網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

of Hargrave, and they proceeded though the back garden into the shrubbery and plantation that clothed the slope behind the house.

Among the winding umbrageous walks made through these groves, rustic alcoves had been erected here and there for the accommodation or shelter of all who might seek these pleasant shades, to which the public were admitted without discrimination during three days in the week. "The remaining four,” said Middleton to his companion, “are sufficient for my purpose, when, in those gloomier moods to which I am unfortunately subject, I can betake myself to solitude, and enjoy a total sequestration from my fellowereatures."

"Enjoy!-away with that misanthropical sentiment, and remember that you are condemning yourself, not others, when you confess that you are better fitted for solitude than society."

"I acknowledge it-I do condemn myself; but, when I' am infected with spleenful thoughts and hypochondriacal dejection, is it not better to retire from the world, lest I should spread the contagion to others?"

"No; this is to confirm by indulging the selfishness of sorrow. Instead of infecting others with your melancholy, they would enliven you with their cheerfulness. Every one who loves his species should reflect that to live for them he must live with them. Social intercourse is the great civilizer and improver."

"I do but occasionally enact the hermit, and only when I am under the influence of sombre and distressing convietions, which you, I know, do not share, but which I have in vain endeavoured to shake off. Though you many condemn the purpose to which I sometimes appropriate these congenial shades, I venture to anticipate that you will praise my picture-gallery, upon which we are now about to emerge." "Your picture-gallery! I knew not that you possessed

one."

"You will recognise it as we pass through these fields, to every one of which I have endeavoured to impart a pictorial character, and, by diversifying them, to give to the whole the semblance of a glorious gallery. Some you will perceive are light, open, and airy; others sylvan and umbrageous; but all cheerful and gay, for I have suffered too much myself from gloomy feelings to wish to awaken them in others."

"So philanthropic, and yet unhappy!" exclaimed Chritty.

"Where there were beautiful trees," continued Middleton, "I have cut down the underwood, that they might be seen to more advantage, and sometimes made the footpath meander, that they might be presented in more than one point of view. It is the winding of our roads that renders our English scenery so superior to that of the Continent, where an object, however beautiful, is like a picture which when once seen, is seen for all: whereas, the same object in England would rather resemble a statue, which you may walk round, and make it assume a variety of beautiful attitudes and combinations. Pray admire the contrast, or the harmony, of colouring that I have endeavoured to introduce into my hedges, by presuming to guide the great artist-hand of Nature."

"I begin to catch the idea as well as the beauties of your picture-gallery, and admire not less the taste that has governed, than the benevolence that dictated its formation. These are imperial arts, and worthy kings!"

"It has cost me very little; for all simple, natural pleasures, which are ever the purest and the best, are, at the same time, the cheapest. Having the green for sports and pastimes, and this range of fields for their evening's promenade, I find that the villagers have nearly deserted the alehouse where they formerly used to congregate."

"I wonder not that you have rendered them more moral and temperate, for you have awakened a sense of beauty in natural objects, and the good and the noble are naturally elicited by the beautiful. The exhibitions, the collections, the libraries, calculated to diffuse this salutary impression, are mostly confined to the rich. You are the first who have opened a gratuitous picture-gallery for the poor; and if others would follow your example, they would do much towards elevating the taste and polishing the manners of the lower orders.'

"I can assure you that some of my Brookshaw peasants have already become amateurs of the picturesque, and will discourse earnestly, if not learnedly, upon the merits of these different fields and views."

66

And without knowing your rustic connoisseurs, I venture to pronounce that they are better as well as wiser men than they were. It is a favourite theory of mine, that when the moral and physical system are more completely harmonized, towards which consummation I believe all things to be indisputably advancing, the beautiful and the good will always be found in accordance. Even now the

good qualities of the head and heart are generally united, for virtue is only a practical wisdom; and the time will perhaps come, when mental and personal loveliness will be equally inseparable."

"Do you not think that, to a certain extent, this period is already arrived? An amiable and intelligent expression, which is the visible beauty of the mind, is at the same time the greatest ornament of the face. Who that gazes, only for a moment, upon Miss Norberry's can fail to perceive in that highest species of exterior comeliness the bright and faithful reflection of interior virtue ?"

