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that characterized him-certainly with no look of inferiority, for he felt none; and, as Mrs. Finley's eye fell on his fine countenance, hers relaxed, and she was in the dilemma, for a moment, of not knowing whether to class him with the somebodys or nobodys; but her glance descended to the plain and coarse garments of our friend, in time to change a half-made courtesy to a salutation befiuting an inferior. 'Sit down,' she said, waving her hand to the nearest chair.
Aikin took the offered seat, and awaited, with what patience he could, the forthcoming of the master of the splendid mansion--observing what was before him with a feeling, not of envy or covetousness, but with deep joy and thankfulness for the virtue and true happiness of his humble home. Miss Sabina Jane Finley, now a young lady of twelve years, after surveying Aikin from top to toe, said to her mother, in a suppressed but audible voice, 'Gentleman!'
“Mrs. Finley seemed to have what she, no doubt, thought a truly genteel unconsciousness of the man's' presence. She was very richly dressed for a ball; but, as is a common case with poor human nature, she was transferring the fault of her faded and time-stricken face to her milliner. 'I declare, Sabina Jane,' she said, surveying herself in the mirror, 'I never will get another cap of Thompson—these flowers are blue as the heavens.'
** * You selected them yourself, mamma.'
“To be sure I did; but how could I tell how they would look in the evening ??
“Why don't you wear your new French cap, mamma ?'
“Don't be a fool, child—have not I worn that twice already? Pull down that blonde over my shoulder-how it whoops! This is the second time Smetz has served me this way. This gown sets like fury. I never go out but I have some trial that spoils all my pleasure. Don't let me see you prink so, miss,' turning to her daughter, and pulling from her head a dress-cap that she was trying on and arranging with all the airs and graces of a fine lady; 'I have told you a thousand times, Sabina Jane,' she continued, not to be fond of dress!— Well, Tom, what is wanted now ?!
“That French gentleman, ma'am, what teached Miss Sabina Jane, is to call early for his money; and if you'd please to give it to me tonight
I can't attend to it to-night-tell him to call again.' “He has called again and again, ma'am; and he says his wife is sick-and he looks so distressed like.”
"I have not the money by me to-night, Tom.'
“The image of the unhappy foreigner haunted Tom's imagination; and, after lingering for a moment with the door in his hand, he said Maybe, ma'am don't remember Mr. Finley gave out the money for Mr. Felix.'
“Mrs. Finley did reniember well that she had received the money, and had spent it that very afternoon for a most tempting piece of French embroidery-'a love of a pocket handkerchief,' that cost only thirty dollars!-the price of poor Monsieur Felix's labour for two quarters, with an indolent and neglected child. 'Shut the door, Tom,' she said, 'I can't be bothered about this money now; tell Mr. Felix to call after breakfast.' Tom ed, and withdrew. "How pertinent Tom is getiing,' added Mrs. Finley; but this is the way of all the servants in this country.""
Finley came in, dressed and perfumed for the party. 'Ab, Harry Aikin,' he said, after a momentary surprise, 'is it you-how are you?'
Well, thank you, Morris.' "What impudencé,' thought Miss Sabina Jane, 'for that man to call my papa Morris !
" I have some private business with you,' added Aikin, glancing at the young lady.
"Sabina Jane,' said Finley, 'tell your mamma the carriage is waiting—these fellows charge so abominably for waiting.' This last remark was evidently a hint to Aikin to be brief.
“But Aikin wanted no such spur. He communicated concisely Paulina's condition and wants; and, knowing that Finley's conscience was of the sluggish order, he tried to rouse it by recalling vividly to his remembrance the past-the days of Paulina's innocence and beauty, and Finley's devotion to her. But Finley slurred it over like a long-forgotten dream, that would not afford the slightest basis for a claim upon his charity.
“She is in a shocking condition, 10 be sure, Aikin,' he said ; 'but, then, I make it an invariable rule never to give but to those that I know to be worthy'
"There is much to be done for our fellow-creatures, Finley, besides giving gifts to the worthy.'
