Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

with those of the North. She would plead her discontent with the operation of the Union-her confidence in the advantages she would derive from independence her power of launching herself, by the mere act of secession, fully organised on her desired career. And, admitting that formerly a number of single States might have experienced severely the evils of disunion, yet she would deny that the precedent could be quoted against the independence of such a powerful confederation as she now proposed to form.

Nor would the North be without a strong rejoinder. She would argue that the seceding States would withdraw from the Federation not merely themselves, but important public works, constructed with Federal treasure, for the benefit not of a State but of the Union; that great material interests of the North were inextricably bound up in the South; that the settlement of a frontier would involve many questions difficult of solution, and would be always a fertile subject of dispute; that separation would diminish the strength and influence of the States which might still desire to adhere to the Union, destroy their coherence, and falsify their most cherished creed. And it is one of those interwoven and balanced cases where appeals to precedents are vain, where neither party can assert a positive and unqualified right, and which arbitrament of some kind, with mutual concessions, must settle; and, at first sight, the readiest and most natural arbitrament would appear to be that of arms. It is impossible to blame the South for preparing to maintain its secession, or the North for attempting to retain its privileges. The hostile attitude of the South is a necessity; but, setting the dictates of natural feeling aside, and speaking only of policy, the attitude of the North is judicious only in one of two cases. She may justly prefer to be armed while she treats for the rights which

she will stipulate for, in case she concedes secession; or she may believe that secession is the work of an organised faction, contrary to the desire of the general population of the South, whom, by military successes, she may set free to return to the Union. But though this has been frequently and confidentially asserted, yet the evidence thus far is in favour of the unanimity of the South.

But if, setting these cases aside, the Federalists propose to enter upon a career of absolute conquest, there is a consideration which ought to present itself to them, beyond the expectation of the most complete success. The contest cannot be settled at once. Neither the gen

erals nor the troops on either side have the experience necessary to perform great operations of warswift and continued marches of great masses of men, ready to engage in full force on the point of collision. A decisive advantage by land can only be the result of a protracted contest, during which armies will be disciplined, and generals will emerge from the crowd. And even when the conflict terminates, an army of occupation will be necessary to retain the disaffected States in submission. The troops thus accustomed to arms will exchange the habits and feelings of the citizen for those of the soldier. They will have new interests and new ambitions. They will be unwilling to hide the glory they may have won in the obscurity of private life at the command of the State. It is not difficult to predict the fate of a republic whose principle is equality, and whose executive is weak, in the presence of such an army, led by an ambitious, able, and popular chief. The sagacious and philosophical De Tocqueville, writing of their constitution, says: "When the citizens are all nearly on an equality it becomes difficult for them to defend their independence against the agressions of power. None of them being powerful enough to re

sist alone, it is only a combination a Twiggs, or a Walker might con

of the strength of all that can secure liberty. But such a combination never takes place."

Such, then, are the dangers which war brings to America. The Union may ultimately triumph, but it may be with the sacrifice of its liberty. It is true that the military power which is so likely to become dominant may rest in the hands of another Washington-of a man popular, wise, and just, one who would maintain liberty while suppressing licence, and would give the nation institutions more suitable to the development of its better qualities; but such a contingency cannot be calculated on. It is equally likely that a Harney,

trol absolutely the destinies of the nation. We hope, then, that the North, remaining armed to give weight to her demands, will concede secession. In return she will probably demand the free navigation of the southern rivers, and compensation for the public property in the South, to which no offset may exist in public property in the North to which the Southern States have contributed. This the South ought in honesty to agree to. But, however the dispute may be settled, we trust sincerely that the career of both may be so prosperous as to leave them no reason to regret the disruption of the Union.

Printed by William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh.

[blocks in formation]

THERE is nothing more usual than to say that the one thing wanting to the present age is that distinctness and originality of individual character which gives half of its charm to the past. Yet in spite of this general sentence of mediocrity, everywhere acknowledged, here has, within the last two years, a book slid quietly into print and out of it, without much notice taken of the matter, which no publication of the last two centuries, overflowing as they are with personal story and piquant character, has surpassed. There is, perhaps, scarcely a district in the country where the name of Joseph Wolff does not wake smiles and recollections, sometimes ludicrous and sometimes affectionate. For a man who has written next to nothing, and done not very much, in this country at least, the universal acquaintance in which the land of his adoption holds him is remarkable enough; but the book which friendly persuasion and help has drawn out of the old man, in his old age and leisure, is something still more remarkable. It is the story

not only of certain Travels and Adventures, but of all the haps and mishaps, mistakes, successes, virtues, and follies of as odd and characteristic a figure as has ever appeared within the English horizon. Pepys himself, the prince of autobiographers, has not disclosed more naïvely his vanities and frights and compunctions; and among the world of books which everybody nowadays knows by head-mark, and can classify without trouble, a book which is not a book but a personal narrative, is a prize which we seize upon with no small joy and selfcongratulation. The reader of these volumes will find it possible to forget that he is not a listener; he will break upon the course of the tale, into applauses of laughter and admiration; he will discover himself gradually growing into acquaintance with the outlandish hero, who stands clear and full in the foreground, relating his own achievements with innocent relish and gusto, until at last, when the curtain drops and the story-teller is seen to sink into that bosom of domestic tranquil

Travels and Adventures of the Rev. Joseph Wolff, D.D., LL.D., Vicar of Ile Brewers, near Taunton, and late Missionary to the Jews and Mohammedans in Persia, &c. Saunders, Otley, & Co. 1860.

VOL. XC.-NO. DL

K

lity, a Devonshire vicarage-most strange, incongruous, desirable resting-place after such a course-few, we predict, of those who have accompanied him to this climax of his days will part otherwise than as a friend from the Jew-traveller, the Eastern missionary, the English vicar, who has thus disclosed him self to their familiar regards.

We seize upon the book with all the natural delight experienced by a wayfarer making dull progress upon the beaten and dusty tracks of literature, who suddenly finds himself face to face with the unexpected apparition of a living human creature; not an abstract folio or quarto upon stilts, nor any lightlimbed sprite of romance, but a solid-very solid-personation of flesh and blood, as real and visible a man as ever made his appearance upon any platform. There he stands in all friendliness, afraid of none of us-facing the shafts of criticism bravelyan obese but dauntless Sebastian. Any fledgling marksman who has the heart is free to aim his arrows at this unguarded and unsuspecting hero. He had clearly no such chance in his mind when he told, amid tears and laughter, the story here written down, by kind domestic scribes, of the long and various romance of his life. Not ours be that ungenial task. Few men have such a story to tell; few men have those qualities for telling it which alike make the narrative fresh, lively, and delightful, and lay the writer open to the ridicule of the cold-hearted critic. The two things are almost synonymous. A man who has no weaknesses is a poor autobiographer; even the most skilful of historians makes indifferent work of a piece of perfection. To our shame be it confessed, do not we all prefer Lancelot to the blameless King? and to descend to homelier matters, does not everybody know that all the virtues of the father or mother do not go to the hearts of their children, like those dear every-day foibles, familiar as their habitual dress and looks, which

[ocr errors]

wake up the very tenderest of all home recollections? A man who writes his own life does not need to be a very profound or elevated character; but he needs to be a frank, honest, unsuspicious one either unaware of his own faults, or possessed of human vanity enough to make him suppose everybody else as much interested in the explanation and excusal of his conduct as himself. Such a man is Dr Wolff. He assumes the interest of all his readers with such cordial heartiness that who would refuse to be interested? Behind the sympathetic domestic circle the good man sees only a sea of sympathetic faces repeating the expression there. He disarms the coldest spectators by his cheerful confidence. Such a story is not to be regarded as subject to formal examination, and amenable to conventional rules. It is, on the contrary, an altogether exceptional production. It is one of those tales for which we all yearn, children and grown people alike; a story which is true, and as simple as true, where the hero acts upon no rule, but does exactly as the spirit moves him-sometimes wisely, sometimes foolishly; where little events hold rank just as high, or by chance higher, than great ones; and where hosts of varied groups come and go without any serious bearing upon the tale, or necessity for a second appearance. For perfect reality and vraisemblance-for entire and simple-minded disclosure of character

