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Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

Southern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry online

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In one of the carved chairs, if anything more uncomfortable
than all the rest, sits, or rather lounges, a young man of about
twenty-five. He is very richly clad, and in a costume which
would be apt to attract a large share of attention in our own



126 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

day, when dress seems to have become a mere covering, and
the prosaic tendencies of the age are to despise everything but
what ministers to actual material pleasure.

The gentleman before us lives fortunately one hundred years
before our day and suffers from an opposite tendency in cos
tume. His head is covered with a long flowing peruke, heavy
with powder, and the drop curls hang down on his cheeks
ambrosially ; his cheeks are delicately rouged ; and two patches,
arranged with matchless art, complete the distinguished tout
j ensemble of the handsome face. At breast a cloud of lace re
poses on the rich embroidery of his figured satin waistcoat,
reaching to his knees ; this lace is point de Venise and white,
that fashion having come in just one month since. The sleeves
of his rich doublet are turned back to his elbows and are as
large as a bushel, the opening being filled up, however, with
** long ruffles, which reach down over the delicate jeweled hand.
He wears silk stockings of spotless white, and his feet are
!, cased in slippers of Spanish leather, adorned with diamond
buckles. Add velvet garters below the knee, a little muff of
leopard skin reposing near at hand upon a chair, not omitting a
snuffbox peeping from the pocket, and Mr. Champ EfBngham,
just from Oxford and his grand tour, is before you with his
various surroundings.

He is reading the work which some time since attained to
such extreme popularity Mr. Joseph Addison s serial, "The
Spectator," collected now, for its great merits, into bound vol
umes. Mr. Effingham reads with a languid air (just as he sits)
and turns over the leaves with an ivory paper cutter which he
brought from Venice with the plate glass yonder on the side
board near the silver baskets and pitchers. This languor is
too perfect to be wholly affected, and when he yawns, as he
does frequently, Mr. Efnngham applies himself to that task
very earnestly.



JOHN ESTEN COOKE I2/

In one of these paroxysms of weariness the volume slips
from his hand to the floor.

" My book," he says to a negro boy, who has just brought
in some dishes. The boy hastens respectfully to obey, crossing
the whole \vidth of the room for that purpose. Mr. Effingham
then continues reading.

[As Effingham rode over to a neighboring estate that after
noon to call on Miss Lee, he met an unknown lady on horse
back. Struck by her appearance, he endeavors to make her
acquaintance but unsuccessfully.

A few days later Effingham is among those who attend the
presentation of " The Merchant of Venice " given by the Vir- *
ginia Company of Comedians in the Old Theater near the capi-
tol at Williamsburg. He discovers that Portia in the play is
none other than the beautiful rider whom he has met. He
falls desperately in love with her, but she treats coldly all his f
attempts to push the acquaintance. A little later, while Beatrice **-
was taking an outing on the James River, her boat was upset
by a storm and she was rescued by Charles Waters, a poor
fisherman s son. This occurrence marks the beginning of a
friendship between these two which ripens rapidly into love.
Effingham s infatuation for Beatrice led him to become a mem
ber of the Virginia Company of Comedians, in spite of the
break with social traditions that such a step involves. Beatrice,
however, grows more and more disdainful of his attentions. In
the meantime she discovers through the initials " B. W." on a
locket she has been wearing, and a letter which comes acci
dentally into her hands, that her real name is not Beatrice
Hallam, but Beatrice Waters, and that she and Charles
Waters are cousins. Her father had at his death intrusted
her to Hallam, his friend, to carry to his brother, John Waters,
who was supposed to be in London. But John Waters had



128 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

emigrated to Virginia, and Hallam, having been unable to find
him, had brought Beatrice up under the impression that she
was his daughter. As she is disclosing all this to Charles
Waters, Efrmgham enters the room, and believing his suspi
cions confirmed of having a rival in Charles Waters, challenges
him to a duel. It is under these circumstances that Effingham
insists that Beatrice shall keep the promise which he extorted
from her some time earlier in the story to accompany him to
the Governor s ball.]

GOVERNOR FAUQUIER S BALL

The day for the meeting of the House of Burgesses had
arrived. . . .

