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It literally broke his heart, and he died about two years after, at the age of sixty, having just lived, as has been already mentioned, to carry the two remaining volumes of his dictionary through the press. Yet, like Moreri and Watt, he had lived long enough to earn his reward, if not to enjoy it.
There are just two or three minor matters which we would advert to before we conclude. Why will our French neighbours persist in blundering so uniformly whenever they have to copy an English word or phrase? The little English we find in the pages of the Biographie Universelle is almost in every case perverted, by writer or printer, into “ something new and strange;" and occasionally with such ingenuity, as almost to defy interpretation. In proper names this practice becomes particularly perplexing. It is easy, for example, to translate the novel term, Desings, into Designs, but it is not quite so obvious, that Kindoss means Kinross; or that Bervic is the name by which our great wood-engraver, Bewick, is known in Paris. Why should Lady Austen, too, (Cowper's friend,) be uniformly called Mistris Austen ; and Sir William Hamilton, generally Sir Hamilton, as if he had been only a scholar of Trinity College, Dublin? Above all, why should the members of one of our great political parties be so constantly nicknamed Wighs, in addition to being calumniated by all other sorts of misrepresentations ? For the sake of correctness as to these, and many more important matters, we cannot help thinking that the editors, or proprietors, of the Universal Biography might have done well in submitting some of their articles to the revision of an English coadjutor. We have to regret, too, the want, in these volumes, of the running titles, and indexes at the end, which make Chalmers's Dictionary so much more commodious for consultation. Should the volume open in the midst of a long article, as in nine cases out of ten it is sure to do, you have generally, owing to the absence of these guides, to turn over and examine first nearly a dozen leaves in one direction, and then as many in the other, before you can find out even at what part of the alphabet you are. We should also have liked more ample lists of authorities than we generally find subjoined to the articles—those by the very learned and accurate M. Weiss excepted. In this respect, also, the English work has an advantage over the French one.
We have not mentioned among our English dictionaries of general biography, the work, in eight volumes quarto, superintended by the late Drs. Aikin and Enfield. It is a compilation on the common plan, and of no extraordinary merit. Of smaller works in the same departinent the best, beyond all rivalry, is that lately published in two volumes by Messrs. Hunt and Clarke. It is written throughout, not only in a rare spirit of impartiality, but with great talent and elegance. It is the only work, too, of the kind, in our language, in the preparation of which the pages of the Biographie Universelle have been consulted.
THE INCONVENIENCE OF HAVING AN ELDER
BROTHER. I do not care for the paternal acres. Το
the truth, Halbert Hall never pleased me. As a child, I detested the long, dark avenues of stunted trees; and the heavy, melancholy stream of moaning water; and the long passages, with their doleful echoes and their countless doors, and the vast chambers, with all their pomp and pageantry of faded furniture and family portraits. I am bappier here in Lincoln's Inn, though one floor is my palace, and one lackey my establishment; and I leave the Hall, without a sigb, to my elder brother.
I shall not die for the lack of ten thousand a year. I never longed to keep hounds, or an opera dancer; to give champagne dinners, or to represent a county; to win at Doncaster, or to lose at Rouge et Noir. Your true Epicurean does not need great wealth. I can afford to wear a tolerable coat, and drive an unexceptionable cabriolet; to be seen sometimes at the Opera, and keep myself out of reach of the Bench; to throw away a trifle at Picquet, and cook a wild duck for my antagonist. These things content me; and, except when some unusual temptation has awakened my appetite, or some more than common loss ruffled, for a time, my philosophy, I would not readily exchange them for the rent-roll and the three per cents. of my elder brother.
As for the title, it is not to be mentioned seriously as the object of a reasonable man's ambition. In old times, a belted lord had certain privileges and pastimes, which might make life pass pleasantly enough. It was interesting to war upon his equals; it was amusing to trample on his inferiors: there was some merriment in the demolition of an abbey-there was some excitement in the settlement of a succession. Now-a-days, it is as well to be called Tom, as my lord; unless you have a mind to dine at the dullest tables, and make speeches to the drowsiest audience in the world. So I resign my chance of the peerage without reluctance; and, besides, the coronet must pass from the temples of its present apoplectic possessor over an artillery officer, a rural dean, and an attaché to an embassy, before it decorates the honoured brows of my elder brother.
