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Shakes from his brow the dark dishevelled hair,
And stares around, with icy horror stiff:
Through air tempestuously borne :
Yes, they are gone! Summer and Autumn too!
LIMNINGS IN THE THOROUGHFARES.
BY GEORGE D. STRONG.
LU GU BRIOUS FAMILY
If I were ambitious of soaring to immortality on the wings of a system, I would base a treatise on the proposition that the Mournful and the Dolorous is the natural state of the human mind. But fortunately, no such labor is required al my hands. Even a casual observer can detect the germ of sorrow in the expanded lips of Laughter itself. The sudden relapse to a state of quiescence, if not of melancholy, indicates that the effort is against the current. The defenders of the opposite theory - for strange to say, such Quixotic specimens of humanity have existed — may indeed quote the Bard of Avon to fortify their position :
'Ye that have tears, prepare to shed them now!
thus intimating the idea that some preparation is required, before the salt tears can be induced to perform their office.
• If it were my cue,' I could write volumes in proof of the vulnerability of the sublime bard in hazarding such a sentiment; but demonstration was ever my evil genius. Like CHRISTOPHER North, (may his shadow never be less !) I have lived and grown corpulent and famous on assertion, while my antagonists famish and decline upon demonstration.
Therefore misery is 'native and to the manor born;' and I defy the Balaks of Philosophy to assault the Gibraltar of
my position. The retired tobacconist who placed on the panels of his chariot the motto 'Quid rides,' was more of a wag and a philanthropist than he has credit for. His was doubtless a veiled effort to throw a ray of merriment over the gloom of humanity, by anticipating the vulgar error which would detect the supposed aptitude of the allusion in connection with his discarded pursuits. Viewed in this aspect, the widow Naomi Wimple, and her interesting family, eminently fulfilled their destiny.
Hers was no fitful and evanescent sorrow, born of caprice and betrothed to circumstance. While the frivolous sons and daughters of Adam around her donned and doffed their griefs, like the sables which the liberated heir displays in public, but repudiates in private, the woes of the Lugubrious Family were perennial. Embodying in themselves the elements of a mighty system in metaphysics, no key of human sorrow was too elevated or depressed to be performed on their gamut. Equally effective in the varied phases of misery, they excelled in the musical, the melancholy, the mournful, the doleful, the hypochondriacal, the convulsive, and the agonizing : thus while one branch of the family tuned her pipes to the lachrymose, others thumbed the sentimental, or sobbed the hysterical. The widow Naomi Wimple, as the revered head of the Lugubrious Family, was expected in all cases to give the cue, while the Misses Dorothea Wimple, Saloma Wimple, Penelope Wimple, and Arabella Wimple, never failed to respond, each in her own peculiar way.
Of this interesting family, but one remains to be noticed, namely, Frank Wimple, who, I grieve to say, was a stray sheep in the flock ; a hopeless prodigal, a spendthrift, who contrived to dissipate more substantial sorrow in an hour, than the thrift of the Lugubrious Family could amass in a calendar month. While Mrs. Naomi Wimple was in the midst of her distressing revelations — revelations wbich served to elicit the convulsive throes of Penelope, the river-like tears of Dorothea, the heart-rending sobs of Saloma, and the sentimental sighs of Arabella - the rebellious Frank was ever planning some counterplot, some ambuscade, wherewith to overthrow the fair fabric which the Lugubrious Family reared to departed worth or existing suffering. This saucy scion of a melancholy race, in defiance of the ties which should have bound him to his kindred, entertained the auditory of the Widow Wimple with the opinion, uttered in an under tone, that it was worthy of remembrance that the woes of his maternal parent came in a water-spout, those of Penelope in a thundergust, the griefs of Dorothea in a thaw, the distress of Saloma in a volcano, and the melancholy of Arabella in a white-squall. These, and other unfilial and undutiful givings-out, sorely interfered with the well-arranged misery of the Lugubrious Family; causing the said Frank to be considered an unfortunate attaché of the domicil.
