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1609 I went thus clad.” The good Dutchman was released from his Algerine captivity (I imagine his figure looks like that of a slave amongst the Moors), and in his thank-offering to some godchild at home, he thus piously records his escape.
Was not poor Cervantes also a captive amongst the Moors? Did not Fielding, and Goldsmith, and Smollett, too, die at the chain as well as poor Hood ? Think of Fielding going on board his wretched ship in the Thames, with scarce a hand to bid him farewell ; of brave Tobias Smollett, and his life, how hard, and how poorly rewarded ; of Goldsmith, and the physician whispering, “ Have you something on your mind ? and the wild dying eyes answering, “ Yes.” Notice how Boswell speaks of Goldsmith, and the splendid contempt with which he regards him. Read Hawkins on Fielding, and the scorn with which Dandy Walpole and Bishop Hurd speak of him. Galleyslaves doomed to tug the oar and wear the chain, whilst my lords and dandies take their pleasure, and hear fine music and disport with fine ladies in the cabin !
But stay. Was there any cause for this scorn? Had some of these great men weaknesses which gave inferiors advantage over them? Men of letters cannot lay their hands on their hearts, and say, “ No, the fault was fortune's, and the indifferent world's not Goldsmith's nor Fielding's.” There was no reason why Oliver should always be thriftless ; why Fielding and Steele should sponge upon their friends ; why Sterne should make love to his neighbors' wives. Swift, for a long time, was as poor as any wag that ever laughed : but he owed no penny to his neighbors: Addison, when he wore his most threadbare coat, could hold his head up, and maintain his dignity: and, I dare vouch, neither of those gentlemen, when they were ever so poor, asked any man alive to pity their condition, and have a regard to the weaknesses incidental to the literary profession. Galley-slave, forsooth! If you are sent to prison for some error for which the law awards that sort of laborious seclusion, so much the more shame for you. If you are chained to the oar as a prisoner of war, like Cervantes, you have the pain, but not the shame, and the friendly compassion of mankind to reward you. Galley-slaves, indeed! What man has not his car to pull? There is that wonderful old stroke-oar in the Queen's galley. How many years has he pulled ? Day and night, in rough water or smooth, with what invincible vigor and surprising gayety he plies his arms. There is the same Galère Capitaine, that well-known, trim figure, the bow-oar ; how he tugs, and with what a will! How both of them have been abused in their time ! Take the Lawyer's galley, and that dauntless octogenarian in command; when has he ever complained or repined about his slavery? There is the Priest's galley-black and lawn sails—do any mariners out of Thames work harder? When lawyer, and statesman, and divine, and writer are snug in bed, there is a ring at the poor Doctor's bell. Forth he must go, in rheumatism or snow; a galley-slave bearing his galley-pots to quench the flames of fever, to succor mothers and young children in their hour of peril, and, as gently and soothingly as may be, to carry the hopeless patient over to the silent shore. And have we not just read of the actions of the Queen's galleys and their brave crews in the Chinese waters ? Men not more worthy of human renown and honor to-day in their victory, than last year in their glorious hour of disaster. So with stout hearts may we ply the oar, messmates all, till the voyage is over, and the Harbor of Rest is found.
ROUND ABOUT THE CHRISTMAS TREE.
The kindly Christmas tree, from which I trust every gentle reader has pulled a bonbon or two, is yet all aflame whilst I am writing, and sparkles with the sweet fruits of its season.
ou young ladies, may you have plucked pretty giftlings from it ; and out of the cracker sugar-plum which you have split with the captain or the sweet young curate may you have read one of those delicious conundrums which the confectioners introduce into the sweetmeats, and which apply to the cunning passion of love.
Those riddles are to be read at your age, when Í dare say they are amusing. As for Dolly, Merry, and Bell, who are standing at the tree, they don't care about the loveriddle part, but understand the sweet-almond portion very well. They are four, five, six years old. Patience, little people! A dozen merry Christmases more, and you will be reading those wonderful love-conundrums, too. As for us elderly folks, we watch the babies at their sport, and the young people pulling at the branches : and instead of finding bonbons or sweeties in the packets which we pluck off the boughs, we find enclosed Mr. Carnifex's review of the quarter's meat; Mr. Sartor's compliments, and little statement for self and the young gentlemen; and Madame de Sainte-Crinoline's respects to the young ladies,
who encloses her account, and will send on Saturday, please ; or we stretch our hand out to the educational branch of the Christmas tree, and there find a lively and amusing article from the Rev. Henry Holyshade, containing our dear Tommy's exceedingly moderate account for the last term's school expenses.
The cree yet sparkles, I say. I am writing on the day before Twelfth Day, if you must know ; but already ever so many of the fruits hate been pulled, and the Christmas lights have gone out. Bobby Miseltow, who has been staying with us for a week (and who has been sleeping mysteriously in the bath-room), comes to say he is going away to spend the rest of the holidays with his grandmother-and I brush away the manly tear of regret as I part with the dear child. “Well, Bob, good-by, since you will go. Compliments to grandmamma. Thank her for the turkey. Here's—" (A slight pecuniary transaction takes place at this juncture, and Bob nods and winks, and puts his hand in his waistcoat pocket.) “ You have had a pleasant week?"
BOB.—“ Haven't I !” And exit, anxious to know the amount of the coin which has just changed hands.)
