MoboReader > Literature > Autobiographic Sketches

   Chapter 6 I ENTER THE WORLD.

Autobiographic Sketches By Thomas de Quincey Characters: 39373

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

Yes, at this stage of my life, viz., in my fifteenth year, and from this sequestered school, ankle deep I first stepped into the world. At Winkfield I had staid about a year, or not much more, when I received a letter from a young friend of my own age, Lord Westport, [1] the son of Lord Altamont, inviting me to accompany him to Ireland for the ensuing summer and autumn. This invitation was repeated by his tutor; and my mother, after some consideration, allowed me to accept it.

In the spring of 1800, accordingly, I went up to Eton, for the purpose of joining my friend. Here I several times visited the gardens of the queen's villa at Frogmore; and, privileged by my young friend's introduction, I had opportunities of seeing and hearing the queen and all the princesses; which at that time was a novelty in my life, naturally a good deal prized. Lord Westport's mother had been, before her marriage, Lady Louisa Howe, daughter to the great admiral, Earl Howe, and intimately known to the royal family, who, on her account, took a continual and especial notice of her son.

On one of these occasions I had the honor of a brief interview with the king. Madame De Campan mentions, as an amusing incident in her early life, though terrific at the time, and overwhelming to her sense of shame, that not long after her establishment at Versailles, in the service of some one amongst the daughters of Louis XV., having as yet never seen the king, she was one day suddenly introduced to his particular notice, under the following circumstances: The time was morning; the young lady was not fifteen; her spirits were as the spirits of a fawn in May; her tour of duty for the day was either not come, or was gone; and, finding herself alone in a spacious room, what more reasonable thing could she do than amuse herself with making cheeses? that is, whirling round, according to a fashion practised by young ladies both in France and England, and pirouetting until the petticoat is inflated like a balloon, and then sinking into a courtesy. Mademoiselle was very solemnly rising from one of these courtesies, in the centre of her collapsing petticoats, when a slight noise alarmed her. Jealous of intruding eyes, yet not dreading more than a servant at worst, she turned, and, O Heavens! whom should she behold but his most Christian majesty advancing upon her, with a brilliant suite of gentlemen, young and old, equipped for the chase, who had been all silent spectators of her performances? From the king to the last of the train, all bowed to her, and all laughed without restraint, as they passed the abashed amateur of cheese making. But she, to speak Homerically, wished in that hour that the earth might gape and cover her confusion. Lord Westport and I were about the age of mademoiselle, and not much more decorously engaged, when a turn brought us full in view of a royal party coming along one of the walks at Frogmore. We were, in fact, theorizing and practically commenting on the art of throwing stones. Boys have a peculiar contempt for female attempts in that way. For, besides that girls fling wide of the mark, with a certainty that might have won the applause of Galerius, [2] there is a peculiar sling and rotary motion of the arm in launching a stone, which no girl ever can attain. From ancient practice, I was somewhat of a proficient in this art, and was discussing the philosophy of female failures, illustrating my doctrines with pebbles, as the case happened to demand; whilst Lord Westport was practising on the peculiar whirl of the wrist with a shilling; when suddenly he turned the head of the coin towards me with a significant glance, and in a low voice he muttered some words, of which I caught "Grace of God," "France [3] and Ireland," "Defender off the Faith, and so forth." This solemn recitation of the legend on the coin was meant as a fanciful way of apprising me that the king was approaching; for Lord W. had himself lost somewhat of the awe natural to a young person in a first situation of this nature, through his frequent admissions to the royal presence. For my own part, I was as yet a stranger even to the king's person. I had, indeed, seen most or all the princesses in the way I have mentioned above; and occasionally, in the streets of Windsor, the sudden disappearance of all hats from all heads had admonished me that some royal personage or other was then traversing (or, if not traversing, was crossing) the street; but either his majesty had never been of the party, or, from distance, I had failed to distinguish him. Now, for the first time, I was meeting him nearly face to face; for, though the walk we occupied was not that in which the royal party were moving, it ran so near it, and was connected by so many cross walks at short intervals, that it was a matter of necessity for us, as we were now observed, to go and present ourselves. What happened was pretty nearly as follows: The king, having first spoken with great kindness to my companion, inquiring circumstantially about his mother and grandmother, as persons particularly well known to himself, then turned his eye upon me. My name, it seems, had been communicated to him; he did not, therefore, inquire about that. Was I of Eton? This was his first question. I replied that I was not, but hoped I should be. Had I a father living? I had not: my father had been dead about eight years. "But you have a mother?" I had. "And she thinks of sending you to Eton?" I answered, that she had expressed such an intention in my hearing; but I was not sure whether that might not be in order to waive an argument with the person to whom she spoke, who happened to have been an Etonian. "O, but all people think highly of Eton; every body praises Eton. Your mother does right to inquire; there can be no harm in that; but the more she inquires, the more she will be satisfied-that I can answer for."

Next came a question which had been suggested by my name. Had my family come into England with the Huguenots at the revocation of the edict of Nantz? This was a tender point with me: of all things I could not endure to be supposed of French descent; yet it was a vexation I had constantly to face, as most people supposed that my name argued a French origin; whereas a Norman origin argued pretty certainly an origin not French. I replied, with some haste, "Please your majesty, the family has been in England since the conquest." It is probable that I colored, or showed some mark of discomposure, with which, however, the king was not displeased, for he smiled, and said, "How do you know that?" Here I was at a loss for a moment how to answer; for I was sensible that it did not become me to occupy the king's attention with any long stories or traditions about a subject so unimportant as my own family; and yet it was necessary that I should say something, unless I would be thought to have denied my Huguenot descent upon no reason or authority. After a moment's hesitation, I said, in effect, that the family from which I traced my descent had certainly been a great and leading one at the era of the barons' wars, as also in one at least of the crusades; and that I had myself seen many notices of this family, not only in books of heraldry, &c., but in the very earliest of all English books. "And what book was that?" "Robert of Gloucester's 'Metrical Chronicle,' which I understood, from internal evidence, to have been written about 1280." The king smiled again, and said, "I know, I know." But what it was that he knew, long afterwards puzzled me to conjecture. I now imagine, however, that he meant to claim a knowledge of the book I referred to-a thing which at that time I thought improbable, supposing the king's acquaintance with literature not to be very extensive, nor likely to have comprehended any knowledge at all of the blackletter period. But in this belief I was greatly mistaken, as I was afterwards fully convinced by the best evidence from various quarters. That library of 120,000 volumes, which George IV. presented to the nation, and which has since gone to swell the collection at the British Museum, had been formed (as I was often assured by persons to whom the whole history of the library, and its growth from small rudiments, was familiarly known) under the direct personal superintendence of George III. It was a favorite and pet creation; and his care extended even to the dressing of the books in appropriate bindings, and (as one man told me) to their health; explaining himself to mean, that in any case where a book was worm-eaten, or touched however slightly with the worm, the king was anxious to prevent the injury from extending, or from infecting others by close neighborhood; for it is supposed by many that such injuries spread rapidly in favorable situations. One of my informants was a German bookbinder of great respectability, settled in London, and for many years employed by the Admiralty as a confidential binder of records or journals containing secrets of office, &c. Through this connection he had been recommended to the service of his majesty, whom he used to see continually in the course of his attendance at Buckingham House, where the books were deposited. This artist had (originally in the way of his trade) become well acquainted with the money value of English books; and that knowledge cannot be acquired without some concurrent knowledge of their subject and their kind of merit. Accordingly, he was tolerably well qualified to estimate any man's attainments as a reading man; and from him I received such circumstantial accounts of many conversations he had held with the king, evidently reported with entire good faith and simplicity, that I cannot doubt the fact of his majesty's very general acquaintance with English literature. Not a day passed, whenever the king happened to be at Buckingham House, without his coming into the binding room, and minutely inspecting the progress of the binder and his allies- the gilders, toolers, &c. From the outside of the book the transition was natural to its value in the scale of bibliography; and in that way my informant had ascertained that the king was well acquainted, not only with Robert of Gloucester, but with all the other early chronicles, published by Hearne, and, in fact, possessed that entire series which rose at one period to so enormous a price. From this person I learned afterwards that the king prided himself especially upon his early folios of Shakspeare; that is to say, not merely upon the excellence of the individual copies in a bibliographical sense, as "tall copies" and having large margins, &c., but chiefly from their value in relation to the most authentic basis for the text of the poet. And thus it appears, that at least two of our kings, Charles I. and George III., have made it their pride to profess a reverential esteem for Shakspeare. This bookbinder added his attestation to the truth (or to the generally reputed truth) of a story which I had heard from other authority, viz., that the librarian, or, if not officially the librarian, at least the chief director in every thing relating to the books, was an illegitimate son of Frederic, Prince of Wales, (son to George II.,) and therefore half-brother of the king. His own taste and inclinations, it seemed, concurred with his brother's wishes in keeping him in a subordinate rank and an obscure station; in which, however, he enjoyed affluence without anxiety, or trouble, or courtly envy, and the luxury, which he most valued, of a superb library. He lived and died, I have heard, as plain Mr. Barnard. At one time I disbelieved the story, (which possibly may have been long known to the public,) on the ground that even George III. would not have differed so widely from princes in general as to leave a brother of his own, however unaspiring, wholly undistinguished by public honors. But having since ascertained that a naval officer, well known to my own family, and to a naval brother of my own in particular, by assistance rendered to him repeatedly when a midshipman in changing his ship, was undoubtedly an illegitimate son of George III., and yet that he never rose higher than the rank of post captain, though privately acknowledged by his father and other members of the royal family, I found the insufficiency of that objection. The fact is, and it does honor to the king's memory, he reverenced the moral feelings of his country, which are, in this and in all points of domestic morals, severe and high toned, (I say it in defiance of writers, such as Lord Byron, Mr. Hazlitt, &c., who hated alike the just and the unjust pretensions of England,) in a degree absolutely incomprehensible to Southern Europe. He had his frailties like other children of Adam; but he did not seek to fix the public attention upon them, after the fashion of Louis Quatorze, or our Charles II., and so many other continental princes. There were living witnesses (more than one) of his aberrations as of theirs; but he, with better feelings than they, did not choose, by placing these witnesses upon a pedestal of honor, surmounted by heraldic trophies, to emblazon his own transgressions to coming generations, and to force back the gaze of a remote posterity upon his own infirmities. It was his ambition to be the father of his people in a sense not quite so literal. These were things, however, of which at that time I had not heard.

During the whole dialogue, I did not even once remark that hesitation and iteration of words generally attributed to George III.; indeed, so generally, that it must often have existed; but in this case, I suppose that the brevity of his sentences operated to deliver him from any embarrassment of utterance, such as might have attended longer and more complex sentences, where some anxiety was natural to overtake the thoughts as they arose. When we observed that the king had paused in his stream of questions, which succeeded rapidly to each other, we understood it as a signal of dismissal; and making a profound obeisance, we retired backwards a few steps. His majesty smiled in a very gracious manner, waved his hand towards us, and said something (I did not know what) in a peculiarly kind accent; he then turned round, and the whole party along with him; which set us at liberty without impropriety to turn to the right about ourselves, and make our egress from the gardens.

This incident, to me at my age, was very naturally one of considerable interest. One reflection it suggested afterwards, which was this: Could it be likely that much truth of a general nature, bearing upon man and social interests, could ever reach the ear of a king, under the etiquette of a court, and under that one rule which seemed singly sufficient to foreclose all natural avenues to truth?-the rule, I mean, by which it is forbidden to address a question to the king. I was well aware, before I saw him, that in the royal presence, like the dead soldier in Lucan, whom the mighty necromancing witch tortures back into a momentary life, I must have no voice except for answers:-

"Vox illi linguaque tantum Responsura datur." [4]

I was to originate nothing myself; and at my age, before so exalted a personage, the mere instincts of reverential demeanor would at any rate have dictated such a rule. But what becomes of that man's general condition of mind in relation to all the great objects moving on the field of human experience, where it is a law generally for almost all who approach him, that they shall confine themselves to replies, absolute responses, or, at most, to a prosecution or carrying forward of a proposition delivered by the protagonist, or supreme leader of the conversation? For it must be remembered that, generally speaking, the effect of putting no question is to transfer into the other party's hands the entire originating movement of the dialogue; and thus, in a musical metaphor, the great man is the sole modulator and determiner of the key in which the conversation proceeds. It is true, that sometimes, by travelling a little beyond the question in your answer, you may enlarge the basis, so as to bring up some new train of thought which you wish to introduce, and may suggest fresh matter as effectually as if you had the liberty of more openly guiding the conversation, whether by way of question or by direct origination of a topic; but this depends on skill to improve an opening, or vigilance to seize it at the instant, and, after all, much upon accident; to say nothing of the crime, (a sort of petty treason, perhaps, or, what is it?) if you should be detected in your "improvements" and "enlargements of basis." The king might say, "Friend, I must tell my attorney general to speak with you, for I detect a kind of treason in your replies. They go too far. They include something which tempts my majesty to a notice; which is, in fact, for the long and the short of it, that you have been circumventing me half unconsciously into answering a question which has silently been insinuated by you." Freedom of communication, unfettered movement of thought, there can be none under such a ritual, which tends violently to a Byzantine, or even to a Chinese result of freezing, as it were, all natural and healthy play of the faculties under the petrific mace of absolute ceremonial and fixed precedent. For it will hardly be objected, that the privileged condition of a few official councillors and state ministers, whose hurry and oppression of thought from public care will rarely allow them to speak on any other subject than business, can be a remedy large enough for so large an evil. True it is, that a peculiarly frank or jovial temperament in a sovereign may do much for a season to thaw this punctilious reserve and ungenial constraint; but that is an accident, and personal to an individual. And, on the other hand, to balance even this, it may be remarked, that, in all noble and fashionable society, where there happens to be a pride in sustaining what is deemed a good tone in conversation, it is peculiarly aimed at, (and even artificially managed,) that no lingering or loitering upon one theme, no protracted discussion, shall be allowed. And, doubtless, as regards merely the treatment of convivial or purely social communication of ideas, (which also is a great art,) this practice is right. I admit willingly that an uncultured brute, who is detected at an elegant table in the atrocity of absolute discussion or disputation, ought to be summarily removed by a police officer; and possibly the law will warrant his being held to bail for one or two years, according to the enormity of his case. But men are not always enjoying, or seeking to enjoy, social pleasure; they seek also, and have need to seek continually, both through books and men, intellectual growth, fresh power, fresh strength, to keep themselves ahead or abreast of this moving, surging, billowing world of ours; especially in these modern times, when society revolves through so many new phases, and shifts its aspects with so much more velocity than in past ages. A king, especially of this country, needs, beyond most other men, to keep himself in a continual state of communication, as it were, by some vital and organic sympathy, with the most essential of these changes. And yet this punctilio of etiquette, like some vicious forms of law or technical fictions grown too narrow for the age, which will not allow of cases coming before the court in a shape desired alike by the plaintiff and the defendant, is so framed as to defeat equally the wishes of a prince disposed to gather knowledge where

ver he can find it, and of those who may be best fitted to give it.

For a few minutes on three other occasions, before we finally quitted Eton, I again saw the king, and always with renewed interest. He was kind to every body-condescending and affable in a degree which I am bound to remember with personal gratitude; and one thing I had heard of him, which even then, and much more as my mind opened to a wider compass of deeper reflection, won my respect. I have always reverenced a man of whom it could be truly said that he had once, and once only, (for more than once implies another unsoundness in the quality of the passion,) been desperately in love; in love, that is to say, in a terrific excess, so as to dally, under suitable circumstances, with the thoughts of cutting his own throat, or even (as the case might be) the throat of her whom he loved above all this world. It will be understood that I am not justifying such enormities; on the contrary, they are wrong, exceedingly wrong; but it is evident that people in general feel pretty much as I do, from the extreme sympathy with which the public always pursue the fate of any criminal who has committed a murder of this class, even though tainted (as generally it is) with jealousy, which, in itself, wherever it argues habitual mistrust, is an ignoble passion. [5]

Great passions, (do not understand me, reader, as though I meant great appetites,) passions moving in a great orbit, and transcending little regards, are always arguments of some latent nobility. There are, indeed, but few men and few women capable of great passions, or (properly speaking) of passions at all. Hartley, in his mechanism of the human mind, propagates the sensations by means of vibrations, and by miniature vibrations, which, in a Roman form for such miniatures, he terms vibratiuncles. Now, of men and women generally, parodying that terminology, we ought to say-not that they are governed by passions, or at all capable of passions, but of passiuncles. And thence it is that few men go, or can go, beyond a little love-liking, as it is called; and hence also, that, in a world where so little conformity takes place between the ideal speculations of men and the gross realities of life, where marriages are governed in so vast a proportion by convenience, prudence, self-interest,-any thing, in short, rather than deep sympathy between the parties,-and, consequently, where so many men must be crossed in their inclinations, we yet hear of so few tragic catastrophes on that account. The king, however, was certainly among the number of those who are susceptible of a deep passion, if every thing be true that is reported of him. All the world has heard that he was passionately devoted to the beautiful sister of the then Duke of Richmond. That was before his marriage; and I believe it is certain that he not only wished, but sincerely meditated, to have married her. So much is matter of notoriety. But other circumstances of the case have been sometimes reported, which imply great distraction of mind and a truly profound possession of his heart by that early passion; which, in a prince whose feelings are liable so much to the dispersing and dissipating power of endless interruption from new objects and fresh claims on the attention, coupled also with the fact that he never, but in this one case, professed any thing amounting to extravagant or frantic attachment, do seem to argue that the king was truly and passionately in love with Lady Sarah Lennox. He had a demon upon him, and was under a real possession. If so, what a lively expression of the mixed condition of human fortunes, and not less of another truth equally affecting, viz., the dread conflicts with the will, the mighty agitations which silently and in darkness are convulsing many a heart, where, to the external eye, all is tranquil,-that this king, at the very threshold of his public career, at the very moment when he was binding about his brows the golden circle of sovereignty, when Europe watched him with interest, and the kings of the earth with envy, not one of the vulgar titles to happiness being wanting,-youth, health, a throne the most splendid on this planet, general popularity amongst a nation of freemen, and the hope which belongs to powers as yet almost untried,-that, even under these most flattering auspices, he should be called upon to make a sacrifice the most bitter of all to which human life is liable! He made it; and he might then have said to his people, "For you, and to my public duties, I have made a sacrifice which none of you would have made for me." In years long ago, I have heard a woman of rank recurring to the circumstances of Lady Sarah's first appearance at court after the king's marriage. If I recollect rightly, it occurred after that lady's own marriage with Sir Charles Bunbury. Many eyes were upon both parties at that moment,-female eyes, especially,-and the speaker did not disguise the excessive interest with which she herself observed them. Lady Sarah was not agitated, but the king was. He seemed anxious, sensibly trembled, changed color, and shivered, as Lady S. B. drew near. But, to quote the one single eloquent sentiment, which I remember after a lapse of thirty years, in Monk Lewis's Romantic Tales, "In this world all things pass away; blessed be Heaven, and the bitter pangs by which sometimes it is pleased to recall its wanderers, even our passions pass away!" And thus it happened that this storm also was laid asleep and forgotten, together with so many others of its kind that have been, and that shall be again, so long as man is man, and woman woman. Meantime, in justification of a passion so profound, one would be glad to think highly of the lady that inspired it; and, therefore, I heartily hope that the insults offered to her memory in the scandalous "Memoirs of the Duc de Lauzun" are mere calumnies, and records rather of his presumptuous wishes than of any actual successes. [6]

