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Personal Reminiscences

of the Late Henry Thomas Buckle - Atlantic

Cairo, Egypt, February 6th, 1862. I am afraid I repeat myself in talking about the beauty of the climate here, but to-day is so lovely that I cannot refrain from recurring to the subject. While you are shivering under the blasts of winter, we have a genuine June morning: the air soft and pure, the atmosphere clear, innumerable birds chirping in the trees opposite the windows, (for the Arabs never interfere with birds,) and the aspect of things from our balcony overlooking the Esbekieh, or public square, as pleasant as one could wish. The beautiful weather, too, is constant.

But I must tell you of my dining yesterday with Mrs. R., to meet Mr. Buckle, the author of the History of Civilization, who has just returned from his two or three months' voyage upon the Nile, in which he pushed as far as Nubia. He is now staying for a little while in Cairo, or rather in his dahabieh, or boat, (which he says is more comfortable than any hotel,) moored in the river at Boolak, the port of the town. Mrs. R., the daughter of Lady Duff Gordon, and granddaughter of Mrs. Austin, is a most attractive and accomplished young lady; her husband is the manager in Egypt of the great banking-house of Briggs and Company, in which he is a partner. Their usual residence is at Alexandria; but at this season "all the world" of Egypt comes to Cairo, to enjoy the beautiful weather here, while it is raining incessantly in Alexandria, only a hundred and thirty miles distant. Mrs. R. in asking Mr. Thayer, our Consul-General, to meet Mr. Buckle, with very great kindness included me in the invitation. The only other lady present was Miss P., a niece of the late Countess of Blessington, herself the author of several pleasant stories, and of a poem which gained a prize in competition with one by Mrs. Browning and another by Owen Meredith: she is spending the winter with Mrs. R. There were also present C., who conducts the house of Briggs and Company in Cairo; O., another banker; and Hekekyan Bey, an Armenian, a well-read and intelligent man, formerly Minister of Public Instruction under Mehemet Ali, and still, I believe, in receipt of a pension from the Viceroy's government, in consideration of his public services, which have been valuable.

The dinner was at an hotel called the Restaurant d'Auric. We assembled in Mrs. R.'s drawing-room, an apartment in the banking-house at a little distance, and walked to the hotel. The company fell into two groups, each lighted by a swarthy boab or lackey carrying a mushal or lantern; and I happened to walk with Mr. Buckle, so that I had a brief talk with him in the street, before the general conversation began at the table. He remarked upon the extraordinary devotion exhibited by Delane of the London Times to the interests and politics of Lord Palmerston. Becoming interested in our conversation, we strayed away from the rest, and were walking about a quarter of a mile down the bazaar, when (are you surprised to hear?) Mr. Buckle was missed, the two boabs came running after us, and we were cited to the dinner-table.

Buckle, of course, was the card. He talked with a velocity and fulness of facts that was wonderful. The rest of us could do little but listen and ask questions. And yet he did not seem to be lecturing us; the stream of his conversation flowed along easily and naturally. Nor was it didactic; Buckle's range of reading has covered everything in elegant literature, as well as the ponderous works whose titles make so formidable a list at the beginning of his History, and, as he remembers everything he has read, he can produce his stores upon the moment for the illustration of whatever subject happens to come up.

In the first place, let me say how delightful it was to discover his cordial interest in our own country. He expresses a strong hope that England will take no part against us, and do nothing to break the blockade. He is going to write about America; indeed, his next volume, besides containing a complete view of the German philosophy, will treat of the United States. But he will visit us before he writes. Although appreciating the great work of De Tocqueville, he complains of the general inadequacy of European criticism upon America. Gasparin's books, by the way, he has not seen. For his own part, he considers the subject too vast, he says, and the testimony too conflicting, to permit him to write upon it before he has seen the country; and meanwhile he scrupulously refrains from forming any conclusive opinions.

Subject to this reservation of judgment, however, he remarked that he was inclined to think that George III forced us prematurely into democracy, although the natural tendency of things both in America and England was towards it; and he thought that perhaps we had established a political democracy without having yet achieved an intellectual democracy: the two ought to go hand in hand together. The common people in England, he said, are by far the most useful class of society. He had been especially pleased by the numerous letters he had received from working-men who had read his book. These letters often surprised him by the acuteness and capacity displayed by their writers. The nobility would perish utterly, if it were not constantly recruited from commoners. Lord Brougham was the first member of the secular peerage who continued after his elevation to sign his name in full, "H. Brougham," which he did to show his continued sympathy with the class from which he sprang. Buckle remarked that the history of the peasantry of no European country has ever been written, or ever can be written, and without it the record of the doings of kings and nobles is mere chaff. Surnames were not introduced until the eleventh century, and it is only since that period that genealogy has become possible.

