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makers, the women and the weepers, the swoonings and the shriekings, the nurses and the physicians, the dark room and the ministers, the kindred and the watchers ; and then to die is easy, ready, and quitted from its troublesome circumstances. It is the same harmless thing that a poor shepherd suffered yesterday, or a maid-servant to-day; and at the same time in which you die, in that very night a thousand creatures die with you, some wise men, and many fools ; and the wisdom of the first will not quit him, and the folly of the latter does not make him unable to die.”

To the same effect, however, and almost in the same terms, had Montaigne written, nearly a century before (indeed, when the reader has read our next excerpt, he will be sure that Jeremy Taylor must have read it too). Often had he asked himself why death appeared less frightful in battle than in bed, and to hinds and paupers than to sybarites and peers. “And I do verily believe,” he co udes, “ that it is those terrible ceremonies and preparations wherewith we set it out that more terrify us than the thing itself. An entirely new way of living, the cries of mothers, wives, and children, the visits of astonished and afflicted friends, the attendance of pale and blubbering servants, a dark room set round with burning tapers, our beds environed with physicians and divines ; in short, nothing but ghostliness and horror round about us, render it so formidable that a man almost fancies himself dead and buried already. Children are afraid even of those they love best, and are best acquainted with, when disguised in a visor, and so are we: the visor must be removed as well from things as persons; which being taken away, we shall find nothing underneath but the very same death that a mean servant or a poor chamber-maid died a day or two ago, without any manner of apprehension or concern. Happy therefore, Michael (not the Archangel) consistently infers, is the death that deprives us of the leisure for (what he calls) such grand preparations.

Young argues in the same strain, in his own sonorous (some think soporific) verse:

Why start at death? Where is he? Death arrived,

Is past; not come, or gone, he's never here. (That is Walter Shandy's logic. And what follows is Mr. Shandy's, and Montaigne's, and Bp. Taylor's, all in one):

Ere hope, sensation fails; black-boding man
Receives, not suffers, death's tremendous blow.
The knell, the shroud, the mattock, and the grave,
The deep damp vault, the darkness, and the worm,
These are the bugbears of a winter's eve,
The terrors of the living, not the dead.
Imagination's fool, and error's wretch,
Man makes a death, which nature never made;
Then on the point of his own fancy falls ;

And feels a thousand deaths in fearing one. When that shrewd observer, the travelled Lien Chi Altangi, Citizen of the World, was engaged upon his Chinese Letters, he did not forget to acquaint his Pekin correspondent with the curiosities, as he thought them, of an Englishman's death-bed. After enumerating various seeming anomalies, “ Besides all this,” he continues, “the chamber is darkened,

the whole house echoes to the cries of the wife, the lamentations of the children, the grief of the servants, and the sighs of friends. The bed is surrounded with priests and doctors in black, and only flambeaux emit a yellow gloom. Where is the man, how intrepid soever, that would not shrink at such a hideous solemnity ?” Had Goldsmith’s Chinaman too read Montaigne ?

But why ask? The theme is a common-place. If Goldsmith had not read Montaigne, he had read Bacon; and Bacon had thus paraphrased Seneca's Pompa mortis magis terret quam mors ipsa : “Groans, and convulsions, and a discoloured face, and friends weeping, and blacks, and obsequies, and the like, show death terrible.” Or, had he forgotten Bacon and Seneca both, the subject itself was too prominent, in its everywhere and every-day manifestations, to be overlooked.

Disraeli the elder commends the ancients for not polluting their imagination with the contents of a charnel-house, and for their manner of veiling the painful recollections of death by symbols of indirect allusion to it—a rose sculptured on a sarcophagus, or the emblems of epicurean life traced on it, in a skull wreathed by a chaplet of flowers, &c. And he deprecates the introduction of “that stalking skeleton, suggesting so many false and sepulchral ideas, and which for us has so long served as the image of death.” Which introduction is traced to that period of Europe's general gloom, when the end of the world was regarded as imminent: then first they “beheld the grave yawn, and Death, in the Gothic form of a gaunt anatomy, parading through the universe.” The people were frightened, as they viewed everywhere hung before their eyes, in the twilight of their cathedrals, and their “pale cloisters,” the most revolting emblems of death. They startled the traveller on the bridge; they stared on the sinner in the carvings of his table and chair; the spectre moved in the hangings of the apartment; it stood in the niche, and was the picture of their sitting-room; it was worn in their rings, while the illuminators shaded the bony phantom in the margin of their hore, their primers, and their breviaries. The "pretty paganism of Isaac Disraeli has found various sympathisers in these latter times. Jews, infidels, and heretics, of one sort or another, are not wantingwhether veritable Christians be so or not-to cry down the habit we have of investing the death-bed with gloomy associations. Leigh Hunt's wellknown essay "On Death and Burial" deprecates the sombre accompaniments of drawn curtains, and obtrusive vials, and nurses, and terrible whispers, “and perhaps the continual application of handkerchiefs to weeping eyes." “But having lost our friend, we must still continue to add to our own misery at the circumstance. We must heap about the recollection of our loss all the most gloomy and distasteful circumstances we can contrive, and thus, perhaps, absolutely incline ourselves to think as little of him as possible. We wrap the body in ghastly habiliments, put it in as tasteless a piece of furniture as we can invent, dress ourselves in the gloomiest of colours, awake the barbarous monotony of the church bell (to

