Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

is so cool, putting Piccadilly, from two till five, out 'of the question : there is always shade on one side or other of the street, a shade which you doubly enjoy, on the principle of contrast. It is satisfactory to think how hot the people must be opposite : then, though I do not eat ice myself, I can suppose other people doing it. If they do, an eastern poet might gain new ideas about coolness and fragrance, while enjoying the coloured coldnesses at Grange’s. Towards the close, flowers begin to pass away; you are not met at every second step in Regent's Street by a bunch of moss-roses--a little faded, it is true, allegories by the way of our pleasures, but sweet notwithstanding. Dark-eyed pinks no longer heap the stands in such profusion ; but then fruit is come in, such fruit as London only can furnish. I confess that I have no simple and natural tastes about gathering it myself. My experiences in that way

have been unfortunate. I once picked some strawberries, and disturbed a whole colony of frogs; I once gathered a plum, and was stung by a wasp; and my latest experience regarded a peach, which hung

“With rosy cheek turn’d to the sun

Upon a southern wall." There is an old proverb which says, “ Tell me your company, and I will tell you yourself.” By this rule the peach would be severely judged, for its associates were earwigs. I can't say, for I made no trial of its merits : the sight of its friends were enough for me. I pass over a horde of other miseries, such as stooping in the sun, thorns, dirt, &c., and will only observe, that fruit never looks to such an advantage as it does on china, whether Dresden, Sevres, or even Worcester. There are two seasons when Covent-garden will more especially reward a visit, -at the beginning of summer and at the close. Flora holds her court in the first instance, and Pomona in the second. Pass along the centre arcade, and it is lined with trophies of the parterre or of the orchard, and you may look upon the early roses, and grow sentimental about

“ The blush that ever haunted early love," or become unsophisticated, and go back to the innocent enjoyments of your childhood while gazing on the crimson-sided apples. I like, too, Hungerford Market; it gives one the idea of a Dutch picture. People wear mere bargaining faces; fruit and flowers have their price, but fish were sent into the world, at least, into the market, to be cheapened. Everybody beats down the price of a fresh pair of soles, or a fine turbot. It is just the sort of place for a new edition of the old anecdote of a well-known legal peer, who, feeling the necessity of reform among fishmongers, and retrenchment in their bills, determined on

shaming the rogues.” He took his station at the dinner-table in all the triumph of a good bargain, that ovation of daily life, when “ there was a place where the turbot was not.” Instead of that, he met his lady's eyes, triumphant in her turn, with a consciousness of a good bargain also,-“ My dear, fish was excessively dear to-day, and poor Mrs. So-and-so called in great distress, her fishmonger having disappointed her ; so I let her have the turbot før-” exactly one-half what her unfortunate husband had paid for it.

The moral of this story is, -we English people delight in a moralnot .a moral to be deduced or inferred, but a nice, rounded, little moral,

[ocr errors]

ور

in all the starch of set sentences, and placed just at the end,—the moral of this is, let no man think of buying bargains. Alas for the unfortunate woman whose husband delights in surprises and presents! If she has red hair, he brings her home pink ribbons: he buys a cap at the Bazaar or a bonnet in the Arcade, -not that I mean the least disrespect to those two very pretty places;---but certainly the crimsons and yellows, the blues and greens, which ornament the fabrics there exhibited, meant to decorate “the human face divine,”—to say nothing of size or shape,—do require a considerable degree of moral courage in the wearer. No, let a man venture on nothing but shawls and jewellery : in a Cashmere or a diamond necklace he cannot go far wrong. — By the by, Kensington Gardens are just now singularly beautiful: I do not mean the walk par distinction ; for I am writing of the picturesque, not the social pleasures of London : :-no; go among the old trees, whose depths of shade are as little known as the depths of the Black Forest. The fine old branches will close over your head; the caw of the rooks is heard in melancholy but musical monotony; while their flight ever and anon disturbs the quiet leaves, and lets in fantastic streaks of sunshine on the soft grass. From afar off comes the perpetual and deep voice of the huge city,—that human ocean, whose waves know not rest. After wandering through many a shadowy walk,--all darkly green, for there are no flowers,—you arrive at the square old palace--associate with William and Mary ;--formal, staid, suiting the town portion of a period when " the tangles of Neæra's hair were powdered, and “ the silver-footed Thetises wore high-heeled slippers. I like William. Placed all his life in the most difficult circumstances, he yet made the best of them ; and he, at least, owed no gratitude to his father-in-law.

