The Argosy, 1866 (8)

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(Continued from p. 207.)

BACK IN ITALY.  1854-1859.

IN 1854, Garibaldi, the tallow-merchant, arrived in Genoa.  He had amassed sufficient money to purchase the little island of Caprera, on the coast of Sardinia, and thither he now betook himself to await the course of events, and to mature those plans which have since defied all military speculation and astonished Europe.  About this time the Austrian Emperor violated the terms of that treaty which bound him to respect the Venetian frontier, and invaded Sardinia.  The moment anxiously expected by all true patriots had arrived—there was a pretext for attacking Austria; what might not that attack lead to?  Venice, Verona, Milan, might be wrested from the oppressor.  Thousands in each of these cities were ready for rebellion.  Thousands in Sardinia were ready to march to their rescue.  Cavour, the many-sided, the astute, the patriotic premier of Italy, was ready to organize relations with France.  Napoleon III. was ready to march with a splendid army to "fight for an idea,"—that "idea" of liberty which the nation had determined should become, ere long, a fact.  Victor Emmanuel, the "Ré galantuomo," was ready to place himself at the head of his cavalry; Garibaldi, the darling of the people, the blameless patriot, was ready with the magic of his presence to spread that wild contagious enthusiasm which it is impossible to describe to those who have not felt it, and to sweep, as he alone can, the winds and waves of revolution into the channel of national conquest and glory.

    Ere the first shot was fired Garibaldi hastened to Turin, and offered his services to the king.  Victor Emmanuel received his great subject with open arms; for he himself is a brave soldier at heart—a man who hates ceremony and diplomacy of all kinds, although wise enough to see their absolute necessity; a man of views most direct and simple, of instincts strong and passionate, of single-hearted devotion to the good of Italy, of folly and weakness most undoubted, and yet of a character so undisguised and simple that his very want of self-respect will sometimes elicit a sympathetic Evviva! from his really affectionate people.  With Garibaldi the king was an idea.  He accepts a constitutional monarchy as the purest form of republicanism.  "You," said he to an Englishman, "are the freest people in the world;" and he accepts the king as the embodiment of the nation's honour.  "The 'king,' meaning the kingly office,' does no wrong, he must never be blamed: the Egyptians, who were the first people who understood how to govern, always praised their kings."  But apart from this view, Garibaldi is warmly attached to the king's person, and silences all scandals and other abuse of his royal master with the words, "I have seen the king fight for Italy!"

    At the commencement of the war Garibaldi wore the Peildmontese uniform, as general of the Chasseurs of the Alps, with orders to recruit ad libitum.  The flower of Italian youth flocked to his standard, impatient for action; but they were soon checked.  The Piedmontese generals, Cialdini and La Marmora, were growing jealous of the brilliant and "irregular" leader.  He was hampered in every way, promised supplies which never arrived, marched and counter-marched, obliged to co-operate in imbecile plans, condemned to hopeless inaction.  He longed to throw off the stiff uniform, and sighed for the loose shirt and grey trousers, and the liberty of action without which his genius seemed paralyzed.  Suddenly leaving his "chasseurs" at Romagnano, he pushed for the king's head-quarters, and praying for an interview, begged his majesty to release him from the regular army, and allow him to make war with his "chasseurs" when and were he chose.  The king smiled, and taking him by the hand, bade him follow the bent of his genius, adding, "I have only one regret, that of not being able to follow you!"

    In five hours the general was again at the head of his "chasseurs."  No more slow marches—no more dullness or inaction—a series of exploits now began which, whilst they steadily crushed the Austrians, compelled even the French officers to admit that the guerillero was a consummate general, and elicited the admiration of Napoleon, who sent, in the most flattering manner, to congratulate his irregular ally.  We must remember that Garibaldi was acting with a comparatively small force against the whole Austrian army.  He constantly opposed General Urban, seventeen thousand strong, with five thousand or even two thousand chasseurs, and in every case proved victorious.

    In this short and startling campaign all the Garibaldian characteristics were brilliantly illustrated.  Daring bravery, indomitable will, inexhaustible artifice; indeed, against overwhelming odds, the impudence and effrontery of Garibaldi's tactics were such as could only be sanctioned by success.  At Varese he was surprised by Urban with seventeen thousand troops; there seemed no chance of escape.  Night came on, and the Austrian being sure of his game, deferred the attack till morning.  Garibaldi, leaving two hundred sharpshooters on the walls to represent the army, stole out in the dark and fell on the enemy's flank.  The infantry broke and fled in disorder, even the cavalry were powerless, and the morning light displayed the scattered forces of the Austrians, and the victorious chasseurs in pursuit.  Once again during the war was Garibaldi surrounded by Urban; he had occupied a hill, and Urban was watching him in the plain below.  All night the camp fires blazed brightly on the hill; but at break of day, when Urban came up the hill, he found no one there.  On the 15th of June, 1859, the famous advance on Brescia took place.  Garibaldi split up his little band into nine or ten columns, which advanced from different sides all at once.  If the Austrians had but known there was nothing behind them!  But they could not believe that the guerillero would advance alone upon a place which even the allied armies of France and Piedmont hesitated to attack.  These were doubtless the advanced pickets of the great army,—these ten handfuls of men!  On they came, with nothing really but their impudence to back them; and as they came up a panic seized the enemy, and Brescia was evacuated.  At last a few red shirts seemed quite sufficient for ordinary occasions, and towns were captured just on Nelson's own principle of cutting out ships.  Idra was taken thus.  Eighteen men were packed in an omnibus, preceded by Colonel Türr and Major Bedmir in a cart.  This was the besieging party.  When they arrived the eighteen men garrisoned the town, and the two officers returned for further instructions.  When the general himself appeared, Urban was heard to swear dreadfully, the soldiers crossed themselves, declared the devil was leading the charge, and fled accordingly.  Bergamo, Brescia, Lecco, Salo were gained in little short of a month, and still Garibaldi was fresh, and the Austrians steadily retreating.  At the same time a fearful blow was struck by Victor Emmanuel at Palestro, and by the French emperor at Magenta.  In Venice men were holding their breath—at any hour they might be free; the deliverer was coming on with gigantic strides from the ramparts of Verona; every cloud of dust on the white road was watched with intense anxiety; firing was actually heard in the distance, Garibaldi was coming!  To-morrow Verona might be free, when, like a sudden blight upon Paradise, fell the news of an armistice between the allies and Austria, and like a great funeral pall spread over the burning hearts of three millions of Italians came the still more disastrous news of the "Provisional Peace" of Villafranca.  This was Napoleon's doing.  To suit his convenience the question of Venetia was to be kept open.  If Italy went on with the war now she would have to fight France and Austria.  There was no choice.  The king of Italy was in the deepest sorrow—Garibaldi was furious—Cavour rather than sign the peace resigned.  The people seemed mostly paralyzed by this great national calamity; it is a fact that many in Milan, Verona, and Venice, went mad, whilst others, in a paroxysm of rage and disappointment, committed suicide.

    Garibaldi issued a proclamation calling for a million of muskets, with a broad hint that they would be wanted for Southern Italy in a very short time; and with this bold and defiant protest retired to Genoa.


    Sicily and Naples, groaning under the misrule of the Bourbon king, Francis II., did not share in the sorrow of Northern Italy.  The peace set Garibaldi at liberty, and it was well known that he was now looking southward.  But whatever he does now must be done single-handed against the kingdom of Naples.  No allies but the people here.  Victor Emmanuel hides his face, peeping through his fingers perhaps.  Could never think of deposing a neighbouring king like himself; has no idea where Garibaldi is; supposes he is at Genoa or Caprera; has not heard that Garibaldi on a certain moonlight night seized two Sardinian steamers, crammed them with one thousand and eighty volunteers, and steamed out of Genoa; if it is true, thinks he may be going to land in the Romagna, and bother the pope; cannot in the least say—who ever could say what Garibaldi was going to do next? does not think it likely that he will take the Two Sillies with one thousand and eighty men; perhaps had better stop the expedition at once, and so gives directions to Admiral Persano to sail after it immediately, and by all means—not to catch it.

    Leaving Garibaldi to float quietly down the lovely western coast of Italy, with the faint blue Apennines so clear upon the pale rose sky of the early summer morning; and leaving his gallant crew, whom all the beauties of the Mediterranean in spring could not preserve from dreadful sea-sickness, so much so that the gallant Colonel Türr prayed to be thrown overboard; and when asked by the general whether he was ready to be shot, replied he should certainly prefer that to remaining at sea.  Skipping such-like harrowing details, let us arrive in Italy before the volunteers, and take a rapid glance at the situation.

    The news of Magenta and the Garibaldian victories had thrown the Sicilians into a fever of excitement.  Little jets of conspiracy were continually breaking out and being cruelly extinguished.  Our friends who complain of the police in Hyde Park would perhaps have preferred Salvator Maniscalco to Sir Richard Mayne.  This worthy head of police would enter the houses of the disaffected nobility; smash their looking-glasses, pull their wives and daughters out of bed, and burn their farms.  He invented an "Angelic" mask, an iron apparatus to be screwed down on the head and crush the brain very slowly.  He hung up people by their waist till they died, and shot them without trial.  When things come to this, it needs no prophet to foretell the downfall of the powers that be.  Secret communities were formed; secret conspiracies matured.  Palermo itself was on the point of rising.  Riso, a noble patriot, had organized a revolt.  Twenty-seven of the conspirators were surprised; escape was possible, but Riso, cries to his companions, "One thing is yet wanting to our country—martyrs!" and every one of them fight till they are cut to pieces by the Neapolitan troops.

    About this time a newspaper is introduced, in spite of the police, containing an account of Garibaldi having set sail.  The news runs through the island like wildfire; numbers fly to the hills, and are received by the country people; and little bands are organized, but they have no arms.  The streets of Palermo are crowded; the name of Garibaldi is in every mouth; the secret committee has directed all the people to turn out at a given hour to ascertain their unanimity; every one is on foot; the ladies wear the Piedmont colours.  The children in troops, sing out loud, "Garibaldi is coming, Garibaldi is coming!"  Maniscalco is furious.  The soldiers are ordered out and patrol the streets; they urge the people to shout "Long live Francis II."  Not a voice replies.  Presently one cries out "Long live Victor Emmanuel!"  He falls pierced with bayonets; an indiscriminate slaughter of an unarmed and defenceless people commences, and the whole population rush to their homes.  The next morning, as if by magic, the walls and houses of Palermo are covered all over with thousands of placards—"Garibaldi is coming."  Not a Sicilian stirs out the whole day, blinds and shutters are closed, the streets are silent and deserted; but at even-fall the shutters are raised, and thousands of eyes are bent towards the hills around Palermo from whence is coming their salvation.  One morning (13th of May, 1860) a cry rings through the town, and is suddenly taken up by the whole population, "Garibaldi is come!"

    Quietly and rapidly the general had landed at Marsala, seized the telegraph, and employed it to delude the Neapolitan military committee at Trapani.  Not a moment was lost.  On their march towards Salemi they are joined by hundreds of volunteer peasantry; even the priests side with the people, and preach the crusade of liberty.  Brother John, a young monk, is continually at the general's side; he reminds him that the people are superstitious, that he himself is excommunicated; tells him he must enter the nearest church, and in the sight of all the people be blessed by a priest.  At the church door Garibaldi has uncovered his head and kneels down.  Brother John rushes to the altar, takes possession of the Holy Sacrament, comes forth to the assembled multitude, and with hands spread above the conqueror in solemn benediction, exclaims, "Let all behold! here is the victor humbling himself before Him who alone giveth victory!"  The troops are next blessed in the name of God, Italy, and Liberty, and preceded by Garibaldi, the procession then moves on, whilst Brother John bears on high the crucifix before them.  The villages through which they passed rang with acclamations; the people brought provisions, and thronged about the deliverers; not a theft, not an outrage was committed; it was well known that the smallest license would be punished by instant death.  "The cause of Liberty," said Garibaldi, "was sacred; her children must be brave and pure."  They were marching rapidly to Calatafimi to meet the Neapolitans gathered there in great force; the town is on a sloping hill; at some miles from it they halt in the plain.  The day is fearfully hot; they are exhausted with a long march; in the distance, down the hill, come the Neapolitans in overpowering numbers; ten minutes must elapse before they come within range.  "Let us take a little rest," says Garibaldi, and following his example, they all sit down on the ground.  In another minute the Garibaldian call is sounded on the horns.  The enemy halts; a battery is placed in position to support them, then they come on; the Garibaldians receive the first volley sitting.  "Now with the bayonet!" cries Garibaldi, and waving his sword, rushes into their very midst.  The fighting lasted several hours; the Neapolitans fired all their shot away, and then threw stones.  A body of men, led by Garibaldi, completely exhausted, towards the close of the day, staggered and fell down together.  "What are we about now?" says the general.  "We're only taking breath," cry the poor fellows; "we'll begin again directly."  Garibaldi alone stood erect, and immediately became a mark for the Neapolitans; his men, on seeing this, instantly gathered round him.  "This," says the general, "is the final charge."  "It's been the final charge all day," says one, joking.  Indeed, the general had often said so.