frighten every sick person in the neighbourhood), call about us a set of officious mechanics, of all sorts, who are counting their shillings, as it were, by the tears that we shed, and watching with jealousy every candle’s end of their perquisites. . . . . . Lastly, come tasteless tombstones and ridiculous epitaphs, with perhaps a skull and cross-bones at

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top.” Whereas the ancients did not render the idea of death thus harshly distinct from that of life: they “did not extinguish all light and cheerfulness in their minds, and in things about them, as it were, on the instant; neither did they keep before one's eyes, with hypochondriacal pertinacity, the idea of death's-heads and skeletons, which, as representations of humanity, are something more absurd than the brick which the pedant carried about as the specimen of his house."

To this last thought a parallel passage occurs in the "Fragments" of the Hermit of Coney-hatch, who contends that death has been unfairly condemned by hearsay, and is, in fact, not so bad as he seems. the foul paraphernalia—the shroud, the winding-sheet—the wet heavy clay, the worm and corruption .... have no more to do with you

than with the hare that may nibble the grass above what once was yours: no more touch

you than they touch the red-faced urchins making chains of buttercups and daisies on a falsifying tombstone. .... It is the vile literalness of people's brains that gives an unhandsomeness to the dead bones of men ; that makes them in the grave a part and parcel of the sentient thing.... We libel the sanctity of death when we dress it in artificial terrors. We profane it, when, applying a moral galvanism to its lineaments, we make it mope and mow at the weak and credulous.

To make a death's-head horrible-to preach from its pretended loathsomeness a lesson to the pride of humanity-to extract from it terrors to the spirit of man, whilst yet consorted with flesh and blood, the churchyard moralist should prove that the skull remains the ghastly, comfortless prison of the soul,--that, for a certain period, it is ordained its blank and hideous dungeon. Then, indeed, would a death’s-head be horrible ; then would it appal a heart of stone and ribs of steel. But, good sexton-preacher, when now you show me a skull, what do I look upon? The empty shell, through which the bird has risen to the day.”

Another Hermit, of the same order, he of Clovernook, asks his visitor, “ What think

you of our churchyard ? You see there are no cypresses ; no weeping willows; no undertakers' yews ; but sweet, odorous shrubs and orange-trees, with bud, blossom, and the ripe fruit; types of those who lie below.... No epitaphs, nor naked skulls, nor cross-bones carved in stone; nor cherub cheeks, with marble tears; nor aught of the gimcrackery of woe that libels death, making the deliverer horrible. Beneficent death! In the churchyards of your outside world he sits like a blood-smeared Indian, counting his scalps. And then your tombstones! ... Are these the looks, the voices, the words of hope the words of the faith the men professed to die in ? It would be more than curious,” the Hermit added, in a solemn voice, “ if the spirits of the dead might write their own epitaphs.”

Something of the kind had, indeed, been essayed by the author of “Rimini,” in his very characteristic “Reflections of a dead body," where the freed spirit hovers over and addresses its recent tabernacle:

-And must love
Think of thee painfully ? of stifling boards
'Gainst the free face, and of the irreverent worm ?
To dust with thee, poor corpse! to dust and grass,
And the glad innocent worm, that does its duty
As thou dost thine in changing.

Miles Coverdale, in Hawthorne's Blithedale Romance, when the talk is of fixing on a spot for a cemetery, is for choosing the rudest, roughest, most uncultivable spot, for Death's garden-ground; but only that Death may teach them to beautify it, grave by grave. “By our sweet, calm way of dying, and the airy elegance out of which we will shape our funeral rites, and the cheerful allegories which we will model into tombstones, the final scene shall lose its terrors; so that hereafter it

may

be happiness to live, and bliss to die. None of us must die

young. Yet, should Providence ordain it so, the event shall not be sorrowful, but affect us with a tender, delicious, only half melancholy, and almost smiling pathos!"

