« AnkstesnisTęsti »
ings when going and returning. In the one case go the other; and, not only so, but an immense
- for I hated school—it seemed to frown darkly desire was felt by very many to go in the right on me, and from that spot the remainder of the direction. Now I perceive it is not so. A conway was dull and gloomy; in the other case, the siderable number of highway passengers, though sun seemed always glinting on it, and the rest of even they are less numerous than of old, are still the road was as a fair avenue that leads to para- studious—that is, in their aspirations—to avoid dise. The innkeeper received us with equal hos- taking (shall I say delicately) the lower road; but
I pitality on both occasions, and it was quite evi- only a few, comparatively, are solicitous to reach dent did not care one farthing in which direction the goal of the upper. we were tending. He would stand in front of Let me once more observe that I am speakhis house, jingling his money—our money—in ing of the ordinary passengers—those who travel his pockets, and watch us depart with the great- by the mail. Of the persons who are convinced est serenity, whether we went east or west. I that there never was an Architect of the unithought him at one time the most genial of Boni- verse, and that man sprang from the mollusk, I faces (for it was his profession to wear a smile), know little or nothing: they mostly travel two and at another a mere mocker of human woe. and two, in gigs, and have quarreled so dreadWhen I grew up, I perceived that he was a fully on the way that, at the Inn, they don't speak philosopher.
to one another. The commonalty, I repeat, are And now I keep the Midway Inn myself, and losing their hopes of heaven, just as the grownwatch from the hilltop the passengers come and up schoolboy finds his paradise no more in home. go-some loath, some willing, like myself of old I can remember when divines were never tired -and listen to their talk in the coffee-room; or of painting the lily, of indulging in the most glowsometimes in a private parlor, where, though they ing descriptions of the Elysian Fields. A popular speak low and gravely, their converse is still un- artist once drew a picture of them: “The Plains restrained, because, you see, I am the landlord. of Heaven” it was called, and the painter's name
Sometimes they speak of death and the here- was Martin. If he were to do so now, the public after, of which the child they buried yesterday (who are vulgar) would exclaim“ Betty Martin.” knows more than the wisest of them, and more Not that they disbelieve in it, but that the attracthan Shakespeare knew. The being totally igno- tions of the place are dying out, like those of Bath rant of the subject does not indeed (as you may and Cheltenham. perhaps have observed in other matters) deter Of course some blame attaches to the divines some of them from speaking of it with great con- themselves, that things have come to such a pass. fidence; but the views of a minority would quite “I protest,” says a great philosopher, " that I surprise you, and this minority is growing—com- never enter a church, but the man in the pulpit ing to majority. Every day I see an increase of talks so unlike man, as though he had never the doubters. It is not a question of the ortho- known what human joys or sorrows are—so caredox and the infidel, you must understand, at all, fully avoids every subject of interest save one, though that is assuming great proportions; but and paints that in colors at once so misty and so there is every day more uncertainty among them, meretricious—that I say to myself, I will never and, what is much more noteworthy, more dis- sit under him again.” This may, of course, be satisfaction.
only an ingenious excuse of his for not going to Years ago, when a hardy Cambridge scholar church ; but there is really something in it. The dared to publish his doubts of an eternal punish- angels, with their harps, on clouds, are now prement overtaking the wicked, an orthodox pro- sented to the eyes, even of faith, in vain ; they fessor of the same college took him (theologically) are still appreciated on canvas by an old master, by the throat. “You are destroying,” he cried, but to become one of them is no longer the com" the hope of the Christian.” But this is not the mon aspiration. There is a suspicion, partly hope I speak of (as loosing and losing its hold owing, doubtless, to the modern talk about the upon men's minds); I mean the real hope, the dignity and even the divinity of Labor, that they hope of heaven.
ought to be doing something else than (as the When I used to go to church—for my Inn is American poet puts it with characteristic irrevtoo far removed from it to admit of my attendance erence) "loafing about the throne”; that we there nowadays — matters were very different. Ourselves, with no ear perhaps for music, and Heaven and hell were, in the eyes not only of our with little voice (alas !) for praise, should take no congregation, but of those who hung about the pleasure in such avocations. It is not the skepdoors in the summer sun, or even played leap- tics—though their influence is getting to be confrog over the gravestones, as distinct alterna- siderable-who have wrought this change, but tives as the east and west highways on each side the conditions of modern life. Notwithstanding of my Inn. If you did not go one way, you must the cheerful“ returns" as to pauperism, and the
glowing speeches of our Chancellors of the Ex- him. It is in our midway days, with old age chequer, these conditions are far harder, among touching us here and there, as autumn“ lays its the thinking classes, than they were. The ques- fiery finger on the leaves" and withers them, that tion of “ Is life worth living ?" is one that con- we first think of it. When the weight of anxicerns philosophers and metaphysicians, and not ety and care is growing on us, while the shoulthe persons I have in my mind at all; but the ders are becoming bowed (not in resignation, but question, “Do I wish to be out of it?” is one in weakness) which have to bear it; when our that is getting answered very widely—and in the pains are more and more constant, our pleasures affirmative. This was certainly not the case in few and fading, and when whatever happens, we the days of our grandsires. Which of them ever know, must needs be for the worse - then it is read those lines
that the praise of the silver hair and length of
days becomes a mockery indeed. “For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
Was it the prescience of such a state of This pleasing anxious being e'er resigned,
thought, I wonder (for it certainly did not exist Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day, Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind?”_ in their time), that caused good men of old to
extol old age; as though anything could reconwithout a sympathetic complacency? This may cile the mind of man to the time when the very not have been the best of all possible worlds to
sun is darkened to him, and “the clouds return them, but none of them wished to exchange it, after the rain"? There is a noble passage in save at the proper time, and for the proper place. “Hyperion " which has always seemed to me to Thanks to overwork, and still more to over- repeat that sentiment in Ecclesiastes; it speaks worry, it is not so now.
There are many pros
of an expression in a man's face: perous persons in rude health, of course, who
“As though the vanward clouds of evil days will ask (with a virtuous resolution that is some
Had spent their malice, and the sullen rear times to be deplored), “ Do you suppose, then,
Was with its storied thunder laboring up." that I wish to cut my throat ?" I certainly do not. Do not let us talk of cutting throats; This is why poor paterfamilias, sitting in the famthough, mind you, the average of suicides, soily pew, is not so enamored of that idea of acadmirably preserved by the Registrar-General complishing those threescore years and ten which and other painstaking persons, is not entirely to the young parson, fresh from Cambridge, is debe depended upon. You should hear the doctors scribing as such a lucky number in life's lottery. at my Inn (in the intervals of their abuse of their The attempt to paint it so is well-meaning, no professional brethren) discourse upon this topic doubt ; "the vacant chaff well meant for grain "; --on that overdose of chloral which poor B. and it is touching to see how men generally took, and on that injudicious self-application of (knowing that they themselves have to go through chloroform which “carried off poor C.” With with it) are wont to portray it in cheerful colors. the law in such a barbarous state in relation to A modern philosopher even goes so far as to self-destruction, and taking into account the feels say that our memories in old age are always ings of relatives, there was, of course, only one grateful to us. Our pleasures are remembered, way of wording the certificate, but—and then but our pains are forgotten; “if we try to recall they shake their heads as only doctors can, and a physical pain,” she writes (for it is a female), help themselves to port, though they know it's “we find it to be impossible." From which I poison to them.
gather only this for certain, that that woman It is an old joke that annuitants live for ever, never had the gout. but no annuity ever had the effect of prolonging The folks who come my way, indeed, seem to life which the assurance companies have. How remember their physical ailments very distinctly, many a time, I wonder, in these later years has to judge by the way they talk of them; and are a hand been stayed, with a pistol or “a cup of exceedingly apprehensive of their recurrence. cold poison" in it, by the thought “ If I do this, Nay, it is curious to see how some old men will my family will lose the money I am insured for, resent the compliments of their juniors on their besides the premiums "? This feeling is alto- state of health or appearance. “Stuff and nongether different from that which causes Jeannette sense !” cried old Sam Rogers grimly; "I tell and Jeannot in their Paris attic to light their char- you there is no such thing as a fine old man." coal-fire, stop up the chinks with their love-let- In a humbler walk of life I remember to have ters, and die (very disreputably) "clasped in one heard a similar but more touching reply. It was another's arms, and silent in a last embrace.” upon the great centenarian question raised by There is not one halfpenny's worth of sentiment Mr. Thoms. An old woman in a workhouse, about it in the Englishman's case, nor are any said to be a hundred years of age, was sent for such thoughts bred in his brain while youth is in by the Board of Guardians, to decide the point
by her personal testimony. One can imagine the as a tree puts forth its leaves, to be damned in half-dozen portly, prosperous figures, and the both worlds?" and I notice that even the clergy contrast their appearance offered to that of the who come my way, and take their weak glass of bent and withered crone. “ Now, Betty,” said negus while the coach changes horses, no longer the chairman with unctuous patronage, "you insist upon the point, but at the worst faintly look hale and hearty enough, yet they tell me trust the larger hope. that you are a hundred years old; is this really Notwithstanding these comparatively cheertrue?"
“God Almighty knows, sir," was her ful views upon a subject so important to all pasreply, “but I feel a thousand.”
sengers on life's highway, the general feeling is, And there are so many people nowadays who as I have said, one of profound dissatisfaction ; "feel a thousand.”
the good old notion that whatever is is right is It is for this reason that the gift of old age fast disappearing; and in its place there is a is unwished for, and the prospect of future life doubt-rarely expressed except among the phiwithout encouragement. It is the modern con- losophers, with whom, as I have said, I have noviction that there will be some kind of work in thing to do—a secret, harassing, and unwelcome it; and, even though what we shall be set to do doubt respecting the divine government of the may be "wrought with tumult of acclaim,” we world. It is a question which the very philosohave had enough of work. What follows, al- phers are not likely to settle even among themmost as a matter of course, is that the thought selves, but it has become very obtrusive and imof possible extinction has lost its terrors. Heav- portant. Men raise their eyebrows and shrug en and its glories have still their charms for their shoulders when it is alluded to, instead, as those who are not wearied out with toil in this of old, pulverizing the audacious questioner on life; but the slave draws for himself a far other the spot, or even (as would have happened at a picture of home. His is no passionate cry to be later date) putting him into Coventry; they have admitted into the eternal city; he murmurs sul- no opinion to offer upon the subject, or at all lenly, “Let me rest.”
events do not wish to talk about it. But it is no It was a favorite taunt with the skeptics of longer, be it observed, “bad form” in a general old—those early fathers of infidelity, who used way to do so; it is only that the topic is personto occupy themselves so laboriously with scraping ally distasteful. at the rind of the Christian faith-that until the The once famous advocate of analogy threw Cross arose men were not afraid of death. But a bitter seed among mankind when he suggested, that arrow has lost its barb. The fear of death, in all innocence, and merely for the sake of his even among professing Christians, is now com- own argument, that, as the innocent suffered for paratively rare; I do not mean merely among the guilty in this world, so it might be in the dying men—in whom those who have had ac- world to come; and it is bearing bitter fruit. To quaintance with deathbeds tell us they see it feel aweary at the Midway Inn is bad enough ; scarcely ever—but with the quick and hale. but to be journeying to no home, and perhaps Even with very ignorant persons the idea that even to some harsher school than we yet wot of, things may be a great deal worse for us hereafter is indeed a depressing reflection. than even at present is not generally entertained Hence it comes, I think, or partly hence, that as respects themselves. A clergyman who was there is now no fun in the world. Wit we have, attending a sick man in his parish expressed a and an abundance of grim humor, which evokes hope to the wife that she took occasion to re- anything but mirth. Nothing would astonish us mind her husband of his spiritual condition. in the Midway Inn so much as a peal of laugh“Oh, yes, sir,” she replied, “many and many a ter. A great writer (though it must be contime have I woke him up o' nights, and cried, fessed scarcely an amusing one), who has recent* John, John, you little know the torments as is ly reached his journey's end, used to describe his preparing for you!'”. But the good woman, it animal spirits depreciatingly, as being at the best seems, was not disturbed by any such dire im- but vegetable spirits. And that is now the way aginings upon her own account.
