Imágenes de páginas

Duke would say nothing; but the whole thing was managed with great system, and in perfect silence.

Kemble had, one night, sate very late at one of the potations of Norfolk House. Charles Morris had just retired, and a very small party remained in the dining-room, when his Grace began to deplore, somewhat pathetically, the smallness of the stipend, upon which poor Charles was obliged to support his family ;-observing, that it was a discredit to the age, that a' man, who had so long gladdened the lives of so many titled and opulent associates, should be left to struggle with the difficulties of an inadequate income at a time of life, when he had no reasonable hope of augmenting it. Kemble listened, as he told us, with great attention to the Duke's jeremiade ;-but, after a slight pause, his feelings, getting the better of his deference, he broke out thus, in a tone of peculiar emphasis " And does your Grace sincerely lament the destitute condition of your friend, with whom you have passed so many agreeable hours ? Your Grace has described that condition most feelingly. But is it possible, that the greatest peer of the realm, luxuriating amidst the prodigalities of fortune, should lament the distress which he does not relieve? The empty phrase of benevolence—the mere breath and vapour of generous sentiment become no man; they certainly are unworthy of your Grace. Providence, my Lord Duke, has placed you in a station, where the wish to do good and the doing it, are the same thing. An annuity from your overflowing coffers, or a small nook of land, clipped from your

unbounded domains, would scarcely be felt by your Grace ;but you would be repaid, my Lord, with usury; -with tears of grateful joy ;-with prayers warm from a bosom, which your bounty will have rendered happy." Such

the substance of Kemble's harangue. Jack Bannister used to relate the incident, by ingeniously putting the speech into blank verse, rather a species of numerous prose, into which Kemble's phraseology naturally fell when he was highly animated. But, however expressed, it produced its effect. For, though the Duke (the night was



pretty far gone, and several bottles had been emptied) said nothing at the time, but stared with some astonishment at so unexpected a lecture; not a month elapsed before Charles Morris was snugly invested in the beautiful retreat, that sequestered house, and the few acres smiling around it, to which I have alluded already. This, with a few other instances of similar benevolence, serve as pleasing contrasts to the general tenour of a character which, if nicely inspected, will be found almost uniformly selfish and sensual; but they are of too unfrequent recurrence to redeem it. Perhaps no man, except Charles the Second, of procreative memory,

diffused his Maker's image through the land”* more than his late Grace of Norfolk. Nor was he fastidiously delicate as to the moulds which fashioned his progeny. Most of them are remarkable for a gipsy tint, and Jewish confirmation of visage. To some of his natural children he was kind, but to others he gave no aid or protection. One of them who had received little or nothing from him in his

* Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel.

life-time, but had been taught to expect something at his death, vented his disappointment in this epitaph :

On Norfolk's tomb inscribe this placard,
He lived a beast, and died a blackguard.

You would hardly expect, in a Society consisting of twenty-five persons, that the conversation of all should be equally sprightly or intelligent; but in this, as in other clubs, there is a class of indirect contributors to the general festivity, who fill what may be termed useful underparts at the board ; like the Greek particles that, unmeaning as they appear, have their due share in the harmony and intonation of a Greek sentence. Of this class is old Walsh, who, from having sung these last thirty years an absurd song about “ lambkins playing,” has the prescriptive title of “ Gentle Shepherd.” Perhaps no man in the Sublime Society will make a chasm in it more difficult to fill up. Walsh is no slight adept in that semi-buffoonery so often observable in men of a certain standing, who are unwilling to forego the place they still retain in the societies of younger and brisker spirits. This serves him admirably as a succedaneum for wit, while it enables others to laugh at him with little or no expenditure of ingenuity or fancy; for such a being is himself a ready-made joke. At a table assembled to laugh, Walsh, therefore, is a treasure ; a soft, easy cushion for witlings to repose on, or for the inexperienced Tyro to break his first jests upon, without fear of giving offence, or of hurting a feeling. Every festive society has, more or less, a member or two of this class; men who are pleasant, but not pleasing ; liked by all, but respected by none. Yet they contribute to the amount of your mirthful sensations, and from being barely tolerated at first, win their way imperceptibly with you, till your social system would seem incomplete without them. It must be by some undefineable fascination of this nature, that Walsh has pushed himself so successfully along. However that may be, he has been one of the luckiest of the sons of Adam—if by luck is meant that perverse problem in the affairs of life-a man's reaching a degree of prosperity and independence, to which, at his first setting out, it

« AnteriorContinuar »