« IndietroContinua »
real magician's lamp. No magic circle ever bid defiance to demon more effectually than this blessed inclosure of four bright walls, rich in simple patterns, from which shine out par tially, and with enticing looks of delight, well-varnished pictures in their gilt frames. Their very surfaces look sleek, and happy, sensitive, compan. ionable, as they are, and communicative of ideas; and here I sit among them,
"Monarch of all I survey."
And oh! how unlike the miserable Selkirk, when the cold hour came upon his brow in his lonely island, and his heart was filled with despair. A cheerful warm fire, a few gentle home-sunny faces that bring spring in contact with winter; objects of taste fascinating, yet unobtruding; voices that are always music, and music proper when you will; and sometimes silence, contemplative or excursive in fancy, the quiet thankfulness for blessings felt and twice enjoyed in that thankfulness; the consciousness of freedom from tyrant self or tyrant custom; no storm beating at your windows or at your heart-what a contrast are they all to that "darkness visible," that evil hour of external day that makes up the aßiaTOY BIOX, the life that cannot be lived, and that they must feel the misery of, who rush for shelter from this present misery to the melancholy pond, or the garrot gallows!
How striking are the contrasts of life! And as I thought thus, I retraced my life step by step; and as the cheerfulness of all around me would not let the mind dwell upon the gloomy, I determined to steal a passage from my Autobiography, which rather whimsically shows some of the contrasts of things, of life, and manners. And you perceive, my dear Eusebius, what nonsense I have daringly spurted from my goose-quill by way of preface, and from its gravity you will think it no preface at all to so simple a matter as I have to narrate. But a kind friend will clearly see intelligence through obscurities of diction and difficulties of grammar; it will beam from his own eye on the paper, if there be little there before; and in your sight, and through your own brightness, my dear Eusebius, the letter of your friend becomes an illu
Yet have missals of this kind been
somewhat reduced in value; the golden age of letters has long departedthen came the silver-but now literary love and friendship are mere dross; the tenderest as well as most hostile communications to be had for fourpence, so the copperage of letters hath come upon us. "Etas mox datura progeniem vitiosiorem -that is, the post office will be nothing more than a Penny Magazine. This is a sort of" post obit" given by the Ministry for their continuance in office. A truce with foolery, either theirs or my own, Eusebius, and let me come to the incident I have engaged to tell you; and if you publish my letter in Maga, as you have before done, I give you timely notice that we shall both be considered indecent characters, for I must use discarded words to speak about discarded things-things cast off and that, but for a few remnants among the poor, would have been altogether brushed away from our vocabulary. For I must tell you of my being properly "breeched," and sent out into the world, that is, to a public school. Let others boast that they have lived in the age of Wellingtons and Greys; let us, Eusebius, rejoice that we were born in the age of breeches. And why should we be ashamed of that toga virilis, the first day of first- assuming the which was in our time a day of honour, a white day, and marked with "money in both pockets?"
You have always considered it a disgrace to the present generation that they should ever have discarded either the name or thing-and the substitution of " inexpressibles," as an immodest lie, unworthy the simplicity of manhood. We were the "Bracco torum pueri," as Juvenal has it, sons of the breeched. Our fathers were breeched before us. Now old and young are fallen into the "lean and slippered pantaloon." Bracca-Anglice, breeches. There is something sterling in the name, that comes not mincingly upon the tongue, but boldly, as it should, out of the mouth. Bracce are of ancient origin-vide Ainsworth-"Vox Gallica,"-meaning that many have been galled who have worn them and so let the galled jade wince. The laxa bracce were said to be "shipmen's hose," so saith the same authority. Many have I seen unshipped, and for that purpose should
rather be called "demissæ braccæ." For the laxavide Sir Charles We
therell; for the demissæ--consult the Education Board, or rather Board of Education, not the modern, but a "chip of the old block," if there be such, as I have seen at the college of St Mary's Winton, yet in these degenerate days existing. But of that ancient, sweet, and wholesome custom anon. At present I must maintain the respectability of breeches-they are Greek, as the very name implies, Beaxus short-Beaxua"shorts "hence the Roman's Bracca-hence breeches.
