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Ferrers, Northamptonshire, and apprenticed in London to a dealer in smallcoal. He rented a stable near the gate of the priory of St. John of Jerusalem, Clerkenwell, and converted it into a dwelling-house. There honest Tom carried on his business, and recreated himself in learning chemistry and music. He became an adept in the rosicrusian science, and excelled in many curious arts and crafts. Being deeply read in black-lettered lore, he gained considerable fame, but never neglected his business. Britton was seen in the morning, with his sack and measure, crying small-coal; and in the evening conducting a concert in his rooms, which were almost too low for his guests. So great was the attraction of his music-meetings that men of fashion, and well-dressed ladies of high rank, were frequently seen climbing to his left, by a ladder, to regale their ears. He never aimed at appearing more than he was, and he was accustomed to appear in his check-shirt at a weekly society of black-lettered literati, which was attended by noblemen; leaving • is sack and measure at the door, he entered the apartment in common with the other members, and produced his books, collected from stalls and shops in blind alleys. His death was occasioned by a ventriloquial friend, who met him, and during a musical conversation pronounced these words distinctly as from a distance:—" Thomas Britton, go home, for thou shalt die." Honest Tom, supposing the voice to have proceeded from an angel, went home, depressed in spirits, took to his bed, and died. He was buried in the cemetery of Clerkenwell church. After his death, his library, which was considerable, and contained many curious articles, together with his musical collections, were sold by public auction. His friend Wollaston prevailed upon him to sit twice for his portrait, one of which is in the British Museum. He is represented in one of these in a blue frock, with a small-coal measure in his hand. In the other he is tuning a harpsichord, with a violin hanging on the side of the room; from this his portrait was engraved for Hawkins's "History of Music," but without the accompaniments. Under Johnson's print of him are these lines, which were written by Prior to recommend Vertue to notice."
Though doomed to sma.j-coal, yet to art* allied;
Rich without wealth: and famous without pride.
Music's best patron; judge of books and men;
Until now there has not occurred an opportunity of inserting the following communications.
French And English Manners. Dancing — The Eico — Kissing — Ear Rings —Sabre de bois.
Morley, near Leeds.
Mr. Hone.—The time of year has now come when our neitjhboiirs the French will begin to think of turning out in enjoy their beautiful village dance upon the green, while our lower orders are turning mto the "small beer," or "Tom and Jerry Shops," all over the kingdom. It is not my intention to trouble you with a contrast between the rival nations as respects sobriety, courtesy, honesty, wanton mischief, and good manners, for I fear it will little suit our national vanity and conceit; besides it forms a mortifying subject for reflection to protestants and some classes of protestant dissenters. My object is quite of another, and much more amusing kind. It is, briefly, to show how much may be learned from that fine people by men of antiquarian taste and knowledge, and I shall now touch upon some particulars which have never, as I believe, been told in print by any person whomsoever.
It is evident to me that our ancient national manners and customs may be still seen in France in many curious instances. The greatest insult or sign of contempt which a Frenchman can show to any one is by a most significant action which I cannot adequately express in words: he puts his Thumb to his Mouth, seizing the nail of it with his teeth as if about to bite it, and he then draws out the arm towards his adversary with a curious and very significant grin. This was anciently the practice in England. The Thumb in this instance represented a Fig, and tl.e action expressed *' I don't care a Fig for you," an expression which is still retained: it was called giving a man "the fico." In Yorkshire we have amongst our lowest orders a still more contemptuous and ludicrous word is a substitute for " Fig," and one which will make every Yorkshire Man, who reads this, laugh heartily. But to prove that this "action" was anciently in England, as it is now in France, in Shakspeare's play of Romeo and Juliet "I will bite my thumb at them, which is a disgrace to them if they bear it."— "Dags and Pistols 1—to bite his thumb at me I" Again—" Behold I see contempt marching forth, giving me the i'ico"— (Lodges Wit's Miserie 1596.)
To bite the Ear, on the other hand, was, anciently, an expression of endearment; and it is, still, so far retained by the French that to pull a man, gently, by the ear is the most sure token of good will. This, as appears from Mr. O'Meara's first vol. of" Napoleon in exile," p. 184 and 212, was the practice of that extraordinary man when in high good humour. Indeed I have known persons of great respectability pull one by the ear, gently, in England. But formerly it was common, as appears from the plays both of Shakspeare and Jonson.
