THE ETHICS OF THE DUST
TEN LECTURES TO LITTLE HOUSEWIVES
ON THE ELEMENTS OF CRYSTALLIZATION
JOHN RUSKIN, LL.D.,
HONORARY STUDENT OF CHRIST CHURCH, AND SLADE PROFESSOR OF FINE ART
TO THE REAL LITTLE HOUSEWIVES, WHOSE GENTLE LISTENING AND
THOUGHTFUL QUESTIONING ENABLED THE WRITER TO WRITE THIS BOOK, IT
IS DEDICATED WITH HIS LOVE.
I. THE VALLEY OF DIAMONDS
II. THE PYRAMID BUILDERS
III. THE CRYSTAL LIFE
IV. THE CRYSTAL ORDERS
V. CRYSTAL VIRTUES
VI. CRYSTAL QUARRELS
VII. HOME VIRTUES
VIII. CRYSTAL CAPRICE
IX. CRYSTAL SORROWS
X. THE CRYSTAL REST
OLD LECTURER (of incalculable age).
on astronomical evidence presumed to be aged 9.
ISABEL ..................................... " 11.
MAY ........................................ " 11.
LILY ....................................... " 12.
KATHLEEN.................................... " 14.
LUCILLA..................................... " 15.
VIOLET ..................................... " 16.
DORA (who has the keys and is housekeeper)... " 17.
EGYPT (so called from her dark eyes) ....... " 17.
JESSIE (who somehow always makes the room
look brighter when she is in it) ........... " 18.
MARY (of whom everybody, including the Old
Lecturer, is in great awe) ................. " 20.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
I have seldom been more disappointed by the result of my best
pains given to any of my books, than by the earnest request of my
publisher, after the opinion of the public had been taken on the
"Ethics of the Dust," that I would "write no more in dialogue!"
However, I bowed to public judgment in this matter at once
(knowing also my inventive powers to be of the feeblest); but in
reprinting the book (at the prevailing request of my kind friend,
Mr. Henry Willett), I would pray the readers whom it may at first
offend by its disconnected method, to examine, nevertheless, with
care, the passages in which the principal speaker sums the
conclusions of any dialogue: for these summaries were written as
introductions, for young people, to all that I have said on the
same matters in my larger books; and, on re-reading them, they
satisfy me better, and seem to me calculated to be more generally
useful, than anything else I have done of the kind.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
The summary of the contents of the whole book, beginning, "You may
at least earnestly believe," at p. 215, is thus the clearest
exposition I have ever yet given of the general conditions under
which the Personal Creative Power manifests itself in the forms of
matter; and the analysis of heathen conceptions of Deity,
beginning at p. 217, and closing at p. 229, not only prefaces, but
very nearly supersedes, all that in more lengthy terms I have
since asserted, or pleaded for, in "Aratra Pentelici," and the
"Queen of the Air."
And thus, however the book may fail in its intention of suggesting
new occupations or interests to its younger readers, I think it
worth reprinting, in the way I have also reprinted "Unto this
Last,"--page for page; that the students of my more advanced works
may be able to refer to these as the original documents of them;
of which the most essential in this book are these following.
I. The explanation of the baseness of the avaricious functions of
the Lower Pthah, p. 54, with his beetle-gospel, p. 59, "that a
nation can stand on its vices better than on its virtues,"
explains the main motive of all my books on Political Economy.
II. The examination of the connection between stupidity and crime,
pp. 87-96, anticipated all that I have had to urge in Fors
Clavigera against the commonly alleged excuse for public
wickedness,--"They don't mean it--they don't know any better."
III. The examination of the roots of Moral Power, pp. 145-149, is
a summary of what is afterwards developed with utmost care in my
inaugural lecture at Oxford on the relation of Art to Morals;
compare in that lecture, sections 83-85, with the sentence in p.
147 of this book, "Nothing is ever done so as really to please our
Father, unless we would also have done it, though we had had no
Father to know of it."
This sentence, however, it must be observed, regards only the
general conditions of action in the children of God, in
consequence of which it is foretold of them by Christ that they
will say at the Judgment, "When saw we thee?" It does not refer to
the distinct cases in which virtue consists in faith given to
command, appearing to foolish human judgment inconsistent with the
Moral Law, as in the sacrifice of Isaac; nor to those in which any
directly-given command requires nothing more of virtue than
IV. The subsequent pages, 149-158, were written especially to
check the dangerous impulses natural to the minds of many amiable
young women, in the direction of narrow and selfish religious
sentiment: and they contain, therefore, nearly everything which I
believe it necessary that young people should be made to observe,
respecting the errors of monastic life. But they in nowise enter
on the reverse, or favorable side: of which indeed I did not, and
as yet do not, feel myself able to speak with any decisiveness;
the evidence on that side, as stated in the text, having "never
yet been dispassionately examined."
V. The dialogue with Lucilla, beginning at p. 96, is, to my own
fancy, the best bit of conversation in the book; and the issue of
it, at p. 103, the most practically and immediately useful. For on
the idea of the inevitable weakness and corruption of human
nature, has logically followed, in our daily life, the horrible
creed of modern "Social science," that all social action must be
scientifically founded on vicious impulses. But on the habit of
measuring and reverencing our powers and talents that we may
kindly use them, will be founded a true Social science,
developing, by the employment of them, all the real powers and
honorable feelings of the race.
VI. Finally, the account given in the second and third lectures,
of the real nature and marvelousness of the laws of
crystallization, is necessary to the understanding of what farther
teaching of the beauty of inorganic form I may be able to give,
either in "Deucalion," or in my "Elements of Drawing." I wish
however that the second lecture had been made the beginning of the
book; and would fain now cancel the first altogether, which I
perceive to be both obscure and dull. It was meant for a
metaphorical description of the pleasures and dangers in the
kingdom of Mammon, or of worldly wealth; its waters mixed with
blood, its fruits entangled in thickets of trouble, and poisonous
when gathered; and the final captivity of its inhabitants within
frozen walls of cruelty and disdain. But the imagery is stupid and
ineffective throughout; and I retain this chapter only because I
am resolved to leave no room for any one to say that I have
withdrawn, as erroneous in principle, so much as a single sentence
of any of my books written since 1860.
One license taken in this book, however, though often permitted to
essay-writers for the relief of their dullness, I never mean to
take more,--the relation of composed metaphor as of actual dream,
pp. 27 and 171. I assumed, it is true, that in these places the
supposed dream would be easily seen to be an invention; but must
not any more, even under so transparent disguise, pretend to any
share in the real powers of Vision possessed by great poets and
10th October, 1877.
The following lectures were really given, in substance, at a
girls' school (far in the country); which, in the course of
various experiments on the possibility of introducing some better
practice of drawing into the modern scheme of female education, I
visited frequently enough to enable the children to regard me as a
friend. The Lectures always fell more or less into the form of
fragmentary answers to questions; and they are allowed to retain
that form, as, on the whole, likely to be more interesting than
the symmetries of a continuous treatise. Many children (for the
school was large) took part, at different times, in the
conversations; but I have endeavored, without confusedly
multiplying the number of imaginary speakers, to represent, as far
as I could, the general tone of comment and inquiry among young
[Footnote: I do not mean, in saying "imaginary," that I have not
permitted to myself, in several instances, the affectionate
discourtesy of some reminiscence of personal character; for which
I must hope to be forgiven by my old pupils and their friends, as
I could not otherwise have written the book at all. But only two
sentences in all the dialogues, and the anecdote of "Dotty," are
It will be at once seen that these Lectures were not intended for
an introduction to mineralogy. Their purpose was merely to awaken
in the minds of young girls, who were ready to work earnestly and
systematically, a vital interest in the subject of their study. No
science can be learned in play; but it is often possible, in play,
to bring good fruit out of past labor, or show sufficient reasons
for the labor of the future.
The narrowness of this aim does not, indeed, justify the absence
of all reference to many important principles of structure, and
many of the most interesting orders of minerals; but I felt it
impossible to go far into detail without illustrations; and if
readers find this book useful, I may, perhaps, endeavor to
supplement it by illustrated notes of the more interesting
phenomena in separate groups of familiar minerals;--flints of the
chalk;--agates of the basalts;--and the fantastic and exquisitely
beautiful varieties of the vein-ores of the two commonest metals,
lead and iron. But I have always found that the less we speak of
our intentions, the more chance there is of our realizing them;
and this poor little book will sufficiently have done its work,
for the present, if it engages any of its young readers in study
which may enable them to despise it for its shortcomings.
DENMARK HILL: Christmas, 1865.
THE VALLEY OF DIAMONDS
A very idle talk, by the dining-room fire, after raisin-and-almond
OLD LECTURER; FLORRIE, ISABEL, MAY, LILY, and SIBYL.
OLD LECTURER (L.). Come here, Isabel, and tell me what the make-
believe was, this afternoon.
ISABEL (arranging herself very primly on the foot-stool). Such a
dreadful one! Florrie and I were lost in the Valley of Diamonds.
L. What! Sindbad's, which nobody could get out of? ISABEL. Yes;
but Florrie and I got out of it.
L. So I see. At least, I see you did; but are you sure Florrie
ISABEL. Quite sure.
FLORRIE (putting her head round from behind L.'s sofa-cushion).
Quite sure. (Disappears again.)
L. I think I could be made to feel surer about it.
(FLORRIE reappears, gives L. a kiss, and again exit.)
L. I suppose it's all right; but how did you manage it?
ISABEL. Well, you know, the eagle that took up Sindbad was very
large--very, very large--the largest of all the eagles.
L. How large were the others?
ISABEL. I don't quite know--they were so far off. But this one
was, oh, so big! and it had great wings, as wide as--twice over
the ceiling. So, when it was picking up Sindbad, Florrie and I
thought it wouldn't know if we got on its back too: so I got up
first, and then I pulled up Florrie, and we put our arms round its
neck, and away it flew.
L. But why did you want to get out of the valley? and why haven't
you brought me some diamonds?
ISABEL. It was because of the serpents. I couldn't pick up even
the least little bit of a diamond, I was so frightened.
L. You should not have minded the serpents.
ISABEL. Oh, but suppose that they had minded me?
L. We all of us mind you a little too much, Isabel, I'm afraid.
ISABEL. No--no--no, indeed.
L. I tell you what, Isabel--I don't believe either Sindbad, or
Florrie, or you, ever were in the Valley of Diamonds.
ISABEL. You naughty! when I tell you we were!
L. Because you say you were frightened at the serpents.
ISABEL. And wouldn't you have been?
L. Not at those serpents. Nobody who really goes into the valley
is ever frightened at them--they are so beautiful.
ISABEL (suddenly serious). But there's no real Valley of Diamonds,
L. Yes, Isabel; very real indeed.
FLORRIE (reappearing). Oh, where? Tell me about it.
L. I cannot tell you a great deal about it; only I know it is very
different from Sindbad's. In his valley, there was only a diamond
lying here and there; but, in the real valley, there are diamonds
covering the grass in showers every morning, instead of dew: and
there are clusters of trees, which look like lilac trees; but, in
spring, all their blossoms are of amethyst.
FLORRIE. But there can't be any serpents there, then?
L. Why not?
FLORRIE. Because they don't come into such beautiful places.
L. I never said it was a beautiful place.
FLORRIE. What! not with diamonds strewed about it like dew?
L. That's according to your fancy, Florrie. For myself, I like dew
ISABEL. Oh, but the dew won't stay; it all dries!
L. Yes; and it would be much nicer if the diamonds dried too, for
the people in the valley have to sweep them off the grass, in
heaps, whenever they want to walk on it; and then the heaps
glitter so, they hurt one's eyes.
FLORRIE. Now you're just playing, you know.
L. So are you, you know.
FLORRIE. Yes, but you mustn't play.
L. That's very hard, Florrie; why mustn't I, if you may?
FLORRIE. Oh, I may, because I'm little, but you mustn't, because
you're--(hesitates for a delicate expression of magnitude).
L. (rudely taking the first that comes). Because I'm big? No;
that's not the way of it at all, Florrie. Because you're little,
you should have very little play; and because I'm big I should
have a great deal.
ISABEL and FLORRIE (both). No--no--no--no. That isn't it at all.
(ISABEL sola, quoting Miss Ingelow.) "The lambs play always--they
know no better." (Putting her head very much on one side.) Ah, now
--please--please--tell us true; we want to know.
L. But why do you want me to tell you true, any more than the man
who wrote the "Arabian Nights"?
ISABEL. Because--because we like to know about real things; and
you can tell us, and we can't ask the man who wrote the stories.
L. What do you call real things?
ISABEL. Now, you know! Things that really are.
L. Whether you can see them or not?
ISABEL. Yes, if somebody else saw them.
L. But if nobody has ever seen them?
ISABEL. (evading the point). Well, but, you know, if there were a
real Valley of Diamonds, somebody MUST have seen it.
L. You cannot be so sure of that, Isabel. Many people go to real
places, and never see them; and many people pass through this
valley, and never see it.
FLORRIE. What stupid people they must be!
L. No, Florrie. They are much wiser than the people who do see it.
MAY. I think I know where it is.
ISABEL. Tell us more about it, and then we'll guess.
L. Well. There's a great broad road, by a river-side, leading up
MAY (gravely cunning, with emphasis on the last word). Does the
road really go UP?
L. You think it should go down into a valley? No, it goes up; this
is a valley among the hills, and it is as high as the clouds, and
is often full of them; so that even the people who most want to
see it, cannot, always.
ISABEL. And what is the river beside the road like?
L. It ought to be very beautiful, because it flows over diamond
sand--only the water is thick and red.
ISABEL. Red water?
L. It isn't all water.
MAY. Oh, please never mind that, Isabel, just now; I want to hear
about the valley.
L. So the entrance to it is very wide, under a steep rock; only
such numbers of people are always trying to get in, that they keep
jostling each other, and manage it but slowly. Some weak ones are
pushed back, and never get in at all; and make great moaning as
they go away: but perhaps they are none the worse in the end.
MAY. And when one gets in, what is it like?
L. It is up and down, broken kind of ground: the road stops
directly; and there are great dark rocks, covered all over with
wild gourds and wild vines; the gourds, if you cut them, are red,
with black seeds, like water-melons, and look ever so nice; and
the people of the place make a red pottage of them: but you must
take care not to eat any if you ever want to leave the valley
(though I believe putting plenty of meal in it makes it
wholesome). Then the wild vines have clusters of the color of
amber; and the people of the country say they are the grape of
Eshcol; and sweeter than honey: but, indeed, if anybody else
tastes them, they are like gall. Then there are thickets of
bramble, so thorny that they would be cut away directly, anywhere
else; but here they are covered with little cinque-foiled blossoms
of pure silver; and, for berries, they have clusters of rubies.
Dark rubies, which you only see are red after gathering them. But
you may fancy what blackberry parties the children have! Only they
get their frocks and hands sadly torn.
LILY. But rubies can't spot one's frocks, as blackberries do?
L. No; but I'll tell you what spots them--the mulberries. There
are great forests of them, all up the hills, covered with silk-
worms, some munching the leaves so loud that it is like mills at
work; and some spinning. But the berries are the blackest you ever
saw; and, wherever they fall, they stain a deep red; and nothing
ever washes it out again. And it is their juice, soaking through
the grass, which makes the river so red, because all its springs
are in this wood. And the boughs of the trees are twisted, as if
in pain, like old olive branches; and their leaves are dark. And
it is in these forests that the serpents are; but nobody is afraid
of them. They have fine crimson crests, and they are wreathed
about the wild branches, one in every tree, nearly; and they are
singing serpents, for the serpents are, in this forest, what birds
are in ours.
FLORRIE. Oh, I don't want to go there at all, now.
L. You would like it very much indeed, Florrie, if you were there.
The serpents would not bite you; the only fear would be of your
turning into one!
FLORRIE. Oh, dear, but that's worse.
L. You wouldn't think so if you really were turned into one,
Florrie; you would be very proud of your crest. And as long as you
were yourself (not that you could get there if you remained quite
the little Florrie you are now), you would like to hear the
serpents sing. They hiss a little through it, like the cicadas in
Italy; but they keep good time, and sing delightful melodies; and
most of them have seven heads, with throats which each take a note
of the octave; so that they can sing chords--it is very fine
indeed. And the fireflies fly round the edge of the forests all
the night long; you wade in fireflies, they make the fields look
like a lake trembling with reflection of stars; but you must take
care not to touch them, for they are not like Italian fireflies,
but burn, like real sparks.
FLORRIE. I don't like it at all; I'll never go there.
L. I hope not, Florrie; or at least that you will get out again if
you do. And it is very difficult to get out, for beyond these
serpent forests there are great cliffs of dead gold, which form a
labyrinth, winding always higher and higher, till the gold is all
split asunder by wedges of ice; and glaciers, welded, half of ice
seven times frozen, and half of gold seven times frozen, hang down
from them, and fall in thunder, cleaving into deadly splinters,
like the Cretan arrowheads; and into a mixed dust of snow and
gold, ponderous, yet which the mountain whirlwinds are able to
lift and drive in wreaths and pillars, hiding the paths with a
burial cloud, fatal at once with wintry chill, and weight of
golden ashes. So the wanderers in the labyrinth fall, one by one,
and are buried there:--yet, over the drifted graves, those who are
spared climb to the last, through coil on coil of the path;--for
at the end of it they see the king of the valley, sitting on his
throne: and beside him (but it is only a false vision), spectra of
creatures like themselves, sit on thrones, from which they seem to
look down on all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.
And on the canopy of his throne there is an inscription in fiery
letters, which they strive to read, but cannot; for it is written
in words which are like the words of all languages, and yet are of
none. Men say it is more like their own tongue to the English than
it is to any other nation; but the only record of it is by an
Italian, who heard the king himself cry it as a war cry, "Pape
Satan, Pape Satan Aleppe." [Footnote: Dante, Inf. 7, I.]
SIBYL. But do they all perish there? You said there was a way
through the valley, and out of it.
L. Yes; but few find it. If any of them keep to the grass paths,
where the diamonds are swept aside; and hold their hands over
their eyes so as not to be dazzled, the grass paths lead forward
gradually to a place where one sees a little opening in the golden
rocks. You were at Chamouni last year, Sibyl; did your guide
chance to show you the pierced rock of the Aiguille du Midi?
SIBYL. No, indeed, we only got up from Geneva on Monday night; and
it rained all Tuesday; and we had to be back at Geneva again,
early on Wednesday morning.
L. Of course. That is the way to see a country in a Sibylline
manner, by inner consciousness: but you might have seen the
pierced rock in your drive up, or down, if the clouds broke: not
that there is much to see in it; one of the crags of the aiguille-
edge, on the southern slope of it, is struck sharply through, as
by an awl, into a little eyelet hole; which you may see, seven
thousand feet above the valley (as the clouds flit past behind it,
or leave the sky), first white, and then dark blue. Well, there's
just such an eyelet hole in one of the upper crags of the Diamond
Valley; and, from a distance, you think that it is no bigger than
the eye of a needle. But if you get up to it, they say you may
drive a loaded camel through it, and that there are fine things on
the other side, but I have never spoken with anybody who had been
SIBYL. I think we understand it now. We will try to write it down,
and think of it.
L. Meantime, Florrie, though all that I have been telling you is
very true, yet you must not think the sort of diamonds that people
wear in rings and necklaces are found lying about on the grass.
Would you like to see how they really are found?
FLORRIE. Oh, yes--yes.
L. Isabel--or Lily--run up to my room and fetch me the little box
with a glass lid, out of the top drawer of the chest of drawers.
(Race between LILY and ISABEL.)
(Re-enter ISABEL with the box, very much out of breath. LILY
L. Why, you never can beat Lily in a race on the stairs, can you,
ISABEL (panting). Lily--beat me--ever so far--but she gave me--the
box--to carry in.
L. Take off the lid, then; gently.
FLORRIE (after peeping in, disappointed). There's only a great
ugly brown stone!
L. Not much more than that, certainly, Florrie, if people were
wise. But look, it is not a single stone; but a knot of pebbles
fastened together by gravel: and in the gravel, or compressed
sand, if you look close, you will see grains of gold glittering
everywhere, all through; and then, do you see these two white
beads, which shine, as if they had been covered with grease?
FLORRIE. May I touch them?
L. Yes; you will find they are not greasy, only very smooth. Well,
those are the fatal jewels; native here in their dust with gold,
so that you may see, cradled here together, the two great enemies
of mankind,--the strongest of all malignant physical powers that
have tormented our race.
SIBYL. Is that really so? I know they do great harm; but do they
not also do great good?
L. My dear child, what good? Was any woman, do you suppose, ever
the better for possessing diamonds? but how many have been made
base, frivolous, and miserable by desiring them? Was ever man the
better for having coffers full of gold? But who shall measure the
guilt that is incurred to fill them? Look into the history of any
civilized nations; analyze, with reference to this one cause of
crime and misery, the lives and thoughts of their nobles, priests,
merchants, and men of luxurious life. Every other temptation is at
last concentrated into this: pride, and lust, and envy, and anger
all give up their strength to avarice. The sin of the whole world
is essentially the sin of Judas. Men do not disbelieve their
Christ; but they sell Him.
SIBYL. But surely that is the fault of human nature? it is not
caused by the accident, as it were, of there being a pretty metal,
like gold, to be found by digging. If people could not find that,
would they not find something else, and quarrel for it instead?
L. No. Wherever legislators have succeeded in excluding, for a
time, jewels and precious metals from among national possessions,
the national spirit has remained healthy. Covetousness is not
natural to man--generosity is; but covetousness must be excited by
a special cause, as a given disease by a given miasma; and the
essential nature of a material for the excitement of covetousness
is, that it shall be a beautiful thing which can be retained
without a use. The moment we can use our possessions to any good
purpose ourselves, the instinct of communicating that use to
others rises side by side with our power. If you can read a book
rightly, you will want others to hear it; if you can enjoy a
picture rightly, you will want others to see it: learn how to
manage a horse, a plough, or a ship, and you will desire to make
your subordinates good horsemen, ploughmen, or sailors; you will
never be able to see the fine instrument you are master of,
abused; but, once fix your desire on anything useless, and all the
purest pride and folly in your heart will mix with the desire, and
make you at last wholly inhuman, a mere ugly lump of stomach and
suckers, like a cuttle-fish.
SIBYL. But surely, these two beautiful things, gold and diamonds,
must have been appointed to some good purpose?
L. Quite conceivably so, my dear: as also earthquakes and
pestilences; but of such ultimate purposes we can have no sight.
The practical, immediate office of the earthquake and pestilence
is to slay us, like moths; and, as moths, we shall be wise to live
out of their way. So, the practical, immediate office of gold and
diamonds is the multiplied destruction of souls (in whatever sense
you have been taught to understand that phrase); and the paralysis
of wholesome human effort and thought on the face of God's earth:
and a wise nation will live out of the way of them. The money
which the English habitually spend in cutting diamonds would, in
ten years, if it were applied to cutting rocks instead, leave no
dangerous reef nor difficult harbor round the whole island coast.
Great Britain would be a diamond worth cutting, indeed, a true
piece of regalia. (Leaves this to their thoughts for a little
while.) Then, also, we poor mineralogists might sometimes have the
chance of seeing a fine crystal of diamond unhacked by the
SIBYL. Would it be more beautiful uncut?
L. No; but of infinite interest. We might even come to know
something about the making of diamonds.
SIBYL. I thought the chemists could make them already?
L. In very small black crystals, yes; but no one knows how they
are formed where they are found; or if indeed they are formed
there at all. These, in my hand, look as if they had been swept
down with the gravel and gold; only we can trace the gravel and
gold to their native rocks, but not the diamonds. Read the account
given of the diamond in any good work on mineralogy;--you will
find nothing but lists of localities of gravel, or conglomerate
rock (which is only an old indurated gravel). Some say it was once
a vegetable gum; but it may have been charred wood; but what one
would like to know is, mainly, why charcoal should make itself
into diamonds in India, and only into black lead in Borrowdale.
SIBYL. Are they wholly the same, then?
L. There is a little iron mixed with our black lead; but nothing
to hinder its crystallization. Your pencils in fact are all
pointed with formless diamond, though they would be H H H pencils
to purpose, if it crystallized.
SIBYL. But what IS crystallization?
L. A pleasant question, when one's half asleep, and it has been
tea-time these two hours. What thoughtless things girls are!
SYBIL. Yes, we are; but we want to know, for all that.
L. My dear, it would take a week to tell you.
SIBYL. Well, take it, and tell us.
L. But nobody knows anything about it.
SIBYL. Then tell us something that nobody knows.
L. Get along with you, and tell Dora to make tea.
(The house rises; but of course the LECTURER wanted to be forced
to lecture again, and was.)
THE PYRAMID BUILDERS
In the large Schoolroom, to which everybody has been summoned by
ringing of the great bell.
L. So you have all actually come to hear about crystallization! I
cannot conceive why unless the little ones think that the
discussion may involve some reference to sugar-candy.
(Symptoms of high displeasure among the younger members of
council. ISABEL frowns severely at L., and shakes her head
My dear children, if you knew it, you are yourselves, at this
moment, as you sit in your ranks, nothing, in the eye of a
mineralogist, but a lovely group of rosy sugar-candy, arranged by
atomic forces. And even admitting you to be something more, you
have certainly been crystallizing without knowing it. Did not I
hear a great hurrying and whispering ten minutes ago, when you
were late in from the playground; and thought you would not all be
quietly seated by the time I was ready:--besides some discussion
about places--something about "it's not being fair that the little
ones should always be nearest?" Well, you were then all being
crystallized. When you ran in from the garden, and against one
another in the passages, you were in what mineralogists would call
a state of solution, and gradual confluence; when you got seated
in those orderly rows, each in her proper place, you became
crystalline. That is just what the atoms of a mineral do, if they
can, whenever they get disordered: they get into order again as
soon as may be.
I hope you feel inclined to interrupt me, and say, "But we know
our places; how do the atoms know theirs? And sometimes we dispute
about our places; do the atoms--(and, besides, we don't like being
compared to atoms at all)--never dispute about theirs?" Two wise
questions these, if you had a mind to put them! it was long before
I asked them myself, of myself. And I will not call you atoms any
more. May I call you--let me see--"primary molecules?" (General
dissent indicated in subdued but decisive murmurs.) No! not even,
in familiar Saxon, "dust"?
(Pause, with expression on faces of sorrowful doubt; LILY gives
voice to the general sentiment in a timid "Please don't.")
No, children, I won't call you that; and mind, as you grow up,
that you do not get into an idle and wicked habit of calling
yourselves that. You are something better than dust, and have
other duties to do than ever dust can do; and the bonds of
affection you will enter into are better than merely "getting in
to order." But see to it, on the other hand, that you always
behave at least as well as "dust;" remember, it is only on
compulsion, and while it has no free permission to do as it likes,
that IT ever gets out of order; but sometimes, with some of us,
the compulsion has to be the other way--hasn't it? (Remonstratory
whispers, expressive of opinion that the LECTURER is becoming too
personal.) I'm not looking at anybody in particular--indeed I am
not. Nay, if you blush so, Kathleen, how can one help looking?
We'll go back to the atoms.
"How do they know their places?" you asked, or should have asked.
Yes, and they have to do much more than know them: they have to
find their way to them, and that quietly and at once, without
running against each other.
We may, indeed, state it briefly thus:--Suppose you have to build
a castle, with towers and roofs and buttresses, out of bricks of a
given shape, and that these bricks are all lying in a huge heap at
the bottom, in utter confusion, upset out of carts at random. You
would have to draw a great many plans, and count all your bricks,
and be sure you had enough for this and that tower, before you
began, and then you would have to lay your foundation, and add
layer by layer, in order, slowly.
But how would you be astonished, in these melancholy days, when
children don't read children's books, nor believe any more in
fairies, if suddenly a real benevolent fairy, in a bright brick-
red gown, were to rise in the midst of the red bricks, and to tap
the heap of them with her wand, and say, "Bricks, bricks, to your
places!" and then you saw in an instant the whole heap rise in the
air, like a swarm of red bees, and--you have been used to see bees
make a honeycomb, and to think that strange enough, but now you
would see the honeycomb make itself!--You want to ask something,
Florrie, by the look of your eyes.
FLORRIE. Are they turned into real bees, with stings?
L. No, Florrie; you are only to fancy flying bricks, as you saw
the slates flying from the roof the other day in the storm; only
those slates didn't seem to know where they were going, and,
besides, were going where they had no business: but my spell-bound
bricks, though they have no wings, and what is worse, no heads and
no eyes, yet find their way in the air just where they should
settle, into towers and roofs, each flying to his place and
fastening there at the right moment, so that every other one shall
fit to him in his turn.
LILY. But who are the fairies, then, who build the crystals?
L. There is one great fairy, Lily, who builds much more than
crystals; but she builds these also. I dreamed that I saw her
building a pyramid, the other day, as she used to do, for the
ISABEL. But that was only a dream?
L. Some dreams are truer than some wakings, Isabel; but I won't
tell it you unless you like.
ISABEL. Oh, please, please.
L. You are all such wise children, there's no talking to you; you
won't believe anything.
LILY. No, we are not wise, and we will believe anything, when you
say we ought.
L. Well, it came about this way. Sibyl, do you recollect that
evening when we had been looking at your old cave by Cumae, and
wondering why you didn't live there still: and then we wondered
how old you were; and Egypt said you wouldn't tell, and nobody
else could tell but she; and you laughed--I thought very gayly for
a Sibyl--and said you would harness a flock of cranes for us, and
we might fly over to Egypt if we liked, and see.
SIBYL. Yes, and you went, and couldn't find out after all!
