Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

I will begin my journal, for in that style I believe my letters will be best received, considering our situations. I held my resolution of not going to the Ridotto till past three o'clock; when, finding nobody was willing to sit any longer but Boone, who was not able, I took, as I thought, the best of two evils, and so went there rather than to bed, but found it so infinitely dull that I retired in half an hour. The next morning I heard there had been extreme deep play, and that Harry Furnese went drunk from White's at six o'clock, and won the dear memorable sum of one thousand guineas. He won the chief part of Doneraile and Bob Bertie.

I supped that night, tėte à téte with Metham, who was d-d angry with Hubby Bubby for having invited all the Musquetaires to supper but him. He went to sleep at twelve, and I to White's, where I stayed till six. Sun. day I dined out of town, at Chelsea College, with Mr. Winnington and Mr. Townshend, whom I think a good agreeable man. Yesterday I spent good part of the day with my Lord Coke at a cock-match, and went, towards the latter end of Quin's benefit, to Marianne, where I found he had not greatly pleased.

We shall here quote a note of some value in a theatrical sense, and relative to Garrick's failure in the character of Othello :

Determined to judge for himself, in regard to the merits of Garrick's acting, Quin, on the night on which his rival was announced to perform Othello, secured himself a place in the pit of the rival theatre. About this period had been published Hogarth's famous prints of “Marriage à la Mode," in one of which, it will be remembered, is introduced a negro foot-boy entering the apartment with a tea-equipage. To the quick fancy of Quin, (naturally on the watch to turn his rival into ridicule,) it may readily be imagined that there appeared a ludicrous similarity between the appearance of the foot-boy and the blackened face and diminutive figure of Garrick. Accordingly, when the latter made his re-appearance in the third or fourth act, Quin suddenly exclaimed, loud enough to afford amusement to half the pit, “Here is Pompey, but where are the tea-things ?"

Perhaps none of the letters in the present volumes convey a clearer idea of the social laxity of the pleasure-seeking aristocracy of Selwyn's era, than those of the notorious Lord March, afterwards Duke of Queensberry, who must have found the worthy George a capital negotiator; the business upon which he was put being, no doubt, a great deal more pleasant and more precisely performed than anything which the House of Commons exacted, or the Prime Minister either, when the amour of a brother duke was on the boards:

The muff you sent me by the Duke of Richmond I like prodigiously; vastly better than if it had been tigré or of any glaring colour; several are now making after it. I send you by this post full directions about all my commissions, as I quite despair of coming to you. I wish I had set out immediately after Newmarket, which I believe I should have done if I had not taken a violent fancy for one of the opera girls. This passion is a little

abated, and I hope it will be quite so before you and the Rena come over, else I fear it will interrupt our society. But whatever is the case, as I have a real friendship and affection for the Rena, I shall show her every mark of regard and consideration, and be vastly happy to see her. I consider her as a friend, and certainly as one that I love very much, and as such, I hope she will have some indulgence for my follies. A contrary behaviour will only separate us entirely, which I should be very sorry for, and upon the footing that we have lived for some time past, it would be quite ridiculous and affected. You may talk to her a little about this at a distance. I spoke to the Duke of Grafton about your being in France, and I will take an opportunity of saying something ahout it to him again, only to show your attention as to the Parliament. This moment my servant brings me your letter by le Roi. I will inquire for a lodging for the Rena, for I agree with you entirely, that you have no room for her in your house, and it is as well to avoid all the nonsense that would be said about it. I shall have everything in readiness, that she may immediately go to her own hotel, for she certainly cannot come either to yours or mine.-&c. &c.

A muff was at that period a part of a gentleman's full dress. A change, however, was about to take place in this department of manners and fashion. Says Mr. Jesse,

The costume, which is now confined to the levee, or drawing-room, was then worn by persons of condition, with few exceptions everywhere and every day. Mr. Fox and his friends, who might be said to dictate to the town, affecting a style of neglect about their persons, and manifesting a contempt of all the usages hitherto established, first threw a sort of discredit on dress. From the House of Commons, and the clubs in St. James's Street, it spread through the private assemblies of London. But, though gradually undermined, and insensibly perishing of an atrophy, dress never fell till the era of Jacobinism and of Equality, in 1793 and 1794. It was then that pantaloons, cropped hair, and shoe-strings, as well as the total abolition of buckles and ruffles, together with the disuse of hair-powder, characterized the men; while ladies exhibited heads rounded “à la victime et à la guillotine," as if ready for a stroke of the axe.

One of the most distinguished and worthy of Selwyn's coriespondents was Horace Walpole. We cite a specimen in his best style, abounding with celebrated names, or concerning such persons as one must be ever pleased to receive the slightest information.of.

I was in your debt before, for making over Madame du Deffand to me, who is delicious; that is, as often as I can get her fifty years back; but she is as eager about what happens every day as I am about the last century. I sup there twice a week, and bear all her dull company for the sake of the Regent. I might go to her much oftener, but my curiosity to see every body and every thing is insatiable, especially having lost so much time by my confinement. I have been very ill a long time, and mending much longer, for every two days undo the ground I get. The fogs and damps which, with your leave, are greater and more frequent than in England, kill me. How

vol. 11. (1843.) NO. III.

Y

ever it is the country in the world to be sick and grow old in. The first step towards being in fashion is to lose an eye or a tooth. Young people I conclude there are, but where they exist I don't guess : not that I complain; it is charming to totter into vogue.

If I could but run about all the morning, I should be content to limp into good company in the evening. They humour me and fondle me so, and are so good natured, and make me keep my armed chair, and rise for nobody, and hand out nobody, and don't stare at one's being a skeleton, that I grow to like them exceedingly, and to be pleased with living here, which was far from the case at first : but then there was no soul in Paris but philosophers, whom I wished in heaven, though they do not wish themselves so. They are so overbearing and so underbred. Your old flame, the Queen, was exceedingly kind to me at my presentation. Madame Geoffrin is extremely what I had figured her, only with less will and more sense than I expected. The Duchess d’Aiguillon is delightful, frank, and jolly, and handsome and good-humoured, with dignity too. There is another set in which I lived much, and to my taste, but very different from all I have named, Madame de Rochford, and the set at the Luxembourg. My newest acquaintance is Monsieur de Maurepas, with whom I am much taken, though his countenance and person are so like the late Lord Hardwicke. From the little I have seen of him, we have reason I believe to thank Madame de Pompadour for his disgrace. At the Marquis de Brancas' I dined with the Duc de Brissac, in his red stockings : in short, I think my winter will be very well amused, whether Mr. Garrick and Mr. Pitt act or not. I beg your pardon, my dear sir, for this idle letter; yet don't let it lie in your

work-basket. When have a quarter of an hour, awake, and to spare, I wish you would bestow it on me. There are no such things as bons mots here to send you, and I cannot hope that you will send me your

Next to them, I should like Charles Townshend's, but I don't desire Betty's. I forgot to tell you that I sometimes go to Baron d'Olbach's, but I have left off his dinners, as there was no bearing the authors, and philosophers, and savants, of which he has a pigeon-house full. They soon turned my head with a new system of antediluvian deluges, which they have invented to prove the eternity of matter. The Baron is persuaded that Pall Mall is paved with lava or deluge stones. In short, nonsense for nonsense, I like the Jesuits better than the philosophers.

The correspondence conducts us to 1770. But Selwyn liyed for about twenty years longer, and therefore we may look for another instalment, probably as large and no less interesting, ere Mr. Jesse has finished the task which

he has imposed upon himself. An opportunity will then be offered for expressing a more, deliberate opinion on the merits of the editor's share in the work, as well as upon the character of the letters published and the virtues of them.

you

own.

