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REVELATIONS OF A SHOWMAN.
We have often regretted that the ling, and maintaining a considerable inimitable author of Gil Blas has not position in society, on account of the given us, in his entertaining volumes, wealth amassed by such very equivoa minute and detailed biography of cal proceedings. that ingenious personage, Ambrose de It is, we think, a most desirable Lamela. Ho appears but too rarely thing, that in all works of fiction, in the pages of that excellent romance, whether high or low, there should be and we are rather tantalised than sa a distinct development of the Nemesis, tistied by the glimpses which we are or retributive power—that vice or permitted to obtain. Rigid persons fraud, however exhibited, should not may object to certain of his actions as be portrayed as finally triumphantslightly latitudinarian, but we are left but that each action, according to its in no doubt as to his principles. If, merit or demerit, should have its profrom some unexplained confusion in per moral consequence, and produce his ideas, he decamped with his mas. its legitimate effect. What interest ter's portmanteau two days after could any of us find in Bluebeard, if entering his service, he had previously popular tradition had allowed old Inmade a visit to church, " where he digo to chop off Fatima's head, to hurl had been, to return thanks to heaven the screaming sister Ann from the for having preserved him from all heights of the bartisan, and to impale evil accidents on the road from Burgos the avenging brothers on the stake? even unto Valladolid." A little later, Is it not an immense relief to our feelwe find him levying contributions on ings when, in the concluding act of the country, in the disguise of an ab- the melodrama, Jack, who is supposed staining anchorite ; next, he puts on to be far away at sea, perhaps whitenthe garments of an Inquisitor, and ing the corals of the Pacific Ocean makes free with the ducats of a Jew; with his bones, darts upon the stage afterwards, being convinced of the all alive and hearty, at precisely the iniquity of cheating, he becomes a right pick of time, and scores with his Carthusian monk, and is advanced to cutlass the skull of that villanous a place of trust in the convent; and smuggler, who, after having impugned finally, towards the close of the ro- his fidelity, is now proceeding to take mance, we find him, in consequence of liberties with the disconsolate and a relapse from the ways of virtue, despairing Poll? Rely upon it, there walking in procession to the pile as is a fine moral stratum at the base one of the victims of an auto da fé. of the popular heart. Even thieves To this sad fate, Le Sage, though by and housebreakers will admit that the no means the most austere of moralists, reputation of Jack Sheppard would thought fit to condemn his pattern of have been lessened, and the profesthe hypocritical rogue ; nor, though sional glories of David Haggart have we admit the ingenuity of Ambrose, been dimmed, had not these illustrious and are vastly tickled by the account individuals consummated their career of his depredations—though we ad. upon the gallows. We cannot do mire his dexterity in gulling the pub- without our moral. Some of the lic, and acknowledge tbe aptitude of dramatists, such as Beaumont and the means which he employed-can Fletcher, Dryden, Congreve, and we find fault with the author for his others, attempted to reverse the rule, measure of retributory justice. On the and to exhibit vice as triumphant. contrary, we should have felt rather Posterity has righteously judged them shocked bad we been compelled to for their offence, and has dismissed take leave of Ambrose in the charac- them with ineffable disgust to a limbo ter of a grandee and millionaire, en- from which there is no return. riched by the proceeds of his swind- Passing from the domain of fiction,
The Life of P. T. Barnum. Written by Himself. London : Sampson Low, Son, & Co. 1855.
VOL. LXXVII.—NO. CCCCLXXII.