L. Why, you know, Egypt had been just doubling that third pyramid
of hers; [Footnote: Note i.] and making a new entrance into it;
and a fine entrance it was! First, we had to go through an ante-
room, which had both its doors blocked up with stones; and then we
had three granite portcullises to pull up, one after another; and
the moment we had got under them, Egypt signed to somebody above;
and down they came again behind us, with a roar like thunder, only
louder; then we got into a passage fit for nobody but rats, and
Egypt wouldn't go any further herself, but said we might go on if
we liked; and so we came to a hole in the pavement, and then to a
granite trap-door--and then we thought we had gone quite far
enough, and came back, and Egypt laughed at us.
EGYPT. You would not have had me take my crown off, and stoop all
the way down a passage fit only for rats?
L. It was not the crown, Egypt--you know that very well. It was
the flounces that would not let you go any further. I suppose,
however, you wear them as typical of the inundation of the Nile,
so it is all right.
ISABEL. Why didn't you take me with you? Where rats can go, mice
can. I wouldn't have come back.
L. No, mousie; you would have gone on by yourself, and you might
have waked one of Pasht's cats,[Footnote: Note iii] and it would
have eaten you. I was very glad you were not there. But after all
this, I suppose the imagination of the heavy granite blocks and
the underground ways had troubled me, and dreams are often shaped
in a strange opposition to the impressions that have caused them;
and from all that we had been reading in Bunsen about stones that
couldn't be lifted with levers, I began to dream about stones that
lifted themselves with wings.
SIBYL. Now you must just tell us all about it.
L. I dreamed that I was standing beside the lake, out of whose
clay the bricks were made for the great pyramid of Asychis.
[Footnote: Note ii] They had just been all finished, and were
lying by the lake margin, in long ridges, like waves. It was near
evening; and as I looked towards the sunset, I saw a thing like a
dark pillar standing where the rock of the desert stoops to the
Nile valley. I did not know there was a pillar there, and wondered
at it; and it grew larger, and glided nearer, becoming like the
form of a man, but vast, and it did not move its feet, but glided,
like a pillar of sand. And as it drew nearer, I looked by chance
past it, towards the sun; and saw a silver cloud, which was of all
the clouds closest to the sun (and in one place crossed it), draw
itself back from the sun, suddenly. And it turned, and shot
towards the dark pillar; leaping in an arch, like an arrow out of
a bow. And I thought it was lightning; but when it came near the
shadowy pillar, it sank slowly down beside it, and changed into
the shape of a woman, very beautiful, and with a strength of deep
calm in her blue eyes. She was robed to the feet with a white
robe; and above that, to her knees, by the cloud which I had seen
across the sun; but all the golden ripples of it had become
plumes, so that it had changed into two bright wings like those of
a vulture, which wrapped round her to her knees. She had a
weaver's shuttle hanging over her shoulder, by the thread of it,
and in her left hand, arrows, tipped with fire.
ISABEL (clapping her hands). Oh! it was Neith, it was Neith! I
L. Yes; it was Neith herself; and as the two great spirits came
nearer to me, I saw they were the Brother and Sister--the pillared
shadow was the Greater Pthah.[Footnote: Note iii] And I heard them
speak, and the sound of their words was like a distant singing. I
could not understand the words one by one; yet their sense came to
me; and so I knew that Neith had come down to see her brother's
work, and the work that he had put into the mind of the king to
make his servants do. And she was displeased at it; because she
saw only pieces of dark clay; and no porphyry, nor marble, nor any
fair stone that men might engrave the figures of the gods upon.
And she blamed her brother, and said, "Oh, Lord of truth! is this
then thy will, that men should mold only foursquare pieces of
clay: and the forms of the gods no more?" Then the Lord of truth
sighed, and said, "Oh! sister, in truth they do not love us; why
should they set up our images? Let them do what they may, and not
lie--let them make their clay foursquare; and labor; and perish."
Then Neith's dark blue eyes grew darker, and she said, "Oh, Lord
of truth! why should they love us? their love is vain; or fear us?
for their fear is base. Yet let them testify of us, that they knew
we lived forever."
But the Lord of truth answered, "They know, and yet they know not.
Let them keep silence; for their silence only is truth."
But Neith answered, "Brother, wilt thou also make league with
Death, because Death is true? Oh! thou potter, who hast cast these
human things from thy wheel, many to dishonor, and few to honor;
wilt thou not let them so much as see my face; but slay them in
But Pthah only answered, "Let them build, sister, let them build."
And Neith answered, "What shall they build, if I build not with
And Pthah drew with his measuring rod upon the sand. And I saw
suddenly, drawn on the sand, the outlines of great cities, and of
vaults, and domes, and aqueducts, and bastions, and towers,
greater than obelisks, covered with black clouds. And the wind
blew ripples of sand amidst the lines that Pthah drew, and the
moving sand was like the marching of men. But I saw that wherever
Neith looked at the lines, they faded, and were effaced.
"Oh, Brother!" she said at last, "what is this vanity? If I, who
am Lady of wisdom, do not mock the children of men, why shouldst
thou mock them, who art Lord of truth?" But Pthah answered, "They
thought to bind me; and they shall be bound. They shall labor in
the fire for vanity."
And Neith said, looking at the sand, "Brother, there is no true
labor here--there is only weary life and wasteful death."
And Pthah answered, "Is it not truer labor, sister, than thy
sculpture of dreams?" Then Neith smiled; and stopped suddenly.
She looked to the sun; its edge touched the horizon-edge of the
desert. Then she looked to the long heaps of pieces of clay, that
lay, each with its blue shadow, by the lake shore.
"Brother," she said, "how long will this pyramid of thine be in
"Thoth will have sealed the scroll of the years ten times, before
the summit is laid."
"Brother, thou knowest not how to teach thy children to labor,"
answered Neith. "Look! I must follow Phre beyond Atlas; shall I
build your pyramid for you before he goes down?" And Pthah
answered, "Yea, sister, if thou canst put thy winged shoulders to
such work." And Neith drew herself to her height; and I heard a
clashing pass through the plumes of her wings, and the asp stood
up on her helmet, and fire gathered in her eyes. And she took one
of the flaming arrows out of the sheaf in her left hand, and
stretched it out over the heaps of clay. And they rose up like
flights of locusts, and spread themselves in the air, so that it
grew dark in a moment. Then Neith designed them places with her
arrow point; and they drew into ranks, like dark clouds laid level
at morning. Then Neith pointed with her arrow to the north, and to
the south, and to the east, and to the west, and the flying motes
of earth drew asunder into four great ranked crowds; and stood,
one in the north, and one in the south, and one in the east, and
one in the west--one against another. Then Neith spread her wings
wide for an instant, and closed them with a sound like the sound
of a rushing sea; and waved her hand towards the foundation of the
pyramid, where it was laid on the brow of the desert. And the four
flocks drew together and sank down, like sea-birds settling to a
level rock, and when they met, there was a sudden flame, as broad
as the pyramid, and as high as the clouds; and it dazzled me; and
I closed my eyes for an instant; and when I looked again, the
pyramid stood on its rock, perfect; and purple with the light from
the edge of the sinking sun.
THE YOUNGER CHILDREN (variously pleased). I'm so glad! How nice!
But what did Pthah say?
L. Neith did not wait to hear what he would say. When I turned
back to look at her, she was gone; and I only saw the level white
cloud form itself again, close to the arch of the sun as it sank.
And as the last edge of the sun disappeared, the form of Pthah
faded into a mighty shadow, and so passed away.
EGYPT. And was Neith's pyramid left?
L. Yes; but you could not think, Egypt, what a strange feeling of
utter loneliness came over me when the presence of the two gods
passed away. It seemed as if I had never known what it was to be
alone before; and the unbroken line of the desert was terrible.
EGYPT. I used to feel that, when I was queen: sometimes I had to
carve gods, for company, all over my palace. I would fain have
seen real ones, if I could.
L. But listen a moment yet, for that was not quite all my dream.
The twilight drew swiftly to the dark, and I could hardly see the
great pyramid; when there came a heavy murmuring sound in the air;
and a horned beetle, with terrible claws, fell on the sand at my
feet, with a blow like the beat of a hammer. Then it stood up on
its hind claws, and waved its pincers at me: and its fore claws
became strong arms, and hands; one grasping real iron pincers, and
the other a huge hammer; and it had a helmet on its head, without
any eyelet holes, that I could see. And its two hind claws became
strong crooked legs, with feet bent inwards. And so there stood by
me a dwarf, in glossy black armor, ribbed and embossed like a
beetle's back, leaning on his hammer. And I could not speak for
wonder; but he spoke with a murmur like the dying away of a beat
upon a bell. He said, "I will make Neith's great pyramid small. I
am the lower Pthah; and have power over fire. I can wither the
strong things, and strengthen the weak; and everything that is
great I can make small, and everything that is little I can make
great." Then he turned to the angle of the pyramid and limped
towards it. And the pyramid grew deep purple; and then red like
blood, and then pale rose-color, like fire. And I saw that it
glowed with fire from within. And the lower Pthah touched it with
the hand that held the pincers; and it sank down like the sand in
an hour-glass,--then drew itself together, and sank, still, and
became nothing, it seemed to me; but the armed dwarf stooped down,
and took it into his hand, and brought it to me, saying,
"Everything that is great I can make like this pyramid; and give
into men's hands to destroy." And I saw that he had a little
pyramid in his hand, with as many courses in it as the large one;
and built like that,--only so small. And because it glowed still,
I was afraid to touch it; but Pthah said, "Touch it--for I have
bound the fire within it, so that it cannot burn." So I touched
it, and took it into my own hand; and it was cold; only red, like
a ruby. And Pthah laughed, and became like a beetle again, and
buried himself in the sand, fiercely; throwing it back over his
shoulders. And it seemed to me as if he would draw me down with
him into the sand; and I started back, and woke, holding the
little pyramid so fast in my hand that it hurt me.
EGYPT. Holding WHAT in your hand?
L. The little pyramid.
EGYPT. Neith's pyramid?
L. Neith's, I believe; though not built for Asychis. I know only
that it is a little rosy transparent pyramid, built of more
courses of bricks than I can count, it being made so small. You
don't believe me, of course, Egyptian infidel; but there it is.
(Giving crystal of rose Fluor.)
(Confused examination by crowded audience, over each other's
shoulders and under each other's arms. Disappointment begins to
SIBYL. (not quite knowing why she and others are disappointed).
But you showed us this the other day!
L. Yes; but you would not look at it the other day.
SIBYL. But was all that fine dream only about this?
L. What finer thing could a dream be about than this? It is small,
if you will; but when you begin to think of things rightly, the
ideas of smallness and largeness pass away. The making of this
pyramid was in reality just as wonderful as the dream I have been
telling you, and just as incomprehensible. It was not, I suppose,
as swift, but quite as grand things are done as swiftly. When
Neith makes crystals of snow, it needs a great deal more
marshaling of the atoms, by her flaming arrows, than it does to
make crystals like this one; and that is done in a moment.
EGYPT. But how you DO puzzle us! Why do you say Neith does it? You
don't mean that she is a real spirit, do you?
L. What _I_ mean, is of little consequence. What the Egyptians
meant, who called her "Neith,"--or Homer, who called her
"Athena,"--or Solomon, who called her by a word which the Greeks
render as "Sophia," you must judge for yourselves. But her
testimony is always the same, and all nations have received it: "I
was by Him as one brought up with Him, and I was daily His
delight; rejoicing in the habitable parts of the earth, and my
delights were with the sons of men."
MARY. But is not that only a personification?
L. If it be, what will you gain by unpersonifying it, or what
right have you to do so? Cannot you accept the image given you, in
its life; and listen, like children, to the words which chiefly
belong to you as children: "I love them that love me, and those
that seek me early shall find me"?
(They are all quiet for a minute or two; questions begin to appear
in their eyes.)
I cannot talk to you any more to-day. Take that rose-crystal away
with you, and think.
THE CRYSTAL LIFE
A very dull Lecture, willfully brought upon themselves by the
elder children. Some of the young ones have, however, managed to
get in by mistake. SCENE, the Schoolroom.
L. So I am to stand up here merely to be asked questions, to-day,
Miss Mary, am I?
MARY. Yes; and you must answer them plainly; without telling us
any more stories. You are quite spoiling the children: the poor
little things' heads are turning round like kaleidoscopes: and
they don't know in the least what you mean. Nor do we old ones,
either, for that matter: to-day you must really tell us nothing
L. I am sworn; but you won't like it, a bit.
MARY. Now, first of all, what do you mean by "bricks"?--Are the
smallest particles of minerals all of some accurate shape, like
L. I do not know. Miss Mary; I do not even know if anybody knows.
The smallest atoms which are visibly and practically put together
to make large crystals, may better be described as "limited in
fixed directions" than as "of fixed forms." But I can tell you
nothing clear about ultimate atoms: you will find the idea of
little bricks, or, perhaps, of little spheres, available for all
the uses you will have to put it to.
MARY. Well, it's very provoking; one seems always to be stopped
just when one is coming to the very thing one wants to know.
L. No, Mary, for we should not wish to know anything but what is
easily and assuredly knowable. There's no end to it. If I could
show you, or myself, a group of ultimate atoms, quite clearly, in
this magnifying glass, we should both be presently vexed, because
we could not break them in two pieces, and see their insides.
MARY. Well then, next, what do you mean by the flying of the
bricks? What is it the atoms do, that is like flying?
L. When they are dissolved, or uncrystallized, they are really
separated from each other, like a swarm of gnats in the air, or
like a shoal of fish in the sea;--generally at about equal
distances. In currents of solutions, or at different depths of
them, one part may be more full of the dissolved atoms than
another; but on the whole, you may think of them as equidistant,
like the spots in the print of your gown. If they are separated by
force of heat only, the substance is said to be melted; if they
are separated by any other substance, as particles of sugar by
water, they are said to be "dissolved." Note this distinction
carefully, all of you.
DORA. I will be very particular. When next you tell me there isn't
sugar enough in your tea, I will say, "It is not yet dissolved,
L. I tell you what shall be dissolved, Miss Dora; and that's the
present parliament, if the members get too saucy.
(DORA folds her hands and casts down her eyes.)
L. (proceeds in state). Now, Miss Mary, you know already, I
believe, that nearly everything will melt, under a sufficient
heat, like wax. Limestone melts (under pressure); sand melts;
granite melts; the lava of a volcano is a mixed mass of many kinds
of rocks, melted: and any melted substance nearly always, if not
always, crystallizes as it cools; the more slowly the more
perfectly. Water melts at what we call the freezing, but might
just as wisely, though not as conveniently, call the melting,
point; and radiates as it cools into the most beautiful of all
known crystals. Glass melts at a greater heat, and will
crystallize, if you let it cool slowly enough, in stars, much like
snow. Gold needs more heat to melt it, but crystallizes also
exquisitely, as I will presently show you. Arsenic and sulphur
crystallize from their vapors. Now in any of these cases, either
of melted, dissolved, or vaporous bodies, the particles are
usually separated from each other, either by heat, or by an
intermediate substance; and in crystallizing they are both brought
nearer to each other, and packed, so as to fit as closely as
possible: the essential part of the business being not the
bringing together, but the packing. Who packed your trunk for you,
last holidays, Isabel?
ISABEL. Lily does, always.
L. And how much can you allow for Lily's good packing, in guessing
what will go into the trunk?
ISABEL. Oh! I bring twice as much as the trunk holds. Lily always
gets everything in.
LILY. Ah! but, Isey, if you only knew what a time it takes! and
since you've had those great hard buttons on your frocks, I can't
do anything with them. Buttons won't go anywhere, you know.
L. Yes, Lily, it would be well if she only knew what a time it
takes; and I wish any of us knew what a time crystallization
takes, for that is consummately fine packing. The particles of the
rock are thrown down, just as Isabel brings her things--in a heap;
and innumerable Lilies, not of the valley, but of the rock, come
to pack them. But it takes such a time!
However, the best--out and out the best--way of understanding the
thing, is to crystallize yourselves.
THE AUDIENCE. Ourselves!
L. Yes; not merely as you did the other day, carelessly on the
schoolroom forms; but carefully and finely, out in the playground.
You can play at crystallization there as much as you please.
KATHLEEN and JESSIE. Oh! how?--how?
L. First, you must put yourselves together, as close as you can,
in the middle of the grass, and form, for first practice, any
figure you like.
JESSIE. Any dancing figure, do you mean?
L. No; I mean a square, or a cross, or a diamond. Any figure you
like, standing close together. You had better outline it first on
the turf, with sticks, or pebbles, so as to see that it is rightly
drawn; then get into it and enlarge or diminish it at one side,
till you are all quite in it, and no empty space left.
DORA. Crinoline and all?
L. The crinoline may stand eventually for rough crystalline
surface, unless you pin it in; and then you may make a polished
crystal of yourselves.
LILY. Oh, we'll pin it in--we'll pin it in!
L. Then, when you are all in the figure, let every one note her
place, and who is next her on each side; and let the outsiders
count how many places they stand from the corners.
KATHLEEN. Yes, yes,--and then?
L. Then you must scatter all over the playground--right over it
from side to side, and end to end; and put yourselves all at equal
distances from each other, everywhere. You needn't mind doing it
very accurately, but so as to be nearly equidistant; not less than
about three yards apart from each other, on every side.
JESSIE. We can easily cut pieces of string of equal length, to
hold. And then? L. Then, at a given signal, let everybody walk, at
the same rate, towards the outlined figure in the middle. You had
better sing as you walk; that will keep you in good time. And as
you close in towards it, let each take her place, and the next
comers fit themselves in beside the first ones, till you are all
in the figure again.
KATHLEEN. Oh! how we shall run against each other. What fun it
L. No, no, Miss Katie; I can't allow any running against each
other. The atoms never do that, whatever human creatures do. You
must all know your places, and find your way to them without
LILY. But how ever shall we do that?
ISABEL. Mustn't the ones in the middle be the nearest, and the
outside ones farther off--when we go away to scatter, I mean?
L. Yes; you must be very careful to keep your order; you will soon
find out how to do it; it is only like soldiers forming square,
except that each must stand still in her place as she reaches it,
and the others come round her; and you will have much more
complicated figures, afterwards, to form, than squares.
ISABEL. I'll put a stone at my place: then I shall know it.
L. You might each nail a bit of paper to the turf, at your place,
with your name upon it: but it would be of no use, for if you
don't know your places, you will make a fine piece of business of
it, while you are looking for your names. And, Isabel, if with a
little head, and eyes, and a brain (all of them very good and
serviceable of their kind, as such things go), you think you
cannot know your place without a stone at it, after examining it
well,--how do you think each atom knows its place, when it never
was there before, and there's no stone at it?
ISABEL. But does every atom know its place?
L. How else could it get there?
MARY. Are they not attracted into their places?
L. Cover a piece of paper with spots, at equal intervals; and then
imagine any kind of attraction you choose, or any law of
attraction, to exist between the spots, and try how, on that
permitted supposition, you can attract them into the figure of a
Maltese cross, in the middle of the paper.
MARY (having tried it). Yes; I see that I cannot:--one would need
all kinds of attractions, in different ways, at different places.
But you do not mean that the atoms are alive?
L. What is it to be alive?
DORA. There now; you're going to be provoking, I know.
L. I do not see why it should be provoking to be asked what it is
to be alive. Do you think you don't know whether you are alive or
(ISABEL skips to the end of the room and back.)
L. Yes, Isabel, that's all very fine; and you and I may call that
being alive: but a modern philosopher calls it being in a "mode of
motion." It requires a certain quantity of heat to take you to the
sideboard; and exactly the same quantity to bring you back again.
ISABEL. No, it isn't. And besides, I'm not hot.
L. I am, sometimes, at the way they talk. However, you know,
Isabel, you might have been a particle of a mineral, and yet have
been carried round the room, or anywhere else, by chemical forces,
in the liveliest way.
ISABEL. Yes; but I wasn't carried: I carried myself.
L. The fact is, mousie, the difficulty is not so much to say what
makes a thing alive, as what makes it a Self. As soon as you are
shut off from the rest of the universe into a Self, you begin to
VIOLET (indignant). Oh, surely--surely that cannot be so. Is not
all the life of the soul in communion, not separation?
L. There can be no communion where there is no distinction. But we
shall be in an abyss of metaphysics presently, if we don't look
out; and besides, we must not be too grand, to-day, for the
younger children. We'll be grand, some day, by ourselves, if we
must. (The younger children are not pleased, and prepare to
remonstrate; but, knowing by experience, that all conversations in
which the word "communion" occurs, are unintelligible, think
better of it.) Meantime, for broad answer about the atoms. I do
not think we should use the word "life," of any energy which does
not belong to a given form. A seed, or an egg, or a young animal,
are properly called "alive" with respect to the force belonging to
those forms, which consistently develops that form, and no other.
But the force which crystallizes a mineral appears to be chiefly
external, and it does not produce an entirely determinate and
individual form, limited in size, but only an aggregation, in
which some limiting laws must be observed.
MARY. But I do not see much difference, that way, between a
crystal and a tree.
L. Add, then, that the mode of the energy in a living thing
implies a continual change in its elements; and a period for its
end. So you may define life by its attached negative, death; and
still more by its attached positive, birth. But I won't be plagued
any more about this, just now; if you choose to think the crystals
alive, do, and welcome. Rocks have always been called "living" in
their native place.
MARY. There's one question more; then I've done.
L. Only one?
MARY. Only one.
L. But if it is answered, won't it turn into two?
MARY. No; I think it will remain single, and be comfortable.
L. Let me hear it.
MARY. You know, we are to crystallize ourselves out of the whole
playground. Now, what playground have the minerals! Where are they
scattered before they are crystallized; and where are the crystals
L. That sounds to me more like three questions than one, Mary. If
it is only one, it is a wide one.
MARY. I did not say anything about the width of it.
L. Well, I must keep it within the best compass I can. When rocks
either dry from a moist state, or cool from a heated state, they
necessarily alter in bulk; and cracks, or open spaces, form in
them in all directions. These cracks must be filled up with solid
matter, or the rock would eventually become a ruinous heap. So,
sometimes by water, sometimes by vapor, sometimes nobody knows
how, crystallizable matter is brought from somewhere, and fastens
itself in these open spaces, so as to bind the rock together again
with crystal cement. A vast quantity of hollows are formed in
lavas by bubbles of gas, just as the holes are left in bread well
baked. In process of time these cavities are generally filled with
MARY. But where does the crystallizing substance come from?
L. Sometimes out of the rock itself; sometimes from below or
above, through the veins. The entire substance of the contracting
rock may be filled with liquid, pressed into it so as to fill
every pore;--or with mineral vapor;--or it may be so charged at
one place, and empty at another. There's no end to the "may be's."
But all that you need fancy, for our present purpose, is that
hollows in the rocks, like the caves in Derbyshire, are traversed
by liquids or vapor containing certain elements in a more or less
free or separate state, which crystallize on the cave walls.
SIBYL. There now;--Mary has had all her questions answered: it's
my turn to have mine.
L. Ah, there's a conspiracy among you, I see. I might have guessed
DORA. I'm sure you ask us questions enough! How can you have the
heart, when you dislike so to be asked them yourself?
L. My dear child, if people do not answer questions, it does not
matter how many they are asked, because they've no trouble with
them. Now, when I ask you questions, I never expect to be
answered; but when you ask me, you always do; and it's not fair.
DORA. Very well, we shall understand, next time.
SIBYL. No, but seriously, we all want to ask one thing more, quite
L. And I don't want to be asked it, quite dreadfully; but you'll
have your own way, of course.
SIBYL. We none of us understand about the lower Pthah. It was not
merely yesterday; but in all we have read about him in Wilkinson,
or in any book, we cannot understand what the Egyptians put their
god into that ugly little deformed shape for.
L. Well, I'm glad it's that sort of question; because I can answer
anything I like to that.
EGYPT. Anything you like will do quite well for us; we shall be
pleased with the answer, if you are.
L. I am not so sure of that, most gracious queen; for I must begin
by the statement that queens seem to have disliked all sorts of
work, in those days, as much as some queens dislike sewing to-day.
EGYPT. Now, it's too bad! and just when I was trying to say the
civillest thing I could!
L. But, Egypt, why did you tell me you disliked sewing so?
EGYPT. Did not I show you how the thread cuts my fingers? and I
always get cramp, somehow, in my neck, if I sew long.
L. Well, I suppose the Egyptian queens thought everybody got cramp
in their neck, if they sewed long; and that thread always cut
people's fingers. At all events, every kind of manual labor was
despised both by them, and the Greeks; and, while they owned the
real good and fruit of it, they yet held it a degradation to all
who practiced it. Also, knowing the laws of life thoroughly, they
perceived that the special practice necessary to bring any manual
art to perfection strengthened the body distortedly; one energy or
member gaining at the expense of the rest. They especially dreaded
and despised any kind of work that had to be done near fire: yet,
feeling what they owed to it in metal-work, as the basis of all
other work, they expressed this mixed reverence and scorn in the
varied types of the lame Hephaestus, and the lower Pthah.
SIBYL. But what did you mean by making him say "Everything great I
can make small, and everything small great"?
L. I had my own separate meaning in that. We have seen in modern
times the power of the lower Pthah developed in a separate way,
which no Greek nor Egyptian could have conceived. It is the
character of pure and eyeless manual labor to conceive everything
as subjected to it: and, in reality, to disgrace and diminish all
that is so subjected, aggrandizing itself, and the thought of
itself, at the expense of all noble things. I heard an orator, and
a good one too, at the Working Men's College, the other day, make
a great point in a description of our railroads; saying, with
grandly conducted emphasis, "They have made man greater, and the
world less." His working audience were mightily pleased; they
thought it so very fine a thing to be made bigger themselves; and
all the rest of the world less. I should have enjoyed asking them
(but it would have been a pity--they were so pleased), how much
less they would like to have the world made;--and whether, at
present, those of them really felt the biggest men, who lived in
the least houses.
SIBYL. But then, why did you make Pthah say that he could make
weak things strong, and small things great?
L. My dear, he is a boaster and self-assertor, by nature; but it
is so far true. For instance, we used to have a fair in our
neighborhood--a very fine fair we thought it. You never saw such
an one; but if you look at the engraving of Turner's "St.
Catherine's Hill," you will see what it was like. There were
curious booths, carried on poles; and peep-shows; and music, with
plenty of drums and cymbals; and much barley-sugar and
gingerbread, and the like: and in the alleys of this fair the
London populace would enjoy themselves, after their fashion, very
thoroughly. Well, the little Pthah set to work upon it one day; he
made the wooden poles into iron ones, and put them across, like
his own crooked legs, so that you always fall over them if you
don't look where you are going; and he turned all the canvas into
panes of glass, and put it up on his iron cross-poles; and made
all the little booths into one great booth;--and people said it
was very fine, and a new style of architecture; and Mr. Dickens
said nothing was ever like it in Fairy-land, which was very true.
And then the little Pthah set to work to put fine fairings in it;
and he painted the Nineveh bulls afresh, with the blackest eyes he
could paint (because he had none himself), and he got the angels
down from Lincoln choir, and gilded their wings like his
gingerbread of old times; and he sent for everything else he could
think of, and put it in his booth. There are the casts of Niobe
and her children; and the Chimpanzee; and the wooden Caffres and
New-Zealanders; and the Shakespeare House; and Le Grand Blondin,
and Le Petit Blondin; and Handel; and Mozart; and no end of shops,
and buns, and beer; and all the little-Pthah-worshippers say,
never was anything so sublime!
SIBYL. Now, do you mean to say you never go to these Crystal
Palace concerts? they're as good as good can be.
L. I don't go to the thundering things with a million of bad
voices in them. When I want a song, I get Julia Mannering and Lucy
Bertram and Counselor Pleydell to sing "We be three poor Mariners"
to me; then I've no headache next morning. But I do go to the
smaller concerts, when I can; for they are very good, as you say,
Sibyl: and I always get a reserved seat somewhere near the
orchestra, where I am sure I can see the kettle-drummer drum.
SIBYL. Now DO be serious, for one minute.
L. I am serious--never was more so. You know one can't see the
modulation of violinists' fingers, but one can see the vibration
of the drummer's hand; and it's lovely.
SIBYL. But fancy going to a concert, not to hear, but to see!
L. Yes, it is very absurd. The quite right thing, I believe, is to
go there to talk. I confess, however, that in most music, when
very well done, the doing of it is to me the chiefly interesting
part of the business. I'm always thinking how good it would be for
the fat, supercilious people, who care so little for their half-
crown's worth, to be set to try and do a half-crown's worth of
anything like it.
MARY. But surely that Crystal Palace is a great good and help to
the people of London?
L. The fresh air of the Norwood hills is, or was, my dear; but
they are spoiling that with smoke as fast as they can. And the
palace (as they call it) is a better place for them, by much, than
the old fair; and it is always there, instead of for three days
only; and it shuts up at proper hours of night. And good use may
be made of the things in it, if you know how: but as for its
teaching the people, it will teach them nothing but the lowest of
the lower Pthah's work--nothing but hammer and tongs. I saw a
wonderful piece, of his doing, in the place, only the other day.
Some unhappy metal-worker--I am not sure if it was not a metal-
working firm--had taken three years to make a Golden eagle.
SIBYL. Of real gold?
L. No; of bronze, or copper, or some of their foul patent metals--
it is no matter what. I meant a model of our chief British eagle.