How then, Mr Ainsworth, can you have the face to say they are Gallic, vox Gallica,-for we all know the Gaels bost of philibegs? and wear no breeches; and if by Gallic you mean the French, they were, for a long period, Sansculottes, and are very little better now. There are, however, who deny the etymology, and assert the word is from jaxo;, not sexus. "Pazos," saith the lexicon," a piece let in". -"a rag." Now, though the piece let in may answer to very many bracca, the word bracca would here lose the b, a very material part in formation; and it would be not a part, but a mere patch put for the whole. Certainly I have both seen and worn many that have been really rags; but, as I said before, there is a b in breeches, there was ever a b in bracce, and there ever will be a 6 in Baxus; for though Beaxus expresses "shorts," they have never been shortened yet to that pass, and it is to be hoped `never will be; they might as well be taken away altogether.
I do not consider that I was properly breeched until I was between twelve and thirteen years of age; what I wore before that time I make no account of, the materials were as often feminine as masculine, things really inexpressibles, made out of my father's, my mother's, and even sisters' garments. I took no note of them; I was not proud of them. The first virile pair I ever put on, were upon the occasion of my going to St Mary's college at Winchester, and it happened thus that they came to be what they were. My father, who was a literary character, and entirely given up to books, happened to have in his hand one of those old books one sees in old respectable libraries, of most sombre appearance, when my mother abruptly asked him what col our John's new breeches should be. My
My father looked at the book and said leather."
Nothing more was said, and so it turned out that the first breechies, and with which I made my public appearance in the world, for such may be called the first going to a public school, were mouse coloured leather; or, I think, according to the vocabulary of those days, I should say "leathers."
The present generation little know, that when their fathers were born the art of breeches-making was not confounded with the general cutting-out and trimming business of the tailor. It was a separate business, and the leather-breeches maker, in particular,
was a man of considerable skill and importance.
i have heard dandies say that no man could make a pair of boots. The right foot must go to Hoby, the left to some one else. Luckily for the breeches. maker, his right and left made an indivisible pair. They were lovely and undivided.
This being the case, the morning after this scene in the domestic pantomime, Mr Flight, leather-breeches maker, was sent for to measure Master John Cracklatin for a pair of mousecolour leather breeches. I do not think I had ever before been measured -it was, therefore, an epoch in my life, and well do I remember it-and Mr Flight, too-a tall, robust man, marked with the small-pox, with a face like tripe, and I suppose it was the resemblance of his tripe-like skin to leather that made me ask him, as I looked into his face, if my leathers would be smooth. I never could help thinking that he punished me for this afterwards-but I must not anticipate the trying-on-and it may well be called a trial.
And here, my dear Eusebius, I can.
not resist the temptation of making a digression to the times when we, as children, had no trials at all; and I do not believe there can be a greater contrast in life than was in those days felt and experienced by children male, in passing from the age of infancy to that of boyhood. You must have observed that mothers are much prouder of male than female infants. They stick a sort of rose in the cap, as a badge of dignity, that all the world may know what they are. And, I am sure, when they first begin to teach them to walk, and that is often much earlier than they should, they take great pains to show what they are. They shame us men out of all our proprieties, and make us turn away our modest faces. An infant male, then, is the greatest treasure and darling is really a little idol-a "dumb idol" at first-but he is soon taught to lord it with a loud voice, a practice which some never are able to get rid of, and which, with a just retribution, they often pay back upon that sex from whom they have acquired it in indulgence. And it is curious that when the child female is taken to as the better pet, the indulged pampered boy is at once rudely cast off, and told abruptly that—
they are invariably addressed in a jargon? But they do-and I learned the vulgar tongue, and used it too; and then, when the pampered, idolized child grows towards boyhood, he is told to know himself and how should he?
finery and flattery are no longer for him. The next stage of life is one of real hardship, for he has not only to learn but to unlearn. He is, or rather was, in our time, turned out of all favour. For kisses he had kicks; and, according to a vulgar saying, "more kicks than halfpence.' The contrast was horrible-from a pet to an outcast. I am told all is altered now, and that the fine gentleman commences with the baby. As to myself, I was a little good-for-nothing; half my time in tat ters, which nobody noticed; and even at the more advanced period, when my mother asked the question of my father, it was unquestionably time I should have new breeches of some sort or other. There never passed a fifth of November, from the age of seven, that a hole was not regularly squibbed through whatever I had a hole, do I say? I should say many, if it was not that in a short time they all ran into one. I was, from that age, as unlike the sweet child in the nankeen dress, blue sash, and hat and feathers, as a dove is like a badger-not that I was as well clad as the latter. The first Boys must have brown bread, and good feeling of the young cast-off was deso
"Girls must have white bread, and nice sugar sops;
Neither you nor I, Eusebius, would venture to object to the doctrine, for rough discipline of some sort is necessary to those who have to go through a crooked perverse world; but the time of the announcement, and the previous idolatry, make the lesson a somewhat cruel one. Now, nothing could be greater than the contrast I suffered. I have a perfect recollection of myself in this idol state. I dare say I was a pretty, for all said I was a beautiful child. I remember my dress; and where will you find a finer idol, ready to step down from his pagoda-pedestal to walk the ground?-to walk it ?-to dignify it with the pressure of his footstep. I well remember strutting in the finest nankeen dress, with a long and broad blue sash, a beautifully crimped frill, and a white hat and feathers was taken up and kissed wherever I was met, and fondled, and talked to in a language that must have much retarded my learning real English. How do children acquire their language when NO. CCXCI. VOL. XLVII.
