« AnteriorContinuar »
caricature. He nsver deigned to join in the laugh that he had raised, nor seemed to have a feeling of the ridicule he had provoked. At the same time that he was pre-eminently and by preference the butt and buffoon of the company, he could find openings for hits of retaliation which were such left-handed thrusts as few could parry. Nobody could foresee where they would fall, nobody, of course, was fore-armed; and as there was in his calculation but one super-eminent character in the kingdom of Ireland, and he, the printer of the 'Dublin Journal,' there was no shield against George's arrows, which flew where he listed, and hit or missed as chance directed, he cared not about consequences.
"He gave good meat and excellent claret in abundance; I sat at his table once from dinner till two in the morning, while George swallowed immense potations with one solitary sodden strawberry in the bottom of the glass, which he said was recommended to him for its cooling properties. He never lost his recollection or equilibrium the whole time, and was in excellent foolery; it was a singular coincidence, that there was a person in company who had received his reprieve at the gallows, and the very judge who had passed sentence of death upon him. This did not in the least disturb the harmony of the society nor embarrass any human creature present. All went off perfectly smooth, and George, adverting to an original portrait of Dean Swift, which hung in the room, told us abundance of excellent and interesting anecdotes of the Dean and himself, with minute precision and an importance irresistibly ludicrous. There was also a portrait of his late lady, Mrs. Faulkner, which either made the painter or George a liar, for it was frightfully ugly, while he swore she was the most divine object in creation. George prosecuted Foote for lampooning him on the stage of Dublin. His counsel, the Prime Serjeant, compared him to Socrates, and his libeler to Aristophanes. This, I believe, was all that George got by his course of law, but he was told that he had the best of the bargain in the comparison, and sat contented under the shadow of his laurels."
The account of Soame Jenyns is no less happy.
"A disagreement about a name or a date will mar the best story that ever was put together. Sir Joshua Reynolds luckily would not hear an interrupter of this sort; Johnson would not hear, or if he heard, would not heed him. Soame Jenyns heard him, heeded him, set him right, and took up his tale where he had left it without any diminution of its humor, adding only a few more twists to his snuff-box, a few more taps upon the lid of it, with a preparatory grunt or two, the invariable forerunner of the amenity that was at the heels of them. He was the man who bore his part in all societies with the most even temper and undisturbed hilarity of any man I ever knew. He came into your house at the very moment you had put upon your card; he dressed himself, to do your party honor, in all the colors of the jay; his lace, indeed, had long since lost its luster, but his coat had faithfully retained its cut since the days when gentlemen wore embroidered figured velvets, with short sleeves, high cuffs, and buckram skirts. As Nature had cast him in the exact mold of an ill-made pair of stiff stays, he followed her so close in the fashion of his coat, that it was doubted if he did not wear them; because he had a protuberant wen just under his poll, he wore a wig that did not cover above half his head. His eyes were protruded like the eyes of the lobster, who wears them at the end of his feelers, and yet there was room between one of these and his nose for another wen, that added nothing to his beauty. Yet I heard this good man very innocently remark, when Gibbon published his history, that he wondered anybody so ugly could write a book.
"Such was the exterior of a man who was the charm of the circle, and gave a zest to every company he came into. His pleasantry was of a sort peculiar to himself; it harmonized with everything; it was like the bread to your dinner; you did not perhaps make it the whole or principal part of your meal, but it was an admirable and wholesome auxiliary to your other viands. Soame Jenyns told you no long stories, engrossed not much of your attention, and was not angry with those who did. His thoughts were original, and were apt to have a very whimsical affinity to the paradox in them. There was a terseness in his repartees that had a play of words as well as of thought, as when speaking of the difference of laying out money upon land, or purchasing into the funds, he said ' One was principal without interest, and the other interest without principal.'"
Although the serious part of " The Wheel of Fortune," that is to say, the whole character of Penruddock is admirably conceived and admirably written (the recollection of John Kemble in that play can never be erased), Mr. Cumberland's power seemed to desert him whenever he attempted tragedy or verse of any sort. His lines on "Affectation," which have great merit, form the only exception that I remember to this assertion; certainly his epic of "Calvary" does not; neither does his share in the " Richard Coeur de Lion, of Sir James Bland Burgess."
Why, Affectation, why this mock grimace?
Why that soft languish t Why that drawling tone 1
Can they deceive us? Can such mummeries move,
A great part of Mr. Cumberland's amusing work is taken up by an account of his disastrous mission in Spain, which, undefined in its object, and unsuccessful in its result, brought nothing but disappointment to the Government or the negotiator. After his return from Madrid, he fell back upon literature, and closed a long and varied life in an advanced age at Tunbridge Wells.
MRS. CLIVE, MRS. ACTON TINDAL, MISS DAY,
There never was a more remarkable contrast between the temperament of the poetess and the temperament of the woman, than that which exists between the thoughtful gravity, the almost gloomy melancholy that characterizes the writings of that celebrated initial letter, the "V." of "Blackwood's Magazine," and the charming, cheerful, light-hearted lady, known as Mrs. Clive. This discrepancy has been acknowledged before now to exist between the tastes and the tempers of nations. The French in their old day, before this last revolution, perhaps before any of their revolutions, the French of our old traditions and our old travelers, the Sternes and the Goldsmiths, with their Watteau pageantries, their dances in the open air, and their patient love of the deepest and most unmingled tragedy, afforded a notable instance of this contrast. But that which is observable in Mrs. Olive's case, is still more striking. I have never known any creature half so cheerful. Happy sister, happy mother, happy wife, she even bears the burden of a large fortune and a great house without the slightest diminution of the delightful animal spirits, which always seem to me to be of her many gifts the choicest. Moreover, enjoyment seems to be her mode of thankfulness; as, not content with being happy herself, she has a trick of making every body happy that comes near her. I do not know how she contrives it, but such is the effect. There is no resisting the contagious laughter of those dancing eyes.
As, however, every body that thinks deeply, as she does, must have some moments of sadness, she is content to put them into her writings: sometimes in prose, for her "Story of the Great Drought" has an intensity of tragic power, a realization of impossible horrors, such as gave their fascination to the best works of Godwin; sometimes in verse, where the depth of thought and fearless originality of treatment, frequently redeem the commonest subject from any thing like commonplace. Here is an example:
I stood within the grave's o'ershadowing vault;
Gloomy and damp, it stretched its vast domain;
For other limits to its width in vain.
Faint from the entrance came a daylight ray, And distant sound of living men and things;This, in the encountering darkness passed away, That, took the tone in which a mourner sings.
I lit a torch at a sepulchral lamp,
And feebly burning 'gainst the rolling damp,
Around me stretched the slumbers of the dead, Whereof the silence ached upon mine ear;
The former men of every age and place,
I saw the Old World's white and wave-swept bones,
A giant heap of creatures that had been;
Lay strewn beyond mine eyes' remotest ken.
Death's various shrines—the urn, the stone, the lamp-
Symbols and types were moldering in the damp,