Obrazy na stronie

April 2, 1859.

“MY DEAR REED, — This is the best place for you, I think. Two bishops already in the house. Country-gentlefolks and American envoys especially affect it. Mr. Maurigy says you may come for a day at the rate of some ten guineas a-week, with rooms very clean and nice, which I have just gone over, and go away at the day's end if you disapprove.

"This letter [referring to one inclosed] is about the Athenæum, where you may like to look in. I wrote to Lord Stanhope, who is on the committee, to put you up.

"I won't bore you by asking you to dinner till we see how matters are, as of course you will consort with bigger wigs than yours always,


[ocr errors]

No "bigger wigs " came between us. in London—for I was hastening home

During my fortnight after two years' ab


we saw him nearly every day. He came regularly to our quarters, went with me to the Athenæum that spot of brilliant association — where he pointed out the eminent men of whom I had heard and read; and then he would go to his working-table in the Club Library, and write for the 'Cornhill.' He would carry my son, a young man just of age, off with him to see the London world in odd "haunts.” I dined with him twice: once at his modest house in Onslow Square, where we had the great pleasure of seeing his daughters; and once at Greenwich, at a bachelor's dinner, where I made the acquaintance, since ripened into intimacy, of another friend, who I am sure will excuse this distant allusion to him. We looked out on the Park, and the river where the Great Eastern was lying before her first voyage, and talked of America and American associations, and of the chance of his coming again.1 And our last dinner was over. I left London on the 30th April, 1859. Mr. and Miss Thackeray were at the Euston Square station to say farewell. He took my son aside, and to his infinite confusion handed him a little cadeau, which I hope When the magazine slavery was at an end.”


[ocr errors]

he will always cherish with pride for the sake of the giver. We parted with a great deal of kindness, please God, and friendly talk of a future meeting. May it happen one day; for I feel sure he is a just man.

My pious duty is nearly done. On my return to America our correspondence naturally enough languished: each was much occupied; he with drudgery which was exhausting and engrossing. I often received kind messages and sometimes apologies. After the Civil War began, no letter passed between us. I had not the heart to write, and I don't believe he had; for I reject with emphasis the idea that his gentle nature could feel aught but horror at this war of brethren "brothers speaking the same dear mother tongue." His American novel and his pictures of life in ancient days at Castlewood on the Potomac, show this abundantly.2 He had been in the South and met Southern ladies and gentlemen, the highest types of American civilization. This I may say now in their hour of suffering and possible disaster. He had visited Southern homes, and shared Southern hospitality.

>> 1

As recently as February, 1862, in one of his fugitive essays, he referred to an incident of our days of sorrow, and thus embalmed his affectionate regard for a distant friend on whom the hand of arbitrary power was, or was supposed to be, laid. I have reason to believe the reference was to a gentleman long a resident of Savannah.

"I went to the play one night, and protest I hardly knew what was the entertainment which passed before my eyes. In the next stall was an American gentleman who knew me. And the Christmas piece which the actors were playing proceeded like a piece in a dream. To make the grand comic performance doubly comic, my neighbor presently informed me how one of the best friends I had in Americathe most hospitable, kindly, amiable of men, from whom I had twice received the warmest welcome, and the most delightful

[ocr errors]

1 More than any Englishman of letters I Have ever known, he was free from that sentimental disease" abolitionism!"

2 His estimate of Mrs. Stowe's evil-omened future in one of the letters that 1 have given, shows it.

hospitality was a prisoner in Fort Warren on charges by which his life might be risked. I think it was the most dismal Christmas piece these eyes ever looked on.”

One other memorandum I did receive from my friend. In the summer of 1863 an Anglo-Indian officer brought me the following note written on one of the little book-slips used in the Reading-Room of the British Museum.

“At sight pay any kindness you can to the bearer, Major F. Goldsmith, and debit the same to your old friend,


My little memorial is finished. I have written it in a frame of mind distracted by all that in these last few days has been going on around me, with two objects: one, to embalm, I trust not unpleasantly to any one, the memories I happen to have of a friend who was dear to me; the other, to try by a desperate intellectual effort to throw aside, if but for a moment (and the date will show why I feel so), the burden of consciousness that bloody deeds are now doing which will bring new sorrow into many a home.


That Mr. Thackeray was born in India in 1811; that he was educated at Charter House and Cambridge; that he left the University after a few terms' residence without a degree; that he devoted himself at first to art; that in pursuit thereof he lived much abroad "for study, for sport, for society;" that about the age of twenty-five, married, without fortune, without a profession, he began the career which has made him an English classic; that he pursued that career steadily till his death, all this has, within the last few weeks, been told again and again.

It is a common saying that the lives of men of letters are uneventful. In an obvious sense this is true. They are seldom called on to take part in events which move the world, in politics, in the conflicts of nations; while the exciting incidents of sensation-novels are as rare in their lives as in the

lives of other men. But men of letters are in no way exempt from the changes and chances of fortune; and the story of these, and of the effects which came from them, must possess an interest for all. Prosperity succeeded by cruel reverses ; happiness, and the long prospect of it, suddenly clouded; a hard fight, with aims as yet uncertain, and powers unknown; success bravely won; the austerer victory of failure manfully borne, these things make a life truly eventful, and make the story of that life full of interest and instruction. They will all fall to be narrated when Mr. Thackeray's life shall be written ; we have only now to do with them so far as they illustrate his literary career, of which we propose to lay before our readers an account as complete as is in our power, and as impartial as our warm admiration for the great writer we have lost will allow.

Many readers know Mr. Thackeray only as the Thackeray of "Vanity Fair," "Pendennis," "The Newcomes," and "The Virginians," the quadrilateral of his fame, as they were called by the writer of an able and kindly notice in the "Illustrated News." The four volumes of "Miscellanies " published in 1857, though his reputation had been then established, are less known than they should be. But Mr. Thackeray wrote much which does not appear even in the "Miscellanies "; and some account of his early labors may not be unacceptable to our readers.

His first attempt was ambitious. He became connected as editor, and also, we suspect, in some measure, as proprietor, with a weekly literary journal, the fortunes of which were not prosperous. We believe the journal to have been one which bore the imposing title of "The National Standard and Journal of Literature, Science, Music, Theatricals, and the Fine Arts." Thackeray's editorial reign began about the 19th Number, after which he seems to have done a good deal of work, reviews, letters, criticisms, and verses. As the "National Standard" is now hardly to be met with out of the British Museum, we give a few specimens of these first efforts. There is a mock sonnet by W. Wordsworth, illustrative of

[ocr errors]

a drawing of Braham in stage nautical costume, standing by a theatrical sea-shore ; in the background an Israelite, with the clothes-bag and triple hat of his ancient race; and in the sky, constellation-wise, appears a Jew's harp, with a chaplet of bays round it. The sonnet runs : —


'Say not that Judah's harp hath lost its tone,
Or that no bard hath found it where it hung
Broken and lonely, voiceless ard unstrung,
Beside the sluggish streams of Babylon:
Slowman 1 repeats the strain his fathers sung,
And Judah's burning lyre is Braham's own!
Behold him here! Here view the wondrous man,
Majestical and lonely, as when first,


In music on a wondering world he burst,

And charmed the ravished ears of Sov'reign Anne.2
Mark well the form, O reader! nor deride
The sacred symbol- Jew's harp glorified
Which, circled with a blooming wreath, is seen
Of verdant bays; and thus are typified

The pleasant music, and the baize of green,
Whence issues out at eve Braham with front serene."

We have here the germ of a style in which Thackeray became famous, though the humor of attributing this nonsense to Wordsworth, and of making Braham coeval with Queen Anné, is not now very plain. There is a yet more characteristic touch in a review of Montgomery's "Woman the Angel of Life," winding up with a quotation of some dozen lines, the order of which he says has been reversed by the printer, but as they read quite as well the one way as the other, he does not think it worth while to correct the mistake! A comical tale, called the "Devil's Wager," afterwards reprinted in the "Paris Sketch-Book,” also appeared in the "National Standard,” with a capital wood-cut, representing the Devil as sailing through the air, dragging after him the fat Sir Roger de Rollo

1 "It is needless to speak of the eminent vocalist and improvisatore. He nightly delights a numerous and respectable audience at the Cider Cellar; and while on this subject, I cannot refrain from mentioning the kindness of Mr. Evans, the worthy proprietor of that establishment. N. B. A table d'hôte every Friday. WORDSWORTH."


2 Mr. Braham made his first appearance in England in the reign of Queen Anne. W. W."

« PoprzedniaDalej »