7 DECEMBER 1867, Page 19


Thu Corshill is full this month of the very best padding, papers worthy the careful perusal of men who know something. Two among them, at least, are absolutely new. One contains an account of a curious experiment now making in Belgium by Les Freres de la Doctrine Chretienne to enable the dumb, that is, the dumb who are dumb from deafness, to speak plainly. Their theory is that it is possible to teach such persons to see the consonants and vowels

as they are uttered, in the motions of the throat which utters them, and the practice is, that after incredible reiteration, incredible, that is, on account of the patience required, the patients do see and imitate the sounds made. The essayist himself obtained swift and intelligible replies to questions put orally, and satisfied himself that his interlocutors were really deaf lads. His account is interesting in the highest degree, and seems conclusive as to the facts he witnessed ; but the writer of this notice, happening to have been well acquainted with one man so afflicted, with whom he spoke on his fingers, is puzzled as to one point in the narrative. It may be possible,—indeed, from the ob- vious truthfulness of this account, it is possible,—that a boy deaf and dumb should catch accurately sounds by the eye, but it is not so intelligible that when caught he should be able to repeat them. Not hearing his own voice, he is unaware when he repeats right, and though he may utter the words by chance quite rightly, he is never certain of his sounds. The gentleman of whom we speak, for example, and who was intelli- gent in the highest degree, had learnt to say the German " Ya," as a social convenience, but it was as often " yea " or " ye " as anything else. How this difficulty was got over is not explained sufficiently, except by the assertion that it was got over, which we entirely believe, but should explain rather by that sympathy which it is sometimes possible to establish by patient intercom- munion than by actual teaching. We are bound to say, however, that the gentleman who describes the Freres' patient efforts talked with their pupils. The account of the " Haberfield Treiben in Upper Bavaria" is also, at least to us ignorant folk, new. It seems that one of the Secret Societies of the Middle Ages has, in Upper Bavaria, lasted in an effective condition. The Haberfeld tribunal was originally, like the Vebme, a secret society for the punishment of offences unpunishable by ordinary tribunals, but unlike the Vehme, its jurisdiction was confined to offences against the purity of blood, which the people of Haberfeld, Kelts sur- rounded by strangers, greatly desired to preserve. Of course in time this became an institution directed against unchastity, and as such it is preserved. The married and respectable peasants of the district meet armed in a place secretly designated, and there listen to "acts of accusation" as to unchastity,—that is, the evidence collected by eavesdroppers, servants, and so on, con- densed into rhyme ; these are read out aloud, and are considered sufficient punishment for the culprits, who, though formerly, it is said, whipped over the stubble in their chemises, are now let off with compulsory attendance on the recitation of their offences in very broad and sometimes very obscene doggrel. The Government rarely interferes, and once when it did the armed peasants fought gallantly for an hour and a half; but of late years the tribunal, though still active, has fallen into disfavour. The "boys," or unmarried men, have been allowed to enter it, and make it an excuse for anything rather than the chastisement of vice. We have read somewhere, —it is years since, and we quote the statement with hesitation,—that the Jews of Poland still keep up a much more efficacious tribunal for the same limited end, and that the gipsies resort to a similar expedient to preserve the purity of their blood. The papers on " Talk " and "Country Life" are both good, though the latter is written in that tone which suggests that the writer's end is not his subject, but the saying of paradoxically clever things about it. They are, perhaps, all the pleasanter to read because the writer only half believes in them. He can scarcely, for example, be serious in denouncing country visiting because entertainers do not cram their guests quite as much as they used.

We have noticed the most attractive paper in Fraser elsewhere, but there is a grave one on the authorship of Junius, based on Mr. Merivale's new book, which deserves reading by everybody who cares in the least about the subject. It is a model of special pleading, and will, we suspect, shake the faith of many who have hitherto never doubted, on Lord Macaulay's judgment, that Junius was certainly Sir Philip Francis. It is impossible to analyze such a paper without reproducing it, but its author, whoever he is, should at least try to apply his singular power of destructive criti- cism to construction, and make up his own mind as to who Junius was. After settling that, he would probably clear up the equally curious puzzle, the identity of the "Man in the Iron Mask," always remembering that nobody has yet fairly tested the evidence on the assumption that the prisoner of Pignerol was a woman. Another paper, "The Peasantry and Farms of Belgium," is a careful and reasonable defence of the petite culture, the peasant proprietorship, which the writer declares, produces, besides the peasants, a well-to-do non-agricultural community, quoting the fol- lowing striking description from a French author, M. de Laveleye " ' The Flemish village is formed not of an aggregation of farms, but of a combination of the industries required to meet the wants of the numerous population dispersed through the country. In the rural communes accordingly, there will be found grocers, bakers, confec- tioners, drapers, tailors, and dressmakers exhibiting in their windows engravings of the latest fashions, and even clockmakers and coach- makers. The aspect of the village corresponds with the conditions in which its industry is exerted. All shows a humble ease, obtained by economy, order, and care. Each village being, moreever, the dwelling- place of a certain number of small proprietors, constitutes a centre of local activity independent of the chief towns of the province. There are societies for instrumental and vocal music, literary societies, horse- racing societies which give prizes to the best trotters, agricultural societies, archery societies, &c. There is not throughout the sand regions of Flanders a locality so small and isolated as not to have two or three such societies. In large villages there will be found eight or ten.' An instance of the way in which agriculture evokes by its side other industries and new improvements which struck ourselves very lately in a village with many good houses, was that one of the best bore the advertisement in Flemish of a vendor in guano and artificial manures. The very variety and beauty of the houses in these villages is no mean result of the cultivation of the country, and must have a most beneficial effect on the minds of the rural population. The grace of the dwellings of the wealthier small proprietors, embowered in tiny pleasure-grounds is beyond description. But the humblest workman's cottage is exquisitely neat, and each has something about it which gives it a character of its own. And look within, look at the furniture, the bright ware, the clock, the petroleum lamp, the chest of drawers and its contents, and see what a quantity of auxiliary industry agriculture has called into existence in the house of the poorest of its village servants."

Blackwood is full of political articles of the old kind, not, we dare say, weary to Tories, but terribly 'wearisome to Liberals, in which it is conclusively proved that if A is conceded B will follow, that if B follows C must go, and that, if C goes, 4ell will have broken loose. Well, let it break loose, we feel inclined to say, rather than that we should be condemned to reply to arguments like these.

'1 We repeat, then, that if the Church of Ireland go, the sooner the Church of Scotland shall begin to put her house in order the better. And when both are thrown over, assuredly the Church of England, though she may stagger on for a while by herself, will carry about with• her the seeds of decay. But will the evil end here ? Certainly not. The Churches, as Churches, will doubtless survive iheir political de- gradation. But the shock of the political destruction of the Church of England at least must make itself felt in every nerve of English society. Let not statesmen, whether they call themselves Whigs or Con- servatives, fall into the mistake of supposing that the democracy, if it succeed in disestablishing Churches, will stop there. The coronet is as distasteful in the eyes of that abstraction as the mitre. The Crown commands little or no reverence, and property of every kind has got, as is well understood, too much into lumps. If we must fight for all, these, let us make our first stand where we are first attacked."

Another paper in answer to "The Conservative Surrender," con- tains, amid a mass of special pleading, a suggestion which, if well founded, is of importance. "In Lord Derby's Administration there were three men, two of them absolutely new to office, whose capabilities of trying the question of Reform by the light of experience had not been proved. Towards them, it would appear, and possibly to others of their colleagues, the two leading spirits of the Cabinet maintained, for a while, some reserve. Is it not so in all companies or bodies of men associated for purposes, whether of war, commerce, or politics ? Does it not devolve on one or two master-spirits to devise and prepare the way for accomplish- ing certain purposes, before these purposes are fully revealed to the whole governing body? Had Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli, immediately after acceding to office, announced their intention of proposing Household Suffrage, can it be doubted that a split in the Cabinet would have been the immediate consequence ? What then ?" Than a whole string of democratic horrors. The writer's point, it is clear, is this, that Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli had, before proposing the Ten Minutes' Bill, agreed to Household Suffrage, and deliberately concealed that resolve: from their three strongest colleagues—Lord Cranborne, Lord Carnarvon, and General Peel—and it may possibly be from one or two more, know- ing, as they knew perfectly well, and as this writer admits, that if they had revealed the secret there would have .been a split in the Cabinet. Consequently, Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli did not in any way behave unfairly towards their party, or lead it towards measures it was associated to resist ! That is a defence, mind, of the Conservative leaders, not a savage attack upon them under the disguise of friendship. Turn we to Cornelius O'Dowd, witty and wise as ever, telling us in one chapter how he believes—and Lever's belief on the point is worth a ream of other men's argu- ments—that Italy ought to have marched on Rome before Napoleon could get there ; and in the next, how he dreads to recognize that he is getting old. He can stand mere bodily changes—grey hair, deafness, dislike to wines which give gout, but,— " What I really rebel at—what, do what I may, I cannot reconcile myself to—is being drafted into the veteran battalion, where there are nothing but old fellows—being condemned to serve with these tremu- lous old pensioners, who are only brigaded when the sun is strong and the

