Imágenes de páginas

which she was beginning to adopt such incongruous habits, and the rapidity with which she had been involved in the vortex of London.

As for the polite, Goldsmith had said, nearly a century before, they are so very polite as never to applaud on any account. "One of these, with a face screwed up into affectation, tells you that fools may admire, but men of sense only approve. Thus, lest he should rise in rapture at anything new, he keeps down every passion but pride and self-importance; approves with phlegm; and the poor author is damned in the taking a pinch of snuff."

When Barry Lyndon made his first entrance into Dublin, by night, he tells us that the rattle and splendour of the coaches, the flare of the link-boys, the number and magnificence of the houses, struck him with the greatest wonder. But he was careful to disguise this feeling, according to his dear mother's directions, who told him that it was the mark of a man of fashion never to wonder at anything, and never to admit that any house, equipage, or company he saw, was more splendid or genteel than what he had been accustomed to at home.

Lady Dedlock, in "Bleak House," having, like Alexander, conquered her world, by getting to the top of the fashionable tree, and becoming the centre of the fashionable intelligence-" an exhausted composure, a worn-out placidity, an equanimity of fatigue not to be ruffled by interest or satisfaction, are the trophies of her victory. She is perfectly well bred. If she could be translated to Heaven to-morrow, she might be expected to ascend without any rapture." In another part of the same story, the author again has his fling at the ladies and gentlemen of fashion, who have agreed to put a smooth glaze on the world, and to keep down all its realities; for whom everything must be listless and languid; who have found out the perpetual stoppage; who are to rejoice at nothing, and be sorry for nothing; who are not to be disturbed by ideas; on whom even the Fine Arts must array themselves in the milliners' and tailors' patterns of past generations, and be particularly careful not to be in earnest, or to receive any impress from the moving age.

When that homely good old soul, Miss Ferrier's Molly Macauley, is astonished out of measure by the return of her master's wife, and exclaims that of all the wonderful things she has met with in life, this is the most wonderful-"I see nothing in the least extraordinary in the matter," says the superb laird, with dignified composure.-"Oh, that must be because you are so wise, Glenroy," the good woman rejoins; "for I have heard that very wise people are never surprised at anything, which I think very extraordinary, considering what wonderful creatures we are, and what wonderful things we meet with both by day and night.” Mrs. Macauley had not been for schooling to the Earl of Chester

field. His enforcement of Nil Admirari is peremptory and pertinacious. "People who have seen little," he forewarns his son, "are apt to stare sillily, and wonder at every new thing they see; but a man who has been bred in the world, looks at everything with coolness and sedateness." See everything that is to be seen, he desires his Son on his travels: "Seeing everything is the only way not to admire anything too much." "Everything is worth seeing once: and the more one sees, the less one either wonders or admires." At another time he bids him get the "Comte de Gabalis" from the Hague: "Read it, for it will both divert and astonish you, and at the same time teach you nil admirari; a very necessary lesson."

Assuredly his lordship would have said ditto to the doctrine of polite exquisites impeached by Molière's Célimène, Qu'il n'appartient qu'aux sots d'admirer et de rire;

laughter being no less stringently excluded than admiration from his code of civilisation. And for once he would have recognised a touch of sanity in Mr. Tennyson's mad poet, when he says, of folly and vice,

I would not marvel at either, but keep a temperate brain;

For not to desire or admire, if a man could learn it, were more

Than to walk all day like the sultan of old in a garden of spice.

But, as Byron objects to Horace, Creech, Pope and Company,

But, had none admired,

Would Pope have sung, or Horace been inspired?

Gad! I must say I ne'er could see the very
Great happiness of this Nil Admirari.

Hazlitt declared it to be a very bad sign (unless where it arises from singular modesty) when you cannot tell a man's profession from his conversation:-such persons either feel no interest in what concerns them most, or do not express what they feel. "Not to admire anything" he therefore pronounces a very unsafe rule, and goes on to say, that a London apprentice who did not admire the Lord Mayor's coach, would stand a good chance of coming to be hanged. He adds that he knew but one person absurd enough to have formed his whole character on the above maxim of Horace, and who affected a superiority over others from an uncommon degree of natural and artificial stupidity.

There is a joy, says Horace Walpole, in looking up to great men and admiring them; there is none to a generous mind in looking down on anybody, much less on all, and without the pride of virtue.

Mr. Dickens makes it almost the great commandment in the law of the Gradgrind school, never to wonder. When Mr. Grandgrind one day overhears his little girl begin a conversation with her brother by saying, "Tom, I wonder" he steps forward at

once, and issues the decree, "Louisa, never wonder!" Herein, by his doctrine, lies the spring of the mechanical art and mystery of educating the reason without stooping to the cultivation of the sentiments and affections. In Mr. Harthouse, again, in the same story, we have another representative man of the same theory and practice, only of a quite different type; he being a specimen of polite indifferentism, who, when most surprised, affects to be not surprised in the least; for "it was as much against the precepts of his school to wonder, as it was against the doctrines of the Gradgrind College." Yeh, the once celebrated Governor-general of Canton, appears to have been a pronounced specimen of the same order. Mr. Wingrove Cooke scrutinised the captive mandarin closely, during his voyage to Calcutta on board an English ship, where everything was new to him; but his excellency was scrupulously watchful against ever betraying any token of interest or surprise in aught he beheld.

Jamais Cleon, rimeur sec et pincé,
Par de beaux vers n'eut l'oreille ravie.
Il vous écoute avec un front glacé.
N'admirer rien est un art de l'envie.*

For it is but ironically that the wise as witty author of "Hudibras" thus writes:

Decry all things: for to be wise
Is not to know, but to despise.

