Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

Shoe Lane work-house. He had not completed his eighteenth year. There is a story told that a little before his death, wandering in St. Pancras church-yard, he fell into an open grave, and seemed to seize upon it as an omen. A most painful irreligious paper, called his will, written, let us hope, under the influence of the same phrensy that prompted his suicide, is shown in a glass case in the museum at Bristol ; and I saw, at Mr. Cottle's, two very interesting relics of the unhappy writer; the Berghem (or, as he called it, de Berghem) pedigree, one of his earliest forgeries, curiously and skillfully emblazoned ; and a tattered pocket-book, in which the poor boy had set down with careful exactness the miserable pittance he had gained by writing for magazines and newspapers while in London, a pittance so wretched as to render it certain that utter destitution, utter starvation (although with characteristic pride he had refused a dinner from his landlady the day before) was the immediate cause of the catastrophe.

In spite of the old spelling, the fine personification of Freedom in the chorus of “Goddwyn” makes its way to the mind :

Whan Freedom dreste yn blodde-stayned veste

To everie knyghte her warre-songe sunge,
Uponne her hedde wylde wedes were spredde
A gorie anlace bye her honge.

She daunced onne the heathe;

She hearde the voice of dethe;
Pale eyned Affryghte his harte of sylver hue

In vayne assayled her bosome to acale.
She hearde onflemed the shriekynge voice of Woe,
And sadnesse ynne the owlette shake the dale.

She shooke the burled speere,
On high she jeste her sheelde,
Her foemen all appere
And flizze alonge the feelde.

Modern spelling, and a very little transformation, would make a charming pastoral of the minstrel's song in Ella :

FIRST MINSTREL.

The budding flow'ret blushes at the light;
The meads are sprinkled with their yellowest hue;
In daisied mantle is the mountain dight;
The tender cowslip bendeth with the dew,

The evening comes and brings that dew along;
The ruddy welkin shineth to the eyne;
Around the ale-stake minstrels sing the song.
Young ivy round the door-post to entwine
I lay me on the grass. Yet to my will,
Albeit all is fair, there lacketh something still.

SECOND MINSTREL.

When Autumn, bleak and sunburnt, doth appear
With golden hand gilding the falling leaf,
Bringing up Winter to fulfill the year,
Bearing upon his back the ripened sheaf;
When the fair apple, red as evening sky,
Doth bend the tree unto the fruitful ground;
When juicy pear and berry of black dye
Do dance in air and tempt the taste around;
Then be the evening foul or evening fair,
Methinks that my heart's joy is shadowed with some care.

THIRD MINSTREL.

So Adam thought when first in Paradise
All heaven and earth did homage at his feet;
In gentle woman all man's pleasure lies
'Midst Autumn's beating storms or summer's heat:
Go take a wife unto thy heart and see
Winter and the brown hills will have a charm for thee.

Remains of the society that rendered Clifton illustrious fifty years ago still lingered there : accomplished relatives of the Edgeworths, the Beddoes's, and the Porters. The Sketcher of Blackwood, eminent as artist (amateur artist!) and writer, scholar and wit, adorned the society. There, too, was his one picture, worth many a grand collection-a picture which, when once seen, can never be forgotten—the St. Catherine of Dominichino, from which Sir Joshua borrowed the attitude of his Tragic Muse. The more the light was reduced, the more that figure started from the canvas. Two remarkable women also were there : Mrs. Schimmelpenninck, authoress of “A Tour to Alet ;" a charming, venerable lady, with her Moravian dress and language, and her habit of feeding and comforting every thing she came near; she would walk out alone, and return with a train of dogs and children, expecting and receiving doles of cake and gingerbread from her inexhaustible pockets; and Mrs. Harriet

ever see.

Lee, who was unfortunately absent during my visit. I am not much addicted to lion-hunting, but it was a real loss not to see the authoress of “ Kruitzner,” one of the very few original stories which our predecessors have not stolen from us. The most interesting resident of the neighborhood I did how

My kind friend, the Sketcher, drove me, by invitation, to drink tea at Firfield, a house used during the war as a French prison, and then inhabited by Mr. Cottle and his sister.

