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Our Little Legacies.
BY JOHN JAMES BRITTON.
As myself and a few of my acquaintance like myself, half-fledged members of the world's bird's-nest, were enjoying an evening walk, or, as we should call it, a “constitutional” in the “purple even" of midsummer, with our minds as easy within ourselves as our bodies within the loose light louging attire which the heat of the atmosphere and the rusticity of the place both demanded and excused we commenced, as is customary among men just beginning to feel that life was very sweet, and that, although the world was a huge black hard piece of workmanship, yet here and there were strewn the sparkling gems of fair faces and the sterling ingots of true hearts—we commenced, I say, to growl and grumble one to another upon our cramped actions, and the chains which prevented our enjoying existence to the full. Of course it was understood at once that the chains were decidedly not golden. If they had been so, the only impediment in the way of our freedom would have been the difficulty of reaching A PAWN SHOP. It was agreed that gold, silver, and copper, christened by the Merchants, Sharebrokers and Lawyers “consideration," “ equivalent,” “ compensation,” &c., and by us, and such as we, “dust,” “ dibs,” “ rhino," and “tin,”-was, called by what name soever-a fine thing : and that the ringing of no earthly bells,—tripe, coal, dog-meat, cryer's, Church, or otherwise, could equal in melody the sweet tin-tinabulation in the pockets of the dust-man. Then, (as completely in a body as the Irish members leave the house,) did we arrive at the conclusion that they who were possessed of wealth frequently imbibed with it the most insane ideas and crotchets, and did, in the eyes of their relatives, the most insane and out-of-the-way “acts and deeds,"-nay even to bequeathing frightful sums to institutions; or fancying themselves marriageable, and acting accordingly.
“Ah !" said Snoodle on my right, (training for the Church, “ do'nt I wish some one would leave me at this moment a tolerably
er, thickation, anti write a bever afterwane, marry
decent legacy. I am not exorbitant; but I mean a tolerably decent one."
“ Why, what would you do ?" said the rest of us.
“ Do? oh, I'd keep, keep it up for a bit, and then go in' for my degree - if I got plucked start for London--plunge into cider-cellars and “shades” till the tin had walked off ; then-the deuce may care. If I did not lose my feathers in the examination I would bolt off abroad for a while-turn frightfully pious, and yet at the same time enjoy myself—come home, marry a pretty girl, get a curacy, and do my duty ever afterwards." . “Ah! said I, and write a book of travels while abroad, an antidemoralization, anti-papal, anti-facetious, unincidental, heavy sober, thick and puffy volume.
“No, no, no,” said Snoodle, none of your slow authorship for me.”
“ Well Snoodle," said Thumper from my left, “If I were you, and the tin were mine, I should prefer the bar, with its gentlemanly quiet, if briefless, and its fame if favoured — with the wig and gown, the pretty girls in the gallery looking, and their fathers listening to you. That's it. Curacies are humbugs. Look to the woolsack, not the lawn. It's much the softer; and no divinity to be crammed, and no fun to be stifled—that's it man !"
“Oh, nonsense,” groaned forth Jodkins,-a "genius,'_“I would not try to get the sack, or walk in or on the lawn. I would not work for an ungrateful nation; nor preach to an unbelieving benefice. I would scrape together, with the tin, a library. I would cultivate my own mind, become, on Lord Bacon's system, a “full man," then with my soul's cultivation, I would work, and write myself to fame and station : nay, even should I not attain it, my empire and my station should be of the golden Eden of thought within”
“Ho! ho ! ho !" I could not resist, and laughed out. But no matter. On went poor Jodkins, for the best part of ten minutes, foundering among crowns of laurel,' «noble aspirations,” higher rewards,' "honor and glory,' 'love at length to be united with fame,' &c. &c., till by force I stayed him.
“ Jodkins ! my dear fellow, I did not think you were such a fool as to entertain such ante-Goldsmithian, pre-Chatterton and Kirke-Whiteish ideas as these. Is not a poet a thing to be laughed at by his friends, and bitten by his enemies? Have not they lived in garrets, and shared crusts with dogs since the earliest ages ?-Oh man, man, be anything, everything else, but do'nt be
rds; honor till by force 1 stay did not
a poet! Enlist as a disciple of MacAdam, and with a gem of a hammer with a nice ash handle, break the king's stones. Put on a moleskin, and do the tender work of the railway. Try for a sinecure and be a sleeper. Start a new Insurance Company. Turn fireman or coalmerchant's cad and do the heavy work of the lighters. Engage yourself for the stock-kings and desperate ruffians of an acting booth. Split the sides of your audience, and your own constitution, by grotesque summersaults in a patchwork jacket and asses ears. Carry impossible loads of bricks up creaky ladders on to slippery scaffolding. Get your living as 'bum,' blackleg, informer, policeman, anything but a poet,—grub-lane' grubber, anything but a poet."
“Well, well, gasped the poor fellow, terrified by my furious tirade, “suppose you had the money, how would your wisdom choose to act ?”
“Aye,” cried the rest, “Bravo, Jodkins, now old fellow, let's hear.”
