his black hair was brushed straight up from his beautiful forehead.

    When he rose to his feet, the hum of the court was stilled into silence; and one who accompanied us said, "You see that little man there going to speak?"  "Yes."  "That's FRANCIS JEFFREY, of the Edinburgh Review."  And Jeffrey went on with his speech in a high-keyed, sharp, clear, and acute strain, not rising into eloquence, but running on in a smart and copious, yet somewhat precise manner: indeed, one might have denominated his style of speech and of argument as a little finical; yet it was unusually complete and highly finished, like everything else that he did.

    But there was in the same court that day one whose reputation and whose genius infinitely transcended Jeffrey's, great though these may have been.  Sitting immediately under the Lord President, at the clerk's table, were two men, one on each side,—the clerks of the Court of Session.  "You see that man at the table there,—the one with the white hair and the overhanging brow?"  "Yes, I see two; they have both white hair, and are both heavy-browed."  "Yes; but I mean the one to the Lord President's right,—immediately before Patrick Robertson there."  "The one with his head stooping over his papers, writing?"  "Yes: see, he is now rising up, and going across the room."  "I see him,—surely I know that face; I must have seen the man before."  "You may have seen the portrait of him often enough,—it is SIR WALTER SCOTT!"  In a moment we recognized the Great Wizard of the North, whose magical pen had quickened into life the long dead and buried past, and created shapes of magical beauty by the aid of his wonderful fancy,—the greatest literary celebrity of the age!  His face, as we saw it then, presented but few indications of those remarkable intellectual powers, which might almost be said to blaze in the features of Jeffrey.  It was heavy, solid, lourd, and homely,—somewhat like the face of a country-bred farmer's man, grown old in harness, and rather "back" with his rent.  He limped across the court to one of the advocates or writers to the signet, to whom he delivered a paper, and then returned to his seat.  The terrible crash of Sir Walter Scott's fortunes had occurred, through the failure of his publisher, but a few years before; and here was the hard-working man, still toiling at his post of clerk of court during the day,—to enter upon his laborious literary labours on returning home,—with the view of desperately retrieving the loss of his fortune and estate.

    One other man we may mention,—then a comparatively young advocate in good business.  His eye, of all his features, struck us the most.  Never did we see a more beautiful, piercing eye before.  Keen, black, and penetrating, it seemed to look through you.  Once afterwards, we encountered the eye in Princes' Street, and recognized the man on the instant.  It was Henry Cockburn, the author of the "Life of Jeffrey."  He had the look of a man of genius; and was long afterwards known as a highly acute and able lawyer.  But he had never before done anything in literature that we know of, until he wrote the life of his friend Jeffrey; yet we mistake much if it do not take its place among the best standard biographies of our time.  We should not be surprised if, like Boswell's Johnson, it were read when the books of the author whose life is commemorated are allowed to lie on the shelf.

    Not that there is any vivid interest in Jeffrey's life; happy and prosperous people have usually little history.  Life flows on in a smooth current; everything succeeds with them; they gather wealth and fame with years, and die full of honours, which are recorded on a mausoleum.  But certainly there was about the life of Jeffrey—even independently of the literary merits of Lord Cockburn's portraiture of him—much that is instructive, interesting, and delightful.

    Jeffrey was a man full of bonhomie.  He was an honest-minded, independent man; a most industrious, hard-working, and perseverant man; and, withal, a genuinely-loving man.  But above all, he was the founder of the "Edinburgh Review."  This was the great event of his life.  By means of that eminently able organ of opinion, he elevated criticism into a magistrature.  He invested it with dignity, and administered it like a judge, according to certain laws.  He became an oracle of taste in poetry, literature, and art.  He did not merely follow the literary fashion of the day, but he directed it, and for many years presided over the highest critical organ in the country.  Yet it will be confessed, that, if we look into the collected edition of his works, they have comparatively little interest for us.  Even the most effective criticism is necessarily of an ephemeral character.  Like a thrilling Parliamentary speech, its chief interest consists in its appropriateness to the time, the circumstances, and the audience to whom it is addressed.  At best, literary criticism is but a clever and discriminating judgment upon books.  The books so criticised are now either dead and forgotten, or they have secured a footing, and live on independent of all criticism.  Yet criticism is not without its value, as Jeffrey and his fellow-labourers amply proved.

    The leading incidents of Francis Jeffrey's life are soon told.  He was born in Charles Street, George's Square, in the Old Town of Edinburgh, on the 22d of October, 1773.  His father was a depute clerk, in the Court of Session.  His mother was an amiable, intelligent woman, who died when Francis was but a boy.  The youth was educated at the Edinburgh High School, where he remained for six years.  Here is an incident of his boyhood:—

"One day in the winter of 1786-87, he was standing in the High Street, staring at a man whose appearance struck him; a person standing at a shop door tapped him on the shoulder, and said, 'Ay, laddie! ye may weel look at that man! that's ROBERT BURNS.'  He never saw Burns again."

    From Edinburgh High School, Jeffrey proceeded to Glasgow University, where he studied with distinction during two sessions.  In the "Historical and Critical Club," he astonished the members by the force and acuteness of his criticisms on the essays submitted for discussion.  Thus early did the peculiar bent of his mind display itself.  He worked very hard,—was a systematic student,—took copious notes, cast into his own forms of expression, of all the lectures,—and read largely on all subjects.  He returned to Edinburgh, and attended the law classes there in the two sessions of 1789–91, still studying and composing essays on various subjects, but chiefly on life and its philosophy.

"It was about this time (1790 or 1791) that he had the honour of assisting to carry the biographer of Johnson, in a state of great intoxication, to bed.  For this, he was rewarded next morning by Mr. Boswell, who had learned who his bearers had been, clapping his head, and telling him that he was a very promising lad, and that, 'If you go on as you've begun, you may live to be a Bozzy yourself yet.'"

    He next went to Oxford to study, and remained there for a season, but he never entered fully into the life of the place, and evidently detested it.  He did not find a single genial companion.  He says of the meetings of the students, "O these blank parties!—the quintessence of insipidity,—the conversation dying from lip to lip,—every countenance lengthening and obscuring in the shade of mutual lassitude,—the stifled yawn contending with the affected smile one every cheek,—and the languor and stupidity of the party gathering and thickening every instant, by the mutual contagion of embarrassment and disgust . . . . In the name of heaven, what do such beings conceive to be the order and use of society? To them, it is no source of enjoyment; and there cannot be a more complete abuse of time, mind, and fruit."  He detests the law, too.  "This law," he says, "is vile work.  I wish I had been born a piper."  There was only one thing that he hoped to learn at Oxford, and that was the English pronunciation.  And he certainly succeeded in acquiring it after a sort, but he never spoke it as an Englishman is wont to do.  As Lord Holland said of him afterwards, "He lost the broad Scotch at Oxford, but he gained only the narrow English in its place."

    He returned to Edinburgh in July, 1792, and again attended the law lectures there.  He joined the Speculative Society, then numbering among its active members many afterwards highly celebrated men,—Scott, Brougham, Grant (afterwards Lord Glenelg), Petty (afterwards Marquis of Lansdowne), Francis Horner, and others.  Jeffrey distinguished himself by several admirable papers which he read before the society; and also by the part which he took in the discussions.  But, like many susceptible young minds, at this time, he was haunted by fits of despondency.  He could not take the world by storm: few knew that he lived.  How was he to distinguish himself?  He would be a Poet!  Writing to his sister about this time, he said, "I feel I shall never be a great man, unless it be as a Poet!"  But afterwards he says more calmly, "My poetry does not improve; I think it is growing worse every week.  If I could find the heart to abandon it, I believe I should be the better for it."  He nevertheless went on writing tragedies, love poems, sonnets, odes, and such like; but they never saw the light.  Once, indeed, he went so far as to leave a poem with a bookseller, to be published,—and fled to the country; but finding some obstacle had occurred, he returned, recovered the manuscript,—rejoicing that he had been saved,—and never repeated so perilous an experiment.

    In 1794, Jeffrey was called to the Scotch bar.  The times were sick and out of joint.  The French Revolution was afoot, and its violence tended to drive some men sternly back upon the past, and to impel others wildly forward into the future.  Some took a middle course; and while they discountenanced all violent change, sought after constitutional progress and social improvement.  To this middle party, Jeffrey early attached himself.  He joined himself to the Whigs, though to do so at that day was to erect a lofty barrier in the way of his own success.  Yet he did so, courageously and resolutely; and he held to his course.  He had several noble allies; among whom may be named Brougham, Horner, and Erskine (the brother of the Lord Chancellor).  At the bar, Jeffrey got on very slowly.  Very few fees came in, and these were chiefly from his father's connections.  He began to despair of success, and even went to London with the object of becoming a literary "grub."  He was furnished with letters to authors, newspaper editors, and publishers.  But, fortunately, they received him coldly, and he returned to Edinburgh to reoccupy himself with essay writing, translating from the Greek, and waiting for clients.  The clients did not come yet, and he began seriously to despair of ever achieving success in his profession.

    "I cannot help," he wrote at this time, "looking upon a slow, obscure, and philosophical starvation at the Scotch bar, as a destiny not to be submitted to.  There are some moments when I think I could sell myself to the minister or to the devil, in order to get above these necessities."  He also entertained the idea of trying the English bar, or going out to India, like so many other young Scotchmen of his day.  He had now been five years at the bar, and could not yet, as the country saying goes, "make saut to his kail."  In the seventh year of his practice, he says, "My profession has never yet brought me £100 a year."  But this is the history of nearly all young men in their first ascent of the steeps of professional enterprise.

    Yet Jeffrey's poor prospects did not prevent him falling in love with a girl as poor as himself, and he married her.  The young lady was, however, of good family: she was the daughter of Dr. Nelson, Professor of Church History at St. Andrew's.  The young pair settled down in Buccleuch Place, in the Old Town; and the biographer informs us that "his own study was only made comfortable at the cost of £7 18s.; the, banqueting-hall rose to £13 8s.; and the drawing-room actually rose to £22 19s."  He made a careful inventory of all the costs of furnishing, which is still preserved.

    But his marriage seemed to have been the starting-point of Jeffrey's success.  He devoted himself sedulously to his profession.  Clients appeared in greater numbers; he began to be looked upon as a rising man; and when once the ball is fairly set a-rolling, it goes on comparatively easy.  Shortly after, the famous Edinburgh Review was projected by himself and Sydney Smith, though the merit of suggesting the work is undoubtedly due to the latter.  Sydney Smith's account of its origin is this: "One day we happened to meet in the eighth or ninth story, or flat, in Buccleuch Place, the elevated residence of the then Mr. Jeffrey.  I proposed that we should set up a Review; this was acceded to with acclamation.  I was appointed editor, and remained long enough in Edinburgh to edit the first number of the Edinburgh Review."  But Jeffrey's aptness for editorial work, his peculiar critical ability, together with the fact of his being the only settled man of the lot permanently located in Edinburgh, soon led to his undertaking the entire control of the Review, and furnishing the principal part of the writing.  The first number of the Edinburgh Review appeared in October, 1802, and the effect produced by it was almost electrical.  It was so bold, so novel, so spirited and able,—so unlike anything of the kind that had heretofore appeared,—that its success from the first was decided.  It afforded a gratifying proof of the existence of liberal feeling in a part of the country where before one dull, dead, uniform level of slavish obsequiency had prevailed.  It gave a voice to the dormant feeling of independence which nevertheless still survived.  The effect upon public opinion was most wholesome, and the influence of the Review went on increasing from year to year.  Horner, Sydney Smith, and Brougham soon left Edinburgh for England, to enter upon public life; but Jeffrey stood by the Review, and continued its main-stay.  When Horner left Edinburgh, he made a present of his bar wig to Jeffrey, who "hoped that in time it would attract fees" besides admiration.  But Jeffrey never liked to wear a wig, and soon abandoned it for his own fine black hair.  Among the greatest bores which he experienced was attending Scotch appeals in the House of Lords in London, when he had to sit under a great load of serge and horsehair, perhaps in the very height of the dog-days

    His practice increased, while his fame in connection with the Review spread his name abroad.  His severe handling of many of the writers of the day, brought down upon him a good deal of bitter speech,—such as Lord Byron's "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers."  His severe review of Moore's lascivious love poems brought him into collision with that gentleman, and an innocuous duel was the consequence; but after that they remained warm friends.  There was little of interest in Jeffrey's life for many years after this occurrence.  It flowed on in an equable and widening current of steady prosperity.  His wife died in 1805, and was sincerely lamented by him.  The letter which he wrote to his brother on the occasion is exceedingly beautiful, —full of affectionate and deep feeling for the departed.  "I took no interest," he says, "in anything which had not some reference to her.  I had no enjoyment away from her, except in thinking what I should have to tell or to show her on my return; and I have never returned to her, after half a day's absence, without feeling my heart throb and my eye brighten with all the ardour and anxiety of a youthful passion.  All the exertions I ever made in the world were for her sake entirely.  You know how indolent I was by nature, and how regardless of reputation and fortune; but it was a delight to me to lay these things at the feet of my darling, and to invest her with some portion of the distinction she deserved, and to increase the pride and vanity she felt for her husband, by accumulating these public tests of his merit.  She had so lively a relish for life, too, and so unquenchable and unbroken a hope in the midst of protracted illness and languor, that the stroke which cut it off forever appears equally cruel and unnatural.  Though familiar with sickness, she seemed to have nothing to do with death.  She always recovered so rapidly, and was so cheerful and affectionate and playful, that it scarcely entered into my imagination that there could be one sickness from which she would not recover."  But Jeffrey did not remain single.  A few years after, in 1813, we find him on his way to the United States, to bring home his second wife,—a grand-niece of the famous John Wilkes.  He wooed and won her, and an admirable wife she made him.

    There are only a few other prominent landmarks in Jeffrey's career which we would note in the midst of his prosperous life.  In 1820 he was elected Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow, and delivered a noble speech on his installation.  In 1829 he was elected Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, a post of high honour in the profession.  On being elected, he gave up the editorship of the Review, after superintending it for a period of twenty-seven years.  In 1830 the Whigs came into office, and Jeffrey was appointed Lord Advocate,—the first law officer of the Crown for Scotland.  This was the height of his ambition.  He could only climb a step higher, which he did a few years later, when he was made a judge, and died Lord Jeffrey, in January, 1850.

