صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

anthem, besides being immeasurably tedious, would have served as well for a nuptial. The real serious part was the figure of the duke of Cumberland, heightened by a thousand melancholy circumstances. He had a dark brown adonis, and a cloak of black cloth, with a train of five yards. Attending the funeral of a father could not be pleasant: his leg extremely bad, yet forced to stand upon it near two hours; his face bloated and distorted with his late paralytic stroke, which has affected too one of his eyes, and placed over the mouth of the vault, into which, in all probability, he must himself so soon descend; think how unpleasant a situation! He bore it all with a firm and unaffected counte


This grave scene was fully contrasted by the burlesque Duke of N He fell into a fit of crying the moment he came into the chapel, and flung himself back in a stall, the archbishop hovering over him with a smelling-bottle; but in two minutes his curiosity got the better of his hypocrisy, and he ran about the chapel with his glass to spy who was or was not there, spying with one hand, and mopping his eyes with the other. Then returned the fear of catching cold; and the Duke of Cumberland, who was sinking with heat, felt himself weighed down, and, turning round, found it was the Duke of N— ing upon his train to avoid the chill of the marble.'-pp. 222, 223.


The description of the figure and demeanour of our revered monarch when he first appeared as sovereign among the circle of his nobles, we now read with a natural feeling of the melancholy contrast. He was the first of the Brunswick line who united with the dignity of his situation the frank manner of an English gentleHow his example has been followed since his retirement reminds us of the lines which Shakspeare places in the mouth of the gallant and graceful Henry V.

[ocr errors][merged small]

For the king himself, he seems all good-nature, and wishing to satisfy every body; all his speeches are obliging. I saw him again yesterday, and was surprised to find the levee room had lost so entirely the air of the lion's den. This sovereign don't stand in one spot, with his eyes fixed royally on the ground, and dropping bits of German news; he walks about and speaks to every body. I saw him afterwards on the throne, where he is graceful and genteel, sits with dignity, and reads his answers to addresses well.'-p. 222.

There are readers to whom Henry Fielding may be a more interesting personage than princes, or statesmen, or men of fashion. The following anecdote of his vie privée is more remarkable than pleasing. Rigby and Bathurst had carried a servant of the latter, who had attempted to shoot him, before poor Fielding in his degrading vocation of a trading justice.

He sent them word he was at supper, that they must come next morning. They did not understand that freedom, and ran up, where


they found him banquetting with a blind man, a w and three Irishmen, on some cold mutton and a bone of ham, both in one dish, and the dirtiest cloth. He never stirred nor asked them to sit. Rigby, who had seen him so often come to beg a guinea of Sir C. Williams and Bathurst, at whose father's he had lived for victuals, understood that dignity as little, and pulled themselves chairs, on which he civilized.'pp. 58, 59.

In the account of his own pursuits in the minor branches of antiquity, landscape-gardening, and literature, which Walpole made the subject of his study, these letters are equally lively and instructive. He had indeed in these particulars, as in others, lowered and restrained his natural taste and genius by drawing a tacit comparison between his own labours and improvements upon the Liliputian scale of Strawberry Hill and the gigantic productions of nature and art elsewhere, and giving a preference to the former out of habit perhaps, as much as personal vanity. His taste was exquisite, but degraded and narrowed by the limited sphere in which it was exercised; he lost sight of truth and simplicity, and by imitating in little that which derived its character and importance from existing on a grand scale, his buildings have come to resemble the make-believe' architecture of children. Thus he lost his sense of the magnificent, and saw in Blenheim only Vanbrugh's quarries, a place as ugly as the house, and the bridge that, like the beggars at the Duchess's gate, begged but a drop of water, and was refused.' We own, therefore, we tremble at the consequences of his transformations when he describes himself as a travelling Jupiter at Philemon's cottage, at a friend's family seat, where he demolished the paternal intrenchments of walls and gardens, to substitute Kent-fences and white rails of his own designing, and completed the landscape with the transformation of a cottage into a church, by the elevation of a steeple upon one end of it!

Yet with this acquired rather than natural incapacity of estimating the picturesque sublime, Walpole's descriptions of the old mansions which he visited, with his enthusiasm for their towers and turrets, halls and battlements, chapels and china-closets, wainscot cabinets and enamelled pairs of bellows, for such there were,' (p. 322,) place every scene he chooses to represent in a lively manner before the reader's eyes.

The reader will easily conceive that it is not in the letters of Horace Walpole engaged either in the whirlwind of fashionable dissipation, or in the limited and somewhat selfish enjoyment of his own trivial though elegant pursuits, that he is to look for moral maxims. His observations on human life, however, whenever such happen to drop from his pen, are marked by strong sense


and knowledge of mankind. When he tells us that moral reflexions are the livery one likes to wear after real misfortune,' or cautions us against beginning a course of civility with those who are indifferent to us, because at length we cannot help showing that we are weary of them, and consequently give more offence than if we had never attempted to please them,' we recognize the keen penetrating man of the world. But our most useful lesson will perhaps be derived from considering this man of the world, full of information, and sparkling with vivacity, stretched on a sick bed, and apprehending all the tedious languor of helpless decrepitude and deserted solitude.

I am tired of the world, its politics, its pursuits, and its pleasures, but it will cost me some struggles before I submit to be tender and careful. Christ! can I ever stoop to the regimen of old age? I do not wish to dress up a withered person, nor drag it about to public places; but to sit in one's room, clothed warmly, expecting visits from folks I don't wish to see, and tended and flattered by relations impatient for one's death! let the gout do its worst as expeditiously as it can; it would be more welcome in my stomach than in my limbs.'-p. 363.

