Part 3 out of 6
supporting figures, they are, at least, pillowy, capacious, and
round--here it is quite otherwise; and Sir Joshua might well call it a
little Apollo, with that immense cloud above him, which is in fact too
much a portrait of a cloud, too peculiar, too edgy, for any subject
where the sky is not to be all in all. We do not say it is not fine and
grand, and what you please; but it is not subordinate, it casts its
lightning as from its own natural power, there was no need of a god's
"Nec Deus intersit nisi dignus vindice nodus;"
and the action does not take place in a "prepared" landscape. There is
nothing to take us back to a fabled age. Reynolds is not unjust to
Wilson's merits, for he calls it, notwithstanding this defect, "a very
admirable picture;" which picture will, we suspect, in a few years lose
its principal charm, if it has not lost it; the colour is sadly
changing, there is now little aerial in the sky. It is said of Wilson,
that he ridiculed the experiments of Sir Joshua, and spoke of using
nothing but "honest linseed"--to which, however, he added varnishes and
wax, as will easily be seen in those pictures of his which have so
cracked--and now lose their colour. "Honest" linseed appears to have
played him a sad trick, or he to have played a trick upon honest
linseed. Sir Joshua, however, to his just criticism, adds the best
precept, example--and instances two pictures, historical landscape,
"Jacob's Dream"--which was exhibited a year or two ago in the
Institution, Pall-Mall--by Salvator Rosa, and the picture by Sebastian
Bourdon, "The Return of the Ark from Captivity," now in the National
Gallery. The latter picture, as a composition, is not perhaps good--it
is cut up into too many parts, and those parts are not sufficiently
poetical; in its hue, it may be appropriate. The other, "Jacob's Dream"
is one of the finest by the master--there is an extraordinary boldness
in the clouds, an uncommon grandeur, strongly marked, sentient of
angelic visitants. This picture has been recently wretchedly engraved in
mezzotinto; all that is in the picture firm and hard, is in the print
soft, fuzzy, and disagreeable. Sir Joshua treats very tenderly the
mistaken manner of Gainsborough in his late pictures, the "odd scratches
and marks." "This chaos, this uncouth and shapeless appearance, by a
kind of magic at a certain distance, assumes form, and all their parts
seem to drop into their places, so that we can hardly refuse
acknowledging the full effect of diligence, under the appearance of
chance and heavy negligence." The _heavy_ negligence happily describes
the fault of the manner. It is horribly manifest in that magnitude of
vulgarity for landscape, the "Market Cart" in our National Gallery, and
purchased at we know not what vast sum, and presented by the governors
of the institution to the nation. We have a very high opinion of the
genius of Gainsborough; but we do not see it in his landscapes, with
very few exceptions. His portraits have an air of truth never exceeded,
and that set off with great power and artistical skill; and his rustic
children are admirable. He stands alone, and never has had a successful
imitator. The mock sentimentality, the affected refinement, which has
been added to his simple style by other artists, is disgusting in the
extreme. Gainsborough certainly studied colour with great success. He is
both praised and blamed for a lightness of manner and effect possessed
"to an unexampled degree of excellence;" but "the sacrifice which he
made, to this ornament of our art, was too great." We confess we do not
understand Sir Joshua, nor can we reconcile "the _heavy_ negligence"
with this "lightness of manner." Mr Burnet, in one of his notes,
compares Wilson with Gainsborough; he appears to give the preference to
Wilson--why does he not compare Gainsborough with Sir Joshua himself?
the rivalry should have been in portrait. There is a long note upon Sir
Joshua's remarks upon Wilson's "Niobe." We are not surprised at
Cunningham's "Castigation." He did not like Sir Joshua, and could not
understand nor value his character. This is evident in his Life of the
President. Cunningham must have had but an ill-educated classic eye when
he asserted so grandiloquently,--"He rose at once from the tame
insipidity of common scenery into natural grandeur and magnificence; his
streams seem all abodes for nymphs, his hills are fit haunts for the
muses, and his temples worthy of gods,"--a passage, we think, most
worthy the monosyllable commonly used upon such occasions by the manly
and simple-minded Mr Burchell. That Sir Joshua occasionally transgressed
in his wanderings into mythology, it would be difficult to deny; nor was
it his only transgression from his legitimate ground, as may be seen in
his "Holy Family" in the National Gallery. But we doubt if the critique
upon his "Mrs Siddons" is quite fair. The chair and the footstool may
not be on the cloud, a tragic and mysterious vapour reconciling the
bodily presence of the muse with the demon and fatal ministers of the
drama that attend her. Though Sir Joshua's words are here brought
against him, it is without attention to their application in his
critique, which condemned their form and character as not historical nor
voluminous--faults that do not attach to the clouds, if clouds they must
be in the picture (the finest of Sir Joshua's works) of Mrs Siddons as
the Tragic Muse. It is not our business to enter upon the supposed fact,
that Sir Joshua was jealous of Wilson; the one was a polished, the other
perhaps a somewhat coarse man. We have only to see if the criticism be
just. In this Discourse Sir Joshua has the candour to admit, that there
were at one time jealousies between him and Gainsborough; there may have
been between him and Wilson, but, at all events, we cannot take a just
criticism as a proof of it, or we must convict him, and all others too,
of being jealous of artists and writers whose works they in any manner
* * * * *
The FIFTEENTH DISCOURSE.--We come now to Sir Joshua's last Discourse, in
which the President takes leave of the Academy, reviews his
"Discourses," and concludes with recommending the study of Michael
Having gone along with the President of the Academy in the pursuit of
the principles of the art in these Discourses, and felt a portion of the
enthusiasm which he felt, and knew so well how to impart to others, we
come to this last Discourse, with a melancholy knowledge that it was the
last; and reflect with pain upon that cloud which so soon interposed
between Reynolds and at least the practical enjoyment of his art. He
takes leave of the Academy affectionately, and, like a truth-loving man
to the last, acknowledges the little contentions (in so softening a
manner does he speak of the "rough hostility of Barry," and "oppositions
of Gainsborough") which "ought certainly," says he, "to be lost among
ourselves in mutual esteem for talents and acquirements: every
controversy ought to be--I am persuaded will be--sunk in our zeal for
the perfection of our common art." "My age, and my infirmities still
more than my age, make it probable that this will be the last time I
shall have the honour of addressing you from this place." This last
visit seemed to be threatened with a tragical end;--the circumstance
showed the calm mind of the President; it was characteristic of the man
who would die with dignity, and gracefully. A large assembly were
present, of rank and importance, besides the students. The pressure was
great--a beam in the floor gave way with a loud crash; a general rush
was made to the door, all indiscriminately falling one over the other,
except the President, who kept his seat "silent and unmoved." The floor
only sunk a little, was soon supported, and Sir Joshua recommenced his
"Justum et tenacem propositi
Impavidum ferient ruinae."
He compliments the Academy upon the ability of the professors, speaks
with diffidence of his power as a writer, (the world has in this respect
done him justice;) but that he had come not unprepared upon the subject
of art, having reflected much upon his own and the opinions of others.
He found in the art many precepts and rules, not reconcilable with each
other. "To clear away those difficulties and reconcile those contrary
opinions, it became necessary to distinguish the greater truth, as it
may be called, from the lesser truth; the larger and more liberal idea
of nature from the more narrow and confined: that which addresses itself
to the imagination, from that which is solely addressed to the eye. In
consequence of this discrimination, the different branches of our art to
which those different truths were referred, were perceived to make so
wide a separation, and put on so new an appearance, that they seemed
scarcely to have proceeded from the same general stock. The different
rules and regulations which presided over each department of art,
followed of course; every mode of excellence, from the grand style of
the Roman and Florentine schools down to the lowest rank of still life,
had its due weight and value--fitted to some class or other; and nothing
was thrown away. By this disposition of our art into classes, that
perplexity and confusion, which I apprehend every artist has at some
time experienced from the variety of styles, and the variety of
excellence with which he is surrounded, is, I should hope, in some
measure removed, and the student better enabled to judge for himself
what peculiarly belongs to his own particular pursuit." Besides the
practice of art, the student must think, and speculate, and consider
"upon what ground the fabric of our art is built." An artist suffers
throughout his whole life, from uncertain, confused, and erroneous
opinions. We are persuaded there would be fewer fatal errors were these
Discourses more in the hands of our present artists--"Nocturna versate
manu, versate diurna."--An example is given of the mischief of erroneous
opinions. "I was acquainted at Rome, in the early part of my life, with
a student of the French Academy, who appeared to me to possess all the
qualities requisite to make a great artist, if he had suffered his taste
and feelings, and I may add even his prejudices, to have fair play. He
saw and felt the excellences of the great works of art with which we
were surrounded, but lamented that there was not to be found that nature
which is so admirable in the inferior schools,--and he supposed with
Felebien, Du Piles, and other theorists, that such an union of different
excellences would be the perfection of art. He was not aware that the
narrow idea of nature, of which he lamented the absence in the works of
those great artists, would have destroyed the grandeur of the general
ideas which he admired, and which was indeed the cause of his
admiration. My opinions being then confused and unsettled, I was in
danger of being borne down by this plausible reasoning, though I
remember I then had a dawning suspicion that it was not sound doctrine;
and at the same time I was unwilling obstinately to refuse assent to
what I was unable to confute." False and low views of art are now so
commonly taken both in and out of the profession, that we have not
hesitated to quote the above passage; the danger Sir Joshua confesses he
was in, is common, and demands the warning. To make it more direct we
should add, "Read his Discourses." Again, without intending to fetter
the student's mind to a particular method of study, he urges the
necessity and wisdom of previously obtaining the appropriated
instruments of art, in a first correct design, and a plain manly
colouring, before any thing more is attempted. He does not think it,
however, of very great importance whether or not the student aim first
at grace and grandeur before he has learned correctness, and adduces the
example of Parmegiano, whose first public work was done when a boy, the
"St Eustachius" in the Church of St Petronius, in Bologna--one of his
last is the "Moses breaking the Tables," in Parma. The former has
grandeur and incorrectness, but "discovers the dawnings of future
greatness." In mature age he had corrected his defects, and the drawing
of his Moses was equally admirable with the grandeur of the
conception--an excellent plate is given of this figure by Mr Burnet. The
fact is, the impulse of the mind is not to be too much restrained--it is
better to give it its due and first play, than check it until it has
acquired correctness--good sense first or last, and a love of the art,
will generally insure correctness in the end; the impulses often
checked, come with weakened power, and ultimately refuse to come at all;
and each time that they depart unsatisfied, unemployed, take away with
them as they retire a portion of the fire of genius. Parmegiano formed
himself upon Michael Angelo: Michael Angelo brought the art to a
"sudden maturity," as Homer and Shakspeare did theirs. "Subordinate
parts of our art, and perhaps of other arts, expand themselves by a slow
and progressive growth; but those which depend on a native vigour of
imagination, generally burst forth at once in fulness of beauty."
