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THE MURDER OF THE INNOCENTS.
A SECOND EPISTLE TO DOLOROSUs.
So you are already mending, my dear fellow? Can it be that my modest epistle has done so much service? Are you like those invalids in Central Africa, who, when the medicine itself is not accessible, straightway swallow the written prescription as a substitute, inwardly digest it, and recover? No, I think you have tested the actual materia medica recommended. I hear of you from all directions, walking up hills in the mornings and down hills in the afternoons, skimming round in wherries like a rather unsteady water-spider, blistering your hands upon gymnastic bars, receiving severe contusions on your nose from cricketballs, shaking up and down on hard-trotting horses, and making the most startling innovations in respect to eating, sleeping, and bathing. Like all our countrymen, you are plunging from one extreme to the other. Undoubtedly, you will soon make yourself sick again; but your present extreme is the safer of the two. Time works many miracles; it has made Louis Napoleon espouse the cause of liberty, and it may yet make you reasonable.
After all, that advice of mine, which is thought to have benefited you so greatly, was simply that which Dr. Abernethy used to give his patients: "Don't come to me,go buy a skipping-rope." If you can only guard against excesses, and keep the skipping-rope in operation, there are yet hopes for you. Only remember that it is equally important to preserve health as to attain it, and it needs much the same regimen. Do not be like that Lord Russell in Spence's Anecdotes, who only went hunting for the sake of an appetite, and who, the moment he felt any sensation of vitality in the epigastrium, used to turn short round, exclaiming, "I have found it!" and ride home from the finest chase. It
was the same Lord Russell, by the way, who, when he met a beggar and was implored to give him something, because he was almost famished with hunger, called him a happy dog, and envied him too much to relieve him. From some recent remarks of your boarding-house hostess, my friend, I am led to suppose that you are now almost as well off, in point of appetite, as if you were a beggar; and I wish to keep you so.
How much the spirits rise with health! A family of children is a very different sight to a healthy man and to a dyspeptic. What pleasure you now take in yours! You are going to live more in their manner and for their sakes, henceforward, you tell me. You are to enter upon business again, but in a more moderate way; you are to live in a pleasant little suburban cottage, with fresh air, a horserailroad, and good schools. For I am startled to find that your interest in your offspring, like that of most American parents, culminates in the school-room. This important matter you have neglected long enough, you think, foolishly absorbed in making money for them. Now they shall have money enough, to be sure, but wisdom in plenty. Angelina shall walk in silk attire, and knowledge have to spare. To which school shall you send her? you ask me, with something of the old careworn expression, pulling six different prospectuses from your pocket. Put them away, Dolorosus; I know the needs of Angelina, and I can answer instantly. Send the girl, for the present at least, to that school whose daily hours of session are the shortest, and whose recess-times and vacations are of the most formidable length.
No, anxious parent, I am not joking. I am more anxious for your children than you are. On the faith of an ex-teacher and ex-school-committee-man,- for what
respectable middle-aged American man but has passed through both these spheres of uncomfortable usefulness ?-I am terribly in earnest. Upon this point asserted, that the merit of an American school, at least so far as Angelina is concerned, is in inverse ratio to the time given to study, I will lay down incontrovertible propositions.
Sir Walter Scott, according to Carlyle, was the only perfectly healthy literary man who ever lived,-in fact, the one suitable text, he says, for a sermon on health. You may wonder, Dolorosus, what Sir Walter Scott has to do with Angelina, except to supply her with novel-reading, and with passages for impassioned recitation, at the twilight hour, from the "Lady of the Lake." But that same Scott has left one remark on record which may yet save the lives and reasons of greater men than himself, more gifted women (if that were possible) than Angelina, if we can only accept it with the deference to which that same healthiness of his entitles it. He gave it as his deliberate opinion, in conversation with Basil Hall, that five and a half hours form the limit of healthful mental labor for a mature person.
"This I reckon very
good work for a man," he said, - adding, "I can very seldom reach six hours a day; and I reckon that what is written after five or six hours' hard mental labor is not good for much." This he said in the fulness of his magnificent strength, and when he was producing, with astounding rapidity, those pages of delight over which every new generation still hangs enchanted.
He did not mean, of course, that this was the maximum of possible mental labor, but only of wise and desirable labor. In later life, driven by terrible pecuniary involvements, he himself worked far more than this. Southey, his contemporary, worked far more,-writing, in 1814, "I cannot get through more than at present, unless I give up sleep, or the little exercise I take (walking a mile and back, after breakfast); and, that hour excepted, and my meals, (barely the meals, for
I remain not one minute after them,) the pen or the book is always in my hand." Our own time and country afford a yet more astonishing instance. Theodore Parker, to my certain knowledge, has often spent in his study from twelve to seventeen hours daily, for weeks together. But the result in all these cases has sadly proved the supremacy of the laws which were defied; and the nobler the victim, the more tremendous the warning retri
Let us return, then, from the practice of Scott's ruined days to the principles of his sound ones. Supposing his estimate to be correct, and five and a half hours to be a reasonable limit for the day's work of a mature brain, it is evident that even this must be altogether too much for an immature one. "To suppose the youthful brain," says the recent admirable report by Dr. Ray, of the Providence Insane Hospital, “to be capable of an amount of work which is considered an ample allowance to an adult brain is simply absurd, and the attempt to carry this fully into effect must necessarily be dangerous to the health and efficacy of the organ." It would be wrong, therefore, to deduct less than a half-hour from Scott's estimate, for even the oldest pupils in our highest schools; leaving five hours as the limit of real mental effort for them, and reducing this, for all younger pupils, very much farther.
It is vain to suggest, at this point, that the application of Scott's estimate is not fair, because the mental labor of our schools is different in quality from his, and therefore less exhausting. It differs only in being more exhausting. To the robust and affluent mind of the novelist, composition was not, of itself, exceedingly fatiguing; we know this from his own testimony; he was able, moreover, to select his own subject, keep his own hours, and arrange all his own conditions of labor. And on the other hand, when we consider what energy and genius have for years been brought to bear upon the perfecting of our educational methods, — how thoroughly our best schools are now
graded and systematized, until each day's lessons become a Procrustes-bed to which all must fit themselves,-how stimulating the apparatus of prizes and applauses, how crushing the penalties of reproof and degradation, — when we reflect, that it is the ideal of every school, that the whole faculties of every scholar should be concentrated upon every lesson and every recitation from beginning to end, and that anything short of this is considered partial failure, it is not exaggeration to say, that the daily tension of brain demanded of children in our best schools is altogether severer, while it lasts, than that upon which Scott based his estimate. But Scott is not the only authority in the case; let us ask the physiologists.
So said Horace Mann, before us, in the days when the Massachusetts school system was in process of formation. He asked the physiologists, in 1840, and in his next Report printed the answers of three of the most eminent. The late Dr. Woodward, of Worcester, promptly said, that children under eight should never be confined more than one hour at a time, nor more than four hours a day; and that, if any child showed alarming symptoms of precocity, it should be taken from school altogether. Dr. James Jackson, of Boston, allowed the children four hours' schooling in winter and five in summer, but only one hour at a time, and heartily cxpressed his "detestation of the practice of giving young children lessons to learn at home." Dr. S. G. Howe, reasoning elaborately on the whole subject, said, that children under eight should not be confined more than half an hour at a time," by following which rule, with long recesses, they can study four hours daily"; children between eight and fourteen should not be confined more than three-quarters of an hour at a time, having the last quarter of each hour for exercise in the playground, and he allowed six hours of school in winter, or seven in summer, solely on condition of this deduction of twenty-five per cent. for
tors do not disagree is the destructive effect of premature or excessive mental labor. I can quote you medical authority for and against every maxim of dietetics beyond the very simplest; but I defy you to find one man who ever begged, borrowed, or stole the title of M.D., and yet abused those two honorary letters by asserting, under their cover, that a child could safely study as much as a man, or that a man could safely study more than six hours a day. Most of the intelligent men in the profession would probably admit, with Scott, that even that is too large an allowance in maturity for vigorous work of the brain.
Taking, then, five hours as the reasonable daily limit of mental effort for children of eight to fourteen years, and one hour as the longest time of continuous confinement, (it was a standing rule of the Jesuits, by the way, that no pupil should study more than two hours without relaxation,) the important question now recurs, To what school shall we send Angelina?
Shall we send her, for instance, to Dothegirls' Hall? At that seminary of useful knowledge, I find by careful inquiry that the daily performance is as follows, at least in summer. The pupils rise at or before five, A. M.; at any rate, they study from five to seven, two hours. From seven to eight they breakfast. From eight to two they are in the schoolroom, six consecutive hours. From two to three they dine. From three to five they are "allowed" to walk or take other exercise, that is, if it is pleasant weather, and if they feel the spirit for it, and if the time is not all used up in sewing, writing letters, schoo! politics, and all the small miscellaneous duties of existence, for which no other moment is provided during day or night. From five to six they study; from six to seven comes the tea-table; from seven to nine study again; then bed and (at least for the stupid ones) sleep.
Eleven solid hours of study each day, Dolorosus! Eight for sleep, three for
Indeed, the one thing about which doc- meals, two during which out-door exer
Mrs. Bury made a grave mistake in choosing for her second début her great part of Juliet; for she had outlived the possibility of playing it as she played it at that period of her life when her soul readily melted in the divine glow of youthful passion and flowed into the character, taking its perfect shape, rounded and smooth and fair. Through long years of sorrow and unrest, she had now to toil back to that golden time, — and there was a sort of sharpness and haggardness about her acting, a singular tone of weariness, broken by starts and bursts of almost preternatural power. Except in scenes and sentiments of pathos, where she had lost nothing, the last, fine, evanishing tints, the delicate aroma of the character, were wanting in her personation. It was touched with autumnal shadows, it was comparatively hard and dry, not from any inartistic misapprehension of the poet's ideal, but because the fountain of youth in Zelma's own soul ran low, and was choked by the dead violets which once sweetened its waters.
She felt all this bitterly that night, ere the play was over; and though her audience generously applauded and old friends congratulated her, she never played Juliet again.