"Oh, I know that; and I subscribe liberally to several of our insti. tutions.'
“But will you do nothing towards encouraging this poor, homeless, friendless creature to repentance and reformation ?
“Pshaw! Aikin, they never reform.'
"If that is true, a part of the sin must lie at our doors, who afford them no helps. But there is no time to discuss this: Paulina, I fear, will not be able to prove her sincerity. She has, it seems to me, but little while to live; if I can save her from the police, I shall try hard to keep her where she is, that her little remnant of life may be spent with ber old friends, who will care for her body and soul.'.
". Oh, well, if you really think she is going to make a die of it, I am willing to give you something for her.'
“Finley took out his pocket-book, and after, as Ajkin could not but sus. pect, looking for a smaller sum, he gave him a five-dollar note, with the air of one who is conferring an astounding obligation. Aikin expressed neither surprise nor gratitude; but, quietly putting up the note, he said, You know, Finley, money is not the most important thing I had to ask. I want you to go to the police office with me. You are a great merchant, and your name is well known in the city; I am nobody, and it may be necessary for me to get my statement endorsed. Come, it is not five minutes' walk for you.'
“Why, bless you, man, don't you see I'm going out—there 's my wife coming down stairs now.'
“'Let her go in the carriage-you can follow her.'
"Oh! that's impossible; she would not go alone into a party for the world.'
66.Can she not wait till your return ?? “Nomit is not reasonable to ask it; it's late now-and-and6. Good night I have wasted my time here,' said Aikin, cutting short Finley's excuses, and leaving him trying to silence his conscience by dwelling on the five dollars he had given-by fretting at the deused folly of going out when people were tired and wanted to go to bed-and by joining in his wife's vituperation against Nancy and all her tribe."
Let it not be supposed, from these extracts, that Miss Sedgwick joins in the foolish outcry against the rich, as such. Far from it: it is only against wealth misapplied that her satire is directed. In the conduct of another of her characters, Mr. Beckwith, the author endeavours to exemplify the true use of riches.
We have formally noticed this little book, and made these extracts, for the purpose of doing what in us lay to aid in its dissemination. We would, if we could, send it to every fireside in our land—of the rich as well as the poor—though to the last we especially commend it. To the publication of such books we would ever lend our utmost aid, convinced that above all others they conduce to the real good of the community; and, in conclusion, we may express the hope that the fair author has but given an earnest of what she intends to do in a line of writing that has been too much neglected in this country, and which is of paramount importance at the present time.
ART. III.-Sketches of English Literature; with considera
tions on the spirit of the times, men, and revolutions. By the Viscount de CHATEAUBRIAND. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1836.
We have heretofore' presented our views upon the literary pretensions and character of the Viscount Chateaubriand, and there is nothing in the work before us to induce, at our hands, a more favourable estimate as to either profundity of learning
of the real constituents of greatness. That the French peer has a brilliant imagination, great command of language, and a captivating and imposing mode of treating his subjects, we should be loath to deny, while we would, at the same time, be strenuous in maintaining that his productions will not bear the test of severe criticism ; that if time is but taken to guard against the seductions of his fine, though very frequently bombastic language, and to ponder upon the ideas which his load of words embodies, the conclusion will, in many, many instances, be arrived at, that the reader's admiration has been caught altogether by surprise, and he been induced to waste his praise and his time upon sheer nonsense.
See American Quarterly Review, No. 39.
Notwithstanding all this, few, very few would regret a short time devoted to the pages of Chateaubriand. In opening his works we are at once ushered into a new world; removed entirely from the ordinary current of our thoughts and feelings. Romance throws her spell around us, and, while she perverts our vision, offers novel and brilliant sights to gaze at—the melody of the sounding line lends its enchantment to another sense; and while thus the reader is partially disabled from the exercise of dispassionate judgment, the reckless boldness of assertion increases the difficulty and almost secures the victory over the mind. As pastime, however, or relaxation, or not unwelcome momentary delusion, this is all very delightful, and the viscount will therefore not cease to be a popular writer. With that fate he will no doubt be abundantly satisfied.
