« AnteriorContinuar »
can put aside the tedious or insipid at will, and turn to whatever subject or companion our fancy, indicates. We are not bound to talk with persons or on themes that have no interest for us. There is no clashing of ideas, and complete harmony reigns amid our comfort.
To the man of literary tastes there are few things more depressing than the conversations of 'small-talk'which an exacting society occasionally demands. Who has not suffered from their enervating effects? We are not all possessed of that mental abstraction which La Fontaine succeeded in carrying with him throughout life, forming a buffer from which all idle talk rebounded. He was once asked to dinner by a 'fermier-général' to amuse the guests. Thoroughly bored, La Fontaine ate much and said little, and rising very early from the table said that he had to go to the Academy. “Oh,' said his host, but you are much too early for it.' 'Oh well,' replied Jean, 'I shall go the longest way to it.' Poor Jean was really very absent-minded. He had a son whom he confided at the age of fourteen to a friend to educate. Not having seen the youth for a long time, he met him one day at the house of a savant without knowing him. Afterwards he happened to mention that he thought him a youth of wit and taste. Some one told him that the lad was his own son. “Is he indeed,' said Jean, 'well I'm very glad to hear it.'
There is no end to the delightful hobbies that we may cultivate in a library. Here we may go fishing or campaigning, fighting battles or exploring new countries, tracing pedigrees or sailing through uncharted seas, cutting our way through virgin forests or filling herbaceous borders in our mind, or we may even descend into the pyramid of Cheops.
We have a friend whose hobby takes the form of tracing the parentage and posterity of men who lived long years ago. They are mostly unknown to fame, and their names are only to be found in ancient peerages and suchlike books. Whether they were good or bad, religious or wicked, useful to their country or indifferent, handsome or ugly, is immaterial to him. In some cases they founded families that have endured, in others they perished with all their kindred within a century of the Norman Conquest. But to our genealogist they are very living people. He is intimately acquainted with the most of them, no less than with their wives and children, their fathers and grandfathers, their uncles and their aunts. As to the personal characteristics of Reginald FitzRanulf lord of Bosham Castle in Com. Ebor, or his deeds or memorable actions (if, indeed, he ever perpetrated any) my friend is unable to enlighten me. But that his wife was called Gunnora and that she was a daughter and co-heir of Richard de Tourville, he is quite positive. Apparently they had two sons, Fulk and Waleran, but my friend is strongly of opinion that Hamon FitzReginald (who had a moiety of the manor of Worthleys and was co-parcener with Payn FitzGeoffrey lord of Buncombe) was really a son of Reginald by a former wife.
The memory of this eager student is little short of marvellous. He can remember not only names and marriages, but at least several of the families which owned any manor that you like to mention. He would certainly have put to the blush Pierre d'Hozier, the great French genealogist whose memory was so wonderful that it was said he must surely have been present at all the marriages and baptisms in Christendom !
The library of our genealogist is a most interesting room. Many of the books necessary for his researches are of folio size and must be ready to hand; so they are ranged round the apartment at the level of one's waist. On entering the room one is struck by this belt of massive volumes, the more so when their owner takes them up casually and turns to page after page without ever troubling to refer to the index.
An evening spent with him is quite exciting. He asks our assistance over a knotty point. Several huge sheets of paper are laid upon the table, and each step in the pedigree is debated graphically. Volume after volume is referred to. At the slightest hitch out come Patent Rolls, Close Rolls, Fine Rolls, Pipe Rolls, and records of almost every description. Presently the room has the appearance of having been struck by a tornado. Volumes are lying about everywhere, and in every conceivable position. The floor is covered with them, all the chairs are in use, three Patent Rolls are lying open and face downwards on the mantelpiece, there are several on the hearthrug. In fact it is now impossible to move. Yet our host, accustomed to these things, in his search for a volume jumps from spot to spot with the agility of an antelope. The book-shelves are half emptied, some of the remaining volumes have fallen down. My coffee cup lies on a pile composed of Rotuli Hundredorum, a Placita Abbreviatio, and a Testa de Nevil. But it is good fun, if exhausting, and a sovereign cure for insomnia. We usually leave him about one o'clock in the morning, and he is genuinely sorry when we go.
But to tell the truth we are not a bit the wiser as to Reginald Fitz Ranulf !
One day our friend Brown (for so he is called) came to see us in great distress. He had but lately become a parent, and was still slightly excited about it.
Pon my word,' said he, 'I don't know what to do. You know how proud I am of my family, and how I hoped all along that it would be a boy so that I could give it the name that generations of my ancestors possessed. And now Mary says she won't hear of it.'
We sympathised with him, but asked what was the proposed name.
"Turchetil,' said he ; they were all called that for generations. But of course the name wasn't Brown then, Le Brun was the family name in the twelfth century.
'A fine lofty name,' we replied, “but wouldn't Turchetil Brown sound rather funny nowadays ?'
I don't see why,' said he stiffly; 'they're both good old names.'
We assented, though inwardly we could not but agree with Mrs. Brown. Turchetil Le Brun was one thing, and Turchetil Brown quite another. Perhaps, however, a compromise might be reached.
* Is there no other ancient name in your family that would do?' we suggested.
Yes,' said he, there are two others, but not so good as Turchetil. They are Baldric and Bigod ...
Truly the study of genealogy has its disadvantages. There must have been great bitterness in the Brown household before its mistress obtained her own way, and even more in the heart of our poor friend as he stood at the font and heard his firstborn son irrevocably named-George.
Another friend and brother collector with whom we sometimes pass an evening is a medical man of no small talent. But attached as he is to