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Ladies' Prescriptions.

221

fiddle-daddle and feeble court slip-slop,” and exclaims, “Ah, ladies! Ask the Reverend Mr. Thurifer if Belgravia is not a sounding brass, and Tyburnia a tinkling cymbal!"

He tells us that “The affection of young ladies is of as rapid a growth as Jack's beanstalk, and reaches up to the sky in a night,” and in the following passage he exhibits the conduct of an amiable and estimable girl, when under this fascinating spell

“Were Miss Sedley's letters to Mr. Osborn to be published, we should have to extend this noxel to such a multiplicity of volumes, as not the most sentimental reader could support; she not only filled large sheets of paper, but crossed them with the most astonishing perverseness, she wrote whole pages out of poetry books without the least pity, the underlined words and passrges with quite a frantic emphasis ; and in fine gave the usual tokens of her condition. Her letters were full of repetition, she wrote rather doubtful grammar sometimes, and in her verses took all sorts of liberties with the metre."

Speaking of a very religious and medical lady“ Pitt had been made to accept Saunders McNitre, Luke Waters, Giles Jowles, Podger's Pills, Rodger's Pills, Pokey's Elixir-every one of her ladyship’s remedies, spiritual and temporal. He never left her house without carrying respectfully away with him piles of her quack theolegy and medicine. Ö, my dear brethren and fellowsojourners in Vanity Fair, which among you does not know and suffer under such benevolent despots ? It is in vain you say to them, ' Dear madam, I took Podger's speci. fic at your orders last year, and believe in it. Why am I to recant, and accept the Rodger's articles now ?' There is no help for it; the faithful proselytizer, if she cannot convince by argument, bursts into tears, and the recusant finds himself taking down the bolus, and saying "Well, well, Rodger's be it."

A still more alarming attack is thus represented :

“Glorvina had flirted with all the marriageable officers, whom the depôts of her country afforded, and all the bachelor squires who seemed eligible. She had been engaged to be married a half-score of times in Ireland, besides the clergyman at Bath, who had used her so ill. She had flirted all the way to Madras with the captain and chiefmate of the Ramchunder East Indiaman, and had a season at the Presidency. Everybody admired her; everybody danced with her; but no one proposed that was worth marrying. .... Undismayed by forty or fifty previous defeats, Glorvina laid siege to Major Dobbin. She sang Irish melodies at him unceasingly. She asked him so frequently and so pathetically. Will you come to the bower,' that it is a wonder how any man of feeling could have resisted the invitation. She was never tired of inquiring if . Sorrow had his young days faded,' and was ready to listen and weep like Desdemona at the stories of his dangers and campaigns. She was constantly writing notes over to him at his house, borrowing his books, and scoring with her great pencil marks such passages of sentiment or humour, as awekened her sympathy. No wonder that public rumour assigned her to him."

In the following, Thackeray is more severe“His wife never cared about being called Lady Newcome. To manage the great house of Hobson brothers and Newcome, to attend to the interests of the enslaved negro: to awaken the benighted Hottentot to a sense of the truth ; to convert Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Papists; to arouse the indifferent and often blasphemous mariner; to guide the washerwoman in the right way; to head all the public charities of her sect, and do a thousand secret kindnesses that none knew of; to answer myriads of letters, pension endless ministers, and supply their teeming wives with continuous baby-linen, to hear preachers daily bawling for hours, and listen untired on her knees, after a long day's labour, while florid rhapsodists belaboured cushions above her with wearisome benedictions; all these things had this woman to do, and for nearly fourscore years she fought her fight womanfully.”

This pious lady's residence was a “serious Paradise;"

"As you entered at the gate gravity fell on you; and decorum wrapped you in a garment of starch. The butcher boy who galloped his horse and cart madly about the ad. joining lanes and commons, whistled wild melodies (caught up in abominable play-house galleries) and joked with a

A Serious Paradise.

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hundred cook-maids,—on passing that lodge fell into an undertaker's pace, and delivered his joints and sweetbreads silently at the servant's entrance. The rooks in the elms cawed sermons at morning and evening: the peacocks walked demurely on the terraces ; and the guinea-fowls looked more quaker-like than those savoury birds usually do. The lodge-keeper was serious, and a clerk at a neighbouring chapel. The pastors who entered at that gate, and greeted his comely wife and children, fed the little lambkins with tracts. The head-gardener was a Scotch Calvinist, after the strictist order, only occupying bimself with the melons and pines provisionally, and until the end of the world, which event, he could prove by infallible calculations was to come off in two or three years at farthest.”

