« AnteriorContinuar »
“But,' asked Georgina, does Mr. Tremaine think solitude and a country life synonymous ?'
««• Nearly so,' he said, 'for what had boors about them to interest or amuse ?" " • And yet,' she observed
"Some mute inglorious Milton « « Yes,' he interrupted, but he is “mute, and inglorious," and what am I there. fore the better for him?
““ Was ever a man so despotically unreasonable ?' exclaimed Evelyn ; 'you fly the Miltons you are angry with in town), and you are angry because you cannot find them in the country, yet even there you will not seek them. The heart is the same, however, every where, if you will but study it-seek, and you will find the study even in a country village.'
"" I suppose,' said Tremaine, drily, that is the reason your worship attends Belford market; a thing I could not have believed, if my young friend here had not told it me.'
“It only proves my sincerity in my creed,' returned Evelyn, and that I am not run away with by the cant about solitude because I live in the country. Hu. man nature is there, as well as in a metropolis; and bence it is, I suppose, that a friend of yours and mine, who certainly never shuns the world, whenever he finds himself in a retired village, always asks, as the first question, which is the street ?"*
“«That is almost as bad,' observed Tremaine, as another friend of yours, of whom I have heard it related, “ that were he to choose his life for amusement, he would keep a public house by the way-side."
“* If you mean the author of the Moral and Political Philosophy,t it is perfectly true,' said Evelyn; yet who had a more perfect knowledge of human nature ! who more shrewd in his observations upon it?-who so conversant with all its secret springs and windings? No, no, I want no apology for my supposed con, descension in finding interest at a country market. In a word, my dear friend, if you are not happy in the capital, and seek the country for a cure, you will never cure yourself by living in that country as if it were a desert.'
“All were silent for a few minutes, when Tremaine, full of his subject, broke out, though in an under voice,
“* And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.' «« Ah!' said the doctor, ‘had the good duke found no other occupation or in. terest, no other tongues, books, or sermons, in short, no other good than in the trees, brooks, and stones, he would soon have hung himself.'
« « Then what is it,' said Tremaine, that always makes those lovely scenes of the Forest of Ardennes so enchanting to every taste ?'
«« You, who are poet, should be able to tell,' replied Evelyn, 'because it is lovely poetry. But I, who am a practical philosopher, demand something more for the duke; and, in truth, find it in the beautiful contrasts that fill this sweetest pastoral in the world.'
“• Your meaning?' asked Tremaine.
“Why what, after all, is the action of the story?' 'replied Evelyn. What but the fate of the usurpation of his brother, the daily falling off of the followers of the one, and the accession of those of the other, till the right was reclaimed. All this, to be sure, was
“ Under the shade of melancholy boughs," and is only the more beautiful for it; but still here was enterprse, action, and interest, as well as trees, brooks, and stones, mingled together iu the most agreeable alternation of light and shade.'
« • Yet there is not a line or a word about what you call the action that can be remembered,' said Tremaine, and Shakspeare himself scarcely mentions it.'
«• That was his skill,' returned Evelyn; • luis immediate object was pastoral,
and there he and his reader revel together; we quaff it with delight, but the event of the fable is always on our minds, though secretly, and perhaps insensibly. Had Shakspeare propounded to himself nothing more than mere and absolute solitude, with no hope beyond it, it would have been absolute vacuity.'
“ “How comes it then,' pursued Tremaine, that all, even of the most illustri. ous rank, all that are eminent for powers and talents, as well as the most beautiful poets and the soundest philosophers, have all and alike concurred in the praises of retirement ?
« • Praises, if you will,' answered Evelyn, “but who really practised what he recommended? Horace, with all his charming rbapsodies about Lucretilis and the Sabine farm, and his “Oh! Rus, quando cgo te aspiciam,” was always sneaking to town, and then wrote to his steward that he was a very absurd fellow for not liking to stay in the country. As for your “illustrious," by which I suppose you mean ministers of state
** I do,' said Tremaine.
“To them, as a recess from application, while the fatigue of it is upon them, no doubt retirement is heaven. But let their minds recover their tone, and how eager are they to get back!'
