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Chambers, William / Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 436 Volume 17, New Series, May 8, 1852



No. 436. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, MAY 8, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2_d._


'The English are not a musical people.' The dictum long stood
unquestioned, and, in general estimation, unquestionable. All the
world had agreed upon it. There could be no two opinions: we had no
national airs; no national taste; no national appreciation of sweet
sounds; musically, we were blocks! At length, however, the creed began
to be called in question--were we so very insensible? If so,
considering the amount of music actually listened to every year in
London and the provinces, we were strangely given to an amusement
which yielded us no pleasure; we were continually imposing on
ourselves the direst and dreariest of tasks; we were tormenting
ourselves with symphonies, and lacerating our patience with sonatas
and rondos. What was the motive? Hypocrisy was very generally
assigned. We only affected to love music. It was intellectual,
spiritual, in all respects creditable to our moral nature, to be able
to appreciate Mozart and Beethoven, and so we set up for connoisseurs,
and martyrised ourselves that Europe might think us musical. Is there
more truth in this theory than the other? Hypocrisy is not generally
so lasting as the musical fervour has proved itself to be. A fashion
is the affair of a season; a mania goes as it came; but regularly and
steadily, for many years back, has musical appreciation been
progressing, and as regularly have the opportunities for hearing good
music of all kinds been extending.

Take up a daily newspaper, published any time between April and
August, and range your eye down the third or fourth column of the
first page--what an endless array of announcements of music, vocal and
instrumental! Music for the classicists; music for the crowd;
symphonies and sonatas; ballads and polkas; harmonic societies; choral
societies; melodists' clubs; glee clubs; madrigal clubs. Here you have
the quiet announcement of a quartett-party; next to it, the
advertisement of one of the Philharmonic Societies--the giants of the
musical world; pianoforte teachers announce one of their series of
classic performances; great instrumental soloists have each a concert
for the special behoof and glorification of the _bénéficiaire_. Mr
So-and-so's grand annual concert jostles Miss So-and-so's annual
benefit concert. There are Monday concerts, and Wednesday concerts,
and Saturday concerts; there are weekly concerts, fortnightly
concerts, and monthly concerts; there are concerts for charities, and
concerts for benefits; there are grand morning concerts, and grand
evening concerts; there are _matinées musicales_, and _soirées
musicales_; there are meetings, and unions, and circles, and
associations--all of them for the performance of some sort of music.
There are musical entertainments by the score: in the City; in the
suburbs; at every institute and hall of science, from one end of
London to the other. One professor has a ballad entertainment; a
second announces a lecture, with musical illustrations; a third
applies himself to national melodies. All London seems vocal and
instrumental. Every dead wall is covered with naming _affiches_,
announcing in long array the vast army of vocal and instrumental
talent which is to assist at such and such a morning performance; and
the eyes of the owner of a vast musical stomach are dazzled and
delighted by programmes which will at least demand five hours in the

So is London, in the course of the season, the congress of nearly all
the performing musical notabilities of Europe. Time has been when they
came to London for cash, not renown: now they come for both. A London
reputation is beginning to rival a Parisian vogue, besides being ten
times more profitable; and, accordingly, from every musical corner in
Christendom, phenomena of art pour in, heralded by the utmost possible
amount of puffing, and equally anxious to secure English gold and a
London reputation. It is strange to observe how universally the
musical tribute is paid. A tenor turns up from some Russian provincial
town; a basso works himself to London from a theatre in
Constantinople; rumours arrive of a peerless prima donna, with a voice
which is to outstrip everything ever heard of, who has been dug out,
by some travelling amateur, from her native obscurity in a Spanish or
Norwegian village; an extraordinary soprano has been discovered in
Alexandria; a wondrous contralto has been fished up from Riga. The
instrumental phenomena are not one whit scarcer. Classical pianists
pour in from Germany principally; popular pianists, who delight in
fantasias rather than concertos, and who play such tricks with the
keyboards, that the performances have much more of the character of
legerdemain than of art, arrive by scores; violinists, violoncellists,
professors of the trombone, of the ophicleide, of the bassoon, of
every unwieldy and unmanageable instrument in fact, are particularly
abundant; and perhaps the most popular of all are the particularly
clever gentlemen who, by dint of a dozen years' or so unremitting
practice, have succeeded in making one instrument sound like another.
Quackery as this is, it is enormously run after by no small proportion
of the public. Not that they do not appreciate the art of the device
at its proper level, but that the trick is curious and novel; and most
people, even the dignified classicists, have a gentle toleration for a
little--just a little--_outré_ amusement of the kind in question.
Paganini was the founder of this school. He might have played on four
strings till he was tired, without causing any particular sensation;
but the single string made his fortune. Sivori is one of the cleverest
artists of the present day, who resorts to tricks with his violin, and
wonderfully does he perform them. At a concert last season, he
imitated the singing of a bird with the strangest and happiest skill.
The 'severe' shook their heads, but smiled as they did so, and owned
that the trick was clever enough, and withal agreeable to hear. But it
is gentlemen who make one instrument produce the sounds of another,
or, at all events, who extract from it some previously unknown effect,
who carry all before them. The present phenomenon in this way is
Bottesini, who, grasping a huge double-bass, the most unwieldy of
instruments, tortures out of it the notes of a violin, of an oboe, and
of a flute. A season or two ago, M. Vivier took all London by storm,
by producing a chord upon the French horn, a feat previously
considered impossible, and probably only the fruit of the most
determined and energetic practice, extending over many years. At all
the popular concerts, this trick-music is in immense request.
Bottesini was the lion of Jullien's last series; but in his place in
the orchestra of the Philharmonic, he plays his part and holds his
instrument like any ordinary performer. Bagpipe music is not much
appreciated on the banks of the Thames; but I can assure any
enterprising Scotsman, that if he can only succeed in producing the
notes of the bagpipe out of the trombone, he will make a fortune in
five seasons or less.

Such is musical London, then--rushing from concert to concert, and
opera to opera--from severe classicism to the most miscellaneous
_omnium gatherum_--from solemn ecclesiastical harmonic assemblages to
the chanting of merry glees, and the warbling of sentimental ballads.
Let us, then, contemplate a little closer the different kinds of
concerts--their features and their character--their performers and
their auditories. Our sketch must be very hurried and very vague, but
it will give an idea of some of the principal characteristics of the
London musical season.

First, then, among the performances of mingled vocal and instrumental
music, stand the two Sacred Harmonic Societies, which execute
oratorios and similar works in Exeter Hall. The original Sacred
Harmonic Society has within the last couple of years split into two
bodies. It had long contained within itself the elements of division.
There were the Go-ahead party and the Conservative party--the first,
eager to try new ground, and aim at new effects; the second, lovers of
the beaten way. At length, the split took place. The progressistas
flung themselves into the arms of M. Costa, the famous conductor of
the Royal Italian Opera orchestra, and the highest and most Napoleonic
of musical commanders. The Tories of the society went peaceably on in
the jog-trot ways of Mr Sarman, the original conductor. Each society
can now bring into the field about 800 vocal performers, the immense
majority of them amateurs, and their concerts take place
alternately--Exeter Hall being invariably crammed upon either
occasion. The Costaites, no doubt, have the _pas_. The discipline of
their chief is perfect, and as rigid as it is excellent. The power
which this gentleman possesses over his musical troops is very
curious. The whole mass of performers seem to wait upon his will as
the spirits did on Prospero. At the spreading of his arms, the music
dies away to the most faintly-whispered murmurs. A crescendo or
musical climax works gradually up step by step, and bar by bar, until
it explodes in a perfect crash of vocal and instrumental tempest. The
extraordinary choral effects produced in the performance of the
_Huguenots_ almost bewildered the hearers; and the wondrous lights and
shades of sound given in many of the oratorios, are little behind the
dramatic achievement. The aspect of Exeter Hall on an oratorio night
is one of the grandest things in London. The vastness of the
assemblage, the great mountain of performers, crested by the organ,
and rising almost to the ceiling, are thoroughly impressive, while the
first burst of the opening chorus is grand in the extreme. The
oratorio is, in fact, the Opera of the 'serious' world. It is at once
a place in which to listen to music and a point of social reunion.
There are oratorio _habitués_ as well as Opera _habitués_; and between
the parts of the performance, the same buzzing hum of converse rises
from the assemblage which you hear in the Opera corridors and lobbies.
A glance at the audience will enlighten you as to their character.
They represent the staid respectability of the middle class. The
dresses of the ladies are often rich, seldom brilliant, and there is
little sparkle of jewellery. You very frequently perceive family
parties, under the care of a grave _pater familias_ and his
staid and stately partner. Quakers abound; and the number of
ecclesiastically-cut coats shews how many clergymen of the church are
present. The audience are in the highest degree attentive. The rules
forbid applause, but a gentle murmur of admiration rises at the close
of almost every _morceau_. Here and there, you have a practical
amateur, or a group of such with the open score of the oratorio before
them, eagerly following the music. Often these last gentlemen are
members of the rival Society, and, as might be expected, pick plenty
of holes in the execution of their opponents, for which charitable
purpose only they have probably attended. But in M. Costa's Society,
at all events, the task is difficult; the orchestra 'goes,' as the
phrase is, like one instrument, and the singers are beautifully under
the control of the master-spirit who directs them.