    The day ended in the complete rout of the Neapolitans.  The Garibaldian lost a hundred and ten men and sixteen officers, and after the last charge dropped down exhausted on the field and slept soundly amongst the heaps of dead and wounded.  The Neapolitans now fell back upon Palermo, guarding all the approaches.  As they were twenty-seven thousand strong, and Garibaldi had but seven hundred and fifty regulars and about two thousand peasants, a direct encounter must be declined—all the regular roads must be avoided.  It was the general's plan to drop upon the town from the hills.  By forced marches over the most rugged and impassable mountain passes with incredible speed, the army of deliverance made its way, meeting with nothing but the wild goat and the startled eagle.  Suddenly on the heights round Palermo appeared the Garibildian outposts; they spread themselves out for miles in single files to produce the impression of an immense army, but in fact the army was all outposts.  The Neapolitans knew better than to beard the lion in his den by attacking the guerillero in the mountains; and strongly fortifying the Ponte dell Amiraglio, which was the key of their position, waited patiently.  Garibaldi announced his intention of taking Palermo on the 27th of May, and requested Ebor, the Times correspondent, to join his camp and write an account of his approaching victory.

    On the 27th of May, thirty men were sent to storm the Admiral's bridge, which was carried ultimately by the arrival of the veterans under Türr and Bixio.  The road was now open to Palermo, but that road was swept with grapeshot from the concentrated fire of four Neapolitan batteries.  On that road stood Garibaldi, Türr, and Ebor, the Times correspondent.  Under the eyes of the general the first column passed into Palermo.  The inhabitants threw out mattresses and furniture for barricades.  The Toledo and many wide streets were carried at the point of the bayonet.  Garibaldi and staff took up their abode in the Piazza Bologna, and sat down to dinner in the palace.  At that moment the bombardment began from the castle and ships in the harbour, at the same time a Neapolitan column retook the Toledo.  The Garibaldians were flying in disorder, when the general, leaving his soup, said, "Come along, gentlemen, we must stop them ourselves."  And after having stopped them by retaking three barricades, he returned to dinner.  On the third day the Sardinian flag was floating over Palermo the Fortunate.  Garibaldi proclaimed himself Dictator of Sicily; instructions were received from Naples for the royal troops to evacuate the place, until which time Garibaldi held them as prisoners of war.  "It was really a curious sight," writes Alexander Dumas, "to see twenty thousand Neapolitans, provided with forty pieces of cannon, confined within their forts, their barracks, and their ships, and guarded by eight hundred Garibaldians, who brought them their rations twice a day!"

    All day long the town rang with rejoicings, the peasants flocked in from the mountains, and the noise of drums and drilling and bugle-calls resounded in all the squares.  The price of red cloth or red anything rose; the linen-drapers had never driven such a trade before; the streets looked like fields sown over with poppies; the ladies wore red spencers and red feathers; red ribbons and red shirts could not be made fast enough.  At night the town blazed with illuminations, and crowds were always to be found bellowing under the general's window.  Meanwhile he lived very quietly in the viceroy's palace, and was waited on by the viceroy's servants.  They could not understand that he ate nothing but soup, vegetables, and a little meat once a day, drank nothing but water, slept on a hard bed, and would not suffer them to call him "Your Excellency."  He allowed himself eight francs a day; but although in principle he was very severe upon injudicious alms-giving, his heart was so soft that the beggars always got his money from him before evening, and the dictator, who had just handed over 1,200,000l. to his poor-law officers, had continually to borrow small sums from his friends, which were always paid back the next day.  The following inventory of the "Invincible Dictator's" wardrobe at this time has been preserved to us:—"One old Piedmontese general's uniform—a relic of his campaigns on the Lakes, two pairs of grey trousers, an old felt hat, two red shirts, a few pocket handkerchiefs, two neckties, a sabre and a revolver, and a purse usually without the metal lining."

    On the 20th of July was struck the last decisive blow against the Neapolitan power in Sicily.  The battle of Milazzo was the hardest fight that had yet taken place, and it nearly cost Italy the life of her hero.  The Neapolitans under Bosco, and vastly superior in number, fought with desperate valour, and the losses on both sides were very heavy.  Garibaldi at one moment was surrounded by four dragoons, who summoned him to surrender; but he instantly drew his sword, and seizing the bridle of one of the foeman, cried, "Surrender yourself; I am Garibaldi."  At that moment Colonel Missori rode up, shot three of the Neapolitans with his revolver, and the horse of the fourth, and so saved the general's life.  Bosco, who had boasted that he would annihilate Garibaldi and his ragged volunteers, was now obliged to walk to the place of embarkation, through a double row of these same filibusters, at the head of his own defeated army, leaving in the hands of the enemy forty-four guns, half a field battery, ninety-four mules, forty-five horses, and quantities of ammunition.


    The Cabinet of Piedmont was watching the Sicilian campaign ; it was plain in a few days Garibaldi would cross over to Naples.  The French Emperor had half promised to protect Francis II., and wrote an autograph letter to Victor Emmanuel to ask him, if possible, to persuade Garibaldi not to attack Naples.  Victor Emmanuel wrote to Garibaldi, protesting against the invasion of Naples; but the general, easily tracing French influence, replied that "his mission was too noble to be relinquished; he had sworn to Italy to accomplish it; his programme was the same; he would not sheath his sword till Victor Emmanuel was King of Italy."

    The news of Milazzo struck terror and astonishment into the heart of Francis II.  "This," cried the poor little king, who had been brought up in ignorance of the true state of his government, and inherited a throne on the point of crumbling to pieces, "this is the hand of God.  Ah! what have I done that my people should hate me, and the world conspire against me?"  He called Don Liborio, his prime minister.  "What do you advise me to do?"

    "I advise your majesty to put yourself at the head of your army and march into Calabria."

    The king paused for a moment.  "That," said he, "I will do after our first success, but not before."

    "In so important a crisis, then," added the premier, "I should further advise your majesty to consult your ministers at every step."

    "Tell the ministers," replied the king, "that by the constitution of 1848 I am empowered to make peace and war as I please, and that I intend to maintain my rights."

    Thereupon Don Liborio Romano resigned, and visiting Alexander Dumas' yacht, then lying in the Bay of Naples, declared himself ready to co-operate with Garibaldi.  Meanwhile recruits were pouring into Sicily from the Calabrian coast.  They brought tidings of the state of feeling round Naples.  The wildest excitement prevailed there.  A small party and all the military, consisting of a well-organized army of eighty thousand men, stood by Francis.  The masses were in favour of revolution, and an influential party in Naples itself, consisting of ex-Neapolitan ministers and the avowed patriots, were ready to co-operate with the Dictator.  Very quietly a small band, under Major Missori, left Sicily one dark night, and before daybreak landed on the Italian coast near Scylla.  They made their way into the mountains, spreading everywhere the fires of insurrection, and by their manœuvres persuading the Neapolitan troops who were out to arrest them, that the whole population of Sicily had landed armed to the teeth, with Garibaldi at their head.  The news reached the unfortunate king, who sent to offer Garibaldi fifty million francs, and the whole Neapolitan navy to take Venice with, if he would consent to stop the invasion.  An attempt to arrest the earth's motion might have been more successful.

    On the 18th of August, Garibaldi embarked, with four thousand men, for the conquest of the kingdom of Naples.  The Neapolitan fleet was hovering the coast; but he succeeded in landing most of his troops on that solitary part of the coast where the mountains of Aspramonte run down abruptly to the sea.  As the last men were landing, the enemy came down upon them, seized their ships, cutting them off from all hopes of retreat, and forcing them to retire into the mountains.  The news of the capture of Reggio rapidly followed, and was borne to Naples on the wings of the wind.  "Cæsar," in the words of Suetonius, "had landed, and had announced his arrival with a clap of thunder."  There was no time to lose.  On marched the little band, raising the villages through which they passed, until the cry of "Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel" flew from promontory to promontory along the Calabrian coast, and was echoed far inland.

    On the 6th, at the news of Garibaldi's approach, the king fled from Naples, leaving it, however, strongly garrisoned with Neapolitan troops.  On the 6th, Garibaldi received the following telegram from Liborio Romano, the ex-prime minister,—"To the invincible Dictator of the Two Sicilies.  Naples expects you with anxiety, to confide to you her future destinies."

    On the 7th, Garibaldi announced his intention of entering Naples.  He was now at Salerno, distant only a short railway journey from the capital.  Leaving his troops there he advanced alone to take Naples.  The storming of the capital was on this wise.  At nine o'clock in the morning of the 7th, the general left Salerno in a special train of only four carriages.  These contained some staff-officers, a few National Guards, and a few English amateurs.  The train very soon had to stop—the vast populations of the Torre del Greco, Resina, and Portici turned out, covered the lines, climbed on the train, and even crowded the engine.  Again the train began to move on slowly—the people running along the lines in a state of perfectly frantic excitement; and then, at a snail's pace, the carriages of the invading army approached Naples.  Inside the station, by means of temporary barricades and a strong guard extemporised on the spot, some order was maintained.  Outside, the scene baffled all power of description: horses and carriages, apparently piled on the top of each other, with masses of human beings piled on the top of them; ladies covered with the Sardinian colours, on foot, on horseback, on donkeys, or crushed to pieces; swarms of lazzarones with a bit of red somewhere; gaping Neapolitan gensdarmes and stupified national guards; rival committees with rival flags inextricably mixed up together; rival partisans and discordant shouts of "Viva Garibaldi!"  "Viva Victor Emmanuel!" "Viva l'Italia!" all the din blended together with drums, trumpets, and a pandemonium of brass instruments, attempting Garibaldi's Hymn in a hundred different places; and, as a kind of background to this turbulent scene, the Castello Nuevo and the St. Elmo fortresses, dark, silent, bristling with cannon, and crowded with sullen Neapolitan soldiers, who alone took no part in the festival of liberty, but prepared gloomily to point the cannon upon the principal streets, light the matches, and wait the word of command to fire.  Such were some prominent characteristics of the scene outside.  In the enclosure of the station four two-horse carriages were waiting.  Majors Missori and Mille alone rode forward on horseback as rapidly as they could.  Garibaldi and Cosenz followed in the first carriage amidst deafening shouts.  As they came under the guns of the Castello Nuevo, the artillerymen pointed them, and then stood ready with the lighted match.  At that supreme moment the general's voice was heard above the din —"Slower, slower!—drive slower!"  And again, as the agitated driver hardly seemed to understand, with that voice not accustomed to command twice, "Slower!"  Then, as the carriage nearly stopped under the muzzles of the enemy's guns, and the officers were now plainly heard exhorting the men to fire, the general stood upright in his carriage, with one hand on his breast, and looked steadfastly at the artillerymen.  The fate of Italy trembled in the balance; a silence seemed to fall on the excited crowd; the suspense hardly lasted a minute.  Three times the order to fire was repeated, and at the third the artillerymen flung down their matches, waved their caps wildly in the air, and shouted, "Viva Garibaldi!"

    The general had won again.


(To be concluded in our next.)


THERE was something almost grand in the rash courage with which Fred Pickering married his young wife, and something quite grand in her devotion in marrying him.  She had not a penny in the world, and he, when he married her, had two hundred and fifty pounds,—and no profession.  She was the daughter of parents whom she had never seen, and had been brought up by the kindness of an aunt, who died when she was eighteen.  Distant friends then told her that it was her duty to become a governess; but Fred Pickering intervened, and Mary Crofts became Mary Pickering when she was nineteen years old.  Fred himself, our hero, was six years older, and should have known better and have conducted his affairs with more wisdom.  His father had given him a good education, and had articled him to an attorney at Manchester.  While at Manchester he had written three or four papers in different newspapers, and had succeeded in obtaining admission for a poem in the Free Trader, a Manchester monthly magazine which was expected to do great things as the literary production of Lancashire.  These successes, joined, no doubt, to the natural bent of his disposition, turned him against the law; and when he was a little more than twenty-five, having then been four years in the office of the Manchester attorney, he told his father that he did not like the profession chosen for him, and that he must give it up.  At that time he was engaged to marry Mary Crofts; but of this fact he did not tell his father.  Mr. Pickering, who was a stern man,—one not given at any time to softnesses with his children,—when so informed by his son, simply asked him what were his plans.  Fred replied that he looked forward to a literary career,—that he hoped to make literature his profession.  His father assured him that he was a silly fool.  Fred replied that on that subject he had an opinion of his own by which he intended to be guided.  Old Pickering then declared that in such circumstances he should withdraw all pecuniary assistance; and young Pickering upon this wrote an ungracious epistle, in which he expressed himself quite ready to take upon himself the burden of his own maintenance.  There was one and only one further letter from his father, in which he told his son that the allowance made to him would be henceforth stopped.  Then the correspondence between Fred and the Ex-governor, as Mary used to call him, was brought to a close.

    Most unfortunately there died at this time an old maiden aunt, who left four hundred pounds a piece to twenty nephews and nieces, of whom Fred Pickering was one.  The possession of this sum of money strengthened him in his rebellion against his father.  Had he had nothing on which to begin, he might probably even yet have gone to the old house at home, and have had something of a fatted calf killed for him, in spite of the ungraciousness of his letter.  As it was he was reliant on the resources which Fortune had sent to him, thinking that they would suffice till he had made his' way to a beginning of earning money.  He thought it all over for full half-an-hour, and then came to a decision.  He would go to Mary,—his Mary,—to Mary who was about to enter the family of a very vulgar tradesman as governess to six young children with a salary of twenty-five pounds per annum, and ask her to join him in throwing all prudence to the wind.  He did go to Mary; and Mary at last consented to be as imprudent as himself, and she consented without any of that confidence which animated him.  She consented simply because he asked her to do so, knowing that she was doing a thing so rash that no father or mother would have permitted it.

    "Fred," she had said, half laughing as she spoke, "I am afraid we shall starve if we do."

    "Starving is bad," said Fred I quite admit that; but there are worse things than starving.  For you to be a governess at Mrs. Boullem's is worse.  For me to write lawyers' letters all full of lies is worse.  Of course we may come to grief.  I dare say we shall come to grief.  Perhaps we shall suffer awfully,—be very hungry and very cold.  I am quite willing to make the worst of it.  Suppose that we die in the street!  Even that,—the chance of that with the chance of success on the other side, is better than Mrs. Bullem's.  It always seems to me that people are too much afraid of being starved."

    "Something to eat and drink is comfortable," said Mary.  "I don't say that it is essential."

    "If you will dare the consequences with me, I will gladly dare them with you," said Fred, with a whole rhapsody of love in his eyes.  Mary had not been proof against this.  She had returned the rhapsody of his eyes with a glance of her own, and then, within six weeks of that time, they were married.  There were some few things to be bought, some little bills to be paid, and then there was the fortnight of honeymooning among the Lakes in June.  "You shall have that, though there were not another shot in the locker," Fred had said, when his bride that was to be had urged upon him the prudence of settling down into a small lodging the very day after their marriage.  The fortnight of honeymooning among the Lakes was thoroughly enjoyed, almost without one fearful look into the future.  Indeed Fred, as he would sit in the late evening on the side of a mountain, looking down upon the lakes, and watching the fleeting brightness of the clouds, with his arm round his loving wife's waist and her head upon his shoulder, would declare that he was glad that he had nothing on which to depend except his own intellect and his own industry.  "To make the score off his own bat; that should be a man's ambition, and it is that which Nature must have intended for a man.  She could never have meant that we should be bolstered up, one by another, from generation to generation."  "You shall make the score off your own bat," Mary had said to him.  Though her own heart might give way a little as she thought, when alone, of the danger of the future, she was always brave before him.  So she enjoyed the fortnight of her honeymooning, and when that was over set herself to her task with infinite courage.  They went up to London in a third-class carriage, and, on their arrival there, went at once to lodgings which had been taken for them by a friend in Museum-street.  Museum-street is not cheering by any special merits of its own; but lodgings there were found to be cheap, and it was near to the great library by means of which, and the treasures there to be found, young Pickering meant to make himself a famous man.

    He had had his literary successes at Manchester, as has been already stated, but they had not been of a remunerative nature.  He had never yet been paid for what he had written.  He reaped, however, this reward, that the sub-editor of a Manchester newspaper gave him a letter to a gentleman connected with a London periodical, which might probably be of great service to him.  It is at any rate a comfort to a man to know that he can do something towards a commencement of the work that he has in hand,—that there is a step forward which he can take.  When Fred and Mary sat down to their tea and broiled ham on the first night, the letter of introduction was a great comfort to them, and much was said about it.  The letter was addressed to Roderick Billings, Esq., Office of the Lady Bird, 99 Catherine-street, Strand.  By ten o'clock on the following morning Fred Pickering was at the office of the Lady Bird, and there learned that Mr. Billings never came to the office, or almost never.  He was on the staff of the paper, and the letter should be sent to him.  So Fred Pickering returned to his wife; and as he was resolved that no time should be lost, he began a critical reading of Paradise Lost, with a note book and pencil beside him, on that very day.

    They were four months in London, during which they never saw Mr. Billings or any one else connected with the publishing world, and these four months were very trying to Mrs. Pickering.  The study of Milton did not go on with unremitting ardour.  Fred was not exactly idle, but he changed from one pursuit to another, and did nothing worthy of note except a little account of his honeymooning tour in verse.  In this poem the early loves of a young married couple were handled with much delicacy and some pathos of expression, so that Mary thought that her husband would assuredly drive Tennyson out of the field.  But no real good had come from the poem by the end of the four months, and Fred Pickering had sometimes been very cross.  Then he had insisted more than once or twice, more than four times or five times, on going to the theatre; and now at last his wife had felt compelled to say that she would not go there with him again.  They had not means, she said, for such pleasures.  He did not go without her, but sometimes of an evening he was very cross.  The poem had been sent to Mr. Billings, with a letter, and had not as yet been sent back.  Three or four letters had been written to Mr. Billings, and one or two very short answers had been received.  Mr. Billings had been out of town.  "Of course all the world is out of town in September," said Fred; "what fools we were to think of beginning just at this time of the year!"  Nevertheless he had urged plenty of reasons why the marriage should not be postponed till after June.  On the first of November, however, they found that they had still a hundred and eighty pounds left.  They looked their affairs in the face cheerfully, and Fred taking upon his own shoulders all the blame of their discomfiture up to the present moment, swore that he would never be cross with his darling Molly again.  After that he went out with a letter of introduction from Mr. Billings to the sub-editor of a penny newspaper.  He had never seen Mr. Billings; but Mr. Billings thus passed him on to another literary personage.  Mr. Billings in his final very short note communicated to Fred his opinion that he would find "work on the penny daily press easier got."

    For months Fred Pickering hung about the office of the Morning Comet.  November went, and December, and January, and he was still hanging about the office of the Daily Comet.  He did make his way to some acquaintance with certain persons on the staff of the Comet, who earned their bread, if not absolutely by literature, at least by some work cognate to literature.  And when he was asked to sup with one Tom Wood on a night in January, he thought that he had really got his foot upon the threshold.  When he returned home that night, or I should more properly say on the following morning, his wife hoped that many more such preliminary suppers might not be necessary for his success.  At last he did get employment at the office of the Daily Comet.  He attended there six nights a week, from ten at night till three in the morning, and for this he received twenty shillings a week.  His work was almost altogether mechanical, and after three nights disgusted him greatly.  But he stuck to it, telling himself that as the day was still left to him for work he might put up with drudgery during the night.  That idea, however, of working day and night soon found itself to be a false one.  Twelve o'clock usually found him still in bed.  After his late breakfast he walked out with his wife, and then;—well, then he would either write a few verses or read a volume of an old novel.

    "I must learn shorthand writing," he said to his wife, one morning when he came home.

    "Well, dear, I have no doubt you would learn it very quickly."

    "I don't know that; I should have begun younger.  It's a thousand pities that we are not taught anything useful when we are at school.  Of what use is Latin and Greek to me?"

    "I heard you say once that it would be of great use to you some day."

    "Ah, that was when I was dreaming of what will never come to pass when I was thinking of literature as a high vocation."  It had already come to him to make such acknowledgments as this.  "I must think about mere bread now.  If I could report I might, at any rate, gain a living.  And there have been reporters who have risen high in the profession.  Dickens was a reporter I must learn, though I suppose it will cost me twenty pounds."

    He paid his twenty pounds and did learn shorthand writing.  And while he was so doing he found he might have learned just as well by teaching himself out of a book.  During the period of his tuition in this art he quarrelled with his employers at the Daily Comet, who, as he declared, treated him with an indignity which he could not bear.  "They want me to fetch and carry, and be a menial," he said to his wife.  He thereupon threw up his employment there.  "But now you will get an engagement as a reporter," his wife said.  He hoped that he might get an engagement as a reporter; but, as he himself acknowledged, the world was all to begin again.  He was at last employed, and made his first appearance at a meeting of discontented tidewaiters, who were anxious to petition Parliament for some improvement in their position.  He worked very hard in his efforts to take down the words of the eloquent leading tidewaiter; whereas he could see that two other reporters near him did not work at all.  And yet he failed.  He struggled at this work for a month, and failed at last.  "My hand is not made for it," he said to his wife, almost in an agony of despair.  "It seems to me as though nothing would come within my reach."  "My dear," she said, "a man who can write the Braes of Birken"—the Braes of Birken was the name of his poem on the joys of honeymooning—"must not be ashamed of himself because he cannot acquire a small mechanical skill."  "I am ashamed of myself all the same," said Fred.

    Early in April they looked their affairs in the face again, and found that they had still in hand something just over a hundred pounds.  They had been in London nine months, and when they had first come up they had expressed to each other their joint conviction that they could live very comfortably on forty shillings a week.  They had spent nearly double that over and beyond what he had earned, and after all they had not lived comfortably.  They had a hundred pounds left on which they might exist for a year, putting aside all idea of comfort; and then;—and then would come that starving of which Fred had once spoken so gallantly, unless some employment could in the meantime be found for him.  And, by the end of the year, the starving would have to be done by three,—a development of events on which he had not seemed to calculate when he told his dearest Mary that after all there were worse things in the world than starving.

    But before the end of this month there came upon them a gleam of comfort, which might be cherished and fostered till it should become a whole midday sun of nourishing heat.  His friend of the Manchester Free Trader had become the editor of the Salford Reformer, a new weekly paper which had been established with the view of satisfying certain literary and political wants which the public of Salford had long experienced, and among these wants was an adequate knowledge of what was going on in London.  Fred Pickering was asked whether he would write the London letter, once a week, at twenty shillings a week.  Write it!  Ay, that he would.  There was a whole heaven of joy in the idea.  This was literary work.  This was the sort of thing that he could do with absolute delight.  To guide the public by his own wit and discernment, as it were from behind a mask,—to be the motive power and yet unseen,—this had ever been his ambition.  For three days he was in an ecstacy, and Mary was ecstatic with him.  For the first time it was a joy to him that the baby was coming.  A pound a week earned would of itself prolong their means of support for two years, and a pound a week so earned would surely bring other pounds.  "I knew it was to be done," he said, in triumph, to his wife, "if one only had the courage to make the attempt."  The morning of the fourth day somewhat damped his joy, for there came a long letter of instruction from the Salford editor, in which there were hints of certain difficulties.  He was told in this letter that it would be well that he should belong to a London club.  Such work as was now expected from him could hardly be done under favourable circumstances unless he did belong to a club.  "But as everybody now-a-days does belong to a club, you will soon get over that difficulty."  So said the editor.  And then the editor in his instructions greatly curtailed that liberty of the pen which Fred specially wished to enjoy.  He had anticipated that in his London letter he might give free reins to his own political convictions, which were of a very liberal nature, and therefore suitable to the Safford Reformer.  And he had a theological bias of his own, by the putting forward of which in strong language among the youth of Salford, he had intended to do much towards the clearing away of prejudice and the emancipation of truth.  But the editor told him that he should hardly touch politics at all in his London letter, and never lay a finger on religion.  He was to tell the people of Salford what was coming out at the different theatres, how the Prince and Princess looked on horseback, whether the Thames embankment made proper progress, and he was to keep his ears especially open for matters of social interest, private or general.  His style was to be easy and colloquial, and above all things he was to avoid being heavy, didactive, and profound.  Then there was sent to him, as a model, a column and a half cut out from a certain well-known newspaper, in which the names of people were mentioned very freely.  "If you can do that sort of thing," said the editor, "we shall get on together like a house on fire."

