« PreviousContinue »
'" It may be so, and therefore you will kindly excuse my answering more
'-'Surely, sir, surely; we ask no more of no man, let him oome from what country be will, than just to own that we are first and foremost; and after that, we grant liim freedom to keep the rest of his thoughts to himself. And pray, sir, to what point may you be travelling?"
'" To Rochester, sir."
'" Aye ? I am not sorry to hear that. I don't expect that between the poles there's another place that can ditto that. It is altogether unequalled in history, that's a fact."
"' Is it a large settlement, sir?"
'" A settlement? I don't know what you may call a settlement in your country—perhaps you may call it a settlement there ; but in our country, which I have been learnt in my geography is pretty considerable higger than yours, we count Rochester a perfect glory under heaven."'
During the latter part of the conversation the parties close round the fire, and we are favored with a little bye-chat between Caroline Gordon and tho daughter of the family :—
'" Have you lived here long, Miss Euphrosyne?" she began. '" We have been in the bush better than six years," answered Miss Euphrosyne.
'" My !" interrupted Miss Ophelia," why, sis, 'tis seven years this fall."
'" And how do you like the life?"
'" 1 expect 'tis pleasant enough by times."
'" Do you see many people?
'" My ! I guess not, indeed; 'tis sometimes a month out, 'twixt time and time that we sees a human." '" Do you go to church?" '" No, we ar'n't Christians. '" You are not Christians? How is that ?''
'" Why, how can we be Christians, living in the bush so?" ,
'" When Ophelia is married," said the other sister, " as she counts to be next month, then 1 and she will both be Christians; for she is to hide at Avon, and we shall be of the Baptist congregation." * *
'" Sometimes, when father goes to market, we rides in the waggon with mother, to sell the spinning, and to buy coffee and the like."
'" Are you not delighted to go?"
'" Yes, I like it very much when I have got a good bonnet."
'" Well, I think 1 should be delighted, if I had got no bonnet at all."
'" 1 expect the English don't mind, but the American young ladies had rather hide at home from July to eternity, than show themselves when they arn'l jam." " " *
'And now Mrs. Burns, having finished her putting away, joined the female group, and told Miss Gordon that the best sleeping place she had to offer her, was just to lie between Ophelia and Euphrosyne.
This 'ere bed," she continued, " is what 1, and my husband, and Sally sleeps in; and the other room, which is altogether as hig as this, have got two beds in it: one will be for my two girls and you, and t'other for Benjamin Franklin and little Monroe."'
To this arrangement Caroline's English feelings objected ; and ber father, taking Mr. Burns aside, had little difficulty, with the aid of a "United States—five dollars," of having it somewhat altered :—
'" Come, wife, stir about ; see to have a good blaze in t'other room. The boys is to turn out, and you is to turn in with miss and the girls; and mind to have clean linen on one of the beds, and no boys ar'n't to go in; that's the bargain, I expect, Mister?"
'" Exactly, sir," said Mr. Gordon.
'Mrs. Burns cast a glance of no very pleasant expression towards Caroline. "Why 'tis as bad as a hurricane to lodge English folks. They may have some other fancy when I've done finished." * • * *
'Here the 'squire took hi* lady by the sleeve, and, drawing her out of the room, conversed with her for about two minutes; after which she re-entered, and the stipulated arrangements were speedily made, without any more grumbling.
As soon as it was announced that the fire was well " alight" in the other room, Caroline prepared to retire. • • *
'The pretty foresters willingly undertook the office of Ahigails, and seemed well satisfied by being permitted to ransack the night-bag in return. The nightgown, the night-cap, the combs, the brushes, were all seized upon, and all tried. Even the little Sally would not be contented till she had seen how she looked in the " strange woman's cap." Caroline submitted to all these novelties with great resignation; nay, the fair, smiling young faces so conquered her aristocracy, that she said to Ophelia," Either you or Kuphrosyne must sleep with me ; the bed is quite large enough, and I shall not mind it at all."
'" But 1 shall, though," cried Mrs. Burns, suddenly breaking the silence she had maintained since the private conversation with her husband. "I mind it, if you don't; folks what gives five dollars to get a girl a bed to herself, must know there is some reason for it. My girls shall all three sleep with me this night, please the Lord."
'" Well, then," said Caroline, smiling, " wood night to you all; I am very sleepy ;" and in a few minutes the fair wanderer was fast asleep.'
We have used our utmost skill in abridging these scenes, yet they occupy so much room as to compel us to defer some others which we intended to extract.
JOURNAL OF CONVERSATIONS WITH LORD BYRON,
BY THE COUNTESS OF BLESSINGTON.
'I Often think,' said Byron,' that I inherit my violence and bad temper from my poor mother—not that my father, from all 1 could ever learn, had a much better; so that it is no wonder I have such a very bad one. As long as I can remember anything, I recollect being subject to violent paroxysms of rage, so disproportioned to the cause as to surprise me when they were over, and this still continues. I cannot coolly view anything that excites my feelings; and once 'the lurking devil in me is roused, 1 lose all command of myself. 1 do not recover a good fit of rage for days after: mind, I do not by this mean that the ill-humor continues, as, on the contrary, that quickly subsides, exhausted by its own violence; but it shakes me terribly, and leaves me low and nervous after. De- pend on it, people's tempers must be corrected while they are children; for not all the good resolutions in the world can enable a man to conquer hahits of ill-humor or rage, however he may regret having given way to them. My poor mother was generally in a rage every day, and used to render me sometimes almost frantic; particularly when, in her passion, she reproached me with my personal deformity, I have left her presence to rush into solitude, where, unseen, I could vent the rage and mortification I endured, and curse the deformity that I now began to consider as a signal mark of the injustice of Providence. Those were hitter moments; even now, the impression of them is vivid in my mind; and they cankered a heart that I believe was naturally affectionate, and destroyed a temper always disposed to be violent. It was my feelings at this period that suggested the idea of " The Deformed Transformed." I often look back on the days of my childhood, and am astonished at the recollection of the intensity of my feelings at that period ;—first impressions are indelible. My poor mother, and after her my schoolfellows, by their taunts, led me to consider my lameness as the greatest misfortune, and I have never been able to conquer this feeling. It requires great natural goodness of disposition, as well as reflection, to conquer the
corroding hitterness that deformity engenders in the mind, and which, while preying on itself, sours one towards all the world. I have read, that where personal deformity exists, it may always be traced in the face, however handsome the face may be. 1 am sure that what is meant by this is, that the consciousness of it gives to the countenance an habitual expression of discontent, which I believe is the case; for it would be too bad (added Byron with hitterness) that, because om' had a defective foot, one could not have a perfect face.'
He indulges a morhid feeling on this subject that is extraordinary, and that leads me to think it has had a powerful effect in forming his character. 'As Bvron had said that his own position had led to his writing ' The Deformed Transformed,' 1 ventured to remind him that, in the advertisement to that dratna, he had stated it to have been founded on the novel of ' The Three Brothers.' He said that both statements were correct, and then changed the subject, without giving me an opportunity of questioning him on the unacknowledged, but visible resemblances between other of his works and that extraordinary production. It is possible that he is unconscious of the plagiary of ideas he has committed; for his reading is so desultory, that he seizes thoughts which, in passing through the glowing alemhic of his mind, become so embellished as to lose all identity with the original crude embryos he had adopted. This was proved to me in another instance, when a book that he was constantly in the hahit of looking over fell into my hands, and I traced various passages that gave me the idea of having led to certain trains of thought in his works. He told me that he rarely ever read a page that did not give rise to chains of thought, the first idea serving as the original link on which the others were formed,—
'Awake hut one, and lo! what myriads rise.'
I have obser-ved, that, in conversation, some trifling remark has often led him into long disquisitions, evidently elicited by it; and so prolific is his imagination, that the slightest spark can warm it.
fjorr/u! Pietro Gamba lent me the 'Age of Bronze,'with a request that his having done so should be kept a profound secret, as Lord Byron, he said, would be angry if he knew it. This is another instance of the love of mystification that marks Byron, in trifles as well as in things of more importance. What can be the motive for concealing a published book, that is in the hands of all England?
Byron talks often of Napoleon, of whom he is a great admirer, and says that what he most likes in his character was his want of sympathy, which proved his knowledge of human nature, as those only could possess sympathy who were in happy ignorance of it. I told him that this carried its own punishment with it, as Napoleon found the want of sympathy when he most required it, and that some portion of what he affected to despise, namely enthusiasm and sympathy, would have saved him from the degradations he twice underwent when deserted by those on whom he counted. Not all Byron's expressed contempt for mankind can induce me to believe that he has the feeling; this is one of the many little artifices which he condescends to make use of to excite surprise in his hearers, and can only impose on the credulous. He is vexed when he discovers that any of his little ruses have not succeeded, and is like a spoiled child who finds out he cannot have everything his own way. Were he but sensible of his own powers, how infinitely superior would he be, for he would see the uselessness, as well as unworthiness, of being artificial, and of acting to support the character he wishes to play, a misanthrope, which nature never intended him for, and which he is not and never will be. 1 see a thousand instances of good feeling in Byron,but rarely a single proof of stahility; his abuse of friends, which is continual, has always appeared to mo more inconsistent than ill-natured, and as if indulged in more to prove that he was superior to the partiality friendship engenders, than that they were unworthy of exciting the sentiment. He has the rage of displaying his knowledge of human nature, and thinks this knowledge more proved bv pointing out the blemishes than the perfections of the subjects he anatomizes. Were he to confide in the effect his own natural character would produce, how much more would he be loved and respected, whereas, at present those who most admire the genius will be the most disappointed in the man. The love of mystification is so strong in Byron, that he is continually letting drop mysterious hints of events in his past life; as if to excite curiosity, he assumes, on those occasions, a look and air suited to the insinuation conveyed: if it has excited the curiosity of his hearers, he is satisfied, looks still more mysterious, and changes the subject; but if it fails to rouse curiosity, he becomes evidently discomposed and sulky, stealing sly glances at the person he has been endeavoring to mystify, to observe the effect he has produced. On such occasions 1 hare looked at him a little maliciously, and laughed, without asking a single question; and 1 have often succeeded in making him laugh too at those mystifications, manquec as 1 called them. Byron often talks of the authors of the 'Rejected Addresses,' and always in terms of unqualified praise. He says that the imitations, unlike all other imitations, are full of genius, and that the 'Cui Bono' has some lines that he should wish to have written. Parodies (he said) always gave a bad impression of the original, but in the ' Rejected Addresses ' the reverse was the fact, and he quoted the second and third stanzas, in imitation of himself, as admirable, and just what he could have wished to write on a similar subject. His memory is extraordinary, for he can repeat lines from every author whose works have pleased him; and in reciting the passages that have called forth his censure or ridicule, it is no less tenacious. He observed on the pleasure he felt at meeting people with whom he could go over old subjects of interest, whether on persons or literature, and said that nothing cemented friendship or companionship so strongly as having read the same books and known the same people.
I observed that when, in our rides, we came to any fine point of view, Byron paused, and looked at it, as if to impress himself with the recollection of it. He rarely praised what so evidently pleased him, and he became silent and abstracted for some time after, as if he was noting the principal features of the scene on the tablet of his memory. He told me that, from bis earliest youth, he had a passion for solitude; that the sea, whether in a storm or calm, was a source of deep interest to him, and filled his mind with thoughts. 'An acquaintance of mine (said Byron, laughing,) who is a votary of the lake, or simple school, and to whom 1 once expressed this effect of the sea on me, said that I might in this case say that the ocean served me as a vast inkstand: what do you think of that as a poetical image? It reminds me of a man who, talking of the effect of Mount Blanc from a distant mountain, said that it reminded him of a giant at his toilette, the feet in water, and the face prepared for the operation of shaving. Such observations prove that from the sublime to the ridiculous there is only one step, and really makes one disgusted with the simple school.' Recurring to fine scenery, Byron remarked,' That as artists filled their sketch-books with studies from Nature, to be made use of on after occasions, so he laid up a collection of images in his mind, as a store to draw on, when he required them, and he found the pictures much more vivid in recollection, when he had not exhausted his admiration in expressions, but concentrated his powers in fixing them in memory. The end and aim of his life is to render himself celebrated: hitherto his pen has been the instrument to cut his road to renown, and it has traced a brilliant path; this, he thinks, has lost some of its point, and he is about to change it for the sword, to carve a new road to fame. Military exploits occupy much of his conversation, and still more of his attention; but even on this subject there is never the slightest ilan, and it appears extraordinary to see a man about to engage in a chivalrous, and, according to the opinion of many, a Utopian undertaking, for which his hahits peculiarly unfit him, without any indication of the enthusiasm that lead men to embark in such careers. Perhaps he thinks with Napoleon, that ' II n'y a rien qui refroidit, comme l'cnthousiasme des autres;' but he is wrong—coldness has in general a sympathetic effect, and we are less disposed to share the feelings of others, if we observe that those feelings are not as warm as the occasion seems to require.
