ever of ornament adorned the brow or breast of beauty, was thrown half-frantically to swell the sum that went to assuage the sorrows of wretchedness, or save from destitution the widow and the orphan. Read one of these appeals now, and if it will move you to contribute a sixpence, you must have a heart open as day to melting charity; and yet this was the subject of Grattan's beautiful eulogy—this was he who, in feeding the lamp of charity, exhausted the lamp of life, &c.

[ocr errors]

Now, we have nothing to induce us to believe that our grandfathers and grandmothers were a softhearted generation. From all that we can learn of them, they were pretty much like ourselves. They had the same sort of pomps, vanities, and temptations as we have, and doubtless met them in a spirit like our own. I am willing to admit that they were not worse, but I do not believe that they were better than us. How came it, then, that this preacher, whose eloquence, to our thinking, is anything but impassioned, and whose appeals we can read now as coolly as we con over our Bradshaw,' moved enraptured audiences at his will, and made even those who came to deny his powers remain to testify, by solemn acts of benevolence, to his persuasiveness? Take what is before our eyes at this moment is there any one bold enough to say that Spurgeon's sermons, to which twenty thousand persons weekly listen in rapt wonder and worship, will some fifty years hence have fifty readers-ay, even five? And not that the man has not power and ability-his success has put that much on record; but that there is a species of power and ability that must come aided by the individuality, and that they who have not witnessed the exercise of these gifts, when so accompanied, are not fair judges of the effect.

We are often wrong, then, in saying that this or that man who achieved a celebrity in some by

gone day would not have been distinguished had he lived in our own era. The chances are we should have taken him at the same price as our forefathers did. Let us be slow to disparage the age in which a charlatan was made much of—not only because there never yet was a time without such examples, but also because the charlatan was undeniably-a cleverer fellow than we are willing to believe him. There are, however, now and then instances of men so transcendently great, that what they have done remains an authority for future ages, and becomes an eternal possession to the land that bore them. These men, if they be writers, imbue the language with their own genius, enriching the humblest who talks with the bright flashes of their soul, the charming vagrancies of their fancy, and the heart-stirring eloquence of their passion. Such men commemorate themselves. What can you do for them?-how exalt them, how honour them? Let your homage take what shape it will, it must ever be in its proportions absurdly unequal to the object of its devotion. A statue has its meaning, certainly, but beyond that we can do nothing. Of the success of commemoration festivals, processions, concerts, monster dinners, brass bands, and brass orators, let that sad spectacle in honour of Shakespeare testify.

A small town in the east of Italy, where Rossini had once passed some time, conceived the idea of commemorating the great Maestro's sojourn amongst them by a statue. The zeal was unhappily greater than the wealth, and after some months of unwearied toil the managing committee announced the sad fact, that although one high-spirited individual had of himself contributed the pedestal, which was already built, and ready to receive the statue, the moneyed contributions only reached twelve hundred francs. In this dilemma they, with a courage that all must commend, waited on the illustrious

composer, and asked in what way he would himself advise this sum to be appropriated. "You want a statue," said he, thoughtfully; "and you have, it seems, only got as far as the pedestal."

"Yes, Illustrissimo, that is our case."

66 And you have twelve hundred francs besides towards your object?"

The committee bowed their acqui


"Give me the money then, and I'll stand on the pedestal half an hour next Tuesday. I must leave on Wednesday, or I'd repeat the performance."

I wish I could record that the committee had been men of sufficient generosity to appreciate, and of taste to avail themselves of, this offer. That unadorned pedestal would have been a monument to make their town illustrious for ages. A neat inscription, too, could have recorded the fact "that here, on such a day in May," &c. &c.

We go to visit battle-fields with the very vaguest information as to the position of the contending hosts; here, however, one small platform would hold us to the hard fact where the great Maestro had stood, and one-half the imagination we deploy to people La Haye Sainte or Hougoumont would suffice to present Rossini before us, with his roguish eye, his humorous mouth, and that general look of self-satisfied shrewdness that is the most marked characteristic of the great composer.

Now, I might ask, is there not something in this suggestion of Rossini's well worth our consideration? Are there not men amongst us who would like to sell their reversion of future fame for a little present assistance? That ten thousand I am to have at my grandmother's death, is to me a mere dissolving view of affluence. I want it now. I won't go so far as to wish the old lady in paradise, though why that should be accounted a hardship is not so easy to understand. But in


my pressing need I am ready to barter my "great expectations" for something of present fruition. might like a statue very much, as a hero; but to the pride of that commemoration of me in the next century, it is just possible I might prefer a suit of clothes now. Would not Shakespeare himself rather have had one jolly evening's carouse with Ben Jonson, than to have been assured of that blessed exhibition of maudlin penny-a-liners and dramatists that we all witnessed a few weeks ago?

