Imatges de pÓgina
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THE PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST-TABLE.

WHAT HE SAID, WHAT HE HEARD, AND WHAT HE SAW.

A young fellow, born of good stock, atmosphere of oxygen and azote, was there in one of the more thoroughly civilized anything like the condition of the young portions of these United States of Amer- American of the nineteenth century. ica, bred in good principles, inheriting Having in possession or in prospect the a social position which makes him at best part of half a world, with all its clihis ease everywhere, means sufficient to mates and soils to choose from; equipped educate him thoroughly without taking with wings of fire and smoke that fly with away the stimulus for vigorous exertion, him day and night, so that he counts his and with a good opening in some honor- journey not in miles, but in degrees, and able path of labor, is the finest sight our sees the seasons change as the wild fowl private satellite has had the opportunity sees them in his annual flights; with huge of inspecting on the planet to which she leviathans always ready to take him on belongs. In some respects it was better their broad backs and push behind them to be a young Greek. If we may trust with their pectoral or caudal fins the wathe old marbles,- my friend with his arm ters that seam the continent or separate stretched over my head, above there, (in the hemispheres; heir of all old civilizaplaster of Paris,) or the discobolus, whom tions, founder of that new one which, if one may see at the principal sculpture all the prophecies of the human heart are gallery of this metropolis, — those Greek not lies, is to be the noblest, as it is the young men

were of supreme beauty. last; isolated in space from the races that Their close curls, their elegantly set are governed by dynasties whose divine heads, column-like necks, straight noses, right grows out of human wrong, yet knit short, curled lips, firm chins, deep chests, into the most absolute solidarity with light flanks, large muscles, small joints, mankind of all times and places by the were finer than anything we ever see. one great thought he inherits as his naIt may well be questioned whether the tional birthright; free to form and exhuman shape will ever present itself press his opinions on almost every subagain in a race of such perfect sym- ject, and assured that he will soon acmetry. But the life of the youthful quire the last franchise which men withGreek was local, not planetary, like that hold from man, — that of stating the laws of the young American. He had a string of his spiritual being and the beliefs he of legends, in place of our Gospels. He accepts without hindrance except from had no printed books, no newspaper, no clearer views of truth,-he seems to want steam caravans, no forks, no soap, none nothing for a large, wholesome, noble, of the thousand cheap conveniences which beneficent life. In fact, the chief danger have become matters of necessity to our is that he will think the whole planet is modern civilization. Above all things, if made for him, and forget that there are he aspired to know as well as to enjoy, some possibilities left in the débris of the he found knowledge not diffused every- old-world civilization which deserve a where about him, so that a day's labor certain respectful consideration at his would buy him more wisdom than a year hands. could master, but held in private hands, The combing and clipping of this shaghoarded in precious manuscripts, to be gy wild continent are in some measure sought for only as gold is sought in nar- done for him by those who have gone row fissures and in the bed of brawling before. Society has subdivided itself streams. Never, since man came into this enough to have a place for every form

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of talent. Thus, if a man show the least asked No, no, no! she couldn't say sign of ability as a sculptor or a painter, it; but her mother-oh, the depth of mafor instance, he finds the means of edu- ternal sagacity!- guessed it all without cation and a demand for his services. another word !— When your mother, I Even a man who knows nothing but sci- say, came and told her mother she was ence will be provided for, if he does not engaged, and your grandmother told your think it necessary to hang about his birth- grandfather, how much did they know place all his days, — which is a most un- of the intimate nature of the young genAmerican weakness. The apron-strings tleman to whom she had pledged her exof an American mother are made of In- istence? I will not be so hard as to ask dia-rubber. Her boy belongs where he how much your respected mamma knew is wanted; and that young Marylander of at that time of the intimate nature of ours spoke for all our young men, when your respected papa, though, if we should he said that his home was wherever the compare a young girl's man-as-she-thinksstars and stripes blew over his head. him with a forty-summered matron's man