"Nay, now surely you mistake,' cried Tremaine ; for how many ministers have felt themselves most blest, nay, have thrown up their offices, to enjoy seclu. sion,'
“ Not one that I know of,' said Evelyn, though many have affected a readi. ness to do so; none more than your hero Bolingbroké, who makes me laugh sometimes in his otherwise admirable correspondence, to see, in the midst of his anxieties about Europe, an equally expressed anxiety to preserve bay trees for his villa; not, indeed, that this was either unnatural or foolish, were it not for the gross affectation tagged to the end of it.'
“I do not recollect what you mean,' said Tremaine. “I think it is in a letter to Drummond,' pursued Evelyn, 'where he thanks him for these trees, and adds, "I cannot plunge myself so far into the thoughts of public business, as to forget the quiet of a country retreat, whither I will go some time or other, and am always ready to go at an hour's warning.” Now, out upo: sach half-faced professions!'
“Why question their sincerity?' asked Tremaine.
“He might believe himself sincere,' replied Evelyn, 'but he was all the time cankered with ambition to the heart's core.
"'I must not allow this,' cried Tremaine, of a man whose mind was only too elegant and philosophic; although so astonishingly able, that we cannot wonder the world had claims upon him.'
“That I should forgive,' returned Evelyn, if it was not for this affectation, which even Swift laughed at, as much as he dared.'
“Swift laugh at Bolingbroke!'
“« He at least tells Pope, (whom my lord had most charmingly gulled in more things than this,)“I have no very strong faith in your pretenders to retirement: you have not gone through good or bad fortune enough to go into a corner and form conclusions de contemptu mundi." So much, then, for your retired poet; but the best is, Bolingbroke returns the charge, and says both to Swift and Pope, “if you despised the world as much as you pretend, you would not be so angry with it.” Thus this grand triumvirate imposed upon one another; praised, and were unhappy in their retreat; growling at the world, yet not able to live out of it.'
“Come, then,' said Tremaine, "I will give you a minister, who, if any one did prefer philosophy in retirement to a silly ambition, was certainly the man.'
“I long to know him,' cried Evelyn. «Sir William Temple!'
“He was most like it,' observed Evelyn, but I doubt whether even he comes up to your proof; for, from necessity, he was always called back before he had tried the esperiment. As to the generality, a statesman Alings up in a pet, and flies to solitude for relief; and for a little while he finds it.'
“* And why not for a great while?'
“* Because it is relief, only so long as he is under the stings of resentment, or while he thinks he is missed. When his disgust subsides, or he finds himself forgotten, he gets tired of venting reproaches to his trees on the ingratitude of the world, which reproaches the world does not care a farthing about.
“You are alluding to Walpole,' said Tremaine.
“I am, and to his celebrated letter, supposed to prove a most philosophical love of retirement. “My flatterers here," says he, * are all mutes. The oaks, the beeches, the chesnuts seem to contend which best shall please the Lord of the Manor. They cannot deceive, they will not lie.” I quite agree with his biographer, Coxe, that this indicates the very hankering after the world, which he wish. ed himself and the world to believe he was without."*
“I will not be bound, cried Tremaine, 'by the example of expelled placemen, who, fixing their happiness on the smile of human beings like themselves, deserve all the mortifications they get. D'Argenson, for example, who whined and sobbed in banishment, at Les Ormes, or even Lord Chatham, who, when he quarrelled with the king; or any of his brother politicians, used to fly to Hayes, in the mere hope of being brought back again. Such ministers as these have little to do with real philosophy, and I refuse your authority.'
“Let me give you minister's more to your taste,' cried Evelyn. “• If you can,' said Tremaine. “Sir William Wyndham, the great Pulteney, and lastly, the great Fox' replied the doctor.
« • Fox?' exclaimed Tremaine.
“Even so; for the noctes cænæque atticæ would not have been sought at St. Anne's Hill, with such apparent gust, had he not thought to mark his resentment against the House of Commons, who would not be swayed by him into a secession. The measure had been tried some sixty years before, by Sir William Wyndliam, and laughed at.'
" • You are prejudiced,' said Tremaine, and cannot seriously think Mr. Fox did not love his retreat.'
“ • That I do not say,'t returned Evelyn, 'I only mean to show that a patriot
* Upon this subject the reader will not fail to remember Horace Walpole's account of the retirement of that illustrious statesman, the Duke of Newcastle. His grace retired to Claremont, where, for about a fortnight, he played at being a country gentleman. Guns and green frocks were bought, and at past sixty he affected to turn sportsman; but getting wet in his feet, he hurried back to Lon. don in a fright, and his country was once more blessed with his assistance.
