Page images
PDF
EPUB

know the gist of Dr. Forbes Winslow's teaching. The people at home, who govern me by making me think that I govern them, have carefully put away Dr. W.'s big book; which, if a man be at all nervous, he is apt to consult as frequently as though it were a kind of psychical looking-glass. A stumble or a stutter, inability to chip your egg in the proper manner, over drowsiness or over wide-awakedness, dimness of sight, or swimming in the head, or carillons in the ears, may all be so many symptoms of morbid diseases of the brain and mind. If you feel any one of these symptoms, the best thing you can do is to buy a strait-waistcoat, and go off at once to Dr. Forbes Winslow, lest worse should ensue. This is the keystone of the Winslowian philosophy. But what would the learned Doctor think of the cerebral condition of the Distracted States ? Is Dixie's Land a whit saner than Columbia? One of my newspapers this morning tells me that the dark gentleman who had formerly the honour of driving the President of Secessia's carriage is just now in England, and is lecturing about among the pious folks with as profitable results to himself, I hope, as those hinted at by Mr. George Borrow in his Wild Wales. What says Jefferson Davis's quondam slave of his master? Is the Confederate Dictator a hero to his body-coachman? The ex-Jehu declares that Jeff. “ isn't of much account.” When things go smoothly, he is pleasant and placable enough; but when their course is roughened, he storms and goes on the rampage in the “skeariest” manner. I dare

say

that he is as mad as all the rest of the world.

When his Lordship of Dundreary is unable to discern the drift of a particular observation, he forthwith puts down the speaker as a lunatic. Why should not his Lordship be right,-or any other “fellah”? I dare say that Mr. Sothern (if he condescended to read the first number of “ Breakfast in Bed”) thought me as mad as a hatter for presuming to question the perfection of his impersonation. For my part, I have a firm persuasion of the lunacy of the people who grow ecstatic about Dundreary, or who sip their grog while the great Olmar, or the greater Léotard, or the greatest Blondin may be capering over their heads, at the imminent risk of tumbling down and smashing the skulls both of spectators and acrobats. I think that to take Drury Lane Theatre—if you have any money to lose—is a sign of mental alienation so decided, that the mere act of signing the agreement should be a full warrant for the friends of the manager taking care of him. I think half the people who are quaking with terror through fear of garotters, and cutting their trembling fingers with the bowie-knives they don't know how to handle - I speak with authority in this matter, for I have been garotted, and it didn't hurt me,—are mad. I am sure the garotters are mad; poor, purblind, darkened, demented creatures, running their heads against Newgate granite-walls as a bull runs at a gate. I don't think that Sir Joshua Jebb is quite right in his mind when he countersigns a ticket-of-leave; and I have little doubt but that if a commission sat upon Sir Walter Crofton, they would discover that he was subject to delusions. The question is, I take it, less to find out who is

mad than who isn't mad. Do you mean to tell me there is not a screw loose in the brainpan of those Greeks who are persisting in electing the candidate who won't stand, and in carting about, on the top of an omnibus, as though it were the Golden Calf or an image of Juggernaut, the portrait of a young Middy of whom they know nothing? And that fine old Tory, the King of Prussia ! When the drill-sergeant monarch makes a speech to a loyal deputation from Kalbsfleischstein on the necessity of governing “outside the constitution," don't you think him as crazy as his ancestor who used to cane his son Fritz and throw plates and dishes at his daughter Wilhelmina; or as his brother deceased, who was wont to wash his poor wandering head in Vermicelli soup? And the illustrious Historian of the Hohenzollerns? Is all quite right at Chelsea, think you, when Great Tom booms forth peals of praise over tyranny and brutality, and makes a demi.god of the beery and brutal old bludgeon-man and crockerybreaker, with his Tabaks-Collegium, and other tomfooleries ? When Lady Caroline Lamb(herself as demented as Madge Wildfire) first met Lord Byron, she made this entry against his name in her diary : “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Lady Morgan, who tells the story, and whose bald and frivolous tittle-tattle has just been published under the auspices of Mr. Hepworth Dixon as an " Autobiography"-shade of “P. P., clerk of this parish,” has it come to this?—was mad with vanity and Radical politics. A mad generation will eagerly read all the antiquated gossip and scanmag of Dublin Castle during the mad viceroyalty of the Duke of Richmond (who is said to have knighted a linkman between claret and coffee one night), and will chuckle over the eccentricities of the epoch when the ladies of the Irish Court-titled ladies-used to play at the pastoral game of “Cutchakachoo,” which consisted in squatting down on the carpet with your hands clasped underneath your hams, and changing places with your partner as rapidly as was possible in that abnormal position. And Prince Puckler Muskau, whom Lady Morgan's friends used to call Prince Pickle Mustard, and who, being desirous of attending a banquet of the “Friends of Freedom,” wanted to know if the health of his High Dutchy would be proposed, and if his right to precedence as an “Altezza,” or Highness, would be recognised,—what are we to think of him? The Friends of Freedom didn't want the “ Altezza" at their dinner under any circumstances, and Sir Charles Morgan told him so; whereupon my Lady fell into an agony of alarm lest the Prince should insist on fighting a duel with her husband. All the people in this book (which will be forgotten the day after to-morrow) seem to be more or less bereft of their senses—from good-natured old Lady Cork, who used to pilfer small articles from the shop-counters where she dealt -of whom I have read, but not in this “Autobiography,"—to John Kemble the tragedian, that once meeting the “wild Irish girl” (afterwards Sydney Lady Morgan) at an evening-party, be twined his fingers in her curly black locks, and said, in a voice husky with port-wine : “Little girl, where did you get your wig from ?” Stay, there is one personage in the “ Autobio

