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R OW oddly it happens that the same sound 7)
s hall suggest to the minds of two pera s ons hearing it ideas the most opposite ! B ) I was conversing, a few years since, with a young friend upon the subject of poetry, and particularly that species of it which is known by the name of the epithalamium. I ventured to assert that the most perfect specimen of it in our language was the “Epithalamium” of Spenser upon his own marriage.
My young gentleman, who has a smattering of taste, and would not willingly be thought ignorant of anything remotely connected with the belleslettres, expressed a degree of surprise, mixed with mortification, that he should never have heard of this poem ; Spenser being an author with whose writings he thought himself peculiarly conversant.
I offered to show him the poem in the fine folio copy of the poet's works which I have at home. He seemed pleased with the offer, though the mention of the folio seemed again to puzzle him. But, presently after, assuming a grave look, he compassionately muttered to himself, “Poor Spencer!”
There was something in the tone with which he
spoke these words that struck me not a little. It was more like the accent with which a man bemoans some recent calamity that has happened to a friend, than that tone of sober grief with which we lament the sorrows of a person, however excellent and however grievous his afflictions may have been, who has been dead more than two centuries. I had the curiosity to inquire into the reasons of so uncommon an ejaculation. My young gentleman, with a more solemn tone of pathos than before, repeated, “ Poor Spencer !” and added, “He has lost his wife ! ”
My astonishment at this assertion rose to such a height, that I began to think the brain of my young friend must be cracked, or some unaccountable reverie had gotten possession of it. But, upon further explanation, it appeared that the word “ Spenser "--which to you or me, reader, in a conversation upon poetry too, would naturally have called up the idea of an old poet in a ruff, one Edmund Spenser, that flourished in the days of Queen Elizabeth, and wrote a poem called “The Fairy Queen,” with “The Shepherd's Calendar,” and many more verses besides-did, in the mind of my young friend, excite a very different and quite modern idea ; namely, that of the Honourable William Spencer, one of the living ornaments, if I am not misinformed, of this present poetical era, A.D. 1811.
ELIA ON HIS “CONFESSIONS OF A
T A NY are the sayings of Elia, painful
PA and frequent his lucubrations, set forth MVK for the most part (such his modesty !)
without a name; scattered about in obscure periodicals and forgotten miscellanies, From the dust of some of these it is our intention occasionally to revive a tract or two that shall seem worthy of a better fate, especially at a time like the present, when the pen of our industrious contributor, engaged in a laborious digest of his recent Continental tour, may haply want the leisure to expatiate in more miscellaneous speculations. We have been induced, in the first instance, to reprint a thing which he put forth in a friend's volume some years since, entitled “The Confessions of a Drunkard,” seeing that Messieurs the Quarterly Reviewers have chosen to embellish their last dry pages with fruitful quotations therefrom; adding, from their peculiar brains, the gratuitous affirmation, that they have reason to believe that the describer (in his delineations of a drunkard, forsooth !) partly sat for his own picture. The truth is, that our friend had been reading among the essays of a contemporary, who has perversely been confounded with him, a paper, in which Edax (or the Great Eater) humorously complaineth of an inordinate appetite; and it struck him that a better paper--of deeper interest and wider usefulness---might be made out of the imagined experiences of a Great Drinker. Accordingly he set to work, and with that mock fervour and counterfeit earnestness with which he is too apt to over-realize his descriptions, has given us-a frightful picture indeed, but no more resembling the man Elia than the fictitious Edax may be supposed to identify itself with Mr. L., its author. It is, indeed, a compound extracted out of his long observations of the effects of drinking upon all the world about him ; and this accumulated mass of misery he hath centred (as the custom is with judicious essayists) in a single figure. We deny not that a portion of his own experiences may have passed into the picture (as who, that is not a washy fellow, but must at some times have felt the after-operation of a too-generous cup ?); but then how heightened ! how exaggerated ! how little within the sense of the Review, where a part, in their slanderous usage, must be understood to stand for the whole! But it is useless to expostulate with this Quarterly slime, brood of Nilus, watery heads with hearts of jelly, spawned under the sign of Aquarius, incapable of Bacchus, and therefrom cold, washy, spiteful, bloodless. Elia shall string them up one day, and show their colours,—or, rather how colourless and vapid the whole fry,—when he putteth forth his long-promised, but unaccountably hitherto delayed, “Confessions of a Water-drinker." .
AM the miserablest man living. Give me counsel, dear Editor. I was bred
up in the strictest principles of honesty, and and have passed my life in punctual adherence to them. Integrity might be said to be ingrained in our family. Yet I live in constant fear of one day coming to the gallows.
Till the latter end of last autumn, I never experienced these feelings of self-mistrust, which ever since have embittered my existence. From the apprehension of that unfortunate man,' whose story began to make so great an impression upon the public about that time, I date my horrors. I never can get it out of my head that I shall some time or other commit a forgery, or do some equally vile thing. To make matters worse, I am in a banking-house. I sit surrounded with a cluster of bank-notes. These were formerly no more to me than meat to a butcher's dog. They are now as toads and aspics. I feel all day like one situated
amidst gins and pitfalls. Sovereigns, which I once - took such pleasure in counting out, and scraping up with my little tin shovel (at which I was the most