Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

every one they disliked—which was actually sacrificing them on the altar of public scorn, for their frivolous decrees had the force of law. This, too, was a natural consequence."

“ In order to finish my picture of the highest circles of the eighteenth century, ! must add, that in the most private of its coteries, it was requisite that the scandal should be as it were divided; for any one person who should have undertaken 19 retail it, would have soon become odious. It was also necessary, even in the commerce of scandal, to mingle in the narration something of grace, gaiety, or whim; mere scandal is always a melancholy atlair, and is always coarse and vulgar; besides it would have contrasted ill with the habitual tons of these circles : it would have been in a bad and low taste.

" But the fault for which there was no redemption, which nothing could excusc, was meandess, either in manners or language, or in actions, when such a thing could be thoroughly proved. It was not that the principles of society were so lofty as to inspire indignation at a mean action, which should have obtained its perpetrator a large fortune or an excellent place; but there is still among us more vanity than cupidity, and as long as pride preserves that character, it will sometimes resemble greainess of mind. When a mean action which turned out profitably was performed with certain precautions, and in a certain way, it was easy to feign a belief that it was only a necessary step in a system of laudable though selfish policy; and, like the thieves among the Lacedæmonians, only the awkward were punished. There were rarely seen, at least at this period, any instances of shameless meanness, and this is saying a great deal. At court there were no es. amples of one friend supplanung another, or a fallen minister being disgracefully deserted by those who had paid assiduous court to him in the time of his favour ; on the contrary, as the principles and the heart had far less to do with the conduct than vanity, there was a proportionate increase of splendour and ostentation in the manner of performing generous actions, which sometimes went even the length of arrogance ; not content with visiting an exiled minister, be received a kind of adoration; he was deified, while the sovereign who had dismissed him was openly neglected."

This, be it remembered, is no sarcasm of Cliamfort's, no exaggeration of Diderot's. It is the judgment of Madame de Genlis, the admirer of all the rags and frippery of absolute monarchy and state religion, the professed panegyrist of exclusive privileges, and the scourge of reformers. In a society thus constituted, science must have been useless, philosophy dangerous, and patriotism downright destruction. Wit to give wings to malignity, cunning to thread the paths of intrigue, and an innate baseness of soul to encounter and to swallow the indignities which spring up in the crooked paths of policizing favouritism, were the only qualities essential to success, either with the women or with the master, as the king was called; and if to these a man added a constitutional courage, and a high flow of spirits, his fortune and his reputation were made ; and sense, wisdom, and virtue might safely be dispensed with.

The first volume of Madame de Genlis's Memoirs gives a close, and apparently a faithful description of her early life ; and this part of her work has much of the charm of Marmontel's narrative of the similar period of his own existence. It is, in its illustration of high life, what Marmontel's Memoirs are in relation to that of the French peasantry. There is in both the same pleasing detail, the same charm of reality, the same vigour and glow of colouring, derived from a similar delight

[ocr errors]

in dwelling upon the vivid and pleasurable recollections of infancy and adolescence. As she advances in her career, the narrative derives a new interest from the names introduced and the personages brought into the field ; she has painted herself, like her great literary contemporary now no more, “en buste ;" and she dwells but slightly on the “amitiés intimes," either of herself or her friends. The fourth volume, (which is the last that has yet appeared) brings her down to the death of the unfortunate Lord E. Fitzgerald, the husband of her niece (daughter) and her voyage to Berlin. We greatly regret that neither time nor space will permit us to dwell more at length on the numerous interesting particulars which suggest themselves in the perusal of these volumes. For whether we agree or disagree with the writer, whether we admire her reflections or laugh at her self-given ridicules; whether we are revolted at her attacks on individuals or go along with her in her censures, we are still acting over again that great and wonderful epoch in the history of human nature, which, while it will probably confer a new destiny upon civilized man, will occupy to the latest posterity the principal attention of the philosopher, the moralist, and the statesman.

