Abbildungen der Seite


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

luctant guests, who desired to keep un- The accusation of gambling I pass. injured what little brains they had ? and It is simply the most shallow of falsewas not the principal boastof a gentleman hoods ; for though to Fox and many of how many bottles he could stand ? Did his companions cards were an overwhelmnot Lord Cockburn's Memoirs open to ing temptation, Sheridan was extremely us a vista of toast-drinking and inebriety averse to them. perfectly inconceivable to our modernized I might also pass the slander which tastes, but which was the “fashionable would attack alike his memory as a huslife” of that “Tom and Jerry” day? band, and the memory of the beautiful Sheridan was drunk as his companions St. Cecilia as a wife. A more affectionwere drunk, and with his drunken com- ate husband than Sheridan never lived. panions—with a drunken prince royal All the flatteries of society failed to wean and the drunken ministers of the crown him from the early love he won with his —but there can be little doubt that the blood, and at the death of his wife his more finely organized the brain, the more grief was such as to alarm his nearest fatal the consequences of such swinish friends. At no time of her harmless excitement.

and innocent

would that He is accused of more than careless lovely wife have been able to find in ness in money matters. Moore has ad- his neglect what Grace and Philip mitted that, if those around him had Wharton seem to consider a sufficient been as true as himself, his debts could and natural excuse for conjugal infihave been paid over and over again. No delity. While Fox lived with a misdoubt Sheridan was improvident. Ar- tress—whilst the Prince of Wales tists, writers, all these merchant specu- declared upon his “honour” to the lators in brain-produce, are proverbially Senate of England that the woman was a so. Nothing makes a man so impro- mere paramour with whom he had gone vident as an uncertain income ; rich to- through the sacred ceremony of marday, and poor to-morrow, is the root of riage—while many round him were all carelessness : and woe to that man's very masters in the art of debaucheryregularity in affairs who imagines he can Sheridan's dream of happiness was still gather gold at will, in an “El Dorado" “ domestic life!” If, as is sneeringly of his own wits!

stated, he did not sufficiently agree with But there again, taking him with his Lockhart's lovely linescontemporaries, the harder measure dealt

“When youthful faith hath fled, to Sheridan seems inexplicable. Fox's

Of loving take thy leave; debts were paid three times—who paid

Be faithful to the Dead, Sheridan's? The Prince of Wales had

The Dead can not deceive," — his El Dorado in a submissive nation, and a subservient Parliament. It seems if he sought later in life to renew the always to be forgotten that, in the vanished dream, and bring “a glory out burning of the theatre, both the real and of gloom,” it is at least a proof that speculative portion of Sheridan's means his notions of the glory or the gloom of were destroyed. Had that galleon of love lay in the bounded circle of HOME; his wealth not gone down, these Shylock and perhaps no more touching praise scribblers might never have claimed their can be bestowed on his first wife than right to such cutting censures. The loss this, that while she lived his faults were of a resource on which his whole fortune

not known as they were afterwards. was embarked—like the breaking of In politics, his worst foes cannot say banks, and the mercantile dishonesty he was not consistent to his hurt, to which has suddenly impoverished so the loss of personal advantage-anxious, many in our own day—makes it im- not to advance private rivalries but pubpossible to judge what would have been lic reforms; eager, chiefly in all questhe result, if success, instead of ruin, had tions that affected the oppressed, the been Sheridan's lot.

struggling, and the helpless.

His friendship for a bad and ungrate- places nobly and purely amongst our ful prince was, at least, a real enthu- variously allied aristocracy; or whether siasm ; and if Moore's scornful lines- their children are the recreant, the

defaulting, the vicious, and the fugi“The heart whose hopes could make it Trust one so false, so low,

tive, of the races who boast proud Deserves that thou shouldst break it,"

names. We will take it for granted that

Burns's great line—"a man's a man for apply to him, he shared the common a' that,”-stops short of the tabooed promartyrdom of those who pin their faith fession, and that actors are the Pariahs on that tempted and selfish class whom of civilized life. How did it happen, we have Scriptural warranty for dis- then, that a man labouring under such a trusting, and who, in all ages and all disadvantage of birth, and also described countries, have rewarded fawning better as a common-place swindler, drunkard, than fair service.

