Various.

Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 online

. (page 12 of 23)
Online LibraryVariousBlackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 → online text (page 12 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


"Taste in High Life" is the perfection of caricature. We have not the
slightest idea what Constable meant when he painted the "Opening of
Waterloo Bridge." The poor "_Silver_ Thames" is converted into a smear
of white lead and black. "Charles the First demanding the Five Members,"
surprised us by its power - its effect is good. Here is no slovenly
painting, so common in Mr. Copley's day - the general colour too is good;
and the painting of individual heads is much after the manner of
Vandyck. There are some pictures on the walls which might have been
judiciously omitted in an exhibition which must be considered as
characteristic of English talent.

As the British Gallery is for a considerable period devoted to works of
English art, and as so many other exhibitions offer them in such
profusion, we would suggest that it would be more beneficial to art, and
to the success and improvement of British painters, if the original
intention of the governors of the institution were adhered to, of
exhibiting annually the choicest works of the old schools.




MARSTON, OR, THE MEMOIRS OF A STATESMAN.

PART III.

"Have I not in my time heard lions roar?
Have I not heard the sea, puft up with wind,
Rage like an angry boar chafed with sweat?
Have I not heard great ordnance in the field,
And heaven's artillery thunder in the skies?
Have I not in the pitched battle heard
Loud 'larums, neighing steeds, and trumpets clang?"

SHAKSPEARE.


The meeting was a singular and a melancholy one. The news from France
had become hourly more fearful. Every packet brought accounts of new
outrages. Paris was already in the power of the populace. The struggle
continued, however hopelessly, in the provinces, just enough to swell
the losses of noble life, and the conflagrations of noble property. To
these wounds of feeling had now to be added sufferings of a still more
pressing nature; their remittances had begun to fail. The property which
they had left in the hands of their Parisian bankers had either become
valueless by the issue of assignats, which no one would take, or
confiscated in the general plunder of the banks, whose principals had
been thrown into prison, on _suspicion_ of being worth robbing. All was
bankruptcy.

The duchess made a slight attempt, evidently a painful one, to explain
to us, as strangers, the purpose of their unusual meeting. It was
simply, that "the emigrant noblesse, who had already experienced so much
heroic hospitality from their English friends, thought that the time was
come when they ought to be burdens on them no longer. The letters from
France are dreadful," said she, "and it will be our duty to show, that
as we have enjoyed prosperity, we can submit to suffering. We must
prepare to earn our bread by those accomplishments which we acquired in
happier times, and, as we once supposed, for happier times."

A general sigh seemed to break from every heart, and Mariamne hung on
the hand of the duchess, and grew pale. There was a silence for a while;
at length she resumed - "We must not return to our own country, at least
until this horrid struggle is at an end; for we should only embarrass
those who have sent us to the protection of this generous land, and for
whose sake we live. Yet, we only do honour to them by avoiding to eat
the bread of dependence, while we can labour for ourselves." Those
words, few as they were, were uttered with many a pause, and in the low
tone of a true mourner. She then called a beautiful girl towards her.
The girl rose, hesitated, and sank again. "Clotilde, my love, here are
none but friends; we must forget every thing but patience and our
country." As she spoke, the duchess took her contribution from her hand;
it was a drawing of some size, and of singular elegance - an Arcadian
festival. It was sent round the room with universal admiration; and the
ice thus once broken, a succession of proficients followed, bringing the
produce of their talents; some, miniatures - some, sketches of French and
Swiss scenery - some, illustrations of Racine and the French theatre;
and, of course, many with embroidery, and the graceful works of the
needle. Strangers are too apt to conceive that Paris is France and that
the frivolity of life in the capital was always its model in the
provinces. I here saw evidence to the contrary, and was not a little
surprised to see performances so seldom to be found among the French
arts, as admirable oil-paintings, carvings in ivory, marble busts, and
bas-reliefs, casts of antique vases and groups, and even models of the
chief temples and palaces of antiquity. The leisure of the chateau was
often vividly, and even vigorously employed; and while the youths of the
great families were solely directed to military prospects, the females
often acquired solid and grave accomplishments. In short, we had among
us as many artificers, not a few of them delicate and lovely, as could
have furnished a Tower of Babel, if not built it; but _our_ fabric
would have had one exception, it would have had no "confusion of
tongues;" for tongues there were none to be heard among us - all was
silence, but when some work of striking beauty, and this was not
unfrequently the case, was handed round with a murmur of applause.