We have already expended some words upon the appearance
of the town for days before this important occasion, and can
now only add that the bustle was vastly greater, the laughter
louder, the crowd larger, and the general excitement a thousand
fold increased on this, the long-expected morning. We have no
space to enter into a full description of the appearance which
the borough presented ; indeed, this narrative is not the proper
place for such historic disquisitions, dealing as it does with the
fortunes of a few personages who pursued their various careers,
and laughed and wept, and loved and hated, almost wholly
without the "aid of government." It was scarcely very im
portant to Beatrice, for instance, that his Excellency Governor
/ Fauquier set out from the palace to the sound of cannon, and
( drawn slowly in his splendid chariot with its six glossy snow-
) white horses, and its bodyguard of cavalry, went to the capitol,
/ and so delivered there his gracious and vice-regal greeting to the
| Burgesses, listening in respectful, thoughtful silence. The crowd
could not drive away the poor girl s various disquieting thoughts ;
the smile which his Excellency threw towards the Raleigh, and



JOHN ESTEN COOKE



129



its throng of lookers-on, scarcely shed any light upon her
anxious and fearful heart ; she only felt that to-night the crowd
at the theater would be noisier and more dense, her duty only
more repulsive to her finally, that all this bustle and con
fusion was to terminate in a ball, at which she was to pass




THE RALEIGH TAVERN IN OLD WILLIAMSBURG, AND ITS FAMOUS
APOLLO ROOM

This historic tavern, mentioned constantly in John Esten Cooke s
"The Virginia Comedians," was built before 1735 and stood until it
was burned in 1859. The Apollo was the room of the tavern used for
balls, banquets, political and other gatherings. Few apartments have
witnessed as many scenes of brilliant festivity and political excitement

through a fiery ordeal of frowns and comments, even through
worse, perhaps more dreadful, trials. She had not dared that
morning, when her father told her he should expect her to keep
her promise and accompany the young man after the theater
to the ball the poor girl had not dared to speak of her secret,



130 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

or to resist. Then she had promised that was the terrible
truth ; and so she had only entreated, and cried, and besought
her father to have mercy on her ; and these entreaties, prayers,
and sobs having had no effect, had yielded and gone into her
bedchamber and, upon her knees, with Kate s little Bible open
before her, asked the great heavenly Father to take care of her.
All this splendid pageant all this roar of cannon, blare of
trumpets, rumbling thunder of the incessant drums could not
make her heart any lighter ; her face was still dark. And the
spectacle had as little effect upon the other personages of the
narrative. Mr. Effingham, seated in his room, smiled scorn
fully as the music and the people s shouts came to him. Fie
felt that all that noisy and joyous world was alien to him
cared nothing for him was perfectly indifferent whether he
suffered or was happy. He despised the empty fools in his heart,
without reflecting that the jar and discord was not in the music
and the voices but in himself. And this was the audience he
would have to see him play Benedick ! these plebeian voices
would have liberty to applaud or hiss him! the thought
nearly opened his eyes to the true character of the step he was
about to take. What was he about to do ? That night he was
going to the palace of the Governor with an actress leaning on
his arm there to defy the whole Colony of Virginia ; in effect
to say to them, " Look ! you laugh at me I show you that I
scorn you ! " then in a day or two his name would be pub
lished in a placard, " The part of Benedick, by Champ Effing-
ham, Esq." to be made the subject of satirical and insulting
comment by the very boors and overseers. These two things
he was about to do, and he drew back for a moment for an
instant hesitated. But suddenly the interview he had with
Hamilton came back to him, and his lip was wreathed with his
reckless sneer again. They would not permit him, forsooth !
his appearance at the ball with Miss Hallam would be regarded



JOHN ESTEN COOKE 131

as a general insult, and a dozen duels spring out of it ! he
would do well to avoid the place ! to sneak, to skulk, to
swallow all his fine promises and boasts !

" No ! " he said aloud, with his teeth clenched ; " by heaven!
I go there and I act ! I love her and I hate her more than
ever, and, if necessary, will fight a hundred duels for her with
these chivalric gentlemen ! "

So the day passed, and evening drew on slowly, and the
night came. Let us leave the bustling crowd hurrying toward
the theater leave the taverns overflowing with revelers let
us traverse Gloucester Street, and enter the grounds, through
which a fine white graveled walk leads to the palace. On each
side of this walk a row of linden trees are ornamented with
variegated lanterns, and ere long these lanterns light up lovely
figures of fair dames and gallant gentlemen, walking daintily
from the carriage portal to the palace. Let us enter. Before
us have passed many guests, and the large apartments, with
their globe lamps and chandeliers, and portraits of the king and
queen, and Chelsea figures, and red damask chairs, and numer
ous card tables, are already filling with the beauty and grace of
that former brilliant and imposing society.