   His friend and fellow-judge has admirably depicted Jeffrey as he lived,—in his home life, which was beautiful, and in his public career, which was honourable, useful, and meritorious.  He was a most affectionate man.  In one of his letters,—and they are, perhaps, the most charming portions of the work,—he says, "I am every hour more convinced of the error of those who look for happiness in anything but concentred and tranquil affection."  His intellect was sharp and bright,—not so powerful as keen.  His knowledge was various rather than profound.  His taste was exquisite; his sense of honour very fine; and his manner was full of gentleness and kindness.  Withal, he was an earnest, resolute man, whose heart glowed in the conflicts of the world.  In conclusion we may add, that Lord Jeffrey, in his valuable life, has furnished a further illustration of what honourable, persistent industry and application will do for a man in this life; for it was mainly this that raised him from obscurity and dependence to a position of affluence and worldly renown.



Ebenezer Elliott (1781-1849)
Ironmaster, political activist and poet.

EBENEZER ELLIOTT, the Sheffield iron-merchant, a poet of no mean fame, was extensively known beyond the bounds of his own locality as "the Corn-Law Rhymer."  Though for a time identified with a political movement, to which he consecrated the service of his lyre, he had nevertheless the world-wide vision of the true poet, who is of no sect nor party.  Any one who reads his poems will not fail to note how closely his soul was knit to universal Nature —how his pulse beat in unison with her,—how deeply he read and how truly he interpreted her meanings.  With a heart glowing for love of his kind, out of which indeed his poetry first sprung, and with a passionate sense of wrongs inflicted upon the suffering poor, which burst out in words of electric, almost tremendous power, there was combined a tenderness and purity of thought and feeling, and a love for Nature in all her moods, of the most refined and beautiful character.  In his scathing denunciations of power misused, how terrible he is; but in his expression of beauty, how sweet!  Bitter and fierce though his rhymes are when his subject is "the dirt-kings,—the tax-gorged lords of land," we see that all his angry spirit is disarmed when he takes himself out to breathe the fresh breath of the heavens, in the green lane, on the open heath, or up among the wild mountains.  There he takes Nature to his bosom,—calls her by the sweetest of names, pours his soul out before her, gives her his whole heart, and yields up to her his manly adoration.  You see this beautiful side of the poet's character in his exquisite poems entitled "The Wonders of the Lane," "Come and Gone," "The Excursion," "The Dying Boy to the Sloe Blossom," "Flowers for the Heart," "Don and Rother," and even in "Win-hill," that most powerful of his odes.  The utterance is that of a man, but the heart is tender as that of a woman.  These exquisite little poems of Elliott, in their terseness and vividness of expression, and their sweetness and delicacy of execution, cannot fail to remind one of the kindred magical power and genius of Robert Burns.

    Elliott's life proved, what is still a disputed point, that the cultivation of poetic tastes is perfectly compatible with success in trade and commerce.  It is a favourite dogma of some men, that he who courts the Muses must necessarily be unfitted for the practical business of life; and that to succeed in trade, a man must live altogether for it, and never rise above the consideration of its little details.  This is, in our opinion, a notion at variance with actual experience.  Generally speaking, you will find the successful literary man a man of industry, application, steadiness, and sobriety.  He must be a hard worker.  He must apply himself.  He must economize time, and coin it into sterling thought, if not into sterling money.  His habits tell upon his whole character, and mould it into consistency.  If he be in business, he must be diligent to succeed in it; and his intelligence gives him resources which to the ignorant man are denied.  It may not have been so in the last century, when the literary man was a rara avis, a world's wonder, and was feted and lionized until he became irretrievably spoilt; but now, when all men have grown readers, and a host of men have become writers, the literary man is no longer a novelty: he drags quietly along in the social team, engages in business, succeeds, and economizes, just as other men do, and generally to much better purpose than the illiterate and the uncultivated.  Some of the most successful men in business, at the present day, are men who regularly wield the pen in the intervals of their daily occupations,—some for self-culture, others for pleasure, others because they have something cheerful or instructive to utter to their fellow-men; and shall we say that those men are less usefully employed than if they had been cracking filberts over their wine, sleeping over a newspaper, gadding at clubs, or engaging in the frivolity of evening parties?

    Ebenezer Elliott was a man who profitably applied his leisure hours to the pursuit of literature, and while he succeeded in business, he gained an eminent reputation as a poet.  After a long life spent in business, working his way up from the position of a labouring man to that of an employer of labour, a capitalist, and a merchant, he retired from active life, built a house on a little estate of his own, and sat under his "vine and fig-tree" during the declining years of his life; cheered by the prospect of a large family of virtuous sons and daughters growing up around him in happiness and usefulness.

    We enjoyed the pleasure of a visit to this gifted man, at his own fireside, little more than a month before his death.  It was one of the last lovely days of autumn, when the faint breath of Summer was still lingering among the woods and fields, as if loath to depart from the earth she had gladdened; the blackbird was still piping his mellifluous song in the hedges and coppice, whose foliage was tinted in purple, russet, and brown, with just enough of green to give that perfect autumnal tint, so beautifully pictorial, but impossible to paint in words.  The beech-nuts were dropping from the trees, and crackled under foot, and a rich, damp smell rose from the decaying leaves by the road-side.  After a short walk through a lovely, undulating country, from the Darfield station of the North Midland Railway, along one of the old Roman roads, so common in that part of Yorkshire, and which leads into the famous Watling Street, near the town of Pontefract, we reached the village of Old Houghton, at the south end of which stands the curious Old Hall,—an interesting relic of Middle-Age antiquity.  Its fantastic gable-end, projecting windows, quaint doorway, diamond "quarrels," and its great size looming up in the twilight, with the well-known repute which the house bears of being "haunted," made us regard it with a strange, awe-like feeling: it seemed like a thing not of this every-day world; indeed, the place breathes the very atmosphere of the olden time, and a host of associations connected with a most interesting period of old English history are called up by its appearance.  It reminds one of the fantastic old Tabard, in Dickens's "Barnaby Rudge "(we think it is); and the resemblance is strengthened by the fact of this Old Hall being now converted into a modern public-house, the inscription of "Licensed to be drunk on the premises," &c., being legibly written on a sign-board over the fantastic old porch.  "To what base uses," alas! do our old country-houses come at last!  Being open to the public, we entered; and there we found a lot of the village labourers, ploughmen, and delvers, engaged, in a boxed-off comer of the Old Squire's Hall, drinking their Saturday night's quota of beer, amidst a cloud of tobacco-smoke; while the mistress of the place, seated at the tap in another corner of the apartment, was dealing out her potations to all comers and purchasers.  A huge black deer's head and antlers projected from the wall, near the door, evidently part of the antique furniture of the place; and we had a glimpse of a fine broad stone staircase, winding up in one of the deep bays of the hall, leading to the, state apartments above.  Though strongly tempted to seek a night's lodging in this haunted house, as well as to explore the mysteries of the interior, we resisted the desire, and set forward on our journey to the more inviting house of the poet.

    We reached Hargate, Hill, the house and home of Ebenezer Elliott, in the dusk of the autumn evening.  There was just light enough to enable us to perceive that it was situated on a pleasant height, near the hill-top, commanding an extensive prospect of the undulating and finely-wooded country towards the south; on the north stretched away an extensive tract of moorland, covered with gorse-bushes.  A nicely-kept flower-garden and grass-plot lay before the door, with some of the last of the year's roses still in bloom.  We had a cordial welcome from the poet, his wife, and two interesting daughters,—the other members of his large family being settled in life for themselves,—two sons, clergymen, in the West Indies, two in Sheffield, and others elsewhere.  Elliott looked the wan invalid that he was, pale and thin; and his hair was nearly white.  Age had deeply marked his features since last we saw him; and, instead of the iron-framed, firm-voiced man we had seen and heard in Palace Yard, London, some eleven years before, and in his own town of Sheffield at a more recent date, he now seemed a comparatively weak and feeble old man.  An anxious expression of face indicated that he had suffered much acute pain,—which indeed was the case.  After he had got rid of that subject, and begun to converse about more general topics, his countenance brightened up, and, under the stimulus of delightful converse, he became, as it were, a new man.  With all his physical weakness, we found that his heart beat as warm and true as ever to the cause of human kind.  The old struggles of his life were passed in review, and fought over again; and he displayed the same zeal and entertained the same strong faith in the old cause which he had rhymed about so long before it seized hold of the public mind.  He mentioned, what I had not before known, that the Sheffield Anti-Corn-Law Association was the first to start the system of operations afterwards adopted by the League, and that they first employed Paulton as a public lecturer; but to Cobden he gave the praise of having popularized the cause, knocked it into the public head by dint of sheer hard work and strong practical sense, and to Cobden he still looked as the great leader of the day,—one of the most advanced and influential minds of his time.  The patriotic struggle in Hungary had enlisted his warmest sympathies; and he spoke of Kossuth as "cast in the mould of the greatest heroes of antiquity."  Of the Russian Emperor he spoke as "that tremendous villain, Nicholas," and he believed him to be so infatuated by his success in Hungary, that he would not know where to stop, but would rush blindly to his ruin.

The conversation then led towards his occupations in this remote country spot, whither he had retreated from the busy throng of men, and the engrossing pursuits and anxieties of business. Here he said he had given himself up to meditation and thought; nor had he been idle with his pen either, having a volume of prose and poetry nearly ready for publication. Strange to say, he spoke of his prose as the better part of his writings, and, as be himself thought, much superior to his poetry. But he is not the first instance of a great writer who has been in error as to the comparative value of his own works. On that question the world, and especially posterity, will pronounce the true verdict.

    He spoke with great interest of the beautiful scenery of the neighbourhood, which had been a source to him of immense joy and delight; of the two great old oaks, near the old Roman road, about a mile to the north, under the shade of which the Wapontake formerly assembled, and in the hollow of one of which, in more recent times, Nevison the highwayman used to take shelter, but it was burnt down in spite, after his execution, by a band of Gypsies; of the glorious wooded country which stretched to the south,—Wentworth, Wharncliffe, Conisborough, and the fine scenery of the Dearne and the Don; of the many traditions which still lingered about the neighbourhood, and which, he said, some Walter Scott, could he gather them up before they died away, would make glow again with life and beauty.

    "Did you see," he observed, "that curious Old Hall on your way up?  The terrible despot Wentworth, Lord Strafford, married his third wife from that very house, and afterwards lived in it for some time; and no wonder it is rumoured among the country folks as 'haunted;' for if it be true that unquiet, perturbed spirits have power to wander over the earth, after the body to which they had been bound is dead, his could never endure the peaceful rest of the grave.  After Wentworth's death it became the property of Sir William Rhodes, a stout Presbyterian and Parliamentarian.  When the great civil war broke out, Rhodes took the field with his tenantry, on the side of the Parliament, and the first encounter between the two parties is said to have taken place only a few miles to the north of Old Houghton.  While Rhodes was at Tadcaster with Sir Thomas Fairfax, Captain Grey (an ancestor of the present Earl Grey), at the head of a body of about three hundred Royalist horse, attacked the Old Hall, and, there being only some thirty servants left to defend it, took the place and set fire to it, destroying all that would burn.  But Cromwell rode down the cavaliers with his ploughmen at Marston Moor, not very far from here either, and then Rhodes built the little chapel that you would see still standing apart at the west end of the Hall, and established a godly Presbyterian divine to minister there; forming a road from thence to Driffield, about three miles off, to enable the inhabitants of that place to reach it by a short and convenient route.  I forget how it happened," he continued, "I believe it was by marriage,—but so it was, that the estate fell into the possession, in these latter days, of Monckton Milnes, to whom it now belongs.  But as Monk Frystone was preferred as a family residence, and was in a more thriving neighbourhood, the chief part of the land about was sold to other proprietors, and only some three holdings were retained, in virtue of which Mr. Milnes continues lord of the manor, and is entitled to his third share of the moor or waste lands in the neighbourhood, which may be reclaimed under Enclosure Acts.  But the Old Hall has been dismantled, and all the fine old furniture and tapestry and paintings have been removed down to the new house at Monk Frystone."

    And then the conversation turned upon Monckton Milnes, his fine poetry, and his "Life of Keats,"—on Keats, of whom Elliott spoke in terms of glowing eulogy as that great "resurrectionized Greek,"—on Southey, who had so kindly proffered his services in advancing the interests of Elliott's two sons, the clergymen, whose livings he obtained for them,—on Carlyle, whom he admired as one of the greatest of living poets, though writing not in rhyme,—and on Longfellow, whose "Evangeline" he had not yet seen, but longed to read.  And thus the evening stole on with delightful converse in the heart of that quiet, happy family, the listeners recking not that the lips of the eloquent speaker would soon be moist with the dews of death.  Shortly after the date of this visit, we sent the poet a copy of "Evangeline," of which he observed, in a letter written after a delighted perusal of it: "Longfellow is indeed a poet, and he has done what I deemed an impossibility,—he has written English hexameters, giving our mighty lyre a new string!  When Tennyson dies, he should read 'Evangeline' to Homer."  Poor Elliott!  That task, if a possible one, be now his!

    We cannot better conclude this brief sketch than by giving the last lines which Elliott wrote, while autumn was yet lingering round his dwelling, and the appearance of the robin red-breast near the door augured the approach of winter.  They were written at the request of the poet's daughter (who was married only about a fortnight before his death), to the air of "'Tis time this heart should be unmoved":

"Thy notes, sweet Robin, soft as dew,
     Heard soon or late, are dear to me;
 To music I could bid adieu,
     But not to thee.

"When from my eyes this life-full throng
     Has past away, no more to be;
 Then, Autumn's primrose, Robin's song,
     Return to me."



SINCE the publication of "The Bible in Spain," a singularly interesting and fascinating book, few English writers have excited so deep a personal interest as George Borrow,—Gypsy George,—Don Giorgio,—the Gypsy Hogarth.  The writer projected so much of himself into that book, as well as into his "Gypsies of Spain," his first published work, and gave us such delightful glimpses of his own life and experience, as keenly to whet our curiosity, and make us eagerly long to know more about him.