The Florentines have just announced a commemoration of Dante. It is to take place next April, on the five hundredth anniversary of the poet's birth. That they will deal with the matter with more taste than ourselves is easy to believe-that whatever of literary distinction Italy possesses will aid and assist the festival, we may feel assured. It is as much the revival of Italian greatness which will be celebrated as the fame of the greatest of all Italians; and yet the difficulties will be immense. What can they say for Dante that his works have not said immeasurably better? How proclaim the fame that already fills the earth?

What man, when a sou'wester is straining the canvass and making the foretopsail like a board, so that the craft cleaves the water like a fish, takes down the bellows by way of increasing the wind? Yet this is precisely what your commemorators are doing. They are running about with that wretched bellows of theirs, to add to the gale that is only short of a hurricane; and so once more I say, Let me have no commemoration.

When the Crimean war broke out, Mr Gladstone declared that he would have no loan: the generation who made the war should pay for it. So say I. I will not borrow what posterity may have to pay. I leave it, of course, to an intelligent public to understand in what way I prefer to take out my "immortality."


Gracious and compassionate reader, it is not often that I inflict you with a personality; nor, indeed, do I remember such a transgression since the day on which I told you about a certain friend of Gioberti. I am now, however, disposed to sin once more. The occasion is a let ter I have this morning received from Mrs O'D., and which, touching a little as it does on "Men and Women, and other Things in General," is not foreign to the matter of these papers.

A great contemporary-one of the very pleasantest fellows that ever talked at a dinner - table-Jules Janin, once made a feuilleton on his own marriage. Now I am not fully certain I should like to have gone so far as this, but I see no objection to quoting certain portions of Mrs O'Dowd's correspondence, reserving to myself the right which Ministers are wont to exercise in blue-books, of omitting all that is most piquant, and consequently most interesting. With an abruptness worthy of Demosthenes she opens thus: "They are at it again, dear Corny, as bad as ever, and never was anything less provoked by our people. The Dublin demonstration was beautiful, and the coal-porters preserved the peace with their bludgeons in a manner that made every one delighted; and the consequence is, that the savages in the north, driven frantic by the elegant success here, came down on our poor suffering coreligionists, as Doctor Cullen said, "like a wolf on the fold," and they have half destroyed the town of Belfast. The cry is now 'Sauve qui peut!' Lord Carlisle is gone already, and, with the help of the Virgin, Í mean to be off by Saturday. When this reaches you, you will therefore look out for a comfortable house in some pleasant city where there is a nice social circle, with a good climate and everything cheap. You

wouldn't know Dublin, how dear it has grown. Nobody thinks of anything better than a car; and the Viceroy, I'm told, puts the household one day every week on cold mutton, and makes Friday a black fast, which is very popular with our people. Whisky-negus is given at the Castle balls, and the aide-decamps are reduced to a pint of Guinness at dinner; and no wonder, mutton is ninepence, and as much bone as meat.

"There's another reason too, Corny, why I want to leave this. Tom M'Grath says it's all bother about your being a Commissioner or anything else under the Government; that you're just gallivanting about the Continent for your own fun-dining out wherever you can, and making love wherever they'll let you a nice life of it, and very respectable to a man of your time of life, seeing that on your birthday last Tuesday you were ***" Here I avail myself of the ministerial asterisks, and proceed. "And that's not all; but that you are abusing the Church and the Cardinals, and everything that is holy and decent, not even sparing the country that gave you your birth and your wife

two blessings that you oughtn't to forget, no matter, as Tom says, however perverted foreign habits have made you.


You may think how pleasant my situation is, that I never go out to take tea that I don't hear somebody say, 'Write off that to your husband, Mrs O'Dowd - it will be as good as a box of cigars to him;' or, 'There's a bit of gossip for Corny; that's what he lives on just now.'

"And is this the 'place under the Government,' 'the roving commission to look after the state of Europe'?

"It was only yesterday Mrs Brady said to me, Mrs O'Dowd, you'll find yourself quite a celebrity

on the Continent. You'll be as well known as Barney Williams or Mr Cobden!' Wasn't that a nice speech to make to a respectable married woman?

"Tom will take me as far as Dover, and then go back; so that, if you want to write home or make any family inquiries, he will be for the present your"-heaven forgive Mrs O'Dowd her orthography!—an additional "r" would have cost her so little; and she need not have written the word, "Co-respondent!"

