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One of these passages of my strange existence I shall endeavour to relate, and shew how, without either opium or astrology, such mysterious scenes may pass before the soul, as only its own secret energy could produce.
I was an inhabitant, in my youth, of a lonely and deserted district that, tradition said, was once populous, but was then only remarkable for the rude simplicity and superstition of its inhabitants. The stories, however, which were told of the neighbourhood were neither like the abstracted visionary tales of the Hartz, nor similar to the fairy songs of the Highlands. They were those deep, melancholy narrations which history writes in reverie--details of human suffering, of events that give a voice to the midnight echo, and people the old consecrated abbey or the halls of forgotten barons. I was not singular in having a deep veneration for the traditions of my birthplace; but, to me, they were something more than tales of the winter hearth-they were the foundations of my mental character, the knowledge out of which my reason formed its theories and abstractions. I should have sooner doubted, with Descartes and the Bishop of Cloyne, the reality of my own existence, and that of the earth, than have hesitated for a moment in yielding my thoughts to their influence. I was always surrounded by some of the beings whose history they told. My sympathies were all employed on the events of their existence; and my mind, at last, became so habituated to this aërial intercourse, that, for what I regarded mere external things, I was as much a disembodied being as my companions.
To a deep thinker, there is much less difference between sleeping and waking than to less intellectual characters—to him they are like the same state of being. The powers which have been most active in one condition are the same which are active in the other; and the long, changeless stream of existence seems going uninterruptedly on, lengthening and deepening in its course. I have known many hard students whose minds have laboured as much in the night as in the day; and there are countless instances of imaginative men, to whom sleep has made revelations of secret and indescribable loveliness. To me, employed as I generally was, there was still less difference; and I might almost be said to live in a dream, which the entire repose of the body heightened into a supernatural vividness and distinctness.
But, to proceed: One of my most favorite haunts was an old Norman - castle, situated at the extremity of a narrow defile, which here and
there retained traces of human labour, but for the most part was choked up with wild and tangled shrubs. The place had once been of considerable importance, and the last in the line of its original inhabitants was a courtier of Henry the Eighth. After this time it became deserted, but its traditionary annals continued to be regarded with the same reverence; nor could there anywhere be heard wilder tales of feudal strife or baronial magnificence than in its neighbourhood. These had all their share of respect in my lone and dreamy reveries ; but the later history of this place afforded my imagination a theme on which it dwelt till thought became deep and fervent passion.
On the desertion of its noble proprietors, the castle was left to decay, and many years intervened before any one thought of taking shelter under its roof. On the accession, however, of Mary to the throne,
when those who had embraced the reformed doctrines foresaw the approaching storm, many who were unwilling to forsake their country, fled for shelter to such ruinous and deserted buildings as were not likely to be speedily reclaimed. The old Norman ruin was well calculated for the purposes of such a retreat, and it became the refugeplace of one of the Protestant prebends of a neighbouring cathedral. He was accompanied in his retreat by an only daughter, whose filial piety would not suffer her to leave him in his solitude. While they dwelt here she seems to have been a ministress of love and mercy to the surrounding hamlets. Sometimes daring, with her father, to aid the devotion of the little flock that remained faithful to the truth, and at others stealing forth to administer comfort to the sick or the aged. Her memory was like a sweet and gentle dew on that lonely place; and there was not a flowery bank or murmuring rivulet which was not, in some way or the other, associated with her name. Her father and she remained here in safety for a considerable time, till, at length, the cruel vigilance of Bonner discovered the prebend's retreat, and hastened to make him a sacrifice to his barbarous superstition. The father and daughter were both seized and carried before the council, where, after a long examination, the former was condemned to expiate the crime of an open confession of the truth in the flames. His daughter escaped, it is probable, through the malignant satisfaction already given by the condemnation of her parent, and she was left with him during his few remaining hours rather through carelessness than mercy.
Borne up by the same strength which had been her comfort and support in solitude, she passed, it is said, the night preceding his execution in listening at intervals to his parting exhortations, and at others in watching his quiet peaceful slumber, which was, like death, disarmed of its sting and terror. The fearful morrow came and passed, and, under the cloud of its night, the martyr's orphan bore back the ashes of her father to the solitary mansion which had furnished them with shelter. Here, it seems, she continued to make her home, holding communion with no one, but when some purpose of charity called her forth, and then retiring into her loneliness,—too gentle not to be broken-hearted, but too full of hope not to bear her anguish.
How long she remained here, whether she died under those ruined walls, or passed the rest of her life amid other scenes, what was her fate, tradition had not recorded; and there was an uncertainty and mystery in this latter part of her history, which strongly favoured the creations of my imagination. The other forms with which these solitary scenes were peopled were to me more like the persons of a drama; but the vision of that meek and lonely girl was constantly with me; it hung upon my heart like a spirit of hope and joy, and I felt myself linked to her by a spell that must last for ever. This was the bright and sunny period of my
existence. I had before, and have since, been little affected by the cares or caprices of fortune, but, during that period, I seemed to move in an element of delight. My mind was wedded to the fairest being in its intellectual creation, and, wherever my fancy wandered, I still heard the same happy and unceasing song of love. But it is not the things of the earth only that are subject to change.
I was sitting one evening under what had once been the portcullis of the castle, looking down through the deep green valley before me, and which might almost be said to be flooded with the full thick melody of the birds, when a heavy sultry haze fell over the scene, and it became silent as at midnight. I felt my heart oppressed by this change of external nature, and, retiring within myself, I became gradually insensible to everything without. But thought was awake, and quickened into unwonted activity. The sphere of vision seemed almost interminable, and I saw around me, with but one exception, all the forms with which I had ever held communion. She alone was absent who was to me as existence, and I felt as if sinking into nothing while vainly endeavouring to call her to me. At length, at the farthest verge of that wide sphere, she appeared rising, like a thin impalpable mist, and came before me. There was a mysterious change in her appearance, which I cannot describe, but I felt that her spirit could no longer hold communion with mine. I struggled with the strength of my whole being to retain her, but it was in vain; and I saw her vanish, as it were, into another eternity.
The heaviness of the night passed away, but I have been from that hour alone in the wide world of existence. I have journeyed since then over seas and continents, and have felt my material frame wasting under the returning years; but I have found no change or rest to my thoughts. That lost vision has never returned, and I have had no companion in my long wandering but my own dark fancies. Sometimes, indeed, in the vast desert or the pathless forest, I have doubted whether their silence was not made audible by her voice; and I have sometimes thought, when the clear midnight sky seemed receding into its everlasting depths, that I saw her gliding in the blue thin element. But these were momentary thoughts, and I shrunk back into my former solitude.
I have read of some who, penetrating into the secret holds of nature, have gained a mastery over her elements, that enabled them to change her ordinary courses; and there are strange tales of others who, in the dark ages of the world, were able, by an abstruse and hidden art, to control the actions of spiritual beings. But, brooding, as I have done, on these unearthly mysteries, neither could I ever discover, in the wild sublimities of the old magicians, nor in the intellectual anatomies of philosophy, anything that could bring back to me that companion of my spirit. I have been able to see wonders in the universe of being that are hidden to other eyes; have lived from my youth in a state of almost-perfect idealism ; and have felt as if the outward form I bear were every day becoming less and less a barrier to my desires: but there is a charmed circle, which I cannot pass, and within which there is a something tells me that that fair bright form is fled, from which the destiny of my earthly nature has separated me. A dark and fearful doubt comes over me sometimes whether I may ever enter that inner sphere of being; whether, – though I feel it is the law of my existence to be for ever quickening in perception, – there may not be another law which shall repel me when I approach its confines.
There are awful gulphs in the wide sea of thought, down which we may plunge till we are lost in their abysses.- I have tempted them, but in vain !
THE EDITOR'S ROOM.
And so, most tasteful and provident public, you are going out of town on Saturday next?—We envy you. Mars is gone, and Sontag is gone, and Pasta is going—and Velluti is out of voice—and they are playing tragedies at the Haymarket-and Vauxhall will never be dry again-and the Funny Club are drenched to their skins every dayand “ the sweet shady side of Pall Mall” is a forgotten blessing. You will be dull in the country if this weather continue—but not so dirty as upon the Macadam. So go.
