« PreviousContinue »
the great staircase near where she slept; but she said those innocents would do her no harm;' and how frightened I used to be, though in those days I had my maid to sleep with me, because I was never half so good or religious as she and yet I never saw the infants. Here John expanded all his eyebrows, and tried to look courageous. Then I told how good she was to all her grandchildren, having us to the great house in the holidays, where I, in particular, used to spend many hours by myself in gazing upon the old busts of the twelve Caesars that had been emperors of Rome, till the old marble heads would seem to live again, or I to be turned into marble with them; how I never could be tired with roaming about that huge mansion, with its vast empty rooms, with their worn-out hangings, fluttering tapestry, and carved oaken pannels, with the gilding almost rubbed out-sometimes in the spacious old-fashioned gardens, which I had almost to myself, unless when now and then a solitary gardening man would cross me-and how the nectarines and peaches hung upon the walls, without my ever offering to pluck them, because they were forbidden fruit, unless now and then, and because I had more pleasure in strolling about among the old melancholy-looking yew trees, or the firs, and picking up the red berries and the fir apples, which were good for nothing but to look at; or in lying about upon the fresh grass, with all the fine garden smells around me; or basking in the orangery, till I could almost fancy myself ripening, too, along with the oranges and the limes in that grateful warmth; or in watching the dace that darted to and fro in the fishpond at the bottom of the garden, with here and there a great sulky pike hanging midway down the water in silent state, as if it mocked at their impertinent friskings. I had more pleasure in these busy-idle diversions than in all the sweet flavours of peaches, nectarines, oranges, and such like common baits of children. Here John slyly deposited back upon the plate a bunch of grapes, which, not unobserved by Alice, he had meditated dividing with her, and both seemed willing to relinquish them for the present as irrelevant. Then, in somewhat a more heightened tone, I told how, though their great-grandmother Field loved all her grandchildren, yet in an especial manner she might be said to love their uncle, John L-, because he was so handsome and spirited a youth, and a king to the rest of us; and, instead of moping about in solitary corners, like some of us, he would mount the most mettlesome horse he could get, when but an imp no bigger than themselves, and make it carry him half over the county in a morning, and join the hunters when there were any out; and yet he loved the old great house and gardens too, but had too much spirit to be always pent up within their boundaries; and how their uncle grew up to man's estate as brave as he was handsome, to the admiration of everybody, but of their great-grandmother Field most especially; and how he used to carry me upon his back when I was a lame-footed boy-for he was a good bit older than me-many a mile when I could not walk for pain; and how, in after life, he became lame-footed too, and I did not always, I fear, make allowances enough for him when he was impatient and in pain, nor remember sufficiently how conside rate he had been to me when I was lame-footed; and how, when he died, though he had not been dead an hour, it seemed as if he had died a great while ago, such a distance there is betwixt life and death; and how I bore his death, as I thought, pretty well at first, but afterwards it haunted and haunted me; and though I did not cry or take it to heart as some do, and as I think he would have done if I had died, yet I missed him all day long, and knew not till then how much I had loved him. I missed his kindness, and I missed his crossness, and wished him to be alive again,
to be quarrelling with him (for we quarrelled sometimes), rather than not have him again; and was aa uneasy without him, as he, their poor uncle, must have been when the doctor took off his limb. Here the children fell a-crying, and asked if their little mourning which they had on was not for Uncle John; and they looked up, and prayed me not to go on about their uncle, but to tell them some stories about their pretty dead mother. Then I told how, for seven long years, in hope sometimes, sometimes in despair, yet persisting ever, I courted the fair Alice W-n; and, as much as children could understand, I explained to them what coyness, and difficulty, and denial meant in maidens; when suddenly turning to Alice, the soul of the first Alice looked out at her eyes with such a reality of re-presentment, that I became in doubt which of them stood there before me, or whose that bright hair was; and while I stood gazing, both the children gradually grew fainter to my view, receding, and still receding, till nothing at last but two mournful features were seen in the uttermost distance, which, without speech, strangely impressed upon me the effects of speech: We are not of Alice, nor of thee; nor are we children at all. The children of Alice call Bartrum father. We are nothing, less than nothing, and dreams. We are only what might have been, and must wait upon the tedious shores of Lethe millions of ages before we have existence and a name;' and immediately awaking, I found myself quietly seated in my bachelor arm-chair, where I had fallen asleep, with the faithful Bridget unchanged by my side-but John L. (or James Elia) was gone for! ever.
