« AnteriorContinua »
- Now, my
This ceaseless labour, this intense musing upon bright images of renown that were incessantly streaming into his mind, uniting with the distraction caused by pecuniary embarrassments, first shattered his health, and finally unsettled his reason! His wife imagined she perceived occasional symptoms of a disturbed intellect long before she was summoned to witness an alarming evidence of it.
One day she heard him shouting and dancing furiously in his room. She hastened to him. What was her dismay, when she saw him with a large carving knife in his hand, and the floor strewed with the shreds of three pictures for which he was to be paid a considerable sum when finished; but which, with the habitual improvidence of his character, he had suffered to remain unfinished for months, (he and his family all but starving meanwhile, because he had begun, and was concentrating his whole soul upon the execution of, the Last Judgement! He had slashed them into ribbons, and was exulting over his achievement with the boisterous rejoicing of a man who had vanquished some tormenting evil that had been pursuing him at every turn. When he perceived his wife, he pointed to the bits of painted canvass, exclaiming with a strange mixture of ludicrous solemnity, and the fierce flashing of satiated vengeance, dear Martha, I am free! I have triumphed over these fiends, these insulting fiends, who stood grinning at me with looks of gaunt defiance, as if they were the personifications of famine, and daring me to worship my idol there while they were neglected. But I have cut them down at last,—and now for a glorious strife with Michael Angelo!"
His infirmity did not assume the character of confirmed aberration of mind in the beginning; for he would talk rationally and temperately upon many subjects; and in moments of serene discourse with his wife, condemn (but ever more in mirth than in sorrow) the rash execution he had done upon the three unfortunate and unoffending pictures. Still he became more and more incapable of connecting in his thoughts the labours of his hand with the sustenance of his family. “ Henceforth I will paint for immortality,” he would say ; " I will live no longer for the present, but for all time: and my delighted spirit shall glow with conscious rapture as it beholds the imperishable garland which posterity will weave for my name.” The necessary consequence of this deplorable delusion was, that his domestic affairs became irretrievably embarrassed, and his family were reduced to privations whose bitterness and severity were felt by himself only in the momentary sense of their existence. His wife bore her share of these trying calamities with an enduring fortitude and patience, which her devoted love for her husband could alone have inspired, and which the hope, that never forsook her, of his restoration to reason, could alone have sustained. Whatever could be converted into money, was unhesitatingly devoted to that use ; and when scarcely any thing remained but the more bulky furniture of the house, she exercised her ingenuity in various fanciful articles of needle-work, which she, parted with for any price they would obtain. It need hardly be told how many hours of sedentary toil at an occupation like this it required to produce a few shillings; nor
how many heart-sickening disappointments, how many galling humiliations, were to be encountered before a purchaser could be found. Her close application, her mental anxiety, both on account of her husband and her children, added to poor and insufficient diet, reduced her to a state of such pitiable weakness, that she was at length unable to continue her labour.
Then was her situation dreadful indeed! Famine at the door, and the hand that should drive it hence, powerless, alas ! from a malady which showed no signs of abatement! She would have sought her husband's father in her extremity, and implored his aid—not for herself, if her participation in it would have turned it aside-but for a son; and for that son's children, innocent of the crimes which had banished their father from the affections of his own. But she reverenced too deeply her husband's honour. She had heard him too often express what were his feelings at the conduct of his father ; had heard him too often repeat his stern determination, rather to perish with hunger than owe the meal which saved him to one who had trampled upon
young heart's first ambition and its most cherished affections--these recollections were too vividly present to her mind, and she herself shared in all the feelings with which they were associated too entirely, to do that for her husband, in his benighted state, at which he himself would have spurned, and which would be unblessed by his sanction, when it should be Heaven's will to restore to him the light of reason.·
At length came the heaviest blow of all. A churlish creditor, one of those sordid reptiles of the earth, whose sole perception of what is right consists in knowing that he who has money owing to him has a right to be paid, no matter though he tears his debt from the convulsive grasp of an agonised father standing half-frenzied by the side of his famishing wife and children—a creature of this stamp, and the world swarms with such-put an execution into the house, and swept away by the ruthless hand of the law, (wrested to appease a demon not raised to distribute justice,) every remaining vestige of property. The savage scene had been acted only the day before it was my chance to pass the miserable wife as she sat for charity from wayfarers. To this last resource of the destitute she had resorted in utter despair. They could not pass another four-and-twenty hours as they had passed the preceding. They could not literally sit down and die for very want in their desolate habitation. A single shilling, (if the charity which walks the streets should bestow so much, and no more,) would at least suffice to satisfy the most importunate of the cravings of nature; and that must be done. There would then be time to think of what could be done. With the feeling of this necessity strong upon her, she quitted the house with her infant in her arms.