See this group of lovely young girls, with powdered hair
brushed back from their tender temples, and snowy necks and
shoulders glittering with diamond necklaces ; see the queer
patches on their chins close by the dimples ; see their large
falling sleeves, and yellow lace, and bodices with their silken
network ; see their gowns, looped back from the satin under
skirt, ornamented with flowers in golden thread ; their trains
and fans and high red-heeled shoes, and all their puffs and
furbelows and flounces ; see, above all, their gracious smiles,
as they flirt their fans and dart their fatal glances at the mag
nificently clad gentlemen in huge ruffles and silk stockings,
and long, broad-flapped waistcoats and embroidered coats, with



132 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

sleeves turned back to the elbow and profusely laced ; see how
they ogle, and speak with dainty softness under their breath,
and sigh and smile, and ever continue playing on the hapless
cavaliers the dangerous artillery of their brilliant eyes.

Or see this group of young country gentlemen, followers of
the fox, with their ruddy faces and laughing voices ; their
queues secured by plain black ribbon ; their strong hands,
accustomed to heavy buckskin riding gloves ; their talk of
hunting, crops, the breed of sheep and cattle, and the blood
of horses.

Or pause a moment near that group of dignified gentlemen,
with dresses plain though rich, and lordly brows and clear
bright eyes, strong enough to look upon the sun of royalty 1:
and, undazzled, see the spots disfiguring it. Hear them con
verse calmly, simply, like giants knowing their strength ; how
slow and clear and courteous their tones ! how plain their
manners !

Lastly, see the motley throng of the humbler planters, some
of the tradesmen, factors as they were called, mingled with the
yeoman ; see their wives and daughters, fair and attractive, but
so wholly outshone by the little powdered damsels ; last of all,
though not least, see his bland Excellency Governor Fauquier
gliding among the various groups and smiling on everybody.

Let us endeavor to catch some of the words uttered, by
these various personages, now so long withdrawn from us in
the far past that silent, stern, inexorable past, which swallows
up so many noble forms, and golden voices, and high deeds,
and which in turn will obliterate us and our little or great
actions, as it has effaced though Heaven be thanked, not
wholly ! what illustrated and adorned those times which we
are now trying to depict. And first let us listen to this
group of quiet, calm-looking men ; fame has spoken loudly of
them all.



JOHN ESTEN COOKE 133

" Your reverend opponent really got the better of you, I
think, sir," says a quiet, plain, simple gentleman, with a fine
face and eye. " The Twopenny- Act made out too clear a case,
in mere point of law, to need the afterclap."

" True, sir," his friend replies, smiling so pleasantly that
his very name seemed to indicate his character, but I would
willingly be unhorsed again by the Reverend Mr. Camm, in a
cause so good. Everything concerning Virginia, you know, is
dear to me. I believe some of my friends consider me demented
on the subject or at least call me the Virginia Antiquary. "

" I consider it a very worthy designation, sir ; and in spite
of my opinion that * The Colonel s Dismounted is an appropri
ate title, I cannot be otherwise than frank ever, I am fully
convinced that equity was with you. But here comes our noble
Roman."

As he speaks, a tall, fine-looking gentleman approaches, with
an eagle eye, a statuesque head, inclined forward as though
listening courteously, a smile upon his lips, his right hand cov
ered with a black bandage.

" What news from Westmoreland, pray, seigneur of Chan-
tilly ? " asks the opponent of the Reverend Mr. Camm. " Do
they think of testing the Twopenny- Act by suits for damages ? "

" No, sir," says the newcomer, very courteously ; " I believe,
however, that in Hanover County the Reverend Mr. Maury has
brought suit against the collector."

"Ah, then we shall get some information from our friend
from Caroline ! See, here he is. Good day, sir ! "

He who now approaches has the same calm, benignant ex
pression as the rest an expression, indeed, which seems to
have dwelt always on those serene noble faces of that period, so
full of stirring events and strong natures. The face was not
unlike that which we fancy Joseph Addison s must have been :
a quiet, serene smile, full of courtesy and sweetness, illuminated



134 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

it, attracting people of all ages and conditions. When he speaks,
it is in the vox argentea of Cicero a gentle stream of sound,
rippling in the sunlight.

" What from Caroline, pray?" asks the dismounted Colonel,
pressing the hand held out to him with great warmth. " Do
the clergy speak of bringing suit to recover damages at once,
for the acts of 55 and 58?"