    Here was a travelling missionary of the Bible Society, who knew all about Gypsy life and lingo, was familiar with the lowest haunts of field thieves and mendicants, and up to all their gibberish; a horse-sorcerer and whisperer, a student of pugilism under Thurtell, and himself no mean practitioner in "the noble art of self-defence," but withal a man of the most varied gifts and accomplishments,—a philologist or "word-master," knowing nearly every language in Europe and the East,—a racy and original writer, with the force of Cobbett and the learning of Parr,—the translator of the Bible, or parts of it, into Mantchou, Basque, Romany, or gypsy-tongue, and many other languages, and of old Danish ballads into English,—a person of fascinating conversation and of powerful eloquence.  Fancy these varied gifts embodied in a man standing six feet two in his stocking-soles, his frame one of iron, his daring and intrepidity unmatched, and you have placed before your mind's eye George Borrow, the Bible Missionary,—the Gypsy Hogarth,—the emissary of Exeter Hall,—the quondam pupil of Thurtell,—Lavengro, the Word-master!

    One wishes to know much of this extraordinary being.  What is his history? What has been his life?  It must be full of novel experiences, the like of which was never before written.  Well, he has written a book called "Lavengro," in which he proposes to satisfy the public curiosity about himself, and to illustrate his biography as "Scholar, Gypsy, and Priest."  The book, however, is not all fact; it is fact mixed liberally with fiction,—a kind of poetic rhapsody; and yet it contains many graphic pictures of real life,—life little known of, such as exists to this day among the by-lanes and on the moors of England.  One thing is obvious, the book is thoroughly original, like all Mr. Borrow has written.  It smells of the green lanes and breezy downs,—of the field and the tent; and his characters bear the tan of the sun and the marks of the weather upon their faces.  The book is not written as a practised book-maker would write it; it is not pruned down to suit current tastes.  Borrow throws into it whatever he has picked up on the highways and by-ways, garnishing it up with his own imaginative spicery ad libitum, and there you have it, Lavengro the Scholar, the Gypsy, the Priest"!  But the work is not yet completed, seeing that he has only as yet treated us to the two former parts of the character; "The Priest" is yet to come, and then we shall see how it happened that Exeter Hall was enabled to secure the services of this gifted missionary.

    From his childhood George Borrow was a wanderer, and doubtless his early associations and experiences gave their colour to his future life.  His father was a captain of militia about the beginning of the present century, when the principal garrison duties of the country were performed by that force.  The regiment was constantly moving about from place to place, and thus England, Scotland, and Ireland passed as a panorama before the eyes of the militia officer's son.  He was born at East Dereham, in Norfolk, when the regiment was lying there in 1803.  Borrow claims the honour of gentle birth, for his father was a Cornish gentillatre, and by his mother he was descended from an old Huguenot family, who were driven out of France at the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and, like many other of their countrymen, settled down in the neighbourhood of Norwich.  Borrow the elder was a man of courage, and though never in battle, he fought with his fists, and vanquished "Big Ben Brain," in Hyde Park, a feat of which his son thinks highly, and the more so, as Big Ben Brain, four months after the event, "was champion of England, having vanquished the heroic Johnson.  Honour to Brain, who, at the end of four other months, worn out by the dreadful blows which he had received in his manly combats, expired in the arms of my father, who read the Bible to him in his later moments,—Big Ben Brain."  Such are the son's own words in his autobiographic "Lavengro."

    Borrow had one brother older than himself, an artist, a pupil of Haydon, the historical painter.  He died abroad in comparative youth, but after he had given promise of excellency in his profession.  This elder brother was the father's favourites; for George, when a child, was moody and reserved,—a lover of nooks and retired corners, shunning society, and sitting for hours together with his head upon his breast.  But the family were constantly wandering and shifting about, following the quarters of the regiment, sometimes living in barracks, sometimes in lodgings, and sometimes in camp.  At a place called Pett, in Sussex, they thus lived under canvas walls, and here the first snake-charming incident in the child's life occurred:—

    "It happened that my brother and myself were playing one evening in a sandy lane, in the neighbourhood of this Pett camp; our mother was at a slight distance.  All of a sudden a bright yellow, and, to my infantine eye, beautiful and glorious object, made its appearance at the top of the bank from between the thick quickset, and, gliding down, began to move across the lane to the other side, like a line of golden light.  Uttering in a cry of pleasure, I sprang forward, and seized it nearly by the middle.  A strange sensation of numbing coldness seemed to pervade my whole arm, which surprised me the more, as the object, to the eye, appeared so warm and sunlike.  I did not drop it, however, but, holding it up, looked at it intently, as its head dangled about a foot from my hand.  It made no resistance; I felt not even the slightest struggle; but now my brother began to scream and shriek like one possessed.  'O mother, mother!' said he, 'the viper! my brother has a viper in his hand!'  He then, like one frantic, made an effort to snatch the creature away from me.  The viper now hissed amain, and raised its head, in which were eyes like hot coals, menacing, not myself, but my brother.  I dropped my captive, for I saw my mother running towards me; and the reptile, after standing for a moment nearly erect, and still hissing furiously, made off, and disappeared.  The whole scene is now before me as vividly as if it occurred yesterday,—the gorgeous viper, my poor, dear, frantic brother, my agitated parent, and a frightened hen clucking under the bushes,—and yet I was not three years old."

    Borrow cites this as an instance of the power which some persons possess of exercising an inherent power or fascination—call it mesmeric, if you will—over certain creatures; and he afterwards cites instances of the same kind, or the taming of wild horses by the utterance of words or whispers, or by certain movements, which seemed to have power over them.

    Thus the family wandered through Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and Kent.  At Hythe, the sight of a huge Danish skull, the headpiece of some mighty old Scandinavian pirate, lying in the old penthouse adjoining the village church, struck the boy's imagination with awe; and, like the apparition of the viper in the sandy lane, it dwelt in his mind, affording copious food for thought and wonder.  "An undefinable curiosity for all that is connected with the Danish race began to pervade me; and if, long after, when I became a student, I devoted myself, with peculiar zest, to Danish lore, and the acquirement of the old Norse and its dialects, I can only explain the matter by the early impression received at Hythe from the tale of the old sexton beneath the penthouse, and the sight of the huge Danish skull."

    Borrow's acquaintance with books began with the most fascinating of all boys' books,—one which has preserved its popularity undiminished for more than a hundred years, and, while boys' nature remains as now, will hold a high place in English literature,—the entrancing, fascinating, delightful "Robinson Crusoe."  He afterwards fell in with another almost equally interesting book, by the same writer, "Moll Flanders," which an old apple-woman on London Bridge lent him to read while he sat behind her stall there; but "Robinson" exercised by far the greatest influence on his mind, and probably helped, in no slight degree, to give a direction to his after career.

    His child-wanderings continued; Winchester, Norman's Cross, near Peterborough (where French prisoners were then kept), and many other places, passed before his eyes.  At Norman's Cross, when he was some seven years of age, he met with a serpent-charmer; the man was catching vipers among the woods, and the boy accompanied him in his wanderings, learning from him his art of catching vipers.  When the old man left the neighbourhood, he made the boy a present of one of those reptiles, which he had tamed, and rendered quite harmless by removing the fangs.

    Three years passed at Norman's Cross, during which the boy learned Lilly's Latin Grammar.  Then the regiment removed towards the north, halting, for a time, first in one town and then in another,—in Yorkshire, in Northumberland, and then beyond the Tweed, at Edinburgh, where the regiment was quartered in the Castle, standing high upon its crag, overlooking all the other houses in that interesting city.  Here he was initiated into the boy-life of Edinburgh,—the "bickers" on the North Loch and along the Castle Hill, between the New Town and the Old, already immortalized by Sir Walter Scott.  He entered a pupil in the High School, and gathered, before he left, some further acquaintance with Latin and other tongues.  Oddly enough, one of the cronies whom he picked up when residing in the Castle, or engaged in "bickers" on the face of the crag, was David Haggart, then a drummer-boy, afterwards the most notorious of Scotch criminals, and hanged for murdering the jailer at Dumfries, in a desperate attempt to escape.  But Borrow's sympathies are so entirely with the criminal and Gypsy class, that he does not hesitate to compare Haggart with Tamerlane!—the only difference being that "Tamerlane was a heathen, and acted according to the lights of his country,—he was a robber while all around were robbers, whereas Haggart"—then, after a strange eulogium of the "strange deeds" of Haggart, he concludes, "Thou mightest have been better employed, David! but peace be with thee, I repeat, and the Almighty's grace and pardon!"

    Two years passed in Edinburgh, during which time the young Borrow acquired, to his father's horror, the unmistakable dialect of "the High School callant."  Then they left; the militia corps returned to England, and were disbanded.  Another year passed in quiet life; 1815 arrived, and Napoleon's return from Elba again threw the whole isle into consternation.  The militia were raised anew, and though the French were quelled, disturbances were threatened in Ireland, and thither the corps with which Borrow's father, and now his elder brother, were connected, were shipped from a port in Essex, and landed at Cork, in Ireland, in the autumn of the year above named.  Up the country they went; it became wilder as they proceeded,—the people along the road-sides, with whom the soldiers jested in the patois of East Anglia, answered them in a rough, guttural language, strange and wild. The soldiers stared at each other, and were silent.  It was Irish-Celtic that the people spoke, and soon, when the regiment got settled in quarters, young Borrow set to work, and learnt it from one of his school-fellows, taking lessons in Irish from him in exchange for a pack of cards.

    Borrow's brother having been sent up the country with a small detachment of men, the younger brother went to visit him in his quarters,—crossed the bogs, passed many old ruined castles far up on the heights, on many of which "the curse of Cromwell" fell.  He was overtaken by a snowstorm when crossing a bog, and had nearly been devoured by a wild smuggler and his dog, when a few words of Irish uttered by him at once cleared his road.  At length he reached his brother, in a wild out-of-the-way place, "the officer's" apartments being in a kind of hay-loft, reached by a ladder.  Young Borrow now learnt to ride; and it is delightful to hear him when he breaks out in praise of horseflesh.  One morning, a horse is led out by a soldier, that the youth might "give him a breathing:" he thus describes the horse:—

    "The cob was led forth; what a tremendous creature!  I had frequently seen him before, and wondered at him; he was barely fifteen hands, but he had the girth of a metropolitan dray-horse; his head was small in comparison with his immense neck, which curved down nobly to his wide back; his chest was broad and fine, and his shoulders models of symmetry and strength.  He stood well and powerfully upon his legs, which were somewhat short.  In a word, he was a gallant specimen of the genuine Irish cob, a species at one time not uncommon, but at the present day nearly extinct."

    He mounted, and the horse set off, the youth on its bare back.  In two hours he made the circuit of the Devil's Mountain, and was returning along the road bathed with perspiration, but screaming with delight,—the cob laughing in his quiet equine way, scattering foam and pebbles to the left and right, and trotting at the rate of sixteen miles an hour.  Hear his enthusiasm on the subject of the First Ride!

    "O, that ride! that first ride! most truly it was an epoch in my existence, and I still look back to it with feelings of longing and regret.  People may talk of first love,—it is a very agreeable event, I dare say,—but give me the flush, and triumph, and glorious sweat of a first ride, like mine on the mighty cob!  My whole frame was shaken, it is true; and during one long week I could hardly move foot or hand, but what of that? by that one trial I had become free, as I may say, of the whole equine species.  No more fatigue, no more stiffness of joints, after that first ride round the Devil's Hill on the cob."

    His passion for horses seems almost equal, indeed, to his passion for boxing, for Bibles, for languages, and for Gypsy life.  His sense of physical life is intense; and wherever muscular energy has full play, he seems to be in his native element.  Afterwards, when in the middle of one of his sermons at Cordova (see his "Gypsies of Spain"), it occurs to him that the breed of horses at that ancient city is first-rate, and off he goes at full gallop, like a hunter who hears a horn, into a masterly sketch of the Andalusian Arab, and how to groom him!  But one day, while in Ireland, an accident occurred which introduced him to his first lesson in "horse-whispering":—

    "By good luck a small village was at hand, at the entrance of which was a large shed, from which proceeded a most furious noise of hammering.  Leading the cob by the bridle, I entered boldly.  'Shoe this horse, and do it quickly, a-gough,' said I to a wild, grimy figure of a man, whom I found alone, fashioning a piece of iron.

    " 'Arrigod yuit?' said the fellow, desisting from his work, and staring at me.

    " 'O, yes; I have money,' said I, 'and of the best,' and I pulled out an English shilling.

    " 'Tabhair chugam?' said the smith, stretching out his grimy hand.

    " 'No, I shan't,' said I; 'some people are glad to get their money when their work is done.'

    "The fellow hammered a little longer, and then proceeded to shoe the cob, after having first surveyed it with attention.  He performed his job rather roughly, and more than once appeared to give the animal unnecessary pain, frequently making use of loud and boisterous words.  By the time the work was done, the creature was in a state of high excitement, and plunged and tore.  The smith stood at a short distance, seeming to enjoy the irritation of the animal, and showing, in a remarkable manner, a huge fang, which projected from the under jaw of a very wry mouth.

    " 'You deserve better handling,' said I, as I went up to the cob, and fondled it; whereupon it whinnied, and attempted to touch my face with its nose.

    " 'Are ye not afraid of that beast?' said the smith, showing his fang; 'arrah! it's vicious that he looks.'

    " 'It's at you, then; I don't fear him;' and thereupon I passed under the horse, between its hind legs.

    " 'And is that all you can do, agrah?' said the smith.

    " 'No,' said I, 'I can ride him.'

    " 'Ye can ride him; and what else, agrah?'

    " 'I can leap him over a six-foot wall,' said I.

    " 'Over a wall; and what more, agrah?'

    " 'Nothing more,' said I; 'what more would you have?'

    " 'Can you do this, agrah?' said the smith; and he uttered a word, which I had never heard before, in a sharp, pungent tone.  The effect upon myself was somewhat extraordinary, a strange thrill ran through me; but with regard to the cob it was terrible; the animal forthwith became like one mad, and reared and kicked with the utmost desperation.

    " 'Can you do that, agrah?' said the smith.

    " 'What is it?' said I, retreating; 'I never saw the horse so before.'

    " 'Go between his hind legs, agrah,' said the smith,—'his hinder legs;' and he again showed his fang.

    " 'I dare not,' said I; 'he would kill me.'

    " 'He would kill ye! and how do ye know that, agrah?'

    " 'I feel he would,' said I; 'something tells me so.'

