« AnteriorContinuar »
Hulans might have been scorned by the proud blood of the German noblesse. But the favourite officer of the Archduke, and that favourite the hero of the crowning triumph of Germany, had claims which must be acknowledged.
On the appointed day, the vast cathedral saw the rank and loveliness of the capital crowded within its walls to witness the marriage of the lovers whose continued hazards had so largely tried their fidelity and their passion. Carlo's romantic Italian features finely contrasted with the touching yet vivid expression of Carolina's beauty. Hers was the young and bewitching loveliness of a Hebe, his the lofty grace of a classic hero. What were pomp of apparel, diamonds, and orders to either? Carlo was possessed of the woman of his heart. Carolina was wedded to the lord of her affections. What could earth give more? They had deserved to be happy, and they had obtained happiness.
In the crowd which followed, shouting round the train of equipages on their return from the cathedral, Carlo caught a glance of a face which he would have recognised at the antipodes. In the keen eye and subtle physiognomy he was convinced that he saw his old comrade the corporal! Yet Austrian dungeons are not things to be trifled with; nor was Austrian military law likely to have let his inveterate knavery escape its heavy hand. The face disappeared, and the incident was forgotten in the more important matters of the festival.
At the marriage dinner, where the principal personages of the noble families were assembled, a valet brought
in a note, which Carlo read for the indulgence of the company. It was the following:
"Colonel,-You are now a great man; I was the same a fortnight ago, and may be so a fortnight hence. I saw to-day that you remembered your old fellow-trooper in the Hulans; and now give you an opportunity of doing me a service. I want money; and to whom shall a man apply, if not to his friends? Perhaps you think that I intended to do you some mischief. No, upon the honour of a Hulan. But, unless you had been put under arrest, I must have been shot. You see the necessity of decision in such a case. And I decided. If I got placed on the Archduke's staff, the only effect was that I did my duty as a Frenchman-and he gained a victory. For that he has to thank me. If I threw you into a fortress, the only effect was that you met your bride, and for that you have to thank me. Thus both the prince and the colonel are my debtors-pay the debts of both. How I got out of the Austrian prison is no matter. I am now in the streets of Vienna, and am starving. Have no fear of my return; I am tired of Germany. Its air is heavy, its people heavy, and its theatre heavy. I hate monotony of all kinds. Vive la bagatelle!
"P.S.-Send me twenty-five louisd'ors. I shall not stir for less. that I shall cross the Rhine, get into the council of Five Hundred, and the moment I receive my first quarter, as one of the Directory, I shall remit you the money. Your friend,
WILD OATS-A NEW SPECIES.
To people of active, out-of-door life, all bookish men-all men who pass a great part of their time in a library-appear to be of the same genus or tribe; whereas, could they penetrate into libraries, and examine the operations of the various craftsmen who are there busily engaged, they would find amongst them as great a diversity as between any of the recognised classes and professions into which mankind from time immemorial have been parcelled out. The historian who is balancing conflicting evidence, piecing out the imperfect record of one man by the imperfect record of another, hunting a date through many volumes, settling names and localities such a one, when compared with the slow and painful revolver of philosophical subtleties, the metaphysician, or him who ponders the laws and meditates on the fate of human society is quite a man of business, a very gossip withal. He cross-examines his witnesses with all the vigour of forensic contest, sifts their character, tests their credibility, racks their narrative; in his search for truth he seems to be moving amongst living men, elbowing the crowd, clearing his way past this or that vociferating scoundrel, and boldly accusing the loudest amongst them of his falsehood, or partiality, or garbled testimony. His books, which are tumbled and tossed and up-heaped around him, are not only well or ill written, logical or illogical, but they are honest or dishonest; they have a character to sustain-he calls them his authorities—they are speaking on their historic oath, and not merely as a critic, but with all the severity and dignity of a judge, does he censure or commend. The books of a speculative man, on the contrary, lie open quite tranquilly before him-the page turns slowly-they are the things that set his own thoughts in motion, and with those thoughts, whether the books lie there or not, he is chiefly engaged. What he reads is all along so mingled with and modified by his own reflections, that at the end of his labours he can scarcely tell what was his own and what the author's. The written words on the page have been like music to a thoughtful man, which prompts
