Goose-Quill Papers - Louise Imogen Guiney - ebook

Goose-Quill Papers written by  American poet, essayist and editor Louise Imogen Guiney. This book is one of many works by her. It has already published in 1855. And now republish in ebook format. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as blurred or missing pages, poor pictures or errant marks may have been introduced due to either the quality of the original work. Despite these occasional imperfections, we have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, providing customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. We appreciate your understanding of these occasional imperfections, and sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book.

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Goose-Quill Papers


Louise Imogen Guiney

Table of Contents






















FOR the sake of an apple Atalanta lost her nigh-won victory; and that other apple, thrown for the fairest, moved all Olympus into discord. Bragi, the north-god, and his peers renewed their youth with one touch of its cool juices. Dragons circled it in the enchanted garden; "the daughters three" stood about it in a sacred ring, and none but Hercules was its captor. The renascent marbles of the Greeks are dug out of earth,—"Praxitelean shapes!"—with its rounded beauty yet in their outstretched hands. What a superb mythologic pedigree! What noble mention (each worth an immortality) from old poets, romancers, historians! All heterodoxy lauded thee, apple of mine eye. It was reserved for true-church traditions to belie thee.

Thou who art full of virtue, what is this rumor of thy defection in Eden, thy remote causing of all contemporaneous woe? Thou who art fair without as a cherub's cheek, how couldst thou be abettor to the treacherous spirit? Shall the fault of our frail ancestress rest upon thy rosy head? "That the forbidden fruit of Paradise was an apple," saith a grave and learned author, "is commonly believed, confirmed by tradition, perpetuated by writings, verses, pictures; and some are so bad prosodians as thence to derive the Latin word malum, because that fruit was the first occasion of evil: wherein, notwithstanding determinations are presumptuous, many, I perceive, are of another belief." Let the personal argument stand, in default of a bolder plea. Mephisto, who hath had no chance of reformation, and who may be supposed to keep his early leanings, is in modern times no frequenter of orchards. Not by farmer, nor wayside knight, nor loitering sweethearts at dusk, hath he ever been detected prowling about an innocent apple-tree.

It hath, on the other hand, been affirmed by an ingenious clerk, that apple-eating is a masculine passion, and that no woman hath a dominating natural relish for this hearty fruit; which, proven, would seem to indicate (as a burnt child dreads the fire, according to the proverb) that Eve's mindful daughters shun by instinct the immemorial enemy. If, indeed, it needs must be demonstrated by some unborn logician, that our primal happiness was forfeited by nought else, beyond the serpent's wiles, than a Gilliflower or a Greening, hanging on the representative tree, and criterion of obedience,—then there exist myriads of her descendants with the ancestral weakness, who shall look on our abused common mother with new and tender consideration, such as her disastrous connection with a plum, or a currant, or a quince, could never have evoked.

The apple is the only fruit which deserveth the name of genial. A peach is but a Capuan dish; the lime approacheth with cold infrequency; the amiable pear hath too little character; the grape is chiefly suggestive, anticipatory of its hereafter, as the larva of the gorgeous butterfly. But Apple standeth on her own merits. Tart, jelly, fritters, dumpling, enter not into the imagination of her possessor. Nay, nor even cider, that fretful disempurpled wine,—wine, as it were, with the bar sinister. Apple hath not the flippant gayety of the cherry; her glad humor is somewhat dashed with cynicism: she warmeth the heart, and trippeth up the tongue, and is, in the accepted phrase of artists, "a good fellow;" foe to unrighteous melancholy, as Laurentius writ, and frankly compassionate. She should have had Horace for her court-poet. One can conceive of poor, manly Fielding loving her at the modest ratio of three dozen a day; and of little Mr. Pope brushing her aside with fastidious petulance.

The friends of Apple, your sworn familiars, who offend not her sun-mottled exterior with barbaric divisions of the knife, may be known by their ready wit and their bright glances. Hath not the wholesome autumn light, which filtered into the fruit they affect, permeated their moral temperament? They must needs be sound, consolatory, humane, and fit to wrestle with every wind that blows. "Man is that he eats," we read among the bewilderments of German speculation. But of her chaste and subtle cup, rimmed with gold or crimson, as Nature willed, the elect drink invigoration.

"Encompass me about with apples," saith the Canticle, "for I am sick with love;" which, driven to its bare and literal sense, implies that apples are antidotes to languor and over-fondness. Apple, be it said, is a Platonist.

Bake her not. Take her in her gypsy wildness, in the homespun, lovelier so than pomegranates in their velvet: not too untimely, either, lest she be vindictive, and become the apothecary's friend rather than thine. Learn to trace her maiden growth among her cheery sisters, from some gnarled seat. Deny her not the arm-chair with thee before the flickering hearth-fire; and in thy most solitary meditations, thy rapt brooding-hours, trust her that she shall not distract thee. Out of celestial gardens, in the tender Cappadocian legend, maid Dorothy's angel brought apples to Theophilus; to him, indeed, the fruit of salvation. Yet, having lost the sweet symbolic grace of yore, she comes ever benignly, and without malice. Lavish October's legacy, foretelling to thy fancy other seasons yet to make glad the earth, she, more than any other, is the staunch stand-by, the winter friend. Her native orchards droop lifelessly in snows; but, like a fair deed, she surviveth mortality, a kind and vital influence still. Darling of the tourist and the huntsman that she is, never was there creature so absolutely adapted to the student. Her happy moisture fructifieth the brain.

