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Thomas Love Peacock was born at Weymouth in 1785. His first poem, “The Genius of the Thames,” was in its second edition when he became one of the friends of Shelley. That was in 1812, when Shelley’s age was twenty, Peacock’s twenty-seven. The acquaintance strengthened, until Peacock became the friend in whose judgment Shelley put especial trust. There were many points of agreement. Peacock, at that time, shared, in a more practical way, Shelley’s desire for root and branch reform; both wore poets, although not equally gifted, and both loved Plato and the Greek tragedians. In “Crotchet Castle” Peacock has expressed his own delight in Greek literature through the talk of the Reverend Dr. Folliott.
But Shelley’s friendship for Peacock included a trust in him that was maintained by points of unlikeness. Peacock was shrewd and witty. He delighted in extravagance of a satire which usually said more than it meant, but always rested upon a foundation of good sense. Then also there was a touch of the poet to give grace to the utterances of a clear-headed man of the world. It was Peacock who gave its name to Shelley’s poem of “Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude,” published in 1816. The “Spirit of Solitude” being treated as a spirit of evil, Peacock suggested calling it “Alastor,” since the Greek [Greek text] means an evil genius.
Peacock’s novels are unlike those of other men: they are the genuine expressions of an original and independent mind. His reading and his thinking ran together; there is free quotation, free play of wit and satire, grace of invention too, but always unconventional. The story is always pleasant, although always secondary to the play of thought for which it gives occasion. He quarrelled with verse, whimsically but in all seriousness, in an article on “The Four Ages of Poetry,” contributed in 1820 to a short-lived journal, “Ollier’s Literary Miscellany.” The four ages were, he said, the iron age, the Bardic; the golden, the Homeric; the silver, the Virgilian; and the brass, in which he himself lived. “A poet in our time,” he said, “is a semi-barbarian in a civilised community . . . The highest inspirations of poetry are resolvable into three ingredients: the rant of unregulated passion, the whining of exaggerated feeling, and the cant of factitious sentiment; and can, therefore, serve only to ripen a splendid lunatic like Alexander, a puling driveller like Werter, or a morbid dreamer like Wordsworth.” In another part of this essay he says: “While the historian and the philosopher are advancing in and accelerating the progress of knowledge, the poet is wallowing in the rubbish of departed ignorance, and raking up the ashes of dead savages to find gewgaws and rattles for the grown babies of the age. Mr. Scott digs up the poacher and cattle-stealers of the ancient Border. Lord Byron cruises for thieves and pirates on the shores of the Morea and among the Greek islands. Mr. Southey wades through ponderous volumes of travels and old chronicles, from which he carefully selects all that is false, useless, and absurd, as being essentially poetical; and when he has a commonplace book full of monstrosities, strings them into an epic.” And so forth; Peacock going on to characterise, in further illustration of his argument, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Moore, and Campbell. He did not refer to Shelley; and Shelley read his friend’s whimsical attack on poetry with all good humour, proceeding to reply to it with a “Defence of Poetry,” which would have appeared in the same journal, if the journal had survived. In this novel of “Crotchet Castle” there is the same good-humoured exaggeration in the treatment of “our learned friend”— Lord Brougham — to whom and to whose labours for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge there are repeated allusions. In one case Peacock associates the labours of “our learned friend” for the general instruction of the masses with encouragement of robbery (page 172), and in another with body-snatching, or, worse,- -murder for dissection (page 99). “The Lord deliver me from the learned friend!” says Dr. Folliott. Brougham’s elevation to a peerage in November, 1830, as Lord Brougham and Vaux, is referred to on page 177, where he is called Sir Guy do Vaux. It is not to be forgotten, in the reading, that this story was written in 1831, the year before the passing of the Reform Bill. It ends with a scene suggested by the agricultural riots of that time. In the ninth chapter, again, there is a passage dealing with Sir Walter Scott after the fashion of the criticisms in the “Four Ages of Poetry.” But this critical satire gave nobody pain. Always there was a ground-work of good sense, and the broad sweep of the satire was utterly unlike the nibbling censure of the men whose wit is tainted with ill-humour. We may see also that the poet’s nature cannot be expelled. In this volume we should find the touch of a poet’s hand in the tale itself when dealing with the adventures of Mr. Chainmail, while he stays at the Welsh mountain inn, if the story did not again and again break out into actual song, for it includes half-a-dozen little poems.
When Peacock wrote his attack on Poetry, he had, only two years before, produced a poem of his own —“Rhododaphne”— with a Greek fancy of the true and the false love daintily worked out. It was his chief work in verse, and gave much pleasure to a few, among them his friend Shelley. But he felt that, as the world went, he was not strong enough to help it by his singing, so he confined his writing to the novels, in which he could speak his mind in his own way, while doing his duty by his country in the East India House, where he obtained a post in 1818. From 1836 to 1856, when he retired on a pension, he was Examiner of India Correspondence. Peacock died in 1866, aged eighty-one.
NOTE that in this tale Mac Quedy is Mac Q. E. D., son of a demonstration; Mr. Skionar, the transcendentalist, is named from Ski(as) onar, the dream of a shadow; and Mr. Philpot — who loves rivers, is Phil(o)pot(amos).
Captain Jamy. I wad full fain hear some question ‘tween you tway. HENRY V.
In one of those beautiful valleys, through which the Thames (not yet polluted by the tide, the scouring of cities, or even the minor defilement of the sandy streams of Surrey) rolls a clear flood through flowery meadows, under the shade of old beech woods, and the smooth mossy greensward of the chalk hills (which pour into it their tributary rivulets, as pure and pellucid as the fountain of Bandusium, or the wells of Scamander, by which the wives and daughters of the Trojans washed their splendid garments in the days of peace, before the coming of the Greeks); in one of those beautiful valleys, on a bold round-surfaced lawn, spotted with juniper, that opened itself in the bosom of an old wood, which rose with a steep, but not precipitous ascent, from the river to the summit of the hill, stood the castellated villa of a retired citizen. Ebenezer Mac Crotchet, Esquire, was the London-born offspring of a worthy native of the “north countrie,” who had walked up to London on a commercial adventure, with all his surplus capital, not very neatly tied up in a not very clean handkerchief, suspended over his shoulder from the end of a hooked stick, extracted from the first hedge on his pilgrimage; and who, after having worked himself a step or two up the ladder of life, had won the virgin heart of the only daughter of a highly respectable merchant of Duke’s Place, with whom he inherited the honest fruits of a long series of ingenuous dealings.
Mr. Mac Crotchet had derived from his mother the instinct, and from his father the rational principle, of enriching himself at the expense of the rest of mankind, by all the recognised modes of accumulation on the windy side of the law. After passing many years in the Alley, watching the turn of the market, and playing many games almost as desperate as that of the soldier of Lucullus, the fear of losing what he had so righteously gained predominated over the sacred thirst of paper-money; his caution got the better of his instinct, or rather transferred it from the department of acquisition to that of conservation. His friend, Mr. Ramsbottom, the zodiacal mythologist, told him that he had done well to withdraw from the region of Uranus or Brahma, the Maker, to that of Saturn or Veeshnu, the Preserver, before he fell under the eye of Jupiter or Seva, the Destroyer, who might have struck him down at a blow.
It is said that a Scotchman, returning home after some years’ residence in England, being asked what he thought of the English, answered: “They hanna ower muckle sense, but they are an unco braw people to live amang;” which would be a very good story, if it were not rendered apocryphal by the incredible circumstance of the Scotchman going back.
Mr. Mac Crotchet’s experience had given him a just title to make, in his own person, the last-quoted observation, but he would have known better than to go back, even if himself, and not his father, had been the first comer of his line from the north. He had married an English Christian, and, having none of the Scotch accent, was ungracious enough to be ashamed of his blood. He was desirous to obliterate alike the Hebrew and Caledonian vestiges in his name, and signed himself E. M. Crotchet, which by degrees induced the majority of his neighbours to think that his name was Edward Matthew. The more effectually to sink the Mac, he christened his villa “Crotchet Castle,” and determined to hand down to posterity the honours of Crotchet of Crotchet. He found it essential to his dignity to furnish himself with a coat of arms, which, after the proper ceremonies (payment being the principal), he obtained, videlicet: Crest, a crotchet rampant, in A sharp; Arms, three empty bladders, turgescent, to show how opinions are formed; three bags of gold, pendent, to show why they are maintained; three naked swords, tranchant, to show how they are administered; and three barbers’ blocks, gaspant, to show how they are swallowed.
Mr. Crotchet was left a widower, with two children; and, after the death of his wife, so strong was his sense of the blessed comfort she had been to him, that he determined never to give any other woman an opportunity of obliterating the happy recollection.
He was not without a plausible pretence for styling his villa a castle, for, in its immediate vicinity, and within his own enclosed domain, were the manifest traces, on the brow of the hill, of a Roman station, or castellum, which was still called the “Castle” by the country people. The primitive mounds and trenches, merely overgrown with greensward, with a few patches of juniper and box on the vallum, and a solitary ancient beech surmounting the place of the praetorium, presented nearly the same depths, heights, slopes, and forms, which the Roman soldiers had originally given them. From this cartel Mr. Crotchet christened his villa. With his rustic neighbours he was, of course, immediately and necessarily a squire: Squire Crotchet of the Castle; and he seemed to himself to settle down as naturally into an English country gentleman, as if his parentage had been as innocent of both Scotland and Jerusalem, as his education was of Rome and Athens.
But as, though you expel nature with a pitch-fork, she will yet always come back; he could not become, like a true-born English squire, part and parcel of the barley-giving earth; he could not find in game-bagging, poacher-shooting, trespasser-pounding, footpath-stopping, common-enclosing, rack-renting, and all the other liberal pursuits and pastimes which make a country gentleman an ornament to the world and a blessing to the poor: he could not find in these valuable and amiable occupations, and in a corresponding range of ideas, nearly commensurate with that of the great King Nebuchadnezzar when he was turned out to grass; he could not find in this great variety of useful action, and vast field of comprehensive thought, modes of filling up his time that accorded with his Caledonian instinct. The inborn love of disputation, which the excitements and engagements of a life of business had smothered, burst forth through the calmer surface of a rural life. He grew as fain as Captain Jamy, “to hear some argument betwixt ony tway,” and being very hospitable in his establishment, and liberal in his invitations, a numerous detachment from the advanced guard of the “march of intellect,” often marched down to Crotchet Castle.
When the fashionable season filled London with exhibitors of all descriptions, lecturers and else, Mr. Crotchet was in his glory; for, in addition to the perennial literati of the metropolis, he had the advantage of the visits of a number of hardy annuals, chiefly from the north, who, as the interval of their metropolitan flowering allowed, occasionally accompanied their London brethren in excursions to Crotchet Castle.
Amongst other things, he took very naturally to political economy, read all the books on the subject which were put forth by his own countrymen, attended all lectures thereon, and boxed the technology of the sublime science as expertly as an able seaman boxes the compass.
With this agreeable mania he had the satisfaction of biting his son, the hope of his name and race, who had borne off from Oxford the highest academical honours; and who, treading in his father’s footsteps to honour and fortune, had, by means of a portion of the old gentleman’s surplus capital, made himself a junior partner in the eminent loan-jobbing firm of Catchflat and Company. Here, in the days of paper prosperity, he applied his science-illumined genius to the blowing of bubbles, the bursting of which sent many a poor devil to the gaol, the workhouse, or the bottom of the river, but left young Crotchet rolling in riches.
These riches he had been on the point of doubling, by a marriage with the daughter of Mr. Touchandgo, the great banker, when, one foggy morning, Mr. Touchandgo and the contents of his till were suddenly reported absent; and as the fortune which the young gentleman had intended to marry was not forthcoming, this tender affair of the heart was nipped in the bud.
Miss Touchandgo did not meet the shock of separation quite so complacently as the young gentleman: for he lost only the lady, whereas she lost a fortune as well as a lover. Some jewels, which had glittered on her beautiful person as brilliantly as the bubble of her father’s wealth had done in the eyes of his gudgeons, furnished her with a small portion of paper-currency; and this, added to the contents of a fairy purse of gold, which she found in her shoe on the eventful morning when Mr. Touchandgo melted into thin air, enabled her to retreat into North Wales, where she took up her lodging in a farm-house in Merionethshire, and boarded very comfortably for a trifling payment, and the additional consideration of teaching English, French, and music, to the little Ap–Llymrys. In the course of this occupation she acquired sufficient knowledge of Welsh to converse with the country people.
She climbed the mountains, and descended the dingles, with a foot which daily habit made by degrees almost as steady as a native’s. She became the nymph of the scene; and if she sometimes pined in thought for her faithless Strephon, her melancholy was anything but green and yellow: it was as genuine white and red as occupation, mountain air, thyme-fed mutton, thick cream, and fat bacon could make it: to say nothing of an occasional glass of double X, which Ap–Llymry, who yielded to no man west of the Wrekin in brewage, never failed to press upon her at dinner and supper. He was also earnest, and sometimes successful, in the recommendation of his mead, and most pertinacious on winter nights in enforcing a trial of the virtues of his elder wine. The young lady’s personal appearance, consequently, formed a very advantageous contrast to that of her quondam lover, whose physiognomy the intense anxieties of his bubble-blowing days, notwithstanding their triumphant result, had left blighted, sallowed, and crow’s-footed, to a degree not far below that of the fallen spirit who, in the expressive language of German romance, is described as “scathed by the ineradicable traces of the thunderbolts of Heaven;” so that, contemplating their relative geological positions, the poor deserted damsel was flourishing on slate, while her rich and false young knight was pining on chalk.
Squire Crotchet had also one daughter, whom he had christened Lemma, and who, as likely to be endowed with a very ample fortune was, of course, an object very tempting to many young soldiers of fortune, who were marching with the march of mind, in a good condition for taking castles, as far as not having a groat is a qualification for such exploits. She was also a glittering bait to divers young squires expectant (whose fathers were too well acquainted with the occult signification of mortgage), and even to one or two sprigs of nobility, who thought that the lining of a civic purse would superinduce a very passable factitious nap upon a thread-bare title. The young lady had received an expensive and complicated education, complete in all the elements of superficial display. She was thus eminently qualified to be the companion of any masculine luminary who had kept due pace with the “astounding progress” of intelligence. It must be confessed, that a man who has not kept due pace with it, is not very easily found: this march being one of that “astounding” character in which it seems impossible that the rear can be behind the van. The young lady was also tolerably good looking: north of Tweed, or in Palestine, she would probable have been a beauty; but for the valleys of the Thames she was perhaps a little too much to the taste of Solomon, and had a nose which rather too prominently suggested the idea of the tower of Lebanon, which looked towards Damascus.
In a village in the vicinity of the Castle was the vicarage of the Reverend Doctor Folliott, a gentleman endowed with a tolerable stock of learning, an interminable swallow, and an indefatigable pair of lungs. His preeminence in the latter faculty gave occasion to some etymologists to ring changes on his name, and to decide that it was derived from Follis Optimus, softened through an Italian medium into Folle Ottimo, contracted poetically into Folleotto, and elided Anglice into Folliott, signifying a first-rate pair of bellows. He claimed to be descended lineally from the illustrious Gilbert Folliott, the eminent theologian, who was a Bishop of London in the twelfth century, whose studies were interrupted in the dead of night by the Devil, when a couple of epigrams passed between them, and the Devil, of course, proved the smaller wit of the two.
This reverend gentleman, being both learned and jolly, became by degrees an indispensable ornament to the new squire’s table. Mr. Crotchet himself was eminently jolly, though by no means eminently learned. In the latter respect he took after the great majority of the sons of his father’s land; had a smattering of many things, and a knowledge of none; but possessed the true northern art of making the most of his intellectual harlequin’s jacket, by keeping the best patches always bright and prominent.
Quoth Ralpho: nothing but the abuse
Of human learning you produce.
“God bless my soul, sir!” exclaimed the Reverend Doctor Folliott, bursting, one fine May morning, into the breakfast-room at Crotchet Castle, “I am out of all patience with this march of mind. Here has my house been nearly burned down by my cook taking it into her head to study hydrostatics in a sixpenny tract, published by the Steam Intellect Society, and written by a learned friend who is for doing all the world’s business as well as his own, and is equally well qualified to handle every branch of human knowledge. I have a great abomination of this learned friend; as author, lawyer, and politician, he is triformis, like Hecate; and in every one of his three forms he is bifrons, like Janus; the true Mr. Facing-both-ways of Vanity Fair. My cook must read his rubbish in bed; and, as might naturally be expected, she dropped suddenly fast asleep, overturned the candle, and set the curtains in a blaze. Luckily, the footman went into the room at the moment, in time to tear down the curtains and throw them into the chimney, and a pitcher of water on her nightcap extinguished her wick; she is a greasy subject, and would have burned like a short mould.”
The reverend gentleman exhaled his grievance without looking to the right or to the left; at length, turning on his pivot, he perceived that the room was full of company, consisting of young Crotchet, and some visitors whom he had brought from London. The Reverend Doctor Folliott was introduced to Mr. Mac Quedy, the economist; Mr. Skionar, the transcendental poet; Mr. Firedamp, the meteorologist; and Lord Bossnowl, son of the Earl of Foolincourt, and member for the borough of Rogueingrain.
The divine took his seat at the breakfast-table, and began to compose his spirits by the gentle sedative of a large cup of tea, the demulcent of a well-buttered muffin, and the tonic of a small lobster.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. You are a man of taste, Mr. Crotchet. A man of taste is seen at once in the array of his breakfast-table. It is the foot of Hercules, the far-shining face of the great work, according to Pindar’s doctrine: [Greek text]. The breakfast is the [Greek text] of the great work of the day. Chocolate, coffee, tea, cream, eggs, ham, tongue, cold fowl, all these are good, and bespeak good knowledge in him who sets them forth: but the touchstone is fish: anchovy is the first step, prawns and shrimps the second; and I laud him who reaches even to these: potted char and lampreys are the third, and a fine stretch of progression; but lobster is, indeed, matter for a May morning, and demands a rare combination of knowledge and virtue in him who sets it forth.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Well, sir, and what say you to a fine fresh trout, hot and dry, in a napkin? or a herring out of the water into the frying-pan, on the shore of Loch Fyne?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, I say every nation has some eximious virtue; and your country is preeminent in the glory of fish for breakfast. We have much to learn from you in that line at any rate.
MR. MAC QUEDY. And in many others, sir, I believe. Morals and metaphysics, politics and political economy, the way to make the most of all the modifications of smoke; steam, gas, and paper currency; you have all these to learn from us; in short, all the arts and sciences. We are the modern Athenians.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I, for one, sir, am content to learn nothing from you but the art and science of fish for breakfast. Be content, sir, to rival the Boeotians, whose redeeming virtue was in fish, touching which point you may consult Aristophanes and his scholiast in the passage of Lysistrata, [Greek text], and leave the name of Athenians to those who have a sense of the beautiful, and a perception of metrical quantity.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Then, sir, I presume you set no value on the right principles of rent, profit, wages, and currency?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. My principles, sir, in these things are, to take as much as I can get, and pay no more than I can help. These are every man’s principles, whether they be the right principles or no. There, sir, is political economy in a nutshell.
MR. MAC QUEDY. The principles, sir, which regulate production and consumption are independent of the will of any individual as to giving or taking, and do not lie in a nutshell by any means.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, I will thank you for a leg of that capon.
LORD BOSSNOWL. But, sir, by-the-bye, how came your footman to be going into your cook’s room? It was very providential to be sure, but —
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, as good came of it, I shut my eyes, and ask no questions. I suppose he was going to study hydrostatics, and he found himself under the necessity of practising hydraulics.
MR. FIREDAMP. Sir, you seem to make very light of science.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Yes, sir, such science as the learned friend deals in: everything for everybody, science for all, schools for all, rhetoric for all, law for all, physic for all, words for all, and sense for none. I say, sir, law for lawyers, and cookery for cooks: and I wish the learned friend, for all his life, a cook that will pass her time in studying his works; then every dinner he sits down to at home, he will sit on the stool of repentance.
LORD BOSSNOWL. Now really that would be too severe: my cook should read nothing but Ude.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No, sir! let Ude and the learned friend singe fowls together; let both avaunt from my kitchen. [Greek text]. Ude says an elegant supper may be given with sandwiches. Horresco referens. An elegant supper. Di meliora piis. No Ude for me. Conviviality went out with punch and suppers. I cherish their memory. I sup when I can, but not upon sandwiches. To offer me a sandwich, when I am looking for a supper, is to add insult to injury. Let the learned friend, and the modern Athenians, sup upon sandwiches.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Nay, sir; the modern Athenians know better than that. A literary supper in sweet Edinbro’ would cure you of the prejudice you seem to cherish against us.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Well, sir, well; there is cogency in a good supper; a good supper in these degenerate days bespeaks a good man; but much more is wanted to make up an Athenian. Athenians, indeed! where is your theatre? who among you has written a comedy? where is your Attic salt? which of you can tell who was Jupiter’s great-grandfather? or what metres will successively remain, if you take off the three first syllables, one by one, from a pure antispastic acatalectic tetrameter? Now, sir, there are three questions for you: theatrical, mythological, and metrical; to every one of which an Athenian would give an answer that would lay me prostrate in my own nothingness.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Well, sir, as to your metre and your mythology, they may e’en wait a wee. For your comedy there is the “Gentle Shepherd” of the divine Allan Ramsay.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. The “Gentle Shepherd”! It is just as much a comedy as the Book of Job.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Well, sir, if none of us have written a comedy, I cannot see that it is any such great matter, any more than I can conjecture what business a man can have at this time of day with Jupiter’s great-grandfather.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. The great business is, sir, that you call yourselves Athenians, while you know nothing that the Athenians thought worth knowing, and dare not show your noses before the civilised world in the practice of any one art in which they were excellent. Modern Athens, sir! the assumption is a personal affront to every man who has a Sophocles in his library. I will thank you for an anchovy.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Metaphysics, sir; metaphysics. Logic and moral philosophy. There we are at home. The Athenians only sought the way, and we have found it; and to all this we have added political economy, the science of sciences.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. A hyperbarbarous technology, that no Athenian ear could have borne. Premises assumed without evidence, or in spite of it; and conclusions drawn from them so logically, that they must necessarily be erroneous.