The harp and piano were then brought forward and this was the most
trying part of all - not from any want of skill in the performers, for
the majority were perfect on both instruments, but from the nature of
the performances themselves. France is not renowned for native music,
but neither Italian genius, nor German science, has produced more
exquisite little snatches of melody than are to be found in some of the
nooks and corners of the provinces. Paris is, like other capitals, an
epitome of the world; but Languedoc, the wild country of Auvergne, the
Vosges mountains, the hidden and quiet vales of Normandy, and even the
melancholy sands of the Breton, have airs of singular and characteristic
sweetness. Gretry and Rousseau were but their copyists. Sorrow,
solitude, and love, are every where, and their inspiration is worth all
the orchestras in the globe.

Those simple airs were more congenial to the depressed spirits of the
whole assemblage than the most showy bravuras; and, sung by those
handsome creatures - for beauty adds a charm to everything - retained me
spell-bound. But, on the performers, and their circle of hearers, the
effect was indescribable. All the world knows, that there is nothing
which revives memories like music. Those were the airs which they had
heard and sung from their infancy; the airs of their early
companionships, hopes, and perhaps loves; sung in their gardens, their
palaces, at their parents' knees, by the cradles of their children, at
their firesides, every where combining with the heart. Sung now in their
exile, they brought back to each heart some recollection of the happiest
scenes and fondest ties of its existence. No power of poetry, nor even
of the pencil, could have brought the past so deeply, so touchingly,
with such living sensibility, before them. _There_ at least, was no
acting, no display, no feigned feeling - their country, their friends,
the perils of husband and brother in the field, the anguish, almost the
agony, of woman's affection - and what can equal that affection? - was in
the gestures and countenances of all before me. Some wept silently and
abundantly; some buried their faces on their knees, and by the heaving
of their bosoms alone, showed how they felt; some sat with their large
eyes fixed on heaven, and their lips moving as in silent prayer; some
almost knelt, with hands clasped and eyes bent down, in palpable
supplication. Stranger as I was to them and theirs, it was painful even
to me. I felt myself doubly an intruder, and was thinking how I might
best glide away, when I saw Mariamne, in an attempt like my own, to
move, suddenly fall at the feet of the duchess. She had fainted. I
carried her into the open air, where she soon recovered. "Do you wish to
return, Mariamne?" said I. She looked at me with amazement. "Return! It
would kill me. Let us go home." I placed her on her horse, and we moved
quietly and sadly away.

"That was a strange scene," said I, after a long interval of silence.

"Very," was the laconic reply.

"I am afraid it distressed you," I observed.

"I would not have seen it for any consideration, if I could have known
what it was;" she answered with a new gush of tears. "Yet what must my
feelings be to theirs? They lose every thing."

"But they bear the loss nobly. Still they have not lost all, when they
can excite such sympathy in the mind of England. They have found at
least an asylum; but what was the object of this singular meeting?"

"Oh, who can tell what they are dreaming of in their distraction?" she
said with a deep sigh. "It was probably to turn their talents to some
account; to send their works to London, and live by them - poor things,
how little they know of London! - or, perhaps, to try their chance as
teachers, and break their hearts in the trial. Revolutions are terrible
things!" We lapsed into silence again.

"I pity most the more advanced in life," I resumed. "They have been so
long accustomed to all the splendours of Paris, that living here must be
felt with incurable humiliation. The young are more elastic, and bear
misfortune by the mere spirit of youth; and the lovely find friends
every where. Did you observe the noble air, the almost heroine look, of
that incomparable girl who first showed her drawing?" Mariamne shot a
quick glance at me.

"You have quite forgotten her name, I suppose?" said she, with a
scrutinizing look.

"Not wholly. I think the duchess called her Clotilde."

