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full speed out of the yard, and then till he saw him disappear like a speck along the mountain road far aloft; then he went into the house, and, getting as near to the sick room as he dared, waited quietly on the stairs.
It was a house of woe, indeed! Two hours before, one feeble, wailing little creature had taken up his burthen, and begun his weary pilgrimage across the unknown desolate land that lay between him and the grave-for a part of which you and I are to accompany him; while his mother even now was preparing for her rest, yet striving for the child's sake to lengthen the last few weary steps of her journey, that they two might walk, were it never so short a distance, together. The room was very still. Faintly the pure scents and sounds stole into the chamber of death from the blessed summer air without; gently came the murmur of the surf upon the sands; fainter and still fainter came the breath
of the dying mother. The babe lay beside her, and her arm was round its body. The old vicar knelt by the bed, and Densil stood with folded arms and bowed head, watching the face which had grown so dear to him, till the light should die out from it for ever. Only those four in the chamber of death!
The sighing grew louder, and the eye grew once more animated. She reached out her hand, and, taking one of the vicar's, laid it upon the baby's head. Then she looked at Densil, who was now leaning over her, and with a great effort spoke.
"Densil, dear, you will remember your promise?"
"I will swear it, my love."
A few more laboured sighs, and a greater effort: "Swear it to me, love."
He swore that he would respect the promise he had made, so help him God!
The eyes were fixed now, and all was still. Then there was a long sigh; then there was a long silence; then the vicar rose from his knees and looked at Densil. There were but three in the
Densil passed through the weeping women, and went straight to his own study. study. There he sat down, tearless, musing much about her who was gone.
How he had grown to love that woman, he thought-her that he had married for her beauty and her pride, and had thought so cold and hard! He remembered how the love of her had grown stronger, year by year, since their first child was born. How he had respected her for her firmness and consistency; and how often, he thought, had he sheltered his weakness behind her strength! His right hand was gone, and he was left alone to do battle by himself!
One thing was certain. Happen what would, his promise should be respected, and this last boy, just born, should be brought up a Protestant as his mother had wished. He knew the opposition he would have from Father Mackworth, and determined to brave it. And, as the name of that man came into his mind, some of his old fierce, savage nature broke out again, and he almost cursed him aloud.
"I hate that fellow! I should like to defy him, and let him do his worst. I'd do it, now she's gone, if it wasn't for the boys. No, hang it, it wouldn't do. If I'd told him under seal of confession, instead of letting him grub it out, he couldn't have hung it over me like this. I wish he was-"
If Father Mackworth had had the slightest inkling of the state of mind of his worthy patron towards him, it is very certain that he would not have chosen that very moment to rap at the door. The most acute of us make a mistake sometimes; and he, haunted with vague suspicions since the conversation he had overheard in the drawing-room before the birth of Cuthbert, grew impatient, and determined to solve his doubts at once, and, as we have seen, selected the singularly happy moment when poor passionate Densil was cursing him to his heart's content.
"Brother, I am come to comfort you,"
had time, either to finish the sentence written above, or to say 'Come in.' "This is a heavy affliction, and the heavier because "
"Go away," said Densil, pointing to the door.
"Nay, nay," said the priest, "hear me-"
"Go away!" said Densil, in a louder tone. "Do you hear me? I want to be alone, and I mean to be. Go!"
How recklessly defiant weak men get when they are once fairly in a rage! Densil, who was in general civilly afraid of this man, would have defied fifty such as he now.
"There is one thing, Mr. Ravenshoe," said the priest, in a very different tone, "about which I feel it my duty to speak to you, in spite of the somewhat unreasonable form your grief has assumed. I wish to know what you mean to call your son."
"Because he is ailing" (this was false), "and I wish to baptise him."
"You will do nothing of the kind, sir," said Densil, as red as a turkey-cock. "He will be baptised in proper time in the parish church. He is to be brought up a protestant."
The priest looked steadily at Densil, who, now brought fairly to bay, was bent on behaving like a valiant man, and said slowly,
"So my suspicions are confirmed then, and you have determined to hand over your son to eternal perdition" (he didn't say perdition, he used a stronger word, which we will dispense with, if you have no objection).
Perdition, sir!" bawled Densil. "How dare you talk of a son of mine in that free and easy sort of way? Why, what my family has done for the Church ought to keep a dozen generations of Ravenshoes from a possibility of perdition, sir. Don't tell me."
This new and astounding theory of justification by works, which poor Densil had broached in his wrath, was overheard by a round-faced bright-eyed curly-headed man about fifty, who en
James. For one instant, you might
have seen a smile of intense amusement pass over his merry face; but in an instant it was gone again, and he gravely addressed Densil.
"My dear Mr. Ravenshoe, I must use my authority as doctor, to request that your son's spiritual welfare should for the present yield to his temporal necessities. You must have a wet nurse, my good sir."
Densil's brow had grown placid in a moment, beneath the Doctor's kindly glance. "God bless me," he said, "I never thought of it. Poor little lad! poor little lad!"
