Imágenes de páginas


[ocr errors]

one-eyed monsters, and other hints of ever existed : for mossy cells, and all unapproachable savagedom? Or is it, such damp places, in an English cliafter all, a very desirable or a very mate, must always have been abomindignified position-or one that con- able. At all events, no one has any tributes so very highly to one's self- vocation for that kind of thing in our respect—to look round you in every days. The only instance of a mocompany, and feel that every man, dern hermit, I believe, is at Crewoman, and child, who composes it, morne, and he goes home to a hot are your betters in some one or other supper about twelve, and is a very point of view ? I have no sympathy jolly fellow indeed from that time with the man who delights to be till any hour in the morning: Still, “king of his company;" neither, on some people say they prefer solithe other hand, do I choose to be tude. They are never so happy as admitted upon sufferance into mine. when alone.” No one doubts it. No I like good society, in a certain sense, one objects to it. It's a lawful as well perhaps as those who talk taste, under limitations, if not a very more about it, and, I flatter myself, useful or amiable one. But the point can "behave myself before folk” with- that provokes one is, that instead of out expending sixpence on the popu- being ashamed of it, and trying to lar manual on that subject; but I conceal it as they would any other like society also as a relaxation : moral obliquity-as a taste for amaeven gods must unbend, and man teur shop-lifting, or any awkward has a good deal of the lower animal propensity of that kind—these people in him. It must be tiresome for the parade it ; they claim to be praised best-educated bear to be continually for it; they look down upon you upon his hind-legs ; I confess I like with the most magnificent air of suto get amongst my fellow-animals, periority. “My mind to me a kingand to go upon all-fours sometimes. dom is,” say they. Very well ; rule I had rather have spent one evening it, and have done with it : I don't with Counsellor Pleydell at "high want to invade your kingdom. But jinks,” than have dined ten times don't usurp a regency over my mind. with that stiff and correct Colonel My mind is no kingdom : I don't Mannering off the family plate, un- want any such kingdom : I might as der the eyes of awfully respectable well be Robinson Crusoe.

The man Barnes. And I am much mistaken whom you borrow that fine sentiif the great Novelist himself would ment from was in prison, and wisely not have agreed with me.

made the best of it; he could I have been irritated into this de- sing another note when out of his claration partly by the sight of four cage. Travel through the world in large volumes On Solitude, .by an your own sulky, if you will, but old Swiss wiseacre, called Zimmer- don't affect to sneer at our more somann (does one need to be told that cial conveyances. Why on earth are he died of hypochondria-?) and of you to be praised for a surly, inhospiwhich the translation, from a French table, uncompanionable disposition ? abridgment-fancy a Frenchman re- It's selfishness, let me tell you, a good commending solitude—was at one deal of it. You are too refined, fortime a popular classic ; read by young sooth, for this everyday life. You ladies, alternately, I should suppose, don't enjoy other people's happiness ; with Coelebs in Search of a Wife, in their vulgar affairs and little interorder to prepare them for either des- ests bore a philosopher of your tiny. Partly also, because, though the stamp, because you have never old Swiss doctor moped himself to learnt the true human philosophy death long ago, there is always a dis- which drew down plaudits from a eased tendency in the English mind more enlightened audience than fills to raişe him up disciples. The old a modern lecture-room, albeit a headelusion is not extinct, only modified then spoke it in a heathen theatreby change of times and habits. The

“Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum “ Hermit hoar, in mossy cell," has long passed away from us, if he a philosophy which found its sanc


[ocr errors]



2 F

[ocr errors]

tion, remember, in a higher autho- ing.” He is not “a man of considerrity, where we are taught to be “all able information.” His views on things to all men.

the India and China questions are But to descend to my own confes- scarcely to be called original, being sions. I live in a country neighbour- a slight alteration and reproduction hood ; and my country neighbours, I from those set forth in his weekly

; freely acknowledge, are not all shin- paper,not to be compared, in this ing lights —“ mortal men, mortal respect, to those of my nearer neighmen.” Still, as I said, I like society; bour and acquaintance, Mostyn Hastand as the Englishman's social mood ings, who is deep (or professes to be) is his feeding hour, I like going out in the secrets of our county member, to dinner. I call it a bore, of course, Lord Gulliver, and hears from him in accordance with conventional “a good deal of what goes on in pousage; I profess myself a victim, litical circles"-generally having some discharging a painful duty to so- profound piece of secret intelligence ciety; we must keep up our ac- to produce for the benefit of our more quaintances, you know," &c. &c.-80 aristocratic dinner-parties. To be