Only our neighboring Concord sages, far back in the Athenian beginnings of the present school, sought her intellectual aid in vain. They, and the listening element, met for conversation,—Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, Curtis, even Hawthorne, with his sylvan shyness about him. There were appalling breaks, pertinacious "flashes of silence," such as were indigenous to Macaulay. The philosophers sat erect, and struggled; then the narrator tells us how, with Olympic sweetness, the host, Ralph Waldo Emerson, brought out a dish of russets,—magna spes altera, genius having failed,—which were consumed, unavailingly, in silence. The ally was wistfully courted on after occasions; but the club solemnly dispersed on the third night.

If Apple, alas! Hath her freaks, let them be expended on philosophers. For her humbler adherents, she hath too constant a good-will. To us, at least, she is faithful, recompensing our old affection for every branch of her house. We are no specialist, but cherish her to the twentieth remove: all her pale and soured graftings, her pungent windfalls, her eccentric hangers-on, her disregarded poor relations.

Yea, till our judgment and our gallantry forsake us, be thou our deity, Pomona!

"Candles we'll give to thee,And a new altar."

Nothing shall divert our vow. Wilfully and in cold blood, we subscribe ourself thy pagan.


IT would be a judicious pastime for some curious scholar to write up the antecedents and traditions of these ten ubiquitous digits with which Nature dowers most of us; a survey reaching from the crime that darkened the morning of the world—the handiwork of Cain—to the most delicate outcome of art, finished yesterday; a summary of all the vicissitudes and symbolisms connected with the hand and its doings; challenges, investitures, perjuries, salutations; the science of chiromancy that the Romans loved; records made by chisel or pen by Michael Angelo, Goethe, Palestrina; of gloves and rings and falcon-jesses; of armor buckled on by saddened sweethearts, and prizes bestowed at tourneys; of power in the soldier, and persuasiveness in the fair lady; of Eastern juggling, and missal illuminations in gray cells, and manuscripts folded and preserved through centuries; of "pickers and stealers" and money-getting associations, seizures, bestowals, and benedictions. The Dutch boy, stopping the dyke with his frozen thumb in times of flood, shall not be forgotten; nor that maid of honor who, with her slender wrist, bolted the door against the raging mob of revolutionists, undauntedly long, and at last vainly; and in the chapter of heroisms shall be found the patient pyramid-builders, and Mucius Scævola, unflinching in fire; how with his hand Attila made kings tremble, Xerxes scourged the sea, and the saint of old Assisi won bird and beast from solitude, to feed and be caressed. We bethink us lastly of antique instruments, old tapestries, intaglios, and rare lamps; of the child Christopher Wren, raising card-houses and forecasting the stone glories of London; or of Petrarch, roving in a dusty world of books, and so dying, suddenly and without pain, with his arm about them, as of things among those which our historian shall touch.

Scarce any author, save Sir Thomas Browne, hath thought it worth while to spend learned discussion on the right and the left hand. Yet it is a peculiar schism we graft on a youngling's mind when we teach it to discard the good service and ready offices of its honest sinistral member; so that we may come to look upon a left-handed neighbor as a sort of natural protest against an ill custom, and a vindication of unjustly suppressed forces.

A hand clinched, a hand outstretched, have in them all of defiance and supplication; hospitality shines in a hand proffered,—"a frank hand," as the Moor saith. Like a shell turned from the light, but with the tints of the morning not yet faded from it, is a babe's hand, "tip-tilted," lovely, as if it should close on nothing ruder than a flower. The bronzed hands of toil, the opaque hands of idleness, differing even as life and death, the dear, remembered, cordial hands of one's youth,—shall they not have their laureate also in the commentator that is to be, this new philosopher in trifles, this student of the furthest and subtlest bodily activities, and chronicler, as it were, in extremis?

The hand betrays the heart; not to thee, obstreperous gypsy! With thy sapient life-lines, but even to the unchrismed eye of the laity. We detect good-nature in yon plump matron, because of that pudgy but roseate part of her appended to her Tuscan bracelet; good-nature and generosity and simple faith. We have close acquaintance with courageous hands, melancholy hands, avaricious hands, compassionate hands, fastidious hands, hands sensitive and fair, friends to all things gentle, and pulsing with intelligence. We read in this hand how it hath healed a bitter wound; and in that, how it hath locked the door against a cry. Have we not known hands dark and shrunken with age or suffering, instinct yet with so-called patrician blood? The memory comes over us of the prince (such was verily his meek title) from a far isle, the inscrutable Asiatic, acclimated in speech anddress, whose chilling touch, recalling icicles in midsummer, we superstitiously evaded at meeting and parting, and over whose origin we sun-lovers made jests, in the halls of that dreaming heir of a later dynasty, Madame B.