Mr. Cottle had been during seven years a bookseller at Bristol, and had during that time had the singular fortune, let me add the liberality and good taste, to publish the first works of Southey, of Coleridge, and of Wordsworth. Himself the author of many works of excellent feeling and tendency, and of one (“ The Recollections of Coleridge") of the very highest merit, I found him as I had expected, a mild and venerable man, distinguished for courtesy and intelligence. He received us in a room stored with books and piled with portfolios, into each of which he had most carefully inserted the letters of such correspondents as few persons could boast. Letters of Sir Humphrey Davy, of Robert Hall, of John Foster, of Hannah More, of Charles Lloyd, of Charles Lamb, of Mr. Landor, of Coleridge, of Southey, of Wordsworth, and of a certain John Henderson, who might, Mr. Cottle said, have excelled them all, but who died at nine-and-twenty, and left nothing behind him except an immense reputation for gen eral

power, and especially for the power of conversation. evaporated in talk." His father had been a neighboring schoolmaster, and had retained his gifted son as his assistant, until driven by general remonstrance into sending him to Oxford When he arrived there, the astonishment that such a scholar should come to be taught seems to have been universal. He stayed on, however, and in the course of a few years died. I remember to have heard the same account of him from my good old friend, Dr. Valpy, whom he occasionally visited at Reading, and who spoke of him as a very disturbing visitor to a man of regular habits. He would sit smoking and talking till three or four o'clock in the morning, neither of them remembering the hour, John Henderson carrying the good doctor away by the flow of his eloquence. It may be doubted whether, if he had lived, he would have left any thing behind him except a great recollection

" He

Besides these portfolios (many of them very bulky, and some from men whose names have probably escaped me), the walls were hung with portraits of these illustrious friends, some engrav. ings, some drawings, some oil-paintings, and many of them repeated two or three times, at different ages. Mr. Cottle was engaged in transcribing Southey's letters, for a life even then projected, and since executed by his son. He said, that of his various epistolary collections he thought Southey's the most amusing, preferring them even to those he had received from Charles Lamb. Very few of these letters are inserted in Mr. Cuthbert Southey's work (doubtless he was embarrassed by his over-riches); but I can not help thinking that a selection of familiar epistles from all the portfolios would be a very welcome gift to the literary world. People can hardly know too much of these great poets, and of such prose writers as Charles Lamb, John Foster, and Robert Hall.

Both Coleridge and Southey were married at Bristol ; Coleridge certainly, and Southey I think, at the beautiful church of St. Mary R dcliffe. Upon iny mentioning this to the parish clerk, very learned upon the subject of Chatterton, he was surprised into confessing his ignorance of the fact, and got as near as a parish clerk ever does to an adınission that he had never heard the first of those illustrious names. So strange a thing is local reputation.

Plenty of people, however, were eager to shew me the localities rendered famous by Southey, and I looked with delight on his father's house, his early home. How great and how good a man he was ! how fine a specimen of the generosity of labor ! Giving so largely, so liberally, so unostentatiously, not from the superfluities of an abundant fortune, but from the hard-won earnings of his indefatigable toil! Some people complain of his change of politics; and I, for my own particular part, wish very heartily that he had been content with a very moderate modification of opinion. But does not the violent republicanism of youth often end in the violent toryism of age? Does not the pendulum, very forcibly set in motion, swing as far one way as it has swung the other ? Does not the sun rise in the east and set in the west ?

As to his poetry, I suspect people of liking it better than they say. He was not Milton or Shakspeare, to be sure; but are we to read nobody but Shakspeare or Milton ? I will venture to add the "Lines on a Holly-tree :"

O reader ! hast thou ever stood to see

The holly-tree?
The eye that contemplates it well, perceives

Its glossy leaves
Ordered by an intelligence so wise
As might confound the atheist's sophistries.
Below, a circling fence, its leaves are seen

Wrinkled and keen;
No grazing cattle through their prickly round

Can reach to wound;
But as they grow where nothing is to fear,
Smooth and unarmed the pointless leaves appear.

I love to view these things with anxious eyes

And moralize :
And in this wisdom of the holly-tree

Can emblems see
Wherewith perchance to make a pleasant rhyme,
One that will profit in the after-time.
Thus though abroad perchance I might appear

Harsh and austere,
To those who on my leisure would intrude

Reserved and rude,
Gentle at home amid my friends I'd be,
Like the high leaves upon the holly-tree.
And should my youth, as youth is apt I know,

Some harshness show,
All vain asperities I day by day

Would wear away,
Till the smooth temper of my age should be
Like the high leaves upon the holly-tree.
And as, when all the summer trees are seen

So bright and green;
The holly leaves their fadeless hue display

Less bright than they,
But when the bare and wintry woods we see,
What then so cheerful as the holly-tree?
So serious should my youth appear among

The thoughtless throng,
So would I seem among the young and gay

More grave than they,
That in my age as cheerful I might be
As the green winter of the holly-tree.

R*

« AnteriorContinuar »