Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[graphic]

а

warm

into the sky again for courage. “I

From Chambers' Journal, came to do battle for your daughter," SOME LANDLADIES OF FICTION. he said slowly, “and kill you if you

We have, most of us, at some period would be standing too stiffly in my

or other of our lives, taken up a temway, and lay waste your territory, and bear a bride to my own place with porary abode in lodgings, and have thus the pride and renown of triumph at

become acquainted with the landlady arms. But now it is to be seen that

of real life, whom we have probably

found to differ somewhat from her conI have come upon a fool's quest, and this would make a mock of me, and a

ventional portrait. In the pages of mark for the derision of old women

fiction she was, more often than not, and simpletons, if you did not be speak

forbidding of aspect and grasping of ing the wisdom of age to me, and show

disposition, with many of the unamiable ing me the courtesy of a high station. traits of the shark. She was inexorable And this gives me

heart

as to the punctual settlement of her toward you, and I look upon you with little bill—which, however, somehow althe tears of a son's fondness in my

ways managed to attain very considereyes. And if it is pleasing to you,

able dimensions. She was often the you shall take the place of my father, possessor of a cat, with a fine appetite and you shall come with me, and sit in

for cold mutton, and a nice taste in tea. the seat of honor at my feasts, and From an interview with her, the lodger all my people will be bowing low to retreated discomfited, content in the you when you do be passing. And future to put up with any exaction, if now will it be your word that I am

only he might be left at peace. She to depart?”

was altogether a sufficiently terrible "I have not bidden you to go," person, even though her fury was at replied the old man, with the dawn- times comic enough. Not that all ings of a smile in his beard. He gave authors have drawn the landlady in his hand to Teige, and the two turned such dark colors; but, generally speakand moved toward the house of the ing, one rises from the perusal of the rock.

novelists' pages with an unfavorable The rowers began leaping from the impression of the class; and if we inboat, and Tiarnan, his head once more clude under the heading landlady the well in air, marshalled them to follow hostess of an inn, we find asperity of him. As they came up the slope, the temper a very prominent failing in that form of a young woman, standing at walk of life also. Thus, Meg Dods the hurdles, met their eyes. They forms a pendant to Mrs. Raddle of Mrs. observed Teige advance toward her, MacStinger. From personal contact, and humble himself in salutation, and however, we come to realize that the then, rising, lift his arm and point landlady is, as a rule, neither better nor upward to the sky. The girl raised worse than her neighbors. Occaher face to the heavens, and smiled sionally she possesses much of the milk with the blush of a rose at what she of human kindness. Not unfrequently beheld and heard, and they saw that she has played an important, though she was very beautiful. She took the unconscious part in the lives of men of glance from her father, and gave her letters. If no man is a hero to his valet, hand to Teige.

the same might perhaps be said of the “The grey stream from the moun

relation of an artist or author to his tains is somehow dried at its spring,” landlady. But to a touch of nature she said Tiarnan boldly to Flann, "and

responds at once. Thus. Mrs. Angel, doubtless through misfortune the great the landlady of the marvellous boy castle I sang of has disappeared. Yet Chatterton, is associated with the sad it is plain to me none the less that I

story of his last days in Brooke Street, shall live to wear a gold chain round Holborn. Knowing that he had eaten my neck." HAROLD FREDERIC.

nothing for three days, she begged him,

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

а

on the 24th of August, 1770, to share her cannot fairly be ascribed to pure madinner. But his proud spirit took of- levolence. Indeed, one has a sort of fence at words which seemed to hint sympathy with the poor lady, “having that he was in want, and her kindness he: house turned out of window, and did not avail to avert his end,

noise enough made to bring the fireGoldsmith, again, experienced much engines here at two o'clock in the mornkindness from Mrs. Fleming, his ing,” as she remarked. The supineness Islington landlady; and we are assured of her spouse, who regretted that his that her bills are again and again strength was not equal to that of a significantly marked £0, Os. Od.