“I,” said I, stroking gently with the tip of an unengaged glove the slight, the very slight shade of down upon my upper lip, raising my eyebrows, drooping my eyelids, and assuming that peculiar drawl which is assigned by novelists to the military servants of His Majesty. “I, oh, my course is taken,-if any one thinks proper to hand over the tin! I get a commission, a French ballet girl, a pair or two of stunning “ buckskins and tops," a tiger to fit them, a “ blood,” and a dog-cat,—that's it. Then when the “ready" is exhausted, come down to the country, get into some old fogie's family, on the strength of my epaulets and brass, “ toady” his lady, and lap-dog his daughter, and finally by a course of soaping and gallantry, of politics and small-talk, leave the governor under the table, blind his good lady, and carry off the pug-nosed, 'lint- white’-headed darling, to take up my I.O.U.'s with her pin-money, tie up the creepers in the garden, and play at cribbage with the doctor and the parson in the village, while I “ go it” a little longer in town!-eh."
“ Hum,” with one consent, grunted my companions, as if they were so many trombones of a deficient German band, and had lain for the better part of a century among cobwebs and straw.
Nothing more was said, and our walk soon ended.
Some kind individual in the region of spirits having treated the jade Fortune-to a bran new shawl-a cargo of maraschinoa camilla for her hair, a boquet for her hands-or at any rate
something well pleasing to her, she behaved kindly to us,—and in a little time after the late conversation, (with short intervals between,) four legacy duties were paid by four pairs of hands trimly “ got up” for the occasion, and four pairs of Wellington's tripped lightly over the Aagged yard of certain offices in London. .
Mark how truly our feet kept to the lines chalked out in the summer-evening walk.
My clerical friend, Snoodle, having fallen a victim to the long lashes, pitch-black eyes, and milky skin, of a certain lady,—whose father (being a retired retailer) got up small speeches with headaching, and constant gin-and-water, and delivered them on platforms with blushes and the crystal fluid alone,—who aspired to be a stirrer of the “masses," (the most dirty office we know), of course could not allow his daughter to marry a parson. Snoodle, therefore, not altogether unwillingly, countermanded an extensive order of white cravats, and lilac gloves, for prospective wear,iinported sundry calf covered unfeeling looking volumes into a dingy chamber, of the dingy temple, and—read for the bar.
That the study which he has undertaken is all stuff does not appear, for the silk-gown has lately graced (by the Queen's permission) his shoulders, and he may be seen, at those times when the year and the criminals are divided, opening, leading, crossexamining, arguing, budding into flowers of speech, ranting his palate sore, and then searching for relief in the paper-bag of currants or jujubes, all the long day, till my Lord Chief Justice, glancing at his watch, puts on his cocked hat, gathers up his ermine, and sweeps out to dinner.- So much for the Curate.
The Barrister, on the other hand, being admonished by the gentleman whose legatee he was before decease,--and an aunt who caught up the tone from him of the infernal nature of the law, and the demoralization of its professors, of the incessant labour attendant on decent practice, and—the unbecoming aspect of a wig, threw aside his beloved Blackstone, Coke, and Tidd, tied a wet cloth round his temples, inflated his nose with snuff, and his intestines with green-tea, and“sweated” divinity. He is now a plain curate in an out-of-the-way parish, where the society he meets and the parties he attends are as different from the men of the temple, and the spreads of Oxon, as can well be imagined, with a little gem of a wife,—with a clematis-clad cottage, with a “cow in a paddock," and two or three “geese on a green," with his fast trotting nag, his two glasses of wine after dinner, his genuine eggs and cream, he is comfortably wearing on in years, and at his death
slight ustaches in the sot it, a letter to
will be possessed of a family-regiment of household troops, a chest full of sermons, and the good-will of all.
Jodkins, the genius, on hearing of his good fortune, incited, it may be by my discourse on the miseries of literature, dashed home, burnt sundry scraps of paper scrawled over with amended verses : « To the Moon," " To Celia," “ To Delia," to “Geraldine," “ To Age," “ To Infancy,”—and the deuce knows what. Took down his best friend, the Rhyming Dictionary, from its shelf, and remorselessly trampled it under foot ; laid a sheet of virgin white before him, and concocted a letter to — The Horse Guards, for a commission. He got it, and subsequently one of the finest pairs of moustaches in Her Majesty's forces. While I am finishing this slight sketch, of which he has no idea, he is sitting opposite to me sucking the knob of his riding whip, or flicking the spots of mud from his boots, and imploring me at intervals to “cut that infernal letter and come out !"
He is sitting opposite me,—and the room, is it a barrack apartment, or the unstudious study of a modern villa, full of fragile and hideous trifles, and well-bound useless looking books. Is the female hand at all to be detected therein,-are the pipes and spittoons carefully placed out of sight,—the muzzles of your pistols turned towards the wall, and your sword tied “ for fear of accidents” to the sheath ? No, no, none of this. My swords are not of the modern day, but rusted individuals, of Roman, Norman, and Indian warfare,—Toledos, Falchions, and Creeces. Pipes there are, and spittoons, the first blackened with long work, and broken into divers lengths, and the latter lying and lounging independently on the floor and against the wainscot. The room, to a stranger, would be, in fact, an anomaly,—it has in its composition a dash of the antiquary, a sprinkling of the jolly fellow, and a considerable amount of the_literary man!
Yes, the coat which I condemned, I wear; and easy and pleasant too is it to my back, only disturbed by the idea that I and my friends are to the great world inconsistent fools and weathercocks, and
“ I wont stand it any longer!”
“ Coming my boy, coming, where's the brush-never mindhere goes !”