† To a philosopher, or even a courtier, there is not a more useful lesson, or more interesting picture, than this poor man exhibits, as drawn by Marmontel, relating merely to what he saw and heard. “Oh! mes enfans," says he, “quelle maladie incurable que celle de l'ambition! quelle tristesse que celle de la vie d'un ministre disgracié!" En me promenant avec lui dans ses jardins, j'apperçus de loin une statue de marbre ; je lui demandai ce que c'étoit?"_"C'est, me dit-il, ce que je n'ai plus le courage de regarder;" et en nous détournant, “ Ah! Marmontel, si vous saviez de quelle zèle je l'ai servi; si vous saviez combien de fois il m'avoit assuré que nous passerions notres vies ensemble, et que je n'avois pas un meilleur ami que lui! Voilà les promesses des ruis! voilà leur amitié! et en disant ces mots ses yeux remplirent des larmes.” He then (sad employment for his wounded spirit!) showed Marmontel the pictures of various battles, in which he had stood on the same spot with the king, and in one of which, wben he had reason to fear his son was killed, Louis had shown him great sympathy. But oh, wretched change!“ Rien," continued d'Argenson, rien de moi le touche plus!" After this, he fell with his head upon the bosom of his daughter-in-law, which lie watered with his tears.-Mém. Marmontel, tom. III. p. 18. Distressing and de. grading picture of human weakness under the prostrations of ill-regulated ambition; a slave to unworthy greatness! We blush for the Frenchman, and should for an Englishman under the same circumstances; only there is this difference between them, that the Englishman can only be displaced, not disgraced; for he can always fly to an opposition bench in Parliament. I have been at Les Ormes, and saw these battle pieces, but did not then know what recollections they had prompted; more cruel to a disappointed ambitieux than the deaths they comme. morated.
# He would have been wrong if he had said it, for those who knew Mr. Fox best, knew how sincere were his enjoyments at St. Anne's Hill. Those who did not know him, may read Trotter's amusing account of him there for the proof. He was particularly fond of his geraniums, and used to boast of them to Lord Sid.
and a minister, whatever they may be called, are pretty much the same thing, and that the patriot man may fly off in a pet to solitude as well as the minister man. Both Mr. Fox and Lord Bath came back when they thought they should succeed, in the same manner as Lord Chatham and Lord Temple; nay, 1 question if Sir William Temple himself did not enjoy his Sheen and his Moor Park the more from the frequent calls that were made upon him to leave them. To pursue our subject,' continued Evelyn, perceiving his friend was not disposed to reply, one lover quarrels with his mistress, he flies to his country seat, and finds pleasure in abusing her to the winds; another is happy in her affection, but some cruel papa interposes difficulties; he flies too, in order the better to plan, in solitude, how to overcome the said difficulties, and meantime carves her name on the bark, and makes verses under all the trees in the neighbourhood. Both find relief for a time, because both in fact are engaged in their favourite occupation : but the enragé finds soon, that his sulkiness is no revenge; and the bien aimé, that being idle will not please papa ; so the solitude becomes irksome to both, and is gladly abandoned.'
“• Papa understands the thing at least,' said Georgina laughing: 'I hope not by experience.
** Experience is the best mistress,' replied Evelyn, and I certainly recollect many a retirement to a bouse in a wood, in order to ascertain better than I thought I could from berself, whether your mother loved me or not. Those solitudes were charming, but short; I had others of a longer duration, and perhaps from better motives.'
" " I did not know you were such a disciple,' said Tremaine.
Oft seeks a sweet retired solitude,
Were all too ruffled, and sometimes impair'd.'
“Georgina took her father's hand.
« An anchoret, I protest! cried Tremaine : 'had you lived in the fifth century, we should have had you in the desert.'
“ • Indeed you would not,' returned Evelyn, 'for, having accomplished my pur. pose by restoring reflection, or by recovering the studies I was near upon losing, (in exchange, perhaps, for an opera dance,) I sighed again for a communication with my species; and, indeed, often felt thankful to join the supper conversation of the people with whom I lived.'
“ • And who were they?' asked Tremaine.
