Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

is insupportable, yet your wife seems to en-| the “yo hoi” from the sailor-lad among the joy it. You wonder what is coming next. yacht-lines. Well, are these hours lost? Will it ever stop ? Do they know how de- We need not think that. They teach us lightful silence is at times? Did they not (what it surely is the final cause of July tell that story, correcting one another pre-watering-places to teach) the divine princicisely as now, at least twice before in your ple of leisure — that life is not altogether a hearing ? You feel the world becoming too pursuit — that there are golden hours in it coarse for a man of refinement and sensi- full of enrichment when we may

“ feed bility, and mourn over it in gloom. Why this mind of ours in a wise passiveness,” did you not half-an-hour ago give over that languid mental drudging? Why did you The grass hath time to grow in meadow-lands, not quietly (hurry would be certain failure) And leisurely the opal, murmuring sea read one chapter of the Vicar of Wakefield, Breaks on its yellow sands. or of Amelia, or of that delightful fiction, Sir Roger de Coverley, or of Jane Austen's And this is living indeed; we are following novels? If you had done this the world after nothing, not even enjoyment; we canwould gradually have come to rights; your not tell how it came to pass, “it seems that room would not appear so dark, nor your we are happy ;” we have paused for a little dooks so repellant, nor all your relatives so on our journey, at the wells, to drink, and very stupid. It would never have occured the rest has made us dreamy; and yet, to you that your life was a monotonous one, though we seek them not, great gains are made up of a great number of days each ours; they come to us of themselves, like like the other; it really is not so monoto- that physical balm and those quiet thoughts nous, with little children growing up about that come to us, while we lie cool and lanyou, hurting themselves and requiring sol- guid, satisfied for hours to watch half unace, saying every day some new, wise thing, consciously the changes of the light, after and effecting such extraordinary improve a long illness, in the first days of returning ments by stone walls, canals, and artificial health. But we cannot always get to the lakes, in your back-garden. Life would have grassy meadow or the yellow sands. And seemed not so miserable after all; your we should therefore be glad to have upon forehead would have cooled, and your eyes our shelves some books which may serve cleared, and your brain grown tranquil; as a partial substitute for these — books then, too, your voice would be softer, your which we read with no view to remote adwords less strictly to the point, and you vantages, over which we may linger restfulwould be giving your opinion, in quite an ly when we return home wearied and faint animated way, on that piece of family his- with the pursuing of the day.. A great tory which now appears so despicable. master in the philosophy of living wisely You are most blameworthy for the first and has spoken on this whole subject in a way casual offence refusal to amuse yourself worthy of himself, and of a heart, which if at the right time, consequent exhaustion of men would only believe the possession of nervous force with no adequate return of two things by one person possible, they work done, and pride in the thought that would see was as noble as his head. * It you were taking a great deal out of your was doubtless intended," wrote Bishop Butself.

ler, in his first sermon upon the love of After work, which is a pursuit, quiet en- God,“ that life should be very much a purjoyment, which is a possession, brings us ad- suit to the gross of men. But this is carried so vantages beyond itself. Let us go into the much farther than is reasonable, that what green inland fields in early summer, and ly- gives immediate satisfaction, i. e., our presing on the grass with face upturned watch ent interest, is scarce considered as our inthe white cloudlets float idly overhead, or terest at all. It is inventions which have turn to look at the merry black spiders only a remote tendency towards enjoyment, scampering in the blades, while the cuckoo perhaps but a remote tendency towards is heard at once far off and near, and the gaining the means enly of enjoyment, which breezes come cool over our bodies. Or let are chiefly spoken of as useful in the world.” us go down a month later to the sea-beach, Innocent enjoyment, how good a thing it and listen to the waves breaking and break- is ! It keeps the temper sweet, and, when ing on the shore all the July hours, and see it is mixed with love and thankfulness and the sunlight sleep on the water, and hear sunny days, brings us some of that spirit of the sound of the sail swung round, brought pure, gentle, and peaceable wisdom wbich we gently with the lazy lapping, and sucking, might aptly name after Izaak Walton. And and swishing about the weedy stones, and he of all men perhaps knew best what lei

