Vaurien: or, sketches of the times: exhibiting views of the philosophies, religions, politics, literature, and manners of the age. In two volumes. ... [pt.2]
- CHAP. XVII. SOME of Emily's unfaſhionable Accompliſhments. A female Polemic of the laſt Century 1
- CHAP. XVIII. Emily meets Charles and Vaurien. The Diſſentions of two great Critics, ſhewing the Utility of Chriſtian Names 23
- CHAP. XIX. A Engliſh Woman poiſed between a Briton and a Gaul. A clerical Buck. A philoſophical Voluptuary 45
- CHAP. XX. A Converſation with a philoſophical Voluptuary 71
- CHAP. XXI. Of loving by Anticipation. A Year of Patronage 89
- CHAP. XXII. Vaurien's Friendſhips 103
- CHAP. XXIII. A Declaration of Love not known to the Lover 113
- CHAP. XXIV. The Puniſhment continued when the Crime has ceaſed 131
- CHAP. XXV. The Miſery of Shame without Guilt. A novel Species of Authorſhip 147
- [Page] CHAP. XXVI. The Platoniſt 165
- CHAP. XXVII. Vaurien viſits the Platoniſt. The Language and Manners of Animals. The ſilent Voice of Geſture 183
- CHAP. XXVIII. A Jewiſh Philoſopher. A Diſſertation on the Jews, tending to prove that they ſhould not be burnt 214
- CHAP. XXIX. A Committee of Public Safety. A Maſſacre. An Univerſal Peace. Grammar and Reaſon 251
- CHAP. XXX. A final Project of the Gaul. A Character of the French Nation 275
- CHAP. XXXI. More of Vaurien's Loves and Friendſhips 292
- CHAP. XXXII. A great and vicious Man, capable even of Virtue 308
SKETCHES OF THE TIMES.
1. CHAPTER XVII.
Some of Emily's unfaſhionable Accompliſhments.
A female Polemic of the laſt
IN the houſe of Miſs Million, the character of Emily had opportunities of unfolding itſelf not hitherto preſented. Rarely had ſhe quitted the ſide of a blind parent to enter into a contracted circle; and if this circumſtance had been detrimental to her ſagacity in human nature, it proved not unfavourable to the high culture of her elegant accompliſhments. In the enthuſiaſm of ſolitude fine talents [Page 2] are purſued with an intenſity not experienced by thoſe whoſe active circle, diverſified by the feſtivities of diſſipation, or the buſtle of buſineſs, can only enable them to become lovers of art, and not artiſts. Solitude, which ſo frequently excites the querulouſneſs of genius, is a ſevere mother who forms a lovely progeny; what in the great world had only been a momentary amuſement, there becomes a permanent occupation. Sweet is the uninterrupted induſtry of genius, magical it's contracted day, and delicious that inebriation of taſte which becomes an abſorbing paſſion. In ſolitude alone can now be acquired that difficult facility, which, though it performs its miracles of art inſtantaneouſly, has been the ſlow and painful acquiſition of great practice and greater meditation. Emily roſe with the fun; her prayer was a ſilent oriſon of aweful pleaſure; her crayon was in [Page 3] her hand during her morning walks, and if ſhe brought home ſome romantic figure, ſome tenderer tint, from the aſpect of nature, it was a new enjoyment. The clock told the hour of midnight, when, with regret, ſhe relinquiſhed her volume, and diſſolved the enchantment of her fancy. Often, as ſhe ſat by her father, her buſy ſpirits were ſo diffuſed in her little employments, that Balſour could only hear her gentleſt ſuſpirations; and would ſay afterwards, I could almoſt ſee you Emily very buſy.
Emily, when ſhe now compared her talents with thoſe of the favourites of faſhion, including ſome profeſſional artiſts, felt a new confidence in her powers: but ſhe was ſilent, as well as modeſt; for ſhe found that ſhe was inferior to all, if that inferiority is to be allowed becauſe ſhe was inexpert in the dull and formal routine of life. A perſon of true genius is [Page 4] ſoon placed beneath the level of equality among the frivolous, becauſe talents give no real ſuperiority among ſuch aſſociates; they are applauded rapidly from an old cuſtom; but having been applauded without feeling, are as rapidly forgotten. The permanent intereſts of ſuch a ſociety, conſiſt in every thing that is the reverſe of genius; ſo that a certain mark of mediocrity of talent, is the pleaſure which ſuch a circle affords. To Emily their converſation was a language, of which the rudiments were unknown; their amuſements paſſed away, too numerous and too rapid to leave any delight; and their moſt important concerns ſeemed the burleſque of human life, while what occaſioned the moſt voluble lamentations, excited her interior ſmile. Her beauty was likely to occaſion ſome trouble from the men; but her extreme docility, and unpreſuming manners, rendered her at firſt ſupportable [Page 5] to the women. She conciliated their favour by her willingneſs to be conſidered as an inoffenſive cypher, which of itſelf was of no value, unleſs placed by thoſe who made a figure in the preſent circle.
It is but performing an act of juſtice to Miſs Million to declare, that ſhe was infinitely delighted by the varied powers of her new companion; ſhe told all the world ſo; and evinced as much pleaſure in exhibiting the performances of Emily, as if they had been her own. Emily could not but feel a warm gratitude for ſuch inceſſant partiality; but it often coſt her the pang of a deep bluſh, and the diſguſt of an amplification, of which herſelf was at once the divinity worſhipped and the victim immolated. There was ſuch a roughneſs in the gentleneſs of Miſs Million; of her incenſe ſhe was prodigal; but in her zeal, ſhe ever threw cenſer [Page 6] and incenſe together in the face of her divinity. In vain Emily entreated the favour of being placed in the ſhade, Miſs Million felt too much not to exhale her admiration in panegyrics. This amiable lady, it muſt be acknowledged, loſt nothing by this exceſs of kindneſs; the higher the praiſe ſhe beſtowed on Emily, the ſtronger it's dazzling reflection fell on her own cheriſhed perſon. Was it not evident, that the more ſhe talked of "the old blind lieutenant's daughter," her benevolence was amply diſplayed? The more ſhe was enraptured by the brilliant finger of Emily on her harp, it was clear the nerves of her intendered ſoul caught the melodious vibrations; and no one could ſay, when ſhe overflowed in raptures concerning light and ſhade, as ſhe pointed to her paintings, but that Miſs Million muſt have a very ſenſible taſte for the magic of her canvas. Emily, [Page 7] however, received the approbation and eſteem of Lady Belfield, whoſe favour ſhe felt an ambition to enjoy; for Lady Belfield was herſelf a woman of talents, and might have been a woman of genius, and therefore knew the real value of her varied and felicitous accompliſhments.
Miſs Million's circle was by no means confined; ſhe was proud of the acquaintance of every perſon of faſhion; and beſides her paſſion for maſquerades and botany, ſhe was a diſtinguiſhed patroneſs of literary merit; her name was enrolled among the earlieſt ſubſcriptions; ſhe had received the honour of a dedication of a novel, which was decorated not only by her name, but by the ſplendour of her engraved arms; and beſides theſe literary diſtinctions, it was rumoured, that ſhe herſelf had written one ſonnet, yet preſerved in the virgin modeſty of a manuſcript. She was indeed declared to be [Page 8] a prodigy of genius by ſeveral of her friends, but particularly by three or four great critics (one of whom it was univerſally whiſpered wrote in one Review, if not in all of them) and who did her the honour of dining with her regularly three days in the week.
An important perſon in the houſe of Million, was Mrs. Bully the houſekeeper. She was a coloſſus of vulgarity, a daemon of religion, and a dragon of virtue. On one occaſion "her ſtars" had doomed her to make a ſlight ſlip; but religion had now ſo completely varniſhed over this ancient piece of Engliſh china, that it was a ſecret flaw, rather than a viſible crack. Nature had been kind to her fellow-creatures, in exhibiting her character in her appearance, but its glaring groſſneſs was frequently ſubdued by her ingenuity. Philoſophy exults in teaching men to conceal or ameliorate [Page 9] their defects, and ſhrewd vulgarity is not inferior to philoſophy. The tones of a voice, groſs as the furred porch from which they iſſued, ſhe could render not diſpleaſing to ſome by adulation; arms, that might have wielded the ſpear of Goliah, were rendered not repulſive by officiousneſs; and the heavy circumference of her body, could on occaſion roll with celerity to the ſervice of her patrons. She was indeed a manſion-houſe of mortality; and to look on her was to admire the ſolidity of thoſe materials, which Nature can form when ſhe ſimply works with mere fleſh and blood. Nature, indeed, had committed no error in the formation of Mrs. Bully; every part was uniformly groſs; but Nature's blunder conſiſted in the whole. A being ſo nervous and athletic, ſhould never have been a woman.
Nor was her mind of an inferior ſize to her body. Since her ſlippery adventure, [Page 10] above hinted, ſhe had held a moſt pious abſtinence from human fleſh; her conſtitutional ideas, however, occaſionally flamed in her expreſſions, but were ſmothered in her actions; of the latter ſhe was faſtidiouſly nice, ſo as to be enabled to diſcover, in thoſe of other people, a hundred little peccancies againſt chaſtity, which eſcaped their conſciouſneſs; for it is obſervable, that perſons who are themſelves not of the cleaneſt part of the human ſpecies, are wonderfully alert in diſcerning the ſlighteſt atoms of dirt on a very clean perſon. Her mind was as active as it was robuſt; and her ſtrong paſſions, not having any more an opportunity of venting themſelves in the mollifications of love, made moſt terrible exploſions in obſolete theology and politics. She read few books publiſhed within this century. The period of her reſearches was thoſe days of fanatical controverſy, which ſo long diſgraced [Page 11] unenlightened England, when, neither ſtationary in her religion or her politics, every feveriſh reformer promulgated a ſyſtem of his own. The national genius, therefore, had no ſyſtem at all, and branched out into reciprocal perſecutions. What then was occaſioned by the energy of religion and politics, may, perhaps, be renewed in this age, on an inverſe ratio, becauſe we have no religion and no politics.
Mrs. Bully had, therefore, high-church arbitrary notions, and jacobite jure divino principles. Some of her favourite authors were Prynne, and Sir Roger L'Eſtrange. Filmer, on the divine right of kings, gave her political creed; ſhe ſtudied the orthodoxy of that holy buffoon, South; and was recreated by the merry jeſts of Timothy and Philalethes. The wickedneſs of the age ſhe derived from Socinianiſm; it's ſpirit of ſedition from [Page 12] the uſurpation of the Calviniſtic William; and every loſs of the Engliſh, and their allies, ſhe attributed to a judgment of heaven, for that cool and tolerant ſpirit of religion, which, much to her ſorrow, ſhe now ſaw prevailing in the kitchen as well as in the drawing-room.
When Emily made her appearance in this family, ſhe gave riſe to numerous ſpeculations among the domeſtics. As they could not poſſibly conceive how Miſs Million could want a companion, who lived in one continued ſeries of company, ſome ſuppoſed, that the life of Emily was as precious to Mr. Million as that of his over-gorged Bob. Mrs. Betty, the confidential maid of Miſs Million, being the mere looking-glaſs of her miſtreſs, reflected her panegyrics. But Mrs. Bully, their preſident in high council, obſerving that Emily went rarely to church, poſed Mrs. Betty, and alarmed [Page 13] ſome in the council, by enquiring which was her religion? This queſtion, perhaps, is one of the moſt difficult enquiries that can be made in the preſent day. Mrs. Bully had formed dreadful ſuſpicions of Emily's orthodoxy, becauſe of her irregular church attendance; and yet to diſlike a church, does not indicate any irreverence for religion; for ſince the church is perſonated by the parſon, we conceive it is no impiety to forſake any houſe of God, when we find that the faſhionable clerical ſeems more inclined to pay his reſpects to his pariſhioners than his reverence to his God.
She one day bounced into her apartment, and ſeating herſelf, began her inquiſitorial examination. She opened by an high eulogium of reading, which ſhe compared to cookery. "I love (ſaid ſhe) the old firloin, and plain round of beef, where 'tis cut and come again; none of [Page 14] your flimflams and French diſhes. Your modern books are like enough proper for their authors' wits, being very ſmall and thin. I like your books big as Bibles; ay, and the Bible is the beſt book. Novels are the reading of your fine ladies; but if we like love-ſtories, there's a mort of um in the Bible."
"The Lord preſerve your ſoul! not a tittle muſt be done away. Every word there is God's word. Read St. Auſtin's City of God; and the church has decided. Let me tell you, Miſs, that the church of England is without ſpot or wrinkle; mark that! and curſed are all diſſenters."
"That's an old vile excuſe for not believing. Now a ſyllable can be done away. Does'n't it tell you, that you muſt be damned if you don't believe in it? Take my word for it, that Saint Athanaſius knew more about his own creed than that fiend Arius. And what think you of Conſtantine the Great?"—
"I tell you, Miſs, he was a ſaint, Don't you know, Miſs, the diſtinctions and the differences between Trinunities, Coeſſentialities, Modalities, eternal Generations, eternal Proceſſions, Incarnations, and Hypoſtatical Unions?"—
[Page 16] "Oh! that I had lived in thoſe bliſsful days of controverſy, where the concerns of a whole city conſiſted in diſputes about the Conſubſtantiality; when, in quitting the ſhop of a trader, one not only got by one's divinity a great bargain, but alſo the man to change his religion; when the dear boys in the ſtreet would fight one another for Arius and Athanaſius! To be ſure Arius had the beſt of it while he lived; and Conſtantine wrote to them, that they were both fools for diſputing about what no one could underſtand: but didn't Arius die, like the Empreſs of Ruſſia? Foul heretics ſhould die in foul places; dark holes for poiſoned rats. And pray, Miſs, what do you think of Tim and Phil?"
"Servants! I am ſo uſed to them, that I always call them by theſe familiar [Page 17] names. I mean the dialogues of Timothy and Philalethes. There your Tom Paines, and all ſuch Sadducees, are anſwered. Have you got, Miſs, all Sir Roger's works, and a good number of the pamphlets of Cromwell's times? I collect and read all;—ſmall type, large paper, and thick volume. I love tugging at a book, not ſkimming like a mealy butterfly."
"Abominable! I marvel, Miſs, how you can bear a page of ſuch "a blind guide," as Sir Roger wittily called him. His eyes ſhewed a judgment of heaven. No wonder he drew the devil ſo well, for he was only deſcribing his protector Oliver. He'll protect him finely in the eternity of hell torments; ſecretary now [Page 18] to Lucifer! And pray, Miſs, how do you like South for his joking ſermons; and the elegant Stanhope on the epiſtles, who obſerves, that an unbeliever, if he were in heaven, would find no more pleaſure there, than a pig in a drawing-room; and Scott, and Archbiſhop Laud, and Biſhop Blackhall, whoſe works are in three folios, heavier than I can hold in my hands, and which I bought the other day for three-pence each? A curſe on this Arian age! All weighty books now are ſelling by weight!"
"Abominable! why they contain nothing but morality! not a word on the conteſted points of faith, the incarnation, the conſubſtantiality, grace, and juſtification; little aſthmatic periods, as if he wanted ſenſe to carry him through a dozen words. You have a great deal to learn, [Page 19] Miſs, on the ſcore of religion and politics. You think I don't read novels; but I like much thoſe in folio. I am now reading the great Caſſandra, and the noble Oroondates. That Oroondates was a brave fellow; he killed above fifty heroes, almoſt as brave as himſelf; and his ſpeeches are ten honeſt pages in length; none of your ſqueaking heroes, who are afraid to ſpeak out like men; but I know the reaſon, for their authors have nothing for them to ſay."
"I could never read (ſaid Emily) thoſe voluminous romances. Their heroes and heroines are a diſtinct order of beings from ourſelves; and I have my ſuſpicions, whether they ever exiſted but in the prurient fancies of their authors. Their deſcriptions are never local, one place is depicted like another; their ſtyle is inſufferably languid; their incidents, without being romantic, violate the known [Page 20] cuſtoms of every age; and their authors ſeem to have merely deſpoiled Homer of his true heroes, to transform them into the diſguſting petit-maitres of Paris. A race that, when they exiſted, were only ridiculed, and that now are quite obſolete. Such are their protracted concluſions, that we cannot but quite forget what we had read, ſhould we ever arrive at the cloſe of the twelfth volume."
"Then the Lord preſerve you from damnation! Samuel hewed Agag alive, and he did well; he was an Arian of his [Page 21] day. And the Philiſtines, the Canaanites, the Hittites, and the Jebuſites!—(ſhe roſe from her chair gradually) noble work in thoſe days! Oh! that I could ſend this arm, like another Samſon, among your Arian dogs, your Socinian wolves, and your roaring lions of Prieſtleyites! I tell you the church of England is without ſpot or wrinkle; and James the III. not William the III. was our king. Why does the French rebellion proſper, but becauſe people don't go to church on Sundays? No wonder that the wind blew ſo boiſterouſly laſt night, that three trees have been blown down in the park, and their majeſties were obliged to riſe from bed.—We are all a-going! The earth reels like a drunkard! as nobly ſaith Iſaiah. Manifold are our ſins! as Moore ſays in his laſt year's almanack. We are an abomination before the Lord! Oh! that I could eſchew this Babylon! [Page 22] I tell you, Miſs, the church of England is without ſpot or wrinkle."
So ſaying, ſhe hurried out of the room, and, flinging the door, haſtened to communicate her intelligence to the kitchen; horror for Emily's Arianiſm, and contempt for her taſte for novels in folio, ſpread from her through all the lower part of the houſe.
2. CHAPTER XVIII.
Emily meets Charles and Vaurien. The
Diſſentions of two great Critics, ſhewing
the Utility of Chriſtian Names.
LADY Belfield contracted with Emily a more paſſionate degree of friendſhip than a lady of her high rank, in general, is capable of experiencing; but her Ladyſhip is one of thoſe not very rare inſtances, we imagine, where we obſerve an amiable and ingenious female ſtudiouſly annihilating her virtues and her talents in the giddy, and often criminal, vortex of diſſipation. Nature will ſometimes prevail over Faſhion.
One morning, when theſe two ladies were converſing with Miſs Million, [Page 24] Charles and Vaurien were announced. When they entered, their eyes were at once directed on Emily; ſhe recogniſed Vaurien, and deeply bluſhed; her confuſion was fortunately concealed, while Miſs Million introduced theſe gentlemen. Lady Belfield ſaid, "Dear Miſs Emily, allow me to ſpeak a word for one of theſe men; for that great child is as ſilent as a Turkiſh mute, (looking on Charles); and half a word for the other, who, I am ſenſible, wants no aid of mine to engage the attentions of an accompliſhed girl." Vaurien made a very elegant compliment, and Charles a very ſilent bow. Neither of the two ladies ſuſpected that they had ever met before; and they themſelves did not chuſe to notice their former rencounter at Mrs. Wilſon's; for which, no doubt, each had ſome peculiar reaſon, and which to diſcover may ſerve, if the reader thinks [Page 25] proper, to exerciſe his thinking powers, as well as his eyes, although the latter are generally conſidered as the only requiſites for novel reading.
Vaurien was the ſoul of the converſation. He flew from topic to topic, and poured out to Miſs Million all the little news that he had collected in the courſe of that morning's perambulation. He hinted at a marriage, narrated a duel, diſcovered an intrigue, and informed them, that laſt night Lady Bab loſt ten thouſand pounds at one ſitting, and was obliged to retire for the unexpected delivery of a ſon and heir. He was a volume of ſecret memoirs; and every trifle was embelliſhed by the graces of his manner. To Emily he directed a richer vein of converſation: he liſtened to the copious catalogue of her talents, as given by Miſs Million; and when one of her paintings was pointed out to his obſervation, [Page 26] he gazed on it for ſome time, commended it in a few energetic expreſſions, and, at the ſame time, exhibited his accuracy of taſte by ſome ſlight corrections, and his pictureſque fancy, by deſcribing how, from that ſubject, another might be formed more romantic to the imagination. Emily was more gratified by this diſcriminating criticiſm than the general applauſe of others, and formed a high conception of that opulence of fancy, which ſeemed always to enrich what it found. Lady Belfield intreated her to touch her harp; ſhe played with her accuſtomed eaſe; and while ſhe was receiving the thanks of her fair friends, Vaurien ſwept his hand careleſly over the inſtrument, and called forth the tendereſt air. Solicited to proceed, he ſaid: "Ah, no! I venture not above a prelude, after harmonies like thoſe which have now charmed. All my ſkill [Page 27] is only an effuſion of the heart, and all my airs are only a few aſſociations of the memory, when I wandered in the viny vales of Languedoc." Emily, it muſt be confeſſed, was delighted by the ſingular verſatility of his powers. Lady Belfield rallied Vaurien upon this diſcovery of his harp muſic: "What a dangerous man are you, Vaurien, when you can conceal even little accompliſhments, that they may be reſerved to ſurpriſe and delight on the moſt impreſſive occaſion. It is to Miſs Emily we owe your performance on the harp. But you, Charles, neither ſay, nor do any thing."
"Your Ladyſhip knows (replied Charles) that ſome are born to embelliſh life by all that it has of the agreeable, while others muſt reſtrict themſelves to admire and love that merit they dare not rival."
Vaurien had now come down to the very laſt morning anecdote; and he knew that there was a certain point in converſation, when an able and ſagacious talker takes his departure. It is that point, at which what we have ſaid leaves a lively impreſſion on our friends; a quarter of an hour more would weary, or leſs would not ſatisfy. It exacts no ordinary judgment to know when to quit a chair. The exhauſted Frenchman was now riſing, when the two great critics, Mr. Acrid and Mr. Antique, were announced. With indecent haſte Antique ruſhed in, breathleſs. "I have," cried he "got near a whole page traced accurately on oiled paper. I tell you, Mr. Acrid, 'tis an original. We have had a ſecret committee; but no one can read it except Ireland; he is inſpired; he reads it juſt as if it were his own writing!"
"Mere antiquaries are ever to be duped," replied Mr. Acrid with a dictatorial tone. "Without taſte to diſcern, penetration to decide, or that illuminating ſagacity that combines it's unerring calculations; with a brainleſs head and ſightleſs eyes, you pore on inſcriptions, ſepulchral monuments, and manuſcripts that would never have been ſuch, had they merited literary honours. You only read the dullneſs of other times, and call this erudition; the groſs jeſts of our groſs forefathers, and you conceive you are men of wit. You diſcover ſome clumſy utenſil, and you engrave it as a model for modern elegance. The dulleſt [Page 30] writer of a dull age, becomes to the mere antiquary the moſt precious of his own times; and yet ſuch bear no other reſemblance to Midas than by his exterior ſign, their touch cannot turn lead into gold. You have already ſtifled poor Shakſpeare by your commentaries, the text cannot breathe freely amidſt your incumbrances. Here is a man who writes with an orthography of his own invention, and in a ſtyle that has no invention at all; and every fool of learning is ſummoned to admire a modern ſkeleton in an ancient leaden coffin. But did not my friend George take the true dimenſions of the intellects of the director of your worſhipful ſociety? A curved corner of an old chimney-piece, duly ſteeped in what ſhall be nameleſs, till it became variegated with the dark rainbow hues of antiquity, and, taſted by his ſagacious finger, ſmelt of other times, was engraved with ſome Saxon characters, and the name [Page 31] of Hardycknute; at length, being properly vinegared and verdigreaſed, it excited his antiquarian curioſity; he doats on it to madneſs, makes ſyllables of letters and words of ſyllables, and enriches the archives of your ſociety with a moſt learned diſſertation on the drinking-horn of Hardy [...]knute! Lay your Ireland's Shakſpeare on this curved corner of an old chimney-piece."
The laugh went againſt Mr. Antique, who ſat down much cooler than he came in, muttering vengeance. A circumſtance occurred to theſe two great critics, which may ſerve as an exemplary leſſon to ſome greater ones, to underſtand each other when their diſputes run loud and ſwelling as a ruſ [...]ing torrent, or quick and fiery as kindled ſtraw. Mr. Antique was a virtuoſo and a collector, more famous for his library than his learning; wealthy in medals, profound in title-pages, an ogler of ſtatues, and a [Page 32] great admirer of the works of nature when they appeared in the forms of butterflies, pebbles, and conchae veneris; he therefore was tolerably read in authors who had written on curious ſubjects; but Mr. Acrid held ſuch authors in ſovereign contempt, and vociferated his raptures for writers of taſte. In point of underſtanding, or intellectual power, he was much on an equality with his brother critic, whom he ſo much contemned. Not but that his criticiſms were extremely juſt, which they could not fail to be, as they were, with little variation, the ſentiments of the nobleſt critics; and yet we are informed, that his entire library conſiſted of only two biographical dictionaries, ſo that he travelled on the high roads of literature merely at the public expence; and when it happened that he was ſtopped at a turnpike-gate, he only diſcovered his extreme poverty. The following dialogue now enſued:—[Page 33]
Antique. "I repeat he was a curious collector. I retort your charge. I know he prolonged his tour, and remained above a year at Rome. It took him three months only to deſcribe one of Pouſſin's pictures."[Page 34]
Antique. "Not out of England! I ſhall grow mad! 'Tis a calumny which only an inſidious enemy could propagate. His very minute deſcriptions teſtify his ocular examination. His works give us the very attitudes."
Here Mr. Acrid roſe in great paſſion, looked with a diſtortion of countenance on Mr. Antique, a mixture of fierceneſs and contempt; then ſmoothing his face into a ſardonic ſmile, that is, with a gay countenance and an aching heart, he turned to the ladies, and appealed to them, if Richardſon's works were not in every body's hands, and in every collection of taſte?[Page 36] [Page 37]
Antique. "Have you all conſpired together to make me crazy? I ſhake with indignation. Do you ſuppoſe that I, who attend every picture ſale in town, can read ſuch enormous novels? I have enough to do to read through all the ſale catalogues of books and pictures; and I have an entire collection, with their prices marked, for theſe twenty years paſt; an invaluable library of catalogues. If Jonathan Richardſon the father, not Jonathan Richardſon the ſilly ſon, the firſt of whom I have been talking of, had ſeen them, what volumes of criticiſm had come out!"
Antique. "Then, poſitively, my dear Acrid, we are all in a miſtake! I mean Richardſon the painter, and you Richardſon [Page 38] the noveliſt! You know the firſt has publiſhed ſome very curious diſſertations on his art; a great critic in painting, but the worſt of painters! I praiſed his fine deſcriptions of pictures, but could never agree that his own works had any merit. How the deuce has all this happened? As for the other Richardſon, I know nothing about him; a collector never values ſuch writers.
Acrid (with an air of triumph). "There, ladies, Mr. Antique has confeſſed he has never read the great Richardſon, the Shakſpeare of noveliſts; and yet he will aſſert and aſſure you, that he can decide on Shakſpeare in manuſcript."
Antique. "That, my dear friend, entirely conſiſts in the foxineſs of the ink, and the dingy fine yellow brown of the paper, with the water-mark of the jug; all worthy of the divine man! Let us not part in anger. Critics ſhould be more cautious [Page 39] in their controverſies, and chriſtian names are full as uſeful as ſurnames."
Through the interceſſion of Miſs Million, peace was eſtabliſhed between this couple of critics; but a latent revenge rankled in the breaſt of Antique, for Acrid's contempt of him, and Ireland's Shakſpeare; and when Miſs Million enquired the literary news of the day, he took an opportunity to diſtil his gall on Acrid's diſcernment. We ſhall therefore reſume our dialogue.
"All that we underſtand (ſaid Miſs Million) is that the amatory effuſions of Eliza are only known for their delicacy, their harmony, and their poetic beauty, ſo often admired by Mr. Acrid. The fair ſtill is in the ſhade."[Page 40]
"Eliza" exclaimed Miſs Million "is certainly a delightful poeteſs! ſhe has two great merits; ſhe not only writes finely, but copiouſly and inceſſantly. Her laſt ſweet paſtoral of 500 lines, is excellent; but I wiſh ſhe had divided it into five paſtorals. But theſe lines are fanciful beyond poetical fancy; they are quite faſhionable poetry: obſerve the brilliant concetto of the cloſe!
