Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

with the greatest delight, the subsequent history of this child ; for nothing can be more fascinating than the manner in which the various little eras of childhood, and which are marked with such devout care in the mother's chronology, are developed by the author. All these descriptions are characterised by a glow of vernal freshness, a luxuriant beauty, that at once distinguishes the growth of nature from every artificial imitation. A second spring seems to have visited the heart of Mr. Godwin, and left its balmy influence within his bosom. No man can record so well the feelings of a parent.--can so exactly measure the nice shades of that delight which springs in a parent's breast, in modified forms, corresponding with the various causes of them, as those causes are observed in his own child,-without himself having been blessed with an organization fully to feel so exalted a pleasure. The following extract will serve as a specimen of Mr. Godwin's power in this sort of description :

• He had received from his birth the invaluable inheritance of much sweetness of temper. There was that in his smile which irresistibly insured the kindness of those about him; it had in it the essence of confi. dence and love. He was all animation and life; his new-born limbs seemed to seek for a sphere in which to expand themselves. No cloud ever appeared on his brow; he never betrayed the slightest symptom of sullenness and stubbornness. Cloudesley and Eudocia were all he had of father and mother; and abundantly he paid them all the love they could have looked for from the offspring of their bowels. He stretched out his little hands to meet Eudocia, and to be received by her husband. His laugh was of genuine high spirits, expressive of, and exciting, gaiety; and he crowed with a voice of health and a bounding soul.

‘But the season of jubilee to those by whom a child is truly loved, is when he begins to talk, Words of love and endearment are amongst the first he utters. How delightful is it to them, that his tongue should assure them of what they had before learned only from dumb signs and uncertain gestures ! It is like the first declaration between a lover and his mistress. No; there was nothing doubtful before ; but articulated sounds are as the seal to the bond, and make assurance doubly sure. It was now that Julian began to be caressing, that he would stroke down the hair upon Cloudesley's brow, and, when he saw him returning from the daily circuit of his fields, would run to meet him, and proudly lead him in to his refreshment and his rest. Cloudesley would present him with a flower, a fruit, or a cake. The lispings, the imperfect efforts which the child would make to tell his supposed father of what had happened in his absence, were all of them acceptable, and would smooth the brow of toil. In proportion to the want of power was the eagerness of the child to tell, till at length his mouth was stopped with kisses.

• It is very early that a boy begins to display invention and ingenuity, and a sort of childish industry, all of which is exquisitely entertaining to seniors whose time is at their command. He imitates every thing he sees ; and plays, visits, and entertainments, with a seriousness of face, and an earnestness of attention, which is irresistibly comic. He gives bis whole soul to it, and performs his part with a mixture of affected demureness and

simplicity, which might put professional practitioners to the blush. The ingenuity of Julian was truly extraordinary. He made houses, and collected the little implements of furniture about him, which are usually supplied to children; and, when all of a sudden he observed Cloudesley or Eudocia laughing at the gravity of his demeanour, he would join in the laugh, and sweep away his little apparatus, with a sort of consciousness of its worthlessness : at the same time that, as soon as the laugh was over, and the attention of his critics withdrawn to other objects, he would return to bis contrivance, and grow immersed in it, as if nothing had happened to tarnish its glory.'-vol. ii. pp. 89–93.

Cloudesley had been married about the time that he took upon him this singular charge. His wife Eudocia was a woman of uncommon mind and great tenderness of heart, and having no children of her own, she dedicated to little Julian all her cares, her fondness for him being as great as if he had been her own offspring He repaid her kindness by the warmest attachment, and, when in the course of a few years, he was deprived of her maternal solicitude, Julian felt the privation as altogether changing his connection with the world. He was,' says the author, ‘more at his ease with his mother, and poured out his youthful heart to her with great unreserve.

