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Fair pledges of a fruitful tree,
Why do you fall so fast?
Your date is not so past,
And go at last.
An hour or half's delight,
And so to bid good-night?
And lose you quite.
May read how soon things have
Their end, though ne'er so brave: And after they have shewn their pride, Like you awhile, they glide
Into the grave.
Children love to listen to stories about their elders when they were children; to stretch their imagination to the conception of a traditionary great-uncle, or grandame, whom they never saw. It was in this spirit that my little ones crept about me the other evening to hear about their great-grandmother Field, who lived in a great house in Norfolk (a hundred times bigger than that in which they and papa lived), which had been the scene-so at least it was generally believed in that part of the country--of the tragic incidents which they had lately become familiar with from the ballad of the Children in the Wood. Certain it is, that the whole story of the children and their cruel uncle was to be seen fairly carved out in the wood upon the chimney piece of the great hall—the whole story down to the Robin Red-breasts-till a foolish rich person pulled it down to set up a marble one of modern invention in its stead, with no story upon it. Here Alice put out one of her dear mother's looks, too tender to be called upbraiding. Then I went on to say how religious and how good their great-grandmother Field was, how beloved and respected by everybody, though she was not, indeed, the mistress of this great house, but had only the charge of it (and yet in some respects she might be said to be the mistress of it too) committed to her by the owner, who preferred living in a newer and more fashionable mansion, which he had purchased somewhere in the adjoining county; but still she lived in it in a mann
nner as if it had been her own, and kept up the dignity of the great house in a sort while she lived, which afterwards came to decay, and was nearly pulled down, and all its old ornaments stripped and carried away to the owner's other house, where they were set up, and looked as awkward as if
some one were to carry away the old tombs they had seen lately at the Abbey, and stick them up in Lady C.'s tawdry gilt drawing-room. Here John smiled as much as to say, “That would be foolish indeed.” And then I told how, when she came to die, her funeral was attended by a concourse of all the poor, and some of the gentry too, of the neighborhood, for many miles around, to show their respect for her memory, because she had been such a good and religious woman-so good, indeed, that she knew all the Psalter by heart, aye, and a great part of the Testament besides. Here little Alice spread her hands. Then I told what a tall, upright, graceful person their great-grandmother Field once was; and how in her youth she was esteemed the best dancer-here Alice's little right foot played an involuntary movement, till, upon my looking grave, it desisted—the best dancer, I was saying, in the county, till a cruel disease, called a cancer, came, and bowed her down with pain; but it could never bend her good spirits, or make them stoop; but they were still upright, because she was so good and religious. Then I told how she was used to sleep by herself in a lone chamber of the great lone house; and how she believed that an apparition of two infants was to be seen at midnight gliding up and down the great starecase near where she slept; but she said, “Those innocents would do her no harm;" and how frightened I used to be, though in those days I had my maid to sleep with me, because I was never half so good or religious as she, and yet I never saw the infants. Here John expanded all his eyebrows, and tried to look courageous. Then I told how good she was to all her grandchildren, having us to the great house in the holidays, where I in particular used to spend many hours by myself in gazing upon the old busts of the twelve Cæsars, that had been emperors of Rome, till the old marble heads would seem to live again, or I to be turned into marble with them; how I never could be tired with roaming about that huge mansion, with its vast empty rooms, with their worn-out hangings, fluttering tapestry, and carved oaken panels, with the gilding almost rubbed outsometimes in the spacious old-fashioned gardens, which I had almost to myself, unless when now and then a solitary gardening man would cross me--and how the nectarines and peaches hung upon the walls without my ever offering to pluck them, because they were forbidden fruit, unless now and then,--and because I had more pleasure in strolling about among the old melancholy.looking yew-trees, or the firs, and picking up the red berries, and the fir-apples, which were good for nothing but to look at-or in lying about upon the fresh grass, with all the fine garden smells around me-or basking in the orangery, till I could almost fancy myself ripening too, along with the oranges and the limes, in that grateful warmthor in watching the dace that dartec to and fro in the fish-pond, at the bottom of the garden, with here and there a great sulky pike hanging midway down the and while I stood gazing, both the children gradually grew fainter to my view, receding, and still receding, till nothing last but two mournful features were seen in the uttermost distance, which, without speech, strangely impressed upon me the effects of speech: “We are not of Alice, nor of thee, nor are we children at all. The children of Alice call Bartrum father. We are nothing; less than nothing, and dreams. We are only what might have been, and must wait upon the tedious shores of Lethe millions of ages before we have existence and a name”—and immediately awaking, I found myself quietly seated in my bach. elor arm-chair, w I had fallen asleep with the faithful Bridget unchanged by my side.