, & I go—and I like it. Five miles of sure, Mostyn's information, somehow bad road brings me to Smith's door, or other, seldom turns out to be exand I can hear his jolly loud voice, actly the fact; but this makes no and smell the roast beef, as we go in. difference as to its piquancy at the I like Smith. You don't know. Smith, time; while Smith's, being usually a my fastidious friend, and wouldn't week old, has the advantage of havcare to know him. He is our coun- ing had the lies sifted out of it. I try surgeon, fat, and not over-pol- should hardly venture to say as much ished ; doing a very good business in our neighbourhood, but I prefer with very hard work, and if ever Smith's conversation on the whole to you happen to break your leg in our Mostyn's. I don't know that he is hunting country, you'll be very glad any great wit, but we laugh a good to make Smith's acquaintance. But deal when we are together, and enhe is by no means what you call a joy ourselves, I fancy, in our ignoperfect gentleman, my friend Smith. rant way, quite as much as grander He laughs at the full natural compass and more intellectual people. Then of his ice over his dinner-table, again there is nes I like Jones. though he is as gentle as a woman I can go into Jones's house at any in a sick-room. He shakes you by moment, and feel sure that he is glad the hand as if he meant it, and is apt to see me. Jones is bucolic and horto call a spade a spade. But I can ticultural. If he is not in the house, tell you one thing he did the other -and he seldom is in fine weatherday, which may give you a notion of still you seldom, if ever, get the anhis character : he refused his vote to swer" not at home.” If he is not to his best patient, Lord when be found in the garden, with his coat his eldest son stood for the county, off, pruning his peaches, or cutting and when a good many of our his asparagus, according to the time squirearchy, and hierarchy too, who of year, “ Master's somewhere about, ought to have known better, put sir,” and you find him with his bailiff their principles and their politics in among his pigs and sheep. I don't their pocket, because, “you see, one care for pigs or sheep, nor profess to don't like to disoblige a neighbour;" be any judge of such matters; but I and what perhaps surprised our local like to hear Jones dilate on their gossips still more, was that the Vis- merits, because he evidently likes it count did not on the next occasion so much, and it is a pleasure in these send for that rising young Æscula- emasculate days to see a man enthupius, who is now lecturing at our siastic about anything. And, to do philosophical institution, and did ask him justice, he does not insist upon Smith as usual to a comprehensive your riding all his hobbies. “Lunch ? dinner-party. Smith is not a man of have you lunched ? stay to dinner very great refinement. Not a very then? Must go home? nonsenseagreeable man, perhaps ; his conver- send a boy over, and tell them not to sation is not what you call “ improv- wait-dinner at five-must stay

[ocr errors]

haven't seen you here a long while. charge of the deceased countess. Mrs Jones quite complains of you.” And I can always relieve myself by And, let me tell you, you may do a yawn in Jones's face, when he worse than take Jones's pot-luck, as he harps a little too long upon his facalls it; his is not that niggard hospi- mily reminiscences--a yawn which tality that never has a decent dinner, I am reduced to all kinds of mean except when a week's notice is given shifts to conceal in the presence of beforehand, or that feels ashamed to her ladyship. set a friend down to the family But let no one suppose, from these table. You may not find the ortho- pictures of my acquaintance, that dox courses ; but what you do find ours is a very primitive circle, and in his house will be good. Jones that I have been digging out of a is not one of those uneducated ani- fossil state of society, left behind in mals who does not care what he the sweep of civilisation and refineeats or drinks, or one of those hypo- ment. Not at all. We march with critical starvelings who


he the times. We have some most cordoesn't. Jones is a man who de- rect and fashionable visiting acspises luncheon, and dinner is to quaintance. There is my very near him a serious everyday business- neighbour, the Rev. Byron Brown. not to be classed, like fashionable Never calls on any one before five; dinners, among


and vani. dines at seven-what he calls dinties of this wicked world. Of him ing. For I confess it is one of those it might be said, as of Syr Gareth places where the duty of dining does of Orkney in the Morte ďArthur-. not become a pleasure to me. He only that the heroes of our degener- does the thing in style-such style ! ate age lack the immortalising bard The sort of thing has been described,

