Page images
PDF
EPUB

Comedy anon lifts the curtain, and a host poet." Nor were these the words of mere of familiar faces, rollicking and grim, start Hattery; for Scott afterwards inserted the up to set the table in a roar; and then poem in his collection of “ English Minwith a sigh for the hardness of the times, strelsy," as illustrative of manners now oband the misfortunes of genius, we turn to solete. “It is possible, it is even probathat dedication to the second edition of ble," writes Benjamin Disraeli, “that if “ Cakes and Ale," and read with a blush my father had devoted himself to the art of sorrow and shame, “ This humble offer- (of poetry) he might have become the ing [To Thomas Hood] is herewith re- author of some elegant and popular didacnewed; with the expression of a regret tic poem, on some ordinary subject, which that it was necessary for Thomas Hood his fancy would have adorned with grace still to do one thing, ere the wide circle and his sensibility invested with sentiment; and the profound depth of his genius were some small volume which might have reto the full acknowledged; that one thing posed with a classic title upon our library was — to die!" It is the old, old story. shelves, and served as a prize volume at

Turn we to one of our most entertain- ladies' schools. This celebrity, however, ing friends - D'Israeli's “Literary Char- was not reserved for him.” Instead of rivacter” – for endorsement; and haply foo alling Mr. Tupper, as his son evidently for contrary illustrations. How much of fancies he might have done, he was desthat past history of unappreciated authorship tined to give to the world a series of curihave we not changed in the present day? ous, learned, and interesting works illusLook around and see the prize-holders; trative of the literary and political history look around and note how the public of to- of England and many foreign countries, day rewards its entertainers. There are full of anecdote and with new and original novelists who receive thousands of pounds views, which time and public opinion on for one book, and a successful play pays the whole have ratified as just. Still the enough it seems to make a man's fortune. poetic temperament was not wanting in the What did Johnson procure for Goldsmith's prose writer; and as his son suggests, " it • Vicar of Wakefield”? Alfred Tenny- was possibly because he was a poet in himson can get a hundred guineas for half a self that he became a popular writer in the dozen stanzas. When Goldsmith received best and truest sense, and made the belles fifty pounds for “ The Deserted Village,” lettres charming to the multitude.” Aldon't you remember how poor “Goldy” though Isaac D'Israeli conceived in early thought the bookseller had been too lib-youth the idea of a work illustrative of the · eral ? Verily these are the days for your literary character, it is not a little curious

successful author, whether our literature that he was stimulated to go on by the acis really stronger and better for the change cidentally discovered compliments of anis a question which others may discuss, so other great poet. In his preface to the long as we are permitted to gossip by the “ Literary Character," he says: -"Upfire about pleasant books, the only com- wards of forty years have elapsed since, panions who keep their faith with you, composed in a distant couutry, and printed pure, unchanged, unshaken, in all the din at a provincial press, I published · An Esand condict of the times.

say on the Manners and Genius of the It was the deliberate opinion of Sir Wal- Literary Character.' To my own habitual ter Scott that Mr. Isaac D’Israeli had mis- and inherent defects, were superadded taken his role in composing such prose those of my youth. The crude production books as the one we have just mentioned. was not, however, ill received, for the ediHe was quite aware of the old proverb tion disappeared; and the subject was which tells us, “ Poeta nascitur, non fit," found more interesting than the writer. and yet he declared that nature intended During a long interval of twenty years, Isaac D'Israeli for a poet. Our versatile this little work was often recalled to my premier informs us that when his father recollection by several, and by some who was first introduced to Scott, who was then have since obtained celebrity . . . an exin the zenith of his fame, the latter saluted traordinary circumstance concurred with him with the recitation of a poem which these opinions. A copy accidentally fell D'Israeli had written in his early youth. into my hands which had formerly beGreat surprise was expressed by the author longed to a great poetical genius of our of these lines, at finding them not only times; and the singular fact that it had known to Walter Scott, but also remem- been more than once read by him, and bered by him. “Ah!" replied Scott, " if twice in two subsequent years at Athens, the writer of these lines had gone on with in 1810 and 1811, instantly convinced me his pen, he would have been an English that the volume deserved my renewed at

tention.". Lord Byron had marked the were poor conversationalists. Charles II. copy with many notes, some of which having read Hudibras, sought Butler in the D'Israeli afterwards published; and the hope of a sparkling chat, but he was engreat poet's letter to the author was event- tirely disappointed. Alfieri and Gray were ually embodied in the preface.

dull in company, and Corneille, the great Dickens we put with Hans Christian An- French dramatist, was silent and taciturn. dersen and Grimm. They are kindred Disraeli relates that once when Rousseau somehow in our mind; but Dickens in this returned to a village, he had to learn to encategory is represented only by " The Old dure its conversation. “ Alone, I have nevCuriosity Shop," and " The Christmas Car- er known ennui, even when perfectly unocol." We put “ David Copperfield" and cupied; my imaginations, filling the void, " Martin Chuzzlewit," and " Pickwick" by, were sufficient to busy me. It is only the infor wayside reference, for chamber books active chit-chat of the room, where every sometimes, or garden reading in the sum- one is seated face to face, and only moving mer; but « Tiny Tim" and "Little Nell,” their tongues, which I never could support. real though they be, we introduce to “ The Addison and Molière talked but little, and Little Tin Soldier," “ Elsie,” “The Ugly Dryden himself has said of himself, " My Duckling," « Little Claus and Great Claus ;" conversation is slow and dull, my humour and that old street lamp and other curiosi- saturnine and reserved ; in short, I am none ties of Andersen seem to belong to the of those who endeavour to break jests in “ Curiosity Shop," not so much from affin-company, or make repartees." Tasso was ity of fancy, as because it seems to us Dick- so reserved that a person in his society ens must understand them himself so thor- said this persistent silence was indicative oughly. We have had our last Christmas of madness; the poet, overhearing him, book from Dickens, they say. Oh, these asked whether he was acquainted with a lasts ! Oh, this giving over, this closing of madman who knew how to hold his tongue. the book, this ringing down the drop scene, The habit which a man acquires of thinking this writing Finis ! Are there no more through his pen, has a tendency to weaken Tiny Tims, not Scrooges, nor Toby Vecks, his power as a speaker and conversationalnor Mrs. Lirripers left in that teeming ist; his rule of revision, his wonted roundbrain; or is it time to rest? We do not ing and perfecting of sentences, make him complain, we only regret that the summer severely critical with regard to his unwritten is over, listen more attentively with Toby utterances; we have many examples to the Veck to the Christmas bells, hug that little contrary, it is true; but they go to prove figure which we find at Bob Cratchett's the rule. Authors talk best amongst themfireside closer to our hearts, and breathe selves. The curiosity of outsiders is a remore fervently that never-dying prayer, straint upon them; but after all, they say "God bless us every one."

the best things to those who consult them In that pleasant little corner above the through their works; to us who seek them ruck of thumbed and greasy volumes which alone with genial appreciation and respect, have passed in special review before us sit- holding sweet converse with familiar books. ting here in the firelight, come we now to an “ Many a great wit has thought the wit it exclusive set of gilt-edged friends who seem was too late to speak, and many a great to have a place apart ; these are a select reasoner has only reasoned when bis oppoparty of poets, represented by “ In Memo- nent has disappeared.” “Ossian" was the riam," "The Ancient Mariner,” “The De- first Napoleon's favourite book. It is rare serted Village, * The Borough," “ Evan- poetry. The description of Winter which geline,"

,?? « Ossian,” “ Lalla Rookh,” “Bep- Mr. Howitt has quoted in his “Seasons" po,” and “Don Juan,” Mrs. Browning's as an example, is almost equal to Shakssonnets, and a miscellaneous book of songs peare's graphic poem in “Love's Labour's with examples from Dibdin and some minor Lost,” the most perfect word-picture we poets. How Johnson must have astonished know, and one that is perhaps less quoted Boswell with that most unexpected judg- than any: Southgate has omitted it from ment of the poet, who had been working his voluminous “ Many Thoughts; " it is not anonymously for so long : “Sir, Goldsmith in Friswell's “Familiar Words ;” we do is one of the first men we have as an au- not find it in “ Elegant Extracts,” and thor." I think it is Mr. Forster who says in even Ayscough, in his most copious and jureference to “Little Goldy" looking fool- dicious Index,” does not indicate the ishly sometimes, “ Conversation is a game dialogue that the two learned men have where the wise do not always win.” Lafon- composed in praise of the owl and the taine, of witty, fable fame, and Marmontel, cuckoo."