water in silent state, as if it mocked at their impertinent friskings,--I had more pleasure in these busy. idle diversions than in all the sweet flavours of peaches, nectarines, oranges, and such like common baits of children. Here John slily deposited back upon the plate a bunch of grapes, which, not unobserved by Alice, he had meditated dividing with her, and both seemed willing to relinquish them for the present as irrelevant. Then, in somewhat a more heightened tone, I told how, though their greatgrandmother Field loved all her grandchildren, yet, in an especial manner, she might be said to love their uncle, John L—, because he was so handsome and spirited a youth, and a king to the rest of us; and, instead of moping about in solitary corners like some of us, he would mount the most mettlesome horse he could get, when but an imp no bigger than themselves, and make it carry him half over the county in a morning, and join the nunters when there were any out--and yet he loved the old great house and gardens too, but had too much spirit to be always pent up within their boundaries—and how their uncle grew up to man's estate as brave as he was handsome, to the admiration of everybody, but of their great. grandmother Field most especially; and how he used to carry me upon his back when I was a lame-footed boy--for he was a good bit older than me--many a mile when I could not walk for pain ;--and how, in after-life, he became lame-footed too, and I did not always (I fear) make allowances enough for him when he was impatient, and in pain, nor remember sufficiently how considerate he had been to me when I was lame.footed; and how, when he died, though he had not been dead an hour, it seemed as if he had died a great while ago, such a distance there is betwixt life and death; and how I bore his death, as I thought, pretty well at first, but afterwards it haunted and haunted me; and though I did not cry or take it to heart as some do, and as I think he would have done if I had died, yet I missed him all day long, and I knew not till then how much I had loved him. I missed his kindness, and I missed his crossness, and wished him to be alive again, to be quarrelling with him (for we quarrelled sometimes), rather than not have him again, and was as uneasy without him as he, their poor uncle, must have been when the doctor took off his limb. Here the children fell a crying, and asked if their little mourning which they had on was not for uncle John, and they looked up, and prayed me not to go on about their uncle, but to tell them some stories about their pretty dead mother. Then I told how, for seven long years, in hope sometiraes, sometimes in despair, yet persisting ever, I courted the fair Alice W-n; and, as much as children could understand, I explained to them what coyness, and difficulty, and denial meant in maidens, when suddenly turning to Alice, the soul of the first Alice looked out at her eyes, with such a reality of representment that I became in doubt which of them stood there before me, or whose that bright hair was;
THE STRULDBRUGS OR IMMORTALS.
JONATHAN SWIFT-"GULLIVER'S TRAVELS." Luggnaggians are polite and generous; and although they are not without some share of that pride which is peculiar to all Eastern countries, yet they show themselves courteous to strangers, especially such who are countenanced by the court. I had many acquaintances, and among persons of the best fashion; and being always attended by my interpreter, the conversation we had was not disagreeable.
One day, in much good company, I was asked by a person of quality, “whether I had seen any of their struldburgs, or immortals?” I said, “I had not;” and desired he would explain to me what he meant by such an appellation, applied to a mortal creature. He told me “that sometimes, though very rarely, a child hap
to be born in a family, with a red circular spot in his forehead, directly over the left eyebrow, which was an infallible mark that it should never die. The spot,” as he described it, was about the compass of a silver three pence, but in the course of time grew larger, and changed its color; for at twelve years old it became green, so continued till five-and-twenty, then turned to a deep blue; at five-and. forty it grew coal-black, and as large as an English shilling; but never admitted any farther alteration.” He said, “these births were so rare, that he did not believe there could be above eleven hundred struldburgs, of both sexes, in the whole kingdom; of which he computed about fifty in the metropolis, and among the rest, a young girl born about three years ago; that these productions were not peculiar to any family, but a mere effect of chance; and the children of the struldburgs themselves were equally mortal with the rest of the people.”
I freely own myself to have been struck with inexpressible delight upon hearing this account; and the person who gave it to me happening to under. stand the Balnibarbian language, which I spoke very well, I could not forbear breaking out into expressions perhaps a little too extravagant. I cried out, as in a rapture, “Happy nation, where every child has at least a chance for being immortal!
