« ZurückWeiter »
mould of an ill-made pair of stiff stays, he followed her so close in the fashion of his coat, that it was doubted if he did not wear them ; because he had a protuberant wen just under his poll, he wore a wig that did not cover above half his head. His eyes were protruded like the eyes of the lobster, who wears them at the end of his feelers ; and yet there was room between ove of these and his nose for another wen, that added nothing to his beauty. Yet I heard this good man very innocently remark, when Gibbon published his history, that he wondered anybody so ugly could write a book.
“ Such was the exterior of a man who was the charm of the circle, and gave a zest to every company he came into. His pleasantry was of a sort peculiar to himself; it harmonized with everything; it was like the bread to your dinner-you did not, perhaps, make it the whole or principal part of your meal, but it was an admirable and whole ome auxiliary to your other viands. Soame Jenyns told you no long stories, engrossed not much of your attention, and was not angry with those who did. His thoughts were original, and were apt to have a very whimsical affinity to the paradox in them. There was a terseness in his repartees that had a play of words as well as of thought; as, when speaking of the difference of laying out money upon land, or purchasing into the funds, he said, “One was principal without interest, and the other interest without principal.'”
Although the serious part of “The Wheel of Fortune"that is to say, the whole character of Penruddock—is admirably conceived and admirably written (the recollection of John Kemble in that play can never be erased), Mr. Cumberland's power seemed to desert him whenever he attempted tragedy or verse of any sort. His lines on “ Affectation,” which have great merit, form the only exception that I remember to this assertion : certainly his epic of “Calvary” does not ; peither does his share in the “ Richard Cæur de Lion” of Sir James Bland Burgess.
Nature's true idiot I prefer to thee.
They'll never find their passage to the heart. A great part of Mr. Cumberland's amusing work is taken up by an account of his disastrous mission in Spain, which, undefined in its object, and unsuccessful in its result, brought nothing but disappointment to the Government or the negotiator. After his return from Madrid, he fell back upon literature, and closed a long and varied life, in an advanced age, at Tunbridge Wells.
MRS. CLIVE, MRS. ACTON TINDAL, MISS DAY, MRS. ROBERT DERING. THERE never was a more remarkable contrast between the temperament of the poetess and the temperament of the woman, than that which exists between the thoughtful gravity, the almost gloomy melancholy that characterise the writings of that celebrated initial letter, the “V” of “Blackwood's Magazine," and the charming, cheerful, light-hearted lady, known as Mrs. Clive. This discrepancy has been acknowledged before now to exist between the tastes and the tempers of nations. The French, in their old day, before this last revolution, perhaps before any of their revolutions, the French of our old traditions and our old travellers, the Sternes and the Goldsmiths, with their Watteau pageantries, their dances in the open air, and their patient love of the deepest and most unmingled tragedy, afforded a notable instance of this contrast. But that which is observable in Mrs. Clive's case is still more striking. I have never known any creature half so cheerful. Happy sister, happy mother, happy wife, she even bears the burden of a large fortune and a great house without the slightest diminution of the delightful animal spirits, which
always seem to me to be of her many gifts the choicest. Moreover, enjoyment seems to be her mode of thankfulness; as, not content with being happy herself, she has a trick of making everybody happy that comes near her. I do not know how she contrives it, but such is the effect. There is no resisting the contagious laughter of those dancing eyes.
As, however, everybody that thinks deeply, as she does, must have some moments of sadness, she is content to put them into her writings : sometimes in prose, for her “Story of the Great Drought” has an intensity of tragic power, a realisation of impossible horrors, such as gave their fascination to the best works of Godwin; sometimes in verse, where the depth of thought and fearless originality of treatment, frequently redeem the commonest subject from anything like commonplace. Here is an example :
Gloomy and damp, it stretched its vast domain;
For other limits to its width in vain.
And distant sound of living men and things;
That, took the tone in which a mourner sings.
Which shot a thread of light amid the gloom ;
I bore it through the regions of the tomb.
Whereof the silence ached upon mine ear;
And yet is echoes chilled my heart with fear,
From all their wanderings, gathered round me lay;
And stood mid generations passed away.
Or famine, or the plague, gave up their breath;
Swept by ten thousands to the arms of death.
A giant heap of creatures that had been ;
Lay strewn beyond mine eyes' remotest ken.
Death's various shrines—the urn, the stone, the lamp
Were scattered round confused amid the dead;
Their shapes were wanting and their meaning filed.
Were chronicled on tablets Time had swept;
The thick, small dust of those they once had wept.
No reader of the writing traced beneath;
No sigh nor sound from all the heaps of death.
A form had pressed it and was there no more;
Where once they wrapped Him on the rocky floor.
The eternal calm with which the tomb was bound;
And blessed with outstretched hands the host around.
To soothe each sad survivor of the throng
And pour their woe the loaded air along.
And on the insuperable threshold stand;
And stretch in the abyss their ungrasped hand.
And of the obdurate Grave its prey implore ;
Closing their eyes by those they met before.
Where Death collects his treasures, heap on heap;
Its actors, sufferers, schools, kings, armies-sleep.
It would be difficult to frame a better wish for the writer and the woman, than that both may remain unchanged—that the shadow may still cast its deep and thoughtful veil over the poetry and the sunshine, and the blessing rest upon the life !
The exact reverse of Mrs. Clive may be found in Mrs. Acton Tindal, whose verse, so free, so buoyant, so firm and so graceful, derives most of its charms from its resemblance to the sweet and lovely creature by whom it was written. There is a sparkling vividness in her style which has the life and colour of painting. The very choice of her subjects is picturesque. With an extent and variety of reading, remarkable even now in one of the youngest of our female writers, she instinctively fixes upon some theme of processional grace and beauty, and throws all the truth and tenderness of her sentiment around figures already interesting by historical association. “The Infant Bridal” might be transferred to canvas without altering a word.
“Richard Duke of York, second son of Edward IV., was married to Anne Mowbray, Duchess of Norfolk in her own right. The bridegroom was not five years old, and the bride scarcely three. The ceremony was performed in St. Stephen's Chapel, A. D. 1477.”
The sunbeams of the early day
Streamed through the lattice grim,
Swelled loud the nuptial hymn ;
Of courtly dames and fair,
The bravest best were there.
But slowly moved the bright array,
For gently at its head
With short and doubtful tread :
(Like Cupid's train in eld),
Each other's hands they held.
Half pleased and half surprised they seemed,
For in each kindred eye
And mournful gravity.
On each heart darkly fell ;
Who know the past too well.