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serpent's tongue;' those dandies and beauties who dressed for Ranelagh and clapped the Beggar's Opera,' and followed the lead of Beaux Edgeworth and Nash, Fielding and Brummel, copying the tie of their cravats one hour, and letting them languish in prison the next; those wits and celebrities whose mots still sparkle through the dry pages of memoirs, and gleam through the yellow faded leaves of their letters,they are all living to me, Sir Folko! as living as if I heard the rustle of their silks, and the ring of their jeux de mots, and the glitter of their stars and orders!"
He laughed. It amused him unspeakably to hear her talk. If she had chosen to go on for an hour, I don't believe he would ever have stopped her.
"I often think," Alma went on, "what pride and gratification it must be to any man-to you, for instance-to look back on a long line of noble ancestry. It must give you a glow of a warmer feeling than pride; it must bring you a heritage of honour that none can take away; it must make you love to live so as never to disgrace them, nor stain the name they have handed down to you?"
Her unconscious words struck with a keen sting into De Vigne's heart. He loved his gentleman's name, honoured as it had been in bygone generations by the talent, courage, and gallantry of his father's fathers. He was proud of his ancestry, as all men must be who have anything in them of a love for what is noble and worthy. He, in his boyhood, had vowed "to live so as never to disgrace them;" yet he had been the first of his line that had given it to one who dishonoured it; he had been the first who had placed it in hands that degraded it! Alma's innocent words struck the chord of that bitter regret which was ever upon him-the stain of his marriage upon that name which had never before been borne save by women noble of birth and pure in life. He answered her with an effort. Unfulfilled aspirations, unkept resolves, unavailing regrets, rose up in him
at her words.
"It ought-it does not follow that it must. What should be, rarely is, petite. Still I think with you: it were odd if the man who inherited intellect cultivated, manners refined, and honour held high through many generations, had not something better born in him with his pur sang than the man whose fathers were blackguards, thieves-God knows whatwhose hands were dirty, and brains untutored, and names unknown and unvalued. But just now men of rank and breeding are selected only as the stalking-horse on which to exhibit in terrorem all the vices of the Decalogue and the law courts. In all the romances of the day-pandering to public taste, and written very often by people not within the pale of good society, ignorant of its ways and envious of its distinctionsthe hero is invariably self-educated-other education is thought, I suppose, de luxe; and you are carefully assured that he never either could, or would, or wished to be, attractive and well-bred, those being sybaritisms, and quite anterior to the rough muscular Christianity' of which he is certain to be an apostle. To write a book of what will be called a 'healthy' and 'moral' tone-a book that will 'go down' in religious circles, and be 'asked for' at circulating libraries-you must now be careful to select some brawny-armed carpenter, or hard-working self-made man'-you must throw in, into counter-position to him, a man of rank, blackguardly
as the details of Bow-street police-court-you must balance in exact ratio the morality and purity of your under-bred man with the rascality and impossible villany of your well-born enfant terrible--you must incline your heroine to the satanic beauty of your Lothario, but make her see her error, and take refuge in the arms of your Hercules. Such a plot, with a few stale apothegms, a night class, where your hero teaches the Gospel, or some moral philosophies, with a retributive end to your supposititious gentleman,' and a good scene at the finish of your ungainly but immaculate pet, with one eye burnt out in the conflagration of his mill or his workshop, and an open Bible laid out on his knee, your novel will be healthy, and, what healthy writers count on most, remunerative. Doubtless there are very estimable coal-merchants, most irreproachable carpenters; I am sure there are, though they don't happen to be in my set, and come across my path. No doubt a man who rises like Robert Peel, or Edward Sugden, or Douglas Jerrold, is a noble example in our generation, as Baptiste Colbert was in his; we can wish for none better, we can cite none more encouraging to young men of talent superior to their fortunes, and energy struggling against adverse circumstances. But, because a man has risen from the ranks, it is very far from following that he must necessarily have risen by right means or worthy steps. Very often it is quite the contrary; it is very generally by chicanery and fraud, by doing very dirty jobs, by kicking down each round of the ladder by which they have profited, by squeezing every farthing out of widows and orphans, by unseen swindling and robbery under the rose: because a man is a self-made man,' it does not follow that the tools he has used are those for which we should laud him."
