Edward Bulwer Lytton Lytton.

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has the sanction of his lady: I have an example of that at home. My
mother (Lady Frances) is the best-tempered woman in the world: but my
father could no more take the liberty (for I may truly call it such) to
ask even his oldest friend to dinner, without consulting the mistress of
the house, than he could think of flying. No one (says my mother, and she
says what is very true,) can tell about the household affairs, but those
who have the management of them; and in pursuance of this aphorism, I
dare not accept any invitation in this house, except from its mistress."

"Really," said Mrs. Clutterbuck, colouring, with mingled embarrassment
and gratification, "you are very considerate and polite, Mr. Pelham: I
only wish Mr. Clutterbuck had half your attention to these things; nobody
can tell the trouble and inconvenience he puts me to. If I had known, a
little time before, that you were coming - but now I fear we have nothing
in the house; but if you can partake of our fare, such as it is, Mr.
Pelham - "

"Your kindness enchants me," I exclaimed, "and I no longer scruple to
confess the pleasure I have in accepting my old friend's offer."

This affair being settled, I continued to converse for some minutes with
as much vivacity as I could summon to my aid, and when I went once more
to the library, it was with the comfortable impression of having left
those as friends, whom I had visited as foes.

The dinner hour was four, and till it came, Clutterbuck and I amused
ourselves "in commune wise and sage." There was something high in the
sentiments and generous in the feelings of this man, which made me the
more regret the bias of mind which rendered them so unavailing. At
college he had never (illis dissimilis in nostro tempore natis) cringed
to the possessors of clerical power. In the duties of his station, as
dean of the college, he was equally strict to the black cap and the
lordly hat. Nay, when one of his private pupils, whose father was
possessed of more church preferment than any nobleman in the peerage,
disobeyed his repeated summons, and constantly neglected to attend his
instructions, he sent for him, resigned his tuition, and refused any
longer to accept a salary which the negligence of his pupil would not
allow him to requite. In his clerical tenets he was high: in his judgment
of others he was mild. His knowledge of the liberty of Greece was not
drawn from the ignorant historian of her republics; [Note: It is really a
disgrace to the University, that any of its colleges should accept as a
reference, or even tolerate as an author, the presumptuous bigot who has
bequeathed to us, in his History of Greece, the masterpiece of a
declaimer without energy, and of a pedant without learning.] nor did he
find in the contemplative mildness and gentle philosophy of the ancients,
nothing but a sanction for modern bigotry and existing abuses.

It was a remarkable trait in his conversation, that though he indulged in
many references to the old authors, and allusions to classic customs, he
never deviated into the innumerable quotations with which his memory was
stored. No words, in spite of all the quaintness and antiquity of his
dialect, purely Latin or Greek, ever escaped his lips, except in our
engagements at capping verses, or when he was allured into accepting a
challenge of learning from some of its pretenders; then, indeed, he could
pour forth such a torrent of authorities as effectually silenced his
opponent; but these contests were rarely entered into, and these triumphs
moderately indulged. Yet he loved the use of quotations in others, and I
knew the greatest pleasure I could give him was in the frequent use of
them. Perhaps he thought it would seem like an empty parade of learning
in one who so confessedly possessed it, to deal in the strange words of
another tongue, and consequently rejected them, while, with an innocent
inconsistency, characteristic of the man, it never occurred to him that
there was any thing, either in the quaintness of his dialect or the
occupations of his leisure, which might subject him to the same
imputation of pedantry.

And yet, at times, when he warmed in his subject, there was a tone in his
language as well as sentiment, which might not be improperly termed
eloquent; and the real modesty and quiet enthusiasm of his nature, took
away from the impression he made, the feeling of pomposity and
affectation with which otherwise he might have inspired you.

"You have a calm and quiet habitation here," said I; "the very rooks seem
to have something lulling in that venerable caw which it always does me
such good to hear."

