Page images
PDF
EPUB

other evenings, nay, whole days which we spent in the society of this family, were long imprinted, in particularly affecting characters, on my mind, because the time I spent in this city immediately preceded a perilous voyage and long absence from our native land. But the reason why I mention this family in this place, is the remarkable spirit of filial piety which pervaded the whole; so that the oldest member of it often spoke of her parents with all the warmth and tenderness of one who had just laid the authors of her existence in the fresh earth.

" In the house of one individual of this family, a person herself far advanced in age, I observed the portrait of a very lovely female in the fancy dress of a shepherdess, yet, notwithstanding her masquerade habit, having a countenance expressive of true maternal tenderness and female delicacy. On my venturing to ask the name of this interesting figure, the lady of the house replied, • That picture is a representation of my mother, my beloved mother, whom I lost when very young.'

“The same sweet spirit,” continued the lady of the manor, "extended itself to the youngest individual of this family, and became an inexpressible ornament to her youth, enduing her with that diffidence and modesty which sets off female beauty to a degree which no other ornament can equal.

“I shall conclude what I have to say on this family by remarking, that there was certainly a larger proportion of aged persons in it than is usually observable; and thus, in this particular case, the words of the promise were very literally fulfilled, though we ought by no means to stop at the literal fulfilments of

any
divine

promise."

The lady of the manor then took out a small manuscript wrapped in a case; and, while she unfolded it, she made one or two desultory remarks respecting the conduct of children to parents. She observed the great change of manners in the young towards their elders which had taken place within a few years.

- In the seventeenth century,” said the lady of the manor,

rochildren in polite families never addressed their parents but in terms of the most distant respect, nor did any child presume to sit down in the presence of a parent without

1

being invited so to do; and, even in my time, such was the distance at which children were kept, that I was not accustomed, on ordinary occasions, to sit down on a chair by my mother till I was as much as fourteen or fifteen years of age, being taught in general to take my place on a low stool, as indicative of inferiority. Neither did I, till that period, presume to speak in company, unless in reply to some question put to me. My mother's manners and mode of conduct towards her children were, I believe, more according to the old fashion than those of her cotemporaries; though it is not to be supposed that the difference between them was great. It may, perhaps, be thought that the old-fashioned severity towards children was extreme; but, at any rate, it was a less disgusting and pernicious extreme than that which is at present so common among us. For who are now the persons in a family least considered, but the father or mother, the uncle and aunt? With what disgusting familiarity do we often hear a parent addressed, even in families which would be ashamed to be called ungenteel! Are they not the young people, in many circles, who support the conversation, drowning the voices of the old and experienced by their pragmatical and shallow impertinence?-thus depriving themselves entirely of that improvement which they might otherwise derive from the conversation of their elders. For that old person must be empty and dull indeed, who has not more to say to the purpose than those who as yet know little or nothing by experience.

“ I also greatly object,” said the lady of the manor, * to the childish manner in which we often hear grown women, and perhaps even mothers of families, addressing their parents, lisping out the words 'papa' and 'mamma' like a child of four years old. How much more suitable would the appellations of Madam' and Sir' be from such mouths! And though some may think such appellations somewhat too ceremonious; yet, undoubtedly, an extreme of ceremony from an inferior to a superior is always more graceful and honourable to both parties than the contrary. I should not,” continued the lady of

“ dwell so long on these forms, if I did not consider that much actual vice and lawlessness is often the consequence of their neglect. But, as I shall have

the manor,

occasion, at a future time, to speak more at large on this subject, I will now leave it, and begin my narrative.”

The lady of the manor then opened her manuscript, and read as follows.

Filial Affection; or, the History of Clarissa. In one of the eastern counties of England, not very distant from the sea-shore, there is a village, or rather small town, so beautifully situated, and withal so cheap and convenient, as to have rendered it, for a length of time, the chosen residence of many genteel families; in consequence of which it could boast a larger and more polished society than is commonly found in places so far from London.

About the middle of the last century, a certain gentleman of the name of Danzy possessed a handsome estate near this village, and a beautiful mansion at one extremity of it.

This gentleman married, early in life, a young lady of extraordinary beauty, but of an extremely delicate constitution, which, however, did not appear till some time after the birth of her second child; when she was suddenly seized with a disorder, which, from its first appearance, affected her head to such a degree, that she for a time totally lost her memory, and the powers of her mind became so entirely confused, as to render it necessary that she should be placed under the charge of some responsible person, who should take the whole management and direction of her.

