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MR. LOZELL'S ESSAY ON WEATHERCOCKS.
“ Round he spun.”—BYRON.
WE have a great respect for a Weathercock! There is something about it so springy, so sprightly, and at the same time, só complying and so acommodating, that we are not ashamed to confess that we have long taken it for our model. It changes sides perpetually, yet always preserves one unvaried elevation ; it is always in motion, yet always remains the same. We could look at a Weathercock for hours !
To us, however, it has another charm, independent of its intrinsic good qualities. Its name, not less than its character, recalls to our recollection a family which is entitled, in the highest degree, to our esteem ; of which we should never cease to think, even if our memory were not daily sharpened by the little remembrancer, which is at once their namesake, their crest, and their model. · The family of the Weathercocks is one of considerable antiquity. The first of the name, whom we find distinguishing himself in any extraordinary degree, is Sir Anthony Weathercock of Fetherly, Staffordshire; who changed his party seven times during the unfortunate dissensions between the houses of York and Lancaster. And this he contrived to do with so much tact, that he was a considerable gainer by his six first defections. By his seventh, he certainly sustained a trifling loss ;-he lost his head!
It is a well-known observation, that the descendants of surpassingly great men are often either blockheads or ideots. The present instance certainly affords us an exemplification of the truth of the remark. The successor of this genuine Weathercock was a poor weak fellow, who had no more idea of turning to the right-about, without compulsion, than he had of breakfasting without beef. Upon his refusing to deliver up the castle of Nounhame to the celebrated Warwick, he was besieged, compelled to surrender, and immediately hung up upon the gates of the fort, to learn to behave like his forefathers.
The religious persecutions which followed the union of the white and red roses, afforded fresh opportunity for the manifestation of the merits of the Weathercocks. Theirs was almost the only family of any note in England, which did not lose one or other of its members from the indiscriminate fury of superstition. The head of the house appears to have embraced as many religions, and more wives, than Henry himself; and a younger
branch is said to have been, within a week, a serving-man in the train of Gardiner, and a clerk in the household of Cranmer, But we are forgetting that we and our friends live in 1821, and that we shall weary the patience of our readers by tracing these dry historical facts ab ovo.
The Weathercock family, or rather, that branch of it with which we are at present concerned, resides on a large and productive estate in Leicestershire. We have spent much time with them, and have had several opportunities of studying their peculiar merits. Their mansion affords a perfect college for mutability : every thing is kept in readiness to be destroyed or refitted, removed or replaced at a minute's warning. It is quite delightful to see how new fashions of furniture come in and go out; how the faces of the servants are continually altered ; how the hour of meals, the regulation of the parterres ---in short, the whole system of domestic economy, is always subjected to some new ephemeral arrangement, which must soon give way to another equally new and equally ephemeral. To us, we say, this is delightful. But one seldom finds two tastes alike. Many pronounce the Weathercocks to be quite crazed; and many decide that “ they are mighty good kind of people, but have very odd whimsies!”
The disposition for change, which is inherent in the family, has produced very strange effects upon their place of residence. The house was originally a good stout old-fashioned house, remarkable for nothing but the antiquity of its pictures, and the size of its dining-hall. But its name and character have shifted considerably since it came into the possession of my worthy friends. It has been alternately a Hall, an Abbey, a Castle, and a Lodge; nay, during the life of the late Sir Adonis Weathercock, it became, for a few months, a Cottage. The proprietor, however, in this instance, gave up his design before it had affected any thing beyond the windows. The Mansion bears more permanent marks of its other metamorphoses. On one side it has the square turrets and battlements of the feudal system ; on another, the flowery-pointed arch of a Gothic Cathedral. One of the owners of the place thought proper to sink a moat round his habitation ; but he afterwards filled it up, and converted it into a circular gravel walk. Another had a fancy for erecting some solid Doric pillars ; he, doubtless, much improved their appearance, by placing upon them a beautiful Chinese Veranda. Similar observations are suggested by an inspection of the interior of the building. You may almost read a history of two or three centuries in the reliques of their manners, which are scattered in every apartment. War has been carried on with tolerably equal success between Lely's portraits, Gainsborough's landscapes, and Bunbury's caricatures. A cast of a Hercules looks somewhat
angrily upon a Mandarin, who is his next neighbour; and a timorous Venus maintains her post with great obstinacy, although her divine presence is invaded by the scaly folds of an enormous Dragon. There are Bonzes and Cupids, oaken tables and mahogany tables, drab papering and crimson papering, high mantlepieces and low mantle-pieces, Dresden china and French china; every thing is superb, everything incongruous, every thing unfinished.
The old Park has been reduced to the same state. A scrupulous homage has been paid to every new mode of cultivation ; a thousand emendations, and additions, and improvements have been successively introduced. But it is easier to plant new customs, than to eradicate the old., Lycaon was turned into a beast, but he retained his old habits of atrocity; Arachne was transformed into a spider, but she did not forget her spinning. The Park of the Weathercocks has, in like manner, assumed various novel shapes, without losing the traces of its old ones. At one time it was dressed out in all the stiff regularity of alleys and arcades ; at another, it was dubbed a “ wilderness," and was immediately laid waste by a terrible inroad of shrubs and weeds without number. In one part your eye rests upon the muddy vestiges of an artificial cascade : in another, your foot stumbles over a beap of rubbish, which has been produced by the demolition of an artificial ruin. Some people object to these things ; for my part, I own I am delighted with them. They show a proper distrust of one's own opinion; a decorous compliance with the unstable will of the world ; an eager spirit of enterprize; in short, they prove that the Weathercocks have not an ounce of obstinacy in their composition.