    "It is a farrago of ill-natured gossip," he said, as he chucked the fragment over to his wife.

    "But you are so clever, Fred," said his wife.  "You can do it without the ill nature."

    "I will do my best," he said; "but as for telling them about this woman and that, I cannot do it.  In the first place where am I to learn it all?"  Nevertheless, the London letter to the Salford Reformer was not abandoned.  Four or five such letters were written, and four or five sovereigns were paid into his little exchequer in return for so much work.  Alas! after the four or five there came a kindly-worded message from the editor to say that the articles did not suit.  Nothing could be better than Pickering's language, and his ideas were manly and for the most part good.  But the Safford Reformer did not want that sort of thing.  The Salford Reformer felt that Fred Pickering was too good for the work required.  Fred for twenty-four hours was broken-hearted.  After that he was able to resolve that he would take the thing up in the right spirit.  He wrote to the editor, saying that he thought that the editor was right.  The London letter required was not exactly within the compass of his ability.  Then he enclosed a copy of the Braes of Birken, and expressed an opinion that perhaps that might suit a column in the Salford Reformer,—one of those columns which were furthest removed from the corner devoted to the London letter.  The editor replied that he would publish the Braes of Birken if Pickering wished; but that they never paid for poetry.  Anything being better than silence Pickering permitted the editor to publish the Braes of Birken in the gratuitous manner suggested.

    At the end of June, when they had just been twelve months in London, Fred was altogether idle as far as any employment was concerned.  There was no going to the theatre now; and it had come to that with him, in fear of his coming privations, that he would discuss within his own heart the expediency of taking this or that walk with reference to the effect it would have upon his shoes.  In those days he strove to work hard, going on with his Milton and his note-book, and sitting for two or three hours a day over heavy volumes in the reading-room at the Museum.  When he first resolved upon doing this there had come a difficulty as to the entrance.  It was necessary that he should have permission to use the library, and for a while he had not known how to obtain it.  Then he had written a letter to a certain gentleman well known in the literary world, an absolute stranger to him, but of whom he had heard a word or two among his newspaper acquaintances, and had asked this gentleman to give him, or to get for him, the permission needed.  The gentleman having made certain inquiry, having sent for Pickering and seen him, had done as he was asked, and Fred was free of the library.

    "What sort of a man is Mr. Wickham Webb?" Mary asked him, when he returned from the club at which, by Mr. Webb's appointment, the meeting had taken place.

    "According to my ideas he is the only gentleman whom I have met since I have been in London," said Fred, who in these days was very bitter.

    "Was he civil to you?"

    "Very civil.  He asked me what I was doing up in London, and I told him.  He said that literature is the hardest profession in the world.  I told him that I thought it was, but, at the same time, the most noble."

    "What did he say to that?"

    "He said that the nobler the task, it was always the more difficult; and that, as a rule, it was not well that men should attempt work too difficult for their hands because of its nobility."

    "What did he mean by that, Fred?"

    "I knew what he meant very well.  He meant to tell me that I had better go and measure ribbons behind a counter; and I don't know but what he was right,"

    "But yet you liked him?"

    "Why should I have disliked him for giving me good advice?  I liked him because his manner was kind, and because he strove hard to say an unpleasant thing in the pleasantest words that he could use.  Besides, it did me good to speak to a gentleman once again."

    Throughout July not a shilling was earned, nor was there any prospect of the earning of a shilling.  People were then still in town, but in another fortnight London would have emptied itself of the rich and prosperous.  So much Pickering had learned, little as he was qualified to write the London letter for the Safford Reformer.  In the last autumn he had complained to his wife that circumstances had compelled him to begin at the wrong period of the year,—in the dull months when there was nobody in London who could help him.  Now the dull months were coming round again, and he was as far as ever from any help.  What was he to do?  "You said that Mr. Webb was very civil," suggested his wife; "could you not write to him and ask him to help us?"  "He is a rich man, and that would be begging," said Fred.  "I would not ask him for money," said Mary; "but perhaps he can tell you how you can get employment."  The letter to Mr. Webb was written, with many throes, and the destruction of much paper.  Fred found it very difficult to choose words which should describe with sufficient force the extreme urgency of his position, but which should have no appearance of absolute begging.  "I hope you will understand," he said, in his last paragraph, "that what I want is simply work for which I may be paid, and that I do not care how hard I work, or how little I am paid, so that I and my wife may live.  If I have taken an undue liberty in writing to you, I can only beg you to pardon my ignorance."

    This letter led to another interview between our hero and Mr. Wickham Webb.  Mr. Webb sent his compliments and asked Mr. Pickering to come and breakfast with him.  This kindness, though it produced some immediate pleasure, created fresh troubles.  Mr. Wickham Webb lived in a grand house near Hyde Park, and poor Fred was badly off for good clothes.  "Your coat does not look at all amiss," his wife said to him, comforting him; "and as for a hat, why don't you buy a new one?"  "I shan't breakfast in my hat," said Fred;  but look here;" and Fred exhibited his shoes.  "Get a new pair," said Mary.  "No," said he; "I've sworn to have nothing new till I've earned the money.  Mr. Webb won't expect to see me very bright, I dare say.  When a man writes to beg for employment, it must naturally be supposed that he will be rather seedy about his clothes."  His wife did the best she could for him, and he went out to his breakfast.

    Mrs. Webb was not there.  Mr. Webb explained that she had already left town.  There was no third person at the table, and before his first lamb chop was eaten, Fred had told the pith of his story.  He had a little money left, just enough to pay the doctor who must attend upon his wife, and carry him through the winter;—and then he would be absolutely bare.  Upon this Mr. Webb asked as to his relatives.  "My father has chosen to quarrel with me," said Fred.  "I did not wish to be an attorney, and therefore he has cast me out."  Mr. Webb suggested that a reconciliation might be possible; but when Fred said at once that it was impossible, he did not recur to the subject.

    When the host had finished his own breakfast, he got up from his chair, and, standing on the rug, spoke such words of wisdom as were in him.  It should be explained that Pickering, in his letter to Mr. Webb, had enclosed a copy of the Braes of Birken, another little poem in verse, and two of the London letters which he had written for the Salford Reformer.  "Upon my word, Mr. Pickering, I do not know how to help you.  I do not indeed."

    "I am sorry for that, sir."

    "I have read what you sent me, and am quite ready to acknowledge that there is enough, both in the prose and verse, to justify you in supposing it to be possible that you might hereafter live by literature as a profession; but all who make literature a profession should begin with independent means."

    "That seems to be hard on the profession as well as on the beginner."

    "It is not the less true; and is, indeed, true of most other professions as well.  If you had stuck to the law your father would have provided you with the means of living till your profession had become profitable."

    "Is it not true that many hundred men in London live on literature?" said our hero.

    "Many hundred do so, no doubt.  They are of two sorts, and you can tell yourself whether you belong to either.  There are they who have learned to work in accordance with the directions of others; the great bulk of what comes out to us almost hourly in the shape of newspapers is done by them.  Some are very highly paid, many are paid liberally, and a great many are paid scantily.  There is that side of the profession, and you say that you have tried it and do not like it.  Then there's those who do their work independently;—who write either books or articles which find acceptance in magazines."

    "It is that which I would try if the opportunity were given me."

    "But you have to make your own opportunity," said Mr. Wickham Webb.  It is the necessity of the position that it should be so.  What can I do for you?"

    "You know the editors of magazines."

    "Granted that I do, can I ask a man to buy what he does not want because he is my friend?"

    "You could get your friend to read what I write."

    It ended in Mr. Webb strongly advising Fred Pickering to go back to his "father, and in his writing two letters of introduction for him,—one to the editor of the International, a weekly gazette of mixed literature, and the other to Messrs. Brook and Boothby, publishers in St. James's-street.  Mr. Webb, though he gave the letters open to Fred, read them to him with the view of explaining to him how little and how much they meant.  "I do not know that they can do you the slightest service," said he; "but I give them to you, because you ask me.  I strongly advise you to go back to your father; but if you are still in town next spring, come and see me again."  Then the interview was over, and Fred returned to his wife, glad to have the letters; but still with a sense of bitterness against Mr. Webb.  When one word of encouragement would have made him so happy, might not Mr. Webb have spoken it?  Mr. Webb had thought that he had better not speak any such word.  And Fred, when he read the letters of introduction over to his wife, found them to be very cold.  "I don't think I'll take them," he said.

    But he did take them,—of course, on the very next day, and saw Mr. Boothby, the publisher, after waiting for half-an-hour in the shop.  He swore to himself that the time was an hour and a half, and became sternly angry at being so treated.  It did not occur to him that Mr. Boothby was obliged to attend to his own business, and that he could not put his other visitors under the counter, or into the cupboards, in order to make way for Mr. Pickering.  The consequence was that poor Fred was seen at his worst, and that the Boothby an heart was not much softened towards him.  "There are so many men of this kind who want work," said Mr. Boothby, "and so very little work to give them!"

    "It seems to me," said Pickering, "that the demand for the work is almost unlimited."  As he spoke, he looked at a hole in his boot, and tried to speak in a tone that should show that he was above his boots.

    "It may be so," said Boothby; "but if so, the demands do not run in my way.  I will, however, keep Mr. Webb's note by me, and if I find I can do anything for you, I will.  Good-morning."  Then Mr. Boothby got up from his chair, and Fred Pickering understood that he was told to go away.  He was furious in his abuse of Boothby as he described the interview to his wife that evening.

    The editor of the International he could not get to see; but he got a note from him.  The editor sent his compliments and would be glad to read the article to which Mr. W. W. had alluded.  As Mr. W. W. had alluded to no article, Fred saw that the editor was not inclined to take much trouble on his behalf.  Nevertheless, an article should be sent.  An article was written to which Fred gave six weeks of hard work, and which contained an elaborate criticism on the Samson Agonistes.  Fred's object was to prove that Milton had felt himself to be a superior Samson,—blind, indeed, in the flesh, as Samson was blind, but not blind in the spirit as was Samson when he crushed the Philistines.  The poet had crushed his Philistines with all his intellectual eyes about him.  Then there was a good deal said about the Philistines of those days as compared with the other Philistines, in all of which Fred thought that he took much higher ground than certain other writers in magazines on the same subject.  The editor sent back his compliments, and said that the International never admitted reviews of old books.  "Insensate idiot!" said Fred, tearing the note asunder, and then tearing his own hair, on both sides of his head.  "And these are the men who make the world of letters!  Idiot! thick-headed idiot!"

    "I suppose he has not read it," said Mary.

    "Then why hasn't he read it?  Why doesn't he do the work for which he is paid?  If he has not read it, he is a thief as well as an idiot."  Poor Fred had not thought much of his chance from the International when he first got the editor's note; but as he had worked at his Samson he had become very fond of it, and golden dreams had fallen on him, and he had dared to whisper to himself words of wondrous praise which might be forthcoming, and to tell himself of inquiries after the unknown author of the great article about the Philistines.  As he had thought of this, and as the dreams and the whispers had come to him, he had rewritten his essay from the beginning, making it grander, bigger, more eloquent than before.  He became very eloquent about the Philistines, and mixed with his eloquence some sarcasm which could not, he thought, be without effect even in dull-brained heavy-livered London.  Yes; he had dared to hope.  And then his essay,—such an essay as this,—was sent back to him with a notice that the International did not insert reviews of old books!  Hideous, brainless, meaningless idiot!  Fred in his fury tore his article into a hundred fragments; and poor Mary was employed, during the whole of the next week, in making another copy of it from the original blotted sheets, which had luckily been preserved.  "Pearls before swine!" Fred said to himself, as he slowly made his way up to the library of the Museum on the last day of that week.

    That was in the end of October.  He had not then earned a single shilling for many months, and the nearer prospect of that starvation of which he had once spoken so cheerily was becoming awfully frightful to him.  He had said that there were worse fates than to starve.  Now, as he looked at his wife, and thought of the baby that was to be added to them, and counted the waning heap of sovereigns, he began to doubt whether there was in truth anything worse than to starve.  And now, too, idleness made his life more wretched to him than it had ever been.  He could not bring himself to work when it seemed to him that his work was to have no result; literally none.

