Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

tristis severitas in vultu, or inspicere in patinas, of “Poor J. B.! may all his faults be forgiven; and Terence-thin jests, which at their first broaching may he be wafted to bliss by little cherub boys, all could hardly have had vis enough to move a Ro- head and wings, with no bottoms to reproach his man muscle. He had two wigs, both pedantic, sublunary infirmities." but of different omen. The one serene, smiling, Under him were many good and sound scholars fresh powdered, betokening a mild day. The bred. First Grecian of my time was Lancelot other, an old discoloured, unkempt, angry caxon,

Pepys Stevens, kindest of boys and men, since denoting frequent and bloody execution. Wo to Co-grammar-master (and inseparable companion) the school, when he made his morning appearance

with Dr. T- -e. What an edifying spectacle in his passy, or passionate wig. No comet ex- did this brace of friends present to those who repounded surer. J. B. had a heavy hand. I have membered the anti-socialities of their predecesknown him double his knotty fist at a poor trem- sors! You never met the one by chance in the bling child, (the maternal milk hardly dry upon its street without a wonder, which was quickly dislips) with a “ Sirrah, do you presume to set your sipated by the almost immediate sub-appearance wits at me ?" Nothing was more common than of the other. Generally arm in arm, these kindly to see him make a headlong entry into the school- coadjutors lightened for each other the toilsome room, from his inner recess, or library, and, with duties of their profession, and when, in advanced turbulent eye, singling out a lad, roar out, “ Od's age, one found it convenient to retire, the other my life, Sirrah,” (his favourite adjuration,)“ I have was not long in discovering that it suited him to a great mind to whip you,”—then, with as sudden lay down the fasces also. Oh, it is pleasant, as it a retracting impulse, fling back into his lair-and, is rare, to find the same arm linked in yours at after a cooling lapse of some minutes, (during forty, which at thirteen helped it to turn over the which all but the culprit had totally forgotten the Cicero de Amicitia, or some tale of Antique Friendcontext,) drive headlong out again, piecing out his ship, which the young heart even then was burnimperfect sense, as if it had been some Devil's ing to anticipate! Co-Grecian with S. was ThLitany, with the expletory yell—" and I will, who has since executed with ability various diplotoo.” In his gentler moods, when the rabidus matic functions at the Northern courts. Thfuror was assuaged, he had resort to an ingenious was a tall, dark, saturnine youth, sparing of speech, method, peculiar, for what I have heard, to himself, with raven locks. Thomas Fanshaw Middleton of whipping the boy, and reading the Debates, at followed him, (now Bishop of Calcutta,) a scholar the same time; a paragraph, and a lash between ; and a gentleman in his teens. He has the repuwhich in those times, when parliamentary oratory tation of an excellent critic; and is author (besides was most at a height and flourishing in these the Country Spectator) of a Treatise on the Greek realms, was not calculated to impress the patient Article, against Sharpe. M. is said to bear his with a veneration for the diffuser graces of rhetoric. mitre high in India, where the regni novitas (I dare

Once, and but once, the uplifted rod was known say) sufficiently justifies the bearing. A humility to fall ineffectual from his hand—when droll quite as primitive as that of Jewel or Hooker squinting W-, having been caught putting the might not be exactly fitted to impress the minds of inside of the master's desk to a use for which the those Anglo-Asiatic diocesans with a reverence architect had clearly not designed it, to justify for home institutions, and the church which those himself, with great simplicity averred, that he did fathers watered. The manners of M. at school, not know that the thing had been forewarned. This though firm, were mild, and unassu

ssuming. Next exquisite irrecognition of any law antecedent to to M. (if not senior to him) was Richards, author the oral or declaratory, struck so irresistibly upon of the Aboriginal Britons, the most spirited of the the fancy of all who heard it (the pedagogue him- | Oxford Prize Poems; a pale, studious Grecian. self not excepted) that remission was unavoidable. Then followed poor S- ill-fated M

L. has given credit to B.'s great merits as an in- of these the Muse is silent. structer. Coleridge, in his literary life, has pronounced a more intelligible and amplo encomium

