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Murder, Considered as One of the Fine Arts
Thomas de Quincey


SIR,--We have all heard of a Society for the Promotion of Vice, of the
Hell-Fire Club, &c. At Brighton, I think it was, that a Society was formed
for the Suppression of Virtue. That society was itself suppressed--but I
am sorry to say that another exists in London, of a character still
more atrocious. In tendency, it may be denominated a Society for the
Encouragement of Murder; but, according to their own delicate [Greek:
euphaemismos], it is styled--The Society of Connoisseurs in Murder. They
profess to be curious in homicide; amateurs and dilettanti in the various
modes of bloodshed; and, in short, Murder-Fanciers. Every fresh atrocity
of that class, which the police annals of Europe bring up, they meet and
criticise as they would a picture, statue, or other work of art. But I
need not trouble myself with any attempt to describe the spirit of their
proceedings, as you will collect _that_ much better from one of the Monthly
Lectures read before the society last year. This has fallen into my hands
accidentally, in spite of all the vigilance exercised to keep their
transactions from the public eye. The publication of it will alarm them;
and my purpose is that it should. For I would much rather put them down
quietly, by an appeal to public opinion through you, than by such an
exposure of names as would follow an appeal to Bow Street; which last
appeal, however, if this should fail, I must positively resort to. For it
is scandalous that such things should go on in a Christian land. Even in a
heathen land, the toleration of murder was felt by a Christian writer to be
the most crying reproach of the public morals. This writer was Lactantius;
and with his words, as singularly applicable to the present occasion, I
shall conclude: "Quid tam horribile," says he, "tam tetrum, quam hominis
trucidatio? Ideo severissimis legibus vita nostra munitur; ideo bella
execrabilia sunt. Invenit tamen consuetudo quatenus homicidium sine bello
ac sine legibus faciat: et hoc sibi voluptas quod scelus vindicavit.
Quod si interesse homicidio sceleris conscientia est,--et eidem facinori
spectator obstrictus est cui et admissor; ergo et in his gladiatorum
cædibus non minus cruore profunditur qui spectat, quam ille qui facit:
nec potest esse immunis à sanguine qui voluit effundi; aut videri non
interfecisse, qui interfectori et favit et proemium postulavit." "Human
life," says he, "is guarded by laws of the uttermost rigor, yet custom has
devised a mode of evading them in behalf of murder; and the demands of
taste (voluptas) are now become the same as those of abandoned guilt." Let
the Society of Gentlemen Amateurs consider this; and let me call their
especial attention to the last sentence, which is so weighty, that I shall
attempt to convey it in English: "Now, if merely to be present at a
murder fastens on a man the character of an accomplice; if barely to be a
spectator involves us in one common guilt with the perpetrator; it follows
of necessity, that, in these murders of the amphitheatre, the hand which
inflicts the fatal blow is not more deeply imbrued in blood that his who
sits and looks on: neither can _he_ be clear of blood who has countenanced
its shedding; nor that man seem other than a participator in murder who
gives his applause to the murderer, and calls for prizes in his behalf."
The "_præmia postulavit_" I have not yet heard charged upon the Gentlemen
Amateurs of London, though undoubtedly their proceedings tend to that;
but the "_interfectori favil_" is implied in the very title of this
association, and expressed in every line of the lecture which I send you.

I am, &c. X. Y. Z.

       *       *       *       *       *


GENTLEMEN,--I have had the honor to be appointed by your committee to the
trying task of reading the Williams' Lecture on Murder, considered as one
of the Fine Arts; a task which might be easy enough three or four centuries
ago, when the art was little understood, and few great models had been
exhibited; but in this age, when masterpieces of excellence have been
executed by professional men, it must be evident, that in the style
of criticism applied to them, the public will look for something of a
corresponding improvement. Practice and theory must advance _pari passu_.
People begin to see that something more goes to the composition of a fine
murder than two blockheads to kill and be killed--a knife--a purse--and a
dark lane. Design, gentlemen, grouping, light and shade, poetry, sentiment,
are now deemed indispensable to attempts of this nature. Mr. Williams
has exalted the ideal of murder to all of us; and to me, therefore, in
particular, has deepened the arduousness of my task. Like Æschylus or
Milton in poetry, like Michael Angelo in painting, he has carried his art
to a point of colossal sublimity; and, as Mr. Wordsworth observes, has in
a manner "created the taste by which he is to be enjoyed." To sketch the
history of the art, and to examine its principles critically, now remains
as a duty for the connoisseur, and for judges of quite another stamp from
his Majesty's Judges of Assize.

Before I begin, let me say a word or two to certain prigs, who affect to
speak of our society as if it were in some degree immoral in its tendency.
Immoral! God bless my soul, gentlemen, what is it that people mean? I am
for morality, and always shall be, and for virtue and all that; and I do
affirm, and always shall, (let what will come of it,) that murder is an
improper line of conduct, highly improper; and I do not stick to assert,
that any man who deals in murder, must have very incorrect ways of
thinking, and truly inaccurate principles; and so far from aiding and
abetting him by pointing out his victim's hiding-place, as a great
moralist[1] of Germany declared it to be every good man's duty to do, I
would subscribe one shilling and sixpense to have him apprehended, which is
more by eighteen-pence than the most eminent moralists have subscribed for
that purpose. But what then? Everything in this world has two handles.
Murder, for instance, may be laid hold of by its moral handle, (as it
generally is in the pulpit, and at the Old Bailey;) and _that_, I confess,
is its weak side; or it may also be treated _æsthetically_, as the Germans
call it, that is, in relation to good taste.

[Footnote 1: Kant--who carried his demands of unconditional veracity to so
extravagant a length as to affirm, that, if a man were to see an innocent
person escape from a murderer, it would be his duty, on being questioned
by the murderer, to tell the truth, and to point out the retreat of the
innocent person, under any certainty of causing murder. Lest this doctrine
should be supposed to have escaped him in any heat of dispute, on being
taxed with it by a celebrated French writer, he solemnly reaffirmed it,
with his reasons.]

To illustrate this, I will urge the authority of three eminent persons,
viz., S.T. Coleridge, Aristotle, and Mr. Howship the surgeon. To begin with
S.T.C. One night, many years ago, I was drinking tea with him in Berners'
Street, (which, by the way, for a short street, has been uncommonly
fruitful in men of genius.) Others were there besides myself; and amidst
some carnal considerations of tea and toast, we were all imbibing a
dissertation on Plotinus from the attic lips of S.T.C. Suddenly a cry arose
of "_Fire--fire_!" upon which all of us, master and disciples, Plato and
[Greek: hoi peri ton Platona], rushed out, eager for the spectacle. The
fire was in Oxford Street, at a piano-forte maker's; and, as it promised to
be a conflagration of merit, I was sorry that my engagements forced me away
from Mr. Coleridge's party before matters were come to a crisis. Some days
after, meeting with my Platonic host, I reminded him of the case, and
begged to know how that very promising exhibition had terminated. "Oh,
sir," said he, "it turned out so ill, that we damned it unanimously." Now,
does any man suppose that Mr. Coleridge,--who, for all he is too fat to be
a person of active virtue, is undoubtedly a worthy Christian,--that this
good S. T. C., I say, was an incendiary, or capable of wishing any ill
to the poor man and his piano-fortes (many of them, doubtless, with the
additional keys)? On the contrary, I know him to be that sort of man, that
I durst stake my life upon it he would have worked an engine in a case of
necessity, although rather of the fattest for such fiery trials of his
virtue. But how stood the case? Virtue was in no request. On the arrival
of the fire-engines, morality had devolved wholly on the insurance office.
This being the case, he had a right to gratify his taste. He had left his
tea. Was he to have nothing in return?

I contend that the most virtuous man, under the premises stated, was
entitled to make a luxury of the fire, and to hiss it, as he would any
other performance that raised expectations in the public mind, which
afterwards it disappointed. Again, to cite another great authority,
what says the Stagyrite? He (in the Fifth Book, I think it is, of his
Metaphysics) describes what he calls [Greek: kleptaen teleion], i.e., _a
perfect thief_; and, as to Mr. Howship, in a work of his on Indigestion, he
makes no scruple to talk with admiration of a certain ulcer which he had
seen, and which he styles "a beautiful ulcer." Now will any man pretend,
that, abstractedly considered, a thief could appear to Aristotle a perfect
character, or that Mr. Howship could be enamored of an ulcer? Aristotle,
it is well known, was himself so very moral a character, that, not content
with writing his Nichomachean Ethics, in one volume octavo, he also
wrote another system, called _Magna Moralia_, or Big Ethics. Now, it is
impossible that a man who composes any ethics at all, big or little, should
admire a thief _per se_, and, as to Mr. Howship, it is well known that he
makes war upon all ulcers; and, without suffering himself to be seduced by
their charms, endeavors to banish them from the county of Middlesex. But
the truth is, that, however objectionable _per se_, yet, relatively to
others of their class, both a thief and an ulcer may have infinite degrees
of merit. They are both imperfections, it is true; but to be imperfect
being their essence, the very greatness of their imperfection becomes their
perfection. _Spartam nactus es, hunc exorna_. A thief like Autolycus or
Mr. Barrington, and a grim phagedænic ulcer, superbly defined, and running
regularly through all its natural stages, may no less justly be regarded
as ideals after _their_ kind, than the most faultless moss-rose amongst
flowers, in its progress from bud to "bright consummate flower;" or,
amongst human flowers, the most magnificent young female, apparelled in
the pomp of womanhood. And thus not only the ideal of an inkstand may be
imagined, (as Mr. Coleridge demonstrated in his celebrated correspondence
with Mr. Blackwood,) in which, by the way, there is not so much, because an
inkstand is a laudable sort of thing, and a valuable member of society; but
even imperfection itself may have its ideal or perfect state.