Correctness of drawing and imagination, the one of mechanical genius the
other of poetic, undoubtedly work together for perfection--"a confidence
in the mechanic produces a boldness in the poetic." He expresses his
surprise that the race of painters, before Michael Angelo, never thought
of transferring to painting the grandeur they admired in ancient
sculpture. "Raffaelle himself seemed to be going on very contentedly in
the dry manner of Pietro Perugino; and if Michael Angelo had never
appeared, the art might still have continued in the same style." "On
this foundation the Caracci built the truly great academical Bolognian
school; of which the first stone was laid by Pellegrino Tibaldi." The
Caracci called him "nostro Michael Angelo riformato." His figure of
Polyphemus, which had been attributed to Michael Angelo in Bishop's
"Ancient Statues," is given in a plate by Mr Burnet. The Caracci he
considers sufficiently succeeded in the mechanical, not in "the divine
part which addresses itself to the imagination," as did Tibaldi and
Michael Angelo. They formed, however, a school that was "most
respectable," and "calculated to please a greater number." The Venetian
school advanced "the dignity of their style, by adding to their
fascinating powers of colouring something of the strength of Michael
Angelo." Here Sir Joshua seems to contradict his former assertion; but
as he is here abridging, as it were, his whole Discourses, he cannot
avoid his own observations. It was a point, however, upon which he was
still doubtful; for he immediately adds--"At the same time it may still
be a doubt, how far their ornamental elegance would be an advantageous
addition to his grandeur. But if there is any manner of painting, which
may be said to unite kindly with his (Michael Angelo's) style, it is
that of Titian. His handling, the manner in which his colours are left
on the canvass, appears to proceed (as far as that goes) from congenial
mind, equally disdainful of vulgar criticism. He is reminded of a remark
of Johnson's, that Pope's Homer, had it not been clothed with graces and
elegances not in Homer, would have had fewer readers, thus justifying by
example and authority of Johnson, the graces of the Venetian school.
Some Flemish painters at "the great era of our art" took to their
country "as much of this grandeur as they could carry." It did not
thrive, but "perhaps they contributed to prepare the way for that free,
unconstrained, and liberal outline, which was afterwards introduced by
Rubens, through the medium of the Venetian painters." The grandeur of
style first discovered by Michael Angelo passed through Europe, and
totally "changed the whole character and style of design. His works
excite the same sensation as the Epic of Homer. The Sybils, the statue
of Moses, "come nearer to a comparison with his Jupiter, his demigods,
and heroes; those Sybils and prophets being a kind of intermediate
beings between men and angels. Though instances may be produced in the
works of other painters, which may justly stand in competition with
those I have mentioned, such as the 'Isaiah,' and 'Vision of Ezekiel,'
by Raffaelle, the 'St Mark' of Frate Bartolomeo, and many others; yet
these, it must be allowed, are inventions so much in Michael Angelo's
manner of thinking, that they may be truly considered as so many rays
which discover manifestly the centre from whence they emanated." The
style of Michael Angelo is so highly artificial that the mind must be
cultivated to receive it; having once received it, the mind is improved
by it, and cannot go very far back. Hence the hold this great style has
had upon all who are most learned in art, and upon nearly all painters
in the best time of art. As art multiplies, false tastes will arise, the
early painters had not so much to unlearn as modern artists. Where
Michael Angelo is not felt, there is a lost taste to recover. Sir Joshua
recommends young artists to follow Michael Angelo as he did the ancient
sculptors. "He began, when a child, a copy of a mutilated Satyr's head,
and finished in his model what was wanting in the original." So would he
recommend the student to take his figures from Michael Angelo, and to
change, and alter, and add other figures till he has caught the manner.
Change the purpose, and retain the attitude, as did Titian. By habit of
seeing with this eye of grandeur, he will select from nature all that
corresponds with this taste. Sir Joshua is aware that he is laying
himself open to sarcasm by his advice, but asserts the courage becoming
a teacher addressing students: "they both must equally dare, and bid
defiance to narrow criticism and vulgar opinion." It is the conceited
who think that art is nothing but inspiration; and such appropriate it
in their own estimation; but it is to be learned,--if so, the right
direction to it is of vast importance; and once in the right direction,
labour and study will accomplish the better aspirations of the artist.
Michael Angelo said of Raffaelle, that he possessed not his art by
nature but by long study. "Che Raffaelle non ebbe quest' arte da natura,
ma per longo studio." Raffaelle and Michael Angelo were rivals, but ever
spoke of each other with the respect and veneration they felt, and the
true meaning of the passage was to the praise of Raffaelle; those were
not the days when men were ashamed of being laborious,--and Raffaelle
himself "thanked God that he was born in the same age with that
painter."--"I feel a self-congratulation," adds Sir Joshua, "in knowing
myself capable of such sensations as he intended to excite. I reflect,
not without vanity, that these Discourses bear testimony of my
admiration of that truly divine man; and I should desire that the last
words which I should pronounce in this Academy, and from this place,
might be the name of Michael Angelo." They were his last words from the
academical chair. He died about fourteen months after the delivery of
this Discourse. Mr Burnet has given five excellent plates to this
Discourse--one from Parmegiano, one from Tibaldi, one from Titian, one
from Raffaelle, and one from Michael Angelo. Mr Burnet's first note
repeats what we have again and again elsewhere urged, the advantage of
establishing at our universities, Oxford and Cambridge, Professorships
of Painting--infinite would be the advantage to art, and to the public.
We do not despair. Mr Burnet seems to fear incorrect drawing will arise
from some passages, which he supposes encourages it, in these
Discourses; and fearing it, very properly endeavours to correct the
error in a note. We had intended to conclude this paper with some few
remarks upon Sir Joshua, his style, and influence upon art, but we have
not space. Perhaps we may fulfil this part of our intention in another
number of Maga.
* * * * *
THE YOUNG GREY HEAD.
Grief hath been known to turn the young head grey--
To silver over in a single day
The bright locks of the beautiful, their prime
Scarcely o'erpast: as in the fearful time
Of Gallia's madness, that discrowned head
Serene, that on the accursed altar bled
Miscall'd of Liberty. Oh! martyr'd Queen!
What must the sufferings of that night have been--
_That one_--that sprinkled thy fair tresses o'er
With time's untimely snow! But now no more
Lovely, august, unhappy one! of thee--
I have to tell an humbler history;
A village tale, whose only charm, in sooth,
(If any) will be sad and simple truth.
"Mother," quoth Ambrose to his thrifty dame--
So oft our peasant's use his wife to name,
"Father" and "Master" to himself applied,
As life's grave duties matronize the bride--
"Mother," quoth Ambrose, as he faced the north,
With hard-set teeth, before he issued forth
To his day labour, from the cottage door--
"I'm thinking that, to-night, if not before,
There'll be wild work. Dost hear old Chewton roar?
It's brewing up down westward; and look there,
One of those sea-gulls! ay, there goes a pair;
And such a sudden thaw! If rain comes on,
As threats, the waters will be out anon.
That path by th' ford's a nasty bit of way--
Best let the young ones bide from school to-day."
"Do, mother, do!" the quick-ear'd urchins cried;
Two little lasses to the father's side
Close clinging, as they look'd from him, to spy
The answering language of the mother's eye.
_There_ was denial, and she shook her head:
"Nay, nay--no harm will come to them," she said,
"The mistress lets them off these short dark days
An hour the earlier; and our Liz, she says,
May quite be trusted--and I know 'tis true--
To take care of herself and Jenny too.
And so she ought--she's seven come first of May--
Two years the oldest: and they give away
The Christmas bounty at the school to-day."
The mother's will was law, (alas for her
That hapless day, poor soul!) _She_ could not err,
Thought Ambrose; and his little fair-hair'd Jane
(Her namesake) to his heart he hugg'd again,
When each had had her turn; she clinging so
As if that day she could not let him go.
But Labour's sons must snatch a hasty bliss
In nature's tend'rest mood. One last fond kiss,
"God bless my little maids!" the father said,
And cheerly went his way to win their bread.
Then might be seen, the playmate parent gone,
What looks demure the sister pair put on--
Not of the mother as afraid, or shy,
Or questioning the love that could deny;
But simply, as their simple training taught,
In quiet, plain straightforwardness of thought,
(Submissively resign'd the hope of play,)
Towards the serious business of the day.
To me there's something touching, I confess,
In the grave look of early thoughtfulness,
Seen often in some little childish face
Among the poor. Not that wherein we trace
(Shame to our land, our rulers, and our race!)
The unnatural sufferings of the factory child,
But a staid quietness, reflective, mild,
Betokening, in the depths of those young eyes,
Sense of life's cares, without its miseries.
So to the mother's charge, with thoughtful brow,
The docile Lizzy stood attentive now;
Proud of her years and of imputed sense,
And prudence justifying confidence--
And little Jenny, more _demurely_ still,
Beside her waited the maternal will.
So standing hand in hand, a lovelier twain
Gainsb'rough ne'er painted: no--nor he of Spain,
Glorious Murillo!--and by contrast shown
More beautiful. The younger little one,
With large blue eyes, and silken ringlets fair,
By nut-brown Lizzy, with smooth parted hair,
Sable and glossy as the raven's wing,
And lustrous eyes as dark.
"Now, mind and bring
Jenny safe home," the mother said--"don't stay
To pull a bough or berry by the way:
And when you come to cross the ford, hold fast
Your little sister's hand, till you're quite past--
That plank's so crazy, and so slippery
(If not o'erflowed) the stepping-stones will be.
But you're good children--steady as old folk,
I'd trust ye any where." Then Lizzy's cloak,
A good grey duffle, lovingly she tied,
And amply little Jenny's lack supplied
With her own warmest shawl. "Be sure," said she,
"To wrap it round and knot it carefully
(Like this) when you come home; just leaving free
One hand to hold by. Now, make haste away--
Good will to school, and then good right to play."
Was there no sinking at the mother's heart,
When all equipt, they turn'd them to depart?
When down the lane, she watch'd them as they went
Till out of sight, was no forefeeling sent
Of coming ill? In truth I cannot tell:
Such warnings _have been sent_, we know full well,
And must believe--believing that they are--
In mercy then--to rouse--restrain--prepare.
And, now I mind me, something of the kind
Did surely haunt that day the mother's mind,
Making it irksome to bide all alone
By her own quiet hearth. Tho' never known
For idle gossipry was Jenny Gray,
Yet so it was, that morn she could not stay
At home with her own thoughts, but took her way
To her next neighbour's, half a loaf to borrow--
Yet might her store have lasted out the morrow.
--And with the loan obtain'd, she linger'd still--
Said she--"My master, if he'd had his will,
Would have kept back our little ones from school
This dreadful morning; and I'm such a fool,
Since they've been gone, I've wish'd them back. But then
It won't do in such things to humour men--
Our Ambrose specially. If let alone
He'd spoil those wenches. But it's coming on,
That storm he said was brewing, sure enough--
Well! what of that?--To think what idle stuff
Will come into one's head! and here with you
I stop, as if I'd nothing else to do--
And they'll come home drown'd rats. I must be gone
To get dry things, and set the kettle on."
His day's work done, three mortal miles and more
Lay between Ambrose and his cottage door.
A weary way, God wot! for weary wight!
But yet far off, the curling smoke in sight
From his own chimney, and his heart felt light.
How pleasantly the humble homestead stood,
Down the green lane by sheltering Shirley Wood!
How sweet the wafting of the evening breeze
In spring-time, from his two old cherry-trees
Sheeted with blossom! And in hot July
From the brown moor-track, shadowless and dry,
How grateful the cool covert to regain
Of his own _avenue_--that shady lane,
With the white cottage, in a slanting glow
Of sunset glory, gleaming bright below,
And jasmine porch, his rustic portico!
With what a thankful gladness in his face,
(Silent heart-homage--plant of special grace!)
At the lane's entrance, slackening oft his pace,
Would Ambrose send a loving look before;
Conceiting the caged blackbird at the door,
The very blackbird, strain'd its little throat
In welcome, with a more rejoicing note;
And honest Tinker! dog of doubtful breed,
All bristle, back, and tail, but "good at need,"
Pleasant his greeting to the accustomed ear;
But of all welcomes pleasantest, most dear,
The ringing voices, like sweet silver bells,
Of his two little ones. How fondly swells
The father's heart, as, dancing up the lane,
Each clasps a hand in her small hand again;
And each must tell her tale, and "say her say,"
Impeding as she leads, with sweet delay,
(Childhood's blest thoughtlessness!) his onward way.
And when the winter day closed in so fast,
Scarce for his task would dreary daylight last;
And in all weathers--driving sleet and snow--
Home by that bare, bleak moor-track must he go,
Darkling and lonely. Oh! the blessed sight
(His pole-star) of that little twinkling light
From one small window, thro' the leafless trees,
Glimmering so fitfully; no eye but his
Had spied it so far off. And sure was he,
Entering the lane, a steadier beam to see,
Ruddy and broad as peat-fed hearth could pour,
Streaming to meet him from the open door.
Then, tho' the blackbird's welcome was unheard--
Silenced by winter--note of summer bird
Still hail'd him from no mortal fowl alive,
But from the cuckoo-clock just striking five--
And Tinker's ear and Tinker's nose were keen--
Off started he, and then a form was seen
Dark'ning the doorway; and a smaller sprite,
And then another, peer'd into the night,
Ready to follow free on Tinker's track,
But for the mother's hand that held her back;
And yet a moment--a few steps--and there,
Pull'd o'er the threshold by that eager pair,
He sits by his own hearth, in his own chair;
Tinker takes post beside, with eyes that say,
"Master! we've done our business for the day."
The kettle sings, the cat in chorus purs,
The busy housewife with her tea-things stirs;
The door's made fast, the old stuff curtain drawn;
How the hail clatters! Let it clatter on.
How the wind raves and rattles! What cares he?
Safe housed, and warm beneath his own roof-tree,
With a wee lassie prattling on each knee.
Such was the hour--hour sacred and apart--
Warm'd in expectancy the poor man's heart.
Summer and winter, as his toil he plied,
To him and his the literal doom applied,
Pronounced on Adam. But the bread was sweet
So earn'd, for such dear mouths. The weary feet
Hope-shod, stept lightly on the homeward way;
So specially it fared with Ambrose Gray
That time I tell of. He had work'd all day
At a great clearing: vig'rous stroke on stroke
Striking, till, when he stopt, his back seem'd broke,
And the strong arm dropt nerveless. What of that?
There was a treasure hidden in his hat--
A plaything for the young ones. He had found
A dormouse nest; the living ball coil'd round
For its long winter sleep; and all his thought
As he trudged stoutly homeward, was of nought
But the glad wonderment in Jenny's eyes,
And graver Lizzy's quieter surprize,
When he should yield, by guess, and kiss, and prayer,
Hard won, the frozen captive to their care.
'Twas a wild evening--wild and rough. "I knew,"
Thought Ambrose, "those unlucky gulls spoke true--
And Gaffer Chewton never growls for nought--
I should be mortal 'mazed now, if I thought
My little maids were not safe housed before
That blinding hail-storm--ay, this hour and more--
Unless, by that old crazy bit of board,
They've not passed dry-foot over Shallow-ford,
That I'll be bound for--swollen as it must be ...
Well! if my mistress had been ruled by me ..."
But, checking the half-thought as heresy,
He look'd out for the Home-Star. There it shone,
And with a gladden'd heart he hasten'd on.
He's in the lane again--and there below,
Streams from the open doorway that red glow,
Which warms him but to look at. For his prize
Cautious he feels--all safe and snug it lies--
"Down Tinker!--down, old boy!--not quite so free--
The thing thou sniffest is no game for thee.--
But what's the meaning?--no look-out to-night!
No living soul a-stir!--Pray God, all's right!
Who's flittering round the peat-stack in such weather?
Mother!" you might have fell'd him with a feather
When the short answer to his loud--"Hillo!"
And hurried question--"Are they come?"--was--"No."
To throw his tools down--hastily unhook
The old crack'd lantern from its dusty nook,
And while he lit it, speak a cheering word,
That almost choked him, and was scarcely heard,
Was but a moment's act, and he was gone
To where a fearful foresight led him on.
Passing a neighbour's cottage in his way--
Mark Fenton's--him he took with short delay
To bear him company--for who could say
What need might be? They struck into the track
The children should have taken coming back
From school that day; and many a call and shout
Into the pitchy darkness they sent out,
And, by the lantern light, peer'd all about,
In every road-side thicket, hole, and nook,
Till suddenly--as nearing now the brook--
Something brush'd past them. That was Tinker's bark--
Unheeded, he had follow'd in the dark,
Close at his master's heels, but, swift as light,
Darted before them now. "Be sure he's right--
He's on the track," cried Ambrose. "Hold the light
Low down--he's making for the water. Hark!
I know that whine--the old dog's found them, Mark."
So speaking, breathlessly he hurried on
Toward the old crazy foot-bridge. It was gone!
And all his dull contracted light could show
Was the black void and dark swollen stream below.
"Yet there's life somewhere--more than Tinker's whine--
That's sure," said Mark. "So, let the lantern shine
Down yonder. There's the dog--and, hark!"
And a low sob came faintly on the ear,
Mock'd by the sobbing gust. Down, quick as thought,
Into the stream leapt Ambrose, where he caught
Fast hold of something--a dark huddled heap--
Half in the water, where 'twas scarce knee-deep,
For a tall man; and half above it, propp'd
By some old ragged side-piles, that had stopt
Endways the broken plank, when it gave way
With the two little ones that luckless day!
"My babes!--my lambkins!" was the father's cry.
_One little voice_ made answer--"Here am I!"
'Twas Lizzy's. There she crouch'd, with face as white,
More ghastly, by the flickering lantern-light,
Than sheeted corpse. The pale blue lips, drawn tight,
Wide parted, showing all the pearly teeth,
And eyes on some dark object underneath,
Wash'd by the turbid water, fix'd like stone--
One arm and hand stretch'd out, and rigid grown,
Grasping, as in the death-gripe--Jenny's frock.
There she lay drown'd. Could he sustain that shock,
The doating father? Where's the unriven rock
Can bide such blasting in its flintiest part
As that soft sentient thing--the human heart?
They lifted her from out her wat'ry bed--
Its covering gone, the lonely little head
Hung like a broken snowdrop all aside--
And one small hand. The mother's shawl was tied,
Leaving _that_ free, about the child's small form,
As was her last injunction--"_fast_ and warm"--
Too well obeyed--too fast! A fatal hold
Affording to the scrag by a thick fold
That caught and pinn'd her in the river's bed,
While through the reckless water overhead
Her life-breath bubbled up.
"She might have lived
Struggling like Lizzy," was the thought that rived
The wretched mother's heart when she knew all.
"But for my foolishness about that shawl--
And Master would have kept them back the day;
But I was wilful--driving them away
In such wild weather!"
Thus the tortured heart,
Unnaturally against itself takes part,
Driving the sharp edge deeper of a woe
Too deep already. They had raised her now,
And parting the wet ringlets from her brow,
To that, and the cold cheek, and lips as cold,
The father glued his warm ones, ere they roll'd
Once more the fatal shawl--her winding-sheet--
About the precious clay. One heart still beat,
Warm'd by _his heart's_ blood. To his _only child_
He turn'd him, but her piteous moaning mild
Pierced him afresh--and now she knew him not.--
"Mother!"--she murmur'd--"who says I forgot?
Mother! indeed, indeed, I kept fast hold,
And tied the shawl quite close--she can't be cold--
But she won't move--we slipt--I don't know how--
But I held on--and I'm so weary now--
And it's so dark and cold! oh dear! oh dear!--
And she won't move--if daddy was but here!"
* * * * *
Poor lamb--she wander'd in her mind, 'twas clear--
But soon the piteous murmur died away,
And quiet in her father's arms she lay--
They their dead burthen had resign'd, to take
The living so near lost. For her dear sake,
And one at home, he arm'd himself to bear
His misery like a man--with tender care,
Doffing his coat her shivering form to fold--
(His neighbour bearing _that_ which felt no cold,)
He clasp'd her close--and so, with little said,
Homeward they bore the living and the dead.
From Ambrose Gray's poor cottage, all that night,
Shone fitfully a little shifting light,
Above--below:--for all were watchers there,
Save one sound sleeper.--_Her_, parental care,
Parental watchfulness, avail'd not now.
But in the young survivor's throbbing brow,
And wandering eyes, delirious fever burn'd;
And all night long from side to side she turn'd,
Piteously plaining like a wounded dove,
With now and then the murmur--"She won't move"--
And lo! when morning, as in mockery, bright
Shone on that pillow, passing strange the sight--
That young head's raven hair was streak'd with white!
No idle fiction this. Such things have been
We know. And _now I tell what I have seen_.
Life struggled long with death in that small frame,
But it was strong, and conquer'd. All became
As it had been with the poor family--
All--saving that which never more might be--
There was an empty place--they were but three.
 A fresh-water spring rushing into the sea called Chewton
* * * * *
IMAGINARY CONVERSATION. BY WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR.
OLIVER CROMWELL AND SIR OLIVER CROMWELL.
_Sir Oliver_.--How many saints and Sions dost carry under thy cloak,
lad? Ay, what dost groan at? What art about to be delivered of? Troth,
it must be a vast and oddly-shapen piece of roguery which findeth no
issue at such capacious quarters. I never thought to see thy face again.
Prythee what, in God's name, hath brought thee to Ramsey, fair Master
_Oliver_.--In His name verily I come, and upon His errand; and the love
and duty I bear unto my godfather and uncle have added wings, in a sort,
unto my zeal.
_Sir Oliver_.--Take 'em off thy zeal and dust thy conscience with 'em. I
have heard an account of a saint, one Phil Neri, who in the midst of his
devotions was lifted up several yards from the ground. Now I do suspect,
Nol, thou wilt finish by being a saint of his order; and nobody will
promise or wish thee the luck to come down on thy feet again, as he did.
So! because a rabble of fanatics at Huntingdon have equipped thee as
their representative in Parliament, thou art free of all men's houses,
forsooth! I would have thee to understand, sirrah, that thou art fitter
for the house they have chaired thee unto than for mine. Yet I do not
question but thou wilt be as troublesome and unruly there as here. Did I
not turn thee out of Hinchinbrook when thou wert scarcely half the rogue
thou art latterly grown up to? And yet wert thou immeasurably too big a
one for it to hold.
_Oliver_.--It repenteth me, O mine uncle! that in my boyhood and youth
the Lord had not touched me.
_Sir Oliver_.--Touch thee! thou wast too dirty a dog by half.
_Oliver_.--Yea, sorely doth it vex and harrow me that I was then of ill
conditions, and that my name--even your godson's--stank in your
_Sir Oliver_.--Ha! polecat! it was not thy name, although bad enough,
that stank first; in my house, at least. But perhaps there are worse
maggots in stauncher mummeries.
_Oliver_.--Whereas in the bowels of your charity you then vouchsafed me
forgiveness, so the more confidently may I crave it now in this my
_Sir Oliver_.--More confidently! What! hast got more confidence? Where
didst find it? I never thought the wide circle of the world had within
it another jot for thee. Well, Nol, I see no reason why thou shouldst
stand before me with thy hat off, in the courtyard and in the sun,
counting the stones of the pavement. Thou hast some knavery in thy head,
I warrant thee. Come, put on thy beaver.
_Oliver_.--Uncle Sir Oliver! I know my duty too well to stand covered
in the presence of so worshipful a kinsman, who, moreover, hath answered
at baptism for my good behaviour.
_Sir Oliver_.--God forgive me for playing the fool before Him so
presumptuously and unprofitably! Nobody shall ever take me in again to
do such an absurd and wicked thing. But thou hast some left-hand
business in the neighbourhood, no doubt, or thou wouldst never more have
come under my archway.
_Oliver_.--These are hard times for them that seek peace. We are clay in
the hand of the potter.
_Sir Oliver_.--I wish your potters sought nothing costlier, and dug in
their own grounds for it. Most of us, as thou sayest, have been upon the
wheel of these artificers; and little was left but rags when we got off.