He is gone, and as the dear boy vanishes through the door (behind which I see him perfectly), I too cast up a little account of our past Christmas week. When Bob's holidays are over, and the printer has sent me back this manuscript, I know Christmas will be an old story. All the fruit will be off the Christmas tree then ; the crackers will have cracked off ; the almonds will have been crunched ; and the sweet-bitter riddles will have been read; the lights will have perished off the dark green boughs ; the toys growing on them will have been distributed, fought for, cherished, neglected, broken. Ferdinand and Fidelia will each keep out of it (be still, my gushing heart !) the remembrance of a riddle read together, of a double-almond munched together, and the moiety of an exploded cracker * * * The maids, I say, will have taken down all that holly stuff and nonsense about the clocks, lamps, and looking-glasses, the dear boys will be back at school, fondly thinking of the pantomime-fairies whom they have seen ; whose gaudy gossamer wings are battered by this time ; and whose pink cotton (or silk is it?) lower extremities are all dingy and dusty. Yet but a few days, Bob, and flakes of paint will have cracked on the fairy flower-bowers, and the revolving temples of adamantine lustre will be as shabby as the city of Pekin. When you read this, will Clown still be going on lolling his tongue out of his
mouth, and saying, “How are you to-morrow?" To-morrow, indeed! He must be almost ashamed of himself (if that cheek is still capable of the blush of shame) for asking the absurd question. To-morrow, indeed! To-morrow the diffugient snows will give place to Spring; the snow-drops will lift their heads; Ladyday may be expected, and the pecuniary duties peculiar to that feast; in place of bonbons, trees will have an eruption of light green knobs ; the whitebait season will bloom as if one need go on describing these vernal phenomena, when Christmas is still here, though ending, and the subject of my discourse!
We have all admired the illustrated papers, and noted how boisterously jolly they become at Christmas time. What wassail-bowls, robin-redbreasts, waits, snow landscapes, bursts of Christmas song ! And then to think that these festivities are prepared months before--that these Christmas pieces are prophetic! How kind of artists and poets to devise the festivities beforehand, and serve them pat at the proper time! We ought to be grateful to them, as to the cook who gets up at midnight and sets the pudding a boiling, which is to feast us at six o'clock. I often think with gratitude of the famous Mr. Nelson Lee—the author of I don't know how many hundred glorious pantomimes-walking by the summer wave at Margate, or Brighton perhaps, revolving in his mind the idea of some new gorgeous spectacle of faëry, which the winter shall see complete. He is like cook at midnight (si parva licet). He watches and thinks. He pounds the sparkling sugar of benevolence, the plums of fancy, the sweetmeats of fun, the figs of-well, the figs of fairy fiction, let us say, and pops the whole in the seething cauldron of imagination, and at due season serves up THE PANTOMIME.
Very few men in the course of nature can expect to see all the pantomimes in one season, but I hope to the end of my life I shall never forego reading about them in that delicious sheet of The Times which appears on the morning after Boxingday. Perhaps reading is even better than seeing. The best way, I think, is to say you are ill, lie in bed, and have the paper for two hours, reading all the way down from Drury Lane to the Britannia at Hoxton. Bob and I went to two pantomimes. One was at the Theatre of Fancy, and the other at the Fairy Opera, and I don't know which we liked the best.
At the Fancy, we saw “Harlequin Hamlet, or Daddy's Ghost and Nunky's Pison," which is all very well—but, gentlemen, if you don't respect Shakspeare, to whom will you be civil? The palace and ramparts of Elsinore by moon and snowlight is one of Loutherbourg's finest efforts. The banqueting hall of the palace is illuminated: the peaks and gables glitter with the snow: the sentinels march blowing their fingers with the cold—the freezing of the nose of one of them is very neatly and dexterously arranged: the snow-storm rises : the winds howl awfully along the battlements : the waves come curling, leaping, foaming to shore. Hamlet's umbrella is whirled away in the storm. He and his two friends stamp on each other's toes to kecp them warm. The storm-spirits rise in the air, and are whirled howling round the palace and the rocks. My eyes ! what tiles and chimney-pots fly hurtling through the air! As the storm reaches its height (here the wind instruments come in with prodigious effect, and I compliment Mr. Brumby and the violoncellos)—as the snow-storm rises, (queek, queek, queek, go the fiddles, and then thrumpty thrump comes a pizzicato movement in Bob Major, which sends a shiver into your very boot-soles,) the thunder-clouds deepen (bong, bong, bong, from the violoncellos). The forked lightning quivers through the clouds in a zig-zag scream of violins —and look, look, look! as the frothing, roaring waves come rushing up the battlements, and over the reeling parapet, each hissing wave becomes a ghost, sends the gun-carriages rolling over the platform, and plunges howling into the water again.
Hamlet's mother comes on to the battlements to look for her son. The storm whips her umbrella out of her hands, and she retires screaming in pattens.
The cabs on the stand in the great market-place at Elsinore are seen to drive off, and several people are drowned. The gas-lamps along the street are wrenched from their foundations, and shoot through the troubled air. Whist, rush, hish! how the rain roars and pours! The darkness becomes awful, always deepened by the power of the music--and see-in the midst of a rush, and whirl, and scream of spirits of air and wavewhat is that ghastly figure moving hither? It becomes bigger, bigger, as it advances down the platform--more ghastly, more horrible, enormous ! It is as tall as the whole stage. It seems to be advancing on the stalls and pit, and the whole house screams with terror, as the GHOST OF THE LATE HAMLET comes in, and begins to speak. Several people faint, and the lightfingered gentry pick pockets furiously in the darkness.
In the pitchy darkness, this awful figure throwing his eyes about, the gas in the boxes shuddering out of sight, and the