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complain, and it is equally so, for men of the highest genius to meet with disappointments in their pursuits. In the great game of human life, few win and many lose, nor is the race always to the swift, or the battle to the strong.
If, then, it should happen, as it most undoubtedly will, that among the present or any future race of artists, who start in the great sweepstakes for fame and fortune, some, nay, very many, should break down, some give out, and some be distanced, while but a few arrive at the goal, let them not, in a spirit of querulous complaint, lay their failure at the door of our free institutions. Let them refrain from joining the hue and cry, that the fine arts are incompatible with the general diffusion of rights, property, and intelligence, and that to have fine pictures and statues, men must once more become slaves. If such indeed be the case, then we say, let us dispense with Saints and Madonna Venuses and Apollos, and cling to the Goddess of Liberty. If it must be so, let us sacrifice the arts to freedom, remembering that in the language of the poet Lucan, ' Libertas ultima mundi quo steterit fericnda loco.'
A PASSAGE OF LIFE.
I SLEEP --- but 't is to dream — though I have pray'd
There is no midnight to me - - the long bell
I gaze upon this bright machinery
And tell their glorious history in the storm |
The request of his father, my own inclination, and a sense of duty, combined to render me particularly attentive to the interests and welfare of my well-meaning but giddy friend, Jack Volatile. One half of his time was spent in getting into difficulties, and the other half in getting out of them. He was thoughtless, generous, unsuspicious, and inexperienced — trusting less to principle than to feeling; more to impulse than to judgment: no wonder, then, that he was frequently the prey of the designing. He was very susceptible. It did not require a union of extraordinary charms to light a fire in his heart. A single good feature was sufficient. He was ready to die for a little milliner, because she had a pretty ancle, and lavished half his fortune on a confectioner's girl, because she had red hair, like Titian's Flora. I threatened to carry him to the Lunatic Asylum, but the man was perfectly incorrigible. For this reason I at first refused to accompany him to the theatre, when the famous danseuse, M'lle Angelique L'Amour was about to make her first appearance in the literary emporium.
• Volatile,' said I, you will fall in love with her, you know - and why should you wish me to be a spectator of your vagaries ?
My dear Frank, I'll behave like a gentleman.'
• That you always do — but sometimes like a most erratic one. Promise that you will not fall in love with M’lle L'Amour.'
* Francis Fidget,' replied Volatile, 'I solemnly promise I will not adore her.'
• Remember, Volatile, your word is pledged. You are not to yell • bravo !' like a madman you 're not to throw your hat into the pit — you 're not to act Romeo for the especial admiration of the galTery; but you are to take your pleasure soberly,' like Lady Grace; to applaud moderately, if pleased, and to say nothing, if dissatisfied.'
• Agreed ! agreed !' cried Volatile, impatiently : 'and now for M’lle Angelique.'
We went to town. The theatre was full and fashionably attended: Strange perversion of taste! We turn a deaf ear to the horrid declamations of native genius, but to the declamation des jambes' we give the profoundest attention. Les gens n'éconte que le ballet,' was the complaint of a beautiful Italian singer. But I wander from my tale.
The entrance of M'lle Angelique was heralded by ravishing music, that stole upon the ear like the sweet south.' In the midst of a most harmonious prelude, there bounded into view a young, glad creature, with light drapery floating round her, like a veil of mist.
The scenic roses that bloomed upon the canvass seemed to borrow a new and touching grace from the splendor of her presence. Angelique adapted her movements to the music with remarkable precision. Now, while the strain was low and soft, the beautiful girl
sailed slowly round, waving her white arms above her head, or crossing them, with graceful gesture, on her snowy breast. Her features, according with the flow of melancholy sounds, assumed a dejected air.
But when she heard the brisk awakening viol,' she bounded aloft like Flora when pursued by Zephyr, and the strained eye could hardly catch the motion of her little twinkling feet. She receded to the back of the stage with wonderful rapidity,
Showing limbs, as loth to show
Through many a thin Tarentian fold.' And now she paused for breath her coral lips apart, her beautiful bosom heaving. The music swelled again, and the lovely Angelique sprang forward with the arrowy rush of Ronzi Vestris. Louder and louder rang the tambourine and bugle. And now commenced the triumph of the dancer's art. She bounded from the stage, as if too light to rest upon the boards. She poised her feather-weight upon one slender foot, and whirled around with dizzying rapidity. Her motions became more and more complicated, her exertions more and more prodigious. At length, wearied, weak, panting, she waved a feeble adieu, and disappeared. The roar of applause that followed her exit, shook the very pillars of the theatre, and the green
curtain undulated in the currents of air caused by the tumultuary movements of the audience.
Heavens !' cried Volatile, am I dreaming? Was not that an unsubstantial vision, sent to beguile a wayward hour, but too beautiful for earth ?'
• Come, Volatile,' said I,' your promise !'
• Promise!' cried Volatile, with huge contempt. 'I vowed I would not love a woman, but it would be madness to frown upon a divinity!'
• The girl is pretty,' said I, wishing to sooth him, ' and what pigeonwings!
*Goth!' exclaimed Volatile, do you speak of her thus? Why, she is angelic.'
• Her name is so,' retorted I. • But tell me, is that woman worthy such enthusiasm, who can so far forget the modesty of her sex and age, as to expose herself to the gaze of a crowded theatre, in a garb which a sculptor would think light enough for a Venus ? No, there is a rank corruption at her heart.'
I'll stake my head,' cried Volatile, hotly, 'upon the purity of her heart!' • Then, my poor Jack, you will soon become
A headless carcass, and a nameless thing.'' • Come, come,' said Jack, you must own that modesty does not consist in dress — else what a stock of ready-made virtue can you buy at any milliner's.'
