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qualify you for the supreme blessing of being intolerably bored? Now, I don't say that his Highness has sent for me, or that any such greatness imperils me; but I have received an intimation that my prison has been changed, and that I am now to be the denizen of a larger penitentiary, or-I may go at large if I will.
With half the poor debtor's experience of captivity-for I have been but twenty years-I am reluctant to go. I am used to it now. I can take my little exercise in that short corridor just as well as over the side of a mountain; and the view out of my window, though it be only the common court where the other prisoners are playing, interests and amuses me, to the full, as much as if a whole panorama of the Tyrol lay stretched before me.
Another thing, too: ours was a sort of model penitentiary, and people who were curious on such things came from all parts to look at us. We were not exactly a reformatory-I won't say that-but I believe I may assert, that there was such an instinctive love of order, such a native sense of decorum and discipline amongst us, that the system worked without warders or overseers; none complained of the dietary; and such a thing as a prisoner tearing his clothes, or making a noise in his cell, was a thing positively un, known. I am bound to admit there was no crank - labour, no oakum-picking, no stone-breaking; we did nothing all day long, and it was astonishing how we throve on it. I don't believe there were five men in the institution who had earned as much as one day's subsistence all the time I knew it, and yet there was no discontent-there was not even ennui. If happiness be the test of a successful system, ours ought to have the gold medal. Scores upon scores of the curious who came to see the place ended
by taking up their abode in it. We had our historical associations too; and a very respectable gallery of all the celebrities who had formerly adorned the establishment graced one of the wings, and strangers took a vast interest in this, particularly young ladies, who often came, accompanied by a convict "detailed" for the purpose, to copy a particular portrait.
Is it wonderful if I am sorry to leave it now? where shall I ever find such felons again? Where shall I ever hear such a kind interpretation of all human motives, so many comforting assurances to those weak of virtue, and so many argumentative reasons for doing whatever one liked? Compared to the smooth path of existence here, all other roads in life are macadamised highways and barefeet. We are constantly told-I read it only last week in the Times,' in a leader about Mexico that in every conflict between Civilisation and Barbarism, it is the savagery gets the worst of itthat the spirit of culture is always the conquering spirit, and that the polished races sweep the uncivilised ones before them, by a law that never varies. Now, is it not strange that the theory is scarcely borne out by what one sees in the world of society? It is not the superior mind, the higher intelligence, or the greater refinement, which, leavening the mass, elevates the whole. It is exactly the reverse; people in the world of life take their tone from the lowest in intelligence, and the meanest in acquirement. We are not here without men and women of a thoughtful turn, some of them gifted with considerable faculties, and some who would make their mark on the society of any European capital; and yet in our village they are totally submerged and lost: swallowed up in the "gurgite vasto" of the universal nothingness that surrounds us, they give
no sign of their existence, so that we are not crushed by mental superiorities, nor do we groan under the remorseless tyranny of that oppressive being-the man of cultivated understanding.
Is there then anything that we could complain of? I verily believe there is not. I never heard of a place so easy to live in, nor of people so easy to live with-where men are so temperate in their tastes, each satisfied with his own, be the fare ever so humble, so that no one sponges on his neighbour. There are no one-ideaed people running about in society, and boring you with some egoistical conception about prophecy, or politics, the age of the world, or the advance of the Russian. We are neither historical nor speculative; the only deluge we take count of was a flood in the Arno; and our notion of original sin is connected with a rise in the price of tobacco!
Sitting here for the last time, "sub tegmine fig-tree," I am really sorry to think I am going away. Had I indeed had charge of some great "argosy"-bad I been in command of some "tall ammiral" -it is not impossible I might have desired more sea-room and a wider ocean; but my existence-I own it in all humility-was a mere "canoe voyage;" and where could I have found a pleasanter rivulet to paddle in ?
In the great centres of life-in Paris and in London-men's nerves are so tensely strung by the exciting interests of life, that they come into society weary, jaded, and exhausted. Now, in our village, there are no high themes, no eventful questions. We have no rich people to fret over a fall of the funds; we have no clever people to go mad over the scarifying criticism on their spec' or their novel; we are neither tormented with celebrities nor bored by ambitions. We are all delightfully dull and charm
ingly commonplace; and the smallest of stories, or the flattest of jokes, would have a success with us such as the smartest repartee or the best anecdote would not obtain elsewhere; and, let me tell you, there is much in this.
We are all of us eager to know where we can live cheaply-where rent is low, and the markets reasonable and where our sovereign is worth not twenty, but five-andtwenty, or even thirty shillings; and why not, I ask, seek for the same economy intellectually? Why not inquire where you can exist with a very small patrimony of brains, where you can compete with your neighbour on a very modest fortune of intelligence?
I am not ashamed of my cold mutton and my table-beer when I know that the gentleman next door is not dining on venison and Chambertin; and in the same way it reconciles me marvellously to the significance of my own life-its plodding monotony and its general worthlessness-when I can show every evening in the public garden a score or two of people just as idle, just as stupid, and just as good for nothing as myself.
Am I so certain I shall ever meet the like again? The very thought of going amongst activeminded, busy, bustling people, with interests to enjoy, and ambitions to stimulate them, actually stuns me. I have been chewing the opium of this drowsy Italian life so long that I cannot shake off the pleasant lethargy, and take to "THOUGHT" again.
Our village, too, had another advantage it lay on a great highroad to many more important places; and tired travellers liked it well as a place to rest in. The inns were good, the landlords civil, and not greater rogues than their colleagues elsewhere; and then, if a stranger fancied to defer his departure, and pass an extra day or two amongst
us, such was our hospitality, such was the unsuspecting courtesy of our habits, he was at once presented with the freedom of the city, and there was not a house, from the Maire's to the Postmestresse's, where he was not an honoured and accepted guest.
More exclusive communities will exclaim against this, and cry out, How dangerous and how rash! Our experiences do not corroborate these fears; or, at all events, we are philosophers enough to balance the good against the evil, and we are content with the result. The luckiest fisherman will now and then find in his net some monstrous creature he is only too glad to return to the waves; and so is it in life. All our 66 takes" are not John Dorys.
Perhaps of all our characteristics the most striking was the tame indolent way we pursued our pleasures; for though we were essentially a people bent on enjoyment, and, in fact, thinking of no other thing, yet we never, as John Bull does, converted pleasure into a business, and toiled like galleyslaves to amuse ourselves. We knew so well that to-morrow would be pretty much the same as to-day,
that we had none of that exaggerated eagerness for enjoyment-that carpe diem zeal to condense our delights—which is so often seen at home. In fact, our object was rather to husband our resources for self-indulgence, than to make much of the occasions themselves; and this sentiment threw a certain graceful languor over intercourse, which coarser natures from the wrong side of the Alps mistook for lassitude!
Just as there are seas so buoyant that the worst swimmers can keep afloat on them, so are there societies where almost without an effort you can sustain yourself. Is it not sad to leave all this? I cannot grow young again, and rally back to hope and spring and ambition. I am somewhat footsore and weary of the road, and would rather see the old familiar street, whose every creaking sign whispers a welcome to me, than all the glories the French Emperor is displaying to his royal guests. I shall never see a sunset so beautiful as that which is now tinging those halls with opal. And there, yonder comes the moon over the top of the Apennines-the last full moon I am to see in Italy.
PRAXITELES AND PHRYNE.
A THOUSAND silent years ago,
When from his work the Sculptor stayed
"Phryne, thy human lips shall pale,
"But there thy smile for centuries
"Sad thought! nor age nor death shall fade The youth of this cold bust;
When the quick brain and hand that made,
"When all our hopes and fears are dead,
"This counterfeit of senseless stone,
"And there upon that silent face
"And strangers, when we sleep in peace,
Shall say, not quite unmoved,
So smiled upon Praxiteles
The Phryne whom he loved."
W. W. S.
THE PROGRESS OF THE QUESTION.
THE session of which the close cannot now be far distant, has been one of the most remarkable in the Parliamentary history of Great Britain. It opened under circumstances which no human being pretended to understand; and has thus far held its course amid a succession of surprises. A Government apparently more powerless than that which met Parliament five months ago, never presided over the destinies of this country. Not that anybody pretended to say of the individuals composing the Administration that they were either weak or uninstructed men. Some of them, on the contrary, stood, and deserved to stand, in the foremost rank of statesmen; nor among them all was there one of whom it could with truth be insinuated that he did not possess more than an average share of ability and knowledge. But they were in a decided minority, so far as their following went, in the House of Commons; and whether they all thought alike upon points of policy at once critical and urgent, was more than the lookers-on could tell. All, indeed, of which the outer world seemed to be confident amounted to this-that Lord Derby and his colleagues had come into office unexpectedly, that they confronted a state of things which it would be impossible to blink, and for them, at least, almost equally impossible to grapple with, and that, whether grappling with their difficulties or trying to evade them, they would be encountered at every turn by an opposition fierce, rancorous, rabid, and most unscrupulous. Few, either of their friends or their enemies, imagined that they would be able, so circumstanced, to keep their places many weeks after Parliament met again; fewer still that it would be possible for them to make their mark upon the legislation of the
country. Yet here they are still in possession of Downing Street-still prescribing to the Houses of Lords and Commons what subjects they are to consider, and how to consider them-still baffling hostile attempts to dislodge them from office still frustrating tricks cleverly contrived with a view to circumvent them, and enjoying a pretty sure prospect of settling once and for a generation at least to come, the question which, for the last five-and-twenty years, has overtaxed the ingenuity of successive Administrations. Nor is this all. From week to week, and from day to day, the Government gains ground in public opinion-the very eagerness of the leaders of the Opposition to put them in the wrong, contributing only to bring more prominently into view their administrative abilities. It is well worth while to inquire into the cause of a climax which, only half a year ago, probably not a dozen men, in or out of Parliament, thought of counting upon.
The Government is certainly not indebted for the success which has attended it to any perfect congruity of sentiment prevailing on all subjects among its members from the beginning. Its original construction was to Lord Derby as much a necessity as a matter of choice. Of his colleagues a majority had served with him on previous occasions, and the remainder were recognised as men of great ability, who during long years of opposition had well sustained the leading principles of which he is the champion. In proposing to these latter to take office under him, Lord Derby could neither require nor expect that they should on every point, either of foreign or domestic policy, surrender their own honest convictions to his. But he had a perfect right to expect-and they too must