« PreviousContinue »
she was indeed, as slanderers said, by ten summers his senior. But the passage I am now particularly remembering was his setting forth to lay siege to Miss Meridew, in company with his cousin. Repeated refusals, it would almost seem, had made him selfmistrustful : inspired him with the uneasy feeling of one who is looked upon as a false pretender : and whose very inches, even, ought to be vouched for: seeing that there are some persons, who, like Monsieur Duprez the French singer, and Mr. Flamely the English novelist, wear heels within their boots !—It was needful -alas! this had sad experience taught him—to woo his Queen of Hearts" by the card!”—to have his heels warranted !
Now, it did not make the matter easier, that Miss Meridew was one of those persons who “hear, see, and say nothing,” called by their friends, "persons of good judgment," " persons of high principle,” and, Heaven knows how many other high-flown names ;-but, by less interested observers, known to be vacant, dogged, and suspicious, with and without cause. I only know one species of female more impracticable : the candid woman of quick feelings ; who is hurt before you speak, and hurt after you have spoken ; who owns “to expressing herself warmly,” and thinks Reason was brought into the world, by way of insult to common Humanity! And even she, I am inclined to think, may be got the better of, by a person more candid and quicker than she is,provided he owns the advantage in point of lungs !
Well—when Mr. Deedes set forth to woo Miss Meridew, he thought it due to himself, to provide an authentication for all he might state, in the person of a relative, older, drier, stouter, more substantial than himself-one of those worthies who inspires you with a confidence that he were best let alone! The Lady was by herself, working with her usual slow industry, at something which could be neither useful nor ornamental;—on their entrance, turning and facing the suitor and his Referee, with a gaze more stupid than searching, yet none the less hard to meet, therefore. Down sate Mr. Deedes, (he had to invite himself to take a chair)—
down sate the Referee : and the matter was entered upon, in dead and upassenting silence on the part of the Lady.
“Ma'am,” began Mr. T'imothy, “I have a comfortable, unincumbered little property, which brings me in,-I should say—a clear five hundred a year ;-have not I, Cousin ?
“And I have a house, No. 37, Halcyon Row-with good basement story—and water laid on to the top. Have I not, Cousin ?”
Yes, Cousin." Miss Meridew bit the knot off her thread ; and Strephon had to begin anew.
“And, Ma'am, I am very anxious to assure you, that since I was a child, I have been always spoken of as obliging, considerate, and as fond of the Ladies' company, as a religious and moral member of society ought to be. Is it not so, Cousin ?
• Yes, Cousin.” “Those are mice in the wainscot, gentlemen, that you hear,'* observed Miss Meridew.
“Yes, Cousin.” — Even those dull people were shaken by a testimonial so grotesque and gratuitous. Both the Strephon and the Amanda broke into a fit of laughter, at the misplaced reply of Mr. Alured Deedes. There was no resuming " the tender subject,” that day :-and before that day fortnight, Miss Meridew had bestowed her virtues and her possessions, upon the Reverend Ozias Cockle !—“ So endeth a wooing !
There is another sort of testimonial of a yet more peculiar quality than the above, worth including in this list of Curiosities. of Friendship. An inhabitant of the moon, aware of the very rainy climate of this “terrestrial Ball,” or, in other words, of the quantity of tears, which must fall thereon, be the season ever so propitious—would conceive himself addressed as a Marine, and not a lunar visitant, were he told that there exists among us a class of persons whose delight it is to conceive themselves maltreated and evil spoken of. Yet so it is : there are some who keep themselves in a fever of complacency by forgiving imaginary injuries. They know that the basest of motives are imputed to them, but, thank God! they can bear that. They are glad to find persons so good, simple, and credulous, as to believe that themselves have no enemies : and who try to persuade them of the same. They wish they did not know better! Somebody is always talking them over behind their backs—or was, before they came into the room ! Before they do a given thing, they are sure that they will be misjudged for doing it. They were brought
this world, to suffer calumny—to waste affection—to abide ingratitude. “ It was sung to them in their cradles.” They should be insane to expect any enjoyment, or honest construction!
NO. XXXIV - VOL. VI.
“People are so ill-natured,” used dear Lady -- to murmur, hanging her head, the while, like a shepherdess.-" They say
; that Sydney Smith and I, wrote · Cecil.' And I am told (not having had the honour, Sir, to know the Lady, myself) that she did look teased and “put out,” by this sad little dream. had a gentlewomen of the same family, but more meek—a back quality, who used to keep Halcyon Row, in a perpetual stir, by the imagined ill-usage she had to parry, making a round from house to house, in quest of flatteries and contradictions to reports which no one had circulated ; and exasperating my up-right, downright, angry Mrs. Bell, -till I used to think the latter would become demented, if one calamity more overtook Miss Gosse. Never did irreproachable virgin suggest the same number of peccadilloes, which she could only have, by miracle, committed. She had been talked about, with Mr. Vavasour ; she had been accused of starving her maid-of-all-work ; and of poisoning Mrs. Stagg's four peacocks, (a slight crime, if true : since those birds used to screech all night, to the detriment and distress of the Row). She had sent anonymous letters to three decided Calvinists. She had threatened Howley, the inarticulate old sexton and parish clerk, with the loss of his place. « Did Mrs. Bell believe she was capable of such wicked doings ? ” was the invariable conclusion. The last piece of monstrous self-accusation, however, happily closed our doors against the poor, morbid creature.
