« PreviousContinue »
MORE OF SANDS' LITERARY REMAINS : THE BLACK VAMPYRE.' – A friend, to whose courtesy in the same kind we have heretofore been indebted, has by good luck been enabled to furnish us with another of the quaint and curious productions of the late lamented ROBERT C. Sands, which has never been included in any of his published writings. It was written some twenty-five years ago, and is called “The Black Vampyre, a Legend of Saint Domingo. It was dedicated to the author of · Wall-Street,' an ambitious but very stupid performance, which through diligent puffery attained a temporary notoriety. It bore this motto, from BOMBASTES Furioso :
'So have I seen upon another shore,
And the last Lion thought the first a Boar! The “dedication' made the application of the last line somewhat apparent. Omitting the very diplomatic and tender prefixes and affixes, it was in these words: “Charmed with the success of your anomalous drama, which, without aspiring even to the character of nonsense, has already seen three editions, I have been myself induced to venture on publishing; with the sanguine hope of also scraping together a few shillings, in these hard times. Permit me to inscribe this tale to you, with a fellow-feeling for your lack of genius, and a fervent hope that our names may be encircled by the same evergreen in the temple of the Muses ; and that we may long flourish together, on the same pedestal, embellishing and elevating the literature of the auction-room.' In the introduction' the author tells his readers that if they can discover his drift, it is more than he can do himself; “if it be thought exquisite nonsense, it is more than he dares hope. He began to write without any fable, and before he had found any, had spun out the thread of his ideas.' His motive was to show of how much nonsense an individual might be delivered in the short space of two afternoons, with out any excuse but idleness, or any object but amusement.' The prominent descriptions held up to ridicule, he added, were fresh in the memory of all who had read • The White Vampyre ;' and to those who had not, the superstition was of course familiar, Byron's well-known lines were quoted:
"But first on earth, as Vampyre sent,
That word shall wrap thy heart in flame!
Yet thou must end thy task and mark
The author seems (by parity of reasoning) to think that there need not be any great degree of incredulity concerning the existence of such a creature as the vampyre; for in a sort of 'mural' upon his performance, he says : “ In this happy land of liberty and equality, we are free from all traditional superstitions, whether political, religious, or otherwise. Fiction has no materials for machinery; romance no horrors for a tale of mystery. Yet in a figurative sense, and in the moral world, our climate is perhaps more prolific than any other in enchanters, vampyres, and the whole infernal brood of sorcery and witchcraft. The accomplished dandy, who in maintaining his horses, his tailor, etc., absorbs, in the forced and unnatural excitement of his senseless orgies, the life-blood of that wealth which his prudent sire had accumulated by a long devotion to the counter - what is he but a vampyre? The fraudulent trafficker in stock and merchandize, who, having sucked the whole substance of an hundred honest men, is consigned for a few weeks to the sepulchre of the jail; and then, by the potent magic of an insolvent law, stalks forth, triumphant with bloated villany, more elated in his shameless resurrection, to renew his career of iniquity and of disgrace what is he but a vampyre? The corrupted and senseless clerk, who being placed near the vitals of a moneyed institution, himself exhausted to feed the appetite of sharpers, drains in his turn the coffers he was appointed to guard, is he not - I appeal to the stock-holders — is he not a vampyre ? Brokers, country bank directors and their disciples; all whose hunger and thirst for money, unsatisfied with the tardy progression of honest industry, by creating fictitious and delusive credit, has prayed on the heart and liver of public confidence, and poisoned the currents of public morals — are they not all vampyres? The whole tribe of plagiarists, under every denomination ; the critic, who, by eviscerating authors, and stuffing his own meagre show of learning with the pilfered entrails, ekes out his periodical fulmination against public taste; the forum orator, who, without compunction, barbarously exenterates BURKE, and CURRAN, and Phillips; the second-handed lawyer, scholar, theologue, who quote from quotations, and steal stolen property; the divine, who preaches Tillitson and Toplady what are they all but Vampyres ? T'he empiric, who fills his own stomach, while he empties his shop into the bowels of the hypochondriac; the bibliopolist, “who guts the fobs' of the whole reading community, by ascribing to Lord Byron works which that author never saw; the philanthropic contractor for the army, who charges more for lime and horse-beef, than his quantum-meruit for the best provisions; who sets up his carriage and his palace, by blistering the mouths and destroying the intestines of thousands – what are these but vampyres ? The professors and disciples of Surgeon's Hall, who, when a fine fat corse is rolled out of the resurrectionist's budget, set up a howl of horrible transport, like the anthropophagous Caribs in Robinson Crusoe; glut their gloating eyes with the pinguidity and unctuousness of the subject; and whet their blades like Shylock, impatient to attack the ilia -- what are they but vampyres? And I, who, as Jobnson said of an hypochondriac lady, ‘have spun this discourse out of my own bowels,' and made as free with those of others - I AM A VAMPYRE!