Another very pleasant thing is Mr. Buckle's cordial appreciation of young men. He repeated the story, which I believe is in his book, that, when Harvey announced to the world his great discovery of the circulation of the blood, among the physicians who received it was none above the age of forty. Mr. Thayer described to Buckle some of our friends who have read his book with especial satisfaction. He evidently took pleasure in this proof of appreciation, and said that this was the class of readers he sought. "In fact, the young men," he said, "are the only readers of much value; it is they who shape the future." He said that Thackeray and Delane had told him he would find Boston very like England. He knows but few Bostonians. He had corresponded with Theodore Parker, whom he considered a remarkable man; he had preserved but one of his letters, which he returned to Mrs. Parker, in answer to her request for materials to aid her in preparing the memoir of her late husband. Buckle says that he does not generally preserve other than business-letters.

Mr. Buckle gave an amusing account of the origin of the wigs which the lawyers wear in England, and which, by the way, struck me as infinitely ludicrous when I saw them on the heads of the judges and counsel in Westminster Hall. Originally the clergy were forbidden to practise law, and, as they were the best lawyers, the wig was worn to conceal the tonsure. He had anecdotes to tell of Johnson, Lamb, Macaulay, Voltaire, Talleyrand, etc., and quoted passages from Burke and from Junius at length in the exact words. Junius he considers proved to be Sir Philip Francis. He told a good story against Wordsworth, contained in a letter from Lamb to Talfourd, which the latter showed to Buckle, but had considered among the things too personal to be published. Wordsworth was decrying Shakspeare. "Pooh!" he said, "it is all very easy: I could write like Shakspeare myself, if I had a mind to!" "Precisely so," rejoined Lamb,—"if you had a mind to."

Mr. Buckle does not think much of the ancient Egyptian civilization, differing in this respect toto caelo from Hekekyan Bey, who finds in the monuments proofs of the existence of an expansive popular government. Buckle declares that the machines, as figured in the hieroglyphics, are of the most primitive kind,—and that the learning, by all accounts, was confined to the priests, and covered a very narrow range, exhibiting no traces of acquaintance with the higher useful arts. He says it is a fallacy to suppose that savages are bodily superior to civilized men. Captain Cook found that his sailors could outwork the islanders. I remarked, in confirmation, that our Harvard boat-clubs won the prizes in rowing-matches against all comers. Buckle seemed interested, and asked for a more particular account, which, of course, I took great pleasure in giving. C., like a true Englishman, doubted the general fact, and said the Thames watermen out-rowed their university-clubs.

For Turkish civilization Mr. Buckle has not the slightest respect,—said he could write the whole of it on the back of his hand; and here Hekekyan Bey cordially agreed with him. Buckle is very fond of chess, and can play two games at once blindfold. He inquired very particularly about a native here who it is said can play four or six in this manner, and said he should like to try a game with him. He had seen Paulsen, but not Morphy.

Mr. Thayer asked him if in England he had been subjected to personal hostility for his opinions, or to anything like social ostracism. He said, generally not. A letter from a clergyman to an acquaintance in England, expressing intense antipathy to him, although he had never seen the writer, was the only evidence of this kind of opposition. "In fact," said he, naively, "the people of England have such an admiration of any kind of intellectual splendor that they will forgive for its sake the most objectionable doctrines." He told us that the portion of his book which relates to Spain, although by no means complimentary to that country, has been translated and published separately there. T. remarked that to this circumstance, no doubt, we may ascribe some part of the modern regeneration of Spain, the leading statesmen being persuaded to a more liberal policy; but this view Buckle disclaimed with an eagerness seeming to be something more than the offspring of modesty.

