« PreviousContinue »
by statements recently brought forward by Mr. Basil Montague, in a late work on the life of Lord Bacon, that it is likely to become universal. “It is clearly shown,' says Lord Brougham, in a note appended to his recent theologico-philosophical performance, that he was prevailed upon by the intrigues of James I., and his profligate ministry, to abandon his defence, and sacrifice himself to their base and crooked policy. One thing, however, is undeniable— that those who so loudly blame Bacon, overlook the meanness of almost all the great statesmen of those courtly times.' It is nothing but common justice, that in our estimation of his character, we should remember the vitia temporis, as well as the 'vitia hominis. The former do not, it is true, excuse, but they often extenuate the latter. They increase the temptations and facilities, while they lessen the guilt, of their commission. Lord Bacon is reported by one of his earliest biographers — Dr. Rawley, his chaplain — to have said that he was frail, and did partake of the abuses of the times;' upon which this writer proceeds to remark as follows : “And surely of its severities also. The great cause of his suffering is to some a secret. I leave them to find out by his words to King James : I wish as I am the first so I may be the last sacrifice in your times, and when your private appetite is resolved that a creature shall be sacrificed, it is easy to pick up sticks enough from any thicket, whither it had strayed, to make a fire to offer it with.' It is not our purpose, at present, to pursue this question in extenso. Many additional facts might be stated, and much more be said, but this is not the place. We may observe, however, that the well-known lines of Pope have probably done more than any thing else toward circulating and perpetuating exaggerated impressions of the moral delinquency of this foremost of wisdom's children.
'If parts allure thee, think how Bacon shined,
The wisest, brightest, ne anest of mankind.'' This is giving him a bad preeminence' with a vengeance. Surely if poetry may be a splendid vehicle of truth, it may also be made a base instrument of slander and falsehood. For it is not true that Bacon was the meanest of mankind.' Why was he the meanest ? Was it because, in the tumultuous whirl of public affairs, in the distracted moments of pecuniary embarrassment, in the weakness of private sympathy, he erred, and momentarily strayed from the enclosures of judicial rectitude ? — which fault too, was contrary to every avowed and admitted principle of his character, and the whole spirit and tenor of his writings. Bacon's course did exhibit a deflexion from duty, but it was only the stoop of the eagle from his lofty flight.
No: these famous lines do not tell the truth, because they tell more than is true. They are unjust to the memory of a very good and a very noble-minded man. It may be true that he whose glory they asperse, because they unworthily exaggerate his guilt, was 'the wisest and brightest,' but that he can with any propriety be handed down to posterity, as 'the meanest of mankind,' is a doctrine which historical accuracy and logical discrimination equally condemn. Poetical adjudications, however, are perhaps generally to be received with several grains of allowance. Truth is a creature VOL. VIII.
sometimes handsomely panegyrized, sometimes brilliantly adorned, but not unfrequently, also, very roughly handled by the sons of Par
Her fair features are often discolored by the bold brush of fancy, and her faultless form distorted by the rack, or suited to the Procrustean dimensions of a laboring invention. The calumnious couplet just referred to is both an exemplification and a proof of this remark.
A WHISPER OF DEATH.
Have I not pray'd for life -
· A fearful thing that love and death may dwell
"Tis past! and yet methinks I hear it still,
That low, electric tone, that on my ear, Stole in that hour when joy my soul did fill,
Awakening up a strange mysterious fear.
Was it thy voice, O Death! that like a spell,
Cast this dark shadow o'er my buoyant mirth? Was it thy voice that bade me say farewell
To the deep music of this laughing earth?
I had forgot thee! Once there was a time
When ihy chill presence could supremely bless; And long I call’d, but in thy distant clime,
Thou wouldet not heed my spirit's weariness.
But now a change has come. Strong Love hath wrought
A golden thread within my life's array,
In the far, boundless future: flushing all
The distant landscape with its mystic gleam, And stirring hidden springs, until they call,
In the bewildering cadence of a dream,
And bid me hasten onward. Wherefore then
Wouldst thou thus cast thy dark, mysterious veil Across my young life's path, and wake again
Thy boding whisper in the passing gale ?
Away! I claim thee not. Canst thou not find
Some fitter guest to grace thy still abode ? Some unprized being, that hath ceaseless pined
To lock in thy safe realm existence' load ?
Enough, enough there are: oh! pass not by
prison-house, where day and night There sits, with fetter'd limb and listless eye,
An unresisting victim. See the light
That sickens in his cell hath sadly told
Of what from him is hidden, and with cry
Unto his bleeding heart, and prays — to die!
Yet will not one suffice? Then haste away
And wrap thy ready garments round that chill
Amid the waste of years, seems ling'ring still;
As if to add one trophy to the train
of the invidious spoiler. How the frost Of retrospection keen hath chok'd each vein
Of love within him, and he seems quite lost
Amid the stranger faces that move on,
Nor heed the stricken pilgrim, till his soul
May fail to reach the long-expected goal.
Thou lingerest still! Say dost thou rather prize,
As offerings to thine ever-growing shrine,
Still in the depths of strong affection's mine?
Thou seekest not in vain! Throw off thy garb
Of fearfulness and awe, and softly steal
So gently, that perchance it will not feel
The blow that tears the fragile web of life
It scarce can call its own; but thou mayst see,
A smile, half-shadowed, as it turns to thee.
But come not here, O death! I may not brook
Thy sullen domination, for I move
Through an unclouded atmosphere of love,
And life, and beauty ; and this heart doth bear
Within its crystal depths, e'en as a source
Of one, that is the day-star to its course.
Yet why that bitter glance ? Oh! question not
This bosom's child-like trust. It may not be!
Hath been a wealth of sunshine; on whose sea
Of life, one sail hath flutter'd ; and who, out
Of one mind's urn have drank ; say, is there aught
To which e'en death itself were almost nought ?
My soul grows faint within me: yet I love,
Still love to fond excess : oh! ruthless one!
A victim to this passion, hasten on,
And I will joy to meet thee, and will clasp
Thine icy hand in mine, and yield my breath
Thy full and opiate cup, and bless thee, Death!
M. E. L.
MAJOR ROCKET. Mine is an awkward nature. I have never been apt at taking the tide of fortune, even when setting most auspiciously in the true direction. Some how, I invariably see the chance when too late, put off its employment, and linger until the ebb, and then, when the effort is of no avail, I plunge incontinently forward. As you may suppose, my course then is entirely up-hill, or, to continue the figure, up-current full of riffles, snags, and sawyers, like that of a Mississippi steamboat. In large and little matters, all the same,
it is never my good fortune to take advantage of the opportunity. I can see it well enough after it has gone by, and when there is no recall — but not before. Looking back upon the past time, and enumerating to myself the lost chances, their name seems to be legion, and they stand before me like so many living and mocking commentaries upon my dilly-dallying and sluggish disposition. The misfortune is, that I can neither complain of others nor of myself — were I to do the one, I feel that I should be unjust; and there is no necessity for the other. They anticipate my self-reproaches ; and in this respect, at least, they serve me, and save me from a world of trouble. "Nor is my knowledge of my own failing confined to myself; my friends and enemies are alike acquainted with it, and the nickname of • Topic, the Unready,' which they have given me, pursues me in every quarter, and keeps pace with my destiny. The stage and steamboat are always sure to leave me just as I arrive out of breath; the show has just closed or is gone before I look upon it, and there is sure to be some acquaintance at hand, at the unlucky moment of disappointment, to exclaim, 'Ah, Topic, my dear fellow as usual time to be too late!'
This is the curse! - I came into the world by half an hour too late, and after the proper time. I have tried through life, but in vain, to recover that lost half hour. In all things I feel its loss - in trifling and important concerns I suffer by it equally - and whether I love or hate
whether I come to woo or fight, I am still sure never to be in time; I am always . Topic, the Unready.' It is true that my friends ascribe my misfortunes to another cause, and insist that my inveterate habit of talking, in illustration of which they have given me the first part of my title, is the sole occasion of my various mishaps ;. but either I do not know myself, which would be strange indeed - or they are studiously bent to misrepresent me. I never talk out of season, though, I confess, I frequently come too late to talk with any hope of success. Some other confounded fellow has ' used up' all my arguments, or the audience is just gone as I begin to lay them down. Every body admits, however, that I talk well ; yet they contend, and most strongly too, that there is no necessity for me to talk at all. Every body insists that I am always in too great a hurry — yet they clamor that I am never in time. My friends are continually asking my opinion, and provoking me to argument, yet they are sure never to listen to me out, or acknowledge the justice of what I say; and I am mortified to death, daily, to discover that they are invariably inclined to agree in opinion, after all I have said, with some green-eyed man sitting in a corner, who has only shaken his head and said nothing !
But let me be more particular, that my misfortunes may be the better understood. There was Emily Postlethwaite
a girl among a thousand. My love affairs with her may not inaptly illustrate the general difficulties of my situation. I was just half an hour too late with her. But you shall see. I loved her — I most certainly loved her — and used to talk with her for urs — and though, it is true, I never said to her a word about love, I yet thought, and think still, that I had made a favorable impression upon her heart. I was always at her residence
and I talked with her father, her mother, her grandmother, great-grandmother, and thirty-six cousins, all in turn, and all at a time, and it is generally admitted that I talked admirably well to all of them - 80 admirably that they all preferred
so infinitely to hear me talk to saying any thing themselves, and this I hold to be the most conclusive evidence. To Emily, however, I was devoted; I escorted her here and there, and followed her every where. I wrote song and sonnet in her favor some of them published in the magazines, and acknowledged to be very pretty. I spoke to her, and sung to her rode with her, and walked with her danced with her, and dined with her — in short I did every thing that the most familiar lover might with propriety do, except, perhaps, the one thing most necessary of all — though I talked with her incessantly, I never talked of the one and only subject - I never popped the question.
But I had meditated the matter often, and I had at length come to the resolution to do so. I decided that the time had arrived, and I thought I had sufficiently paved the way for the introduction of the momentous subject; and, one evening, when my thoughts had been prepared with previous thinking, and my spirits provoked by previous champaign, I sallied forth from my lodgings, almost in bridal trim, and took my way to Mr. Postlethwaite's fashionable residence in Chestnut-street. The family was all at home, and Emily herself looked lovelier than ever. I felt myself unavoidably growing eloquent as I surveyed her, and felt that I should make my proposals after the most graceful and effective manner; but I struggled and kept myself from premature speech, and determined to loiter among the company, quietly in waiting, but still earnest and impatient for the desired opportunity. I had evidently some time to wait, as there was something of company present. There was a poet and a painter, and several other persons given to such trifling pursuits ! I was, to speak with due modesty, the only philosopher in the room; and I was something more than surprised to find my fair one devoting much more of her time to my neighbors than it struck me was altogether consistent with good sense and a proper understanding. Above all, I was vexed to find her so attentive to my how-d'ye-do acquaintance, Bill Walton, whom, in order that he should properly judge of the merits of my chosen, I had myself introduced to her acquaint
But this attention to him, upon second thought, I set down entirely to her regard for me.
Some fine engravings from Helvetian scenery lay upon the table before us, to which Walton had called her attention.
• We have no such achievements from the hands of our artists, Miss Emily,' said he • indeed we have not the material we want the scenery
itself. Such wondrous indications of her power nature does not often exhibit to our eyes in this country.'