« AnteriorContinuar »
" THE ANNALS OF GALLANTRY."
Ladies! you must prepare for a disappointment. We have no tale of delicious scandal for your ears; no account of a recent intrigue in high-life, cleverly concocted and highly spiced: we shall not take one reputation to pieces, even for your amusement. Yet in the hope of gaining your favour, and basking in your smiles, what is there else, which we are not ready to do or suffer ? We shall not treat you with a single assignation, a single whisper. Annals of Gallantry! Ah delightful sound, bringing with it the images of kneeling lovers, and relenting ladies-thoughts of the Park, the Opera, and Kensington-gardens, or Grosvenor-square, or Brighton, or Cheltenham, or Harrowgate, and all other places of fashionable resort or rendezvous. What a feast of soft-sayings and tender billetsdoux with the amours of the Duke of A. and the Marquis of B., and the earl of every-thing, and lord every-body! Alas! alas! not one word of all this must you expect. ever hope to be forgiven?
“ The Annals of Gallantry !"-Such is the title of a book lately published and advertised in the daily papers, as “ being a collection of curious and important trials for divorces, and actions of crim. con. during the last reign :the whole accompanied with biographical memoirs and anecdotes, by A. Moore, L. L. D., and illustrated with numerous coloured plates, with drawings by Cruickshanks, to be had in three volumes octavo, for the small price of two pounds five shillings in boards. We have here omitted the greater part of the advertisement, which specifies some of the “ interesting cases," and contains the names of the parties, many of whom, we are sorry to say, are connected with the most illustrious families in the kingdom. Before we proceed farther, we would premise, that we have not looked into the book, and know nothing about the author. Who the said Dr. Moore may be is a question which we cannot answer ourselves, and shall not take the trouble of asking. We cannot, therefore, be suspected of being impelled by a spirit of vindictiveness, or
having any personal feelings in the case. We have seen only the table of contents; we judge of the book by the title, of the banquet by the bill of fare. The person who has ventured to publish the work is a Mr. Jones, of Newgate-street.
Our readers will now see that " The Annals of Gallantry" are neither more nor less than the annals of adultery in England for upwards of half a century. They will see too, that the precious collection is made by a man who avows himself to be a doctor of laws, and must therefore consider himself to be a gentleman. Moreover, it is highly improbable that he can have extreme youth and inexperience to plead. We must rather suppose that the fire of his passions has subsided, and left him nothing but the pruriency of the imagination.
What then, we ask, can be the motive, or what can be the excuse, for a publication of this nature ? Shall we look for either the one or the other in the Doctor's regard for that science from which he derives the honourable addition to his name? Does he suppose that these cases have never been reported, or that they involve any points of difficult decision in law and equity? The doctor must know better. Does he write and compile for bread? We hope not; but even in that case, we would advise him to turn his time and talents to some better account? Does he think that his book is likely to conduce to the gratification of individual feelings, or to the improvement of public morals? No, no ; he can think nothing of the kind.
But, with the Doctor's private sentiments and intentions we have nothing to do. The publication bears upon the face of it marks of the grossest cupidity, and most brazen shamelessness. It is itself a sufficient proof that the author must prefer his own emolument to the national character, and the common welfare. No quarter ought to be given to such a compiler, or to such a work. For the sake of a few miserable pounds a Doctor of Laws can condescend to collect and reprint a number of trials the most discreditable in their nature of any which can be brought into a court of justice: to rake up the most unfortunate or the most disgraceful occurrences which have happened for sixty years in the higher classes of British society : to shew adultery in all its lights, and all its stages ; to concentrate its essence, and draw its scattered rays into a focus. Nor is he content with a mere report of adjudged cases, but he must enrich his work with biographical memoirs and aneedotes, and embellish it with numerous coloured plates from drawings by Cruickshanks. We can conceive well enough what these anecdotes and these drawings must be, without satisfying ourselves by ocular demonstration. The trials themselves, the memoirs, and the plates, must partake of the same character; must alike present to the mind ideas and images, with which it ought never to become habituated; must pander to the grossest desires of sense, and feed the most irregular passions of the heart. Such is the nature of the work ; what then must be its effect? To degrade the moral rank of England, and the moral character of English ladies in the eyes of foreigners; to teach the lower orders in this country, that their superiors in station and fortune are relaxed in their principles and profligate in their habits; to familiarize the thoughts with descriptions and scenes of vice, disguised in the generality of instances, under the semblance of ardent, romantic, ungovernable attachment; to assist the inexperienced seducer in his flagitious designs, by putting into his hands a manual of adultery ; to instil a belief into the numbers of young men, whose habits, follies, and debaucheries, are mere matter of imitation, that it is a fine thing to be an adulterer; that the commission of this offence against God and man, will stamp them as persons of fashion and credit, when they see Dukes and Earls, who appear to consider it rather a triumph than a sin, since they have taken such infinite pains to destroy the peace and honour of a noble family, and undermine the virtue of a British matron. And will our countrywomen be deterred, from vice and infamy by the perusal of such trials and such anecdotes? Will they recoil with horror from the precipice down which they were about to plunge ? Alas! constant, uniform, universal experience compels us to expect a contrary result. Both sexes have on all such subjects, a pernicious, but too na
tural curiosity; women, perhaps, when they have the opportunity, hang over the dangerous pages with a more intense eagerness than men ;-and behold the consequence. Their imagination is heated; their dormant inclinations are awakened ; their principles are unfixed; their sentiments are debauched ; feelings and situations, of which they had no previous conception, are displayed before them; impassioned language and seductive sentiments, which they had never heard, are imprinted on their recollection; they are initiated into horrid mysteries of which they had never dreamt; they are hurried forward to the gulf by a morbid excitement, and a fatal fascination. One history of adultery may go some way in vitiating and disturbing a pure and tranquil mind; by the description of melting tenderness, and vehement raptures, the total selfabandonment to passion, and the sacrifice of fame and station and all human considerations upon the altar of love ;-but when such accounts are strung together, and exhibited in a collection, the peril and the mischief are incalculable. How should I resist, thinks the young softhearted woman, when so many of my sex, older and less excusable than myself, have yielded to the temptation and sunk beneath the trial ?
Assuredly, it is not a regard for the parties concerned, that has induced us to offer the present observations. We have no tenderness for adultery; we have never had a wish to spare its perpetrators, although we must often feel pity for its victims. Yet it is hard for them, who have been betrayed by weakness into guilt; who have long and deeply regretted the fatal indiscretions of their youth; who have mourned in secret over the wrong which they have done to the friend, the husband, and the father; to whom life has presented, for years, only the bitter cup of shame and penitence; who have paid the penalty inflicted by the laws; to be again dragged before the bar of public opinion, and exposed again to the weight of public censure. Charity, 66 which hopeth all things” would trust, that their repentance, although unavailing, is sincere, and throw its veil in mercy over their past offences. Something, too, is due to the honour of illustrious families; to the natural desire of relatives and children, to conceal, as far as possible, the flaw in the escutcheon. Ought the most lamentable circumstances, which have occurred in the houses of British noblemen, to be brought back to light, and collected and descanted upon, by a hireling anecdote-monger, when no common benefit can be obtained by the exposure; when, on the contrary, the injury to public morals is commensurate with the outrage upon individual feelings?
But our chief motive for stepping forward is a determination, that, if our efforts can be of any avail, some measure of decency shall be observed. The wretched system of earning money by demoralizing the nation is not to be endured. If these Annals of Gallantry--alias, adultery —with the accompaniments of memoirs and coloured plates, formed a mere insulated publication, we might have kept our indignation to ourselves; but when we perceive a quick succession of licentious works; when they tread fast upon the heels of one another; and the Annals of Gallantry are added to the edifying life of the Duc de Lauzun, and the sixpenny reprints of Don Juan and the Chevalier de Faublas, we think it high time that the evil should be stopped, before the press is choked, and the country inundated with the torrent of profligacy and corruption.
We hope, therefore, that the respectable portion of the community will agree with us in discountenancing the “ interesting cases,” and biography and drawings of the Doctor of Laws. It may be said, that this very notice may serve to increase their circulation. But we answer, that if our friends follow our example of not even looking into it, the book will meet with very few either purchasers or readers.
· In the performance of the comprehensive duty of universal censorship which we have so generously imposed upon ourselves, we certainly intended at no very distant period to have intruded upon the repose of those most