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Post-mortem Cogitations of the late Mr. Smith. 75 readers as less probable, but, nevertheless, it is not one jot the less true. I was anxious not only to attain a degree of popularity which should survive my brief existence; I panted to witness that popularity; unseen, to see the tears that would be shed, -unheard, to mingle with the mute mourners who would lament my death. Where is the advantage of being lamented if one cannot hear the lamentations ? But how was this privilege to be attained ? Alas! attained it was; but the means shall never be divulged to my readers. Never shall another Mr. Smith, self-satisfied and exulting in his popularity, be taught by me to see what I have seen, to feel what I have felt.
I had perused St. Leon ; I therefore knew that perpetually-renovated youth had been sought and had been bought. I had read Frankenstein, and I had seen that wonders, equally astonishing and supernatural, had been attained by mortals. I wanted to watch my own weepers, nod at my own plumes, count my own mourning-coaches, and read with my own eyes the laudatory paragraph that announced my own demise in the county newspaper. I gained my point,-I did all this, and more than this; but I would not advise any universally-admired gentleman and fondly-idolized husband to follow my example. What devilish arts I used, what spells, what conjurations, never will I reveal ; suffice it to say that I attained the object of my desires. Two peeps was I to have at those I left behind me,-one exactly a month after my demise, the second on that day ten years!
And now for the result of peep the first.
In some degree my thirst for posthumous popularity was certainly gratified; and I will begin with the pleasantest part of my own “post mortem examination.”
My own house (or rather the house that had been mine) looked doleful enough: no mirth, no guests, no music; the servants in deep mourning, and a hatchment over the door. My own wife (or rather my relict) was a perfect picture of misery and mourning, in the extreme of the fashion. She heaved the deepest sighs, she was trimmed with the deepest crape, and wore the deepest hems that ever were seen. The depth of her despondency was truly gratifying. Her cap was most conscientiously hideous, and beneath its folds every hair upon her head lay hid. She was a moving mass of crape and bombasin.
In her right hand was a pocket-handkerchief
, in her left a smelling-bottle, and in her eye a tear. She was closeted with a gentleman, but it was no rival—nothing to arouse one jealous pang in the bosom of a departed husband. It was, in fact, a marble masonic meeting. She was giving directions about my monument, and putting herself into the attitude of lamentation in which she wished to be represented (and is represented), bending over my urn: she burst into a torrent of tears, and in scarce articulate accents called for her "sainted Anthony." When she came a little to herself, she grumbled somewhat at the extravagance of the estimate, knocking off here and there some little ornamental monumental decoration, bargaining about my inscription, and cheapening my urn!
She was interrupted by the entrance of a milliner, who was ordered to prepare a black velvet cloak lined with ermine; and no expense was to be spared. Alas! thought I, the widow's “inky cloak” may well be warm; my black marble covering will be cold comfort to her.
is Just to amuse you, ma'am," said the marchande des modes, “ do look at some things that are going home for Miss Jones's wedding."
The widow said nothing; and I thought it was with a vacant eye that she gazed apathetically at satin, blonde, and feathers white as the driven snow. At length she cried abruptly, “I cannot-cannot wear them!” and covering her face with her handkerchief, she wept more loudly than before. Happy late husband that I was--surely for me she wept! A housemaid was blubbering on the stairs, a footman sighing in the hall; this is as it should be, thought I: and when I heard that a temporary reduction in the establishment was determined on, and that the weeping and sighing individuals had been just discharged, I felt the soothing conviction, that leaving their living mistress tore open the wounds inflicted by the loss of their late master, and made them bleed afresh. My dog howled as I passed him, my horse ran wild in the paddock, and the clock in my own sitting-room maintained a sad and stubborn silence, wanting my hand to wind it up.
Things evidently did not go on in the old routine without me, and this was soothing to my spirit. My own portrait was turned with its face to the wall : my widow having no longer the original to look at, could not endure gazing at the mute resemblance! What, after all, thought I, is the use of a portrait ? When the original lives, we have something better to look at; and when the original is gone, we cannot bear to look at it. Be that as it may, I did not the less appreciate my widow's sensibility:
On the village green the idle boys played cricket; they mourned me not-but what of that? a boy will skip in the rear of his grandmother's funeral. The village butcher stood disconsolately at the door of his shop, and said to the village baker, who was despondingly passing by, * Dull times these, neighbour Bonebread! dull times. Ah! we miss the good squire, and the feastings at the hall.”
On a dead wall I read, “ Smith for ever.” “ For ever," thought I, " is a long time to talk about.” Close to it, I saw,
“ Mitts for ever," written in letters equally large, and much more fresh. He was my parliamentary successor, and his politics were the same as my own. This was cheering; my constituents had not deserted my principles more than that I could not expect. The “Smith,” who, they said, was to be their representative “For Ever," was now just as dead as the wall upon which his name was chalked!
Again I retired to my resting-place under the family pew in the church of Smithton, quite satisfied that, at the expiration of ten years, I should take my second peep at equally gratifying, though rather softened, evidences of my popularity.
TEN YEARS! What a brief period to look back upon! What an age in perspective! How little do we dread that which is certain not to befall us for ten years ! Yet how swiftly to all of us will ten years seem to fly! What changes, too, will ten years bring to all! Yon schoolboy of ten, with his toys and his noise, will be the lover of twenty!. The man now in the prime of life will, in ten years, see Time's snow mingling with his dark and glossy curls! And they who now are old-the kind, the cheerful, looking, as we say, so much younger than they really are what will ten years bring to them ? · The ten years of my sepulchral slumber passed away, and the day arrived for my second and last peep at my disconsolate widow and wide circle of affectionate friends.
The monument already mentioned opened "its ponderous and marble jaws” for the last time, and invisibly I glided to the gates of my old domain. The old Doric lodge had been pulled down, and a Gothic one; all thatch and rough poles, little windows and creepers, (a sort of cottage gone mad,) had been erected in its stead. I entered, and could not find my way to my own house; the road had been turned, old trees had been felled, and new plantations made ; ponds had been filled up, and lakes had been dug; my own little “ Temple to Friendship” was not to be found, but a temple dedicated to the blind God had been erected in a conspicuous situation. “ Ah!” thought I, “ her love is a buried love, but not the less dear. To me—to her dear departed--to her 'sainted Anthony,'--this temple has been dedicated!”
So entirely was the park changed that I did not arrive at the mansion until the hour of dinner. There was a bustle at the hall door, servants were assembled in gay liveries, carriages were driving up and setting down, and lights gleamed from the interior. A dinner party !--no harm in that; on the contrary I deemed it fortunate. Doubtless my widow, still in the sober grey of ameliorated mourning, had summoned round her the best and the dearest of my friends, and though their griefs were naturally somewhat mellowed by time, they remembered me in their calm yet cheerful circle, and fondly breathed my name! Unseen I passed into the dining-room--all that I beheld was new to me--the house had been new built on a grander scale—and the furniture was magnificent! I cast my eyes round the table, where the guests were now assembled. "Oh! what bliss was mine! At the head sat my widowed wife, all smiles, all loveliness, all pink silk and flowers--not so young as when I last beheld her, but very handsome, and considerably fatter. At the foot (oh! what a touching compliment to me!) sat one of my oldest, dearest, best of friends, Mr. Mitts, the son of a baronet who resided in my neighbourhood : his father too was there, with his antiquated lady, and the whole circle was formed by persons whom, living, I had known and loved. My friend at the bottom of the table did the honours well, (though he omitted to do what I think he ought to have done-drink to my memory,) and the only thing that occurred to startle me before the removal of dinner was my widow's calling him “ my dear.” But there was something gratifying even in that, for it must have been of me she was thinking; it was a slip of the tongue, that plainly showed the fond yearning of the widowed heart. - When the dessert had been arranged on the table, she called to one of the servants, saying, “ John, tell Muggins to bring the children.” What could she mean? who was Muggins ? and what children did she wish to be brought? I never had any children! Presently the door flew open, and in ran eight poisy, healthy, beautiful brats. The younger ones congregated round the hostess ; but the two eldest, both fine boys, ran to Mr. Mitts, at the bottom of the table, and each took possession of a knee. They both strongly resembled Mitts; and what was my astonishment when he exclaimed, addressing my widow," Mary, my love, may I give them some orange?”
What could he mean by “ Mary, my love ?"-- a singular mode of addressing a deceased friend's relict! But the mystery was soon ex: plained. Sir Marmaduke Mitts filled his glass, and after insisting that all the company should follow his example, he said to his son, " This is your birthday, Jack; here's your health, my boy, and may you and 78 Post-mortem Cogitations of the late popular Mr. Smith. Mary long live happy together! Come, my friends, the health of Mr. and Mrs. Mitts."
So then, after all, I had come out on an exceeding cold day to see my widow doing the honours as Mrs. Mitts !
“When is your birthday ?” said Sir Marmaduke to his daughter-inlaw.
In June," she replied, “ but I have not been in the habit of keeping birthdays till lately: poor Mr. Smith could not bear them to be kept.”
“ What's that about poor Smith ?” said the successor to my house, my wife, and my other appurtenances. “ Do you say Smith could not bear birthdays ? Very silly of him, then; but poor Smith had his oddities.”
“ Oh!” said my widow, and Mr. Mitts's wife, “We cannot always command perfection; poor dear Mr. Smith meant well, but every man cannot be a Mitts.” She smiled, and nodded down the table; Mr. Mitts looked, as well he might, particularly pleased ; and then the ladies left the room.
“ Talking of Smith,” said Sir Marmaduke, “ what wretched taste he had, poor man! This place was quite thrown away upon him; he had no idea of its capabilities."
“No,” replied a gentleman to whom I had bequeathed a legacy“ with the best intentions in the world, Smith was really a very odd man.”
“ His house," added another, who used to dine with me three times a-week, was never thoroughly agreeable ;-it was not his fault, poor fellow !”
“ No, no,” said a very old friend of mine, at the same time taking snuff from a gold box which had been my gift, “ he did every thing for the best; but, between ourselves, Smith was a bore.”
“ It is well,” said Mr. Mitts, “ that talking of him has not the effect which is attributed to talking of another invisible personage! Let him rest in peace: for if it were possible that he could be reanimated, his reappearance here to claim his goods and chattels, and above all, his wife, would be attended with rather awkward consequences.”
So much for my posthumous curiosity! Vain mortal that I was, to suppose that after a dreamless sleep of ten long years, I could return to the land of the living, and find the place and the hearts that I once filled, still unoccupied ! In the very handsome frame of my own picture, was now placed a portrait of John Mitts, Esq.; mine was thrown aside in an old lumber-room, where the sportive children of my widow had recently discovered it, and with their mimic swords had innocently poked out the eyes of what they were pleased to denominate“ the dirty picture of the ugly man.” My presumption has been properly rewarded : let no one who is called to his last account, wish, like me, to be permitted to revisit earth. If such a visit were granted, and like me he returned invisibly, all that he would see and hear would wound his spirit: but were he permitted to reappear visibly, in propria persona, mortifying indeed would be his welcome!
It is not my intention to bequeath to my reader a lecture, or a sermon, ere I return to my family vault : yet THE POST MORTEM COGITATIONS OF THE LATE POPULAR MR. SMITA" are not without A MORAL.
T, H, B.
MEN AND BOOKS.
A Challenge accepted.-Does Phædrus deserve his reputation ?–His idle
vauntings of himself in comparison with Æsop.-Merits of Mr.
Keightley's Mythology.-Tales of Classic Lore. LOOKING the other day into Lord Woodhouselee's agreeable “ Essay on the Principles of Translation,” and being addicted to attempting versions in rhyme, we could not help accepting a challenge into which he piqued us, by assuming the impossibility of its being accepted to any purpose. We cannot but think, indeed, that his lordship highly overrates the difficulty, and even the merits of his author in the passage we are about to quote; so that if our version of it should not appear to be anything so very extraordinary (which we are heartily willing to grant), we must take the liberty of thinking that the fault is as much his as our own. The attempt, however, may amuse the reader, and perhaps set him upon mending both our opinions and our translation. “ In the following fable of Phædrus," says the learned lord,
“ there is a naïveté which I think it is scarcely possible to infuse into any translation :
" In prato quædam rana conspexit bovem,
Inflare sese, rupto jacuit corpore." “ It would be extremely difficult,” continues his lordship,“ to retain in any translation the laconic brevity with which this story is told. There is not a single word which can be termed superfluous, yet there is nothing wanting to complete the effect of the picture. The gravity likewise of the narrative, when applied to describe an action of the most consummate absurdity, the self-important but anxious questions, and the mortifying dryness of the answers, furnish an example of a delicate species of humour, which cannot easily be conveyed by corresponding terms in another language.”—“Essay on the Principles of Translation." Third edition, p. 336. We must try our hand, notwithstanding this caveat :
"A frog one day, envying an ox's figure,
Blew up her wrinkled sides with might and main,
She split." These English iambics are, at any rate, shorter than the Latin. We subjoin a literal prose translation, that we may not be thought to have dropped any of the joke :