Page images
PDF

the present time. This is the bright side of the question of royal family alliances; but while properly valuing the advantages so conferred, we have not the less to consider the reverse of the medal. The latter aspect may be resumed under two principal heads: the danger threatening to the freedom of nations by a too intimate alliance of their rulers, and the peril menacing the royal race itself in such unnatural restraint of blood. Perhaps to the first of these possibilities not too much importance need be attached, since it is pretty well agreed that if a nation is really ripe for freedom and worthy of enjoying liberty, no sovereign, or association of sovereigns, will ever be powerful enough to prevent such enjoyment. Remains, therefore, the second and more immediate peril of princely alliances, the degeneracy of the royal race. Without subscribing in full to Mr. Darwin's theories about the progress of the species by means of " natural selection," it is yet a fact not to be denied that a certain amount of intermixture between different races is absolutely necessary for the physical as well as moral well-being of the human family. The conformation to this rule has an apt illustration in our own little island, where Saxon, Dane, Celt, Norman, Scot, and Pict, intermarrying for a thousand generations, have produced one of the finest races on earth, one sending its offshoots through all the corners of the habitable globe, and girding the earth with the sound of its speech. Again, the non-observance of this rule is as visibly elucidated in the history of many Oriental tribes; and even in certain instances in the condition of small sections of the population of Europe. There are villages in some of the upper cantons of Switzerland, regions surrounded by mighty mountain walls, and shut off by almost impaassble barriers from the rest of the world, where the inhabitants have been in the habit of intermarrying for centuries, and where the result has been that either the race has died out completely, or, worse still, has been transformed into that horrible form of human degeneracy, known as cretin. With such examples before us, we may well fear for the future of the great European family of sovereigns, should the tendency to intermarriages continue among them.

It is a rather curious fact in the history of modern European nations, that whereas in the great bulk of the population there has been for a long period past a continually increasing spread of equality among the different ranks and classes, just the contrary has been the case in the one select rank above the subject, the class of sovereign families. Peer and peasant now jostle each other in the street, wear the same garments, eat very

nearly the same food, and, as citizens of the state, have precisely the same duties and responsibilities, and obey the same laws. A mesalliance of a coroneted marquis with a poor and pretty milliner does not startle the world very much nowadays; and the rise of a lawyer's clerk to the chancellorship of the exchequer is, even by the Conservatives of this generation, looked upon as rather natural than otherwise. But, strangely enough, while thus the barriers which the pride of rank and birth of former times created are drawn away one by one, there is a huge boundary of a new kind forming at the very pinnacle of society, and creating a deeper chasm than ever. Royalty is separating itself from the people, and forming, what never it was before, a distinct class, the different members of which are strictly on a level, but unconnected with tfny other class below. According to this new law of Ebenbiirtigkeit, as exposed in the Almanack de Goiha, a prince of Liechtenstein, sovereign of a territory of one and a half square miles, may ask the hand of a princess royal of Great Britain, in strict propriety, but, in return, would have a right to think it presumptuous if even the youngest of his eleven daughters were demanded in marriage by the possessor of half an English county, the lord of a thousand acres. The former union, though unequal in the highest degree, would be enregistcred as perfectly en regie; the latter, a match of far more parallel interest, would be set down as a decided mesalliance. While all the other ranks of society flow into each other, joining more and more, royalty acknowledges no connecting root with any other class, but will stand alone and by itself like the gods of Greece on the Olympian Hills, only differing greatly in their portrait galleries. This desire, we say, of forming the royal families of Europe into a distinct class, unapproachable from below, has its origin in Germany, the country of princedom, par excellence. In all the rest of European countries, England included, the principle was unknown until within a comparatively recent period of modern times. Every tyro in English history is aware that our kings of old married the daughters of the land, considering them perfectly ebenbiirtig, and fit, in every respect, to be their consorts on the throne. It was only a century ago, in the reign of the third George, that the legislature of the realm was asked to interfere with this illimitcd liberty of royalty to choose consorts wherever and whenever they liked. Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, son cf Frederick Prince of Wales, having married, on the 2d of October, 1771, Mrs. Horton, widew cf Mr. Christopher Horton, of Catton Hall, Derbyshire, George III. became so enraged at this act of his weak-minded brother that he not only issued an order forbidding the duke and his consort to appear at court, but at the same time forwarded a message to Parliament, recommending a legislative provision for preventing any of the royal family from marrying without the consent of the sovereign. But, humble though the legislature was at that period, in respect to all government measures, the Royal Marriage Act prepared by the ministers met with extraordinary resistance in both Houses. The Teutonic notion of royalty, as a class by itself, seemed repulsive to the British mind, and the peers as well as the representatives of the people, employed every degree of parliamentary skill to defeat the till, or, at least, to obstruct its progress. New motions were continually made, either to expunge the original clauses, or to amend the most exceptionable parts, and the result was, that in the end ministers had to let the veto of the king be limited to the age of twenty-five. But even the concession was far from being approved of in the Lower House, where Mr. William Dowdeswell became the leader of a compact minority, who argued that if English princes were by law allowed to govern the realm at the age of eighteen, they scarcely ought to be forbidden by law to marry according to their own choice before the age of twenty-five. Popular wit at once embodied this argument in some lines which came to be sung throughout the land:—

