« AnteriorContinuar »
highest heaven of military glory—sometimes a poet, the admiration of the fair; and sometimes I possessed what then seemed to me, the sure means of perfect happiness—ten thousand a year. For days, and weeks, and months, and years, I hardly spoke an unnecessary word—I lived in a world of my own, and millions of thoughts, wishes, fears, and hopes; millions of impulses and impressions arose in my mind, and died away, without ever receiving a being through the medium of my tongue, or my pen.
The first born of the passions is love; and love is of earlier, as well as more vigorous growth, in solitude. I was always in love with some one; for love was indispensable to my visionary existence. It ended however, as it began, in abstract dreams, and amatory reveries. It is now my pride, to know that no woman was ever yet the wiser for my preference. My affection never manifested itself in any other way, than by increasing shyness. 1 never voluntarily came near a young woman at any time; but when I was in love, I always ran away. I would as soon have met a spirit, as the object of my affections. I was moreover much given to jealousy, and pique; always persuading myself against truth and reason, that the love of which I was myself so conscious, must of necessity be understood by her, from whom I was at such pains to keep it a secret. The history of my amours, with imaginary mistresses, and mistresses that never imagined my love, is curious; I may one day give it to the world. But my present object is different. I will therefore only say, that I grew up to the age of seventeen or eighteen, a sheer, abstract man—a being of thought, rather than action; a dweller in a world of my own curious and ridiculous composition; living neither in the past nor the present, but in the vast space before me. My companions were shadows of my own creation; my enjoyments were the production of these shadows. Yet, for all this, I became neither mad, nor an idiot. 1 seemed as if I was all this time preparing myself for realities; and that my sojournings in the world of fancy, imperceptibly initiated me into the material world. I cannot otherwise account for my early success in life, nor the miracle of escaping its shoals and quicksands.
At the age of seventeen or eighteen, I forgot which, I was sent for by an uncle who had married my mother's sister and who was a merchant of some note. At one step, I passed from the ideal to the material world. There is but one greater step, and that is from the material world to the world of spirits. My uncle was an honest, liberal, cross, gouty old Irish gentleman, with plenty of relations in Ireland he would not acknowledge, though they proved that they sprung from the same tree. He was an inordinate tory; a member of the Belvidere Club, and a mighty fish-enter at Becky's. When I first went to live with him, he was getting rather old and infirm. His hair was as white as snow; his face as rosy as the sun in a mist; his body robust to all appearance, and had it not been for his "damned legs" as he was pleased to say, he would have been as good a man as he was twenty years ago. There is certainly a great change in the world, within the last half century. People lived at least as well as they do now, and only got the gout—now they get Dyspepsy. Can any learned physician tell me the reason of this emigration of the old enemy, from the great toe to the stomach?
The old gentleman had a heart big enough to hold all the world, except the French, the Democrats, and the multiplicity of cousins, and second cousins, who claimed kindred there, and had not their claims allowed. He had in truth a most intolerable contempt for poor relations. I believe he would have served his wife's family the same way, but the truth is, my aunt was—but it is a great secret—she could make him do just as she pleased, for she was the best-natured creature in the world, and none but a brute can resist a kind-hearted woman. Being a relation, I was treated with a seat at the dinner-table. The old gentleman was reckoned one of the best livers in town, and here it was, I believe, that I laid the corner stone of my miseries. At home, there had been no temptation to gluttony—here there was a sad succession of allurements, such as human nature seldom can resist, even when experience has demonstrated their inconsequences, and Death sits shaking his dart over every successive delicacy.
People talk of the mischiefs of drinking; invent remedies and preventives, and institute societies, as if eating was not ten times more pernicious. There are a hundred die of eating to one that dies of drinking. But gluttony is the vice of gentlemen, and gentlemanly vices require neither remedies, preventives, nor societies. It is not necessary to my purpose that 1 should make a book out of my apprenticeship, as Goethe has; nor am I writing the history of my uncle, else I might tell some fine stories of his life, actions, and end. His latter years were spent as usual, in paying the penalty of former indulgences, and a complication of disorders carried him off in a green old age. In three months from the time of his death, half the county of Kilkenny claimed kindred with him. There were so many different claimants, that nobody but the lawyers could settle the matter. After three or four years, a decision was finally had in favour of a young man, who on taking possession, had the mortification to discover that nothing was left. The law hadbecome Juy uncle's heir. It is an excellent thing to have plenty of laws .-t>m! courts of law; but then one can have too much of a good thing, and pay too much for it. Tournefort, in his travels to the east, says, "An Italian once told me at Constantinople, that we should be very happy in Europe, if we could appeal from our courts to the divan; 'for,' added he, 'one might go to Constantinople, and all over Turkey too, if there were occasion, before one suit could be finally decided in Europe.' A Turk," continues M. Tournefort, "pleading before the parliament of Provence, against a merchant of Marseilles, who had led him a dance for many years from court to court, made a very merry reply to one of his friends, who desired to know the state of his affairs. 'Why, they are wonderfully altered,' says he; 'when I first arrived here I had a roll of pistoles as long as my arm, and my pleadings were comprised in a single sheet; but at present I have a writing above six times as long as my arm, and my roll of pistoles is but half an inch.'" I wish the lawgivers, the judges, and more especially the lawyers, would recollect that time is money, and that to waste both the time and the money of suitors, is a double oppression. A man might better get the bastinado promptly though wrongfully sometimes, than wait seven years for his rights, as in some Christian countries.