Knyghtely he ete his mete and over and over again, better than I egerly, and some said they never can do it. Dinner for twelve; plenty sawe a goodlyer man, nor so well to look at, and not much to eat. of etynge.And as to a bottle of Staff-confidential servant, out of port-if you have still any stomach livery, to administer the champagne for that ancient beverage- you are

in infinitesimal doses ; hired waiter, safer a good deal at Jones's table than groom, and Buttons, tumbling over at my lord's, where I should not ad- each other, and distributing gravy vise your drinking more than you can where least wanted. Wine passed help. (You won't be pressed there, round twice after dinner ; then bad however-don't be afraid : it's not coffee, worse music (Italian, of the fashion ; and the wine is so course), carriages at ten. Judging doubtful, that it's a very wise ar- from his public performances, I rangement.) Then as to conversa- should calculate Byron's daily spread tion, Jones will tell you a good for himself and Mrs B. would be story about almost every man in the two mutton-chops, à la something, country : suppose they do come over and a silver claret-jug-empty. How again sometimes—is a man bound often have I longed to tell him, in to keep a memorandum of his audi- the presence of his most honoured ence at every anecdote ? and it must guest Hastings (Hon. Mostyn), of be a bad story that won't bear hear the jolly dinners I used to share, ing twice. Suppose Jones does talk when a youngster at home for the a good deal about his grandmother, vacation, with his father, old Boreas you don't mean to call that bad Brown, as he was fondly called (he style, I hope? Why, Lady Gulliver had been in the navy, and sung a always talks of her aunt, the coun- song about Boreas), when the pièce tess, and I would just as soon hear de resistance was commonly a boiled about one as the other, for I never rump of beef, and such punch aftersaw either of them, and don't take a wards, and whist till any hour you particle of interest in the sayings pleased; and how my good old and doings of either, though I be- governor used to declare that one lieve the dowager Jones did a good of his horses was ruined by always many kind things in her generation, being kept waiting for that last which I never heard laid to the rubber, that never did end when it




ought. I have longed often, I say, in the "glasses round," which even to enlighten Byron and his select fair lips were not ashamed to taste friends with some of these reminis- after a late supper. But is there no cences (for he was but a child him- possible form of social life for Engself in those days), but that it would lishmen, intermediate between the be a shame to hurt his feelings, as it roystering boon-companionship of a infallibly would : he is not a bad Squire Western, and the miserable fellow at bottom, after all, only de- unhearty stuck-up form of interluded. Indeed, in such company,

I course (one has to invent epithets feel such doings ought not to be for it out of indignation, or borrow whispered. I creep into myself some- them from slang, so naturally untimes with shame when I think how English is it) which has of late unfit I am for the seat I occupy. I years sprung up amongst our middle have to reason myself out of a feel- classes? Niggardly at

once and ing of actual guilt, when I think I expensive, encouraging, instead of could have enjoyed another glass of kindly feeling and good-neighbourthat port (it was poor old Boreas' ship, a petty pride and rivalry and stock, and will last Byron a long affectation, catching at the shadow while) much more than Mrs Hast- of a cold dignity and refinement, ings' Italian squall; and if my car- which they imagine to be the charriage is five minutes after the regu- acteristics of superior station, inlation hour of ten, I shudder to think stead of enjoying, heartily and what that honourable lady would thankfully, the wealth of social think of me, if she knew how often, blessings which lie around them in within these same old walls, I had their own. The state of isolation heard the chimes at midnight. in which a man of moderate means,

I sometimes am tempted to wish in most country neighbourhoods, I could reverse the process of the lives and moves from year to year, sleepers of Ephesus, and sleep a is notorious ; it would be pitiable, if