and accompanies his long reverie, but itself is scarcely heeded. Even when heeded most, and carefully weighed and scrutinized, the words he reads are still the mere utterance of a thought that has thus been carried to him; they are not the utterance of this or that man, and bear on them nothing of motive or character. Whilst the historian, in proportion as he prosecutes his labours, recalls and reanimates some scene of past existence, and adds detail to detail, till it almost appears to be again a portion of the living world, the philosophic or metaphysic labourer, who is in search of first principles, and is exploring, with this purpose, the furthest recesses of the human mind, departs at every step more completely from all detail, and every familiar object, and gains as the result of his toil some abstract truth, if truth it be, which, after all, no man seems to care for but himself. Like the celebrated traveller, whose ambition it was to detect the source of the Nile, he leaves behind him the broad stream with its fertile and populous banks, whereon city and temple have been built-he bends his devoted course to where the river of life grows more and more narrow, more and more silent, as he proceeds-and at length stands alone, in brief and troubled rapture, over a discovery which may still be dubious, and in which no one participates. As to those more active spirits who busy themselves with experimental philosophy, who bring a laboratory into the library, mingle retorts and air-pumps with books, ink, and paper, or sally forth with geologic hammer, smiting this way and thatwith such men it is perpetual holiday: they have no school hours. They are a sort of spies on the operations of Dame Nature, and infinite delight they have in detecting any of those stealthy proceedings which she appears so anxious to conceal. Nay, they are described as being licensed to put her to the torture to extract the truth from her, which expression, if the unsophisticated tendencies of our boyish days are to be consulted, conveys a sense of exquisite pleasure in those experiments by which they wring out her slow confessions. We have heard
an old observer upon men and things often remark, that of all mortals who partook in any of its forms of the dangerous habit of thinking, natural philosophers were the most cheerful and contented. He used to add that they were a trifle more conceited than the rest; but then, if this sometimes moves the spleen of others who persist in drawing a steady line of distinction between a philosopher and a philosophical apparatus, it only increases the stock of their own felicity. He placed the naturalist at the head of his scale; the poet he was accustomed to represent as the most miserable, and the most to be pitied of all intellectual operatives.
But these out-of-door people, whom we have described as having so simple and uniform a notion of library life, are still more in fault in another particular. They mostly look at reading and meditating as without doubt and at all times the most quiet and peace able employment a mortal could be engaged in. For themselves, they defer it till their chair-days, or till the rheumatism shall keep them at home. They have associated books and spectacles together, and do not intend to read much till they can have the assistance of those sagacious appendages, which appear so especially constructed for the reception of wisdom. They would be surprised to hear that a man may sow his "wild oats" in this region, which they are accustomed to regard as a perfect specimen of still life-may sow them as plentifully, and reap from them as abundant a crop of turmoil, and penitence, and regret, as in any other field imaginable where the same sort of culture proceeds-that culture where to sow is pleasant, but no man willingly tarries for the harvest. In order to show this, and to give, at the same time, a specimen of one class of the intellectual character, we shall briefly sketch out the early progress of a friend of ours; one of those who, though they never have an adventure in their lives, or a reverse of fortune, or could extract from their whole outward and visible history materials for a single story, scarce for an anecdote, do yet contrive, by the incessant whirling and agitation of their own thoughts, to make a very troubled passage out of a most unnoticeable existence.
