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Colonel Brereton-The Necessity of Notoriety-A Croaker-The Awkwardness of Princes-Ne Sutor-Keeping Places at the Theatres-Loss of Life in Merchant Vessels-Irish Agriculture-Bristol Stones-Advertisements-Poetical Composition in the Open Air-Tragedy on, and Comedy off, the Stage.
COLONEL BRERETON.-The suicide of this gentleman has naturally excited a strong feeling of sympathy and compassion on the part of a public never behindhand in such feeling when it is too late. Col. Brereton seems to have fallen a sacrifice to his reluctance to use force against a good-humoured mob. When this humour of the mob had changed, as probably the individuals composing it also in great part, the opportunity had gone by: the troops, weakened as they had been by a dismission of a portion, were, in the judgment of the commander, unequal to contend with the now infuriated rabble. Had execution been done in the first instance, before the mob was aroused, the blood spilt would have probably extinguished the nascent riot: just as it did after the excitement of the mob had subsided; after it had been gorged and glutted with drink, and plunder, and fire. Having lost the first chance from motives of humanity and reasoning of a conciliatory kind, it may be a question whether, even with inadequate forces, the military commander should not have risked the existence of his troops by a bold and bloody struggle against the mob, then raging in the height of its fury. Col. Brereton did not, and a court-martial was ordered. The humiliation of his position and the calm review of all the circumstances as they came out on evidence appear to have been too much for him: he anticipated disgrace, and perhaps poverty, and could not bear up against the idea. The verdict of the jury should have been "Died of Pride." It is a soldier's virtue-though in extremes, or in very peculiar situations, it may be mischievous. In the melancholy case of Col. Brereton, putting quite out of the question the awfulness and the sinfulness of self-execution, there cannot be a doubt on any man's mind that he had not incurred nor could incur intolerable disgrace, and that for his own honour he ought to have lived. His death stops inquiry, and that of itself is an argument of being in the wrong: had the investigation gone on, and the result been of the worst, the prisoner could only have been convicted of having spared the people, contrary to military rules, and thus failed in preventing, as he might have done, the various criminal acts that took place: the motives being humanity, and an erroneous decision of judgment. A man of honour, and a soldier, even of sensitive feelings, might have lived under this and not have been unhappy-for there is not a shadow of dishonour falling within the whole compass of such a charge. An officer may be a meritorious soldier when opposed to an enemy, and a poor creature when ordered to cut down his countrymen. The practical result to be drawn from the whole affair is, that a military police is a bad one, and that the feelings of a soldier are altogether inconsistent with the duties of a riot-queller. A standing army, kept up for home duty, is a monstrous absurdity, utterly unworthy of an enlightened people. Where discontent and disturbance are general it is utterly inefficient, where they are local and insulated it is utterly unnecessary, If, instead of noodling and guttling Corporations, good at nothing but the perversion of funds, and the destruction of viands, and the packing of elections, a strong, active, and well-organized police was ramified all over the country, and place under the command of able magistrates and officers, chosen by the districts they commanded, we should hear no more of either Manchester massacres or Bristol burnings.
THE NECESSITY OF NOTORIETY.-Nothing can be more common than to hear a complaint against newspapers. When they do not contain any remarkable event, they are said to be dull, empty, and absolutely good for nothing. But let the broad sheet glare with murder, incendiarism, riot, or other form of horror, the abuse instantly ceases, the quidnunc buries himself in his arm-chair, draws down the spectacles, raises his feet to the fender, and erects the interesting print in a plane, perpendicular to the earth's surface, within six inches of his nose, whence
it is only removed for the convenience of turning the page, perhaps for hours. This abomination of vacuity and attraction to the eventful, extends itself even to character; notoriety is become the next wish after good fame. Plutarch said he had rather never be heard of by posterity at all, than be known as the Plutarch who ate his children; but Plutarch did not live in an age greedy of excitement like this. This appetite of the public shows itself in the eagerness to witness trials, executions, or to see monsters and enormities, no matter of what description, provided they are sufficiently abnormal to create an emotion. On the same principle one "lion" at a party is worth the attendance of several score of pleasant and agreeable people. This tendency is well understood by that astute race, the puffers of books in newspapers: if it may not be praised as uncommonly good, monstrous badness will do as well; so that some persons curious in this art, have begun to quote the critic's abuse, instead of his eulogy. Here is a curious instance: from an advertisement of the pamphlet called Labour defended against Capital, the following puff is transcribed.
