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wretched garbage out of a New York street, and hold it up for your readers' amusement — don't you think, my friend, that you might have been better employed? Here, in my Saturday Review, and in an American paper subsequently sent to me, I light, astonished, on an account of the dinners of my friend and publisher, which are described as “ tremendously heavy,” of the conversation (which does not take place), and of the guests assembled at the table. I am informed that the proprietor of the Cornhill, and the host on these occasions, is “ a very good man, but totally unread ;” and that onomy asking him whether Dr. Johnson was dining behind the screen, he said, "God bless my soul, my dear sir, there's no person by the name of Johnson here, nor any one behind the screen,” and that a roar of laughter cut him short. I am informed by the same New York correspondent that I have touched up a contributor's article ; that I once said to a literary gentleman, who was proudly pointing to an anonymous article as his writing, “Ah! I thought I recognized your hoof in it.” I am told by the same authority that the Cornhill Magazine - shows symptoms of being on the wane,” and having sold nearly a hundred thousand copies, he (the correspondent) should think forty thousand was now about the mark.” Then the graceful writer passes on to the dinners, at which it appears the Editor of the Magazine " is the great gun, and comes out with all the geniality in his power.”
Now suppose this charming intelligence is untrue? Suppose the publisher (to recall the words of my friend the Dublin actor of last month) is a gentleman to the full as well informed as those whom he invites to his table? Suppose he never made the remark, beginning 6. God bless my soul, my dear sir,” &c., nor anything resembling it? Suppose nobody roared with laughing? Suppose the Editor of the Cornhill Magazine never “ touched up” one single line of the contribution which bears " marks of his hand ?” Suppose he never said to any literary gentleman, “ I recognized your hoof” in any periodical whatever? Suppose the 40,000 subscribers, which the writer to New York " considered to be about the mark,” should be between 90,000 and 100,000 (and as he will have figures, there they are)? Suppose this back-door gossip should be utterly blundering and untrue, would any one wonder? Ah! if we had only enjoyed the happiness to number this writer among the contributors to our Magazine, what a cheerfulness and easy confidence his presence would impart to our meetings! He would find that “ poor Mr. Smith” had heard that recondive anecdote
of Dr. Johnson behind the screen ; and as for “the great gun of those banquets," with what geniality should not I “ come ont” if I had an amiable companion close by me, dotting down my conversation for the New York Times !
Attack our books, Mr. Correspondent, and welcome. They are fair subjects for just censure or praise. But woe be to you, if you allow private rancors or animosities to influence you in the discharge of your public duty. In the little court where you are paid to sit as judge, as critic, you owe it to your employers, to your conscience, to the honor of your calling, to deliver just sentences; and you shall have to answer to heaven for your dealings, as surely as my Lord Chief Justice on the Bench. The dignity of letters, the honor of the literary calling, the slights put by haughty and unthinking people upon literary men, don't we hear outcries upon these subjects raised daily? As dear Sam Johnson sits behind the screen, too proud to show his threadbare coat and patches among the more prosperous brethren of his trade, there is no want of dignity in him, in that homely image of labor ill-rewarded, genius as yet unrecognized, independence sturdy and uncomplaining. But Mr. Nameless, behind the publisher's screen uninvited, peering at the company and the meal, catching up scraps of the jokes, and noting down the guests' behavior and conversation, what a figure his is ! Allons, Mr. Nameless ! Put up your note-book ; walk out of the hall; and leave gentlemen alone who would be private, and wish you no harm.
I WONDER whether those little silver pencil-cases with a movable almanac at the butt-end are still favorite implements with boys, and whether pedlers still hawk them about the country? Are there pedlers and hawkers still, or are rustics and children grown too sharp to deal with them? Those pencilcases, as far as my memory serves me, were not of much use. The screw, upon which the movable almanac turned, was constantly getting loose. The 1 of the table would work from its moorings, under Tuesday or Wednesday, as the case might be, and you would find, on examination, that Th. or W. was the
23} of the month (which was absurd on the face of the thing), and in a word your cherished pencil-case an utterly unreliable time-keeper. Nor was this a matter of wonder. Consider the position of a pencil-case in a boy's pocket. You had hard-bake in it; marbles, kept in your purse when the money was all gone ; your mother's purse, knitted so fondly and supplied with a little bit of gold, long since — prodigal little son ! — scattered amongst the swine — I mean amongst brandy-balls, open tarts, three-cornered puffs, and similar abominations. You had a top and string; a knife; a piece of cobbler's was; two or three bullets ; a Little Warbler ; and I, for my part, remember, for a considerable period, a brass-barrelled pocket-pistol (which would fire beautifully, for with it I shot off a button from Butt Major's jacket); — with all these things, and ever so many more, clinking and rattling in your pockets, and your hands, of course, keeping them in perpetual movement, how could you expect your movable almanac not to be twisted out of its place now and again - your pencil-oase to be bent — your liquorice water not to leak out of your bottle over the cobbler's wax, your bull's-eyes not to ram up the lock and barrel of your pistol, and so forth.
In the month of June, thirty-seven years ago, I bought one of those pencil-cases from a boy whom I shall call Hawker, and who was in my form. Is he dead? Is he a millionnaire ? Is he a bankrupt now? He was an immense screw at school, and I believe to this day that the value of the thing for which I owed and eventually paid three-and-sixpence, was in reality not one-and-nine.
