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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 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. An 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
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."
This earth was not my native home,
In sparry grot or marble cave.
There was the region of my birth;
My hours flew by with sunny glee:
But fortune has redressed the wrong
I haste to quit th' unkindly strand.
Of what I lose in thee and thine.
My children! there indeed I feel
From yonder rock, at evening hour,
When soft the mermaid's music rings,
VOL. XC.-NO. DXLIX.
As I had anticipated, I did not find Mr Osborne inexorable. Although he had deemed it his duty his duty to administer a severe rebuke to his nephew, and was really provoked by the liberty which had been taken with his paper, he was by no means insensible to the merits of the joke. In fact, as we walked through the gardens, he chuckled over the narrative which I gave him, as nearly as possible in the language of Faunce, with a zest which convinced me that, in his younger days, he would have thought it anything but a sin to aid in mystifying the public. Drawing from the resources of his memory, he instanced many cases in which the press, though deviating from the truth, had aided the national cause; and as those revelations were not spiced by any sprinkling of censure, it was evident to me that my old friend and employer saw no great harm in stretching a point when party considerations rendered such elasticity advisable.
CHAPTER LV.-IN WHICH SOME OF THE CHARACTERS ARE WITHDRAWN.
But though willing enough to receive Faunce once more into favour, I could see that he was still reluctant to give his consent to an immediate marriage. That was not, I apprehend, a feeling peculiar to himself, but one which influences more or less the conduct of all who find themselves in the like position. The marriage of a sole daughter, even though the match may be altogether unexceptionable, is a great trial to a fond father, partaking almost of the nature of a sacrifice. It involves the withdrawal from his care and presence of the one object upon whom his dearest affections are centred the abstraction of the roseate light that makes the even
ing of life so beautiful, and compensates for the loss of the more fervid glories and dazzling glare of its meridian. In regard to their domestic arrangements, old men are intensely conservative. Though aware that changes are inevitable, they are invariably desirous to postpone them to the last possible moment; and they never seem to suspect that, in doing so, they are far more influenced by selfish motives than by regard for the happiness of their children.
I had, however, an important advantage in pleading Attie's cause. Mr Osborne had admitted that he now looked upon the marriage as a settled thing, having ascertained that the affections of his daughter were very deeply engaged; and that even had he been inclined personally to discourage Faunce's pretensions, he did not consider himself entitled to interpose a negative. The way being thus far cleared, I was able to insist with more effect upon the argument, that it really was injudicious, to say the least of it, to keep Faunce in a state of suspense which, considering his want of occupation, might draw him into further irregularities.
"It is a maxim of your own, sir," I said, "that when a man has once made up his mind to do anything, the sooner he goes through with it the better. I am sure you cannot approve of long engagements, such as are often made by young people whose circumstances render immediate matrimony out of the question. I have known many instances of the kind, and I am sorry to say that, in most of them, the consequence has been that the men have continued to live as if no
engagement had taken place, denying themselves no indulgence, and submitting to no restraint. Such conduct deserves execration, but it is so common that we cannot overlook it as a fact; and society, judging in such matters according to the fantastic rule of its own code of morals, tolerates in men so situated a degree of licence which it does not accord to the husband. Nay, it even recognises a distinction between an engagement proper and an engagement indefinite, regarding the latter as more or less partaking of the character of a contingency.'
"Nay, that's true enough," replied Mr Osborne. "I am quite as much opposed to long engagements as you can be, Sinclair; and I see the drift of your argument perfectly. You may be sure that I have thought over the subject in all its bearings; and if I have not been able to make up my mind, it is because the future welfare of my own dear child is more precious to me than anything under heaven. Now don't say anything more about it. Tell Attie that he may come here as usual; on the condition, however, that he is to bridle his inventive faculties, avoid the company of exalted personages, and abstain from pilgrimages to Thames Ditton."
"I think I can answer for his abstinence," said I. "And now, Mr Osborne, in relation to my own affairs I have but to thank you most cordially for the uniform kindness you have shown to me throughout our brief connection."
"You are under no obligation to me, my dear lad!" replied Osborne. "I was on the look-out for a man to do a certain kind of work when accident threw you in my way. believed you were capable of doing it, and that it would be a much better occupation for you-more creditable and more lucrative than a desk in some public office, which is all you could have aspired to, had Sir George Smoothly really felt for you the interest he professed. But he is an arrant humbug! That conviction, I am glad
to know, is now entertained by his constituents; and at the next general election he will be bowled down like a nine-pin, and vanish from the political world. Mark my wordsthe reign of plausibility is wellnigh over! Hypocritical government is abhorrent to the downright English instinct that loathes and repudiates imposture."
"At least, sir, you deserve my thanks for having opened my eyes to the true character of the man."
"Oh, you would have made that discovery fast enough without any assistance from me! But I am really sorry to lose you, Sinclair. I feel very much as a Roman lanista might have done in parting with a pet gladiator."
“I trust that I bear my sword from the arena without dishonour."
"Unquestionably; though you have no scars to display as the tokens of your prowess. But you will pardon me for making one observation. When we last met, I understood you to say that, notwithstanding your accession of fortune, you had no thoughts of relinquishing your engagement. That seemed to me a very wise resolution; but it appears that you have since altered your mind. Now, I don't want to press you for your reasons-in fact, have no right to do so— -but it would be a satisfaction to me to feel assured that in making the change you have maturely considered whether it is likely to prove conducive to your happiness. I say this, because if you entertain literary aspirations of a more ambitious kind, it may be in my power to offer you some assistance."
"Many thanks, Mr Osborne. But, without pledging myself to perpetual abstinence, I have done with practical literature for the present. The truth is, that for some time past I have been so much engrossed by matters of a personal nature, that I cannot give that undivided attention to journalism which you have a right to require. It is my intention soon to return to Scotland; but more than this, under