    " 'And it tells ye truth, agrah; but it's a fine beast, and it's a pity to see him in such a state; Io agam airt leigeas;' and here he muttered another word, in a voice singularly modified, but sweet and almost plaintive.  The effect of it was almost instantaneous as that of the other, but how different! the animal lost all its fury, and became at once calm and gentle.  The smith went up to it, coaxed and patted it, making use of various sounds of equal endearment; then turning to me, and holding out once more the grimy hand, he said, 'And now ye will be giving me the Sassanach ten-pence, agrah!' "

    But at length the militia were all disbanded, and the Borrows returned to England, where they settled down at Norwich.  The two boys were now growing up, and the elder was put to study painting; the second, George, was still at his books and rambles.  His thoughts were in the fields, but he learnt French, Italian, and German.  His spare hours were spent in fishing or shooting, and sometimes in the practice of the "noble art of self-defence."  One day, when attending the horse-fair at Norwich, attracted thither by the sight of the fine animals which he so admired, he fell in with the son of the Gypsy man he had before met in the lane at Norman's Cross, and shortly after he followed him to his tent beyond the moor.  The father and mother, described in our previous extract, had by this time been "bitchadey pawdel," that is, "banished beyond seas for crime," and their son, Jasper Pentulengro, now the Pharaoh of the Gypsies, had to shift for himself.  From this time Borrow's intercourse with the wandering Gypsies was frequent; he accompanied them to fairs, learnt their language, acquired the art of horse-shoeing, familiarized himself with their ways of living,—much to the horror of his parents, who were disgusted with his loose and wandering habits.

    But the boy was now fast growing up into the man, and something must be done to break him in to the ways of civilized life; his father accordingly cast about for him, and at length succeeded in getting the young man articled to a lawyer in Norwich.  But he hated the drudgery of the desk, and made no progress in the study of the law.  Blackstone was neglected for Danish ballads and Welsh poems.  He made the grossest blunders in his business, and his master wished to get rid of him; but time sped on, and he remained, alternating his studies of Ab Gwilym by readings of the life of Moore Carew, "the King of the Beggars," and Murray and Latroon's histories of Illustrious Robbers and Highwaymen.  Then a celebrated fight would come off in the neighbourhood, and be sure our youth was present there.  Extraordinary it is, how Borrow, the missionary, should be the one man living to eulogize this pastime in his books! but he does it, both in his "Gypsies in Spain" and in "Lavengro."  In both he tells us how Thurtell, the murderer, taught him the use of "the gloves;" and there is one famous fight, which he has described in glowing language in both these books, which was got up by Thurtell and Gypsy Will, the latter his instructor in horse-riding.

    "I have known the time," he says,

"when a pugilistic encounter between two noted champions was almost considered in the light of a national affair; when tens of thousands of individuals, high and low, meditated and brooded upon it, the first thing in the morning and the last at night, until the great event was decided.  But the time is past, and many people will say, Thank God that it is; all I have to say is, that the French still live on the other side of the water, and are still casting their eyes hitherward; and that, in the days of pugilism, it was no vain boast to say, that one Englishman was a match for two of t'other race; at present it would be a vain boast to say so, for these are not the days of pugilism."

    And again he says: "What a bold and vigorous aspect pugilism wore at that time! and the great battle was just then coming off; the day had been decided upon, and the spot, a convenient distance from the old town;—and to the old town were now flocking the bruisers of England, men of tremendous renown.  Let no one sneer at the bruisers of England; what were the gladiators of Rome, or the bullfighters of Spain in its palmiest days, compared to England's bruisers?  Pity that corruption should have crept in amongst them,—but of that I wish not to speak; let us still hope that a spark of the old religion, of which they were the priests, still lingers in the hearts of Englishmen."  No, Mr. Borrow, the glories of pugilism, like those of duelling, bull-baiting, and bull-running, have all departed, and yet England stands where it did; nay, we are even strongly of opinion that the English race, instead of retrograding thereby, has achieved an unquestionable moral advancement.  But we willingly pass over this part of Mr. Borrow's confessions, which, though racily written, have a very unhealthful tendency.

    At length Borrow's father dies; his articles have expired, and he is thrown upon the world on his own resources.  He went to London, like most young men full of themselves and yet wanting help.  He packed up his translations of the Danish ballads, and of Ab Gwilym's Welsh poetry, and sought for a publisher on his arrival in London.  Of course he failed, but he got an introduction to Sir Richard Phillips, and through his instrumentality Borrow obtained some task-work from a publisher, though the remuneration derived from it was so trifling he could scarcely subsist.  He compiled lives of highwaymen and criminals, and at length, when reduced to his last shilling, wrote a story, which enabled him to raise sufficient cash to quit the metropolis, which he did on the instant, and started on a pedestrian excursion through the country.  His life in London occupies the second volume of "Lavengro;" it seems spun out, and reads heavy,—very inferior in interest to the first volume, which contains the cream of the book.  In the country he falls in with a disconsolate tinker, who has been driven off his beat by the "Flaming Tinman," a gigantic and brutal ruffian.  "Lavengro" buys the tinker's horse, cart, and equipment, and enters upon a life of savage freedom, many parts of which are most graphically depicted.  At length he falls in with the "Flaming Tinman," and a desperate fight takes place between them; he vanquishes the tinman, and gains also one of the tinman's two wives, who remains with him in the Mumper's Dingle, where they encamp; and here "Lavengro" ends.

    He does not tell us whether his encounter with the "Flaming Tinman," or his knowledge of Gypsy and hedge-life, had anything to do with his after career; or how it was that he became a Bible Society's agent; probably he may tell us something more of that by and by.

    In the meantime we may add what we know of his public history in connection with the Bible Society, who, in engaging him, possibly had an eye more to the end than the means.  Specimens of his "Kaempe Viser," from the Danish, were printed at his native place, Norwich, in 1825; and, shortly after, he was selected by the Bible Society to introduce the Scriptures into Russia.  He resided there for several years, during which time he mastered its language, the Sclavonian, and its Gypsy dialects.  He then prepared an edition of the entire Testament in the Tartar Mantchou, which was published at St. Petersburg, in 1835, in eight volumes.  It was at St. Petersburg that he published versions into English from thirty languages.  In the meantime he had been in France, where he was a spectator, if not an actor, in the Revolution of the Barricades.  Then he went to Norway, crossed into Russia again, sojourned among the Tartars, among the Turks, the Bohemians, passed into Spain, from thence into Barbary,—in short, the sole of his foot has never rested; his course has been more erratic than that of any Gypsy, far more eccentric than that of his brother missionary, Dr. Wolff, the wandering Jew.  In his "Bible in Spain" occurs the following passage, which flashes a light upon his remarkably varied history:—

    "I had returned from a walk in the country, on a glorious sunshiny morning of the Andalusian winter, and was directing my steps towards my lodging.  As I was passing by the portal of a large gloomy house near the gate of Xeres, two individuals, dressed in zamarras, emerged from the archway, and were about to cross my path, when one, looking in my face, suddenly started back, exclaiming in the purest and most melodious French, 'What do I see? if my eyes do not deceive me, it is himself.  Yes, the very same, as I saw him first at Bayonne; then, long subsequently, beneath the brick wall at Novogorod; then beside the Bosphorus; and last, at—at—O my respectable and cherished friend, where was it that I had last the felicity of seeing your well-remembered and most remarkable physiognomy?'

    "Myself. —'It was in the south of Ireland, if I mistake not; was it not there that I introduced you to the sorcerer who tamed the savage horses by a single whisper into their ear?  But tell me, what brings you to Spain and Andalusia,—the last place where I should have expected to find you?'

    "Baron Taylor.  And wherefore, my most respectable B――?  Is not Spain the land of the arts; and is not Andalusia of all Spain that portion which has produced the noblest monuments of artistic excellence and inspiration?  But first allow me to introduce you to your compatriot, my dear Monsieur W――,' turning to his companion, (an English gentleman, from whom, and from his family, I subsequently experienced unbounded kindness and hospitality on various occasions and at different periods, at Seville,) I allow me to introduce to you my most cherished and respectable friend; one who is better acquainted with Gypsy ways than the Chef de Bohémiens à Triana; one who is an expert whisperer and horse-sorcerer; and who, to his honour I say it, can wield hammer and tongs, and handle a horse-shoe with the best of the smiths amongst the Alpujarras of Granada.'"

    From his great knowledge of languages, physical energies, and extraordinary intrepidity, it will be clear enough that Mr. Borrow was not ill adapted for the dangerous mission on which he was engaged; indeed, he seems to have been pointed out as the very man for the work.  It is not child's play to go into foreign countries, such as Russia and Spain, and distribute Bibles.  Fortunately for his success in Spain, the country was in a state of great disorder and turbulence at the time of his mission there, so that his movements were not so much watched as they would otherwise have been; yet, as it was, he became familiar with the interiors of half the jails in the Peninsula.  There he cultivated his acquaintance with the Gypsies and other vagabond races, and gathered new words for his Romany vocabulary.

    While in Spain, however, he did more than cultivate Romany and distribute Bibles; he brought out Bishop Scio's version of the New Testament in Spanish; he translated St. Luke into the Gypsy language, and edited the same in Basque,—one of the languages most difficult of attainment, because it has no literature; it has other difficulties, for it is hard to learn,—and the Basque people tell a story of the Devil (who does not lack abilities) having been detained among them seven years trying to learn the language, which he at last gave up in despair, having only been able to learn three words.  Humboldt also tried to learn it, with no better success than his predecessor.  But no difficulty was too great for Borrow to overcome; he acquired the Basque, thus vindicating his claim to the title of "Lavengro," or word-master.

    If any of our readers should happen not yet to have read "The Bible in Spain," we advise them to read it forthwith.  Though irregular, without plan or order, it is a thoroughly racy, graphic, and vigorous book, full of interest, honest, and straightforward, and without any cant or affectation in it; indeed, the man's prominent quality is honesty, otherwise we should never have seen anything of that strong love of pugilism, horsemanship, Gypsy life, and physical daring of all kinds, of which his books are full.  He is a Bible Harry Lorrequer,—a missionary Bampfylde Moore Carew,—an Exeter Hall bruiser,—a polyglot wandering Gypsy.  Fancy these incongruities,—and yet George Borrow is the man who embodies them in his one extraordinary person!



John James Audubon (1785-1851), ornithologist, naturalist, hunter,
 and painter.  Picture Wikipedia.

THE great naturalist of America, John James Audubon, left behind him, in his "Birds of America" and "Ornithological Biography," a magnificent monument of his labours, which through life were devoted to the illustration of the natural history of his native country.  His grand work on the Biography of Birds is quite unequalled for the close observation of the habits of birds and animals which it displays, its glowing pictures of American scenery, and the enthusiastic love of nature which breathes throughout its pages.  The sunshine and the open air, the dense shade of the forest, and the boundless undulations of the prairies, the roar of the sea beating against the rock-ribbed shore, the solitary wilderness of the Upper Arkansas, the savannas of the South, the beautiful Ohio, the vast Mississippi, and the green steeps of the Alleghanies,—all were as familiar to Audubon as his own home.  The love of birds, of flowers, of animals,—the desire to study their habits in their native retreats,—haunted him like a passion from his earliest years, and he devoted almost his entire life to the pursuit.

    He was born to competence, of French parents settled in America, in the State of Pennsylvania,—a beautiful green undulating country, watered by fine rivers, and full of lovely scenery.  "When I had hardly yet learned to walk," says he, in his autobiography prefixed to his work,

"the productions of nature that lay spread all around were constantly pointed out to me.  They soon became my playmates; and before my ideas were sufficiently formed to enable me to estimate the difference between the azure tints of the sky and the emerald hue of the bright foliage, I felt that an intimacy with them, not consisting of friendship merely, but bordering on frenzy, must accompany my steps through life; and now, more than ever, am I persuaded of the power of those early impressions. They laid such hold of me, that, when removed from the woods, the prairies, and the brooks, or shut up from the view of the wide Atlantic, I experienced none of those pleasures most congenial to my mind. None but aerial companions suited my fancy. No roof seemed so secure to me as that formed of the dense foliage under which the feathered tribes were seen to resort, or the caves and fissures of the massy rocks to which the dark-winged cormorant and the curlew retired to rest, or to protect themselves from the fury of the tempest."

    Audubon seems to have inherited this intense love of nature from his father, who eagerly encouraged the boy's tastes, procured birds and flowers for him, pointed out their elegant movements, told him of their haunts and habits, their migrations, changes of livery, and so on,—feeding the boy's mind with vivid pleasure and stimulating his quick sense of enjoyment.  As he grew up towards manhood, these tastes grew stronger within him, and he longed to go forth amid the forests and prairies of America to survey the native wild birds in their magnificent haunts.  But, meanwhile, he learned to draw; he painted birds and flowers, and acquired a facility of delineation of their forms, attitudes, and plumage.  Of course he only reached this through many failures and defeats; but he was laborious and full of love for his pursuit, and in such a case ultimate success is certain.

John James Audubon:
Mourning Dove , Zenaida macroura, hand-coloured engraving/aquatint.
Picture Wikipedia.

    His education was greatly advanced by a residence in France, whither he was sent to receive his school education, returning to America at the age of seventeen.  In Paris, he had the advantage of studying under the great David.  He revisited the woods of the New World with fresh ardour and increased enthusiasm.  His father gave him a fine estate on the banks of the Schuylkill; and amidst its beautiful woodlands, its extensive fields, its hills crowned with evergreens, he pursued his delightful studies.  Another object about the same time excited his passion, and he soon rejoiced in the name of husband.  But though Audubon loved his wife most fondly, his first ardent love had been given to nature.  It was his genius and destiny, which he could not resist, and he was drawn on towards it in spite of himself.

