صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Lydgate's hair never became white. He died when he was only fifty, leaving his wife and children provided for by a heavy insurance on his life. He had gained an excellent practice, alternating, according to the season, between London and a Continental bathing-place; having written a treatise on Gout, a disease which has a good deal of wealth on its side. His skill was relied on by many paying patients, but he always regarded himself as a failure; he had not done what he once meant to do. His acquaintances thought him enviable to have so charming a wife, and nothing happened to shake their opinion. Rosamond never committed a second compromising indiscretion. She simply continued to be mild in her temper, inflexible in her judgment, disposed to admonish her husband, and able to frustrate him by stratagem. As the years went on, he opposed her less and less, whence Rosamond concluded that he had learned the value of her opinion; on the other hand, she had a more thorough conviction of his talents now that he gained a good income, and instead of the threatened cage in Bride Street provided one all flowers and gilding, fit for the bird-of-paradise that she resembled. In brief, Lydgate was what is called a successful man. But he died prematurely of diphtheria, and Rosamond afterward married an elderly and wealthy physician, who took kindly to her four children.

Dorothea never repented that she had given up position and fortune to marry Will Ladislaw, and he would have held it the greatest shame as well as sorrow to him if she had repented. They were bound to each other by a love stronger than any impulses which could have marred it. No life would have been possible to Dorothea which was not filled with emotion, and she had now a life filled also with a beneficent activity which she had not the doubtful pains of discovering and marking out for herself. Will became an ardent public man, working well in those times when reforms were begun with a young hopefulness of immediate good which has been much checked in our days, and getting at last returned to Parliament by a constituency who paid his expenses. Dorothea could have liked nothing better, since wrongs existed, than that her husband should be in the thick of a struggle against them, and that she should give him wifely help. Many who knew her thought it a pity that so substantive and rare a creature should have been absorbed into the life of another, and be only known in a certain circle as a wife and mother.

Sir James never ceased to regard Dorothea's second marriage as a mistake; and indeed this remained the tradition concerning it in Middlemarch, where she was spoken of to a younger generation as a fine girl who married a sickly clergyman, old enough to be her father, and in little more than a year after his death gave up her estate to marry his cousin, young enough to have been his son, with no property, and not well-born. Those who had not seen anything of Dorothea usually observed that she could not have been a nice woinan," else she would not have married either the one or the other.

[ocr errors]

Certainly those determining acts of her life were not ideally beautiful. They were the mixed result of young and noble impulse struggling under prosaic conditions. Among the many remarks passed on her mistakes, it was never said in the neighborhood of Middlemarch that such mistakes could not have happened if the society into which she was born had not smiled on propositions of marriage from a sickly man to a girl less than half his own age, on modes of education which make a woman's knowledge another name for motley ignorance, on rules of conduct which are in flat contradiction with its own loudly asserted beliefs. While this is the social air in which mortals begin to breathe, there will be collisions such as those in Dorothea's life, where great feelings will take the aspect of error, and great faith the aspect of illusion. For there is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it. A new Theresa will hardly have the opportunity of reforming a conventual life, any more than a new Antigone will spend her heroic piety in daring all for the sake of a brother's burial; the medium in which their ardent deeds took shape is forever gone. But we insignificant people, with our daily words and acts, are preparing the lives of many Dorotheas, some of which may present a far sadder sacrifice than that of the Dorothea whose story we know.

Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Alexander broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive; for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

PARTON.

1822

JAMES PARTON, though a native of England, where he was born in 1822, has lived in the United States since his early childhood. He has been an industrious writer, chiefly in the field of biography, in which he has done some admirable work. His first book was The Life of Horace Greeley, which was published in 1855, and it has been followed by biographies of Auron Burr, Andrew Jackson, Benjamin F. Butler, John Jacob Astor, and Thomas Jefferson. He has labored in other departments of literature, editing The Humorous Poetry of the English Language, and writing several pamphlets on New York politics, etc.; but his fame as a writer will rest on his biographical work. In this specialty he has been signally successful in presenting vivid and attractive portraits of his subjects, supported by dramatic pictures of their times. In reaching this result he has been forced to disregard in many instances the strict records of history, and his biographies are, therefore, not absolutely unimpeachable in point of facts. He displays great industry in the collection of material and great skill in its arrangement; and, by availing himself of many personal particulars which most biographers would deem too insignificant for has made his books exceptionally readable. His Life of Thomas Jefferson, recently published, furnishes good specimens of his faults and his merits: it is full of matter, and very fascinating; but it is marred somewhat by historical inaccuracies.

use,

PATRICK HENRY'S SPEECH ON CONCILIATION WITH ENGLAND.

PATRICK HENRY had been coming and going during Jefferson's student years,* dropping in when the General Court met in the autumn, and riding homeward, with a book or two of Jefferson's in his saddlebags, when the court adjourned over till the spring; then returning with the books unread. The wondrous eloquence which he had displayed in the Parsons Case in December, 1763, does not seem to have been generally known in Williamsburg in 1764; for he moved about the streets and public places unrecognized, though not unmarked. It would not have been extraordinary if our young student had been a little ashamed of his oddity of a guest as they walked together towards the Capitol, at the time when the young ladies were abroad, Sukey Potter, Betsy Moore, Judy Burwell, and the rest; for Henry's dress was coarse, worn, and countrified, and he walked with such an air of thoughtless unconcern that he was taken by some for an idiot. But he had a cause to plead that winter; and when he sat down he had become “Mr. Henry" to all Williamsburg. You will observe in

* The extract is from Parton's Life of Jefferson. Jefferson at this time was a law-student and a warm personal friend of Patrick Henry, who was himself a young man and just becoming known as a skillful lawyer and popular speaker. The speech referred to was delivered in the Virginia House of Burgesses -a body somewhat resembling the State Legislature of to-day — in 1765, and is generally familiar to school-children, extracts from it being given in nearly all school "Speakers."

the memorials of Old Virginia, from 1765 to 1800, that, whoever else may be named without a prefix of honor, this "forest-born Demosthenes," as Byron styled him, is generally styled Mr. Henry. To Washington, to Jefferson, to Madison, to all that circle of eminent men, he ever remained " Mr. Henry." On that day in 1764 he gave such an exhibition of his power, that, during the next session of the House of Burgesses, a vacancy was made for him, and he was elected to a seat. The up-country yeomen, whose idol he had become, gladly gave their votes to such a man, when the Stamp Act was expected to be a topic of debate.

And so, in May, 1765, the new member was in Williamsburg to take his seat, a guest again of his young friend Jefferson. He sat, day after day, waiting for some of the older members to open the subject. But no one seemed to know just what to do.

A year before the House had gently denied the right of Parliament to tax the colonies, and softly remonstrated against the threatened measure; but as the act had been passed, in spite of their objections, what more could a loyal colony do? No one thought of formal resistance, and remonstrance had failed. What else? What next?

What else? What next? However frequently

the two friends may have conversed upon this perplexity, it was Patrick Henry who, to use his own words, " alone, unadvised, and unassisted," hit upon the proper expedient.

Only three days of the session remained. On the blank leaf of an old Coke * upon Lyttleton perhaps Jefferson's own copy the new member wrote his celebrated five resolutions, of this purport: We, Englishmen, living in America, have all the rights of Englishmen living in England; the chief of which is, that we can only be taxed by our own representatives; and any attempt to tax us otherwise menaces British liberty on both continents. In all probability, Jefferson knew that something of the kind was intended on that memorable day, for he was present in the House. There was no gallery then, nor any other provision for spectators; but there could be no objection to the friend and relative of so many members standing in the doorway between the lobby and the chamber; and there he took his stand. He saw his tall, gaunt, coarsely attired guest rise in his awkward way, and break with stammering tongue the silence which had brooded over the loudest debates, as week after week of the session had passed. He observed, and felt, too, the thrill which ran through

* A celebrated law text-book.

the House at the mere introduction of a subject with which every mind was surcharged, and marked the rising tide of feeling as the reading of the resolutions went on, until the climax of audacity was reached in the last clause of the last resolution. How moderate, how tame, the words seem to us! Every attempt to invest such power [of taxation] in any person or persons whatever, other than the General Assembly aforesaid, has a manifest tendency to destroy British and American freedom."

[ocr errors]

When the reading was finished, Jefferson heard his friend utter the opening sentences of his speech, with faltering tongue as usual, and giving little promise of the strains that were to follow. But it was the nature of this great genius, as of all genius, to rise to the occasion. Soon Jefferson saw him stand erect, and, swinging free of all impediments, launch into the tide of his oration; every eye captivated by the large and sweeping grace of his gesticulation, every car charmed with the swelling music of his voice, every mind thrilled or stung by the vivid epigrams into which he condensed his opinions. He never had a listener so formed to be held captive by him as the student at the lobby door, who, as a boy, had found the oratory of the Indian chief so impressive, and could not now resist a slurring translation of Ossian's majestic phrases. After the lapse of fifty-nine years, Jefferson still spoke of this great day with enthusiasm, and described anew the closing moment of Henry's speech, when the orator, interrupted by cries of treason, uttered the well-known words of defiance, "If this be treason, make the most of it!”

The debate which followed Mr. Henry's opening speech was, as Jefferson has recorded, "most bloody." It is impossible for a reader of this generation to conceive the mixture of fondness, pride, and veneration with which these colonists regarded the mother country, its parliament and king, its church and its literature, and all the glorious names and events of its history. Whig as Jefferson was by nature and conviction, he could not give up England as long as there was any hope of a just union with her. What, then, must have been the feelings of the Tories of the House, Tories by nature and by party, — upon hearing this yeoman from the West speak of the natural rights of man in the spirit of a Sidney, and use language in reference to the king which sounded to them like the prelude to an assassin's stab? They had to make a stand, too, for their position as leaders of the House, unquestioned for a century. To the matter of the resolutions

« السابقةمتابعة »