Page images
PDF
EPUB

And that never-failing friend did step in—for at that moment a strength not her own, I have heard her say, was revealed to her—a reason above reasoning—and without her own agency, as it seemed, (for she never felt her feet 10 move,) she found herself transported back to the individual desk she had just quiited, and her hand in the old hand of Ravenscroft, who in silence took back the refunded treasure, and who had been sitting (good man) insensible to the lapse of minutes, which to her were anxious ages; and from that moment a deep peace fell upon her heart, and she knew the quality of honesty.

A year or two's unrepining application to her profession brightened up the feet and the prospects of her litile sisters, set the whole family upon their legs again, and released her from the difficulty of discussing moral dogmas upon a landingplace.

I have heard her say that it was a surprise, not much short of mortification to her, to see the coolness with which the old man pocketed the difference, which had caused her such mortal throes.

This anecdote of herself I had in the year 1800, from the mouth of the late Mrs. Crawford,* then sixty-seven years of age; (she died soon after;) and to her struggles upon this childish occasion I have sometimes ventured to think her indebted for that power of rending the heart in the representation of conflicting emotions, for which in after years she was considered as liule inferior (if at all so in the part of Lady Randolph) even to Mrs. Siddons.

*

[blocks in formation]

Though in some points of doctrine, and perhaps of disci. pline, I am diffident of lending a perfect assent to that church which you have so worthily historified, yet may the ill time never come to me when, with a chilled heart, or a portion of irreverent sentiment, I shall enter her beautiful and time-hallowed edifices. Judge, then, of my mortification when, after attending the choral anthems of last Wednesday at West

The maiden name of this lady was Street, which she changed, by succes sive marriages, for those of Dancer, Barry, and Crawford. She was Mrs. Crawford, and a third time a widow, when I knew her.

minster, and being desirous of renewing my acquaintance, after lapsed years, with the tombs and antiquities there, Í found myself excluded; turned out like a dog, or some profane person, into the common street, with feelings not very congenial to the place, or to the solemn service which I had been listening to. It was a jar after that music.

You had your education at Westminster; and doubtless among those dim aisles and cloisters you must have gathered much of that devotional feeling in those young years, on which your purest mind feeds still—and may it feed! The antiquarian spirit, strong in you, and gracefully blending ever with the religious, may have been sown in you among those wrecks of splendid mortality. You owe it to the place of your education; you owe it to your learned fondness for the architecture of your ancestors; you owe it to the venerableness of your ecclesiastical establishment, which is daily lessened and called in question through these practices—to speak aloud your sense of them; never to desist raising your voice against them, till they be totally done away with and abolished; till the doors of Westminster Abbey be no longer closed against the decent, though low-in-purse, enthusiast, or blameless devotee, who must commit an injury against his family economy, if he would be indulged with a bare admission within its walls. You owe it to the decencies which you wish to see maintained in its impressive services, that our cathedral be no longer an object of inspection to the poor at those times only in which they must rob from their attendance on the worship every minute which they can bestow upon the fabric. In vain the public prints have taken up this subject, in vain such poor nameless writers as myself express their indignation. A word from you, sir-a hint in your journalwould be sufficient to fling open the doors of the beautiful temple again, as we can remember them when we were boys. At that time of life, what would the imaginative faculty (such as it is) in both of us have suffered, if the entrance to so much reflection had been obstructed by the demand of so much silver ! If we had scraped it up to gain an occasional admission, (as we certainly should have done,) would the sight of those old tombs have been as impressive to us (while we had been weighing anxiously prudence against sentiment) as when the gates stood open, as those of the adjacent park; when we could walk in at any time, as the mood brought us, for a shorter or longer time, as that lasted ? Is the being shown over a place the same as silently for ourselves detecting the genius of it? In no part of our beloved abbey now can a person find entrance (out of service-time) under the sum of

two shillings. The rich and the great will smile at the anticlimax presumed to lie in these two short words. But you can tell them, sir, how much quiet worth, how much capacity for enlarged feeling, how much taste and genius, may coexist, especially in youth, with a purse incompetent to this demand. A respected friend of ours, during his late visit to the metropolis, presented himself for admission to St. Paul's. At the same time a decently-clothed man, with as decent a wife and child, were bargaining for the same indulgence. The price was only twopence each person. The poor but decent man hesitated, desirous to go in; but there were ihree of them, and he turned away reluctantly. Perhaps he wished to have seen the tomb of Nelson. Perhaps the interior of the cathedral was his object. But, in the state of his finances, even sixpence might reasonably seem too much. Tell the aristocracy of the country (no man can do it more impressively); instruct them of what value these insignificant pieces of money, these minims to their sight, may be to their humbler brethren. Shame these sellers out of the Temple. Stifle not the suggestions of your better nature with the pretext that an indiscriminate admission would expose the tombs to violation. Remember your boy-days. Did you ever see or hear of a mob in the Abbey while it was free to all? Do the rabble come there, or trouble their heads about such speculations ? It is all that you can do to drive them into your churches ; they do not voluntarily offer themselves. They have, alas ! no passion for antiquities; for tomb of king or prelate, sage or poet. If they had, they would be no longer the rabble.

