« ElőzőTovább »
and as the labor would, for the most part, be rough and heavy, there would be no danger of supplying loafers with a "soft job," or, on the other hand, of drawing away from private enterprise the labor which it needs, by an offer of superior attractions.
It is satisfactory to note that in recent years every class in the community has awakened to the truth that the problem of the unemployed must be The Gentleman's Magazine.
faced and solved. And one thing is certain-whatever solution the nation may ultimately prefer, nothing satisfactory will be accomplished by doles, however well-intentioned the givers may be, and nothing satisfactory will be accomplished short of organizing employment at a living wage for every man who is willing to do a fair day's work.
THE ROMANCE OF A BOOKSELLER.
Fame had most unexpectedly, and at the ninth or tenth hour, found out Mr. R., the little bookseller. His Clorinda was the talk of the town. From the homely little Queen down to Miss in the country parsonage, everything of sensibility was weeping over Clorinda. The beaux had left off making wagers about the fashionable beauties and their prospective marriages, with matters less delicate, for speculation as to whether Clorinda, in the next instalment of the delicious story, would or would not subjugate Sir Bellamour. The tears that were shed over the imaginary heroine were enough to cause a flood in the river if they had been all diverted one way.
Carriages stood all day at the narrow entrance to Essex Court, where the Great Man was to be seen, not yet so great as to be above selling a secondhand book over the counter. Through the cobwebbed panes of the window and the low-browed door Beauty and Fashion peeped to catch a sight of the little ruddy-cheeked man in the shabby wig and dusty snuff-brown coat who had set them all to weeping. Some of the boldest even invaded the little dark shop, although it was an adventure for the ladies to enter the door with their hooped petticoats. There they would
bring their essences, and the brightness of their eyes, and the rustling of their stiff silks and many-colored furbelows, as fine as goddesses in a pink cloud painted by Mr. Cipriani on a ceiling.
They would languish and ogle and smile on the little snuff-brown man, and pay him such compliments as have seldom fallen to the lot of genius. It was quite true that the town had taken Clorinda seriously. When it seemed that her idyl was about to end sadly, a score fine ladies took to their beds with bottles of hysterical water and Miss-in-her-Teens, and wept into their pillows, to the destruction of their eyes and complexions.
No one could blame the little man for becoming a bit entêté, as our French neighbors say. Indeed it said much for the strength of his head that he kept it so well, for it was not only the fine ladies and gentlemen who were belauding him, but also the men of genius and of affairs. Garrick took off his hat to him; Sir Joshua came to the little bookshop and discussed the next instalment of the story, holding his ear-trumpet seriously for the answers; Mr. Oliver Goldsmith, who, Mr. R. had the wit to see, was a bigger man than he both in heart and mind, paid him simple
heartfelt compliments; it was even said that Dr. Johnson had expressed an interest in the fate of Clorinda, still characteristically describing her as a hussy. Statesmen and soldiers were falling over each other in order to obtain the latest chapter of Clorinda and her fortunes. It was perhaps to Mr. R.'s credit that, all things considered, he kept his head so well.
He would still make the journey between Essex Court and his country cottage at Hammersmith, a somewhat dangerous journey for any one who might be suspected to be worth robbing, for the Hammersmith Road was infested by footpads, who let the author of Clorinda pass by, a tribute as much to their own qualities of head and heart as to the writer of the famous romance: he could still make the journey with that irresistible if unfelt attraction which draws us all home.
the pink cloud on Mr. Cipriani's ceilings. He had no desire to visit Mr. Selwyn in Gloucestershire or my Lord March in Scotland. He was lonely if he went further from the city than Hammersmith, and although he might have been at home with the great folk he was afraid of their lackeys. No: on the whole he kept his head better than could have been expected, neither neglecting his business nor finding the plain atmosphere of his own home and surroundings uncongenial to him.
He was yet quite satisfied that his two handsome blowsy daughters were the finest wenches in Christendom. He had not yet discovered that the color in their mother's cheeks had run, that she had grown ungainly in size and waddled in walking; that her speech was homely cockney and her ideas confined to cooking and housekeeping. He was not dissatisfied with his daughters' lovers, a couple of smart young cits, the one a silk-draper in St. Paul's Churchyard, the other a goldsmith by Temple Bar. Still the sweetbriar hedge which bounded his demesne held the world that mattered for him. It was good on summer evenings and summer Sundays to sit in an arbor wreathed in woodbine, listening to the songs of the birds, the tinkle of the sheep-bells beyond the hedge, and the lowing of the milking cows in the fields towards Fulham. This was what really concerned him. The fine ladies were no nearer to him than the fullbosomed goddesses who leaned from
Until one day he opened a letter in his shop-one of those which reached him in such numbers that he often barely glanced at their contents, which were always couched in terms of the same fulsome adulation. But this; this was different. It was written on rose-colored satin paper with a gilt edge, and as he opened it and stood holding it in his hand he could have sworn that the scent and color of apple-blossom filled the shop. His orchard at Hammersmith was bowery with it at this moment. If the orchard could have been transplanted by a miracle into Essex Court, the illusion could not have been more complete. He stood with half-closed eyes, the rosecolored sheet, with the little gold shell and the letter D in the top left-hand corner, seeming to suffuse his brain with rose-colored visions. After a second or two he began to read, holding the delicious thing to the dim pane the better to see it.