His dozen men,

was another irritating arrest for debt may perhaps, therefore, factor in the situation. One can hardly be laid at the door of some other land wonder, therefore, that the guests of the lady, or Mrs. Fleming's long-suffering evening were treated with scant cerepatience may at length have become mony as "a parcel of young cutters and exhausted; at any rate, we find the poet carvers of live people's bodies," or that in his need sending for Dr. Johnson, Mr. Pickwick was included in this terwhose sympathy, as usual, took rible indictment. That amiable phipractical form. “I perceived,” says the losopher, in fact, was told that he was doctor, “that he had already changed "worse than any of 'em," and old my guinea, and got a bottle of Madeira enough to be Bob Sawyer's grandand a glass before him. I put the cork father. in the bottle, desired he would be calm, The landlady of Captain Cuttle is a and began to talk to him of the termagant of a similar type, and withmeans by which he might be extri- out so much justification for her outcated.” Thus it came about that John- bursts. She, however, was no doubt son sold the book—"The Vicar of Wake. presuming on the captain's well-known field"-which was to add such lustre tọ kindness of heart. There in Brig Goldsmith's name, to Francis Newbury, Place, on the brink of the little canal the publisher, for the sum of £60. Mrs. near the India Docks, that unfortunate Piozzi tells us that when Johnson came mariner lived in constant trepidation. back with the money, the poet “called Here it was that Walter one day-washthe woman of the house directly to par- ing-day, of all others-called to see him, take of punch, and pass their time in and was told by the captain to “Stand merriment.” Boswell, however, quotes by and knock agen-hard.” Before he this statement as “an extreme inaccu- could enter, however, he had to surracy."

mount the "little wooden fortification But, to turn to the characters of fic- extending across the doorway, and put tion. Dickens has perhaps given us there to prevent the little MacStingers, more examples of the landlady than in their moments of recreation, from any other author.

Every reader of tumbling down the steps." The land“Pickwick” remembers that little fierce lady thereupon asks an imaginary woman, Mrs. Raddle of Lant Street, audience whether she is to be broken in Borough, who was of opinion that if upon by "raff,” and opines that a boy Bob Sawyer could afford to give a who could knock her door down could party, he ought to be able to pay her get over that little obstruction. From little bill. It is in vain that he tells her which we gather that her temper was he has been disappointed in the city. none of the sweetest, and I can sympaMr. Benjamin Allen's attempt to pour thize with the captain, who never owed oil on the troubled waters, by address- her a penny, in his remark that "she ing her as “my good soul,” only pro- was a vixen at times." When Walter vokes her to retort: “Have the goodness advised him to go elsewhere, he replies: to keep your obserwashuns to your "Dursn't do it, Wal'r-şhe'd find me self."

out wherever I went.” Later on, it will Under these circumstances, Mrs. be remembered, the captain, on one of Raddle's wrath at the supper-party his rounds, meets the “awful demonstra

tion, headed by that determined though he had arrived at the point of woman, Mrs. MacStinger, who, pre- admitting that the black is a man and serving a countenance of inexorable a brother, it was only in a natural form, resolution, and wearing, conspicuously “and when it can't be got off.” “I took attached to her obdurate bosom, a a deal of black into me, ma'am, when stupendous watch and appendages—the I was a small child,” poor Sophy exproperty of Bunsby-conducted under plains, “and I think it must be that it her arm no other than that sagacious works out.” Caroline Moxey's temper mariner. Although on this occasion was the cause of a deal of unpleasantMrs. MacStinger vowed she bore no ness, particularly on the occasion of her malice, but hoped to go to the altar in letting down her hair, and rushing upanother spirit, Captain Cuttle (having stairs to attack the unfortunate lodgers dearly bought his experience) in vain -a newly married couple. Mrs. Liradvises Bunsby of the Cautious Clara, riper had a soft spot in her heart for her in nautical phraseology, to "sheer faithful lodger, Major Jackman, who off.”

was not to be outdone by her in his love Mrs. Bardell, on the other hand, is of for little Jemmy, the trust committed a much gentler disposition; and in spite to them by the dying Mrs. Edson. How of the breach of promise action, much forgiving, too, was her conduct to Miss that is good can be conscientiously said Wozenham when that rival had fallen of her. She was a comely woman, of

on evil days and was being sold upbustling manners and agreeable ap- the systematic underbidding and the pearance, with—that most excellent enticing away of the servant being thing in a landlady-"a natural genius buried in oblivion. for cooking, improved by study and Mrs. Todgers, the proprietrix of the long practice, into an exquisite talent." commercial boarding-house near the We know that in her house in Goswell Monument, was a rather “bony and Street Mr. Pickwick's will was law; and hard-featured lady, with a row of curls we expect he had very little to grumble in front of her head shaped like little at in his apartments. which, though on barrels of beer, and on the top of it a limited scale, were very neat and something made of net-you couldn't comfortable. Beside these advantages call it a cap exactly—which looked like there were no children, no servants, no a black cobweb.” We have it from her fowls. If she had a fault, therefore, it own lips, that presiding over such an was that of being too easily led away establishment makes sad havoc with by her feelings.

