Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE CONFESSIONS OF AN UGLY GENTLEMAN.

It is related of Bergeyrac, the satirist, that happening to be unfortunately gifted with a nose somewhat awry, he was very choleric whenever any one presumed to bring the fact to his attention by remark or laughter: upon these occasions, whoever was so unfortunate as to give him offence, was certain of immediately receiving a challenge, and in this way he is said to have been engaged in not less than a hundred duels. There was, perhaps, something superlative in the anger of this good gentleman; but, indeed! indeed! there is no knowing one half the mortifications which they suffer whom nature has distinguished by some peculiarity or deformity of countenance. They whose features may be found in their proper places, not thrown about as it were with a careless hand, but maintaining a correct understanding with one another, cannot form the slightest notion of the manner in which torment is heaped upon us unfortunates, whose case is different. I say us," for the truth---the lamentable truth, must be admitted, however unwillingly that I am to be numbered amongst the wretched individuals to whom I allude. My case is, indeed, a peculiarly unfortunate one, for I have not only to labor under the disadvantage of a serious irregularity of my nasal organ, but what I verily believe to be of far more importance---although, heaven knows ! that is sufficiently frightful---] have also to deplore a very dreadful and singular distortion of my eyes. My nose appears to me to be pretty nearly in the shape of a corkscrew---of my eyes I can give you no account---I never dare to look into a glass; they have been described to me as far more horrible than Parson Irving's.

It was my misfortune to be left early in life in possession of an income, which accumulated until my arrival at twenty-one, when I found myself sufficiently affluent to render attention to business unnecessary. If my situation in life had been otherwise, I might have found some resource in the bustle and turmoil of continual occupation; but as it is, I have no earthly business but to reflect upon my own ugliness, and listen to the perpetual whisperings of those around me. Nature too, to increase my unhappiness, or perhaps desiring to make amends for the defects I have enumerated, has endowed me with a distinctness of hearing, which, in my case, is particularly unfortunate. Wherever I go, I never fail to overhear the remarks which my appearance calls forth, and all my patience is sometimes insufficient to enable me to endure them. As to society, of course I have none; for if any one were inclined to be my friend, he cannot introduce me to his family, lest his wife should take fright at my appearance, and upon the next increase to their establishment, present her spouse with a copy of my physiognomy. Nay, I am even obliged to shift my lodgings continually, for by the time I have remained a few weeks in any neighbourhood, the inhabitants make use of me as a spectre to frighten their unruly children, and I am continually saluted with such phrases as, “ if you don't be quiet, I'll give you to the ugly gentleman“

If

general

Don't cry! see, here is the ugly gentleman coming," &c. &c. I travel, I am obliged to hire a carriage for myself, for passengers have frequently refused to ride by my side; and no longer ago than last winter, a coachman turned me out on Hounslow Heath in the inidst of a snow-storm, because a lady, who was in the inside of his coach, persisted she should go into hysterics, if I did not immediately leave her. Wherever I go, indeed, and the state of my health will not allow me to remain within doors, the recollection of my ugliness is always present with me; people turn round to stare at me in the street---and every puny urchin thinks himself at liberty to annoy me by his vociferations.

This conduct is extremely ungenerous, and with many men would, I am well aware, produce a harsh and misanthropical disposition; but such is not the case with me. I am of a mild, equable temperament, little disposed to take offence, and inclined to pardon, rather than resent, the conduct of the multitude, which, after all, is only such as might be anticipated. This readiness to forgive, may, in part, arise from my being fully sensible of the true character of my countenance, and partly also from a more than ordinary affection which I feel for all my fellow-creatures---a benevolence of disposition which inclines me to look over their failings, even when they operate to my own disadvantage and annoyance. The source of the feeling of benevolence, is usually imagined to be a desire to promote the happiness of mankind; but with me, I am convinced that it originates in a feeling of affection for whatever is beautiful. I look around the world, but no where can I find any object more unsightly than myself---none, therefore, that I do not love better. This love for the beautiful is, indeed, with me, not a mere preference, but a passion---] live upon the beauty of others, and regard my own deforinity with a feeling of aversion and dislike, equal, and perhaps superior, to that of other people. Around my room I place portraits the most beautiful I am able to collect, and frequently consume several hours in the contemplation of them. Oh! how can I describe the glow, the ardor, with which I dote upon the beaming eyes---the arched brows---the pouting lips---the witchery--- the animation, which are found in some of the lovely pictures by which I am surrounded.--Language is adapted to the expression of general and well-known feelings; it is inadequate to describe such sentiments as mine, which have nothing in common with the rest of mankind. The love which is entertained towards the beautiful of the other sex, is a mixed feeling far different from that more refined and more entirely spiritual affection which the mere sight of beauty inspires within me." Let it not, however, be thought I am incapable of entertaining the other species of love to which I have referred. In the selection of my lodgings, I always prefer a narrow street, for the conveniency which it affords of seeing the residents in the houses immediately opposite. By these means, I have several times become seriously enamoured of my neighbours.

At one time I procured a mask to be made for ine, which disguised my appearance so entirely, that no one at a distance could

discover the imposition. I continually approached my window; attracted the attention of a young lady in a house opposite to me; held a conversation with my fingers ; and at last procured a letter to be delivered to her. Our correspondence was continued for some time, and after many excuses and delays on my part, a meeting between us was appointed. I dreamt that I had secured her affections, and imagined that a woman's love would overcome all the difficulties which arose from the mere want of personal appearance.

But it was a dream-a fond, a baseless imagination. We met—she shrunk from me with horror, and insisted that I was not the person she had before seen: I produced her letters, but still she remained incredulous ; upon my knees I begged, I prayed, I entreated her not to reject me utterly. All was in vain ; she fled from me to her home, and Ileft my lodgings.

Convinced of the inutility of my mask, I at once discarded it ; but still my thirst after the beautiful continued to torment me. For a long time I was unsuccessful, but shortly after my arrival at my present lodgings, I contrived to secure the notice of an amiable young lady, whose father, a retired tradesman, lives in our street. Previously to engaging my lodging, I had adopted the recommendation of a friend, who assured me, that if I were to cover one of my visual organs, the horrible and truly distressing effect created by the sight of both them, would be entirely removed. Thus advised, I procured a black covering for my right eye, and related a long story about an engagement between a Post Office Packet and a French Privateer, during which a splinter from a gun-carriage deprived me of the sight of my eye. The effect which this honorable token gave to my countenance quite charmed me, and I fully hoped would produce a like effect upon my Dulcinea. I procured an introduction to her father : learnt Joe Miller by heart, and by retailing bad jokes became an especial favorite with the old gentleman, who declared ıne to be such a very pleasant fellow, that really it was a pity I was not better looking. The daughter regarded me with coldness; but I was not without hope ; every attention that man could pay, every entertainment that mortal could devise, I attempted in order to gain her good will. I had already become sufficiently familiar to occasionally make one in the family circle, and a few evenings since the evil fates decreed that Caradina and myself should be seated as partners at whist, against the old gentleman and his spouse. The end of a game had nearly arrived--it was of great importance, and depended upon the odd trick; our adversaries haul six tricks, and each of us had four cards to play. The lead was with me, and I was convinced that by skilful management I might gain all the tricks. I paused to reflect, and in an unlucky moment lifted my fore-finger to my brow. How it happened I can scarcely tell, but by a most unfortunate accident my hand discomposed the strings which fastened the covering over my eye. I was too much interested to attend to it at the moment.

I played and won the trick: I felt that the bandage was loosened, but I dared not pause an instant. I played again, still the fastenings gave way, but the trick was mine. More anxious than ever, I played a third time, and with the utmost interest watched my adversaries' cards as they fell. “ It is mine!” I exclaimed with enthusiasm; " and there," playing my last card,“ there is the game !” At this moment, just as I threw down the winning card, the covering fell on the table with it; all eyes were fixed upon me, and general shrinking back, accompanied by a shriek of horror, at once rendered me sensible of my situation, Without a moment's consideration I rushed out of the house---stayed not until I reached my lodging---gave my landlady notice that I should quit her on that day week, and retired, heart broken, to my chamber, to brood over my misfortunes. I have not yet mustered courage to quit the house; but I understand the whole neighbourhood is ringing with various versions of my history; some believing me to be, if not the real Diable, certainly not less than the Zamiel of Der Freyschutz, or the unhallowed creation of Frankenstein. A few moments ago I overheard Mrs. Wiggins, our next door neighbour, declare to Mrs. Brimskin, her next door neighbour, with whom she is conversing over the wall which separates their gardens--“Oh! ma'am, I never heard of such a perceeding;” and then Mrs. Wiggins raised herself to her full height, standing tip-toe upon the stool which she had placed against the wall, and continued, “My Mr. Wiggins, who you know is always so wery funny, says that he is a monster, just like a cannibal in a tempest ! * We had a monster once in Clerkenwell parish that frightened all the ladies, and I'm sure I'm not surprised that the P- s were all frightened the other night. They tell me that Miss P

