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justly sought after as invaluable for the same reason. For instance, what a fund of sense there is in Grimm's Memoirs ! We thus get at the essence of what is contained in their more laboured productions, without the affectation or formality.-Argument, again, is the death of conversation, if carried on in a spirit of hostility ; but discussion is a pleasant and profitable thing, where you advance and defend your opinions as far as you can, and admit the truth of what is objected against them with equal impartiality; in short, where you do not pretend to set up for an oracle, but freely declare what you really know about any question, or suggest what has struck you as throwing a new light upon it, and let it pass for what it is worth. This tone of conversation was well described by Dr. Johnson, when he said of some party at which he had been present the night before“-“We had good talk, Sir!" As a general rule, there is no conversation worth any thing but between friends, or those who agree in the same leading views of a subject. Nothing was ever learnt by either side in a dispute: you contradict one another, will not allow a grain of sense in what your
adversary advances, are blind to whatever makes against yourself, dare not look the question fairly in the face, so that you cannot avail yourself even of your real advantages, insist most on what you feel to be the weakest points of your argument, and get more and more absurd, dogmatical, and violent every moment. Disputes for victory generally end to the dissatisfaction of all parties ; and the one recorded in Gil Blas breaks up just as it ought. I once knew a very ingenious man, than whom, to take him in the way of common chit-chat or fireside gossip, no one could be more entertaining or rational. He would make an apt classical quotation, propose an explanation of a curious passage in Shakspeare's Venus and Adonis, detect a metaphysical error in Locke, would infer the volatility of the French character from the chapter in Sterne where the Count mistakes the feigned name of Yorick for a proof of his being the identical imaginary character in Hamlet (Et vous êtes Yorick !)—thus confounding words with things twice over—but let a difference of opinion be once hitched in, and it was all over with him. His only object from that time was to shut out common sense, and to be proof against conviction. He would argue the most ridiculous point (such as that there were two original languages) for hours together, nay, through the horologe. You would not suppose
it was the same person. He was like an obstinate runaway horse, that takes the bit in his mouth and becomes mischievous and unmanageable. He had made up his mind to one thing—not to admit a single particle of what any one else said for or against him. It was all the difference between a man drunk or sober, sane or mad. It is the same when he once gets the pen in his hand. He has been trying to prove a contradiction in terms for the ten last years of his life, viz. that the Bourbons have the same right to the throne of France that the Brunswick family have to the throne of England. Many people think there is a want of honesty, or a want of understanding in this. There is neither : but he will persist in an argument to the last pinch ; he will yield, in absurdity, to no man !
This litigious humour is bad enough; but there is one character still worse, that of a person who goes into company, not to contradict, but to talk at you. This is the greatest nuisance in civilised society. Such
does not come armed to defend himself at all points, but to unsettle, if he can, and throw a slur on all your favourite opinions. If he has a notion that any one in the room is fond of poetry, he immediately volunteers a contemptuous tirade against the idle jingle of verse. If he suspects you have a delight in pictures, he endeavours, not by fair argument, but by a side-wind, to put you out of conceit with so frivolous an art. If you have a taste for music, he does not think much good is to be done by this tickling of the ears. If you speak in praise of a comedy, he does not see the use of wit: if you say you have been to a tragedy, he shakes his head at this mockery of human misery, and thinks it ought to be prohibited. He tries to find out beforehand whatever it is that you take a particular pride or pleasure in, that he may annoy your self-love in the tenderest point (as if he were probing a wound), and make you dissatisfied with yourself and your pursuits for several days afterwards. A person might as well make a practice of throwing out scandalous aspersions against your dearest friends or nearest relations, by way of ingratiating himself into your favour. Such ill-timed impertinence is “ villainous, and shows a pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it.”
The soul of conversation is sympathy.—Authors should converse chiefly with authors, and their talk should be of books. “ When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war." There is nothing so pedantic as pretending not to be pedantic. No man can get above his pursuit in life : it is getting above himself, which is impossible. There is a Free-masonry in all things. You can only speak to be understood; but this you cannot be, except by those who are in the secret. Hence an argument has been drawn to supersede the necessity of conversation altogether; for it has been said, that there is no use in talking to people of sense, who know all that you can tell them, nor to fools, who will not be instructed. There is, however, the smallest encouragement to proceed, when you are conscious that the more you really enter into a subject, the farther you will be from the comprehension of your hearers -and that the more proofs you give of any position, the more odd and out-of-the-way they will think your notions. C— is the only person who can talk to all sorts of people, on all sorts of subjects, without caring a farthing for their understanding one word he says—and ke talks only for admiration and to be listened to, and accordingly the least interruption puts him out. I firmly believe he would make just the same impression on half his audiences, if he purposely repeated absolute nonsense with the same voice and manner and inexhaustible flow of undulating speech! In general, wit shines only by reflection. You must take your cue from your company--must rise as they rise, and sink as they fall. You must see that your good things, your knowing allusions, are not flung away, like the pearls in the adage. What a check it is to be asked a foolish question; to find that the first principles are not understood! You are thrown on your back immediately, the conversation is stopped like a country-dance by those who do not know the figure. But when a set of adepts, of illuminati, get about a question, it is worth while to hear them talk. They may snarl and quarrel over it, like dogs; but they pick it bare to the bone, they masticate it thoroughly.
