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puzzles them, upsetting all their rules and formulas of judgment; and in most cases it is considered merely as a peculiar form of dullness.
“The truant Fancy is a wanderer ever." For myself I was always held in high estimation, for I studied earnestly and with facility. My memory and perception were acute and vivid. There was with me a certain intellectual vivacity which rendered me popular among the givers of instruction.
But it is with college life we have especially to do. It was a lovely day that conveyed Stuart and myself to ancient Oxford. We built aerial castles on our journey; they were enhanced on our arrival. It was a noble thought to be one of a youthful throng, eager for the attainment of excellence: how greatly was that feeling increased by the Gothic majesty of the University! Architecture is poetry in stone; and Oxford is a glorious religious epic, whose sight must inspire the most immovable. During the first week of my sojourn I passed through courts and quadrangles with reverent awe; my busy fancy reverted to the wise, the kingly, the heroic, whose first hopes sprang into life amid its solemn beauty. Though yet a boy, I felt the impulses of manhood; and there arose within me a deep admiration for that church, of whose sacred power Oxford seemed so noble a manifestation. While under the influence of this entrancing feeling, I became acquainted, among many others, with Horace Fielding, who is now loaded with diplomas and learned and literary honours.
Fielding was a tall, slight, elegant figure, with a vivid eye, flexile lips, and an unparalleled set of teeth. No music could compare with his voice ; and its power of expression, changing so easily from the narrative to the persuasive, the sarcastic, the solemn, the poetical, would have made him triumphant on the stage. But he was the possessor of a large fortune, and was self-devoted to the church. His father, long dead, had been the great wit of the last generation-had lived that thoughtless, merry, petted life which such a man may live,-had died an infidel. Fielding's only relative was a sister, two years younger than himself.
Charles Fisher, a bustling idle fellow, very loquacious and very observant, with a kind of guide-book intellect, had long since appointed himself my cicerone. He called abruptly one morning at my rooms, while I was luxuriating over a late breakfast, and said,
“Now, Mortimer, leave your coffee, and I'll introduce you to Horace Fielding."
“Who may he be ?” I inquired, indolently exercising my toothpick.
“It's well you ask me that question ; any one else would think you mad. Who! Why, the pet of Christ Church, the marvel of Oxford, the glory of England some day or other. Come, accelerate yourself.”
“ What, at this hour ?"
“Yes, or you'll not see him. We are all going on the river, and Gascoigne, whose affair it is, asked me to bring you. I knew you would like to meet Fielding.”
I had already commenced preparations. But I thought he was a reading man,” said I; “you told me he was the marvel of Oxford.”
“So he is, for he never seems to read at all, and yet distances every one. You never see him with a book in his hand, nor ever find him alone at his rooms. He pulls the best oar in the University, drives tandem superbly, patronises wine parties, though they never affect him; and yet is as sure of a double first as I am of being plucked.”
“Very mysterious,” said I, tugging desperately at a tight boot,“ perhaps he is acquainted with the black art.”
“ Probable enough,” said Fisher, innocent of my meaning, “I believe he's acquainted with most things."
Well, I was introduced. There was about Fielding that indefinable air of high refinement that is only to be found among the most aristocratic of our aristocracy. His courtesy, expressed briefly, but with a most meaning and musical intonation, delighted my heart.
We sat side by side in one of the boats. For some time I was silent, recollecting what I had heard of my companion ; at length I made a commonplace remark on the beauty of Oxford.
“It is very beautiful,” he said, as if without interest. After some time, however, he asked abruptly, “Why is Oxford beautiful ?"
“Gothic architecture has always exceeding beauty," I replied, “and, moreover, the principle of association, the vision of the great, to whom it was the porch of life, add charms to its loveliness."
“ Deeper yet,” said Fielding, thoughtfully, “the true beauty of Oxford is the presence of God: thence arises its grandeur, its holiness. Gothic architecture, in these learned solitudes, is the visible symbol of esoteric beauty,—the sensuous sign of what is spiritual. The reason why so much poetic rubbish is written is ignorance of this. Did you ever see York Minster ?”
“Never; my habitation is southward.”
“Ah, well, York is the finest cathedral in England; a perfect architectural ode, sublimer than anything in the Greek, from man to the Eternal. But it is not thus noble materially: it is the poetic essence,—the idea of solemn and holy adoration, that constitutes its beauty."
“ Then a common country church would possess equal beauty ?'
• By no means," he said, with a smile. Almost immediately afterwards he took Fisher's oar, and our colloquy ended for the day.
It was hardly decorous, most gossip-loving reader, not to have introduced you, in the first place, to my respected tutor. Livy McTangent, LL.D., was an old friend of my father's. They had been together at college; but one chose an active, the other a studious life.
