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Miss Leigh's notions of female education Upon his own head in strong martyrdom, differed widely from her brother's. She In order to light men a moment's space. seems to have thought both love and grief But stay !who judges ?-who distinguishes ? were weeds or flowers that need no cultivat- And leaves King Saul precisely at the sin,
Twixt Šaul and Nahash justly, at first sight, ing, but spring up readily enough in every To serve King David ?' Who discerns at once woman's heart. 'Here is Aurora's English The sound of the trumpets, when the trumpets school programme, which, with many hun blow dreds of lines like them, have certainly no For Alaric as well as Charlemagne ? right to be called verse :
Who judges prophets, and can tell true seers
From conjurors ?” “I learnt the collects and the catechism,
The delineation of her mind at this period * *
* And various popular synopses of
gives occasion to the following remarkable Inhuman doctrines never taught by John,
passage:Because she liked instructed piety. I learnt my complement of classic French
“The cygnet finds the water, but the man (Kept pure of Balzac and neologism),
Is born in ignorance of his element, And German also, since she liked a range
And feels out blind at first, disorganized Of liberal education,--tongues, not books.
By sin i' the blood,-his spirit-insight dull'd I learnt a little algebra, a little
And crossed by his sensations. Presently of the mathematics; brushed with extreme
We feel it quicken in the dark sometimes; flounce
Then mark, be reverent, be obedientThe circle of the sciences, because
For those dumb motions of imperfect life She misliked women who were frivolous.
Are oracles of vital Deity I learnt the royal geneaologies
Attesting the Hereafter. Let who says Or Oviedo, the internal laws
• The soul's a clean white paper,' rather say, of the Burmese empire, by how many feet
A palimpsest, a prophet's holograph Mount Chimborazo outsoars Himmeleh,
Defiled, erased and covered by a monk's
What navigable river joins itself
The Apocalypse, by a Longus! poring on To Lara, and what census of the year five
With obscene text, we may discern perhaps Was taken at Klagenfurt."
Some fair, fine trace of what was written once,
Some upstroke of an alpha and omega Aurora had a cousin, Romney Leigh, the
Expressing the old scripture.” owner of the family estate, Leigh Hall. The From reading poetry, she became a writer two children saw much of each other, but of it, and gives us scores of pages of "her were of dispositions and tastes so opposite, highest convictions upon art,” all more or that their intercourse consisted chiefly of less acute, and worth considering, but which disputes. As they grew up they diverged would be more in place in a review than an further from one another. Romney became epic. The development of her powers as a philanthropic socialist, bent on utilitarian a poetess is elaborately depicted; but as plans of action, and pondering on the dregs Mrs. Browning is herself almost the only of humanity ; while Aurora grew into a modern example of such development, the poetess, for ever musing on the ideal and story is uninteresting from its very singubeautiful. She discovered, in an attic, piles larity. of books marked with her father's name, and Aurora wrote and read on in secret, her from this sanctuary would steal spiritual aunt only half suspecting this development, food, unknown to her aunt. She read" books of which she would have disapproved with good and bad;" and makes the following all her might. admirable remarks upon the perils of such a course of study :
“She said sometimes,' Aurora, have you done
Your task this morning-have you read that “ You cheer him on
book, As if the worst could happen were to rest And are you ready for the crochet here?' Too long beside a fountain. Yet behold,
As if she said, I know there's something wrong; Behold !--the world of books is still the world; I know I have not ground you down enough And worldlings in it are less merciful
To flatten and bake you to a wholesome crust And more puissant. For the wicked there For household uses and proprieties." Are winged like angels. Every knife that strikes Is edged from elemental fire to assail
The poetess did her work meekly, her A spiritual life. The beautifal seems right “soul singing at a work apart," and all went By force of beauty, and the feeble wrong
on without let or hindrance, till one June Because of weakness. Power is justified Though armed against St. Michael.
