« PreviousContinue »
Two real poets-one who died too early, the other his friend who has happily lived to find a sunshine in his life's winter-have each written sonnets as if in generous rivalry on the grasshopper and the cricket. These charming little poems are singular examples of different modes of viewing the same subject by two men of original minds.
The poetry of earth is never dead :
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
With his delights, for, when tired out with fun,
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Catching your heart up at the feel of June,
With those who think the candles come too soon,
O sweet and tiny cousins, that belong,
One to the fields, the other to the hearth,
Both have your sunshine; both, though small, are strong
To ring in thoughtful ears this natural song
In doors and out, summer and winter, Mirth.
165.-SCENE FROM THE CRITIC.
[It is a painful thing to trace such a career as that of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. The wit whose comedies were held by the most refined audiences to surpass all that Wycherley, or Vanbrugh, or Congreve had achieved-the orator after one of whose great speeches the first statesman of his age moved that the House should adjourn, because it was under the wand of the magician-was in all his private dealings with his fellow-men little better than an accomplished swindler. Pitied he unquestionably must be, for he was the slave of the circumstances that surrounded him, and his false ambition could never aspire to the real dignity which the man of genius may always attain through that independence which is the result of the limitation of his desires. Sheridan was born in Dublin in 1751. His father was a teacher of elocution; his mother was a most amiable and accomplished woman, the author of Sidney Biddulph' and 'Nourjahad.' When he was two-and-twenty, he married the celebrated singer, Miss Linley, whom he compelled to quit her profession. His first comedy was the 'Rivals,' which, after a partial failure, was highly successful. The Duenna,' one of the most charming of English operas, followed. By some stroke of policy he became one of the proprietors of Drury Lane Theatre, and in 1777 produced 'The School for Scandal,' perhaps the best comedy of wit in our language. The Critic' followed in 1779. The character of Sir Fretful Plagiary, in the extract which we give, is held to be a satire upon Richard Cumberland, his dramatic contemporary. In 1780 he was brought into Parliament, and uniformly supported the Whig party. The latter years of his life must have been truly miserable. He had no certain means of support: he lived in a perpetual struggle with pecuniary difficulties; his necessities could not be laughed away by his animal spirits; he
feasted at the tables of the great, and the luxury in which he occasionally participated only made his own home more cheerless. When sickness and distress had enfeebled his powers, he was deserted by his summer friends. He died in 1816.]
Serv. Sir Fretful Plagiary, sir.
Dangle. Beg him to walk up.-[Exit SERVANT.] Now, Mrs. Dangle, Sir Fretful Plagiary is an author to your own taste.
Mrs. Dangle. I confess he is a favourite of mine, because every body else abuses
Sneer. Very much to the credit of your charity, madam, if not of your judgment. Dangle. But, egad, he allows no merit to any author but himself, that's the truth on't-though he's my friend,
Sneer. Never. He is as envious as an old maid verging on the desperation of six-and-thirty; and then the insidious humility with which he seduces you to give a free opinion on any of his works can be exceeded only by the petulant arrogance with which he is sure to reject your observations.
Dangle. Very true, egad-though he is my friend.
Sneer. Then his affected contempt of all newspaper strictures; though at the same time he is the sorest man alive, and shrinks like scorched parchment from the fiery ordeal of true criticism; yet is he so covetous of popularity, that he had rather be abused than not mentioned at all.
Dangle. There's no denying it—though he is my friend.
Sneer. You have read the tragedy he has just finished, haven't you?
Dangle. Oh, yes; he sent it to me yesterday.
Sneer. Well, and you think it execrable, do'nt you?
Dangle. Why, between ourselves, egad, I must own-though he is my friendthat it is one of the most-he's here [Aside]-finished and most admirable perform
Sir Fretful (without). Mr. Sneer with him, did you say?
Enter SIR FRETFUL PLAGIARY.
Dangle. Ah, my dear friend! Egad, we were just speaking of your tragedy. Admirable, Sir Fretful, admirable!
Sneer. You never did any thing beyond it, Sir Fretful-never in your life.
Sir Fret. You make me extremely happy; for, without a compliment, my dear Sneer, there isn't a man in the world whose judgment I value as I do yours-and Mr. Dangle's.
Sir Fret. Sincerely, then, you do like the piece?
Sir Fret. But, come now, there must be something that you think might be amended, hey? Mr. Dangle, has nothing struck you?
Dangle. Why, faith, it is but an ungracious thing, for the most part, to——
Sir Fret. With most authors it is just so indeed; they are in general strangely tenacious. But, for my part, I am never so well pleased as when a judicious critic points out any defect to me; for what is the purpose of shewing a work to a friend, if you don't mean to profit by his opinion?