Let me not forget to mention two circumstances. The one is, (as I had reason subsequently to know,) that the step of the door on which she sat, with her touching appeal—“ Have pity on us, we are destitute !” belonged to the house in which her husband's father lived, and that he, in coming out that morning, had passed her. But they were mutually unacquainted with each other; while she was totally
ignorant of the place where she had seated herself. Surely, were there such things in Nature as we sometimes read of—strange, mysterious, and occult sympathies, by which kindred bloods wonderfully respond to unknown ties—this man could not have been so near his own, under such circumstances, and have looked upon the mother and her child, only as he would have looked upon a common street mendicant !
The other circumstance is this. When the sheriff's officers entered the house to levy the execution, her husband surveyed the process, not only with indifference, but with a sort of wild mirth, to see how the chairs, and tables, and beds were pulled about, and carried from room to room. His wife's dismay, his son's tears, moved him not. They were unheeded. He laughed, even, as they thrust him from the chair on which he was sitting, to remove it into the cart at the door. But, when two of the men were about to lay their hands on the picture by which he stood—on his Last Judgement—at which he still worked every day, and which doubtless owed some of the extraordinary effect I have described to the very frenzy of his thoughts, he sprang upon them like a chafed leopard, threw them to the ground, and, in a frightful struggle, while he literally howled with rage, would have strangled them, had they not been powerful enough to escape from his grasp. Terror-struck, they fled—he followed-and, snatching up a poker that lay in his way, when he had driven them into the street, he retreated to his room again, vociferating horrible maledictions against his antagonists, who were too prudent to renew their claims. It was this circumstance dwelling freshly upon his mind, which made him arm himself with his weapon when he came down to me; believing, as I afterwards learned, that I might be one of the officers returned to take away his picture. Nor was it till the admiration I expressed, roused his latent feelings of pride and joy, while it destroyed his suspicions, that he cast it away.
I have little else to add. That picture is now in my possession. I became the purchaser of it at my own price-a price which did more than merely pay its value. It brought back comfort to a house of mourning. It placed the artist under such medical care as ultimately restored him to reason. It authorized me to become an intercessor with his father, and to close the wounds that had so long and so unjustly rankled in his bosom ; and I never look upon the picture itself without blessing the good old gentleman who called himself my uncle, for having taught me the lesson I have mentioned, and confessing to my own heart, that " SECOND thoughts are best !"
THE POET'S OLD AGE.
The Author of "Faust" is now eighty-five years old, having survived his friend
Schiller thirty years.
Bring me a crown of cypress !--never more
Shall laurels wreathe their mockery round my brow,
The current of my blood ebbs dim and slow-
Bring me a cypress crown.
Stars numberless and glorious shed their ray,–
Sphere-centering-mighty-yielding light and day
In cluster'd glory shone.
Some shooting wildly from their pride of place,
Some fading with a soft expiring grace,
Ere yet their bloom is shed.
Held bright communion in its earlier dream;
Reflecting like a mirror every beam
Eclipse my planet shades!