graphy” who really seems to have possessed some sense.

He was a poet, and bored the authoress of The Book of the Boudoir to get some of his effusions published; and on her civilly declining to do so, wrote a second letter back, to say that he was also a practical boot and shoe maker, and that he would be very grateful to my Lady if she would use her influence with Sir Charles Morgan to get him an order for a pair of boots.

“St. Hierom,” says Burton, “out of a strong imagination, conceived within himself that he then saw them dancing in Rome; and if thou shalt either conceive, or climb up to see, thou shalt soon perceive that all the world is mad; that it is melancholy, dozes; that it is (which Epichthonius Cosmopolites expressed not many years since in a map) made like a fool's head (with that motto, Caput helleboro dignum), a crazed head; cavea stultorum, a fool's paradise; or, as Apollonius, a common prison of gulls, cheaters, flatterers, &c., and needs to be reformed.” This is a nice perspective. “For who, indeed,” pursues this agreeable moralist, “is not a fool, melancholy, mad? who is not brain-sick? Folly, Melancholy, Madness, are but one disease.” Indeed! “Delirium is a common name to all. Alexander, Gordonius, Jason, Pratensis, Guianerius, Montaltus (Connaissez-vous ces gens-la?), confound them as differing magis et minus; so doth David (Psalm xxvii. 5); and 'twas an old Stoical paradox, omnes stultos insanire,-all fools are mad, though some madder than others. Who is not a fool, or free from Melancholia ?" Answer, 0 Hypochondriac, Breakfasting in Bed!“Who is not touched more or less in habit or disposition? What is sickness, as Gregory Tholosanus defines it” (I wish he lived in Saville Row, and would give me an audience between 10 and 1 a.m.),“ but a dissolution or perturbation of the bodily league which health combines ?” As for the philosophers, they are all, according to the anatomist, as mad as the illiterate. Lactantius, in his book of wisdom (can I get it at Mudie's?), proves them to be dizzards, fools, and madmen, so full of absurd and ridiculous tenets and brainsick positions in their critiques on the Pentateuch and elsewhere), that, to his thinking, never any old woman or sick doted worse. Democritus took all from Leucippus, and left, saith he, the inheritance of his folly to Epicurus ; which, all spiteful as it was, was never so mad a bequest as that of old Mr. Hartley of Southampton, who left a hundred thousand pounds to build a house for a collection of air-pumps and old bones; and out of which bequest the lawyers have carefully clutched forty thousand pounds for costs of litigation. Plato, Aristippus, and the rest were (according to Lactantius) all idiots; and there was no difference between them and beasts, save that they could speak. Theodoret evinces the same of Socrates. Aristophanes calls him ambitious; his master, Aristotle, scurra atticus; Zeno, an enemy to all arts and sciences; Athenius, an opinionative ass, a caviller, and pedant; Theod. Cyrensis, an atheist and pot-companion, and a very madman in his actions. Bravo, Lactantius ! But, dear me, haven't I been aware of Lactantius in modern London? Surely he must be the man who edits the Cads' Chronicle.

а

person

If

you desire to hear more about Apollonius, a great wise man, and Julian the Apostate's model author, I refer you to the learned tract of Eusebius against Hierocles. I never read it, but Hircius knows it by heart. You will find therein that the actions of the philosophers were prodigious, absurd, ridiculous, and their books and elaborate treatises full of dotage; that their lives were opposite to their words; that they commended poverty in others, and were most greedy and covetous themselves; that they extolled love and peace, and yet persecuted one another with virulent hate and malice. But enough of this histoire de tout le monde. If I continue, it will be thought that I am attempting an essay on the History of Civilisation.