The muſlin'd MOON mid STARS of tiſſue hung,The gauzy AIRS a ſilky ſoftneſs FLUNG;Bright roſe the MASQUERADE of Fancy's dream;A CONCERT, ſeemed the SOLO of the ſtream.
Antique. "Hear the anecdote! Dick Diſtich, you know, wrote verſes in all meaſures; but, in quantity, they were without meaſure. As he was ſo kind as to reverſe his name at the cloſe of his poems, it was of uſe to the incautious. Ridiculed, but not ſo fortunate as to be neglected, he retreated to the country in a nervous fever. His name he knew would damn his works; ſo calling himſelf Eliza, and getting a female friend to tranſcribe his poems, he ſent them to the famous paper. All the old Cruſcans roſe to a man! Odes, elegies, and ſonnets, were poured on Eliza, enough to have made a fine ſnow-ſhower at Drury Lane. Eliza was rather broad and warm in her diction. She was a Sappho, a tenth muſe, and a fourth grace. Our poets were enamoured of this moſt ſenſitive Eliza. [Page 42] Acrid was as clamorous in his raptures, as fifty amorous cats on the pantiles. He imagined her to be the old Laura; ſo he addreſſed her with this tender billet: "Amiable Eliza! I love you; can you pardon the avowal? But I have made it; and I know not to repeat of it. My paſſion is like your genius; it terrifies or ſoothes; hope and deſpair prey on my ſoul. Hope! alas! I do not hope, and yet I love." The anſwer of Eliza to this amatory note, was the moſt conſolatory, and bid him hope for every favour; but ſhe added, "What if you knew me? would your claſſical eye approve of my perſon? Alas! I am ſhort and brown; but ſo was Sappho; my noſe is ſnubbed; but ſo was the beautiful Poppaea's; I have a ſingular cuſtom when I kiſs to bite; but ſuch were the marks of fondneſs which Flora left on her Pompey. If my perſonal defects can thus be forgiven, as ſo [Page 43] many claſſical imitations are in my verſes; then will Sappho receive you as her Phaon; but, I fear, faithleſs and accompliſhed as that boy." An appointment was made. Dick invited ſeveral friends to witneſs the lover's firſt interview. We ſtood behind a ſcreen; the great critic arrived; when lo! to the credit of his critical talents, his Eliza ſtood before him, in the contemned perſon of poor Dick Diſtich. What's the conſequence? The critic's reputation has received the coup de grace, while Eliza's verſes are now all condemned in one maſs. What was ſweet fancy in Eliza, is rank dulneſs in Dick Diſtich. The poetical hermaphrodite has gained nothing; and the ſex are but ill complimented; for when Dick was ſuppoſed to be a woman, thoſe verſes were applauded, which are now condemned becauſe he is a man. So, ladies, I recommend the poor devil to your protection."
[Page 44] "Lord! I wiſh I had known all this before," cried Miſs Million. "Here is a confuſion in the realms of taſte! We have been applauding the narcotic infuſions of Dick Diſtich, while we thought them the diſſolving effuſions of a Sappho. How can one judge of people's poetry, if they deceive us with names?"
"In theſe caſes" obſerved Charles, "we can never fail, if we read poems without regarding names. Should the reader then blunder, he muſt not blame the author. You may now exclaim with Juliet, ‘What's in a name?—’ and then, ‘O Diſtich, Diſtich, wherefore art thou Diſtich?’
3. CHAPTER XIX.
An Engliſh Woman poiſed between a Briton
and a Gaul.—A clerical Buck.—A philoſophical
VAURIEN had become the friend of Lady Belfield; and this word, even in the dictionary of faſhionable language, has not degenerated into a non-entity; but the adroitneſs of vice, knows to diſguiſe it's impurities, by adorning them with the holy titles that are ſacred to virtue; it is thus that it's groſſneſs is concealed, it's deformity invites, and it's horrors are crowned with delights that are not it's own. We think, at firſt, that we enjoy love, when we graſp at luſt; that we are ſoothed by friendſhip, when we liſten to ſycophancy; and that we purſue amuſement [Page 46] when we are heavily dragged through diſſipation. To the clear eye of reaſon, the pleaſures of vice pay an involuntary tribute of honour to virtue, by aſſuming it's name; and it is at leaſt a conſolation to ſome, and a conviction to many, that vice would loſe half of its ſeduction, did it not at firſt appear in the diſguiſe of ſome virtue.
Lady Belfield, enamoured of the gay and accompliſhed. Frenchman, was for ſome time occupied in his enjoyment; but it was no ſoothing alliance of the heart; no imperiſhable union of two kindred virtues; it was merely an inflammation of the ſenſes; a flame that raged at intervals, and often ſunk in the dying embers of paſſion, and left behind them the diſguſts of criminal pleaſure, the cold aſhes of ſatiety. The modeſt and reſerved Charles, ſtill agitated her ſoul with thoſe delicate impreſſions, by which the [Page 47] bluſhing form of unpolluted man touches and irritates even the boſom of corruption. His modeſty but inflamed deſire, and his apathy was a myſtery ſhe could not penetrate. In vain ſhe planned occaſions to ſurprize him into ſeduction; his principles were firm; and could they ever have yielded, another paſſion at this time came to his aid, and his heart was filled with the image of Emily.
Charles had frequently entered into converſations with this amiable girl, and ſhe had diſcovered in him a ſecret value which was more delightful to her feelings when abſent, than the recollection of Vaurien's more applauded and dazzling qualities. Vaurien faſcinated in her preſence; Charles enchanted in his abſence; one was to be looked at, and the other was remembered. The one was all that imagination could form of the agreeable, and the other all [Page 48] that ſentiment could form of the tender. The voice of Vaurien was muſic that regaled the ear, but the voice of Charles penetrated the abſtract ear of memory. Vaurien exhibited the moſt agile graces of form, the moſt delightful amenity of manners; and, never uniform, varied a thouſand ſhapes, and charmed in all. Charles had nothing of this verſatility; he muſed, and was rarely gay; but there was a ſweetneſs in his ſeriouſneſs, and a dignity in his comportment, which, by it's very uniformity, impreſſed a heart ſuſceptible of reflection and ſentiment, with features more prominent and energetic, than the ſofter lineaments of Vaurien. Vaurien never gained on reflection, all was ſeen at once; nothing was concealed for the private eye; he ſeduced the public applauſe, but could not fix the individual affection. Charles exhibited a latent merit. His commoneſt action [Page 49] proceeded from a ſuperior impulſe. In the ſilence of meditation, in that ſecret hour when abſent from our friends, we try, without paſſion, their merits, their follies, and their weakneſſes, Vaurien appeared a common man, who ſeemed to perform uncommon actions; and Charles an uncommon man, whoſe actions were ſet off neither by oſtentation nor ſingularity. Vaurien poſſeſſed the mind of Emily, but Charles was the inmate of her heart.
Emily and Charles, amidſt their brilliant circles, ſeemed only to taſte of a fugitive happineſs, when they could contrive to ſit together, and indulge their ſympathy of ſentiment. In the eyes of Emily might be read her ſoul; ſhe looked her thoughts; ſhe had none to diſguiſe; but ſome perplexities, ſome bluſhes, ſome tremors, ſhe experienced in theſe ſhort interviews with Charles. He [Page 50] read to her, one day, the cloſe of the Spring of Thomſon, where, with peculiar ſenſibility, that poet of lovers raiſes a little fairy exiſtence of conjugal felicity; a fading dream, that claims a tear from the eye it has ſolaced; a heaven of love, that charms and pains it's trembling, it's ſuffering, it's doubtful martyr. As he proceeded, his eyes wandered from the book to Emily; he pronounced words while attention wandered; he ſtopped ſuddenly; Emily leant on his ſhoulder, to look at the verſe; ſhe ſaw a tear gliſten on the page. "You have miſſed whole lines, Sir," ſaid ſhe. "I will recommence the paſſage, Miſs Emily; I was thinking that the tender Thomſon loved and was beloved, yet knew not the only felicity of Love. I proceed—
Charles raiſed his eye from the volume; the face of Emily was covered with bluſhes; ſhe gazed on him, and ſeemed to withdraw her eye with timidity, reluctance, and alarm. When he came to theſe lines,What is the world to them!Who in each other claſp, whatever fairSomething than beauty dearer, ſhould they lookOr on the mind, or mind-illumin'd face—
Charles uttered an audible ſigh. Emily, ſmiling, ſaid, "Sure that ſigh was not for Thomſon!"—"Ah! no, Miſs Emily, I wonder why I ſigh; what lines can have a leſs-adorned ſimplicity? and yet they penetrate my heart. I fear that ſigh was nothing but vanity and ſelfiſhneſs; it was for myſelf."An elegant ſufficiency, content,Retirement, rural quiet, friendſhip, books,Eaſe and alternate labour, uſeful life,Progreſſive virtue, and approving Heaven.
[Page 52] It is evident, that when Thomſon is read by two young perſons of either ſex, with this taſte and ſenſibility, the Seaſons threaten to diſturb the repoſe of friendſhip by the intruſion of love; and when love is conducted by poetry, his armed hand is wrapt beneath a gay mantle, and ſtrikes more deeply a perfidious blow.
Emily's quiet was attempted to be diſturbed by others. The Reverend Ephraim Dandelion enliſted among her admirers. He was a boyiſh divine, a caſſocked huntſman, and a clerical buck. His viſits to Miſs Million were not ſo uninterrupted as he deſired, owing to his father, an opulent Rector reſiding in the vicinity of Saliſbury, and alſo to the Biſhop of that dioceſe, who, as he obſerved, was "a blockhead of the old ſchool." Indeed, this Biſhop was by no means a man of faſhion; he bore a moſt [Page 53] religious antipathy towards all thoſe young clergymen who were in full poſſeſſion of a plurality of livings, and who eſcaped from them all to reſide in the metropolis, and to dreſs their hair as they thought proper. Ephraim was the hope of his family, becauſe he was the eldeſt ſon; he had therefore been his father's favourite in his cradle; in which place the ſacerdotal infant may be ſaid to have felt a ſimoniacal propenſity, for indeed ſimony was a conſtitutional vice in that family. There, by ſome ingenuity of his pious father the Rector, he was inducted into two good advowſons, ſo that ere the young gentleman iſſued from his pupillage, he preſented himſelf to his own livings, and piouſly undertook the cure of the ſouls of ſeveral pariſhes. He was a young man of modeſt diſpoſitions, and held in veneration the holy profeſſion; and as he at once was a Nimrod in the field, and a [Page 54] Narciſſus within doors, he decently procured two perſons to perform his own duties. For this purpoſe he found two fathers of large families, at the market-price then of forty pounds a year. He was alſo a rigid obſerver of the utmoſt ſolemnity in the performance of all church ſervices, and teſtified an uncommon zeal for eccleſiaſtical rights; the former conſiſted in the perſonal appearance of his curates; and whenever he heard the ſlighteſt complaint of a naſal twang, or a guttural digeſtion of words, or of a browniſh black coat, ſuch a curate was diſcharged at a week's notice; and his zeal for eccleſiaſtical rights was evidently exhibited in his ſeizure of all bands, black gloves, white favours, funeral ſcarfs, and the chriſtening or marriage guinea. On the whole, he was a moſt orthodox ſupporter of the church; underſtanding by this word a certain ancient building, encircled [Page 55] by a burying-ground, and the interior furniſhed with a certain water-baſon, vulgarly denominated the baptiſmal fount; burials and chriſtenings, therefore, producing no inconſiderable income, he moſt zealouſly ſupported the aforeſaid church.
But although a ſturdy advocate for church ſubordination, he could not conſent to grant this to his Biſhop. Too active in field ſports during the ſummer, and quite exhauſted in town diſſipa [...]ions during the winter, he moſt juſtly complained of the inceſſant and perſonal attacks of his ſaid Biſhop; who, particularly at one of his annual dinners given to his aſſembled brethren, did moſt indelicately reprimand our faſhionable Rector; Vicar, and Prebendary, for all theſe honours and their appurtenances were united in young Ephraim. He reſolved now to throw off the yoke of eccleſiaſtical juriſdiction; [Page 56] and, to the great comfort of our ſacerdotal bucks, they may enjoy the revenues of an eccleſiaſtic, without the boriſh performance of the functions. Ephraim had great intereſt with the Prince, for two reaſons: In a drunken frolic at Brighton, he had received the honour of being thrown into a gravelpit, by which means he broke his leg; but as his neck was entire, he did not much lament the fracture, ſince it was a kind of claim on princely patronage; and the other reaſon was, that the Reverend Ephraim Dandelion was a perſon of inimitable talent, in imitating the bray of an aſs and the whine of a pig. The aſs and the pig, with the above-mentioned daſh into the gravel-pit, procured him an honorary place in the Prince's army of Chaplains. This honour brings with it the uſeful privilege of enabling the poſſeſſor to hold as many livings as [Page 57] he can get, while it comfortably relieves him of the tedious duty of reſidence; ſo the happy Ephraim, aſpiring now to a Biſhoprick, never more entered the palace of his Biſhop.
Although we know of no facts (for of facts ſhould all true hiſtories like the preſent conſiſt) that might tend to accuſe him of any venial liberalities to his miſerable curates, yet he was well enabled to commit ſuch follies; for he now held, in livings and ceteras, above two thouſand a year, according to his own frequent avowal, and little leſs he expected from the worthy Rector his father, who was of a moſt plethoric habit, was a Gargantua in point of ſtomach, one of the moſt orthodox veniſon eaters in his county, and had been twice touched by an apoplexy.
A character more ſingular and intereſting was the voluptuous Sedley. A [Page 58] paſſion for ſelf-enjoyment was the ſource of his actions; his life was a ſyſtem of refined Epicuriſm; his ſtudy was an art to irritate deſire, and to protract enjoyment; to throw over the nudities of imagination a thin and brilliant veil, woven by the Graces. He was born with a ſenſitive heart and a romantic fancy, but his natural benevolence was frequently ſacrificed to his artificial gratifications; yet of his dangerous talent, his numerous victims rather murmured than complained; their ruin ſeemed adorned; deſpair was half ſoothed by the memory of it's paſt enjoyments; and, at leaſt, the ſincerity of their maſter was evinced in his having become his own victim. His fortune and his felicity were alike exhauſted in the fatal ravages of his paſſions; a dark vacuity in his heart terrified his ſolitude; with all the fervour of affection he found he could not▪ [Page 59] love; with all the curious felicity of enjoyment he found he had never enjoyed; enervated by the anguiſh of diſappointment, yet ſtimulated by the fever of hope, he wandered in a tumultuous purſuit of that pleaſure, which, if fugitive, tormented with deſire; and, if embraced, ſickened with ſatiety.
There was ſomething grand and romantic in his entire eſtabliſhment. All the luxuries of Europe were his domeſtic enjoyments; every ſenſe was flattered, and the imagination itſelf was attempted, to be ſatisfied. He held a correſpondence with foreign parts, to import every novelty of refined ſenſuality; and the ſame ſhip often conveyed to him, a picture of Raphael, a hogſhead of Montepulciano, and a female ſelected for ſome peculiarity of ſeature. His houſes reſounded with muſic; and all the arts of amenity crouded to the opulent idler. [Page 60] The heats of ſummer were cooled by the ices of winter; and his winter garden was prodigal of the roſes of ſummer. Every day he religiouſly gratified his five ſenſes. It was this Engliſhman of whom Mercier relates, that he boaſted of having acquired a ſixth ſenſe. It conſiſted in the ſingular fancy of aſſembling females, who reſembled by their features the beauties of other times. He diſperſed throughout Europe portraits of his ancient favourites; and ſometimes prolonged his mornings with the Scottiſh Mary and Anne Bullen, and ſometimes was ſeated at ſupper between Cleopatra and Poppaea. The illuſion was ſtill further promoted by preſerving their coſtume, and dreſſing every beauty according to the country and the age ſhe perſonified.
In his country retreat he was charmed by an Arcadian taſte, and realized the romance of the golden age. There he [Page 61] would habit himſelf as a ſhepherd, and walking by the ſide of a ſtage-dancer, his favourite ſultana, while ſhe played on a little harp, he held a crook in his hand, a baſket at his ſide, and wore a ſtraw hat wreathed with roſes. In the ſemblance of peace and enjoyment, he wandered through the winding alleys of ſpring, and diſported in the rich ſhrubberies of his ground. His companions at diſtance warbled their tendereſt airs, and the ſymphonies of muſical inſtruments reſponded to the harp of his ſhepherdeſs. Nightingales, trained for this purpoſe, iſſued from their neſts, and ſettling, ſome near the fantaſtical Arcadian, and ſome on the harp of his miſtreſs, rivalled her provoking melodies, fluttered, fainted, and fell at her feet.
To ſuch puerilities can deſcend the inordinate indulgence of an ungoverned fancy; and in vain will the incredulous, [Page 62] in his circumſcribed experience, cenſure theſe inſtances, as the ideal pictures of an author's heated fancy, ſince theſe are facts ſanctioned by their truth; and others, not of an inferior extravagance, not long ago amuſed the tedium of the exiſtence of a noble Lord.
But in Sedley, his puerilities were not unaccompanied with taſte, nor was his voluptuouſneſs inhuman and void of elevation. Voluptuouſneſs had made him no otherwiſe to be condemned, than in thoſe ſeducing powers, and thoſe brilliant illuſions, which betrayed the ſenſibility of the feminine heart. The voluptuouſneſs of a woman can never be pardoned; chaſtity is like a ſeal to a rich caſket, which, while preſerved entire, we know can never have been pillaged of it's gems. Senſuality is maſculine, for it is groſs; let the crime and the puniſhment be reſerved for man. Sedley was, otherwiſe, the friend of human [Page 63] nature, and loved the enjoyments of others, becauſe to him it was an enjoyment. But when, at certain intervals, his ſenſes were exhauſted, recollection obtruded itſelf on his ſtartled mind; it came in the wan form of ſatiety, that ſpectre of departed pleaſure! The images of thoſe he had rendered miſerable, of ſome the ſuicides, and of others the lives, gave to his repentant heart the pains themſelves had experienced. The gay Sedley ſhed the bittereſt tears in ſilence; and he mourned at once the unhappineſs of his companions and his own. "I am a wretch," he would ſay, "but not from the malice of my heart, but from it's pervading ſoftneſs; I periſh with thoſe that I have loſt, and I have not inflicted one pang on others, which I would not bear myſelf—Not I! but Nature is inhuman; I liſten to her voice, the wanderings of my heart are her inſpirations, and if ſhe betrays [Page 64] thoſe whom ſhe conducts, who can wreſtle with the divinity of Nature? She has given too few ſenſes, and too numerous deſires; and nature forms herſelf the torturing ſcourge, that affrights and afflicts the gentleſt of the human race!" Such was the character, and ſuch the reflections of Sedley.
"O!" exclaimed Miſs Million, "you can't conceive what vaſt pleaſure it has given me, to have found out the old blind Lieutenant's daughter. When I ſaw her at Exmouth, I repeatedly preſſed her with invitations to Portman-ſquare, but never expected to ſee the poor thing. There ſhe was quite ſolitary and timid.
"What danger, Sir?" ſharply reprimanded Lady Belfield. "I will anſwer for you poſitively. A young woman is never in danger in the great world, among the moſt poliſhed part of ſociety. We do not blazon forth every caſual indiſcretion; an honourable ſilence protects a woman; while in your plebeian circles, the ſlighteſt gallantries are conſtrued into unpardonable levities; the moſt agreeable [Page 66] fleurettes are ſuppoſed to be declarations of love; and if an aſſignation ſhould be diſcovered, the whole family, venerable papa, the little ſiſter, and the tall brother, and the whole generation take the alarm. A duel and a divorce complete the vulgar farce; nothing leſs will do than an abſolute Lucretia! whoſe hiſtory no one credits more than Curtius leaping into the great gulf."
"Indeed, Lady Belfield," replied Miſs Million, "I had forgot to mention to you, that half of Mr. Charles' merits are loſt in his morality. What is meant by this ſame morality? I am ſure it gives no knowledge of the world; for Lord Cheſterfield's divine works they ſay are immoral, and the inſupportable Rambler they ſay is a very moral work. But, Lord! don't let us talk of morality! it always brings on my nervous complaint. I do not know what to do with myſelf this whole day. [Page 67] (the yawned) I wiſh I had ſome new place to go to."
[Page 68] "Well, then we'll go to the wax-work in Fleet-ſtreet" ſaid Miſs Million. "I dare ſay it will be in all the papers tomorrow. Then where can we paſs two hours more? I can't think of coming home to dreſs till five. Then, from five to ſeven are my two regular deſperate hours; 'tis a melancholy interval of time, when one is quite dreſs'd for dinner, and wiſhes for it, without appetite, merely to ſee company. All the nobility are miſerable from five to ſeven."
"I have many!" cried Vaurien, "The ventriloquiſt, and the ſtone-eater; the Corſican fairy, and the Poliſh dwarf. There's a collection of Chineſe curioſities; three monſters, with throats as large as their bodies; a full-grown elephant; and a lap-dog, which may be put in a ſnuffbox, going to be ſhipped off for the Dutch governor of Batavia; and, above all, there is a poupée of Madame Tallien, who now [Page 69] reigns like the Queen of France, and which is juſt brought over by a French milliner, as a model of the preſent Pariſian faſhion; not three perſons in town have ſeen it! the dreſs is richly fanciful, and perfectly in the old Roman ſtyle; the breaſts uncovered, one ſide of the robe drawn up, which delightfully exhibits the whole leg, and a little higher; it is the moſt voluptuous and moſt brilliant dreſs."
Emily now entering, was invited by Miſs Million to the whole circle of theſe morning amuſements; but ſhe pleaded indiſpoſition, and the company retired. Sedley, however, gave up the poupee of [Page 70] Madame Tallien, for the preſent moment, and returning into the breakfaſt-room, found himſelf alone with Emily. It was a moment he had long deſired, but which had hitherto eluded his attempts. What paſſed between our amiable heroine and our refined voluptuary, is, perhaps, entitled to the honours of a ſeparate chapter.
"I HAVE brought," ſaid Sedley, as he returned, "a verſion of my favourite poet; here it is, Miſs Emily, for you was it compoſed; but even you have failed to inſpire me with the delicacy and amenity of the voluptuous Anacreon of France. L'Art d'Aimer of Bernard cannot be tranſlated, at leaſt permit me thus to conſole my own inability. Could you but catch the ſeductive graces of the original, I ſhould trace, in the touching languor of your eye, the enchantment of your heart. He is the Albano of poetry. In his amiable miniatures [Page 72] he paints the playful triumphs or the children of love; fervid, yet chaſte; true, yet flattering. It is only nature embelliſhed.
"Bernard was my friend, as well as maſter; he was the moſt amiable man at the moſt amiable court. An arbiter elegantiarum in the moſt refined circles at Paris; the art of pleaſing in converſation was ſtill more ſenſibly felt than the art of delighting by his graceful and diſſolving verſe. Voltaire conſidered him as a prodigy of elegant voluptuouſneſs*. His verſes reſpire a continued ſoftneſs, are gay with a thouſand pictures, and are the [Page 73] enamellings of poetry. In his manners, what eaſy, yet reſiſtleſs grace! No man had ſo much of that light flower of taſte which blooms but for a rapid moment, thoſe brilliant colours that fade while we gaze on them. Ah! that any thing of Bernard ſhould be periſhable!"
"Mr. Sedley," interrupted Emily, "I love all kinds of enthuſiam; but in this caſe, as you labour with great perplexity to deſcribe your maſter, tell me at once he was an effeminate, refined, and lively Frenchman."
"For your ſex his paſſion was exceſſive; but he was inconſtant; and yet, Miſs Emily, he was beloved. Not a Pariſian beauty complained of his infidelities; for the charms of his genius they pardoned the wanderings of his heart; and he cenſures his own inconſtancies with ſuch gaiety, that they ſeem to be only ſo many triumphs.
"I know not how it happened, but poor [Page 74] Bernard ſurvived himſelf. In my laſt reſidence at Paris, I found the voluptuous poet a mere ſhadow of exiſtence; and he who had charmed by the lightneſs and the tenderneſs of his effuſions, was then a mute idiot. I have been at the opera with him when they performed his own admirable Caſtor and Pollux. He gazed with a vacant eye, and we could draw no other converſation from him than inceſſant enquiries if his Majeſty was ſatisfied? If Madame de Pompadour was pleaſed? Courtier to the laſt, the royal favour was the ſolitary ſentiment that occupied the inſenſate idiot. Ah! Miſs Emily, it was an humiliation for the man of pleaſure and the man of wit, to view their gay and amiable chief with eyes that diſtilled unmeaning tears, an exanimate frame that ſat motionleſs, and whoſe voice could not utter an expreſſion but which confirmed his idiotiſm."
[Page 75] "The title of his poem," obſerved Emily, "is to me a condemning criticiſm. I ſhould be very ſorry, I aſſure you, to be taught an "Art of Love." I fear it is a misfortune for moſt in theſe times to be in love without art. But by your account of Bernard I am much gratified; you know I am delighted by a moral tale, and I think your's is extremely moral; it is a true and melancholy picture of thoſe fooliſh wits, who, abandoned to the fury of their paſſions, are not leſs pernicious to themſelves than to their neighbours. Since you have printed this dangerous poem, have the candour to give this laſt anecdote of Bernard's life, as a preface or a poſtſcript. Mr. Sedley will believe me, when I ſay I am not faſtidiouſly moral; I do not conſider every deviation from our own accuſtomed habits to be turpitude, or even error. I have ſeen prudes grow outrageous [Page 76] at freedoms with their perſons, which I ſhould conſider as very inoffenſive. If I were in France, where, I am told, the ladies indulge in many familiarities, more harmleſs than they ſeem, I think I ſhould only conſider them as local cuſtoms. But libertiniſm, Mr. Sedley, in whatever form it comes, whether it be gay with the ſpirits of youth, or vapid with the tremors of age, adorned by the charms of verſe, or ſyſtematized by the philoſophy of proſe, is irreconcilable to my feelings. I will not look for the reaſons that may have excited its abhorrence; it is enough for me, that it's inſpection raiſes a diſguſt ſo natural and energetic, that I loſe my patience when I ſeek for reaſons. I do not know that I could give any ſatisfactory reaſon why I prefer perfumes to ordures, but that my organs are ſo framed as to be attracted by the one, and to be repulſed by the other. In theſe caſes, [Page 77] the beſt reaſon will be, in not attempting to reaſon; as, to return to your poem, all my art of love will, I hope, be, to have no art at all."
"A ſlight miſconception, not a difference in opinion, amiable Miſs Emily! has afforded you this vindictive exultation. How juſtly you obſerve, that there are rapid ſenſations which are ſo natural as not to exact the frigid and impotent efforts of an inactive reaſon. Do not form ſuch ſerious, ſuch gloomy notions of love; look not on it's innocent pleaſures with the melancholy eye of reaſon. You have been told, that the deſires of love are crimes, but they are only amuſements; you conſider him as a tyrant or a traitor, but he is only an amiable boy; he exacts but one gentle conceſſion, ſo well expreſſed by Thomſon, when he ſays—*. Who more modeſt and retired than a ſenſitive lover? In ſhade and in ſilence are all the ſurtive careſſes of love received. Love is a ſecret enjoyment, it admits of no participation; it is for the applauſe of his miſtreſs, [Page 79] and not for that of the world, a lover pants.