Dr. McTangent had lived so long in the University as to have become a part of its furniture. Chancellors and ViceChancellors, heads and fellows of colleges, were transitory things; not so the learned Doctor. When he was an undergraduate he had outdone all his fellows,—had read day and night with enormous assiduity,-had studied everything that came in his way, and many things altogether out of everybody's way. So the consequence was,--for his memory was powerful and his physical strength very great,—that he became one of the best mathematicians, metaphysicians, and linguists of the day. And then he studied languages, and investigated histories, and deciphered venerable manuscripts, which were caviare to the most learned. He took a positively poetical delight in all that was difficult, that appeared impossible,-problems which would give Babbage’s machine a headache, were his sportive recreations ; he rejoiced in grammatical abstrusities, in disputed texts, in phrases utterly inexplicable. He had published several huge folios, never likely to become popular; books that will never be much read till people begin again to live as long as Methusaleh. Will it be believed that this sage old paragon was tutor to the scapegrace who writes these papers ?
Yet he was no ascetic; he did not disjoin material and mental enjoyment. Witness that shape rotund, that nectarous blush upon the countenance. His brow was mountainous, his scanty hair of perfect whiteness, and his eye of very strong and varied expression. When I first called on him with a letter from my father I was struck with the tableau vivant he presented.
The room in which he sat was large and lofty, and was absolutely crowded with books. The shelves, high as the ceiling, were bending beneath the superincumbent weight; the eye caught no glimpse of the wall, but every nook, corner, cranny, and crevice had its literary occupant. On the ground, too, and on the tables they rested in piles; they lay in marvellous confusion, were scattered and strewn in all directions, and scarcely left a visible speck of the carpeting beneath. In the easiest of all easy chairs, whose purple cushions were absolutely archiepiscopal, reclined Dr. McTangent. There was a decanter of wine beside him, which I afterwards discovered to be Madeira of commendable antiquity. He held on his knee a huge volume in black letter, and was making thereon marginal notes in pencil.
“Mr. Mortimer-a-hem. Well, sit down, take a glass of wine. Hardly worth while to read your father's letter, for I know what he wants. I hope his indolence is not hereditary.-eh ?”
“I hope not, Sir.”
The old gentleman went on sipping his wine, and making pencil-notes alternately, while I sat studying his expressive physiognomy, and wondering that a man of so learned a reputation should seem so jovial and rubicund. After about ten minutes passed in quietude he put down his unwieldy tome, and said, rising,
“ I'll not detain you now. You must visit me three times a week, at eleven precisely. Here is a little brochure of mine, which I will request you to accept, and hope you may find it interesting. Good morning."
I left him, carrying with me the “ little brochure” in question, which was a ponderous quarto volume of extremely close print, entitled “A Dissertation on the Antediluvian Drama !"
Time passed on, at his usual regular rate. I soon made acquaintance with men of various calibre,-some of weak intellect, some of weak imagination, and some weak both ways. My punctual interviews with the Doctor served to mark the progress of time, and to add an agreeable diversity to my mode of life. Among my earliest acquaintances were one or two decided college bores, men of a class that always infest the University, and whom I will briefly describe, in order that they may be especially avoided.
Greatest of all was Fisher, who has been already mentioned. Greatest, because of his extraordinary benevolence of heart, rendering it impossible to offend him. The only resource was to sink into quiescence, to imitate the spirit of the martyrs. For Fisher was entirely unavoidable; his adhesiveness was permanent.
It was not so with Harry Carr, who ranks next in the list. He was essentially an argumentative man, and disputed everything. Not that he had any prejudices or tenets different from the rest of the world; he had not, I believe, any opinions at all. But he had an abstract love of argument, just as country gentlemen have of fox hunting, and M.P.'s of verbiage. He valued no theory, system, or hypothesis, but delighted only in discussing it. It was immaterial to him what position he maintained; logic was his study, not philosophy. His head was a hive of syllogisms.
Now, fortunately for one's sanity, this man might be offended ; if you could only succeed in silencing him, in bafiling his arguments, you would be freed from his attacks. And this generally took place, sooner or later, with every one ; indeed, the only man who remained intimate with him was Fisher, who was incapable of giving or receiving offence, and who officiated as a jackall, introducing Carr to every fresh man that arrived. So was I victimised.
Fisher asked me to his rooms one evening to take supper, and to meet Fielding. Gascoigne was there, the wildest, strangest, fellow in the University,–Grey Lawson, the poet, and Carr.
Lawson was the most desperate of sonnetteers. Wordsworth and the “saintly Bowles” excepted, he had written more than any rhymer in England. His ideas naturally resolved themselves into lengths of fourteen lines. He was everlastingly exhorting us to admiration thereof in the words of the present poet Laureate,
“Scorn not the sonnet ! &c." and continually remarking that in Milton's hands
“ The thing became a trumpet !" unmindful of the contrast he thus furnished, seeing that in his own it had become a magniloquent penny-whistle. And, like