« AnteriorContinuar »
mother were acquainted, or I'm mistaken. The air, the height the voice; all but the manner, and damme, that was not yours. No-no, you never would have treated your old uncle so.”—– How rejoiced I am that" “ Rejoiced! so am I. I would not but have been undeceived for a thousand guineas. Nothing but seeing you here so quiet, so studious, surrounded by problems, would have convinced me. Écod! I can't tell you how I was startled. I had been told some queer stories, to be sure, about your Cambridge etiquette. I heard that two Cambridge men, one of St. John's, the other of Trinity, had met on the top of Vesuvius, and that though they knew each other by sight and reputation, yet never having been formally introduced, like two simpletons they looked at each other in silence, and left the mountain separately and without speaking ;—and that cracked fellowcommoner, Meadows, had shown me a caricature, taken from the life, representing a Cambridge man drowning, and another gownsman standing on the brink, exclaiming, Oh! that I had had the honour of being introduced to that man, that I might have taken the liberty of saving him ! But, it, thought I, he never would carry it so far with his own uncle!- I never heard your father was a gay man,” continued he, musing; “yet, as you sit in that light, the likeness is—" I moved instantly—"But it's impossible you know, its impossible. Come my dear fellow, come: I must get some dinner. Who could he be? Never were two people so alike!"
We dined at the inn, and spent the evening together; and instead of the fifty, the “last fifty,” he generously gave me a draft for three times the amount. He left Cambridge the next morning, and his last words were, as he entered bis carriage, "My brother was a handsome man; and there was a Lady Somebody, who, the world said, was partial to him. She may have a son.. Most surprising likeness. God bless you! Read hard, you young dog; remember. Like as two brothers !" I never saw him again.
His death, which happened a few months afterwards, in consequence of his being bit in a bet, contracted when he was a “ little elevated," left me the heir to his fine estate; I wish I could add, to his many and noble virtues. I do not attempt to palliate deception. It is always criminal. But, I am sure, no severity, no reprimand, no reproaches, would have had half the effect which his kindness, his confidence, and his generosity wrought on me. It reformed me thoroughly, and at
I did not see London again till I had graduated : and if my degree was unaccompanied by brilliant honours, it did not disgrace my Uncle's liberality or his name. Many years have elapsed since our last interview; but I never reflect on it without pain and pleasurepain, that our last intercourse on earth should have been marked by the grossest deception; and pleasure, that the serious reflections it awakened cured me for ever of all wish to deceive, and made the open and straight forward path of life, that of
An Old STUDENT..
PORTRAIT OF A SEPTUAGENARY.*
I HAVE recorded the pleasure of being a father; candour obliges me to mention some of its annoyances. My son grew up with a decided predilection for that profession which I have ever held in deep abhorrence—the Army. Habituated, as I have said, to look at men and actions in the abstract and elemental, I could not see why gold lace and feathers, and scarlet cloth and music, should so dazzle and stun me to all perceptions of right and wrong, as to make me respect the man who would hire himself as a trader in blood. Such persons, I may be told, are necessary; but I should be sorry to see my son in the occupation. The Army will excuse me:—they have the admiration of a thoughtless world, and
well despise the crazy notions of a fantastical old man, who cannot see any power of absolution either in a Pope or a gold epaulette.-My youngster was reasoned out of this boyish hankering; but, alas! his second choice still was uncongenial with my wishes, for he now selected the Bar. My notions, I am aware, are absurd, unreasonable, preposterous; but that I might venerate at least one individual of this profession, I have been all my life looking for the advent of some conscientious barrister, who should scrupulously refuse a brief, unless the cause of his client at least wore the appearance of honesty and justice; who should exert his skill and eloquence in redressing the injured, and releasing the unwary from the traps and fetters of the law, while he left knaves and robbers to its merited inflictions. How can I respect a being, the confidant, perhaps, of malefactors, who will torture his ingenuity, and wrest the statute-book, to screen them from punishment and turn them loose upon society for fresh offences;
- who will hire out his talents to overreach the innocent, to defraud the orphan, to impoverish the widow ?-who with a counterfeit earnestness, will lay his hand upon his heart, and make solemn asseverations, every one of which he knows to be false; and for another two or three guineas, will on the same day take the opposite side, and with the same vehemence maintain facts and reasonings diametrically the reverse? It must be as difficult to render this practice consistent with a manly candour and honourable sense of the importance of truth, as to prevent the system of quibbling, chicanery, and hair-splitting from being destructive of all enlarged and comprehensive views. We all know there are exceptions, but in the aggregate I am afraid, moreover, that the “honourable profession” is not so independent as could be wished. They sell themselves in retail to their clients, and by wholesale to government whenever the minister has a mind to bait å trap for rats. -Worldly ideas of the gentility of a profession, or the chances of advancement in it, blinded me not. Perhaps I did not render sufficient homage to the necessary modifications of society—by raising my views to the contemplation or man in his elements I overlooked his accidents, and all the paltry distinctions of human institution. A man of honour or talent has always been welcome to my hand and my table, and I have felt no horrors if he were of a vulgar trade, or even wore a shabby coat. Far from seeking birth or rank, I have been rather prejudiced against their possessors, deeming it difficult for such persons to overcome the seductions of their education. The spoiled children of Fortune, like those of the nursery, are apt to be very empty, very arrogant, and very offensive.-No:- I would neither have my son live upon the blood and misery, nor upon the vices and follies of his species. I would neither have him fawn upon a general, nor truckle to a judge, nor feast a lawyer. I made him a farmer, that most ancient and honourable of all professions. I made him independent of all the world, and bidding him look only to the universal mother, Earth, who, like the maternal pelican, feeds her offspring from her torn bosom, I taught him to support himself by ministering to the comfort, enjoyment, and support of others. Of the pressure to which agriculturists have been subjected he has cheerfully borne his portion :-he is not rich, but he is virtuous, he is happy, and above all, he is independent.
* Concluded from page 307.
The holy vessel of the Athenians, during a course of seven hundred years, had been so often rebuilt, that some of their sophists maintained it was no longer the same ship, and frequently used it as an illustration in discussing the question of personal identity. I myself, both in body and mind, had undergone such a total replacement of feelings and ideas in my little existence of threescore years, that I was inclined to think myself a different personage altogether from the short-sighted youth, who considered forty as a grave paternal age, and connected sixty with nothing but ideas of decrepitude and decay. I remember when I thought that the consciousness of getting old and approaching the edge of the dread abyss, must, at the former age, begin to dim the sunshine of existence, and at the latter be sufficient to overcloud and darken all its enjoyments. These spectres of fancy vanished as I came near them. At forty I set myself down for a young man: and finding myself at sixty hale, hearty, and happy, able to dig in my garden, enjoy literature and the arts, and cultivate the Muse with a keener relish of existence than ever, I settled in my own mind that this was the real meridian and zenith of human life. Children, when first they ride in a carriage, imagine that the trees and houses are moving on while they are stationary; and in like manner I could see plainly enough the ravages of time upon my contemporaries, and observe that they were getting on, while I myself seemed to have been standing stils, and at some loss to account for all my old friends running a-head
This is another illustration of that benignant provision of nature, which will not suffer even our self-love to be wounded, and equalises the happiness of life's various stages, by making even the foibles of age minister to its enjoyments. Whether or not this happy self-delusion retained its power at a more advanced period will be seen as I proceed to that portion of my life which extends
From Sixty to Seventy.
The over-weening and somewhat triumphant estimate wbich I had formed of my three-score meridian was slightly checked, by my hearing one friend whisper to another at a dinner party—“Old-begins to twaddle; he has told us that story half a dozen times lately;": Old W-! that amen “stuck in
my throat;" it threatened my zenith, and savoured of the Azimuth. Six times too! I protest it was but three, but that I confess was twice too much. My memory certainly had lost a portion of its tenacity; and unless I could retain impressions long enough to allow them to strike root, they quickly withered away, in which emergency I was, perhaps, too apt to trade upon my youthful capital of anecdotes. This defect I endeavoured to remedy by a common-place book; for if I forced myself to remember one thing I not infrequently forgot another. It appeared as if the chamber of the brain were full, and could only accommodate new tenants by ejecting the old ones. When thus reminded of my repetition of the same story to the same party, I instantly recalled the fact, which proves that my offence was a want of recollection rather than of memory, a distinction not always attended to. One, however, is often the precursor of the other. Considering that novelty has generally been deemed a necessary ingredient in the production of laughter, I have been sometimes astonished at the punctual burst with which my old bon-mots were invariably followed up by myself, even when others have observed a provoking gravity; and have been at a loss to decide whether it were habit, or sympathy with my first enjoyment of the joke awakening a kind of posthumous echo. At ali events I set a good example; if others would not follow it, more shame for them.
My communion with nature in the beauty of her external forms, far from diminishing at this period, became every year more intense and exquisite, heightening by reflection my relish for the works of art; but I observed that in the latter my eye derived its principal gratification from gracefulness of figure and outline, rather than from composition, colouring, or scientific display. Thus I preferred statuary to painting, as it suffered my attention to feed without interruption upon the harmonious proportions and symmetry of the great goddess; and in the graphic art I found more delight in a single drawing of the divine Raphael than in all the hues of Titian and the colourists, or all the patient elaboration of the Flemish and Dutch miniaturists. In my love of nature I felt jealous of the artist beyond mere fidelity of form (I speak principally of figures); and in engraving, where there is no colour to compensate for alienating the eye, I deemed that style the best which is confined to outline. Some of the commoner productions of this sort are generally lying on my table, and I find undiminished delight in the French Cupid and Psyche from the paintings of Raphael's pupils, Hope's costumes of the Ancients, etchings of the Elgin Marbles, Retch's Faustus, and other similar productions. Generally speaking, artists and professors appear to me to acquire a false artificial taste, which, overlooking the simple and natural, makes difficulty of execution the test of excellence; a mistake extending from painters and sculptors down to opera-dancers and musicians.
My mind is less excursive than it was; it required less excitement, and is satisfied with less nutriment, preserving, in its mystic union with the body, a consentaneous adaptation; for though I walk or ride out whenever the weather permits, I can no longer exercise my limbs as I was wont. A sunny seat in my garden begins to be preferred to my old grey mare. I sit there sometimes for a considerable time, and think that I ain thinking, but I find that the hour has passed away in a dreamy indistinctness-a sort of half-consciousness, sufficient for enjoyment, though incapable of definition. These waking dreams may be a resource of nature for recruiting the mind, as I have always found mine more vigorous and active after such indulgence. Vol. III. No. 17.-1832.
There is one calamity to which age seems inevitably exposed—the dropping off into the grave, of our early friends and associates, as we advance towards the final bourne, and seem to have most need of their social offices. But Nature, ever on the watch to provide substitutes for our deprivations, while she blunts our sympathies in this direction, quickens them in another, by raising up a new circle of friends in our children and grand-children, less subject to the invasion of death, and better qualified by attachment and gratitude to minister to the wants of the heart. These are the affections that garland it with the buds and blossoms of a second spring; these are the holy band whose miraculous touch can bid the thorn of mortality, like that of Glastonbury, break forth into flowers even in the Christmas of our days. This is the cup of joy that contains the sole aurum potabile, the genuine elixir vitæ that can renovate our youth, and endow us with a perpetuity of pleasure.
In my former solitary wanderings and contemplations of nature, I had delighted to let my imagination embody forth the dreams of Grecian mythology and fable; to metamorphose the landscape that surrounded me to the mountains and dells of Arcadia and Thessaly; to people the woods and waters with nymphs, fauns, Dryads, Oreads, and Nereids; losing myself in classical recollections, and bidding them occasionally minister to the inspirations of the muse. But the charms of rural scenery now kindled in my bosom a higher and a holier sentiment. I looked out upon the beautiful earth, clothed in verdure and festooned with flowers, upon the glorious all-vivifying sun, upon the great waters bounding in unerring obedience to the moon, and into the blue depths of heaven, until I stood, as it were, in the presence of the Omnipotent Unseen; my senses drank in the landscape till they became inebriated with delight; I seemed interfused with nature; a feeling of universal love fell upon my heart, and in the suffusion of its silent gratitude and adoration I experienced a living apotheosis, being in spirit rapt up into the third heaven, even as Elijah was in the flesh. Bold romantic scenery was not essential to the awakening of this enthusiasm ; it has sprung up amid my own fields; and in the study of botany, to which I have always been attached, the dissection of a flower has been sufficient to call it forth, though in a minor degree. All nature in fact, is imbued with this sentiment, for every thing is beautiful, and every thing attests the omnipresence of Divine love; but grand combinations will, of course, condense and exalt the feeling. Old as I am, I can stitl walk miles to enjoy a fine prospect; I often get up to see the sun rise, and I rarely suffer it to set, on a bright evening, without recreating my eyes with its parting glories. I can now feel the spirit in which the dying Rousseau desired to be wheeled to the window, that he might once more enjoy this sublime spectacle.
How often, in my younger days, have I repeated the well known lines of Dryden.
“ Strange cozenage! none would live past years again,