Imágenes de páginas

the time, without being told that this very work, the master-piece of his genius, was neglected by his contemporaries. Now, Mr. Editor, I contend we are not a jot better than our forefathers. It is true we do not wear wigs, unless from necessity-lawyers and divines excepted; and we have, thanks to the great Mr. Pitt, left off hair-powder ; yet I am convinced our national taste has been retrograding for the last thirty years. In my younger days, though in many respects we were ridiculous and uncouth, there were few of those violations of sentiment, so prevalent at the present time, in transformations of every article of furniture and dress into its contrary, and thus creating unpleasant, if not painful associations. Nothing can be more unpardonable, more barbarous ; and woe unto the artists, if they possess merit, who live among such a people. I foresee that nothing great can be done in England. This utter disregard of taste is proof palpable of our incivilization. Those monstrous metamorphoses, towards which I always felt the most feverish antipathy, stare me in the face at every turn. What! I find you still make your tables for backgammon, that noisy game for idlers, in the shape of two quiet-looking studious folios; do you not blush at such an everlasting enormity? And you have not yet forsworn that old sin, a pine-apple cheese: how, in the name of hot-beds and dairies, can you reconcile so juicy a fruit to that thirsty accompaniment to ale and 'porter? No, never will I forgive such perverse crimes. I knew a lady, estimable in other respects, who, on a sultry summer's day, began, in my presence, to ventilate herself with a fan, whereon was painted an eruption of Mount Vesuvius-what a sudorific! Before my honey-moon was half over, I nearly quarrelled with my wife about her pincushion; it was in the shape of a heart, and it made my blood run cold to see her stick pins and needles in it, and that too with so unconcerned a countenance. But these are trifles to what I endured yesterday; and as once I made a vow, in the event of my travelling on the Continent, never to visit Madrid, on account of its gridiron-palace, so I now solemnly promise never to return to London, and its wilful discrepances.

Within half an hour after the coach had set me down, I sallied forth, in my new coat, and with a clean cravat, to my cousin's in Queen Square. Now, though he had called on me in Wales, and stayed with me nearly three days, yet, as that took place nine years ago, I could not drive from my mind a suspicion that I might not be well received. In the midst of these doubts I arrived at his door,—when lo! a head of a maniac grinned at me from the knocker, as if placed there to scare away both friends and relations. This shocked me not a little. I am aware it is the office of a gentleman always to give a loud flourishing rap; nevertheless, under the circumstances, I preferred ringing the bell, and entered the house with a gloom upon my face, extremely unsuitable to the occasion. However I experienced a more cordial welcome than is generally bestowed by a rich man on his poor

relation, though I instantly perceived there was a snake in his bosom, which he wore as a brooch. After a round of inquiries and compliments, I was asked to sit near the fire; when my attention was directed towards the figure of a negro, in the middle of the mantle-piece, bearing on his back a basket, on the side of which appeared a time-piece. I ventured to give an opinion that old father Time, with his scythe and