Sanctified folks are the cleverest skinners in all Christendom, and
their Jordan tans and constringes us to the averdupoise of mummies.
_Oliver_.--The Lord hath chosen his own vessels.
_Sir Oliver_.--I wish heartily He would pack them off, and send them
anywhere on ass-back or cart, (cart preferably,) to rid our country of
'em. But now again to the point: for if we fall among the potsherds we
shall hobble on but lamely. Since thou art raised unto a high command in
the army, and hast a dragoon to hold yonder thy solid and stately piece
of horse-flesh, I cannot but take it into my fancy that thou hast some
commission of array or disarray to execute hereabout.
_Oliver_.--With a sad sinking of spirit, to the pitch well-nigh of
swounding, and with a sight of bitter tears, which will not be put back
nor staid in anywise, as you bear testimony unto me, uncle Oliver.
_Sir Oliver_.--No tears, Master Nol, I beseech thee! Thou never art more
pery than when it rains with thee. Wet days, among those of thy kidney,
portend the letting of blood. What dost whimper at?
_Oliver_.--That I, that I, of all men living, should be put upon this
_Sir Oliver_.--What work, prythee?
_Oliver_.--I am sent hither by them who (the Lord in his loving-kindness
having pity and mercy upon these poor realms) do, under his right hand,
administer unto our necessities and righteously command us, _by the
aforesaid as aforesaid_ (thus runs the commission) hither am I deputed
(woe is me!) to levy certain fines in this county, or shire, on such as
the Parliament in its wisdom doth style malignants.
_Sir Oliver_.--If there is anything left about the house, never be over
nice: dismiss thy modesty and lay hands upon it. In this county or
shire, we let go the civet-bag to save the weazon.
_Oliver_.--O mine uncle and godfather! be witness for me.
_Sir Oliver_.--Witness for thee! not I indeed. But I would rather be
witness than surety, lad, where thou art docketed.
_Oliver_.--From the most despised doth the Lord ever choose his
_Sir Oliver_.--Then, faith! thou art his first butler.
_Oliver_.--Serving Him with humility, I may peradventure be found worthy
_Sir Oliver_.--Ha! now if any devil speaks from within thee, it is thy
own: he does not sniffle: to my ears he speaks plain English. Worthy or
unworthy of advancement, thou wilt attain it. Come in; at least for an
hour's rest. Formerly thou knewest the means of setting the heaviest
heart afloat, let it be sticking in what mud-bank it might: and my
wet-dock at Ramsey is pretty near as commodious as that over-yonder at
Hinchinbrook was erewhile. Times are changed, and places too! yet the
cellar holds good.
_Oliver_.--Many and great thanks! But there are certain men on the other
side of the gate, who might take it ill if I turn away and neglect them.
_Sir Oliver_.--Let them enter also, or eat their victuals where they
_Oliver_.--They have proud stomachs: they are recusants.
_Sir Oliver_.--Recusants of what? of beef and ale? We have claret, I
trust, for the squeamish, if they are above the condition of
tradespeople. But of course you leave no person of higher quality in the
_Oliver_.--Vain are they and worldly, although such wickedness is the
most abominable in their cases. Idle folks are fond of sitting in the
sun: I would not forbid them this indulgence.
_Sir Oliver_.--But who are they?
_Oliver_.--The Lord knows. May-be priests, deacons, and such like.
_Sir Oliver_.--Then, sir, they are gentlemen. And the commission you
bear from the parliamentary thieves, to sack and pillage my
mansion-house, is far less vexatious and insulting to me, than your
behaviour in keeping them so long at my stable-door. With your
permission, or without it, I shall take the liberty to invite them to
partake of my poor hospitality.
_Oliver_.--But, uncle Sir Oliver! there are rules and ordinances whereby
it must be manifested that they lie under displeasure--not mine--not
mine--but my milk must not flow for them.
_Sir Oliver_.--You may enter the house or remain where you are at your
option; I make my visit to these gentlemen immediately, for I am tired
of standing. If thou ever reachest my age, Oliver! (but God will not
surely let this be,) thou wilt know that the legs become at last of
doubtful fidelity in the service of the body.
_Oliver_.--Uncle Sir Oliver! now that, as it seemeth, you have been
taking a survey of the courtyard and its contents, am I indiscreet in
asking your worship whether I acted not prudently in keeping the
_men-at-belly_ under the custody of the _men-at-arms_? This pestilence,
like unto one I remember to have read about in some poetry of Master
Chapman's, began with the dogs and the mules, and afterwards crope
up into the breasts of men.
_Sir Oliver_.--I call such treatment barbarous; their troopers will not
let the gentlemen come with me into the house, but insist on sitting
down to dinner with them. And yet, having brought them out of their
colleges, these brutal half-soldiers must know that they are fellows.
_Oliver_.--Yea, of a truth are they, and fellows well met. Out of their
superfluities they give nothing to the Lord or his Saints; no, not even
stirrup or girth, wherewith we may mount our horses and go forth against
those who thirst for our blood. Their eyes are fat, and they raise not
up their voices to cry for our deliverance.
_Sir Oliver_.--Art mad? What stirrups and girths are hung up in college
halls and libraries? For what are these gentlemen brought hither?
_Oliver_.--They have elected me, with somewhat short of unanimity, not
indeed to be one of themselves, for of that distinction I acknowledge
and deplore my unworthiness, nor indeed to be a poor scholar, to which,
unless it be a very poor one, I have almost as small pretension, but
simply to undertake awhile the heavier office of burser for them, to
cast up their accounts; to overlook the scouring of their plate; and to
lay a list thereof, with a few specimens, before those who fight the
fight of the Lord, that his Saints, seeing the abasement of the proud
and the chastisement of worldlymindedness, may rejoice.
_Sir Oliver_.--I am grown accustomed to such saints and such rejoicings.
But, little could I have thought, threescore years ago, that the hearty
and jovial people of England would ever join in so filching and stabbing
a jocularity. Even the petticoated torch-bearers from rotten Rome, who
lighted the faggots in Smithfield some years before, if more blustering
and cocksy, were less bitter and vulturine. They were all intolerant,
but they were not all hypocritical; they had not always "_the Lord_" in
_Oliver_.--According to their own notions, they might have had at an
outlay of a farthing.
_Sir Oliver_.--Art facetious, Nol? for it is as hard to find that out as
any thing else in thee, only it makes thee look, at times, a little the
grimmer and sourer.
But, regarding these gentlemen from Cambridge. Not being such as, by
their habits and professions, could have opposed you in the field, I
hold it unmilitary and unmanly to put them under any restraint, and so
lead them away from their peaceful and useful occupations.
_Oliver_.--I alway bow submissively before the judgment of mine elders;
and the more reverentially when I know them to be endowed with greater
wisdom, and guided by surer experience than myself. Alas! those
collegians not only are strong men, as you may readily see if you
measure them round the waistband, but boisterous and pertinacious
challengers. When we, who live in the fear of God, exhorted them
earnestly unto peace and brotherly love, they held us in derision. Thus
far indeed it might be an advantage to us, teaching us forbearance and
self-seeking, but we cannot countenance the evil spirit moving them
thereunto. Their occupations, as you remark most wisely, might have been
useful and peaceful, and had formerly been so. Why then did they gird
the sword of strife about their loins against the children of Israel? By
their own declaration, not only are they our enemies, but enemies the
most spiteful and untractable. When I came quietly, lawfully, and in the
name of the Lord, for their plate, what did they? Instead of
surrendering it like honest and conscientious men, they attacked me and
my people on horseback, with syllogisms and centhymemes, and the Lord
knows with what other such gimcracks, such venemous and rankling old
weapons as those who have the fear of God before their eyes are fain to
lay aside. Learning should not make folks mockers--should not make folks
malignants--should not harden their hearts. We came with bowels for
_Sir Oliver_.--That ye did! and bowels which would have stowed within
them all the plate on board of a galloon. Tankards and wassil-bowls had
stuck between your teeth, you would not have felt them.
_Oliver_.--We did feel them; some at least: perhaps we missed too many.
_Sir Oliver_.--How can these learned societies raise the money you exact
from them, beside plate? dost think they can create and coin it?
_Oliver_.--In Cambridge, uncle Sir Oliver, and more especially in that
college named in honour (as they profanely call it) of the blessed
Trinity, there are great conjurors or chemists. Now the said conjurors
or chemists not only do possess the faculty of making the precious
metals out of old books and parchments, but out of the skulls of young
lordlings and gentlefolks, which verily promise less. And this they
bring about by certain gold wires fastened at the top of certain caps.
Of said metals, thus devilishly converted, do they make a vain and
sumptuous use; so that, finally, they are afraid of cutting their lips
with glass. But indeed it is high time to call them.
_Sir Oliver_.--Well--at last thou hast some mercy.
_Oliver_ (_aloud_.)--Cuffsatan Ramsbottom! Sadsoul Kiteclan! advance!
Let every gown, together with the belly that is therein, mount up behind
you and your comrades in good fellowship. And forasmuch as you at the
country-places look to bit and bridle, it seemeth fair and equitable
that ye should leave unto them, in full propriety, the mancipular office
of discharging the account. If there be any spare beds at the inns,
allow the doctors and dons to occupy the same--they being used to lie
softly; and be not urgent that more than three lie in each--they being
mostly corpulent. Let pass quietly and unreproved any light bubble of
pride or impetuosity, seeing that they have not alway been accustomed to
the service of guards and ushers. The Lord be with ye!--Slow trot! And
now, uncle Sir Oliver, I can resist no longer your loving-kindness. I
kiss you, my godfather, in heart's and soul's duty; and most humbly and
gratefully do I accept of your invitation to dine and lodge with you,
albeit the least worthy of your family and kinsfolk. After the
refreshment of needful food, more needful prayer, and that sleep which
descendeth on the innocent like the dew of Hermon, to-morrow at daybreak
I proceed on my journey Londonward.
_Sir Oliver_ (_aloud_.)--Ho, there! (_To a servant_.)--Let dinner be
prepared in the great diningroom; let every servant be in waiting, each
in full livery; let every delicacy the house affords be placed upon the
table in due courses; arrange all the plate upon the side-board: a
gentleman by descent--a stranger, has claimed my hospitality. (_Servant
Sir! you are now master. Grant me dispensation, I entreat you, from a
further attendance on you.
 See Forster's Life of Cromwell.
 Sir Oliver, who died in 1655, aged ninety-three, might, by
possibility, have seen all the men of great genius, excepting
Chaucer and Roger Bacon, whom England has produced from its
first discovery down to our own times. Francis Bacon,
Shakspeare, Milton, Newton, and the prodigious shoal that
attended these leviathans through the intellectual deep. Newton
was but in his thirteenth year at Sir Oliver's death. Raleigh,
Spenser, Hooker, Elliot, Selden, Taylor, Hobbes, Sidney,
Shaftesbury, and Locke, were existing in his lifetime; and
several more, who may be compared with the smaller of these.
 Chapman's _Homer_, first book.
* * * * *
SAINTS AND SINNERS.
The history of my youth is the history of my life. My contemporaries
were setting out on their journey when my pilgrimage was at an end. I
had drained the cup of experience before other men had placed it to
their lips. The vicissitudes of all seasons occurred in one, and, before
my spring had closed, I had felt the winter's gloominess and cold. The
scattered and separated experiences that diversify and mark the passage
of the "threescore years and ten," were collected and thrust into the
narrow period of my nonage. Within that boundary, existence was
condensed. It was the time of action and of suffering. I have passed
from youth to maturity and decline gently and passively; and now, in the
cool and quiet sunset, I repose, connected with the past only by the
adhering memories that will not be excluded from my solitude. I have
gathered upon my head the enduring snow of age; but it has settled there
in its natural course, with no accompaniment of storm and tempest. I
look back to the land over which I have journeyed, and through which I
have been conveyed to my present humble resting-place, and I behold a
broad extent of plain, spreading from my very feet, into the hazy
distance, where all is cloud, mountain, tumult, and agitation. Heaven be
praised, I can look back with gratitude, chastened and informed!
Amongst all the startling and stirring events that crowded into the
small division of time to which I refer, none had so confounded,
perplexed, alarmed, and grieved me, as the discovery of Mr Clayton's
criminality and falsehood. There are mental and moral concussions,
which, like physical shocks, stun and stupify with their suddenness and
violence. This was one of them. Months after I had been satisfied of his
obliquity, it was difficult to _realize_ the conviction that truth and
justice authoritatively demanded. When I thought of the minister--when
his form presented itself to my mind's eye, as it did, day after day,
and hour after hour, it was impossible to contemplate it with the
aversion and distaste which were the natural productions of his own base
conduct. I could see nothing but the figure and the lineaments of him,
whose eloquence had charmed, whose benevolent hand had nourished and
maintained me. There are likewise, in this mysterious state of life,
paroxysms and intervals of disordered consciousness, which memory
refuses to acknowledge or record; the epileptic's waking dream is
one--an unreal reality. And similar to this was my impression of the
late events. They lacked substantiality. Memory took no account of them,
discarded them, and would connect the present only with the bright
experience she had treasured up, prior to the dark distempered season. I
could not hate my benefactor. I could not efface the image, which months
of apparent love had engraven on my heart.
Thrust from Mr Clayton's chapel, and unable to obtain admission
elsewhere, I felt how insecure was my tenure of office. I prepared
myself for dismissal, and hoped that, when the hour arrived, I should
submit without repining. In the meanwhile, I was careful in the
performance of every duty, and studious to give no cause, not the
remotest, for complaint or dissatisfaction. It was not long, however,
before signs of an altered state of things presented themselves to view.
A straw tells which way the wind blows, and wisps began to fly in all
directions. I found at length that I could do nothing right. To-day I
was too indolent; to-morrow, too officious:--now I was too much of a
gentlemen; and now not half gentlemanly enough. The hardest infliction
to bear was the treatment of my new friend and colleague--of him who had
given me kind warning and advice, when mischief was only threatening,
but who, on the first appearance of trouble, took alarm, and deserted my
side. The moment that he perceived my inevitable fate, he decided upon
leaving me alone to fight my hard battle. At first he spoke to me with
shyness and reserve; afterwards coolly, and soon, he said nothing at
all. Sometimes, perhaps, if we were quite alone, and there was no chance
whatever of discovery, he would venture half a word or so upon the
convenient subject of the weather; but these occasions were very rare.
If a superior were present, hurricanes would not draw a syllable from
his careful lips; and, under the eye of the stout and influential Mr
Bombasty, it was well for me if frowns and sneers were the only
exhibitions of rudeness on the part of my worldly and far-seeing friend.
Ah, Jacob Whining! With all your policy and sagacious selfishness, you
found it difficult to protract your own official existence a few months
longer. He had hardly congratulated himself upon the dexterity which had
kept him from being involved in my misfortunes, before _he_ fell under
the ban of _his_ church, like me was persecuted, and driven into the
world a branded and excommunicated outcast. Mr Whining, however, who had
learnt much in the world, and more in his _connexion_, was a cleverer
and more fortunate man than this friend and coadjutor. He retired with
his experience into Yorkshire, drew a small brotherhood about him, and
in a short time became the revered and beloved founder of the numerous
and far-spread sect of _Whiningtonians_!
It was just a fortnight after my expulsion from the _Church_, that
matters were brought to a crisis as far as I was concerned, by the
determined tone and conduct of the gentleman at the head of our society.
Mr Bombasty arrived one morning at the office, in a perturbed and
anxious state, and requested my attendance in his private room. I waited
upon him. Perspiration hung about his fleshy face--he wiped it off, and
"Young man," said he, "this won't do at all."
"What, sir?" I asked.
"Come, don't be impudent. You are done for, I can tell you."
"How, sir?" I enquired. "What have I done?"
"Where are the subscriptions that were due last Saturday?"
"Not yet collected, sir."
"What money have you belonging to the society?"
"Not a sixpence, sir."
"Young man," continued the lusty president in a solemn voice, "you are
in a woeful state; you are living in the world without _a security_."
"What is the matter, sir."
"Matter!" echoed the gentleman.--"Matter with a man that has lost his
security! Are you positive you have got no funds about you? Just look
into your pocket, my friend, and make sure."
"I have nothing, sir. Pray, tell me what I have done?"
"Young man, holding the office that I hold, feeling as I feel, and
knowing what I know, it would be perfect madness in me to have any thing
to do with a man who has been given over by his security. Don't you
understand me? Isn't that very good English? Mr Clayton will have
nothing more to say to you. The society gives you warning."
"May I not be informed, sir, why I am so summarily dismissed?"
"Why, my good fellow, what is the matter with you? You seem remarkably
stupid this morning. I can't beat about the bush with you. You must go."
"Without having committed a fault?" I added, mournfully.
"Sir," said the distinguished president, looking libraries at me, "when
one mortal has become security for another mortal, and suddenly annuls
and stultifies his bond, to say that the other mortal has committed a
_fault_ is just to call brandy--_water_. Sir," continued Mr Bombasty,
adjusting his India cravat, "that man has perpetrated a crime--a crime
_primy facey--exy fishio_."
I saw that my time was come, and I said nothing.
"If," said Mr Bombasty, "you had lost your intellect, I am a voluntary
contributor, and could have got you chains and a keeper in Bedlam. If
you had broken a limb, I am a life-governor, and it would have been a
pleasure to me to send you to the hospital. But you may as well ask me
to put life into a dead man, as to be of service to a creature who has
lost his security. You had better die at once. It would be a happy
release. I speak as a friend."
"Thank you, sir," said I.
"I hear complaints against you, but I don't listen to them. Every thing
is swallowed up in one remarkable fact. Your security has let you down.
You must go about your business. I speak as the president of this
Christian society, and not, I hope, without the feelings of a man. The
treasurer will pay your salary immediately, and we dispense with your
"What am I to do?" I asked, half aloud.
"Just the best you can," answered the gentleman. "The audience is at an
Mr Bombasty said no more, but drew from his coat pocket a snuff-box of
enormous dimensions. From it he grasped between his thumb and finger a
moderate handful of stable-smelling dust. His nose and India
handkerchief partook of it in equal shares, and then he rang his bell
with presidential dignity, and ordered up his customary lunch of chops
and porter. A few hours afterwards I was again upon the world, ready to
begin the fight of life anew, and armed with fifteen guineas for the
coming struggle. Mr Clayton had kept his word with me, and did not
desert me until I was once more fairly on the road to ruin.
One of the first consequences of my unlooked-for meeting with the
faithful Thompson, was the repayment of the five shillings which he had
so generously spared me when I was about to leave him for Birmingham,
without as many pence in my scrip. During my absence, however, fortune
had placed my honest friend in a new relation to a sum of this value.
Five shillings were not to him, as before, sixty pence. The proprietor
of the house in which he lived, and which he had found it so difficult
to let out to his satisfaction, had died suddenly, and had thought
proper to bequeath to his tenant the bulk of his property, amounting,
perhaps, to five thousand pounds. Thompson, who was an upholsterer by
trade, left the workshop in which he was employed as journeyman
immediately, and began to work upon his own account. He was a prosperous
and a thriving man when I rejoined him. His manner was, as the reader
has seen, kind and straightforward as ever, and the only change that his
wealth had wrought in him, was that which gold may be supposed to work a
heart alive to its duties, simple and honest in its intentions, and
lacking only the means to make known its strong desire of usefulness.
His generosity had kept pace with his success, his good wishes
outstripped both. His home was finer, yet scarcely more sightly and
happier than the one large room, which, with its complement of ten
children, sire and dame, had still a nook for the needy and friendless
stranger. The old house had been made over for a twelvemonth to the
various tenants, free of all charge. At the end of that period it was
the intention of Thompson to pull it down, and build a better in its
place. A young widow, with her three orphans, lodged on the attic floor,
and the grateful prayers of the four went far to establish the buoyancy
of the landlord's spirit, and to maintain the smile that seldom departed
from his manly cheek. Well might the poor creature, whom I once visited
in her happy lodging, talk of the sin of destroying so comfortable a
residence, and feel assured, that "let them build a palace, they would
never equal the present house, or make a sleeping-room where a body
might rest so peacefully and well." Thompson's mode of life had scarcely
varied. He was not idle amongst his men. When labour was suspended, he
was with his children; another had been added to the number, and there
were now eleven to relieve him of the superabundant profits created in
the manufactory. Mrs Thompson was still a noble housewife, worthy of her
husband. All was care, cleanliness, and economy at home. Griping stint
would never have been tolerated by the hospitable master, and virtuous
plenty only was admitted by the prudent wife. Had there been a oneness
in the religious views of this good couple, _Paradise_ would have been a
word fit to write beneath the board that made known to men John
Thompson's occupation; but this, alas! was wanting to complete a scene
that otherwise looked rather like perfection. The great enemy of man
seeks in many ways to defeat the benevolent aims of Providence. Thompson
had remained at home one Sunday afternoon to smoke a friendly pipe with
an old acquaintance, when he should have gone to church. His wife set
out alone. Satan took advantage of her husband's absence, drew her to
chapel, and made her--a _dissenter_. This was Thompson's statement of
the case, and severer punishment, he insisted, had never been inflicted
on a man for Sabbath-breaking.
When I was dismissed by Mr Bombasty, it was a natural step to walk
towards the abode of the upholsterer. I knew his hour for supper, and
his long hour after that for ale, and pipe, and recreation. I was not in
doubt as to my welcome. Mrs Thompson had given me a general invitation
to supper, "because," she said, "it did Thompson good to chat after a
hard day's work;" and the respected Thompson himself had especially
invited me to the long hour afterwards, "because," he added, "it did the
ale and 'baccy good, who liked it so much better to go out of this here
wicked world in company." About seven o'clock in the evening I found
myself under their hospitable roof, seated in the room devoted to the
general purposes of the house. It was large, and comfortably furnished.
The walls were of wainscot, painted white, and were graced with two
paintings. One, a family group, consisting of Thompson, wife, and eight
children, most wretchedly executed, was the production of a slowly
rising artist, a former lodger of my friend's, who had contrived to
compound with his easy landlord for two years and three quarters' rent,
with this striking display of his ability. Thompson was prouder of this
picture than of the originals themselves, if that were possible. The
design had been his own, and had cost him, as he was ready and even
anxious to acknowledge, more time and trouble than he had ever given
before, or meant to give again, to any luxury in life. The artist, as I
was informed, had endeavoured to reduce to form some fifty different
schemes that had arisen in poor Thompson's brain, but had failed in
every one, so difficult he found it to introduce the thousand and one
effects that the landlord deemed essential to the subject. His first
idea had been to bring upon the canvass every feature of his life from
boyhood upwards. This being impracticable, he wished to bargain for at
least the workshop and the private residence. The lodgers, he thought,
might come into the background well, and the tools, peeping from a
basket in the corner, would look so much like life and nature. The
upshot of his plans was the existing work of art, which Thompson
considered matchless, and pronounced "dirt cheap, if he had even given
the fellow a seven years' lease of the entire premises." The situations
were striking certainly. In the centre of the picture were two high
chairs, on which were seated, as grave as judges, the heads of the
establishment. They sat there, drawn to their full height, too dignified
to look at one another, and yet displaying a fond attachment, by a
joining of the hands. The youngest child had clambered to the father's
knee, and, with a chisel, was digging at his nose, wonderful to say,
without disturbing the stoic equanimity that had settled on the father's
face. This was the favourite son. Another, with a plane larger than
himself, was menacing the mother's knee. The remaining six had each a
tool, and served in various ways to effect most artfully the beloved
purpose of the vain upholsterer's heart--viz. the introduction of the
entire workshop. The second painting in the centre of the opposite wall,
represented Mr Clayton. The likeness was a failure, and the colours were
coarse and glaring; but there needed no instruction to know that the
carefully framed production attempted to portray the unenviable man,
who, in spite of his immorality and shameless life, was still revered
and idolized by the blind disciples who had taken him for their guide.
This portrait was Mrs Thompson's peculiar property. There were no other
articles of _virtu_ in the spacious apartment; but cleanliness and
decorum bestowed upon it a grace, the absence of which no idle
decoration could supply. Early as the hour was, a saucepan was on the
fire, whose bubbling water was busy with the supper that at half-past
eight must meet the assault of many knives and forks. John Thompson and
two sons--the eldest--were working in the shop. They had been there with
little intermission since six that morning. The honest man was fond of
work; so was he of his children--yes, dearly fond of _them_, and they
must share with him the evening meal; and he must have them all about
him; and he must help them all, and see them eat, and look with manly
joy and pride upon the noisy youngsters, for whom his lusty arm had
earned the bread that came like manna to him--so wholesome and so sweet!
Three girls, humbly but neatly dressed, the three first steps of this
great human ladder, were seated at a table administering to the
necessities of sundry shirts and stockings that had suffered sensibly in
their last week's struggle through the world. _They_ were indeed a
picture worth the looking at. You grew a better man in gazing on their
innocence and industry. What a lesson stole from their quiet and
contented looks, their patient perseverance, their sweet unity! How
shining smooth the faces, how healthy, and how round, and how impossible
it seemed for wrinkles ever to disturb the fine and glossy surface!
Modesty never should forsake the humble; the bosom of the lowly born
should be her home. Here she had enshrined herself, and given to
simplicity all her dignity and truth. They worked and worked on; who
should tell which was the most assiduous--which the fairest--which the
most eager and successful to increase the happiness of all! And turn to
Billy there, that half-tamed urchin! that likeness in little of his
sire, rocking not so much against his will, as against conviction, the
last of all the Thompsons--a six months' infant in the wicker cradle.
How, obedient to his mother's wish, like a little man at first, he rocks
with all his might, and then irregularly, and at long intervals--by fits
and starts--and ceases altogether very soon, bobbing his curly head, and
falling gently into a deep mesmeric sleep. The older lads are making
wooden boats, and two, still older, stand on either side their mother. A
book is in the hands of each, full of instruction and fine learning. It
was the source of all their knowledge, the cause of all their earliest
woes. Good Mrs Thompson had been neglected as a child, and was
enthusiastic in the cause of early education. Sometimes they looked into
the book, but oftener still they cast attentive eyes upon the fire, as
if "the book of knowledge fair" was there displayed, and not a noisy
saucepan, almost unable to contain itself for joy of the cod's head and
shoulders, that must be ready by John Thompson's supper time. The whole
family were my friends--with the boys I was on terms of warmest
intimacy, and smiles and nods, and shouts and cheers, welcomed me
"Now, close your book, Bob," said the mother, soon after I was seated,
"and, Alec, give me yours. Put your hands down, turn from the fire, and
look up at me, dears. What is the capital of Russia?"
"The Birman empire," said Alec, with unhesitating confidence.
"The Baltic sea," cried Bob, emulous and ardent.
"Wait--not so fast; let me see, my dears, which of you is right."
Mrs Thompson appealed immediately to her book, after a long and private
communication with which, she emphatically pronounced both wrong.
"Give us a chance, mother," said Bob in a wheedling tone, (Bob knew his
mother's weaknesses.) "Them's such hard words. I don't know how it is,
but I never can remember 'em. Just tell us the first syllable--oh, do
"Oh, I know now!" cried Alec. "It's something with a G in it."
"Think of the apostles, dears. What are the names of the apostles?"
"Why, there's Moses," began Bob, counting on his fingers, "and there's
Sammywell, and there's Aaron, and Noah's ark"----
"Stop, my dear," said Mrs Thompson, who was very busy with her manual,
and contriving a method of rendering a solution of her question easy.
"Just begin again. I said--who was Peter--no, not that--who was an
"Oh, I know now!" cried Alec again, (Alec was the sharp boy of the
family.) "It's Peter. Peter's the capital of Russia."
"No, not quite my dear. You are very warm--very warm indeed, but not
quite hot. Try again."
"Paul," half murmured Robert, with a reckless hope of proving right.
"No, Peter's right; but there's something else. What has your father
been taking down the beds for?"
There was a solemn silence, and the three industrious sisters blushed
the faintest blush that could be raised upon a maiden's cheek.
"To rub that stuff upon the walls," said the ready Alec.
"Yes, but what was it to kill?" continued the instructress.
"The fleas," said Bob.
"Worse than that, my dear."
"Oh, I know now," shrieked Alec, for the third time. "_Petersbug's_ the
capital of Russia."
Mrs Thompson looked at me with pardonable vanity and triumph, and I
bestowed upon the successful students a few comfits which I had
purchased on my road for my numerous and comfit-loving friends. The mere
sight of this sweet "reward of merit" immediately inspired the two boys
at work upon the boats with a desire for knowledge, and especially for
learning the capitals of countries, that was most agreeable to
contemplate. The lesson was continued, more to my amusement, I fear,
than the edification of the pupils. The boys were unable to answer a
single question until they had had so many _chances_, and had become so
very _hot_, that not to have answered at length would have bordered on
the miraculous. The persevering governess was not displeased at this,
for she would not have lost the opportunity of displaying her own skill
in metaphorical illustration, for a great deal, I am very sure. The
clock struck eight; there was a general movement. The three sisters
folded their work, and lodged it carefully in separate drawers. The
eldest then produced the table-cloth, knives, forks, and spoons. The
second exhibited bibs and pinafores; and the third brought from their
hiding-places a dozen modest chairs, and placed them round the table.
Bob assured the company "he was _so_ hungry;" Alec said, "so was he;"
and the boatmen, in an under tone, settled what should be done with the
great cod's eyes, which, they contended, were the best parts of the
fish, and "shouldn't they be glad if father would give 'em one a-piece."
The good woman must enquire, of course, how nearly the much-relished
dainty had reached the critical and interesting state when it became
most palatable to John Thompson; for John Thompson was an epicure, "and
must have his little bits of things done to a charm, or not at all."
Half-past eight had struck. The family were bibbed and pinafored; the
easy coat and slippers were at the fire, and warmed through and
through--it was a season of intenseness. "Here's father!" shouted Alec,
and all the bibs and pinafores rushed like a torrent to the door. Which
shall the father catch into his ready arms, which kiss, which hug, which
answer?--all are upon him; they know their playmate, their companion,
and best friend; they have hoarded up, since the preceding night, a
hundred things to say, and now they have got their loving and attentive
listener. "Look what I have done, father," says the chief boatman, "Tom
and I together." "Well done, boys!" says the father--and Tom and he are
kissed. "I have been _l_ocking baby," lisps little Billy, who, in
return, gets rocked himself. "Father, what's the capital of Russia?"
shrieks Alec, tugging at his coat. "What do you mean, you dog?" is the
reply, accompanied by a hearty shake of his long flaxen hair.
"Petersburg," cry Tom and Alec both, following him to the hearth, each
one endeavouring to relieve him of his boots as soon as he is seated
there. The family circle is completed. The flaky fish is ready, and
presented for inspection. The father has served them all, even to little
Billy--their plates are full and smoking. "Mother" is called upon to ask
a blessing. She rises, and assumes the looks of Jabez Buster--twenty
blessings might be asked and granted in half the time she takes--so
think and look Bob, Alec, and the boatmen; but at length she pauses--the
word is given, and further ceremony is dispensed with. In childhood,
supper is a thing to look forward to, and to _last_ when it arrives; but
not in childhood, any more than in old age, can sublunary joys endure
for ever. The meal is finished. A short half-hour flies, like lightning,
by. The children gather round their father; and in the name of all, upon
his knees, he thanks his God for all the mercies of the day. Thompson is
no orator. His heart is warm; his words are few and simple. The three
attendant graces take charge of their brethren, detach them from their
father's side, and conduct them to their beds. Happy father! happy
children! May Providence be merciful, and keep the grim enemy away from
your fireside! Let him not come now in the blooming beauty and the
freshness of your loves! Let him not darken and embitter for ever the
life that is still bright, beautiful, and glorious in the power of
elevating and sustaining thought that leads beyond it. Let him wait the
matured and not unexpected hour, when the shock comes, not to crush, to
overwhelm, and to annihilate, but to warn, to teach, and to encourage;
not to alarm and stagger the untaught spirit, but to bring to the
subdued and long-tried soul its last lesson on the vanity and
evanescence of its early dreams!
It is half-past nine o'clock. Thompson, his wife, and two eldest boys
are present, and, for the first time, I have an opportunity to make
known the object of my visit.
"And so they have turned you off," said Thompson, when I had finished.
"And who's surprised at that? Not I, for one. Missus," continued he,
turning to his wife, "why haven't you got a curtain yet for that ere
pictur? I can't abear the sight of it."
Mrs Thompson looked plaintively towards the painting, and heaved a sigh.
"Ah, dear good man! He has got his enemies," said she.
"Mrs Thompson!" exclaimed her husband, "I have done with that good man
from this day for'ards; and I do hope, old 'ooman, that you'll go next
Sunday to church with me, as we used to do afore you got that pictur
"It's no good talking, Thompson," answered the lady, positively and
firmly. "I can't sit under a cold man, and there's an end of it."
"There, that's the way you talk, missus."
"Why, you know, Thompson, every thing in the church is cold."
"No, not now, my dear--they've put up a large stove. You'll recollect
you haven't been lately."
"Besides, do you think I can sit in a place of worship, and hear a man
say, '_Let us pray_,' in the middle of the service, making a fool of
one, as if we hadn't been praying all the time? As that dear and
persecuted saint says, (turning to the picture,) it's a common assault
to our understandings."
"Now, Polly, that's just always how you go off. If you'd only listen to
reason, that could all be made out right in no time. The clergyman
doesn't mean to say, _let us pray_, because he hasn't been praying
afore;--what he means is--we have been praying all this time, and so
we'll go on praying again--no, not again exactly--but don't leave off.
That isn't what I mean either. Let me see, _let us pray_. Oh, yes!
Why--stay. Where is it he does say, _let us pray_? There, I say,
Stukely, you know it all much better than I do. Just make it right to
"It is not difficult," said I.
"Oh no, Mr Stukely, I daresay not!" added Mrs Thompson, interrupting me.
"Mr Clayton says, Satan has got his janysarries abroad, and has a reason
for every thing. It is very proper to say, too, I suppose, that it is an
_imposition_ when the bishops ordain the ministers? What a word to make
use of. It's truly frightful!"
"Well, I'm blessed," exclaimed Thompson, "if I don't think you had
better hold your tongue, old girl, about impositions; for sich oudacious
robbers as your precious brothers is, I never come across, since I was
stopped that ere night, as we were courting, on Shooter's Hill. It's a
system of imposition from beginning to end."
"Look to your Bible, Thompson; what does that say? Does that tell
ministers to read their sermons? There can't be no truth and right
feeling when a man puts down what he's going to say; the vital warmth is
wanting, I'm sure. And then to read the same prayers Sunday after
Sunday, till a body gets quite tired at hearing them over and over
again, and finding nothing new! How can you improve an occasion if you
are tied down in this sort of way."