“When icicles hang by the wall,

and with the peculiar erectness of head and And Dick the shepherd blows his nail, neck, his diminutiveness appears." His And Tom bears logs into the hall,

curly head was gray, and his forehead And milk comes frozen home in pail, wrinkled at that time, but he was full of When blood is nipp’d, and ways be foul, life and wit, and the conversation chiefly Then nightly sings the staring owl

turned upon O'Connell and Ireland's glory.

To-who; Tu-whit, to-who, a merry note,

Yes, Mr. Willis, we shall put you upon the While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

lower shelf, as a pleasant companion, and

ask permission to give you “Shenstone's “When all aloud the wind doth blow,

Essays" and Washington Irving's "Sketch And coughing drowns the parson's saw, Book” as neighbours. Poor Shenstone! And birds sit brooding in the snow,

we recall to mind the trouble and anxiety And Marian's nose looks red and raw; which attended the publication of “ The When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl, Schoolmistress.” “How many have experiThen nightly sings the staring owl

enced the truth of his fretful remark during To-who;

the process of printing : “ Nothing is cerTu-whit, to-who, a merry note,

tain in London but expense, which I can ill While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.” bear.” Disracli credits Shenstone with the

inspiration of that often quoted couplet of " In Memoriam,” sad though its strain, Gray's — we call a pleasant book for those images of beauty and soothing thoughts of patient Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest hope and fond regret that meet your eye at Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.” every page. It is a poem to glance at now. In support of this, Disraeli quotes from and then, and lay down. Not so “ Beppo and “Don Juan.” What can withstand the “The Schoolmistress,” printed in 1742 — lightning of this poet's genius? You must

“ A little hench of heedless bishops here, go on; the poetry is torrent-like in its rush,

And there a chancellor in embryo.” and crowded with human interest. Perhaps the mind flags when Haidee is dead, and Timbs relates that William Straban, a the better part of our moral nature pauses native of Edinburgh, came to London when to regret that so much exquisite poetry a young man, and worked as a journeyman should carry with it so much filth. It is a printer. Franklin was his fellow workman. curious little edition that of Murray's, in- Strahan prospered, and eventually became troduced by a string of “opinions of the a famous publisher. He was a great friend press” and extracts from Byron's charac- of Johnson. Is it not noteworthy that the teristic letters to the publisher, with each learned doctor had two very intimate Scotch fresh batch of copy. There is an absence friends ? This William Strahan was sucin Byron's works of those quiet domestic ceeded by his third son, Andrew, and died scenes which lend such a charm to Gold-worth more than a million. The mention smith and Cowper, to Longfellow and of " Rejected Addresses,” brings up this Thomson, Tennyson and Wordsworth; but wayside note. Andrew Strahan presented his genius sparkles in every page like Shel- James Smith with a thousand pounds — a ley's, and dazzles like none other; and his piece of rare munificent appreciation which intellect has the grasp and weight of John- is worthy of a lasting record. son. It is a relief, after Byron, to come How much injustice shall we do by enddown to the smooth musical flow of Tom ing our gossip here, by sitting still to think Moore: Despite that charge of snobbism, of our benefactors in print ? Crabbe and which is not easy to overcome, we cannot Thomson, and a host of others crop up for help turning to Willis's “ Pencillings by the recognition, as we lay down our pen. But Way," for a glimpse of Moore in society; we only profess to have gossiped; we have Moore at Lady B-s, with the author of not simply selected, we have not merely * Pelbam," and's of the “Rejected writicised, and in talking of our most eher Addresses." " I found myself seated oppo-, ished books in that favourite corner, we do site with a blaze of light on his Bac- not disguise from ourselves the fact that chus' head, and the mirrors with which the 'they increase and multiply day by day, superb octagonal room is panneled reflecting week by week. Moreover, we have menevery motion. To see him only at table, you tioned books for private companionship, for would not think him a small man. Ilis quiet, pleasant winter hours. For Shaksprincipal length is in his body, and his peare one needs a companion; he must be head and shoulders are those of a much read aloud. The grand, sonorous musie of larger person. Consequently he sits tall, his words fills the heart to overflowing, and

the tongue must have its freedom. Who Vicksburg. The collection includes every can read Hamlet's soliloquy without speak- speech, all orders of any importance, all ing it, and suiting the action to the word, letters bearing upon public policy, and the word to the action; or Portia's address, every saying absolutely authentic, and one or Othello's dying speech, or the death of of the most remarkable facts about it is Romeo, or Constance's reproaches to the that the whole can be read through in an Archduke of Austria, or Prince Henry's hour. The terrible publicity to which, speech on the death of Hotspur, or Wolsey's American politicians are condemned to subaddress to Cromwell? And to read Mil- mit, - publicity as of life under a burnington, as Alexander Smith has said, is like glass, – is producing the consequence of dining off gold plate in a company of kings. any other tyranny, an unnatural reticence For Spenser one wants an oriel window and as to opinions, concealed by the majority a grand old fireplace. . Dante claims a pe- under a cloud of words, and by General culiar state of mind; and Virgil an apart- Grant under a studious silence, or a grimly ment furnished with classic taste; but in humorous diversion of the talk to the merits the company of Goldsmith, Moore, Long- of the last new trotter. He does not care fellow, Tennyson, Thomson, Gray, Shen- about trotters particularly, but he “ talks stone, Scott, we may sit at our ease with trotters," just as Walpole - talked women,” our slippers on. Thackeray calls for a little as a subject interesting to all men, but unmore restraint; Byron is appeased with a connected with political issues. Every now hookah and flowery dressing-gown; Pepys and then, however, he has been compelled sometimes almost calls for silk-stockings to break silence, sometimes almost involunand buckles. Dickens we take by the hand tarily, and his utterances, when read todeferentially, but friend-like, as one whom gether, let a flood of light on his character we cannot have misunderstood. We envy and policy. As General Grant will be for those who knew Charles Lamb and Leigh four years Premier of the United States, Hunt and Tom Hood: and how swift the our readers may possibly be interested in time flies ! how often the fire must be revelations at least as important to this mended! What a troop of friends we have country as the ideas of the Emperor Napodiscovered_after all, on those old book- leon. shelves. Let the wind wail without, let First and foremost, then, General Grant the world go never so wrong with you, is fixedly determined that slavery in all its here is perpetual life and sunshine. The forms shall remain ended, that free labour spiritual presence of the great ones gone with all its consequences shall be the rule remain; they leave behind companionable of the Union from Maine to Florida. He tokens of their minds ; the light of genius is is no abolitionist, seems never to have been never extinguished — like Aladdin's, the clear that slavery was a crime, though he lamp needs no trimming; rub it never so entertained no Southeru feeling, intimates. slightly and the spirit is by your side, with for the negro as little liking as dislike, and its

grand messages from the living and the expressly avows that it was a hard task to dead, endowing you with the poet's bright- him to contemplate negro suffrage as a est fancies, enriching you with sparkling necessity. It is as statesman and American gems of wit and imagery, ennobling you that he is clear the system must end, - end with the companionship of the holiest and completely and for ever; that the Negro best and purest thoughts, and making you must be recognized officially and socially, heir in perpetuity to the wisdom of all the not only as a man, but as an American citiages.

The progress of his mind upon this JOSEPH HATTON. point is very curious. He wrote to Briga

dier Parke, while lying before Vicksburg,

“Use the negroes and everything within From The Spectator, 14 Nov, your command to the best advantage,” THE PRESIDENT ELECT.

not, be it noted, every person. This dis

tinction proceeded, however, from no conThe New York Tribune published three tempt for the Black race, such as many days before the Presidential Election a very Generals at this time did not hesitate to noteworthy contribution, occupying rather express. “I expect,” he writes in Janumore than five columns of small type. It is ary, 1862, “ the Commanders especially to a collection of the speeches, letters, general exert themselves in carrying out the policy orders, and sayings absolutely known to of the Administration, not only in organizhave proceeded from General Grant since ing coloured regiments and rendering them his appointment to the command of an army efficient, but also in removing prejudice in the field, that is, since the siege of against them," a prejudice which within bis

zen.

