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SUBJECTS IN SEASON.
CHRISTMAS and the New Year are usually suggestive of “tipsy rout and jollity,” the merry-making of appetite, and the many appliances wherewith the parting guest is sped and the coming one welcomed. On the present occasion we may, perhaps, depart slightly from the common practice, and, instead of holding sweet converse with standing dishes “for all time"-perpetual boars' heads, garnished with eternal rosemarychoose subjects more particularly in season at this moment than perhaps they ever may be again.
The war still raging between the Bullionists and the advocates of a return to the paper system, which has so long agitated the empire, may not appear a very promising there for discussion in pages such as these, and—to prevent any rash act on the part of the reader-we beg to say that we intend to take no part in it, further than as it may
afford us the means of showing that even currency has uses that are sweet to those who know how to make a right use of them.
With regard to a paper circulation, we limit ourselves to the wish that the New Monthly may, on each returning New Year's day, be more widely circulated than on the last ; and, touching a metallic currency, that the substantial joys which it has the power to diffuse, may every day become more familiar with all who, like ourselves, embark their hopes and efforts on paper.
“ What is gold ?" is triumphantly asked by pamphleteers and speakers at public meetings; and they put the question with such a withering force (or note) of interrogation, that the poor author who chances to have a solitary sovereign in his purse, feels almost ashamed to think that he harbours so much evil about him. “What is gold ?” cry its denouncers, in the very tone of Pilate, when he doubted truth, and, like him, as Bacon says, they will not wait for an answer, or hear of any that their own pamphlets and speeches do not give.
It is impossible to reply as one could wish to these gentlemen, because they have made the word “ gold” a cheval de bataille, whereon they ride so furiously, that it is utterly hopeless to endeavour to keep their meaning in view; nor can one say much more for the arguments of the leaders of the anti-papyrus movement, whose great aim appears to be to make it clear to the meanest capacity that “nothing is but what is not.” On both sides it is a war of systems, in which you
who manage to pay the income-tax, and we who do not, take just as much interest as we should in the cause of quarrel between the inhabitants of Blefuscu and those of Lilliput, could the little and big-endian controversy be once more established. Let the money-market be “ tight” or “easy," let the Bank increase or diminish its rate of discount, we, like the ass in the fable, have no concern in the matter. The embarrassments of “ brated Hebrew firm,” or the resolutions of the “ Bank parlour,” may agonise the millionaires of Lombard-street, but us they affect not. Neither the one nor the other, as far as we have been able to learn, have been in the habit of looking upon our “paper" (highly as we esteem it) as “good,” and we can therefore afford to think of what befals theirs with perfect indifference.
“But this is very short-sighted,” says Sir Oracle, adjusting his wise spectacles on the bridge of his wiser nose; “ don't you perceive that in a commercial country, like ours, the ramifications of trade affect the whole community ?"
“ The community !--granted. But that is precisely our reason for not being affected by the failure of the great house of Ingot, Scales, and Company. When those eminent men ate ortolans at luncheon, and moistened their throats after dinner with Tokay, what was there in common in our relative positions ? We were not so well off as the madman of Seville, who said he had dined on the mere fumes that issued from a cook's shop; and to ask us for sympathy in the necessity which obliges Messrs. Ingot, Scales, and Company, to content their natures (as we do) with a mutton-chop and a glass of beer, when we never so much as rejoiced our ears with the clash of their ivory balancehandled knives and forks, is worse than asking the aforesaid madman for payment for the dinner which he had not eaten. No; we envied not the prosperity of those wealthy bullion-merchants, who never consulted us as to the advisability of their investments, and why should we be bored with the adversity which has overtaken them? You might just as reasonably expect that we should mourn over the inability of the Queen of Portugal to pay her tradesmen, or set up a post-mortem howl at the frightful sufferings of George IV., when Prince-Regent, when a toocomplaisant ministry could not-although they robbed Mr. Troutbeck's heirs—find money enough to refurnish the Pavilion !”
“Ah! I see," returns Sir Oracle, taking off the spectacles, which have given him so great an insight into human nature—“ah! I see--you are intensely selfish," and having warmed himself thoroughly at our fire, and cheered himself at our cost, with a biscuit and a glass of port, he walks off to tell the first mutual acquaintance he meets that so and so “ has, after all, a devilish bad heart ; he's a young man, sir, who can't come to any good. I can't persuade him, sir, to think like other people !"
The reader, now interferes, observing that he thought we meant to redeem our promise on the currency question !
We fear we were somewhat rash in saying what we did, for no two people are agreed about the “right uses” of money. The wish to have money is the prominent desire of our nature, and that it is so, can scarcely be better illustrated than by the story of the two midshipmen at church.
