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PERSONS OF NOTE
SIR CHARLES NAPIER.
AMONG the naval and military characters of
Great Britain, SIR CHARLES NAPIER holds a distinguished position. He is Rear
Admiral, but aside from his titles is a man of character, a few traits of which
we propose to sketch. He is quite as widely known from his writings, as from his
military character, though possessed of great energy and military talents. His
" Lights and Shades of Military Life" have been published in several
countries, and his letters on India, where he has spent a portion of his life,
have made a great stir in England. He has something of Andrew Jackson's
character-is stern, resolute, and sometimes imprudent. He is a singular author,
for he attacks persons and cabinets with his pen, as he would an enemy with his
sword in time of war, and as a matter of course, makes himself many enemies.
Occasionally he constructs sentences which remind one of Junius, but he descends
to coarse personalities too often, in a controversy. Yet there is such a
sailor-like honesty and heartiness in all he does and says, that he is very
popular, and his books meet with a ready sale. In fact he is pretty generally on
the right side of a question, unluckily sometimes, when he damages it by his
fiery enthusiasm. He does not hesitate to loudly condemn the atrocities
perpetrated by the British Government in India, [-131-] to assert that there is
blood upon its hand, and that it will hereafter cry " Out, damned
spot;" yet it will not "out."
His high position as a commander and nobleman, gives him a hearing whenever he asks it, and he is always ready to attack anybody, in the Times, who ventures to hold an opinion contrary to his own, in reference to the army or navy. There is one capital trait in his character - he cares no more for Lord than for a cobbler.
Sometime in 1849, while Sir Charles was in India, a famous letter appeared in the columns of the Times, attacking him for some recent letters of his, and was signed " Scott Portland." This is the manner in which his Grace the Duke of Portland subscribes himself; and so the reading public knew, generally, and they anticipated rare sport when the Duke's strictures should reach Napier at Merchistoun. But the gallant Admiral has always been so busy, that he has not kept irk memory all the names of the nobility, and never suspected that the letter was written by a Duke, and so his reply in the Times commenced with:
"I do not know who Mr. Scott Portland is; but he knows so little about his subject, that his letter is hardly worth answering."
The Duke in his letter had praised General Napier, the cousin of Sir Charles, and he thus pungently noticed it:
"I am much pleased at the high respect Mr. Scott Portland has for my cousin the General, and much distressed at his want of respect for the Admiral ; but that, I take leave to observe, has nothing to do either with the construction of steam-vessels, or the defence of the country ; and I think, had he left out the latter part of his letter, it would have been more creditable to himself; and given him more weight with the public."
The latter part of the Duke's letter was devoted to personalities, while the first part contained the real, matter in [-132-] controversy At last Sir Charles became aware that he was waging a dispute with an eminent man - a Duke - but his only allusion to it, his only apology was the following preface to his next letter in the Times:
"So it appears that Sir Scott Portland turns out to be no less a personage than His Grace of Portland! I never could have thought that a Duke would have condescended to make gratuitous attack on a half-pay admiral whom he never saw ; he did,- and he got his answer. Now for his second letter."
The world is ready to forgive such a man for many faults, and though he is constantly firing his guns at the Premier or Cabinet, the Board of Admiralty or the Secretary of the Navy, yet he is universally popular. His hearty boldness is liked and pardoned by those who would not pardon the same spirit if exhibited by a mere civilian.
In his personal appearance, Sir Charles Napier is very striking. In height he is rather above the ordinary stature of men, his figure is none of the finest, and yet is commanding. His forehead is expansive but retreating, and his face very strongly marked by furrows. He has a shaggy pair of gray-black whiskers, and has a couple of fierce and large eye. brows, and from behind these his piercing eyes shine out with a half-ferocious intelligence. His nose is rather long, and slightly Roman - altogether he is one of the most striking men we ever met. An utter stranger, if used to reading faces, would at once pronounce him a remarkable man. His crotchets all show themselves in his face. There is the fire of genius in his eyes, but there is also a look of odd defiance there, which at once lets you into the secret of his always being in hot water. He loves battle - war to the knife is his delight, and whether it be with the pen or sword, physical or mental, it matters little to him, so that he can be fighting. Of course with his talents and position in society, it is not dif-[-133-]ficult to pick a quarrel, and he is constantly disputing with, or attacking somebody. There are many such characters in this world, and many of them, with all their destructiveness, are not bad at heart.
DUKE OF WELLINGTON.
THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON, we need not say, is one of the most
renowned characters among the military heroes of England, and the world. We are
aware that much has been written about him for the past twenty years, until his
name tires one, yet there is much in his character to admire, as well as munch
to detest. That iron will of his which nothing could ever break through, or
triumph over, must excite our admiration, for there is much grandeur in it. It
has made him what he is - one of the most distinguished men in Europe. His
dogged firmness is only equalled by that of Joseph Hume, the parliamentary
But while we admire the Duke's energy of character, we cannot applaud the use which he has often made of that energy, and almost terrible will. He was as firm, while Prime Minister, against the righteous demands of an incensed people, as he was on the field of Waterloo, or in the battles fought on Spanish soil, where his genius and energy won for him so many honors. He was as willing to draw his sword upon the starving mechanics of Birmingham, who dared to plead for their just rights, as upon the enemy across the channel. It was the discovery of this fact which suddenly overthrew the man from the grand pedestal of universal popularity on which he stood. It was this fact which shivered through a million hearts, leaving horror where before there was almost worship.
