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I must bustle with the crowd, and find something to do in it, though, as to what, I find it easier to question than come to any satisfactory conclusion. There is a great change, I don't know whether you observe it,in the faces upon the pavé, since we were here together last. And, contrary to the natural progress of things, it is the young countenances chiefly that have disappeared.
Some of our coffee-room acquaint\ance have taken up, and married. One or two-they make a sad history altogether-have been taken up; and narrowly escaped the other lot arranged for man by destiny. Several are literally beggared-starving in gaols and bridewells-whom I recollect, and you must recollect also, rioting in this very house. Some have married prostitutes, and eat the "allowances" of fools as gross, and blackguards almost as filthy, as themselves. Many rub on still, and contrive to be seen in the circle by a little game, where anybody will bet, and a little swindling, where anybody will trust. And some of the elder and stouter thrive by a sort of-seeing young gentlemen fairly through their property-lacqueying, bullying, and fighting, for the worst of the new beginners.
In truth, it would seem odd, I dare say, that a man should turn virtuous for such a currish reason as that other people chose to be knaves as well as himself; but I do begin to think, since I have been this time in London, that disrespectability is not so desirable as it used to be. With all the advantages which large means afford; and the greatest, as I take it, is the means they give of shutting out the world of escaping always from the offence that a compulsory commixture with any class or portion of society reflects upon you-With all the power which they give of commanding this solitude; and, moreover, that constant leisure, which is almost worth the privacy-it is much! and, in England, wealth only can supply it-With all the means of having no such thing as an obligation upon one for years together; of pursuing any absurdity which whim, passion-no matter what-suggests, without hinderance or impediment; of finding all the petty inconveniences of life smoothed down to your hand-every knave meeting you with a delighted smile-you know he would cut your throat, if he could
but he can't-and, in the meantime, the dog is so silken, and so obedient -and that very same ready compliance which is intolerable in people whom one would desire to value, is so excellent in the minor ministers to comfort, from whom we only expect that they should do, without caring for the motive! In spite of all this inconvenience, I want something-in short, I have earned none of it-it does not flatter my vanity-I want a "character"-and I wish I had staid ten years ago with you in the army.
It is the very devil to be growing old as a person of no peculiarity; known only as Mr So and So, who has an estate worth "so much." Mixed up-and no resource !-with the crowd who lose money at Newmarket
belong to the clubs-keep opera girls-drive good carriages-and might have sold soap and whipcord, instead of doing any of these things, if some one else had not acquired the means which they are worthlessly dissipapating. I protest, I think there is not a footman who raises himself by his own works to any place, or estimation, who is not-in the mere scale of creation-an incomparably nobler thing than any of these drones, with whom I am in a fair way to be included.
And then, for the means of notoriety within the circle that endures us-what a circle it is, and what a notoriety when all is done! The wearing always a very particular dress-the uglier by far the better-riding in a particularly absurd vehicle; or being at play a particular dupe. Figuring in the eighteenth intrigue of a new actress-say it is the first after she becomes known in London-the former seventeen having occurred, without any £guring at all, when she travelled, by caravan, through the country, and had no more dream of "settlement," or "equipage," than of being translated to the skies; or perhaps exposing a man's own person to be laughed at, at a shilling per head, on the stage at some watering-place, -(for in town the fear of pippins is before the eyes of rogues, and they don't venture)-doing that—and as a matter to be proud of-which would not produce thirty shillings a-week, if it were done as a matter of profit ; and which, for fifteen, half the people at Bartlemy fair would do better, or would not be permitted to do at all!
Here's enough almost to drive a man into being "sober and honest." And I wish again, that I had staid in the army; or that there could spring up another Waterloo, which a man might thrust his head into, and so gain a little reputation within ten days after the date of his commission; for, to stand as a soldier, in the presence of men who have fought twenty campaigns-that's worse even than obscurity. Something I'll soon attempt, that's certain; but whether to become a legislator-that's not a bad pursuit for a man to take up, who knows nothing of any pursuit at all-or to commit some very unheard-of outrage, that people may say "That's MrEdwards, who is suspected to have stolen Blackfriars'-bridge," when I come into a room-which I have not yet determined.
Absolutely, I am tired-if I could but escape from it-of mere worthlessness and futility; and when I meet men who make brilliant speecheswrite glorious books-conduct nego
tiations or have seen the Russian campaign-I envy, and, what is worse, honour the caitiffs-to my own great personal disparagement and admitted disqualification.
