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Mr. Thackeray's last hero, Denis Duval—the narrative of whose career, with its lamented author's, was cut short too soon, so much too soon-being wisely counselled by good old Doctor Bernard against continuing the smuggling practices into which his innocent boyhood had been inveigled, makes a vow, the same night, after drinking tea with his dear doctor, that he will strive henceforth to lead an honest life-that his tongue shall speak the truth, and his hand be sullied by no secret crime. “And as I spoke,” he writes, in the tender retrospect of some threescore years, “I saw my dearest little maiden's light glimmering in her chamber, and the stars shining overhead, and felt—who could feel more bold and happy than I ?

“That walk schoolwards by West-street [where dwelt Agnes, the little maiden of his regards] certainly was a détour. I might have gone a straighter road, but then I should not have seen a certain window; a little twinkling window in a gable of the Priory House, where the light used to be popped out at nine o'clock."*

Mrs. Inchbald, who was one of Dr. Warren's

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* “ T'other day, when we took over the King of France to Calais (his Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence being in com mand), I must needs hire a post-chaise from Dover, to look at. that old window in the Priory House at Winchelsea. I sighed as sentimentally, after forty years, as though the infandi dolores were fresh upon me, as though I were the schoolboy

Ι trudging back to his task, and taking a last look at his dearest joy."-Denis Duval, ch. vi.

patients, was secretly in love with that most engaging of physicians, and used to pace Sackville-street .after dark, purely to have the pleasure of seeing the light in his window. That is a town picture. But the heart of man (and woman) is alike, in town and country; and here is a country one: (what though the one be fact, and the other fiction ? c'est egal, where the heart is concerned :)

And oft in ramblings on the wold,

When April's nights began to blow,
And April's crescent glittered cold,

I saw the village lights below;
I knew your taper far away,

And full at heart of trembling hope,
From off the wold I came, and lay

Upon the freshly-flower'd slope.
Here again we are in the streets:

The sunset wanes
From twinkling panes.
Dim, misty myriads move
Down glimmering streets. One light I see-
One happy light, that shines for me,
And lights me to my love.

HISTORICAL MIGHT, COULD, SHOULD, OR

WOULD HAVE BEENS.

A Vexed Question.

BOLINGBROKE observes that the great benefit we ought to reap from the study of history, cannot be reaped unless we accustom ourselves to compare the conduct of different governments, and different parties, in the same conjunctures, and to notice the measures they did pursue, and the measures they might have pursued, with the actual consequences that followed one, and the possible, or probable consequences that might have followed the other.

In favour of those who, on the other hand, reject as futile and frivolous the potential, or subjunctive, mood of historical narrative, might be applied, with a twist in its meaning, a sentence of the same accomplished St. John in a previous letter,—to wit, that what might have happened, is matter only for ingenious fiction; what has happened, is that of authentic history.

And yet what writer, however sober and solid, of what history, however authentic, but loves to pause, at intervals, in his narrative of actual events, that he may speculate, in passing, on what might have been, had but things taken another turn? Such a small screw loose in the machinery of events might have, or perhaps must have, involved such a different result. So trifling a change in the chapter of accidents, and then and therefore so enormous a revolution in the grand finale. The most prosaic of historians can scarcely resist the fascination of a conjectural fling, when the illimitable possibilities of a diversely-ordered sequence glance across his plodding brain.

History is full, indeed, as a Saturday Reviewer remarks, of such puzzles as, what would have been the destiny of England if Cromwell had actually sailed for America ? What would have happened if Napoleon had won the Battle of Waterloo ? What, in fact, would have been the consequences if one person had met, or had not met, another—or if anything had turned out to be something different, and everybody had proved to be somebody else ?– is one of the most interesting and inexhaustible of all branches of human inquiry.

Curtly characterised as “silly flippancy” is a grave professor's expression of wonder what would have been the condition of the world “if little Eve" (so the olli subridens author of the "Eclipse of Faith” is pleased to call her) “ had eaten, and Adam had not; if he had politely handed her ladyship to the side door in the wall of Paradise : told her that "separate maintenance' would be her lot on the other

side, 'amongst the thorns and thistles,' and so fairly turned the key upon her ?" Orthodox and decent dulness must indeed dearly love a joke, irrespective of quality, if it can find good fun in this, or perhaps anything but bad taste.

A more uniformly grave Professor has remarked that only by picturing to ourselves what might have been the state of Europe had Charles Martel failed to stem the northward progress of the Saracenic hosts; what might have been the condition of England had there been no storm or tempest to scatter the ships of Philip and Spain, can we take a true estimate of all that was involved in the battle of Tours, in the fate of the Invincible Armada. And the remark is made introductory of a speculation on what would have been the history of Israel if the revolt of Absalom had been successful. In that case the Professor infers that instead of a reign like that of Solomon, a time of culture, commerce, and intellectual progress, there would have been one of violence, and licence, and dynastic strife; that the wisdom of Solomon, the glory of Solomon, would have been unknown to us; that the priesthood would have become, more rapidly than it did, contemptible and base; that the rebellion would have brought back the lawlessness of the time of the Judges; that the school of the prophets would have been suppressed; and that we might have known little or nothing of the history of Israel: for, though a “few fragments of the wondrous story and ancient laws that gathered round the name of Moses, a few songs VOL. II.

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