Happy people, who enjoy so many living examples of ancient virtue, and have masters ready to instruct them in the wisdom of all former ages! But happiest, beyond all comprehension, are those excellent struldburgs, who, being born exempt from that universal calamity of human nature, have their minds free and disengaged, without the weight and depression of spirits caused by the continual appre. hension of death." I discovered my admiration, "that I had not observed any of these illustrious persons at court; the black spot on their forehead being so remarkable a distinction, that I could not have easily overlooked it; and it was impossible that his majesty, a most judicious prince, should not provide himself with a good number of such wise and able councellors. Yet perhaps the virtue of those reverend sages, was too strict for the corrupt and libertine manner of a court; and we often find by experience, that young men are too opinionated and volatile to be guided by the sober dictates of their seniors. However, since the king was pleased to allow me access to his royal person, I was resolved upon the first occasion, to deliver my opinion to him on this matter freely and at large, by the help of my interpreter; and whether he would please to take my advice or not, yet in one thing I was determined, that his majesty having frequently offered me an establishment in this country, I would, with great thankfulness accept the favor, and pass my life here in the conversation of those superior beings, the struldburgs, if they would please to admit me.”
The gentleman to whom I addressed my discourse, because (as I have already observed) he spoke the language of Balnibarbi, said to me with a sort of smile which usually arises from pity to the ignorant, “that he was glad of any occasion to keep me among them, and desired my permission to explain to the company what I had spoke.” He did so, and they talked together for some time in their own language, whereof I understood not a syllable, neither could I jobserve by their countenances, what impression my discourse had made on them. After a short silence, the same person told me, " that his friends and mine (so he thought fit to express himself) were very much pleased with the judicious remarks I had made on the great happiness and advantages of immortal life, and they were desirous to know, in a particular manner, what scheme of living I should have formed to myself, if it had fallen to my lot to have been born a struldburg ??
I answered, “ that it was easy to be eloquent on so copious and delightful'a subject, especially to me, who had been often apt to amuse myself with visions of what I should do, if I were a king, a general, or a great lord; and upon this very case, I had frequently run over the whole system how I should employ myself, and pass the time, if I were sure to live forever.
“That if it had been my good fortune to come into
the world a struldburg, as soon as I could discover my own happiness, by understanding the difference between life and death, I would first resolve, by all arts and methods whatsoever, to procure myself riches; in the pursuit of which, by thrift and man. agement, I might reasonably expect, in about two hundred years, to be the wealthiest man in the kingdom. In the second place, I would, from my earliest youth, apply myself to the study of arts and sciences, by which I would arrive in time to excel all others in learning. Lastly, I would carefully record every action and event of consequence, that happened in the public, impartially draw the character of the several successions of princes and great ministers of the State, with my own observations on every point. I would exactly set down the several changes in customs, language, fashions of dress, diet, and diversions, by which acquirement, I should be a living treasurer of knowledge and wisdom, and certainly become the oracle of the nation.
“I would never marry after threescore, but live in a hospitable manner, yet still on the saving side. I would entertain myself in forming and directing the minds of hopeful young men, by convincing them, from my own remembrance, experience and observation, fortified by numerous examples, of the useful. ness of virtue in public and private life. choice and constant companions should be a set of my own immortal brotherhood; among whom I would elect a dozen from the most ancient, down to my own contemporaries. Where any of these wanted fortunes I would provide them with convenient lodges around my estate, and have some of them always at my table; only mingling a few of the most valuable among you mortals, whom length of time would harden me to lose with little or no reluc. tance, and entreat your posterity after the same manner; just as a man diverts himself with annual succession of pinks and tulips in his garden, without regarding the loss of those which withered the pre. ceeding year.
“These struldbrugs, and I, would mutually communicate our observations and memorials, through the course of time; remark the several gradations by which corruption steals into the world, and oppose it in every step, by giving perpetual warning and instruction to mankind; which, added to the strong influence of our own example, would probably prevent that continual degeneracy of human nature, so justly complained of in all ages.
“Add to this, the pleasure of seeing the various revolutions of states and empires; the changes in the lower and upper world; ancient cities in ruins, and obscure villages become the seats of kings; famous rivers lessening into shallow brooks; the ocean leaving one coast dry, and overwhelming another; the discovery of many countries yet unknown; of barbarity over-running the politest nations, and the most barbarous become civilized. I should then see the discovery of the longitude, the perpetual motion,
the universal medicine, and many other great in- the struldbrugs among them. He said “they ventions, brought to the utmost perfection.
commonly acted like mortals till about thirty years “What wonderful discoveries should we make in old; after which, by degrees, they grew melancholy astronomy, by outliving and confirming our own and dejected, increasing in both till they came to predictions; by observing the progress and returns fourscore. This he learned from their own confession; of comets, with the changes of motion in the sun, for otherwise, there not being above two or three moon and stars !"
of that species born in an age, they were too few to I enlarged upon many other topics, which the form a general observation by. When they came to natural desire of endless life, and sublunary happi- fourscore years, which is reckoned the extremity of ness, could easily furnish me with. When I had living in this country, they had not only all the ended, and the sum of my discourse had been in- follies and infirmities of other old men, but many terpreted, as before, to the rest of the company, there more, which arose from the dreadful prospect of was a good deal of talk among them in the language never dying. They were not only opinionative, of the country, not without some laughter at my peevish, covetous, morose, vain, talkative; but inexpense. At last, the same gentleman who had capable of friendship, and dead to all natural affection, been my interpreter, said, “ he was desired by the which never descended below their grandchildren. rest to set me right in a few mistakes, which I had Envy and impotent desires, are their prevailing fallen into through the common imbecility of human passions. But those objects against which their envy nature, and upon that allowance was less answerable seems principally directed, are the vices of the for them. That this breed of struldbrugs was younger sort, and the deaths of the old. By reflect. peçuliar to their country, for there were no such ing on the former, they find themselves cut off from people either in Balnibarbi or Japan, where he had all possibility of pleasure: and whenever they see a the honor to be ambassador from his majesty, and funeral they lament and repine that others have gone found the natives in both those kingdoms very hard to a harbor of rest, to which they themselves never to believe that the fact was possible; and it appeared can hope to arrive. They have no remembrance of from my astonishment when he first mentioned the anything but what they learned and observed in their matter to me, that I received it as a thing wholly youth and middle age, and even that is very imnew, and scarcely to be credited. That in the two perfect; and for the truth or particulars of any fact kingdoms above mentioned, where during his resi. it is safer to depend on common tradition, than upon dence he had conversed very much, he observed long the best recollections. The least miserable among life to be the universal desire and wish of mankind. them appear to be those who turn to dotage, and That whoever had one foot in the grave was sure to entirely lose their memories; these meet with more hold back the other as strongly as he could. That pity and assistance, because they want many bad the oldest had still hopes of living one day longer, qualities which abound in others. and looked on death as the greatest evil, from which “If a struldbrug happens to marry one of his own nature always prompted him to retreat. Only in kind, the marriage is dissolved of course, by the this island of Luggnagg the appetite for living was courtesy of the kingdom, as soon as the younger of not so eager from the continual example of the the two comes to be fourscore; for the law thinks it struldbrugs before their eyes.
a reasonable indulgence, that those who are con“That the system of living contrived by me, was demned without any fault of their own to a perpetual unreasonable and unjust; because it supposed a per- continuance in the world, should not have their petuity of youth, health, and vigor, which no man misery doubled by the load of a wife. could be so foolish to hope, however extravagant he As soon as they have completed the term of may be in his wishes. That the question therefore eighty years they are looked on as dead in law; their was not, whether a man would choose to be always heirs immediately succeed to their estates; only a in the prime of youth, attended with prosperity and small pittance is reserved for their support; and the health; but how he would pass a perpetual life under poor ones are maintained at the public charge. After all the usual disadvantages which old age brings that period they are held incapable of any employ. along wit'ı it; for although few men will avow their ment of trust or profit; they cannot purchase lands, desires of being immortal, upon such hard conditions, or take leases; neither are they allowed to be witvet in the two kingdoms before mentioned, of nesses in any cause, either civil or criminal, not even Bainibarbi and Japan, he observed that every man for the decision of meers and bonds. desired to put off death some time longer, let it ap- At ninety they lose their teeth and hair; they proach ever so late; and he rarely heard of any man have at that age no distinction of taste, but eat and who died willingly, except he were incited by the drink whatever they can get, without relish or appe. extremity of grief or torture. And he appealed to tite. The diseases they were subject to still continue, me, whether in those countries I had traveled, as without increasing or diminishing. In talking they well as my own, I had not observed the same general I
forget the common appellation of things and the disposition."
names of persons, even those who are their nearest After this preface, he gave a particular account of friends and relations. For the same reason, they
strongest reasons, and such as any other country would be under the necessity of enacting, in the like circumstances. Otherwise, as avarice is the necessary consequent of old age, those immortals would in time become proprietors of the whole nation and engross the civil power, which, for want of abilities to manage, must end in the ruin of the public.
aever can amuse themselves with reading, because their memory will not serve to carry them from the beginning of a sentence to the end, and by this defect, they are deprived of the only entertainment whereof they might otherwise be capable.
