Imatges de pÓgina

irreverently illustrated by one of his scholars by plucking a cock (probably a cochin-china), and turning him out in the lecture-room as "Plato's man;" some one else suggested "laughing," but was met by the case of the hyena. "Rational" was a characteristic which would obviously occur to many; but such a shallow definition could not stand for a moment before any one who had seen the learned pig, and compared him with some of his human visitors. It must have been a Briton who at last hit upon the happy conceit of man's being a "discontented" animal; that this was what our modern teachers call his normal state, and that such a term could not be truly predicated of any other creature under the sun. They might be discontented, it is true, accidentally, as the logicians have it; the cochin-china, for instance, with nothing to cover his ridiculous legs, the pig in a gate, the hyena in the zoological gardens; but discontent, pur et simple, was the high distinction of the nobler animal alone.

It seems a distinction never likely to be lost in our branch of the human family for want of due assertion. If, as palæontologists assure us, certain extinct species, alike in all their ordinary developments, are still distinguished from the existing type, and recognised at once and for ever as extinct species by some variety in the formation of the jaw, or distribution of the teeth, or equally minute but certain differences; and if time and climate seem to operate so wonderfully as to affect even the workings of nature, and induce her to modify the moulds of her original creation, so that the elephant of our days is not the elephant of the pliocene formation; and if ever the march of civilisation has a somewhat similar effect, and future generations can no longer show the bump of grumbling on their improved craniums; still, when the fossil Briton of the age of Blackwood's Magazine is dug up by that New Zealander (what a useful person he is!) he will assuredly carry some slight but distinctive mark in his conformation to vindicate his claim to a separate label in the museum as an undoubted “homo primigenius malecontentus."

"Why shan't I hiss?" says the free and independent Briton in the pit. "I've got a right to hiss; I've paid my money." This is the principle upon which a good many of us seem to go throughout life. "We are not here for amusement, or for pleasure; that's all very well; but we go for our rights: some people are weak enough to be gratified by the entertainment provided for us; they laugh and enjoy themselves, because they don't know better: but we see a good many hitches in the performance; it's not so good as we have seen-not so good as it ought to be: we flatter ourselves that we are rather good judges of this kind of thing; and the advantage of being a good judge, you see, is, that while you are delighted, we are disgusted. Let's hiss again-louder." There you have the free translation of a good deal of what passes for rather transcendental thinking. Take up any modern poet, and see whether he does not sing something after this tune. He is too wise for the world he lives in. He can see what you cannot-the snake in the grass, the poison in the flower. There was a time-before he was a poet-when his eyes, like yours, were blinded. He thought this world rather a pleasant place, in spite of many imperfections. But now--he pities you if you still think so that's all. Enjoy your innocent delusion; be happy, be contented, if such is your base nature. He forgives you, but he rather despises you: he could tell you a great deal, but you are not worthy of it; so he puts it all into some very fine language for you, and then it remains like a sibyl's oracle-musical and mysterious. Men are fond of murdering Hamlet, both on the stage and off it; there are plenty of aspirants to the character, with whose dispositions "it goes so heavily, that this goodly frame the earth seems a sterile promontory-this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, no other thing than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.'

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If ever, my excellent friend opposite - if ever this morbid gloom threatens to close in upon you, as perhaps it does upon us all sometimes,

let me beg you not to sit down and sentimentalise about it. If you have been indulging in too many of the good things of life, as is the case with a large class of discontented geniuses, take some blue pill. The world is not out of course-it's your liver; it's not philosophy-it's bile. Or rush vigorously up the highest hill you can find; mount Arthur Seat, or climb Snowdon, if within reach if it be your misfortune to live in a flat country, get up a tree or a churchtower. Get a higher view of life. Enlarge your mental horizon, and stretch your legs at the same time. Things will soon look very different. Or get on a good horse, if you are anything of a sportsman, and have a good burst after the hounds. Ride at everything: breaking your neck would not be of much consequence to yourself, in your present frame of mind, by your own admission; and probably of none at all to the public generally. You'll come home another man-if you don't come home on a hurdle. Or again, if you chance to have been living too low (a bad habit, unless it have the excuse of necessity), "indulge genio," take a few glasses of wine-champagne, if you can get it; even if not genuine Moet or Clicquot, it's not the juice of perdition (unless it be made of rhubarb); it has the merit, as we learn from good authority, of making glad the heart of man occasionally try its effect on yours. I am supposing you, remember, not to be fretting yourself about pitiful trifles, but to be indulging in that nobler form of discontent which is the purgatory, we are told, of superior minds-that miserable undefined feeling of life's being a burden and a weariness, which may generally be traced to a torpid state of the bodily functions; such a strange and humiliating truth it is-which we really should thank you philosophers to explain to us-that the body thus tyrannises over the spirit. Come, let me help you to a moral and physical remedy combined. If you have not the nerve to hunt, and champagne has long lost its charm, let us take a walk. Step out briskly, and never mind the dirt. There sits Bill Green

breaking stones; he is paid by the yard, and will make about one-andninepence if he works hard as long as the light holds. Go and talk to him a bit; he'll be pleased to be treated as a human being, though he loses perhaps a pennyworth of time by it; for he stops his hammer, out of courtesy, to answer you. "Cold work this stone-breaking by the roadside in November." Well, Bill admits it; it is cold, but "it's uncommon fine dry weather for the time of year." That's Bill's philosophy; that's how he boils his peas. There are sermons in stones, you see, even in our geological generation. Don't give Bill a tract in return; that excellent lady who has just passed by before us, in a carriage and pair, with crimson liveries and a very large coat-of-arms, has already given him one more than he can read. There it is, in Bill's hat; entitled the Stone-breaker, if you want to know-a very appropriate and taking allegory; Bill's heart being therein set forth in a figure as the stone, only harder-much harder. How came the lady to know? Suppose Bill now were to have an allegorical fit upon him, and take upon himself to spiritualise that charitable and fashionable party, with the bright liveries and fat horses, into some comparison with a certain other lady we have read of -in scarlet, and riding upon a beast,how would she like it? Bill has his regular parson already, and a longwinded Independent preacher at the meeting-house besides; why is he to be made a mark for amateur apostles to practise at? No-give him sixpence instead; fourpence-halfpenny will maintain him in the weed which his soul loveth for a week; and he can buy two tracts of his own selection, and somewhat less personal, if he prefers it, with the odd threehalfpence.

There's little Joe Twist going back to his work; he has to get up at five these cold dark mornings, and tramp two miles in the fog to Squashton Farm; but he has had his dinner now, and is as happy as a king. Listen!-he is whistling "Cheer boys, cheer"-admirably. He is but twelve years old, and he can drive a cart

ay, and plough" a bit ;" and you couldn't whistle half as well, and don't know the tune to begin with. And as to ploughing, Joe would give twopence, poor as he is, to see you at it; and Joe carried his little brother (he is two years younger, and keeps the pigs) the first mile on his back this morning, because he cried so with his chilblains (did you ever try to put on stiff half-dried boots, on a winter morning, with your feet all red blisters ?—that's worse than peas in your shoes, I can tell you). Do you suppose Joe makes himself miserable about life, or his little brother either? Not a bit of it. If you could only hear them as they come home along the road together at night, you would be surprised at the fun they have in them. They have got that receipt for boiling peas, too, from some merciful teaching which beats even the modern national schoolmaster; and he has a first-class certificate, and knows very nearly as much as he thinks he does, which is saying a great deal.

Do you feel at all better? Your eyes look brighter already. Come, step out. I'm not going to let you off a yard under ten miles. Stay look over that gate. There are three hearty young fellows playing skittles --for beer, I have more than a suspicion-and I am afraid they ought to be at work. For that matter, so perhaps ought you and I. We have both played at skittles too, or something worse, in our time, when we might have been doing better. Look how they enjoy it! Should you mind having a game yourself now, supposing the world and his wife were gone from home, you know? I shouldn't; but I had rather not drink the beer. It will never do for us two to sit in the seats of Minos and Rhadamanthus in judgment even over these poor scapegraces. They had far better be playing at skittles, and even drinking that vile publican's compound, than be sitting down grumbling over the evils of the state of life to which it has pleased Providence to call them. Suppose they do lose half a day's work; let us only trust Farmer Jobson, remembering his own delinquencies, will not turn them off for it. "It's a poor heart that never re

joices." That's their motto-and it contains as much wisdom, of a homely pattern, as many of the wise men's maxims.