DOGGREL VERSES TO MY CIGAR.

Thou social leaf, that soul-inspiring

Gives thought and meditation,
That ne'er makes lean by o'er-desiring,

Nor sufeits to repletion :

Thou chosen comforter of those

Who are inclined to thinking;
Thou kind adjunct to taste and nose

And homely generous drinking:
I greet thee, most narcotic leaf,

Where'er thy birth has been,
Whether where Caribbs once were chief,

Or England's virgin queen

In South America, Bengal,

Or eke in lively France,
Where many a village Vestris tall

Exhales thee in the dance

In Spain, where king now stands for brute,

And common sense is treason ;
In Turkey where a bearded mute

Puts to the bowstring reason-
In Egypt, Afric, or Nepaul,

It is all one to me,
Where thou wert citizen-thy call

Enchants me equally.
Thou art a reconciling thing,

Promoting sober talk,
Soothing complaint and murmuring-

Companion in a walk ·

The testy bachelor's noiseless wife,

The solace of old age,
The student's friend in letter'd strife
· Companion of the sage.
Thou art a courage-yielding plant,

The soldier's steady friend,
The sailor's joy when grog is scant,

Or calmns his bark attend.
Thou also hast a wondrous skill

In silent medicining,
Canst lull ('tis more than reason will)

The toothache's torturing.
Thy grateful leaf, like Aaron's beard,

(I wonder if he smoked)
Gives pleasant odour, more endear'd

The more it is provoked.
All fashions hail thee, happy flower!

The very dandies try
To catch thy aromatic power,

And of its essence die.

Thou never art a churl-like air,

Thy good is free to all;
O leaf, thy perfume do not spare,

When thou attend'st my call.
I love thee in Havannah dried,

Not pigtail, rag, or shag,
But roll'd like this I have untied

From out my dogskin bag.
I keep thee there with flint and steel

Fack'd in, and amadou*,
As one who lauds thee and can feel

The debt I to thee owe.
I love thee seated in my chair-

I love thee in my garden-
I love thee in a misty air,

My lungs 'gainst damps to harden. I love thee, as long years I have

Raleigh, who brought thee in,
Ere the excise began to crave,

Or smuggling grew a sin.
Adieu! thou comfort of my mind-

'Twas odd enough decreed,
That man's unhappy race should find

Such virtues in a weed!

* A species of tinder.

.

PROPOSALS FOR ABRIDGING LIFE AND LITERATURE.

At thirty man suspects himself a fool;
Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan;
At fitty chides his intamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve ;
In all the magnanimity of thought

Resolves, and re-resolves ; then dies the same."-Young. Brevity is indeed the soul of wit, of which most convincing additional argument has been afforded by an admirable article in the June number of the New Monthly, recommending a more summary and compendious method of speaking and writing. To all the advantages which would result from the adoption of that ingenious writer's recommendations, I give my most unqualified assent; and yet I cannot help thinking that his scheme is rather a palliative than a cure for the evil of which he complains, and that we must mount to the fountain-head if we would completely dam up the stream of mischief. Lengthened action necessarily implies prolix narration, and while men and women protract their lives in the scandalous manner now so unblushingly practised, it is utterly useless to recommend brevity in writing or speaking. While they can wag a pen or a tongue, the former will scribble, and the latter will chatter. One day's or one year's exertion of either migbt indeed be compressed into that species of short-hand whereof your correspondent has given us such amusing specimens ; but what are we to do with seventy or eighty years of the same commodity, whose compactest abridgment, like that of our law statutes, could not possibly be squeezed into less than forty volumes folio? Men not only live longer than they used, but they talk and write infinitely more; and as every thing is published, the public mind, crushed by the unwieldy bulk of the press, is like a sickly bantling overlaid by its corpulent nurse. The alarming increase of this incubus might perhaps experience a momentary check from the adoption of your correspondent's suggestions, but