If she had lived longer, she would, perhaps, have been less to him ; but in the years through which he had hitherto passed, a woman was to him more than a man. If to the softer sex belong more fickleness and inconsistency, if they have less firmness of purpose and depth of combination, than are to be found in us, this was, to the present moment, totally, or almost totally, unadverted to by Julian. Add to these considerations, that we never know the value of a thing but by its loss, and that the benefit which has escaped from our grasp is that to which our recollection is linked ; so that while our misfortune is recent, we can scarcely think of, and scarcely esteem, any thing else.' And this was exactly the case with Julian, whose grief is painted in the just character of being too deep and strong to allow of its being expressed by those signs which usually betoken the lighter and more evanescent emotions of that passion. The education of the boy was particularly attended to, and the facilities for instruction with which Italy abounded were amply used by Cloudesley, whose inherent benevolence of disposition, so long illegible on the surface of his character, was brought out by the heat which the charming qualities of Julian had applied to it.

In the meantime, the triumphant impostor was, we cannot say enjoying, but using, all the advantages of his ill-acquired success. He describes his remorse, he details his incessant sufferings and his vain efforts to crush the worm of conscience that prayed upon his heart; the hollow splendour with which he was surrounded only increased the misery of his state. Tantalus was not more cursed; he had all the blessings of life just within his command, the sun of happiness was continually about to burst upon him, but the still small voice broke from within the secret recesses of his soul, and bade him be miserable. He tried marriage as an alleviation, an amiable woman and a number of beautiful children surrounded him, and, if they could not solace his life, what other blessing was likely to do it? Those that are gifts of joy to most others, were to Danvers fresh affictions in disguise. The children, one by one, just reached that when their

age,

fascinations became least capable of being dispensed with by parents, and then they dropped like flowers in the springtime. It was not until the tie of attachment was most firmly bound between them and their father, that the offspring was cut off. There is a mournful beauty in the expressions of Lord Alton whilst he is dwelling on these terrible bereavements; and, in spite of the association of his name with our direst 'hatred and aversion, we are induced to extend occasionally some degree of sympathy to him, so profound and so complete is the motive of his sorrow. • Life and death,' continues Danvers, ' are conceptions of a peculiar sort : we habitually combine the idea of death with that of an age in a certain degree advanced ; this is what we call the course of nature : we know that every man's time must come, and that all must die. But when we look on the roses and gaiety of youth, the mournful idea of mortality is altogether alien to our thoughts. We have heard of it as a speculation and a tale ; but nothing but experience can bring it home to us. Infancy is, indeed, subject to peculiar perils, but my son had outlived the hazards of infancy. Parents who love their children in infancy, for the most part endure their loss with philosophy. The children in so short a period have not had time to entangle them in a thousand webs, to become the heart of their hearts. But at eleven years of age, the case is totally different. We have watched their stature, the unfolding of their limbs, the growing feeling and thought that speaks in their age, their accumulating proficiency. I began to regard my boy almost as a companion ; I asked his thoughts' upon a variety of questions. I drew hints from his innocent and guiltless suggestions. I began to connect the thought of him with the idea of the world, to consider what would be the destination and fortune of his manhood, in what occupation or pursuit he would be likely to prove most happy or most honoured. Every year he loved his parents better; every year we loved him more. All this was suddenly extinguished. In less than two months we saw him decline from the most enviable health ; he became a corpse, and the earth hid him for ever from our sight. The loss of my son had introduced a new inmate under our roof. This was the grim spectre death !' At length Danvers was left, childless and alone, and losses so signal, he was ultimately convinced, could never have been exacted from him by the design of Providence, unless, in some measure, they were meant as signals of the Almighty's displeasure for a crime which it was still in Danvers’s power to retrieve. Mr. Godwin shows the tact of a man of the world, in ascribing to Danvers the motives of his actions, which

he does. It was not a love of ponip and splendour; it was no mean fear of a diminished income ; nor any extraordinary desire to be an object of fear, respect, or love to a numerous train of dependants that still kept Danvers from making a clean breast of it at once, and restoring his nephew, which he easily might have done, as he was in constant correspondence with Cloudesley. It was none of these; the spell consisted of that trembling fear of the world, whose vengeance Danvers dreaded to incur, by an exposure such as must necessarily attend the transfer of his title and honours during his life, to another. Danvers would face an army of foes; he had distinguished himself by courage in the field; but the frown of the world, the unfavourable opinion of his own circle, had terrors for hiin, which cowardice, at its most creative moment, is scarcely able to conjure up.

