Abbildungen der Seite

dens. As to Amphion, if he built a city with his “do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si,” he certainly did a very clever thing; but then we are to recollect that the city he built was Thebes! This, however, may be the very circumstance that makes the precedent so attractive. Our

modern Thebans are probably in want of a capital, and they are certainly numerous enough to fill a large one.

As to Timotheus, we marvel they are not ashamed to plead the example of a firebrand, who was the very reverse of Amphion, for he caused the destruction of a metropolis, instead of building one. It is said of Timotheus, that he made Alexander the Great skip up and down the banquet-room, and forget his dinner. No doubt in this way a modern Timotheus might do some good ; not in making " the great" forget that momentous meal (for that were an exploit beyond the power of the God of Melody himself), but in producing an oblivion of dinner in the minds of those with whom at present it is only a pleasure of imagination, or at best, one of the pleasures of memory.

The system in question is undoubtedly classical in one respect namely, as a revival of the ancient fable of the apple of discord, as if we were not sufficiently disposed by nature to play our several parts in life in conflicting keys, without actual instruction to “set us by the ears.” Perhaps the music-for-the-million-men flatter themselves that the way to put down party tunes is to strike up national concertos ; but there cannot be a more grievous delusion, for as it has been truly said, that “ the death of party is the birth of faction,” so the attempt to get up a niillionette will assuredly end in breeding a swarm of little vocal factions, the combined effect of whose several pulmonary exertions will be the production of such harmony as was heard some thousand years ago in the first music-ball that was ever established, and on the model of which Exeter Hall was undoubtedly instituted—to wit the celebrated Tower of Babel! Why, even in the political world have we not often seen parties of fifties, and even hundreds, dwindle down to quartettes, trios, and sometimes even to duets and solos? There was the Darby-Dilly party, just numerous enough to fill a stagecoach. Nay, we have seen two worthy senators separate themselves from the common herd of lawgivers, and form a party of a few days' duration, at the close of which period the party broke up and split into fragments, each worthy senator becoming a faction in himself, and screaming his political solo to his wondering constituents.

Adam Smith, hearing some educational quack of the day holding forth upon the marvels of his system, by which he affirmed that even tigers might be brought to the highest degree of civilization, interrupted him by observing that, he “should like to see the professor in a cage with a couple of his pupils."


2 A



Ce diable étoit
Simple, ignorant, à tromper très facile.

Il n'est point de Lutin,
Qu'il n'y perdit tout son Latin.

Le même.

That man cannot add a cubit to his moral stature, is a truth as self-evident, as that a dwarf cannot stretch himself to a level with a grenadier. Bating the case of cork heels and lofty head-dresses, the light company of creation submit with tolerable grace to the phy. sical part of this dispensation ;—your little persons being prone to selfsatisfaction, and commonly carrying their heads so high, as totally to overlook their own longitudinal deficiencies.

This is doubly fortunate; fortunate that men are thus contented with their corporeal stature, tale quale, because contentment is the parent of happiness, and also because what can't be mended is best not cared for: fortunate, too, that men have no power of self-elongation ; because the humble-minded would be eternally troubled with Paul Prys looking into their garret-windows; and because (appetite growing with what it feeds on) no architecture would suffice to roof in the vaulting ambitions of men, who had once taken the fancy for getting up in the world, and extending their visual horizon.

Unluckily the same moderation cannot be predicated in the other case of moral dimensions. From the beginning of time, mankind, tall and short, intellectual or stupid, have incessantly laboured, in all manner of ways, after metaphysical greatness, playing such fantastic tricks before high heaven, in order to be “as the gods," that the very angels, instead of weeping, have been compelled to hold their sides with laughter, and the little winged heads that had no sides to hold, or hands to hold them with, were forced to bite their pretty pouting lips, to prevent an explosion, that would have been out of keeping with their average serenity. There is a story, familiar to the readers of jest-books, against the vanity of Sir Godfrey Kneller, that he reproached a common fellow for uttering imprecations against himself and his appurtenances, as one making an undue encroachment on aristocratic privilege in that particular :-a marvellous extension of the poetic sentiment,

Better be d-d than not be named at all. This, though ludicrous, is but a faint type of the universal desire impelling men insanely to attempt additions to their moral stature, by torturing their poor brains in search of tranchant decisions concerning things superhuman, and theorizing upon the omne ignotum, from the nature of the divine essence, down to the number of angels that can dance on the point of a needle. We need not add that, instead of raising themselves to the objects of their contemplation, they only reduce things sacred to the level of their own miserable weakness. This, however, is a subject too serious for magazine writing.

