« PreviousContinue »
portions of their writings. You may mark anything that you think you can work into your composition. You are also at liberty to make 'extracts from other authors. I believe you have a volume of French conversational phrases; if not, buy or borrow one, and have it always by your side ; you will find it an article of the highest utility. Besides the authors I have mentioned, there are several others to whom you must always allude ; but as they have written, for the most part, only in our own language, you need not quote them, unless you choose. I have in my desk a list of their names, of which you can take a copy. Among them, as you will see, I have set down Shakspeare, Jonson and Milton. Whatever you write, never forget to speak of these three. Call the first sweet Will,' and the second good old Ben ;' it looks familiar, and implies that you love them like brothers. I ought to have told you before, that you are always to go into ecstasies when you mention Homer. That will prove that you know him by heart.
“I have now brought you to the starting point. You are a literary mechanic, with all your tools about you, and I have already incidentally told you how to use them. The nicest part of the work, after all, is the finishing off. Respecting this, I can give you a few useful hints. Style is a matter of fashion, not, as some suppose, of taste ; and Fash
as capricious and tyrannical in literature as in dress. You have observed the prevailing mania for old Saxon words, a rage lately sprung up, and now become universal. When first I saw it coming, a few years ago, I began to tremble. I thought to myself, 'Othello's occupation's gone;' for, knowing the transparency of pure old English, and supposing it impossible for any man to use it without making himself understood, I feared that, as I could not overthrow the fashion, the fashion would overthrow me, and with me every other writer who had made it a cardinal principle to avoid perspicuity. Happily, the bane is not without an antidote, and I can never sufficiently admire the ingenuity of those men who have demonstrated the possibility of using the plainest monosyllables in such a way as to render their meaning utterly incomprehensible. The process, to be sure, is perfectly simple ; and so is the working of a steam engine, when you have once studied it out; yet the glory of an inventor is rather increased than lessened by the simplicity of the principles which he was the first to discover. You have only to transpose your old English, twist it into rough, misshapen sentences, then hack these up into disjointed clauses, sprinkle in plenty of capitals and italics, and your workmanship will be pronounced the very perfection of modern style. So you can follow Fashion, and still, in spite of her, gain your point. You will have your • Old English,' but then you will have his honest head so turned and dizzied that, like a drunken man with thickened tongue, he will not be able to speak an intelligible word.
“ Again, in accordance with the usage of our best writers, and for the sake of rounding off your periods handsomely, I would have you make frequent reference to the importance of an independent National Literature,' to 'old English Literature,' the Augustan age,' the age of Leo Tenth,' the Elizabethan age,' and 'the age of Louis the Fourteenth'
“One thing more. There is at present in vogue a particular set of poetical and philosophical notions, which, like the image on a coin, must be imprinted upon every literary production, to give it currency. These ideas are embodied in certain technical terms, which I have taken pains to note down for my private use. You will find this list in my desk, with the other, and you had better commit it to memory, as it will come into constant requisition. Some of the expressions contained in it you will have to harp upon incessantly. Take, for example, the following: Humanity' _inner life'_social organization'—'the good, the beautiful, the true'—mission'— earnest—the dignity of man'-'cant'--the ideal — the masses'—the outward'work'—'man is so constituted,' and so forth. I believe I have about ninety of these phrases written down, and am adding to the number every day. One great idea remains to be mentioned ; if you get hold of that and learn how to manage it well, you will need nothing more, I was about to say, to establish your reputation. Force of Will; always bow down to that, and worship it; make that your constant theme of panegyrick, and only test of nobleness. It needs but half an eye to see that a great portion of our modern literature is nothing but the production and reproduction, under a thousand different forms, of this single idea. Amid the numberless traits of character which now display themselves in the hero of fiction, one only seems essential to his perfection. He may be, and commonly is, a robber, seducer, or murderer, but it is not necessary that he should appear in either of these characters; for the particular form through which his heroism shall be manifested, will depend on the judgment of his maker. A lump of clay in the hands of the novelist or poet, he may be shaped in the likeness of any thing in heaven above or in the earth beneath or in the water under the earth;' he is a hero still, for he never fails to possess the essence of all heroism, 'force of will.' He is bold, inflexible, successful, and therefore noble. The same disposition to exalt this quality above those better ones, through which alone it can work out good, to which it ought to be subservient, and without which it becomes either the dogged obstinacy of a brute, or the sullen determination of a fiend,- this same disposition, I say, pervades the philosophical essays of our times. It runs through them. You meet it everywhere. Let a man have been distinguished in history, no matter how low his appetites, no matter how gross his crimes, no matter whether he has figured as an impostor, a tyrant, a bigot, or a murderer-only let his dark form stand out in the background of the past-it is now the fashion to worship him as the embodiment of that sublime idea of which I am speaking; and it is by no means uncommon for a generous liberalism to babble of such heroes and the Son of Mary in the same breath, and challenge, for all of them, the homage due to men of splendid genius and unconquerable will. As I have counseled you to follow the fashions generally, so, in regard to this last, do I especially enjoin the observance of the same rule. Neglect it, and you will be neglected yourself. No man can fall.behind the age' with impunity. To be suspected of being suspected' of such treason, would ruin you forever.”
My uncle finished his remarks with some suggestions applying exclusively to myself, which I shall decline reporting to the reader. I hardly know whether the above directions were all given in earnest or not. I am inclined to think they were. I shall not venture to question their propriety, as I find myself daily more and more confirmed in the opinion that, whether Uncle John's notions be sound or unsound, they are sanctioned in practice by some of the most popular writers of “the present Age."
A DAY IN WALES.
“ Really, you must not leave Wales till you have seen the Pass of Llanberris.” She was very pretty, that daughter of our hostess, and had a soft, sweet, musical voice, and a way of “stating the case” that was certainly quite convincing. Our departure for Ireland was indefinitely postponed. In less than half an hour, Harry and I were comfortably lounging on a jaunting car, and rapidly rattling over the pavements of the long and narrow street of Bangor.
A queer, quaint old place is Bangor, with its antiquated, sleepy looking shops and houses, drawn up each side of the straggling street, like files of drunken soldiers; and its gray, heavy, moldering old cathedral, which has stood so long, in spite of the vicissitudes of war, the ruthless assaults of an impious soldiery, and the ravages of time. Ic was a market day, and the country people were coming in with their produce and manufactures, to sell or to barter. Here was the stout and sturdy yeoman, the man of substance and consequence among his humbler neighbors, with his strong, sleek horse and well-laden wagon; a little further on, came the rough, sorry-looking, much-enduring donkey, bending under his bulky panniers, while his master walked slowly at his head, and looked down on him with a sympathizing, kindly fellowfeeling; and then a farmer's daughter, ruddy and buxom and gay, came trotting along on her lusty little pony, the odious black hat of the Welsh women exchanged for a jaunty little bonnet, and her light wicker-basket hung gracefully over her arm. She smiles pleasantly as she passes, and looks as though she would drop an equestrian courtesy, if any way could be invented for accomplishing such a feat.
Nothing strikes ibe traveler so forcibly as the continual variety, the ever-changing aspects, the novel and surprising effects, of the scenery in Wales. In this consists its principal charm. It is this that gives it such a bewitching enchantment, that exerts such a powerful and irresistible influence over the mind, keeping it constantly under a wild and pleasurable excitement of surprised and delighted emotion. A ride of a few miles transferred us from the quiet streets of Bangor, to the stern, romantic valley of Nant Frangon. Here we were ushered into a scene the most solitary, wildly beautiful and magnificent. Bold and rugged mountains rose on every side around us. VOL. XI.
Huge masses of rock, which had lost their hold on their native beds, had rolled down the steep and craggy cliffs and lay strewed around in shapeless confusion. Deep and black gorges in the sides of the mountains, marked the path of the fierce and impetuous torrents, as they had rushed madly down into the lakes below. A few sheep were browsing among the mountain passes, or looking down upon us from the brow of some lofty and ragged precipice. A solitary angler was dropping his line in a little stream that came tumbling through a defile among the hills, while at a little distance a pedestrian artist, reclining under the shadow of a cliff, was making a pencil-sketch of the scene; and these were the only signs of human existence in all that wild and savage region. The iron hand of modern improvement had made no impress on those wild old mountains, and they remained undisturbed, in their grand and solemn majesty, just as they stood on the birth-day of the universejust as they had come from the hand of their Creator. Tradition too had thrown around the spot the spell of romance and superstition. The hardy mountaineer walks hurriedly and timidly by the place where the young prince Idwall fell by the hand of his infamous guardian ; they tell strange tales of the ghost of the murdered man, which they think is still hovering around the hollow, and fancy they still hear the wailings of the unappeased spirit above the howlings of the storm. There is a strange sort of fascination about terror, and most people love dearly to be frightened. I jumped from the jaunting car to pluck a flower that grew by the roadside, and pressed it in my note-book for a friend across the water. Harry worried our honest driver, who clung with fond pertinacity to a belief in the supernatural, with questions and observations about the ghost ;-he begged him to try to stir him up, for his particular benefit; he never had the pleasure, he said, of meeting with a gentleman of the ghostly profession, and hoped he might be induced to depart from his usual rules, and meet a few friends, in a private way, in the daytime. He couldn't of course be expected to show to quite so good advantage as he would against a darker background, but he was willing to make any reasonable allowance.