"I hope, sir," said James, "that you will let Norah have the young master. She has set her heart upon it."
"I have seen Mrs. Horton," said the Doctor, "and I quite approve of the proposal. I think it indeed a most special providence that she should be able to undertake it. Had it been otherwise, we might have been undone.”
"Let us go at once," said the impetuous Densil. "Where is the nurse? where is the boy?" And, so saying, he hurried out of the room, followed by the Doctor and James.
Mackworth stood alone, looking out of the window, silent. He stood so long that one who watched him peered from his hiding place more than once to see if he were gone. At length he raised his arm and struck his clenched hand against the rough granite windowsill so hard that he brought blood. Then he moodily left the room.
As soon as the room was quiet, a child about five years old crept stealthily from a dark corner where he had laid hidden, and, with a look of mingled shyness and curiosity on his face, departed quietly by another door.
Meanwhile, Densil, James, and the Doctor, accompanied by the nurse and baby, were holding their way across the court-yard towards a cottage which lay in the wood beyond the stables. James opened the door, and they passed into the inner room.
A beautiful woman was sitting prop
child. The sunlight, admitted by a half-
bent down gazing on the child which
"Take care of that for me, Norah," said Densil. "It has no mother but you, now."
The child's wailing was stilled now, and the Doctor remarked, and remembered long afterwards, that the little waxen fingers, clutching uneasily about, came in contact with the little hand of the other child, and paused there. At this moment, a beautiful little girl, about five years old, got on the bed and nestled her peachy cheek against her mother's. As they went out, he turned and looked at the beautiful group once more, and then he followed Densil back to the house of mourning.
Reader, before we have done with those three innocent little faces, we shall see them distorted and changed by many passions, and shall meet them in many strange places. Come, take my hand, and we will follow them on to the end. (To be continued.)
"Acushla ma chree," she answered, "bless my little bird. Come to your nest, Achree; come to your pretty brother, my darlin."
BOOKS OF GOSSIP: SHERIDAN AND HIS BIOGRAPHERS.
A LETTER TO THE PUBLISHER BY THE HON. MRS. NORTON.
It is now upwards of a year since we discussed the plan of a work projected by me- "The Lives of the Sheridans ;" a task relinquished (with many others) in the grief caused by the illness and death of my son.
My attention has been recalled to the subject by the appearance of three works of anecdotical biography, severally entitled "The Wits and Beaux of Society," "The Queens of Society," and "Traits of Character;" of which books, I think the most impartial critic could only speak in terms of severity, forming as they do a dangerous epoch in the current literature of our day; for they appear to be a revived embodiment of a race of newspapers fortunately extinct-dug-up skeletons of The Age, The Satirist, and the like, without the wit of these journals, or one spark of their political vitality.
Of these three productions, one has been published anonymously; the other two profess to be written by "Grace and
titles be merely the assumed alias of some person or persons, whose trade is to "filch from others their good names," matters little. The books are essentially the same, and cast in the same mould. They degrade the genial service of biography, which has been prettily termed "the handmaid of history," to the maundering scandal of an old nurse's gossip; and reduce the value of recorded facts to a snip-and-scissor compilation of worthless anecdotes. Affecting an extreme regard for decorum, discretion, and Christian grace, they proceed to narrate stories which no modest woman would desire to believe or to remember, and which no honest man would wil
lingly disseminate. With a canting compliment to the encouragement of morality in "the goodness, affection, purity, and benevolence, which are the household deities of the Court of our beloved, inestimable Queen Victoria," they preface the grossest notices of the chief families of her kingdom; such as
chioness's three papas,"—in the raking up of buried vice and forgotten follies,in the tearing away the decent curtain of silence that hung over sad family secrets; declaring madness to be inherent and hereditary in one race, disease in another, profligacy in a third, and branding a fourth with illegitimacy, till we may fairly dread to leave such volumes on our tables, lest our daughters should look into them, and ask if our fathers really were as base and as vicious as they are there represented!
Such works are not "biographies," neither are they "sketches of character" the confusion of worthless trash with works of authority only increases their mischief; but they will be read, and therefore I notice them. Every man who lives a public life is in the power of other men as to his biography. Obscurity is a thicker shield than virtue; and the man who does his best in a public position is yet less safe from slander than he who does nothing and dies unknown. The biographer, however, who volunteers to condemn or absolve a public man, has undertaken a responsibility, both towards the dead of whom he writes, and the living for whom he writes, the solemnity of which never seems to cross the minds of these tattlers and parrots of literature, whose pages are made up of borrowed phrases. "Dead men tell no tales: "-neither can they answer any tales that are told of them. A dead man cannot, as the living might, prosecute for slander-challenge for insult or justify himself to friends against false accusation. But the ninth commandment is not annulled by the death of our neighbour. "Thou shalt not bear false witness," remains God's law, though his creature depart; and those who use their living hands to engrave yet deeper in a country's annals abuse of that country's noted and remarkable men, should, at least, in their consciences believe that they have so sifted evidence as to be able to deliver a true verdict,-"So help them GOD!"