    He engaged, however, in various branches of commerce, none of which succeeded with him, his mind being preoccupied by his favourite study.  His friends called him "fool,"—all excepting his wife and children.  At last, irritated by the remarks of relatives and others, he broke entirely away from the pursuits of trade, and gave himself up wholly to natural history.  He ransacked the woods, the lakes, the prairies, and the shores of the Atlantic, spending years away from his home and family.  His object, at first, was not to become a writer; but simply to indulge a passion,—to enjoy the sight of nature.  It was Charles Lucien Bonaparte, an accomplished naturalist, who first incited him to arrange his beautiful drawings in a form for publication, and to enter upon his grand work, "The Birds of America."  He now explored over and over again the woods and the prairies, the lakes, the rivers, and the sea-shore, with this object in view; but when he had heaped together a mass of information, and collected a large number of drawings, an untoward accident occurred to his collection, which we cannot help relating in his own words:

    "I left the village of Henderson, in Kentucky, situated on the banks of Ohio, where I resided for several years, to proceed to Philadelphia on business.  I looked to all my drawings (ten hundred in number) before my departure, placed them carefully in a box, and gave them in charge to a relative, with injunctions to see that no injury happened to them.  My absence was of several months; and when I returned, after having enjoyed the pleasures of home for a few days, I inquired after my box, and what I was pleased to call my treasure.  The box was produced, and opened; but, reader, feel for me,—a pair of Norway rats had taken possession of the whole, and had reared a young family amongst the gnawed bits of paper, which, but a few months ago had represented nearly a thousand inhabitants of the air!  The burning heat which instantly rushed through my brain was too great to be endured, without affecting the whole of my nervous system.  I slept not for several nights, and the days passed like days of oblivion, until the animal powers being recalled into action, through the strength of my constitution, I took up my gun, my note-book, and my pencils, and went forth to the woods as gaily as if nothing had happened.  I felt pleased that I might now make much better drawings than before, and ere a period not exceeding three years had elapsed, I had my portfolio filled again."

    While you read Audubon's books, you feel that you are in the society of no ordinary naturalist.  Everything he notes down is the result of his own observation.  Nature, not books, has been his teacher.  You feel the fresh air blowing in your face, scent the odour of the prairie-flowers and the autumn woods, and hear the roar of the surf along the sea-shore.  He takes you into the squatter's hut in the lonely swamp, where you listen to the story of the woodcutter's life, and sally out in the night to hunt the cougar; or he launches you on the Ohio in a light skiff, where he paints for you in glowing words the rich autumnal tints decorating the shores of that queen of rivers,—every tree hung with long and flowing festoons of different species of vines, many loaded with clustered fruits of varied brilliancy, their rich bronzed carmine mingling beautifully with the yellow foliage predominating over the green leaves,—gliding down the river under the rich and glowing sky which characterizes what is called the "Indian summer," and reminding you of the delicious description in Longfellow's "Evangeline:"—

"Now through rushing chutes, among green islands, where, plume-like,
 Cotton-trees nodded their shadowy crests, they swept with the current,
 Then emerged into broad lagoons, where silvery sandbars
 Lay in the stream, and along the wimpling waves of their margin,
 Shining with snow-white plumes, large flocks of pelicans waded.
 Over their heads the towering and tenebrous boughs of the cypress
 Met in a dusky arch, and trailing mosses in mid-air
 Waved like banners that hang on the walls of ancient cathedrals.
 Then from a neighbouring thicket the mocking-bird, wildest of singers,
 Swinging aloft on a willow-spray that hung o'er the water,
 Shook from his little throat such floods of delirious music,
 That the whole air, and the woods, and the waves, seemed silent to listen."

    In one of his excursions on the Ohio, Audubon was accompanied by his wife and eldest son, then an infant; and they floated on from Pennsylvania to Kentucky, sleeping and living in the boat, under the Indian summer sun and the mellowed beauty of the moon, skirting the delicious shores, so picturesque and lovely at that autumn season, gliding along the stream, and meeting with no other ripple of the water than that formed by the propulsion of the boat.  The margins of the river were at that time (for this voyage took place about forty years ago) abundantly supplied with game, and occasionally the party landed at night on the green shore; a few gunshots procured a wild turkey or grouse, or a blue-winged teal; a fire was struck up, and a comfortable repast procured; after which the family again proceeded quietly on their way down stream.  The following is only one of the many lovely pictures sketched by Audubon of this enchanting sail, which probably Longfellow had in his eye when he penned the charming description in his "Evangeline."

    "As night came, sinking in darkness the broader portions of the river, our minds became affected by strong emotions, and wandered far beyond the present moments.  The tinkling of the bells told us that the cattle which bore them were gently roving from valley to valley in search of food, or returning to their distant homes.  The hooting of the great owl, or the muffled noise of its wings as it sailed smoothly over the stream, were matters of interest to us; so was the sound of the boatman's horn, as it came more and more softly from afar.  When daylight returned, many songsters burst forth with echoing notes, more and more mellow to the listening ear.  Here and there the lonely cabin of a squatter struck the eye, giving note of commencing civilization.  The crossing of the stream by a deer foretold how soon the hills would be covered with snow."

    The scene is greatly changed since then.  The shores are inhabited; the woods are mainly cleared away; the great herds of elk, deer, and buffalo have ceased to exist; villages, farms, and towns margin the Ohio; hundreds of steamboats are plying up and down the river, by night and by day; and thousands of British and American emigrants have settled down, in all directions, to the pursuits of agriculture and commerce, where only forty years ago was heard the hoot of the owl, the cry of the whip-poor-will, and the sharp stroke of the squatter's axe.

    Or, he takes you into the Great Pine Swamp, like a "mass of darkness," the ground overgrown by laurels and pines of all sorts; he has his gun and notebook in hand, and soon you have the wood-thrush, wild turkeys, pheasants, and grouse lying at his feet, with the drawings of which he enriches his portfolio; or you are listening to his host, while he reads by the log fire the glorious poetry of Burns.  Again, you are with him on the wide prairie, treading some old Indian track, amid brilliant flowers and long grass, the fawns and their dams gambolling along his path, and across boundless tracks of rich lands as yet almost untrodden by the foot of the white man, and then only by the Canadian trappers or Indian missionaries.  Or he is on the banks of the Mississippi, where the great magnolia shoots up its majestic trunk, crowned with evergreen leaves, and decorated with a thousand beautiful flowers, that perfume the air around; where the forests and fields are adorned with blossoms of every hue; where the golden orange ornaments the gardens and the groves; where the white-flowered Stuartia, and innumerable vines festoon the dense foliage of the magnificent woods, shedding on the vernal breeze the perfume of their clustered flowers; there, by the side of deep streams, or under the dense foliage, he watches by night the mocking-bird, the whip-poor-will, the yellow-throat, the humming bird, and the thousand beautiful songsters of that delicious land.  Then a crevasse, or sudden irruption of the swollen Mississippi, occurs, and forthwith he is floating over the submerged lands of the interior, nature all silent and melancholy, unless when the mournful bleating of the hemmed-in deer reaches the ear, or the dismal scream of an eagle or a raven is heard, as the bird rises from the carcass on which it had been allaying its appetite.

John James Audubon:
painting of a Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos, 1833-4.
Picture Wikipedia.

    How gloriously Audubon paints the eagle of his native land!  The American white-headed eagle, that haunts the Mississippi, stands sculptured before your eyes in his book.  See! he takes wing, and there you have him whirling up into the air as a noble swan comes in sight, and now there is the screaming pursuit and the fatal struggle.

    "Now is the moment to witness the display of the eagle's powers.  He glides through the air like a falling star, and, like a flash of lightning, comes upon the timorous quarry, which now, in agony and despair, seeks, by various manoeuvres, to elude the grasp of his cruel talons.  It mounts, doubles, and willingly would plunge into the stream, were it not prevented by the eagle, which, long possessed of the knowledge that by such knowledge a stratagem the swan might escape him, forces it to remain in the air, by attempting to strike it with his talons from beneath.  The hope of escape is soon given up by the swan.  It has already become much weakened, and its strength fails at the sight of the courage and swiftness of its antagonist.  Its last gasp is about to escape, when the ferocious eagle strikes with his talons the under side of its wing, and, with unresisted power, forces the bird to fall in a slanting direction upon the nearest shore."

    Then we have the same bird on the Atlantic shore in pursuit of the fish-hawk.

    "Perched on some tall summit, in view of the ocean, or of some watercourse, he watches every motion of the osprey while on wing.  When the latter rises from the water with a fish in its grasp, forth rushes the eagle in pursuit.  He mounts above the fish-hawk, and threatens it by actions well understood, when the latter, fearing perhaps that its life is in danger, drops its prey.  In an instant the eagle, accurately estimating the rapid descent of the fish, closes his wings, follows it with the swiftness of thought, and the next moment grasps it.  The prize is carried off in silence to the woods, and assists in feeding the ever-hungry brood of the eagle."

    But Audubon did not like the white-headed eagle, no more than did Franklin, who, in common with the ornithologist, regretted its adoption as the emblem of America, because of its voracity, its cowardice, and its thievish propensities.  Audubon's favourite among the eagles of America was the great eagle, or "The Bird of Washington," as he named it.  He first saw this grand bird when on a trading voyage with a Canadian, on the Upper Mississippi, and his delight was such that he says, "Not even Herschel, when he discovered the planet that bears his name, could have experienced more rapturous feelings."  But the bird had soon flown over the heads of the party and became lost in the distance.  Three years elapsed before he saw another specimen; and then it was when engaged in collecting tray-fish on one of the flats which border and divide Green River, in Kentucky, near its junction with the Ohio, that he discerned, up among the high cliffs which there follow the windings of the river, the marks of an eagle's nest.  Climbing his way towards it, he lay in wait for the parent: two hours elapsed, and then the loud hissings of two young eagles in the nest announced the approach of the old bird, which drew near and dropped in among them a fine fish.  "I had a perfect view," he says,

"of the noble bird as he held himself to the edging rock, hanging like the barn, bank, or social swallow, his tail spread, and his wings partly so.  In a few minutes the other parent joined her mate, and from the difference in size (the female of rapacious birds being much larger) we knew this to be the mother bird.  She also had brought a fish, but, more cautious than her mate, she glanced her quick and piercing eye around, and instantly perceived that her abode had been discovered.  She dropped her prey, with a loud shriek communicated the alarm to her mate, and, hovering with him over our heads, kept up a growling cry, to intimidate us from our suspected design.  This watchful solicitude I have ever found peculiar to the female; must I be understood to speak only of birds?"

John James Audubon:
Ivory-billed Woodpecker , Campephilus principalis, hand-coloured engraving.
Male on the left, female on the right.  Picture Wikipedia.

    Two years more passed in fruitless efforts to secure a specimen of this rare bird; but at last he was so fortunate as to shoot one; and then gave it the name it bears, "The Bird of Washington," the noblest bird of its genus in the States.  Why he so named the bird he thus explains:

"To those who may be curious to know my reasons, I can only say, that, as the New World gave me birth and liberty, the great man who insured its independence is next to my heart.  He had a nobility of mind and a generosity of soul such as are seldom possessed.  He was brave, so is the eagle; like it, too, he was the terror of his foes; and his fame, extending from pole to pole, resembles the majestic soarings of the mightiest of the feathered tribes.  If America has reason to be proud of her Washington, so has she to be proud of her Great Eagle."

    In the course of his extensive wanderings, Audubon experienced all sorts of adventures.  Once he was within an inch of his life in a solitary squatter's hut in one of the wide prairies of the Upper Mississippi; in one of the extensive swamps of the Choctaw territory in the State of Mississippi, he joined in the hunt of a ferocious cougar or painter (panther) which had been the destruction of the flocks in that neighbourhood; in the Banem of Kentucky, he was once surprised by an earthquake, the ground rising and falling under his terrified horse like the ruffled waters of a lake; he became familiar with storms and hurricanes, which only afforded new subjects for his graphic pen; he joined in the Kentucky hunting sports, or with the Indian expeditions on the far prairie; he witnessed the astounding flights of wild pigeons in countless multitudes, lasting for whole days in succession, so that "the air was literally filled with pigeons, the light of noonday obscured as by an eclipse, the dung fell in spots not unlike melting flakes of snow, and the continued buzzing of the millions of wings had a tendency to lull the senses to repose,"—one of these enormous flocks extending, it is estimated by Audubon, over a space of not less than 180 miles; then he is on the trail of the deer or the buffalo in the hunting-grounds of the Far West, he misses his way, and lies down for the night in the copse under the clear sky, or takes shelter with a trapper, where he is always welcome; then he is in the Gulf of Mexico, spending weeks together in the pursuit of birds, or observing their haunts and habits; then he is in the thick of a bear-hunt.  Such is the rapid succession of objects that passes before you in the first volume of the "Birds of America," interspersed with delicious descriptions of such birds as the mocking-bird, whip-poor-will, humming-bird, wood-thrush, and other warblers of the forest.

    In his description of the wood-thrush, which he confesses to be his "greatest favourite of the feathered tribes," you see something of the hardships to which he exposed himself by the enthusiasm with which he followed his exciting pursuit.  "How often," be says,

"has it revived my drooping spirits when I have listened to its wild notes in the forest, after passing a restless night in my slender shed, so feebly secured against the violence of the storm as to show me the futility of my best efforts to rekindle my little fire, whose uncertain and vacillating light had gradually died away under the destructive weight of the dense torrents of rain that seemed to involve the heavens and the earth in one mass of fearful murkiness, save when the red streaks of the flashing thunderbolt burst on the dazzled eye, and, glancing along the huge trunk of the stateliest and noblest tree in the immediate neighbourhood, were instantly followed by an uproar of crackling, crashing, and deafening sounds, rolling their volumes in tumultuous eddies far and near, as if to silence the very breathings of the unformed thought.  How often, after such a night, when far from my dear home, and deprived of the presence of those nearest and dearest to my heart, wearied, hungry, drenched, and so lonely and desolate as almost to question myself why I was thus situated; when I have seen the fruits of my labours on the eve of being destroyed, as the water collected into a stream, rushed through my little camp, and forced me to stand erect, shivering in a cold fit, like that of a severe ague; when I have been obliged to wait with the patience of a martyr for the return of day, trying in vain to destroy the tormenting mosquitoes, silently counting over the years of my youth, doubting, perhaps, if ever again I should return to my home, and embrace my family; —how often, as the first glimpses of morning gleamed doubtfully amongst the dusky masses of the forest-trees, has there come upon my ear, thrilling along the sensitive cords which connect that organ with the heart, the delightful music of this harbinger of day; and bow fervently, on such occasions, have I blessed the Being who formed the wood-thrush, and placed it in those solitary forests, as if to console me amidst my privations, to cheer my depressed mind, and to make me feel, as I did, that never ought man to despair, whatever may be his situation, as he can never be certain that aid and deliverance are not at hand."

    After many years of persevering toil, when he had collected a rich treasure of original drawings of the birds of America, many of which up to that time were altogether unknown, and had never been described, Audubon proceeded to the then two chief cities of the States, Philadelphia and New York, and endeavoured to find a publisher.  He sought for one in vain!  Some said his book would never sell, others that his drawings could never be engraved.  Audubon was of a resolute spirit, and had learnt to brave all manner of difficulties in the pine-woods and the prairies, and he determined that he would find a publisher.  America was not the world; he would carry his collections to Europe, and try and find a publisher there.

    He came to England in 1827, and was welcomed with open arms.  Many yet remember the glowing enthusiasm of the "American Woodsman," and the ardent eloquence of his descriptions of the glorious rivers, the wide prairies, the magnificent vegetation, and the ornithological treasures of his native country.  "All mankind love a lover," and here was one of the most ardent, kindling all hearts with a generous glow.  His drawings were exhibited and greatly admired.  From Liverpool, where he landed, he proceeded to Scotland, the land of Burns, for he "longed to see the men and the scenes immortalized by his fervid strains."  He reached Edinburgh, and was "received as a brother" by the most distinguished scientific and literary men of that metropolis.  There he found a publisher in Adam Black, with Lizars for his engraver.  The first number of his magnificent illustrations appeared in 1825, and the first complete volume of the "Ornithological Biography" in 1831.  The work was received with general laudations.  Nothing of the kind equal to it in riveting interest had appeared before; and it still stands unrivalled.  He proposed to devote the remainder of his life to the completion of his work.  Sixteen years was the time he had estimated as required for the preparation and production of the whole.  Observing on the time remaining for its completion, he says:  "After all, it will be less than the period frequently given by many persons to the maturation of certain wines placed in their cellars."  It is not thus that men generally write now-a-days, post-haste and at railroad speed.  Audubon's object was to do his work—one work—thoroughly and well, so as to leave nothing to be desired after it; and he has done it gloriously.

John James Audubon:
“White Gerfalcons” Falco rusticolus.
Picture Wikipedia.

    In the introduction to his third volume, published in 1835, he said: "Ten years have now elapsed since the first number of my 'Illustrations of the Birds of America' made its appearance.   At that period, I calculated that the engravers would take sixteen years in accomplishing their task; and this I announced in my prospectus, and talked of to my, friends."  At that time, there was not a single individual who encouraged him to proceed; they all called him "rash," advised him to abandon his plans, dispose of his drawings, and give up the project.  When he delivered the first drawings to the engraver, he had not a single subscriber; but he had determined on success, and he persevered.  "To will is to do," says the maxim, and it was Audubon's.  "My heart was nerved," he says, "and my reliance on that Power on whom all must depend brought bright anticipations of success.  I worked early and late, and glad I was to perceive that the more I laboured the more I improved."  Subscribers at length supported him, and encouraged him, when they saw he was bent on success, and at the end of some four years of great anxiety, his engraver, Mr. Havell, presented him with the first volume of his "Birds of America."

    In the interval he made several voyages between the United States and England, pursuing his ornithological observations there, and superintending his publication here.  In 1828, he visited the illustrious Cuvier at Paris.  He spent the winter in England, and went out to the States in April, 1829.  "With what pleasure," he says, "did I gaze on each setting sun, as it sank in the far distant west!  With what delight did I mark the first wandering American bird that hovered over the waters! and how joyous were my feelings when I saw a pilot on our deck!  I leaped on the shore, scoured the woods of the Middle States, and reached Louisiana in the end of November."  Louisiana was one of his favourite localities for the study of birds; and Audubon often lingered there.  In his description of the "great blue heron," and other birds which frequent that State, he shows how familiar he is with its luxuriant swamps.  "Imagine, if you can," he says, an area of some hundred acres overgrown with huge cypress-trees,—the trunks of which, rising to a height of perhaps fifty feet before they send off a branch, spring from the midst of the dark muddy waters.  Their broad tops, placed close together with interlaced branches, seem intent on separating the heavens from the earth.  Beneath their dark canopy scarcely a stray sunbeam ever makes its way; the mire is covered with fallen logs, on which grow matted grasses and lichens, and the deeper parts with nympheal and other aquatic plants.  The Congo-snake and water-moccasin glide before you as they seek to elude your sight; hundreds of turtles drop, as if shot, from the floating trunks of the fallen trees, from which also the sullen alligator plunges into the dismal pool.  The air is pregnant with pestilence, but alive with mosquitoes and other insects.  The croaking of the frogs, joined with the hoarse cries of the anhingas and the screams of the herons, forms fit music for such a scene.  Standing knee-deep in the mire, you discharge your gun at one of the numerous birds that are brooding high overhead, when immediately such a deafening noise arises, that, if you have a companion with you, it were quite useless to speak to him.  The frightened birds cross each other in their flight; the young attempting to secure themselves, some of them lose their hold and fall into the water with a splash; a shower of leaflets whirls downwards from the tree-tops, and you are glad to make your retreat from such a place."

    Accompanied by his wife, Audubon left New Orleans in January, 1830, proceeded to New York, and from thence again to England, where he arrived to receive a diploma from the Royal Society, which he esteemed as a great honour conferred on an American woodsman.  Returning to the States in 1831, he took with him two assistants, his work assuming an importance not before dreamt of.  The American government now aided him, and he was provided with letters of protection along the frontiers, which proved valuable helps.  His chief field of investigation this year was Florida,—full of interest and novelty to the ornithologist.  It was, comparatively, a new field, and Audubon explored it with his usual enthusiasm.  There, along the reef-bound coast about Key West, and among the islets of coral that everywhere rise from the surface of the ocean like gigantic water-lilies, he cruised in his bark, often under a burning sun, pushing for miles over soapy flats, tormented by myriads of insects, but eager to procure some new heron, the possession of which would at once compensate him for all his toils.  There, in these native haunts, he studied the habits of the sandpiper and the cormorant, and scoured the billows after the fulmar and the frigate-bird.  There, along the shore, among its luxuriant fringe of flowers, plants, and trees, gorgeously luxuriant, he followed after birds nearly all of which were new to him, and which filled him with boundless delight.

    On the east coast of Florida, he was surprised and delighted at the wild orange-groves through which his steps often led him; the rich perfume of the blossoms, the golden hue of the fruits that hung on every twig and lay scattered on the ground, and the deep green of the glossy leaves which sometimes half concealed the golden fruit.  Audubon used sometimes to pass through orange-groves of this kind a full mile in extent, quenching his thirst with the luscious fruit, and delighted at the rich variety of life with which the woods were filled.

    Having received letters from the Secretaries of the Navy and Treasury of the United States to the commanding officers of the vessels of war and of the reserve service, directing them to afford assistance to Audubon in his labours, he on one occasion embarked at St. Augustine, in the schooner Spark, for St. John's River, a little to the north.  He now studied, amid their haunts along the coast, the snowy pelican, cormorants, sea-eagles, and blue herons; and sailed for one hundred miles up the river, between banks swarming with alligators, where he landed and made familiar acquaintance with beautiful humming-birds, and the other frequenters of the groves and thickets in that tropical region. Here is an ugly phase of the naturalist's life: —

    "Alligators were extremely abundant, and the heads of the fishes which they had snapped off lay floating around on the dark waters.  A rifle-bullet was now and then sent through the eye of one of the largest, which, with a tremendous splash of its tail, expired.  One morning we saw a monstrous fellow lying on the shore.  I was desirous of obtaining him, to make an accurate drawing of his head, and, accompanied by my assistant and two of the sailors, proceeded cautiously towards him.  When within a few yards, one of us fired and sent through his side an ounce ball, which tore open a hole large enough to receive a man's hand.  He slowly raised his head, bent himself upwards, opened his huge jaws, swung his tail to and fro, rose on his legs, blew in a frightful manner, and fell to the earth.  My assistant leaped on shore, and, contrary to my injunctions, caught hold of the animal's tail; when the alligator, awaking from its trance, with a last effort crawled slowly towards the water, and plunged heavily into it.  Had he once thought of flourishing his tremendous weapon, there might have been an end of his assailant's life; but he fortunately went in peace to his grave, where we left him, as the water was too deep.  The same morning another of equal size was observed swimming directly for the bows of our vessel, attracted by the gentle rippling of the water there.  One of the officers, who had watched him, fired and scattered his brains through the air, when he trembled and rolled at a fearful rate, blowing all the while most furiously.  The river was bloody for yards round; but although the monster passed close by the vessel, we could not secure him, and after a while he sank to the bottom."

    At other times, Audubon was carried out beyond the coral reef which surrounds the Floridan coast, to the Keys, or islands standing out a little to sea.  These were covered with rich vegetation, and full of life.  The shores were also swarming with crabs and shell-fish of all kinds.  "One of my companions thrust himself into the tangled groves that covered all but the beautiful coral beach that in a continued line bordered the island, while others gazed on the glowing and diversified hues of the curious inhabitants of the deep.  I saw one rush into the limpid element to seize on a crab, that, with claws extended upwards, awaited his opponent, as if determined not to give way.  A loud voice called him back to the land, for sharks are as abundant along those shores as pebbles, and the hungry prowlers could not have got a more dainty dinner."  Flamingos, ibises, pelicans, cormorants, and herons frequent those islands in vast numbers, and turtles and sea-cows bask along their shores.  The party landed at night on the Indian Key, where they were kindly welcomed; and while the dance and the song were going on around him, Audubon, his head filled with his pursuit, sat sketching the birds that he had seen, and filling up his notes respecting the objects witnessed in the course of the day.  Thus it is that his descriptions have so strong and fresh a flavour of nature, and that to read them is like being present at the scenes he so graphically depicts.  After supper, the lights were put out, the captain returned to his vessel, and the ornithologist, with his young men, "slept in light swinging hammocks under the leaves of the piazza."  It was the end of April, when the nights are short there and the days long; so, anxious to turn every moment to account, they were all on board again at three o'clock next morning, and proceeded outwards to sea.  He thus briefly describes a sunrise on one of those early April mornings:—

    "The gentle sea-breeze glided over the flowing tide, the horizon was clear, and all was silent save the long breakers that rushed over the distant reefs.  As we were proceeding towards some Keys seldom visited by man, the sun rose from the bosom of the waters with a burst of glory that flashed on my soul the idea of that Power which called into existence so magnificent an object.  The moon, thin and pale, as if ashamed to show her feeble light, concealed herself in the dim west.  The surface of the waters shone in its tremulous smoothness, and the deep blue of the clear beams was pure as the world that lies beyond them.  The heron flew heavily towards the land, like the glutton retiring at daybreak, with well-lined paunch, from the house of some wealthy patron of good cheer.  The night-heron and the owl, fearful of day, with hurried flight sought safety in the recesses of the deepest swamps; while the gulls and terns, ever cheerful, gambolled over the waters, exulting in the prospect of abundance.  I also exulted in hope; my whole frame seemed to expand; and our sturdy crew showed, by their merry faces, that nature had charms for them too.  How much of beauty and joy is lost to those who never view the rising of the sun, and of whose waking existence the best half is nocturnal!"

    They landed on Sandy Island, which lies about six miles from the extreme point of South Florida, stretching away down into the Gulf of Mexico; they laid themselves down in the sand to sleep, the waters almost bathing their feet; the boat lay at their side, like a whale reposing on a mud-bank.  Birds in myriads fed around them,—ibises, godwits, herons, fish-crows, and frigate pelicans.  Having explored the island, and shot a number of birds, they proceeded back to land through the tortuous channels among the reefs, and were caught by one of those sudden hurricanes which so often sweep across the seas.  And here is Audubon's picture of the storm:—

    "We were not more than a cable's length from the shore, when, with imperative voice, the pilot said to us: 'Sit quite still, gentlemen, for I should not like to lose you overboard just now; the boat can't upset, my word for that, if you but sit still.  Here we have it!'  Persons who have never witnessed hurricanes such as not infrequently desolate the sultry climates of the south, can scarcely form an idea of their terrific grandeur.  One would think that, not content with laying waste all on land, it must needs sweep the waters of the shallows quite dry to quench its thirst.  No respite for an instant does it afford to the objects within the reach of its furious current.  Like the scythe of the destroying angel, it cuts everything by the roots, as it were with the careless ease of the experienced mower.  Each of its revolving sweeps collects a heap that might be likened to the full sheaf which the husbandman flings by his side.  On it goes, with a wildness and fury that are indescribable; and when at last its frightful blasts have ceased, Nature, weeping and disconsolate, is left bereaved of her beauteous offspring.  In some instances even a full century is required before, with all her powerful energies, she can repair her loss.  The planter has not only lost his mansion, his crops, and his flocks, but he has to clear his lands anew, covered and entangled as they are with the trunks and branches of trees that are everywhere strewn.  The barque, overtaken by the storm, is cast on the lee-shore, and, if any are left to witness the fatal results, they are the 'wreckers' alone, who, with inward delight, gaze upon the melancholy spectacle.  Our light bark shivered like a leaf the instant the blast reached her sides.  We thought she had gone over, but the next instant she was on the shore.  And now, in contemplation of the sublime and awful storm, I gazed around me.  The waters drifted like snow, the tough mangroves hid their tops amid their roots, and the loud roaring of the waves driven among them blended with the howl of the tempest.  It was not rain that fell; the masses of water flew in a horizontal direction, and when a part of my body was exposed, I felt as if a smart blow had been given to it.  But enough!—in half an hour it was over.  The pure blue sky once more embellished the heavens, and although it was now quite night, we considered our situation a good one.  The crew and some of the party spent the night in the boat.  The pilot, myself, and one of my assistants, took to the heart of the mangroves, and having found high land, we made a fire as well as we could, spread a tarpaulin, and, fixing our insect bars over us, soon forgot in sleep the horrors that had surrounded us."

    Audubon returned to Charleston with a store of rich prizes for his work, and from thence proceeded to Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, greatly enjoying the lavish hospitality of the last-named city.  Then he proceeded, still on his industrious explorations, to Moose Island, in the Bay of Fundy (situated between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick), where he continued to extend his observations on altogether different classes of birds from those in the South.  He afterwards explored New Brunswick and Maine, increasing his collections, and returned to Boston, where he was a witness to the melancholy death of the great Spurzheim, the phrenologist.  He was himself seized with illness, the result of close application to his work, but he soon after resolved to set out again in quest of fresh materials for his pencil and pen.

    This time, it was the grand, rocky coasts of Labrador, haunted by innumerable sea-birds, that attracted him.  At Eastport, in Maine, he chartered a beautiful and fast-sailing schooner, the "Ripley," and set sail, with several friends, on his delightful voyage.  He passed out of the port under a salute of honour from the guns of the fort and of the revenue-cutter at anchor in the bay.  Touching islands in the St. Lawrence Gulf, each haunted by its peculiar tribes of birds, a heavy gale came on, and the vessel sped away, under reefed sails, to the coast of Labrador.  Masses of drifting ice and snow, filling every nook and cove of the rugged shores, came in sight; they neared the coast at the place called the "American Harbour," and there Audubon landed.  Large patches of unmelted snow dappled the face of the wild country; vegetation had scarcely yet commenced; the chilliness of the air was still penetrating; the absence of trees, the barren aspect of all around, the sombre mantle of the mountainous distance that hung along the horizon, excited melancholy feelings.  But hist! what is that?  It is the song of the thrush,—the first sound that meets Audubon's ear,—and the delightful associations it called up at once reconciled him to the comparative miseries of the locality, so different from the glowing luxuriance of Florida, and his favourite Louisiana.  Robins, hopping about amid the blossoms of the dogwood; black-poll warblers, and numerous other birds, some of them entirely new, began to appear; and soon Audubon was fully absorbed in his delightful pursuit.  The Ripley sailed further north, and entered the harbour of Little Macatina, of which this is his description:—

    "It was the middle of July; the weather was mild, and very pleasant; our vessel made her way, under a smart breeze, through a very narrow passage, beyond which we found ourselves in a small, circular basin of water, having an extent of seven or eight acres.  It was so surrounded by high, abrupt, and rugged rocks, that, as I glanced around, I could find no apter comparison for our situation than that of a nut-shell at the bottom of a basin.  The dark shadows that overspread the waters, and the mournful silence of the surrounding desert, sombred our otherwise glad feelings into a state of awe.  The scenery was grand and melancholy.  On one side hung over our heads, in stupendous masses, a rock several hundred feet high, the fissures of which might to some have looked like the mouths of a huge, undefined monster.  Here and there a few dwarf pines were stuck, as if by magic, to this enormous mass of granite; in a gap of the cliff, the brood of a pair of grim ravens shrunk from our sight, and the gulls, one after another, began to wend their way overhead towards the middle of the quiet pool, as the furling of the sails was accompanied by the glad cries of the sailors.  The remarkable land-beacons erected in that country to guide vessels into the harbour, looked like so many figures of gigantic stature, formed from the large blocks that lay on every hill around.  A low valley, in which meandered a rivulet, opened at a distance to the view.  The remains of a deserted camp of seal-catchers was easily traced from our deck, and as easily could we perceive the innate tendency of man to mischief, in the charred and crumbling ruins of the dwarf-pine forests.  But the harbour was so safe and commodious, that, before we left it to find shelter in another, we had cause to be thankful for its friendly protection."

    Thus coasting along Labrador, peeping into its bays and inlets,—through bogs, and ice, and fishing-smacks, pursuing their vocations,—landing here and there along the coast, and penetrating into the interior,—the summer of 1833 passed joyously and profitably.  Audubon enriched his portfolio with drawings of new birds, and his note-book with numerous fine descriptions of Labrador coast-life and scenery.  He describes cod-fishing in glowing colours; devotes a chapter each to the "eggers of Labrador," and the "squatters of Labrador" and enlivens his details of the natural history, haunts, and habits of birds by a thousand interesting adventures and reflections.  He makes you feel the enthusiasm he felt himself, and shares with you the delight he experienced in the course of his cruisings and journeyings.  He returned to the States in autumn, touching at Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, and thence on to Boston.  "One day only was spent there, when the husband was in the arms of his wife, who, with equal tenderness, embraced his beloved child."  For Audubon's eldest son had accompanied him in this last-named voyage.

John James Audubon:
Virginian Partridge (Northern Bobwhite) under attack by a young red-shouldered hawk, 1829.
Picture Wikipedia.

    Subscribers to the "Birds of America" now increased; friends multiplied in all quarters; and he proceeded again to England to superintend the continued publication of his work.  There he extended his friendships and enlarged his knowledge, comparing his experience with that of the greatest authorities in natural history.  His third volume of "Ornithological Biography" was published in 1835; in it he gives a graphic sketch of an interview he had with Thomas Bewick, the famous wood-engraver and naturalist, at Newcastle-on-Tyne.  This volume is quite equal in interest to the two first, and greatly added to his reputation as a writer.  In it he describes birds of North and South, of Labrador and Florida, of the Great Pine Forest of Pennsylvania, and of the swamps along the Mississippi, with marvellous picturesque power and fidelity.  He returned to the States in 1836, again to pursue his studies; again he visited the western coast of Florida, and sailed through the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans; then explored the coast of Texas to the Bay of Galveston, travelled across Texas, and returned again to New Orleans.  Crossing the country by Mobile, Pensacola, and Augusta, he again reached Charleston, and thence northwards by Washington to New York.  He embarked again for England in 1837, where new honours and diplomas awaited him, bringing out his fourth volume of "Ornithological Biography" at the end of 1838.  He was now sixty-three years of age, but, speaking of himself, he observed: "The adventures and vicissitudes which have fallen to my lot, instead of tending to diminish the fervid enthusiasm of my nature, have imparted a toughness to my bodily constitution, naturally strong, and to my mind, naturally buoyant, an elasticity such as to assure me that, though somewhat old, and considerably denuded in the frontal region, I could yet perform on foot a journey of any length, were I sure that I should thereby add materially to our knowledge of the ever-interesting creatures which have for so long a ever-interesting long time occupied my thoughts by day, and filled my dreams with pleasant images."  In the following year, 1839, he published his fifth and last volume, and was then as full of hope and life as ever.  His only regret, in parting with his readers, was that he could not transfer to them the whole of the practical knowledge which he had acquired during so many years of enthusiastic devotion to the study of nature.

    "Amid the tall grass," said he,

"of the far-extended prairies of the West, in the solemn gusts of the North, on the heights of the midland mountains, by the shores of the boundless ocean, and on the bosom of the vast lakes and magnificent rivers, have I sought to search out the things which have been hidden since the creation of this wondrous world, or seen only by the naked Indian, who has, for unknown ages, dwelt in the gorgeous but melancholy wilderness.  Who is the stranger to my own dear country that can form an adequate conception of its primeval woods,—of the glory of those columnar trunks that for centuries have waved in the breeze and resisted the shock of the tempest,—of the vast bays of our Atlantic coasts, replenished by thousands of streams, differing in magnitude as differ the stars that sparkle in the expanse of the pure heavens,—of the density of aspect in our Western plains, our sandy Southern shores, interspersed with reedy swamps, and the cliffs that protect our Eastern coasts,—of the rapid currents of the Mexican Gulf, and the rushing tide-streams of the Bay of Fundy,—of our ocean lakes, our mighty rivers, our thundering cataracts, our majestic mountains, rearing their snowy heads into the calmest regions of the clear cold sky?  Would that I could delineate the varied features of that loved land!"

    As he lived, so he died, full of love for nature.  He went on observing, comparing, and noting down his experience, to the last.  On the 27th of January last, 1851, at his home in New York, at the advanced age of seventy-six, "the American woodsman," to use his own words in one of his volumes, "wrapped himself in his blanket, closed his eyes, and fell asleep."




William MacGillivray (1796-1852):
Scottish natural historian and ornithologist.

ENGLAND has as yet produced no naturalist so distinguished as Audubon in his particular department of science.  Wilson, the Paisley weaver, published an admirable work on the birds of America, and, having settled in that country, he came to be regarded as an American rather than as a British writer.  Macgillivray, perhaps, stands at the head of English writers on British birds.  His history is similar to that of many other ardent devotees of science and art.  His early life was a long and arduous struggle with difficulties, poverty, and neglect; and it was only towards the close of his career, when he had completed the last volume of his admirable work, that he saw the clouds which had obscured his early fortunes clearing away and revealing the bright sky and sunshine beyond, but, alas! the success came too late: his constitution had given way in the ardour of the pursuit, and the self-devoted man of science sank lamented into an early grave.

    William Macgillivray was born at Aberdeen, the son of comparatively poor parents, who nevertheless found the means of sending him to the University of his native town, in which he took the degree of Master of Arts.  It was his intention to take out a medical degree, and he served an apprenticeship to a physician with this view; but his means were too limited, and his love of natural history too ardent, to allow him to follow the profession as a means of support.  He accordingly sought for a situation which should at the same time enable him to subsist and to pursue his favourite pursuit.

    Such a situation presented itself in 1823, when he accepted the appointment of assistant and secretary to the Regius Professor of Natural History, and Keeper of the Museum, of the Edinburgh University.  The collection of natural history at that place is one of peculiar excellence, and he was enabled to pursue his studies there with increased zest and profit;—not, however, as regarded his purse, for the office was by no means lucrative; but, having the charge of this fine collection, he was enabled to devote his time exclusively to the study of scientific ornithology during the winter, whilst during the summer vacation he made long excursions in the country in order to investigate and record the habits of British birds.  He was afterwards appointed Conservator to the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons at Edinburgh, where we have often seen him diligently poring over, dissecting, and preparing the specimens which, from time to time, were added to that fine collection.  It was while officiating in the latter capacity that he wrote the first three volumes of his elaborate work.  His spare time was also occupied in the preparation of numerous other works on natural history, some of them of standard excellence; by which he was enabled to eke out the means of comfortable subsistence.

William Macgillivray: John Dory (Zeus faber).
Picture Wikipedia.

    Mr. Macgillivray was a man of indefatigable industry, of singular order and method in his habits, a strict economist of time, every moment of which he turned to useful account.  Although he studied and wrote upon many subjects,—zoology, geology, botany, mollusca, physiology, agriculture, the feeding of cattle, soils and subsoils,—ornithology was ways his favourite pursuit.  He accompanied Audubon in most of his ornithological rambles in Scotland, and doubtless imbibed some portion of the ardent enthusiasm with which the American literally burned.  Mr. Macgillivray wrote the descriptions of the species, and of the alimentary and respiratory organs, for Audubon's work.  His own "British Birds" reminds us in many parts of the enthusiasm of Audubon, and of the graces of that writer's style.  Like him, Macgillivray used to watch the birds of which he was in search by night and day.  Wrapped in his plaid, he would lie down upon the open moor or on the hill-side, waiting the approach of morning to see the feathered tribes start up and meet the sun, to dart after their prey, or to feed their impatient brood.  We remember one such night spent by him on the side of the Lammermoor hills, described in one of his early works, which is full of descriptive beauty, as well as of sound information upon the subject in hand.  There is another similar description of a night spent by him among the mountains of Braemar.  He had been in search of the gray ptarmigan, whose haunts and habits he was engaged in studying at the time, and had traced the river Dee far up to its sources among the hills, where all traces of the stream became lost: clouds began to gather; nevertheless he pressed on towards the hill-top, until at length he found himself on the summit of a magnificent precipice, several hundred feet high, and at least half a mile in length.  "The scene," he says,

"that now presented itself to my view was the most splendid that I had then seen.  All around rose mountains beyond mountains, whose granite ridges, rugged and tempest-beaten, furrowed by deep ravines worn by the torrents, gradually became dimmer as they receded, until at length on the verge of the horizon they were blended with the clouds or stood abrupt against the clear sky.  A solemn stillness pervaded all nature; no living creature was to be seen: the dusky wreaths of vapour rolled majestically over the dark valleys, and clung to the craggy summits of the everlasting hills.  A melancholy, pleasing, incomprehensible feeling creeps over the soul when the lone wanderer contemplates the vast, the solemn, the solitary scene, over which savage grandeur and sterility preside.

    "The summits of the loftier mountains, Cairngorm on the one hand, Ben-na-muic-dui and Benvrotan on the other, and Loch-na-gar on the south, were covered with mist; but the clouds had rolled westward from Ben-na-buird, on which I stood, leaving its summit entirely free.  The beams of the setting sun burst in masses of light here and there through the openings in the clouds, which exhibited a hundred varying shades.  There, over the ridges of yon brown and torrent-worn mountain, hangs a vast mass of livid vapour, gorgeously glowing with deep crimson along all its lower-fringed margin.  Here the white shroud that clings to the peaked summits assumes on its western side a delicate hue, like that of the petals of the pale-red rose.  Far away to the north glooms a murky cloud, in which the spirits of the storm are mustering their strength, and preparing the forked lightnings, which at midnight they will fling over the valley of the Spey."

    The traveller, seeing night coming on, struck into a corry, down which a small mountain streamlet rushed; and having reached the bottom of the slope, he began to run, starting the ptarmigans from their seats and the does from their lair.  It became quite dark; still he went on walking for two hours, but all traces of the path became lost, and he groped his way amid blocks of granite, ten miles at least from any human habitation, and "with no better cheer in my wallet," he says,—

"than a quarter of a cake of barley and a few crumbs of cheese, which a shepherd had given me.  Before I resolved to halt for the night, I had, unfortunately, proceeded so far up the glen that I had left behind me the region of heath, so that I could not procure enough for a bed  Pulling some grass and moss, however, I spread it in a sheltered place, and after some time succeeded in falling into a sort of slumber.  About midnight I looked up on the moon and stars that were at times covered by the masses of vapour that rolled along the summits of the mountains, which, with their tremendous precipices, completely surrounded the hollow in which I cowered, like a ptarmigan in the hill-corry.  Behind me, in the west, and at the head of the glen, was a lofty mass enveloped in clouds; on the right a pyramidal rock, and beside it a peak of less elevation; on the left a ridge from the great mountain, terminating below in a dark conical prominence; and straight before me, in the east, at the distance apparently of a mile, another vast mass.  Finding myself cold, although the weather was mild, I got up and made me a couch of larger stones, grass, and a little short heath; unloosed my pack, covered one of my extremities with a nightcap, and thrust a pair of dry stockings on the other, ate a portion of my scanty store, drank two or three glasses of water from a neighbouring rill, placed myself in an easy posture, and fell asleep.  About sunrise I awoke, fresh, but feeble; ascended the glen; passed through a magnificent corry, composed of vast rocks of granite; ascended the steep with great difficulty, and at length gained the summit of the mountain, which was covered with light gray mist that rolled rapidly along the ridges.  As the clouds cleared away at intervals, and the sun shone upon the scene, I obtained a view of the glen in which I had passed the night, the corry, the opposite hills, and a blue lake before me.  The stream which I had followed I traced to two large fountains, from each of which I took a glassful, which I quaffed to the health of my best friends.

    "Descending from this summit, I wandered over a high moor, came upon the brink of rocks that bounded a deep valley, in which was a black lake; proceeded over the unknown region of alternate bogs and crags; raised several flocks of gray ptarmigans, and at length, by following a ravine, entered one of the valleys of the Spey, near the mouth of which I saw a water-ouzel.  It was not until noon that I reached a hut, in which I procured some milk.  In the evening, at Kingussie, I examined the ample store of plants that I had collected in crossing the Grampians, and refreshed myself with a long sleep in a more comfortable bed than one of granite slabs with a little grass and heather spread over them."

Frontispiece from A Memorial Tribute to William Macgillivray M.A. LL.D.,
Edinburgh, 1901.  Picture Internet Text Archive.

    Macgillivray's description of the golden eagle of the highlands, in its eloquence, reminds one of the splendid descriptions of his friend Audubon. We can only give a few brief extracts.

    "The golden eagle is not seen to advantage in the menagerie of a zoological society, nor when fettered on the smooth lawn of an aristocratic mansion, or perched on the rockwork of a nursery-garden; nor can his habits be well described by a cockney ornithologist, whose proper province it is to concoct systems, 'work out' analogies, and give names to skins that have come from foreign lands carefully packed in boxes lined with tin.  Far away among the brown hills of Albyn is thy dwelling-place, chief of the rocky glen!  On the crumbling crag of red granite—that tower of the fissured precipices of Loch-na-gar—thou hast reposed in safety.  The croak of the raven has broken thy slumbers, and thou gatherest up thy huge wings, smoothest thy feathers on thy sides, and preparest to launch into the aerial ocean.  Bird of the desert, solitary though thou art, and hateful to the sight of many of thy fellow-creatures, thine must be a happy life!  No lord hast thou to bend thy stubborn soul to his will, no cares corrode thy heart; seldom does fear chill thy free spirit, for the windy tempest and the thick sleet cannot injure thee, and the lightnings may flash around thee, and the thunders shake the everlasting hills, without rousing thee from thy dreamy repose.

    "See how the sunshine brightens the yellow tint of his head and neck, until it shines almost like gold!  There he stands, nearly erect, with his tail depressed, his large wings half raised by his side, his neck stretched out, and his eye glistening as he glances around.  Like other robbers of the desert, he has a noble aspect, an imperative mien, a look of proud defiance; but his nobility has a dash of churlishness, and his falconship a vulturine tinge.  Still he is a noble bird, powerful, independent, proud, and ferocious; regardless of the weal or woe of others, and intent solely on the gratification of his own appetite; without generosity, without honour; bold against the defenceless, but ever ready to sneak from danger.  Such is his nobility, about which men have so raved.  Suddenly he raises his wings, for he has heard the whistle of the shepherd in the corry; and bending forward, he springs into the air.  O that this pencil of mine were a musket charged with buckshot!  Hardly do those vigorous flaps serve at first to prevent his descent; but now, curving upwards, he glides majestically along.  As he passes the corner of that buttressed and battlemented crag, forth rush two ravens from their nest, croaking fiercely.  While one flies above him the other steals beneath, and they essay to strike him, but dare not, for they have an instinctive knowledge of the power of his grasp; and after following him a little way they return to their home, vainly exulting in the thought of having driven him from their neighbourhood.  Bent on a far journey, he advances in a direct course, flapping his great wings at regular intervals, then shooting along without seeming to move them.

    "Over the moors he sweeps, at the height of two or three hundred feet, bending his course to either side, his wings wide spread, his neck and feet retracted, now beating the air, and again sailing smoothly along.  Suddenly he stops, poises himself for a moment, stoops, but recovers himself without reaching the ground.  The object of his regards, a golden plover, which he had espied on her nest, has eluded him, and he cares not to pursue it.  Now he ascends a little, wheels in short curves,—presently rushes down headlong,—assumes the horizontal position,—when close to the ground, prevents his being dashed against it by expanding his wings and tail,—thrusts forth his talons, and, grasping a poor terrified ptarmigan that sits cowering among the gray lichen, squeezes it to death, raises his head exultingly, emits a clear, shrill cry, and, springing from the ground, pursues his journey.

    "In passing a tall cliff that overhangs a small lake, he passing is assailed by a fierce peregrine falcon, which darts and plunges at him as if determined to deprive him of his booty, or drive him headlong to the ground.  This proves a more dangerous foe than the raven, and the eagle screams, yelps, and throws himself into postures of defiance; but at length the hawk, seeing the tyrant is not bent on plundering his nest, leaves him to pursue his course unmolested.  Over woods and green fields and scattered hamlets speeds the eagle; and now he enters the long valley of the Dee, near the upper end of which is dimly seen through the thin gray mist the rock of his nest.  About a mile from it he meets his mate, who has been abroad on a similar errand, and is returning with a white hare in her talons.  They congratulate each other with loud yelping cries, which rouse the drowsy shepherd on the strath below, who, mindful of the lambs carried off in spring-time, sends after them his malediction.  Now they reach their nest, and are greeted by their young with loud clamour."

    His descriptions of the haunts of the wild birds of the North are full of picturesque beauty.  Those of the grouse, the ptarmigan, the merlin, are full of memorable pictures, and here is a brief sketch of the haunts of the common snipe, which recalls many delightful associations.

    "Beautiful are those green woods that hang upon the craggy sides of the fern-clad hills, where the heath-fowl threads its way among the tufts of brown heath, and the cuckoo sings his ever-pleasing notes as be balances himself on the gray stone, vibrating his fan-like tail.  Now I listen to the simple song of the mountain blackbird, warbled by the quiet lake that spreads its glittering bosom to the sun, winding far away among the mountains, amid whose rocky glens wander the wild deer, tossing their antlered heads on high as they snuff the breeze tainted with the odour of the slow-paced shepherd and his faithful dog.  In that recess, formed by two moss-clad slabs of mica-slate, the lively wren jerks up its little tail, and chits its merry note, as it recalls its straggling young ones that have wandered among the bushes.  From the sedgy slope, sprinkled with white cotton-grass, comes the shrill cry of the solitary curlew; and there, high over the heath, wings his meandering way the joyous snipe, giddy with excess of unalloyed happiness.

    "There another has sprung from among the yellow-flowered marigolds that profusely cover the marsh.  Upwards slantingly, on rapidly vibrating wings, he shoots, uttering the while his shrill, two-noted cry.  Tissick, tissick, quoth the snipe, as he leaves the bog.  Now in silence he wends his way, until at length, having reached the height of perhaps a thousand feet, he zigzags along, emitting a louder and shriller cry of zoo-zee, zoo-zee, zoo-zee; which over, varying his action, he descends on quivering pinions, curving towards the earth with surprising speed, while from the rapid beats of his wing the tremulous air gives to the ear what at first seems the voice of distant thunder.  This noise some have likened to the bleating of a goat at a distance on the hill-side, and thus have named our bird the Air-goat and Air-bleater."

    In his later volumes, the naturalist gives many admirable descriptions of the haunts of sea-birds along the rock-bound shores of his native Highlands.  He loves to paint the coast of the lonely Hebrides, where he often resorted in the summer months to watch and study the divers and plungers of the sea.  Here, for instance, is a picture of the gray heron on a Highland coast:—

    "The cold blasts of the north sweep along the ruffled surface of the lake, over whose deep waters frown the rugged crags of rusty gneiss, having their crevices sprinkled with tufts of withered herbage, and their summits covered with stunted birches and alders.  The desolate hills around are partially covered with snow, the pastures are drenched with the rains, the brown torrents scum the heathy slopes, and the little birds have long ceased to enliven those deserted thickets with their gentle songs.  Margining the waters, extends a long muddy beach, over which are scattered blocks of stone, partially clothed with dusky and olivaceous weeds.  Here and there a gull floats buoyantly in the shallows; some oyster-catchers repose on a gravel-bank, their bills buried among their plumage; and there, on that low shelf, is perched a solitary heron, like a monument of listless indolence,—a bird petrified in its slumber.  At another time, when the tide has retired, you may find it wandering, with slow and careful tread, among the little pools, and by the sides of the rocks, in search of small fishes and crabs; but, unless you are bent on watching it, you will find more amusement in observing the lively tringas and turnstones, ever in rapid motion; for the heron is a dull and lazy bird, or at least he seems to be such; and even if you draw near, he rises in so listless a manner, that you think it a hard task for him to unfold his large wings and heavily beat the air, until he has fairly raised himself.  But now he floats away, lightly, though with slow flapping, screams his harsh cry, and tries to soar to some distant place, where he may remain unmolested by the prying naturalist.

    "Perhaps you may wonder at finding him in so cold and desolate a place as this dull sea-creek, on the most northern coast of Scotland, and that, too, in the very midst of winter; but the heron courts not society, and seems to care as little as any one for the cold.  Were you to betake yourself to the other extremity of the island, where the scenery is of a very different character, and the inlands swarm with ducks and gulls, there, too, you would find the heron, unaltered in manners, slow in his movements, careful and patient, ever hungry and ever lean; for even when in best condition, he never attains the plumpness that gives you the idea of a comfortable existence."

    In 1841 Mr. Macgillivray was appointed by the Crown to the Professorship of Natural History in Marischal College, Aberdeen, solely on account of his acknowledged merit, for he had no interest whatever; and the zeal, ability, and success with which he discharged his duties amply justified the nomination.  He was an admirable lecturer,—clear, simple, and methodical, labouring to lay securely the foundations of knowledge in the minds of his pupils.  He imbued them with the love of science, and communicated to them—as every successful lecturer cannot fail to do—a portion of his own enthusiasm.

Picture Internet Text Archive.

    In the autumn of 1850 he made an excursion to Braemar, with the intention of writing an account of the Natural History of Balmoral (which was ready for publication at the time of his death); and he afterwards extended his excursion to the central region of the Grampians, in pursuit of the materials for another work.  The fatigue and exposure which he underwent on this occasion seriously affected his health; and he removed to Torquay, in Devon, in hopes of renewed vigour.  But he never rallied.  A severe calamity befell him while in Devon, through the sudden death of his wife, to whom he was tenderly attached.  Nevertheless, he went on steadily with his work, which even his seriously impaired health would not permit him to interrupt.  We can conceive him in such a state to have written the following passage, which appears in the Preface to his last work, published in the week of his death.

    "As the wounded bird seeks some quiet retreat, where, freed from the persecution of the pitiless fowler, it may pass the time of its anguish in forgetfulness of the outer world, so have I, assailed by disease, betaken myself to a sheltered nook, where, unannoyed by the piercing blasts of the North Sea, I had been led to hope that my life might be protracted beyond the most dangerous season of the year.  It is thus that I issue from Devonshire the present volume, which, however, contains no observations of mine made there, the scenes of my labours being in distant parts of the country.

    "It is well that the observations from which these descriptions have been prepared, were made many years ago, when I was full of enthusiasm, and enjoyed the blessings of health, and freedom from engrossing public duties; for I am persuaded that now I should be in some respects less qualified for the task,—more, however, from the failure of physical than of mental power.  Here, on the rocky promontory, I shiver in the breeze, which, to my companion, is but cool and bracing.  The east wind ruffles the sea, and impels the little waves to the shores of the beautiful bay, which present alternate cliffs of red sandstone and beaches of yellow sand, backed by undulated heights and gentle acclivities, slowly rising to the not distant horizon; fields and woods, with villages, and scattered villas, forming—not wild nor altogether tame—a pleasing landscape, which, in its summer and autumnal garniture of grass and corn, and sylvan verdure, orchard blossom and fruit, tangled fence-bank, and furze-clad common, will be beautiful indeed to the lover of nature.  Then, the balmy breezes from the west and south will waft health to the reviving invalid.  At present, the cold vernal gales sweep along the Channel, conveying to its haven the extended fleet of boats that render Bircham, on the opposite horn of the bay, one of the most celebrated of the southern fishing-stations of England.  High over the waters, here and there, a solitary gull slowly advances against the breeze, or shoots athwart, or, with a beautiful gliding motion, sweeps down the aerial current.  At the entrance to Torquay are assembled many birds of the same kind, which, by their hovering near the surface, their varied evolutions, and mingling cries, indicate a shoal, probably, of atherines or sprats.  On that little pyramidal rock, projecting from the water, repose two dusky cormorants; and far away, in the direction of Portland Island, a gannet, well known by its peculiar flight, winnows its exploring way, and plunges headlong into the deep."

    And, speaking of the conclusion of his great work, on the last page he says of it: —

    "Commenced in hope, and carried on with zeal, though ended in sorrow and sickness, I can look upon my work without much regard to the opinions which contemporary writers may form of it, assured that what is useful in it will not be forgotten, and knowing that already it has had a beneficial effect on many of the present, and will more powerfully influence the next generation of our home ornithologists.  I had been led to think that I had occasionally been somewhat rude, or at least blunt, in my criticisms; but I do not perceive wherein I have much erred in that respect, and I feel no inclination to apologize.  I have been honest and sincere in my endeavours to promote the truth.  With death, apparently not distant, before my eyes, I am pleased to think that I have not countenanced error through fear or favour; neither have I in any case modified my statements so as to endeavour thereby to conceal or palliate my faults.  Though I might have accomplished more, I am thankful for having been permitted to add very considerably to the knowledge previously obtained of a very pleasant subject.  If I have not very frequently indulged in reflections on the power, wisdom, and goodness of God, as suggested by even my imperfect understanding of his wonderful works, it is not because I have not ever been sensible of the relation between the Creator and his creatures, nor because my chief enjoyment when wandering among the hills and valleys, exploring the rugged shores of the ocean, or searching the cultivated fields, has not been in a sense of His presence.  'To Him who alone doeth great wonders' be all the glory and praise.  Reader, farewell!"

    Mr. Macgillivray was able to return to Aberdeen—to die.  He expired on the 5th of September, 1852, at the age of fifty-six, leaving a large family behind him, for whom he had been unable (through the slenderness of his means throughout life) to make any provision.  His eldest son, however, had already distinguished himself as a naturalist, having been employed by the late Earl of Derby to accompany the expedition sent by him round the world; and he was subsequently appointed Government Naturalist on board the Rattlesnake, to complete the exploration of the Eastern Archipelago and Southern Pacific.  We may, therefore, expect to have considerable accessions to our knowledge of the natural history of these interesting regions from his already experienced pen.




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