Edward Bulwer Lytton Lytton.

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GODOLPHIN, Volume 4.
By Edward Bulwer Lytton
(Lord Lytton)


CHAPTER XXXII.

THE WEAKNESS OF ALL VIRTUE SPRINGING ONLY FROM THE FEELINGS.

It was the evening before Godolphin left Rome. As he was entering his
palazzo he descried, in the darkness, and at a little distance, a figure
wrapped in a mantle, that reminded him of Lucilla; - ere he could certify
himself, it was gone.

On entering his rooms, he looked eagerly over the papers and notes on his
table: he seemed disappointed with the result, and sat himself down in
moody and discontented thought. He had written to Lucilla the day before,
a long, a kind, nay, a noble outpouring of his thoughts and feelings. As
far as he was able to one so simple in her experience, yet so wild in her
fancy, he explained to her the nature of his struggles and his
self-sacrifice. He did not disguise from her that, till the moment of her
confession, he had never examined the state of his heart towards her; nor
that, with that confession, a new and ardent train of sentiment had been
kindled within him. He knew enough of women to be aware, that the last
avowal would be the sweetest consolation both to her vanity and her heart.
He assured her of the promises he had received from her relations to grant
her the liberty and the indulgence that her early and unrestrained habits
required; and, in the most delicate and respectful terms, he inclosed an
order for a sum of money sufficient at any time to command the regard of
those with whom she lived, or to enable her to choose, should she so
desire (though he advised her not to adopt such a measure, save for the
most urgent reasons), another residence. "Send me in return," he said, as
he concluded, "a lock of your hair. I want nothing to remind me of your
beauty; but I want some token of the heart of whose affection I am so
mournfully proud. I will wear it as a charm against the contamination of
that world of which you are so happily ignorant - as a memento of one
nature beyond the thought of self - as a surety that, in finding within
this base and selfish quarter of earth, one soul so warm, so pure as
yours, I did not deceive myself, and dream. If we ever meet again, may
you have then found some one happier than I am, and in his tenderness have
forgotten all of me save one kind remembrance. - Beautiful and dear
Lucilla, adieu! If I have not given way to the luxury of being beloved by
you, it is because your generous self-abandonment has awakened within a
heart too selfish to others a real love for yourself."

To this letter Godolphin had, hour after hour, expected a reply. He
received none - not even the lock of hair for which he had pressed. He was
disappointed - angry, with Lucilla - dissatisfied with himself. "How
bitterly," thought he, "the wise Saville would smile at my folly! I have
renounced the bliss of possessing this singular and beautiful being; for
what? - a scruple which she cannot even comprehend, and at which, in her
friendless and forlorn state, the most starched of her dissolute
countrywomen would smile as a ridiculous punctilio. And, in truth, had I
fled hence with her, should I not have made her through out life
happier - far happier, than she will be now? Nor would she, in that
happiness, have felt, like an English girl, any pang of shame. _Here,_
the tie would have never been regarded as a degradation; nor does she,
recurring to the simple laws of nature, imagine than any one _could_ so
regard it. Besides, inexperienced as she is - the creature of
impulse - will she not fall a victim to some more artful and less generous
lover? - to some one who in her innocence will see only forwardness; and
who, far from protecting her as I should have done, will regard her but as
the plaything of an hour, and cast her forth the moment his passion is
sated! - Sated! O bitter thought, that the head of another should rest
upon that bosom now so wholly mine! After all, I have, in vainly adopting
a seeming and sounding virtue, merely renounced my own happiness to leave
her to the chances of being permanently rendered unhappy, and abandoned to
want, shame, destitution, by another!"

These disagreeable and regretful thoughts were, in turn, but weakly
combated by the occasional self-congratulation that belongs to a just or
generous act, and were varied by a thousand conjectures - now of anxiety,
now of anger - as to the silence of Lucilla. Sometimes he thought - -but
the thought only glanced partially across him, and was not distinctly
acknowledged - that she might seek an interview with him ere he departed;
and in this hope he did not retire to rest till the dawn broke over the
ruins of the mighty and breathless city. He then flung himself on a sofa
without undressing, but could not sleep, save in short and broken
intervals.

The next day, he put off his departure till noon, still in the hope of
hearing from Lucilla, but in vain. He could not flatter himself with the
hope that Lucilla did not know the exact time for his journey - he had
expressly stated it. Sometimes he conceived the notion of seeking her
again; but he knew too well the weakness of his generous resolution; and,
though infirm of thought, was yet virtuous enough in act not to hazard it
to certain defeat. At length in a momentary desperation, and muttering
reproaches on Lucilla for her fickleness and inability to appreciate the
magnanimity of his conduct, he threw himself into his carriage, and bade
adieu to Rome.

As every grove that the traveller passes on that road was guarded once by
a nymph, so now it is hallowed by a memory. In vain the air, heavy with
death, creeps over the wood, the rivulet, and the shattered tower; - the
mind will not recur to the risk of its ignoble tenement; it flies back; it
is with the Past! A subtle and speechless rapture fills and exalts the
spirit. There - far to the West - spreads that purple sea, haunted by a
million reminiscences of glory; there the mountains, with their sharp and
snowy crests, rise into the bosom of the heavens; on that plain, the
pilgrim yet hails the traditional tomb of the Curiatii and those immortal
Twins who left to their brother the glory of conquest, and the shame by
which it was succeeded: around the Lake of Nemi yet bloom the sacred
groves by which Diana raised Hippolytus again into life. Poetry, Fable,
History, watch over the land: it is a sepulchre; Death is within and
around it; Decay writes defeature upon every stone; but the Past sits by
the tomb as a mourning angel; a soul breathes through the desolation; a
voice calls amidst the silence. Every age that bath passed away bath left
a ghost behind it; and the beautiful land seems like that imagined clime
beneath the earth in which man, glorious though it be, may not breathe and
live - but which is populous with holy phantoms and illustrious shades.

On, on sped Godolphin. Night broke over him as he traversed the Pontine
Marshes. There, the malaria broods over its rankest venom: solitude hath
lost the soul that belonged to it: all life, save the deadly fertility of
corruption, seems to have rotted away: the spirit falls stricken into
gloom; a nightmare weighs upon the breast of Nature; and over the wrecks
of Time, Silence sits motionless in the arms of Death.

He arrived at Terracina, and retired to rest. His sleep was filled with
fearful dreams; he woke, late at noon, languid and dejected. As his
servant, who had lived with him some years, attended him in rising,
Godolphin observed on his countenance that expression common to persons of
his class when they have something which they wish to communicate, and are
watching their opportunity.

"Well, Malden!" said he, "you look important this morning: what has
happened?"

"E - hem! Did not you observe, sir, a carriage behind us as we crossed the
marshes? Sometimes you might just see it at a distance, in the
moonlight."

"How the deuce should I, being within the carriage, see behind me? No; I
know nothing of the carriage: what of it?"

"A person arrived in it, sir, a little after you - would not retire to
bed - and waits you in your sitting-room."

"A person! what person!"

"A lady, sir, - a young lady;" said the servant, suppressing a smile.

"Good heavens!" ejaculated Godolphin: "leave me." The valet obeyed.

Godolphin, not for a moment doubting that it was Lucilla who had thus
followed him, was struck to the heart by this proof of her resolute and
reckless attachment. In any other woman, so bold a measure would, it is
true, have revolted his fastidious and somewhat English taste. But in
Lucilla, all that might have seemed immodest arose, in reality, from that
pure and spotless ignorance which, of all species of modesty, is the most
enchanting, the most dangerous to its possessor. The daughter of
loneliness and seclusion - estranged wholly from all familiar or female
intercourse - rather bewildered than in any way enlightened by the few
books of poetry, or the lighter letters, she had by accident read - the
sense of impropriety was in her so vague a sentiment, that every impulse
of her wild and impassioned character effaced and swept it away. Ignorant
of what is due to the reserve of the sex, and even of the opinions of the
world - lax as the Italian world is on matters of love - she only saw
occasion to glory in her tenderness, her devotion, to one so elevated in
her fancy as the English stranger. Nor did there - however unconsciously
to herself - mingle a single more derogatory or less pure emotion with her
fanatical worship.

For my own part, I think that few men understand the real nature of a
girl's love. Arising so vividly as it does from the imagination, nothing
that the mind of the libertine would impute to it ever (or at least in
most rare in stances) sullies its weakness or debases its folly. I do not
say the love is better for being thus solely the creature of imagination:
I say only, so it is in ninety-nine out of a hundred instances of girlish
infatuation. In later life, it is different: in the experienced woman,
forwardness is always depravity.

With trembling steps and palpitating heart, Godolphin sought the apartment
in which he expected to find Lucilla. There, in one corner of the room,
her face covered with her mantle, he beheld her: he hastened to that spot;
he threw himself on his knees before her; with a timid hand he removed the
covering from her face; and through tears, and paleness, and agitation,
his heart was touched to the quick by its soft and loving expression.

"Wilt thou forgive me?" she faltered; "it was thine own letter that
brought me hither. Now leave me, if thou canst!"

"Never, never!" cried Godolphin, clasping her to his heart. "It is fated,
and I resist no more. Love, tend, cherish thee, I will to my last hour.
I will be all to thee that human ties can afford - father, brother,
lover - all but - - " He paused; "all but husband," whispered his
conscience, but he silenced its voice.

"I may go with thee!" said Lucilla, in wild ecstasy: that was _her_ only
thought.

As, when the notion of escape occurs to the insane, their insanity appears
to cease; courage, prudence, caution, invention (faculties which they knew
not in sounder health), flash upon and support them as by an inspiration;
so, a new genius had seemed breathed into Lucilla by the idea of rejoining
Godolphin. She imagined - not without justice - that, could she throw in
the way of her return home an obstacle of that worldly nature which he
seemed to dread she should encounter, his chief reason for resisting her
attachment would be removed. Encouraged by this thought, and more than
ever transported by her love since he had expressed a congenial
sentiment: excited into emulation by the generous tone of his letter, and
softened into yet deeper weakness by its tenderness; - she had resolved
upon the bold step she adopted. A vetturino lived near the gate of St.
Sebastian: she had sought him; and at sight of the money which Godolphin
had sent her, the vetturino willingly agreed to transport her to whatever
point on the road to Naples she might desire - nay, even to keep pace with
the more rapid method of travelling which Godolphin pursued. Early on the
morning of his departure, she had sought her station within sight of
Godolphin's palazzo; and ten minutes after his departure the vetturino
bore her, delighted but trembling, on the same road.

The Italians are ordinarily good-natured, especially when they are paid
for it; and courteous to females, especially if they have any suspicion of
the influence of the belle passion. The vetturino's foresight had
supplied the deficiencies of her inexperience: he had reminded her of the
necessity of procuring her passport; and he undertook that all other
difficulties should solely devolve on him. And thus Lucilla was now under
the same roof with one for whom, indeed, she was unaware of the sacrifice
she made, but whom, despite of all that clouded and separated their
after-lot, she loved to the last, with a love as reckless and strong as
then - a love passing the love of woman, and defying the common ordinances
of time.

* * * * * *
* * * * * *
* * * * * *

On the blue waters that break with a deep and far voice along the rocks of
that delicious shore, above which the mountain that rises behind Terracina
scatters to the air the odours of the citron and the orange - on that
sounding and immemorial sea the stars, like the hopes of a brighter world
upon the darkness and unrest of life, shone down with a solemn but tender
light. On that shore stood Lucilla and he - the wandering stranger - in
whom she had hoarded the peace and the hopes of earth. Hers was the first
and purple flush of the love which has attained its object; that sweet and
quiet fulness of content - that heavenly, all-subduing and subdued delight,
with which the heart slumbers in the excess of its own rapture. Care - the
forethought of change - even the shadowy and vague mournfulness of
passion - are felt not in those voluptuous but tranquil moments. Like the
waters that rolled, deep and eloquent, before her, every feeling within
was but the mirror of an all-gentle and cloudless heaven. Her head
half-declined upon the breast of her young lover, she caught the beating
of his heart, and in it heard all the sounds of what was now become to her
the world.

And still and solitary deepened around them the mystic and lovely night.
How divine was that sense and consciousness of solitude! how, as it
thrilled within them, they clung closer to each other! Theirs as yet was
that blissful and unsated time when the touch of their hands, clasped
together, was in itself a happiness of emotion too deep for words. And
ever, as his eyes sought hers, the tears which the sensitiveness of her
frame, in the very luxury of her overflowing heart, called forth,
glittered in the tranquil stars a moment and were kissed away. "Do not
look up to heaven, my love," whispered Godolphin, "lest thou shouldst
think of any world but this!"