Every feather was made separately; and every filament of every
feather separately, and so joined on; and all the quills modeled
of the right length and right section, and at last the whole
cluster of them fastened together. You know, children, I don't
think much of my own drawing; but take my proud word for once,
that when I go to the Zoological Gardens, and happen to have a bit
of chalk in my pocket, and the Gray Harpy will sit, without
screwing his head round, for thirty seconds,--I can do a better
thing of him in that time than the three years' work of this
industrious firm. For, during the thirty seconds, the eagle is my
object,--not myself; and during the three years, the firm's
object, in every fiber of bronze it made, was itself, and not the
eagle. That is the true meaning of the little Pthah's having no
eyes--he can see only himself. The Egyptian beetle was not quite
the full type of him; our northern ground beetle is a truer one.
It is beautiful to see it at work, gathering its treasures (such
as they are) into little round balls; and pushing them home with
the strong wrong end of it,--head downmost all the way,--like a
modern political economist with his ball of capital, declaring
that a nation can stand on its vices better than on its virtues.
But away with you, children, now, for I'm getting cross.
DORA. I'm going downstairs; I shall take care, at any rate, that
there are no little Pthahs in the kitchen cupboards.
THE CRYSTAL ORDERS
A working Lecture in the large Schoolroom; with experimental
Interludes. The great bell has rung unexpectedly.
KATHLEEN (entering disconsolate, though first at the summons). Oh
dear, oh dear, what a day! Was ever anything so provoking! just
when we wanted to crystallize ourselves;--and I'm sure it's going
to rain all day long.
L. So am I, Kate. The sky has quite an Irish way with it. But I
don't see why Irish girls should also look so dismal. Fancy that
you don't want to crystallize yourselves: you didn't, the day
before yesterday, and you were not unhappy when it rained then.
FLORRIE. Ah! but we do want to-day; and the rain's so tiresome.
L. That is to say, children, that because you are all the richer
by the expectation of playing at a new game, you choose to make
yourselves unhappier than when you had nothing to look forward to,
but the old ones.
ISABEL. But then, to have to wait--wait--wait; and before we've
tried it;--and perhaps it will rain to-morrow, too!
L. It may also rain the day after to-morrow. We can make ourselves
uncomfortable to any extent with perhapses, Isabel. You may stick
perhapses into your little minds, like pins, till you are as
uncomfortable as the Lilliputians made Gulliver with their arrows,
when he would not lie quiet.
ISABEL. But what ARE we to do to-day?
L. To be quiet, for one thing, like Gulliver when he saw there was
nothing better to be done. And to practice patience. I can tell
you, children, THAT requires nearly as much practicing as music;
and we are continually losing our lessons when the master comes.
Now, to-day, here's a nice, little adagio lesson for us, if we
play it properly.
ISABEL. But I don't like that sort of lesson. I can't play it
L. Can you play a Mozart sonata yet, Isabel? The more need to
practice. All one's life is a music, if one touches the notes
rightly, and in time. But there must be no hurry.
KATHLEEN. I'm sure there's no music in stopping in on a rainy day.
L. There's no music in a "rest," Katie, that I know of: but
there's the making of music in it. And people are always missing
that part of the life-melody; and scrambling on without counting--
not that it's easy to count; but nothing on which so much depends
ever IS easy. People are always talking of perseverance, and
courage, and fortitude; but patience is the finest and worthiest
part of fortitude,--and the rarest, too. I know twenty persevering
girls for one patient one: but it is only that twenty-first who
can do her work, out and out, or enjoy it. For patience lies at
the root of all pleasures, as well as of all powers. Hope herself
ceases to be happiness, when Impatience companions her.
(ISABEL and LILY sit down on the floor, and fold their hands. The
others follow their example.)
Good children! but that's not quite the way of it, neither. Folded
hands are not necessarily resigned ones. The Patience who really
smiles at grief usually stands, or walks, or even runs: she seldom
sits; though she may sometimes have to do it, for many a day, poor
thing, by monuments; or like Chaucer's, "with face pale, upon a
hill of sand." But we are not reduced to that to-day. Suppose we
use this calamitous fore-noon to choose the shapes we are to
crystallize into? we know nothing about them yet.
(The pictures of resignation rise from the floor not in the
patientest manner. General applause.)
MARY (with one or two others). The very thing we wanted to ask you
LILY. We looked at the books about crystals, but they are so
L. Well, Lily, we must go through a little dreadfulness, that's a
fact: no road to any good knowledge is wholly among the lilies and
the grass; there is rough climbing to be done always. But the
crystal-books are a little TOO dreadful, most of them, I admit;
and we shall have to be content with very little of their help.
You know, as you cannot stand on each other's heads, you can only
make yourselves into the sections of crystals,--the figures they
show when they are cut through; and we will choose some that will
be quite easy. You shall make diamonds of yourselves--
ISABEL. Oh, no, no! we won't be diamonds, please.
L, Yes, you shall, Isabel; they are very pretty things, if the
jewelers, and the kings and queens, would only let them alone. You
shall make diamonds of yourselves, and rubies of yourselves, and
emeralds; and Irish diamonds; two of those--with Lily in the
middle of one, which will be very orderly, of course; and Kathleen
in the middle of the other, for which we will hope the best; and
you shall make Derbyshire spar of yourselves, and Iceland spar,
and gold, and silver, and--Quicksilver there's enough of in you,
without any making.
MARY. Now you know, the children will be getting quite wild we
must really get pencils and paper, and begin properly.
L. Wait a minute, Miss Mary, I think as we the schoolroom clear
to-day, I'll try to give you some notion of the three great orders
or ranks of crystals, into which all the others seem more or less
to fall. We shall only want one figure a day, in the playground,
and that can be drawn in a minute: but the general ideas had
better be fastened first. I must show you a great many minerals;
so let me have three tables wheeled into the three windows, that
we may keep our specimens separate;--we will keep the three orders
of crystals on separate tables.
(First Interlude of pushing and pulling, and spreading of baize
covers. VIOLET, not particularly minding what she is about, gets
herself jammed into a corner, and bid to stand out of the way; on
which she devotes herself to meditation.)
VIOLET (after interval of meditation). How strange it is that
everything seems to divide into threes!
L. Everything doesn't divide into threes. Ivy won't, though
shamrock will, and daisies won't though lilies will.
VIOLET. But all the nicest things seem to divide into threes.
L. Violets won't.
VIOLET. No; I should think not, indeed! But I mean the great
L. I've always heard the globe had four quarters.
ISABEL. Well; but you know you said it hadn't any quarters at all.
So mayn't it really be divided into three?
L. If it were divided into no more than three, on the outside of
it, Isabel, it would be a fine world to live in; and if it were
divided into three in the inside of it, it would soon be no world
to live in at all.
DORA. We shall never get to the crystals, at this rate. (Aside to
MARY.) He will get off into political economy before we know where
we are. (Aloud.) But the crystals are divided into three, then?
L. No; but there are three general notions by which we may best
get hold of them. Then between these notions there are other
LILY (alarmed). A great many? And shall we have to learn them all?
L. More than a great many--a quite infinite many. So you cannot
learn them all.
LILY (greatly relieved). Then may we only learn the three?
L. Certainly; unless, when you have got those three notions, you
want to have some more notions;--which would not surprise me. But
we'll try for the three, first. Katie, you broke your coral
necklace this morning?
KATHLEEN. Oh! who told you? It was in jumping. I'm so sorry!
L. I'm very glad. Can you fetch me the beads of it?
KATHLEEN. I've lost some; here are the rest in my pocket, if I can
only get them out.
L. You mean to get them out some day, I suppose; so try now. I
(KATHLEEN empties her pocket on the floor. The beads disperse. The
School disperses also. Second Interlude--hunting piece.)
L. (after waiting patiently for a quarter of an hour, to ISABEL,
who comes up from under the table with her hair all about her ears
and the last findable beads in her hand.) Mice are useful little
things sometimes. Now, mousie, I want all those beads
crystallized. How many ways are there of putting them in order?
ISABEL. Well, first one would string them, I suppose?
L. Yes, that's the first way. You cannot string ultimate atoms;
but you can put them in a row, and then they fasten themselves
together, somehow, into a long rod or needle. We will call these
"NEEDLE-crystals." What would be the next way?
ISABEL. I suppose, as we are to get together in the playground,
when it stops raining, in different shapes?
L. Yes; put the beads together, then, in the simplest form you
can, to begin with. Put them into a square, and pack them close.
ISABEL (after careful endeavor). I can't get them closer.
L. That will do. Now you may see, beforehand, that if you try to
throw yourselves into square in this confused way, you will never
know your places; so you had better consider every square as made
of rods, put side by side. Take four beads of equal size, first,
Isabel; put them into a little square. That, you may consider as
made up of two rods of two beads each. Then you can make a square
a size larger, out of three rods of three. Then the next square
may be a size larger. How many rods, Lily?
LILY. Four rods of four beads each, I suppose.
L. Yes, and then five rods of five, and so on. But now, look here;
make another square of four beads again. You see they leave a
little opening in the center.
ISABEL (pushing two opposite ones closer together). Now they
L. No; but now it isn't a square; and by pushing the two together
you have pushed the two others farther apart.
ISABEL. And yet, somehow, they all seem closer than they were!
L. Yes; for before, each of them only touched two of the others,
but now each of the two in the middle touches the other three.
Take away one of the outsiders, Isabel: now you have three in a
triangle--the smallest triangle you can make out of the beads. Now
put a rod of three beads on at one side. So, you have a triangle
of six beads; but just the shape of the first one. Next a rod of
four on the side of that; and you have a triangle of ten beads:
then a rod of five on the side of that; and you have a triangle of
fifteen. Thus you have a square with five beads on the side, and a
triangle with five beads on the side; equal-sided, therefore, like
the square. So, however few or many you may be, you may soon learn
how to crystallize quickly into these two figures, which are the
foundation of form in the commonest, and therefore actually the
most important, as well as in the rarest, and therefore, by our
esteem, the most important, minerals of the world. Look at this in
VIOLET. Why, it is leaf gold!
L. Yes; but beaten by no man's hammer; or rather, not beaten at
all, but woven. Besides, feel the weight of it. There is gold
enough there to gild the walls and ceiling, if it were beaten
VIOLET. How beautiful! And it glitters like a leaf covered with
L. You only think it so beautiful because you know it is gold. It
is not prettier, in reality, than a bit of brass for it is
Transylvanian gold; and they say there is a foolish gnome in the
mines there, who is always wanting to live in the moon, and so
alloys all the gold with a little silver. I don't know how that
may be, but the silver always IS in the gold, and if he does it,
it's very provoking of him, for no gold is woven so fine anywhere
MARY (who has been looking through her magnifying glass). But this
is not woven. This is all made of little triangles.
L. Say "patched," then, if you must be so particular. But if you
fancy all those triangles, small as they are (and many of them are
infinitely small), made up again of rods, and those of grains, as
we built our great triangle of the beads, what word will you take
for the manufacture?
MAY. There's no word--it is beyond words.
L. Yes, and that would matter little, were it not beyond thoughts
too. But, at all events, this yellow leaf of dead gold, shed, not
from the ruined woodlands, but the ruined rocks, will help you to
remember the second kind of crystals, LEAF-crystals, or FOLIATED
crystals, though I show you the form in gold first only to make a
strong impression on you, for gold is not generally or
characteristically, crystallized in leaves; the real type of
foliated crystals is this thing, Mica; which if you once feel well
and break well, you will always know again; and you will often
have occasion to know it, for you will find it everywhere nearly,
in hill countries.
KATHLEEN. If we break it well! May we break it?
L. To powder, if you like.
(Surrenders plate of brown mica to public investigation. Third
Interlude. It sustains severely philosophic al treatment at all
FLORRIE (to whom the last fragments have descended). Always
leaves, and leaves, and nothing but leaves, or white dust?
L. That dust itself is nothing but finer leaves.
(Shows them to FLORRIE through magnifying glass.)
ISABEL (peeping over FLORRIE'S shoulder). But then this bit under
the glass looks like that bit out of the glass! If we could break
this bit under the glass, what would it be like?
L. It would be all leaves still.
ISABEL. And then if we broke those again?
L. All less leaves still.
ISABEL (impatient). And if we broke them again, and again, and
again, and again, and again?
L. Well, I suppose you would come to a limit, if you could only
see it. Notice that the little flakes already differ somewhat from
the large ones: because I can bend them up and down, and they stay
bent; while the large flake, though it bent easily a little way,
sprang back when you let it go, and broke when you tried to bend
it far. And a large mass would not bend at all.
MARY. Would that leaf gold separate into finer leaves, in the same
L. No; and therefore, as I told you, it is not a characteristic
specimen of a foliated crystallization. The little triangles are
portions of solid crystals, and so they are in this, which looks
like a black mica; but you see it is made up of triangles like the
gold, and stands, almost accurately, as an intermediate link, in
crystals, between mica and gold. Yet this is the commonest, as
gold the rarest, of metals.
MARY. Is it iron? I never saw iron so bright.
L. It is rust of iron, finely crystallized: from its resemblance
to mica, it is often called micaceous iron.
KATHLEEN. May we break this, too?
L. No, for I could not easily get such another crystal; besides,
it would not break like the mica; it is much harder. But take the
glass again, and look at the fineness of the jagged edges of the
triangles where they lap over each other. The gold has the same:
but you see them better here, terrace above terrace, countless,
and, in successive angles, like superb fortified bastions.
MAY. But all foliated crystals are not made of triangles?
L. Far from it; mica is occasionally so. but usually of hexagons;
and here is a foliated crystal made of squares, which will show
you that the leaves of the rock-land have their summer green, as
well as their autumnal gold.
FLORRIE. Oh! oh! oh! (jumps for joy).
L. Did you never see a bit of green leaf before, Florrie?
FLORRIE. Yes, but never so bright as that, and not in a stone.
L. If you will look at the leaves of the trees in sunshine after a
shower, you will find they are much brighter than that; and surely
they are none the worse for being on stalks instead of in stones?
FLORRIE. Yes, but then there are so many of them, one never looks,
L. Now you have it, Florrie.
VIOLET (sighing). There are so many beautiful things we never see!
L. You need not sigh for that, Violet; but I will tell you what we
should all sigh for--that there are so many ugly things we never
VIOLET. But we don't want to see ugly things!
L. You had better say, "We don't want to suffer them." You ought
to be glad in thinking how much more beauty God has made, than
human eyes can ever see; but not glad in thinking how much more
evil man has made, than his own soul can ever conceive, much more
than his hands can ever heal.
VIOLET. I don't understand;--how is that like the leaves?
L. The same law holds in our neglect of multiplied pain, as in our
neglect of multiplied beauty. Florrie jumps for joy at sight of
half an inch of a green leaf in a brown stone, and takes more
notice of it than of all the green in the wood, and you, or I, or
any of us, would be unhappy if any single human creature beside us
were in sharp pain; but we can read, at breakfast, day after day,
of men being killed, and of women and children dying of hunger,
faster than the leaves strew the brooks in Vallombrosa;--and then
go out to play croquet, as if nothing had happened.
MAY. But we do not see the people being killed or dying.
L. You did not see your brother, when you got the telegram the
other day, saying he was ill, May; but you cried for him; and
played no croquet. But we cannot talk of these things now; and
what is more, you must let me talk straight on, for a little
while; and ask no questions till I've done: for we branch
("exfoliate," I should say, mineralogically) always into something
else,--though that's my fault more than yours; but I must go
straight on now. You have got a distinct notion, I hope, of leaf-
crystals; and you see the sort of look they have: you can easily
remember that "folium" is Latin for a leaf, and that the separate
flakes of mica, or any other such stones, are called "folia;" but,
because mica is the most characteristic of these stones, other
things that are like it in structure are called "micas;" thus we
have Uran-mica, which is the green leaf I showed you; and Copper-
mica, which is another like it, made chiefly of copper; and this
foliated iron is called "micaceous iron." You have then these two
great orders, Needle-crystals, made (probably) of grains in rows;
and Leaf-crystals, made (probably) of needles interwoven; now,
lastly, there are crystals of a third order, in heaps, or knots,
or masses, which may be made either of leaves laid one upon
another, or of needles bound like Roman fasces; and mica itself,
when it is well crystallized, puts itself into such masses, as if
to show us how others are made. Here is a brown six-sided crystal,
quite as beautifully chiseled at the sides as any castle tower;
but you see it is entirely built of folia of mica, one laid above
another, which break away the moment I touch the edge with my
knife. Now, here is another hexagonal tower, of just the same size
and color, which I want you to compare with the mica carefully;
but as I cannot wait for you to do it just now, I must tell you
quickly what main differences to look for. First, you will feel it
far heavier than the mica. Then, though its surface looks quite
micaceous in the folia of it when you try them with the knife, you
will find you cannot break them away--
KATHLEEN. May I try?
L. Yes, you mistrusting Katie. Here's my strong knife for you.
(Experimental pause. KATHLEEN doing her best.) You'll have that
knife shutting on your finger presently, Kate; and I don't know a
girl who would like less to have her hand tied up for a week.
KATHLEEN (who also does not like to be beaten--giving up the knife
despondently.). What CAN the nasty hard thing be?
L. It is nothing but indurated clay, Kate: very hard set
certainly, yet not so hard as it might be. If it were thoroughly
well crystallized, you would see none of those micaceous
fractures; and the stone would be quite red and clear, all
KATHLEEN. Oh, cannot you show us one?
L. Egypt can, if you ask her; she has a beautiful one in the clasp
of her favorite bracelet.
KATHLEEN. Why, that's a ruby!
L. Well, so is that thing you've been scratching at.
KATHLEEN. My goodness! (Takes up the stone again, very delicately;
and drops it. General consternation.)
L. Never mind, Katie, you might drop it from the top of the house,
and do it no harm. But though you really are a very good girl, and
as good-natured as anybody can possibly be, remember, you have
your faults, like other people, and, if I were you, the next time
I wanted to assert anything energetically, I would assert it by
"my badness," not "my goodness."
KATHLEEN. Ah, now, it's too bad of you!
L. Well, then, I'll invoke, on occasion, my "too-badness." But you
may as well pick up the ruby, now you have dropped it; and look
carefully at the beautiful hexagonal lines which gleam on its
surface, and here is a pretty white sapphire (essentially the same
stone as the ruby), in which you will see the same lovely
structure, like the threads of the finest white cobweb. I do not
know what is the exact method of a ruby's construction, but you
see by these lines, what fine construction there is, even in this
hardest of stones (after the diamond), which usually appears as a
massive lump or knot. There is therefore no real mineralogical
distinction between needle crystals and knotted crystals, but,
practically, crystallized masses throw themselves into one of the
three groups we have been examining to-day; and appear either as
Needles, as Folia, or as Knots; when they are in needles (or
fibers), they make the stones or rocks formed out of them
"FIBROUS;" when they are in folia, they make them "FOLIATED;" when
they are in knots (or grains), "GRANULAR." Fibrous rocks are
comparatively rare, in mass; but fibrous minerals are innumerable;
and it is often a question which really no one but a young lady
could possibly settle, whether one should call the fibers
composing them "threads" or "needles." Here is amianthus, for
instance, which is quite as fine and soft as any cotton thread you
ever sewed with; and here is sulphide of bismuth, with sharper
points and brighter luster than your finest needles have; and
fastened in white webs of quartz more delicate than your finest
lace; and here is sulphide of antimony, which looks like mere
purple wool, but it is all of purple needle crystals; and here is
red oxide of copper (you must not breathe on it as you look, or
you may blow some of the films of it off the stone), which is
simply a woven tissue of scarlet silk. However, these finer
thread-forms are comparatively rare, while the bolder and needle-
like crystals occur constantly; so that, I believe, "Needle-
crystal" is the best word (the grand one is, "Acicular crystal,"
but Sibyl will tell you it is all the same, only less easily
understood; and therefore more scientific). Then the Leaf-
crystals, as I said, form an immense mass of foliated rocks; and
the Granular crystals, which are of many kinds, form essentially
granular, or granitic and porphyritic rocks; and it is always a
point of more interest to me (and I think will ultimately be to
you), to consider the causes which force a given mineral to take
any one of these three general forms, than what the peculiar
geometrical limitations are, belonging to its own crystals.
[Footnote: Note iv.] It is more interesting to me, for instance,
to try and find out why the red oxide of copper, usually
crystallizing in cubes or octahedrons, makes itself exquisitely,
out of its cubes, into this red silk in one particular Cornish
mine, than what are the absolutely necessary angles of the
octahedron, which is its common form. At all events, that
mathematical part of crystallography is quite beyond girls'
strength; but these questions of the various tempers and manners
of crystals are not only comprehensible by you, but full of the
most curious teaching for you. For in the fulfillment, to the best
of their power, of their adopted form under given circumstances,
there are conditions entirely resembling those of human virtue;
and indeed expressible under no term so proper as that of the
Virtue, or Courage of crystals;--which, if you are not afraid of
the crystals making you ashamed of yourselves, we will by to get
some notion of, to-morrow. But it will be a bye-lecture, and more
about yourselves than the minerals. Don't come unless you like.
MARY. I'm sure the crystals will make us ashamed of ourselves; but
we'll come, for all that.
L. Meantime, look well and quietly over these needle, or thread
crystals, and those on the other two tables, with magnifying
glasses; and see what thoughts will come into your little heads
about them. For the best thoughts are generally those which come
without being forced, one does not know how. And so I hope you
will get through your wet day patiently.
A quiet talk, in the afternoon, by the sunniest window of the
Drawing-room. Present: FLORRIE, ISABEL, MAY, LUCILLA, KATHLEEN,
DORA, MARY, and some others, who have saved time for the bye-
L. So you have really come, like good girls, to be made ashamed of
DORA (very meekly). No, we needn't be made so; we always are.
L. Well, I believe that's truer than most pretty speeches: but you
know, you saucy girl, some people have more reason to be so than
others. Are you sure everybody is, as well as you?
THE GENERAL VOICE. Yes, yes; everybody.
L. What! Florrie ashamed of herself?
(FLORRIE hides behind the curtain.)
L. And Isabel?
(ISABEL hides under the table.)
L. And Mary?
(MARY runs into the corner behind the piano.)
L. And Lucilla?
(LUCILLA hides her face in her hands.)
L. Dear, dear; but this will never do. I shall have to tell you of
the faults of the crystals, instead of virtues, to put you in
MAY (coming out of her corner). Oh! have the crystals faults, like
L. Certainly, May. Their best virtues are shown in fighting their
faults; and some have a great many faults; and some are very
naughty crystals indeed.
FLORRIE (from behind her curtain). As naughty as me?
ISABEL (peeping out from under the table-cloth). Or me?
L. Well, I don't know. They never forget their syntax, children,
when once they've been taught it. But I think some of them are, on
the whole, worse than any of you. Not that it's amiable of you to
look so radiant, all in a minute, on that account.
DORA. Oh! but it's so much more comfortable.
(Everybody seems to recover their spirits. Eclipse of FLORRIE and
L. What kindly creatures girls are, after all, to their neighbors'
failings! I think you may be ashamed of yourselves indeed, now,
children! I can tell you, you shall hear of the highest
crystalline merits that I can think of, to-day: and I wish there
were more of them; but crystals have a limited, though a stern,
code of morals; and their essential virtues are but two;--the
first is to be pure, and the second to be well shaped.
MARY. Pure! Does that mean clear--transparent?
L. No; unless in the case of a transparent substance. You cannot
have a transparent crystal of gold; but you may have a perfectly
ISABEL. But you said it was the shape that made things be
crystals; therefore, oughtn't their shape to be their first
virtue, not their second?
L. Right, you troublesome mousie. But I call their shape only
their second virtue, because it depends on time and accident, and
things which the crystal cannot help. If it is cooled too quickly,
or shaken, it must take what shape it can; but it seems as if,
even then, it had in itself the power of rejecting impurity, if it
has crystalline life enough. Here is a crystal of quartz, well
enough shaped in its way; but it seems to have been languid and
sick at heart; and some white milky substance has got into it, and
mixed itself up with it, all through. It makes the quartz quite
yellow, if you hold it up to the light, and milky blue on the
surface. Here is another, broken into a thousand separate facets
and out of all traceable shape; but as pure as a mountain spring.
I like this one best.
THE AUDIENCE. So do I--and I--and I.
MARY. Would a crystallographer?
L. I think so. He would find many more laws curiously exemplified
in the irregularly grouped but pure crystal. But it is a futile
question, this of first or second. Purity is in most cases a
prior, if not a nobler, virtue; at all events it is most
convenient to think about it first.
MARY. But what ought we to think about it? Is there much to be
thought--I mean, much to puzzle one?
L. I don't know what you call "much." It is a long time since I
met with anything in which there was little. There's not much in
this, perhaps. The crystal must be either dirty or clean,--and
there's an end. So it is with one's hands, and with one's heart--
only you can wash your hands without changing them, but not
hearts, nor crystals. On the whole, while you are young, it will
be as well to take care that your hearts don't want much washing;
for they may perhaps need wringing also, when they do.
(Audience doubtful and uncomfortable. LUCILLA at last takes
LUCILLA. Oh! but surely, sir, we cannot make our hearts clean?
L. Not easily, Lucilla; so you had better keep them so, when they
LUCILLA. When they are! But, sir--
LUCILLA. Sir--surely--are we not told that they are all evil?
L. Wait a little, Lucilla; that is difficult ground you are
getting upon; and we must keep to our crystals, till at least we
understand what THEIR good and evil consist in; they may help us
afterwards to some useful hints about our own. I said that their
goodness consisted chiefly in purity of substance, and perfectness
of form: but those are rather the EFFECTS of their goodness, than
the goodness itself. The inherent virtues of the crystals,
resulting in these outer conditions, might really seem to be best
described in the words we should use respecting living creatures--
"force of heart" and "steadiness of purpose." There seem to be in
some crystals, from the beginning, an unconquerable purity of
vital power, and strength of crystal spirit. Whatever dead
substance, unacceptant of this energy, comes in their way, is
either rejected, or forced to take some beautiful subordinate
form; the purity of the crystal remains unsullied, and every atom
of it bright with coherent energy. Then the second condition is,
that from the beginning of its whole structure, a fine crystal
seems to have determined that it will be of a certain size and of
a certain shape; it persists in this plan, and completes it. Here
is a perfect crystal of quartz for you. It is of an unusual form,
and one which it might seem very difficult to build--a pyramid
with convex sides, composed of other minor pyramids. But there is
not a flaw in its contour throughout; not one of its myriads of
component sides but is as bright as a jeweler's faceted work (and
far finer, if you saw it close). The crystal points are as sharp
as javelins; their edges will cut glass with a touch. Anything
more resolute, consummate, determinate in form, cannot be
conceived. Here, on the other hand, is a crystal of the same
substance, in a perfectly simple type of form--a plain six-sided
prism; but from its base to its point,--and it is nine inches
long,--it has never for one instant made up its mind what
thickness it will have. It seems to have begun by making itself as
thick as it thought possible with the quantity of material at
command. Still not being as thick as it would like to be, it has
clumsily glued on more substance at one of its sides. Then it has
thinned itself, in a panic of economy; then puffed itself out
again; then starved one side to enlarge another; then warped
itself quite out of its first line. Opaque, rough-surfaced, jagged
on the edge, distorted in the spine, it exhibits a quite human
image of decrepitude and dishonor; but the worst of all the signs
of its decay and helplessness is that half-way up a parasite
crystal, smaller, but just as sickly, has rooted itself in the
side of the larger one, eating out a cavity round its root, and
then growing backwards, or downwards contrary to the direction of
the main crystal. Yet I cannot trace the least difference in
purity of substance between the first most noble stone, and this
ignoble and dissolute one. The impurity of the last is in its
will, or want of will.
MARY. Oh, if we could but understand the meaning of it all!
L. We can understand all that is good for us. It is just as true
for us as for the crystal, that the nobleness of life depends on
its consistency,--clearness of purpose--quiet and ceaseless
energy. All doubt and repenting, and botching and re-touching and
wondering what will it be best to do next, are vice, as well as
MARY (much wondering). But must not one repent when one does
wrong, and hesitate when one can't see one's way?
L. You have no business at all to do wrong, nor to get into any
way that you cannot see. Your intelligence should always be far in
advance of your act. Whenever you do not know what you are about,
you are sure to be doing wrong.
KATHLEEN. Oh, dear, but I never know what I am about!
L. Very true, Katie, but it is a great deal to know, if you know
that. And you find that you have done wrong afterwards; and
perhaps some day you may begin to know, or at least, think, what
you are about.
ISABEL. But surely people can't do very wrong if they don't know,
can they? I mean, they can't be very naughty. They can be wrong,
like Kathleen or me, when we make mistakes; but not wrong in the
dreadful way. I can't express what I mean; but there are two sorts
of wrong, are there not?
L. Yes, Isabel; but you will find that the great difference is
between kind and unkind wrongs, not between meant and unmeant
wrong. Very few people really mean to do wrong,--in a deep sense,
none. They only don't know what they are about. Cain did not mean
to do wrong when he killed Abel.
(ISABEL draws a deep breath, and opens her eyes very wide.)
L. No, Isabel; and there are countless Cains among us now, who
kill their brothers by the score a day, not only for less
provocation than Cain had, but for NO provocation,--and merely for
what they can make of their bones,--yet do not think they are
doing wrong in the least. Then sometimes you have the business
reversed, as over in America these last years, where you have seen
Abel resolutely killing Cain, and not thinking he is doing wrong
The great difficulty is always to open people's eyes: to touch
their feelings and break their hearts, is easy, the difficult
thing is to break their heads. What does it matter as long as they
remain stupid, whether you change their feelings or not? You
cannot be always at their elbow to tell them what is right and
they may just do as wrong as before or worse, and their best
intentions merely make the road smooth for them,--you know where,
children. For it is not the place itself that is paved with them
as people say so often. You can't pave the bottomless pit, but you
may the road to it
MAY. Well, but if people do as well as they can see how, surely
that is the right for them, isn't it?
