Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

conversation about the weather and Murphy, trious, but fruitless search, to resume my or temperance and Mathew, or other move- seat and be content merely to listen to, as I ment that bringeth you to a stand with some could not observe the organized performgarrulous retailer of news, it is of vast ser- ances of this my little animated chronomevice tvou. With the handle against your ter.

Often have I witnessed with fear and right k and your right leg athwart the trembling (such is my nature) the whirlings left

, you can lean satisfactorily upon it-can and coquettings of the moth' or the " long stand at ease--can conjure up such amount leg” round my candles, previous to the grand of patience as scemeth obsequious, and be consummation-the sacrificial suicide-the better able to stomach—10 digest this collo- headlong devotion of these fire-worshippers ; quial pettifogging. Moreover, I would have and often, after their vital spark had fied, it tough. How often have I made it de- have I caught up the unburnt fragment of a scriptive, as though it had been a crayon, leg or a wing that lay embalmed, as it were, in scraping upon the road some diagram, in grease, and subunitted it to the microelucidatory to my friend, of any particular scope, to speculate upon its structure, and to method of handling a question. Nay, was imagine all its invisible nerves and vessels it not but yesterday that I exercised any aye, and to endow it with a

mens" sui gegeographic recollections of the plan of attack neris (philosophers name it “ instinct,” that upon St. Jean D'Acre, its position, &c. &c., most unintelligible of words). with the aid of a Mediterranean (in minia- In these inquisitive moods the very canture) in the middle of the road, formed by dles themselves have not escaped me; for, the late rains, with such miniature heights certain people are there who look upon their as I found in some rugged stones, and with candles as a kind of hieroglyphical obelisks, what ships of the line were furnished by upon which they spend their time, decypherchips and straws that floated on the pool. ing the arabesques of wick or tallow, and These fortuitous happinesses in their several torturing their brains for what ought to bear sort arranged before the eye of my friend, the easiest explanation. I can forgive Jo“ Against the bulwark of the sight

hanna, notwithstanding her occasional abrupt Did lay strong siege and battailous assault,"

intrusion of some of the household affairs

into the calm atmosphere of my thoughts, and made him exclaim loudly against the when she subjoineth some uminous allusion “ villainous saltpetre.” Again, with your to my "ignes minores,"—my lucida sistick, at once crayon and scale of feet, you dera,”-the candles. Her countenance, her can show how you would run your stairs

gesture, her manner of expressing herself on were you to build ; where you would have these occasions, (at candle-light she is wont your library and your kitchen, (two impor- to come into the presence,) are all the result tant departments in your house) or other of a certain inspiration, not occasioned, howchamber. In short you can delineate any ever, by such exhalement as made eloquent extempore map or drawing you please, for it the Delphic priestess of old, upon her tripod ; is ever an available “ quod est deinonstran- but by the vapours of a certain distilinent, best dun” accoinpaniment to you, provided al- known to herself, which marvellously oileth ways that thou art a man of my kidney, and quickeneth, yet thickeneth her tongue. reader. For my part I can only say, 'tis my To this, her nightly delivery of oracles, am firm resolve to stick to my stick as long as I indebied for various useful and useless my stick sticketh to me.

knowledge; in particular, for what I know of the mystery of candle-craft—the" letter,"

the "winding-sheet,” the “ring,” the “thies," 'Tis my wont, my peculiar bent, to notice the curse of an additional year's celibacy things when I am alone, which otherwise upon my head did I extinguish while I would most certainly escape attention. I snuffed a candle, and sundry other inforinawatch the fly, or the moth, or the spider, or tion connected with this candelabral science. that singularly-contrived creature (I am not In some of my moments of ennui, when a naturalist- I cannot give you its genus or given to reverie, have I sat down by way of spicies) which crdinary people entitle the a relief-a laying down of my load of fret“ daddy long legs.” Often have I listened tulness—a litile of resting to take breath, for to the tick-rick on the wall or ceiling of 115 the purpose of cogitating, after the manner apartment, and stood on a chair with candle of some of our modern scientific enquirers, in hand, to ascertain where “ the watch” was upon some of these superstitious appear" going" so regularly (the death watch of ances. superstition); and had, after a long indus- The “ letter," what is it? How formed ?