99

sym

sure was, and must have done his business yet been offered no satisfactory solution of even in a quiet, old-fashioned way. There the great problem of convalescence, --- how were no monster shops in those days, and to hold a book, and turn the pages, without his in Cheapside was only seven feet and a letting your nursetender suspect there is danhalf in length; but that house was doubt- ger of catching cold. It is best to allow less the place he lived in, his home, and some one to read to you aloud ; and if you therefore we do not hear that he ever called have ever so done yourself for one who was it a “concern or an “establishment.” He very dear, you will know that the reader's enjoyed many pleasant hours in it, we may enjoyment is often greater than the listenbe sure, reading Drayton's Polyolbion, and er’s. And there is surely some one who Silvester's translation of Du Bartas; and will not think it hard to leave the drawingsometimes he could leave it for a day, or room and the music (you cannot hear it) several days, to wander with “honest Nat and the talk for your sake, to come to your and R. Roe” along the edge of green fields, bedside, and make the pillows cool, and read rods in hand, like honest fishermen, pitying in a clear, sweet voice the books you like, the “poor rich men ” who grudged them- for an hour or thereabout, till the darkness selves a rest, listening to the milkmaid's falls, and you, knowing it may be done with song, and bringing their braces of trout in a good conscience, and no ingratitude, have the evening to some country inn, where the dropped away to sleep. ale was good, and the sheets were fragrant But on the whole (to bring together all with lavender. And innocent enjoyment the conditions of delight), you will enjoy a is a good for ever. It does not die with the novel most if you are in health, resting after passing day. Often, years after, the re- work, with a prospect of continued rest, unmembrance of a single moment — when we der golden five-and-twenty rather than over reached a bill top and suddenly beheld the it, and if you read the novel aloud, in the sea, when we found in latter February or summer, in the country, to a small but early March the first spring-flowers, when pathetic circle of hearers. And there exist, we listened to the gladness of some pure not only in the fictions, but in every shire soprano air, or the storm of choral passion of real England, so many hospitable Uncle

- the remembrance of this comes upon us Georges, so many kind Aunt Janes, and so with a keen thrill of pleasure, almost as it many agreeable cousins, that all the above first seemed in the nerves themselves, – conditions may probably be realized if you

but

say “yes” when they ask you down in Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart, midsummer, from the grey walls and now And passing even into the purer mind deserted quadrangles of college, upon a visit With tranquil restoration.

of indefinite length. The change is a great

and pleasant one. The delightful rambling Doubtless the remembrance of the enjoy- old house! What shadows of leafy boughs ment we have had from literature (from sway upon your blind at night! What poetry even) is a much less rapturous pleas- whispering there is of rippled grass when ure than these ; but, on the other hand, it you open your window in the morning! is much less evanescent, and more easily The cream is wonderful. The little pats of reproducible, and when the original enjoy- cool pale butter are admirable works of art. ment was heightened by sympathy, the It is pleasant to see the calves feed – those pleasure of the remembrance -even the creatures with soft liquid eyes, and lips that remembrance of an hour's novel-reading - drip as they pause to give one another's may reach a point of considerable eleva- ears a fraternal lick. And though at first tion.

you were taken a little aback by the pumTo realize the maximum of delight de- ber of Heros and Neros and Gertys and rivable from novel-reading several unfavour- Flirts, you soon find out their distinctive able circumstances have to be excluded. personality, and learn the character of every You must not be solitary; you must not be living thing, down to the gander and the old (the delicate haze of morning should turkey-cock. Then you are supposed to give some mystery to life ); you must on have been killing yourself with work, and no account be married ; and conscience are gravely exhorted to the duty of idling must not once say that you ought to be at for a little. To which exhortations you, work. A little indisposition which keeps with a gentle remonstrance (implying their you for a day or two in bed will sometimes general futility, with a willingness to resign not detract from your pleasure; only it your most ardent desires, for once, to be must not be such as to require your hands obliging), allow yourself to yield. There is to remain under the clothes, for there has a general impression that you have lately obtained a fellowship or two, or at least | spécialité of the house — which in course of something which proves you to be (as you preparation fill the room with an indefinaoverheard your maiden aunt telling the rec- ble distant peachy odour; the maiden aunt tor's wife') " a remarkably clever young nods visibly in the arm-chair, only asserting man.” You ride with your cousins Fanny her wakefulness at times by preternaturally and Lucy one day, and with your cousins intelligent questions; and now she is fairly Emily and Anne the next, a horse being gone; you are left clearly monarch of all always ready for you to keep you from you survey, with the sense of being a mag“those books” You interest yourself in the nificent monarch too, and of diffusing pleasparish feuds, espou-ing the family cause in ure amongst your subjects with generous the great stray-donkey question. You dis- self-sacrifice. cuss Tennyson and Longfellow, and even But the essential prerogative of novelgive esoteric teaching, to a select school of reading as a relaxation is, that one can enone, in the mysteries of Robert Browning. joy it anywhere, and at almost any time You wonder why the “ Psalm of Life is when enjoyment is possible. If one is seaunderlined and marked so emphatically in sick, or has the tooth-ache, or has a suit in young ladies' volumes of poetry