Let us pass from Exeter Hall to Hanover Square. Here, in the Queen's
Concert Room--a _salle_ which once was smart, and the decorations of
which were fashionable seventy years ago--we have unnumbered concerts,
and chief among them the twelve annual performances of the
Philharmonic Society. The 'Philharmonic,' as it is conversationally
called, holds almost the rank of a national institution. The sovereign
patronises it in an especial manner. It is connected with the Royal
Academy of Music, and Her Majesty's private band is recruited from the
ranks of its orchestra. The Philharmonic band may be indeed taken as
the representative of the nation's musical executive powers; and, as
such, comparisons are often instituted between it and the French,
Austrian, and Prussian Philharmonics. The foreigners who hold places
in the orchestra are resident, and in some sort naturalised, but the
bulk of the executants are English. To be a member of the Philharmonic
orchestra is, indeed, to take a sort of degree in executive music, and
at once stamps the individual as a performer of distinguished merit.
The music performed is entirely classic, and principally instrumental.
New compositions are seldom given; and, in fact, it was the practice
of adhering so exclusively to the standard works of great composers
which started the new Philharmonic Society, which has just come into
existence. The elder body stick stanchly to the safe courses of Bach,
Gluck, Beethoven, Mozart, and Mendelssohn. The newly-created
association proclaim that their mission is to look after aspirants, as
well as to honour the veterans of the art; and accordingly they bring
forward many compositions experimentally--a meritorious policy, but
one not without its dangers. Few unprofessional people are aware of
the cost of producing elaborate compositions. When _William Tell_ was
played some years ago at Drury Lane--to mention one single item--the
price of copying the parts from the full score, at 3d. a page, came to
L.350. All the old music is of course to be had printed; and to these
standard scores the steady-going Philharmonic principally devotes
itself. Each performance consists in general of two symphonies, or a
symphony and an elaborate concerto, each occupying at least
three-quarters of an hour, with two overtures, and solos, vocal and
instrumental--the former generally sung by performers from either
Opera, but usually from Covent Garden. M. Costa wields the baton at
Hanover Square as at Exeter Hall; and under his management, the band
have attained a magnificent precision and _ensemble_ of effect. Its
musical peculiarity over ordinary orchestras is the vast strength of
stringed instruments, which gives a peculiar _verve_ and light vigour
to the performances. The rush of the violins in a rapid passage is
overwhelming in its impetuosity and vigour, and is said, of late years
especially, to beat the 'attack,' as it is technically called, of any
of the continental Philharmonic Societies. The Philharmonic concerts
are very fashionable. It is good taste, socially and artistically, to
be present; and, consequently, the room is always crowded by an
assemblage who display most of the characteristics of an Opera
audience. The musical notabilities of town always muster in full force
at the Philharmonic. Composers, executants, critics, amateurs, and
connoisseurs, are all there, watching with the greatest care the
execution of those famous works, the great effect of which can only be
produced by the most wary and appreciative tenderness of rendering. In
the interval between the first and second parts, the very general hum
of conversation announces how great the degree of familiarity
subsisting among the _habitués_. There is none of the common stiffness
of waiting one sees at ordinary entertainments. Everybody seems to
know everybody else, and one general atmosphere of genial intercourse
prevails throughout the room.

