« VorigeDoorgaan »
directed his attention to the evidence which had been given, and asked him "what he said as to the sinking of dead bodies in water?" Garth replied that, "if a strangled body be thrown into the water, the lungs being filled with air, and a cord left about the neck, it was possible it might float, because of the included air, as a bladder would." Upon this the judge recalled his attention to the question as follows:
"Baron Hatsell.-But you do not observe my question: the seaman said that those that die at sea and are thrown overboard, if you do not tie a weight to them, they will not sink-what do you say to that?
"Dr Garth.-My Lord, no doubt in this thing they are mistaken. The seamen are a superstitious people: they fancy that whistling at sea will occasion a tempest. I must confess I have never seen anybody thrown overboard, but I have tried some experiments on other dead animals, and they will certainly sink: we have tried them since we came hither."
Now in this, we confess, it seems to us that the judge appears to greater advantage than the physician. Garth was evidently desirous to evade the question, and he attempted to do so by a sneer. The superstition of the sailors had nothing to do with the question whether a man killed in battle and falling into the water floats or sinks. Garth was compelled to admit he had no experience on the subject. He said, and said truly, that “the object of tying weights to a body is to prevent it from floating at all, which otherwise would happen in some few days." The well-known instance of the floating of the body of Caracciolo, notwithstanding the weights which were attached to his feet, will occur at once to the mind of the reader. The inquiry of the judge was pertinent to the evidence, and the reply might have been material to the question of the guilt or innocence of the prisoner. Lord Macaulay disposes of both question and answer in the following words:
* State Trials, 1158.
Lord Macaulay, however, does not trouble himself with the facts of the case. He finds for once the Quakers and the Tories united (or rather, we ought to say, he assumes their union; for from first to last in the trial there is not a particle of evidence that political feeling intervened), and he infers that they could only be united for the purpose of committing a judicial murder; that the object of the Quakers was to "send four innocent men to the gallows rather than let it be believed that one who had their light within her had committed suicide," and that the Tories were urged on to the same atrocity by "the prospect of winning two seats from the Whigs." Lord Macaulay makes no account of the feelings that would be wakened amongst relations, friends, and neighbours by the sudden and violent death of a young and beautiful girl, who, whether murdered or not, had unquestionably been cruelly trifled with by a man who, if not directly, was at any rate indirectly the cause of her death. "Religious and political fanaticism" are motives the power of which Lord Macaulay was certainly not likely to underrate. Yet it might have been supposed that the religion of Sarah Stout was one which he would have been disposed to treat, if not with respect, at least with tenderness, however mistaken his more mature convictions might lead him to consider it to be.
We have ourselves little sympathy with the peculiar tenets and habits of the Quakers. It is difficult for any one to write with
perfect justice about that very singular sect. A body of Christians who make it part of their religion to observe the strictest rules of grammar in the use of the singular and plural of the personal pronouns, whilst they habitually violate them as to the nominative and the accusative; whose consciences are tender as to buttons; who hold gay colours to be "unfriendly," whilst they delight in the richest and most costly fabrics; who shrink from the hypocrisy of addressing a stranger as "Dear Sir," whilst they have no scruple in calling the man they most despise "Respected Friend," merely commit amusing eccentricities. The evil is much more serious when they proscribe all those arts which tend most to brighten our course through life. Literature, except of the most dreary kind, is prohibited to strict Friends. We once made a passing allusion to Mr Jonathan Oldbuck, in conversation with one of the most eminent Quakers of the day, a member of a learned profession, and discovered, to our astonishment, that he was in total ignorance of the Waverley Novels. Another venerable and strict Friend, seeing a volume lettered Horatii Opera on the table of one of his laxer brethren, shook his head gravely, and said, "Thou knowest, friend, that we have a testimony against all operas." Nothing can be conceived more desolate than a pure Quaker library: Barclay's Apology and Baxter's Shove, Penn's No Cross, no Crown, and George Fox's Journal-perhaps, by extraordinary good fortune, Paradise Lost and The Task-all excellent in their way, but not exactly the books to wile away a tedious hour; and one looks in vain for Shakespeare and Scott, for Pope or Fielding. Painting and music share the same fate. Now and then, however, happily, the old Adam is too strong, and such arts are cultivated either "clandecently," as Mawworm says, or in open defiance of the yearly meeting. Gastronomy is the only one of the liberal arts
that flourishes unrestrained. The Quakers are a hospitable people; their dinners are excellent, and their wines super-excellent. The whitest linen, the most brilliant silver, and the most sparkling glass, are to be found at their tables. They indulge, not to excess, but silently and thankfully, in these good things, and a certain serious rotundity has in consequence become hereditary amongst them. The member for Birmingham is a type of his class: he is evidently not only a man who has eaten good dinners himself, but his fathers, reckoning back to the third and fourth generation, have eaten them too, and we trust his descendants, in equal numbers, will keep up the laudable practice. The late Lord Macaulay himself inherited something of the same formation, modified, however, by the admixture which his blood had received from the lean and hungry Celts to whom he owed his Highland name. This formation is no doubt unfavourable to great personal activity; but personal activity is of little import to a Quaker. Field-sports, and their attendant festivities of all kinds, are prohibited. A Quaker thinks of a hunt-ball as if it were a war-dance of wild Indians. But here again nature will sometimes assert her rights. We have known a Quaker to be an excellent judge of a horse, and some of the best heavy-weights across the Pytchly and Warwickshire countries have been of pure Quaker blood. We once knew a Quaker horse-dealer. But of all strange sights a Quaker child is the strangest. To find a little curly-headed darling of four or five years old, who, instead of climbing on one's knee, and insisting vociferously on a game at romps or a fairy story before it will go to bed, walks off demurely with a Fare thee well, friend John Smith," is enough to make one's hair stand on end.
