Слике страница

justly with all parties in the end, though it was then systematically blundering at every step, but the Government, they said, should take the responsibility for establishing what the Government and the Government alone had begun. Had these same settlers dreamed that Riel would have committed the crime of murder, as he did in the case of Scott, they would have interfered at the ouset, but even Riel had never contemplated any such possibility when he started out.

Dr. Bryce is correct in connecting certain United States borderers at Pembina with that rebellion. Their names could readily be mentioned if necessary. Besides, there were, doubtless, many in St. Cloud and St. Paul who were anxious to retain the lucrative trade of the Red River Settlement, and all these had the active sympathy of several of their fellow-countrymen of Fenian tendencies then living in the village at Fort Garry. They were a contemptible lot, but the vainglorious Riel was very amenable to their attention and flattery. Dr. Bryce does well to emphasize that point. But we are not so much with him when he lays stress on the influence of a section of the Roman Catholic Church as fomenting and sustaining the rebellion. True, the rebels were mostly, though not all, of that faith. Certain it is that priests like Richot, Lestanc and an embryo

priest, O'Donoghue, were active in aiding and abetting the rebels. But the rebellion was not a church affair. Dr. Bryce exonerates Bishop Tachè, one of the best men the west has known, and the record shows that notable Roman Catholics were not only imprisoned by Riel, but put in imminent jeopardy of their lives. Riel was never a docile church member, and in his second rebellion broke away from the church altogether. Dr. Bryce, doubtless, has evidence of the Jesuitical plot of which he speaks. It would not be a solitary instance of the kind in history, but there are some persons amongst us who will try to make that part of Dr. Bryce's book responsible for some of their intolerance. Of such beings we have too many in Canada now, and if we are to build up a homogeneous nation they should be suppressed rather than encouraged.

Space forbids further notice of this excellent and valuable book. It relates with much faithfulness facts of immense moment to Canada. The author has dwelt long enough in the country to catch much of the time-spirit, and he writes of deeds that can never be reproduced. There are a few good illustrations in the book, notably, the photographs of "Four Great Governors and the full-page group of the officers of the Company who met in Winnipeg in 1887.



ET thy whispers cross the seas, Yet thy fancies sway my will, And thy glance of kind disdain Lingers in my memory still

And that hope once fondly dreamed, And that prayer once vainly prayed, And that boyish rage that seemed

Silly to a smiling maid!

Dead sensations from their graves

At thy magic memory start, Till thy spell, as oil the waves, Calms the tumult of my heart.

F. Blake Crofton.


IN N these modern days woman has given such signal and numerous proofs of her cleverness in literary work that no difficulty is experienced in ranking her productions with the best that men have written; but it has been too much the fashion of the world to accord to men only the credit for high attainment in science and literature. In all ages there have been instances of intellectual triumphs achieved by women not often surpassed, or even equalled, by the highest that men have accomplished. True, there may be no Shakespeares, no Miltons, no Dantes among them; but it is none the less true that many centuries before the "Inferno," "Paradise Lost," or "Hamlet saw the light, the power of female genius was displayed with such dazzling splendour as to excite the wonder and admiration of the brightest minds of Greece and Rome. All through the ages, and up to our own times, the achievments of some women, in literature especially, have been so remarkable that it may not be unprofitable or uninteresting to refer to a few prominent instances.

It is well-nigh twenty-five centuries since "burning Sappho lived and sung;" but who Sappho was, just at what period of the world's history she lived, and what she did, are questions which not many can answer readily. She was born, and flourished, we are told, about the sixth century B. C.; and her fame rests chiefly on her Grecian lyrics. So great, indeed, was her reputation that she was regarded as a Homer among women. She is credited with having written nine books of lyrics, only a few fragments of which have. come down to us. 66 Among the mutilated facts of antiquity," writes Addison," there is none whose fragments are so beautiful as those of Sappho "; and that her powers were of an extra

ordinary character is well attested by contemporary writers. Such high praise is accorded her that it would seem not unreasonable to suppose that something of the fame of Homer belonged to her. Her celebrated Ode to Venus has passed down the ages, and come to us with all the vigour and freshness of a poem of Byron's or Tennyson's. Scholarly translators have made it their delight, in all ages, to reveal its beauties to their own and succeeding generations. Whether posterity would have confirmed the estimate placed upon Sappho's verse by her contemporaries, or subsequent critics, it is difficult to say, but all available accounts go to show that she took the first rank among Grecian poets. It will come like a revelation to some to be told that Aristotle "quoted without question a judgment that placed her in the same rank as Homer and Archilochus; that Plato mentioned her as the tenth Muse; that Solon, hearing one of her poems, prayed that he might not see death till he had learned it; that Strabo speaks of her genius with religious awe; and that Longinus cites her love ode as a specimen of poetical sublimity. This seems excessive praise from Sappho's ancient admirers; but what says Symonds, in his studies of the Greek poets in relation to these eulogiums? "Nowhere is a hint whispered that her poetry was aught but perfect. As far as we can judge, these praises were strictly just. Of all the poets of the world, of all the illustrious artists of all literatures, Sappho is the one whose every word has a peculiar and unmistakable perfume, a seal of absolute perfection and inimitable grace."