The nation had shouted paeans in his praise; the sky grew dark with the dust raised by the feet of millions gathered to [-134-] do him honor; - he was "the saviour of his country", "the hero of a hundred fights," the nation's God, for the hour at least. So many iron statues were cast of him, that to this day he goes by the name of "the Iron Duke."
Suddenly the people saw in him their deadliest enemy. He opposed all their political rights ; he advocated the most abominable abuses, and dared the people to a trial of their strength.
The agitation of the Reform Bill became greater, profounder, until millions were in a state of dangerous excitement. They only asked for simple rights. They did not demand that the monarchy should be overthrown, or the aristocracy - they merely asserted a principle which was maintained centuries before in Spain, that "taxation without representation is tyranny."
The Duke of Wellington, instead of speaking soothing words to the people who loved him, and adored him - instead of concession, unsheathed his sword, and drew his fingers lightly across its edge before their eyes, trying its keenness, as a butcher does his knife before he cuts the throat of a lamb. Then burst forth the rage, and horror, and disgust of the people. From one end of Great Britain to the other there arose a cry of passionate indignation, and the Duke fell from his position, and with the people has never recovered, no, nor ever will recover it.
In their madness the multitude broke in his windows, and in fear he ironed them up, and the thousands of foreigners present at the Great Fair at Hyde Park had before them not only the great monument in his honor, but also a monument to his shame in those ironed windows.
We first saw the Duke three or four years ago in the House of Lords, and were of course struck with his appearance Although very old there is firm decision upon his face, and he resists the usual weaknesses of old age with great success. [-135-] He is no orator now, nor ever was; nor has he, we think, shown himself to be a statesman. Yet he speaks very often in the House of Lords. On such occasions he always seems to lean upon Lord Brougham, and turns to him constantly, and is answered by his erratic lordship with an approving nod of the head. His body, once tall and firm, is slightly bent, and there is a tremulousness in his motions which betrays his years. We were astonished to see a man eighty years old bear himself so finely. His peculiar nose told us the instant our eyes fell upon him who he was - it has not a duplicate in the world.
Three years later than our first sight of the old hero we saw him one day at the Admiralty Office. He mounted his steed and rode away. We could see plainly that he had grown old, from his face and manner, and yet were astonished to see so old a man mount his horse, and gallop off like a young officer. He wore his favorite Hessian boots, and overcoat of blue, a white neckerchief, and a common English hat.
We could not look at the old man without a feeling of mournfulness. We know the man has lacked true sentiments, hut there is something grand in his stately old age. Besides for a few years past he has abstained from doing or saying anything which is unpopular with the people. Whether his glory gained on the battle-field be hollow or not, it was the people of England who shouted him on - it was for them he fought, amid they cannot well deny him honor as a warrior, however much they may detest his statesmanship.
THE HOUSE OF COMMONS has a celebrated character in COLONEL SIBTHORPE - celebrated not for intellect, or for genius, but for eccentricity. He is a kind of David Crockett, without Crockett's great energy of character. He never rises to speak without setting the whole House into a roar of laughter, and yet he never utters any brilliant sayings. There [-136-] is often a rough wit in what he says, but if another member would have uttered it no laughter would have ensued. His character is such that what he says can never assume dignity. He is a fine-looking, hearty man, with a jovial countenance ; is a great racer, gambler, and wine-drinker, and somehow his very appearance seems to give a flavor to his words. He makes short speeches, so full of odd ideas and humorous arguments, that the members cannot help laughing, no matter upon what side he chances to be in the debate. He is one of the aristocracy - a kind of pet of theirs, and yet is an exceedingly coarse and vulgar man in many things. He often crows like a cock in the House when he is tired of the speech of a fellow-member, or will interrupt him in other ways. He was bitterly opposed to the building of the Crystal Palace, principally because the ground upon which it stood was the resort of the aristocracy, and they could not pursue their horseback rides as usual with thousands of the vulgar, common people around them. His hatred of foreigners, too, is intense, and he prophesied all manner of evils as the result of such an incoming of foreigners to see the great Exhibition. He frequently called upon God to strike the crystal building with his lightnings and dash it in pieces The proper place for such a conceited idiot is not in Parliament, but in a Lunatic Asylum. Were he a poor man he would never be tolerated in the House of Commons; and we are very sure he would not dare to act in Congress at Washington as he does in the English House of Commons. But a scion of the English aristocracy can act the fool to perfection, and no one dares to murmur. Fine ladies smile as beautifully upon him as if he were really a gentleman, while at the same time they curl their proud lips in scorn at the base sight of a Commoner, however fair and gentlemanly.
Colonel Sibthorpe is also a notorious libertine, and we were [-137-] told by excellent authority that upon the death of a favorite mistress an English bishop condoled with him upon his loss. Such a fact needs no comment.
A somewhat similar character in England is Mr. Feargus O'Connor, once the leader of the great body of the Chartists - a political body who agitated for universal suffrage, and five other, as they termed them, grand reforms. Their grand mistake was in not concentrating upon one point - universal suffrage. For it is clear enough that when the people have obtained the right to vote, universally, they can elect such a Parliament as they please, and that Parliament or House of Commons can pass such laws as they please. But this party scattered their energies upon six objects instead of one, and as a result have obtained nothing, the party and agitation being now pretty much silenced. Mr. O'Connor was the leader, but he was a man of bad moral character, and such men are never to be trusted in political matters, amid Mr. O'Connor has long since lost the confidence of the working-men of England. Ten years ago he was a man of considerable abilities, and was feared by the Government, unless, as many think, he was bribed by the Government to lead on the people in matters of reform, and to so lead them as to disgust the better portion of the country with their cause and thus surely defeat reform. Such things have before now been done by the English rulers. Feargus O'Connor was then a good speaker, only he lacked real sincerity - he could not conceal the air and manner of a demagogue which he was at heart. Since then he has developed himself thoroughly before the nation, and no confidence is felt in him. Of late be seems to have lost his usual powers of mind, and makes the most ridiculous speeches. He tried to address Kossuth in a public meeting at Southampton in the most inflated manner, but was promptly put down.
Mr. Macaulay's fame is not confined to
England, nor are his works read so extensively there as in America. He is now
disconnected with politics, as he ever should be.
He is now in his proper sphere, with his pen in hand, for he has too much genius to be a mere politician. As an orator he has won the highest praise, but not as a mere politician, and in an election was defeated by a far less talented, but more straightforward man. Few who were in Parliament at the time will ever forget his memorable debate with Croker, his political as well as literary enemy.
T. B. Macaulay's father was a strong advocate of the abolition of slavery, and the son has inherited the anti-slavery opinions of the father, who was the companion of Wilberforce. But in politics Macaulay has been rather unfortunate. We know that he won a brilliant oratorical fame while in Parliament, but his course was such as to displease his constituents. He was too much of a party man - bound up with ancient Whigism, or more properly speaking, modern Whigism, which is amazingly like Toryism. He was unpopular with the people. It was thought, and with a good deal of truth, that he did not act up to what he had written. Few writers do. Guizot has written very fair sentences in favor of liberty, but his acts have been just the opposite. So, the historian while a member of Government, seemed to lose his love of freedom.
He commenced his political career by being appointed Commissioner of Bankrupts. One act should ever be remembered to his honor - while president of a commission, appointed to frame a penal code for India, he incurred the greatest odium by insisting that the native should in law-privileges be on an equality with the English. For this he was attacked in an [-139-] outrageous manner by Englishmen in India, who wished the laws to discriminate in their favor.
It is far better that Macaulay is now freed from the slavery of politics, and engaged in literature. He is truly one of the most magnificent writers of this age, and it is doubtful whether he is not, as a writer of gorgeous prose, highly ornamental, but full of ideas, the most talented of any man living. His essays written as he says in the preface to one edition, when fresh from college, are, some of them, notwithstanding the traces of youth they bear, master-pieces of prose-writing. His essay on Byron is rich and satisfying, while that on Warren Hastings is as fine biography as one often meets with in the world of literature.
His books, notwithstanding their beautiful classicality, are exceedingly popular with the middle-classes, and one great reason for this lies in the fact that while he is classical, he is not coldly so. He is warm, and his heart beats manfully through his pages. His ornament is always in good taste, and gives a color to his writings which makes them relished by the people.
His publishers pay him highly for his works - the Longmans pay him enormously for his History of England. The two volumes which sell in America for less than one dollar, sell in England for eight. It will, perhaps, be thought that the high price must keep it out of the reach of all but wealthy people, but such is not the case. Circulating libraries are more common in England than with us, and sooner or later, through them, all intelligent persons, if poor, get the reading of Macaulay's works. A single circulating library in London purchased one hundred copies of the first volume of Macaulay's last work, and is in the habit of purchasing largely of all new books, yet the subscription-price is as low as five dollars a year. This is the lowest price, and for it you only take one book at a time, but it answers all purposes for the poor [-140-] scholar. If you are tolerably rich, and live in the country you can pay high and take thirty or forty books at a time!
The personal appearance of Mr. Macaulay is prepossessing. He is large amid full-has an oval face, which is not pale and scholar-like, but rich and ruddy. His eyes are dark and beautiful, his hair fine and curly, his forehead retreating, but large and intellectual. His manners are refined but hearty, and his conversation is exceedingly interesting and brilliant. We need not say that he is welcome to any society - he is a favorite among the very highest in rank and power. He is a lion at conversational parties, and it is thought talks sometimes too copiously.
His early essays were first collected and published in America, and he made the publication here an excuse for the issue of the collection in En gland. With all his home-popularity he probably has a larger number of readers in America than in England.
ROBERT BROWNING is one of the finest-looking men among the
literary celebrities of London. There is a classical beauty in his features
which it is rare to see out of Greece or Italy. His hair is long, and rich, and
black; his eyes are very bright and dark ; his forehead, which slopes
backward, is capacious, and white as marble, and his neck with the soft
whiskers coming down upon it, looks finely. And he is the husband of
Elizabeth B. Barrett - both poets, and both strikingly original in their
compositions. Elizabeth Barrett was for years before her marriage with Mr.
Browning, the inmate of a sick chamber, and for months such was her extremely
delicate state that she lived in darkness, could not bear even the soft light of
the sky. After their marriage, the poets went to Italy, and there was written
Mrs. Browning's poem to her "first-born child."
[-141-] Although Robert Browning is not a popular poet, as he writes in too exalted a style for the masses, yet his firstlings were well received, after which he went to Italy and wandered leisurely over its enchanting hills and valleys. Four years of unbroken silence followed his first volume, which introduced him to the English public, when his "Sordello" appeared.
He is regarded by the "select few" as a great but erratic thinker, while the great majority of Englishmen hardly know his name. He is better appreciated in America by the people than in his native land. His wife is more popular than himself, for she has written poetry in homelier language than he usually deigns to employ.