Let us change the scene to a classic concert of quite another kind. In
a quiet West-end street, we are in a room of singular construction. It
is in the form of a right-angled triangle; and at the right angle,
upon a small dais, is placed the pianoforte and the desks, and so
forth, for the performers. The latter are thus visible from all
points; but about one-half the audience in each angle of the room is
quite hidden from the other. Everybody is in evening dress; the ladies
very gay, and the party very quiet--a still, drawing-room sort of air
presides over the whole. Many of the ladies are young--quite girls;
and a good many of the gentlemen are solemn old foggies, who appear
strongly inclined to go to sleep, and, in fact, sometimes do.
Meantime, the music goes on. A long, long sonata or concerto--piano
and violin, or piano, violin, and violoncello--is listened to in
profound silence, with a low murmur of applause at the end of each
movement. Then perhaps comes a little vocalism--sternly classic
though--an aria from Gluck, or a solemn and pathetic song from
Mendelssohn: the performer being either a well-known concert-singer,
or a young lady--very nervous and a little uncertain--who, it is
whispered, is 'an Academy girl;' a pupil, that is, of the institution
in question. Sometimes, but not often--for it is _de rigueur_ that
entertainments of this species shall be severely classic--we have a
phenomenon of execution upon some out-of-the-way instrument, who
performs certain miracles with springs or tubes, and in some degree
wakens up the company, who, however, not unfrequently relapse into all
their solemn primness, under a concerto manuscript, or a trio
manuscript, the composition of the _bénéficiaire_. Between the parts,
people go quietly into a room beneath, where there are generally some
mild prints to be turned over, some mild coffee to drink, some mild
conversation about mild things in general; and then the party remount
the stairs, and mildly listen to more mild music. This is the common
routine of a classical pianoforte soirée. The _bénéficiaire_ is a
fashionable teacher, and, in a small way, a composer. He gives, every
season, a series, perhaps two or three series, of classic evenings.
The pupils and their families form the majority of the audience,
interspersed with a few pianoforte amateurs, and those _fanatici per
la musica_ who are to be found wherever a violin is tuned, or a piano
is opened.

Another species of classic concert is to be found in the
quartett-meetings. These take place in some small concert-room, such
as that I have described, or at the houses of the executants; and the
audience comprehends a far larger proportion of gentlemen than the
last-mentioned entertainments. The performers are four--pretty sure to
be gentlemen of the highest professional abilities. The instruments
are first and second violin, viola, and violoncello; and three or four
quartetts by the great masters, or, very probably, as many
compositions, marking the different stages of Beethoven's imagination,
are played with the most consummate skill and the tenderest regard for
light and shade. People not deep in the sympathies and tastes of the
musical world, have no idea how these compositions are loved and
studied by the real disciples of Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn; how
particular passages are watched for; and how old gentlemen nod their
heads, or shake them at each other, according as they agree or
disagree in the manner of the interpretation. Half the audience
probably know every bar of the music by heart, and no inconsiderable
number could perhaps perform it very decently themselves. It is indeed
at these quartett and quintett meetings, that you see genuine
specimens of musical knowledge and musical enthusiasm. They take place
by half-dozens during the season; and you always find the same class
of audience, often the same individuals, regularly ranged before the