"I shall set you at ease, sir, upon that point," said she smartly. "But
of one thing I can assure you, and it is, that she is engaged to be
married to her second cousin, the Marquis de Montrecour. So, you see, it
is scarcely worth your while to enquire any thing more of her name, as
she is about to change it so soon - but it is De Tourville, a descendant
of the renowned admiral, who lost a renowned French fleet a hundred
years ago, an event not unusual in French history. You observe, Mr
Marston, I give you most willingly all the information in my power."

I have never presumed to have a master key to female hearts; but there
was something half contemptuous, half piqued, in my fair companion's
tone, and a rapid interchange of red and pale in her cheeks, which set
me musing. She touched her horse with her fairy whip, and cantered a few
paces before me. I followed, as became a faithful squire. She suddenly
reined up, and said, in the voice of one determined that I should feel
the full point of the sting - "Oh, I had forgot. I beg a thousand
pardons. Yesterday the Marquis arrived in London. His proposal reached
Madame la Comtesse this morning, the young lady's mother - your
_heroine_, I think you called her. The _trousseau_ will probably be sent
down from London in a week, unless she shall go to town to choose it,
which is the more likely event, as among French ladies the trousseau is
generally a more important matter than the gentleman; and then, I
presume, you will be relieved from all _anxiety_ upon the subject."

I was all astonishment. The language would have been an impertinence in
any one else; yet, in the pretty and piquant Mariamne, it was simply
coquettish. At any other time or place I might have felt offended; but I
was now embarrassed, wordless, and plunged in problems. Why should I be
concerned in this news? What was the opinion of this butterfly to me?
yet its sarcasm stung me: what was Clotilde to me? yet I involuntary
wished the Marquis de Montrecour at the bottom of the Channel; or what
knew I of French tastes, or cared about trousseaux? yet, at that moment,
I peevishly determined to take no more rambles in the direction of the
Emigrant cottages, and to return to town at once, and see what sort of
absurdity a French marriage present looked at my first step in Bond
Street.

But this was destined to be a day of adventures. I had led her a circuit
through the Downs, in the hope of reviving her by the fresh air before
we reached the villa; and we were moving slowly along over the velvet
turf, and enjoying that most animating of all the breaths of sky or
earth - the sea-breeze; when Mariamne's steed - one of the most highly
_manèged_, and most beautiful of animals, began to show signs of
restlessness, pricked up his ears, stopped suddenly, and began to snuff
the gale with an inflated nostril. As if the animal had communicated its
opinions to its fellow, both our horses set off at a smart trot, the
trot became a canter, the canter a gallop. Mariamne was a capital
horsewoman and the exercise put her in spirits again. After a quarter of
an hour of this volunteer gallop, from the top of one of the Downs we
saw the cause - the Sussex hunt, ranging the valley at our feet. Our
horses were now irrestrainable, and both rushed down the hill together.
The peril of such a descent instantly caught all eyes. A broad and high
fence surrounded the foot of the hill, and, wildly as we flew down, saw
that the whole hunt had stopped in evident alarm. In another moment we
had reached the fence. Mariamne's horse, making a desperate spring, flew
over it. Mine failed, and threw me into the middle of the hedge. I was
stunned, the sight left my eyes; and, when I opened them again, a man of
peculiarly striking countenance, and stately figure, was raising me from
the ground, while an attendant was pouring brandy down my throat. My
first thought was of my unfortunate companion. "Where is the lady? Is
she safe? What has become of her?" were my first exclamations. "Are you
much hurt," enquired the stranger. "No, no," I cried; "where is the
lady?" "I hope by this time safe," said he; "some gentlemen of the party
have followed her: her horse has run away with her; but they will
doubtless overtake her in a few minutes." He ascended a small rising
ground close to us, and stood gazing in the distance. "No, they are
following her still. She keeps her seat. They are now taking a short cut
to intercept her. They are close up. - No, that mad animal of a horse has
thrown them all out again, he springs over every thing; yet she still
holds on. What a capital horsewoman!" While he uttered those broken
exclamations I rolled on the ground in torture. At length, after a
pause, I heard him say, in a shuddering voice, "All's over! that way
leads direct to the cliff."

At the words, though dizzy with pain, and scarcely able to see, I seized
the bridle of the groom's horse, who had alighted to assist me; without
a word sprang on his back, and dashing in the spur was gone like an
arrow. The whole group soon followed.

