Imágenes de páginas

extracted from him, would, if true, account for these strong traits of character.

He appeared to be labouring under some vehement disappointment; and struggling with terrific difficulties. His melancholy, though interesting, was generally painful; and seemed to depress his faculties. I have met him day after day, when he scarce spoke. Then all at once the vein of eloquence would seem to flow upon him; and he would pour forth the treasures of a mind full of sentiment and imagery, with such a felicity of expression and sweetness of voice as seemed to be little short of inspiration.

It was on one of these occasions that by good luck a friend was with me, whose prejudices had hitherto resisted all belief in my account of this wonderful young man. He was absolutely overpowered with astonishment; but, before we parted, invited him to his house with such a mixture of awe and kindness in his manner, as won its way at once to Longford's proud but grateful heart, and induced him to embrace an offer of hospitality, which in common cases he would sullenly have rejected.

'At the table of this friend I first saw him in mixed society. He did not then equal the expectations which had been formed of him: he was silent, shy, nervous, and almost awkward: in answering questions he was confused and deficient in language; and my friend almost relapsed into his former scepticism. Even his eyes lost their fire; and he looked mortified and unlike himself. Towards the close of the evening however he recovered a little; and one or two flashes restored him to my friend's good opinion.

We knew not how he employed himself in his cottage; it was probable that he read; but there were no signs of any great number of books about him. Somewhere he had certainly had an opportunity of reading; for his memory was most richly stored, particularly with history. If he had not much opportunity of reading, he certainly wrote a great deal; and I suspect was occupied in digesting some mighty plan of which his head seemed full. The common people called him "the crazy man ;" and after a little while took very slight notice of his peculiarities. A villager and his wife lived under the same roof; and these appeared to be his only attendants. He was indifferent to show and luxury, and so engrossed by the internal operations of the mind, that all trivial outward circumstances were utterly unheeded by him.

But yet he was not inattentive to objects of beauty and sublimity. I never saw an eye which glowed with more fire and admiration at the scenery of Nature. His heart and fancy seemed as tremulous as the strings of the Eolian harp; and to vibrate with responsive harmony. His tongue indeed often died away in murmurs, but his countenance spoke the intenseness of his pleasure. It was generally of a solemn tone, but it now and then relaxed into a heavenly smile. He has leaned against an old tree or thrown himself on the grass for an hour together with such a radiation of face as I have no language to describe.

[ocr errors]

Though his powers seemed better adapted to a speculative than an active life, there was reason to believe that he had been engaged in enterprises


which required not a little practical exertion. He sometimes let drop expressions which implied that he had been a soldier in services of adventure and hazard. The minutiae of the profession he despised; but he talked with fire of its greater movements; and seemed to have some project of this kind frequently floating in his head. When he talked of leading armies, and regaining kingdoms, the dark flashes of his countenance were almost frightful.

There happened to be present at one of the visits to my friend's house, a neighbour who loved to tell wonders; and who soon raised the curiosity of several of the families within his reach. By degrees most of their tables became open to Longford; but it was extremely difficult to induce him to accept invitations; and no one could ever rely on his attendance. There were people, whom no one could prevail on him to meet, and from whom, if he accidentally encountered them in a room, he instantly retired. As long as it was the fashion to have him of a party, all this was endured. He still continued, next to myself, most attached to my friend, who had an amiable family of daughters, in whose presence his frequent returns of cloudiness and depression seemed in some degree to give way.

Yet it was seldom that he spoke to them; nor would a common observer have perceived that they had any effect on his manners or his thoughts. I, who had watched him incessantly, knew better the changes of his looks, and the tones of his voice. 1 have seen occasionally what animation their company gave to his conversation, even in arguments and on subjects which appeared entirely addressed

to their father; and when they left the room, he has become languid; his attention lost, and his manner confused.

He had not been long known in our neighbour. hood before many stories were circulated to his prejudice. He was called an adventurer; an impostor; a low fellow; a beggar; a madman, &c. Some of these things reached his ears; the words "low fellow," raised his indignation most. "I suppose," said he, "I am called low fellow by some EastIndian cut-throat, or some mongrel nobleman, whose pedigree has been sewed together from shreds of parchment by a little tailor, turned herald; who however would have got a more honest, if not a more productive livelihood, by never quitting his board! I scorn to tell what I am, in opposition to such despicable insults as these!" Sometimes however I expected that these provocations would have drawn out his real history; but they never extorted more than broken and imperfect hints. Yet I gathered that he considered himself of Blood-Royal; and that there was something very romantic in the history of his descent.

There were moments when his temper had the appearance of great harshness, and even ferocity: his resentments were strong; and his indignation was too much alive. But, after long and studious investigation, I was convinced that the excessive tenderness of his feelings was his main defect; and the source of ebullitions of temper which had the very contrary hue. Had he exercised a more constant and severe control over himself, he might have


been happier; he might have been better; but all the striking traits of his character would have been deadened.

It was almost a misfortune, that he could not at all coalesce with common minds. Animal spirits, and the liveliness of ordinary conversation overcame him so as to close his mouth, and even damp his faculties. In ordinary society indeed he seemed so far from being superior, that he rather appeared like a cypher. Smart men, jesters, and bucks of infinite humour, asked, "What dull foolish fellow is that?" When they withdrew, he seemed to rise as from an oppressive weight; his powers expanded, and he often poured forth the golden torrents of his impetuous mind.

Then it was that I observed the eyes of the gentle Ellen M, my friend's second daughter, first fixed with an inexpressible kind of attention on Longford. She said nothing; she did not interrupt him by a remark, or a word; but I perceived she was intensely drinking poison to her future peace. I was alarmed; but knew not what to do. Had I had more firmness, I should instantly have communicated my observation to her father.

I endeavoured to withdraw Longford as much as possible from the house; but he had now contracted a fondness for the society of Mr. M, who was equally fond of him; and I had not resolution to break this mutual enjoyment. I had formed a warm friendship for him; and as I feared the solitude of his own cottage was too much calculated to foster his alarming melancholy, I could not bring my heart to shut him out from a hospitality, which seemed to give him such keen pleasure.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »