Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready, at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may. But while I do live, let me have a country, or at least the hope of a country, 5 and that a free country.

But whatever may be our fate, be assured, be assured that this declaration will stand. It. may cost treasure, and it may cost blood; but it will stand, and it will richly compensate for both. Through the thick gloom of 10 the present, I see the brightness of the future as the sun in heaven. We shall make this a glorious, an immortal day. When we are in our graves, our children will honor it. They will celebrate it with thanksgiving, with festivity, with bonfires, and illuminations. On its annual re15 turn, they will shed tears, copious, gushing tears, not of subjection and slavery, not of agony and distress, but of exultation, of gratitude, and of joy.

Sir, before God, I believe the hour is come. My judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. 20 All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope in

this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off as I begun, that, live or die, survive or perish, I am for the declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment, independence, now, and INDEPENDENCE FOREVER!



[CHARLES DICKENS, the most popular living novelist, perhaps the most popular living writer of England, was born in Portsmouth, England, February 7, 1812. His first work a series of sketches under the name of "Boz" -was published in 1836, and though it showed brilliant descriptive powers, did not attract great attention. But the "Pickwick Papers," which appeared the next year, fairly took the world by storm, and lifted the author up to a dizzy height of popularity, equalled by nothing since Scott and Byron. Since

then he has written many novels and tales, besides sketches of travel in Italy and in America, (he was here in 1842.) in which last his genius appears to less advantage than in his works of fiction.

His most striking characteristic is a peculiar and original vein of humor, shown in sketches taken from low life, and expressing itself by the most quaint, grotesque, and unexpected combinations of ideas. His Sam Wellera character he has never surpassed -is the type of his creations of this class; and it is a truly original conception, and very well sustained.

He is hardly less successful in his pathetic passages than in his humorous delineations. He excels in scenes which paint sickness and death, especially of the lovely and the young. His pages have been blistered by many a tear. The extract in the text is alone enough to prove his great power over the sympathies of the heart.

He has also uncommon skill in the minute representation of scenes of still life, which he paints with the sharp fidelity of a Dutch artist. He depicts a bar-room, a kitchen, a court of justice, or a prison, in such a way as to be next to seeing it. He sometimes uses this gift to a greater extent than the taste of his readers approves.

The tone of Dickens's writings is sound and healthy; though he takes us a little too much into scenes of low life, and obtrudes his evil and hateful characters upon us more than we could wish. He has a poetical imagination, and a heart full of genial charities. The generous and sympathetic tone of his writings is one of their most powerful attractions. He has a hatred of oppression and injustice in all their forms, and is ever ready to take sides with the victim and the sufferer. His great literary reputation has given him much influence in England; and this has been uniformly exercised in behalf of those social reforms in which our English brethren have been of late years so much engaged, and with such honor to themselves.

The following extract is from" Master Humphrey's Clock," a novel published originally in 1841. Little Nell is one of the sweetest and purest of all his creations; and her life and death have touched many thousands of hearts. She is represented in the novel as the constant attendant of her grandfather, an affectionate old man, but weak in moral energy. She glides like a sunbeam of grace and innocence through many a troubled scene; but the burden of life is too heavy for her delicate spirit, and she thus gently lays it down.]

By little and little, the old man had drawn back towards the inner chamber, while these words were spoken. He pointed there, as he replied, with trembling lips,


You plot among you to wean my heart from her. You 5 will never do that- never while I have life. I have no relative or friend but her- I never had-I never will have. She is all in ail to me. It is too late to part us now."

Waving them off with his hand, and calling softly to her 10 as he went, he stole into the room. They who were left behind drew close together, and after a few whispered words, not unbroken by emotion, or easily uttered,—


[ocr errors]

followed him. They moved so gently that their footsteps
made no noise; but there were sobs from among
the group,
and sounds of grief and mourning.

For she was dead. There, upon her little bed, she lay 5 at rest. The solemn stillness was no marvel now.


She was dead. No sleep so beautiful and calm, so free from trace of pain, so fair to look upon. She seemed a creature fresh from the hand of God, and waiting for the breath of life; not one who had lived and suffered death. 10 Her couch was dressed with here and there some winter



berries and green leaves, gathered in a spot she had been used to favor. "When I die, put near me something that has loved the light, and had the sky above it always." These were her words.