late enough. Oh, unfortunate age!
There was a little incident at this age of early abandonment and desertion of favour, that might have ruined in the bud the tenderness which, nevertheless, in after life came to mature blossom. Discarded by mother, sisters, cousins, and pushed from home by maid-servants, I one day sought solitary solace in a quarry, not far from a temporary residence my father had taken in the country. There I sat, as meditative as such an incipient boy could be, when a little girl, (a village tailor's daughter,) about my own age, came into the quarry, and sat by me for companionship. The spot was certainly retired; and, at another age, my situation might have been critical,
and liable to scandal-but scandal I knew not then. How soon was I to know it! Could the babes in the wood be more innocent! And whence did the blow come?-from my father. It happened that, in one of his walks, with his book as usual in his hand, that he might, without interruption, give vent to his feelings, and repeat aloud a pathetic passage, into the quarry he walked. He was the most untheatrical man living in all his actions, a man of singular modesty, which, alas, I inherit! To spout a speech, or lift his arm in action to the words, knowingly, before man, woman, or child, would have been impossible;-but here he did it unwittingly. There was something to me so ludicrous in it, so unexpected, that, in the midst of his viva voce exclamations I could not suppress a titter. He heard it-and saw his unfortunate son, and one Sukey Bowers, the tailor's daughter, sitting hand in hand, like Cupid and Psyche, his only admiring audience. I believe he was more shocked than I was. He had presence of mind to recover his propriety, and with a good-natured smile asked the little girl her name, and walked away; and when I returned home he had so completely passed his jokes over the whole house, that there was not one in it that did not banter me-and miserable I was for many a month on account of it. Day after day was I asked if I had seen "my Sukey Bowers." Heaven forgive me! I verily believe I hated her; and if I had heard her knell I might have been the happier. I cannot philosophize upon this antipathy of very young persons to the tender passion; it is, nevertheless, very curious.
I was certainly as miserable because I did not love when I could not love, as ever I was when under the "amiable insanity."
in his pocket, I thought he carried that with him which should one day "give the world assurance of a man." Not that I then made the quotation from Shakspeare-I was not so learned but, as Mr Puff said, we both hit upon the same thought.
Of my acquirements and fitness for the college of St Mary Winton at that time, you shall determine, Eusebius, by the following translation which I made to my father, who took me in hand some time before, and from a private school. A private school! Oh! the indignity of going to a private school, as I afterwards proudly thought; but I have passed over preparatory schools, at many of which I served, I cannot say merui-detestable all. What with tossings in the blanket, putting forth my feet for peg-tops to aim at, and wiring the toe, according to the recipe of the then and ever-odious Latin grammar, fists, cane, and privations; and, I am sorry to add, meannesses of big and littleall I can say is, that it is a wonder a boy ever comes out of the ordeal with health, temper, learning, or morals.
But this is another digression, so now to the translation, by which you will discover that I did not add a knowledge of prosody to my acquirements and deficiencies in grammar.
My father gave me the following line out of Ovid; I do not know that I have read it since, but I well remember it, and where I hammered at it, with a little dictionary in two volumes, Entick's, on the ground; a little green patch, near a stile, with my back to the cow-house. The locus quo has, however, little to do with it. We are all garrulous, Eusebius-now for the line::
"Jam mihi deterior canis aspergitur
My father had laid down his book, seemingly not liking the interruption.
But this is all a digression from my new breeches, and never will lead to them, and all this while the tall and The word was given, "construe," robust Mr Flight is standing to take which I did thus. Jam, now; detemeasure of me, young Master Crack-▾rior canis, a mongrel dog; aspergilatin, for a pair of new mouse-colour tur, besprinkled; atas, age. "The leathers, wherein I am to make my deuce he did!" said my father, gravely, public entry upon life in the best put his hand to his mouth, and walked manner I can. Naturally I put my out of the room. He seldom laughed, best leg foremost, then the worst; that is, rightly laughed; but I heard, out went one hip, then the other, and as he ascended the stairs, tit, tit, tit, soon all my dimensions were noted and a peculiar note he had, whether upon parchment. The mysterious from his nose or the roof of his mouth, notches struck me with wonder, and I cannot tell, when any thing moved when he put the important document him either to pleasure or displeasure.
I stood like a deterior canis, a mongrel; but where my error was, for the life of me I could not then tell. It was whimsical enough that age turning a man's hair grey should be metamorphosed into a mongrel, and so ill-bred a one; and such another metamorphosis, I will venture to assert, is not to be found in Ovid's famous books of that name.
While on this subject, my dear Eusebius, do let me boast of a little improvement within the year. It is not a proof of great scholarship, but there was an improvement in taking an ingenious shot at a passage. This was at Winchester. In the morning we had been reading Virgil, and when a boy was thrown out at prensos boves, and it came to my turn, I was prompted by another boy, and cried out boldly,
"What do you mean?" said the
"Oxen of the Cottage, sir," said I. "Oh, you sound-catcher!" said he; and all laughed.
To remedy this defeat, I took particular pains with my Livy-the evening lesson, in which was included the passage respecting the prodigies in the Roman camp. Now had it not been that a notable prodigy was to be described, I should not have blundered. The passage is—" Nam et lupus intraverat castra, laniatisque obviis, ipse intactus evaserat, et examen apum in arbore prætorio imminente considerat." Thus I translated it. Nàm, for; et, and; lupus, a wolf; intraverat, entered; castra, the camps; laniatis obviis, to look for the sheep; que, and; ipse, he himself; evaserat, escaped; intactus, unhurt; et, and; considerat, sat down upon; examen, a swarm; apum, of bees; in arbore here I was not allowed to go furthera general roar quite discomfited me. The master twisted his mouth, and curled his nose; but it would not do, and so he fairly laughed with the
"A very uncomfortable seat, Mr Wolf," said he, " and perhaps a tickler would make you construe better." For myself, I was in despair, and thought the field of literature was no field for my father's son, and in truth I thought he had enough for both. I soon found, however, that others were not much wiser; took courage, and have successfully encountered the
great and little Goes. But to the breeches, Eusebius; methinks I hear you say, will the boy never put them on? the new mouse-colour leathers. Have patience they shall be on directly-no, that is impossible with leather breeches in those days. The evening before my departure, being booked to Winchester, behold the arrival of Mr Flight with his foreman and a bag-and in that bag, or rather out of that bag, were turned my new mouse-colour leather breeches. I longed to try them on, and would have retired for that purpose, but was stopped by Mr Flight, with "No, young gentleman, I must get them on. "You get them on?" said I, wishing to have the first wear myself. "Yes,' said he, with a grin, " on you, I mean; they would hardly fit me." right; it was impossible: in my ideas of my own magnitude I had forgotten that; and to me even they were a tight fit, as you shall hear. First, Mr Flight's foreman took off his coat, and tucked up his shirt sleeves. Then Mr Flight took the breeches, and gave his shoulders a slight shake as if to try their strength-then told me to strip. It was evident they could not be put on over any thing else, so behold me in nubibus. Had I been to be initiated in "the great mysteries," Mr Flight could not have held forth the articles of initiation with more solemnity. For a moment I poised my right leg over them, supported bodily by the foreman. I thrust my leg down; alas! it would not go far; then, by a lift of the foreman, I contrived to get in my other leg; then I felt myself suspended, and then came "the tug of war." Mr Flight took the waisthand, and while he was shaking me into the new mouse-colours, the foreman was forcing my unwilling limbs into them by rubbing and smoothing, and tugging and pulling, and by more actions than there are words to express them; by jerking me, lifting me, dragging me, and tossing me all round the room, at least half an hour before I could make any substantial way whatever into my first real virile apparel. We were all forced to take a rest; and I could not help seeing, that whatever profit he got by them was got "with the sweat of his brow." After a little rest, at it we went again; "the Seconde Fitte," as it might be fairly called. But here I was helpless; I