Page images
PDF
EPUB

he helped to oust; to the mayor and corporation, whom he watched as a cat watches a mouse, or as Mr. Hume watches the cabinet ministers ; and to all gas companies, and paving companies, and water companies, and contractors of every sort, whom he attacks as monopolisers and peculators, and twenty more long words with bad meanings, and torments out of their lives, for he is a terrible man in a public meeting, hath a loud, sonorous voice, excellent lungs, cares for nobody, and is quite entirely inaccessible to conviction, the finest of all qualities for your thorough-going partizan. All the Tories hated Mr. Lane.

But the Tories formed but a small minority in B ; and amongst the Whigs and Radicals--or to gather the two parties into one word, the Reformers-he was decidedly popular; the leader of the opulent tradespeople both socially and politically. He it was--this denouncer of mayors' feasts and parish festivals-who, after the great contest, which his candidate gained by three, gave to the new member a dinner so magnificent as he declared he had not only never seen, but never imagined a dinner like the realization of an epicure's dream, or an embodying of some of the visions of the old dramatic poets-accompanied by wines so aristocratic that they blushed to find themselves on a butcher's table. He was president of a smoking-club; and vice-president of half-a-dozen societies where utility and charity come in the shape of a good dinner; a great man at a Smithfield cattle-show; an eminent looker-on at the bowling-green, which salutary exercise he patronized and promoted by sitting at an open window, in a commodious smoking-room, commanding the scene of action; and a capital performer of catches and glees.

He was musical, very-did I not say so when talking of his youthful accomplishments ? playing by ear“ with fingers like toes" (as somebody said of Handel) both on the piano and the flute; and singing, in a fine bass voice many of the old songs, which are so eminently popular and national. His voice was loudest at church, giving body, as it were, to the voices of the rest of the congregation ; and “God save the King," at the theatre, would not have been worth hearing without Mr. Lane; her put his whole heart into it; for, with all his theoretical radicalism, the king-(any one of the three kings in whose reign he hath flourished, for he did not reserve his loyalty for our present most popular monarch; but bestowed it in full amplitude on his predecessors, the two last of the Georges)--the king hath not a more loyal subject. He is a great patron of the drama, especially the comic drama, and likes the stage-box at the Big theatre, a niche meant for six, which exactly fits him. All-fours is his favourite game, and Joe Miller his favourite author. .

His retirement from business and from B- occasioned a general astonishment and consternation. It was perfectly understood that he could afford to retire from business as well as any tradesman who ever gåve up a flourishing shop in that independent borough; but the busy. bodies, who take so unaccountable a pleasure in meddling with every body's concerns, had long ago decided that he never would do so; and that he should abandon the good town at the very moment when the progress of the Reform Bill had completed his political triumphs--when the few adversaries who remained to the cause (as he was wont emphatically to term it) had not a foot to stand upon-did appear the most wonderful wonder of wonders that had occurred since the days of Katter

felto. Stephen Lanë without B- !-B— , especially in its reformed state, without Stephen Lane, appeared as incredible as the announcements of the Bottle Conjuror. Stephen Lane to abandon the great shop in the Butter-market! What other place would ever hold him ? And to quit the scene of his triumphs too! to fly from the very field of victory! The thing seemed impossible!

It was, however, amongst the impossibilities that turn out true. Stephen Lane did leave the reformed borough, perhaps all the sooner because it was reformed, and his work was over-his occupation was gone. It is certain that, without perhaps exactly knowing his own feelings, our good butcher did feel the vacuum, the want of an exciting object, which often attends upon the fulfilment of a great hope. He also felt and understood better the entire cessation of opposition amongst his old enemies, the corporation party. “Dang it, they might ha' shown fight, these corporationers! I thought Ben Bailey had had more bottom !” was his exclamation, after a borough meeting which had passed off unanimously; and, scandalized at the pacific disposition of his adversaries, our puissant grazier turned his steps towards " fresh fields and pasa turės new."

He did not move very far. Just over the border line which divides the parish of St. Stephen, in the loyal and independent borough of B- , from the adjoining hamlet of Sunham-that is to say, exactly half a mile from the great shop in the Butter-market, did Mr. Lane take up his abode, calling his suburban habitation, which was actually joined to the town by two rows of two-story houses, one of them fronted with poplars, and called “Marvell Terrace,” in compliment to the patriot of that namě if Charles's days,-calling this rus in urbe of his "the country,” after the fashion of the inhabitants of Kensington and Hackney, and the other suburban villages which surround London proper, as if people who live in the midst of brick houses could have a right to the same rustic title with those who live amongst green fields. Compared to the Butter-market, however, Mr. Lane's new residence was almost rural; and the country he called it accordingly. · Retaining, however, his old town predilections, his large, square, .commodious, and very ugly red house, with very white mouldings and window-frames, red, so to say, picked out with white, and embellished by a bright green door and a resplendent brass knocker,—was placed close to the road-side-ás close as possible ; and the road happening to be that which led from the town of B — to the little place called London, he had the happiness of counting above sixty stage-coaches which passed his door in the twenty-four hours, with vans, waggons, carts, and other vehicles in proportion; and of enjoying, not only from his commodious mansion, but also from the window of a smoking-room at the end of a long brick wall, which parted his garden from the road, all the clatter, dust, and din of these several equipages—the noise being duly enhanced by there being, just opposite his smoking-room window, à public-house of great resort, where most of the coaches stopped to take up parcels and passengers, and where singing, drinking, and fourcorners were going on all the day long.