"Did you ever see one of the brothers eat, Stukely?" asked Thompson,
avoiding the main subject. "Don't you ask one of them to dinner--that's
all. That nice boy Buster ought to eat for a wager. I had the pleasure
of his company to dinner one fine afternoon. I don't mean to send him
another invitation just yet, at all events."
"Yes," proceeded the fair, but stanch nonconformist; "what does the
Bible say, indeed! 'Take no thought of what you should say.' Why, in the
church, I am told they are doing nothing else from Monday morning to
Saturday night but writing the sermon they are going to read on the
Sabbath. To _read_ a sermon! What would the apostles say to that?"
"Why, didn't you tell me, my dear, that the gentleman as set for that
pictur got all his sermons by heart before he preached 'em?"
"Of course I did--but that's a very different thing. Doesn't it all pour
from him as natural as if it had come to him that minute? He doesn't
fumble over a book like a schoolboy. His beautiful eyes, I warrant you,
ain't looking down all the time, as if he was ashamed to hold 'em up.
Isn't it a privilege to see his blessed eyes rolling all sorts of ways;
and don't they speak wolumes to the poor benighted sinner? Besides,
don't tell me, Thompson; we had better turn Catholics at once, if we are
to have the minister dressing up like the Pope of Rome, and all the rest
"You are the gal of my heart," exclaimed the uxorious Thompson; "but I
must say you have got some of the disgracefulest notions out of that ere
chapel as ever I heard on. Why, it's only common decency to wear a dress
in the pulpit; and I believe in my mind, that that's come down to us
from time immemorable, like every thing else in human natur. What's your
"Yes; and what's your opinion, Mr Stukely," added the lady immediately,
"about calling a minister of the gospel--a _priest_? Is that
Paperistical or not?"
"That isn't the pint, Polly," proceeded John. "We are talking about the
silk dress now. Let's have that out first."
"And then the absolution"----
"No, Poll. Stick to the silk dress."
"Ah, Thompson, it's always the way!" continued the mistress of the
house, growing red and wroth, and heedless of the presence of the
eager-listening children; "it's always the way. Satan is ruining of you.
You'll laugh at the elect, and you'll not find your mistake out till
it's too late to alter. Mr Clayton says, that the Establishment is the
hothouse of devils; and the more I see of its ways, the more I feel he
is right. Thompson, you are in the sink of iniquity."
"Come, I can't stand no more of this!" exclaimed Thompson, growing
uneasy in his chair, but without a spark of ill-humour. "Let's change
the topic, old 'ooman; I'm sure it can't do the young un's any good to
hear this idle talk. Let's teach 'em nothing at all, if we can't larn
'em something better than wrangling about religion. Now, Jack," he
continued, turning to his eldest boy, "what is the matter with you? What
are you sitting there for with your mouth wide open?"
"What's the meaning of Paperist, father?" asked the boy, who had been
long waiting to propose the question.
"What's that to you, you rascal?" was the reply; "mind your own
business, my good fellow, and leave the Paperist to mind his'n; that's
your father's maxim, who got it from his father before him. You'll learn
to find fault with other people fast enough without my teaching you. I
tell you what, Jack, if you look well after yourself, you'll find little
time left to bother about others. If your hands are ever idle--recollect
you have ten brothers and sisters about you. Look about you--you are the
oldest boy--and see what you can do for them. Do you mind that?"
"Very well, old chap. Then just get out the bottle, and give your father
something to coax the cod down. Poll, that fish won't settle."
The long hour was beginning. That bottle was the signal. A gin and water
nightcap, on this occasion, officiated for the ale. Jack and his brother
received a special invitation to a sip or two, which they at once
unhesitatingly accepted. The sturdy fellows shook their father and
fellow-labourer's hand, and were not loth to go to rest. Their mother
was their attendant. The ruffle had departed from her face. It was as
pleasant as before. She was but half a dissenter. So Thompson thought
when he called her back again, and bade his "old 'ooman give her hobby
one of her good old-fashioned busses, and think no more about it."
Thompson and I were left together.
"And what do you mean to do, sir, now?" was his first question.
"I hardly know." I answered.
"Of course, you'll cut the gang entirely--that's a nat'ral consequence."
"No, Thompson, not at present. I must not seem so fickle and inconstant.
I must not seem so to myself. I joined this sect not altogether without
deliberation. I must have further proof of the unsoundness of its
principles. A few of its professors have been faithless even to their
own position. Of what religious profession may not the same be said? I
will be patient, and examine further."
"I was a-thinking," said Thompson, musingly, "I was a-thinking, 'till
you've got something else to do----but no, never mind, you won't like
"What is it?"
"Why, I was thinking about the young un's. They're shocking back'ard in
their eddication, and, between you and me, the missus makes them
back'arder. I don't understand the way she has got of larning 'em at
all. I don't want to make scholards of 'em. Nobody would but a fool.
Bless 'em, they'll have enough to do to get their bread with sweating
and toiling, without addling their brains about things they can't
understand. But it is a cruelty, mind you, for a parent to hinder his
child from reading his Bible on a Sunday afternoon, and to make him
stand ashamed of himself before his fellow workman when he grows up, and
finds that he can't put _paid_ to a bill on a Saturday night. The boys
should all know how to read and write, and keep accounts, and a little
summut of human nature. This is what I wants to give 'em, and nobody
should I like better to put it into 'em than you, my old friend, if
you'd just take the trouble 'till you've got something better to do."
"Thompson," I answered instantly, "I will do it with pleasure. I ought
to have made the offer. It did not occur to me. I shall rejoice to repay
you, in this trifling way, for all your good feeling and kindness."
"Oh no!" answered my friend, "none of that. We must have an
understanding. Don't you think I should have asked the question, if I
meant to sneak out in that dirty sort of way. No, that won't do. It's
very kind of you, but we must make all that right. We sha'n't quarrel, I
dare say. If you mean you'll do it, I have only just a word or two to
say before you begin."
"I shall be proud to serve you, Thompson, and on any terms you please."
"Well, it is a serving me--I don't deny it--but, mind you, only till you
have dropped into something worth your while. What I wish to say is as
this: As soon as ever my missus hears of what you are going to do, I
know as well what she'll be at as I know what I am talking of now.
She'll just be breaking my heart to have the boys larned French. Now,
I'd just as soon bind 'em apprentice to that ere Clayton. I've seen too
much of that ere sort of thing in my time. I'm as positive as I sit
here, that when a chap begins to talk French he loses all his English
spirit, and feels all over him as like a mounseer as possible. I'm sure
he does. I've seen it a hundred times, and that I couldn't a-bear.
Besides, I've been told that French is the language the thieves talk,
and I solemnly believe it. That's one thing. Now, here's another. You'll
excuse me, my dear fellow. In course you know more than I do, but I must
say that you have got sometimes a very roundabout way of coming to the
pint. I mean no offence, and I don't blame you. It's all along of the
company you have kept. You are--it's the only fault you have got--you
are oudaciously fond of hard words. Don't let the young uns larn 'em.
That's all I have to say, and we'll talk of the pay some other time."
At this turn of the conversation, Thompson insisted upon my lighting a
pipe and joining him in the gin and water. We smoked for many minutes in
silence. My friend had unbuttoned his waistcoat, and had drawn the table
nearer to his warm and hospitable fire. A log of wood was burning slowly
and steadily away, and a small, bright--very bright--copper kettle
overlooked it from the hob. My host had fixed his feet upon the
fender--the unemployed hand was in his corduroys. His eyes were three
parts closed, enjoying what from its origin may be called--a pure
tobacco-born soliloquy. The smoke arose in thin white curls from the
clay cup, and at regular periods stole blandly from the corner of his
lips. The silent man was blessed. He had been happy at his work; he had
grown happier as the sun went down; his happiness was ripening at the
supper table; _now_, half-asleep and half-awake--half conscious and half
dreaming--wholly free from care, and yet not free from pregnant
thought--the labourer had reached the summit of felicity, and was at
A few evenings only had elapsed after this interesting meeting, before
I was again spending a delicious hour or two with the simple-hearted and
generous upholsterer. There was something very winning in these moments
snatched and secured from the hurricane of life, and passed in thorough
and undisturbed enjoyment. My friend, notwithstanding that he had
engaged my services, and was pleased to express his satisfaction at the
mode in which I rendered them, was yet alive to my interests, and too
apprehensive of injuring them by keeping me away from loftier
employment. He did not like my being _thrown out_ of the chapel,
especially after he had heard my determination not to forsake
immediately the sect to which I had attached myself. He was indifferent
to his own fate. His worldly prospects could not be injured by his
expulsion; on the contrary, he slyly assured me that "his neighbours
would begin to think better of him, and give him credit for having
become an honester and more trustworthy man." But with regard to myself
it was a different thing. I should require "a character" at some time or
another, and there was a body of men primed and ready to vilify and
crush me. He advised me, whilst he acknowledged it was a hard thing to
say, and "it went agin him to do it," to apply once more respectfully
for my dismission. "It won't do," he pertinently said, "to bite your
nose off to be revenged on your tongue." I was certainly in a mess, and
must get out of it in the best way that I could. Buster and Tomkins had
great power in _the Church_, and if I represented my case to either or
both of them, he did hope they might be brought to consent not to injure
me, or stand in the way of my getting bread. "In a quarrel," he said, in
conclusion, "some one must give in. I was a young man, and had my way to
make, and though he should despise his-self if he recommended me to do
any thing mean and dirty in the business, yet, he thought, as the father
of a numerous family, he ought to advise me to be civil, and to do the
best for myself in this unfortunate dilemmy."