It is by this time, I hope, satisfactorily settled that you, I, and the majority of mankind are cracked. A famous physician has not hesitated to propound such a theory in a public court of justice; and are we, poor ignorant laymen, to set ourselves against the Royal College of Pall Mall East? Were we not all edified the other day when the poor, meek, placable, ill-used, long-suffering wife of a desperate crockery-dealer in Tottenham Court Road,-a “dangerous lunatic," whose horrible hallucinations, springing from “drink and gay company," ended in his daring to protest against the unhappy persecuted creature, who had been his wedded (and outraged) wife for eight-and-twenty years, indulging in such harmless eccentricities as running up scores with tallymen, pawning his pots and pans, bringing crowds round his shop, and heaping mountains of Billingsgate on his head, -were we not all profoundly struck with the perspicuity of the Law of Lunacy, and the ample guarantees afforded by the Constitution for the liberty of the subject, when poor Mrs. Crockery got, by a process as easy as lying, a medical certificate, empowering her to lock up her wicked, wicked husband (crazed by drink and gay company) in a madhouse? It is true that an obtuse jury, misled by the jesuitical oratory of Mr. Montague Chambers, and the illogical summingup of an incompetent judge (who ever heard before of this Alexander James Cockburn, Lord Chief Justice of England ?), came subsequently to the conclusion that the naughty crockery-dealer wasn't mad; that his wife hadn't any right to lock him up; and that the medical gentlemen bad made rather a blunder in certifying to his insanity; but what was that manifestly erroneous verdict, or even the hundred and fifty pounds damages which accompanied it, compared with the public revelation of the great principle, that a lady who does not love her lord may, after twenty-eight years of married life, pop him into a strait-jacket, and have him clapped up in Bedlam? No; not in Bedlam. I retract. In that admirable and mercifully-conducted Institution, honourable alike to the Corporation of London and to the wise and good physicians who watch over its unhappy inmates (one good man and true, Dr. Charles Hood, has just been succeeded by another as true and as good, Dr. Helps), a case such as that of the crockery-dealer's would be impossible. There is but one man in the lunatic wards of Bedlam who is sane (E. O., potboy,

1840), and he must needs lie in hold during “her Majesty's pleasure;" for has he not committed the unpardonable sin on earth?

So long as there are physicians simple enough to be gulled by the tales of untamable shrews, or careless enough to grant certificates of insanity without proper inquiry, so long our better halves will have a terrible weapon in their hands. This awful power, which is to be exercised apparently by those who have the longest tongues and the greatest faculty for plausible representation, should serve to keep us men-folks in order. “Take heed of the axe, cried King Charles on the scaffold, when a gobemouche was sillily handling the instrument of death. Take heed of the mufflers and the padded-room, O you Bluebeard husbands.

0 Not only “ drink and gay company,” but bad temper, bad language, tearing down wall-paper, objecting to doctors prying about the house, may all be construed into symptoms of raging madness. I intend to be very careful, in future, as to the criticisms I pass upon the component parts of my Breakfast in Bed. Not a word about the eggs, about the musty, musty bacon, about the weakness of the tea, the leatheriness of the toast, the absolute absence of the muffins ! No ebullitions of passion at the tardy response to the often-tugged bell; no raging or roaring because the newspapers have not arrived! In olden time, a birchen rod was hung up in the best-regulated nurseries, to frighten the little masters and misses into propriety. In imagination, now, a strait-waistcoat occupies the place on the wall opposite my pillow, erst filled by the martyrology; and once a week, when I open my Punch, I expect to find that Mr. Shirley Brooks has made an end of all the bickerings of the Naggletons by the deportation of Mr. Naggleton to Munster House at the requisition of Mrs. N., backed by a certificate from Peter Grievous. What delightful domestic dialogues are those which take place between the Naggletons ! How infinitely superior to Mrs. Caudle's Curtain-Lectures! Douglas Jerrold (a sadly overrated man, my love) had no knowledge of the world, no wit, no humour, no insight into character, no loving tenderness for the foibles of humanity. In the Caudle Lectures he could only show us a vulgar, quick-tempered, aggravating, but thoroughly good-hearted woman, who scolded her husband frequently, but loved him dearly. Caudle and his wife used to wrangle and make it up again; and, as times go, I dare say were as happy a couple as could be found between Camberwell and Chel

But a new prophet has arisen. A marvellous painter of manners comes forward to show us a sarcastic, sullen man, half-hyena, half-bear, caged with a tigress of a woman. They abuse one another, they bandy cruel epithets, they hate each other; and I have little doubt that, but for the commendable reticence of the narrator, we could be informed that Mrs. Naggleton throws knives at Mr. Naggleton, and that Mr. N. boxes Mrs. N.'s ears. This is charming. I like to read the Naggletons in bed. Their dialogues add a zest to my bread and butter. I call them Mustard and Cresswell. I had yet to learn that the lives led by the afluent middleclasses in England were of a nature akin to those which one might sup

« EelmineJätka »