One of his greatest pleasures in this retirement seems to be to bring all around him—wife, children, and grand-children—to the level of his own size, or that of his prize ox,--the expressions are nearly synó

nymous. The servant-lads have a chubbybreadth of feature, like the stone heads, with wings under them (soi-disant cherubim), which one seés perched round old monuments; and the maids have a broad, Dutch look, full and florid, like the women in Teniers' pictures. The very animals seem bursting with over-fatness : the great horse who draws his substantial equipage labours under the double weight of his master's flesh and his own; his cows look like stalled oxen; and the leash of large red greyhounds, on whose prowess and pedigree he prides himself, and whom he boasts, and vaunts, and brags of, and offers to bet upon, in the very spirit of the inimitable dialogue between Page and Shallow in the “ Merry Wives of Windsor," could no more run a course in their present condition than they could fly--the hares would stand and laugh at them.

Mr. Lane is certainly a very happy person ; although, when first he removed from the Butter-market, it was quite the fashion to bestow á great deal of pity on the poor rich man, self-condemned to idleness,-which pity was as much thrown away as pity for those who have the power to follow their own devices generally is. Our good neighbour is not the man to be idle. Besides going every day to the old shop, where his sons carry on the business, and he officiates en amateur, attending his old clubs, and pursuing his old diversions in B- , he has his farm at Sunham to manage, (some five hundred acres of pasture and arable land, which he purchased with his new house,) and the whole pårish to reform. He has already begun to institute inquiries into charity-schools and poor-rates, keeps an eye on the surveyor of highways, and a close watch on the overseer: he attends turnpike-meetings, and keeps ä sharp look-out upon the tolls; and goes peeping about the workhouse with an anxiety to detect peculation that would do honour even to a Radical member of the reformed House of Commons.

Moreover, he hath a competitor worthy of his powers in the shape of the village orator, Mr. Jacob Jones, a little whipper-snapper of a gentleman farmer, with a shrill, cracked voice, and great activity of body, who, having had the advantage of studying some odds-and-ends of law, during a three years' residence in an attorney's office, has picked up therein a competent portion of technical jargon, together with a prodigious volubility of tongue, and a comfortable stock of impudence; and, under favour of these good gifts, hath led the village senate by the nose for the last dozen years. Now, Mr. Jacob Jones is, in his way, nearly as great a man as Mr. Lane; rides his bit of blood a fox-hunting with my Lord; dines once a-year with Sir John; and advocates abuses through thick and thin-he does not well know why-almost as stoutly as our good knight of the cleaver does battle for reform. These two champions are to be pitted against each other at the next vestry-meeting, and much interest is excited as to the event of the contest. I, for my part, think that Mr. Lane will carry the day. He is, in every way, a man of more substance; and Jacob Jones will no more be able to withstand." the momentum of his republican fist.” than a soldier of light infantry could stand the charge of a heavy dragoon. , Stephen, honest män, will certainly add to his other avocations that of overseer of Sunham. Much good may it do him!

THE CITY OF THE CLYDE.

LETTER FROM HENRY D'ARCY, ESQ., ~TH LIGHT DRAGOONS, TO CHARLES

VERNON, ESQ. . RUE DE LA PAIX, A PARIS. DEAR Vernon,-It surprises me, I own, that among the enchantments of the gayest capital in the world, you care to be informed of any impressions made on me, in exile, in the least so. But, as I agree with you that the reminiscences of cities are among the most striking and permanent of the results of travel, and as every city has something peculiar, it may be worth while to help out your list by transmitting to you my experience of the great metropolis of western Scotland; for as there are books that we rather borrow than buy, and places that we would more willingly visit in panoramas, or accept in description, than at the sacrifice of personal ease, I do not invite you to join me here; though, if the particulars I shall have to touch upon shall unexpectedly perform that office, I may possibly be summoned one day to your hotel, on your arrival at this mon osroupsyny, fesyuany xui sudarflovce. Yes ! cities we are sure to remember; countries, except when they have been the scene of some memorable joy or sorrow, are seen from the coachwindow and forgotten. Rocks and glaciers, waterfalls and old castles, are all alike, or differ only by a few hundred feet; but every city has something sui generis, and without question, this, in which I now most reluctantly reside, is in full possession of its share. Every city makes its first and most permanent impression through the organs of sense, an impression which long precedes and long outlasts any other relation we may afterwards bear to it; and as every city has of its own to be seen and heard, it is only when we have first seen all, and heard all, that we come to the men and women, the habits, customs, and dispositions of social life, compare, conclude, and depart.