But place now for the real grand, miscellaneous, popular, and populous
morning concert! Now for elephantine dimensions and leviathan bills of
fare. It is nominally, perhaps, or really, perhaps, the annual benefit
concert of some well-known performer, or it is the speculation of a
great musical publishing house, in the name of one of their composing
or performing _protégés_. The latter is, indeed, a very common
practice. But whether the music-publishing and opera-box-letting firm
be the real concert-giver, or merely the agent, to it is left the
whole of the nice operation of 'getting up' the entertainment. It has
then exhausted all the dodges of puffery in pumping up an unusual
degree of excitement. The affair is to be a 'festival' or a 'jubilee;'
'all the musical talent' of London is to be concentrated; the
continent has been dragged for extra-ordinary executive attractions;
every musical hit of the season is to be repeated; every effect is to
be got up with new _éclat_: never was there to be such a _super extra,
ne plus ultra_ musical triumph. The day approaches. Rainbow-hued
_affiches_ have done their best; placard-bearers, by scores, have
paraded, and are parading, the streets; advertisements have blazoned
the scheme day after day, and week after week; the gratis-tickets have
been duly 'planted;' puffs, oblique and implied, have hinted at the
coming attraction in every Sunday paper; and programmes are fluttering
in every get-at-able shop-front. The day comes. A long line of
fashionable carriages, strangely intermingled with shabby cabs, file
up to the doors, and the gay morning dresses, flaunting with colours,
disappear between the two colossal placards which grace the entrance.
The room is filled. _Habitués_, and knowing musical men on town,
recognise each other, and congregate in groups, laughingly comparing
notes upon the probabilities of what artists announced will make an
appearance, and upon what apologies will be offered in lieu of those
who don't. A couple of these last are probably already in circulation.
Madame Sopranini is confined to bed with an inflammatory attack; and
Signor Bassinini has got bronchitis. Nevertheless, the concert begins;
and oh! the length thereof. The principal vocalists seem to have
mostly mistaken the time at which they would be wanted; and the
chopping and changing of the programme are bewildering. Bravuras take
the place of concertos; a duet being missing, an aria closes the
ranks; a solo on the trombone not being forthcoming, a vocal trio
(unaccompanied) is hurriedly substituted. Still, there is plenty of
the originally announced music; all the favourite airs, duets, and
trios from the fashionable operas; all the ballads in vogue--the music
published by the house which has set the whole thing on foot, of
course; all the phenomena of executive brilliance are there, or are
momentarily expected to appear. We begin after an overture with, say,
an air from the _Puritani_, by a lovely tenor; another, from the
_Somnambula_, by a charming soprano; a fantasia by a legerdemain
pianist, with long hair, and who comes down on the key-board as though
it was his enemy; the famous song from _Figaro_--encored; the
madrigal, 'Down in a Flowery Vale'--the latter always a sure card; a
duet from _Semiramide_, by two young ladies--rather shaky; solo on the
clarionet, by a gentleman who makes the instrument sound like a
fiddle--great applause; 'In manly Worth,' by an oratorio tenor; the
overture to _Masaniello_, by the band; concerto (posthumous,
Beethoven), by a stern classical man--audience yawn; pot pourri, by a
romantic practitioner--audience waken up; ballad, 'When Hearts are
torn by manly Vows,' by an English tenor--great delight, and
encouragement of native talent; glee, 'Glorious Apollo,' or, 'The
Red-cross Knight'--very well received; recitative and aria, from
_Lucia di Lammermoor_--very lachrymose; violin solo, by Signor
Rosinini, who throws the audience into a paroxysm of delight by
imitating a saw and a grindstone; 'The Bay of Biscay,' by the
'veteran' Braham, being positively his last appearance (the 'veteran'
is announced for four concerts in the ensuing week!); ballad, again,
by the native tenor, 'When Vows are torn by slumbering Hearts'--more
great applause; the page's song from the _Huguenots_, for the
contralto; 'When the Heart of a Man,' _Beggars' Opera_; quartett for
four pianofortes, great bustle arranging them, and then only three
performers forthcoming--an apology--attack of bronchitis--but Mr
Braham will kindly (thunders of applause) sing 'The Death of Nelson;'
quartett for double-bass, trombone, drum, and triangles--curious
effect; the audience hardly know whether they like it or not; the
bravura song of the 'Queen of Night,' from _Zauberflöte_; overture to
_William Tell_; ballad, 'When Slumber's Heart is torn by Vows;' duet,
'I know a Bank,' by the Semiramide young ladies; fantasia pianoforte,
from the _Fille du Régiment_; 'Rode's air, with variations,' from the
text; and the storm movement of the _Sinfonia Pastorale_, by

Such may be taken as a fair specimen-slice of a _Concert Monstre_; and
in listening to this wild agglomeration of chaotic music, the day
passes, very likely from two o'clock until six. In a future paper, I
may touch upon the peculiarities of the artists performing.