After dinner we returned to Mrs. R.'s apartments, where we had tea. Buckle and Hekekyan now got into an animated discussion upon the ancient Egyptian civilization, which scarcely gave the rest of us a chance to put in a single word. It was, however, exceedingly interesting to sit and listen. Indeed, although there was nothing awful about Buckle, one felt a little abashed to intrude his own remarks in such a presence. You will be amused to hear that Mrs. R., who had seen me but once before, told T. that she did not think I seemed to have much to say for myself. Pray tell this in circles where they accuse me of monopolizing the conversation. We stayed until nearly midnight, and then, taking our leave, Buckle accompanied T. and myself as far as the door of our hotel. Buckle received most kindly all suggestions made to him of books to be read upon American affairs, and people to be seen in the United States.

February 7th. To-day we made a party to drive to see the Howling Dervishes, who howl on Fridays. Friday is sometimes called "the Mahometan Sunday," which is a correct phrase, if the especial celebration of religious services is meant; but it is not at all a day of rest: we found the people continuing their various avocations as usual. At the mosque we met Mr. Buckle, a little careless in his dress,—in this respect affording a not disagreeable contrast to the studied jauntiness which Englishmen are apt to affect in their travelling-gear. Nobody is allowed to press the floor of the mosque with shoes upon the feet. T. and I, warned by our former experience, had brought pieces of cotton cloth to tie over our shoes; and some cloth slippers of a bright orange color, such as the Arabs are fond of using, had been provided, which Miss P. slipped directly over her walking-boots. Buckle, with careless indifference, pulled off his shoes and walked in in his stockinged feet. His figure is tall and slender, although he is a large man; he stoops a little in standing; his head, well-shaped, is partly bald; and although his features are not striking in themselves, they are rendered so by his animated expression. The photograph which I have seen is a wretched caricature.

The performances of the Dervishes were precisely the same as those which I witnessed in the same place a fortnight ago, and may be found most exactly described by Mr. Trollope (who saw them two or three years since) in his admirable novel of "The Bertrams," Chapter 38. If I desired to tell you what we saw, I could not do better than to adopt Mr. Trollope's language without alteration. This will prove to you the sameness of this singular religious rite. Driving back, Miss P. helped us to recall some of the incidents of the dinner of the preceding day. She used to see almost all the distinguished literary characters at the house of her aunt; but she told us that she never met anybody whose conversation could bear comparison with that of Buckle, excepting Lord Brougham and Alexander Dumas. The latter disgusts by his insufferable egotism. Miss P. also gave us a very entertaining account of an Arab wedding which she attended a day or two ago in company with Mrs. R. As soon as they were inside the house they were separated from their escort, and were admitted to the apartment where the bride was obliged to sit in state for three days, covered with jewelry, clusters of diamonds literally plastered upon her cheeks and forehead.

February 10th. Yesterday Mr. Thayer entertained Mr. Buckle at dinner. The party included Mrs. R. and some of the guests whom we had met at her table. We had hoped also for the presence of Mr. R., who was expected to come up from Alexandria; but the train failed to bring him. Mr. Thayer also invited Sir James Outram, but he is too unwell to come, although expressing himself pleased with the invitation. The landlord of the hotel where the consul-general is staying (Hotel des Ambassadeurs) was very proud of the occasion, and the entertainment, although simple, was elegant. An oval table was found of exactly the right size to seat eight. Buckle was in excellent spirits, and, as before, was the life of the party. We had been terribly afraid lest he and Hekekyan should get into another long disputation, for the excellent Bey has fortified himself with new materials; but the ladies were taken into our confidence to aid in turning the conversation, if it should be necessary, all of which made a great deal of entertainment; but there proved to be no occasion for anything of the sort.

Buckle told some capital stories: among them, one against Alison, almost too good to be true, namely, that in the first edition of his History he mentioned among the causes of the French Devolution "the timber-duty," because he had read in a French pamphlet that there were popular discontents about the droits de timbre.[A] Alison's History, he said, is the very worst that ever was written. He cited a good definition, (Addison's, I believe,) that "fine writing is that which is true without being obvious." In the course of the conversation, in which, as before, Buckle touched points in the whole circle of literature and science, giving us quotations even in Hebrew from the Talmud and the Bible, he made a very pretty compliment to our host, introduced as adroitly as from the lips of a professed courtier, but evidently spoken on the moment. It was something in this way. Hekekyan and Buckle were in an argument, and Buckle said, "Ah, you mistake a necessary condition for the cause." "What is cause but necessary condition?" asked Hekekyan. "Very different: two men can't fight a duel without meeting, but every two men who meet don't fight a duel." "But they couldn't fight a duel without meeting," persisted Hekekyan. "Yes," rejoined Buckle; "but the meeting isn't the cause of the duel. Why, there could not be a dinner-party, unless the company met; but our meeting here to-day isn't the cause of the dinner: the cause of the dinner is the kindness of our host." "Or rather, of the landlord," said N. "Oh, no! of the American government," said C. "Ah," said Buckle, "those things are not the cause: the cause of our good dinner, I maintain, is only the charming hospitality of the consul-general." Is not this metaphysics made easy, and prettily employed?