" I believe not," the gentleman from Caroline replies, cour
teously, in his soft voice ; " but have you not heard the news
from Hanover?"

" No, sir ; pray let us hear

" In the action brought by the Reverend Mr. Maury against
the collector, a young man of that county has procured a tri
umphant verdict for the collector."

" For the collector ? "

" Yes ! "

" Against the clergy ? "

" Yes ! "

" You said a triumphant verdict ? "

" One penny damages. "

An expression of extreme delight diffuses itself over the
face of the gentleman receiving this reply.

" And what is the name of the young man who has worked
this wonder ? "

" Mr. Patrick Henry. "

" I have no acquaintance with him. "

" I think you will have, however, sir. His speech is said to
have been something wonderful ; the people carried him on their
shoulders, the parsons fled from the bench I found the
county, as I passed through, completely crazy with delight. But
what is that small volume, peeping from your pocket, sir ? "
adds the speaker, with a smile at the abstracted and delighted
expression of his interlocutor.



JOHN ESTEN COOKE 135

" An Anacreon, from Glasgow, sir," says the other, almost
forgetting his delight at the issue of the parsons cause, as he
takes the book from his pocket and opens it. It is a small
thin volume, with an embossed back, covered with odd gilt
figures ; and the Greek type is of great size, and very black
and heavy.

" Greek ? " says the gentleman from Caroline, smiling se
renely. "Ah, I fear it is Hebrew to me! I may say, how
ever, that from what I have heard, this young Mr. Henry
is a fair match for a former orator of that language
Demosthenes ! "

" Well, sir," says the Roman, " if he is Demosthenes, yonder
is our valiant Alexander ! "

" Who is he ? "

"Is that fine face not familiar ? "

" Ah, Col. Washington ! I know him but slightly ; yet, as
suredly, his countenance gives promise of a noble nature ; he has
certainly already done great service to the government, and I
wonder his Majesty has not promoted him. His promotion
will, however, await further services, I fancy."

" Ah, gentlemen, you are welcome ! " says a courteous voice ;
" Mr. Wythe, Colonel Bland, Mr. Lee, Mr. Pendleton, I rejoice
to see you all : welcome, welcome ! " And his Excellency Gov
ernor Fauquier, with courtly urbanity, presses the hands of his
guests.

" You will find card tables in the next room, should you fancy
joining in the fascinating amusements of tictac and spadille/ he
adds, blandly smiling as he passes on.

The next group which we approach is quite large, and all talk
at once, with hearty laughter and rough frankness ; and this
talk concerns itself with plantation matters the blood of
horses, breeds of cattle, and the chase. Let us listen, even if
in the uproar we can catch nothing very connected, and at the



136 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

risk of finding ourselves puzzled by the jumble of questions
and replies.

" The three-field system, I think, sir, has the advantage over
all others of

" Oh, excellent, sir ! I never saw a finer leaf, and when we
cut it "

" Suddenly the blood rushed over his frill, and we found he
had broken his collar bone ! "

" The finest pack, I think, in all Prince George "

" By George ! "

" He s a fine fellow, and has, I think, cause to congratulate him
self on his luck. His wife is the loveliest girl I ever saw, and "

" Trots like lightning ! "

" Well, well, nothing astonishes me ! The world must be
coming to an end

" On Monday forenoon "

" On the night before "

" They say the races near Jamestown will be more crowded
this year than ever. I announced "

" The devil ! "

" Good evening, sir ; I hope your mare will be in good con
dition for the race "

" To destruction, sir I tell you such a black act would ruin
the ministry even Granville "

" Loves his pipe "

" The races "

" Hedges "

" Distanced "

"I know his pedigree; you are mistaken by Sir Archy,
dam :

" The odds ? I close with you. Indeed, I think I could
afford "

" Ah, gentlemen ! " a courteous voice interposes, amid the



JOHN ESTEN COOKE 137

uproar, " talking of races ? Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Lane, welcome
to my poor house ! You will find card tables in the adjoining
room." And his bland Excellency passes on.

Space fails us or we might set down for the reader s amuse
ment some of the quiet and pleasant talk of the well-to-do
factors and humbler planters and their beautiful wives and
daughters. We must pass on ; but let us pause a moment yet
to hear what this group of magnificently dressed young dames
and their gay gallants are saying.

" Really, Mr. Alston, your compliments surpass any which
I have received for a very long time," says a fascinating little
beauty, in a multiplicity of furbelows and with a small snow
storm on her head, flirting her fan, all covered with Corydons
and Chloes, as she speaks ; " what verses did you allude to,
when you said that * Laura was the very image of myself ?
I am dying with curiosity to know 1 "

" Those written by our new poet yonder ; have you not
heard them ? "

" No, sir, upon my word ! But the author is "

" The Earl of Dorset, yonder."

" The Earl of Dorset ! "

" Ah, charming Miss Laura ! permit the muse to decorate
herself with a coronet, and promenade, in powdered wig and
ruffles, without questioning her pedigree."

A little laugh greets these petit maltre words.

" Well, sir, the verses," says Laura, with a fatal glance.

The gallant bows low, and draws from his pocket a man
uscript, secured with blue ribbon and elegantly written in the
round, honest-looking characters of the day.

" Here it is," he says.

And all the beautiful girls who have listened to the colloquy
gather around the reader, to drink in the fascinating rimes
of the muse, in an earl s coronet and powder.



138 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

" First comes the prologue, as I may say," the reader com
mences ; " it is an address to his pen :

Wilt thou, advent rous pen, describe
The gay, delightful silken tribe,
1 That maddens all our city ;
Nor dread lest while you foolish claim
A near approach to beauty s flame,
Icarus fate may hit ye ! "

The speaker pauses, and a great fluttering of fans ensues,
with many admiring comments on the magnificent simile of
Icarus.

The reader continues, daintily arranging his snowy frill.
" Mark the fate of the bard," he says, and reads :

" With singed pinions tumbling down,
The scorn and laughter of the town,

Thou It rue thy daring flight.
While every Miss, with cool contempt,
Affronted by the bold attempt,

Will, tittering, view thy plight."

"Tittering observe the expressive phrase," says the reader.

They all cry out at this.

" Tittering ! "

" Ladies do not titter 1 "

" Really ! "

" Tittering ! "

The serene reader raises his hand, and, adjusting his wig, says:

" Mere poetic license, ladies ; merely imagination ; not fact.
True, very true! ladies never titter an abominable imputa
tion. But, listen."

And he continues :

" Myrtilla s beauties who can paint,
The well-turned form, the glowing teint,
May deck a common creature ;



JOHN ESTEN COOKE 139

But who can make th expressive soul,
With lively sense inform the whole,
And light up every feature? "

" A bad rime teint, and a somewhat aristocratic allusion to
* common creatures, " says the reader.

" Oh, it is beautiful ! " says a pretty little damsel, enthusi
astically.

"I am glad you like your portrait, my dear madam/ says the
gallant, " I assure you that Myrtilla was designed for you,"

"Oh!" murmurs Myrtilla, covering her face with her fan. . . .

Some more verses are read, and they are received with a
variety of comment.

" Listen now, to the last," says the engaging reader.

" With pensive look and head reclined,
Sweet emblem of the purest mind,

Lo ! where Cordelia sits !
On Dion s image dwells the fair
Dion, the thunderbolt of war

The prince of modern wits !

" At length fatigued with beauty s blaze,
The feeble muse no more essays,

Her picture to complete.
The promised charms of younger girls,
When nature the gay scene unfurls,

Some happier bard shall treat ! "

There is a silence for some moments after these words
the manuscript having passed from the gallant s hands to
another group.

" Who is Cordelia ? let me think," says Laura, knitting her
brows, and raising to her lips a fairy hand covered with dia
monds, absently.



140 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

" And Dion who can he be ? " says Isadora, twisting her
satin sleeve between her fingers abstractedly.

" It is ! no, it is not ! "

" I know, now ! but that don t suit ! "

" Permit me to end your perplexity, ladies," says the
oracle, " Cordelia is Miss Clare Lee, and Dion is Mr. Champ
Effingham ! "

A general exclamation of surprise from all the ladies.
They say :

" It suits him, possibly, but "

" He may be the prince of wits ; still it does not follow "

" Certainly not, that "

" Clare is not such a little saint ! "

" Let me defend her," says a gentleman, smiling ; " I
grant you that t is extravagant to call Mr. Effingham a
thunderbolt "

" Laughable."

" Amusing," say the gentlemen.

" Or the prince of modern wits," continues the counsel for
the defense.

" Preposterous ! "

" Unjust ! " they add.

" But I must be permitted to say," goes on the chivalric



Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonSouthern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry → online text (page 11 of 35)