“The language of this country being always upon the flux, the struldbrugs of one age do not under. stand those of another; neither are they able, after two hundred years, to hold any conversation (farther than by a few general words) with their neighbors the mortals; and thus they lie under the disadvantage of living like foreigners in their own country.”
This was the account given me of the struldbrugs as near as I can remember. I afterwards saw five or six of different ages, the youngest not above two hundred years old, who were brought to me at several times by my friends; but although they were told “that I was a traveler and had seen all the world,” they had not the least curiosity to ask me a question; only desired “I would give them slumskudask, or a token of remembrance, which is a modest way of begging, to avoid the law, that strictly forbids it, because they are provided for by the public, although indeed with a very scanty allowance.
They are despised and hated by all sorts of people. When one of them is born it is reckoned ominous, and their birth is recorded very particularly; so that you may know their age by consulting the register, which, however, has not been kept above a thousand years past, or at least has been destroyed by time or public disturbances. But the usual way of computing how old they are, is by asking them what kings or great person they can remember, and then consulting history; for infallibly the last prince in their inind did not begin his reign after they were fourscore years old.
They were the most mortifying sights I ever beheld; and the women were more horrible than the
Besides the usual deformities in extreme old age, they acquired an additional ghastliness, in pro. portion to their number of years, which is not to be described; and among half a dozen, I soon distin. guished which was the eldest, although there was not above a century or two between them.
The reader will easily believe, that from what I had heard and seen, my keen appetite for perpetuity of life was much abated. I grew heartily ashamed of the pleasing visions I had formed; and thought no tyrant could invent a death, into which I would not run with pleasure from such a life.
The king heard of all that had passed between me and my friends upon this occasion, and rallied me very pleasantly; wishing I could send a couple of struldbrags to my own country, to arm our people against the fear of death, but this, it seems, is for. bidden by the fundamental laws of the kingdom, or else I should have been well content with the trouble and expense of transporting them.
I could not but agree, that the laws of this kingdom relative to the struldbrugs were founded upon the
THE CHILD WIFE. CHARLES DICKENS—"DAVID COPPERFIELD." It was a strange condition of things, the honey. moon being over, and the bridemaids gone home, when I found myself sitting down in my own small house with Dora; quite thrown out of employment,
may say, in respect of the delicious old occupa. tion of making love.
It seemed such an extraordinary thing to have Dora alwaysthere. It was so unaccountable not to be obliged to go out to see her, not to have any occasion to be tormenting myself about her, not to have to write to her, not to be scheming and devising opportunities of being alone with her. Sometimes of an evening, when I looked up from my writing, and saw her seated opposite, I would lean back in my chair, and think how queer it was that there we were, alone together as a matter of course-nobody's business any more-all the romance of our engagement put away upon a shelf, to rust-no one to please but one another-one another to please, for life.
When there was a debate, and I was kept out very late, it seemed so strange to me, as I was walking home, to think that Dora was at home! It was such a wonderful thing, at first, to have her coming softly down to talk to me as I ate my supper. It was such a stupendous thing to know for certain tha" she put her hair in papers. It was altogether such an astonishing event to see her do it!
I doubt whether two young birds could have known less about keeping house, than I and my pretty Dora did. We had a servant, of course. She kept house for us. I have still a latent belief that she must have been Mrs. Crupp's daughter in disguise, we had such an awful time of it with Mary Anne.
Her name was Paragon. Her nature was repre. sented to us, when we engaged her, as being feebly expressed in her name. She had a written character as large as a proclamation; and, according to this document, could do everything of a domestic nature that ever I heard of, and a great many things that I never did hear of. She was a woman in the prime of life; of a severe countenance; and subject (par. ticularly in the arms) to a sort of perpetual measles or fiery rash. She had a cousin in the Life Guards, with such long legs that he looked like the afternoon shadow of somebody else. His shell-jacket was as much too little for him as he was too big for the premises. He made the cottage smaller than it need have been, by being so very much out of proportion to it. Besides which, the walls were not thick, and