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ridiculous character, yet to give one's self up to one engrossing interest, to the exclusion of all others, is reducing us to a state of dependance almost as onerous as that of a real hanger-on. I daily, therefore, felt my heart-burning about Hastings subside, and opened my mind to the acquisition of other intimacies.
Among these, one with Mr. Granville, of All Souls, a very enthusiastic person, to whom I was introduced in form by Fothergill, as a brother enthusiast, claimed the first, and indeed a very high place. For, though he was some years my senior, and perhaps the most accomplished man in the university, he was so good as at first to tolerate and protect, and afterwards to feel a kindness for me, for which I was always grateful.
Granville was a beautiful classic, which study fed a most romantic disposition, carried to its height by a taste for poetry and music--in both which he was no ordinary artist ;—for some of his poems and melodies, breathing delicate love, reminding me then of Tibullus, and afterwards of Petrarch, and set by himself to “ Lydian measures,” had been published and admired in our musical university.
My own feeling for both these charming arts was, perhaps, what first recommended me to the favour of Granville ; but my respect for him was infinitely enhanced by his relationship to the family which had engrossed my all of interest : for his mother being a sister of Mr. Hastings, he was by consequence cousin to Bertha; and his interest with me on that account may be divined.
There were many other characters with whom I
became acquainted, and met afterwards in the world, and whom I may hereafter introduce in the course of these memoirs ; but Granville, having had a more intimate and earlier influence on my career, which continued to the very end of it, I have stopped to describe him here. I now return to my narrative.
Left to myself, and relieved from the nightmare which my anxieties about Foljambe had hitherto imposed upon me, I began to breathe more freely, and listened more complacently to my good kinsman's lectures about Bertha. I found, however, that in regard to both her and her brother, I was embarrassed with a difficulty in my philosophy, arising, it should seem, out of a liberalism, or perhaps causing that liberalism (I don't know which), of which, notwithstanding my hatred of mob rule and contempt for mob popularity, nay, spite of my respect for the blood of the Cliffords and Bardolfes, I had no inconsiderable share. The following proposition engaged me.
Is that a sound state of society, or can there be perfect freedom, when either by law there is a privileged class of men, or from custom or insuperable prejudice, a tolerated one, which shall be allowed to usurp a dominion (though only in their own minds) over any other classes? If we are all fellow-citizens, or fellow-subjects, and have equal rights under the law, can it be endured that any one person, or set of persons, shall be allowed even to think themselves higher than others, so as to act the exclusive towards them, and draw a magic circle round themselves, into which no others shall have power to enter ?
The maxim of
“ Nul n'aura de l'esprit, “ Hors nous et nos amis,”
forms an aristocracy in literature. It is the same, or worse, in the aristocracy of fashion, because the proscribed in the last have less power to defend themselves.
How is this to be resisted ? Not surely by flight! Not by saying the grapes are sour, and therefore I won't taste them. No; let me prove and feel my right to taste them, and then throw them away if I please. This, and this alone, I thought was the perfection of freedom ; and a desideratum, fully as necessary to be accomplished in our moral, as the most desirable reform in our political constitution.
This was my problem, and I own the solution of the whole of Euclid would have been nothing to it. It was in vain that I drew up myself, or imagined for my tutor, all the fine arguments that philosophy or magnanimity could supply, by which to render one of the rejected perfectly at ease as to the usurpation of the rejectors. I criticised all the fine people I had seen in the university ; I found one uglier, another more awkward, another meaner, a fourth a greater blockhead, and some even as ill-dressed, as those they affected to keep at a distance. They had all the little passions and foolish rivalries, the strifes, heart-burnings, envy, hatred, and malice that we had ; nor were their manners in any wise more polished. But they kept all these among themselves; they would not condescend to be even rude to those below them in caste; on the con
trary, if forced by chance into any communication, their demeanour was marked by the most freezing dis
In fact, it was a total proscription of intercourse which they affected, and this was what both puzzled and annoyed me.
What made the puzzle greater, there were several among these chosen few who had no more right than myself, from birth, parentage, or education, and I had almost said fortune, to the admission which they had received among these sacred ranks.
these sacred ranks. They must themselves have
“ Wondered how the devil they got there."
It is inconceivable how all this engaged my inquiries, and, I grieve to add, affected my tranquillity.
I heard from some of my higher acquaintance, and read in the papers, of a sort of king of fashion and exclusiveness in London, whose nod was law as to company, and for whose countenance as an arbiter elegantiarum more struggles were made than there used to prevail for the empire of Germany. He dealt out degrees in Bon Ton, as our convocation did in learning. Any one on whom he smiled could be admitted any where; he on whom he frowned could show himself no where. Well, he was as rich and sumptuous as fastidious; but what was his right to be fastidious ? What was he above the commonest man ? barring rank and fortune, and that was no merit of his own.
Knowing nothing of him, and not likely to do so, it is remarkable how I plagued myself about this Lord A, as a riddle of human nature. For I had never heard of a single superior quality in any one thing
which belonged to his character. He had no wit, nor indeed more than the commonest knowledge of any thing; neither conversation, nor agreeableness. But he made a profit of his dullness, by making it assume the character of reserve, which humbugged “the general," who thought themselves in the third heaven if invited to his balls, and even there his major-domo would have acted his part quite as well as himself.
I resolved to bring this whole subject, Lord A-and all, before my sagacious Mentor.
“ I believe,” said Mr. Fothergill, after I had opened myself to him, “ that no ingenuous youth of any mind, or sense of independence, but has been at one time or other affected in the same way as yourself; and the impression is more or less forcible, and lasts a longer or shorter time, according to the temperament, sanguine or phlegmatic, of the patient."
“ Patient !” cried I.
“ Yes! for is not this a mental disease? Does it not for the most part proceed from both pride and weakness in the complainant ? and are not both these diseases ?" “ If you make that out, yes."
Why, what but pride or weakness in yourself could make you feel them an annoyance in another ? For I suppose, I need not ask
whether the usurpation you complain of is not pride and weakness ?”
“Certainly; and it is, as such, absolutely contemptible.”
“ Then, I think, we need go no further ; for why should you be annoyed with what you think absolutely contemptible ?"