I accepted his advice, and determined to wait upon the dapper deacon. I
was physically afraid to encounter Buster, not so much on account of
what I had seen of his spiritual pretension, as of what I had heard of
his domestic behaviour. It was not a very difficult task to obtain from
Mrs Thompson the secret history of many of her highly privileged
acquaintances and brethren. She enjoyed, in a powerful degree, the
peculiar virtue of her amiable sex, and to communicate secrets,
delivered to her in strictest confidence, and imparted by her again with
equal caution and provisory care, was the choicest recreation of her
well employed and useful life. It was through this lady that I was
favoured with a glance into the natural heart of Mr Buster; or into what
he would himself have called, with a most unfilial disgust, "HIS OLD
MAN." It appeared that, like most great _actors_, he was a very
different personage before and behind the curtain. Kings, who are
miserable and gloomy through the five acts of a dismal tragedy, and who
must needs die at the end of it, are your merriest knaves over a tankard
at the Shakspeare's Head. Your stage fool shall be the dullest dog that
ever spoiled mirth with sour and discontented looks. Jabez Buster, his
employment being over at Mr Clayton's theatre, his dress thrown aside,
his mask put by, was not to be recognised by his nearest friend. This is
the perfection of art. A greater tyrant on a small scale, with limited
means, never existed than the saintly Buster when his character was
done, and he found himself again in the bosom of his family. Unhappy
bosom was it, and a sad flustration did his presence, nine times out of
ten, produce there. He had four sons, and a delicate creature for a
wife, born to be crushed. The sons were remarkable chiefly for their
hypocrisy, which promised, in the fulness of time, to throw their
highly-gifted parent's far into the shade; and, secondarily, for their
persecution of their helpless and indulgent mother. They witnessed and
approved so much the success of Jabez in this particular, that during
his absence they cultivated the affectionate habit until it became a
kind of second nature, infinitely more racy and agreeable than the
primary. In proportion to their deliberate oppression of their mother
was their natural dread and terror of their father. Mrs Thompson
pronounced it "the shockingest thing in this world to be present when
the young blue-beards were worryting their mother's soul out with
saying, '_I sha'n't_' and '_I won't_' to every thing, and swearing
'_they'd tell their father this_,' '_and put him up to that, and then
wouldn't he make a jolly row about it_,' with hollering out for nothing
at all, only to frighten the poor timid cretur, and then making a
holabaloo with the chairs, or perhaps falling down, roaring and kicking,
just to drive the poor thing clean out of her wits, on purpose to laugh
at her for being so taken in. Well, but it was a great treat, too," she
added, "to hear, in the midst of all this, Buster's heavy foot in the
passage, and to see what a scrimmage there was at once amongst all the
young hypocrites. How they all run in different directions--one to the
fire--one to the table--one out at the back-door--one any where he
could--all of 'em as silent as mice, and afeard of the very eye of the
blacksmith, who knew, good man, how to keep every man Jack of 'em in
order, and, if a word didn't do, wasn't by no means behind hand with
blows. Buster," she continued, "had his faults like other men, but he
was a saint if ever there was one. To be sure he did like to have his
own way at home, and wasn't it natural? And if he was rather overbearing
and cruel to his wife, wasn't that, she should like to know, Satan
warring with the new man, and sometimes getting the better of it? And if
he was, as Thompson had hinted, rayther partial to the creature, and
liked good living, what was this to the purpose? it was an infirmity
that might happen to the best Christian living. Nobody could say that he
wasn't a renewed man, and a chosen vessel, and faithful to his call. A
man isn't a backslider because he's carnally weak, and a man isn't a
saint because he's moral and well-behaved. 'Good works,' Mr Clayton
said, 'was filthy rags,' and so they were. To be sure, between
themselves, there were one or two things said about Buster that she
couldn't approve of. For instance, she had been told--but _this_ was
quite in confidence, and really must _not_ go further--that he
was--that--that, in fact, he was overtaken now and then with liquor, and
then the house could hardly hold him, he got so furious, and, they did
say, used such horrid language. But, after all, what was this? If a
man's elected, he is not so much the worse. Besides, if one listened to
people, one might never leave off. She had actually heard, she wouldn't
say from whom, that Buster very often kept out late at night--sometimes
didn't come home at all, and sometimes did at two o'clock in the
morning, very hungry and ill-tempered, and then forced his poor wife out
of bed, and made the delicate and shivering creature light a fire, cook
beefsteaks, go into the yard for beer, and wait upon him till he had
even eat every morsel up. She for one would never believe all this,
though Mrs Buster herself had told her every word with tears in her
eyes, and in the greatest confidence; so she trusted I wouldn't repeat
it, as it wouldn't look well in her to be found out telling other
people's secrets." Singular, perhaps, to say, the tale did not go
further. I kept the lady's secret, and at the same time declined to
approach Mr Jabez Buster in the character of a suppliant. If his
advocate and panegyrist had nothing more to say for him, it could not be
uncharitable to conclude that the pretended saint was as bold a sinner
as ever paid infamous courtship to religion, and as such was studiously
to be avoided. I turned my attention from him to Tomkins. There was no
grossness about him, no brutality, no abominable vice. In the hour of my
defeat and desertion, he had extended to me his sympathy, and, more in
sorrow than in anger, I am convinced he voted for my expulsion from the
church when he found that his vote, and twenty added to it, would not
have been sufficient to protect me. He could not act in opposition to
the wishes of his friend and patron, Mr Clayton, but very glad would he
have been, as every word and look assured me, to meet the wishes of us
both, had that been practicable. If the great desire of Jehu Tomkins'
heart could have been gratified, he never would have been at enmity with
a single soul on earth. He was a soft, good-natured, easy man; most
desirous to be let alone, and not uneasily envious or distressed to see
his neighbours jogging on, so long as he could do his own good stroke of
business, and keep a little way before them. Jehu was a Liberal too--in
politics and in religion--in every thing, in fact, but the one small
article of _money_, and here, I must confess, the good dissenter
dissented little from the best of us. He was a stanch Conservative in
matters connected with the _till_. For his private life it was
exemplary--at least it looked so to the world, and the world is
satisfied with what it sees. Jehu was attentive to his business--yes,
very--and a business life is not monotonous and dull, if it be relieved,
as it was in this case, by dexterous arts, that give an interest and
flavour to the commonest pursuits. Sometimes a customer would die--a
natural state of things, but a great event for Jehu. First, he would
"improve the occasion" to the surviving relatives--condole and pray with
them. Afterwards he would _improve_ it to himself, in his own little
room, at night, when all the children were asleep, and no one was awake
but Mrs Tomkins and himself. Then he would get down his ledger, and turn
to the deceased's account--
"----How _long_ it is thou see'st,
And he would gaze 'till it became _much longer_;"
"For who could tell whether six shirts or twelve were bought in July
last, and what could be the harm of making those eight handkerchiefs a
dozen? He was a strange old gentleman; lived by himself--and the books
might be referred to, and speak boldly for themselves." Yes, cunning
Jehu, so they might, with those interpolations and erasures that would
confound and overcome a lawyer. When customers did not die, it was
pastime to be dallying with the living. In adding up a bill with haste,
how many times will four and four make _nine_? They generally did with
Jehu. The best are liable to errors. It cost a smirk or smile; Jehu had
hundreds at command, and the accident was amended. How easy is it
sometimes to give no bill at all! How very easy to apply, a few months
afterwards, for second payment; how much more easy still to pocket it
without a word; or, if discovered and convicted, to apologize without a
blush for the _mistake_! No, Jehu Tomkins, let me do you justice--this
is not so easy--it requires all your zeal and holy intrepidity to reach
this pitch of human frailty and corruption. With regard to the domestic
position of my interesting friend, it is painful to add, that the less
that is said about it the better. In vain was his name in full, painted
in large yellow letters, over the shop front. In vain was _Bot. of Jehu
Tomkins_ engraven on satin paper, with flourishes innumerable beneath
the royal arms; he was no more the master of his house than was the
small boy of the establishment, who did the dirty work of the place for
nothing a-week and the broken victuals. If Jehu was deacon abroad, he
was taught to acknowledge an _arch_deacon at home--one to whom he was
indebted for his success in life, and for reminding him of that
agreeable fact about four times during every day of his existence. I was
aware of this delicate circumstance when I ventured to the
linen-draper's shop on my almost hopeless mission; but, although I had
never spoken to Mrs Tomkins, I had often seen her in the chapel, and I
relied much on the feeling and natural tenderness of the female heart.
The respectable shop of Mr Tomkins was in Fleet Street. The
establishment consisted of Mrs Tomkins, _premiere_; Jehu,
under-secretary; and four sickly-looking young ladies behind the
counter. It is to be said, to the honour of Mrs Tomkins, that she
admitted no young woman into her service whose character was not
_decided_, and whose views were not very clear. Accordingly, the four
young ladies were members of the chapel. It is pleasing to reflect,
that, in this well-ordered house of business, the ladies took their
turns to attend the weekly prayer meetings of the church. Would that I
might add, that they were _not_ severally met on these occasions by
their young men at the corner of Chancery Lane, and invariably escorted
by them some two or three miles in a totally opposite direction. Had Mrs
Tomkins been born a man, it is difficult to decide what situation she
would have adorned the most. She would have made a good man of
business--an acute lawyer--a fine casuist--a great divine. Her
attainments were immense; her self-confidence unbounded. She was a woman
of middle height, and masculine bearing. She was not prepossessing,
notwithstanding her white teeth and large mouth, and the intolerable
grin that a customer to the amount of a halfpenny and upwards could
bring upon her face under any circumstances, and at any hour of the day.
Her complexion might have been good originally. Red blotches scattered
over her cheek had destroyed its beauty. She wore a modest and becoming
cap, and a gold eyeglass round her neck. She was devoted to
money-making--heart and soul devoted to it during business hours. What
time she was not in the shop, she passed amongst dissenting ministers,
spiritual brethren, and deluded sinners. It remains to state the fact,
that, whilst a customer never approached the lady without being repelled
by the offensive smirk that she assumed, no dependent ever ventured near
her without the fear of the scowl that sat naturally (and fearfully,
when she pleased) upon her dark and inauspicious brow. What wonder that
little Jehu was crushed into nothingness, behind his own counter, under
the eye of his own wife!
* * * * *
THE WORLD OF LONDON. SECOND SERIES.
In our last, we had occasion to speak sharply of that class of our
aristocratic youth known by the name of fast fellows, and it may be
thought that we characterized their foibles rather pointedly, and
tinctured our animadversions with somewhat of undue asperity. This
charge, however, can be made with no ground of reason or justice: the
fact is, we only lashed the follies for which that class of men are
pre-eminent, but left their vices in the shade, in the hope that the
_raw_ we have already established, will shame the fast fellows into a
sense of the proprieties of conduct due to themselves and their station.
The misfortune is, that these fast fellows forget, in the pursuit of
their favourite follies, that the mischief to society begins only with
themselves: that man is naturally a servile, imitative animal; and that
he follows in the track of a great name, as vulgar muttons run at the
heels of a belwether. The poison of fashionable folly runs comparatively
innocuous while it circulates in fashionable veins; but when vulgar
fellows are innoculated with the virus, it becomes a plague, a moral
small-pox, distorting, disfiguring the man's mind, pockpitting his small
modicum of brains, and blinding his mind's eye to the supreme contempt
his awkward vagaries inspire.
The fast fellows rejoice exceedingly in the spread of their servile
imitation of fashionable folly, this gentlemanly profligacy at
second-hand; and perhaps this is the worst trait in their character, for
it is at once malicious and unwise: malicious, because the contemplation
of humanity, degraded by bad example in high station, should rather be a
source of secret shame than of devilish gratification: unwise, because
their example is a discredit to their order, and a danger. To posses
birth, fashion, station, wealth, power, is title enough to envy, and
handle sufficient for scandal. How much stronger becomes that title--how
much longer that handle--when men, enjoying this pre-eminence, enjoy it,
not using, but abusing their good fortune!
We should not have troubled our heads with the fast fellows at all, if
it were not absolutely essential to the full consideration of our
subject, widely to sever the prominent classes of fashionable life, and
to have no excuse for continuing in future to confound them. We have now
done with the fast fellows, and shall like them the more the less we
hear of them.
CONCERNING SLOW FELLOWS.
The SLOW SCHOOL of fashionable or aristocratic life, comprises those who
think that, in the nineteenth century, other means must be taken to
preserve their order in its high and responsible position than those
which, in dark ages, conferred honour upon the tallest or the bravest.
They think, and think wisely, that the only method of keeping above the
masses, in this active-minded age, is by soaring higher and further into
the boundless realms of intellect; or at the least forgetting, in a fair
neck-and-neck race with men of meaner birth, their purer blood, and
urging the generous contest for fame, regardless of the allurements of
pleasure, or the superior advantages of fortune. In truth, we might
ask, what would become of our aristocratic classes ere long, if they
came, as a body, to be identified with their gambling lords, their
black-leg baronets, their insolvent honourables, and the seedy set of
Chevaliers Diddlerowski and Counts Scaramouchi, who caper on the
platform outside for their living? The populace would pelt these
harlequin horse-jockeys of fashionable life off their stage, if there
was nothing better to be seen inside; but it fortunately happens that
there is better.
We can boast among our nobles and aristocratic families, a few men of
original, commanding, and powerful intellect; many respectable in most
departments of intellectual rivalry; many more laborious, hard-working
men; and about the same proportion of dull, stupid, fat-headed, crabbed,
conceited, ignorant, insolent men, that you may find among the same
given number of those commonly called the educated classes. We refer you
to the aristocracies of other countries, and we think we may safely say,
that we have more men of that class, in this country, who devote