Imágenes de páginas

hair; the clothes which they wore were of the same cut as the rest of the natives of India wear, but were of coarse, thick materials fitted for the inhabitants of hilly countries; there was the turban, the naghurka, and the dhoote, with the calves of the legs bare, and the rough untanned leather shoe. They heard Williams say the name of the place of which he inquired (Rajmahal), and they pointed to the direction of the compass where it lay, and said it was three logs away.

Then Williams said to Clare that they should ride to Rajmahal, and some miles from that place was the residence of an indigo planter, that they ought to go there and ask him for the hire of some bullocks to be sent to take up a garee that was detained on the road. This Clare agreed to, and they rode on. They had much conversation together relative to the curious country which they found themselves in; the manners, customs, religion, interior of habitations, and curious prejudices of the Hindoos all throughout India, Williams said, were almost wholly unknown by Europeans, although we had been so long in the country; they are priest-ridden to an extent which is scarcely conceivable, and yet there is very little of useful intelligence or superiority of mind observable in the Brahmins or priests, who are the most respected men in each village you come to, and whose word is law. Such an absolute power is accorded to birth that, unlike any other country in the universe, no individual can by any measure of talent, perseverance, or fortuitous good, ever elevate himself into respect with his fellows, but must be the same as his ancestors were. That the occupation of such men differs, dependent as it is on the culture of the mind, which all men know is wholly formed for good or evil by the education which it receives, is so straitened by the rules of their caste, as to make it imperative that they should be inexorably obliged to follow in the beaten track which had been chalked out for its progress by the practice of their forefathers from time immemorial.

"Then," said Clare, "is it possible that a man who makes money here, and there are many in Calcutta and elsewhere who do so, is not thought highly of by the rest of the natives?"

"He may be in possession of any amount of wealth," said Williams, "and with it he may procure himself any number of luxuries or comforts; his houses, his dresses, and his equipages may be what the most unlimited wealth could procure, but still he could not lose the name of being low caste if he were such by birth, and the Brahmins, or military caste, would not mix either in society with him, or on any account suffer one of their relations him."

to marry

"Then," said Clare, "if that's the case, I wonder at such men who have made their fortune not turning Christians, for with heir means they might make friends with the English merchants."

"The prevalence of caste was so great," replied Williams, " that, notwithstanding the low estimation in which such men as queets, who are the natives that generally succeed in making their fortune, is held, they still have a dread greater than anything which we can conceive of departing from the customs of their progenitors; and when we come to know that their own brothers and kinsmen dare not associate with them, if they lose caste, one ceases to wonder at the awe which such a tremendous interdict inspires."



THE Patriarch lay before his tent;
There came a wand'rer by,
Ragged and torn and travel-spent,
And sighing wearily.

The pitying host brought water clear
To ease his aching feet,

Gave him good welcome and good cheer,
And bade him rest and eat.

"And let us," said he, 66 ere we share
Our meal, to God put up a prayer."

"I cannot," said the stranger, "sue
But to the gods my fathers knew:
Pray thou to him thou deemest best,
And I to mine, and let me rest."

Then rose the chief, his anger burn'd,
"Go, Pagan-hence!" he cried:
The stranger to the desert turn'd
And left him in his pride.
Then came a voice the tent within,
"Ah, Abra'm! had I power
To bear, for threescore years, his sin,
And thou-not for an hour!"




IF aught earthly could stir the crumbling remnants of mortality after the spirit has left its fleshly nook, if aught could make the lifeless nerve thrill again, we might venture to believe in it in the poet's case, when the Ada of his verse, the sole child of his house, was laid in the tomb with him.

In the tender words which he had addressed to her from afar, the father and the man had spoken no less than the poet. We can infer, too, knowing Byron's aristocratic weakness, that pride mingled with his sentiments; he was proud of having a daughter who should bear herself suitably to his rank and to her mother's.

Yet this daughter he received at her birth most ungraciously. He had set his heart on having a son, because that son would have at once inherited a peerage through the Noel family, and that circumstance, perhaps, he may have looked to as a probability of bringing him some relief from the pressure of debt.

A French philosopher says that there is an inexorable logic in events. The great German poet declares that what we earnestly desire, shall come to pass, perhaps even in our own time, but never exactly as we wish it. For me, only an observer of men's acts and their sequence, I see frequently a grim irony in the way in which the inexorable logic shows itself, and in the manner of the fulfilment of our wishes.

Nemesis sometimes laughs at us; sometimes says, "My dear fellow, I know you have been long sighing for this. Here it is for you! !" and thrusts it in our face when we are sick of life, or gives it so different in its reality from what our hopes had made it, that it sickens us of existence.

An acknowledgment of this kind of treatment at the hands of Destiny might have been communicated to us in ottava rima had Byron lived until the present decade of this century. And, let it be remembered, that although old as a poet, and taking rank on our shelves with men who died hundreds of years before him, he would, if living, not be so old as some of our noted octogenarians.

He was enraged when his daughter was born, and flung sodawater bottles about in his passion. He wanted a son. A son who should have been, as he supposed, a peer from the day of his birth, and would have brought him the thousands per annum so much

needed just then; therefore his rage and his breaking of bottles on the birth of a daughter.


"Patience! my lord," Fate might have whispered. quietly, soberly, and godly, and you may see this peer of your race whom you so much desire; and if you do not like him, it will be your own fault. He will embody some of your expressed ideas which you never chose to embody in your own person. He will hold a man to be better than a lord, and he will show the world. that he is in earnest."

In the postscript to a letter towards the end of his year of wedded life we find these words: "Next month will bring to light the tenth wonder of the world, Gil Blas being the eighth, and he, my son's father, the ninth."

Deficiency of cash, however, and pride of title cannot succeed in extorting from Fate at the right time what men want. The tenth wonder of the world, the son, that Byron seemed to have decided was to come, did not come.

Two months afterwards he writes: "The little girl was born on the tenth of December last; her name is Augusta Ada, the second a very antique family name, I believe not used since the reign of King John. She was and is very flourishing and fat, and reckoned very large for her days. Her mother is doing very well, and up again."

Before the end of that month in which he wrote his wife and he had separated; he never again beheld his daughter. So ended his speculation on the peerage and estates for a son of his, and he did not think of renewing them for a grandson. Yet in a grandson were they to be accomplished.

At twenty-four, Byron, the heir of an old baronial title, a peer of the realm, was taking his place in the House of Lords.

At twenty-four, his grandson, inheritor of a title of the same kind, but more than a century older in date, becomes a peer of the realm, and rejects every proposal to take his place anywhere but among the hard-handed workers in iron of a great engineer. On the Saturday night he receives his weekly wages like his fellowworkmen.

And this is he who has become the lawful owner of those seven or eight thousands a year so much longed for by Byron at the time when his house was so often in the power of bailiffs!

Hear it, ye sons of neediness and greediness throughout the length and breadth of the land!-whether ye be the offspring of peers, with honourable before your names, yet are found to use many dishonourable means of raising a thousand pounds; or manufacturing and commercial men gone to ruin in the effort to live like squires-hear it!

Behold the power of purchasing a Mahometan paradise, and

many another paradise of fools, actually disregarded, thrown away. Toil and independence are chosen instead of all that the grandfather bought at the expense of nine executions in the year-all which could have been had without the executions by this heir of the wealth.

It is a singular case. The civilised world of these later times offers many examples of sons of princes, nobles, and men of wealth loving barbarism, seeking out degradation in various ways-eating, drinking, and so forth; cursing, swearing, and rowdying; boxing, cock-fighting, and gambling.

But what titled and rich youth ever before this took to labour and honest pay? It is more curious than Czar Peter's working in the Dutch dockyards. There was a purpose-a selfish, though a great purpose-to accomplish in that. But this young nobleman seems to have had no other object than that of getting free from the trammels of an artificial life-trammels which all others who can in any way obtain wealth are eager to impose on themselves and on their children.

It is to be regretted that the experiment which he was making terminated so sadly and so speedily. He had, however, persevered in it determinedly enough to convince us that he would never have adopted again the life which he had rejected-that of a mere nobleman-of a man whose title is his sole claim to our notice.

Our regret, also, with regard to the experiment, as it may be named, arises from regarding it, in a psychological point of view, as deeply interesting to the mental and moral philosopher.

And here one cannot but recal that by family descent on one side he was connected with a name dear to every Englishman to whom the liberties of his country are dear-that of John Locke. How would he who left us such excellent lessons on education have looked on the strange determination of the young lord?

With gentle pity, no doubt; with something of respect for the mind that could reject what thousands clamour for. Lovingly would he have sought to show him that he had in his power a means of doing good not lightly to be cast aside, and not to be found in the path which he had chosen.

The period of the poet's life which corresponds to his late grandson's years of manhood offers us contrasts in many ways,

Byron took his seat in the House of Peers at twenty-four, and made his first speech in favour of starving and riotous operatives. The fifty years passed since then have taught our operatives to starve and not be riotous. He writes to Lord Holland: "Surely, my lord, however we may rejoice at any improvement in the arts which may be beneficial to mankind, we must not allow mankind to be sacrificed to improvements in mechanism. The maintenance and well-being of the industrious poor is an object of greater con

« AnteriorContinuar »