"Quoth Dick to Tom,—' This Act appears
Absurd, as I'm alive,
To lake the Crown at eighteen years
The Wife nt twenty-five.

"' Tho mystery, how shall we explain?
For sure M Dowdeswell said,

Thus early, if they're fit to reign,
They must be fit to vxd.'

"Quoth Tom to Dick,—' Thou art a fool,
And little know'st of life,
Alas I 'tis easier far to rule
A kingdom than a wife.'"

But popular wit, no more than parliamentary opposition, was able to obstruct the determined will of the king, and the ministerial phalanx in the legislature, and after several months of hostile resistance on the part of the Liberals, the bill passed, March 24,1772, the third reading by the small majority of 168 against 115. The Act thus voted, enacted that no member of the royal family, being under the age of twenty-five years, should contract marriage without the sovereign's sanction; but that on attaining the stated age, they should be at liberty, should such sanction be withheld, to solemnize the proposed union, under the further condition that, having announced to the Privy Council the name of the person they wished to espouse, an entire year should elapse without either House of Parliament addressing the sovereign against it. Thus originated the famous Roval Marriage Act, which is still holding in bonds the princes of British lineage, forbidding them to do what is allowed to the most humble of subjects, and controlling their feelings in the very point where human sentiments should be most free and unrestrained. We do away, in our time, with so much that is dark and unwholesome, we pride ourselves so greatly in elevating the purely human above the narrow confines of fortuitous circumstances: would it not then be a step in the right direction, if we began to thinlv of reconsidering the Royal Marriage Act with a view to its repeal?

Transmission Of Parcels Through Pneumatic Tubes. — A prospectus has been issued of the Pneumatic Despatch Company, to bo established for the construction of pneumatic tubes for the conveyance of despatches and parcels between the various stations in the metropolis. The system has for several years 'been privately in operation, the Electric and International Telegraph Company having employed it between their central station in Loth'bury and the subsidiary stations at Cornhill and the Stock Exchange, the original despatches 'being sent to save a repetition of each message. It is now proposed to lay down a complete and •extended scries of public lines in London, on a scale which will receive not merely papers and

packets, but parcels of considerable bulk, including the mail bags of the post-office between" the railways and the district offices. It is considered, also, that it will be found desirable to connect the various government establishments. The capital is to bo £250,000, in £10 shares, but, as it is intended in the first instance to lay down a short central line, which will not cost more than £14,000, the first issue of shares will be limited to a total of £23,000, the subscribers having a preemptive claim to the remainder, which, however, will not be put forth until the success of the first short line shall have been satisfactorily established. The Marquis of Chandos is the chairman, and the composition of the board is such as to inspire confidence.

From Blackwood's Magazine.
THE FIGHT FOR THE BELT.

A LAT Hi; Ml AT A FEAST IN PALL-MALL.
I.

The Fancy of America

By nil creation swore,
A British champion round his loins

Should gird the Belt no more.
With strange great oaths they swore it,

And chose a man straightway,
And felt his arm, and saw him hit,
And loafed, and chewed, and cursed, and spit.

And sent him to the fray.

II.
Sooth was this picked American

Of Irish parents born,
As like Columbia's progeny

As wheat to Indian-corn;
Bat 'tis the boast of that free land

To take the stranger in,
And, be he any tint but black.

To own him for her kin.

I do not know tlmt great men

Avail them of licr grace,
That shining merit makes her shores

Its chosen resting-place;
But the persecuted burglar,

Or the man of many wives,
Or he whose quick, ingenious wit
With legal maxims doth not fit,

Still seeks that land, and thrives.

IV.

America's step-champion

Went forth upon the wave, High hopes pursued him from the shore,

And prophcsyings brave, "Dollars to cents lie wins it;

Yes, sir, I guess he's spry; He'll whip the cussed Britisher,

Our prime Benecia B'y."

v. lake ancient heroes fabled

Of strange descent to be,
The Transatlantic hero claimed

A curious pedigree;
His dam an alligator,

A fiery steed his sire,
Remoter (thus the talc I read)
A snapping-turtle crossed the breed,

Infusing force and fire.