MR. SKIONAR. I cannot agree with you, Mr. Mac Quedy, that you have found the true road of metaphysics, which the Athenians only sought. The Germans have found it, sir: the sublime Kant and his disciples.
MR. MAC QUEDY. I have read the sublime Kant, sir, with an anxious desire to understand him, and I confess I have not succeeded.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. He wants the two great requisites of head and tail.
MR. SKIONAR. Transcendentalism is the philosophy of intuition, the development of universal convictions; truths which are inherent in the organisation of mind, which cannot be obliterated, though they may be obscured, by superstitious prejudice on the one hand, and by the Aristotelian logic on the other.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Well, sir, I have no notion of logic obscuring a question.
MR. SKIONAR. There is only one true logic, which is the transcendental; and this can prove only the one true philosophy, which is also the transcendental. The logic of your Modern Athens can prove everything equally; and that is, in my opinion, tantamount to proving nothing at all.
MR. CROTCHET. The sentimental against the rational, the intuitive against the inductive, the ornamental against the useful, the intense against the tranquil, the romantic against the classical; these are great and interesting controversies, which I should like, before I die, to see satisfactorily settled.
MR. FIREDAMP. There is another great question, greater than all these, seeing that it is necessary to be alive in order to settle any question; and this is the question of water against human life. Wherever there is water, there is malaria, and wherever there is malaria, there are the elements of death. The great object of a wise man should be to live on a gravelly hill, without so much as a duck-pond within ten miles of him, eschewing cisterns and waterbutts, and taking care that there be no gravel-pits for lodging the rain. The sun sucks up infection from water, wherever it exists on the face of the earth.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Well, sir, you have for you the authority of the ancient mystagogue, who said: [Greek text]. For my part I care not a rush (or any other aquatic and inesculent vegetable) who or what sucks up either the water or the infection. I think the proximity of wine a matter of much more importance than the longinquity of water. You are here within a quarter of a mile of the Thames, but in the cellar of my friend, Mr. Crotchet, there is the talismanic antidote of a thousand dozen of old wine; a beautiful spectacle, I assure you, and a model of arrangement.
MR. FIREDAMP. Sir, I feel the malignant influence of the river in every part of my system. Nothing but my great friendship for Mr. Crotchet would have brought me so nearly within the jaws of the lion.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. After dinner, sir, after dinner, I will meet you on this question. I shall then be armed for the strife. You may fight like Hercules against Achelous, but I shall flourish the Bacchic thyrsus, which changed rivers into wine: as Nonnus sweetly sings, [Greek text].
MR. CROTCHET, JUN. I hope, Mr. Firedamp, you will let your friendship carry you a little closer into the jaws of the lion. I am fitting up a flotilla of pleasure-boats, with spacious cabins, and a good cellar, to carry a choice philosophical party up the Thames and Severn, into the Ellesmere canal, where we shall be among the mountains of North Wales; which we may climb or not, as we think proper; but we will, at any rate, keep our floating hotel well provisioned, and we will try to settle all the questions over which a shadow of doubt yet hangs in the world of philosophy.
MR. FIREDAMP. Out of my great friendship for you, I will certainly go; but I do not expect to survive the experiment.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Alter erit tum Tiphys, et altera quae vehat Argo Delectos Heroas. I will be of the party, though I must hire an officiating curate, and deprive poor dear Mrs. Folliott, for several weeks, of the pleasure of combing my wig.
LORD BOSSNOWL. I hope, if I am to be of the party, our ship is not to be the ship of fools: He! he!
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. If you are one of the party, sir, it most assuredly will not: Ha! ha!
LORD BOSSNOWL. Pray sir, what do you mean by Ha! ha!?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Precisely, sir, what you mean by He! he!
MR. MAC QUEDY. You need not dispute about terms; they are two modes of expressing merriment, with or without reason; reason being in no way essential to mirth. No man should ask another why he laughs, or at what, seeing that he does not always know, and that, if he does, he is not a responsible agent. Laughter is an involuntary action of certain muscles, developed in the human species by the progress of civilisation. The savage never laughs.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No, sir, he has nothing to laugh at. Give him Modern Athens, the “learned friend,” and the Steam Intellect Society. They will develop his muscles.
He loved her more then seven yere,
Yet was he of her love never the nere;
He was not ryche of golde and fe,
A gentyll man forsoth was he.
The Squyr of Lowe Degre.
The Reverend Doctor Folliott having promised to return to dinner, walked back to his vicarage, meditating whether he should pass the morning in writing his next sermon, or in angling for trout, and had nearly decided in favour of the latter proposition, repeating to himself, with great unction, the lines of Chaucer:
And as for me, though that I can but lite,
On bokis for to read I me delite,
And to ‘hem yeve I faithe and full credence,
And in mine herte have ‘hem in reverence,
So hertily, that there is game none,
That fro my bokis makith me to gone,
But it be seldome, on the holie daie;
Save certainly whan that the month of Maie
Is cousin, and I here the foulis sing,
And that the flouris ginnin for to spring,
Farwell my boke and my devocion:
when his attention was attracted by a young gentleman who was sitting on a camp stool with a portfolio on his knee, taking a sketch of the Roman Camp, which, as has been already said, was within the enclosed domain of Mr. Crotchet. The young stranger, who had climbed over the fence, espying the portly divine, rose up, and hoped that he was not trespassing. “By no means, sir,” said the divine, “all the arts and sciences are welcome here; music, painting, and poetry; hydrostatics and political economy; meteorology, transcendentalism, and fish for breakfast.”
THE STRANGER. A pleasant association, sir, and a liberal and discriminating hospitality. This is an old British camp, I believe, sir?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Roman, sir; Roman; undeniably Roman. The vallum is past controversy. It was not a camp, sir, a castrum, but a castellum, a little camp, or watch-station, to which was attached, on the peak of the adjacent hill, a beacon for transmitting alarms. You will find such here and there, all along the range of chalk hills, which traverses the country from north-east to south-west, and along the base of which runs the ancient Iknield road, whereof you may descry a portion in that long straight white line.
THE STRANGER. I beg your pardon, sir; do I understand this place to be your property?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. It is not mine, sir: the more is the pity; yet is it so far well, that the owner is my good friend, and a highly respectable gentleman.
THE STRANGER. Good and respectable, sir, I take it, means rich?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. That is their meaning, sir.
THE STRANGER. I understand the owner to be a Mr. Crotchet. He has a handsome daughter, I am told.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. He has, sir. Her eyes are like the fish-pools of Heshbon, by the gate of Bethrabbim; and she is to have a handsome fortune, to which divers disinterested gentlemen are paying their addresses. Perhaps you design to be one of them?
THE STRANGER. No, sir; I beg pardon if my questions seem impertinent; I have no such design. There is a son too, I believe, sir, a great and successful blower of bubbles?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. A hero, sir, in his line. Never did angler in September hook more gudgeons.
THE STRANGER. To say the truth, two very amiable young people, with whom I have some little acquaintance, Lord Bossnowl, and his sister, Lady Clarinda, are reported to be on the point of concluding a double marriage with Miss Crotchet and her brother; by way of putting a new varnish on old nobility. Lord Foolincourt, their father, is terribly poor for a lord who owns a borough.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Well, sir, the Crotchets have plenty of money, and the old gentleman’s weak point is a hankering after high blood. I saw your acquaintance, Lord Bossnowl, this morning, but I did not see his sister. She may be there, nevertheless, and doing fashionable justice to this fine May morning, by lying in bed till noon.
THE STRANGER. Young Mr. Crotchet, sir, has been, like his father, the architect of his own fortune, has he not? An illustrious example of the reward of honesty and industry?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. As to honesty, sir, he made his fortune in the city of London, and if that commodity be of any value there, you will find it in the price current. I believe it is below par, like the shares of young Crotchet’s fifty companies. But his progress has not been exactly like his father’s. It has been more rapid, and he started with more advantages. He began with a fine capital from his father. The old gentleman divided his fortune into three not exactly equal portions; one for himself, one for his daughter, and one for his son, which he handed over to him, saying, “Take it once for all, and make the most of it; if you lose it where I won it, not another stiver do you get from me during my life.” But, sir, young Crotchet doubled, and trebled, and quadrupled it, and is, as you say, a striking example of the reward of industry; not that I think his labour has been so great as his luck.
THE STRANGER. But, sir, is all this solid? is there no danger of reaction? no day of reckoning to cut down in an hour prosperity that has grown up like a mushroom?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Nay, sir, I know not. I do not pry into these matters. I am, for my own part, very well satisfied with the young gentleman. Let those who are not so look to themselves. It is quite enough for me that he came down last night from London, and that he had the good sense to bring with him a basket of lobsters. Sir, I wish you a good morning.
The stranger having returned the reverend gentleman’s good morning, resumed his sketch, and was intently employed on it when Mr. Crotchet made his appearance with Mr. Mac Quedy and Mr. Skionar, whom he was escorting round his grounds, according to his custom with new visitors; the principal pleasure of possessing an extensive domain being that of showing it to other people. Mr. Mac Quedy, according also to the laudable custom of his countrymen, had been appraising everything that fell under his observation; but, on arriving at the Roman camp, of which the value was purely imaginary, he contented himself with exclaiming: “Eh! this is just a curiosity, and very pleasant to sit in on a summer day.”
MR. SKIONAR. And call up the days of old, when the Roman eagle spread its wings in the place of that beechen foliage. It gives a fine idea of duration, to think that that fine old tree must have sprung from the earth ages after this camp was formed.
MR. MAC QUEDY. How old, think you, may the tree be?
MR. CROTCHET. I have records which show it to be three hundred years old.
MR. MAC QUEDY. That is a great age for a beech in good condition. But you see the camp is some fifteen hundred years, or so, older; and three times six being eighteen, I think you get a clearer idea of duration out of the simple arithmetic, than out of your eagle and foliage.
MR. SKIONAR. That is a very unpoetical, if not unphilosophical, mode of viewing antiquities. Your philosophy is too literal for our imperfect vision. We cannot look directly into the nature of things; we can only catch glimpses of the mighty shadow in the camera obscura of transcendental intelligence. These six and eighteen are only words to which we give conventional meanings. We can reason, but we cannot feel, by help of them. The tree and the eagle, contemplated in the ideality of space and time, become subjective realities, that rise up as landmarks in the mystery of the past.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Well, sir, if you understand that, I wish you joy. But I must be excused for holding that my proposition, three times six are eighteen, is more intelligible than yours. A worthy friend of mine, who is a sort of amateur in philosophy, criticism, politics, and a wee bit of many things more, says: “Men never begin to study antiquities till they are saturated with civilisation.”
MR. SKIONAR. What is civilisation?
MR. MAC QUEDY. It is just respect for property. A state in which no man takes wrongfully what belongs to another, is a perfectly civilised state.
MR. SKIONAR. Your friend’s antiquaries must have lived in El Dorado, to have had an opportunity of being saturated with such a state.
MR. MAC QUEDY. It is a question of degree. There is more respect for property here than in Angola.
MR. SKIONAR. That depends on the light in which things are viewed.
Mr. Crotchet was rubbing his hands, in hopes of a fine discussion, when they came round to the side of the camp where the picturesque gentleman was sketching. The stranger was rising up, when Mr. Crotchet begged him not to disturb himself, and presently walked away with his two guests.
Shortly after, Miss Crotchet and Lady Clarinda, who had breakfasted by themselves, made their appearance at the same spot, hanging each on an arm of Lord Bossnowl, who very much preferred their company to that of the philosophers, though he would have preferred the company of the latter, or any company to his own. He thought it very singular that so agreeable a person as he held himself to be to others, should be so exceedingly tiresome to himself: he did not attempt to investigate the cause of this phenomenon, but was contented with acting on his knowledge of the fact, and giving himself as little of his own private society as possible.
The stranger rose as they approached, and was immediately recognised by the Bossnowls as an old acquaintance, and saluted with the exclamation of “Captain Fitzchrome!” The interchange of salutations between Lady Clarinda and the Captain was accompanied with an amiable confusion on both sides, in which the observant eyes of Miss Crotchet seemed to read the recollection of an affair of the heart.
Lord Bossnowl was either unconscious of any such affair, or indifferent to its existence. He introduced the Captain very cordially to Miss Crotchet; and the young lady invited him, as the friend of their guests, to partake of her father’s hospitality, an offer which was readily accepted.
The Captain took his portfolio under his right arm, his camp stool in his right hand, offered his left arm to Lady Clarinda, and followed at a reasonable distance behind Miss Crotchet and Lord Bossnowl, contriving, in the most natural manner possible, to drop more and more into the rear.
LADY CLARINDA. I am glad to see you can make yourself so happy with drawing old trees and mounds of grass.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Happy, Lady Clarinda! oh, no! How can I be happy when I see the idol of my heart about to be sacrificed on the shrine of Mammon?
LADY CLARINDA. Do you know, though Mammon has a sort of ill name, I really think he is a very popular character; there must be at the bottom something amiable about him. He is certainly one of those pleasant creatures whom everybody abuses, but without whom no evening party is endurable. I dare say, love in a cottage is very pleasant; but then it positively must be a cottage ornee: but would not the same love be a great deal safer in a castle, even if Mammon furnished the fortification?
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Oh, Lady Clarinda! there is a heartlessness in that language that chills me to the soul.
LADY CLARINDA. Heartlessness! No: my heart is on my lips. I speak just what I think. You used to like it, and say it was as delightful as it was rare.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. True, but you did not then talk as you do now, of love in a castle.
LADY CLARINDA. Well, but only consider: a dun is a horridly vulgar creature; it is a creature I cannot endure the thought of: and a cottage lets him in so easily. Now a castle keeps him at bay. You are a half-pay officer, and are at leisure to command the garrison: but where is the castle? and who is to furnish the commissariat?
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Is it come to this, that you make a jest of my poverty? Yet is my poverty only comparative. Many decent families are maintained on smaller means.
LADY CLARINDA. Decent families: ay, decent is the distinction from respectable. Respectable means rich, and decent means poor. I should die if I heard my family called decent. And then your decent family always lives in a snug little place: I hate a little place; I like large rooms and large looking-glasses, and large parties, and a fine large butler, with a tinge of smooth red in his face; an outward and visible sign that the family he serves is respectable; if not noble, highly respectable.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. I cannot believe that you say all this in earnest. No man is less disposed than I am to deny the importance of the substantial comforts of life. I once flattered myself that in our estimate of these things we were nearly of a mind.
LADY CLARINDA. Do you know, I think an opera-box a very substantial comfort, and a carriage. You will tell me that many decent people walk arm-inarm through the snow, and sit in clogs and bonnets in the pit at the English theatre. No doubt it is very pleasant to those who are used to it; but it is not to my taste.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. You always delighted in trying to provoke me; but I cannot believe that you have not a heart.
LADY CLARINDA. You do not like to believe that I have a heart, you mean. You wish to think I have lost it, and you know to whom; and when I tell you that it is still safe in my own keeping, and that I do not mean to give it away, the unreasonable creature grows angry.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Angry! far from it; I am perfectly cool.
LADY CLARINDA. Why, you are pursing your brows, biting your lips, and lifting up your foot as if you would stamp it into the earth. I must say anger becomes you; you would make a charming Hotspur. Your every-day-dining-out face is rather insipid: but I assure you my heart is in danger when you are in the heroics. It is so rare, too, in these days of smooth manners, to see anything like natural expression in a man’s face. There is one set form for every man’s face in female society: a sort of serious comedy walking gentleman’s face: but the moment the creature falls in love he begins to give himself airs, and plays off all the varieties of his physiognomy from the Master Slender to the Petruchio; and then he is actually very amusing.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Well, Lady Clarinda, I will not be angry, amusing as it may be to you: I listen more in sorrow than in anger. I half believe you in earnest: and mourn as over a fallen angel.
LADY CLARINDA. What, because I have made up my mind not to give away my heart when I can sell it? I will introduce you to my new acquaintance, Mr. Mac Quedy: he will talk to you by the hour about exchangeable value, and show you that no rational being will part with anything, except to the highest bidder.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Now, I am sure you are not in earnest. You cannot adopt such sentiments in their naked deformity.
LADY CLARINDA. Naked deformity! Why, Mr. Mac Quedy will prove to you that they are the cream of the most refined philosophy. You live a very pleasant life as a bachelor, roving about the country with your portfolio under your arm. I am not fit to be a poor man’s wife. I cannot take any kind of trouble, or do any one thing that is of any use. Many decent families roast a bit of mutton on a string; but if I displease my father I shall not have as much as will buy the string, to say nothing of the meat; and the bare idea of such cookery gives me the horrors.
By this time they were near the Castle, and met Miss Crotchet and her companion, who had turned back to meet them. Captain Fitzchrome was shortly after heartily welcomed by Mr. Crotchet, and the party separated to dress for dinner, the Captain being by no means in an enviable state of mind, and full of misgivings as to the extent of belief that he was bound to accord to the words of the lady of his heart.
En quoi cognoissez-vous la folie anticque? En quoi cognoissez-vous la sagesse presente? — RABELAIS.
“If I were sketching a bandit who had just shot his last pursuer, having outrun all the rest, that is the very face I would give him,” soliloquised the Captain, as he studied the features of his rival in the drawing-room, during the miserable half-hour before dinner, when dulness reigns predominant over expectant company, especially when they are waiting for some one last comer, whom they all heartily curse in their hearts, and whom, nevertheless, or indeed therefore-the-more, they welcome as a sinner, more heartily than all the just persons who had been punctual to their engagement. Some new visitors had arrived in the morning, and, as the company dropped in one by one, the Captain anxiously watched the unclosing door for the form of his beloved: but she was the last to make her appearance, and on her entry gave him a malicious glance, which he construed into a telegraphic communication that she had stayed away to torment him. Young Crotchet escorted her with marked attention to the upper end of the drawing-room, where a great portion of the company was congregated around Miss Crotchet. These being the only ladies in the company, it was evident that old Mr. Crotchet would give his arm to Lady Clarinda, an arrangement with which the Captain could not interfere. He therefore took his station near the door, studying his rival from a distance, and determined to take advantage of his present position, to secure the seat next to his charmer. He was meditating on the best mode of operation for securing this important post with due regard to bien-seance, when he was twitched by the button by Mr. Mac Quedy, who said to him: “Lady Clarinda tells me, sir, that you are anxious to talk with me on the subject of exchangeable value, from which I infer that you have studied political economy, and as a great deal depends on the definition of value, I shall be glad to set you right on that point.” “I am much obliged to you, sir,” said the Captain, and was about to express his utter disqualification for the proposed instruction, when Mr. Skionar walked up and said: “Lady Clarinda informs me that you wish to talk over with me the question of subjective reality. I am delighted to fall in with a gentleman who daily appreciates the transcendental philosophy.” “Lady Clarinda is too good,” said the Captain; and was about to protest that he had never heard the word “transcendental” before, when the butler announced dinner. Mr. Crotchet led the way with Lady Clarinda: Lord Bossnowl followed with Miss Crotchet: the economist and transcendentalist pinned in the Captain, and held him, one by each arm, as he impatiently descended the stairs in the rear of several others of the company, whom they had forced him to let pass; but the moment he entered the dining-room he broke loose from them, and at the expense of a little brusquerie, secured his position.
“Well, Captain,” said Lady Clarinda, “I perceive you can still manoeuvre.”
“What could possess you,” said the Captain, “to send two unendurable and inconceivable bores to intercept me with rubbish about which I neither know nor care any more than the man in the moon?”
“Perhaps,” said Lady Clarinda, “I saw your design, and wished to put your generalship to the test. But do not contradict anything I have said about you, and see if the learned will find you out.”
“There is fine music, as Rabelais observes, in the cliquetis d’asssiettes, a refreshing shade in the ombre de salle a manger, and an elegant fragrance in the fumee de roti,” said a voice at the Captain’s elbow. The Captain turning round, recognised his clerical friend of the morning, who knew him again immediately, and said he was extremely glad to meet him there; more especially as Lady Clarinda had assured him that he was an enthusiastic lover of Greek poetry.
“Lady Clarinda,” said the Captain, “is a very pleasant young lady.”
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. So she is, sir: and I understand she has all the wit of the family to herself, whatever that totum may be. But a glass of wine after soup is, as the French say, the verre de sante. The current of opinion sets in favour of Hock: but I am for Madeira; I do not fancy Hock till I have laid a substratum of Madeira. Will you join me?
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. With pleasure.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Here is a very fine salmon before me: and May is the very point nomme to have salmon in perfection. There is a fine turbot close by, and there is much to be said in his behalf: but salmon in May is the king of fish.
MR. CROTCHET. That salmon before you, doctor, was caught in the Thames, this morning.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. [Greek text]. Rarity of rarities! A Thames salmon caught this morning. Now, Mr. Mac Quedy, even in fish your Modern Athens must yield. Cedite Graii.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Eh! sir, on its own around, your Thames salmon has two virtues over all others; first, that it is fresh; and, second, that it is rare; for I understand you do not take half a dozen in a year.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. In some years, sir, not one. Mud, filth, gas-dregs, lock-weirs, and the march of mind, developed in the form of poaching, have ruined the fishery. But, when we do catch a salmon, happy the man to whom he falls.
MR. MAC QUEDY. I confess, sir, this is excellent: but I cannot see why it should be better than a Tweed salmon at Kelso.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, I will take a glass of Hock with you.