Sir Wilfrid Weathercock, the present head of the family, is a cheerful and hale man, between forty and fifty years of age. He is about the middle stature, although, upon some occasions, by the affectation of a fashionable stoop, he appears somewhat dwarfish'; wbile, upon others, by the assumption of a military gait and a pair of high heels, he bids fair to be accounted a Giant. With a self-denial worthy of a Cincinnatus, he has avoided all offers of place or pension, all invitations to embark in public life; he has confined his manifold talents and his extraordinary versatility to the limits of his own estate. Perhaps, indeed, his determination, in this respect, may have been a prudent one; for, although any Ministry would have been benefited by the unusual facility with which Sir Wilfrid would have flown from patriotic speeches to taxation and gagging bills ; from prayers for peace to declarations of war; from professions of economy to measures of profusion; yet it must be confessed that his reluctance to remain a minute stationary would have driven him from one side
of the House to the other, oftener than is seemly in a public man. Let it be understood that we speak with all due deference and respect for the numerous precedents wbich are to be found in our English History. Leaving great Statesmen to settle this point, we can only express our opinion that our friend has certainly acted best for his own comfort, by choosing a quiet privacy, where he may “ change every hour,” undisturbed by the malevolence of envy or the violence of faction.
His education was, in his youth, sadly neglected. Indeed his father fluctuated so long, first between Eton and Westninster, and afterwards between Cambridge and Oxford, that it is marvellous to me how little Wilfrid picked up any education at all. He has, however, obtained just so much learning as enables him to cry up the Greeks and the Latins alternately, and to flirt with all the nine Muses in succession. He escaped the fatigue of deliberation in the choice of a profession, by the death of his father ; who left him, in very early life, the heir to all his fortune, all his friendships, and all his follies. He spent his first two years upon the estate, occupied in reflections of no very serious import: such as, whether his coat should be red or green; whether his hunter should be bay or brown; whether his equipage should be a Barouche or a Curricle. So far all was sunshine; but some tempestuous days were approaching. It was suggested to him that the ancient family of the Weathercocks ought to have an heir to its honours and possessions. No evasion would serve ; Sir Wilfrid must take a wife. He was now in a novel and a disagreeable dilemma. In any trifling part of his domestic economy, in the livery of his servants, in the arrangement of his dinner-table, in the fashion of his plate, he would have bowed without a murmur to the decision of his friends, but to infict upon himself a wife was a thing so utterly unlooked for and unprepared for, that Sir Wilfrid paused. He hesitated and decided, and hesitated again, through three years; at the termination of which he broke his leg in a fox-chase, grew quiet in consequence, sold his hounds, and looked out for a wife. Then another perplexity occurred. Who was to be the happy woman? -He could never resolve to make so invidious a distinction.
“ It is very true,” said poor Sir Wilfrid, “ that Miss Dormer has a very fine face, but then I never much admired her nose. I certainly have always preferred her cousin, although that unfortunate cast of the eye- well, well, I am a young man, and as my aunt says, there is no hurry!' Miss Rayner is very beautiful, and has such charming dark hair ;-I always liked dark hair; yet I don't know if light is not as pretty—prettier sometimes, -as for instance Miss Chevier's,-only she is so insipid; I think Lady Mary is more fascinating, but then she is so terribly satirical.
Perhaps her sister would make a better wife if she was not such a fool!”
He consulted in this manner with himself for a long time: half the belles of the county were ready to pull caps for him, but he “ prattled with fifty fair maids, and changed them as oft." At last in a fit of courage he flung himself at the feet of his chosen one,-talked some rhapsodies,-sighed some sighs, and awaited bis sentence. The Lady was sorry, very sorry,—and she was flattered, highly flattered, and she was sure, quite sure,-it would only be attributed to her own want of discernment, that she declined the favour,--the honour, the distinction-the-he heard no more ; he hesitated! should he leave the room?--yes ! -00 !--yes !and he escaped as well as he could.
He has continued to this day a bachelor. In spite of all intrigue, all solicitation, all persecution, he has remained, in this one instance, obstinate. In all others he is a real Weathercock. He builds cottages, apparently with no object but that of pulling them down; and pulls them down, apparently with no object but that of building them up: he is a Tory one hour and a Whig the next, and takes in the Chronicle and Courier alternately; he seldom reads more than half a number of a periodical work, and never wears the same coat above a month. In his conversation he pursues the same plan,-zor rather want of plan,
.: Modo reges atque tetrarchas,
Quamvis crassa, queat In short-in manner, in language, in business, and in pleasure, he sets an admirable example of mutability, which we shall always make it our study to imitate ;--especially when we take up our pens.
Of Sir Wilfrid's nephew and heir we shall here say nothing, as his character has been already noticed by another hand under the name of Arthur Clavering. We pass on, therefore, to the Baronet's maiden sister, Lady Rachael Weathercock, who is nowise deficient in the peculiarities for which her family is remarkable. Lady Rachael has now attained her fiftieth year; the caprices and follies of her youth have gradually subsided ; and, in many points, she has become more stationary than a Weathercock ought to be. Her character, however, is just saved by one little ingredient, by which a person who is unacquainted with her habits may be not a little puzzled. Lady Rachael is an inveterate reader, an inveterate talker, and an inveterate arguer. You might therefore suppose that few subjects could be started upon which the Lady would not ground a dispute ;-but it is no such thing. Her Ladyship possesses such a delightful pliability