Графични страници
PDF файл

the re-appearance of such travellers as Sir John Mandevile, Marco Polo, and William de Rubruquis, with their news of Prester John, the Great Mogul, and the Great Cham of Tartary ! The long-lost voyager must have been like a person consecrated in all the quarters of heaven. His staff and his beard must have looked like relics of his former self. The Venetians, who were some of the earliest European travellers, have been remarked, among their other amiable qualities, for their great respect for strangers. The peculiarity of their position, and the absence of so many things which are common-places to other countries, such as streets, horses, and coaches, add, no doubt, to this feeling. But a foolish or vain people would only feel a contempt for what they did not possess. Milton, in one of those favourite passages of his, in which he turns a nomenclature into such grand meaning and music, shews us whose old footing he had delighted to follow. How he enjoys the distance ; emphatically using the words far, farthest, and utmost !

Embassies from regions far remote,
In various habits, on the Appian road,
Or on the Emilian; some from farthest south,
Syene, and where the shadow both way falls,
Meroe, Nilotick Isle; and more to west,
The realm of Bocchus to the Black-moor sea;
From the Asian kings, and Parthian among these;
From India and the golden Chersonese,
And utmost Indian isle Taprobane.Parad. Reg. b. iv.

[blocks in formation]

One of the main helps to our love of remoteness in general, is the associations we connect with it of peace and quietness. Whatever there may be at a distance, people feel as if they should escape from the worry

of their local cares. “O that I had wings like a dove! then would I fly away and be at rest.” The word far is often used wilfully in poetry, to render distance still more distant. An old English song begins

In Irelande farre over the sea

There dwelt a bonny king. Thomson, a Scotchman, speaking of the western isles of his own country, has that delicious line, full of a dreary yet lulling pleasure :

As when a shepherd of the Hebrid isles,

Placed far amid the melancholy main. In childhood, the total ignorance of the world, especially when we are brought up in some confined spot, renders every thing beyond the bounds of our dwelling a distance and a romance. Mr. Lamb, in his Recollections of Christ's Hospital, says that he remembers when some half-dozen of his schoolfellows set off, “ without map, card, or compass, on a serious expedition to find out Philip Quarll's Island.” We once encountered a set of boys as romantic. It was at no greater distance than at the foot of a hill near Hampstead; yet the spot was so perfectly Cisalpine to them, that two of them came up to us with looks of hushing eagerness, and asked “ whether, on the other side of that hill, there were not robbers ;" to which, the minor adventurer of the two added, “ and some say serpents.” They had all got bows and arrows, and were evidently hovering about the place, betwixt daring and apprehension, as on the borders of some wild region. We smiled to think which it was that husbanded their suburb wonders to more advantage, they or we: for while they peopled the place with robbers and serpents, we

were peopling it with sylvans and fairies.

“ So was it when my life began ;

So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,

Or let me die!
The child is father to the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.”


A MAN who does not contribute his quota of grim story now-a-days, seems hardly to be free of the republic of letters. He is bound to wear a death's head, as part of his insignia. If he does not frighten every body, he is nobody. If he does not shock the ladies, what can be expected of him ?

We confess we think very cheaply of these stories in general. A story, merely horrible or even awful,

which contains no sentiment elevating to the human heart and its hopes, is a mere appeal to the least judicious, least healthy, and least masculine of our passions,-fear. They whose attention can be gravely arrested by it, are in a fit state to receive any absurdity with respect; and this is the reason, why less talents are required to enforce it, than in any other species of composition. With this opinion of such things, we may be allowed to say, that we would undertake to write a dozen horrible stories in a day, all of which should make the common worshippers of power, who were not in the very healthiest condition, turn pale. We would tell of Haunting Old Women, and Knocking Ghosts, and Solitary Lean Hands, and Empusas on One Leg, and Ladies growing Longer and Longer, and Horrid Eyes meeting us through Key-holes, and Plaintive Heads, and Shrieking Statues, and Shocking Anomalies of Shape, and Things which when seen drove people mad; and Indigestion knows what besides. But who would measure talents with a leg of veal, or a German sausage ?

Mere grimness is as easy as grinning; but it requires something to put a handsome face on a story. Narratives become of suspicious merit in proportion as they lean to Newgate-like offences, particularly of blood and wounds. A child has a reasonable respect for a Raw-head-and-bloody-bones, because all images whatsoever of pain and terror are new and fearful to his inexperienced age: but sufferings merely physical (unless sublimated like those of Philoctetes) are common-places to a grown man. Images, to become awful to him, must be removed from the grossness of the shambles. A death's head was a respectable thing in the hands of a poring monk, or of a nun compelled to avoid the idea of life and society, or of a hermit already buried in the desart. Holbein's Dance of Death, in which every grinning skeleton leads along a man of rank, from the pope to the gentleman, is a good Memento Mori; but there the skeletons have an air of the ludicrous and satirical. If we were threatened with them in a grave way, as spectres, we should have a right to ask how they could walk about without muscles. Thus many of the tales written by such authors as the late Mr. Lewis, who wanted sentiment to give him the heart of truth, are quite puerile. When his spectral nuns go about bleeding, we think they ought in decency to have applied to some ghost of a surgeon. His little Grey Men, who sit munching hearts, are of a piece with fellows that eat cats for a wager.

Stories that give mental pain to no purpose, or to very little

purpose compared with the unpleasant ideas they excite of human nature, are as gross mistakes, in their way, as these, and twenty times as pernicious : for the latter become ludicrous to grown people. They originate also in the same extremes, of callousness, or of morbid want of excitement, as the others. But more of these hereafter. Our

« ПредишнаНапред »