MR. MAC QUEDY. With all my heart, sir. There are several varieties of the salmon genus: but the common salmon, the salmo salar, is only one species, one and the same everywhere, just like the human mind. Locality and education make all the difference.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Education! Well, sir, I have no doubt schools for all are just as fit for the species salmo salar as for the genus homo. But you must allow that the specimen before us has finished his education in a manner that does honour to his college. However, I doubt that the salmo salar is only one species, that is to say, precisely alike in all localities. I hold that every river has its own breed, with essential differences; in flavour especially. And as for the human mind, I deny that it is the same in all men. I hold that there is every variety of natural capacity from the idiot to Newton and Shakespeare; the mass of mankind, midway between these extremes, being blockheads of different degrees; education leaving them pretty nearly as it found them, with this single difference, that it gives a fixed direction to their stupidity, a sort of incurable wry neck to the thing they call their understanding. So one nose points always east, and another always west, and each is ready to swear that it points due north.
MR. CROTCHET. If that be the point of truth, very few intellectual noses point due north.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Only those that point to the Modern Athens.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Where all native noses point southward.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Eh, sir, northward for wisdom, and southward for profit.
MR. CROTCHET, JUN. Champagne, doctor?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Most willingly. But you will permit my drinking it while it sparkles. I hold it a heresy to let it deaden in my hand, while the glass of my compotator is being filled on the opposite side of the table. By-the-bye, Captain, you remember a passage in Athenaeus, where he cites Menander on the subject of fish-sauce: [Greek text]. (The Captain was aghast for an answer that would satisfy both his neighbours, when he was relieved by the divine continuing.) The science of fish-sauce, Mr. Mac Quedy, is by no means brought to perfection; a fine field of discovery still lies open in that line.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Nay, sir, beyond lobster-sauce, I take it, ye cannot go.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. In their line, I grant you, oyster and lobster-sauce are the pillars of Hercules. But I speak of the cruet sauces, where the quintessence of the sapid is condensed in a phial. I can taste in my mind’s palate a combination, which, if I could give it reality, I would christen with the name of my college, and hand it down to posterity as a seat of learning indeed.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Well, sir, I wish you success, but I cannot let slip the question we started just now. I say, cutting off idiots, who have no minds at all, all minds are by nature alike. Education (which begins from their birth) makes them what they are.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No, sir, it makes their tendencies, not their power. Caesar would have been the first wrestler on the village common. Education might have made him a Nadir Shah; it might also have made him a Washington; it could not have made him a merry-andrew, for our newspapers to extol as a model of eloquence.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Now, sir, I think education would have made him just anything, and fit for any station, from the throne to the stocks; saint or sinner, aristocrat or democrat, judge, counsel, or prisoner at the bar.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I will thank you for a slice of lamb, with lemon and pepper. Before I proceed with this discussion — Vin de Grave, Mr. Skionar — I must interpose one remark. There is a set of persons in your city, Mr. Mac Quedy, who concoct, every three or four months, a thing, which they call a review: a sort of sugar-plum manufacturers to the Whig aristocracy.
MR. MAC QUEDY. I cannot tell, sir, exactly, what you mean by that; but I hope you will speak of those gentlemen with respect, seeing that I am one of them.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, I must drown my inadvertence in a glass of Sauterne with you. There is a set of gentlemen in your city —
MR. MAC QUEDY. Not in our city, exactly; neither are they a set. There is an editor, who forages for articles in all quarters, from John o’ Groat’s house to the Land’s End. It is not a board, or a society: it is a mere intellectual bazaar, where A, B, and C, bring their wares to market.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Well, sir, these gentlemen among them, the present company excepted, have practised as much dishonesty as, in any other department than literature, would have brought the practitioner under the cognisance of the police. In politics, they have ran with the hare and hunted with the hound. In criticism, they have, knowingly and unblushingly, given false characters, both for good and for evil; sticking at no art of misrepresentation, to clear out of the field of literature all who stood in the way of the interests of their own clique. They have never allowed their own profound ignorance of anything (Greek for instance) to throw even an air of hesitation into their oracular decision on the matter. They set an example of profligate contempt for truth, of which the success was in proportion to the effrontery; and when their prosperity had filled the market with competitors, they cried out against their own reflected sin, as if they had never committed it, or were entitled to a monopoly of it. The latter, I rather think, was what they wanted.
MR. CROTCHET. Hermitage, doctor?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Nothing better, sir. The father who first chose the solitude of that vineyard, knew well how to cultivate his spirit in retirement. Now, Mr. Mac Quedy, Achilles was distinguished above all the Greeks for his inflexible love of truth; could education have made Achilles one of your reviewers?
MR. MAC QUEDY. No doubt of it, even if your character of them were true to the letter.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. And I say, sir — chicken and asparagus — Titan had made him of better clay. I hold with Pindar, “All that is most excellent is so by nature.” [Greek text]. Education can give purposes, but not powers; and whatever purposes had been given him, he would have gone straight forward to them; straight forward, Mr. Mac Quedy.
MR. MAC QUEDY. No, sir, education makes the man, powers, purposes, and all.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. There is the point, sir, on which we join issue.
Several others of the company now chimed in with their opinions, which gave the divine an opportunity to degustate one or two side dishes, and to take a glass of wine with each of the young ladies.
Ay impute a honte plus que mediocre etre vu spectateur ocieux de tant vaillans, disertz, et chevalereux personnaiges. RABELAIS.
LADY CLARINDA (to the Captain). I declare the creature has been listening to all this rigmarole, instead of attending to me. Do you ever expect forgiveness? But now that they are all talking together, and you cannot make out a word they say, nor they hear a word that we say, I will describe the company to you. First, there is the old gentleman on my left hand, at the head of the table, who is now leaning the other way to talk to my brother. He is a good-tempered, half-informed person, very unreasonably fond of reasoning, and of reasoning people; people that talk nonsense logically: he is fond of disputation himself, when there are only one or two, but seldom does more than listen in a large company of illumines. He made a great fortune in the city, and has the comfort of a good conscience. He is very hospitable, and is generous in dinners; though nothing would induce him to give sixpence to the poor, because he holds that all misfortune is from imprudence, that none but the rich ought to marry, and that all ought to thrive by honest industry, as he did. He is ambitious of founding a family, and of allying himself with nobility; and is thus as willing as other grown children to throw away thousands for a gew-gaw, though he would not part with a penny for charity. Next to him is my brother, whom you know as well as I do. He has finished his education with credit, and as he never ventures to oppose me in anything, I have no doubt he is very sensible. He has good manners, is a model of dress, and is reckoned ornamental in all societies. Next to him is Miss Crotchet, my sister-inlaw that is to be. You see she is rather pretty, and very genteel. She is tolerably accomplished, has her table always covered with new novels, thinks Mr. Mac Quedy an oracle, and is extremely desirous to be called “my lady.” Next to her is Mr. Firedamp, a very absurd person, who thinks that water is the evil principle. Next to him is Mr. Eavesdrop, a man who, by dint of a certain something like smartness, has got into good society. He is a sort of bookseller’s tool, and coins all his acquaintance in reminiscences and sketches of character. I am very shy of him, for fear he should print me.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. If he print you in your own likeness, which is that of an angel, you need not fear him. If he print you in any other, I will cut his throat. But proceed —
LADY CLARINDA. Next to him is Mr. Henbane, the toxicologist, I think he calls himself. He has passed half his life in studying poisons and antidotes. The first thing he did on his arrival here was to kill the cat; and while Miss Crotchet was crying over her, he brought her to life again. I am more shy of him than the other.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. They are two very dangerous fellows, and I shall take care to keep them both at a respectful distance. Let us hope that Eavesdrop will sketch off Henbane, and that Henbane will poison him for his trouble.
LADY CLARINDA. Well, next to him sits Mr. Mac Quedy, the Modern Athenian, who lays down the law about everything, and therefore may be taken to understand everything. He turns all the affairs of this world into questions of buying and selling. He is the Spirit of the Frozen Ocean to everything like romance and sentiment. He condenses their volume of steam into a drop of cold water in a moment. He has satisfied me that I am a commodity in the market, and that I ought to set myself at a high price. So you see, he who would have me must bid for me.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. I shall discuss that point with Mr. Mac Quedy.
LADY CLARINDA. Not a word for your life. Our flirtation is our own secret. Let it remain so.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Flirtation, Clarinda! Is that all that the most ardent —
LADY CLARINDA. Now, don’t be rhapsodical here. Next to Mr. Mac Quedy is Mr. Skionar, a sort of poetical philosopher, a curious compound of the intense and the mystical. He abominates all the ideas of Mr. Mac Quedy, and settles everything by sentiment and intuition.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Then, I say, he is the wiser man.
LADY CLARINDA. They are two oddities, but a little of them is amusing, and I like to hear them dispute. So you see I am in training for a philosopher myself.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Any philosophy, for Heaven’s sake, but the pound-shilling-and-pence philosophy of Mr. Mac Quedy.
LADY CLARINDA. Why, they say that even Mr. Skionar, though he is a great dreamer, always dreams with his eyes open, or with one eye at any rate, which is an eye to his gain: but I believe that in this respect the poor man has got an ill name by keeping bad company. He has two dear friends, Mr. Wilful Wontsee, and Mr. Rumblesack Shantsee, poets of some note, who used to see visions of Utopia, and pure republics beyond the Western deep: but, finding that these El Dorados brought them no revenue, they turned their vision-seeing faculty into the more profitable channel of espying all sorts of virtues in the high and the mighty, who were able and willing to pay for the discovery.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. I do not fancy these virtue-spyers.
LADY CLARINDA. Next to Mr. Skionar sits Mr. Chainmail, a good-looking young gentleman, as you see, with very antiquated tastes. He is fond of old poetry, and is something of a poet himself. He is deep in monkish literature, and holds that the best state of society was that of the twelfth century, when nothing was going forward but fighting, feasting, and praying, which he says are the three great purposes for which man was made. He laments bitterly over the inventions of gunpowder, steam, and gas, which he says have ruined the world. He lives within two or three miles, and has a large hall, adorned with rusty pikes, shields, helmets, swords, and tattered banners, and furnished with yew-tree chairs, and two long old worm-eaten oak tables, where he dines with all his household, after the fashion of his favourite age. He wants us all to dine with him, and I believe we shall go.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. That will be something new, at any rate.
LADY CLARINDA. Next to him is Mr. Toogood, the cooperationist, who will have neither fighting nor praying; but wants to parcel out the world into squares like a chess-board, with a community on each, raising everything for one another, with a great steam-engine to serve them in common for tailor and hosier, kitchen and cook.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. He is the strangest of the set, so far.
LADY CLARINDA. This brings us to the bottom of the table, where sits my humble servant, Mr. Crotchet the younger. I ought not to describe him.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. I entreat you do.
LADY CLARINDA. Well, I really have very little to say in his favour.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. I do not wish to hear anything in his favour; and I rejoice to hear you say so, because —
LADY CLARINDA. Do not flatter yourself. If I take him, it will be to please my father, and to have a town and country house, and plenty of servants and a carriage and an opera-box, and make some of my acquaintance who have married for love, or for rank, or for anything but money, die for envy of my jewels. You do not think I would take him for himself. Why, he is very smooth and spruce as far as his dress goes; but as to his face, he looks as if he had tumbled headlong into a volcano, and been thrown up again among the cinders.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. I cannot believe, that, speaking thus of him, you mean to take him at all.
LADY CLARINDA. Oh! I am out of my teens. I have been very much in love; but now I am come to years of discretion, and must think, like other people, of settling myself advantageously. He was in love with a banker’s daughter, and cast her off at her father’s bankruptcy, and the poor girl has gone to hide herself in some wild place.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. She must have a strange taste, if she pines for the loss of him.
LADY CLARINDA. They say he was good-looking, till his bubble schemes, as they call them, stamped him with the physiognomy of a desperate gambler. I suspect he has still a penchant towards his first flame. If he takes me, it will be for my rank and connection, and the second seat of the borough of Rogueingrain. So we shall meet on equal terms, and shall enjoy all the blessedness of expecting nothing from each other.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. You can expect no security with such an adventurer.
LADY CLARINDA. I shall have the security of a good settlement, and then if andare al diavolo be his destiny, he may go, you know, by himself. He is almost always dreaming and distrait. It is very likely that some great reverse is in store for him: but that will not concern me, you perceive.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. You torture me, Clarinda, with the bare possibility.
LADY CLARINDA. Hush! Here is music to soothe your troubled spirit. Next to him, on this side, sits the dilettante composer, Mr. Trillo; they say his name was O’Trill, and he has taken the O from the beginning, and put it at the end. I do not know how this may be. He plays well on the violoncello, and better on the piano; sings agreeably; has a talent at versemaking, and improvises a song with some felicity. He is very agreeable company in the evening, with his instruments and music-books. He maintains that the sole end of all enlightened society is to get up a good opera, and laments that wealth, genius, and energy are squandered upon other pursuits, to the neglect of this one great matter.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. That is a very pleasant fancy at any rate.
LADY CLARINDA. I assure you he has a great deal to say for it. Well, next to him, again, is Dr. Morbific, who has been all over the world to prove that there is no such thing as contagion; and has inoculated himself with plague, yellow fever, and every variety of pestilence, and is still alive to tell the story. I am very shy of him, too; for I look on him as a walking phial of wrath, corked full of all infections, and not to be touched without extreme hazard.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. This is the strangest fellow of all.
LADY CLARINDA. Next to him sits Mr. Philpot, the geographer, who thinks of nothing but the heads and tails of rivers, and lays down the streams of Terra Incognita as accurately as if he had been there. He is a person of pleasant fancy, and makes a sort of fairy land of every country he touches, from the Frozen Ocean to the Deserts of Sahara.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. How does he settle matters with Mr. Firedamp?
LADY CLARINDA. You see Mr. Firedamp has got as far as possible out of his way. Next to him is Sir Simon Steeltrap, of Steeltrap Lodge, Member for Crouching–Curtown, Justice of Peace for the county, and Lord of the United Manors of Spring-gun-and-Treadmill; a great preserver of game and public morals. By administering the laws which he assists in making, he disposes, at his pleasure, of the land and its live stock, including all the two-legged varieties, with and without feathers, in a circumference of several miles round Steeltrap Lodge. He has enclosed commons and woodlands; abolished cottage gardens; taken the village cricket-ground into his own park, out of pure regard to the sanctity of Sunday; shut up footpaths and alehouses (all but those which belong to his electioneering friend, Mr. Quassia, the brewer); put down fairs and fiddlers; committed many poachers; shot a few; convicted one-third of the peasantry; suspected the rest; and passed nearly the whole of them through a wholesome course of prison discipline, which has finished their education at the expense of the county.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. He is somewhat out of his element here: among such a diversity of opinions he will hear some he will not like.
LADY CLARINDA. It was rather ill-judged in Mr. Crotchet to invite him today. But the art of assorting company is above these parvenus. They invite a certain number of persons without considering how they harmonise with each other. Between Sir Simon and you is the Reverend Doctor Folliott. He is said to be an excellent scholar, and is fonder of books than the majority of his cloth; he is very fond, also, of the good things of this world. He is of an admirable temper, and says rude things in a pleasant half-earnest manner, that nobody can take offence with. And next to him again is one Captain Fitzchrome, who is very much in love with a certain person that does not mean to have anything to say to him, because she can better her fortune by taking somebody else.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. And next to him again is the beautiful, the accomplished, the witty, the fascinating, the tormenting, Lady Clarinda, who traduces herself to the said Captain by assertions which it would drive him crazy to believe.
LADY CLARINDA. Time will show, sir. And now we have gone the round of the table.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. But I must say, though I know you had always a turn for sketching characters, you surprise me by your observation, and especially by your attention to opinions.
LADY CLARINDA. Well, I will tell you a secret: I am writing a novel.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. A novel!
LADY CLARINDA. Yes, a novel. And I shall get a little finery by it: trinkets and fal-lals, which I cannot get from papa. You must know I have been reading several fashionable novels, the fashionable this, and the fashionable that; and I thought to myself, why I can do better than any of these myself. So I wrote a chapter or two, and sent them as a specimen to Mr. Puffall, the book-seller, telling him they were to be a part of the fashionable something or other, and he offered me, I will not say how much, to finish it in three volumes, and let him pay all the newspapers for recommending it as the work of a lady of quality, who had made very free with the characters of her acquaintance.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Surely you have not done so?
LADY CLARINDA. Oh, no! I leave that to Mr. Eavesdrop. But Mr. Puffall made it a condition that I should let him say so.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. A strange recommendation.
LADY CLARINDA. Oh, nothing else will do. And it seems you may give yourself any character you like, and the newspapers will print it as if it came from themselves. I have commended you to three of our friends here as an economist, a transcendentalist, and a classical scholar; and if you wish to be renowned through the world for these, or any other accomplishments, the newspapers will confirm you in their possession for half-a-guinea a piece.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Truly, the praise of such gentry must be a feather in any one’s cap.
LADY CLARINDA. So you will see, some morning, that my novel is “the most popular production of the day.” This is Mr. Puffall’s favourite phrase. He makes the newspapers say it of everything he publishes. But “the day,” you know, is a very convenient phrase; it allows of three hundred and sixty-five “most popular productions” in a year. And in leap-year one more.
But when they came to shape the model,
Not one could fit the other’s noddle.
Meanwhile, the last course, and the dessert, passed by. When the ladies had withdrawn, young Crotchet addressed the company.
MR. CROTCHET, JUN. There is one point in which philosophers of all classes seem to be agreed: that they only want money to regenerate the world.
MR. MAC QUEDY. No doubt of it. Nothing is so easy as to lay down the outlines of perfect society. There wants nothing but money to set it going. I will explain myself clearly and fully by reading a paper. (Producing a large scroll.) “In the infancy of society —”
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Pray, Mr. Mac Quedy, how is it that all gentlemen of your nation begin everything they write with the “infancy of society?”
MR. MAC QUEDY. Eh, sir, it is the simplest way to begin at the beginning. “In the infancy of society, when government was invented to save a percentage; say two and a half per cent. —”
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I will not say any such thing.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Well, say any percentage you please.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I will not say any percentage at all.
MR. MAC QUEDY. “On the principle of the division of labour —”
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Government was invented to spend a percentage.
MR. MAC QUEDY. To save a percentage.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No, sir, to spend a percentage; and a good deal more than two and a half percent. Two hundred and fifty per cent.: that is intelligible.
MR. MAC QUEDY. —“In the infancy of society —”
MR. TOOGOOD. — Never mind the infancy of society. The question is of society in its maturity. Here is what it should be. (Producing a paper.) I have laid it down in a diagram.
MR. SKIONAR. Before we proceed to the question of government, we must nicely discriminate the boundaries of sense, understanding, and reason. Sense is a receptivity —
MR. CROTCHET, JUN. We are proceeding too fast. Money being all that is wanted to regenerate society, I will put into the hands of this company a large sum for the purpose. Now let us see how to dispose of it.
MR. MAC QUEDY. We will begin by taking a committee-room in London, where we will dine together once a week, to deliberate.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. If the money is to go in deliberative dinners, you may set me down for a committee man and honorary caterer.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Next, you must all learn political economy, which I will teach you, very compendiously, in lectures over the bottle.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I hate lectures over the bottle. But pray, sir, what is political economy?
MR. MAC QUEDY. Political economy is to the state what domestic economy is to the family.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No such thing, sir. In the family there is a paterfamilias, who regulates the distribution, and takes care that there shall be no such thing in the household as one dying of hunger, while another dies of surfeit. In the state it is all hunger at one end, and all surfeit at the other. Matchless claret, Mr. Crotchet.
MR. CROTCHET. Vintage of fifteen, Doctor.
MR. MAC QUEDY. The family consumes, and so does the state.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Consumes, air! Yes: but the mode, the proportions: there is the essential difference between the state and the family. Sir, I hate false analogies.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Well, sir, the analogy is not essential. Distribution will come under its proper head.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Come where it will, the distribution of the state is in no respect analogous to the distribution of the family. The paterfamilias, sir: the paterfamilias.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Well, sir, let that pass. The family consumes, and in order to consume, it must have supply.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Well, sir, Adam and Eve knew that, when they delved and span.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Very true, sir (reproducing his scroll). “In the infancy of society —”
MR. TOOGOOD. The reverend gentleman has hit the nail on the head. It is the distribution that must be looked to; it is the paterfamilias that is wanting in the State. Now here I have provided him. (Reproducing his diagram.)
MR. TRILLO. Apply the money, sir, to building and endowing an opera house, where the ancient altar of Bacchus may flourish, and justice may be done to sublime compositions. (Producing a part of a manuscript opera.)
MR. SKIONAR. No, sir, build sacella for transcendental oracles to teach the world how to see through a glass darkly. (Producing a scroll.)
MR. TRILLO. See through an opera-glass brightly.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. See through a wine-glass full of claret; then you see both darkly and brightly. But, gentlemen, if you are all in the humour for reading papers, I will read you the first half of my next Sunday’s sermon. (Producing a paper.)
OMNES. No sermon! No sermon!
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Then I move that our respective papers be committed to our respective pockets.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Political economy is divided into two great branches, production and consumption.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Yes, sir; there are two great classes of men: those who produce much and consume little; and those who consume much and produce nothing. The fruges consumere nati have the best of it. Eh, Captain! You remember the characteristics of a great man according to Aristophanes: [Greek text]. Ha! ha! ha! Well, Captain, even in these tight-laced days, the obscurity of a learned language allows a little pleasantry.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Very true, sir; the pleasantry and the obscurity go together; they are all one, as it were — to me at any rate (aside).
MR. MAC QUEDY. Now, sir —
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Pray, sir, let your science alone, or you will put me under the painful necessity of demolishing it bit by bit, as I have done your exordium. I will undertake it any morning; but it is too hard exercise after dinner.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Well, sir, in the meantime I hold my science established.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. And I hold it demolished.
MR. CROTCHET, JUN. Pray, gentlemen, pocket your manuscripts, fill your glasses, and consider what we shall do with our money.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Build lecture-rooms, and schools for all.
MR. TRILLO. Revive the Athenian theatre; regenerate the lyrical drama.