A CHAPTER ABOUT CANDLES.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The threads composing the wick are not the rest. The upper (burning) end of it evenly spun-a little nodule, you observe, if gets disentangled from the main body, and you look closely here and there. Now, when hangeth ; at first outwards, and then graduone of these nodules is ignited, it stands out ally downwards, continuing to burn all the in relief, and becometh bright as a little star. while, and making a deep, destructive, This is Johanna's “letter.' But what spirit unsightly" channel to a flood” of grease, of prophecy dwelleth in this orb, that augur- that layeth naked, on one side, the whole eth an epistle to one before whom it shineth ? length of the wick. This “ thief” hath, like Can astronomy (other than celestial) answer other thieves, a surreptitious mode of prome this question? Can Poetry, prattling of cedure. While you are engaged, or least its “stars of hope ?" I hear Superstition observant, or while you are enjoying your answering;

verily this is a star of hope. Is vespertinal nap, it effecteth most of its it not shining from the glimmering taper's incendiary work : - but, take your eyes

light," which light is associated with one of seasonably from your books, or your papers, Goldsmith's ideas of hope. Ah! yes, good or awake from your dozing, your engine Dame, but why a star of hope promising a is by you to check the progress of the fire; “letter" rather than any thing else ? Reader, your snuffers—or, is that do not answer, Joart thou enlightened enough to solve this hanna's scissors as a supplementary engine. difficulty ? I am not ! The only effect I Snip off the incendiary thread at once-you remember a star of the kind had upon me remove all danger; yet is there dread havoc was this : once, when it became a falling in your candle. It seemeth like some tree star, it gave to one of my fingers an unwel- just fissured by lightning—it is a monument come ornament—a vesicatory pearl—a pain- of destruction. After this it can only perful“forget me not," which made me cautious form a lap-sided—no longer a uniform symever after of subjecting my hand to such si- metrical function! And how like a frozen dereal influence.

cataract the grease appeareth adown the The "winding sheet"-how formed ? I candlestick, and upon your table cloth ! have thought, thus :-On some point of the Latterly I have laid myself out for a decided

a circumferent edge of the candle is sometimes vigilance after the approach of such thieves, observed a small concrete molecule of grease. and I promise you that seldom do I allow This is the aboriginal nucleus of it. Some their encroachments to do mischief like that one snuffs the candle rather closely; but say I once saw happen.

- not too much so. The shortened wick, “ The curse of single blessedness"-well,
then can take up but a limited supply of the I suppose by extinguishing (accidentally by
molten grease, the surplus remaining fluid all means) your candle, you, ipso facto,
on the top; of which fluid the least stir of the must be supposed to extinguish your“ flame”
table throweth out wavelet after wavelet hot of the current year, and must make up your
upon the molecule, which from this succes- mind to look out for some other that will
sive increment of weight, as well as heat, burn unextinguishably, or peradventure re-
becomes dislodged, and taketh a gradual light the same love again! --But methinks I
curvature" from above downwards, and from now hear some fastidious puppet, of the
without iniards !” The “ring" is formed "coterie and literary lady" atinosphere,
in the same way ; but the difference between waxing choleric, and exclaiming :" Psha!
both formations is, that for the former the this is some vulga' fella'! neva' burned
molecule must be oblong, somewhat flat- wax in his life!"-And how do you
tened ; for the latter, globular, or nearly so. Mr. Impertinence ? Can you pronounce
Why the one should portend death, and the upon my tastes without an acquaintance
other marriage, be it for other augurs than with me? About wax candles there is to me
Johanna and me to tell; far, far be it from that sort of sepulchral (that is not the word)
us to penetrate (mayhap, impiously) into that sort of deathlike, hydropic transpa-
the Poetry, the Polytheism of superstition- rency—that sickly delicacy which unnerveth
to uncurtain the mythology of the “good me to contemplate; while in the tallows
people" and the fairies. "Tis mine but to there is that dense unempyreal compactness
follow the example of men of science, -that all-body-no anything in them re-
elaborately and circumspectly to elucidate minding one of sickliness; besides, there is
these formations, and no more. And for a certain animation in the lambency of their
Johanna—'tis her’s to remain a Polytheist all flames—these are indeed fires alive—not
the days of her life.

like the staid, inanimate, cold looking, The “ thief” cometh in this way :--one pallid famelets of your waxen composts. of the threads happens to be shorter than Methinks I hear, too, some hard-featured

know,

[ocr errors]

a

performer in Philosophy exclaim :-"Pah! that could give them security. As yet am how any sensible man could sit him down I merely learning to dip-I am afraid to go to write about candles !"-I answer, Most beyond my depth-I must rush out again potent, grave, and reverend signior, 'tis true to my terra firma." Nay, I feel the I have written about candles; but would shivering that whispereth, too long have I you know the reason ? Here it is—and take been dipping. it with you—I did not wish that Johanna's In plain speaking, let us rest now upon lights — the oracles of which she is the the question which Beattie himself (and Priestess-should for ever be“ hid under a every one else) admits, that there are those bushel."

who remember their dreams. With those

we have to do in what follows; for I take ON DREAMING.

them to be a kind of Dramatists. The "Dreaming,” saith Beattie, " though dramatist converts his theatre into a mimic common, is not universal." Now, if you museum, in which he conjureth up, by a can suppose sleep to happen, without dreams peculiar magic, antique specimens of ethics, of any kind whatever, where will you place, rich in the golden mean, and of costly value; during the state of rest, the soul ? Will you, specimens of the upshot, the lava of revonay, can you insulate it from the body?

- lutionary Vesuvii,--petrifactions of tyranny, Can you understand the harmony of the “ferruginons concretions of barbarity, functions tending to uniform effects--health, the asbestos of true patriotism, and the growth, reproduction—in other words, can pure, undefiled diamonds of virtue and you understand the life of the body to be love. But to come down from our meindependent of soul in sleep? Rather, is it taphoric stilts, he brings upon the stage, not reasonable to suppose an order of whatever is great and good and grand of dreamings, watchfulnesses, which the self- the Past, and “holds the mirror to the preservative principle always keeps up, Present, to show its unsightliness, and to some of them impressed on the memory suggest what is most conducive toward its vividly, others confusedly, and others not at improvement. The immortalities of past all; and that, in the last case, it cannot be actions are personified; the soul of honour, said these were no dreamings, but that none the soul of valour, find their metempsycould be remembered ? Might we not allow chosis, happily illustratated in the" tableaux that certain states of the brain in sleep shall | vivans" of the stage, our dramatic repreaccount, as well as the injuries and accidents sentations being but telescopic retrospections, of that viscus in one's waking moments, for re-embodied chivalries, resurrections of the phenomena of confused recollection or “ foregone conclusions;" while the immortotal forgetfulness of things ? “ There is talities of what may be future actions are no one,” saith Richerand, “who has had pre-created (and personified too) as syncope of more or less continuance, but shadows before of coming events. knows that it leaves no consciousness of what How very nearly alike are the dreamer passed whilst it lasted. It is the same after and the dramatist. Each can hold the "world apoplexy, a fit of epilepsy, &c." Yet, as his stage;" each get up a drama or a will it be denied that the self-preservative dream; each take a part in the one or the principle was active in these states, although other, or become merely a spectator. But the, as it were, material mirror was partially they differ in that the dramatist can comclouded, and for a time incapable of reflect- mand, can choose his subject, may or may ing clearly every feature of life? I contend not take a part in his drama, just as he pleathat whatever happeneth this mirror, it still ses; while the dreamer hath no controul over reflecteth in sleep, as awake, more or less of his dream, though creating it himself, and the workings of the soul, and continues so must of inevitable necessity take a part in it, to do till death totally clouds it, and allows or become a spectator. They are quite alike, it no longer the power of reflecting. I differ however, in this respect: å dream that is therefore from Beattie, and while I do not told you, and a dramatic piece that is read mean to assert that all men dream equally, for you, may sometimes be the most ridicuyet dreams do I give to all men, let them be lous things imaginable. Nevertheless, they modified in what sort they may. Even thus are likely to have their advantages, if the far, it ill behoveth me to venture into the authors of each take but seasonable hints for troublous waves of dissertation, seeing them. Both can readily account for the that I have not “heart of controversy” to monstrosities of their creation; if, for breast them, nor skill like Cæsar's to hold stance, the dramatist but look to the crude, high my thoughts, proud of the buoyancy undigestible state of his nightly thoughts,