Really, gentlemen, I beg pardon for so much philosophy at one time, and now
let me apply it. When a murder is in the paulo-post-futurum tense, and a
rumor of it comes to our ears, by all means let us treat it morally. But
suppose it over and done, and that you can say of it,[Greek: Tetelesai],
or (in that adamantine molossus of Medea) [Greek: eirzasai]; suppose the
poor murdered man to be out of his pain, and the rascal that did it off
like a shot, nobody knows whither; suppose, lastly, that we have done our
best, by putting out our legs to trip up the fellow in his flight, but all
to no purpose--"abiit, evasit," &c.--why, then, I say, what's the use of
any more virtue? Enough has been given to morality; now comes the turn of
Taste and the Fine Arts. A sad thing it was, no doubt, very sad; but _we_
can't mend it. Therefore let us make the best of a bad matter; and, as it
is impossible to hammer anything out of it for moral purposes, let us treat
it æsthetically, and see if it will turn to account in that way. Such is
the logic of a sensible man, and what follows? We dry up our tears, and
have the satisfaction, perhaps, to discover that a transaction, which,
morally considered, was shocking, and without a leg to stand upon,
when tried by principles of Taste, turns out to be a very meritorious
performance. Thus all the world is pleased; the old proverb is justified,
that it is an ill wind which blows nobody good; the amateur, from looking
bilious and sulky, by too close an attention to virtue, begins to pick up
his crumbs, and general hilarity prevails. Virtue has had her day; and
henceforward, _Vertu_ and Connoisseurship have leave to provide for
themselves. Upon this principle, gentlemen, I propose to guide your
studies, from Cain to Mr. Thurtell. Through this great gallery of murder,
therefore, together let us wander hand in hand, in delighted admiration,
while I endeavor to point your attention to the objects of profitable

       *       *       *       *       *

The first murder is familiar to you all. As the inventor of murder, and the
father of the art, Cain must have been a man of first-rate genius. All the
Cains were men of genius. Tubal Cain invented tubes, I think, or some such
thing. But, whatever were the originality and genius of the artist, every
art was then in its infancy, and the works must be criticised with a
recollection of that fact. Even Tubal's work would probably be little
approved at this day in Sheffield; and therefore of Cain (Cain senior, I
mean,) it is no disparagement to say, that his performance was but so so.
Milton, however, is supposed to have thought differently. By his way of
relating the case, it should seem to have been rather a pet murder with
him, for he retouches it with an apparent anxiety for its picturesque

  Whereat he inly raged; and, as they talk'd,
  Smote him into the midriff with a stone
  That beat out life: he fell; and, deadly pale,
  Groan'd out his soul _with gushing blood effus'd_.
  _Par. Lost, B. XI_.

Upon this, Richardson, the painter, who had an eye for effect, remarks as
follows, in his Notes on Paradise Lost, p. 497: "It has been thought,"
says he, "that Cain beat (as the common saying is) the breath out of his
brother's body with a great stone; Milton gives in to this, with the
addition, however, of a large wound." In this place it was a judicious
addition; for the rudeness of the weapon, unless raised and enriched by
a warm, sanguinary coloring, has too much of the naked air of the savage
school; as if the deed were perpetrated by a Polypheme without science,
premeditation, or anything but a mutton bone. However, I am chiefly pleased
with the improvement, as it implies that Milton was an amateur. As to
Shakspeare, there never was a better; as his description of the murdered
Duke of Gloucester, in Henry VI., of Duncan's, Banquo's, &c., sufficiently

The foundation of the art having been once laid, it is pitiable to see how
it slumbered without improvement for ages. In fact, I shall now be obliged
to leap over all murders, sacred and profane, as utterly unworthy of
notice, until long after the Christian era. Greece, even in the age of
Pericles, produced no murder of the slightest merit; and Rome had too
little originality of genius in any of the arts to succeed, where her
model failed her. In fact, the Latin language sinks under the very idea of
murder. "The man was murdered;"--how will this sound in Latin? _Interfectus
est, interemptus est_--which simply expresses a homicide; and hence the
Christian Latinity of the middle ages was obliged to introduce a new word,
such as the feebleness of classic conceptions never ascended to. _Murdratus
est_, says the sublimer dialect of Gothic ages. Meantime, the Jewish,
school of murder kept alive whatever was yet known in the art, and
gradually transferred it to the Western World. Indeed the Jewish school was
always respectable, even in the dark ages, as the case of Hugh of Lincoln
shows, which was honored with the approbation of Chaucer, on occasion of
another performance from the same school, which he puts into the mouth of
the Lady Abbess.

Recurring, however, for one moment to classical antiquity, I cannot but
think that Catiline, Clodius, and some of that coterie, would have made
first-rate artists; and it is on all accounts to be regretted, that the
priggism of Cicero robbed his country of the only chance she had for
distinction in this line. As the _subject_ of a murder, no person could
have answered better than himself. Lord! how he would have howled with
panic, if he had heard Cethegus under his bed. It would have been truly
diverting to have listened to him; and satisfied I am, gentlemen, that he
would have preferred the _utile_ of creeping into a closet, or even into a
_cloaca_, to the _honestum_ of facing the bold artist.

To come now to the dark ages--(by which we, that speak with precision,
mean, _par excellence_, the tenth century, and the times immediately before
and after)--these ages ought naturally to be favorable to the art of
murder, as they were to church architecture, to stained glass, &c.; and,
accordingly, about the latter end of this period, there arose a great
character in our art, I mean the Old Man of the Mountains. He was a shining
light, indeed, and I need not tell you, that the very word "assassin" is
deduced from him. So keen an amateur was he, that on one occasion, when his
own life was attempted by a favorite assassin, he was so much pleased
with the talent shown, that notwithstanding the failure of the artist, he
created him a duke upon the spot, with remainder to the female line, and
settled a pension on him for three lives. Assassination is a branch of the
art which demands a separate notice; and I shall devote an entire lecture
to it. Meantime, I shall only observe how odd it is, that this branch of
the art has flourished by fits. It never rains, but it pours. Our own age
can boast of some fine specimens; and, about two centuries ago, there was a
most brilliant constellation of murders in this class. I need hardly say,
that I allude especially to those five splendid works,--the assassinations
of William I, of Orange, of Henry IV., of France, of the Duke of
Buckingham, (which you will find excellently described in the letters
published by Mr. Ellis, of the British Museum,) of Gustavus Adolphus, and
of Wallenstein. The King of Sweden's assassination, by the by, is doubted
by many writers, Harte amongst others; but they are wrong. He was murdered;
and I consider his murder unique in its excellence; for he was murdered at
noon-day, and on the field of battle,--a feature of original conception,
which occurs in no other work of art that I remember. Indeed, all of these
assassinations may be studied with profit by the advanced connoisseur. They
are all of them _exemplaria_, of which one may say,--

  Nociurnâ versatâ manu, versate diurne;

Especially _nocturnâ_.

In these assassinations of princes and statesmen, there is nothing to
excite our wonder; important changes often depend on their deaths; and,
from the eminence on which they stand, they are peculiarly exposed to the
aim of every artist who happens to be possessed by the craving for scenical
effect. But there is another class of assassinations, which has prevailed
from an early period of the seventeenth century, that really _does_
surprise me; I mean the assassination of philosophers. For, gentlemen, it
is a fact, that every philosopher of eminence for the two last centuries
has either been murdered, or, at the least, been very near it; insomuch,
that if a man calls himself a philosopher, and never had his life
attempted, rest assured there is nothing in him; and against Locke's
philosophy in particular, I think it an unanswerable objection (if we
needed any), that, although he carried his throat about with him in this
world for seventy-two years, no man ever condescended to cut it. As these
cases of philosophers are not much known, and are generally good and well
composed in their circumstances, I shall here read an excursus on that
subject, chiefly by way of showing my own learning.

The first great philosopher of the seventeenth century (if we except
Galileo) was Des Cartes; and if ever one could say of a man that he was all
_but_ murdered--murdered within an inch--one must say it of him. The case
was this, as reported by Baillet in his _Vie De M. Des Cartes_, tom. I. p.
102-3. In the year 1621, when Des Cartes might be about twenty-six years
old, he was touring about as usual, (for he was as restless as a hyæna,)
and, coming to the Elbe, either at Gluckstadt or at Hamburgh, he took
shipping for East Friezland: what he could want in East Friezland no man
has ever discovered; and perhaps he took this into consideration himself;
for, on reaching Embden, he resolved to sail instantly for _West_
Friezland; and being very impatient of delay, he hired a bark, with a few
mariners to navigate it. No sooner had he got out to sea than he made a
pleasing discovery, viz. that he had shut himself up in a den of murderers.
His crew, says M. Baillet, he soon found out to be "des scélérats,"--not
_amateurs_, gentlemen, as we are, but professional men--the height of
whose ambition at that moment was to cut his throat. But the story is too
pleasing to be abridged; I shall give it, therefore, accurately, from the
French of his biographer: "M. Des Cartes had no company but that of his
servant, with whom he was conversing in French. The sailors, who took him
for a foreign merchant, rather than a cavalier, concluded that he must
have money about him. Accordingly they came to a resolution by no means
advantageous to his purse. There is this difference, however, between
sea-robbers and the robbers in forests, that the latter may, without
hazard, spare the lives of their victims; whereas the other cannot put
a passenger on shore in such a case without running the risk of being
apprehended. The crew of M. Des Cartes arranged their measures with a view
to evade any danger of that sort. They observed that he was a stranger from
a distance, without acquaintance in the country, and that nobody would take
any trouble to inquire about him, in case he should never come to hand,
(_quand il viendroit à manquer_.") Think, gentlemen, of these Friezland
dogs discussing a philosopher as if he were a puncheon of rum. "His temper,
they remarked, was very mild and patient; and, judging from the gentleness
of his deportment, and the courtesy with which he treated themselves, that
he could be nothing more than some green young man, they concluded that
they should have all the easier task in disposing of his life. They made no
scruple to discuss the whole matter in his presence, as not supposing that
he understood any other language than that in which he conversed with his
servant; and the amount of their deliberation was--to murder him, then to
throw him into the sea, and to divide his spoils."

Excuse my laughing, gentlemen, but the fact is, I always _do_ laugh when I
think of this case--two things about it seem so droll. One, is, the horrid
panic or "funk," (as the men of Eton call it,) in which Des Cartes must
have found himself upon hearing this regular drama sketched for his own
death--funeral--succession and administration to his effects. But another
thing, which seems to me still more funny about this affair is, that
if these Friezland hounds had been "game," we should have no Cartesian
philosophy; and how we could have done without _that_, considering the
worlds of books it has produced, I leave to any respectable trunk-maker to

However, to go on; spite of his enormous funk, Des Cartes showed fight,
and by that means awed these Anti-Cartesian rascals. "Finding," says M.
Baillet, "that the matter was no joke, M. Des Cartes leaped upon his feet
in a trice, assumed a stern countenance that these cravens had never looked
for, and addressing them in their own language, threatened to run them
through on the spot if they dared to offer him any insult." Certainly,
gentlemen, this would have been an honor far above the merits of such
inconsiderable rascals--to be spitted like larks upon a Cartesian sword;
and therefore I am glad M. Des Cartes did not rob the gallows by executing
his threat, especially as he could not possibly have brought his vessel to
port, after he had murdered his crew; so that he must have continued to
cruise for ever in the Zuyder Zee, and would probably have been mistaken by
sailors for the _Flying Dutchman_, homeward bound. "The spirit which M. Des
Cartes manifested," says his biographer, "had the effect of magic on these
wretches. The suddenness of their consternation struck their minds with a
confusion which blinded them to their advantage, and they conveyed him to
his destination as peaceably as he could desire."

