Page images

How comes it, however,' said I, 'that you produce such a man? for I hear you have invited him to dine with Lord Castleton.

• Why, he is one of those persons who, being free from all burden of modesty, and revelling in their intrepidity of assurance, are so far of use, in company, that they will not let people go to sleep. I have therefore prevailed upon Lord Castleton, who has heard of, but never yet saw him, to let me invite him, if only to show the sort of animal he is. You may be sure the invitation was accepted, for he is a great tuft-hunter as well as a great feeder. A turtle would entice him any where, and for a plate of it he would even sell a commendation of the worst book that ever was written.

• But turtle from a lord, and that lord a minister, will elevate him to the third heaven; for it is certain that his good things, if he have any, depend upon the good things on the table, and the flow of his wit upon the flow of the claret. In short, in these respects he is an illustration of the description which Johnson gives of a third or fourth-rate critic, who finds he can boil his weekly pot better by abuse than by praise.

«Granville added, moreover, that Paragraph was a most despotic monarch in his way, and a bully among all minor publishers and authors.

• In short,' said he, it is not easy to say whether vanity, or avarice, or impudence, are uppermost in his character. Such was the redoubtable Mr Paragraph, whom my

friend had

persuaded Lord Castleton to invite to his dinner, with a view to show him and his company what they had often heard of, but perhaps not seen— one of the self-elected rulers of public opinion.'

The invitation is accepted; the critic attends, and after making a series of the greatest blunders, abusing his host's niece, contradicting every body, and parading his own want of principle, he departs—leaving behind him the worst possible impression of journalism ; though Mr Granville, the inviter, is kind enough to say, that the vocation has been adopted by many real • scholars and real gentlemen, whom it is both a pleasure and ad

vantage to know. Now, it is far from our intention to deny that the Sunday press of London might perhaps supply a living parallel ; but when did such a character ever yet succeed in attracting general attention, of a kind to justify his being invited to a nobleman's table to meet a select party? or how could he have gained admission to Lady Hungerford's drawing-room ? shrewd old Scotch lady used to say, that she always began to have misgivings of the Minister when he preached a sermon against backbiting. Mr Ward must excuse us; but we always have our misgivings of an author when he rails against criticism. We cannot help suspecting that Mr John Paragraph was suggested by an unfriendly notice of Tremaine' or. De Vere.'

By a curious inconsistency, Mr Ward shows considerable inclination, in another place, to blame the nobility for not being more eager to court the society of men of genius; and is dissatis



fied because the wives of persons who have risen to eminence by their talents, are not received with the same distinction as their husbands. A duke; or the most dandy member of White's, may ' not be above-nay, may feel a sort of complacency in-walk‘ing arm-in-arm with some very brilliant genius of the age, though

of commonplace connexions. But if the genius have a wife, how will it fare with her?'

To illustrate this position, he relates what took place between a certain great political peer and an eloquent member of his party, more celebrated for his abilities than his family or station in life. The orator, emboldened by the noble lord's professions of friendship, said he had nothing to ask for himself, but he should esteem it the highest honour if the marchioness would take notice of Mrs Ah! you know, my dear friend,' was the answer, “ these things are the exclusive province of the • ladies, and husbands never interfere. This is the only thing in • which her ladyship never allows me any authority. We see no reason why she should; nor does it at all follow that this is the result of morgue. Congeniality of pursuits and feelings is the ordinary ground of intimacy, and this is most likely to exist amongst persons similarly situated as regards rank, wealth, and connexion. The natural course of things is for the great to live together. In so doing, they simply exercise a privilege common to all classes; and, until their sets shall be understood to comprehend all that is any way distinguished by genius, agreeability, and worth, no one, not born amongst them, has a right to regard exclusion, or rather non-admission, as an affront. Why could not Mrs rest satisfied with her own respectable circle? or, why should her husband attempt to force her into so uncomfortable a position as the marchioness's drawing-room or opera-box would undoubtedly have turned out? Mais je suis ici comme un obelisque! exclaims the adventurer in one of Paul de Koch’s novels, when he finds himself in the middle of a crowded saloon where he knows no one; and many a would-be fine lady, who has found marchionesses more compliant than Mr Ward's, has been tempted to repeat the exclamation. At the same time we are not apologists for superciliousness, and it is not an undue leaning towards birth or rank, but an unfeigned veneration for intellectual excellence, that makes us reluctant to see genius degrade itself by descending into the arena to engage in a contest of vulgar vanity, instead of remaining proudly on its pedestal to receive the willing homage of its worshippers. The grand error consists in attributing the entire evil to the aristocracy, who are not half so much to blame for repelling, as those who expose themselves to be repelled.

Lady Hungerford, Mr De Clifford's adviser, or rather lecturer on matters of fashion, comes much nearer to the truth when endeavouring to define the limits of vulgarity :

• All that I mean,' continued the lady, is, that we are not shocked by what only appeared in its natural colours, and pursues its natural course, remaining always in its appropriate place. It is when, without necessity, it leaves its proper place from choice, and forces itself where it ought not to be, that it becomes disgusting.

• Her pupil, not quite satisfied, enquires, “ What we were to say to the disdain with which a duchess will sometimes treat the wise of a merchant however rich, or a lawyer however learned, or a divine, even though a bishop?”

