Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

*

*

*

*

persons. Of the latter, I know nothing; of the former, I judge as it is found.

They may be honourable and gentlemanly men, for what I know, but the latter quality is studiously excluded from their publications. They remind me of Mr Smith and the Miss Broughtons at the Hampstead Assembly, in ‘Evelina.' In these things in private life, at least), I pretend to some small experience; because, in the course of ту youth, I have seen a little of all sorts of society, from the Christian prince and the Mussulman sultan and pacha, and the higher ranks of their countries, down to the London boxer, the flash and the swell,' the Spanish muleteer, the wandering Turkish dervise, the Scotch highlander, and the Albanian robber ;-to say nothing of the curious varieties of Italian social life. Far be it from me to presume that there are now, or can be, such a thing as an aristocracy of poets; but there is a nobility of thought and of style, open to all stations, and derived partly from talent, and partly from education,—which is to be found in Shakspeare, and Pope, and Burns, no less than in Dante and Alfieri, but which is nowhere to be perceived in the mock birds and bards of Mr Hunt's little chorus. If I were asked to define what this gentlemanliness is, I should say that it is only to be defined by examples-of those who have it, and those who have it not. In life, I should say that most military men have it, and few naval; that several men of rank have it, and few lawyers; that it is more frequent among authors than divines (when they are not pedants); that fencing-masters have more of it than dancing-masters, and singers than players; and that if it be not an Irishism to say so) it is far more generally diffused among women than among men. In poetry, as well as writing in general, it will never make entirely a

poet or a poem; but neither poet nor poem will ever be good for any thing without it. It is the salt of society, and the seasoning of composition. Vulgarity is far worse than downright blackguardism ; for the latter comprehends wit, humour, and strong sense at times ; while the former is a sad abortive attempt at all things, signifying nothing.' It does not depend upon low themes, or even low language, for Fielding revels in both ;- but is he ever vulgar? No. You see the man of education, the gentleman, and the scholar, sporting with his subject,-its master, not its slave. Your vulgar writer is always most vulgar, the higher his subject; as the man who showed the menagerie at Pidcock's was wont to say, “This, gentlemen, is the Eagle of the Sun, from Archangel in Russia : the otterer it is, the igherer he flies.'»

In a note on a passage relative to Pope's lines upon Lady Mary W. Montague, he says

«I think that I could show, if necessary, that Lady Mary. W. Montague was also greatly to blame in that quarrel, not for having rejected, but for having encouraged him; but I would rather decline the task-though she should have remembered her own line, He comes too near, that comes to be denied.' I admire her so much

- her beauty, her talents-that I should do this reluctantly. I, besides, am so attached to the very name of Mary, that as Johnson once said, “If you called a dog Harvey, I should love him:' so, if you were to call a female of the same species · Mary,'I should love it better than others (biped or quadruped) of the same sex with a different appellation. She was an extraordinary woman: she could translate Epictetus, and yet write a song worthy of Aristippus. The lines,

And when the long hours of the public are past,
And we meet, with champaigne and a chicken, at last,
May every fond pleasure that moment endear!
Be banish'd afar both discretion and fear!
Forgetting or scorning the airs of the crowd,
He may cease to be formal, and I to be proud,

Till, etc, etc. There, Mr Bowles!—what say you to such a supper with such a woman? and her own description too? Is not her champaigne and chicken' worth a forest or two? Is it not poetry? It appears to me that this stanza contains the purée' of the whole philosophy of Epicurus: -I mean the practical philosophy of his school, not the precepts of the master; for I have been too long at the university not to know that the philosopher was himself a moderate man. But after all, would not some of us have been as great fools as Pope ? For my part, I wonder that, with his quick feelings, her coquetry, and his disappointment, he did no more--instead of writing some lines, which are to be condemned if false, and regretted if true.»

LETTER CCCCXXIV.

TO MR HOPPNER,

Ravenna, May uth, 1821. « If I had but known your notion about Switzerland before, I should have adopted it at once. As it is, I shall let the child remain in her convent, where she seems healthy and happy, for the present; but I shall feel much obliged if you will inquire, when you are in the cantons, about the usual and better modes of education there for females, and let me know the result of

your 6

VOL. IV.

opinions. It is some consolation that both Mr and Mrs Shelley have written to approve entirely my placing the child with the nuns for the present. I can refer to my whole conduct, as having neither spared care, kindness, nor expense, since the child was sent to me. The people may say what they please, I must content myself with not deserving in this instance) that they should speak ill.

« The place is a country town, in a good air, where there is a large establishment for education, and many children, some of considerable rank, placed in it. As a country town, it is less liable to objections of every kind. It has always appeared to me, that the moral defect in Italy does not proceed from a conventual education, because, to my certain knowledge, they come out of their convents innocent even to ignorance of moral evil,--but to the state of society into which they are directly plunged on coming out of it. It is like educating an infant on a mountain-top, and then taking him to the sea and throwing him into it and desiring him to swim. The evil, however, though still too general, is partly wearing away, as the women are more permitted to marry from attachment: this is, I believe, the case also in France. And, after all, what is the higher society of England ? According to my own experience, and to all that I have seen and heard (and I have lived there in the very highest and what is called the best), no way

of life can be more corrupt. however, it is, or rather was, more systematized; but now, they themselves are ashamed of regular Serventism. In England, the only homage which they pay to virtue is hypocrisy. I speak of course of the tone of high life, - the middle ranks

may

be

very virtuous. « I have not got any copy (nor have yet had) of the

In Italy, letter on Bowles; of course I should be delighted to send it to you. How is Mrs H.? Well again, I hope. Let me know when you set out. I regret that I cannot meet you in the Bernese Alps this summer, as I once hoped and intended. With my best respects to madam,

«I am ever, etc. « P.S. I gave to a musicianer a letter for you some time ago-has he presented himself? Perhaps you could introduce him to the Ingrams and other dilettanti. He is simple and unassuming-two strange things in his profession—and he fiddles like Orpheus himself or Amphion: 't is a pity that he can't make Venice dance away from the brutal tyrant who tramples upon it.»

LETTER CCCCXXV.

TO MR BIURRAY.

« May 14th, 1821. « A Milan paper states that the play has been represented and universally condemned. As remonstrance has been vain, complaint would be useless. I presume, however, for your own sake (if not for mine), that you and my other friends will have at least published my different protests against its being brought upon the stage at all; and have shown that Elliston (in spite of the writer) forced it upon the theatre. It would be nonsense to say that this has not vexed me a good deal, but I am not dejected, and I shall not take the usual resource of blaming the public (which was in the right), or my friends for not preventing-what they could not help, nor I neither-a forced representation by a speculating manager. It is a pity that you did not show them its unfitness for the stage before the play was

« ПредишнаНапред »