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I say “ kindly,” because I am aware that there are many excellent persons to whom the slightest comment or recommendation on matters so exclusively—as they think—pertaining to “ feeling,” will appear the heart-hardness of the nether-millstone. And I meant what I said. Thank God; I can still go far for a holiday ; I can still love a merry-making as well as when I was a boy, and longing for my Mrs. Bell. No scheme of life can be right, methinks, which does not include enjoyment for enjoyment's sake. No good man (if complete) will discourage luxury and comfort and the excitements of innocent pleasure, where proper. Those who shut out the gratifications of sense, I have heard it said, and believe it, are apt to “take it out” in temper. But I know of very few transactions in which example is more fatally and painfully cogent than such as these, and therefore I woulă have all people, while they are in their sound minds, underanged by immediate affliction, attempt to separate what is accidental from what is essential,—to distinguish affection from ostentation, and the fear of their neighbours from the indulgence of every dearest and tenderest human feeling.
Old-fashioned people, observing the increasing simplicity of our manners, make a very honest and very common mistake, but which has much solace for themselves included therein. They complain that love is wearing out of the world : have a sort of delicately-self-tormenting pleasure in imagining that “no one will mourn them as they mourned their departed friends, when they were young ;” and to make up for this shortcoming, keep up a sort of perpetual keen, of which their own undervalued virtue is the theme. What a strange selfish error, what a wilful determi. nation to misinterpret love in its highest form-self-sacrifice ! I have watched households where the loss of one of the family put the rest under the tyranny of a gloom maintained for an extravagant period, the escape from which must be a hypocrisy,—of all hypocrisies the most detestable; where a cheerful word or allusion to aught save the hearse and the vault and the agonising last sufferings of one “ well out of pain,” were sternly checked as wicked levity—until the appointed time had passed when black might shade into gray, and gray put on “a little colour” in its ribands—and this from a sincere idea that only by such regulation-distress were God's dispensations duly honoured! I have seen cases of spectre done, where a stern widow or a weeping sister has destroyed (the word is not too strong) a whole living
family of relatives ; the instances principally among women ; for men must go out into the field, or to sea, as Saunders Mucklebackit put it, “though their hearts are beating like paving hammers,” while they may dress the bier at home, and sit beside it uninterrupted. Ilow was it with the dead? Could the most imaginative mourn liim, if he had not cared for the happiness of others besides liimself ? Who loves him the most then, --he who shall
press with the weight of his sorrows upon the living, or he who shall try to walk in his steps, and without undue violence to nature endeavour to avoid those stern and severe outward manifestations which become the hardest of cruelty in disposition as appeal against them is impossible? I am not, like a benevolent and venerable friend of mine, for a pattern-regulation of distress ; but as little on the side of display as of suppression : and display (let those who will, think me an old brute for saying so) was the old-fashioned mode! belonging to days when there was in everything—as compared with the present time—more of tyranny and less of consideration. Better or worse it is hardly my business to decide :—merely to put forth the plain truth, that the Heroism of the Strong Iland has given way to the IIeroism of the Strong Mind--but that neither in point of manifestation attests the reality or the non-existence of warm genuine feeling.
Well, I may, some day or other, especially if Miss Martha Le Grand does not frequent our house less, give you a chapter on what a quaint old friend of mine used to call the “ Oh!” and “ Ah !” people : but what I meant for the present to illustrate is this,-that it belonged to the period when sorrow was the most rigid in its observances of precise time and outward show, to be the most elaborate in all the sad ceremonials, from the sight and the sound of which we try now-a-days increasingly to escape. An old-fashioned English house was turned as much upside down, very nearly, on the occasion of a burial as it is now, that dancers go hot-supperless to their pillows on the occasion of a ball. Beds were not taken down, it is true : but they were set up for far-away kin, “who would be affronted if they were left out.” Aram was whipped for the inconsolable trifles cooked for broken hearts,--and partridge pies made very rich for critical relations who could not dine off a joint. Oppressive as this scems to us, I appeal to all old-fashioned housekeepers whether it is not a true picture. I remember a kind-hearted creature as ever went to Heaven, who had been renowned all her life for her princely hospitality and her
capital table : who, when dying at a very advanced age-having made her will and taken leave of every one-found a little remnant of her poor life and breath yet remained. The dear gracious woman signed to her attendant, bade her take pencil and paper, and write down the bill of fare for the coming funeral dinner ! The mourner struggled with her tears and obeyed : course after course was arranged-energy still lingering. At length all was done, down to the biscuits of the dessert—and the good lady subsided into her former state of quiet waiting, as of one who was patient because she knew the gate was being unlocked. A and then another sign to call the watcher's attention : “ And take care,” added the expiring woman, by way of codicil, “ that the knives be sharp this time, for
will sit at the bottom of the table, and he is an awkward carver.