There still remains another view, in which these letters may be regarded as the entertaining and lively register of the gay and witty who have long fluttered and flirted over the fashionable stage till pushed off by a new race of persifleurs and titterers. The following is a diverting instance of the tale of the day, narrated by one man of fashion for the benefit of another.

'You must know then,-but did you know a young fellow that was called handsome Tracy? He was walking in the park with some of his acquaintance, and overtook three girls; one was very pretty; they followed them, but the girls ran away, aud the company grew tired of pursuing them, all but Tracy. (There are now three more guns gone off; she must be very drunk.) He followed to Whitehall gate, where he gave a porter a crown to dog them: the porter hunted them-he the porter. The girls ran all round Westminster, and back to the Haymarket, where the porter came up with them. He told the pretty one she must go with him, and kept her talking till Tracy arrived, quite out of breath, and exceedingly in love. He insisted on knowing where she lived, which she refused to tell him; and after much disputing, went to the house of one of her companions, and Tracy with them. He there made her discover her family, a butterwoman in Craven-street, and engaged her to meet him the next morning in the park; but before night he wrote her four love-letters, and in the last offered two hundred pounds a-year to her, and a hundred a-year to Signora la Madre. Griselda made a confidence to a staymaker's wife, who told her that the swain was certainly in love enough to marry her, if she could determine to be virtuous and refuse his offers. 66 Aye," says she, "but if I should, and should lose him by it." However the measures of the cabi




net council were decided for virtue; and when she met Tracy the next morning in the park, she was convoyed by her sister and brother-in-law, and stuck close to the letter of her reputation. She would do nothing: she would go no where. At last, as an instance of prodigious compliance, she told him, that if he would accept such a dinner as a butterwoman's daughter could give him, he should be welcome. Away they walked to Craven-street; the mother borrowed some silver to buy a leg of mutton, and they kept the eager lover drinking till twelve at night, when a chosen committee waited on the faithful pair to the minister of May-fair. The doctor was in bed, and swore he would not get up to marry the king, but that he had a brother over the way, who perhaps would, and who did. The mother borrowed a pair of sheets, and they consummated at her house; and the next day they went to their own palace. In two or three days the scene grew gloomy; and the husband coming home one night, swore he could bear it no longer." Bear! bear what?"-" Why to be teazed by all my acquaintance for marrying a butterwoman's daughter. I am determined to go to France, and will leave you a handsome allowance."-" Leave me! why you don't fancy you shall leave me? I will go with you."—" What, you love me then?” "No matter whether I love you or not, but you shan't go without me." And they are gone! If you know any body that proposes marrying and travelling, I think they cannot do it in a more commodious method.'-pp. 51--53.

The revels of the gallant and the fair are described in such lively colours as lead us to believe that our own period has gained something in decency, if not in virtue. No wit of the present day would, like George Selwyn, set down Mrs. Dorcas, to assist him with her conversation when the lady had left him in a pet. And the scene of the stewed chickens at Vauxhall, where three or four women of fashion and their gallant attendants call in Betty the orange-girl to sup at a little table beside them, is much too scandalous for modern decorum.


The names of the performers in these gaieties are in the published work only marked by initials. A key, however, with the names at length, is in private circulation, not unnecessarily certainly, since without it posterity might find some difficulty in explaining the innuendo. Even in the present day, it would seem, the interpretation of several initials is doubtful or erroneous. thelittle B- -,' mentioned p. 81, is explained to be Booth, whereas upon looking at the context, which refers to the improvement of Warwick Castle, it appears plainly to stand for Brooke, the second title of that family. Alas! Oblivion has already laid him down in the houses of the fashionables of the eighteenth century! The dandies and the dowagers commemorated in these letters, the apes and the peacocks from Tarsus,' to borrow a phrase from Yorick's sermons, are all dead upon our hands,' and little

[ocr errors]

is preserved of them, even by the report of those who mingled in their society. Of the person to whom the letters are addressed it is only remembered that he was a gentlemanlike body of the vieille cour, and that he was usually attended by his brother John, (the Little John of Walpole's correspondence,) who was a midshipman at the age of sixty, and found his chief occupation in carrying about his brother's snuff-box. On the present occasion this lesser Teucer may be compared to the black and white cur with one ear, by whose constant attendance some persons of strong memory were enabled to recal to mind the important 'P. P. clerk of the parish,' almost five years after he was dead. The same may be said of many other heroes and heroines mentioned in these epistles. To these persons, and to their forgotten loves, foibles, and intrigues the genius of Walpole has given a kind of reminiscence, and enabled them to float down to posterity with the belle Stuart, the Warmesters, the Jennings, and the Wetenhalls of Grammont. Like the stag of the fable, he mistook the qualifications which did him most honour. That he lived in the first fashionable circles, or rather that he set an undue value upon his advantages in this respect, was a decided obstacle to his success as a man of literature: but that he was, notwithstanding, still distinguished by literary talent will be the means of preserving the names of that worshipful society on which he prided himself, and which would otherwise have been long since forgotten.

ART. V. Sketch of the Military and Political Power of Russia, in the year 1817. Fourth Edition. pp. 208. London.



HERE are some spirits so strangely constituted, that though zealous and able allies in the hour of danger, they cannot bear to witness a too complete success of the cause in which they have laboured. If we desire to retain their friendship we must submit to be always in need of their help, since the first moment of our triumph will be the last of their good-will, and we may think ourselves fortunate if they do not thenceforth seek to pull down the edifice which they themselves have toiled to raise. Like the Brownies of rural superstition, they will clean a dirty house and arrange disordered furniture; but, if nothing good or useful is left for them to do, their morbid activity begins to seek for aliment in the work of subversion and defilement.

To this description of goblins, or something like it, we are inclined to refer the gallant and ingenious person, whom, on authority which his present predilections render decisive, we are instructed

[blocks in formation]
« السابقةمتابعة »