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weeks ago that the world stands fast—that the Planets of light wax not old—that the Cedars of strength decay not at heart—that the Sea eateth not the Earth—nor the Earth pusheth forth into the Sea, these same Anti-Change Apostles, I say, (as such vaunting their own infallibility and omnipotence) now make a bold stroke to get the man with the trumpet back to their gates, by declaring that the world is not stable, because it goeth back. And, see how Jargon is crying in the streets ; calling, for instance, the sweep, the straw-bonnet merchant, and the “knives-to-grind ’’ man with one leg, “the industrial classes;” preaching in all manner of pulpits; here, open-mouthed against “development;” there, silver-tongued for “Antagonism ;” and remarking how men are overcome by the same. The sons and daughters of Ben Somebody have wisely got hold of a big word of their own, whereby they hope to achieve great things, to make the ignorant believe, and the unbelieving worship, and the word is REACTION. How every process has its period!—so many days for the moon to change in, so many centuries required for wood to become coal, or for rock to crumble into turf. These children of Ben Somebody omit to mention “how far the world is to go back,” or to tell us what, as Miss Le Grand puts it, is to stop it “then.” Suppose that every revolution of “la ronde machine,” as Rabelais calls the Earth, is to take us back a century ! Sitting in my elbow chair a night or two since ('tis now the last week of August), with the papers on one side, and on the other, that best of all loungers' books, Horace Walpole's letters, I could not help spinning a few fancies to the tune of “the Light of other Days,” which my oneeyed friend, the black a-vised Italian, was droning out on his hurdy-gurdy ; and, though they be of the commonest and most obvious kind, perchance you will give a corner to them, Sir, for the sake of all such as believe that the world has a wall, and that Ben Somebody looked over it ; or that we are on our way back towards the times of Voltaire, Bloody Mary, Barbarossa, or Monarch Cheops | The great show of August 1746 was the Trial and the Execution of the Rebel Lords ! “As it was the most interesting sight” —says Walpole, to whom, I take it (for all his fine phrases), an Opera, or a beheading, or a Strawberry feast, with the Sunnings sitting in the shell, came much the same—“it was the most solemn and fine: a coronation is a puppet-show, and all the splendour of it idle ; but this sight at once feasted one's eyes, and engaged all one's passions.”—“The whole ceremony,” he continues, “was conducted with the most awful solemnity and decency;” and adds a neat compliment to the Royal Family on their good taste in not being present. Then comes the detail of the trial, with all its piquant anecdotes; what “old Norsa” said, “the father of my brother's concubine, an old Jew that kept a tavern;” and how Lady Townsend felt, who, sweet soul! had a passion for the rebels, and liked, it seems, running from rout to rout in a sort of “O la " state of distress and misery, which reminds one of the historical enthusiasm of Mistress Finch, in Crabbe's “I’receptor Husband :”— “ — how the Martyrs to the flames were led, The good old Bishops, I forget their names, But they were all committed to the flames; Maidens and widows, bachelors and wives,
The very babes and sucklings lost their lives 1’’
Then we hear of Lord Kilmarnock’s “fine voice and fine speech ;” of Duke IIamilton's intercession at Court; of the King's fancy for clemency—the Duke of Cumberland's appetite for butchery; next, the details of the beheading, done in the most charming Watteaw style conceivable. Don't think me frivolous, Sir, or trying—poor, lame bagman that I am–to ape the Walpole cotillon step, if I say that all this mixture of London whims, and Twickenham gossip, with judicial murder for high treason—this prattle of “the lozenge coach,” Lord Middlesex, and the Tesi, and “the scaffold newstrewed with sawdust, the block new-covered, the executioner newdressed '' for “old Balmerino,” who came, “treading with the air of a General;”—this sandwiching of the rivalries between the IIaidi and the Violette (afterwards Mrs. Garrick); with the agonies of Lady Cromartie, who was “big with child and very handsome,” give a sort of meanness and immorality to the thing— a theatrical air: as if symbolical of the fact, that the heart of Civil Discord was even then dead in our land, and but its Cade'stimsel left—a worn-out frippery, which took its turn among the other London fripperies got up to amuse our Young London Nobles, with their muffs and their solitaires—their powdered heads, and their sedans. And yet, what a century of inventions in the cause of peace, goodwill, and manliness, lies between Lady Townsend declining to dine out “for fear of meeting with a rebelpie l’—and Lady — sinking down into the depths of her crinoline, in a dead faint, because the Culloden Railway Bill was thrown out !—between Royalties taking credit because they stayed away from the last act of the dear, dreadful tragedy, with block, sawdust, and headsman,—and Royalties expressing it down to Liverpool, “to bandy awkwardnesses” (as a saucy friend of mine puts it) with nervous Mayors who know nobody's places; or steaming like private folks, along the South Coast—one day popping into Cotele to look at the chests of old clothes; another, taking a peep at the Cider Islands, and beguiling the way with all manner of pleasant “parish talk” about Lighthouses, Sailors' Homes, Cornish Miners; a second trip to surprise, in a bathing-machine, our Arch-Enemy—the King of the French ; and such like innocuous topics | In spite of all this threat of reaction, times are pleasanter—aye, and more picturesque, Sir–now than they were a hundred years ago. Think, again, of the poor “harried” people of Edinburgh in 1746. What wrecks of old houses “divided against themselves!” What stately ladies crying coronach over the best and bravest, who had marched out under a phantom banner (as