It is not a little surprising to be told that so great a genius and so sensible a person as Sappho fell hotly in love with the beautiful youth Phaon (who,

alas! did not requite her affections), and that to get rid of her unhappy passion she decided to take the "Lover's Leap," which had either killed or cured so many before her. This famous "Leap' 'Leap" was from a high promontory into the sea. Some took the plunge and escaped with little or no injury, some emerged with a broken limb or two-(but happy, none the less, to think they had found a remedy for their malady); others perished in the experiment; and such, it is said, was the fate of Sappho. The story is discredited, however, and for the honour and credit of Sappho, we are glad of it.

Some four centuries before the Christian era there lived one whose name is familiar to most people-Hy. patia. Remarkable for her beauty, she was no less distinguished for her scholarship. As a mathematician she achieved a reputation greater than that attained by her celebrated father. She graduated with the highest honours in the schools of philosophy at Athens. At Alexandria she taught philosophy and the sciences; her school was filled with pupils of many nations and creeds; and her varied accomplishments compelled the admiration and excited the astonishment of all with whom she came in contact. It is a sad evidence of the barbarity of the age in which this beautiful and accomplished woman lived, that she died one of the most cruel and tragic of deaths. The story of her end is thus recited :"Headed by an ecclesiastic named Peter, a band of fanatics attacked Hypatia in the spring of A.D. 415, as she was passing through the streets in her chariot, dragged her to one of the churches, where they pulled the clothes from her back, and then cast her out into the street, pelted her to death with fragments of earthenware, tore her body to pieces, and committed. her mutilated remains to the flames."

Another illustrious name belonging to this age is that of Corinna, the Greek poetess. She was, indeed, an honour to her sex, for it was this beautiful Theban woman who vanquished the immortal Pindar in a poetical con

test. One can imagine the applause that must have greeted her triumph over the prince of Grecian lyric poets. A marvellous person she must have been, combining beauty of person and genius of the highest type. In those days, "there were three of the name of Corinna, all skilled in letters. One was of Thebes, one of Thespis, and the third of Corinth. The last lived at the time, and is supposed to have been the favourite of Ovid; but the most famous was she who in a trial of poetry, conquered the great poet Pindar. Her glory seems to have been full established by the public memorial of her picture exhibited in her native city, and adorned with a cymbol of her victory. bol of her victory. Pausanias, who saw it, supposes her to have been one of the handsomest women of her age."

Contemporaneous with Michael Angelo, and an intimate friend of his, was an Italian who at that time enjoyed a reputation scarcely less wide than that reached by the great sculptor himself. The name of this remarkable woman was Vittoria Colonna; and judging from the evidences of her genius which have come down to us, her poetry is of that stamp which commands admiration in all

ages. There is but one among her own sex, and she an Englishwoman, whose sonnets can be compared to hers for force and sweetness. We allude to Mrs. Browning, by many crit ics pronounced the greatest poetical genius among women of any age. The verses of Vittoria Colonna would have done credit to many of the masters of the sonnet of modern days. Like Hypatia and Corinna she was beautiful-like them combined rare beauty with great genius. She was the daughter of an Italian nobleman of the famous Colonna family; was betrothed in her fourth year to a boy of the same age; was married to him in her nineteenth year; survived him twenty-two years, and was comparatively young when he died. "The enthusiasm, writes one of her biographers, "created by these tuneful

[ocr errors]


wailings of a young widow, as lovely as unconsolable, as irreproachable as noble, learned enough to correspond with the most learned men of the day on their own subjects, was intense. Vittoria became speedily the most famous woman of her day, and was termed by universal consent the 'divine.' The poetess enjoyed, as already stated, the friendship of Michael Angelo. At her death no one grieved for her as he did; he sat sorrowfully by her dying bed, wept over her long and bitterly, as mourning the loss of one whom he regarded as the most faithful and loving of friends, and the idol of her country. It is related that he composed a number of sonnets in her honour, and that, “she was the only woman who was known to have touched the heart of the great sculptor."