Possibly, gentlemen, you may fancy that, on the model of Cæsar's address
to his poor ferryman,--"_Cæsarem vehis et fortunas ejus_"--M. Des Cartes
needed only to have said,--"Dogs, you cannot cut my throat, for you carry
Des Cartes and his philosophy," and might safely have defied them to do
their worst. A German emperor had the same notion, when, being cautioned to
keep out of the way of a cannonading, he replied, "Tut! man. Did you ever
hear of a cannon-ball that killed an emperor?" As to an emperor I cannot
say, but a less thing has sufficed to smash a philosoper; and the next
great philosopher of Europe undoubtedly _was_ murdered. This was Spinosa.

I know very well the common opinion about him is, that he died in his bed.
Perhaps he did, but he was murdered for all that; and this I shall prove
by a book published at Brussels, in the year 1731, entitled, _La Via de
Spinosa; Par M. Jean Colerus_, with many additions, from a MS. life, by one
of his friends. Spinosa died on the 21st February, 1677, being then little
more than forty-four years old. This of itself looks suspicious; and M.
Jean admits, that a certain expression in the MS. life of him would warrant
the conclusion, "que sa mort n'a pas été tout-à-fait naturelle." Living in
a damp country, and a sailor's country, like Holland, he may be thought to
have indulged a good deal in grog, especially in punch,[1] which was then
newly discovered. Undoubtedly he might have done so; but the fact is that
he did not. M. Jean calls him "extrêmement sobre en son boire et en son
manger." And though some wild stories were afloat about his using the juice
of mandragora (p. 140,) and opium, (p. 144,) yet neither of these articles
appeared in his druggist's bill. Living, therefore, with such sobriety, how
was it possible that he should die a natural death at forty-four? Hear his
biographer's account:--"Sunday morning the 21st of February, before it was
church time, Spinosa came down stairs and conversed with the master and
mistress of the house." At this time, therefore, perhaps ten o'clock on
Sunday morning, you see that Spinosa was alive, and pretty well. But it
seems "he had summoned from Amsterdam a certain physician, whom," says the
biographer, "I shall not otherwise point out to notice than by these two
letters, L.M. This L.M. had directed the people of the house to purchase an
ancient cock, and to have him boiled forthwith, in order that Spinosa might
take some broth about noon, which in fact he did, and ate some of the _old
cock_ with a good appetite, after the landlord and his wife had returned
from church.

[Footnote 1: "June 1, 1675.--Drinke part of 3 boules of punch, (a liquor
very strainge to me,)" says the Rev. Mr. Henry Teonge, in his Diary lately
published. In a note on this passage, a reference is made to Fryer's
Travels to the East Indies, 1672, who speaks of "that enervating liquor
called _Paunch_, (which is Indostan for five,) from five ingredients."
Made thus, it seems the medical men called it Diapente; if with four only,
Diatessaron. No doubt, it was its Evangelical name that recommended it to
the Rev. Mr. Teonge.]

"In the afternoon, L.M. staid alone with Spinosa, the people of the house
having returned to church; on coming out from which they learnt, with much
surprise, that Spinosa had died about three o'clock, in the presence
of L.M., who took his departure for Amsterdam the same evening, by the
night-boat, without paying the least attention to the deceased. No doubt he
was the readier to dispense with these duties, as he had possessed himself
of a ducatoon and a small quantity of silver, together with a silver-hafted
knife, and had absconded with his pillage." Here you see, gentlemen, the
murder is plain, and the manner of it. It was L.M. who murdered Spinosa
for his money. Poor S. was an invalid, meagre, and weak: as no blood
was observed, L.M., no doubt, threw him down and smothered him with
pillows,--the poor man being already half suffocated by his infernal
dinner. But who was L.M.? It surely never could be Lindley Murray; for I
saw him at York in 1825; and besides, I do not think he Would do such a
thing; at least, not to a brother grammarian: for you know, gentlemen, that
Spinosa wrote a very respectable Hebrew grammar.

Hobbes, but why, or on what principle, I never could understand, was not
murdered. This was a capital oversight of the professional men in the
seventeenth century; because in every light he was a fine subject for
murder, except, indeed, that he was lean and skinny; for I can prove that
he had money, and (what is very funny,) he had no right to make the least
resistance; for, according to himself, irresistible power creates the very
highest species of right, so that it is rebellion of the blackest die
to refuse to be murdered, when a competent force appears to murder you.
However, gentlemen, though he was not murdered, I am happy to assure you
that (by his own account) he was three times very near being murdered. The
first time was in the spring of 1640, when he pretends to have circulated
a little MS. on the king's behalf, against the Parliament; he never could
produce this MS., by the by; but he says that, "Had not his Majesty
dissolved the Parliament," (in May,) "it had brought him into danger of his
life." Dissolving the Parliament, however, was of no use; for, in November
of the same year, the Long Parliament assembled, and Hobbes, a second time,
fearing he should be murdered, ran away to France. This looks like the
madness of John Dennis, who thought that Louis XIV. would never make peace
with Queen Anne, unless he were given up to his vengeance; and actually ran
away from the sea-coast in that belief. In France, Hobbes managed to take
care of his throat pretty well for ten years; but at the end of that time,
by way of paying court to Cromwell, he published his Leviathan. The old
coward now began to "funk" horribly for the third time; he fancied the
swords of the cavaliers were constantly at his throat, recollecting how
they had served the Parliament ambassadors at the Hague and Madrid. "Turn,"
says he, in his dog-Latin life of himself,

  "Tum venit in mentem mihi Dorislaus et Ascham;
  Tanquam proscripto terror ubique aderat."

And accordingly he ran home to England. Now, certainly, it is very true
that a man deserved a cudgelling for writing Leviathan; and two or three
cudgellings for writing a pentameter ending so villanously as--"terror
ubique aderat!" But no man ever thought him worthy of anything beyond
cudgelling. And, in fact, the whole story is a bounce of his own. For, in a
most abusive letter which he wrote "to a learned person," (meaning Wallis
the mathematician,) he gives quite another account of the matter, and says
(p. 8,) he ran home "because he would not trust his safety with the French
clergy;" insinuating that he was likely to be murdered for his religion,
which would have been a high joke indeed--Tom's being brought to the stake
for religion.

Bounce or not bounce, however, certain it is, that Hobbes, to the end of
his life, feared that somebody would murder him. This is proved by the
story I am going to tell you: it is not from a manuscript, but, (as Mr.
Coleridge says,) it is as good as manuscript; for it comes from a book
now entirely forgotten, viz., "The Creed of Mr. Hobbes Examined; in a
Conference between him and a Student in Divinity," (published about ten
years before Hobbes's death.) The book is anonymous, but it was written by
Tennison, the same who, about thirty years after, succeeded Tillotson as
Archbishop of Canterbury. The introductory anecdote is as follows: "A
certain divine, it seems, (no doubt Tennison himself,) took an annual tour
of one month to different parts of the island. In one of these excursions
(1670) he visited the Peak in Derbyshire, partly in consequence of Hobbes's
description of it. Being in that neighborhood, he could not but pay a visit
to Buxton; and at the very moment of his arrival, he was fortunate enough
to find a party of gentlemen dismounting at the inn door, amongst whom was
a long thin fellow, who turned out to be no less a person than Mr. Hobbes,
who probably had ridden over from Chattsworth. Meeting so great a lion,--a
tourist, in search of the picturesque, could do no less than present
himself in the character of bore. And luckily for this scheme, two of Mr.
Hobbes's companions were suddenly summoned away by express; so that, for
the rest of his stay at Buxton, he had Leviathan entirely to himself, and
had the honor of bowsing with him in the evening. Hobbes, it seems, at
first showed a good deal of stiffness, for he was shy of divines; but this
wore off, and he became very sociable and funny, and they agreed to go into
the bath together. How Tennison could venture to gambol in the same water
with Leviathan, I cannot explain; but so it was: they frolicked about like
two dolphins, though Hobbes must have been as old as the hills; and
"in those intervals wherein they abstained from swimming and plunging
themselves," [i.e., diving,] "they discoursed of many things relating to
the Baths of the Ancients, and the Origine of Springs. When they had in
this manner passed away an hour, they stepped out of the bath; and, having
dried and cloathed themselves, they sate down in expectation of such a
supper as the place afforded; designing to refresh themselves like the
_Deipnosophilæ_, and rather to reason than to drink profoundly. But in this
innocent intention they were interrupted by the disturbance arising from a
little quarrel, in which some of the ruder people in the house were for a
short time engaged. At this Mr. Hobbes seemed much concerned, though he was
at some distance from the persons." And why was he concerned, gentlemen?
No doubt you fancy, from, some benign and disinterested love of peace and
harmony, worthy of an old man and a philosopher. But listen--"For a while
he was not composed, but related it once or twice as to himself, with a
low and careful tone, how Sextus Roscius was murthered after supper by
the Balneæ Palatinæ. Of such general extent is that remark of Cicero, in
relation to Epicurus the Atheist, of whom he observed that he of all men
dreaded most those things which he contemned--Death and the Gods." Merely
because it was supper time, and in the neighborhood of a bath, Mr. Hobbes
must have the fate of Sextus Roscius. What logic was there in this, unless
to a man who was always dreaming of murder? Here was Leviathan, no
longer afraid of the daggers of English cavaliers or French clergy, but
"frightened from his propriety" by a row in an ale-house between some
honest clod-hoppers of Derbyshire, whom his own gaunt scare-crow of a
person that belonged to quite another century, would have frightened out of
their wits.

Malebranche, it will give you pleasure to hear, was murdered. The man who
murdered him is well known: it was Bishop Berkeley. The story is familiar,
though hitherto not put in a proper light. Berkeley, when a young man, went
to Paris and called on Père Malebranche. He found him in his cell cooking.
Cooks have ever been a _genus irritabile_; authors still more so:
Malebranche was both: a dispute arose; the old father, warm already, became
warmer; culinary and metaphysical irritations united to derange his liver:
he took to his bed, and died. Such is the common version of the story:
"So the whole ear of Denmark is abused." The fact is, that the matter was
hushed up, out of consideration for Berkeley, who (as Pope remarked) had
"every virtue under heaven:" else it was well known that Berkeley, feeling
himself nettled by the waspishness of the old Frenchman, squared at him; a
_turn-up_ was the consequence: Malebranche was floored in the first round;
the conceit was wholly taken out of him; and he would perhaps have given
in; but Berkeley's blood was now up, and he insisted on the old Frenchman's
retracting his doctrine of Occasional Causes. The vanity of the man was too
great for this; and he fell a sacrifice to the impetuosity of Irish youth,
combined with his own absurd obstinacy.