“ the

a

a

and the dreamer to that of his nighuy sup- this quassation, I take it, these respiratory pers; and if the one learn to systematise his organs are at once better enabled to modify ihoughts, the other his suppers, to suit the the sap and to facilitate its circulation. Now, cerebral digestive function in the one case, as in the Populus (a genus of the Diæcia and the intestinal in the other. Besides these, Octandria of Linnæus) we find the motion manifold are the advantages of dreaming and of the leaves more remarkable than in any dramatising, on which, for the present, I do other trees, I thought it well to select à not wish to lengthen out my observations, specimen of that genus for the experiment hastening as I am to detail a dream I had a which I shall have the honour of detailing few nights ago, which occurred in such wise, to the society. A sapling of about five or that methinks it differed little from any the six feet bigh I thus experimented upon. most palpable dramatic scene 'twas my lot “ By means of wires I secured each leafever to have witnessed.

stalk to the branches, and so radiated the I dreamed I attended a meeting of scien- wire over the upper and under surfaces of tific gentlemen, not as a member of the body, the leaves, that it was impossible they could (I am most unscientific)—but as a candidate stir. In a week I was pleased to find the for the Stranger's Gallery. The attention of leaves withered, and in another week the the meeting was occupied with “papers," the sapling was without a trace of life. Want reading of which created erudite skirmishings of motion in the leaves, therefore, it was amongst the profound Pros and confounded plain Cons, relative to each theory that was started. “Not quite so plain," uttered a tall, skinMethought some of these skirmishings took ny, consumptive looking gentleman, who so odd a turn, that with what tachygraphy I shot up from his seat like an arrow, “ Not was master of I made the following notes in quite so plain. I rather conceive the oxydimy pocket book :

zed deposition from the wires lessened the After a good deal of “ balloon"ing, “me- vitality of the circulating juices, inasmuch teoric stone" throwing, "water-spout"ing, as it interfered with the frondal respiration, earth-quaking, star-gazing, mesinerising, and then"—, Here this gentleman was and locomotion, a robustious gentleman interrupted by a little wag in large green stood up to favour us with one of the results spectacles, who thus finished the tall gentleof his botanical researches. Alike of mid- man's sentence"and then tuberculization dle age and middle height, he had a very was the consequence, and the tree died of doughy countenance, kneaded into coarse, consumption."-—[Loud and dissonant was clumsy features, and flanked on either side the cachinnation here, in which I confess I with an immense (autumnal-looking) shrub- could not help joining.) bery of whiskers. His eyes of gray, and

Professor Pollen, nothing daunted, though exceedingly small, were sunken deeply under sorely irritated, said—“Gentlemen may feel a the shelving of his brows, as if designed to malicious satisfaction in thwarting the adlook inwardly upon the growth and repro- vance of science, but, I tell thein, their duction of his theories, as well as outwardly efforts are likely to be as vain as those of a upon the growth and reproduction of his certain long-eared animal we read of the plants. His stiff hair stood up boldly from other day, who foolishly supposed he could his forehead, a very grove (in miniature) of impede ihe progress of a rail-train by a few poplars. In short, his whole head would of his venomous kicks. (Loud laughter.) remind you, I know not why, of a something Had the first gentleman but patience enough connected with the vegetable kingdom; and to listen without interrupting, he would not ibe moment you looked at it, you would say, have thrust forward his rusty anticipations, verily this head is the head of some Horti- nor would the second gentleman have folcultural Society. Professor Pollen (Pro- lowed so triumphantly in his wake. (Ilear, fessor of what, I could not learn) holding hear.) The wires I used, though iron, were the “paper" in his left hand, and pronating properly prepared -- were painted with white the right upon the page, (he wore a richly lead, to preclude the possibility of atmoswrought signet ring ou his little finger,) pheric action. Therefore their oxydization coughed off such webs as might entangle his could not take place. Why then did the utterance, and “in medias res” was he in a tree wither?" moment.

