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GONE TO THE TRUNKMAKER'S.
In the Apologetlcal Dialogue, so called, which forms the epilogue to Ben Jonson's learned and laborious, or — to elaborate the labial emphasis — learnedly labored comedy of " The Poetaster," the author is made to congratulate himself on the conviction that his lines shall flourish in vigor and renown long after those of his enemies shall have been turned to all base uses; — " when, what they write 'gainst me," he says,
"Shall, like a figure drawn in water, fleet,
Horace is the central figure in the high-comedy department of that play; and, in penning these lines, rare Ben was mindful of Horace's
"in vicuna vendentem pus et odores, Et piper, et quicquid chartis amicitur ineptis."
Of which pungent passage it has been observed, that the practice of applying unsalable authors to the ignoble uses of retail dealers in petty articles must have existed in Rome for some time before it could have attracted the notice of Horace, and upon some considerable scale as a known public usage, before it could have roused any echoes of public mirth as a satiric allusion, or have had any meaning and sting. Macaulay was yet a young man when he amused himself with turning over some recent volumes of periodical works, and seeing how many immortal productions had, within a few months, been gathered to the poems of Blackniore and the novels of Mrs. Behn ; how many "profound views of human nature," and "exquisite delineations of fashionable manners," and "vernal, sunny, and refreshing thoughts," and "high imaginings," and "young breathings," and "enibodyings," and "pinings," and "mingling with the beauty of the universe," &c., &C., the world had contrived to forget, — the names of the books and of the writers being already buried in as deep an oblivion as the name of the builder of Stonehenge. It was in 1830 that the young Edinburgh Reviewer thus discoursed, — all on the text of Mr. Robert Montgomery and the art of puffing; and he went on to say: "Some of the well-puffed fashionable novels of eighteen hundred and twentynine hold the pastry of eighteen hundred and thirty; and others which are now extolled in language almost too high flown for the merits of Don Quixote, will, we have no doubt, line the trunks of eighteen hundred and thirty-one." A safe prophecy, wellordered in all things and sure; and true not only of fashionable novels, but of panegyrized performances
in every branch of literature, whether light as Plautus or heavy as Seneca. For this is the story of their lives from year to year. And, as saith the fool i' the forest, thus may we see (quoth he) how the world wags.
That amiable ex-tobacconist, Mr. Allison, in Southey's "Doctor," had acquired his liking for books by looking casually now and then over the leaves of those unfortunate volumes with which the shop was supplied for its daily consumption. It was not a bad thought to introduce a retired trunkmaker on the stage, who makes pithy allusions to the literature of his professional experience. Thus, in Goldthumb's interview with his neighbor, Sir Gilbert Norman, the ex-tradesman astounds the baronet by an incidental "For, as the poet says —" "Poetry !" exclaims Sir Gilbert, in amaze; and Goldthumb ambiguously explains, "For more than thirty years I was up to my elbows in it. (Aside: He has n't heard that I was a trunkmaker ?) And the poet, speaking of wives, says — he says — ha! I forget the lines, but I remember the paper perfectly."
"Sir Gilb. The frequent fate of poetry with some people; insensible to its inspiration, they only dwell upon its rags.
"Gold. Kags* 0, ha! the paper. Yes, it can't be
otherwise, you know For as you say in one of
your beautiful Parliament speeches —
"Sir Gilb. My speeches 1.... Is it possible? have you met with my speeches?
"Gold. Upon my honor, you never published one that it did n't somehow fall into my hands.
"Sir Gilb. This is strange, —- yet gratifying
And you really have dipped into my little orations 1
"Gold. Dipped in 'em ! I've hammered over'em for hours. And so, I think, I know whole sentences of them."
The orator's speeches have, therefore, in this one instance, gone to the trunkmakcr's to some purpose
— such as it is, over and above the trunk line, or main branch, of his business. So, again, when D'Artagnan, Dumas's Gascon hero, expresses surprise at his old retainer, Planchet, quoting mathemathics and philosophy, " Monsieur," Planchet explains, " in my grocery business I use much printed paper, and that instructs me."
