Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

this specimen of our kind, and others tics and purity of breed, with the Celt equally apart from the extremes of whose blood, mixed by a thousand the savage state and the cultured. channels, dictates from Paris the manThe Arab in his tent, the Teuton ners and revolutions of the world. He in his forests, the Greenlander in his compared the Norman in his ancient boat, the Fin in his rein-deer car. Scandinavian home, with that wonder Up sprang the rude gods of the north, of intelligence and chivalry which he and the resuscitated Druidism, pass- became, fused imperceptibly with the ing from its earliest templeless belief Frank, the Goth, and the Anglointo the later corruptions of crommell Saxon. He compared the Saxon, staand idol. Up sprang, by their side, tionary in the land of Horsa, with the the Saturn of the Phoenicians, the colonist and civiliser of the globe, as he mystic Budh of India, the elemen- becomes, when he knows not through tary deities of the Pelasgian, the what channels — French, Flemish, Naith and Serapis of Egypt, the Danish, Welch, Scotch, and Irish—he Ormuzd of Persia, the Bel of Babylon, draws his sanguine blood. And out the winged genii of the graceful from all these speculations, to which I Etruria. How nature and life shaped do such hurried and scanty justice, the religion ; how the religion shaped he drew the blessed truth, that carries the manners; how, and by what in- hope to the land of the Caffre, the hut fluences, some tribes were formed for of the Bushman-that there is nothing progress; how others were destined in the flattened skull and the ebon to remain stationary, or be swal- aspect that rejects God's law, imlowed up in war and slavery by their provement; that by the same principle brethren, was told with a precision which raises the dog, the lowest of clear and strong as the voice of Fate. the animals in its savage state, to the Not only an antiquarian and philolo- highest after man,—viz. admixture gist, but an anatomist and philosopher of race—you can elevate into nations -my father brought to bear on all of majesty and power the outcasts of these grave points, the various specu- humanity, now your compassion or lations involved in the distinctions of your scorn. But when my father got race. He showed how race in per- into the marrow of his theme—when, fection is produced, up to a certain quitting these preliminary discussions, point, by admixture : how all mixed he fell pounce amongst the would be races have been the most intelligent- wisdom of the wise; when he dealt how, in proportion as local circum- with civilisation itself, its schools, and stance and religious faith permitted the porticos, and academies; when he bared the early fusion of differing tribes, races the absurdities couched beneath the colimproved and quickened into the re- leges of the Egyptians, and the Symfinements of civilisation. He tracked posia of the Greeks;—when he showed the progress and dispersion of the that, even in their own favourite purHellenes, from their mythical cradle in suit of metaphysics, the Greeks were Thessaly; and showed how those who children ; and in their own more pracsettled near the sea-shores, and were tical region of politics, the Romans compelled into commerce and inter- were visionaries and bunglers;—when, course with strangers, gave to Greece following the stream of error through her marvellous accomplishments in arts the middle ages, he quoted the pueand letters—the flowers of the ancient rilities of Agrippa, the crudities of world. How others, like the Spartans, Cardan; and passed, with his calm dwelling evermore in a camp, on guard smile, into the salons of the chattering against their neighbours, and rigidly wits of Paris in the eighteenth century, preserving their Dorian purity of ex- oh, then his irony was that of Lucian, traction, contributed neitherartists, nor sweetened by the gentle spirit of Eraspoets, nor philosophers to the golden mus. For not even here was my treasure-house of mind. He took the father's satire of the cheerless and Meold race of the Celts, Cimry, or Cimme- phistophelian school. From this record rians. He compared the Celt who, of error he drew forth the grand eras as in Wales, the Scotch Highlands, of truth. He showed how earnest men an Bretagne, and in uncomprehended never think in vain, though their Ireland, retains his old characteris- thoughts may be errors. He proved how, in vast cycles, age after age, the charmed; and erudition lost its pehuman mind marches on — like the dantry now in the simplicity of Monocean, receding here, but there ad- taigne, now in the penetration of La vancing. How from the speculations Bruyère. He lived in each time of of the Greek sprang all true philoso- which he wrote, and the time lived phy; how from the institutions of the again in him. Ah, what a writer of Roman rose all durable systems of gov- romances he would have been, if—if ernment; how from the robust follies of what? If he had had as sad an exthe North came the glory of chivalry, perience of men's passions, as he had and the modern delicacies of honour, the happy intuition into their humours. and the sweet harmonising influences But he who would see the mirror of of woman. He tracked the ancestry the shore, must look where it is cast of our Sidneys and Bayards from the on the river, not the ocean. The narHengists, Genserics, and Attilas. Full row stream reflects the gnarled tree, of all curious and quaint anecdote-of and the pausing herd, and the village original illustration of those niceties spire, and the romance of the landof learning which spring from a taste scape. But the sea reflects only the cultivated to the last exquisite polish vast outline of the headland, and the -the book amused, and allured, and lights of the eternal heaven.