morning, when Aurora arose upon her twen
tieth birthday. She got up early, and left True, many a prophet teaches in the roads ; the house, “ brushing a green track along True, many a seer pulls down the flaming heavens the grass," and finding that the world would
not, or rather could not, crown her, seeing man's; that poetry, unless of the very best, that she was a poetess only in secret, she is frivolous work; that there is earnest work took a sudden fancy to crown herself; and to do, for him to do, and for her to do, if after hesitating between bay, myrtle, ver- she will become his helper and his wife. bena, and guelder roses, she turned to a The young poetess, indignant at being wreath of ivy, and twisted it round her sought as a mere helpmate, refuses the offer. head. At this moment she beheld her Her aunt, on hearing of Romney's offer and cousin beside her,
rejection, expresses great grief, and tells
Aurora that she will inherit no' money, all “ With a mouth Twice graver than his eyes."
her father's and all her aunt's being settled on
Romney, by a clause in a former deed, exRomney had found her manuscript poems, cluding offspring by a foreign wife. She with “Greek upon the margin. A con told her further, that Romney's father had versation ensues on the subjects of art and wished that the cousins should marry, in ent sides. The burden of Aurora's argu- wish, all of which strengthened Aurora in philanthropy, the cousins espousing differ- order to repair this injustice, and that her
own father had known and approved the ment was this:
her determination to adhere to her refusal. “You will not compass your poor ends
Soon after this, the aunt was found dead Of barley feeding and material ease
by her bedside, with an unopened letter in Without the Poet's individualism
her hand. On the reading of the will, it was To work your universal. It takes a soul found that she had left Aurora three hun. To move a body,-it takes a high-souled man
dred pounds," and all
other monies of which To move the masses—even to a cleaner stye: she died possessed.” Romney, who, as heir, It takes the ideal, to blow an inch inside The dust of the actual: and your Fouriers failed, old lady died possessed of £30,000, of which
attended the funeral, told Aurora that the *Because not poets enough to understand That life develops from within."
no mention was made in the will; but
Aurora, suspecting that her cousin was by And, as she eloquently says, in another some means bestowing upon her this money, place :
insisted on seeing deeds to prove her aunt's " the thrushes sang
possession of it. A little inquiry showed And shook my pulses and the elm's new leaves, aunt, and that the unopened letter found in
that Romney had presented this sum to his And then I turned, and held my finger up, And bade him mark, that howsoe'er the world
her hand, contained the deed of gift, which, Went ill, as he related, certainly
though made, had never been accepted. The thrushes still sang in it.-At which word Aurora tore the deed in shreds and went to His brow would soften,--and he bore with me lodgings in London. In melancholy patience, not unkind,
Seven years later, we find her an estabWhile breaking into voluble ecstacy, I flattered all the beauteous country round,
lished authoress, with piles of literary letAs poet's use ... the skies, the clouds, the fields, ters; solitary and poor, hard-worked, but The happy violets, hiding from the roads uncomplaining. One day a stranger enters, The primroses run down to, carrying gold, and announces herself as Lady Waldemar, The tangled hedgerows, where the cows push out with little prelude, she declared herself to Their tolerant horns, and patient churning mouths be a widow, and in love with Romney With birds, and gnats, and large white butterflies, was on the point of espousing a beggar's Twixt
dripping ash boughs, --hedgerows all alive, Leigh. She told Aurora that her cousin Which look as if the May-flower had caught life daughter from St. Giles's, and asked her And palpitated forth upon the wind, Hills, vales, woods, netted in a silver mist;
help in breaking off, or at any rate, postFarms, granges doabled up among the hills,
poning the marriage. Aurora ascertained And cattle grazing in the watered vales, that Lady Waldemar was commissioned by And cottage chimneys smoking from the woods, Romney to tell her the news, and introduce And cottage gardens smelling everywhere, her to his bride-elect, and to get her countenConfused with smell of orchards. See,' I said,
ance to the marriage, which marriage Lady * And see, is God not with us on the earth ?