"The Lord Chancellor's Diffusion Society has just published a book to refute the doctrines of this pamphlet, in which the author is called a ' Minister of Desolation,' and if they become prevalent, then it is said, the people may sing their triumphant song of Labour defended against the Claims of Capital,' amid the shriek of the jackal and the howl of the wolf.
Deserving such notice, this pamphlet cannot be otherwise than interesting."
Such is the conclusion of the publisher, who doubtless understands his public.
A CROAKER.-The Quarterly Reviewer of the Tour of a German Prince says, (p. 520,) speaking of the authenticity or German origin of the work-" unless the whole affair is an impudent juggle, we are justified in fixing this performance upon the Prince Puckler Muskau, and we only wonder how any English Reviewer could have hesitated about doing so." This assuredly must be an Irish Reviewer. The question that has been agitated is, whether the work is the genuine production of a German Prince, or a forgery. The Irish Reviewer tells us, that unless it is a juggle (or a forgery,) it is genuine; and he wonders (he who puts the alternative) how any English Reviewer could have doubted on a subject which he the Irish one can only venture to put hypothetically.
Of the genuineness of the work, no wholly rational person ever doubted; the forthcoming volumes which relate to England, will be even less disputable. The English Reviewer alluded to, is the Editor of the Westminster Review, or at least the writer of its Proëmiums, who in an Avant Courier complained that the Author of the Article, in the body of the Review, had compromised him, by asserting the authenticity of the work contrary to his wish. In his apprehension of ridicule, therefore, he begged that the only person, in case of the work proving the composition of a young Irishman, laughed at, should be the individual Reviewer. We believe that nobody yet ever escaped derision by standing up and assuring the company that he was very far from being ridiculous.
THE AWKWARDNESS OF PRINCES.-In the very curious trial pending at Paris on the subject of the Duke of Bourbon's will, the advocate Hennequin produced a singular argument to prove that the Duke did not hang himself; viz. he could not, and that for various reasons; he was unable to get upon a chair from debility, he could not raise his hand to his head from a wound; but above all, he was utterly unable to tie a "permanent knot," and had been all his life, excepting indeed that most unhappy one with Miss Sophy Dawes. M. Hennequin brought evidence to prove this incapacity; he produced persons who swore that the last of the Condés, though fond of the chase and other sports, could neither tie up a boat nor a dog; and the probability of this state of incompetency in knot-tying, was defended by general remarks by the royalist pleader, on the ordinary maladresse or awkwardness of princes. Every thing being done for them, they never learn to do any thing; they are fed up, as it were, in a stall to exist and not to act; so that, according to M. Hennequin, it is rare to find a prince who can even walk decently across a room. Inaptitude or imbecility is assuredly a very frequent indication of high-breeding, and where it is not actual, it is sometimes pretended. There are men in all aristocratical countries Feb.-VOL. XXXIV. NO. CXXXIV.
who would be shocked to have it supposed that they could do any thing useful, or share any knowledge with the other end of society. Exquisites, for example, have expressed the extreme of surprise at the sight of a copper coin, a halfpenny being a thing utterly below their level. In the Moldavian and Wallachian principalities, the Fanariote Hospodars proved their mightiness by being utterly unable to walk without assistance. The fashion of the Court was of course adopted by all the Boyars; and as a prince never could cross an apartment without throwing all his weight on a Boyar on each side, the said Boyars of course at home were equally incapable themselves, and threw their weight on the next grade. Some of the Hospodars of these countries have been known to become actually incapable of walking, from long disuse of their limbs.
In the matter of this trial, we cannot help thinking that Louis Philippe has been very hardly used by the journals of both countries, in their endeavours to mix him up culpably with the proceedings of the accomplished bar-maid of the Isle of Wight. The Duke of Bourbon certainly applied to him to be relieved of the solicitations of his mistress, which implies that the Duke considered that she was under the influence of the Duke of Orleans. Louis Philippe's reply has been laid hold of as injurious to his own reputation, unjustly, as it appears to us. The only facts proved are, that the Duke of Bourbon was in his dotage, that he was alternately tormented and befooled by his mistress, as is not uncommon, and that the old man was ultimately tired of his life. Previously, the Englishwomen in France had a reputation for boldness, daring, and other virtues of the masculine, and when they occur in women of the diabolical cast, and we fear the éclatant specimen in this case will confirm the prejudice. It will be in vain to say, that Madame de Feucheres is of a class from whom no precedent must be taken. Ah les Anglaises sont capables de tout, is the reply of the obstinate Parisian.
