Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

allow. His haunts' of idleness and extravagance were abandoned, and an end put to all connexion with those characters, who, under pretence of ministering to their amusement, prey upon the purses of inexperienced Etonians. But habits of indolence, which have long grown inveterate, are not shaken off in a moment. Having naturally an admirable memory, which retains every thing that is submitted to it, by the application of the slightest attention, Frederick soon' made up for his deficiency in the studies of the part of the school to which he belonged ; but by this time the strong impulse by which his repentance was actuated, has subsided. He is now' more admired for the flashy brilliance of his talents than for the steady bright flame of learning, which deep reading and consistency of study are alone capable of lighting up and nourishing; and these are' not characteristics of the individual I am describing. In spite of the re-action which took place on his amendment, periodical fits of indolence will often occur. There remain also traces of the past in the indulgence he gives way to, in a fashionable folly, which is at present too prevalent in the school-that of lounging up and down the town, dressed to the very ačme of Bond-street ton; or, if I may so express myself, even in the highest height a higher height of absurdity is aimed at by the Etonian votaries of dress. “To see and to be seen,” is the professed' object of these unwearied vicambulists. But I wrong them perhaps; to have an object in view does away with the very quintessence of lounging. Frederick has long been considered the Sun, from whence the minor luminaries of the Eton hemisphere of fashion borrow all their lustre. But, indeed, one almost forgets the absurdity of his conduct in the amusement which his sprightly sallies of humour and endless vivacity always afford his companions. Woe to the dandified cit, who has just escaped from the foggy'atmosphere of Cheapside, in his hired gig, with his smiling sweetheart at his side, to visit Vindsor, and act the gentleman on the Terrace, if he encounters the scrutinizing stare of Frederick's glass. And as for his critiques on the ladies, the Hermit in London would be proud to draw on them fór an additional volume of his entertaining work. His sagacity of observa-, tion on the affected modesty and demure countenances of those who just put on an appearance of innocence and purity, as a masquerade dress, or from the true spirit of female contradiction; and the acuteness of his remarks on the flippancy, pertness, and forward address of others, whose giddy heads have been turned by thë admiration which is paid them by the gay, unmeaning danglers at their side; his exact discrimination between diamonds and paste; the neat elegance of the lady of rank, and the gaudy trappings of the trades

man's wife, and between the rose of health and its artificial substitute; Ş are the very nectar and ambrosia of satirical entertainment. It is ludicrous Što see the enraptured attitudes in which our amateur studiously composes

himself, when he surrenders his feelings to the overpowering influence of n melody, and is wafted from a consciousness of surrounding objects on the

dying strain of one of those beautiful pieces, which the 'band'are in the habit of playing: till his companion gives him an abrupt intimation that one of the Masters is at hand, and aroušes him from that dreamy ideality, which is so often talked of by some of the poets of the present day, to'a sense of the ne

l.

vaat 27 hor 1943

cessity of his disappearance from the observation of the Guardian of school; discipline. A propensity for dramatic representation was formerly a striking feature in his character. He had contrived to enrol a corps, of which he was constituted the head; and the surprising versatility with which he could assume and support the most opposite characters, as also the able manner in which he discharged the arduous office of manager, has seldom, if ever, been equalled at a school ; his skill in drilling an awkward squad, in overawing presumption, in encouraging diffidence, and (the most difficult of all . tasks) in reconciling the pretensions of each individual with his capacity for fulfilling them; these and many other suitable qualities, confirmed him in a station, which, without them, could not have been supported by the most shining abilities as an actor. While this mania was upon him, it monopolized his entire attention. He was perpetually studying some new theatrical attitude, and he scarcely ever opened his mouth, except to give you a pithy sentence from some play. By the way, he had always been notorious for his quotations at all times, and in all places, a propensity which smacks strongly of pedantry. But now he was doubly armed, and there was no end of the continual volleys which he sent forth from his magazine of farces and comedies. At last the theatre was knocked up from the failure of the funds, and from Golightly growing cold in the discharge of his duties; for, with his usual inconstancy, he began to be tired of his amusement, and to sigh for novelty. To sum him up in a few words—he is a compound, a very essence, of sporting, satirical, and dramatic ingredients; each of which rises uppermost, (much on the principles of chemistry, which 'sets the lightest body afloat,) in obedience to the caprice of the present moment.