66

Nay, nay, this is unkind," said Chritty, slightly blushing, "by condescending to reason with me, you were rendering such grateful and welcome homage to my mind, that I did not expect you could think so poorly of it as to pay a compliment to my person."

[ocr errors]

"I meant no compliment to either. I never flatter, neither do I ever conceal the truth. I intended to express what I sincerely feel that I know not which most to admire-your mind or person."

"It is gratifying to hear you say so, for I value the good opinion of the good; but your courtesy must not change the topic of conversation from the picture-gallery through which we are strolling to one of its most insignificant spectators. It has been urged by some, that the English are so uncivilized-so barbarous, that, far from appreciating any favours of this sort, they will mutilate and deface the beauties of nature or specimens of art to which they are allowed free access. Seldom, however, has the experiment been tried, and its very rarity ensures its partial failure, for the vulgar must be familiarized with objects of taste before they can understand or respect them. I have been given to understand that the mutilation of the monuments in Westminster Abbey, which is often adduced as a proof of the barbarism of the lower orders, and a reason for excluding them from all our public buildings, is entirely attributable to the young gentlemen of Westminster School, the sons of the rich and the aristocratical."

"What public buildings," said Middleton, "are appropriated to the uses of the modern poor? Amid the stately edifices that surround them, our lower orders behold none that have been constructed for their own accommodation but the prison and the penitentiary; or the poor-house and the hospital, in which so many of them are destined to end their days."

"And from all private mansions and parks they are generally shut out with an offensive jealousy. Wherever our gentry find an open boundery they set up fences and palings, or dig ditches and trenches; where there were walls already, they raise them higher; they love to fortify themselves behind iron spikes and broken bottles: while some, I am sorry to say, will not be contented with any barrier less effectual and destructive than steel-traps and spring-guns. Estranged, defied, treated as enemies, the humbler classes naturally become rude, uncivilized, sullen; and this want of refinement is absurdly urged by their superiors as an excuse for the continuance of that very alienation which has produced it."

"In proof of the justice of your remarks," said Middleton, "I would beg you to observe, that not one of the pictures in my gallery is defaced or injured. There is not a bough broken. No-the common people are to be conciliated by kindness and refined by culture, not less certainly than they are to be provoked by annoyance and vulgarized by exclusion from all intercourse with the politer classes. More sociability between the two would mitigate the contemptuous haughtiness of the one, smooth the ruggedness of the other, exalt and harmonize the whole community."

CHAPTER IV.

Since benevolence is inseparable from all morality, it must be clear that there is a benevolence in little things as well as in great; and that he who strives to make his fellow creatures happy, though only for an instant, is a much better man than he who is indifferent to, or, (what is worse) despises it.

PELHAM.

THEIR admiration of each other being thus exalted by their common participation in the charms of the surrounding scenery, who can wonder that both Middleton and Chritty forgot the companions with whom they had started? Hargrave and Lucy had unconsciously dropped some distance behind, and found nothing to regret in this momentary separation. They were even happier than their friends, if their gratification was to be inferred from the animated countenance of the usually grave-looking clergyman, and the vivacious laughter of the playful Lucy, whose exhilaration seemed to seek a vent in rapid locomotion. Walking was too sedate for her; flitting and gamboling around Hargrave like a spirit of light and joy, she ran hither and thither to pluck flowers from the hedge, or to catch some new view; and then, returning to her companion's side, and condemning her own girlish frolicks, she would protest, with a starched look, that she meant to be serious for at least five minutes, and would forthwith begin discoursing with a mock gravity, generally bounding off before the conclusion of the prescribed term to follow some new vagary. "Heavens!" exclaimed the delighted Hargrave, "how could Middleton apply the term 'mindless' to this gifted girl? Because she possesses the innocence and gaiety of a child, he has presumed that her mind must be puerile. Never was he more mistaken. Hers is, indeed, the perpetual sunshine of the breast; who can compete with her in the

« 上一頁繼續 »