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MONG the inany instances where
ing the wayward humor of "Household Words," and disguising, under a meaningless or whimsical title, an essay thoughtless on some quite unexpected subject. opprobrium Our caption is an honest one, and so is and ridicule our intention. We mean to do a little have been at justice where justice is needed, to tached to ob- break a pen, like true cavalier, for the jects deserv- weaker side, and run a tilt with its steel ing of more point, for the despised and oppressed, respectful against all comers. consideration,
there are few more marked than the flagrant injustice which has so long and generally been done to the unfortunate member which forms the subject of this article.
Even now, as the eyes of fair readers alight on the title which heads these pages, the vulgar word repels them, and they turn on for the story, or for the gossip about the "World of New York," and may they find both as good As they are wont to be in Putnam. And many of our less gentle readers, who lay claim to what half-bred people call cul-ti-va-tion" and "refinement," will give a moderate sniff of contempt, and wonder that such a topic should be thought presentable in a magazine which aims at literary excellence and solid instruction.
Let none stop to run over a page or two, in the suspicion that we are imitat
There are other members which, like tails, are not conferred on the human animal, the frog, or the oyster, and which, no doubt, for that reason, these conceited and complacent beings have treated with contempt and vilified on every opportunity.
Horns and hoofs are such examples of our injustice. Though no more dignified appendage to the head can be imagined; though the sculptor of old recognized its nobility, by affixing it to the statue of Jupiter Ammon; though the medals of Alexander of Macedon, in some instances, show it conspicuous on his temples; and though Michael Angelo carved it on the marble brow of the Lawgiver of Israel; still the horn is, by the modern mob of small writers and jokers, made a badge of disgrace, and exalted by all caricaturists as an appropriate sign on the unrighteous head of the devil. Hoofs, also, are
appropriated as the especial property of the same awful and detestable personage, to be by him worn, and conferred as diplomas on graduates in his infernal academy of the black arts; while, to make his portraiture complete, a tail is added; and these insignia, attached to the image of a man of dark complexion, enable every child and old woman to recognize the veritable effigies of the Evil One
For hoofs and horns we are not now to plead. On some future day their rescue from opprobrium may be undertaken; but the tail alone is a subject not to be exhausted within our allotted space. It is a member of universal, or almost universal, occurrence, in one form or another, throughout the whole range of animated existence.
If we leave out the lower families of living forms embraced in the radiated and molluscan types, and also the insects (for the thread-like appendages, resembling pine leaves, which some of these have, are not true tails), we find this protean member playing a most active and conspicuous part in almost every animal, be it mammalian, bird, fish, or reptile. Not merely conspicuous, it is often ornamental; not merely ornamental, it is often highly useful; not merely useful, it is often a feature of necessity and quite indispensable. It has great physiognomical expression, and seems to have been considered an essential feature of the animal frame; for, in multitudes of instances, we find it preserved in animals, to which, as far as we can discern, it is neither ornamental nor useful; as in the tortoise and pig, for examples. Even our ortho
or endings of this member; for, in the best and fairest of their posterity, the rudiments of a tail are to be found in the coccygeal vertebræ, which, though undeveloped (perhaps, because pantaloons and other garments were in prospect, and the member could not have been practically useful or ornamentally displayed), are yet unquestionably there; just as, in the so-called wingless birds, the wing-bones exist in an undeveloped state. Indeed, we are not without accounts of men who possessed fully developed and visible tails; but count them apocryphal. We have been told by an excellent ditch-digger in our employment, that, in an ancient church in his native Innisfail, there hang, to this day, saddles taken in batNoi Saddle No 2 Hole for Tail
tle, a thousand or two years ago, from cavalry of the invading Danes; and that the legend, that these heathen warriors were tailed, is confirmed by holes in the hinder part of the saddles, which were undoubtedly for an analogous use with the perforation in the nether gar
Southey in our motto. Some travelers have also brought us accounts of tailed negroes in eastern Africa; but the wearers are not produced at the Jardin des Plantes or before the British Association yet.
Some form of tail has existed through all the ages with which geological investigation has made us acquainted. The ancient trilobites had often caudal spines and pointed appendages, as have the modern limuli, which are among their nearest analogues. The "old-fashioned fishes" of the subcarboniferous rocks had tails, as well as their modern representatives, though of a somewhat peculiar type, the vertebral column being prolonged into the upper lobe of the tail, which was longer than the lower. This "heterocercal" form was the prevailing style in which tails were worn until after the period of the Oolite, that "misty-midregion" of the geological Dark Ages; after which, tails of the "homocercal," or equally-lobed form came into vogue, and are now the almost universal rule. Thus we see that a peculiar form of this member becomes a " characteristic of geological time," and has a significance not unworthy of the attention bestowed on it by Agassiz.