Waldemar to him appeared to approve And shall we put Him down by aught we do? Who says there's nothing for the poor and vile,
and promote. She would have nothing to Save poverty and wickedness? behold!' say to this double dealing on the part of And ankle-deep in English grass I leaped,
Lady Waldemar, to whom she plainly says And clapped my hands, and called all very fair.” as much, in not very courteous terms. Au
rora then hastened to St. Margaret's Court, The burden of Romney's argument was, to see the woman whom her cousin was to that women write at best but such poetry as marry. “ An ineffable face” met her on the gains for highest eulogy, comparison to a threshold of a wretched room, and being
soon assured by Aurora's friendly manner, | The marriage-day arrived, and
“ Hall St. Giles in frieze ing tramper, who beat her mother, her Was bidden to meet St. James in cloth of gold; mother turning in anger to beat her:
And, after contract at the altar, pass
To eat a marriage-feast on Hampstead Heath." “Her first cry in our strange and strangling air, When cast in spasms out from the shuddering The congregation assembled early, and womb,
chatted long, expecting the bride, but she Was wrong against the social code, forced
came not; and at the last moment, a letter wrong What business had the baby to ery there ?"
is delivered to Romney in Marian's hand.
In this letter, Marian states her conviction She grew up neglected and ill-used, till that she best shows her love to Romney by some ladies got her to a Sunday-school. saving him the unhappiness that must fol. There she learned to read and write, also to low a union with her: understand the wickedness of her parents, but little else. She found, however, a more " It would be dreadful for a friend of yours profitable school in “Heaven's high blue," To see all England thrust you out of doors, which she would steal away to gaze at; and
And mock you from the windows." in sundry fragments of the English poets which chanced to come into her hands :
She hints at there being some one else thus, we are to suppose, she learned the high whom Romney loves : code of morality and virtue which she after
" You might say, wards adhered to, for no one taught or spoke Or think, (that worse,) “There's some one in the to her but her brutish parents, and the un house, profitable Sunday teacher. When she reach. I miss and love still ? Dreadful!" ed early womanhood, her mother attempted to betray her to a drunken squire, from She then goes on to say she shall go whom she fled in terror. Swooning, she where no one can find her :was picked up and taken to an hospital. She had a long illness, and it was on her re- "I never could be happy as your wife,
I never could be harmless as your friend : covery that she first saw Romney Leigh,
I never will look more into your face who was visiting the sick people, and on
Till God says . Look.'-I charge you seek me hearing that she was about to leave, inquired not, what her future plans were, and by degrees Nor vex yourself with lamentable thoughts learned her history. “He sent her to a fa That, peradventure, I am come to grief : mous sempstress house far off in London,"
Be sure I'm well, I'm merry, I'm at ease! and there she worked well till one of her
But such a long way, long way, long way off, companions fell sick. Marian then left the
I think you'll find me sooner in my grave." house to nurse her, and after the death of the girl, stayed to watch and nurse the crazy ney, it was still more so to the congregated
Inexplicable as the mystery was to Rommother, who was now alone. Romney hundreds of St. Giles's who did not read the found her at this work. “He was not angry letter, and were too much exasperated at that she had left the house wherein he their 'missed triumph to listen to Romney, placed her.” “He did not say 'twas well, who wished to address them. "Pull him yet Marian thought he did not take it ill," down, strike him, kill him!"
was called out --and on the day her last patient died, from the crowd, some of whom suggested Romney asked her to be his helpmate and foul play on the part of the bridegroom; wife. Aurora was charmed by the girl's manner, that the church could be cleared and order
and it was not till the police were called in, and embraced her as her future cousin.
restored. Romney came in while they were still talking, and Aurora expressed a wish that the but could find no trace of her. He then left
Romney made long search for Marian, wedding should be from her home, but her London, and Aurora again lost sight of him. cousin refused :
On his return to the country, Romney be. "I take my wife came more than ever engrossed in his Directly from the people, and she
schemes of philanthropy. He turned his As Austria's daughter to imperial France,
family seat into a Phalanstery, and devoted Betwixt her eagles, blinking not her race, From Margaret's Court, at garret height, to meet himself to the reformation of the thieves And wed me at St. James's, nor put off
and poachers, who took up their abode Her gown of serge for that. The things we do, there. We do : we'll wear no mask, as if we blushed." Aurora now wrote å great poem, in
which, after long feeling dissatisfied with her
"Open mouth, productions, she at last had a consciousness And such a noise will follow, the last trump's of having in some degree conveyed in words, Will scarcely seem more dreadful, even to her. the things she had thought and felt. She
These letters sent, Aurora proceeded with went soon after to a party, and refused an offer
from a man of birth and fortune, and Marian and her child to Florence. A letter heard that Romney was engaged to Lady from a friend tells her that her poem has Waldemar. Almost immediately after this, won all suffrages, and is doing the work of she left her new poem with a publisher, and an evangelist;
and then speaks of Romney set out for Florence.