    "Had you not better write to your father?" said Mary.  He made no reply, but went out and walked up and down Museum-street.

    He had been much disgusted by the treatment he had received from Mr. Boothby the publisher; but in November he brought himself to write to Mr. Boothby, and ask him whether some employment could not be found.  "You will perhaps remember Mr. Wickham Webb's letter," wrote Fred, "and the interview which I had with you last July."  His wife had wished him to speak more civilly, and to refer to the pleasure of the interview.  But Fred had declined to condescend so far.  There were still left to them some thirty pounds.

    A fortnight afterwards, when December had come, he got a reply from Mr. Boothby, in which he was asked to call at a certain hour at the shop in St. James's-street.  This he did, and saw the great man again.  The great man asked him whether he could make an index to an historical work.  Fred of course replied that he could do that,—that or anything else.  He could make the index; or, if need was, write the historical work itself.  That, no doubt, was his feeling.  Ten pounds would be paid for the index, if it was approved.  Fred was made to understand that payment was to depend altogether on approval of the work.  Fred took away the sheets confided to him without any doubt as to the ultimate approval.  It would be odd indeed if he could not make an index.  "That young man will never do any good," said Mr. Boothby to his foreman, as Fred took his departure.  "He thinks he can do everything, and I doubt very much whether he can do anything as it should be done."

    Fred worked very hard at the index, and the baby was born to him as he was doing it.  A fortnight, however, finished the index, and if he could earn money at the rate of ten pounds a fortnight he might still live.  So he took his index to St. James's-street, and left it for approval.  He was told by the foreman that if he would call again in a week's time he should hear the result.  Of course he called on that day week.  The work had not yet been examined, and he must call again after three days.  He did call again; and Mr. Boothby told him that his index was utterly useless,—that, in fact, it was not an index at all.  "You couldn't have looked at any other index, I think," said Mr. Boothby.

    "Of course you need not take it," said Fred; "but I believe it to be as good an index as was ever made."  Mr. Boothby, getting up from his chair, declared that there was nothing more to be said.  The gentleman for whom the work had been done begged that Mr. Pickering should receive five pounds for his labour,—which unfortunately had been thus thrown away.  And in saying, this Mr. Boothby tendered a five, pound note to Fred.  Fred pushed the note away from him, and left the room with a tear in his eye.  Mr. Boothby saw the tear, and ten pounds was sent to Fred on the next day, with the gentleman's compliments.  Fred sent the ten pounds back.  There was still a shot in the locker, and he could not as yet take money for work that he had not done.

    By the end of January Fred had retreated with his wife and child to the shelter of a single small bedroom.  Hitherto there had been a sitting-room and a bedroom; but now there was but five pounds between him and that starvation which he had once almost coveted, and every shilling must be strained to the utmost.  His wife's confinement had cost him much of his money, and she was still ill.  Things were going very badly with him, and among all the things that were bad with him, his own idleness was probably the worst.  When starvation was so near to him, he could not seat himself in the Museum library and read to any good purpose.  And, indeed, he had no purpose.  Milton was nothing to him now, as his lingering shillings became few, and still fewer.  He could only sit brooding over his misfortunes, and cursing his fate.  And every day, as he sat eating his scraps of food over the morsel of fire in his wife's bedroom, she would implore him to pocket his pride and write to his father.  "He would do something for us, so that baby should not die," Mary said to him.  Then he went into Museum-street, and bethought himself whether it would not be a manly thing for him to cut his throat.  At any rate there would be much relief in such a proceeding.

    One day as he was sitting over the fire while his wife still lay in bed, the servant of the house brought up word that a gentleman wanted to see him.  "A gentleman! what gentleman?"  The girl could not say who was the gentleman, so Fred went down to receive his visitor at the door of the house.  He met an old man of perhaps seventy years of age, dressed in black, who with much politeness asked him whether he was Mr. Frederic Pickering.  Fred declared himself to be that unfortunate man, and explained that he had no apartment in which to be seen.  "My wife is in bed upstairs, ill; and there is not a room in the house to which I can ask you."  So the old gentleman and Fred walked up Museum-street and had their conversation on the pavement.  "I am Mr. Burnaby, for whose book you made an index," said the old man.  Mr. Burnaby was an author well known in those days, and Fred, in the midst of his misfortunes, felt that he was honoured by the visit.

    "I was sorry that my index did not suit you," said Fred.

    "It did not suit at all," said Mr. Burnaby.  "Indeed it was no index.  An index should comprise no more than words and figures.  Your index conveyed opinions, and almost criticism."

    "If you suffered inconvenience, I regret it much," said Fred. "I was punished at any rate by my lost labour."

    "I do not wish you to be punished at all," said Mr. Burnaby, "and therefore I have come to you with the price in my hand.  I am quite sure that you worked hard to do your best."  Then Mr. Burnaby's fingers went into his waistcoat pocket, and returned with a crumpled note.

    "Certainly not, Mr. Burnaby," said Fred.  "I can take nothing that I have not earned."

    "Now, my dear young friend, listen to me.  I know that you are poor."

    "I am very poor."

    "And I am rich."

    "That has nothing to do with it.  Can you put me in the way of earning anything by literature?  I will accept any such kindness as that at your hand but nothing else."

    "I cannot.  I have no means of doing so."

    "You know so many authors;—and so many publishers."

    "Though I knew all the authors and all the publishers, what can I do?  Excuse me if I say that you have not served the apprenticeship that is necessary."

    "And do all authors serve apprenticeships?"

    "Certainly not.  And it may be that you will rise to wealth and fame without apprenticeship ;—but if so, you must do it without help."

    After that they walked silently together half the length of the street before Fred spoke again.  "You mean," said he, "that a man must be either a genius or a journeyman."

    "Yes, Mr. Pickering; that, or something like it, is what I mean."

    Fred told Mr. Burnaby his whole story, walking up and down Museum-street,—even to that early assurance given to his young bride that there were worse things in the world than starvation.  And then Mr. Burnaby asked him what were his present intentions.  "I suppose we shall try it," said Pickering, with a forced laugh.

    "Try what?" said Mr. Burnaby.

    "Starvation," said Fred.

    "What; with your baby,—with your wife and baby?  Come; you must take my ten pound note at any rate.  And while you are spending it, write home to your father.  Heaven and earth! is a man to be ashamed to tell his father that he has been wrong?"  When Fred said that his father was a stern man, and one whose heart would not be melted into softness at the tale of a baby's sufferings, Mr. Burnaby went on to say that the attempt should at any rate be made.  "There can be no doubt what duty requires of you, Mr. Pickering.  And, upon my word, I do not see what other step you can take.  You are not, I suppose, prepared to send your wife and child to the poor-house."  Then Fred Pickering burst into tears, and Mr. Burnaby left him at the corner of Great Russel-street, after cramming the ten-pound note into his hand.

    To send his wife and child to the poor-house!  In all his misery that idea had never before presented itself to Fred Pickering.  He had thought of starvation, or rather of some high-toned extremity of destitution, which might be borne with an admirable and perhaps sublime magnanimity.  But how was a man to bear with magnanimity a poor-house jacket, and the union mode of hair-cutting?  It is not easy for a man with a wife and baby to starve in this country, unless he be one to whom starvation has come very gradually.  Fred saw it all now.  The police would come to him, and take his wife and baby away into the workhouse, and he would follow them.  It might be that this was worse than starvation, but it lacked all that melodramatic grandeur to which he had looked forward almost with satisfaction.

    "Well," said Mary to him, when he returned to her bedside, "who was it?  Has he told you of anything?  Has he brought you anything to do?"

    "He has given me that," said Fred, throwing the bank note on to the bed,—out of charity.  I may as well go out into the streets and beg now.  All the pride has gone out of me."  Then he sat over the fire crying, and there he sat for hours.

    "Fred," said his wife to him, "if you do not write to your father tomorrow I will write."

    He went again to every person connected in the slightest degree with literature of whom he had the smallest knowledge; to Mr. Roderick Billings, to the teacher who had instructed him in shorthand writing, to all those whom he had ever seen among the newspapers, to the editor of the International, and to Mr. Boothby.  Four different visits he made to Mr. Boothby, in spite of his previous anger, but it was all to no purpose.  No one could find him employment for which he was suited.  He wrote to Mr. Wickham Webb, and Mr. Wickham Webb sent him a five-pound note.  His heart was, I think, more broken by his inability to refuse charity than by anything else that had occurred to him.

    His wife had threatened to write to his father, but she had not carried her threat into execution.  It is not by such means that a young wife overcomes her husband.  He had looked sternly at her when she had so spoken, and she had known that she could not bring herself to do such a thing without his permission.  But when she fell ill, wanting the means of nourishment for her child, and in her illness begged of him to implore succour from his father for her baby when she should be gone, then his pride gave way, and he sat down and wrote his letter.  When he went to his ink-bottle it was dry.  It was nearly two months since he had made any attempt at working in that profession to which he had intended to devote himself.

    He wrote to his father, drinking to the dregs the bitter cup of broken pride.  It always seems to me that the prodigal son who returned to his father after feeding with the swine suffered but little mortification in his repentant submission.  He does, indeed, own his unworthiness, but the calf is killed so speedily that the pathos of the young man's position is lost in the hilarity of the festival.  Had he been compelled to announce his coming by post; had he been driven to beg permission to return, and been forced to wait for a reply, his punishment, I think, would have been more severe.  To Fred Pickering the punishment was very severe, and indeed for him no fatted calf was killed at last.  He received without delay a very cold letter from his father, in which he was told that his father would consider the matter.  In the meanwhile thirty shillings a week should be allowed him.  At the end of a fortnight he received a further letter, in which he was informed that if he would return to Manchester he would be taken in at the attorney's office which he had left.  He must not, however, hope to become himself an attorney; he must look forward to be a paid attorney's clerk, and in the meantime his father would continue to allow him thirty shillings a week.  "In the present position of affair," said his father, "I do not feel that anything would be gained by our seeing each other."  The calf which was thus killed for poor Fred Pickering was certainly by no means a fatted calf.

    Of course he had to do as he was directed.  He took his wife and baby back to Manchester, and returned with sad eyes and weary feet to the old office which he had in former days not only hated but despised.  Then he had been gallant and gay among the other young men, thinking himself to be too good for the society of those around him; now he was the lowest of the low, if not the humblest of the humble.

    He told his whole story by letters to Mr. Burnaby, and received some comfort from the kindness of that gentleman's replies.  "I still mean," he said, in one of those letters, "to return some day to my old aspirations; but I will endeavour first to learn my trade as a journeyman of literature."




TEN years ago the readers of the magazines and critical reviews could hardly fail to encounter unfavourable strictures on what was called the "Spasmodic School of Poetry."  The three or four writers supposed to constitute that "school" were, at the period referred to, passing through the fires of exhortation, reproof, and parody.  The nickname was the invention of a brilliant poet and wit—recently gone to his rest; and it had a nickname's best prosperity—it stuck.  That this said nickname had, in some rough obvious manner, hit off the salient characteristics and defects of the "school," was evident from the favour with which it was received.  The quaint brain of Professor Aytoun shaped the happy phrase; and immediately thereafter the three or four writers were everywhere recognised as "spasmodists," just as, since Mr. Bright, in his speech a short while ago, alluded to the cave of Adullarn and its inhabitants, Lords Grosvenor and Elcho, Messrs. Horsman and Lowe have been "Adullamites," or "Dwellers in the Cave," to all the world.  Nothing tells like a nickname which catches the popular ear, and which is called out at every street corner.  The nickname "Spasmodic School" grew popular, and in a short time it became the critical stock-in-trade of provincial newspapers, just as if they had been its sole inventors and had taken out a patent for its exclusive use. For a while no one of the writers could air himself in public in a volume of verse, however staid and hum-drum, without the cry of "spasmodist" being raised, here, there, and everywhere, so loudly that he was glad to retreat again into his shell. All this is a matter of ten years ago. For seven years past the magazine reader has heard nothing of the "Spasmodic school,"—it is the lost pleiad of the critical firmament.  Oblivion distributeth her poppies with an equal hand.  Firmilian, too, has been forgotten in these years.  The nicknamed and the nicknames sleep in the same forgetfulness of reviews—like foemen in one grave.

    The reviews are powerful, but they are not omnipotent; and a man's work exists, after the reviewers have said their best and their worst about it, precisely as it is.  On the whole there is nothing more curious than the fluctuations of literary reputations.  A poet comes into fashion very much as crinoline came into fashion, is universally quoted as crinoline was universally worn, and in due time makes way for a new favourite.  Wordsworth's fame was of slow and cedar-like growth; but it attracted a larger number of pilgrims fifteen years ago than it does now.  Byron sank after his death, and is slowly rising to be permanently recognised, not as the greatest poet, but as the greatest intellectual force and portent of his time.  His poetry was but the brilliant hectic-coloured blossom; the wholesome fruit we were destined never to see.  Had he lived, it is plainly visible in the closing cantos of Don Juan, he would have deserted poetry for prose fiction, and been our second Fielding, and our greater.  Keats culminated ten years ago on the publication of his Life by Lord Houghton, and leads at present a sort of pale lunar rainbow existence in the pages of his imitators.  Several years since the Quarterly Review spoke of Robert Browning as a man possessed of some slight tincture of poetic individuality, and was good enough to quote with approval passages from Paraselsus and Bells and Pomegranates; to day he is regarded by many as the most original of living poets, original in merit and defect, in music, thought, and dramatic instinct.  The Laureate has long been popular, but he is popular not so much from the essential merits of his verse as from his exquisite form, exquisite finish, and the wonderful way in which he reflects the culture, the sentiment, the refined lazy scepticism made amiable only by its sadness, the vague aspirations of English society.  He holds the mirror up to the time, but it is an enchanted one and reflects but noble faces.  People will weary of his finish as they weary of pictures executed on ivory; and he will be succeeded by some far stormier and less perfectly balanced spirit.  While noticing this ebb and flow of poetical reputations it may not be too much to infer that the oblivion to which the "Spasmodic School" has been consigned for the last few years has been to a considerable extent undeserved.  At all events, leaving the other writers whom this matter may concern to shift for themselves, I am anxious to speak for a few pages concerning Sydney Dobell, by far the most important member of the "school," and whom not a few fairly intelligent persons in England and America consider to have written some of the noblest poetry of our day.  In the courts of law, when a man conceives that justice has not been done, it is competent for him to call for a new trial.  In the interest of Sydney Dobell I move for a new trial in the courts of criticism.

    Originality, as it is called, is, in popular estimation, a first merit in a writer but then this originality may either attract or repel.  In itself originality is not necessarily a merit.  The colour-blind man is original in a world of men gifted with normal powers of vision.  To a sane individual there is nothing more frightfully original than the seething brain of a madman.  Our dreams are more original than our waking moments, but they are, on the whole, less wise.  The feeling of strangeness with which one occasionally, for the first time, peruses a book does not usually go for much.  It is frequently the mere foreign-looking husks and wrappings of the matter—the wampum-belt and scalp-tuft of the Pawnee Indian, the bear-skin and snow-shoes of the Esquimauxrather than the matter itself.  The highest beauty does not dazzle at first, it more frequently seems a simple plainness.  The writers who strike you as original are never original enough, just as the man who strikes you as cunning has not been cunning enough to hide his cunning.  All the colours sleep in a beam of pure white light.  The generations of books are like the generations of men, the one begets the other, and not unfrequently the features of an ancestor recur in a descendant of today.  Absolute originality, even were it possible, would be of no effect.  An absolutely original book would resemble the scenery of the moon.  It would be a world without an atmosphere.  In reading such a book one would be reft away from the mighty aids of association and use and wont.  In the sense of newness and strangeness Australia is the most original country on the planet, and it is the least interesting.  In the same sense Asia and Europe are the least original and the most interesting.  The strange kangaroo of the one continent is nothing to the homely sparrow of the other, which has been man's companion and chirped on his thatch during six millenniums.  In poetry the gaudy parrot is as nothing compared with the brown lark.  It is astonishing, when one reflects on it, to what few and simple root-ideas the entire poetry of the world may be traced.  I am, I was, I love, I hate, I suffer, I am glad, I must die—these lie at the bottom of all song.  After the death of Abel the first family had pretty nearly gone the round of all possible experiences.  In the primordial elements of human experience there is nothing trite—except to the trite; and the only faithful originality comes out of an entire and noble apprehension of those primordial elements, and the man who can to that noble apprehension give musical utterance is a poet, and a sufficiently original one, too, for all purposes.  The generations of singing birds pass, but the music of the spring mornings goes on, although it has hardly changed a note since Adam.  Originality is not a thing which a man can put on like a cloak to masquerade in.  It is, if he have it at all, the pure outcome of his personality—the clear, unobscured, unobstructed, utterance of his nature—that which is to himself special and peculiar like the tone of his voice and the play of his features—an undefinable something of which he is in the profoundest unconsciousness, but by which he is made recognisable and is set apart from other men.  Thus it comes about that the original man is the least conscious of being original.  It is easy for a beauty to be beautiful, it is easy for an original man to be original.  And the undefinable something which sets a man apart from his fellows is the most valuable thing in the world; it is absolutely priceless.  You cannot forecast its next manifestation any more than you can conceive of a new colour.  It cannot be imitated, it can never be forged; no counterfeit by any possibility can ever pass current—and yet every man and woman is born into the world with some proportion of it more or less.  To this pure, clear, natural note of the soul all the world listens—for a whole grove of clever mocking-birds, no one cares.  Nature makes the Koh-i-Noor, and Birmingham will turn you out a bushel of imitations.  And it is this special and individual something in great writers which, above all things, subserves a noble culture.  These men bring a new thing into the world with them, and when they die they leave it as an inheritance.  Scott writes, and the historic past is no longer pale and cold, but warm and many-coloured.  Wordsworth writes, and ever after the solitariest place breathes an austere contentment, and to the thoughtful man there is no such thing as utter loneliness in the world.  Keats writes, and the coldness of Greek marble is faintly tinged with passion.  In modern culture all the poets are represented by their best.

English poet and critic.

    And in the sense of having something personal and peculiar, some new thing to supplement and enrich modern culture, Sydney Dobell is fairly entitled to be considered an original poet.   I have remarked elsewhere that Chaucer and Spenser are the fountain-heads of all succeeding English poetry.  Chaucer is the father of the humorous, kindly, dramatic, genially-lyrical men; Spenser of the intense, allegorical, didactic, remote, and, by comparison, unsocial men.  Shakespeare, Dryden, Burns, Byron, Browning, draw descent from Chaucer.  Milton, Young, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Tennyson from Spenser.  Sydney Dobell too is of the line and stock of Spenser.  His mental constitution is high, solitary, disdainful.  His genius is of an ascetic and fakir kind.  He stands apart from his fellows, and wraps himself up in the mantle of his own thoughts.  He is terribly self-conscious; he is the slave of ideas; he writes for a purpose, and as if under a certain compulsion.  There is nothing he hates so intensely as commonplace; nothing he loves so intensely as beauty—the more ideal the better; and in his fine music a quick ear will not unfrequently detect a stridulous tone, as if the string from which it is drawn were a trifle too tightly strung.  In whatever he writes, whether he is purely and simply beautiful, or haughty as Apollo conscious of glowing limbs, or grotesque or extravagant, you will find nothing done at haphazard; he knows precisely the why and the wherefore, and will be able to render you a sufficient reason for everything.  If it be at all admissible, now that the word has been so foully fingered and misused, to call a man earnest, that man is Sydney Dobell.  He is essentially a missionary.  He has neither written for the mere enjoyment of writing, nor for money, nor for fame, but mainly because he has a doctrine to preach, a cause to plead; and his doctrine he has preached in ears too long accustomed to sounding brasses and tinkling cymbals to give heed to high discourse.  Mr. Carlyle preaches hero-worship, Mr. Dobell preaches genius-worship.  At bottom the two doctrines are essentially the same, only the one man abides in the practical, the other in the ideal.  In Mr. Dobell conception genius, poetic genius more especially, is ever a new revelation to man.  To him the poet is the Teacher, bringing to his fellows new ideas of truth, beauty, and morality.  In his mind the great poet is the most perfect human being, and as the greater includes the less, he is at the same time the true legislator and ruler.  That as such he is not recognised by men,—why then the worse for men.  Mr. Dobell would have the world sit at the feet of the poets, and shape everything, not only private conduct, but parliaments, statute-books, home and foreign policies, according to their behests.  In his idea a poem should go forth like the proclamation of a king; adverse critics he regards as rebels against lawful authority, and would probably have them executed forthwith.  To such a writer it will be at once evident that poetry is no holiday pastime, but a most solemn and responsible duty, to the proper discharge of which everything must be brought of best, noblest, and bravest.  To such a man no labour can be too severe, no study too intense, no experience too bitter: poverty, pain, death itself would be even welcome, if so be he could perfect his art, and thereby save, or help to save, a world previously out of joint.  And the poet must not only be true to other men, he must be true to himself.  Never arrogant, he should be always dignified; he must remember that there is no greatness beyond his own; that this complex visible world, with its capitals and standing armies, is based upon ideas, and that in the ideal department of things he is a king, enforcing and abrogating at his pleasure.  Above all, he must remember that as an apostle of the highest, it behoves him to take heed to his walk and conversation.  He has not only to write poems, he must also live poems.  The song should be pure and noble, and so should also the life of the singer be.  As poetry is above ordinary prose, so should his morality be above ordinary morality.

    This idea of the poet and the poetic life cannot be regarded otherwise than as a high one.  Without some such basement of belief one cannot see how, more especially in these times, the poetic life can be conducted at all; but as, in order that the tree shall leaf, and blossom, and bear fruit, it is necessary that the root should be hidden away underground, deep-sunken in life-giving soil; so, in like manner, if the poet would go on prosperously with his work, it is essential that his belief and theories concerning himself and his art should be buried in the silent depths of his nature; that he should quietly draw spiritual sustenance from these, and in no wise obtrude them on the world.  We have nothing to do with the food which the athlete devours, we have only to do with the results,—the mighty limbs, the iron sinews.  There is nothing with which a poet has less need to concern himself than with poets and poetry, and here it is where Mr. Dobell has to some extent gone astray.  Poetry is not, or at all events should not be, a Narcissus in love with his own shadow, and eternally gazing upon it.  It has to do with everything except itself; it is the divine light in which we see heroism, duty, love, beauty, death.  It is not the hero, it is only the song which celebrates the exploits of the hero.  Women are not specially interesting to women, poets are not specially interesting to poets; Mr. Dobell seems to have forgotten this, and in Balder, his longest book, and with all defects, this primal one included, his greatest, he concerns himself with a poet from first to last, gives his soliloquies, his notions concerning his art, quotes the songs he sung at intervals, the scraps of verse with which he hung the walls of his chamber, tells us what books he purposed to write, and through which he meant to regenerate the world.  Balder is the longest poem of our time, with the exception perhaps of Festus; and apart from the exquisite songs of Amy, which if extracted would of themselves make a mournful anthology, there are not in its entire length a dozen pages of purely human interest.  It contains wonderful things, it has passages of marvellous subtlety and music, but these fail to make pleasing the stupendous egotism.  Now it is evident that if you wish to cure a sick man you must give him a medicine which it is possible for him to take, and if you wish by means of a poem to make the world better, you must needs write a poem which it will be possible for the world to read.  Balder is to the large majority of persons simply unreadable, and this not from any defect of genius, but because it is based upon an erroneous theory.  In Balder too one is perpetually conscious of a certain compulsion, of effort; there is a lack of spontaneity, of easy, unconscious, unconscious result, as of an Æolian harp sighing to the caprices of intermittent wind.  At times the writer almost ceases to be a poet, and becomes a pamphleteer.  In all Mr. Dobell's books intellectual subtlety plays him false; not unfrequently the dialectician overrides the poet.  When opportunity offers he ceases singing to argue,