But let us hasten to present an instalment of The Black Vampyre,' which is the kind treated of in the imaginative exercitation before us : •Mr. ANTHONY Gibbons was a gentleman of African extraction. His ancestors emigrated from the eastern coast of Guinea, in a French ship, and were sold in St. Domingo remarkably cheap, as they were reduced to mere skeletons by the yaws on the passage ; and all died shortly after their arrival, ex. cept one small negro, of a very slender constitution, and fit for no work whatever. The gentleman who purchased him, charitably knocked out his brains; and the body was thrown into the ocean. The tide returning in the night, it was washed upon the sands; and the moon then shining bright, the gentleman was taking a walk to enjoy the coolness of the evening ; judge of his surprise, when the little corpse got up, and complaining of a pain in its bowels, begged for some bread and butter!
• The planter, supposing his business to have been but half done, kicked him back in the water. The element seemed very familiar to him; and he swam back with much grace
and agility; parting the sparkling waves with his jet black members, polished like ebony, but reflecting no single beam of light. His complexion was a dead black ; his eyes a pure white; the iris was flame color; and the pupils of a clear, moonshiny lustre ; but so peculiarly constructed, that, though prominent, they seemed to look into his own head. His hair was neither curled nor straight; but feathery, like the plumage of a crow. Having paddled again on shore, he came crawling, crab-fashion, to the feet of Mr. Personne. The latter gentleman, in considerable alarm, (not knowing whether it was Satan, Obi, or some other worthy, with whom he had to deal,) mustered up sufficient resolution to tie a large stone round the boy's middle: then, with a main exertion of strength, he hurled him into the sparkling ocean. He fell where the reflection of the moon was brightest, and sunk like lead; but immediately rose again like cork, perpendicularly, with the stone under his arm; while the radiant lustre of the planet retreated from his dark figure, exhibiting in its most striking contrast its utter blackness !
* In this predicament, he came buoyant to land ; surrounded, as he seemed, by a sphere of magic lustre. He now walked up to the Frenchman, with his arms a-kimbo, and looking remarkably fierce. Mr. Personne's particular hairs stood up on end,
-- Tunc perculit horror Membra ducis, riguere comæ, gressumque coercens Languor in extrema tenuit vestigia ripa ;
but being ashamed that a little negro of ten years old should put him in bodily fear, he knocked him down. The Guineaman rose again, without bending a joint ; as fast as Mr. PERSONNE could upset him, he recovered his altitude ; just like one of those small toys, fabricated from pith tipped with lead, called witches and hobgoblins by the rising generation. The planter, in utter amazement and despair, took hold of the child by both his extremities, and pressing him to the earth, sat down upon him! Then, hallooing for his attendants, he ordered a tremendous fire to be kindled on the sand. This was accordingly done. The Gaul congratulated himself on his perseverance and sagacity; and as he had never heard of ignaqueous animals, was confident that though the water-fiend was so expert in his own element, he could not stand the fiery ordeal. The boy, meanwhile, lay perfectly passive, as if he had been a mere log; but presently, when the pile was all in a light blaze, with a sudden expansion, like that of a compressed India-rubber, he popped Mr. PERSONNE up into the air many yards, and he alighted head-foremost into the fire, where he had intended to have dedicated the sable brat, with bis nine lives, to Moloch!
• Whatever the negro was, it notorious that Mr. PERSONNE was no salamander. He was rescued from the pyre, which like Hercules he had (though unwittingly) erected for himself; looking like a squizzed cat, and having apparently no life left in his body. The attention of the domestics was drawn entirely to their master; who soon betrayed signs of animation, though he exhibited a most awful spectacle, being one continual sore and blister. His whole body was one wound,'as Virgil or some other poet has hyperbolically expressed himself.
