Imágenes de página

bered by a minister, it is better still not to be forgotten by him in a 'hurly Burleigh!" Can you laugh? Is not the joke horribly pathetic from the poor dying lips? As dying Robin Hood must fire a last shot with his bow-as one reads of Catholics on their deathbeds putting on a Capuchin dress to go out of the world-here is poor Hood at his last hour putting on his ghastly motley, and uttering one joke more.

He dies, however, in dearest love and peace with his children, wife, friends; to the former especially his whole life had been devoted, and every day showed his fidelity, simplicity, and affection. In going through the record of his most pure, modest, honorable life, and living along with him, you come to trust him thoroughly, and feel that here is a most loyal, affectionate, and upright soul, with whom you have been brought into communion. Can we say as much of all lives of all men of letters? Here is one at least without guile, without pretension, without scheming, of a pure life, to his family and little modest circle of friends tenderly devoted.

And what a hard work, and what a slender reward! In the little domestic details with which the book abounds, what a simple life is shown to us! The most simple little pleasures and amusements delight and occupy him. You have revels on shrimps; the good wife making the pie; details about the maid, and criticisms on her conduct; wonderful tricks played with the plum-pudding- all the pleasures centring round the little humble home. One of the first men of his time, he is appointed editor of a magazine at a salary of £300 per annum, signs himself exultingly

"Ed. N. M. M.," and the family rejoice over the income as over a fortune. He goes to a Greenwich dinner-what a feast and rejoicing afterward!

"Well, we drank 'the Boz' with a delectable clatter, which drew from him a good warm-hearted speech. He looked very

well, and had a younger brother along with him.

Then we

had songs. Barham chanted a Robin Hood ballad, and Cruikshank sang a burlesque ballad of Lord H—; and somebody, unknown to me, gave a capital imitation of a French showman. Then we toasted Mrs. Boz, and the Chairman, and Vice, and the Traditional Priest sang the 'Deep, deep sea,' in his deep, deep voice; and then we drank to Procter, who wrote the said song; also Sir J. Wilson's good health, and Cruikshank's, and Ainsworth's; and a Manchester friend of the latter sang a Manchester ditty, so full of trading stuff that it really seemed to have been not composed, but manufactured. Jerdan, as Jerdanish as usual on such occasions-you know how paradoxically he is quite at home in dining out. As to myself, I had to make my second maiden speech, for Mr. Monckton Milnes proposed my health in terms my modesty might allow me to repeat to you, but my memory won't. However, I ascribed the toast to my notoriously bad health, and assured them that their wishes had already improved it-that I felt a brisker circulation-a more genial warmth about the heart, and explained that a certain trembling of my hand was not from palsy, or my old ague, but an inclination in my hand to shake itself with every one present. Whereupon I had to go through the friendly ceremony with as many of the company as were within reach, besides a few more who came express from the other end of the table. Very gratifying, wasn't it? though I can not go quite so far as Jane, who wants me to have that hand chopped off, bottled, and preserved in spirits. She was sitting up for me very anxiously, as usual when I go out, because I am so domestic and steady, and was down at the door before I could ring at the gate, to which Boz kindly sent me in his own carriage. Poor girl! what would she do if she had a wild husband instead of a tame one ?"

And the poor anxious wife is sitting up, and fondles the hand which has been shaken by so many illustrious men! The little feast dates back only eighteen

years, and yet somehow it seems as distant as a dinner at Mr. Thrale's, or a meeting at Will's.

Poor little gleam of sunshine! very little good cheer enlivens that sad simple life. We have the triumph of the magazine; then a new magazine projected and produced; then illness and the last scene, and the kind Peel by the dying man's bedside, speaking noble words of respect and sympathy, and soothing the last throbs of the tender honest heart.

I like, I say, Hood's life even better than his books, and I wish, with all my heart, Monsieur et cher confrère, the same could be said for both of us when the inkstream of our life hath ceased to run. Yes; if I drop first, dear Baggs, I trust you may find reason to modify some of the unfavorable views of my character which you are freely imparting to our mutual friends. What ought to be the literary man's point of honor nowadays? Suppose, friendly reader, you are one of the craft, what legacy would you like to leave to your children? First of all (and by Heaven's gracious help) you would pray and strive to give them such an endowment of love as should last certainly for all their lives, and perhaps be transmitted to their children. You would (by the same aid and blessing) keep your honor pure, and transmit a name unstained to those who have a right to bear it. You wouldthough this faculty of giving is one of the easiest of the literary man's qualities-you would, out of your earnings, small or great, be able to help a poor brother in need, to dress his wounds, and, if it were but twopence, to give him succor. Is the money which the noble Macaulay gave to the poor lost to his family?

God forbid. To the loving hearts of his kindred is it not rather the most precious part of their inheritance? It was invested in love and righteous doing, and it bears interest in heaven. You will, if letters be your vocation, find saving harder than giving and spending. To save be your endeavor too against the night's coming when no man may work; when the arm is weary with the long day's labor; when the brain perhaps grows dark; when the old, who can labor no more, want warmth and rest, and the young ones call for supper.

I copied the little galley-slave who is made to figure in the initial letter of this paper from a quaint old silver spoon which we purchased in a curiosity-shop at the Hague. It is one of the gift-spoons so common in Holland, and which have multiplied so astonishingly of late years at our dealers' in old silver-ware. Along the stem of the spoon are written the words, "Anno 1609, Bin ick aldus ghekledt gheghaen"—" In the year 1609 I went thus clad." The good Dutchman was released from his Algerine captivity (I imagine his figure looks like that of a slave among the Moors), and in his thank-offering to some godchild at home he thus piously records his escape.

Was not poor Cervantes also a captive among the Moors? Did not Fielding, and Goldsmith, and Smollett too, die at the chain as well as poor Hood? Think of Fielding going on board his wretched ship in the Thames, with scarce a hand to bid him farewell; of brave Tobias Smollett, and his life, how hard, and how poorly rewarded; of Goldsmith, and the

physician whispering, “Have you something on your mind?” and the wild, dying eyes answering Yes. Notice how Boswell speaks of Goldsmith, and the splendid contempt with which he regards him. Read Hawkins on Fielding, and the scorn with which Dandy Walpole and Bishop Hurd speak of him. Galleyslaves doomed to tug the oar and wear the chain, while my lords and dandies take their pleasure, and hear fine music and disport with fine ladies in the cabin !

But stay. Was there any cause for this scorn? Had some of these great men weaknesses which gave inferiors advantage over them? Men of letters can not lay their hands on their hearts and say, "No, the fault was Fortune's and the indifferent world's, not Goldsmith's nor Fielding's." There was no reason why Oliver should always be thriftless; why Fielding and Steele should sponge upon their friends; why Sterne should make love to his neighbors' wives. Swift, for a long time, was as poor as any wag that ever laughed, but he owed no penny to his neighbors; Addison, when he wore his most threadbare coat, could hold his head up and maintain his dignity; and I dare vouch neither of those gentlemen, when they were ever so poor, asked any man alive to pity their condition, and have a regard to the weaknesses incidental to the literary profession. Galley-slave, forsooth! If you are sent to prison for some error for which the law awards that sort of laborious seclusion, so much the more shame for you. If you are chained to the oar a prisoner of war, like Cervantes, you have the pain, but not the shame, and the friendly compassion

« AnteriorContinuar »