Page images

of an individual, and that individual, the sort of person which the charitable conceive Lord Byron to be. But you will say, that in this instance, I try to prove too much, and that, had Byron been the author of Anastasius, the incident of a man branded for life with ineffaceable ignominy, was exactly such a character as would have drawn forth all the terrible powers of his genius in its fiercest and most implacable mood. True-Had Byron been describing the feelings of such a man-But he was there writing as Anastasius; and because he could not go out of his assumed character to express the feelings of the disgraced and dishonoured wretch, he gets rid of him by making him quit Constantinople; and I think you must acknowledge, that there was, in this evasion, an admirable instance of good taste.

The opening of the 11th chapter reminds me of the gaudy description in Childe Harold, of Sunday in London and Seville. Compare these, I request, and say if it is likely that two different authors would have thought so similarly on the same topic; for we cannot suppose that the author of such a work as Anastasius would have condescended to become so palpable a plagiarist from a poem so well known as Childe Harold. But if Byron and that person are one and the same, the thing is natural enough. He only repeats himself, under the modifying influences of the local circumstances of a different scene.

It is, however, needless to refer to particular instances; the reader at all acquainted with Byron's manner of thinking, must trace his mind in every page of Anastasius, even though the incidents and expressions bore little resemblance to those of his other works. But I cannot refrain from noticing one circumstance that I think curious. You remember, in his Letter concerning Bowles, the antagonist of Pope's poetical and moral reputation, that there is a description of a storm off Tenedos, or thereabouts, in the Archipelago. The coincidence is somewhat remarkable, that Anastasius should describe a storm in the same place ;and it would seem as if the author had placed himself on board one of the little barks that Byron describes in his letter as scudding before the gale. Could this coincidence be accidental? I pass over the account of

the attempt to drown the Jew, and the subsequent robbery. It is a fiction, and, like all Byron's fictions, improbable; but so well sustained by the force of his wit and genius, that it acquires that air of impossible probability which constitutes one of the most powerful sources of the interest of his remarkable productions.

I have already told you, that those descriptions which the author has drawn from his own observations may be easily discovered from the more elaborate, which he has formed from books of travels; and the account of the ruins of Rhodes, is an instance of the latter. He has evidently never been there; no particular feature of the place is mentioned, but only vague moral reflections, a little too sentimen tal for the character of Anastasius, but very like those of Childe Harold at Athens. The whole, indeed, of the voyage to Egypt, and the subsequent descriptions of that country, of Palestine, and of Arabia, partake of this vague and general character. Here and there, it is true, a little picturesque incident is introduced; but it belongs not to the permanent features of the scenery, and is evidently employed to give animation to a narrative, which, without something of the sort, would be lumbering and lifeless.

The historical disquisitions concerning the Mamelukes, and the political and statistical disquisitions, I pass over altogether; they may be written by Byron himself, or they may be the tributary contributions of Hobhouse. I have not read them. To me they are as appalling as the Osmanlee's simile of the Nile was to Anastasius himself. You must, however, have been struck with the remarkable omission of the pyramids and ancient architecture of Egypt. Had the author ever been in that country, is it probable, that in placing his hero in familiar situations,

in the Castle of Cairo, for example, he would have omitted to represent him under the influence of the feelings, which the superb views from the windows of the audience-chamber of the castle never fail to awaken? He does not even allude to it: while at Constantinople, he appears, as it were, at home; in Cairo, he seems to have no points of local reference, nothing which shews he has ever been there.

Where the author of Anastasius sticks to his own story, he is amu

sing, lively, and sometimes more; but, where he mingles up his adventures with details from Mouradgea d'Ohsson's History of Turkey, he is as tiresome as the old Armenian himself. By the way, Kit, it argues very little for the lore of our reviewing tribes, that none of them have noticed how much of a free-booter Anastasius is, with respect to the work alluded to. Nobody filches so bravely from others as Byron,-few can so well afford to do so, few have the courage to be so


The description of the Arabian wizzard is whimsical, but improbable; and the picture is altogether erroneous, in the circumstances of the back ground and still life. It is drawn from the caricatures of a European fortune-teller, and lacks the uncouth enthusiasm that is mingled with the pretensions of the true Arabian astrologer. The introduction of an astronomical globe into the arcanum of a fortune-teller in Djedda, is sufficient to prove how little the author, from his own knowledge, knew of the country. But, nevertheless, the hand of Byron is manifest in the vigour of the painting, and his genius is heard in

the albacadabra ravings of the characters. I must refer you to the sixth chapter of the second volume for the former, while I beg your attention to what I consider one of the irrepressible biases of Byron's mind. He is speaking, it is true, here ironically; but it is curious that he should so speak: "In the opinion of Malek,” says Anastasius," every stone, beast, and plant, on the surface of the earth, presumed most unwarrantably to meddle with our destiny. Nothing, animated or inanimate, could be named, which exerted not over our being a mysterious influence. From every occurrence, however trivial, some omen might be extracted, if one only knew the way." This is said in joke; but elsewhere, the author, Lord Byron, propounds the same idea seriously. Is it probable that any other but himself would have done so ?

[ocr errors]

But my paper leaves me, at present, no further room; perhaps, on some other occasion, I may resume the subject. Mean time, I remain, your


Gordon's Hotel, Albemarle Street, August 29, 1821.




Fine partens! Fine rock-partens !-There's a pair
I'll pass my word for.-Tak a chappin mair
O' thae gude mussels, too :-I thank ye leddy.
Quick flounders, mem! better ye ne'er made ready.

Are ye for lobsters, sir ?-See there's a beauty:
Gi'e me your bode ?-there's ane I'm sure will suit ye.
-Young gentleman!-come here, my bonny man!
Want ye a maiden skate ?-nae better can
Be boil'd.-A saxpence ! go, ye're no that blate
To offer saxpence for a maiden skate!
The broo ot worth to ony ane the siller:
I ken your leddy-sae just tak it till her.

ARE you a thrifty housewife, madam? Yes, sir, I flatter myself I attempt to be so.-Then go to the fishmarket. Are you partial to the luxuries of the table, sir?-Visit the fishmarket then by all means. Do you take pleasure in noticing the varieties of human character, and the display of human passions?-Go, buy, study, saunter, meditate in the fish-market of Edinburgh. There you will hear fi

The Flowers of Edinburgh.

gures of speech, which never entered into the heads of a Demosthenes or a Cicero,-of a Burke or an Erskine, and find similies in daily use, which neither Shakespeare nor Milton ever dreamt of. Are you a painter, and do you love to see the different costumes of this world's inhabitants? Take your pencil or your crayons, and study, reside, in the fish-market. In fine, do you wish at little expence to acquire

a knowledge of the world; to see the naked passions of the human heart displayed in their very grossness, let your steps often be directed to the market of fishes of the good town of Edinburgh. There you will meet the rich and the poor,-the old and the young, the prudent and the spendthrift, the shopkeeper and his journeyman,—the mistress and her servant, jostling one another and joining to form a motley crowd, which cannot be paralleled in any other place; while the fish cadies and the fisherwomen in the congregated noises of their diversified modes of speech, give a finer idea of the confusion of Babel than can be elsewhere acquired.