; generation or two back in the world. it were not so often his own fault. Some great geniuses are said to have By men of moderate means, I mean been born in advance of their age. chiefly the village rector and the For my own part-being the reverse small landed proprietor. This latter of a genius, I suppose-I think I class, indeed, for the same social must have come into the world too reasons, has for some time been fast late at least by a lifetime. I miss diminishing. As to the professional the social life which I well remember man,” as we call him, who has every even in the days of my boyhood. right to take his place among them, People are getting too grand, or too it is one symptom of an unhealthy refined, or too spirituel (they like a tone in English society that his posiFrench word), to enjoy themselves. tion of late years has notoriously Some allowance I am willing to sunk. With some few exceptions, make for a natural reaction. Sick made in favour of the man and not and disgusted, and very reasonably, of the profession, he is no longer at the coarse animal bent of our met at the kind of table at which forefathers' pleasures, and the ex- he was welcome fifty years ago. The cesses into which their social tem- lawyer who knows all our family pers and love of hospitality too often secrets, in whose honour, though we carried them, their descendants have have the bad taste to call him a made a rush into the opposite ex- rascal, we place a confidence which treme. I have no desire to bring we seldom find abused ; the surgeon back the days when men staggered to whose care and skill we trust our into drawing-rooms under their two lives, our health, our family hopes, bottles of wine. No rational being and, I may almost say, the honour calls that enjoyment. Whist is not of our wives and daughters - these the serious business of life, as some men we do all we can to force down of our grandfathers and grand- into a class of society whose habits, mothers seemed to have supposed it, whose tastes - and therefore, we have and there was a mixture of what a right to suppose, whose principles was evil as well as what was good -are lower than our own. We com

[ocr errors]

plain of these men not being gentle. determining, at all events, to show men, and we do all in our power to the rector that he's as good as he is, prevent their having one of the most and fancying that he is to be a hapessential qualifications, the believing pier man when he has a high wall themselves to be so. So the rector and pair of double gates to shut him dwells in his little world, and finds out from the sight of his neighbours, his excitement and amusement (for and one or two gentlemen in plush excitement and amusement, I lay it to stand and watch him eat his

I down as a rule, every healthy mind dinner. must have) in a war with his dissent- In short, the hearty genial old ers, or, still better, with his neigh- English life is fast disappearing : the boúr and reverend brother; or in kindly intercourse between house and Church politics, narrowing his mind house, which sweetened life for the by the constant reading of his poli- young, and smoothed for a while the tico-religious Church newspaper, high careful brows of the old, is dying or low, instead of enlarging it by the away; and what we now call society study of the wide-open book of human- is too often a mere sacrifice to apkind; and running up occasionally, pearances, an unreal puppet-like perif the railway station be handy, to formance, which gives pleasure to his university or to town, like a very few, and imposes upon nobody. miner for a breath of upper air. And Unless our revenues will allow us to the squire of limited acres and ex- keep a pleasant set of guests at bed panding family dwells in his little and board in the country, or we

, world also, or more probably does throw ourselves upon our club in not dwell there, but, unable to afford town, we had best make ourselves his house in town for the season like as independent of our kind as may his neighbour the M.P., or to sur

be. round himself, when at home in the One plea is, every one is so busy country, like him, with a houseful in these days : in spite of Solomon's of pleasant people -- unless he be saying, that there is "a time for all mad enough to ruin himself in the things,” our modern wise men, by attempt-he betakes himself, with their own account, can hardly find his pretty daughters, to the Con- time for anything. It is not only tinent in search of cheap living, the unfortunate mechanic that is cheap education, and, perhaps above driven into a state of slavery by his all, cheap society. And the lawyer fourteen hours of daily toil, and has and the doctor, being of a compan- a holiday so rarely that he does not ionable disposition, try, perhaps, to know how to use it when it comes, form a little world of their own, a but even what they in their ignorsort of double hemisphere, and meet ance would call the unproductive and chat over their bottle of port or classes have not, if you will believe their brandy-and-water, and discuss their own pitiable story, a moment the tightness of the squire's exche- to themselves. They are so busy alquer, or the pattern of humility and ways. In the name of the great Christian sympathy set before them Busy body, busy about what ?by the rector's lady, not much to the

“ Seven hours to sleep, to healthful labour improvement of their minds, or progress in their duty towards their Ten to the world allow - and all to neighbour; the lawyer perhaps with

Heaven." a mental anticipation of the time to Now the man to whom this distich come, when, a few years hence, if my is attributed is generally allowed to lord's agency turns out as well as he have brought something to pass in hopes, he too shall become an inde- his generation. But I suppose the pendent gentleman, possibly take days have grown shorter since then. a lease of the squire's place, or buy

One remembers an old form of exit advantageously-for it is very pression, “dropping in to see likely to be in the market by that friend :" a barbarous idiom, adapted time-doubting whether he shall to the savage state of—may we call find it in his heart to do the correct it society ?-among our forefathers. thing, and cut his friend Bolus, but I protest --with the exception of my



« AnteriorContinuar »