Leibnitz, being every way superior to Malebranche, one might, _a fortiori_,
have counted on _his_ being murdered; which, however, was not the case. I
believe he was nettled at this neglect, and felt himself insulted by the
security in which he passed his days. In no other way can I explain
his conduct at the latter end of his life, when he chose to grow very
avaricious, and to hoard up large sums of gold, which he kept in his
own house. This was at Vienna, where he died; and letters are still in
existence, describing the immeasurable anxiety which he entertained for his
throat. Still his ambition, for being _attempted_ at least, was so
great, that he would not forego the danger. A late English pedagogue, of
Birmingham manufacture, viz., Dr. Parr, took a more selfish course, under
the same circumstances. He had amassed a considerable quantity of gold and
silver plate, which was for some time deposited in his bed-room at his
parsonage house, Hatton. But growing every day more afraid of being
murdered, which he knew that he could not stand, (and to which, indeed, he
never had the slightest pretension,) he transferred the whole to the Hatton
blacksmith; conceiving, no doubt, that the murder of a blacksmith would
fall more lightly on the _salus reipublicæ_, than that of a pedagogue. But
I have heard this greatly disputed; and it seems now generally agreed, that
one good horse-shoe is worth about 2 1/4 Spital sermons.

As Leibnitz, though not murdered, may be said to have died, partly of
the fear that he should be murdered, and partly of vexation that he was
not,--Kant, on the other hand--who had no ambition in that way--had a
narrower escape from a murderer than any man we read of, except Des Cartes.
So absurdly does fortune throw about her favors! The case is told, I think,
in an anonymous life of this very great man. For health's sake, Kant
imposed upon himself, at one time, a walk of six miles every day along a
highroad. This fact becoming known to a man who had his private reasons for
committing murder, at the third milestone from Königsberg, he waited for
his "intended," who came up to time as duly as a mail-coach. But for an
accident, Kant was a dead man. However, on considerations of "morality," it
happened that the murderer preferred a little child, whom he saw playing in
the road, to the old transcendentalist: this child he murdered; and thus it
happened that Kant escaped. Such is the German account of the matter; but
my opinion is--that the murderer was an amateur, who felt how little would
be gained to the cause of good taste by murdering an old, arid, and adust
metaphysician; there was no room for display, as the man could not possibly
look more like a mummy when dead, than he had done alive.

Thus, gentlemen, I have traced the connection between philosophy and our
art, until insensibly I find that I have wandered into our own era. This I
shall not take any pains to characterize apart from that which preceded
it, for, in fact, they have no distinct character. The seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, together with so much of the nineteenth as we have
yet seen, jointly compose the Augustan age of murder. The finest work of
the seventeenth century is, unquestionably, the murder of Sir Edmondbury
Godfrey, which has my entire approbation. At the same time, it must be
observed, that the quantity of murder was not great in this century, at
least amongst our own artists; which, perhaps, is attributable to the want
of enlightened patronage. _Sint Mæcenates, non deerunt, Flacce, Marones_.
Consulting Grant's "Observations on the Bills of Mortality," (4th edition,
Oxford, 1665,) I find, that out of 229,250, who died in London during one
period of twenty years in the seventeenth century, not more than eighty-six
were murdered; that is, about four three-tenths per annum. A small number
this, gentlemen, to found an academy upon; and certainly, where the
quantity is so small, we have a right to expect that the quality should be
first-rate. Perhaps it was; yet, still I am of opinion that the best artist
in this century was not equal to the best in that which followed. For
instance, however praiseworthy the case of Sir Edmondbury Godfrey may be
(and nobody can be more sensible of its merits than I am), still I cannot
consent to place it on a level with that of Mrs. Ruscombe of Bristol,
either as to originality of design, or boldness and breadth of style. This
good lady's murder took place early in the reign of George III., a reign
which was notoriously favorable to the arts generally. She lived in College
Green, with a single maid-servant, neither of them having any pretension
to the notice of history but what they derived from the great artist whose
workmanship I am recording. One fine morning, when all Bristol was alive
and in motion, some suspicion arising, the neighbors forced an entrance
into the house, and found Mrs. Ruscombe murdered in her bed-room, and the
servant murdered on the stairs: this was at noon; and, not more than two
hours before, both mistress and servant had been seen alive. To the best of
my remembrance, this was in 1764; upwards of sixty years, therefore, have
now elapsed, and yet the artist is still undiscovered. The suspicions of
posterity have settled upon two pretenders--a baker and a chimney-sweeper.
But posterity is wrong; no unpractised artist could have conceived so bold
an idea as that of a noon-day murder in the heart of a great city. It was
no obscure baker, gentlemen, or anonymous chimney-sweeper, be assured, that
executed this work. I know who it was. (_Here there was a general buzz,
which at length broke out into open applause; upon which the lecturer
blushed, and went on with much earnestness_.) For Heaven's sake, gentlemen,
do not mistake me; it was not I that did it. I have not the vanity to think
myself equal to any such achievement; be assured that you greatly overrate
my poor talents; Mrs. Ruscombe's affair was far beyond my slender
abilities. But I came to know who the artist was, from a celebrated
surgeon, who assisted at his dissection. This gentleman had a private
museum in the way of his profession, one corner of which was occupied by a
cast from a man of remarkably fine proportions.

"That," said the surgeon, "is a cast from the celebrated Lancashire
highwayman, who concealed his profession for some time from his neighbors,
by drawing woollen stockings over his horse's legs, and in that way
muffling the clatter which he must else have made in riding up a flagged
alley that led to his stable. At the time of his execution for highway
robbery, I was studying under Cruickshank: and the man's figure was
so uncommonly fine, that no money or exertion was spared to get into
possession of him with the least possible delay. By the connivance of the
under-sheriff he was cut down within the legal time, and instantly put into
a chaise and four; so that, when he reached Cruickshank's he was positively
not dead. Mr. ----, a young student at that time, had the honor of giving
him the _coup de grâce_, and finishing the sentence of the law." This
remarkable anecdote, which seemed to imply that all the gentlemen in the
dissecting-room were amateurs of our class, struck me a good deal; and I
was repeating it one day to a Lancashire lady, who thereupon informed me,
that she had herself lived in the neighborhood of that highwayman, and well
remembered two circumstances, which combined, in the opinion of all his
neighbors, to fix upon him the credit of Mrs. Ruscombe's affair. One was,
the fact of his absence for a whole fortnight at the period of that murder:
the other, that, within a very little time after, the neighborhood of this
highwayman was deluged with dollars: now Mrs. Ruscombe was known to have
hoarded about two thousand of that coin. Be the artist, however, who he
might, the affair remains a durable monument of his genius; for such was
the impression of awe, and the sense of power left behind, by the strength
of conception manifested in this murder, that no tenant (as I was told in
1810) had been found up to that time for Mrs. Ruscombe's house.

But, whilst I thus eulogize the Ruscombian case, let me not be supposed to
overlook the many other specimens of extraordinary merit spread over the
face of this century. Such cases, indeed, as that of Miss Bland, or of
Captain Donnellan, and Sir Theophilus Boughton, shall never have any
countenance from me. Fie on these dealers in poison, say I: can they not
keep to the old honest way of cutting throats, without introducing such
abominable innovations from Italy? I consider all these poisoning cases,
compared with the legitimate style, as no better than wax-work by the side
of sculpture, or a lithographic print by the side of a fine Volpato. But,
dismissing these, there remain many excellent works of art in a pure style,
such as nobody need be ashamed to own, as every candid connoisseur will
admit. _Candid_, observe, I say; for great allowances must be made in
these cases; no artist can ever be sure of carrying through his own fine
preconception. Awkward disturbances will arise; people will not submit to
have their throats cut quietly; they will run, they will kick, they will
bite; and whilst the portrait painter often has to complain of too much
torpor in his subject, the artist, in our line, is generally embarrassed by
too much animation. At the same time, however disagreeable to the artist,
this tendency in murder to excite and irritate the subject, is certainly
one of its advantages to the world in general, which we ought not to
overlook, since it favors the development of latent talent. Jeremy Taylor
notices with admiration, the extraordinary leaps which people will take
under the influence of fear. There was a striking instance of this in the
recent case of the M'Keands; the boy cleared a height, such as he will
never clear again to his dying day. Talents also of the most brilliant
description for thumping, and indeed for all the gymnastic exercises,
have sometimes been developed by the panic which accompanies our artists;
talents else buried and hid under a bushel to the possessors, as much as to
their friends. I remember an interesting illustration of this fact, in a
case which I learned in Germany.

Riding one day in the neighborhood of Munich, I overtook a distinguished
amateur of our society, whose name I shall conceal. This gentleman informed
me that, finding himself wearied with the frigid pleasures (so he
called them) of mere amateurship, he had quitted England for the
continent--meaning to practise a little professionally. For this purpose
he resorted to Germany, conceiving the police in that part of Europe to be
more heavy and drowsy than elsewhere. His _debut_ as a practitioner took
place at Mannheim; and, knowing me to be a brother amateur, he freely
communicated the whole of his maiden adventure. "Opposite to my lodging,"
said he, "lived a baker: he was somewhat of a miser, and lived quite alone.
Whether it were his great expanse of chalky face, or what else, I know
not--but the fact was, I 'fancied' him, and resolved to commence business
upon his throat, which by the way he always carried bare--a fashion which
is very irritating to my desires. Precisely at eight o'clock in the
evening, I observed that he regularly shut up his windows. One night I
watched him when thus engaged--bolted in after him--locked the door--and,
addressing him with great suavity, acquainted him with the nature of my
errand; at the same time advising him to make no resistance, which would be
mutually unpleasant. So saying, I drew out my tools; and was proceeding to
operate. But at this spectacle, the baker, who seemed to have been struck
by catalepsy at my first announce, awoke into tremendous agitation. 'I will
_not_ be murdered!' he shrieked aloud; 'what for will I lose my precious
throat?' 'What for?' said I; 'if for no other reason, for this--that you
put alum into your bread. But no matter, alum or no alum, (for I was
resolved to forestall any argument on that point,) know that I am a
virtuoso in the art of murder--am desirous of improving myself in its
details--and am enamored of your vast surface of throat, to which I am
determined to be a customer.' 'Is it so?' said he, 'but I'll find you
custom in another line;' and so saying, he threw himself into a boxing
attitude. The very idea of his boxing struck me as ludicrous. It is true,
a London baker had distinguished himself in the ring, and became known
to fame under the title of the Master of the Rolls; but he was young and
unspoiled: whereas this man was a monstrous feather-bed in person, fifty
years old, and totally out of condition. Spite of all this, however, and
contending against me, who am a master in the art, he made so desperate a
defence, that many times I feared he might turn the tables upon me;
and that I, an amateur, might be murdered by a rascally baker. What a
situation! Minds of sensibility will sympathize with my anxiety. How severe
it was, you may understand by this, that for the first thirteen rounds the
baker had the advantage. Round the fourteenth, I received a blow on
the right eye, which closed it up; in the end, I believe, this was my
salvation: for the anger it roused in me was so great that, in this and
every one of the three following rounds, I floored the baker.

