« PreviousContinue »
that being forced in 1823 to visit London, for purposes of literary toil, and suffering from extreme physical depression, increased by grief at what seemed a state of permanent exile from his Westmoreland home,so powerful was his "feeling of some long never-ending separation from his family" (his "three eldest children at that time in the most interesting stages of childhood and infancy"), that "at length, in pure weakness of mind," he was "obliged to relinquish his daily walks in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, from the misery of seeing children in multitudes, that too forcibly recalled his own. The picture of Fox-ghyll, my Westmoreland abode, and the solitary fells about it, upon which those were roaming whom I could not see, was for ever before my eyes.”* Beside this, place an excerpt from the opium-dreams-where monstrous scenery of the East revolted the dreamer-evil eye'd birds, snakes, and crocodiles, tormenting his sleep-especially "the abominable head of the crocodile, and his leering eyes," under a thousand repetitions of which the dreamer stood loathing and fascinated: "And so often did this hideous reptile haunt my dreams, that many times the very same dream was broken up in the very same way: I heard gentle voices speaking to me . . . and instantly I awoke: it was broad noon; and my children were standing, hand in hand, at my bed-side; come to show me their coloured shoes, or new frocks, or to let me see them dressed for going out. I protest that so awful was the transition from the damned crocodile, and the other unutterable monsters and abortions of my dreams, to the sight of innocent human natures and of infancy, that, in the mighty and sudden revulsion of mind, I wept, and could not forbear it, as I kissed their faces."†
Understand, then, reader, the intensity of anguish such a nature was susceptible of, when assailed in that particular direction-therethere, where he had garner'd up his heart;
Where either he must live, or bear no life.
And interpret thereafter the profound measure of his suffering, when household love was the treasure imperilled or wrecked. Learn thereby how crushing a burden of grief the Opium-eater's dreams imposed on him, when, amid such thickly-serried horrors of imagery, his ear would be startled by "trepidation, as of female and infant steps that fled," and "ah! rushing, as of wings that chased,"‡ when, after mystic hurryings to and fro, of innumerable fugitives, and tumultuous processions and interminglings of darkness and lights, tempests and human faces, there would come "at last, and with the sense that all was lost, female forms, and the features that were worth all the world to me, and but a moment allowed, and clasped hands, and heart-breaking partings, and theneverlasting farewells! and with a sigh, such as the caves of hell sighed when the incestuous mother uttered the abhorred name of Death, the sound was reverberated-everlasting farewells; and again, and yet again reverberated-everlasting farewells!
"And I awoke in struggles, and cried aloud-'I will sleep no more."" §
To this appalling record of visionary, but not unreal, woe-almost overcharged with what is dreadful and "curdling" in the sublime-we annex, as a last illustration of our general meaning, a passage electric in
* Recollections of Charles Lamb. No. II. (Autobiography of an E. O. E.) 1838. † Confessions. Part II. Vision of Sudden Death. (1849.) $ Confessions. Part II.
every syllable with reality-a passionate memorial of harrowing experiences-than which we remember no passage more painfully characteristic, more idiosyncratically pathetic, more wildly wailing, in all the writings of Thomas de Quincey. He has been speaking of the impression produced by the love of woman-there recurs to him, in thus speaking, an echo of "young, melodious laughter"-he recals "years through which," he piteously says, "a shadow as of sad eclipse sate and rested upon my faculties; years through which I was careless of all but those who lived within my inner circle, within my heart of hearts;' years-ah! heavenly years!-through which I lived, beloved! with thee, to thee, for thee, by thee! Ah! happy, happy years! in which I was a mere football of reproach, but in which every wind and sounding hurricane of wrath or contempt flew by like chasing enemies past some defying gates of adamant, and left me too blessed in thy smiles-angel of life!-to heed the curses or the mocking which sometimes I heard raving outside of our impregnable Eden; .. ... as much abstracted from all which concerned the world outside . . . as though I had lived with the darlings of my heart in the centre of Canadian forests, and all men else in the centre of Hindostan"..... "O heart, why art thou disquieted? Tempestuous, rebellious heart! ah, wherefore art thou still dreaming of things so long gone by? of expectations that could not be fulfilled, that, being mortal, must, in some point, have a mortal taint! Empty, empty thoughts! vanity of vanities! Yet no, not always; for sometimes, after days of intellectual toil, when half the whole world is dreaming-I wrap my head in the bed-clothes,.... and then through blinding tears I see again that golden gate; again I stand waiting at the entrance; until dreams come that carry me once more to the Paradise beyond."+
Shall we comment on this outburst, in our puny right of criticaster? Pshaw, criticaster! add not thereto, lest thou diminish from it. Or indite a peroration to this paper? Pshaw, criticaster! forget thy puling self; and if thy hands are not to thine eyes, lay thy hands upon thy mouth.
