صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

William Lucas's, where a large party were assembled. “What does Mr. Darcy mean,” said she to Charlotte, “by listening to my conversation with Colonel Forster?” “That is a question which Mr. Darcy only can answer.” “But if he does it any more I shall certainly let him know that I see what he is about. He has a very satirical eye, and if I do not begin by being impertinent myself, I shall soon grow afraid of him.” On his approaching them soon afterwards, though without seeming to have any intention of speaking, Miss Lucas defied her friend to mention such a subject to him; which immediately provoking Elizabeth to do it, she turned to him and said: — “Did not you think, Mr. Darcy, that I expressed myself uncommonly well just now, when I was teasing Colonel Forster to give us a ball at Meryton?” “With great energy; — but it is a subject which always makes a lady energetic.” “You are severe on us.” “It will be her turn soon to be teased,” said Miss Lucas. “I am going to open the instrument, Eliza, and you know what follows.” “You are a very strange creature by way of a friend' – always wanting me to play and sing before anybody and everybody! If my vanity had taken a musical turn, you would have been invaluable; but as it is, I would really rather not sit down before those who must be in the habit of hearing the very best performers.” On Miss Lucas's persevering, however, she added, “Very well; if it must be so, it must.” And gravely glancing at Mr. Darcy, “There is a fine old saying, which everybody here is of course familiar with – ‘Keep your breath to cool your porridge,” – and I shall keep mine to swell my song.” Her performance was pleasing, though by no means capital. After a song or two, and before she could reply to the entreaties of several that she would sing again, she was eagerly succeeded at the instrument by her sister Mary, who having, in consequence of being the only plain one in the family, worked hard for knowledge and accomplishments, was always impatient for display. Mary had neither genius nor taste; and though vanity had given her application, it had given her likewise a pedantic air and conceited manner, which would have injured a higher degree of excellence than she had

reached. Elizabeth, easy and unaffected, had been listened to with much more pleasure, though not playing half so well; and Mary, at the end of a long concerto, was glad to purchase praise and gratitude by Scotch and Irish airs, at the request of her younger sisters, who, with some of the Lucases, and two or three officers, joined eagerly in dancing at one end of the room. Mr. Darcy stood near them in silent indignation at such a mode of passing the evening, to the exclusion of all conversation, and was too much engrossed by his thoughts to perceive that Sir William Lucas was his neighbour, till Sir William thus began, “What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy! There is nothing like dancing after all. I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished societies.” “Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage can dance.” Sir William only smiled. “Your friend performs delightfully,” he continued after a pause, on seeing Bingley, join the group; – “and I doubt not that you are an adept in the science yourself, Mr. Darcy.” “You saw me dance at Meryton, I believe, Sir.” “Yes, indeed, and received no inconsiderable pleasure from the sight. Do you often dance at St. James's?” “Never, sir.” “Do you not think it would be a proper compliment to the place?” “It is a compliment which I never pay to any place if I can avoid it.” “You have a house in town, I conclude?” Mr. Darcy bowed. “I had once some thoughts of fixing in town myself — for I am fond of superior society; but I did not feel quite certain that the air of London would agree with Lady Lucas.” He paused in hopes of an answer; but his companion was not disposed to make any; and Elizabeth at that instant moving towards them, he was struck with the notion of doing a very gallant thing, and called out to her — “My dear Miss Eliza, why are not you dancing? — Mr. Darcy, you must allow me to present this young lady to you as a very desirable partner. You cannot refuse to dance, I am sure, when so much beauty is before you.” And, taking her hand, he would

have given it to Mr. Darcy, who, though extremely surprised, was not unwilling to receive it, when she instantly drew back, and said with some discomposure to Sir William — “Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing. I entreat you not to suppose that I moved this way in order to beg for a partner.” Mr. Darcy, with grave propriety, requested to be allowed the honour of her hand, but in vain. Elizabeth was determined; nor did Sir William at all shake her purpose by his attempt at persuasion. “You excel so much in the dance, Miss Eliza, that it is cruel to deny me the happiness of seeing you; and though this gentleman dislikes the amusement in general, he can have no objection, I am sure, to oblige us for one half-hour.” “Mr. Darcy is all politeness,” said Elizabeth, smiling. “He is indeed; but considering the inducement, my dear Miss Eliza, we cannot wonder at his complaisance — for who would object to such a partner?” Elizabeth looked archly, and turned away. Her resistance had not injured her with the gentleman, and he was thinking of her with Some complacency, when thus accosted by Miss Bingley — “I can guess the subject of your reverie.” “I should imagine not.” “You are considering how insupportable it would be to pass many evenings in this manner – in such society; and indeed I am quite of your opinion. I was never more annoyed The insipidity, and yet the noise – the nothingness, and yet the self-importance of all these people! What would I give to hear your strictures on them l’” “Your conjecture is totally wrong, I assure you. My mind was more agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.” Miss Bingley immediately fixed her eyes on his face, and desired he would tell her what lady had the credit of inspiring such eflections. Mr. Darcy replied with great ‘ntrepidity: — “Miss Elizabeth Bennet.” “Miss Elizabeth Bennet!” repeated Miss Bingley. “I am all astonishment. How long has she been such a favourite? — and pray, when am I to wish you joy?” “That is exactly the question which I exPected you to ask. A lady's imagination is