Julian was growing apace, and he began to consult more and more his own taste, as to his occupations and actions, and to look out for associations without the interposition of his responsible guardian. He contracted a variety of acquaintances, and much that is very amusing in these volumes relates to the adventures which he entered into in company with them. Cloudesley, from the moment that the fine and interesting faculties of Julian first opened themselves, seriously determined on doing justice to his charge: as the young man's good qualities became more confirmed, and as Cloudesley was more and more invited to contemplate them, his resolution took additional force, and every succeeding post to England brought stronger and stronger remonstrances to Lord Danvers against the further prolongation of a fraud so cruel. At last Cloudesley came in person to this country, for the purpose of more decisively conveying his determination to his employer. It was necessary that, during his absence from Italy, his charge should be transferred to a competent guardian, and a person being unluckily selected of so very different a character from Cloudesley himself, that he was disagreeable to Julian, who after a very short trial of his new superintendant, eloped from his house, and went on the world. The intelligence of the extraordinary flight of the young man just reached Cloudesley as he was demanding terms from Lord Danvers in England; no time was to be lost; he set out for Italy, without the delay of an instant, where he learned that the unfortunate youth, whom he loved as his son, had taken to the association of banditti, and was then partaking with them in their career of guilt. Cloudesley followed to the Appenines, in search of Julian; he faces indifferently the most perilous passes of those mountains, in one of which, being mistaken for a government officer, he is mortally wounded by a robber. Julian, in the meantime, is apprehended amongst a gang of the brigands, towards whom the government had but recently begun a series of active and vigorous measures.

Thus far Lord Danvers had proceeded in his account of himself to Meadows, and as it was

VOL. XIII.

2 s

only a confession made for the purpose of shewing how much confidence he reposed in this person, as well as in order to make him understand the nature of duties which he forthwith intended Meadows should be charged with, Lord Danvers instantly pressed him to become a successor to Cloudesley, so far as that was practicable. Meadows proceeded to Italy; his first care was to endeavour to obtain the enlargement of Julian from the prison from which he was, in all probability, never more to depart, unless to a place of execution. The assistance of our ambassador was employed in favour of Julian, and evidence unquestionable was adduced of his being entirely free from the guilt of the banditti, with some of whom only he was acquainted, and had followed them for no other purpose than the pleasure of their society. Meadows could not by all his exertions procure one ground of hope that the life of Julian would be spared, and he gives himself up to despondency. The day of execution, however, had not approached, before an intervention took place, which not only preserved Julian, but restored him to his long lost honours. Earl Danvers himself proceeded to Italy, voluntarily confessed the crime he had committed, and now gladly incurred all the shame that would attach to an exposure of the circumstances under which he had set aside the claims of the infant Julian, and villainously assumed the character that belonged to his nephew. Such is a brief outline of the story, which is, perhaps, sufficiently meagre for the melo-dramatic sensibilities of modern novel readers, but the imperfection of which will, to those who have a relish for more exalted and substantial intellectual food, be as nothing. The style of Mr. Godwin, which we think alone ought to obtain a place for his productions amongst the classics of our language, is really a model of its kind. The pure lustre of the chrystal is an apt illustration by which to describe the lucidness of his sentences, and the natural mode of his combining ideas. For the gratification which the perusal of such a work affords, the public are indebted deeply to Mr. Godwin ; but on another account also he deserves their thanks, for we do not hesitate to express our conviction that the work of so manly and powerful a mind will operate strongly on the literary circles of the country, and, therefore, that it will strike a deadly blow at that idol of vapidity and trash which has been literally puffed into the dominion of English Romance, we trust only for a time.

NOTICES. Art. XIII.-A Plan for redeeming the New Four per Cents., humbly

suggested to the consideration of His Majesty's Government. By John

Brickwood. London. 1830. The ground work of Mr. Brickwood's able essay is the proposition to establish a new stock, bearing interest of 5 per cent., to be irredeemable for fifty or sixty years; and instead of reducing the Four per Cents by

« ZurückWeiter »