with us all. When Charles Dickens died, it was Higher in the social scale, the apprehension confidently stated in a great literary journal that of a Gehenna, or at all events of such a one as his loss, so far from affecting “the gayety of naour forefathers almost universally believed in, is tions,” would scarcely be felt at all; the power rapidly dying out. The mathematician tells us of rousing tears and laughter being (I suppose that, even as a question of numbers, “about one the writer thought) so very common. That in ten, my good sir, by the most favorable com- prophecy has been by no means fulfilled. But, putations,” the thing is incredible; the philan- what is far worse than there being no humorous thropist inquires indignantly, “Is the city Arab, writers among us, the faculty of appreciating then, who grows to a thief and felon as naturally even the old ones is dying out. There is no such
thing as high spirits anywhere. It is observable, arisen, though of an anomalous kind. It is pretoo, how very much public entertainments have side dover by a sort of male Miss Kilmansegg, increased of late—a tacit acknowledgment of who is also a model of propriety. It is as though dullness at home—while, instead of the lively, if the dragon that guarded the apples of Hesperisomewhat boisterous, talk of our fathers, we have des should be a dragon of virtue. Under the drawing-room dissertations on art, and dandy pretense of extolling prudence and perseverance, drivel about blue china.
he paints money-making as the highest good, There is one pleasure only that takes more and and calls it thrift; and the popularity of this more root among us, and never seems to fail, and class of book is enormous. The heroes are all that is, making money. To hear the passengers “self-made" men who come to town with that at the Midway Inn discourse upon this topic, you proverbial half-crown which has the faculty of would think they were all commercial travelers. accumulation that used to be confined to snowIt is most curious how the desire for pecuniary balls. Like the daughters of the horse-leech, gain has infected even the idlest, who of course their cry is “Give, give,” only instead of blood take the shortest cut to it by way of the race- they want money; and I need hardly say they course. I see young gentlemen, blond and beard- get it from other people's pockets. Love and less, telling the darkest secrets to one another, friendship are names that have lost their meanaffecting, one would think, the fate of Europe, ing, if they ever had any, with these gentry. but which in reality relate to the state of the fet- They remind one of the miser of old who could lock of the brother to Boanerges. Their earnest- not hear a large sum of money mentioned withness (which is reserved for this enthralling topic) out an acceleration of the action of the heart; is quite appalling. In their elders one has long and perhaps that is the use of their hearts, which, been accustomed to it, but these young people otherwise, like that of the spleen in other peoshould really know better. The interest excited ple, must be only a subject of vague conjecture. in society by "scratchings” has never been They live abhorred and die respected ; leaving equaled since the time of the Cock Lane ghost. all their heaped-up wealth to some charitable inIf men would only “lose their money and look stitution, the secretary of which levants with it pleasant without talking about it, I shouldn't eventually to the United States. mind; but they will make it a subject of con- This last catastrophe, however, is not menversation, as though every one who liked his tioned in these biographies, the subjects of which glass of wine should converse upon “the vint- are held up as patterns of wisdom and prudence ages.” One looks for it in business people and for the rising generation. I shall have left the forgives it; but every one is now for business. Midway Inn, thank Heaven, for a residence of
The reverence that used to belong to Death smaller dimensions, before it has grown up. Conis now only paid to it in the case of immensely ceive an England inhabited by self-made men! rich persons, whose wealth is spoken of with Has it ever struck you how gloomy is the pobated breath. “He died, sir, worth two mil- etry of the present day? This is not perhaps of lions ; a very warm man.” If you happen to say, very much consequence, since everybody has a though with all reasonable probability and even great deal too much to do to permit him to read with Holy Writ to back you, “He is probably it; but how full of sighs, and groans, and paswarmer by this time," you are looked upon as a sionate bewailings it is! And also how deuced Communist. What the man was is nothing, difficult! It is almost as inarticulate as an Æowhat he made is everything. It is the gold alone lian harp, and quite as melancholy. There are that we now value: the temple that might have one or two exceptions, of course, as in the case sanctified the gold is of no account. This wor- of Mr. Calverley and Mr. Locker ; but even the ship of mere wealth has, it is true, this advan- latter is careful to insist upon the fact that, like tage over the old adoration of birth, that some- those who have gone before us, we must all quit thing may be possibly got out of it; to cringe Piccadilly. “ At present,” as dear Charles Lamb and fawn upon the people that have blue blood writes, “ we have the advantage of them"; but is manifestly futile, since the peculiarity is not there is no one to remind us of that now, nor is communicable, but it is hoped that, by being it, as I have said, the general opinion that it is shaken up in the same social bag with million- an advantage. aires, something may be attained by what is It is this prevailing gloom, I think, which actechnically called the “sweating” process. So counts for the enormous and increasing popufar as I have observed, however, the results are larity of fiction. Observe how story-telling creeps small, while the operation is to the last degree into the very newspapers (along with their profesdisagreeable.