Sneer. Very true. Why then, though I seriously admire the piece upon the whole, yet there is one small objection, which, if you'll give me leave, I'll mention, Sir Fret. Sir, you can't oblige me more.
Sneer. I think it wants incident.
Sir Fret. You surprise me wants incident!
Sacer. Yes; I own I think the incidents are too few.
Sir Fret. Believe me, Mr. Sneer, there is no person for whose judgment I have a more implicit deference. But I protest to you, Mr. Sneer, I am only apprehensive that the incidents are too crowded. My dear Dangle, how does it strike you?
Dangle. Really I can't agree with my friend Sneer. I think the plot quite sufficient; and the first four acts by many degrees the best I ever read or saw in my life. If I might venture to suggest any thing, it is that the interest rather falls off in the fifth.
Sir Fret. Rises, I believe, you mean, sir.
Dangle. No, I don't upon my word.
Sir Fret. Yes, yes, you do upon my soul-it certainly don't fall off, I assure you. No, no; it don't fall off.
Dangle. Now, Mrs. Dangle, didn't you say it struck you in the same light?
Mrs. Dangle. No, indeed, I did not-I did not see a fault in any part of the play from the beginning to the end.
Sir Fret. Upon my soul, the women are the best judges, after all!
Mrs. Dangle. Or, if I made any objection, I am sure it was to nothing in the piece; but that I was afraid it was on the whole a little too long.
Sir Fret. Pray madam, do you speak as to the duration of time, or do you mean that the story is tediously spun out?
Mrs. Dangle. Oh, Lud! no. I speak only with reference to the usual length of acting plays.
Sir Fret. Then I am very happy-very happy indeed-because the play is a short play, a remarkably short play. I should not venture to differ with a lady on a point of taste; but, on these occasions, the watch, you know, is the critic.
Mrs. Dangle. Then, I suppose, it must have been Mr. Dangle's drawling manner of reading it to me.
Sir Fret. Oh, if Mr. Dangle read it, that's quite another affair!
But I assure you, Mrs. Dangle, the first evening you can spare me three hours and a half, I'll undertake to read you the whole from beginning to end, with the prologue and epilogue, and allow time for the music between the acts.
Mrs. Dangle. I hope to see it on the stage next.
Dangle. Well, Sir Fretful, I wish you may be able to get rid as easily of the newspaper criticisms as you do of ours.
Sir Fret. The newspapers! Sir, they are the most villainous-licentiousabominable-infernal-not that I ever read them. No; I make it a rule never to look into a newspaper.
Dangle. You are quite right-for it certainly must hurt an author of delicate feelings to see the liberties they take.
Sir Fret. No! quite the contrary; their abuse is, in fact, the best panegyric-I like it of all things. An author's reputation is only in danger from their support. Sneer. Why, that's true-and that attack, now, on you the other day
Sir Fret. What? Where?
Dangle. Ay, you mean in the paper of Thursday; it was completely ill-natured, to be sure.
Sir Fret. Oh, so much the better. Ha! ha! I wouldn't have it otherwise.
Dangle. Certainly, it is only to be laughed at; for—
Sir Fret. You don't happen to recollect what the fellow said, do you
Sneer. Pray, Dangle-Sir Fretful seems a little anxious.
Sir Fret. Oh, Lud! no; anxious-not I—not in the least. I-But one may as well hear, you know.
Dangle. Sneer, do you recollect? Make out something.
Sneer. I will. [To DANGLE.] Yes, yes, I remember perfectly.
Sir Fret. Well, and pray now-not that it signifies-what might the gentleman say? Sneer. Why, he roundly asserts that you have not the slightest invention or original genius whatever, though you are the greatest traducer of all other authors living.
Sir Fret. Ha! ha! ha!-very good!
Sneer. That, as to comedy, you have not one idea of your own, he believes, even in your common-place book: where stray jokes and pilfered witticisms are kept with as much method as the ledger of the lost and stolen office.
Sir Fret. Ha! ha! ha!-very pleasant.
Sneer. Nay, that you are so unlucky as not to have the skill even to steal with taste; but that you glean from the refuse of obscure volumes, where more judicions plagiarists have been before you; so that the body of your work is a composition of dregs and sediments-like a bad tavern's worst wine.
Sir Fret. Ha! ha!
Sneer. In your more serious efforts, he says, your bombast would be less intoler able, if the thoughts were ever suited to the expression; but the homeliness of the sentiment stares through the fantastic encumbrance of its fine language, like a clown in one of the new uniforms!
Sir Fret. Ha! ha!
Sneer. That your occasional tropes and flowers suit the general coarseness of your style, as tambour sprigs would a ground of linsey-woolsey; while your imitations of Shakspere resemble the mimicry of Falstaff's page, and are about as near the standard of the original.
Sir Fret. Ha!
Sneer. In short, that even the finest passages you steal are of no service to you; for the poverty of your own language prevents their assimilating, so that they lie on the surface like lumps of marl on a barren moor, encumbering what it is not in their power to fertilise !
Sir Fret. [After great agitation.] Now another person would be vexed at this. Sneer. Oh! but I wou'dn't have told you, only to divert you.
Sir Fret. I know it-I am diverted. Ha ha ha! not the least invention! Ha ha ha!-very good! very good!
Sneer. Yes-no genius! Ha! ha! ha!
Dangle. A severe rogue! Ha ha ha! but you are quite right, Sir Fretful,
never to read such nonsense.
Sir Fret. To be sure-for, if there is any thing to one's praise, it is a foolish vanity to be gratified at it; and, if it is abuse, why one is always sure to hear of it from one d- -d good-natured friend or other.
166.-SWINEHERDS OF THE NEW FOREST.
GILPIN. [WILLIAM GILPIN was one of those best benefactors of mankind, who, without possessing abilities of the very highest order, employ their talents so as to be useful to others and happy in themselves. He was born in 1724, entered the church, and married young. He became a schoolmaster at Cheam in Surrey, and there realised a handsome competence. The living of Boldre in the New Forest was presented to him; and there he dwelt for the remainder of his long and useful life, a blessing to all the inhabitants of that wild and beautiful district. He died in 1804. At a time when a love of the picturesque was little cultivated, he published several works, illustrating by his descriptions and his pencil the principles of the beautiful in landscape. The following extract is from his 'Forest Scenery, in which he describes the characteristics of his own locality, and intersperses his artistical sketches with many amusing anecdotes and traditions.]
These woods afford excellent feeding for hogs, which are led in the autumn season into many parts of the forest, but especially among the oaks and beeches of
Boldre Wood, to fatten on mast. It is among the rights of the forest-borderers to feed their hogs in the forest, during the pawnage month, as it is called, which commences about the end of September, and lasts six weeks. For this privilege they pay a trifling acknowledgment at the steward's court at Lyndhurst. The word pawnage was the old term for the money thus collected.
The method of treating hogs at this season of migration, and of reducing a large herd of these unmanageable brutes to perfect obedience and good government, is
The first step the swine-herd takes, is to investigate some close sheltered part of the forest, where there is a conveniency of water, and plenty of oak or beech mast, the former of which he prefers when he can have it in abundance. He fixes next on some spreading tree, round the bole of which he wattles a slight circular fence of the dimensions he wants; and, covering it roughly with boughs and sods, he fills it plentifully with straw or fern.
Having made this preparation, he collects his colony among the farmers, with whom he commonly agrees for a shilling a head, and will get together perhaps a herd of five or six hundred hogs. Having driven them to their destined habitation, he gives them a plentiful supper of acorns or beech mast, which he had already provided, sounding his horn during the repast. He then turns them into the litter where, after a long journey and a hearty meal, they sleep deliciously.
The next morning he lets them look a little around them-shows them the pool or stream where they may occasionally drink-leaves them to pick up the offals of the last night's meal; and, as evening draws on, gives them another plentiful repast under the neighbouring trees, which rain acorns upon them for an hour together, at the sound of his horn. He then sends them again to sleep.
The following day he is perhaps at the pains of procuring them another meal, with music playing as usual. He then leaves them a little more to themselves, having an eye, however, on their evening hours. But, as their bellies are full, they seldom wander far from home, retiring commonly very orderly and early to bed.
After this he throws his sty open, and leaves them to cater for themselves; and from henceforward has little more trouble with them, during the whole time of their migration. Now and then, in calm weather, when mast falls sparingly, he calls them perhaps together by the music of his horn to a gratuitous meal; but in general they need little attention, returning regularly home at night, though they often wander in the day two or three miles from their sty. There are experienced leaders in all herds, which have spent this roving life before, and can instruct their juniors in the method of it. By this management the herd is carried home to their respective owners in such condition, that a little dry meat will soon fatten them.
I would not, however, have it supposed, that all the swine-herds in the forest manage their colonies with this exactness. Bad governments and bad governors will every where exist; but I mention this as an example of sound policy—not as a mere Platonic or Utopian scheme, but such as hath been often realised, and hath as often been found productive of good order, and public utility. The hog is commonly supposed to be an obstinate, headstrong, unmanageable brute; and he may perhaps have a degree of positiveness in his temper. In general, however, if he be properly managed, he is an orderly docile animal. The only difficulty is to make your meanings, when they are fair and friendly, intelligible to him. Effect this, and you may lead him with a straw.
Nor is he without his social feelings, when he is at liberty to indulge them. In these forest migrations, it is commonly observed that, of whatever number the herd consists, they generally separate, in their daily excursions, into such little knots and