Зображення сторінки

stuffed ears of district police auditoria, district chambers of domains, military chiefs of governments, and imperial chancelleries without number,” and comes soughing into the private cabinet of the czar at the Winter Palace or Peterhoff, -goes on to say: “The empress, good soul, sheds tears when she hears of the dreadful sufferings of the poor people so many hundred versts' off. The imperial children, I have no doubt, wonder why, if the peasants have no bread to eat, they don't take to plum-cake; the Emperor is affected, but goes to work,” etc. Which last expression, by the way, reminds us of a quasi quotation by Mr. Carlyle of Shakespeare's text in juxtaposition with mention of the greatest of czars : “Descend, O Donothing Pomp; quit thy down-cushions ; expose thyself to learn what wretches feel, and how to cure it ! The czar of Russia became a dusty toiling shipwright; ... and his aim was small to thine." There was a miserable day in the Highland wanderings of Prince Charles when, with Ned Burke and Donald Macleod for companions, after roving about all night, excessively faint for want of food, he was obliged to subsist on meal stirred in brine—there being no fresh water within reach. The prince is said to have expressed himself thankful for even this nauseous food“salt-water drammock”—and to have declared, on the occasion, that if ever he mounted a throne, he should not fail to remember “those who dined with him to-day.” When Flora Macdonald and Lady Clanranald, not long afterwards, came to the royal outcast-on entering the hut they found him engaged in roasting the heart and liver of a sheep on a wooden spit; a sight at which some of the party could not help shedding tears. “Charles, always the least concerned at his distressing circumstances, though never forgetting the hopes inspired by his birth, jocularly observed that it would be well perhaps for all kings if they had to come through such a fiery ordeal as he was enduring." At a subsequent period we find him living for days together on a few handfuls of oatmeal and about a pound of butter-referring to which he afterwards told a Highland gentleman that he had come to know what a quarter of a peck of meal was, having once subsisted on such a quantity for the better part of a week. Another time we find him spending the night in an open cave, on the top of a high hill between the Braes of Glenmorriston and Strathglass,-a cave too narrow to let him stretch himself, and in which he lay drenched to the skin, with no possibility of getting a fire to dry him. “Without food, and deprived of sleep by the narrowness and hardness of his bed, the only comfort he could obtain was the miserable one of smoking a pipe.” Hardly was Lear himself more thoroughly exposed to feel what wretches feel, on that night beside the hovel on the heath.

In that paradoxical essay of his, on saying grace before meat, Charles Lamb remarks that the indigent man, who hardly knows whether he shall have a meal the next day or not, sits down to his fare with a present sense of the blessing, which can be but feebly acted by the rich, into whose minds the conception of wanting a dinner could never, but by some extreme theory, have entered. According to the essayist, the heats of epicurism put out the gentle flame of devotion : the incense which rises round is pagan, and the belly-god intercepts it for his own. “ The very excess of the provision beyond the needs, takes away all sense of proportion between the end and means. The Giver is veiled by his gifts. You are startled at the injustice of returning thanks—for what?—for having so much, while so many starve. It is to praise the gods amiss.”

Taking for his text the apprenticeship of good Abbot Samson at St. Edmund's shrine, Mr. Carlyle moralises on how much would many a Serene Highness have learnt, had he travelled through the world with water-jug and empty wallet, sine omni expensâ, and returned only to sit down at the foot of St. Edmund's shrine to shackles and bread and water. Patriotism itself, a political economist has remarked, can never be generated by a passive enjoyment of good; the evil tendency of which he bids us see by merely looking to a city like London; where the rich who live together in streets of fine houses many miles long, and have every comfort provided for them