"Yes," answered Clutterbuck, "I own that there is much that is grateful
to the temper of my mind in this retired spot. I fancy that I can the
better give myself up to the contemplation which makes, as it were, my
intellectual element and food. And yet I dare say that in this (as in all
other things) I do strongly err; for I remember that during my only
sojourn in London, I was wont to feel the sound of wheels and of the
throng of steps shake the windows of my lodging in the Strand, as if it
were but a warning to recal my mind more closely to its studies - of a
verity that noisy evidence of man's labour reminded me how little the
great interests of this rolling world were to me, and the feeling of
solitude amongst the crowds without, made me cling more fondly to the
company I found within. For it seems that the mind is ever addicted to
contraries, and that when it be transplanted into a soil where all its
neighbours do produce a certain fruit, it doth, from a strange
perversity, bring forth one of a different sort. You would little
believe, my honoured friend, that in this lonely seclusion, I cannot at
all times prohibit my thoughts from wandering to that gay world of
London, which, during my tarry therein, occupied them in so partial a
degree. You smile, my friend, nevertheless it is true; and when you
reflect that I dwelt in the western department of the metropolis, near
unto the noble mansion of Somerset House, and consequently in the very
centre of what the idle call Fashion, you will not be so surprised at the
occasional migration of my thoughts."

Here the worthy Clutterbuck paused and sighed slightly. "Do you farm or
cultivate your garden," said I; "they are no ignoble nor unclassical
employments?"

"Unhappily," answered Clutterbuck, "I am inclined to neither; my chest
pains me with a sharp and piercing pang when I attempt to stoop, and my
respiration is short and asthmatic; and, in truth, I seldom love to stir
from my books and papers. I go with Pliny to his garden, and with Virgil
to his farm; those mental excursions are the sole ones I indulge in; and
when I think of my appetite for application, and my love of idleness, I
am tempted to wax proud of the propensities which reverse the censure of
Tacitus on our German ancestors, and incline so fondly to quiet, while
they turn so restlessly from sloth."

Here the speaker was interrupted by a long, low, dry cough, which
penetrated me to the heart. 'Alas!' thought I, as I heard it, and looked
upon my poor friend's hectic and hollow cheek, 'it is not only his mind
that will be the victim to the fatality of his studies.'

It was some moments before I renewed the conversation, and I had scarcely
done so before I was interrupted by the entrance of Benjamin Jeremiah,
with a message from his aunt that dinner would be ready in a few minutes.
Another long whisper to Christopher succeeded. The ci-devant fellow of
Trinity looked down at his garments with a perplexed air. I saw at once
that he had received a hint on the propriety of a change of raiment. To
give him due leisure for this, I asked the youth to shew me a room in
which I might perform the usual ablutions previous to dinner, and
followed him upstairs to a comfortless sort of dressing-room, without a
fire-place, where I found a yellow were jug and basin, and a towel, of so
coarse a huckaback, that I did not dare adventure its rough texture next
my complexion - my skin is not made for such rude fellowship. While I was
tenderly and daintily anointing my hands with some hard water, of no
Blandusian spring, and that vile composition entitled Windsor soap, I
heard the difficult breathing of poor Clutterbuck on the stairs, and soon
after he entered the adjacent room. Two minutes more, and his servant
joined him, for I heard the rough voice of the domestic say, "There is no
more of the wine with the black seal left, Sir!"

"No more, good Dixon; you mistake grievously. I had two dozen not a week
since."

"Don't know, I'm sure, Sir!" answered Dixon, with a careless and half
impertinent accent; "but there are great things, like alligators, in the
cellar, which break all the bottles!"

"Alligators in my cellar!" said the astonished Clutterbuck.

"Yes, Sir - at least a venomous sort of reptile like them, which the
people about here call efts!"

"What!" said Clutterbuck, innocently, and evidently not seeing the irony
of his own question; "What! have the efts broken two dozen bottles in a
week? Of an exceeding surety, it is strange that a little creature of the
lizard species should be so destructive - perchance they have an antipathy
to the vinous smell; I will confer with my learned friend, Dr.
Dissectall, touching their strength and habits. Bring up some of the
port, then, good Dixon."

"Yes, Sir. All the corn is out; I had none for the gentleman's horse."

"Why, Dixon, my memory fails me strangely, or I paid you the sum of four
pounds odd shillings for corn on Friday last."

"Yes, Sir: but your cow and the chickens eat so much, and then blind
Dobbin has four feeds a day, and Farmer Johnson always puts his horse in
our stable, and Mrs. Clutterbuck and the ladies fed the jackass the other
day in the hired donkeychaise; besides, the rats and mice are always at
it."