Reluctantly we left Nant Frangon behind us, and rode rapidly forward to Capel Curig. The road presents many singular and diversified views of rock and valley, deep woods and mountain torrents—wild sublimity contrasting with quiet beauty. A sudden turn affords a distant view of the rural and picturesque bridge over the Llugwy. It was midsummer, and the water was low in the deep, caverned bed of the river ; still the shaggy and shivered rocks, the leaping stream, and the sombre, overhanging woods, formed an assemblage striking and peculiar; while in the background rose the wild cliffs of Moel Siabod in dark and gloomy grandeur.
Soon the vale and lake of Capel Curig opened before us; and what was more to the purpose, just then, more attractive, I must acknowledge, than lakes or vales or mountain torrents, neat, comfortable little inn came into view. There is no need of stopping to prove that a ride of a dozen miles before breakfast, in the cool, bracing air of the hills, has a direct tendency to give one an appetite. The sight of the inn brought bright and rapturing visions of cakes and coffee, and eggs and trout, and we were in a mood to be
-“thinking of scenery,
But, thanks to our provident host, we were soon in a state of mind to be delighted with every thing; and feeling very much as Scrooge did on Christmas morning, I strolled out to the rude, rickety little wooden bridge, which crosses the quiet stream behind the garden. A stranger had lent me a fishing-pole, with all the paraphernalia of an angler, and I dropped my line into the water. The stream was full of fish, but they were not in a mood to be caught; so the little rascals would sport around the hook, and dart up to the surface of the water, and wink hard with one eye, and if they had only had noses and thumbs, it is easy to guess what saucy things they would have done. From this little bridge is presented a vast panoramic view, unsurpassed, if not unequaled; in Britain, in all that is majestic and grand. Lofty mountains, bold and bleak, yet rich in varied and picturesque beauty, rise on every side around it. On the one hand are frowning the gray hills of Glyder; on the other rises the dark, lofty peak of Moel Siabod, while directly in front, are seen in the distance the misty and cloud-capped summits of Snowdon.
From Capel Curig the road gradually ascended, as we approached the Pass of Llanberris. We rode along under the shadow of beetling crags, and on the edge of lofty precipices; while below, green and fertile meadows were spread out, in delightful contrast with the bleak and rugged cliffs that towered above them. Looking down from some lofty elevation, we could discern the neatly thatched, white-washed cottages of the Welsh peasantry, dotting the landscape, and presenting an appearance of cheerfulness and home comfort, which their internal aspect might very likely have belied. In a wild and solitary spot, just at the entrance to the Pass, stood a miserable looking inn, bearing the euphonous name of . Penygruyd.' Our attention was called to the word as an etymological curiosity; for strange and dissonant as the Welsh language is, this certainly puzzled me more than anything I had previously met with. How singularly a nation's language seems to be affected by the external characteristics of the country-an influence or correspondence which can be clearly and distinctly traced all the world over, from the gruff and grating gutturals of the home of the grizzly bear, to the soft, mellow tones that fall on the ear like the strains of sweet music, from the regions of orange-groves, spices and palms.
In wildness, sublimity, and gloomy grandeur, nothing can exceed the Pass of Llanberris. The hills seem to have been reft open, in some grand convulsion of nature. Bare, bleak precipices rise thousands of feet, each side of the narrow defile. Rough, craggy rocks jut out over the carriage-way, and look down frowningly on the traveler below. Naked, massy ridges raise their natural barriers against the sky, and the