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A FRAGMENT FROM A MANUSCRIPT JOURNAL.
I have been upon deck in search of something pour passer le tems, and to fill up a vacant space in my journal, but without success. The rushing of the wind, the dashing of the water, the rise and fall of the ocean, the endless play of motion, and the ceaseless monotony of sound are still the same as the first day I came on board.
Tout va son train; we observe the wind, calculate our distance, conjecture the weather, play with our Newfoundland dog, eat, sleep, and talk of what we have talked of before, and when we have completed the circuit have nothing to do but begin again. And yet the time passes very quickly, and with a list of grievances which would make a landsman turn pale, and a list of pleasures which he would hold in utter contempt, we contrive to make ourselves very happy after all. If we are nothing else, we are certainly philosophers at sea.
My good genius, the surgeon, called me up to see a vessel that was just appearing in sight. All was busy animation on deck-colours and pennant were instantly hoisted and every eye was eager to discover her country and her name. It is not easy to conceive how great a sensation this little incident created ;-to men who are perpetually encountering novelty scarcely any thing appears really new, but after numbering over successive days of monotonous existence the slightest incident is of importance. The vessel hoisted her colours, and proved to be French. It was scarcely half an hour from her first appearance on the horizon to the time she passed astern of us; we then wished her God speed, and soon after she disappeared to be seen by us no more. It is a noble sight to see a vessel in full sail upon
the ocean, gallantly breasting the wave, now rising majestically upon the surface, and sinking again upon the deep, and dashing up the spray in a shower of whitened foam before it. I do not think there is a prouder monument to the genius and industry of man, than a vessel tracking her way through the pathless deep. A plank separates between you and the ocean, yet you fear no danger, you are without barrier or beacon in your path, yet your way is certain; and though the elements are spread above and beneath you, in all their amplitude and majesty, your little bark, a speck upon the mighty waters, is fearlessly committed to their guidance, till a short period of eventful days brings her in safety to her destined port.
Our compagnon de voyage gave me a litte anecdote at dinner which, as it is not very long, shall have a place in my journal. Monsieur Ricart was staying at Coppet; one day at dinner he was placed between Madame Recamier and Madame de Stael, and as a man of gallantry wishing to pay a compliment to both the ladies, he began to congratulate himself upon being placed between the most celebrated beauty, and the most celebrated wit in Europe. But the ladies were toutes furieuses, and neither would yield the palm of wit or beauty to the other. Madame Recamier could not bear the idea of not being a wit, and Madame de Stael was enraged at not being a beauty. I will add another anecdote which I received from the same narrator. When he was in Africa, he went with the Ambassador to pay his respects to the Dey of Algiers. There were the consuls of many of the European nations attending for the same purpose. Amongst them was Chambon Aubin, a revolutionary character of bloody notoriety. As usual on such occasions, the order of precedence was a matter of some difficulty, and on going up, Chambon Aubin, as insignificant in appearance as arrogant in character, had the audacity to elbow the British consul and take the lead. All were indignant: and our English consul who had all the independence of the English spirit, supported by a noble and dignified exterior, raised his hand and levelling him to the earth with a single blow, walked on to the audience chamber without deigning to cast a solitary look upon the discomfited hero: so that before he could recover himself, not only the British consul, but all the others in succession had advanced to their audience and left him to bring up the rear as he could. They all highly enjoyed his mortification, and as he had no means of redress he was obliged to digest the insult as he could.
I have just seen the sun setting in a blaze of glory, and as `his golden line of light' declined upon the western wave, tinge the clouds with a carnation glow of loveliness. We all assembled to admire ; but as the feeling of admiration passed away, the rest of the little party soon entered again into conversation. I was not so soon beguiled to other thoughts, but continued watching till twilight spread her robe of peace upon the heavens. The vesper star shed its solitary ray, but the moon had not yet risen. The hum of human voices was the only sound that broke the solitude—the calm serenity of the sky and the stillness of the air breathed their own deep silence on the heart ; and after a short bright hour of exquisite enjoyment, I have only retired below because the scene had a beauty I have no power to describe, and excited an interest I cannot express: friends, home, kindred, and country, passed before me, and memory mingled thoughts of pain with those of love. There is a refinement of feeling which is hostile to enjoyment.
