Imágenes de páginas

knowledge of French, will prove the last clever man of his race Even the Le Grands sit, as it were, in a sort of twilight of curiosity and desire to learn what is going on abroad ; not content, like the old women before them, to profit by foreign fashions, without a single kind word or friendly nod to their inventors. Ever since our young ladies of quality have taken to marrying Austrian and Roman princes, my neighbours have laid proud and pleased stress upon “the foreign relations of our nobility.” They know better, I doubt not, than H.M. the Queen herself, what she and Louis Philippe settled about the Spanish match (pray Heaven it set fire to no train') in the bathing-machine. They think the present Pope “low :”—a sort of Cobden in a tiara:-like his Lancashire prototype, too fond of bringing out “new patterns;” and betwixt their terror of Father Darcys, and their dislike of innovations, are sadly disturbed: having too little objection to communicate their disturbances at No. 1. I would rather hear these troubles, however, than the old stories of washing-days, flaunting housemaids and their “followers,” which used to make the staple of tea-table talk. And sometimes the manner in which the Ladies get into what my Mrs. Bell calls “a state,” about mere trifles, is truly diverting to one who has not to live in the house with them, The other evening, for instance, as I was sitting in my own corner, planning a Christmas whim or two for the amusement of my children, I was called down from decorating my Tree (another foreign fancy, Sir with its toys and curiosities, and candles, and what my smallest Bell calls “Dickens' books”) by Miss Martha's sharp voice. “Well, Sir, what have you to say for your Friend, The Pope, now Ż" “Why, Ma'am, I hope he has not been drinking chocolate ; but even if the Jesuits do get rid of him, I think we must have another of the same kind l'' + o: o: + “Another of the same kind; the Libertine!” screamed she. “No : there are no people so bad as those Bachelors when once they take to badness! He must not be married, forsooth; but he can sit up on his throne there—a shameless old thing!— and receive actresses. And, as if that was not enough, who must come first to kiss his toe but that Fanny Elssler f"—and out came a bead-roll of authentic information touching that dancer and her lovers, of a quality and quantity such as, I will make bold to assert, you receive from no one, save elderly gentlewomen of unimNo. XXIV.-WOL. IV. M. M.

[ocr errors]

peachable character. "Tis mysterious, indeed, how much they contrive to know about “creatures" they are perpetually insisting should never be spoken of in decent company. “Well,” returned I, meaning to appease Miss Martha's wrath. “would you have had The Pope kiss Mademoiselle Fanny's toe " “I never heard anything like you, Mr. Bell ! Reason is reason; and that's what you are not Or you do it merely to provoke me. I am for having every body kept in his proper place; and not for seeing Columbine at Court, what ever you liberal gentlemen may think of me, Mr. Bell!” “Columbine at Court 1". Whether it was that the half-sipped glass of punch beside me had disposed me to a benevolent and dreamy serenity; or whether it was merely my own thoughts, previous to Miss Martha Le Grand's outbreak, which now beckoned me up my Christmas Tree again, certain it is, that I lost the rest of our neighbour's sharp and convincing harangue; and said “yes” and “mo,” I have been since told, at most uncivil places, whereby she was exasperated into a speedy departure—being presently (and pleasantly) in the clouds, among shapes and figures which her contemptuous expression had evoked. The spell uttered by Disdain has sometimes no worse effect than that of calling up Good Spirits in those who were meant to be provoked or crushed flat by it. “Columbine at Court 1” Why, since the world began, Harlequin has been there: in Cabinets—out of war offices: breaking seals, mystifying papers, turning the merchant's bags of money into chaff, and tricking out the Beggar in a laced coat so gay, that neither Beadle nor Bumble dare walk on the same sunny side of the street with him. And Pantaloon, too—when, since the days of Polonius babbling his wisdom to the youth of Denmark, has a Court lacked his “lean and slippered ” figure? Very meagre hath he become of late, let us confess; and his slippers once tagged with spangles, grown too old for Monsieur Soyer himself to ragout, were the siege of Reform Club ever so cruel. He rises, too, betwixt thump and thump, “confrontment and confrontment” more lamely than formerly—and the time cannot be very far distant, when the practicable wheelbarrow which carts the old man off, “to Arthur's bosom” (as Mrs. Quickly hath it) will not return—neither its shabby ancient burden' The Clown has probably a longer lease of Court favour, since sometimes he is still to be found, in its most august places, with the crown on his head, taking out his privileges of rude wit and stupid inanity and insatiable greediness, to the full. But, even when the clown-hood is unmistakeable, our striated friend, with his huge and hungry pockets, is somehow or other more rueful and better educated than he used to be. The Schoolmaster has knocked into his dull and frivolous brain, that impudence, blundering, and venality are no longer the laughing matters they were when Pantomime was young.

Now as to Columbine—is this her first appearance at Court Bless you—Mr. Historiographer, over your mouldy parchments' Mr. Herald, knowing by heart every blot and bend sinister on every one's escutcheon' Bless you, grave Ladies, who write about female Sovereigns; and gay ones, who philosophise touching “Man and his Mistress " What need of wry faces,—what profit in your winkings and blinkings, as you look round to see that no tattler or tender child is listening at the door? 0f how many a demure and solemn Sovereign may not be said, what gravely said of , when recounting the provisions of the latter's will, “He was fond of young housekeepers : principally Columbines.” Think of the Pompadours and the Paraberes, the Clevelands and the Castlemaines—think of the letters in Thomas Brown the Younger's “Twopenny Post-bag”—think what romances could be told by the old Palace at Avignon, and whispered by the reeds of Elbe, Rhine, and Danube | Even if we abstain from the naughty Rabbinical scandals about King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (who is said to have “tumbled” for the edification of the wisest of monarchs), even if we leave the thousand-and-one Tales of the East—think of * * * * but what has an elderly bagman, even after his third glass of punch, to do with thinking of such toys 2 The wonder is not Columbine at Court—but Columbine there, in her own place

And what is that place? As Sultana ; No. As suppliant Surely not. The Actress “kissing away kingdoms,” and the Actress cringing for patronage on occasion of her benefit, seem to me alike figures out of place. Not so the actress recognised as a woman of genius; and as such eligible to honourable notice by Pope or Pagan I am not meaning to decide whether his Holiness has chosen well or ill, in the subject of his first reception; but the spirit of his innovation is good—for Italy, very good—and as it is sure to be handsomely abused by all caste (and cast-iron) people—I will say a few words explanatory and defensive.

[ocr errors]

Let us leave badinage, lest I be mistaken, while stating my argument. No one—save such a weak woman as Miss Martha Le Grand, who can never let “those Liberals" alone—will pretend or imagine that the reception of “The Gipsy” by The Pope involved the most homoeopathie amount of gallantry. . There are two hundred small to the eight principal staircases of the Vatican; and, since, the world has somewhat too loosely agreed to smile on the private pleasures of liberal leaders, the rumour of any figure, howsoever historieal, tripping up the former, might have caused a few days' gossip among the Signora Grundinis of the Jesuit faction; but there it would have ended. Not so; methinks, the removal of the Anathema from the Actor : How heavily oppressive, how mockingly unjust, this has been in Catholic countries,<we, with our Garricks, Kembles, Youngs, Macreadys—our Anastasia Robinsons and our Miss Farrens—do not entirely “realise,” as the Americans say. The Church set Opera and Pantomime a-going among the Middle-Age people—was only too glad, at a later epoch, to call in the Farinelli, or Conti, or Millico, or Welluti of the hour to sing Anthems for her, on her high days and holidays: and yet “the poor player” was denied Christian burial—placed in the same category with the wizard or the self-destroyer. The Songstress, whose coming set all Italian towns (very full of stubble, Sir, they must be) in a flame—on whose gains Young Noblemen hoped to thrive (such speculations having been seen even in England)—on whose name Ladies drew out cabalistic figures, and bought or sold their Lottery Tickets, was, in virtue of her class, rated infamous: a being not to be admitted, on any pretext whatever, into the chaste circles made up of husbands, wives, and house-friends. And the World has wiped its mouth; wondered “that Artists were rapacious, W. impudent, and vulgar; ” and encouraged them (the omen especially) to scheme for an under-hand social ascendancy, which, admitting the existence of all these charming attributes, was fatal to the human being, and degrading to his profession? When Columbine has been up the front staircase a few times oftener, it will be her fancy to un-Columbine herself as much as possible ; that she may pass muster among the Roses, the Lilies, and the Golden Rods—if she may not hope to slip in unnoticed among the Daisies or the modest Violets But says some Count Etiquette, or Lady of the Starched Ward robe—“Do we hear aright? Would you have the tone of Society, whether Courtly or Common, spoilt by the admission of persons so very conspicuous: granting ” (this with a choking effort of magnanimity) “that here and there you may find one who is wellconducted ? Would you open the door to people who are always acting;-who can neither dress, nor demean themselves like the rest, of the world?” Sir and Madam, I would, Aware though I be of the awful importance of your Epithet “conspicuous,” I cannot admit your objection as reasonably exclusive, till I see it carried

out. Your Actor is at least as natural in private as your Man in

Law, who lies in wait for discussion at every turn, makes a Court

of your dining-room, and a jury of your twelve guests, by his pleas

and rejoinders;–and, if you decline peas, will cross-question you thereupon, ere you can save yourself in spinach. His “accost”

is no more professional than the Physician's, whose eye is upon

you for symptoms, and whose voice is a carefully-prepared anodyne,

and whose hand has a generic tendency to glide from a shake into

a feeling pressure. Nor do his sock and buskin, his flute or her music-book, peep out more clearly in his talk than do the “crape

and lawn” of the clerical practitioner, whether it be his humour to awe or to fascinate, or (no irreverence meant) to take the place

and predominance due to a Teacher, whose study is Virtue, and whose active life the diffusion of the same 2 You would demand of these poor Actors to become not only the most consummate

Artists, but the most plausible hypocrites the world has yet seen;–

if you were to claim from them voices as carelessly modulated,

attitudes as unstudied, dress as innocent of effect—as belong to those who have no stage to rehearse upon, no pasteboard banks

whereon thrice a week they must weep over canvas rivers (undu

lated by waves hired cheap in the alley—seven for sixpence :) —no footlights to stand behind, looking at a sea of heads and spouting soliloquies! No man is interesting who does not bear about with him the sign and token of the profession in which his interests and sympathies are embarked. Give him an opportunity of sometimes meeting people as engrossed as himself with their own “ations” and “isms,” and, if he have a head and a heart, his peculiarities will drop off, unless you encourage them. Confine him to his own class, and his turn of expression will coarsen into cant; and the seal his daily occupations have set upon him swell into an excrescence and disfigurement. Every Desdemona or Benedict may not be worth saving: but many may be saved, be their toilet ever so rampant, or their phraseology ever so flowery with “What time,” “Go to,” and such-like braveries,

« AnteriorContinuar »