Imagens das páginas

son, therefore, when made in reference to our own country utterly fails. There are no points of similarity. The same standard of measurement cannot apply to monarchial and republican manners, and the error lies in attempting to combine principles which have no affinity. I do not make these remarks with a view of derogating in the slightest degree from that reciprocal homage due from one British subject to another, but to show the inconsistency of that acrimonious spirit too often manifested upon both sides of the water, the working of a system fundamentally different from our own, and the influence which that system must have upon the mind and character of individuals, and of consequence upon the aspect of society.

No person in England, below the rank of a peer, presumes to hold familiar intercourse with a peer; it would be to carry war into the entrenched camp of the most privileged order, and to break down the barriers of aristocratic society. I remember a case in point which occurred a few years ago in the neighborhood of London. A friend of mine, a mercantile gentleman, and a bank director, invited a codirector, who happened to be a baron, to dine with him. He accepted the invitation. When dinner was announced, my friend reserved for the baron the honor of handing his own lady to the dining room. To his signal mortification, the honor was declined, upon the ground that she was not a titled lady, and the baron had the honor of walking into the dining room by himself.

The baron acted agreeably to the etiquette of court. But as he accepted an invitation to dine with a commoner, it may well be doubted whether he acted agreeably to the etiquette of a gentleman. At all events the incident serves to illustrate my views of the distinction of rank, and to show the pertinacity with which that distinction is maintained. My friend, himself, would not accept an invitation to dine with a tradesman, nor would he, under any circumstances, invite a tradesman to dine with him. In fact, he dare not. The customs of the country will not admit of it. Were he to make such an assault upon the spirit of feudalism and the etiquette of his rank, all his friends, of equal standing, would

forsake him. They would consider themselves insulted, and would decline a future invitation.

The same principle of exclusion runs through all the various ranks 1 have specified. I do not mean with an undeviating uniformity never to be departed from, but as a general rule by which English society is governed.

Upon national festivals, as Christmas, or any other gala day, it is common for the lords of the soil to invite their tenants, the wealthy merchants, bankers, and manufacturers, their clerks and servants, to their festive halls; but they dine in the kitchen or some other equally appropriate apartment-seldom with their host.

There is not a man in England who is not aristocratical in feelings towards all below him. It is an impossibility that it should be otherwise, and any pretence to the contrary is sheer deception. Hence, you will perceive. that the scattered fragments of the feudal system still float upon the current of society, and carry with them the most ample testimony of the origi nal wreck. It is upon this principle that one can easily account for the fire of indignation which blazed in the bosom of the author of "American Notes," whose name it is well enough to forget, and made him ashamed to acknowledge his own countrymen whom he happened to meet in his journey from Philadelphia to Washington. He speaks of their having settled in America-of their gross and barbarous familiarity of daring to address him by way of question and answer, and of demeaning themselves as if they were his equals. Here one sees the feudal spirit developed in all the brilliancy of its native hues, emanating, it must be admitted, from a very subordinate cast, but, nevertheless, just as strong and unbending as if he were born to command. All that rampant self-estimation, engraved upon the bone and nursed in the flesh, broke from its moorings the moment he met with those from whom he expected reverence and submission, and which from the same family feeling would undoubtedly have been rendered in their own country. But they had resided in America a sufficient length of time to neutralize their national sympathies.They were not themselves aware of the

slightest rudeness. They may have been landed proprietors, cultivating their own farms, independent in their circumstances, judging of mankind by their moral worth and personal excellence, and in no respect inferior to the author, nay, perhaps, of two, the better man. In them the spirit of feudalism had evaporated. In the author it still held sovereign sway. He brought his monarchial pack with him, and had not discernment enough to discover that he had strayed from the market.

Lady Montague, writing from Vienna to her friends in England, notices the fastidious manner in which points of rank were maintained at the Austrian court. In the narrow streets of that capital, where it was impossible to pass each other, two coaches driving in opposite directions met; each of the ladies in the two coaches claimed the prerogative of rank, and consequently each refused to back out and give place to the other. There they sat until two o'clock in the morning, and resolved to continue sitting rather than give up the point of precedence, until death should step in and settle the controversy.

In order to clear the street, encumbered with two such loads of dignity, the emperor sent his guards to part them. The ladies, however, refused to move an inch, until the ingenious expedient was hit upon of taking them both out of their carriages at the same time, and in the same manner, and conveying them away in chairs. Thus the honor and rank of both were most signally vindicated. The passion for order is so omnipotent, especially among the ladies, that they mourn upon the death of their husbands, and are ready to break their hearts out of pure grief, because that fatal event puts an end to their rank.

made subserviency as much a universal law as if it were sanctioned by legislative acts. I am quite aware that it is a common and a fashionable thing for my countrymen to attribute the thoughtfulness and reserve and distance observable in the English character to pride and haughtiness. Nothing can be more erroneous. It is a part of the system. The manners of the people are the natural and necessary result of the form of government under which they live. From the remarks already suggested, it must be evident that the very existence of the ruling principle of aristocracy depends upon the exclusiveness of rank and class; and the strict maintenance of that principle resolves itself into a moral and civil duty, and is no evidence of pride or haughtiness, notwithstanding it has all the appearance of being both, in the view of one who has not been taught to see the reason why it is necessary.

