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wanted to get it from me, but lord, Sir, I would let none of them come near it. I kept it in my waistcoat pocket all day, and at night I used to take it to bed with me and put it under my pillow. I couldn't sleep easy without it.”
The same idle vein might be found in the country, but I doubt whether it would find a tongue to give it utterance. Cockneyism is a ground of native shallowness mounted with pertness and conceit. Yet with all this simplicity and extravagance in dilating on his favourite topics, Dunster is a man of spirit, of attention to business, knows how to make out and get in his bills, and is far from being henpecked. One thing is certain, that such a man must be a true Englishman and a loyal subject. He has a slight tinge of letters, with shame I confess it-has in his possession a volume of the European Magazine for the year 1761, and is an humble admirer of Tristram Shandy (partiticularly the story of the King of Bohemia and his Seven Castles, which is something in his own endless manner) and of Gil Blas of Santillane. Over these (the last thing he goes to bed at night) he smokes a pipe, and meditates for an hour. After all, what is there in these harmless half-lies, these fantastic exaggerations, but a literal, prosaic, Cockney translation of the admired lines in Gray's Ode to Eton College :
“ What idle progeny succeed
Or urge the flying ball ?” A man shut up all his life in his shop, without any thing to interest him from one year's end to another but the cares and details of business, with scarcely
BEAUTIES OF MODERN LITERATURE. 421 any intercourse with books or opportunities for society, distracted with the buzz, and glare, and noise about him, turns for relief to the retrospect of his childish years; and there, through the long vista, at one bright loop-hole, leading out of the thorny mazes of the world into the clear morning light, he sees the idle fancies and gay amusements of his boyhood dancing like motes in the sunshine. Shall we blame, or should we laugh at him, if his eye glistens, and his tongue grows wanton in their praise ? · None but a Scotchman would--that pragmatical sort of personage, who thinks it a folly ever to have been young, and who, instead of dallying with the frail past, bends his brows upon the future, and looks only to the main chance. Forgive me, dear Dunster, if I have drawn a sketch of some of thy venial foibles, and delivered thee into the hands of these Cockneys of the North, who will fall upon thee and devour thee, like so many cannibals without a grain of salt ! · If familiarity in cities breeds contempt, ignorance in the country breeds aversion and dislike. People come too much in contact in town; in other places they live too much apart, to unite cordially and easily. Our feelings, in the former case, are dissipated and exhausted by being called into constant and vain activity ; in the latter, they rust and grow dead for want of use. If there is an air of levity and indifference in London manners, there is a harshness, a moroseness, and disagreeable restraint, in those of the country. We have little disposition to sympathy, when we have few persons to sympathize with : we lose the relish and capacity for social enjoyment, the seldomer we meet. A habit of sullenness, coldness, and misan • throphy, grows upon us. If we look for hospitality and a cheerful welcome in country places, it must be in those where the arrival of a stranger is an event, the recurrence of which need not be greatly apprehended, or it must be on rare occasions, on “ some high festival of once a year.” Then indeed the stream of hospitality, so long dammed up, may flow without stint for a short season; or a stranger may be expected with the same sort of eager impatience as a caravan of wild beasts, or any other natural curiosity, that excites our wonder and fills up the craving of the mind after novelty. By degrees, however, even this last principle loses its effect: books, newspapers, whatever carries us out of ourselves into a world of which we see and know nothing, becomes distasteful, repulsive; and we turn away with indifference or disgust from every thing that disturbs our lethargic animal existence, or takes off our attention from our petty local interests and pursuits. Man, left long to himself, is no better than a mere clod; or his activity, for want of some other vent, preys upon himself, or is directed to splenetic, pcevish dislikes, or vexatious, harassing persecution of others. I once drew a picture of a country life: it was a portrait of a particular place, a caricature if you will, but, with certain allowances, I fear it was too like in the individual instance, and that it would hold too generally true. See Round Table, vol. ii. p. 116.
If these, then, are the faults and vices of the inhabitants of town or of the country, where should a man go to live, so as to escape from them? I answer, that in the
country we have the society of the groves, the fields, the brooks, and in London a man may keep to himself, or choose his company as he pleases.
It appears to me that there is an amiable mixture of these two opposite characters in a person who chances to have passed his youth in London, and who has retired into the country for the rest of his life. We may find in such a one a social polish, a pastoral simplicity. He rusticates agreeably, and vegetates with a degree of sentiment. He comes to the next post-town to see for letters, watches the coaches as they pass, and eyes the passengers with a look of familiar curiosity, thinking that he too was a gay fellow in his time. He turns his horse's head down the narrow lane that leads homewards, puts on an old coat to save his wardrobe, and fills his glass nearer to the brim. As he lifts the purple juice to his lips and to his eye, and in the dim solitude that hems him round, thinks of the glowing line
“ This bottle's the sun of our table"another sun rises upon his imagination; the sun of his youth, the blaze of vanity, the glitter of the metropolis, “ glares round his soul, and mocks his closing eye-lids.” The distant roar of coaches is in his ears~ the pit stare upon him with a thousand eyes-Mrs. Siddons, Bannister, King, are before him—he starts as from a dream, and swears he will to London ; but the expense, the length of way, deters him, and he rises the next morning to trace the footsteps of the hare that has brushed the dew drops from the lawn, or to attend a meeting of Magistrates ! Mr. Justice Shallow answered in some sort to this description of a retired Cockney and indigenous country-gentleman. He “ knew the Inns of Court, where they would talk of mad Shallow yet, and where the bona robas were, and had them at commandment: ay, and had heard the chimes at midnight !”. · It is a strange state of society (such as that in London) where a man does not know his next-door neighbour, and where the feelings (one would think) must recoil upon themselves, and either fester or become obtuse. Mr. Wordsworth, in the preface to his poem of the “ Excursion,” represents men in cities as so many wild beasts or evil spirits, shut up in cells of ignorance, without natural affections, and barricadoed down in sensuality and selfishness. The nerve of huma- : nity is bound up, according to him : the circulation of the blood stagnates. And it would be so, if men were merely cut off from intercourse with their immediate neighbours, and did not meet together generally and more at large. But man in London becomes, as Mr. Burke has it, a sort of “public creature.” He lives in the eye of the world, and the world in his. If he witnesses less of the details of private life, he has better opportunities of observing its larger masses and varied movements. He sees the stream of human life pouring along the streets—its comforts and embellishments piled up in the shops, the houses are proofs of the industry, the public buildings of the art and magnificence of man; while the public amusements and places of resort are a centre and support for social feeling. A playhouse alone is a school of humanity, where all eyes are fixed on the same gay or solemn scene, where smiles or tears are spread from face to face, and where a thousand hearts beat in unison !