Page images
PDF
EPUB

3

and there is no unpleasant shadow either of memory or anticipation to overcast their jollity.

Pleasant and unpleasant men are alike the sport of fortune and circumstance; equally subject " to every skiey influence," but not in an equal degree. The personal suffering of the one has no foil from the greater sufferings of thousands; the other has a measure and proportion, and considers it in relation to what might be or has been ; it is a touch that awakens his humanity :--a pebble does not bruize because it has fallen on him; he remembers the stoning of Stephen ;-a twinge of the rheumatism is borne as one of those natural ills “that flesh is heir to," and rouses him only as he remembers the infliction of the torture and the rack, that so many human beings have been subjected in all ages for opinion, whether of belief or unbelief. The prick of a pin is painful to the one as it affects himself; there is more sorrowing at it than at the battle of Waterloo: to the other it is the prick of a pin.

Pleasant fellows are indifferent, cold, heartless, unintellectual, people; there is no engrossing passion, no oppressive thought, po prejudice, and therefore, possibly no partiality or strong friendship; for friendship is but a partiality, founded on some. thing real, which it tricks up into something unreal. We are none

of us what our friends fondly believe. In our estimate of unpleasant people, we all give weight enough to their disagreeable and palpable defects, but are not so ready to make the just deduction from a pleasant fellow, because his are neither so obtrusive, nor so likely to affect ourselves. There would be more equality in our commendation or dispraise, and consequently more justice in the decision, if we balanced the general virtųes of the one against his palpable faults, and the indifference and moral insignificance of the other against his pleasant virtueș. It is in this spirit that the selfish hardness and callosity with which pleasant people shake off care and sorrow, and are made insensible to any deep or lasting passion, is mistaken so often for elasticity of spirit.

It was the pleasant fellow of his time that Ben Jonson descrie bed in a very clever Epigram on "The Town's Honest Man :"

You wonder who this is, and why I name
Him not aloud, that boasts so good a fame :
Naming so many too! but this is one
Suffers no name, but a description ;
A.subtle thing that doth affections win
By speaking well o' the company it's in,
Talks loud and bawdy, has a gather'd deal
Of news and noise, to sow out a long meal.
Can come from Tripoly, leap stools and wink,
Do all that 'longs to the anarchy of drink,
Except the duel: can sing songs and catches,
Give every one his dose of mirth: and watches
Whose namet unwelcome to the present ear,
And him it lays on ja

The point of some part of this description was confined to the poet's age ; but much of it is of universal application, and suited to all times. To watch “whose name's unwelcome to the present ear” is just the reverse of the unpleasant man; who, as people always bear too hard on the follies or vices of others, is sure to be opposed to his company, because he loves truth and justice better than agreement and pleasantry. I think the Dean, in Mrs. Inchbald's Nature and Art, had a little of the pleasant fellow about him; and the following description will serve to show the character under other circumstances, and in more important situations, than we have yet considered it.

If the dean had loved his wife but moderately, seeing all her faults clearly as he did, he must frequently have quarrelled with her: if he had loved her with tenderness, he must have treated her with a degree of violence, in the hope of amending her failings : but having neither personal nor mental affection towards her, sufficiently interesting to give himself the trouble to contradict her will in any thing, be passed for one of the best husbands in the world. This is the pleasant Benedict !

It is some proof with me, of the justice of these distinctions, that men's characters are essentially different in their different relations; and even where they are most anxious to be pleasant, they are rarely successful. Few of us have found our fathers pleasant fellows, although many of them, of course, were superlatively so to other people; and I hope our sons will object the same thing to us. The interest we have in our children is too great, the stake is too large, to be sported with; our hopes and sears are perpetually outrunning the occasion ; we are the sport of possibilities, and cannot enjoy the real present, from some glimpse of an unreal future; we question how far chuck-farthing and marbles lead to the gaming-table, and our shins ache at football before the boys are kicked. All this makes strange havoc with our temperfrets and irritates us—whereas, equality and indifference are the sure footing of a pleasant fellow. A man is little fitted, with a thousand such speculations on his mind, to take all things smoothly, and to be himself the centre of sociality.

The turn of thought here might serve, if the occasion were fitting, to hazard a word or two on domestic education. This in brief. It is not enough that a father does on occasion “ turn his solemnness out of doors;” he must keep it there. Besides, fathers are not only too “solemn," but too much with their children, and too full of thought and anxiety; they are eternally thinking for them, whereas children must think for themselves. They love to feel their own independence. If a father decide for a home education, it should be where there is room enough for the boy to lose himself, or rather to lose his father; where he may get out of the reach of thought, of care, and consequently of danger, for he knows of none that is not pointed out to him. In my opinion, a father has not to try his knowledge, but his nerves, before he undertakes the education of his son; and if he can see him stagger along a parapet, swing on the rotten branch of a tree, plunge into the water “reeking hot,” in the dog days, in fact, hazard limbs and life itself without a word or a hint of caution, he is not only fitted to be pedagogue in his own family, but has many requisites to make a pleasant fellow, there or any where else.

But this little digression has broken in upon my sketch, which I shall now leave to be filled up by the reader's imagination. Mr. Hazlitt's character is, I think, of a good natured man. How far they have points in agreement I know not, not having read his Essay since its first publication ; but good nature has reference in my view to a deeper feeling, and even to some positive virtue, which, though it may be found in, is not at all essential to, the character of a pleasant fellow. Yet even good nature itself is too profitable a virtue: it is a venture that hath most usurious return : it is not, nor is it any thing like, goodness of nature, which “ I take,” says Lord Bacon,“ to be the affecting of the Weale of Men, what the Grecians called pilanthropia ;" goodness of nature is, in fact, so far different from good nature, that it is the very nature that sometimes spoils a man's temper :-"that affection for the weale of men” will throw a gloom over the mind, and dash a whole afternoon's pleasantness.

THURMA.

Art. II.-Last Will and Testament--the House of Weeping.

FROM THE GERMAX OF RICHTER.

Since the day when the town of Haslau first became the seat of a court, no man could remember that any one event in its annals (always excepting the birth of the hereditary prince) had been looked for with so anxious a curiosity as the opening of the last will and testament left by Van der Kabel. This Van der Kabel might be styled the Haslau Cresus; and his whole life might be termed, according to the pleasure of the wits, one long festival of God-sends, or a daily washing of golden sands, night. ly impregnated by golden showers of Danae. Seven distant surviving relatives of seven distant relatives deceased, of the said Van der Kabel, entertained some little hopes of a place amongst his legatees, grounded upon an assurance which he had made, “ that upon

his oath he would not fail to remember them in his will.” These hopes, however, were but faint and weakly; for they could not repose any extraordinary confidence in his good faith—not only because, in all cases, he conducted his affairs in a disinterested spirit, and with a perverse obstinacy of moral principle, whereas his seven relatives were mere novices, and young beginners in the trade of morality,--but also because, in all these moral extravagancies of his (so distressing to the feelings of the

[merged small][ocr errors]

sincere rascal,) he thought proper to be very satirical, and had his heart so full of odd caprices, tricks, and snares, for unsuspicious scoundrels that (as they all said) no man, who was but raw in the art of virtue, could deal with him or place any reliance upon his intentions. Indeed the covert laughter which played about his temples, and the falsetto tones of his sneering voice somewhat weakened the advantageous impression which was made by the noble composition of his face, and by a pair of large hands, from which were daily dropping favours little and great, benefit-nights, Christmas-boxes, and new year's gifts : for this reason it was that, by the whole flock of birds who sought shelter in his boughs, and who fed and built their nests on him, as on any wild service tree, he was, notwithstanding, reputed a secret magazine of springes; and they were scarce able to find eyes for the visible berries which fed them, in their scrutiny after the supposed gossamer snares.