G. G. LACONISMS.
Complaints against Fortune are frequently little more than covert apologies for indolence and misconduct.
II. As love will often cause wise men to act like fools, so self-interest will as frequently teach fools to act like men of sense.
Friendship rarely, if ever, ascends to love; whilst love very often descends to friendship.
IV. The settled calmness of despair, is to the soul what the ease produced by mortification, is to the flesh.
To praise every thing is as great a mark of ignorance as to praise nothing.
VI. The world is overrun with people who, as Horace justly remarks, are ashamed to learn, although they are not ashamed to remain in ignorance.
VII. Prudery is a mask behind which we may fairly suspect those women who wear it of playing all sorts of antics.
VIII, It has oft been remarked, that those ladies who are the most difficult in the choice of their lovers, are the least so in the choice of their husbands.
IX. The qualities which are most desirable in a mistress, are often the very reverse of those which we wish for in a wife.
X. It is far more difficult to preserve friends than to acquire them in the first instance.
. XI, We often spend one half of our time in seeking the means of trifling away the other.
XII. We ought not always to estimate the advice of a friend by the event; but rather by the time and circumstances under which it was given.
XIII. Remedies for the mind, like those for the body, are often nauseous in proportion as they are salutary.
XIV. A man must be a fool indeed if his neighbour discovers his weakness whilst he is flattering him.
XV. People very rarely affect modesty by decrying their own merits, unless there is some one at hand who is likely to contradict them.
. XVI. . An orator derives less confidence from his volubility, than volubility from his confidence.
XVII. Some people contrive to pass off a great many silly remarks unperceived by means of a sentence or two of sense, upon much the same principle that toll-keepers manage to get rid of half a dozen bad shillings between a couple of good ones.
XVIII. People frequently arraign their neighbours for follies or faults of which they have not sense and feeling enough to be guilty themselves. They do not seem to be aware that they may be as distant from the goal of virtue by stopping short of it as by running beyond it.
XIX. Those who attempt to shine in conversation bear no slight resemblance to ambitious musicians, who, although they hear other parts of a performance, pay very little attention to any save their own.
XX. To be in company with men of genius without deriving instruction, is almost as impossible as to pass through an orange grove without imbibing its perfume.
THE ORIGIN OF SEALS.
As so many persons amuse themselves at the present day, by forming collections of seals, a few particulars respecting the origin of these appendages to letters and other documents, may not prove uninteresting to our readers. The date of the introduction of seals into this country is not precisely known. There is, we have understood, at Tersfield in Norfolk, an ancient deed, made by John Camerarius, of Shimpling, to Richard de Kentwell, clerk, and Alice, his wife and their heirs, of three acres of land, in that town, witnessed by Sir Gerard de Waschesam, knight, and others, which is remarkable for never having had any seal attached to it, as well as from the circumstance of its being dated at Shimpling, in the church-yard, on the Sunday before Pentecost, anno 1294. This affords some evidence that seals were not in use at that period, and that in lieu of the description of attestation since adopted, the most solemn and public mode of making a conveyance of property, was to cause the deed to be read and signed in the church-yard after service, in the presence of the whole congregation, that there might be no lack of witnesses if occasion required it. The Saxons used no seals, affixing only the mark of the cross to their public instruments. To this, however, was always superadded the name of the party, by the scribe. The first sealed charter we meet with is that of Edward the Confessor, to Westminster Abbey. The custom, however, originated in Normandy, where he was brought up, and for that reason was approved by the Norman conqueror. It came into general observance by degrees. The use of the seal was confined, in the first instance, to the king, it was next extended to the nobility, (who engraved on their seals their own effigies, covered with coat armour), and subsequently, to gentlemen, who introduced the arms of their family for the sake of distinction. It was not until the reign of Edward III. that seals came into general use, and those who had no coat armour chose their own device, such as flowers, birds, beasts, or whatever most attracted their fancy. Nothing was more common at this period, than for persons to engrave hieroglyphics of their names, such as a Heron for a Heron,-a Swan for a Swan, and so on; and if the crests of a large proportion of the nobility and gentry of the present day be examined, they will be found to bear various degrees of affinity to their names. As very few of even the respectable yeomen in the reign to which we refer were able to write their own names, they were inscribed upon their seals, and these implements were always borne about their persons, either in the form of rings, or on a ring, (or, as it was then called, a roundell), fastened sometimes to their purses, and sometimes to their girdles. It was also customary, where a man's seal was not well known, to get some one, in a public office, to affix theirs to it, by way of confirmation. Thus Hugh de Scales, a younger branch of Lord Scales' family, who was a clergyman, at Halton, in Cambridgeshire, upon his agreeing to pay the prior of Bernewell, thirty shillings, for two thirds of the tithe corn due to the said prior, out of several lands in his parish, obtained the permission of the archdeacon to add his seal of office, for more ample confirmation; and when this was not done the public notary was requested to affix his mark, which, being registered at their admission into office, was of as public a nature as any seal could be, and of as great sanction to any instrument. These officers being always sworn to the true execution of their office, and to affix no other mark to any document than that which had been registered as theirs, were as well known by this mark as by their names; and were hence enti
tled public notaries. The employment of this class of persons is somewhat different now, and they have so far varied from their original designation, that they merely write N. P. for Notary Public, after their signatures.
The use of the seal as a distinction between families has long been abolished. It has been suggested, and we think very sensibly, that were every one in office, upon his admission, to choose and appropriate to himselfa particular seal, and have a copy of it publicly registered, being enjoined never to employ any other under a severe penalty, would afford people the means of detecting a vast number of impostors, who aid their vocation by counterfeiting the signatures of those upon whom they profess to have claims. They could not falsify the seals of the parties, because, although well acquainted with their names, they would not be likely to be equally so with their bearings and devices. If this practice were also adopted as it regards the connection of this country with foreign states, it would prove extremely beneficial. Indeed, a great deal more might be said, (if we were not afraid of wearying our readers by a dry and prolonged discussion), in recommendation of this practice, as introduced by William the Conqueror, who rarely originated any suggestion that has not been stamped with the approval of succeeding ages.
B. THE LAST LEAF OF THE FOREST.
It was the end of autumn, and my foot rustled among the dead leaves that strewed the path. I cast my eyes up to an aged oak, that stretched its giant limbs in many a fantastic form high over my head. It was the lord of the forest. I looked at it again, and again ; one leaf still remained on one sole hanging branch ; it struggled in vain to get free. A fresher gust of wind came up the valley—the tiny footstalk gave way—it separated from the branch—and the last leaf of the forest fell at my feet. I gazed at it half sorrowfully; it was not like its companions that lay near; no, it was still fresh as the greenest leaf in spring. The brown tints of autumn had not yet mellowed its vivid colouring ; it seemed as if cut off in its prime; different, far different, from those faded trophies of summer which lay around me. Unconsciously, I fell into a train of thought that was sad, even to mournfulness. I took the leaf in my hand, and exclaimed aloud, • Too true a simile, the last flower of the castle, and the last leaf of the forest, have both departed in vernal freshness, alike blooming, and lovely.' I had now reached an open part of the forest which commanded an extensive prospect over the valley; a dim and indistinct object met my view; it wound round a little wooded promontory, and again I plainly saw it. Too well I knew what the sad procession was ; the plumes of white feathers danced in the beams of the morning sun, as if in mockery of the sombre object that bore them. It was the hearse that conveyed the relics of Ellen, the last flower of the castle, to her long home. The only remaining child of a numerous family was regarded by her doating parents with no ordinary affection ; but that fell disease, Consumption, came—it breathed on Ellen's face and the last blossom was gathered to her fathers. The sad procession arrived at the church. I joined the trajn of mourners-a few moments pause ensued, -broken only by the sobs of the wretched father. The solemn and impressive service commenced the corpse was lowered into the tomb~I was near it, the leaf fell from my hand-the earth rattled on the coffin-the last flower of the castle, and the last leaf of the forest, reposed in the same grave..
J. J. Co-E R-L, DEros.