and entering the territory of history, we which they never bad lost, but which, find but few instances of rogues openly on the contrary, had been acquired in congratulating themselves upon the a manner, and through a process, not success of their roguery, and confi- quite creditable to their own morality. dently demanding from the public ap- Adventurers there have been in all plause and congratulation. Haggart, ages, who, calculating upon the into whom we have already alluded, exhaustible score of credulity containdid certainly, wbile under sentence of ed in the public reservoirs, have turndeath, compile or dictate a biography, ed that superabundance to their profit. in which his various misdemeanours The world bas known quacks of all were palliated with excusable leniency; degrees, from Cagliostro of the diabut then he never denied the justice mond necklace down to St John Long of the sentence, nor attempted to of the cabbage leaves, and doubtless maintain that predatory courses were it will know many more; but up to the best qualification for honour and the present time adventurers, quacks, distinction in this world, or for happi- and other impostors have been chary ness in that to come. Vidocq, the of their confessions. Some, having French police spy and informer, has achieved their end and made their given us some curious revelations; but fortunes by unscrupulous practices he does not exhort others to adopt instead of bonest industry, have setthe same line of business, neither are tled down into respectable obscurity, his antecedents likely to allure many and even changed their names, in followers. Ten years have elapsed order to escape an unenviable notosince the railway mania was at its riety. Others have attempted to height, and yet we are without any brazen out their impostures, and authentic memoir of a “stag." Doubt have maintained to the very last less, some of these agile beings must that they were in truth and in reality have escaped the general“ tinchel" what they represented themselves to or demolishment of their race; but no be; and the same credulity which survivor has had, as yet, the hardi- supported them when alive has gained hood to tell us how he imposed upon them posthumous adherents. But it a credulous public-by what nefarious was reserved for our age and generameans he inveigled victims to buy tion to be requested to honour a man his worthless scrip at an astounding who, after having practised, by his premium-or how he emerged, in the own confession, innumerable deceppossession of a plum, from the general tions upon the public-after having wreck of bankruptcy. We believe, fleeced them so successfully that he with Shakespeare, that this kind of has already, though but in middle life, creature has fine feelings of his own; realised a large fortune-has the asand that the tears" have coursed toonding audacity to make a full redown his innocent nose," not by any velation of his practices; representing means on account of his own losses, himself, at the same time, as an but from a due sense of Christian com- eminently moral and religious charmiseration for the fate of multitudes acter, and absolutely closing his book whom he had swindled. That every with an expression of his gratitude to one should put some flattering unction heaven for the blessings which have to his soul, for every misdeed which been showered upon him! he has committed, is natural and com- Mr Phineas Taylor Barnum is, we mon. The gold-fever, at the period are thankful to say, not a native of this to which we allude, was so universal country. If he is, as the preface to that it may almost be styled an epi- the English edition of bis Life advises demic; and therefore we are the less us, “ essentially a popular man in his inclined, perhaps entitled, now to own country"-- America-we cannot challenge the erratic movements of form any exalted idea of the standard those "dumb denizens of the forest." of morals which prevails among our They are, at all events, quiet; and Transatlantic brethren. But we do not, reversing the parable, call rather apprehend that the writer of the their neighbours, and kinsfolk, and said preface is by no means a master the public in general, to rejoice with of synonymes, and that he confounds them over certain pieces of silver, “popular," which is one thing, with
" notorious," which is another. Dando, tense delight the arrival of a caravan the oyster-eater, was decidedly noto- of wild beasts occasioned. There, on rious, but we never heard him describe the Mound of Edinburgh, stood the ed as popular; and we doubt much mysterious quadrangle of waggons, whether Barnum has any more title with a huge and somewhat incongruthan Dando to the latter epithet. The ous picture of lions, tigers, panthers, great predatory consumer of the bi- leopards, wolves, and boa-constrictors, valves left behind bim no autobiogra- making their way towards some comphy. Had he done so, we are sure mon centre-piece of carrion; whilst that, in the words of the preface, pelicans were seen ladling up bucket"the career of such a potability must fuls of fish; and macaws, with bills present details of much interest, with like pickaxes, were smiting into the lessons of practical wisdom ;' and as hearts of cocoa-puts. But what were Dando was really a genius in his way, the outward depicted glories to those we can hardly doubt that his adven- of the interior? Wretched paint! tures, had be chosen to relate them, Our shilling paid, or rather paid for would have been quite as interesting us by a sympathising relative, we as Barnum's. Both of them adopted walked into the menagerie with a far as their motto and rule of life, from more excited feeling than any middlean early age, the apothegm of ancient aged traveller experiences when he Pistol:
first catches a glimpse of Timbuctoo. “ Why, then the world's mine oyster,
Strange and wildly tropical was the Which I with sword will open.”
