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This technical application of a favourite stock-exchange word produced a general smile round the table, and I could not help contributing to lengthen it by replying
“ You mean, perhaps, that it gives him a call.”
But the lively sheriff, of whose witticisms I have already made honourable mention, cut me out of my share of applause altogether, as clean as a whistle, by instantly rejoining -
“ The put you mean, for, in this case, the party was going for the fall.”
Of course there was no standing this, and we all joined in the laugh.
We were however brought back to gravity through the alarm expressed by the minister, at the idea of his having taken cold through officiating that morning without his wig.
This introduced, I cannot tell how, some remarks on the head, which led to a disquisition on craniology. On this subject the witty sheriff was very amusing. I said some tolerably lively things; but the ordinary beat us all hollow, when it was contended that the disposition and the mind might be known from the exterior of the skull, by remarking that he had now an additional reason to regret having come there without his wig.
With this epigrammatic touch he took his leave, I and the rest of the company laughing heartily, and having caten as heartily as we then laughed. The facetious sheriff now had it all his own way, and said several things, nearly, or perhaps, quite as good as those which I have already placed on record. We were thus pleasantly engaged, when the aide-de-camp of the gallant officer in the blue and gold,-one of the city marshal's men, entered to announce that it was past nine o'clock, and to ask if any of the company chose to see the bodies taken down.
“ The bodies!” I repeated to myself, and the application of that word to those whom I had previously heard mentioned but by their names, recalled my thoughts which had somehow strayed from the business of the morning into unlooked-for cheerfulness, and presented, in that simple expression, an epitome of all that had moved my wonder, curiosity, and commiseration.
Again we passed through those parts of the prison which I had twice before traversed. We advanced with a quicker step than when following those whom we now expected to see brought to
But with all the expedition we could use, on reaching the room from which the scaffold could be seen, we found the “ bodies”. already there. Nor was this, in my opinion, the least striking scene which the morning brought under my observation. The dead men were extended side by side, on the stone floor. The few persons present gazed on them in silence, duly impressed with the melancholy spectacle. But in this part of the building a copper is established, in which a portion of the provisions for its inmates is prepared. There was a savoury smell of soup, which we could not help inhaling while we gazed on death. The cooks too were in attendance, and though they, as became them, did all in their power to look decorously dismal, well as they managed their faces, they could not so divest themselves of their professional peculiarities, as not to awaken thoughts which involuntarily turned to ludicrous or festive scenes. Their very costume was at variance with the general gloom, and no sympathy could at once repress the jolly rotundity of their persons.
I turned my eyes from them, wishing to give myself wholly up to religious meditation during the moments of my stay. Just then the executioner approached. Sir Thomas desired him to remove the cap from tlie face of one of the sufferers. He prepared to comply—but his first act was to place his hand on the more prominent features and press them together. This, on inquiry being made, I learned was done that the bystanders might not be shocked by witnessing any distortion of countenance. Sir Thomas smiled at the anxiety of the man to make it appear that his work had been well performed. The cap was then withdrawn. There was nothing terrific in the aspect of the deceased. I recognised the seatures of the young man who had been so wildly, so violently agitated, when about to suffer. Now pain was at an end, apprehension was no more, and he seemed in the enjoyment of sweet repose. His countenance was tranquil as that of a sleeping infant, and happier than the infant, his rest was not in danger of being disturbed. While reflecting on the change which a single hour had sufficed to produce, I could hardly help regarding as idle the sorrow, the pity, and the self-reproach for momentary forgetfulness of these, which I had felt and breathed within that period. I almost accused the sufferers of weakless, for showing themselves depressed as they had been, while I felt disposed, seeing their griefs were, to all appearance, terminated for ever, to demand with the poet,
“And what is death we so unwisely fear?" and to answer as he replies to himself, “ An end of all our busy lumults here."
[Knight's Quarterly Mag.
SELECTED FOR THE MUSEUM.
Recollections of Foreign Travel, on Life, Literature, and Self
Knowledge. By Sir Egerton Brydges, Bart. 2 vols. London. Loogman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, PaternosterRow. 1825.