" May I be permitted to observe,” said a Gentlemen," he began, “I have long young gentleman with large eyes, and very considered the quassation or agitation of red lips, on whose breast dangled a gold leaves to be essentially necessary to the due rimmed glass, “although I do not pretend growth, health, and vigour of trees; for by to the best knowledge of the vegetable world,

a

[ocr errors]

asso

[ocr errors]

a

that as the exhalation (whatever that is) ferous laughter I ever heard. The consumpfrom white lead, is known to be injurious to tive took so great a cachinnatory fit, that he the animal system, through the medium of was throwing up blood in large quantity, and the lungs, may not such, analogically speak- coughing frightfully-I awoke ! Doubtless I ing, have proved injurious, in the present heard coughing enough, but it was from the instance, to the tree, through the medium next room—from Johanna going down her of its leaves ?"

guttural gamut-her usual nightly pectorilHere the little gentleman in the big spec- oquy. tacles bounced up and said, addressing the last speaker, “ From your theory, sir, the

MR. KEARNEY. tree would appear to have died of white lead colic colica pictonum, as we call it.

'

. Peace to thy spirit, poor Mr. Kearney! (Loud laughter.) Indeed had the Profes- Thou that first enteredst into our Nursery, and sor used gold wire, his experiment, perhaps, “ taught our young idea how to shoot,” art would be less questionable—but, “ when amongst the earliest of my

childhood's Folly grew romantic, he should paint it" - ciations, and now art thou present to me (Renewed laughter.) “Wait, sir," quoth the even in my manhood. Good, pious, innoconsumptive, 'till the professor wins golden cent, silver-haired old man, that heldest thy opinions for his works on botany; then you place at the family table in patriarchal seemmay find him trying what virtue there is in liness, our acknowledged administrator of gold wire superior to that of the more vulgar domestic government, and oracle of ethics metals"-(continued laughter.) “I would our most zealous and learned of tutors; and, merely ask Professor Pollen,” said a clerical (for, any the merest of thy merits I shall not looking old gentleman in shorts and leg- detract from thee) the gifted, the generous gings, “if he followed, in the adjusting of poet laureate of our house. How well—as his wires, the pendant order of the leaves 'twere yesterday--do I remember the mornand leaf-stalks ?"

ings, when as soon as Lucy completed our Professor Pollen—"No! not invariably. toilet, iny eldest brother, my sister and myThat did not appear to me of the least self would sit us on the stairs, hard by the door importance in my experiment." Allow of thy bed-chamber, repeating with what me, sir, to differ from you. I do con- clang of lungs our years had given us masceive, with Pope, that art should be “Nature tery of, the tasks which in thy wisdom thou still, but nature methodized," and that what wouldst nightly assign for us. These our ever curvature, accordingly, or pendulous clamorous “prima principia" of erudition, habitude nature gave to the leaves of that | although running loudly in spiral echoings tree, these should not have been altered into up the stairs to the highest room in the house, a position forced, straightened, and on the rulling up the slumbering of baby in his cot stretch. This position, 'tis my idea, injured there (his heaven--the heaven of innocence!) the tree by”. -“ Just so, very, very proba- and down the stairs to the basement storyble indeed,” said the little gentleman again, the kitchen the Plutonia regna, where who appeared not to suffer an opportunity to Norry our Proserpina, and John our Pluto, escape for an attack upon the poor professor, held 'sway, (the last perhaps appropriately “from an overstraining of the sap vessels, named, seeing that he was a negro my father as well as the tracheal apparatus of the leaves, brought with him from the West Indies, and I should

say

that their functions were unper- allocated to the realms below.) Nevertheless, formable. There was indiscriminate extra- they were but just loud enough to penetrate vasation of sap as well as air; there was a-a- the dim echoing windings of age-stricken a in fact, a kind of a-a-a of (rondal emphy- earsthy age-stricken ears, poor Mr. Kearseina with engorgement of sap—there was a- ney! This hour of our matutinal rehearsals, a-a"- -“ Oh! come, doctor,” interrupted palsied old man, our considerate parents the old gentleman in the breeches, “there deemed too early for thy rising; and for their was quite enough in all conscience to show indulgence to thee wouldst thou show them that the Professor's experiment was unsatis- thy gratitude--wouldst thou still dispense factory." (Loud laughter.) “One ques- instruction, scorning the luxury allowable to

. tion more I would ask," said the gentleman thy frame, of a slumber till breakfast timewith the red lips, " did Professor Pollen'cut a luxury that thou wouldst name an ungratehis loves' like Cowley, upon the tree, so that ful, (to the parents,) an unprofitable, (to the his flames might be said, like Cowley's, to children,) and to thyself an unnecessary have quite burnt it up, and to have thus wi- idleness. thered it ?" Here there was the most voci

And then the tasks over, how pleasurable

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »