Imatges de pàgina

bat, either commenced or completed, makes a part of almost all his narratives, and Dr Caranza himself cannot be estimated a more perfect judge of points of honour concerning the distance, the arms, and all the punctilio of the duello. Of this there is enough, and to spare, in the following pages.

The story of John de Lancaster is neither long nor complicated. The principal character and real hero of the novel is Robert de Lancaster, an ancient Welsh Esquire, whose character is derived from that of a Mr Shandy, senior, checkered with the hundred attributes of Cornelius Scriblerus, father of the renowned Martinus. He is a great reader of all such learned works as convey neither instruction nor information, and in perusing the ancient historians, whether of the classical or Gothic period, “ holds each stranger tale devoutly true.” This humour is pushed into the regions of utter and raving extravagance, especially as, saving in points of learning or science, we are required to believe that the old gentleman is not only of a sane mind, but endowed with uncommon good sense and talents, as well as with an admirable temper and most benevolent disposition, the cast whereof we think he derived from a certain Squire Alworthy, of Alworthy Hall in Somersetshire, who may not be utterly unknown to some of our readers. The credulity of this worthy person being seconded by no small quantity of family pride, he places implicit reliance on a pedigree which deduces his family in a direct line, not from Brutus or Howel Dha, but from Samothes, son of Japheth, the third son of Noah; and believes that his ancestor acquired the family-estate sixty-six years after the taking of Troy, and eleven hundred thirty and two years before the Christian era. He credits another tradition, which affirms that his ancestor taught King Bladud to fly; and another concerning an island in Ireland where the natives are immortal. As if this burden were not sufficient for his faith, he believes with Mr Shandy in the effect of Christian-names upon their owners,

with Cornelius Scriblerus in the influence of the harp in appeasing insurrections, and contends that “ soft airs well executed on the flute, were found to be a never failing cure for the sciatica or hip-gout." - Vol. i. p. 289.

When the tale opens, Robert de Lancaster is residing quietly in his hereditary castle with his daughter Cecilia, an amiable old maid, his son Philip, a sort of cousin-german to the author's excellent Ned Drowsy, and his daughter-in-law, wife of the said Philip, who is then just about to add an heir to Kray Castle, and a link to the lineage of Samothes ap Japheth ap Noah. This desirable event is hastened in a very undesirable manner by an awkward Welsh baronet, named Sir Owen ap Owen, who, in a fit of tumultuous gallantry, overturns the tea-equipage into the lap of Mrs De Lancaster. While she receives the necessary attendance in her premature accouchement, the group below are left in circumstances which again fatally remind us of the Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. The elder De Lancaster on this occasion harangues his friend Colonel Wilson, a maimed

officer on half-pay, the Uncle Toby of the tale, whose blunt, soldier-like simplicity is meant to contrast the absurd ingenuity of his patron.

“ So many things are assumed without being examined, and so many disbelieved without being disproved, that I am not hasty to assent or dissent in compliment to the multitude; and on this account perhaps I am considered as a man affecting singularity; I hope I am not to be found guilty of that idle affectation, only because I would not be a dealer in opinions, which I have not weighed before I deliver them out. Above all things I would not traffic in conjectures, but carefully avoid imposing upon others or myself by confident anticipation, when nothing can be affirmed with certainty in this mortal state of chance and change, that is not grounded on conviction ; for instance, in the case of the lady above stairs, whose situation keeps our hopes and fears upon the balance, our presumption is, that Mrs De Lancaster shall be delivered of a child, either male or female, and in all respects like other children

* • I confess,' said Wilson, that is my presumption, and I should be most outrageously astonished, should it happen otherwise.'

"'I don't think it likely,' murmured Philip.

""No, no, no,' replied De Lancaster; but we need not be reminded how many preternatural and prodigious births have occurred and been recorded in the annals of mankind. Whether the natives of the town of Stroud near Rochester are to this day under the ban of Thomas à Becket, I am not informed; but when, in contempt of that holy person, they wantonly cut off the tail of his mule as he rode through their street, you have it from authority that every child thenceforward born to an inhabitant of Stroud was punished by the appendage of an incommodious and enormous tail, exactly corresponding with that which had been amputated from the archbishop's mule.'

“ Here a whistle from the colonel [to the tune of Lilibulero, we presume) struck the auditory nerves of Philip, who, gently laying his hand upon his stump gravely reminded him that Becket was a saint

“ De Lancaster proceeded – What then shall we say of the famous Martin Luther, who being ordained to act so conspicuous a part in opposition to the papal power, came into the world fully equipped controversy; mother being delivered of her infant (wonderful to relate) habited in all points as a theologian, and (which I conceive must have sensibly incommoded her) wearing a square cap on his head, according to academic costume. This, Colonel Wilson, may perhaps appear to you, as no doubt it did to the midwife, and all present at his birth, as a very extraordinary and preternatural circumstance.'

“ • It does not indeed appear so,' said the colonel. “I know you don't invent the fable; I should like to know your authority for it.'

“My authority,' replied De Lancaster, 'in this case, is the same as in that of Becket's mule ; Martinus Delrius is my authority for both; and when we find this gravely set forth by a writer of such high dignity and credit, himself a doctor of theology, and public professor of the Holy Scriptures in the University of Salamanca, who is bold enough to question it ?'

" " I am not bold enough to believe it,' said Wilson.”—Pp. 25-29.

During this learned discussion, which we produce as a specimen of the dialogue and manners, Mrs Philip de Lancaster is disencumbered of a boy, who, after such absurd ceremony as suited an old humourist, that half expected his grandson's arrival with a tail at one extremity, and a doctor's cap at the other, is christened by the name of John de Lancaster. We are next treated with a long account of a visit actually achieved by the ancient De Lancaster to another old gentleman called Ap Morgan, the father of Mrs Philip de Lancaster, and maternal grandfather to the infantine hero. Ap Morgan, it seems, had discovered (something of the latest) that when through paternal influence his daughter was induced to bestow her hand upon the descendant of King Samothes, she had sacrificed to filial duty a tender predilection in favour of a certain gallant young officer, by name Captain


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Jones. This circumstance he communicates to old De Lancaster, acquainting him at the same time, in very civil terms, that he was grieved to death at having conferred his daughter on so stupid a fellow as his son Philip, when she had made a so much better choice for herself. To repay

this fidence, De Lancaster proves to Morgan, without the assistance of Delrius, that he was not responsible for the consequences of her obstinate silence, that their son and daughter were admirably matched, the lady being a religious hypochondriac, and the gentleman a mere cypher; and that their parental tenderness ought to overlook both as a blank in their lineage, fixing their only hopes upon the grandson, whom, under Providence, they had been the means of producing to the De Lancasters and Ap Morgans.-All which is admitted by old Morgan as a “cure of the mournfuls ;" his taste in consolation being at least as peculiar as that of his friend in history and philosophy.—Mean while, Penruth Abbey, the seat of Sir Owen Ap Owen, receives two important inmates. These are a Spanish lady, or rather a Spanish Jewess, widow to a brother of the baronet who had settled in Spain, and her son, the heir of the title and estate.

The descendants of Israel were heretofore favourites with Mr Cumberland. The characters of Abraham Abrahams in the Observer, of Sheva in the Jew, even of Nicolas Pedrosa in the lively tale which bears his name, are honourable and able testimonies of his efforts to stem popular prejudice

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