From the first rising ground, I saw the frightful chase continued.
Mariamne's hat had fallen off, and her hair and habit were flying in the
wind. She was bending to the neck of her steed, whom the pursuit of the
hunt, and the sight of their red coats, had evidently frightened. He was
darting, rather than galloping along, by wild bounds, evidently growing
feeble, but still distancing his pursuers. Half dead with pain and
terror, I could scarcely hold the bridle, and was soon overtaken by the
stranger. "Sir," said he, "you are exhausted, and will never be able to
overtake the unfortunate lady in that direction. I know the
country - follow me." Unable to answer, I followed; with my ears ringing
with a thousand sounds, and my thoughts all confusion - I was awoke from
this half stupor by a tremendous outcry.

On the brow of the hill before me, were the dozen jaded riders, forced
to draw rein by the steepness of the declivity, and all pointing with
vehement gestures below. In the next instant, through the ravine at its
foot, and within a hundred yards of the cliff, came Marianne, still
clinging to the horse, and flying like the wind. The look which she cast
upon me, as she shot by, haunted me for years after, whenever an image
of terror rose in my dreams. Her eyes were starting from their sockets,
her lips gasping wide, her visage ghastliness itself. Another moment,
and all must be over; for at the end of the valley was the cliff, a
hundred and fifty feet high. I rushed after her. The sight of the sea
had struck her at once. She uttered a scream, and fell with her forehead
on the horse's neck. Even that movement probably checked him, for he
reared, and before his feet touched the ground again I was close to him;
with a frantic effort I caught his bridle, and swept his head round.
Mariamne fell, voiceless, sightless, and breathless, into my arms. The
spot where she was saved was within a single bound of the precipice.

The hunters now came round us, and all was congratulation. Our escape
was pronounced to be "miraculous;" I was complimented on all kinds of
heroism; and the stranger, evidently the chief personage of the circle,
after giving the glance of a connoisseur at poor Mariamne's still
pallid, yet expressive, countenance, thanked me, "for having allowed him
to breathe at last, which he had not done, he believed, for some
minutes, through terror." Nothing could exceed the graceful interest
which he expressed in my companion's safety. His grooms were sent to
look for assistance in all quarters, and it was not until a carriage had
arrived from the next village, and he had seen Mariamne placed in it,
that he could be persuaded to take his leave. Even in after life, when I
saw him in the midst of the splendour of the world, himself its ruling
star, and heard him so often quoted as

"The glass of fashion, and the mould of form,"

I thought that he never deserved the title more than when I saw him
perform the duties of simple good-nature to two unknown individuals on a
wild heath on the Sussex shore That stranger was the Prince of Wales!

This adventure, by all the laws of romance, should have made me fall in
love with Mariamne, or Mariamne fall in love with me. But reality has
laws of a different kind, and the good fortune of being just in time to
save a lady's life, whether on horseback or on foot, whether in lake or
river, whatever it might be in any other ages, is not necessarily a
pledge of eternal constancy in our times. That she was grateful, I fully
believe, for her nature was innocent and kind; but confession was out of
the question, for neither during our rapid drive home, nor for some days
after, was she capable of uttering one word. Alarm had reduced her to a
state of exhaustion next to death. Her slight frame had been so shaken
that she was as helpless as a child; and almost the only sin of
consciousness which she gave, was her shrinking from the sight of the
sea whenever she was led towards the window, and her hiding her head in
her shawl at every sound of the surge.

It may be true, that if the choice depended on her father I should have
been the possessor of her fair hand, and the heir to his half million,
and equally true, that the event might have saved me a million of
troubles. Even at this hour, I sometimes cannot help thinking how total
a change must have been given to my anxious career - how many desperate
struggles I should have escaped, if I had thus found my path covered,
like an eastern potentate's, with cloth of gold! From my first step, how
many privations, nay pangs, would have been utterly unknown to me in
climbing up the steeps of life, if I had been lifted on the broad and
easy pinions of opulence; how little I should have suffered from that
reptilism which lurks in every thicket of public life, and every where
with a sting; if I had gone through existence, like another Rasselas in
his valley of imperishable summer, guarded from all the inclemencies of
fortune, and surrounded with all the enjoyments of man!