A poor relation is the most irrelevant thing in nature, a piece of impertinent correspondency, an odious approximation, a haunting conscience, a preposterous shadow, lengthening in the noontide of your prosperity, an unwelcome remembrancer, a perpetually recurring mortification, a drain on your purse, a more intolerable dun upon your pride, a drawback upon success, a rebuke to your rising, a stain in your blood, a blot on your scutcheon, a rent in your garment, a death's head at your banquet, Agathocles's pot, a Mordecai in your gate, a Lazarus at your door, a lion in your path, a frog in your chamber, a fly in your ointment, a mote in your eye, a triumph to your enemy, an apology to your friends, the one thing not needful, the hail in harvest, the ounce of sour in a pound of sweet.
He is known by his knock. Your heart telleth you, 'That is Mr A rap between familiarity and respect, that demands, and at the same time seems to despair of entertainment. He entereth smiling and embarrassed. He holdeth out his hand to you to shake, and draweth it back again. He casually looketh in about dinner time, when the table is full. He offereth to go away, seeing you have company, but is induced to stay. He filleth a chair, and your visitor's two children are accommodated at a side table. He never cometh upon open days, when your wife says with some complacency, My dear, perhaps Mr will drop in to-day. He remembereth birthdays, and professeth he is fortunate to have stumbled upon one. He declareth against fish, the turbot being small, yet suffereth himself to be importuned into a slice against his first resolution. He sticketh by the port, yet will be prevailed upon to empty the remainder glass of claret, if a stranger press it upon him. He is a puzzle to the servants, who are fearful of being too obsequious, or not civil enough to him. The guests think they have seen him before. Every one speculateth upon his condition; and the most part take him to be a tide-waiter. He calleth you by your Christian name, to imply that his other is the same
with your own. He is too familiar by half, yet you classic, and a youth of promise. If he had a biemish, wish he had less diffidence. With half the familiarity, it was too much pride; but its quality was inoffenhe might pass for a casual dependent; with more sive; it was not of that sort which hardens the heart boldness, he would be in no danger of being taken for and serves to keep inferiors at a distance; it only what he is. He is too humble for a friend, yet taketh sought to ward off derogation from itself. It was the on him more state than befits a client. He is a worse principle of self-respect carried as far as it could go, guest than a country tenant, inasmuch as he bringeth without infringing upon that respect which he would up no rent; yet 'tis odds, from his garb and demea- have every one else equally maintain for himself. He nour, that your guests take him for one. He is asked would have you to think alike with him on this topic. to make one at the whist table; refuseth on the score Many a quarrel have I had with him when we were of poverty, and resents being left out. When the com- rather older boys, and our tallness made us more obpany break up, he proffereth to go for a coach, and noxious to observation in the blue clothes, because I lets the servant go. He recollects your grandfather; would not thread the alleys and blind ways of the and will thrust in some mean and quite unimportant town with him to elude notice, when we have been anecdote of the family. He knew it when it was not out together on a holiday in the streets of this sneerquite so flourishing as he is blest in seeing it now.' ing and prying metropolis. W went, sore with He reviveth past situations, to institute what he calleth these notions, to Oxford, where the dignity and sweetfavourable comparisons. With a reflecting sort of ness of a scholar's life, meeting with the alloy of a congratulation he will inquire the price of your fur- humble introduction, wrought in him a passionate niture; and insults you with a special commendation devotion to the place, with a profound aversion from of your window-curtains. He is of opinion that the the society. The servitor's gown (worse than his school urn is the more elegant shape; but, after all, there array) clung to him with Nessian venom. He thought was something more comfortable about the old tea- himself ridiculous in a garb under which Latimer must kettle, which you must remember. He dare say you have walked erect; and in which Hooker in his young must find a great convenience in having a carriage of days possibly flaunted in a vein of no discommendable your own, and appealeth to your lady if it is not so. vanity. In the depth of college shades, or in his lonely Inquireth if you have had your arms done on vellum chamber, the poor student shrunk from observation. yet; and did not know till lately that such and such He found shelter among books which insult not, and had been the crest of the family. His memory is un- studies that ask no questions of a youth's finances. seasonable, his compliments perverse, his talk a He was lord of his library, and seldom cared for looktrouble, his stay pertinacious; and when he goething out beyond his domains. The healing influence away, you dismiss his chair into a corner as precipi- of studious pursuits was upon him, to soothe and to tately as possible, and feel fairly rid of two nuisances. abstract. He was almost a healthy man, when the There is a worse evil under the sun, and that is a waywardness of his fate broke out against him with a female poor relation. You may do something with second and worse malignity. The father of Wthe other; you may pass him off tolerably well; but had hitherto exercised the humble profession of house your indigent she-relative is hopeless. He is an old painter at N, near Oxford. A supposed interest humorist, you may say, 'and affects to go thread- with some of the heads of colleges had now induced bare. His circumstances are better than folks would him to take up his abode in that city, with the hope take them to be. You are fond of having a character of being employed upon some public works which at your table, and truly he is one.' But in the indi- were talked of. From that moment I read in the cations of female poverty there can be no disguise. countenance of the young man the determination No woman dresses below herself from caprice. The which at length tore him from academical pursuits truth must out without shuffling. She is plainly for ever. To a person unacquainted with our univerrelated to the L -8, or what does she at their sities, the distance between the gownsmen and the house? She is, in all probability, your wife's cousin. townsmen, as they are called-the trading part of the Nine times out of ten, at least, this is the case. Her latter especially-is carried to an excess that would garb is something between a gentlewoman and a beg- appear harsh and incredible. The temperament of gar, yet the former evidently predominates. She is W- -'s father was diametrically the reverse of his most provokingly humble, and ostentatiously sensible own. Old W- was a little, busy, cringing tradesto her inferiority. He may require to be repressed man, who, with his son upon his arm, would stand sometimes aliquando sufflaminandus erat-but there bowing and scraping, cap in hand, to anything that is no raising her. You send her soup at dinner, and wore the semblance of a gown-insensible to the winks she begs to be helped after the gentlemen. Mr and opener remonstrances of the young man, to whose requests the honour of taking wine with her; she chamber-fellow, or equal in standing, perhaps, he was hesitates between port and Madeira, and chooses the thus obsequiously and gratuitously ducking. Such a former because he does. She calls the servant sir; state of things could not last. Ŵ- must change and insists on not troubling him to hold her plate. the air of Oxford, or be suffocated. He chose the The housekeeper patronises her. The children's go- former; and let the sturdy moralist, who strains the verness takes upon her to correct her when she has point of the filial duties as high as they can bear, mistaken the piano for a harpsichord. censure the dereliction; he cannot estimate the struggle. I stood with W- the last afternoon ever saw him, under the eaves of his paternal dwelling. It was in the fine lane leading from the High Street to the back of - college, where W kept his rooms. He seemed thoughtful and more reconciled. I ventured to rally him-finding him in a better mood-upon a representation of the Artist Evangelist, which the old man, whose affairs were beginning to flourish, had caused to be set up in a splendid sort of frame over his really handsome shop, either as a token of prosperity, or badge of gratitude to his saint. W- looked up at the Luke, and, like Satan, knew his mounted sign, and fled.' A letter on his father's table the next morning announced that he had accepted a commission in a regiment about to
Richard Amlet, Esq., in the play, is a notable instance of the disadvantages to which this chimerical notion of affinity constituting a claim to acquaintance may subject the spirit of a gentleman. A little foolish blood is all that is betwixt him and a lady with a great estate. His stars are perpetually crossed by the malignant maternity of an old woman, who persists in calling him her son Dick.' But she has wherewithal in the end to recompense his indignities, and float him again upon the brilliant surface, under which it had been her seeming business and pleasure all along to sink him. All men, besides, are not of Dick's temperament. I knew an Amlet in real life, who, wanting Dick's buoyancy, sank indeed. Poor was of my own standing at Christ's, a fine
embark for Portugal. He was among the first who perished before the walls of St Sebastian.
course of the evening, when some argument had intervened between them, to utter, with an emphasis which chilled the company, and which chills me now as I write it Woman, you are superannuated. John Billet did not survive long after the digesting of this affront; but he survived long enough to assure me that peace was actually restored! and, if I remember aright, another pudding was discreetly substituted in the place of that which had occasioned the offence. He died at the Mint (anno 1781), where he had long held, what he accounted, a comfortable independence; and with five pounds fourteen shillings and a penny, which were found in his escrutoire after his decease, left the world, blessing God that he had enough to bury him, and that he had never been obliged to any man for a sixpence. This was-a Poor Relation.
I do not know how, upon a subject which I began with treating half seriously, I should have fallen upon a recital so eminently painful; but this theme of poor relationship is replete with so much matter for tragic as well as comic associations, that it is difficult to keep the account distinct without blending. The earliest impressions which I received on this matter are certainly not attended with anything painful, or very humiliating, in the recalling. At my father's table (no very splendid one) was to be found every Saturday the mysterious figure of an aged gentleman, clothed in neat black, of a sad yet comely appearance. His deportment was of the essence of gravity; his words few or none; and I was not to make a noise in his presence. I had little inclination to have done so for my cue was to admire in silence. A particular elbow-chair was appropriated to him, which was in no case to be violated. A peculiar sort of sweet pudding, which appeared on no other occasion, distinguished the days of his coming. I used to think him a prodigiously rich man. All I could make out of him was, that he and my father had been schoolfellows a world ago at Lincoln, and that he came from the Mint. The Mint I knew to be a place where all the money was coined, and I thought he was the owner of all that money. Awful ideas of the Tower twined themselves about his presence. He seemed above human infirmities and passions. A sort of melancholy grandeur invested him. From some inexplicable doom I fancied him obliged to go about in an eternal suit of mourning; a captive-a stately being let out of the Tower on Saturdays. Often have I wondered at the temerity of my father, who, in spite of a habitual general respect which we all in common manifested towards him, would venture now and then to stand up against him in some argument touching their youthful days. The houses of the ancient city of Lincoln are divided (as most of my readers know) between the dwellers on the hill and in the valley. This marked distinction formed an obvious division between the boys who lived above (however brought together in a common school) and the boys whose paternal residence was on the plain-slation of the Georgics of Virgil; in 1801 he produced a Poetical Epistle on the Encouragement of the British School of Painting; and in 1802 a tragedy on the model of the ancient Greek drama, entitled roused the military spirit of Sotheby, and he entered Orestes. The threatened invasion of the French with zeal upon the formation of a volunteer corps. When this alarm had blown over, he devoted himself to the composition of an original sacred poem, in blank verse, under the title of Saul, which appeared in 1807. The fame of Scott induced him to attempt the romantic metrical style of narrative and description; and in 1810 he published Constance de Castille, a poem in ten cantos. In 1814 he republished his Orestes,' together with four other tragedies; and in 1815 a second corrected edition of the Georgics. A tour on the continent (during which Mr Sotheby was absent for eighteen months) gave occasion to another poetical work, Italy, descriptive of classic scenes and recollections. He next began a labour which he had long contemplated, the translation of the Iliad and Odyssey, though he was upwards of seventy years of age before he entered upon the Herculean task. The summer and autumn of 1829 were spent in a tour to Scotland, during which he visited Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford, and explored some of the most interesting of the Highland districts. The following verses, written in a steamboat during an excursion to Staffa and Icna, show the undiminished powers of the veteran poet:
WILLIAM SOTHEBY, an elegant and accomplished scholar and translator, was born in London on the 9th of November 1757. He was of good family, and educated at Harrow school. At the age of seventeen he entered the army as an officer in the 10th dragoons. He quitted the army in the year 1780, and purchased Bevis Mount, near Southampton, where he continued to reside for the next ten years. Here Mr Sotheby cultivated his taste for literature, and translated some of the minor Greek and Latin poets. In 1788 he made a pedestrian tour through Wales, of which he wrote a poetical description, published, together with some odes and sonnets, in 1789. Two years afterwards the poet removed to London, where he mixed in the literary and scientific society of the metropolis, and was warmly esteemed by all who knew him. In 1798 he published a translation from the Oberon of Wieland, which greatly extended his reputation, and procured him the thanks and friendship of the German poet. fame. In 1799 he wrote a poem commemorative of He now became a frequent competitor for poetical the battle of the Nile; in 1800 appeared his tran
a sufficient cause of hostility in the code of these young Grotiuses. My father had been a leading mountaineer; and would still maintain the general superiority, in skill and hardihood, of the above boys (his own faction) over the below boys (so were they called), of which party his contemporary had been a chieftain. Many and hot were the skirmishes on this topic-the only one upon which the old gentleman was ever brought out and bad blood bred; even sometimes almost to the recommencement (so I expected) of actual hostilities. But my father, who scorned to insist upon advantages, generally contrived to turn the conversation upon some adroit by-commendation of the old minster; in the general preference of which, before all other cathedrals in the island, the dweller on the hill and the plain-born could meet on a conciliating level, and lay down their less important differences. Once only I saw the old gentleman really ruffled, and I remember with anguish the thought that came over me-'perhaps he will never come here again. He had been pressed to take another plate of the viand which I have already mentioned as the indispensable concomitant of his visits. He had refused, with a resistance amounting to rigour, when my aunt, an old Lincolnian, but who had something of this, in common with my cousin Bridget, that she would sometimes press civility out of season-uttered the following memorable application: Do take another slice, Mr Billet, for you do not get pudding every day.' The old gentleman said nothing at the time-but he took occasion in the
Staffa, I scaled thy summit hoar,
That hour the wind forgot to rave,
Then the past age before me came,
When 'mid Iona's wrecks meanwhile
Where Time had strewn each mouldering aisle
I hailed the eternal God:
Yet, Staffa, more I felt his presence in thy cave
[Approach of Saul and his Guards against the Philistines.]
Hark! hark! the clash and clang
Of breath, through flutes, in symphony with song,
Of chariots rolled with each an armed band:
Mr Sotheby's translation of the Iliad was published in 1831, and was generally esteemed spirited and faithful. The Odyssey he completed in the following year. This was the last production of the amiable and indefatigable author. He still enjoyed the society of his friends, and even made another tour through North Wales; but his lengthened life was near a close, and after a short illness, he died on the 30th of December 1833, in the seventyseventh year of his age. The original poetical productions of Mr Sotheby have not been reprinted; his translations are the chief source of his reputation. Wieland, it is said, was charmed with the genius of his translator; and the rich beauty of diction in the Oberon, and its facility of versification, notwithstanding the restraints imposed by a difficult measure, were eulogised by the critics. In his tragedies, Mr Sotheby displays considerable warmth of passion and figurative language, but his plots are ill constructed. His sacred poem, Saul,' is the longest of his works. There is delicacy and grace in many of the descriptions,' says Jeffrey, a sustained tone of gentleness and piety in the sentiments, and an elaborate beauty in the diction, which frequently makes amends for the want of force and originality.' The versification also wants that easy flow and melody which characterise Oberon. Passages of Sotheby's metrical romance are happily versified, and may be considered good imi-Your arms; and from the flash of cymbals shake tations of Scott. Indeed, Byron said of Mr Sotheby, Sweet clangour, measuring the giddy maze. that he imitated everybody, and occasionally surpassed his models.
[Song of the Virgins Celebrating the Victory.]
Daughters of Israel! praise the Lord of Hosts! Break into song! With harp and tabret lift Your voices up, and weave with joy the dance; And to your twinkling footsteps toss aloft
Shout ye! and ye! make answer, Saul hath slain His thousands; David his ten thousands slain.
Arrayed; save on their shields of solid ore,
Sing a new song. I saw them in their rage;
Shout ye! and ye! make answer, Saul hath slain
Sing a new song. Spake not the insulting foe?
Shout ye! and ye! make answer, Saul hath slain
Thou heardst, O God of battle! Thou, whose look Snappeth the spear in sunder. In thy strength A youth, thy chosen, laid their champion low. Saul, Saul pursues, o'ertakes, divides the spoil; Wreathes round our necks these chains of gold, and robes
Our limbs with floating crimson. Then rejoice, Daughters of Israel! from your cymbals shake Sweet clangour, hymning God! the Lord of Hosts!
Ye! shout! and ye! make answer, Saul hath slain His thousands; David his ten thousands slain.
Such the hymned harmony, from voices breathed Of virgin minstrels, of each tribe the prime For beauty, and fine form, and artful touch Of instrument, and skill in dance and song; Choir answering choir, that on to Gibeah led The victors back in triumph. On each neck Played chains of gold; and, shadowing their charms With colour like the blushes of the morn,
Robes, gift of Saul, round their light limbs, in toss
There, many a wife, whose ardent gaze from far
There, many a beauteous virgin, blushing deep, Flung back her veil, and, as the warrior came, Hailed her betrothed. But, chiefly, on one alone All dwelt.
The Winter's Morn.
Artist unseen! that, dipt in frozen dew,
Hast on the glittering glass thy pencil laid, Ere from yon sun the transient visions fade, Swift let me trace the forms thy fancy drew! Thy towers and palaces of diamond hue,
Rivers and lakes of lucid crystal made, And hung in air hoar trees of branching shade, That liquid pearl distil: thy scenes renew, Whate'er old bards or later fictions feign,
Of secret grottos underneath the wave, Where nereids roof with spar the amber cave; Or bowers of bliss, where sport the fairy train, Who, frequent by the moonlight wanderer seen, Circle with radiant gems the dewy green.
EDWARD LORD THURLOW.
EDWARD HOVEL THURLOW (Lord Thurlow) has published several small volumes of poetry: Select Poems (1821); Poems on Several Occasions; Angelica, or the Fate of Proteus; Arcita and Palamon, after Chaucer, &c. Amidst much affectation and bad taste, there is real poetry in the works of this nobleman. He has been a source of ridicule and sarcasm to various reviewers and not undeservedly; yet in pieces like the following, there is a freshness of fancy and feeling, and a richness of expression, that resemble Herrick or Moore.
To be a poet in his sight: Then, thus I give the crown to thee, Whose impress is fidelity.