for primitive interest and novelty, the very soul of story-telling,-we know no book of recent times which is fit to be compared with the Adventures of Joseph Wolff.

There are differences in autobiography as in everything else. Joseph Wolff, still living, and displaying by the most distinct of all evidences (according to the newspapers) his intention to live, prints his innocent free-spoken memorials, frankly naming a world of people, and nobody is the worse for it. Another personal history which has attained greater note in the world

than that of the venerable Joseph, the Life of the Inveresk Carlyle, comes to us, after a long lapse of years, carefully bottled up until everybody was dead who could be affected by it. This fact sets forth the difference between the two types of self-revelation. After everybody has read his Autobiography, the world knows about just as much and as little of Dr Carlyle as his ordinary acquaintances must have known, and as it was his will and pleasure to reveal; but with all the clearness of a photograph sees into his contemporary world, learns what other people were about, what manner of men they were, what were their claims upon the recollections of posterity, and what the failures to be recorded against them. It is not himself but his society that brightens upon the canvass- one sees the Edinburgh streets and closes, the Dumfriesshire roads and hospitable manses, the venerable precincts of Glasgow College, with a handsome figure passing out and in with handsome ruffles and an unexceptionable toilette. What the heart and soul of him are about meanwhile, Carlyle keeps to himself; and in the brightness of the reproduced scene, where the colours are all fresh as a Reynolds portrait, or as the Scotch Martin's transcript of the writer's own handsome face, we forget that it is other people we see, and not the autobiographer. Altogether different is the treatment adopted by Dr Wolff. It is he himself who stands in the front of his picture; other people come in as accessories, as assistants in the conduct of the scene, as the audience who surround and listen to and applaud the principal actor. All that has to be told concerns "Wolff." He has no skill in stripping the interest from himself to some notable person about him, and so escaping unrevealed. On the contrary, the good man fully acknowledges himself the most interesting person present, knows that he can tell more about "Wolff" than about all the other people put together; and, feel

ing at home in that description, opens out into the full tide of narrative without ever flagging or growing weary of his subject. The remarkable people he encounters are only visible so far as they cross his own varying ever-active path; they never withdraw the interest into other channels, or break upon the unity of the picture. Here nobody will learn what was the aspect even of that limited and peculiar society into which the young Jewish missionary was received when he came to England. No sketches of his patrons or teachers are to be found in these lively characteristic pages. They come and go, but Wolff remains. He is in possession of the ground, and sees no reason to transfer his place to any other. The consequence is, that while the light falls only in momentary occasional glimpses upon those angles of other people which have come in contact with the hero, the principal figure stands out with all the breadth and fulness of life, round, distinct, and individual. The idea of posing his contemporaries in graceful groups, or throwing light upon the history of his time, never seems to have occurred to the ingenuous story-teller. Simeon, the leader of modern LowChurch evangelicalism, a notable man, and one in whom any genre painter would delight, appears in Wolff's narrative in ludicrous simplicity only as attempting the vain task of teaching that Oriental to shavean attempt which has never been successful, though renewed upon various occasions; and the other secondary figures in the story appear in a like innocent abandon, neglectful of all their own individual claims to interest, solely at those points upon which they touch Wolff, and contribute to the progress of his full existence. Here the perfect prose of innocent fact has hit upon the highest art of the painter, or even of the' tragic poet. Instead of the broken radiance of a gallery of pictures, one is presented to us, all sunny and smiling, with every accessory kept in the most artful simple-minded

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »