صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني



whether it be the unalloyed ancient metal, or only a showy compound of modern times. It separates the former from the latter by a broad and plain line of distinction. The young and the sanguine are here brought together, and matrimonial alliances are rarely formed out of the exclusive circle in which they move. Thus is an aristocracy refined and perpetuated, which has but little sympathy with the rest of the world.



IKE all establishments claiming for themselves peculiar superiority, Almack's has been many times violently assailed. It exercises, in fact, an authority really more oppressive and unjust than any the throne ever dares assume. It shuts out hundreds and thousands from the standing and consideration to which they are justly entitled in society; and so omnipotent is the tyranny of aristocratic opinion, that its seal of disapprobation once fixed upon the name of an ambitious aspirant, disgraces and obscures him in public estimation forever. Of course, all the jealousy and rancour of disappointed ambition are arrayed against it ; for such as can never share in its honors are deeply stung by its contempt.

So deeply have certain persons felt this galling yoke, that a combination has even been contemplated, for the purpose of breaking its power by parliamentary interference.

But do not suppose, dear sir, that this indicates any advancement of the coarse principles of Democracy among these parliamentary reformers. Oh, no! it proceeds from quite another motive than this; they wish to rend, because they cannot rule the halls of Almack's. Besides, it was soon discovered that the Imperial Parliament was itself one of the chief supporters of Almack's; and felt that any innovation upon so venerable an institution was an invasion of the time-honored prerogatives of the English aristocracy.

The power of legislation is sometimes directed to sad purposes; and although in this instance the evil is doubtless enormous, yet we can hardly suppress a smile when we hear legislators talking seriously about turning the supreme power of a mighty nation into a regulator of fashions and master of ceremonies. Destroy Almack's! The fair ladies who are so happy as to resort there have woven their charm for too many noble lords and right honorable members of the House of Commons, ever to be disturbed by “an act entitled an act to abolish the right of certain distinguished families to associate, waltz, gallopade, and tumble in the ring with whomsoever they please."

Indeed, it is an institution which addresses itself to a strong principle of the human heart-the vanity of man; and although it may make thou

[ocr errors]



sands wretched, thousands more will hope on for its favor and the flattery it brings. It can never be abolished until Englishmen shall lose their reverence for rank, and scorn the idea that a few distinguished ladies should hold in their hands all the means of human enjoyment; until they shall learn to esteem other consequences than such as ease, titles and idleness bestow, and to honor only those who add something to the stock of human intelligence, and make the world better by their influence; OR, until a quarrel, which cannot be hushed, shall involve the whole establishment in ruin.

Woman was the last and most perfect work of God. But if she came from the hand of the Creator the sweetest, she is also capable of becoming the sourest of all beings. It happily is not often we find her in such imperfect state, and for this we should be thankful. But should the lovely divinities of Almack's enchanted halls ever have the peace of their "Board of Red Cloth" broken by a serious contention, this gorgeous temple of fashion will come down with a crash that will be a warning to the exquisites of all future generations. If Almack's ever falls, "great will be the fall thereof."


HEN I left Lord


-'s, it was twelve o'clock. I hurried on through Hyde Park, and found an omnibus standing before Apsley House (the Duke of Wellington's), waiting for passengers for the East End. A thick fog hung over London, and a storm seemed to be coming on. The night was dark and gloomy. By the light of a neighboring lamp, I perceived a lady in an omnibus, who was not only unattended, but there was no other person in the carriage.

Her face, on which the lamp shone brightly, was as pale as marble; but her features were very beautiful. She was dressed as superbly as though she had just come from a ball at Almack's. There was a look of deep distress on her countenance; such a look as we never forget after it is once seen. The large blue vein on her forehead swelled out as if ready to burst. We rode on for a mile through the streets, now nearly deserted and silent, without speaking. In the presence of what appeared to me such great anguish, I could not think of words I dared to utter. In the light which shone in from the lamps as we passed along, her face wore an ashy paleness; and on that face there was an expression of such utter loneliness and desertion, of such evident sinking from rank and prostration of earthly hopes, that I needed but one glance to convince me, that she had fallen from the gay and heartless circle of fashion.

I ventured to ask if I could render her any service in a ride, at that



late hour. She replied, "Oh! sir, whoever you are, for God's sake don't speak to me; I only want to die; you can't help me now."

As she uttered these words, she burst into tears. We rode on in silence, broken at intervals by her sobs and sighs. We passed through Temple Bar and reached St. Paul's, where I was to get out. But I was determined to go as far as the omnibus went, if necessary, to know whether my fellow-passenger was a maniac, or what. When we came to the Bank, the coachman stopped and inquired where we would get out. Again I asked if I could render her any assistance. "Yes, sir, you can, if you have any pity. Let me get out anywhere. I care not where I go if I can only find some place to lay my head."

I assisted her in getting out of the omnibus. She fell as she stepped down, and I caught her with one arm and her-child with the other. This new-born infant was wrapped in a Cashmere shawl-its only swaddling-clothes. The mother asked me to lead her to a place where she could sit down-the omnibus drove on, and not a human being was in sight. Near by was a flight of stone steps, upon which she was scarcely seated, when she fainted away.


lamp was near us; it was past one o'clock; the rain had begun to fall heavily upon the pavements, and, save the feeble cry of the infant in my arms, and the distant rumbling of the omnibus, no sound was to be heard. I shouted for a policeman, knowing that one must not be far off, and down the street I heard his answer, followed by the heavy quick fall of his feet.

I inquired for a boarding-house. He said we must pass down two or three streets towards the Thames, to find one, and he would assist us.

"I will carry the lady," said he, "if you will spread this India-rubber cape ( a garment which all policeman wear when it rains) over the child, and take care of it."

I spoke to the mother, whom I had raised from the step when she fainted, and had supported till now; and, as she partly recovered, the first words she spoke were, "Oh! where is my child-my child? Oh! God of heaven, has he stolen my child?"

I told her the child was safe in my arms, and protected from the rain. "Oh! then give him to me." She seized the babe, and, pressing it close to her heart, asked us to leave her. I said, "We will take you to a house where you will be comfortable."

"God bless you," she answered, "if you will."

[blocks in formation]

She consented to let me take the child, and we hurried on through the storm, to a place of shelter. We were met by several policemen, each of whom stopped us, until he received the countersign from the one with us. At last we reached the house, and, after ringing the bell several times, the door was opened by a servant. We made known our business, and were admitted to the hall. The lady of the house was called, and engaged to furnish accommodations for the young mother. She took the child from my hands, and I paid her charges for a week, and turned to leave the house with the watchman.

The mother called me back from the door and said, "I can only thank you, sir. God bless you-God will bless you for this."

We left the house. As we entered the street the rain was falling heavily, and violent gusts of wind dashed by, with that dismal moaning sound, which is never so mournful, even in the wild woods, as in the dark solitudes cf a large city late at night. But still, this was less dreary than the scene we had just left; and a load fell from my heart when I once more felt the night tempest sweeping by.


"POLICEMAN, whom do you think this lady can be?" "Why,

sir," said he, "there is no knowing, of course, certainly; but I doubt not she has moved in fashionable life. Did you see how she was dressed? and how she spoke? Why, you can tell a lady from the West End only by hearing her speak once. You say she got in at Hyde Park corner. Why, I suppose she has been ruined by some heartless fellow, in Regent's Street. There are thousands of girls that are; and then they come to the East End, and starve to death, or die of neglect and privation. From one extreme to the other; this is the way with the London world. For my part, I am satisfied with the lot of a policeman.”

I inquired if she could not be helped by one of the Charities. "Well, sir,” said he, "we can do our best; but the Charities are all crowded. I have made three unsuccessful applications for persons in distress within the last two days. But, if you will write something about this, and let me take your letter, the chance will be fair."

I engaged to address a letter the next morning to the "City of London Lying-in Hospital, City Road, or any other London Charity." The policeman promised to call for the letter at nine o'clock. [By means of these exertions, this unfortunate mother received assistance; but her child died the night she came from the West End.]

I laid myself down on my pillow that night, worn out with fatigue. But too many confused images of the gay halls of Lord of the rev




elry and splendor of the West End; and of the extreme suffering and wretchedness of that ruined female in the dark and dismal streets of London, crowded upon my fancy, to let me sleep.

In one night, I had seen the two extremes of a London life-opulence, gayety, fashion and song in the palace halls of an English nobleman; and the abject and hopeless misery of a broken hearted-female, who had fallen from such a circle, to fill a grave, dug by strangers in the Potters' Field.

Such is London-the West End, and Spitalfields—a nobleman and a beggar-revelry, mirth, beauty and fashion—a maniac victim of seduction, with her dying child.

« السابقةمتابعة »