We know not well in what way to satisfy all our own feelings in reviewing these volumes. The author is a high-born and highbred gentleman, of unspotted character, amiable we cannot doubt in all really important matters, and entitled unquestionably to respect as the possessor of very considerable talents, and various ex
tremely elegant accomplishments. He is now well stricken in years, and complains that he has been ill used by the world. Our inclination, therefore, would lead us, if he only were concerned, to speak of his work with nothing but kindness and respect. But we are constrained to say, that he who writes a book must be contented to have it considered in more points of view than one, and to add that the publication of Sir Egerton Brydges appears to us to be calculated to produce much more of evil than of good among those who are likely to read it.
These, to be sure, are not very many; but Sir Egerton is one, and perhaps stands at the head, of a class of persons, who, without having much influence individually, affect to no inconsiderable degree the general mind of the public, by the pertinacity of their united exertions. Above all, such authors as this are extremely dangerous to young minds. Youths possessing some share of natural sensibility, but nothing like the strength of original genius or even talent, are induced to take up the views of persons who write in a tone extremely flattering to their self love, and encouraged by their idle talk to make literature the business of their lives, to the total ruin, not of fortune merely, but of all peace of mind. The eternal cant, in other words, of Sir Egerton and his associates, is, that the public voice affords no rule whatever as to the real character of new works of literature—that criticism is nothing but mockery and malignitythat every one must rely entirely upon himself. To this is generally annexed some enunciation of a theory, than which nothing we conceive is more dangerous to young, sensitive, and imbecile minds: the theory, namely, that the only thing of real value in literature is the expression of what one actually feels in consequence of what one actually meets with in the world, and that art, arrangement, condensation, patient elaboration, revision, and correction, are only so many names for the trickery by which second-rate beings attempt in vain to hide their deficiency in genius.
That one word genius has done more harm than any thing in the vocabulary. It has been prostituted till it has lost all meaning. Not a beardless driveller in the land who does not expect, if he produces a sonnet on a rose leaf, that we shall see genius in his bauble. Genius, so help us, inspires the leading articles of our newspapers—the small print of our magazines is redolent of genius!
Sir Egerton himself is very superior in talents to those who run the greatest risk of being misled by his speculations, and ruined by following his example. He, moreover, although he rails at lady Fortune, in good set terms, was born to a competent estate, and succeeded in middle life to a splendid one. It is no great matter, therefore, to him and his, that he has occupied himself from twenty to sixty-two in writing and publishing works, not one of which ever paid, we honestly believe, the paper-maker and the printer. But this is not the situation of many of those who, in opening manhood, feel the movements of literary ambition in the absence of that sort of power of mind and talent which alone can enable any man to gain any thing like Fortune, or any thing like Fame, worthy of the name, by devoting himself to the pursuits of literature as his occupation. We are sickened when we think of the multitudes of naturally amiable tempers that have been for ever soured and embittered by the indulgence in such dreams.
Sir Egerton's primary object seems to be to show that what he calls genius is a thing that of necessity incapacitates a man for mixing in the ordinary society and business of the world, and that is injured and degraded exactly in proportion as the possessor suffers himself so to blend in the common stream of life. Now this is a doctrine exceedingly acceptable, no doubt, to many young persons who prefer lounging in a green lane over a Coleridge or a Collins, to the ignoble fatigue of copying briefs or pounding medicines. These are all, in their own estimation, lads of genius, and Sir Egerton Brydges, and all his knot, assure them that they will play false to God and Nature if they do not set their faces decidedly against the shop. We must quote a few of the passages in which this sort of thing is inculcated, and see whether a few plain hints of our own may not rob them of their poison. Thus,
“Common business is but the conflict of, or with, shufflers and gamblers who play with loaded dice.”
“I am only fit for the calm of domestic society; for solitude, musing, reading, writing, and a short and quiet stroll in the open air. If these are proofs of want of talent, or of inutility to life, I must submit. In the course of my life, I have been drawn at times a good deal into the vortex of business ; but I have been as constantly its victim, as I have been engaged in it: the most stupid fellow always beat me;—and he beat me perhaps more easily in proportion to his stupidity: the sharp edge of my temper was always blunted, or turned back upon me by his callous.
