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her parents and those about her she had
imbibed no contrary influence. But then



they had taught her nothing. Poor men's
smoky cabms are not always porticos of
moral philosophy. This little maid had no
instinct to evil, but then she might be said
to have no fixed principle. She had heard
honesty commended, but never dreamed of
its application to herself. She thought of
it as something Avhich concerned grown-up
people, men and women. She had never
known temptation, or thought of prej)aring
resistance against it.

Her first impulse was to go back to the
old treasurer, and explain to him his blunder.
He was already so confused with age besides
a natural want of punctuality, that she
would have had some difficulty in making
him understand it. She saw that in an in-
stant. And then it Avas such a bit of money I
and then the image of a larger allowance of
butcher's meat on their table next day came
across her, till her little eyes glistened, and
her mouth moistened. But then INIr. Ravens-
croft had always been so good-natured, had
stood her friend behind tlie scenes, and even
recommended her promotion to some of her
little i^arts. But again the old man was re-
puted to be worth a world of money. He was
supposed to have fifty pounds a year clear of
the theater. And then came staring ui)on
her the figures of her little stockingless and
shoeless sisters. And when slie looked at.
her own neat white cotton stockings, wliicli
her situation at the theater had made, it



lU ^\tt 'gn^t it^^^nxp of (^Ua.

indispensable for her mother to provide for
her with hard straining and pincliing from
the family stock, and thought how glad she
should be to cover their poor feet Avith the
same, and how then they could accompany
her to rehearsals, Avhich they had hitherto
been precluded from doing, by reason of their
unfashionable attire. In these thoughts
she reached the second landing-place, — the
second, I mean, from the top, — for there was
still another left to traverse.

Now virtue support Barbara !

And that never-failing friend did step in,
— for at that moment a strength not her
own, I have heard her say, was revealed to
her, — a reason above reasoning, — and \A'itli-
out her own agency, as it seemed (for she
never felt her feet to move), she found
herself transported back to the individual
desk slie had just quitted, and her hand in
the old hand of Ravenscroft, who in silence
took back the refunded treasure, and who
had been sitting (good man) insensible to
the lapse of minutes, which to her were
anxious ages, and from that moment a deep
peace fell upon her heart, and she knew the
quality of honesty.

A year or two's unrepining application to
her profession brightened up the feet, and
the prospects, of her little sisters, set the
whole family upon their legs again, and re-
leased her from the difficulty of discussing
moral dogmas upon a landing-place.



I have heard her say that it was a sur-
prise, not mucli short of mortification to lier,
to see tlie coohiess with wliicli tlie old man
l^ocketed tlie diiference, which had caused
her such mortal throes.

This anecdote of herself I had in the year
1800, from the mouth of , the late jMrs. Craw-
ford,* then sixty-seven years of age (she
died soon after), and to her struggles upon
this childisli occasion I have sometimes ven-
tured to think her indebted for that power
of rending the heart in the representation of
conflicting emotions, for Avhich in after years
she was considered as little inferior (if at all
so in the part of Lady Randolph) even to
Mrs. Siddons.



* Tlie maiden name of this lady was Street, which
she changed by successive marriages, for those of
Dancer, Barry, and Crawford. She was Mi-s. Craw-
ford, a third timfe a widow, when I knew her.



lit) ehc Xaot ^\^,'3.aM,^' cf (SUa.



The Tombs hi the Abbey.

IX A LETTER TO K S , ESQ.

Though in some points of doctrine, and
perhaps of discipline, I am diffident of lend-
ing a perfect assent to tliat church which
you have so worthily Jdstorijied, yet may the
ill time never come to me, when with a
chilled heart or a portion of irreverent sen-
timent, I shall enter lier beautiful and time-
hallowed edifices. Judge then of my mor-
tification when, after attending the choral
anthems of last "Wednesday at Westminster,
and being desirous of renewing my ac-
quaintance, after lapsed years, with the
tombs and antiquities there, I found myself
excluded; turned out like a dog, or some
profane person, into the common street,
with" feelings not very congenial to the place,
or to the solemn service which I had been
listening to. It was a jar after that music.

You had your education at "Westminster ;
and doubtless among those dim aisles and
cloisters, you must have gathered much of
that devotional feeling in those young years,,
on which your x^urest mind feeds still — and



®hc i:a.st (£^^i\\p of i^liix. 117



may it feed ! The antiquarian spirit, strong
in you, and gracefully blending ever Avitli
the religious, may have been sown in you
among those wrecks of splendid mortality.
You owe it to the place of your education ;
you owe it to your learned fondness for the
architecture of your ancestors ; you owe it
to the venerableness of your ecclesiastical
establishment, which is daily lessened and
called in question tlirough these practices — ■
to speak aloud your sense of them ; never
to desist raising your voice against them
till they be totally done away with and
abolished; till the doors of Westminster
Al)bey be no longer closed against the de-
cent, though low-in-purse, enthusiast, or
blameless devotee, who must commit an in-
jury against his family economy, if he would
be indulged with a bare admission Mithin
its walls. You owe it to the decencies
which you wish to see maintained, in its im-
pressive services, that our Cathedral be no
longer an object of inspection to the poor at
those times only, in which they must rob
from their attendance on the ■\^'()rship every
minute which they can bestow upon the
fabric. In vain the public prints have taken
up this subject, in vain such poor nameless
writers as myself express their indignation.
A word from you, Sir, — a hint in your Jour-
nal, — would be sufficient to fling open the
doors of the beautiful Temple again, as we
can remember them when we were boys.



118 (The Xa.?.t tJ!',o,ci;u;,o' of 0:Ua.



At that time of life Avhat would the imagin-
ative faculty (such as it is) in both of us,
have suffered, if the entrance to so much
reflection had been obstructed by the de-
mand of so much silver ! If we had scraped
it up to gain an occasional admission (as
we certainly should have done), would the
sight of those old tombs have been as im-
pressive to us (while we have been weighing-
anxiously prudence against sentiment) as
when the gates stood open as those of the
adjacent Park ; when we could walk in at
any time, as the mood brought us, for a
shorter, or longer time, as that lasted? Is
the being shown over a place the same as .
silently for ourselves detecting the genius
of it? In no part of our beloved Abbey
now can a person find entrance (out of ser-
vice time) under the sum of tiro shlll!n(/s.
The rich and the great will smile at the anti-
climax, presumed to lie in these two short
words. But you can tell them, sir, how
much quiet Avorth, how much capacity for
enlarged feeling, how much taste and genius,
may co-exist, especially in youth, with a
purse incompetent to this demand. A re-
spected friend of ours, during his late visit
to the metropolis, presented himself for ad-
mission to St. Paul's. At the same time a
decently clothed man, with as decent a wife
and child, were bargaining for the same
indulgence. The price was only twopence
each person. The poor but decent man



(L\\e fiist (gja'.-say,^ ot (»:Ua. 119



hesitated, desirous to go in ; but there were
three of them, and he turned away rehic-
tantly. Perhaps he wished to liave seen the
tomb of Xelson. Perliaps the interior of
tlie Cathedral was liis object. But in the
state of his flnances, even sixpence might
reasonably seem too much. Tell the Aris-
tocracy of the country (no man can do it
more impressively) instruct them of Avhat
value these insi,£^-nificant pieces of money,
these minims to their sight, may be to their
humbler brethren. Shame these Sellers out
of the Temple. Stifle not the suggestions
of your better nature with the pretext, that
-an indiscriminate admission would expose
the Tombs to violation. Remember your
boy-days. Did you ever see, or hear, of a
mob in the Abbey, while it was free to all?
Do the rabble come there, or trouble their
heads about such speculations ? It is all
that you can do to drive them into your
churches ; they do not voluntarily offer
themselves. They have, alas! no passion
for antiquities ; for tomb of king or i:)relate,
sage or poet. If they had, they would be
no longer the rabble.

For forty years that I have known the
Fabric, the only well-attested charge of vio-
lation adduced has been — a ridiculous dis-
memberment committed upon the effigy of
that amiable spy, ]\Iajor ^Vndre, And is
it for this — the M'anton mischief of some
school-boy, fired perhaps with raw notions



120 m\t fa^st (t'^mp of mm,

©f Transatlantic Freedom — or the remote
possibility of such a mischief occurring
again, so easily to be prevented by stationing
a constable within the walls, if the vergers
are incompetent to the duty — is it upon
such wretched pretenses that the people of
England are made to pay a new Peter's
Pence so long abrogated ; or must content
themselves with contemplating the ragged
Exterior of their Cathedral ? The mischief
was done about the time that you were a
scholar there. Do you know anything about
the unfortunate relic i?



^\u Pv^f (S$^in3^ of mix. 121



.Amicus Redivivus.

■"Where were ye, Xymphs, when the remorseless deep
Closed o'er the head of your loved Lycidas ? "

I DO not know when I have experienced a
stranger sensation tlian on seeing my old
friend G. D., wlio had been paying nie a
morning visit a few Sundays back, at my
cottage at Islington, upon taking leave, in-
stead of turning down the right-hand path
by which he had entered — with staff in
hand, and at noonday deliberately march
right forwards into the midst of the stream
that runs by us, and totally disappear.

A spectacle like this at dusk would have
been appalling enough; but in the broad
open daylight, to witness such an unre-
served motion towards self-destruction in a
valued friend, took from me all power of
sj)eculation.