hour-glass, would be more appropriate; when my cousin laughed at my antique notions, and called this new idea “a very pretty one and uncommonly droll.” To this I returned no answer, but got up for the purpose of examining into some more "pretty ideas” to the right and left of the negro. There I found castles with hyacinths growing out of the turrets, an ink-stand like a cottage, with pens thrust into the chimney-pots, two Cupids with candle-sockets jammed into their brains, and ships for card-racks, where a Mrs. Thompson was hanging from the yard-arm, and a Reverend Mr. Somebody lying upside down in the stern. I was astounded, and looking round the room, saw death-doing spears and Egyptian mummies about the window curtains, the pattern of a comfortable carpet in imitation of cold marble, and a tiger on the hearth-rug. You may imagine my sufferings, and will give me credit for forbearance, for hitherto I said nothing, but bit my lips, and fumed inwardly. As a temporary relief, 1 began to play with the eldest boy, and this familiarity induced him to shew me papa's present,-a knife in the shape of a greyhound. It struck me it was an emblematic reward for his skill in running-hand, but still I thought it a silly conceit;-worse and worse ! the boy was not out of round-hand. My notice of the greyhound was the occasion of his younger brother's pulling out his knife, which was offered to my admiration in the shape of a fish. I quitted the urchins with disgust, and sat down by the side of their sister, who was busy at needle-work. The beauty of this girl banished all disagreeable reflections, until I discovered that the little cat upon the table was her pincushion. Just at that moment the father invited me to take a pinch of snuff, and, turning round suddenly, I was horror-struck to see a double-barrelled pistol presented at my body! Soon afterwards he produced his handkerchief, and sneezed on the battle of Waterloo. The more to exasperate me, I was compelled to listen to his account of the Elgin Marbles, telling me I should be enraptured, and lauding them to the skies with a mawkish pretence at enthusiasm. When dinner was served up, the soup tureen was a goose, the butter-boats a pair of ducks, the salt-cellars foot-tubs, with handles, staves, and hoops, all cut in glass; and I observed, among other animals on my blue-and-white plate, a pig feeding out of a trough. After the cloth was removed, I began to expostulate, at some length, with my cousin upon his bad taste, enumerating the many deplorable evidences of it, and entreating him, in the mildest manner in the world, to throw them behind the fire. To my astonishment he let me know they were quite the fashion every where, and expressed so much displeasure at my comments, which I could not but treat with contempt, that our conversation was fast fretting itself into a quarrel. We were interrupted by the lady of the house, who, swayed by an awkward feeling of politeness, made a show of taking my side of the question. I knew her to be insincere, because she wore, as ear-rings, a couple of puppies curiously carved in cornelian ; but her interference so angered the husband, that I got a reprieve from his tongue at her expense. A dead silence ensued; and, collecting all my philosophy, I determined not to provoke him farther, seeing it was of no avail, and remained quiet till tea-time. Heavens! what a display! The milk-pot was a cow, and the tea-pot a dragon, from whose horrid mouth the “smoking tide” was to gush forth; the urn was exactly like one of those which used to contain the ashes of the dead; a lachrymal served them for a cotfee-pot; and there was a painting on the tea-board which represented the funeral of the Princess Charlotte. I rose indignantly from my chair, and insisted upon leaving the house. The lady declared she was confounded at my refusal to take a bed, that the sheets were—“bed-sheets!” I exclaimed, (for how could I controul myself?) " a bier and winding-sheets you mean, —they can be nothing else! But, cousin, let me give you a little advice at parting Every man ought to be consistent, even in his inconsistencies. There is one piece of furniture, the piano-forte, quite out of keeping with the rest. Agreeably to your “ pretty ideas," let it be moulded into the form of a coffin, plentifully studded with black nails, and adorned with death’s-heads and cross-bones at the corners ;—and buy also a pall, in lieu of that leathern cover, to keep it clean; you can get one at the undertaker's !" With these words I hurried out of the house, without bidding adieu to my host or his dog's-eared wife, and tumbled against a boy

at the door, who was bringing a sarcophagus for a wine-cooler. The poor boy was hurt to be sure, but I rejoice at the accident, for I broke the sarcophagus.

Alas! Sir, my miseries did not end in Queen Square. I had a dream in the Saracen's-head, to which a night-mare were a luxury. Owing to that foolish cousin of mine having held forth in praise of the Elgin Marbles, and in defence of his perverted taste, I laid my head on my pillow with such a confusion in my brain, that scarcely had I fallen asleep before I thought I went to the British Museum, where Pericles, in the costume of a parish beadle, opened the door, and made me a profound bow. Upon entering the room, I found it thronged with Athenians, all in English characters and English dresses, and talking Greek in a broad Scotch accent, so that it was with difficulty I could understand them. The figure that first caught my eye was a harlequin, rolling his head over his own shoulders, and then leaping over the shoulder of others,—it was Socrates. Presently I discovered Diogenes, turned Dandy, and combing his whiskers in a pocket-mirror. I heard a bawling voice behind me cry out--"Oh, such marchings and counter-marchings ! from Brentford to Ealing, from Ealing to Acton, from Acton to Uxbridge!"-and, turning round, I recognised Xenophon in the character of Major Sturgeon.., Zeno and Epicurus, looking sly at each other, walked arm-in-arm like two archbishops ; and Plato, in the uniform of a light-horse volunteer, talked with infinite disdain against Brougham's Bill for the Education of the poor. Alcibiades, as a stock-jobber, put down his name to the Constitutional Association; and Lais, as an old maid, paid her subscription to the Society for the Suppression of Vice. I should have touched my hat to many more of my classical acquaintances, had it not been that, all at once, the attention of every body was directed to the middle of the room, where, slowly and gravely, the ghost of Phidias arose from the floor. His finger pointed to the several spoils of the Parthenon, and then he burst into so violent a fit of laughter, that he split his sides to pieces. I looked up, and saw that Apelles had just finished a “fine piece of work,” as the company called it:-he had daubed the Ceutaurs and Lapithæ with flesh-colour, given them red cheeks and staring eyes, and made all their broken limbs appear like so many bloody stumps. But not only were they painted, they also wore head-dresses of cocked hats, hussar caps, and old women's bonnets. The Theseus had the Lord Chancellor's wig, hind part before; and an Athenian matron was busily employed in nailing the Duke of Wellington's head on the trunk of the Ilissus,—the noise of her hammer awoke me.