weather genial. It isnot in reality old age I dread ; it is the old people. . . The cruelest part of all, however, is the treatment one meets from women. The coy reserve, the half-cautious prudery, the guardedness, which gave to their society its pleasant zest and its most attractive charm, are all fled! You are now no longer a thing to be speculated on, to be quizzed, or occasionally to be dreaded. You are admitted to confidences, and sorrows, and heart trials, with the amount of candour and coolness a man bestowa on his doctor when he reveals to him what he would not betray to the world for millions. Others may like this ;

/ don't A very worthy old grandfather of mine, whose utter- ance was none of the clearest, often repeated to me the adage that age was honourable,' but so mumbled and stumbled over the first syllable that I always thought he said humdrumable.' I begin now to believe that he was right ; and perhaps my present reflections may make my reader like-minded with me."

Macmillan is poor this month. Arthur Helps, for the first time in his life, bores us a little, by using an absurd and cumbrous machinery to express his thoughts—antediluvians are nuisances as characters in a drama—bat we may pardon him, for he has said this :—" I hate proverbs ; they are such bumptious things : they are like boys of sixteen ; they all want taking down, not one peg, but many pegs." And he tells the following story, with an averment that it was told to him by Lord Macaulay :— "Well, those were days when we had not the infliction of railways, and when barristers, even on the Northern Circuit, travelled in post- chaises. It fell to the lot of a very saintly, good man, to have to travel with Thurlow, who was then Attorney-General. A journey to the North was a serious thing in those times, and any saintly friend dreaded the long journey with the blustering Attorney-General, who he was sure would utter many naughty words before they arrived at York. They had hardli left London before the good man remarked, We shall have a long journey, Mr. Attorney, and so I thought I would bring some books to amuse us. I dare say it is a long time since you have read Milton's Paradise Lost. Shall I read some of it to you? It will remind us of our younger days.' (In those days men read great works ; for there were not so many books of rubbishing fiction, to which the read- ing energies of the present day are directed.) Oh, by all means!' said Thurlow, have not read a word of Milton for years. The good man began to read out his Milton ; presently he came to the passage where Satan exclaims, 'Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven,' upon which Thurlow exclaimed, A d—d fine fellow, and I hope he may win.' My saintly friend in horror shut up his Paradise Lost, and felt that it would be no good reading to the Attorney-General, if he was to be interrupted by such wicked expressions of sentiment."

But then we have also to pardon this as poetry :— "Was not the Outward framed by Thee (Stooping to our infirmity), As in a grosser mould t' express The fashion of the Holiest Place ?"

That is a little too bad, whoever wrote it, so bad that Mr. Dicey's effort to prove that we all hanged Wiggins wrongfully brings us no consolation. His paper is a good piece of pleading, by no means conclusive to our minds, and he never meets the point which must rise in every judge's mind every hour of the day. "I have striven to do justice ; if I have not done it the fault is in my capacities, not in my will." The real point of the story, whether Wiggins was innocent or guilty, is the iniquity of condemning a man without first endeavouring by scientific cross-questioning to get out of him the exact truth as he believes it to be, or wishes it to appear to be. Wiggins alone in this case absolutely knew the truth, and Wiggins was the one impossible witness.