"It is a marvel unto me," answered Clutterbuck, "how detrimental the
vermin race are; they seem to have noted my poor possessions as their
especial prey; remind me that I write to Dr. Dissectall to-morrow, good
Dixon."

"Yes, Sir, and now I think of it - " but here Mr. Dixon was cut short in
his items, by the entrance of a third person, who proved to be Mrs.
Clutterbuck.

"What, not dressed yet, Mr. Clutterbuck; what a dawdler you are! - and do
look - was ever woman so used? you have wiped your razor upon my nightcap-
-you dirty, slovenly - "

"I crave you many pardons; I own my error!" said Clutterbuck, in a
nervous tone of interruption.

"Error, indeed!" cried Mrs. Clutterbuck, in a sharp, overstretched,
querulous falsetto, suited to the occasion: "but this is always the case-
-I am sure, my poor temper is tried to the utmost - and Lord help thee,
idiot! you have thrust those spindle legs of yours into your coat-sleeves
instead of your breeches!"

"Of a truth, good wife, your eyes are more discerning than mine; and my
legs, which are, as you say, somewhat thin, have indued themselves in
what appertaineth not unto them; but for all that, Dorothea, I am not
deserving of the epithet of idiot, with which you have been pleased to
favour me; although my humble faculties are indeed of no eminent or
surpassing order - "

"Pooh! pooh! Mr. Clutterbuck, I am sure, I don't know what else you are,
muddling your head all day with those good-for-nothing books. And now do
tell me, how you could think of asking Mr. Pelham to dinner, when you
knew we had nothing in the world but hashed mutton and an apple pudding?
Is that the way, Sir, you disgrace your wife, after her condescension in
marrying you?"

"Really," answered the patient Clutterbuck, "I was forgetful of those
matters; but my friend cares as little as myself, about the grosser
tastes of the table; and the feast of intellectual converse is all that
he desires in his brief sojourn beneath our roof."

"Feast of fiddlesticks, Mr. Clutterbuck! did ever man talk such
nonsense?"

"Besides," rejoined the master of the house, unheeding this interruption,
"we have a luxury even of the palate, than which there are none more
delicate, and unto which he, as well as myself, is, I know, somewhat
unphilosophically given; I speak of the oysters, sent here by our good
friend, Dr. Swallow'em."

"What do you mean, Mr. Clutterbuck? My poor mother and I had those
oysters last night for our supper. I am sure she as well as my sister are
almost starved; but you are always wanting to be pampered up above us
all."

"Nay, nay," answered Clutterbuck, "you know you accuse me wrongfully,
Dorothea; but now I think of it, would it not be better to modulate the
tone of our conversation, seeing that our guest, (a circumstance which
until now quite escaped my recollection,) was shown into the next room,
for the purpose of washing his hands, the which, from their notable
cleanliness, seemed to me wholly unnecessary. I would not have him
overhear you, Dorothea, lest his kind heart should imagine me less happy
than - than it wishes me."

"Good God, Mr. Clutterbuck!" were the only words I heard farther: and
with tears in my eyes, and a suffocating feeling in my throat, for the
matrimonial situation of my unfortunate friend, I descended into the
drawing-room. The only one yet there, was the pale nephew; he was bending
painfully over a book; I took it from him, it was "Bentley upon
Phalaris." I could scarcely refrain from throwing it into the fire -
another victim, thought I - oh, the curse of an English education! By and
by, down came the mother and the sister, then Clutterbuck, and lastly,
bedizened out with gewgaws and trumpery - the wife. Born and nurtured as I
was in the art of the volto sciolto pensieri stretti, I had seldom found
a more arduous task of dissimulation than that which I experienced now.
However, the hope to benefit my friend's situation assisted me; the best
way, I thought, of obtaining him more respect from his wife, would be by
showing her the respect he meets with from others: accordingly, I sat
down by her, and having first conciliated her attention by some of that
coin, termed compliments, in which there is no counterfeit that does not
have the universal effect of real, I spoke with the most profound
veneration of the talents and learning of Clutterbuck - I dilated upon the
high reputation he enjoyed - upon the general esteem in which he was held-
-upon the kindness of his heart - the sincerity of his modesty - the
integrity of his honour - in short, whatever I thought likely to affect
her; most of all, I insisted upon the high panegyrics bestowed upon him,
by Lord this, and the Earl that, and wound up, with adding that I was
certain he would die a bishop. My eloquence had its effect; all dinner
time, Mrs. Clutterbuck treated her husband with even striking
consideration: my words seemed to have gifted her with a new light, and
to have wrought a thorough transformation in her view of her lord and
master's character. Who knows not the truth, that we have dim and short-
sighted eyes to estimate the nature of our own kin, and that we borrow
the spectacles which alone enable us to discern their merits or their
failings from the opinion of strangers! It may be readily supposed that
the dinner did not pass without its share of the ludicrous - that the
waiter and the dishes, the family and the host, would have afforded ample
materials no less for the student of nature in Hogarth, than of
caricature in Bunbury; but I was too seriously occupied in pursuing my
object, and marking its success, to have time even for a smile. Ah! if
ever you would allure your son to diplomacy, show him how subservient he
may make it to benevolence.