commixed odour of the sawdust, am
monia, and orange-peel. An undeBut Dando was a straightforward fined sensation of terror seized us on creature; and, being unskilled in the trap-stair, wbile descending into tropes, interpreted the passage lite- the interior of the caravan ; for a rally, and confined his efforts to the hideous growling, snarling, hissing, crustaceæ; whereas Barnum, having baying, barking, and chattering, warntbe Vestiges of Creation in his eye, ed us that the inmates were upon the considered man in the light of a de- alert, and between the entrance and veloped oyster, and attacked the the quadrangle there seemed danger figurative mollusc. But how his ac- of a protruded paw. But-once in knowledged and vaunted success in what a spectacle! There was “Nero," this enterprise should render him the indulgent old lion, who would " popular, " we really are at a loss to stand any amount of liberties—into conceive. Dando was not popular whose cell you might go, safely as aneither with oysters or oyster-venders- other Androcles, for the moderate fee does the higher state of development of half-a-crown, and pluck with imnecessitate a lower tone of the moral punity the beard that erst had swept sentiment?
the sands of the Sahara. But in those Seriously-we have not read, for a days nobody gave us two-and-sixlong time, a more trashy or offensive pence to make the experiment; and, book than this; and we should not have sooth to say, we would rather have considered it worthy of the least notice expended the money, if offered, in the had we merely looked to the intrinsic purchase of nuts and gingerbread, for merits of its contents. But it is worth the monkeys, racoons, and the dearlynoticing as a satire upon all of us; and beloved elephant. What a nice beast we hope it may have the effect—very that elephant was, and wbat an appedifferent from what its author intended tite he possessed! From nine in the - of opening the eyes of the public, for morning till six in the dewy eve, his some little time at least, to the shame- trunk was a mere vehicle for cakes, of less exhibitions which have become which he must have swallowed as matter of regular trade and specula- many as ought to have deranged the tion. In saying this, we are so far digestion of a ragged school; and yet, from maķing a reficction upon bonest when the ordinary pasture-hour apshowmen, that we are really advocat. proached, the upappeased devourer ing their interests. In the days of trumpeted with his proboscis, and our boyhood there were no zoological absorbed as many carrots as would gardens; and we remember what in- have made broth for the army of the Titans. Then there was " Wallace," But we cannot extend our com-styled, par excellence, the Scottish mendation to the traffickers in human lion-a rampant, reddish-maned ani. excrescence and abortion. They are mal, who, though whelped in the not one whit better than slave-dealers; North, retained all the ardour and nay, in some respects, they are posipassion of the Libyan blood, was char- tively worse. We might be brought acteristically tenacious of his dignity, to tolerate a fellow who should adelevated his tail in defiance, and would vertise an exhibition of spanking not tolerate the affront of being roused Georgians or Circassians; for beauty by the application of the long pole. bas its allurements, and we never yet Horrid, with his demon eyes, lay knew the man who would not like to couchant the awful form of the royal get a peep at the interior of the SulBengal tiger, for whose innate ferocity tan's seraglio. But beauty is no rewe needed not the vouchment of the commendation at all to the modern keeper. Never shall we forget the caitiffs of the caravans. They look ecstasy of fear that came over as, out systematically for deformity, and when the prowler of the Hoogley, earn their degraded beer through the waking up from some pleasant reverie medium of the mishaps of nature. of masticated Hindoo, directed his What advantage, what pleasure, what glassy stare right at our chubby coun- information can any one gather from tenance, and gave utterauce to his an interview with a blinking Albino, approval of our condition by a sup- whose eyes are as red as those of a pressed growl, accompanied by a lick- ferret, and whose hair, ostentatiously ing of his grisly chaps, and a display combed over her shoulders, is as white of the most tremendous fangs! Need as the snow on Ben-Nevis? What we be ashamed to confess that we re- charm can the most ardent votary of coiled from the dangerous proximity Bacon find in the conversation of the with a scream of abject terror; and, Pig-faced Lady? What coalitionist in doing so, came within sweep of the could brave the disgust engendered trunk of our former friend, the ele- by a survey of the Pie-bald Girl ? phant, who, possibly conceiving that We do not object to a certain degree our cap contained inexhaustible stores of en-bon-point in females; but, when of gingerbread, picked it from our they surpass the weight of twenty head, and instantaneously added it to stone in the scales, they are anything the miscellaneous contents of his sto- but pleasant to look on. As we never mach? Then there were at least happened to fancy one of the Caryahalf-a-dozen leopards, leaping over tides, we may be excused for abeach other in fun, as though they staining from worship at the enorwere the most innocent creatures in mous feet of the Swiss Giantess; and the world; and hyænas with their a sneeze, rather than a sigh, is our everlasting snarl; and shaggy wolves; tribute to the Hottentot Aphrodite. and, 0, such a magnificent grizzly We object to giants quite as strongly bear, brought direct from the Rocky as did Jack of Cornwall. They are, · Mountains! We need not speak of the generally speaking, a knock-kneed, serpents, who, poor devils, spent most ill-made, ungainly, unshapely, and of their time under blankets, and preposterously stupid section of morseemed to survey with perfect indif. tals, who are only superior to the ference the rabbits who were muoch- standard population in respect of & ing greens beside them ; nor of the few inches, to which cork soles do conostrich, good to swallow a peck of siderably contribute, and they are of twopenny nails, if not to furnish head- an ogre-like appetite. Look at one of gear to a lady from its somewhat be- them, and wbat do you see to admire? draggled plumage ; nor of the zebra, Has he the form of an Apollo, the whom we greatly coveted for a pony. front of a Jove, or even the brawn of There can be no doubt whatever that a Hercules ? Nothing of the sort. the ambulatory menageries were most He is shaped like the monster in valuable schools for instruction in Frankenstein - his forehead is vil. natural history; and therefore we re- lanously low-and the calves of his gard with reverence the names of legs, from long confinement, are as Wombwell and of Polito.
of a well-kicked football. Then look and the boys are ready, if need be,
We repeat, that showmen, in their fesses to love publicity, he shall have legitimate sphere, have our entire it, at least in so far as lies in our power. sympathy. They have done, in their It would be cruel to deny to such a own line, good service to the State, distinguished and indefatigable aspirand we hope they may continue to do ant any of the honours of the pillory. so. Even the humblest penny show, While saying this, however, we by with no more apparatus than a mag- no means pledge ourselves to give him nifying glass, through which is seen a a regular review. Allfish are not worth tolerable view of Paris, Rome, or St the gutting; and really Barnum prePetersburg, tends to give new and sents to us such a superabundance of more extended ideas to thousands of garbage, that we are compelled to exour rural population. A lecture from ercise a due discretion. Therefore we Lord John Russell upon the Consti- sball pass over, without any especial tutional History of England has im- potice, the family-tree of the illustrious measurably less effect on the popular Barnums, merely remarking that the mind, than the poor engine, resembling plant in question had its roots in the an organ in atrophy, which yonder state of Connecticut. Nor need we plodding mendicant carries upon his bother ourselves much with the inshoulders; for within it there are pic- fantine recollections of our Scapin, tures of the death of Nelson at Tra- wbose precocious genius for money. falgar, the final charge at Waterloo, making was exhibited at the early age and the coronation of our beloved of six, when he commenced business Queen, which will make youthful on his own account, or rather by his own hearts bound and throb with a sensa. account, as a manufacturer and vender tion of patriotism and loyalty, more of molasses-candy, gingerbread, and estimable by a thousand times than cherry-rum. This is pretty well to the dull assent of dotards to the effete begin with. The young purveyor who, prosing of a Whig. And, before the at six years, was at once a confectioner, year is out, there will be, in every cook, and distiller, and made large village and hamlet, representations of profits on each branch of trade, is alAlma and of Inkermann, battles in most as good a subject for a heroic which Jack, Tom, and Harry have bymn from a Yankee Homer, as was not merely an historical but a real llermes, whose predatory exploits, family interest; for in the one a father four-and-twenty hours after he was was engaged, and in the other a born, have been celebrated by the blind brother was wounded, and the na- old man of Scio's rocky isle. By the tional quarrel has become their own, way, we should like to know what