« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
What, else, were the families of the great to us? wha pleasure should we take in their tedious genealogies, or their capitulatory brass monuments ? What to us the uninterrupted current of their bloods, if our own did not answer within us to a cognate and correspondent elevation ?
Or wherefore, else, oh tattered and diminished 'scutcheon that hung upon the time-worn walls of thy princely stairs, BLAKESMOOR! have I in childhood so oft stood poring upon thy mystic characters-thy emblematic supporters, with their prophetic " Resurgam”-till, every dreg of peasantry purging off, I received into myself very gentility ? Thou wert first in my morning eyes; and of nights hast detained my steps from bedward, till it was but a step from gazing at thee to dreaming on thee.
This is the only true gentry by adoption; the veritable change of blood, and not, as empirics have fabled, by transfusion.
Who it was by dying that had earned the splendid trophy, I know not, I inquire not; but its fading rags, and colours cobweb-stained, told that its subject was of two centuries back.
And what if my ancestor at that date was some Damætas -feeding flocks not his own upon the hills of Lincoln-did I in less earnest vindicate to myself the family trappings of this once proud Ægon ?-repaying by a backward triumph the insults he might possibly have heaped in his lifetime upon my poor pastoral progenitor.
If it were presumption so to speculate, the present owners of the mansion had least reason to complain. They had long forsaken the old house of their fathers for a newer trifle ; and I was left to appropriate to myself what images I could pick up, to raise my fancy, or to sooth my vanity. I was the true descendant of those old W
-s; and not the present family of that name, who had fled the old waste places.
Mine, was that gallery of good old family portraits, which, as I have gone over, giving them in fancy my own family name, one—and then another-would seem to smile, reach. ing forward from the canvass, to recognise the new relationship; while the rest looked grave, as it seemed, at the vacancy in their dwelling, and thoughts of fled posterity.
That beauty with the cool blue pastoral drapery, and a lamb—that hung next the great bay window—with the bright yellow H-shire hair, and eye of watchet hue-so' like my Alice !-I am persuaded she was a true Elia-Mildred Elia, I take it.
Mine, too, BLAKESMOOR, was thy noble marble hall, with its mosaic pavements, and its Twelve Cesars-stately busts in marble-ranged round: of whose countenances, young reader of faces as I was, the frowning beauty of Nero, I remember, had most of my wonder; but the mild Galba had my love. There they stood in the coldness of death, yet fresh ness of immortality.
Mine, too, thy lofty justice hall, with its one chair of au thority, high-backed and wickered, once the terror of luckless poacher or self-forgetful maiden—so common since, that bats have roosted in it.
Mine, too—whose else ?—thy costly fruit-garden, with its sun-baked southern wall; the ampler pleasure-garden, rising backward from the house in triple terraces, with flower-pols now of palest lead, save that a speck here and there, saved from the elements, bespake their pristine state to have been gilt and glittering; the verdant quarters backwarder still; and, stretching still beyond, in old formality, thy firry wilderness, the haunt of the squirrel, and the day-long murmuring woodpigeon, with that antique image in the centre, god or goddess I wist not; but child of Athens or old Rome paid never a sincerer worship to Pan or to Sylvanus in their native groves, than I to that fragmental mystery.
Was it for this that I kissed my childish hands too fervently in your idol worship, walks and windings of BLAKESMOOR ! for this, or what sin of mine, has the plough passed over your pleasant places? I sometimes think that as men, when they die, do not die all, so of their extinguished habitations there may be a hope--a germe to be revivified.
A POOR relation—is the most irrelevant thing in nature—, piece of impertinent correspondency-an odious approximation—a haunting conscience-a preposterous shadow, lengthening in the noontide of your prosperity-an unwelcome remembrancer--a perpetually-recurring mortification-a drain on your purse
-a more intolerable dun upon your pride-a drawback upon success-a rebuke to your rising-a stain in -a blot on your scutcheon
-a rent in your garment-a death’s head at your banquet-Agathocles' pot—a Mordecai in your gate—a Lazarus at your door-a lion in
your path-a frog in your chamber-a fly in your ointmenta mote in your eye-a triumph to your enemy, an apology to your friends—the one thing not needful—the hail in harvest - the ounce of sour in a pound of sweet.
He is known by his knock. Your heart telleth you " That is Mr. -" A rap, between familiarity and respect; that demands, and, at the same time, seems to despair of, entertainment. He entereth smiling, and-embarrassed. He holdeth out his hand to you to shake, and-draweth it back again. He casually looketh in about dinner-time—when the table is full. He offereth to go away, seeing you have company—but is induced to stay. He filleth a chair, and your visiter's two children are accommodated at a side table. He never cometh upon open days, when your wife says with some complacency, “ My dear, perhaps Mr. — will drop in to-day.” He remembereth birthdays-and professeth he is fortunate to have stumbled upon one. He declareth against fish, the turbot being small-yet suffereth himself to be importuned into a slice against his first resolution. He sticketh by the port-yet will be prevailed upon to empty the remainder glass of claret, if a stranger press
him. He is a puzzle to the servants, who are fearful of being too obsequious, or not civil enough, to him. The guests think “ they have seen him before.” Every one speculateth upon his condition ; and the most part take him to be-a tide waiter. He walleth you
Christian name, to imply that his other is the same with your own.
