« VorigeDoorgaan »
half awake, especially when you rise so airly as you do in this country," sais I, (but the old critter couldn't see a joke, even if he felt it, and he didn't know I was a funnin'). “Folks are considerably sharp set at breakfast," sais I, “and not very talkative. That's the right time to have sarvants to tend on you." “What an idea !” said he, and he puckered up his pictur, and the way he stared was a caution to an owl. Well, we sot and sot till I was tired, so thinks I, “what's next? for it's rainin' agin as hard as ever.” So I took a turn in the study to sarch for a book, but there was nothin' there, but a Guide to the Sessions, Burn's Justice, and a book of London club rules, and two or three novels. He said he got books from the sarkilatin' library. "Lunch is ready." “What eatin' agin? My goody!” thinks I, "if you are so fond of it, why the plague don't you begin airly? If you'd a had it at five o'clock this morning, I'd a done justice to it; now I couldn't touch it if I was to die.” There it was, though. Help yourself, and no thanks, for there is no sarvants agin. The rule here is, no talk no sarvants and when it's all talk, it's all sarvants.
The attaché has many things to record concerning feeding. The following relates to fashionable cookery:
Veal, to be good, must look like anything else but veal; you mus'n't know it when you see it, or it's vulgar; mutton must be incog. too; beef must have a mask on; anythin' that looks solid, take a spoon to; anythin' that looks light, cut with a knife ; if a thing looks like fish you may take your oath it is flesh; and if it seems rael flesh, it's only disguised, for it's sure to be fish; nothin' must be nateral, natur is out of fashion here. This is a manufacturin' country, everything is done by machinery, and that that ain't must be made to look likeit; and I must say, the dinner machinery is parfect.
The Somebodies and Nobodies as distinguished on dining out occasions :
When I first came I was nation proud of that title, “the Attaché;” now I am happified it's nothin' bat “only an Attaché," and I'll tell you why, The great guns, and big bugs, have to take in each other's ladies, so these old ones have to herd together. Well, the nobodies go together too, and sit together, and I've observed these nobodies are the pleasantest people at table, and they have the pleasantest places, because they sit down with each other, and are jist like yourself, plaguy glad to get some one to talk to. Somebody can only visit somebody, but nobody can go anywhere, and therefore nobody sees and knows twice as much as somebody does. Sombodies must be axed, if they are as stupid as a pump; but nobodies needn't, and never are, unless they are spicy sort o'folks, so you are sure of them, and they have all the fun and wit of the table at their eend, and no mistake.
I wouldn't take a title if they would give it to me, for if I had one, I should have a fat old parblind dowager detailed on to me to take in to dinner; and what the plague is her jewels and laces, and silks and sattins, and wigs to me? As it is, I have a chance to have a gall to take in that's a jewel herself--one that don't want no settin' off, and carries her diamonds in her eyes, and so on. I've told our minister not to introduce me as an Attaché no
more, but as Mr. Nobody, from the State of Nothin', in America, that's natur agin.
Fashionable music :
What's that? It's music. Well, that's artificial too, it's scientific they say, it's done by rule. Jist look at that gall to the piany; first comes a little Garman thunder. Good airth and seas, what a crash! it seems, as if she'd bang the instrument all to a thousand pieces. I guess she's vexed at somebody and is a peggin' it into the piany out of spite. Now comes the singin'; see what faces she makes, how she stretches her mouth open, like a barn door, and turns up the white of her eyes like a duck in thunder. She is in a musical ecstasy is that gall, she feels good all over, her soul is a goin' out along with that ere music. Oh, it's divine, and she is an angel, ain't she? Yes, I guess she is, and when I'm an angel, I will fall in love with her; but as I'm a man, at least what's left of me, I'd jist as soon fall in love with one that was a leetle, jist a leetle more of a woman, and a leetle, jist a leetle less of an angel. But hullo! what onder the sun is she about, why her voice is going down her own throat, to gain strength, and here it comes out agin as deep-toned as a man's; while that dandy feller along side of her, is singin' what they call falsetter. They've actilly changed voices. The gall sings like a man, and that screamer like a woman. This is science: this is taste : this is fashion; but hang me if it's natur.