It was a small thing to be vexed about, but I couldn't get over it; and I walked about all day muttering to myself, "My co-respondent, Tom M'Grath!" My second reflections were these: Married life is little suited to the habits of the Continent. It will do, perhaps, with the natives, because they wear their chains gracefully, and occasionally festoon them, as I have seen certain jaunty galley-slaves do, in picturesque loops all around them; but we Saxons or Celts take a more serious view of our sentence, and accept the words "for life" with a far graver significance. Then we have a regular glut of what are called the "delights of a home." Our detestable climate and coalfires, our small houses and peculiar notions of hospitality-all lead us to assemble in our own "wigwams," and exchange the amenities of civilisation with our own Squaws.

The foreigner is not driven to this. The nights are never too wet to go out to the café or the theatre; nor, reciprocally, to prevent some two or three intimates to drop in and chat with your wife. I have grown to like this. I have lived long enough to feel that to hoard up one's genial pleasantry-one's conversational stores-one's social resources in many ways, for mere home consumption, is as arrant avarice as to swear you will never give sixpence away for anything but for family expenses. I hold myself above that. Now my late experiences in life have largely developed these charities in my na

ture. I cannot remember the day I have played the miser of my gifts, for I do not know when I last dined at home. If Mrs O'D. should join me, what becomes of these rich outpourings of my pleasantry? How am I to give way to the expansive richness of my fancy, in describing my life in Ireland, on my own estate, in my paternal halls, surrounded by my attached peasants? Those hunting-parties!

ah, those hunting-parties! how Compiègne and Fontainebleau pale before them! That great countryhouse, filled with distinguished guests-how, I ask, am I to dash off one of these grand frescoes, when Mrs O'Dowd stands by with a whitewash brush to "smudge" the whole picture?—and she would. I know that woman well. Her own sister told me that as a child she never built a card-house herself, but went all round the table, knocking down the others.

That has been her mission through life. The world is full of these stone-and-mortar people, who would rather take shelter in a dungeon than under a silken canopy.

What is to be done? The peril is imminent. Shall I be jealous of Tom M'Grath, and order her peremptorily to go reside with her mother? a grand Russian sort of policy that! Being jeal ous is, however, a great mistake in connubial strategy. It is simply showing your wife a raw spot in your nature which she may irritate at will; and I shrewdly suspect Mrs O'D. would "hit the blot" at once. Besides this, "mocking is catching;" and even already I am not over well pleased with my friend Tom's attentions. What business was it of his to dilate upon my life and habits? Why should he bring under wife's my notice those broadcast opinions I am scattering, and which would be as cruelly spoiled by Mrs O'D.'s supervision as ever was a French comedy by the Censor?

To telegraph to my wife that


the Continent was in a fearful state honeycombed," as Mr Disraeli says, with conspiracy, and perfectly mined by Red Republicanism Iwould have defeated all my strategy. Genuine woman as she is, she'd have been in ecstasies at the idea of such excitement. She'd have preferred a barricade to a new bonnet any day; and, womanlike, would have confronted the worst perils of a mob for the mere pleasure of one day recounting them. Were I to say, therefore, The revolution may break out next week, it would only add speed to her lest she should arrive too late.

To assure her, as I now in all truthfulness do you, my bland reader, that the cheapness of the Continent was all sham and delusion, would have provoked the less logical than practical reply, "No worse for me than for you, Mr O'Dowd." I might be taken suddenly ill and die—I mean, to have my death reported to her. There was much to be said in favour of this course, but Mrs O'Dowd was a woman of strong measures. She might remarry, and the complication become troublesome. I had just finished Enoch Arden,' and had no ambition to appear in that now popular part.

Torn with opposing conflicting thoughts, I paced my room in a state of almost frenzied perplexity, when the thought struck me, I shall go back to Ireland-I am wanted there suddenly. There is to be a great Art Exhibition of Irish products next May, and am I one

of them? It is important to see how many cubic feet they may be able to accord me-in what section I am to stand-how I am to be illuminated when they show me by gaslight.

"Mrs O'Dowd," I telegraphed at once, "tell the committee that I agree. I am doing wonders for the Exhibition here, and will be in Dublin by Tuesday - Friday at farthest. Show this to Guinness. "O'Dowd."

If that was not enough to puzzle ordinary brains, I'm a Belgian! I pictured to my mind Mrs O'Dowd's face of embarrassment as she asked whether I was an "object of industry

or one of "the fine arts"? Such, intelligente publico, is my present condition. I make the explanation in all frankness, so that if-which will be much more matter of regret to me than to you-if, I say, I should fail to make my appearance before you next month, you will neither believe the stories in circulation that I have been hanged in Poland or murdered in an English railway; that I am under sentence of bigamy, convicted of felony, or a major-general in the Federal army of America. I am simply preparing myself-as certain English noblemen are said to do for their appearance as Irish Viceroys-by a course of poses plastiques, which being accomplished, I resume my O'Dowderies, expecting the continuance of your gracious and most gratifying approval.

« ElőzőTovább »