[Footnote A: It is fair to say that an examination of the chapter on the causes of the French Revolution, in several editions of Alison's History, including the first, gives this story no support.]

After dinner we had tea and coffee; the ladies, in Egypt, could scarcely do less than allow tobacco, and Mr. Buckle particularly enjoyed some choice cigars which T. was able to offer him. The party did not break up until nearly midnight, when all the guests retired together.

February 11th. To my pleasure, the train from Alexandria yesterday afternoon brought Mr. B., of New York, and his very agreeable family, with whom I crossed the Atlantic in the Persia last October. They went at first to another hotel, but to-day they have determined to come to that at which we are staying. I called upon them on their arrival, and asked the gentlemen to join us at dinner, and afterwards in going, in company with Mr. Buckle, whom Mr. Thayer had previously invited, to attend a fantasia, or exhibition of singing and dancing, by Arab professionals, at the house of Mr. Savallan, a wealthy French banker, who has lived a long time in the Levant and has in some degree adopted Oriental customs. He has lately sold to the Viceroy a tooth-brush, comb, and hair-brush, for the handsome price of fourteen thousand dollars. They were doubtless richly set with jewels; but the profit on these transactions is immense. Mr. B. accepted the invitation for dinner, and Mr. W. joined us afterwards.

At dinner I was seated next to Mr. Buckle, and thus had an opportunity for private conversation. He asked about American books, and told me his opinion of those he had read. He said that Quincy's History of Harvard University was the latest book on America he received before leaving England. He preferred Kent's exposition of the United States Constitution to Story's, although this also he had consulted and used. He had not seen Mr. Charles Francis Adams's complete edition of the works of his grandfather, nor Parton's Life of Jackson, both of which I begged him to read, particularly the chapters in the former in which are traced the steps in the progress of making the American Constitutions. He told me about his library in London, which is surpassed (among private libraries) only by that belonging to Mr. Van de Weyer, the Belgian Minister, whose wife is the daughter of our Bostonian Mr. Bates, of Barings. Buckle has twenty-two thousand volumes, all selected by himself; and he takes great pleasure in them. He spends eight or nine hundred pounds a year upon his library. He owns copies of all the books referred to in his History; some of them are very old and rare. He also possesses a considerable collection, made likewise by himself, of curiosities in natural history; he has added largely to it in Egypt, where, in fact, he has been buying with open hands. He said he could not be perfectly happy in leaving the country, if obliged to go away without a crocodile's egg, a trophy which as yet he has been unable to obtain.

He told me his plan of travel in America. He will not set out until our domestic troubles are composed, for he desires to see the practical working of our institutions in their normal state, not confused and disturbed by the excitements of war. He would go first to Boston and New York, the intellectual and commercial heads (as he said) of the republic,—and to Washington, the political capital. He would then like to pass from the Northern into the Southern States, but asked if he could travel safely in the latter, in view of his extreme opinions in detestation of slavery. I assured him that nobody would dare to molest one so well known, even if our war did not abate forever the nuisance of lynching, to say nothing of its probable effect in promoting the extinction of slavery. From the Southern States he said he would wish to pass into Mexico, thence to Peru and to Chili; then to cross the Pacific Ocean to Japan, to China, to India, and so back by the overland route to England. This magnificent scheme he has seriously resolved upon, and proposes to devote to it two or three years. He undertakes it partly for information and partly for relaxation of his mental faculties, which he has injured by overwork, and which imperatively demand repose. He asked many questions with regard to matters of detail,—whether he would find conveyance by steamers in the Pacific, and of what sort would be the accommodations in them and in sailing-vessels. He asked at what season he had best arrive in the United States, and whether he had better land at New York or at Boston. Boston he said he regarded as "the intellectual head of the country, and New York, you know, for trade." I answered his questions as well as I could, and told him he must not omit seeing our Western country, and some of the new cities, like Chicago. He asked me if I knew "a Mrs. Child," who had written him a letter and sent him her book about the history of religion. I knew of course that he meant "The Progress of Religious Ideas," by Mrs. L. Maria Child. He had been pleased with the letter, and with the book.