sional fibbing); and, even in the magazines, how What is very significant of this new sort of it lies down side by side with“ burning quesgolden age is that a literature of its own has tions” (such as “Is future punishment eternal ?")
like the weaned child putting its hand into the for a joke. The prigs that frequent my Midway
At the very best—that is to say when it pro[Here he stared at me so exceedingly hard duces anything—what does the most costly eduthat any one with a less heavenly temper, or who cation in this country produce in ordinary minds had no material reasons for putting up with it, but the deplorable habit of classical quotation ? would have taken his remark as personal and If it could teach them to think—but that is a gone away.]
subject, my dear friend, into which you will Another cause of the absence of good fellow- scarcely follow me. ship among us (he went on) is the growth of ed- [I could have knocked his head off if he had ucation. It sticks like a fungus to everybody, not been so exceptionally stout and strong, and and though, it is fair to say, mostly outside, does as it was I took up my hat to go, when a thought a great deal of mischief. The scholastic interest struck me.] has become so powerful that nobody dares speak “Among your valuable remarks upon society a word against it; but the fact is, men are edu- as at present constituted you have said nothing, cated far beyond their wits. You can't fill any my dear sir, about the ladies.” cup beyond what it will hold, and the little “ I never speak of anything," he replied with cups are exceedingly numerous. Boys are now dignity, “which I do not thoroughly understand. crammed (with information) like turkeys (but Man I do know-down to his boots; but wounfortunately not killed at Christmas), and when man "-here he sighed and hesitated—“no; I they grow up there is absolutely no room in them don't know nearly so much of her.”
JAMES Payn, in the Nineteenth Century.
It has come to this at last, that he who was I.
extolled as a “Divine Figure from the North' A , of
the condition of Russia by the startling own people, as an “unspeakable" despot. His events of the last few months. Tragic deeds corrupt, venal, unscrupulous minions are ruthfollow each other with bewildering swiftness. lessly shot down, stabbed, strangled, at the order The most eccentric flight of fancy does not now of a secret Vehme, as “the one great anti-human suffice to gather in the full picture of the dramat- specimen of humanity." All illusion is dispelled. ic rapidity with which, in the Czar's dominions, The contrasts face each other with determined horrors accumulate upon horror's head. Sick mien, with pitiless action. “Terror for terror!” of a so-called “ paternal government ” which is the acknowledged programme of those who combines Mongol cruelty with all the deleterious strike out for deliverance from a galling thralldom. subtileness of “a culture that was rotten before The Autocrat replies with fresh cruelties; he only it had become ripe,” Russian malcontents resort widens thereby the circle of his foes. Everyto a mode of warfare such as outraged human where the hand of the invisible League turns up nature, in its despair, is wont to adopt against a -in the public street, in the places of popular relentless foe. Men's eyes may look in sadness amusement, in the midst of a brilliant social upon a spectacle which has the appearance of a gathering, in the office of the merchant and the ghastly midnight reflex from the mythic Nibelun- banker, in the bureaus of the police; ay, in the gen Massacre. But of the fatal moving cause barrack-room, and in the very cabinets of the and connection of those acts of violence none Czar and the heir apparent. can doubt who keeps in mind the course that It is a perfect revelation to many men not has hitherto marked Russian history.
conversant with Muscovite history, this extraor