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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 pause, 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 2 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 the 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 lead– taking Ireland as our nearest extreme example. The Edgeworths, and Morgans, and Banims have told us, again and again, of halfruined 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 : The very 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 greediness more disgusting— exaction 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 1 "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 1) to drain and prey upon the females of his family l—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 how lugubrious is the necessity of being confidential or merry, because it has been long decreed that such or such a day shall be “a gaudy day ?” As for weddings, Charles Lamb has spoken for me on that chapter. The marriage of a very young girl,--who can be naturally gay on such an occasion? The Father: anxious that all the glitter may be pure gold * The Mother: thinking how much she has struggled with since her bridal veil was put on, even if she have married a-(modesty forbids my filling the blank). The sister—who was her chamber companion, her confidante in the garden walk,-her other, voice in the duet, her partaker in all manner of little childish pleasures or plans, that the old may not frown upon, but can hardly care about? No one, I verily believe, save the boy-groom man, proud of his favour, enchanted at the beauty of his blue coat, and either impudently or awkwardly triumphant in the privilege of saluting the Bride's-maids ! The only really merry wedding I can fancy, is when Fifty-Five marries Forty: and there the mirth arises in fact from what is the summum bonum of human felicity—the unhoped for arrival of the Blessing ! Let us take heed, then, to put despotism from us, while ordering our own pleasures, or commenting on those of others. We shall not have an easy life, I am aware, for saying “live and let live,” and for doing accordingly. Quite the reverse. The angry will call us cold, and the bigotted latitudinarian;–the shallow will complain that we skim upon the surface—the one-eyed that we are blind:—and we walk on a very narrow path. There is a jargon about “simplicity,” which is merely the language of an absolutism worse than that we are condemning—insomuch as it has “nothing to show for it.” Better anything almost, than this cant. Ease in the conduct of our daily life, is not to be insured by our echoing the (cat-and-dog) mas of those who are poor in tastes, and limited in their capacities, and who, therefore, assume their barrenness to be the condition of Eden as it came from the hand of its Maker : My neighbour, Mr. Seald, is perpetually girding at the gay waistcoats of Mr. Fightington, which I mentioned when discussing my Mrs. Bell's and the Post's notions of a New Clothing Bill: but Mr. Scald forgets to let us know how often he has given half a guinea for a mackerel he meant to eat by himself: while I, who think both very extravagant, should not like over much to be questioned as to the money I have “thrown away" (Mrs. Bell insists on the word) on coins and curiosities; which would neither clothe the one nor feed the other; and which, I have at times a heart-sinking sense, are, after all, rubbish to one who has no museum.
But it cannot be rated as either uncharitable or tyrannical to point out the wisdom of free-will at precisely those times and junctures when the world is least disposed to allow it. While we endeavour to distinguish between the signs of real feeling, and the shows which are a relic of the by-gone times of savagecy, peace to their ashes | And if it can be proved that Feasts, as formerly understood on the transaction of some important change in our lives, are really heartily relished by few save the interested and the uninterested: the Lazarillos—the Mrs. Gamps, and the PiqueAssiettes, who prowl about good (and bad) men's houses, wheresoever the sound of mourning and the smell of cookery break out— it is to be hoped that other and more individual ways of showing affection and geniality may be studied :—that Regret may not be gauged by the depth of the barrel of beer broached for mutes to swill—that Sorrow may not be exclusively presumed to sit upon “broad hems” — neither that they who do their best to go on their way resignedly—0 not unmindful, because silent l—may be sentenced to transportation to some penal colony where every vice flourishes, and neither humanity nor virtue exists—by the Sobbers, and the Blowers of Noses, because theirs was the fashion of the ancients l—If I write lightly on this matter, it is because I feel deeply. Truth may sometimes fly a long way on a feather, whereas, if graven on lead, it may drop like a dump at the Prophet's foot, to be buried in the earth or picked up as a treasure, as may be.
I had a vision in the years gone by-
And lit .# torches of undying flame,