without their interference, and need nothing from the poor but what they buy for money, and conclude that the same State which cares for them will care equally for the poor,—such rich men, it is alleged, have every inducement to become isolated from all but the few with whom it is pleasant to live. We may choose, says Professor Kingsley, to look at the masses in the gross as subjects for statistics—and of course, where possible, for profits. “There is One above who knows every thirst, and ache, and sorrow, and temptation of each slattern, and gin-drinker, and street boy. The day will come when He will require an account of these neglects of ours—not in the gross.” Mrs. Gaskell ably describes the fear of Margaret Hale, in “North and South,” lest, in her West-end ease, she should become sleepily deadened into forgetfulness of anything beyond the life that was lapping her round with luxury. “There might be toilers and moilers there in London, but she never saw them; the very servants lived in an underground world of their own, of which she knew neither the hopes nor the fears ; they only seemed to start into existence when some want or whim of their master and mistress needed them.” Mr. Thackeray presents Ethel Newcome in the fairest light when he shows her studious to become acquainted with her indigent neighbours-giving much time to them and thought; visiting from house to house without ostentation ; awe-stricken by that spectacle of poverty which we have with us always, of which the sight rebukes our selfish griefs into silence, the thought compels us to charity, humility, and devotion. “ Death never dying out; hunger always crying; and children born to it day after day,---our young London lady, flying from the splendours and follies in which her life had been passed, found herself in the presence of these ; threading darkling alleys which swarmed with wretched life ; sitting by naked beds, whither by God's blessing she was sometimes enabled to carry a little comfort and consolation ; or whence she came heart-stricken by the overpowering misery, or touched by the patient resignation, of the new friends to whom fate had directed her.” No longer ignara mali, miseris succurrere discit. An essayist of Mr. Thackeray's school, on the topic of parliamentary trains, breaks out, or off, into the apostrophe : "Ah, judges of Amontillado sherry; crushers of walnuts with silver crackers ; «connoisseurs who prefer French to Spanish olives, and are curious about the yellow seal ; gay riders in padded chariots ; proud cavaliers of bloodhorses,—you don't know how painfully and slowly, almost agonisingly, the poor have to scrape and save, and deny themselves the necessaries of life, to gather together the penny-a-mile fare." Lord Jeffrey eagerly asserted the even painful interest with which one of Mr. Dickens's Christmas books affected him : “sanative, I dare say, to the spirit, but making us despise and loathe ourselves for passing our days in luxury, while better and gentler creatures are living such lives as make us wonder that such things can be in a society of human beings, or even in the world of a good God.” Lord Lytton has compared the stray glimpses one gets of want and misery, to looking through a solar microscope at the monsters in a drop of water, when the gazer wonders how things so terrible have hitherto been unknown to him : “Lapped in your sleek comforts, and lolling on the sofa of your patent conscience · · · you are startled and dismayed” at the sight : you say within yourself, “Can such things be? I never dreamed of this before! I thought what was invisible to me was non-existent in itself-I will remember this dread experiment.” The like is the moral of Hood's poem of the Lady's Dream. From grief exempt, she had never dreamt of such a world of woe as appals her in apocalyptic visions of the night; never dreamt till now of the hearts that daily break, and the tears that hourly fall, and the many, many troubles of life that grieve this earthly balldisease, and hunger, and pain, and want; but now she dreams of them all--of the naked she might have clad, the famished she might have fed, the sorrowing she might have solaced ; of each pleading that, long ago, she scanned with a heedless eye.

“I drank the richest draughts ;

And ate whatever is good-
Fish, and flesh, and fowl, and fruit

Supplied my hungry mood ;

But I never remembered the wretched ones

That starve for want of food.

I dressed as the noble dress,

In cloth of silver and gold,
With silk, and satin, and costly furs,

In many an ample fold;
But I never remembered the naked limbs

That froze with winter's cold.

The wounds I might have healed !

The human sorrow and smart !
And yet it never was in my soul

To play so ill a part :

But evil is wrought by want of Thought [So Lear's “O, I have ta'en too little thought of this !”]

As well as want of Heart !

She clasped her fervent hands,

And the tears began to stream ;
Large, and bitter, and fast they fell,

Remorse was so extreme ;
And yet, O yet, that many a dame

Would dream the Lady's Dream !”

An Edinburgh Reviewer of mortality in trades and professions, dwelling on the fatal conditions under which very many classes earn their daily bread, and sometimes not so much as that,-observes that the great middle and upper classes, accustomed to be furnished with all the appliances of easy life and luxury, seldom give a thought as to the manner in which their wants are supplied. “Accustomed to sip the honey, it never strikes us that perhaps its product involves in some cases the life of the working-bee. The lady, who, from the silken ease of her fauteuil, surveys her drawing-room, may learn a lesson of compassion for the poor workmen in nearly every article that lies before her.” To take one example out of the many upon which Dr. Wynter dilates—the case of the silverer of looking-glasses : “ If the charming belle, as she surveys her beauty in the glass, could but for a moment see reflected this poor shattered human creature, with trembling muscles, brown visage, and blackened teeth, she would doubtless start with

« НазадПродовжити »