I wish it had been my fate never to have mingled with the world.” Again,
“Men of business and professional men have no conception of any thing done for general purposes."
Again, “In the course of a long life, a strenuous author of genius accumulates a mass of golden ore, which puts him beyond much fear of being removed from the emi. nence that he has raised; loose, careless gatherings may slide from under his feet, or be shaken by the winds of caprice, or slights of thoughtless negligence; but perseverance will settle his labours into a firm and large consistence, sufficient both in size and strength to become durable.
“I have not the presumption to suppose myself one of this order; but I still go on to do my best; and by the uninterrupted performance of my daily task, to swell, though slowly, yet with certainty, my not unvirtuous labours into something, which, by their quantity at least, shall have some weight. (!!) I cannot believe that many would have toiled with a spirit so unbroken under such mighty trials, as it has been my lot to endure. I cannot reason on my ardour for literature,-my reason would have abandoned it thirty years ago; but it is somehow a part of my being; I cannot separate it from me; I live for it, and in it; I rise to it in the morning; I go to my rest with it; and think of it at midnight, and in my sleep. I have, however, at last, almost laid books aside, and am conversant only with my own thoughts. These thoughts never fail me; every day presents them in abundance ;
and I hope with some diversity and novelty. I know with what anxiety I apply my thoughts, how much of intenseness is spent upon them; and how deeply and sincerely I search for truth.
“ It is human nature to find fault; and my endeavours have yet met with but sparing and rare encouragement."
“If nature does not implant the faculty and bent in us, we cannot be poets; and if it does, we cannot be men of the world. A wit is commonly a man of the world, because his field of action is placed in watching, elucidating, and exposing what lies upon the surface of human manners; but he has scarce ever any heart, any fixed opinions, or any deep judgment.
« I never yet read with the smallest emotion of favour the life of any poet, who had not a character marked, peculiar, or over-ruling. I can forgive eccentricities occasionally perverse; I can forgive some fitful indulgencies even of absurdity or
folly; but I cannot forgive a cold, cautious, calculating, sneering, scornful pru1. dence-what is vulgarly called shrewd sense: but it is nothing but an ungenerous,
selfish, plotting, fraudulent, ambushed cunning; it never was, and never will, it cannot be, united to imagination and feeling. There are those who would have every thing treated lightly, as if it was to be admired or neglected at will or convenience; gone through with indifference, as it were for fashion; and played with, in a tone and manner as if it was done by a civil condescension from secret and mysterious greatness. If poetry be a solid fruit of the mind, if it be an imbodi. ment of truth, then the pleasures and feelings in which it deals cannot be inap. plicable to actual life.”
Now what does all this amount to? Let us see who are the real great Geniuses of the world. Homer-does any one read him and believe that he was a man only fitted for, and accustomed to, a quiet fireside, and a stroll among the daffodillies? Æschylus-was he not a stirring politician and valiant soldier through life? Pindar was he not a politician and a high priest? Thucydides-was he not an active soldier and statesman? What was Julius Cæsar?Tacitus ?-Cicero?--Sallust?-Juvenal?- Was Dante a moper?Was Bacon nothing but a man of contemplative genius 2-Was not Milton a schoolmaster and afterwards a Secretary to Cromwell? -Was not Shakspeare himself a merry good-natured player, who framed the very greatest works of human genius in the mere intervals of his professional labours?_Was not Swift a busy churchman and politician all through life? What was Clarendon ?- What was Burns himself, (of whom Sir Egerton Brydges is so fond of speaking)--a ploughman, a farmer, an exciseman! What is Scott? has he not been all his life a lawyer, and is he not at this moment both a law-officer, occupied in that capacity the best part of the day, during the greater part of the year, and a great farmer and planter to boot, to say nothing of living eternally in company?
The only answer which THE MOPING SCHOOL can bring to all this, is an assertion that these men of genius have done what they have done in spite of their situations, and would have done much better things had they been merely men of genius. Now our rejoinder is not far to seek. Produce, ye of the quiet stroll, the names of the first-rate authors who belong to your school. Take