It is a bold undertaking for a foreigner to attempt a critical account of the language and literature of another countryparticularly of a living tongue. But our author is a bold man, and was sensible of all its difficulties. He however deemed himself equal to the task. Hear his words:—“I have visited the United States; I have lived eight years an exile in England; after residing in London as an emigrant, I have returned thither as ambassador. I believe that I am as thoroughly acquainted with English as a man can be with a language foreign to his own. I have read most conscientiously all that it was my duty to read on the subject discussed in these two volumes. Í have rarely quoted my authorities, because they are known to men of letters, and men of the world care nothing about them.”
The viscount goes then at his task, in his own opinion fully prepared; and he makes a formidable and orderly opening by dividing the history of the English language into five epochs, and his
subject into five great parts. He ushers it in by gravé political reflections and philosophical introductions, and the reader is of course led to anticipate a minute, learned and critical account of the language and its authors, about which the noble writer had read and studied so much. On the contrary, he encounters a medley of anecdote, reflections, poetry, history, fun, biography, sketches of life and manners, all very amusing in themselves, but totally at variance with the instructive, detailed, and connected treatise the introduction had promised. From a foreigner this was probably just as well—nay, infinitely better than a laboured and dull treatise, replete, as such a one would needs have been, with the most ridiculous blunders. For ourselves we are the more pleased to see it as it is, from the amusement it has afforded us. To enable our readers to enjoy a portion of this, we have taken it up at the present moment, and intend to make them fully acquainted with its contents. As regards however the writer, who undertakes and promises
so difficult an execution of so grave a task, the effect upon his reputation cannot but be injurious. The sensible and intellectual, though they may while away an hour in turning over the pages of such a book, and in gleaning the flowers of fancy and wit with which it may be strewn, cannot but lament that so many fine thoughts and beautiful ideas have been dissipated and wasted.
It is very far, however, from our purpose to criticise this work seriously. This would be treating the book itself ill, though the author might well deserve it. It is indeed below serious criticism. Our design is, as we have said, to gather the amusement it affords, and spread it before our readers. This we shall do in as connected a way as so very desultory matter will permit. The “Sketches of English Literature," contain notices of the Middle Ages--their laws, buildings, dress, entertainments, and manners; the Reformation, with a brief view of Luther and the other reformers—its merits compared with the Papacy, and a defence of the latter; the Protectorate; the Revolution of 1688, and of the great men who flourished at that epoch, and a comparison between it and the French revolutions of 1789 and 1830; and last, and by no means least, the private opinions, adventures, writings and sayings of the noble author himself. Who will not say that these various themes present a broad and fruitful field for a fancy so discursive as that of Chateaubriand, or who that knows the character of his genius but would anticipate his uneasiness at being confined within narrower bounds? The author, nevertheless, in his preface deems it proper to put the reader on his guard. He says :
“I ought to premise that in this historical view I have not stuck close to my subject : I have treated of every thing—the present, the past, the future; I digress hither and thither. When I meet with the middle ages, I talk of them ; when I run foul of the reformation, I dwell upon it; when I come to the English revolution, it reminds me of our own, and I advert to the actors and the events of the latter. If an English royalist is thrown into jail
, I think of the cell which I occupied at the prefecture of police. The English poets lead me to the French poets; Lord Byron brings to my recollection my exile in England, my walks to Harrow hill, and my travels to Venice—and so of the rest. The book is composed of miscellanies which have all tones, because they relate to all things: they pass from literary criticism, lofty or familiar, to historical observations, narratives, portraits, and recollections, general or personal. That I may not take any one by surprise, that the reader may know from the first what he has to expect, that he may be aware that English literature here forms but the ground of my medley, the canvass for my embroidery, I have given a second title to this work.” pp. vii., viii.
Some apology however was thought necessary, even by the viscount himself
, in placing at the very front of his book, a lengthened dissertation upon the middle ages under the different aspects we have adverted to above, and he does it in the