Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

our formidable predecessors,—those hoary senators of Venice, whose actions have become alike the subject of history and poetry; and with whose influence in the state it would be an insult to our readers to suppose them unacquainted. What, indeed, would be the feelings of those terrible personages, if they could now return to earth, and behold their British representatives of the nineteenth century, is a question, which we have never asked ourselves, and which it hardly seems necessary to determine.

Midnight, we observed, was the hour of our meeting ; “ Are we all assembled,” said the president, when the last stroke of the clock had sounded: “ All," was the reply. “ Are the doors closed ?" “ They are." 6. Are any of the familiars in attendance ?" “ Three only," answered the secretary. They may as well be dismissed, as there is little probability of their being wanted to-night. The secretary withdrew for a moment, and ordered the messengers in waiting to depart immediately.

A considerable time was occupied on his return in the private regulations of the Council, and in the accounts, which were given separately by the different members, of their individual' exertions in furtherance of the common objects. A deliberation was next introduced on the best method of framing a preliminary address, in which our intentions might be made known, our views developed, and ourselves ushered into public notice. This, however, proved a business of no easy decision, and gave rise, to our shame it must be spoken, to a warm discussion, which would scarcely have disgraced the French Chamber of Deputies.

At length one among us, who both saw and shared the general perplexity, remarked, that it strongly reminded him of a circumstance, which occurred to himself at an early period of his life. He had occasion, he told us, when a very young man, to call upon a person, high in office, and equally eminent for his talents and his influence, without any previous acquaintance, or any letter of introduction. Impressed with the awkwardness of his situation, he went to an experienced friend, and asked for advice with regard to the etiquette of his behaviour at the first interview.

“Oh!" said his friend, laughing, “ it is a very nice and delicate affair. If you enter with obsequious submission, you will probably be received as some unwelcome petitioner, for petitioners are always unwelcome; and if you put on too resolute an air, you may, for aught I know, be taken for a creditor. Your safest way, perhaps, will be to declare your name and business at once, without idle circumlocution, or superfluous compliment. If you have any purpose in view, which is likely to prove beneficial to both parties, your abruptness will be easily forgiven ; but if you can, after all, give no good reason for the intrusion, your impertinence will not be justified by the length of your apology.

“ Our own case,” he continued, “ is precisely the same, in coming, unexpected and uninvited, before the political and literary world. We, too, are under the same disagreeable necessity of introducing ourselves, and even of being the heralds of our own approach. We feel the same anxious embarrassment, which agitates the youthful expectant, on his first visit to a patron ; and at least an equal desire of ingrati. ating ourselves into immediate favour. We find, moreover, the same difficulty in pitching our tone, so as to maintain a just confidence in ourselves, without presumption, and a proper respect for the public, without meanness. What, then, can we do better, than follow the same advice, which I formerly followed with success; and proceed, without further preface, to state the grounds of our appearance, and the character in which we shall appear? They are such, let us trust, as will soon place us upon that familiar footing with our readers, which results from the reciprocation of good will, and the interchange of good offices." “Such are my sentiments, at least,” said another.

66 Already we ought to look to the public, as our friend, -as our best friend-as the only friend whom we are either anxious to please, or fearful to offend ; and, therefore, we ought, in the very commencement of our undertaking, to be free, particular, and confidential in our communications ; in a word, to preserve no greater mystery than is indispensable to the name which we have assumed, and the functions which we are about to exercise. We, of course, persuade ourselves, in common with the generality of mankind, that any detail which concerns us, cannot be a matter of indifference to the rest of the world; and, doubtless, our readers will, on their parts, duly appreciate our condescension, in laying before them the secret history of a council, which is destined, unless I am egregiously mistaken, to become still more famous, than our celebrated prototype in the Venetian Republic."

Here the president smiled, but nevertheless expressed his entire coincidence of opinion with the last speaker. It was accordingly settled, that a retrospective view should be given of the origin of the council, -of the characters of its several members,—of the manner in which the general plan was organized and adopted,-and of the resolutions which were drawn up in consequence, with the unanimous approbation of the whole assembly.

We begin, then, with the origin of the council ; and it is presumed that implicit credit will be attached to the following narration,

ORIGIN OF THE COUNCIL.