in words which Aurora misunderstands into On her way, Aurora was detained a few conveying news of his marriage with Lady days in Paris; and walking one day in the Waldemar. The natural effect of the first flower market, she met Marian Erle. Ma- news is counterbalanced by the second, and rian has a child, and would gladly avoid Aurora sinks into a state of melancholy, Aurora, but Aurora persists in going to her which lasts till the concluding scene. home, and succeeds at last in learning the
On looking up one evening, as she is sitmystery of Marian's flight and present ting alone in the garden, she sees Romney condition.
standing before her. By this time, it is Lady Waldemar had been often to her, clear to every one but Aurora herself, and and had contrived to make her believe that perhaps to her, that she loves him deeply. misery would_follow her marriage with She is too much agitated to notice, either Romney; that Romney had loved her, Lady from his manner of greeting her or sitting Waldemar,
and she him; that his offer to down, that he is blind. Romney believes Marian was prompted by principle only, that she has heard of his misfortune, for it and would be followed up in a spirit of mar- was indeed an allusion to it that she had tyrdom. Lady Waldemar then offered to misunderstood for a notice of his marriage; send her in the
charge of a respectable per- they, therefore, talk for some time at cross son, who had formerly been her maid, to purposes. Romney, however, says one thing Australia. Marian gladly accepted the offer, in a straightforward way :and went with the woman, who, instead of
“I have read your book, taking her to Australia, had brought her to an infamous house in Paris, where drugs
The book is in my heart; and force were used to accomplish her ruin. Lives in me, wakes in me, and dreams with me : She had fled from this place in delirium, which has no smack of it,'I pour it out;
My daily bread tastes of it, and my wine was taken in by a farmer's wife ; obtained It seems annatural drinking, employment, but lost it on its appearing that she was about to become a mother; and refers to their old argument on Aurora's and had, since then, supported herself and birthday, confessing himself a convert to all her child, now a year old, by needlework. she then urged. He also tells her of the
Aurora took both mother and child to her failure of his labours at Leigh Hall, where own home; and, after long debate, wrote the people had risen úp and burnt the old .two letters, one to a mutual friend of her's house to the ground; of an illness which had and Romney's, telling him all, and asking attacked him afterwards; and speaks so him only to communicate this story to her plainly, in the course of his narrative, of his cousin should he not be married to Lady unchanged love to Aurora, that she, believWaldemar; and the other to that lady, re-ing him to be the husband of another woman, proaching her for having
rebukes him. All this misunderstanding “ Tricked poor Marian Erle,
and beating about the bush, is tedious, And set her own love digging her own grave,
though it gives occasion to a magnificent Within her green hope's pretty garden ground: simile-Aurora, bidding her cousin look at Ay, sent her forth with some one of your sort, the stars, To a wicked house in France."
" I signed above, where all the stars were out, She adds that, if Lady Waldemar is As if an urgent heat had started there Romney's wife, and will
A secret writing from a sombre page,
A blank last moment, crowded suddenly “ Keep warm his heart, and clean his board, and With hurrying splendours."
when He speaks, be ready with obedience," &c. The éclaircissement comes at last. Aurora, If she will attend to all this, she is “safe mentioning Lady Waldemar as her cousin's
wife; from Marian and Aurora ;" but if she “ fail
" Are ye mad? a point,” they will
He echoed-Wife! mine ! Lady Waldemar !'”
