« ZurückWeiter »
full speed out of the yard, and then till Densil passed through the weeping he saw him disappear like a speck along women, and went straight to his own the mountain road far aloft; then he study. There he sat down, tearless, went into the house, and, getting as musing much about her who was gone. near to the sick room as he dared, How he had grown to love that waited quietly on the stairs.
woman, he thought-her that he had It was a house of woe, indeed! Two married for her beauty and her pride, hours before, one feeble, wailing little and had thought so cold and hard ! creature had taken up his burthen, and He remembered how the love of her had begun his weary pilgrimage across the grown stronger, year by year, since their unknown desolate land that lay between first child was born. How he had rehim and the grave—for a part of which spected her for her firmness and conyou and I are to accompany him ; while sistency; and how often, he thought, his mother even now was preparing for her had he sheltered his weakness behind rest, yet striving for the child's sake to her strength! His right hand was gone, lengthen the last few weary steps of her and he was left alone to do battle by journey, that they two might walk, were himself! it never so short a distance, together. One thing was certain. Happen what
The room was very still. Faintly the would, his promise should be respected, pure scents and sounds stole into the and this last boy, just born, should be chamber of death from the blessed sum- brought up a Protestant as his mother mer air without ; gently came the had wished. He knew the opposition murmur of the surf upon the sands; he would have from Father Mackworth, fainter and still fainter came the breath and determined to brave it. And, as the of the dying mother. The babe lay name of that man came into his mind, beside her, and her arm
some of his old fierce, savage nature its body. The old vicar knelt by the broke out again, and he almost cursed bed, and Densil stood with folded arms him aloud. and bowed head, watching the face “I hate that fellow! I should like to which had grown so dear to him, till the defy him, and let him do his worst. I'd light should die out from it for ever. do it, now she's gone, if it wasn't for the Only those four in the chamber of boys. No, hang it, it wouldn't do. If death!
I'd told him under seal of confession, The sighing grew louder, and the eye instead of letting him grub it out, he grew once more animated. She reached couldn't have hung it over me like this. out her hand, and, taking one of the I wish he was—' vicar's, laid it upon the baby's head. If Father Mackworth had had the Then she looked at Densil, who was slightest inkling of the state of mind of now leaning over her, and with a great his worthy patron towards him, it is effort spoke.
very certain that he would not have “ Densil, dear, you will remember chosen that very moment to rap at the your promise ?”
door. The most acute of us make a “I will swear it, my love."
mistake sometimes; and he, haunted A few more laboured sighs, and a ' with vague suspicions since the congreater effort : “Swear it to me, love." versation he had overheard in the
He swore that he would respect the drawing-room before the birth of promise he had made, so help him God! Cuthbert, grew impatient, and deter
The eyes were fixed now, and all was mined to solve his doubts at once, still. Then there was a long sigh ; then and, as we have seen, selected the sinthere was
a long silence ; then the gularly happy moment when poor pasvicar rose from his knees and looked at sionate Densil was cursing him to his Densil. There were but three in the heart's content. chamber now.
“ Brother, I am come to comfort you,"
« that you
had time, either to finish the sentence James. For one instant, you might written above, or to say “Come in.' “This have seen a smile of intense amusement is a heavy affliction, and the heavier pass over his merry face; but in an inbecause"
stant it was gone again, and he gravely “Go away,” said Densil, pointing to addressed Densil. the door.
“My dear Mr. Ravenshoe, I must “Nay, nay,” said the priest, use my authority as doctor, to request
that your son's spiritual welfare should “Go away !” said Densil, in a louder for the present yield to his temporal tone. “Do you hear me ? I want to necessities. You must have a wet nurse, be alone, and I mean to be. Go!”
my good sir.” How recklessly defiant weak men Densil's brow had grown placid in a get when they are once fairly in a rage ! moment, beneath the Doctor's kindly Densil, who was in general civilly afraid glance. “God bless me,” he said, “I of this man, would have defied fifty such never thought of it. Poor little lad ! as he now.
poor little lad !” “There is one thing, Mr. Ravenshoe," “I hope, sir,” said James, said the priest, in a very different tone, will let Norah have the young master. “about which I feel it my duty to speak She has set her heart upon it.” to you, in spite of the somewhat un- “I have seen Mrs. Horton,” said the reasonable form your grief has assumed. Doctor, “and I quite approve of the I wish to know what you mean to call proposal. I think it indeed a most
special providence that she should be Why ?"
able to undertake it. Had it been other“Because he is ailing" (this was false), wise, we might have been undone.” “and I wish to baptise him.”
“Let us go at once," said the impetuous “You will do nothing of the kind, Densil. “Where is the nurse? where is sir,” said Densil, as red as a turkey-cock. the boy?” And, so saying, he hurried “He will be baptised in proper time in out of the room, followed by the Doctor the parish church. He is to be brought and James. up a protestant."
Mackworth stood alone, looking out The priest looked steadily at Densil, of the window, silent. He stood so who, now brought fairly to bay, was bent long that one who watched him peered on behaving like a valiant man, and from his hiding place more than once said slowly,-
to see if he were gone. At length he “So my suspicions are confirmed then, raised his arm and struck his clenched and you have determined to hand over hand against the rough granite windowyour son to eternal perdition” (he didn't sill so hard that he brought blood. say perdition, he used a stronger word, Then he moodily left the room. which we will dispense with, if you As soon as the room was quiet, a have no objection).
child about five years old crept stealthi“ Perdition, sir !” bawled Densil. ly from a dark corner where he had laid “How dare you talk of a son of mine hidden, and, with a look of mingled in that free and easy sort of way? Why, shyness and curiosity on his face, dewhat my family has done for the Church parted quietly by another door. ought to keep a dozen generations of Meanwhile, Densil, James, and the Ravenshoes from a possibility of perdi- Doctor, accompanied by the nurse and tion, sir. Don't tell me.'
baby, were holding their way across the This new and astounding theory of court-yard towards a cottage which lay justification by works, which poor Densil in the wood beyond the stables. James had broached in his wrath, was over- opened the door, and they passed into heard by a round-faced bright-eyed the inner room. curly-headed man about fifty, who en- A beautiful woman was sitting proptered the room suddenly, followed by ped up by pillows, nursing a week-old child. The sunlight, admitted by a half- The child's wailing was stilled now, open shutter, fell upon her, lighting up and the Doctor remarked, and rememher delicate features, her pale pure com- bered long afterwards, that the little plexion, and bringing a strange sheen on waxen fingers, clutching uneasily about, her long loose black hair. Her face was came in contact with the little hand of bent down gazing on the child which the other child, and paused there. At this lay on her breast, and at the entrance of moment, a beautiful little girl, about five the party she looked up, and displayed years old, got on the bed and nestled a large lustrous dark blue eye, which her peachy cheek against her mother's. lighted up with infinite tenderness as As they went out, he turned and looked Densil, taking the wailing boy from the at the beautiful group once more, and nurse, placed it on her arm beside the then he followed Densil back to the other.”
house of mourning. “ Take care of that for me, Norah," Reader, before we have done with said Densil. “ It has no mother but you, those three innocent little faces, we now."
shall see them distorted and changed by “ Acushla ma chree,” she answered, many passions, and shall meet them in “ bless my little bird.
Come to your
many strange places. Come, take my nest, Achree ; come to your pretty bro- hand, and we will follow them on to ther, my darlin."
the end. (To be continued.)
BOOKS OF GOSSIP: SHERIDAN AND HIS BIOGRAPHERS.
A LETTER TO THE PUBLISHER BY THE HON. MRS. NORTON.
titles be merely the assumed alias of It is now upwards of a year since we some person or persons, whose trade is discussed the plan of a work projected to "filch from others their good names, by me—“The Lives of the Sheridans ;" matters little. The books are essentially a task relinquished (with many others) the same, and cast in the same mould. in the grief caused by the illness and They degrade the genial service of biodeath of my son.
graphy, which has been prettily termed My attention has been recalled to the “ the handmaid of history," to the subject by the appearance of three works maundering scandal of an old nurse's of anecdotical biography, severally en- gossip ; and reduce the value of recorded titled “The Wits and Beaux of Society,” facts to a snip-and-scissor compilation “The Queens of Society," and “ Traits of worthless anecdotes. Affecting an of Character;" of which books, I think extreme regard for decorum, discretion, the most impartial critic could only and Christian grace, they proceed to speak in terms of severity, forming as narrate stories which no modest woman they do a dangerous epoch in the current would desire to believe or to remember, literature of our day; for they appear to
and which no honest man would wilbe a revived embodiment of a race of lingly disseminate. With a canting newspapers fortunately extinct-dug-up compliment to the encouragement of skeletons of The Age, The Satirist, and morality in “the goodness, affection, the like, without the wit of these journals, purity, and benevolence, which are the or one spark of their political vitality. household deities of the Court of our Of these three productions, one has
beloved, inestimable Queen Victoria," been published anonymously; the other they preface the grossest notices of the two profess to be written by “Grace and chief families of her kingdom ; such as
chioness's three papas,"—in the raking untrue, but which it in no way concerns up of buried vice and forgotten follies,- me to comment on or contradict. One in the tearing away the decent curtain only biography personally interests me, of silence that hung over sad family —the biography of Sheridan-of whom secrets ; declaring madness to be inhe- certainly those words might long since rent and hereditary in one race, disease have been spoken which were applied to in another, profligacy in a third, and another victim ; namely, that he has been branding a fourth with illegitimacy, till “the best abused man in England.” A we may fairly dread to leave such book of such sketches as these would be volumes on our tables, lest our daugh- incomplete without a vulgate edition of ters should look into them, and ask if the received and adopted chapters “on our fathers really were as base and as Sheridan.” Having, therefore, snipped vicious as they are there represented ! and scissored from Watkins, Moore,
Such works are not “ biographies,” Earle, Leigh Hunt, &c., “Grace and neither are they “sketches of charac- Philip Wharton," in the exercise of ter:" the confusion of worthless trash their craft as biographers, first prowith works of authority only increases nounce that Sheridan was greatly overtheir mischief; but they will be read, rated as to ability-in fact, was a very and therefore I notice them. Every ordinary man-and then proceed to the man who lives a public life is in the amazing assertion that the fact of Sheripower of other men as to his biography. dan's being born in a respectable position of Obscurity is a thicker shield than virtue; life alone prevented his being transported and the man who does his best in a as a felon ; which, had he belonged to a public position is yet less safe from poorer class
, vould assuredly have been his slander than he who does nothing and fate! Having given vent to this extradies unknown. The biographer, however, ordinary piece of scurrilous condemnawho volunteers to condemn or absolve tion, the conscientious couple coolly a public man, has undertaken a responsi- wind up by this printed and pubbility, both towards the dead of whom lished confession,—that they have not he writes, and the living for whom he examined into the veracity of any of writes, the solemnity of which never the anecdotes ; it is enough that they were seems to cross the minds of these tattlers current ! They have not “examined into and parrots of literature, whose pages are the veracity” of any of the anecdotes ! made up of borrowed phrases. “ Dead That is the point from which I start. I men tell no tales :"-neither can they nail up that sentence-like a kite, or answer any tales that are told of them. any other small bird of prey, with wings A dead man cannot, as the living might, extended—as a scarecrow to biographers. prosecute for slander-challenge for in- They have not "examined into the verasult-or justify himself to friends against city” of the anecdotes. But it is surely false accusation. But the ninth the first duty of those who abuse mandment is not annulled by the death dead men—the first duty of Christian of our neighbour. “Thou shalt not bear biographers towards their departed false witness,” remains God's law, though “neighbours”— to examine very strictly his creature depart; and those who use into the “veracity” of all anecdotes their living hands to engrave yet deeper on the strength of which such severe in a country's annals abuse of that sentence is pronounced. Abuse has selcountry's noted and remarkable men, dom been followed by an admission at should, at least, in their consciences be- once so ridiculous and so disgraceful. lieve that they have so sifted evidence as They “have not examined into the to be able to deliver a true verdict,—“So veracity of their anecdotes;" if they had, help them God!"
they would have known they were disNow, in the three publications to seminating falsehoods and vulgar inwhich I here refer, there are numberless rentions. They have not examined into notices which I personally know to be the veracity of their slander, but, like
the roadside gamin, merely stooped to his family relations, this proposed applitake from the mud the readiest stone cation to an eccentric old maiden lady, a that came to hand, to fling it with a distant connexion of Sheridan's second whoop and a halloo at the passer-by. wife, for the help so sorely needed to
“ Accidental” biography would be a wind up a task the author was “sick better title for such books than “ of," — reveals much of the cause of Moore's dotical" biography.
unexpected failure, in spite of his brilSoon after Sheridan died, a Dr. Wat
liant name. kins published a memoir of him : And now the many memoirs,-prewretchedly ill-written, and admitted by faces to plays, notices in magazines, and all contemporaries to be replete with in- thin pamphlet letters, -budded and correct statements. The proposal was sprouted with the proverbial luxuriance then made to Tom Moore to write a life of ill-weeds. These, again, were copied that should give a better idea of the man from hand to hand : snip, snip, and whose memory was so poorly perpetuated. echo, echo,—the same old stories, and a Lord Melbourne had begun a life of few new ones,-or a few old stories, and Sheridan. When he found that Moore a great many new ones (all made on the had received these proposals from an same pattern), forming the loose warp eminent publisher, he gave up the task. and woof of pages" made to sell.” Every He did more ; he gave to Moore those one who brought out an edition of portions which he had written, to make “Sheridan's plays,"
“ Sheridan's what use of he pleased ; taking it for works,” “ Sheridan's speeches," granted, with that simplicity and brought out also his own idea of a modesty which accompanies high in- memoir ; and stories were accepted as tellect, and which all the brilliant success truths, merely on the excellent old of his after career left unaltered,—that lady's principle—that they had been Moore, the established author, the cele- printed in black and white."
Every brated poet, was a fitter literary crafts- foolish anecdote that could be invented man than himself, and would do better by friend or foe—the dullest jokes, the what all desired should be done. Lord most ungentlemanlike shifts and conMelbourne afterwards said he never re- trivances—were all set down to Sheridan, gretted anything more than having re- and accepted by the million. And every solved to give up those papers, and to aban- fresh batch of invented trash sank him don the idea of writing a memoir, which one degree lower from his true level. again, in Moore's hands, turned out to be It was reserved for “Grace and Philip so utterly unsatisfactory. It is a singular Wharton ” (or whoever may skulk befact that, in all the biographies Moore hind that alias,) to write at last the most wrote, he contrived to lower the subject foolish, false, and abusive of the many of his biography in public estimation. inferior memoirs that have been based Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Byron, Sheri- on those hasty originals. dan, all fared alike in this respect. But Following “the lead,” in their trashy it is little to be wondered at, if all were abridgment of more tedious gossip—(but prepared for the press in the same way. with more vulgarity,—the great jest of Moore himself, in his posthumous their pages consisting in calling Sheridan journals, let us into the secret of his non- and his wife “Sherry and Betsy,"-great
He says—“I am quite sick of stress is laid on the drunkenness of this life of Sheridan. I can learn nothing Sheridan. To read notices of this kind, about him. I am going to call on Sukey one would imagine Sheridan was the Ogle to ascertain if she can tell me any- only drunken man of his day. Was thing." Like others who have followed Pitt sober? Was Fox sober ? Were him, he was not disposed to question too they not, on the contrary, models of inclosely the sources of his information : temperance? Was not that vice the wheat or tares, he must go a-gleaning ! habitual and constant temptation of the