Like some budge doctor of the Stoic fur;

and the matters over which he subtilizes are the most filmy and intangible.  He will unravel you a thread of morning gossamer, he will dissect you an ephemeron, he will lay you bare the heart of a mote of the sunbeam.  When he grapples with a subject both he and it, like hawk and heron, disappear in the distance.  He defines everything to the vanishing point, and beyond it.  All this kind of thing seems laborious trifling to a reader of normal instincts.  You can respect a whirlwind when it sinks a ship or blows down a house; you cannot when it merely makes a spire of dust and straws at the corner of a street.  Mr. Dobell's remarkable subtlety is in his art rather a hindrance than an aid, and is so for several reasons.  In the first place, he has an entire and abiding horror of commonplace; and although it may be seen leading easily and definitely to results, he cannot bear to walk, for ever so short a distance, in a beaten path.  Above all things he will be independent, original, and self-sustained.  He will lie under poetic obligations to no one.  He will not only build his house after his own plan, but he insists in providing his materials out of his own quarries and forests.  Had it been possible he would have invented a language of his own.  He is continually "seeking out a new path for himself," a task which Goethe was happy in not having forced upon him.  He will always stand on virgin soil; and as the red Indian retires into his aboriginal forests when he smells the watchfire of the white settler, Mr. Dobell, on the approach of the ordinary and commonplace, retires into the unpierced depths of his nature, where no one can follow him, and where his subtlety is of non effect, for the reason that it has no spectator.  Then, again, Mr. Dobell is what Dr. Johnson would have called a "metaphysical poet," and he has much in common with Cowley and Donne in past generations, and with Shelley in our own.  Like these, he has a whole body of ingenious theories, whimsies, and conceits on every subject under the sun to enforce, illustrate, and uphold.  In all this his amazing subtlety has ample play, but then in the work he is beyond the sympathies of his readers.  There is such an entity doubtless as the pure spirit of life, but we have knowledge of it only through the form it assumes.  There is such a thing as the spirit of poetry, but it is only recognisable in the concrete—in a flower, in a lark's song, in a beautiful woman, in some human experience more or less complex.  Mr. Dobell's verse is often not sufficiently "clothed upon;" it does not take palpable form and substance, but abides in vague guesses and shadows of things.  It is too often like the night wind, a haunter of waste and solitary places in which there is no human dwelling; a something of which we are cognizant, but of which the imagination can form no picture.  And in common with earnest, eager, theoretical men, Mr. Dobell volatile impracticability of mind is unregulated by humour.  He is defective in that quick, saving sense of the ludicrous which is a man's best safeguard from absurdity both in literature and in social life.  He has plenty of wit, the brilliant sparks of collision,

                                ――――the light
Struck out from clashing swords in fight;

but of humour, that other kind of love, with its tenderness and sadness, without its fiery passion and pain, there is perhaps not any very definite trace discoverable in his writings.  He is, in consequence, always too trenchant and grim-earnest; there is a lack of ease, of rapid lightness of touch, of graceful sportiveness.  It is from this lack of humour, I take it, that Mr. Dobell is too persistently dignified.  The port of a king in a grand state ceremonial is, simply laughable when transferred to his private apartment, or to a walk in his palace grounds of a morning before breakfast.  Mr. Dobell has not learned how to unbend; he is always in full uniform, never in mufti.  Like Shelley, he is a great deal too constantly poetical.  Genius is the most precious of mental gifts, gold is the most precious of metals; but as you cannot work gold without an alloy, you cannot make much use of genius without an intermixture of prosaic common-sense and mother-wit.

    I have spoke thus frankly of what seems to me Mr. Dobell's defects, in order that I may just as frankly speak of his merits.  These are very much higher than the general public appear at all to be aware.  For intellectual force, poetic instinct, and vitality, he may claim to be ranked, pari passu, with Alfred Tennyson and Robert Browning.  He is in the best sense, as has been already indicated, an original man.  He is a poet; but he bears to other poets the likenesses and differences that the birch bears to the elm and the oak.  He is of the same genus, but not the same species.  Of all recent writers, he seems to bear the closest resemblance to Shelley.  He has much of Shelley's levity, impracticability, exaggeration, and hectic over-colour; he has all Shelley's subtlety, analytic habit and power, splendour of imagery, dramatic instinct, and rich-flowing lyrical impulse.  There are as noble passages in the Roman as you will find in Hellas; there is as intricate searching of dark bosoms and moods in Balder as in the Cenci; there are lyrics in England in Time of War which will mate with the Sensitive Plant and the Skylark.  And as, when a man is under strong emotion, there gleams on his countenance an expression which is not ordinarily there, a look of race, in which father, grandfather, and great-grandfather are blended; so in Mr. Dobell's finer passages one discerns a something native to himself and to none other; a something which finds its analogue in sculpture rather than in painting; a purity as of the undraped limbs of the marble nymph; a shining ethereal beauty, as of the stalk of white lilies which female saints wear—clouds of cherubs fluttering around their feet—as they rise into a heaven of blue and gold, in mediæval Italian altar-pieces.

    The Roman was published—the author yet very young—in the after-swell of the revolutionary impulse of 1848.  It had a great success, was admired by quick, vivid, impulsive Charlotte Bronté; and was regarded by all capable of forming a judgment in such matters, as the work of a man certain to leave a name amongst the poetical writers of his country.  The work was thrown into a loose dramatic form, and its energy, enthusiasm, and eloquence were considered little less than marvellous.  On the top of the first page the author described his hero—"Vittorio Santo, a missionary of freedom.  He has gone out disguised as a monk to preach the unity of Italy, the overthrow of the Austrian domination, and the restoration of a great Roman Republic;" and from its subject it naturally became a pendant to the Deformed Transformed of Byron and the Hellas of Shelley.  The scenes are nine in number, and tell no very closely-knit and connected story: the monk is the main speaker throughout, and although there is a monotony of eloquence inseparable somewhat from the conception and plan, vigour and spirit never flag, and from beginning to close the reader is carried stormily along.  The tone is a little too highly pitched all through; now and again there is a slight tendency to extravagance; but apart from these defects of youth, the delight in the exercise of a newly-discovered power, the style is unexceptionable—the English is clear, vivid, nervous, and without the slightest haze of obscurity; you are constantly reminded of Byron in the swell and movements of the verse.  The first scene opens at evening on an ancient Italian battlefield, on which a number of young men and maidens are dancing and singing.  The monk is standing by, and at length breaks in upon the dancers.  He speaks to them of Italy, his mother and theirs, and how the ground they dance on is her grave.  The speech is too long to quote, but its drift and character will be gathered from the following:

        I pray you listen how I loved my mother,
And you will weep with me.  She loved me,
And fed my soul with light.  Morning and even
Praying, I sent that soul into her eyes,
And knew what heaven was though I was a child.
I grew in stature, and she grew in goodness.
I was a grave child; looking on her taught me
To love the beautiful: and I had thoughts
Of Paradise, when other men have hardly
Looked out of doors on earth.  (Alas! alas!
That I have also learned to look on earth
When other men see heaven.)  I toiled, but even
As I became more holy, she seemed holier;
Even as when climbing mountain-tops the sky
Grows ampler, higher, purer as ye rise.
Let me believe no more.   No, do not ask me
How I repaid my mother.   O thou saint,
That lookest on me day and night from heaven,
And smilest, I have given thee tears for tears,
Anguish for anguish, woe for woe.   Forgive me
If, in the spirit of ineffable penance
In words, I waken up the guilt that sleeps.
Let not the sound afflict thine heaven, or colour
That pale, tear-blotted record which the angels
Keep of my sins.   We left her.   I and all
The brothers that her milk had fed.   We left her—
And strange dark robbers with unwonted names
Abused her! bound her! pillaged her! profaned her!
Bound her clasped hands, and gagged the trembling lips
That pray'd for her lost children.   And we stood
And she knelt to us, and we saw her kneel,
And looked upon her coldly and denied her!
Denied her in her agony—and counted
Before her sanguine eyes the gold that bought
Her pangs.   We stood――

Here the revellers, thinking that a veritable mother of the flesh is spoken of, break in on the monk and load him with reproaches and execrations.  He undeceives them

You are my brothers.   And my mother was
Yours.   And each man amongst you day by day
Takes, bowing, the same price that sold my mother,
And does not blush.   Her name is R
OME.   Look round,
And see those features which the sun himself
Can hardly leave for fondness.   Look upon
Her mountain bosom where the very sky
Beholds with passion; and with the last proud
Imperial sorrow of dejected empire,
She wraps the purple round her outraged breast,
And even in fetters cannot be a slave.
Look on the world's best glory and worst shame.
                  *                  *                  *                  *
                                       They are some souls
That once took flesh and blood in Italy,
And thought it was a land to draw free breath in,
And drew it long, and died here and since live
Everywhere else.
                  *                  *                  *                  *
Look on that mother and behold her sons!
Alas, she might be Rome if there were Romans!
Look on that mother!   Wilt thou know that death
Can have no part in Beauty?   Cast to-day
A seed into the earth, and it shall bear thee
The flowers that waved in the Egyptian hair
Of Pharaoh's daughter!

    In such eloquent fashion storms on the passionate monk until, recovering from his enthusiasm, he finds that with the exception of Francesca the revellers have one by one stolen away.  The monk perceives her, and she, with all his words flaming in her heart, asks

                           I have heard much to-night
Of Roman deeds, of sages, and of heroes,
Of sons who loved, and sons who have betrayed.
Hath Rome no daughters to repeat her beauty,
Renew the model of old time, and teach
Her sons to love the mother in the child?
Was Rome, my father, built and peopled by
One sex?   The very marble of your ruins
Looks masculine.   In heart I roam about them;
But wheresoe'er my female soul peers in—
Even to the temple courts—some bearded image
Gives privilege.   Doth Salique law entail
The heritage of glory?   Is there nothing,
Nothing, my father, in the work of freedom
For woman's hand to do?

    A long colloquy follows, Santo accepts her services, and we have the result of it all in Scene iv.  Francesca is alone, and in her soliloquy she subtly and tenderly reveals a woman's undevotion to abstractions, and her love for Santo.

                                        And thou! Country!
Thou stern and awful god, of which my reason
Preaches infallibly, but which no sense
Bears witness to—I would thou hadst a shape.
It might be dwarf, deformed, maimed,—anything,
So it was thine; and it would stand to me
For beauty.   And my soul should wait on it,
And I would train my fancies all about it,
Till growing to its fashion, and most nurtured
With smiles and tears they strengthened into love.
But, Santo, this indefinite dim presence
I cannot worship.   O thou dear Apostle,
Oh what a patriot could Francesca be
If thou wert Rome.
                  *                  *                  *                  *
                                  Heart, have all thy will
Santo, I love thee! love thee! love thee! love thee!
Santo, I love thee! oh, thou wild word love!
Thou bird broke loose!   I could say on and on,
And feel existence but to speak and hear.
Santo, I love thee!   Hear, Francesca loves thee!
Santo, I love thee oh, my heart, my heart,
My heart, thou Arab mad with desert thirst
In sight of water.

    Immediately on this, Ceco, a friend, approaches and informs Francesca that Santo has been taken prisoner by the Austrians, and is sentenced to be shot at dawn.  What follows reads like a passage from the old masters of the English drama.  Francesca shows a poniard.


Tell me; tell all, ah Ceco—nay, look here
In the moonlight—Saints!   I can use it!


Wild girl, how?  Knowest thou not as well as I
Vittorio preaching to some Milanese
Who would be patriots if they knew but how,
Spent precious hours in which the German foe
Slipt from the snare?   Whereat brave Roderigo―
A gallant sword—the greatest libertine
In Milan—seized him.   In the castle dungeon
He lies since noon, and with the coming dawn


Dies, dies—who dies?   Pray you, friend, say on;
I am not wont to wander.
                                               This is well!
That last waltz spent me.   Let me see, what gallant
Danced young Francesca down?   Nay, he'll boast rarely
Yet it seems long ago—long, long ago.
Such dreamless sleep!   Thou melancholy moon,
What! have I caught my death damp of the dews?
A gallant sword—the greatest libertine
In Milan?—yes, yes,—Roderigo,—yes―
He lies since noon—ay, in the castle dungeon,
And with the dawn—no, no, thou pitiless sun!
Thou durst not rise! oh sea, if thou hast waves,
Quench him!
A gallant sword—the greatest libertine
In Milan—ah—the greatest libertine?
Who says I am not fair?   Ye gods! I curse you;
Why do ye tempt me?
It is over Ceco:
Ceco, I tell thee it is past, is past.
Santo is free.   Look thou that horses wait
Near the east gate by sunrise.

    In the next scene we are introduced to a number of students and burghers in the common room, discussing the news of the day—notably the rescue of this monk by Francesca.


                                       At midnight
(Count Grassi's child hath a fair face).


                                       At midnight
Count Grassi's child hath a fair face!   Fie, Lelio;
Why, what a traitor art thou!


                                       Attend I say!
Count Rossi's lewdness is a proverb

   (pour badiner).

Lelio, for pity—there are bachelors here—
We are not all companions in misfortune!
For pity, Lelio!