[graphic]

CHAPTER XI.

“It is Lombard Street to a China It is open to the cockboat as the friorange," quoth Uncle Jack.

gate. One man carries across it a " Are the odds in favour of fame freightage of ingots, another may fish against failure so great? You do not there for herrings. Who can exhaust speak, I fear, from experience, bro- the sea? who say to intellect, the deeps ther Jack," answered my father, as he of philosophy are preoccupied ?" stooped down to tickle the duck under 16 Admirable!” cried Squills. the left ear.

"So it is really your advice, my " But Jack Tibbets is not Augus- friends," said my father, who seemed tine Caxton. Jack Tibbets is not a struck by Uncle Jack's eloquent illusscholar, a genius, a wond—”

tration, " that I should desert my " Stop," cried my father.

household gods; remove to London, After all," said Mr Squills, since my own library ceases to supply " though I am no flatterer, Mr Tibbets my wants; take lodgings near the is not so far out. That part of your British Museum, and finish off one book which compares the crania or volume, at least, incontinently." skulls of the different races is superb. " It is a duty you owe to your Lawrence or Dr Pritchard could not country,” said Uncle Jack, solemnly. have done the thing more neatly. And to yourself," urged Squills. Such a book must not be lost to the “ One must attend to the natural evaworld; and I agree with Mr Tibbets cuations of the brain. Ah! you may that you should publish as soon as smile, sir; but I have observed that if possible."

a man has much in his head, he must " It is one thing to write and an- give it vent or it oppresses him; the other to publish," said my father irre whole system goes wrong. From solutely. * When one considers all being abstracted, he grows stupefied. the great men who have published; The weight of the pressure affects the when one thinks one is going to intrude nerves. I would not even guarantee one's-self audaciously into the com- you from a stroke of paralysis." pany of Aristotle and Bacon, of Oh, Austin !” cried my mother Locke, of Herder-of all the grave tenderly, and throwing her arms round philosophers who bend over nature my father's neck. with brows weighty with thought "Come, sir, you are conquered," one may well pause, and—”

said I. “ Pooh!" interrupted Uncle Jack; " And what is to become of you, 4 science is not a club, it is an ocean. Sisty? " asked my father. “ Do you go with us, and unsettle your mind " I cannot suffer it,” cried my for the university ?"

father. “ You are making a good " My uncle bas invited me to his income. You are doing well where castle ; and in the meanwhile I will you are ; and as to seeing the stay here, fag hard, and take care of booksellers—why, when the work is the duck."

ready, you can come to town for a " All alone ?” said my mother. week, and settle that affair."

66 No. All alone! Why Uncle " Poor dear Austin," said Uncle Jack will come here as often as ever, Jack, with an air of superiority and I hope."

compassion. " A week! Sir, the Uncle Jack shook his head.

advent of a book that is to succeed “No, my boy-I must go to town requires the preparation of months. with your father. You don't under- Pshaw! I am no genius, but I am a stand these things. I shall see the practical man. I know what's what. booksellers for him. I know how these Leave me alone." gentlemen are to be dealt with. I But my father continued obstinate, shall prepare the literary circles for and Uncle Jack at last ceased to urge the appearance of the book. In short, the matter. The journey to fame and it is a sacrifice of interest I know. My London was now settled; but my Journal will suffer. But friendship father would not hear of my staying and my country's good before all behind. things !"

No; Pisistratus must needs go " Dear Jack !" said my mother af- also to town and see the world ; the fectionately

duck would take care of itself.

CHAPTER XII.

We had taken the precaution to in the van ; and the footman, who was send, the day before, to secure our to follow when lodgings had been due complement of places-four in all found, had gone to a rising eminence (including one for Mrs Primmins)-- to watch the dawning of the expected in, or upon, the fast family coach called planet, and apprise us of its approach the Sun, which had lately been set up by the concerted signal of a handkerfor the special convenience of the chief fixed to a stick. neighbourhood.