One of the appliances of the street sweetstufF trade which Mr. Henry Mavhew saw in the room of a seller, was — Acts of Parliament A pile of these, a foot or more deep, he tells us, lay on a shelf
— used to wrap up the peppermint rock, and ginger-drops, and bull's-eyes, and toffy. The seller in question bought his " paper " of the stationers, or at the old-book shops. Sometimes, he said, he got works in this way in sheets which had never been cut, and which he retained to read at his short intervals of leisure, and then used to wrap his goods in. In this way he had read through two Histories of England.
It is plain our linen manufacture is advanced, said Swift, by the great waste of paper made by our present set of poets; not to mention other necessary uses of the same to shopkeepers, especially grocers, apothecaries, and pastry-cooks. The topic is a favorite one with the Dean, as might be supposed. The mixed multitude of ballad-writers, ode-makers, translators, farce-oompounders, opera-mongers, biographers, pamphleteers, and journalists he declares to be profitable to no living soul beyond the range of pastry-cooks, grocers, chandlers, and tobaccoretailers. Writers of polemical pamphlets — Rejoinders and Replies — are specially doomed to this degrading end, in Lord Shaftesbury's estimate. "An original work or two," supposes the noble author of the Characteristics, " may perhaps remain; but for the subsequent Defences, the Answers, Rejoinders, and Replications, they have been long since paying their attendance to the pastry-cooks." But to return to Swift. He makes Mrs. Curll, in her letter on her poor " empoisoned" husband's behalf, to his publisher, Mr. Lintot, conclude with a "Pray recommend me to your pastry-cook, who furnishes you yearly with tarts in exchange for your paper." So, in the Dean's matchless verses on his own death: —
"Some country squire to Lintot goes,'
To his familiar friend, Doctor Sheridan, on his Art of Punning, Swift addressed a copy of verses containing these, among other benignant aspirations: —
"May no vile, miscreant, saucy cook
Curious that in so complete a list of contingent remainders the Trunkmaker should be left out. One would have supposed him no more likely to be forgotten than he used to be in that mysterious Cockney toast of forty or fifty years since, worthy of discussion in "Notes and Queries," when to the postprandial proposition, " All friends round St. Paul's," was invariably attached this rider, "Not forgetting the Trunkmaker round the Corner." The good citizen had a meaning in it, no doubt, and knew the reason why.
Tom Sheridan reciprocated, after a sort, the kindly deprecation of Jonathan Swift. At least he invoked the Dean's cookery vengeance against certain snappish verses of his own: —
"Take those iambics which I wrote,
And give them to yonr cook.
They '11 save you many a book."
And then the Doctor suggests a nasty altornatite, as his model, the Dean, was in the habit of doing in nearly all the passages from which we have quoted (never venturing to quote all); and as Peter Pindar, again, lovecl to do,—for he, too, is profuse on this subject of the degradation of books. In one passage Peter introduces our toasted friend of St Paul's Churchyard. It is in the recriminatory duel of words between Boswell and Mrs. Piozzi, on the merits of their rival biographies of Johnson. The lady says: —
"Where grocers and where pastry-cooks reside.
Mr. Boswell has his ta quoque always ready, even when a lady "s in the case: —
"Madam, yonr irony is wondrous fine!
Boileau, as his manner is, again and again makes "awful mirth " of the rag-shop destinies of ephemeral literature, — now all the rage at the libraries, and anon selling at so much per pound: —
"Combien, pour quelques mois, ont vn fleurir letu line,
or any other equally forgotten name. Elsewhere he speaks of the large proportion of verses which
"aussi pen lu que cenac de Pelletier, N'a fait de chez Sercy qu'un saut chez 1'epicier."