How I found my feet, I know not. Con-
sciousness was quite gone. Some spirit, not
my own, whirled me to the spot. I remem-
ber nothing but the silvery apparition of a
good white head emerging; nigli which a
staff (the hand unseen that wielded it)



122 nxt H:ii.st (t-^^m^ at mm.



pointed upwards, as feeling for the skies.
In a moment (if time was in tliat time) he
was on my shoulders, and I — freighted with
a load more precious than his who bore
Anchises.

And here I cannot but do justice to the
officious zeal of sundry passers-by, who
albeit arriving a little too late to participate
in the honors of the rescue, in pliilanthropic
shoals came thronging to communicate their
advice as to the recovery ; prescribing vari-
ously the application, or non-application, of
salt, etc., to tlie person of the patient. Life
meantime was. ebbing fast av/ay, amidst the
stifle of conflicting judgments, when one,
more sagacious than the rest, by a bright
thought, proposed sending for the Doctor.
Trite as the counsel was, and impossible, as
one should think, to be missed on, — shall I
confess? — in this emergency it was to me as
if an Angel had spoken. Great previous ex-
ertions, — and mine had not been inconsider-
able, — are commonly followed by a debility
of purpose. This was a moment of irresolu-
tion.

MoxocuLus, — for so, in default of catch-
mg his true name, I choose to designate the
medical gentleman who now appeared, — is
a grave middle-aged person, who, without
having studied at the college, or truckled to
the i^dantry of a diploma, hath employed a
great portion of his valuable time in experi-
mental processes upon the bodies of unfort-



0>hc X:\fst (^^^mp ot CJUa. 123^



unate fellow-creatures, in whom the vital
spark, to mere vulgar thinking, would seem
extinct, and lost forever. He omitted no oc-
casion of obtruding' his services, from a case
of connnon surfeit suffocation to the ignobler
obstructions, sometimes induced by a toa
■willful application of the plant cannabis out-
wardl3^ But though he declineth not alto-
^I ether these drier extinctions, his occupation
tendeth, for the most part, to water-practice;
for the convenience of which he hath judi-
ciously fixed his quarters near the grand re-
pository of the stream mentioned, where day
{i.nd night, from his little watch-tower, at the
atliddleton's Head, he listenetli to detect the
i\'recks of drowned mortality, — partly, as he
fsaith, to be upon the spot, — and partly, be-
cause the liquids which he usetli to prescribe
to himself, and his patients, on these dis-
tressing occasions, are ordinarily more con-
veniently to be found at these common lios-
tlcries than in the shops and phials of the
apothecaries. His ear hath arrived to such
finesse by practice, that it is reported he
can distinguish a plunge at a half furlong
distance ; and can tell if it be casual or de-
liberate. He weareth a medal, suspended
over a suit, originally of a sad brown, but
Avhich, by time and frequency of nightly
divings, has been dinged into a true profes-
sional sable. He passeth by the name of
Doctor, and is I'cmarkable for wanting his
left eye. His remedy — after a sufficient ap-



124 Q^lxt ^a.ot (»;,$,siuia' of (irlia.



plication of warm blankets, friction, etc., is
a simple tumbler, or more, of the purest
Cognac, with water, made as hot as the con-
valescent can bear it. Where he flndeth, as
in the case of my friend, a squeamish sub-
ject, he condescendeth to be the taster; and
showeth, by his own example, the innocuous
nature of the prescription. Nothing' can be
more kind or encouraging than this proce-
dure. It addeth confidence to the patient,
to see his medical adviser go hand in hand
with himself in the remedy. AVhen the
doctor swalloweth his own draught, what
peevish invalid can refuse to pledge him in
the potion? In fine, Moxoculus is a hu-
mane, sensible man, Mdio, for a slender pit-
tance, scarce enoiigh to sustain life, is con-
tent to Avear it out in the endeavor to save
the lives of others, — his pretensions so mod-
erate, that with difficulty I could press a
crown upon him, for the price of restoring
the existence of such an invaluable creature
to society as G. D.

It was pleasant to observe the effect of
the subsiding alarm upon the nerves of the
dear absentee. It seemed to have given a
shake to memory, calling up notice after
notice of all the providential deliverances
he had experienced in the course of his long
and innocent life. Sitting up in my couch,
• — my couch which, naked and void of fur-
nitui'e hitherto, for the salutary repose
■which it administered, shall be honored.



l\\c i:u.ot (^^^iMp tf (J:liH. 125.



with costly valance, at some price, and
henceforth bo a state-bed at Colebrook, — he
discoursed of marvelous escapes — by care-
lessness of nurses — by pails of gelid, and
kettles of the boiling- element, in infancy, —
by orchard pranks, and snapping twigs, in
school-boy frolics — by descent of tiles at
Trumpington, and of heavier tomes at Pem-
broke, — by studious watchings, inducing-
frightful vigilance, — by want, and all the
sore throbbings of the learned head. Anon
he would burst out into little fragments of
chanting — of songs long ago — ends of de-
liverance hymns, not remembered before
since childhood, but coming up now, Avhen
his heart w^as made tender as a child's — for
the tremor cordis, in the retrospect of a re-
cent deliverance, as in a case of impending
danger, acting upon an innocent heart, will
produce a self-tenderness, which we should
do ill to christen cowardice; and Shake-
speare, in the latter crisis, has made his
good Sir Hugh to remember the sitting by
liabylon, and to mutter of shallow rivers.

Waters of Sir Hugh Middleton — Avhat a
spark you were like to have extinguished
forever! Your salubrious streams to this
City, for now near t^yo centuries, would
hardly have atoned for what you were in
a moment washing away. JMockery of a
river, — liquid artifice, — wretched conduit!
•henceforth rank with canals and sluggish
aqueducts. Was it for this, that smit in



126 (The X-A^i (^^^TA^ 0f min.



boyhood with the explorations of that Abys-
.sinian traveler, I paced the vales of xVmwell
to explore your tributary springs, to trace
your salutary waters sparkling through
green Hertfordshire, and cultured Enfield
j)arks ? — ye have no sAvans — no Xaiads — no
river God, — or did the benevolent hoary
aspect of my friend tempt ye to suck him
in, that ye also might have the tutelary
genius of your waters '?

Had he been drowned in Cam, there
would have been some consonancy in it;
but what willows had ye to wave and rustle
over his moist sepulture? — or, having no
name^ besides that unmeaning assumption
of eternal novitij^ did ye think to get one by
the noble prize, and henceforth to be termed
the Stream Dyekiax?

"And could such spacious virtues find a grave
Beneath the imposthumed bubble of a wave?"

I protest, George, you shall not venture
out again — no, not by daylight — without a
sufficient pair of spectacles, — in your mus-
ing moods especially. Your absence of
mind Ave have borne, till your presence of
body came to be called in question by it.
You shall not go wandering into Euripus
with Aristotle, if we can help it. Fie, man,
to turn dipper at your years, after your
many tracts in favor of sprinkling only !

I have nothing but water in my head o'
nio'hts since this frightful accident. Some-



mxt |:a,$t (^^^np of mux. 127

times I am with Clarence in his dream. At
others I behold Christian beginning- to sink,
and crying out to his good brother Hopeful
(that is, to me), " I sink in deep waters ; the
billows go over my head, all the waves go
over me. Selah." Then I have before me
Palinurus, just letting go the steerage. I
crj^ out too late to save. Next follows — a
mournful procession — suicidal facef;, saved
against their will from drowning; dolefully
trailing a length of reluctant gratefulness,
with ropy weeds pendent from locks of
watchet hue, — constrained Lazari, — Pluto's
half-subjects, stolen fees from the grave, — •
bilking Charon of his fare. At their head
Arion — or is it G. D. ? — in his singing gar-
ments marcheth singly, with harp in hand,
and votive garland, which JMachaon (or
Dr. Ilawes) snatcheth straight, intending
to suspend it to the stern God of the Sea.
Then follow dismal streams of Lethe, in
which the half-drenched on earth are con-
strained to drown downright, l)y wharves
where Ophelia twice acts her muddy
death.

And, doubtless, there is some notice in that
invisible world, when one of us approach-
eth (as my friend did so lately) to their
inexorable precincts. When a soul knocks
once, twice, at death's door, the sensation
aroused within the palace must be consider-
able; and the grim Feature, by modern
science so often dispossessed of his prey,



128 ©he 'gn^i (^^mp of (gWa.



jnust have learned by this time to pity
Tantahis.

A pulse assuredly was felt along the line
of the Elysian shades, when the near arrival
of G. T>. was announced by no equivocal
indications. From their seats of Asphodel
arose the gentler and the graver ghosts — •
poet, or historian — of Grecian or of Roman
lore, — to croAvn with unfading chaplets the
half-finished love-labors of their unwearied
scholiast. Ilim ]Markland expected, — him
Tyrwhitt hoped to encounter, — him the
SAveet lyrist of Peter House, whom he had
barely seen upon earth, * with newest airs

prepared to greet ; and jiatron of the

gentle Christ's boy, — who should have been
his patron through life, — the mild Askew^
with longing aspirations leaned foremost
from liis venerable iEsculapian chair, to
welcome into that happy company the ma-
tured virtues of the man, whose tender scions
in the boy he himself upon earth had so
prophetically fed and watered.

*


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Online LibraryCharles LambThe last essays of Elia → online text (page 7 of 15)