However, to leave dissertation behind me, and to resume the thread of my narrative, an incident, which about this period impressed me even more profoundly than my introduction to a royal presence, was my first visit to London.


[1] My acquaintance with Lord Westport was of some years' standing. My father, whose commercial interests led him often to Ireland, had many friends there. One of these was a country gentleman connected with the west; and at his house I first met Lord Westport.

[2] "Sir," said the emperor to a soldier who had missed the target in succession I know not how many times, (suppose we say fifteen,) "allow me to offer my congratulations on the truly admirable skill you have shown in keeping clear of the mark. Not to have hit once in so many trials, argues the most splendid talents for missing."

[3] France was at that time among the royal titles, the act for altering the king's style and title not having then passed. As connected with this subject, I may here mention a project (reported to have been canvassed in council at the time when that alteration did take place) for changing the title from king to emperor. What then occurred strikingly illustrates the general character of the British policy as to all external demonstrations of pomp and national pretension, and its strong opposition to that of France under corresponding circumstances. The principle of esse quam videri, and the carelessness about names when the thing is unaffected, generally speaking, must command praise and respect. Yet, considering how often the reputation of power becomes, for international purposes, nothing less than power itself, and that words, in many relations of human life, are emphatically things, and sometimes are so to the exclusion of the most absolute things themselves, men of all qualities being often governed by names, the policy of France seems the wiser, viz., se faire valoir, even at the price of ostentation. But, at all events, no man is entitled to exercised that extrem candor, forbearance, and spirit of ready concession in re aliena, and, above all, in re politica, which, on its own account, might be altogether honorable. The council might give away their own honors, but not yours and mine. On a public (or at least on a foreign) interest, it is the duty of a good citizen to be lofty, exacting, almost insolent. And, on this principle, when the ancient style and title of the kingdom fell under revision, if-as I do not deny-it was advisable to retrench all obsolete pretensions as so many memorials of a greatness that in that particular manifestation was now extinct, and therefore, pro tanto, rather presumtions of weakness than of strength as being mementoes of our losses, yet, on the other hand, all countervailing claims which had since arisen, and had far more than equiponderated the declension in that one direction, should have been then adopted into the titular heraldry of the nation. It was neither wise nor just to insult foreign nations with assumptions which no longer stood upon any basis of reality. And on that ground France was, perhaps, rightly omitted. But why, when the crown was thus remoulded, and its jewelry unset, if this one pearl were to be surrendered as an ornament no longer ours, why, we may ask, were not the many and gorgeous jewels, achieved by the national wisdom and power in later times, adopted into the recomposed tiara? Upon what principle did the Romans, the wisest among the children of this world, leave so many inscriptions, as records of their power or their triumphs, upon columns, arches, temples, basilicae, or medals? A national act, a solemn and deliberate act, delivered to history, is a more imperishable monument than any made by hands; and the title, as revised, which ought to have expressed a change in the dominion simply as to the mode and form of its expansion, now remains as a false, base, abject confession of absolute contraction: once we had A, B, and C; now we have dwindled into A and B: true, most unfaithful guardian of the national honors, we had lost C, and that you were careful to remember. But we happend to have gained D, E, F,-and so downwards to Z,-all of which duly you forgot.

On this argument, it was urged at the time, in high quarters, that the new re-cast of the crown and sceptre should come out of the furnace equally improved; as much for what they were authorized to claim as for what they were compelled to disclaim. And, as one mode of effecting this, it was proposed that the king should become an emperor. Some, indeed, alleged that an emperor, but its very idea, as received in the Chancery of Europe, presupposes a king paramount over vassal or tributary kings. But it is a sufficient answer to say that an emperor is a prince, united in his own person the thrones of several distinct kingdoms; and in effect we adopt that view of the case in giving the title of imperial to the parliament, or common assembly of the three kingdoms. However, the title of the prince was a matter trivial in comparison of the title of his ditio, or extent of jurisdiction. This point admits of a striking illustration: in the "Paradise Regained," Milton has given us, in close succession, three matchless pictures of civil grandeur, as exemplified in three different modes by three different states. Availing himself of the brief scriptural notice,-"The devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,"-he causes to pass, as in a solemn pageant before us, the two military empires then coexisting, of Parthia and Rome, and finally (under another idea of political greatness) the intellectual glories of Athens. From the picture of the Roman grandeur I extract, and beg the reader to weigh, the following lines:-

"Thence to the gates cast round thine eye, and see-at

What conflux issuing forth or entering in;

Pretors, proconsuls, to their provinces

Hasting, or on return in robes of state;

Lictors and rods, the ensigns of their power;

Legions or cohorts, turns of horse and wings;

Or embassies from regions far remote,

In various habits on the Appian road,

Or on the Emilian; some from farthest south,

Syene, and where the shadow both way falls,

Mero?, Nilotic isle: and, more to west,

The realm of Bocchus to the Blackmoor Sea;

From India and the Golden Chersonese,

And utmost Indian isle, Taprobane,

-Dusk faces with white silken turbans wreathed;

From Gallia, Gades, and the British, west,

Germans, and Scythians, and Sarmatians, north,

Beyond Danubius to the Tauric pool."

With this superb picture, or abstraction of the Roman pomps and power, when ascending to their utmost altitude, confront the following representative sketch of a great English levee on some high solemnity, suppose the king's birthday: "Amongst the presentations to his majesty, we noticed Lord O. S., the governor general of India, on his departure for Bengal; Mr. U. Z., with an address from the Upper and Lower Canadas; Sir L. V., on his appointment as commander of the forces in Nova Scotia; General Sir --, on his return from the Burmese war, ["the Golden Chersonese,"] the commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean fleet; Mr. B. Z., on his appointment to the chief justiceship at Madras; Sir R. G., the late attorney general at the Cape of Good Hope; General Y. X., on taking leave for the governorship of Ceylon, ["the utmost Indian isle, Taprobane;"] Lord F. M., the bearer of the last despatches from head quarters in Spain; Col. P., on going out as captain general of the forces in New Holland; Commodore St. L., on his return from a voyage of discovery towards the north pole; the King of Owhyhee, attended by chieftains from the other islands of that cluster; Col. M'P., on his return from the war in Ashantee, upon which occasion the gallant colonel presented the treaty and tribute from that country; Admiral --, on his appointment to the Baltic fleet; Captain O. N., with despatches from the Red Sea, advising the destruction of the piratical armament and settlements in that quarter, as also in the Persian Gulf; Sir T. O'N., the late resident in Nepaul, to present his report of the war in that territory, and in adjacent regions-names as yet unknown in Europe; the governor of the Leeward Islands, on departing for the West Indies; various deputations with petitions, addresses, &c., from islands in remote quarters of the globe, amongst which we distinguished those from Prince Edward Island, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, from, the Mauritius, from Java, from the British settlement in Terra del Fuego, from the Christian churches in the Society, Friendly, and Sandwich Islands-as well as other groups less known in the South Seas; Admiral H. A., on assuming the command of the Channel fleet; Major Gen. X. L., on resigning the lieutenant governorship of Gibraltar; Hon. G. F., on going out as secretary to the governor of Malta," &c.