Sercy being the libraire du palais — whence at one bound, nay, at one step — uke the fatal one step from the sublime to the ridiculous — these authon made their way to the grocer's shop, to be sold u so much dead weight avoirdupois. Again, in the Epistle of the King,—
"II est f&cheux, grand roi, de se voir sans lecteur,
Franco3ur being a fameux epicier, or, as modem Cockaigne would say, an eminent grocer, in the days of the Grand Monarque.
Christopher Anstey applies that very term, Mbnent, to a cook — in his lines " written at Mr. Gill'f. an eminent Cook at Bath," of which one stanu u pertly pertinent to this our theme: —
"Immortal bards, view here yonr wit,
The labors of your qnill,
There is an entry in Byron's Journal which describes that noble lord, at Ravenna, as out of spirits, reading the papers, and thinking what fame was, on seeing, in a case of murder, that "Mr. Wych, grocer, at Tunbridge, sold some bacon, flour, cheese, and, it
is believed, some plums, to some gypsy woman accused. He had on his counter a book, the Life of Pamela, which he was tearing for waste paper, &c, &c. In the cheese was found, &c, and a leaf of Pamela wrapt round the bacon." What, asks Byron, would Richardson, the vainest and luckiest of authors, have said, could he have traced his pages from their place on the French prince's toilet, to the grocer's counter and the gypsy murderess's bacon?
"What would he have said? what can anybody say, save what Solomon said long before us? After all, it is but passing from one counter to another, from the bookseller's to the other tradesman's, — grocer or pastry-cook. For my part, I have met with most poetry upon trunks; so that I am apt to consider the trunkmaker as the sexton of authorship."
To pastry, however, in another place, if not in another mood, the cynical bard pretends to owe his acquaintance with
"Wordsworth, the grand metaquizzical poet,
Nor does Byron shirk the prospect of himself contributing to the trade demands of the trunkmaker : —
"And though these lines should only line portmanteaus, Trade will be all the better for these Cantos."
There is some consolation, perhaps, in the prospect of curl-paper uses, to a poet of sensibdity. Mat Prior, in his verses addressed to a little miss of five years old, he being then forty, has a stanza which tells how
"she makes her silkworms beds
Whereunto a parallel passage in effect occurs in the lyrics of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes: —
"Where go the poet's lines? —
Indeed, it must be allowed that the poets are ready enough to recognize their possible, if not probable, doom of professional connection with trunkmaker, confectioner, and the rest. And even in so grave and sad a poem as In Memoriam, Mr. Tennyson resists not utterance of the sportive fancy that
** These mortal lullabies of pain
May bind a book, may line a box,
May serve to curl a maiden's locks,
Or when a thousand moons shall wane
"A man upon a stall may find.
And, passing, turn the page that tells
M. de Scgur appended to a volume of his poems a sort of privilege en parodie, supposed to be written by his wife, who was a descendant of the illustrious Chancellor d'Aguesseau: hence the style affected in the injunction following: —
"Nous defendons a tons confiseurs, patissiers,
Daniel O'Connell one day met a prolific writer
of pamphlets which usually went pretty straight to the butter-shop, and said, "I saw something very good in your new pamphlet this morning." "Ah!" exclaimed the delighted pamphleteer, "what was it V" "A pound of butter," was the excruciating reply.