The quaint old house looked at us This luminary, rising in a town mournfully from all its deserted winabout seven miles distant from us, dows. The litter before its threshold, described at first a very erratic orbit and in its open hall; wisps of straw amidst the contiguous villages before or hay that had been used for packit finally struck into the high-road of ing; baskets and boxes that had been enlightenment, and thence performed examined and rejected; others, corded its journey, 'in the full eyes of man, at and piled, reserved to follow with the the majestic pace of six miles and a footman: and the two heated and half an hour. My father, with his hurried serving-women left behind pockets full of books, and a quarto standing half-way between house and of " Gebelin on the Primitive World” garden-gate, whispering to each other, for light reading under his arm ; my and looking as if they had not slept mother, with a little basket, contain- for weeks-gave to a scene, usually so ing sandwiches and biscuits of her trim and orderly, an aspect of pathetic own baking ; Mrs Primmins, with a abandonment and desolation. The new umbrella, purchased for the occa- genius of the place seemed to reproach sion, and a bird-cage containing a us. I felt the omens were against us, canary, endeared to her not more by and turned my earnest gaze from the song than age, and a severe pip through haunts behind with a sigh, as the which she had successfully nursed it coach now drew up in all its grandeur. and I myself, waited at the gates to An important personage, who, despite welcome the celestial visitor. The the heat of the day, was enveloped gardener, with a wheel-barrow full of in a vast superfluity of belcher, in the boxes and portmanteaus, stood a little midst of which galloped a gilt fox, and

[graphic]

who rejoiced in the name of " guard," I surveyed the new-comers with the descended to inform us politely that curiosity natural to my years. only three places, two inside and one T he elder of the two might have out, were at our disposal, the rest attained the age of thirty, though having been pre-engaged a fortnight sundry deep lines, and hues formerly before our orders were received. florid and now faded, speaking of

Now, as I knew that Mrs Primmins fatigue, care, or dissipation, might was indispensable to the comforts of have made him look somewhat older my honoured parents, (the more so, than he was. There was nothing as she had once lived in London, and very prepossessing in his appearance. knew all its ways,) I suggested that He was dressed with a pretension ill she should take the outside seat, and suited to the costume appropriate to a that I should perform the journey on foot-traveller. His coat was pinched foot-a primitive mode of transport and padded ; two enormous pins, conwhich has its charms to a young man nected by a chain, decorated a very with stout limbs and gay spirits. The stiff stock of blue satin, dotted with guard's outstretched arm left my mo- yellow stars; his hands were cased ther little time to oppose this propo- in very dingy gloves which had once sition, to which my father assented been straw-coloured, and the said with a silent squeeze of the hand. hands played with a whalebone cane And, having promised to join them at surmounted by a formidable knob, a family hotel near the Strand, to which gave it the appearance of a “lifewhich Mr Squills had recommended preserver." As he took off a white napthem as peculiarly genteel and quiet, less hat, which he wiped with great and waved my last farewell to my poor care and affection with the sleeve of mother, who continued to stretch her his right arm, a profusion of stiff meek face out of the window till the curls instantly betrayed the art of coach was whirled off in a cloud like man. Like my landlord's ale, in one of the Homeric heroes, I turned that wig there was “no mistake :" within, to put up a few necessary ar- it was brought in the fashion of the ticles in a small knapsack, which I wigs we see in the popular effigies of remembered to have seen in the lum- George IV. in his youth-low over ber-room, and which had appertained his forehead and raised at the top. to my maternal grandfather; and with The wig had been oiled, and the oil that on my shoulder, and a strong had imbibed no small quantity of dust; staff in my hand, I set off towards the oil and dust had alike left their imgreat city at as brisk a pace as if I pression on the forehead and cheeks were only bound to the next village of the wig's proprietor. For the rest, Accordingly, about noon, I was both the expression of his face was sometired and hungry; and seeing by the what impudent and reckless, but not wayside one of those pretty inns yet without a certain drollery in the corpeculiar to England, but which, thanks ners of his eyes. to the railways, will soon be amongst The younger man was apparently the things before the Flood, I sate about my own age, a year or two down at a table under some clipped older perhaps — judging rather from limes, unbuckled my knapsack, and his set and sinewy frame than his boyordered my simple fare, with the ish countenance. And this last, boydignity of one who, for the first ish as it was, could not fail to demand time in his life, bespeaks his own the attention even of the most careless dinner, and pays for it out of his own observer. It had not only the darkpocket.