Honored Sir, it began: 'Tis an honest country lover that ventures to approach you, to intercede with you for the matchless Clorinda. Our parson-he is an honest man and of good familybrought it to us Friday se'nnight, that it was London talk that she should yield at last to the fascinating Bellamour and by him be cast aside when he had won her an hour. Sir, you would not break an honest country heart by making it so. Sir, you will not so wrong the sweet thing you have
created, and the Power that dwells on high to Protect Innocence, and the kindness which must lie in Bellamour's heart, by such a turn as this. Oh, sir, pause before you cast down in sorrow not only a multitude who hang upon the woes of Clorinda, but one heart which you have moved so that she thinks at times Clorinda is she and she Clorinda. She cannot sleep; she cannot eat; she cannot live till she knows that even at the last moment you have changed your design. Sir, the cause of Clorinda is the cause of virtue. If you cast her down Vice triumphs and Virtue falls. Waiting upon your will as one waits upon the will of Heaven, Your humble admirer,
There was no reason why the letter should have moved him as it did. He had received epistles of the same sort, if few as artless. The others had not moved him, however highly placed were those who penned them. He had foreseen the end of Clorinda, the one inevitable, possible end. Was he going to alter it to please a country girl, even though the sweetness of apple-blossom was in her letter? He was certain he would do no such thing.
He wrote to Dulcinea a paternally kind letter, pointing out to her that art had its imperious demands no less than sentiment. That evening, as he jogged down to Hammersmith on his old pony, every breath of wind that blew the apple-orchards in his face seemed to bring him the presence of Dulcinea. For the first time that evening he noticed that Bessie, his wife, was growing old, that the red had run in streaks on her cheeks, that her nose was as shapeless as her figure. For the first time he was perturbed at the good soul's manner of eating. Her voice fretted him. He noticed that her slippers were down at heel and that there was a rent in her sacque. His daughters disturbed him too with chatter which he perceived for the first
time to be vulgar. Even the cottage. which had seemed a Paradise to him for long, vexed him in this new touchiness of his. There was a commonness about the little low rooms. His wife had spoilt them by having them decorated in blue and gold. Unconsciously, he was calling his belongings before the tribunal of Dulcinea and hearing them condemned.
After supper he retired in a mood of moroseness to the little orchard which was beyond sight and hearing of the house. He had no mind to hear his elder daughter play upon the spinet, an art she had acquired painfully. which had given him simple pleasure many an evening. For the first time he discovered that her fingers were clumsy and she put no soul in the music. His wife's voice followed him as he retired along the path by the beds of herbs to the orchard. "La. girls," it said; "be not vexed with your father. Some of those fine languishing hussies of his have got their affairs all twisted, and he must straighten them out again."
apple-blossoms was all about him. The little gnarled trees, each in a rosy gown, were bent to the earth under the
weight of bloom. The stillness and the scents of the evening quieted his vexation. Dobbin, his old pony, came and thrust a long white nose into his hand for a caress. Absent-mindedly he smoothed the kindly, fondling nose. The orchard in all its pink bloom seemed to him like an exquisite woman. The woman whose letter smelt of apple-bloom; the orchard, in a pink gown like a lovely woman. They seemed somehow one and indivisible.
A letter from Dulcinea reached him as soon as it was possible to receive one. It was gentle; it was resigned: to be sure she had been "too owdacious" in pressing her thoughts and prayers upon the author of Clorinda. Since he willed Clorinda's story to end in gloom it must be best so, although for Dulcinea's part she must never cease to grieve for the fate of that matchless lady. The letter was so touching in its childlike gentleness that it brought tears to the eyes of Clorinda's maker. A couple of letters more from the charmer and he resolved to do what he had vowed not to do: that is to say, to make Clorinda happy in the possession of her Bellamour. After all, as the fair unknown had suggested, it would be the triumph of virtue over vice, with a coronet for Virtue's brows in the background. Whereas, if he had carried out his original intention, Vice would have triumphed and poor Virtue been sent packing out-of-doors to die in the cold.