Finding some of Edward's race on them. The author of the Country Spectator

Unhappy, pass their annals by.. doubts not to compare him with the ablest teachers Come back into memory, like as thou wert in of antiquity. Perhaps we cannot dismiss him bet- the day-spring of thy fancies, with hope like a ter than with the pious ejaculation of C—, when he fiery column before thee the dark pillar not yet heard that his old master was on his death-bed- turned-Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Logician, Me

taphysician, Bard !-How have I seen the casual for crudle anthems, worth a pig-nt, F. would be recre- passer through the cloisters stand still, entranced ating his gentlemanly fancy in the more flowery walks of the Muses. A little dramatic effusion of his, under

with admiration, (while he weighed the disproporthe name of Vertumn's and Pomona, is not yet forgot- tion between the speech and the garb of the young ten by the chroniclers of that sort of literature. It was Mirandula,) to hear thee unfold, in thy deep and accepted by Garrick, but the town did not give it their

sweet intonations, the mysteries of Jamblichus, or sanction. B. used to say of it, in a way of half-compliment, half-irony, that it was too classical for represen- Plotinus, (for even in those years thou waxedst tation,

not pale at such philosophic draughts) or reciting

[ocr errors]

me, and I felt myself alone among six hundred playmates.

Oh the cruelty of separating a poor lad from his early homestead! The yearnings which I used to have towards it in those unfledged years! How in my dreams would my native town (far in the west) come back, with its church, and trees, and faces! How I would wake weeping, and in the anguish of my heart exclaim upon sweet Calne in Wiltshire!

To this late hour of my life, I trace impressions left by the recollection of those friendless holydays. The long warm days of summer never return but they bring with them a gloom from the haunting memory of those whole-day-leaves when, by some strange arrangement, we were turned out, for the live-long day, upon our own hands, whether we had friends to go to, or none. I remember those bathing excursions to the New-River, which L. recalls with such relish, better, I think, than he can-for he was a home-seeking lad, and did not much care for such water-pastimes :-How merrily we would sally forth into the fields; and strip under the first warmth of the sun; and wanton like young dace in the streams; getting us appetites for noon, which those of us that were pennyless (our scanty morning-crust long since exhausted) had not the means of allaying-while the cattle, and the birds, and the fishes, were at feed about us, and we had nothing to satisfy our cravings-the very beauty of the day, and the exercise of the pastime, and the sense of liberty, setting a keener edge upon them! -How faint, and languid, finally, we would return, towards nightfall, to our desired morsel, half-rejoicing, half-reluctant, that the hours of our uneasy liberty had expired!

It was worse in the days of winter, to go prowling about the streets objectless-shivering at cold windows of print-shops, to extract a little amusement; or haply, as a last resort, in the hope of a little novelty, to pay a fifty-times repeated visit (where our individual faces should be as well known to the warden as those of his own charges) to the Lions in the Tower-to whose levee, by courtesy immemorial, we had a prescriptive title to admission.

L.'s governor (so we called the patron who presented us to the foundation) lived in a manner under his paternal roof. Any complaint which he had to make was sure of being attended to. This was understood at Christ's, and was an effectual screen to him against the severity of masters, or worse tyranny of the monitors. The oppressions of these young brutes are heart-sickening to call to recollection. I have been called out of my bed, and waked for the purpose, in the coldest winter nights --and this not once, but night after night-in my shirt, to receive the discipline of a leathern thong, with eleven other sufferers, because it pleased my callow overseer, when there has been any talking heard after we were gone to bed, to make the

children of us slept, answerable for an offence they neither dared to commit, nor had the power to hinder. The same execrable tyranny drove the younger part of us from the fires, when our feet were perishing with snow; and, under the cruellest penalties, forbade the indulgence of a drink of water, when we lay in sleepless summer nights, fevered with the season, and the day's sports.

There was one H—, who, I learned, in after days, was seen expiating some maturer offence in the hulks. (Do I flatter myself in fancying that this might be the planter of that name, who suffered-at Nevis, I think, or St. Kitts-some few years since? My friend Tobin was the benevolent instrument of bringing him to the gallows.) This petty Nero actually branded a boy who had offended him, with a red hot iron; and nearly starved forty of us, with exacting contributions, to the one half of our bread, to pamper a young ass, which, incredible as may seem, with the connivance of the nurse's daughter (a young flame of his) he had contrived to smuggle in, and keep upon the leads of the ward, as they called our dormitories. This game went on for better than a week, till the foolish beast, not able to fare well but he must cry roast meat-happier than Caligula's minion, could he have kept his own counsel-but foolisher, alas! than any of his species in the fables-waxing fat, and kicking, in the fulness of bread, one unlucky minute would needs proclaim his good fortune to the world below; and, laying out his simple throat, blew such a ram's-horn blast, as (toppling down the walls of his own Jericho) set concealment any longer at defiance. The client was dismissed, with certain attentions, to Smithfield; but I never understood that the patron underwent any censure on the occasion. This was in the stewardship of L.'s admired Perry.

Under the same facile administration, can L. have forgotten the cool impunity with which the nurses used to carry away openly, in open platters, for their own tables, one out of two of every hot joint, which the careful matron had been seeing scrupulously weighed out for our dinners? These were daily practised in that magnificent apartment, which L. (grown connoisseur since, we presume) praises so highly for the grand paintings, "by Verrio, and others," with which it is "hung round and adorned." But the sight of sleek well-fed bluecoat boys in pictures was, at that time, I believe, little consolatory to him, or us, the living ones, who saw the better part of our provisions carried away before our faces by harpies; and ourselves reduced (with the Trojan in the hall of Dido)

To feed our minds with idle portraiture,

L. has recorded the repugnance of the school to gags, or the fat of fresh beef boiled; and sets it down to some superstition. But these unctuous morsels are never grateful to young palates, (children are universally fat-haters,) and in strong,

gag-eater in our time was equivalent to a goul, and held in equal detestation. suffered under the imputation.

'Twas said, He ate strange flesh.

prejudices. I have since seen him carrying a baker's basket. I think I heard he did not do quite so well by himself, as he had done by the old folks.

I was a hypochondriac lad; and the sight of a boy in fetters, upon the day of my first putting on the blue clothes, was not exactly fitted to assuage the natural terrors of initiation. I was of tender years, barely turned of seven; and had only read of such things in books, or seen them but in dreams. I was told he had run away. This was the punishment for the first offence. As a novice I was soon after taken to see the dungeons. These were little, square, Bedlam cells, where a boy could just lie at his length upon straw and a blanket—a mattress, I think, was afterwards substituted-with a peep of light, let in askance, from a prison-orifice at top, barely enough to read by. Here the poor boy was locked in by himself all day, without sight of any but the porter who brought him his bread and water-who might not speak to him;— or of the beadle, who came twice a week to call him out to receive his periodical chastisement, which was almost welcome, because it separated him for a brief interval from solitude:-and here he was shut up by himself of nights, out of the reach of any sound, to suffer whatever horrors the weak nerves, and superstition incident to his time of life, might subject him to.* This was the penalty for the second offence. Wouldst thou like, reader, to see what became of him in the next degree?

He was observed, after dinner, carefully to gather up the remnants left at his table, (not many, nor very choice fragments, you may credit me)and, in an especial manner, these disreputable morsels, which he would convey away, and secretly stow in the settle that stood at his bedside. None saw when he ate them. It was rumoured that he privately devoured them in the night. He was watched, but no traces of such midnight practices were discoverable. Some reported, that, on leavedays, he had been seen to carry out of the bounds a large blue check handkerchief, full of something. This then must be the accursed thing. Conjecture next was at work to imagine how he could dispose of it. Some said he sold it to the beggars. This belief generally prevailed. He went about moping. None spake to him. No one would play with him. He was excommunicated; put out of the pale of the school. He was too powerful a boy to be beaten, but he underwent every mode of that negative punishment, which is more grievous than many stripes. Still he persevered. At length he was observed by two of his school-fellows, who were determined to get at the secret, and had traced him one leave-day, for that purpose, to enter a large worn-out building, such as there exist specimens of in Chancery-lane, which are let out to various scales of pauperism, with open door and a common staircase. After him they silently slunk in, and followed by stealth up four flights, and saw him tap at a poor wicket, which was opened by an aged woman, meanly clad. Suspicion was now ripened into certainty. The informers had secured their victim. They had him in their toils. Accusation was formally preferred, and retribution most signal was looked for. Mr. Hathaway, the then steward, (for this happened a little after my time,) with that patient sagacity which tempered all his conduct, determined to investigate the matter, before he proceeded to sentence. The result was, that the supposed mendicants, the receivers or purchasers of the mysterious scraps, turned out to be the parents of, an honest couple come to decay, whom this seasonable supply had, in all probability, saved from mendicancy; and that this young stork, at the expense of his own good name, had all this while been only feeding the old birds! The goyernors on this occasion, much to their honour, voted a present relief to the family of ——, and presented him with a silver medal. The lesson which the steward read upon RASH JUDGMENT, on the occasion of publicly delivering the medal to I believe, would not be lost upon his auditory. I had left school then, but I well remember He was a tall, shambling youth, with a cast

* One or two instances of lunacy, or attempted suicide, accordingly, at length convinced the governors of the impolicy of this part of the sentence, and the midnight torture to the spirits was dispensed with. This fancy of dungeons for children was a sprout of Howard's brain; for which, (saving the reverence due to Holy

The culprit, who had been a third time an offender, and whose expulsion was at this time deemed irreversible, was brought forth, as at some solemn auto da fe, arrayed in uncouth and most appalling attire-all trace of his late "watchet weeds" carefully effaced, he was exposed in a jacket, resembling those which London lamplighters formerly delighted in, with a cap of the same. The effect of this divestiture was such as the ingenious devisers of it could have anticipated. With his pale and frighted features, it was as if some of those disfigurements in Dante had seized upon him. In this disguisement he was brought into the hall, (L.'s favourite state-room,) where awaited him the whole number of his school-fellows, whose joint lessons and sports he was thenceforth to share no more; the awful presence of the steward, to be seen for the last time; of the executioner beadle, clad in his state-robe for the occasion; and of two faces more, of direr import, because never but in these extremities visible. These were governors; two of whom, by choice, or charter, were always accustomed to officiate at these Ultima Supplicia; not to mitigate, (so at least we understood it,) but

what odd places, and deposited with as little the lapse of time, as it affects his mortal duration. memory as mine. I take in these orphans, the The one is that which in an especial manner ho twice-deserted. These proselytes of the gate are termeth his. In the gradual desuetude of old obwelcome as the true Hebrews. There they stand servances, this custom of solemnizing our proper in conjunction; natives, and naturalized. The birth-day hath nearly passed away, or is left to latter seem as little disposed to inquire out their children, who reflect nothing at all about the mattrue lineage as I am.—I charge no ware-house- ter, nor understand any thing in it beyond cake room for these deodands, nor shall ever put myself and orange. But the birth of a New Year is of to the ungentlemanly trouble of advertising a sale an interest too wide to be pretermitted by king or of them to pay expenses.

cobbler. No one ever regarded the First of JanuTo lose a volume to C., carries some sense and ary with indifference. It is that from which all meaning in it. You are sure that he will make date their time and count upon what is left. It is one hearty meal on your viands, if he can give no the nativity of our common Adam. account of the platter after it. But what moved Of all sound of all bells—(bells, the music nighthee, wayward, spiteful K., to be so importunate est bordering upon heaven)—most solemn and to carry off with thee, in spite of tears and adjura- | touching is the peal which rings out the Old Year. tions to thee to forbear, the Letters of that princely I never hear it without a gathering-up of my mind woman, the thrice noble Margaret Newcastle ?- to a concentration of all the images that have been knowing at the time, and knowing that I knew diffused over the past twelvemonth; all I have also, thou most assuredly wouldst never turn over done or suffered, performed or neglected-in that one leaf of the illustrious folio:—what but the regretted time. I begin to know its worth, as mere spirit of contradiction, and childish love of when a person dies. It takes a personal colour ; getting the better of thy friend ?—Then, worst cut nor was it a poetical flight in a contemporary, of all! to transport it with thee to the Gallican when he exclaimed, land