Undoubtedly that kind of demeanor in a republican would justly be considered as undeniable evidence of the highest arrogance and supercilious bearing, for just the same reason in its inverse application, that he has no exclusive rank to sustain by the requirements of the society in which he moves, and no inferior artificial ranks against whose encroachments he is bound to guard.

The moral influence of the various co-existing and yet mutually independent ranks of the social condition of England is inconceivably great and powerful. The idea of reverence for rank, irrespective of personal merit, descends from the crown to the lowest stratum of society. Wealth in all countries carries a modified influence, but is no ground for the distinction of order.One of the most remarkable features in this arbitrary system-arbitrary in our republican view of the subject, is the fact, that the custom of ages has

Whether or no such a system is desirable in the abstract is not the question we are considering, but whether it be consistent with the civil rights, habits, and enjoyments of those who choose to live under its sway, and believe it to be the only one suited to their social wants and national happiness.

Surely there need be no more pride and arrogance in an aristocrat maintaining aristocracy than there is in a republican maintaining republicanism. The thing is the same, working through different channels, and combining with different elements. I do not suppose there is one whit of difference in reference to the nature of pride in the whole human family; but the forms of society, the course of education, and the moral discipline of all kinds of religion, give different directions to its current, as it sweeps along within more contracted or more extended embankments.

The moral discipline of aristocracy is an every-day affair, and plies itself

upon every individual in the state; so that the strangest of all things would be that of being jostled out of his rank and brought to a level of equality with one beneath him. That would be a degradation—an exilement from everything held most dear, a stripping off and wrenching away the golden ligatures that bind him to the social compact.

We may therefore conclude that the service and voluntary discipline of aristocracy are regarded by Englishmen as such extraordinary privileges, that no charms of popular allurement, no promise of equalized greatness, and no hopes of public plunder, will ever induce them to relinquish. The government is exactly suited to the people, and the people to the government.The wheels move with singular harmony, without forcing the will of the subject, impairing his liberty, or endangering the public security. No marvel then that a nation, thus charmed with royalty, and attached to all its details, always rises instinctively as one man at the thrilling melody of "God save the King."

Every sensible man condemns a malignant and acrimonious spririt, because it betrays a want of benevolence and of that delicate sensibility of Christian principles which ought to lead the mind to make another's woes or another's wrongs, whether real or imaginary, its own. We justly complain of the taunting, vituperative and contemptuous spirit which breathes in European publications, and which comes to our shores floating upon every breeze. "The Model Republic" is the target of ridicule;-the manners of the people, the peculiarities of our institutions, and even universal

religious toleration, are fruitful topics for untempered wit and sarcastic declamation. But whilst we see and feel all this, it may be well to consider whether we, ourselves, are entirely exempt from the indulgence of the same censorious spirit which we so promptly condemn in others.

We choose a republican form of government, and demand what right have other nations to interfere with that choice?-to launch, with an unscrupulous hand, their envenomed arrows from the quiver of wit and ridicule against institutions of which they have at best but a theoretic knowledge?

England chooses a monarchy, and what occasion have we to object to that choice, and to storm the fortress of her aristocracy with congressional artillery, because incompatible with our notions of a wise and popular government ?— So long as we are satisfied with our choice of system, ought we not to allow other nations to be satisfied with theirs? The mutual asperity which pervades the public mind, and disturbs the tranquillity of society, on the ground of a difference in the form of government and its consequences, discovers a diseased intellect, and must result in reciprocal alienation and the blotting out of every particle of Christian benevolence and amiable sentiment. The only good point of humanity which survives "the loss of Paradise, and the richest fragment of that blissful state, is sacrificed.

In my next communication I purpose to take a short view of the aspect of society in the United States, and to show why the manners of the people are and ought to be essentially different from those of a monarchy.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


"Génes dans ce temps achetait tout le blé de l'Europe."

FOR an hour I have been endeavoring, without success, to make out the meaning of this passage-which I find in a French translation of Lady Morgan's" Letters on Italy." I could not conceive how or why all the corn of Europe should have been bought, or what corn, in any shape, had to do with the matter at issue. Procuring the original work, after some trouble, I read that "the Genoese, at this period, bought the scorn of all Europe by," etc., etc. Now, here the translator is by no means so much in fault as Lady Morgan, who is too prone to commit sin with the verbum insolens. I can see no force, here, in the unusuality of "bought," as applied to scorn-(although there are cases in which the expression would be very appropriate) -and cannot condemn the Frenchman for supposing the s a superfluity and a misprint.