I certainly enjoyed the case at first a good deal, and amused myself with twiddling round the movable calendar. But this pleasure wore off. The jewel, as I said, was not paid for, and Hawker, a large and violent boy, was exceedingly unpleasant as a creditor. His constant remark was, “ When are you going to pay me that three-and-sixpence? What sneaks your relations must be? They come to see you. You go out to them on Saturdays and Sundays, and they never give you anything ! Don't tell me, you little humbug !” and so forth. The truth is that my relations were respectable ; but my parents were making a tour in Scotland ; and my friends in London, whom I used to go and see, were most kind to me, certainly, but somehow never tipped me. That term, of May to August, 1823, passed in agonies then, in consequence of my debt to Hawker. What was the pleasure of a calendar pencil-case in comparison with the doubt and torture of mind occasioned by the sense of
the debt, and the constant reproach of that fellow's scowling eyes and gloomy, coarse reminders? How was I to pay off such a debt out of sixpence a week? ludicrous! Why did not some one come to see me, and tip me? Ah! my dear sir, if you have any little friends at school, go and see them, and do the natural thing by them. You won't miss the sovereign. You don't know what a blessing it will be to them. Don't fancy they are too old — try 'em. And they will remember you, and bless you in future days; and their gratitude shall accompany your dreary after life ; and they shall meet you kindly when thanks for kindness are scant. O mercy! shall I ever forget that sovereign you gave me, Captain Bob? or the agonies of being in debt to Hawker? In that very term, a relation of mine was going to India. I actually was fetched from school in order to take leave of him. I am afraid I told Hawker of this circumstance. I own I speculated upon my friend's giving me a pound. A pound? Pooh! A relation going to India, and deeply affected at parting from his darling kinsman, might give five pounds to the dear fellow ! ... There was Hawker when I came back — of course there he was. As he looked in my scared face, his turned livid with rage. He muttered curses, terrible from the lips of so young a boy. My relation, about to cross the ocean to fill a lucrative appointment, asked me with much interest about my progress at school, heard me construe a passage of Eutropius, the pleasing Latin work on which I was then engaged; gave me a God bless you, and sent me back to school ; upon my word of honor, without so much as a balf-crown! It is all very well, my dear sir, to say that boys contract habits of expecting tips from their parents' friends, that they become avaricious, and so forth. Avaricious! fudge ! Boys contract habits of tart and toffee eating, which they do not carry into after life.
On the contrary, I wish I did like 'em. What raptures of pleasure one could have now for five shillings, if one could but pick it off the pastry-cook's tray! No. If you have any little friends at school, out with your half-crowns, my friend, and impart to those little ones the little fleeting joys of their age.
Well, then. At the beginning of August, 1823, Bartlemytide holidays came, and I was to go to my parents, who were at Tunbridge Wells. My place in the coach was taken by my tutor's servants — “Bolt-in-Tun,” Fleet Street, seven o'clock in the morning, was the word. My Tutor, the Rev. Edward P-, to whom I hereby present my best compliments, had a parting interview with me : gave me my little account for my governor : the remaining part of the coach-hire; five shillings for my own expenses; and some five-and-twenty shillings on an old account which had been overpaid, and was to be restored to my family.
Away I ran and paid Hawker his three-and-six. Ouf! what a weight it was off my mind! (IIe was a Norfolk boy, and used to go home from Mrs. Nelson's - Bell Inn,” Aldgate – but that is not to the point.) The next morning, of course, we were an hour before the time. I and another boy shared a hackney-coach ; two-and-six : porter for putting luggage on coach, threepence. I had no more money of my own left. Rasherwell, my companion, went into the “ Bolt-in-Tun "coffeeroom, and had a good breakfast. I couldn't; because, though I had five-and-twenty shillings of my parents' money, I bad none of my own, you see.
I certainly intended to go without breakfast, and still remember how strongly I had that resolution in my mind. But there was that hour to wait. A beautiful August morning - I am very hungry. There is Rasherwell - tucking” away in the coffee-room. I pace the street, as sadly almost as if I had been coming to school, not going thence. I turn into a court by mere chance -I vow it was by mere chance — and there I see a coffee-shop with a placard in the window, Coffee, Twopence.
Round of buttered toast, Twopence. And here am I, hungry, penniless, with five-and-twenty shillings of my parents' money in my pocket.
What would you have done? You see I had had my money, and spent it in that pencil-case affair. The five-and-twenty shillings were a trust — by me to be handed over.
But then would my parents wish their only child to be actually without breakfast? Having this money, and being so hungry, so very hungry, mightn't I take ever so little? Mightn't I at home eat as much as I chose ?
Well, I went into the coffee-shop, and spent fourpence. I remember the taste of the coffee and toast to this day culiar, muddy, not-sweet-enough, most fragrant coffee a rich, rancid, yet not-buttered-enough, delicious toast. The waiter had nothing. At any rate, fourpence I know was the sum I
And the hunger appeased, I got on the coach a guilty being.
At the last stage, - what is its name? I have forgotten in seven-and-thirty years,
- there is an inn with a little green and trees before it; and by the trees there is an open carriage, It is our carriage. Yes, there are Prince and Blucher, the