He announced his capitulation to Dulcinea in a letter which still survives:
bring about what the others by violence had failed to accomplish. So the gentleness of your nature, suffusing mine, compels me to cast off my cloak of self-will and to do as you desire. I will make Clorinda happy for your sake. If you would make your servant happy in return will you not let him see a likeness of yourself, so that what he has long dreamt on in secret may possess for him something of a living reality?
Beautiful and Incomparable Lady, he wrote: You remember the story of the man in the fable who, when the wind and the rain would fain have made him relinquish his cloak, but clung to it the tighter. But the gentle sun, warming him with its rays, did soon
Dulcinea replied to him in a trembling rapture of gratitude. Henceforth she was without sorrow, since the exquisite Clorinda was to be blessed by the gaining of Bellamour's heart and hand. There was nothing she would not do in return for Strephon. They were Dulcinea and Strephon to each other by this time. But, she had no picture of herself worthy to offer him. Perhaps when she came to town in the autumn she might sit for a miniature. Meanwhile would Strephon imagine a person of middle height, brown but not uncomely? Brown eyes, brown hair, with an inclination to chestnut in both. Lips indifferent red, and white teeth. A form plump but not too much so. Hands plump, passable white, and dimpled at the knuckles. Small feet. A cheerful person withal and very ready to laugh; somewhat kind, honest and true. And ever and ever devoted to the author of the adorable Clorinda.
As he returned the letter to the packet something fell from it, which, when he took it up, proved to be a curl of hair. It was of a bronze color, only with more sunlight in its depths than anything not living could have. As he seized upon it with reverential tenderness it curled about his fingers lightly, and it was as though some delicate invisible thing had laid hold of him and would not let him go. He stooped and brushed it with his thin, Then he put it away in precise lips. a secret place.
That day, coming upon his enemy in St. James's, the latter saluted him with a mocking laugh which goaded the bookseller almost to madness. "What!" he cried. "Do you go cross-gartered like Malvolio? I shall read you all the signs of a lover."
Mr. R. brushed past him, and left him standing on the pavement, a gallant figure of a man, to attract the eyes of the passers-by. Some sense of the contrast between him and Mr. F.he, a pinched withered atomy of a man, the other with the air of a soldier, a man of adventures, of amours-made him shrink within himself as though he feared the daylight. And,-was it possible that the signs of his disorder were so evident in him that the mocking popinjay had read them plain? He knew himself by this time that he was in love, and with a shadow.
Presently his lady played with him as the cat with a mouse. He should see her, he should not see her. She would tell him all, she would tell him nothing. She was a maid, she was a wife, she was a widow. She was the victim of jealousy: she was misunderstood. At one time she sighed for a soul to understand her; at another she was demure and distant. She ceased to talk of Clorinda, she talked now of herself, with an egoism that never tired: yet she revealed nothing of her identity. As though she had guessed at wild impulses in his mind, she had forbidden him under pain of her everlasting displeasure to seek to know more of her than she chose to impart.
With one hope she kept him quietthat in the autumn, when she proposed visiting the Town, he might see her. For the present he had to be content with the golden-chestnut lock of hair which he carried about his neck, and with the vision of her which floated to him from her letters as something exquisite, steeped in an atmosphere of apple-blossom.
For all his success he was still the little bookseller, and a moral man through and through. His infidelity of soul to his wife, who had grown old with him, whom he remembered as comely as a hollyhock, irked him. He was not a man of fashion to sin easily. Thoughts had come into his mind at times which he had looked at before he had driven them out-thoughts of what might happen if by any means his Bessie, poor soul, were to die. This was when Dulcinea was in a melting mood, and wrote languishing letters to him making up for those in which she had been capricious and coy.
He did not sin lightly like a fine gentleman. When he was in the presence of the poor, kind, foolish, overblown wife, his sense of guilt towards her made him sour and irritable. Her eyes were often red now. To catch sight of them was to have his dream of apple-blossom lose its magic for the time. It was easier with his daughters, who adored their mother, and so tossed their heads at him and were impertinent. They had nothing to do with it; they were mere accidental creatures. The trouble which fretted and made him unbearable when he was at Hammersmith was between him and their mother, the poor woman he had outgrown, with whom he had been wellcontent until that scent of apple-blossom had floated into his little drabcolored life. That his daughters were minxes did not matter; perhaps in his heart he thought the more of them for it.
But to be out of sight of Bessie's red eyes, and the sighs which now and again she heaved cavernously, he absented himself as much as might be from the home which had been everything desirable to him before he had written of Clorinda and become the fashion.
He found it necessary to take a lodging in town, where he stayed