In the interval between two apoplectic fits he had drawn up his will, and had deposited it with the magistrate. When he was just at the point of death he transferred to the seven presumptive heirs the certificate of this deposit; and even then said, in his old tone-how far it was from his expectation, that by any such anticipation of his approaching decease, he could at all depress the spirits of men so steady and sedate, whom, for his own part, he would much rather regard in the light of laughing than of weeping heirs: to which remark one only of the whole number, namely, Mr. Harprecht, inspector-of-police, replied as a cool ironist to a bitter one" that the total amount of concern and of interest, which might severally belong to them in such a loss, was not (they were sincerely sorry it was not) in their power to determine."

At length the time is come when the seven heirs have made. their appearance at the town-hall, with their certificate-of-deposit; videlicet, the ecclesiastical councillor of Glantz; Harprecht, the inspector-of-police; Neupeter, the court-agent; the court-fiscal, Knoll; Pasvogel, the bookseller; the reader of the morning lecture, Flacks; and Monsieur Flitte, from Alsace. Solemnly, and in due form, they demanded of the magistrate the schedule of effects.consigned to him by the late Kabel, and the opening of his will. The principal executor of this will was Mr. Mayor himself: the sub-executors were the rest of the town-council. Thereupon, without delay, the schedule and the will were fetched from the register-office of the council, to the council-chamber: both were exhibited in rotation to the members of the council and the heirs, in order that they might see the privy seal of the town impressed upon them : the registry-of-consignment, indorsed upon the schedule, was read aloud to the seven heirs by the town-clerk : and by that registry it was notified to them, that the deceased had actually consigned the schedule to the magis

trate, and entrusted it to the coporation-chest'; and that on the day of consignment he was still of sound mind :-finally, the seven seals, which he had himself affixed to the instrument, were found unbroken. These preliminaries gone through, it was now (but not until a brief registry of all these forms had been drawn up by the town-clerk) lawful in God's name, that the will should be opened and read aloud by Mr. Mayor, word for word, as follows:

“I Van der Kabel, on this 7th of May, 179-, being in my house, at Haslau, situate in Dog-street, deliver and make known this for my last will; and without many millions of words ; notwithstanding I have been both a German notary and a Dutch schoolmaster. Howsoever I may disgrace my old professions by this parsimony of words, I believe myself to be so far at home in the art and calling of a notary, that I am competent to act for myself as a testator in due form, and as a regular devisor of property

“ It is a custom with testators to premise the moving causes of their wills. These, in my case, as in most others, are regard for my happy departure, and for the disposal of the succession to my property--which, by the way, is the object of a tender passion in various quarters. To say any thing about my funeral, and all that--would be absurd and stupid. This, and what shape my remains shall take, let the eternal sun settle above, not in any gloomy winter, but in some of his most verdant springs.

“ As to those charitable foundations, and memorial institutions of benevolence, about which notaries are so much occupied, in my case I appoint as follows: to three thousand of my poor townsmen, of every class I assign just the same number of florins, which sum I will that, on the anniversary of my death, they shall spend jovially in feasting, upon the town common, where they are previously to pitch their camp, unless the military camp of his Serene Highness be already pitched there, in preparation for the reviews : and when the gala is ended, I would have them cut up the tents into clothes. Item, to all the school-masters in our principality I bequeath one golden Augustus. Item, to the Jews of this place I bequeath my pew in the high church.-As I would wish that my will should be divided into clauses, this is to be considered the first.

" CLAUSE II. “Amongst the important offices of a will, it is universally agreed to be one, that from amongst the presumptive and presumptuous expectants, it should name those who are, and those who are not, to succeed to the inheritance; that it should create heirs, and should destroy them. In conformity to this notion, I give and bequeath to Mr. Glantz, the councillor for ecclesiastical affairs; as also to Mr. Knoll, the exchequer officer; likewise to Mr. Peter Neupeter, the court-agent; item to Mr. Harprecht, director of

« PreviousContinue »