NE SUTOR. When errors and abuses of a public description are pointed out, the first idea that occurs is a wish for the interference of the legislature. This desire is, however, quickly checked by observing that the legislature, as at present constituted, works after the manner of the tinker, who makes two holes while he mends one. There was a universal complaint on the subject of Hackney Coaches; the legislature took them in hand, and a pretty business it has made of it. The instant the act comes into force, it is found that all the old nuisances remain, and that several new ones are introduced; and what is worse, that such absolute inconsistencies are left in this precious Act, that a magistrate has to elect between two clauses, which are in precise contradiction to each other. Pretty much the same may be said of the Game Act, and a score of others. So much for amateur legislation.
In a Reformed Parliament, there will be before long a standing committee or paid board, whose business it will be to reduce the intentions of the legislature into consistent and intelligible law, and in case of error, omission, or absurdity, propose such queries to the house, as will render a reconsideration necessary, and ensure ultimately an efficient Act. No one is yet quite certain, whether even the Bankrupt Court will work.
KEEPING PLACES AT THE THEATRES.-The Manager of the Adelphi has been summoned by an indignant complainant before the Magistrate, because the places taken and paid for by him had not been kept till his arrival. The offence was aggravated by the fact of the performance being "Victorine," so that the excellence of Mrs. Yates's acting, in the opinion of the aggrieved person, put her husband more decidedly in the wrong. This matter of place-keeping and holding is one of the thousand little questions of social police which eternally breed unpleasant disputes, and never get settled. When a seat is paid for, the fee-simple of so many square inches of green baize is vested in the payer during the whole of a particular evening; and it seems just that if the pro tempore proprietor pays for having the seat reserved, he should be permitted to claim it at any moment he chooses during the performance. However, in this case, it was ruled by custom against the unhappy admirer of "Victorine;" and, in future, left open for another squabble and another summons. We would not have Acts of Parliament about such matters; but assuredly there are means of settling these things, without the inconveniences that at present exist.
In France, a Commissioner of Police has a box in the house, and is present during every performance, and, in case of any disturbance, immediately interferes. Some authority of the same kind is most assuredly wanted among us, and a Commissioner of Order would be quite as useful, and more ornamental, than the muskets, and bayonets, and sentry-boxes at the doors of the Theatres which glory in the designation of Royal. At present, there is nothing which disorderly persons may not do to distress and annoy their neighbours, or the whole house-short of picking pockets-which, after all, is a more venial offence than picking a theatrical quarrel-the most disreputable of all honourable affairs.
In another point the theatres of the Continent greatly excel us in attention to a point of order. They who disdain neither Pit nor the Pit-goers are aware that it is a service of danger to enter that part of the Theatre on a crowded night; because, as soon as it is understood that the inner doors are open, a crush and scramble of many hundred persons, crammed together in a narrow space at the entrance, takes place in the anxiety of each individual to be foremost, which, to say the least, is disgraceful to an assemblage of rational people. They who have seen a drove of pigs rush upon an overturned cart of brewer's grains, may form an idea of the scene. Now nothing is gained beyond dislocated limbs and disordered attire. A strong man may perhaps annihilate a feeble woman, or overpower a weaker or shorter rival of his own sex, unluckily placed in his immediate van; but the precedence procured in so dense a mass is not worth the lifting of a hand; and, indeed, the admission of the whole is impeded by the pressure. The whole of this confusion is avoided on the Continent, by the custom which prevails faire la queue, as it is called, or to form a tail or line. Each person, as he arrives, takes his place in his file, and remains in the ranks quietly till the pay-office is opened, when money is taken in the exact order in which each spectator has arrived at the theatre. This practice enables persons moreover to secure a place, as it were, by establishing a locum tenens, who, for a consideration, gives up his post as soon as the house opens to his employer. All male lovers of the theatre prefer the pit as the best position for enjoying a representation; but they are prevented from entering this part of the house by the nuisance of the crush. It is a pity, since Royalty lends its guard of honour, it cannot transfer also a deputation from the board of green cloth, to look after these minor essentials. It would be as easy, we should think, to regulate the movements of respectable visitants to a theatre, as the coachmen and horses who are constrained to set down and take up in the order dictated in a programme.