The conversation becoming general, Mr. B., of New York, told a story of an old Congressional debate in which John Randolph derisively compared Edward Everett to Richelieu: Buckle at once said he should regard it as a compliment of the very highest kind to be compared to Richelieu. You will smile, perhaps, if I tell you that I could not resist asking Buckle if he had read Dumas's historical novels, and he said he had not, although he had felt an inclination to do so. He asked one or two questions about them, and gave a rapid generalization of the history of France at that time.

This conversation at the dinner-table of course was by far the pleasantest part of the evening, for the fantasia did not amount to much, although the house was a fine one, the host most cordial, and the novelty of the entertainment was enjoyable.

February 12th. Mr. Buckle called upon T. and myself in the afternoon, and sat talking between two and three hours. I wish I could give you a full report of all that he said. He told us of the only lecture he ever delivered; it was before the Royal Institution, March 19, 1858, and was printed in "Fraser's Magazine" for April, just afterwards. It may be found reprinted in America in "Littell's Living Age," No. 734. The subject was "The Influence of Women on the Progress of Knowledge." Murchison, Owen, and Faraday told him afterwards, separately, that they were perfectly satisfied with it, which is certainly a strong combination of authority. He told us all about his education, which is interesting, for he has been most truly self-taught. When he was a boy, he was so delicate that it was thought he could not live; the celebrated Dr. Abernethy, who was a particular friend of his father, saw how important it was to keep him from mental excitement, and begged that he might not be troubled by lessons. Accordingly, he was never sent to school at any time, except for a brief period to a clergyman who had directions not to make him study; and he was never regularly taught anything. Until eight years of age he hardly knew his letters. At the age of fifteen he found out Shakespeare and read it with great zest. At seventeen he conceived the plan of his book, and resolved to do two things to make himself fit to write it: first, he resolved to devote four hours a day to the study of physical science, in order that he might be able fully to understand and to unfold its relations with history; secondly, he resolved to devote an equal portion of each day to the study of English composition and practice in writing, in order that he might be able to set forth his opinions with force and perspicuity. To these resolutions he adhered for twelve years. Every day, after breakfast, he shut himself up for four hours with his experiments and his investigations; and afterwards devoted four hours to analyzing the style of the best English authors, inquiring (as he said) "where it was that I wrote worse than they." He studied not only in England, but in Germany and other European countries. He learned all the languages which he knows (and he knows nearly all I ever heard of) without the aid of a master in any, excepting German, in which he began with a master, but soon dismissed him, because he hindered more than he helped. He read Hebrew with a Jewish rabbi, but that was after he had learned the language. He considers the knowledge of languages valuable only as the stepping-stone to other learning, and spoke with contempt of a person in Egypt who was mentioned to him as speaking eight languages familiarly.

"Has he done anything?"


"Then he is only fit to be a courier."

Buckle is not a university-man, although both his father and grandfather were educated at Cambridge.

He has long since abandoned the practice of writing at night, and now does not put pen to paper after three o'clock in the afternoon. When at home, in London, he walks every day, for about an hour and a half, at noon; frequently dines out and reads perhaps an hour after coming home. He goes exclusively to dinner-parties, because they take less time than others. When he is engaged in composition, he walks about the room, sometimes excitedly, his mind engrossed with his subject, until he has composed an entire paragraph, when he sits down and writes it, never retouching, nor composing sentence by sentence, which he thinks has a tendency to give an abrupt and jerky effect to what is written. Traces of this, he thinks, may be found in Macaulay's style.