Early as this discipline begins, it is pleasant to find that nature is sometimes too strong for it. We
have lately met with a narrative (published within the last six months) of a Quaker journey in America, writ by one William Tallack, a "Friend," who, if we are to judge of him by his book, must be dry enough to satisfy the most nervous dread of any approach to that humidity which constitutes a "wet Quaker -a being peculiarly abhorrent to consistent Friends. After devoting many pages to bonnets with round crowns, and bonnets with square crowns, buttons and straps, knee shorts, and "slit collars," and those still more execrable abominations, "turned-down collars with slits in them" (though, we confess, without making it by any means clear to one of the profane what constitutes a slit collar); after recording how one Elias Hicks "felt that his conscience required the relinquishment of unnecessary buttons to his coat," and compelled him to "turn up a cushion in the meeting, and to seat himself on the hard board," he gives some extracts from the records of the Quakers' meeting, amongst which it is really refreshing to meet the passions and the foibles of poor human nature.
Here is the confession of a warmtempered Friend, who probably would have been all the better for the cooling discipline he administered to his neighbour, even at the risk of the dreaded consequence of becoming "wet."
"Whereas I contended with my neighbour, W. S., for what I apprehended to be my right, by endeavouring to turn a certain stream of water into its natural course, till it arose to a personal difference, in which dispute I gave way to warmth of temper so far as to put my friend W. into the pond; for which action of mine, being contrary to the good order of Friends, I am sorry, and desire, through Divine assistance, to live in unity with him for the future."+
Even that peaceful union which we are bound to suppose a Quaker marriage to be (by the way, what a very odd proceeding a Quaker courtship must be-how do they get married at all?) is sometimes disturbed by the sinful passions of humanity. Thus we find that the "Concord preparation-meeting complains of J. P. S. for breach of his marriage covenants in refusing to live with his wife, as a faithful husband ought to do."
Nor does the traveller fail to observe the qualities which we have already noticed as so commendable amongst friends.
"At meals," he says, "there is generally several times the quantity of food placed upon the table which could possibly be eaten by the heartiest appetites of those present, and plates are piled with so much that they are seldom empty at the end of the meal. It is usual to help a visitor to two or three slices of pie at a time."
It is to be hoped that Elias Hicks never became subject to the inconvenient delusion recorded by Melander of an unhappy man, qui opinatus est, ex vitro sibi constatas clunes, sic ut omnia sua negotia atque actiones stando perficeret, metuens, ne, si in sedile se inclinaret, nates confringeret, ac vitri fragmenta hinc inde dissilirent."-MELAN., Joco-Seria, 433.
+ Friendly Sketches in America, by WILLIAM TALLACK.
Ibid., p. 195.