Just a few years before the death of Vittoria Colonna was born that beautiful and famous Scottish queen, the sad story of whose life has touched the heart of the world ever since her death. Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, has been noted for her great beauty more than for her accomplishments; yet true it is that she was a scholarly woman, had fine literary tastes, and composed verses exceptional for their pathos and power. Her educational training was thorough and extensive, as becoming one of her rank and high destiny. She studied French, Italian, Greek and Latin; she had the best of teachers in history and theology; and she diligently cultivated the arts of poetry, music and dancing. In France, as in Scotland, her personal charms fascinated every one-she became the idol of courtiers and poets, who vied with each other in singing her praises. She has been called the Greek Helen, the Sappho of the sixteenth century, the Scottish Semiramis; and one good authority eloquently describes her "as the most beautiful, the weakest, most attractive and attracted of women, raising around her by her irresistible fascinations a whirlwind of love, ambition, and jealousy; all that was not love in her soul was

poetry; her verses, like those of Ronsard, her worshipper and teacher, possess a Greek softness combined with a quaint simplicity; they are written with tears; and even after the lapse of so many years retain something of the warmth of her sighs." One who was called the Petrarch of that day wrote of her

"The gods themselves excelled in framing thy fair mind,

Nature and art in thy young form their highest powers combined

All beauty of the beautiful to concentrate in thee.


France stands in the forefront of nations which have produced striking examples of clever and brilliant women; and few among them was more remarkable than Madame de Sévigné, born in Paris some 270 years ago. In her youth she had every educational advantage, and she made the best of opportunities-studied hard, read much, was carefully taught in the language and literature of her own country, and soon became proficient in the Latin, Italian and Spanish languages. At the early age of seventeen she married the Marquis de Sévigné, the marriage proving an unhappy one. Only seven years afterwards the Marquis was killed in a duel, leaving his widow and a family of two, a son and daughter, to mourn his loss. This daughter became the celebrated Madame de Grig


The beauty of the widow de Sévigné, added to her many accomplishments, won her hosts of friends and admirers; it is said her "lovers were legion," and that her hand was sought by noblemen of the best blood of France. She, however, spurned all offers of marriage; devoted all her care, attention, and affections to her only daughter, one who was, like herself, beautiful, graceful, and accomplished. Madame de Sévigné's fame rests on her published "Letters," addressed chiefly to her daughter. While hers was not a genius whose results are seen in voluminous work, she established an enduring reputation by these "Letters," which are still widely read and admired. They

reflect lustre on herself, her country, and her country's literature, and they still retain their place as a French classic.

There is no more convincing proof of woman's mastery over some of the profoundest intellects of Europe than that furnished by the women of the French salons. It might, indeed, be said of some of them who presided over these famous gatherings that they wielded the destinies of France; it is at any rate no exaggeration to say that they exercised an abiding and far reaching influence upon its society, politics, and literature. Many of them far from represented an ideal type of womanhood, but others maintained a reputation for social decorum and uprightness which commanded respect and admiration. They cultivated the art of conversation to a degree never before attempted; and never since their day have there been known such coteries of brilliant talkers. Around these salons rallied the cleverest minds-the foremost citizens of France, and not infrequently those of England, Italy, and other countries. The ladies who composed them fostered the spirit of learning and literature, were themselves possessed of no mean intellects, and capable of discussing questions of state and scholarship with the ablest and keenest men of letters. "It was really Voltaire," remarked Goethe, who excited such minds as Diderot, D'Alembert and Beaumarchais, for to be somewhat near him a man needed to be much, and could take no holidays." And yet, at least one gifted French woman (the Marquise du Châtelet) was regarded as his equal in scientific acumen and discussion, a foeman worthy of his steel in the arena of debate-one who was "deep in mathematics, and had mastered the mysteries of Newton's Principia." But a much greater name than hers, and a woman of a far different stamp, was Madame de Staël, the daughter of Necker, the famous Minister of Finance under Louis XVI. Hers is a familiar name, not only in France, but to the readers of French literature



every land; as familiar, indeed, as George Eliot is to the English readers. She wrote much-wrote wisely and well, and her best books achieved a reputation which does not diminish. Her attractions and qualities as a woman, apart from her literary work and worth were such as to distinguish her far above the generality of accomplished women. For many years she wrote incessantly; volume after volume followed each other in rapid succession on a variety of subjects; and among them some novels of such high rank as to procure for their author a European reputation. She was a bitter opponent of the first Napoleon, and gave him more uneasiness than half the crowned heads of Europe. It was concerning her the remark was made that "Napoleon, with a million armed men under his command, and half Europe at his feet, sat down in rage and affright to urge, Fouchè to send a little woman over the frontiers lest she should say something about him for the drawing rooms at Paris to laugh at." Her opposition to Napoleon finally culminated in her banishment from the French capital. During her exile she travelled extensively in Europe, and for a time took up her residence in the English metropolis. There she produced some of her best works. It is now some eighty years since she died, and it is safe to say that long before the date of her death, and since that event few careers have been more conspicuous than hers in the world of letters-there is certainly no greater name among women in the literature of France. Like Madame de Sévigné, she was an accomplished letter-writer; in conversation she was often at her best; she had a sweet and genial dispositionwas a woman of rare tact, and altogether of such a character as one delights to contemplate. Her entire works were published by her son in eighteen volumes; and among her more celebrated writings may be named "De l'Allemagne," "Delphine," and "Corrine ou l'Italie."

Americans have reason to feel proud of the position some of their women

« ПретходнаНастави »