very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment. I knew you would be wishing me joy.” “Nay, if you are so serious about it, I shall consider the matter as absolutely settled. You will have a charming mother-in-law, indeed; and, of course, she will be always at Pemberly with you.” He listened to her with perfect indifference while she chose to entertain herself in this manner; and as his composure convinced her that all was safe, her wit flowed long.

CHARLES LAMB (1775–1834) THE TWO RACES OF MEN

The human species, according to the best theory I can form of it, is composed of two distinct races, the men who borrow, and the men who lend. To these two original diversities may be reduced all those impertinent classifications of Gothic and Celtic tribes, white men, black men, red men. All the dwellers upon earth, “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites,” flock hither, and do naturally fall in with one or other of these primary distinctions. The infinite superiority of the former, which I choose to designate as the great race, is discernible in their figure, port, and a certain instinctive sovereignty. The latter are born degraded. “He shall serve his brethren.” There is something in the air of one of this caste, lean and suspicious; contrasting with the open, trusting, generous manners of the other. Observe who have been the greatest borrowers of all ages – Alcibiades — Falstaff — Sir Richard Steele – our late incomparable Brinsley – what a family likeness in all four ! What a careless, even deportment hath your borrower what rosy gills! what a beautiful reliance on Providence doth he manifest, — taking no more thought than lilies! What contempt for money, - accounting it (yours and mine especially) no better than dross What a liberal confounding of those pedantic distinctions of meum and tuum. / or rather, what a noble simplification of language (be. yond Tooke), resolving these supposed opposites into one clear, intelligible pronoun adjective' – What near approaches doth he make to the primitive community, - to the extent of one-half of the principle at least! He is the true taxer “who calleth all the world up to be taxed”; and the distance is as vast between him and one of us, as subsisted betwixt the Augustan Majesty and the poorest obolary Jew that paid it tributepittance at Jerusalem! – His exactions, too, have such a cheerful, voluntary air! So far removed from your sour parochial or stategatherers, – those ink-horn varlets, who carry their want of welcome in their faces! He cometh to you with a smile, and troubleth you with no receipt; confining himself to no set season. Every day is his Candlemas, or his Feast of Holy Michael. He applieth the lene tormentum of a pleasant look to your purse, – which to that gentle warmth expands her silken leaves, as naturally as the cloak of the traveller, for which sun and wind contended ! He is the true Propontic which never ebbeth ! The sea which taketh handsomely at each man's hand. In vain the victim, whom he delighteth to honour, struggles with destiny; he is in the net. Lend therefore cheerfully, O man ordained to lend — that thou lose not in the end, with thy worldly penny, the reversion promised. Combine not preposterously in thine own person the penalties of Lazarus and of Dives! — but, when thou seest the proper authority coming, meet it smilingly, as it were half-way. Come, a handsome sacrifice! See how light he makes of it! Strain not courtesies with a noble enemy. Reflections like the foregoing were forced upon my mind by the death of my old friend, Ralph Bigod, Esq., who departed this life on Wednesday evening; dying, as he had lived, without much trouble. He boasted himself a descendant from mighty ancestors of that name, who heretofore held ducal dignities in this realm. In his actions and sentiments he belied not the stock to which he pretended. Early in life he found himself invested with ample revenues; which, with that noble disinterestedness which I have noticed as inherent in men of the great race, he took almost immediate measures entirely to dissipate and bring to nothing: for there is something revolting in the idea of a king holding a private purse; and the thoughts of Bigod were all regal. Thus furnished, by the very act of disfurnishment; getting rid of the cumbersome luggage of riches, more apt (as one sings)

[graphic][graphic][graphic]

To slacken virtue, and abate her edge,
Than prompt her to do aught may merit praise,

he sets forth, like some Alexander, upon his great enterprise, “borrowing and to borrow!”

In his periegesis, or triumphant progress throughout this island, it has been calculated that he laid a tithe part of the inhabitants under contribution. I reject this estimate as greatly exaggerated: but having had the honour of accompanying my friend, divers times, in his perambulations about this vast city, I own I was greatly struck at first with the prodigious number of faces we met, who claimed a sort of respectful acquaintance with us. He was one day so obliging as to explain the phenomenon. It seems, these were his tributaries; feeders of his exchequer; gentlemen, his good friends (as he was pleased to express himself), to whom he had occasionally been beholden for a loan. Their multitudes did no way disconcert him. He rather took a pride in numbering them; and, with Comus, seemed pleased to be “stocked with so fair a herd.”