"Lament then with me, my dear Miſs Emily, the prejudices of our age and our country; how rarely does love unite two hearts in the ſanctioned pleaſures of matrimony! The conjugal couch we conſider as polluted, when two congenial ſpirits meet—but meet too late; and ſhould they love as nature dictates to the heart, we reproach them, we diſgrace them, we haraſs them with the iron manacles of law. Unnatural laws, but moſt natural loves! How often have I wiſhed to have been an inmate of thoſe countries which we call barbarous, but which I admire, as the only regions where nature is not offended by the haughty temerity of man! O! happy people, where the lover compoſes his fragrant letter with the freſheſt flowers; where the yellow jonquil tells his deſpair; the crimſon roſe, the [Page 80] conſenting bluſhes of his beloved; and the chaſte lily, the conſummation of his amatory hopes. Nor do the Canadians, with a conciſe rudeneſs, experience perhaps inferior delight, when they ſend a lighted match to their miſtreſs, and if ſhe blows it, they are happy. But precipitated love loſes half it's pleaſures. Sweet and romantic is the varied interval between deſire and enjoyment. The delight of the chace is not in it's game, but it's purſuit. Let a baſhful miſtreſs be capricious, be cruel, be every thing; but let her at length be kind. We claim but the reward of induſtry, a holiday in the toiling year of ſlavery
"If we liſten to Nature, can we err? "To enjoy is to obey," declares your own poet of reaſon. And what is the arid uniformity of life, but a dull and unmeaning paſſage, unleſs ſome tranſient roſes are ſcattered at our feet? Our exiſtence [Page 81] is derived from our ſenſes; corporeal ſenſibility is the ſource of our paſſions, the motive of our thought, the magnet of our ſociability; and, in one word, it is our miſery or our enjoyment. Nature never relinquiſhes our heart; it's emotions cuſtom may pervert, and reaſon may condemn. But to the tremblingly alive how tedious is cuſtom! how diſmal is reaſon! Ah! reaſon, Miſs Emily, what is reaſon? nothing but a prevailing ſyſtem of opinions, which in time are mutilated and reverſed, and which, directed merely by accidental cuſtoms, is various in every people. Reaſon is compelled to elaborate with terrible pangs, ſyſtem upon ſyſtem, and deſtroys itſelf, in it's attempts of ſelf-preſervation; and when a man is devoid of ſenſibility, he is conſidered to be the ableſt dialectician. Now, if ſenſibility is but the ſoft workings of nature, mark [Page 82] how unnatural is reaſon! But pleaſure, that is, ſenſibility gratified, is the ſpontaneous effuſion of nature; it's language is univerſal, it's actions are uniform; the ſame at the burning line as on the icy Alps. Our ſenſes are the porches of nature, ever open to all our pleaſures; reaſon magiſterially would cloſe them; but theſe veins are the canals of delight, and would you freeze them? Reaſon may make a conqueſt, but Pleaſure alone can be loved, for ſhe is the enchanting and the native ſovereign of the heart."
To this ſubtile and tedious philoſophy Emily patiently liſtened, and then replied. "Alas! Sir, why do you employ your talents in a cauſe ſo feeble, and yet ſo dangerous? All that you have beautifully ſaid cannot conceal the diſguſting reality; it is only ſpreading the variegated hues of the rainbow on the filthy webs of ſpiders. I anſwer you, [Page 83] however, that reaſon, melancholy as you term it, is my pleaſure. I therefore agree with you, that I ſhould loath exiſtence, did not indulge my pleaſure. Reaſon is immutable, for it is truth. I acknowledge that there exiſts a falſe, as well as a true reaſon; as there is a pleaſure that is true, and another which is falſe. It is therefore not difficult to deſcribe the one, while we are only alluding to the other; and, perhaps, had I not been rather ſingular in my habits of life, and my taſte for reading, I might have been deluded in liſtening to you; I might have miſtaken a falſe and ſpurious pleaſure, for that which alone is true and durable. Conſider, therefore, the wickedneſs of propagating maxims which all may liſten to with pleaſure, while few can diſcriminate with judgment."
"Dear Miſs Emily, it is you who form ſophiſms. Why will you call reaſon [Page 84] pleaſure, and it's variance, immutability? Is that pleaſure, that commands an abſtinence from enjoyment, and which is frequently known to communicate an antipathy of exiſtence? No, not all the propoſitions of Locke can change one organ that inebriates the heart. And is this reaſon immutable, which is variable as the heavens, and as changeable in a people as in an individual? When reaſon flies to the cloiſter, does pleaſure follow? When the anchorite ſhuts up the human heart, what remains but the waning ſpectre of man? Pure and traceleſs is the pliability of pleaſure, pure and traceleſs as this kiſs!" He took her hand, and raiſed it to his inclining lips. It was done with ſuch modeſty and gentleneſs, that Emily could not be angry; ſhe was only confuſed.
"Mr. Sedley," ſhe ſaid, "I know theſe freedoms are conſidered rather as [Page 85] favours done to us; but allow me to indulge my own ſenſations. I have lived in retirement; I cannot grant ſuch inſidious liberties. You would not, I am ſure, be ſatisfied with that poor gratification of ſeizing from an unprotected female that which ſhe muſt not refuſe, and will not grant."
"Heaven forbid, my charming Miſs Emily, angel as you are, in mind as in form! Pleaſure is no ſolitary gratification, it is a dividual enjoyment; if you are miſerable, I therefore cannot be happy. Alas! you perſiſt in refuſing the ſupreme felicity of a chaſte voluptuouſneſs; in preferring the ſpiritleſs repoſe of life, to that enchantment which gives to one day the exiſtence of an age, the deliciouſneſs of mutual poſſeſſion. But recollect, that with the indulgence of this chaſte voluptuouſneſs, no virtue refuſes to be united; and ſuch [Page 86] amiable women have adorned ſociety, and cheriſhed the duties of humanity. I muſt not quit you without repeating Saint Evremond's charming and philoſophical inſcription for Ninon de L'Enclos; I can give it you almoſt literally:—
Nature with ſage indulgence formedNINON'S enchanting ſoul, and gazed!With EPICURUS' ſoftneſs warmed,And with a CATO'S virtue raiſed*.
When the philoſophic voluptuary quitted Emily, he placed his poem in a book ſhe had been reading, unperceived by her, and ſhe now retired to dreſs. Mrs. Bully ſoon afterwards entered, and her [Page 87] curious and inquiſitorial eye, always exerciſed on the appearance of a volume, unfortunately diſcovered in Emily's this "Art of Love." "A pretty title indeed," ſhe exclaimed, "for a modeſt young lady! Yet Miſs Emily can't read the Bible becauſe of ſome amorous hiſtories, which "ſhe began, but would never finiſh." A curſe on ſuch Socinianiſm!" Here ſhe turned over the leaves, and then cried out, "Lord ſave us! here's a deſcription of two newly-married lovers on the morning couch of Hymen, which I ſuppoſe only means a bed. What's this?—
Thou ſleep'ſt, Zelida, I enjoy alone!Soft o'er thy form one living bluſh is thrown.Awake to pleaſure with the morning beam!Ah! while I view thee, thou but view'ſt ſome dream!He ſighed—Zelida hears! her eyes expand!Tremulous ſhe ſighs, and lifts her timid hand;[Page 88]Nor dares withdraw it! Hylas gently guides,In each warm vein the tendereſt tremor glides.They joined their lips of flame with fainting bliſs;Their ſouls divided in the ethereal kiſs!
"Abominable! 'tis n't fit to be read by a Chriſtian! Very well, Miſs Emily! Not fit to be read!" So ſaying, ſhe ſnatched the poem, hurried to her chamber, ſat down, and having quite read it through, locked it up in one of her ſecret drawers.
LOVE, in it's earlieſt ſtage, has a variety of ways of exhibiting itſelf. There is love at firſt ſight, which we obſerve to be a very faſhionable and expeditious manner with ſome of our living noveliſts; yet I cannot applaud them for any invention in this reſpect. To detect the fineſt foldings of the human heart, is the pleaſing ſkill of us domeſtic biographers. Then, there is love without love, by which we underſtand the Platonic affection; but what a ridiculous figure would the amiable boy make, if he were to hold in his hand an uſeleſs torch without [Page 90] a flame, which, we are inclined to think, is the chimerical flambeau which every Platoniſt waves. But the moſt remarkable, and, we conceive, the moſt ingenious kind of love, is when we are perfectly enamoured of a perſon, whom we have never ſeen, and of whom we have never heard. It is a kind of love to which we are extremely partial, having ourſelves formed a hundred delightful miſeries of ſuch deliciouſneſs; pleaſures of which, aſſuredly, only exquiſite genius, or exquiſite madneſs, has ever felt the inebriation. A Spaniſh hero, in one of the plays of Calderon, to apologize for his moſt fervent, but moſt ſudden paſſion, obſerves, that he loved his miſtreſs before he knew her, becauſe he was fated to love her. Others, the very Caeſars of love, may exclaim, I ſaw, I loved, I conquered! but then ſuch a happy victory will more depend on the heroine than the hero; unleſs [Page 91] the latter ſhould poſſeſs a brilliant enquipage, a noble manſion, and a noble income; and in that predicament, the hero may juſtly attribute his triumph entirely to himſelf. But of the kind of love which we form for a perſon quite unknown to us, the moſt pleaſing inſtance is that of the once famous Zayde, who by the means of an unknown portrait, hung in her father's gallery, felt a moſt vehement paſſion for her lover, about twenty years before ever ſhe ſaw him; ſo that, without any violation of decency, ſhe might have thrown herſelf into his arms at the very firſt moment they met; but, unfortunately, when ſhe met the man ſhe ſo ardently loved, ſhe paſſed ſeveral years in his ſociety, which a reſolution not to love him, becauſe ſhe loved his picture, which it is evident was not neceſſary for her to know was his picture, till the laſt page of that romance.
[Page 92] Among this claſs of lovers by anticipation, we muſt place our good Charles; for he was fond of Emily, and his heart palpitated warmly at the ſound of her name, long before their firſt accidental interview at Mrs. Wilſon's; he loved without having ſeen her; for he loved her moſt affectionately for her filial piety, and her patient ſufferings; but when he ſaw her, to love is but a poverty of conception, to deſignate with preciſion the tumult that ruſhed on his heart, that made him inactive in the day, and reſtleſs in the night. With Emily, the grand affair of love was far different; as ſhe had not any equal impulſes to love Charles before ſhe ſaw him, when ſhe did ſee him the paſſion grew by ſlow gradations; ſhe was averſe to indulge the ſuſceptibility of her heart; ſhe had a latent propenſity to a dangerous infection, rather than that ſhe felt the immedicable diſorder. [Page 93] To gain the full poſſeſſion of her virtuous heart, it was neceſſary to merit it; and as ſuch opportunities do not eaſily occur, (at leaſt in true hiſtories like the preſent) it was long before ſhe perceived the juſt claim of Charles to that valued gift. And when ſhe began to love, moſt unfortunately it occurred, that ſhe was obliged to dread, and to hate, as we purpoſe ſhortly to detail.
Emily entered the parlour one day, followed by the Reverend Ephraim Dandelion. She flung open the door with a haſty violence, unuſual with her mild manners; her face was one bluſh; her whole frame one diſorder. "Heavens! what is the matter, child?" enquired Miſs Million. "Nothing, Madam;" replied the confuſed Emily, "but Mr. Dandelion, I preſume, will be taught to reſpect himſelf, or me, for the future. As it aſſuredly will not be repeated, it would [Page 94] be giving it too much importance to remember it."
Dandelion replied: "Miſs Emily is ſo touchy, that ſhe takes fire as eaſily as the wadding of my gun, or as a little field of furze. What the deuce can a man do with his hands more inoffenſively, than to arrange the tucker of a charming girl? True, my hand ſlipped; and Miſs Emily was in ſuch an agitation, that, d [...]e, ſhe frightened me."
The eyes of Charles darted fire; they were fixed on Dandelion. The Reverend Ephraim moſt probably caught them, for he bent his head, and employed himſelf in pulling the ſtraps of his boots. Emily marked the full direction of Charles's fervid eyes; ſhe felt an emotion of gratitude and alarm.
[Page 95] "Indeed, is that all?" ſaid Miſs Million, bridling, with a look which ſhe divided between the plaintiff and the defendant, but which might be diſcriminated, by an analyzer of a look, into an inſulting ſneer for Emily, and a jealous reproach for Ephraim. "I adviſe you, child, that if ſuch harmleſs freedoms are to occaſion ſuch violent reſentments, to hide yourſelf from the figure of a man. But you have ſeen ſo little of the great world, that ſuch gaucheté of manners muſt be the conſequence. But I do not ſee, Mr. Dandelion, what you have to do with Miſs Emily!"
"Mr. Dandelion," obſerved Vaurien, "would do well, when he thruſts his hands into a roſe-buſh, to take care of not ſcratching himſelf with the briers. I wiſh, my good friend, the tucker had been well armed at all points. You have had but a bloodleſs victory, and have [Page 96] taken the outworks without even the apology of a ſiege."
"You country gentlemen," ſaid Sedley, "are moſt robuſt in your refinements; you cruſh in your embrace, and your raptures annihilate delicate nerves. 'Tis all buſſing at a goſſip's chriſtening. I think you are the only reſpectable part of the community who perpetuate the venerable kiſſing of Queen Beſſe's days, or her good father, whoſe kiſſes, I think, generally concluded with blows. I believe a woman conceives a kiſs from a country gentleman full as dreadful as a tug or a ſhake. You are all for overflowing bumpers; no matter what wine! You have done, in the turning of a lock, what a ſenſitive man would have taken three years about."
[Page 97] "Play, Sir," continued Sedley, "why it is coming to blows! I fear Miſs Emily has received ſome marks from your cudgelling arms. I know a friend, Mr. Dandelion, who is a man of ſenſibility and refinement, and who has now paid his devoirs, to an amiable woman, theſe twelve years; he never paſſed an evening with her but in the company of a third perſon; he admires her muſick, ſhe admires his verſes. He was ſeven years before he kiſſed her hand; but to have touched her tucker—Sir, as ſoon would he;—but I'll ſay no more."
When the company broke up, Charles took Dandelion aſide, and ſaid: "Miſs Emily Balfour I am ſorry to ſee in this houſe, without a protector. Such, I imagine, ſhe cannot want long; but, till ſhe has a protector, we ſhould all of us conſider it as our indiſpenſable duty to perform that office. You, however, do not.
"My humanity. I do not mean to interchange any converſation. To a perſon of your character conviction muſt be brought by other means. Mr. Dandelion, my father was a clergyman; it is an awful profeſſion; and he who ſeems aſhamed of it, has attained a degree of depravity which I think is quite of a recent date." So ſaying, he gave a violent ſhake to his cropt hair and braided tail; for when our young parſon was in town, his clerical encircling curl was twiſted into an elegant tail, ſuſtained by a tortoiſeſhell comb.
While this ſhort dialogue was paſſing between Charles and Ephraim, the door had been left a-jar, and the maid of Emily, in paſſing, had been attracted by the firm tones of Charles. The whole ſcene was revealed. Through the magnifying glaſs of her eye ſhe examined every motion, and, in a very poetical amplification of our hero's conciſe proſe, ſhe detailed the whole to Emily; who, when the terrible [Page 100] deſcription was cloſed, rejoiced to find that the duel was a bloodleſs encounter. Charmed by the modeſt, the ſenſible, and concealed manner, which Charles had choſen to protect her, this action was repaid, by her little heart, with more than gratitude.
In this manner Emily paſſed ſix months in the houſe of Miſs Million, much to her diſſatisfaction. The refinement of Sedley was inſidious; the brutality of Dandelion diſguſted; the intereſt ſhe took in Vaurien was cenſurable; and the growing affection ſhe felt for Charles was imprudent. Miſs Million had now heard her ſo frequently applauded by every one, and particularly ſince the attack of the Reverend Ephraim on the fair boſom of our heroine, that ſhe began to feel weary of a girl who carried the whole weight of attention to her ſide. Her diſpleaſure gleamed through ſeveral obſcure hints [Page 101] dropped to Mrs. Betty her waiting-maid, who blew the gleams into a kitchen flame. They met a moſt terrible bellows in the mouth of Mrs. Bully, who, beſides accuſations of Socinianiſm, whiſpered in cloſe ſecrets, and talked in imperfect ſurmiſes, that ſhe had made a moſt important detection of the looſe morals of Miſs Emily. This part of her accuſation agitated the curioſity of the lower part of the houſe; and a moſt unfortunate circumſtance, which then happened, confirmed all the foul accuſations of the orthodox and benevolent Mrs. Bully.
Emily now viewed the altered features of patronage; ſhe ſaw herſelf the dependant of a mean, an unfeeling, and an uneducated woman of faſhion. To her ſenſations every look was reproach, every expreſſion contempt, and every civility inſult. Not that Miſs Million uttered her vulgar ſentiments in their clear and [Page 102] appropriate language; but, to the luminous ſenſibility of Emily, the ſordid heart of Miſs Million lay open; and her ſenſitive ſoul now ſhivered, in all the varying ſeaſons of a year of patronage. It was now ſhe perceived that ſhe had not regarded the counſel of her father, in ſeeking her independence from herſelf; ſhe ſaw her exiſtence in ſorrow or in pleaſure, as the face of her patroneſs choſe. Completely miſerable, and humiliated in her own mind, ſhe felt herſelf unprotected, and knew not wher to find a refuge.
THE friendſhip of Charles for Vaurien had become indiſſoluble. Some opinions, which the Gaul had at firſt thrown out, alarmed him; but he conſidered them only as thoſe dangerous paradoxes, peculiar to the intemperate philoſophers of his country; nor was Charles a little delighted, by perceiving the energy of his own eloquence, operating on the ſuperior intellect of Vaurien, who had gradually relinquiſhed his own notions, one by one, and, at preſent, ſeemed only a mere reflection of the pure and honeſt Charles. He repoſed on the boſom of this cheriſhed friend; his virtues daily excited [Page 104] admiration; and none ſo much as his extraordinary liberalities, ſince his late remittances from France, which, as he informed his friends, he had been ſo fortunate as to receive. To Vaurien, Charles poured his ſecret ſorrows; he touched mournfully on the diſſipations of Lady Belfield, and lamented the contempt he hourly received from his former gentle patroneſs. "As for my Lord, you acknowledge," ſaid he, "that he is obſtinately loſt to reaſon, and an enemy to that conſtitution which protects his perſon and his property; which muſt be ſlowly reformed, not rapidly deſtroyed; united cloſer, not diſorganiſed. In vain I willingly yield ſome principles, which I deem political ſuperſtitions; but, in return, he yields me not one opinion, however fantaſtic, however deſtructive. He and his party would innovate all things; but my Lord does not agree with Mr. Subtile, Mr. Subtile with Mr. Dragon, nor Mr. [Page 105] Sympathy with Dr. Bounce. Philoſophy has it's prejudices, not leſs pernicious, not leſs inhuman, than the popular prejudices of the moſt intolerant people. And at what aims this philoſophy? In forming a man without a heart! It is of no conſequence to me, whether a perſecuting religion burns me in an auto-da-fe, or whether a perſecuting philoſophy conducts me to the guillotine; it is always the ſame thing for my neck."
To ſimilar converſations Vaurien had not only given his approbation, but expreſſed his ſurpriſe that a free Briton, like Charles, ſhould violate his dignity by the dependence of patronage. "Gratitude," ſaid he, "for the reception accorded to a foreign wanderer, ſtill kept him in the houſe of Belfield, but his day of enfranchiſement ſhould not be far; and he ſhould rejoice to obſerve Charles ſpurn his ſplendid, but ignoble chains;" [Page 106] and for this purpoſe offered a liberal ſupply of money. Charles felt grateful, and only refuſed the offer through delicacy, obſerving, "that whenever his patrons ſhould hint at a diſmiſſion, he would rejoice to accept it." "Tres bien," ſaid Vaurien, muſing.
Lady Belfield was exaſperated by the inſenſibility of Charles; ſhe had exhauſted her whole artillery, and ſhe in vain eſſayed to ſoften the human ſtatue into animation. She now ſuſpected that his heart was occupied by ſome rival. To her confidential Vaurien ſhe opened her ſurmiſes; their mutual paſſion had greatly ſubſided, and, it it's height, it was a love that knows no jealouſy. Her Ladyſhip and Vaurien would have mutually aſſiſted each other in procuring themſelves new lovers.
"He is my friend; you muſt grant me the moſt inviolable ſecreſy. Charles is unworthy of your regard. Your rival," added Vaurien, with a ſneer halfſuppreſſed, "is a low woman, picked from the ſtreets, and whom he has placed in a petty ſhop." He gave the addreſs of Mrs. Wilſon.
The face of Lady Belfield burned; her eyes caught fire; and ſhe ſaid, ſcarce audibly: "Is the wretch ſo low? How humiliating the villain! His preſence is a reproach. Vaurien, he ſhall not remain here."
[Page 108] "At this houſe," continued Vaurien, "Miſs Balfour accidentally hired lodgings. He has taken me frequently to this woman's; but the ſweet Emily, for whom you know I feel a paſſion, a paſſion as yet ungratified, knows nothing of her character."
"I have told you, Vaurien," replied her Ladyſhip, "that I have already ſecured that dear girl to reſide with us ſome time. Receive that innocence with gentleneſs; ſmile at leaſt on the victim of my friendſhip and your love. When ſhe bleeds, let me not hear her cries."
From this converſation Vaurien haſtened to his Lordſhip. With Belfield he had for ſome time paſt engaged in complicate conſpiracies. "This morning, my Lord," he ſaid, "a truſty courier has brought me letters from Breſt. Rowan O'Connor has ſecured Connaught. We have a garriſon of Defenders in all [Page 109] the remote towns of Ireland. Surely potatoes are inflammable, the Iriſh are ſo hot. Our party gains at Paris; the Jacobins are playing gently now with the Moderés, but, rely on it, 'tis the young tyger with his keeper, who attempted to domeſticate the animal, but when the tyger knew his ſtrength, he toſſed about the head of his keeper for his amuſement. An embarkation for England is preparing, the coaſts are lined with men; the invaſion is at no great diſtance; but your Lordſhip wants patriotiſm, and this is the only moment when all the Thames ſhould roll, like another Pactolus, on ſands of gold. Money is wanted in Ireland. Dragon holds a correſpondence with almoſt every town in England; we have all the idle, the diſcontented, the bankrupts, and the hot-brained youth of every town; you ſee our party is formidable. Rant has become an itinerant orator, and his ſixpenny eloquence ſcatters more ſedition [Page 110] among the lower claſſes than all the money of your Lordſhip; he is quite intelligible to them; ranting, roaring, raving; he draws his metaphors from the very gutters of the people; and ſo far, like Virgil, as your Addiſon ſays, the fellow toſſes his dung about him with ſome effect."
His Lordſhip liſtened with intenſe delight to this rapid ſketch of the Gaul. What he barely touched on, his fertile imagination expanded by anticipation. Already, on the ruins of London, a committee of public ſafety ſeemed to ariſe. "Take all, my dear Vaurien, all I have to give; but the dilatorineſs of all thoſe projects, which you deſcribe ſo rapidly, has left me a ruined man. Mortgage I cannot more, and for ſwindling I have not ſufficient credit. If this invaſion of England fails, where ſhall I fly?"
"France," replied Vaurien, "will be proud to enrol the name of Belfield [Page 111] among it's Engliſh citizens; we have already ſome Britiſh worthies of a kindred merit. But I can proceed no further if Charles remains in your houſe. I ſuſpect he is a miniſterial ſpy."
Such were the friendſhips of Vaurien; yet at the very inſtant he evinced a ſudden ebullition of ſympathy, which virtue would have been proud to own. Paſſing the hall, he obſerved a ſervant lad, who had retired into a dark corner, and ſeated on a bench, was weeping and ſobbing. "What has happened, William?" enquired Vaurien.—"I have juſt received a letter, Sir, from my poor mother, who tells me my father is dead. He has been bed-ridden theſe ten years. His death might have been borne, for my poor mother could hardly ſupport herſelf and a helpleſs old man. But we are both now in ſuch deſpair, I cannot [Page 112] ſleep at the thoughts; my father will not have Chriſtian burial; the creditors inſiſt firſt on being paid; the body is detained, and heaven only knows where my father's ſoul reſts; it can never reſt ſurely if not buried in Chriſtian ground. Ah! Sir, I remember, that when the great Methodiſt Surgeon of our village anatomized the ſtrong man that was hanged for continually breaking out of priſon, he felt a qualm of conſcience, and employed me in the night to dig a grave in the church-yard, that the bones might be buried in holy ground; for he, no doubt, could not anſwer to his conſcience if they had remained unburied. If people are not buried in church ground, what will become of their ſouls? My mother is diſtracted, and I am afraid to walk in the night." Vaurien ſmiled at the artleſs tremors of the lad and his mother, and quieted their holy horror by his liberal aſſiſtance.
SINCE Emily's reſidence in Portmanſquare, although ſo long a time had elapſed, Mrs. Wilſon had not yet paid her a viſit. This ſeparation had been occaſioned by miſfortune, and not by neglect. There are ſome beings who ſeem ſelected by "outrageous Fortune," not only to receive the full weight of her fatal "ſling," but to be stuck round by her haraſſing and petty "arrows." Mrs. Wilſon, in iſſuing one day for this very purpoſe, either that really ſhe had been ſo cloſely confined at her induſtrious counter, that ſhe was quite a novice in the art of walking the crouded ſtreets, [Page 114] or that, accuſtomed to indulge many profound reveries of ſorrow, ſhe was rather ſeen, than that ſhe herſelf ſaw, ſhe had hardly cleared the view of her houſe, when ſhe encountered a porter, who▪ with the full weight and the broad expanſion of a cheſt of tea, was equally oppreſſed as blinded, yet unfortunately determined, at the ſame time, to be rapid in his motions; ſo that the exertion of ſight entirely reſted on the paſſengers, and not on the porter. The latter indeed proceeded rapidly, but ſecurely, for he was in no danger of being reverſed; but ruſhing round the corner of a ſtreet where Mrs. Wilſon had arrived, at that very nicety of point of turning when the two future contenders are perfectly unperceived by each other—in not half a ſecond of time—the porter rounded, and Mrs. Wilſon fell! It proved no trifling fracture, and ſhe had [Page 115] hitherto been confined to her houſe. Emily had more than once called on her, had ſympathized, and found her more eſtimable at every interview; yet her father's ſuſpicions had made in indelible impreſſion on her mind; and prompt as ſhe was at the tender call of friendſhip, ſuſpicion made her rather tremble than enjoy.
"Alas! Mrs. Wilſon," Emily replied, "if it is not, I muſt attribute it to my preſent ſtate of feeling. Every ſcene takes much, and ſometimes all it's effect, from our exiſting ideas. I feel, that if I were in an Elyſium it would appear gloomy. In the image of my father, there is yet too much life for me quietly [Page 116] to remember that it has ceaſed to exiſt, his minuteſt habits, and his accuſtomed phraſes, ſtill engage my affections; and I gaze, on what I cannot view, and I liſten, to what I cannot hear. To me he is not dead! and I ſeem to live in the cruel torments of an abſence I never yet knew, and cannot teach myſelf to ſuffer. Conſider, then, my preſent ſituation; here is nothing but mirth and ſplendour, and my heart is agitated by a perpetual conflict of interiour miſery, and exterior gaiety. But with me the heart will ever prevail over all it's conſtraints; it will colour the ſcene I view, will prompt in my ſorrows the languor of my converſation, and muſt ill fit me to be the companion of Miſs Million. Every day I feel I am an intruder in this great houſe; and yet I conſider myſelf as it's humbleſt ſervant. I ſold my freedom when I united myſelf to it's generous owner. Gratitude takes [Page 117] from me the power of choice; otherwiſe, much could I wiſh, my dear Mrs. Wilſon, that I ſtill occupied the ſmall room of your ſmall houſe; there I think I could feel quietneſs, and to me quietneſs ſeems an enjoyment; I almoſt think it felicity. My independence would then ariſe from myſelf; temperance would be my gratification; uſeful, yet not unpleaſing occupations all my wealth, and your converſation would conſtitute all that I wiſh to hear of the world. When I entered this ſuperb manſion, I unthinkingly violated the ſolemn injunction of my dear father, who, as if he had been aware of this ſplendid ſlavery, this ſilken chain, told me only to derive my ſubſiſtence from myſelf. Ah! if I were but once more in your little room!—but what do I ſay? There my father would ſit before me; every thing in your houſe would remind me of his preſence. The arm [Page 118] chair would tell me where he twice ſwooned, and the bed would for ever revive his laſt, his affectionate, yet dignified hour! But theſe are fooliſh tears; the unavailing tears of memory; yet is their ſweet ſadneſs endeared to the living; they ever relieve me; and when I have wiped my eyes, my heart feels the energy of fortitude, and I then ſay, I live as Heaven chuſes."