«A mere woodman and his wife,' said Evelyn, 'whose lodge was a mile dig. tant from all other habitations, except of rabbits and tame pheasants, and whose cheerful children were not unfrequently an acceptable diversion to a man, who, with all bis resources, was growing tired of himself.'
« • I have heard, indeed,' said Tremaine, of being “as melancholy as a lodge in a warren,” but knew not how practically true the simile was. Yet you did this often?
" " I did, and may venture to say I was always the better for it. Many, at least,
mouth, when speaker, and could always return to the subject of them with soothed interest, amidst the most violent storms of party rage. He had never been more furious than one day in baranguing in Palace Yard, on what was called the gagging bills. Half an hour afterwards he came to the house, reeking from the mob, and went up to the speaker, who expected some violent motion, to tell him how sorry be was that his geraniums (some cuttings of wbich he had promised him) had been blighted at St. Anne's Hill.--Ed.
Are the subjects I examined, both in literature and morals, in these temporary retreats, and the woodman's house was to me always
• Mihi me reddentis agelli.' «« Your picture is at least pretty,' said Tremaine, and I only wonder your secession from the world was not of longer continuance.'
«• There was no occasion for it,' returned Evelyn, .for ( was not under any great disgust, like Timon; nor had I had a disappointment to madness, like Ca. millo; nor was I under the influence of religious melancholy, like Jerome. . I simply wished to think, and to examine myself at leisure, which I could not do in a crowd; and when I had done this, I returned to the world.""
The tone of all this, is, we think, exceedingly graceful, and envy no one who would turn hastily over such pages in the hope of a scene. We now give the promised important interview between Tremaine and Georgina, dreaded in prospectu by them both. “Never were two people who loved, or did love one an
so disconcerted at being left alone together, as Tremaine and Georgina.
“ Her father's quitting the room seemed to plunge her into a difficulty, from which she could only be relieved by quitting it too; and this perhaps she would actually have done, had not Tremaine gathered courage to seat himself close by her; and seizing her hand with that one of his which was free, began the conversation he had so long meditated.
“My dearest Georgina,' said he suffer me so to call you, even though it may be for the last time. Would to God I might add to it, my own Georgina.'
“Georgina left her passive hand in his.
“ • Your excellent father has, I believe, related to you the conversation I had with him in that eventful morning of yesterday'.
“ « It was indeed eventful,' said Georgina, looking at bis wounded hand; and you must have thought me shamefully ungrateful, not even yet to have inquired after the hand that so kindly saved me.'
" . Alas!' answered Tremaine, 'I thought not of that when I called the morning eventful: I was more selfish. í referred to what was of far more consequence than this trifling accident-I alluded to my heart's best secret; which, however conscious of it, i believe nothing would have torn from me, but the fear (groundless as it has turned out) of a younger and more suitable competitor for Miss Eve. lyn's favour: for, believe me, I thought that favour a treasure far too rich for me -indeed, it is the dearest treasure under heaven.'
“ Georgina felt these words in her very heart, over which they shed a sweetness that was delicious, spite of all the disappointment which she feared might await her. It was perhaps this very sweetness that deprived her of the ability either of answering or of withdrawing the hand, which still remained in the possession of Tremaine : resting the other, therefore, on the back of her chair, she leaned her cheek upon it, and covered her eyes with its pretty fingers. She thus seemed all ear, and waited for him to go on.
«• It is most true,' continued he, that when I surveyed your lovely beauty, joined to a goodness and good sense, an innocency as well as elegance of mind, such as I never saw equalled, I thought you would be the last best gift of heaven to him who might eventually gain you. To win, to obtain so invaluable a blessing, was the difficulty; and when I considered myself—I despaired.'.
" He paused; and Georgina could answer nothing with her lips; but a slight, involuntary, and momentary, but still perceptible return to the pressure of his hand, seemed to ask him why he despaired.
*. In many things,' pursued he, “I thought we were alike-in many I wished, and in some I hoped we might be so. You opened my eyes, even more than your father, to my defects; and my days, from having been a burden to me, ran on with a sweetness, a lightness, such as I never knew till I knew you.'
“ Georgina was more and more penetrated.
"My proximity to you,' continued he, on all occasions, left me no doubt to what this was owing: and my heart daily and momentarily felt that you alone were the cause of it.'