With such sources, it was a wonder how he contrived to keep his treasury always empty. He did it by force of an aphorism, which he had often in his mouth, that “money kept longer than three days stinks.” So he made use of it while it was fresh. A good part he drank away (for he was an excellent toss-pot), some he gave away, the rest he threw away, literally tossing and hurling it violently from him — as boys do burs, or as if it had been infectious, - into ponds, or ditches, or deep holes, – inscrutable cavities of the earth: – or he would bury it (where he would never seek it again) by a river's side under some bank, which (he would facetiously observe) paid no interest — but out away from him it must go peremptorily, as Hagar's offspring into the wilderness, while it was sweet. He never missed it. The streams were perennial which fed his fisc. When new supplies became necessary, the first person that had the felicity to fall in with him, friend or stranger, was sure to contribute to the deficiency. For Bigod had an Undeniable way with him. He had a cheerful, open exterior, a quick jovial eye, a bald forehead, just touched with grey (cana fides). He anticipated no excuse, and found none. And, waiving for a while my theory as to the great race, I would put it to the most untheorising reader, who may at times have disposable coin in his pocket, whether it is not more repugnant to the kindliness of his nature to refuse such a one as I am describing, than to say no to a poor petitionary rogue (your bastard borrower), who, by his mumping visnomy, tells you that he expects nothing better; and, therefore, whose preconceived notions and expectations you do in reality so much less shock in the refusal. When I think of this man; his fiery glow of heart; his swell of feeling; how magnificent, how ideal he was; how great at the midnight hour; and when I compare with him the companions with whom I have associated since, I grudge the saving of a few idle ducats, and think that I am fallen into the Society of lenders, and little men. To one like Elia, whose treasures are rather cased in leather covers than closed in iron coffers, there is a class of alienators more formidable than that which I have touched upon; I mean your borrowers of books those mutilators of collections, spoilers of the symmetry of shelves, and creators of odd volumes. There is Comberbatch, matchless in his depredations! That foul gap in the bottom shelf facing you, like a great eye-tooth knocked out - (you are now with me in my little back study in Bloomsbury, Reader!) — with the huge Switzer-like tomes on each side (like the Guildhall giants, in their reformed posture, guardant of nothing) once held the tallest of my folios, Opera Bonaventurae, choice and massy divinity, to which its two supporters (school divinity also, but of a lesser calibre, — Bellarmine, and Holy Thomas) showed but as dwarfs, -itself an Ascapart! that Comberbatch abstracted upon the faith of a theory he holds, which is more easy, I confess, for me to suffer by than to refute, namely, that “the title to property in a book” (my Bonaventure, for instance) “is in exact ratio to the claimant's powers of understanding and appreciating the same.” Should he go on acting upon this theory, which of our shelves is safe? The slight vacuum in the left-hand case two shelves from the ceiling — scarcely distinguishable but by the quick eye of a loser - was whilom the commodious resting-place of Browne on Urn Burial. C. will hardly allege that he knows more about that treatise than I do, who introduced it to him, and was indeed the first (of the moderns) to discover its beauties — but so have I known a foolish lover to praise his mistress in the presence of a rival more qualified to carry her off than himself. – Just below, Dodsley's dramas want their fourth volume, where Vittoria Corombona is! The remainder nine are as distasteful as Priam's refuse sons, when the fates borrowed Hector. Here stood the Anat

omy of Melancholy, in sober state. — There loitered the Complete Angler; quiet as in life, by some stream side. — In yonder nook, John Buncle, a widower-volume, with “eyes closed,” mourns his ravished mate. One justice I must do my friend, that if he sometimes, like the sea, sweeps away a treasure, at another time, sea-like, he throws up as rich an equivalent to match it. I have a small under-collection of this nature (my friend's gatherings in his various calls), picked up, he has forgotten at what odd places, and deposited with as little memory at mine. I take in these orphans, the twice-deserted. These proselytes of the gate are welcome as the true Hebrews. There they stand in conjunction; natives, and naturalised. The latter seem as little disposed to inquire out their true lineage as I am. – I charge no warehouse-room for these deodands, nor shall ever put myself to the ungentlemanly trouble of advertising a sale of them to pay expenses. To lose a volume to C. carries some sense and meaning in it. You are sure that he will make one hearty meal on your viands, if he can give no account of the platter after it. But what moved thee, wayward, spiteful K., to be so importunate to carry off with thee, in spite of tears and adjurations to thee to forbear, the Letters of that princely woman, the thrice noble Margaret Newcastle? – knowing at the time, and knowing that I knew also, thou most assuredly wouldst never turn over one leaf of the illustrious folio: — what but the mere spirit of contradiction, and childish love of getting the better of thy friend? — Then, worst cut of all! to transport it with thee to the Gallican land –

