Puslapio vaizdai

wheeled half round toward his guest,) a portrait of Raphael and one of Beethoven flanked a copy of the Avon bust of Shakespeare; and where the wallpaper peeped through this thick array of works of literature and art, it showed a tint of soft tea-green. In the middle of the room a large library-table groaned beneath a mass of books and papers, some of them arranged in formal order, others disarranged by present use into that irregular order which seems chaotic to every eye but one, while for that one the displacement of a single sheet would insure perplexity and loss of time. But neither spreading table nor towering cases seemed to afford their owner room enough to store his printed treasures. Books were everywhere. Below the windows the recesses were filled out with crowded shelves; the door of a closet, left ajar, showed that the place was packed with books, roughly or cheaply clad, and pamphlets. At the bottom of the cases, books stretched in serried files along the floor. Some had crept up upon the librarysteps, as if, impatient to rejoin their companions, they were mounting to the shelves of their own accord. They invaded all accessible nooks and crannies of the room; big folios were bursting out from the larger gaps, and thin quartos trickling through chinks that otherwise would have been choked with dust; and even from the mouldings above the doors bracketed shelves thrust out, upon which rows of volumes perched, like penguins on a ledge of rock. In fact, books flocked there as martlets did to Macbeth's castle; there was "no jutty frieze or coigne of vantage" but a book had made it his "pendent bed,"—and it appeared “his procreant cradle" too; for the children, in calling the great folios "papa-books" mamma-books," seemed instinetively to have hit upon the only way of accounting for the rapid increase and multiplication of volumes in that apart

and "


Upon this scene the light fell, tempered by curtains, at the cheapness and simplicity of which a fashionable upholsterer

would have sneered, but toward whose
graceful folds, and soft, rich hues, the
study-wearied eye turned ever grateful-
ly. The two friends sat silently for some
minutes in ruminative mood, till Grey,
turning suddenly to Tomes, asked, —
"What does Iago mean, when he says
of Cassio, —

'He hath a daily beauty in his life,
That makes me ugly'?

"How can you ask the question?" Tomes replied; adding, after a moment's pause, "he means, more plainly than any other words can tell, that Cassio's truthful nature and manly bearing, his courtesy, which was the genuine gold of real kindness brought to its highest polish, and not a base alloy of selfishness and craft galvanized into a surface-semblance of such worth, his manifest reverence for and love of what was good and pure and noble, his charitable, generous, unenvious disposition, his sweetness of temper, and his gallantry, all of which found expression in face or action, made a character so lovely and so beautiful that every daily observer of them both found him, Iago, hateful and hideous by comparison.”

Grey. I suspected as much before I had the benefit of your comment; which, by the way, ran off your tongue as glibly as if you were one of the folk who profess Shakespeare, and you were threatening the world with an essay on Othello. But sometimes it has seemed to me as if these words meant more; Shakespeare's mental vision took in so much. Was the beauty of Cassio's life only a moral beauty?

Tomes. For all we know, it was.

Grey. I say, perhaps, or No,-Cassio has seemed to me not more a gallant soldier and a generous spirit than a cultivated and accomplished gentleman; he, indeed, shows higher culture than any other character in the tragedy, as well as finer natural tastes; and I have thought that into the scope of this phrase, “daily beauty," Shakespeare took not only the honorable and lovely traits of moral nature, to which you, and perhaps the rest of the world with you, seem to limit it,

but all the outward belongings and surroundings of the personage to whom it is applied. For these, indeed, were a part of his life, of him, and went to make up, in no small measure, that daily beauty in which he presented so strong a contrast to Iago. Look at "mine Ancient" closely, and see, that, with all his subtle craft, he was a coarse-mannered brute, of gross tastes and grovelling nature, without a spark of gallantry, and as destitute of courtesy as of honor. We overrate his very subtlety; for we measure it by its effects, the woful and agonizing results it brings about; forgetting that these, like all results, or resultants, are the product of at least two forces, - the second, in this instance, being the unsuspecting and impetuous nature of Othello. Had Iago undertaken to deceive any other than such a man, he would have failed. Why, even simple-hearted Desdemona, who sees so little of him, suspects him; that poor goose, Roderigo, though blind with vanity and passion, again and again loses faith in him; and his wife knows him through and through. Believe me, he had no touch of gentleness, not one point of contact with the beautiful, in all his nature, while Cassio's was filled up with gentleness and beauty, and all that is akin to them.

Tomes. His weakness for wine and women among them?-But thanks for your commentary. I am quite eclipsed. On you go, too, in your old way, trying to make out that what is good is beautiful,—no, rather that what is beautiful is good. Do you think that Peter and Paul were well-dressed?, I don't believe that you would have listened to them, if they

[blocks in formation]

great fisherman of Galilee, had it been my happy fortune to live within sound of his voice?

Tomes. Ay, if it had been a fine voice, perhaps you might.

Grey. But as to Saint Paul I have less doubt, or none. I believe that he appeared the gentleman of taste and culture that he was.

Tomes. When he made tents? and when he lived at the house of one Simon, a tanner?

Grey. Why not? What had those accidents of Paul's life to do with Paul, except as occasions which elicited the flexibility of his nature and the extent of his capacity and culture?

Tomes. In making tents? Tent-making is an honest and a useful handicraft; but I am puzzled to discover how it would afford opportunity for the exhibition of the talents of such a man as Paul.

Grey. Not his peculiar talents, perhaps; though, on that point, those who sat under the shadow of his canvas were better able to judge than we are. For a man will make tents none the worse for being a gentleman, a scholar, and a man of taste,-but, other things being equal, the better. Your general intelligence and culture enter into your ability to perform the humblest office of daily life. An educated man, who can use his hands, will make an anthracite coal-fire better and quicker after half a dozen trials than a raw Irish servant after a year's experience; and many a lady charges her housemaid with stupidity and obstinacy, because she fails again and again in the performance of some oft-explained task which to the mistress seems

[ocr errors]

so simple," when there is no obstinacy in the case, and only the stupidity of a poor neglected creature who had been taught nothing till she came to this country, not even to eat with decency, and, since she came, only to do the meanest chores. As to living with a tanner, I am no Brahmin, and believe that a man may not only live with a tanner, but be a tanner, and have all the culture, if not all the learning and the talent, of Simon's

guest. Thomas Dowse pointed the way for many who will go much farther upon it than he did.

Tomes. The tanners are obliged to you. But of what real use is that process of intellectual refinement upon which you set so high a value? How much better is discipline than culture! Of how much greater worth, to himself and to the world, is the man who by physical and mental training, the use of his muscles, the exercise of his faculties, the restraint of his appetites, - even those mental appetites which you call tastes, has acquired vigor, endurance, self-reliance, self-control! Let a man be pure and honorable, do to others as he would have them do to him, and, in the words of the old Church of England Catechism, “learn and labor truly to get his own living in that state of life to which it has pleased God to call him," and what remains for him to do, and of time in which to do it, is of very small importance.

Grey. You talk like what you are.
Tomes. And that is - ?

Grey. Pardon me, -a cross between a Stoic and a Puritan:-morally, I mean. Tomes. Don't apologize. You might say many worse things of me, and few better. But telling me what I am does not disprove what I say.

Grey. Do you not see? you cannot fail to see, that, after the labor of your human animal has supplied his mere animal needs, provided him with shelter, food, and clothes, he must set himself about something else. Having made life endurable, he will strive to make it comfortable, according to his notions of comfort. Comfort secured, he will seek pleasure; and among the earliest objects of his endeavors in this direction will be that form of pleasure which results from the embellishment of his external life; the craving that he then supplies being just as natural, that is, just as much an inevitable result of his organization, as that which first claimed his thought and labor.

