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will ; lay it on, and spare not; I subscribe to it all, and mucb more than thou canst be willing to lay at his door-but for the child Elia--that “other me,” there, in the backgroundI must take leave to cherish the remembrance of that young master, with as little reference, I protest, to this stupid changeling of five-and-forty, as if it had been a child of some other house, and not of my parents. I can cry over its patient smallpox at five, and rougher medicaments. I can lay its poor fevered head
the sick pillow at Christ's, and wake with it in surprise at the gentle posture of maternal tenderness hanging over it, that unknown had watched its sleep. I know how it shrank from any the least colour of falsehood. God help thee, Elia, how art thou changed! Thou art sophisticated. I know how honest, how courageous (for a weakling) it was; how religious, how imaginative, how hopeful! From what have I not fallen, if the child I remember was indeed myself, and not some dissembling guardian, presenting a false identity, to give the rule to my unpractised steps, and regulate the tone of my moral being !
That I am fond of indulging, beyond a hope of sympathy, in such retrospection, may be the symptom of some sickly idiosyncrasy. Or is it owing to another cause ; simply, that being without wife or family, I have not learned to project myself enough out of myself; and having no offspring of my own to dally with, I turn back upon memory, and adopt my own early idea as my heir and favourite ?
If these speculations seem fantastical to thee, reader, (a busy man perchance,) if I tread out of the way of thy sympathy, and am singularly conceited only, I retire, impenetrable to ridicule, under the phantom cloud of Elia.
The elders, with whom I was brought up, were of a character not likely to let slip the sacred observance of any
old institution, and the ringing out of the old year was kept by them with circumstances of peculiar ceremony, In those days the sound of those midnight chimes, though it seemed to raise hilarity in all around me, never failed to bring a train of pensive imagery into my fancy. Yet I then scarce conceived what it meant, or thought of it as a reckoning that concerned me.
Not childhood alone, but the young man till thirty, never feels practically that he is mortal. He knows it indeed, and, if need were, he could preach a homily on the fragility of life ; but he brings it not home to himself, any more than in a hot June we can appropriate to our imagina tion the freezing days of December. But now, shall I con fess a truth? I feel these audits but too powerfully. I begin to count the probabilities of my duration, and to grudge at the
expenditure of moments and shortest periods, like miser's far things. In proportion as the years both lessen and shorten, I set more count upon their periods, and would fain lay my ineffectual finger upon the spoke of the great wheel. I am not content to pass away“ like a weaver's shuttle.” Those metaphors solace me not, nor sweeten the unpalatable draught of mortality. I care not to be carried with the tide, that smoothly bears human life to eternity; and reluct at the inevitable course of destiny. I am in love with this green earth ; the face of town and country ; the unspeakable rural solitudes, and the sweet security of streets.
I would set up my tabernacle here. I am content to stand still at the age to which I am arrived-I, and my friends : to be no younger, no richer, no handsomer. I do not want to be weaned by age ; or drop, like mellow fruit, as they say, into the grave. Any alteration, on this earth of mine, in diet or in lodging, puzzles and discomposes me. My household gods plant a terrible fixed foot, and are not rooted up without blood. They do not willingly seek Lavinian shores. A new state of being staggers me.
Sun, and sky, and breeze, and solitary walks, and summer holydays, and the greenness of fields, and the delicious juices of meats and fishes, and society, and the cheerful glass, and candlelight, and fireside conversations, and innocent vanities and jests, and irony itself—do these things go out with life?
Can a ghost laugh, or shake his gaunt sides, when you are pleasant with him?
And you, my midnight darlings, my folios ! must I part with the intense delight of having you (huge armfuls) in my embraces ? Must knowledge come to me, if it come at all, by some awkward experiment of intuition, and no longer by this familiar process of reading ?
Shall I enjoy friendships there, wanting the smiling indications which point me to them here, the recognisable face ; 66 the sweet assurance of a look ?"
In winter, this intolerable disinclination to dying, to give it its mildest name, does more especially haunt and beset me. In a genial August noon, beneath a sweltering sky, death is almost problematic. At those times do such poor snakes as myself enjoy an immortality. Then we expand and burgeon. Then are we as strong again, as valiant again, as wise again, and a great deal taller. The blast that nips and shrinks me puts me in thoughts of death. All things allied to the unsubstantial wait upon that master feeling ; cold, numbness, dreams, perplexity ; moonlight itself, with its shadowy and spectral appearances, that cold ghost of the sun, or Phæbus's sickly sister, like that innutritious one denounced in the Canticles : I am none of her minions; I hold with the Persian.