"Round 18th. The baker came up piping, and manifestly the worse for wear.
His geometrical exploits in the four last rounds had done him no good.
However, he showed some skill in stopping a message which I was sending to
his cadaverous mug; in delivering which, my foot slipped, and I went down.

"Round 19th. Surveying the baker, I became ashamed of having been so
much bothered by a shapeless mass of dough; and I went in fiercely,
and administered some severe punishment. A rally took place--both went
down--baker undermost--ten to three on amateur.

"Round 20th. The baker jumped up with surprising agility; indeed, he
managed his pins capitally, and fought wonderfully, considering that he was
drenched in perspiration; but the shine was now taken out of him, and his
game was the mere effect of panic. It was now clear that he could not last
much longer. In the course of this round we tried the weaving system, in
which I had greatly the advantage, and hit him repeatedly on the conk.
My reason for this was, that his conk was covered with carbuncles; and I
thought I should vex him by taking such liberties with his conk, which in
fact I did.

"The three next rounds, the master of the rolls staggered about like a cow
on the ice. Seeing how matters stood, in round twenty-fourth I whispered
something into his ear, which sent him down like a shot. It was nothing
more than my private opinion of the value of his throat at an annuity
office. This little confidential whisper affected him greatly; the very
perspiration was frozen on his face, and for the next two rounds I had it
all my own way. And when I called _time_ for the twenty-seventh round, he
lay like a log on the floor."

After which, said I to the amateur, "It may be presumed that you
accomplished your purpose." "You are right," said he mildly, "I did; and a
great satisfaction, you know, it was to my mind, for by this means I killed
two birds with one stone;" meaning that he had both thumped the baker and
murdered him. Now, for the life of me, I could not see _that_; for, on the
contrary, to my mind it appeared that he had taken two stones to kill one
bird, having been obliged to take the conceit out of him first with his
fist, and then with his tools. But no matter for his logic. The moral of
his story was good, for it showed what an astonishing stimulus to latent
talent is contained in any reasonable prospect of being murdered. A
pursy, unwieldy, half cataleptic baker of Mannheim had absolutely fought
six-and-twenty rounds with an accomplished English boxer merely upon this
inspiration; so greatly was natural genius exalted and sublimed by the
genial presence of his murderer.

Really, gentlemen, when one hears of such things as these, it becomes a
duty, perhaps, a little to soften that extreme asperity with which most
men speak of murder. To hear people talk, you would suppose that all the
disadvantages and inconveniences were on the side of being murdered, and
that there were none at all in _not_ being murdered. But considerate men
think otherwise. "Certainly," says Jeremy Taylor, "it is a less temporal
evil to fall by the rudeness of a sword than the violence of a fever: and
the axe" (to which he might have added the ship-carpenter's mallet and the
crow-bar) "a much less affliction than a strangury." Very true; the
bishop talks like a wise man and an amateur, as he is; and another great
philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, was equally above the vulgar prejudices on
this subject. He declares it to be one of "the noblest functions of reason
to know whether it is time to walk out of the world or not." (Book III.,
Collers' Translation.) No sort of knowledge being rarer than this, surely
_that_ man must be a most philanthropic character, who undertakes to
instruct people in this branch of knowledge gratis, and at no little hazard
to himself. All this, however, I throw out only in the way of speculation
to future moralists; declaring in the meantime my own private conviction,
that very few men commit murder upon philanthropic or patriotic principles,
and repeating what I have already said once at least--that, as to the
majority of murderers, they are very incorrect characters.

With respect to Williams's murders, the sublimest and most entire in their
excellence that ever were committed, I shall not allow myself to speak
incidentally. Nothing less than an entire lecture, or even an entire course
of lectures, would suffice to expound their merits. But one curious fact,
connected with his case, I shall mention, because it seems to imply that
the blaze of his genius absolutely dazzled the eye of criminal justice. You
all remember, I doubt not, that the instruments with which he executed his
first great work, (the murder of the Marrs,) were a ship-carpenter's mallet
and a knife. Now the mallet belonged to an old Swede, one John Petersen,
and bore his initials. This instrument Williams left behind him, in Marr's
house, and it fell into the hands of the magistrates. Now, gentlemen, it
is a fact that the publication of this circumstance of the initials led
immediately to the apprehension of Williams, and, if made earlier, would
have prevented his second great work, (the murder of the Williamsons,)
which took place precisely twelve days after. But the magistrates kept back
this fact from the public for the entire twelve days, and until that second
work was accomplished. That finished, they published it, apparently feeling
that Williams had now done enough for his fame, and that his glory was at
length placed beyond the reach of accident.

As to Mr. Thurtell's case, I know not what to say. Naturally, I have every
disposition to think highly of my predecessor in the chair of this society;
and I acknowledge that his lectures were unexceptionable. But, speaking
ingenuously, I do really think that his principal performance, as an
artist, has been much overrated. I admit that at first I was myself carried
away by the general enthusiasm. On the morning when the murder was made
known in London, there was the fullest meeting of amateurs that I have ever
known since the days of Williams; old bed-ridden connoisseurs, who had got
into a peevish way of sneering and complaining "that there was nothing
doing," now hobbled down to our club-room: such hilarity, such benign
expression of general satisfaction, I have rarely witnessed. On every side
you saw people shaking hands, congratulating each other, and forming
dinner parties for the evening; and nothing was to be heard but triumphant
challenges of--"Well! will _this_ do?" "Is _this_ the right thing?" "Are
you satisfied at last?" But, in the midst of this, I remember we all
grew silent on hearing the old cynical amateur, L. S----, that _laudator
temporis acti_, stumping along with his wooden leg; he entered the room
with his usual scowl, and, as he advanced, he continued to growl and
stutter the whole way--"Not an original idea in the whole piece--mere
plagiarism,--base plagiarism from hints that I threw out! Besides, his
style is as hard as Albert Durer, and as coarse as Fuseli." Many thought
that this was mere jealousy, and general waspishness; but I confess that,
when the first glow of enthusiasm had subsided, I have found most judicious
critics to agree that there was something _falsetto_ in the style of
Thurtell. The fact is, he was a member of our society, which naturally gave
a friendly bias to our judgments; and his person was universally familiar
to the cockneys, which gave him, with the whole London public, a temporary
popularity, that his pretensions are not capable of supporting; for
_opinionum commenta delet dies, naturæ judicia confirmat_. There was,
however, an unfinished design of Thurtell's for the murder of a man with a
pair of dumb-bells, which I admired greatly; it was a mere outline, that he
never completed; but to my mind it seemed every way superior to his chief
work. I remember that there was great regret expressed by some amateurs
that this sketch should have been left in an unfinished state: but there
I cannot agree with them; for the fragments and first bold outlines of
original artists have often a felicity about them which is apt to vanish in
the management of the details.

The case of the M'Keands I consider far beyond the vaunted performance of
Thurtell,--indeed above all praise; and bearing that relation, in fact, to
the immortal works of Williams, which the Æneid bears to the Iliad.

But it is now time that I should say a few words about the principles of
murder, not with a view to regulate your practice, but your judgment: as
to old women, and the mob of newspaper readers, they are pleased with
anything, provided it is bloody enough. But the mind of sensibility
requires something more. _First_, then, let us speak of the kind of person
who is adapted to the purpose of the murderer; _secondly_, of the place
where; _thirdly_, of the time when, and other little circumstances.

As to the person, I suppose it is evident that he ought to be a good man;
because, if he were not, he might himself, by possibility, be contemplating
murder at the very time; and such "diamond-cut-diamond" tussles, though
pleasant enough where nothing better is stirring, are really not what a
critic can allow himself to call murders. I could mention some people (I
name no names) who have been murdered by other people in a dark lane; and
so far all seemed correct enough; but, on looking farther into the matter,
the public have become aware that the murdered party was himself, at the
moment, planning to rob his murderer, at the least, and possibly to murder
him, if he had been strong enough. Whenever that is the case, or may be
thought to be the case, farewell to all the genuine effects of the art. For
the final purpose of murder, considered as a fine art, is precisely the
same as that of tragedy, in Aristotle's account of it, viz., "to cleanse
the heart by means of pity and terror." Now, terror there may be, but how
can there be any pity for one tiger destroyed by another tiger?

It is also evident that the person selected ought not to be a public
character. For instance, no judicious artist would have attempted to murder
Abraham Newland. For the case was this; everybody read so much about
Abraham Newland, and so few people ever saw him, that there was a fixed
belief that he was an abstract idea. And I remember that once, when I
happened to mention that I had dined at a coffee-house in company with
Abraham Newland, everybody looked scornfully at me, as though I had
pretended to have played at billiards with Prester John, or to have had an
affair of honor with the Pope. And, by the way, the Pope would be a very
improper person to murder: for he has such a virtual ubiquity as the father
of Christendom, and, like the cuckoo, is so often heard but never seen,
that I suspect most people regard _him_ also as an abstract idea. Where,
indeed, a public character is in the habit of giving dinners, "with every
delicacy of the season," the case is very different: every person is
satisfied that _he_ is no abstract idea; and, therefore, there can be no
impropriety in murdering him; only that his murder will fall into the class
of assassinations, which I have not yet treated.

_Thirdly_. The subject chosen ought to be in good health: for it is
absolutely barbarous to murder a sick person, who is usually quite unable
to bear it. On this principle, no cockney ought to be chosen who is above
twenty-five, for after that age he is sure to be dyspeptic. Or at least, if
a man will hunt in that warren, he ought to murder a couple at one time; if
the cockneys chosen should be tailors, he will of course think it his duty,
on the old established equation, to murder eighteen. And, here, in this
attention to the comfort of sick people, you will observe the usual effect
of a fine art to soften and refine the feelings. The world in general,
gentlemen, are very bloody-minded; and all they want in a murder is a
copious effusion of blood; gaudy display in this point is enough for
_them_. But the enlightened connoisseur is more refined in his taste;
and from our art, as from all the other liberal arts when thoroughly
cultivated, the result is--to improve and to humanize the heart; so true is
it, that--

  ----"Ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes,
  Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros."