Mr. Thayer showed him the little stock of books he happened to have with him at Cairo. Mr. Buckle looked them over with interest, expressing his opinions upon them. One of them, Mr. Bayle St. John's little book on the Turkish question, he borrowed, although he said that he denied himself all reading on this journey, undertaken for mental rest, and had brought no books with him. We got upon the inevitable subject of international copyright, which he discussed in a spirit of remarkable candor. His own experience was this: that the Messrs. Appleton reprinted his first volume without compensation, asking him to furnish materials for a prefatory memoir, of which request he took no notice; afterwards, when the second volume was published, they sent him something, I believe fifty pounds. In due course of time, receiving a request from Theodore Parker to that effect, he wrote a letter to aid him in the preparation of a memoir for the Messrs. Appleton's Cyclopaedia.[B]

[Footnote B: In this memoir it is stated that Mr. Buckle was born at Lee, November 24,1822. If this date be correct, his age, at the time of his death at Damascus, May 29, 1862, fell short of forty years by five days less than six months. In conversation, however, at this time, February, 1862, he spoke of his age as thirty-eight, notwithstanding the surprise that was expressed, for he appeared several years older. Mr. Glennie, in his letter describing the circumstances of Mr. Buckle's death, mentions his age as thirty-nine.]

I pointed out to Mr. Buckle the very important distinction between copyright for the British author and monopoly for the British publisher. I told him that the American people and their representatives in Congress would not have the least objection to paying a trifling addition to the cost of books, which would make, upon the immense editions sold of the popular books, a handsome compensation to the foreign authors,—but that they have very decided objections to the English system of enormously high prices for books. I instanced to him several books which can be bought in the United States for a quarter or half a dollar, while in England they cannot be purchased for less than a guinea and a half, that is, for seven or eight dollars,—although the author gains very little by these high prices, which, indeed, would be absolutely prohibitory of the circulation of the books in the United States. And since the great literary market of the United States has been created at the public expense, by the maintenance of the system of universal education, it is perhaps not unreasonable that our legislators should insist upon preserving, by the competition among publishers, the advantages of low prices of books, in pursuance of a policy which looks to a wide circulation. In Great Britain the publishers follow a different policy and insist on selling books at high prices to a comparatively small circle of readers.

Mr. Buckle was kind enough to listen attentively to this sort of reasoning and had the candor to admit that it is entitled to some degree of weight. Indeed, he said at once that he had earnestly wished to bring out a cheap edition of his own book in England, omitting the notes and references, for the use of the working-classes, of whose appreciation, as I have previously mentioned, he had received many gratifying proofs; he had made his arrangements for this purpose, but was prevented from carrying them out by the opposition of his publishers, who objected that such an edition would injure their interest in the more costly edition. But Mr. Buckle freely declared that he would, in his circumstances, rather forego the profit on the sale of his book than restrict its circulation.

I may, perhaps, be permitted to mention that another English author related to me his home experience, precisely to the same effect, in which the vested interests of his publishers thwarted him in his wish to publish an edition of his writings at a low price for general circulation. It is quite certain that the British public must themselves be disenthralled from the tyranny of high prices with which they are now burdened, before they can ask to bring another land under the dominion of their exclusive system in literature.

This conversation led to a description of the reading public in America,—of the intelligence and independence of our working-people,—of their habits of life and of thought,—about which Buckle manifested great interest, asking many intelligent questions.

Mr. Buckle is in easy circumstances, and attends personally to the management of his money. He finds no difficulty in letting it upon first-class mortgages, at five per cent., and does not expect a higher rate of interest.

February 13th. To-night there was a religious celebration, including an illumination, in the mosque at the Citadel. We had expected to go and see it; and Mr. T. had invited Mr. B. and his party, as well as Mr. Buckle, and the two lads by whom he is accompanied in his journeyings, to go with us. These young gentlemen are sons of a dear friend of Mr. Buckle's, no longer living.

But at the last moment before dinner the advice was strongly given on all sides that we should not go, lest some bigoted Mussulmans should take offence, and there might be a disturbance. Not long ago, a party of Englishmen behaved very badly in the mosque on a similar occasion, from which has resulted a disturbed state of feeling. It of course cannot be pleasant to people of any religious belief to have their ceremonies made a spectacle for curiosity; and although the moudier (mayor of the city) promised ample protection, the plan was given up, and the company being gathered, we had a pleasant evening together. The presence of the ladies of Mr. B.'s party gave the opportunity to see Mr. Buckle again under the inspiration of ladies' society, which he especially enjoys, and in the lighter conversation suited to which he shines with not less distinction than when conversing upon abstruse topics.

In the course of the evening, in the midst of conversation in which he was taking an animated part, Mr. Buckle exhibited symptoms of faintness. Fresh air was at once admitted to the room, which was full of cigar-smoke; water and more powerful restoratives were brought, but these he declined. After a few minutes' repose upon the divan, he declared that he was perfectly recovered, and half an hour afterwards took his leave with the boys. We were quite anxious until we heard that he had safely reached his boat, in which he is still living.