All the feats that I ever did in my life-they are immeasurably great; but there are so very few I dare confess to: If anything should strike you, by which a man (with an easy leap) might achieve honour or dignity, mention it when you write again; for, or else, I shall be obliged to retire, as a country gentleman. Meantime, with thanks to the Lady Susan, for so far honouring me, I believe I know sufficient of the language to return her inclosure in a practicable state. If I might "advise," however-seeing she is resolved to patronise letters-a collection kept the wrong way-noting down the absurdities of people rather than their beauties,-would be far more easily maintained than that which she proposes; and, I should think, more entertaining.
THERE was a time-sweet time of youthful folly !—
Wooing the veiled phantom, Melancholy,
And like a lover, like a jealous lover,
I hid mine idol with a miser's art,
And there I sought her-oft in secret sought her,
In greenwood lone, the livelong summer day,
Watching the flitting clouds, the fading flowers,
And then, mine idle tears (ah, silly maiden!)
Heaved the light heart, that knew no real pain.
And then, I loved to haunt lone burial-places,
To think of passing bells-of death and dying-
The white shrowd all with flowers and rosemary
Strew'd o'er by loving hands !-But then 'twould grieve me
And I have lived to prove, that fading flowers
Are life's best joys, and all we love and prize-
And I have lived to look on Death and dying,
And I have lived to wear the smile of gladness,
And now and now pale pining Melancholy!
Away-avaunt! No longer now I call ye
Give me the voice of mirth-the sound of laughter-
Come, eat and drink-to-morrow we must die."
So, in his desp'rate mood, the fool hath spoken-
If we but kiss it, as the stroke descendeth,
Mine be that holy, humble tribulation
No longer feigned distress-fantastic woeI know my griefs-but then my consolationMy trust, and my immortal hopes I know.
MATILDA; A TALE OF THE DAY."
It certainly does appear a little ex traordinary, that England at the present day should be unable to boast the possession of a single distinguished novelist, and that the higher honours of that department of literature should so long have rested in abeyance. Mrs Radcliffe and Miss Austin (the very antipodes to each other) are gone; and Madame d'Arblay, in the "Wanderer," has afforded convincing proof of the decay of her literary powers, at no time very varied or extensive. It is true, Theodore Hook is yet at his Perihelion, but much as we admire this gentleman's talents, and sympathize in his virtuous antipathy to steel forks, and servants in cotton stockings; and cordially as we applaud his persevering exertions to reform the Criminal Code by imposing signal punishment on the depravity of drinking porter, and eating with a knife, we are not quite convinced that the brilliance of anything he has yet said or done, entitles him to be quoted as an exception. Ireland can at least produce one name, and Scotland several, (we do not speak of the author of Waverley, for he is like a star, and dwells apart,") with which England has absolutely none to put in competition. Where, we should be glad to know, is the English Miss Edgeworth? Or what production of the present age will they oppose to "The Inheritance?" A work which, when considered as the production of a female, stands unrivalled in our na tional literature, and unites the originality and power sometimes, though rarely, to be met with in our sex, with the more delicate and softer beauties peculiar to her own. We trust that the effect of the applause she has already gained, has been to stimulate, not satiate, the ambition of this accomplished lady; that she will not suffer her talent to slumber, nor rest her sickle from its task, till she has fully reaped that abundant harvest of fame, with which her perseverance must undoubtedly be crowned.
But Matilda-we confess we allow ed these volumes to lie a whole month on our table unread. To the lynx eye of a critic, the title did not seem very
promising. There appeared to us something Lane-and-Newmanish about it, a certain indescribable redolence of Leadenhall Street, by no means tempt ing to a nearer approach. Above all, the book had been enveloped from its birth in so dense an atmosphere of puff; and Colburn had so disgustingly besmeared it with his slime and slaver, that we involuntarily set it down for one of those catchpenny "Works of Importance" with which that most imaginative bookseller so frequently delights to surprise us, and the claims of which are always to be estimated in an inverse ratio to the inflation of the panegyric by which they are announced. We did, however, read the book at last. The story we found to be perhaps the most hackneyed and commonplace in the whole circle of novel-writing, and one which had already fifty times at least run the gauntlet of the Circulating Library. The characters appeared to put forth but trifling claims to originality or vigour of conception, and the incidents to be very few, and not very skilfully arranged. Out of such unhopeful materials, however, has the author managed to construct a tale of no ordinary interest and beauty. He seems to have encountered difficulties merely for the sake of surmounting them, to have voluntarily multiplied the obstacles to success only to render his triumph the more signal and complete. He leads us along a beaten track, but is continually laying open new beauties to our view. He launches his little skiff against wind and current, and it is impossible not to admire the grace with which she breasts the waters, and stretches gallantly for her destined haven.