"No," answered Alma; "it is a curious fancy of the present day, that the mud of the gutter must purify, and the blue blood of the stately escutcheons must stain; and it is as curious a paradox that the very authors who, in writing of some historic site, dwell with such ecstasies on the nobility and heroism of those who made it famous, try to sneer down, with a savage cut at aristocracy, the descendants of the men they eulogise. If great deeds give such an aroma to woods and hills, mortar and stone, surely they may give some to the inheritors of their blood and their name. It is singular, as you say, to see the universal type adopted in all novels of the present day. Your class is never represented, or at least never fairly."
De Vigne laughed:
"No; the romancists only take our class to vilify it, and lead it out as a bête noire or a scarecrow. The soldier or the man of rank is scarcely ever represented as he is in any novel of the day; yet we are a large classperhaps the best educated in the land-certainly one that has the most influence in many things; but military men are invariably made such under-bred fools as would be inadmissible in the society to which they belong, and of a gentleman'-i. e. a man of honour, birth, and high breeding, such as, though they may not be demigods or saints, one meets many, thank God! both in literary and patrician circles-the young men and maidens who rush into print would seem to have not the faintest notion, since if their characters be meant to be of tolerable birth and manners, they load them with the vulgar tricks they see now and then
detailed in the newspaper reports of some drunken ensign with his schoolboy mischief still about him. There is a strange spite-for it really merits no higher term-against the aristocracy-not a just and sensible exposition, that brain, wherever it be found, whether under Chatham's coronet, or Burns's peasant bonnet, is equally worthy, and Watt studying steam by his aunt's cottage tea-kettle, is as great in his way as Wellington planning the lines of Torres Vedras in his-but a smarting, envious, venomous spite, which decrees that good names in his past must make a man utterly unable to make great names for himself. We see the contrary around us every day; we have great statesmen, soldiers, men of letters, who give the lie to it. It is to men of birth and cultivation that the country is glad to come for its prime ministers and its cabinet councillors; yet the opticism holds its reign; and if a peer's son, once in a way, plays one of those harum-scarum, vulgar, practical jokes such as are not unknown, though unrecorded, among the young Browns, and Joneses, and Robinsons of the immaculate 'middle class,' pounce come all the little stinging flies and seize upon the offence, and hold it up to the eyes of the nation with angry snarl and coarse anathema against his Order, with as much wisdom and justice in their sweeping invective as those would show who called a merchant a bankrupt because his boy owed five shillings to a schoolfellow he could not pay until next half. I take it, if one looked thoroughly into it, that the dissipations of the upper classes, on which these gentry, who find it 'the thing' to prate of pure lives' and 'spotless morals,' hold forth so severely of late, be, after all, worse in their way and in their fruits than the giant frauds, the sub rosa robberies, the mercantile lies, the banking swindles, the professional hypocrisies, the dishonest jesuitisms, perpetrated in the middle classes under the name of Business. But I shall talk myself hoarse, and you deaf, Alma. One o'clock! We have absolutely been walking two hours. We must turn back, or I shall have you knocked You are not used to our cold March mornings."
"But I enjoy it so intensely," interrupted Alma, lifting her radiant face to his. "Won't you come in and have some luncheon? You dined often enough at Weive Hurst," she asked, as he held out his hand to her at the gate.
Luncheon is not disagreeable after three hours' walking. He went and took some of Mrs. Lee's admirably done cutlets, just served for Alma's little dinner, and he stayed till the afternoon sun was getting red in the west. Alma walked with him down the garden, and as he looked back and waved her an adieu, De Vigne could not help but confess that she made a pretty tableau leaning over the white gate with little Sylvo in her arms.
He smiled as he walked along, cutting the brown grass with his cane. "She is a clever little thing," he thought to himself; "it is wonderfully amusing to talk to her. Poor child! it is a dull life for her there. Well! she is out of harm's way; in the world she would soon come to grief."
De Vigne was destined to remember, too late, that "L'Amitié est l'Amour sans ailes," and that the pinions may be sprouted and spread ere we even know of their growth.
THE AMERICANS AT HOME.
WHEN Gibbon wrote his great work, "the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," he had to deal with a nation which founded its grandeur on an ancient and solid basis; which advanced step by step, retained for a lengthened period the bloom of its strength and majesty, and eventually perished owing to evils at first concealed, but which grew to a head in a course of ages. The history of Venice, from her first ascendancy to her final collapse, extends over a thousand years; in a word, we may say that in our "old" Europe all growth, as well as all declension, extends over a very lengthened period.