"If you would live with me," replied Mrs. Wilſon, "I will change my houſe. On induſtry alone depends all my buſineſs, and induſtry will make buſineſs in one ſtreet as well as in another. I have heard ſome of my neighbours, who have quitted their firſt ſhops to get into larger ones, complain, that their preſent ſtreet is not half ſo lucky as their former one. I have attempted, out of mere benevolence, and not of mere pride, to play the philoſopher. I have ſhewn them, [Page 119] that in their firſt ſhops, with much leſs buſineſs, they were much more induſtrious; and that when ſome people get rich, it is a chance, that they become again poor; and really, without ſuſpecting it, I have purſued a certain notion of Ariſtotle's, which I met the other evening, that there is no good or ill fortune, but what ariſes from our own ill or good conduct; and that to ſay a man is very unfortunate, is to ſay, that he wants capacity, or wants induſtry. However, I have made no converts of my good neighbours; and one particularly, who, I fear, by his expenſive mode of living, and by the affected education of his daughters, who, when their father's man is weighing cheeſe, are employed at delighting his ears by jarring with a concerto of Haydn, and who have hung round their ſhop, among Cheſhire and Wiltſhire cheeſes, ſome ſelect views of ancient Greece, I ſay [Page 120] this poor man, who made a reſpectable fortune in his firſt ſhop by his own induſtry, is now convinced, that Great Ruſſel-ſtreet is one of the unluckieſt ſtreets in town. But I am flying off in a tangent when I have ſomething to communicate, of a ſerious and intereſting nature.
"What I now impart muſt, my dear Miſs Emily, be confided to your ſecret ear. It is not only your delicacy which I fear to irritate, but the kindneſs of the humaneſt man, which I tremble to offend. A devoted friendſhip for two perſons, whoſe happineſs is dear to me as the exiſtence of my children, will, if it is returned but in the ſmalleſt portion, receive with affection, or pardon with facility, what my heart has prompted me to diſcloſe."
"Why this embarraſſment, Mrs. Wilſon? What ſecret can you have to preface [Page 121] thus ſolemnly? Can you fear to unfold, or I to hear, what you ſay intereſts me? The innocent have no ſecrets. I aſſure you I never had a ſecret in my life. I have indeed been made acquainted with that kind of intelligence, but I generally found that a ſecret was only malice in diſguiſe. I muſt freely ſay, that extorted ſilence I can violate without any conſcientious yearnings. Have you a ſecret which you would not tell me as frankly as any other friend?"
"Indeed I cannot agree. Yes, I muſt ſay that innocence may have it's ſecrets, which it would expire before it would reveal. Ah! there are ſome delicate ſituations, which, if not fearfully and cautiouſly concealed, might wear the moſt criminal aſpect." Mrs. Wilſon here gave a ſigh much more profound than audible.
[Page 122] "Well, my dear Mrs. Wilſon," replied Emily, "you muſt know more of human nature than myſelf. I never could enter into any man's character but my father's. All men aſſuredly are not purſued by the ſame ill fortune; and all, therefore, may not be as ſelf-ſevere. Often has he told me, that he never conceived a thought that he was not prompt to expreſs. Excellent man! There was a holineſs in his mind. And reſpecting thoſe critical ſituations to which you allude, where innocence takes a criminal aſpect, he uſed to ſay, ſincerity is wiſdom. What to-day we conceal may appear to-morrow; and the explanation we avoided will then come too late. We have got into our uſual moralizing ſtrain, my dear Mrs. Wilſon; but I am now quite prepared for your ſecret."
While Emily was pronouncing her [Page 123] father's apophthegm on ſincerity, Mrs. Wilſon reddened, changed her poſture, and drew out her handkerchief to place before her eyes. Emily was intent on her netting. The pointed addreſs ſhe had made, her innocent heart never ſuſpected. When Mrs. Wilſon recovered from certain uncomfortable ſenſations, ſhe proceeded thus: "You know, Miſs Emily, that to the ſingular benevolence of Mr. Charles Hamilton I and my children are indebted for our daily bread. We ſhould now be worſe than mendicants; for mendicity has it's friendſhips; alone in this metropolis, God denied me one. I conſidered myſelf as an outcaſt; no relative to aid me with an aſſuaſive word of conſolation; poverty was combined with deſpair. My ſoul ſickened, my exiſtence was poignant; more than once my armed hand was raiſed to my breaſt; but when my eye has ſought to take a final farewell [Page 124] of my children, the weapon fell, and the mother lived!" Here Mrs. Wilſon burſt into tears, and her thick ſobbings impeded her voice.
"Dear Mrs. Wilſon," ſaid Emily in emotion, "I believe your ſituation was as ſingular as the benevolence of Mr. Charles. His modeſty ſtudiouſly conceals his merits; but no man who is uniformly benevolent can ſo far indulge his natural diſpoſitions; the voice of gratitude will utter the ſecrets of modeſt philanthropy. He has felt for me here; I too am his debtor, but it is unknown to him; he has ſeen me embarraſſed, and has delicately extricated; he has ſeen me inſulted, and has ſilently protected. It would have been generous to have protected a female, but to have done this unknown to all but to her offender has in it ſomething of the delicacy of thoſe ſenſitive beings who, in an age of romantic [Page 125] generoſity, were only alive to the impulſe of heroiſm."
Mrs. Wilſon was now more compoſed; and this voluntary applauſe beſtowed on her friend cheered and animated; a ſoft ſmile brightened her tears, like a ſunbeam gilding a watery cloud. She ſaid, "perhaps, Miſs Emily, you have obſerved Mr. Charles of late. How exanimate, how pallid, how melancholy!"
"Alas!" replied Mrs. Wilſon, "he thinks he never can be well. Sleepleſs nights and feveriſh days, if they cannot rapidly annihilate the ſource of life, preſs down it's elaſticity, and wear away ſlowly but ſurely it's ſprings. Never expect more to ſee him other than he is; his malady is in his ſilence, and he will prefer that ſilence to his health; he periſhes without the little conſolation of [Page 126] ſaying, I periſh; enamoured of his malady, he ſmiles in his ſufferings."
"I muſt firſt," continued Mrs. Wilſon, "aſſure you, that Mr. Charles ſometimes, in the native ſimplicity of his heart, confides circumſtances which he would not expreſsly mention. If my gratitude had not taught me to ſtudy him minutely, to catch every variation of his tones, every expreſſion of his geſtures, every diſtant combination of a caſual word, I had to this moment, like others, only perceived that his health decayed, while the cauſe would have been mantled over in the moſt reſolute concealment. Like you, Miſs Emily, in his reſidence he is unfortunate. You alike feel the tortures of a ſplendid dependence. Similar in your ſentiments, you are ſimilar in your ſufferings. If you mutually look into your [Page 127] own hearts, you will ſee that of the other."
"And now, Miſs Balfour, when I venture to ſay, that with diffidence, but with ardour, he loves you, muſt I be cenſured for unburthening a truth that has long oppreſſed my heart? Who in this world are dear to me but my children, and yourſelf, and Mr. Charles? Reſt only aſſured, that he knows not of my coming here, and ſuſpects not that I have diſcovered the concealed ſource of his infelicity. Did I not know him the nobleſt of men, I ſhould not have addreſſed myſelf now to the moſt amiable of women. Gratitude would not have exacted my diſturbance of your repoſe. Pardon me then, if I have acted erroneouſly; it is the error of reſpectful affection."
[Page 128] Emily pauſed, was diſtreſſed, and raveled her net-work. "I know not how to reply," ſhe ſaid, "my dear Mrs. Wilſon. I have the higheſt regard for Mr. Charles. Not to value him would ſhew myſelf worthleſs. I owe him much. He is the only friend I have of his ſex. But when I aſſure you, that I never felt more than reſpect for the maſculine character, I ſpeak with my wonted ſincerity. The paſſion of love has never moleſted my quiet; I never could love any man but my father. I loved him becauſe he was great and unfortunate. But the friendſhips of my own ſex form the only ſocial pleaſures I can receive from another. There is no delicacy, none of the tender and melting features of nature in man. If my father had not been my father, even him I ſhould have thought ſevere. As for myſelf, I have found ſome relief; Lady Belfield has given me an invitation to [Page 129] reſide with her during an abſence of Miſs Million's from town. Believe me when I ſay, that the friendſhip of her Ladyſhip, an amiable and accompliſhed woman, yields a careleſs, untempered joy, a fearleſs happineſs, which the ſeverity of man can never communicate."
"Name not Lady Belfield!" cried Mrs. Wilſon with energy and emotion. "I muſt not further prolong my viſit; but, dear Miſs Emily, remember that Charles Hamilton will be ſilent but muſt love. I conjure you not to notice to him, that I have mentioned his name to you on this delicate diſcovery. Never, perhaps, would he pardon, and his diſpleaſure would render the life I owe him loathſome."
She quitted the fair Emily, and left her abſorbed in thoſe tender trepidations of the mind, when with half-reluctant half-aſſenting emotions the earlieſt flame of paſſion breaks from [Page 130] the heart, where it lay concealed and unfelt, to diffuſe itſelf over the form, to ſparkle in the eye, to bloom in the feature, to melodize the voice, and to poliſh the air; while nature, ſeconding the innocent embarraſſment, bewitches the lover by calling forth thoſe new-born charms, more fatal to his repoſe than thoſe he traced ere his miſtreſs knew her firſt amorous thought.
But the ſevere fortune of Charles doomed that this firſt amorous thought was never known to him, and, inſtead of charming, it terrified. The cradle of Love is wreathed by the Graces, and the muſic of Hope pours its faſcinating ſound; but to our hero, Love was nurſed by the Furies, and the melodies of Hope were exchanged for the myſterious reproaches and the averted face of his Emily.
WHEN Mrs. Wilſon had quitted the faire Emily, and was paſſing through the hall, one of the footmen familiarly addreſſed her, and was on the point of forcing her to an embrace, when violently burſting from his arms, in an agony of horror ſhe exclaimed: "And has it come to this?"—She ruſhed from the door.
"Body o'me!" cried the footman, "why the old dame thinks I don't know her again. She has gone off for all the world like a modeſt woman! So the Holborn-hill madam is Miſs Emily's good friend! Birds of a feather, I warrant; [...]are intelligence for Mrs. Bully!"
[Page 132] Let us follow the miſerable and humiliated Wilſon! She reached home without a perception of having iſſued from the houſe of Miſs Million. The hall and the footman were fixed in her imagination; a repeated geſture ſeemed as if ſhe was continually ſhrinking from his touch; ſhe writhed in tortures; her face was now reddened by the deepeſt ſhame, and ſoon ſucceeded an aſhy horror over every feature. As ſoon as ſhe had reached her houſe ſhe hurried to her chamber, threw herſelf on the bed, and ſpoke incoherently in an agony of ſpirits: "Father of Mercies, is mercy alone denied to me? Is not an error waſhed away by tears like mine? No! I had not endured thy final puniſhment; I ſee there was a degree of miſery yet reſerved for me, ſharper than the ſecret ſting that lay in my heart. When I was a proſtitute, my ſhame was reſerved for myſelf; there was no friend [Page 133] to reproach; no perdition to the cheriſhed feelings of ſocial affection; no one marked me; I ſinned, no, I only erred, in peace. Children, children! what have ye not coſt me! what now will ye coſt me! Shall I curſe ye? ſhall I abandon ye? Have ye not extended your mother on the ſloweſt rack of agony?—Poor children, ye are innocent, I alone am guilty. Heaven decrees that the puniſhment ſhall endure when the crime has paſt. Shall I murmur to taſte the bitterneſs my own hands have prepared? Now, wherever I wander, wherever I fix, 'the finger of ſcorn' will point at me, a low, a miſerable proſtitute! A fever ſhakes my frame. Cruel retroſpection! I thought myſelf reinſtated in virtue and comfort—one ſtroke of accident deſtroys my eternal peace! This footman—The idea is inſupportable!—my ſhame is promulgated—Miſs Emily muſt at length know me the wretch I am [Page 134] Wiſe was her father's counſel, that ſincerity is wiſdom; what we conceal to-day may appear to-morrow. Explanation has come too late! For the bluſh it would have coſt me, I now muſt give the pang that ſhall endure with life. She ſurely addreſſed herſelf to me, to claim the elucidation of my myſterious hiſtory. O torture! I will fly into the country; I will ſeek ſome chance ſervitude; I will periſh, and no one ſhall know where the wretched Wilſon dies.—This then is the ſuſpended puniſhment of heaven! I taſted bitterneſs; I feed on gall. My children, my children, if ye periſh, ye cannot reproach your delirious mother—it is your country, your God decrees it."
Leaving this victim of her own error and of public prejudice we return to the houſe of Million. As ſoon as the footman, who had more than once known her in her degrading character, entered the [Page 135] ſervants' hall, he informed the coachman, that the dame of Holborn-hill had juſt paſſed from the apartment of Emily, and that ſhe flung out as proud as if ſhe had been a modeſt woman. The coachman related the circumſtance to his very good friend the cook, without "extenuating or ſetting down aught in malice." In theſe caſes the imaginations of men are not apt to prove ſo fertile as thoſe of the women, for reaſons known aſſuredly to an obſerver of human nature. The cook embelliſhed it, the chamber-maid refined it, while Mrs. Bully gave it the beginning, the middle, and the end, ſo ſeverely exacted by the great Ariſtotle in the compoſition of an epic. And here we muſt obſerve, that lying is the eloquence of the vulgar. To affect and perſuade the human paſſions requires a forcible emotion of the ſoul; for a gentle emotion, like the flat uniformity of a ſleeping ſea, cannot [Page 136] pleaſe long. We muſt ſtorm the mind. Poets and orators will therefore beſt ſucceed in taking poſſeſſion of the attention of their readers and auditors, becauſe they alike are ſkilful in amplification, which, in truth, is nothing but lying. An exact repreſentation would not affect; we ſhould not long read a poem, or liſten to an oration, which had nothing but the ſimplicity of truth. Of this the vulgar are ſenſible, although the cauſe is concealed. There are no greater liars than the vulgar, for experience has taught them the utility of lying; they employ augmentatives or diminutives, as they deſire to excite a correſpondent feeling; and the vulgar are, without knowing it, great poets and orators.
The cook mentioned, that a vile ſtrumpet, known to John and Miſs Emily, had juſt gone out; the chamber-maid, that Miſs Emily and John were acquainted [Page 137] with all the ſtrumpets in town; and Mrs. Bully hurried to Mr. Million, to aſſure him, that it was now high time to ſpeak out; that Miſs Emily was only fit company for women of the town, and was concerned with John; that ſhe herſelf had ſeen in her poſſeſſion an abominable book, and was beſides a profeſſed Arian.
"Well, well, 'tis juſt what I thought!" exclaimed Mr. Million. "Taking the Lord knows who into the houſe of a bank director, becauſe ſhe was an old blind lieutenant's daughter. I ſhall have all the daughters of the old knights of Windſor. Curſe her harp, twanging in my ears, that makes me as melancholy ſometimes as a fall of ſtocks." He haſtened to Miſs Million, who certainly was ſingularly ſhocked with the intelligence, conſidering that ſhe already had heard it from Betty two hours before, and was then quietly doſing over the laſt new novel.
[Page 138] "My dear father," cried Miſs Million, "I am all of a tremor; my poor nerves! 'tis ſhameful! not fit to be told! Pray call in John, accuſe him before me, let me hear all that has paſt. It will be in the papers to-morrow; if Mr. Libel ſhould hear it, Million-houſe will be ſcandalized. A footman!"
Miſs Million being now alone, ſent in for Emily, and began thus: "Miſs, when I ſuffered you to make Portman-ſquare your aſylum, it was from my benevolence." Emily trembled. "But you have abuſed my goodneſs, and inſtead of the girl you was at Exmouth, I find you are the aſſociate of a low proſtitute."
"Your alarm and your tremor are extremely adroit. Performed to admiration! Why, one would think, to look at you, you really trembled! But 'tis the profeſſion of your friend. One might imagine that you did not know who was the perſon who called on you this morning."
"I dare ſay ſhe lets lodgings. She is well known in this family; a very chere amie of John's. You will have the kindneſs to quit Million-houſe as early as you can. I need not recommend you a lodging." So ſaying, ſhe hummed a tender opera air, and left Emily in the parlour, motionleſs and ſilent.
"Then are my father's ſuſpicions verified! All that he ſaid, how ſevere! how true! What confidence can we beſtow on our aſſociates! Friendſhip, how thy name is abuſed! Simplicity, how thy air is mimicked! This wicked woman—Charles too—They muſt be united! She is employed by him for the purpoſe of ſeducing me! Every myſtery is now revealed. He was frequently quoting Thomſon's "boundleſs confidence of ſoul;"—ſo too did the licentious Sedley! She was unwilling to part with me at firſt; ſhe now offers me a refuge in her houſe; ſhe would even change her reſidence to receive me! This day ſhe told me that Charles loved me!—Hypocrite, how have I eſcaped your toils? And Charles too, refined diſſembler! [Page 141] Does he deceive me, whoſe image my fancy cheriſhed next to my father's? He protected me from Dandelion—I thought it generous; I find it mean—He would reſerve me for his prey! Oh Emily, poor deſerted girl! I feel now as if the whole earth had conſpired againſt me. Where ſhall I fly?"
"To theſe arms!" exclaimed Vaurien, as he entered the parlour, throwing himſelf at her feet. "Your face, Miſs Emily, is covered with tears. Refuſe me not the conſolation of uniting mine. Not a tear on your face but melts on my heart. Tell me your diſtreſſes, accept my little aid. I have heard ſome abrupt effuſions of ſorrow; I cannot live and forget them."
Emily, confuſed, heſitating, and deeply ſobbing, had loſt her voice. Her fine auburn treſſes fell in diſorder on her face and her neck; ſhe raiſed two dewy eyes to heaven; the tears fell, and glittered on her [Page 142] hair; ſhe looked a Magdalen of Guido. Vaurien, with gentleneſs placed her in a chair; he knelt, took her hand, imprinted a fervid kiſs; ſhe had not even the preſence of mind to reſiſt, or to perceive his improper attitude. The image of her father was before her; ſhe gazed in a ſilent agony of imagination; her tears were renewed; Vaurien was emboldened by her inſenſibility.—At this inſtant Charles ſlung open the door—He uttered an audible ejaculation. Emily ſtarted. "Where am I?" ſhe cried. "Is it you, Sir?" and ſhe darted a glance of anger and horror.
"Deceiver!" murmured Emily. She covered her face with her hands, and ſat abſorbed in grief. Vaurien compoſed his attitude, and ſtood near her chair. Such was the confuſion of Emily's mind, that [Page 143] few traces of what had occurred left their impreſſions on her recollection. The entrance of Charles had revived her anger and her fear. When ſhe turned her eyes on Vaurien, ſhe looked with kindneſs; ſhe conſidered that his preſence had proved her protection.
"Alas! Sir, you mean not to irritate a ſpirit already wounded. I have hung ever the verge of deſtruction, blindly, [Page 144] feebly, yet boldly. O were my father living! Angel in heaven! art thou inſenſible to the voice of thy daughter? On earth thou didſt open to her the volume of her fate; and now can thy paternal tenderneſs not reach thy miſerable wanderer?"
"She is the friend of Charles," continued Vaurien; "I knew nothing of her. Common charity makes no diſtinctions among it's firſt claimants; I prefer aſſiſting the worthleſs, rather than to chill the warmth of my heart by enquiries, which may delay too late the ſuccour due to the worthy."
"O much, much!" cried Emily. "O deluſion of the heart! Heaven and my [Page 146] father ſurely protected me. This woman had ſuch facile tears on her face, ſuch unobtruſive goodneſs, ſuch concealed merits. There is a refinement in depravity. I thought, till now, that the wicked affected an oſtentatious virtue."
VAURIEN, when he met Charles on his return, rallied him for his abrupt departure from Emily. "She is a finiſhed coquette," ſaid he, "when you are preſent, but alone ſhe is one of thoſe dangerous girls, with overflowing hearts, who are apt to throw us off our guard. You witneſſed her charming diſorder. 'Twas lucky you entered! A glance invites her, a word poſſeſſes her. She is now coming to Lady Belfield; a chaſte pair of doves to be yoked to the car of Venus! Could you imagine that the female character is ſo deceptive? [Page 148] But deception is their occupation and their amuſement, their utile and their dulce."
Charles liſtened with horror, and ſhuddered with reflection. Vaurien dropt ſeveral obſcure hints of former interviews with Emily, and exhibited ſuch confirmed familiarity, and offered to ſhare her favours with ſuch friendly confidence, that Charles, recollecting the viſible delight which Emily took in all the converſations of Vaurien, and that diſdainful glance with which ſhe harrowed his ſoul when he broke in while Vaurien was at her feet, blamed his precipitation of paſſion and contracted diſcernment, concluded the Gaul to be the favoured lover, and ſuſpected the purity of Emily.
"Ah! my friend," he cried, "would I were but baniſhed from this houſe! Patiently I cannot ſuffer one whom I revered as an angel to become before my [Page 149] eyes an aſſociate for Lady Belfield. To view her will be hourly to revive regrets, which, ſuppreſſed by abſence, may ſlowly die away. Exiſtence becomes a torture in her preſence."
In the mean while Lady Belfield had made exact enquiries relative to Mrs. Wilſon; nor did Johnſon, the old friend of Charles, heſitate to give into her Ladyſhip's idea of the entire tranſaction, ſo prone are the beſt men to decide by appearances. His Lordſhip had been already prepared to unite with Lady Belfield's meaſures; and a few days after the above converſation with Vaurien, Charles found on his table a note from her Ladyſhip, in her own hand-writing, containing a final diſmiſſion. Her Ladyſhip laid conſiderable ſtreſs on his offenſive and degrading connections.—"Mrs. Wilſon," cried Charles, "will herſelf [Page 150] vindicate this undeſerved obloquy."—At this moment the following letter was brought from this unfortunate woman:—
My dear Sir,
Scarcely can my ſcattered thoughts collect to addreſs you. I have ſettled my affairs. The ſum you ſo benevolently aſſiſted me with will accompany this. I have taken my departure. I fly I know not whither.
I forget to acquaint you with the diſtreſſing circumſtance that involves my ruin. The hateful character in which once I rather erred than ſinned, carries it's puniſhment when the crime has long ceaſed. No human benevolence can now efface from my heart the indelible degradation. I have mentioned to you, that to Miſs Emily I revealed all my hiſtory, excepting that humiliating period [Page 151] when your hand, prompted alone by charity, ſnatched me from ſo many nightly horrors. Yes, I concealed this hideous feature of my life. Could Miſs Emily have embraced a proſtitute? And yet from this ſmall failure of ſincerity I derive this agony of mind, which attaches the miſery of turpitude and ſhame while I can think.
I waited on her (will you forgive me?) to reveal your ſtate of mind, which you do not even ſuſpect I know; but could I ſee you periſh in ſilence? Yes, Sir, the eye of gratitude ſecretly ſtudied your every geſture, your every interrupted idea, your every evaneſcent aſpiration; gratitude watched and divined your heart. Emily has traced you in ſome concealed offices of kindneſs; her voice told her gratitude, her bluſhes her love.
[Page 152] It is at intervals I write—I was recognized by a ſervant—My face glows, my hand trembles, my tongue is parched, a fever preys on my vitals. Others will tell you of my ſhame. Heaven has ſet it's mark on my face, and I wander a female Cain. A terrible thought flies and returns to my imagination—Shall a mother be a murderer? An inſtant would make my children angels. Yes, fearleſsly could I raiſe to the Father of all Mercies an arm of blood; the blood of my children would to my God tell not of the cruelty, but of the chaſtiſement and the contrition of their mother!
It was but phrenſy! the agony of thought which o'erleaps all bounds. When the heart is exhauſted, the feelings are quiet. I have juſt preſſed the dear children to my boſom; heaven ſurely directed [Page 153] every intendering look, every winding embrace. The eye of infancy, the kiſs of childhood, can compoſe the perturbed heart of maternal deſpair. How wondrous and how ſecret are the impulſes of nature! In the exiſtence I loath, I feel an enjoyment in when I ſeem to live for them. My heart, worn with age and ſorrow, beats then warm with youth and pleaſure.—I fly from London—Ah! ſhould I be found periſhing, think of the ſurvivors! With their mother's crimes they ſtand unconnected; they are the children of virtuous parents; for I was a virtuous wife, although a criminal mother. Farewell, generous youth! Ever ſhall I be as grateful as I muſt be miſerable,
"Moſt unfortunate of her ſex!" cried Charles, "her life points a moral. It is a leſſon for the times. A dereliction from [Page 154] chaſtity is puniſhed with exceſſive ſeverity, and unjuſt puniſhments produce real crimes. Woman muſt reſiſt the combined attacks of love; that paſſion, which our modes of education and our manners have taught her to think is the important occupation of life; but the negligence of a parent, an accidental occurrence, an unſuſpicious moment, a wandering of ſenſibility, a refined intrigue, the certitude of confidence, and the fondneſs of affection, overpower or inveigle that moral ſentiment, which otherwiſe would have perſevered in it's habitual duties. Woman requires, therefore, a more energetic fortitude than even man; but fortitude is maſculine; and a female ſtands unprotected amidſt the illuſions of her heart. But when the hateful life of proſtitution is derived merely from the indigence and deſpair of virtue, it is ſtill chaſtiſed with the ſame torture; the domeſtic porch of [Page 155] Peace is for ever cloſed. Such unhappy wanderers are inured to viciouſneſs by our barbarous and unrelenting accuſations. A wiſe and philoſophical regulation of the illuſtrious Frederick prohibited, under ſevere penalties, the aſperſion of that female who had returned to the arms of her friends, and to the renewal of thoſe domeſtic virtues which ſhe had ſuſpended rather than deſerted. How long will philanthropy tranquilly gaze on a vaſt multitude of females periſhing in youth!
"Poor Wilſon, thou art no criminal!—and yet thou wert a proſtitute. Child of ſenſibility! thy heart would burſt at the accuſation; thou didſt ruſh in the darkneſs of the night to feed thy periſhing children—Thou could'ſt not have been a proſtitute in the blaze of day! And I, who would not ſuffer a widow and her children to periſh in the ſtreets, am now involved in her apparent criminality. [Page 156] Johnſon cenſured me for having formed diſgraceful connections; and to her Ladyſhip I can now no more refer this unhappy fugitive. He who aids unfortunate virtue (for this woman is moſt virtuous) popular prejudice decrees as a participator in a libertiniſm he abhors!
"And Emily then knows my paſſion; and has ſo long deceived Mrs. Wilſon?—The flower that is covered with the virgin dews of innocence can then conceal a young and foul ſerpent! Yes, her I have ſeen; Vaurien, I have heard; her infuriate glance ſhivered my frame. Yet can I never forget her. I loved her when I thought her virtuous; and I now muſt mourn her, as if a ſudden death had deprived me of her whom I loved. The pleaſures of life are not for me; I will ſit by the ſide of their tomb, and think of the departed happineſs it holds."
[Page 157] He now framed a reſpectful reply to Lady Belfield, related the nature of his connection with Mrs. Wilſon, and lamented that her abrupt flight muſt render his conduct myſterious. When he quitted the houſe, Vaurien converſed with him in a tenderneſs of tone, that ſeemed as if he were ſhedding tears, and he inſiſted on his accepting a liberal loan to aſſiſt him in his purſuits.
Old friendſhips, that have been interrupted rather through inattention than pride, are in adverſity viewed by an eye that, clouded with a tear, gives a peculiar tenderneſs to the object on which it reverts. Charles flew to Johnſon, and poured in his honeſt ear the change of his fortunes. Johnſon repeated his old obſervation on the danger of bad connections: "However," he continued, "truſt me, that Lady Belfield has ſome concealed reaſon for this diſmiſſion; ſhe [Page 158] cannot conſcientiouſly object to any form of intrigue. I reſpect your ſilence; but it inſtructs me. And what now think you of your friend Vaurien?"
Charles replied, "He is the moſt engaging of men, and the moſt tender of friends. My honourable connections would have ſet me afloat on the wide ſea of life without maſt or rudder. The prompt kindneſs of Vaurien ſupplies the ungentleneſs of Fortune; he has voluntarily lent me a conſiderable ſum of money, which I refuſed but for his acceptance of my bond."
[Page 159] "Yes, I have learnt, young friend, that virtue is not always implied by actions of virtue. Does that ſound paradoxical? I muſt even ſay, that the criminal is often virtuous; for as a vicious character may think proper to perform the duties of virtue, ſo may the virtuous character be preſſed into the commiſſion of crimes it abhors, but it cannot ſhun."
"If you deſire to be diſtinguiſhed as a genius of the firſt claſs, in ſome honourable province of literature, whatever may be your parts and abilities, you are too poor, at leaſt by ſeveral hundreds a year. A finiſhed genius, in this age, is the labour of half a century; a writer [Page 160] now blooms at forty, and flowers at ſixty. We require, in this age of taſte, ſuch hewings, and ſuch poliſhings, ſo much of the axe, and ſo much of the file, and ſo much fillagree work, that I conſider no writer out of leading ſtrings before thirty, ſuppoſing that then he has been carefully ſwaddled, nurtured with the moſt delicate pap, and eternally humoured in what relates to place, connections, domeſtic habits, coincidences, accidents, and a crowd of ceteras, which you will find numbered, one by one, in Helvetius. I ſee clearly now, that we ſhall have no more any men of genius; for after all theſe pains, in which I am ſure no mortal muſt expect to be ſucceſsful, the moſt inconſiderable accident or omiſſion may ſpoil the whole man of genius, as poor Triſtram was ruined by the want only of a window-pulley.
"Our great authors write little, and write rarely, and exhibit nothing of genius [Page 161] but in their compoſitions. I have been in company with two of our fineſt poets, four of our great hiſtorians, a dozen of our fanciful noveliſts, and they were as ſolemn and as dull as a court of aldermen when there is no buſineſs to tranſact. The fire of genius has become quite of a culinary nature; an immenſe fire, raiſed for the moment, for the preparation of ſome delicious repaſt, but when that is performed, the ſaving houſewife ſcrews up the ſides, takes out the coals, and leaves it in an ordinary dimenſion.
"You may acquire, however, a ſubſiſtence in literature if you are tolerably ingenious. I confide a ſecret; the man you ſee before you has obtained money by his literary performances, as if he were the firſt genius of the age."
[Page 162] "It ſhall not be my fault," replied Johnſon, "if you ever ſee another. Several literary men of the day have ſold their works by a miſtake of the public concerning names. But I have ſome honeſty, and more delicacy. I am a nameleſs writer, but my productions have names. My occupation is to adjuſt, to arrange, to reſcind, and to ramify. Somebody brings me a ſolid glutinous drop, and my pen becomes diluent. I am furniſhed with the raw materials, and then I weave ſilk, cotton, or worſted, at the order of my employer. I lardoon meagerneſs. Sir, I am the writer (which you ſee is no ſynonime of author) of a library. I have written Travels into Ruſſia, Tours into Scotland, Embaſſies to China, an Earl's Philoſophical Eſſays, a Baronet's Economical Reſearches, a Doctor's Hiſtory, and a Counſellor's Reports. I am the venerable parent of a dozen as chopping [Page 163] literary boys as walk this town. You know this is an age of authors, and you perceive one of the reaſons. 'Tis juſt my employers, whoſe heads may be as bald as Caeſar's, ſhould wear their laurels or their literary falſe hair; for as the epigram ſays, 'they ſwear it is their own hair';—and ſo it is, for I know where they bought it. You were ſurpriſed the other evening, that Sir Alexander appeared to forget in converſation the principles of his own book; but I aſſure you, Sir Alexander never read his own book. The origin of this occupation (not ſo ſingular as it ſeems) was owing to this circumſtance; I was a writer in a Review, and whenever I examined a work, compoſed by a gentleman, I made moſt alarming ſtrictures on the neceſſity of a knowledge of philoſophical grammar, which no gentleman can be ſuppoſed to know, and I recommended an application to ſome man of letters, who [Page 164] might be no gentleman, yet a philoſophical grammarian. No one comprehended what I meant by the words philoſophical grammar; but they were formidable, confuſing, and alarming. Every month I repeated the urgent neceſſity of philoſophical grammar; gentlemen were frightened, applied to the printer, who gave my addreſs, and ſince that time I have been a philoſophical grammarian, and having ſufficient employment, not a word now appears concerning the neceſſity of philoſophical grammar."
Charles now placed himſelf under the eye of this ſecret artiſan of literary works, and perceived, that where invention and imagination are not required, an author writes on in ſunſhine and in rain, in gaiety and in ſadneſs, and with a mechanical pen forms a mechanical book.
AMONG the characters ſelected by Vaurien, as perſons whoſe talents and diſpoſitions ſeemed adapted to coaleſce with his general views, by ſome peculiar bias of their own, was an original enthuſiaſt, who in this hiſtory we ſhall denominate the Platoniſt.
He reſided in a romantic part of Scotland, and had now arrived in town to attend the progreſs of a great work on polytheiſm. He accounted it as a favour of the gods to have been enabled to ſubſiſt in that cheap country. There he found a pictureſque landſcape, ſurrounding a cottage retaining an antique aſpect. It was indeed formed from the [Page 166] ſmall remains of an abbey; and what is ſuppoſed to have been a watch-tower, ſtill ſtands at the extremity of his garden, and there he placed his library. There, abſtracted from all things and all men, he reads Plato and Homer, and views nothing but the ſkies.
His cottage is at the entrance of a deep foreſt, and the windows command a view of the high road, a circumſtance that occaſions him much anxiety; and he wiſhes that the cottage could only have been viewed by the gods. His life is ſolitary, but moſt poetical; yet we can hardly deem that a ſolitude which is graced by the ſociety of a beauty, romantic, ſenſitive, and happy. He has a ſet of very ſingular companions; a great variety of animals and birds. His mornings are conſecrated in the watch-tower to Homer and Plato; the afternoons he gives to what he calls a converſation with [Page 167] his mute friends; in the evening he wanders in the foreſt, explaining Plato to his lovely companion, and concludes the night with a hearty ſupper, and with the undiſturbed rapture that flows from a heart that beats in uniſon with his own.
At ſchool he formed this devotion for Homer, and a pedant inſpired a poet. It was owing to the accidental literary bigotry of his maſter, and his inceſſant reverence of that poet, which was not prompted by the ardour of taſte, but by the frenzy of verbal criticiſm. The buſt of Homer was placed over his chimney-piece, the head of Homer was engraven on his ſeal, and in his hours of ſadneſs he conſoled himſelf with an Homerical verſe, and in his hours of merriment he toaſted the old Meonian, by pouring a generous libation to his memory. The infatuation of the maſter [Page 168] was communicated to the ſcholar; but the impreſſions were of a more delicate and ſublime nature. In one it was the impotent extravagance of a frigid verbaliſt; but in the other it became a debauchery of ſenſibility, breaking from a moſt inflammable and abſtruſe imagination. He had unfortunately plunged deeply into the commentaries of certain Platoniſts, who explain Homer into allegories, diſcover celeſtial ſyſtems, and convert the Iliad into a Greek Bible of the arcana of nature.
When he quitted the ſchool, his mind was deeply tinctured by all the colorifications of the Platonic priſm. He muſed on the bewitching notion of univerſal beauty, which pervades that enthuſiaſtic philoſophy; but when at length he obtained a complete copy of Plato's works, the intellectual malady diffuſed itſelf in every nerve of his mind; and [Page 169] ſuch was the conflict of his animal ſpirits, that he could never read Plato without violent palpitations of the heart, and more than once ſuch has been the agony of his ſenſibility, that he fainted over the volume as he held it with a kind of religious tremor. Theſe indeed are the peculiar features of enthuſiaſm, that abſtraction of the imagination which roves amidſt unknown ſcenes, and gazes on poetical chimeras. It is felt by poets in the fury of their orgaſm, by philoſophers in the ideal fabrication of their ſyſtems, and by myſtics in their attempts to abſtract themſelves from earth to heaven.
When we read the diſcoveries of another, we acquire a ſpirit of diſcovery. The imitative genius of man becomes every thing to which it is accuſtomed. He read of a thouſand fine meanings in Plato and Homer, which he could never have imagined, but having once imagined [Page 170] them, he added a thouſand more of his own. A mind like his only requires the ſcattering of a ſmall handful of ſeed to cover it's extenſive and fertile ſoil with a vaſt effloreſcence; and like that happy climate that feels not the rigour of a changing ſeaſon, his mind was a year of one continued ſummer. Every day brought it's new diſcovery, and every day was a day of triumph.
Like other inſpired perſons (for he conſidered his delight as inſpiration) he now conceived it a duty to enlighten a dark and erring world. "All Europe," he cried "is ſurrounded by a diſmal night; hence men are continually moleſting each other, and one man only impedes another while he himſelf is impeded." He obſerved old religions decaying, while modern ſects were filthily ſpawned forth, and lamely crawled from each antiquated and expiring monſter. [Page 171] He firſt communicated his notions to a private circle; ſome conſidered them as the curioſities of a ſtudent of great learning, ſome as the philoſophical amuſements and paradoxical vanities of a man of genius, but few diſcerned that they were the deluſions of a literary lunacy. Their doubts ſoon ceaſed, when, to the aſtoniſhment even of the learned world in this cloſe of the eighteenth century, were publiſhed two quarto volumes, in which he avowed himſelf a Platoniſt in it's moſt religious ſenſe, and in which he affected to prove, that the Chriſtian religion was merely a baſtardized and barbarized Platoniſm. The divinities of Plato were the divinities to be adored; and he affirmed, that no people could be virtuous and happy if they were not taught to call God, Jupiter; the Virgin, Venus; and Chriſt, Cupid.
[Page 172] It was now in vain to diſſemble. His friends attempted to reaſon; but logic reforms no enthuſiaſt. An enthuſiaſt cannot fail to gain his cauſe, becauſe he alone can be his own judge. In vain the world oppoſed, and worſe than oppoſed, neglected. He was an Atals for himſelf; the ſolitary ſupporter of a ſyſtem even too unreaſonable to be adopted by philoſophical reaſoners, and even too deluſive to delight philoſophical fanciers. He knew, he ſaid, he was the Gemiſtus Pletho of the age, and he was content. To the oppoſing world he therefore oppoſed Plato and Homer; and he looked not in this barbarous age to be rewarded with a garland in the ſchool of philoſophy.
He ſaw himſelf deſerted, but forgave the unkindneſs of men, becauſe he found himſelf conſoled, and indeed fully occupied, [Page 173] by the humanity which he had diſcovered in other animals. Even this was myſterious, for he darkly hinted that he was not a little verſed in the language of beaſts. He lodged in his houſe a moſt numerous ſociety; on the ſtairs, in his ſtudy, from the garrets to the cellars, and even to the very roofs, were aſſembled a numerous retinue of the mute citizens of the world, and he was obſerved to paſs entire days in a very large aviary of birds.
The Platonic ſyſtem had obtained him ſome admirers among the fair ſex. It was not ill adapted to their capacity; for being incomprehenſible, it's myſteriouſneſs irritated female curioſity, and it was at leaſt more ſublime than diſcloſing an enigma, or unfolding a charade. It was pregnant with the diſſolving energies of a delicious ſentiment; for what the Platoniſt terms "the ſcience of univerſals," [Page 174] is made to conſiſt in "UNIVERSAL BEAUTY." It was a homage to the ſex. He uſed ſometimes to break out in expreſſions like theſe: "Beauty walks ſilently on the extremities of it's feet, alluring, raviſhing, and raiſing all things by it's power; it ſwims above the light of forms; it covers the occult union of the gods!" The entire ſyſtem was elegant and brilliant; it exhibited only forms of ſymmetry and grace; and the female attention, that was once allured by the ideal perfection of an eternal beauty (the image exiſting in the mind of the divine architect) and became initiated into the Platonic doctrine of ideas, was ſoon entangled in a tiſſued net of ſilk and ſilver, that adorned rather than perplexed the lovely captive. Where ſhe ſought a maſter, ſhe found a lover; and, entranced, liſtened to the eloquence of diction, the dazzling of metaphors, [Page 175] the inexhauſtible poetry, and the infectious enthuſiaſm of a man who came recommended by many accompliſhments of perſonal figure, and by many graceful acquirements. The Platoniſt is a maſterly muſician, a ſublime poet, and, when warmed, his voice is melodious, his eye is illuminated by quick intelligence, his face takes all the changes of his ſoul, every geſture is adapted to every ſentiment, and, like the Cumean Sybil, he looks the image of inſpiration. His uſual ſtyle on theſe ſubjects ſhews all the art of poetry without it's labour; he pours forth an opulence of diction, and his copious periods roll with magnificence, as if he were reading an Engliſh imitation of Cicero's manner; with felicitous expreſſion he intenders by pathetic ſentiment, and charms by the gaiety of exuberant imagery. Even his myſtic unintelligibility becomes a grace; [Page 176] it ſerves as a reſting-place to repoſe the mind that has followed him in his elevations; and they who are not void of imagination lament when the Platoniſt cloſes his voluble and enchanting elocution.
He had long ſighed to unite himſelf to a beautiful female, on whoſe boſom he might meditate in rapture and reverie. Solitude, deprived of ſuch a companion, preſented nothing to his ſenſitive ſoul but a deſolation of the paſſions. The beaſts and birds, with all his vaunted knowledge of their language, he confeſſed were not equivalent to the abſence of this ineſtimable aſſociate. Among men he could find no companions; for ſuch was the extreme irritation of his ſenſations, that his mind had refined itſelf to a feminine delicacy; it was appalled by ſerious expoſtulation, and ſhrunk in horror from coarſe merriment. [Page 177] In explaining the principle of beauty he found conſolers and admirers among the women; but he diſcovered no female whom he could ſelect from all the world; for to a congenial diſpoſition and a ſingular beauty of perſon he required what is ſtill more rare, an intimate knowledge of Greek.
Except a total ignorance of Greek, Charlotte Fenton was the nymph of his ſoul. Nature had caſt them in the ſame mould; but a diverſity of education had provided different materials to ſtore their imagination. From childhood ſhe had lived in a rural ſolitude, ſtudious of works of the moſt extravagant fancy; and all the day and part of the night were conſumed in a little circle of magic, from which ſhe never iſſued. She walked fearleſs on the utmoſt verge of romantic fiction. With all works of reaſoning ſhe [Page 178] was diſguſted; her logic conſiſted in ſentiment, and from the impoveriſhed narratives of hiſtory, where all men to her eye ſeemed dwarfs, ſhe roved to the gigantic heaven of Homer, who, though ſomewhat diſguiſed in the verſions of Pope, were to her ſtill heroes. She read with avidity the ancient romances of "Amadis de Gaul," and feaſted on the ſix folios of "Perce Foreſt;" the Arabian Tales were not diſapproved; and Spenſer was the moſt modern poet ſhe read; but when our Platoniſt opened the vaſt ſcene of his philoſophical fancy, her curioſity flew with a hundred wings; ſhe gazed in mute aſtoniſhment, and ſat hours in ſilent meditation.
But the divine Greek was the only language by which he could communicate his ſenſations. She entreated his inſtruction, and they had ſcarcely advanced [Page 179] to the third book of the Iliad, when the delighted Platoniſt thus propoſed a new ſyſtem of life:—
"The ancient philoſophers," he ſaid, "when they felt the impulſe of divine energies, quitted the tumultuous habitations of men. We muſt fruſtrate the magic of Circe, and bid adieu to the detaining arms of Calypſo. For many years muſt we be exerciſed in the cathartic virtues, for the purpoſe of ſeparating as much as poſſible the ſoul from the dark folds of the body, and then at length, when we have deſtroyed the tyranny of the paſſions, thoſe baneful ſuitors which had ſo baſely revelled in the palace of the ſoul, we ſhall enjoy the delightful beams of ſcience and wiſdom, till becoming eſtabliſhed, like Ulyſſes, in our paternal port, like him we ſhall be united with our father, from whoſe embraces we have been ſo long unhappily [Page 180] torn away. We ſhall find the lyre of true philoſophy on the banks of Lethe; there let us paſs away our lives in bliſsful contemplations, and in liſtening to divine harmony, ſecluded from the baſe multitude of mankind."
"And this, my lovely Charlotte, has been the only reſource of the enlightened and pious ancients. Either we muſt travel or retreat; for the deluſions of modern religions are an impiety to the gods. Pythagoras and Plato, the interpreters of nature, conſidered it as neceſſary, for the acquirement of knowledge, to traverſe many ſeas, and inhabit many countries; but for travelling we have no money. Euripides compoſed his tragedies in a cave, Democritus his philoſophy in a ſequeſtered ſpot, Demoſthenes became an orator by the ſhores of the ſea, and Numa conſulted the nymph Egeria in ſilence and in ſolitude. Even the imitators [Page 181] of theſe great men, Moſes, Jeſus, and Mahomet, alike retired at ſtated intervals to arrange their ſyſtems, atheiſtical as they are! The preſence of the gods is only viſible in ſolitude. Archimedes heard not the falling walls of his city; Carneades, at his meals, forgot to eat, ſo that he had nearly been famiſhed in his own houſe; and what think you of that philoſopher who deprived himſelf of his ſight, that he might not be diſturbed in his ſublime contemplations by intervening objects; and that other, who, leſt he might be tempted to iſſue from his ſtudious retreat, ſhaved half of his head, that it might hinder him from appearing in the world; for in that Platonic age no wigs were worn.
"I languiſh for retirement, that I may compoſe a life of Homer, of whom nothing is known, and finiſh my Platonic commentary on our divine poet. I have [Page 182] calculated the verſes, arranged the materials, and the daily labour of three years will eſtabliſh a ſyſtem which ſhall endure with the elements it deſcribes. Does Venus inſpire my Charlotte to relinquiſh the atheiſts of an unplatonic world, and to ſoar to the myſteries of the divine geometrician?"
Such was the converſation of the Platoniſt, who diſcovered that Venus had inſpired. They ſought the romantic ſpot we have deſcribed, and the time now arrived, when they were ſent back to the world, enriched by the life of Homer, and the copious diſcoveries of our Platoniſt, to renovate the age of Aſtraea, when polytheiſm was to form an univerſal religion.
11. CHAPTER XXVII.
Vaurien viſits the Platoniſt. The Language
and Manners of Animals. The ſilent
Voice of Geſture.
HOWEVER viſionary to ſome may appear the reveries of the Platoniſt, ſo unſettled are the opinions of moſt philoſophical men on the intereſting topic of religion, for every popular creed has been examined with ſeverity or ridicule, that, ſenſible of the beneficial influence of ſome prevalent ſyſtem, they have long ſought, and are ſtill ſeeking, for ſome new religion, which, founded on the invariable principles of nature, ſhall offer to all people an univerſal opinion; thus that even the moſt rigid philoſopher may appear [Page 184] amidſt the popular worſhip with a hand of reverence and a heart of piety, while the ſacerdotal robe ſhall no more diſguiſe the moſt eminent religious hypocrite.
Polytheiſm, as explained by the reſearches of the learned, and by the fancies of the viſionary, is allegoriſed till it becomes a ſyſtem of natural philoſophy. The gods are but the elements, and they therefore ſtill exiſt viſible and palpable. Campanella was of opinion, that the world and the elements had ſenſation, becauſe that which is compoſed of them has ſenſation, and nothing can be in the effect which is not in the cauſe*. It is alſo now conſidered by ſome, that a revival of the notion of the demi-gods or hero-worſhip, would ſerve as a noble engine of that immortality which forms the paſſionate devotion of elevated minds. [Page 185] The erection of a PANTHEON† in this metropolis is, in ſome circles, a favourite [Page 186] object. The Platoniſt terms this edifice "a place for commemorating the aſcent of excellent daemons." To worſhip ſuch men would be only adoring ſome particular virtue, and perpetuating by our piety the virtue we adore. Every human virtue forms an attribute of the divinity, and the Creator would be reverenced, while we felt and confeſſed his attribute in his creature.
The age ſeems propitious to every ſpecies of fanaticiſm. Scepticiſm ſpreads rapidly, and ſuperſtition gathers new energy to oppoſe ſcepticiſm. Eſtabliſhed opinions are too moderate for either; hence religion breaks into ſectariſm, and philoſophy divides into ſyſtems. Extravagance wreſtles with extravagance; the imagination wanders aſtoniſhed and half-delighted, but calm ſenſe looks around, and retires in horror. Religion and philoſophy have become two gladiators; one departs not [Page 187] without deſtroying the other; yet who ſhall be certain that one alone will triumph? Two gladiators have ſometimes periſhed together by their mutual aim.
One of the favourite projects of Vaurien was an antichriſtian hope to overthrow the religion of Jeſus. He therefore aſſociated with all thoſe, whoſe talents or power would co-operate with this intention. He deſired to overturn Chriſtianity, not becauſe it was a ſyſtem of religion, but a ſyſtem of opulence; he was no enemy to the New Teſtament, but to the bench of Biſhops*. He had formed a ſtrict intimacy with the Platoniſt, and [Page 188] now viſited him, to ſtimulate his induſtry in the promulgation of polytheiſtical publications,
When he arrived at his houſe, the lovely Charlotte informed him, that the Platoniſt was then occupied at his prayers, in chaunting a noon-day hymn to Apollo. "You then," ſaid Vaurien, "do not unite [Page 189] in his prayers?" Charlotte replied, "I hold Apollo in no eſteem, becauſe of his ill uſage of Daphne. We women are willing to be won, but not to be forced. It is cruel to perſecute what we cannot ſubdue. Venus is my protector."—Vaurien looked languiſhingly on Charlotte, and exclaimed, "Venus likewiſe is the goddeſs of young men; I worſhipped her in the remains of her temple in Greece." "Good Gods!" cried the romantic Charlotte, "thou then art my amiable brother; the firſt I have met who has paid due reverence to my divinity. The Platoniſt is mindleſs of her daily oriſons. Were we but in her temple to perform her rites, as Herodotus deſcribes!"—"All heaven, all earth, is her temple!" exclaimed Vaurien; "and ſure the bluſhes that breathe like roſes on that cheek, the liquid brilliancy of thoſe eyes, the ſoft heavings of that boſom, proclaim the [Page 190] preſence of the divinity."—"Ah!" ſaid Charlotte, "you are the firſt man who ever joined me in a votive teſtimony to Venus."
By this time the Platoniſt had concluded his long hymn to Apollo. Vaurien now aſcended with difficulty. At the bottom of the ſtairs was a large kennel of dogs of various nations, who lived in a good underſtanding with each other, excepting when a bone was thrown among them, for then the dogs behaved like men, that is, they mangled and tore each other to pieces with ſagacity and without remorſe. Monkeys and apes were chained on the baniſters. A little republic of cats was peaceably eſtabliſhed on the firſt landing place. He paſſed through one room which was an aviary, and another which was an apiary.
From the cieling of the ſtudy of the Platoniſt depended a poliſhed globe of [Page 191] plated glaſs, which ſtrongly reflected the beams of the ſun. Amidſt this aching ſplendor ſat the Platoniſt, changing his ſeat with the motions of his god, ſo that in the courſe of the day he and the ſun went regularly round the apartment. He was occupied in conſtructing a magic lanthorn, which puerile amuſement excited the ſurpriſe of Vaurien.
The Platoniſt accounted for it. "My diſſertation on the Eleuſinian myſteries is not all underſtood. The whole machinery, reflected on a white ſheet, will be more intelligible than any I could give on a ſheet of paper. In the preſence of the gods, in the moſt holy of the myſteries, daemons appeared with the heads of dogs; Pletho ſays this, who lived a thouſand years after the myſteries. Then I have 'omniform and terrific monſters;' then the demiurgus, the progreſs of purgation, inſpection, crowning, torch-bearing, and, [Page 192] finally, friendſhip with the gods. But here is the great difficulty. How ſhall I repreſent 'the intolerable effulgence of the divine light?' Much it grieves me, that for this ſublime purpoſe a candle and a piece of coloured tin are all I can get into the lanthorn. The gods are not always favourable to my attempts. After long experiments, I conceived I had diſcovered the perpetual ſepulchral lamp of the ancients. Laſt week I invited my friends to a philoſophical lecture on my perpetual lamp; I triumphed in my diſcovery; but ere my lecture cloſed my lamp was ſuddenly extinguiſhed. Good Gods!"
Vaurien condoling with him on the imperfection of all human repreſentations of the divinity, and the extinction of a perpetual lamp, enquired the reaſon for his ſingular attachment to the mute creation? Here the Platoniſt aſſumed a dignified air, threw himſelf back in his chair, [Page 193] to receive the full beams of the ſun, then muſing, raiſed his kindled eyes on Vaurien, and addreſſed him:—"To you, whom I reſpect as the great reformer of the age, who feel a piety for the gods, and aid their ſolitary adorer, I will unfold the inſpirations of wiſdom."
"Know then, that all men are brutes, and all brutes are men. At firſt their figuration appears materially different, but it is not ſo in reality. Many brutes approach cloſely to the human form; and among men, many approach cloſely to the brutal form. We have monkey faces, bull heads, aſinine countenances, ſpider legs, and porpoiſe obeſity; and among females we have the face of a tygreſs, cat-like claws, owl-like ſcreechings, and ſerpentine involutions. That they are not more minutely exact, has abſolutely ariſen from the chance organization [Page 194] of nature; but their paſſions, their geſtures, and their propenſities are the ſame.
"You will object, that the brute creation has not made an equal progreſs in art and ſcience with the human ſpecies: but this I deny; the brute creation are wiſer than we; they only cultivate thoſe ſcience which are of real utility to them: take for inſtance the ape, he is a perfect ſimilitude of man; the paws of an ape are much like our own; why then, you would ſay, have apes not made an equal progreſs with man? Becauſe (and I ſpeak from having lived among apes more than twenty years) apes are not ſo ſuſceptible of liſtleſſneſs or ennui as ourſelves*; an ape [Page 195] is never idle and always happy. And juſtly has Helvetius obſerved on this very topic, that it is to this deſire of activity we owe all the great actions of great men. Moſt men are deſpicable animals when by themſelves; a brute never. All generals, all poets, all hiſtorians, have become ſo through rank idleneſs; a liſtleſs exiſtence tortures; ſo, having nothing better to do, the general ſacks or maſſacres a town, the poet writes his commemorating ode, and the hiſtorian ſhall a thouſand years afterwards write you every particular, and very often in the preſent tenſe!
"And this I affirm, that in thoſe arts and ſciences which are of real utility to [Page 196] animals and birds, they excel all mankind. Can the weaver's loom ſpread the fineneſs of the ſpider's web? Can the architect build like the beaver? Sails the mariner like the nautilus? And in domeſtic life, can we ſkin fiſh like the cat? Clamber like the monkey? and ſcent like the dog? Aſk the Swiſs peaſant, Who climbs and hangs ſecurer on the ſharp points of precipices, himſelf or his chamois? They have, therefore, in far greater perfection than ourſelves, that peculiar art or ſcience they deſire. To excel in any, we adviſe a man of genius to apply only to a ſingle purſuit. 'Tis preciſely what does every brute, and therefore I aver, that every brute is a man of genius."
[Page 197] "To you, the confident of my heart, I reveal it's wondrous ſecret. Know then, I have obtained the various languages of brutes, with whom I converſe by the hour. I can convert my perſon into all forms, my voice into all intonations."
