« AnteriorContinuar »
thoughts and deeds we had been reading. Smile if you like, at our boyish enthusiasm, it was better than the mocking spirit engendered by all this realism, or the insensate craving after stimulus taught by sensation Dovels. Now, I am not old, enough to remember the great talkers of the time when George III. was King, or those who made Carlton House famous; but I belonged to a generation where these men were remembered, and where it was common enough to hear stories of their Attie nights, those noctes conseque deorum which really in brilliancy must have far transcended anything that Europe could boast of conversational power. . The youth of the time I speak of were full of these traditions. “If I am not the rose, I grew near one," was no foolish boast; and certainly there was both in the tone of conversation and the temper of society a sentiment that showed how the great men had influenced their age, and how, even after their sun had gone down, a warm tint remained to remind the world of the glorious splendour that had departed. Being an Irishman, it is to Ireland I must go for my illustration,
and it is my pride to remember that I have seen some of those who were, in an age of no common convivial excellence, amongst the first and the greatest. ... They are gone, and I may speak of them by name—Lord Plunkett, the Chief-Justice Bushe, Mr. Casey, Sir Philip Crampton, Barré Beresford—I need not go on. I have but to recall the leading men at the bar, to make up a list of the most brilliant talkers that ever delighted society. Nor was the soil exhausted with these ; there came, so to say, a second crop—a younger order of men—less versed in affairs, it is true, less imbued with that vigorous conviviality that prevailed in their fathers' days—but of these I must not speak, for they have now grown up to great dignities and stations, they have risen to eminence and honour and repute, and might possibly be ashamed if it were known that they were once so agreeable. Let me, however, record one who is no more, but who possessed the charm of companionship to a degree I never knew equalled in all my varied experiences of life, one who could bring the stores of a well-stocked mind, rich in scholarship, to bear upon any passing incident, blended with the fascination of a manner that was irresistible. Highly imaginative, and with a power of expression that was positively marvellous, he gave to ordinary conversation an elevation that actually conferred honour on those who were associated with it; and high above all these gifts and graces, a noble nature, enerous, hopeful, and confiding. §. an intellect that challenged any rivalry, he had, in all that touched worldly matters, the simplicity of a child. To my countrymen it is needless I should tell of whom I speak; to others, I say his name was Mortimer O'Sullivan. The mellow cadence of his winning voice, the beam of his honest eye, the generous smile that never knew scorn, are all before me as I write, and I will write no more.
of our Brothers Bryond The Border.
There is a story current of a certain very eminent French naturalist, who is so profoundly impressed by the truth of the Darwinian theory, that he never passes the cage where the larger apes are confined in the Jardin des Plantes without taking off his hat, making a profound obeisance, and wishing them a bon jour. This recognition is touching and graceful. The homage of the witches to him who should be king hereafter, had in it a sort of mockery that made it horrible; but here we have an act of generous courtesy, based alike on the highest discoveries of science and the rules of the truest good-breeding. The learned Professor, with all the instincts of great acquirements and much self-knowledge united admits them at once to equality and fraternity—the liberty, perhaps, they will have to wait some time for; but in that they are no worse off than some millions of their fellow-countryrulen. One might speculate long— I don't know exactly how profitably —on the sense of gratitude these creatures must feel for this touching kindness, how they must long for the good man's visit, how they must wonder by what steps he arrived at this astonishing knowledge, how surprised they must feel that he does not make more converts; and, last of all, what pains they must take to exhibit in their outward bearing and behaviour that they are not unworthy of the high consideration he bestows on them! Before him no monkey-tricks, no apish indecorums—none even of those passing levities which young gorillas will indulge in just like other youths. No; all must be staid, orderly, and respectful—heads held well up—hands at rest—tails nowhere ; in fact, a port and bearing that wo defy the most scrutimising observer to say that they
were less eligible company than that he had just quitted at the café. I own I have not seen them during the moment of the Professor's passage. I am unable to state authentically whether all this be as I surmise, but I have a strong impression it must be. Indeed, reflecting on the habits and modes of the species, I should be rather disposed to believe them given to an exuberant show of gratitude than to anything like indifference, and expect to witness demonstrations of delight * natural possibly than grace
Now, I have not the most remote intention of impugning the Professor's honesty. I give him credit— full credit—for high purpose, and for high courage. “These poor brothers of ours,” says he, “have tails, it is true, and they have not the hypocampus major; but let me ask you, Mons, le Duc, or you, Monseigneur the Archbishop, will you dare to affirm on oath, that you yourself are endowed with a hypocampus major or minor? Are you prepared to stand forward and declare that the convolutions of your brain are of the regulation standard —that the medullary part is not disproportioned to the cineritious— that your falx is not thicker or thinner than it ought—and that your optic thalami are not too prominent? And if you are not ready to do this, what avails all your assumption of superiority? In these—they are not many—lie the alleged differences between you and your caged cousins yonder.” Thus speaks, or might speak, the Professor: and, I repeat, I respect his candour; but still I would venture to submit one small, perhaps ungenerous doubt, and ask, Would he, acting on the noble instincts that move him, vote these creatures an immediate and entire emancipation, or would he not rather wait a while—a few years, say—till the habit of sitting on