There is something so exciting in the idea of the greatest poet of his day sacrificing his fortune, his occupations, his enjoyments,—in short, offering up on the altar of Liberty all the immense advantages that station, fortune, and genius can bestow, that it is impossible to reflect on it without admiration; but when one hears this same person calmly talk of the worthlessness of the people he proposes to make those sacrifices for, the loans he means to advance, the uniforms he intends to wear, entering into petty details, and always with perfect sangfroid, one'a admiration evaporates, and the action loses all its charms, though the real merit of it still remains. Perhaps Byrc% wishes to show that his going to Greece i« more an affair of principle than feeling, and as such, more entitled to respect, though perhaps less likely to excite warmer feelings. However this may he, his whole manner and conversation on the subject are calculated to chill the admiration such an enterprize ought to create, and to reduce it to a more ordinary standaid.
Byron is evidently in delicate health, brought on by starvation, and a mind too powerful for the frame in which it is lodged. He is obstinate in resisting the advice of medical men and his friends, who all have represented to him the dangerous effects likely to ensue from his present system. He declares that he has no choice but that of sacrificing the body to the mind, as that when he eats as others do, he gets ill, and loses all power over his intellectual faculties; that animal food engenders the appetite of the animal fed upon, and he instances the manner in which boxers are fed, as a proof, while, on the contrary, a regime of fish and vegetables served to support existence without pampering it. I affected to think that his excellence in, and fondness of swimming, arose from his continually living on fish, and he appeared disposed to admit the possihility, until, being no longer able to support my gravity, I laughed aloud, which for the first minute discomposed him, though he ended by joining heartily in the laugh, and said,—' Well, Miladi, after this hoax, never accuse me any more of mystifying; you did take me in unlil you laughed.' Nothing gratifies him so much as being told that he grows thin. This fancy of his is pushed to an almost childish extent; and he frequently asks—' Don't you think 1 get thinner?' or ' Did you ever see any person so thin as I am, who was not ill?' He says he is sure no one could recollect him were he to go to England at present, and seems to enjoy this thought very much.
Byron affects a perfect indifference to the opinion of the world, yet is more influenced by it than most people,—not in his conduct, but in his dread of, and wincing under its censures. He was extremely agitated by his name being introduced in the P trial, as having assisted in making up the match, and
showed a degree of irritation that proves he is as susceptible as ever to newspaper attacks, notwithstanding his boasts to the contrary. This susceptihility will always leave him at the mercy of all who may choose to write against him, however insignificant they may be.
I noticed Byron one day more than usually irritable, though he endeavored to suppress all symptoms of it. After various sarcasms on the cant and hypocrisy of the times, which was always the signal that he was suffering from some attack made on him, he burst forth in violent invectives against America, and said that she now rivalled her mother country in cant, as he had that morning read an article of abuse, copied from an American newspaper, alluding to a report that he was going to reside there. We had seen the article, and hoped that it might have escaped his notice, but unfortunately he had perused it, and its effects on his temper were visible for several days after, fie said that he was never sincere in his praises of the Americans, and that he only extolled their navy to pique Mr. Crocker. There was something so childish in this avowal, that there was no keeping a serious face on hearing it; and Byron smiled himself, like a petulant spoiled child who acknowledges having done something to spite a plav-fellow.
Byron is a great admirer of the poetry of Barry Cornwall, which, he says, is full of imagination and beauty, possessing a refinement and delicacy, that, whilst they add all the charms of a woman's mind, take off none of the forceof a man's. He expressed his hope that he would devote himself to tragedy, saying that he was sure he would become one of the first writers of the day.
Talking of marriage, Byron said that there was no real happiness out of its pale. 'If people like each other so well (said ho) as not to be able to live asunder, this is the only tie that can ensure happiness—all others entail misery 1 putreligion and morals out of the question, though of course the misery will be increased tenfold by the influence of both; but, admitting persons to have neither (and many such are, by the good-natured world, supposed to exist,) still liaisons, that are not cemented by marriage, must produce unhappiness, when there is refinement