Unworthy land to harbour such a sweetness,

A virtue in which all ennobling thoughts dwelt,

Pure thoughts, kind thoughts, high thoughts, her sex’s wonder

—hadst thou not thy play-books, and books of jests and fancies, about thee, to keep thee merry, even as thou keepest all companies with thy quips and mirthful tales? Child of the Greenroom, it was unkindly, unkindly done of thee. Thy wife, too, that part-French, better-part-Englishwoman – that she could fix upon no other treatise to bear away, in kindly token of remembering us, than the works of Fulke Greville, Lord Brook – of which no Frenchman, nor woman of France Italy, or England, was ever by nature con. stituted to comprehend a tittle! Was there not Zimmermann on Solitude 2 Reader, if haply thou art blessed with a moderate collection, be shy of showing it; or if thy heart overfloweth to lend them, lend thy books; but let it be to such a one as S. T. C. — he will return them (generally anticipating the time appointed) with usury; enriched with annotations, tripling their value. I have had experience. Many are these precious Mss. of his – (in matter oftentimes, and almost in quantity not unfrequently, vying with the originals) in no very clerkly handlegible in my Daniel; in old Burton; in Sir Thomas Browne; and those abstruser cogitations of the Greville, now, alas! wandering in Pagan lands. – I counsel thee, shut not thy heart, nor thy library, against S. T. C.

[graphic]

MRS. BATTLE'S OPINIONS ON WHIST

“A clear fire, a clean hearth, and the rigour of the game.” This was the celebrated wish of old Sarah Battle (now with God), who, next to her devotions, loved a good game of whist. She was none of your lukewarm gamesters, your half-and-half players, who have no objection to take a hand, if you want one to make up a rubber; who affirm that they have no pleasure in winning; that they like to win one game and lose another; that they can while away an hour very agreeably at a card-table, but are indifferent whether they play or no; and will desire an adversary who has slipped a wrong card, to take it up and play another. These insufferable trislers are the curse of a table. One of these flies will spoil a whole pot. Of such it may be said that they do not play at cards, but only play at playing at them.

Sarah Battle was none of that breed. She detested them, as I do, from her heart and soul; and would not, save upon a striking emergency, willingly seat herself at the same table with them. She loved a thorough-paced partner, a determined enemy. She took, and gave, no concessions. She hated favours. She never made a revoke, nor ever passed it over in her adversary without exacting the utmost forfeiture. She fought a good fight: cut and thrust. She held not her good sword (her cards) “like a dancer.” She sat bolt upright; and neither showed you her cards, nor desired to see yours. All people have their blind side – their superstitions; and I

have heard her declare, under the rose, that Hearts was her favourite suit. I never in my life – and I knew Sarah Battle many of the best years of it — saw her take out her snuff-box when it was her turn to play; or snuff a candle in the middle of a game; or ring for a servant, till it was fairly over. She never introduced, or connived at, miscellaneous conversation during its process. As she emphatically observed, cards were cards; and if I ever saw unmingled distaste in her fine last-century countenance, it was at the airs of a young gentleman of a literary turn, who had been with difficulty persuaded to take a hand; and who, in his excess of candour, declared, that he thought there was no harm in unbending the mind now and then, after serious studies, in recreations of that kindl She could not bear to have her noble occupation, to which she wound up her faculties, considered in that light. It was her business, her duty, the thing she came into the world to do, - and she did it. She unbent her mind afterwards – over a book. Pope was her favourite author: his Rape of the Lock her favourite work. She once did me the favour to play over with me (with the cards) his celebrated game of Ombre in that poem; and to explain to me how far it agreed with, and in what points it would be found to differ from, tradrille. Her illustrations were apposite and poignant; and I had the pleasure of sending the substance of them to Mr. Bowles; but I suppose they came too late to be inserted among his ingenious notes upon that author. Quadrille, she has often told me, was her first love; but whist had engaged her maturer esteem. The former, she said, was showy and specious, and likely to allure young persons. The uncertainty and quick shifting of partners — a thing which the constancy of whist abhors; the dazzling supremacy and regal investiture of Spadille — absurd, as she justly observed, in the pure aristocracy of whist, where his crown and garter give him no proper power above his brother-nobility of the Aces; — the giddy vanity, so taking to the inexperienced, of playing alone; above all, the overpowering attractions of a Sans Prendre Vole, to the triumph of which there is certainly nothing parallel or approaching, in the contingencies of whist; — all these, she would say, make quadrille a game of captivation to the young and enthusiastic. But whist was the solider game: that was her word. It was a long

« السابقةمتابعة »