« AnteriorContinua »
scene of gaiety in newspapers and romances, have been accustomed to invest it with something of a romantic and magnificent character. To add to my annoyance, it was one of those close, damp, sultry days, expressively termed muggy by the Londoners; and as my lungs panted under the hot moisture of the atmosphere, I echoed the ejaculation of the worthy farmer dying of an asthma—" If I get this plaguy breath fairly out of my body, I'll take deuced good care it shall never get in again.” As I thought of the buoyant and elastic breezes which I ought at that moment to have been enjoying in Gloucestershire, under my favourite clump of aspens, whose ever fluttering leaves at once shaded me from the sun, and supplied me with the music of à perpetual waterfall, I felt in all its intensity the sentiment of Dante
“Nessun maggior dolore Che ricordarsi del tempo felice Nella miseria."
But perhaps the most pitiable and lugubrious of all the spectacles encountered at the west end, in this season of emigration, are the disconsolate wights who, being unable to procure an invitation to the country, and without money to get conveyed thither, condemn themselves to a daily imprisonment, and steal forth in the dusk like the light-shunning bat, or the bird of Minerva, or rather, like ghosts of themselves, to haunt the spot which they loved in their days of fashion. A man must have a character to lose before he will thus submit to realise the Heautontimorumenos of Terence; but it is so easy to acquire the reputation of being “an idle fellow about town, visiting in all the genteel circles,” that few West-endians and Bond street loungers think themselves exempt from the observances which this state imposes. No condition is more sternly, more inexorably, exacted by fashion,
than an absence from London in September; and it must be confessed that the wretches who are upable to comply with this mandate have at least grace enough to feel the full infamy of the stigma that attaches to their delinquency. No pickpocket has a quicker eye for a Bow street officer, no spendthrift dandy has a keener perception of an approaching bailiff, than these victims of fashion have of an advancing acquaintance, if they are compelled to run the gauntlet of recognition beneath the garish eye of day. Reading him as far off as if he were a telegraph, they prepare all their wiles, doubles, and escapes, sometimes stealing into a shop, or bolting down å street or even a blind alley, or face ing right about; so that if the enemy can even swear to their backs, he may not be able to aver that he has seen their faces in London, when its purlieus are under the ban and interdict of fashion.
With a malicious pleasure, I have occasionally amused myself in counteracting all these maneuvres and devices by running down a side street, getting ahead of the game, and encountering him in front when he thought I was far behind; or by managing to run plump up against him at a corner, that I might observe the various degrees of self possession and impudence with which the different culprits carried the thing off. Some were overwhelmed with instant shame, gave me a confused nod, and hurried on to avoid all interrogation ; but the generality adopted the approved method of conscious guilt, by becoming the attacking parties and starting off into exclamations and surprises. “What, Harry Sevenoaks in London! Credat Judæus Apella !” then the eyes are rubbed, and after an incredulous stare the party continues—“It is Harry, by heaven! why my dear fellow, have you forgotten that this is September? what would they say
were I to mention this at H- House, or Lord S's, or the Marchioness of
it is clear, that a man who attacks, you in this way, and even hints at betraying you to your noble friends, cannot himself be in the same predicament. He must be a mere accidental traveller over the forbidden ground; at all events, he wishes you to infer it, but for fear you should not have ingenuity enough to draw that conclusion, he takes care to add, that he is a mere bird of passage, having only arrived that morning from Cheltenham or Harrogate, and intending to set off next day for Dawlish or Sidmouth. Joe Manton, and his fellow-gunsinith Egg, have as many charges to endure as their own fowling-pieces; for several of my acquaintance have declared, that after writing repeated letters without effect, they had been obliged to run up to London to reclaim the guns, which had been left to be repaired ; never failing to add, in a tone of indignant reproach—" and you know pheasantshooting begins in ten days!" One friend had thrown himself into the London mail upon learning · the dangerous illness of an uncle, from whom he had considerable expectations, and whom he accused of a scandalous want of consideration for falling sick at the time of the county races. Another, who was the indisputable author of some very ingenious charades in rhyme, informed me, with a significant look, that a letter from his quiz of a bookseller bad compelled him to run up. to make certain preliminary arrangements for the publishing season. A third poor fellow, who began to walk rather limpingly as he specified his disaster, was under the necessity of coming all the way from Scarborough, to consult Astley Cooper respecting the old wound he received at Talavera ; and a fourth, after frankly stating that he had never left London, declared, that he was so tired of all the bathing places and the different noblemen's seats of which he had the run, that he was determined, for once and away,
to pass an autumn in London, out of fun and novelty, and just to see what the thing was like.
Love of the country is with me a passion which has sprung up as the others subsided; perhaps a certain age is necessary for its full and sufficing fruition, before one can feel assured, that if we walk out into the fields, look forth upon the green earth, the blue sky, and the flashing waters, and so put ourselves in communion with nature and the unseen spirit of the universe, we shall infallibly tranquillize our bosoms, however agitated, by imparting to them the blandness and serenity of the surrounding landscape. If we become less social as we advance in life, we certainly sympathize more with nature-a substitution of which few will find reason to complain. The coxcombs of whom I have been writing had none of this feeling ; they love London rather than the country, yet they hated it so much when it was under the proscription of fashion that they invented all sorts of ingenious lies to apologize for their presence. Strange inconsistency! that a man should deem it more respectable to be a liar than to be accounted poor; more strange still, that an Englishman, who boasts so much of his liberty, and resists with so much pertinacity the smallest encroachment upon his free agency,
should voluntarily become the slave of the most capricious of all despots-Fashion.
THE POET AMONG THE TREES.
Dar is the noblest tree that grows,
Its leaves are Freedom's type and herald ;
Of Literary-Fund Fitzgerald.
Willow's a sentimental wood,
And many sonneteer's, to quicken 'em,
Before Pope's Tusculum at Twickenham.
The birch tree, with its pendant curves,
Exciting many a sad reflection, Not only present praise deserves,
But our posterior recollection. The banyan, though unknown to us,
Is sacred to the eastern Magi. Some like the taste of Tityrus,
“ Recubans sub tegmini fagi.' Some like the juniper-in gin;
Some fancy that its berries droop, as Knowing a poison lurks within
More rank than that distill’d from th' Upas.
But he who wants a useful word,
To tag a line or point a moral,
To that inspiring tree the laurel.
In Rome and Greece, and many a far land, Like bravoš, murder'd for reward,
The settled price--a laurel garland,
On bust or coin we mark the wreath,
Forgetful of its bloody story,
That one might bear this type of glory.
'Cause his bald sconce had nothing on it, Knocking some millions on the head,
To get his own a leafy bonnet.
Luckily for the laurel's name,
Profaned to purposes so frightful, 'T'was worn by nobler heirs of fame,
All innocent, and some delightful. With its green leaves were victors crown'd
In the Olympic games for running, Who wrestled hest, or gallop'd round
The circus with most speed and cunning. Apollo crown'd with bays gives laws
To the Parnassian empyrean ;
Who ever dipp'd in Took's Pantheon.