Clarkson, Reynolds the philanthropist, and Dalton the philosopher, deserves a treatment far different from that which it has received from Lord Macaulay. To assert, without one particle of evidence to support the statement, that the Quakers deliberately planned a judicial murder to conceal the fact that one of their body had committed suicide, is just as monstrous as to impute to the Tories that they were accomplices in the crime. This unscrupulous treatment of facts, and equally unscrupulous suggestion of motives, is one of the most dangerous weapons a combatant can wield. No instrument of attack is so easily turned against the party making use of it. If a historian could be found equally unscrupulous as Lord Macaulay, and as deeply imbued with opposite prejudices, nothing would be easier than to paraphrase his account of Spencer Cowper's trial almost in his own words, and with even less departure from the facts. The narrative would then assume something of the following form: "At Hertford resided a respectable Quaker family named Stout. One daughter, a beautiful girl of strong sensibility and lively imagination, formed a deep attachment to Spencer Cowper. He He trifled with her affections, took every advantage of her unhappy state of mind, and then cast her off and married another woman. Her almost frantic attachment still continued. She wrote letters to him breathing the deepest passion. He paraded them before his brother (who was a man of notoriously loose habits), and his other profligate associates. When he came to the Hertford spring assizes in 1699, he went direct to her mother's house. He dined and supped there; he spent the evening in affectionate conversation with the girl he had betrayed. His bed was prepared in the house, and the servant-girl was sent up to warm it. Spencer
Cowper and Sarah Stout were left together in the parlour-from that moment she was never seen alive. They left the house together at half-past ten at night, and in the morning her corpse was discovered in the mill-dam. It would perhaps be going too far to say that Cowper was certainly her murderer, but the case was one of the darkest suspicion. He was placed upon his trial for murder, but to anticipate a conviction would have been absurd. The law closed the mouth of the principal witness, the mother of the girl, for she was a Quaker, and could not take an oath. The judge, a friend of the Cowpers, indulged the prisoner in a degree of license in his defence which in the present day would not be tolerated. The Cowpers were powerful in Hertford, which was represented in Parliament by the father and the brother of the prisoner. Every artifice that could influence the minds of the jury against Quakers and Tories was resorted to. Every prejudice of religious or political fanaticism against an unpopular sect and an obnoxious party was appealed to. The consequence was that Cowper was acquitted. attempt was made to place him on his trial a second time by means of an appeal of murder,' a proceeding which Lord Holt, in this very case, designated as a noble badge of the liberties of an Englishman.' But here again the influence of the powerful family of the Cowpers paralysed the arm of justice. The sheriff was tampered with and the writ destroyed. The sheriff paid the penalty of his misconduct by imprisonment and fine, and was subjected to a severe rebuke from Lord Holt. The Cowpers triumphed, but their exultation was short. Outraged humanity vindicated its rights. The press teemed with indignant pamphlets, and at the next election both the Cowpers were ignominiously ejected from the representation of their native town.”*
"It is hardly necessary to remind any student of English history that Spencer
Such is the mode in which this subject may be treated, when, as in the old fable, the lion turns sculptor. It is a mode of treatment nearly as remote from truth as Lord Macaulay's own. To gratify his political and family aversions, Lord Macaulay has raked up the ashes of poor Sarah Stout, and has revived a not very creditable incident in the history of a very. eminent family. He expresses surprise that none of the biographers of the poet Cowper should have alluded to this adventure of his grand father. An old proverb might have told him that there are certain families amongst whom it is a breach of good manners to make any mention of "hemp." We think it was Quin who once introduced Foote to a company as "a gentleman whose
father was hanged for murdering his uncle." Polite and pious biographers such as Hayley and Southey generally avoid all allusion to such disagreeable subjects. Lord Macaulay is puzzled by what appears to him unnecessary delicacy, and has made the whole scandalous story (for scandalous it must remain, even taking the most favourable view) as notorious as possible. Where one reader dives into the State Trials, a thousand will read Lord Macaulay's fifth volume; and all the world now has the advantage of knowing that the grandfather of " that excellent man, excellent poet," as Lord Macaulay justly calls William Cowper, behaved extremely ill to a pretty Quaker girl, and had a narrow escape of being hanged for murdering her.
THE FAREWELL OF THE SEAL.
[THERE is, or there was, a tradition in Shetland that seals come sometimes on shore, and, divesting themselves of their skins, dance upon the sands, after which they resume their covering and return to their natural element. It is said that on one occasion a female seal, who may be considered as a sort of mermaid, having mislaid her skin upon the land, and being thus unable to return to the sea, came into the possession of a Shetlander, with whom she lived for some years as his wife, and bore him several children. One of the children having accidentally found on the beach an old hide, brought it to his mother, when it proved to be the long-lost skin. With many tears and marks of agitation the mother put it on, and, taking an affectionate leave of her children, plunged into the sea, and swam off in company with a large male seal, who had often before been seen hovering on the coast.]
Husband, farewell! for many a year
Your hopes to crown, your hearth to cheer,
How poorly I have done my part
I cannot now but feel and say;
See vol. i.
Cowper and Sarah Stout are the Mosco and Zara of The New Atalantis. pp. 166, 174, for a very full account of this unhappy transaction. Lord Macaulay, who has drawn largely upon the stores of this very valuable work in other instances, appears to have overlooked the fact that this narrative was to be found in the pages of a contemporary historian, whose character for accuracy is second only to his own.'