When the women had retired, we drew our chairs near to each other, and
laying down my watch on the table, as I looked out upon the declining
day, I said, "Let us make the best of our time, I can only linger here
one half hour longer."

"And how, my friend," said Clutterbuck, "shall we learn the method of
making the best use of time? there, whether it be in the larger segments,
or the petty subdivisions of our life, rests the great enigma of our
being. Who is there that has ever exclaimed - (pardon my pedantry, I am
for once driven into Greek) - Euzexa! to this most difficult of the
sciences?"

"Come," said I, "it is not for you, the favoured scholar - the honoured
academician - whose hours are never idly employed, to ask this question!"

"Your friendship makes too flattering the acumen of your judgment,"
answered the modest Clutterbuck. "It has indeed been my lot to cultivate
the fields of truth, as transmitted unto our hands by the wise men of
old; and I have much to be thankful for, that I have, in the employ, been
neither curtailed in my leisure, nor abased in my independence - the two
great goods of a calm and meditative mind; yet are there moments in which
I am led to doubt of the wisdom of my pursuits: and when, with a feverish
and shaking hand, I put aside the books which have detained me from my
rest till the morning hour, and repair unto a couch often baffled of
slumber by the pains and discomforts of this worn and feeble frame, I
almost wish I could purchase the rude health of the peasant by the
exchange of an idle and imperfect learning for the ignorance, content
with the narrow world it possesses, because unconscious of the limitless
creation beyond. Yet, my dear and esteemed friend, there is a dignified
and tranquillizing philosophy in the writings of the ancients which ought
to teach me a better condition of mind; and when I have risen from the
lofty, albeit, somewhat melancholy strain, which swells through the
essays of the graceful and tender Cicero, I have indeed felt a momentary
satisfaction at my studies, and an elation even at the petty success with
which I have cherished them. But these are brief and fleeting moments,
and deserve chastisement for their pride. There is one thing, my Pelham,
which has grieved me bitterly of late, and that is, that in the earnest
attention which it is the - perhaps fastidious - custom of our University,
to pay to the minutiae of classic lore, I do now oftentimes lose the
spirit and beauty of the general bearing; nay, I derive a far greater
pleasure from the ingenious amendment of a perverted text, than from all
the turn and thought of the sense itself: while I am straightening a
crooked nail in the wine-cask, I suffer the wine to evaporate; but to
this I am somewhat reconciled, when I reflect that it was also the
misfortune of the great Porson, and the elaborate Parr, men with whom I
blush to find myself included in the same sentence."

"My friend," said I, "I wish neither to wound your modesty, nor to impugn
your pursuits; but think you not that it would be better, both for men
and for yourself, that, while you are yet in the vigour of your age and
reason, you occupy your ingenuity and application in some more useful and
lofty work, than that which you suffered me to glance at in your library;
and moreover, as the great object of him who would perfect his mind, is
first to strengthen the faculties of his body, would it not be prudent in
you to lessen for a time your devotion to books; to exercise yourself in
the fresh air - to relax the bow, by loosing the string; to mix more with
the living, and impart to men in conversation, as well as in writing,
whatever the incessant labour of many years may have hoarded? Come, if
not to town, at least to its vicinity; the profits of your living, if
even tolerably managed, will enable you to do so without inconvenience.
Leave your books to their shelves, and your flock to their curate, and -
you shake your head - do I displease you?"