Poor Lucilla! will any one who idly glances over this page sympathise one
moment with the springs of thy brief joys and thy bitter sorrow? The page
on which, in stamping a record of thee, I would fain retain thy memory
from oblivion; that page is an emblem of thyself; - a short existence;
confounded with the herd to which it has no resemblance, and then, amidst
the rush and tumult of the world, forgotten and cast away for ever!

CHAPTER XXXIII.

RETURN TO LADY ERPINGHAM. - LADY ERPINGHAM FALLS ILL. - LORD ERPINGHAM
RESOLVES TO GO ABROAD. - PLUTARCH UPON MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS. - PARTY AT
ERPINGHAM HOUSE. - SAVILLE ON SOCIETY AND THE TASTE FOR THE LITTLE. - DAVID
MANDEVILLE. - WOMEN, THEIR INFLUENCE AND EDUCATION. - THE NECESSITY OF AN
OBJECT. - RELIGION.

As, after a long dream, we rise to the occupations of life, even so, with
an awakening and more active feeling, I return from characters removed
from the ordinary world - like Volktman[1] and his daughter - to the
brilliant heroine of my narrative.

There is a certain tone about London society which enfeebles the mind
without exciting it; and this state of temperament, more than all others,
engenders satiety. In classes that border upon the highest this effect is
less evident; for in them - there is some object to contend for. Fashion
gives them an inducement. They struggle to emulate the toga of their
superiors. It is an ambition of trifle, it is true; but it is still
ambition. It frets, it irritates, but it keeps them alive. The great are
the true victims of ennui. The more firmly seated their rank, the more
established their position, the more their life stagnates into insipidity.
Constance was at the height of her wishes. No one was so courted, so
adored. One after one, she had humbled and subdued all those who, before
her marriage, had trampled on her pride - or, who after it, had resisted
her pretensions: a look from her had become a triumph, and a smile
conferred a rank on its receiver. But this empire palled upon her: of too
large a mind to be satisfied with petty pleasures and unreal distinctions,
she still felt the Something of life was wanting. She was not blessed or
cursed (as it may be) with children, and she had no companion in her
husband. There might be times in which she regretted her choice, dazzling
as it had proved; - but she complained not of sorrow, but monotony.

Political intrigue could not fill up the vacuum of which Constance daily
complained; and of private intrigue, the then purity of her nature was
incapable. When people have really nothing to do, they genrally fall ill
upon it; and at length, the rich colour grew faint upon Lady Erpingham's
cheek; her form wasted; the physicians hinted at consumption, and
recommended a warmer clime. Lord Erpingham seized at the proposition; he
was fond of Italy; he was bored with England.

Very stupid people often become very musical: it is a sort of pretension
to intellect that suits their capacities. Plutarch says somewhere that
the best musical instruments are made from the jaw-bones of asses.
Plutarch never made a more sensible observation. Lord Erpingham had of
late taken greatly to operas: he talked of writing one himself; and not
being a performer, he consoled himself by becoming a patron. Italy,
therefore, presented to him manifold captivations - he thought of fiddling,
but he talked only of his wife's health. Amidst the regrets of the London
world, they made their arrangements, and prepared to set out at the end of
the season for the land of Paganini and Julius Caesar.

Two nights before their departure, Lady Erpingham gave a farewell party to
her more intimate acquaintance. Saville, who always contrived to be well
with every one who was worth the trouble it cost him, was of course among
the guests. Years had somewhat scathed him since he last appeared on our
stage. Women had ceased to possess much attraction for his jaded eyes:
gaming and speculation had gradually spread over the tastes once directed
to other pursuits. His vivacity had deserted him in great measure, as
years and infirmity began to stagnate and knot up the current of his
veins; but conversation still possessed for and derived from him its
wonted attraction. The sparkling jeu d'esprit had only sobered down into
the quiet sarcasm; and if his wit rippled less freshly to the breeze of
the present moment, it was coloured more richly by the glittering sands
which rolled down from the experience that over shadowed the current. For
the wisdom of the worldly is like the mountains that, sterile without,
conceal within them unprofitable ore: only the filings and particles
escape to the daylight and sparkle in the wave; the rest wastes idly
within. The Pactolus takes but the sand-drifts from the hoards lost to
use in the Tmolus.

