Immagini della pagina

come, go when and where he will, and a good word after he is gone.

There are many shades and distinctions in this class, as in all others, but these are the distinguishing features of them. Some give you a most fearful shake of the hand on meeting, and hold you by it with a sort of tremulous enjoyment, as if loth to part so soon;-have a boyish joyousness about them, that puts you constantly off your guard, and are delighted to see a friend any where, but at their own house or in jail, and therefore never subject their feelings to the latter unpleasantness. Another variety are only pleasant on fresh acquaintance, or where it serves their purpose; but this last is a contemptible mongrel breed.

A really pleasant fellow is neither a hateful, nor a contemptible one; but is generally a very unpretending person, full of an easy sympathy, active, zealous in a degree, with a quiet self-enjoyment, an enlarged humanity that includes all mankind, and woman kind too, for it knows neither distinction nor preference; taking all things pleasantly that concern him not individually, and thereby making all things pleasant; even sacrificing personal considerations, and always personal consequence and self-respect, in trifles, to the enjoyment of others; setting up no system, nor pulling down any having no theories, no dreams, no visions, no opinions that he holds worth wrangling or disputing about; and, indeed, few opinions at all. He has always a dash more of the animal than of the intellectual about him; and is too mercurial minded to be easily fixed, or fixed upon. He lives only in the present; for the past is immediately forgotten, because it has no farther consequence, and the future is a blank, because it has no perceptible influence. As he can be delighted with a straw, so is he depressed with its shadow; prick him and he will bleed; tickle him and he will laugh; poison him and he will die; for he has none of the fervency of imagination to carry him out of himself or beyond immediate circumstances. He is fitted neither for the goodly fellowship of the prophets, nor for the noble army of martyrs. If prophets or martyrs have ever been pleasant fellows, as some are reported, it was that from the vast height whence they looked down on the common and ordinary passion and turmoil of the world it seemed too puny and insignificant to interest or excite them. Who that is intent on an immortal life, and holds communion, even in thought, with those beatified spirits that

[blocks in formation]

that looks on life as a needle's point in the vast eternity of

time, can have much regard for its polish, or sympathy with our childish excitement?

Pleasant people are never "backbone" men; they are never heart and hand with you. Their acquaintances are usually of long standing, because quarrelling is not "their cue;" but separate them by any circumstance, and they are indifferent to it. Their hand is not against, neither is it for any man. It is not found in the sheriff's books,—this bond hath it not! They do good, I admit, well measured and doled out; but in this they have the advantage of the world, both in opinion and return.

Laying aside, for the present, whatever may personally affect either, for then it is often the reverse of true, I should say, that pleasant and unpleasant people differ most in this, that the one is without imagination, and looks to the naked reality; the other, with imagination, "aggravates" either joy or sorrow.

Unpleasant people have the larger sympathy and more universal humanity. This, it may be said, is contradictory, and opposed to what I have before observed of pleasant people. But if it be a contradiction, it is in human nature; and, to use an apology of Fielding's, "I am not writing a system, but a history, and am not obliged to reconcile every matter." But I think it is not a contradiction. The pleasant man sympathizes with the world in its ordinary and every day feelings; the man of more questionable temper is roused only by extraordinary circumstances. But he is then awakened to some purpose. He makes common cause with you, in sorrow or suffering; he will needs bear his share of your burthen; for if a portion will be oppressive to him, he sees you sinking under the whole. The pleasant fellow, on the contrary, measures his own shoulders and not your load; he will not lend a hand, and give the groan to your "three man beetle" labour; he is content that you should sit down and rest, but has no fancy to "bear the logs the while."

The great majority of these pleasant fellows are indebted to their negative rather than their positive qualities; they have no deep feeling, no engrossing sympathy, no universal fellowship; the establishments of the Holy Alliance, and the Abolition of the Inquisition, were the same to them; "let the gall'd jade wince, their withers are unwrung;" "let the world go whistle," they have their toast and coffee. I would wager my existence that the man, mentioned by Clarendon, as out hunting in the neighbourhood of Edge-hill on the very morning of the fight, was one of them.


The two subjects on which men feel most intensely, politics and religion, are shut out from the conversation of a pleasant fellow for there is no sure common-place that will suit all sects and parties on either subject; and to hazard an opinion is to speculate with his character, and put his amiability in jeopardy. Yet these men are the soul of mixed company, because their souls are in it;

and there is no unpleasant shadow either of memory or anticipation to overcast their jollity.

Pleasant and unpleasant men are alike the sport of fortune and circumstance; equally subject "to every skiey influence," but not in an equal degree. The personal suffering of the one has no foil from the greater sufferings of thousands; the other has a measure and proportion, and considers it in relation to what might be or has been; it is a touch that awakens his humanity :--a pebble does not bruize because it has fallen on him; he remembers the stoning of Stephen;-a twinge of the rheumatism is borne as one of those natural ills "that flesh is heir to," and rouses him only as he remembers the infliction of the torture and the rack, that so many human beings have been subjected in all ages for opinion, whether of belief or unbelief. The prick of a pin is painful to the one as it affects himself; there is more sorrowing at it than at the battle of Waterloo: to the other it is the prick of a pin.

Pleasant fellows are indifferent, cold, heartless, unintellectual, people; there is no engrossing passion, no oppressive thought, no prejudice, and therefore, possibly no partiality or strong friendship; for friendship is but a partiality, founded on some thing real, which it tricks up into something unreal. We are none of us what our friends fondly believe.