Another specimen of our ancient manners is seen in the French embrace. The gentlemen, and others of the male sex, lay hands on the shoulders, and touch the sides of each other's cheek; but on being introduced to a lady they say to her Father, Brother, or Friend, " perniettex moi," and salute each of her cheeks. Hence, as I take it, has come the expression of "Kissing Comfits," which were sugar plumbs, perfumed to make the breath sweet. This appears from Massingers " Very Woman—"
"Faith, search our pockets, and if you find there
Comfits of ambcrgrease to help our Kiaes
And was not this the custom in England in Elizabeth's reign? Let us read one of the epistles of the learned Erasmus, which being translated is in part as follows:
"Although Faustus, if you knew
the advantages of Britain, truly you would hasten thitherwith wings to your feet; and, if your gout would not permit, you would wish you possessed the heart of Daedalus. For, just to touch on one thing out of many here, there are lasses with heavenly faces; kind, obliging, and you would far prefer them to all your Muses. There is,
besides, a practice never to be sufficiently commended. If you go to any place you are received with a kiss by all—if you depart on a journey, you are dismissed with a kiss —you return—kisses are exchanged —they come to visit you—a kiss the first thing—they leave you—you kiss them all round. Do they meet you any where— kisses in abundance. Lastly, wherever you move, there is nothing but kisses—and if you, Faustus, had but once tasted them 1 how soft they are, how fragrant I on my honor you would wish not to reside here for ten years only, but for life."
Frenchmen also wear Eur-rings as did the coxcombs in Shakspeare's time. I cannot just now quote my authorities for this assertion, but you may rely on it as matter of fact.
The most usual common oath in France is " Sabre de bois," or swearing by a sword of wood. "The singular mixture of religious and military fanaticism," says Nares, "which arose from the Crusades, gave rise to the extraordinary custom of taking a solemn oath upon a sword. In a plain sword the separation between the blade and the hilt was usually a strait transverse bar; which, suggesting the idea of a cross, added to the devotion which every true knight felt for his favorite weapon, and evidently led to the custom of swearing upon the sword, of which the instances are too numerous to be collected." The meaning of " Sabre de bois" may therefore be well understood, especially by people well read in history; and its connexion with our ancient manners will be immediately perceived, by our ancient oaths all referring to the cross. The addition of de bois settles the question.
I remain, Sir,
THE BIRTH-PLACE OF ROBERT POLLOK.
In humble dwelling born, retired, remote,
(For the \ ear Hook.J
On the 15th of September, 1827, aicd Hubert Fullok, author of "The Course of Time, a Poem in ten books." He was born at Eaglesham, Renfrewshire, in 1799, "of parents whom God made of kindest heart." They appear to have been engaged in agricultural pursuits, and to have moved in a sphere of life by no means elevated, possessing, in the absence of worldly wealth, that best of all riches, 'lie testimony of a good conscience and the favor of God.
It seems that whilst a mere boy he was remarkably thoughtful, seldom joining in those frivolities which usually characterize that period of life ; and from a very early age evinced a relish for the beauties of nature, and a capacity of enjoying them,
rarely to be met with. The scenery of "Scotia's northern battlement of hills," connected as it was with many important points in his history, and associated with feelings and incidents of unusual interest, seems to have exercised an influence over him which the trials of after years failed to wear away.
All forms of beauty, gentle or sublime, impressed him with feelings which belong peculiarly to those who look on nature in connection with that gracious Power which called it at first into existence, and, sanctifying it by his condescending approval, pronounced it to be "very good" lie viewed them with the sincere desire that all which met the eye -might touch the heart, and seen, like a bright enchantment through its overflowings, instruct, elevate, and purify the affections.
"His spirit drank The spectacle; sensation, soul, and form All melted into him \ they swallowed up His animal being; in others did he live, And by them did he live; they were his life.'"
The immediate neighbourhood of his natal place presented no features of peculiar beauty, and seems to have been endeared to him chiefly by the associations with which it stood connected. Amongst the most remarkable, he refers in his poem to those early lessons of piety with which his mind became impressed amidst the quiet solitude in which he spent the former portion of his life. These seem to have powerfully influenced his feelings, and quickened the natural susceptibility of his mind, communicating a largeness of soul and elevation of thought which fitted him equally to expatiate on the vast, and to find abundant matter for praise in the minute.
*' Early had he learnt To reverence the volume that displays The mystery, the life which cannot die; But in the mountains did he feel his faith. Responsive to the writing, all things there Breathed immortality, revolving life, And greatness still revolving, infinite; There littleness was not; the least of things Seemed infinite ; and there his spirit shaped Her prospects : nor did he believe—he saw. What wonder if his being thus became Sublime and comprehensive! Low desires, Low thoughts, had there no place ; yet was his heart
Lowly: for he was meek ia gratitude."
Such seems to have been the early career of Robert Pollok. He was not, however, considered a youth of very great promise, though he seems to have formed no mean estimate of his own abilities. With a feeling peculiar to his countrymen, he indulged in dreams of future eminence , and labored diligently in the nath which seemed to promise a sure cut toilsome passage to glory, honor, and earthly immortality. But the praise of men, for which he had so determinately striven, presently appeared in all its hollowness, to one whose gaze had now become fixed on the steadier and more substantial brightness of thatcrown which fadeth not away. He renounced those hopes which had before influenced all his 'conduct, and sought for distinction where alone it can be found—in the approval of that God whose favor is life, and whose
loving kindness is better than life. He has described in his third book the dimness and indecision characterizing this portion of his life, with a felicity of expression and energy of feeling, that, w hilst they prove his lyre to have been his heart, evidently testify, that the faculties which God has given us, when unhesitatingly resigned to Him again, with the sincere desire that they may be employed simply and unreservedly in his service, shall be multiplied manifold, and accomplish infinitely more than the loftiest stretch of human study or ingenuity ever yet compassed. Lest it should be thought that I am not warranted in asserting thus much, I must refer to that notice of the work which appeared in the " Eclectic Review" for October 1817, in which the reviewer makes this manly avowal:—" We cannot refuse credit to the author's representation, that he has devoutly sought, not in feigned numbers but on his bended knees, the unction of the Holy One, which will sufficiently account for his having so far transcended the loftiest flight of earthly wing."
