Imágenes de páginas

brain ; that in female skulls there is a greater projection backwards in the superior part of the occiput, than in the skulls of males, and that, in the proportion to the development of the portion of the brain which causes the projection of this part in individuals of whatever sex, is the force of parental love. Nature has taken very good care that, for the preservation of each of her species, their cerebral lobes, and occiputs should, in general, be of right dimensions, as Lord Byron writes :

The love of offspring's nature's general law,
From tigresses and cubs, to ducks and ducklings;
There's nothing whets the beak, or arms the claw,
Like an invasion of their babes and sucklings.
And all who have seen a human nursery, saw
Ilow mothers love their children's squalls, and chucklings.

One of the earliest instances of parental affection upon record and one of the most touching, is that of Jacob for his children, especially little Benjamin. Judah tells Joseph-" And thy servant, my father, said unto us, ye know that


wife bare me two sons. The one went out from me, and I said, surely he is torn in pieces, and I saw him not since. And if ye take this also from me, and mischief shall befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. Now, therefore, when I come to thy servant, my father, and the lad be not with us, seeing that his life is bound up in the lad's life, it shall come to pass that he will die, and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant, our father, with sorrow to the grave.”

Congreve, in his Way of the World, compares the grave inflexible face of one of his characters, to that of king Solomon, on an old piece of tapestry, ordering the child to be divided. The judgment is thus related in the Book of KingsAnd the king said, bring me a sword ; and they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, divide the living child into two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. Then spake the woman, whose the living child was, unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my Lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. Then the king answered, and said-Give her the living child, and in nowise slay it, she is the mother thereof." This judgment was cited by the late Lord Ellenborough in the Banbury Peerage case. In several of the most remarkable trials concerning parentage, the fondness, apathy, or dislike of alleged parents have been the subject of much observation. In one curious case, that of Marie Cognot, she established her legitimacy before the Parliament of Paris, although she had been disavowed by both her parents, who had treated her as a servant.

Several trials are detailed in the Causes Celebres in which the subject is said to be “ enfant reclamé par deux meres." The question in one of them was, which of two children sent to the same nurse had died ? The evidence related chiefly to the clothes that had been sent home, and whether a strip of leather had not been tied to them before they were sent along with the child, and when they were sent back; the father being a shoemaker. The Douglas Peerage case is an authority, that, in the English courts, where swords are not allowed, family likeness would be admissible evidence ; and, in that trial, where, in addition to other suspicious circumstances, a woman of fifty was believed to have brought forth twins, being the first time of her having children, Lord Mansfield was charged with unfairly pressing such evidence. The Royal Family of Austria is remarkable for its lips; of Bavaria, for its chins. The Enobarbi of ancient Rome were so called from having all red beards.

One of the most interesting representations of parental tenderness exhibited in the ancient poets, is in Homer's description of the parting of Hector and Andromache, where the feelings of the Chief for his son are awakened on seeing the child scared at the nodding plumes of his helmet. Pope's version is pretty, but wants the simplicity of the original, to which Chapman's approaches nearer. A surprising effect of ancient genius in pourtraying maternal feelings is related by Pliny, and is the subject of a beautiful Greek epigram. It was a painting by a Greek artist, of the name of Aristides, which represented a town taken by storm, in which was seen an infant creeping to the breast of its mother, who, though expiring from her wounds, yet expresses a fear lest the course of her milk being stopt, the child should suck her blood. Alexander the Great got possession of this painting on the capture of Thebes ; he took it with him to Pella. A Greek epigram, which has been translated by Rogers, describes a mother, who, seeing her child at play on the verge of a precipitous cliff, saves it by opening her bosom, to which the child instinctively runs. With these examples of the antique may be classed a fine piece of acting by Garrick, who, whilst at Paris, in the presence of a party of French amateurs, represented, in dumb show, (what he had actually witnessed,) a father, who was fondling his child at a window, when it sprung from him, and fell into the street, whereupon the father became frantic. Clairon, a celebrated French actress was present, and when Garrick had finished, ran up to him, and, in the presence of Mrs. Garrick, embraced him. Sir Joshua Reynolds has painted the subject


of Ugolino, which was a true story. But the picture produces a faint impression when viewed after the description by Dante, who imparts a thrilling interest to the few pathetic words which pass between the Count and his children, as they die successively before him in prison of starvation.

A scene of deep and melancholy interest was exhibited in the wreck of the Halsewell Indiaman, in which Captain Pierce perished with his daughters. It is commemorated by Mr. Crowe, public orator of Oxford, in a poem called Lewesdon Hill ;—and it is introduced by Darwin into his “Botanic Garden”-thus

Oft o'er thy lovely daughters, hapless Pierce !
Her sighs shall breathe, her sorrows dew their hearse.
With brow upturned to heaven, “we will not part”
He cried, and clasped them to his aching heart.
Dash'd in dread conflict on the rocky grounds,
Crash the shocked mast, and staggering wreck rebounds ;
Through gaping seams the rushing deluge swims,
Chills their pale bosoms, bathes their shuddering limbs,
Climbs their white shoulders, buoys their streaming hair,
And the last sea-shriek bellows in the air ;
Each, with loud sobs, their tender sire caressed,
And gasping, strained him closer to her breast.

The Botanical Garden has been ridiculed by the writers of the Anti-jacobin, in a clever burlesque poem called the “ Loves of the Triangles.” It has had its day ; but is still one of those works, which, (to pursue Lord Bacon's metaphorical directions for reading different books,) may deserve tasting with the tip of the tongue. I was afraid of diminishing the effect of Lord Byron's and Moore's descriptions of suckling, in the first section of this chapter, by citing a passage from Darwin in which he compares a mother's breast with a garden ритр. .

The sympathy of a mother for a child is well described by Adam Smith, in that treatise on morals which is one of the most interesting ever written, and the errors objected to which seem only to consist in his having attributed too much influence to a single motive, that of sympathy, which, however, deserves great consideration from its powerful co-operation with other principles of our nature. His observations on sympathy with the dead, and with the insane are highly interesting; his observations on maternal sympathy are as follow :

“ What are the pangs of a mother when she hears the moanings of her infant, that during the agony of disease cannot express what it feels ? In her idea of what it suffers, she joins, to its real helplessness, her own consciousness of that helplessness, and her own terrors for the unknown consequences of its disorder; and out of all these, forms, for her own sorrow, the most complete image of misery and distress. The infant, however, feels only the uneasiness of the present instant. With regard to the future it is perfectly secure, and, in its thoughtlessness and want of foresight, possesses an antidote against fear and anxiety, the great tormentors of the human breast, from which reason and philosophy will in vain attempt to defend it, when it grows up to a man.”

Perhaps the letters which have been most read of any that have been written are those of Madame de Sevigné, from a mother to her daughter. It is remarkable that Cicero mentions the letters of Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, to her sons, as being generally read and admired at Rome for the beauty of their style. This is the matron, of whom Valerius Maximus relates, that upon a display of jewellery

« AnteriorContinuar »