Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub
[ocr errors]

“Hazza! the serjeant cried, and put

The money in his hand,
And with a shilling cut him off

From his paternal land.
“For when his regiment went to fight

At Saragossa town,
A Frenchman thought he look'd too tall,

And so he cut him down.” Barham's humour, as seen in his “ Ingoldsby Legends," is of a lower character, but shows that the author possessed a great natural facility. He had keen observation, but his taste did not prevent his employing it on what was coarse and puerile. Common slang abounds, as in “The Vulgar Little Boy ;" he talks of “ the devil's cow's tail,” and is little afraid of extravagances. His metre often assists him, and we have often comic rhyming as where “ Mephistopheles” answers to “ Coffee lees,” and he says: To gain your sweet smiles, were I Sardanapalus, I'd descend from my throne, and be boots at an alehouse'

But in raising a laugh and affording a pleasant distraction by fantastic humour on common subjects, the “Ingoldsby Legends” have been highly successful, and they are recommended by an occasional historical allusion, especially at the expense of the old monks. Being written by a man of knowledge and cultivation, they rise considerably above the standard of the contributions to lower class comic papers, which in some respects they resemble.

CHAPTER XVI.

Douglas Jerrold-Liberal Politics-Advantages of Ugliness

-Button Conspiracy-Advocacy of Dirt—The “Genteel Pigeons.”

"HERE is an earnestness and a political 1 complexion in the humour of Douglas Jerrold, such as might be expected from a man who had been educated in the school of adversity. He was born in a garret at Sheerness, where his father was manager of the theatre; and as he grew up in the seaport among ships, sailors and naval preparations, his ambition was fired, and he entered the service as a midshipman. On his return, after a short period, he found his father immersed in difficulties, due probably to the inactivity at the seaport in time of peace. Many a man has owed his success in life partly to his following his father's profeesion, and here fortune favoured Jerrold, as his maritime experiences assisted him as a writer for the stage. We can easily understand how “Black-eyed Susan” would move the hearts of sailors returning after a long voyage. Meanwhile the inner power and energy of the man developed itself in many directions; he perfected himself in Latin, French and Italian literature, wrote “leaders” for the “ Morning Herald,” and articles for Magazines. All his works were short, and those which were most approved never assumed an important character. The most successful enterprise in his career was his starting “Punch,” in conjunction with Gilbert A-Beckett and Mark Lemon.

Jerrold was a staunch and sturdy liberal, and his original idea was that of a periodical to expose every kind of hypocrisy, and fraud, and especially to attack the strongholds of Toryism. “Punch” owed much at its commencement to the pen of Jerrold, and has well retained its character for fun, although it scarcely now represents its projector's political ardour.

His conversation overflowed with pleasantry, and in conversation he sometimes hazarded a pun, as when he asked Talfourd whether he had any more “Ions” in the fire. But the critic, who says that “every jest of his was a gross incivility made palatable by a pun,” is singularly infelicitous, for as a humorous writer he is almost unique in his freedom from verbal hnmour. His style is often adagial or exaggerated, and we are constantly meeting such sentences as;

Advantages of Ugliness.

209

“ Music was only invented to gammon human nature, and that is the reason that women are so fond of it."

A fellow from a horsepond will know anybody who's a supper and a bed to give him.”

“To whip a rascal for bis rags is to pay flattering homage to cloth of gold.”

“A suspicious man would search a pincushion for treason, and see daggers in a needle case."

“Wits, like drunken men with swords, are apt to draw their steel upon their best acquaintance.”

“What was talked of as the golden chain of love, was nothing but a succession of laughs, a chromatic scale of merriment reaching from earth to Olympus.”

St. Giles' and St. James' is written to show that “St. James in his brocade may probably learn of St. Giles in his tatters.” It abounds in quaint and humorous moralizing. Here is a specimen

“We cannot say if there really be not a comfort in substantial ugliness : ugliness that unchanged will last a man his life, a good granite face in which there shall be no wear or tear. A man so appointed is saved many alarms, many spasms of pride. Time cannot wound his vanity through his features; he eats, drinks, and is merry in spite of mirrors. No acquaintance starts at sudden alteration, hinting in such surprise, decay and the final tomb. He grows old with no former intimates-churchyard voices -crying “How you're altered.” How many a man might have been a truer husband, a better father, firmer friend, more valuable citizen, had he, when arrived at legal maturity, cut off, say—an inch of his nose. This inch-only an inch !-would have destroyed the vanity of the very handsomest face, and so driven the thought of a man from a vulgar looking-glass, a piece of shop crystal--and more, from the fatal mirrors carried in the heads of women, to reflect heaven knows how many coxcombs who choose to stare into them-driven the man to the glass of his own mind. With such small sacrifice he might have been a pbilosopher. Thus considered, how many a coxcomb may be within an inch of a sage!”

In another passage of the same book we read

VOL. II.

“ Was there not Whitlow, beadle of the parish of St. Scraggs? What a man-beast was Whitlow ! how would be, like an avenging ogre, scatter apple-women! how would he foot little boys guilty of peg-tops and marbles ! how would he puff at a beggar-puff like the picture of the north wind in a spelling book! What a huge heavy purple face he had, as though all the blood of his body were stagnant in his cheeks! and then when he spoke, would he not growl and snuffie like a dog? How the parish would have hated him, but that the parish heard there was a Mrs. Whitlow; a small fragile woman, with a face sharp as a penknife, and lips that cut her words like scissors ! and what a forlorn wretch was Whitlow with his head brought once a night to the pillow ! poor creature! helpless, confused ; a huge imbecility, a stranded wbale ! Mrs. Whitlow talked and talked ; and there was not an applewoman that in Whitlow's sufferings was not avenged : not a beggar that, thinking of the beadle at midnight, might not in his compassion have forgiven the beadle of the day. And in this punishment we acknowledge a grand, a beautiful retribution. A Judge Jeffreys in his wig is an abominable tyrant; yet may his victims sometimes smile to think what Judge Jeffreys suffers in his night cap !"

It is almost unnecessary to observe that the writer of Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures was somewhat severe upon the fair sex. His idea of a perfect woman is that of one who is beautiful, “and can do everything but speak.” In the “Chronicles of Clovernook”-i.e. of his little retreat near Herne Bay-he gives an account of the Hermit of Bellyfulle, who lives in “the cell of the corkscrew," and among many amusing paradoxes, maintains the following,

“Ay, Sir, the old story-the old grievance, Sir, 'twixt man and woman," said the hermit.

“ And wbat is that, Sir ?” we asked.

The hermit shaking his head, and groaning cried, “ Buttons."

“ Buttons !” said we.

Our hermit drew himself closer to the table, and spreading his arms upon it, leaned forward with the serious air

« ПредишнаНапред »