« PreviousContinue »
when there were any out, — and yet he loved the old great house and gardens too, but had too much spirit to be always pent up within their boundaries.
And how their uncle grew up to man's estate as brave as he was handsome, to the admiration of everybody, but of their great-grandmother Field most especially; and how he used to carry me upon his back when I was a lame-footed boy, — for he was a good bit older than me,
many a mile when I could not walk for pain; and how in after life he became lame-footed too, and I did not always (I fear) make allowances enough for him when he was impatient, and in pain, nor remember sufficiently how considerate he had been to me when I was lame-footed; and how when he died, though he had not been dead an hour, it seemed as if he had died a great while ago, such a distance there is betwixt life and death; and how I bore his death as I thought pretty well at first, but afterwards it haunted and haunted me; and though I did not cry or take it to heart as some do, and as I think he would have done if I had died, yet I missed him all day long, and knew not till then how much I had loved him.
I missed his kindness, and I missed his crossness, and wished him to be alive again, to be quarreling with him (for we quarreled sometimes), rather than not have him again, and was as uneasy without him as he their poor uncle must have been when the doctor took off his limb. Here the children fell a-crying, and asked if their little mourning which they had on was not for Uncle John, and they looked up, and prayed me not to go on about their uncle, but to tell them some stories about their pretty dead mother.
Then I told how for seven long years, in hope sometimes, sometimes in despair, yet persisting ever, I courted the fair Alice W -n; and, as much as children could understand, I explained to them what coyness and difficulty and denial meant in maidens,when suddenly, turning to Alice, the soul of the first Alice looked out at her eyes with such a reality of re-presentment, that I became in doubt which of them stood there before me, or whose that bright hair was; and while I stood gazing, both the children gradually grew fainter to my view, receding, and still receding, till nothing at last but too mournful features were seen in the uttermost distance, which, without speech, strangely impressed upon me the effects of speech :
“We are not of Alice, nor of thee, nor are we children at all. The children of Alice call Bartrum father. We are nothing ; less than nothing, and dreams. We are only what might have been, and must wait upon the tedious shores of Lethe millions of ages before we have existence, and a name;" and immediately awaking, I found myself quietly seated in my bachelor arm-chair, where I had fallen asleep, with the faithful Bridget unchanged by my side; but John L-(or James Elia) was gone forever.
Dor'i-mant, a gallant. civ-il'i-ty, civilization.
eld, old age. dap'per, small and lively; smart.
ken'nel, gutter. def-er-en'tial, expressing deference. mis'tress, sweetheart. der'o-gates, detracts from.
pa'geant, a show. dis'si-pa-ted, scattered.
preux chevalier, a brave knight.
In comparing modern with ancient manners, we are pleased to compliment ourselves upon the point of gallantry, - a certain obsequiousness, or deferential respect, which we are supposed to pay to females as females.
I shall believe that this principle actuates our conduct when I can forget that, in the nineteenth century of the era from which we date our civility, we are but just beginning to leave off the very frequent practice of whipping females in public, in common with the coarsest male offenders.
I shall believe it to be influential, when I can shut my eyes to the fact, that in England women are still occasionally - hanged.
I shall believe in it, when actresses are no longer subject to be hissed off a stage by gentlemen.
I shall believe in it, when Dorimant hands a fishwife across the kennel, or assists the apple-woman to pick up her wandering fruit, which some unlucky dray has just dissipated.
I shall believe in it, when the Dorimants in humbler life, who would be thought in their way notable adepts
in this refinement, shall act upon it in places where they are not known, or think themselves not observed,
when I shall see the traveler for some rich tradesman part with his admired box-coat, to spread it over the defenseless shoulders of the poor woman who is passing to her parish on the roof of the same stagecoach with him, drenched in the rain, — when I shall no longer see a woman standing up in the pit of a London theater, till she is sick and faint with the exertion, with men about her seated at their ease, and jeering at her distress; till one, that seems to have more manners or conscience than the rest, significantly declares “she should be welcome to his seat, if she were a little younger and handsomer.” Place this dapper warehouseman, or that rider, in a circle of their own female acquaintance, and you shall confess you have not seen a . politer-bred man in Lothbury.
Lastly, I shall begin to believe that there is some such principle influencing our conduct, when more than one-half of the drudgery and coarse servitude of the world shall cease to be performed by women.
Until that day comes, I shall never believe this boasted point to be any thing more than a conventional fiction ; a pageant got up between the sexes, in a certain rank, and at a certain time of life, in which both find their account equally.
I shall be even disposed to rank it among the salutary fictions of life when in polite circles I shall see the same attentions paid to age as to youth, to homely features as to handsome, to coarse complexions as to clear, — to the woman, as she is a woman, not as she is a beauty, a fortune, or a title.
I shall believe it to be something more than a name when a well-dressed gentleman in a well-dressed company can advert to the topic of female old age without exciting and intending to excite a sneer ; when the phrases “antiquated virginity,” and, such a one has “overstood her market," pronounced in good company, shall raise immediate offense in man, or woman, that shall hear them spoken.
Joseph Paice, of Bread Street Hill, merchant, and one of the Directors of the South Sea Company, — the same to whom Edwards, the Shakspeare commentator, has addressed a fine sonnet, was the only pattern of consistent gallantry I have met with. He took me under his shelter at an early age, and bestowed some pains upon me. I owe to his precepts and example whatever there is of the man of business (and that is not much) in my composition. It was not his fault that I did not profit more.
Though bred a Presbyterian, and prought up a merchant, he was the finest gentleman of his time. He had not one system of attention to females in the drawing-room, and another in the shop, or at the stall. I do not mean that he made no distinction. But he never lost sight of sex, or overlooked it in the casualties of a disadvantageous situation. I have seen him stand bareheaded — smile if you please
to a poor servant-girl, while she has been inquiring of him the way to some street, -in such a posture of unforced civility as neither to embarrass her in the acceptance, nor himself in the offer of it. He was no dangler, in the common acceptation of the word, after women; but he reverenced and upheld, in every form in which it came before him, womanhood.