It was the boast of Job that he had not kissed his hand in sign of worship to sun nor moon nor stars. Note the pertinent and noble metaphor of Banquo, to express reliance and rest in time of perplexity:—

"In the great hand of God I stand."

To what fopperies, what wild freaks of mediæval years, hath the pliant hand lent itself! to the triangles, stars, portraits of ancient caligraphic cunning; to the wig, shape facetious, embodying a request to the barber, or the heart, dolphin, and true-love knot, that revealed a swain's metrical sighs to the scrutinizing eyes of Phyllis. Peace to those old minimizers! to him, the spider-worker, whose elfin Iliad Cicero saw, packed miraculously in a nutshell; to sturdy Peter Bales, "that did so take Eliza" with his infinitesimal tracery, which the lion-queen delighted to read through a mighty glass, holding his airy volume on her thumb-nail!

Disraeli the elder tells us of the pleasing origin of that modern phrase,—"to write like an angel;" gracefully derived from one Angelo Vergecio, a scribe who drifted to Paris under Francis I., and whose name became in time a synonyme for beautiful caligraphy. To write like an angel! Now, with due allowance of the possession, among celestial beings, of our poor terrene accomplishments, yet may angels themselves most solemnly and securely preserve us from the foregoing solecism! Saving the primordial Angelo, a legend incorporated, none do so much write like angels as that slave-trader, the writing-master, enemy and subjugator of the hand's natural freedom. Handwriting, that should be matter of separate mental habit and muscular action, as Hartley Coleridge averred, the writing-master artificializes into a set form: a young lady is to write so; a clerk, so. There is a rascally supposed respectability in keeping to this masquerade, where revelations of individuality are never in order. Spectre of our childhood, bugbear of ambrosial years, tyrant, nay, what can we call thee worse than thou art in bare English, Copy-book! the faithfullest vow of our life, religious as Hannibal's, was against thee. We recall with unalterable haughtiness, that not for one moment did we tolerate thee, save under burning protest; that thy long-drawn da capo moralities, all letter and no spirit, made our soul shudder; that every hour at the desk of old, under thy correct, staring eye, was an hour of scorn and insurrection; and that we celebrate daily thine anniversary and thy festival, after our own heart, in cherishing every irregularity that thy Puritan code abhorreth. Aye, tails and quirks are dear to us, and we fear not to send forth our t without his bar, our iwithout her dot, lest we should seem reconciled to thine atrocious ritual. We shake our enfranchised hand in thy face, thou stereotyped impostor!

We are not of misanthropic habit, but we reserve a sentiment warm as York's against Lancaster, or a right Carlist's towards the mild usurping race of Spain, for that fellow-mortal whose traceries in ink and pencil are sealed with orthodoxy. By the accepted wretchedness of their capitals, the moral depravity of their loop-letters, we choose our friends,—the least erring the least dear. We cannot abide Giotto, because of his O, that had no blemish. We take solace and delight in that exquisite Janus-jest of the last Bourbon Louis, who, re-entering his palace, the Imperial initial everywhere above and beside him, said, with a light shudder, to one of his blood, "Voilà des ennemis autour de nous!" Not for all the authority of divine Prudence herself, shall we be mindful of our P's and Q's. A flourish—not, indeed, the martial blare of trumpets, but the misguided capers of a pen-point—we look upon as a cardinal, yea (if we may proportion adjectives to our grade of feeling), a pontifical sin.

Character demonstrates itself in trifles. Washington wrote with clearness and deliberation, like a law-maker; Rufus Choate, intricately and whimsically, like a wit. Oldys runs down the list of English royal autographs, drawing no inferences, and set solely on his fact. Cromwell's signature is paradoxically faint and vacillating. "Elizabeth writ an upright hand,—a large, tall character; James I., in an ungainly fashion, all awry; Charles I., an Italian hand, the most correct of any prince we ever had; Charles II., a little, fair, running, uneasy hand," such, adds a commentator, as we might expect from that illustrious vagabond, who had much to write, often in odd situations, and never could get rid of his natural restlessness and vivacity. It goes somewhat hard with us that Porson, Young, and especially Thackeray, wielded a proper quill, and were prone to consider penmanship as one of the fine arts. Nevertheless, we take it that Mr. Joseph Surface, in the comedy, would write so as to gladden the "herte's roote" of a school-mistress; as, likewise, might our honest friend Iago. Item, that Homer's mark was but a hen-scratch, outdone, in his own day, by the most time-out-of-mind stroller that sang, eyeless, with him.

No missionary, fretting over the innocent rascalities of Afric tribes, burns with holier wrath than seizes us on beholding the prospectus of the "Penman's Gazette." Hark to its beguiling philippics: "Good penmanship hath made fortunes; every year thousands are advanced by it to position and liberal salaries; students make it a specialty. It is worth more than all the Greek and Latin, the antiquated rubbish