So turn we homewards, for these days soon close in. There stands Mrs Green, at her cottage door, waiting for her Bill to come home from work. "Wretched, slatternly woman!" Now, why call her names? She is not your wife, remember. She is not that perfect model of elegance and propriety in personal or household arrangements which you have had the good fortune to secure. If she were, you don't suppose she would have married Bill Green, or have added very materially to his comfort if she had so far condescended. She would very soon have put poor Bill's pipe out, you may be sure. In his eyes, possibly, she is all that is desirable as she is. He prefers her in a negligée; or, shall we say, doesn't care much about it, provided the bacon and greens be hot. Coarse, but comfortable. She swore at Bill this morning, it is true, just before he went to work-a proceeding by no means to be defended; but remember, Mrs Rhadamanthus-oh no, never swears; certainly not; probably doesn't know how-but conveyed to you this same morning, in the most perfectly polite and ladylike language, her distinct impression that you were a brute, and will probably, as you know, preserve in consequence a dignified and injured demeanour all day; whereas Bill and his wife will both, by this time, have quite forgotten their little difference in the busy toil of their humble existence. Well, slatternly I think you called her; but the time which the charming mistress of your establishment spends in adorning her stately person, poor Molly has employed in "tidying up for a sick neighbour, and sat up with her half the night besides. It is difficult certainly, with our modern notions, to recognise any sacredness in dirt; but I confess, under the circumstances, I regard Mrs Green's dishabille with much greater reverence than I could ever have bestowed upon that under-garment of pious memory which St Somebody (I forget her name, and in any case should suppress it from motives of delicacy),

after wearing it changed for some fteen years bequeathed to the Kisses of the faithful

Don't mistake me ny alert and fastidious friend: it is not that I undervalue the delicacies and re£nements of life; I would not Lave Mire Green for my wife for any early BoLederation whatever; but I hold the understratumn of society to be a very necessary part of our Botal building We must neither with nor expect to find the high brish and the polish which we put very properly upon the upper works; and we ought to be very thankful to find it so sound and strong at bottom. If life be really a sore pilgrimage to any, it must surely be to these; and see Low easy and cheerfully they take it. We are very busy some of us just at present, in St Paul's and else where, with special missions and special services for the working classes; very excellent things if judiciously managed: we can teach them many things, no doubt, and it is well that we should; but there are a good many lessons on the other hand, and these not the least important, which we may well learn from them.

We may take it as a pretty certain symptom that we have not much to complain of in earnest, that we are all apt to fuss ourselves so much about trifles. The groans of the Britons are the highest possible tribute to the working of our national institutions. When you see the columns of the Times occupied with the letters of Paterfamilias about his coals about his beer-about the ten minutes he was detained so unwarrantably at Crewe Junction about the extra shillings which his heir apparent has to pay for knocking in late at Cambridge, and the half crown he was charged at Diddlum's hotel for that last beef steak -you may be pretty sure that, if you turn to the trade report" of the Bame date, you will find that things look lively at Birmingham-that the market is "quite cheerful" at Leeds

that there are no bread-riots at Manchester--and that, with wheat down to thirty-five shillings a quarter, farmers are the only grumblers. The broadsheets from Printing-house

Square had no room for hotel-bills and raway grievances on the 10th of April 1 At that date Paterfamilias was probably wielding a special constatue's staff instead of a goose-gol, and the thirsty soul" Darricacing Limself in his cellar. We Dever beard much about these sufferers wide we had the Russian war on our hands; when there is real distress in the bousehold, the most querulous children learn to hold their tetraes.