MR. TOOGOOD. Build a grand cooperative parallelogram, with a steam-engine in the middle for a maid of all work.
MR. FIREDAMP. Drain the country, and get rid of malaria, by abolishing duck-ponds.
DR. MORBIFIC. Found a philanthropic college of anticontagionists, where all the members shall be inoculated with the virus of all known diseases. Try the experiment on a grand scale.
MR. CHAINMAIL. Build a great dining-hall; endow it with beef and ale, and hang the hall round with arms to defend the provisions.
MR. HENBANE. Found a toxicological institution for trying all poisons and antidotes. I myself have killed a frog twelve times, and brought him to life eleven; but the twelfth time he died. I have a phial of the drug, which killed him, in my pocket, and shall not rest till I have discovered its antidote.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I move that the last speaker be dispossessed of his phial, and that it be forthwith thrown into the Thames.
MR. HENBANE. How, sir? my invaluable, and, in the present state of human knowledge, infallible poison?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Let the frogs have all the advantage of it.
MR. CROTCHET. Consider, Doctor, the fish might participate. Think of the salmon.
REV DR. FOLLIOTT. Then let the owner’s right-hand neighbour swallow it.
MR. EAVESDROP. Me, sir! What have I done, sir, that I am to be poisoned, sir?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, you have published a character of your facetious friend, the Reverend Doctor F., wherein you have sketched off me; me, sir, even to my nose and wig. What business have the public with my nose and wig?
MR. EAVESDROP. Sir, it is all good-humoured; all in bonhomie: all friendly and complimentary.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, the bottle, la Dive Bouteille, is a recondite oracle, which makes an Eleusinian temple of the circle in which it moves. He who reveals its mysteries must die. Therefore, let the dose be administered. Fiat experimentum in anima vili.
MR. EAVESDROP. Sir, you are very facetious at my expense.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, you have been very unfacetious, very inficete at mine. You have dished me up, like a savoury omelette, to gratify the appetite of the reading rabble for gossip. The next time, sir, I will respond with the argumentum baculinum. Print that, sir: put it on record as a promise of the Reverend Doctor F., which shall be most faithfully kept, with an exemplary bamboo.
MR. EAVESDROP. Your cloth protects you, sir.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. My bamboo shall protect me, sir.
MR. CROTCHET. Doctor, Doctor, you are growing too polemical.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, my blood boils. What business have the public with my nose and wig?
MR. CROTCHET. Doctor! Doctor!
MR. CROTCHET, JUN. Pray, gentlemen, return to the point. How shall we employ our fund?
MR. PHILPOT. Surely in no way so beneficially as in exploring rivers. Send a fleet of steamboats down the Niger, and another up the Nile. So shall you civilise Africa, and establish stocking factories in Abyssinia and Bambo.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. With all submission, breeches and petticoats must precede stockings. Send out a crew of tailors. Try if the King of Bambo will invest in inexpressibles.
MR. CROTCHET, JUN. Gentlemen, it is not for partial, but for general benefit, that this fund is proposed: a grand and universally applicable scheme for the amelioration of the condition of man.
SEVERAL VOICES. That is my scheme. I have not heard a scheme but my own that has a grain of common sense.
MR. TRILLO. Gentlemen, you inspire me. Your last exclamation runs itself into a chorus, and sets itself to music. Allow me to lead, and to hope for your voices in harmony.
After careful meditation,
And profound deliberation,
On the various pretty projects which have just been shown,
Not a scheme in agitation,
For the world’s amelioration,
Has a grain of common sense in it, except my own.
SEVERAL VOICES. We are not disposed to join in any such chorus.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Well, of all these schemes, I am for Mr. Trillo’s. Regenerate the Athenian theatre. My classical friend here, the Captain, will vote with, me.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. I, sir? oh! of course, sir.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Surely, Captain, I rely on you to uphold political economy.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Me, sir! oh, to be sure, sir.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Pray, sir, will political economy uphold the Athenian theatre?
MR. MAC QUEDY. Surely not. It would be a very unproductive investment.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Then the Captain votes against you. What, sir, did not the Athenians, the wisest of nations, appropriate to their theatre their most sacred and intangible fund? Did not they give to melopoeia, choregraphy, and the sundry forms of didascalics, the precedence of all other matters, civil and military? Was it not their law, that even the proposal to divert this fund to any other purpose should be punished with death? But, sir, I further propose that the Athenian theatre being resuscitated, the admission shall be free to all who can expound the Greek choruses, constructively, mythologically, and metrically, and to none others. So shall all the world learn Greek: Greek, the Alpha and Omega of all knowledge. At him who sits not in the theatre shall be pointed the finger of scorn: he shall be called in the highway of the city, “a fellow without Greek.”
MR. TRILLO. But the ladies, sir, the ladies.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Every man may take in a lady: and she who can construe and metricise a chorus, shall, if she so please, pass in by herself.
MR. TRILLO. But, sir, you will shut me out of my own theatre. Let there at least be a double passport, Greek and Italian.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No, sir; I am inexorable. No Greek, no theatre.
MR. TRILLO. Sir, I cannot consent to be shut out from my own theatre.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. You see how it is, Squire Crotchet the younger; you can scarcely find two to agree on a scheme, and no two of those can agree on the details. Keep your money in your pocket. And so ends the fund for regenerating the world.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Nay, by no means. We are all agreed on deliberative dinners.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Very true; we will dine and discuss. We will sing with Robin Hood, “If I drink water while this doth last;” and while it lasts we will have no adjournment, if not to the Athenian theatre.
MR. TRILLO. Well, gentlemen, I hope this chorus at least will please you:—
If I drink water while this doth last,
May I never again drink wine:
For how can a man, in his life of a span,
Do anything better than dine?
Well dine and drink, and say if we think
That anything better can be,
And when we have dined, wish all mankind
May dine as well as we.
And though a good wish will fill no dish
And brim no cup with sack,
Yet thoughts will spring as the glasses ring,
To illume our studious track.
On the brilliant dreams of our hopeful schemes
The light of the flask shall shine;
And we’ll sit till day, but we’ll find the way
To drench the world with wine.
The schemes for the world’s regeneration evaporated in a tumult of voices.
Quoth he: In all my life till now, I ne’er saw so profane a show. — BUTLER.
The library of Crotchet Castle was a large and well-furnished apartment, opening on one side into an ante-room, on the other into a music-room. It had several tables stationed at convenient distances; one consecrated to the novelties of literature, another to the novelties of embellishment; others unoccupied, and at the disposal of the company. The walls were covered with a copious collection of ancient and modern books; the ancient having been selected and arranged by the Reverend Doctor Folliott. In the ante-room were card-tables; in the music-room were various instruments, all popular operas, and all fashionable music. In this suite of apartments, and not in the drawing-room, were the evenings of Crotchet Castle usually passed.
The young ladies were in the music-room; Miss Crotchet at the piano, Lady Clarinda at the harp, playing and occasionally singing, at the suggestion of Mr. Trillo, portions of Matilde di Shabran. Lord Bossnowl was turning over the leaves for Miss Crotchet; the Captain was performing the same office for Lady Clarinda, but with so much more attention to the lady than the book, that he often made sad work with the harmony, by turnover two leaves together. On these occasions Miss Crotchet paused, Lady Clarinda laughed, Mr. Trillo scolded, Lord Bossnowl yawned, the Captain apologised, and the performance proceeded.
In the library Mr. Mac Quedy was expounding political economy to the Reverend Doctor Folliott, who was pro more demolishing its doctrines seriatim.
Mr. Chainmail was in hot dispute with Mr. Skionar, touching the physical and moral well-being of man. Mr. Skionar was enforcing his friend Mr. Shantsee’s views of moral discipline; maintaining that the sole thing needful for man in this world was loyal and pious education; the giving men good books to read, and enough of the hornbook to read them; with a judicious interspersion of the lessons of Old Restraint, which was his poetic name for the parish stocks. Mr. Chainmail, on the other hand, stood up for the exclusive necessity of beef and ale, lodging and raiment, wife and children, courage to fight for them all, and armour wherewith to do so.
Mr. Henbane had got his face scratched, and his finger bitten, by the cat, in trying to catch her for a second experiment in killing and bringing to life; and Doctor Morbific was comforting him with a disquisition to prove that there were only four animals having the power to communicate hydrophobia, of which the cat was one; and that it was not necessary that the animal should be in a rabid state, the nature of the wound being everything, and the idea of contagion a delusion. Mr. Henbane was listening very lugubriously to this dissertation.
Mr. Philpot had seized on Mr. Firedamp, and pinned him down to a map of Africa, on which he was tracing imaginary courses of mighty inland rivers, terminating in lakes and marshes, where they were finally evaporated by the heat of the sun; and Mr. Firedamp’s hair was standing on end at the bare imagination of the mass of malaria that must be engendered by the operation. Mr. Toogood had begun explaining his diagrams to Sir Simon Steeltrap; but Sir Simon grew testy, and told Mr. Toogood that the promulgators of such doctrines ought to be consigned to the treadmill. The philanthropist walked off from the country gentleman, and proceeded to hold forth to young Crotchet, who stood silent, as one who listens, but in reality without hearing a syllable. Mr. Crotchet, senior, as the master of the house, was left to entertain himself with his own meditations, till the Reverend Doctor Folliott tore himself from Mr. Mac Quedy, and proceeded to expostulate with Mr. Crotchet on a delicate topic.
There was an Italian painter, who obtained the name of Il Bragatore, by the superinduction of inexpressibles on the naked Apollos and Bacchuses of his betters. The fame of this worthy remained one and indivisible, till a set of heads, which had been, by a too common mistake of Nature’s journeymen, stuck upon magisterial shoulders, as the Corinthian capitals of “fair round bellies with fat capon lined,” but which Nature herself had intended for the noddles of porcelain mandarins, promulgated simultaneously from the east and the west of London, an order that no plaster-of-Paris Venus should appear in the streets without petticoats. Mr. Crotchet, on reading this order in the evening paper, which, by the postman’s early arrival, was always laid on his breakfast-table, determined to fill his house with Venuses of all sizes and kinds. In pursuance of this resolution, came packages by water-carriage, containing an infinite variety of Venuses. There were the Medicean Venus, and the Bathing Venus; the Uranian Venus, and the Pandemian Venus; the Crouching Venus, and the Sleeping Venus; the Venus rising from the sea, the Venus with the apple of Paris, and the Venus with the armour of Mars.
The Reverend Doctor Folliott had been very much astonished at this unexpected display. Disposed, as he was, to hold, that whatever had been in Greece, was right; he was more than doubtful of the propriety of throwing open the classical adytum to the illiterate profane. Whether, in his interior mind, he was at all influenced, either by the consideration that it would be for the credit of his cloth, with some of his vice-suppressing neighbours, to be able to say that he had expostulated; or by curiosity, to try what sort of defence his city-bred friend, who knew the classics only by translations, and whose reason was always a little ahead of his knowledge, would make for his somewhat ostentatious display of liberality in matters of taste; is a question on which the learned may differ: but, after having duly deliberated on two full-sized casts of the Uranian and Pandemian Venus, in niches on each side of the chimney, and on three alabaster figures, in glass cases, on the mantelpiece, he proceeded, peirastically, to open his fire.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. These little alabaster figures on the mantelpiece, Mr. Crotchet, and those large figures in the niches — may I take the liberty to ask you what they are intended to represent?
MR. CROTCHET. Venus, sir; nothing more, sir; just Venus.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. May I ask you, sir, why they are there?
MR. CROTCHET. To be looked at, sir; just to be looked at: the reasons for most things in a gentleman’s house being in it at all; from the paper on the walls, and the drapery of the curtains, even to the books in the library, of which the most essential part is the appearance of the back.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Very true, sir. As great philosophers hold that the esse of things is percipi, so a gentleman’s furniture exists to be looked at. Nevertheless, sir, there are some things more fit to be looked at than others; for instance, there is nothing more fit to be looked at than the outside of a book. It is, as I may say, from repeated experience, a pure and unmixed pleasure to have a goodly volume lying before you, and to know that you may open it if you please, and need not open it unless you please. It is a resource against ennui, if ennui should come upon you. To have the resource and not to feel the ennui, to enjoy your bottle in the present, and your book in the indefinite future, is a delightful condition of human existence. There is no place, in which a man can move or sit, in which the outside of a book can be otherwise than an innocent and becoming spectacle. Touching this matter, there cannot, I think, be two opinions. But with respect to your Venuses there can be, and indeed there are, two very distinct opinions. Now, Sir, that little figure in the centre of the mantelpiece — as a grave paterfamilias, Mr. Crotchet, with a fair nubile daughter, whose eyes are like the fish-pools of Heshbon — I would ask you if you hold that figure to be altogether delicate?
MR. CROTCHET. The sleeping Venus, sir? Nothing can be more delicate than the entire contour of the figure, the flow of the hair on the shoulders and neck, the form of the feet and fingers. It is altogether a most delicate morsel.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Why, in that sense, perhaps, it is as delicate as whitebait in July. But the attitude, sir, the attitude.
MR. CROTCHET. Nothing can be more natural, sir.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. That is the very thing, sir. It is too natural: too natural, sir: it lies for all the world like — I make no doubt, the pious cheesemonger, who recently broke its plaster facsimile over the head of the itinerant vendor, was struck by a certain similitude to the position of his own sleeping beauty, and felt his noble wrath thereby justly aroused.
MR. CROTCHET. Very likely, sir. In my opinion, the cheesemonger was a fool, and the justice who sided with him was a greater.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Fool, sir, is a harsh term: call not thy brother a fool.
MR. CROTCHET. Sir, neither the cheesemonger nor the justice is a brother of mine.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, we are all brethren.
MR. CROTCHET. Yes, sir, as the hangman is of the thief; the squire of the poacher; the judge of the libeller; the lawyer of his client; the statesman of his colleague; the bubble-blower of the bubble-buyer; the slave-driver of the negro; as these are brethren, so am I and the worthies in question
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. To be sure, sir, in these instances, and in many others, the term brother must be taken in its utmost latitude of interpretation: we are all brothers, nevertheless. But to return to the point. Now these two large figures, one with drapery on the lower half of the body, and the other with no drapery at all; upon my word, sir, it matters not what godfathers and godmothers may have promised and vowed for the children of this world, touching the devil and other things to be renounced, if such figures as those are to be put before their eyes.
MR. CROTCHET. Sir, the naked figure is the Pandemian Venus, and the half-draped figure is the Uranian Venus; and I say, sir, that figure realises the finest imaginings of Plato, and is the personification of the most refined and exalted feeling of which the human mind is susceptible; the love of pure, ideal, intellectual beauty.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I am aware, sir, that Plato, in his Symposium, discourseth very eloquently touching the Uranian and Pandemian Venus: but you must remember that, in our universities, Plato is held to be little better than a misleader of youth; and they have shown their contempt for him, not only by never reading him (a mode of contempt in which they deal very largely), but even by never printing a complete edition of him; although they have printed many ancient books, which nobody suspects to have been ever read on the spot, except by a person attached to the press, who is, therefore, emphatically called “the reader.”
MR. CROTCHET. Well, sir?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Why, sir, to “the reader” aforesaid (supposing either of our universities to have printed an edition of Plato), or to any one else who can be supposed to have read Plato, or, indeed, to be ever likely to do so, I would very willingly show these figures; because to such they would, I grant you, be the outward and visible signs of poetical and philosophical ideas: but, to the multitude, the gross, carnal multitude, they are but two beautiful women, one half undressed, and the other quite so.
MR. CROTCHET. Then, sir, let the multitude look upon them and learn modesty.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I must say that, if I wished my footman to learn modesty, I should not dream of sending him to school to a naked Venus.
MR. CROTCHET. Sir, ancient sculpture is the true school of modesty. But where the Greeks had modesty, we have cant; where they had poetry, we have cant; where they had patriotism, we have cant; where they had anything that exalts, delights, or adorns humanity, we have nothing but cant, cant, cant. And, sir, to show my contempt for cant in all its shapes, I have adorned my house with the Greek Venus, in all her shapes, and am ready to fight her battle against all the societies that ever were instituted for the suppression of truth and beauty.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. My dear sir, I am afraid you are growing warm. Pray be cool. Nothing contributes so much to good digestion as to be perfectly cool after dinner.
MR. CROTCHET. Sir, the Lacedaemonian virgins wrestled naked with young men; and they grew up, as the wise Lycurgus had foreseen, into the most modest of women, and the most exemplary of wives and mothers.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Very likely, sir; but the Athenian virgins did no such thing, and they grew up into wives who stayed at home — stayed at home, sir; and looked after their husbands’ dinner — his dinner, sir, you will please to observe.
MR. CROTCHET. And what was the consequence of that, sir? that they were such very insipid persons that the husband would not go home to eat his dinner, but preferred the company of some Aspasia, or Lais.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Two very different persons, sir, give me leave to remark.
MR. CROTCHET. Very likely, sir; but both too good to be married in Athens.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, Lais was a Corinthian.
MR. CROTCHET. Od’s vengeance, sir, some Aspasia and any other Athenian name of the same sort of person you like —
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I do not like the sort of person at all: the sort of person I like, as I have already implied, is a modest woman, who stays at home and looks after her husband’s dinner.
MR. CROTCHET. Well, sir, that was not the taste of the Athenians. They preferred the society of women who would not have made any scruple about sitting as models to Praxiteles; as you know, sir, very modest women in Italy did to Canova; one of whom, an Italian countess, being asked by an English lady, “how she could bear it?” answered, “Very well; there was a good fire in the room.”
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, the English lady should have asked how the Italian lady’s husband could bear it. The phials of my wrath would overflow if poor dear Mrs. Folliott —: sir, in return for your story, I will tell you a story of my ancestor, Gilbert Folliott. The devil haunted him, as he did Saint Francis, in the likeness of a beautiful damsel; but all he could get from the exemplary Gilbert was an admonition to wear a stomacher and longer petticoats.
MR. CROTCHET. Sir, your story makes for my side of the question. It proves that the devil, in the likeness of a fair damsel, with short petticoats and no stomacher, was almost too much for Gilbert Folliott. The force of the spell was in the drapery.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Bless my soul, sir!
MR. CROTCHET. Give me leave, sir. Diderot —
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Who was he, sir?
MR. CROTCHET. Who was he, sir? the sublime philosopher, the father of the Encyclopaedia, of all the encyclopaedias that have ever been printed.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Bless me, sir, a terrible progeny: they belong to the tribe of Incubi.
MR. CROTCHET. The great philosopher, Diderot —
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, Diderot is not a man after my heart. Keep to the Greeks, if you please; albeit this Sleeping Venus is not an antique.
MR. CROTCHET. Well, sir, the Greeks: why do we call the Elgin marbles inestimable? Simply because they are true to nature. And why are they so superior in that point to all modern works, with all our greater knowledge of anatomy? Why, sir, but because the Greeks, having no cant, had better opportunities of studying models?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, I deny our greater knowledge of anatomy. But I shall take the liberty to employ, on this occasion, the argumentum ad hominem. Would you have allowed Miss Crotchet to sit for a model to Canova?
MR. CROTCHET. Yes, sir.
“God bless my soul, sir!” exclaimed the Reverend Doctor Folliott, throwing himself back into a chair, and flinging up his heels, with the premeditated design of giving emphasis to his exclamation; but by miscalculating his impetus, he overbalanced his chair, and laid himself on the carpet in a right angle, of which his back was the base.
Chi sta nel mondo un par d’ore contento,
Ne gli vien tolta, ovver contaminata,
Quella sua pace in veruno momento,
Puo dir che Giove drittamente il guata.
The Reverend Doctor Folliott took his departure about ten o’clock, to walk home to his vicarage. There was no moon, but the night was bright and clear, and afforded him as much light as he needed. He paused a moment by the Roman camp to listen to the nightingale; repeated to himself a passage of Sophocles; proceeded through the park gate, and entered the narrow lane that led to the village. He walked on in a very pleasant mood of the state called reverie; in which fish and wine, Greek and political economy, the Sleeping Venus he had left behind, and poor dear Mrs. Folliott, to whose fond arms he was returning, passed, as in a camera obscura, over the tablets of his imagination. Presently the image of Mr. Eavesdrop, with a printed sketch of the Reverend Doctor F., presented itself before him, and he began mechanically to flourish his bamboo. The movement was prompted by his good genius, for the uplifted bamboo received the blow of a ponderous cudgel, which was intended for his head. The reverend gentleman recoiled two or three paces, and saw before him a couple of ruffians, who were preparing to renew the attack, but whom, with two swings of his bamboo, he laid with cracked sconces on the earth, where he proceeded to deal with them like corn beneath the flail of the thresher. One of them drew a pistol, which went off in the very act of being struck aside by the bamboo, and lodged a bullet in the brain of the other. There was then only one enemy, who vainly struggled to rise, every effort being attended with a new and more signal prostration. The fellow roared for mercy. “Mercy, rascal!” cried the divine; “what mercy were you going to show me, villain? What! I warrant me, you thought it would be an easy matter, and no sin, to rob and murder a parson on his way home from dinner. You said to yourself, doubtless, “We’ll waylay the fat parson (you irreverent knave), as he waddles home (you disparaging ruffian), half-seas-over, (you calumnious vagabond).” And with every dyslogistic term, which he supposed had been applied to himself, he inflicted a new bruise on his rolling and roaring antagonist. “Ah, rogue!” he proceeded, “you can roar now, marauder; you were silent enough when you devoted my brains to dispersion under your cudgel. But seeing that I cannot bind you, and that I intend you not to escape, and that it would be dangerous to let you rise, I will disable you in all your members. I will contund you as Thestylis did strong smelling herbs, in the quality whereof you do most gravely partake, as my nose beareth testimony, ill weed that you are. I will beat you to a jelly, and I will then roll you into the ditch, to lie till the constable comes for you, thief.”
“Hold! hold! reverend sir,” exclaimed the penitent culprit, “I am disabled already in every finger, and in every joint. I will roll myself into the ditch, reverend sir.”