She was dead. Dear, gentle, patient, noble Nell was dead. Her little bird-a poor slight thing the pressure of a finger would have crushed- was stirring nimbly in its cage and the strong heart of its child-mistress was mute and motionless forever.

[ocr errors]

Where were the traces of her early cares, her sufferings, and fatigues? All gone. Sorrow was dead indeed in her, but peace and perfect happiness were born; imaged in her tranquil beauty and profound repose.

And still her former self lay there, unaltered in this 25 change. Yes. The old fireside had smiled on that same sweet face; it had passed like a dream through haunts of misery and care; at the door of the poor schoolmaster on the summer evening, before the furnace fire upon the cold, wet night, at the still bedside of the dying boy, there had 30 been the same mild, lovely look. So shall we know the angels in their majesty, after death.

The old man held one languid arm in his, and kept the small hand tight folded to his breast, for warmth. It was the hand she had stretched out to him with her last smile – the hand that had led him on through all their wander

ings Ever and anon he pressed it to his lips; then hugged it to his breast again, murmuring that it was warmer now; and as he said it, he looked, in agony, to those who stood around, as if imploring them to help her.

She was dead, and past all help, or need of it. The ancient rooms she had seemed to fill with life, even while her own was ebbing fast — the garden she had tendedthe eyes she had gladdened the noiseless haunts of many a thoughtful hour― the paths she had trodden as it were 10 but yesterday – could know her no more.



It is not," said the schoolmaster, as he bent down to kiss her on the cheek, and gave his tears free vent, it is not in this world that heaven's justice ends. Think what earth is compared with the world to which her young spirit 15 has winged its early flight, and say, if one deliberate wish expressed in solemn terms above this bed could call her back to life, which of us would utter it!"


[ocr errors]

When morning came, and they could speak more calmly on the subject of their grief, they heard how her life had 20 closed.

She had been dead two days. They were all about her at the time, knowing that the end was drawing on. She died soon after daybreak. They had read and talked to her in the earlier portion of the night; but as the hours 25 crept on, she sank to sleep. They could tell, by what she faintly uttered in her dreams, that they were of her journeyings with the old man; they were of no painful scenes, but of those who had helped and used them kindly, for she often said "God bless you!" with great fervor. Waking, 30 she never wandered in her mind but once, and that was of beautiful music which she said was in the air. It may have been.

Opening her eyes at last, from a very quiet sleep, she begged that they would kiss her once again. That done, she 35 turned to the old man with a lovely smile upon her face, such, they said, as they had never seen, and never could


They did not know that she was dead, at first.

For the rest, she had never murmured or complained; but with a quiet mind, and manner quite unaltered, — save 5 that she every day became more carnest and more grateful to them, - faded like the light upon the summer's evening. And now the bell- the bell she had so often heard by night and day, and listened to with solemn pleasure almost as a living voice· rung its remorseless toll for her, so 10 young, so beautiful, so good. Decrepit age, and vigorous life, and blooming youth, and helpless infancy poured forth on crutches, in the pride of strength and health, in the full blush of promise, in the mere dawn of life to gather round her tomb. Old men were there, whose eyes were 15 dim and senses failing-grandmothers, who might have died ten years ago, and still been old - the deaf, the blind, the lame, the palsied, the living dead in many shapes and forms, to see the closing of that early grave. What was the death it would shut in, to that which still could crawl 20 and creep above it!


- and clung with both her arms about his neck.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Along the crowded path they bore her now, pure as the newly-fallen snow that covered it, whose day on earth had been as fleeting. Under the porch, where she had sat when Heaven in its mercy brought her to that peaceful spot, she 25 passed again, and the old church received her in its quiet


They carried her to one old nook, where she had many and many a time sat musing, and laid their burden softly on the pavement. The light streamed on it through the 30 colored window - a window where the boughs of trees were ever rustling in the summer, and where the birds sang sweetly all day long. With every breath of air that stirred among those branches in the sunshine, some trembling, changing light would fall upon her grave.

Many a

Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. young hand dropped in its little wreath, many a stifled sob

« VorigeDoorgaan »