"Their language is preciſely the ſame which men would employ in a ſimilar predicament. Imagine to yourſelf a company of dumb men; how would they converſe? evidently by geſtures. Such is the language of animals. Geſture is a vocal ſilence, an incorporated voice. They too have their tones, but their geſtures are exerciſed with inconceivable perfection; and by theſe they preſerve a communication with their brother brutes; I mean men. They have few ideas, but many ſentiments; are not logicians, but paſſionate beings; they feel exquiſitely, and yet they expreſs all they feel.
[Page 198] "The emotions of GESTURE conſtitute a language far ſuperior to that of vocal enunciation. It is the ſpontaneous and univerſal language of nature. Our method of communicating our ideas is tedious, imperfect, and deceptive. By geſture alone we can diſcover the involuntary feelings of the heart. Say, do not the quick and flaſhing eye; the cheek, whoſe tints are fugitive; the halfaverted mien; the frown, that breaks, that paſſes, but is not forgotten; the look that refuſes while the hand preſents, exhibit the perſonal diſpoſitions? The perturbed eye, the walk now quick now ſlow of Cataline, ſhewed in his diſtracted form the ſoul of conſpiracy. The unaltered mien, the changeleſs peace of every motion of Socrates, who, at home or abroad, Xantippe confeſſed, never ſhewed one ruffled feature; did theſe not teſtify the regular current of his conſtant mind? [Page 199] And the wretch with pliant features, whom Titus obſerved to turn aſide the half-ſtifled laugh at the misfortunes of innocence, while he gave abundantly cauſeleſs ſighs and tears, theſe indicated to Titus the concealed villain. In that young man, ſaid Sylla, ſpeaking of Caeſar, who walks ſo unmannerly along the ſtreets, I ſee ſeveral Mariuſes. Cicero relates of Anthony, that he frequently ſtruck the ground with his knees, by the vehemence with which he pleaded. Yes, my friend, as the bent bow is compreſſed with a double force, the arrow is more impetuouſly darted; 'tis an arrow driven by the ſtorm of heaven, that pierces where it touches. Who knew better of nature than Cicero, when he adviſed his brother, that to be affable in his government, he muſt do ſomething more than invite to feaſts. Nil intereſt habere otium apertum, [Page 200] vultum clauſum; little it ſignifies to ſet your doors open if your face is cloſed. We Platoniſts have long known that geſture is the only language of the paſſions; and that brutes poſſeſſing this in greater perfection than men, employ a purer and more energetic language.
"And indeed the great Campanella affirmed, that beaſts ſpoke to each other, becauſe they certainly underſtand each other; for which ſimple obſervation the Inquiſition ſinged his beard and threatened to burn his body. Such was his divine knowledge of geſture, that during his impriſonment of many years, he tells us, that he knew all the ſentiments of his abſent friends or enemies by mimicking all their geſtures, and taking all their poſtures. Some have had the temerity to affirm, that he was a melancholy hypochondriac: but Burke tells you he has [Page 201] tried the experiment*, and Lavater cites it as an indubitable fact; and are Burke and Lavater lunatics?
"And therefore on this curious topic, how admirable is an obſervation of Rouſſeau, who ſeems to me to have been a true Platoniſt. "In neglecting," ſays he, "the language of ſigns, which ſpeak to the imagination, we have loſt the moſt energetic of languages. The impreſſion of words is always feeble, and we ſpeak to the heart much more forcibly by the eye than by the ear†."
"I have indeed long been a citizen of the vaſt republic of brutes, and they have conſoled me for the ingratitude of my own ſpecies. How I loſe my patience, when I hear your great philoſopher acknowledge the feelings of brutes to be more exquiſite than thoſe of men; and then pronounce, that their principle of motion, though it ſeems determined by motives, is merely mechanical, and depends abſolutely on their organization*: but Buffon, I am told, only wrote on animals, which is quite a different thing from converſing with them. His ſublime narrative of the camel's journey through the [Page 203] deſarts, is unrivalled by modern eloquence; but he himſelf never travelled through a deſart, and he is therefore a greater poet than a natural hiſtorian.
"Ah, my friend, how enchanting is the ſimplicity of the domeſtic habits of brutes! When I become a match-maker between a dog and his female, how I envy the ſhort term of their courtſhip! He is no coxcomb, and ſhe is no coquette. He lingers not with cold compliments on the beauty of her colours, her birth, or her age. He feels but one deſire; the multiplication of his ſpecies. But then what ſincerity in every geſture, what vivacity in his eyes, and with what tenderneſs his tongue careſſes his beloved. Men are ſuch eternal bablers in love or in rage; but an animal ſimply evinces his paſſion by a ſingle act. Is he revengeful? he honeſtly bites. Is he affectionate? he fervently licks. He is never an aſſaſſin, or an adulator.
[Page 204] "How have I admired the cool ſagacity and magiſterial air of a venerable furred long-whiſkered Tom, ſitting ſtately, ſtretched voluptuouſly, or quietly doſing by my winter fire. Sometimes he goes a hunting, for a little recreation; but his velvet ſides are ſtuffed with that equability of humour, which ſhews, that his exiſtence is his enjoyment. Nothing but a female cat can diſcompoſe his ſerene philoſophy.
"Mules, becauſe they will not ſubmit to be tutored by us, who are not equal to them in point of their ability, after having carried the traveller on the ſlippery edge of precipices, picking their way, ſtep by ſtep, and ſtopping when near danger, when they arrive at home are beat and abuſed for, their ſtubborneſs. What wiſdom in the mules! what idiocy in the men! Some mules, having been chaſed from a paddock, never offered to return; yet it was perceived that the graſs had [Page 205] been eaten. They watched, and obſerved, every night, that they leapt over the fences, and, after their ſtolen feaſt, returned to their adjoining field before the morning. Eraſmus tells us, he ſaw a dog that had been taught to convey meat, in a baſket, from the ſhambles: attacked by other dogs, he would defend his maſter's property; but when he ſaw his aſſailants too numerous, he would then ſnatch a piece of the meat, leſt he ſhould get nothing but blows and honour in the ruinous war.
"Does not hiſtory preſent us with more numerous inſtances of the fidelity of dogs than of men? Like men of ſtrong ſenſations, their reſentment is proportioned to their gratitude. When I was at Mount-Edgecumbe I ſaw a monument, on which I gazed with awe: it is raiſed to the memory of a huntſman, who neglecting to feed his dogs for three days, as ſoon as he entered was torn to pieces; a dreadful [Page 206] howling ſpread through the whole ſociety; and feeling more ſenſibly the paſſion of vengeance than that of hunger, they long left their victuals untouched. When a dog-butcher at Canton enters a ſtreet, all the dogs purſue him in full cry. When a Kamtſcadale loſes his ſtick, by which he drives the dogs of his ſledge, they inſtantly perceive it, and run off as faſt as poſſible, to overturn him in the ſnow. Ill treat a dog, he will long remember it; and, when you ſeek his reconciliation, will preſerve his dignity, and make no advances while he knows the hand that now careſſes once ſtruck. And ſhall we now ſay with Buffon, that theſe are only pieces of mechaniſm, who merely derive their motion from their organization? I confeſs it requires a patience, which looks like ſublimity, to acquire a knowledge of their habits and language. Swammerdam paſſed ten long years, extended on his [Page 207] belly, to characteriſe the national genius of ants. Reaumur muſt have devoted as many, to diſcover the various nidifications of birds; and he indeed cleanly traced the manner in which they digeſted their food. I myſelf have patiently watched, through forty days and forty nights, the nuptials of a frog.
"To touch but rapidly (for I ſee the ſun is declining) on birds. Thomſon has deſcribed 'The Paſſion of the Groves' in mellifluous numbers, worthy of Plato, and with a knowledge of their language as marvellous as his numbers.
"The language of birds is elliptical, reſembling the periods of Tacitus; little ſaid, much underſtood. Every ſpecies has a different intonation, as every native of a large kingdom has his provincial dialect. The voice of the raven is ſolemn; of the dove mournful; of the rook gay, but aukward; while the merry woodpecker [Page 208] loudly laughs; and the fern-owl ſerenades his mate at the moonlight oak.
"I could give you inſtances of a ſublime maternal affection, a rapid yet intricate invention, a vigilant artifice in concealing ſome cheriſhed abode, heroic acts of ſexual attachment, and a ſpirit of ſociality, that, if interrupted, has an influence on the health, the paſſions, and the enjoyments of the friendly brute.
"Delicate birds have their vanities as well as delicate people. A goldfinch before a mirror is a perfect coquette; ſhe ſmooths her plumes as ſhe ſits on her perch, and gazes with delight; and if ſhe is provided with a little bucket and chain, ſhe will draw it up, and then look around that her ingenuity may not paſs unobſerved. Delicate birds have alſo an exquiſite delicacy of paſſion. The wild canary ſooths with his ſong the dear connubial neſt. In the annals of my aviary [Page 209] ſhall it be recorded, that one, as he was ſinging, ſuddenly dropt. The unfiniſhed ſong alarmed the female; ſhe ſlew from her breeding neſt, and ſought her ſilent conſort. She pecked at her friend; he was no more! She ſtood beſide him, refuſed nouriſhment, and gazed in ſilence till ſhe died*."
"Such are the domeſtic manners, and ſuch the various converſations of theſe citizens of the world! Join to this the Pythagorean ſyſtem of Metempſichoſis, eſtabliſhed among the wiſe ancients, and then judge of the awe and veneration I feel for this neglected portion of our fellows. Much it afflicts me, when I hear the experimental philoſophers conſider themſelves [Page 210] ſcientific, when their ingenuity has invented the moſt exquiſite tortures. Here one famiſhes a vulture, to ſee how long it can exiſt without food; a locuſt has it's inteſtines pulled out and filled with cotton, then transfixed with a pin, remains five months moving it's legs and it's antennae, to the great ſatisfaction of the philoſopher; canine mothers, big with their infants, are anatomiſed alive, to rip out the young, who are born like ſo many Macduffs; aqua-fortis is dropt on a living animal, to trace the entire progreſs of ſingeing, blackening, and burning the living fleſh; and two ſparrows are ſtarved to death, to verify whether bruiſed ſeed, or minced meat, is beſt adapted to recover their almoſt extinct life. Good Gods!"
Vaurien having felicitated the Platoniſt on the new world he had opened to himſelf, ſaid, "propoſe to overturn [Page 211] Chriſtianity by the publications of the Platoniſts, and to erect a Pantheon, that the Gods may be honourably reverenced."
"That is my important purſuit; I have already prepared the ſoaring and ecſtatic Olympiodorus, the noble and obſcure Heraclius; I join the Aſiatic luxuriancy of Proclus, divinely explained by Jamblichus, and profoundly delivered by Plotinus. Plotinus, who was ſurnamed 'Intellect' by his contemporaries, ſuch was the fervour of his mind, that he was accuſtomed to write without attending to the orthography or the reviſion of his works, which perhaps occaſions their divine unintelligibility; for the celeſtial vigour rendered him incapable of trifling concerns, and he therefore committed them, as faſt as he wrote, to Porphyry, who, perhaps, labouring under the ſame divine influence, was equally incapable of orthography or ſenſe."—The Platoniſt [Page 212] concluded this converſation with an invective, of which the ſtyle appears to us ſo curious, that we ſhall give the exact expreſſions, as a ſpecimen of the Platonic efferveſcence, in a Ciceronian period.
—"I have long perceived the ignorance and malevolence of Chriſtian prieſts, from the moſt early fathers to the moſt modern retailers of hypocriſy and cant; every intelligent reader muſt be alternately excited to grief and indignation, to pity and contempt, at the barbarous mythological ſyſtems of the moderns; for in theſe we meet with nothing but folly and deluſion; opinions founded either on fanaticiſm or atheiſm, inconceivably abſurd, and inextricably obſcure, ridiculouſly vain, and monſtrouſly deformed, ſtupidly dull, and contemptibly zealous, Apoſtolically delirious, or hiſtorically dry, and, in one word, ſuch only as arrogance and ignorance could conceive, impiety [Page 213] propagate, and the vapid ſpirit of the moderns be induced to admit*."
"My dear Platoniſt," exclaimed Vaurien, "if you can roll periods like theſe, your genius will be rewarded, by yourſelf being choſen by the nation to lay the firſt ſtone of a Pantheon in London, for 'the aſcent of excellent daemons.'
12. CHAPTER XXVIII.
A Jewiſh Philoſopher. A Diſſertation on
the Jews, tending to prove that they
ſhould not be burnt.
ANOTHER favourite project of Vaurien, was that of aſſembling the diſperſed Hebrews. This impious project (as a good Catholic terms it) was not peculiar to the political imagination of this Gaul; ſince, among others, two of his compatriots meditated the ſame deſign. The Marquis of Langalerie, at the commencement of this century, diſappointed at every court to which he reſorted, prepared to collect theſe fugitive Aſiatics in the iſles of the Archipelago. A genius of a ſublimer character, the famous Marechal Saxe, having merely miſſed poſſeſſing [Page 215] the empire of Ruſſia by his inconſtancy in love, ſolaced his ambition by a fanciful ſovereignty over the wanderers of Iſrael. This project is of that inviting and plauſible kind, that it will never be extinct in the romantic and chimerical heads of ſome fervid adventurers; but there exiſt oppoſing reaſons in the character of this people, which, depending on principles in nature, are irreverſible. The children of Jacob are compoſed of all nations, and cannot blend alike with the people among whom they reſide; as there are metals in nature, which no chymical proceſs can amalgamate with others.
Vaurien had made acquaintance with a Jewiſh philoſopher, and called on him for the ſame purpoſe he had viſited the Platoniſt. He found the Jew at dinner, eating pork-chops; and at the ſide of his plate lie open the Jewiſh Mendelſohn's Phaedon, a ſublime imitation of Plato on [Page 216] the immortality of the ſoul. The Jew deſired to conclude his meal quietly, and proceeded in employing at once his teeth and his eyes; but the head digeſts not like the mouth; and the Jew had now ſo violently abſtracted his imagination, that Vaurien roſe with impatience. The philoſopher then ſtarted from his reverie, and lamenting that the ſublimeſt conceptions were the obſcureſt, cloſed his Plato, and liſtened to the Gallic Chriſtian.
"How long ſhall philoſophy," exclaimed Vaurien, "mourn over the degradation of the human ſpecies? Our great revolution ferments the ſpirits of all our European youth, and of every friend to the rights of man. France has emancipated the negroes, France would emancipate the Jews. Whenever the legiſlator violates the equality of nature, the ſtate appears to retain ſlaves; but, in reality, it loſes ſo many patriots. I was [Page 217] preſent at one of the late earthquakes in Italy. The multitude were gazing on the ruins of a town; the nobles ſighed at the veſtiges of their grandeur; the opulent citizens mourned their buried fortunes. A voice from the multitude broke the melancholy ſilence, exclaiming, 'Now WE ARE ALL EQUAL.' A ſublime and terrible truth! Unhappy is that country, whatever be it's grandeur, in which a great portion of it's citizens would conſider exile as no puniſhment, and an earthquake would communicate the ſenſation of delighted vengeance. And this muſt be the feeling of every Indian Negro and every European Jew. Every where found, and no where reſpected, wherever ye wander ye drag along the ſame ignominious chain."
"You deliver yourſelf," replied the Jew, "with the voluble eloquence of your nation. In this temperate climate we fear [Page 218] no earthquakes, and we are no friends to ſuch frantic revolutions. As a philoſopher, I conceive it my duty, as it is my pleaſure, to correct popular errors by ſimple truths. A philoſophical hiſtory of the Jews would be a hiſtory of human nature; no nation has aſſumed ſuch a variety of aſpects; their government was theocratical, ariſtocratical, republican, and monarchical; now tributary, and now exacting tributes; fugitive and ſtationary, impoveriſhed and opulent, ſuperſtitious and enlightened; a people, now the moſt ignorant in Europe, introduced thoſe ſciences which are cultivated by all men but themſelves.
"What has been the origin, between the Chriſtian and the Jew, of this implacable [Page 219] hatred? Rivality. The principles of Chriſtianity are inimical to the principles of Judaiſm. Chriſtianity, in it's earlieſt ſtage, was the rebellious child of an aged and imbecile * parent; at firſt the Jews attempted to puniſh Chriſtianity, afterwards Chriſtianity was enabled to maſſacre the Jews. Every thing is ſimple in it's connections; the principles of nature, [Page 220] however involved by the artifices of men, are few and invariable.
"Not among the leaſt of Hebrew grievances has been that of the Chriſtians having written their hiſtory. The Jews are chiefly known by accounts drawn up by their enemies, who have vilified with monkiſh rancour, and perpetuated the calumny of the day. Reflect on the ignorance of the Chriſtian ages; not that Chriſtianity neceſſarily includes ignorance, but ignorance may include Chriſtianity. The papal power was an univerſal monarchy. No ſolitary voice oppoſed the vulgar arm; yet ſometimes we catch in hiſtory a feeble voice, that, with a cautious generoſity, ſeems to whiſper ſomething for the ſufferers of Iſrael. Silent tears were ſhed from the eye of philoſophy. We now live in an age when a man may tell his fellow citizens, firmly and audibly, the cauſe of his tears. Yet even in this age, [Page 221] when this people attracted their attention, have philoſophers ceaſed to be philoſophers * [Page 222] "It is imagined that the Jews are diſtinguiſhed by a national countenance, and it is piouſly conceived as a mark inflicted [Page 223] by the divinity, ſimilar to that of Cain. Their complections are dark and aduſt, their noſe aquiline, and their eyes full and black; their caſt of features is frequently noble and expreſſive. The more poliſhed Jews, reſiding in England, are the deſcendants of thoſe emigrants who eſcaped from the human bonfires of Spain and Portugal. They have, therefore, naturally preſerved in their families the phyſiognomy as well as the cuſtoms, the habits, and the language of their anceſtors. The Jews, who have found a refuge here from their national degradation in Germany and Poland, are diſtinguiſhed by the fair complections, the grey eyes, and the red hair of thoſe nations. Had Lutheraniſm found ſectariſts in Spain and Portugal, and flown to England from the ordeal of the Inquiſition, many members of our eſtabliſhed church had been diſtinguiſhed by what we term Jewiſh faces. [Page 224] The Judaic viſage we ſometimes ridicule is frequently the countenance of his Spaniſh Majeſty* The Hebrews, who have no ſpot on earth their own, include all the varieties of the human ſpecies, and by differing from the natives, among whom they reſides, only ſhew that they are men.
"Their univerſal diſperſion and iſolated exiſtence have excited the curioſity of the philoſopher and the triumph of the theologian. It has been repeatedly affirmed, it is repeated, and will be repeated, that it is a puniſhment for their denial of the divinity of Jeſus. But the [Page 225] Jewiſh nation had ceaſed to be a nation, and were diſperſed, long before the appearance of Jeſus. Why has this fallible proof ſo long exiſted? Chriſtians are willing to accept this as an exiſting miracle; and Jews are willing to be conſidered as a nation ſelected by the divinity. A philoſopher, feeling none of theſe intereſts, modeſtly purſues truth, and boldly eſpouſes her. All national effects are to be traced to natural cauſes; every other cauſe is that of fanaticiſm and cruelty; and the diſcovery, which exceeds reaſon, made only by reaſonable beings, is the feveriſh dream of a ſick man.
"The political ſituation of the Jews is indeed a phenomenon in national manners. An artifice, for ſuch it was, if not inſpired by the divinity, at once ſingular [Page 226] and ſublime, of their legiſlator, has generated a power durable as the univerſe. Longinus termed Moſes a genius of no common magnitude.*. Extending his views with a vaſtneſs that ennobles but not exceeds human ſagacity, by rigid and numerous cuſtoms which he conſecrated by their holineſs, he has produced, from [Page 227] generation to generation, an inheritance of manners; has rendered the domeſtic life of a modern European the ſame as an ancient Aſiatic; and by his genius, through this awful interval of time, ſtill influences the fugitives he headed, and iſolates them among the moſt populous nations. What at firſt in his code ſeems minute, frivolous, and abſurd, is ſublimely political. The ſimple rite of circuciſion he ſo ſagaciouſly adopted as an indiſpenſable duty, ſtill further explains the magnificent conception of Moſes; perceiving that, mingled with other nations, they might aſſimilate to their cuſtoms, like ſmall ſtreams mingling with rivers, he commanded an operation, which, performed in the infant ſtate, compelled every man to bear in his body the Judaiſm his heart had renounced.
"Another cauſe produced an univerſal diſperſion of Jews. Their commercial [Page 228] character. Wherever a ſhip ſailed, a Jew voyaged; wherever a great town was eſtabliſhed, a Jew was it's inhabitant. It was neceſſary for them to ſeparate that they might flouriſh. We trace this fact in what relates to their Engliſh hiſtory; they were numerous, but not congregated. He who could find no employment at York ſucceeded at Norwich, or was enriched at Lincoln*. Their law not admitting of the military profeſſion, and animating them to conjugal embraces, by conſidering ſterility as a malediction, their populouſneſs became remarkable; they loſt not by the caſualties of other nations, and accumulated men as they did money, by regular arithmetic. If they had not ſuffered ſuch effectual [Page 229] maſſacres, Europe might have exhibited the New Jeruſalem.
"The origin of their proverbial wealth is equally ſimple as the cauſes already aſſigned. When Chriſtianity was eſtabliſhed, it degraded beneath the rank of men the children of Jacob. Not merely vaſſals, they were frequently bond-men. With the other cattle the circumciſed ſlaves were transferred from proprietor to proprietor. Earl Richard purchaſed of his brother Henry III. his Jews, for a leaſe, that (to employ the forcible expreſſion of Prynne) "thoſe whom the king had excoriated, he might eviſcerate." A more remarkable inſtance is that of this king, who, when he ſuſpected the diſaffection of prince Edward, to confirm his loyalty, made over the Jews to him; and the following year prince Edward, being as deeply indebted as his father, transferred them, by a new aſſignment, [Page 230] for two years, to the Caturcenſian merchants*. One bluſhes to find ſuch facts in the hiſtory of men.
"In this ſingular ſtate induſtry was a ſource of proſperity. Chriſtians were then moſt religious, little wiſe, and leſs induſtrious. Jewiſh wealth increaſed, and wealth produces privileges; they were proud in a mock parliament, in a chief juſtice, and an exchequer of their own. Opulent, they ſtill preſerved the cloſeſt frugality; abjectly penurious and groſsly ſordid†. Even to apologize for theſe offenſive manners, cauſes are not [Page 231] difficult to be aſſigned. Their domeſtic virtues, however, flouriſhed, luxuriant [Page 232] and beautiful, like their own plam and almond tree on their natal ſoil. Time has accidentally preſerved ſome intereſting narratives of their patient ſufferings, their fervid affections, and their heroic reſiſtance.
"Where wealth is concentered among the few, it finds perſecutors among the many. Their borrowers were great expenders and miſerable calculators. The eſtates of the idle Chriſtian were ingulphed by the mortgages of the induſtrious Jew, The ſovereign with their opulence filled his exhauſted treaſury, and the baron ſecurely committed his rapine. Chriſtian injuſtice produced Jewiſh uſury. The price of money ever becomes proportioned to the riſk. Objects of national pillage, they became objects of national rage; half the nation was their debtors; a maſſacre was a receipt in full. Sometimes they were expelled the kingdom [Page 233] for their uſury*, and then it was apparent that uſury was practiſed by Chriſtians; and while the Jews were univerſally execrated for uſurious practices, his [Page 234] Holineſs of Rome, by the means of his bankers, the Caurſini, compared with a Jew, bore the ſame affinity as a ſkinner has to a ſleecer†.
"At theſe periods calumnies were propagated, ſometimes abſurd and ſometimes terrible, and indeed have been continued to this enlightened period of time. I could ſhew volumes of compiled calumnies; I will confine myſelf to two. They have been frequently accuſed of crucifying children, and the chief narrative of this kind is even ſupported by ten hiſtorians. This fact is inſtructive. The agreement of ſeveral authors concerning ſome extraordinary circumſtance does not amount to it's proof; ſo many ſay a thing becauſe others have ſaid it. To [Page 235] ſuch writers we may apply the ſimile of Dante:—
Come le pecorelle eſcon dal chiuſo,* * * * * * * * * *E cio che fa la prima l'altre fanno,Addoſſandoſi a lei s'ella s'arreſta,Semplici e chete, e lo imperché non ſanno.
"It is thus all hiſtory is compoſed: nine of theſe hiſtorians copied from their predeceſſors; and the original narrator gives it as a rumour, and deſcribes it as a romance. I know not of any Jew who was hanged for crucifying a child; but I know, that when theſe accuſations were formed the king was very poor, and the fines were very heavy. The Jews have never uſed and wood for the purpoſe of crucifying Chriſtians, but the Chriſtians have employed a great deal for burning Jews*.
[Page 236] "It was long ſuppoſed, and I am told is yet, that the Jew is diſtinguiſhed by a peculiar and offenſive ſmell. To ſtink like a Jew is an adage which Furetiere has preſerved in his dictionary; but this ſmell, it ſeems, always diſappeared when a Jew was converted to chriſtianity†. [Page 237] The truth is, no rich Jew would become a convert to chriſtianity; the converts were therefore picked out of the filth of the ſtreets; ſordid in their manners as in their occupations; but when baptized, they paſſed through proper ablutions, were perfumed, and dreſſed; the virtue of the holy water had therefore nothing extraordinary.
"Their lower claſſes are accuſed of [Page 238] being tutored and practiſed in diſhonourable traffics: no traffic is diſhonourable where bread is wanted. They are induſtrious, cunning, and fraudulent. Obſerve the poor Chriſtian occupied in the ſame ſituation. Is it not difficult to aſcertain between a Jewiſh and a Chriſtian pedlar who is the honeſteſt man?
"Such has been the ancient ſtate of theſe men. A chronologer tells us, when he arrives at a particular date, on this day ſix hundred Jews were maſſacred at York; and in the ſucceeding article, that the king was crowned with great ſplendor and rejoicing. I confeſs I cannot ſo calmly paſs over from maſſacre to revelry, nor account murder, leſs murder, becauſe it is given in a collective manner. Some, I believe, do not feel their heart more agitated by a recital of ſix hundred than ſix; others bluſh for their country and chriſtianity; [Page 239] yet chriſtianity is not connected with perſecution.
"The ſtate of the modern Jews is not leſs ſevere than that of the ancient. They groaned in ages of perſecution, and in ages of toleration they are degraded. In England it is doubtful whether the Jews be citizens; they are merely tolerated inhabitants; even this expreſſion is too gentle. Since their laſt baniſhment, they attempted to return under Oliver; but the fanatics could not agree. Charles, gained by bribes, and indifferent on religious profeſſions, connived at their admiſſion; but the parliament of England has never abrogated their decree of expulſion*. This [Page 240] Britiſh land, which when the ſlave touches he becomes free, retains the child of Jacob in abject degradation. The Jew cannot purchaſe the houſe which he inhabits, and is not permitted to elevate himſelf among his horde by profeſſions which might ennoble his genius and dignify his people.
"Ruſſia has chaſed them from her inclement region, Denmark will not tolerate them, and in Norway and Sweden [Page 241] not an Iſraelite wanders*. Italy cantons them into obſcure quarters of her cities; now cloſes her gates to their entrance, and now places on them an humiliating badge. With them the holy father has not ſcrulped at an infamous breach of faith†. Germany [Page 242] ſometimes affords them but the protection of a ſingle night; every Jewiſh child but increaſes the taxes of his parent, and a marriage is as lamentable as a death. The Hebrew, father of many children, is ſevered even from domeſtic innocence; the ſons are diſperſed from their natal earth*. Men, who may be ſaid to be born exiles, are children of affliction, who cannot but raiſe their diſinherited hand againſt their mother country. All men are not Jews; but how long will it be neceſſary to remind us, that all Jews are men?
"The Jews, therefore, who have pleaded [Page 243] their own cauſe, have dipped their pen in tears and in gall. Mr. Bryant has ſaid, 'They are every where diſtinct and unconverted, and conſequently enemies to the Goſpel. They are like the waters of Styx, which remain unmixed wherever they flow, and retain their bitterneſs to the laſt.'* Here is imagination and orthodoxy, but no humanity. This bitterneſs is an effect, and not a cauſe. Mr. Bryant and others are ſurprized, why the Jews perſiſt in refuſing baptiſm; and the Jews are ſurpriſed why Mr. Bryant and others refuſe circumciſion. When two parties are equally inſane, they feel the ſame degree of conviction, and can therefore never change their opinions. I can aſſure this learned, pious, and fanciful writer, that there are Jews who cheriſh their Sephar Torah with [Page 244] the ſame zeal as Mr. Bryant does his New Teſtament; admire it as miraculouſly; would die for it as devotedly. All nations are alike characterized by a veneration for the religion of their forefathers. The Divinity has implanted the ſentiment in human nature. God would view all men in peace, and men rebel againſt the Divinity in their mutual perſecutions*.
"It remains now to add, that there is a mortifying inferiority in the mind of a Jew when compared with that of other Europeans. The entire ſyſtem of Hebrew education is inimical to the progreſs of the human mind; dark and ſtationary in ignorance, or bewildered amidſt intricate ſuperſtition, [Page 245] their modes of life are little favourable to form a taſte for the productions of nature and art; and the ſole occupations permitted them, the arts of wealth, extinguiſh the bolder and prominent paſſions.
"The national character of this people is therefore monotonous; never illumed by a glimmering, though a departing beam of reaſon, and never venturing on amelioration; as the blind can only walk with confidence in their narrow but accuſtomed precinct. Senſible they do not here bear chains under tyrants, they feel grateful that they exiſt under men; but the energies of glory die in inertion, and honour is ſtrangled by the ſilken cord of commerce.
Cloſely tranſlated by Dryden;Degeneres animos timor arguit.Eneid, lib. iv. ver. 13.
The Jewiſh veins, impoveriſhed and exhauſted, want a mixture of Chriſtian blood. Their arms bear now the ruſt of fifteen hundred years. To athletic exerciſes their ſedentary occupations are averſe. From youth to age they breathe a ſickly exiſtence under the domeſtic roof; andFear ever argues a degenerate mind.
Homekeeping youth have ever homely wits.SHAKESPEARE.
"The reform you propoſe to effect among this people is not deſirable, for at preſent they are unworthy of it. Their ſuperſtitions are perhaps never to be extirpated. [Page 247] They believe that their written law contains all that men ſhould know*. [Page 248] Omars, they would burn every book but their Alcoran. They believe that their oral law was really delivered by God to Moſes, paragraph by paragraph, as it now exiſts, conſiſting of twelve folios of abſurdities; a very Cyclopedia of ignorance. Men muſt be trained gradually to ſupport the glorious weight of a rational freedom. We muſt never hurry to feaſts the famiſhed; their enjoyment might be death. Your nation was not more prepared to enjoy liberty than the Negroes and the Jews, whom you now excite to ſnatch at the perilous gift. Let men deſerve liberty before they obtain it; permit them to reform themſelves; but to command reformation is, on your ſide, to give the name of freedom to deſpotiſm, and on their's, of glory to ſedition.
"Let us labour gently to looſen the bonds of prejudices, to extirpate unnatural hatreds, and to convince the Chriſtian and the Jew, at the cloſe of the [Page 249] eighteenth century, that 'modes of faith' were never modes of humanity, and that the hour ſhould have already paſſed, when the Chriſtian ſhould be generous and the Jew grateful. To oppoſe this principle is to cheriſh an abſurdity in politics, and a dereliction in morals."*
[Page 250] Here the Jewiſh philoſopher at length ceaſed, and Vaurien departed, conſidering that the Jew was by no means ſo agreeable as the Platoniſt; that he ſhewed more erudition than he wiſhed to hear, and was as little adapted for his politics as for his amuſement.
"In England you have adopted two modes of getting rid of your kings; the reigns of Charles I. and James II. have produced to your nation more real utility than if they had been the moſt exemplary princes. They have taught all ſovereigns, that there are different manners of regal puniſhment; by death or expulſion. Let every citizen give his [Page 252] opinion reſpecting the preſent monarch, whom we have agreed to dethrone."
"This laſt mode," obſerved Vaurien, "combines expedition, ſafety, and tranquillity. But this king, through a long reign, has not rebelled againſt his people, nor will his people eaſily rebel againſt a ſovereign, who, without imbecillity is affectionate, without effeminacy is domeſtic, without tyranny is firm; a monarch, who, like another Auguſtus, ſuffered without a murmur, although it coſt a tear, the horrid calumnies of an eternal [Page 253] Aretine; yes, the father of his country ſuffered himſelf what he could not permit the obſcureſt individual to ſuffer; he truſted to the purity of his life, and to the voice of his ſubjects; a ſovereign, whoſe confidence in their affections was ſuch, that he would have reclined his head and ſlept on the boſom of his meaneſt ſubject: but kings muſt fall if we would riſe."
"But it does not follow," cried Dragon, with a frown, "that a ſtate muſt have it's king. You Gauls catch at [Page 254] every remote alluſion, burleſque the ſolemnity of your councils, and ruin your cauſe by your eloquence. Speak leſs, think more, and let your arm be your voice."
"You obſerve," ſaid Subtile, turning to Reverberator, "how exact are my computations! This morning I calculated all our opinions, and caſting up all the probabilities and the poſſibilities, I computed [Page 255] a certitude, that this evening we ſhould determine on aſſaſſination. But I have prepared another calculation. You propoſe, Dragon, that it ſhould take place when the King goes to Parliament. The chances are againſt you; for the wind may blow againſt the arrow, or the arrow may, for aught I know, be inhaled into your own throat. Then, there are the horſes, who, added together with his Majeſty, make ſo many to one you miſs. We ſhould never ſtir a foot without calculation. When Johnſon entered a room he uſed to number and to meaſure his ſteps; it is thought to have been ſuperſtition; I believe it was done metaphyſically; for it aſtoniſhes me, that not more legs are broken daily, ſince few calculate their ſteps, and a ſingle one, too long, or too ſhort, may overſet a man."
"Nature," ſaid Vaurien, "effects her facile operations without the intervention [Page 256] of metaphyſics. We calculate nature, but are only amuſed by our figures. A new fact overturns an old ſyſtem. Reflect, my friends, on the neceſſity of diſpatch. What has been done at the Tower?"
Dragon replied, "This morning, for two hours, the tri-coloured flag was hung out, to the amazement and terror of the town. I got a boy to do this, merely by half an hour's converſation on liberty. Boys form the beſt citizens; every argument to them is new and incontrovertible. I dare ſay, Citizen Rant, you find this at your lectures."
To which Rant anſwered: "Citizens, my lungs, my arms, my feet, this cadaverous face, and theſe ferocious locks, flying like the ſerpent hair of furies, perform miracles among apprentices. I have learnt the French language ſince the revolution. I talk of Conſtantinople, while every one knows I mean London; of Mahomet, [Page 257] when I ſtrike at Jeſus; and of a conſpiracy of the ſeven kings againſt the liberties of infant Rome, when I clearly deſcribe the allied powers. It is thus I defy all law. Helvetius did the ſame. Is not this genius in me? All comes from Helvetius; he is the ova of human nature. The learned London Correſponding Society, our reſpectable bookſellers of 'Pig's-meat,' and our political miſſionaries, deſerve well of the republic; but they perſiſt all in printing what they have to ſay. I have printed in every claſs of literature; but whatever is moſt energetic from my tribune makes no impreſſion in print. My works are like the acidity of lemon ſqueezed on ſalts of wormwood; if the inſtant froth is not caught 'tis vapidneſs! My ſatire is termed outrageous ribaldry; my eloquence, inflated gaudineſs; my thoughts, tedious common place; 'tis ſaid, I have neither ſimplicity nor dignity, neither [Page 258] nature nor rhetoric. But approach my tribune, hear my ſcreams of indignation, my whiſpers of diſcovery, the foaming vengeance of my mouth, the thundering reſolution of my arm, and the audible contempt of my foot. I aſſure you, citizens, a living line of animation runs along the room; I have ſeen the very benches tremble with rapture, while the oppoſite echo of my voice ſeems like that of ſome divinity, heard, but not ſeen. My butchers are reſolute as the gladiators of Rome; my tailors are heroes to a man; and my ſhoemakers are ſo many Solons. The canaille are the nobility of human nature."
"True," replied Vaurien; "and I have always been ſurpriſed at your Engliſh ariſtocratic cuſtom of decanting Port; you carefully reject the dregs; but the dregs are at once victual and drink, and contain more true ſpirit than the thin upper [Page 259] liquor. Our French wine has no dregs, for it has no body; it is all alike, lively and ſparkling, but it will not keep; ſo we drink it off all at once. Time only ſlattens and ſours. Let us now underſtand from citizen Dragon the conduct of his propoſed maſſacre."
"Exactly a month from this night, or about one in the morning, I have prepared my friends. We divide in three bodies. The firſt aſſemble at Charing-croſs under the ſtatue of the tyrant; the ſecond collect at the Tower; the third penetrate the Bank. The Charing-croſs party will decapitate by torch-light; the Tower will provde us with arms; but I fear we may be diſappointed at the Bank for money. [Page 260] However an active night does much; when the ſun riſes we ſhall give up the city to pillage; that will be a kind of current coin for the people.
"When I was at Paris, I ſtudied 'the magnificent virtues of Robeſpierre, and the energetic heroiſm of Danton*.' I [Page 261] conſulted with the animated Barrere and the calm and perſevering Collot d'Herbois. They conducted their maſſacres on a new plan. They firſt ſet fire to part of Lyons, without permitting a ſingle maſſacre to be performed in the burning quarter, truſting to the juſtice of gunpowder. In the oppoſite quarters the patriots were marſhalled, and while they performed their duties quietly on the inhabitants, the fugitives who eſcaped from the flames were compelled to throw themſelves on their ſwords. This ingenious contrivance ſucceeded tolerably; not ſo much as they deſired; and they afterwards [Page 262] very patriotically voted, when they perceived that they had only effected half a maſſacre, to raze the magnificent city of Lyons. Here you have 'hearts no bigger than pins heads;' you would have heſitated at this ſublime maſſacre."
"Do not diſturb my reverie," continued Dragon, darting a fiery glance on Bounce. "That night the two Houſes ſhall be the lamps of liberty to illuminate the metropolis. Thoſe haughty phantoms of ſtate ſhall vaniſh. We ſhall walk in blood; we ſhall ſee by flames. At noon London will be half in ruins, and half it's citizens be piled on each other. Happy and fraterniſed people! Liberty ſhall be the benign ſunſhine to gild theſe horrors, and you ſhall be free when you exult over your ruins."
"Why, ſhall we not all unite?" continued Dragon. "Rant has his apprentices. Do you account liberated Newgate as nothing? Is the King's Bench unfurniſhed with true republicans? Is Bridewell deſtitute of patriots? Will not half the young men of the day aſſemble when we once begin?"
"None of you," cried Dragon, "have made any progreſs in the philoſophy of politics. How few aſſaſſinated Caeſar! How inſtantly did Maſſaniello effect his revolution! One night completed the conſpiracy of Fieſco; and Marius and Sylla are immortal. Let us imitate the vaſt deſigns and ſplendid deeds of great men. In a cauſe like this the coward only is avaricious of blood, and the fool only is prodigal of words. A maſſacre in politics is an electric ſhock; it calls forth a flame from the coldeſt bodies. I have joined [Page 265] in glorious maſſacres. You muſt want a feeble conception of the ſcene:—In the ſilence and ſhade of night, when the ſtill air is almoſt heard, then like a ſummer thunder ſuddenly burſting from all parts, ſhouts and groans, the ſhrieks of women, the claſh of ſwords, the firing of piſtols, the lurid ſkies now dark with ſmoke now red with flame, ſome fugitive and others purſuing, the people now precipitating and now precipitated, the ſtreets kennelled with blood, the paſſage obſtructed by corſes, and the exulting eye of a true patriot glutted and tranquil amid boundleſs carnage: at ſuch a moment, my friends, every conſpirator is ardent with triumph, while every citizen is frozen with terror. I entered a church at Paris with but a few friends; above five hundred prieſts had ſought an aſylum; they were chaunting Te Deum; when we entered all their voices were united, but [Page 266] not one reſiſted our daggers; we gradually heard voice by voice decline, till only a ſolitary accent ſounded in the hollow arches of the church; we left him to his fate, protected by the corſes of five hundred of his ſlaughtered companions. Believe me, the arm of an active patriot does not tire. Let men be aſſembled, and I aſk not a minute to a man. You have heard of the aſſaſſin of the Princeſs of Lamballe; I had him over, but he has been ſhipped off; he was a maſter. The rich cannot fight, and the poor will. Place a well-fed ſpider with one who has been faſting for ten months; the meagre one attacks, maſſacres, and gorges*. Men are ſpiders in [Page 267] this reſpect. Not a town in England but will riſe. Will not the French fleets be ſafe in our ports?"
"Damn the winds!" retorted Dragon. "Did not Monſieur Volney tell us, he would manage them by this time? Are we then to poſtpone a ſalutary maſſacre for a N.W. or a N.E.? You then have deceived me. I depended on the winds!"
"Nothing can be done with the Quakers," ſaid Vaurien. "My project of an univerſal peace charmed, but my mode terrified. My ſyſtem is, however, well calculated. France, by it's extent and it's populouſneſs, can hold out a war longer than any neighbouring country; ſo that when other nations are half deſtroyed, it will retain a reſpectable and ſelect number of republicans. In our calculations we look rather at the expence of powder and ball than of men; we have too many men, but are often in want of ammunition. The genius of our new [Page 269] tactics is to fight inceſſantly by land, and at ſea to board the enemy, that we may relieve ourſelves from the ſuperfluity of our men. To deſtroy or be deſtroyed is the only ſecret of our art. A diurnal war of twenty years is therefore deſirable. I flatter myſelf two millions of our enemies might be annually got rid of. At the cloſe of the twenty years we ſhould be able to eſtabliſh, what hitherto has been the cloſet dream of the philoſopher,—an univerſal peace."
"Your calculation is commendable," replied Subtile; "but this general peace greatly reſembles the peace of a churchyard. It is a kind of peace which may be already enjoyed in a deſert. My project is evidently ſuperior. I would not ſlaughter, but reaſon with men. What are the cauſes or motives of war? Many indeed have been aſſigned, yet they are all reſolvable into one; the propoſed advantage [Page 270] obtainable by a war. Now, of advantages or diſadvantages, no criterion exiſts but our conviction; it is, therefore, a matter for argument. Nations at preſent make war before they negotiate; they ſhould negotiate before they make war. A war rarely produces any real benefit to either party, but is attended with inevitable evil to both. At a peace the contending nations rejoice; rather ſhould they mourn; then only they perceive themſelves placed amidſt ruins and deſolations. A war has been often kindled by a miſterm in a treaty*: and [Page 271] thus alſo in law, which is another kind of war. I was ſaved at the Old Bailey, becauſe the Attorney-general had miſpelt my name Subtile, by Subtle. A letter more or leſs, a comma or a full ſtop, have frequently diſturbed the peace of Europe. I am of opinion that it is neceſſary to convince the world, that inſtead of armies compoſed of ſoldiers, it ſhould only form them of correct grammarians and expert logicians. Nations quarrel becauſe they do not underſtand each other. Reaſon is immutable; every obſtacle is removed by a lucid explanation. A treaty of war would be more deſirable than a battle of war. Who could reſiſt arguments ſtrongly deduced, and grammar nicely correct? There would be no miſunderſtandings, for there would be no miſterms."
"Grammer and reaſon!" exclaimed Rant. "I give my vote of diſſent in toto! What would become of me and my works [Page 272] if grammer or reaſon were to be their criterions? Cannon and gunpowder are as neceſſary as pen and ink."
"I am no great admirer, I confeſs, of grammer and reaſon," ſaid Reverberator. "I have a natural antipathy to them; for when I was an oſtler at Newmarket, I ever obſerved that certain anomalies in the Engliſh language had the greateſt effect on my horſes and my aſſociates. Some of our moſt energetic expreſſions are both unreaſonable and ungrammatical."
"Mr. Subtile is, however, juſt in what he ſays reſpecting grammar and reaſon," ſaid Dr. Bounce; "for had the writer of the firſt chapter of Geneſis but known either, he would not have uſed the word Elohim, which plural word, Gods, has given to ſome a ſtrong proof of the exiſtence of the Trinity, by which ſo many honeſt men like myſelf are kept out of the hierarchy."
[Page 273] "I ſhould fear," ſaid Vaurien, turning to Subtile, "that your treaties of war, to be conducted by logic, would be as deceptive as our preſent treaties of peace; for it ſeems you can reaſon with equal force on both ſides. You can, Mr. Reverberator informs me, prove that man is a ſtone, and then, that a ſtone is not a man."
"I can," replied Subtile, with an exulting tone. "It is the eaſieſt operation of my logic; for it is performed by the mode of the ancient ſyllogiſm. In my great work you will find many propoſitions more curious and extraordinary. To our preſent buſineſs. I do it thus: A ſtone is a body; an animal is a body; man is an animal; ergo, man is a ſtone. Again: No ſtone is an animal; man is an animal; ergo, man is not a ſtone. Let beings, I repeat, rational and intelligent, act with rationality and intelligence, and I confidently [Page 274] affirm, that a ſound logic would conduct the affairs of the world more forcibly than an iron world of ſoldiers."
"Moſt powerfully put!" replied Vaurien, with a ſmile. "I am glad, however, that you have extricated me from the horror of petrifaction. Yet if I read your great work, I become a petrifaction again. Subtile, you merit the praiſe of our comic poet:
"But when ſhall we meet to agree?"—So ſaying he diſſolved the committee of public ſafety.Raiſonner eſt I'emploi de toute ma maiſon;Et le raiſonnement en bannit la raiſon.
WHEN Vaurien reflected on the indeterminations of his ſecret committees, the imbecillity of his coadjutors, and the evident ſmallneſs of the number of true republicans in this country, he perceived that it was neceſſary to congregate men by other means than the projects hitherto purſued. After profound meditation, he ſketched ſeveral plans equally ingenious, and at length ſelected one which appeared to promiſe an univerſal confuſion; to delight the young enthuſiaſt in his cloſet, the enlightened by [Page 276] honours rendered to ſcience, the populace by the aſtoniſhment of a new and univerſal ſenſation, and the true republican by enabling ſuch to meet for mutual ſupport, and, like David, to "number his people."
It's deſign was an exhortation addreſſed to all the Engliſh, the Scotch, and the Iriſh, to commemorate the birth, the works, and the name of Newton. He propoſed that an act of parliament ſhould immediately decree a national edition of his works; that his majeſty ſhould annually go in ſtate to Newton's printing preſs, and pay due homage to the art of printing, as the emperor of China, to reverence the art of agriculture, annually [Page 277] conducts the plough. That columns ſacred to Newton be erected in every great town throughout the three ſiſter kingdoms; that the name of Newton be inſcribed among the princes of the royal blood; that a new order of knighthood be formed, called the Newtonian; that his majeſty ſhould beſtow on "the agent for all the arts and ſciences," the title of "Sir Newton Vaurien;" that a Newtonian fleet be prepared for new diſcoveries in every quarter of the world; and finally, that the houſe of the arch-philoſopher, which, we do not bluſh to relate, is at preſent converted into an eating-houſe, and eating is full as uſeful as philoſophy, ſhould be raiſed into a magnificent temple, his diſcoveries to be ſet to Handel's muſic, and philoſophical hymns to be daily chanted to his memory throughout theſe three kingdoms!
[Page 278] To defray the charges of this ſublime project, he propoſed that two guinea ſubſcriptions be depoſited at his banker's, and that any ſurplus of money, after the chop-houſe had been raiſed into a temple, be applied to the relief of the poor, in the manner ſo humanely recommended by Dean Swift*.
[Page 279] Such is the literal analyſis of this eccentric project! a cool and rational Briton will inſtantly pronounce it the conception of infanity, and that no political miſchief could attend any ſimilar publication; as if great madmen were not to the full as dangerous as great villains. If Vaurien were mad, there was certainly "a method in his madneſs;" but Vaurien was in good health, although not in high ſpirits, when he compoſed this great work. It was a final project. Every exertion of deſpair, if unſucceſsful, is conſidered as an act of lunacy, but attended with ſucceſs, we then acknowledge it the ſublime [Page 280] invention of no ordinary genius. This project ceaſes to be an abſurdity when confronted with ſome of a kindred character realiſed in France. The removal of the bones of Voltaire and Rouſſeau, carried with an idolatrous pomp to the deification of a Pantheon, the national commemoration of a ferocious liberty by the exhibition of an allegorical pantomime, and the national dreſſes, motley and fantaſtical, in all forms and all colours, were aſſuredly not extravagancies of lunatics, but puerilites of deſigning men; puerile only in their appearance, invented to captivate the eye; to pleaſe the fancies of women, to awe youth into reſpect, and to divert the paſſions of the multitude into any channel of obſervation and converſe, rather than ſuffer them to roll their turbid waves amidſt the ſecreted fountain of power. The infantes barbati, bearded infants, [Page 281] are to be uſed as other boys, and they give them harmleſs mockeries, that they may not entertain themſelves by ſeiſing on the dangerous inſtruments of men; but they will not permit the children of nature to amuſe themſelves with any other toys than thoſe manufactured à la mode Pariſienne.
There was ſagacity in this laſt attempt of Vaurien. He had hitherto promiſed to his patron rapid wonders, which ſhould be followed by each other with undeviating and miraculous power. The Cardinal De Rohan did not more revere the buſt of Caglioſtro, whom he conſidered as the great illuminé of the age, than Lord Belfield confided in the head of Vaurien; but the Gaul in every event had proved the dupe of his own impetuous imagination. The fleets of France were diſperſed, were taken, and were burnt. The Iriſh were loyal, and felt a Britiſh indignation [Page 282] at a Gallic gaſconade. The true republicans in London were too few to enumerate, and too contemptible to liſten to. Bold, firm, and diſcontented men he found, but their audible diſcontent proved the freedom of our country. He ſaw that our government felt all the infirmities of long adminiſtrations; no government can reach a ſtationary perfection; all were formed by human paſſions, and all are carried on by contending intereſts; every government is good which is ſupportable. Vaurien ſaw that ours could not be as pure and vigorous as in it's youth of 1688; it's ſound conſtitution is rather debilitated by luxurious eaſe, than imbecile by a pithleſs and frigid age. He ſaw our preſs was free, our juries were holy, our judges honeſt; a miniſter may be cenſured and impeached, and the voice of the people can reach the throne; and the purity of [Page 283] our conſtitution had been tried in it's fountain head. Vaurien had ſeen with ſurpriſe, that a member, who profeſſed himſelf independent, could expel, when he elevated his voice, a member who had been ſpawned forth from the filth of commercial corruption.
He perceived the imbecility of the chiefs of his party, who aſſumed the ſovereignty of human opinion, and one of whom only had a juſt claim to genius. In vain the unfeeling, the ſophiſtical, and the metaphyſical Subtile had choſen to characteriſe free men, like herds of Yahoos; in vain he had, with minute malice, and hyperbolical calumny, artiſtly painted a ſombrous and terrific picture, which he choſe to term the Engliſh conſtitution; in vain he had created a being with a petrifaction for it's heart, ice-water for it's blood, and clock-work for it's motion, which he choſe to term a man. [Page 284] Still more in vain was Reverberator, the noon-tide ſhadow of this metaphyſical giant; his ten thouſand years could only occaſion the laugh, forgotten with the moment. When Vaurien heard him affirm the wonderful influence of mind over the exterior organization, and that life might be prolonged at will, and looked on this philoſopher of eternity, he ſmiled to view a diminutive frame, a ſhrunken countenance, a man broken down in the maturity of life, whoſe volubility was interrupted by an aſthma, whoſe vigour marched with tottering legs, and whoſe boldneſs trembled with ſhattered nerves. This Reverberator, who, conceiving that all things were acquirable by the perſerverance of habit, attempted in his walk to take large ſtrides, that he might gradually make a gigantic ſtep; to diminiſh his food by ſlow gradations, that in time he might exiſt with the [Page 285] leaſt, or poſſibly without any food; and on the ſame principle, ſtraining and emaciating his mind with his body, attempted to become a man of genius, by writing comedies without taſte, poetry without imagination, and politics in a rage. From Sympathy he could expect little, ſince although he was willing to overturn all religion, he ſtill retained ſo much of the prieſt as to inſiſt on becoming an archbiſhop of Canterbury. For the reſt of the ſociety, peace be to their manes!
Situated thus, deſolate in hope, and active in deſpair, he publiſhed this eccentric proclamation, and reſigned it to the influence of chance; chance, to which ſo many great characters have had recourſe, and which he knew, in the moſt complicated and ruinous game, ſometimes turns up the dice which decides our fortune.
Vaurien had ill calculated the genius of our nation. He had committed the [Page 286] error of his Pariſian friends; they think we reſemble them; that is, they conſider us as men much worſe than we are. They have examined ſome looſe rotten bricks which have fallen from the Britiſh edifice, and decide on the wondrous piles by ſome natural caſualties. In vain we are told, that all men are the ſame men. National characters are oppoſite. To moral, and not to phyſical cauſes, can be aſcribed that hoſtility of opinions, which has, from age to age, removed, at ſo vaſt an interval, the genius of theſe neighbouring nations. The ſame winter and ſummer refrigerate and heat Paris and London, but not the ſame well-poiſed government and the ſame domeſtic virtues. Taſte, is a criterion of national character. Voltaire never comprehended the genius of Shakeſpeare; Johnſon never taſted the ingenuity of Voltaire. An Engliſh and French ſtudent peruſe the [Page 287] ſame authors, but do not write the ſame ſentiments. Even the ſeverity of metaphyſics in France has been rendered a vehicle of entertainment for women*; but when Subtile followed with meaſured ſteps the paths of theſe airy Gauls, he could not ſoften his auſterity with their ſuperficial gaiety. We cannot acquire the volatiliſed delicacy, the lighter graces, and the ſuſceptible and feminine imagination of the French.
Redoubtable they are in politics, for they execute rapidly what they project inceſſantly; inſidious in their profeſſions, [Page 288] ſubtile in their hypocriſy, and ſanguinary in their power. In France they feel to inexpreſſible delicacy, or to inconceivable horror; their individual murders have ever been characteriſed by peculiar and complex barbarity*; impetuous [Page 289] feelings are fugitive, and take an oppoſite direction; they commit murders, and then inſcribe "ICI L'ON DANSE." Women in all things, they are women in vengeance. Impatient of reſtraint, in war, a ſiege diſcourages and repels them; in peace, an orderly conſtitution could neither excite their love nor their reverence. Terrible in aſſault, contemptible in ſlight; vaſt in their projects, imbecile in their purſuits; capable of imagining all things, incapable of performing any. They triumph for a moment, and deſpair through a century. Of all nations, they alone have felt that calenture of political imagination, which has aſpired to an univerſal monarchy or an univerſal republic; but they have never known that Britiſh vigour of judgment, which could form for Engliſhmen the moſt perfect conſtitution humanity can ſuffer. When the French were ſlaves, us they reverenced; when free, us they [Page 290] imitated; now licentious, they envy and they hate. Europe they may afflict with continued revolutions; yet may their deſigns be fruſtrated; ONE revolution was ſufficient for the Engliſh. Dangerous rivals, for they addreſs themſelves to the imagination; they ſeduce the eye and inflame the heart; they mingle prominent virtues, which conceal their radical viciouſneſs; incapable of perſeverance, but they will periſh in their cauſe if deſtruction comes rapidly; they will declaim on freedom, when they exerciſe tyranny; revere the humanity of peace, while their hand is armed with death; they will reform prejudices, while they introduce prejudices ſtill more calamitous; they term themſelves citizens of the world, while they ſly from place to place, and only leave in their career the memory of their deſolations. They come to deſtroy or be deſtroyed; to fraternize with them were to embrace and to periſh.
[Page 291] The French reſemble water-melons, of which, proverbially, not one in a thouſand taſtes with perfection; their liquor is aqueous, and rarely delicious; while the Engliſh, like the cocoa-nut, bear a rough and hard incruſtation, which protects the milk of human kindneſs*.
IT is now time to imitate the manner of Rapin in his hiſtory, who, when he has finiſhed a certain portion of the affairs of the ſtate, as we have done, returns to wind up thoſe of the church, and then on to the ſtate, and then backwards to the church; a comfortable and unfatiguing regularity we much envy. We noveliſts are claſſed beneath our brothers who profeſs authentic hiſtory, and yet we have to feed the fire of our imagination with the moſt coſtly aromatics; but the fire of an hiſtorian is extremely ſmall, and kept up by mere wood and coal. But as the eyes of moſt people are more perfect than the delicacy of their [Page 293] olfactory nerves, it has happened that hiſtorians are conſidered as ſublime perſonages, and we as nugatory triſlers. As for our church affairs, they are much eaſier to narrate than thoſe of the other hiſtorians, a church being the very laſt object of a noveliſt's attention. It is with us as with many other men; to go to church for marriage is an act of deſpair; and when we diſcover that we are in an exhauſted ſtate, to ſave our reputation we have recourſe to the parſon.
Emily with ſecret pleaſure now gazed on Vaurien. She felt the ſame degree of faſcinated affection as Charles experienced. Placed in a ſimilar ſituation, they mutually loved and hated. When Emily liſtened to Lady Belfield, ſhe conceived ideas of contempt; and to Vaurien, of confirmed horror relative to Charles. Of the character of Mrs. Wilſon ſhe had received indubitable evidence. [Page 294] She and Charles felt alike; for the innocence and purity of both were the marked victims of the diſappointed paſſion of her Ladyſhip, and the cruel malice of the Gaul. Yet it is worthy of obſervation, that all theſe complicated miſchiefs were originally derived from a young man's charity for a miſerable proſtitute!
Emily had ſcarcely reſided a month with Lady Belfield when ſhe found her dependent life even more wretched than with the daughter of the loan-contractor. The beauty and diſſipation of Miſs Million by no means rivalled thoſe of her Ladyſhip; and having been born in Pudding-lane, ſhe was not ſo expert and creative in her derelictions from decency and virtue as her rival, who had been born in Groſvenor-ſquare; and yet we ſhall not have recourſe to climate to ſolve this problem, [Page 295] as many other philoſophers would. She had not yet ſeized on the natural genius of diſſipation; for it is by no means a facile labour to become the moſt abandoned and the moſt amiable of women; an experienced taſte is required even in the ſelection of impurities.
The domeſtic manners of her Ladyſhip were viewed with a ſenſation of horror. A ſtranger to her Lord, yet reſiding under the ſame roof; when deſcribing the embarraſſments of their fortune, her high play ſhe termed a national debt; an avowed and criminal intercourſe with her favourites was called a fleurette, and with her claimants a ſtamped receipt. Her private converſations alarmed her hourly; for her Ladyſhip, to give an evidence of her friendſhip, threw off her reſerve, and, like the Dueſſa of Spenſer, diſcovered under the gay and brilliant [Page 296] dreſs by which ſhe enchanted the public eye, a form of demoniac uglineſs and vicious diſtortion.
In Vaurien Emily perceived nothing but humanity and accompliſhment. He too wore a beautiful maſk; but art had ſo emulated nature, that if the innocent Emily miſtook a maſk for a face, others of more experienced ſagacity had been alike deceived.
Sometimes when ſhe ſat alone her thoughts wandered to Charles; his image had been placed on the altar of her heart, and we do not readily break the idols which we once have worſhipped. Yet on Vaurien ſhe looked as on her protector, and facilitated, by the deſolation of her hopes and the urgency of her wants, the deſigns he meditated.
In the mean while Vaurien perceived the growing paſſion of his rival, who, in the confidence of his friendſhip, confeſſed [Page 297] the reſtleſs emotions of his boſom. "To love her," ſaid Charles, "who merits not love, is a faſcination. It is in vain I combat and I reſolve; when her image comes before me, every thought turns to her; eternally I gaze on that intellectual phantom which takes the pure form without the impure mind of this girl." Vaurien was alike convinced of Emily's predilection for Charles; becauſe not only he had caught her abrupt monologue, which we have given, at the moment ſhe had diſcovered the character of Mrs. Wilſon, but alſo becauſe ſhe made frequent enquiries concerning Charles, and mourned over his character leſs with the regret of diſpleaſure, than with the grief of paſſion.
Charles, although he would not enter the houſe of Belfield, was induced, by his reſtleſs anxiety, to enquire concerning Emily of her maid. By her he diſcovered that ſhe was far from being of congenial [Page 298] diſpoſitions with her Ladyſhip, with whom ſhe did not appear on the eaſieſt terms; that ſhe was melancholy, and often had been obſerved in tears. The maid, however, confeſſed that Emily ſeemed much delighted by the ſociety of Vaurien, that ſhe often played to him on her harp, that they paſſed hours in converſation, and that ſhe conſulted with him on every preſſing occaſion. The interrupted connection between her Ladyſhip and Emily he attributed to the ſpirit of rivalry, while the latter part of the information amply confirmed her character, according to the deſcriptions of his friend Vaurien.
His agitated ſpirits preyed on his frame, and his health viſibly declined. In his literary purſuits he gave marks of the diſtraction of his mind; and ſome ſingular blunders he had committed convinced Johnſon that he concealed ſome powerful emotion, too apparent in it's [Page 299] effects. He ſaid to him one day, "My good friend, I did not know you was the abſent man; but you will ruin me. You inſerted, I find, in Mr. Snowden's Travels to Ruſſia, Mr. Fervid's deſcription of his newly-diſcovered iſland under the Line; and you have ſent to the printer of the Britiſh Critic, the article on the aboliſhment of epiſcopacy, which was meant for the Critical Review, while this month the Critical contains that orthodox diſſertation to prove the nature of the Trinity on the principles of common ſenſe. The literary world is in confuſion. The Rivingtons menace with the pillory; the Robinſons (who yet do not command the pillory) threaten to ſtarve me out of employment. You know that all the arts and ſciences, all the wit and genius of the age, are abſolutely under controul of the Rivingtons and the Robinſons, brothers and bookſellers*." [Page 300] Charles deſired to relinquiſh his purſuits, acknowledged himſelf abſorbed in a paſſion fatal to his repoſe, that he loved an object who merited not love, and now related the hiſtory of Emily, which he had hitherto concealed.
"Eccentric humanity! That being is a virtuous woman. We muſt learn to correct our prejudices if we would not [Page 302] too frequently pierce with an added ſting the bleeding boſom of virtuous misfortune. What ſhe related is true; but ſhe could not relate all. Her modeſty concealed her incontinence." Johnſon related her intereſting connection with Charles. When he had finiſhed, Emily raiſed her eyes to heaven, exclaiming, "My father, once have you erred! Virtue, then, may aſſume a criminal appearance. Siſter of affliction! where does ſhe now wander? Victim of prejudice and delicacy! I could now embrace her with the confidence of virtue. I could preſs this woman, who was a proſtitute, to my artleſs boſom, as an image of maternal affection. Tell Mr. Charles he is an excellent young man; if I ceaſed to eſteem him, the cauſe of that ceſſation will convince him that I now muſt eſteem him but the more."
"I am only born," replied Emily, "to be deceived. Yes, Vaurien's accompliſhments were eloquent, and his virtues were ſplendid. His character now becomes unintelligible. Is he then a villain?—Ah, my father! are you again right? My father, Sir, at his death, exhorted me to 'fly the agreeable.'—I ſhould not then have incurred this juſt imputation."
Vaurien pauſed ſome minutes, then raiſing his hands, exclaimed with energy, [Page 304] —"I appeal to heaven that I am not ungenerous! This man, and no doubt this woman, even at this moment, exiſt on my bounty! Since he provokes the diſcovery I have concealed, blame me not for the confidence I have held religiouſly inviolate. I will ſhew you his bond. All this can be but a colluſion of the wretched parties. As for this Charles he is no where to be found; he has ſuddenly diſappeared."
He now ſhewed Emily the bond, which was for five hundred pounds; as ſhe looked on it, mingled ſenſations agitated; the generous concealment of Vaurien waked a beaming pleaſure in her eyes; the ſilence, the connections, and the flight of Charles gave a poignant reproach to her heart; her face burned with indignation; her eye ſoftened with delight; the amiable character of Vaurien roſe to her mind;—and when ſhe turned towards Vaurien, [Page 305] ſhe gazed on an animated Adonis, liſtened to tones that melodiſed her ſoul, and was dazzled by eyes that melted with their tendereſt fires. He threw himſelf at her feet, confeſſed himſelf her adorer, and moaned in ſuch deſpair at the treachery and envy of Charles, that Emily, in piteouſly liſtening, ſhed tears with the tears of Vaurien.
This was one of thoſe moments of activity with the Gaul, in which his genius inſtantaneouſly performed what the ſlow conceptions of vulgar villains could not have atchieved by repeated deliberations. When he could force himſelf to reſiſt the overflowing ſympathy of the artleſs Emily, he had Charles immediately arreſted, and by a weighty bribe gained over his keeper to deliver to him any letters he might write. This done, he forged a letter to Johnſon, in Charles's hand-writing. Vaurien was expert in counterfeiting hand, and at Naples his ingenuity [Page 306] had once nearly been rewarded by having his hand ſevered; but he had timely decamped, preſerving, with the inſtrument of his art all it's former ſkill. In this letter to Johnſon Charles was made to inform him, that he was compelled to quit the kingdom in haſte and trepidation; that hitherto he had played the hypocrite; that his attachment to Mrs. Wilſon had been of a very ancient ſtanding, and had proved ruinous; and finally, he deſired Johnſon would call on Vaurien, to thank him for the conſiderable ſum he owed him, but which he could never repay.
Johnſon read the letter with ſilent aſtoniſhment. He examined and re-examined. Charles did not appear, and every letter was evidently of his writing. He haſtened to Vaurien and Emily; each ſhared in the ſame aſtoniſhment. Johnſon, whoſe ſuſpicion had not entirely deſerted [Page 307] him, ſcrupulouſly examined the countenance of Vaurien; never man appeared more poignantly afflicted. He expreſſed little, and ſcarcely were his words audible; a tear trickled on his cheek; he wrung his hands; he looked ſometimes on Emily, and ſometimes on Johnſon, ſhook his head, and groaned.
When Johnſon was quitting the houſe, he heard of ſo many of Vaurien's liberalities to the domeſtics, that his ſpontaneous loan to Charles ceaſed to be extraordinary. William told him, that had it not been for Vaurien he ſhould not have known what had become of his father's ſoul, ſince without his generoſity it had never reſted in church ground. A collection of mendicants was waiting at the door to receive Vaurien's weekly ſtipend. This man, thought Johnſon, muſt be what he ſeems, and my national prejudices have injured him.
THUS were affairs ſituated at the time Vaurien's Newtonian ſyſtem was publiſhed. Charles in priſon was as melancholy as Jeremiah, forming lamentations on modern friendſhips; and this Pythias conceived himſelf betrayed by one Damon, and deſerted by another. Vaurien perceived that the compaſs of his fate was cloſing the circle it deſcribed, and that the commemoration of Newton's ſame ſeemed to be left entirely to the planetary ſyſtem he had formed, and that he, who had inſcribed his works on the face of heaven muſt regard with a ſmile the earthly celebrations of mortality. [Page 309] Some friends of Lord Belfield had informed his Lordſhip, that he had entertained a dangerous adventurer; that among the privileges of nobility was not accounted that of an exemption from impeachment; and, beſides, they aſſured his Lordſhip, that his phyſicians were of opinion that a change of climate was abſolutely neceſſary for his health. His Lordſhip, indeed, was of the ſame opinion, not in reſpect to his health, which he affirmed was vigorous, but to his affairs, which he acknowledged were diſordered; and the voice of a creditor is as aweful as that of a phyſician; they both convince the patient that he can expect no quiet unleſs he ſlies from their regular attendance.
Vaurien had now fixed the bias in the ſenſitive heart of Emily, and he was anticipating the moment of her fall. He had conſulted with Lady Belfield, and the [Page 310] boudoir of her ladyſhip had been ſelcted as the altar on which the virgin victim was to bleed.
The great events of great men are governed by the ſame capricious influence which directs the little events of little men. The web of fate is woven by the hand of fortune, and ſhe, induſtrious yet indiſcriminate ſpinſter, takes the caſual ball from her baſket, and careleſs works, now with threads of gold, and now with damaged yarn. She weaves on our fate, but makes no diſtinction of perſonages. The hero frequently envies the bandit; for often the latter has found his exiſtence to be a triumph over innocence, while the former has periſhed in the act of his injuſtice. Every thing in this world ſeems good or ill fortune, and the events of fortune are ſuſpended on the ſlighteſt accidents; a plank immerges the [Page 311] conſpirator into ſeas, ſtormy and profound as his deſigns, in the hour of exultation, and a pebble is ſlung into the head of the giant in the hour of confidence.
Lord Belfield was bitterly reproaching Vaurien for his abortive and vaſt deſigns. He had at length diſcovered that he was a fertile tree, luxuriant in leaves, but void of fruit; and complained much in the ſtyle which a ruined lover of alchymy would formerly have employed to ſome beggarly gold-maker, who had promiſed to roof and floor his apartments in the Mexican faſhion, before the Spaniards arrived; but after the multifarious induſtry of years, lo! a furnace had burſt with a terrible exploſion, or at the very criſis, the aurum potabile in the crucible was whiſked down by a cat's tail. Great or little cauſes, Vaurien averred, had hitherto fruſtrated his comprehenſive ſyſtem. While they were computing, like [Page 312] two Subtiles, what is evidence and what is only equivalent to evidence, intelligence was brought, that Meſſrs. Dragon and Rant were arreſted for high-treaſon; a quarter of an hour afterwards Monſieur Vaurien received a note of epigrammatic conciſeneſs from Mr. Dundas, without a ſcotticiſm or a vulgariſm. It there appeared, that this hoſpitable country diſmiſſed the Gaul, and in twenty-four hours were the ſeas to receive Vaurien. A breathleſs friend ruſhed in, to intreat his Lordſhip to ſet off inſtantly on his tour through Europe. "Your government (obſerved Vaurien) are adopting Subtile's ſyſtem of puniſhment; it makes us all travellers. I have long been one. To me the chances and the changes of fortune have by cuſtom an uniformity in their varieties. My chimerical head has conſidered Europe as the inheritance of every ſublime politician in theſe periods [Page 313] of revolution; but I fear that my ſhadow will ever be reflected on the earth of my neighbours, and never on my own."
Vaurien was collected and intrepid, and he would have been equally ſo had the letter of Dundas been his Majeſty's order, ſigned for his execution. Mithridates and Hannibal carried about them an antidote againſt poiſon; and had Vaurien been now in modern Italy, he would have continued the precaution which theſe great men uſed in ancient Italy; but in theſe northern climates he knew we only poiſoned rats. What communicated this intrepidity to the Gaul, was a perſuaſion that he was born to ſuffer a public death. What is inevitable, to a ſuperior mind conveys no terror. Whether the philoſopher was to be hanged, guillotined, beheaded, broken on the wheel, or empaled, he knew not, the mode entirely depending [Page 314] on the cuſtoms of that country where he was to make his final exit.
"Eh, bien! (thought Vaurien, as he was filling his portmanteau) the liberty of theſe Britons is like a bottle of their Port, locked in a glaſs beaufet; they ſee it, and there it is—but only taſte it at the option of their maſter, who keeps the key at his own diſpoſal. Their liberty will not intoxicate their heads. Here the people ſubmit to the laws—damned fools!—the laws muſt be ſubmitted to the people—there ſhould be NO LAWS at all, as Subtile ſays, and then, if there were no laws, every thing would be lawful.
"Diable! (he exclaimed, as he lifted his portmanteau) I carry nothing away from this opulent country. I play my cards ill. After all my ſhooting parties with that ſchool-boy of Naples, he would [Page 315] have ſpoiled my hand-writing for the forgery on the Treaſury. Spain I loſt by thoſe garlick-digeſting grandees, becauſe I deſired to curtail their names. I miſtook the real number of my confederates when I looked over my papers; as they appeared in writing, I imagined every ſingle man to be at leaſt ſix. I thought I had an entire family when I diſcovered I had only a hot-brained boy. The Pruſſian idiot I had perſuaded, for I knew it would win him, that he was an inviſible, an illuminé; I uſed to tread on his feet, and then entreat his pardon for my not being able to ſee him. All my party did the ſame; his Majeſty was buffetted about the whole day, which quite flattered his powers of inviſibility. The court of Berlin had been our's, but for the miniſter, who, while he received Engliſh money, perſiſted in aſſuring his Majeſty that we were impoſtors, and that his palpable obeſity was [Page 316] not of ſo ſpiritual a kind, as ever to eſcape the eye. Rome had been mine, but for thoſe Cardinals who call themſelves nephews of the Pope; but I found that they were more accurate in calling him their holy father. The Ottoman and the Ruſſian empires are fair and open fields; but they are too diſtant for the moment. In America I have friends at work, who will burn the place if they do not ſucceed. There is no room for me. I do not chuſe to be a hermit amid a hundred thouſand acres. The Dutch are near—ſanguinary and unfeeling I knew the boors were; but little imagined that thoſe unwieldly porpoiſes, ſleeping in ſtagnated water, ſhould ever leap out to frolic with uncouth airineſs to the national tune of the Marſeillois hymn.
"But, the poſſeſſion of Emily I have miſſed for a ſingle day! A kingdom I can always diſcover, but a child of love [Page 317] and nature kingdoms may not preſent. Charles remains in priſon. From either I derive no further benefit, and I wiſh no being unhappy who impedes not my political views."—He now took his pen, and addreſſed the following letter to Emily.
You have eſcaped, ſweet bird of love! but in the depths of night the lights were placed, and the net Lady Belfield and myſelf have long woven was at this moment to have cloſed on you. Child of nature, and woman of beauty! your unſuſpicious innocence was the magic that attracted, and the magic [Page 318] that would have precipitated your ruin. I have already proved ſeductive to your mind; and the mind of an accompliſhed woman (a mere creature made up of imagination and ſenſibility) when once poſſeſſed, is ſecuring a party in the fortreſs, who will ſoon be too ſtrong for any oppoſition at the outworks.
Nature has been prodigal to me, but art has even exceeded her liberalities. Had I lived in England, I had rendered you the moſt miſerable of your ſex; but ſince I am baniſhed from it, I will render you the moſt happy.
All that I have inſinuated relative to Charles and Mrs. Wilſon is a foul invention of too common a kind to have coſt me any difficulty. Domeſtic treaſons are beneath me; it is only national treaſons which I feel as my genius, and conſider as my glory. My dear girl, in this head of mine revolve all the cabinet ſecrets of [Page 319] Europe; Monarchs I have deceived, Dukes I have ruined, and Miniſters I have embarraſſed. You now perceive I claim no merit in having deluded a country lad and laſs.
Are you not ſurpriſed at my gaieté de coeur? What, you conceive me at this moment, immerſed in thought, and confounded by diſappointment! It is preciſely at moments like this, when I am engaged in no particular project, that, free from politics, I feel myſelf, and act the man. With you I have ever been ſerious and ſentimental; yet, could you have then liſtened to my converſations with her Ladyſhip, if your eyes had had intelligence, I aſſure you our faces were too frequently moſt impolitical; but I truſted in your boundleſs ſimplicity, as you confided in my boundleſs art. You have therefore no conception of my character. You have often ſaid, we feel more than we expreſs; but I expreſs more than I feel. [Page 320] That is all art! Il faut toujours peindre en beau, whether in love or in politics. The humane, the ſenſitive, the ſublime Vaurien (with ſuch glorious titles have you proudly decorated my name) if he has any ſuperior talent, it lies towards the ſarcaſtic, the cauſtic, and the malicious.
The moment I diſcovered that Johnſon was ruining all my ſchemes, I reſolved to deceive that ſtern and ſuſpicious Anglican. Some little merit was in that deception, for it required my boldeſt exertion. When I quitted you I arreſted Charles; I had lent him the money that [Page 321] I might command him at all times, well knowing he could never repay me. I forged the letter which Johnſon received. All Charles's letters were delivered to me. The ſimple youth is at this moment moaning over the perfidy of modern friendſhips, and the coquetry of modern loves.
I am not now rich, yet I can be generous. There are human ſharks, or London cannibals, who would give money for any legal inſtrument. A bond, you may tell Charles, is no trifle; he ſigned it as careleſsly as if it had been a private memorandum; it is a public one. With this you receive it; take it yourſelf to him in the Fleet. Let him receive his freedom and his fortune from the hand he adores. I wiſh it had been more, for it was not money of mine. Let him poſſeſs his Emily; yet I write the words with a pang in my heart. Shew him this [Page 322] letter, and let it's ſecrets periſh between you. There aſſure him that his Emily is a precious caſket, whoſe gems have been unrifled, although a robber had already poſſeſſed a falſe key. Hundreds like yourſelves I have injured; many an honeſt Charles I have met, but never in ſo ſoft a form, a ſoul more chaſte, and a mind more exquiſite.—Adorable Emily! you are ſomething more than woman, and yet are all woman; ſomething that the imagination gazes on with delight, yet awe; taſte is ſilent when it would deſcribe you, and in memory only you are viewed with your ſingular excellence.
Will either of you forget VAURIEN?
Having ſealed this letter, the Gaul took his departure in a neutral veſſel for Holland, and ere he reached it's ſhores already meditated a new government for [Page 323] that ruined people; his ſpeculations received conſiderable enlargement from ſeveral patriots, and two or three philoſophers, his compagnons de voiage, who with him were taking the benefit of the Alien Bill; patriots and philoſophers, whom the o'erpreſſed ſtomach of England had diſgorged with a violent, but a ſalutary effort.
Voltaire, but neither Rouſſeau nor Mirabeau, was their enemy. Lately, when the learned Dohm, of Berlin, publiſhed his treatiſe, 'Sur la Reforme Politique des Juiſs,' Mr. Hartmann oppoſed that work of humanity. Sheridan has pourtrayed them in the old ſtyle. Voltaire, Hartmann, and Sheridan, Chriſtian libertines, had been duped by ſome Jewiſh uſurers. Mr. Hourwitz, a literary Jew of Poland, has compoſed the Apology of his nation with the energy of an Iſraelite rouſed into action, who, feeling deeply, writes forcibly. He tells us, that he knows many young men have conceived a hatred againſt Jews, becauſe ſeveral have ſupplied them with money, by which means they loſt their health and their fortune. He knew a German magiſtrate, who perſecuted all Jews, becauſe, when young, by their money he had contracted a ſhameful diſorder.—Such caſes only ſhew that the prudent Jew knows the value of money, and the imprudent Chriſtian is an abject ſlave of his unſubdued paſſions.
In our country I have ſeen with indignation Mr. Burke compoſe a diatribe againſt all Iſraelites, as money-lenders, clippers, and coiners, and whatever crimes his black imagination could create. His ſtyle is too beautiful to loſe itſelf on ſuch offenſive ſubjects; it is a gilding ſunſhine that exhauſt, it's ſplendour on a dunghill. Dr. Moore, in his Travels, benevolently abuſes them. The pleaſant Doctor, perhaps, envies ſome rich Jews he may happen to have met in the courſe of his peregrinations. Philoſophers write ſometimes more than they think, and are therefore very liable to take effects for cauſes. The Jews may be all what they tell us they are; we enquire in our turn why they are ſo? are men born money-lenders? And why are thoſe Chriſtians, who are in the ſame predicament as the Jews, Jews in every thing but in the exterior?
To Mr. Cumberland the Iſraelites ought to be grateful: but they are too ignorant to be grateful. His comedy, performed in provincial towns, has looſned a little ſome cruel prejudices; but this writer's humanity is eccentric:
A flattering painter, who made it his careTo draw men as they ought to be, not as they are.
A ſketch of their domeſtic life is given by the quaint and witty Fuller, in his Church Hiſtory, b. III. par. 37. "For firſt of their fare; it was coarſe in the quality, and yet ſlender in the quantity thereof; inſomuch that they would in a manner make pottage of a flint. Swiue's fleſh, indeed, they would not eat, but dog's meat they would; I mean beef and mutton, ſo poor and lean that the refuſe of all Chriſtians was the Jews portion in the ſhambles. Their cloaths were ſo poor and patched, beggars would not take them up to have them. Attendants they kept none, every one waiting on himſelf. No wonder then if eaſily they did overgrow others in wealth, who baſely did underlive themſelves in all convenient accommodations." And at par. 40. "Endleſs it were to reckon up the indignities offered unto theſe Jews. Apprentices now-a-days do not throw ſticks at cocks on Shrove Tueſday ſo commonly as on that day they uſed clubs on the Jews, when they appeared out of their houſes; a people equally unhappy at feaſts or frays; for whenever the Chriſtians at any revels made great entertainments, the Jews were made to pay the reckoning; and whereſoever any brawl began in London, it ended always in the Old Jewry, with the pillaging of the people therein."
Such is the jocular humanity of this honeſt Eccleſiaſtic! A ſimilar character diſtinguiſhes the labours of the antiquary Tovey. Both theſe Engliſh writers of Jewiſh hiſtory felt as men, but ſometimes reaſoned as Chriſtians.
Abluitur Judaeus odor baptiſmato divo,Et nova progenies reddita ſurgit aquis,Vincens ambroſios ſuavi ſpiranime rores.
The learned Ramazzini has no doubt but that the Jews, in their moſt flouriſhing periods, exhaled a fetid ſmell. Solomon, encircled by his voluptuous and aromatic court, in his private interviews with the Queen of Sheba, when they met to amuſe themſelves with enigmas and charades, muſt have been more repulſive to that queen than is generally imagined. Our philoſophic Sir Thomas Brown, in his "Vulgar Errors," has given the tenth chapter of his fourth book to a moſt learned diſcuſſion of the following queſtion—"Why Jews ſtink?" After a ſplendid exhibition of numerous facts, he is not willing to credit the imputation, but cautiouſly leaves the queſtion undecided.
No Jew is permitted to reſide in the voluptuous city of Naples. So late as in the year 1740, the Jews having obtained diſtinguiſhed privileges from the King of the Two Sicilies, a monaſtic prophet having predicted that his Majeſty would have no male heirs unleſs he expelled the Jews, lo! they were expelled! If any now by courteſy can glide in, he is ſtill at the diſcretion of ſome new prophet, or ſome ſecret enemy. An Italian Jew has ſhewn me ſome privileges purchaſed by his family from the Pope, given under the binding terms of "vita mortale durante," and "ab eterno," which, ſince the French revolution, his Holineſs has cancelled, but retained the money. In Italy they probably imagine that the children of Jacob are really Jacobins, which, if they were, would not be ſurpriſing.
To ſome Engliſh readers Robeſpierre appeared a Cicero; but the genius of his oratory conſiſted in having retained ſome of the declamatory verbiage of the French writers. He was not known for any work, or other evidence of genius, before the vaſt concuſſion that threw ſuch unworthy beings uppermoſt. Danton was ſingularly illiterate, in diſpoſition a ruffian, in heart a coward, but in perſon a giant. Barrere was, or is, un poete de province aſſez mince, a magazine contributor; Collot d'Herbois, an opera garetteer, un faiſeur de petits vers. Such are the men, who had never been inſcribed on the liſt of fame in France, and whoſe names had periſhed, had not ſomething more monſtrous than villainy urged them to become the Dracos of a great people. Great and virtuous republicans have bled on the guillotine; the names of Lavoiſier, Bailly, and others, were known; but theſe obſcure and vulgar villains, like ſo many Phaetons, incapable of conducting the ſingular power to which they aſpired, have themſelves periſhed, after ſpreading a conflagration throughout the world.