“Stir not, rascal,” returned the divine, “stir not so much as the quietest leaf above you, or my bamboo rebounds on your body, like hail in a thunder-storm. Confess, speedily, villain; are you a simple thief, or would you have manufactured me into a subject for the benefit of science? Ay, miscreant caitiff, you would have made me a subject for science, would you? You are a school-master abroad, are you? You are marching with a detachment of the march of mind, are you? You are a member of the Steam Intellect Society, are you? You swear by the learned friend, do you?”
“Oh, no! reverend sir,” answered the criminal, “I am innocent of all these offences, whatever they are, reverend sir. The only friend I had in the world is lying dead beside me, reverend sir.”
The reverend gentleman paused a moment, and leaned on his bamboo. The culprit, bruised as he was, sprang on his legs, and went off in double quick time. The Doctor gave him chase, and had nearly brought him within arm’s length, when the fellow turned at right angles, and sprang clean over a deep dry ditch. The divine, following with equal ardour, and less dexterity, went down over head and ears into a thicket of nettles. Emerging with much discomposure, he proceeded to the village, and roused the constable; but the constable found, on reaching the scene of action, that the dead man was gone, as well as his living accomplice.
“Oh, the monster!” exclaimed the Reverend Doctor Folliott, “he has made a subject for science of the only friend he had in the world.” “Ay, my dear,” he resumed, the next morning at breakfast, “if my old reading, and my early gymnastics (for, as the great Hermann says, before I was demulced by the Muses, I was ferocis ingenii puer, et ad arma quam ad literas paratior), had not imbued me indelibly with some of the holy rage of Frere Jean des Entommeures, I should be, at this moment, lying on the table of some flinty-hearted anatomist, who would have sliced and disjointed me as unscrupulously as I do these remnants of the capon and chine, wherewith you consoled yourself yesterday for my absence at dinner. Phew! I have a noble thirst upon me, which I will quench with floods of tea.”
The reverend gentleman was interrupted by a messenger, who informed him that the Charity Commissioners requested his presence at the inn, where they were holding a sitting.
“The Charity Commissioners!” exclaimed the reverend gentleman, “who on earth are they?”
The messenger could not inform him, and the reverend gentleman took his hat and stick, and proceeded to the inn.
On entering the best parlour, he saw three well-dressed and bulky gentlemen sitting at a table, and a fourth officiating as clerk, with an open book before him, and a pen in his hand. The church-wardens, who had been also summoned, were already in attendance.
The chief commissioner politely requested the Reverend Doctor Folliott to be seated, and after the usual meteorological preliminaries had been settled by a resolution, nem. con., that it was a fine day but very hot, the chief commissioner stated, that in virtue of the commission of Parliament, which they had the honour to hold, they were now to inquire into the state of the public charities of this village.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. The state of the public charities, sir, is exceedingly simple. There are none. The charities here are all private, and so private, that I for one know nothing of them.
FIRST COMMISSIONER. We have been informed, sir, that there is an annual rent charged on the land of Hautbois, for the endowment and repair of an almshouse.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Hautbois! Hautbois!
FIRST COMMISSIONER. The manorial farm of Hautbois, now occupied by Farmer Seedling, is charged with the endowment and maintenance of an almshouse.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT (to the Churchwarden). How is this, Mr. Bluenose?
FIRST CHURCHWARDEN. I really do not know, sir. What say you, Mr. Appletwig?
MR. APPLETWIG (parish clerk and schoolmaster; an old man). I do remember, gentlemen, to have been informed, that there did stand, at the end of the village, a ruined cottage, which had once been an almshouse, which was endowed and maintained, by an annual revenue of a mark and a half, or one pound sterling, charged some centuries ago on the farm of Hautbois; but the means, by the progress of time, having become inadequate to the end, the almshouse tumbled to pieces.
FIRST COMMISSIONER. But this is a right which cannot be abrogated by desuetude, and the sum of one pound per annum is still chargeable for charitable purposes on the manorial farm of Hautbois.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Very well, sir.
MR. APPLETWIG. But, sir, the one pound per annum is still received by the parish, but was long ago, by an unanimous vote in open vestry, given to the minister.
THE THREE COMMISSIONERS (una voce). The minister!
FIRST COMMISSIONER. This is an unjustifiable proceeding.
SECOND COMMISSIONER. A misappropriation of a public fund.
THIRD COMMISSIONER. A flagrant perversion of a charitable donation.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. God bless my soul, gentlemen! I know nothing of this matter. How is this, Mr. Bluenose? Do I receive this one pound per annum?
FIRST CHURCHWARDEN. Really, sir, I know no more about it than you do.
MR. APPLETWIG. You certainly receive it, sir. It was voted to one of your predecessors. Farmer Seedling lumps it in with his tithes.
FIRST COMMISSIONER. Lumps it in, sir! Lump in a charitable donation!
SECOND AND THIRD COMMISSIONER. Oh-oh-oh-h-h!
FIRST COMMISSIONER. Reverend sir, and gentlemen, officers of this parish, we are under the necessity of admonishing you that this is a most improper proceeding: and you are hereby duly admonished accordingly. Make a record, Mr. Milky.
MR. MILKY (writing). The clergyman and church-wardens of the village of Hm-ra-m-m — gravely admonished. Hm-m-m-m.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Is that all, gentlemen?
THE COMMISSIONERS. That is all, sir; and we wish you a good morning.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. A very good morning to you, gentlemen.
“What in the name of all that is wonderful, Mr. Bluenose,” said the Reverend Doctor Folliott, as he walked out of the inn, “what in the name of all that is wonderful, can those fellows mean? They have come here in a chaise and four, to make a fuss about a pound per annum, which, after all, they leave as it was: I wonder who pays them for their trouble, and how much.”
MR. APPLETWIG. The public pay for it, sir. It is a job of the learned friend whom you admire so much. It makes away with public money in salaries, and private money in lawsuits, and does no particle of good to any living soul.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Ay, ay, Mr. Appletwig; that is just the sort of public service to be looked for from the learned friend. Oh, the learned friend! the learned friend! He is the evil genius of everything that falls in his way.
The Reverend Doctor walked off to Crotchet Castle, to narrate his misadventures, and exhale his budget of grievances on Mr. Mac Quedy, whom he considered a ringleader of the march of mind.
Mounting the bark, they cleft the watery ways. — Homer.
Four beautiful cabined pinnaces, one for the ladies, one for the gentlemen, one for kitchen and servants, one for a dining-room and band of music, weighed anchor, on a fine July morning, from below Crotchet Castle, and were towed merrily, by strong trotting horses, against the stream of the Thames. They passed from the district of chalk, successively into the districts of clay, of sand-rock, of oolite, and so forth. Sometimes they dined in their floating dining-room, sometimes in tents, which they pitched on the dry, smooth-shaven green of a newly-mown meadow: sometimes they left their vessels to see sights in the vicinity; sometimes they passed a day or two in a comfortable inn.
At Oxford, they walked about to see the curiosities of architecture, painted windows, and undisturbed libraries. The Reverend Doctor Folliott laid a wager with Mr. Crotchet “that in all their perlustrations they would not find a man reading,” and won it. “Ay,” said the reverend gentleman, “this is still a seat of learning, on the principle of — once a captain, always a captain. We may well ask, in these great reservoirs of books whereof no man ever draws a sluice, Quorsum pertinuit stipere Platona Menandro? What is done here for the classics? Reprinting German editions on better paper. A great boast, verily! What for mathematics? What for metaphysics? What for history? What for anything worth knowing? This was a seat of learning in the days of Friar Bacon. But the Friar is gone, and his learning with him. Nothing of him is left but the immortal nose, which, when his brazen head had tumbled to pieces, crying “Time’s Past,” was the only palpable fragment among its minutely pulverised atoms, and which is still resplendent over the portals of its cognominal college. That nose, sir, is the only thing to which I shall take off my hat, in all this Babylon of buried literature.
MR. CROTCHET. But, doctor, it is something to have a great reservoir of learning, at which some may draw if they please.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. But, here, good care is taken that nobody shall please. If even a small drop from the sacred fountain, [Greek text], as Callimachus has it, were carried off by any one, it would be evidence of something to hope for. But the system of dissuasion from all good learning is brought here to a pitch of perfection that baffles the keenest aspirant. I run over to myself the names of the scholars of Germany, a glorious catalogue: but ask for those of Oxford — Where are they? The echoes of their courts, as vacant as their heads, will answer, Where are they? The tree shall be known by its fruit: and seeing that this great tree, with all its specious seeming, brings forth no fruit, I do denounce it as a barren fig.
MR. MAC QUEDY. I shall set you right on this point. We do nothing without motives. If learning get nothing but honour, and very little of that; and if the good things of this world, which ought to be the rewards of learning, become the mere gifts of self-interested patronage; you must not wonder if, in the finishing of education, the science which takes precedence of all others, should be the science of currying favour.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Very true, sir. Education is well finished, for all worldly purposes, when the head is brought into the state whereinto I am accustomed to bring a marrow-bone, when it has been set before me on a toast, with a white napkin wrapped round it. Nothing trundles along the high road of preferment so trimly as a well-biassed sconce, picked clean within and polished without; totus teres atque rotundus. The perfection of the finishing lies in the bias, which keeps it trundling in the given direction. There is good and sufficient reason for the fig being barren, but it is not therefore the less a barren fig.
At Godstow, they gathered hazel on the grave of Rosamond; and, proceeding on their voyage, fell into a discussion on legendary histories.
LADY CLARINDA. History is but a tiresome thing in itself: it becomes more agreeable the more romance is mixed up with it. The great enchanter has made me learn many things which I should never have dreamed of studying, if they had not come to me in the form of amusement.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. What enchanter is that? There are two enchanters: he of the north, and he of the south.
MR. TRILLO. Rossini!
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Ay, there is another enchanter. But I mean the great enchanter of Covent Garden: he who, for more than a quarter of a century, has produced two pantomimes a year, to the delight of children of all ages; including myself at all ages. That is the enchanter for me. I am for the pantomimes. All the northern enchanter’s romances put together would not furnish materials for half the Southern enchanter’s pantomimes.
LADY CLARINDA. Surely you do not class literature with pantomime?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. In these cases, I do. They are both one, with a slight difference. The one is the literature of pantomime, the other is the pantomime of literature. There is the same variety of character, the same diversity of story, the same copiousness of incident, the same research into costume, the same display of heraldry, falconry, minstrelsy, scenery, monkery, witchery, devilry, robbery, poachery, piracy, fishery, gipsy-astrology, demonology, architecture, fortification, castrametation, navigation; the same running base of love and battle. The main difference is, that the one set of amusing fictions is told in music and action; the other in all the worst dialects of the English language. As to any sentence worth remembering, any moral or political truth, anything having a tendency, however remote, to make men wiser or better, to make them think, to make them ever think of thinking; they are both precisely alike nuspiam, nequaquam, nullibi, nullimodis.
LADY CLARINDA. Very amusing, however.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Very amusing, very amusing.
MR. CHAINMAIL. My quarrel with the northern enchanter is, that he has grossly misrepresented the twelfth century.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. He has misrepresented everything, or he would not have been very amusing. Sober truth is but dull matter to the reading rabble. The angler, who puts not on his hook the bait that best pleases the fish, may sit all day on the bank without catching a gudgeon.
MR. MAC QUEDY. But how do you mean that he has misrepresented the twelfth century? By exhibiting some of its knights and ladies in the colours of refinement and virtue, seeing that they were all no better than ruffians, and something else that shall be nameless?
MR. CHAINMAIL. By no means. By depicting them as much worse than they were, not, as you suppose, much better. No one would infer from his pictures that theirs was a much better state of society than this which we live in.
MR. MAC QUEDY. No, nor was it. It was a period of brutality, ignorance, fanaticism, and tyranny; when the land was covered with castles, and every castle contained a gang of banditti, headed by a titled robber, who levied contributions with fire and sword; plundering, torturing, ravishing, burying his captives in loathsome dungeons, and broiling them on gridirons, to force from them the surrender of every particle of treasure which he suspected them of possessing; and fighting every now and then with the neighbouring lords, his conterminal bandits, for the right of marauding on the boundaries. This was the twelfth century, as depicted by all contemporary historians and poets.
MR. CHAINMAIL. No, sir. Weigh the evidence of specific facts; you will find more good than evil. Who was England’s greatest hero — the mirror of chivalry, the pattern of honour, the fountain of generosity, the model to all succeeding ages of military glory? Richard the First. There is a king of the twelfth century. What was the first step of liberty? Magna Charta. That was the best thing ever done by lords. There are lords of the twelfth century. You must remember, too, that these lords were petty princes, and made war on each other as legitimately as the heads of larger communities did or do. For their system of revenue, it was, to be sure, more rough and summary than that which has succeeded it, but it was certainly less searching and less productive. And as to the people, I content myself with these great points: that every man was armed, every man was a good archer, every man could and would fight effectively, with sword or pike, or even with oaken cudgel; no man would live quietly without beef and ale if he had them not; he fought till he either got them, or was put out of condition to want them. They were not, and could not be, subjected to that powerful pressure of all the other classes of society, combined by gunpowder, steam, and fiscality, which has brought them to that dismal degradation in which we see them now. And there are the people of the twelfth century.
MR. MAC QUEDY. As to your king, the enchanter has done him ample justice, even in your own view. As to your lords and their ladies, he has drawn them too favourably, given them too many of the false colours of chivalry, thrown too attractive a light on their abominable doings. As to the people, he keeps them so much in the background, that he can hardly be said to have represented them at all, much less misrepresented them, which indeed he could scarcely do, seeing that, by your own showing, they were all thieves, ready to knock down any man for what they could not come by honestly.
MR. CHAINMAIL. No, sir. They could come honestly by beef and ale, while they were left to their simple industry. When oppression interfered with them in that, then they stood on the defensive, and fought for what they were not permitted to come by quietly.
MR. MAC QUEDY. If A., being aggrieved by B., knocks down C., do you call that standing on the defensive?
MR. CHAINMAIL. That depends on who or what C. is.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Gentlemen, you will never settle this controversy till you have first settled what is good for man in this world; the great question, de finibus, which has puzzled all philosophers. If the enchanter has represented the twelfth century too brightly for one, and too darkly for the other of you, I should say, as an impartial man, he has represented it fairly. My quarrel with him is, that his works contain nothing worth quoting; and a book that furnishes no quotations, is me judice, no book — it is a plaything. There is no question about the amusement — amusement of multitudes; but if he who amuses us most is to be our enchanter [Greek text], then my enchanter is the enchanter of Covent Garden.
Continuant nostre routte, navigasmes par trois jours sans rien descouvrir. — RABELAIS.
“There is a beautiful structure,” said Mr. Chainmail, as they glided by Lechlade church; “a subject for the pencil, Captain. It is a question worth asking, Mr. Mac Quedy, whether the religious spirit which reared these edifices, and connected with them everywhere an asylum for misfortune, and a provision for poverty, was not better than the commercial spirit, which has turned all the business of modern life into schemes of profit and processes of fraud and extortion. I do not see, in all your boasted improvements, any compensation for the religious charity of the twelfth century. I do not see any compensation for that kindly feeling which, within their own little communities, bound the several classes of society together, while full scope was left for the development of natural character, wherein individuals differed as conspicuously as in costume. Now, we all wear one conventional dress, one conventional face; we have no bond of union but pecuniary interest; we talk anything that comes uppermost for talking’s sake, and without expecting to be believed; we have no nature, no simplicity, no picturesqueness: everything about us is as artificial and as complicated as our steam-machinery: our poetry is a kaleidoscope of false imagery, expressing no real feeling, portraying no real existence. I do not see any compensation for the poetry of the twelfth century.”
MR. MAC QUEDY. I wonder to hear you, Mr. Chainmail, talking of the religious charity of a set of lazy monks and beggarly friars, who were much more occupied with taking than giving; of whom those who were in earnest did nothing but make themselves and everybody about them miserable with fastings and penances, and other such trash; and those who were not, did nothing but guzzle and royster, and, having no wives of their own, took very unbecoming liberties with those of honester men. And as to your poetry of the twelfth century, it is not good for much.
MR. CHAINMAIL. It has, at any rate, what ours wants, truth to nature and simplicity of diction.
The poetry, which was addressed to the people of the dark ages, pleased in proportion to the truth with which it depicted familiar images, and to their natural connection with the time and place to which they were assigned. In the poetry of our enlightened times, the characteristics of all seasons, soils, and climates may be blended together with much benefit to the author’s fame as an original genius. The cowslip of a civic poet is always in blossom, his fern is always in full feather; he gathers the celandine, the primrose, the heath-flower, the jasmine, and the chrysanthemum all on the same day and from the same spot; his nightingale sings all the year round, his moon is always full, his cygnet is as white as his swan, his cedar is as tremulous as his aspen, and his poplar as embowering as his beech. Thus all nature marches with the march of mind; but among barbarians, instead of mead and wine, and the best seat by the fire, the reward of such a genius would have been to be summarily turned out of doors in the snow, to meditate on the difference between day and night and between December and July. It is an age of liberality, indeed, when not to know an oak from a burdock is no disqualification for sylvan minstrelsy. I am for truth and simplicity.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. — Let him who loves them read Greek: Greek, Greek, Greek.
MR. MAC QUEDY. — If he can, sir.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. — Very true, sir; if he can. Here is the Captain who can. But I think he must have finished his education at some very rigid college, where a quotation or any other overt act showing acquaintance with classical literature was visited with a severe penalty. For my part, I make it my boast that I was not to be so subdued. I could not be abated of a single quotation by all the bumpers in which I was fined.
In this manner they glided over the face of the waters, discussing everything and settling nothing. Mr. Mac Quedy and the Reverend Doctor Folliott had many digladiations on political economy: wherein, each in his own view, Doctor Folliott demolished Mr. Mac Quedy’s science, and Mr. Mac Quedy demolished Dr. Folliott’s objections.
We would print these dialogues if we thought anyone would read them; but the world is not yet ripe for this haute sagesse Pantagrueline. We must therefore content ourselves with an echantillon of one of the Reverend Doctor’s perorations.
“You have given the name of a science to what is yet an imperfect inquiry, and the upshot of your so-called science is this: that you increase the wealth of a nation by increasing in it the quantity of things which are produced by labour: no matter what they are, no matter how produced, no matter how distributed. The greater the quantity of labour that has gone to the production of the quantity of things in a community, the richer is the community. That is your doctrine. Now, I say, if this be so, riches are not the object for a community to aim at. I say the nation is best off, in relation to other nations, which has the greatest quantity of the common necessaries of life distributed among the greatest number of persons; which has the greatest number of honest hearts and stout arms united in a common interest, willing to offend no one, but ready to fight in defence of their own community against all the rest of the world, because they have something in it worth fighting for. The moment you admit that one class of things, without any reference to what they respectively cost, is better worth having than another; that a smaller commercial value, with one mode of distribution, is better than a greater commercial value, with another mode of distribution; the whole of that curious fabric of postulates and dogmas, which you call the science of political economy, and which I call politicae aeconomiae inscientia, tumbles to pieces.”
Mr. Toogood agreed with Mr. Chainmail against Mr. Mac Quedy, that the existing state of society was worse than that of the twelfth century; but he agreed with Mr. Mac Quedy against Mr. Chainmail, that it was in progress to something much better than either — to which “something much better” Mr. Toogood and Mr. Mac Quedy attached two very different meanings.
Mr. Chainmail fought with Doctor Folliott, the battle of the romantic against the classical in poetry; and Mr. Skionar contended with Mr. Mac Quedy for intuition and synthesis, against analysis and induction in philosophy.
Mr. Philpot would lie along for hours, listening to the gurgling of the water round the prow, and would occasionally edify the company with speculations on the great changes that would be effected in the world by the steam-navigation of rivers: sketching the course of a steamboat up and down some mighty stream which civilisation had either never visited, or long since deserted; the Missouri and the Columbia, the Oroonoko and the Amazon, the Nile and the Niger, the Euphrates and the Tigris, the Oxus and the Indus, the Ganges and the Hoangho; under the over canopying forests of the new, or by the long-silent ruins of the ancient, world; through the shapeless mounds of Babylon, or the gigantic temples of Thebes.
Mr. Trillo went on with the composition of his opera, and took the opinions of the young ladies on every step in its progress; occasionally regaling the company with specimens; and wondering at the blindness of Mr. Mac Quedy, who could not, or would not, see that an opera in perfection, being the union of all the beautiful arts — music, painting, dancing, poetry — exhibiting female beauty in its most attractive aspects, and in its most becoming costume — was, according to the well-known precept, Ingenuas didicisse, etc., the most efficient instrument of civilisation, and ought to take precedence of all other pursuits in the minds of true philanthropists. The Reverend Doctor Folliott, on these occasions, never failed to say a word or two on Mr. Trillo’s side, derived from the practice of the Athenians, and from the combination, in their theatre, of all the beautiful arts, in a degree of perfection unknown to the modern world.
Leaving Lechlade, they entered the canal that connects the Thames with the Severn; ascended by many locks; passed by a tunnel, three miles long, through the bowels of Sapperton Hill; agreed unanimously that the greatest pleasure derivable from visiting a cavern of any sort was that of getting out of it; descended by many locks again through the valley of Stroud into the Severn; continued their navigation into the Ellesmere canal; moored their pinnaces in the Vale of Llangollen by the aqueduct of Pontycysyllty; and determined to pass some days in inspecting the scenery, before commencing their homeward voyage.
The Captain omitted no opportunity of pressing his suit on Lady Clarinda, but could never draw from her any reply but the same doctrines of worldly wisdom, delivered in a tone of badinage, mixed with a certain kindness of manner that induced him to hope she was not in earnest.