But there is an instance, of which we may speak without incurring the imputation of profanity; and lest the reader should be put to the trouble of asking himself" what the deuce is that?" and replying to himself,“ the deuce take me if I know," we may as well at once declare, that it is precisely of that same mythological being, the deuce, we mean to enlarge; and more particularly of the strange liberties men have taken with his person and attributes, with a view of disputing the pas with him, and of raising themselves in the world at his expense.

The history of the Deuce* (a personage known also as the old gentleman, auld Horney, the great unmentionable, and by divers other disparaging aliases, less pleasant to ears polite), would form no bad chapter in the annals of man's extravagance. Of “ the tempter" and his attributes, revelation has declared little ; and the immense scaffolding of opinion which has been raised on his account, from Milton's sublime, to the absurd of the Mystery Plays, are all of purely human invention. To this latter stock the Greek mythologists contributed but little. Pluto might be a somewhat swarthy divinity; but he was not the less every inch a god, than his lighter-coloured brother, who“ ruled the roast in the sky.” Cerberus and the furies were equally of divine right, and Minos, Æacus, and Radamanthus, were a sort of junior partners in the great house of Olympus. Neither was Abrimanes, the oriental genius of evil, though directly opposed to the good principle, a genuine devil of the modern school. All the notions concerning him were grandiose, serious, and solemn; and he was a most formidable being, as the fountain of all evil ought to be. To the monks and priests of the lower empire, and of the dark and middle ages, is the world indebted for its burlesque views Tof the “gentleman in black," and for the multitude of facetious and familiar anecdotes of diabolical interventions with which the learning of their days abounds. The origin and progress of such notions, accurately traced, would form a valuable addition to our paper, if space permitted the digression; for a more striking example of the vanity and weakness of the species, it would be difficult to find. To the firm believer in the existence and functions of a demon charged with the eternal punishment of sinners, no more awful, more insupportably terrible image could (one might think) be presented ; and yet it has been among the ignorant by whom this notion has been most implicitly received in its literal sense, and unbroken by any philosophic doubts,—that the greatest pains have been taken to turn him into a subject for ridicule. To understand the theory of this incongruity, it must be borne in mind that the demon is a myth much too vast for the conception of our limited comprehension. In proportion to the grandeur and horrible sublimity of the abstract conception of such a personage, is the vagueness and indeterminateness of all the ideas that can be formed of him. To

Deuce, from duvapai, on account of his power (Bentley), or Aía to yny duvas, because of his (theatrical) affection for trap-doors (Porson). We, however, believe (and we have family claims to know something of the matter), that the word is taken from the French; because in most human transactions (whatever the author may advance to the contrary) with the personage it is two to one against the man. -PRINTER'S DEVIL.

throw him into action, and to bring him within the visual focus of the mind's eye, he must be humanized ; and the lower the education and intellectual range of the thinker, the coarser and more grotesque must be the idea which he is alone capable of enibracing. Here, then, is a pregnant instance of the want of man's power to raise his own stature, and place himself on the level of the superhuman. In proportion also to the supposed malignity of the demon, and to the unpleasant course of action he was thought to pursue with regard to poor sinners, has been the necessity for tempering his power by insinuations against his intellectual superiority; while the monks further found their account in representing him as an imbecile, the better to justify the absolute authority they arrogate to themselves of foiling his machinations.