The first Consul of France, in the year 1804, issued an edict that there should be no more “ funerals performed ” within the walls of the Metropolis. He had caused as many funerals to be performed as most people, in other places; but seemed determined that his “good City of Paris" should be exempt from any thing which might clash with the cry of “ Vive la Bagatelle.” To this interdiction, the inhabitants, independently of a diminution of doctors' fees, owe the laying out of that interesting cemetery Mount Saint Louis, more commonly called Père la Chaise. There, in poetical embalment, repose the remains of marshals, merchants, cooks, milliners, poets, and coffee-house keepers. Their various parts performed above, there they rest in harmony below, undisturbed even by the propinquity of Madame Raucour.
It is a trite observation, that the French invent and the English improve. Certainly, of English church-yards in general, it may be said in the words of the auctioneer, " the whole capable of great improvement.” The survivors have at length become aware of this. The citizens of London are at last convinced that a sitting-room and a bedroom, looking into a confined church-yard, in Bush-lane or Aldermanbury, are calculated to cause the proprietor to follow the defunct at a quicker pace than was anticipated. The Lord Mayor (I tell it in confidence) has accordingly ordered that no more funerals shall take place within the bills of mortality. A mount, called Primrose-hill, situate between London and the village of Hampstead, and commanding a fine view of the metropolis, has been pitched upon as the receptacle of the future dead. It already possesses a respectable sprinkling of graves. Before, however, I write a description of its various monuments, the mention of graves reminds me so forcibly of an anecdote of
“ Necker's fair daughter, Stael the Epicene," that I shall die a second time if I do not relate it. That celebrated lady, a few years ago, visited this huge metropolis. Hardly was she safely deposited at the Golden Cross, Charing-cross, trunks and band-boxes inclusive, when she inquired of the waiter if he could direct her to the tomb of Richardson. The crier of “ Coming, Sir," was not a little astonished what a lady, on a drizzling November afternoon, could want with a tomb: in a moment he bethought him of Richardson the tavernkeeper in Covent-garden; but having, the day before, purchased a sixteenth of a lottery ticket, he jumped to another conclusion, namely, that Richardson and Goodluck were the parties inquired after. He, therefore, taking it for granted, that the first-named of that firm must have paid the debt of nature, directed the authoress of Corinne to Mr. Goodluck in Cornhill, the supposed surviving partner. Away, in a hackney coach, drove our fair traveller to Cornhill: pushed quickly by a dapper clerk in the front shop, who was tempting two servant-maids with a collection of eighths and sixteenths, held up between his fingers like thirteen cards at whist, and accosting a tall thin man perched in a pulpit, inquired for the tomb of Richardson. “The tomb of Richardson, madam!" said the amazed manager, “Mr. Richardson, I am happy to inform you, never was in better health. He has just set off in Butler's coach for Clapham Rise. Here must be some mistake. What Richardson do you mean?”—“ The divine Richardson.”—“Divine! Oh! a clergyman-I really cannot tell. You had better inquire of the bookseller of that name over the way.” Here, upon our heroine's mentioning that the dead man she meant was the immortal author of Clarissa, the bookseller was casually enabled to put her upon the proper scent, by informing her that the deceased lay buried in the parish church of Saint Clement Danes, in the Strand. Back through Temple-bar incontinently drove the enamoured pilgrim;-invoked the sexton from his glass of brandy and water ;-aided by a lantern (it was now dark) found the sacred sepulchre,-a flat stone, close to the parish pump, green with age, and muddy with Sabbath pedestrians ;-and, falling prostrate upon the cold marble, had reason to congratulate herself, when she arose, on not having paid her respects to the divine Richardson in her best apparel. This calamity, as the Coronation-herald said to George the Third, cannot happen again. No more huddling of poor dead folks together, like people in the pit on the late re-opening of Drury-lane Theatre. They will, hereafter, have the satisfaction of sleeping in a bed wide as that of Ware, or that of honour : in which latter, according to sergeant Kite, “ several hundred people may sleep together without feeling each other.” But I detain you too long from a description of this recent London cemetery. Over its eastern gate is inscribed in gilt characters,