" I saw the skirts of the departing year.” “Unworthy land to harbor such a sweetness, A virtue in which all ennobling thoughts dwelt,

It is no more than what in -sober sadness every Pure thoughts, kind thoughts, high thoughts, her sex's one of us seems to be conscious of, in that awful wonder !"

leave-taking. I am sure I felt it, and all felt it -hadst thou not thy play-books, and books of with me, last night; though some of my companjests and fancies, about thee, to keep thee merry, ions affected rather to manifest an exhilaration at even as thou keepest all companies with thy quips the birth of the coming year, than any very tender and mirthful tales ?-Child of the Green-room, it regrets for the decease of its predecessor. But I was unkindly done of thee. Thy wife, too, that am none of those who part French, better part Englishwoman!-that she “Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest." could fix upon no other treatise to bear away, in

I am naturally, beforehand, shy of novelties, kindly token of remembering us, than the works of

new books, new faces, new years,—from some Fulke Greville, Lord Brook-of which no French

mental twist which makes it difficult in me to face man, nor woman of France, Italy, or England, was ever by nature constituted to comprehend a tittle!

the prospective. I have almost ceased to hope ;

and am sanguine only in the prospects of other Was there not Zimmerman on Solitude ? Reader, if haply thou art blessed with a moderate

(former) years. I plunge into foregone visions

and conclusions. I encounter pell-mell with past collection, be shy of showing it; or if thy heart overfloweth to lend them, lend thy books ; but let disappointments. I am armour-proof against old it be to such an one as S. T. C.-he will return

discouragements. I forgive, or overcome in fancy, them (generally anticipating the time appointed) gamesters phrase it, games, for which I once paid

old adversaries. I play over again for love, as the with usury; enriched with annotations, tripling

so dear. I would scarce now have any of those their value. I have had experience. Many are

untoward accidents and events of my life reversed. these precious MSS. of his—in matter oftentimes,

I would no more alter them than the incidents of and almost in quantity not unfrequently, vying

some well-contrived novel. Methinks, it is better with the originals)-in no very clerkly hand

that I should have pined away seven of my goldlegible in my Daniel ; in old Burton; in Sir Thomas Browne; and those abstruser cogitations of the

enest years, when I was thrall to the fair hair, and

fairer eyes, of Alice W-n, than that so passionGreville, now, alas! wandering in Pagan lands. I counsel thee, shut not thy heart, nor thy library, that our family should have missed that legacy,

ate a love adventure should be lost. It was better against S. T.C.

which old Dorrell cheated us of, than that I should have at this moment two thousand pounds in ban

co, and be without the idea of that specious old NEW-YEARS EVE.

rogue.

In a degree beneath manhood, it is my infirmity Every man hath two birth-days: two days, at to look back upon those early days. Do I ad

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the intervention of forty years, a man may have can approprinte to our imagination the freezing leave to love himself, without the imputation of days of December. But now, shall I confess a self-love?

truth? I feel these audits but too powerfully. I If I know aught of myself

, no one whose mind begin to count the probabilities of my duration, is introspective, and mine is painfully so, can have and to grudge at the expenditure of moments and a less respect for his present identity, than I have shortest periods, like misers' farthings. In profor the man Elia. I know him to be light, and portion as the years both lessen and shorten, I set vain, and humoursome; a notorious

ad- more count upon their periods, and would fain lay dicted to ; aversc from counsel, neither my ineffectual finger upon the spoke of the great taking it nor offering it; besides; a stam- wheel. I am not content to pass away “like a mering buffoon; what you will; lay it on, and weaver's shuttle.” Those metaphors solace me spare not; I subscribe to