And that leads me to say a few words as-she-finds him, I have my doubts as to of this young gentleman, who made that whether the second would be a fac-simile audacious movement lately which I chron- of the first in most cases. icled in my last record, - jumping over

The idea that in this world each young the seats of I don't know how many board- person is to wait until he or she finds ers to put himself in the place which the that precise counterpart who alone of all Little Gentleman's absence had left vacant creation was meant for him or her, and at the side of Iris. When a young man

then fall instantly in love with it, is pretis found habitually at the side of any one

ty enough, only it is not Nature's way. given young lady,—when he lingers where It is not at all essential that all pairs of she stays, and hastens when she leaves, human beings should be, as we sometimes when his eyes follow her as she moves, and say of particular couples, “ born for each rest upon her when she is still, - when other.” Sometimes a man or a woman he begins to grow a little timid, he who is made a great deal better and happier was so bold, and a little pensive, he who in the end for having had to conquer was so gay, whenever accident finds them the faults of the one beloved, and make alone,—when he thinks very often of the the fitness not found at first, by gradual given young lady, and names her very assimilation. There is a class of good seldom,

women who have no right to marry perWhat do you say about it, my charm- fectly good men, because they have the ing young expert in that sweet science in power of saving those who would go to which, perhaps, a long experience is not ruin but for the guiding providence of the first of qualifications ?

a good wife. I have known many such -But we don't know anything about cases. It is the most momentous questhis young man, except that he is good- tion a woman is ever called upon to delooking, and somewhat high-spirited, and cide, whether the faults of the man she strong-limbed, and has a generous style loves are beyond remedy and will drag of nature, — all very promising, but by her down, or whether she is competent no means proving that he is a proper to be his earthly redeemer and lift him lover for Iris, whose heart we turned to her own level. inside out when we opened that sealed A person of genius should marry a perbook of hers.

son of character. Genius does not herd Ah, my dear young friend! When with genius. The musk-deer and the civyour mamma — then, if you will believe et-cat are never found in company. They it, a very slight young lady, with very don't care for strange scents, — they like pretty hair and figure - came and told plain animals better than perfumed ones. her mamma that your papa bad — had- Nay, if you will have the kindness to no

tice, Nature has not gifted my lady musk- We are always valuing the soul's temdeer with the personal peculiarity by perature by the thermometer of public which her lord is so widely known. deed or word. Yet the great sun him

Now when genius allies itself with self, when he pours his noonday beams character, the world is very apt to think upon some vast hyaline boulder, rent character has the best of the bargain. A from the eternal ice-quarries, and floatbrilliant woman marries a plain, manly ing toward the tropics, never warms it fellow, with a simple intellectual mechan- a fraction above the thirty-two degrees ism;— we have all seen such cases. The of Fahrenheit that marked the moment world often stares a good deal and won- when the first drop trickled down its ders. She should have taken that other, side. with a far more complex mental machin- How we all like the spirting up of a ery. She might have had a watch with fountain, seemingly against the law that the philosophical compensation-balance, makes water everywhere slide, roll, leap, with the metaphysical index which can tumble headlong, to get as low as the split a second into tenths, with the mu- earth will let it! That is genius. But sical chime which can turn every quarter what is this transient upward movement, of an hour into melody. She has chosen which gives us the glitter and the raina plain one, that keeps good time, and bow, to that unsleeping, all-present force that is all.