Now, Heaven forbid I should say a word in disparagement of any one's whims! They are, with many, the only individualities they possess, and they make a very amusing figure in history. Lady Penrhyn would have been long ago forgotten, but for her legacies to her dogs, cats, owls, and what-not. “ Princess Buckingham,” too !- who would care much about her, but for the vow she exacted, when expiring, from her ladies-in. waiting, (reported or invented by Walpole,) that they would not sit down in the room with her corpse !—and for her ridiculous death-squabble, with the brave virago, Queen Anne's Mistress Freeman ? She sent, when in extremis, to borrow the triumphal car which had carried home the dust of the Hero of Blenheim. Duchess Sarah replied, that the carriage which had been thus honoured, should never be used by any other person—“Meaner,” I even think, was her epithet. Whereunto tlie Princess answered, that she had spoken to an undertaker, and could have a handsomer for twenty pounds! Yes : long live whims! will every one say who does not wish to see human creatures become like a row of pins stuck on a paper. Stop short at some point, however, they must. A suttee, for instance, is a thing the very bare idea of which throws English wives into red-hot passions ; and the executors of Radama, King of Madagascar—who besides burying an island's worth of treasure with their king, sacrificed one thousand human lives to make his obsequies gorgeous—went, I take it, to the uttermost limit of magnificence. Yet the animus of these sacrifices, and of Mrs.funeral dinner, if looked into, will be proved to be the same : not so much honour to the deceased, as keeping up the survivors'
character among neighbours. See, only, to what this may leadtaking Ireland as our nearest extreme example. The Edgeworths, and Morgans, and Banims have told us, again and again, of halfruinell families, whole ruined by their insane resolution, to “wake' the dead genteelly or the O'Flanagans would never let 'em hear the last of it.” Did no one of us ever know such a thing as a bankrupt's widow, compelled by her terror of the Mistress Grundys, who have a particular affection for all dismal solemnities,-to spend her last fifty pounds in handsome mourning ? touchiness of people, whom it was not long ago thought necessary to humour at these sad times, is good proof that the festivals we are examining had much of the world's wisdom (or folly) in them. To feel aggrieved at being overlooked in a moment of dismay and confusion and weariness of spirit! To take umbrage at being only "provoked to dine, whereas Cousin Rich was pressed to stay all night !--Can one conceive grcediness more disgustingexaction in a form less sufferable ? Oh! let the old-fashioned people who bewail the retrenchment of outward show on these occasions, be made to unpack their budgets of experience and you shall hear of bent brows and back-biting words, enough to answer, methinks, for ever, their protest in favour of the ceremonials of sorrow :—to stop their serenade that Love is dying out of the land, because it is not perpetually borrowing the trumpet of selfishness to proclaim itself withal.
Let us consider, too, upon whom it is that fashion presses the most heavily. The rich are assuredly not to be pitied, if having made their own laws, they find them at times more oppressive than easy. “Pride of order ” will support them under the oppression. They have borne the wearing of powder like martyrs ; think of what they suffer, even to-day, in the matter of apparel, though a trifle, compared with what human creatures endured in the buckram days of old. From time immemorial they have helped to prop up and maintain a stateliness of court ceremonial, which an hour of agreement among themselves must, at any epoch, have consigned to the limbo of antiquated trumpery ; since kings would find sitting on their thrones in empty presence-chambers weary work, and might end in walking about their capitals, enjoying God's blessed air, like meaner beings, were once their tails to drop off! But the less rich : how fares it with their independence? Don't pretend that they, of all people, can afford to set the example of pleasing themselves. The wisdom of old, of
young, and middle-aged is against you. The dignity of confessing narrow fortunes by abstinence from inconvenient and costly. usages, which are supposed to testify affection, is not to be maintained without a rare effort of moral courage ; and in many cases, danger. It may cost Mr. Ironmonger dear to bury his father more shabbily than Mrs. Mercer buried her great aunt: and if Miss Smith shall start on her career of married woman from a more modest breakfast-table than Miss Potter left,—think only of the heads wagging and the tongues bitter ; in the doleful prognostication of which Mrs. Smith the mother will be the object ! When Everard Le Grand died—a good-for-nothing old beau, whose departure was universally felt to be a truly acceptable riddance, his foolish sisters pinched themselves for a year, I have reason to know, that “no one might say a descendant of old Sir Roger Le Grand's was put into his grave like a common shopkeeper ! though relieved, every one of them, by being set free from one feebler and more selfish than themselves, and who asserted a man's right (glorious privilege!) to drain and prey upon the females of his family !--so that ostentation at set times may not be quite the innocent parade of one flower the more : or another hand’sbreadth of miniver, which, to some, it seems.
Let alone its cruel repugnance to sick and sore hearts,-it exercises a tyranny as cruel over those who dare not speak out—it has the thraldom of a Tiberius for the weakly-principled, who fancy their affections will be measured by their outward manifestations !
Trying matters thus, by their results, I cannot think myself a heart of flint, or a bad citizen, for pressing on every one the encouragement of liberty of conscience in these, if in no other ordinances of our existence. I speak for the timid—for the backward in self-assertion—for those of narrow fortunes, or who are enmeshed by those small difficulties and discords in their family relations so impossible to plead, but so powerful in binding and in loosing. Shall I be understood if I say, that there is a touch of the Funeral in every set feast?-destroying the apology of those who would brighten life by this expedient, and tell us (what we knew before) that “it is a poor heart which never rejoices.” Shall I be called “over exquisite" if I assert, that the keeping of anniversaries is a sad, elaborate business in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. One empty chair may spoil the blithest ; and who has not felt low lugubrious is the necessity of being confidential or merry, because