Графични страници
PDF файл

One may buy an accomplishment implies no brilliancy whatever in too dearly. It is possible to pay him who exhibits, though it argues too much even for a Parisian pro- immense resources in the treasury nunciation ! Not only have I never from which he derives this wealth. found a linguist a man of eminence, I have known scores of delightful but I have never seen a linguist talkers-Frenchmen—who had no who talked well. Fluent they are, other charm than what their lanof course. Like the Stecknadel guage lent them. They were neither gun of the Prussians, they can fire profound, nor cultiv ed, nor witty without cessation, but, like the -some were not even shrewd or same weapon, they are compara- acute ; but all were pleasant-pleatively aimless. It is a feu roulant, sant in the use of a conversational with plenty of noise and some medium, of which the world has smoke, but


“ few casualties not the equal—a language that has announce the success. The greatest its set form of expression for every linguist of modern Europe, Mezzo- social eventuality, and that hits to fanti, was a most inferior man. Of a nicety every contingency of the the countries whose dialect he spoke “ salon ;” for it is no more the to perfection, he knew nothing. An language of natural people than the old dictionary would have been to essence of the perfumer's sho is the full as companionable. I find it the odour of a field flower. It is very hard not to be personal just pre-eminently the medium of peonow, and give a list-it would be a ple who talk with tall glasses before long one-of all the tiresome people them, and an incense of truffles I know, who talk four, five, some around them, and well-dressed woof them six modern languages per- men — clever and witty, and not fectly. It is only with an effort I over-scrupulous in their opinionsabstain from mentioning the names for their company. Then, French of some well-known men who are is unapproachable ; English would the charming people at Rome and be totally unsuited to the occasion, Vienna every winter, and each sum- and German even more so. There mer are the delight of Ems, of Berlin, is a flavour of sauer kraut about and of Ischl What tyrants these that unhappy tongue that would fellows are, too, over the men who vulgarise a Queen if she talked it. have not got their gift of tongues! To attain, therefore, the turns how they out-talk them and over- and tricks of this language-for it bear them ! with what an insolent is a Chinese puzzle in its involveconfidence they fall back upon the ments what a life must a man petty superiority of their fluency, have led! What“ terms” he must and lord it over those who are im- have “ put in ” at cafés and restaumeasurably their masters! Just as rants ! What seasons at small Blondin might run along the rigging theatres—tripots and worse! What of a three-decker, and pretend that nights at bals-masqués, Chateaux des his agility entitled him to command Fleurs, and Cadrans rouges et bleus ! a squadron !

What doubtful company he must Nothing, besides, is more impos- have often kept! What company ing than the mock eloquence of a little more than doubtful occagood French. The language in it- sionally! What iniquities of French self is so adaptive, it is so felicitous, romance must he have read, with it abounds in such innumerable all the cardinal virtues arrayed as pleasant little analogies, such nice the evil destinies of humanity, and conceits and suggestive drolleries, every wickedness paraded as that that he who acquires these has at natural expansion of the heart will a whole armoury of attack and which alone raises man above the defence. It actually requires years condition of the brute! I ask, if of habit to accustom us to a display proficiency must imply profligacy, that we come at last to discover would you not rather find a man




[ocr errors]

break down in his verbs than his dualism. Every eminent, every able virtue? Would you not prefer a man has a certain integrity in his little inaccuracy in his declensions nature that rejects this plasticity. to a total forgetfulness of the deca- It is a very common habit, partilogue ? And, lastly of all, what cularly with newspaper writers, to man of real eminence could have ascribe skill in languages, and occamasqueraded—for it is masquerad- sionally in games, to distinguished ing—for years in this motley, and people. It was but the other day come out, after all, with even a we were told that Garibaldi spoke rag of his identity?

ten languages fluently. Now GariMany people would scruple to baldi is not really master of two. play at cards with a stranger whose He speaks French tolerably; and mode of dealing and general mani- his native language is not Italian, pulation of the pack bespoke daily but a patois-Genoese. Cavour was familiarity with the play - table. called a linguist with almost as They would infer that he was a re- little truth; but people repeat the gular and professional gambler. In story, just as they repeat that Nathe very same way, and for the poleon I. was a great chess-player. selfsame reason, would I carefully If his statecraft and his strategy avoid any close intimacy with the had been on a par with his chess, Englishman of fluent French, well we should never have heard of Tilknowing he could not have gradu- sit

or Wagram. ated in that perfection save at a Lord Castlereagh, the Duke of certain price. But it is not at the Wellington, and George Canning, moral aspect of the question I de- each of whom administered our fosire particularly to look. I assert reign policy with no small share of --and I repeat my assertion—that success, were not linguists; and as these talkers of many tongues are to Charles Fox, he has left a French poor creatures.

There is no initia- sentence on record that will last tive in them — they suggest no- even as long as his own great name. thing—they are vendors of second- I do not want to decry the study of hand wares, and are not always languages; I simply desire to affirm even good selectors of what they that linguists—and through all I sell. It is only in narrative that have said I mean colloquial linguists they are at all endurable. They can care for the most part poor crearaconter, certainly; and so long as tures, not otherwise distinguished they go from salon to salon repeat than by the gift of tongues; and I ing in set phrase some little misad- want to protest against the undue venture or accident of the day, they pre-eminence accorded to the possesare amusing ; but this is not conver- sors of a small accomplishment, and sation, and they do not converse. the readiness with which the world,

“Every time a man acquires a especially the world of society, new language, is he a new man ?” awards homage to an acquirement is supposed to have been a saying in which a boarding-school miss can of Charles V.-a sentiment that, if surpass Lord Brougham. I mean he uttered it, means more of sar- to say a word or two about those casm than of praise; for it is the who have skill in games; but as very putting off a man's identity they are of a higher order of intelthat establishes his weakness. All telligence, I'll wait till I have got real force of character excludes fresh wind” ere I treat of them.





As there are few better tests of be injurious to him, so there is no the general health of an individual surer evidence of the delicate conthan in the things he imagines to dition of a State than in the charParlia

acter of those who are assumed to prove to be of a more discriminatbe dangerous to it. Now, after all ing and observant character than that has been said of Rome and he liked or anticipated, and the exthe corruptions of Roman govern- hibition in consequence be rendered ment, I do not know anything so critical, all he had to do was, to aver decidedly damnatory as the fact, to that the spirits would not come ; which allusion was lately made in it was no breakdown on his part.

ent, that the Papal Govern- Homer was sulky, or Dante was ment had ordered Mr Home, the hipped, or Lord Bacon was indisspiritualist, to quit the city and the posed to meet company, and there States of his Holiness, and not to was the end of it. You were inreturn to them.

vited to meet celebrities, but it was In what condition, I would ask, theirs to say if they would present must a country be when such a man themselves. is regarded as dangerous ? and in On the other hand, when the prowhat aspect of his character does per element of credulity offeredthe danger consist ?

when the séance was coinprised of Do we want ghosts or spirits to the select few, emotional, sensitive, reveal to us any more of the iniqui- and hysterical as they ought to beties of that State than we already when the nervous lady sat beside know? Is there a detail of its cor- the timid gentleman, and neuralgia rupt administration that the press confronted confirmed dyspepsia — of Europe has not sowed broadcast the artist could afford to be daring, over the world? What could Mr and might venture on flights that asHome and all his spirits tell us of tounded even himself. What limit peculation, theft, subornation, big- is there, besides, to contagional symotry, and oppression, that the least pathy Look at the crowded observant traveller has not brought theatre, with its many-minded spechome with him ?

tators, and see how one impulse, And then, as to the man himself, communicated occasionally by a how puerile it is to give him this hireling, will set the whole mass in importance! The solitary bit of a ferment of enthusiastic delight. cleverness about him is his state- Mark, too, how the smile, that plays ment that he has no control what- like an eddy on a lake, deepens into ever over the spirits that attend him. a laugh, and is caught up by another Asking him not to summon them, and another, till the whole storm is pretty like asking Mr Windham breaks out in a hearty roar of mernot to send for his creditors. They riment. These, if you like, are come pretty much as they like, and spirits; but the great masters of probably their visits are about equal them are not men like Mr Homely profitable .

they have ever been, and still are, In this respect Home belongs to of a very different order. Shakea very low order of his art. When speare and Molière and Cervantes Bosco promises to make a bouquet knew something of the mode to out of a mouse-trap, or Houdin en- summon these imps, and could gages to concoct a batter-pudding make them come at their bidding in your hat, each keeps his word. besides. There is no subterfuge about the Was it—to come back to what I temper the spirits may happen to started with—was it in any spirit of be in, or of their willingness or un- rivalry that the Papal Government willingness to present themselves. drove Mr Home out of Rome ? The thing is done, and we see it or Was it that, assuming to have a we think we see it, which comes monopoly in the wares he dealt in, much to the same.

they would not stand a contraband With this provision of escape he trade ? If so, their ground is at least secured himself against all failure. defensible; for what chance of atShould, for instance, the audience traction would there be for the winking Virgin in competition with British army-I should certainly him who could“ make a young lady have comforted myself by the ascend to the ceiling, and come thought that I could always go and slowly down like a parachute !"- sit down on the steps of the Vatican. a spiritual fact I have heard from It would immediately have occurred witnesses who really, so far as char- to me, that as Holyrood offers its acter went, might challenge any in- sanctuary against the sheriff, the credulity.

Quirinal would be the sure retreat If the cardinals were jealous of the against Old Nick; and I have even conjuror, the thing is intelligible pictured to myself the rage of his enough, and one must feel a certain disappointed malice as he saw me degree of sympathy with the old- sheltering safely beneath a protecestablished firm that had spent tion he dared not invade. And now such enormous sums, and made I am told to relinquish all the blesssuch stupendous preparations, when ed enjoyment of this immunity; a pretender like this could come that the Pope and the cardininto competition with them, with- als and Antonelli himself are not out any other properties than could a whit better off than the rest be carried conveniently about him. of us; that if Mr Home gets

But let us be practical. The into Rome, there is nothing to prePope's Government demanded of vent his having the Devil at his Mr Home that he should have no tea-parties. What an ignoble confesdealings with the Evil One during sion is this ! Who will step forward his stay at Rome. Now, I ask, any longer and contend that this what should we say of the efficacy costly system is to be maintained, of our police system if we were and all these saintly intercessors to to hear that the Chief Inspector be kept on the most expensive of at Scotland Yard lived in nightly all pension-lists, if a poor createrror of the pickpockets who ture like Home can overthrow it frequented that quarter, and came all ? to Parliament with a petition to Can any one conceive such a accord him some greater secu- spectacle as these gorgeous men of rity against their depredations ? scarlet and purple cringing before Would

not the natural reply be an this poor pretender, and openly exclamation of astonishment that avowing before Europe that there he who could summon to his aid is no peace for them till he conevery alphabetical blue - coat that sents to cross the Tiber ? ever handled a truncheon, should Why I speak, of course, in the deem any increased security neces- ignorance of a laic- but, I ask, sary to his peace? And so, would why not fumigate him and cleanse I ask, of what avail these crowds of him? When I saw him last, the cardinals—these regiments of mon- process would not have been so signori—these battalions of bishops, supererogatory. Why not exorcise arch and simple ?—of what use all and defy him? Why not say, Come, the incense and these chanted litan- and bring your friend, if you dare; ies—and these eternal processions, you shall see how we will treat you. and these saintly shin-bones borne Only try it. It is what we have in costly array--if one poor mortal, been asking for nigh two thousand supposed to live on visiting terms years. Let the great culprit step with the Evil One, can strike such forward and plead to his indictterror into the whole army led on ment. by Infallibility ?

I can fancy the Pope saying this If I had been possessed of any - I can picture to myself the proud peculiar dread of coming unexpect- attitude of the Pontiff declaring, edly on the Devil—as the old ladies “I have had enough of these small of New York used to feel long ago devilries. Like Louis Napoleon about suddenly meeting with the and Victor Emmanuel, I am sick of Mazzini and his petty followers. shirk the interview, and own be Let us deal with the chief of the was afraid of him. It would not gang at once; if we cannot convict surprise me to-morrow to hear that him, he will be at least open to a Lord Derby dreaded the Radicals, compromise.” This, I say, I can and actually feared the debating comprehend ; but it is clear and powers of “ Mr Potter of the clean beyond me that he should Strikes."






Nothing shows what a practical civil servants of the Crown, and people we

than our

scores of others, whom nothing establishment of insurances against would tempt into the Cursaal at railroad accidents. The spirit of Ems or Baden, as coolly as possible commercial enterprise, by which a playing this terrific game, and backman charters himself for a railroad ing themselves heavily for a dorsal voyage with an insured cargo of his paralysis, a depressed fracture of bones, ligaments, cartilage, and adi- the cranium, or at least a compound pose tissue, abundantly proves that dislocation of the hip-joint. we are nature's own traders and

Now, if the Protestant Church shopkeepers.

entertained what the Romanists call Any ordinary people less imbued

cases of conscience, I should like with Liverpool and Manchester no- greatly to ask, Is this right? Is it tions would have bestirred them- justifiable to make a contingent selves how to prevent, or at least profit out of your cerebral vertebræ lessen, the number of those casual- or your popliteal space? ties. They would have set to work We have long been derided and to see what provisions could be scoffed at for making connubialism adopted to give greater security to marketable, and putting a price on travel. We, on the contrary, are a wife's infidelity, but it strikes me too business-like to waste time on this is something worse; for what, this inquiry. We are convinced after all, is a rib—a false rib, too that, let us build ships ever so -compared with the whole bony strong, there will still be ship- skeleton ? wrecks. So we feel assured that a “ Allah is Allah,” said the Turkcertain number of railway accidents, ish admiral to Lady Hester Stanas they are called, will continue to hope, “but I have got two anchors occur—be as broad gauge as you astern,” showing that, with all his will! We accept the situation, there- fatalism, he did not despise what fore, as the French say, and insure; are technically called human means. that is to say, we book a bet at So the reverend Archdeacon, going very long odds—say, three to a down for his sea-baths, might say, thousand—that we shall be rolled “I'm not quite sure they'll carry up, cut in two, flattened into a me safely, but it shall not be all thin sheeting, and ground into an misfortune-I'll take out some of impalpable powder, between Croy- it in money.” don and Brighton. If we arrive The system, however, has its difsafe, the assurance office pockets a ficulties; for though it is a round few shillings; if we win our wager, game, the stakes are apportioned our executor receives a thousand with reference to the rank and condipounds.

tion of the winner—as, for instance, It is about the grimmest kind of the Solicitor-General's collar-bone gambling ever man heard of; and is worth a shoemaker's whole body, yet we see folk of the most unques- and a Judge's patella is of more tionable propriety - dignitaries of value than a dealer in marine stores the Church, judges, civil and un- and his rising family. This is a

[ocr errors]
« ПредишнаНапред »