non tali auxilio nec defensoribus istis” are we to be finally delivered from our misery. If he had considered first causes instead of secondary, he would have been aware that man and his actions constitute the sole supply of materials to the press, literature being in fact a transcript of life, and necessarily obliged to lengthen itself with the original which it represents. We may as well expect a short shadow from a tall man, as brevity of writing and speaking from a race of septuagenaries. It is human life that requires abridgment, and the press, which is but its reflection, would instantly exhibit a correspondent curtailment. This is the real principle upon which we should proceed ; it is but lopping at the branches instead of the root to attempt any other.

Admitting this position to be true, it may still be thought that no practicable remedy could be discovered, as, according to Mrs. Thrale's dictum,

"The tree of deepest root is found

Least willing still to quit the ground;" and few would be patriotic enough, although they may have survived themselves, to forfeit their chance of surviving others, whatever benefit their immediate disappearance might confer upon the nation at large. In this point some difficulty miglit be experienced, especially as we are

utterly opposed in our meditated resorn, to all harsh and violent measures. Were our sole object the shortening of human life, we might attain it by direct means, such as an augmentation of the medical prosession, or of the gin-shops; repealing the duty upon British and Cape wines and roasted corn, so as to increase the consumption of those poisonous substances ; licensing the abuses of gaming-houses, and perpetuating those of the Court of Chancery, which from the ruin ihey respectively occasion, would produce about an equal number of suicides; and other obvious expedients. But the disease is too deeply rooted to be speedily extirpated. Like the Poor Laws, it has become so inwoven with our system that we must be prospective rather than immediate in our applications for its removal.

“How long do you stay in town?” said one Oxonian to another whom he encountered in Piccadilly. “Ten guineas,” was the reply ; and in this reply is embodied the whole of my system. I would have all mankind adopt this principle, and remain in the world until they have attained the object for which, according to their own notions, they come forward in the great mart of existence ; after which they should not waste any more time, but withdraw and make way for the hungry and unsatisfied, just as an M. P. when he has got a fat place, accepts the Chiltern hundreds and resigns. I would allow them to spend a certain number of years as freely as the Oxonian did his ten guineas, but should peremptorily insist upon their then returning quietly to be buried in the cloisters. In the accomplishment of this object public registers should be opened, in which every one, upon arriving at years of discretion, should be inscribed after undergoing an examination before commissioners, which might be conducted in the following form. What is your profession? The Military.—What object do you propose to yourself in embracing this mode of life? To kill as many sellow-creatures as I can, that I may the sooner be made a general, or a commander-in-chief, or a field-marshal (which will of course depend upon the ambition of the deponent. Now, I would merely let death pay this personage a compliment, which perhaps his best acquaintance would not, by taking him at his word and marching him to the right about as soon as his desiderated appointment was gazetted, unless he got knocked on the head in the road to preferment, which would answer our purpose quite as well. In like manner, if a young divine or candidate for riches respectively stated his object to be a mitre and a plum, each should pledge himself, when he had realised all that he professed to be going for at starting, to throw down the cards, and be handed over to the sexton; and so on of all other aspirants and candidates for advancement. Nor would there be any such hardship in this stipulation as at first sight might appear. It is notorious, that in the great chase of life, the pleasure consists in the pursuit rather than in the attainment of the game, and that lassitude and ennui invariably follow success. By the proposed arrangement all parties will have a certainty of leaving off winners, and dying like heroes in the moment of victory; they will be insured against the hazards of that avarice, which, like Alnaschar, often kicks down its own treasures ; of that vaulting ambition which so frequently "o’erleaps itself and falls on the other side;" of that weariness of the world which is generally felt when it has nothing more to give us. Only the lees, refuse, and self-survival of life would be stricken off, and the portion reserved for our enjoyment would be so much the more VOL. X. No. 55.-1825.

12

« НазадПродовжити »