SIR E. L. BULWER is to be seen in town during the
"season," as certain months of the year are termed by the fashionables of
England. He has one of the most beautiful country-residences in England, the
land above all others for fine country-seats. It is called Knebworth Park, and
lies in Hertfordshire, and was the property of his mother, who was the daughter
and heiress of Henry Warburton Lytton, Esq. He is the youngest son of General
Bulwer, of Haydon Hall, inn the county of Norfolk, and at an early age entered
the House of Commons, where he distinguished himself. He became an able
political writer, but did lint allow politics to absorb all his attention.
It is said that to the influence of his mother is he indebted for his early and strong love of literature. His father died while he was young, and his education was completely the work of his mother, who used to give him, while very young, old ballads to read. He entered Cambridge University at an early age, and as soon as he was through it, made a journey [-142-] of England and Scotland on foot, and afterwards wandered over France on horseback. It is somewhat singular that all the earlier works of Bulwer are now forgotten. At twenty-one or twenty-two, he commenced authorship in verse. His first novel, entitled "Falkland," is now quite forgotten.
The work which first brought him prominently before the public was "Pelham," which was very successful. He is one of the most popular novelists of the age, but we can never get to believe that the effect of his earlier works is good. All his novels, save those which have been written quite lately, are altogether too feverish and passionate. Vice in them wears too pleasant a garb. No one can doubt his great power, and beauty of diction, but his powers have not always been used for the benefit of mankind. But his last novels have been of quite a different character, being delightful home-pictures, natural and without feverish and unhealthy passion.
As a man, Bulwer is, and always has been, popular. Born to wealth and rank, he has worked hard as an author, and has been a true friend of authors. You can often see Dickens, and Jerrold, and Lemon and others, at Knebworth Park. He has written biographies of several of his literary friends who are now deceased, and among others one of poor Laman Blanchard, to whom he was a real friend, for in his dark days he not only comforted him with cheap words of encouragement, but with substantial British gold.
He has many of the prejudices of his order; is somewhat proud, at fault inn his politics; and does not dare at all times to speak the truth. He loves popularity too well to be very far in advance of the times.
He is sometimes laughed at for his excessive nicety in his dress, and when he was in the House of Commons, his political enemies named him "the fop." He is perhaps too fond of fine clothes, but that may be accounted for on the score of [-143-] his ideality. In fashionable society he is liked the better fun this failing, for he has exquisite taste. He is a fine-looking man, and is a favorite with the sex. His forehead is sloping, but broad, and polished like marble. His figure has something aristocratic in it, and as he is a genius as well as a baronet, no one can dispute his right to a lordly mien. It is when we see wealth, or rank and pride allied to that which is the opposite of genius or talent, that we are seized with a feeling of disgust.
He deserves praise for having the courage and energy requisite in a man born to wealth and rank, to labor as he has done for his present fame. There were many temptations to indolence and a life of pleasure, which poor scholars never encounter, and yet he has studied diligently, and worked laboriously, for which he should have his meed of praise.
We cannot refrain from saying a few words on WILLIAM
who has taken leave of the stage forever. It was our good fortune to see him
once on the boards of a London theatre, with Mrs. Fanny Kemble, in King Lear,
and ever since that night we have felt a vivid interest in his personal
fortunes. His public life has been a feverish one-he has seemed always to be
unfortunate-and yet fortunate in securing great fame. For many years he
struggled with Kean, until, as an eminent critic said, " Edmund Kean, with
hands still grappling the shape-thronged air, reeled away inalf-unconsciously
into the darkness.''
Then he quarrelled with his, manager, who would not listen to him in matters of taste, and at last he became a manager himself. Yet, though acknowledged to be at the head of his art, the greatest tragic actor in the world, he lost money, and was obliged to go to America to save his health, and recruit his purse. There he was mobbed. He returned to England, was enthusiastically received, and took his leave forever of the stage.
[-144-] While he was manager of the theatre, he completely divorced Art from licentiousness, and made the theatre a moral place - but it never paid as such.
He leaves the stage in comfortable health and good pecuniary circumstances. His farewell performance at Drury Lane theatre was a scene ever to be remembered by those who were present, and the dinner given in his honor shortly after, was graced by the presence of rank, genius, and power.
WILLIAM AND MARY HOWITT.
WILLIAM HOWITT is a man of about fifty years of age, and is
possessed of a somewhat striking physical appearance. He is about the average
height, has a tolerably full habit, mild blue eyes (mild save when his ire is
aroused), and is bald upon the top of his head and forehead. What hair he has
is white as snow, and gives to him an almost singular appearance. In his
manners he is a gentleman, not so much from a regard for conventionalism, as
from the promptings of a kind nature. In conversation he is one of the most
interesting men it was ever our chance to meet in life. He has an inexhaustible
fund of anecdote and humor, and is especially at home while talking of the
country and country things. He is impulsive, and speaks abruptly sometimes,
but one could hear him relate his stories and adventures for hours, without
tiring. He imparts to all he says a peculiar poetic charm ; if you are out of a
summer evening on the lawn, with the moonlight making shadows all around you, he
will tell some strange and thrilling stories of ghosts and ghost-life that will chill you through.
MARY HOWITT is a few years younger than her husband, has a matronly look, and would never be taken for an authoress. You would call her the model of a wife or mother, kind and gentle is she in all her actions. Physically speak-[-145-]ing, she is strong, large-made, and full of vigor. She has more life in her than in half a dozen young women of fashion. Yet she is exceedingly graceful, and if not strictly beautiful, after an artist's heart, she is more than beautiful. Her face is always in a smiling repose, and her eyes have a mingled expression of love and intellect, which constitutes them, to our thinking, very beautiful. Personally, aside from her qualities as an authoress, she is very popular. We doubt if any one ever knew her without loving her character. There is an inexpressible charm in her ways and manners, just as there is in her books. Although her features are irregular, and not strictly handsome, we have seen her among a room full of ladies, when some of those present were acknowledged by all to be exceedingly beautiful, yet Mary Howitt was - and you could not help but feel it - queen among them all. She has, while standing, an air of lofty, commanding sweetness, which pleases and enchains the stranger. But you would not take her for an authoress. You would call her a proper character to figure in fiction rather than a creator of such characters.
When we first became acquainted with the Howitts, they were living at "The Elms," in Clapton, a suburb of London. They were then suffering from the wrong-dealing of John Saunders, of the People's Journal, who had ruined them pecuniarily. We shall always feel glad that we knew them then, for one can never know thoroughly what a noble spirit is, unless he sees it in adversity. Mary Howitt was then as gentle, loving, and hopeful as ever, amid the whole family seemed to love each other better, and to struggle manfully against all difficulties with brave courage. Said a friend of ours who was entrusted with some of the unfortunate business connected with the disasters which beset them, and who had much to do with the family as a confidential friend:
"She is more beautiful in adversity than in prosperity," - [-146-] and he was right. With true courage both William and Mary Howitt struggled onward, and are again prosperous. They now live in the western part of London, not far from the western extremity of Regent's Park, and have a quiet and beautiful home.
They have four children. The eldest, Anna Mary Howitt, is a young lady who has already distinguished herself as an artist, and who premises well for the future.
The second, Alfred Howitt, is a young man of twenty, of promising talents, and who, we believe, looks forward to a barrister's life. The remaining two," Charlton and Maggy," are young, and in the midst of their school-days.
Although Mrs. Howitt is a voluminous author, yet there is not a more careful wife, or mother, or housekeeper in London. The mother never sinks into the author, and she has not the slightest tinge of the blue-stocking in her manners. One might converse with her for days, if he were no author or admirer of literature, and never perceive that he was talking with a woman whose whole life has been one of authorship. She has a happy faculty of adapting herself to circumstances, and makes herself agreeable to all.
Marriages between literary persons are not usually happy ones, but in the present instance the general rule is at fault, for never was there a happier couple than William and Mary Howitt Their names are always spoken together; they have been associated so intimately in authorship that it sounds unnatural to mention one name without the other. The names are intermarried, and should never be "put asunder."
William Howitt was born in Derbyshire, and his ancestors for many generations were respectable landed proprietors. They were proverbially fond of the country, and country pleasures. One of them, in the time of Queen Elizabeth, married unto the Middleton funnily, and became exceedingly rich, but the love of ease and good cheer in the descendants [-147-] was their bane, and their broad lands slipped away, piece by piece, until the original estates were scattered to the winds. William Howitt's father, Mr. Thomas Howitt, being a man of energy, retrieved the fortunes of the family, and secured for himself a fine property. He married a Miss Tantum, who was a member of the Society of Friends, and, according to the rules of the Society, became a member.
William Howitt is one of six brothers, and was educated at various schools of the Friends, but never received what is styled a liberal education. During his boyhood he was extremely fond of country sports, was a great birds-nester, and this love of country has never died within his heart. He became a chemist, and at the age of twenty-eight, married Miss Mary Botham of Uttoxeter. in Staffordshire, who was also a member of the Society of Friends. She is the present world-known Mary Howitt.
Mrs. Howitt's ancestors were not unknown to the world; her great-grandfather, William Wood, was the Irish patentee who minted half-pence for the Government of George II. under a contract, which Dean Swift in his "Drapier's Letters" made so much noise about that they were not accepted, though Sir Isaac Newton pronounced them better than the contract required, and he lost over ?60,000. The grandfather of Mrs. Howitt was assay-master in Jamaica, and was the first person who brought platinum into Europe.
Previous to their marriage, neither William nor Mary Howitt had made themselves known as authors or writers, but shortly after, they published jointly a volume of poetry under the title of "The Forest Minstrel," which was received with universal commendation.
Not long after their marriage, they made a journey into Scotland ; landed at Dumbarton, and travelled over its lofty hills, and among its beautiful lakes. They journeyed a thousand miles, and over five hundred of it on. foot. What [-148-] do the American women think of this feat ? A foot-journey of five hundred miles for a young bride's honeymoon tour! They looked from the lofty Ben Lomond, saw Loch Katrine, and when they visited Gretna Green, the inhabitants all turned out, thinking that they were a young couple come to be married.
Upon their return to Nottingham, they published another joint volume of poetry, which added much to their reputation. Mr. Howitt began to write for the Magazines; Mrs. Howitt continued her ballad-writing, in which she surpasses almost every other living writer.
Although they were by this time well known, yet Mr Howitt had not published any work in prose, but in 1832 he wrote his popular "Book of the Seasons." He could not sell the manuscript for a long time. Four of the most noted publishing houses in the kingdom rejected it, and the author was nearly sick of authorship. At last Mr. Bently took it, and since then a dozen large editions have been sold, and it sells as well to-day as it did twenty years age. At once it received a universal welcome, and the author became still mere famous than before. Two years after he published his "History of Pniestcraft," which has also become a standard work. In it be is entirely unlike himself in his books on nature. In the one he is all love amid kindness-in the other full of sarcasm and passionate eloquence. Such is his real character - a compound of gentleness and love, passion an power.