and driveller, excelled in everything he The account of Sheridan's death-bed attempted, and, from the obscure son of is as nearly fabulous as any narration can the Bath actor and schoolmaster, became be; but it is the current "copied” ac- minister of state and companion of count, and passes muster with the rest. princes? What dazzled fools does it And now, we may fairly ask, if such make all his contemporaries, that they “ biographies” be true, how came this admitted him unquestioned to a suman, so abused, so run down, whose faults periority which is now denied to were so prodigious, whose merits were have existed! What an extraordinary nil, to occupy the position he did when anomaly does that famous funeral in living? There is a great deal of sneer- Westminster Abbey present, amid a ing at his being the “ son of an actor :" crowd of on-lookers so dense that they one of the favourite fables is, that he seemed “like a wall of human faces,” would have been blackballed at his club if it was merely the carrying of a poor -as the

son of an actor”—but for a old tipsy gentleman to his grave by a stratagem of the Prince of Wales. We group of foolish lords ! will suppose this to be a fact instead of

The God-given power is not so disa fiction—we will suppose that a set of posed of. Nor will even the dark frivolous dandies did oppose the entrance thunder-clouds of faulty imprudence blot into their club of that man whose tomb out the light which shines so clearly was to be in Westminster Abbey—we above and beyond. Unless Richard will further suppose that acting is the Brinsley Sheridan had been immeamost degrading pursuit any man surably superior to the majority of the follow ; that it does not, (as the unini- men amongst whom he lived, he could tiated might imagine) require the not have so verleapt the barriers of education of a gentleman, an under- poverty, want of connexion, and class standing mind, a passionate heart, the jealousies, as to attain the celebrity and kindling warmth that fires at noble position he did attain. He was imthoughts, grace of gesture, feeling for measurably superior. And, while nomipoetry, and, lastly, the tongue of the nally acquiescing in the sneers levelled at orator with the scholar's brain, fitly to his origin, I beg to say that those sneers succeed in such an art,—but that, on the merely prove the ignorance of the writers contrary, any fool may be taught to mimic, who so assail him. If he was the son

-as parrots are brought to copy the of an actor, he was the grandson of a ing intonation of “Poor Polly," or Grace bishop; and a bishop so conscientiously and Philip Wharton to imitate authors. rigid in his religious opinions that all We will suppose that to be the child of the worldly prospects of his family were an actor is an ineffaceable stain. We blighted by the self-sacrificing fidelity will not open our Peerage to learn with which those opinions were mainwhether the actresses and daughters of tained. To the older biographic dictionactors there inscribed, have held their aries of England I can refer these gossips




[ocr errors]


of light literature to learn that, with the “ marble sculpture is too pale for us ; exception of the Napiers, scarcely any fa- we know not what it means; it does mily has produced so continuous a series of “ not embody life to our eyes.

Give us remarkable men as that to which Richard “ back our gilt, grinning, waggle-headed Brinsley Sheridan owed his descent. For “ Joss, with flags and beating of drums; five generations--each succeeding each we know not him you would present in the inalienable heritage of intelli- “ to us,—the ideal god of the hushed gence—the Sheridans are noted in the " and shadowy temple of genius. Give biography of their country ; Richard us back (among the rest) our drunken, Brinsley only becoming more known "swindling, drivelling SHERIDAN ; we than others because his career was more “ will not consent to be contradicted, rein the eye of the world. Did these five “ buked, and informed that the man we generations of men-poor, uninfluential, “ have libelled as mean and monstrous in and, till lately, only remotely connected “all his actions, had common faults, like with titled races-owe to their own common men,-but, shooting beyond natural superiority, or not, the public “them in many great and noble qualities, mention thus accorded them?

" and in a surpassing ability of brain, It will, perhaps, seem trivial to mix "left a name to be remembered, and a with remarks on these greater lives any “history which, if fairly written, would, deprecation of attacks on myself; but, in “in spite of his misfortunes, be as just a one of the three abusive works which source of prideto his descendants, as the called forth this letter, the author has memory was to him of the usefullynot even had patience to wait for the “occupied, intelligent, active-minded gedeath of those she would assail, but “nerations of men whom he happily presents us with scenes and interviews " claimed as forefathers. We will not be with the living; which, if all resemble " told this, even by those who belong the one she professes to have shared " to him, and to whom both his faults with me, might take their place among “and his merits must be better known the "imaginary conversations of Walter " than to strangers." Savage Landor.” I have no recollection Such a history, nevertheless, Iwhatever of the author, or of hearing Sheridan's grand-daughter-hope to supthe stories she professes to have told me. ply. Not taken, like these poorly-con

I could of my own knowledge contra- cocted sketches, from sources whose dict and disprove many of the assertions “ veracity” the authors have never she makes respecting other persons, and examined,” but from sifted evidence many of the cruel anecdotes told of and real matter. Not from repeated exthem. And I know not whether to tracts copied out of one bookseller's smile or sigh when, after mentioning preface into another; nor including such sundry reports to my prejudice, and then foolish forgeries as the "epistle from describing how she found me different Miss Linley to a female friend," which from those reports, and how I received is quoted by “Grace and Philip Wharher “with frank and simple courtesy” ton;" but from family papers and royal (a painful lesson not to receive such and other letters in the actual possession persons at all), she nevertheless persists of the living representative of the Sheriin believing the account she had heard dans,—the present member for Dorto be correct, and my dissimilarity from chester, —a portion of which papers were that account to be a mere temporary in the hands of Tom Moore, for extract suspension of evil !

and guidance, while working (so unwilThis is the secret of all such biogra- lingly as it now appears) at the Life he phies. "I MISJUDGED” is not the lan- undertook to execute. guage possible to these greedy censors of I will conclude this protest in better their fellow-creatures. Rather, their lan- words than my own; in words quoted from guage would be,—“Give us back our the remarks of that very old-fashioned

gross-painted wooden images; this biographer, Sir Robert Naunton, at the


66 the

[ocr errors]


close of his “Fragmenta Regalia,” or not looke in their face, nor make our “ Notices of the Lives and Characters " addresses unto them, otherwise than of Queen Elizabeth's Courtiers.” And I with due regard to their honour, and quote him for the benefit of those authors with reverence to their vertues." who impudently affirm of a dead servant So spake Sir Robert Naunton ; writ

.; of the State, that he merited a felon's ing of the reign of Queen Elizabeth: destiny, and of the Publisher who has and I copy his true sentences as a rebukthought fit to give so discreditable a ing lesson in this reign of Queen Vicmemoir to the world.

toria. The good old man has found his Sir Robert Naunton speaks thus :

place among graves


persons at “ I have delivered up my poor essay.

rest; but his noble rules survive : “I cannot say I have finished it, warning those who attempt the biogra“for I know how defective and im- phies of their superiors in intellect and

perfect it is. I took it in fame, not to dash into such histories “sideration how easily I might have the

easy stain of pollution;" to master “ dashed into it much of the staine of

so as not to err animo, or of pollution, and thereby have defaced


,"? — to avoid the “defacement “ that little which is done ; I professe I of men departed, their posterity yet re" have taken care to master my pen, maining,”—and to beware how they " that I might not erre animo; or of set trample on the graves of those whom

purpose discolour each or any of the living they never would have dared to

parts thereof ... that modesty in me address, save with courtesy and due 6 forbids the defacements in men de- obeisance. Wishing his words what “parted; their posterity yet remaining; weight they may obtain among minds so