ness but the character of the gipsy While engaged on a rasher of bacon face, with large brilliant eyes, raven and a tankard of what the landlord hair, long and wavy, but not curling ; called “No mistake," two pedestrians, the features were aquiline but delipassing the same road which I had cate, and when he spoke he showed traversed, paused, cast a simultaneous teeth dazzling as pearls. It was imlook at my occupation, and, induced possible not to admire the singular no doubt by its allurements, seated beauty of the countenance; and yet, themselves under the same lime-trees, it had that expression at once stealthy though at the farther end of the table. and fierce, which war with society

has stamped upon the lineaments of recommends-swan of Avon, sir! the race of which it reminded me. No? Well then, I charge you with But, withal, there was somewhat of this cup of sack.' Are you going far, if the air of a gentleman in this young I may take the liberty to ask ?" wayfarer. His dress consisted of a “To London, when I can get there!" black velveteen shooting-jacket, or " Oh !" said the traveller rather short frock, with a broad while his young companion lifted his leathern strap at the waist, loose eyes; and I was again struck with white trousers, and a foraging cap, their remarkable penetration and which he threw carelessly on the table brilliancy. as he wiped his brow. Turning round "London is the best place in the impatiently and with some haughti- world for a lad of spirit. See life ness from his companion, he surveyed there ; glass of fashion and mould me with a quick observant flash of his of form.' Fond of the play, sir?" piercing eyes, and then stretched him- "I never saw one!" self at length on the bench, and ap- "Possible !” cried the gentleman, peared either to doze or muse, till, in dropping the handle of his knife, and obedience to his companion's orders, bringing up the point horizontally: the board was spread with all the cold "then, young man," he added solemnmeats the larder could supply.

ly, you have, but I won't say what "Beef !” said his companion, screw. you have to see. I won't say—no, not ing a pinchbeck glass into his right if you could cover this table with eye. "Beef ; - mottled, cowey - golden guineas, and exclaim with the humph. Lamb ;-oldish-rawish- generous ardour so engaging in youth, muttony, humph. Pie ; — stalish, Mr Peacock, these are yours, if you veal?- no, pork. Ah ! what will will only say what I have to see !"" you have?"

I laughed outright-may I be for“Help yourself," replied the young given for the boast, but I had the reman peevishly, as he sat up, looked putation at school of a pleasant laugh. disdainfully at the viands, and after a The young man's face grew dark at long pause, tasted first one, then the the sound : he pushed back his plate other, with many shrugs of the shoul- and sighed. ders and muttered exclamations of dis- "Why," continued his friend," my content. Suddenly he looked up and companion here, who I suppose is called for brandy; and to my surprise, about your own age, he could tell you and I fear admiration, he drank nearly what a play is ! he could tell you what half a tumblerful of that poison un- life is. He has viewed the manners diluted, with a composure that spoke of the town: perused the traders, of habitual use.

as the swan poetically remarks. “Wrong!" said his companion, Have you not, my lad, eh?” drawing the bottle to himself, and Thus directly appealed to, the boy mixing the alcohol in careful propor- looked up with a smile of scorn on tions with water. “Wrong! coats his lips. "Yes, I know what life is, of stomach soon wear out, with that and I say that life, like poverty, has kind of clothes' brush. Better stick strange bedfellows. Ask me what to the yeasty foam' as sweet Will life is now, and I say a melodrama; says. That young gentleman sets you ask me what it is twenty years hence, a good example," and therewith the and I shall sayspeaker nodded at me familiarly. In- “A farce ?" put in his comrade. experienced as I was, I surmised at "No, a tragedy - or comedy as once that it was his intention to make Congreve wrote it." acquaintance with the neighbour thus " And how is that?" I asked, intersaluted. I was not deceived. "Any ested and somewhat surprised at the thing to tempt you, sir?" asked this tone of my contemporary. social personage after a short pause, “Where the play ends in the triumph and describing a semicircle with the of the wittiest rogue. My friend here point of his knife.

has no chance !" "I thank you, sir, but I have dined." "Praise from Sir Hubert Stanley,'

" What then? Break out into a hem-yes-Hal Peacock may be witty, second course of mischief, as the swan but he is no rogue."

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »