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When hope, love, life itself, are only
“Maid Marian '' is the best known and most popular of Peacock's stories, for it is in a somewhat different vein from the others though it contains much delightful satire. The scene is laid in Sherwood Forest, in the time of Robin Hood, and its basis is the old delightful story that everybody reads and loves of Robin and his merry men.
“Crotchet Castle,” the finest and best of all the novels, was written in 1831. The scene is a country house—a sort of “Liberty hall,” where guests are assembled, each possessed with some particular crotchet. Rev. Dr. Folliott is the principal character and interlocutor, a stout Tory, full of good humor, a lover of paradox, a despiser of cant and shams, an incisive conversationalist, and a sort of cross between Dr. Johnson and Sydney Smith. I have always thought that Walter Savage Landor stood for this portrait.
The doctor takes particular delight in exposing the fallacies of Mr. McQuedy (Lord Brougham),
who is a great political economist, doctrinaire, and advocate of the diffusion of knowledge.
The women, Lady Clarinda and Susannah Touchang, are delightful, and the volume is as breezy and as full of wit, humor, and satire as can be. The drinking song first above quoted is in this novel.
In 1819 it was Peacock's good fortune to obtain a clerkship with the East Indian Company, in whose employ it will be remembered Charles Lamb also was. He retained this place, with occasional promotions, for thirty-four years, when he was retired on a pension as Lamb had been before him. He married shortly after his appointment, his labors were light, and he led a life of lettered ease until his death in 1866.
His charming story of “Gryll Grange” was written when he was seventy-five, and he was a contributor to Fraser's Magazine almost up to the time of his death.
SCHOLAR, GIPSY, PRIEST.
A once very famous novel, though it has long been forgotten by the reading public, except perhaps by name, is “Lavengro; The Scholar, the Gipsy, the Priest.” It first appeared in 1851, and then for a long time was out of print. It has always been cherished, however, by a chosen few, lovers of good literature and good fighting, who like Thackeray took their fiction “strong with, and no mistake.” The book is full of epigrams, curious learning, wisdom, and humor, and has the indescribable flavor of genius. The scene is laid in England between the period 1820 and 1830, the days of stage-coaching and of prize-fights, when everybody had time for everything, and when a halo of romance still shone around a gipsy camp. The story is a succession of pictures of English rural and city life, and relates the adventures of a youth who leads a respectable life on the coasts of scampdom, dependent entirely on himself for a livelihood. It is an autobiography based in fact on Borrow's own adventures, with enough fiction to conceal the identity of the characters. The hero has received a fair education and his literary ambitions, with an inherited instinct for vagrancy. In these days he would be a hobo. He took up with the gipsies and was initiated a blood brother in the tribe, learned their language, and became a past master of cant. But, being an honest youth, he could neither beg nor poach nor steal. He went to London with some literary ventures in his pocket, though at first he met with little success. His London adventures are wonderfully interesting, and he makes some queer friendships. One is an old applewoman on London bridge, whose patron saint was Moll Flanders, who, supposing Lavengro to be a pickpocket, gives him aid and counsel. While in London he saw the funeral of Lord Byron, and no pen has described it more graphically. Standing one morning at the foot of Oxford Street occupied with rather mournful thoughts at
his bad prospects, he is aware of a certain commotion among the people around him. The shops are closing and crowds are gathering. Then he hears voices cry, “There it comes 1’’ and looking he saw a hearse and behind it three or four mourning coaches, and “behind these a long train of splendid carriages, all of which, without one exception, were empty.”
“Whose body is in that hearse 2 "said I to a dapper-looking individual, seemingly a shopkeeper, who stood beside me on the pavement looking at the procession. “The mortal relics of Lord Byron,” said the dapper-looking individual, mouthing his words and smirking—“the illustrious poet, which have just been brought back from Greece and are being conveyed to the family vault.” “An illustrious poet, was he f" said I.
“Beyond all criticism,” said the dapper man. “All we of the rising generation are under incalculable obligations to Byron ; I myself, in particular, have reason to say so; in all my correspondence my style is formed on the Byronic model.” I looked at the individual for a moment, who smiled and smirked to himself, and then I turned my eyes upon the hearse proceeding slowly up the almost endless street. I thought of Milton, abandoned to poverty and blindness; of witty and ingenious Butler, consigned to the tender mercies of bailiffs, and starving Otway; they had lived neglected and despised, and when they died a few poor mourners only had followed them to the grave. “Great poet, sir," said the dapper-looking man, “great poet, but unhappy.” Unhappy P Yes, I had heard that he had been unhappy. I turned away. “Great poet, sir,” said the dapper man, turning away, too, “but unhappy—fate of genius, sir. I, too, have been un