“What do you do?" asked the least sophisticated of the pair, “ when you put your head in your hat as soon as you get into the pew? I always count ten, and then look up again.”
“Count ten!” replied the other, with an air of supreme contempt, “ I make a much better use of my time than that ; I make a point of praying for four thousand a year, to be paid quarterly!"
Now, for the means of applying the wealth, acquired by this or some other equally pious process :
We were once playing at billiards at a public table in Fleet-street, only a few doors from Temple Bar, and some one, in the security of winning the game, having offered the magnificent odds of “ a hundred thousand pounds to one," the marker, a heavier kind of youth than is ordinarily his dull eye,
to be met with in these places of polite resort, and somewhat dreamy withal, ejaculated, " A hundred thousand pounds! Ah! I know what I'd do if I had 'em.”
" What would you do ?" we inquired. “Why," exclaimed he, a rush-light gleam of imagination flickering in
“ I'd be cad to an ompibus, or else I'd keep a lot of cabs!" This slave of the lamp, whose ideas of the natural world were all absorbed in the vast thoroughfare at his master's door, had quickly devised his scheme of happiness, and allowing for diversity of taste, adopted only the general plan. Captain Harkaway would establish an illimitable number of hunters, and hounds, and drags, and sporting boxes ; Fitzblaze would “do the complete thing about town ;””' Lady Dora Mowbray would build “such a love of a palace on the shores of Lake Como ;" Mr. Exeter Hall would send out stores of knowledge to all the benighted; Messrs. Kidd, Napp, and Compy. would extend their relations from the Gold Coast to the shores of Brazil : and the meat of Sir Epicure Mammon should“ all come in in Indian shells.” In short, every body, if they had a hundred thousand pounds, would do precisely the same as the billiardtable marker : follow the bent of their inclinations.
We should then very soon discover what the theorists mean by their declamations ; the “ blunts, the “flimsies," and the “stiffs” would cease their long-winded harangues (for when a man has got money he becomes practical), the world might be allured to rest in peace; and that is where we leave the question.
The next remarkable guest of the season is the Influenza. It has not presented itself merely in that snivelling form which creates a sudden demand for cambric handkerchiefs, warming-pans, diluents, and Dover's powder, but has broken out violently in an eruption of Christmas books, almost all the writers of the day-save the founder of the system and one or two others having got a babe at nurse. Pleasant little animals many of them, no doubt, will prove ; cheerful little creatures, wearing shining crowns of holly and misletoe, and adding zest to other Christmas fare. Let us enumerate a few of the principal :
Mr. James introduces “ The Last of the Fairies.” The sprite will be welcome, not only for the sake of the enchanter whose potent wand has brought it within the charmed ring, but—if there were no other reasonbecause it is the last. Bishop Corbet bade farewell to the goblin crew more than two hundred years ago, but they are a race whom, after all
, it is very difficult to quell; for were they not wondrously tenacious of life, they had long since been smothered by the clumsy attempts of the Athenæum to revivify them. The experiment resorted to in that journal is any thing but an improved substitute for ether, but then the Athenæum understands no process save vivisection. Hans Christian Andersen, on the other hand, who knows so well how to weave garlands for the elfin band, may probably have something to say to induce us to retract our wish. Like poor Hood, he may
have another “ Plea for the Fairies" in the “Christmas Greeting" which he sends to his English friends. Let us assure him, before the volume reaches us, that there are none in England so cold of heart as not to respond with fervour to his honest Danish greeting. Mr. Rowcroft's “Triumph of Woman" will have added to his own triumphs. A name, long honoured alike in literature and wheresoever studies shed dignity on the earnest labours of his life, comes next—hight Samuel Warren. Without bearing the special designation of a Christmas
book, “ Now and Then” is essentially one of that class—the best of its kind, and deep in its pages will many of our readers be before this intimation meets them. Mrs. S. C. Hall reverses the seasons for our pleasure, and, in the midst of “dark December,” leads us forth beneath the glowing skies of June, to listen to a fairy tale of love called “ Midsummer's Eve," the promise of which sweet time is kept to the eye by Maclise, Stanfield, Creswick, and a large array of goodly artistical names. Who will not readily dip into the “Jar of Honey,” freshly imported from “Mount Hybla” by Leigh Hunt ? Certes, all who have a love for what is poetical, and beautiful, and true ! Leigh Hunt is the type of Samson's riddle: “Out of the strong comes forth sweetness.” This charming work was originally published in Ainsworth's Magazine. Last on the file, but foremost in the anticipations to which it gives birth, we read the name of Michael Angelo Titmarsh, the biographer of “Our Street.” What thoroughfare has our modern Panurge chosen wherewith to identify himself? Unhappy Baker-street already lies withered beneath his sneer, and half its gentility has fled; flaunting, utilitarian shops usurping the place of the dull dining-rooms which he so much abhorred. Is the region Belgravia ; does the binoscular gaze of our friend stray among the terraces of Hyde Park, or, haply, does it wander where Hebrew matrons, “capped and jewelled,” like their husband's watches, give marvellous dinners to admiring Christians in streets dependent for their fame on fashionable squares ? Let it be where it may, depend upon it, we shall recognise the inhabitants, and vouch for their sayings and doings.
