Imágenes de página

out under what schoolmaster's ferule he was educated, where his grandmother was vaccinated, and so forth. If half a dozen washing-bills of Goldsmith's were to be found to-morrow, would they not inspire a general interest, and be printed in a hundred papers? I lighted upon Oliver, not very long since, in an old Town and Country Magazine, at the Pantheon masquerade "in an old English habit." Straightway my imagination ran out to meet him, to look at him, to follow him about. I forgot the names of scores of fine gentlemen of the past age who were mentioned besides. We want to see this man who has amused and charmed us; who has been our friend, and given us hours of pleasant companionship and kindly thought. I protest when I came, in the midst of those names of people of fashion, and beaux, and demireps, upon those names "Sir J. R-yn-lds in a domino; Mr. Cr-d-ck and Dr. G-ldsm-th in two old English dresses," I had, so to speak, my heart in my mouth. What, you here, my dear Sir Joshua? Ah! what an honor and privilege it is to see you! This is Mr. Goldsmith? And very much, sir, the ruff and the slashed doublet become you! Oh doctor! what a pleasure I had and have in reading the Animated Nature. How did you learn the secret of writing the decasyllable line, and whence that sweet wailing note of tenderness that accompanies your song? Was Beau Tibbs a real man, and will you do me the honor of allowing me to sit at your table at supper? Don't you think you know how he would have talked? Would you not have liked to hear him prattle over the Champagne?

Now Hood is passed away-passed off the earth as

much as Goldsmith or Horace. The times in which he lived, and in which very many of us lived and were young, are changing or changed. I saw Hood once as a young man, at a dinner which seems almost as ghostly now as that masquerade at the Pantheon (1772), of which we were speaking anon. It was at a dinner of the Literary Fund, in that vast apartment which is hung round with the portraits of very large royal freemasons, now unsubstantial ghosts. There, at the end of the room, was Hood. Some publishers, I think, were our companions. I quite remember his pale face; he was thin and deaf, and very silent; he scarcely opened his lips during the dinner, and he made one pun. Some gentleman missed his snuff-box, and Hood said-(the Freemasons' Tavern was kept, you must remember, by Mr. CUFF in those days, not by its present proprietors). Well, the box being lost, and asked for, and CUFF (remember that name) being the name of the landlord, Hood opened his silent jaws. and said * * * * * Shall I tell you what he said? It was not a very good pun which the great punster then made. Choose your favorite pun out of Whims and Oddities, and fancy that was the joke which he contributed to the hilarity of our little table.

Where those asterisks are drawn on the page, you must know a pause occurred, during which I was engaged with Hood's Own, having been referred to the book by this life of the author which I have just been reading. I am not going to dissert on Hood's humor;


am not a fair judge. Have I not said elsewhere that there are one or two wonderfully old gentlemen still alive who used to give me tips when I was a boy? I

can't be a fair critic about them. I always think of that sovereign, that rapture of raspberry tarts, which made my young days happy. Those old sovereigncontributors may tell stories ever so old, and I shall laugh; they may commit murder, and I shall believe it was justifiable homicide. There is my friend Baggs, who goes about abusing me, and of course our dear mutual friends tell me. Abuse away, mon bon! You were so kind to me when I wanted kindness, that you may take the change out of that gold now, and say I am a cannibal and negro, if you will. Ha, Baggs! Dost thou wince as thou readest this line? Does guilty conscience throbbing at thy breast tell thee of whom the fable is narrated? Puff out thy wrath, and, when it has ceased to blow, my Baggs shall be to me as the Baggs of old—the generous, the gentle, the friendly.

No, on second thoughts, I am determined I will not repeat that joke which I heard Hood make. He says he wrote these jokes with such ease that he sent manuscripts to the publishers faster than they could acknowledge the receipt thereof. I won't say that they were all good jokes, or that to read a great book full of them is a work at present altogether jocular. Writ ing to a friend respecting some memoir of him which had been published, Hood says, "You will judge how well the author knows me when he says my mind is rather serious than comic." At the time when he wrote these words he evidently undervalued his own serious power, and thought that in punning and broadgrinning lay his chief strength. Is not there something touching in that simplicity and humility of faith? "To make laugh is my calling," says he; "I

must jump, I must grin, I must tumble, I must turn language head over heels, and leap through grammar;" and he goes to his work humbly and courageously, and what he has to do that does he with all his might, through sickness, through sorrow, through exile, poverty, fever, depression-there he is, always ready to his work, and with a jewel of genius in his pocket! Why, when he laid down his puns and pranks, put the motley off, and spoke out of his heart, all England and America listened with tears and wonder! Other men have delusions of conceit, and fancy themselves greater than they are, and that the world slights them. Have we not heard how Liston always thought he ought to play Hamlet? Here is a man with a power to touch the heart almost unequaled, and he passes days and years in writing "Young Ben he was a nice young man," and so forth. To say truth, I have been reading in a book of Hood's Own until I am perfectly angry. "You great man, you good man, you true genius and poet," I cry out, as I turn page after page, "do, do make no more of these jokes, but be yourself, and take your station."

When Hood was on his death-bed, Sir Robert Peel, who only knew of his illness, not of his imminent danger, wrote to him a noble and touching letter, announcing that a pension was conferred on him:

"I am more than repaid," writes Peel, "by the personal satisfaction which I have had in doing that for which you return me warm and characteristic acknowledgments.

"You perhaps think that you are known to one, with such multifarious occupations as myself, merely by general reputation as an author; but I assure you that there can be little which you have written and acknowledged which I have not read, and that there are few

who can appreciate and admire more than myself the good sense and good feeling which have taught you to infuse so much fun and merriment into writings correcting folly and exposing absurdities, and yet never trespassing beyond those limits within which wit and facetiousness are not very often confined. You may write on with the consciousness of independence, as free and unfettered as if no communication had ever passed between us. I am not conferring a private obligation upon you, but am fulfilling the intentions of the Legislature, which has placed at the disposal of the crown a certain sum (miserable, indeed, in amount) to be applied to the recognition of public claims on the bounty of the crown. If you will review the names of those whose claims have been admitted on account of their literary or scientific eminence, you will find an ample confirmation of the truth of my statement.

“One return, indeed, I shall ask of you—that you will give me the opportunity of making your personal acquaintance."

And Hood, writing to a friend, inclosing a copy of Peel's letter, says, "Sir R. Peel came from Burleigh on Tuesday night, and went down to Brighton on Saturday. If he had written by post, I should not have had it till to-day. So he sent his servant with the inclosed on Saturday night; another mark of considerate attention." He is frightfully unwell, he continues; his wife says he looks quite green; but, ill as he is, poor fellow, "his well is not dry. He has pumped out a sheet of Christmas fun, is drawing some cuts, and shall write a sheet more of his novel."

Oh sad, marvelous picture of courage, of honesty, of patient endurance, of duty struggling against pain! How noble Peel's figure is standing by that sick-bed! how generous his words, how dignified and sincere his compassion! And the poor dying man, with a heart full of natural gratitude toward his noble benefactor, must turn to him and say, "If it be well to be rememF

« AnteriorContinuar »