and this half of the mistake is rectified; and This is all Marian required. She would Romney gives a letter from Lady Walde- fain have her own consciousness of innocence mar to Aurora, in which that lady repudi- ratified by such proof from the man she ates the charge of having sent Marian " to a most revered ; but sorrow has driven love wicked house in France." She explains that from her heart; she cannot re-awaken in her. Marian's conductor was an old servant who self an interest for any but her child; she had lived “five months” in her house, and gratefully but firmly refuses to marry Romhad money for the voyage to Australia, the ney, who believing his love to Aurora unreembezzlement of which had probably tempt- turned, is taking his leave, when on her ed her to stop short on the way. Having alluding again to the stars, he tells her of finished the letter, which related also how all his blindness, and relates how the illness was broken off between Romney and its which produced it, was caused by an assault writer, Aurora exclaims,
from Marian Erle's father, whom Romney
had endeavoured to save from justice, at the "Ah, not married !
time of the riots at Leigh Hall: he then You mistake,' he said, again says farewell, but is stopped by Auro*I'm married,—Is not Marian Erle my wife?
ra, who confesses her love to him : and so As God sees things, I have a wife and child ; And I, as I'm a man who honours God,
the story ends-considerably to the vexation, Am here to claim them as my wife and child.' we should think, of those readers, who may
be such thorough-going haters of “ conven“ I felt it hard to breathe, much less to speak. tions” as to wish to have had Romney actuNor word of mine was needed. Some one else ally married to Marian Earle. Was there for answering. 'Romney,' she be- The command of imagery shown by Mrs. gan,
Browning, in this poem, is really surprising, My great good angel, Romney." Then at first
even in this day when every poetaster seems I knew that Marian Erle was beautiful.
to be endowed with a more or less startling She stood there still and pallid as a saint,
amount of that power; but Mrs. Browning Dilated like a saint in ecstacy,
seldom goes out of her way for an image, as As if the floating moonshine interposed nearly all our other versifiers are in the habit Betwixt her foot and the earth, and raised her of doing continually. There is a vital conup,
tinuity, through the whole of this immensely To float upon it. I had left my child, Who sleeps,' she said, "and having drawn this long work, which is thus remarkably,
most favourably distinguished from the I heard you speaking ... friend, confirm me sand-weaving of so many of her contemponow.
raries. The earnestness of the authoress is, You take this Marian, such as wicked men also, plainly, without affectation, and her enHave made her, for your honourable wife ?' thusiasm for truth and beauty, as she appre
hends them, unbounded. A work upon such The thrilling, solemn, proud, pathetic voice! a scale, and with such a scope, had it been He stretched his arms out towards the thrilling faultless, would have been the greatest work
voice, As if to draw it on to his embrace.
of the age; but unhappily there are faults, 'I take her as God made her, and as men
and very serious ones, over and above those Must fail to unmake her, for my honoured wife.' which we have already hinted. The poem
has evidently been written in a very small "She never raised her eyes nor took a step, proportion of the time which a work so very But stood there in her place and spoke again- ambitiously conceived ought to have taken. You take this Marian's child which is her The language which in passionate scenes is
shame, In sight of men and women, for your child,
simple and real, in other parts becomes very Of whom you will not ever feel ashamed ?'
turgid and unpoetical; for example :
" What if even God The thrilling, tender, proud, pathetic voice ! Were chiefly God by working out himself He stepped on toward it, still with outstretched To an individualism of the Infinite
Eterne, intense, profuse,—still throwing up As if to quench upon his breast that voice.
The golden spray of multitudinous worlds May God so father me, as I do him, In measure to the proclive weight and rush And so forsake me as I let him feel
Of his inner nature,—the spontaneous love He's orphaned haply. Here I take the child Still proof and outflow of spontaneous life?" To share my cup, to slumber on my knee, To play his loudest gambol at my foot,
Or, in a different style, the style, unfortuTo hold my finger in the public ways, nately, of hundreds of lines :Till none shall need inquire, • Whose child is this ?'
" In those days, though, I never analyzed The gesture saying so tenderly, 'My own."" Myself even : all analysis comes late."