But the morning after they had anchored under the hills of the Dee — whether the lady had reflected more seriously than usual, or was somewhat less in good humour than usual, or the Captain was more pressing than usual — she said to him: “It must not be, Captain Fitzchrome; ‘the course of true love never did run smooth:’ my father must keep his borough, and I must have a town house and a country house, and an opera box, and a carriage. It is not well for either of us that we should flirt any longer: ‘I must be cruel only to be kind.’ Be satisfied with the assurance that you alone, of all men, have ever broken my rest. To be sure, it was only for about three nights in all; but that is too much.”
The Captain had le coeur navre. He took his portfolio under his arm, made up the little valise of a pedestrian, and, without saying a word to anyone, wandered off at random among the mountains.
After the lapse of a day or two, the Captain was missed, and everyone marvelled what was become of him. Mr. Philpot thought he must have been exploring a river, and fallen in and got drowned in the process. Mr. Firedamp had no doubt he had been crossing a mountain bog, and had been suddenly deprived of life by the exhalations of marsh miasmata. Mr. Henbane deemed it probable that he had been tempted in some wood by the large black brilliant berries of the Atropa Belladonna, or Deadly Nightshade; and lamented that he had not been by, to administer an infallible antidote. Mr. Eavesdrop hoped the particulars of his fate would be ascertained; and asked if anyone present could help him to any authentic anecdotes of their departed friend. The Reverend Doctor Folliott proposed that an inquiry should be instituted as to whether the march of intellect had reached that neighbourhood, as, if so, the Captain had probably been made a subject for science. Mr. Mac Quedy said it was no such great matter to ascertain the precise mode in which the surplus population was diminished by one. Mr. Toogood asseverated that there was no such thing as surplus population, and that the land, properly managed, would maintain twenty times its present inhabitants; and hereupon they fell into a disputation.
Lady Clarinda did not doubt that the Captain had gone away designedly; she missed him more than she could have anticipated, and wished she had at least postponed her last piece of cruelty till the completion of their homeward voyage.
“Base is the slave that pays.”— ANCIENT PISTOL.
The Captain was neither drowned nor poisoned, neither miasmatised nor anatomised. But, before we proceed to account for him, we must look back to a young lady, of whom some little notice was taken in the first chapter; and who, though she has since been out of sight, has never with us been out of mind: Miss Susannah Touchandgo, the forsaken of the junior Crotchet, whom we left an inmate of a solitary farm, in one of the deep valleys under the cloud-capt summits of Meirion, comforting her wounded spirit with air and exercise, rustic cheer, music, painting, and poetry, and the prattle of the little Ap Llymrys.
One evening, after an interval of anxious expectation, the farmer, returning from market brought for her two letters, of which the contents were these:
“Dotandcarryonetown, State of Apodidraskiana. “April 1, 18..
My Dear Child,
“I am anxious to learn what are your present position, intention, and prospects. The fairies who dropped gold in your shoe, on the morning when I ceased to be a respectable man in London, will soon find a talismanic channel for transmitting you a stocking full of dollars, which will fit the shoe as well as the foot of Cinderella fitted her slipper. I am happy to say I am again become a respectable man. It was always my ambition to be a respectable man, and I am a very respectable man here, in this new township of a new state, where I have purchased five thousand acres of land, at two dollars an acre, hard cash, and established a very flourishing bank. The notes of Touchandgo and Company, soft cash, are now the exclusive currency of all this vicinity. This is the land in which all men flourish; but there are three classes of men who flourish especially — methodist preachers, slave-drivers, and paper-money manufacturers; and as one of the latter, I have just painted the word BANK on a fine slab of maple, which was green and growing when I arrived, and have discounted for the settlers, in my own currency, sundry bills, which are to be paid when the proceeds of the crop they have just sown shall return from New Orleans; so that my notes are the representatives of vegetation that is to be, and I am accordingly a capitalist of the first magnitude. The people here know very well that I ran away from London; but the most of them have run away from some place or other; and they have a great respect for me, because they think I ran away with something worth taking, which few of them had the luck or the wit to do. This gives them confidence in my resources, at the same time that, as there is nothing portable in the settlement except my own notes, they have no fear that I shall run away with them. They know I am thoroughly conversant with the principles of banking, and as they have plenty of industry, no lack of sharpness, and abundance of land, they wanted nothing but capital to organise a flourishing settlement; and this capital I have manufactured to the extent required, at the expense of a small importation of pens, ink, and paper, and two or three inimitable copper plates. I have abundance here of all good things, a good conscience included; for I really cannot see that I have done any wrong. This was my position: I owed half a million of money; and I had a trifle in my pocket. It was clear that this trifle could never find its way to the right owner. The question was, whether I should keep it, and live like a gentleman; or hand it over to lawyers and commissioners of bankruptcy, and die like a dog on a dunghill. If I could have thought that the said lawyers, etc., had a better title to it than myself, I might have hesitated; but, as such title was not apparent to my satisfaction, I decided the question in my own favour, the right owners, as I have already said, being out of the question altogether. I have always taken scientific views of morals and politics, a habit from which I derive much comfort under existing circumstances.
“I hope you adhere to your music, though I cannot hope again to accompany your harp with my flute. My last andante movement was too forte for those whom it took by surprise. Let not your allegro vivace be damped by young Crotchet’s desertion, which, though I have not heard it, I take for granted. He is, like myself, a scientific politician, and has an eye as keen as a needle to his own interest. He has had good luck so far, and is gorgeous in the spoils of many gulls; but I think the Polar Basin and Walrus Company will be too much for him yet. There has been a splendid outlay on credit, and he is the only man, of the original parties concerned, of whom his Majesty’s sheriffs could give any account.
“I will not ask you to come here. There is no husband for you. The men smoke, drink, and fight, and break more of their own heads than of girls’ hearts. Those among them who are musical, sing nothing but psalms. They are excellent fellows in their way, but you would not like them.
“Au reste, here are no rents, no taxes, no poor-rates, no tithes, no church establishment, no routs, no clubs, no rotten boroughs, no operas, no concerts, no theatres, no beggars, no thieves, no king, no lords, no ladies, and only one gentleman, videlicet, your loving father,
P.S. — I send you one of my notes; I can afford to part with it. If you are accused of receiving money from me, you may pay it over to my assignees. Robthetill continues to be my factotum; I say no more of him in this place: he will give you an account of himself.”
“Mr. Touchandgo will have told you of our arrival here, of our setting up a bank, and so forth. We came here in a tilted waggon, which served us for parlour, kitchen, and all. We soon got up a log-house; and, unluckily, we as soon got it down again, for the first fire we made in it burned down house and all. However, our second experiment was more fortunate; and we are pretty well lodged in a house of three rooms on a floor; I should say the floor, for there is but one.
“This new state is free to hold slaves; all the new states have not this privilege: Mr. Touchandgo has bought some, and they are building him a villa. Mr. Touchandgo is in a thriving way, but he is not happy here: he longs for parties and concerts, and a seat in Congress. He thinks it very hard that he cannot buy one with his own coinage, as he used to do in England. Besides, he is afraid of the Regulators, who, if they do not like a man’s character, wait upon him and flog him, doubling the dose at stated intervals, till he takes himself off. He does not like this system of administering justice: though I think he has nothing to fear from it. He has the character of having money, which is the best of all characters here, as at home. He lets his old English prejudices influence his opinions of his new neighbours; but, I assure you, they have many virtues. Though they do keep slaves, they are all ready to fight for their own liberty; and I should not like to be an enemy within reach of one of their rifles. When I say enemy, I include bailiff in the term. One was shot not long ago. There was a trial; the jury gave two dollars damages; the judge said they must find guilty or not guilty; but the counsel for the defendant (they would not call him prisoner) offered to fight the judge upon the point: and as this was said literally, not metaphorically, and the counsel was a stout fellow, the judge gave in. The two dollars damages were not paid after all; for the defendant challenged the foreman to box for double or quits, and the foreman was beaten. The folks in New York made a great outcry about it, but here it was considered all as it should be. So you see, Miss, justice, liberty, and everything else of that kind, are different in different places, just as suits the convenience of those who have the sword in their own hands. Hoping to hear of your health and happiness, I remain,
“Dear Miss, your dutiful servant,
Miss Touchandgo replied as follows to the first of these letters:
“My Dear Father,
“I am sure you have the best of hearts, and I have no doubt you have acted with the best intentions. My lover, or, I should rather say, my fortune’s lover, has indeed forsaken me. I cannot say I did not feel it; indeed, I cried very much; and the altered looks of people who used to be so delighted to see me, really annoyed me so, that I determined to change the scene altogether. I have come into Wales, and am boarding with a farmer and his wife. Their stock of English is very small; but I managed to agree with them, and they have four of the sweetest children I ever saw, to whom I teach all I know, and I manage to pick up some Welsh. I have puzzled out a little song, which I think very pretty; I have translated it into English, and I send it you, with the original air. You shall play it on your flute at eight o’clock every Saturday evening, and I will play and sing it at the same time, and I will fancy that I hear my dear papa accompanying me.
“The people in London said very unkind things of you: they hurt me very much at the time; but now I am out of their way, I do not seem to think their opinion of much consequence. I am sure, when I recollect, at leisure, everything I have seen and heard among them, I cannot make out what they do that is so virtuous, as to set them up for judges of morals. And I am sure they never speak the truth about anything, and there is no sincerity in either their love or their friendship. An old Welsh bard here, who wears a waistcoat embroidered with leeks, and is called the Green Bard of Cadeir Idris, says the Scotch would be the best people in the world, if there was nobody but themselves to give them a character: and so I think would the Londoners. I hate the very thought of them, for I do believe they would have broken my heart, if I had not got out of their way. Now I shall write you another letter very soon, and describe to you the country, and the people, and the children, and how I amuse myself, and everything that I think you will like to hear about: and when I seal this letter, I shall drop a kiss on the cover.
“Your loving daughter,
P.S. — Tell Mr. Robthetill I will write to him in a day or two. This is the little song I spoke of:
“Beyond the sea, beyond the sea,
My heart is gone, far, far from me;
And ever on its track will flee
My thoughts, my dreams, beyond the sea.
“Beyond the sea, beyond the sea,
The swallow wanders fast and free;
Oh, happy bird! were I like thee,
I, too, would fly beyond the sea.
“Beyond the sea, beyond the sea,
Are kindly hearts and social glee:
But here for me they may not be;
My heart is gone beyond the sea.”
How sweet to minds that love not sordid ways
Is solitude! — MENANDER.
The Captain wandered despondingly up and down hill for several days, passing many hours of each in sitting on rocks; making, almost mechanically, sketches of waterfalls, and mountain pools; taking care, nevertheless, to be always before nightfall in a comfortable inn, where, being a temperate man, he whiled away the evening with making a bottle of sherry into negus. His rambles brought him at length into the interior of Merionethshire, the land of all that is beautiful in nature, and all that is lovely in woman.
Here, in a secluded village, he found a little inn, of small pretension and much comfort. He felt so satisfied with his quarters, and discovered every day so much variety in the scenes of the surrounding mountains, that his inclination to proceed farther diminished progressively.
It is one thing to follow the high road through a country, with every principally remarkable object carefully noted down in a book, taking, as therein directed, a guide, at particular points, to the more recondite sights: it is another to sit down on one chosen spot, especially when the choice is unpremeditated, and from thence, by a series of explorations, to come day by day on unanticipated scenes. The latter process has many advantages over the former; it is free from the disappointment which attends excited expectation, when imagination has outstripped reality, and from the accidents that mar the scheme of the tourist’s single day, when the valleys may be drenched with rain, or the mountains shrouded with mist.
The Captain was one morning preparing to sally forth on his usual exploration, when he heard a voice without, inquiring for a guide to the ruined castle. The voice seemed familiar to him, and going forth into the gateway, he recognised Mr. Chainmail. After greetings and inquiries for the absent: “You vanished very abruptly, Captain,” said Mr. Chainmail, “from our party on the canal.”
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. To tell you the truth, I had a particular reason for trying the effect of absence from a part of that party.
MR. CHAINMAIL. I surmised as much: at the same time, the unusual melancholy of an in general most vivacious young lady made me wonder at your having acted so precipitately. The lady’s heart is yours, if there be truth in signs.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Hearts are not now what they were in the days of the old song: “Will love be controlled by advice?”
MR. CHAINMAIL. Very true; hearts, heads, and arms have all degenerated, most sadly. We can no more feel the high impassioned love of the ages, which some people have the impudence to call dark, than we can wield King Richard’s battleaxe, bend Robin Hood’s bow, or flourish the oaken graft of the Pindar of Wakefield. Still we have our tastes and feelings, though they deserve not the name of passions; and some of us may pluck up spirit to try to carry a point, when we reflect that we have to contend with men no better than ourselves.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. We do not now break lances for ladies.
MR. CHAINMAIL. No; nor even bulrushes. We jingle purses for them, flourish paper-money banners, and tilt with scrolls of parchment.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. In which sort of tilting I have been thrown from the saddle. I presume it was not love that led you from the flotilla?
MR. CHAINMAIL. By no means. I was tempted by the sight of an old tower, not to leave this land of ruined castles, without having collected a few hints for the adornment of my baronial hall.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. I understand you live en famille with your domestics. You will have more difficulty in finding a lady who would adopt your fashion of living, than one who would prefer you to a richer man.
MR. CHAINMAIL. Very true. I have tried the experiment on several as guests; but once was enough for them: so, I suppose, I shall die a bachelor.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. I see, like some others of my friends, you will give up anything except your hobby.
MR. CHAINMAIL. I will give up anything but my baronial hall.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. You will never find a wife for your purpose, unless in the daughter of some old-fashioned farmer.
MR. CHAINMAIL. No, I thank you. I must have a lady of gentle blood; I shall not marry below my own condition: I am too much of a herald; I have too much of the twelfth century in me for that.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Why, then your chance is not much better than mine. A well-born beauty would scarcely be better pleased with your baronial hall than with my more humble offer of love in a cottage. She must have a town-house, and an opera-box, and roll about the streets in a carriage; especially if her father has a rotten borough, for the sake of which he sells his daughter, that he may continue to sell his country. But you were inquiring for a guide to the ruined castle in this vicinity; I know the way and will conduct you.
The proposal pleased Mr. Chainmail, and they set forth on their expedition
Or vieni, Amore, e qua meco t’assetta. ORLANDO INNAMORATO.
MR. CHAINMAIL. Would it not be a fine thing, Captain, you being picturesque, and I poetical; you being for the lights and shadows of the present, and I for those of the past; if we were to go together over the ground which was travelled in the twelfth century by Giraldus de Barri, when he accompanied Archbishop Baldwin to preach the crusade?
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Nothing, in my present frame of mind, could be more agreeable to me.
MR. CHAINMAIL. We would provide ourselves with his Itinerarium; compare what has been, with what is; contemplate in their decay the castles and abbeys, which he saw in their strength and splendour; and, while you were sketching their remains, I would dispassionately inquire what has been gained by the change.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Be it so.
But the scheme was no sooner arranged, than the Captain was summoned to London by a letter on business, which he did not expect to detain him long. Mr. Chainmail, who, like the Captain, was fascinated with the inn and the scenery, determined to await his companion’s return; and, having furnished him with a list of books, which he was to bring with him from London, took leave of him, and began to pass his days like the heroes of Ariosto, who
— tutto il giorno, al bel oprar intenti,
Saliron balze, e traversar torrenti.
One day Mr. Chainmail traced upwards the course of a mountain stream to a spot where a small waterfall threw itself over a slab of perpendicular rock, which seemed to bar his farther progress. On a nearer view, he discovered a flight of steps, roughly hewn in the rock, on one side of the fall. Ascending these steps, he entered a narrow winding pass, between high and naked rocks, that afforded only space for a rough footpath, carved on one side, at some height above the torrent.
The pass opened on a lake, from which the stream issued, and which lay like a dark mirror, set in a gigantic frame of mountain precipices. Fragments of rock lay scattered on the edge of the lake, some half-buried in the water: Mr. Chainmail scrambled some way over these fragments, till the base of a rock sinking abruptly in the water, effectually barred his progress. He sat down on a large smooth stone; the faint murmur of the stream he had quitted, the occasional flapping of the wings of the heron, and at long intervals, the solitary springing of a trout, were the only sounds that came to his ear. The sun shone brightly half-way down the opposite rocks, presenting, on their irregular faces, strong masses of light and shade. Suddenly he heard the dash of a paddle, and, turning his eyes, saw a solitary and beautiful girl gliding over the lake in a coracle: she was proceeding from the vicinity of the point he had quitted, towards the upper end of the lake. Her apparel was rustic, but there was in its style something more recherchee, in its arrangement something more of elegance and precision, than was common to the mountain peasant girl. It had more of the contadina of the opera, than of the genuine mountaineer; so at least thought Mr. Chainmail; but she passed so rapidly, and took him so much by surprise, that he had little opportunity for accurate observation. He saw her land, at the farther extremity, and disappear among the rocks: he rose from his seat, returned to the mouth of the pass, stepped from stone to stone across the stream, and attempted to pass round by the other side of the lake; but there again the abruptly sinking precipice closed his way.
Day after day he haunted the spot, but never saw again either the damsel or the coracle. At length, marvelling at himself for being so solicitous about the apparition of a peasant girl in a coracle, who could not, by any possibility, be anything to him, he resumed his explorations in another direction.
One day he wandered to the ruined castle, on the sea-shore, which was not very distant from his inn; and sitting on the rock, near the base of the ruin, was calling up the forms of past ages on the wall of an ivied tower, when on its summit appeared a female figure, whom he recognised in an instant for his nymph of the coracle. The folds of the blue gown pressed by the sea-breeze against one of the most symmetrical of figures, the black feather of the black hat, and the ringleted hair beneath it fluttering in the wind; the apparent peril of her position, on the edge of the mouldering wall, from whose immediate base the rock went down perpendicularly to the sea, presented a singularly interesting combination to the eye of the young antiquary.
Mr. Chainmail had to pass half round the castle, on the land side, before he could reach the entrance: he coasted the dry and bramble-grown moat, crossed the unguarded bridge, passed the unportcullised arch of the gateway, entered the castle court, ascertained the tower, ascended the broken stairs, and stood on the ivied wall. But the nymph of the place was gone. He searched the ruins within and without, but he found not what he sought: he haunted the castle day after day, as he had done the lake, but the damsel appeared no more.
The stars of midnight shall be dear
To her, and she shall lean her ear
In many a secret place,
Where rivulets dance their wayward round,
And beauty, born of murmuring sound,
Shall pass into her face.
Miss Susannah Touchandgo had read the four great poets of Italy, and many of the best writers of France. About the time of her father’s downfall, accident threw into her way Les Reveries du Promeneur Solitaire; and from the impression which these made on her, she carried with her into retirement all the works of Rousseau. In the midst of that startling light, which the conduct of old friends on a sudden reverse of fortune throws on a young and inexperienced mind, the doctrines of the philosopher of Geneva struck with double force upon her sympathies: she imbibed the sweet poison, as somebody calls it, of his writings, even to a love of truth; which, every wise man knows, ought to be left to those who can get anything by it. The society of children, the beauties of nature, the solitude of the mountains, became her consolation, and, by degrees, her delight. The gay society from which she had been excluded, remained on her memory only as a disagreeable dream. She imbibed her new monitor’s ideas of simplicity of dress, assimilating her own with that of the peasant-girls in the neighbourhood: the black hat, the blue gown, the black stockings, the shoes, tied on the instep.
Pride was, perhaps, at the bottom of the change: she was willing to impose in some measure on herself, by marking a contemptuous indifference to the characteristics of the class of society from which she had fallen.
And with the food of pride sustained her soul
It is true that she somewhat modified the forms of her rustic dress: to the black hat she added a black feather, to the blue gown she added a tippet, and a waistband fastened in front with a silver buckle; she wore her black stockings very smooth and tight on her ankles, and tied her shoes in tasteful bows, with the nicest possible ribbon. In this apparel, to which, in winter, she added a scarlet cloak, she made dreadful havoc among the rustic mountaineers, many of whom proposed to “keep company” with her in the Cambrian fashion, an honour which, to their great surprise, she always declined. Among these, Harry Ap–Heather, whose father rented an extensive sheepwalk, and had a thousand she-lambs wandering in the mountains, was the most strenuous in his suit, and the most pathetic in his lamentations for her cruelty.
Miss Susannah often wandered among the mountains alone, even to some distance from the farmhouse. Sometimes she descended into the bottom of the dingles, to the black rocky beds of the torrents, and dreamed away hours at the feet of the cataracts. One spot in particular, from which she had at first shrunk with terror, became by degrees her favourite haunt. A path turning and returning at acute angles, led down a steep wood-covered slope to the edge of a chasm, where a pool, or resting-place of a torrent, lay far below. A cataract fell in a single sheet into the pool; the pool boiled and bubbled at the base of the fall, but through the greater part of its extent, lay calm, deep, and black, as if the cataract had plunged through it to an unimaginable depth, without disturbing its eternal repose. At the opposite extremity of the pool, the rocks almost met at their summits, the trees of the opposite banks intermingled their leaves, and another cataract plunged from the pool into a chasm, on which the sunbeams never gleamed. High above, on both sides, the steep woody slopes of the dingle soared into the sky; and from a fissure in the rock, on which the little path terminated, a single gnarled and twisted oak stretched itself over the pool, forming a fork with its boughs at a short distance from the rock. Miss Susannah often sat on the rock, with her feet resting on this tree; in time, she made her seat on the tree itself, with her feet hanging over the abyss; and at length, she accustomed herself to lie along upon its trunk, with her side on the mossy bole of the fork, and an arm round one of the branches. From this position a portion of the sky and the woods was reflected in the pool, which, from its bank, was but a mass of darkness. The first time she reclined in this manner, her heart beat audibly; in time she lay down as calmly as on the mountain heather; the perception of the sublime was probably heightened by an intermingled sense of danger; and perhaps that indifference to life, which early disappointment forces upon sensitive minds, was necessary to the first experiment. There was, in the novelty and strangeness of the position, an excitement which never wholly passed away, but which became gradually subordinate to the influence, at once tranquillising and elevating, of the mingled eternity of motion, sound, and solitude.