Another subject in season just now is, the “ bright look out” we are advised to keep on our coasts, lest we should awake some fine morning and find the whiskered Gaul warming his coat-tails on our hearth stones, and helping himself to an uninvited chine, or sirloin. With what sensations should we read in the Times the following announcement, of what -thank God-never happened before, but once :
All Kent hath yielded ; nothing there holds out
Like a kind host, Duke d'Isly and his powers ! And yet our own duke,—than whom no man ever better knew what he was saying,—tells us to prepare, or such a state of things may readily come
A great many who knew nothing of the military abilities of our lively neighbours, and who think “ Waterloo” a choke-pear that must mar all subsequent appetite, are apt to entertain the belief that if the French were to land in England, they would do no more than that celebrated army of theirs immortalised in song, which, led on by their gallant king,
March'd up the hill, and then marched down again! These gentlemen are slightly in the wrong. Having once ascended to the top of Pisgah-the Sussex downs for example--and seen the land of promise which would then lie stretched before them, the Zouaves of France would be in no hurry to turn their backs upon it ; and if such were to be the case, we should earnestly recommend the bold spirits of Brixton at once to man their mill-crowned height, — the proud warriors of Peckham to muster their array on the green of Camberwell and the Causeway of Newington ; while, on the stern suburbans to whom the defences of Clapham and Kennington are confided, we should urge the
advice, so sadly neglected in their neighbourhood on Vauxhall nights, to “ keep their powder dry.”
The general excuse for the defenceless condition of our shores, is twofold. In the first place, we are said to be such intense lovers of peace, that we cannot bring ourselves to believe in the possibility of war ; and in the next, that the hereditary endowment of every Englishman being, the capability of thrashing three Frenchmen, there is no occasion to give ourselves any trouble about the matter, until we actually find our foes at arm's length.
The proof of our fondness for peace is to be found in the stainless annals of our commercial intercourse with the different quarters of the globe, and in that mildness of spirit which has
Butchered half the world and bullied t’other, as if it were possible for a small island like ours to have obtained her vast amount of territory solely by dint of persuasion. And with respect to the facility for “ doubling up” “ those Mounseers in brass," as the poet calls them, it must be observed that whenever the “mill” takes place, John Bull must expect any thing but a fair. stand-up fight; he will be taken at every disadvantage, and find that something more than mere "pluck” is necessary to enable him to “serve out” his adversary. To be fore-warned, the proverb says, is to be fore-armed, and provided ministers accept the warning and act upon it-we may be quittes pour la peur,” and experience no worse visitation from our neighbours than the longo-bardic irruptions which people the Quadrant while Mr. Mitchell keeps his theatre open. Soit dit, en passant, that the worthy lessee has begun early and well with Messrs. Montaland, and Fechter, and Mademoiselle Baptiste ; the first having made an excellent début in “ Le Jeune Mari,” and the two last sustaining their parts admirably in Emile Augier's new drama of "La Cigue."
It is to be hoped that the mania for dwarfs has passed away with the disappearance from our shores of that dreadful little humbug, Tom Thumb, but monstrosities are still the order of the day. While we write we perceive several strange announcements in the daily papers. Amongst them the proximate arrival of a "renowned giant" from Spain-a lineal descendant, no doubt, of one of the windmills on the plains of Montiel, or possibly a far-off cousin of the warlike Brandabarbaran of Boliche, who also fell beneath the conquering lance of the Knight of La Mancha, or, as he is said to be a native of Guipuscoa (by name “ Joachim Eleizegui") he may, perchance, claim kindred with the stalwart but stupid Ferragus whom Roland cheated out of the secret of his invulnerability, and then took his life. Be he of what family he may, he comes under the auspices of Louis Philippe, and is described in the advertisement as “a perfect giant."
A faultless monster, which the world ne'er saw. Another intimation of the similar kind is meant for the benefit, we presume, of “the country gentlemen.” It is an exhibition of African“ mammals, birds, and reptiles,” at the cattle show at the Baker-street Bazaar. Fate forbade us from being present at the show, but we confess our curiosity was rather excited by this announcement on the part of Mr. Louis Toser, “THE African Traveller.” Has he fattened up his lions on oilcake, taught his ostriches to prefer rapeseed to horse's shoes, and increased