The secret of all this is, that the author of these volumes is a very clever and accomplished person. There is an air of elegance diffused over the whole work, and he has far more than compensated for the want of novelty in his materials, by the fineness of his tact, and the felicity of his execution. His pictures of high life in particular, though drawn with a light and sketchy pencil, and not very carefully finish
* London. Henry Colburn. 1825.
ed in the minuter details, are well and skilfully grouped, and marked in their easy and flowing outlines by the hand of a master. It is quite visionary to expect such pictures from any but a denizen of this closest of all corporations, the members of which, in the true spirit of our Scottish borough system, maintain the privilege of electing each other. There is no community in which the Alien bill is more rigidly enforced than in the commonwealth of fashion-none of whose laws and constitution the maxim, " Odi profanum vulgus et arceo," is so strictly adopted as the ruling principle. The discovery of the North-west passage is not more beset with difficulties than that of a navigable passage for merchantmen to the drawing rooms of Grosvenor Square and Park Lane.
When a stray plebeian, from his talents as a jester or buffoon, succeeds in obtaining the envied privilege of sitting, by sufferance, at "great men's feasts," he is aware that he holds this honour by too precarious a tenure, to feel very much at his ease. His attention is too much occupied by the pomp and circumstance by which he is surrounded-he is too morbidly apprehensive of betraying his own vulgarity by a failure in the most trifling ceremonial; too sedulous in his conformance to all the petty observances of the entertainment, to have either the leisure or composure of mind necessary for observations on character. In recording his experience of high life, therefore, it is quite natural that such a person should entirely overlook those finer and less tangible peculiarities, by which the very highest circle of society is distinguished from that immediately beneath it, and reserve his descriptive eloquence for the candelabras, and gilt plate, the routine of the dinuer table, the splendour of the liveries, and the portly dignity of the butler. But this is not what we want -and this is not what Lord Normanby (for he is the acknowledged author of Matilda) has given us. The luxurious appliances of aristocratic society, so novel and imposing to the imagination of a vulgar Parvenu, are to him familiar as the air he breathes, and therefore quite as likely to pass unnoticed. In Matilda, we encounter no descriptions of silk draperies, or Turkey carpets-the sideboard sup
ports its gorgeous burden unnoticed -we are not drilled into the manual and platoon exercise of silver forks and finger glasses-the St Peray sparkles unrecorded, and not one of the party is damned to everlasting fame, for wearing a coarse neckcloth, or a Cornelian ring. Lord Normanby, however, is no mean artist, and has succeeded wonderfully in transferring to his canvass even the most shadowy and evanescent hues of the cameleon fashion. Of this we think no further evidence will be required than is afforded by the following extract:
"It was early in the month of July, when that most valuable department of shionable Arrangements,' contained, athe daily press, which is headed Famong many other pieces of information, which, however intrinsically important, ders, the two following paragraphs :— would not be so interesting to my rea
"Lord Ormsby (late the Honourable Augustus Arlingford) is arrived at Mivart's Hotel, after an absence of two years on the Continent.'
"Lord and Lady Eatington will this day entertain a distinguished party at their splendid mansion in Grosvenor Square."
"That intelligence of this description should have attracted every eye, is not to be wondered at, when it is recollected, that, as the advance of the season had diminished the number of these events, the type in which they were announced had proportionably increased in size and importance; and many an absent fair one, who had been prematurely hurried from chalked floors to green fields, had now no other resource than to make
that a distant study which was no longer a present pleasure. But be this as it may, a little before eight, on the day above mentioned, the first carriage was heard to come clattering up South Audley-street, containing Lord George Darford and Henry Penryn; two youths, most comprehensively described
Young men about town.'-' Very unlucky, my father wanting the carriage afterwards,' said Lord George-'I do so hate to be early. The half-hour introduction to a dinner, like the preface to a book, should always be skipped.'
"One might know one was too early, the fellow drives so fast,' said Mr Penryn, as they swung round the last corner, at the risk of annihilating a pensive nursery-maid, and all her pretty ones, at one fell swoop.'
"I wonder whom we shall have at