O that I were again in Pembrokeshire! ot for the world would I venture among the Elgin Marbles, lest there should be some distorting object, something to occasion a squint in “my mind's eye,” and recal the horrors of my last night's dream. Nor will I have any thing to do with your exhibitions,—no, nor with your grand new streets ; for I have a suspicion that all the orders of architecture, and all the different styles, Grecian, Saxon, Gothic, and Arabesque, are jumbled together in the same buildings; and, for aught I know, there may be a Chinese pagoda on one of your bridges. I return to my wife by today's coach, and this letter serves to employ my time till it sets off, and to give vent to my spleen.

Saracen's Head Inn, Wednesday 13th March.


P.S. I promised Mrs. P a present from London, and it was my intention to purchase a pair of scissors; but I suppose it is impossible to procure any in this city, unless in the shape of the fatal sister Atropos, with her arms a-kimbo for the bows. If so, I must make my "quietus with a bare bodkin,"—they cannot surely have metamorphosed that.


A ROGUISH old Lawyer was planning new sin,

As he lay on his bed in a fit of the gout,
The inails and the day-light were just coming in,

The milkmaids and rushlights were just going out:-
When a Chimney-sweep's boy, who had made a mistake,

Came flop down the Aue with a cluttering rush,
And bawld, as he gave his black muzzle a shake,

My master's a coming to give you a brush."
“ If that be the case," said the cunning old elf,

“ There's no moment to lose—it is high time to flee;
Ere he gives me a brush, I will brush off myself,

If I wait for the Devil, the Devil take me!"
So he limp'd to the door without saying his prayers ;

But Old Nick was too deep to be nick'd of his prey,
For the knare broke his neck by a tumble down stairs,

And thus ran to the Devil by running away.


SELECTIONS FROM ANCIENT SPANISH POETRY.* The ballads, and early compositions of every country, are interesting, as the most open and unstudied expression of natural feeling. They are the first accents of the infant muse, and they breathe the winning simplicity and artlessness of childhood. Like the language of infancy, they reveal to us the character of a nation, before its peculiarities become disguised by the influence of external intercourse and the cautious reserve of riper years. There can be no more lamentable proof of poetical insensibility in any nation, than the neglect of its early productions; that nervous delicacy of goût, which seeks to consign every thing to oblivion until the arrival of some favoured era, which is considered as the advent of good taste, and to hold out to other nations the opinion, that with it Poetry sprang forth at once, armed at all points, like Minerva from the brain of Jupiter. It is as if man, in the pride of his reason and judgment; should wish to blot from the tablet of memory all the bright visions of youth, and to persuade himself and others that he had never been a child. But could he even succeed in thus deluding himself, others will recollect that there was a time when nature and simplicity prevailed instead of the present cold and laborious precision—when a certain audacity of genius supplied the place of a faultless mediocrity; and will question whether the loss of the freshness and originality of nature has been compensated by the improvement of judgment, and the refinement of taste. Thus it is, that while the French critics of the Academy scarcely deigned to recognize the existence of any poet antecedent to the age of Louis the Fourteenth, and confidently decreed universal admiration and immortality to the writers of that happy period, foreigners bestow but a cold and passing glance on most of these immortal productions, and turn with enthusiasm to the simplicity and pathos of Clement Marot, and his more celebrated imitator, La Fontaine. We will venture to say there is no piece in the whole range of French poetry so exquisitely pathetic, as the old ballad of Alexis and Alix, by Moncrif. flow of the verse almost calls tears into the eyes. Moliere was well aware of the merit of these old compositions. The readers of the “ Misantrope” will recollect the fine stanzas quoted by Alcestis, in his critique on the sonnet of Orontes :

“Je prise bien moins tout ce que l'on admire
Qu'une vieille chanson, que je m'en vais vous dire.
+ Si le Roi m'avoit donné

Paris sa grande ville,
Et qu'il me fallut quitter
L'amour de ma mie;

The very

* Floresta de Rimas Antiguas Castellanas, ordenada por Don Juan Nicolas Böhl de Faber, de la Real Academia Española, Hamburgo 1821. + These stanzas are happily rendered in the English translation

“ If King Henry would give to me

His Paris large and fair,
And I for it beboved to quit

The love of my true dear :
Take back, I'd say, take back, I pray,

Your Paris great and fair ;
Much more I love my own true dove-

Much more I love my dear."

« AnteriorContinuar »