In the process of levelling the evil spirit to the humble conceptions of the ignorant, the first step was to clothe him with a corporeal surtout conformable to his wicked nature. In this step, the dealers in such matters, unable to form any precise image of personality greater than that of man, were compelled, for the sake of distinction, to confer upon their creation a perfection of ugliness, and as they thought, to degrade the “ black gentleman" with a bestial form; as if the humblest quadruped in the catalogue of Linnæus were not a more innocent and respectable personage than-we will not say what human-visaged scoundrels, who eat the daily bread of meanness and of dirt. In this picture painting the parties were marvellously assisted by the pagan mythology of the rural deities; and Pan (not the great pan of the dairy, the philosophical god of the universe, but the gentleman who is so intimate with Mr. Justice Midas) sat for the picture of auld Horney, with his claws and his tail, and his asinine ears. St. Jerome indeed, mentions St. Anthony's meeting with satyrs in the desert, but these were boney and fleshy fide monsters, putting in claims to a soul of their own, and humbly desiring the saint's prayers in behalf of the same. The appropriation, therefore, of such forms to the uses of the Deuce must have been of later date. The fancy too, is not improbably connected with a greater theological notion, that the pagan deities were all of them nothing but devils, palming themselves off, in a silly spirit of self-glorification, for gods on a deluded public. If the better educated thought thus of Jupiter, it was not unlikely that the less enlightened should have looked for their new acquaintance among the dii minorum gentium, who sat below the salt at the banquets of the gods. So it is possible that the goat of Mendes was the great original, from which the historiographers of witchcraft drew the demon whose ceremonial of initiation was so very extraordinary.

But wherever and however our middle-aged friends picked up this notion, the manner in which they amplified and extended it, and commented on it, and threw it into action, was exceedingly industrious and praiseworthy; albeit many of their fancies may be thought a little odd or so, in the estimation of this enlightened age. Reader, did you ever notice a child, after it has been frightened by a strange dog, and mamma has coaxed it into courage sufficient to pat the animal? Have you observed its face, half tears and half smiles : its expression, half pleased, half terrified; now stroking Ponto with an unassured hand, and now again drawing back, on the slightest motion of the beast? It is a mighty pretty study for a metaphysician; and just the same mechanism may be conceived at work in the spectators of a mystery play, or at a sermon detailing some outwitting of the evil one, in which his reverence played the deuce with the deuce. We hear in imagination the chuckle with which the unwashed of those days applauded the cleverness of the cheat, and triumphed over the silly dupe who could be bamboozled by such a simple manœuvre: and then again comes the horripilatio, the goose-skin shudder, announcing their apprehension that the fiend may still be one too many for themselves, and the supplicating look of admiration with which they throw themselves on the intervention of their “armipotent” pastor. Something analagous to this process of mitigation occurs in the case of giants, a race whose imposing physical force is rendered tolerable by the imbecility of their intellectual complex. “ Jack the Giant Killer” and “ Little Pouset," are tales cast in the same mould with the monkish histories of the Deuce.

Certes, it was goodnatured of the inventors of such stories thus to moderate the fears of the rustics, and keep them in good heart against the assaults of the evil one. It had also this advantage, that it brought the demon home to the doors of the people, made his existence and attributes comprehensible to their rather limited understandings, and gave them some hope of conjuring the fellow, with the priest's assistance, into something like a peace establishment. Let us not, however, laugh too loudly at this simplicity of an ignorant age. There is no fixed standard of belief, even among the orthodox of our marching times of intellect, regarding his Darkness. From the infidel denier of his existence, to the man who nails a horse-shoe to expel the ragamuffin,- from the philosophical Christian, to him who sees a Faustus in every “Oxford scholar," infinite are the shades of existing faiths, every man depicting “the deuce," pro modulo suo, and putting him together, as the boys do Guy Vaux, with the handsomest rags they happen to possess.

It has been observed, with some justice, that an Englishman derives his historical creed from Shakspeare's plays, and his religion from Milton: but it is no less true, that as far as externals are concerned, the common people pick up their notions of “the eternal enemy” very principally from their attendance on Punch's puppet show. This does not speak well for the state of national education. The demon of the wooden hero succumbing, not to a more potent moral influence, not to a superior intelligence (which would imply dignity), but being vanquished by the plain brute force of the hook-nosed proto-chartist, is a very poor devil indeed. Subsidiary to Punch comes the stage-manager, whose diabolical wardrobe nourishes the understandings of the groundlings with many positive ideas; while the mechanism of the trap-door announces the unde et quo of the subject, with an appeal to the senses perfectly satisfactory. Here, however, we must make an exception against the managers of the opera, who in their getting up of “Don Juan," contrive to slobber over the most impressive scene of the piece in a disgraceful way. Whether this be an improper deference to the susceptible feelings of their aristocratic spectators, an unwillingness to obtrude certain offensive ideas upon their customers, or only a part of their general indifference to the truth of nature, we know not; but we must protest, with all the earnestness of conviction, against the perfunctory rapidity with which the illustrious Barytono is transferred to the lower

« ZurückWeiter »