This sketch, too hastily made up, is founded upon a base of a very few years; i.e., we have, in one or two instances, placed in juxtaposition, as coexistences, events separated by a few years. But if (like Milton's picture of the Roman grandeur) the abstraction had been made from a base of thirty years in extent, and had there been added to the picture (according to his precedent) the many and remote embassies to and from independent states, in all quarters of the earth, with how many more groups might the spectacle have been crowded, and especially of those who fall within that most picturesque delineation-

"Dusk faces with white silken turbans wreathed"!

As it is, I have noticed hardly any places but such as lie absolutely within our jurisdiction. And yet, even under that limitation, how vastly more comprehensive is the chart of British dominion than of the Roman! To this gorgeous empire, some corresponding style and title should have been adapted at the revision of the old title, and should yet be adapted.

Apropos of the proposed change in the king's title: Coleridge, on being assured that the new title of the king was to be Emperor of the British Islands and their dependencies, and on the coin Imperator Britanniarum, remarked, that, in this remanufactured form, the title might be said to be japanned; alluding to this fact, that amongst insular sovereigns, the only one known to Christian diplomacy by the title of emperor is the Sovereign of Japan.

[4] For the sake of those who are no classical scholars, I explain: Voice and language are restored to him only to the extent of replying.

[5] Accordingly, Coleridge has contended, and I think with truth, that the passion of Othello is not jealousy. So much I know by report, as the result of a lecture which he read at the Royal Institution. His arguments I did not hear. To me it is evident that Othello's state of feeling was not that of a degrading, suspicious rivalship, but the state of perfect misery, arising out of this dilemma, the most affecting, perhaps, to contemplate of any which can exist, viz., the dire necessity of loving without limit one whom the heart pronounces to be unworthy of that love.

[6] That book, I am aware, is generally treated as a forgery; but internal evidence, drawn from the tone and quality of the revelations there made, will not allow me to think it altogether such. There is an abandon and carelessness in parts which mark its sincerity. Its authenticity I cannot doubt. But that proves nothing for the truth of the particular stories which it contains. A book of scandalous and defamatory stories, especially where the writer has had the baseness to betray the confidence reposed in his honor by women, and to boast of favors alleged to have been granted him, it is always fair to consider as ipso facto a tissue of falsehoods: and on the following argument, that these are exposures which, even if true, none but the basest of men would have made. Being, therefore, on the hypothesis most favorable to his veracity, the basest of men, the author is self-denounced as vile enough to have forged the stories, and cannot complain if he should be roundly accused of doing that which he has taken pains to prove himself capable of doing. This way of arguing might be applied with fatal effect to the Duc de Lauzun's "Memoirs," supposing them written with a view to publication. But, by possibility, that was not the case. The Duc de L. terminated his profligate life, as is well known, on the scaffold, during the storms of the French revolution; and nothing in his whole career won him so much credit as the way in which he closed it; for he went to his death with a romantic carelessness, and even gayety of demeanor. His "Memoirs" were not published by himself: the publication was posthumous; and by whom authorized, or for what purpose, is not exactly known. Probably the manuscript fell into mercenary hands, and was published merely on a speculation of pecuniary gain. From some passages, however, I cannot but infer that the writer did not mean to bring it before the public, but wrote it rather as a series of private memoranda, to aid his own recollection of circumstances and dates. The Duc de Lauzun's account of his intrigue with Lady Sarah goes so far as to allege, that he rode down in disguise, from London to Sir Charles B.'s country seat, agreeably to a previous assignation, and that he was admitted, by that lady's confidential attendant, through a back staircase, at the time when Sir Charles (a fox hunter, but a man of the highest breeding and fashion) was himself at home, and occupied in the duties of hospitality.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top