A philosophic friend, well known for his philanthropy and general
benignity, suggests that the subject chosen ought also to have a family of
young children wholly dependent on his exertions, by way of deepening the
pathos. And, undoubtedly, this is a judicious caution. Yet I would not
insist too keenly on this condition. Severe good taste unquestionably
demands it; but still, where the man was otherwise unobjectionable in point
of morals and health, I would not look with too curious a jealousy to a
restriction which might have the effect of narrowing the artist's sphere.

So much for the person. As to the time, the place, and the tools, I have
many things to say, which at present I have no room for. The good sense of
the practitioner has usually directed him to night and privacy. Yet
there have not been wanting cases where this rule was departed from with
excellent effect. In respect to time, Mrs. Ruscombe's case is a beautiful
exception, which I have already noticed; and in respect both to time and
place, there is a fine exception in the annals of Edinburgh, (year 1805,)
familiar to every child in Edinburgh, but which has unaccountably been
defrauded of its due portion of fame amongst English amateurs. The case
I mean is that of a porter to one of the banks, who was murdered whilst
carrying a bag of money, in broad daylight, on turning out of the High
Street, one of the most public streets in Europe, and the murderer is to
this hour undiscovered.

  "Sed fugit interea, fugit irreparabile tcmpus,
  Singula dum capti circumvectamur amore."

And now, gentlemen, in conclusion, let me again solemnly disclaim all
pretensions on my own part to the character of a professional man. I never
attempted any murder in my life, except in the year 1801, upon the body of
a tom-cat; and _that_ turned out differently from my intention. My
purpose, I own, was downright murder. "Semper ego auditor tantum?" said I,
"nunquamne reponam?" And I went down stairs in search of Tom at one o'clock
on a dark night, with the "animus," and no doubt with the fiendish looks,
of a murderer. But when I found him, he was in the act of plundering the
pantry of bread and other things. Now this gave a new turn to the affair;
for the time being one of general scarcity, when even Christians were
reduced to the use of potato-bread, rice-bread, and all sorts of things, it
was downright treason in a tom-cat to be wasting good wheaten-bread in the
way he was doing. It instantly became a patriotic duty to put him to death;
and as I raised aloft and shook the glittering steel, I fancied myself
rising like Brutus, effulgent from a crowd of patriots, and, as I stabbed
him, I

  "called aloud on Tully's name,
  And bade the father of his country hail!"

Since then, what wandering thoughts I may have had of attempting the life
of an ancient ewe, of a superannuated hen, and such "small deer," are
locked up in the secrets of my own breast; but for the higher departments
of the art, I confess myself to be utterly unfit. My ambition does not rise
so high. No, gentlemen, in the words of Horace,

  "---fungos vice cotis, excutum
  Reddere ere quæ ferrum valet, exsors ipsa secandi."



DOCTOR NORTH: You are a liberal man: liberal in the true classical sense,
not in the slang sense of modern politicians and education-mongers. Being
so, I am sure that you will sympathize with my case. I am an ill-used man,
Dr. North--particularly ill used; and, with your permission, I will briefly
explain how. A black scene of calumny will be laid open; but you, Doctor,
will make all things square again. One frown from you, directed to the
proper quarter, or a warning shake of the crutch, will set me right in
public opinion, which at present, I am sorry to say, is rather hostile to
me and mine--all owing to the wicked arts of slanderers. But you shall

A good many years ago you may remember that I came forward in the character
of a _dilettante_ in murder. Perhaps _dilettante_ may be too strong a word.
_Connoisseur_ is better suited to the scruples and infirmity of public
taste. I suppose there is no harm in _that_ at least. A man is not bound
to put his eyes, ears, and understanding into his breeches pocket when he
meets with a murder. If he is not in a downright comatose state, I suppose
he must see that one murder is better or worse than another in point of
good taste. Murders have their little differences and shades of merit as
well as statues, pictures, oratorios, cameos, intaglios, or what not. You
may be angry with the man for talking too much, or too publicly, (as to the
too much, that I deny--a man can never cultivate his taste too highly;) but
you must allow him to think, at any rate; and you, Doctor, you think, I am
sure, both deeply and correctly on the subject. Well, would you believe it?
all my neighbors came to hear of that little æsthetic essay which you had
published; and, unfortunately, hearing at the very same time of a club that
I as connected with, and a dinner at which I presided--both tending to the
same little object as the essay, viz., the diffusion of a just taste among
her majesty's subjects, they got up the most barbarous calumnies against
me. In particular, they said that I, or that the club, which comes to the
same thing, had offered bounties on well conducted homicides--with a scale
of drawbacks, in case of any one defect or flaw, according to a table
issued to private friends. Now, Doctor, I'll tell you the whole truth about
the dinner and the club, and you'll see how malicious the world is. But
first let me tell you, confidentially, what my real principles are upon the
matters in question.

As to murder, I never committed one in my life. It's a well known thing
amongst all my friends. I can get a paper to certify as much, signed by
lots of people. Indeed, if you come to that, I doubt whether many
people could produce as strong a certificate. Mine would be as big as a
table-cloth. There is indeed one member of the club, who pretends to say
that he caught me once making too free with his throat on a club night,
after every body else had retired. But, observe, he shuffles in his story
according to his state of civilation. When not far gone, he contents
himself with saying that he caught me ogling his throat; and that I was
melancholy for some weeks after, and that my voice sounded in a way
expressing, to the nice ear of a connoisseur, _the sense of opportunities
lost_--but the club all know that he's a disappointed man himself, and that
he speaks querulously at times about the fatal neglect of a man's coming
abroad without his tools. Besides, all this is an affair between two
amateurs, and every body makes allowances for little asperities
and sorenesses in such a case. "But," say you, "If no murderer, my
correspondent may have encouraged, or even have bespoke a murder." No, upon
my honor--nothing of the kind. And that was the very point I wished to
argue for your satisfaction. The truth is, I am a very particular man in
everything relating to murder; and perhaps I carry my delicacy too far. The
Stagyrite most justly, and possibly with a view to my case, placed virtue
in the [Greek: to meson] or middle point between two extremes. A golden
mean is certainly what every man should aim at. But it is easier talking
than doing; and, my infirmity being notoriously too much milkiness of
heart, I find it difficult to maintain that steady equatorial line between
the two poles of too much murder on the one hand, and too little on the
other. I am too soft--Doctor, too soft; and people get excused through
me--nay, go through life without an attempt made upon them, that ought not
to be excused. I believe if I had the management of things, there would
hardly be a murder from year's end to year's end. In fact I'm for virtue,
and goodness, and all that sort of thing. And two instances I'll give you
to what an extremity I carry my virtue. The first may seem a trifle; but
not if you knew my nephew, who was certainly born to be hanged, and would
have been so long ago, but for my restraining voice. He is horribly
ambitious, and thinks himself a man of cultivated taste in most branches of
murder, whereas, in fact, he has not one idea on the subject, but such
as he has stolen from me. This is so well known, that the club has twice
blackballed him, though every indulgence was shown to him as my relative.
People came to me and said--"Now really, President, we would do much to
serve a relative of yours. But still, what can be said? You know yourself
that he'll disgrace us. If we were to elect him, why, the next thing we
should hear of would be some vile butcherly murder, by way of justifying
our choice. And what sort of a concern would it be? You know, as well as we
do, that it would be a disgraceful affair, more worthy of the shambles than
of an artist's _attelier_. He would fall upon some great big man, some huge
farmer returning drunk from a fair. There would be plenty of blood, and
_that_ he would expect us to take in lieu of taste, finish, scenical
grouping. Then, again, how would he tool? Why, most probably with a cleaver
and a couple of paving stones: so that the whole _coup d'oeil_ would remind
you rather of some hideous ogre or cyclops, than of the delicate operator
of the nineteenth century." The picture was drawn with the hand of truth;
_that_ I could not but allow, and, as to personal feelings in the matter, I
dismissed them from the first. The next morning I spoke to my nephew--I was
delicately situated, as you see, but I determined that no consideration
should induce me to flinch from my duty. "John," said I, "you seem to me to
have taken an erroneous view of life and its duties. Pushed on by ambition,
you are dreaming rather of what it might be glorious to attempt, than what
it would be possible for you to accomplish. Believe me, it is not necessary
to a man's respectability that he should commit a murder. Many a man has
passed through life most respectably, without attempting any species of
homicide--good, bad, or indifferent. It is your first duty to ask yourself,
_quid valeant humeri, quid ferre recusent_? we cannot all be brilliant men
in this life. And it is for your interest to be contented rather with a
humble station well filled, than to shock every body with failures, the
more conspicuous by contrast with the ostentation of their promises." John
made no answer, he looked very sulky at the moment, and I am in high
hopes that I have saved a near relation from making a fool of himself by
attempting what is as much beyond his capacity as an epic poem. Others,
however, tell me that he is meditating a revenge upon me and the whole
club. But let this be as it may, _liberavi animam meam_; and, as you see,
have run some risk with a wish to diminish the amount of homicide. But the
other case still more forcibly illustrates my virtue. A man came to me as
a candidate for the place of my servant, just then vacant. He had the
reputation of having dabbled a little in our art; some said not without
merit. What startled me, however, was, that he supposed this art to be
part of his regular duties in my service. Now that was a thing I would not
allow; so I said at once, "Richard (or James, as the case might be,) you
misunderstand my character. If a man will and must practise this difficult
(and allow me to add, dangerous) branch of art--if he has an overruling
genius for it, why, he might as well pursue his studies whilst living in my
service as in another's. And also, I may observe, that it can do no harm
either to himself or to the subject on whom he operates, that he should
be guided by men of more taste than himself. Genius may do much, but long
study of the art must always entitle a man to offer advice. So far I will
go--general principles I will suggest. But as to any particular case, once
for all I will have nothing to do with it. Never tell me of any special
work of art you are meditating--I set my face against it _in toto_. For if
once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think
little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and
Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination. Once
begin upon this downward path, you never know where you are to stop. Many
a man has dated his ruin from some murder or other that perhaps he thought
little of at the time. _Principiis obsta_--that's my rule." Such was my
speech, and I have always acted up to it; so if that is not being virtuous,
I should be glad to know what is. But now about the dinner and the club.
The club was not particularly of my creation; it arose pretty much as other
similar associations, for the propagation of truth and the communication of
new ideas, rather from the necessities of things than upon any one man's
suggestion. As to the dinner, if any man more than another could be held
responsible for that, it was a member known amongst us by the name of
_Toad-in-the-hole_. He was so called from his gloomy misanthropical
disposition, which led him into constant disparagements of all modern
murders as vicious abortions, belonging to no authentic school of art. The
finest performances of our own age he snarled at cynically; and at length
this querulous humor grew upon him so much, and he became so notorious as a
_laudator tentporis acti_, that few people cared to seek his society. This
made him still more fierce and truculent. He went about muttering and
growling; wherever you met him he was soliloquizing and saying, "despicable
pretender--without grouping--without two ideas upon handling--without"--and
there you lost him. At length existence seemed to be painful to him;
he rarely spoke, he seemed conversing with phantoms in the air, his
housekeeper informed us that his reading was nearly confined to _God's
Revenge upon Murder_, by Reynolds, and a more ancient book of the same
title, noticed by Sir Walter Scott in his _Fortunes of Nigel_. Sometimes,
perhaps, he might read in the Newgate Calendar down to the year 1788, but
he never looked into a book more recent. In fact, he had a theory with
regard to the French Revolution, as having been the great cause of
degeneration in murder. "Very soon, sir," he used to say, "men will have
lost the art of killing poultry: the very rudiments of the art will
have perished!" In the year 1811 he retired from general society.
Toad-in-the-hole was no more seen in any public resort. We missed him from
his wonted haunts--nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he. By the side of
the main conduit his listless length at noontide he would stretch, and pore
upon the filth that muddled by. "Even dogs are not what they were, sir--not
what they should be. I remember in my grandfather's time that some dogs had
an idea of murder. I have known a mastiff lie in ambush for a rival, sir,
and murder him with pleasing circumstances of good taste. Yes, sir, I knew
a tom-cat that was an assassin. But now"--and then, the subject growing too
painful, he dashed his hand to his forehead, and went off abruptly in a
homeward direction towards his favorite conduit, where he was seen by an
amateur in such a state that he thought it dangerous to address him. Soon
after he shut himself entirely up; it was understood that he had resigned
himself to melancholy; and at length the prevailing notion was, that
Toad-in-the-hole had hanged himself.