But Mary ;it is treason to all her sex's most kindly affections not to entertain an aversion to the most cold and thankless of children. Female patriotismi is a thing utterly beyond my comprehension. Her father had been a kind father to her; and the claims even of a nation are, to a woman, little in comparison with those of home. The reader may or may not think so; he can turn the subject over in his mind while he pursues the dim and chestnut-shaded walk which brings him again to the Park. During this time the sun has been setting; the fine old trees stand still and solemn in the crimson air; the Park is empty; the smoke has rolled away, and rests, like a thunder-storm, over the distant buildings. A clear and softened atmosphere is immediately above you; a few light clouds are flushed with lights of fugitive red; a deep purple hue is upon the Serpentine, along which are floating, still as shadows, snowy as spirits, two or three white swans. They alone share with you the silence and the solitude to be found even in London.

Autumn.-London now must rely on its own resources. It is such a thing to have resources in yourself, as people say when they waste a little fortune in having their daughters taught music and drawing, though all experience shows,-in vain though, of course, as experience always does,--that the chances are that the piano will never be opened, nor the pencil touched, when the young lady has once passed the

age

of exhibition. Who does not remember Mrs. Elton and "her resources ?” If they do not, we congratulate them: life has yet a pleasure in store; they have “Emma” to read. Now is the period for really seeing the streets; at other times, one's own personal safety has to be consulted. I confess there are two or three crossings that justify desperation ; one rushes across, shut's one's eyes, and trusts in Providencea method of proceeding I cannot recommend, it being more Mahometan than Christian. Of all vehicles, dread a cabriolet. Common people and carts have consciences; cabriolets have none. But now the lovers of the picturesque may indulge their tastes without risking their lives, as if they were ascending Mont Blanc, or traversing the desert, surrounded by Bedouin Arabs. First comes the early walk along Piccadilly. The week before has been wet; and through those light and graceful arches which open on the Park is seen a wide expanse of glittering green. On the other side is another arch, which I shall pass over with the slightest possible mention, it being much too heavy for these pages. The eye being glad to get away as soon as possible, wanders into the distance, and rests on the old towers of Westminster Abbey, shining through a golden haze, which hangs around it like the glory of past ages. There rises the most historical of cathedrals. Show us, in all Europe, a sanctuary keeping sacred so much noble dust.

Westminster Abbey is the architectural epic of England. It is beautiful now with the early sunshine of morning: it is as beautiful when the sky is pale and clear, just after sunset-a line of amber stretched across the west; and then, tall and shadowy, stands forth still more distinct the dark outline of those antique turrets. But they are most beautiful of all in the moonlight, when the blue and transparent sky has not a cloud, and the vast building looks as if the shadow of tradition rested on its large and stately proportions. The foreground, too, is full of poetry-an open sweep, silvered by the moonlight; while the lamps afar off-pale and spiritual-fires fed invisibly-are repeated on the water with a wavering and subdued light. The streets around so quiet, so solemn,--for the rest of life is, indeed, a solemn thing,-time itself seems to stand still in such a midnight.

But with the glad morning I began, and to that I return. Yet it wa on such a one as I have been describing,-a soft, bright, autumnal morn, when the last glow of that rich season seems upon the air,—that I witnessed one of those affecting scenes which rise upon

the

memory oftener than its own more immediate regrets. Perhaps it is a benevolent provision of Nature that we remember more what touches than what pains

We were loitering down the sunny side of the street, when suddenly the sound of bugles came upon the air, and a party of soldiers crossed our path, carrying the coffin of one of their comrades. The air played was that mournful Scotch melody, “ The Land of the Leal.” Both my companion and myself were young enough to follow the impulse of the moment, and it led us as far as Paddington Church, pursuing the small, sad procession, and the wail of that sorrowful music. We heard the service read, and waited till the volley was fired over the grave. I never saw that churchyard again till the other day. It is the most rural-looking one in all the metropolis. You approach it by a little green, and the gate is sheltered by one or two old trees. It is thickly peopled, if such an expression may be used to a city of the dead.

Ah, dear!” exclaimed the lady I was with to her husband; “ do let me be buried here, it seems so comfortable-plenty of company; and it will be such a nice morning walk for you to come and weep over my grave !"

us.