"No, no, my kind and generous adviser - but as the twig was set, the tree
must grow. I have not been without that ambition which, however vain and
sinful, is the first passion to enter the wayward and tossing vessel of
our soul, and the last to leave its stranded and shattered wreck; but
mine found and attained its object at an age, when in others it is, as
yet, a vague and unsettled feeling; and it feeds now rather upon the
recollections of what has been, than ventures forward on a sea of untried
and strange expectation. As for my studies! how can you, who have, and in
no moderate draught, drank of the old stream of Castaly, how can you ask
me now to change them? Are not the ancients my food, my aliment, my
solace in sorrow - my sympathizers, my very benefactors, in joy? Take them
away from me, and you take away the very winds which purify and give
motion to the obscure and silent current of my life. Besides, my Pelham,
it cannot have escaped your observation, that there is little in my
present state which promises a long increase of days: the few that remain
to me must glide away like their predecessors; and whatever be the
infirmities of my body, and the little harassments which, I am led to
suspect, do occasionally molest the most fortunate, who link themselves
unto the unstable and fluctuating part of creation, which we term women,
more especially in an hymeneal capacity - whatever these may be, I have my
refuge and my comforter in the golden-souled and dreaming Plato, and the
sententious wisdom of the less imaginative Seneca. Nor, when I am
reminded of my approaching dissolution by the symptoms which do mostly at
the midnight hour press themselves upon me, is there a small and
inglorious pleasure in the hope that I may meet hereafter, in those
islands of the blest which they dimly dreamt of, but which are opened
unto my vision, without a cloud, or mist, or shadow of uncertainty and
doubt, with those bright spirits which we do now converse with so
imperfectly; that I may catch from the very lips of Homer the unclouded
gorgeousness of fiction, and from the accents of Archimedes, the
unadulterated calculations of truth."

Clutterbuck ceased, and the glow of his enthusiasm diffused itself over
his sunken eye and consumptive cheek. The boy, who had sat apart, and
silent, during our discourse, laid his head upon the table, and sobbed
audibly; and I rose, deeply affected, to offer to one for whom they were,
indeed, unavailing, the wishes and blessing of an eager, but not hardened
disciple of the world. We parted: on this earth we can never meet again.
The light has wasted itself away beneath the bushel. It will be six weeks
to-morrow since the meek and noble-minded academician breathed his last.




CHAPTER LXIV.

'Tis but a single murder.
- Lillo: Fatal Curiosity.

It was in a melancholy and thoughtful mood that I rode away from the
parsonage. Numerous and hearty were the maledictions I bestowed upon a
system of education which, while it was so ineffective with the many, was
so pernicious to the few. Miserable delusion (thought I), that encourages
the ruin of health and the perversion of intellect by studies that are as
unprofitable to the world as they are destructive to the possessor - that
incapacitate him for public, and unfit him for private life - and that,
while they expose him to the ridicule of strangers, render him the victim
of his wife, and the prey of his domestic.

Busied in such reflections, I rode quickly on till I found myself once
more on the heath. I looked anxiously round for the conspicuous equipage
of Lady Chester, but in vain - the ground was thin - nearly all the higher
orders had retired - the common people, grouped together, and clamouring
noisily, were withdrawing: and the shrill voices of the itinerant hawkers
of cards and bills had at length subsided into silence. I rode over the
ground, in the hope of finding some solitary straggler of our party.
Alas! there was not one; and, with much reluctance at, and distaste to,
my lonely retreat, I turned in a homeward direction from the course.

The evening had already set in, but there was a moon in the cold grey
sky, that I could almost have thanked in a sonnet for a light which I
felt was never more welcomely dispensed, when I thought of the cross
roads and dreary country I had to pass before I reached the longed for
haven of Chester Park. After I had left the direct road, the wind, which
had before been piercingly keen, fell, and I perceived a dark cloud
behind, which began slowly to overtake my steps. I care little, in
general, for the discomfort of a shower; yet, as when we are in one
misfortune we always exaggerate the consequence of a new one, I looked
upon my dark pursuer with a very impatient and petulant frown, and set my
horse on a trot, much more suitable to my inclination than his own.
Indeed, he seemed fully alive to the cornless state of the parson's


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Online LibraryEdward Bulwer Lytton LyttonPelham — Volume 05 → online text (page 4 of 6)