"Come awa, hinny, and see what ye re for the day;" said my good friend Nelly Speldins, as I passed the range of creels with shell-fish. "Here's twa rock-partens I can recommend ;-ye'll no find their marrow in the market the day; just find the weight o' them." "No partens to-day, Nelly," answered I" My bonny man," said another venerable friend, whose ruddy face has long been familiar to marketmakers,-"My bonny man," said she, as she came running up to me with a handful of scallops, did you ever see the like o' thae clams?". "They seem very fine indeed, Christy, but I don't want any to-day." My coat at this moment was pulled from behind, and on looking round, Grizzel Thomson accosted me with "Mr Columbine! Mr Columbine! I've a hunder fine oysters picket out and laid by for you." "What's the price to-day, Grizzy?" said I." Only four shillings the hunder, sir;-whare's your cadie?-hae you gotten a tankard to haud them?" My arm was now gently touched in another direction by Peggy Buckies, who said in a half whisper," Mr Currantbush, ye're no to gang past me for oysters-ye tell'd me to keep pandores for you, and here's just ae hunder that I kept back frae Charlie Oman, wha aye gies me sixpence mair for them.'

Every body has read the fable of the ass between two bundles of hay: and I found myself at this moment in a similar predicament. My suitors, seeing my irresolution, each was eager to have my fiat on the bargain. "The gentleman aye deals wi' me," said Peggy, who was by much the younger of the two." Ye lien

jade, he spoke to me first," replied Grizzel.-"Look at thae again, Mr Currantbush," Peggy subsumed."Taste mine, Mr Columbine," retorted Mrs Grizzy, hastily opening a large oyster, and holding it in its native gravy up to my mouth; while this elegant appeal to my organs of taste rendered a reference of the same kind imperative on the part of Mrs Peggy. I was now pretty much in the same dilemma, in the decision of the comparative merits of an oyster, as Mr Paris of old, when besieged by the three goddesses who claimed the prize of beauty; and not to make an invidious distinction between my two friends, I took an oyster in each hand from the rivals, and, had my mouth been large enough, or the capacity of my throat allowed, I should have swallowed both at once to evince immy partiality. I dispatched both in an interval so short, however, that I am unable at this moment to say which had the priority in running the race into my stomach; and to end the conference I said, in my gravest manner, “I'll tell you what I'll do, Grizzel: You offered me your oysters first.' "That's God's truth, the cadie heard me,” said Grizzel.—“ But Mr Currantbush, ye gart me promise to keep ye gude anes," interrupted Mrs Peggy." Haud your tongue ye haverel, and let the gentleman speak,' said Mrs Grizzel." Go you clavering auld fool," retorted Peggy, I ken as weel how to serve a gentleman as you."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

All this while I could not get in a word, and turned my head to the one side and to the other, as the calls on my attention were bandied about from side to side. But seeing little prospect of a speedy termination to the statement of the case, I again interposed. "You offered me your oysters first, Grizzel; count me out half a hundred.". "Half a hunder oysters!" said Grizzel, with a face in which astonishment was painted,"half a hunder oysters! Na, I winna affront your leddy by sending hame half a hunder oysters to your house. I winna affront ye, Mr Columbine, whether ye pay me or no.""Well, let it be a hundred then," said I."Yes, sir," said Grizzel, her face assuming its wonted placability-" Yes, sir; Cadie! Isbel!-Is nae blind Isbelyourcadie, MrColumbine?"-"And


Peggy," said I, turning to the other nymph, who during the latter part of the transaction looked disappointment personified," Peggy, I'll take a hundred from you likewise."'-"You're very good, sir," answered Peggy; ye'll no find mine's the warst bar gain."-"But recollect this both of you," continued I," I will give no more than three shillings the hundred; it is quite enough in all conscience."- "Three shillings!" cried Mrs Grizzel, putting her hands in the mass of petticoats in which her pockets were enveloped; "three shillings! -ye's no get my oysters for three shillings the day." "Three shillings, and the oysters sae scarce !" ejaculated Mrs Peggy. "It may be enough for Grizzy Tamson's oysters, but ye's ne'er get mine for that price."- "Very well," said I," I don't want them; I would rather not buy any;" and I turned to go away. "Hear me! come back, Mr Columbine," exclaimed Grizzel; "I'll tak your siller for handsel, but ye maun pit anither sixpence till't.' -"Not one farthing more," replied I." Weel, weel, a wilfu' man maun aye hae his will," said Grizzel, moralizing upon the occasion." As mine's in your tankard ye may tak mine's too," said Peggy, with a selfcongratulatory smile; "but mind ye're awn me a shilling the morn."


Blind Isbel got the oysters, and up stairs we went to the principal part of the market. At the top of the stair I was recognized by Kate Lugworm, who came to me with a face of importance, and in a half whisper said, "I've gotten the cats the day for you, Mr Combsbrush; there's just sax o' them; and the gudeman fought twa hours this mornin' before he could get them out o' the nets.-Ye'll no grudge me a shillin the piece for them."-"A shilling a piece for sea cats, Katherine; that is a great deal too much. I have often bought them for twopence.""Ah, but sir, ye ken they're no to be had every day, and they're very destructionfu' to the nets. I've gotten half a crown for them before now frae Mr Wilson and Mr Neill the Naturals o' the Vermin Society in the College for speciments. But come and see them, and I'm sure ye'll no grudge the siller." I went to the stand accordingly, and saw the ugly animals, which, however hideous in appearance, I beg to recommend to lovers of

good eating. "See sic beauties,” said Katherine; "a' loupin; every ane o' them will be three pund weight, and there's nae cats in the market the day but my ain. I'm sure after their heads are cuttit aff they'll mak a dish for a lord."-" As you have taken the trouble to offer them to me, Mrs Katherine," said I, " 'you know I am at a word, I shall give you two shillings for the half dozen.”

Our bargain was here interrupted by the arrival of a Frenchman, a little gentleman with "spectacles on nose,” who, on surveying the fish on Katherine's table, exclaimed, " Vat ugly devil! are dese poissons-fishes, dat is, I mane, goot voman?"-" Poison, Sir!-Na, they're nae mair poison than ony fish in the market:-them that eats paddocks need na be fear'd for sea-cats, I think.-But that cod's head ye're looking at, (for the Frenchman had fixed his eyes very knowingly upon this article,) I'll gie you very cheap-ye'll get it for saxpence." "Mon Dieu! a sixpence for dat head of cod; dat is trop cher, my goot voman, ver much too dear; but I vill for de head give twopence ;-or if you give me dis tail along vid head, all in one bargain, den ver vell; I vill take for one penny more, dat is all.""Weel, weel, tak them, an nae mair about it. Whare's your cadie, or hae you a clout?"-" Stop un little, my goot voman," said the Frenchman, spreading a dirty pocket handkerchief, which he drew from a ridicule in his hand;

66 stop un little time, my mistress, till I put de fish in dis ridicule;" and having finished stuffing the mutilated fragments of the cod-fish into the little basket, he paid his threepence and went away,-not, however, without turning back several times to look at the dog-fish, and muttering as he went along, "Vat ugly devil, dat poisson, ugly devil certainement.”

"Now that man's awa, I'll tell you Mr Combsbrush, ye's get the cats for three shillings," said Katherine," and I'll gie you half a dozen o' thae flukes to the bargain.' No, no," replied I, "that won't do, Katherine; I won't give more than two shillings-not one farthing."- Eh, I canna tak that, sir; but mak it saxpence mair, and they're yours-it'll aye be a dram to me. No, can't do it ;" and I was proceeding along to another stall, as the only means of hastening the con

[ocr errors]

Chap. XI.
clusion of the bargain. Mrs Kathe-
rine allowed me to go so far, before
calling me back, that I was more than
half determined to return and take the
fish at her own price, when her voice
sounded like a bugle through the mar-
ket, "Hy, sir!-Hy, Mr Combsbrush!
ye're no gaun till leave me for a sax-
pence? Come here and tak the fish-
we manna be ower hard.-Isbel, haud
your basket."-I returned again to the
stall, having, as I conceived, gained
my point; and Katherine was in the
act of putting the cats in the basket
upon the woman's shoulder, when I
thought I perceived that she had
changed the fish I saw on her table
for smaller ones. As this is a com-
mon trick in the market, I made no
secret of my suspicions, and taxed her
roundly for the imposition.
are ower auld farrent, ma bonnie man,
I see; ye'll scarcely let poor folk live
now-a-days;" and upon my insisting
for others, she produced out of a creel,
where were some dozens of the same
animals, the identical fish which she
had exhibited on her table when I first
accosted her.

kail-blade to your ain end, ma leddy!"
"You are in a monstrous passion
to-day, Nelly," said I; "what's the
matter?"- 66
Naething at a', sir, but
for folk comin' to the market that dis-
na ken fish when they see them. They
had better be playing their pianos at
hame. I like best to deal wi' gentle-
men. Come, see what ye're for the
day, and I'll mak ye right :-are ye
for a rawn fluke, or a nice maiden
skate?-See what a beauty, I'm sure
this ane's just a medicine. If ye want
it ye'll get it for a shilling; I'm sure
ye canna ca' that dear."-
I'll give
you sixpence for the skate,” said I.-
Saxpence !-do ye think I steal
them? Thae's no fish ye're buyin-
thae's mens' lives! Saxpence for the
haill skate,-the broo o't will do ye
a crown's worth o' gude. But ye'll
maybe be wantin something mair, sae
just tak it. I havena drawn a sax-
pence the day yet. Will ye no tak
that turbot?"

Blind Isbel and I now proceeded to a stall opposite, where haddocks were the chief fish exposed to sale. A lady was at this time cheapening a few of them. "I'll gie you a dizzen o' nice anes for twa shillings, mem." "Two shillings!" replied the lady; "I would give you a shilling for them, provided they were new caught, but they don't, I think, seem very fresh."-" Fresh, mem! they were ta'en out o' the sea this mornin'; ye surely dinna ken caller fish when ye see them. Look at that," said she, putting a slimy thumb in the opening of the gills, to shew their untarnished redness. The fish, notwithstanding the honest woman's asseverations, had certainly been kept a day or two, and were not just such haddocks as a connoisseur would, have purchased. The lady looked doubtingly for a moment, and then having made up her mind, shook her head, and removed to another stall. My friend the fishwife, as she was retiring, began a soliloquy, in which, (like many of my friends in the theatre when speaking aside), she said, loud enough to be heard by the lady, "Stinkin' fish!-go, that's a gude ane. I wish ye may be as caller yoursel.Stinkin' haddies!-lingle-tail'd jade, for a' your silks!-No fresh !-clap a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


"I was

"If ye're for a turbot, come to me,' said a laughing-faced woman at the next stall," and ye'll get your pick o' sax. The choice of six turbots was not to be neglected, and I stept on a few paces. "Ay, ay, gang your wa's, she likes gentlemen, and can sell ye something else if ye want it." "Haud your ill-tongue, Tibby,—there's naebody fashin wi' you;-your tongue's nae scandal; a'body kens that,' swered Jenny Flukemouth. "Truth's nae scandal," replied Tibby; never catched at the back o' the houses as ye was, wi' Johnny Crabshell, anither woman's man; that's nae secret. Fy for shame, ye light-headed taupy; ca' me a liar for that if ye dare," said Tibby, challenging contradiction, and setting her arms akimbo, while her elbows and head were projected in defiance. "I'm no ca'in you ony thing that ye're no kent to be, ye randy woman that ye are. I never was carried hame in a cart frae the Fishwives' Causeway fu'; nor fell ower my ain creel at Jock's Lodge, as some ither folk hae done, mind that," said Jenny, cresting her head, and looking a triumph. And then addressing me, said, "See sic turbots, sir; I sell'd Bailie Mucklekite the neibor o' this ane, for half-a-guinea, no a quarter o' an hour ago." Tibby was pluck, however, and had determined not to give up the contest. Coming close up to her younger antagonist, in the attitude

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »