Brief Biographies VI.
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THEODORE HOOK.

Theodore Hook (1788-1841), author.
Picture Internet Text Archive.


THE unhappy career of Edgar A. Poe is not without its counterpart in English literary biography.  Johnson, in his painful memoir of Savage, has told a similar story of genius and misfortune, or rather genius and misconduct; for it is a mistake to suppose that the possession of genius in any way conduces to misfortune, except through the misconduct of its possessor.  Poetry and a garret used at one time to be identified; but life in a garret may be as noble as life in a palace, and a great deal purer.  As Sir Walter Raleigh once wrote in the little dungeon in the Tower, still pointed out as the place of his confinement,—


"My mind to me a kingdom is!"


    It is the mind that makes the man, and not the place—call it a hovel, a garret, or a palace —in which the body lives.  Even Johnson has summed up the ills of the scholar's life in these words: "Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the jail."  But Johnson, doubtless, bitterly remembered the day when he signed himself Impransus, or Dinnerless, and received the anonymous alms of a pair of shoes.  Johnson must have been in one of his ungenial moods when he penned those bitter words.

    The fate of Chatterton, also, was a hapless one.  Proud, impulsive, ardent, and full of genius, like Poe, his career was short, unhappy, and mournfully concluded.  That of Otway, the author of "Venice Preserved," who perished for want of bread, also springs to mind.  Nor are other equally mournful examples a-wanting, which it would be painful to relate.  These instances are apt to be dwelt upon too much, and cited from time to time as illustrations of the unhappy lot of genius; whereas they are merely exceptional cases, not at all characteristic of literary men in general.

    Poets and authors are often charged with being improvident, as a rule.  But are there no improvident lawyers, divines, merchants, and shopkeepers?  The case of Theophilus Cibber is sometimes cited, who begged a guinea and spent it on a dish of ortolans; and perhaps of poor Goldsmith, who, when preserved from a jail by the money received for "The Vicar of Wakefield," forthwith celebrated the circumstance by a jollification with his landlady.  But authors have their weaknesses and their frailties, like other men; and some of them are drunken, and some improvident, as other men are.  As a class, however, they are neither generally improvident nor out at elbows.  But we are usually disposed to think much more of the "calamities of authors" than we do of the calamities of other men.  A hundred bankers might break, and ten thousand merchants ruin themselves by their improvidence, but none would think it worth their while to record such events in books; nor, except as a mere matter of news for living men, would any one care to read of such occurrences.  But how different in the case of a poet!  Biographers eagerly seize the minutest matter of detail in the history of a man of genius.  Johnson tells us the story of Savage, Southey relates the career of Chatterton, Cunningham recounts the life of Burns, and every tittle of their history is carefully gathered up and published for the information of contemporary and future readers.

    The late Thomas Hood, in one of his prose works, little known, well observed that—


    "Literary men, as a body, will bear comparison in point of conduct with any other class.  It must not be forgotten that they are subjected to an ordeal quite peculiar, and scarcely milder than the Inquisition.  The lives of literary men are proverbially barren of incident, and consequently the most trivial particulars, the most private affairs, are unceremoniously worked up, to furnish matter for their bald biographies.  Accordingly, as soon as an author is defunct, his character is submitted to a sort of Egyptian post mortem trial; or rather, a moral inquest, with Paul Pry for the coroner, and a judge of assize, a commissioner of bankrupts, a Jew broker, a Methodist parson, a dramatic licenser, a dancing-master, a master of the ceremonies, a rat-catcher, a bone-collector, a parish clerk, a schoolmaster, and a reviewer, for a jury.  It is the province of these personages to rummage, ransack, scrape together, rake up, ferret out, sniff, detect, analyze, and appraise, all particulars of the birth, parentage, and education, life, character, and behaviour, breeding, accomplishments, opinions, and literary performances of the departed.  Secret drawers are searched, private and confidential letters published, manuscripts intended for the fire are set up in type, tavern-bills and washing-bills are compared with their receipts, copies of writs re-copied, inventories taken of effects, wardrobe ticked off by the tailor's accounts, bygone toys of youth—billets-doux, snuff-boxes, canes—exhibited,—discarded hobby-horses are trotted out,—perhaps even a dissecting surgeon is called in to draw up a minute report of the state of the corpse and its viscera; in short, nothing is spared that can make an item for the clerk to insert in his memoir.  Outrageous as it may seem, this is scarcely an exaggeration.  For example, who will dare to say that we do not know at this very hour more of Goldsmith's affairs than he ever did himself?  It is rather wonderful than otherwise, that the literary character should shine out as it does after such a severe scrutiny."


    It is not enough, however, that literary men will bear comparison in point of conduct with any other class.  We think the public are entitled to expect more than this; and to apply to them the words, "Of those to whom much is given, much shall be required."  They are men of the highest culture, and ought to be men of the highest character.  As influencing the minds and morals of all readers,—and the world is daily looking more and more to the books which men of genius write, for instruction,—they ought to cultivate in themselves a high standard of character,—the very highest standard of character,—in order that those who study and contemplate them in their books may be lifted and lighted up by their example.  At all events, we think the public are not over-exacting when they require that the great gifts with which the leading minds among men have been endowed shall not be prostituted for unworthy purposes, nor employed for merely selfish and venial ends.  Genius is a great gift, and ought to be used wisely and uprightly for the elevation of the moral character and the advancement of the intelligence of the world at large.  If not so employed, genius and talent may be a curse to their possessor, and not a blessing to others,—they may even be a fountain of bitterness and woe, spreading moral poison throughout society.

    We do not say that Theodore Hook was an author of this latter class; but we do think that a perusal of his life, as written by one of his own friends and admirers, [p.349] cannot fail to leave on the reader's mind the impression, that here was a man gifted with the finest powers, in whom genius proved a traitor to itself, and false to its high mission.  With shining abilities, a fine intellect, sparkling wit, and great capacity for work, Hook seemed to have no higher ambition in life than to sit as an ornament at the tables of the great,—to buzz about their candles, and consume himself for their merriment and diversion.  In the houses of titled men, who kept fine company and gave great dinners, he did but play the part of the licensed wit and jester,—wearing the livery of his as entertainers, not on his person, indeed, but in his soul; bartering the birthright of his superior intellect for a mess of pottage,—as Douglas Jerrold has said, "a mess of pottage served up at a lord's table in a lord's platter."

    Theodore Hook was the son of a musical composer of some note in his day, [p.350] and born in Bedford Square, London, in 1788.  He had an only brother, James, who afterwards became Dean of Worcester, and whose son, Dr. Hook, Dean of Chichester, survives to do honour to the talents and reputation of the family.  Theodore was, in early life, petted by his father, who regarded him as a prodigy.  He was sent to school at Harrow, where he was the school-fellow of Byron and Peel, though not in the same form.  But on the death of his mother, Mr. Hook took the boy from school, partly because he found his society an amusing solace, and also because he had discovered that he could turn the youth's precocious talents to profitable account.  Already, at the age of fourteen, Theodore could play expertly on the piano, and sing pathetic as well as comic songs with remarkable expression.  One evening he enchanted the father especially by singing, to his own accompaniment, two new ballads, one grave and one gay.  Whence the airs,—whence the words?  It turned out that the verses and the music were both Theodore's own!  Here was a mine for the veteran artist to work!  Hitherto he had been forced to borrow his words: now the whole manufacture might be done at home.  So young Hook was taken into partnership with his father, at the age of sixteen; and straightway became a precocious man, admired of musicians and players, the friends and boon companions of his father.  Several of his songs "took" on the stage, and he became the pet of the green-room.  Night after night he hung about the theatres, with the privilege of admission before the curtain and behind it.  Popular actors laughed at his jokes, and pretty actresses would have their bouquets banded to them by nobody but Theodore.

    An effort was made by his brother—then advancing in the Church—to have the youth removed from this atmosphere of dissipation and frivolity; and, at his urgent remonstrance, Theodore was entered a student at Oxford.  But he carried his spirit of rebellious frolic with him.  When the Vice-Chancellor, noticing his boyish appearance, said, "You seem very young, sir; are you prepared to sign the Thirty-nine Articles?"  "O yes, sir," briskly answered Theodore,—"quite ready,—forty, if you please!"  The dignitary shut the book; the brother apologized, the boy looked contrite, the articles were duly signed, and the young scapegrace matriculated at Alma Mater.  He was not yet to reside at Oxford, however, but returned to London to go through a prescribed course of reading.  Under his father's eye, however, no serious study could go forward; besides, the youth's head was full of farce.  At sixteen, he began to write Vaudevilles for the stage, the music adapted to which was supplied by his father.  These trifles succeeded, and the clever boy became a greater green-room pet than ever.  He thus made the acquaintance of Mathews and Liston, for whom he wrote farces.  Hook was not over particular about the sources from whence he cribbed his "points;" borrowing unscrupulously from all quarters.  In the course of four years, he wrote more than ten plays, which had a considerable run at the time, though they are now all but forgotten.  Two of them have, nevertheless, been recently revived, namely, "Exchange no Robbery," and "Killing no Murder."  Had he gone on writing plays, he would certainly have established a reputation as a first-rate farce-writer.  But, in his volatile humour, he must needs try novels; and forthwith, at twenty years old, he wrote "Musgrave,"—a novel of ridiculous sentimentality, but sparkling and clever: yet it was a failure.  About the same time, his life was a succession of boisterous buffooneries, of which his "Gilbert Gurney" may be regarded as a pretty faithful record.  Unquestionably, Hook wrote that novel chiefly from personal recollections; it is virtually his autobiography; and in his diary, when speaking of its progress, he uses the words, "working at my life."

    Hook often used to tell the story—which he gives in detail in "Gilbert Gurney"—of Mathews and himself, when one day rowing to Richmond, being suddenly smitten by the sight of a placard at the foot of a Barnes garden,—"Nobody permitted to land here—Offenders prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the Law."  The pair instantly disembarked on the forbidden paradise; the fishing-line was converted into a surveyor's measuring-tape; the wags paced to and fro on the beautiful lawn,—Hook, the surveyor, with his book and pencil in hand,—Mathews, the clerk, with the cord and walking-stick, both soon pinned into the exquisite turf.  Then suddenly opened the parlour-window of the mansion above, and forth stepped, in blustering ire, a napkined alderman, who advanced with what haste he could against the intruders on his paradise.  The comedians stood cool, and scarcely condescended to reply to his indignant inquiries.  At length oozed out the gradual announcement of their being the agents of a New Canal Company, settling where the new cut was to cross the old gentleman's pleasure-ground.  Their regret was extreme at having "to perform so disagreeable a duty," but public interests must be regarded.  Then came the alderman's suggestion that the pair had better "walk in and talk the matter over;" their reluctant acquiescence,—"had only a quarter of an hour to spare,—feared that it was of no use" their endeavouring to avoid the beautiful spot,—the new cut must come through the grounds.  However, in they went; the turkey was just served, an excellent dinner followed, washed down with madeira, champagne, claret, and so on.  At length the good fare produced its effect,—the projected branch of the canal was reconsidered,—the city knight's arguments were acknowledged to be of more and more weight.  "Really," says the alderman, "this cut must be given up; but one bottle more, dear gentlemen."  At last when it was getting dark—they were eight miles from Westminster Bridge—Hook burst out into song, and narrated in extempore verse the whole transaction, winding up with —


"And we greatly approve of your fare,
     Your cellar's as prime as your cook,
 And this clerk here is Mathews the player,
     And my name, sir, is—Theodore Hook!


    The adventure forms the subject of a capital chapter in "Gilbert Gurney," which many of our readers may have read.