Their hands were clasp'd with mine in friendship's hour;
Their hearts, with mine enwove by spells of power,
And throbb'd with kindred life.
I stretch my hand, and meet a stranger's touch;
Companions !—friends!—whom I have loved so much,
And summon me to rest!
Of a long-ruined pile—by pilgrims sought
In the drear desart, as a relic fraught
Of all coeval love.
Their young leaves quiver in the dancing air-
Their birds are gay with song ;-
Its uncongenial darkness mid them all.
Tell me my hour is nigh!
THE IRISH CHURCH ESTABLISHMENT. The heavy hand of Reform is fast descending upon this audacious institution. The inain defences on which its manifold and unparalleled abuses were wont to rely-the Orange ascendancy in Ireland and the Tory ascendancy in this country, have happily been overturned; the arm of political corruption is no longer extended over it; it stands naked before the empire, its impurities and oppressions bare: the civil rights of the Catholic, and the religious rights of the Protestant-the spiritual exigencies of a class, and the physical exigencies of the country, cry equally loud for its reduction.
The chief abuse of the Irish Church Establishment is its magnitude: it cannot be reformed without being reduced. It is disproportionate to the resources of the nation ; it is disproportionate to the numbers of its followers--enormously disproportionate!
The population of Ireland is the poorest, her Church the wealthiest in Europe. Its opulence would be excessive, were the entire population within its pale.
The population is about eight millions ; seven millions of that number are Catholics; of the remaining million, not three-fourths profess the religion of the state. The whole population is burthened indifferently for the maintenance of that religion.
And how has that religion been maintained? Whilst the poverty of the country protests against the extravagance of the Establishment, and the Catholics declare against its injustice, the Protestant adds the interests of his faith to the other arguments for Reform, proclaiming its inefficiency for the sole end of its institution.
Thus are arrayed against the existing state of the Irish Church, economy, justice, and religion. If a revision of ecclesiastical affairs be called for in this country, in Ireland it is demanded still more imperiously. The disorganized and afflicted state of that part of the empire will soon engage the attention of a Parliament disposed and determined to redress its grievances. The Establishment-the capital grievance-should be the first subject of discussion,
A view of the Irish Church is necessarily a detail of abuses. We do not profess, in the following pages, to give a complete picture. Our limits are narrow, and the subject vast. We aim only at tracing the outlines of the evil, and we begin with the mitre.
In our remarks upon this, as upon every other branch of the subject before us, we shall diligently avoid two things—exaggerated statements and indiscriminate attacks. Our case against the Irish Ecclesiastics will be strong enough, after we bave given them the benefit of the most mitigated account of the wealth they wring from the country, and the manifold abuses which they have suffered to disfigure and disgrace the Church. If episcopacy be a blessing, Ireland is certainly the most favoured spot upon the earth. A provision of two-and-twenty mitres for scarce a million of individuals is more than comfort—it is luxury. The Irish hierarchy consists of four Archbishops and eighteen Bishops. England, where the adherents of the establishment are supposed (however at variance with the fact may be the hypothesis) to constitute the great bulk of the populationEngland has but two Archbishops and twenty-four Bishops; on the whole, only four prelates more than Ireland; yet she holds her episcopal bench to be reasonably well furnished ; and never, at least to our knowledge, has ejaculated a prayer for a single additional mitre. The question immediately arises - what has Ireland to do with twenty-two Bishops; or what can twenty-two Bishops have to do in Ireland ? Taking the number of benefices in the iwo islands as a fair exponent of the extent of the episcopal duty to be performed in each, we find in England upwards of seven thousand incumbents to twenty-six prelates ; in Ireland not twelve hundred incumbents to twenty-two prelates. In the former, therefore, every prelate has upwards of two hundred and fifty beneficed clergymen to superintend; in the latter little more than one-fifth of that number, so that the proportion of labour between the two hierarchies is about five to one. It follows that one Archbishop and four Bishops would be an
July.- VOL. XXXII. NO. CXXVII.