Art. V.- The Dream of Life; Lays of the English Church, and

other Poems. By John Moultrie. Pickering. “The Dream of Life” is Mr. Moultrie's principal poem, and has merits sufficient to sustain a volume : for though unambitious in its subject, and even common-place be its materials, there is yet such a happy prominence given to the poetic points and capabilities of what every cultivated mind must have tenderly felt, and must continually be ready to sympathize with, that the universal and unaffected character of the topics, along with their accumulated associations, will but the more extensively recommend the production to readers of judgment and taste. The manner in which our bard fulfils his design and puts into shape conceptions that have reality and life in their nature, is equally admirable.

“ The Dream of Life” presents the more salient and memorable passages and transitions in what will very readily be supposed to have marked the author's own unobtrusive career; being the history rather of a contemplative mind's development, reflections, and remembrances, than of outward events of remarkable moment, or of any unusual situations. “Childhood," “ Boyhood," “ Youth, and “Manhood," are titles of chapters which obviously point to an ordinary career, which will be still more accurately pre-defined by the mind's eye, when that career has been exemplified by one bred in a rural district of England, when the village and the domestic manners as well as characters were of the good old-fashioned cast. Eton and the second stage naturally unite; and the university with the third; while marriage and manhood, the young clergyman's appointment to a parish, with such things and characters as must arrest a person so situated and settling for life, properly follow out and fill up the mind's history, and Mr. Moultrie's Dream.

Such may appear an exceedingly inartificial plan for a poem, and to offer scope only for the tamest and most hackneyed details. And so it would in ordinary hands. Everything, however, depends upon the workman's fancy, range of thought, and skill in execution. At the same time, let it be observed that nothing is more common than to hear prosaic and level persons asseverating that were their histories put into a book, they would read as the strangest of romances; and hence it may be concluded that there is within the chambers of any one's breast, within the circle of his reminiscences and among the multitudes of his treasured observations and sentiments, such touching, beautiful, and marvellous materials, that were they marshalled and brought forward with a Mr. Moultrie's spirit, selection, and taste in giving to each passage, principle, and recollection, its due proportion of space and prominency, the result would be anything but a series of commonplace and bald images in the estimation of the in

Y

dividual personated, and would more than probably be effectually addressed to the feelings and the experience of all.

Were it asked what can childhood and a rural village suggest that has not been a thousand times told and sung, or that every fancy may not picture with a liveliness and sweetness which cannot be surpassed by the use of audible language?—the best way to answer this question, a question that can never be put by any person who is cognizant of the magical power of poetic thought, or even of the charms of the coy language which adapts itself to poetic imaginings, will be to point to the author of the pieces before us. How happily does Mr. Moultrie show that childhood's years abound with the richest seeds for the muses's culture, and that the impressions and memories of that period are susceptible of being treated in a manner to arrest the experienced mind, as well as to touch and to gladden the youthful fancy. What more needeth it than Mr. Moultrie's mode of contrasting and combining the experiences of a very early stage of life, -his pleasures, his curiosities, his longings, and his first amazing discoveries,—with the reflections and recollections which have crowded his soul when in after and matured years he revisited his childhood's haunts, and trod the old familiar ways? Just listen to a sample of his story and of his philosophy, yet belonging to nothing more extraordinary than the effect which theatricals had at first upon him.

Yonder barn,
Secluded from the street a little

space,
And in no wise distinguish'd outwardly
From others of its class, was once to me
A scene of strange enchantment; for a' troop
Of startling players built up beneath its roof
Their rude and rustic theatre. Till then,
The drama was to us an unknown world,
Save that when last our family had gone
To visit the metropolis, (a rare
And wonderful occurrence,) we all went
To Sadler's Wells and Astley's. Ne'er again
Was such intense illusion to beguile

Our senses and our souls as seized us then. The faithful picturing of these marvels and artistic illusions is continued; but we hasten to the moral of the passage :

There did mimic talent, with all aid
Of outward show dispensing, in our hearts
Awaken childhood's earnest sympathies.
There we rejoiced with them that did rejoice,
And wept with them that wept; there learned to feel
The dignity of Virtue in distress,
And with her triumphs sympathize ; there grieved
For Woman's bitter wrong, and burnt with zeal

« VorigeDoorgaan »