All this time, Mr. Howitt was a citizen of Nottingham, but becoming favorably known to his fellow-townsmen as a liberalist, he was elected Alderman of the borough. Had he possessed a large fortune, he might have secured fame as a politicians but, as he was only moderately wealthy, he removed to Esher, where he could devote himself to literature. While there, he and his wife published several works, and [-149-] made a journey into the north of England, and spent some time with Wordsworth at the lakes. The "Visits to Remarkable Places, " "Boy's Country Book," &c., &c., appeared about this time.
After remaining at Esher three years, they went into Germany, and settled down at Heidelberg, and visited all parts of Germany. They were there three years, and Mr. Howitt wrote his " Student Life of Germany," and "Rural Life of Germany ;" the last was reprinted in Germany, and highly commended by the ablest of German critics.
Here they became acquainted with an English family which had resided inn Sweden, and was enthusiastically in love with Swedish literature. Mary Howitt began its study, and seen was entranced with the fiction of Fredenika Bremer.
When they returned to England, she began her translations of Miss Bremer's Tales of Domestic Life in Sweden, which created a great sensation throughout England and America, and for awhile such was the demand for them, that both William and Mary Howitt were constantly engaged in translating, though all of them were issued in her name.
The establishment of the "People's and Howitt's Journal," was a most unfortunate circumstance, as through connecting themselves with an unprincipled man, they were penuliarily ruined. But ill-fortune did not crush them, and since then they have published some of their most delightful books.
A few years since a book was published in London under the title of "The Aristocracy of England, by John Hampden, Jr.," which created considerable sensation It is one of the most thorough and caustic attacks upon the British aristocracy which we ever read. It had a large sale, and sells now almost, or quite as well as it sold at first, for it is a hand-book for all these who are dissatisfied with the oppression of the nobility of England. The "John Hampden, Jr." is a false name which really means "William Howitt," for he is the [-150-] author of the hook. He is also the author of many other creditable works.
Although educated as Friends, Mr. and Mrs. Howitt long ago gave up their distinctiveness of dress, and are never known or spoken of as Friends. The love of religious liberty, the cordial hatred of priestcraft which distinguishes that Society, they share to this day with them, and there is a simplicity in their lives which is in harmony with the religious principles of that noble sect, but they are not distinctively members of the Society.
They have for years been peculiarly hospitable to Americans, and one almost always finds one there on their evenings of reception.
The qualities of each as authors are plainly perceptible in a conversation. In Mary Howitt, you feel all that charming gentleness and loveful beauty which shines forth in her books. In William Howitt you see his strong love for the country, and old haunts and castles, in the tales about them with which he will regale your appetites, if you have any for the wild and marvellous. He is fender of German stories and wild legends; Mary Howitt of pleasant tales of sunlight love, and of flowers and smiling fields - and both are poets.
We will allude here, for a moment, to a somewhat singular
literary character in London - G. W. M. Reynolds. He has no claims among the
really great or good, for he is not only a second-rate writer and author, but he
lacks morality in his writings. Charles Dickens says of him, "his writings
are a national reproach," and he never uttered a truer saying. He has a worse
morality than Paul de Kock, and lacks his genius. Yet his books have a
tremendous circulation over England, and indeed in this country. He writes only
for money, and cares not how many hearts he fills with pollution so long as he
gains gold. He is, however, shut out of all good [-151-] society in England, because of his wretched principles. Sin,
in his pages, is painted in the most attractive colors; it is true that he claims that there is always a moral in them, but the
tendency of all his books is bad.
He has a good personal appearance, and sometimes attempts to address reform-meetings, but the people will not often hear him. Such a man does more to corrupt a nation than a hundred common propagaters of infidelity, for he seduces the young by glowing pictures of sensuality and crime. He professes to draw his stories from actual London life, but if such were the case, it is no apology for him. The truth is not to be portrayed to all minds in the style of his writings.
THOMAS CARLYLE is one of time first among the literary
celebrities of London. We should not venture to write much concerning him, since
he has characterized us as "a nation of bores," only that we have the
pleasant consolation of feeling that we never even so much as looked at his
dwelling-house. Any American who, after all that Mr. Carlyle has written of
"bores," will persist in trying to see him, must indeed be a man of
energetic impudence. The "Latter Day Pamphlets" have been bitterly received
in England, as well as here - even his best friends were displeased with them. But
Mr. Carlyle should not, and will not be judged by those pamphlets. His recent
book, "The Life of John Stirling," proves that the hand that wrote the life
of Schiller has not lost its cunning. No one can doubt his great intellect - no
one can doubt his masterly genius He has heart too, and earnest
sympathies for humanity. He cares little for rank; gewgaws cannot blind him to
that which is hid beneath them. He is a wild, earnest, mysterious Scotchman. Who
needs to be told that his style is strange and fantastical? Some call it
affectation [-152-] - others his natural utterance. His life has been a singular
one, and men write from their lives. A happy experience may color his style with
rainbow hues, while darkness and suffering may have a contrary effect. It is at
any rate true, that Thomas Carlyle has walked through dark places, and has had a
sombre experience. His style might have been far different from what it is, had
he not wrestled with the world as few men do.
He was born in the south of Scotland, but at a young age went to Germany, where he remained for years. He became thoroughly acquainted with the German language, and with many distinguished literary men, in Germany. He became the attached friend of the great Goethe, and the attachment was mutual.
He came before the English world first through the magazines, and anonymously, but his original style and great energy of thought could not fail to attract attention. His first book appeared in 1826, and was a translation of Goethe's "Wilhelm Meister." Then came a life of Schiller, and afterward, a German Romance. His later works we need not mention, for they are better known in America than in England. He is indeed mere popular here than at home.
From the first, Carlyle has had a hard life to live. In early life he was not at all successful. He was bitterly criticized, and the world did not, as in the case of many authors, rush in between critic and author for the latter's defence. His books were not popular, nor was he acknowledged to be a great writer. There were a few who clung to him, and they only partially understood him. The majority of men would have lost heart, but for years he struggled on, and never thought of despairing.
His life of Schiller was received at first with surprising coldness, and yet was so highly praised in Germany, that [-153-] Goethe translated it into the German, and bestowed the highest compliments on Mr. Carlyle.
It is singular how for years his books were neglected. Volume after volume came dead-born from the press, as it were, and yet the brave spirit of the heroic Scotchman was not to be conquered. In 1832 he added something to the sale of his books by a series of lectures delivered at the West End of London, and though his audiences were small, yet they were composed of the wealthy and powerful. The fashionables made the discovery that he had genius, and at once his books began to sell. He has lectured many times since then in different parts of London, but always to comparatively small, though exceedingly refined audiences.
He is perhaps the most awkward public speaker one could hear for a twelve-month, even in such a place as London. He uses very little gesture, rubs his hands together, screws his mouth up into all manner of shapes, and yet his dark eyes shine with earnest enthusiasm, and his whole person bears the impress of solemn earnestness. And then the matter richly compensates for the lack of manner. He opens to your view brilliants and diamonds, and whole veins of shining ore, and yet it is done in an abrupt and disjointed style. You are jerked along hither and thither ; made to stumble over this and that uncouth sentence, yet you get such glimpses of beauty and grandeur that you dare not complain!
The tone of his voice is harsh and unpleasant-he has no control over it whatever, and some of his delicate admirers make complaint of this. His style of speaking is a good deal like his style of writing-it is unpleasant, yet the matter redeems all.
England is the greatest place we ever yet were in for demanding an author's religious opinions. Every author, every stranger, is asked the exact state of his religious belief. Mr. Carlyle has been questioned, but is too proud to answer his [-154-] inquisitors His religious belief was with himself and his God. Many accuse him of being a Deist, but we do net credit the accusation. He probably is latitudinarian in his views of the Bible, but is no infidel.
It is said that Mr. Carlyle has a small property, from which he derives a slender income aside from that which comes from his published works. He lives very plainly in Chelsea, a suburb of London, on the southern bank of the Thames.
He is tall and slender in his person, has dark hair and a dark countenance also. His forehead is high, but not broad - his face is poor, and his cheek-bones are conspicuous. He is getting to look old, and in fact getting to be advanced in years.
He has little of what is styled politeness - so say some of his intimate friends - and does not know how to bandy compliments. But to these whom he loves he is kind and affectionate.
People will have their own opinions of Thomas Carlyle as an author and a man-ours are that he has extraordinary genius, but that there is a certain amount of sheer fudge mixed with it. His notions respecting human government show how senseless a great man can be at times. Almost any other man would be dubbed a fool for publishing such nonsense.
The position of a literary man in England is not so high as in France. If he be exceedingly distinguished, the aristocracy and nobility are ready to do him honor in a patronizing manner. In France, the literary man takes the first rank in society-wealth and blood retreat before the advent of genius. No man in social position stands higher in France than Lamartine. Dickens in England is as much respected, but is inferior in social position to Lamartine. There is too much worship for mere rank in England to give Genius a fair chance. Thomas Carlyle in France or in Germany, would [-155-] be a greater character, in social respects, than he is in England.
EBENEZER ELLIOTT, the Corn Law Rhymer, the "Poet of the
Poor," is dead, but it is one of our happiest thoughts that we once met him,
heard the eloquence of his lips, and gazed at the sweet, though passionate
enthusiasm of his face. He died the first day of December, 1849, at his own
residence, net far from Sheffield, where he used to carry on the iron business.
We can see him now as we saw him that rare night in London (he was not often in London), sitting by a pleasant coal-fire, with his gray hair and rugged countenance, upon which usually there was a smile. We can see those clear, blue eyes of his, and the brilliant flashes which they gave forth as sentiment required, and even the tone of his voice is still in our ears. He used to talk with great force - his sentences were energetic and abrupt. We need not speak of his poetry - the world has given him his niche of honor. In conversation, he was always full to the brim of animation, and was the soul of a literary party. One who was not acquainted with his characteristics, would have taken him to be an awful man, for when he was fired up he looked the stern enthusiasm of his nature. There was no hallway feeling about the man - if his indignation was excited at all, it was in an almost terrific manner. His pathos was entirely free from namby-pambyism - it was clear, and touching, and hardly ever failed to draw tears from the hearts of those who read him. Sweet and mild as the carol of an early spring bird are some of his lays, while ethers, and the majority, are full of the bitterest and most powerful indignation. He is terse in expression, and is sometimes accused of needless harshness. It may be so, but the man had a hard-hearted [-156-] set of men to deal with, when he sang songs against the English aristocracy. In early life he had a hard lot, suffering from constitutional sensitiveness, and there is a fair excuse for his burning plaints of indignation and scorn. He is a strong prose-writer, but the world knows very little of him in that character. His command of the strongest Saxon is wonderful - he crushes an enemy into nonentity- yet the poet is a man of finest pathos and sensibilities. He it was who wrote of a dying boy:-
"Before thy leaves thou com'st once more,
White blossom of the sloe!
Thy leaves will come as heretofore,
But this poor heart, its troubles o'er,
Will then lie low.
* * * * *
"Then panting woods the breeze will feel
And bowers, as heretofore,
Beneath their load of roses reel;
But I through woodbine-leaves shall steal
No more-no more!
lay me by my brother's side,
Where late we stood and wept,
For I was stricken when he died-
I felt the arrow when he sighed
His last and slept."
We saw the poet at a literary re-union in the great
metropolis, and well remember how joyous the party was when the name of Ebenezer
Elliott was announced. We had longed for a sight of the veteran poet and
reformer - the man who by his verses could rouse a nation to their duty. When he
entered the drawing-room, we almost all rose to do him honor. His hair was bushy
and gray; his forehead high, broad, and compact; he was tall and sinewy in
frame; when he was still, his eyes were of a cold blue, but when he was [-157-] excited, they stirred you with their brilliance and various
shades of emotion; his eyebrows were large, and gave him a wild appearance; his
face was broad and marked with character and decision, and his lips closed
together with that expression of almost dogged firmness, which few possess.
He sat down and conversed pleasantly for awhile ; but at length some person made a careless political remark reflecting on the people of England, and extolling the nobility. Then the old man's eyes flashed, and his frame quivered with emotion. When his tongue was fairly loosed, he came down upon the extollers of the nobility with tremendous power. His words were thick and abrupt; terse, and bitter, and vehement, and yet you felt that all he said was not against the utterer of the sentiment, but the sentiment itself.
Ebenezer Elliott was born in March, 1781, and was consequently ever sixty-eight years old when he died. His father was clerk in some iron-works near Rotherham, and received a salary of ?300 a year, which in those days was considered a large salary.
In his youth it is said that the poet was distinguished for two qualities-a keen sensitiveness and an inability to make any progress at school. He says of himself that his stupidity was made worse by the help of a schoolfellow, who was in the habit of solving his arithmetical problems for him, so that he get over as far as the rule-of-three without understanding numeration, addition, subtraction or division. His old schoolmaster, after many efforts, gave him up for a dunce, and his father, after finding that he knew nothing from his books, put him at hard work in an iron-foundry near by. He had a brother, named Giles, whom everybody said was smart, and who was clerk in the counting-room of young Ebenezer's employers. Many a time he wept, alone in his little bed-chamber, ever his situation and his sad ignorance, and there alone did he make vows which were the secret of his after greatness.
[-158-] One of his youthful friends was Joseph Ramsbotham, the son of the old schoolmaster who had decided that he was a dunce, and this friend clung to him, amid as he was fitting himself to enter the ministry, his studies were of the higher class. Young Elliott used to hear him recite Greek poetry, and was entranced with the music of the verse, without understanding a syllable of what he heard. He committed to memory the introductory lines of the Iliad, and in after-life was fetid of repeating them as remembrances of his boyhood.
At this time in the poet's history he suffered the acutest misery, and it is said that previous to his death he commenced an autobiography, but when he got as far as this part of his life he could not bear to dwell upon it, and threw the manuscript into the fire, with his eyes flooded with tears.
He came to Sheffield six or eight hundred dollars in debt, and commenced the iron business. Year followed year, and yet he was unsuccessful, until, at last, after enduring every hardship, he was happy in business lie grew rich fast, and had not the great panic of 1837 overtaken him in the midst of trade, he would have been an immensely wealthy man. As it was he lost twenty or thirty thousand dollars, and was glad to retreat from the manufacture of bar-iron. He built himself a fine villa, out of town, enclosed by an acre of beautiful ground, which was surrounded by a high wall, shutting out all sights of the manufacturing town.
With his sons he again went into business in the iron and steel trade, and was at the time of his death engaged in it, though not personally attentive to it. His office in the iron warehouse used to be reckoned a place of great curiosity, for alongside ponderous ledgers, amid dust and smoke, were volumes of Shakspeare, and Milton, and Dante, and all the master-poets. Here he would sit and write entries in his ledgers, or poetry, letters of business, or prose for the press.
The literary history of the poet is full of interest, but we [-159-] can only allude to it. From the day on which the young Ramsbotham recited Greek poetry to him, he was filled with a burning desire himself to express his thoughts in rhyme. He applied himself to his books, became a proficient in mathematics, a fine reader, a handy chirographer, and well read in general literature. His first poems were written in defence of the poor, and as at that time the critics were all in the employ of rich and noble men, they did not deign to notice the poet of the peer, or only sneered at his rhymes. But he who could make a fortune out of nothing was not to be disheartened at this, but continued to pour forth touching and beautiful songs, with those that were harsh with indignatory eloquence. The keenness of his satire could not fail of attracting the notice of his aristocratical opponents, and their notices of him were such as to add fire to Elliott's heart. In the great Corn-Law struggle he battled like a giant for cheap bread, and the nation hailed him as one of its deliverers.
The critics at last gave in, and admitted that he was a poet. So he won a fame and a fortune together! He "weighed out iron and ideas-took in gold and glory!" He was sick for several months previous to his death, and when it seized upon him was engaged in the revision of an enlarged edition of his poetic works for the press. During his last illness he composed several beautiful poems. His descendants are five sons and two daughters. Three of the former carry on the old business at Sheffield, while the other two are Church-of-England clergymen.
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