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GODOLPHIN, Volume 2.
By Edward Bulwer Lytton
THE FEELINGS OF CONSTANCE AND GODOLPHIN TOWARDS EACH OTHER. - THE
DISTINCTION IN THEIR CHARACTERS. - REMARKS ON THE EFFECTS PRODUCED BY THE
WORLD UPON GODOLPHIN. - THE HIDE. - RURAL DESCRIPTIONS. - OMENS. - THE FIRST
Every day, at the hour in which Constance was visible, Godolphin had
loaded the keeper, and had returned to attend upon her movements. They
walked and rode together; and in the evening, Godolphin hung over her
chair, and listened to her songs; for though, as I have before said, she
had but little science in instrumental music, her voice was rich and soft
beyond the pathos of ordinary singers.
Lady Erpingham saw, with secret delight, what she believed to be a growing
attachment. She loved Constance for herself, and Godolphin for his
father's memory. She thought again and again what a charming couple they
would make - so handsome - so gifted: and if Prudence whispered also - so
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poor, the kind Countess remembered, that she herself had saved from her
ample jointure a sum which she had always designed as a dowry for
Constance, and which, should Godolphin be the bridegroom, she felt she
should have a tenfold pleasure in bestowing. With this fortune, which
would place them, at least, in independence, she united in her kindly
imagination the importance which she imagined Godolphin's talents must
ultimately acquire; and for which, in her aristocratic estimation, she
conceived the senate the only legitimate sphere. She said, she hinted,
nothing to Constance; but she suffered nature, youth, and companionship to
exercise their sway.
And the complexion of Godolphin's feelings for Constance Vernon did indeed
resemble love - was love itself, though rather love in its romance than its
reality. What were those of Constance for him? She knew not herself at
that time. Had she been of a character one shade less ambitious, or less
powerful, they would have been love, and love of no common character. But
within her musing, and self-possessed, and singularly constituted mind,
there was, as yet, a limit to every sentiment, a chain to the wings of
every thought, save those of one order; and that order was not of love.
There was a marked difference, in all respects, between the characters of
the two; and it was singular enough, that that of the woman was the less
romantic, and composed of the simpler materials.
A volume of Wordsworth's most exquisite poetry had then just appeared.
"Is not this wonderful?" said Godolphin, reciting some of those lofty,
but refining thoughts which characterise the Pastor of modern poets.
Constance shook her head.
"What! you do not admire it?"
"I do not understand it."
"What poetry do you admire?"
It was Pope's translation of the Iliad.
"Yes, yes, to be sure," said Godolphin, a little vexed; "we all admire
this in its way: but what else?"
Constance pointed to a passage in the Palamon and Arcite of Dryden.
Godolphin threw down his Wordsworth. "You take an ungenerous advantage of
me," said he. "Tell me something you admire, which, at least, I may have
the privilege of disputing, - something that you think generally
"I admire few things that are generally neglected," answered Constance,
with her bright and proud smile. "Fame gives its stamp to all metal that
is of intrinsic value."
This answer was quite characteristic of Constance: she worshipped fame far
more than the genius which won it. "Well, then," said Godolphin, "let us
see now if we can come to a compromise of sentiment;" and be took up the
Comus of Milton.
No one read poetry so beautifully: his voice was so deep and flexible; and
his countenance answered so well to every modulation of his voice.
Constance was touched by the reader, but not by the verse. Godolphin had
great penetration; he perceived it, and turned to the speeches of Satan in
Paradise Lost. The noble countenance before him grew luminous at once:
the lip quivered, the eye sparkled; the enthusiasm of Godolphin was not
comparable to that of Constance. The fact was, that the broad and common
emotions of the intellectual character struck upon the right key.
Courage, defiance, ambition, these she comprehended to their fullest
extent; but the rich subtleties of thought which mark the cold and bright
page of the Comus; the noble Platonism - the high and rare love for what is
abstractedly good, these were not "sonorous and trumpet-speaking" enough
for the heart of one meant by Nature for a heroine or a queen, not a
poetess or a philosopher.
But all that in literature was delicate, and half-seen, and abstruse, had
its peculiar charm for Godolphin. Of a reflective and refining mind, he
had early learned to despise the common emotions of men: glory touched him
not, and to ambition he had shut his heart. Love, with him - even though
he had been deemed, not unjustly, a man of gallantry and pleasure - love
was not compounded of the ordinary elements of the passions. Full of
dreams, and refinements, and intense abstractions, it was a love that
seemed not homely enough for endurance, and of too rare a nature to hope
for sympathy in return.
And so it was in his intercourse with Constance, both were continually
disappointed. "You do not feel this," said Constance. "She cannot
understand me," sighed Godolphin.
But we must not suppose - despite his refinements, and his reveries, and
his love for the intellectual and the pure - that Godolphin was of a
stainless character or mind. He was one who, naturally full of decided
and marked qualities, was, by the peculiar elements of our society,
rendered a doubtful, motley, and indistinct character, tinctured by the
frailties that leave us in a wavering state between vice and virtue. The
energies that had marked his boyhood were dulled and crippled in the
indolent life of the world. His wandering habits for the last few
years - the soft and poetical existence of the South - had fed his natural
romance, and nourished that passion for contemplation which the
intellectual man of pleasure so commonly forms; for pleasure has a
philosophy of its own - a sad, a fanciful, yet deep persuasion of the
vanity of all things - a craving after the bright ideal -
"The desire of the moth for the star."
Solomon's thirst for pleasure was the companion of his wisdom: satiety was
the offspring of the one - discontent of the other. But this philosophy,
though seductive, is of no wholesome nor usefnl character; it is the
philosophy of feelings, not principles - of the heart, not head. So with
Godolphin: he was too refined in his moralising to cling to what was
moral. The simply good and the simply bad he left for us plain folks to
discover. He was unattracted by the doctrines of right and wrong which
serve for all men; but he had some obscure and shadowy standard in his own
mind by which he compared the actions of others. He had imagination,
genius, even heart; was brilliant always, sometimes profound; graceful in
society, yet seldom social: a lonely man, yet a man of the world; generous
to individuals, selfish to the mass. How many fine qualities worse than
Who will not allow that he has met many such men? - and who will not follow
this man to his end?
One day (it was the last of Godolphin's protracted visit) as the sun was
waning to its close, and the time was unusually soft and tranquil,
Constance and Godolphin were returning slowly home from their customary
ride. They passed by a small inn, bearing the common sign of the
"Chequers," round which a crowd of peasants were assembled, listening to
the rude music which a wandering Italian boy drew from his guitar. The
scene was rustic and picturesque; and as Godolphin reined in his horse and
gazed on the group, he little dreamed of the fierce and dark emotions with
which, at a far distant period, he was destined to revisit that spot.
"Our peasants," said he, as they rode on, "require some humanising
relaxation like that we have witnessed. The music and the morris-dance
have gone from England; and instead of providing, as formerly, for the
amusement of the grinded labourer, our legislators now regard with the
most watchful jealousy his most distant approach to festivity. They
cannot bear the rustic to be merry: disorder and amusement are words for
the same offence."
"I doubt," said the earnest Constance, "whether the legislators are not
right. For men given to amusement are easily enslaved. All noble
thoughts are grave."
Thus talking, they passed a shallow ford in the stream. "We are not far
from the Priory," said Godolphin, pointing to its ruins, that rose greyly
in the evening skies from the green woods around it.
Constance sighed involuntarily. She felt pain in being reminded of the
slender fortunes of her companion. Ascending the gentle hill that swelled
from the stream, she now, to turn the current of her thoughts, pointed
admiringly to the blue course of the waters, as they wound through their
shagged banks. And deep, dark, rushing, even at that still hour, went the
stream through the boughs that swept over its surface. Here and there the
banks suddenly shelved down, mingling with the waves; then abruptly they
rose, overspread with thick and tangled umbrage, several feet above the
level of the river.
"How strange it is," said Godolphin, that at times a feeling comes over
us, as we gaze upon certain places, which associates the scene either with
some dim-remembered and dream-like images of the Past, or with a prophetic
and fearful omen of the Future! As I gaze now upon this spot - those
banks - that whirling river - it seems as if my destiny claimed a mysterious
sympathy with the scene: when - how-wherefore - I know not - guess not: only
this shadowy and chilling sentiment unaccountably creeps over me. Every
one has known a similar strange, indistinct, feeling at certain times and
places, and with a similar inability to trace the cause. And yet, is it
not singular that in poetry, which wears most feelings to an echo, I leave
never met with any attempt to describe it?"
"Because poetry," said Constance, "is, after all, but a hackneyed
imitation of the most common thoughts, giving them merely a gloss by the
brilliancy of verse. And yet how little poets _know!_ They _imagine,_
and they _imitate;_ - behold all their secrets!"
"Perhaps you are right," said Godolphin, musingly; "and I, who have often
vainly fancied I had the poetical temperament, have been so chilled and
sickened by the characteristics of the tribe, that I have checked its
impulses with a sort of disdain; and thus the Ideal, having no vent in me,
preys within, creating a thousand undefined dreams and unwilling
superstitions, making me enamoured of the Shadowy and Unknown, and
dissatisfying me with the petty ambitions of the world."
"You will awake hereafter," said Constance, earnestly.
Godolphin shook his head, and replied not.
Their way now lay along a green lane that gradually wound round a hill
commanding a view of great richness and beauty. Cottages, and spires, and
groves, gave life - but it was scattered and remote life - to the scene; and
the broad stream, whose waves, softened in the distance, did not seem to
break the even surface of the tide, flowed onward, glowing in the
sunlight, till it was lost among dark and luxuriant woods.
Both once more arrested their horses by a common impulse, and both became
suddenly silent as they gazed. Godolphin was the first to speak: it
brought to his memory a scene in that delicious land, whose Southern
loveliness Claude has transfused to the canvas, and De Stael to the page.
With his own impassioned and earnest language, he spoke to Constance of
that scene and that country. Every tree before him furnished matter for
his illustration or his contrast; and, as she heard that magic voice, and
speaking, too, of a country dedicated to love, Constance listened with
glistening eyes, and a cheek which he, - consummate master of the secrets
of womanhood - perceived was eloquent with thoughts which she knew not, but
which _he_ interpreted to the letter.
"And in such a spot," said he, continuing, and fixing his deep and
animated gaze on her, - "in such a spot I could have stayed for ever but
for one recollection, one feeling - _I should have been too much alone!_
In a wild or a grand, or even a barren country, we may live in solitude,
and find fit food for thought; but not in one so soft, so subduing, as
that which I saw and see. Love comes over us then in spite of ourselves;
and I feel - I feel now - "his voice trembled as he spoke - "that any secret
we may before have nursed, though hitherto unacknowledged, makes itself at
length a voice. We are oppressed with the desire to be loved; we long for
the courage to say we love."
Never before had Godolphin, though constantly verging into sentiment,
spoken to Constance in so plain a language. Eye, voice, cheek - all spoke.
She felt that he had confessed he loved her! And was she not happy at
that thought? She was: it was her happiest moment. But, in that sort of
vague and indistinct shrinking from the subject with which a woman who
loves hears a disclosure of love from him on whose lips it is most sweet,
she muttered some confused attempt to change the subject, and quickened
her horse's pace. Godolphin did not renew the topic so interesting and so
dangerous, only, as with the winding of the road the landscape gradually
faded from their view, he said, in a low voice, as if to himself, - "How
long, how fondly, shall I remember this day!"
GODOLPHIN'S RETURN HOME. - HIS SOLILOQUY. - LORD ERPINGHAM'S ARRIVAL AT
WENDOVER CASTLE. - THE EARL DESCRIBED. - HIS ACCOUNT OF GODOLPHIN'S LIFE AT
With a listless step, Godolphin re-entered the threshold of his
cottage-home. He passed into a small chamber, which was yet the largest
in his house. The poor and scanty furniture scattered around; the old,
tuneless, broken harpsichord; the worn and tattered carpet; the tenantless
birdcage in the recess by the window; the bookshelves, containing some
dozens of worthless volumes; the sofa of the last century (when, if people
knew comfort, they placed it not in lounging) small, narrow, highbacked,
hard, and knotted; these, just as his father had left, just as his boyhood
had seen, them, greeted him with a comfortless and chill, though familiar
welcome. It was evening: he ordered a fire and lights; and leaning his
face on his hand as he contemplated the fitful and dusky outbreakings of
the flame through the bars of the niggard and contracted grate, he sat
himself down to hold commune with his heart.
"So, I love this woman," said he, "do I? Have I not deceived myself? She
is poor - no connection; she has nothing whereby to reinstate my house's
fortunes, to rebuild this mansion, or repurchase yonder demesnes. I love
her! _I_ who have known the value of her sex so well, that I have said,
again and again, I would not shackle life with a princess! Love may
withstand possession - true - but not time. In three years there would be
no glory in the face of Constance, and I should be - what? My fortunes,
broken as they are, can support me alone, and with my few wants. But if
married! the haughty Constance my wife! Nay, nay, nay! this must not be
thought of! I, the hero of Paris! the pupil of Saville! I, to be so
beguiled as even to _dream_ of such a madness!
"Yet I have that within me that might make a stir in the world - I might
rise. Professions are open; the Diplomacy, the House of Commons. What!
Percy Godolphin be ass enough to grow ambitious! to toil, to fret, to
slave, to answer fools on a first principle, and die at length of a broken
heart for a lost place! Pooh, pooh! I, who despise your prime ministers,
can scarcely stoop to their apprenticeship. Life is too short for toil.
And what do men strive for? - to enjoy: but why not enjoy without the toil?
And relinquish Constance? Ay, it is but one woman lost!"
So ended the soliloquy of a man scarcely of age. The world teaches us its
last lessons betimes; but then, lest we should have nothing left to
acquire from its wisdom, it employs the rest of our life in unlearning all
that it first taught.
Meanwhile, the time approached when Lord Erpingham was to arrive at
Wendover Castle; and at length came the day itself. Naturally anxious to
enjoy as exclusively as possible the company of her son the first day of
his return from so long an absence, Lady Erpingham had asked no one to
meet him. The earl's heavy travelling-carriage at length rolled
clattering up the court-yard; and in a few minutes a tall man, in the
prime of life, and borrowing some favourable effect as to person from the
large cloak of velvet and furs which hung round him, entered the room, and
Lady Erpingham embraced her son. The kind and familiar manner with which
he answered her inquiries and congratulations was somewhat changed when he
suddenly perceived Constance. Lord Erpingham was a cold man, and, like
most cold men, ashamed of the evidence of affection. He greeted Constance
very quietly; and, as she thought, slightly: but his eyes turned to her
far more often than any friend of Lord Erpingham's might ever have
remarked those large round hazel eyes turn to any one before.
When the earl withdrew to adjust his toilet for dinner, Lady Erpingham, as
she wiped her eyes, could not help exclaiming to Constance, "Is he not
handsome? What a figure!"
Constance was a little addicted to flattery where she liked the one who
was to be flattered, and she assented readily enough to the maternal
remark. Hitherto, however, she had not observed anything more in Lord
Erpingham than his height and his cloak: as he re-entered and led her to
the dining-room she took a better, though still but a casual, survey.
Lord Erpingham was that sort of person of whom _men_ always say, "What a
prodigiously fine fellow!" He was above six feet high, stout in
proportion: not, indeed, accurately formed, nor graceful in bearing, but
quite as much so as a man of six feet high need be. He had a manly
complexion of brown, yellow, and red. His whiskers were exceedingly
large, black, and well arranged. His eyes, as I have before said, were
round, large, and hazel; they were also unmeaning. His teeth were good;
and his nose, neither aquiline nor Grecian, was yet a very showy nose upon
the whole. All the maidservants admired him; and you felt, in looking at
him, that it was a pity our army should lose so good a grenadier.
Lord Erpingham was a Whig of the old school: he thought the Tory boroughs
ought to be thrown open. He was generally considered a sensible man. He
had read Blackstone, Montesquieu, Cowper's Poems, and _The Rambler_; and
he was always heard with great attention in the House of Lords. In his
moral character he was a bon Vivant, as far as wine is concerned; for
choice _eating_ he cared nothing. He was good-natured, but close; brave
enough to fight a duel, if necessary; and religious enough to go to church
once a week - in the country.
So far Lord Erpingham might seem modelled from one of Sir Walter's heroes:
we must reverse the medal, and show the points in which he differed from
those patterns of propriety.
Like the generality of his class, he was peculiarly loose in his notions
of women, though not ardent in pursuit of them. His amours had been among
opera-dancers, "because," as he was wont to say, "there was no d - d bore
with _them._" Lord Erpingham was always considered a high-minded man.
People chose him as an umpire in quarrels; and told a story (which was not
true) of his having held some state office for a whole year, and insisted
on returning the emoluments.