L. No, May, not a bit of it right is right, and wrong is wrong. It
is only the fool who does wrong, and says he "did it for the
best." And if there's one sort of person in the world that the
Bible speaks harder of than another, it is fools. Their particular
and chief way of saying "There is no God" is this of declaring
that whatever their "public opinion" may be is right and that
God's opinion is of no consequence.
MAY. But surely nobody can always know what is right?
L. Yes, you always can, for to-day; and if you do what you see of
it to-day, you will see more of it, and more clearly, to-morrow.
Here for instance, you children are at school, and have to learn
French, and arithmetic, and music, and several other such things.
That is your "right" for the present; the "right" for us, your
teachers, is to see that you learn as much as you can, without
spoiling your dinner, your sleep, or your play; and that what you
do learn, you learn well. You all know when you learn with a will,
and when you dawdle. There's no doubt of conscience about that, I
VIOLET. No; but if one wants to read an amusing book, instead of
learning one's lesson?
L. You don't call that a "question," seriously, Violet? You are
then merely deciding whether you will resolutely do wrong or not.
MARY. But, in after life, how many fearful difficulties may arise,
however one tries to know or to do what is right!
L. You are much too sensible a girl, Mary, to have felt that,
whatever you may have seen. A great many of young ladies'
difficulties arise from their falling in love with a wrong person;
but they have no business to let themselves fall in love, till
they know he is the right one.
DORA. How many thousands ought he to have a year?
L. (disdaining reply). There are, of course, certain crises of
fortune when one has to take care of oneself, and mind shrewdly
what one is about. There is never any real doubt about the path,
but you may have to walk very slowly.
MARY. And if one is forced to do a wrong thing by some one who has
authority over you?
L. My dear, no one can be forced to do a wrong thing, for the
guilt is in the will: but you may any day be forced to do a fatal
thing, as you might be forced to take poison; the remarkable law
of nature in such cases being, that it is always unfortunate YOU
who are poisoned, and not the person who gives you the dose. It is
a very strange law, but it IS a law. Nature merely sees to the
carrying out of the normal operation of arsenic. She never
troubles herself to ask who gave it you. So also you may be
starved to death, morally as well as physically, by other people's
faults. You are, on the whole, very good children sitting here to-
day; do you think that your goodness comes all by your own
contriving? or that you are gentle and kind because your
dispositions are naturally more angelic than those of the poor
girls who are playing, with wild eyes, on the dust-heaps in the
alleys of our great towns; and who will one day fill their
prisons,--or, better, their graves? Heaven only knows where they,
and we who have cast them there shall stand at last But the main
judgment question will be, I suppose, for all of us, "Did you keep
a good heart through it? What you were, others may answer for,--
what you tried to be, you must answer for yourself. Was the heart
pure and true--tell us that?
And so we come back to your sorrowful question, Lucilla, which I
put aside a little ago. You would be afraid to answer that your
heart WAS pure and true, would not you?
LUCILLA. Yes, indeed, sir.
L. Because you have been taught that it is all evil--"only evil
continually." Somehow, often as people say that, they never seem,
to me, to believe it. Do you really believe it?
LUCILLA. Yes, sir, I hope so.
L. That you have an entirely bad heart?
LUCILLA (a little uncomfortable at the substitution of the
monosyllable for the dissyllable, nevertheless persisting in her
orthodoxy). Yes, sir.
L. Florrie, I am sure you are tired; I never like you to stay when
you are tired; but, you know, you must not play with the kitten
while we're talking.
FLORRIE. Oh! but I'm not tired, and I'm only nursing her. She'll
be asleep in my lap, directly.
L. Stop! that puts me in mind of something I had to show you,
about minerals that are like hair I want a hair out of Tittie's
FLORRIE. (quite rude in her surprise, even to the point of
repeating expressions). Out of Tittie's tail!
L. Yes, a brown one Lucilla, you can get at the tip of it nicely,
under Florrie's arm, just pull one out for me.
LUCILLA. Oh! but, sir, it will hurt her so!
L. Never mind, she can't scratch you while Florrie is holding her.
Now that I think of it you had better pull out two.
LUCILLA. But then she may scratch Florrie! and it will hurt her so
sir! if you only want brown hairs, wouldn't two of mine do?
L. Would you really rather pull out your own than Tittie's?
LUCILLA. Oh, of course, if mine will do.
L. But that's very wicked, Lucilla!
LUCILLA. Wicked, sir?
L. Yes, if your heart was not so bad, you would much rather pull
all the cat's hairs out, than one of your own.
LUCILLA. Oh! but, sir, I didn't mean bad like that.
L. I believe, if the truth were told, Lucilla, you would like to
tie a kettle to Tittie's tail, and hunt her round the playground.
LUCILLA. Indeed, I should not, sir.
L. That's not true, Lucilla; you know it cannot be.
L. Certainly it is not;--how can you possibly speak any truth out
of such a heart as you have? It is wholly deceitful.
LUCILLA. Oh! no, no; I don't mean that way; I don't mean that it
makes me tell lies, quite out.
L. Only that it tells lies within you?
L. Then, outside of it, you know what is true, and say so; and I
may trust the outside of your heart; but within, it is all foul
and false. Is that the way?
LUCILLA. I suppose so: I don't understand it quite.
L. There is no occasion for understanding it; but do you feel it?
Are you sure that your heart is deceitful above all things, and
LUCILLA (much relieved by finding herself among phrases with which
she is acquainted). Yes, sir. I'm sure of that.
L. (pensively). I'm sorry for it, Lucilla.
LUCILLA. So am I, indeed.
L. What are you sorry with, Lucilla?
LUCILLA. Sorry with, sir?
L. Yes; I mean, where do you feel sorry; in your feet?
LUCILLA (laughing a little). No, sir, of course.
L. In your shoulders, then?
LUCILLA. No, sir.
L. You are sure of that? Because, I fear, sorrow in the shoulders
would not be worth much.
LUCILLA. I suppose I feel it in my heart, if I really am sorry.
L. If you really are! Do you mean to say that you are sure you are
utterly wicked, and yet do not care?
LUCILLA. No, indeed; I have cried about it often.
L. Well, then, you are sorry in your heart?
LUCILLA. Yes, when the sorrow is worth anything.
L. Even if it be not, it cannot be anywhere else but there. It is
not the crystalline lens of your eyes which is sorry, when you
LUCILLA. No, sir, of course.
L. Then, have you two hearts; one of which is wicked, and the
other grieved? or is one side of it sorry for the other side?
LUCILLA. (weary of cross-examination, and a little vexed). Indeed,
sir, you know I can't understand it; but you know how it is
written--"another law in my members, warring against the law of my
L. Yes, Lucilla, I know how it is written; but I do not see that
it will help us to know that, if we neither understand what is
written, nor feel it. And you will not get nearer to the meaning
of one verse, if, as soon as you are puzzled by it, you escape to
another, introducing three new words--"law," "members," and
"mind"; not one of which you at present know the meaning of; and
respecting which, you probably never will be much wiser; since men
like Montesquieu and Locke have spent great part of their lives in
endeavoring to explain two of them.
LUCILLA. Oh! please, sir, ask somebody else.
L. If I thought any one else could answer better than you,
Lucilla, I would: but suppose I try, instead, myself, to explain
your feelings to you?
LUCILLA. Oh, yes; please do.
L. Mind, I say your "feelings," not your "belief." For I cannot
undertake to explain anybody's beliefs. Still I must try a little,
first, to explain the belief also, because I want to draw it to
some issue. As far as I understand what you say, or any one else,
taught as you have been taught, says, on this matter,--you think
that there is an external goodness, a whited-sepulcher kind of
goodness, which appears beautiful outwardly, but is within full of
uncleanness: a deep secret guilt, of which we ourselves are not
sensible; and which can only be seen by the Maker of us all.
(Approving murmurs from audience.)
L. Is it not so with the body as well as the soul?
(Looked notes of interrogation.)
L. A skull, for instance, is not a beautiful thing? (Grave faces,
signifying "Certainly not," and "What next?")
L. And if you all could see in each other, with clear eyes,
whatever God sees beneath those fair faces of yours, you would not
L. Nor would it be good for you?
L. The probability being that what God does not allow you to see,
He does not wish you to see; nor even to think of?
L. It would not at all be good for you, for instance, whenever you
were washing your faces, and braiding your hair, to be thinking of
the shapes of the jawbones, and of the cartilage of the nose, and
of the jagged sutures of the scalp?
(Resolutely whispered No's.)
L. Still less, to see through a clear glass the daily processes of
nourishment and decay?
L. Still less if instead of merely inferior and preparatory
conditions of structure, as in the skeleton,--or inferior offices
of structure, as in operations of life and death,--there were
actual disease in the body, ghastly and dreadful. You would try to
cure it; but having taken such measures as were necessary, you
would not think the cure likely to be promoted by perpetually
watching the wounds, or thinking of them. On the contrary, you
would be thankful for every moment of forgetfulness: as, in daily
health, you must be thankful that your Maker has veiled whatever
is fearful in your frame under a sweet and manifest beauty; and
has made it your duty, and your only safety, to rejoice in that,
both in yourself and in others;--not indeed concealing, or
refusing to believe in sickness, if it come; but never dwelling on
Now, your wisdom and duty touching soul-sickness are just the
same. Ascertain clearly what is wrong with you; and so far as you
know any means of mending it, take those means, and have done;
when you are examining yourself, never call yourself merely a
"sinner," that is very cheap abuse; and utterly useless. You may
even get to like it, and be proud of it. But call yourself a liar,
a coward, a sluggard, a glutton, or an evil-eyed, jealous wretch,
if you indeed find yourself to be in any wise any of these. Take
steady means to check yourself in whatever fault you have
ascertained, and justly accused yourself of. And as soon as you
are in active way of mending, you will be no more inclined to moan
over an undefined corruption. For the rest, you will find it less
easy to uproot faults, than to choke them by gaining virtues. Do
not think of your faults; still less of others' faults: in every
person who comes near you, look for what is good and strong: honor
that; rejoice in it; and, as you can, try to imitate it: and your
faults will drop off like dead leaves, when their time comes. If,
on looking back, your whole life should seem rugged as a palm-tree
stem; still, never mind, so long as it has been growing; and has
its grand green shade of leaves, and weight of honeyed fruit, at
top. And even if you cannot find much good in yourself at last,
think that it does not much matter to the universe either what you
were, or are; think how many people are noble, if you cannot be;
and rejoice in THEIR nobleness. An immense quantity of modern
confession of sin, even when honest, is merely a sickly egotism;
which will rather gloat over its own evil, than lose the
centralization of its interest in itself.
MARY. But then, if we ought to forget ourselves so much, how did
the old Greek proverb "Know thyself" come to be so highly
L. My dear, it is the proverb of proverbs; Apollo's proverb, and
the sun's--but do you think you can know yourself by looking INTO
yourself? Never. You can know what you are, only by looking OUT of
yourself. Measure your own powers with those of others; compare
your own interests with those of others; try to understand what
you appear to them, as well as what they appear to you; and judge
of yourselves, in all things, relatively and subordinately; not
positively: starting always with a wholesome conviction of the
probability that there is nothing particular about you. For
instance, some of you perhaps think you can write poetry. Dwell on
your own feelings; and doings:--and you will soon think yourselves
Tenth Muses; but forget your own feeling; and try, instead, to
understand a line or two of Chaucer or Dante: and you will soon
begin to feel yourselves very foolish girls--which is much like
So, something which befalls you may seem a great misfortune,--you
meditate over its effects on you personally: and begin to think
that it is a chastisement, or a warning, or a this or that or the
other of profound significance; and that all the angels in heaven
have left their business for a little while, that they may watch
its effects on your mind. But give up this egotistic indulgence of
your fancy; examine a little what misfortunes, greater a thousand-
fold, are happening, every second, to twenty times worthier
persons: and your self-consciousness will change into pity and
humility; and you will know yourself so far as to understand that
"there hath nothing taken thee but what is common to man."
Now, Lucilla, these are the practical conclusions which any person
of sense would arrive at, supposing the texts which relate to the
inner evil of the heart were as many, and as prominent, as they
are often supposed to be by careless readers. But the way in which
common people read their Bibles is just like the way that the old
monks thought hedgehogs ate grapes. They rolled themselves (it was
said), over and over, where the grapes lay on the ground. What
fruit stuck to their spines, they carried off, and ate. So your
hedgehoggy readers roll themselves over and over their Bibles, and
declare that whatever sticks to their own spines is Scripture, and
that nothing else is. But you can only get the skins of the texts
that way. If you want their juice, you must press them in cluster.
Now, the clustered texts about the human heart, insist, as a body,
not on any inherent corruption in all hearts, but on the terrific
distinction between the bad and the good ones. "A good man, out of
the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good;
and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth that
which is evil." "They on the rock are they which, in an honest and
good heart, having heard the word, keep it." "Delight thyself in
the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart." "The
wicked have bent their bow, that they may privily shoot at him
that is upright in heart." And so on; they are countless, to the
same effect. And, for all of us, the question is not at all to
ascertain how much or how little corruption there is in human
nature; but to ascertain whether, out of all the mass of that
nature, we are of the sheep or the goat breed; whether we are
people of upright heart, being shot at, or people of crooked
heart, shooting. And, of all the texts bearing on the subject,
this, which is a quite simple and practical order, is the one you
have chiefly to hold in mind. "Keep thy heart with all diligence,
for out of it are the issues of life."
LUCILLA. And yet, how inconsistent the texts seem!
L. Nonsense, Lucilla! do you think the universe is bound to look
consistent to a girl of fifteen? Look up at your own room window;
--you can just see it from where you sit. I'm glad that it is left
open, as it ought to be, in so fine a day. But do you see what a
black spot it looks, in the sunlighted wall?
LUCILLA. Yes, it looks as black as ink.
L. Yet you know it is a very bright room when you are inside of
it; quite as bright as there is any occasion for it to be, that
its little lady may see to keep it tidy. Well, it is very
probable, also, that if you could look into your heart from the
sun's point of view, it might appear a very black hole indeed:
nay, the sun may sometimes think good to tell you that it looks so
to Him; but He will come into it, and make it very cheerful for
you, for all that, if you don't put the shutters up. And the one
question for YOU, remember, is not "dark or light?" but "tidy or
untidy?" Look well to your sweeping and garnishing; and be sure it
is only the banished spirit, or some of the seven wickeder ones at
his back, who will still whisper to you that it is all black.
Full conclave, in Schoolroom. There has been a game of
crystallization in the morning, of which various account has to be
rendered. In particular, everybody has to explain why they were
always where they were not intended to be.
L. (having received and considered the report). You have got on
pretty well children: but you know these were easy figures you
have been trying. Wait till I have drawn you out the plans of some
crystals of snow!
MARY. I don't think those will be the most difficult:--they are so
beautiful that we shall remember our places better; and then they
are all regular, and in stars: it is those twisty oblique ones we
are afraid of.
L. Read Carlyle's account of the battle of Leuthen, and learn
Friedrich's "oblique order." You will "get it done for once, I
think, provided you CAN march as a pair of compasses would." But
remember, when you can construct the most difficult single
figures, you have only learned half the game--nothing so much as
the half, indeed, as the crystals themselves play it.
MARY. Indeed; what else is there?
L. It is seldom that any mineral crystallizes alone. Usually two
or three, under quite different crystalline laws, form together.
They do this absolutely without flaw or fault, when they are in
fine temper: and observe what this signifies. It signifies that
the two, or more, minerals of different natures agree, somehow,
between themselves how much space each will want;--agree which of
them shall give way to the other at their junction; or in what
measure each will accommodate itself to the other's shape! And
then each takes its permitted shape, and allotted share of space;
yielding, or being yielded to, as it builds till each crystal has
fitted itself perfectly and gracefully to its differently-natured
neighbor. So that, in order to practice this, in even the simplest
terms, you must divide into two parties, wearing different colors;
each must choose a different figure to construct; and you must
form one of these figures through the other, both going on at the
MARY. I think WE may, perhaps, manage it; but I cannot at all
understand how the crystals do. It seems to imply so much
preconcerting of plan, and so much giving way to each other, as if
they really were living.
L. Yes, it implies both the concurrence and compromise, regulating
all wilfulness of design: and, more curious still, the crystals do
NOT always give way to each other. They show exactly the same
varieties of temper that human creatures might. Sometimes they
yield the required place with perfect grace and courtesy; forming
fantastic, but exquisitely finished groups: and sometimes they
will not yield at all; but fight furiously for their places,
losing all shape and honor, and even their own likeness, in the
MARY. But is not that wholly wonderful? How is it that one never
sees it spoken of in books?
L. The scientific men are all busy in determining the constant
laws under which the struggle takes place; these indefinite humors
of the elements are of no interest to them. And unscientific
people rarely give themselves the trouble of thinking at all, when
they look at stones. Not that it is of much use to think; the more
one thinks, the more one is puzzled.
MARY. Surely it is more wonderful than anything in botany?
L. Everything has its own wonders; but, given the nature of the
plant, it is easier to understand what a flower will do, and why
it does it, than, given anything we as yet know of stone-nature,
to understand what a crystal will do, and why it does it. You at
once admit a kind of volition and choice, in the flower; but we
are not accustomed to attribute anything of the kind to the
crystal. Yet there is, in reality, more likeness to some
conditions of human feeling among stones than among plants. There
is a far greater difference between kindly-tempered and ill-
tempered crystals of the same mineral, than between any two
specimens of the same flower: and the friendships and wars of
crystals depend more definitely and curiously on their varieties
of disposition, than any associations of flowers. Here, for
instance, is a good garnet, living with good mica; one rich red,
and the other silver white; the mica leaves exactly room enough
for the garnet to crystallize comfortably in; and the garnet lives
happily in its little white house; fitted to it, like a pholas in
its cell. But here are wicked garnets living with wicked mica. See
what ruin they make of each other! You cannot tell which is which;
the garnets look like dull red stains on the crumbling stone. By
the way, I never could understand, if St. Gothard is a real saint,
why he can't keep his garnets in better order. These are all under
his care; but I suppose there are too many of them for him to look
after. The streets of Airolo are paved with them.
MAY. Paved with garnets?
L. With mica-slate and garnets; I broke this bit out of a paving
stone. Now garnets and mica are natural friends, and generally
fond of each other; but you see how they quarrel when they are ill
brought up. So it is always. Good crystals are friendly with
almost all other good crystals, however little they chance to see
of each other, or however opposite their habits may be; while
wicked crystals quarrel with one another, though they may be
exactly alike in habits, and see each other continually. And of
course the wicked crystals quarrel with the good ones.
ISABEL. Then do the good ones get angry?
L. No, never: they attend to their own work and life; and live it
as well as they can, though they are always the sufferers. Here,
for instance, is a rock crystal of the purest race and finest
temper, who was born, unhappily for him, in a bad neighborhood,
near Beaufort in Savoy; and he has had to fight with vile
calcareous mud all his life. See here, when he was but a child, it
came down on him, and nearly buried him; a weaker crystal would
have died in despair; but he only gathered himself together, like
Hercules against the serpents, and threw a layer of crystal over
the clay; conquered it,--imprisoned it,--and lived on. Then, when
he was a little older, came more clay; and poured itself upon him
here, at the side; and he has laid crystal over that, and lived
on, in his purity. Then the clay came on at his angles, and tried
to cover them, and round them away; but upon that he threw out
buttress-crystals at his angles, all as true to his own central
line as chapels round a cathedral apse; and clustered them round
the clay; and conquered it again. At last the clay came on at his
summit, and tried to blunt his summit; but he could not endure
that for an instant; and left his flanks all rough, but pure; and
fought the clay at his crest, and built crest over crest and peak
over peak, till the clay surrendered at last, and here is his
summit, smooth and pure, terminating a pyramid of alternate clay
and crystal, half a foot high!
LILY. Oh, how nice of him! What a dear, brave crystal! But I can't
bear to see his flanks all broken, and the clay within them.
L. Yes; it was an evil chance for him, the being born to such
contention; there are some enemies so base that even to hold them
captive is a kind of dishonor. But look, here has been quite a
different kind of struggle: the adverse power has been more
orderly, and has fought the pure crystal in ranks as firm as its
own. This is not mere rage and impediment of crowded evil: here is
a disciplined hostility; army against army.
LILY. Oh, but this is much more beautiful!
L. Yes, for both the elements have true virtue in them, it is a
pity they are at war, but they war grandly.
MARY. But is this the same clay as in the other crystal?
L. I used the word clay for shortness. In both, the enemy is
really limestone; but in the first, disordered, and mixed with
true clay; while, here, it is nearly pure, and crystallizes into
its own primitive form, the oblique six-sided one, which you know:
and out of these it makes regiments; and then squares of the
regiments, and so charges the rock crystal, literally in square
ISABEL. Please, please, let me see. And what does the rock crystal
L. The rock crystal seems able to do nothing. The calcite cuts it
through at every charge. Look here,--and here! The loveliest
crystal in the whole group is hewn fairly into two pieces.
ISABEL. Oh, dear; but is the calcite harder than the crystal then?
L. No, softer. Very much softer.
MARY. But then, how can it possibly cut the crystal?
L. It did not really cut it, though it passes through it. The two
were formed together, as I told you but no one knows how. Still,
it is strange that this hard quartz has in all cases a good-
natured way with it, of yielding to everything else. All sorts of
soft things make nests for themselves in it; and it never makes a
nest for itself in anything. It has all the rough outside work;
and every sort of cowardly and weak mineral can shelter itself
within it. Look; these are hexagonal plates of mica; if they were
outside of this crystal they would break, like burnt paper; but
they are inside of it,--nothing can hurt them,--the crystal has
taken them into its very heart, keeping all their delicate edges
as sharp as if they were under water, instead of bathed in rock.
Here is a piece of branched silver: you can bend it with a touch
of your finger, but the stamp of its every fiber is on the rock in
which it lay, as if the quartz had been as soft as wool.
LILY. Oh, the good, good quartz! But does it never get inside of
L. As it is a little Irish girl who asks, I may perhaps answer,
without being laughed at, that it gets inside of itself sometimes.
But I don't remember seeing quartz make a nest for itself in
ISABEL. Please, there as something I heard you talking about, last
time, with Miss Mary. I was at my lessons, but I heard something
about nests; and I thought it was birds' nests; and I couldn't
help listening; and then, I remember, it was about "nests of
quartz in granite." I remember, because I was so disappointed!
L. Yes, mousie, you remember quite rightly; but I can't tell you
about those nests to-day, nor perhaps to-morrow: but there's no
contradiction between my saying then, and now; I will show you
that there is not, some day. Will you trust me meanwhile?
ISABEL. Won't I!
L. Well, then, look, lastly, at this piece of courtesy in quartz;
it is on a small scale, but wonderfully pretty. Here is nobly born
quartz living with a green mineral, called epidote; and they are
immense friends. Now, you see, a comparatively large and strong
quartz-crystal, and a very weak and slender little one of epidote,
have begun to grow, close by each other, and sloping unluckily
towards each other, so that at last they meet. They cannot go on
growing together; the quartz crystal is five times as thick, and
more than twenty times as strong[Footnote: Quartz is not much
harder than epidote; the strength is only supposed to be in some
proportion to the squares of the diameters.], as the epidote; but
he stops at once, just in the very crowning moment of his life,
when he is building his own summit! He lets the pale little film
of epidote grow right past him; stopping his own summit for it;
and he never himself grows any more.
LILY (after some silence of wonder). But is the quartz NEVER
L. Yes, but the wickedest quartz seems good-natured, compared to
other things. Here are two very characteristic examples; one is
good quartz, living with good pearl-spar, and the other, wicked
quartz, living with wicked pearl spar. In both, the quartz yields
to the soft carbonate of iron: but, in the first place, the iron
takes only what it needs of room; and is inserted into the planes
of the rock crystal with such precision that you must break it
away before you can tell whether it really penetrates the quartz
or not; while the crystals of iron are perfectly formed, and have
a lovely bloom on their surface besides. But here, when the two
minerals quarrel, the unhappy quartz has all its surfaces jagged
and torn to pieces; and there is not a single iron crystal whose
shape you can completely trace. But the quartz has the worst of
it, in both instances.
VIOLET. Might we look at that piece of broken quartz again, with
the weak little film across it? it seems such a strange lovely
thing, like the self-sacrifice of a human being.
L. The self-sacrifice of a human being is not a lovely thing,
Violet. It is often a necessary and noble thing; but no form nor
degree of suicide can be ever lovely.
VIOLET. But self-sacrifice is not suicide!
L. What is it then?
VIOLET. Giving up one's self for another.
L. Well; and what do you mean by "giving up one's self"?
VIOLET. Giving up one's tastes, one's feelings, one's time, one's
happiness, and so on, to make others happy.
L. I hope you will never marry anybody, Violet, who expects you to
make him happy in that way.
VIOLET (hesitating). In what way?
L. By giving up your tastes, and sacrificing your feelings, and
VIOLET. No, no, I don't mean that; but you know, for other people,
L. For people who don't love you, and whom you know nothing about?
Be it so; but how does this "giving up" differ from suicide then?
VIOLET. Why, giving up one's pleasures is not killing one's self?
L. Giving up wrong pleasure is not; neither is it self-sacrifice,
but self-culture. But giving up right pleasure is. If you
surrender the pleasure of walking, your foot will wither: you may
as well cut it off: if you surrender the pleasure of seeing, your
eyes will soon be unable to bear the light; you may as well pluck
them out. And to maim yourself is partly to kill yourself. Do but
go on maiming, and you will soon slay.
VIOLET. But why do you make me think of that verse then, about the
foot and the eye?
L. You are indeed commanded to cut off and to pluck out, if foot
or eye offend you; but why SHOULD they offend you?
VIOLET. I don't know; I never quite understood that.
L. Yet it is a sharp order; one needing to be well understood if
it is to be well obeyed! When Helen sprained her ankle the other
day, you saw how strongly it had to be bandaged; that is to say,
prevented from all work, to recover it. But the bandage was not
VIOLET. No, indeed.
L. And if her foot had been crushed, or diseased, or snake-bitten,
instead of sprained, it might have been needful to cut it off. But
the amputation would not have been "lovely."
L. Well, if eye and foot are dead already, and betray you,--if the
light that is in you be darkness, and your feet run into mischief,
or are taken in the snare,--it is indeed time to pluck out, and
cut off, I think: but, so crippled, you can never be what you
might have been otherwise. You enter into life, at best, halt or
maimed; and the sacrifice is not beautiful, though necessary.
VIOLET (after a pause). But when one sacrifices one's self for
L. Why not rather others for you?
VIOLET. Oh! but I couldn't bear that.
L. Then why should they bear it?
DORA (bursting in, indignant). And Thermopylae, and Protesilaus,
and Marcus Curtius, and Arnold de Winkelried, and Iphigenia, and
L. (sustaining the indignation unmoved). And the Samaritan woman's
DORA. Which Samaritan woman's?
L. Read 2 Kings vi. 29.
DORA (obeys). How horrid! As if we meant anything like that!
L. You don't seem to me to know in the least what you do mean,
children. What practical difference is there between "that," and
what you are talking about? The Samaritan children had no voice of
their own in the business, it is true; but neither had Iphigenia:
the Greek girl was certainly neither boiled, nor eaten; but that
only makes a difference in the dramatic effect; not in the
DORA (biting her lip). Well, then, tell us what we ought to mean.
As if you didn't teach it all to us, and mean it yourself, at this
moment, more than we do, if you wouldn't be tiresome!
L. I mean, and always have meant, simply this, Dora;--that the
will of God respecting us is that we shall live by each other's
happiness, and life; not by each other's misery, or death. I made
you read that verse which so shocked you just now, because the
relations of parent and child are typical of all beautiful human
help. A child may have to die for its parents; but the purpose of
Heaven is that it shall rather live for them;--that, not by its
sacrifice, but by its strength, its joy, its force of being, it
shall be to them renewal of strength; and as the arrow in the hand
of the giant. So it is in all other right relations. Men help each
other by their joy, not by their sorrow. They are not intended to
slay themselves for each other, but to strengthen themselves for
each other. And among the many apparently beautiful things which
turn, through mistaken use, to utter evil, I am not sure but that
the thoughtlessly meek and self-sacrificing spirit of good men
must be named as one of the fatalest. They have so often been
taught that there is a virtue in mere suffering, as such; and
foolishly to hope that good may be brought by Heaven out of all on
which Heaven itself has set the stamp of evil, that we may avoid
it,--that they accept pain and defeat as if these were their
appointed portion; never understanding that their defeat is not
the less to be mourned because it is more fatal to their enemies
than to them. The one thing that a good man has to do, and to see
done, is justice; he is neither to slay himself nor others
causelessly: so far from denying himself, since he is pleased by
good, he is to do his utmost to get his pleasure accomplished. And
I only wish there were strength, fidelity, and sense enough, among
the good Englishmen of this day, to render it possible for them to
band together in a vowed brotherhood, to enforce, by strength of
heart and hand, the doing of human justice among all who came
within their sphere. And finally, for your own teaching, observe,
although there may be need for much self-sacrifice and self-denial
in the correction of faults of character, the moment the character
is formed, the self-denial ceases. Nothing is really well done,
which it costs you pain to do.
VIOLET. But surely, sir, you are always pleased with us when we
try to please others, and not ourselves?
L. My dear child, in the daily course and discipline of right
life, we must continually and reciprocally submit and surrender in
all kind and courteous and affectionate ways: and these
submissions and ministries to each other, of which you all know
(none better) the practice and the preciousness, are as good for
the yielder as the receiver: they strengthen and perfect as much
as they soften and refine. But the real sacrifice of all our
strength, or life, or happiness to others (though it may be
needed, and though all brave creatures hold their lives in their
hand, to be given, when such need comes, as frankly as a soldier
gives his life in battle), is yet always a mournful and momentary
necessity; not the fulfillment of the continuous law of being.