A. B. R.


It is one happy recommendation of the Natural system of botany, that
many of its orders form groups of plants distinguished not only by the
characteristics of general physiognomy, and the more accurate
differences of structure, but in an especial manner by the medicinal
and economical properties which they possess, and which are indeed
frequently peculiar to the order. Such is the case with the natural
order _Euphorbiaceæ_, or spurge family, to which the tallow-tree of
China belongs. The order includes 2500 species, all of which are more
or less acrid and poisonous, these properties being especially
developed in the milky juices which abound in the plants, and which
are contained, not in its ordinary tissues, but in certain special
vessels. Many important substances are derived from this order,
notwithstanding its acrid and poisonous character. Castor-oil is
obtained from the seeds of _Ricinus communis_; croton-oil, and several
other oleaginous products of importance in medicine and the arts, are
obtained from plants belonging to the order. The root of _Janipha
Manihot_, or Manioc-plant, contains a poisonous substance, supposed to
be hydrocyanic acid, along with which there is a considerable
proportion of starch. The poisonous matter is removed by roasting and
washing, and the starch thus obtained is formed into the cassava-bread
of tropical countries, and is also occasionally imported into Europe
as Brazilian arrow-root.

Many of the important economical productions of China are little known
in this country; we are, however, daily gaining additions to our
knowledge of them; and within the last few years, much valuable
information has been obtained respecting the productive resources of
the Eastern Empire. The grass-cloth of China only became known in
Europe a few years ago, but it now ranks as one of the important
fabrics of British manufacture. Daily discoveries seem to shew that
there are Chinese products of equal importance, as yet unknown to us.
On the present occasion, we call the attention of our readers to a
substance which has been long known, as well as the plant which
produces it, but neither of which has hitherto been prominently
brought into general notice in Britain. For our information respecting
the uses of the tallow-tree, we express our chief obligations to a
paper by Dr D. J. Macgowan, published in the Journal of the
Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India.[1]

The tallow-tree of China is the _Stillingia sebifera_ of botanists; a
plant originally indigenous to China, where it occurs in wet
situations, but which is now somewhat common in various parts of India
and America, chiefly as an ornamental tree. In Roxburgh's time, it was
very common about Calcutta, where, in the course of a few years, it
became one of the most common trees; and it has become almost
naturalised in the maritime parts of South Carolina. In China alone,
however, is it as yet appreciated as an economical plant, and there
alone are its products properly elaborated. It is chiefly prized for
the fatty matter which it yields, and from which it derives its
appropriate name; but it affords other products of value: 'its leaves
are employed as a black dye; its wood being hard and durable, may be
easily used for printing-blocks and various other articles; and,
finally, the refuse of the nut is employed as fuel and manure.... It
grows alike on low alluvial plains and on granite hills, on the rich
mould at the margin of canals, and on the sandy sea-beach. The sandy
estuary of Hangchan yields little else; some of the trees at this
place are known to be several hundred years old, and though
prostrated, still send forth branches and bear fruit.... They are
seldom planted where anything else can be conveniently cultivated--but
in detached places, in corners about houses, roads, canals, and

The sebaceous matter, or vegetable tallow, is contained in the
seed-vessels of the _Stillingia_. The processes adopted for
abstracting it are of importance, and meet with due consideration in
Dr Macgowan's valuable paper. The following clear account is given of
the whole process, as practised in China:--'In midwinter, when the
nuts are ripe, they are cut off with their twigs by a sharp
crescentric knife, attached to the extremity of a long pole, which is
held in the hand, and pushed upwards against the twigs, removing at
the same time such as are fruitless. The capsules are gently pounded
in a mortar, to loosen the seeds from their shells, from which they
are separated by sifting. To facilitate the separation of the white
sebaceous matter enveloping the seeds, they are steamed in tubs,
having convex open wicker bottoms, placed over caldrons of boiling
water. When thoroughly heated, they are reduced to a mash in the
mortar, and thence transferred to bamboo sieves, kept at a uniform
temperature over hot ashes. A single operation does not suffice to
deprive them of all their tallow; the steaming and sifting are
therefore repeated. The article thus procured becomes a solid mass on
falling through the sieve; and to purify it, it is melted and formed
into cakes for the press. These receive their form from bamboo hoops,
a foot in diameter, and three inches deep, which are laid on the
ground over a little straw. On being filled with the hot liquid, the
ends of the straw beneath are drawn up and spread over the top; and
when of sufficient consistence, are placed with their rings in the
press. This apparatus, which is of the rudest description, is
constructed of two large beams, placed horizontally so as to form a
trough capable of containing about fifty of the rings with their
sebaceous cakes; at one end it is closed, and at the other adapted for
receiving wedges, which are successively driven into it by ponderous
sledge-hammers, wielded by athletic men. The tallow oozes in a melted
state into a receptacle below, where it cools. It is again melted, and
poured into tubs, smeared with mud, to prevent its adhering. It is now
marketable, in masses of about eighty pounds each--hard, brittle,
white, opaque, tasteless, and without the odour of animal tallow;
under high pressure, it scarcely stains bibulous paper, and it melts
at 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It may be regarded as nearly pure
stearine.... The seeds yield about 8 per cent. of tallow, which sells
for about five cents per pound.'