of gravity, the same yesterday, to-day, Let her alone! She knows what she and forever, (if the universe be eternal) is about. Genius has an infinitely deep- - the great outspread hand of God himer reverence for character than character self, forcing all things down into their can have for genius. To be sure, genius places, and keeping them there? Such, gets the world's praise, because its work in smaller proportion, is the force of charis a tangible product, to be bought, or acter to the fitful movements of genius, had for nothing. It bribes the common as they are or have been linked to each voice to praise it by presents of speeches, other in many a household, where one poems, statues, pictures, or whatever it name was historic, and the other, let me can please with. Character evolves its say the nobler, unknown, save by some best products for home consumption; but, faint reflected ray, borrowed from its mind you, it takes a deal more to feed a lustrous companion. family for thirty years than to make a Oftentimes, as I have lain swinging on holiday feast for our neighbors once or the water, in the swell of the Chelsea twice in our lives. You talk of the fire ferry-boats, in that long, sharp-pointed, of genius. Many a blessed woman, who black cradle in which I love to let the dies unsung and unremembered, has giv- great mother rock me, I have seen a tall en out more of the real vital heat that ship glide by against the tide, as if drawn keeps the life in human souls, without a by some invisible tow-line, with a hundred spark flitting through her humble chim- strong arms pulling it. Her sails hung ney to tell the world about it, than would unfilled, her streamers were drooping, set a dozen theories smoking, or a hun- she had neither side-wheel nor sterndred odes simmering, in the brains of so wheel; still she moved on, stately, in many men of genius. It is in latent ca- serene triumph, as if with her own life. loric, if I may borrow a philosophical ex- But I knew that on the other side of the pression, that many of the noblest hearts ship, hidden beneath the great hulk that give out the life that warms them. Cor- swam so majestically, there was a little nelia's lips grow white, and her pulse toiling steam-tug, with heart of fire and hardly warms her thin fingers,— but she arms of iron, that was hugging it close has melted all the ice out of the hearts and dragging it bravely on; and I knew, of those young Gracchi, and her lost heat that, if the little steam-tug untwined her is in the blood of her youthful heroes. arms and left the tall ship, it would wallow and roll about, and drift hither and there is any distinct understanding bethither, and go off with the refluent tide, tween them, but that the affinity which no man knows whither. And so I have has drawn him from the remote corner known more than one genius, high-deck- where he sat to the side of the young ed, full-freighted, wide-sailed, gay-pen- girl is quietly bringing their two natures noned, that, but for the bare toiling arms, together. Just now she is all given up to and brave, warm, beating heart of the another; but when he no longer calls upon faithful little wife, that nestled close in her daily thoughts and cares, I warn you his shadow, and clung to him, so that no not to be surprised, if this bud of friendwind or wave could part them, and drag- ship open like the evening primrose, with ged him on against all the tide of circum- a sound as of a sudden stolen kiss, and stance, would soon have gone down the lo! the flower of full-blown love lies unstream and been heard of no more.— No, folded before you. I am too much a lover of genius, I sometimes think, and too often get impatient And now the days had come for our with dull people, so that, in their weak little friend, whose whims and weaknesses talk, where nothing is taken for granted, had interested us, perhaps, as much as I look forward to some future possible his better traits, to make ready for that state of development, when a gesture long journey which is easier to the crippassing between a beatified human soul ple than to the strong man, and on which and an archangel shall signify as much none enters so willingly as he who has as the complete history of a planet, from borne the life-long load of infirmity durthe time when it curdled to the time when ing his earthly pilgrimage. At this point, its sun was burned out. And yet, when under most circumstances, I would close a strong brain is weighed with a true the doors and draw the veil of privacy heart, it seems to me like balancing a over the chamber where the birth which bubble against a wedge of gold. we call death, out of life into the un

It takes a very true man to be a known world, is working its mystery. fitting companion for a woman of genius, But this friend of ours stood alone in the but not a very great one. I am not sure world, and, as the last act of his life was that she will not embroider her ideal bet- mainly in harmony with the rest of its ter on a plain ground than on one with drama, I do not here feel the force of the a brilliant pattern already worked in its objection commonly lying against that texture. But as the very essence of gen- death-bed literature which forms the staius is truthfulness, contact with realities, ple of a certain portion of the press. Let (which are always ideas behind shows of me explain what I mean, so that my form or language,) nothing is so con- readers may think for themselves a littemptible as falsehood and pretence in tle, before they accuse me of hasty exits eyes. Now it is not easy to find a pressions. perfectly true woman, and it is very hard The Roman Catholic Church has certo find a perfectly true man. And a tain formulæ for its dying children, to woman of genius, who has the sagacity which almost all of them attach the greatto choose such a one as her companion, est importance. There is hardly a crimshows more of the divine gift in so doing inal so abandoned that he is not anxious than in her finest talk or her most bril- to receive the “consolations of religion" liant work of letters or of art.

in his last hours. Even if he be senseless,

but still living, I think that the form is I have been a good while coming at a gone through with, just as baptism is adsecret, for which I wished to prepare you ministered to the unconscious new-born before telling it. I think there is a kindly child. Now we do not quarrel with these feeling growing up between Iris and our forms. We look with reverence and afyoung Marylander. Not that I suppose fection upon all symbols which give peace

A poor fellow

and comfort to our fellow-creatures. But spoils. The Roman Catholic or other the value of the new-born child's passive priest who insists on the reception of his consent to the ceremony is null, as testi- formula means kindly, we trust, and very mony to the truth of a doctrine. The commonly succeeds in getting the acquies automatic closing of a dying man's lips cence of the subject of his spiritual suron the consecrated wafer proves nothing gery. But do not let us take the testiin favor of the Real Presence, or any mony of people who are in the worst other doctrine. And, speaking generally, condition to form opinions as evidence of the evidence of dying men in favor of the truth or falsehood of that which they any belief is to be received with great accept. A lame man's opinion of dancing caution.

'is not good for much. They commonly tell the truth about who can neither eat nor drink, who is their present feelings, no doubt. A dy- sleepless and full of pains, whose flesh ing man's deposition about anything he has wasted from him, whose blood is like knows is good evidence. But it is of water, who is gasping for breath, is not much less consequence what a man thinks in a condition to judge fairly of human and says when he is changed by pain, life, which in all its main adjustments is weakness, apprehension, than what he intended for men in a normal, healthy thinks when he is truly and wholly him- condition. It is a remark I have heard self. Most murderers die in a very pious

from the wise Patriarch of the Medical frame of mind, expecting to go to glory Profession among us, that the moral conat once; yet no man believes he shall dition of patients with disease above the meet a larger average of pirates and cut- great breathing-muscle, the diaphragm, is throats in the streets of the New Jeru- much more hopeful than that of patients salem than of honest folks that died in with disease below it, in the digestive ortheir beds.

gans. Many an honest ignorant man Unfortunately, there has been a very has given us pathology when he thought great tendency to make capital of various he was giving us psychology. With this kinds out of dying men's speeches. The preliminary caution I shall proceed to lies that have been put into their mouths the story of the Little Gentleman's leavfor this purpose are endless. The prime ing us. minister, whose last breath was spent in When the divinity-student found that scolding his nurse, dies with a magnifi- our fellow-boarder was not likely to recent apothegm on his lips,— manufac- main long with us, he, being a young tured by a reporter. Addison gets up man of tender conscience and kindly naa tableau and utters an admirable sen- ture, was not a little exercised on his betiment,

- or somebody makes the post- half. It was undeniable that on several humous dying epigram for him. The occasions the Little Gentleman had exincoherent babble of green fields is trans- pressed himself with a good deal of freelated into the language of stately senti- dom on a class of subjects which, accordment. One would think, all that dyinging to the divinity-student, he had no men had to do was to say the prettiest right to form an opinion upon. He therething they could,- to make their rhetor- fore considered his future welfare in jeopical point, and then bow themselves po- ardy. litely out of the world.

The Muggletonian sect have a very odd Worse than this is the torturing of dy- way of dealing with people. If I, the ing people to get their evidence in favor Professor, will only give in to the Mugof this or that favorite belief. The camp- gletonian doctrine, there shall be no quesfollowers of proselyting sects have come tion through all that persuasion that I am in at the close of every life where they competent to judge of that doctrine; nay, could get in, to strip the languishing soul I shall be quoted as evidence of its truth, of its thoughts, and carry them off as while I live, and cited, after I am dead, as

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