« EdellinenJatka »
is derived from the arch-humming of having stationed his empty carriage, day after day, before certain houses in the fashionable streets and squares. The coachman had orders to stop, wherever Sir Walter Farquhar's carriage was seen stopping; and supposed to be in perpetual consultation; wherever a consulting physician was wanted, he was called in. There was something of the humorist however in this way of humming his way to celebrity.
Nothing more diverting to those behind the scenes than the manæuvres by which certain county members manage to obtain audiences of the home-secretary, or the colonial secretary, or the chairman of the board of trade,-to talk about chalk and cheese;—in order that their country constituents may admire in half-a-dozen morning and evening papers, “ Yesterday, Mr. Thingumajee, M.P., had an audience of Lord Plausible, in Downing-street."
The hum of public dinners, by way of bellows, to blow up a prodigious furnace of popularity, is now but as the conjuring trick of a fair compared with those of the Wizard of the North. Certain dandies, when they are going to dine at their club, write themselves little billetdoux on coloured paper, which they cause to be brought in by the waiters during dinner, to give themselves the air of being immensely in request.
We suspect that many a public dinner and testimonial is similarly concocted! We have certainly heard of an East Indian general, who subscribed a hundred pounds towards a sword for himself,-styling himself of course, in the subscription-list—" a friend to merit,” -as a testimonial of gratitude from his regiment " for the unequalled state of discipline into which it had been brought by his zeal!"
And why not? Many authors review their own books;— painters criticise their own pictures;-many ladies write verses on their own portraits, in the “Book of Beauty.” But on that pointmum! At present, we have only endeavoured to tickle off a few specimens of “ the Hum of Men!”
“STORY OF A FEATHER,” &c.-WRITINGS OF
DOUGLAS JERROLD. This thoroughly English writer is still young enough to give promise of his waging a “thirty years' war” with Vice and Folly, yet a long period has elapsed since he first began to “cut his bright way" through the accumulating dulness of the stage, and to shower his sharp youthful opinions like needle-points about the tingling ears of the play-goer. He must have been but a mere boy when he commenced the war of jest, whim, and sarcasm, in the theatre, and as a dramatist (for we believe he never “adapted” a theatrical piece in his life) obtained frequent and wide popularity.
But in the earliest of his crude and careless stage-essays, there were strong home-points that told with the audience; the joke and the pathos came direct from the spring that have yielded both so freely and effectually since; and the native spirit of an original writer was manifestly struggling to give expression to its own crowding thoughts and sensations in its own eager and inconsiderate way. There were nine parts wit, to one of wisdom-a large mixture of the obscure and erratic marring the most felicitous image ; but there was an intellectual keenness in measuring all it looked upon in the world, and a moral ardour so brightening and warming the whole scene, that (repulsive as the agency might be) the generous and healthful purpose could hardly be hidden-which had only to ally themselves with just so much care as was soon shewn in the construction of plots and the consideration of theatrical necessities, to ensure a more equal, agreeable, and artist-like result.
This came, in such dramas as the “ Housekeeper,” the “Rent-day,” and, later, in the “Prisoner of War;” though to our own taste more pleasantly by far in the truths sweet though stern, the play of fancy with deep meaning in its laughter, and the honest unaffected moralities working in the interest of pieces like the “ Schoolfellows,” and “Doves in a Cage.” These are little humble dramas illustrative of a true humanity, and springing from it.
The audience, at a play of Mr. Jerrold's, is often worth watching. As the dialogue flings its shells and crackers about the house, you detect the "guilty creatures” of the world of pomps and vanities and lusts of the flesh. The explosion of the sharp scorching joke is heard in loud laughter ; but look—and you will see people wince here and there; uneasiness shadowing their mirth. While it affects a neighbour, the satire has a honeyed sweetness for them ; but self-application, which they cannot suddenly avoid, presently turns it to wormwood.
The spirit of satire which animates so much of the dialogue of this dramatist has been in many critical quarters, partly for the reason alluded to, confounded with a misanthropic spirit. No mistake can be greater. To write bitter truth (and her deepest waters, though sweetest in their influences, are sometimes to the taste, yea, very bitter) is not necessarily to use a quill dipped in gall; to thrust a pen's point touched with healing balm into the unsound places of a man's heart, is not to hate him, to say nothing of all his race! To wound the offender with words only, to apply but the lash of laughter to him, is not to scarify the innocent, and play the misanthropist at the cost of weeping humanity.
Few monitors could more consistently or constantly “ do their spiriting” in gentleness and benevolence of heart. There is ever a large, an unmisgiving and acute sympathy for erring suffering humanity, breathing in his writings. It glows in the rosy jovial cheeks of his revelry, and gushes from the laughing eyes of wit like tears. His scowl, at the worst, is next door to a smile, his caustic and apparently relentless humour is neighboured by a charity; and the sharp wind that may seem to bite wherever it blows can breathe lightly, and play sportively with flowers in a mild May mood of its own.
Thus much in vindication of the full intent and general spirit of Mr. Jerrold's writings. But if we were to go further, and contend that impatience of wrong and hatred of the wrong-doer, compassion for the lot of the wretched, and intolerance of the excuses set up for it by sordid, worldly and ignorant reasoners, have not on a hundred occasions hurried him into rank injustice to men and classes of men; that his scorn of chicanery and imposture has not sometimes involved also a scorn of discrimination and wise judgment, a feeling venting itself in a spirit of personality, and vehemently denouncing one prejudice only to fall into another-many a drama, and many a storied sketch and picture of his, would rise up to memory and contradict us.
When writing of the relative positions of the over-rich and the very poor, we sometimes see that he so commiserates the privations and sufferings of poverty, as to create a feeling that he is for carrying on a crusade against riches. “ The rich," generally, are too roundly rated, as though they were a class of offenders.
In fact, this tendency to bitterness, and inconsiderate because unmeasured censure of “the world,” was for a time acquiring a dangerous strength in this writer, who seeming to forget for a season the simple truth registered by L. E. L., that
“Only by looking up can we see Heaven," appeared to find a better use for his far-seeing eyes by gazing downwards, and tracing the foot-prints of his fellow-men through the miriest paths of their varied travels. This habit prevails most in his “Men of Character," and least in his latest performances;-wherein we are at a loss to perceive any dash of acerbity-any gloominess or severity of view—any harsh repulsive doctrines, undiscoverable in those great masters of the heart's philosophy, whom it is plain he passionately admires. It is but in a small portion of his pages that his hatred of vice seems stronger than his love of virtue, and that his experience of the sunny growth of the one withers and nips his blossoming faith in the other, instead of warming it into renewed life and endowing it with quickened action.
But a habit detrimental to the best of his pieces, dramatic or otherwise, may be more fairly remarked upon, as a consequence, either of his resolution to let fly over the house-top every arrow that came to hand, though it should graze the harmless by-stander while it pierced the evil-doer, or (as it may be) of his utter inability to keep his strong-bow unbent for an instant. One of the best uses of a repute for brilliancy is when it operates in averting a morbid fear of being dull; but this “sweet use” Mr. Jerrold was long in discovering. He seemed to think that, not being the wicked child, he must necessarily be the good one in the tale--that he must always utter diamonds when he spoke, the rather that people said they were toads. In fact, he was nothing if not witty and sententious. The habit of sarcasm and repartee grew as he wrote. The characters he invented, and gave names to, lost their identity, and emulated each other in phraseological accomplishment-in the neatness of their points and the adroitness of their exercises. His lamplighters would deign to discourse of nothing lower than the stars, and his fishermen would pick up shells by the great ocean of truth, like a Newton. His very cross-sweeper would have something fine and cutting to say of King, Lords, or Commons. The dullest people would become epigrammatic in tone, in purpose sarcastic or sentimental. All his characters were clever; but that was little—all were in turn wits and philosophers, however far from their nature joke or sentiment might be; and when some necessary action of the play,” some portion of the narrative most essential to be understood, came to be entertained, plain explanatory words seemed to the writer tame, flat, and unprofitable. They were spared accordingly; the very explanation was entrusted to an aphorism, or a double entendre; and the audience, or the reader, as it might happen, retired to bed in the dark, complaining, not unreasonably, of the obscurity of the tale. This, we venture to suspect, is the simple cause why more than one otherwise excellent production of this writer has either totally or partially failed on the stage.
The objection applies most strongly to his dramas; but then his habits as a dramatic writer influence him in all he does. Mr. Jerrold never writes long without getting into the dramatic vein, and making his characters act. His wanderings, if frequent, are brief ;-all his digressions, however philosophical, are pointed and terse; but then his narrative is frequently so, too, where we require it to be rich and flowing. His page is too much crowded, not with abstract speculation that has little thread, or none, to connect it with the story, but with ideas turning up one after another, like “mountain daisies” by the plough, till illustration is linked with illustration. He is one of the few authors, dead or living, who can be charged with employing too many thoughts and too few words to clothe them. His style thus wants depth and fulness; it is too much alike on all subjects; it has often a bare, quaint, angular look, almost crabbed, as if it would scorn to charm us if it could—and rarely indeed carries us by a grand sweep upward, there pausing, “ like an eagle dallying with the wind."
One of the works by which Douglas Jerrold will be most favourably known is the last he has published, the “ Story of a Feather," which had been made familiar, page by page, to thousands of readers in the columns of “ Punch.” It is a little tale full of humour and tenderness, fantastic and yet simple; illustrative of the humblest dullest daily life, and yet ascending in its fancy and its sentiment, to that point of earth which is “ nearest the stars." The story of the ostrich-feather, plucked from the parent bird, transferred from the Cape to the civilized city, from the pale, thin hands of Patty Butler, the featherdresser, to the princely brow radiant with court glory, its descent into common life by natural stages, its pleasant theatrical flutter in the sight of Clive and Garrick,—and thence to the end of its risings and fallings,-carries the reader, easily borne with it, through a chequered and untiring course of humanity. The incidents, closely enough connected by the transition and the mingling of characters in the great play of life, interest by their ordinary truth or the farcical effects of which they are made susceptible; and the characters, whether in their pure dignity, or their coarse but unexaggerated depravity, are not far removed from our actual experiences of Good and Evil Spirits in society.
We prefer, however, the pathos to the humour of this story; the author's sensibility moves us more than his wit. Patty, the drooping, the elevated ; courageous in weakness, inflexible amidst bewilderment, radiant and companioned in forlorn solitude, makes bright the very city which is to her as her life's grave, and draws us in more loving folds to that human nature which yet seems to fling her like a weed from its bosom.
The picture of the poor feather-dresser, with the happy contrasts surrounding it, is one of melancholy and enduring beauty; and the stage-scenes are as full of freshness, accuracy, and life, as if they had been sketched from the originals in the green-room of a past age.
This picture of realities, in a fanciful form, evinces, in many ways, a nicer taste than of old, and a more judiciously directed search into humanity for subjects fitted to enliven and elevate. The author, we believe, does not confine his illustrations to such themes, but is a commentator upon a free scale on much that is passing around us. his topics may not be always at his own command. But gratitude for a pleasure enjoyed prompts the wish, that, whether in a serious or a laughing mood, he may never want a Feather, when he would take up the pen.
DEATH OF COLONEL STANLEY.—A MAN'S ENEMY MAY LAMENT HIS FALL MORE
THAN A FRIEND,-CHESTERFIELDIAN MORALS. THE MORAVIAN.HUGH IN CUSTODY.
A sad and turbulent scene did the moon that night look down on: Manesty, the murderer, flying for his life from the pursuit of Oglethorpe, Hibblethwaite, and others; and Stanley stretched on the earth with features deformed by agony, while every gasp forced a red stream from his wound. Young Manesty and the earl seemed paralysed at the death-struggle before their eyes; but Brooksbank viewed the scene with perfect sang-froid: he had come to the ground to see the shedding of blood, and to him it was indifferent who was the sufferer. Strange to say, the knowledge that his friend had fallen, not in combat, but by the hand of an assassin, failed to arouse his sympathies; to be a man of feeling was beneath the stern dignity of a soldier. Differently, indeed, was Hugh affected by this event.
His implacable enemy was destroyed; but in what manner! Could he have reinstated himself in the position he held when he arose in the morning
- could he again have enjoyed the honourable estimation of his brother merchants—a flourishing property, and a sweet hope of an alliance with Mary Stanley, he would have forfeited all to restore his persecutor to life. The groans, the convulsed visage, and the gushing blood of that wretched man, tortured him beyond endurance. He had borne his own afflictions proudly; but this last and horrible addition to his misery made the burden too heavy, and his heart sank under it.
“ Captain Brooksbank!” ejaculated he, “your friend will die, unless instant aid is procured. O God, that it should come to this! Drive, I beseech you, to Liverpool, for a surgeon.
I will not for one instant leave Colonel Stanley."
“To take any trouble about it would be useless,” returned Brooksbank. Stanley can't live ten minutes; before the expiration of which time, we shall all be in custody if we stay here. A man's first duty is to take care of himself. I'm off. You and his lordship may do as you like.”
Having said this, he hastened to the post-chaise, which had brought him and Stanley to Wavertree, and drove away at a rapid pace.
This selfish cold-heartedness opened a new source of bewilderment to Hugh, whose knowledge of the world was too confined to permit even a suspicion of the monstrous cruelty of self-interest.
Stanley could do nothing more for Brooksbank-why should Brooksbank care for Stanley ? Pity was not given us to be cast away for nothing. Why should we sow where we cannot hope to reap? Commiseration is a ledger affair. How much profit may be cleared by investing it?" That is the question.”
“ Kindness is subtle, covetous,