In one place, a collision is represented between the old and young schools of criticism:

“The Colonel heard opinions that amazed and bewil. dered him; he heard that Byron was no great poet, though a very clever man; he heard that there had been a wicked persecution against Mr. Pope's memory and fame, and that it was time to reinstate him; that his favourite, Dr. Johnson, talked admirably, but did not write English ; that young Keats was a genius to be estimated in future days with young Raphael; and that a young gentleman of Cambridge, who had lately published two volumes of verses, might take rank with the greatest poets of all. Dr. Johnson not write English! Lord Byron not one of the greatest poets of the world! Sir Walter a poet of the second order ! Mr. Pope attacked for inferiority and want of imagination; Mr. Keats, and this young Mr. Tennyson of Cambridge, the chiefs of modern poetic literature? What were these new dicta which Mr. Warrington delivered with a puff of tobacco smoke, to which Mr. Honeyman blandly assented, and Clive listened with pleasure ? .... With Newcome, the admiration for the literature of the last century was an article of belief, and the incredulity of the young men seemed rank blasphemy. “You will be sneering at Shakespere next,' he said, and was silenced, though not better pleased, when his youthful guests told him that Dr. Gold. smith sneered at him too; that Dr. Johnson did not understand him, and that Congreve in his own day, and afterwards, was considered to be, in some points, Shakespeare's superior."

In the next he relapses into his stronger sarcasm

“There are no better satires than letters. Take a bundle of your dear friends' letters of ten years back-your dear friend, whom you hate now. Look at a file of your sister's ! how you clung to each other until you quarrelled about the twenty pound legacy, ... Vows, love promises, confidence, gratitude ! how queerly they read after a while. . . . The best ink for Vanity Fair use would be one that faded utterly in a couple of days, and left the paper clean and blank, so that you might write on it to somebody else.”

Again :“Many persons who let lodgings in Brighton have been servants themselves, are retired housekeepers, tradesfolk, and the like. With these surrounding individuals Hannah, treated on a footing of equality, bringing to her mistress accounts of their various goings on; 'how No. 6 was let; how No. 9 had not paid his rent again; how the first floor at 27 had game almost every day, and made-dishes from Mutton's; how the family who had taken Mrs. Bugsby's had left, as usual, after the very first night, the poor little infant blistered all over with bites on its dear little face; how the Miss Leary's were going on shameful with the two young inen, actually in their sitting-room, mum, where one of them offered Miss Laura Leary a cigar; how Mrs. Cribb still went cuttin' pounds and pounds of meat off the lodgers' jints, emptying their tea-caddies, actually reading their letters. Sally had been told so by Polly, the Cribb's maid, who was kep', how that poor child was kep,' hearing language perfectly hawful!'”

Thus in all Thackeray's descriptions there is more or less satire. He was always making pincushions, into which he was plunging his little points of sarcasm, and owing to his confining himself to this kind of humour he avoids the common danger of missing his mark. He is occasionally liberal of oaths and imprecations, and when any one of his characters is offended, he generally relieves his feelings by uttering “horrid curses.” Barnes Newcome sends up “a perfect feu d'artifice of oaths.” But he is entirely free from indelicacy, and

English Humorists.

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merely elegantly shadows forth the Eton form of punishment, as that “which none but a cherub can escape.” In this respect he seems to have set before him the example of Mr. Honeyman, of whom he says he had “a thousand anecdotes, laughable riddles and droli stories (of the utmost correctness, you understand.)”

Perhaps one of his least successful attempts at humour is a collection of fables at the commencement of the Newcomes in which we have conversations between a fox, an owl, a wolf in sheep's clothing, and a donkey in a lion's skin, and such incongruities as would have shocked Aristophanes. His Christmas books depend mostly on the broad caricatures with which they are embellished, and upon a large supply of rough joking.

Thackeray wrote a work named the “English Humorists,” but he omits in it all mention of the humour by which his authors were immortalized. Certainly the ordinary habits and little foibles of great men are more, entertaining to the general public than inquiries into the nature of their talent, which would only interest those fond of study and investi

gation.

VOL. II.

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