The death of my uncle was a lucky affair for me, as by it I lost the mischievous allurements of his table, and was thrown upon my own resources for a livelihood. Hard days make soft nights: and I soon found that the necessity of exertion, and the occasional difficulties in procuring a dinner, soon reinstated me in the possession of the only inheritence I received from my father, a hale constitution. It was my good fortune, as the world would call it, to meet with a young man of capital, who wanted a partner skilled in the business my uncle had followed. We accordingly entered into partnership, and our business proved exceedingly profitable. In a few years, I had more money than I required for my wants, and with the necessity of exertion ceased the inclination. When a man has been toiling for years to get rich, and dreaming all the while that riches will add to his enjoyments, he must try and realize his dreams, after his exertions have been crowned with success. I had proposed to myself a life of ease and luxury, as the reward of all my labours. Accordingly, finding myself sufficiently wealthy, I retired from the firm as an active partner, continuing, however, my name to the connexion, and receiving a share of the profits, in return for the use of my capital.
I am now my own master, said I, as I shook the dust of the counting house from my feet. I can do as I please, and go where I please. Now a man that has but one thing to do, and one place to go to, can never be in the predicament of the animal between two bundles of hay; nor puzzled to death in the midst of conflicting temptations. At first, 1 thought of going to Europe; but before I could make up my mind, the packet had sailed, and before another was ready I had altered my mind. Next, I decided for the Springs; then for the Branch : then for Schooley's mountain, and then, in succession, for every other "resort of beauty and fashion," in these United States. In conclusion, I went to none of them. I made but two excursions: one to the Fireplace, to catch trout, where I caught an ague; and the other to Sing Sing, to see the new State prison, where I missed the ague and caught a bilious fever. Thus the summer had passed away, and I may say 1 did nothing but eat. That is an enjoyment, in which both ease and luxury are combined, and my indisposition had left behind a most voracious appetite. Towards the latter end of autumn, I began to feel, I can scarcely tell how. I slept all the evening, and lay awake all the night; or if I fell asleep, always dreamed I was suffocating between two feather beds. I was plagued worse than poor Pharaoh. I had aches of all sorts; stiff necks, pains in the shoulders, sides, back, loins, head, breast; in short, there never was a man so capriciously used by certain inexplicable, unaccountable infirmities as I was. I dare say I had often felt the same pains before, without thinking of them, because I was too busy to mind trifles; for it is a truth which my experience has since verified, that the most ordinary evils of life are intolerable, without the stimulus of some active pursuit, to draw us from their perpetual contemplation. What was very singular, I never lost my appetite all this time, but ate more plentifully than ever. Indeed eating was almost the only amusement I had, ever since I became a man of pleasure; and it was only while eating, that I lost the sense of those innumerable pains that tormented me at other times.
I went to a physician, who gave me directions as to the various modes of treatment in these cases. "You are dyspeptic,'' said he, "and you must either eat less, exercise more, take physic, or be sick." As to eating less, that was out of the question. "What is the use of being rich, unless a man can eat as much as he likes; as to exercise, what is the use of being rich if a man can't be as lazy as he pleases. The alternative lay between being sick or taking physic, and I chose the latter. The physician shook his head and smiled, but it is not the doctor's business to discourage the taking of physic, and he prescribed accordingly. I took medicines, I ate more than ever, and what quite discouraged me, I grew worse and worse. I sent for the doctor ngain. tiYou have tried physic in vain; suppose you try exercise on horseback," said he.
I bought a horse, cantered away every morning like a hero, and ate more than ever; for what was the use of exercise except to give one impunity in eating? I never worked half so hard when I was an apprentice, and not worth a groat, as I did now I was a gentleman of ease and luxury. It was necessary, the doctor said, that the horse should be a hard trotter; and accordingly I bought one that trotted so hard, that he actually broke the paving stones in Broadway, and struck fire at every step. O, reader! gentle reader, if thou art of Christian bowels, pity me! I was dislocated in every joint, and sometimes envied St Barnabas his gridiron. But I will confess that the remedy proved not a little efficacious, and it is my firm opinion that had I persevered, I should have been cured in time, had I not taken up a mistaken notion, that a man who exercised a great deal, might safely eat a great deal. Accordingly, I ate by the mile, and every mile I rode furnished an apology for a farther indulgence of appetite. The exercise and the eating being thus balanced, I remained just where I was before.
I sent for the physician again. "You have tried medicine and exercise, suppose you try a regimen. Continue the exercise; eat somewhat less: confine yourself to plain food, plainly dressed; abstain from rich sauces, all sorts of spices, pastes, confectionaries, and puddings, particularly plum puddings, and generally every kind of luxury, and drink only a glass or two of wine." "Why, zounds! doctor, I might as well be a poor man at once! Why, what is the use of being rich, if I can't eat and drink, and do just as I like? Besides, I am particularly fond of sauces, spices, and plum puddings." "Why so you may do as you like," replied he, smiling. "You have your choice between Dyspepsy and all these good things."
The doctor left me to take my choice, and after great and manifold doubts, resolutions, and retractions, I decided on trying the effects of this most nauseating remedy. I practised the most rigid self-denial; tasted a little of this, a very little of that, a morsel of the other, and ate moderately of every thing on the table; cheating myself occasionally by tasting slyly a bit of confectionary, or a slice of plum pudding. Now and then, indeed, when I felt better than usual, I indulged more freely, as indeed I had a right to do; for what is the use of starving atone time, except to enable one's self to indulge at another? The physician came one day to dine with me at my boarding house, the most famous eating place in the whole city, and the most capital establishment for Dyspepsy. He came, he said, on purpose to see how I followed his prescription. I was extremely abstinent that day, only eating a mouthful of every thing, now and then. The doctor, I observed, played a glorious knife