For forty years that I have known the fabric, the only wellattested charge of violation adduced has been—a ridiculous dismemberment committed upon the effigy of that amiable spy, Major André. And is it for this, the wanton mischief of some schoolboy, fired, perhaps, with raw notions of transatlantic freedom; or the remote possibility of such a mischief occurring again, so easily to be prevented by stationing a constable within the walls if the vergers are incompetent to the duty; is it upon such wretched pretences that the people of England are made to pay a new Peter's Pence so long abrogated, or must content themselves with contemplating the ragged exterior of their cathedral ? The mischief was done about the time that you were a scholar there. Do you know anything about the unfortunate relic ?

AMICUS REDIVIVUS.

“Where were ye, nymphs, when the remorseless deep

Closed o'er the head of your loved Lycidas ?"

I do not know when I have experienced a stranger sensa tion than on seeing my old friend G. D., who had been paying me a morning visit a few Sundays back at my cottage at Islington, upon taking leave, instead of turning down the righthand path by which he had entered—with staff in hand, and at noonday, deliberately march right forward into the midst of the stream that runs by us, and totally disappear.

A spectacle like this at dusk would have been appalling enough; but in the broad open daylight to witness such an unreserved motion towards self-destruction in a valued friend, took from me all power of speculation.

How I found my feet, I know not. Consciousness was quite gone. Some spirit, not my own, whirled me to the spot. I remember nothing but the silvery apparition of a good white head emerging ; nigh which a staff (the hand unseen that wielded it) pointed upwards, as feeling for the skies. In a moment (if time was in that time, he was on my shoulders, and I—freighted with a load more precious than his who bore Anchises.

And here I cannot but do justice to the officious zeal of sundry passers-by, who, albeit arriving a little too late to participate in the honours of the rescue, in philanthropic shoals came thronging to communicate their advice as to the recovery; prescribing variously the application, or non-application, of salt, &c., to the person of the patient. Life, meanwhile, was ebbing fast away, amid the stifle of conflicting judgments, when one, more sagacious than the rest, by a bright thought, proposed sending for the doctor. Trite as the counsel was, and impossible, as one should think, to be missed on-shall I confess ?—in this emergency, it was to me as if an angel had spoken. Great previous exertions and mine had not been inconsiderable—are commonly followed by a debility of purpose. This was a moment of irresolution.

Monoculus—for so, in default of catching his true name, I choose to designate the medical gentleman who now appeared --is a grave, middle-aged person, who, without having studied at the college, or truckled to the pedantry of a diploma, hath

t

employed a great portion of his valuable time in experimental processes upon the bodies of unfortunate fellow-creatures, in whom the vital spark, to mere vulgar thinking, would seem extinct and lost for ever. He omitteth no occasion of obtruding his services, from a case of common surfeit-suffocation to the ignobler obstructions, sometimes induced by a too wilful application of the plant Cannabis outwardly. But though he declineth not altogether these drier extinctions, his occupation tendeth, for the most part, to water-practice ; for the convenience of which he hath judiciously fixed his quarters near the grand repository of the stream mentioned, where, day and night from his little watch-tower, at the Middleton's Head, he listeneth to detect the wrecks of drowned mortality-partly, as he saith, to be upon the spot—and partly, because the liquids which he useth to prescribe to himself and his patients on these distressing occasions, are ordinarily niore conveniently to be found at these common hostelries than in the shops and vials of the apothecaries. His ear hath arrived to such finesse by practice, that it is reported he can distinguish a plunge at a half furlong distance; and can tell if it be casual or deliberate. He weareth a medal suspended over a suit, originally of a sad brown, but which, by time and frequency of nightly divings, has been dinged into a true professional sable. He passeth by the name of Doctor, and is remarkable for wanting his left eye. His remedy, after a sufficient application of warm blankets, friction, &c., is a simple tumbler, or more, of the purest cognac, with water, made as hot as the convalescent can bear it. Where he findeth, as in the case of my friend, a squeamish subject, he condescendeth to be the taster; and showeth, by his own example, the innocuous nature of the prescription. Nothing can be more kind or encouraging than this procedure. It addeth confidence to the patient, to see his medical adviser go hand in hand with himself in the remedy. When the doctor swalloweth his own draught, what peevish invalid can refuse to pledge him in the potion? In fine, Monoculus is a humane, sensible man, who, for a slender pittance, scarce enough to sustain life, is content to wear it out in the endeavour to save the lives of others-his pretensions so moderate, that with difficulty I could press a crown upon him for the price of restoring the existence of such an invaluable creature to society as G. D.!

It was pleasant to observe the effect of the subsiding alarm upon the nerves of the dear absentee. It seemed to have given a shake to memory, calling up notice after notice, of all the providential deliverances he had experienced in the course of his long and innocent life. Sitting up in my couch-my

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »