« PreviousContinue »
of his banker's account-(nay, he was a banker himself)— had entertained many great and clever people.
After his death his heirs had the bad taste to publish his “Recollections" of the famous persons he had conversed with; that is to say, the bald twaddling notes he had made in quite a "private inquiry" manner of their every-day and often slipshod talk. He had just twisted History's noble pages into thread papers and parchment thrums, and left them to us as records of such mighty ones as Wellington and Talleyrand, and as Fox and Burke. Take care, Louisa, you do not find some day a memorandum-book left by one of such eavesdroppers as the old banker in St. James's Place, and opening it come upon such passages-vapid and disjointed, and tame "Miss Chesterfield. She said she likes cold
Had had the measles.
. Could not dance with
one shoe off. . . Thought Tupper underrated. . . Once sang Deh non voler' with a bad cold in her head," and the like. The growing fondness for such petty, and I confess, irritates me, and their mention always makes me think of the story of grand old Doctor Martin Luther, who, being at tabletalk—and I dare say talking nonsense-one evening with his wife Kate, became suddenly aware of the presence of a student, who, tablets and pencil in hand, was crouching beneath the table stenographing the colloquy mot à mot. The Doctor dragged this "special correspondent" before his time from his hiding-place. He took him by the ear; he flung a basinful of warm gruel (prepared for the good man's supper) in his face, quite spoiling the student's new Holland bands, and he dismissed him with a doctorial kick, saying, “Friend, do not forget to enter also these occurrences on thy tablets." A very energetic reformer was Doctor Martin Luther.
I have consulted with Take no notice thereof, my
With regard to the complaints. Mr. Nedwards, and he says,
dear Madam." I have consulted myself, and the answer is, explain. Tell then, my dear Louisa, those who have complained to you, that these letters were never intended to form a continuous serial; that my letters to my daughter are not a novel, or a series of travels, or a round of consecutive narrative; that they have been, and will be, continued from time to time just when they may be thought amusing to those who read them, and that so soon as the Doctor, and that greater body of medical advisers whom you, my dear, have admitted to their perusal, and who are called, I think, the public, cease to be amused by them, I shall cry, "Hold, enough; " and drop the pen for good and all.
And yet, to you, my child, I confess myself somewhat in arrears. Many doubts of yours I have left unresolved, many queries unanswered, many events in your life-no very grave events are there to trouble that placid, smiling stream— uncommented upon. Not that I think you want a mentor always by your side. How dreadfully that owl-like old lady, disguised as an old gentleman with a long beard, must have bored our Telemachus sometimes! You have a duenna, Mrs. de Fytchett, who will see that the cavaliers do not play the guitar beneath windows at unseasonable hours, that they do not introduce themselves to your drawing-room in the disguise of music-masters, and that they do not pop billets doux in the hood of your mantle when you walk abroad. But bah! even to think of such a thing. You live in London, South West, and not in Seville; and mantlesburnouses, as you call them—with capuchon hoods, are out of fashion. You have seen the world, lately, without the aid of your mamma's spectacles. You have been to many balls besides that famous one of dear Lady Coseymore's in Paris. You have seen all the pantomimes that were worth seeing. You have been to a concert at St. James's Hall, and an
oratorio at Exeter Hall. I can appreciate, to some extent, I humbly hope, the magnificent beauty of Handel, and Haydn, and Mendelsohn's sublime music. It is very poor imagery to say that Sound an alarm runs through my veins like liquid fire; that the sweet sad notes of "He was despised" make me weep; that I reverence and bow before the tenderloving strains of "Comfort ye my people," and " Lord remember David."