.. and I had rather incur the cen- inferior to his own,

sure of abruption, than to be conscious 6 and taken in the manner, sinning by

I am, dear Sir, "cruption, or trampling on the graves of

Yours obliged, persons at rest, which, living, we durst


their pen,


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



Who does not love diamonds ? Where is there a mind in which the bare mention of them does not excite a pleasant emotion ? Is there any one of rank too exalted to care for such baubles? The highest potentates of the earth esteem them as their choicest treasures, and kingdoms have been at war for their possession ; while there is none so low or so poor as to be unable to find pleasure in the admiration of

eir splendour. Shall we turn to the domain of intellect, where surely the gewgaws of ornament should be lightly esteemed ? The diamond offers to the philosopher one of the most recondite and subtle problems that have ever engaged the human

mind; while the merest tyro in science may find in it the most instructive topics of study. Shall we look at it in an artistic point of view ? The diamond is one of the most beautiful things in nature. No painter, were he ten times a Turner, could do justice to its effulgence; no poet, were he ten times a Shakspeare, could put its lustre into words. Light was the first and fairest gift of heaven to man ; the diamond is fairer than light itself; it is light, only seven times beautified and refined. For one half the human race diamonds are delirium—the true eyes of the basilisk : their power over the sex we dare not do more than hint at, and the woman who would profess herself in- duce from this part of the world has different to their fascination simply gradually fallen off

, and is now entirely belies her feminine nature. One of superseded by the more recently disthe most extraordinary romances in covered mines of the Brazils. the history of the world was all about The existence of these was revealed a diamond necklace; and who would to the eastern world by an accident in venture to number the true romances the year 1727. A Portuguese of the occurring every year of

our lives name of Bernardino Fonseca Lobo, when in which diamonds take part ? As at the gold mines of Minas Geraes, saw regards the less decorative


the the miners using, as card counters, small diamond forms altogether an exception stones which they said were found in to the usual idea of the propriety of the gold washings, and which he, having ornament. A man who bedizens him- seen similar ones in the East Indies, conself with gold or jewels in general is jectured to be rough diamonds. He rightly pronounced an empty fop; but brought a quantity to Lisbon, where his the wearing of a fine diamond will only suspicion was confirmed, and public atmark its possessor as having a superior tention was at once drawn to the rich taste for what is most admirable and discovery. The European dealers, who beautiful among the productions of had hitherto obtained their stones from nature. The minerals we call gems, India, fearing that they would be deprejewels,“ precious” stones, par excellence, ciated in value, spread the report that are the most noble objects of inorganic the pretended Brazilian diamonds had creation ; and the diamond is the queen 1

been surreptitiously sent from Goa to of them all.

South America ; but the Portuguese Let us then have a chat about Dia- soon demonstrated their authenticity, monds, which will interest-everybody. and turned the tables upon the mer

The localities where diamonds have chants, by actually sending them to hitherto been found, are Central India, Goa, and selling them in India as native Sumatra, Borneo, the Ural mountains, produce. The discovery once made, Australia, some parts of North America, the sources of supply were soon found, and the Brazils; but the first and last and worked extensively, and proved sources only have been of any great very productive. The stones abound extent. Down to a comparatively late or less on the great north and period the continent of India was the south ranges of the country between 13 only district of any importance, whence and 219 south latitude ; but the prindiamonds were obtained. The principal cipal working, so long known as the regions producing them were the high diamond district, and in which the valleys of the Pennar near Cuddapah, town of Diamantina lies, is a high, and of the Kistna near Ellora (and not mountainous, and sterile tract of country, far from the hill fort of Golconda, the situated between the heads of the rivers name usually associated with these Doce, Arassuahy, Jequetinhonha, and ancient and rich mines), as also a rude, the great river of San Francisco. The little known, mountainous district, con- ancient province of Bahia has also more taining the sources of Nerbudda and lately become one of the principal Sone; and a range of hills in Bundel

In 1843 a mulatto miner, who kund, between the latter river and the had


alone into the interior to search Sonar. The produce of these mines was for new washings, was working up to enormous, both in regard to number and his ankles in water, in the bed of a size. One of the Mohammedan Em- stream at Sincora, in this province, perors, who died at the end of the

when, dropping the end of his crowtwelfth century, after a long reign of bar, to rest himself, on the ground plunder, is stated to have amassed in below, he was somewhat surprised at his treasury 400lbs. weight of diamonds hearing it sound hollow. He repeated alone. In later times, however, the pro- the blow a second and a third time,



« ZurückWeiter »