“ Mount Rhadamanth, or
The new Père la Chaise.” On my first entrance, I was agreeably surprised to find so much good taste exhibited in the laying out of the graves. The good old regular jog-trot of “ Affliction sore long time I bore," “ An honest man, a husband dear, and a good Christian, slumbers here;" or, “ Adieu, dear partner of my life," rhyming to a dead certainty with “ wife ;" were utterly abolished. A pale-looking man, in black, indeed informed me that the Trustees of the Establishment had determined to discard not only bad poetry, but fiction, from their monumental inscriptions. “Indeed!" said a man in striped trowsers beside me, “then how will they ever get good poetry ? fiction is the soul of it.” “Excuse me, Sir," said he in sables; “ elegiac poetry should confine itself to fact : "de mortuis nil nisi bonum,' is an antiquated axiom, which the biographer of Doctor Young very properly expelled, and introduced • nil nisi rerum' in its place. No man, Sir, can be buried here without producing a certificate of his character while in the land of the living: if that have been good, we allow his relations to blow a trumpet over his grave; if bad, they must pen an elegiac satire, or say nothing: and this rule is especially enforced when the epitaph is expressed in the first person singular. It is a little too bad, when * etiam mortuus loquitur,' to find a sepulchre giving vent to a falsehood.”—“Now, here, gentlemen," said our guide, addressing a party of about half a dozen who had by this time entered the cemetery, “ here is an instance of what I mentioned. This is the monument of Sir Giles January, citizen and goldsmith. At the mature age of sixty-one, he married Miss Myrtilla May, aged nineteen. In two years, be died of a swan-hopping dinner, caught at the Castle at Richmond. Consequently, at the period of his exit, he was sixty-three, and his partner twenty-one. Now, Sirs, in the olden time, this monumental
stone would have talked of partner dear, slumber here; mutual love, heaven above; heart from heart, 'forced to part;' and 'all that sort of thing.' To all which averments, gentlemen, the Trustees of Mount Rhadamanth entertain only one objection; namely, that not one syllable of them would have been true. Step this way, Sir, if you please : you, Madam, had better stand upon that flat stone on the right: and now let us see what the gentleman has to say for himself.” I glided, ghost like, between a young woman in a lilac bonnet, and a swarthy man in green spectacles, and read what follows:
I left a wife, when dead and gone,
On earth, one-third the age of me :
While mine, alas! were sixty-three.
Bethink thee, Love, who next succeeds:
Bid Hymen's roses choak thy weeds.
How could old Shakspeare write such stuff?
My will is proved, and that's enough! Upon my word,” cried a youngster, decorated with an eyeglass and a sky-blue cravat, “ that dead man is a mighty sensible fellow. Should any thing happen to me, I shall be proud of his better acquaintance - My will is proved and that's enough.'—Capital.
Multum in parvo.' Stop! I'll pop it down in my pocket-book: it will make an excellent addition to my sister Morgan's album Quite a hit!—she's at this moment in mourning, as black as a crow, for old Marmaduke Morgan, her Indigo-grinding husband, who left her fifteen hundred a year : sole executrix too : what has she to do with sables ? Stay! · who weds the second kills the first.' Egad! I don't remember that in Shakspeare: I'll take my oath it's neither in the Honey Moon nor Venice Preserved.”
The agent of the trustees of Mount Rhadamanth now led us up a sloping and rather circuitous path, pleasantly shaded by willow and cypress trees; during our progress through which we caught glimpses of divers grave-stones, bearing the customary English decorations, namely, bald-pated old men with scythes, skulls with cross bones, hour-glasses, and cherub heads with full-blown cheeks. “To confess the truth, gentlemen," said our guide," the Arts have not hitherto made much progress in England. We could not, at the outset of the establishment, positively object to these hacknied ornaments; but they do us little credit : our comfort is that they stand sentinels over personages whom Nature manufactured when she made a Grose'-mere John Wilsons of this parish; and Martha Wadesons of that parish, and George Simpsons of t'other hamlet; very respectable people in their line, but not calculated to confer much credit upon the new Père la Chaise.” At this moment, I observed that the young woman in the lilac bonnet had, with two female companions, stept over three ignoble graves, and was busied in decyphering the inscription upon a very smart monument of yellow and green marble. “ Ah! ladies," ejaculated the man in black, “ that is