Mr. PERSONNE, when he had perfectly recovered his senses, found himself in his owu bed, wrapped in greasy sheets, and smarting as if in a Cayenne bath. He called for a glass of brandy, his dear wife EUPHEMIA, and his infant son, who had not yet been christened. His lady, with streaming eyes, presented herself before him; and after tenderly inquiring into the state of his health, told him, (with a voice interrupted with sobs and hiccups,) that when she went in the morning to see her baby, whom she had left in the cradle, there was nothing to be seen, but the skin, hair, and nails ! She declared that there never was such another object; except, indeed, the exsiccation in Scudder's Museum!
On the receipt of this horrid intelligence, Mr. Personne was seized with a violent spasmodic affection; and shortly after expired, muttering something about sacre, and the Guinea-negro.
* The amiable but unfortunate EUPHEMIA was thrown into several hysterical convul.
sions; as well she might be, poor woman, when her husband had been made a holocaust, and served up like a broiled and peppered chicken, to feed the grim maw of death; and her interesting infant, the first pledge of her pure and perfect love, had been precociously sucked, like an unripe orange, and nothing left but its beautiful and tender skin. The disconsolate widow caused her husband to be embalmed; and he was buried amid the lamentations and tears of all the funeral; much regretted by all who had the honor of his acquain. tance, particularly by his negroes; who could not soon forget him; as he had left too many sincere marks of his regard upon their backs, to be ever obliterated from their recollections.
• Time, as all the Greek tragedians, SOLOMON, and others have remarked, is a benevolent deity. Mrs. PERSONNE's grief yielded to the soothing hand of the consoling power; and her bloom and spirits returned with more lustre and elasticity than they had before exhibited : as the rose, that had drooped in the fury of the passing storm, erects its blushing honors, and shows more beautiful and vivid tints when the squall is over!
• Many years after these occurrences took place, while EUPHEMIA was in second mourning for her third husband, she was indulging in the luxury of solitary grief; and reading BURTon's Anatomy of Melancholy, and The Melancholy Poems of Dr. Farmer, in an orangerie. The refreshing breezes from the ocean, which now tempered the sultry heats of the declining day; the soft perfume of the opening blossoms; and the mellow tints of the evening sky, shedding that holy light, so dear to sensitive hearts, diffused a calm over her soul, wrapped in the contemplation of departed days. While lost in this pensive reverie, she perceived two strangers approaching her, in the extremity of the long vista of the grove. One of them was a colored gentleman, of remarkable height, and deep jetty blackness; a perfect model of the Congo Apollo. He was dressed in the rich garb of a Moorish Prince; and led by the hand a pale European boy, in an Asiatic dress, whose languid countenance, slender form, and tristful gait were strongly contrasted with the portly appearance and majestic step of his conductor.
• They both saluted the lovely widow, and after an interchange of compliments, accepted her polite invitation to sit down, and take tea with her in the bower. She learned from the elder stranger that he had brought out a cargo of slaves, whom his subjects had lately taken prisoners in war; and whom he had resolved to dispose of himself; as he was desirous of seeing the world. His page, he said, was an orphan, left by a slave-merchant in Africa.
" The manners and conversation of the Prince had an irresistible charm. The regal port was manifest in his gigantic and well-proportioned frame; and majesty was conspicuous on his brow, without its diadem. The turban and crescent had never graced a nobler front; but the winning condescension of his tones and language, while they could not banish the feeling of the presence of royalty, removed every restraint incident to that consciousness. He criticised the works which Euphemia had been perusing, with masterly precision, and displayed more knowledge than even the accomplished ideologist of Lady MORGAN; with infinitely more discretion and good sense.
• It is remarked by the Abbe Reynal, that there is a peculiar elegance and beauty in the complexion of the Africans, (when the eyes and nose are accustomed to their hue and odor.) This truth was realized by EUPHEMIA, as she gazed on the open visage of her illustrious guest. She thought surely that in him Nature might stand up and say “This was a man!' And certainly it is only the weakness and imperfection of our human senses, which, penetrating no farther than the surface, is forever deceived by superficial shadows. The empyrean is always blue, whatever vapors may float in our contracted atmosphere. And if we gaze on the rows of skulls which festoon and garnish Surgeon's Hall, we can apply no standard to determine their relative beauty. They are all equally ugly; and the block of Helen might be mistaken for that of Medusa. Shakspeare, true to nature, has also remarked, · Black men are pearls in beauteous ladies' eyes.'