Ti.
Fall many a practised wnrrior

The halls of Congress hold,
Fall many a gouger dexterous,

Fall many a rowdy bold, With dagger or revolver

Prepared to legislate, Bat Hccnan (so twos said) could give The skccriest representative

Defeat in such debate.

'Til.

Three years against all comers
The champion keeps the ring,

Keeps it against what fistic might
The universe can bring;

Three years the mystic girdle
The champion's strength had graced,

'elides' belt, or that which spanned

The sinewy loins of Hector grand,
No braver heart embraced.

Till.

And in three years no focman

Had dared dispute the prize;
All feared the crushing iron fist
Whoso blow not Pollux might resist,

Though trained amid the skies. '.in now the loud defiance

Across the Atlantic hurled, Warned Sayers ho must guard his fame; Quoth Tom, " All right, my boys, I'm game f

Old England 'gainst the world!"

IX.

Then out spake Harry Brunton,

Sage bottle-holder he;
Qnoth he, "I've at your service, Tom,

My counsel and my knee."
And'out spake Jemmy Welsh also

(I know not who was he),
"I will abide, too, at thy side,

And wet the sponge for thee."

x.

Across the sea came Hccnan,

Like an ancient Argonaut, Yet found it difficult to meet

The willing foe he sought, For in times so tender-hearted,

'Tis the fashion to prevent All personal damage to a man,

E en with his own consent.

So where'er a champion goeth

A constable doth go
(I wish our volunteers maT watch

Invading Frenchmen so);
They cannot find a county

Where this vigilance doth cease, And many hazards strange they ran, And pondered many a cunning plan,

Ere they could war in peace.

XII.

At London Bridge there waited

A train immensely long.
And with the dawn the champions came,

And after them a throng
Of men in shawls dccp-mufHcd,

Unshaven and unwashed-
Men who, forewarned, sat up all night
To see the long-expected figlit;
Each carriage crammed, the word "All right 1"

Was passed, and off they dashed.

XIII.

But quicker still the telegraph

Went flashing on its way;
"Look out, police, and stop the fight!"

The wires officious say.
From cast and west came breathless in

The myrmidons of Mayne,
Each stands aghast and gapes and stares,
Its freight the engine past them bears—-
Lives not the constable that dares

Arrest a special train 1

Fast, fast, with wheels quick spinning,

That train far lengthening sped, It whirled along through Catcrliam,

Where folks were still abed, Turned slmrply short at Reigate,

Passed Dorking, Gomshall, Sheire, Slialford and Guildford, pausing not, Bushed by the camp at Aldershott, And checked in a convenient spot

Near Farnborough its career.

xv. And as, when April sunshine

All torpid life revives,
The bees with flutter and with hum

Come swarming from the hives,
So in the broad bright morning

Poured torth the pent-up throng,
And clamorous o'er the meadows spread
To where a stream in oozy bed

Bolls its dull length along.

XVI.

And, throwing off their wrappers,

AH stood in open view,
Full many a potentate and peer,

And reverend prelate too,
And judges filled with learning,

And authors known to fame, Guardsmen nnd statesmen, nobs and snobs,

The old and sick and lame.

XVII.

For deep in English bosoms

A germ pugnacious lies,
And skill to combat still calls forth

The people's sympathies;
They lovo to see men daring,

Yet temperate, cool, though bold; Who shows no fear they lovo to rheer

As in the days of old.

xvin. And with the crowd came veterans

Whom well the arena knows, Acnto observers of the hug,

The rally, nnd the close: The noted Quaker bruiser

From Manchester had come, Who, as he passed a gentleman,

Still scowled and bit his thumb;

XIX.

Beneath one arm a bludgeon,

Cut from an olive bongh,
Was tucked—the other linked his mate,

(Mate new and strange, I trow),
The flashy chancellor, who boro

Dark marks of punishment,
Where Ben with might put in his right,

And left him stunned and spent.

xx. And other cansc for sorrow

The chancellor had that day, Knowing how for a shadow ho

The substance trucked awayDeep felt the Homoric critic

The tale that Homer told, How, in the barter, Diomed

Exchanged his brass for gold.

xxi.

And Pam was there, still jaunty,

Elastic, trimly laced,
Bat looking much too Frenchified

To suit the present taste:
His pal, the Bedford Bantam,

Had a grandchild weak and ill, And though ho yearned to see the fray, Paternal feelings had their way; The old 'un stayed at horn

To nurse his little Bill,

XXII.

The babe whose idiot features

Ancestral sins disclose, Despised of all, disgrace of kin,

And ridicule of foes— Whose misbegotten being

Is dishonor to his name. Link in a still-descending line

To end in woe and shame.