LOSS OF LIFE IN MERCHANT VESSELS.-A very sensible letter from Lieutenant Lister Maw, of the Navy, (in the Times, January 14,) on the subject of the dangers unnecessarily risked by Merchant vessels, through the ignorance of captains, and the insufficiency of their means of nautical calculation, ought to be pointed out to general attention, and the recommendations of this enlightened officer duly considered. It is a subject we cannot enter upon, and we chiefly allude to it for the sake of pointing out that associations, like insurance societies, while they diminish individual loss, they also blunt individual motives to secure the venture against risk, and in other ways tend to aggravate the perils of a marine life. We are creatures of so little sympathy with others, that so long as our own property and our own lives are secured, we leave the rest of the world to wag as it listeth. Ships are missing every day, the crew goes to the bottom; but the cargo is insured by one party and the vessel by another; and they who are interested in the life on board, go weepwhen old hopes are lost, and dry their tears when new ones spring up. But lately, a ship came within hail of a foundering vessel and struggling crew, as soon as it got an idea of distress, changed its course, and veered about, as a man would turn from the cholera. The sinking creatures, who were afterwards saved, could not explain a degree of inhumanity, apparently so wanton, till it was ascertained that the assistance the other vessel might have rendered in a high sea by approaching the one in distress, and taking off the crew, involving some portions of danger, would have forfeited the insurance, even in case of any subsequent misfortune. Vessels are constantly reported missing from every
port: the public are more indifferent to the fact than to a Bow-street case of pocket-picking or swindling. Nobody cares; it is nobody's business! but now, when they are told that a great part of this loss of life and property is not necessary, is no part of the inevitable peril of a sea-faring life, surely some inquiry will be set on foot-some sympathy excited for brave and useful men, unnecessarily exposed to danger and a horrid death.
Mr. Lister Maw avers that the persons employed in the navigation of merchantmen are unfit for the service, and the crews generally insufficient. No man ought to be entrusted with the lives of any number of his fellow citizens, without being pronounced a master of his business by a competent authority. And if merchants, under the feelings engendered by the insurance plan, feel no motive to provide their vessel with chronometers and other instruments, they should be made to do it by the legislature, which ought to come in always when individual motives fail and general interests alone are concerned.
We may just observe, that in France no man is entitled to command merchant-vessels without a certificate of competency granted by an Inspector of the coast, after repeated examinations; and that a distinction is made between a certificate entitling a person to command on a coasting voyage, called cabotage, and la longue course; for which higher nautical knowledge and longer experience are required.
IRISH AGRICULTURE.-The following piece of information has been received from Ireland by some of the newspapers.
"Michael Dillon Bellew, Esq., who has received the sixty-three monks of La Trappe at his seat in the county of Galway, till a permanent residence can be arranged for them, has ever been conspicuous for his endeavours to introduce agricultural improvements into that part of the country."
The only species of agriculture for which the Trappists are famous, we believe, is that of grave-digging. There will be sixty-three trenches dug on the Dillon estate; and if the proprietor waits long enough, they will be duly lined with a peculiar description of engraissement. This is an improvement in agriculture somewhat Hibernian.
BRISTOL STONES.-The ladies of Bristol have just now got into very bad repute they are accused of want of humanity, hardness of heart, and all manner of uncharitableness, because some reporter, or reporters, for the London Press, remarked that they did not duly ply the cambric handkerchief during the solemn ceremony of the sentence of death on the rioters. The power of these gentlemen is truly extraordinary; a stroke of the pen from a young man invested with no more than ordinary penetration, can raise a sort of outcry against the whole female population of an immense city. The reporter accuses the ladies of Bristol of being unfeeling; their inhumanity is then directly accounted for by other Journals: some assign as a cause, an equally sweeping charge of ugliness; and some again trace it all to slavery, and the miseries of the middle passage. For an enlightened, an educated, and a reasoning nation, we are marvellously given to the absurd!
In the first place, it is no proof of want of feeling that a person does not shed tears, more particularly when sensations of novelty and wonder are mixed up with sympathy for distress; and this combination of feeling is most likely to occur in the case of women, the greater part of whom, most probably, never witnessed a similar scene. Then again, suppose it had so happened, that curiosity overcame and suppressed all show of tenderness of heart, in the case of the ladies in this particular gallery, how absurd it is to take them for the whole of the ladies of Bristol: they might as well be taken for the whole sex.
It has always been remarked that women are eager spectators at executions, and it is said they assemble at them in great numbers; a charge which only means this that the vast majority of the crowd on such occasions are men, who think that the minority of women have no business there at all. The accusation of want of humanity in women, is like denying light to the sun they are composed of it, not only at Bristol, in England, but in every quarter of the globe. Let the reader call to mind the beautiful eulogy of the traveller Lediard on them, for the universal kindness and superior sympathy in distress above