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town during the season ; and as the wreck of my worldly goods enabled me to furnish it in a style superior to the generality of such places, a very few days after the exhibition of the printed card, (which proclaims, as plainly as words can speak, that either poverty, or lucre, induces you to desecrate the sanctity of your home,) I stood blushing to the very weepers of my mourning habit at having to arrange terms &c. with my first lodger. But these feelings, at first painful, even to awkwardness, by degrees wore off, and I soon became accustomed to the routine expected of me-the trades-craft, if I may so express it, of the business. I made certain regulations, from which I rarely deviated, and methodized the necessary details so as to maintain order amongst the inmates, and something of the dignity of a private home to myself. And though a young, and not unhandsome woman, the presence of my children, and the sacred garb of my widowhood, preserved for me a tone of deferential respect, and gratuitous delicacy, that, from the same order of men, I had hardly looked for as a wife.
In this position I continued several years, winning the esteem (I am proud to say) of many who came to my house as lodgers, but who left it my friends; and from the incidents thus deposited with me, without the aid of duplicate keys, or the intervention of eaves-dropping, I am enabled to offer the following illustrations of traits and trials of lodging-house keeping; and should the accompanying specimen-a mere taste of our quality”—be favourably received, I have only to add, that," for a consideration,” the public may have the key of my Bramah-locked portfolio, and pick and choose through a monthly series of my experiences.
To those who may be kind enough to feel an interest in the afterfate of the widow and her children, (for it is as well to be done with the old subject before we begin with the new,) I have only to add, that an East Indian invalid, while receiving as a stranger those services that his state of health required—and which it is woman's province to supply-discovered, in his accidental nurse, the widow of his brother; and with a generosity princely as his fortune, adopted us as the inmates of his home and heart. It is unnecessary to say, that the house in Cecil-street was given up, but not so the recollections connected with it.
THE LATE REPRIEVE. At rather an unusually late hour one evening, while sitting with my family, I was disturbed by the rattling of a vehicle at the door, fol. lowed by the impatient rap of the driver, and immediately afterwards a servant entered, and announced a lady “who would not be denied.” Now, one of my rules was to receive no applications for my apartments after a certain hour, in order that the time devoted to my children might be entirely their own; and as, in general, the same parties returned to me during their annual séjour in the metropolis, it was accident alone that brought unexpected inmates to my house, except from the dog-days to December, (and this I well remember was in the early spring of '96.) A lady, however, alone, and at that late hour, I had nothing for it but to receive her-for there is something unpardonable in the uncharitableness of one woman to another: and I can fancy nothing more cruel to the individual, or humiliating to the sex, than the mistrust that denies a sister-form the shelter of a roof merely because accident or misfortune has obliged her to apply for it under circumstances rather unconventional. Putting down my youngest girl from my lap, and disengaging my waist and shoulder from the circling arms of the other two, I composed my dress and countenance to their accustomed quietude, and passed on to the apartment into which the servant had shewn her. A travelling trunk was already in the hall, and as I opened the opposite door, the vehicle drove off.
Now there is in the human heart such a love of vainglory, that though it may have made itself up to the commission of a kind action, it likes the choice of doing it to rest with itself, and at this aspect of things, I confess I felt a great inclination to revoke my decision in the lady's favour, and to show myself supreme in my own house. But it was only a momentary thought; the next I was smiling at my own impotence, for it was such a night of rain and storm, that I could not have found it in my heart to have put a worm out of doors that had managed to wriggle its poor, naked, unsheltered head within the sill. So I entered the apartment, making up my mind to concede gracefully what I could not comfortably withhold. The stranger who stood with her back towards me was about my own height (which is of that stature that is called commanding), but a certain exility in her form gave you an idea of extreme delicacy and youth; she was dressed with a rich plainness, that bespoke her of a class of life far removed from its ordinary exigencies, but her countenance, when she turned on my approach, and put back the costly veil that shaded it, bore melancholy evidence that circumstances, however advantageous, cannot raise us above the level of humanity, and that whatever the rank, the barbed shafts of misfortune can find us out. So moving an expression of dejected anguish, upon features in their noon of youth (and otherwise beautiful), it has never been again my fate to see-fear, perturbation, agony, were stamped in rigid characters upon lip, and brow, and cheek, and I felt awed by the presence of grief that completely baffled my knowledge of the heart's dark secrets to imagine. I was pained out of my natural collectedness, and could only look the sympathy with which she inspired me.
“I have no apology to offer,” she said, in a low, sweet voice, but with the languor of fatigue and depression—"no apology to offer you, Mrs. Maxwell, for the time, the way, in which I come to you. When I tell you I am the daughter of Colonel Singleton, you will not be surprised that I should so unceremoniously make your house my home. I have often heard of you, and I feel I have only to tell you
that coming is in consequence of a great and sudden affliction, to ensure your thinking lightly of any inconvenience I may possibly occasion you."