There is a separate process for pressing the oil, which is carried on
at the same time. The kernels yield about 30 per cent. of oil, which
answers well for lamps. It is also employed for various purposes in
the arts, and has a place in the Chinese pharmacopoeia, because of its
quality of changing gray hair to black, and other imaginary virtues.

The husks are used to feed the furnaces; the residuary tallow-cakes
are also employed for fuel--a small quantity remaining ignited a whole
day. The oil-cake forms a valuable manure, and is of course carefully
used for this purpose in China, where so very great regard is paid to
the collecting of manures. This kind is particularly used for
enriching tobacco-fields, its powerful qualities recommending it for
such a scourging crop.

With regard to the uses of the vegetable tallow, Dr Macgowan observes:
'Artificial illumination in China is generally procured by vegetable
oils, but candles are also employed.... In religious ceremonies, no
other material is used. As no one ventures out after dark without a
lantern, and as the gods cannot be acceptably worshipped without
candles, the quantity consumed is very great. With an unimportant
exception, the candles are always made of what I beg to designate as
vegetable stearine. When the candles, which are made by dipping, are
of the required diameter, they receive a final dip into a mixture of
the same material and insect-wax, by which their consistency is
preserved in the hottest weather. They are generally coloured red,
which is done by throwing a minute quantity of alkanet-root (_Anchusa
tinctoria_), brought from Shan-tung, into the mixture. Verdigris is
sometimes employed to dye them green.' We are not aware that the
vegetable tallow has as yet been imported into Britain to any extent.


[1] 'Uses of the _Stillingia Sebifera_, or Tallow-Tree, &c., by D. J.
Macgowan, M. D., &c.' The substance of the same communication was laid
before the Botanical Society of Edinburgh, 12th February, 1852, having
been communicated by Dr Coldstream.


Some local travellers of about twenty-five years' practice, may still
remember the keeper of a toll-bar on one of the western approaches to
Glasgow, known in his neighbourhood as English John. The prefix was
given, I believe, in honour of his dialect, which was remarkably pure
and polished for one of his station in those days; and the solution of
that problem was, that he had been from childhood, till the gray was
thickening on his hair, in the service of an English family, who had
come into possession, and constantly resided on, a handsome estate in
his native parish in Dumbartonshire.

Through their interest, he had been appointed to the office of power
and trust in which I made his acquaintance. John was one of my
earliest friends, though the remnant of his name was never heard nor
inquired after by me. The great town has now grown much nearer his
toll-house, which then stood alone on the country road, with no
building in sight but the school, at which I, and some two score of
the surrounding juveniles, were supposed to be trained in wisdom's
ways, by the elder brother of our parish minister. A painstaking,
kindly teacher he was; but the toll-house was a haunt more pleasant to
our young fancies than his seminary. John was the general friend and
confidant of all the boys; he settled our disputes, made the best tops
and balls for us, taught us a variety of new tricks in play, and
sometimes bestowed upon us good advices, which were much sooner
forgotten. John never married. He had a conviction, which was
occasionally avowed, that all women were troublesome; and whether this
evidence be considered _pro_ or _con_, he was a man of rough sense and
rustic piety, of a most fearless, and, what the Germans call, a
self-standing nature--for solitude or society came all alike to John.
You would as soon expect a pine-tree to be out of sorts, as his hard,
honest face, and muscular frame. John was never sick, or disturbed in
any way; he performed his own domestic duties with a neatness and
regularity known to few housekeepers, and was a faithful and most
uncompromising guardian of the toll-bar. I well remember how our young
imaginations were impressed with the fact, that no man could pass,
without, as it were, paying tribute to him; and George IV., though he
appeared on the coppers with which we bought apples, cast by no means
so mighty a shadow on our minds as English John. Before this glory
waned, I was removed from his neighbourhood, being sent to cheer the
heart and secure the legacy of a certain uncle who was a writer to the
Signet in Edinburgh, and believed to be in profitable practice and
confirmed bachelorhood. The worthy man has long ago married his
landlady's daughter, and been blessed with a family sufficient to fill
a church-pew. My own adventures--how I grew from garment to garment,
how I became a law-student, and at length a writer myself--have little
to do with the present narrative, and are therefore spared the reader
in detail; but the first startling intelligence I received from home
was, that English John had resigned his important office at the
toll-house, and gone, nobody knew whither!

Years had passed; my professional studies were finished, and I had
occasion to visit a Fife laird near the East Neuk. The gentleman was
notable for his taste in kitchen-gardening; and having a particularly
fine bed of Jerusalem artichokes which I must see, he conducted me to
the scene of his triumphs, when, hard at work with the rake and hoe,
whom should I find as the much esteemed gardener, but my old friend
English John! His hair had grown quite gray, and his look strangely
grave, since last I saw him: time had altered me still more;
nevertheless, John knew me at once--he had always a keen eye--but I
perceived it was his wish not to be recognised at all in presence of
the laird. That worthy was one of those active spirits who extend
their superintendence to every department. He commanded in the pantry
as well as on the farm; and while expatiating over the artichokes, a
private message from his lady summoned him back to the house, as I
sincerely believe, on some matter connected with the dinner; and he
left me, with an understood permission to admire the artichokes, and
the garden in general, as long as I pleased. Scarcely was he fairly
out of sight, till I was at the gardener's side. 'John, my old
fellow,' cried I, grasping his hand, 'I'm glad to see you once again.
How has the world behaved to you these many years?'

'Pretty well, Master Willie,' said John, heartily returning my shake;
'and I'm glad to see you too; but your memory must be uncommon good,
for many a one of the boys has passed me by on street and highway. How
have they all turned out?' And he commenced a series of inquiries
after schoolmates and old neighbours, to which my answers were as
usual in such cases--some were dead, some were married, and some gone
far away.

'But, John,' said I at last, determined to make out the mystery which
had so long puzzled me and the entire parish--'in exchange for all my
news, tell me why you left the toll-house? It was surely a better
place than this?'

'You know what the old proverb says, Master Willie: "Change is
lightsome,"' said John, beginning to dig, as if he would fain stave
off the explanation.

'Ha, John, that wont do!' said I; 'your mind was never so unsteady.
Tell me the truth, for old times' sake; and if there is anything in
the story that should not be made public, you know I was always a
capital secret-keeper. Maybe it was a love-matter, John: are you
married yet?'

'No, Master Willie,' cried my old friend, with a look of the most
sincere self-gratulation I ever saw. 'But it's a queer story, and one
I shouldn't care for telling; only, you were always a discreet boy,
and it rather presses on my mind at times. The master won't be back
for awhile; he'll have the roast to try, and the pudding to taste--not
to talk of seeing the table laid out, for there are to be some
half-dozen besides yourself to-day at dinner. That's his way, you see.
And I'll tell you what took me from the toll-house--but mind, never
mention it, as you would keep peace in the west country.'

This is John's story, as nearly in his own words as I can call them to

* * * * *

The family in whose service I was brought up lived on their estate in
Dumbartonshire, which came through the mistress of the mansion, who
had been heiress of entail, and a lady in her own right; we called her
Lady Catherine, and a prouder woman never owned either estate or
title. Her father had been a branch of the Highland family to whom the
property originally belonged. Her mother was sprung from the old
French nobility, an emigrant of the first Revolution, and she had been
brought up in England, and married in due time to an Honourable Mr
---- there. When she first came to the estate, her husband had been
some years dead, and Lady Catherine brought with her a son, who was to
be heir--at that time a boy like myself--and two handsome grown-up

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Library mainpage -> Chambers, William -> Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 436 Volume 17, New Series, May 8, 1852