But when I have resigned philosophically all longings after these distinctions and advantages, which would be mine if I could date my birth but a twelvemonth earlier—when I have congratulated myself that I am not bound, by any necessity or interest, to do battle for the privileges of the Order, or talk nonsense in support of the game laws-why am I to be crossed at every turning by some hateful memento of the inferiority to which my unlucky planets have doomed me?-why are smiles to grow colder, and conversation more constrained, at my approach ? --why are my witticisms listened to with such imperturbable gravity ? and why does Lady Mondragon look zero when I bow, and turn away to whisper viper' in her daughter's ear?
Thus it has been from my infancy. My mother, to be sure, had
THE INCONVENIENCE OF HAVING AN ELDER BROTHER.
225 the usual maternal peculiarities, and was always in our nursery squabbles the unfailing protectress of the party which was most immediately dependent upon her protection. But she died, poor lady, almost before I could be sensible how much I needed her alliance, leaving me to carry on the war unaided against an adversary whose auxiliaries were many and zealous, in the butler's pantry and the servants' hall, in the tenant's cottage, and the keeper's lodge. I was as handsome as Frederic, but his dress was more carefully tended and his ringlets more studiously arranged; I was as ravenous as Frederic, but his acquaintance with the cellar was more close, and his visits to the store closet more frequent; I was the bolder rider, but my pony was as rough as a bear; I was the better shot, but my gun was as heavy as a blunderbuss; both learned the lesson, but the praise and the shilling were for him ; both plundered the orchard, but the reproof and the correction were for me. And when our father, with an unwonted exertion of impartiality, sent us to the same school, and supplied us with the same means of extravagance, though my hexameter was as smooth and my laugh as hearty, my scholarship as sound and my pluck as indisputable as my brother's, he had more patrons and more friends than I had; and, some how or other, between Halbert major and Halbert minor there was a plaguy difference, though I scarcely yet suspected where it lay.
But I was soon able to discover of what materials the talisman was composed. My father broke his neck in a fox-chase, and my brother was master of the kennel and the stud; my uncle died of a late division, and my brother represented the borough. We came into the world, and began to jostle for places like the rest of its industrious citizens.
I met Lord Fortalice at a dinner party. What could be more condescending than his Lordship's manner, or more flattering than his expressions ? He had heard of my renown at college ; he was confident of my success in life ; he knew a host of my connexions; he had had the sincerest respect for my father : he could assure me the Duke of Merino entertained the highest opinion of my talents, and Lady Eleanor had pointed me out last week as a model to her son. But when at last his Lordship hoped my principles would allow me to support the Bill which was next week to be before Parliament, and understood from me that the interests of sixty-seven independent men were in my brother's hands, not mine, he gradually withdrew his civilities from me, and devoted himself thenceforth to the entertainment of a pursy divine, who spoke in monosyllables, and took an appalling quantity of snuff.
I was introduced to Tom Manille at the Opera. He was charmed to make my acquaintance; he had been told of my good fortune at the Salon, and was aware what a favourite I had been with the Baronne de Lusignan. Did I want a servant ?-a friend of his was going to dismiss one who was worth all the Indies. Was I looking for a hunter?-His cousin had one which would suit my weight exactly. He would make my betting-book, he would superintend my cellar, he would take me to a soirée chez Mademoiselle,-he would give me a special recommendation to his tailor. He must make me known to the Somerses,—their cook was Ude's first pupil ;-of course I should belong to the club,—his influence was omnipotent there.
226 THE INCONVENIENCE OF IIAVING AN ELDER BROTHER. [March, A few weeks elapsed ; and Tom Manille was riding my brother's horses, and drinking my brother's chambertin. He always calls me 'my dear fellow,' and never passes me without a most encouraging nod; but I have never dined with the Somerses, and last week I was black-balled at the club.
I wrote a treatise on the state of the nation, and submitted it to an eminent publisher. He was wonderfully delighted with the work. The views were so sound, the arguments so convincing, the style so pure, the illustrations so apposite. I began to look forward to an infinity of popularity and an eternity of fame; I dreamed of laurel wreaths, I calculated the profits of tenth editions. In imagination I was already the pilot of popular opinion, the setter-up and the putter-down of cabinets. But when I struck out the magical M.P. from the proof sheet of my title-page, my fall was immediate and disastrous. My language lost its elegance, and my subject its importance; and my pamphlet lies forgotten in the limbo of unpublished embryos, wanting only life, and willing to win immortality. I should have been the most influential writer of the day, if I had not had an elder brother.
At Brighton I fell in love with Caroline Merton. She was an angel, of course, and it is not necessary to describe her more particularly. Her mother behaved to me with the greatest kindness : she was a respectable old lady who wore a magnificent cap, and played casino while her daughter was waltzing. Caroline liked me, I am sure, for she discarded a dress because I disliked the colour, and insulted a colonel because I thought him a fool. I was in the seventh heaven for a fortnight; I rode with her on the downs, and walked with her on the Chain Pier. I drew sketches for her scrapbook, and scribbled poetry in her album. I gave her the loveliest poodle that ever was washed with rose-water, and called out a corpulent gentleman for talking politics while she played.-Caroline was a fairy of a thousand spells; she danced like a mountain-nymph, and sang like a syren ; she made beautiful card-racks, and knew Wordsworth by heart : but to me her deepest fascination was her simplicity of feeling, her independence of every mercenary consideration, her scorn of stars and garters, her penchant for cottages and water-falls. I was already meditating what county she would choose for her retirement, and what furniture she would prefer for her boudoir, when she asked me at an ill-omened fancy-ball who was that clumsy Turk, in the green turban and the saffron slippers. It was my elder brother. She did not start, nor change colour : welltaught beauties never do: but she danced that night with the clumsy Turk in the green turban and the saffron slippers ; and when I made my next visit she was just sealing a note of invitation to him, and had lighted her taper with the prettiest verses I ever wrote in my life.
If your father was an alderman, you may nevertheless be voted comme il faut: if your nose is as long as the spire of Strasburg, you may yet be considered good-looking : if you have published a sermon, you may still be reputed a wit: if you have picked a pocket, you may by-and-bye be restored to society. But if you have an elder brother, migrate, go to Crim-Tartary or to Cochin-China, wash the Hottentot, convert the Hindoo : at home you cannot escape the
stigma that pursues you. You may have honesty, genius, industryno matter : you are
a detrimental' for all that. Last summer I saw Scribe's amusing scenes Avant, Pendant et Après," at the Théâtre de Madame. In the “ Avant," when the Duchess of the old regime, after bestowing upon her eldest son unearned military rank and the richest parti in all France, was quietly dooming her youngest-born to live poor, unknown, and Chevalier of Malta, a fine little fellow, who was sitting in the front row before me, looked up at his father, and cried,
“ Mais nous avons changé tout cela, n'est ce pas, mon papa?”
Much of it is changed; but to change it all, we must wait for a stranger revolution than that which has regenerated France.
SCHOOL AND SCHOOLFELLOWS.
6 Floreat Etona.”
TWELVE years ago I made a mock
Of filthy trades and traffics;
I wrote delightful sapphics;
I supp'd with Fates and Furies ;-
A happy boy, at Drury's.
Of faded pains and pleasures
From Memory's hoarded treasures ;
The glories, and disgraces,
Of old familiar faces.
As bright as when we parted ;
Stout limb'd, and simple hearted;
And shunning every warning;
No chill except Long Morning :
That rattled like a rocket;
And striking for the pocket :
Now drinking from the pewter;
Now laughing at my tutor.
No playmate shares my beaker;
And some before the Speaker.