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thing which may not entirely disgrace the name of my foster-mother.
And when the time shall come, as come it must, I also must do my best to meet it with fortitude and resignation ; I also must strive to depart with decency and gravity. Whether
shade may Ait around the scenes where I myself have lived so long, and enjoyed so many pleasures, I know not; I cannot expect that
“ The Majesty of Darkness shall
Receive my parting ghost :" but, while I disclaim all indifference, and feel with fervour every tribute of approbation paid to me, there are some of gentle mould and merciful disposition who will, I hope, look back at least without displeasure on the era and the works of
SENSE versus NONSENSE.
My dear Reader, which do you prefer? May I hope, for my own sake, that you will not give the palm to the first ? A dull, dry monitor, that does nothing but curb your gaiety, and compel you to creep circumspectly along, where you might have blundered laughingly and happily through life. Fair reader, if you be fair, or female (which terms, of course, are synonymous), have you ever had, on the same ball-night, a sensible and a nonsensical partner? You must have had both, or, if you have not, you, at any rate, will suppose for a moment that you have, and politely agree with me in your recollections of their behaviour. Did not your sensible friend go through the
quadrille, like an automaton, as stiff and as unentertaining, only excepting that the clock-work would at least have had the advantage of going through the figures regularly ; whereas the other would, most probably, by some awkward manæuvre, put the whole party in disorder ? Indeed, in a ball-room, sensible and insensible seem to me to be pretty nearly approaching to one another. How very different the votary of Nonsense ! Did he not canvass the room, dancers, plays, operas, in short, all the topics of the day, in such a way as to make you laugh, if not with him, certainly at him?
The superiority of Nonsense, however, does not by any means stop here ; the amusing style of Nonsense is not the only one which can be turned to useful purposes. We have the bewildering and distracting Nonsense; we have the perplexing and impenetrable Nonsense; have the astounding and awe-infusing Nonsense.
The Lover, or Fortune-hunter, will be a very fair instance of the distracting and bewildering. He knows how very
little chance he would have of prevailing on the beauty of his affections to accompany him to Gretna with no other aid than sheer, downright, plain, common sense. But Nonsense, sweet, charming, benevolent Nonsense comes in to his assistance, and strings together a set of unconnected words, never-dying, inextinguishable, heart-consuming flames; presiding deities; devoted and eternal constancy : jealousy, suicide, poison, the favoured rival's death, are interspersed here and there with great
The inamorata is half frightened, half forced into a kind of compliance ; this is seized as an unqualified consent; raptures follow raptures, and nonsense, nonsense : both are satisfied, one with the prospect of a husband, the other with the prospect of a fortune, and, in short, the pair are linked in a week. After marriage the husband does not think it necessary to keep up the unintelligible strain which formed the charm of his courtship. Sense intrudes and spoils all that Nonsense had done for them; the wife grows discontented and reproachful, the husband surly; the first, because she finds that her fortune, not her
person, was the bait that tempted him; the second, because he finds that the possession of his wife's money hardly compensates for the torments of his wife's tongue : they both grow wiser, and, in proportion, more miserable ; whereas, if they had remained as great fools (or at least if one party had) as when they married, they might, perhaps, have lived perfectly contented with themselves and with their yoke-fellows.
The Counsellor will be a specimen of the perplexing and impenetrable Nonsense. “When I can't talk sense, said Curran, “ I talk metaphor.” What the “metaphor” means is pretty evident, and to what so great a lawyer confesses, we hope no other will give the lie. How inadequate would Sense be to the task of subjecting a witness to the ordeal of technicality; of confounding one question with another answer; of contradicting the witness and puzzling the judge. The least mistake, of course, in the hands of an able practitioner, instantly becomes an inexcusable prevarication, the prevarication is improved into a perjury in a very short time, and the witness's testimony is discarded. If the counsellor give Sense the preference over Nonsense, O! ye phantoms of contradictory cross-examinations, of verbose, unintelligible speeches, haunt him, shriek in his ears, “Shame on the infamous ingratitude,” and avenge the cause of the bullied witness.
But let not any ungifted person presume to think that he can be nonsensical in either of the ways which I have mentioned. Neither are to be attained without considerable natural talents in that line. In the first place, impudence irrefragable; in the second, fluency inexhaustible; in the third, a quick eye, and ready invention, to seize the moment of letting fly at the victim the full torrent of humbug.
The astounding and awe-infusing Nonsense, besides being appropriated by nature to German Romancers and Travellers, is in great request among the proficients at St. Stephen's. What is more common, than for a politician to preface his objections to a Railway-Improvement Bill with protestations of its ruinous nature to King, Lords, and Commons, and a dreadful enumeration of the stabs and thrusts which our happy Constitution will receive from it.
As the Counsellor and Fortune-hunter would have reason to complain if they themselves were tied down to common Sense, the usurers, stock-brokers, and tradesmen of most kinds, would not be less injured if other people were purged of their folly. What, too, would the old maid say,
if every action, look, or word of her neighbours were kept under the guardianship of that duenna of duennas, Sense ? she would be reduced from harmless embellishment to point-blank invention, by which her too tender conscience might possibly be afflicted, and, moreover, nobody, if sensible, would believe her.
Last, not least, in the tribe of Nonsense, the Etonian cannot deny her his most cordial and unlimited gratitude. How, without this resource, could he get through his verses and theme on a hard week? What would he say, to have every exercise torn over, which was not in strict concordance with the rules of Sense; to have his verses pared from a magnificent copy of sixty or seventy, to the concise brevity of his number?
Sense, perhaps, will lay claim to the philosophers and essayists; we will yield them to her, though more from easiness and good-nature than from conviction of the justice of her claims : but nobody can deny Nonsense to be the lady paramount of all novels and romances, and by far the greater portion of the poets. All Adelinas, Euphemias, Angelicas, and Aramintas, all midnight apparitions and haunted castles, all despairing Corydons and dying Thyrsises, all sonnets to Mary or Ellen, may pretty safely be appropriated to her. Indeed I myself had some idea of becoming one of the latter class of her
partisans, solely and purely from veneration for our Patroness, and of chaunting her praises in “ lofty rhyme,” beginning, of course, with a congenial invocation to divine Nonsensia, and ending with a high-flown'apostrophe to that division of Eton College; which, from her, has received its name.