- What do you think they are saying of me, now, dear Mrs. Bell ? burst she in, one day, howling and mopping her eyes.
“ What do you think they say now ?--that I drink ! Did you ever hear such cruelty ? such wickedness ?-Do you believe it?'
Yes, Ma'am, and worse, was my helpmate's impatient answer. Up bounced Miss Gosse. She was seen within our gates no more. Turn such a person's play into reality: and, in ninetynine cases out of a hundred, you make an enemy for life, by extinguishing them!
The subject widens upon me as I proceed-spreading out into the conviction that there is no fact for which you cannot find an insincere and, stranger still, a sincere witness. Think of the Monument, on which the inheritance of an important estate depended to the existence of which, in a certain Church, within the memory of man, a number of worshipful parishioners swore, in à well-known trial --whilst as many, equally worshipful, swore as certainly to the fact of such a thing never having existed. Think
of matters asserted on the hustings !—proved by the plump and plain testimonial of by-standers. Think (as we are there!) of Tests proposed and accepted. Recollect the delicious traditions only waiting the call of Antiquarians with regard to any obscure passage-and how A shall cap B's impression till C gets a fact, which he retaileth unblushingly : and D goes the length of challenging scrutiny-whereupon E enters into an inquiry! &c., &c. Reflect how a whimsical idea, referred to twice or thrice, as a pleasant freak of imagination, takes that form and consistency, which prepares you for referring to it a fourth time as something " you have heard," if not a reality which has passed within the sphere of your own knowledge !-And the end will be, if not a mistrust of the testimonials which others command, a reserve in granting them to others—a determination, not to rush out with something which may be true-by way of producing an effect, or strengthening a cause :--but to let no wish to serve, persuade, influence, or other immediate object, blind you to the dry truth, that the Testimonial in which Exaggeration has aught to do, injures three persons--the party recommended, who is encouraged to refrain from progress ; the party without testifying recommenders, who is unfairly neglected ; and the party who testifiesto the damage of his discrimination-self-respect, and integrity !
It would be a curious inquiry that, which would endeavour to ascertain the circumstances which obtain celebrity for a writer beyond the limits of his own country. Some of our greatest English authors are perfectly unknown in Germany and France, and not a few of the noblest literary geniuses that France and Germany have produced have not yet reached England even by
On the other hand, how many English scribblers whom the English themselves scarcely deign to read have a continental reputation! And how many French and German scribblers who are almost forgotten in their native land, have a popularity wider and far more fulminating than that which some of our best authors enjoy, or are ever likely to acquire. Fame is, of all human
caprices, the most capricious. Sometimes the eccentricity that condemns an author to obscurity and contempt in his own country, gives him glory somewhere else. Sometimes the breadth of heart and the catholicity of spirit, which make a writer a mystery to his nation, a mystery not to be revered but to be laughed at, make him a miracle to other nations, a miracle which they feel inclined to worship all the more enthusiastically from the very distance of the scene where it has appeared. It is strange also to see some worthy wight, who in his day was something more than a notoriety, but who for half-a-century has simply been known as one of the great unread, spoken of by foreign critics, as if he were as alive in the memory and the heart of Humanity, as Cervantes, or Ariosto, or Shakspeare. Thus, for instance, Villemain, an elegant and tasteful, often eloquent writer, though not remarkable for grasp or perspicacity as a thinker, and who, some fifteen or twenty years ago, was as celebrated as a lecturer on literature as Guizot on history, and Cousin on philosophy, devotes as much of serious attention and of conscientious analysis to Richardson the novelist as any English Review would think it proper to bestow on Walter Scott. Occasionally an author secures à European audience for the whole of his productions, however numerous, through having tickled their ear by some early production, trifling and tedious it may be in itself, but which flattered or echoed some temporary foible of the age. Would “ Faust,” and “ Wilhelm Meister be considered as such marvellous books, or would Goethe the Epicurean be viewed as so admirable a poet, so noble a man, if he had not when young arrested the notice of mankind by his sentimental “ Werther?” Because one of Goethe's boyish works was preposterously overrated, it has been thought a duty as preposterously to overrate all the rest. Some of the best authors cannot be naturalised in foreign literatures. Barrow and Jeremy Taylor will always remain exclusively English. The former has a weight of thought, and an exhaustiveness which we look for in vain in any other preacher ; but though often eloquent he has no artistic graces of style. His grand massiveness of solid sense unfits him for Germany, his want of rhetorical skill unfits him for France. Jeremy Taylor was not a remarkable thinker ; neither can he properly be called an orator ; he was a poet in prose, and perhaps as such, unsurpassed. Now poets in prose are peculiarly English ; other nations offer nothing precisely similar. The very circumstance, therefore, which renders the