After a few years, she recovered her recollection in some degree; and it is remarkable, that, when this took place, it was found that she had lost all sense of the events which had fallen out during her sickness, though she recollected what had happened before that time with peculiar accuracy, very eagerly enquiring about those whom she had known and loved at that period, supposing that she had parted from them only the day before. She remembered especially the fair and beautiful infant which had particularly occupied her attention for the last six months before her seizure, and which had been taken from her breast at the moment when she was first attacked; neither could she be persuaded by any means,

her memory

[ocr errors]

that the little girl of six years old, who was brought to her and taught to call her mamma, was the same little lovely one whose endearing smile and soft caresses were fixed upon

in characters which never could he changed.

It is one of the most affecting symptoms of derangement in some minds, that it seems to unfit the patient for taking any knowledge of the lapse of time; so that persons suffering under this malady are accustomed to speak of that which is past as if it ought still to be present. Thus, where derangements take a melancholy turn, and images of past sorrow have strongly seized upon the imagination, the mind appears so entirely to lose its elasticity, as to retain no power whatever of throwing off its painful feelings; but former distressing images, for ever recurring, so strongly colour every passing scene and object with their dark and morbid tincture, that every new idea becomes wholly assimilated to the old, entirely destroying the varieties of life. This state of mind is described by the poet in these few words, namely,

One dreadful now. With respect to the unhappy lady of whom we are speaking, this was so much the case, that, even after she had recovered her recollection in some degree, time seemed to stand still; and though her ideas were more tender and pathetic than terrific, yet it was with her, to use the somewhat obscure expression of the poet, a perpetual and melancholy now, though not altogether a dreadful one.

From the time of her first seizure, Mrs. Danzy had been confined to two apartments, the same which had been her favourite rooms while in health.

The one was a large convenient bed-rooin, in the corner of which was an elegant tent bed or crib, which had been used for her infants, and which those who attended her had been afraid to remove, because, when once an attempt of that kind had been made, she had expressed great uneasiness. It was hung with an old-fashioned Madras chintz, and had a coverlid of embroidered satin. To this little bed she would often go, when her memory was in some degree restored, which happened about six years after her first attack, and would seem very busy in preparing and arranging the bed-clothes, as if for her infant, whom she

would often request her attendants to bring and place on its pillow. On these occasions, an evasive answer would sometimes amuse her; and sometimes she would not be so easily satisfied, but would begin to weep, saying, that she feared some heavy misfortune had befallen her baby, as it was so long since she had seen it. The second apartment which was devoted to this unfortunate lady opened on a balcony, from which there were steps descending into a pretty flower-garden, neatly arranged in the old-fashioned style, with trimmed parterres and garden-seats, and inclosed entirely with iron rails. In her happier days, this little flower-garden had been the delight of this poor lady; and here, at one time of her life, she might have been often seen watering her flowers and weeding her mignionette, while the little Isabella, the elder of her two daughters, followed her mother with tottering steps, and amused her with her infant prattle. The dressing-room itself contained several pieces of furniture to which the poor lady had always shewn a particular partiality: a cabinet, containing many memorandums of ancient friendship; a tea-table, which had been made in the days of Queen Anne, with a border of carved mahogany; a gilt bird-cage, where linnet after linnet succeeded one another, always appearing to be the same individual bird to the poor lady, whose daily business was to feed her bird and dress its cage. A small bookcase likewise, containing certain beloved volumes, which were read again and again with the same pleasure as at first, stood in one part of the room; and, in another part, was an embroidered footstool, on which Isabella formerly sat in those days of the lovely infancy of her children which the fond mother remembered with such tender interest -- days of exquisite bliss, (as she described them,) when her little Clarissa lay on her lap, while Isabella sat at her feet. There was also in this room, besides the tea-table above mentioned, another, on which stood a desk, and near which Mr. Danzy used to sit when he came to see his family in this apartment: in addition to which there were sundry old pictures, chimney-ornaments, clocks, and other toys, which had belonged to grandmothers, aunts, and other venerable personages then no more, concerning each of whom Mrs. Danzy had always some tale to tell, whenever she saw

« EelmineJätka »