"And how," said Saville, seating himself by Lady Erpingham, "how shall we
bear London when you are gone? When society - the everlasting draught - had
begun to pall upon us, you threw your pearl into the cup; and now we are
grown so luxurious, that we shall never bear the wine without the pearl."

"But the pearl gave no taste to the wine: it only dissolved itself - idly,
and in vain."

"Ah, my dear Lady Erpingham, the dullest of us, having once seen the
pearl, could at least imagine that we were able to appreciate the
subtleties of its influence. Where, in this little world of tedious
realities, can we find anything even to imagine about, when you abandon
us?"

"Nay! do you conceive that I am so ignorant of the framework of society as
to suppose that I shall not be easily replaced? King succeeds king,
without reference to the merits of either: so, in London, idol follows
idol, though one be of jewels and the other of brass. Perhaps, when I
return, I shall find you kneeling to the dull Lady A - - , or worshipping
the hideous Lady Z - - ."

"'Le temps assez souvent a rendu legitime
Ce qui sembloit d'abord ne se pouvoir sans crime;"'

answered Saville with a mock heroic air. "The fact is, that we are an
indolent people; the person who succeeds the most with us has but to push
the most. You know how Mrs. - - , in spite of her red arms, her red gown,
her city pronunciation, and her city connexions, managed - by dint of
perseverance alone - to become a dispenser of consequence to the very
countesses whom she at first could scarcely coax into a courtesy. The
person who can stand ridicule and rudeness has only to desire to become
the fashion - she or he must be so sooner or later."

"Of the immutability of one thing among all the changes I may witness on
my return, at least I am certain no one still will dare to think for
himself. The great want of each individual is, the want of an opinion!
For instance, who judges of a picture from his own knowledge of painting?
Who does not wait to hear what Mr. - - , or Lord - - (one of the six or
seven privileged connoisseurs), says of it? Nay, not only the fate of a
single picture, but of a whole school of painting, depends upon the
caprice of some one of the self-elected dictators. The King, or the Duke
of - - , has but to love the Dutch school and ridicule the Italian, and
behold a Raphael will not sell, and a Teniers rises into infinite value!
Dutch representations of candlesticks and boors are sought after with the
most rapturous delight; the most disagreeable objects of nature become the
most worshipped treasures of art; and we emulate each other in testifying
our exaltation of taste by contending for the pictured vulgarities by
which taste itself is the most essentially degraded. In fact, too, the
meaner the object, the more certain it is with us of becoming the rage.
In the theatre, we run after the farce; in painting, we worship the Dutch
school; in - - "

"Literature?" said Saville.

"No! - our literature still breathes of something noble; but why? Because
books do not always depend upon a clique. A book, in order to succeed,
does not require the opinion of Mr. Saville or Lady Erpingham so much as a
picture or a ballet."

"I am not sure of that," answered Saville, as he withdrew presently
afterwards to a card-table, to share in the premeditated plunder of a
young banker, who was proud of the honour of being ruined by persons of
rank.

In another part of the rooms Constance found a certain old philosopher,
whom I will call David Mandeville. There was something about this man
that always charmed those who had sense enough to be discontented with the
ordinary inhabitants of the Microcosm, - Society. The expression of his
countenance was different from that of others: there was a breathing
goodness in his face - an expansion of mind on his forehead. You perceived
at once that he did not live among triflers, nor agitate himself with
trifles. Serenity beamed from his look - but it was the serenity of
thought. Constance sat down by him.

"Are you not sorry," said Mandeville, "to leave England? You, who have
made yourself the centre of a circle which, for the varieties of its
fascination, has never perhaps been equalled in this country?
Wealth - rank - even wit - others might assemble round them: but none ever
before convened into one splendid galaxy all who were eminent in art,
famous in letters, wise in politics, and even (for who but you were ever
above rivalship?) attractive in beauty. I should have thought it easier
for us to fly from the Armida, than for the Armida to renounce the scene
of her enchantment - the scene in which De Stael bowed to the charms of her


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Online LibraryEdward Bulwer Lytton LyttonGodolphin, Volume 4 → online text (page 1 of 5)