The world was wrong _there_, as it has been on some other questions.
Toad-in-the-hole might be sleeping, but dead he was not; and of that we
soon had ocular proof. One morning in 1812, an amateur surprised us with
the news that he had seen Toad-in-the-hole brushing with hasty steps the
dews away to meet the postman by the conduit side. Even that was something:
how much more, to hear that he had shaved his beard--had laid aside his
sad-colored clothes, and was adorned like a bridegroom of ancient days.
What could be the meaning of all this? Was Toad-in-the-hole mad? or how?
Soon after the secret was explained--in more than a figurative sense
"the murder was out." For in came the London morning papers, by which
it appeared that but three days before a murder, the most superb of the
century by many degrees had occurred in the heart of London. I need hardly
say, that this was the great exterminating _chef-d'oeuvre_ of Williams at
Mr. Marr's, No. 29, Ratcliffe Highway. That was the _début_ of the artist;
at least for anything the public knew. What occurred at Mr. Williamson's
twelve nights afterwards--the second work turned out from the same
chisel--some people pronounced even superior. But Toad-in-the-hole always
"reclaimed"--he was even angry at comparisons. "This vulgar _gout de
comparaison_, as La Bruyère calls it," he would often remark, "will be
our ruin; each work has its own separate characteristics--each in and for
itself is incomparable. One, perhaps, might suggest the _Iliad_--the other
the _Odyssey_: what do you get by such comparisons? Neither ever was, or
will be surpassed; and when you've talked for hours, you must still come
back to that." Vain, however, as all criticism might be, he often said that
volumes might be written on each case for itself; and he even proposed to
publish in quarto on the subject.

Meantime, how had Toad-in-the-hole happened to hear of this great work
of art so early in the morning? He had received an account by express,
dispatched by a correspondent in London, who watched the progress of art On
_Toady's_ behalf, with a general commission to send off a special express,
at whatever cost, in the event of any estimable works appearing--how much
more upon occasion of a _ne plus ultra_ in art! The express arrived in the
night-time; Toad-in-the-hole was then gone to bed; he had been muttering
and grumbling for hours, but of course he was called up. On reading the
account, he threw his arms round the express, called him his brother and
his preserver; settled a pension upon him for three lives, and expressed
his regret at not having it in his power to knight him. We, on our part--we
amateurs, I mean--having heard that he was abroad, and therefore had _not_
hanged himself, made sure of soon seeing him amongst us. Accordingly he
soon arrived, knocked over the porter on his road to the reading-room; he
seized every man's hand as he passed him--wrung it almost frantically, and
kept ejaculating, "Why, now here's something like a murder!--this is the
real thing--this is genuine--this is what you can approve, can recommend to
a friend: this--says every man, on reflection--this is the thing that ought
to be!" Then, looking at particular friends, he said--"Why, Jack, how are
you? Why, Tom, how are you? Bless me, you look ten years younger than
when I last saw you." "No, sir," I replied, "It is you who look ten years
younger." "Do I? well, I should'nt wonder if I did; such works are
enough to make us all young." And in fact the general opinion is, that
Toad-in-the-hole would have died but for this regeneration of art, which
he called a second age of Leo the Tenth; and it was our duty, he said
solemnly, to commemorate it. At present, and _en attendant_--rather as an
occasion for a public participation in public sympathy, than as in itself
any commensurate testimony of our interest--he proposed that the club
should meet and dine together. A splendid public dinner, therefore, was
given by the club; to which all amateurs were invited from a distance of
one hundred miles.

Of this dinner there are ample short-hand notes amongst the archives of
the club. But they are not "extended," to speak diplomatically; and the
reporter is missing--I believe, murdered. Meantime, in years long after
that day, and on an occasion perhaps equally interesting, viz., the turning
up of Thugs and Thuggism, another dinner was given. Of this I myself kept
notes, for fear of another accident to the short-hand reporter. And I here
subjoin them. Toad-in-the-hole, I must mention, was present at this dinner.
In fact, it was one of its sentimental incidents. Being as old as the
valleys at the dinner of 1812, naturally he was as old as the hills at the
Thug dinner of 1838. He had taken to wearing his beard again; why, or with
what view, it passes my persimmon to tell you. But so it was. And his
appearance was most benign and venerable. Nothing could equal the angelic
radiance of his smile as he inquired after the unfortunate reporter, (whom,
as a piece of private scandal, I should tell you that he was himself
supposed to have murdered, in a rapture of creative art:) the answer was,
with roars of laughter, from the under-sheriff of our county--"Non est
inventus." Toad-in-the-hole laughed outrageously at this: in fact, we all
thought he was choking; and, at the earnest request of the company, a
musical composer furnished a most beautiful glee upon the occasion,
which was sung five times after dinner, with universal applause and
inextinguishable laughter, the words being these, (and the chorus
so contrived, as most beautifully to mimic the peculiar laughter of

  "Et interrogatum est à Toad-in-the hole--Ubi est ille reporter?
  Et responsum est cum cachinno--Non est inventus."


  "Deinde iteratum est ab omnibus, cum cachinnatione undulante--
  Non est inventus."

Toad-in-the-hole, I ought to mention, about nine years before, when an
express from Edinburgh brought him the earliest intelligence of the
Burke-and-Hare revolution in the art, went mad upon the spot; and, instead
of a pension to the express for even one life, or a knighthood, endeavored
to burke him; in consequence of which he was put into a strait waistcoat.
And that was the reason we had no dinner then. But now all of us were alive
and kicking, strait-waistcoaters and others; in fact, not one absentee
was reported upon the entire roll. There were also many foreign amateurs

Dinner being over, and the cloth drawn, there was a general call made for
the new glee of _Non est inventus_; but, as this would have interfered with
the requisite gravity of the company during the earlier toasts, I overruled
the call. After the national toasts had been given, the first official
toast of the day was, _The Old Man of the Mountains_--drunk in solemn

Toad-in-the-hole returned thanks in a neat speech. He likened himself to
the Old Man of the Mountains, in a few brief allusions, that made the
company absolutely yell with laughter; and he concluded with giving the
health of

_Mr. Von Hammer_, with many thanks to him for his learned History of the
Old Man and his subjects the assassins.

Upon this I rose and said, that doubtless most of the company were aware
of the distinguished place assigned by orientalists to the very learned
Turkish scholar Von Hammer the Austrian; that he had made the profoundest
researches into our art as connected with those early and eminent artists
the Syrian assassins in the period of the Crusaders; that his work had been
for several years deposited, as a rare treasure of art, in the library
of the club. Even the author's name, gentlemen, pointed him out as the
historian of our art--Von Hammer--

"Yes, yes," interrupted Toad-in-the-hole, who never can sit still--"Yes,
yes, Von Hammer--he's the man for a _malleus hæreticorum_: think rightly
of our art, or he's the man to tickle your catastrophes. You all know what
consideration Williams bestowed on the hammer, or the ship carpenter's
mallet, which is the same thing. Gentlemen, I give you another great
hammer--Charles the Hammer, the Marteau, or, in old French, the Martel--he
hammered the Saracens till they were all as dead as door-nails--he did,
believe me."

"_Charles Martel_, with all the honors."

But the explosion of Toad-in-the-hole, together with the uproarious cheers
for the grandpapa of Charlemagne, had now made the company unmanageable.
The orchestra was again challenged with shouts the stormiest for the new
glee. I made again a powerful effort to overrule the challenge. I might
as well have talked to the winds. I foresaw a tempestuous evening; and I
ordered myself to be strengthened with three waiters on each side; the
vice-president with as many. Symptoms of unruly enthusiasm were beginning
to show out; and I own that I myself was considerably excited as the
orchestra opened with its storm of music, and the impassioned glee
began--"_Et interrogatum est à Toad-in-the-hole--Ubi est ille Reporter_?"
And the frenzy of the passion became absolutely convulsing, as the full
chorus fell in--"_Et iteratum est ab omnibus--Non est inventus_"

By this time I saw how things were going: wine and music were making most
of the amateurs wild. Particularly Toad-in-the-hole, though considerably
above a hundred years old, was getting as vicious as a young leopard. It
was a fixed impression with the company that he had murdered the reporter
in the year 1812; since which time (viz. twenty-six years) "ille reporter"
had been constantly reported "Non est inventus." Consequently, the glee
about himself, which of itself was most tumultuous and jubilant, carried
him off his feet. Like the famous choral songs amongst the citizens of
Abdera, nobody could hear it without a contagious desire for falling back
into the agitating music of "Et interrogatum est à Toad-in-the-hole," &c.
I enjoined vigilance upon my assessors, and the business of the evening

The next toast was--_The Jewish Sicarii_.

