Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

proved the immediate cause of her departure from England in 1849.

Poor soul! her heart was too large for her means. Oh! the generosity of that woman was unbounded! I could never tell

you the number of persons she used her influence with her friends to procure situations for-great people as well as . small. I cannot withhold my knowledge of these things from you, one of Lady Blessington's particular friends ; nor would I say so much, but knowing that her Ladyship esteemed you so highly, she would not have scrupled to have told you all that I have done, and a great deal more.”

Queen Catherine's language to her attendant, might have been applied by Lady Blessington, to the person from whom I have received the preceding communication :

“ After my death, I wish no other herald,

No other speaker of my living actions,
To keep mine honour from corruption,
But such an honest chronicler as Griffith.”

It would occupy a considerable portion of this volume were all the charitable acts, the untiring efforts, of this truly generous-minded woman recorded, to bring her influence to bear on friends in exalted station, in behalf of people in unfortunate circumstances, and of persons more happily situated, yet needing her services—seeking employment or appointments of some kind or another for them.

There was this peculiarity, too, in the active benevolence of Lady Blessington ; -whether the person for whom she interested herself was of the upper or the humbler class of society, her exertions in his behalf were equally strenuous and unremitting till they were successful. I have, on many occasions, seen her, after receiving a letter from some important personage in parliament, or perhaps some friend of hers in

* Henry the Eighth, act iv. sc. 2.

power, intimating the inability of the party to render the service required by her for a protege of hers, when, for a few moments, she would seem greatly disappointed and discouraged. Then there would be a little explosion of anger, on account of the refusal or non-compliance with her application.

But this was invariably followed by a brightening up of her looks, a little additional vehemence of tone and gesture, but accompanied with some gleams of returning good-humour and gaiety of manner, mingled at the same time with an air of resolution, and then throwing herself back in her fauteuil, and planting her foot rather firmly on the foot-stool, still holding the letter that annoyed her rolled up tightly, she would declare her firm determination, in spite of the refusal she had met with, that her application should be successful in some other quarter. The poor person's friends or family were counting on her efforts, and they should not be disappointed.

The subject from that time would be uppermost in her mind, whoever the people were, who were about her. But when any influential person entered the salon, many minutes

, would not elapse before he would be put in possession of all the worth of the individual to be served, and all the wants of the poor family dependent on bim; and this would be done with such genuine eloquence of feelings strongly excited, finding expression in glowing words, spoken with such pathos, and in accents of such sweetness, that an impression was generally sure to be made, and the object she had in view was either directly or indirectly attained.

The embarrassments of Lady Blessington for some years before her departure from England had made her life a continual struggle with pecuniary difficulties, which, for the maintenance of her position, it was necessary to conceal, and to make a perpetual study of concealing. The cares, anxiety, and secret sorrows of such a situation it is easier to conceive

than to describe. Suffice it to say, they served to embitter her career, and latterly, to give a cynical turn to her thoughts in relation to society, and a taste for the writings of those who have dealt with its follies, as philosophers, without faith in God or man, which tended by no means to her peace of mind, though she attached great importance to that sort of worldly wisdom which teaches us how to lay bare the heart of man, but leaves us in utter ignorance of all things appertaining to his immortal spirit.

It is in vain to seek, in the worldly wisdom of Rochefoucault, for remedies for the wear and tear of literary life; the weariness of mind, depression of physical energies, occasioned by long-continued literary labours, and the ansieties, cares, and contentions of authorship. The depression of spirits consequent on disappointments in the struggle for distinction, the sinking of the heart at the failure of arduous efforts to obtain success, the blankness of life's aim after the cooling down of early enthusiasm ; for these ills, the remedies that will soothe the sick at heart are not to be found in the philosophy of moralists, who are materialists, professing Christianity. There is a small book, ascribed to a religious-minded man, named Thomas à Kempis, which, in all probability, Lady Blessington never saw, in which there are germs of greater thoughts, and fraught with more consoling influences, than are to be discovered in the writings of Rochefoucault or Montaigne, and from which better comfort and more abundant consolation are to be derived, than from any of the most successful efforts of the latter in laying bare the surface and sounding the depths of the selfishness of the human heart.

Rochefoucault deems selfishness the primum mobile of all humane and generous actions. Humanity, in the opicion of this philosopher, is like physic in the practice of empirics. They admit of no idiosyncrasies; no controlling influence in

nature ; no varieties of character determined by temperament, fortuitous circumstances, external impressions, alteration or diversity of organization. Yet the knowledge of human nature is a science to which no general rules can be applied. There is no certainty in regard to the law that is laid down for its government, no uniformity of action arising from its operation, no equality of intellect, passion, disposition, in individuals, to make its general application just or possible.

But, granting that all men feel only for the distresses of others from selfish motives— from a sense of the pain they would feel if they suffered like those with whom they sympathize—still their sympathy with misfortune or misery is beneficial to others and themselves.

It is exceedingly painful to observe the undue importance that Lady Blessington attached to the writings of Rochefoucault, and the grievous error she fell into of regarding them as fountains of truth and wisdom--of deep philosophy, which were to be resorted to with advantage on all occasions necessitating reflection and inquiry. Satiated with luxuries, weary with the eternal round of visits and receptions, and entertainments of intellectual celebrities, fatigued and worn out with the frivolous pursuits of fashionable literary life, and fully sensible of the worthlessness of the blandishments of society and the splendour of its salons, she stood in need of some higher philosophy than ever emanated from mere worldly wisdom.

Literature and art have their victims, as well as their votaries, and those who cater for the enjoyments of their society, and aspire to the honour (ever dearly purchased by women) of reigning over it, must count on many sacrifices, and expect to have to deal with a world of importunate pretensions, of small ambitions, of large exigencies, of unbounded vanity, of unceasing flatteries, of many attachments, and of few friendships.

The sick at heart, and stricken in spirit, the jaded and the palled in this society, have need of other philosophy than that which the works of Rochefoucault can supply. The dreariness of mind, of those over-worked, thought-wearied, intellectual celebrities is manifest enough to the observant, in their works and in their conversation, even when they appear in the midst of the highest enjoyments, with bright thoughts flashing from their eyes, with laughter on their lips, and with sallies of wit, sarcasm, or drollery coming from

their tongues.

It has been observed of Rochefoucault, by a French writer, Monsieur de Sacy, in a review of that author's works :

His moral has every thing in it that can humble and depress the heart of man, that is to be found in the rigorous doctrine of the gospel, with the exception of that which exalts man's nature, and uplifts his spirit. It is the destruction of all the illusions, without the hopes which should replace them. Rochefoucault, in a word, has only taken from Christianity the fall of man; he left there the dogma of the Redemption

Rochefoucault believes no more in piety than he does in wisdom; no more in God than he does in man. A penitent is not more absurd in his eyes than a philosopher. Every where pride—every where self, under the hair shirt of the monk of La Trappe, as well as under the mantle of the cynic philosopher. Rochefoucault permits himself to be

Christian, only in order to pursue the emotions of the heart into their last intrenchments. He condescends to seem to be a Christian only to poison our joys, and cast a deadly shade on the most cherished illusions of life's dreams. What remains for man then ? For those resolute minds, there remains nothing but a cold and daring contempt of all things human and divine—an arid and stoical contentment in confronting — annihilation : for others differently constituted, there remains despair or abandonment to the enjoyment of

« PoprzedniaDalej »