all, and much more not, nor sweeten the unpalatable draught of morthan thou canst be willing to lay at his door- tality. I care not to be carried with the tide, that but for the child Elia—that “other me,” there, in smoothly bears human life to eternity; and reluct the back-ground-I must take leave to cherish the at the inevitable course of destiny. I am in love remembrance of that young master, with as little with this green earth; the face of town and counreference, I protest, to this stupid changeling of try; the unspeakable rural solitudes, and the sweet five-and-forty, as if it had been a child of some security of streets. I would set up my tabernacle other house, and not of my parents. I can cry here. I am content to stand still at the age to over its patient small-pox at five, and rougher me- which I am arrived; I, and my friends: to be no dicaments. I can lay its poor fevered head upon younger, no richer, no handsomer. I do not want the sick pillow at Christs, and wake with it in to be weaned by age; or drop, like mellow fruit, surprise at the gentle posture of maternal tender- as they say, into the grave. Any alteration, on ness hanging over it, that unknown had watched this carth of mine, in diet or in lodging, puzzles its sleep. I know how it shrank from any the and discomposes me. My household-gods plant least colour of falschood. God help thee, Elia, a terrible fixed foot, and are not rooted up without how art thou changed! Thou art sophisticated. blood. They do not willingly seek Lavinian shores. I know how honest, how courageous (for a weak- A new state of being staggers me. ling) it was; how religious, how imaginative, how Sun, and sky, and breeze, and solitary walks, hopeful! From what have I not fallen, if the child and summer-holydays, and the greenness of fields, I remember was indeed myself, and not some dis- and the delicious juices of meats and fishes, and sembling guardian, presenting a false identity, to society, and the cheerful glass, and candle-light, give the rule to my unpractised steps, and regulate and fireside conversations, and innocent vanities, the tone of my moral being!

and jests, and irony itself-do these things go out That I am fond of indulging, beyond a hope of

with life? sympathy, in such retrospection, may be the symp- Can a ghost laugh, or shake his gaunt sides, tomof some sickly idiosyncrasy. Or is it owing to when you are pleasant with him? another cause; simply, that being without wife or And you, my midnight darlings, my Folios ! family, I have not learned to project myself enough must I part with the intense delight of having you out of myself; and having no offspring of my own (huge armfuls) in my embraces? Must knowto dally with, I turn back upon memory, and adopt ledge come to me, if it come at all, by some awkmy own early idea, as my heir and favourite? If ward experiment of intuition, and no longer by these speculations seem fantastical to thee, reader, this familiar process of reading? (a busy man perchance,) if I tread out of the way Shall I enjoy friendships there, wanting the of thy sympathy, and am singularly conceited only, smiling indications which point me to them here, I retire, impenetrable to ridicule, under the phan- the recognizable face; "the sweet assurance of a tom cloud of Elia.

look ?" The elders, with whom I was brought up, were In winter, this intolerable disinclination to dyof a character not likely to let slip the sacred ob- ing, to give it its mildest name, does more espeservance of any old institution, and the ringing out cially haunt and beset me. In a genial August of the old year was kept by them with circum- noon, beneath a sweltering sky, death is almost stances of peculiar ceremony. In those days the problematic. At those times do such poor

snakes sound of those midnight chimes, though it seemed as myself enjoy an immortality. Then we expand to raise hilarity in all around me, never failed to and burgeon. Then are we as strong again, as bring a train of pensive imagery into my fancy. valiant again, as wise again, and a great deal Yet I then scarce conceived what it meant, or taller. The blast that nips and shrinks me, puts thought of it as a reckoning that concerned me. me in thoughts of death. All things allied to the Not childhood alone, but the young man till thirty, insubstantial, wait upon that master feeling; cold, never feels practically that he is mortal. He knows numbness, dreams, perplexity; moonlight itself, it indeed, and, if need werc, he could preach a ho- with its shadowy and spectral appearances, that mily on the fragility of life; but he brings it not cold ghost of the sun, or Phæbus sickly sister,

a

« VorigeDoorgaan »