chairs had worn off some of the tail, and a greater frequency with society suggested not to store up their dinner in their jaws? Would he like to see them at once take their places in public life, become public functionaries, and ministers, and grand cordons? Would he not rather, with that philosophy his country eminently teaches, say, “I will do the pity and the compassion. To me be the sympathetic part of a graceful sorrow. To posterity I bequeath the recognition of these poor captives. Let them be liberated, by all means; but let it be when I shall be no longer here to witness it. Let others face that glorious millennium of gorilla greatness.” I am afraid he would reason in this fashion; it is one thing to have an opinion, and to have what Frenchmen call the “courage of your opinion.” He would say, “If Nature work surely, she works slowly; her changes are measured, regular, and progressive. With her there are no paroxysms; all is orderly—all is gradual. It took centuries of centuries to advance these poor creatures to the point they occupy; their next stage on the journey is perhaps countless years away. I will not attempt to forestall what I cannot assist. I will let Time do its work. They are not ill-treated, besides; that large creature with the yellow eyebrows grinned at me very pleasantly this morning, and the sheourangoutang was whipping her infant most naturally as I came 5. What a cold-blooded philanthropy is this!" cries another. “You say these are our brothers and our kinsmen; you declare that anatomy only can detect some small and insignificant discrepancies between us, and that even in these there are some of whose functions we know nothing, and others, such as the prehensile power, where the ape has the best of it., What do you mean by keeping them there *cribbed, cabined, and confined"? Is a slight frontal inclination to dis
AA A 30
qualify a person from being a prefect? Is an additional joint in the coccyx to prevent a man sitting on the woolsack, or an extra inch in the astragalus to interfere with his wearing spurs? If there be minute differences between us, intercourse will abolish them. It will be of inestimable service to yourselves to come into contact with these fresh, fine, generous natures, uncontaminated by the vices of an effete and worn-out civilisation. Great as are the benefits you extend to them, they will repay you tenfold in the advantages to yourselves. Away with your unworthy prejudices about a ‘black pigment' and long heels! Take them to your hearts and your hearths. You will find them brave—ay, braver than your own race. Their teeth are whiter and their nails longer; there is not a relation in life in which you will dare to call yourself their better.” I will go no farther, not merely because I have no liking for my theme, but because I am pilfering. All these arguments—the very words themselves—I have stolen from an American writer, who, in Horace Greeley fashion, is addressing his countrymen on the subject of negro equality. He not alone professes to show the humanity of the project, but its policy—its even necessity. He declares to the whites, “You want these people; without them you will sink lower and lower into that effete degeneracy into which years of licentiousness have sunk you. These gorillas, black men, I mean —are virtuous; they are abstemious; they have a little smell, but no sensuality; they will make admirable wives for your warriors; and who knows but one may be the mother of a President as strikingly handsome as Ape Lincoln himself! There is no doubt much to be said for our long-heeled friends, whether with or without a hypocampus major. I am not very certain that we compliment them in the best taste when the handsomest thing we can say of them is, that they are very like ourselves | It is our human mode, however, of expressing admiration, and resembles the exclamation of the Oberland pea
6 Cornelius O'Dowd upon Men and Women,
[July, sant on seeing a pretty girl, “How
handsome she'd be if she only had a goitre ""
The RuLe NISI.
A great many sea-captains discourage the use of life-preservers and floating-beltson board ships of war, on the simple ground that men should not be taught to rely for their safety on anything but what conduces to save the ship. “Let there be but one thought, one effort,” say they, “and let that be for the common safety.” If they be right—and I suspect they are— we have made a famous blunder by our late legislation about divorce. Of all the crafts that ever were launched, marriage is one from which fewest facilities of desertion should be provided.
Romanism makes very few mistakes in worldly matters. There is no feature of that Church, so remarkable as its deep study and thorough acquaintance with all the moods and wants and wishes of humanity. Whatever its demerits, one cannot but admit that no other religion ever approached it in intimacy with the human heart in all its emotions and in all its strivings, whether for good or evil.
Rome dec of the marriage tie. The Church, with a spirit of concession it knows how to carry through all its dealings, modifies, softens, assuages, but never severs conjugalism. It makes the tie occasionally a slip-knot, but it never cuts the string, and I strongly suspect that it is wise in its legislation.