"" Are you quite sure that you are just to the duchess in this ? ” rę. turned the lady. “ No duchess, if really well bred, which we are to suppose her, would ever show disdain to any one who did not challenge it by some impropriety of her own. If, therefore, there is disdain, it is because the object of it would be avoided for something wrong, and perhaps innately and individually vulgar, even if she were a duchess herself.”

«« I fear to ask,” says de Clifford, a little further on, “ for the proofs of this among the upper ranks.”

«« Why, there is always vulgarity, at least of mind," answered Lady Hungerford, " where there is silly affectation, low-thoughted pride, (as of purse or other prosperity,) towards our inferiors, or envy, hatred, and malice towards our superiors : or, what is worse, a despicable attempt, by flattery or parasitical attentions, to obtain their notice, or insinuate ourselves into their acquaintance. Such is the case of all parvenues, who have not sense or pride of mind enough to use their good fortune properly, but barter the diamond of independence for the Bristol stone of vanity. As nothing is so soon seen through by people of real fashion, so nothing is so much ridiculed or contemned.”'

After all, it is not the distinguished authors and artists, much less the lawyers and divines, who are chargeable with this weakness as a body. They are readily admitted into the best society, and will generally be found mingling naturally and easily with the most cultivated and agreeable (which may or may not be the noblest and richest) of their contemporaries. Strange as it may appear, the greatest number of parasitical aspirants, content to barter “ the diamond of their independence for the Bristol stone • of vanity,' are to be found amongst persons who have a highly respectable and well recognised position of their own—the wives and families of wealthy merchants and country gentlemen. It is a melancholy fact, and an anomaly well worth noting, that many of these make it their whole and sole object to obtain the notice of the female leaders of fashion ; and seldom venture to announce a party on a large scale, until some fine lady has promised to invite the company, upon the express condition that the hostess's particular friends are to be left out !

[ocr errors]

At the risk of being thought hypercritical, we must take the liberty to say that Lady Hungerford is far from affording the best possible exemplification of the maxims she is so fond of inculcating. Surely it was neither well-bred nor judicious to begin conversation with a shy youth, on his first visit, in this style :

- Now sit down and talk to me, not as a fine lady, as perhaps • I have been represented to you, but as one who loves ingenuousness wherever it can be found; so, be as ingenuous as you please. To be so myself, however, I must tell you (here she • looked at her pendule) that I have just one quarter of an hour, and no more, to give you; for I have an appointment at three with a very great lady who waits for nobody, and which, therefore, I must attend.'

The late Charles Mathews used to tell a story of a city dame, who began by asking him--when he was going to be amusing; but it was reserved for the high court lady to add the restriction of time to her victim's embarrassments.

We would also suggest the propriety of revising the quarrel scene leading to the duel. If Lord Albany had spoken in such terms of the father and sister of the former friend and companion whom he had killed, he would have been hooted from society; and no gentleman could have been persuaded to go out with him.

A very wide field of criticism is yet before us, and it is hardly fair to the author to stop just when the task of fault-finding has been completed, and that of commendation should commence ; but our space is limited, and we are under the necessity of break

In conclusion, however, we can confidently state, that though the younger or more superficial class of readers, who take up a novel for the sake of excitement, may occasionally complain of dulness, the thinkers and observers of all sorts will find no lack of interest in this book, and may even end by giving • De Clifford' the preference over his showy and volatile competitor.

ing off.

Art. III.-Memoirs of the Colman Family, including their Cor

respondence with the most distinguished Personages of their Time. By RICHARD BRINSLEY PEAKE. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1841.

HERE is 'new matter about the Colmans in these volumes,

and plenty of names interesting to the reader's memory; but it is chiefly, a compilation, and ought to have been so advertised. Even the preface is not explicit on the subject :- I do

not feel justified,' says Mr Peake, in sending these Memoirs • forth to the public, without the acknowledgment that I have 'availed myself, in the early part of the work, very considerably • of the materials furnished me by the publisher.' But who would suppose that these materials meant a previous work by another publisher, almost the whole of which, if not every bit of it, is transferred to the pages before us; to wit, the Posthumous Letters from various celebrated Men, addressed to Francis Colman and George Colman the Elder, and edited by the Younger Colman ? And as I could not pretend,' (continues the author,) to write ' in a better style than George Colman the Younger, The Random * Records from his fertile pen, have been put in requisition to some • extent.' Yes: to a someness so prettily extensive, that it amounts to a good half of one of the two volumes—all in honest marks of quotation. It reminds us of what Foote said to a gentleman next him at dinner, whose bread he had laid his hands on-'I protest I took it for the loaf.' Allowing, therefore, the other half to the quarto volume of Posthumous Letters, the public have already been favoured with one of the two volumes before us; and the other, though Mr Peake says it has been supplied by diligent research and the personal recollections of thirty-five

years, and that letters and anecdotes have been furnished him by several friends, is so unambitiously executed—with so much haste and irrelevance, such dilation on small topics and silence on greater, except in the shape of an acknowledged criticism now and then, from quarters in truth not worth acknowledging—that we are sorry so pleasant a writer, in his own way, has gone out of it to get up so poor a work in another. We have a grateful recollection of some very amusing Farces by Mr Peake, possessing a good deal of humour, and not without a spice of invention; and wish he had found it worth his while to turn his thoughts on book-making into one of those genuine drolleries, instead of these two solemn-faced masqueraders in purple and gold. Purchasers do not like such things—for they do not find it pleasant to pay for books twice over; and reviewers do not


[ocr errors]


2 c

« EelmineJätka »