February 14th. Returning from the Turkish bath, I found a valentine in the shape of a telegraphic despatch only thirteen days from Boston,—thirty-six hours from Liverpool. It was dated at Boston the 1st, forwarded from Liverpool at 10 A.M. of the 13th, and reached Alexandria at 11.55 A.M. of the 14th, whence it was transmitted to Cairo without delay. This is almost equal to the Arabian Nights. The distance travelled by the despatch is about six thousand miles.

February 15th. This day we had an excursion to the Petrified Forest. It was got up partly to give us all a taste of camel-riding, and it was originally expected that everybody would go on camels; then it was agreed that half should go on camels, and "ride-and-tie." In this view, one camel and one donkey were ordered for T. and myself. But Mr. B. was subsequently persuaded that with four horses he could have a carriage dragged through the desert to the forest, which would be more comfortable for the ladies; and he made that arrangement in his own and their behalf. Freddy B. is a first-rate horseman, and an Arab steed was ordered for him. Mr. Buckle was determined to go in a thing called a mazetta, a sort of huge bedstead with curtains, borne on the back of a camel, big enough to carry a small family, in which he expected to find room for himself and the two boys travelling with him. Besides these, the party included the Reverend Mr. Lansing, the excellent head of the American mission here, the Honorable W.S., a young Englishman, and his tutor, the Reverend Mr. S., whose agreeable company had been bespoken when the camel-project was in full strength.

On looking down from the balcony at the transportation-train marshalled for the occasion, amid the admiring gaze of all the idlers of Cairo, I was at first a little chagrined to find, as the final result of the various arrangements, that, besides the camels, the mazetta, the carriage-and-four, and the proud-stepping horse, there appeared but one donkey, that selected for me. But I was, in truth, very well off. To begin with, it was not thought prudent that Mr. Buckle should use the mazetta until the procession had got beyond the narrow streets of Cairo, lest the camel bearing it should take fright and knock the whole thing to pieces against the wall of a house. Accordingly, he and his charges took donkeys, and I rode off with them, at the head of the column. By-and-by Mr. Buckle changed to the conveyance originally proposed, but a very short experiment (literally, I suspect) sickened him of the mazetta, whose motion is precisely that of a ship in a storm, and he sent back to the town for donkeys. At the next halt the ladies took him into the carriage, where he found himself, as he said, "in clover," and that was the end of his greatness in camel-riding. This remark, by the way, suggested a name ("Clover") for our boat in our voyage up the Nile just afterwards; but patriotism prevailed, and we named her "Union." It pretty soon appeared that the camel which T. was riding was young and frisky; the animal was accordingly pronounced unsafe, and T. changed to a donkey which had fortunately been brought along for a reserve. The Honorable W.S.'s camel, from the saddle becoming unfastened, pitched rider and saddle to the ground, a fall of five or six feet: fortunately no harm was done, and he bravely mounted again. The saddle upon the camel which the Reverend Mr. S. rode split in two, and the seat must have been a torture; but he bore it like a martyr, never flinching. But camel-stock had so far depreciated, and donkeys gone up, that I was able to try as much as I liked of camel-riding now and then, at the same time obliging a friend by the use of my donkey meanwhile. Riding a camel at a walk is the same sort of thing as riding a very hard-trotting horse without stirrups, and with no chance to grasp the animal fairly to hold your seat. When the camel trots, you may imagine yourself on a treadmill.

The journey to the forest, about ten miles, was safely accomplished. We found the petrifactions duly wonderful. An excellent luncheon was laid out, after which we had an hour and a half of very entertaining conversation, in which Mr. Buckle and Rev. Mr. S. held the leading parts,—all around us as desolate and silent as one could imagine. It was interesting to observe the manner in which Buckle estimated eminent names, grouping them in some instances by threes, a favorite conceit with him. John Stuart Mill, of all living men, he considers as possessing the greatest mind in the world. Aristotle, Newton, and Shakspeare are the greatest the world has produced in past times. Homer, Dante, and Shakspeare are the only three great poets. Johnson, Gibbon, and Parr are the three writers who have done the greatest harm to the English language. Of Hallam he has a strong admiration. He spoke of Sydney Smith as the greatest English wit, and of Selwyn as next to him, and described Macaulay's memory as unequalled in conversation.