That is to say—is Hollingsworth's comment-"you will die like a heathen, as you certainly live like one."

Let us hear, nevertheless, another American, of the same - heathen” school, on this vexed question. “Have you mastered the mystery of death ?” asks the Howadji, of “Nile Notes" celebrity - "have you ever guessed its meaning ? Are Mount Auburn and Greenwood [American cemeteries] truer teachers than the Theban tombs? Nature adorns death—even sets in smiles the face that shall smile no more. But you group round it hideous associations, and of the pale phantom make an appalling apparition. Broken columns, inverted torches, weeping angels and willows, are within the gates upon which you write,

Whoso believeth in me shall never die.' Blackness and knolling bells, weepers and hopeless scraps of Scripture, these are the heavy stones that we roll against the sepulchres in which those lie whom you have baptised in His name, who came to abolish death.

“Why should not you conspire with nature to keep death beautiful, nor dare, when the soul has soared, to dishonour by the emblems of decay the temple it has consecrated and honoured ? Lay it reverently, and pleasantly accompanied, in the earth, and there leave it for ever, nor know of skulls or cross-bones. Nor shall willows weep for a tree that is greener-nor a broken column symbolise work completed-nor inverted Aame a pure fire ascending.” But what this New World Howadji would like better than all-herein taking the same view as Leigh Hunt and other Old World-lings-is Urn Burial; first consuming the forsaken tenement “with incense at morning," and then, forgetting graveyards and cemeteries, how silent and solemn soever, treasuring the dearest dust in sacred urns, so holding in your homes for ever those who have not forfeited, by death, the rights of home.”

How far all this “pretty paganism” is consonant with a just estimate of Death, of the burden of its mystery, the heavy and the weary weight of all its unintelligible world—it will be better, and easier, for the reader to consider, than for us to undertake to decide.

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299

AN ILLEGITIMATE DRAMA.

M. DUMAS FILS is evidently drifting into a tendency for putting things down, to which he devotes himself with an energy surpassing that of Sir Peter Laurie against the organ-grinders. Unfortunately, his efforts have not hitherto met with any success, save that of enriching the talented author. The demi-monde still flourishes, and speculators still flock to the Bourse despite the sad warnings the “Question d'Argent" held up to them. But M. Dumas was not to be daunted, and he has therefore selected another subject for popular representation, also touching on the evils of the day, and which has been received with immense applause, --so the French authorities on such matters tell us. As it is very unlikely that our readers will have an opportunity to estimate its value by a representation on an English stage, we purpose giving them a slight analysis of the story, and leave them to hold up their hands in pious horror that such things can form the subject of popular delectation across the Channel.

The hero, ladies and gentlemen, is a natural son, and after that revelation, if you have the courage, you can follow us through the mazes of his career as described by M. Dumas fils.

The subject must necessarily be one of intense interest to the author, for it is notorious that he stands in the same position as the hero of his drama. Indeed, his father has confessed so much in his own Memoirs : “On the 29th of July, 1824, while the Duc de Montpensier was coming into the world, a Duc de Chartres was born to me, at No. 1, Place des Italiens." Now we know from the same source that the father was not married till some fifteen years later. However, Dumas père always behaved with great kindness to the lad, paying his school expenses, and magnanimously allowing him to take his name when his success at college showed the stuff that was in him. Papa fell into the habit of calling his son son meilleur ouvrage, and many people think him perfectly correct. Since then they have lived on terms of amity, only interrupted occasionally by the indiscreet revelations Dumas père would persist in making about family affairs through the columns of the Mousquetaire.

But while internally satisfied with his position, and appearing to takethe goods the gods provided in a tranquil teinper, the son does not seem internally satisfied with the false position into which his father's levity: has thrust him. The wrong done him in his birthright must have been: long gnawing at his heartstrings, and has at length found an issue in the indignant protest which we have now under consideration. As a psychological study, then, “Le Fils Naturel" is one of the most curious revelations: recently laid before us, and every line exhales that bitterness which the author has so long pent up. Of its merits as an acting drama we are unable to speak. "In reading it does not appear so sparkling as its predecessors, but there is a degree of earnestness—we might almost call it solemnity-which possesses a certain charm. Of course, being the expression of French sentiments, it cannot but be exaggerated; but, take it all in all, it will not injure its author's well-merited reputation.

In the first act, which should be regarded as the prologue, we are introduced to Clara, daughter of poor country people, who has yielded to

VOL. XLIII.

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