• The beauty then, the royalty, gentility, and various accomplishments of the BAMBUCK
monarch, made captive the too sensible heart of the French widow. She forgot her ogles, graces, and even her loquacity; rooted to her seat, and fixed in immoveable contemplation of the AFRICAN's face. What peculiar feature or lineament attracted her attention, she knew not: his eyes, though bright, did not sparkle ; and the iris, though of a more vivid red than the roseate line in the rainbow, emitted no scintillations. In fact, his whole countenance seemed to look, and to perambulate her own.
• The conversation gradually assumed a more empassioned and amorous complexion ; and the little page, (who, though meagre and emaciated, evidently showed that he was no gump for his years,) taking certain broad hints, cast a mournful and intelligent look on the widow, said he would fetch a short walk in the plantation, and left the orangerie.
• The PRINCE then spreading his glittering sash upon the grass, went down on his knees upon it, and broke out into the most ardent exclamations of love and admiration, and professions of constant attachment. He said that the flat-nosed beauties of Zara; the scarred, squab figures of the golden coast; the well-proportioned Zilias, Calypsos, and Zamas on the banks of the Niger; and even the great Hottentot Venus herself, had never for a moment made the least impression on his heart. His passion was a mystery to himself; its origin secret as the sources of the Nile ; but full and impetuous as its ample channel, when replenished from the celestial fountains of Abyssinia ; while if Mrs. DUBOIS would shine upon its waves, its enlivened currents would fertilize his vast dominions in the luxuriant realms of central Africa; making them to fructify yet more abundantly, with burning gold and radiant diamonds !
*What female heart could resist such pleadings, and the compliment implied in such a preference? When ZEMBO (the page) returned, the parties had agreed to be privately united on the same evening The ceremony was accordingly performed, on the spot, by the family chaplain of Mrs. Dubois : not without many remonstrances on his part, as to the impropriety of marrying a negro. The PRINCE did not seem to resent the affront; which, by the by, he had no right to do, as the priest got nothing for the job. ZEMBO too was extremely restless, till Mrs. DUBOIS gave him some sweet-meats, which seemed to quiet his conscience; after which he took some stiff punch, and fell asleep!
*About midnight, the Prince came to him; and shaking him by the ears, bade him rise and follow him. His bride was hanging on his arm, in an enchanting deshabille ; and did not seem to be in perfect possession of her right senses. Zembo mournfully followed the new married pair.
* They went silently out of the back door, with cautious steps, and proceeded through the orangerie. No breath of wind was stirring. The moon was in the zenith, surrounded by a pale halo of ghostly lustre. When they had crossed the plantation, they came to a place of sepulture ; where the dark cypresses and lugubrious mahogany admitted but sparse and glimmering streaks of funereal light; which, falling on the rank foliage, the white monuments and broken ground beneath, presented a thousand dusky shapes, flitting in the dim uncertainty, dear to superstition.
• Vague terrors seized on the mind of the bride; and she began very naturally to inquire, what was the use of getting out of a comfortable bed, and trailing through the heavy dew, in her undress, to such an unusual spot for midnight recreation.
“They now stood near the spot where her three husbands, several children, and the skin, hair and nails of her first baby, were deposited in a row. At the foot of a tamarind lay her third son, whose christian name was SPOONER, and who died, according to the tomb-stone, in a fit of intoxication, aged seven years and six months. On him she had bestowed a greater share of tenderness than on any of her other offspring; and his loss had caused her most affliction. The African, making observations on the grave, began to strip himself very expeditiously, assisted by ZEMBO, who seemed to recover from his blues; and by his activity and eagerness, manifested his expectation of soon seeing some fine sport.'
Now, in order to ascertain what this . fine sport' was, and the wonderful things which were encountered by Mrs. PERSONNE and Mr. ZEMBO, the reader will be compelled to wait until our next number.