it were) to lay down their lives for a thankless Prince! What homely Mrs. Flockharts weeping over the cockades so lately worn by heads now bleaching on the gates of Carlisle ! What ruin of fortunes, what mystery and terror! What struggling with that bitterest of all feelings, the hate of impotent partizanship ! Well—the children of Ben Somebody will find it hard to persuade me, that the Scottish Gentlemen and Ladies have not had a happier and a healthier August, over the inauguration of their Scott Monument, than the August of one hundred years since I don't care much about such celebrations: perhaps, it is my stupid way to look too keenly into the vanity and personality which is apt to disfigure them— making the celebrators discontented if they are not as much talked about as the Great Known or Unknown they unite to honour ! But the personality of vanity is better than the personality of misery ! the strife of Mr. White Wand this, with Mr. Chairman t’other, more innocent than the life-and-death contest between such a concealed friend, and such another open enemy: and the romance which aspires to commemorate a departed Poet, is a higher thing than the Loyalty which seeks to invest with all the graces under Heaven, and all the rights upon the earth, a vain and false Prince—the last of an Exhausted Race They were burning witches in Germany one hundred years ago —not in holes and corners; but in great cities. I have it from
one of our firm, who has just made the journey on business, but has a taste for picking up old legends, that you are shown close to Würzburg, on the pleasant and flowery Main, a long low building, formerly a convent. From this a certain sister Renata was taken, in 1749—and burnt at Würzburg—doubtless in detestation of her black superstitions ! A little steam-boat, built in France, now bustles twice a-day past the spot. There is made the stuff for books of the presumptuous illuminati calling themselves German poets—and for the newspapers, which censors cannot utterly tame into no-meaning. The convent has become a paper-manufactory ! We have still Sister Renatas, it is true : enthusiastic ladies who translate hideous German books about Ghost-seeing, and the like ; —triumphant Trollopes, who slap the Jesuits in the face, and call us poor Manchester manufacturers, so many cannibals and childeaters, clad in fustian :—and then start off “in full fandango” of bad French, incorrect description, and credulity that will swallow any given wonder, so it be only big enough to strain the throat— eager to describe the water-cure as glibly as if they were so many Meads or Mayos (For the Ladies, sir, have a fancy for doctoring, one and all, though with some it does not get beyond my Mrs. Bell's bag of dried herbs, which have a bad smell and are otherwise totally harmless.) And it is true that our sister Renatas are still martyred. Crokers there are, who tear every Whig woman limb from limb. Hooks there have been, on which all manner of hard-hearted Radicalesses have been spitted : and like Pope's Ealden “rhymed and twisted ” without writhing much. And | Tory Ladies get Gored sometimes more than they admire. But bless you they mind it as little as the scratch of a pin. 'Tis all neat and easy—done on paper and leaving them witchcraft enough wherewithal to retaliate on their judges and executioners. My Mrs. Bell is more of a Conservative than suits me at all times —but let me only just speak of Reaction in this shape, of silencing gossipping authoresses, and bringing back nuns to burn ; and you may hear her down Halcyon Row, as far as Bethesda | More could I say about the children of Ben Somebody, whose standing still is now explained to mean going back : who prophetically behold grass growing on the railroads, and see sheep browsing among the rusted chimneys of broken-up locomotives, as in Edwin Landseer's picture of Peace—who would trail the Continent through a French Retro-revolution; clap the old sevenpence on every letter—and sing “Return, blest
days” to the golden time when six months of sea separated us from our Army-cousins in the East, in place of six weeks (including a flight across the desert sociably dotted with the corks of soda-water bottles). But I must pack up for the five o'clock train, to town, Sir : I am to dine at Brussels to-morrow : a message having come from the office to that effect since I began to dream. A hundred years ago, instead of putting up my two shirts, I should have been to my attorney with notes of a codici; to my will —but don't mention this: or he will, perhaps, join my Mrs. Bell and the tribe of Ben Somebody in fixed principles of Reaction.
Ardwick, August 30th, 1846.
THE ENGLAND OF THE FRIENCH DRAMA.
ENGLAND lies but a couple of hours’ sail from France. 'Tis but a steam hop, step, and jump from the Cliff to the Falaise. France swarms with English. In her capital and her provinces, in her inland cities and her coast towns, you will hardly enter a café, or saunter along an avenue-like line of Boulevard, without encountering the sturdy bearing of bluff John Bull. In the coupé of the Diligence—in the snug interior of the malle poste—the high shirt collar, and fair ruddy Saxon face, of Perfidious Albion is always conspicuous. At tables d’ hote and restaurants, in picture galleries and cathedrals, ’tis the same thing : the Smiths and the Joneses, and all their kith and kin, surround you, now wondering at the mystic ingredients of a vol au vent, anon gazing with aught but reverence at the gaily petticoated madonna in her niche, anon turning with smiling faces into a shop, where all manner of pretty nick-nackeries are disposed expressly to catch the tourist's eye, and advertised, for John Bull's benefit, by the somewhat formidable announcement that “Here one spikes the Anglich.” Verily we are a gad-about people; and the French in their turn are beginning to be very much more locomotive in their habits than in the olden time. Every packet which ploughs her way up the Pool brings freights of the moustached and bearded heroes, whom we used to designate as “outlandish,” but who