Slick and the minister :
“I have read your books Mr. Slick," said he, “and read 'em too, with great pleasure. You have been a great traveller in your day. You've been round the world aʼmost, haven't you?”
“Well," sais I, “I sharn't say I hante."
“What a deal of information a man of your observation must have acquired.” (He is a gentlemanly man, that you may depend. I don't know when I've see'd one so well mannered.)
“Not so much, Sir, as you would suppose," sais I. “Why how so?” sais he.
Why," sais I, “the first time a man goes round the world, he is plaguy skeered for fear of fallin' off the edge; the second time he gets used to it, and larns a good deal.
"Fallin' off the edge !” sais he ; "what an original idea that is. That's one of your best. I like your works for that they are original. We have nothin' but imitations now. Fallin' off the edge, that's capital; I must tell Peel that ; for he is very fond of that sort of thing?"
Sam's sarcasm is spicy. Another specimen, and we dismiss the book with all its commodities, assured that these will be fully relished and by every healthy appetite. The passage to be quoted is particularly to be recommended to the attention of our authorities at the colonial board :
"Your long acquaintance with the provinces, and familiar intercourse with the people," sais he, “must have made you quite at home on all colo
nial topics." “ I thought so once," sais I; “but I don't think so now no more, Sir.” “Why how is that ? ” sais he. Why, Sir,” sais I, “you can hold a book so near your eyes as not to be able to read a word of it; hold it off further, and get the right focus, and you can read beautiful. Now the right distance to see a colony, and know all about it, is England. Three thousand miles is the right focus for a political spy-glass. A man livin' here, and who never was out of England, knows twice as much about the provinces as I do.""Oh, you are joking," sais he. “Not a bit,” sais I. “I find folks here that not only know everything about them countries, but have no doubts upon any matter, and ask no questions; in fact, they not only know more than me, but more than the people themselves do, what they
It's curious, but it's a fact.”
Art. VIII.-Change for the American Notes : in Letters from
London to New York. By an American Lady. Wiley & Putnam. Change for Amercian Notes, most of our readers will at once understand, are merely the sort of coin, which a person, professing to be an American lady, returns for the American Notes issued by Mr. Dickens, and not at all any such paper or payments as our capitalists and money-lenders would accept in discharge of the advances they may have made to Jonathan. But will the Change be taken as an equivalent for the issuings of Boz's bank? is the intrinsic value of the thing so palpable and sterling as to find a circulation and a credit equally large and lasting? There can be little danger in uttering without qualification the negative no to these questions; or in declaring that the lightness of the material, its palpable milk-andwater mark, will operate so as to limit its currency to a small section of space and people.
There is a remarkable want of character about this Change, whether we regard it as coming from an American mint, or as a reply to Dickens by an Englishman, anxious to hold the balance fairly in which their several nations are professed to be weighed, and the merits or demerits of both to be accurately compared. In point of temper and tone, style and subject matter, it is not necessary to suppose that the writer has ever travelled many miles out of cockney-land; for while she expresses herself for the most part with exemplary moderation, she by no means alights upon the sorer points of our national character; not even going beyond those which dwell on the surface, and that are far more bitterly complained of, strenuously denounced, and forcibly described every day, by print and people at home. Good nature and amiable feeling characterize the book, not unmixed however with notices of things that one would think never could come under the eye, or arrest the attention of a delicate and refined female; while again the remarks are often of a style and substance
so hackneyed in London, as hardly to be compatible with the ideas of a single head and hand alone having been employed on the work. Besides, the effort by means of exaggeration to make a great deal out of what is not at all illustrative, looks as if there had been wanting that sense of the singular and the offensive which a vigilant and smart note-taking stranger would have exercised and exhibited. Perhaps the book is a joint concern: there may have been an unskilful collector, with a tasteful and intelligent setter,-one with the matter and the other with the manner.