Stop ! cried I, 'were this figurante a South Sea Islander, born where the thermometer stands at 90° Fahrenheit in the shade, and where milliners are confounded scarce, she might pass for a Lucretia; but as the case stands, I can't excuse her. I beg leave again to remind you of your promise. And now we'll go and get some oysters.'
Oysters ! food fit for the gods! What had been the banquets of Apicius without ye? The shell that cradled Venus on the waters must have been an oyster-shell. The pearl that Cleopatra melted in her cup, once rested in an oyster-shell. Delicious children of the sea! Ye were my solace in that all nameless hour, when my
heart was heavy within me — when the present was a blank, the future a dark abyss, the past a shadowy desert. Then, in the recklessness of my despair, not knowing whether I had an appetite or not, I said 'Give me oysters !' and I ate of them. Lo! the clouds that shrouded my mind vanished:
'My bosom's lord sat lightly on his throne.' I lived — I joyed in life. Hogarth, that accurate observer of nature, represents a man at an election dinner, dying with an oyster on his fork. Tell me, thou reverend chronicler of the past! is there on thy pages the record of a death more glorious ? A man may be sentimental over oysters. Volatile was so, and eagerly recommenced upon the subject of the dancing girl. He was entirely fascinated, and before we separated for the night, gave me to understand that he should immediately set about procuring an introduction, for he was very well convinced, from the evidence of her features, that she was a most amiable young woman, and worthy of all the eulogiums which had been lavished
her. Volatile's first step was to ascertain whether any of his friends were acquainted with the figurante ; but none of them could claim that honor. He next bought fifty dollar's worth of tickets for her first benefit, and the act was duly puffed in the newspapers. Mademoiselle Angelique pocketed the cash, but took no notice of her prodigal patron. Volatile now bethought himself of the influence of the manager, and procured an introduction to that worthy functionary, without encountering any of the difficulties which impeded his approach to the beautiful danseuse. The manager was much pleased with his new acquaintance, and let him into all the secrets by which he hoped to insure the success of his campaign. The graver part of the community were to be propitiated by a series of moral plays, of which George Barnwell was the most conspicuous. Then there were to be some dancing monkeys, and a pantomime for children, and a celebrated tight-rope vaulter, for the lovers of the legitimate drama. To all these plans Jack Volatile gave an attentive car, and what was still better, money. But when he solicited an introduction to the danseuse, the manager shrugged his shoulders. Mademoiselle Angelique was a singular girl — capricious – reserved sometimes — artful - provoking! However, he would try what he could do, for he had all the disposition in the world to oblige the young gentleman who had approved of the dancing monkeys, and sanctioned the degradation of the drama. The first message
which the manager brought from the figurante, was of a discouraging character. Angelique was unwell, saw no company, was not fond of American gentlemen, had her time occupied, etc., etc. The manager suggested the propriety of making some offering at the shrine of the lady's beauty. She has a passion for diamonds.' This hint was enough for Volatile. He had money, and he was generous.
A cross, set with small diamonds, was procured, and sent, with a complimentary note, to the beautiful Parisian. It was accepted, and Volatile was invited to call.
The delight of Wilheim Meister, on being admitted to the private apartments of his lovely actress, was not equal to the joy of Volatile when he found himself in the boudoir of M'lle L'Amour.
Upon his entrance, the lady herself was not visible, but a snuffy old Frenchwoman offered him a chair. The room was richly draped and carpetted ; there were two large mirrors, and the furniture was elegant. Volatile's first movement was unpropitious, for he happened to tread on the tail of a pet puppy, that yelped and ran to the old woman, who took it up, hugged it in her arms, covered it with snuff and kisses, and ceased from her endearments only to cast angry glances at Volatile. Eventually, the little beast stole from the apartment.
At length Angelique entered. She did not look so blooming as on the night of her first appearance. The roses had faded from her cheeks, and Volatile was surprised to find that she was quite lame. She received him with a great deal of grace and affability, and entered into a very animated conversation. Volatile was not surprised to find that she had much of the enfante gatée about her, but he thought her characterized by great taste and wit. Perhaps he was not mistaken. The humblest Frenchwoman collects, almost miraculously, a considerable stock of information, and acquires, I know not how, a command of language, and a facility of expression, which is really enviable. French naiveté may not be nature, but it is still interesting.
All at once a scratching was heard at the door. 'Oh ! maman!' cried Angelique, ouvrez la porte — c'est mon pauvre Fidèle.'
The old lady hastened to admit him. The little dog entered, covered with mud. Volatile's pantaloons were immaculate : the little scoundrel rushed against his legs at once.
* Ah! monsieur !' cried the sentimental Parisian : voila comme il vous aime!'
The muddy cur sprang into Volatile's lap. 'A beautiful dog ! cried Volatile — then added to himself : ‘Curse the little whelp! I wish he were at Jericho!'
· Fidèle! Fidèle !' cried the danseuse, 'donnez le main à Monsieur.'
The dog placed his muddy paw in Volatile's white-gloved hand, and finished his performances, by biting my friend's finger. He was on the point of throwing his tormentor into the fire, but was recalled to his senses by the exclamation of the proprietress of the animal : • Ah! Monsieur Volatile ! il vous baise'. "he kisses you.'
It was with great difficulty that my friend finally persuaded the cross old woman to take the dog off. The remainder of the morning passed very pleasantly. Angelique was denied to every one, and the interview became literally a tête-a-tête, for the old woman was soon weary with listening to the conversation of the fair Parisian and her American admirer. When Volatile took leave, he thought himself really in love. At this period of the affair, I told him it was high time to consider how his father would relish the introduction of a French dancer into the family. To this he made no answer : he was evidently too far gone for reflection.