Page images
PDF
EPUB

such works afford unto the character and peculiarities of high-born intellects. Very few of us are suffered to pass the magic circle within which the exclusively upper classes congregate; and the most favoured of us have but rare occasions for knowing what a great man's brains are made of. The points of view from which these favourites of fortune look down upon men and things, engender conclusions very different from those which ordinary people form on the same subjects; and as these persons exercise so wide an influence on the destinies of the species, it is good to have some means for analysing their conceptions. Shut up among themselves, or coming into contact with general society, without either giving or receiving much impulse, transacting little or no business personally, and having their most ordinary wants anticipated, those among them who take not a leading part in politics, live in a world of their own, which bears as little resemblance to this “work-a-day world” of ours, as the French Institute does to the Dom Daniel. The works, therefore, of a noble author, whether they be wise or silly, amusing or dull, good for something or for nothing (in themselves), are at least interesting as part and parcel of their author's mind, as reflections of intellects with which we must otherwise remain unacquainted, and as it were anatomic preparations of that singular variety of the human animal, which is at once so important, and so difficult to examine in the recent subject.

The fair authoress of Ada Reis, if we may judge from her writings, possesses a mind powerfully moditied by the circumstances of her caste and position, and in itself not unworthy of some consideration by the philosopher. Acute, ingenious, imaginative, capable of quick and shrewd observation, with feelings as exalted as her fancy, she has yet, by the force of circumstances been so far removed from the flat realities of life, that she scarcely sees any thing as it really is. Her acquaintance with literature, though more general than her knowledge of the world, having been equally independent of necessity and business, has likewise exempted her from that mental discipline which is essential to regular composition. Her sagest pages have, therefore, a wildness or an oddity about them; and there is an inequality in her steadiest march, which betrays feelings under little command, and ideas which flow quite independently of volition.

Taking her works as a faithful index of her mind, nothing can be more bizarre than the nature and composition of her notions. In all that concerns the fashionable world, that world of which the Editor of the Morning Post is the geographer,--its follies, its dissipations, its heartless inanity, and its freezing apathy, she is perfectly at home; and what she has seen, she paints with considerable fidelity, and a force occasionally approaching to that of our best novelists. Hence it is, that of all her works, Graham Hamilton will the most universally please. But beyond this sphere, her notions are the result of a miscellan eous and not very judicious reading, coloured by an imagination whose activity has found food for passions, which wealth, rank, and the peculiarities of the social epoch, would otherwise bave kept in an insipid abeyance. Of the real world, of the cares, anxieties, and difficulties through which men pass in their daily efforts for subsistence, she knows nothing. Of their duties and relations she has but vague and coniused conceptions, partly the fruit of that sort of early instruc

mand a

tion which the children of the great receive, but more the creation of a heart disposed to be affectionate, and of sensibilities too prone to exaggeration ; the whole perhaps a little tinctured by the philosophy of the Hannah More school. Her pages exhibit in curious and sometimes in droll points of contrast, this strange mixture of simplicity and shrewdness, of domesticity and dissipation, of wild ideality, and satirical touches of real characters and passing follies. In perusing her works, we seem to accompany her in those her rapid and frequent journeys which the daily papers daily commemorate, between Whitehall and her country villa.

In the exercise of her modò Thebis, modd posuit Athenisfaculty, she uses no discretion, and she passes from the fairy creations of her imagination to the impertinences and insipidities of the saloon and the ball-room, with an abruptness which to some may appear to require a clue. Her style, as unsettled as her subject, changes from grave to gay, from sentimental to satirical; according to the state of her temperament at the moment of composition. Her books, therefore, are not formed for those sage and à plonib persons who de

"cui bono?" at every step, and require a mathematical and moral precision in all they read. In Ada Reis, indeed, the authoress has lahoured hard to extract a moral; but she alone perhaps could conceive that any thing bearing upon actual life could be abstracted from personages and adventures so wild and fantastic. Those readers, however, who are less fastidious, and who pause not to inquire, “ Is this probable ?” “ Is that in nature?" and who, without judging a work as a whole, are contented with a quick succession of melo-dramatic scenery and events, interspersed with some passages of great descriptive force, will not be disappointed in the perusa).

