Imágenes de páginas

Lady Kew's 'Black Dog'!" And then, in vindication of his argument, our master satirist goes on to show that a person always ready to fight is certain of the greatest consideration in his or her family circle; that the lazy grow tired of contending with him; the timid coax and flatter him; and as almost every one is timid or lazy, a bad-tempered man is sure to have his own way. "It is he who commands, and all the others obey. If he is a gourmand, he has what he likes for dinner; and the tastes of all the rest are subservient to him. She (we playfully transfer the gender, as a bad temper is of both sexes) has the place which she likes best in the drawing-room; nor do her parents, nor her brothers and sisters, venture to take her favourite chair." So again we are reminded, too truthfully, that if she wants to go to a party, mamma will dress herself in spite of her headache; and papa, who hates those dreadful soirées, will go up-stairs after dinner and put on his poor old white neckcloth, though he has been toiling at chambers all day, and must be there early in the morning-he will go out with her, we are assured, and stay for the cotillon. If the family are taking their tour in the summer, it is she who ordains whither they shall go, and where they shall stop.

If he to resume the aforesaid interchange of gender—“if he comes home late, the dinner is kept for him, and not one dares to say a word, though ever so hungry. If he is in a good humour, how every one frisks about and is happy! How the servants jump up at his bell and run to wait upon him! How they sit up patiently, and how eagerly they run out to fetch cabs in the rain! Whereas for you and me, who have the tempers of angels, and never were known to be angry or to complain, nobody cares whether we are pleased or not." Instances follow in proof. Ex. gr., our wives go to the milliners and send us the bill, and we pay it; our John finishes reading the newspaper before he answers our bell, and brings it to us; our sons loll in the arm-chair which we should like; our tailors fit us badly; our butchers give us the youngest mutton; our tradesmen dun us much more quickly than other people's, because they know we are good-natured; and our servants go out whenever they like, and openly have their friends to supper in the kitchen. And so, to return to the old Countess: "When Lady Kew said Sic volo, sic jubeo, I promise you few persons of her ladyship's belongings stopped, before they did her biddings, to ask her reasons."

In that short-lived periodical of the Year of Revolutions, Politics for the People, to which Professors Maurice and Kingsley, and Messrs. J. M. Ludlow and E. V. Neale were notable contributors, there used to appear from week to week a series of

*The Newcomes, ch. xxxiii. May-VOL. CXLIV. NO. DLXXXI.

2 s

Aphorisms, which we have been in the habit of attributing to Mr. Arthur Helps. The advantages of an ill-temper are more than once indicated in these fragmentary reflections. Ill-temper and discontent, the moralist remarks in one place, generally get more than their fair share of the good things of life, and would be very serviceable if they did not bite at both ends, tearing their employers as well as other people. "An easy-natured man who could simulate these evil tempers would thrive upon them in this world."*

Does not that read like the author of "Friends in Council"? Especially when in "Friends in Council" itself we light on such an obiter dictum as this: "An ill-tempered man often has everything his own way, and seems very triumphant; but the demon he cherishes tears him as well as awes other people." In another part of the same book Ellesmere asks, “Is there not a force in illhumour and unreason to which you constantly see the wisest bend?" A subsequent entry among the Aphorisms already quoted, runs to this effect: that as one grows older one learns to estimate good-temper properly: one is seldom taught in early life to see its full merits-it not being inscribed among the heroic virtues. "Besides, ill-temper in a young person is not that evil to his elders that it is to his fellows: and those who are secure from its effects are often amused at the exhibition of it." Children, it is therefore suggested, ought to be shown that ill-temper is feeble and contemptible: whereas, on the contrary, they often grow up in the delusion that it is rather a fine thing. "You certainly meet with many persons who are decidedly vain of their ill-temper, and of seeing how it keeps the people about them in order—a pride which they might share with any wild animal at large."§

Contemplate for example that delectable specimen of crossgrained humanity, Mr. Thackeray's General Sir George Gorgon -who was as dull, stingy, pompous, insolent, ill-tempered a little creature as ever was known. "With such qualities you may fancy that he was generally admired in society and by his country. So he was: and I never knew a man so endowed whose way through life was not safe-who had fewer pangs of consciencemore positive enjoyments-more respect shown to him-more favours granted to him, than such a one as my friend the general."| On like grounds Mr. Herman Melville contrasts the diverse experiences in life of two opposite tempers among the ship's company of the Julia. Baltimore, the black cook's, tribulations were sore and steadfast; for him there was no peace by day or night. The

*Politics for the People, No. 7, p. 128,

Friends in Council, vol. i. book ii. ch. ii.
Ibid., book i. ch. vii.

Politics for the People, No. 8, p. 143.
The Bedford-row Conspiracy, ch. i.

poor fellow was altogether too good-natured. "Say what they will about easy-tempered people, it is far better, on some accounts, to have the temper of a wolf. Who ever thought of taking liberties with gruff Black Dan?" Sterne even intimates, as usual on oldworld authority, that "snapping" is physically good for the health, and makes Tristram Shandy uneasy at a subsidence of that habit on his father's part, as menacing bodily derangement: "He forbore to snap; and as the hasty sparks of temper, which occasion snapping, so much assist perspiration and digestion, as Hippocrates tells us, he had certainly fallen ill with the extinction of them, had not his thoughts been critically drawn off, and his health rescued by a fresh train of disquietudes left him," with a legacy of a thousand pounds, by his sister Dinah.