    But the maddest of Hook's tricks was that known as the "Berners Street Hoax," which happened in 1809, as follows.  Walking down Berners Street, one day, Hook's companion (probably Mathews) called his attention to a particularly neat and modest house, the residence—as was inferred from the door-plate—of some decent shopkeeper's widow.  "I'll lay you a guinea," said Theodore, "that in one week that nice quiet dwelling shall be the most famous in all London."  The bet was taken, and in the course of four or five days, Hook had written and posted one thousand letters, annexing orders to tradesmen of every sort within the bills of mortality, all to be executed on one particular day, and as nearly as possible at one fixed hour.  From "wagons of coals and potatoes, to books, prints, feathers, ices, jellies, and cranberry tarts," nothing in any way whatever available to any human being but was commanded from scores of rival dealers, scattered all over the city, from Wapping to Lambeth, from Whitechapel to Paddington.  It can only be feebly imagined what the crash and jam and tumult of that day was.  Hook had provided himself with a lodging nearly opposite the fated house, where, with a couple of trusty allies, he watched the progress of the melodrama.  The mayor and his chaplain arrived,—invited there to take the death-bed confession of a peculating common-councilman.  There also came the Governor of the Bank, the Chairman of the East India Company, the Lord Chief Justice, and the Prime Minister,—above all, there came his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, and His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief.  These all obeyed the summons, for every pious and patriotic feeling had been most movingly appealed to.  They could not all reach Berners Street, however,—the avenues leading to it being jammed up with drays, carts, and carriages, all pressing on to the solitary widow's house; but certainly the Duke of York's military punctuality and crimson liveries brought him to the point of attack before the poor woman's astonishment had risen to terror and despair.  Most fierce were the growlings of doctors and surgeons, scores of whom had been cheated of valuable hours.  Attorneys, teachers of every kind, male and female, hair-dressers, tailors, popular preachers, Parliamentary philanthropists, had been alike victimized.  There was an awful smashing of glass, china, harpsichords, and coach-panels.  Many a horse fell, never to rise again.  Beer-barrels and wine-barrels were overturned and exhausted with impunity amidst the press of countless multitudes.  It was a great day for the pickpockets; and a great godsend to the newspapers.  Then arose many a fervent hue and cry for the detection of the wholesale deceiver and destroyer.  Though in Hook's own theatrical world he was instantly suspected, no sign escaped either him or his confidants.  He found it convenient to be laid up a week or two by a severe fit of illness, and then promoted reconvalescence by a few weeks' country tour.  He revisited Oxford, and professed an intention of commencing his residence there.  But the storm blew over, and Hook returned with tranquillity to the green-room.  This was followed by other tricks and hoaxes, in one of which he made Romeo Coates his victim.  These may be found detailed at some length in "Gilbert Gurney," and in Mrs. Mathews's Memoirs of her husband, who was usually Hook's accomplice in such kinds of mischief.

    One of Hook's extraordinary talents—which amounted in him to almost a genius—was his gift of singing improvised songs on the spur of the moment, while under the influence of excited convivial feelings.  He would sit down to the piano-forte, and, quite unhesitatingly, compose a verse upon every person in the room, full of the most pointed wit, and with the truest rhyme, gathering up, as he proceeded, every incident of the evening, and working up the whole into a brilliant song.  He would often, like John Parry, sport with operatic measures, in which he would triumph over every variety of metre and complication of stanza.  But John Parry's exhibitions are carefully studied, whereas Hook's happiest effects were spontaneous and unpremeditated.  The effect he produced on such occasions was almost marvellous.  Sheridan frequently witnessed these exhibitions, and declared that he could not have believed such power possible, had he not witnessed it.  Of course, Hook was usually stimulated by wine or punch when he ventured on such exploits; and it is recorded, that during one of his songs, at which Coleridge was present, every pane in the room window was riddled by the glasses flung through them by the guests, the host crowning the bacchanalian riot by demolishing the chandelier with his goblet.

    Hook's fame as a wit, a jester, a talker, and an improvisatory singer, shortly reached aristocratic circles; and he was invited to their houses to make sport for them.  Sheridan mentioned him to the Marchioness of Hertford as a most amusing fellow, and he was shortly after called upon to display his musical and metrical facility in her Ladyship's presence; which he did.  He was called, in like manner, to minister to the amusement of the Sybarite Prince Regent at a supper in Manchester Square, and he so delighted his Royal Highness, that, on leaving the room, he said, "Mr. Hook, I must see you and hear you again."  Hook was only too glad to play merry-andrew to the Prince; and after a few similar evenings, his Royal Highness was so good as to make inquiry about Hook's position, when, finding he was without a profession or fixed income of any sort, he signified his opinion that "something must be done for Hook."  As the word of the Prince was equivalent to a law, and quiet jobs were easily done in those days, Hook's promotion followed as a matter of course.  He was almost immediately after appointed Accountant-General and Treasurer to the Colony of the Mauritius, with an income of £2,000 a year.  Hook had no knowledge of accounts; but he had the Prince Regent's good word, and that was enough.  He stayed five years in the Mauritius, paying no attention to the duties of his office, living in great style, a leading man on the turf, the very prince of Mauritian hospitality.  But it came to a sad end.  In March, 1818, Hook was arrested, while supping at a friend's house, and dragged, by torchlight, through crowded streets, to the common prison of the town, on a charge of embezzling the public moneys in the colonial treasury to a large amount!  From thence he was conveyed to England, tried before the law officers of the crown, and brought in as defaulter to the extent of £12,000.  This debt he never paid; though his earnings by his pen, for many years after, were very large.  Into the merits of the case against Hook we shall not here enter; but as the government which brought him to book was friendly to him, and under the influences of many of his personal friends, we must presume the charges to have been well founded.  The most favourable view of his case that can be taken is this: that somebody embezzled the colonial moneys; but as Hook had no knowledge of accounts, and rarely took any concern in the treasury business, spending his £2,000 a year in the manner of a gentlemanly sinecurist, the colonial funds were "mumbled away," and Hook, being the responsible party, was saddled with the blame.

    On reaching London again, to wait the issue of the government investigation, he was set at liberty, on the Attorney-General's report, that there was no apparent ground for a criminal procedure; and the case was treated as one of defalcation and civil prosecution only.  In order to live in the meanwhile, Hook had recourse to his ever-ready pen.  First, he wrote for magazines and newspapers; then he tried a shilling magazine, called "The Arcadian," of which only a few numbers were issued, when the publisher lost heart.  In 1820, Sir Walter Scott accidentally met Hook at a dinner-party at Daniel Terry's, and was delighted, as everybody could not help being, with Hook's brilliant conversation.  Hook, notwithstanding the affair of his colonial defalcations, and the prosecution of him by the Audit Board, still held his "good old Tory" views of politics; and gratefully remembered his personal obligations to the Prince Regent, now the reigning monarch.  He was consequently violently opposed to the pretensions and partisans of Queen Caroline.  The strong colour of his politics induced Scott to mention Hook to a gentleman who shortly after applied to him to recommend an editor for a newspaper about to be established.  To this circumstance his connection with the famous "John Bull" is probably to be attributed.  At all events, the John Bull shortly after came out, with Hook for its editor.  But he preserved his incognito carefully for many years, which was the more necessary in consequence of the thick cloud which still hung over his moral character in connection with his colonial affair.  Hook threw himself with great fury into the ranks of the Georgites, and published many violent squibs against Queen Caroline and her friends, which excited a storm of popular indignation.  The John Bull was generally admitted to be the most powerful, unscrupulous, and violent advocate of the king's cause; whether it was the better for the advocacy, we shall not here venture to determine.  The paper was well supported with money,—as was surmised, from "head-quarters;" and for some years Hook's income, from the John Bull alone, amounted to as much as £2,000 a year.  At length it began to ooze out that Hook was the editor of the John Bull.  Though furnishing nearly the whole of the articles and squibs which appeared in it, he at once indignantly denied the imputation, in a "letter to the editor," in which he disclaimed and disavowed all connection with the paper.  But, by slow degrees, the truth came out, and at last all was known.  The John Bull was denounced by many as a "reckless," "venomous," "malignant," slandering," "lying" publication; and by others it was defended as a "spirited," "courageous," "loyal," and "admirable" defender of the church, crown, and constitution.

    In 1823 Hook was arrested for the sum of £12,000, which the authorities had finally decided that he stood indebted to the public exchequer.  He was then confined in a sheriff's officer's house in Shire Lane,—a miserable, squalid neighbourhood.  He remained there for several months, during which his health seriously suffered.  While shut up in Shire Lane he made the acquaintance of Dr. William Maginn, who had recently come over from Ireland, a literary adventurer, but had fallen into the sheriff's officer's custody.  It was a lucky meeting for both, however, as Magnin proved of great assistance to Hook, in furnishing the requisite amount of "spicy" copy for the columns of the John Bull.  Hook was transferred to the Rules of the King's Bench, where he remained for a year, and afterwards succeeded in getting liberated; but was told distinctly that the debt must hang over him until every farthing was paid.  He then took a cottage at Putney, and re-entered society again.  He had for companion here a young woman whom he ought to have married; that he did not—that he left upon the heads of his innocent offspring by her, a stigma and a stain in the eyes of the world—was only, we regret to say, too much in keeping with the character and career of the reckless, unscrupulous, and feeble-conscienced Theodore Hook.

    While living in his apartments at Temple Place, within the Rules of the King's Bench, Hook had begun his career as a novelist.  His first series of "Sayings and Doings" was very successful, and yielded him a profit of £2,000.  The second and third series were equally successful.  His other novels, entitled "Maxwell," "The Parson's Daughter," "Love and Pride," were also successful novels, and paid him well.  In 1836 he became the editor of the New Monthly Magazine, in which he published "Gilbert Gurney," (perhaps the raciest of all his novels, being chiefly drawn from his own personal experiences,) and afterwards "Gurney Married," "Jack Brag," "Births, Deaths, and Marriages," "Precepts and Practice," and "Fathers and Sons."  These were all collected and republished afterwards in separate forms.  The number of these works,—thirty-eight volumes,—which he wrote within sixteen years, at the time when he was editor and almost sole writer for a newspaper, and for several years the conductor of a magazine, argue a by no means idle disposition.  Indeed, Hook worked very hard; the pity is that he worked to so little purpose, and that he squandered the money with which he ought to have paid his debts (and he himself admitted that he was in justice responsible for £9,000) in vying with fashionable people to keep up appearances, and live a worthless life of dissipation, frivolity, and burlesque "bon ton."  For many years Hook must have been earning from £4,000 to £5,000 a year by his pen, and yet he was always poor!  How did he spend his earnings?  Let the friend who has written the sketch of him in the Quarterly Review explain the secret.


    "In 1827 (after leaving his house at Putney) he took a higher flight.  He became the tenant of a house in Cleveland Row,—on the edge, therefore, of what, in one of his novels, he describes as the 'real London,—the space between Pall Mall on the south, and Piccadilly on the north, St. James's Street on the west, and the Opera House to the cast.'  The residence was handsome, and, to persons ignorant of his domestic arrangements, appeared extravagantly too large for his purpose; we have since heard of it as inhabited by a nobleman of distinction.  He was admitted a member of diverse clubs; shone the first attraction of their House dinners; and, in such as allowed of play, he might commonly be seen in the course of his protracted evening.  Presently he began to receive invitations to great houses in the country, and, for week after week, often travelled from one to another such scene, to all outward appearance in the style of an idler of high condition.  In a word, he had soon entangled himself with habits and connections which implied much curtailment of the time for labour at the desk, and a course of expenditure more than sufficient to swallow all the profits of what remained.  To the upper world he was visible solely as the jocund convivialist of the club,—the brilliant wit of the lordly banquet,—the lion of the crowded assembly,—the star of a Christmas or Easter party in a rural palace,—the unfailing stage-manager, prompter, author, and occasionally excellent comic actor, of the private theatricals, at which noble guardsmen were the valets, and lovely peeresses the soubrettes."


    Thus did the brilliant Hook flutter like a dazzled moth around the burning taper of aristocracy, scorching his wings, and at length sinking destroyed by the seductive blaze, when he was at once swept away as some unsightly object.

    It was a feverish, miserable, unhealthy life, with scarcely a redeeming feature in it.  To make up for the time devoted by him to the amusement of aristocratic circles, and to raise the money wherewithal to carry on this brilliant dissipation, as well as to relieve himself of the pressure of his more urgent pecuniary embarrassments, Hook worked day and night when at his own house, often under the influence of stimulants, and thus increased the nervous agonies of a frame prematurely wasted and exhausted.  Meanwhile he was pressed by his publisher, into whose debt he had fallen; and publishers, in such a case, are exacting, like everybody else in similar circumstances.  Debts—debts—forever debts—accumulated about Hook, each debt a grinning phantom, mocking at him even in the midst of his gayest pleasures.  "Little did his fine friends know at what tear and wear of life he was devoting his evenings to their amusement.  The ministrants of pleasure with whom they measured him were almost all as idle as themselves,—elegant, accomplished men, easy in circumstances, with leisure at command, who drove to the rendezvous after a morning divided between voluptuous lounging in a library chair and healthful exercise out of doors.  But he came forth, at best, from a long day of labour at his writing-desk, after his faculties had been kept on the stretch,—feeling, passion, thought, fancy, excitable nerves, suicidal brain, all worked, perhaps well-nigh exhausted,—compelled, since he came at all, to disappoint by silence, or to seek the support of tempting stimulants in his new career of exertion.  And we may guess what must have been the effect on his mind of the consciousness, while seated among the revellers of a princely saloon, that next morning must be, not given to the mere toil of the pen, but divided between scenes in the back-shops of three or four eager, irritated booksellers, and weary prowlings through the dens of city usurers for the means of discounting this long bill, staving off that attorney's threat; not less commonly—even more urgently—of liquidating a debt of honour to the grandee, or some of the smiling satellites of his pomp.