Hitherto

my

London sketches have been its Claude Lorraine views; there are darker shades. A walk in November towards the more densely populated districts is like winding through a German story. Nothing can well be more gloomy than a November evening in the city; and yet it has a strange, though saddening excitement. The air is heavy, as if that fine and subtle element were, by some strange process, becoming palpable. The shop-windows are dim, and the most familar objects take unknown and strange shapes; the lights have a red and sullen glare; a hurrying multitude passes along; vehicles and passengers jostle together; there is neither rest nor quiet; you speak, and hear not your own voice. There seems no such thing as sympathy or relaxation in the world ; it is given up wholly to business. "The hardships and the labour of life oppress you with their visible presence. Pleasure changes into self-reproach. The atmosphere is weighed down by toiling days and anxious nights. The crowd jostle on; they reck not of each other;—the careworn are always the careless. The great current of life flows through those restless streets, turbulent and unresting. There are no flowers on its troubled waters,—no sunshine on its banks ;—or to drop metaphor, there seems no place for the gentler affections, graces, and sentiments of existence. Fear is upon you, and around you. You turn to some side-street; you seek to escape the tumult and the throng. You find yourself on one of the bridges. The scattered rays on each side, and the vapoury lamps, fling a faint and unnatural light on the dark arches which seem hung in air. Below is the river, gloomy, sepulchral, -a river of smoke. No purer element ever rolled in such “ darkness visible.” The dense mass of buildings lifts its shadowy outline on either side, crowded, confused, and heavy. Crime and misery rise uppermost on the mind. You feel what a weary wilderness is that whose moaning thunder comes perpetual on the ear. The black river is as Avernus, with hell upon its banks. I know not how it may affect others, such was the impression upon myself. I felt afraid, overwhelmed, and oppressed to the last degree of sadness. So much for fog, night, and November.

When I have been through those very streets of a morning, I have been full of interest, and curiosity, and historic association. Fashion has had to make the best of a bad bargain. She has retreated before the commercial interests. The Thames is wanted for the world : not for what is called the "

great world.” Wharfs have taken the place of the gardens. Still I must regret the noble dwellings of Henry and Elizabeth's times; the days of terraces and barges, when the court went by water to Greenwich, and the fine old houses in the Strand had pleasuregrounds sloping down to the river.

“ Mais il faut finir enfin,” as the Maréchal d'Albret's porter said when he ate up the last lark of the dinner which his master had had for sixteen, and of which the said master, in a fit of ennui, had desired him to eat as much as he could by way of experiment. I know that I have not done justice to my subject. I feel it too strongly. Last, best test of attachment, I hope the blame will fall upon me, and comfort myself by thinking this tribute to the perfection of London will appear at the most fitting season. Month of conservatories in full beauty; of milliners in full fashion; month of the latest oysters and earliest roses, who but must appreciate London in April !

L. E. L.

THE EARLY DAYS OF EDMUND KEAN,

MEMS. FOR A MEMOIR.

Though the English are proverbially curious to a fault respecting the private transactions of public characters, yet so little are they habituated to accurate investigation, that the ages and birth-places of some of the most celebrated persons of the last century are matters of disputation and doubt. A strong elucidation of this propensity to pry was afforded in the instance of Lord Byron : a hundred anecdotes of his deformity were currently narrated by those who were more or less connected with him, and yet, says his biographer, scarcely two persons agreed, on his (Moore's) making the inquiry, whether that deformity was in his right or left foot! Actors, for obvious reasons, have ever been desirous to conceal their ages, and this could seldom be done without a concealment of their birth-places also. It still remains a matter of doubt whether Macklin died at the age of 97 or 107; and even living actors have so mystified their origin, that the name and country of one favourite comedian of the present day are often matter of controversy. Where human vanity has a motive for misrepresentation, truth can seldom be elicited : towards the close of his career, Macklin was as anxious to be thought very old as any sexagenarian representative of juvenility could be to be deemed very young.

Kean had the weakness common to the members of his precarious profession : the writer of this article has often heard him declare that he was born on St. Patrick's day, (i. e. 17th March, 1787.) Yet latterly he as positively affirmed that his birth took place in November, 1790? His parentage was also continually questioned by himself; and he frequently, to many persons, who were not particularly in his confidence, affirmed his belief to be, that Mrs. Carey was not his mother, but that he owed his existence to a lady who through life assumed the title of his aunt; that lady was, nearly sixty years since, under the protection of the Duke of Norfolk, and was introduced by him to Garrick, who gave her an introduction to the then managers of Drury, where she appeared soon after the death of the British Roscius. It is not my intention now to pursue this question, nor to enter upon the other much-mooted point of Kean's being or not being for a short period at Eton; my object at present is to throw together a few facts, the vouchers for which are at hand, as aids to a biography of that extraordinary actor : these details have been taken at various periods, and are here given almost literally from the lips of the narrators, the only alteration being that, for convenience, the first person has been used; the breaks in each case, thus

*

denoting the commencement and conclusion of intelligence given by different persons. Where the parties to whom I was indebted for information are dead, I have mentioned their names, and also the names of living individuals who could corroborate the statements; and in ALL cases have given dates and the names of those who were contemporaneous with Kean in the events described.

*

I saw young Edmund Carey (Kean), first in April, 1796.

(. I am par

« НазадПродовжити »