But never mind the scientific value of the tail, or its practical use, for the present. We regard first, out of deference to the ladies, its capacity and character for ornament and physiognomical expression. Take, as the example most familiar, the tail of the horse.
The remarkable grace and dignity of this form of the tail, as well as the peculiar beauty of its material, have procured for it a partial exemption VOL. IX.-23
from that contempt which has fallen on most of its family. From the remotest antiquity it has been borne as a standard before armies, and, alike, from the turban of the sheik of the desert, or the helmet of the cuirassier of Napoleon, has "braved, a thousand years, the battle and the breeze." The tail of the ostrich has been no more universal ornament for the head of the fair, than the tail of the horse has been for the head of the brave. In this capacity, it has flaunted from the pyramids of Egypt to the minarets of Moscow; and, at this day, dangles beside the beards and moustaches of tough cavalry soldiers of every clime. The Ottoman soldier hopes for no higher dignity than the pachalic which entitles him to be preceded in ceremonious procession by three such official emblems; and, among the trophies which hang high in the Invalides of Paris and the Arsenal of Venice, are horse-tail standards, captured in desperate battle with Turk or Algerine.
No dauber of devils ever yet tacked the horse's tail to any of his demons, nor did any civilized man yet affix it to any part of his own person, save that deemed most honorable. It has long, somewhat disguised by artificial curlings, covered the head of the judge on the bench, and, in the wig of the chancellor, added dignity to the debates of the most august of senates. From these high callings, it has, to some extent, fallen, when its materail forms the covering of furniture, however costly; or when, furtively plucked from its native spot by school-boy fingers, it is turned into the juvenile angler's line; though the latter use we deem not ignoble, when we remember how highly prized was our horse-hair tackle of old, first in the inventory of all our property, and mourned, when lost on a log in the bottom of an eddying trout-stream, with our sincerest sorrow. Nor is it to be thought degraded, rather the reverse, when, bound to the magic bow of Paganini or Ole Bull, it draws forth,
"Untwisting all the cords that tie The hidden soul of harmony." And, drawn by fairy fingers, with nimble needle, through silken fabrics, it has formed embroidery which any lady might covet; and, in short, has attained, in many ways, to more honor than sits on the hair of most heads.
To appreciate, however, its perfection in its native ornamental capacity, look at the horse as nature made him, and gentlemen ride him, and then, as jockeys transform and livery-stables hire him. All grace vanished, the wav ing line of beauty destroyed, the docked and set-up tail of the hack is eloquent of his degradation. As the goatee and imperial of the snob compare with the beard of Jupiter or Moses, so compares the bob-tail of the horse driven by the snob on the Avenue to the waving switch of the barb ridden by Ishmael's descendant on the shores of the Red
Let fancy carry still further the alteration, and cut the tail off Bucephalus entirely. See him, snuffing up the battle afar off, neighing at the thunder of the captains and the shouting, prancing and caracoling, bereft of the streaming standard which, whilome, he uplifted so proudly at beat of drum or blast of bugle, his useless crupper flapping on stern bare and round as that of a Dutch galliot! Though he be Bucephalus, and Alexander be his rider, he is ridiculous.
Look, now, at another variety of the tail-that which appertains to the lordly
esque air; and the same member, when lashing the brindled flanks of the squarebrowed leader of the herd, rises into decided dignity. So Childe Harold saw him at the bull-fight in Seville
"Here-there-he turns his threatening front, to suit
His first attack, wide waving to and fro His angry tail-red rolls his eye's dilated glow."
Yet the tail of the lion is a superior thing. It has a quiet self-possession and dignity in its motion, which make it a fit sceptre for the monarch of the desert. Whether trailing in the sand, as its illustrious predecessor crouches in ambush for the giraffe, or streaming meteor-like on the troubled air in the deadly bound, it is ever the tail of a. lion, fit companion for the mane and talons, broad front and powerful muscles with which it is associated.
And how different in air and character are the tails of the less noble feline races! Regard those of the leopard or tiger, those long, cylindrical, snaky rolls of fur, pliant, twisting, coiling; so fitly associated with half mild, half ferocious cast of features, and peering, diagonal eyes; equally with these evincing to the physiognomist a nature formed for treasons, stratagems, and spoils, and expressing cruelty, foppishness, voluptuousness, and insincerity
In the most familiar of the feline races, we can observe the expression of the tail to change as its owner outgrows its early innocence, and develops its treacherous, cattish nature. Notice the tail of the nursling kitten, before the gore of