« ZurückWeiter »
existence by her selfish threats and ungenerous extortions. The husband, who had been greatly disturbed at the change in his wife's temper and spirits, at last accidently overhears enough to put him in possession of the fact; and resolving to forgive a fault so long past, and so well repaired, takes occasion to intimate his knowledge of it, and his disdain of the false confidant, in an ingenious apologue — which, however, is plain enough to drive the pestilent visitor from his house, and to restore peace and confidence to the bosom of his grateful wife.
“ Resentment” is one of the pieces in which Mr. Crabbe has exercised his extraordinary powers of giving pain though not gratuitously in this instance, nor without inculcating a strong lesson of forgiveness and compassion. A middle-aged merchant marries a lady of good fortune, and persuades her to make it all over to him when he is on the eve of bankruptcy. He is reduced to utter beggary; and his wife bitterly and deeply resenting the wrong he had done her, renounces all connection with him, and endures her own reverses with magnanimity. At last a distant relation leaves her his fortune; and she returns to the enjoyment of moderate wealth, and the exercise of charity — to all but her miserable husband. Broken by age and disease, he now begs the waste sand from the stone-gutters, and sells it on an ass through the streets:
And from each trifling gift
The unrelenting wife descries him creeping through the wet at this miserable employment; but still withholds all relief; in spite of the touching entreaties of her compassionate handmaid, whose nature is as kind and yielding as that of her mistress is hard and inflexible. Of all the pictures of medicant poverty that have ever been brought forward in prose or verse — in charity sermons or seditious harangues -- we know of none half so moving or complete powerful and so true — as is contained in the following passages:
342 CRABBE'S TALES
· TOUCHING PICTURE OF POVERTY.
“ A dreadful winter came ; each day severe,
'Tis weakness, child, for grieving guilt to feel.'
- his lips, I saw them move,
To sink to rest! indeed, I am afraid !' - p. 320-32:. The Lady at last is moved, by this pleading pity, to send him a little relief; but has no sooner dismissed her delighted messenger, than she repents of her weakness, and begins to harden her heart again by the recollection of his misconduct.
· Thus fix'd, she heard not her Attendant glide
"Dead !' said the startled Lady. · Yes, he fell
There his sole friend, the Ass, was standing by,
- p. 324, 325. “ The Convert” is rather dull — though it teaches a lesson that may be useful in these fanatic times. John Dighton was bred a 'blackguard ; and we have here a most lively and complete description of the items that go to the composition of that miscellaneous character; but being sore reduced by a long fever, falls into the hands of the Methodists, and becomes an exemplary convert. He is then set up by the congregation in a small stationer's shop; and, as he begins to thrive in business, adds worldly literature to the evangelical tracts which composed his original stock-in-trade. This scandalises the brethren; and John, having no principles or knowledge, falls out with the sect, and can never settle in the creed of any other; and so lives perplexed and discontented — and dies in agitation and terror.
66 The Brothers ” restores us again to human sympathies. The characters, though humble, are admirably drawn, and the baser of them, we fear, the most strikingly natural. An open-hearted generous sailor had a poor, sneaking, cunning, selfish brother, to whom he remitted all his prize-money, and gave all the arrears of his
pay — receiving, in return, vehement professions of gratitude, and false protestations of regard. At last, the sailor is disabled in action, and discharged; just as his heartless brother has secured a small office by sycophancy, and made a prudent mariage with a congenial temper. He seeks the shelter of his brother's house as freely as he would have given it; and does not at first perceive the coldness of his reception. — But mortifications grow upon him day by day. His grog is expensive, and his pipe makes the wife sick; then is voice is so loud, and his manners so rough, that her friends cannot visit her if he appears at table! So he is banished by degrees to a garret; where he falls sick, and has no consolation but in the kindness of one of his nephews, a little boy, who administers to his comforts, and listens to his stories with a delighted attention. This, too, however, is at last interdicted by his hard-hearted parents;
CRABBE'S TALES.—HEART BREAKING.
and the boy is obliged to steal privately to his disconsolate uncle. One day his father catches him at his door; and, after beating him back, proceeds to deliver a severe rebuke to his brother for encouraging the child in disobedience — when he finds the unconscious culprit released by death from his despicable insults and reproaches! The great art of the story consists in the plausible excuses with which the ungrateful brother always contrives to cover his wickedness. This cannot be exemplified in an extract; but we shall give a few lines as a specimen.
Cold as he grew, still Isaac strove to show,
George, though in doubt, was still consold to find
At length he sickend, and this duteous Child
KINDNESS AND UNKINDNESS.
" Once in a week the Father came to say,
and hurried him away ;
" But, truly kind, the gentle Boy essay'd
That one so old can be so ill advis’d,' &c. - p. 370, 371. After the catastrophe, he endures deserved remorse and anguish.
He takes his Son, and bids the boy unfold
- • Did he not curse me, Child?' — He never curs'd,
The last tale in the volume, entitled 66 The Learned Boy,” is not the most interesting in the collection ; though it is not in the least like what its title would lead us to expect
. It is the history of a poor, weakly, paltry lad who is sent up from the country to be a clerk in town ; and learns by slow degrees to affect freethinking, and to practise dissipation. Upon the tidings of which happy conversion his father, a worthy old farmer, orders him down again to the country, where he harrows up the soul of his pious grandmother by his infidel prating - and his father reforms him at once by burning his idle books, and treating him with a vigorous course of horsewhipping. There is some humour in this tale; and a great deal of nature and art, especially in the delineation of this slender clerk's gradual corruption and in the constant and constitutional predominance of weakness and folly in all his vice and virtue — his piety and profaneness.
We have thus gone through the better part of this volume with a degree of minuteness for which we are