Yet, even in the darker and sterner parts, in which she was once so famous, she was hardly more successful now. In losing her bloom and youthful fulness of form, she had not gained that statuesque repose, or that refined essence of physical power and energy, which sometimes belongs to slenderness and pallor. She was often strangely agitated and unnerved when the occasion called most for calm, sustained power,-at times, glancing around wildly and piteously, like a haunted creature. Her passion was fitful and strained,— the fire of rage flickered in her eye, her relaxed lips quivered out curses, her hand shook with the dagger and spilled the poison. Her sorrows, real and imaginary, seemed to have broken her spirit with her heart.
But in anything weird and supernatural, awful with vague, unearthly ter
rors, she was greater than ever. Whenever, in her part of Lady Macbeth, she came to the sleep-walking scene, that shadowy neutral ground between death and life, where the perturbed, burdened spirit moans out its secret agony, she gave startling token of the genius which had electrified and awed her audiences of old. A solemn stillness pervaded the house; every eye followed the ghostlike gliding of her form, every ear hung upon the voice whose tones could sound the most mysterious and awful depths of human grief and despair.
It was during the first season of her reappearance that Mrs. Bury went to Drury Lane, on an off-night, to witness one of the latest efforts of Garrick as Richard the Third. He was, as usual, terribly great in the part; but, in spite of his overwhelming power, Zelma found herself watching the Lady Anne of the night with a strange, fascinated interest. This part, of too secondary and negative a character for the display of high dramatic powers, even in an actress who should be perfect mistress of herself, was borne by a young and beautiful woman, new to the London stage, though of some provincial reputation, who on this occasion was distressingly nervous and illassured. She had to contend not only with stage-fright, but Garrick-fright. "She met Roscius in all his terrors," and shrank from the encounter. The fierce lightnings of his dreadful eyes seemed to shrivel and paralyze her; even his demoniac cunning and persuasiveness filled her with mortal fear. Her voice shook with a pathetic tremor, became hoarse and almost inaudible; her eyes sank, or wandered wildly; her brow was bathed with the sweat of a secret agony; she might have given way utterly under the paralyzing spell, had not some sudden inspiration of genius or love, a prophetic thrill of power, or a memory of her unweaned babe, come to nerve, to upbear her. She roused, and went through her part with some flickering flashes of spirit, and through all
her painful embarrassment was stately and graceful by the regal necessity of her beauty. The event was not success, was but a shade better than utter failure; and when, soon after, that beautiful woman dropped out of London dramatic life, few were they who missed her enough to ask whither she had gone.
But Zelma, whose sad, searching eyes saw deeper than the eyes of critics, recognized from the first her grand, longsought ideal in the fair unknown, whose name had appeared on the play-bills in small, deprecating type, under the overwhelming capitals of "MR. GARRICK" -"Mrs. Siddons." She looked upon that frightened and fragile woman with prophetic reverence and noble admiration; and as she walked her lonely chamber that night, she said to herself, somewhat sadly, but not bitterly,-" The true light of the English drama has arisen at last.
Out, out, brief candle!""
Season after season, year after year, Zelma continued to play in London, but never again with the fame, the homage, the flatteries and triumphs of a great actress. All these she saw at last accorded to her noble rival. Mrs. Bury had shone very acceptably in a doubtful dramatic period, first as an inspired, impassioned enthusiast, and after as a conscientious artist, subdued and saddened, yet always careful and earnest; but, like many another lesser light, she was destined to be lost sight of in the long, splendid day of the Kembles.
enough in one place to weary of it,--the peaceful sights and sounds of rural life tranquillizing and refreshing her soul, as the clear expanse of its sky, the green of its woods and parks, the daisied swell of its downs refreshed and soothed her eye, tired of striking forever against dull brick walls and struggling with smoke and fog.
Then May came round, the haunted month of all the year for her. The hawthorn-hedges burst into flower,--the highways and by-paths and lanes became Milky Ways of bloom, and all England was once more veined with fragrance.
They were in the North, when one morning Zelma was startled by hearing the manager say that the next night they should play at Walton. It was there that Lawrence Bury died; it was there he slept, in the stranger's unvisited grave. She would seek out that grave and sink on it, as on the breast of one beloved, though long estranged. It would cool the dull, ceaseless fever of her heart to press it against the cold mound, and to whisper into the rank grass her faithful remembrance, her forgiveness, her unconquerable love.
But it was late when the players reached Walton; and, after the necessary arrangements for the evening were concluded, Zelma found that she had no time for a pilgrimage to the parish churchyard. She could see it from a window of her lodgings;-it was highwalled, dark and damp, crowded with quaint, mossy tomb-stones, and brooded over by immemorial yews. In the deepening, misty twilight, there was something awful in the spot. It was easy to fancy unquiet spectres lurking in its gloomy shadows, waiting for the night. Yet Zelma's heart yearned toward it, and she murmured softly, as she turned away, "Wait for me, love!"
The play, on this night, was "The Fair Penitent." In the character of Calista Mrs. Bury had always been accounted great, though it was distasteful to her. Indeed, for the entire play she expressed only contempt and aversion; yet she play