For the return-trip, the donkeys generally were preferred. Miss B., with spirit, tried camel-riding for a while, and so did Master F. We stopped to look at the tombs of the Caliphs, and reached the hotel at nightfall, somewhat fatigued, but satisfied with the day's expedition.

February 16th. The morning was gratefully devoted to rest. In the afternoon, attended service at the Mission, where Rev. Mr. S. preached an interesting discourse from John xv. 1-4. On the way home met Mr. Buckle, who came in, and was persuaded to stay to dinner. In speaking of religion, he said that there is no doctrine or truth in Christianity that had not been announced before, but that Christianity is by far the noblest religion in existence. The chief point of its superiority is the prominence it gives to the humane and philanthropic element; and in giving this prominence lies its originality. He believes in a Great First Cause, but does not arrive at his belief by any process of reasoning satisfactory to himself. Paley's argument, from the evidence of design, he regards as futile: if the beauty of this world indicates a creating cause, the beauty of that great cause would suggest another, and so on. He believes in a future state, and declared most impressively that life would be insupportable to him, if he thought he were forever to be separated from one person,—alluding, it is probable, to his mother, to whose memory he dedicates the second volume of his book.[C] He has no doubt that in the future state we shall recognize one another; whether we shall have the same bodies he has no opinion, although he regards matter as indestructible. He declares himself unable to form any judgment as to the mode of future existence. Religion, he says, is on the increase in the world, but theology is declining.

[Footnote C: The words he uses are,—"To the memory of my mother I consecrate this volume."]

Mr. Buckle characterized as the sublimest passage in Shakspeare the lines in the "Merchant of Venice,"—

      "Look how the floor of heaven
  Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold!
  There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
  But in his motion like an angel sings,
  Still quiring to the young-eyed cherabims:
  Such harmony is in immortal souls!
  But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
  Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it."

Mr. Thayer suggested the similarity between the closing part of this passage, about our deafness to the music of the stars, owing to the "muddy vesture," and the sonnet of Blanco White which speaks of the starry splendors to which our eyes are blinded by the light of day:—

  "Mysterious Night! when our first parent knew
  Thee, from report divine, and heard thy name,
  Did he not tremble for this lovely frame,
  This glorious canopy of light and blue?
  Yet 'neath the curtain of translucent dew,
  Bathed in the rays of the great setting flame,
  Hesperus with the host of heaven came,
  And lo! creation widened in man's view.
  Who could have thought such darkness lay concealed
  Within thy beams, O Sun? or who could find,
  Whilst fly and leaf and insect stood revealed,
  That to such countless orbs thou mad'st us blind?
  Why do we, then, shun Death with anxious strife?
  If Light can thus deceive, wherefore not Life?"

Mr. Buckle seemed to be struck by the comparison. He proceeded to speak of Blanco White's memoirs as painfully interesting, and said that he had always liked Archbishop Whately for adhering to White after the desertion of the latter by old friends on account of his change of belief.

* * * * *

The next few days were occupied in preparations for the voyage up the Nile in company with my New York friends. Mr. Buckle had very kindly taken great interest in our plans, and had earnestly advised me to go. "You will do very wrong indeed," he said, "if you do not go." On the 19th of February we embarked; and as we saluted his boat, lying just below us in the Nile, while our own shoved off, I little thought that I should never see him again,—that his brilliant career was so shortly to come to an untimely end. The serious conversation just recorded was the last in which I took part with him.

Mr. Buckle remained in Cairo until the beginning of March, when he set out with the two boys, and Mr. J.S. Stuart Glennie, across the Desert, for Sinai and Petra. Greatly improved in health by the six weeks in the Desert, (according to Mr. Glennie's letter,) he undertook the more fatiguing travelling on horseback through Palestine. He fell ill on the 27th of April, but recovered his health, as it seemed, to such an extent that Mr. Glennie parted from him on the 21st of May. On the 29th of May, at Damascus, Mr. Buckle died. Among the incoherent utterances of his illness, it was possible to distinguish the exclamation, "Oh, my book, my book, I shall never finish my book!"

And beyond the grief felt in the loss of the kind friend and agreeable companion, our plaint, in common with the whole world, ever must be, that he did not live to finish his book.