Among the topics of discussion which developed the master-passion of the Widow Wimple, that which treated of the virtues of her • dear departed husband' was predominant. The deceased spouse of the lorn widow was the fulcrum, the lever, the pully, by which her miscellaneous sorrows were elevated to the notice of her auditory : his memory served as a letter of introduction to bereavements which, without such formality, could not legitimately be deemed fit
subjects for the condolence of the Lugubrious Family. In truth, the visible presence of the buried majesty of Denmark was not of more vital importance to the plot of “Hamlet,' than the dear departed husband' of the widow Naomi Wimple in evolving her numerous distresses. That the 'dear good man' was worthy of remembrance, is attested by the fact, that on his death-bed he professed the utmost resignation to the will of Providence, declaring with his latest breath that he considered the valley of the shadow' a desirable retreat from the cares, and vexations, and annoyances of his earthly pilgrimage!
The education of the Widow Wimple having been unfortunately neglected in early life, her language not unfrequently put at defiance the laws of Lindley Murray; while words of new coinage, terms of queer import, and strangely-wedded similes, floated through her conversation in 'most admired disorder.' But with the junior branches of the family, in the female line, the case was far otherwise. For them the whole range of dolorous literature had unfolded its ebony treasures. The Sorrows of Werter were quoted by Penelope, by the quarto ; the Pains of Imagination were reeled off like yarn from a spinning-jenny by Dorothea ; the gloomy imaginings of Monk Lewis formed the staple of Saloma's conversation ; and Sterne's • Poor Starling' could n't get out of Arabella's head day nor night. The sentimental Arabella was, par excellence, the literary member of the family circle, whose gentle sighs were usually the forerunner of a quotation from some favorite author. Like the chernist who distils poison from simples, our sentimental young lady succeeded in turning the tables on the merriest troubadour of the age, by seizing on the slightest glimmerings of despondency which threw their shadows across his sunshine, and passing them through her mental laboratory, until they assumed the very livery of despair. Thus joyous, glorious Tom Moore, who never grieved over any ill that “flesh is heir to,' nor dreamed of regret, except at the disappearance of the last flask of Rhenish at a feast, was nevertheless dragooned into the service :
"Thus ever from my natal hour
I've seen my fundest hopes decay;
But 't was the first to fade away.'
The way in which this dolorous quotation was sobbed forth by Arabella, would have awakened the grief of an undertaker while performing the last sad offices for a purse-proud nabob.
The similes of the Lugubrious Family were ever taken from the cenotaph and the cypress. The mournful wail of the wintry winds was music to the ears of the Widow Wimple, and the complainings of the rare old elm which flanked her mansion, as its trailing branches were swayed to and fro, like the tempest-tossed victim of an untoward destiny, furnished the junior members of the family with an army of reasons why the world should be miserable. Did the Spring, robed in verdure, and wreathed with flowers, smile joyously in the sunshine ? Alas! the telescope of the Widow Naomi's mind disclosed the distant scene, in which its rifled beauties lay withering on the plain. Did Autumn pour forth its treasures into the lap of
industry, rear its gorgeous banner on the mountain crest, and scatter its ripened fruits on every side? The Misses Wimple invariably directed your attention to the period when the frost would play the mischief with the leaves and shubbery, causing the fruit to decay and grow offensive, if it was not eaten, and still worse if it was ! All flesh was to them hay, and all beauty the herald of deformity. All joy they consigned to the regions of romance; all happiness belonged to the ideal word, and all grief to the real. For them the rainbow in the heavens was a mockery; but the thunder cloud and the hurricane were the winged couriers of destiny.
In one important characteristic, the mind of the Widow Wimple, and those of her promising family, were worthy of all imitation. She never dealt in the prophetic. Over her, superstition had no power. The causes of her griefs were already in being, and her peculiar skill was manifested in mingling the ingredients. Fortune-tellers, soothsayers, wizards, and dealers in omens, and charms, and lovepotions, she held in utter contempt. They but substituted the mockery of wo for the reality — the Possible for the Actual. In the munificence of her phraseology, she termed the results of their art 'the drippings of hictitious sorrow, and not worth titivating about.'