And who, I ask, is not awakened, as by the sound of a great golden trumpet, when the first triumphant burst of the Hallelujah chorus echoes through the grand hall? There is a mingled power in the sacred music of our great composers that now softens us to meekness and contrition, and now rouses and confirms us in a strong, stern faith and hope; that lifts us above the peddling cares and wretched necessities of life, and nerves us to the knowledge that the harps of glory and the angelic choir are no vain imaginings, but that we have-albeit the very faintest-their reflex here, permitted to be shed on earth by the men upon whom Heaven has bestowed the divine gift of genius. Yet, although Meinheer Handel was but a German Kapell Meister, and in London entered into operative speculations, and had silly squabbles with Signor Bononcini-one must be convinced, when his gorgeous music peals upon the amazed ear, that this man, George Frederick Handel, poor, blind, periwigged old musicmaster, had held discourse with the Higher and the Better Influences, and that, when alone, his fingers passed the organ keys, and the swelling sounds were wafted upwards, something of that Holy Influence encircled him, which the naïve faut of the old painters has symbolised under the guise of the angels who guard St. Cecilia. Yet I love and stand in awe at such tremendous performances; but I much prefer—forgive the crude and unromantic thought-to listen to an
oratorio with my eyes shut. The conductor's baton, the rustling sheets of music paper, the gesticulating band, trouble me. How am I to picture to myself that man with the pomatumed hair as David? Can yonder fat gentleman with the large watchchain be Samson? Did ever Delilah wear a moire antique dress with a Maltese lace collar, and cuffs? Zadok, the priest, should have his jewelled breastplate, his frontlet and mitre, his stole and ephod. I see people in broadcloth and crinoline, giving, by their very presence and aspect, incongruity to a grandly harmonious whole. And how am I to believe that the strong-lunged, well-fed chorus, whom I know in private life to be respectable professionals and amateurs-how am I to believe that these weekly-salaried singing citizens are the people of Israel, or that they are the Philistine warriors?
There is an occurrence you have mentioned to me in connection with one of your visits to an acquaintance you have formed, which has made a somewhat deep impression on my mind. You give me—I have the letter before me now—a lengthened and amusing account of Mrs. Petworth and her young family: of how she is a very learned and scientific lady, something like the Borrioboola Gha philanthropist in Mr. Dickens's "Bleak House;" of how she is for ever at her desk regenerating mankind on foolscap paper, how she drives her husband in sheer weariness to the club, how her ill-kept, illdisciplined children toss and tumble about, and while they almost adore the ground she walks upon, nearly worry her life out with their tricks and perversity. My dear, Mrs. Petworth and her learning and science, and her bear garden full of little cubs growing up to be quite grisly for want of licking into shape these may all seem to you very comic and amusing; but the description awakens in me the saddest and most serious of reflections. You may say that I, too, scribble, and pride myself,
very probably without cause, upon the possession of some halfpeck of learning not ordinarily acquired by my sex; but, alas! je n'ai plus d'enfants. I am helpless here, and solitary. I have but one little lamb, and she is in the fold of the stranger. You live with grown-up people, my darling; you are a young woman, and so proud of your newly-acquired dignity and heritage of womanhood, that you would rather forget all about childhood, about cross schoolmistresses and grumpy governesses, and scolding mammas. You have no mamma to scold you now—she is far away; and, were she near you, you would be her equal and companion. You don't want to be told about lessons and exercises, about rewards and punishments, about the tree being inclined the way the twig is bent. Perhaps I do you personally an injustice, but I am but symbolising in you the thought of most young women in your degree and of your age. I know that girls, the best and kindest hearted, are cross and snappish to their younger sisters, tell them not to ask questions, order them out of the room, box their ears too, sometimes, slyly, if they have authority, or the chance.
Girls always take notice of babies, and are immensely fond of those "tiddy-iddy" creatures. C'est dans leur jeu. The gentlemen, though they abhor the sight, touch, or propinquity of babies not their own, like to see the young ladies they like noticing and fondling an infant. Some girls even I have known of the very humble orders-those wonderful girls of eight or nine, in pinafores whose washing and mangling mothers send them out with babies almost as large as themselves to carry, who know how to choose potatoes and green stuff, to attain the exact pawnable value on a fustian jacket, and to stave off the man who comes for the rent-some such precocious philosophers I have known almost as precocious in maternal fondness. They are passionately fond of babies,