This race of men has doubtless been
found here and there in the world, as long as there has been a world; yet, nevertheless, it is so much more rife in these modern times, that it may be considered as characteristic of them. It may be described as a race of specu lative men, in whom a habit of reflection grows up accompanied by no active pursuit, and applied to no practical purpose. How the philosopher, whose business it is, as Adam Smith tells us, to explain every thing, will account for the vicious excess of a speculative habit which marks our age, when contrasted with the times of classic antiquity, we do not know. Whether it is that our mode of education leads the studious youth to a more complete abstinence from physical and robust exercises, and thus consigns him to a life of thought and a merely intellectual existence; or whether the crowded state of all professions has rendered the entrance into a steady path of profitable head-work more and more difficult, and therefore driven back many an aspirant after professional honours into those always open fields of cogitation, where no crowds jostle, and where no precursor can bar the way; or whether we must look to a still graver cause, and trace this effect to the change which has taken place, through the advent of the Christian religion, in the very material of thought, in the very character of philosophy, which is now brought into contact with a religion of so much higher claims and profounder character-one that cannot even be deserted but in gravest mood, and with sense of perilous responsibility; whether it is owing to any or all of these causes, it is certainly an indisputable fact that such a malady has appeared, or rather spread amongst us. And though the mortal on whom it has seized may be quite useless to himself, he may afford matter of description very useful to others. Perhaps the sketch we are about to give may not be altogether undeserving the attention of those who are curious as well as zealous in the cause of education. If there are certain limits beyond which the exercise of severe thought degenerates into the vain toil of an overwearied spirit, it is well those limits should be foreseen; and if, furthermore, it be true (as we suspect to be the case) that reflection, pursued apart from the social passions and the active energies of life, is in
adequate to attain for us sure and steady principles of conduct, this also is a truth which it is still more important should be recognised.
We knew Howard, the subject of the following sketch-we knew him intimately. He was indeed of a peculiarly open and candid disposition, and at once revealed to you whatever was passing in the innermost recesses of his mind. Yet he was not social in the same degree that he was frank and confiding. When in your company he would let you see, without the least distrust or reserve, the very working of his mind, in all its strength and weakness, and in all that inconsistency of purpose and conclusion which invariably attends upon men of over quick feelings, and which, for their own credit's sake, they may learn to conceal, but seldom in reality to overmaster or prevent-he would do this naturally without egotism, and seemingly without designing it; but, though he was thus genial and open in your com. pany, he was not apt to seek your society. He would forget you if you suffered him. Our friendship was therefore warm, but it was intermittent. We always met with ardour, but long intervals would occur between the periods of our intimacy. We knew Howard, we say, well, and could, on the strength of our reminiscence, have ventured on the following narra, tive; but being able, as we shall show, to use his own language, we of course prefer to do so. We had lost sight of our friend for a long time. Going into the Court of Chancery one day, not by chance, (would it were!) but in the woeful character of suitor, a voice caught our ear which seemed familiar. Yes, there was our friend, under wig and gown, droning away before the Vice-Chancellor, with all the complacency in the world, as if dulness and he had shaken hands, and were on the best possible terms. We waited till he chose to conclude, (two mortal hours!) and then, as the court rose at the moment that he was good enough to sit down, we presented ourselves to his disengaged optics. A most friendly shake of the hand testified his recognition, and this was immediately followed by a cordial, nay, a most peremptory invitation to go home and dine with him that day. He should be quite alone-it would give him so great, so rare a pleasure
he must not be refused. Accordingly, so it was. His carriage took us to a house in Square, and after an excellent dinner was concluded, and as we sat each in his arm-chair, drawn three-quarters round towards the fire, Howard thus referred to old times, and revived the period of his youth. We do not mean that he poured forth his reminiscences in exactly the continuous style we here present them: we were not ourselves quite such docile listeners as this would imply; but with the exception of our own part in the conversation, which is here entirely suppressed, and some few interruptions and digressions, the following is a very fair report of the retrospect our friend took of his early career.
"I cannot tell you," he said," how strange an effect your presence has upon me. It seems to change the whole current of my ideas; it carries me back so completely to past times, that not only can I talk of nothing else, but I seem to talk of these in a different language and spirit than are now habitual to me. Bear with me if I am garrulous. Forgive it! forgive! Be assured that you are bestowing an exquisite pleasure-a pleasure that I know not the second person on earth who could have given me. How often have you encountered me when I was labouring under some fever of the spirit!—how often have you administered sage counsel!-nay, was there not one occasion on which you administered help when the season of counsel was passed, and dashing the fatal instrument from my hand, saved me from the desperate and irrevocable act? How can I refrain, meeting you thus suddenly, and after so long an interval, from conversing upon past times, and that devious track which my youth pursued? The wildest rake never spent his energies more wastefully than I have mine; but if the rake, when reformed, will sometimes congratulate himself in that knowledge of the world which his wildness procured for him, I think that I, with somewhat better reason, may console myself for wasted years and miserable hours, by recalling that knowledge of the intellectual life which my own intellectual wanderings have purchased.
"I think when you first knew me,
I was the poet-of imagination all compact. It was not quite clear to me whether I should rise to great celebrity in my lifetime; but that I should secure a name with posterity even now I blush at the recollection I had no doubt whatever. There was nothing in the world worth a thought but authorship, and no authorship to be compared with poetry. The youth given over to the fascination of verse, and the delusion of fame, has been a subject of frequent description, whether compassionate or sarcastic, and the portrait has generally borne a strong resemblance to the original; for it has been drawn for the most part by those who might themselves, at one period of their lives, have sat for the picture. Sometimes a bitter self-derision, that seeks to resent itself on early follies, sometimes a lurking tenderness for past hopes and aspirations, will guide the pencil; and a subject contradictory in itself, is not unfairly treated in this contradictious humour.
poet, amidst all his high and generous emotions-and he is always generous to a folly-is in many respects obnoxious to ridicule; and, what is worse, his quick sensibility makes him feel that he is so. An extreme sensitiveness, incompatible with a free and open intercourse with society, and which shrinks from that rude but wholesome rivalry which in the arena of life every where encounters us ;this, and an intense anxiety after a species of renown the most precarious and most disputable, present to us a character which, whatever points of interest it may reveal, is surely the most uneasy and discomfortable that ever mortal was called upon to sustain. Conscious of his own superiority, but uncertain what rank so ciety will award him, the youthful aspirant for the honours of the laurel is at once the proudest and the most timid, the loftiest and most dependent of the race. He tells us no truth, which, whether received or not, may be a truth nevertheless; he puts forth no lessons of practical wisdom, which, though neglected, may still be confessedly good and needful; his fate hangs on the sensibility of his readers. If we smile when he sighs, or sigh with weariness when we ought to smile, he is lost for ever-he has trod on air-he sinks and vanishes. It is his aim and his nature to cultivate
a delicacy of feeling, and a cúrious refinement of expression, which, though pleasing infinitely to himself, and in certain moods, and in less measure, to others also; yet oftentimes will sound very simple, strange, or extravagant when uttered aloud, man to man, in the broad light, and amidst the stir of this busy and hard-working world. He finds as one of the tribe has told us he finds his muse to be in crowds his shame, in solitude his boast.' From crowds he therefore recoils, to solitude he flies. There he nourishes, yet sometimes with fear and trembling, that passion for fame which thrives but too well under the shelter of secresy. He shrinks blushingly even from the gaze of the passing stranger whom he meets in his solitary walk ;—he was dreaming that very moment of the plaudits of an admiring society, which were already ringing in his ears. Amidst the ordinary transactions of life, in all that men call business, he feels himself an utter stranger-nerveless, helplesswith a painful repugnance to take his share in any thing that bears the appearance of struggle or collision, which is quite inexplicable to persons of robust and vigorous understandings. Lulled by the music of his verse, he loses, he foregoes all active energetic purpose. He can only think, and feel, and write. What is he, and of what use, if men will not listen and applaud? It has come to this pass with him, that the admiration of mankind -so hard to win, so hazardous to seek-can alone justify his else idle and unnecessary existence.
"Such a one was I. How vivid to my memory at this moment are those moody walks along green lanes which I used daily to take, courting as much of solitude as a residence in the neighbourhood of London could afford. With eyes directed to the ground, I paced slowly along, or else stopping before the hedge or the green bank, to observe some insect or the leaves of a plant, my thoughts would become implicated in the poetic theme on which I was engaged, and there I would stand, forgetful of all else, till I had fitted together to my satisfac tion the words of some intractable verse. This done, I would start off with sudden alacrity; at such mo ments I would snap my fingers at the world as one who had found a trea