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Shall change the living, raise the dead, and bring
May he who wrote, and ye who read this strain,
Sheffield, August 10, 1829.
THE BACHELOR'S BRIDAL.
BY THE AUTHOR OF “SELWYN.”
It is perhaps the most natural, as well as most powerful excuse that can be offered for the shade of misanthropy which is apt to creep, with advancing years, over the best and kindest spirits, that they have read in their pilgrimage through life so many bitter commentaries on the errors or vices of humanity. Youth hears of injustice, infidelity, and treachery. It neither believes nor understands, and goes on its jocund way unsaddened and unwarned. But the man of declining years has seen their harrowing traces on the brow of worth and the cheek of beauty, and conviction is reluctantly forced upon him. Out of very pity for one brother of his species, he begins to despise, if not to hate, another; and under the strong abhorrence of individual falsehood, is even heard to “say in his haste, all men are liars!”
If there be among the children of deceit or levity, a character more fitted than another to give rise to this uncharitable feeling, it is surely that of the man who, having set himself in sober sadness, and with all the energies of a perhaps powerful and commanding intellect,
to win and monopolise the affections of a fair woman, his equal in birth and station (and therefore exempt from the distrust and misgivings which seldom fail to make the humble maiden in some degree an accomplice in the task of seduction), conceives himself warranted by any change, short of personal unworthiness in the object of this well-assorted connexion, to withdraw his promise, and make shipwreck of her happiness! And if the cause be, as is too often the case, sordid love of gold, or diminution of worldly advantages, is there a term base enough to characterise so ignoble a breach of plighted faith? Oh! that the broken hearts and ravaged minds of hundreds of the noblest, and loveliest, and most innocent of God's creatures could suffice to brand, with inexpiable infamy, a crime, whose toleration amongst us is a disgrace to civilised society! Theoretically, I ever abhorred it; but as I before remarked, I had not learned to hate it“ with a perfect hatred,” till I gathered from the lips of him whose peace the stroke had shattered, even at the rebound; the history of one of the many hearts broken by the perfidy of the world's “honourable men.” I will give it in the words of the narrator, a brave and highminded officer, on whose manly frame grief and disappointment had done the work of a hundred battles, and whose blighted hopes and joyless existence, formed a living commentary on the text of which I have made choice. “It was after a residence of nearly fifteen years in
India,” said Colonel Merton to me, when months of silent sympathy had entitled me to confidence, “that I felt, for the first time during an interval of intense professional excitement, the wish to revisit my native country. It was no sooner formed than it became irresistible. I fancied my health affected by every moment's delay, and looked on the monotonous objects around with hourly and increasing disgust. Leave of absence, after such a period of active service, was readily granted; but its limited nature (for I was in the king's service), and an impatience to enjoy European scenes and associations, combined to make me prefer, to some months' imprisonment on ship-board, the harassing journey over land, across the desert. It was performed with its usual unvarying features of discomfort, privation, and fatigue. These, a soldier can despise: while there is something to be done, he is always ready to suffer ; but the passive endurance of confinement and solitude is not his forte.
"I need not enlarge, to any one who has ever felt the vivid pleasures of contrast, on the bliss it was to tread, after the purgatory of an Alexandrian merchantman, and the still more annoying confinement of a Maltese lazaretto, the delicious shores of Naples! I did not think it had been in my harassed soldier-frame, and languid toil. worn spirit, to feel so happy; and I hailed my long forgotten sensations as an earnest of enjoyments even more heartfelt and consoling. The only drawback on my present satisfaction, was the want of a companion; though the sense of solitude, which weighed so heavily amid the bustling myriads of the Toledo, was often welcome when treading the lone shores of Baiæ, and the silent tombs of Pompeii.
"I had spent one bright and balmy spring-morning amid the latter unspeakably interesting remains, and had identified myself so completely with their ancient in, habitants, as to feel absolutely startled to find (on looking in, for a second time, on what is termed the Basilica) its verdant area occupied by a gay group of English travellers; for whose mid-day repast, fallen pillars, and their yet unfinished capitals (for Pompeii when overwhelmed was but breathing from the ravages of an earthquake) furnished classical accommodations.
“I began by feeling angry at the intrusion, and ended by envying the intruders,—so very sociably did they seem to enjoy their frugal banquet, in a spirit of subdued and tranquil cheerfulness, which did not in the least degree outrage the sanctity of a people's sepulchre. I really longed to join them, and felt convinced I should have been made welcome; but the frank, fearless spirit which on the banks of the Ganges would have prompted the proposal, shrunk abashed before the chilling influence of my native Thames, and I sat down quietly, behind a yet erect column, to contemplate the pleasing spectacle of domestic enjoyment, and listen to the sound of my country's language,—now, for the first time, saluting my ear from many a cheerful and almost familiar voice.