Self-sacrifice which is sought after, and triumphed in, is usually
foolish; and calamitous in its issue: and by the sentimental
proclamation and pursuit of it, good people have not only made
most of their own lives useless, but the whole framework of their
religion so hollow, that at this moment, while the English nation,
with its lips, pretends to teach every man to "love his neighbor
as himself," with its hands and feet it clutches and tramples like
a wild beast; and practically lives, every soul of it that can, on
other people's labor. Briefly, the constant duty of every man to
his fellows is to ascertain his own powers and special gifts; and
to strengthen them for the help of others. Do you think Titian
would have helped the world better by denying himself, and not
painting; or Casella by denying himself, and not singing! The real
virtue is to be ready to sing the moment people ask us; as he was,
even in purgatory. The very word "virtue" means not "conduct" but
"strength," vital energy in the heart. Were not you reading about
that group of words beginning with V,--vital, virtuous, vigorous,
and so on,--in Max Muller, the other day, Sibyl? Can't you tell
the others about it?
SIBYL. No, I can't; will you tell us, please?
L. Not now, it is too late. Come to me some idle time to-morrow,
and I'll tell you about it, if all's well. But the gist of it is,
children, that you should at least know two Latin words; recollect
that "mors" means death and delaying; and "vita" means life and
growing: and try always, not to mortify yourselves, but to vivify
VIOLET. But, then, are we not to mortify our earthly affections?
and surely we are to sacrifice ourselves, at least in God's
service, if not in man's?
L. Really, Violet, we are getting too serious. I've given you
enough ethics for one talk, I think! Do let us have a little play.
Lily, what were you so busy about, at the ant-hill in the wood,
LILY. Oh, it was the ants who were busy, not I; I was only trying
to help them a little.
L. And they wouldn't be helped, I suppose?
LILY. No, indeed. I can't think why ants are always so tiresome,
when one tries to help them! They were carrying bits of stick, as
fast as they could, through a piece of grass; and pulling and
pushing, SO hard; and tumbling over and over,--it made one quite
pity them; so I took some of the bits of stick, and carried them
forward a little, where I thought they wanted to put them; but
instead of being pleased, they left them directly, and ran about
looking quite angry and frightened; and at last ever so many of
them got up my sleeves, and bit me all over, and I had to come
L. I couldn't think what you were about. I saw your French grammar
lying on the grass behind you, and thought perhaps you had gone to
ask the ants to hear you a French verb.
ISABEL. Ah! but you didn't, though!
L. Why not, Isabel? I knew, well enough, Lily couldn't learn that
verb by herself.
ISABEL. No; but the ants couldn't help her.
L. Are you sure the ants could not have helped you, Lily?
LILY (thinking). I ought to have learned something from them,
L. But none of them left their sticks to help you through the
LILY. No, indeed. (Laughing, with some others.)
L. What are you laughing at, children? I cannot see why the ants
should not have left their tasks to help Lily in hers,--since here
is Violet thinking she ought to leave HER tasks, to help God in
his. Perhaps, however, she takes Lily's more modest view, and
thinks only that "He ought to learn something from her."
(Tears in VIOLET'S eyes.)
DORA (scarlet). It's too bad--it's a shame:--poor Violet!
L. My dear children, there's no reason why one should be so red,
and the other so pale, merely because you are made for a moment to
feel the absurdity of a phrase which you have been taught to use,
in common with half the religious world. There is but one way in
which man can ever help God--that is, by letting God help him: and
there is no way in which His name is more guiltily taken in vain,
than by calling the abandonment of our own work, the performance
God is a kind Father. He sets us all in the places where He wishes
us to be employed; and that employment is truly "our Father's
business." He chooses work for every creature which will be
delightful to them, if they do it simply and humbly. He gives us
always strength enough, and sense enough, for what He wants us to
do; if we either tire ourselves or puzzle ourselves, it is
ourselves, it is our own fault. And we may always be sure,
whatever we are doing, that we cannot be pleasing Him, if we are
not happy ourselves. Now, away with you, children; and be as happy
as you can. And when you cannot, at least don't plume yourselves
By the fireside, in the Drawing-room. Evening.
DORA. Now, the curtains are drawn, and the fire's bright, and
here's your arm-chair--and you're to tell us all about what you
L. All about what?
DORA. All about virtue.
KATHLEEN. Yes, and about the words that begin with V.
L. I heard you singing about a word that begins with V, in the
playground, this morning, Miss Katie.
KATHLEEN. Me singing!
MAY. Oh tell us--tell us.
L. "Vilikens and his--"
KATHLEEN (stopping his mouth). Oh! please don't. Where were you?
ISABEL. I'm sure I wish I had known where he was! We lost him
among the rhododendrons, and I don't know where he got to; oh, you
naughty--naughty--(climbs on his knee).
DORA. Now, Isabel, we really want to talk.
L. _I_ don't.
DORA. Oh, but you must. You promised, you know.
L. Yes, if all was well; but all's ill. I'm tired and cross; and I
DORA. You're not a bit tired, and you're not crosser than two
sticks; and we'll make you talk, if you were crosser than six.
Come here, Egypt; and get on the other side of him.
(EGYPT takes up a commanding position near the hearth-brush.)
DORA (reviewing her forces). Now, Lily, come and sit on the rug in
(LILY does as she is bid.)
L. (seeing he has no chance against the odds). Well, well; but I'm
really tired. Go and dance a little, first; and let me think.
DORA. No; you mustn't think. You will be wanting to make us think
next; that will be tiresome.
L. Well, go and dance first, to get quit of thinking: and then
I'll talk as long as you like.
DORA. Oh, but we can't dance to-night. There isn't time; and we
want to hear about virtue.
L. Let me see a little of it first. Dancing is the first of girls'
EGYPT. Indeed! And the second?
EGYPT. Now, you needn't say that! I mended that tear the first
thing before breakfast this morning.
L. I cannot otherwise express the ethical principle, Egypt;
whether you have mended your gown or not.
DORA. Now don't be tiresome. We really must hear about virtue,
L. Well. I'm telling you about it, as fast as I can.
DORA. What! the first of girls' virtues is dancing?
L. More accurately, it is wishing to dance, and not wishing to
tease, nor hear about virtue.
DORA (to EGYPT). Isn't he cross?
EGYPT. How many balls must we go to in the season, to be perfectly
L. As many as you can without losing your color. But I did not say
you should wish to go to balls. I said you should be always
wanting to dance.
EGYPT. So we do; but everybody says it is very wrong.
L. Why, Egypt, I thought--
"There was a lady once,
That would not be a queen,--that would she not,
For all the mud in Egypt."
You were complaining the other day of having to go out a great
deal oftener than you liked.
EGYPT. Yes, so I was; but then, it isn't to dance. There's no room
to dance: it's--(Pausing to consider what it is for).
L. It is only to be seen, I suppose. Well, there's no harm in
that. Girls ought to like to be seen.
DORA (her eyes flashing). Now, you don't mean that; and you're too
provoking; and we won't dance again, for a month.
L. It will answer every purpose of revenge, Dora, if you only
banish me to the library; and dance by yourselves; but I don't
think Jessie and Lily will agree to that. You like me to see you
dancing, don't you, Lily?
LILY. Yes, certainly,--when we do it rightly.
L. And besides, Miss Dora, if young ladies really do not want to
be seen, they should take care not to let their eyes flash when
they dislike what people say: and, more than that, it is all
nonsense from beginning to end, about not wanting to be seen. I
don't know any more tiresome flower in the borders than your
especially "modest" snowdrop; which one always has to stoop down
and take all sorts of tiresome trouble with, and nearly break its
poor little head off, before you can see it; and then, half of it
is not worth seeing. Girls should be like daisies, nice and white,
with an edge of red, if you look close, making the ground bright
wherever they are, knowing simply and quietly that they do it, and
are meant to do it and that it would be very wrong if they didn't
do it. Not want to be seen, indeed! How long were you in doing up
your back hair, this afternoon Jessie?
(JESSIE not immediately answering, DORA comes to her assistance)
DORA. Not above three-quarters of an hour, I think, Jess?
JESSIE (putting her finger up). Now, Dorothy, you needn't talk,
L. I know she needn't, Jessie, I shall ask her about those dark
plaits presently. (DORA looks round to see if there is any way
open for retreat) But never mind, it was worth the time, whatever
it was, and nobody will ever mistake that golden wreath for a
chignon: but if you don't want it to be seen you had better wear a
JESSIE. Ah, now, are you really going to do nothing but play? And
we all have been thinking, and thinking, all day, and hoping you
would tell us things, and now--!
L. And now I am telling you things, and true things, and things
good for you, and you won't believe me. You might as well have let
me go to sleep at once, as I wanted to. (Endeavors again to make
ISABEL. Oh, no, no, you sha'n't go to sleep, you naughty!--
Kathleen, come here.
L. (knowing what he has to expect if KATHLEEN comes). Get away,
Isabel, you're too heavy. (Sitting up.) What have I been saying?
DORA. I do believe he has been asleep all the time! You never
heard anything like the things you've been saying.
L. Perhaps not. If you have heard them, and anything like them, it
is all I want.
EGYPT. Yes, but we don't understand, and you know we don't; and we
L. What did I say first?
DORA. That the first virtue of girls was wanting to go to balls.
L. I said nothing of the kind.
JESSIE. "Always wanting to dance," you said.
L. Yes, and that's true. Their first virtue is to be intensely
happy;--so happy that they don't know what to do with themselves
for happiness,--and dance, instead of walking. Don't you recollect
"No fountain from a rocky cave
E'er tripped with foot so free;
She seemed as happy as a wave
That dances on the sea."
A girl is always like that, when everything's right with her.
VIOLET. But, surely, one must be sad sometimes?
L. Yes, Violet and dull sometimes and stupid sometimes, and cross
sometimes. What must be, must; but it is always either our own
fault, or somebody else's. The last and worst thing that can be
said of a nation is, that it has made its young girls sad, and
MAY. But I am sure I have heard a great many good people speak
L. Yes, May, but it does not follow they were wise as well as
good. I suppose they think Jeremiah liked better to have to write
Lamentations for his people, than to have to write that promise
for them, which everybody seems to hurry past, that they may get
on quickly to the verse about Rachel weeping for her children,
though the verse they pass is the counter blessing to that one:
"Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance; and both young men
and old together, and I will turn their mourning into joy."
(The children get very serious, but look at each other, as if
MARY. They understand now: but, do you know what you said next?
L. Yes, I was not more than half asleep. I said their second
virtue was dressing.
MARY. Well! what did you mean by that?
L. What do YOU mean by dressing?
MARY. Wearing fine clothes.
L. Ah! there's the mistake. _I_ mean wearing plain ones.
MARY. Yes, I daresay I but that's not what girls understand by
dressing, you know.
L. I can't help that. If they understand by dressing, buying
dresses, perhaps they also understand by drawing, buying pictures.
But when I hear them say they can draw, I understand that they can
make a drawing; and when I hear them say they can dress, I
understand that they can make a dress and--which is quite as
DORA. I'm not sure about the making; for the wearing, we can all
wear them--out, before anybody expects it.
EGYPT (aside to L., piteously). Indeed I have mended that torn
flounce quite neatly; look if I haven't!
L. (aside, to EGYPT). All right; don't be afraid. (Aloud to DORA.)
Yes, doubtless; but you know that is only a slow way of
DORA. Then, we are all to learn dress-making, are we?
L. Yes; and always to dress yourselves beautifully--not finely,
unless on occasion; but then very finely and beautifully, too.
Also, you are to dress as many other people as you can; and to
teach them how to dress, if they don't know; and to consider every
ill-dressed woman or child whom you see anywhere, as a personal
disgrace; and to get at them, somehow, until everybody is as
beautifully dressed as birds.
(Silence; the children drawing their breaths hard, as if they had
come from under a shower bath.)
L. (seeing objections begin to express themselves in the eyes).
Now you needn't say you can't; for you can, and it's what you were
meant to do, always; and to dress your houses, and your gardens,
too; and to do very little else, I believe, except singing; and
dancing, as we said, of course and--one thing more.
DORA. Our third and last virtue, I suppose?
L. Yes; on Violet's system of triplicities.
DORA. Well, we are prepared for anything now. What is it?
DORA. Cardinal, indeed! If only Beatrice were here with her seven
handmaids, that she might see what a fine eighth we had found for
MARY. And the interpretation? What does "cooking" mean?
L. It means the knowledge of Medea, and of Circe, and of Calypso,
and of Helen, and of Rebekah, and of the Queen of Sheba. It means
the knowledge of all herbs, and fruits, and balms, and spices; and
of all that is healing and sweet in fields and groves, and savory
in meats, it means carefulness, and inventiveness, and
watchfulness, and willingness, and readiness of appliance, it
means the economy of your great-grandmothers, and the science of
modern chemists; it means much tasting, and no wasting, it means
English thoroughness, and French art, and Arabian hospitality, and
it means, in fine, that you are to be perfectly and always
"ladies"--"loaf-givers;" and, as you are to see, imperatively,
that everybody has something pretty to put on,--so you are to see,
yet more imperatively, that everybody has something nice to eat.
(Another pause, and long drawn breath.)
DORA (slowly recovering herself) to EGYPT. We had better have let
him go to sleep, I think, after all!
L. You had better let the younger ones go to sleep now: for I
haven't half done.
ISABEL (panic-struck). Oh! please, please! just one quarter of an
L. No, Isabel, I cannot say what I've got to say in a quarter of
an hour; and it is too hard for you, besides:--you would be lying
awake, and trying to make it out, half the night. That will never
ISABEL. Oh, please!
L. It would please me exceedingly, mousie: but there are times
when we must both be displeased; more's the pity. Lily may stay
for half an hour, if she likes.
LILY. I can't, because Isey never goes to sleep, if she is waiting
for me to come.
ISABEL. Oh, yes, Lily, I'll go to sleep to-night. I will, indeed.
LILY. Yes, it's very likely, Isey, with those fine round eyes! (To
L.) You'll tell me something of what you we been saying, to-
morrow, won't you?
L. No, I won't, Lily. You must choose. It's only in Miss
Edgeworth's novels that one can do right, and have one's cake and
sugar afterwards as well (not that I consider the dilemma, to-
night, so grave).
(LILY, sighing, takes ISABEL'S hand.)
Yes, Lily dear, it will be better, in the outcome of it, so, than
if you were to hear all the talks that eer were talked, and all
the stories that ever were told. Good-night.
(The door leading to the condemned cells of the Dormitory closes
on LILY, ISABEL, FLORRIE, and other diminutive and submissive
JESSIE (after a pause). Why, I thought you were so fond of Miss
L. So I am, and so you ought all to be. I can read her over and
over again, without ever tiring; there's no one whose every page
is so full, and so delightful, no one who brings you into the
company of pleasanter or wiser people; no one who tells you more
truly how to do right. And it is very nice, in the midst of a wild
world, to have the very ideal of poetical justice done always to
one's hand:--to have everybody found out, who tells lies; and
everybody decorated with a red riband, who doesn't; and to see the
good Laura, who gave away her half sovereign, receiving a grand
ovation from an entire dinner party disturbed for the purpose; and
poor, dear, little Rosamond, who chooses purple jars instead of
new shoes, left at last without either her shoes or her bottle.
But it isn't life: and, in the way children might easily
understand it, it isn't morals.
JESSIE. How do you mean we might understand it?
L. You might think Miss Edgeworth meant that the right was to be
done mainly because one was always rewarded for doing it. It is an
injustice to her to say that: her heroines always do right simply
for its own sake, as they should; and her examples of conduct and
motive are wholly admirable. But her representation of events is
false and misleading. Her good characters never are brought into
the deadly trial of goodness,--the doing right, and suffering for
it, quite finally. And that is life, as God arranges it. "Taking
up one's cross" does not at all mean having ovations at dinner
parties, and being put over everybody else's head.
DORA. But what does it mean then? That is just what we couldn't
understand, when you were telling us about not sacrificing
L. My dear, it means simply that you are to go the road which you
see to be the straight one; carrying whatever you find is given
you to carry, as well and stoutly as you can; without making
faces, or calling people to come and look at you. Above all, you
are neither to load, nor unload, yourself; nor cut your cross to
your own liking. Some people think it would be better for them to
have it large; and many, that they could carry it much faster if
it were small; and even those who like it largest are usually very
particular about its being ornamental, and made of the best ebony.
But all that you have really to do is to keep your back as
straight as you can; and not think about what is upon it--above
all, not to boast of what is upon it. The real and essential
meaning of "virtue" is in that straightness of back. Yes; you may
laugh, children, but it is. You know I was to tell you about the
words that began with V. Sibyl, what does "virtue" mean literally?
SIBYL. Does it mean courage?
L. Yes; but a particular kind of courage. It means courage of the
nerve; vital courage. That first syllable of it, if you look in
Max Muller, you will find really means "nerve," and from it come
"vis," and "vir," and "virgin" (through vireo), and the connected
word "virga"--"a rod;"--the green rod, or springing bough of a
tree, being the type of perfect human strength, both in the use
of. it in the Mosaic story, when it becomes a serpent, or strikes
the rock; or when Aaron's bears its almonds; and in the
metaphorical expressions, the "Rod out of the stem of Jesse," and
the "Man whose name is the Branch," and so on. And the essential
idea of real virtue is that of a vital human strength, which
instinctively, constantly, and without motive, does what is right.
You must train men to this by habit, as you would the branch of a
tree; and give them instincts and manners (or morals) of purity,
justice, kindness, and courage. Once rightly trained, they act as
they should, irrespectively of all motive, of fear, or of reward.
It is the blackest sign of putrescence in a national religion,
when men speak as if it were the only safeguard of conduct; and
assume that, but for the fear of being burned, or for the hope of
being rewarded, everybody would pass their lives in lying,
stealing, and murdering. I think quite one of the notablest
historical events of this century (perhaps the very notablest),
was that council of clergymen, horror-struck at the idea of any
diminution in our dread of hell, at which the last of English
clergymen whom one would have expected to see in such a function,
rose as the devil's advocate; to tell us how impossible it was we
could get on without him.
VIOLET (after a pause). But, surely, if people weren't afraid--
L. They should be afraid of doing wrong, and of that only, my
dear. Otherwise, if they only don't do wrong for fear of being
punished, they HAVE done wrong in their hearts already.
VIOLET. Well, but surely, at least one ought to be afraid of
displeasing God; and one's desire to please Him should be one's
L. He never would be pleased with us, if it were, my dear. When a
father sends his son out into the world--suppose as an apprentice
--fancy the boy's coming home at night, and saying, "Father, I
could have robbed the till to-day; but I didn't, because I thought
you wouldn't like it." Do you think the father would be
(VIOLET is silent.)
He would answer, would he not, if he were wise and good, "My boy,
though you had no father, you must not rob tills"? And nothing is
ever done so as really to please our Great Father, unless we would
also have done it, though we had had no Father to know of it.
VIOLET (after long pause). But, then, what continual threatenings,
and promises of reward there are!
L. And how vain both! with the Jews, and with all of us. But the
fact is, that the threat and promise are simply statements of the
Divine law, and of its consequences. The fact is truly told you,--
make what use you may of it: and as collateral warning, or
encouragement, or comfort, the knowledge of future consequences
may often be helpful to us; but helpful chiefly to the better
state when we can act without reference to them. And there's no
measuring the poisoned influence of that notion of future reward
on the mind of Christian Europe, in the early ages. Half the
monastic system rose out of that, acting on the occult pride and
ambition of good people (as the other half of it came of their
follies and misfortunes). There is always a considerable quantity
of pride, to begin with, in what is called "giving one's self to
God." As if one had ever belonged to anybody else!
DORA. But, surely, great good has come out of the monastic system
--our books,--our sciences--all saved by the monks?
L. Saved from what, my dear? From the abyss of misery and ruin
which that false Christianity allowed the whole active world to
live in. When it had become the principal amusement, and the most
admired art of Christian men, to cut one another's throats, and
burn one another's towns; of course the few feeble or reasonable
persons left, who desired quiet, safety, and kind fellowship, got
into cloisters; and the gentlest, thoughtfullest, noblest men and
women shut themselves up, precisely where they could be of least
use. They are very fine things, for us painters, now--the towers
and white arches upon the tops of the rocks; always in places
where it takes a day's climbing to get at them; but the intense
tragi-comedy of the thing, when one thinks of it, is unspeakable.
All the good people of the world getting themselves hung up out of
the way of mischief, like Bailie Nicol Jarvie;--poor little lambs,
as it were, dangling there for the sign of the Golden Fleece; or
like Socrates in his basket in the "Clouds"! (I must read you that
bit of Aristophanes again, by the way.) And believe me, children,
I am no warped witness, as far as regards monasteries; or if I am,
it is in their favor. I have always had a strong leaning that way;
and have pensively shivered with Augustines at St. Bernard; and
happily made hay with Franciscans at Fesole; and sat silent with
Carthusians in their little gardens, south of Florence; and
mourned through many a day-dream, at Melrose and Bolton. But the
wonder is always to me, not how much, but how little, the monks
have, on the whole, done, with all that leisure, and all that
good-will! What nonsense monks characteristically wrote;--what
little progress they made in the sciences to which they devoted
themselves as a duty,--medicine especially;--and, last and worst,
what depths of degradation they can sometimes see one another, and
the population round them, sink into; without either doubting
their system, or reforming it!
(Seeing questions rising to lips.) Hold your little tongues,
children; it's very late, and you'll make me forget what I've to
say. Fancy yourselves in pews, for five minutes. There's one point
of possible good in the conventual system, which is always
attractive to young girls; and the idea is a very dangerous one;--
0the notion of a merit, or exalting virtue, consisting in a habit
of meditation on the "things above," or things of the next world.
Now it is quite true, that a person of beautiful mind, dwelling on
whatever appears to them most desirable and lovely in a possible
future, will not only pass their time pleasantly, but will even
acquire, at last, a vague and wildly gentle charm of manner and
feature, which will give them an air of peculiar sanctity in the
eyes of others. Whatever real or apparent good there may be in
this result, I want you to observe, children, that we have no real
authority for the reveries to which it is owing. We are told
nothing distinctly of the heavenly world; except that it will be
free from sorrow, and pure from sin. What is said of pearl gates,
golden floors, and the like, is accepted as merely figurative by
religious enthusiasts themselves; and whatever they pass their
time in conceiving, whether of the happiness of risen souls, of
their intercourse, or of the appearance and employment of the
heavenly powers, is entirely the product of their own imagination;
and as completely and distinctly a work of fiction, or romantic
invention, as any novel of Sir Walter Scott's. That the romance is
founded on religious theory or doctrine;--that no disagreeable or
wicked persons are admitted into the story;--and that the inventor
fervently hopes that some portion of it may hereafter come true,
does not in the least alter the real nature of the effort or
Now, whatever indulgence may be granted to amiable people for
pleasing themselves in this innocent way, it is beyond question,
that to seclude themselves from the rough duties of life, merely
to write religious romances, or, as in most cases, merely to dream
them, without taking so much trouble as is implied in writing,
ought not to be received as an act of heroic virtue. But, observe,
even in admitting thus much, I have assumed that the fancies are
just and beautiful, though fictitious. Now, what right have any of
us to assume that our own fancies will assuredly be either the one
or the other? That they delight us, and appear lovely to us, is no
real proof of its not being wasted time to form them: and we may
surely be led somewhat to distrust our judgment of them by
observing what ignoble imaginations have sometimes sufficiently,
or even enthusiastically, occupied the hearts of others. The
principal source of the spirit of religious contemplation is the
East; now I have here in my hand a Byzantine image of Christ,
which, if you will look at it seriously, may, I think, at once and
forever render you cautious in the indulgence of a merely
contemplative habit of mind. Observe, it is the fashion to look at
such a thing only as a piece of barbarous art; that is the
smallest part of its interest. What I want you to see, is the
baseness and falseness of a religious state of enthusiasm, in
which such a work could be dwelt upon with pious pleasure. That a
figure, with two small round black beads for eyes; a gilded face,
deep cut into horrible wrinkles; an open gash for a mouth, and a
distorted skeleton for a body, wrapped about, to make it fine,
with striped enamel of blue and gold;--that such a figure, I say,
should ever have been thought helpful towards the conception of a
Redeeming Deity, may make you, I think, very doubtful, even of the
Divine approval,--much more of the Divine inspiration,--of
religious reverie in general. You feel, doubtless, that your own
idea of Christ would be something very different from this; but in
what does the difference consist? Not in any more divine authority
in your imagination; but in the intellectual work of six
intervening centuries; which, simply, by artistic discipline, has
refined this crude conception for you, and filled you, partly with
an innate sensation, partly with an acquired knowledge, of higher
forms,--which render this Byzantine crucifix as horrible to you,
as it was pleasing to its maker. More is required to excite your
fancy; but your fancy is of no more authority than his was: and a
point of national art-skill is quite conceivable, in which the
best we can do now will be as offensive to the religious dreamers
of the more highly cultivated time, as this Byzantine crucifix is
MARY. But surely, Angelico will always retain his power over
L. Yes, I should think, always; as the gentle words of a child
will: but you would be much surprised, Mary, if you thoroughly
took the pains to analyze, and had the perfect means of analyzing,
that power of Angelico,--to discover its real sources. Of course
it is natural, at first, to attribute it to the pure religious
fervor by which he was inspired; but do you suppose Angelico was
really the only monk, in all the Christian world of the middle
ages, who labored, in art, with a sincere religious enthusiasm?
MARY. No, certainly not.
L. Anything more frightful, more destructive of all religious
faith whatever, than such a supposition, could not be. And yet,
what other monk ever produced such work? I have myself examined
carefully upwards of two thousand illuminated missals, with
especial view to the discovery of any evidence of a similar result
upon the art, from the monkish devotion; and utterly in vain.
MARY. But then, was not Fra Angelico a man of entirely separate
and exalted genius?
L. Unquestionably; and granting him to be that, the peculiar
phenomenon in his art is, to me, not its loveliness, but its
weakness. The effect of "inspiration," had it been real, on a man
of consummate genius, should have been, one would have thought, to
make everything that he did faultless and strong, no less than
lovely. But of all men, deserving to be called "great," Fra
Angelico permits to himself the least pardonable faults, and the
most palpable follies. There is evidently within him a sense of
grace, and power of invention, as great as Ghiberti's:--we are in
the habit of attributing those high qualities to his religious
enthusiasm; but, if they were produced by that enthusiasm in him,
they ought to be produced by the same feelings in others; and we
see they are not. Whereas, comparing him with contemporary great
artists, of equal grace and invention, one peculiar character
remains notable in him,--which, logically, we ought therefore to
attribute to the religious fervor;--and that distinctive character
is, the contented indulgence of his own weaknesses, and
perseverance in his own ignorances.
MARY. But that's dreadful! And what is the source of the peculiar
charm which we all feel in his work?
L. There are many sources of it, Mary; united and seeming like
one. You would never feel that charm but in the work of an
entirely good man; be sure of that; but the goodness is only the
recipient and modifying element, not the creative one. Consider
carefully what delights you in any original picture of Angelico's.
You will find, for one minor thing, an exquisite variety and
brightness of ornamental work. That is not Angelico's inspiration.
It is the final result of the labor and thought of millions of
artists, of all nations; from the earliest Egyptian potters
downwards--Greeks, Byzantines, Hindoos, Arabs, Gauls, and
Northmen--all joining in the toil; and consummating it in
Florence, in that century, with such embroidery of robe and
inlaying of armor as had never been seen till then; nor probably,
ever will be seen more. Angelico merely takes his share of this
inheritance, and applies it in the tenderest way to subjects which
are peculiarly acceptant of it. But the inspiration, if it exist
anywhere, flashes on the knight's shield quite as radiantly as on
the monk's picture. Examining farther into the sources of your
emotion in the Angelico work, you will find much of the impression
of sanctity dependent on a singular repose and grace of gesture,
consummating itself in the floating, flying, and above all, in the
dancing groups. That is not Angelico's inspiration. It is only a
peculiarly tender use of systems of grouping which had been long
before developed by Giotto, Memmi, and Orcagna; and the real root
of it all is simply--What do you think, children? The beautiful
dancing of the Florentine maidens!
DORA (indignant again). Now, I wonder what next! Why not say it
all depended on Herodias' daughter, at once?
L. Yes; it is certainly a great argument against singing that
there were once sirens.
DORA. Well, it may be all very fine and philosophical, but
shouldn't I just like to read you the end of the second volume of
L. My dear, do you think any teacher could be worth your listening
to, or anybody else's listening to, who had learned nothing, and
altered his mind in nothing, from seven and twenty to seven and
forty? But that second volume is very good for you as far as it
goes. It is a great advance, and a thoroughly straight and swift
one, to be led, as it is the main business of that second volume
to lead you, from Dutch cattle-pieces, and ruffian-pieces, to Fra
Angelico. And it is right for you also, as you grow older, to be
strengthened in the general sense and judgment which may enable
you to distinguish the weaknesses from the virtues of what you
love, else you might come to love both alike; or even the
weaknesses without the virtues. You might end by liking Overbeck
and Cornelius as well as Angelico. However, I have perhaps been
leaning a little too much to the merely practical side of things,
in to-night's talk; and you are always to remember, children, that
I do not deny, though I cannot affirm, the spiritual advantages
resulting, in certain cases, from enthusiastic religious reverie,
and from the other practices of saints and anchorites. The
evidence respecting them has never yet been honestly collected,
much less dispassionately examined: but assuredly, there is in
that direction a probability, and more than a probability, of
dangerous error, while there is none whatever in the practice of
an active, cheerful, and benevolent life. The hope of attaining a
higher religious position, which induces us to encounter, for its
exalted alternative, the risk of unhealthy error, is often, as I
said, founded more on pride than piety; and those who, in modest
usefulness, have accepted what seemed to them here the lowliest
place in the kingdom of their Father, are not, I believe, the
least likely to receive hereafter the command, then unmistakable,
"Friend, go up higher."
Formal Lecture in Schoolroom, after some practical examination of
L. We have seen enough, children, though very little of what might
be seen if we had more time, of mineral structures produced by
visible opposition, or contest among elements; structures of which
the variety, however great, need not surprise us: for we quarrel,
ourselves, for many and slight causes,--much more, one should
think, may crystals, who can only feel the antagonism, not argue
about it. But there is a yet more singular mimicry of our human
ways in the varieties of form which appear owing to no
antagonistic force; but merely to the variable humor and caprice
of the crystals themselves: and I have asked you all to come into
the schoolroom to-day, because, of course, this is a part of the
crystal mind which must be peculiarly interesting to a feminine
audience. (Great symptoms of disapproval on the part of said
audience.) Now, you need not pretend that it will not interest
you; why should it not? It is true that we men are never
capricious; but that only makes us the more dull and disagreeable.
You, who are crystalline in brightness, as well as in caprice,
charm infinitely, by infinitude of change. (Audible murmurs of
"Worse and worse!" "As if we could be got over that way!" Etc. The
LECTURER, however, observing the expression of the features to be
more complacent, proceeds.) And the most curious mimicry, if not
of your changes of fashion, at least of your various modes (in
healthy periods) of national costume, takes place among the
crystals of different countries. With a little experience, it is
quite possible to say at a glance, in what districts certain
crystals have been found; and although, if we had knowledge
extended and accurate enough, we might of course ascertain the
laws and circumstances which have necessarily produced the form
peculiar to each locality, this would be just as true of the
fancies of the human mind. If we could know the exact
circumstances which affect it, we could foretell what now seems to
us only caprice of thought, as well as what now seems to us only
caprice of crystal: nay, so far as our knowledge reaches, it is on
the whole easier to find some reason why the peasant girls of
Berne should wear their caps in the shape of butterflies; and the
peasant girls of Munich theirs in the shape of shells, than to say
why the rock-crystals of Dauphine should all have their summits of
the shape of lip-pieces of flageolets, while those of St. Gothard
are symmetrical, or why the fluor of Chamouni is rose-colored, and
in octahedrons, while the fluor of Weardale is green, and in
cubes. Still farther removed is the hope, at present, of
accounting for minor differences in modes of grouping and
construction. Take, for instance, the caprices of this single
mineral, quart;--variations upon a single theme. It has many
forms; but see what it will make out of this ONE, the six-sided
prism. For shortness' sake, I shall call the body of the prism its
"column," and the pyramid at the extremities its "cap." Now, here,
first you have a straight column as long and thin as a stalk of
asparagus, with two little caps at the ends; and here you have a
short thick column, as solid as a haystack, with two fat caps at
the ends; and here you have two caps fastened together, and no
column at all between them! Then here is a crystal with its column
fat in the middle, and tapering to a little cap; and here is one
stalked like a mushroom, with a huge cap put on the top of a
slender column! Then here is a column built wholly out of little
caps, with a large smooth cap at the top. And here is a column
built of columns and caps; the caps all truncated about half-way
to their points. And in both these last, the little crystals are
set anyhow, and build the large one in a disorderly way; but here
is a crystal made of columns and truncated caps, set in regular
terraces all the way up.
MARY. But are not these groups of crystals, rather than one
L. What do you mean by a group, and what by one crystal?
DORA (audibly aside, to MARY, who is brought to pause). You know
you are never expected to answer, Mary.
L. I'm sure this is easy enough. What do you mean by a group of
MARY. Three or four together, or a good many together, like the
caps in these crystals.
L. But when a great many persons get together they don't take the
shape of one person?
(MARY still at pause.)
ISABEL. No, because they can't; but you know the crystals can; so
why shouldn't they?
L. Well, they don't; that is to say, they don't always, nor even
often. Look here, Isabel.
ISABEL. What a nasty ugly thing!
L. I'm glad you think it so ugly. Yet it is made of beautiful
crystals; they are a little gray and cold in color, but most of
them are clear.
ISABEL. But they're in such horrid, horrid disorder!
L. Yes; all disorder is horrid, when it is among things that are
naturally orderly. Some little girls' rooms are naturally orderly,
I suppose; or I don't know how they could live in them, if they
cry out so when they only see quartz crystals in confusion.
ISABEL. Oh! but how come they to be like that?
L. You may well ask. And yet you will always hear people talking,
as if they thought order more wonderful than disorder! It is
wonderful--as we have seen; but to me, as to you, child, the
supremely wonderful thing is that nature should ever be ruinous or
wasteful, or deathful! I look at this wild piece of
crystallization with endless astonishment.
MARY. Where does it come from?
L. The Tete Noire of Chamonix. What makes it more strange is that
it should be in a vein of fine quartz. If it were in a mouldering
rock, it would be natural enough; but in the midst of so fine
substance, here are the crystals tossed in a heap; some large,
myriads small (almost as small as dust), tumbling over each other
like a terrified crowd, and glued together by the sides, and
edges, and backs, and heads; some warped, and some pushed out and
in, and all spoiled, and each spoiling the rest.
MARY. And how flat they all are!
L. Yes; that's the fashion at the Tete Noire.
MARY. But surely this is ruin, not caprice?
L. I believe it is in great part misfortune; and we will examine
these crystal troubles in next lecture. But if you want to see the
gracefullest and happiest caprices of which dust is capable, you
must go to the Hartz; not that I ever mean to go there myself, for
I want to retain the romantic feeling about the name; and I have
done myself some harm already by seeing the monotonous and heavy
form of the Brocken from the suburbs of Brunswick. But whether the
mountains be picturesque or not, the tricks which the goblins (as
I am told) teach the crystals in them, are incomparably pretty.
They work chiefly on the mind of a docile, bluish-colored,
carbonate of lime; which comes out of a gray limestone. The
goblins take the greatest possible care of its education, and see
that nothing happens to it to hurt its temper; and when it may be
supposed to have arrived at the crisis which is to a well brought
up mineral, what presentation at court is to a young lady--after
which it is expected to set fashions--there's no end to its pretty
ways of behaving. First it will make itself into pointed darts as
fine as hoarfrost; here, it is changed into a white fur as fine as
silk; here into little crowns and circlets, as bright as silver;
as if for the gnome princesses to wear; here it is in beautiful
little plates, for them to eat off; presently it is in towers
which they might be imprisoned in; presently in caves and cells,
where they may make nun-gnomes of themselves, and no gnome ever
hear of them more; here is some of it in sheaves, like corn; here,
some in drifts, like snow; here, some in rays, like stars: and,
though these are, all of them, necessarily, shapes that the
mineral takes in other places, they are all taken here with such a
grace that you recognize the high caste and breeding of the
crystals wherever you meet them, and know at once they are Hartz-
Of course, such fine things as these are only done by crystals
which are perfectly good, and good-humored; and of course, also,
there are ill-humored crystals who torment each other, and annoy
quieter crystals, yet without coming to anything like serious war.
Here (for once) is some ill-disposed quartz, tormenting a
peaceable octahedron of fluor, in mere caprice. I looked at it the
other night so long, and so wonderingly, just before putting my
candle out, that I fell into another strange dream. But you don't
care about dreams.
DORA. No; we didn't, yesterday; but you know we are made up of
caprice; so we do, to-day: and you must tell it us directly.
L. Well, you see, Neith and her work were still much in my mind;
and then, I had been looking over these Hartz things for you, and
thinking of the sort of grotesque sympathy there seemed to be in
them with the beautiful fringe and pinnacle work of Northern
architecture. So, when I fell asleep, I thought I saw Neith and
St. Barbara talking together.
DORA. But what had St. Barbara to do with it?
L. My dear, I am quite sure St. Barbara is the patroness of good
architects; not St. Thomas, whatever the old builders thought. It
might be very fine, according to the monks' notions, in St.
Thomas, to give all his employer's money away to the poor: but
breaches of contract are bad foundations; and I believe, it was
not he, but St. Barbara, who overlooked the work in all the
buildings you and I care about. However that may be, it was
certainly she whom I saw in my dream with Neith. Neith was sitting
weaving, and I thought she looked sad, and threw her shuttle
slowly; and St. Barbara was standing at her side, in a stiff
little gown, all ins and outs, and angles; but so bright with
embroidery that it dazzled me whenever she moved; the train of it
was just like a heap of broken jewels, it was so stiff, and full
of corners, and so many-colored and bright. Her hair fell over her
shoulders in long, delicate waves, from under a little three
pinnacled crown, like a tower. She was asking Neith about the laws
of architecture in Egypt and Greece; and when Neith told her the
measures of the pyramids, St. Barbara said she thought they would
have been better three-cornered and when Neith told her the
measures of the Parthenon, St. Barbara said she thought it ought
to have had two transepts. But she was pleased when Neith told her
of the temple of the dew, and of the Caryan maidens bearing its
frieze: and then she thought that perhaps Neith would like to hear
what sort of temples she was building herself, in the French
valleys, and on the crags of the Rhine. So she began gossiping,
just as one of you might to an old lady: and certainly she talked
in the sweetest way in the world to Neith; and explained to her
all about crockets and pinnacles: and Neith sat, looking very
grave; and always graver as St. Barbara went on; till at last, I'm
sorry to say, St. Barbara lost her temper a little.
MARY (very grave herself). "St. Barbara"?
L. Yes, Mary. Why shouldn't she? It was very tiresome of Neith to
sit looking like that.
MAY. But, then, St. Barbara was a saint!
L. What's that, May?
MAY. A saint! A saint is--I am sure you know!
L. If I did, it would not make me sure that you knew too, May: but
VIOLET (expressing the incredulity of the audience). Oh,--sir!
L. That is to say, I know that people are called saints who are
supposed to be better than others: but I don't know how much
better they must be, in order to be saints; nor how nearly anybody
may be a saint, and yet not be quite one; nor whether everybody
who is called a saint was one; nor whether everybody who isn't
called a saint, isn't one.
(General silence; the audience feeling themselves on the verge of
the Infinities--and a little shocked--and much puzzled by so many
questions at once.)
L. Besides, did you never hear that verse about being--called to
MAY (repeats Rom. i. 7).
L. Quite right, May. Well, then, who are called to be that? People
in Rome only?
MAY. Everybody, I suppose, whom God loves.
L. What! little girls as well as other people?
MAY. All grown-up people, I mean.
L. Why not little girls? Are they wickeder when they are little?
MAY. Oh, I hope not.
L Why not little girls, then? (Pause)
LILY. Because, you know we can't be worth anything if we're ever
so good,--I mean, if we try to be ever so good and we can't do
difficult things--like saints.
L I am afraid, my dear that old people are not more able or
willing for their difficulties than you children are for yours.
All I can say is, that if ever I see any of you, when you are
seven or eight and twenty, knitting your brows over any work you
want to do or to understand as I saw you Lily knitting your brows
over your slate this morning I should think you very noble women.
But--to come back to my dream--St Barbara did lose her temper a
little, and I was not surprised. For you can't think how provoking
Neith looked, sitting there just like a statue of sandstone, only
going on weaving like a machine and never quickening the cast of
her shuttle, while St Barbara was telling her so eagerly all about
the most beautiful things and chattering away, as fast as bells
ring on Christmas Eve, till she saw that Neilh didn't care, and
then St Barbara got as red as a rose, and stopped just in time,--
or I think she would really have said something naughty.
ISABEL Oh please, but didn't Neith say anything then?
L. Yes. She said, quite quietly, "It may be very pretty, my love;
but it is all nonsense."
ISABEL. Oh dear, oh dear; and then?
L. Well; then I was a little angry myself, and hoped St. Barbara
would be quite angry; but she wasn't. She bit her lips first; and
then gave a great sigh--such a wild, sweet sigh--and then she
knelt down and hid her face on Neith's knees. Then Neith smiled a
little, and was moved.
ISABEL. Oh, I am so glad!
L. And she touched St. Barbara's forehead with a flower of white
lotus; and St. Barbara sobbed once or twice, and then said: "If
you only could see how beautiful it is, and how much it makes
people feel what is good and lovely; and if you could only hear
the children singing in the Lady chapels!" And Neith smiled,--but
still sadly,--and said, "How do you know what I have seen, or
heard, my love? Do you think all those vaults and towers of yours
have been built without me? There was not a pillar in your
Giotto's Santa Maria del Fiore which I did not set true by my
spear-shaft as it rose. But this pinnacle and flame work which has
set your little heart on fire, is all vanity; and you will see
what it will come to, and that soon; and none will grieve for it
more than I. And then every one will disbelieve your pretty
symbols and types. Men must be spoken simply to, my dear, if you
would guide them kindly, and long." But St. Barbara answered,
that, "Indeed she thought every one liked her work," and that "the
people of different towns were as eager about their cathedral
towers as about their privileges or their markets;" and then she
asked Neith to come and build something with her, wall against
tower; and "see whether the people will be as much pleased with
your building as with mine." But Neith answered, "I will not
contend with you, my dear. I strive not with those who love me;
and for those who hate me, it is not well to strive with me, as
weaver Arachne knows. And remember, child, that nothing is ever
done beautifully, which is done in rivalship; nor nobly, which is
done in pride."
Then St. Barbara hung her head quite down, and said she was very
sorry she had been so foolish; and kissed Neith; and stood
thinking a minute: and then her eyes got bright again, and she
said, she would go directly and build a chapel with five windows
in it; four for the four cardinal virtues, and one for humility,
in the middle, bigger than the rest. And Neith very nearly laughed
quite out, I thought; certainly her beautiful lips lost all their
sternness for an instant; then she said, "Well, love, build it,
but do not put so many colors into your windows as you usually do;
else no one will be able to see to read, inside: and when it is
built, let a poor village priest consecrate it, and not an
archbishop." St. Barbara started a little, I thought, and turned
as if to say something; but changed her mind, and gathered up her
train, and went out. And Neith bent herself again to her loom, in
which she was weaving a web of strange dark colors, I thought; but
perhaps it was only after the glittering of St. Barbara's
embroidered train: and I tried to make out the figures in Neith's
web, and confused myself among them, as one always does in dreams;
and then the dream changed altogether, and I found myself, all at
once, among a crowd of little Gothic and Egyptian spirits, who
were quarreling: at least the Gothic ones were trying to quarrel;
for the Egyptian ones only sat with their hands on their knees,
and their aprons sticking out very stiffly; and stared. And after
a while I began to understand what the matter was. It seemed that
some of the troublesome building imps, who meddle and make
continually, even in the best Gothic work, had been listening to
St. Barbara's talk with Neith; and had made up their minds that
Neith had no workpeople who could build against them. They were
but dull imps, as you may fancy by their thinking that; and never
had done much, except disturbing the great Gothic building angels
at their work, and playing tricks to each other; indeed, of late
they had been living years and years, like bats, up under the
cornices of Strasbourg and Cologne cathedrals, with nothing to do
but to make mouths at the people below. However, they thought they
knew everything about tower building; and those who had heard what
Neith said, told the rest; and they all flew down directly,
chattering in German, like jackdaws, to show Neith's people what
they could do. And they had found some of Neith's old workpeople
somewhere near Sais, sitting in the sun, with their hands on their
knees; and abused them heartily: and Neith's people did not mind
at first, but, after a while, they seemed to get tired of the
noise; and one or two rose up slowly, and laid hold of their
measuring rods, and said, "If St. Barbara's people liked to build
with them, tower against pyramid, they would show them how to lay
Then the Gothic little spirits threw a great many double
somersaults for joy; and put the tips of their tongues out slyly
to each other, on one side; and I heard the Egyptians say, "they
must be some new kind of frog--they didn't think there was much
building in them." However, the stiff old workers took their rods,
as I said, and measured out a square space of sand; but as soon as
the German spirits saw that, they declared they wanted exactly
that bit of ground to build on, themselves. Then the Egyptian
builders offered to go farther off and the German ones said, "Ja
wohl." But as soon as the Egyptians had measured out another
square, the little Germans said they must have some of that too.
Then Neith's people laughed; and said, "they might take as much as
they liked, but they would not move the plan of their pyramid
again." Then the little Germans took three pieces, and began to
build three spires directly; one large, and two little. And when
the Egyptians saw they had fairly begun, they laid their
foundation all round, of large square stones: and began to build,
so steadily that they had like to have swallowed up the three
little German spires. So when the Gothic spirits saw that, they
built their spires leaning, like the tower of Pisa, that they
might stick out at the side of the pyramid. And Neith's people
stared at them; and thought it very clever, but very wrong; and on
they went, in their own way, and said nothing. Then the little
Gothic spirits were terribly provoked because they could not spoil
the shape of the pyramid; and they sat down all along the ledges
of it to make faces; but that did no good. Then they ran to the
corners, and put their elbows on their knees, and stuck themselves
out as far as they could, and made more faces; but that did no
good, neither. Then they looked up to the sky, and opened their
mouths wide, and gobbled, and said it was too hot for work, and
wondered when it would rain; but that did no good, neither. And
all the while the Egyptian spirits were laying step above step
patiently. But when the Gothic ones looked, and saw how big they
had got, they said, "Ach, Himmel!" and flew down in a great black
cluster to the bottom; and swept out a level spot in the sand with
their wings, in no time, and began building a tower straight up,
as fast as they could. And the Egyptians stood still again to
stare at them; for the Gothic spirits had got quite into a
passion, and were really working very wonderfully. They cut the
sandstone into strips as fine as reeds; and put one reed on the
top of another, so that you could not see where they fitted: and
they twisted them in and out like basket work, and knotted them
into likenesses of ugly faces, and of strange beasts biting each
other; and up they went, and up still, and they made spiral
staircases at the corners, for the loaded workers to come up by
(for I saw they were but weak imps, and could not fly with stones
on their backs), and then they made traceried galleries for them
to run round by; and so up again; with finer and finer work, till
the Egyptians wondered whether they meant the thing for a tower or
a pillar: and I heard them saying to one another, "It was nearly
as pretty as lotus stalks; and if it were not for the ugly faces,
there would be a fine temple, if they were going to build it all
with pillars as big as that!" But in a minute afterwards,--just as
the Gothic spirits had carried their work as high as the upper
course, but three or four, of the pyramid--the Egyptians called
out to them to "mind what they were about, for the sand was
running away from under one of their tower corners." But it was
too late to mind what they were about; for, in another instant,
the whole tower sloped aside; and the Gothic imps rose out of it
like a flight of puffins, in a single cloud; but screaming worse
than any puffins you ever heard: and down came the tower, all in a
piece, like a falling poplar, with its head right on the flank of
the pyramid; against which it snapped short off. And of course
that waked me.
MARY. What a shame of you to have such a dream, after all you have
told us about Gothic architecture!
L. If you have understood anything I ever told you about it, you
know that no architecture was ever corrupted more miserably; or
abolished more justly by the accomplishment of its own follies.
Besides, even in its days of power, it was subject to catastrophes
of this kind. I have stood too often, mourning, by the grand
fragment of the apse of Beauvais, not to have that fact well burnt
into me. Still, you must have seen, surely, that these imps were
of the Flamboyant school; or, at least, of the German schools
correspondent with it in extravagance.
MARY. But, then, where is the crystal about which you dreamed all
L. Here; but I suppose little Pthah has touched it again, for it
is very small. But, you see, here is the pyramid, built of great
square stones of fluor spar, straight up; and here are the three
little pinnacles of mischievous quartz, which have set themselves,
at the same time, on the same foundation; only they lean like the
tower of Pisa, and come out obliquely at the side: and here is one
great spire of quartz which seems as if it had been meant to stand
straight up, a little way off; and then had fallen down against
the pyramid base, breaking its pinnacle away. In reality, it has
crystallized horizontally, and terminated imperfectly: but, then,
by what caprice does one crystal form horizontally, when all the
rest stand upright? But this is nothing to the phantasies of
fluor, and quartz, and some other such companions, when they get
leave to do anything they like. I could show you fifty specimens,
about every one of which you might fancy a new fairy tale. Not
that, in truth, any crystals get leave to do quite what they like;
and many of them are sadly tried, and have little time for
MARY. I thought they always looked as if they were either in play
or in mischief! What trials have they?
L. Trials much like our own. Sickness, and starvation; fevers, and
agues, and palsy; oppression; and old age, and the necessity of
passing away in their time, like all else. If there's any pity in
you, you must come to-morrow, and take some part in these crystal
DORA. I am sure we shall cry till our eyes are red. L. Ah, you may
laugh, Dora: but I've been made grave, not once, nor twice, to see
that even crystals "cannot choose but be old" at last. It may be
but a shallow proverb of the Justice's; but it is a shrewdly wide
DORA (pensive for once). I suppose it is very dreadful to be old!
But then (brightening again), what should we do without our dear
old friends, and our nice old lecturers?
L. If all nice old lecturers were minded as little as one I know
DORA. And if they all meant as little what they say, would they
not deserve it? But we'll come--we'll come, and cry.
Working Lecture in Schoolroom.
L. We have been hitherto talking, children, as if crystals might
live, and play, and quarrel, and behave ill or well, according to
their characters, without interruption from anything else. But so
far from this being so, nearly all crystals, whatever their
characters, have to live a hard life of it, and meet with many
misfortunes. If we could see far enough, we should find, indeed,
that, at the root, all their vices were misfortunes: but to-day I
want you to see what sort of troubles the best crystals have to go
through, occasionally, by no fault of their own.
This black thing, which is one of the prettiest of the very few
pretty black things in the world, is called "Tourmaline." It may
be transparent, and green, or red, as well as black; and then no
stone can be prettier (only, all the light that gets into it, I
believe, comes out a good deal the worse; and is not itself again
for a long while). But this is the commonest state of it,--opaque,
and as black as jet.
MARY. What does "Tourmaline" mean?
L. They say it is Ceylanese, and I don't know Ceylanese, but we
may always be thankful for a graceful word, whatever it means
MARY. And what is it made of?
L. A little of everything there's always flint and clay, and
magnesia in it, and the black is iron, according to its fancy, and
there's boracic acid if you know what that is and if you don't, I
cannot tell you today, and it doesn't signify and there's potash,
and soda, and, on the whole, the chemistry of it is more like a
mediaeval doctor's prescription, than the making of a respectable
mineral but it may, perhaps, be owing to the strange complexity of
its make, that it has a notable habit which makes it, to me one of
the most interesting of minerals. You see these two crystals are
broken right across, in many places, just as if they had been
shafts of black marble fallen from a ruinous temple, and here they
lie, imbedded in white quartz, fragment succeeding fragment
keeping the line of the original crystal, while the quartz fills
up the intervening spaces Now tourmaline has a trick of doing
this, more than any other mineral I know here is another bit which
I picked up on the glacier of Macugnaga; it is broken, like a
pillar built of very flat broad stones, into about thirty joints,
and all these are heaved and warped away from each other sideways,
almost into a line of steps, and then all is tilled up with quartz
paste. And here, lastly is a green Indian piece, in which the
pillar is first disjointed, and then wrung round into the shape of
MARY. How CAN this have been done?
L. There are a thousand ways in which it may have been done, the
difficulty is not to account for the doing of it, but for the
showing of it in some crystals and not in others You never by any
chance get a quartz crystal broken or twisted in this way. If it
break or twist at all which it does sometimes, like the spire of
Dijon, it is by its own will or fault, it never seems to have been
passively crushed But, for the forces which cause this passive
ruin of the tourmaline,--here is a stone which will show you
multitudes of them in operation at once It is known as "biecciated
agate," beautiful, as you see, and highly valued as a pebble yet,
so far as I can read or hear no one has ever looked at it with the
least attention At the first glance, you see it is made of very
fine red striped agates, which have been broken into small pieces,
and fastened together again by paste also of agate There would be
nothing wonderful in this, if this were all. It is well known that
by the movements of strata, portions of rock are often shattered
to pieces:--well known also that agate is a deposit of flint by
water under certain conditions of heat and pressure: there is,
therefore, nothing wonderful in an agate's being broken; and
nothing wonderful in its being mended with the solution out of
which it was itself originally congealed. And with this
explanation, most people, looking at a brecciated agate, or
brecciated anything, seem to be satisfied. I was so myself, for
twenty years; but, lately happening to stay for some time at the
Swiss Baden, where the beach of the Limmat is almost wholly
composed of brecciated limestones, I began to examine them
thoughtfully; and perceived, in the end, that they were, one and
all, knots of as rich mystery as any poor little human brain was
ever lost in. That piece of agate in your hand, Mary, will show
you many of the common phenomena of breccias; but you need not
knit your brows over it in that way; depend upon it, neither you
nor I shall ever know anything about the way it was made, as long
as we live.
DORA. That does not seem much to depend upon.
L. Pardon me, puss. When once we gain some real notion of the
extent and unconquerableness of our ignorance, it is a very broad
and restful thing to depend upon: you can throw yourself upon it
at ease, as on a cloud, to feast with the gods. You do not
thenceforward trouble yourself,--nor any one else,--with theories,
or the contradiction of theories; you neither get headache nor
heart-burning and you nevermore waste your poor little store of
strength or allowance of time.
However, there are certain facts, about this agate-making, which I
can tell you; and then you may look at it in a pleasant wonder as
long as you like, pleasant wonder is no loss of time.
First, then, it is not broken freely by a blow; it is slowly
wrung, or ground, to pieces. You can only with extreme dimness
conceive the force exerted on mountains in transitional states of
movement. You have all read a little geology; and you know how
coolly geologists talk of mountains being raised or depressed.
They talk coolly of it, because they are accustomed to the fact;
but the very universality of the fact prevents us from ever
conceiving distinctly the conditions of force involved. You know I
was living last year in Savoy; my house was on the back of a
sloping mountain, which rose gradually for two miles behind it;
and then fell at once in a great precipice toward Geneva, going
down three thousand feet in four or five cliffs, or steps. Now
that whole group of cliffs had simply been torn away by sheer
strength from the rocks below, as if the whole mass had been as
soft as biscuit. Put four or five captains' biscuits on the floor,
on the top of one another; and try to break them all in half, not
by bending, but by holding one half down, and tearing the other
halves straight up;--of course you will not be able to do it, but
you will feel and comprehend the sort of force needed. Then, fancy
each captains' biscuit a bed of rock, six or seven hundred feet
thick; and the whole mass torn straight through; and one half
heaved up three thousand feet, grinding against the other as it
rose,--and you will have some idea of the making of the Mont
MAY. But it must crush the rocks all to dust!
L. No; for there is no room for dust. The pressure is too great;
probably the heat developed also so great that the rock is made
partly ductile; but the worst of it is, that we never can see
these parts of mountains in the state they were left in at the
time of their elevation; for it is precisely in these rents and
dislocations that the crystalline power principally exerts itself.
It is essentially a styptic power, and wherever the earth is torn,
it heals and binds; nay, the torture and grieving of the earth
seem necessary to bring out its full energy; for you only find the
crystalline living power fully in action, where the rents and
faults are deep and many.
DORA. If you please, sir,--would you tell us--what are "faults"?
L. You never heard of such things?
DORA. Never in all our lives.
L. When a vein of rock which is going on smoothly, is interrupted
by another troublesome little vein, which stops it, and puts it
out, so that it has to begin again in another place--that is
called a fault. _I_ always think it ought to be called the fault
of the vein that interrupts it; but the miners always call it the
fault of the vein that is interrupted.
DORA. So it is, if it does not begin again where it left off.
L. Well, that is certainly the gist of the business: but, whatever
good-natured old lecturers may do, the rocks have a bad habit,
when they are once interrupted, of never asking "Where was I?"
DORA. When the two halves of the dining-table came separate,
yesterday, was that a "fault"?
L. Yes; but not the table's. However, it is not a bad
illustration, Dora. When beds of rock are only interrupted by a
fissure, but remain at the same level, like the two halves of the
table, it is not called a fault, but only a fissure; but if one
half of the table be either tilted higher than the other, or
pushed to the side, so that the two parts will not fit, it is a
fault. You had better read the chapter on faults in Jukes's
Geology; then you will know all about it. And this rent that I am
telling you of in the Saleve, is one only of myriads, to which are
owing the forms of the Alps, as, I believe, of all great mountain
chains. Wherever you see a precipice on any scale of real
magnificence, you will nearly always find it owing to some
dislocation of this kind; but the point of chief wonder to me is
the delicacy of the touch by which these gigantic rents have been
apparently accomplished. Note, however, that we have no clear
evidence, hitherto, of the time taken to produce any of them. We
know that a change of temperature alters the position and the
angles of the atoms of crystals, and also the entire bulk of
rocks. We know that in all volcanic, and the greater part of all
subterranean, action, temperatures are continually changing, and
therefore masses of rock must be expanding or contracting, with
infinite slowness, but with infinite force. This pressure must
result in mechanical strain somewhere, both in their own
substance, and in that of the rocks surrounding them; and we can
form no conception of the result of irresistible pressure, applied
so as to rend and raise, with imperceptible slowness of gradation,
masses thousands of feet in thickness. We want some experiments
tried on masses of iron and stone; and we can't get them tried,
because Christian creatures never will seriously and sufficiently
spend money, except to find out the shortest ways of killing each
other. But, besides this slow kind of pressure, there is evidence
of more or less sudden violence, on the same terrific scale; and,
through it all, the wonder, as I said, is always to me the
delicacy of touch. I cut a block of the Saleve limestone from the
edge of one of the principal faults which have formed the
precipice; it is a lovely compact limestone, and the fault itself
is filled up with a red breccia, formed of the crushed fragments
of the torn rock, cemented by a rich red crystalline paste. I have
had the piece I cut from it smoothed, and polished across the
junction; here it is; and you may now pass your soft little
fingers over the surface, without so much as feeling the place
where a rock which all the hills of England might have been sunk
in the body of, and not a summit seen, was torn asunder through
that whole thickness, as a thin dress is torn when you tread upon
(The audience examine the stone, and touch it timidly, but the
matter remains inconceivable to them.)
MARY (struck by the beauty of the stone). But this is almost
L. It is quite marble. And another singular point in the business,
to my mind, is that these stones, which men have been cutting into
slabs, for thousands of years, to ornament their principal
buildings with,--and which, under the general name of "marble,"
have been the delight of the eyes, and the wealth of architecture,
among all civilized nations,--are precisely those on which the
signs and brands of these earth agonies have been chiefly struck;
and there is not a purple vein nor flaming zone in them, which is
not the record of their ancient torture. What a boundless capacity
for sleep, and for serene stupidity, there is in the human mind!
Fancy reflective beings, who cut and polish stones for three
thousand years, for the sake of the pretty stains upon them; and
educate themselves to an art at last (such as it is), of imitating
these veins by dexterous painting; and never a curious soul of
them, all that while, asks, "What painted the rocks?"
(The audience look dejected, and ashamed of themselves.)
The fact is, we are all, and always, asleep, through our lives;
and it is only by pinching ourselves very hard that we ever come
to see, or understand, anything. At least, it is not always we who
pinch ourselves; sometimes other people pinch us; which I suppose
is very good of them,--or other things, which I suppose is very
proper of them. But it is a sad life; made up chiefly of naps and
(Some of the audience, on this, appearing to think that the others
require pinching, the LECTURER changes the subject.)
Now, however, for once, look at a piece of marble carefully, and
think about it. You see this is one side of the fault; the other
side is down or up, nobody knows where; but, on this side, you can
trace the evidence of the dragging and tearing action. All along
the edge of this marble, the ends of the fibers of the rock are
torn, here an inch, and there half an inch, away from each other;
and you see the exact places where they fitted, before they were
torn separate: and you see the rents are now all filled up with
the sanguine paste, full of the broken pieces of the rock; the
paste itself seems to have been half melted, and partly to have
also melted the edge of the fragments it contains, and then to
have crystallized with them, and round them. And the brecciated
agate I first showed you contains exactly the same phenomena; a
zoned crystallization going on amidst the cemented fragments,
partly altering the structure of those fragments themselves, and
subject to continual change, either in the intensity of its own
power, or in the nature of the materials submitted to it;--so
that, at one time, gravity acts upon them, and disposes them in
horizontal layers, or causes them to droop in stalactites; and at
another, gravity is entirely defied, and the substances in
solution are crystallized in bands of equal thickness on every
side of the cell. It would require a course of lectures longer
than these (I have a great mind,--you have behaved so saucily--to
stay and give them) to describe to you the phenomena of this kind,
in agates and chalcedonies only,--nay, there is a single
sarcophagus in the British Museum, covered with grand sculpture of
the 18th dynasty, which contains in magnificent breccia (agates
and jaspers imbedded in porphyry), out of which it is hewn,
material for the thought of years; and record of the earth-sorrow
of ages in comparison with the duration of which, the Egyptian
letters tell us but the history of the evening and morning of a
Agates, I think, of all stones, confess most of their past
history, but all crystallization goes on under, and partly
records, circumstances of this kind--circumstances of infinite
variety, but always involving difficulty, interruption, and change
of condition at different times. Observe, first, you have the
whole mass of the rock in motion, either contracting itself, and
so gradually widening the cracks, or being compressed, and thereby
closing them, and crushing their edges,--and, if one part of its
substance be softer, at the given temperature, than another,
probably squeezing that softer substance out into the veins. Then
the veins themselves, when the rock leaves them open by its
contraction, act with various power of suction upon its
substance;--by capillary attraction when they are fine,--by that
of pure vacuity when they are larger, or by changes in the
constitution and condensation of the mixed gases with which they
have been originally filled. Those gases themselves may be
supplied in all variation of volume and power from below; or,
slowly, by the decomposition of the rocks themselves; and, at
changing temperatures, must exert relatively changing forces of
decomposition and combination on the walls of the veins they fill;
while water, at every degree of heat and pressure (from beds of
everlasting ice, alternate with cliffs of native rock, to volumes
of red hot, or white hot, steam), congeals, and drips, and throbs,
and thrills, from crag to crag; and breathes from pulse to pulse
of foaming or fiery arteries, whose beating is felt through chains
of the great islands of the Indian seas, as your own pulses lift
your bracelets, and makes whole kingdoms of the world quiver in
deadly earthquake, as if they were light as aspen leaves. And,
remember, the poor little crystals have to live their lives, and
mind their own affairs, in the midst of all this, as best they
may. They are wonderfully like human creatures,--forget all that
is going on if they don't see it, however dreadful; and never
think what is to happen to-morrow. They are spiteful or loving,
and indolent or painstaking, and orderly or licentious, with no
thought whatever of the lava or the flood which may break over
them any day; and evaporate them into air-bubbles, or wash them
into a solution of salts. And you may look at them, once
understanding the surrounding conditions of their fate, with an
endless interest. You will see crowds of unfortunate little
crystals, who have been forced to constitute themselves in a
hurry, their dissolving element being fiercely scorched away; you
will see them doing their best, bright and numberless, but tiny.
Then you will find indulged crystals, who have had centuries to
form themselves in, and have changed their mind and ways
continually; and have been tired, and taken heart again; and have
been sick, and got well again; and thought they would try a
different diet, and then thought better of it; and made but a poor
use of their advantages, after all. And others you will see, who
have begun life as wicked crystals; and then have been impressed
by alarming circumstances, and have become converted crystals, and
behaved amazingly for a little while, and fallen away again, and
ended, but discreditably, perhaps even in decomposition; so that
one doesn't know what will become of them. And sometimes you will
see deceitful crystals, that look as soft as velvet, and are
deadly to all near them; and sometimes you will see deceitful
crystals, that seem flint-edged, like our little quartz-crystal of
a housekeeper here (hush! Dora), and are endlessly gentle and true
wherever gentleness and truth are needed. And sometimes you will
see little child-crystals put to school like school-girls, and
made to stand in rows; and taken the greatest care of, and taught
how to hold themselves up, and behave: and sometimes you will see
unhappy little child-crystals left to lie about in the dirt, and
pick up their living, and learn manners where they can. And
sometimes you will see fat crystals eating up thin ones, like
great capitalists and little laborers; and politico-economic
crystals teaching the stupid ones how to eat each other, and cheat
each other; and foolish crystals getting in the way of wise ones;
and impatient crystals spoiling the plans of patient ones,
irreparably; just as things go on in the world. And sometimes you
may see hypocritical crystals taking the shape of others, though
they are nothing like in their minds; and vampire crystals eating
out the hearts of others; and hermit-crab crystals living in the
shells of others; and parasite crystals living on the means of
others; and courtier crystals glittering in attendance upon
others; and all these, besides the two great companies of war and
peace, who ally themselves, resolutely to attack, or resolutely to
defend. And for the close, you see the broad shadow and deadly
force of inevitable fate, above all this: you see the multitudes
of crystals whose time has come; not a set time, as with us, but
yet a time, sooner or later, when they all must give up their
crystal ghosts:--when the strength by which they grew, and the
breath given them to breathe, pass away from them; and they fail,
and are consumed, and vanish away; and another generation is
brought to life, framed out of their ashes.
MARY. It is very terrible. Is it not the complete fulfillment,
down into the very dust, of that verse: "The whole creation
groaneth and travaileth in pain?"
L. I do not know that it is in pain, Mary: at least, the evidence
tends to show that there is much more pleasure than pain, as soon
as sensation becomes possible.
LUCILLA. But then, surely, if we are told that it is pain, it must
L. Yes; if we are told; and told in the way you mean, Lucilla; but
nothing is said of the proportion to pleasure. Unmitigated pain
would kill any of us in a few hours; pain equal to our pleasures
would make us loathe life; the word itself cannot be applied to
the lower conditions of matter in its ordinary sense. But wait
till to-morrow to ask me about this. To-morrow is to be kept for
questions and difficulties; let us keep to the plain facts to-day.
There is yet one group of facts connected with this rending of the
rocks, which I especially want you to notice. You know, when you
have mended a very old dress, quite meritoriously, till it won't
mend any more--
EGYPT (interrupting). Could not you sometimes take gentlemen's
work to illustrate by?
L. Gentlemen's work is rarely so useful as yours, Egypt; and when
it is useful, girls cannot easily understand it.
DORA. I am sure we should understand it better than gentlemen
understand about sewing.
L. My dear, I hope I always speak modestly, and under correction,
when I touch upon matters of the kind too high for me; and
besides, I never intend to speak otherwise than respectfully of
sewing;--though you always seem to think I am laughing at you. In
all seriousness, illustrations from sewing are those which Neith
likes me best to use; and which young ladies ought to like
everybody to use. What do you think the beautiful word "wife"
DORA (tossing her head). I don't think it is a particularly
L. Perhaps not. At your ages you may think "bride" sounds better;
but wife's the word for wear, depend upon it. It is the great word
in which the English and Latin languages conquer the French and
the Greek. I hope the French will some day get a word for it, yet,
instead of their dreadful "femme." But what do you think it comes
DORA. I never did think about it.
L. Nor you, Sibyl?
SIBYL. No; I thought it was Saxon, and stopped there.
L. Yes, but the great good of Saxon words is, that they usually do
mean something. Wife means "weaver". You have all the right to
call yourselves little "housewives," when you sew neatly.
DORA. But I don t think we want to call ourselves 'little
L. You must either be house-wives, or house-moths; remember that.
In the deep sense, you must either weave men's fortunes, and
embroider them, or feed upon, and bring them to decay. You had
better let me keep my sewing illustration, and help me out with
DORA. Well, we'll hear it, under protest.
L. You have heard it before, but with reference to other matters.
When it is said, "no man putteth a piece of new cloth on an old
garment, else it taketh from the old," does it not mean that the
new piece tears the old one away at the sewn edge?
DORA. Yes; certainly.
L. And when you mend a decayed stuff with strong thread, does not
the whole edge come away sometimes, when it tears again?
DORA. Yes; and then it is of no use to mend it any more.
L. Well, the rocks don't seem to think that: but the same thing
happens to them continually. I told you they were full of rents,
or veins. Large masses of mountain are sometimes as full of veins
as your hand is; and of veins nearly as fine (only you know a rock
vein does not mean a tube, but a crack or cleft). Now these clefts
are mended, usually, with the strongest material the rock can
find; and often literally with threads; for the gradually opening
rent seems to draw the substance it is filled with into fibers,
which cross from one side of it to the other, and are partly
crystalline; so that, when the crystals become distinct, the
fissure has often exactly the look of a tear, brought together
with strong cross stitches. Now when this is completely done, and
all has been fastened and made firm, perhaps some new change of
temperature may occur, and the rock begin to contract again. Then
the old vein must open wider; or else another open elsewhere. If
the old vein widen, it MAY do so at its center; but it constantly
happens, with well filled veins, that the cross stitches are too
strong to break; the walls of the vein, instead, are torn away by
them: and another little supplementary vein--often three or four
successively--will be thus formed at the side of the first.
MARY. That is really very much like our work. But what do the
mountains use to sew with?
L. Quartz, whenever they can get it: pure limestones are obliged
to be content with carbonate of lime; but most mixed rocks can
find some quartz for themselves. Here is a piece of black slate
from the Buet: it looks merely like dry dark mud; you could not
think there was any quartz in it; but, you see, its rents are all
stitched together with beautiful white thread, which is the purest
quartz, so close drawn that you can break it like flint, in the
mass; but, where it has been exposed to the weather, the fine
fibrous structure is shown: and, more than that, you see the
threads have been all twisted and pulled aside, this way and the
other, by the warpings and shifting of the sides of the vein as it
MARY. It is wonderful! But is that going on still? Are the
mountains being torn and sewn together again at this moment?
L. Yes, certainly, my dear: but I think, just as certainly (though
geologists differ on this matter), not with the violence, or on
the scale, of their ancient ruin and renewal. All things seem to
be tending towards a condition of at least temporary rest; and
that groaning and travailing of the creation, as, assuredly, not
wholly in pain, is not, in the full sense, "until now."
MARY. I want so much to ask you about that!
SIBYL. Yes; and we all want to ask you about a great many other
L. It seems to me that you have got quite as many new ideas as are
good for any of you at present: and I should not like to burden
you with more; but I must see that those you have are clear, if I
can make them so; so we will have one more talk, for answer of
questions, mainly. Think over all the ground, and make your
difficulties thoroughly presentable. Then we'll see what we can
make of them.
DORA. They shall all be dressed in their very best; and curtsey as
they come in.
L. No, no, Dora; no curtseys, if you please. I had enough of them
the day you all took a fit of reverence, and curtsied me out of
DORA. But, you know, we cured ourselves of the fault, at once, by
that fit. We have never been the least respectful since. And the
difficulties will only curtsey themselves out of the room, I
hope;--come in at one door--vanish at the other.
L. What a pleasant world it would be, if all its difficulties were
taught to behave so! However, one can generally make something, or
(better still) nothing, or at least less of them, if they
thoroughly know their own minds; and your difficulties--I must say
that for you, children,--generally do know their own minds, as you
DORA. That is very kindly said for us. Some people would not allow
so much as that girls had any minds to know.
L. They will at least admit that you have minds to change, Dora.
MARY. You might have left us the last speech, without a retouch.
But we'll put our little minds, such as they are, in the best trim
we can, for to-morrow.
THE CRYSTAL REST
Evening. The fireside. L's arm-chair in the comfortablest corner.
L. (perceiving various arrangements being made of footstool,
cushion, screen, and the like.) Yes, yes, it's all very fine! and
I am to sit here to be asked questions till supper-time, am I?
DORA. I don't think you can have any supper to-night:--we've got
so much to ask.
LILY. Oh, Miss Dora! We can fetch it him here, you know, so
L. Yes, Lily, that will be pleasant, with competitive examination
going on over one's plate: the competition being among the
examiners. Really, now that I know what teasing things girls are,
I don't so much wonder that people used to put up patiently with
the dragons who took THEM for supper. But I can't help myself, I
suppose;--no thanks to St. George. Ask away, children, and I'll
answer as civilly as may be.
DORA. We don't so much care about being answered civilly, as about
not being asked things back again.
L. "Ayez seulement la patience que je le parle." There shall be no
DORA. Well, then, first of all--What shall we ask first, Mary?
MARY. It does not matter. I think all the questions come into one,
at last, nearly.
DORA. You know, you always talk as if the crystals were alive; and
we never understand how much you are in play, and how much in
earnest. That's the first thing.
L. Neither do I understand, myself, my dear, how much I am in
earnest. The stones puzzle me as much as I puzzle you. They look
as if they were alive, and make me speak as if they were; and I do
not in the least know how much truth there is in the appearance.
I'm not to ask things back again to-night, but all questions of
this sort lead necessarily to the one main question, which we
asked, before, in vain, "What is it to be alive?"
DORA. Yes; but we want to come back to that: for we've been
reading scientific books about the "conservation of forces," and
it seems all so grand, and wonderful; and the experiments are so
pretty; and I suppose it must be all right: but then the books
never speak as if there were any such thing as "life."
L. They mostly omit that part of the subject, certainly, Dora; but
they are beautifully right as far as they go; and life is not a
convenient element to deal with. They seem to have been getting
some of it into and out of bottles, in their "ozone" and
"antizone" lately; but they still know little of it: and,
certainly, I know less.
DORA. You promised not to be provoking, to-night.
L. Wait a minute. Though, quite truly, I know less of the secrets
of life than the philosophers do; I yet know one corner of ground
on which we artists can, stand, literally as "Life Guards" at bay,
as steadily as the Guards at Inkermann; however hard the
philosophers push. And you may stand with us, if once you learn to
DORA. I'm sure we are all trying! but tell us where we may stand.
L. You may always stand by Form, against Force. To a painter, the
essential character of anything is the form of it, and the
philosophers cannot touch that. They come and tell you, for
instance, that there is as much heat, or motion, or calorific
energy (or whatever else they like to call it), in a tea-kettle as
in a Gier-eagle. Very good; that is so; and it is very
interesting. It requires just as much heat as will boil the
kettle, to take the Gier-eagle up to his nest; and as much more to
bring him down again on a hare or a partridge. But we painters,
acknowledging the equality and similarity of the kettle and the
bird in all scientific respects, attach, for our part, our
principal interest to the difference in their forms. For us the
primarily cognizable facts, in the two things, are, that the
kettle has a spout, and the eagle a beak, the one a lid on its
back, the other a pair of wings,--not to speak of the distinction
also of volition which the philosophers may properly call merely a
form or mode of force,--but then, to an artist, the form or mode,
is the gist of the business. The kettle chooses to sit still on
the hob, the eagle to recline on the air. It is the fact of the
choice, not the equal degree of temperature in the fulfillment of
it, which appears to us the more interesting circumstance--though
the other is very interesting too. Exceedingly so! Don't laugh
children, the philosophers have been doing quite splendid work
lately, in their own way especially, the transformation of force
into light is a great piece of systematized discovery and this
notion about the sun being supplied with his flame by ceaseless
meteoric hail is grand, and looks very likely to be true. Of
course, it is only the old gunlock,--flint and steel,--on a large
scale but the order and majesty of it are sublime. Still, we
sculptors and painters care little about it. "It is very fine," we
say, "and very useful, this knocking the light out of the sun, or
into it, by an eternal cataract of planets. But you may hail away,
so, forever, and you will not knock out what we can. Here is a bit
of silver, not the size of half-a-crown, on which, with a single
hammer stroke, one of us, two thousand and odd years ago, hit out
the head of the Apollo of Clazomenas. It is merely a matter of
form; but if any of you philosophers, with your whole planetary
system to hammer with, can hit out such another bit of silver as
this,--we will take off our hats to you. For the present, we keep
MARY. Yes, I understand; and that is nice; but I don't think we
shall any of us like having only form to depend upon.
L. It was not neglected in the making of Eve, my dear.
MARY. It does not seem to separate us from the dust of the ground.
It is that breathing of the life which we want to understand.
L. So you should: but hold fast to the form, and defend that
first, as distinguished from the mere transition of forces.
Discern the molding hand of the potter commanding the clay, from
his merely beating foot, as it turns the wheel. If you can find
incense, in the vase, afterwards,--well: but it is curious how far
mere form will carry you ahead of the philosophers. For instance,
with regard to the most interesting of all their modes of force--
light;--they never consider how far the existence of it depends on
the putting of certain vitreous and nervous substances into the
formal arrangement which we call an eye. The German philosophers
began the attack, long ago, on the other side, by telling us,
there was no such thing--as light at all, unless we chose to see
it: now, German and English, both, have reversed their engines,
and insist that light would be exactly the same light that it is,
though nobody could ever see it. The fact being that the force
must be there, and the eyes there; and "light" means the effect of
the one on the other;--and perhaps, also--(Plato saw farther into
that mystery than any one has since, that I know of),--on
something a little way within the eyes; but we may stand quite
safe, close behind the retina, and defy the philosophers.
SIBYL. But I don't care so much about defying the philosophers, if
only one could get a clear idea of life, or soul, for one's self.
L. Well, Sibyl, you used to know more about it, in that cave of
yours, than any of us. I was just going to ask you about
inspiration, and the golden bough, and the like; only I remembered
I was not to ask anything. But, will not you, at least, tell us
whether the ideas of Life, as the power of putting things
together, or "making" them; and of Death, as the power of pushing
things separate, or "unmaking" them, may not be very simply held
in balance against each other?
SIBYL. No, I am not in my cave to-night; and cannot tell you
L. I think they may. Modern Philosophy is a great separator; it is
little more than the expansion of Moliere's great sentence, "Il
s'ensuit de la, que tout ce qu'ily a de beau est dans les
dictionnaires; il n'y a que les mots qui sont transposes." But
when you used to be in your cave, Sibyl, and to be inspired, there
was (and there remains still in some small measure), beyond the
merely formative and sustaining power, another, which we painters
call "passion"--I don't know what the philosophers call it; we
know it makes people red, or white; and therefore it must be
something, itself; and perhaps it is the most truly "poetic" or
"making" force of all, creating a world of its own out of a
glance, or a sigh: and the want of passion is perhaps the truest
death, or "unmaking" of everything;--even of stones. By the way,
you were all reading about that ascent of the Aiguille Verte, the
SIBYL. Because you had told us it was so difficult, you thought it
could not be ascended.
L Yes, I believed the Aiguille Verte would have held its own. But
do you recollect what one of the climbers exclaimed, when he first
felt sure of reaching the summit.
SIBYL. Yes, it was, "Oh, Aiguille Verte, vous etes morte, vous
L. That was true instinct. Real philosophic joy. Now, can you at
all fancy the difference between that feeling of triumph in a
mountain's death; and the exultation of your beloved poet, in its
"Quantus Athos, aut quantus Eryx, aut ipse coruscis Quum fremit
ilicibus quantus, gaudetque nivali Vertice, se attollens pater
Apenninus ad auras."
DORA. You must translate for us mere housekeepers, please--
whatever the carekeepers may know about it.
MAY. I'll try then to?
L. No Dryden is a far way worse than nothing, and nobody will "do"
You can't translate it. But this is all you need know, that the
lines are full of a passionate sense of the Apennines' fatherhood,
or protecting power over Italy; and of sympathy with, their joy in
their snowy strength in heaven, and with the same joy, shuddering
through all the leaves of their forests.
MARY. Yes, that is a difference indeed, but then, you know, one
can't help feeling that it is fanciful. It is very delightful to
imagine the mountains to be alive; but then,--are they alive?
L. It seems to me, on the whole, Mary, that the feelings of the
purest and most mightily passioned human souls are likely to be
the truest. Not, indeed, if they do not desire to know the truth,
or blind themselves to it that they may please themselves with
passion; for then they are no longer pure: but if, continually
seeking and accepting the truth as far as it is discernible, they
trust their Maker for the integrity of the instincts. He has
gifted them with, and rest in the sense of a higher truth which
they cannot demonstrate, I think they will be most in the right,
DORA and JESSIE (clapping their hands). Then we really may believe
that the mountains are living?
L. You may at least earnestly believe that the presence of the
spirit which culminates in your own life, shows itself in dawning,
wherever the dust of the earth begins to assume any orderly and
lovely state. You will find it impossible to separate this idea of
gradated manifestation from that of the vital power. Things are
not either wholly alive, or wholly dead. They are less or more
alive. Take the nearest, most easily examined instance--the life of
a flower. Notice what a different degree and kind of life there is
in the calyx and the corolla. The calyx is nothing but the
swaddling clothes of the flower; the child-blossom is bound up in
it, hand and foot; guarded in it, restrained by it, till the time
of birth. The shell is hardly more subordinate to the germ in the
egg, than the calyx to the blossom. It bursts at last; but it
never lives as the corolla does. It may fall at the moment its
task is fulfilled, as in the poppy; or wither gradually, as in the
buttercup; or persist in a ligneous apathy, after the flower is
dead, as in the rose; or harmonize itself so as to share in the
aspect of the real flower, as in the lily; but it never shares in
the corolla's bright passion of life. And the gradations which
thus exist between the different members of organic creatures,
exist no less between the different ranges of organism. We know no
higher or more energetic life than our own; but there seems to me
this great good in the idea of gradation of life--it admits the
idea of a life above us, in other creatures, as much nobler than
ours, as ours is nobler than that of the dust.
MARY. I am glad you have said that; for I know Violet and Lucilla
and May want to ask you something; indeed, we all do; only you
frightened Violet so about the anthill, that she can't say a word;
and May is afraid of your teasing her, too: but I know they are
wondering why you are always telling them about heathen gods and
goddesses, as if you half believed in them; and you represent them
as good; and then we see there is really a kind of truth in the
stories about them; and we are all puzzled: and, in this, we
cannot even make our difficulty quite clear to ourselves;--it
would be such a long confused question, if we could ask you all we
should like to know.
L. Nor is it any wonder, Mary; for this is indeed the longest, and
the most wildly confused question that reason can deal with; but I
will try to give you, quickly, a few clear ideas about the heathen
gods, which you may follow out afterwards, as your knowledge
Every heathen conception of deity in which you are likely to be
interested, has three distinct characters:--
I. It has a physical character. It represents some of the great
powers or objects of nature--sun or moon, or heaven, or the winds,
or the sea. And the fables first related about each deity
represent, figuratively, the action or the natural power which it
represents; such as the rising and setting of the sun, the tides
of the sea, and so on.
II. It has an ethical character, and represents, in its history,
the moral dealings of God with man. Thus Apollo is first,
physically, the sun contending with darkness; but morally, the
power of divine life contending with corruption. Athena is,
physically, the air; morally, the breathing of the divine spirit
of wisdom. Neptune is, physically, the sea; morally, the supreme
power of agitating passion; and so on.
III. It has, at last, a personal character; and is realized in the
minds of its worshipers as a living spirit, with whom men may
speak face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.
Now it is impossible to define exactly, how far, at any period of
a national religion, these three ideas are mingled; or how far one
prevails over the other. Each inquirer usually takes up one of
these ideas, and pursues it, to the exclusion of the others; no
impartial effort seems to have been made to discern the real state
of the heathen imagination in its successive phases. For the
question is not at all what a mythological figure meant in its
origin; but what it became in each subsequent mental development
of the nation inheriting the thought. Exactly in proportion to the
mental and moral insight of any race, its mythological figures
mean more to it, and become more real. An early and savage race
means nothing more (because it has nothing more to mean) by its
Apollo, than the sun; while a cultivated Greek means every
operation of divine intellect and justice. The Neith, of Egypt,
meant, physically, little more than the blue of the air; but the
Greek, in a climate of alternate storm and calm, represented the
wild fringes of the storm-cloud by the serpents of her aegis; and
the lightning and cold of the highest thunderclouds, by the Gorgon
on her shield: while morally, the same types represented to him
the mystery and changeful terror of knowledge, as her spear and
helm its ruling and defensive power. And no study can be more
interesting, or more useful to you, than that of the different
meanings which have been created by great nations, and great
poets, out of mythological figures given them, at first, in utter
simplicity. But when we approach them in their third, or personal,
character (and, for its power over the whole national mind, this
is far the leading one), we are met at once by questions which may
well put all of you at pause. Were they idly imagined to be real
beings? and did they so usurp the place of the true God? Or were
they actually real beings,--evil spirits,--leading men away from
the true God? Or is it conceivable that they might have been real
beings,--good spirits,--entrusted with some message from the true
God? These were the questions you wanted to ask; were they not,
LUCILLA. Yes, indeed.
L. Well, Lucilla, the answer will much depend upon the clearness
of your faith in the personality of the spirits which are
described in the book of your own religion;--their personality,
observe, as distinguished from merely symbolical visions. For
instance, when Jeremiah has the vision of the seething pot with
its mouth to the north, you know that this which he sees is not a
real thing; but merely a significant dream. Also, when Zachariah
sees the speckled horses among the myrtle trees in the bottom, you
still may suppose the vision symbolical;--you do not think of them
as real spirits, like Pegasus, seen in the form of horses. But
when you are told of the four riders in the Apocalypse, a distinct
sense of personality begins to force itself upon you. And though
you might, in a dull temper, think that (for one instance of all)
the fourth rider on the pale horse was merely a symbol of the
power of death,--in your stronger and more earnest moods you will
rather conceive of him as a real and living angel. And when you
look back from the vision of the Apocalypse to the account of the
destruction of the Egyptian first-born, and of the army of
Sennacherib, and again to David's vision at the threshing floor of
Araunah, the idea of personality in this death-angel becomes
entirely defined, just as in the appearance of the angels to
Abraham, Manoah, or Mary.
Now, when you have once consented to this idea of a personal
spirit, must not the question instantly follow: "Does this spirit
exercise its functions towards one race of men only, or towards
all men? Was it an angel of death to the Jew only, or to the
Gentile also?" You find a certain Divine agency made visible to a
King of Israel, as an armed angel, executing vengeance, of which
one special purpose was to lower his kingly pride. You find
another (or perhaps the same) agency, made visible to a Christian
prophet as an angel standing in the sun, calling to the birds that
fly under heaven to come, that they may eat the flesh of kings. Is
there anything impious in the thought that the same agency might
have been expressed to a Greek king, or Greek seer, by similar
visions?--that this figure, standing in the sun, and armed with
the sword, or the bow (whose arrows were drunk with blood), and
exercising especially its power in the humiliation of the proud,
might, at first, have been called only "Destroyer," and
afterwards, as the light, or sun, of justice, was recognized in
the chastisement, called also "Physician" or "Healer"? If you feel
hesitation in admitting the possibility of such a manifestation, I
believe you will find it is caused, partly indeed by such trivial
things as the difference to your ear between Greek and English
terms; but, far more, by uncertainty in your own mind respecting
the nature and truth of the visions spoken of in the Bible. Have
any of you intently examined the nature of your belief in them?
You, for instance, Lucilla, who think often, and seriously, of
LUCILLA. No; I never could tell what to believe about them. I know
they must be true in some way or other; and I like reading about
L. Yes; and I like reading about them too, Lucilla; as I like
reading other grand poetry. But, surely, we ought both to do more
than like it? Will God be satisfied with us, think you, if we read
His words, merely for the sake of an entirely meaningless poetical
LUCILLA. But do not the people who give themselves to seek out the
meaning of these things, often get very strange, and extravagant?
L. More than that, Lucilla. They often go mad. That abandonment of
the mind to religious theory, or contemplation, is the very thing
I have been pleading with you against. I never said you should set
yourself to discover the meanings; but you should take careful
pains to understand them, so far as they are clear; and you should
always accurately ascertain the state of your mind about them. I
want you never to read merely for the pleasure of fancy; still
less as a formal religious duty (else you might as well take to
repeating Paters at once; for it is surely wiser to repeat one
thing we understand, than read a thousand which we cannot).
Either, therefore, acknowledge the passages to be, for the
present, unintelligible to you; or else determine the sense in
which you at present receive them; or, at all events, the
different senses between which you clearly see that you must
choose. Make either your belief, or your difficulty, definite; but
do not go on, all through your life, believing nothing
intelligently, and yet supposing that your having read the words
of a divine book must give you the right to despise every religion
but your own. I assure you, strange as it may seem, our scorn of
Greek tradition depends, not on our belief, but our disbelief, of
our own traditions. We have, as yet, no sufficient clue to the
meaning of either; but you will always find that, in proportion to
the earnestness of our own faith, its tendency to accept a
spiritual personality increases: and that the most vital and
beautiful Christian temper rests joyfully in its conviction of the
multitudinous ministry of living angels, infinitely varied in rank
and power. You all know one expression of the purest and happiest
form of such faith, as it exists in modern times, in Richter's
lovely illustrations of the Lord's Prayer. The real and living
death-angel, girt as a pilgrim, for journey, and softly crowned
with flowers, beckons at the dying mother's door; child-angels sit
talking face to face with mortal children, among the flowers;--
hold them by their little coats, lest they fall on the stairs;
whisper dreams of heaven to them, leaning over their pillows;
carry the sound of the church bells for them far through the air;
and even descending lower in service, fill little cups with honey,
to hold out to the weary bee. By the way, Lily, did you tell the
other children that story about your little sister, and Alice, and
LILY. I told it to Alice, and to Miss Dora. I don't think I did to
anybody else. I thought it wasn't worth.
L. We shall think it worth a great deal now, Lily, if you will
tell it us. How old is Dotty, again? I forgot.
LILY. She is not quite three; but she has such odd little old
L. And she was very fond of Alice?
LILY. Yes; Alice was so good to her always!
L. And so when Alice went away?
LILY. Oh, it was nothing, you know, to tell about; only it was
strange at the time.
L. Well; but I want you to tell it.
LILY. The morning after Alice had gone, Dotty was very sad and
restless when she got up; and went about, looking into all the
corners, as if she could find Alice in them, and at last she came
to me, and said, "Is Alie gone over the great sea?" And I said,
"Yes, she is gone over the great, deep sea, but she will come back
again some day." Then Dotty looked round the room; and I had just
poured some water out into the basin; and Dotty ran to it, and got
up on a chair, and dashed her hands through the water, again and
again; and cried, "Oh, deep, deep sea! send little Alie back to
L. Isn't that pretty, children? There's a dear little heathen for
you! The whole heart of Greek mythology is in that; the idea of a
personal being in the elemental power;--of its being moved by
prayer;--and of its presence everywhere, making the broken
diffusion of the element sacred.
Now, remember, the measure in which we may permit ourselves to
think of this trusted and adored personality, in Greek, or in any
other, mythology, as conceivably a shadow of truth, will depend on
the degree in which we hold the Greeks, or other great nations,
equal, or inferior, in privilege and character, to the Jews, or to
ourselves. If we believe that the great Father would use the
imagination of the Jew as an instrument by which to exalt and lead
him; but the imagination of the Greek only to degrade and mislead
him: if we can suppose that real angels were sent to minister to
the Jews and to punish them; but no angels, or only mocking
spectra of angels, or even devils in the shapes of angels, to lead
Lycurgus and Leonidas from desolate cradle to hopeless grave:--and
if we can think that it was only the influence of specters, or the
teaching of demons, which issued in the making of mothers like
Cornelia, and of sons like Cleobis and Bito, we may, of course,
reject the heathen Mythology in our privileged scorn: but, at
least, we are bound to examine strictly by what faults of our own
it has come to pass, that the ministry of real angels among
ourselves is occasionally so ineffectual, as to end in the
production of Cornelias who entrust their child-jewels to
Charlotte Winsors for the better keeping of them; and of sons like
that one who, the other day, in France, beat his mother to death
with a stick; and was brought in by the jury, "guilty, with
MAY. Was that really possible?
L. Yes, my dear. I am not sure that I can lay my hand on the
reference to it (and I should not have said "the other day"--it
was a year or two ago), but you may depend on the fact; and I
could give you many like it, if I chose. There was a murder done
in Russia, very lately, on a traveler. The murderess's little
daughter was in the way, and found it out, somehow. Her mother
killed her, too, and put her into the oven. There is a peculiar
horror about the relations between parent and child, which are
being now brought about by our variously degraded forms of
European white slavery. Here is one reference, I see, in my notes
on that story of Cleobis and Bito; though I suppose I marked this
chiefly for its quaintness, and the beautifully Christian names of
the sons; but it is a good instance of the power of the King of
the Valley of Diamonds [Footnote: Notes vi.] among us.
In "Galignani" of July 21-22, 1862, is reported a trial of a
farmer's son in the department of the Yonne. The father, two years
ago, at Malay le Grand, gave up his property to his two sons, on
condition of being maintained by them. Simon fulfilled his
agreement, but Pierre would not. The tribunal of Sens condemns
Pierre to pay eighty-four francs a year to his father. Pierre
replies, "he would rather die than pay it." Actually, returning
home, he throws himself into the river, and the body is not found
till next day.
MARY. But--but--I can't tell what you would have us think. Do you
seriously mean that the Greeks were better than we are; and that
their gods were real angels?
L. No, my dear. I mean only that we know, in reality, less than
nothing of the dealings of our Maker with our fellow-men; and can
only reason or conjecture safely about them, when we have
sincerely humble thoughts of ourselves and our creeds.
We owe to the Greeks every noble discipline in literature, every
radical principle of art; and every form of convenient beauty in
our household furniture and daily occupations of life. We are
unable, ourselves, to make rational use of half that we have
received from them: and, of our own, we have nothing but
discoveries in science, and fine mechanical adaptations of the
discovered physical powers. On the other hand, the vice existing
among certain classes, both of the rich and poor, in London,
Paris, and Vienna, could have been conceived by a Spartan or Roman
of the heroic ages only as possible in a Tartarus, where fiends
were employed to teach, but not to punish, crime. It little
becomes us to speak contemptuously of the religion of races to
whom we stand in such relations; nor do I think any man of modesty
or thoughtfulness will ever speak so of any religion, in which God
has allowed one good man to die, trusting.
The more readily we admit the possibility of our own cherished
convictions being mixed with error, the more vital and helpful
whatever is right in them will become: and no error is so
conclusively fatal as the idea that God will not allow us to err,
though He has allowed all other men to do so. There may be doubt
of the meaning of other visions, but there is none respecting that
of the dream of St. Peter; and you may trust the Rock of the
Church's Foundation for true interpreting, when he learned from it
that, "in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh
righteousness, is accepted with Him." See that you understand what
that righteousness means; and set hand to it stoutly: you will
always measure your neighbors' creed kindly, in proportion to the
substantial fruits of your own. Do not think you will ever get
harm by striving to enter into the faith of others, and to
sympathize, in imagination, with the guiding principles of their
lives. So only can you justly love them, or pity them, or praise.
By the gracious effort you will double, treble--nay, indefinitely
multiply, at once the pleasure, the reverence, and the
intelligence with which you read: and, believe me, it is wiser and
holier, by the fire of your own faith to kindle the ashes of
expired religions, than to let your soul shiver and stumble among
their graves, through the gathering darkness, and communicable
MARY (after some pause). We shall all like reading Greek history
so much better after this! but it has put everything else out of
our heads that we wanted to ask.
L. I can tell you one of the things; and I might take credit for
generosity in telling you; but I have a personal reason--Lucilla's
verse about the creation.
DORA. Oh, yes--yes; and its "pain together, until now."
L. I call you back to that, because I must warn you against an old
error of my own. Somewhere in the fourth volume of "Modern
Painters," I said that the earth seemed to have passed through its
highest state: and that, after ascending by a series of phases,
culminating in its habitation by man, it seems to be now gradually
becoming less fit for that habitation.
MARY. Yes, I remember.
L. I wrote those passages under a very bitter impression of the
gradual perishing of beauty from the loveliest scenes which I knew
in the physical world;--not in any doubtful way, such as I might
have attributed to loss of sensation in myself--but by violent and
definite physical action; such as the filling up of the Lac de
Chede by landslips from the Rochers des Fiz;--the narrowing of the
Lake Lucerne by the gaining delta of the stream of the Muotta-
Thal, which, in the course of years, will cut the lake into two,
as that of Brientz has been divided from that of Thun;--the steady
diminishing of the glaciers north of the Alps, and still more, of
the sheets of snow on their southern slopes, which supply the
refreshing streams of Lombardy:--the equally steady increase of
deadly maremma round Pisa and Venice; and other such phenomena,
quite measurably traceable within the limits even of short life,
and unaccompanied, as it seemed, by redeeming or compensatory
agencies. I am still under the same impression respecting the
existing phenomena; but I feel more strongly, every day, that no
evidence to be collected within historical periods can be accepted
as any clue to the great tendencies of geological change; but that
the great laws which never fail, and to which all change is
subordinate, appear such as to accomplish a gradual advance to
lovelier order, and more calmly, yet more deeply, animated Rest.
Nor has this conviction ever fastened itself upon me more
distinctly, than during my endeavor to trace the laws which govern
the lowly framework of the dust. For, through all the phases of
its transition and dissolution, there seems to be a continual
effort to raise itself into a higher state; and a measured gain,
through the fierce revulsion and slow renewal of the earth's
frame, in beauty, and order, and permanence. The soft white
sediments of the sea draw themselves, in process of time, into
smooth knots of sphered symmetry; burdened and strained under
increase of pressure, they pass into a nascent marble; scorched by
fervent heat, they brighten and blanch into the snowy rock of
Paros and Carrara. The dark drift of the inland river, or stagnant
slime of inland pool and lake, divides, or resolves itself as it
dries, into layers of its several elements; slowly purifying each
by the patient withdrawal of it from the anarchy of the mass in
which it was mingled. Contracted by increasing drought, till it
must shatter into fragments, it infuses continually a finer ichor
into the opening veins, and finds in its weakness the first
rudiments of a perfect strength. Rent at last, rock from rock,
nay, atom from atom, and tormented in lambent fire, it knits,
through the fusion, the fibers of a perennial endurance; and,
during countless subsequent centuries, declining, or, rather let
me say, rising, to repose, finishes the infallible luster of its
crystalline beauty, under harmonies of law which are wholly
beneficent, because wholly inexorable.
(The children seem pleased, but more inclined to think over these
matters than to talk.)
L. (after giving them a little time). Mary, I seldom ask you to
read anything out of books of mine; but there is a passage about
the Law of Help, which I want you to read to the children now,
because it is of no use merely to put it in other words for them.
You know the place I mean, do not you?
MARY. Yes (presently finding it); where shall I begin?
L. Here, but the elder ones had better look afterwards at the
piece which comes just before this.
"A pure or holy state of anything is that in which all its parts
are helpful or consistent. The highest and first law of the
universe, and the other name of life, is therefore, 'help'. The
other name of death is 'separation'. Government and cooperation
are in all things, and eternally, the laws of life. Anarchy and
competition, eternally, and in all things, the laws of death.
"Perhaps the best, though the most familiar, example we could take
of the nature and power of consistence, will be that of the
possible changes in the dust we tread on.
"Exclusive of animal decay, we can hardly arrive at a more
absolute type of impurity, than the mud or slime of a damp, over
trodden path, in the outskirts of a manufacturing town. I do not
say mud of the road, because that is mixed with animal refuse, but
take merely an ounce or two of the blackest slime of a beaten
footpath, on a rainy day, near a manufacturing town. That slime we
shall find in most cases composed of clay (or brickdust, which is
burnt clay), mixed with soot, a little sand and water. All these
elements are at helpless war with each other, and destroy
reciprocally each other's nature and power competing and fighting
for place at every tread of your foot, sand squeezing out clay,
and clay squeezing out water, and soot meddling everywhere, and
defiling the whole. Let us suppose that this ounce of mud is left
in perfect rest, and that its elements gather together, like to
like, so that their atoms may get into the closest relations
"Let the clay begin. Ridding itself of all foreign substance, it
gradually becomes a white earth, already very beautiful, and fit,
with help of congealing fire, to be made into finest porcelain,
and painted on, and be kept in kings' palaces. But such artificial
consistence is not its best. Leave it still quiet, to follow its
own instinct of unity, and it becomes, not only white but clear;
not only clear, but hard; nor only clear and hard, but so set that
it can deal with light in a wonderful way, and gather out of it
the loveliest blue rays only, refusing the rest. We call it then a
"Such being the consummation of the clay, we give similar
permission of quiet to the sand. It also becomes, first, a white
earth; then proceeds to grow clear and hard, and at last arranges
itself in mysterious, infinitely fine parallel lines, which have
the power of reflecting, not merely the blue rays, but the blue,
green, purple, and red rays, in the greatest beauty in which they
can be seen through any hard material whatsoever. We call it then
"In next order the soot sets to work. It cannot make itself white
at first; but, instead of being discouraged, tries harder and
harder; and comes out clear at last; and the hardest thing in the
world: and for the blackness that it had, obtains in exchange the
power of reflecting all the rays of the sun at once, in the
vividest blaze that any solid thing can shoot. We call it then a
"Last of all, the water purifies, or unites itself; contented
enough if it only reach the form of a dewdrop: but if we insist on
its proceeding to a more perfect consistence, it crystallizes into
the shape of a star. And, for the ounce of slime which we had by
political economy of competition, we have, by political economy of
co-operation, a sapphire, an opal, and a diamond, set in the midst
of a star of snow."
L. I have asked you to hear that, children, because, from all that
we have seen in the work and play of these past days, I would have
you gain at least one grave and enduring thought. The seeming
trouble,--the unquestionable degradation,--of the elements of the
physical earth, must passively wait the appointed time of their
repose, or their restoration. It can only be brought about for
them by the agency of external law. But if, indeed, there be a
nobler life in us than in these strangely moving atoms;--if,
indeed, there is an eternal difference between the fire which
inhabits them, and that which animates us,--it must be shown, by
each of us in his appointed place, not merely in the patience, but
in the activity of our hope; not merely by our desire, but our
labor, for the time when the Dust of the generations of men shall
be confirmed for foundations of the gates of the city of God. The
human clay, now trampled and despised, will not be,--cannot be,--
knit into strength and light by accident or ordinances of
unassisted fate. By human cruelty and iniquity it has been
afflicted;--by human mercy and justice it must be raised: and, in
all fear or questioning of what is or is not, the real message of
creation, or of revelation, you may assuredly find perfect peace,
if you are resolved to do that which your Lord has plainly
required,--and content that He should indeed require no more of
you,--than to do Justice, to love Mercy, and to walk humbly with
"That third pyramid of hers."
THROUGHOUT the dialogues, it must be observed that "Sibyl" is
addressed (when in play) as having once been the Cumaean Sibyl;
and "Egypt" as having been Queen Nitocris,--the Cinderella and
"the greatest heroine and beauty" of Egyptian story. The Egyptians
called her "Neith the Victorious" (Nitocris), and the Greeks "Face
of the Rose" (Rhodope). Chaucer's beautiful conception of
Cleopatra in the "Legend of Good Women," is much more founded on
the traditions of her than on those of Cleopatra; and, especially
in its close, modified by Herodotus's terrible story of the death
of Nitocris, which, however, is mythologically nothing more than a
part of the deep monotonous ancient dirge for the fulfillment of
the earthly destiny of Beauty: "She cast herself into a chamber
full of ashes."
I believe this Queen is now sufficiently ascertained to have
either built, or increased to double its former size, the third
pyramid of Gizeh: and the passage following in the text refers to
an imaginary endeavor, by the Old Lecturer and the children
together, to make out the description of that pyramid in the 167th
page of the second volume of Bunsen's "Egypt's Place in Universal
History"--ideal endeavor,--which ideally terminates as the Old
Lecturer's real endeavors to the same end always have terminated.
There are, however, valuable notes respecting Nitocris at page 210
of the same volume: but the "Early Egyptian History for the
Young," by the author of "Sidney Gray," contains, in a pleasant
form, as much information as young readers will usually need.
"Pyramid of Asychis?"
THIS pyramid, in mythology, divides with the Tower of Babel the
shame, or vain glory, of being presumptuously, and first among
great edifices, built with "brick for stone." This was the
inscription on it, according to Herodotus:
"Despise me not, in comparing me with the pyramids of stone; for I
have the pre-eminence over them, as far as Jupiter has pre-
eminence over the gods. For, striking with staves into the pool,
men gathered the clay which fastened itself to the staff, and
kneaded bricks out of it, and so made me."
The word I have translated "kneaded" is literally "drew;" in the
sense of drawing, for which the Latins used "duco;" and thus gave
us our "ductile" in speaking of dead clay, and Duke, Doge, or
leader, in speaking of living clay. As the asserted pre-eminence
of the edifice is made, in this inscription, to rest merely on the
quantity of labor consumed in it, this pyramid is considered, in
the text, as the type, at once, of the base building, and of the
lost labor, of future ages, so far at least as the spirits of
measured and mechanical effort deal with it; but Neith, exercising
her power upon it, makes it a type of the work of wise and
"The Greater Pthah."
IT is impossible, as yet, to define with distinctness the personal
agencies of the Egyptian deities. They are continually associated
in function, or hold derivative powers, or are related to each
other in mysterious triads, uniting always symbolism of physical
phenomena with real spiritual power. I have endeavored partly to
explain this in the text of the tenth Lecture here, it is only
necessary for the reader to know that the Greater Pthah more or
less represents the formative power of order and measurement he
always stands on a four-square pedestal, "the Egyptian cubit,
metaphorically used as the hieroglyphic for truth," his limbs are
bound together, to signify fixed stability, as of a pillar; he has
a measuring-rod in his hand, and at Philas, is represented as
holding an egg on a potter's wheel; but I do not know if this
symbol occurs in older sculptures. His usual title is the "Lord of
Truth". Others, very beautiful "King of the Two Worlds, of
Gracious Countenance," "Superintendent of the Great Abode," etc.,
are given by Mr. Birch in Arundale's "Gallery of Antiquities,"
which I suppose is the book of best authority easily accessible.
For the full titles and utterances of the gods, Rosellini is as
yet the only--and I believe, still a very questionable--authority,
and Arundale's little book, excellent in the text, has this great
defect, that its drawings give the statues invariably a ludicrous
or ignoble character Readers who have not access to the originals
must be warned against this frequent fault in modern illustration
(especially existing also in some of the painted casts of Gothic
and Norman work at the Crystal Palace). It is not owing to any
willful want of veracity: the plates in Arundale's book are
laboriously faithful: but the expressions of both face and body in
a figure depend merely on emphasis of touch, and, in barbaric art
most draughtsmen emphasize what they plainly see--the barbarism,
and miss conditions of nobleness, which they must approach the
monument in a different temper before they will discover and draw
with great subtlety before they can express.
The character of the Lower Pthah, or perhaps I ought rather to
say, of Pthah in his lower office, is sufficiently explained in
the text of the third Lecture, only the reader must be warned that
the Egyptian symbolism of him by the beetle was not a scornful
one, it expressed only the idea of his presence in the first
elements of life. But it may not unjustly be used, in another
sense, by us, who have seen his power in new development, and,
even as it was, I cannot conceive that the Egyptians should have
regarded their beetle headed image of him (Champollion,
"Pantheon," p. 12), without some occult scorn. It is the most
painful of all their types of any beneficent power, and even among
those of evil influences, none can be compared with it, except its
opposite, the tortoise headed demon of indolence.
Pasht (p. 27, line 9) is connected with the Greek Artemis,
especially in her offices of judgment and vengeance. She is
usually lioness headed, sometimes cat headed, her attributes
seeming often trivial or ludicrous unless their full meaning is
known, but the inquiry is much too wide to be followed here. The
cat was sacred to her, or rather to the sun, and secondarily to
her. She is alluded to in the text because she is always the
companion of Pthah (called "the beloved of Pthah," it may be as
Judgment, demanded and longed for by Truth), and it may be well
for young readers to have this fixed in their minds, even by
chance association. There are more statues of Pasht in the British
Museum than of any other Egyptian deity; several of them fine in
workmanship, nearly all in dark stone, which may be, presumably,
to connect her, as the moon, with the night; and in her office of
avenger, with grief.
Thoth (p. 31, line 12), is the Recording Angel of Judgment; and
the Greek Hermes--Phre (line 16), is the Sun.
Neith is the Egyptian spirit of divine wisdom, and the Athena of
the Greeks. No sufficient statement of her many attributes, still
less of their meanings, can be shortly given; but this should be
noted respecting the veiling of the Egyptian image of her by
vulture wings--that as she is, physically, the goddess of the air,
this bird, the most powerful creature of the air known to the
Egyptians, naturally became her symbol. It had other
significations; but certainly this, when in connection with Neith.
As representing her, it was the most important sign, next to the
winged sphere, in Egyptian sculpture; and, just as in Homer,
Athena herself guides her heroes into battle, this symbol of
wisdom, giving victory, floats over the heads of the Egyptian
Kings. The Greeks, representing the goddess herself in human form,
yet would not lose the power of the Egyptian symbol, and changed
it into an angel of victory. First seen in loveliness on the early
coins of Syracuse and Leontium, it gradually became the received
sign of all conquest, and the so called "Victory" of later times,
which, little by little, loses its truth, and is accepted by the
moderns only as a personification of victory itself,--not as an
actual picture of the living Angel who led to victory. There is a
wide difference between these two conceptions,--all the difference
between insincere poetry, and sincere religion. This I have also
endeavored farther to illustrate in the tenth Lecture, there is
however one part of Athena's character which it would have been
irrelevant to dwell upon there, yet which I must not wholly leave
As the goddess of the air, she physically represents both its
beneficent calm, and necessary tempest other storm deities (as
Chrysaor and Aeolus) being invested with a subordinate and more or
less malignant function, which is exclusively their own, and is
related to that of Athena as the power of Mars is related to hers
in war. So also Virgil makes her able to wield the lightning
herself, while Juno cannot, but must pray for the intervention of
Aeolus. She has precisely the correspondent moral authority over
calmness of mind, and just anger. She soothes Achilles, as she
incites Tydides; her physical power over the air being always
hinted correlatively. She grasps Achilles by his hair--as the wind
would lift it--softly,
"It fanned his cheek, it raised his hair,
Like a meadow gale in spring"
She does not merely turn the lance of Mars from Diomed; but seizes
it in both her hands, and casts it aside, with a sense of making
it vain, like chaff in the wind;--to the shout of Achilles, she
adds her own voice of storm in heaven--but in all cases the moral
power is still the principal one--most beautifully in that seizing
of Achilles by the hair, which was the talisman of his life
(because he had vowed it to the Sperchius if he returned in
safety), and which, in giving at Patroclus' tomb, he, knowingly,
yields up the hope of return to his country, and signifies that he
will die with his friend. Achilles and Tydides are, above all
other heroes, aided by her in war, because their prevailing
characters are the desire of justice, united in both, with deep
affections; and, in Achilles, with a passionate tenderness, which
is the real root of his passionate anger Ulysses is her favorite
chiefly in her office as the goddess of conduct and design.
IT is difficult, without a tedious accuracy, or without full
illustration, to express the complete relations of crystalline
structure, which dispose minerals to take, at different times,
fibrous, massive, or foliated forms; and I am afraid this chapter
will be generally skipped by the reader: yet the arrangement
itself will be found useful, if kept broadly in mind; and the
transitions of state are of the highest interest, if the subject
is entered upon with any earnestness. It would have been vain to
add to the scheme of this little volume any account of the
geometrical forms of crystals an available one, though still far
too difficult and too copious, has been arranged by the Rev. Mr.
Mitchell, for Orr's "Circle of the Sciences;" and, I believe, the
"nets" of crystals, which are therein given to be cut out with
scissors and put prettily together, will be found more conquerable
by young ladies than by other students. They should also, when an
opportunity occurs, be shown, at any public library, the diagram
of the crystallization of quartz referred to poles, at p. 8 of
Cloizaux's "Manuel de Mineralogie;" that they may know what work
is; and what the subject is.
With a view to more careful examination of the nascent states of
silica, I have made no allusion in this volume to the influence of
mere segregation, as connected with the crystalline power. It has
only been recently, during the study of the breccias alluded to in
page 186, that I have fully seen the extent to which this singular
force often modifies rocks in which at first its influence might
hardly have been suspected; many apparent conglomerates being in
reality formed chiefly by segregation, combined with mysterious
brokenly-zoned structures, like those of some malachites. I hope
some day to know more of these and several other mineral phenomena
(especially of those connected with the relative sizes of
crystals), which otherwise I should have endeavored to describe in
I WOULD have given the legends of St. Barbara, and St. Thomas, if
I had thought it always well for young readers to have everything
at once told them which they may wish to know. They will remember
the stories better after taking some trouble to find them; and the
text is intelligible enough as it stands. The idea of St. Barbara,
as there given, is founded partly on her legend in Peter de
Natahbus, partly on the beautiful photograph of Van Eyck's picture
of her at Antwerp: which was some time since published at Lille.
"King of the Valley of Diamonds."
ISABEL interrupted the Lecturer here, and was briefly bid to hold
her tongue; which gave rise to some talk, apart, afterwards,
between L. and Sibyl, of which a word or two may be perhaps
advisably set down.
SIBYL. We shall spoil Isabel, certainly, if it don't mind: I was
glad you stopped her, and yet sorry, for she wanted so much to ask
about the Valley of Diamonds again, and she has worked so hard at
it, and made it nearly all out by herself. She recollected
Elisha's throwing in the meal, which nobody else did.
L. But what did she want to ask?
SIBYL. About the mulberry trees and the serpents; we are all
stopped by that. Won't you tell us what it means?
L. Now, Sibyl, I am sure you, who never explained yourself, should
be the last to expect others to do so. I hate explaining myself.
SIBYL. And yet how often you complain of other people for not
saying what they meant. How I have heard you growl over the three
stone steps to purgatory, for instance!
L. Yes; because Dante's meaning is worth getting at, but mine
matters nothing at least, if ever I think it is of any consequence
so I speak it as clearly as may be. But you may make anything you
like of the serpent forests I could have helped you to find out
what they were, by giving a little more detail, but it would have
SIBYL. It is much more tiresome not to find out Tell us, please,
as Isabel says, because we feel so stupid.
L. There is no stupidity, you could not possibly do more than
guess at anything so vague. But I think, you, Sibyl, at least,
might have recollected what first dyed the mulberry.
SIBYL. So I did, but that helped little, I thought of Dante's
forest of suicides, too, but you would not simply have borrowed
L. No! If I had had strength to use it, I should have stolen it,
to beat into another shape; not borrowed it. But that idea of
souls in trees is as old as the world; or at least, as the world
of man. And I DID mean that there were souls in those dark
branches,--the souls of all those who had perished in misery
through the pursuit of riches, and that the river was of their
blood, gathering gradually, and flowing out of the valley. Then I
meant the serpents for the souls of those who had lived carelessly
and wantonly in their riches; and who have all their sins forgiven
by the world, because they are rich: and therefore they have seven
crimson crested heads, for the seven mortal sins; of which they
are proud: and these, and the memory and report of them, are the
chief causes of temptation to others, as showing the pleasantness
and absolving power of riches; so that thus they are singing
serpents. And the worms are the souls of the common money getters
and traffickers, who do nothing but eat and spin: and who gain
habitually by the distress or foolishness of others (as you see
the butchers have been gaining out of the panic at the cattle
plague, among the poor),--so they are made to eat the dark leaves,
and spin, and perish.
SIBYL. And the souls of the great, cruel, rich people who oppress
the poor, and lend money to government to make unjust war, where
L. They change into the ice, I believe, and are knit with the
gold, and make the grave dust of the valley I believe so, at
least, for no one ever sees those souls anywhere.
(SIBYL ceases questioning.)
ISABEL (who has crept up to her side without any one seeing). Oh,
Sibyl, please ask him about the fireflies!
L. What, you there, mousie! No; I won't tell either Sibyl or you
about the fireflies, nor a word more about anything else you ought
to be little fireflies yourselves, and find your way in twilight
by your own wits.
ISABEL. But you said they burned, you know?
L. Yes; and you may be fireflies that way too, some of you, before
long, though I did not mean that. Away with you, children. You
have thought enough for to-day.
NOTE TO SECOND EDITION
Sentence out of letter from May (who is staying with Isabel just
now at Cassel), dated 15th June, 1877:--
"I am reading the Ethics with a nice Irish girl who is staying
here, and she's just as puzzled as I've always been about the
fireflies, and we both want to know so much.--Please be a very
nice old Lecturer, and tell us, won't you?"
Well, May, you never were a vain girl; so could scarcely guess
that I meant them for the light, unpursued vanities, which yet
blind us, confused among the stars. One evening, as I came late
into Siena, the fireflies were flying high on a stormy sirocco
wind,--the stars themselves no brighter, and all their host
seeming, at moments, to fade as the insects faded.