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FASHION, MUSIC, AND ROMANCE.
OR, PASSAGES FROM THE LIFE OF A DREAMER.
I was born among romantic scenery, in one of the wildest parts of Scotland. My father was descended from one of the Huguenot families, that came over to this country on the revocation of the edict of Nantes. He lived in a style of easy, rural independence, on a patrimonial estate that had been for two or three generations in the family. He was an indolent, goodnatured man, who took the world as it went, and had a kind of laughing philosophy, that parried all rubs and mishaps, and served him in the place of wisdom. This was the part of his character least to my taste; for I was of an enthusiastic, excitable temperament, prone to kindle up with new schemes and projects, and he was apt to dash my sallying enthusiasm by some unlucky joke; so that whenever I was in a glow with any sudden excitement, I stood in mortal dread of his good-humour. Yet he indulged me in every vagary; for I was an only son, and of course a personage of importance in the household. I had two sisters older than myself, and one younger. The former was educated at Durham, under the eye of a maiden aunt; the latter remained at home, and was my cherished playmate, the companion of my thoughts. We were two imaginative little beings, of quick susceptibility, and prone to see wonders and mysteries in everything around us. Scarce had we learned to read, when our mother made us holiday presents of all the nursery literature of the day; which at that time consisted of little books covered with gilt paper, adorned with "cuts," and filled with tales of fairies, giants, and enchanters. What draughts of delightful fiction did we then inhale! My sister Sophy was of a soft and tender nature. She would weep
over the woes of the Children in the Wood, or quake at the dark romance of Blue-Beard, and the terrible mysteries of the blue chamber. But I was all for enterprise and adventure. I APRIL, 1840.
burned to emulate the deeds of that heroic prince, who delivered the white cat from her enchantment; or he of no less royal blood, and doughty emprise, who broke the charmed slumber of the Beauty in the Wood!
The house in which we lived, was just the kind of place to foster such propensities. It was a venerable mansion, half villa, half farm-house. To which there had been made various additions, some of brick, some of wood, according to the exigencies of the moment; so that it was full of nooks and crooks, and chambers of all sorts and sizes. It was buried among willows, elms, and cherry trees, and surrounded with roses and holly-hocks, with honey-suckle and sweet-briar clambering tabout every window. A brood of hereditary pigeons sunned hemselves upon the roof; hereditary swallows and martins built about the eaves and chimneys; and hereditary bees hummed about the flower-beds.
Under the influence of our story-books, every object around us now assumed a new character, and a charmed interest. The wild flowers were no longer the mere ornaments of the fields, or the resorts of the toilful bee; they were the lurking places of the fairies. We would watch the butterflies as they flitted up into the blue air, above the sunny tree tops, and fancy them some of the tiny beings from fairy land. I would call to mind all that I had read of Robin Goodfellow, and his power of transformation. Oh! how I envied him that power! How I longed to be able to compress my form into utter littleness; to ride the bold dragon-fly; swing on the tall bearded grass; follow the ant into his subterraneous habitation, or dive into the cavernous depths of the honey-suckle!
While I was yet a mere child, I was sent to a daily school, about two miles distant. The school-house was on the edge of a wood, close by a brook overhung with birches, alders, and dwarf willows. We of the school who lived at some distance, came with our dinners put up in little baskets. In the intervals of school hours, we would gather round a spring, under a tuft of hazel-bushes, and have a kind of pic-nic; interchanging the rustic dainties with which our provident mothers had fitted us out. Then, when our joyous repast was over, and my companions were disposed for play, I would draw forth one of my cherished story-books, stretch myself on the green sward, and soon lose myself in its bewitching contents.
I became an oracle among my school-mates, on account of my superior erudition, and soon imparted to them the contagion of my infected fancy. Often in the evening, after school
hours, we would sit on the trunk of some fallen tree in the woods, and vie with each other in telling extravagant stories, until the whip-poor-will began his nightly moaning. Then came the perilous journey homeward. What delight we would take in getting up wanton panics, in some dusky part of the wood; scampering like frightened deer; pausing to take breath; renewing the panic, and scampering off again, wild with fictitious terror!
Our greatest trial was to pass a dark, lonely pool, covered with pond-lilies, peopled with frogs, and haunted by two white cranes. Oh the terrors of that pond! How our little hearts would beat, as we approached it; what fearful glances we would throw around! And if by chance a splash of a wild duck struck our ears, as we stole quietly by-away we sped, nor paused until completely out of the woods. Then, when I reached home, what a world of adventures, and imaginary terrors, would I have to relate to my sister Sophy!
As I advanced in years, this turn of mind increased upon me, and became more confirmed. I abandoned myself to the impulses of a 'romantic imagination, which controlled my studies, and gave a bias to all my habits. My father observed me continually with a book in my hand, and satisfied himself that I was a profound student; but what were my studies? Works of fiction; tales of chivalry; voyages of discovery; travels in the East; everything, in short, that partook of adventure and romance. I well remember with what zest I entered upon that part of my studies which treated of the heathen mythology, and particularly of the sylvan deities. Then indeed my schoolbooks became dear to me. The neighbourhood was well calculated to foster the reveries of a mind like mine. It abounded with solitary retreats, wild streams, solemn woods, and silent valleys. I would ramble about for a whole day, with a volume of Ovid's Metamorphoses in my pocket, and work myself into a kind of self-delusion, so as to identify the surrounding scenes with those of which I had just been reading. I would loiter about a brook that glided through the shadowy depths of the forest, picturing it to myself the haunt of Naiades. I would steal round some bushy copse that opened upon a glade, as if I expected to come suddenly upon Diana and her nymphs; or to behold Pan and his satyrs bounding, with whoop and halloo, through the woodland. I would throw myself, during the panting heats of a summer noon, under the shade of some widespreading tree, and muse and dream away the hours, in a state of mental intoxication. I drank in the very light of day, as
nectar, and my soul seemed to bathe with ecstasy in the deep blue of a summer sky.
I cannot help dwelling on this delicious period of my life; when as yet I had known no sorrow, nor experienced any worldly care. I have since studied much, both of books and men, and of course have grown too wise to be so easily pleased; yet with all my wisdom, I must confess I look back with a secret feeling of regret to the days of happy ignorance, before I had begun to be a philosopher.
It must be evident that I was in a hopeful training, for one who was to descend into the arena of life, and wrestle with the world. The tutor, also, who superintended my studies, in the more advanced stage of my education, was just fitted to complete the fata morgana which was forming in my mind. His name was Glencoe. He was a pale, melancholy-looking man, about forty years of age; liberally educated, and who had devoted himself to the instruction of youth, from taste rather than necessity; for, as he said, he loved the human heart, and delighted to study it in its earlier impulses. My two elder sisters, having returned home, were likewise placed under his care, to direct their reading in history and belles-lettres.
We all soon became attached to Glencoe. It is true, we were at first somewhat prepossessed against him. His meagre, pallid countenance, his broad pronunciation, his inattention to the little forms of society, and an awkward and embarrassed manner, on first acquaintance, were much against him; but we soon discovered that under this unpromising exterior existed the kindest urbanity of temper; the warmest sympathies; the most enthusiastic benevolence. His mind was ingenious and acute. His reading had been various, but more abstruse than profound; his memory was stored, on all subjects, with facts, theories, and quotations, and crowded with crude materials for thinking. These, in a moment of excitement, would be, as it were, melted down, and poured forth in the lava of a heated imagination. At such moments, the change in the whole man was wonderful. His meagre form would acquire a dignity and grace; his long, pale visage would flash with a hectic glow; his eyes would beam with intense speculation; and there would be pathetic tones and deep modulations in his voice, that delighted the ear, and spoke movingly to the heart.
But what most endeared him to us, was the kindness and sympathy with which he entered into all our interests and wishes. Instead of curbing and checking our young imaginations with the reins of sober reason, he was a little too apt to catch the