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Monthly Journal of Fashion.
LONDON, DECEMBER 1, 1839.
There is not, in all the world, a more desolate being than a woman of an affectionately devoted disposition, of intense feeling, and of active and social habits, who suffers the sudden bereavement of the dearest objects of her regard, and whose mind, thus precipitately flung back upon itself, is, as if by one convulsive shock, deprived of the resources it possessed in fond and tender intercourse with the friends whose sympathies constituted the chief charm of her early existence.—Or, sadder still, if doomed to witness the abberration of intellect in the “one, the chosen one,” whose truth and whose affection she had hoped were yet to console her for the loss of all besides ;-that calamity should be rendered more terrible, by the imposition of restraints, which denied her the mournful solace of watching with desperate solicitude over the wreck of her last earthly treasure : or, scarcely less bitter, to feel herself left alone in the world-and to feel, too, that death, which had released the beloved object of all her tenderness and all her love from that affliction which prostrates the best and noblest faculties of our nature, had spared her only to wear out an existence of wretchedness and vain regret, till reason, already weakened by the unavailing struggle with her woes, no longer shed its soothing light across the dismal waste of life.
Let the imagination picture to itself a young, lighthearted, cheerful creature, attired in all the little elegancies so fancifully essential to the adornment of female beautythat beauty, which is, after all, “when unadorned adorned the most;” passing blythely along in the innocent and pardonable vanity of her gentle nature, thinking none more gay, none more lovely, none more happy, none more blessed than herself! Let but one cloud obscure that sunshine of the soul; let but one rude breath ruffle the calm surface of the gentle current of her thoughts; let but one disapproving look from eyes she loves startle her from the enjoyment of that waking dream of bliss; wound but her strong affection with "one word unkind or wrongly taken;" afflict her trusting bosom with but a hint prejudicial to the honour and fair fame, or detrimental to the interests of the “nearest and the dearest upon earth"-and oh, what a change comes o'er that gentle spirit! Her fairy gleams of hope and bliss are turned to thick substantial gloom; her very nature undergoes a change; her soul subdued and beaten down by sudden sorrow, desponds and droops ; the pride of ornament becomes a reproach in her own eyes ; and she moves along an altered being with unaltered form. In melancholy abstraction and the shade of grief, insensible to all that pleased and charmed her but an hour before, regardless of the busy bustling throng around her, she hurries on; whilst the flower-wreath still exhibits the gaudy hues of art upon the bonnet-the rainbow-tinted ribbon streams in its glossy brightness—or feathers nod like the idle trappings of a hearse, as if in mockery of the unconscious form beneath.
But if such be the consequence of remediable ill—or of the temporary chastenings inflicted by Providence to humble mortal self-sufficiency-oh good and merciful God! what must the heart endure, which, after long watching over the wreck of intellect, the mental aberration of its “other and still dearer self,” and clinging for years to the desperate hope of beholding even the faint glimmering of reason once more burst through the mist, sees all its fondly cherished but delusive anticipations, and all the looked-for reward of years of ceaseless suffering, sink for ever into the silence and the shadow of the tomb! The record of affliction, which I now trace, had its source in no idle fiction; the maniac and the maniac's widow were no creatures of imagination.
Reuben Peachcroft was born in a secluded but populous village, in one of the western counties of England ; within its peaceful precincts his boyish and his youthful days were passed; and, even in manhood, he was never known to absent himself from that beloved retreat even for a day. He inherited from his father, who was a farmer, a small independence: but, with that competency, there seems to have descended to him an infirmity which would have rendered life but little desirable even with affluence: and the natural reserve of Peachcroft's character, and his habits of gloomy abstraction, but nurtured that insanity which made existence, to him at least, what Byron so emphatically pronounced it to be to all—"a bitter boon.” Yet, had it not been for this one absorbing affliction, those who knew him early and esteemed him long were wont to say, that few men appeared in youth more formed by Nature for contentment, and even for social happiness. In person he was tall and well proportioned ; his features were regular and handsome; his eyes dark and penetrating: and his manner neither impertinently obtrusive, nor meanly subservient, but manly, frank, and prepossessing, when, in the lucid intervals allowed him, he conversed with the few friends with whom he associated-and they were but few. At times, he was studious; but his studies took the fatal misdirection of his malady, and were principally, if not exclusively, devoted to astronomy and lunar calculations. He was a fine-looking man, in the truest and strictest interpretation of the phrase, when encountered in the casual composure of his intellect and in the enjoyment of robust health : then indeed, like Lara,
They who saw bim did not see in vain,
And once beheld would ask of him again. He was in the very prime of life-his thirtieth year-when he first beheld Fanny Somerton, who had recently come to visit an aged aunt, under whose roof Peachcroft resided. Fanny, who was then little more than twenty years of age, was “as blythe a lass as ever danced upon the greensward,” and as fair as she was blythe. Inscrutable are all the ways of Providence! but if ever a notion of fatalism could be said to attach to any event of this our state of being, it must be to that of such a marriage as bound together the future destinies of Peachcroft and Fanny Somerton. Chance, for chance it was, had thus cast her under the same roof; and
the very circumstance which would have deterred ninety
He went he knew not whither—mad he was ! and nine females out of every hundred from cherishing | Now that “the fit was on him," he would sally forth any thing like affection for the victim of so awful a dispen through the orchard, accompanied by his ever faithful atsation, excited in Fanny's heart a sentiment which, origi tendants, and as they set out, even in the same order and nating in the purest commiseration and sympathy, termi procession did they return :—Heachcroft walking a few nated in the most ardent, the most faithful, the most
paces in advance, then poor Fanny followed, and after her devoted, love. The compassion which she first felt for the
came the dog; and the animal, as if conscious of his massufferings which she heard that he underwent in the par
ter's infirmity, was never observed, while thus following oxysms of his disorder, and the interest which she took them, to rouse himself from a state of sullen vigilance, or in his welfare, grew insensibly upon her; nor was she con to give way to any show, or semblance, or sense of anger, scious of the full force of that passion, which was to destroy no matter what efforts the wondering peasants might make her own earthly happiness, until the certainty of that de to divert him from the track, or to provoke his rage. Tastruction brought with it the conviction of her irrevocable citly, and invariably at the same self-regulated distance, attachment to the poor maniac. The return of one of those į did he follow in their footsteps, withersoever they might fearful visitations which ever and anon came upon him, at lead. In these excursions, no customary or beaten path was once assured her, that the wreck and ruin of his mind was ever trodden; the leader made his heedless way through irretrievable, and that the tranquility and peace of her own the open country that lay before him, crossing hedges and heart was gone for ever. From that hour, she became the ditches of every height and dimensions, with an indisconstant soother of his afflicted spirit, the calmer of his criminate and almost indescribable alacrity, whilst his untroubled thoughts; and “ministered to a mind diseased” wearied and apparently indefatigable followers held on the so effectually for a time, that at length—“so fondly Hope same undeviating and unhesitating course, “thorough will err-she even hoped that her fondness had exaggera brake, thorough briar, thorough fen, thorough mire." ted the extent of his affliction; and the sad reality of her Throughout all Peachcroft's wanderings, Fanny never comterrible forebodings gave way to the almost bewildering | plained, never murmured, never paused, never spoke ;-but expectation of yet triumphing over that worst of earthly despair was praying stilly, slowly, surely, upon her heart ills. Peachcroft became calm, composed, nay cheerful; he and brain. Hers was that love which can neither be tired conversed rationally; and seemed in all his deportment out, nor cured, nor conquered, nor destroyed, but which a regenerated being. Restored, as he believed himself to fastens upon its object and holds on to the last. The be, to the enjoyment of reason, gratitude dictated the only strange and melancholy procession which I have just dereward that he could make to her, whose solicitude and scribed was never seen on its way back to the village till tenderness had effected that restoration—and they were night had shadowed o'er that spot of earth, which was for married. They lived together for some few years, apart years their "biding place," and which had for them-yea, from all society; never inviting a guest within their doors, even for them, desolate beings-as in truth they were—the and declining the hospitable invitations of their kind-heart charm, and the solace, and the sacredness, of HOME! ed neighbours, lest some sudden excitement might once Their wanderings were not directed by motive or object; more defeat the success of Fanny's assiduous attention. neither were they limited by any prescribed space, nor reShe, for her own part, renounced all intercourse even with gulated by any attention to time or circumstance; save her relatives; and he no longer associated with his former only that they never appeared in the village in " the garish friends. The only companion of their secluded home was light of day.” In the one unwearied order of march, in a large rugged wolf-dog, seemingly as unsocial in disposi sunshine and in shower, in calm or storm, did the unhappy tion as the villagers imagined Peachcroft had become, and maniac, with his only earthly companions, his wife and his never leaving the house but to follow his hapless master dog, traverse a tract of twenty or thirty miles, day after and Fanny through the garden or the fields. In these, day, in ever-changing directions; but his favourite ramble which were then considered Peachcroft's years of sanity, he was toward the Hill-country, amongst the rugged acclivinever was seen to pass the boundary of his own grounds, ties of the Cotswolds. and scarcely indeed the threshold of his house, by day; Strange as it may seem, though he held aloof from all but in the twilight, or the dusk of evening, or the shade of society, yet the person, history, individual character, capanight, he and Fanny would roam through unfrequented city, and vocation, not merely of the long established inpaths. Alas for Fanny !--little did she deem by what a habitants of the village and neighbourhood, but of the sacrifice the quiet of a few months or years was to be repaid. stranger and temporary sojourner amongst them, were She had succeeded, beyond her most sanguine expactation, known to Peachcroft: and if, in some of his capricious in averting for a time those sufferings, which while they moods, he encountered any of them in his walks, or they lasted, reduced the manly form of Peachcroft to the imbe passed him as he stood on the grass-plot in front of his cility of very idiotcy; but the wound was only "skinned door gazing on the heavens-bareheaded, and apparently and filmed,” the work of ruin went on silently, but surely, wrapt in contemplation of the celestial sphere--he would within ; and Fanny, unconscious of the dangerous precipice stamp upon the earth in rage, and denounce them for inon which she stood, was gay, was happy once more, buoying truding on his "sublime and sacred studies,"—calling each herself up with the delightful self-delusion, all the while by name, as he raved aloud, and seeming, at such a moment, her own intellect was gradually and imperceptibly yielding i the embodied creature of the poet's fancy to the influence of sympathy and association. Their ram
He raves, his words are loose bles were no longr confined to their own grounds; yet still
As heaps of sand, and scattering wide from sense ; they never appeared by day-light in the village. They
So high he's mounted on his airy throne, generally left their cheerless dwelling before dawn, and
That now the widd has got into his head, seldom did they return to it before midnight.
And turns his brains to frenzy.