Look at some of the popular grievances of late years which these irritable old gentlemen, not content with exasperating themselves, have insisted on plaguing the public with. Take the crusade against street music. It disturbs them, forsooth! Disturbs who, or what Some conceited prig of an author hammering his brains over a production which, for his credit and his pocket's sake, he had better burn; some mathematician intent upon squaring the circle, or some nervous patient who dislikes a noise. Grant all the facts, that they are so disturbed; they are very small units in the city population, and we have no more right whatever, for their mere comfort and convenience, to stop the street band than we have to stop the street omnibus or Pickford's waggons. How are the little London boys to learn the airs out of the new operas if you stop the barrel-organs? They are much more popular, and every whit as useful, as two-thirds of the books we print, and the discoveries we announce so grandly. If ever any attempt is made to put these unfair and selfish restrictions upon one of the few innocent enjoyments (few enough they are !) open to the children of the streets, let us hope that our friends at St Paul's will not think it beneath their dignity to devote a little "special service" to this point also. Let us have the street-preacher by all means; but save us also the street-musician, even if one per annum of our city geniuses goes mad under the infliction. There was a war of much the same kind waged a year or two ago, against hoops on the pavement; they were found to be in the way of respectable elderly ladies, and the hoops, I am afraid,

have been banished in consequence; though, if the truth were known, it would be found also that elderly ladies, what with themselves, their poodles in a string, and occasionally their Bath-chairs, were much more in the way of the little boys; but then they, poor fellows, could not write to the Times on their side of the question.

What an exaggerated amount of indignation we have lately been pestered with, levelled against the French passport system!-more mischievous than ordinary grumblings in this, that there was an attempt evidently made to get up a national ill-feeling on the subject, which has happily been an utter failure. There never was, as a matter of fact, any difficulty on the subject, except to a select few, either determinedly obstinate or hopelessly stupid. And even if there had been, what right have we to complain of another nation's requirements as to its visitors? May not our police regulations appear to some foreigners equally vexatious, unnecessary, and ridiculous? What does our honest German friend say of us in his heart, when first he spells out that barbarous notice at London Bridge railway station-" Smoking strictly prohibited"? and when, after sitting in dudgeon for the first twenty miles of his journey, he discovers, by a director getting in with a cigar in his mouth, what this strict prohibition amounts to The Japanese ladies, we are told by our special correspondent," do their tubbing publicly at their street-doors, and enjoy at the same time the morning's gossip with their friends as they pass. Now imagine one of those pretty innocents taking lodgings in Regent Street, in the city of the western barbarians, and proceeding, without the slightest intention of giving offence, to do after the custom of her country. She would have policemen B 1 to 99 down upon her in no time; and if fortunate enough to escape being carried off straightway on a stretcher (covered with the sergeant's greatcoat) to the nearest lock-up, would at all events have it pretty severely impressed upon her that, in this land of boasted liberty, we are weak enough

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to insist, upon all such occasions, on
the most stringent precautionary
measures in the way of blinds and
curtains. Suppose, further, that this
unprotected female, thus inhospit-
ably treated, writes a statement of
her grievance to the Times (who, of
course, keep a Japanese scholar on
the strength of their establishment),
inveighing loudly against the dread-
ful state of morality in this country,
where even common cleanliness is
prohibited on the score of propriety?
I really don't see in what the cases
differ. The Fiji chief, if he will walk
along the Strand, must wear a shirt ;
it's a fancy of ours-a weakness per-
haps, but we insist upon it; if he
objects to comply with our police re-
gulations, he can stay at home. He
may eat his wife there, if he is very
fond of her; he mustn't here on any
account. These are the little draw-
backs to a residence in London. So
the French Emperor too has his
little prejudices.
A bit of paper
with Lord Malmesbury's seal and
autograph must be about your per-
son, if you wish to enjoy the baths
at Dieppe, or sun yourself on the
Boulevard des Italiens. It's of no
use, that's very true; a mere piece
of botheration (so is a shirt to a man
who is not used to it); but the cus-
toms of the country require it. There
is no more to be said, if you wrote
for a week on the subject. We don't
think the French Empire much the
safer for passports; perhaps neither
the Japanese nor the Fijian may
think the morality of London much
the better for its drapery.

But the fact is, that to some people, everything they don't happen to like is at once voted "an intolerable nuisance." Not having their share of the real hardships of this world, they compensate themselves by making the most of minor ones. To the Sybarite the crumpled rose-leaf might have been a real torment. Some people, having nothing better to annoy them, spend half their lives in scolding their servants, and all to no purpose, as they innocently assure you.

"It's no use speaking" of course it isn't, if it is only to say the same thing over and over again. Why waste breath and temper? If you have been unlucky enough to get

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