There is certainly, Mr. Disraeli asserts, a dark delight in being miserable-a sort of strange satisfaction in being savage, which is uncoramonly fascinating. He reckons it to be one of the greatest pests of philosophy, that one can no longer be sullen, and most sincerely, ipse dixit, does he regret it. To brood over misery-to flatter yourself that there is not a single being who cares for your existence, and not a single circumstance to make that existence desirable; there is wild witchery in it, which he doubts whether opium can reach, and is sure that wine cannot.‡

All which is but a paraphrase of Elia's argument, that the first thing to aggrandise a man in his own conceit, is to conceive of himself as neglected; to undeceive him being to deprive him of the most tickling morsel within the range of self-complacency. "No flattery can come near it. Happy is he who suspects his friend of an injustice; but supremely blest, who thinks all his friends in a conspiracy to depress and undervalue him. There is a pleasure (we sing not to the profane) far beyond the reach of all that the world counts joy-a deep, enduring satisfaction in the depths, where the superficial seek it not, of discontent. . . . Reflect with what strange injustice you have been treated in quarters where (setting gratitude and the expectation of friendly returns aside as chimeras) you pretended no claim beyond justice, the naked due of all men. Think the very idea of right and fit fled from the earth, and your breast the solitary receptacle of it, till you have swelled yourself into at least one hemisphere; the other being the vast Arabia Stony of your friends and the world aforesaid." And thus to grow bigger every moment in your own conceit, and the world to lessen; to deify yourself at the expense of your species; to judge the world-this, Elia declares to be the acme and supreme point of your mystery-these, what he writes in capital letters, the true PLEASURES OF SULKINESS.

* Omoo; or, Adventures in the South Seas, ch. xi.

Tristram Shandy, vol. iv. ch. xxxi.

The Young Duke, book v. ch. iv.




AFTER the lapse of nearly half a century had allowed some repose to descend on the tomb in the little church of HucknalTorkard, the quiet has again been broken, and one in its neighbourhood may be pardoned for saying a few words in the renewed debate-one who is as ardent an admirer of Byron's genius as either M. Taine or Madame Guiccioli; more disposed than the latter, however, to take a simple English view of the women related to him by legitimate family ties.

In speaking of these, his mother naturally presents herself first to the mind, and with her image the misused and much-maligned epithet, "aristocratic," disappears from it. Yet Kitty Gordon, as her son familiarly called Mrs. Byron, was of a race as ancient as his own, and it was a frequent subject of dispute between them whether Byron or Gordon was the older and the nobler name.

But a long Scotch pedigree could not give aristocratic manners to "the honourable Mrs. Byron," as her son designated her, although she had no right to the distinctive epithet.

Of this Lord Byron seemed himself to be conscious, as he was sometimes heard to say, with a comical look, "Enter the honourable Kitty!" when his corpulent mother, with a rolling gait, came into his room.

A rather sorry picture of the descendants of feudal lords and Norman barons is presented to us by the description of Mrs. Byron flinging the poker and tongs at her son after an animated contest of words with him.

Perhaps no one could offer a more complete contrast to her than the lady who became his mother-in-law. If ever there were a gentlewoman and a fine lady it was she. But a fine lady of no paltry type. Active and energetic, she could boast of knowing a dozen occupations by which she might gain a living. Yet when she appeared in some foreign society, her name and rank not known, "On voit qu'elle est noble," was instantly remarked.

Natural character, birth, station, made these two women perfectly dissimilar, and education must also have done much to strengthen the diversity between them. Territorial rights and privileges brought estate and name to the husband of Judith Noel nearly forty years after their union. One year of Captain Byron's 66 'rakery and extravagance" was sufficient to alienate Catherine

Gordon's property, and to leave her and her son, the future poet, with an income of only one hundred and fifty pounds per


Lady Noel, born in the middle of the last century, was the eldest of the three daughters of Edward, Lord Wentworth. The family hall of that nobleman is in Leicestershire. There she no doubt spent with her sisters some years in childhood, happy, we may suppose, in spite of the strict methods of education prevailing in their day and in their class.

She had the misfortune to be deprived of her mother when she was only ten years old. Lord Wentworth survived his wife about a dozen years, and none of his daughters were married at the time of his death. But soon after they were all three settled suitably to their rank, and the eldest, by her marriage with Sir Ralph Milbanke, was transferred from her midland pastoral county to the north and the sea-coast, from Leicestershire to Durham.

She must, before this period, have been presented at the court. of all the proprieties, that of Queen Charlotte, and have had a due initiation into all that was fashionable in the great world. Belonging to a family of some old loyal Whig traditions, and having early to take her place at the head of her father's table, she could not but hear a great deal about war on the continent and in America from the lips of Chatham and Grenville, North and Shelburne.

Well fitted to be a chatelaine, the lady of a great hall in the country, she assumes that position at her husband's mansion, Seaham, in Durham. He was of very honourable lineage. His family had for many generations intermarried with titled persons, and the then Lady Melbourne was his sister.

In the lands between Tees and Tyne were many noblemen and gentlemen who kept up the profuse and stately hospitality of the good old days; but none showed in that a more liberal spirit, a more hearty goodwill than Sir Ralph Milbanke. He could not have been more gladly aided in doing the honours of his house than by the lady whom he had chosen. She helped also by her taste to improve the house and grounds. One of the deep winding dells near them, leading down to the coast, is singularly romantic. The village of Seaham lies close upon the coast, and its sands and high cliffs are brightened by the purple sea-rocket and other gay flowers.

Altogether, the manor of Seaham, with the vale of Daldan and its ruined tower of legendary interest, offered to the lover of the picturesque what was in no common degree attractive.

But the pleasures of the country and the charms of aristocratic life in the great County Palatine, where the bishop, though no longer a prince, kept up almost the state of a court, could not

« AnteriorContinuar »