There is such a thing as a stolid habit of nil admirari. Assheaded Bottom the weaver, it has been remarked, during the time that he attracts the attentions of Titania, never for a moment thinks there is anything extraordinary in the matter: he takes the love of the Queen of the Fairies as a matter of course, and dwells in Fairy-land unobservant of its wonders, as quietly as if he were still in his workshop. "Great is the courage and self-possession

of an ass-head. Theseus would have bent in reverent awe before Titania. Bottom treats her as carelessly as if she were the wench of the next-door tapster."

Goldsmith's Chinese traveller, anxious to do and look in England as do the English, and finding that whether he looked right glad or glum in society, he equally came to grief, resolved to assume a look perfectly neutral;-"and have ever since," he says, "been studying the fashionable air, something between jest and earnest; a complete virginity of face, uncontaminated with the smallest symptom of meaning." There is of course in Byron's Adeline

That calm patrician polish in the address,
Which ne'er can pass the equinoctial line
Of anything which Nature would express;
Just as a Mandarin finds nothing fine,-

*Lebrun, Epigrammes.

At least his manners suffer not to guess
That anything he views can greatly please.
Perhaps we have borrowed this from the Chinese-

Perhaps from Horace: his "Nil admirari"
Was what he call'd the "Art of Happiness;"
An art on which the artists greatly vary,
And have not yet attain❜d to much success.

At one of Boswell's Easter-Sunday dinings with Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Williams, he maintained that Horace was wrong in placing happiness in Nil admirari, for that he, Bozzy, thought admiration one of the most agreeable of all our feelings, and regretted that he had lost much of his disposition to admire, which people generally do as they advance in life. "Sir," said Johnson,


as a man advances in life, he gets what is better than admiration -judgment, to estimate things at their true value." Boswell, however, insisted that admiration was more pleasing than judgment, as love is more pleasing than friendship. Father Prout contends, that in the catalogue of pleasurable sensations which help to make life endurable, we should place in the very highest rank "that delightful and exalted feeling which in psychology is termed Admiration." He holds the legitimate indulgence of that faculty to constitute a most refined species of intellectual enjoyment-not the less to be prized, for that the objects which call it forth happen to be scarce, and that opportunities are seldom afforded of yielding up the soul to its delightful influence. And he points out that the sentiment of Admiration has worked itself into individual nomenclature on two occasions: viz., in the case of St. Gregory, "Thaumaturge," and in that of an accomplished cavalier, who burst on the close of the sixteenth century as "the Admirable Crichton." Sydney Smith, again, who in one of his Moral Philosophy Lectures rebukes "a certain manner of viewing and discussing all questions in a frivolous, mocking manner," as if the "able men" who may be found to indulge in this "habitual levity" had looked through all human knowledge, and found in it nothing but what they could easily master, and were entitled to despise,-in another lecture preaches up with all his might "an honest and zealous admiration of talent, and of virtue," wherever found; and asserts, that in all ages of the world, the ablest men have been the first to express their admiration of excellence; and that while they themselves were extending the triumphs of the human understanding, they worshipped its power in other minds, with veneration bordering upon idolatry. A doctrine happily in accord with Wordsworth's teaching, that

We live by Admiration, Hope, and Love;
And, even as these are well and wisely fixed,
In dignity of being we ascend.


Ir is not often that we receive a volume of which "only fifty copies" have been printed. Why there should have been only fifty in this instance we cannot very easily conceive. The art and mystery of publication are now so perfect, that what was formerly called an edition can readily be disposed of without much reference to the quality of the work; but the author may tell us with Falstaff, that it is his humour; and indeed we are admonished, at the foot of his "Corrigenda," that "the present small edition must be considered as little more than a readable substitute for an unpublished MS."

Some of its materials had already become known to us. They were placed at our disposal when we were reviewing other works of Italian biography; and an abridged translation of the dialogue, entitled "Il Filotimo" (ch. ii. v.), appeared separately in our number for February, 1858.

We have rarely seen a work that seemed to have been written more entirely as a favourite pursuit, without any reference to Albemarle-street or the public. Its writer appears to have chosen his subject for its own sake, and to have surrounded it with all kinds of out-of-the-way reading, simply because it interested himself. Nor was his choice unjustifiable. Though unknown to English readers, and almost forgotten by his own countrymen, here was a man who had filled high offices, and been entrusted with important embassies; a poet, historian, orator, philosopher, and antiquary; referred to in every form of praise by the scholars of three generations, and yet now passing into sheer oblivion. At Florence, the friend of Politian and of Pico di Mirandola, he held the highest judicial office under the Republic. He had been twice ambassador from Ercole d'Este to the Emperor of Germany, and had passed several years at the Court of Ferrara, where he largely contributed, with Boiardo and the youthful Ariosto, to the revival of the drama. It was a life of vicissitude. He was long an exile from Pesaro, his native or adopted country, and on his return there, in 1504, it was to meet a cruel fate; for he was imprisoned a few days afterwards by order of Giovanni Sforza, its unworthy sovereign, and was put to death in a dungeon of the castle, under a

* Memoirs connected with the Life and Writings of Pandolfo Collenuccio da Pesaro, with other Memoirs of the Fifteenth Century. The whole translated, compiled, or written, by W. M. Tartt. Edition of only fifty copies, MDCCCLXVIII., pp. 330.

« AnteriorContinuar »