After all, however, the question is not of much importance; the doubt and difficulty are hardly worth a moment's speculation. The book, to be sure, has good and just things in it, mixed up with nonsense and trash; although after all its great fault is the want of observation and consequent severity to expose and to lecture. Liveliness and fitting remark are often to be met with ; but the work is quite inadequate as a discoverer, a delineator, or a denouncer. Certainly it cannot be taken in any critical, much less in any exchanging sense for repayment of the American Notes. Even the utterances about the arch offender, Boz, himself, are vapid, faint, without breadth and boldness, and altogether unlike to his honest, unrestrained expression of what he thought and felt. The following are samples of the Change offered to Dickens personally:
I have not to be informed of his originality of his opening and working a new vein in his land's literature. One feels better after reading his books -better after the humour of his Wellers—the amenity of his Pickwick (how he ripens from an essayist upon tittlebats into the kindly gentleman) one's heart warms to poor Oliver Twist-one's indignation rises against Ralph Nickleby-one's disgust at the Squeers's and one's gorge at Pecksniff. But these buts :) if he be creative as a novelist, he is most meagre as a traveller ; our country was beyond his powers, and indeed is beyond the four months' power of any man. “In America," says Dr. Johnson--truly I doubt not, for it was in 1762—"there is little to be observed except natural curiosities." Very opposite seems to be Mr. Dickens's conclusion, for of the great face of nature he says hardly anything. The noblest rivers in the world rolled for him unregarded by, or at least unparagraphed.
In the Mississippi he beholds but a muddy stream flowing through a woody wilderness ; his mind's eye catches no prescient glimpse of the cities that in the fulness of time will adorn its banks; he alludes not to the " all hail, hereafter!" He is diffuse upon prisons and mad houses, for they were immediately within his ken ; brief when he tells of senates, laws, religions, literature, br science: things that have prospective influences, and are not merely of the moment.
I am always amused to think of the criticisms the American boys passed upon Boz as he sat in the car at Baltimore, telling him more about his appearances than he ever heard in his life before. I really think he had as
little to fear as most men from such a personal review. Though I have commented to you freely enough on Mr. Dickens's American Notes, I cannot but admit the tone of right feeling, the bonhomie, the kindliness that often manifests itself: the faults of the author in this work are of a negative character, his merits are positive. “Satire's his weapon, but he's too discreet" -too gentlemanly, too honourable to carry it into private life--into personal details. The ponderous blunderings of Mr. Alison are far more censurable than the light mistakes of Boz. I wonder how he came to adopt so absurd a name?
But leaving Boz to endure as he best may such castigation as this, let us hear what are some of the ill-mannered things which she observed at places where the better sort of people might be expected to congregate. And first concerning a party at the Polytechnic:
I heard one youth say to his party, and one or two of the ladies with him had been babbling of chemical affinities most learnedly, "let's cut our sticks," and they departed. Such a speech in some parts of America might be considered an invitation to “whittle ;" here it is a phraseology the young gentleman adopted to intimate his desire for the exeunt of his party. Mr. N. told me the wittier persons (!) in this country improved upon the saying and talked of "shortening their switch," "making an incision in their cane," or " amputating their timber,” Lord Brougham long ago declared that " the schoolmaster was abroad" in England-in my opinion he is lost.
The British Museum offered the American lady scope too, it would seem, for the exercise of her satire; and in this mighty manner she wields the
weapon ; There are Roman characters appended to a bust, M. AVRELIVS: it requires no great learning to see it is Roman, and I find it is no less a person than Marcus Antonius, before he was Emperor known as Marcus Aurelius. “Ay," said a well-dressed gentleman, putting his glass to his eye, and then removing it, that he might see more clearly, “ay, very good, very fine, there's Monsieur Aurelius."-" And who was Monsieur Aurelius?" asked a lady with him.—“Why, why I don't exactly remember" (that is true at any rate, thought I, and here came a short pause ;)" but I believe he was somebody” (true again, and another pause ;) "somebody-somebody-in the French Revolution."
How severe! What stinging yet unerring illustration of national ignorance and barbarism! But she visited other public places for the study of life and manners, not even disdaining to enter a gin palace, which she elaborately pictures, together with the servitors and the customers, immediately after having had the alarm upon her of a great ox passing along, which was the occasion of her sceking safety in the splendid temple for the worship of the great spirit of strong drink. This is the account of what she observed and learned in the gin store-house :