Tomes. A statement of your case entirely inconsistent with the facts that

bear upon it. What do you think of your red savage, who, making no pro-vision for even his animal needs, but merely supplying them for the moment as he can, and living in squalor, filth, and extreme discomfort, yet daubs himself with grease and paint, and decorates his head with feathers, his neck with bear's claws, and his feat with gaudily-stained porcupine's quills? What of your black barbarian, whose daily life is a succession of unspeakable abominations, and who embellishes it by blackening his teeth, tattooing his skin, and wearing a huge ring in the gristle of his nose? Either of them will give up his daily food, and run the risk of starvation, for a glass bead or a brass button. This desire for ornament is plainly, then, no fruit of individual development, no sign of social progress; it has no relations whatever with them, but is merely a manifestation of that vanity, that lust of the eye and pride of life, which we are taught to believe inherent in all human nature, and which the savage exhibits according to his savageness, the civilized man according to his civilization.

Grey. You're a sturdy fellow, Tomes, but not strong enough to draw that conclusion from those premises, and make it stay drawn. The savage does order his life in the preposterous manner which you have described; but he does it because he is a savage. He has not the wants of the civilized man, and therefore he does not wait to supply them before he seeks to gratify others. When man rises in the scale of civilization, his whole nature rises. You can't mount a ladder piecemeal; your head will go up first, unless you are an acrobat, and choose to go up feet foremost; but even if you are Gabriel Ravel, your whole body must needs ascend together. The savage is comfortable, not according to your notions of comfort, but according to his

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

ly revenue could then command, — you would find it, with all its splendor, very uncomfortable in many respects. The luxuries of one generation become the comforts of the next, the necessaries of life to the next; and what is comfort for any individual at any period depends on the manner in which he has been brought up. So, too, the savage decorates himself after his own savage tastes. His smoky wigwam or his filthy mud hut is no stronger evidence of his barbarous condition than his party-colored face, or the hoop of metal in his nose. Call this desire to enjoy the beauty of the world and to be a part of it the lust of the eye, or whatever name you please, you will find, that, with exceedingly rare exceptions, it is universal in the race, and that its gratification, although it may have an indirectly injurious effect on some individuals, tends to harmonize and humanize mankind, to lift them above debasing pleasures, and to foster the finer social feelings by promoting the higher social enjoyments.

Tomes. Yes; it makes Mrs. A. snub Mrs. B. because the B.-bonnet is within a hair's breadth's less danger of falling down her back, or is decorated with lace made by a poor bonnetless girl in one town of Europe, at a time when fashion has declared that it should bloom with flowers made by a poor shoeless girl in another: it instigates Mrs. C. to make a friendly call on Mrs. D. for the purpose of exulting over the inferior style in which her house is furnished: it tempts F. to overreach his business friend, or to embezzle his employer's money, that he may live in a house with a brown-stone front and give great dinners twice a month and it sustains G. in his own eyes as he sits at F.'s table stimulating digestion by inward sneers at the vulgar fashion of the new man's plate or the awkwardness of his attendants: and perhaps, worse than all, it tempts H. to exhibit his pictures, and Mrs. I. to exhibit herself, "for the benefit of our charitable institutions," in order that the one may read fulsome eulogies of his munificence and his taste,

and the other see a critical catalogue of the beauties of her person and her cos tume in all the daily papers. Such are the social benefits of what you call the desire to be a part of the world's beauty.

Grey. Far from it! They have no relation to each other. You mistake the occasion for the cause, the means for the motive. Your alphabet is in fault. Such a set of vain, frivolous, dishonest, mean, hypocritical, and insufferably vulgar letters would be turned out of any respectable, well-bred spelling-book. Vanity, frivolity, dishonesty, meanness, hypocrisy, and vulgarity can be exhibited in all the affairs of life, not excepting those whose proper office is to sweeten and to beautify it; but it does not need all your logical faculty to discover that there is not, therefore, any connection between a pretty bonnet, or an elegantly furnished house, and the disposition to snub and sneer at those who are without them,between dishonesty and the desire to live handsomely and hospitably,- between a cultivated taste for the fine arts and hypocrisy or a vulgar desire for notoriety and consequence.

Tomes. Perhaps so. But they are very often in each other's company.

Grey. And then, of course, the evil taints the reputation of the good, even with thinking men like you; and how much more with those who have your prejudices without your sense! · But note well that they are not oftener in company-these tastes and vices-than honesty and meanness, good-nature and clownishness, sincerity and brutality, hospitality and debauchery, chastity and the absence of that virtue without which all others are as nothing. And let me remind you, by the way, that we of this age and generation make it our business, in fact, feel it our duty, to violate the injunction of the English Catechism, and get out of that state of life in which we find ourselves, into a better, as soon as possible. And even old Mother Church does not insist upon content so strongly as you made her seem to do; she speaks of the state of life to which her catechu

men "shall" be, not "has" been, called; and thus makes it possible for a dean to resolve to be content with a bishopric, and a bishop to muse upon the complete satisfaction with which he would grasp an archbishop's crosier, without forfeiture of orthodoxy.

Tomes would doubtless have replied; but at this point the attention of the disputants was attracted by the rustle of silk; there was a light, quick tap at the glass-door which separated the den of books from the middle room, and before an answer could be given the emblazoned valves opened partly, and a sweet, decided voice asked, "Please, may we come in? or" (and the speaker opened the doors wide) "are you and Mr. Tomes so absorbed in construing a sentence in a book that nobody ever reads, that ladies must give place to lexicons?"

"Enter, of course," cried Grey, "and save me from annihilation by Tomes's next reply, and both of us from our joint stupidity."

And so Mrs. Grey entered, and there were salutations, and presentation of Mr. Tomes to Miss Laura Larches, and introduction to each other of the same gentleman and Mr. Carleton Key, who attend ed the ladies. Abandoning the only four chairs in the room to the others, Mrs. Grey sank down upon a hassock with a sigh of satisfaction, and was lost for a moment in the rising swell of silken-crested waves of crinoline. Emerging in another moment as far as the shoulders, she turned a look of intelligence and inquiry upon her husband, who said, “When you came in, Tomes and I were talking about".

Mrs. Grey. Something very important, I've no doubt; but we've your own confession that you were stupid, and I've no notion of permitting a relapse. You were doubtless discussing your favorite subject, Dante, who, as far as I can discover, was more a politician than a poet, and went to his Inferno only for the pleasure of sending the opposite party there, and quartering them according to

his notion of their deserts. But he and they are dead and buried long ago. Let them rest. We should much rather have you tell us whether his poor countrymen of to-day are to have their liberty when that ugly Emperor beats the Austrians; for beat them he surely will.

Grey. That is a subject of great moment, and one in which I, perhaps, feel no less interest than you; but did you never think that the question, whether these thousands of Italians have liberty or even food to-day, is one of a few months', or, at most, a few years', concern, while the soul's experience of that one Italian who died more than five hundred years ago will be a fruitful theme forever?

Mrs. Grey. Why, so it will! I never did think of that. And now I'll not think of it. Here we are just come from a wedding, and before you ask us how the bride looked, or even what she had on, you begin to talk to us about that grim old Florentine, who looks like a hardfeatured Scotch woman in her husband's night-cap, and who wrote such a succes sion of frightful things! Where is all your interest in Kitty Jones? I've seen you talk to her by the half-hour, and heard you say she is a charming woman; and now she marries, and you not only won't go to the wedding, but you don't ask a word about it.

Grey. You seem to forget, Nelly, that I saw one wedding all through, and, indeed, bore as prominent a part in it as one of my downtrodden sex could aspire to; and as the Frenchman said, who went on an English fox-chase," Une fois, c'est assez; I am ver' satisfy." The marriage service I can read in ten minutes whenever I need its solace; rich morningdresses are to be seen by scores in the Academy of Music at every matinée, as garnish to Verdi's music; and as to Miss Kitty Jones, I am sure that she, like all brides, never looked so ill as she did today. I would do anything in my power to serve her, and would willingly walk a mile to have half an hour's chat with her; but to-day I could not serve her, nor

« AnkstesnisTęsti »