And yet, who can tell that the very ease of such a destiny might not
have wearied my heart, enervated my mind, and rendered me at once
burdensome to myself and useless to the world? Is it not hunger that
gives the true zest to the banquet, however exquisite, and labour that
gives the true charm to the couch, however embroidered? Is not the
noblest enjoyment of the noblest mind to be found it the consciousness
that we have done something in our generation; that we have contributed
a stone to the pyramid of the national renown, that our lips have
swelled the echoes of imperial glory? What can reconcile the man of
powerful intellect to the consciousness that he has passed through life
a cipher, and left nothing behind him but a tomb?

I had now to undergo the temper of Mordecai. The sight of a post-chaise
flying along the shore, with one of the royal grooms as outrider, had
brought him and all the inmates of the villa to the door. From our
furious haste it was evident to them all that some extraordinary
circumstance had caused the long delay of their young mistress. From the
entrance of the avenue I saw Mordecai standing, straight and silent as
one of the pillars of his gate, with his arms folded, and his eye
lowering under his huge brow, like one prepared for calamity. But when
the carriage drove up to the door, and I raised his helpless and
ashy-coloured daughter in my arms, he gazed for an instant on her, and
with a howl like that of a wild animal pierced by bullet or steel, fell
on his face on the ground. He evidently thought that she was dead.

Even when she opened her feeble eyelids, smiled, and took his hand, he
could scarcely be persuaded that she was still alive. He raved, he tore
his hair, he vowed deathless vengeance, and the vengeance of all his
race, against the murderer of his child, "his beloved, the child of his
soul, the last scion of his name, his angel Mariamne." Rage and tears
followed each other in all the tempest of oriental fury. No explanation
of mine would be listened to for a moment, and I at length gave up the
attempt. The grooms had given the outline of the story; and Mordecai
charged me with all kinds of rashness and folly. At one time rushing
forward to the couch where she lay, faintly attempting to soothe him, he
would fling himself on his knees beside her, kiss her forehead, and
upbraid himself for all his fancied harshness to her in the course of
his life. Then suddenly starting on his feet, with the spring of a
tiger, he would bound towards me, his powerful features distended with
rage, his deep eye flashing, and his bony hand clenched as if it grasped
a dagger, cursing the hour "when I had first set my foot under his
unhappy roof," or cast my "evil eye upon the only child of the undone
Mordecai." Ever in all the scene, the thought struck me, of what would
be the effect of a hundred thousand such men, sweeping with scymetar and
lance over the fields of Palestine? The servants fled in terror, or
lurked in different directions until the storm should be gone down. At
length Mariamne, dreading an actual collision between us, rose with an
effort, tottered across the room, and threw her arms around her father's
neck. The old man was conquered at once; his countenance grew calm; he
sat down upon the floor, and with his daughter hiding her face in his
bosom, wept silently and long. When I saw him thus quieted, I left them
together, and retired to my chamber, determined to leave the discovery
of his error to his returning judgment; and reinforced in my intention
to depart for London even at the earliest dawn.

I employed myself for a while in packing up my few equipments for the
journey, but this was soon done, and the question was, how to get rid of
the remainder of the evening. I was resolved to meet Mordecai no more;
and the servant who announced that dinner was ready, was sent back with
an answer, that a violent headach prevented my leaving my room. The
headach was true; and I had a reluctance equally true to see the "human
face divine" for that evening at least. There was one exception to that
reluctance, for thoughts had begun to awake in me, from which I shrank
with something little short of terror. There was one "human face divine"
which I would have made a pilgrimage round the world to see - but it was
not under the roof of Mordecai. It was in one of the little cottages on
which I was then looking from my window, and yet which seemed placed by
circumstances at an immeasurable distance from me. It was the
countenance of a stranger - one with whom I had never exchanged a word,
who was probably ignorant of my existence, whom I might never see again,
and yet whom I had felt to be my fate. Such are the fantasies, the
caprices of that most fantastic of things - the the unfledged mind. But I


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryVariousBlackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 → online text (page 12 of 23)