In our estimate of unpleasant people, we all give weight enough to their disagreeable and palpable defects, but are not so ready to make the just deduction from a pleasant fellow, because his are neither so obtrusive, nor so likely to affect ourselves. There would be more equality in our commendation or dispraise, and consequently more justice in the decision, if we balanced the ge-. neral virtues of the one against his palpable faults, and the indifference and moral insignificance of the other against his pleasant virtues. It is in this spirit that the selfish hardness and callosity with which pleasant people shake off care and sorrow, and are made insensible to any deep or lasting passion, is mistaken so often for elasticity of spirit.

It was the pleasant fellow of his time that Ben Jonson described in a very clever Epigram on "The Town's Honest Man :"

You wonder who this is, and why I name

Him not aloud, that boasts so good a fame :
Naming so many too! but this is one
Suffers no name, but a description;
A subtle thing that doth affections win
By speaking well o' the company it's in,
Talks loud and bawdy, has a gather'd deal
Of news and noise, to sow out a long meal.
Can come from Tripoly, leap stools and wink,
Do all that 'longs to the anarchy of drink,
Except the duel: can sing songs and catches,
Give every one his dose of mirth: and watches
Whose name unwelcome to the present ear,
And him it lays on;

The point of some part of this description was confined to the poet's age; but much of it is of universal application, and suited to all times. To watch "whose name's unwelcome to the present ear" is just the reverse of the unpleasant man; who, as people always bear too hard on the follies or vices of others, is sure to be opposed to his company, because he loves truth and justice better than agreement and pleasantry. I think the Dean, in Mrs. Inchbald's Nature and Art, had a little of the pleasant fellow about him; and the following description will serve to show the character under other circumstances, and in more important situations, than we have yet considered it.

If the dean had loved his wife but moderately, seeing all her faults clearly as he did, he must frequently have quarrelled with her : if he had loved her with tenderness, he must have treated her with a degree of violence, in the hope of amending her failings: but having neither personal nor mental affection towards her, sufficiently interesting to give himself the trouble to contradict her will in any thing, he passed for one of the best husbands in the world. This is the pleasant Benedict!

It is some proof with me, of the justice of these distinctions, that men's characters are essentially different in their different relations; and even where they are most anxious to be pleasant, they are rarely successful. Few of us have found our fathers pleasant fellows, although many of them, of course, were superlatively so to other people; and I hope our sons will object the same thing to us. The interest we have in our children is too great, the stake is too large, to be sported with; our hopes and fears are perpetually outrunning the occasion; we are the sport of possibilities, and cannot enjoy the real present, from some glimpse of an unreal future; we question how far chuck-farthing and marbles lead to the gaming-table, and our shins ache at football before the boys are kicked. All this makes strange havoc with our temper-frets and irritates us-whereas, equality and indifference are the sure footing of a pleasant fellow. A man is little fitted, with a thousand such speculations on his mind, to take all things smoothly, and to be himself the centre of sociality. The turn of thought here might serve, if the occasion were fitting, to hazard a word or two on domestic education. This in brief. It is not enough that a father does on occasion "turn his solemnness out of doors;" he must keep it there. Besides, fathers are not only too "solemn," but too much with their children, and too full of thought and anxiety; they are eternally thinking for them, whereas children must think for themselves. They love to feel their own independence. If a father decide for a home education, it should be where there is room enough for the boy to lose himself, or rather to lose his father; where he may get out of the reach of thought, of care, and consequently of danger, for he knows of none that is not pointed out to him. In my opinion, a father has not to try his knowledge, but his nerves, be

fore he undertakes the education of his son; and if he can see him stagger along a parapet, swing on the rotten branch of a tree, plunge into the water "reeking hot," in the dog days, in fact, hazard limbs and life itself without a word or a hint of caution, he is not only fitted to be pedagogue in his own family, but has many requisites to make a pleasant fellow, there or any where else.

But this little digression has broken in upon my sketch, which I shall now leave to be filled up by the reader's imagination. Mr. Hazlitt's character is, I think, of a good natured man. How far they have points in agreement I know not, not having read his Essay since its first publication; but good nature has reference in my view to a deeper feeling, and even to some positive virtue, which, though it may be found in, is not at all essential to, the character of a pleasant fellow. Yet even good nature itself is too profitable a virtue: it is a venture that hath most usurious return: it is not, nor is it any thing like, goodness of nature, which “I take," says Lord Bacon, "to be the affecting of the Weale of Men, what the Grecians called pilanthropia ;" goodness of nature is, in fact, so far different from good nature, that it is the very nature that sometimes spoils a man's temper:-" that affection for the weale of men" will throw a gloom over the mind, and dash a whole afternoon's pleasantness. THURMA.

ART. II. Last Will and Testament-the House of Weeping.


SINCE the day when the town of Haslau first became the seat of a court, no man could remember that any one event in its annals (always excepting the birth of the hereditary prince) had been looked for with so anxious a curiosity as the opening of the last will and testament left by Van der Kabel. This Van der Kabel might be styled the Haslau Croesus; and his whole life might be termed, according to the pleasure of the wits, one long festival of God-sends, or a daily washing of golden sands, nightly impregnated by golden showers of Danae. Seven distant surviving relatives of seven distant relatives deceased, of the said Van der Kabel, entertained some little hopes of a place amongst his legatees, grounded upon an assurance which he had made, "that upon his oath he would not fail to remember them in his will." These hopes, however, were but faint and weakly; for they could not repose any extraordinary confidence in his good faith-not only because, in all cases, he conducted his affairs in a disinterested spirit, and with a perverse obstinacy of moral principle, whereas his seven relatives were mere novices, and young beginners in the trade of morality, but also because, in all these moral extravagancies of his (so distressing to the feelings of the

« IndietroContinua »