I assured her, “that the name of her father (an old friend and benefactor in the early days of my own tribulation) gave her a weighty claim to my attentions; but that wanting this, the knowledge of her being in affliction was an all-sufficient motive for my exerting myself for her temporary comfort.” She thanked me with the sweet smile of habitual courtesy, though her lips trembled, and her large eyes dilated with the emotion she struggled to subdue.
“Her business in town,” she said and a sort of spasm shook her as she spokem"would be very briefly ended; it might detain her only
till the following noon, at all events, not longer than the evening; but she would consider the apartments hers, for any period that would compensate for the probable loss of a more certain tenant."
I begged of her not to annoy herself on that score, (for as my readers know, there is a rule in these cases, and a week's payment is considered by conscientious people, an equivalent for the occupation of their apartments for a day or so;) I pressed her, however, with real anxiety, to let me send her such refreshments as I felt she stood in need of; for it was very evident she was travel-tired, and weak, and I afterwards learned (for the hall, and staircase of a lodging-house, like the ear of Dionysius, conveys even whispers to one common tympanum, and that the principal's) that she had travelled, poor lady, night and day, from Edinburgh, without resting! But she felt no want of food; “ rest,” she said, “ was all that she required." Yet when I pressed her, and talked of its giving her strength for whatever she might have to undertake on the morrow, she permitted, with the graceful docility of a child, my arrangements for her temporal necessities, and forced herself to taste the food that grief had left her no appetite for.
How I wished for the privilege of folding her swelling heart to my own, and bidding her pour out, as on a sister's, the full tide of her hidden sorrow; but this our relative positions forbade, and I could only by a silent language inform her of my commiseration. The house I tenanted, originally the habitation of a nobleman, contained on each floor a suite of three rooms, opening one into another, and forming (for those studious of such arrangement) dressing-room, chamber, and drawing-room; but it so happened, that at this time I myself occupied the bed-room on the only floor disengaged, so that nothing remained for me but to give up my apartment to the lady, and pro tempore become locum tenens of the adjoining little ante-room.
This arrangement was easily managed, and the lady retired to her room within my own, apparently anxious for repose. By and by, when the many little matters that a mother sits up to regulate, were all disposed of, and my
whole household in bed, I too stole lightly up to the apartment my children occupied, and with the image of that grief-worn lady in my thoughts, I bent over the brows of my sleeping girls, and while my lips lingered on each slumbering cheek, my heart lifted itself up in those orisons that only a mother's heart can utter; then I crept softly to my own room, and very noiselessly (for fear of disturbing my poor guest) laid myself down to sleep.
It was about the season of the spring equinox, and as I before said, a violent night; every now and then, as if driven from the turbid river, the wind came rushing up the street, staggering against the houses like a drunken giant, and shaking and rattling the sashes as if trying for admission; one moment howling like a living thing in its extremity, under the eaves and down the trembling chimneys, and the next sinking into half-extinguished sobs, like a child dreaming of
It was impossible to sleep-though I heaped the pillows on both sides of my head, and drew the coverlet quite over it-I could not close out the din of the midnight tempest, nor shut from my imagination the thoughts of houseless creatures, shipwreck, and devastation, that it conjured up. All at once, in one of the pauses of the storm, I became conscious of the sounds of living, actual anguishsobs more bitter and thrilling than those of the mocking winds, and groans that I could only imagine were extorted by some severe physical suffering. It struck me that fatigue, added to her state of mind, had induced some sudden illness in my fellow-sleeper; and I rose, threw on my dressing-gown, and seeing, by the glimmering through the doorway, that the light was not extinguished in her room, I was about to enter, when I perceived the unhappy lady kneeling at the bed's feet, not undressed, but with her hair dishevelled, her hands clasped, and her lips, finding no language forcible enough to express the deep prayer of her spirit, moving with wordless sounds of indescribable anguish. I was awed-astonished, and shrunk back from beholding a conflict that was for the eye of God alone! Oh, the heart-quake of mortal agony, that shook the breast of that miserable woman!—the struggle between the strong heart of human love, and its omnipotent but alljust Maker! And these are the scenes that pass between Earth and Night, and the Power that made them!
JESSE'S LIFE OF GEORGE BRUMMELL THE BEAU.
The biographer of Brummell has nothing more honourable to record of him than the fact which is mentioned in the preface, and is pleasant to read--that, although he had certainly written some detached papers in the shape of reminiscences, and had a book, secured by a lock, containing notes of his own life and recollections of the gay world in which he had once fourished, he was never tempted, in any excess of pecuniary trouble, to publish them for his benefit. When in jail, at Caen, for debt, he had letters and papers the sale of which would have released him from all difficulties, and a large sum is said to have been then offered for his memoirs; but the resolution not to compromise others overcame the most powerful temptations, and George Brummell has, in this respect, acted after a fashion which should never want followers.
The circumstances we have just mentioned might, we venture to think, have protected his memory from some of the painful, humiliating, and in every respect sickening disclosures of which the latter pages of these memoirs consist. It would have been enough to know that the madhouse was the final scene, and that the poor gentlemen's bodily infirmities had reduced him to a condition too offensive to contemplate. The picture of misery and filth is the more intolerable, from its contrast with the tine soaps, powders, perfumes, and distillations innumerable, for which the luxuriant beau had such a passion all his days--a passion which pursued him to the very close, rendering odours and concoctions of the daintiest character as essential to him as food, and making the natural man a wretched martyr to the wants of the fop.
The impression which these revelations of the character, conduct, and condition of this once famous personage leave upon the mind is a melancholy one. There is a touch of melancholy even in the ludicrous description on the titlepage_-"George Brummell, Esq., commonly called the Beau.” We begin with laughing at him; as we proceed, estimating his boundless influence his generation, attained generally by no very corrupt or injurious means, we feel a respect generated by his unparalleled impudence and inconceivable success; and we end, not without much contempt, yet with infinite pity for him, and feelings of strong resentment at the cold, shabby, worthless conduct to which-next to his own habits of extravagance, that were uncontrollable and more than second nature to him-he died a victim.
The figure here cut by several of his fine friends, but especially by the highest of them all, is little calculated to make any man, how considerate
soever in judging aristocratic errors and elegantly arrayed vices, think with common respect, or even toleration, of the leading features of the “ world of fashion" in the days when Brummell was one of the great Powers of Europe -when George the Beau made George the Prince look for a time exceedingly little; nay, when the son of a private gentleman was more than equal, in his influence upon life, taste, and manners, in polished England, to any of our “glorious institutions."
There are redeeming traits even here; and the unwearied kindness and fidelity which the ruined, exiled, pining Beau experienced, as long as life held out, from his benefactors, in other quarters, enables us to survey the picture more patiently. The gentle humanity and constancy of the Duchess of York, an example not without its followers, kindles a feeling that prompts forgetfulness of the offences of half her tribe.
The particulars of the Beau's career have a certain interest apart from himself; but the desire to find out what the Hero of Starch was really made of, when not steeped in it, is the prevailing feeling. The facts given, and the lights flung upon him are sufficiently clear. Brummel was a man of considerable talent, of clear but not enlarged ideas, of the nicest taste, and of consummate tact; but these qualities, increased a hundred-fold, would not have gained him his extraordinary distinction, even if the twenty-five thousand pounds, —which was all he ever had to set up and establish before the admiring gaze of the first aristocracy on earth his throne of fashion-had been as many millions. The qualities which made him what he was, and enabled him to give complete and even active effect to those above enumerated, were, impudence without limit, and selfishness without scruple. That the entirely selfish principle lay near the root of his success, there is little question ; indeed, the capacity to wound most acutely the feelings of others, merely to shew off and to gratify self-love, he must have possessed in no enviable degree; or how, when dining with so-called friends, and dishes, with intense anxiety to please, were placed before him for approval, could he have had the heart to send away dish after dish with disdain or audible censure, to the bitter anguish and humiliation of the fair lady next to whom he sat, who literally saw her costly and laboured dinner dismissed from sight, and her guests wondering what on earth they were to be allowed to think fit for hungry people to eat.
As for the Beau's assurance, to be sure we see it asserting itself with tolerable emphasis in this accredited anecdote; but it is quite conceivable that it rose, with success and experience, to such a height az to utter in earnest mood some of the self-glorifying sayings that would otherwise pass for very pleasant jests. In one of the best stories related of the Beau, we can quite imagine him to be speaking with a certain gravity, set off with a half-mocking smile. A friend encountered him at Calais, where he had then resided fourteen years ; he had seen no Pall-Mall
, no Bond-street, in all that time, and might have been pardoned had he fancied himself half-faded-dim to London eyes, and not held day and night in memory throughout the fashionable regions of his native land. But, no; Brummel was perfectly convinced that fourteen years of absence had rather increased his original lustre and greatness than otherwise.
“ My dear Brummel,” said his friend, “ I'm rejoiced to see you—a pleasure I did not expect.
There was a report in London that you were dead.” What would soine broken beaux have blushingly stammered out in reply? Conscious of their fourteen years' transportation from the scene of their glory, they would almost have pleaded guilty, and confessed themselves dead, as undoubtedly they had been buried. But Brummel was of another order of beau, and answered, with inimitable grandeur and an ease that is quite exquisite “ Mere stock-jobbing, sir-mere stock-jobbing.”
He said many good things, though he was by no means a first-rate wit. Much of the effect, in every instance, would of course depend upon manner; that missing, the brilliancy of the jest vanishes. For exactly the same reason, George Brummel the Beau is a much smaller person upon paper than he proved to be in Pall-Mall.