We shall not state precisely in what month, or on what day of the month, but at no long period ago, the several individuals who now compose the Council of Ten, accidentally found themselves together in London, after a separation of some years, and agreed to meet at a certain time and place, for the purpose of once more indulging in the

elight of social intercourse, and dedicating the evening to the renewal of their former intimacy. It is somewhat strange, that there happened no intermediate occurrence to prevent any of them from keeping the appointment; and it is still more remarkable, that they all enjoyed, on the whole, as much pleasure as they had anticipated. Yet, as there are few things more interesting in life than the reunion of friends after long absence, and the intervention of many vicissitudes, no surprise can be felt, that the discourse was more animated in itself, and turned upon topics of deeper import, more directly appealing to the heart, and touching its springs more nearly, than the common tenor of convivial conversation. We pledge ourselves for the fact, that a number of men sat and talked for four hours after dinner, without entering upon any topics, to which the other six might not have listened: even the new ballet, and the miraculous dancer from Paris were forgotten ; and there was no dispute either about the prettiest woman in the park, or the best horse at Newmarket.

The truth is, that there is always something that is melancholy, and not unfrequently much, that is painful, in meetings of this nature. No interval of existence passes away without misfortunes falling either upon ourselves, or upon those we love. Or, if we feel safe in our own persons, and see many of our old friends around us, in the possession of the choicest blessings of Heaven, health and good spirits; we next inquire with trembling after others, who have been long associated in our minds with those who are present; and who are, therefore, recalled by their presence most forcibly to our recollection. Then are we sure to hear of some, with whom fortune has dealt unkindly; and others, whom death has taken to himself.

Thus, at least, it was on the occasion, which has given rise to these remarks. All, who were now reunited, had advanced since their last meeting, either from youth to confirmed manhood, or from manhood to the confines of old age. A few questions, therefore, about their mutual, but absent, friends, were more than sufficient to shew, that they had not been exempted from the common penalties of humanity. Some were struggling with difficulties, and many were no more. The tale of one catastrophe followed quick upon the grief expressed for another: and every fresh instance of mortality burst with a severer shock upon the feelings of the survivors. Now too, as the fallen soldier is most missed and regretted on the day of battle, the loss of early and tried companions was most acutely felt in these hours of conviviality, when the heart expands in general benevolence, and is open to every impression of manly sympathy and generous affection.

And yet, such is the nature of man, the parallel might be pursued. The soldier, it is well known, amidst the hurry and the dangers of war, and with death, in all its shapes, continually before his eyes, soon forgets, or seems to forget, even the comrade who had fought longest at his side; and they, in the same manner, who have been much exposed to the rubs of the world, or who have imbibed a disregard of life, either from being conversant with its afflictions, or surfeited with its pleasures, usually spare but a short tribute of outward sorrow to the memory of their most intimate connexions. There is a sigh, perhaps, or an exclamation of “poor fellow,” and then the wine and the jest are circulated again, and all goes on very nearly as before. It happens, in short, almost universally, when men have arrived at a certain period of their existence, either that time and selfish habits have blunted the finer sensibilities of their nature; or, if they have not been able to steel their breasts against harrowing impressions, that they have learnt to conceal their sting in a kind of proud sternness and sullen resolution ; or else, that experience has superinduced the conviction, that there is scarcely any thing upon earth worthy either serious concern, or serious exultation. Or rather, perhaps, we ought to say, that Providence has wisely ordained, that we should not grieve long, when grief is vain, and active exertion may be useful.

We are aware that these observations have no necessary connexion with the practical business which we have in hand ; and that they will be considered by many to exhibit man in a very unamiable light. But we have been betrayed into them by a very natural anxiety; as we should be sorry to have it supposed that the members of our Council were more callous, or more selfish, or more coldhearted than any other men of the same age under similar circumstances. Certain, however, it is, that the gloom, which had been spread over the party by the melancholy intelligence respecting their former friends, although it imperceptibly chastened down in some the flights of a busy imagination, restrained in others the ebullitions of constitutional inirth, and left a degree of sober earnestness among all, was yet, in a great measure, dissipated before their separation for the night; and that the conversation

« AnteriorContinuar »