The spectacle the citizens of the United States offer us stands in the most startling contrast to the teaching of our history. Among them there is a rapidity of development and growth, of degeneracy and weakening perceptible, such as has rarely before been produced to such an extent in history. A very little while back this state resembled a powerful, fully-manned, and splendidly-equipped ship of the line, whose sea capability and might hardly any one doubted. And now we suddenly see this ship stranded on a reef in the midst of its triumphant course, and split into two parts like the old Roman Empire. It is almost a tragic sight: the foreign powers that feared it a short time ago now ridicule the fallen giant with the feet of clay. And even the smaller states, such as Spain and Mexico, appear to do much they would have not dared to do, even if they are not ready to attack it.
Whether the Americans can ever again emerge from the gulf of dissension in which they so suddenly hurled themselves? whether they can again become united? whether their political weakness is momentary? and whether their might will take a fresh impulse?-these are questions which now occupy many thoughtful men, though not one of them is clever enough to answer them positively in the negative or affirmative. It is not our purpose here to attack these questions, our intention being rather to discuss the point of the already existing, and still threatening, decadence of the popular strength and morality, and bring together a few hurried observations that may throw a light on this topic. Perhaps, in this way, a comprehension of what is now going on among the Americans may be promoted, and it is possible that, were the Americans to pursue the same investigation, they might hit on the idea of introducing betimes many a beneficial change.
The uniformity of all political, domestic, and moral circumstances and conditions is one of the most remarkable facts that strikes the European in America. In nearly all European states there is a number of different nationalities, or, at any rate, relics of old nationalities, with their peculiar habits, dialects, and costumes. Austria, Russia, and Turkey are, in this respect, as varied as a butterfly's wing; but even England, France, and Spain stand in the same relation to the United States as a diversified landscape does to the smooth surface of a lake. It is true that many nations have migrated to America, but they were all, and still are, boiled down into the same homogeneous broth in the great caldron of the country, which is filled with corrosive democratic essences. The whole nation Oct.-VOL. CXXIII. NO. Ccccxc.
hence only learns and speaks the same language, does homage to the same manners and customs, and wears the same attire. The tyrant fashion-even its old capital of Paris-has gained proportionally insignificant triumphs, for its sway only extends over the surface of nations. In America, however, it overpowers and uniforms every living soul, and fills the entire mass with such corresponding tastes and feelings, that what one desires pleases another, and thus, in the end, all, great and small, seem to have purchased their hats, coats, and boots at the same manufactory.
Even when a nation speaks one language, that language is usually divided into an infinity of dialects. In America, dialects or provincial distinctions hardly exist, or are so faintly coloured that they can scarce be perceived in comparison with the striking contrasts among ourselves. All Americans, high and low, backwoodsmen and New York merchant princes, the dwellers on the Pacific and on the Atlantic, all speak not only the same language, but the same dialect in the same nasal tone, and in the same inexpressive, dull, and prosaic manner. We certainly concede that there are different jargons amid the number of provinces, but they cannot be called organic dialects, so much as various results from twisting and spoiling the English language.
The smallest English village, even if it possess no differences of nationality or dialect, is full of the most varying gradations of society and rank. In America, where there is only one language, one costume, there is also only one rank, that of the "Free citizens of the Republic," who consider themselves of equal value and descent. The two ends of society form a knot: the poor man, who does not stand so aloof as the labourers among us, takes a far more prominent part in the formation of the rich man, and the latter, who cannot be exclusive, as he is formed of the same dough as those below him, must admit many uneducated elements into his society. Hence, in America, there is no good or bad ton, no polished and no rough society. One tone and one colour is peculiar to the community; the same coating of varnish and semi-polish is daubed over all. The varieties of expression and face, again, are very perceptible among ourselves. There is a very marked difference, we need hardly say, between the expression on the face of a labourer, and the eloquent countenance of a person of refined education. The Americans are, in this respect, all, as it were, dies from the same stamp. Naturally, there are no aristocratic types among them, and, as a general rule, there is something vulgar and plebeian, not only in their manners, but in the common-place expression of their faces. This admixture of the vulgar is found even in the countenances of their presidents and great men, and in the faces and mode of speech of even their loveliest ladies.
On the other hand, the brutal and coarse expression found among our idiots, and those allied to them, does not descend so deep in the lower classes, as among ourselves. The low origin of their children, when ennobled in the American fashion, by being raised by a turn of the dice to a high position, is not perceptible either in manner or bearing, for these are very rapidly formed after the universal model.
Their domestic relations also follow the same uniform system. The houses in their towns are as much alike as if built by the same architect. The interior is always furnished in the same way, the only dif