ALLEN LE Blanc is the absolute reverse of Golightly. His very figure bears testimony to the eccentricity of his mind. He is of a diminutive round stature; his limbs are well compacted and clean made: in short, he is, ą neat little miniature. He has small grey twinkling eyes, snubbed nose, decided lines of thought prematurely furrowed on his brow; and, as he bears his blushing honours thick upon him, one would shrewdly guess he was by no means deficient in paying his devoirs to Bacchus. He has read deeply, though his course of study has been perverted, and thought still more deeply: but not having sufficiently founded his principles on the rock of morality and revealed religion, either owing to inadvertency, or a too great confidence in the unassisted powers of the human understanding, he has often been led away by strange theories and speculations, which happened for the moment to fix his attention, and which he pursues through all the intricacies of metaphysical argument, till he has lost himself in the labyrinth of his own ideas... Naturally of a strong mind, and imbued with a taste for the abstruse, he turned with superciliousness from the Epic and Lyric Poets. The natural simplicity of Homer, the more polished beauties of Virgil, and the sportive gaiety of Horace, with the exception of a few isolated passages, were totally uninteresting to our young philosopher. He flew with eagerness to the dark speculations of Lucretius, and the sneering infidelity of Lucan; or examined into the opinions of the Academy, and joined in the disputations,

at the Tusculan Villa. His chief pursuits have been the study of astronomy and history; an examination into the main spring and connexion of events; the rise and fall of nations, as exemplifying the great doctrine of the instability of all human institutions. His studies then took a more profitable turn; he penetrated with avidity into modern discoveries, from the Principia of Newton, to the metaphysics of Coleridge, and the moral philosophy of Paley. From hence the transition was easy to an eager investigation into theological subjects; but here he was unluckily entangled among controversial points ; and the spirit of religion was overlooked through a too ardent desire of coming to the understanding of the letter by the aid merely of human acquirements. It may be hoped, however, that a more attentive consideration of the nature of this study has, by this time, removed that film from the intellectual eye. His manners and actions are equally singular with his line of study; indeed so much so that they often incur the charge of affectation, though they mostly result from an abşence of mind, and inattention to outward appearances. Though his library is full, and his choice of books good, you will find his study a very chaos. In the centre of one shelf a duodecimo gilt Horace stands along side of a ponderous black-backed quarto, on theology: in front of you, as you enter, by the window, is a great staring head in plaster-ofParis; on the skull of which are marked the different organs, according to the doctrines of Gall and Spurzheim. For be it known, our universal philosopher has lately been inquiring into the ingenious, but visionary study, of craniology; and has paid more attention than they deserve to the various importations of German absurdities which have inundated us of late years. In this sanctum sanctorum he pores over his favourite authors with spectacles on sapient nose,' taking no notice of his candle (though, with its immense snuff, it only renders darkness visible) till it has become finally extinguished in the socket; when, on arising to retire, he finds that the door of his study has been blockaded with bedsteads by some evil-disposed person or persons; and, having no remedy, he calmly ties his pocket handkerchief round his head, and contentedly passes the remainder of the hours usually dedicated to repose, in his arm chair. One would naturally suppose that his exercises would be inibued with a strong tinge of his pursuits. However light or sportive the subject may be that is proposed for his theme, you must have but a slight idea of Allen's ardour for abstruse disquisition, did you not expect to find some metaphysical hints and observations dispersed throughout. Never is he in greater glory than when engaged in a laborious treatise on the lunar influences, or the properties of matter, in rough unpolished hexameters, after the Lucretian model; or an investigation into the principles of the human mind, in a long copy of iambics, in which the stabile spondees have their full weight. I am not, however, prepared to assert, that although the harshness of rhythm has been overlooked, the sense of the ideas intended to be embodied therein, has been, on that account, more distinctly conveyed. In company Allen is silent and reserved, unless when exhilarated by copious draughts from the mantling bowl, which certainly in his case succeeds in unfolding the contractæ seria frontis.