Now, in the three publications to which I here refer, there are numberless
untrue, but which it in no way concerns me to comment on or contradict. One only biography personally interests me,
the biography of Sheridan-of whom certainly those words might long since have been spoken which were applied to another victim; namely, that he has been "the best abused man in England." A book of such sketches as these would be incomplete without a vulgate edition of the received and adopted chapters "on Sheridan." Having, therefore, snipped and scissored from Watkins, Moore, Earle, Leigh Hunt, &c., "Grace and Philip Wharton," in the exercise of their craft as biographers, first pronounce that Sheridan was greatly overrated as to ability-in fact, was a very ordinary man-and then proceed to the amazing assertion that the fact of Sheridan's being born in a respectable position of life alone prevented his being transported as a felon; which, had he belonged to a poorer class, would assuredly have been his fate! Having given vent to this extraordinary piece of scurrilous condemnation, the conscientious couple coolly wind up by this printed and published confession,-that they have not examined into the veracity of any of the anecdotes; it is enough that they were current! They have not "examined into the veracity" of any of the anecdotes ! That is the point from which I start. I nail up that sentence-like a kite, or any other small bird of prey, with wings extended as a scarecrow to biographers. They have not "examined into the veracity" of the anecdotes. But it is surely the first duty of those who abuse dead men-the first duty of Christian biographers towards their departed "neighbours"-to examine very strictly into the "veracity" of all anecdotes on the strength of which such severe sentence is pronounced. Abuse has seldom been followed by an admission at once so ridiculous and so disgraceful. They "have not examined into the veracity of their anecdotes;" if they had, they would have known they were disseminating falsehoods and vulgar inventions. They have not examined into
the roadside gamin, merely stooped to take from the mud the readiest stone that came to hand, to fling it with a whoop and a halloo at the passer-by.
"Accidental" biography would be a better title for such books than " anecdotical" biography.
Soon after Sheridan died, a Dr. Watkins published a memoir of him : wretchedly ill-written, and admitted by all contemporaries to be replete with incorrect statements. The proposal was then made to Tom Moore to write a life that should give a better idea of the man whose memory was so poorly perpetuated. Lord Melbourne had begun a life of Sheridan. When he found that Moore had received these proposals from an eminent publisher, he gave up the task. He did more; he gave to Moore those portions which he had written, to make what use of he pleased; taking it for granted, with that simplicity and modesty which accompanies high intellect, and which all the brilliant success of his after career left unaltered,-that Moore, the established author, the celebrated poet, was a fitter literary craftsman than himself, and would do better what all desired should be done. Lord Melbourne afterwards said he never regretted anything more than having resolved to give up those papers, and to abandon the idea of writing a memoir, which again, in Moore's hands, turned out to be so utterly unsatisfactory. It is a singular fact that, in all the biographies Moore wrote, he contrived to lower the subject of his biography in public estimation. Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Byron, Sheridan, all fared alike in this respect. But it is little to be wondered at, if all were prepared for the press in the same way. Moore himself, in his posthumous journals, let us into the secret of his nonsuccess. He says "I am quite sick of this life of Sheridan. I can learn nothing about him. I am going to call on Sukey Ogle to ascertain if she can tell me anything." Like others who have followed him, he was not disposed to question too closely the sources of his information: wheat or tares, he must go a-gleaning!
his family relations, this proposed application to an eccentric old maiden lady, a distant connexion of Sheridan's second wife, for the help so sorely needed to wind up a task the author was "sick of,"-reveals much of the cause of Moore's unexpected failure, in spite of his brilliant name.
And now the many memoirs,-prefaces to plays, notices in magazines, and thin pamphlet létters,-budded and sprouted with the proverbial luxuriance of ill-weeds. These, again, were copied from hand to hand: snip, snip, and echo, echo,-the same old stories, and a few new ones,-or a few old stories, and a great many new ones (all made on the same pattern), forming the loose warp and woof of pages "made to sell." Every one who brought out an edition of "Sheridan's plays," or "Sheridan's works," or "Sheridan's speeches," brought out also his own idea of a memoir; and stories were accepted as truths, merely on the excellent old lady's principle-that they had been "printed in black and white." Every foolish anecdote that could be invented by friend or foe-the dullest jokes, the most ungentlemanlike shifts and contrivances were all set down to Sheridan, and accepted by the million. And every fresh batch of invented trash sank him one degree lower from his true level.
It was reserved for "Grace and Philip Wharton" (or whoever may skulk behind that alias,) to write at last the most foolish, false, and abusive of the many inferior memoirs that have been based on those hasty originals.
Following "the lead," in their trashy abridgment of more tedious gossip-(but with more vulgarity,-the great jest of their pages consisting in calling Sheridan and his wife "Sherry and Betsy,"-)great stress is laid on the drunkenness of Sheridan. To read notices of this kind, one would imagine Sheridan was the only drunken man of his day. Was Pitt sober? Was Fox sober? Were they not, on the contrary, models of intemperance? Was not that vice the habitual and constant temptation of the