terms:

no the

command rapidly disappeared. Even be- nently improper, to lay down a policy to be fore this General Grant had issued stern adhered to, right or wrong, through an adorders for the protection of coloured sol- ministration of four years. New political diers, informing General Halleck in partic- issues not foreseen are constantly arising, ular that "it was the duty of Union Gen- the views of the public on old ones are erals to give the same protection to coloured constantly changing, and a purely administroops that they do to any other troops trative officer should always be left free to in the service of the United States; and execute the will of the people. I always one year later he wrote to General Butler have respected that will, and always shall.” that no distinction whatever should be made This idea incessantly crops out in his letin the exchange of white and coloured pris- ters, and seems nearly allied with the grand oners if regularly enrolled in the Army. peculiarity of his mind, a love of order and He had, moreover, even then, 1862, made subordination. A mad suggestion was made up his mind on the political side of the during the Atlanta campaign to place Shermatter, for he wrote on August 30 to the man above Grant; and Sherman, always Hon. E. L. Washburne in these emphatic loyal, wrote to his chief repudiating the

“I never was an Abolitionist, not plan. Grant replied, “If you are put even what could be called anti-Slavery; but above me I shall always obey you, just as I try to judge fairly and honestly, and it you always have me. Only those who became patent to my mind, early in the re- know the tenacity of soldiers about superbellion, that the North and South could session can adequately comprehend the senever live at peace with each other except rene simplicity of this reply, and only those as one nation, and that without slavery. who know how politics are ingrained in As anxious as I am to see peace estab- prominent Americans can appreciate the lished, I would not therefore be willing to letter to Mr. Chase affirming that see any settlement until this question is for ory of my own will ever stand in the way ever settled." This was written, be it re- of my executing in good faith any order I membered, before Vicksburg had fallen, may receive from those in authority over when it seemed to weak men as if the North me.” He regards “the people" as his ultimust make some concession if peace was mate commanding officer, and asks only ever to be secured. The General himself that their orders be intelligible and consisthought they must yield some points, but tent. not this, and by 1866 his mind had ripened The love of discipline is tempered with till he was prepared to admit the negro not great personal kindliness to inferiors, a feelonly to freedom as a reward for State ser- ing best illustrated perhaps by his absovice, not only to freedom as a man, but to lute refusal to break' four or five officers equality as a citizen. “ I never," he said, who had behaved badly, or rather stupidly, could have believed that I should favour in' an early affair. They had never, said giving negroes the right to vote, but that the General, been under fire before, and seems to me the only solution of our diffi- they had learned their lesson; and he posiculties,"

tively declined even to report them. “Bah!” Upon this, the main point of the whole said Nelson, on a somewhat similar occasion, dispute between American parties, no opin boys will duck. I did, till I found it was ion could be more clear; and it is the useless ;' — and General Grant seems to be opinion of a man slow to receive new im- of the same temper, a temper not always pressions, not specially philanthropic, not inconsistent with terrible sternness. There perhaps inclined even now to demand more is but one instance of humour, in the poputhan justice for the oppressed, but immova- lar sense, reported in this collection, though bly fixed to secure that. We can quite many of the orders are pervaded by a solconceive General Grant vetoing a Bill to dierlike directness which is almost humour, give negroes land for nothing while hanging and it illustrates the latent sternness in the whites who robbed them of land purchased General's character. It was needful in with their own savings. Colour is to him 1864 to clear, or rather desolate, the Shenno recommendation, but also no disqualifi- andoah Valley, whence the enemy were cation, the only true attitude of mind for drawing large supplies, and Grant informed the ruler of a parti-coloured State. Upon his young General of Cavalry, Sheridan, subsidiary points the President Elect is “the valley must be so cleared that crows equally clear and decisive, and his policy flying over it will for the season have to is perhaps best explained in a sentence carry their own rations,"— a remark that from his letter accepting his nomination by might have come from Cromwell in Ireland. the Chicago Convention : • In times like Precisely the same spirit is manifested in the present it is impossible, or at least emi- his intercourse with the supply branches of

« EelmineJätka »