One sultry noon, she descended into this retreat with a mind more than usually disturbed by reflections on the past. She lay in her favourite position, sometimes gazing on the cataract; looking sometimes up the steep sylvan acclivities, into the narrow space of the cloudless ether; sometimes down into the abyss of the pool, and the deep bright-blue reflections that opened another immensity below her. The distressing recollections of the morning, the world and all its littlenesses, faded from her thoughts like a dream; but her wounded and wearied spirit drank in too deeply the tranquillising power of the place, and she dropped asleep upon the tree like a ship-boy on the mast.
At this moment Mr. Chainmail emerged into daylight, on a projection of the opposite rock, having struck down through the woods in search of unsophisticated scenery. The scene he discovered filled him with delight: he seated himself on the rock, and fell into one of his romantic reveries; when suddenly the semblance of a black hat and feather caught his eye among the foliage of the projecting oak. He started up, shifted his position, and got a glimpse of a blue gown. It was his lady of the lake, his enchantress of the ruined castle, divided from him by a barrier which, at a few yards below, he could almost overleap, yet unapproachable but by a circuit perhaps of many hours. He watched with intense anxiety. To listen if she breathed was out of the question: the noses of a dean and chapter would have been soundless in the roar of the torrent. From her extreme stillness, she appeared to sleep: yet what creature, not desperate, would go wilfully to sleep in such a place? Was she asleep, then? Nay, was she alive? She was as motionless as death. Had she been murdered, thrown from above, and caught in the tree? She lay too regularly and too composedly for such a supposition. She was asleep, then, and, in all probability, her waking would be fatal. He shifted his position. Below the pool two beetle-browed rocks nearly overarched the chasm, leaving just such a space at the summit as was within the possibility of a leap; the torrent roared below in a fearful gulf. He paused some time on the brink, measuring the practicability and the danger, and casting every now and then an anxious glance to his sleeping beauty. In one of these glances he saw a slight movement of the blue gown, and, in a moment after, the black hat and feather dropped into the pool. Reflection was lost for a moment, and, by a sudden impulse, he bounded over the chasm.
He stood above the projecting oak; the unknown beauty lay like the nymph of the scene; her long black hair, which the fall of her hat had disengaged from its fastenings, drooping through the boughs: he saw that the first thing to be done, was to prevent her throwing her feet off the trunk, in the first movements of waking. He sat down on the rock, and placed his feet on the stem, securing her ankles between his own: one of her arms was round a branch of the fork, the other lay loosely on her side. The hand of this arm he endeavoured to reach, by leaning forward from his seat; he approximated, but could not touch it: after several tantalising efforts, he gave up the point in despair. He did not attempt to wake her, because he feared it might have bad consequences, and he resigned himself to expect the moment of her natural waking, determined not to stir from his post, if she should sleep till midnight.
In this period of forced inaction, he could contemplate at leisure the features and form of his charmer. She was not one of the slender beauties of romance; she was as plump as a partridge; her cheeks were two roses, not absolutely damask, yet verging thereupon; her lips twin-cherries, of equal size; her nose regular, and almost Grecian; her forehead high, and delicately fair; her eyebrows symmetrically arched; her eyelashes, long, black, and silky, fitly corresponding with the beautiful tresses that hung among the leaves of the oak, like clusters of wandering grapes. Her eyes were yet to be seen; but how could he doubt that their opening would be the rising of the sun, when all that surrounded their fringy portals was radiant as “the forehead of the morning sky?”
Da ydyw’r gwaith, rhaid d’we’yd y gwir,
Ar fryniau Sir Meirionydd;
Golwg oer o’r gwaela gawn
Mae hi etto yn llawn llawenydd.
Though Meirion’s rocks, and hills of heath,
Repel the distant sight,
Yet where, than those bleak hills beneath,
Is found more true delight?
At length the young lady awoke. She was startled at the sudden sight of the stranger, and somewhat terrified at the first perception of her position. But she soon recovered her self-possession, and, extending her hand to the offered hand of Mr. Chainmail, she raised herself up on the tree, and stepped on the rocky bank.
Mr. Chainmail solicited permission to attend her to her home, which the young lady graciously conceded. They emerged from the woody dingle, traversed an open heath, wound along a mountain road by the shore of a lake, descended to the deep bed of another stream, crossed it by a series of stepping-stones, ascended to some height on the opposite side, and followed upwards the line of the stream, till the banks opened into a spacious amphitheatre, where stood, in its fields and meadows, the farmhouse of Ap–Llymry.
During this walk, they had kept up a pretty animated conversation. The lady had lost her hat, and, as she turned towards Mr. Chainmail, in speaking to him, there was no envious projection of brim to intercept the beams of those radiant eyes he had been so anxious to see unclosed. There was in them a mixture of softness and brilliancy, the perfection of the beauty of female eyes, such as some men have passed through life without seeing, and such as no man ever saw, in any pair of eyes, but once; such as can never be seen and forgotten. Young Crotchet had seen it; he had not forgotten it; but he had trampled on its memory, as the renegade tramples on the emblems of a faith which his interest only, and not his heart or his reason, has rejected.
Her hair streamed over her shoulders; the loss of the black feather had left nothing but the rustic costume, the blue gown, the black stockings, and the ribbon-tied shoes. Her voice had that full soft volume of melody which gives to common speech the fascination of music. Mr. Chainmail could not reconcile the dress of the damsel with her conversation and manners. He threw out a remote question or two, with the hope of solving the riddle, but, receiving no reply, he became satisfied that she was not disposed to be communicative respecting herself, and, fearing to offend her, fell upon other topics. They talked of the scenes of the mountains, of the dingle, the ruined castle, the solitary lake. She told him, that lake lay under the mountains behind her home, and the coracle and the pass at the extremity, saved a long circuit to the nearest village, whither she sometimes went to inquire for letters.
Mr. Chainmail felt curious to know from whom these letters might be; and he again threw out two or three fishing questions, to which, as before, he obtained no answer.
The only living biped they met in their walk was the unfortunate Harry Ap–Heather, with whom they fell in by the stepping-stones, who, seeing the girl of his heart hanging on another man’s arm, and, concluding at once that they were “keeping company,” fixed on her a mingled look of surprise, reproach, and tribulation; and, unable to control his feelings under the sudden shock, burst into a flood of tears, and blubbered till the rocks re-echoed.
They left him mingling his tears with the stream, and his lamentations with its murmurs. Mr. Chainmail inquired who that strange creature might be, and what was the matter with him. The young lady answered, that he was a very worthy young man, to whom she had been the innocent cause of much unhappiness.
“I pity him sincerely,” said Mr. Chainmail and, nevertheless, he could scarcely restrain his laughter at the exceedingly original figure which the unfortunate rustic lover had presented by the stepping-stones.
The children ran out to meet their dear Miss Susan, jumped all round her, and asked what was become of her hat. Ap–Llymry came out in great haste, and invited Mr. Chainmail to walk in and dine: Mr. Chainmail did not wait to be asked twice. In a few minutes the whole party, Miss Susan and Mr. Chainmail, Mr. and Mrs. Ap–Llymry, and progeny, were seated over a clean homespun table cloth, ornamented with fowls and bacon, a pyramid of potatoes, another of cabbage, which Ap–Llymry said “was poiled with the pacon, and as coot as marrow,” a bowl of milk for the children, and an immense brown jug of foaming ale, with which Ap–Llymry seemed to delight in filling the horn of his new guest.
Shall we describe the spacious apartment, which was at once kitchen, hall, and dining-room — the large dark rafters, the pendent bacon and onions, the strong old oaken furniture, the bright and trimly-arranged utensils? Shall we describe the cut of Ap–Llymry’s coat, the colour and tie of his neckcloth, the number of buttons at his knees — the structure of Mrs. Ap–Llymry’s cap, having lappets over the ears, which were united under the chin, setting forth especially whether the bond of union were a pin or a ribbon? We shall leave this tempting field of interesting expatiation to those whose brains are high-pressure steam-engines for spinning prose by the furlong, to be trumpeted in paid-for paragraphs in the quack’s corner of newspapers: modern literature having attained the honourable distinction of sharing, with blacking and Macassar oil, the space which used to be monopolised by razor-strops and the lottery; whereby that very enlightened community, the reading public, is tricked into the perusal of much exemplary nonsense; though the few who see through the trickery have no reason to complain, since as “good wine needs no bush,” so, ex vi oppositi, these bushes of venal panegyric point out very clearly that the things they celebrate are not worth reading.
The party dined very comfortably in a corner most remote from the fire: and Mr. Chainmail very soon found his head swimming with two or three horns of ale, of a potency to which even he was unaccustomed. After dinner Ap–Llymry made him finish a bottle of mead, which he willingly accepted, both as an excuse to remain and as a drink of the dark ages, which he had no doubt was a genuine brewage from uncorrupted tradition.
In the meantime, as soon as the cloth was removed, the children had brought out Miss Susannah’s harp. She began, without affectation, to play and sing to the children, as was her custom of an afternoon, first in their own language, and their national melodies, then in English; but she was soon interrupted by a general call of little voices for “Ouf! di giorno.” She complied with the request, and sang the ballad from Paer’s Camilla: “Un di carco il mulinaro.” The children were very familiar with every syllable of this ballad, which had been often fully explained to them. They danced in a circle with the burden of every verse, shouting out the chorus with good articulation and joyous energy; and at the end of the second stanza, where the traveller has his nose pinched by his grandmother’s ghost, every nose in the party was nipped by a pair of little fingers. Mr. Chainmail, who was not prepared for the process, came in for a very energetic tweak from a chubby girl that sprang suddenly on his knees for the purpose, and made the roof ring with her laughter.
So passed the time till evening, when Mr. Chainmail moved to depart. But it turned out on inquiry that he was some miles from his inn, that the way was intricate, and that he must not make any difficulty about accepting the farmer’s hospitality till morning. The evening set in with rain: the fire was found agreeable; they drew around it. The young lady made tea; and afterwards, from time to time, at Mr. Chainmail’s special request, delighted his ear with passages of ancient music. Then came a supper of lake trout, fried on the spot, and thrown, smoking hot, from the pan to the plate. Then came a brewage, which the farmer called his nightcap, of which he insisted on Mr. Chainmail’s taking his full share. After which the gentleman remembered nothing till he awoke, the next morning, to the pleasant consciousness that he was under the same roof with one of the most fascinating creatures under the canopy of heaven.
[Greek text] Sprung from what line, adorns the maid
These, valleys deep in mountain-shade?
PIND. Pyth. IX
Mr. Chainmail forgot the Captain and the route of Giraldus de Barri. He became suddenly satisfied that the ruined castle in his present neighbourhood was the best possible specimen of its class, and that it was needless to carry his researches further.
He visited the farm daily: found himself always welcome; flattered himself that the young lady saw him with pleasure, and dragged a heavier chain at every new parting from Miss Susan, as the children called his nymph of the mountains. What might be her second name, he had vainly endeavoured to discover.
Mr. Chainmail was in love: but the determination he had long before formed and fixed in his mind, to marry only a lady of gentle blood, without a blot in her escutcheon, repressed the declarations of passion which were often rising to his lips. In the meantime he left no means untried to pluck out the heart of her mystery.
The young lady soon divined his passion, and penetrated his prejudices. She began to look on him with favourable eyes; but she feared her name and parentage would present an insuperable barrier to his feudal pride.
Things were in this state when the Captain returned, and unpacked his maps and books in the parlour of the inn.
MR. CHAINMAIL. Really, Captain, I find so many objects of attraction in this neighbourhood, that I would gladly postpone our purpose.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Undoubtedly this neighbourhood has many attractions; but there is something very inviting in the scheme you laid down.
MR. CHAINMAIL. No doubt there is something very tempting in the route of Giraldus de Barri. But there are better things in this vicinity even than that. To tell you the truth, Captain, I have fallen in love.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. What! while I have been away?
MR. CHAINMAIL. Even so.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. The plunge must have been very sudden, if you are already over head and ears.
MR. CHAINMAIL. As deep as Llyn-y-dreiddiad-vrawd.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. And what may that be?
MR. CHAINMAIL. A pool not far off: a resting-place of a mountain stream which is said to have no bottom. There is a tradition connected with it; and here is a ballad on it, at your service.
Gwenwynwyn withdrew from the feasts of his hall:
He slept very little, he prayed not at all:
He pondered, and wandered, and studied alone;
And sought, night and day, the philosopher’s stone.
He found it at length, and he made its first proof
By turning to gold all the lead of his roof:
Then he bought some magnanimous heroes, all fire,
Who lived but to smite and be smitten for hire.
With these on the plains like a torrent he broke;
He filled the whole country with flame and with smoke;
He killed all the swine, and he broached all the wine;
He drove off the sheep, and the beeves, and the kine;
He took castles and towns; he cut short limbs and lives;
He made orphans and widows of children and wives:
This course many years he triumphantly ran,
And did mischief enough to be called a great man.
When, at last, he had gained all for which he held striven,
He bethought him of buying a passport to heaven;
Good and great as he was, yet he did not well know,
How soon, or which way, his great spirit might go.
He sought the grey friars, who beside a wild stream,
Refected their frames on a primitive scheme;
The gravest and wisest Gwenwynwyn found out,
All lonely and ghostly, and angling for trout.
Below the white dash of a mighty cascade,
Where a pool of the stream a deep resting-place made,
And rock-rooted oaks stretched their branches on high,
The friar stood musing, and throwing his fly.
To him said Gwenwynwyn, “Hold, father, here’s store,
For the good of the church, and the good of the poor;”
Then he gave him the stone; but, ere more he could speak,
Wrath came on the friar, so holy and meek.
He had stretched forth his hand to receive the red gold,
And he thought himself mocked by Gwenwynwyn the Bold;
And in scorn of the gift, and in rage at the giver,
He jerked it immediately into the river.
Gwenwynwyn, aghast, not a syllable spake;
The philosopher’s stone made a duck and a drake;
Two systems of circles a moment were seen,
And the stream smoothed them off, as they never had been.
Gwenwynwyn regained, and uplifted his voice,
“Oh friar, grey friar, full rash was thy choice;
The stone, the good stone, which away thou hast thrown,
Was the stone of all stones, the philosopher’s stone.”
The friar looked pale, when his error he knew;
The friar looked red, and the friar looked blue;
And heels over head, from the point of a rock,
He plunged, without stopping to pull off his frock.
He dived very deep, but he dived all in vain,
The prize he had slighted he found not again;
Many times did the friar his diving renew,
And deeper and deeper the river still grew.
Gwenwynwyn gazed long, of his senses in doubt,
To see the grey friar a diver so stout;
Then sadly and slowly his castle he sought,
And left the friar diving, like dabchick distraught.
Gwenwynwyn fell sick with alarm and despite,
Died, and went to the devil, the very same night;
The magnanimous heroes he held in his pay
Sacked his castle, and marched with the plunder away.
No knell on the silence of midnight was rolled
For the flight of the soul of Gwenwynwyn the Bold.
The brethren, unfeed, let the mighty ghost pass,
Without praying a prayer, or intoning a mass.
The friar haunted ever beside the dark stream;
The philosopher’s stone was his thought and his dream:
And day after day, ever head under heels
He dived all the time he could spare from his meals.
He dived, and he dived, to the end of his days,
As the peasants oft witnessed with fear and amaze.
The mad friar’s diving-place long was their theme,
And no plummet can fathom that pool of the stream.
And still, when light clouds on the midnight winds ride,
If by moonlight you stray on the lone river-side,
The ghost of the friar may be seen diving there,
With head in the water, and heels in the air.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Well, your ballad is very pleasant: you shall show me the scene, and I will sketch it; but just now I am more interested about your love. What heroine of the twelfth century has risen from the ruins of the old castle, and looked down on you from the ivied battlements?
MR. CHAINMAIL. You are nearer the mark than you suppose. Even from those battlements a heroine of the twelfth century has looked down on me.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Oh! some vision of an ideal beauty. I suppose the whole will end in another tradition and a ballad.
MR. CHAINMAIL. Genuine flesh and blood; as genuine as Lady Clarinda. I will tell you the story.
Mr. Chainmail narrated his adventures.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Then you seem to have found what you wished. Chance has thrown in your way what none of the gods would have ventured to promise you.
MR. CHAINMAIL. Yes, but I know nothing of her birth and parentage. She tells me nothing of herself, and I have no right to question her directly.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. She appears to be expressly destined for the light of your baronial hall. Introduce me in this case, two heads are better than one.
MR. CHAINMAIL. No, I thank you. Leave me to manage my chance of a prize, and keep you to your own chance of a —
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Blank. As you please. Well, I will pitch my tent here, till I have filled my portfolio, and shall be glad of as much of your company as you can spare from more attractive society.
Matters went on pretty smoothly for several days, when an unlucky newspaper threw all into confusion. Mr. Chainmail received newspapers by the post, which came in three times a week. One morning, over their half-finished breakfast, the Captain had read half a newspaper very complacently, when suddenly he started up in a frenzy, hurled over the breakfast table, and, bouncing from the apartment, knocked down Harry Ap Heather, who was coming in at the door to challenge his supposed rival to a boxing-match.
Harry sprang up, in a double rage, and intercepted Mr. Chainmail’s pursuit of the Captain, placing himself in the doorway, in a pugilistic attitude. Mr. Chainmail, not being disposed for this mode of combat, stepped back into the parlour, took the poker in his right hand, and displacing the loose bottom of a large elbow chair, threw it over his left arm as a shield. Harry, not liking the aspect of the enemy in this imposing attitude, retreated with backward steps into the kitchen, and tumbled over a cur, which immediately fastened on his rear.
Mr. Chainmail, half-laughing, half-vexed, anxious to overtake the Captain, and curious to know what was the matter with him, pocketed the newspaper, and sallied forth, leaving Harry roaring for a doctor and tailor, to repair the lacerations of his outward man.
Mr. Chainmail could find no trace of the Captain. Indeed, he sought him but in one direction, which was that leading to the farm; where he arrived in due time, and found Miss Susan alone. He laid the newspaper on the table, as was his custom, and proceeded to converse with the young lady: a conversation of many pauses, as much of signs as of words. The young lady took up the paper, and turned it over and over, while she listened to Mr. Chainmail, whom she found every day more and more agreeable, when suddenly her eye glanced on something which made her change colour, and dropping the paper on the ground, she rose from her seat, exclaiming: “Miserable must she be who trusts any of your faithless sex! never, never, never, will I endure such misery twice.” And she vanished up the stairs. Mr. Chainmail was petrified. At length, he cried aloud: “Cornelius Agrippa must have laid a spell on this accursed newspaper;” and was turning it over, to look for the source of the mischief, when Mrs. Ap Llymry made her appearance.
MRS. AP LLYMRY. What have you done to poor dear Miss Susan? she is crying ready to break her heart.
MR. CHAINMAIL. So help me the memory of Richard Coeur-deLion, I have not the most distant notion of what is the matter.
MRS. AP LLYMRY. Oh, don’t tell me, sir; you must have ill-used her. I know how it is. You have been keeping company with her, as if you wanted to marry her; and now, all at once, you have been insulting her. I have seen such tricks more than once, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself.
MR. CHAINMAIL. My dear madam, you wrong me utterly. I have none but the kindest feelings and the most honourable purposes towards her. She has been disturbed by something she has seen in this rascally paper.
MRS. AP LLYMRY. Why, then, the best thing you can do is to go away, and come again tomorrow.
MR. CHAINMAIL. Not I, indeed, madam. Out of this house I stir not, till I have seen the young lady, and obtained a full explanation.
MRS. AP LLYMRY. I will tell Miss Susan what you say. Perhaps she will come down.
Mr. Chainmail sat with as much patience as he could command, running over the paper, from column to column. At length he lighted on an announcement of the approaching marriage of Lady Clarinda Bossnowl with Mr. Crotchet the younger. This explained the Captain’s discomposure, but the cause of Miss Susan’s was still to be sought: he could not know that it was one and the same.
Presently, the sound of the longed-for step was heard on the stairs; the young lady reappeared, and resumed her seat: her eyes showed that she had been weeping. The gentleman was now exceedingly puzzled how to begin, but the young lady relieved him by asking, with great simplicity: “What do you wish to have explained, sir?”
MR. CHAINMAIL. I wish, if I may be permitted, to explain myself to you. Yet could I first wish to know what it was that disturbed you in this unlucky paper. Happy should I be if I could remove the cause of your inquietude!
MISS SUSANNAH. The cause is already removed. I saw something that excited painful recollections; nothing that I could now wish otherwise than as it is.
MR. CHAINMAIL. Yet, may I ask why it is that I find one so accomplished living in this obscurity, and passing only by the name of Miss Susan?
MISS SUSANNAH. The world and my name are not friends. I have left the world, and wish to remain for ever a stranger to all whom I once knew in it.
MR. CHAINMAIL. You can have done nothing to dishonour your name.
MISS SUSANNAH. No, sir. My father has done that of which the world disapproves, in matters of which I pretend not to judge. I have suffered for it as I will never suffer again. My name is my own secret: I have no other, and that is one not worth knowing. You see what I am, and all I am. I live according to the condition of my present fortune, and here, so living, I have found tranquillity.
MR. CHAINMAIL. Yet, I entreat you, tell me your name.
MISS SUSANNAH. Why, sir?
MR. CHAINMAIL. Why, but to throw my hand, my heart, my fortune, at your feet, if —.
MISS SUSANNAH. If my name be worthy of them.
MR. CHAINMAIL. Nay, nay, not so; if your hand and heart are free.
MISS SUSANNAH. My hand and heart are free; but they must be sought from myself, and not from my name.
She fixed her eyes on him, with a mingled expression of mistrust, of kindness, and of fixed resolution, which the far-gone inamorato found irresistible.
MR. CHAINMAIL. Then from yourself alone I seek them.