But now the ring was forming

Around the champions twain;
The circling crowd kept surging on,

And then surged back again;
And the weak were sorely damaged,

And by dexterous hands and sly Pockets were searched, for prigging swells (As Ainsworth, my informant, tells)

Now faked the Dimming cly.

And a Saturday Reviewer,

One Mr. Bilious Prig, An old young fellow, with false teeth

And a very youthful wig, Got bonneted by a Scotchman,

Who jammed his hat so tight That ho couldn't get it off again

In time to see the fight,

XXV.

And 'mid the throng mov'd darkly,

Most piteous to behold. His feelings pent from natural vent,

For he couldn't even scold; And a thief who picked his pocket,

Got ('twas hardly worth his while) Prescriptions for acidity

And a remedy for bile.

XXVI.

Down to the waist the champions

Stood naked to the sight,— Secure the strong American

Appeared in towering height; His arm both long and powerful,

To guard or deal the stroke:— Beneath the white skin, to and fro, Glancing the steely muscles go; On trunk and limbs the sinews show

Like ivy-stems on oak.

XXVII.

And as in Rome's arena,
In her day of power and pride,

Some fair-haired cladiator, nursed
By Trent's or Thames' side,

Matched with a ducky foeman,

Of Mauritania's brood;
So, opposite, in contrast strong,

The swarthy champion stood.

XXVIII.

I cannot say that boxing

Improves the human face,
That cither profile clearly showed

A flowing Phidiun trace;
And any antique statues

They resembled, must be those, A little cliipt from long neglect,

And damaged in the nose.

I xxix

Chance gave the choice to Hccnan,

Who took the shaded place; Apollo showered his rnys upon

The dazzled Champion's face.
Both smiling stood, both cautious,

At distance feigned and sparred,
Like men who fain would know their foe

Before they left their guard.

XXX.

But soon the game grows earnest,

More swift the changing blows; Like some great engine, to and fro

The stranger's left arm goes;
Before its rushing violence

His footing none may keep;
And twice the champion reels and falls

'Mid shouts and murmurs deep.

XXXI.

Bat ever ho uprises,

With step both firm and light, And still opposes vigilance

And skill to strength and height: Still as the towering foeman

Breaks in above his guard, The champion, hurled like stone from sling, Recalcitrant across the ring,

Goes headlong to the sward.

XXXII.

And seeing how ho staggered

Beneath those thundering blows,
Ench Yankee loud derided, •

Exalting through his nose.
These taunts the impatient champion

To fiercer action stung,
And, springing in, he dealt a stroke

That o'er the meadow rang,

XXXIII.

Stern as the stroke of cestus,

Or hand in glove of mail,
Splitting and crushing brow and cheek

Like corn beat clown by hail;
The toll foe reels before it,

And counter cheers, as loud As hailed the American before,

Rise from the wavering crowd.

XXXIV.

Bat now a general murmur

The English side depressed,
For his right arm the champion hang

Disabled on bis breast,—

That strong right arm, whose single stroke,

In many a bloody fray,
Delivered straight nnd full, had been

Decisive of the day.

XXXV.

Tct Sayers, dauntless boxer,

Right homo his left hand sped Thrice and again, till reeled the foe

Wide-tottering, streaming red Like stalwart Bacchanalian

Drunk with his drink divine, When past his lips the flagon slips,

And floods bis breast with wine.

Long time these modern Spartans

Contested still the prize;
Long steps the sun, since they begun,

Had made across the skies;
And still, with fronts undaunted,

(Though sore defaced nnd smashed Like figure-heads on hostile prows)

They rose, advanced, and clashed.

XXXVII.

Nor can the Muse determine

Who most renowned should be, He who through that stern strife displayed The spirit high and undismayed

That urged him o'er the sea, Or he who strove so nobly,

Though reft of half his might— Equal the valor, shared the meed, Since neither was by fate decreed

Victorious in the fight.

XXXVIII.

Most impotent conclusion

Had this combat long and stout, When constables and lawless mob

Turned all the scene to rout—
The ring's fair precincts broken,

Wild rallies, aimless blows,
A throng that on the arena gained
Until no fighting space remained—
In turmoil vexed the strife attained

Its indecisive close :—

XXXIX.

Close much to be lamented,

For the laurel must remain Without a wearer, and my song

Without a crowning strain.
Beyond the unsettled issue

New argnments nrc seen,
And disputants their weapons wield,
Manoeuvring in the boundless field

Of all that might have been.

Xl.

By none so much as Hcennn

Must that mischance bo felt,
Who back to those expectant shores

Returns without the belt,
For, though exalted office

No doubt awaits him there,
Yet, bcltlcss, ho will scarcely gain
What, conqueror, he might well attain

The presidential chair!

« PreviousContinue »