There are some speculations of Washington Living's on what may be the fate of our current literature,— or such of it as was current once upon a time, when George the Fourth was king, and Geoffrey Crayon a Gent., — if retrieved piecemeal, by future antiquaries, from among the rubbish of ages; when, for instance, the festive and amatory songs of Moore may become matters of laborious research and painful collation. Let whoso can, find comfort in the assurance that it is not merely " such exquisite authors as Moore " that are doomed to consume the oil of future antiquaries. "Many a poor scribbler, who is now, apparently, sent to oblivion by pastry-cooks and cheese-mongers, will then rise again in fragments, and flourish in learned immortality."*
The country between St. Nazaire and Vannes is neither beautilul nor interesting. Sombre forests of fir, stretching over mile after mile of undulating plain, and seldom varied by the appearance of a peasant's cottage or the mansion of a Breton noble, oppress the eye and fatigue the mind to such a degree that the wearied traveller is fain to turn his attention to the inside of the carriage, should he be unlucky enough to journey by the jog-trot railway that runs through this desert. There is not even excitement at the stations, — in fact, excitement of any sort is discouraged by the paternal government of France. It is unhealthy, it disturbs the mental equilibrium of the people; wherefore the utmost regularity of thought and action is produced by a discreet system of national education, which is just as visible at railway stations as elsewhere. You are not allowed, for instance, to walk up and down the platform; the impatience and suspense might produce agitation: you are therefore cooped up in an apartment according to the class whereby you travel; the train is placed so that its first-class, secondclass, and third-class carriages are directly opposite these respective apartments, and at a given moment the doors are opened and you are propelled into your proper place in the train, under the superintendence of several sergenls-de-ville. So that in travelling through the country there is not even variety met with at these halting-places. You glide into the empty station, suddenly the doors are thrown open, in scramble a few Breton peasants, and away you go again, through the interminable forests of fir.
For fellow-travellers I bad a lady and gentleman of uncertain age: the latter might be about thirtyfive; the former was good-looking, which ought to obviate all speculations as to years. They were not married, for he seemed particularly courteous and attentive to her; they were not brother and sister, for they were utterly unlike each other. I concluded them to be simply friends, or perhaps prospective husband and wife. The gentleman was somewhat reserved; answered her inquiries kindly, but curtly; and seemed more amused than interested by her remarks. But how shall I describe the admirable manner, the ever-varying beauty, the bril
* Bracebriugu Hall: A Literary Antiquary.
liant, witty, bashful, and simple conversation of his younger friend? The artless grace of every movement was pretty and perplexing as the motions of a squirrel; she was constantly changing in her look, in her mood, even in the attitudes she formed; while in her casual observations there were such subtle drolleries, such unconscious shrewdness and humor, that the longer you listened the more you were charmed.
She dropped her glove.
I picked it up; and this little circumstance made us friends. From a few words of thanks, she proceeded to remark upon the weather, then upon the country, upon the Breton populace, upon the French, upon the English, and their barbarous customs. She was indescribably engaging; she laughed and chatted, grew serious, and abruptly darted again into comedy; teased her companion for his austerity and reticent smiles; and gave herself such pretty airs and graces, that one could have fancied her a child of thirteen. She asked me if I had seen "Le Drac" when in Paris; if I,had read the last new novel burlesquing the English; then hummed an air from the last page of the Journal du Dimanche, a very un-Sunday-like magazine which she held in her hand.
"It is a pretty air, is it not, Monsieur? The music is by Mme. Dentu, the words by Emile Cottenet. Listen:—
'La coquette Micheline
"The poor lover, Monsieur, returns with the jewels, and Michelinette runs off to the mirror, without even thanking him. She is so engaged in judging of their effect that she seems to forget even his presence, and in his eye there burns a tear, — alas! Monsieur, he weeps ! —
'Mais elle a vn son chagrin,
La parure qui la charme:
So it is all over, and they are happy. You English have no such little quarrels, such pleasant reconciliations; you are always the same, — cold, formal, methodical. I think if I married an Englishman I should tease him to death."
"And who would not desire such a fascinating method of quitting life ?"
"Ah, Monsieur, you flatter me! But what I reverence in these English is their power, their grandeur, their great wealth. They are all rich, — all very rich, are they not?"
Despite the charming simplicity with which the question was asked, I was obliged, in reply, to suggest that in England I knew of one or two people
who might be richer, with no great detriment to themselves.
"Why, you carry fortunes on your fingers, in your watch-pockets, in your purse. Will Monsieur think me rude if I ask to see his ring?"
At once the trinket was in her possession, and with quite an infantine curiosity did she examine it She then passed it to her companion, whose attention had already been fixed upon it while it was yet on my finger.
"You will think us monsters of rudeness, Monsieur," said he; "but English workmanship is quite a novelty to us. The quaint figuring around the stone, for example, is purely northern. I presume Monsieur has also an English watch?"
"Of the eighteenth century," said I; "an heirloom in our family."
"What a treasure !" he replied, with more vivacity than he had hitherto revealed. "Would Monsieur have the goodness—?"
They were no less delighted with the watch, and insisted on my opening it to show its internal construction and the jewels which it contained. The back of the watch was also admired, with its quaint carving, and likewise its precious stones, which were more readily visible than those inside. The gentle man leant back in his seat, as though somewhat ashamed of having exhibited this curiosity, while the young lady remained as lively as ever, and continued ner conversation during the rest of the journey.
Towards evening we entered the town of Yannes, the capital of the department of Morbihan. I pitched my travelling-case into the first omnibus that presented itself, which happened to be that belonging to the " .Hotel du Dauphin "; and I observed that my lady friend was also about to enter the same vehicle, when her companion made a slight gesture of dissent.
"Which hotel?" he inquired of the conductor.
"' Hotel du Dauphin,' Monsieur."
He remained a moment in doubt.
"There is the ' Hotel de la Croix Verte,'" he remarked to his companion, " and the 'Hotel de France.'"
"Le voici—par ici, Monsieur?" cried another conductor, with an expressive motion of the hand, and courteous inclination of the body.
The lady terminated the little debate by a slight shrug of her shoulders at her companion's hesitation; then, giving the conductor her small quantity of luggage, stepped into the omnibus, and we all three drove off to the H6tel du Dauphin. Having taken apartments, and ascertained that the toughest was fixed for half past five, we took advantage of the intervening hour to ramble through the quaint old streets of the town, and admire its extraordinary domestic architecture.
All this time I had been unable to discover the names of my companions; she only called him Louis; he addressed her sometimes as Denise. — oftener as Mademoiselle. As our acquaintance had begun without the usual English preliminaries ot formal introduction or card-presenting, they were no wiser as regarded myself; nevertheless, we were soon on the most amicable terms, and our walk through the town was rendered doubly agreeable by the casual observations with which we greeted every fresh object of interest
And of these there were plenty. The uneven, narrow, straggling streets were full of an old-fashioned, picturesque beauty. The projecting second
stories of the bouses, adorned with grotesque wooden carving and full-length figures of saints, the open casements of green glass crossed into diamond panes, the ancient walls of the town, the grass-covered fosse of the Tour du Conne"table, the venerable and stately proportions of the cathedral, altogether presented an admirable picture of a feudal town of the Middle Ages, and only required the introduction of a few long-haired, sallow-featured, and strangely-dressed peasants, to add to it a thorough Breton character. Mademoiselle Denise was enraptured with these quaint characteristics of a former age. She seemed to have little acquaintance with the manners or appearance of the Bretons; every fresh object was matter for fresh wonder, and our walk was indescribably delightful.
She was no less agreeable when we returned to dine. She was the only lady present at the tableikote: but she conversed freely, even when the subject of our talk became general. In fact, at one point, she led the conversation to that which had begun our acquaintance, the subject of watches, an3, in her laughing way, said that if the gentlemen who were present would produce their watches, there would no two of them be found precisely to agree.
"And a gentleman always prides himself upon the correctness of his watch," she added, with a playful irony.
"Ah, Mademoiselle," said one gentleman, "you compel me to contradict you. My friend's watch is precisely the same as my own."
Hit companion laughed; but she insisted that she was right, and refused to believe it, until the gentleman politely handed her both watches.
u There is one second of difference, Monsieur; I swear it!" she cried, with the greatest glee, " and I am right, after all."
"You are rude, Denise," said her friend; "let me return these gentlemen their watches."
"He spoils me, Monsieur," she said to me, " and then reproaches me. Is he not cruel, then, — a savage? Behold, therefore, how he glares!"
The glaring savage was at that moment engaged in drying his moustache after having taken a draught of vin rouge, and neither in action nor in manner did he seem very terrible.
After dinner, having some letters to write to England, I bade my new friends good night, and went up to my own room, — not, however, until Mademoiselle Denise had been most particular in arranging for the following day an excursion to the Castle of Succinio and to Sarzean, the birthplace of the author of " Gil Bias." Considerably before midnight I was fast asleep beneath the soft, thick coverlet and large cushion which form the upper clothing of a Breton bed.
It could have been but a short time thereafter that I was awakened by a slight noise,—so very slight, in fact, that it still remains a mystery to me how I should have heard it. When I opened my fyes I found the room pervaded by bright moonlight, which was streaming in through the casement, and drawing shadows of the bars on the carpet. I was about to close my eyes again, and address myself to sleep, when my attention was arrested by the evident movement of the door, which stood on the right of the bed. It was certainly no miracle that it should open, — for I never bolt bedroom doors or •auttere even when travelling, — but that it should he opened at that time of night was certainly surprising.
Gradually I perceived the distance between the door and the wall increase; and judge of my astonishment when I distinctly observed a white figure appear, — the figure of a woman that slowly entered without seeming even to look at me. I need not pretend to say I was not frightened; the lonely hour, the stillness of the house, the moonlight fulling through the window, combined to make this vision a horror which chilled the blood in my veins, and made my heart beat audibly. But now, thoroughly awakened by the apparition, I shook aside the vague impressions produced on the mind when in a state of unconscious slumber; and as I sought with a severe scrutiny to fix my eyes upon the face of this woman, I recognized, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the features of Mademoiselle Denise.
Judge of my astonishment when I made the discovery I And there could be no mistake about it. As she turned her face to the moonlight, the clear definition of her outline was sufficient proof, had proof been required. There were the same finelycut lips, the straight nose, the high but narrow forehead, even the dark gray eyes, which had grown familiar to me during our acquaintanceship of the previous dozen hours. She was dressed in white, as I said; but this loose outer garment seemed only to cover clothes of a darker hue, — in fact, I should have thought her dressed as usual, with the addition of this loose white robe. Her feet, as was evident when she walked, were bare, and her long fair hair hung down behind, until it almost reachedlier waist. Perhaps it was the striking resemblance she bore to the heroine of " La Sonnambula" that first suggested to me a solution of this seemingly inexplicable mystery; and as I further watched her movements, I was convinced of the correctness of my supposition. She was either an habitual somnambulist, or had been attacked by a sudden fit of sleepwalking. The more I became assured of this fact the greater became my desire to avert the awkwardness and unpleasantness of her be'ing discovered in such a painful situation; but casting over the chances of the matter in my mind, I came to the resolution of allowing her to do as she pleased, judging that she would in a few minutes return to her own room, and the whole affair remain unknown to every one but myself.
So far as I could observe, her eyes were open ; and on her first entrance into the room, she had fixed them upon me with a cold, glassy stare, utterly devoid of recognition or intelligence. In the pale, dim moonlight, this mechanical fixture of the eyes was exceedingly unpleasant; but I strove to look upon it simply as the result of a physical ailment. Slowly, noiselessly, she then stepped past the edge of my bed, and approached the small dressing-table which stood at the window. Her back was thus turned towards me; and it was only at intervals that I could observe her motions. She seemed to be examining the various articles which were scattered about the table, or hanging from the toilette mirror, and presently I heard Tier repeat, in a low, clear voice, these lines from the prayer-book, which the good landlord had left in the room: —
"Qui dit an soleil sur la terre,
D'eclairer tout homme et tont lieu?
"Le bluet et le ciel saperbe.
Qui les a teints d'un nu'me bleu?