are they chancery, of course there is nothing for it all going to leave “ footprints on the sands but to be as miserable as possible, and get of time?or has the inarking here a hid- some satisfaction in that way. And it is den reference to the curate, whose soul, its some satisfaction to believe oneself by far sorrows and its aspirations are known to the most unfortunate, ill-used, unhappy perEmily? You throw off free expositions of son in the world; it is a source of great dig. the more trying passages of " In Memoriam ;” nity. The man who got miserrimus cut and then, to test your cousins' critical upon his tombstone must have had one acumen, you read as a recently published pleasure all his own, when he reflected how poem of the Laureate's your own verses on far below him the poor folk were who knew * Youth and Love;” which having in sim- only the positive and comparative degrees ple faith been received and admired, the of wretchedness; and was it not Mrs. Pulgirls rise in your esteem and you confess the let's chief support under the aflictions of innocent deceit. You visit the dairy, and life to remember that she had consumed help tho:e dainty little feet over the slob- more bottles of medicine than any woman bery yard. You return and take part in in the parish? But nearly every one who the duets of Mendelssohn, or listen to sonatas has the capacity of happiness in him is caof Beethoven. And, last, you suggest that pable of being made happier by a pleasant if it be generally approved, and if a num- book. Croquet is a very charming game, ber of imaginary objections, which ingeni- but you cannot croquet on a winter's eveously indicate your thoughtsulness, are of no ning in the parlour. Advertisements tell weight, you will begin the first volume of us that some inventive tradesman will supSomebody's Secret,"or" Legacy,"or“Small ply ladies and gentlemn with skates that House," or of “ James and I,” or “ John Jenk- run upon a drawing-room carpet. But unins,” or “ How did he get it ? ” — the great less the mistress of the drawing room be novel of the day. A leap-up in all the possessed with a generous desire to further voices is sullicient evidence that the sugges. The manufactures of Kidderminster or Brustion is an agreeable one, the considerate sels, she will probably object to this popuFanny only, after crying, “ O do, Charley,” lar in-door amusement. An enthusiastic reminding her sisters in a faint way that cricketer- a college friend of the writer's perhaps Charles had rather be reading his was, he remembers, many years since, books. You generously declare your readi- often to be seen of a morning, in pink shirt ness to sacrifice the afternoon. Whereupon and cap, bowling against a Liildell and Scott ensues an impromptu round or catch, well set up in the corner of his chamber. But, converted and sustained, “ Wait one moment after ail, these eminent lexicographers were till I bring my work. Wait till I bring my unsatisfactory bats, and too invaribly alwork, one moment;" and before the girls lowed themselves to be taken by a “ twisreturn with the Berlin-wool, the anti-macas- ter." There are many people to whom sar, the cro 'het-edging, and the Dorcas whist is now a mystery, and in a company rudimentary you-know-not-what, you have, of six nominally well-educated persons (may without question, been pronounced "such a these words not reach thine ear, dear shade good fellow !" instead of the shabby bum- of Sarah Battle !) one may be reduced to bug that you are. Your uncle is in the double-dummies. And then, which of all five-acre with the dogs ; your aunt is super- these pleasures will make the hours pass, intending some wonderful preserves- a wben a wet day finds you on your summer

ramble among the lakes and mountains, not Fanny say to Anne not to mind Charand the length of grey cloud, and the inces- ley, for she knows he does not believe half sant sound of the rain-fall forbid one foot- he says ?” And it is certainly trying to step over the threshold ? If you are wise find yesterday evening's conversation so you will forget on such days that it is July well remembered, when you admitted there or August, call for a fire in your bedroom, were some men whose first love is the love and order all the books in the house to be of all their lives, and philosophized at large sent up. And sometimes your good fortune on the subject in a much sounder strain, will surprise you. In a wild corner of Ire- arguing (after De Quincey) that a succesland, who could have expected to find a sion of passiuncles exhausts the soil of the volume of the Calcutta Magazine for 1810, heart and impairs the capacity for genuine the hymns of Mr. Wesley, the Adventures and profound emotion. But you will reof an Atom, and, best of all, a tattered copy tract nothing, and maintain, against much of Waverley? In such company a man is opposition, the consistency of all that you superior to fate, and may laugh at the have put forth. Till, finding yourself senweather. And if a thunderstorm should tenced to separation for heresy from all ever keep the reader housed in the valley cousinly communion during an indefinite of the Aar, at Reichenbach, let him know period of time, your contumacy gives way, that there is to be found in the dining-room and you profess a sincere desire for restorabook-case, beside many other works of in- tion, with a readiness to undergo any apterest, a German version of the letters of pointed penance after tea, whether it be that true English gentleman, Sir Charles listening to Beethoven upon the sofa, or Grandison, and of the Honourable Miss going on with the novel, or holding skeins Harriet Byron. Get far into it while the of Berlin wool on outstretched hands, while rain sweeps down the bill-sides, and keep the soft yarn glides under and around and all the while at the bottom of your heart an over, with a silent rhythm, or requires the assurance that the sun will shine bright to- approach of dainty fingers and two serious morrow on the descending, rocket-like eyes to release it from its deep entangleshoots of the falls, and the delicate azure of ments. How refined is the casuistry of the Rosenlaui ice-field. And let us all these little moralists — the subtle, angelical, thank these novel-writers for the many seraphic little doctors ! What eloquent pleasant hours they have given us, and for pleaders they become when you arraign their preserving weather-bound travellers some favourite hero who loved not wisely, from a multitude of sins — grumbling, dis- but too well! What charitable distinccontent, ill-temper, and (before dinner) de- tions they discover! What store of recontermined misanthropy.

dite motives they suggest! How high a To come to another point, you must now standard of morality they establish for suppose the last entire paragraph a paren- uncles and hard-hearted guardians! Many thesis, and suppose that, dusk having fallen, of the thinkers of modern times have learnthe cousins' hands lie idle on their laps, and ed more of dialectic, of psychology, of you have finished your reading aloud. In ethics, from such conversations as these the conversation which immediately ensues (this is literally true), than from all the you may learn something of the manner in Summa Theologiæ of Aquinas. which ihat important system of female Seriously, we do want something to talk ethics, and that transcendental female about, some personal themes not incentive Philosophy of the Affections, with which of that sprightly malice (not to speak of we are all familar, are developed and the “ malignant truth or lie”) and that tellbrought to perfection. If the hero of your tale gossip which leaves so bitter an afternovel has only made himself miserable taste on the lips of any kind or thoughtful enough, and remained unflinchingly con- person. It is not a pleasant thing to blush stant, from the middle of the first volume when we are alone. It is a very painful till the naughty uncle is found dead over his thing to long keenly and in vain to undo a ledger, and the will all right, in the last moment's ill-work of the tongue, the shame chapter but one, why, then he must bave and sorrow of idle words, - that hasty been a hero indeed. And when you, with piece of injustice, that repetition of what a sbadowy reminiscence of some article in was intended to be uttered but once, that. a recent Saturday Review, insinuate the exaggeration indulged at the expense of low doctrine that a man may have two truth and simplicity of mind, that sudden sincere attachments at once, or at least in a betrayal of the heart to an impulse of single lifetime, are you not peremptorily vanity, that unfortunate speech' meant commanded not to be horrible," and does merely to fill a gap in conversation, but which wrung the nerves of some listener you about Tom, or darling Arthur. And as sharply as if it had been purposely bru- you may talk freely of them all. These tal. There is an awkwardness, and a pain- patient shadows do not readily take offence. ful acknowledgment of either intellectual The most litigious of them will never bring indigence or want of mutual sympathy, you before a jury for slander. Here is a when we discuss the weather three times brave world, where you may walk about, on the same evening. But two novel-read- and take your pleasure, and see life. The ers who have not yet grown old, and have small and the great are here, kings and therefore life enough to dispense some of it counsellors of the earth, and crossing-sweepon imaginary creations, – these happy ers, and beggar-maids. And you undertalkers have always subjects of conversa- stand them so thoroughly. Shadows ! tion, rich with human interest, and opening they are as real to us as most men and constant opportunities for an interchange women, infinitely more real than many of opinions on the philosophy and the of the unknown creatures whose smooth causistry of life. Such themes did Words- clothes and smooth faces we see perhaps worth love best, and if the dearest were — every day of the year, never getting at the

