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"Robert Browning Personalia." Copyright, 1890, by Houghton, Mifflin & Company. Reprinted with permission. By EDMUND GOSSE.
OBERT BROWNING can hardly remember a time when his intention was not to be eminent in rhyme, and he began to write at least as early as Cowley. His sister remembers him, as a very little boy, walking round and round the dining-room table, and spanning out the scansion of his verses with his hand on the smooth mahogany. When he was about eight years old, this ambitious young person disdained the narrow field of poetry, and, while retaining that sceptre, debated within himself, as Dryden says Anne Killegrew did, whether he should invade and conquer the province of painting or that of music. It soon became plain to him, however, that, as he himself put it thirty-five years later:
"I shall never, in the years remaining,
Paint you pictures, no, nor carve you statues,
and he began writing with assiduity. It is curious to reflect that all the giants were alive in those days—not even Keats himself laid to sleep under the Roman grasses.
In 1824, the year that Byron died, the boy had collected poems enough to form a volume, and these were taken around to publisher after publisher, but in vain. The first people who saw the nascent genius of this lad of twelve years old were the two Misses Flower, the younger afterward authoress of Vivia Perpetua, and too sadly known as Sarah Flower Adams. The elder
Miss Flower thought the poems so remarkable that she
AKE the New England climate in summer, you
think was coming to an end.
would the world
Certain recent heresies on that subject may have had a natural origin there. Cold to-day; hot to-morrow; mercury at 80° in the morning, with wind at southwest; and in three hours more a sea turn, wind at east, a thick fog from the very bottom of the ocean, and a fall of forty degrees of Fahrenheit; now so dry as to kill all the beans in New Hampshire; then floods carrying off the bridges of the Penobscot and Connecticut; snow in Portsmouth in July; and the next day a man and a yoke of oxen killed by lightning in Rhode Island. You would think the world was twenty times coming to an end. But I do not know how it is: we go along; the early and the latter rain falls, each in its season; and seedtime and harvest do not fail; the sixty days of hot corn weather are pretty sure to be measured out to us. The Indian summer, with its bland south-west and mitigated sunshine, brings all up; and on the twenty-fifth of November, or thereabouts, being Thursday, three millions of grateful people, in meeting-houses, or around the family board, give thanks for a year of health, plenty, and happiness.
EMPEROR OF CHINA.
IR G. STAUNTON related a curious anecdote of old Kien Long, Emperor of China. He was inquiring of Sir George the manner in which physicians were paid in England. When, after some difficulty, his majesty was made to comprehend the system, he exclaimed, "Is any man well in England, that can afford to be ill? Now, I will inform you," said he, "how I manage my physicians. I have four, to whom the care of my health is committed: a certain weekly salary is allowed them, but the moment I am ill, the salary stops till I am well again. I need not inform you my illnesses are usually short.
"Do you know what made my voice so melodious?'' said a celebrated vocal performer, of awkward manners, to Charles Bannister. "No," replied the other. "Why, then, I'll tell you: when I was about fifteen, I swallowed, by accident, some train oil." "I don't think," rejoined Bannister, "it would have done you any harm if, at the same time, you had swallowed a dancing-master!"
THE FORCE OF SATIRE.
Jacob Johnson, the publisher, having refused to advance Dryden a sum of money for a work upon which he was engaged, the incensed bard sent a message to him, and the following lines, adding, "Tell the dog that he who wrote these can write more":
With leering looks, bull-necked, and freckled face,
And frowsy pores, that taint the ambient air!"
Johnson felt the force of the description; and, to avoid a completion of the portrait, immediately sent the money.
THE ANGLO-FRENCH ALLIANCE.
Jerrold was in France, and with a Frenchman who was enthusiastic on the subject of the Anglo-French alliance. He said that he was proud to see the English and the French such good friends at last. "Tut! the best thing I know between France and England isthe sea," said Jerrold.
AN EFFORT OF MEMORY.
"Would you think it?" said A to B, "Mr. Roscius has taken a week to study a Prologue which I wrote in a day." "His memory is evidently not so good as yours," replied B.
A ROWLAND FOR AN OLIVER.
Mr. Hawkins, Q. C., engaged in a cause before the late Lord Campbell, had frequently to mention the damage done to a carriage called a Brougham, and this word he pronounced, according to its orthography, Brougham.
'If my learned friend will adopt the usual designation, and call the carriage a Bro'am, it will save the time of the court," said Lord Campbell, with a smile.
Mr. Hawkins bowed and accepted his Lordship's pronunciation of the word during the remainder of his speech. When Lord Campbell proceeded to sum up the evidence, he had to refer to the Omnibus which had damaged the Bro'am, and in doing so pronounced the word also according to its orthography. “I beg your Lordship's pardon," said Mr. Hawkins, very respectfully, "but if your Lordship will use the com