The story is Asiatic, and is coloured with the diablerie of an Arabian tale. The adventures turn on a compact with the evil powers, or at least with their magic-gifted servants ; for it is not very clear which is intended. The events succeed each other with the rapidity, and with something of the wildness of a dream. They have, consequently, but little sustained interest ; but amidst the most unreined extravagance of the story, there are perceptible glimpses of the human heart, which are not the less interesting because they are somewhat out of place and proportion. But the author's fort is evidently description. In this she occasionally exhibits powers that might be turned to a better account. In giving, therefore, a specimen of the work, we shall make our selection with a view to the illustration of this talent. The following passages are from the 10th chapter and 2d vol. and relate to the earthquake at Lima.

“ Ada Reis entered, his air wild and terrified. Didst hear nothing? he cried. Hast seen nothing?' he said, darting by her (Fiormonda.) • Hark! again! Look, look from the casement.'

“A lurid beam burst from the dense clouds ; a noise loud and terrible aroused every inhabitant of the house. Condalmar returned calm, and with a smile. The heat was intense; the forked lightning flashed along the skies; screams rent the air; the terrified slaves and menials rushed into the presence of their master kneeling and quaking. The howling of dogs was then heard ; strange and dismal sounds filled the air: a sulphurous smell infected the streets : the beasts of burden, as they passed along, seemed scarcely able to sustain themselves under the loads they bore. In the market-place, in the grand square, the gardens and plains adjoining the town, the terrified in

habitants had assembled together, lamenting aloud, and saying the last day was at hand. The churches were suddenly filled ; and, of whatever religion, Catholics, Protestants, Heretics, and Pagans, prostrated themselves before the altars, fearful of they knew not what danger.

“ Condalmar addressed himself to Ada Reis, and proposed that before it was too late they should fly from this state of horror and alarm, and remove as quickly as possible to Callao...

“ Arrived at Callao, they found the scene there, if possible, more terrific than at Lima. Never had the sun risen upon greater calamity. The whole population of the place were assembled on the beach ; parents clasping their children, and husbands their wives; and all invoking Heaven for mercy and compassion.

“ The night proved more sultry than the day had been ; cattle and dogs traversed the country alone in wild affright. Children wept, they knew not why. Strangers inquired of each other the meaning of these terrible portents; many fled from the city and fort of Callao and betook themselves to the sea ; but Ada Reis was of opinion that to attempt the sea in its present state were more dangerous than to remain on land; for the whole sky was of a purple tint, and the waves, with a still swell, seemed rising above the level of the shore. Subterraneous noisés were heard the whole of the day, sometimes resembling the bellowing of oxen, and at others the discharge of artillery, or thunder rattling at a distance.

* In a short time Ada Reis joined them; and even at such a moment they could not abstain from impious raillery and profane jesting. “Should the earth quake, I will not,' said Ada Reis. At that moment a tremendous shock threw Fiormonda forward, and in the next a concussion so violent ensued, that the building broke asunder into ruins.”....“ The concussion was repeated; sulphurous fames broke forth from the bosom of the earth : then at once were heard on all sides the screams of the dying, the roaring of thunder, the wild howling of animals, the crash of churches, palaces, buildings toppling one upon another; all in a moment destroyed, and burying under them their iniserable inhabitants."

In the last volume, which is in many respects inferior to the others, the authoress drops on a sudden the elevated and sustained tone of writing; and bringing her personages into a species of hell or purgatory of her own imagining, becomes at once familiar and satirical. After the manner of Dante, or rather of Quevedo, she proceeds to dis-. pose of classes and predicaments, and in her wilfulness spares neither herself nor her friends. It is in this part of her work that she exhibits most especially a nervous sensibility to injury, that vents itself in traits and anecdotes of those with whom she is displeased. Through the whole work, indeed, we are grieved to find that the writer is evidently ill at ease.

Gracious Heaven ! how little is every worldly prosperity to happiness! High birth, wealth, ease, distinction, the confluence of all physical goods, with friends, relations, and admirers-are all insufficient to fill that aching void, the human heart? When every thing, which in prospect seems most desirable, conspires to render a mortal happy, there is still a waking busy devil within, to conjure up imaginary woes, to create constructive miseries, to subtilize and sophisticate, to magnify and to distort, to exaggerate expectation, and to manufacture disappointment. Let not the cold moralist, triumphant in his own composure, say that this is madness, ingratitude, fretfulness unworthy of sympathy, or folly beneath compassion. Man does not desire to be miserable, he does not seek to suffer. Ideal miseries (if those in question be ideal) are not the less miseries because they proceed from within: nor is hypochondriasis a less painful disease, because

it creates its own symptoms, or holds them more remotely from external causation. Perhaps it is utterly impossible for beings of exalted sensibility to carry on to the grave the delusions of life, and to avoid a conviction of the worthlessness of the mass of mankind and of the insipidity of the bulk of existence. A contented disposition is the gift of Nature; and it should seem that it is a boon often bestowed as a compensation for the absence of splendid talents and a creative genius. It occurs at least too frequently, that where the imaginative faculties take the lead, fancy delights to dip her pencil in the gloomiest colours. C.