Such was Robert Earl of Erpingham. During dinner, at which he displayed,
to his mother's great delight, a most excellent appetite, he listened, as
well as he might, considering the more legitimate occupation of the time
and season, to Lady Erpingham's recitals of county history; her long
answers to his brief inquiries whether old friends were dead and young
ones married; and his countenance brightened up to an expression of
interest - almost of intelligence - when he was told that birds were said to
be plentiful. As the servants left the room, and Lord Erpingham took his
first glass of claret, the conversation fell upon Percy Godolphin.
"He has been staying with us a whole fortnight," said Lady Erpingham;
"and, by the by, he said he had met you in Italy, and mentioned your name
as it deserved."
"Indeed! And did he really condescend to praise me?" said Lord
Erpingham, with eagerness; for there was that about Godolphin, and his
reputation for fastidiousness, which gave a rarity and a value to his
praise, at least to lordly ears. "Ah! he's a queer fellow; he led a very
singular life in Italy."
"So I have always heard," said Lady Erpingham. "But of what description?
was he very wild?"
"No, not exactly: there was a good deal of mystery about him: he saw very
few English, and those were chiefly men who played high. He was said to
have a great deal of learning and so forth."
"Oh! then he was surrounded, I suppose, by those medalists and
picture-sellers, and other impostors, who live upon such of our countrymen
as think themselves blessed with a taste or afflicted with a genius," said
Lady Erpingham; who, having lived with the wits and orators of the time,
had caught mechanically their way of rounding a period.
"Far from it!" returned the earl. "Godolphin is much too deep a fellow
for that; he's not easily taken in, I assure you. I confess I don't like
him the worse for that," added the close noble. "But he lived with the
Italian doctors and men of science; and encouraged, in particular, one
strange fellow who affected sorcery, I fancy, or something very like it.
Godolphin resided in a very lonely spot at Rome: and I believe
laboratories, and caldrons, and all sorts of devilish things, were always
at work there - at least so people said."
"And yet," said Constance, "you thought him too sensible to be easily
"Indeed I do, Miss Vernon; and the proof of it is, that no man has less
fortune or is made more of. He plays, it is true, but only occasionally;
though as a player at games of skill - piquet, billiards, whist, - he has no
equal, unless it be Saville. But then Saville, entre noun, is suspected
of playing unfairly."
"And you are quite sure," said the placid Lady Erpingham, "that Mr.
Godolphin is only indebted to skill for his success?"
Constance darted a glance of fire at the speaker.
"Why, faith, I believe so! No one ever accused him of a single shabby, or
even suspicious trick; and indeed, as I said before, no one was ever more
sought after in society, though he shuns it; and he's devilish right, for
it's a cursed bore!"
"My dear Robert! at your age!" exclaimed the mother. "But," continued
the earl, turning to Constance, - "but, Miss Vernon, a man may have his
weak point; and the cunning Italian may have hit on Godolphin's, clever as
he is in general; though, for my part, I will tell you frankly, I think he
only encouraged him to mystify and perplex people, just to get talked
of - vanity, in short. He's a good-looking fellow that Godolphin - eh?"
continued the earl, in the tone of a man who meant you to deny what he
"Oh, beautiful!" said Lady Erpingham. "Such a countenance!"
"Deuced pale, though! - eh? - and not the best of figures: thin,
narrow-shouldered, eh - eh?"
Godolphin's proportions were faultless; but your strapping heroes think of
a moderate-sized man as mathematicians define a point - declare that he has
no length nor breadth whatsoever.
"What say _you,_ Constance?" asked Lady Erpingham, meaningly.
Constance felt the meaning, and replied calmly, that Mr. Godolphin
appeared to her handsomer than any one she had seen lately.
Lord Erpingham played with his neckcloth, and Lady Erpingham rose to leave
the room. "D - d fine girl!" said the earl, as he shut the door upon
Constance; - "but d - d sharp!" added he, as he resettled himself on his
CONSTANCE AT HER TOILET. - HER FEELINGS. - HER CHARACTER OF BEAUTY
DESCRIBED. - THE BALL. - THE DUCHESS OF WINSTOUN AND HER DAUGHTER. - AN
INDUCTION FROM THE NATURE OF FEMALE RIVALRIES. - JEALOUSY IN A
LOVER. - IMPERTINENCE RETORTED. - LISTENERS NEVER HEAR GOOD OF
THEMSELVES. - REMARKS ON THE AMUSEMENTS OF A PUBLIC ASSEMBLY. - THE