« PoprzedniaDalej »
his establishments in town and country; one with his yacht-another with his stud of racers!—To doubt their stability! Pooh! Besides, to withdraw so large a sum at a moment's notice would betray a want of confidence in those most respectable men, and wound their feelings. And yet, there was no smoke without fire. Could he but find a decent pretext for removing his account! And, fortunately, a decent pretext was afforded him. Notice was sent him that all the preliminary forms towards the settlement of his annuity being arranged, nothing now remained but to pay the twenty thousand pounds, which, if convenient to Mr. Tardy, he might do at two o'clock on the morrow. Thus were Mr. Tardy's delicate scruples regarding the tender feelings of his bankers appeased; and, with respect to the safety of his property, his mind set perfectly at rest.
At one o'clock on the morrow, Mr. Tardy, resolving to be punctual to this most important appointment, walked stoutly towards the city, neither turning to the right hand nor to the left--except to see some wherries start on a rowing-match from Blackfriars Bridge: nor stopping by the way-except occasionally to look at some of the very best caricatures ever exhibited. Thus it was three-quarters past two when he reached the place of his destination--a delay, however, which was of no importance, he being quite in time to sign the necessary papers and deeds. “I am rather late, I know,” exclaimed Tardy, laughingly; “ but better late than never.”
As he was drawing his cheque-book from his pocket, a gentleman entered the office. “ Here's a pretty piece of work!” said he.“ Spec, Smash, and Co. stopt payment, and there won't be half-a-crown in the pound.” “Eh !-how!-what!-when ?” said, or, rather, gurgled Mr. Tardy.
They have been paying till within this quarter of an hour," was the reply; but if you have any curiosity about it, Sir, you may now see their beautiful mahogany shutters up."
The wealthy,respectable, and long-established Messrs. Spec, Smash, and Co. assuring their creditors that there would turn out to be forty shillings in the pound,--in time,--Mr. Tardy, for his own part, was satisfied. After the lapse of nineteen months, a first and final dividend of eightpence three-farthings in the pound was declared, which Mr. Tardy would have received-had he not arrived a quarter of an hour too late to prove his debt.
Mr. Tardy entered his sixtieth year, yet had experience not rendered him wiser. The fatal influence of the family mottoes attended him to the very close of his existence. For several years had he kept up an insurance on his life for three thousand pounds, in favour of a young lady who was either his niece, or his cousin, or the orphan daughter of a naval officer, ---for he was not consistent in his explanations upon this point. In due course he received the usual notice that the premium for the insurance was becoming due; but, fifteen days beyond the period specified being allowed for the payment, Mr. Tardy had plenty of time before him, and he saw no earthly reason why he should hurry himself in the business. The last of those days of grace arrived; and so, nearly, had the last hour. He was rather late in his payment, he admitted; but, “ better late than never.' So, he mounted his horse, and set off at a brisk trot towards the insurance-office. He had not proceeded far when his horse stumbled and threw him. He was carried home senseless from a severe contusion on the head. Preparations were made for bleeding him. He recovered himself sufficiently to be aware of what was going on.
“Slow and sure,” he faintly articulated ; " as I never have been bled, I have a great objection to undergoing that operation now.”
In vain did the surgeon assure him that his life depended upon it: remonstrance and entreaty were alike unavailing. After the lapse of a quarter of an hour, the surgeon, kindly taking his hand, once more urged him to submit to his advice; adding, at the same time, “Indeed, indeed, Sir, unless you instantly do so it will be too late.”
“ Do as you please, then," replied he, in a voice scarcely audible ; " better late than never.”
Even whilst the surgeon was pointing the lancet to his arm, poor Tardy breathed his last. “ Had he consented to this a quarter of an hour ago, exclaimed the operator, “ I would have answered for his recovery." This melancholy event occurred at precisely fifteen minutes past four o'clock, as it was sworn to, by the parties present, before a magistrate. It is important that we should be thus particular concerning the time of his death; for, at four o'clock precisely, the policy for the benefit of the mysterious young lady we have alluded to, and which till that hour had remained in force, became void and valueless ! it expired—just one quarter of an hour before Mr. Tardy!
Of the life of Loiter Lag Tardy procrastination had been the bane. And as he had made his entrance into the world, even so did he quit it -a quarter of an hour too late!
ENGLAND AND THE ENGLISH. It was high time, we think, for a work like the present to make its appearance; at least, that an Englishman, thoroughly acquainted with the character and condition of his countrymen, should undertake to exhibit them to the world at large; and, in the spirit of enlightened patriotism, to supply them with the means of forming a just estimate of themselves with a view to the further improvement of their personal and domestic manners, as well as of their social and political institutions.
To say nothing of the trash and twaddle which scribblers of inferior note are in the habit of pouring forth on the Continent, the palpable deficiencies, the ludicrous misstatements, and the strangely erroneous opinions to which even foreigners of rank and consideration have given currency in that portion of their literature relating to“England and the English," have long demanded correction and rebuke. Yet, from these, probably, as no evil was intended, nothing practically injurious has arisen. A country that possesses the elements of greatness, and that has raised itself by inherent energy to the very highest eminence in the civilized world, has little to apprehend from the aspersions of enemies, or the misrepresentations of strangers who cannot “examine its condition and only glance at its surface." If danger threaten such a people, it comes not from without. Great Britain cannot be destroyed unless she consent to bring down ruin upon herself. But it is more than possible that the causes which have contributed to her prosperity, under disastrous influences, may work those changes in her habits and
* England and the English. By Edward Lytton Bulwer, Esq. M.P, Author of “Pelham," " Devereux," and "Eugene Aram.",
manners which, unless observed, directed, and controlled, may lead to her decline.
There are epochs in the history of nations which mark their transition from one state to another, favourable, or otherwise, to their future wellbeing. Every such period may be considered as a crisis. If overlooked by those who have the power of guiding and influencing the popular mind, it may produce the most fatal results; but if wisely improved --if what is wanting in knowledge and experience be furnished, --if correctives be applied to what is redundant and excessive,-then, through whatever variety of untried being a nation may be doomed to pass, the issue will certainly be an augmentation of its happiness and prosperity.
As a nation, we have recently undergone great political changes, and we are on the eve of others equally momentous. Mr. Bulwer remarks, " those changes which have wrought such convulsions in states have begun by revolutions in the character of nations; every change in a constitution is oceasioned by some change in the people. The English of the present day are not the English of twenty years ago. Our opinion, however, is, that the English are rather changing than changed ; and whether the process which shall impress upon them a fixed character will be for evil or for good, is yet to be seen. Much will depend upon the new and the modifications of the old institutions which political science, in concurrence with public opinion, shall originate, and the intelligence of the people being always kept in advance of their institutions. It is only as a nation approximates to the perfection of social virtue that it is qualified to sustain the dignity and enjoy the benefits of a representative government in its simplest form. An unmixed democracy is suited rather to angels than to men; yet, perfect as they are, even angels are governed according to another fashion, they have their powers, their princedoms, and their thrones.
When, therefore, we observe the people of England, for the most part, loud in their demands for something like Utopian perfection in the civil economy under which they and their fathers have lived for ages comparatively free and happy, we are anxious to perceive an improvement in their personal character and social state in some degree proportioned to their zeal for political renovation. In the changes already effected by the popular will, we are satisfied that the abuses which have been removed imperiously called for redress, and that we have not yet advanced beyond the intelligence of the people.
But we feel the great importance of the present crisis, and we rejoice to find such writers as Mr. Bulwer in the field. His work is as patriotic as it is seasonable; its general tone and spirit, its evident tendency to dignify the great with the true honours of nobility, and to raise the inferior classes to a consciousness of their real value in the body politic, cannot fail to recommend it to the heart of the patriot and the philanthropist. While we cheerfully make this admission in its favour, we candidly acknowledge that there are many portions of it at which we demur, some from which we altogether dissent, and others which, on further inquiry and a deeper acquaintance with his subject, we are persuaded Mr. Bulwer will himself see reason to amend.
In style, Mr. Bulwer shows himself a very Proteus. In the first book, he is all point and antithesis, as if he had caught the vivacity of the illustrious foreigner to whom it is addressed ;*—in the second, he is more diffuse;-in the third, he becomes increasingly earnest and argumentative;- in the fourth, he is again discursive and occasionally eloquent;the fifth is somewhat in the manner of a political declaimer, and has more coaxing and wheedling than exactly suits our taste; yet, in many respects, it is, we doubt not, adapted to the class for whose instruction and benefit it is chiefly intended.
* Prince Talleyrand.
It is not consistent with the limits prescribed by the arrangement of our work for us to offer anything like an analysis of these volumes. As we have intimated, they are divided into five books, which embrace every stirring question, every subject of political and social interest. Its general contents exhibit a view of the English character, society, and manners,ma survey of the state of education, aristoeratic and popular, and of the general influences of morality and religion in England,-a view of the intellectual spirit of the time, and of the political state. With such a multitude of topics, and such a quantity of desultory matter, it is not surprising that the ensemble of Mr. Bulwer's work should appear somewhat disjointed and incomplete. It would be difficult to bring all the parts into coherence and harmony, and to make all the conclusions fairly deducible from the premises assumed. Sometimes we are inclined to think him too practical, according to his own definition of a practical man; at others, he seems to be hurried away by speculations too extravagant even for a theorist. He is radical and aristocratic by turns,—though he traces to the aristocracy the greatest of our national evils. With the same breath he lauds the church and the clergy, Robert Owen and Jeremy Bentham. He speaks of the materialism of Locke (a point not even yet determined), and complains of its injurious tendency, while to the philosophy of Mill, derived from Hartley, and founded on materialism, he refers in terms of unqualified approbation. But this by the way. We shall no longer detain our readers from the work itself, but introduce them to a few specimens of the aphorisms and the striking observations, which as brilliant points are scattered over its pages, and which force us to think in spite of ourselves.
“ The man who practised it (priestcraft) in the name of the Virgin, thought it a monstrous piece of impudence to practise it in the name of Fo! In the same spirit of travel you read of an Englishwoman complaining of rudeness in America, and a Ġerman prince affecting a republican horror at an aristocracy in England."
“ Travellers do not sufficiently analyse their surprise at the novelties they see; and they often proclaim that to be a difference in the several characters of nations which is but a difference in their manners."
“ The passions are universally the same; the expression of them as universally varying."
“ The Englishman then is vain of his country. Wherefore? Because of the public buildings ? He never enters them. The laws? He abuses them eternally. The public men? They are quacks. The writers ? He knows nothing about them. He is vain of his country for an excellent reason—IT PRODUCED HIM."
“The laws of a nation are often the terrible punishment of their foibles." “ The agitation of thought is the beginning of truth."
“ The common sense of the ancient stoics was the sense of the common interest; the common sense of the modern schools is the sense of one's own.'
“ Sensible men never do a bold thing without being prepared for its consequences.'
* Sensible men make a virtue of necessity."
“ It is an old maxim enough among us; that we possess the sturdy sense of independence ; yet the sense of independence is often the want of sympathy with others."
“A people who respect what they consider good, sooner or later discover in what good really consists."
“ Indifference to moral character is a vice; a misunderstanding of its true components is but an error."
“ It is from the fear of a concussion with persons without property that people with property hazard voluntarily a change."
It is from the poorer classes that the evils and the dangers of a state arise; their crimes are our punishments. Let statesmen read this and learn to be wise in time,''
We have been a great people, because we have been always active; and a moral people, because we have never left ourselves time to be vicious.
" When the world has once got hold of a lie, it is astonishing how hard it is to get it out of the world."
“ One of the sublimest things in the world is plain truth.".
“ Facts, like stones, are nothing in themselves; their value consists in the manner they are put together, and the purpose to which they are applied.''
Among the sketches illustrative of character and manners, some are exceedingly amusing; all are well drawn; and as a few are evidently portraits a little caricatured, they cannot fail to be recognized.
The following, we can ourselves attest, is true to nature, and as it is quite novel, we extract it into our pages :
“ I breakfasted the other day with --; you recollect that two years ago he was one of the supereminent of the dandies; silent, constrained and insolent; very scrupulous as to the unblemished character of his friends for ton ; affecting to call everything a bore; and, indeed, afraid to laugh for fear of cracking himself in two. M- - is now the last man in the world one could thus describe. He talks, rattles, rubs his hands, affects a certain jollity of manner; wants you to think him a devilish good fellow; dresses, to be sure, as the young and the handsome are prone to dress selon les règles ; but you may evidently see that he does so mechanically ; his soul is no longer in his clothes. He startled me, too, by quoting Bacon. You know we never suspected he had so much learning ; but, between you and me, I think his quotation is a motto to one of the newspapers. However that be, M-- is evidently no longer indifferent, as to whether you think he has information or not; he is anxious for your good esteem; he is overwhelmingly courteous and complimentary; he, who once extended the tip of his finger to you, now shakes you by both hands; it is not any longer M-m's fault he is not agreeable; he strives to be so with might and main; and in fact, he succeeds; it is impossible not to like such a gentleman-like, good-looking, high-spirited fellow, when he once condescends to wish for your good opinion. His only fault is, that he is too elaborately offhand, too stupendously courteous; he has not yet learnt, like Will Honeycomb, 'to laugh easily; it will take him some little time to be goodnatured spontaneously; howbeit, M-- is marvellously improved. After breakfast, we walked down St. James's Street; M— has lost his old walk entirely; you recollect that he used to carry his eyes and his nose in the air, never looking on either side of him, and seeming to drop upon your existence by accident. Now he looks round him with a cordial air, casts a frequent glance to the opposite side of the street, and seems mortally afraid lest he should by chance overlook some passing acquaintance. We met two or three plain-dressed, respectable-looking persons, the last people in the world whom M--- (you would say) could by possibility have known; M-- stops short, his face beaming with gratulation, shakes them by the hand, pulls them by the button, whispers them in the ear, and tears himself away at last with a 'Recollect, my dear Sir, I'm entirely at your service. All this is very strange! what can possibly have wrought such a miracle in M-? I will tell you; M—- HAS NOW GOT CONSTITUENTS.'
- vol. ii. page 176. We refer our readers to the observations with which this spirited delineation is followed up. We have here a glimpse of " the operations which the Reform Bill will ultimately bear upon the tone of manners.'
In his treatment of persons, Mr. Bulwer seems to know no medium between adulation and invective; not that we suspect him of meanness in the one or malice in the other. Mr. * * * is his friend, and he endows him with every estimable quality-he is the ablest of writers and the best of men. Poor Sneak is his enemy, and he treats him with measureless
Oct --YQL, XXXIX, NO. CLIV.