He is too familiar by half, yet you wish he had less diffidence. With half the familiarity he might pass for a casual dependant; with more boldness he would be in no danger of being taken for what he is. He is too humble for a friend, yet taketh on him more state than befits a client. He is a worse guest than a country tenant, inasmuch as he bringeth up no rent—yet ’țis odds, from his garb and demeanour, that your guests take him for one. He is asked to make one at the whist-table ; refuseth on the score of poverty, and—resents being left out. When the company break up, he proffereth to go for a coach—and lets the ser
He recollects your grandfather; and will thrust in some mean and quite unimportant anecdote of—the family. He knew it when it was not quite so flourishing as “he is blest in seeing it now." He reviveth past situations, to institute what he calleth-favourable comparisons. With a reflecting sort of congratulation, he will inquire the price of your furniture; and insults you with a special commendation of your window-curtains. He is of opinion that the urn is the more elegant shape, but, after all, there was something more com
fortable about the old teakettle—which you must remember. He dare say you must find a great convenience in having a carriage of your own, and appealeth to your lady if it is not so. Inquireth if you have had your arms done on vellum yet; and did not know, till lately, that such and such had been the crest of the family. His memory is unreasonable ; his compliments perverse ; his talk a trouble ; his stay pertinacious; and when he goeth away, you dismiss his chair into a corner, as precipitately as possible, and feel fairly rid of two nuisances.
There is a worse evil under the sun, and that is—a female poor relation. You may do something with the other; you may pass him off tolerably well; but your indigent she-relative is hopeless. “He is an old humourist,” you may say, " and affects to go threadbare. His circumstances are betier than folks would take them to be. You are fond of having a character at your table, and truly he is one.” But in the indications of female poverty there can be no disguise. No woman dresses below herself from caprice. The truth must out without shuffling. “She is plainly related to the Ls; or what does she at their house?” She is, in all probability, your wife's cousin. Nine times out of ten, at least, this is the case. Her garb is something between a gentlewoman and a beggar, yet the foriner evidently predominates. She is most provokingly humble, and ostentatiously sensible to her inseriority. He may require to be repressed sometimes—aliquando sufflaminandus erat-but there is no raising her. send her soup at dinner, and she begs to be helped-after the gentlemen. Mr. requests the honour of taking wine with her; she hesitates between Port and Madeira, and chooses the former-because he does. She calls the servant sir ; and insists on not troubling him to hold her plate. The housekeeper patronises her. The children's governess takes upon her to correct her, when she has mistaken the piano for a harpsichord.
Richard Amlet, Esq., in the play, is a notable instance of the disadvantages to which this chimerical notion of affinity constituting a claim to acquaintance may subject the spirit of a gentleman. A little foolish blood is all that is between him and a lady with a great estate:
His stars are perpetually crossed by the malignant maternity of an old woman, who persists in calling him “her son Dick.” But she has wherewithal in the end to recompense his indignities, and float him again upon the brilliant surface, under which it had been her seeming business and pleasure all along to sink him. All men, besides, are not of Dick's temperament. I knew an
Amlet in real life, who, wanting Dick's buoyancy, sank indeed. Poor W- was of my own standing at Christ's, a fine classic, and a youth of promise. If he had a blemish, it was too much pride; but its quality was inoffensive; it was not of that sort which hardens the heart, and serves to keep inferiors at a distance; it only sought to ward off derogation from itself. It was the principle of self-respect carried as far as it could
go, without infringing upon that respect, which he would have every one else equally maintain for himself. He would have you to think alike with him on this topic. Many a quarrel have I had with him, when we were rather older boys, and our tallness made us more obnoxious to observation in the blue clothes, because I would not thread the alleys and blind ways of the town with him to elude notice, when we have been out together on a holyday in the streets of this sneering and prying metropolis. W— went, sore with these notions, to Oxford, where the dignity and sweetness of a scholar's life, meeting with the alloy of an humble introduction, wrought in him a passionate devotion to the place, with a profound aver sion from the society. The servitor's gown (worse than his school array) clung to him with Nessian venom.
He thought himself ridiculous in a garb, under which Latimer must have walked erect; and in which Hooker, in his young days, possibly flaunted in a vein of no discommendable vanity. In the depth of college shades, or in his lonely chamber, the poor student shrunk from observation. He found shelter among books, which insult not; and studies, that ask no questions of a youth's finances. He was lord of his library, and seldom cared for looking out beyond his domains. The healing influence of studious pursuits was upon him, to sooth and to abstract. He was almost a healthy man; when the waywardness of his fate broke out against him with a second and worse malignity. The father of W_ had hitherto exercised the humble profession of house-painter at N-V, near Oxford. A supposed interest with some of the heads of colleges had now induced him to take up his abode in that city, with the "hope of being employed upon some public works which were talked of. From that moment I read in the countenance of the young man the determination which at length tore him from academical pursuits for ever. To a person unacquainted with our universities, the distance between the gownsmen and the townsmen, as they are called—the trading part of the larter especially—is carried to an excess that would appear harsh and incredible. The temperament of W-'s father was diametrically the reverse of his own. Old W was a little. busy, cringing tradesman, who, with his son upon his arm,