As I am not going to send you an essay, but a letter, I must not be bound to any exact order in my details. Know then that like most other cities where a settlement has been made on the banks of a great river, Glasgow, consisting of main streets, many in number, intersected by others, the first are found to follow the course of that river, and the others are disposed at right or other angles, in relation to these. The whole city, including the new, together with the old parts of it, rises from the river upwards, to a considerable height, through rectangular streets, that take a northern direction, while the greater highways, in the course of a mile, are found to have attained a considerable elevation westward. During the perambulation of these streets, of either class, there is very little indeed worthy of remark. The churches are consummately ugly without being old, and the college is old without being imposing or venerable. Its new museum, well enough without, is within, like many others, an ill-constructed building, into which light is so penuriously or indirectly admitted, that it squints upon the contained objects and reveals them very imperfectly. They have what they call an arcade here, about as warm and light as the Thames tunnel, (on reflection I beg the Tunnel's pardon,) nor must I forget to mention, that the great coercive construction, in which men are not tenants at will, has all the architectural charms that could be reasonably expected, and is admired accordingly. The simple fact is, that there is only one fine building in Glasgow; and that building, the Exchange, not without defects, is really much superior to your over-celebrated Bourse, with its' mille colonnes.' It might be taken for a bit of the Louvre, stolen from Paris, and deposited in Glasgow by mistake for Edinburgh, by some of those felonious angels who carried off the Santa Casa from Palestine to Loretto.

Among the first agreeable impressions made on us in new places are those which arise from the cheerfulness and activity of the moving and outof-door population, and from the quantity which these places may possess of natural and of artificial light. A city in the enjoyment of a good deal of sunshine, and of which the shops and streets are well lighted up at night, may always be endured for a short time. Now as to the light of day, Glasgow is in possession of probably a smaller portion than any city in the British empire. The throats of many a score of tall and ominous-looking chimnies are incessantly discharging eructations of the densest smoke into an atmosphere almost always opaque and sunless by reason of the prevalent south-westerly winds loaded with vapour from the Atlantic; while to the cheerfulness dispensed elsewhere by artificial light, there is here a striking exception, in the melancholy association forced upon the mind of the prolonged labour which works by it. A huge brick parallelogram, whether rejoicing in the name of manufactory or cotton-mills, with its thousand panes of illuminated glass, is assuredly one of the most painful objects on which the eye of the stranger can rest; he knows there are no revels within; no music, but the click and buzz of the eternal machinery! Light in the gilded saloon, light in the theatre, light from the forge, nay, its feeble presentation from the solitary cottage pane, are all agreeable perceptions of this glorious element, but the traveller through the manufacturing districts has another experience in artificial light to make, and another impression to record. In this most opaque of cities — * Quod latus mundi nebulæ, malusque

Jupiter urget, a well lighted cotton-mill, as you go to your evening party, is not an object of indifference, nor will the sojourner here during the winter months, be always able to suppress a sigh, even during the day season, that Providence has not placed him ubi soles melius nitent.

Before I have quite done with this luminous subject, let me tell you, that in a dark night you will be surprised at seeing the eastern horizon relieved at intervals of its obscurity, by measured bursts or gushes of vivid and diffused light, as if from some great volcano, or from a city in flames. Don't be alarmed, it is only the Clyde iron-works!

Having thus compendiously disposed of the sights of Glasgow, or at least of some of the more striking impressions made upon the nerve of vision, I wish to claim your sympathy for a few of the many irritations with which it is accustomed to atflict the auricular apparatus of the stranger. I own that I am impatient of noise. I believe I was born without a membrana tympani (if that be a protective construction) and that harsh sounds penetrate at once into my brain. It is only by this physiological supposition that I can comprehend how it happened to me to feel a sort of physical necessity of inditing a paper (not unknown to you) in Blackwood, of and concerning London noises, in which, as you recollect, among many other particulars, the performances of certain tall fellows in livery, on pieces of hinged iron, attached, by the instigation of the devil, to house doors, for the disturba ance of the inmates, invited my particular attention. Happily there are few knockers in Glasgow; but it is nevertheless xar' słown, the city of discord. Let us take them one at a time, in the order in which they present themselves. First, you must make up your mind at this season of the year, and at three o'clock in the morning, when it is difficult to make up one's mind to anything, to the afflicting visitation (curse them !) of the waites; next, at about seven, to the yell of “ Caller haddies ; " this double suffering will shortly be succeeded by a very peculiar, perfectly epichorial, and most distracting method of separating dust from carpets (of which more anon); while you must, at all times, be prepared for the infernal bagpipe, modulated by the blind for the benefit of the deaf, to say nothing of the stridulous flute, which it hath pleased Pan, Apollo, or Nemesis, hitherto to restrain to the classical region of the college. All these constitute an experiment in harmonics that cannot be enjoyed in imagination! Listen (can you help yourself?) to the watchman! Every watchman in every place is a monster, owing his preferment to some nasal or guttural peculiarity ;-a monster whom one would too gladly bribe, were it possible to corrupt him into silence, or

Oct.-VOL. XXXIX. NO, CLIV.

M

« PreviousContinue »