* Greatly would this extract gain in import by our supplying the context. But, apart from the limits of space, from which we have allowed so many preceding extracts to suffer, this context involves distressing associations, now connected with the illustrious dead.
† Lake Reminiscences. (1839.)
Limits de jure, already de facto transgressed, forbid absolutely the insertion we had meditated of other and miscellaneous illustrations of the Opium-eater's pathos. An interesting example of his singular capacity of grief, and of giving sorrow words (in impassioned review), we can now only refer to, in his story of the early death of Catherine Wordsworth, and its stunning effect on himself, making him "like one," in Shelley's words,
"Like one who loved beyond his Nature's law,
And in despair had cast him down to die,"
on the child's new-made grave. Let the reader who would follow up the subject, examine (among the papers we had marked for extract) "The Household Wreck" (1838), parts of "Joan of Arc" (1847), and the " Nautico-Military Nun of Spain" (1847), the introduction to the essay on Sir William Hamilton (1852), &c., besides the " Suspiria," the "Lake Reminiscences," and the opening volume of the collected (or rather selected) works, now in course of publication. The second volume of which is due this present month (August).
BY H. SPICER, Esq.,
AUTHOR OF SIGHTS AND SOUNDS."
THE capacious and cheerful servants' hall in the mansion of worthy Mr. Lovelands, one of the lesser merchant-princes of Lancashire, exhibited on the evening of the 20th of November, 1852, an aspect greatly at variance with the looks and occupation of Madam Nature without. She, good lady, with her cap torn to ribbons, her hair about her ears, her whole attire sadly discomposed, and herself altogether as unlike as possible to the trim housewife she arose, was in the very thick of one of those sudden storms that so often disarrange her domestic economy. She had been extremely hysterical since noon; had, during the last paroxysm, completely exhausted herself with alternate raving and moaning; and, at the moment our tale opens, was sullenly weeping over the remnants of her autumn pride, now scattered in every direction, over terrace, lawn, and glade.
Could Mr. G. P. R. James have peeped through the storm-beaten casement into the ruddy world within, it might have suggested to him a pleasing variation upon the inn parlour in which are seated the immortal two, refreshing their duality with the indestructible pasty, flanked by its faithful ally, the evergreen flagon of mellow October.
It really seemed absurd, that easy, gentle, charitable Mr. Lovelands, should have ever made his comfortable fortune by iron! He was a model master; that is to say, in retiring from business, he permitted his businesshabits to retire from him. His butler, housekeeper, and coachman, arranged all financial matters in a joint-committee, and the books were regularly audited by master every Saturday-a process simple enough, it being comprised in drawing forth his cheque-book and disbursing whatever the total happened to be. No wonder his servants loved him, and his excellent lady, and his amiable son, Mr. Peter, and permitted no living soul to rob him-but themselves.
On the occasion we speak of, there were assembled in ante-prandial chat, or cogitation, the following members of the lower, and, as sometimes happens, more powerful house, viz., Mrs. Plumbly, housekeeper (with a private room, when she chose to assert her dignity); Mrs. Turnover, cook; Miss Jessy, lady's-maid; Miss Poke, kitchen ditto; Mr. Thomas, footman (and arbiter elegantiarum); Mr. Wrumble, coachman; Mr. Harry, groom; and Master Buttons, page and tea-boy. Mr. Bam, the butler, was absent on a special summons to the upper house, and his return, as the signal for supper, was looked for with considerable impatience.
Mr. Thomas, who took in his master's papers, was seated in an attitude at once easy and graceful, on the dresser, and had been beguiling the tardy moments with snatches of news, addressed from time to time to the company present. We take up the conversation at the conclusion of a paragraph apparently of more than common interest.
"Well, I never!" said Mrs. Turnover.
Mr. Thomas continued to read :-" Muster Holford is at present in Ameriky
Ojous villins!" burst in Poke. could get at the plate unbeknown."
"They knew it, and thought they
"It is supposed as a hentrance was affected by means of a jemmy.' "Ah, that Jemmy!" remarked the housekeeper. "Oh, James, James, I've heerd of you before. You seems to know the way into everybody's house. Buttons, don't forget the window-bell in master's study to-night."
No, mum," responded Buttons.
"What were you reading about the villin in the bush, Mr. Thomas ?" asked the cook.