                                  You that shout for pity,
If you be Pity's followers, do her now
Your best allegiance.   Good friends, I, her quæstor,
Claim tribute for her.   A few tears will pay it.
Listen.   The young Francesca, at the price
Of her fair body, bought the captive's life;
The priest is free.   Do not cry out.   Young Rossi
Craved instant payment.   She in her superb
High loveliness, whose every look enhanced
The ransom, sent him from her, glad to grant
Another maiden hour for prayer and tears.
Francesca wore a poniard.   She is now
A maid for ever.

    (to one standing by).

How is that, sir?

Student (aside).


    The reader capable of appreciating beauty, passion, pathos, cannot fail to recognise all these in the foregoing extracts, and the same high qualities distinguish the other dramatic scenes.  At the close, the monk is tried by court-martial and condemned to be shot; and behold above the heads of the Austrian platoon, drawn out for his execution, the vision of a United Italy the dream of so many martyrs.

    Balder appeared some years after the publication of the Roman, and was not nearly so well received by the critics.  In truth, the gentlemen of the press did not seem to know very well what to make of this new candidate for their suffrages; and as abuse of the book was easier than laborious inquiries into its purport and meaning, it was abused more vigorously and universally than almost any other poetical effort of our time.  And it must at once be admitted that Balder is very singular, puzzling, and obscure.  It lacks the action, rapidity, and healthy human freshness of the Roman.  Nor is it written in the same vivid, simple English.  The actors are few—Balder, a poet; Amy, his wife; Dr. Paul, a medical man; an artist; a servant—these are all.  There is no action in it, and with the exception of Scene xxiv., in which the poet and his wife pass out into the fields, the whole tragedy transacts itself in-doors.  Balder is continually writing or musing in his study and continually through the open door comes the voice of Amy—Balder musing on his coming poetic greatness to which nature had consented, to which the elements had set their seals—Amy wailing of loneliness, of the departure of love, of her dead child, of stagnant days and nights, and madness creeping nearer and nearer.  There is the hard selfish soliloquy of the proud unnamable man, alternating with the sigh of the broken-hearted woman and the sound of her falling tears.  The book is designed to show how fatally the egotism of genius clouds and dwarfs the moral nature; how in the fierce thirst for power love dies out, and the nature is left with the strength of an archangel and the heartlessness and loneliness of a devil.  But the book is far too long, and the lesson might have been enforced after some less painful fashion.  Amy's tortures are lingering and long-drawn-out; she is broken as it were upon a slow wheel.  Balder himself is fretful, unsocial, incomprehensible—and a considerable bit of a prig as well.  His soliloquies are with himself alone.  At his open window or at his study table he will talk by the hour about his feelings; his ambitions; of "his having struck off one from the weary score of human tasks;" of his intention to make "his staff the solar centre of creation;" and of his "early-planned, long-meditated, and slowly-written epic."  He is a monstrosity, and that most detestable of all monstrosities—polite, silvery-tongued as Belial, who will never get into a healthy human anger with any one; who will subtilize, argue, give a thousand exquisite reasons for everything, and having made up his mind beforehand will take his own way in the end.  He will not get angry with you, he will sublimely pity you like a god.  He may be cruel, but he is always pleasant of speech.  Of Balder one does not know what to think, one cannot conceive what motives actuate him, one cannot forecast his conduct for a moment.  He is utterly and hatefully inexplicable; and when at the close, like some "rudderless ship whose course is a series of accidents, he drifts into murder or appears about to drift into it, you read in a sort of stupid protesting bewilderment.  Altogether, Balder is one of the most painful of books.  There is in it an atmosphere of stagnant formless woe, a crude misty misery, a selfishness that might be felt; in reading it you grope, as it were, through some solid breathless gloom.  And yet if any one would form a just estimate of the power and originality of Mr. Dobell's genius, of the swift-cleaving character of his intellect, to this book he must come and endure its pain.  With all its gloom and horror I do not know where else you will meet such sudden, unexpected, exquisite sweetness; such radiant sunniness of nature; such lovely lyrical trills, like the carol of a bird from the blossomed apple-tree in the orchard heard through the silence of a house in which a dead man is lying; such strokes of sharp pathos at which the printed page disappears to slowly glimmer back.  Out of the heavy surrounding gloom Amy breaks into sudden song

Then came the cowslip
Like a dancer in the fair,
She spread her little mat of green
And on it danced she.
With a fillet bound about her brow,
A fillet round her happy brow,
A golden fillet round her brow,
And rubies in her hair.

    There is nothing in Marlow, Webster, or Dekker, more frightful than the close of this book.  Balder is reading a scroll and talking to himself of his "unthought of glory;" Amy rises suddenly, snatches the scroll from his hand and throws it out of the open window into the moat.


                                            Glory? see!
Can it light up that pit down where I dwell
Out of the light of day and of the stars?
Out of the light o' the grave:—Ay, the dull earth
Below the dead is not so black with night
But the great day shall stir it!   Is it well
That the dull earth below the dead hath life
And I am dark for ever?   Is that well?
Is that well, husband?   Husband, is it well?
Oh yes, thy glory; yes—he must have glory,
Yes, he must have his glory; he can stand
All day in the sun, but he must have his glory!
He has walked here up in the sunshine world,
He has been in the wind and the sweet rain.
And none cried "Upset the cup o' the honey time,
Upset the cup o' the honey time,"
And I am empty and dry.
                  *                  *                  *                  *
I am his wife!   This is my murderer!
Make way, make way, this is a murderer!
I am in hell, slain, lost, robbed, murdered, mad,
He did it, he!


                           He knows it.


                                                     Mad, mad, mad.
                                             (Sinking in his arms in a swoon.)


Now, now, my soul! it must be ere she wake,
I will bear this alone; she shall not know
The hand that strikes—This hand!   Nor man nor fiend
Would do thee harm but me!   Now—now—yet oh!
That it must be now.   That it had been while
The fire of madness burned her, and she swelled
And blackened like a burning house, once home
Now but a house in flames.
                  *                  *                  *                  *
                                                                  (Begins to divest her.)
                                         Heaving breast,
How oft have I undone thy weeds as now,
And very softly, very silently
As now—and not more tenderly, no not
More tenderly, no, on thy bridal night.
No, not more tenderly.   But oh, you heavens,
Wherefore and wherefore?
                                                Here under her bosom
It cannot fail her.   Hide thee, hide thee, Heart,
Poor fluttering bird, why wilt thou stir the lilies?
Dost thou not know me, who I am?   Soft, soft;
Thou hast so often struggled in mine arms
Asleep, and I have wakened thee with kisses,
I pray thee do not struggle now, my child,
I cannot rouse thee from this dream.
                                                                      Oh, God,
If she should clasp her hands upon her breast
And moan!  If she should feel through this thin trance
The cold steel ere it pierce, and call on me
For help!—but I will hold thee fast, my child,
Fast in these arms, altho' thou start and cry,
And shield thee from myself!   If I strike ill
The first stroke, and she wake and strive for life;
If she should ope her eyes but once too late
And go forth to believe for ever more
I struck unkindly―
                                                (Throws a kerchief over her face.)
                                            No, she shall not see me,
And now thy living face is gone for ever,
And I have murdered thee before thy time.
Nor God, nor demon could have wrung from me
This moment, the last moment, only thou,
Oh, only thou
                                                     (Frantically lifts the kerchief.)


                              Thou there, all there!
Help me, my child.   Ay, look so beautiful,
'Tis well if this be heaven this is not
To kill thee—Now.

    The power of this is indisputable, but how it all comes about, how it evolves itself out of the body of the work, are not a little obscure.

    England in Time of War is Mr. Dobell's latest work, and it is in many respects his homeliest, simplest, and most delightful.  There is nothing of the enormous egotism of Balder about it, because from the nature of the cases it deals with a variety of characters, and touches on a multitude of interests.  The book is mainly composed of lyrics, but they are dramatic lyrics; only on one or two occasions the writer speaks in his proper person, and an attempt is made to give expression to every rank of English society in its relation to the war then raging.  In carrying out his idea the writer necessarily passes from cot to castle, from milkmaid to merchant.  The war lies at the centre of each of these lyrics, but there is remarkable variety in the people who utter them.  There is the market-wife who mixes Bible and newspaper, and who imagines that the armies of Israel fought with bayonets and wore scarlet; the merriment of the recruits' ball; the wail of the mad woman whose lover has been slain; the sorely-wounded officer slowly becoming convalescent, as he is wheeled through the sunshine and over the primroses of English spring.  In these little songs there are for the most part an abounding free-flowing music, a light airy gracefulness of touch, a sunny playfulness at times which is almost humour, a homeliness and sincerity of pathos which needs no fine words.  Some of the humblest, dealing with milkmaids and broken-hearted dying farmers, are more poetical than the ambitious soliloquies in Balder.

    Here is an exquisite lyric which has all the charm, simplicity, and colour of an old ballad:—

The murmur of the mourning ghost
        That keeps the shadowy kine,
Oh, Keith of Ravelston
        The sorrows of thy line!

Ravelston, Ravelston,
        The merry path that leads
Down the golden morning hill
        And thro' the silver meads.

Ravelston, Ravelston,
        The stile beneath the tree,
The maid that kept her mother's kine,
        The song that sang she!

She sang her song, she kept her kine,
        She sat beneath the thorn
When Andrew Keith of Ravelston
        Rode thro' the Monday morn.

His henchmen sing, his hawk-bells ring,
        His belted jewels shine!
Oh, Keith of Ravelston,
        The sorrows of thy line!

Year after year, when Andrew came
        Comes evening down the glade,
And still there sits a moonshine ghost
        Where sat the sunshine maid,

Her misty hair is faint and fair,
        She keeps the shadowy kine;
Oh, Keith of Ravelston,
        The sorrows of thy line!

I lay my hand upon the stile,
        The stile is lone and cold,
The burnie that goes babbling by
        Says nought that can be told.

Yet, stranger! here, from year to year,
        She keeps her shadowy kine;
Oh, Keith of Ravelston,
        The sorrows of thy line!

Step out these steps, where Andrew stood—
        Why blanch thy cheek for fear?
The ancient stile is not alone,
        'Tis not the burn I bear!

She makes her immemorial moan,
        She keeps her shadowy kine;
Oh, Keith of Ravelston,
        The sorrows of thy line!

    In this little poem are not the palpable and the impalpable, the past and the present, subtly intermixed like day and night in twilight?

    If a man's literary success be judged by the number of editions his works have reached, and the number of readers he has secured, then, when compared with many of his contemporaries, Mr. Dobell's literary success does not seem considerable.  And, unquestionably, every sensible man must consider that popularity is an important element in literary success.  If you sing a song in public, and if no one will listen to your singing, as a public singer you have most certainly failed.  If you say that you don't care whether people listen or not, then why sing in public at all? why not confine your melodious utterance to your private apartment, and dedicate it to your own private delight?  The Roman and Balder have reached second editions, England in Time of War is yet in its first; Mr. Tupper is at present advertising the Bijou Edition of Proverbial Philosophy, being something like the hundred and twentieth thousand.  I do not put these two statements together to point a barren sneer at Mr. Tupper—that has been a great deal too much the custom of late, and many of the writers who laugh the loudest at Proverbial Philosophy would have been extremely puzzled to have written it—but I bring them together to show that poetry of the highest class may not find a public, while poetry of a far lower grade is sometimes enormously successful in that respect.  But then, if devotedness of attachment is in these matters to be considered and valued, the love of the six readers of the unpopular poet may outweigh the love of a hundred readers of the popular one.  In the old Scottish days the King over the Water was pledged far seldomer, but, when pledged, with a million times more enthusiasm than was ever King George.  In the palmy days of Byron and the Edinburgh Review, Wordsworth was the least read but the most intensely loved poet in England.  It is curious how unpopular books are loved by the men who like them and find spiritual sustenance in them.  There is, in reading such books, all the difference between dining at an ordinary and in a private room with select friends.  The Phantasties of Mr. George MacDonald is a book but little talked about; but I happen to know some six men to whom admiration for that most exquisite of modern prose poems is a sort of bond of union.  Mr. Dobell has an audience, not so large as many, but more devoted than most.  Whether he is to the full aware of that devotedness, I cannot say; but I am certain, knowing his serious and noble nature, that whether his books are popular or the reverse is to him a matter of no very considerable moment.  He is one of the few men who can say, and that too without the slightest suspicion of cant or insincerity, that having done his work faithfully and well—being the matter in which he has strict personal concern—he is not too anxious as to what reception his work may meet—that being more specially the concern of others.




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