Whatsoever thwarts, or puts me out of my way, brings death into my mind. All partial evils, like humours, run into that capital plague sore. I have heard some profess an indifference to life. Such hail the end of their existence as a port of refuge ; and speak of the grave as of some soft arms, in which they may slumber as on a pillow. Some have wooed death—but out upon thee, I say, thou foul, ugly phantom! I detest, abhor, execrate, and (with Friar John) give thee to sixscore thousand devils, as in no instance to be excused or tolerated, but shunned as a universal viper; to be branded, proscribed, and spoken evil of! In no way can I be brought to digest thee, thou thin, melancholy Privation, or more frightful and confounding Positive !
Those antidotes, prescribed against the fear of thee, are altogether frigid and insulting like thyself. For what satisfaction hath a man, that he shall “ lie down with kings and emperors in death,” who in his lifetime never greatly coveted the society of such bedfellows? or, forsooth, that “so shall the fairest face appear ?”—why, to comfort me, must Alice W- -n be a goblin? More than all, I conceive disgust at those impertinent and misbecoming familiarities, inscribed upon your ordinary tombstones. Every dead man must take upon himself to be lecturing me with his odious truism, that “ such as he now is, I must shortly be.” Not so shortly, friend, perhaps, as thou imaginest. In the mean time I am alive. I move about. I-am worth twenty of thee. Know thy betters! Thy Newyear's days are past. I survive, a jolly candidate for 1821. Another cup of wine ; and while that turncoat bell, that just now mournfully chanted the obsequies of 1820 departed, with changed notes lustily rings in a successor, let us attune to its peal the song made on a like occasion by hearty, cheerful Mr. Cotton :
THE NEW YEAR.
Hark, the cock crows, and yon bright stai
More full of soul-tormenting gall,
How say, you, reader do not these verses smack of the rough magnanimity of the old English vein? Do they not fortify like a cordial ; enlarging the heart, and productive of sweet blood, and generous spirits in the concoction ? Where be those puling fears of death, just now expressed or affected ? Passed like a cloud-absorbed in the purging sunlight of clear poetry-clean washed away by a wave of genuine Helicon your only spa for these hypochondries. And now another cup of the generous ! and a merry Newyear, and many of them, to you all, my masters !
MRS. BATTLE'S OPINIONS ON WHIST.
“ A CLEAR fire, a clean hearth, and the rigour of the game.” This was the celebrated wish of old Sarah Batile, (now with God,) who, next to her devotions, loved a good game at whist. She was none of your lukewarm gamesters, your half and half players, who have no objection to take a hand, if you want one to make up a rubber ; who affirm that they have no pleasure in winning ; that they like to win one game, and lose another ; that they can while away an hour very agreeably at a card table, but are indifferent whether they play or no; and will desire an adversary, who has slipped a wrong card, to take it up and play another. These insufferable triflers are the curse of a table. One of these flies will spoil a whole pot. Of such it may be said, that they do not play at cards, but only play at playing at them.
Sarah Battle was none of that breed. She detested them, as I do, from her heart and soul ; and would not, save upon a striking emergency, willingly seat herself at the same table with them. She loved a thorough-paced partner, a determined enemy. She took, and gave, no concessions. She hated favours. She never made a revoke, nor ever passed it over in her adversary without exacting the utmost forfeiture. She fought a good fight cut and thrust. She held not her good sword (her cards) “like a dancer.” She sat bolt upright; and neither showed you her cards, nor desired to see yours. All people have their blind side—their superstitions ; and I have heard her declare, under the rose, that hearts was her favourite suit.
I never in my life—and I knew Sarah Battle many of the best years
of it-saw her take out her snuffbox when it was her turn to play ; or snuff a candle in the middle of a game; or ring for a servant, till it was fairly over. She never introduced, or connived at, miscellaneous conversation during its process. As she emphatically observed, cards were cards ; and if I ever saw unmingled distaste in her fine last-century countenance, it was at the airs of a young gentleman of a literary turn, who had been with difficulty persuaded to take a hand ; and who, in his excess of candour, declared, that he thought there was no harm in unbending the mind now and then, after serious studies, in recreations of that kind ! She could not bear to have her noble occupation, to which she