was so much hurt by him, that she has'nt left her room since!" These women are still going on with their gossip, and I doubt not will ere long come to the conclusion that I ought to be hanged---at the least. What I shall do, heaven knows! if you, or any of your friends, can furnish me with a plausible suggestion, for charity's sake let me hear from you. T. B.

COLLECTANEA. No. VI.

" He scored the books as he read them, and placed in the margin references to other authors who treated of the same subjects, or related something that had regard to what he read."

LIFE OF M. ANCILLON.

75. MonoSYLLABIC LINES. In 1806, a M. Hennet published a Poetique Anglaise, in three volumes octavo. It is a work of considerable merit, and contains a short account of most of the English poets, and copious extracts from those who are most celebrated, with literal translations into French at the bottom of the page. His favorite author is Pope, and he ranks the Rape of the Lock as the finest poem that modern times have produced. In shewing the many advantages which the English poets possess over the French from the genius of their language, he mentions, among others, the monosyllabic lines. In English poetry, he says, four or five lines in every hundred will be found of this kind; while in French poetry it is hard to find one in a thousand.

* We suppose the witty gentleman referred to Caliban in the tempest.

Great force and great beauty are sometimes produced by these. He cites the famous stanza-

“ And ten low words oft creep in one dull line;": and from Eloisa and Abelard,

* No! fly me, fly me, far as pole from pole ;" the effects of which, he remarks, it is impossible to render in French verse.

There is a passage in Milton which he might have quoted as a remarkable instance of this kind of verse. In the second book (line 947), describing Satan's journey through chaos, there are three monosyllabic lines together, with the exception of one word.

"the fiend
O'er bog or steep, thro' strait, rough, dense, or rare,
With head, hands, wings, or feet, pursues his way;

And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies.” Chapman has the following characteristic lines on the apt fitness of the English monosyllables for poetry.

“ And for our tongue that still is so empayrd

By travelling linguists, I can prove it clear
That no tongue hath the Muse's utterance heyrd

For verse, and that sweet music to the ear
Struck out of rhyme, so naturally as this :

Our monosyllables so kindly fall
And meet, opposed in rhyme, as they did kiss.

French and Italian most immetricall;
Their many syllables in harsh collision

Fall as they brake their necks; their bastard rhymes
Saluting as they jostled in transition,

And set our teeth on edge; nor tunes nor times
Kept in their falls. And methinks their long words

Shew in short verse, as in a narrow place
Two opposites should meet with two-hand swords

Unwieldily without or use or grace.” It may be as well to add, that the English language has upwards of three thousand seven hundred monosyllabic expressions.

76. KEPLER. When on the point of discovering his second law of the planetary distances, he was for a time retarded by an apparent disagreement between his theory and some motions of the moon. After he had discovered his error, and completed his demonstration, in all the exultation of joy he applied to her these lines of Virgil:

“ Malo me Galatea petit, lasciva puella ;
Et fugit ad salices, et se cupit ante videri."

Eclog. 3. I. 64. There bave been poets who, by a great exertion of the license quidlibet audendi, have represented themselves as in love with the moon ; but it was reserved for the warm imagination of a mathematician to snatch such a grace, as to represent the moon in love with him. Let us talk no more then of the dulness of mathematics; let us no longer blind ourselves to the loves and graces of triangles, or refuse to relish the more sober, staid, and philosophic charms of anomalies, nodes, and syzygies !

« PreviousContinue »