MISS SUSANNAH. Reflect. You have prejudices on the score of parentage. I have not conversed with you so often without knowing what they are. Choose between them and me. I too have my own prejudices on the score of personal pride.
MR. CHAINMAIL. I would choose you from all the world, were you even the daughter of the executeur des hautes oeuvres, as the heroine of a romantic story I once read turned out to be.
MISS SUSANNAH. I am satisfied. You have now a right to know my history, and if you repent, I absolve you from all obligations.
She told him her history; but he was out of the reach of repentance. “It is true,” as at a subsequent period he said to the captain, “she is the daughter of a money-changer: one who, in the days of Richard the First, would have been plucked by the beard in the streets: but she is, according to modern notions, a lady of gentle blood. As to her father’s running away, that is a minor consideration: I have always understood, from Mr. Mac Quedy, who is a great oracle in this way, that promises to pay ought not to be kept; the essence of a safe and economical currency being an interminable series of broken promises. There seems to be a difference among the learned as to the way in which the promises ought to be broken; but I am not deep enough in this casuistry to enter into such nice distinctions.”
In a few days there was a wedding, a pathetic leave-taking of the farmer’s family, a hundred kisses from the bride to the children, and promises twenty times reclaimed and renewed, to visit them in the ensuing year.
A cup of wine, that’s brisk and fine,
And drink unto the lemon mine.
This veridicous history began in May, and the occurrences already narrated have carried it on to the middle of autumn. Stepping over the interval to Christmas, we find ourselves in our first locality, among the chalk hills of the Thames; and we discover our old friend, Mr. Crotchet, in the act of accepting an invitation, for himself, and any friends who might be with him, to pass their Christmas Day at Chainmail Hall, after the fashion of the twelfth century. Mr. Crochet had assembled about him, for his own Christmas festivities, nearly the same party which was introduced to the reader in the spring. Three of that party were wanting. Dr. Morbific, by inoculating himself once too often with non-contagious matter, had explained himself out of the world. Mr. Henbane had also departed, on the wings of an infallible antidote. Mr. Eavesdrop, having printed in a magazine some of the after-dinner conversations of the castle, had had sentence of exclusion passed upon him, on the motion of the Reverend Doctor Folliott, as a flagitious violator of the confidences of private life.
Miss Crotchet had become Lady Bossnowl, but Lady Clarinda had not yet changed her name to Crotchet. She had, on one pretence and another, procrastinated the happy event, and the gentleman had not been very pressing; she had, however, accompanied her brother and sister-inlaw, to pass Christmas at Crotchet Castle. With these, Mr. Mac Quedy, Mr. Philpot, Mr. Trillo, Mr. Skionar, Mr. Toogood, and Mr. Firedamp were sitting at breakfast, when the Reverend Doctor Folliott entered and took his seat at the table.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Well, Mr. Mac Quedy, it is now some weeks since we have met: how goes on the march of mind?
MR. MAC QUEDY. Nay, sir; I think you may see that with your own eyes.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, I have seen it, much to my discomfiture. It has marched into my rickyard, and set my stacks on fire, with chemical materials, most scientifically compounded. It has marched up to the door of my vicarage, a hundred and fifty strong; ordered me to surrender half my tithes; consumed all the provisions I had provided for my audit feast, and drunk up my old October. It has marched in through my back-parlour shutters, and out again with my silver spoons, in the dead of the night. The policeman who has been down to examine says my house has been broken open on the most scientific principles. All this comes of education.
MR. MAC QUEDY. I rather think it comes of poverty.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No, sir. Robbery, perhaps, comes of poverty, but scientific principles of robbery come of education. I suppose the learned friend has written a sixpenny treatise on mechanics, and the rascals who robbed me have been reading it.
MR. CROTCHET. Your house would have been very safe, Doctor, if they had had no better science than the learned friend’s to work with.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Well, sir, that may be. Excellent potted char. The Lord deliver me from the learned friend.
MR. CROTCHET. Well, Doctor, for your comfort, here is a declaration of the learned friend’s that he will never take office.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Then, sir, he will be in office next week. Peace be with him. Sugar and cream.
MR. CROTCHET. But, Doctor, are you for Chainmail Hall on Christmas Day?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. That am I, for there will be an excellent dinner, though, peradventure, grotesquely served.
MR. CROTCHET. I have not seen my neighbour since he left us on the canal.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. He has married a wife, and brought her home.
LADY CLARINDA. Indeed! If she suits him, she must be an oddity: it will be amusing to see them together.
LORD BOSSNOWL. Very amusing. He! He! Mr. Firedamp. Is there any water about Chainmail Hall?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. An old moat.
MR. FIREDAMP. I shall die of malaria.
MR. TRILLO. Shall we have any music?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. An old harper.
MR. TRILLO. Those fellows are always horridly out of tune. What will he play?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Old songs and marches.
MR. SKIONAR. Among so many old things, I hope we shall find Old Philosophy.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. An old woman.
MR. PHILPOT. Perhaps an old map of the river in the twelfth century.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No doubt.
MR. MAC QUEDY. How many more old things?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Old hospitality; old wine; old ale; all the images of old England; an old butler.
MR. TOOGOOD. Shall we all be welcome?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Heartily; you will be slapped on the shoulder, and called Old Boy.
LORD BOSSNOWL. I think we should all go in our old clothes. He! He!
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. You will sit on old chairs, round an old table, by the light of old lamps, suspended from pointed arches, which, Mr. Chainmail says, first came into use in the twelfth century, with old armour on the pillars and old banners in the roof.
LADY CLARINDA. And what curious piece of antiquity is the lady of the mansion?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No antiquity there; none.
LADY CLARINDA. Who was she?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. That I know not.
LADY CLARINDA. Have you seen her?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I have.
LADY CLARINDA. Is she pretty?
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. More — beautiful. A subject for the pen of Nonnus or the pencil of Zeuxis. Features of all loveliness, radiant with all virtue and intelligence. A face for Antigone. A form at once plump and symmetrical, that, if it be decorous to divine it by externals, would have been a model for the Venus of Cnidos. Never was anything so goodly to look on, the present company excepted; and poor dear Mrs. Folliott. She reads moral philosophy, Mr. Mac Quedy, which indeed she might as well let alone; she reads Italian poetry, Mr. Skionar; she sings Italian music, Mr. Trillo; but, with all this, she has the greatest of female virtues, for she superintends the household and looks after her husband’s dinner. I believe she was a mountaineer: [Greek text] 1 as Nonnus sweetly sings.
1 A mountain-wandering maid,
Twin-nourished with the solitary wood.
Vous autres dictes que ignorance est mere de tous maulx, et dictes vray: mais toutesfoys vous ne la bannissez mye de vos entendemens, et vivez en elle, avecques elle, et par elle. C’est pourquoy tant de maulx vous meshaignent de jour en jour. — RABELIAS, 1. 5. c. 7.
The party which was assembled on Christmas Day in Chainmail Hall comprised all the guests of Crotchet Castle, some of Mr. Chainmail’s other neighbours, all his tenants and domestics, and Captain Fitzchrome. The hall was spacious and lofty; and with its tall fluted pillars and pointed arches, its windows of stained glass, its display of arms and banners intermingled with holly and mistletoe, its blazing cressets and torches, and a stupendous fire in the centre, on which blocks of pine were flaming and crackling, had a striking effect on eyes unaccustomed to such a dining-room. The fire was open on all sides, and the smoke was caught and carried back under a funnel-formed canopy into a hollow central pillar. This fire was the line of demarcation between gentle and simple on days of high festival. Tables extended from it on two sides to nearly the end of the hall.
Mrs. Chainmail was introduced to the company. Young Crotchet felt some revulsion of feeling at the unexpected sight of one whom he had forsaken, but not forgotten, in a condition apparently so much happier than his own. The lady held out her hand to him with a cordial look of more than forgiveness; it seemed to say that she had much to thank him for. She was the picture of a happy bride, rayonnante de joie et d’amour.
Mr. Crotchet told the Reverend Doctor Folliott the news of the morning. “As you predicted,” he said, “your friend, the learned friend, is in office; he has also a title; he is now Sir Guy de Vaux.”
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Thank heaven for that! he is disarmed from further mischief. It is something, at any rate, to have that hollow and wind-shaken reed rooted up for ever from the field of public delusion.
MR. CROTCHET. I suppose, Doctor, you do not like to see a great reformer in office; you are afraid for your vested interests.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Not I, indeed, sir; my vested interests are very safe from all such reformers as the learned friend. I vaticinate what will be the upshot of all his schemes of reform. He will make a speech of seven hours’ duration, and this will be its quintessence: that, seeing the exceeding difficulty of putting salt on the bird’s tail, it will be expedient to consider the best method of throwing dust in the bird’s eyes. All the rest will be
[Greek text in verse]
as Aristophanes has it; and so I leave him, in Nephelococcygia.
Mr. Mac Quedy came up to the divine as Mr. Crotchet left him, and said: “There is one piece of news which the old gentleman has not told you. The great firm of Catchflat and Company, in which young Crotchet is a partner, has stopped payment.”
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Bless me! that accounts for the young gentleman’s melancholy. I thought they would overreach themselves with their own tricks. The day of reckoning, Mr. Mac Quedy, is the point which your paper-money science always leaves out of view.
MR. MAC QUEDY. I do not see, sir, that the failure of Catchflat and Company has anything to do with my science.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. It has this to do with it, sir, that you would turn the whole nation into a great paper-money shop, and take no thought of the day of reckoning. But the dinner is coming. I think you, who are so fond of paper promises, should dine on the bill of fare.
The harper at the head of the hall struck up an ancient march, and the dishes were brought in, in grand procession.
The boar’s head, garnished with rosemary, with a citron in its mouth, led the van. Then came tureens of plum-porridge; then a series of turkeys, and in the midst of them an enormous sausage, which it required two men to carry. Then came geese and capons, tongues and hams, the ancient glory of the Christmas pie, a gigantic plum pudding, a pyramid of mince pies, and a baron of beef bringing up the rear.
“It is something new under the sun,” said the divine, as he sat down, “to see a great dinner without fish.”
MR. CHAINMAIL. Fish was for fasts in the twelfth century.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Well, sir, I prefer our reformed system of putting fasts and feasts together. Not but here is ample indemnity.
Ale and wine flowed in abundance. The dinner passed off merrily: the old harper playing all the while the oldest music in his repertory. The tables being cleared, he indemnified himself for lost time at the lower end of the hall, in company with the old butler and the other domestics, whose attendance on the banquet had been indispensable.
The scheme of Christmas gambols, which Mr. Chainmail had laid for the evening, was interrupted by a tremendous clamour without.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. What have we here? Mummers?
MR. CHAINMAIL. Nay, I know not. I expect none.
“Who is there?” he added, approaching the door of the hall.
“Who is there?” vociferated the divine, with the voice of Stentor.
“Captain Swing,” replied a chorus of discordant voices.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Ho, ho! here is a piece of the dark ages we did not bargain for. Here is the Jacquerie. Here is the march of mind with a witness.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Do you not see that you have brought disparates together? the Jacquerie and the march of mind.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Not at all, sir. They are the same thing, under different names. [Greek text]. What was Jacquerie in the dark ages is the march of mind in this very enlightened one — very enlightened one.
MR. CHAINMAIL. The cause is the same in both; poverty in despair.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Very likely; but the effect is extremely disagreeable.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. It is the natural result, Mr. Mac Quedy, of that system of state seamanship which your science upholds. Putting the crew on short allowance, and doubling the rations of the officers, is the sure way to make a mutiny on board a ship in distress, Mr. Mac Quedy.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Eh! sir, I uphold no such system as that. I shall set you right as to cause and effect. Discontent arises with the increase of information. That is all.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I said it was the march of mind. But we have not time for discussing cause and effect now. Let us get rid of the enemy.
And he vociferated at the top of his voice, “What do you want here?” “Arms, arms,” replied a hundred voices, “Give us the arms.”
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. You see, Mr. Chainmail, this is the inconvenience of keeping an armoury not fortified with sand bags, green bags, and old bags of all kinds.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Just give them the old spits and toasting irons, and they will go away quietly.
MR. CHAINMAIL. My spears and swords! not without my life. These assailants are all aliens to my land and house. My men will fight for me, one and all. This is the fortress of beef and ale.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Eh! sir, when the rabble is up, it is very indiscriminating. You are e’en suffering for the sins of Sir Simon Steeltrap and the like, who have pushed the principle of accumulation a little too far.
MR. CHAINMAIL. The way to keep the people down is kind and liberal usage.
MR. MAC QUEDY. That is very well (where it can be afforded) in the way of prevention; but in the way of cure the operation must be more drastic. (Taking down a battle-axe.) I would fain have a good blunderbuss charged with slugs.
MR. CHAINMAIL. When I suspended these arms for ornament, I never dreamed of their being called into use.
MR. SKIONAR. Let me address them. I never failed to convince an audience that the best thing they could do was to go away.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Eh! sir, I can bring them to that conclusion in less time than you.
MR. CROTCHET. I have no fancy for fighting. It is a very hard case upon a guest, when the latter end of a feast is the beginning of a fray.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Give them the old iron.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Give them the weapons! Pessimo, medius fidius, exemplo. Forbid it the spirit of Frere Jean des Entommeures! No! let us see what the church militant, in the armour of the twelfth century, will do against the march of mind. Follow me who will, and stay who list. Here goes: Pro aris et focis! that is, for tithe pigs and fires to roast them.
He clapped a helmet on his head, seized a long lance, threw open the gates, and tilted out on the rabble, side by side with Mr. Chainmail, followed by the greater portion of the male inmates of the hall, who had armed themselves at random.
The rabble-rout, being unprepared for such a sortie, fled in all directions, over hedge and ditch.
Mr. Trillo stayed in the hall, playing a march on the harp, to inspirit the rest to sally out. The water-loving Mr. Philpot had diluted himself with so much wine as to be quite hors de combat. Mr. Toogood, intending to equip himself in purely defensive armour, contrived to slip a ponderous coat of mail over his shoulders, which pinioned his arms to his sides; and in this condition, like a chicken trussed for roasting, he was thrown down behind a pillar in the first rush of the sortie. Mr. Crotchet seized the occurrence as a pretext for staying with him, and passed the whole time of the action in picking him out of his shell.
“Phew!” said the divine, returning; “an inglorious victory; but it deserves a devil and a bowl of punch.”
MR. CHAINMAIL. A wassail-bowl.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No, sir. No more of the twelfth century for me.
MR. CHAINMAIL. Nay, Doctor. The twelfth century has backed you well. Its manners and habits, its community of kind feelings between master and man, are the true remedy for these ebullitions.
MR. TOOGOOD. Something like it: improved by my diagram: arts for arms.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No wassail-bowl for me. Give me an unsophisticated bowl of punch, which belongs to that blissful middle period, after the Jacquerie was down, and before the march of mind was up. But, see, who is floundering in the water?
Proceeding to the edge of the moat, they fished up Mr. Firedamp, who had missed his way back, and tumbled in. He was drawn out, exclaiming, “that he had taken his last dose of malaria in this world.”
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Tut, man; dry clothes, a turkey’s leg and rump, well devilled, and a quart of strong punch, will set all to rights.
“Wood embers,” said Mr. Firedamp, when he had been accommodated with a change of clothes, “there is no antidote to malaria like the smoke of wood embers; pine embers.” And he placed himself, with his mouth open, close by the fire.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Punch, sir, punch: there is no antidote like punch.
MR. CHAINMAIL. Well, Doctor, you shall be indulged. But I shall have my wassail-bowl, nevertheless.
An immense bowl of spiced wine, with roasted apples hissing on its surface, was borne into the hall by four men, followed by an empty bowl of the same dimensions, with all the materials of arrack punch, for the divine’s especial brewage. He accinged himself to the task with his usual heroism, and having finished it to his entire satisfaction, reminded his host to order in the devil
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I think, Mr. Chainmail, we can amuse ourselves very well here all night. The enemy may be still excubant: and we had better not disperse till daylight. I am perfectly satisfied with my quarters. Let the young folk go on with their gambols; let them dance to your old harper’s minstrelsy; and if they please to kiss under the mistletoe, whereof I espy a goodly bunch suspended at the end of the hall, let those who like it not leave it to those who do. Moreover, if among the more sedate portion of the assembly, which, I foresee, will keep me company, there were any to revive the good old custom of singing after supper, so to fill up the intervals of the dances, the steps of night would move more lightly.
MR. CHAINMAIL. My Susan will set the example, after she has set that of joining in the rustic dance, according to good customs long departed.
After the first dance, in which all classes of the company mingled, the young lady of the mansion took her harp, and following the reverend gentleman’s suggestion, sang a song of the twelfth century.
Florence and Blanchflor, loveliest maids,
Within a summer grove,
Amid the flower-enamelled shades
Together talked of love.
A clerk sweet Blanchflor’s heart had gain’d;
Fair Florence loved a knight:
And each with ardent voice maintained
She loved the worthiest wight.
Sweet Blanchflor praised her scholar dear,
As courteous, kind, and true!
Fair Florence said her chevalier
Could every foe subdue.
And Florence scorned the bookworm vain,
Who sword nor spear could raise;
And Blanchflor scorned the unlettered brain Could sing no lady’s praise.
From dearest love, the maidens bright
To deadly hatred fell,
Each turned to shun the other’s sight,
And neither said farewell.
The king of birds, who held his court
Within that flowery grove,
Sang loudly: “’Twill be rare disport
To judge this suit of love.”
Before him came the maidens bright,
With all his birds around,
To judge the cause, if clerk or knight
In love be worthiest found.
The falcon and the sparrow-hawk
Stood forward for the fight:
Ready to do, and not to talk,
They voted for the knight.
And Blanchflor’s heart began to fail,
Till rose the strong-voiced lark,
And, after him, the nightingale,
And pleaded for the clerk.
The nightingale prevailed at length,
Her pleading had such charms;
So eloquence can conquer strength,
And arts can conquer arms.
The lovely Florence tore her hair,
And died upon the place;
And all the birds assembled there
Bewailed the mournful case.
They piled up leaves and flowerets rare
Above the maiden bright,
And sang: “Farewell to Florence fair,
Who too well loved her knight.”
Several others of the party sang in the intervals of the dances. Mr. Chainmail handed to Mr. Trillo another ballad of the twelfth century, of a merrier character than the former. Mr. Trillo readily accommodated it with an air, and sang:
Did you hear of the curate who mounted his mare,
And merrily trotted along to the fair?
Of creature more tractable none ever heard;
In the height of her speed she would stop at a word,
And again with a word, when the curate said Hey,
She put forth her mettle, and galloped away.
As near to the gates of the city he rode,
While the sun of September all brilliantly glowed,
The good priest discovered, with eyes of desire,
A mulberry tree in a hedge of wild briar,
On boughs long and lofty, in many a green shoot,
Hung large, black, and glossy, the beautiful fruit.
The curate was hungry, and thirsty to boot;
He shrunk from the thorns, though he longed for the fruit;
With a word he arrested his courser’s keen speed,
And he stood up erect on the back of his steed;
On the saddle he stood, while the creature stood still,
And he gathered the fruit, till he took his good fill.
“Sure never,” he thought, “was a creature so rare,
So docile, so true, as my excellent mare.
Lo, here, how I stand” (and he gazed all around),
“As safe and as steady as if on the ground,
Yet how had it been, if some traveller this way,
Had, dreaming no mischief, but chanced to cry Hey?”
He stood with his head in the mulberry tree,
And he spoke out aloud in his fond reverie.
At the sound of the word, the good mare made a push,
And down went the priest in the wild-briar bush.
He remembered too late, on his thorny green bed,
Much that well may be thought cannot wisely be said.
Lady Clarinda, being prevailed on to take the harp in her turn, sang the following stanzas.
In the days of old,
Lovers felt true passion,
Deeming years of sorrow
By a smile repaid.
Now the charms of gold,
Spells of pride and fashion,
Bid them say good morrow
To the best-loved maid.
Through the forests wild,
O’er the mountains lonely,
They were never weary
Honour to pursue.
If the damsel smiled
Once in seven years only,
All their wanderings dreary
Ample guerdon knew.
Now one day’s caprice
Weighs down years of smiling,
Youthful hearts are rovers,
Love is bought and sold:
Fortune’s gifts may cease,
Love is less beguiling;
Wisest were the lovers
In the days of old.
The glance which she threw at the captain, as she sang the last verse, awakened his dormant hopes. Looking round for his rival, he saw that he was not in the hall; and, approaching the lady of his heart, he received one of the sweetest smiles of their earlier days.
After a time, the ladies, and all the females of the party, retired. The males remained on duty with punch and wassail, and dropped off one by one into sweet forgetfulness; so that when the rising sun of December looked through the painted windows on mouldering embers and flickering lamps, the vaulted roof was echoing to a mellifluous concert of noses, from the clarionet of the waiting-boy at one end of the hall, to the double bass of the Reverend Doctor, ringing over the empty punch-bowl, at the other.
From this eventful night, young Crotchet was seen no more on English mould. Whither he had vanished was a question that could no more be answered in his case than in that of King Arthur after the battle of Camlan. The great firm of Catchflat and Company figured in the Gazette, and paid sixpence in the pound; and it was clear that he had shrunk from exhibiting himself on the scene of his former greatness, shorn of the beams of his paper prosperity. Some supposed him to be sleeping among the undiscoverable secrets of some barbel-pool in the Thames; but those who knew him best were more inclined to the opinion that he had gone across the Atlantic, with his pockets full of surplus capital, to join his old acquaintance, Mr. Touchandgo, in the bank of Dotandcarryonetown.
Lady Clarinda was more sorry for her father’s disappointment than her own; but she had too much pride to allow herself to be put up a second time in the money-market; and when the Captain renewed his assiduities, her old partiality for him, combining with a sense of gratitude for a degree of constancy which she knew she scarcely deserved, induced her, with Lord Foolincourt’s hard-wrung consent, to share with him a more humble, but less precarious fortune, than that to which she had been destined as the price of a rotten borough.
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