There is a double entendre in the old adage about Truth in a Well; but, taking the profundity of Truth as at least one of the meanings-understanding it to be implied that correct ideas on any topic are to be fished up only from great depths, and that to have common sense it is necessary to abysmal this being taken as the moral of the adage, I have my objections on the spot. The profundity of which so much is said, lies more frequently in the places where we seek Truth than in those where we find her. Just as the moderately-sized shop-signs are better adapted to their object than those which are Brobdignagian, so, in at least three cases out of seven, is a fact (but especially a reason) overlooked solely on account of being excessively obvious. It is almost impossible, too, to see a thing that lies immediately beneath one's nose.

I may be wrong—and no doubt I am

-still it is a fancy of mine that much of what people call profundity has been fairly thrown away on that ever-recurring topic, the decline of the drama.

Were the question demanded of me "Why has the drama declined?" my answer should be-" It has not; it has only been left out of sight by every thing else." The dramatic art, more than any other, is essentially imitative, and thus engenders and keeps alive in its votaries the imitative propensity, as well as the imitative power. Hence one drama is apt to be fashioned too nearly after another-the dramatist of to-day is prone to step too closely in the foot-prints of the dramatist of yesterday. In a word there is less originality-less independence-less thought

less reference to principles-less ef fort to keep up with the general movement of the time--more supinenessmore bullet-headedness-more rank and arrant conventionality in the drama than in any other single thing in existence which aspires to the dignity of Art. This spirit of imitation, developed in adherence to old, and therefore to uncouth models, has not, indeed, caused the drama to "decline," but has overthrown it by not permitting it to soar. While every other art has kept pace with the thinking and improving spirit of the age, it alone has remained stationary, prating about Eschylus and the Chorus, or mouthing Euphuism because the Old English masters" have thought proper to mouth it before. Let us imagine Bulwer to-day presenting us a novel after the model of the old novelists, or as nearly on their plan as "The Hunchback" is on the plan of "Ferrex and Porrex :"-let him write us a "Grand Cyrus," and what should we do with it, and what should we think of its inditer? And yet this "Grand Cyrus" was a very admirable work in its day.

The fact is, the drama is not now

*Sculpture, perhaps, excepted.

supported, for the simple reason that it does not deserve support. We must burn or bury the old models. We need Art, as Art is now beginning to be understood:-that is to say, in place of absurd conventionalities we demand principles founded in Nature and in common sense. The common sense even of the mob, can no longer be affronted, night after night, with impunity. If, for example, a play-wright will persist in making a hero deliver on the stage a soliloquy such as was soliloquized by no human being in ordinary life-ranting transcendentalism at the audience as nothing conceivable ever before ranted, short of a Piankitank candidate for Congress-splitting the ears of the house and endangering the lives of the orchestra, the while that a confidential friend who holds him by the shoulder is supposed not to hear a syllable of all that is said:-if the playwright, I say, will persist in perpetrating these atrocities, and a hundred worse, for no better reason than that there were people simple enough to perpetrate them five hundred years ago-if he will do this, and will not do anything else to the end of time-what right has he, I demand,to look any honest man in the face, and talk to him about what he calls "the decline of the drama?"

"The Alphadelphia Tocsin !"*. (Phoebus, what a name to fill the sounding trump of future fame!) and “devoted to the interest of the laboring classes"-by which, I presume, are intended the classes who have to pronounce, every morning, the great appellation of the paper itself. Such a work should not want editors, and accordingly we are informed that it has eight. What on earth is the meaning of Alphadelphia? Is the "Alphadelphia Tocsin" the tocsin of the city of the double A's?—if so, the idea is too easily slipped into that of the A double S.

I fully agree with Simms (W. Gilmore) that the Provençal troubadour had, in his melodious vocabulary, no title more appropriate than the Cuban "Areytos" for a collection of tender or

[blocks in formation]

sinks the heart,

A world, from all the world apart,
Chained idly on the sea!
How droops the eye-how
Vain wishing to be free!
How dread the fear that fills the thought,
That winds may never rise
To waft us from this weary spot
Beneath these burning skies!

This again is exceedingly spirited :—

Now are the winds about us in their glee,
Tossing the slender tree;

Whirling the sands about his furious car
March cometh from afar,
Breaks the sealed magic of old Winter's


And rends his glassy streams.

[blocks in formation]

Title of a new journal published at Alphadelphia, Michigan. "Ayretos, or Songs of the South."

« AnteriorContinuar »