MIND AND BODY.

Veluti in Speculum.
Says Mind to Body t'other day,

As on my chin I plied my razor,
Pray tell me does that glass pourtray

Your real phiz, or cheat the gazer 3
That youthful face, which bloom'd as sleek

As Hebe's, Ganymede's, Apollo's,
Has lost its roses, and your cheek

Is falling into fearful hollows.
The crow's fell foot hath set its sign

Beside that eye which dimly twinkles ;
And look! what means this ugly line?

Gadzooks, my friend, you're getting wrinkles !
That form which ladies once could praise,

Would now inspire them with a panic;
Get Byron's belt, or Worcester's stays,

Or else you'll soon be Aldermanic.
At sight of that dismantled top,

My very heart, I must confess, aches :
Once famous as a Brutus crop,

You now are balder than Lord Essex.
Since Wayte's decease your teeth decline :-

Finding no beautifier near 'em,
Time's tooth has mumbled two of thine,

Well may they call him—"edax rerum.
Behold! your cheeks are quite bereft

Of their two laughter-nursing dimples,
And pretty substitutes they've left-

(Between ourselves) a brace of pimples !
The fashions which you used to lead,

So careless are you, or so thrifty,
You most neglect when most you need,

A sad mistake when nearing Fifty.--
Stop, stop, cries Body let us pause
Before

you

reckon more offences,
Since you yourself may be the cause

of all these dismal consequences.
The sword, you know, wears out the sheath,

By steam are brazen vessels scatter'd ;
And when volcanoes rage beneath,

The surface must be torn and shatter'd.
VOL. VIII. NO. XXXIV.

Y

Have not your passions, hopes, and fears,

Their tegument of clay outwearing,
Done infinitely more than years,

To cause the ravage you're declaring?
If you yourself no symptoms show

Of age, -no wrinkles of the spirit:
If still for friends your heart can glow,

Your purse be shared with starving merit :
If yet to sordid sins unknown,

No avarice in your breast has started :
If
you

have not suspicious grown,
Sour, garrulous, or narrow-hearted :
You still are young, and o'er my face

(Howe'er its features may be shaded)
Shall throw the sunshine of your grace,

And keep the moral part unfaded,
Expression is the face's soul,

The head and heart's joint emanation ;
Insensible to Time's controul,

Free from the body's devastation.
If you're still twenty, I'm no more :-

Counting by years how folks have blunder'd !
Voltaire was young at eighty-four,

And Fontenelle at near a hundred !

H.

BOND-STREET IN SEPTEMBER.

Rousseau says, that all great cities are alike; as far as my own observation extends I can confirm the remark, and yet the portrait which they exhibit is one which our first parents could hardly have been brought to comprehend. Even if that primitive pair could have contemplated the many myriads that were to descend from them, and spread over the face of the earth, they could never have imagined that in various parts of its surface a million of beings would be huddled together in one narrow voluntary prison of stone and brick, so confined that they were born and died, lived, fed, and slept, in successive layers or stories from the cellar to the garret, obtaining that accommodation for the functions of existence by mounting above one another's heads, which could never have been afforded by the superficial extent of the ground they occupied. Thousands of hecatombs of animals, brought weekly from the surrounding country for the support of this multitude, and the whole condensed population, with all the animal remains, plunged into the earth within the straitened enclosure of the walls, age upon age, generation upon generation, laid over one another until the entire mass upon which the city stands becomes a putrescent abyss of corruption and adipocire, like that extracted from the cemetery of the Innocents at Paris! Such are the prominent features in which all great cities resemble one another; and they are quite sufficient to make me thank Heaven that I live not immured within any such pestiferous enclosure, where the very complexion of the inhabitants seems a reflection from the pale flag of Death which is perpetually shaking before

their eyes.

« PreviousContinue »