Page images

ner, may enjoy the suave mari magno to his heart's content.

A sober inhabitant of London cannot but be disgusted at the numerous fellows he meets with, “ full of supper and distempering thoughts.” Late in the summer evenings, you are often accosted in the streets by staggering wretches, labouring under a voluntary St. Vitus's dance, when returning to their homes. It is very common to be grossly insulted by Cy. prian dames, reeling drunk; indeed, most of those whom you meet have their breath tainted with ardent spirits. In the Beggar's Opera there is a very humorous scene between a highwayman and some of these nymphs, to whom he says—“If any of the ladies choose gin, I hope they will be so free to call for it!"

The most notorious and impudent robberies and cheats are committed in the streets of London day and night. The following daring theft, "recorded in one of the papers, deserves to be noted. A pane of glass was cut from the shopwindow of Monier, a watchmaker near Covent Garder. The thief succeeded in carrying off two watches, a gold and steel chain, and this was effected at 9 o'clock in the morning, whilst Monier was at breakfast in a back room. Next morning a paper packet was found in the area, containing the steel chain, and the following polite note written on a slip of paper:

From a Friend, “Sir—having made as Much as i possibly could of them pritty Watches, i have sent you

back this chane, as i could git nothing for it, & i thot that it was of No use to any body but the Oanermi have sent it Back as an ornament for your window. So no more at Present from your humble servant,

Catch me when you can.When I first came to London, I was in so great a dread of robbery, that I had my watch fob and pockets made in such a way as to leave no hopes for the pick-pockets. "P—x take the tailors,” says Filch, in the play, “ for making the fobs so deep and narrow! I had a tug at a charming gold watch; but it stuck by the way, and I was forced to make my escape under a coach.” One evening, at the play house, I felt something pulling at my chain—and, on turning round, saw a fellow sneaking out of the box, sorely vexed no doubt at the taylor's contrivance for the security of my watch! At another time, I felt a tug at my pocket-bookand, on looking for the thief, i saw a genteel. looking man behind me, seemingly attending to the play, with the most unparalleled gravity of phyz!

The different manner in which an Englishman and Frenchman bear against the ills of life, forms a striking contrast in their characters. The English spirits would not have survived the trials to which their Gallic neighbours have been exposed; the latter have this buoyancy in the blood, the former in their mind only. The invariable cheerfulness which is ob

[blocks in formation]

served in almost every Frenchman, is accompanied by a flow of easy, unpremeditated mirth, which gives one a perfect idea of unruffled gayety. He appears to take his place at the head of the wave of life, and to let himself glide down the stream of events, without reHecting on the storm that may gather and sink him into the terrible abyss. We have had opportunities of witnessing this practical philosophy in those Frenchmen who have escaped the Revolutionary axe, or the cannibals of St. Domingo, and who took refuge on our hospitable shores.

M, Grosley, in his Londres, says that the English are so prone to suicide, that there is a particular prayer in the liturgy against it. High balustrades are placed upon all the bridges to prevent it, and the banks of the Thames are, as far as possible, carefully blocked up. The newspapers are daily filled with accounts of suicides, committed often de gaiete de cæur! Ruined profligates, fathers who cannot earn a subsistence for their families, speculators who have lost their all at one rash throw, and the unfortunate victims of seduction, afford the most frequent instances of self-destruction. “Oh! that the grave (exclaims Beverley,) would bury memory as well as body! For, if the soul sees and feels the sufferings of those dear ones it leaves behind, the Everlasting has no vengeance to torment it deeper!” By the English laws, the bodies of suicides are transfixed with stakes, and buried on the high road;

but the jury generally bring in a verdict of lunacy, which prevents this barbarous sentence from being often carried into execution.*

Duelling is not so frequent here as in France, where there are a number of bullies always on the look out for an affair of honour, hoping to screen their vices, by exposing their lives in șingle combat On the whole, I do not see any political error in permitting such blackguards to cut each other's throats, and to rid society of their persons by a method which they have luckily imagined, and which all the sagacity of the laws would never have discovered! But it is when useful members of the community resort to this desperate expedient to satisfy a false honour, that the effects of duelling are really deplorable. This meeting involves a dreadful probability of rushing audaciously into the presence of the ETERNAL JUDGE, upon such forbidden terms as should surely make a sensible man endure the contempt and scorn of

* In Virgil Travestie, queen Dido is thus described meditating on suicide, after the departure of Æneas:

“ In mind she weigh'd, as she sat crying,
What kind of death was best to die in.
Poison she thought would not be quick,
And, wbich was worse, would make her sick;
Tbat being therefore wav'd, she thought,
That nearly cuttiog ber own throat,
Might serve to do her business for her;
But that she thought upon with borror,
Because 't would hurt her; neither could
She well endure to see her blood.
The next came in ber thoughts was drowning,
But then again she fell a thinking,
She would be somewhat long a sinking!"

the world, sooner than commit a deed that may. on one side admit of no repentance,

and rouse in the other party those cries of remorse, which, like the fabled dogs of Scylla, howl incessantly round the guilty soul. How the martyr of worldly honour, who has received the fatal stroke, must execrate that false principle which has guided him to an untimely grave! What would he not give, in that dreadful moment, to be snatched

“From the black, ditzy, roaring brink of death!'* Humanity, in the names of the disconsolate mother, the agonized widow and the friendless orphan, calls loudly for such laws as shall restrict those whose passions urge them on to such acts of desperate wickedness.

To conclude this miscellaneous epistle, I will make a few remarks on the beggars of London, In walking along the streets, my pity is often awakened by the pathetic complaints of these unhappy beings and it is not the sight of them which torments me, but the melancholy consideration that there should exist such wretch:d outcasts. Is it not more creditable to the feelings of the heart, to reward the eloquence of a beggar, who melts the soul into compassion, than to pay a tragedian for causing the flow of a few sterile tears? If the former exhibits the good actions of others, the latter induces me to perform them myself: all the generous feelings which are kindled by the display of fictitious misery, subside as soon as

« PreviousContinue »