    "There is recorded (in his diary) in more than usual detail, one winter visit at the seat of a nobleman of almost unequalled wealth (Marquis of Hertford?), evidently particularly fond of Hook, and always mentioned in terms of real gratitude,—even affection.  Here was a large company, including some of the very highest names in England; the Party seem to have remained together for more than a fortnight, or, if one went, the place was filled immediately by another not less distinguished by the advantages of birth and fortune; Hook's is the only untitled name, except a led captain and chaplain or two, and some misses of musical celebrity.  What a struggle he has to maintain!  Every Thursday he must meet the printer of the John Bull to arrange the paper for Saturday's impression.  While the rest are shooting or hunting, he clears his head as well as he can, and steals a few hours to write his articles.  When they go to bed on Wednesday night, he smuggles himself into a post-chaise, and is carried fifty miles across the country, to some appointed Blue Boar, or Crooked Billet.  Thursday morning is spent in overhauling correspondence,—in all the details of the editorship.  He, with hard driving, gets back to the neighbourhood of the castle when the dressing-bell is ringing.  Mr. Hook's servant has intimated that his master is slightly indisposed; he enters the gate as if from a short walk in the wood; in half an hour, behold him answering placidly the inquiries of the ladies,—his headache fortunately gone at last,—quite ready for the turtle and champagne,—puns rattle like a hail-shower,—'that dear Theodore' had never been more brilliant.  At a decorous hour the great lord and his graver guests retire; it is supposed that the evening is over,—that the house is shut up.  But Hook is quartered in a long bachelor's gallery, with half a dozen bachelors of far different calibre.  One of them, a dashing young earl, proposes what the diary calls 'something comfortable' in his dressing-room.  Hook, after his sleepless night and busy day, hesitates,—but is persuaded.  The broiled bones are attended by more champagne, Roman punch, hot brandy and water, finally; for there are plenty of butlers and grooms of the chamber ready to minister to the delights of the distant gallery, ever productive of fees to man and maid.  The end is, that they play deep, and that Theodore loses a great deal more money than he had brought with him from town, or knows how to come at if he were there.  But he rises next morning with a swimming, bewildered head, and, as the fumes disperse, perceives that he must write instantly for money.  No difficulty is to be made; the fashionable tailor (alias merciless Jew) to whom he discloses the case, must on any terms remit a hundred pounds by return of post.  It is accomplished,—the debt is discharged.  Thursday comes round again, and again he escapes to meet the printer.  This time the printer brings a payment of salary with him, and Hook drives back to the castle in great glee.  Exactly the same scene occurs a night or two afterwards.  The salary all goes.  When the time comes for him at last to leave his splendid friend, he finds that he has lost a fortnight as respects a book that must be finished within a month or six weeks; and that what with travelling expenses hither and thither (he has to defray the printer's, too), and losses at play to silken coxcombs,—who consider him an admirable jack-pudding, and also as an invaluable pigeon, since he drains his glass as well as fills it,—he has thrown away more money than he could have earned by the labour of three months in his own room at Fulham.  But then the rumble of the green chariot is seen well stocked with pheasants and hares, as it pauses in passing through town at Crockford's, the Carlton, or the Athenæum; and as often as the Morning Post alluded to the noble peer's Christmas court, Mr. Theodore Hook's name closed the paragraph of 'fashionable intelligence.'"


    But at last the end of all came, and the poor jester and bon-vivant strutted off the stage.  To the last, even when positively ill, he could not refuse an invitation to dine with titled people.  To the last,—a padded-up old man,—he tried to be effervescent and gay.  He died in August, 1841, and the play was ended.  Some may call such a life as this a tragedy, and a painful one it seems.  To look at it now, there appears little genuine mirth in it: the laughter was all hollow.  As for the noble and titled friends for whom Hook had made so much merriment during his unhappy life, they let him die overburdened with debt, and go to his grave unwept and unattended.  They did nothing for his children,—it is true they were such as the respectable world usually disown; and they did not, so far as we know, place a stone over the grave in which their jester was laid to sleep.  Notwithstanding Theodore Hook's naturally brilliant powers,—his sagacity, his humour, his genius,—we fear that the verdict of his survivors and of posterity will be, that here was the life of a greatly gifted man worse than wasted.


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DR. ANDREW COMBE.

Andrew Combe (1797-1847), Scottish physiologist.
Picture Internet Text Archive.


THE life of Andrew Combe was quiet and unostentatious.  It was chiefly occupied by the investigations and labours incident to the calling which be had chosen,—that of medicine;—a profession which, when followed successfully, leaves comparatively little leisure for the indulgence of literary tastes.  Yet we do not exaggerate when we say, that there are few writers who have effected greater practical good, and done more to beneficially affect the moral and physical well-being of mankind, than the subject of this memoir.  He was one of the first writers who directed public attention to the subject of Physiology in connection with Health and Education.  There had, indeed, been no want of writers on physiology previous to his time; but they addressed themselves mainly to the professional mind; and their books were, for the most part, so full of technical phrases, that, so far as the public was concerned, they might as well have been written in an unknown tongue.  As Dr. Combe grew up towards manhood, and acquired habits of independent observation, he perceived that the majority of men and women were, for the most part, living in habitual violation of the laws of health, and thus bringing upon themselves debility, disease, premature decay, and death: not to speak of generations unborn, on whom the penalty of neglect or violation of the physiological laws inevitably descends.  He conceived the idea of instructing the people in those laws, in a simple and intelligible manner, and in language divested of technical terms.  And there are words enough in the English tongue in which to utter commonsense to common people upon such subjects as air, exercise, diet, cleanliness, and so on, as affecting the healthy lives of human beings, without drawing so largely as had been customary upon Greek and Latin terminology for the purpose.

    Dr. Combe's first book, on "The Principles of Physiology applied to the Preservation of Health, and to the Improvement of Physical and Mental Education," was written in this rational and commonsense style.  In that work, Dr. Combe appealed to the ordinary, average understandings of men.  He explained the laws which regulate the physical life,—the conditions necessary for the healthy action of the various functions of the system; and he directed particular attention to those habits and practices which were in violation of the natural laws, pointing out the necessity for amendment in various ways, in a cogent, persuasive, and perspicuous manner.  We remember very well the appearance of the book in question.  It excited comparatively small attention at first,—the subject was so unusual, and up to that time deemed so unattractive.  People were afraid then, as they often are now, to look into their own physical system, and learn something of its working.  There is alarm to many minds, in the thought of the heart beating, and the lungs blowing, and the arteries contracting upon their red blood.  The consideration of such subjects used formerly to be regarded as strictly professional; and people were for the most part satisfied to leave health, and all that concerned it, to the exclusive charge of "the doctors."  And, truth to say, medical men were disposed to regard the publication of Dr. Combe's "Physiology" as somewhat "infra dig.;" for it looked like a revealing of the secrets of the profession before the eyes of the general public.  But all such feeling has long since disappeared; and medical men now find that they have in the readers of good works on popular physiology more intelligent patients to deal with,—more able to co-operate with them in their attempts to subdue disease and restore the bodily functions to health,—than when they have mere blank ignorance and blind prejudice to encounter.  Where there is not sound information, there will always be found prejudices enough,—the most difficult of all things to contend against.  It is not improbable, also, that to the growing popular knowledge of physiological conditions we are, in a great measure, to attribute the improvement in the medical profession which has taken place of late years.  For medical men are the better for knowing that, in order to make good their influence and to advance as a profession, they must keep well ahead of the intelligence of their employers.  Everybody knows that questions of health,—as affecting the sanitary condition of towns,—are among the leading questions of this day; and we cannot help attributing much of the active concern which now exists among legislators, philanthropists, and all public-spirited men, for the improvement of the physical condition of the people, to the impulse given to the subject by the publication of Dr. Combe's admirable books.

    Dr. Combe was himself a serious sufferer through neglect of the laws of physical health; and it was probably this circumstance which early directed his attention to the subject, and induced him to give it the prominency which he did in nearly all his published works.  He was the fifteenth child of respectable parents, living in Edinburgh: his father was a brewer at Livingston's Yards, a suburb of the Old Town, situated nearly under the southwest angle of Edinburgh Castle rock.  Seventeen children in all were born to the Combes in that place; but the neighbourhood abounded with offensive pools and ditches, the noxious influence of which (in conjunction with defective ventilation in small or overcrowded sleeping apartments) must have been a potent cause of the disease and early mortality which prevailed in the family.  Very few of the seventeen children grew up to adult years; and although the parents, who were of robust constitution, lived to an old age, those of the children who survived grew up with feeble constitutions, and, in Andrew's case, containing within them the seeds of serious disease.  Nor was the mental discipline of the children of a much healthier kind.  As an illustration, George Combe, in the Life of his brother, recently published, gives the following picture of the Sabbath, as spent in a Scotch family:—


    "The gate of the brewery was locked, and all except the most necessary work was suspended.  The children rose at eight, breakfasted at nine, and were taken to the West Church at eleven.  The forenoon service lasted till one.  There was a lunch between one and two.  The afternoon's service lasted from two till four.  They then dined; and after dinner, portions of the Psalms and of the Shorter Catechism with the 'Proofs' were prescribed to be learnt by heart.  After these had been repeated, tea was served.  Next the children sat round a table and read the Bible aloud, each a verse in turn, till a chapter for every reader had been completed.  After this, sermons or other pious works were read till nine o'clock, when supper was served, after which all retired to rest.  Jaded and exhausted in brain and body as the children were by the performance of heavy tasks at school during six days of the week, these Sundays were no days of rest to them."


    From a private school, Andrew Combe proceeded to the High School, and then he was placed apprentice to an Edinburgh surgeon.  He was singularly obstinate in connection with his entry upon his profession.  Although he had chosen to be "a doctor," when finally asked "what he would be," his answer in the vernacular Scotch was, "I'll no be naething."  He would give no further answer; and after all kinds of "fleechin" and persuading were tried, he at length had to be carried by force out of the house, to begin his professional career!  His father and brother George, afterwards his biographer, with a younger brother, James, performed this remarkable duty.  George thus describes the scene.


"A consultation was now held as to what was to be done; and again it was resolved that Andrew should not be allowed to conquer, seeing that he still assigned no reason for his resistance.  He was, therefore, lifted from the ground; he refused to stand; but his father supported one shoulder, George carried the other, and his younger brother, James, pushed him on behind; and in this fashion he was carried from the house, through the brewery, and several hundred yards along the high road, before he placed a foot on the ground.  His elder brother John, observing what was passing, anxiously inquired, 'What's the matter?'  James replied, 'We are taking Andrew to the doctor.'  'To the doctor! what's the matter with him,—is he ill, James?'  'O, not at all,—we are taking him to make him a doctor.'  At last, Andrew's sense of shame prevailed, and he walked quietly.  His father and George accompanied him to Mr. Johnston's house; Andrew was introduced and received, and his father left him.  George inquired what had passed in Mr. Johnston's presence.  'Nothing particular,' replied his father; 'only my conscience smote me when Mr. Johnston hoped that Andrew had come quite willingly!  I replied, that I had given him a solemn promise that, if he did not like the profession after a trial, he should be at liberty to leave it.'  'Quite right,' said Mr. Johnston; and Andrew was conducted to the laboratory.  Andrew returned to Mr. Johnston's the next morning without being asked to do so and to the day of his death he was fond of his profession.


    In a touching letter to George, written nearly thirty years after the above event, he thanked him cordially for having been instrumental in sending him to a liberal profession; and he confesses that he really "wished and meant to be a doctor," notwithstanding his absurd way of showing his willingness.  Always ready, as both he and his brother were, to account for everything phrenologically, he attributed the resistance on the occasion to Wit and Secretiveness.  "I recollect well," he says in the letter referred to,


"that my habitual phrase was, 'I'll no be naething.'  This was universally construed to mean, 'I'll be naething.'  The true meaning I had in view was what the words bore, 'I will be something;' and the clew to the riddle was, that my Wit was tickled at school by the rule that 'two negatives make an affirmative,' and I was diverted with the mystification their use and literal truth produced in this instance.  In no one instance did mortal man or woman hear me say seriously, (if ever,) 'I'll be naething.'  All this is as clear to me as if of yesterday's occurrence, and the double entendre was a source of internal chuckling to me.  You may say, Why, then, so unwilling to go to Mr. Johnston's?  That is a natural question, and touches upon another feature altogether.  I was a dour [stubborn] boy, when not taken in the right way, and for a time nothing would then move me.  Once committed, I resolved not to yield, and hence the laughable extravaganza which ensued."


    At the age of fifteen, Andrew Combe went to live with his elder brother George, who in 1812 began practising as Writer to the Signet.  This was an advantage to Andrew, in point of health, and was a convenience to him in attending his place of business, and also the medical lectures in the University.  In his letters to his brother, written in after life, Andrew often referred with regret to the neglect of ventilation, ablution, and bathing, in his father's family; to which he attributed the premature deaths of the greater number, and the impaired constitutions of the few who survived.  Our parents," he said in one letter,


"erred from sheer ignorance; but what are we to think of the mechanical and tradesman-like views of a medical man who could see all these causes of disease existing, and producing these results year after year, without its ever occurring to him that it was part of his solemn duty to warn his employers, and try to remedy the evil?  All parties were anxious to cure the disease, but no one sought to remove its causes; and yet so entirely were the causes within the control of reason and knowledge, that my conviction has long been complete, that, if we had been properly treated from infancy, we should, even with the constitutions we possessed at birth, have survived in health and active usefulness to a good old age, unless cut off by some acute disease."


But nearly all medical men were alike empirical in those days.  They merely attacked the symptoms which presented themselves; and when these were overcome, their task was accomplished.  That medical men are now so careful in directing their measures towards the prevention as well as the cure of disease, we have to thank Dr. Combe, Edwin Chadwick, and other popular writers and labourers in the cause of Public Health.

    At the early age of nineteen, Andrew Combe passed at Surgeons' Hall.  He used afterwards to say, that it would have been better for him had he been then only commencing his studies.  Shortly after, Dr. Spurzheim, the phrenologist, visited Edinburgh, and attracted many ardent admirers, of whom George Combe, then a young man, shortly became one.  Andrew, like most of the medical men of the day, was at first disposed to laugh at the new science; but before many years had passed, he too became an ardent disciple of Dr. Spurzheim.  He afterwards attributed much of the improvement of his mind and character to his study of this science, and to the practical application of its principles to his own case.  In 1817 he went to Paris, where he studied under Dupuytren, Alibert, Esquirol, Richerand, and other celebrated men.  He also cultivated the friendship of Dr. Spurzheim, and pursued his observations and studies in Phrenology.  From Paris, he proceeded with a friend on a walking tour through Switzerland and the north of Italy.  Disregarding the laws of health, he injured his delicate constitution by exposure, irregular diet, and over-fatigue; and on his return to Edinburgh, shortly after, he was seized with a serious illness, the beginning of long-continued lung disease.  He removed for a season to the south of England, and then proceeded to Italy, wintering at Leghorn.  There his cough left him, and he regained his health and strength so far as to be enabled to practise for a time as a physician among the English in that town and Pisa.  Returning to Edinburgh in 1823, he regularly settled down in that city as a medical practitioner.

    In this profession he was very successful.  His quiet manner, suavity, and kindness, good sense, attention, professional abilities, and gentlemanly demeanour, secured him many friends; and he won them to his heart by his truthful candour, and by the manner in which he sought to obtain their intelligent co-operation in the remedial measures which he thought proper to employ.  He deemed it as much a part of his duty to instruct his patients as to the conditions which regulate the healthy action of the bodily organs, as to administer drugs to them for the purpose of curing their immediate ailments.  But he found great obstacles in his way, in consequence of the previous ignorance of most people—even those considered well educated—as to the simplest laws which regulate the animal economy.  Hence he very early felt the necessity of improving this department of elementary instruction; and with that view he set about composing his works on popular physiology.  His first appearance as an author was in the pages of the Phrenological Journal,—an excellent periodical now defunct.  To the subject of Phrenology he devoted considerable attention, and soon became known as one of its ablest defenders.  Some of his friends told him that be would injure his professional standing and connection by the prominency of his advocacy of the new views; but be persevered, nevertheless, "firmly trusting in the sustaining power of truth;" and he afterwards found that, instead of being professionally injured, he was greatly benefited by the labour which he bestowed upon the study and exposition of the science.  To Phrenology he attributed, in a great measure, the direction of his attention to the subject of hygienic principles; and after his mind had been fairly opened to the importance of those principles, he not only reduced them to practice in his own personal habits, but laboured to disseminate a knowledge of them among the public generally.

    In the midst of the arduous duties of his profession, Dr. Combe was more than once under the necessity of leaving home and going abroad for the benefit of his health.  Disease had fixed upon his lungs, and he felt that his life could only be preserved by removing to a milder air.  He travelled to Paris, to Orleans, to Nantes, to Lyons, to Naples, to Rome, returning rather improved, but with his lungs full of tubercles.  For many years his life hung as by a thread, and it was only by his careful observance of the laws of health that he was enabled to survive.  In his work on "The Principles of Physiology" speaking of the advantages experienced in his own person of paying implicit obedience to the physiological laws, he says:


"Had he not been fully aware of the gravity of his own situation, and, from previous knowledge of the admirable adaptation of the physiological laws to carry on the machinery of life, disposed to place implicit reliance on the superior advantages of fulfilling them, as the direct dictates of Divine Wisdom, he would never have been able to persevere in the course chalked out for him, with that ready and long-enduring regularity and cheerfulness which have contributed so much to their successful fulfilment and results.  And, therefore, he feels himself entitled to call upon those who, impatient at the slowness of their progress, are apt after a time to disregard all restrictions, to take a sounder view of their true position, to make themselves acquainted with the real dictates of the organic laws; and having done so, to yield them full, implicit, and persevering obedience, in the certain assurance that they will reap their reward in renewed health, if recovery be still possible; and if not, that they will thereby obtain more peace of mind and bodily ease than by any other means which they can use."


    Dr. Combe's first published book was on "Phrenology applied to the Treatment of Insanity."  It was given to the world in 1831, and proved very successful, being soon out of print.  His second book was on "The Principles of Physiology," some chapters of which were first published in the Phrenological Journal.  This book was published in 1834.  Among the booksellers it was regarded with aversion.  It was one of the successful books which booksellers sometimes reject.  The first edition, of 750 copies, and a second edition, of 1,000 copies, both printed at the author's expense, were sold off; when Dr. Combe offered to dispose of the copyright to John Murray, without naming terms.  Mr. Murray, and all the other London publishers who were applied to, declined to have anything to do with the purchase of the copyright; and the author went on publishing the book at his own expense.  We need scarcely say that the book had a great run: about 30,000 copies were sold in England, besides numerous editions in the United States.

    Although Dr. Combe was enabled at intervals to resume his practice in Edinburgh, he found it necessary to leave it from time to time for the benefits of a Continental residence; until, in 1836, he was induced to accept the appointment of Physician to the King of the Belgians, believing that a residence at Brussels might possibly suit his constitution.  But his health again gave way on reaching Brussels, and he was shortly under the necessity of giving up the appointment,—preserving, however, the honorary office of Consulting Physician to the Belgian Court.  During the leisure which the cessation from professional pursuits afforded him, he prepared his next work, on "The Physiology of Digestion," another highly successful book.  And in 1840 appeared his last work, on "The Physiological and Moral Management of Infancy."  All these books have had a large circulation in England and in America, besides having been translated and circulated largely in Continental countries.

    In 1841 Dr. Combe was again attacked with hæmoptysis, or discharge of blood from the lungs, and fell into a state of gradual and steady decline.  As he himself said, "I believe I am going slowly and gently down hill."  He continued, however, to live for several years.  In 1842 and 1843, he paid two visits to Madeira, and spent some time in Italy; and in the two following years he was enabled to travel about, a pallid invalid, taking a deep interest meanwhile in all useful public and social movements.  His judgment seemed to grow stronger, and his insight into men and things clearer, as his bodily powers decayed.  On all topics connected with education, as his correspondence shows, he took an especially lively interest.  In 1847 he made a voyage to New York, chiefly for the purpose of visiting his brother William, who had long been settled in the States; but the heat of the climate proved too trying for his enfeebled constitution, and he almost immediately took ship again for England.  The last literary labour in which he occupied himself was thoroughly characteristic of the man.  While in the States, he had been sickened by the accounts of the ravages which the ship-fever had made among the poor Irish emigrants, and he determined to bring the whole subject before the public in an article in the Times.  Writing to a corn merchant in Liverpool, on his return home, for information as to the regulations of emigrant ships, he said: "I have not yet regained either my ordinary health or power of thinking, and, consequently, find writing rather heavy work; but my spirit is moved by the horrible details from Quebec and New York, and I cannot rest without doing something in the matter."  The letter in which this passage occurred was the last that Dr. Combe wrote.  His article had meanwhile been hastily prepared, and it appeared in the Times of the 17th of September, 1847, occupying nearly three columns of that paper.  He was interrupted, even while he was writing it, by a severe attack of the diarrhoea, from which he died, after a few days' illness, on the 9th of August, 1847.  His dying hours were peaceful, and the last words he uttered, when he could scarcely articulate, were, "Happy, happy!"

    Such is a brief outline of the life of an eminently, useful man, who, without the aid of any brilliant qualities, and merely by the exercise of industry, good sense, and well-cultivated moral feelings, was enabled to effect a large amount of good during his lifetime, and beneficially to influence the condition of mankind, it may be for generations to come.


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ROBERT BROWNING.

Robert Browning (1812-89): playwright and major English poet;
husband of the poetess Elizabeth Barrett.


THE following sonnet, addressed by Walter Savage Landor to Robert Browning, blends the just judgment of the critic with the tender admiration of the friend:—


"There is delight in singing, though none hear
 Beside the singer: and there is delight
 In praising, though the praiser sit alone
 And see the praised far off him, far above.
 Shakespeare is not our poet, but the world's,
 Therefore on him no speech! and brief for thee,
 Browning!   Since Chaucer was alive and hale,
 No man hath walkt along our roads with step
 So active, so inquiring eye, or tongue
 So varied in discourse.   But warmer climes
 Give brighter plumage, stronger wing: the breeze
 Of Alpine heights thou playest with, borne on
 Beyond Sorrento and Amalfi, where
 The Siren waits thee, singing song for song."


    A little piece of Browning's, entitled "Home Thoughts, from Abroad," shows how this stout traveller along the common roads of England remembered, far away in Italy, what he saw and heard at home:—


    "O, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brush-wood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!

    "And after April, when May follows,
And the white-throat builds, and all the swallows,—
Hark! where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field, and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops,—at the bent spray's edge, —
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!

    "And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower,
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!"


    Mr. Browning was born in Camberwell, a suburb of London, in the year 1812.  His father was a Dissenter, and he received his collegiate education at the London University, after which, at the age of about twenty, he visited Italy.  Here, first and last, he has spent many years, and a large number of his poems are inspired by Italian scenes and legends.  They show that his inquiring eye and active step have been busy, not only in the libraries and closets of that storied land, but along the highways and by-paths and among the common people of the country.  His first published work was "Paracelsus," which appeared in 1835.  It is a dramatic poem, of a strikingly original character, of the class to which belong Prometheus, Faust, Festus, and other works, in which poets of all ages have sought to penetrate the mysteries of existence and of human destiny.  The Paracelsus of history, who is physician, alchemist, quack, juggler, drunkard, and the father of modern chemistry, appears in this poem as a high and sovereign intellect aspiring after the secrets of the world, yet dying disappointed and heart-broken, having forfeited success by seeking to transcend the necessities and limitations of humanity, instead of patiently working within them.  This poem drew towards Mr. Browning the immediate attention of the critics, ever on the look-out for the coming great poet.  On the whole, they received Paracelsus kindly, and the most thoughtful men in England and America have agreed that it contains much fine poetry, as well as nice metaphysical thought.  In 1837 Mr. Browning published "Strafford," a purely English tragedy, which, although placed upon the stage by Mr. Macready, who represented the principal character, did not meet with great success.  Three years afterwards appeared "Sordello," another dramatic poem, upon which various opinions have been pronounced.  Most of the current criticism of the time is written in a hurry, and "Sordello" was not to be digested or even read in a day.  It was rough, tangled, and to a large degree unintelligible to most readers.  Some students of poetry who had leisure and a taste for occult mysteries tried their hands at it, and came to the conclusion that it had a great deal of meaning and many beautiful passages.  But the early judgment has not been reversed during the twenty years which have elapsed since the poem was given to the world.  Perhaps the best description of it is that given by an American critic, who says it was a fine poem before the author wrote it.  If Mr. Browning had stopped here, the world would not have recognized him, as it now does, as one of the greatest dramatic poets since Shakespeare's day.  He kept on writing, and between 1842 and 1846 produced, under the title of "Bells and Pomegranates," a series of dramas and lyrics, or dramatic poems, for the lyrics are as dramatic, almost, as the dramas, upon which his fame thus far chiefly rests.  The dramas are entitled "Pippa Passes," "King Victor and King Charles," "Colombe's Birthday," "A Blot in the 'Scutcheon," "The Return of the Druses," "Luria," and "A Soul's Tragedy."  In these poems, Mr. Browning displays that depth, clearness, minuteness, and universality of vision, that power of revealing the object of his thought without revealing himself, that force of imagination which "turns the common dust of servile opportunity to gold," and that humour which sees remote and fanciful resemblances and develops their secret relationship to each other, which constitute the true poet and the great dramatist.  The "Blot in the 'Scutcheon" is a piteous tragedy.  It was produced at Drury Lane in 1843, but its success was moderate.  This proves only that the applause of the pit is not the test of dramatic merit, for it is almost a perfect work.  "Pippa Passes" is also a charming poem.  In it occurs the following remarkable figure, startling as the lightning itself.


"OTTIMA (to her paramour).


"Buried in woods we lay, you recollect;
 Swift ran the searching tempest overhead;
 And ever and anon some bright white shaft
 Burnt through the pine-tree roof,—here burnt and there,
 As if God's messenger through the close wood screen
 Plunged and replunged his weapon at a venture,
 Feeling for guilty thee and me."


    Some of the lyrics and romances included in this collection of poems have passed into the school-books and standard collections of poetry; for instance, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," "How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix," and "The Lost Leader;" while others, among which may be mentioned the "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister" and "Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis," display a quaintness of humour which makes them exceedingly pleasant reading.  The following little piece shows with what quick and rapid strokes Mr. Browning can place a vivid natural picture and a bit of personal experience before the eye of the reader:—


"MEETING AT NIGHT."


"The grey sea and the long, black land;
 And the yellow half-moon, large and low;
 And the startled little waves that leap
 In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
 As I gain the cove with pushing prow
 And quench its speed in the slushy sand.


II.


"Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
 Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
 A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch,
 And blue spurt of a lighted match,
 And a voice less loud, through its joys and fears,
 Than the two hearts beating each to each!"


    In 1850 Mr. Browning published a poem in two parts, entitled "Christmas Eve and Easter Day."  It deals with theological problems, and expresses some phases of the author's spiritual experience with great force and vividness.  It also furnishes a remarkable instance of the ease with which Mr. Browning puts into melodious verse the elaborate niceties of a metaphysical argument, diversifying it with picturesque and humorous descriptions.  Some of the pictures of country people and rural life are as faithful and minute as those of Crabbe.  And here is a sketch of a Göttingen Rationalist Professor, which exhibits the same fidelity and accuracy of detail, with a touch of the author's peculiar humour:—


"But hist!—a buzzing and emotion!
 All settle themselves, the while ascends
 By the creaking rail to the lecture desk,
 Step by step, deliberate
 Because of his cranium's overweight,
 Three parts sublime to one grotesque,
 If I have proved an accurate guesser,
 The hawk-nosed, high-cheek-boned Professor.
 I felt at once as if there ran
 A shoot of love from my heart to the man,—
 That sallow, virgin-minded, studious
 Martyr to mild enthusiasm,
 As he uttered a kind of cough-preludious
 That woke my sympathetic spasm,
 (Beside some spitting that made me sorry,)
 And stood, surveying his auditory,
 With a wan, pure look, well-nigh celestial.—
 —Those blue eyes had survived so much!
 While, under the foot they could not smutch,
 Lay all the fleshly and the bestial.

 Over he bowed, and arranged his notes,
 Till the auditory's clearing of throats
 Was done with, died into a silence;
 And, when each glance was upward sent,
 Each bearded mouth composed intent,
 And a pin might be heard drop half a mile hence,—
 He pushed back higher his spectacles,
 Let the eyes stream out like lamps from cells,
 And giving his head of hair—a hake
 Of undressed tow, for colour and quantity—
 One rapid and impatient shake,
 As our own young England adjusts a jaunty tie,
 (When about to impart, on mature digestion,
 Some thrilling view of the surplus question,)
—The Professor's grave voice, sweet though hoarse,
 Broke into his Christmas-eve's discourse."


1882 Caricature from Punch.  Picture Wikipedia.


    Mr. Browning's latest work is entitled "Men and Women."  It is a collection of fifty poems, which display all the rich and various qualities of his genius.  We quote one of the most pleasing of the poems in this volume:—


EVELYN HOPE.
I.


Beautiful Evelyn Hope is dead!
    Sit and watch by her side an hour;
That is her bookshelf, this her bed;
    She plucked that piece of geranium-flower,
Beginning to die too in the glass.
    Little has yet been changed, I think,—
The shutters are shut, no light may pass
    Save two long rays through the hinge's chink.


II.


"Sixteen years old when she died!
     Perhaps she had scarcely heard my name,
 It was not her time to love: beside,
     Her life had many a hope and aim,
 Duties enough and little cares,
     And now was quiet, now astir,—
 Till God's hand beckoned unawares,
     And the sweet white brow is all of her.


III.


"Is it too late then, Evelyn Hope?
     What, your soul was pure and true,
 The good stars met in your horoscope,
     Made you of spirit, fire, and dew,—
 And just because I was thrice as old,
     And our paths in the world diverged so wide,
 Each was naught to each, must I be told?
     We were fellow-mortals, naught beside?


IV.


"No, indeed! for God above
     Is great to grant, as mighty to make,
 And creates the love to reward the love,—
     I claim you still, for my own love's sake!
 Delayed it may be for more lives yet,
     Through worlds I shall traverse, not a few,—
 Much is to learn and much to forget
     Ere the time be come for taking you.


V.


"But the time will come,—at last it will,—
     When, Evelyn Hope, what meant, I shall say,
 In the lower earth, in the years long still,
     That body and soul so pure and gay?
 Why your hair was amber, I shall divine,
     And your mouth of your own geranium's red,—
 And what you would do with me, in fine,
     In the new life come in the old one's stead.


VI.


"I have lived, I shall say, so much since then;
     Given up myself so many times,
 Gained me the gains of various men,
     Ransacked the ages, spoiled the climes;
 Yet one thing, one, in my soul's full scope,
     Either I missed, or itself missed me,—
 And I want and find you, Evelyn Hope!
     What is the issue? let us see!


VII.


"I loved you, Evelyn, all the while;
     My heart seemed full as it could hold,—
 There was place and to spare for the frank, young smile,
     And the red young mouth, and the hair's young gold.
 So, hush,—I will give you this leaf to keep, —
     See, I shut it inside the sweet cold hand.
 There, that is our secret! go to sleep;
     You will wake, and remember, and understand."


    The last piece in "Men and Women" is a beautiful love poem addressed to E. B. B., the poet's wife.  In November, 1846, Mr. Browning was married to Elizabeth Barrett, of whom a biographical sketch is included in this volume.  Since their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Browning have generally resided at Casa Guidi in Florence, but they occasionally pass a winter in Rome.  Mr. George S. Hillard, an American author, says:


"A happier home and a more perfect union than theirs it is not easy to imagine; and this completeness arises, not only from the rare qualities which each possesses, but from their adaptation to each other.  It is a privilege to know such beings, singly and separately, but to see their powers quickened, and their happiness rounded by the sacred tie of marriage, is a cause for peculiar and lasting gratitude.  A union so complete as theirs—in which the mind has nothing to crave nor the heart to sigh for—is cordial to behold and soothing to remember."


    Mr. Browning's thoughtful lines on the perishableness of fame may sadden the minds of ambitious poets:—


"See, as the prettiest graves will do in time,
 Our poet's wants the freshness of its prime;
 Spite of the sexton's browsing horse, the sods
 Have struggled through its binding osier-rods;
 Headstone and half-sunk footstone lean awry,
 Wanting the brick-work promised by and by;
 How the minute gray lichens, plate o'er plate,
 Have softened down the crisp-cut name and date!"

 

Carte-de-visite by Elliott & Fry.

    Forty years ago, Mr. Jeffrey uttered a lament over the forgotten poets; forgotten merely because there was not room in men's memories for them.  He consoled himself with the reflection that Campbell and Byron and Scott and Crabbe and Southey, and the other poets of his day, might live, in unequal proportions, in some new collections of specimens.  But the posterity of 1820, sometimes correcting his estimate, as in the case of Wordsworth, seems still to enjoy complete editions of the works of the great masters of the art of poetry, as well as ever.  And we are confident that Mr. Browning's dramas and lyrics will long continue to find appreciative readers, and that, as culture and taste and love of pure art make progress, the number of his constant admirers will steadily increase. If we are mistaken, he must be consoled with the phrase from Milton which is expected to soothe all great and unpopular poets; for he may safely rely till the end of time upon his "fit audience, though few."


――――♦――――

 
EDWIN CHADWICK.

Sir Edwin Chadwick KCB (1800–90): English social reformer, noted for his
work to reform the Poor Laws and improve sanitary conditions and public
  health.  Picture Wikipedia.


EDWIN CHADWICK has not yet received ordinary justice from his contemporaries.  He is one of the most indefatigable and successful workers of the age, and has, perhaps, more than any other single man beneficially influenced the legislation of his time; yet we hear less of him than we do of many a fifth-rate Parliamentary babbler.  We do not know much about his birth or ancestry; but that is a matter of small consequence.  We know, however, that he was born near Manchester, and belongs to a Lancashire family.  He received his education chiefly in London, and, having chosen the law for his profession, he was enrolled a student of the Inner Temple in his twenty-sixth year.  There he "ate his way," as the saying goes, to the Bar; maintaining himself, as Lord Campbell at one time in his life did, by reporting and writing for the daily press.  He was not a man of brilliant powers, nor of any extraordinary amount of learning.  But he was a most sagacious and persevering man, and was ready to confront any amount of labour in prosecuting an object, no matter how remote its attainment might at first sight appear.

    At an early period in his career, Edwin Chadwick became possessed of an Idea.  And it is a great thing to be thoroughly possessed by an idea, provided its aim and end be beneficent.  It gives a colour and a bias to the whole of a man's life.  The idea was not a new one; but being now taken up by an earnest, energetic, and hard-working man, there was hope for the practical working out of this idea in the actual life of humanity.  The idea was neither more nor less than the Sanitary Idea,—the germ of the sanitary movement.

    We must now briefly state how he worked his way to the practical realization of his idea, in the sanitary movement.  It appears that Mr. Morgan, the government actuary, having been examined before a Parliamentary committee as to the soundness of the government annuity-tables, stated that, though the circumstances of the middle classes had improved, their "expectation of life " had not lengthened.  This being diametrically opposed to our student's idea, he forthwith set to work to demonstrate the fallacy of the government actuary's opinion.  He laid aside for a time the dreary law papers on which he had been engaged, and entered upon an equally dreary course of reading and sifting of statistical documents, blue-books, life-tables, and population-tables.  His practice of sifting evidence for the attorneys in private cases doubtless helped him in this investigation.  He bored his way through the cumbrous pile, working his way to the light, and bringing an accumulation of facts from the most unlooked-for quarters, to illustrate his idea, and elucidate his master-thought.  The result was published in an able article which appeared in the Westminster Review for April, 1828.  He there demonstrated, by an extraordinary array of facts and arguments, that the circumstances which surround human beings must have an influence upon their health; that health must improve with an improvement of these circumstances; that many of those circumstances which were unfavourable to the healthy lives of men were under man's control, and capable of being removed; that the practice of vaccination, the diminution of the ancestral vice of hard drinking, the increase of habits of cleanliness, the improvements in medical science, and the better construction of streets and houses, must, according to all medical and popular experience, have contributed, à priori, to lengthen life; and these he proved by a citation of facts from numerous authentic sources.  In short, Mr. Morgan was wrong.  The "expectancy of life," as is now universally admitted, has improved and is rapidly improving; but it was never thoroughly demonstrated until Edwin Chadwick undertook the discussion and argument of the entire question.

    The article in the Westminster attracted the notice of Lord Melbourne, who had a remarkable tact for discovering the qualities of men; and he determined to enlist Mr. Chadwick in the public service.  Though no "eloquent" writer, Mr. Chadwick's pen thus enabled him to enter upon a highly useful, if not a brilliant, career in life.  Let no one say that the Pen has lost its power in these days!

    In like manner, another article, which Mr. Chadwick published in the London Review, in 1829, on "Preventive Police," was read by Jeremy Bentham, then in his eighty-second year, who so much admired it, that he craved an introduction to the writer.  The consequence was the formation of a friendship, that lasted without interruption until the death of the philosopher, in 1832.  Mr. Bentham wished to engage the whole of his young friend's time in assisting him with the preparation of his Administrative Code, and he offered to place him in independent circumstances if he would devote himself exclusively to the advancement of his works.  The offer was, however, declined, Mr. Chadwick probably foreseeing that the inheritance of the old jurist's principles might hinder his freedom in life; and, with a manly independence, he doubtless felt desirous of carving out for himself his own career.

    Mr. Chadwick completed his law studies, and was called to the bar in November, 1830.  He was preparing to enter upon the practice of common law, occasionally contributing articles to the Westminster, when he was, in 1832, appointed a commissioner, in conjunction with Dr. Southwood Smith and Mr. Tooke, to investigate the question of Factory Labour, which Lord Ashley and Mr. Sadler were at that time strongly pressing on public attention.  The sanitary idea again found opportunity for expression in the report of the commission, which referred to "defective drainage, ventilation, water supply," and the like, as causes of disease,—acting, concurrently with excessive toil, to depress the health and shorten the lives of the factory population.

    In the same year (1832) an important Commission of Inquiry was appointed by Lord Grey's government, in reference to the operation of the Poor Laws in England and Wales.  Mr. Chadwick was appointed one of the assistant commissioners, for the purpose of taking evidence on the subject; and the districts of London and Berkshire were allotted to him.  His report, which was published in the following year, is a model of what a report should be.  It is full of information, admirably classified and arranged, and so racy, by virtue of the facts brought to light, and the care taken to preserve the very words of the witnesses as they were spoken, that the report may be read with interest by even the most inveterate enemy of blue-books.

    Mr. Chadwick showed himself so thoroughly master of the entire subject,—his suggestions were so full of practical value,—that he was, shortly after the publication of the report, advanced from the post of assistant commissioner to that of chief commissioner: and he largely shared, with Mr. Senior, in the labours and honours of the commissioners' report submitted to the House of Commons in 1834, and also in the famous Poor-Law Amendment Act passed in August of the same year, in which the recommendations of the commissioners were substantially adopted and formalized. [p.389]

    One may venture to say now, without fear of being contradicted, that that law is one of the most valuable that has been placed on the statute-book in modern times.  And yet no law was more unpopular than this was for years after it was enacted.  But Mr. Chadwick never ceased to have perfect faith in the soundness of the principles on which it was based, and he was indefatigable in defending and establishing it.  He is, indeed, a man who has never failed in the courage needful to enable him to do the right thing, even though it should be the unpopular thing.  It has been well said, that to become popular is an easy thing; but to do unpopular justice,—that requires a MAN."  And Edwin Chadwick was unquestionably such a man.

    While burrowing amidst the voluminous evidence on the Poor Laws, he never lost sight of his sanitary idea.  All his reports were strongly impressed with it; and in them not less than one fourth of the then existing pauperism was traced to preventable causes of disease.  Mr. Chadwick's minute investigations into the condition of the labouring population, and of the poor generally, gave him a thorough acquaintance with the physical evils that were preying on the community, carrying them prematurely out of existence by fevers, consumption, and cholera; and the sanitary idea took firmer possession of his mind than ever.

    One day, in 1838, when engaged in his then official vocation of Secretary to the Poor-Law Commission, "an officer of the Whitechapel Union entered hastily the Board-room of the Poor-Law Commission, and, with a troubled countenance, informed the secretary that a terrible fever had broken out around a stagnant pool in Whitechapel; that the people were dying by scores; and that the extreme malignity of the cases gave reason to apprehend that they were allied to Asiatic cholera.  On hearing this the Board, at our sanitary reformer's instance, immediately appointed Drs. Arnott, Kay, and Southwood Smith to investigate the causes of this alarming mortality, and generally to report on the sanitary condition of London.  Drs. Arnott and Kay sent in a joint report, and Dr. Smith a separate supplemental one; in which, amongst other things, the pernicious effects of the foul water sold in London were ably set forth.  These reports were circulated to the extent of 4,000 or 5,000 copies." [p.391]

    This inquiry ripened at length into the sanitary inquiry, into which Mr. Chadwick threw his prodigious industry and energy.  In the meantime he had been engaged as a member of the Commission of Inquiry "as to the best means of establishing an efficient constabulary force in England and Wales;" the evidence taken in which inquiry Mr. Chadwick embodied in a report as interesting as a novel of Dickens, affording the most curious insight into the modes of living, the customs and habits, of the lowest classes of the population.  When this question had been dismissed, Mr. Chadwick proceeded to devote himself almost exclusively to the great work of his life,—the Sanitary Movement.  The Bishop of London, in 1839, moved in the Lords, that the inquiry which had been made at Mr. Chadwick's instance by Drs. Southwood Smith, Arnott, and Kay, into the sanitary state of the metropolis, should be extended to the whole population, city, rural, and manufacturing, of England and Wales.  Some residents in Edinburgh also petitioned that Scotland might be included and accordingly, in August, 1839, Lord John Russell addressed a letter to the Poor-Law Board, authorizing them by royal command to extend to the whole of Great Britain the inquiry into preventable disease which had already been gone through with in regard to the metropolis.  On Mr. Chadwick devolved the onerous task of setting on foot and superintending the inquiry throughout, of sifting evidence, and of afterwards classifying and condensing the information for the purposes of publication.

    The first Report on the Health of Towns was ready for publication in 1842; and its preparation was altogether the work of Mr. Chadwick.  It ought to have appeared as the Official Report of the Poor-Law Board; but as the commissioners (some of whom were at variance with Mr. Chadwick with respect to the administration of the New Poor-Law) refused to assume the responsibility of a document which contained much that must necessarily offend many influential public bodies, Mr. Chadwick took the responsibility on himself, and it was published as his report,—which, indeed, it was,—and accepted from him as such by the commissioners.

    The amount of dry, hard work encountered by Mr. Chadwick in the preparation of this and his other reports can scarcely be estimated, except by those who know something of the labour involved in extracting from masses of evidence, written and printed, sent in from all parts of the empire, only the most striking results bearing on the question in hand which are deemed worthy of publication.  The mountains of paper which Mr. Chadwick has thus bored through in his lifetime are immense; and could they now be presented before him in one pile, they would appal even his stout heart!

    The sensation excited throughout the country by the publication of Mr. Chadwick's Sanitary Report was immense.  Such a revelation of the horrors lying concealed beneath the fair surface of our modern Christian civilization had never been made before.  But Mr. Chadwick had no idea of merely exciting a sensation; he had an object in view, which he persistently pursued.  The report was nothing, unless followed by legislative enactments, which, indeed, shortly followed.  A sanitary party was formed; and the ministers for the time being, of both sides in politics, were its influential leaders, giving practical effect to the sanitary idea.

    Mr. Chadwick followed up this report in the following year by another elaborate report on the practice of interment of towns,—a work which extended and enforced the views of Mr. Walker on this subject.

    A Sanitary Commission was appointed in 1844, to consider the whole question in its practical bearings.  The Commission published two reports, with a view to legislation; but the Free-Trade struggle interfered, and little was done for several years.  Meanwhile our sanitary reformer was occupied as a commissioner in inquiring into the condition of the metropolis.  This Commission published three reports, in which the defective drainage, sewage, and water-supply of London were discussed in detail; and these have recently been followed by important acts of legislation.

    We cannot here enter upon any description of Mr. Chadwick's numerous valuable reports; but will mention his report (published in 1845) on the Drainage, Paving, Cleansing, and Water-supply of Towns, as one of the ablest state papers ever issued from a government office.

    The sanitary idea at length had its triumph in the enactment of the Public Health Act of 1848, and the appointment of a General Board of Health (of which Mr. Chadwick was a member) to superintend its administration.  Numerous supplemental measures have since been enacted, with a view to carrying into practical effect the sanitary principles enunciated by Mr. Chadwick and adopted by the Board.  They published reports, from time to time, full of valuable information: for instance, in reference to the application of sewage water to agricultural purposes; on Epidemic Cholera; on Quarantine; on Drainage; on Public Lodging-Houses; and the like.  The sanitary movement, in short, became a "great fact;" and that it is so, we have mainly to thank Edwin Chadwick, the missionary of the Sanitary Idea.  It is true, he has recently been summarily dismissed from his position of influence at the Board of Health,—partly through spleen, but chiefly because of his own unaccommodating nature,—unaccommodating especially to petty local authorities and individual interests opposed to the public good.  [p. 393]  But with all thinking and impartial men, his character stands as high as it did.  At all events, his works will remain.

    We do not know a more striking instance than that presented by this gentleman's career, of the large amount of good which a man strongly possessed by a beneficent idea can accomplish, provided he have only the force of purpose and perseverance to follow it up.  Mr. Chadwick also furnishes an illustration of this truth,—that a true man, of high and original powers, works for the service of humanity and not for the honours which it has to bestow.  Though he is not an actual legislator, he has nevertheless been the mover of more wise measures than any legislator of our time.  He has possessed the legislature with his leading Idea; and he has created a public opinion out of doors in favour of sanitary reform which will not let them lag, even if they would.  Take him in all, Edwin Chadwick is one of the most useful of practical men.  If he be not esteemed in future times as a Clarkson or a Howard, it will not be because he has not deserved this.  He certainly deserves to be regarded as one of the best practical benefactors of his kind.

    We conclude our sketch with an account of a somewhat remarkable interview which took place some years ago between Mr. Chadwick and the Emperor of the French, which is not without its interest for the general reader.

    At the time of the Great Exhibition in Paris, in 1854, a deputation from England, of whom Mr. Chadwick was one, had occasion to wait upon the Emperor at his palace of St. Cloud.  We give the account of the interview exactly as related to us by one who was present, and it will be found to bring out something of the humour of Louis Napoleon, as well as the peculiarities which characterize Mr. Edwin Chadwick.

    The appointment was arranged for Sunday afternoon, at two o'clock, and the deputation was punctual.  The Emperor, however, was engaged on business with members of the Diplomatic Corps, and could not receive them for nearly an hour: but, with prompt decision, he ordered the Galleries of Art to be thrown open, and trusted the gentlemen from England would be able to amuse themselves for a short time.  His thoughtful kindliness was well calculated to make a favourable impression, and the time indeed seemed short when it was announced that the Emperor was waiting.  On entering the audience-chamber, Lord Cowley handed to an attendant the names of those forming the deputation, who took their places in the order in which they were written.  The attendant withdrew, and soon after the Emperor entered accompanied by some of his officers of state.  Lord Cowley introduced the head of the deputation by name, who read an address, to which the Emperor replied in familiar terms, and then, approaching the leader of the deputation, and speaking to him by name, shook him cordially by the hand and bade him welcome.  There was nothing surprising in this, because it was natural to suppose that his name might be remembered.  But when he passed along the semicircle, and shook each by the hand, and spoke to him by name, without reference to any document, they were absolutely amazed.  After expressing the hope that they would enjoy their visit to Paris the Emperor returned to Mr. Chadwick, when the following dialogue took place:


"Well, Mr. Chadwick, and how do you enjoy Paris?"

"May it please your Majesty, I enjoy Paris much, and being here on a special mission, as your Majesty is aware, I shall feel it to be my duty to report faithfully, and to the best of my judgment, on matters connected with the inquiry."

"I hope your report will be favourable, Mr. Chadwick."

"In many respects entirely so; but in others not.  All that meets the eye is beautiful, and I find much that is worthy of imitation.  But —" and here Mr. Chadwick paused.

"But—I suppose you were about to add, Mr. Chadwick—but all that meets the nose is not so agreeable." (The Emperor here smiled,—so did the deputation.)

"In this presence," replied Mr. Chadwick, "I should not have ventured to say so much, but your Majesty has accurately interpreted the thought I wished to convey."

"Could you suggest any remedy, Mr. Chadwick?"

"Undoubtedly, your Majesty!  Nothing could be easier than the drainage of Paris.  The area of the city is small, and the gradient so good, that the system might be made the most perfect, and the Paris atmosphere the purest of any city in the world."

"Would you drain the refuse matter of Paris into the Seine, as you drain London into the Thames, Mr. Chadwick?"

"No, your Majesty; that has been found to be a terrible mistake; and we are about to entirely change the system.  We have in England a town drained on what we consider a model system.  I refer to the town of Rugby.  The authorities have completed their drainage, and entered into an agreement with an enterprising agriculturist, who pays a certain fixed sum per annum for the entire sewage, of which he takes possession at the boundary of the town, and, by means of pipes laid at his own cost, conveys it to such points of his farm as will enable him best to spread it equally all over his land.  And the result is, that he has several crops of grass in each year of immense weight and value."

"Do you mean, Mr. Chadwick, that your enterprising agriculturist spreads that unpleasant stuff on the green grass?"

"I do, your Majesty."

"Then it must be very unpleasant to sit upon!"


    The whimsicality of this remark broke down all restraint.  The deputation laughed outright, and in their laughter the Emperor heartily joined.

    Here was a fine opening for a bucolic member of the deputation, who eagerly seized the opportunity of stepping forward to enlighten the Emperor.  He begged to assure his Majesty that it was neither unpleasant, nor dangerous to health.  It was the nature of all vegetation to greedily absorb the food suitable to it.  Sewage matter was the natural food of plants, and—

    The Emperor, however, fearing a tedious lecture upon agricultural chemistry, suddenly turned from his new friend, and again addressed himself to his imperturbable friend Chadwick.


"If your time admits, Mr. Chadwick, perhaps you will kindly proceed, and give me a few practical hints as to the how of the case?"

"Your Majesty will allow that, of all places, the greatest demand for vegetables of every variety exists in Paris.  To economize labour, and thus lessen the cost of a prime necessity of food, is a question well worthy the consideration of your Majesty.  The surrounding land is hungry for the refuse of your city, and every visitor cries, 'Away with it!'  By a proper and simple system, arrangements might be made by which, within a radius of twenty miles of Paris, a larger quantity of vegetables might be produced than is now obtained from a radius of fifty miles.  Your houses are so high, that they are almost like perpendicular streets, and half drain themselves by simple gravity.  The gradients are all good, and only require the necessary pipes and a sufficient supply of water.  But, in my humble opinion, if your Majesty wills it, the work is half done."

"I thank you, Mr. Chadwick, and the gentlemen present; and if I can do anything to make your stay in Paris more pleasant, let your wishes be made known through the Minister, and they shall be promptly attended to.  I shall appoint a commission to inquire into the question Mr. Chadwick has introduced; and should they find it necessary to visit London for further information, I assume they may reckon upon receiving the assistance of this deputation?"


    A promise to that effect was given; and here the interview might have closed.  But Mr. Chadwick desired another last word, and, moving a step in advance, he said:—


"It was the boast of Augustus, that he found Rome brick, and left it marble; but it will be a greater, a wiser, and a prouder boast, if, in the time to come, it can be truly said, 'The Emperor Napoleon the Third found Paris offensively odorous, and left it sweet!"


    The Emperor seemed greatly pleased with these parting words of the sanitary philosopher, and the deputation withdrew amidst general hilarity.
 

    The unexpected frankness, familiarity, and humour of the Emperor, during the interview, astonished everybody; and, to judge from the look of surprise which the faces of his attendants expressed, it was quite clear that it was to them an unusual scene.  That Louis Napoleon thoroughly entered into the spirit of the interview, there can be no doubt.  But whether he laughed with, or at, the deputation, no one now can tell; and it is one of the secrets which time itself will be unable to divulge.  It is, nevertheless, gratifying to find that the plans introduced in a way so peculiar are being gradually carried out; and it is by no means improbable, that the ideal of Mr. Chadwick may be more than accomplished, and that Paris will eventually be, not only the most beautiful, but also one of the healthiest, because one of the purest, cities in the world. [p.398]


――――♦――――


 
ROBERT NICOLL.

Robert Nicoll (1814-37): Scottish poet and Editor of the Leeds Times.


THE name of Robert Nicoll will always take high rank among the poets of Scotland.  He was one of the many illustrious Scotchmen who have risen up to adorn the lot of toil, and reflect honour on the class from which they have sprung,—the laborious and hard-working peasantry of their land.  Nicoll, like Burns, was a man of whom those who live in poor men's huts may well be proud.  They declare, from day to day, that intellect is of no class, but that even in abodes of the deepest poverty there are warm hearts and noble minds, wanting but the opportunity and the circumstances to enable them to take their place as honourable and zealous labourers in the work of human improvement and Christian progress.

    The life of Robert Nicoll was not one of much variety of incident.  It was, alas! brought to an early close; for he died almost ere he had reached manhood.  But in his short allotted span, it is not too much to say, that he lived more than most men have done who reach their threescore years and ten.  He was born of hard-working, God-fearing parents, in the year 1814, at the little village of Tulliebelton, situated near the foot of the Grampian Hills, in Perthshire.  At an early period of his life, his father had rented the small farm of Ordie-braes; but having been unsuccessful in his farming, and falling behind with his rent, his home was broken up by the laird; the farm-stocking was sold off by public roup; and the poor man was reduced to the rank of a common day-labourer.

    Robert was the second of a family of seven children, six sons and one daughter, the "sister Margaret" of whom the poet afterwards spoke and wrote so affectionately.  Out of the bare weekly income of a day-labourer, there was not, as might be inferred, much to spare for schooling.  But the mother was an intelligent, active woman, and assiduously devoted herself to the culture of her children.  She taught them to read, and gave them daily lessons in the Assembly's Catechism; so that before being sent to school, which they all were in due course, this good and prudent mother had laid the foundations in them of a sound moral and religious education.

    "My mother," says Nicoll, in one of his letters, "in her early years, was an ardent book-woman.  When she became poor, her time was too precious to admit of its being spent in reading, and I generally read to her while she was working; for she took care that the children should not want education."

    Robert's subsequent instruction at school included the common branches of reading, writing, and accounts; the remainder of his education was his own work.  He became a voracious reader, laying half the parish under contribution for books.  A circulating library was got up in the neighbouring village of Auchtergaven, which the lad managed to connect himself with, and his mind became stored apace.

    Robert, like the rest of the children, when he became big enough and old enough, was sent out to field-work, to contribute by the aid of his slender gains towards the common store.  At seven he was sent to the herding of cattle, an occupation, by the way, in which many distinguished Scotchmen—Burns, James Ferguson, Mungo Park, Dr. Murray (the Orientalist), and James Hogg—spent their early years.  In winter, Nicoll attended the school with his "fee."  When occupied in herding, the boy had always a book for his companion; and he read going to his work and returning from it.  While engaged in this humble vocation he read most of the Waverley novels.  At a future period of his life, he says, "I can yet look back with no common feelings on the wood in which, while herding, I read Kenilworth."  Probably the perusal of that beautiful fiction never gave a purer pleasure, even in the stately halls of rank and fashion, than it gave to the poor herd-boy in the wood at Tulliebelton.

    When twelve years of age, Robert was taken from the herding, and went to work in the garden of a neighbouring proprietor.  Shortly after, when about thirteen, he began to scribble his thoughts, and to string rhymes together.  About this time also, as one of his intimate friends has told us, he passed through a strange phasis of being.  He was in the practice of relating to his companions the most wonderful and incredible stories as facts,—stories that matched the wonders of the Arabian Tales,—and evidencing the inordinate ascendancy at that time of his imagination over the other faculties of his mind.  The tales and novel literature, which, in common with all other kinds of books, he devoured with avidity, probably tended to the development of this disease (for such it really seemed to be) in his young and excitable nature.  As for the verses which he then wrote, they were not at all such as satisfied himself; for, despairing of ever being able to write the English language correctly, he gathered all his papers together and made a bonfire of them, resolving to write no more "poetry" for the present.  He became, however, the local correspondent of a provincial newspaper circulating in the district, furnishing it with weekly paragraphs and scraps of news, on the state of the weather, crops, &c.  His return for this service was an occasional copy of the paper, and the consequence attendant on being the "correspondent" of the village.  But another person was afterwards found more to the liking of the editor of the paper, and Robert, to his chagrin, lost his profitless post.

    Nicoll's next change was an important one to him.  He left his native hamlet and went into the world of active life.  At the age of seventeen he was bound apprentice to a grocer and wine-merchant in Perth.  There he came in contact with business, and activity, and opinion.  The time was stirring with agitation.  The Reform movement had passed over the face of the country like a tornado, raising millions of minds to action.  The exciting effects of the agitation on the intellects and sympathies of the youth of that day are still remembered; and few there were who did not feel more or less influenced by them.  The excitable mind of Nicoll was one of the first to be influenced; he burned to distinguish himself as a warrior on the people's side; he had longings infinite after popular enlargement, enfranchisement, and happiness.  His thoughts shortly found vent in verse, and he became a poet.  He joined a debating-society, and made speeches.  Every spare moment of his time was devoted to self-improvement,—to the study of grammar, to the reading of works on political economy, and to politics in all their forms. In the course of one summer, he several times read through with attention Smith's Wealth of Nations, not improbably with an eye to some future employment on the newspaper press.  He also read Milton, Locke, and Bentham, and devoured with avidity all other books that he could lay hands on.  The debating-society with which he was connected proposed to start a periodical, and Nicoll undertook to write a tale for the first number.  The periodical did not appear, and the tale was sent to Johnstone's Edinburgh Magazine, where it was published under the title of "Jessie Ogilvy," to the no small joy of the writer.  It decided Nicoll's vocation,—it determined him to be an author.  He proclaimed his Radicalism,—his resolution to "stand by his order," that of "the many."  His letters to his relatives, about this time, are full of political allusions.  He was working very hard, too,— attending in his mistress's shop, from seven in the morning till nine at night, and afterwards sitting up to read and write; rising early in the morning, and going forth to the North Inch by five o'clock, to write or to read until the hour of shop-opening.  At the same time he was living on the poorest possible diet,—literally on bread and cheese, and water,—that he might devote every possible farthing of his small gains to the purposes of mental improvement.

    Few constitutions can stand such intense labour and privation with impunity; and there is little doubt but Nicoll was even then undermining his health, and sowing the seeds of the malady which in so short a time after was to bring him to his grave.  But he was eager to distinguish himself in the field of letters, though but a poor shop-lad; and, more than all, he was ambitious to be independent, and have the means of aiding his mother in her humble exertions for a living; never losing sight of the comfort and welfare of that first and fastest of his friends.  At length, however, his health became seriously impaired, so much so that his Perth apprenticeship was abruptly brought to a close, and he was sent home by his mistress to be nursed by his mother at Ordie Braes,—not, however, before he had contributed another Radical story, entitled "The Zingaro," a poem on "Bessy Bell and Mary Gray," and an article on "The Life and Times of John Milton," to Johnstone's Edinburgh Magazine.  An old friend and schoolfellow, who saw him in the course of this visit to his mother's house, thus speaks of him at the time: "Robert's city life had not spoiled him.  His acquaintance with men and books had improved his mind without chilling his heart.  At this time he was full of joy and hope.  A bright literary life stretched before him.  His conversation was gay, and sparkling, and rushed forth like a stream that flows through flowery summer vales."

    His health soon became re-established, and he then paid a visit to Edinburgh, (Turing the period of the Grey Festival,—and there met his kind friend Mrs. Johnstone, William Tait, Robert Chambers, Robert Gilfillan, and others known in the literary world, by all of whom he was treated with much kindness and hospitality.  His search for literary employment, however, which was the main cause of his visit to Edinburgh, was in vain, and he returned home disappointed, though not hopeless.

    He was about twenty when he went to Dundee, there to start a small circulating library.  The project was not very successful; but while be kept it going, he worked harder than ever at literary improvement.  He now wrote his Lyrics and Poems, which, on their publication, were extremely well received by the press.  He also wrote for the liberal newspapers of the town, delivered lectures, made speeches, and extended his knowledge of men and society.  In a letter to a friend, written in February, 1836, he says: "No wonder I am busy.  I am at this moment writing poetry: I have almost half a volume of a novel written; I have to attend the meetings of the Kinloch Monument Committee; attend my shop; write some half-dozen articles a week for the Advertiser; and, to crown all, I have fallen in love."  At last, however, finding the library to be a losing concern, he made it entirely over to the partner who had joined him, and quitted Dundee, with the intention of seeking out some literary employment by which he might live.

    The Dundee speculation had involved Nicoll, and through him his mother, in debt, though to only a small amount.  This debt weighed heavy on his mind, and he thus opened his heart in a highly characteristic letter to his parent about it: "This money of R.'s (a friend who had lent him a few pounds to commence business with) hangs like a millstone about my neck.  If I had it paid, I would never borrow again from mortal man.  But do not mistake me, mother; I am not one of those men who faint and falter in the great battle of life.  God has given me too strong a heart for that.  I look upon earth as a place where every man is set to struggle, and to work, that he may be made humble and pure-hearted, and fit for that better land for which earth is a preparation,—to which earth is the gate.  Cowardly is that man who bows before the storm of life,—who runs not the needful race manfully, and with a cheerful heart.  If men would but consider how little of real evil there is in all the ills of which they are so much afraid,—poverty included,—there would be more virtue and happiness, and less world and mammon worship on earth than is.  I think, mother, that to me has been given talent; and if so, that talent was given to make it useful to man.  To man it cannot be made a source of happiness unless it be cultivated; and cultivated it cannot be unless, I think, little [here some words are obliterated]; and much and well of purifying and enlightening the soul.  This is my philosophy; and its motto is,—

Despair, thy name is written on
The roll of common men.

Half the unhappiness of life springs from looking back to griefs which are past, and forward with fear to the future.  That is not my way.  I am determined never to bend to the storm that is coming, and never to look back on it after it has passed.   Fear not for me, dear mother; for I feel myself daily growing firmer, and more hopeful in spirit.  The more I think and reflect,—and thinking, instead of reading, is now my occupation,—I feel that, whether I be growing richer or not, I am growing a wiser man, which is far better.  Pain, poverty, and all the other wild beasts of life which so affright others, I am so bold as to think I could look in the face without shrinking, without losing respect for myself, faith in man's high destinies, and trust in God.  There is a point which it costs much mental toil and struggling to gain, but which, when once gained, a man can look down from, as a traveller from a lofty mountain, on storms raging below, while he is walking in sunshine.  That I have yet gained this point in life, I will not say, but I feel myself daily nearer it."

    About the end of the year 1836, Nicoll succeeded, through the kind assistance of Mr. Tait, of Edinburgh, in obtaining an appointment as editor of an English newspaper, the Leeds Times.  This was the kind of occupation for which he had longed; and he entered upon the arduous labours of his office with great spirit.  During his year and a half of editorship his mind seemed to be on fire; and on the occasion of a Parliamentary contest in the town in which the paper was published, he wrote in a style which to some seemed bordering on frenzy.  He neither gave nor took quarter.  The man who went not so far as he did in political opinion was regarded by him as an enemy, and denounced accordingly.  He dealt about his blows with almost savage violence.  This novel and daring style, however, attracted attention to the paper, and its circulation rapidly increased, sometimes at the rate of two or three hundred a week.  One can scarcely believe that the tender-hearted poet and the fierce political partisan were one and the same person, or that he who had so touchingly written

I dare not scorn the meanest thing
That on the earth Cloth crawl,

should have held up his political opponents, in the words of another poet,

To grinning scorn a sacrifice,
And endless infamy.

    But such inconsistencies are, we believe, reconcilable in the mental histories of ardent and impetuous men.  Doubtless, had Nicoll lived, we should have found his sympathies becoming more enlarged, and embracing other classes besides those of only one form of political creed.  One of his friends once asked him why, like Elliot, he did not write political poetry.  His reply was, that "he could not: when writing politics, he could be as wild as he chose: he felt a vehement desire, a feeling amounting almost to a wish, for vengeance upon the oppressor: but when he turned to poetry, a softening influence came over him, and he could be bitter no longer."

    His literary labours while in Leeds were enormous.  He was not satisfied with writing from four to five columns weekly for the paper; but he was engaged at the same time in writing a long poem, a novel, and in furnishing leading articles for a new Sheffield newspaper.  In the midst of this tremendous labour, he found time to go down to Dundee to get married to the young woman with whom he had fallen in love.  The comfort of his home was thus increased, though his labours continued as before.  They soon told upon his health.  The clear and ruddy complexion of the youth grew pallid; the erect, manly gait became stooping; the firm step faltered; the lustrous eye dimmed; and health gave place to debility: the worm of disease was already at his heart and gnawing away his vitals.  His cough, which had never entirely left him since his illness, brought on by self-imposed privation and study while at Perth, again appeared in an aggravated form; his breath grew short and thick; his cheeks became shrunken; and the hectic flush which rarely deceives, soon made its appearance.  He appeared as if suddenly to grow old; his shoulders became contracted; he appeared to wither up, and the sap of life to shrink from his veins.  Need we detail the melancholy progress of a disease which is, in this country, the annual fate of thousands.

    As Nicoll's illness increased, he expressed an anxious desire to see his mother, and she was informed of it accordingly.  She was very poor, and little able to afford an expensive journey to Yorkshire by coach; nevertheless she contrived to pay the visit to her son.  Afterwards, when a friend inquired how she had been able to incur the expense, as poor Robert was in no condition to assist her even to the extent of the coach fare, her simple but noble reply was, "Indeed, Mr.――, I shore for the siller."  The true woman, worthy mother of so worthy a son, earned as a reaper the means of honestly and independently fulfilling her boy's dying wish, and the ardent desire of her own loving heart.  So soon as she set eyes on him on her arrival at Leeds, she felt at once that his days were numbered.

    It almost seemed as if, while the body of the poet decayed, his mind grew more active and excitable, and that, as the physical powers become more weakened, his sense of sympathy became more keen.  When he engaged in conversation upon a subject which he loved,—upon human progress, the amelioration of the lot of the poor, the emancipation of mind,—he seemed as one inspired.  Usually quiet and reserved, he would on such occasions work himself into a state of the greatest excitement.  His breast heaved, his whole frame was agitated, and while he spoke, his large lustrous eyes beamed with unwonted fire.  His wife feared such outbursts, which were followed by sleepless nights, and the aggravation of his complaint.

    Throughout the whole progress of his disease, down to the time when he left Leeds, Nicoll did not fail to produce his usual weekly quota of literary labour.  They little know, who have not learnt from experience, what pains and anxieties, what sorrows and cares, he hid under the columns of a daily or weekly newspaper.  No galley-slave at the oar tugs harder for life than the man who writes in newspapers for the indispensable of daily bread.  The press is ever at his heels, crying, "Give, give!" and well or ill, gay or sad, the Editor must supply the usual complement of "leading article."  The last articles poor Nicoll wrote for the paper were prepared whilst he sat up in bed, propped about by pillows.  A friend entered just as he had finished them, and found him in a state of high excitement: the veins on his forehead were turgid and his eyes bloodshot; his whole frame quivered, and the perspiration streamed from him.  He had produced a pile of blotted and blurred manuscript, written in his usual energetic manner.  It was immediately after sent to press.  These were the last leaders he wrote.  They were shortly after followed by a short address to the readers of the paper, in which he took a short but affectionate farewell of them, stating that he went "to try the effect of his native air, as a last chance for life."

    Almost at the moment of his departure from Leeds, an incident occurred which must have been exceedingly affecting to Nicoll, as it was to those who witnessed it.  Ebenezer Elliott, the "Corn-Law Rhymer," who entertained an enthusiastic admiration for the young poet, had gone over from Sheffield to deliver a short course of lectures to the Leeds Literary Institution, and promised himself the pleasure of a kindly interview with Robert Nicoll.  On inquiring about him, after the delivery of his first lecture, he was distressed to learn the sad state to which he was reduced.  "No words," says Elliott, in a letter to the writer of this memoir, "can express the pain I felt when informed, on my return to my inn, that he was dying, and that if I would see him I must reach his dwelling before eight o'clock next morning, at which hour he would depart by railway for Edinburgh, in the hope that his native air might restore him.  I was five minutes too late to see him at his house, but I followed him to the station, where about a minute before the train started he was pointed out to me in one of the carriages, seated, I believe, between his wife and his mother.  I stood on the step of the carriage and told him my name.  He gasped,—they all three wept; but I heard not his voice."

    The invalid reached Newhaven, near Leith, sick, exhausted, distressed, and dying.  He was received under the hospitable roof of Mrs. Johnstone, his early friend, who tended him as if he had been her own child.  Other friends gathered around him, and contributed to smooth his dying couch.  It was not the least of Nicoll's distresses, that towards his latter end he was tortured by the horrors of destitution; not so much for himself as for those who were dependent on him for their daily bread.  A generous gift of £50 was forwarded by Sir William Molesworth, but Nicoll did not live to enjoy the bounty; in a few days after, he breathed his last in the arms of his wife.

    The remains of Robert Nicoll rest in a narrow spot in Newhaven Churchyard.  No stone marks his resting place; only a small green mound, that has been watered by the tears of the loved he has left behind him.  On that spot the eye of God dwells; and around the precincts of the poet's grave, the memories of friends still hover with a fond and melancholy regret.

    Robert Nicoll was no ordinary man; Ebenezer Elliott has said of him, "Burns at his age had done nothing like him."  His poetry is the very soul of pathos, tenderness, and sublimity.  We might almost style him the Scottish Keats; though he was much more real and lifelike, and more definite in his aims and purposes, than Keats was.  There is a truthful earnestness in the poetry of Nicoll, which comes home to the universal heart. Especially does he give utterance to that deep poetry which lives in the heart, and murmurs in the lot of the poor man.  He knew and felt it all, and found for it a voice in his exquisite lyrics.  These have truth written on their very front;—as Nicoll said truly to a friend, "I have written my heart in my poems; and rude, unfinished, and hasty as they are, it can be read there."

    "We are lowly," "The Ha' Bible," "The Hero," "The Bursting of the Chain," "I dare not scorn," and numerous other pieces which might be named, are inferior to few things of their kind in the English language.  "The Ha' Bible" is perhaps not unworthy to take rank with "The Cotter's Saturday Night" of Robert Burns.  It is as follows:—

                               THE HA' BIBLE.

Chief of the Household Gods
Which hallow Scotland's lowly cottage homes!
While looking on thy signs,
That speak, though dumb, deep thought upon me comes,—
With glad yet solemn dreams my heart is stirred,
Like Childhood's when it hears the carol of a bird!

The Mountains old and hear,—
The chainless Winds,—the Streams so pure and free,—
The God-enamelled Flowers,—
The waving Forest,—the eternal Sea,—
The Eagle floating o'er the mountain's brow,—
Are Teachers all; but oh! they are not such as thou!

O, I could worship thee!
Thou art a gift a God of love might give;
For Love and Hope and Joy
In thy Almighty-written pages live!—
The Slave who reads shall never crouch again;
For, mind-inspired by thee, he bursts his feeble chain!

God! Unto Thee I kneel,
And thank Thee! Thou unto my native land—
Yea, to the outspread Earth—
Hast stretched in love Thy Everlasting hand,
And Thou hast given Earth and Sea and Air,—
Yea, all that heart can ask of Good and Pure and Fair!

And, Father, Thou hast spread
Before men's eyes this Charter of the Free,
That all Thy Book might read,
And Justice love, and Truth and Liberty.
The Gift was unto Men,—the Giver God!
Thou Slave! it stamps thee Man,—go spurn thy weary load

Thou doubly-precious Book!
Unto thy light what doth not Scotland owe?—
Thou teachest Age to die,
And Youth in Truth unsullied up to grow!
In lowly homes a Comforter art thou,—
A sunbeam sent from God,—an Everlasting bow!

O'er thy broad ample page
How many dim and aged eyes have pored?
How many hearts o'er thee
In silence deep and holy have adored?
How many Mothers, by their Infants' bed,
Thy Holy, Blessed, Pure, Child-loving words have read!

And o'er thee soft young hands
Have oft in truthful plighted Love been joined,
And thou to wedded hearts
Hast been a bond,—an altar of the mind!—
Above all kingly power or kingly law
May Scotland reverence aye the Bible of the Ha'!


――――♦――――



[SAMUEL BAMFORD]

 



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