"He hid himself there, Mrs. Turnover, when he saw Muster Paul, the butler, and his six men; and as he seemed to be unarmed, and cried for mercy, Muster Paul thought it was all right, and, like a brave Briton, walked up and shot him through the head. He's killed!" "And I hope it will be a warning to him," said Mrs. Plumbly, who was slightly deaf, and had lost the concluding words. "But where was the pelisse ?"
"The pelisse," said Thomas, referring to the paper, "were extremely active on the following morning.' Yes, that's always the Lon'on way. The day after the shindy."
Shindy, Mr. Thomas!" said Jessy; "'ow vulgar!"
"Well," said Thomas, insensible to the reproof, "I hopes Muster Holford will behave handsome. Servants expects to be paid for beating off thieves. There's such temptations to be dishonest!" "That's very true, Thomas," sighed the cook.
dripping, it's hard to keep one's fingers clean."
"Ev'n in the matter of
"And," observed Poke, "service, you know, Mr. Thomas, is no"Inheritance, you were about to say, Miss Poke," said Thomas, loftily. No, ma'am, I hope it is not. I don't want my progenitors, for inborn ages, to sport the plush. If I demean myself-if I, Thomas Pippington, forget myself so far as to scrub dining-tables and answer bells, it is simply because
Here the bell
"I can't help it," concluded Thomas, as he quitted the room.
"Well," said the housekeeper, "I'm in hopes that queer visitor is going at last. Yes, there's the parlour door. Well, Thomas?" she continued, as he re-appeared.
Thomas was more elegant than ever.
"I shall reelly disregeeard the parlour-bell," he said, affectedly, "if master is not more considerate to one's feelin's. Mr. Bam is to open the door, and he was listening at the parlour keyhole, to be ready. When he comes, we shall have a chance of supper.'
Bam," growled Mr. Wrumble, who was sitting by the fire, "is the man for my money. If this 'ere house was 'tempted now, and thieves was lurking in bushes a-crying for mercy, he'd just shoot 'em all, and no mistake."
"Hooray!" said Buttons, excited.
"He's the coolest man, Bam," said Jessy. "Don't you remember
that night when the old picture came lumbering down, and we all ran shrieking about, how hard it was to get him to take the trouble to wake and see what was the matter? Nothing ever frightens him. He's more like a banditty than a butler."
"Yes, drat that Bam," said the cook, in corroboration; "if a boorconstructor was to march into this kitchen, and sit down on the dresser, he wouldn't move-not he."
"Hooray!" said Buttons.
"Hush, Buttons," said Jessy. "Here he is."
And so, indeed, he was, but with such an aspect as induced every one present (Wrumble excepted, who had sunk into a soft slumber) to start to their feet in alarm and agitation scarcely less than his own. "Parlour chimney a-fire?" exclaimed the housekeeper. "Missis in a fit?" shrieked Jessy.
"The cob ain't cast hisself, sure-ly?" said Harry, half in soliloquy. The butler gazed wildly round, and sank into the nearest chair.
"Neither cob nor chimley," he gasped out, with difficulty. "Butbut-Master Peter's taken up, and he's going in the coach to Lon'on, for to be tried!"
"Master Peter!" « Tried !" "Lon'on !" "Taken up!" "That gentle creeter, as never harmed a babe unborn!"
Such were some of the ejaculations which burst from the astonished circle.
"It's true," resumed Mr. Bam, growing somewhat calmer. "I have just let the villin out that did it-little Tadpole, the lawyer's clerk, at Maldon."
"Him! That hop-o'-my-thumb !" said Harry, scornfully. "I'd stuff him into my jacket pocket; only," added Harry, on consideration, "being a 'torney, he'd steal the browns."
"He's the law's ambassager, as we may say, gentlemen," observed Mr. Bam, with an air of some severity, "and, consequentially, entitled to be spoke of respectfully-the little beast! He had the impudence to wish me good evening as he went out, and that after I had seen him go up to Master Peter, and give him the spœner."
"Did it hurt him much?" asked Poke.
"Not at all," returned Mr. Bam. "He put it in his pocket." "Ah, he was always a weak-sperretted creeter," sighed the housekeeper.
"Excuse me, Mr. Bam," said Thomas, "perhaps-eh-these ladies might like to know exactly what a spœner is."
"A spœner, ladies," said the butler, "is a sort of polite message, inviting you in the Queen's name-God bless her!-to come forward and explain why you would rather not be transported for life." "Transported! Hooray!" shouted the excitable Buttons, whose ideas of transportation only suggested a row of some description. "Be silent, boy," said Mr. Bam, severely. “But master and missis,” said Mrs. Turnover. "Nothing. Master started like, and then he of wine."
"Surely, Mr. Bam, you mistake," said Jessy. be so polite to
"What did they do?" offered Tadpole a glass
"Master would never