the features. "The gravy alone,” as Humor and pathos happily she informed Miss Pecksniff, "15 blended in the story of Mrs. Lirriper, enough to add twenty years to one's the genial landlady of No. 81 Norfolk age.” In her opinion, there was no such Street, Strand, who did not advertise in passion in human nature as the passion “Bradshaw,” like her rival, Miss for gravy among commercial gentleWozenham, lower down on the other men. Nevertheless, she owned to feelside of the way. Of the ways of ser- ings of a tender nature for Mr. Peckvant girls no one had more experience: sniff-unworthy though he was-and they “are your first trial after fixtures,” befriended his daughter Mercy after and in her opinion, were more trying her unfortunate marriage with Jonas even than the "wandering Christians," Chuzzlewit.

she styled the individuals who Landladies abound in the pages of amused themselves by going over apart- Thackeray, and he treats them with a ments they had no intention of taking. mixture of humor and pathos all his What life-like sketches she gives us of own. To be forced to leave a fine the willing Sophy, always smiling with house, and subside into lodgings, or to a black face, and of the violent Caroline have seen better days, and subsist by Moxey! Sophy, indeed, was the cause letting them, are changes of fortune of a good lodger giving warning-for which furnish many illustrations for his

are

[ocr errors]

as

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

text, “vanitas vanitatum." Among his his old friend and patron and present lesser characters we have Mrs. Creed lodger.” Finally, one day Jos's carin "Pendennis," who, in addition to be- riage arrives and carries off old Sedley ing pew-opener, was landlady of Miss and his daughter to return no more. Fotheringay, the daughter of Captain Amelia had always been kind, and Costigan. According to her own ac- when she was going away, the landlady count, she watched over that young bitterly reproached herself for ever lady's doings with the vigilance of a having used a rough expression to her. Cerberus rather than an ordinary There was genuine regret for their dechaperon. Thus it was that Doctor parture. “They would never have such Portman and the major, anxious as lodgers again, that was clear;" and the they were to win Pen from bis infatua- author tells us that after-life proved the tion for the fair actress, could find truth of this melancholy prophecy, and nothing to object to in her behavior. that Mrs. Clapp revenged herself for “Whenever he came,” Mrs. Creed in the deterioration of mankind by levying formed them, "she always have me or the most savage contributions upon the one of the children with her. And Mrs. tea-caddies and legs of mutton of her Creed, marm, says she, if you please, locataires. “Most of them scolded and marm, you'll on no account leave the grumbled, some of them did not pay, room when that young gentleman's none of them stayed.” Then we have here. And many's the time I've seen Mrs. James Gann, in "A Shabby Genhim a-lookin' as if he wished I was teel Story," who lets lodgings at Maraway, poor young man.” From the gate; Mrs. Brandon, the “little sister," same novel we have Madame Frisby, in the “Adventures of Philip;” and Mrs. the dressmaker, who lets apartments to Ridley, in the "Newcomes,” of whom, Mr. Smirke, the curate, and encourages did space permit, much might be said. his affection for the widow, Helen Thackeray's finest portrait in the way Pendennis. No one in all Clavering we of landladies, however, is that of Miss are told, read so many novels, from Honeyman, the aunt of Clive Newcome. which, doubtless, her sentimental A woman of a thousand virtues, cheerviews of life were mainly derived. The ful, frugal, honest, laborious, charitable history of Mr. and Mrs. Sedley after the -such is the character of the little, crash is associated with their landlady, brisk old lady in Steyne Gardens, whose Mrs. Clapp, at Brompton. The old lady, superior manners and prosperity won we are told, was occupied and amused her the title of Duchess from the neighwith the doings of the Irish maid, Betty boring tradespeople. We can imagine Flanagan, “her bonnets, her ribbons, her to ourselves with her "large cap, 'her sauciness, her idleness, her reckless bristling with ribbons, with her best prodigality of kitchen candles, her con- chestnut front, and her best black silk sumption of tea and sugar, and so gown and gold watch," as she stands forth,” almost as much as she had been prepared for the interview with Lady with the doings of her own household Anne Newcome. Mine hostess of the in former days. Mrs. Sedley was al-inn has been not infrequently portrayed ways a great person for her landlady in poetry and prose from the days of when she descended and passed many Mistress Nell of the Boar's Head on. hours with her in the basement or wards. ornamental kitchen. But this was in Suffice it in conclusion to give one or comparatively balcyon days. The two examples of the sisterhood drawn question of rent was even looming in from the pages of Sir Walter Scott. the background, and gradually the What a wonderful picture is that of the pleasant intercourse between the land- wild inn at Aberfoyle, and of its no less lady and lodger ceased. Mrs. Clapp, in wild landlady, Jean MacAlpine, on the ber nether realm, "grumbles in secret night when Frank Osbaldistone and the to her husband about the rent, and others arrive there. Reluctant to reurges the good fellow to rebel against ceive her guests, she appears before