When the Lugubrious Family threw the net of their miseries over the circle of their auditory, the effort to escape through its meshes was eminently abortive. Skilful and practiced in sustaining the narrative of their trials, there was no alternative but resignation. In selecting and managing the accessories of her art, the Widow Wimple's taste savored of the theatrical. In one recess of her parlor stood the arm-chair which her dear departed husband' was wont to occupy, shrouded in crape, while in the corresponding niche, the rocking-chair wherein her 'sainted mother' in days of yore whiled away the tedious hours, displayed its sable vestments, stamped with the impress of antiquity. . Although the sainted mother of the interesting widow had been gathered to her fathers long before the birth of her daughters, yet these aflectionate shoots of the parent stem exemplified the perfection of the credit system,' by responding most heartily to the grief of Mrs. Naomi Wimple, whenever allusion was made to the said 'sainted mother.'
On one occasion, when the memory of the ancient lady' was thus commented on, Frank inquired, with much gravity, when the Antediluvians flourished; but the Widow Wimple 'could ’nt tell prezactly;' but she remembered hearing something about the family of the Dilooveans, who she reckoned resisted before her time!'
Time and distance offered no obstacle to the faithful messengers of the Widow Wimple's griefs. Her lamentations over the woes of a thousand years’ standing were equally piquant with those elicited by ills of more modern origin; and calamities occurring to the bronzed inhabitants of the Celestial Empire, or the wandering hordes who traverse the wastes of Tartary, took rank with the sorrows of her own circle. Her faith in tales of horror was unmixed with doubt or cavil; and the South Sea bubble promised not a tithe of the return which the capital invested by the amiable widow in doleful speculations secured to its possessor.
Notwithstanding the extent of Mrs. Naomi Wimple's travels in the
regions of gloom, her imagination was incapable of grasping national calamities. The mighty desolation, whose chariot wheels rolled over empires and continents, crushing human life like stubble beneath the heel of the reaper, was too vast for her comprehension. Her forte was exhibited in the detail of individual suffering. Like the members of the rifle corps, she could load and fire with great rapidity, but the construction of her mental fusil confined each discharge to winging a single object. The solemn gloom caused by a solar eclipse; the heavy shadows sweeping majestically over the landscape; the portentous thunder-clouds, rolling with ponderous energy across the expanse; are not typical of the Widow Naomi Wimple's mind : but the smoke encircling the cottage roof in a damp day, or the fantastic wreaths which the smoker puffs from the narcotic plant, in the midst of his companions, until their precise whereabout is involved in mystery, are meet emblems of the domestic and social character of her revelations.
The atmosphere breathed by the Lugubrious Family was the very type of humidity. Tears, those mute exponents of sorrow, were ever at command. The paradise of their fancy was encircled by mists, vapors, and noxious exhalations. The sun of their horizon was a dim and veiled luminary, whose flickering beams came with the uncertainty and hesitation which marks the reception of a neophyte in the circles of fashion. The Widow Wimple's disregard of
book learning' was, on one occasion, exemplified in a manner somewhat ludicrous. A Latin quotation having been introduced by a sedate schoolmaster, who affected a tender regard for the widow, he rather apologized for quoting Latin, it being a dead language. 'Oply to think, responded the revered head of the Lugubrious Family, that Latin is dead! – and my poor cousin Timothy, who died last Thursday, thirty-one years, was so detached to him ! Why I remember as if it was but yesterday, that Tim said he'd toted five hundred miles to look after him, and spent more than a year in incurring his acquaintance. And, poor soul so he's dead! How will his affectionate relations feel when they hear he's prefunct ?'
• De-funct, you meant to say, Ma,' sobbed Arabella.
Defunctibus et demendibus,' said Frank, which being freely translated, meaneth, Dead and ahem!'
On closing this pathetic lament over the buried language, the widow resorted to her 'kerchief, and her amiable and dutiful daughters' did likewise. The learned pedagogue upon this hemmed and fidgetted, pulled off his spectacles, wiped them, put them on again, and looked up to the ceiling. Frank whistled; Augustus Fitzherbert Jones, an exquisite of the first water, occupied himself in convulsive efforts to thrust his perfumed cambric handkerchief into his mouth ; and Tim Wilkins, a favorite of Arabella's, trod on the tail of the cat, wbich created a most unequivocal caterwauling. This operated like a match applied to a train of gunpowder ; for the rebellious handkerchief which Augustus Fitzherbert Jones had forced in .durance vile,' suddenly burst its prison house, flying out of his mouth with the velocity of a Congreve rocket, followed by such a roar, that the watchman in the cupola of the City Hall, albeit a rare sleeper, was aroused to a VOL. XVI.