Upon which I made the following explanation to the company:--"Gentlemen,
I am sure it will interest you all to hear that the assassins, ancient as
they were, had a race of predecessors in the very same country. All over
Syria, but particularly in Palestine, during the early years of the Emperor
Nero, there was a band of murderers, who prosecuted their studies in a very
novel manner. They did not practise in the night-time, or in lonely places;
but justly considering that great crowds are in themselves a sort of
darkness by means of the dense pressure and the impossibility of finding
out who it was that gave the blow, they mingled with mobs everywhere;
particularly at the great paschal feast in Jerusalem; where they actually
had the audacity, as Josephus assures us, to press into the temple,--and
whom should they choose for operating upon but Jonathan himself, the
Pontifex Maximus? They murdered him, gentlemen, as beautifully as if they
had had him alone on a moonless night in a dark lane. And when it was
asked, who was the murderer, and where he was"--

"Why, then, it was answered," interrupted Toad-in-the-hole, "_Non est
inventus_." And then, in spite of all I could do or say, the
orchestra opened, and the whole company began--"Et interrogatum est à
Toad-in-the-hole--Ubi est ille Sicarius? Et responsum est ab omnibus--_Non
est inventus_."

When the tempestuous chorus had subsided, I began again:--"Gentlemen, you
will find a very circumstantial account of the Sicarii in at least three
different parts of Josephus; once in Book XX. sect. v. c. 8, of his
_Antiquities_; once in Book I. of his _Wars_: but in sect. 10 of the
chapter first cited you will find a particular description of their
tooling. This is what he says--'They tooled with small scymetars not much
different from the Persian _acinacæ_, but more curved, and for all the
world most like the Roman sickles or _sicæ_.' It is perfectly magnificent,
gentlemen, to hear the sequel of their history. Perhaps the only case
on record where a regular army of murderers was assembled, a _justus
exercitus_, was in the case of these _Sicarii_. They mustered in such
strength in the wilderness, that Festus himself was obliged to march
against them with the Roman legionary force."

Upon which Toad-in-the-hole, that cursed interrupter, broke out
a-singing--"Et interrogatum est à Toad-in-the-hole--Ubi est ille exercitus?
Et responsum est ab omnibus--Non est inventus."

"No, no, Toad--you are wrong for once: that army _was_ found, and was all
cut to pieces in the desert. Heavens, gentlemen, what a sublime picture!
The Roman legions--the wilderness--Jerusalem in the distance--an army of
murderers in the foreground!"

Mr. R., a member, now gave the next toast--"To the further improvement of
Tooling, and thanks to the Committee for their services."

Mr. L., on behalf of the committee who had reported on that subject,
returned thanks. He made an interesting extract from the report, by which
it appeared how very much stress had been laid formerly on the mode of
tooling, by the fathers, both Greek and Latin. In confirmation of this
pleasing fact, he made a very striking statement in reference to the
earliest work of antediluvian art. Father Mersenne, that learned Roman
Catholic, in page one thousand four hundred and thirty-one[1] of his
operose Commentary on Genesis, mentions, on the authority of several
rabbis, that the quarrel of Cain with Abel was about a young woman; that,
by various accounts, Cain had tooled with his teeth, [Abelem fuisse
_morsibus_ dilaceratum à Cain;] by many others, with the jaw-bone of an
ass; which is the tooling adopted by most painters. But it is pleasing to
the mind of sensibility to know that, as science expanded, sounder views
were adopted. One author contends for a pitchfork, St. Chrysostom for a
sword, Irenæus for a scythe, and Prudentius for a hedging-bill. This last
writer delivers his opinion thus:--

  "Frater, probatæ sanctitatis æmulus,
  Germana curvo colla frangit sarculo:"

_i.e_. his brother, jealous of his attested sanctity, fractures his
brotherly throat with a curved hedging-bill. "All which is respectfully
submitted by your committee, not so much as decisive of the question, (for
it is not,) but in order to impress upon the youthful mind the importance
which has ever been attached to the quality of the tooling by such men as
Chrysostom and Irenæus."

[Footnote 1: "Page one thousand four hundred and thirty-one"--_literally_,
good reader, and no joke at all.]

"Dang Irenæus!" said Toad-in-the-hole, who now rose impatiently to give the
next toast:--"Our Irish friends; and a speedy revolution in their mode of
tooling, as well as everything else connected with the art!"

"Gentlemen, I'll tell you the plain truth. Every day of the year we take
up a paper, we read the opening of a murder. We say, this is good, this
is charming, this is excellent! But, behold you! scarcely have we read a
little farther, before the word Tipperary or Ballina-something betrays the
Irish manufacture. Instantly we loath it; we call to the waiter; we say,
Waiter, take away this paper; send it out of the house; it is absolutely
offensive to all just taste.' I appeal to every man whether, on finding a
murder (otherwise perhaps promising enough) to be Irish, he does not feel
himself as much insulted as when Madeira being ordered, he finds it to be
Cape; or when, taking up what he takes to be a mushroom, it turns out
what children call a toad-stool. Tithes, politics, or something wrong in
principle, vitiate every Irish murder. Gentlemen, this must be reformed, or
Ireland will not be a land to live in; at least, if we do live there, we
must import all our murders, that's clear." Toad-in-the-hole sat
down growling with suppressed wrath, and the universal "Hear, hear!"
sufficiently showed that he spoke the general feeling.

The next toast was--"The sublime epoch of Burkism and Harism!"

This was drunk with enthusiasm; and one of the members, who spoke to the
question, made a very curious communication to the company:--"Gentlemen,
we fancy Burkism to be a pure invention of our own times: and in fact no
Pancirollus has ever enumerated this branch of art when writing _de rebus
deperditis_. Still I have ascertained that the essential principle of the
art _was_ known to the ancients, although like the art of painting upon
glass, of making the myrrhine cups, &c., it was lost in the dark ages for
want of encouragement. In the famous collection of Greek epigrams made
by Planudes is one upon a very charming little case of Burkism: it is a
perfect little gem of art. The epigram itself I cannot lay my hand upon at
this moment, but the following is an abstract of it by Salmasius, as I find
it in his notes on Vopiscus: 'Est et elegans epigramma Lucilii, (well
he might call it "elegans!") ubi medicus et pollinctor de compacto sic
egerunt, ut medicus ægros omnes curæ suæ commissos occideret:' this was
the basis of the contract, you see, that on the one part the doctor, for
himself and his assigns, doth undertake and contract duly and truly to
murder all the patients committed to his charge: but why? There lies the
beauty of the case--'Et ut pollinctori amico suo traderet pollingendos.'
The _pollinctor_, you are aware, was a person whose business it was to
dress and prepare dead bodies for burial. The original ground of the
transaction appears to have been sentimental: 'He was my friend,' says the
murderous doctor; 'he was dear to me,' in speaking of the pollinctor. But
the law, gentlemen, is stern and harsh: the law will not hear of these
tender motives: to sustain a contract of this nature in law, it is
essential that a 'consideration' should be given. Now what _was_ the
consideration? For thus far all is on the side of the pollinctor: he
will be well paid for his services; but, meantime, the generous, the
noble-minded doctor gets nothing. What _was_ the little consideration
again, I ask, which the law would insist on the doctor's taking? You shall
hear: 'Et ut pollinctor vicissim [Greek: telamonas] quos furabatur de
pollinctione mortuorum medico mitteret doni ad alliganda vulnera eorurn
quos curabat.' Now, the case is clear: the whole went on a principle of
reciprocity which would have kept up the trade for ever. The doctor was
also a surgeon: he could not murder _all_ his patients: some of the
surgical patients must be retained intact; _re infectâ_. For these he
wanted linen bandages. But, unhappily, the Romans wore woollen, on which
account they bathed so often. Meantime, there _was_ linen to be had in
Rome; but it was monstrously dear; and the [Greek: telamones] or linen
swathing bandages, in which superstition obliged them to bind up corpses,
would answer capitally for the surgeon. The doctor, therefore, contracts to
furnish his friend with a constant succession of corpses, provided, and be
it understood always, that his said friend in return should supply him with
one half of the articles he would receive from the friends of the parties
murdered or to be murdered. The doctor invariably recommended his
invaluable friend the pollinctor, (whom let us call the undertaker;) the
undertaker, with equal regard to the sacred rights of friendship, uniformly
recommended the doctor. Like Pylades and Orestes, they were models of a
perfect friendship: in their lives they were lovely, and on the gallows, it
is to be hoped, they were not divided.

"Gentlemen, it makes me laugh horribly, when I think of those two friends
drawing and redrawing on each other: 'Pollinctor in account with Doctor,
debtor by sixteen corpses; creditor by forty-five bandages, two of which
damaged.' Their names unfortunately are lost; but I conceive they must have
been Quintus Burkius and Publius Harius. By the way, gentlemen, has anybody
heard lately of Hare? I understand he is comfortably settled in Ireland,
considerably to the west, and does a little business now and then; but, as
he observes with a sigh, only as a retailer--nothing like the fine thriving
wholesale concern so carelessly blown up at Edinburgh. 'You see what comes
of neglecting business,'--is the chief moral, the [Greek: epimutheon],
as Æsop would say, which he draws from his past experience."

At length came the toast of the day--_Thugdom in all its branches_.

The speeches _attempted_ at this crisis of the dinner were past all
counting. But the applause was so furious, the music so stormy, and the
crashing of glasses so incessant, from the general resolution never again
to drink an inferior toast from the same glass, that my power is not equal
to the task of reporting. Besides which, Toad-in-the-hole now became quite
ungovernable. He kept firing pistols in every direction; sent his servant
for a blunderbuss, and talked of loading with ball-cartridge. We conceived
that his former madness had returned at the mention of Burke and Hare; or
that, being again weary of life, he had resolved to go off in a general
massacre. This we could not think of allowing: it became indispensable,
therefore, to kick him out, which we did with universal consent, the whole
company lending their toes _uno pede_, as I may say, though pitying his
gray hairs and his angelic smile. During the operation the orchestra poured
in their old chorus. The universal company sang, and (what surprised us
most of all) Toad-in-the-hole joined us furiously in singing--

  "Et interrogatum est ab omnibus--Ubi est ille Toad-in-the-hole
  Et responsum est ab omnibus--Non est inventus."


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