go

we

[ocr errors]

them, a pale and thin figure, with a reaches, so far beyond our speech, that soiled and ragged dress, a lighted piece it has become a part of the very frame of split fir blazing in her hand. With of our life; and those who have always her black hair in uncombed elf-locks, been in the midst of it can scarce she looked, indeed, like a witch dis- believe that the world could turbed in the midst of her unlawful on very well without it. To be plain, rites. She had little opinion of the idle are drunken with writing, just English loons that went about the coun- as some ages ago man was drunken try "under the cloud of night and dis- with speech. We have committed turbing honest, peaceable gentlemen our all to it; we try to make it that are drinking their drap drink at the serve ends for which it cannot be fitted; fireside.” Alternately, however, after and we let it override the growth of our the stormy interlude of the fight be- minds and the common use of our tween the Bailie and the Highlander, senses. she consents to prepare a savory mess of When first the power of speech in rulvenison collops for the tired and hungrying man was felt the servant speech travellers. As a contrast to Jean Mac- was

mistaken for the master Alpine, we have the landlady of the thought. Then the belief sprang up small and comfortable inn at Kipple- that nature likewise could be ruled by tringan, Mrs. MacCandlish, who so well words; and the follies of spells and enknew the reception to which each of her chantments enslaved the mind. Nor customers was entitled. With unfail- was this all. As thought and speech ing tact

grew side by side another great misTo every guest the appropriate speech was take arose. The wordy Greek, soon made,

overcome by his flowing tongue, And every duty with distinction paid, dreamed that the very nature of mind Respectful, easy, pleasant, or polite, and matter might be probed by an “Your honor's servant! Mister Smith, algebra of words. He confounded the good-night.”

little and imperfect nature of words Such we find her on that cold and stormy with the vastly wider and more comnight in November when she receives plex nature of the mind; and he thought Colonel Mannering seventeen years that by playing with words, by setting after the disappearance of little Harry them up one against another, by showBertram. Most elaborate of all is the ing that each in turn might be denied, description of that old-world landlady, he was reaching the base of mind and Meg Dods, who ruled with the despot- the principles of matter. And his belief ism of Queen Bess herself. We can pic- is yet with us; a great idealist of this ture her with long, skinny hands, and age has said that no thought is possible loud voice, as she ordered about not without language. Yet who does not only men and maid servants, but her recall anything that has once been seen, guests themselves-members perchance without a single word passing in the of the Killnaketty Hunt or ancient mind? In combinations yet unmade, brethren of the angle from Edinburgh. does the engineer describe the work of The members of this hunt, it will be re- his invention in words in his mind bemembered, were treated with some in- fore he imagines its action? In considdulgence. A set of honest men they ering the emotions is there not first were,” Meg said; “had their song and

before the mind the feeling or the vision their joke, and what for no?”.

of a face or a person who is subject to that feeling before we frame the words? And does not the very fact that it is

often most hard to choose the right From The London Times.

words to express our thoughts—the fact MAN BEFORE WRITING.

that we reach for our words as if we To us the written word is so all- spoke a foreign tongue, and that for powerful, it binds, it declares, . it

even one single thought we have to use

« VorigeDoorgaan »