For a great many years we gave the policy that amount of imitation we are wont to accord to Romanist practices; that is, we follow them in part—we adopt the coat, but, to show that we are not mere imitators, we cut off one of the skirts; and if we do not make the garment more graceful, we at least consult our dignity, and that is something. We made divorce the privilege of
against all breach.
men rich enough to come to Parliament, for relief; we did with the question what some one proposed we should do with poisons—make them so costly that only wealthy men should be able to afford the luxury of suicide. So long as men believed that divorce was immoral, I don't think any one complained that it should be limited to persons in affluence. We are a lord-loving race, we English, and are quite ready to concede that our superiors should have more vices than ourselves, just as they have more horses and more pheasants; and we deemed it nothing odd or strange that he, whose right it was to walk into the House of Peers, should walk out of matrimony when it suited him. Who knows?—perhaps we were flattered by the thought that great folk so far conceded to a vulgar prejudice as to marry at all. Perhaps we hailed their entrance into conjugalism as we are wont to do their appearance at a circus or a public garden—a graceful acknowledgment that they occasionally felt something like ourselves: at all events, we liked it, and we showed we liked it by the zeal with which we read those descriptions in newspapers of marriages in high life, and the delight with which we talked to each other of people we never saw, nor probably ever should see. It was not too much, therefore, to concede to them this privilege of escape. It was very condescending of them to come to the play at all; we had no right to insist that they should sit out the whole performance. By degrees, however, what with rich cotton-lords, and cheap cyclopaedias, and penny trains, and popular lectures, there got up a sort of impression—it was mere impression for a long time—that great folk had more than their share of the pudding's plums; and agitators began to bestir themselves. What were the privileges of the higher classes which would sit most gracefully on their inferiors? Naturally we bethought us of their vices. It was not always so easy to adopt my lord's urbanity, his unassuming dignity, his well-bred ease; but one might reasonably aspire to be as wicked. Sabbath-breaking had long since ceased to be the privilege of the better classes, and so men's minds reverted to the question of divorce. “Let us get rid of our wives s” cried they: “who knows but the day may come when we shall kill woodcocks!" Now the law, in making divorce a very costly process, had simply desired to secure its infrequency. It was not really meant to be a rich man's privilege. What was sought for was to oppose as many obstacles as could be found, to throw in as many rocks as possible into the channel, so that only he who was intently bent on navigating the stream would ever have the energy to clear the passage. Nobody ever dreamed of making it an open roadstead. In point of fact, the oft-boasted equality before the law is a myth. o: penalty which a labourer could endure without hardship might break my lord's heart; and in the very case before of divorce, nothing can possibly be more variable than the estimate formed of the divorced individuals, according to the class of society they move in. What would be a levity here, would be a serious immorality there; and a little lower down again, a mere domestic arrangement, slightly more decorous and a shade more legal than the old system of the halter and the public sale. It was declared, however, that this “relief"—that is the popular phrase in such matters —should be extended to the poor man. It was decided that the privilege to get rid of a wife was, as Mr. Gladstone says of the electoral right, the inalienable claim of a
freeman, and the only course was to lower the franchise. Let us own, too, we were ashamed, as we had good right to be ashamed, of our old crim, con. law. Foreigners, especially Frenchmen, had rung the changes on our coarse venality and corruption; and we had come to perceive—it took some time, though—that moneyed damages were scarcely the appropriate remedy for injured honour. Last of all, free-trade notions had turned all our heads: we were for getting rid of all restrictions on every side; and we went about repeating to each other those wise saws about buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market, and having whatever we wanted, and doing whatever we liked with our own. We are, there is no denying it, a nation of shopkeepers; and the spirit of trade can be tracked through every relation of our lives. It is commerce gives the tone to all our dealings; and we have carried its enactments into the most sacred of all our institutions, and imparted “a limited liability” even to marriage. Cheapness became the desideratum of our age. We insisted on cheap gloves and shoes and wine and ribbons, and why not cheap divorces? Philosophers tell us that the alternate action of the seasons is one of the purest and most enduring of all sources of enjoyment; that perpetual summer or spring would weary and depress; but in the ever-changing aspect of nature, and in the stimulation which diversity excites, we find an unfailing
gratification. If, therefore, it be pleasant to be married, it may also be agreeable to be unmarried. It
takes some time, however, before society accommodates itself to these new notions. The newly divorced, be it man or woman, comes into the world like a patient after the smallpox—you are not quite certain whether the period of contagion is past, or if it be perfectly safe to go up and talk to him. In fact, you delay doing so till some