The next member of the club who offers himself to our notice is the Hon. GERARD MONTGOMERY, the son of a rich Warwickshire Peer, whose bodily habits have been rendered weak and effeminate, owing to the over-abundant attentions bestowed on him in the pursery, by his maiden aunt, Lady Deborah Mildmay. This character, with reference to the former two, forms the same connecting link which twilight does between the opposite extremes of day and night. His genius is a brilliant of the first water, but his talents have been suffered to run wild, owing to their very luxuriance. Gifted with wonderful quickness and retentiveness of memory, and an ardent imagination, always on the wing in search of variety, his progress in classical attainments was the theme of universal admiration, and his instructors augured highly of the future reputation of their pupil. But the success which he met with in his studies was the means of preventing him from ever becoming a solid scholar. The facility with which he was able to master all his tasks engendered presumption, and an unbounded confidence in his own powers, thạn which nothing can be more detrimental to the cause of learning. Hence Gerard indulged in habits of procrastination, because he could write his verses off-hand, and therefore the performance of his duty might be safely delayed till the last moment, and then slurred over as a disagreeable task. Hence also, not being accustomed to find any difficulties in the mere school business which was required of him, he determined not to seek for them of his own accord, in the more arduous pursuits of knowledge, which demand effort and application. In his course of reading, he skimmed with volatile eagerness along the gayer and more pleasing paths of literature: he few from author to author, as the hee sips the sweets from every flower, without troubling herself with inquiries into the nature and properties of each one that she visits. By these means Montgomery amaşsed an extensive stock of information on almost every branch of the belles lettres ; but in spite of the ability with which he would discuss a question, and support his share of conversation among the members of the Clụb, he has often been found to be but superficially acquainted with the subject which he has been adorning with all the beauties of a fluent and persuasive eloquence. Eton, however, cannot boast of possessing another youth of whom it may be as truly averred, that he has quaffed copious draughts of the genuine Hippocrene. His natural talent for poetical composition has been greatly improved and strengthened by his acquaintance with the mighty master-spirits of the old time of Greece and Rome. His sense of pleasing emotions was so refined, and his perception of the beautiful and pathetic so acute, that a tear has been observed glistening in his eyes, while contemplating the parting of the Trojan hero with his Andromache, or while tracing the agonizing feelings of the im. passioned Dido on the departure of Æneas. But the eagerness with which he delivered himself up to the sway of the potent wands of our own native magicians, Shakspeare and the elder tragedians, with Scott, Byron, and Coleridge of the present day, was carried to an excess. I believe he had reached the perfection of human happiness, when, having locked himself in his room, this poetical enthusiast indulged in sentimental tears over some favourite poem which he was reading aloud with energy and feeling. This sensibility often led Gerard into many other extravagancies; and he was looked upon as a romantic visionary by those of the common mould. He would frequently steal away from a comfortable fire-side to wander on a chilly autumn evening in the gloom of Poet's Walk, with his arms folded, to commune with solitude, to watch the fleecy clouds as they past over the glimmering moon, and, I was going to add, to meditate on some ideal beauty. But no! Gerard was not a shadow hunter: unexistent creatures of the imagination were by no means to his taste, for he knew well how to attach sufficient value to the liquid blue eyes of a substantial Charlotte, or the graceful figure and auburn ringlets of a real Sophia. Hence his pockets were crammed with billet-doux and sonnets on the charms of the adorable Miss R. T- , or the last dying speech and confession of the love-lorn Gerard, previous to his quenching the flames of passion in a cold bath. This amorous disposition led our Romeo into many ludicrous scrapes. He has been shot at for a black cat; has narrowly escaped a man trap; has been well soused by his Juliet, and soundly horsewhipped by the stout old Capulet of the premises.

The pursuits of Sir FRANCIS WENTWORTH are perfectly distinct from any that have been hitherto described. This youth was born and bred a staunch Whig. Even in the nursery the true principles were instilled into his expanding ideas with the greatest assiduity. Instead of the common food with which the love of the marvellous, so early evinced by children, is usually served—such as the astonishing exploits of Jack the Giant Killer, or the adventures of Tom Thumb; little Frank was supplied with political caricatures and electioneering ballads. His laced baby-cap was made in the shape of that of liberty; and whenever he was admitted to the family dessert, to have half a glass of wine on Papa's knee, he was first required to lisp out the patriotic toast of “ The cause for which Hampden bled in the field and Sydney perished on the scaffold,” long before he could possibly understand the import of the sentence; and to repeat after his uncle, in a shrill voice,-“ The liberty of the Pressit is like the air we breathe ;"-while his eyes were evidently turned towards the glass at the latter part of the sentence,-"if we have it not, we die.” The labours of the parents met with the success their most ardent wishes anticipated. When he had now reached the period at which boys who are intended for public schools prepare for their debut on a miniature world, his father (the late Sir Marmaduke) was a long time debating with himself at which seminary the future hopes of the family should be placed. At first he was afraid that Eton was situated too near the atmosphere of a Court; and the main consideration was, the danger there might be of Frank's principles being corrupted. This school had also been disgraced, in his eyes, as the nursery of Canning ; but when he reflected, on the other hand, that it had the honour of educating two such“ burning and shining lights” in the parliamentary hemisphere as the great Fox, and the kindred spirit who caught the mantle of the departing orator, and with it an inspiration which has raised him to the pre-eminent station which he at present holds among his party,--the Earl Grey; all scruples vanished, and Frank was sent to Eton.

« AnteriorContinuar »