hearts of them ; or those persons

whom we The gentle lady married to the Moor,

might understand were we a little less eager And heavenly Una with her milk-white lamb, to classify them, had we not made such com

plete and consistent characters for them, one who knew him well has told us that the on the leading-passion or some such theory, poet could be happy in less divine company in our own dramatic imaginations. than Shakspeare's, and in a less ethereal And here we may take notice of a gain, world than Fairyland, loved Fielding well, perhaps the greatest gain, we can hope to and doubtless included in his personal derive from a novel. This dramatizing imthemes some which we surely have not for- agination of ours has its uses. Nay, without gotten the Adventures of Partridge, and it life could not be a spiritual thing at all. Tom Jones, and Parson Adams, and Sophia Stimulated by love, and reacting upon love, Western, and the Squire, and Amelia, and it is the very soul of sympathy. It is the Captain Booth. How many friends these interpreter of man to man. Every action novelists have given us whose doings and of our fellows is for us inhuman, merely sayings we may pleasantly remind one mechanical, until we have ourselves put a another of, applaud, and censure, and laugh soul behind it, until indeed we have played over, and grow tender to think of, even the dramatist, and become for a moment when the book has lain dusty on our the man before us: and every action of ours shelves for months and months. One had is for others, until they have done the like, rather lose sight of a good many of one's inhuman and mechanical. Uninterpreted acquuintances than of that homely Wake- by this wise, imaginative sympathy, our field family. One had rather have a good alms-deed is only so many pence, and a many doors closed on one than the door of motion of the muscles of the face; interpretthat hospitable little vicarage. Every room ed, that motion stands for all the yearning of it we know, we have seen the mantel- with which our heart cries, though our lips piece with the epitaph over it of the mono- are silent, “O my brother, O my poor sisgamist's only wife; the walls adorned with ter, I love, I pity you.". This is a case in pictures of Sophy's and Livy's own design- which no one could be dull enough to miss ing; the bed "those boys” that got a lump the meaning of man to man. But in the of sugar each gave up to Mr. Burchell; and multitude of cases, subtler than this, the the closet where Deborah kept her goose- habit of ready, faithful, and charitable inberry wine. Nor should we like to forget terpreting of man and woman by fellow-man the Dominie Sampson, nor Jeanie Deans, and woman has been, we must believe, too nor Colonel Newcombe, nor old Dob, nor feebly exercised. Surely were it otherMark Tapley, nor Mrs. Gamp. A goodly wise there would be more of tenderness, company!. Are you over-grave ? Here more of thoughtful kindness, more of muare merry people for you. Would you be tual forbearance, more of charity; and less quiet? Keep away the terrible folk who of hardness, less of ineffective goodwill, less •visit your sick-room in obstreperous boots, of mutual interference, less of censorioussit upon your bed-clothes, exhort you to ness. With some happy souls, indeed, this cheer up, and maintain that you require to interpretation is a native power; they are be roused ; and call some of these gentle, the geniuses in social life or in literature, tender people — Ruth Pinch if you will, diffusing without an effort happiness and or Mrs. Pendennis, to sit by you, and tell light; but with most of us it is in great

« VorigeDoorgaan »