We shall stay behind, with the Duke of Wellington, to look after business. It would not do for either of us to be gadding, while Ireland, and Turkey, and Portugal want watching. The times are getting ticklish. The stocks are rising most dreadfully, as the barometer falls; and the Squirearchy are beginning to dread that the partridges will be drowned. That will be a sad drawback from the delights of a two-shilling quartern-loaf. For ourselves, we have plenty of work cut out for us, in this our abiding-place. The fewer the books which are published, the more we shall have to draw upon our own genius; and the duller the season, the more vivacious must we be to put our readers in spirits. But we have consolation approaching in the shape of amusing work. Immediately that Parliament is up, the newspapers will begin to lie, “ like thunder," Tom Pipes would say. What mysterious murders, what heart-rending accidents, what showers of bonnets in the Paddington Canal, what legions of unhappy children dropped at honest men's doors! We have got a file of the Morning Herald for the last ten years ; -and we give the worthy labourers in the accident line fair notice, that if they hash up the old stories with the self-same sauce, as they are wont to do, without substituting the pistol for the razor, and not even changing the Christian name of the young ladies who always drown themselves when Parliament is up, we shall take the matter into our own hands, and write a Chapter of Accidents” that will drive these poor pretenders to the secrets of hemp and ratsbane fairly out of the field. But this for their private ear.
Do you think of going to the Continent, dear readers ?-or shall you be satisfied with a watering-place? We apprehend that very few of you
will be content with a month or two at your country-houses, to see if any good can be done with your tenants and poor neighbours. By the bye, the Quarterly is hard upon ye of the aristocracy, touching this matter. The Quarterly!
" What is the condition of the country-seat of the absentee proprietor ? The mansion-house deserted and closed, the approaches to it ragged and grass-grown; the chimneys,
“ those windpipes of good hospitality," as an old English poet calls them, giving no token of the cheerful fire within ; the gardens running to waste, or, perchance, made a source of meniai profit; the old family servants dismissed, and some rude bailiff or country attorney, ruling paramount in the place. The surrounding cottagers, who have derived their support from the vicinage, deprived of this, pass into destitution and wretchedness; either abandoning their homes, throwing
themselves upon parish relief, or seeking provision by means yet more dèsperate. The farming tenantry, though less immediately dependent, yet all partake, more or less, in the evil. The charities and hospitalities which belong to such a mansion lie dormant; the clergyman is no longer supported and aided in his important duties ; the family pew in the church is closed; and the village churchyard ceases to be a place of pleasant meeting, where the peasant's heart is gladdened by the kindly notice of his landlord.
• We must not be accused of overcharging this picture, for we have ourselves seen all that we describe. We remember, too, with painful exactness, the expressions and tone of some of those remaining behind in these deserted places; the mixture of sorrow and bitterness with which they told, in answer to our inquiries, “ that the family were gone to live somewhere in France, had sent away the servants, and shut up the house." Is it to be wondered at that distress and crime should follow close upon all this? And ifit be so, are those altogether innocent who can consent to forfeit the fair condition in which Providence has placed them, as the protectors of the happiness and virtue of others ?'
Altogether innocent ? Most shamefully and desperately guilty ;basely and ignorantly selfish ;-dishonest violators of the only moral condition upon which property is held, that of adequately discharging the obligations attached to its possession. Blind slaves of your own senseless avarice or desperate folly, do you think that you can long continue to retain your acres upon an irresponsible title? Look to yourselves. Keep down the galling sense of the inequalities of society by active benevolence-above all, lift up your own minds to the level of those whom you call “ the lower classes," and would treat, if you dared, as the bondsmen of the soil :-if they should make the discovery, which you are forcing upon them, that you are worthless and useless, there is not a statute in Westminster can save your children from hewing the oaks which your grandfathers have planted. But we are growing too serious for this matter; and do not mean our invective for any readers of the London, but for those who habitually send their proxies against all bills for the importation of corn and the emancipation of Catholics, and who, it is fair to presume, do not read any thing. We have no objection, after a fagging session, that ye of the true English race of gentleman shall take a run to Rome or Geneva, or a sail up the Rhine or the Danube, for a month or two; so that ye come back to welcome your friends at the season of pheasant shooting, (patrons are we of all generous sports if not carried to excess)--take especial care that the tap of October for the tenantry is duly replenished, -and keep open house for a fortnight at Christmas. Riches in your hands will fertilize the earth ; and long may ye hold them,and be a blessing to all around you! With regard to this said tour, we have a pleasant book to offer you, which goes over rather new ground. It is written by an agreeable person, who knows as much of the GreenRoom as Colonel Berkeley ; -and therefore, in his new capacity of a traveller, takes especial care to be as smart and lively as if he had the fear of the shilling-gallery before his eyes. Planche's “ Descent of the Danube" * may, perhaps, help your determination as to your "whereabout;”—and, in your uncertainty as to the choice of a passport, you may, perhaps, give a call, in consequence of skimming this goodly
* Descent of the Danube, from Ratisbon to Vienna, &c. By J. R. Planché. 8vo. Duncan.