Mr. Pollok, being designed for the church, studied theology under the Rev. Dr. Dick, of Glasgow. His health became seriously impaired, and so formidable were the advances of disease that the exertion of delivering a sermon, on the 3d of May, 1827, obliged him to keep his bed for several days afterwardsThose who were present on that occasion bear testimony to the hallowed tone of eloquence which distinguished that discourse, and the zeal and fearlessness with which it was delivered. It now became evident that the mighty workings of a mind thus gifted, and absorbed in the contemplation of mysteries which transcend the scope of archangel's intellect, must prove too much for the body which enshrined it, already worn and wasted by disease, and destined, as the sequel showed, in a few months to return to its primitive elements. Such means were consequently adopted as circumstances seemed to require, but without success. At length a tour to Italy was resolved on, and our author leftScotland in the following August, hut had only proceeded to Southampton before his malady presented such a formidable aspect as precluded all hope of recovery. He died at Shirley Common, near that place, on the day above stated ;
and as a fact that sets the
earthly glory forcibly before us, it may be well to mention, that the same review which passed sentence on his poem recorded also the lamented decease of its author.
"The Course of Time" was originally published without any preface, dedication, introdireiion, advertisement, or argument whatever. Its merits, however, soon became known, an'1, it passed rapidly through several large editions. The Eclectic reviewer thinks it " the finest poem which has appeared in any language since Paradise Lost," and adds, "without meaning to intimate that it discovers genius superior to that of Milton, it is, of the two, the poem of which we should ourselves prefer to have been the author."
It certainly exhibits talents of no common order—a loftiness of thought—a sweetness of feeling—a boldness and energy of expression—a devotedness of spirit—a majesty of diction—an authority irresistible—a noble singleness and simplicity of aim, and a closeness of reasoning that shuts us up to the contemplation of eternal truths.
Perhaps the first and second books possess fewer attractions than those which follow. The fearful sublimities which distinguish a considerable part of them (though the language may in one or two instances degenerate into angry declamation), and the vivid pictures of those stern and unpalatable realities existing beyond the grave, may well give umbrage to the fastidious reader who has been accustomed only to the "windy rhyme" of men-pleasing poets, and cause him to turn in disgust from the unbending protest exhibited against him.
The lofty tone assumed by our author rests not in a single instance on any thing approaching to human authority, but speaks out its thunders in His right before whom the nations are as grasshoppers. He pleads as one having authority, and not as one who only claims it. A tongue enriched with all utterance, and a heart enkindled at the heavenly altar, are conspicuous in almost every page of this stupendous poem, which sets in the full light of Revelation the pretence and rottenness of poor humanity under all its varied forms and circumstances. It tells the truth "so coldly, plainly, perfectly distinct," that me most captious cannot gainsay it, or the most inveterate resist its force. It blends the independent dignity of Omnipotence with the deep humility of utter weakness.
It pours forth its " manly music" in deep but fluent numbers, betraying a loftiness of soul that cannot brook the solemn follies of mankind, and fears not to trample unsparingly on its splendid abominations. It carries with it, in short, a power which must satisfy every reader that the author was one whom the truth had made free indeed, and who, fearing God only, stood "unshaken, unseduced, unterrified," by the cunning craftiness of the hypocrite, or the open enmity of the profane.
A Portrait of Robert Pollok " engraved by T. A. Dean, from the only drawing from life ever taken," embellishes the " Pious Minstrel," a collection of poetry published by Tilt.
Besides the "Course of Time," which has passed through nine editions, Mr. Pollock wrote " Ralph Gemmel, a Tale for Youth," and "The Persecuted Family, a narrative of the Sufferings of the Presbyterians, in tine reign of Charles H.," which were reprinted when his name became distinguished. Some verses entitled "Horrible Things" are ascribed to him. They appeared first in a defunct periodical work, the " British Magazine," and, though* they possess no merit, were transplanted into many of those ephemeral publications which trust every thing to the "magic of a name."
Poli.ok's Native Scenery. Nor do I of that i«lc remember aught Of prospect more sublime and beautiful, Than Scotia's northern battlement of bills, Which first I from my father's house beheld. At dawn of life ; beloved in memory still. And s'andard still of rural imagery. What most resembles them the fairest seems, And stirs the eldest sentiments of bliss; And, pictured on the tablet of my heart, Their distant shapes ctcrually remain, And in my dreams their cloudy tops arise.
Four trees I pass not by,
Which o'er our house their evening shadow threw;
Three ash, and one of elm. Tall tree* they were.
And old, and had been old a century