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THE WINE CELLAR.
[New MONTHLY MAGAZINE.)
Facilis descensus Averni,
'VIRG. In the deep discovery of the subterranean world, a shallow part would satisfy some inquirers, who, if iwo or three yards were opened beneath the surface would not care to rake the bowels of Potosi and regions towards the centre.
Sıæ THOMAS BROWNE.
Mex have always attached a peculiar inte j a better and wiser self. Blest with good but rest to that region of the earth which extends never boisterous spirits; endowed with the for a few yards beneath its surface. Below rare faculty not only of divining one's wishes, this depth the imagination, delighting to busy but instantly making them his own; skilful itself among the secrets of Time and Mortality, in sweetening good counsel with honest flathath rarely cared to penetrate. A few feet of tery; able to bear with enthusiasm in which ground may suffice for the repose of the first he might not participate, and to avoid smiling dwellers of the earth until its frame shall grow at the follies he could not help discerning; old and perish. The little coin, silent picture ever ready to indulge the secret wish of his of forgotten battles, lies among the roots of guest " for another bottle," with heart enough shrubs and vegetables for centuries, till it is to drink it with him, and head enough to take turned into light by some careful husbandman, care of him when it was gone, he was (and yet who ploughs an inch deeper than his fathers. is) the pleasantest of advisers, the most genial The dead bones which, loosened from their of listeners, and the quietest of lively compaurns, gave occasion to Sir Thomas Browne's nions. On this memorable day he had, with noblest essay, “had outlasted the living ones his accustomed forethought, given particular of Methusalem, and in a yard under ground, orders for our entertainment, and I hastened and thin walls of clay, outworn all the strong to enjoy it with him, little thinking how deep and spacious buildings above them, and quietly and solemn was the pleasure which awaited rested under the drums and tramplings of three us. conquests.” Superstition chooses the subter We arrived at the — Coffee House about ranean space which borders on the abodes of six on a bright afternoon in the middle of Septhe living, and ranges her vaults and mysteri- tember, and found every thing ready and exous caverns near to the scenes of revelry, cellent; and the turtle magnificent and finely passion, and joy; and within this narrow rind relieved by lime punch effectually iced; grilled rest the mighty products of glorious vintages, salmon crisply prepared for its appropriate the stores of that divine juice which, partaking lemon and mustard; a leg of Welch mutton of the rarest qualities of physical and intellec- just tasted as a "sweet remembrancer" of its tual nature, blends them in happier union heathy and hungry hills; woodcocks with within us. Here, in this hallowed ground, the thighs of exquisite delicacy and essence germs of inspiration and the memorials of de "deeply interfused” in thick soft toast; and cay lie side by side, and Bacchus holds divided mushrooms, which Nero justly called "the empire with the King of Terrors.
flesh of the gods," simply broiled and faintly As I sat indulging this serious vein of re- sprinkled with Cayenne. Our conversation flection, some years ago, when my relish of was, of course, confined to mutual invitations philosophy and port was young, a friend called and expressive criticisms on the dishes; the to remind me that we had agreed to dine to- only table-talk which men of sense can tolegether with rather more luxury than usual. rate. But the most substantial gratifications, I had made the appointment with boyish eager- in this world at least, must have an end; and ness, and now started gladly from my solitary the last mushroom was at length eaten. Unreveries to keep it. The friend with whom I had planned our holiday, was one of those few This trait sufficiently accounts for the flowers which persons whom you may challenge to a convi- were seen scattered on the sepulchre of Nero, when the vial evening with a mathematical certainty of the grateful Roman had eaten his mushroom under imenjoying it;-which is the rarest quality of perial auspices. Had Lord Byron been acquainted with friendship. Many who are equal to great exi- the flavour of choice mushrooms, he would have turned gencies, and would go through fire and water the noblest in that work, which, with all its faults of to serve you, want the delicate art to allay the waywardness and haste, is a miracle of language, papetty irritations, and heighten the ordinary en- thos, playfulness, sublimity, and sense. jayments of life, and are quite unable to make When Nero perish'd by the justest doom themselves agreeable at a tête-à-têle dinner.
Which ever the destroyer yet destroy'd,
Amidst the roar of liberated Rome, Not so my companion ; who, zealous, prompt, The nations free, and the world overjoy'd, and consoling in all seasons of trial, had good Some hand unseen strew'd flowers upon his tomhsense for every little difficulty, and a happy
Perhaps the weakness of a heart not void
Of feeling for some kindness done when power humour for every social moment; at all times Had left the wretch one uncorrupted hour!
fortunately for the repose of the evening, we That Hermitage, stealing gently into the chamwere haunted by the recollection of some bers of the brain, shall make us " babble of green highly flavoured port, and, in spite of strong fields;" and that delicate Claret, innocently evidence of identity from conspiring waiters, bubbling and dancing in the slender glass, shall sought for the like in vain. Bottle after bottle bring its own vine-coloured hills more vividly was produced and dismissed as “not the thing," before us even than Mr. Stanfield's pencil! till our generous host, somewhat between libe- There from a time-changed bottle, tenderly ral hospitality and just impatience, smilingly drawn from a crypt, protected by huge prime begged us to accompany him into the cellar, val cobwebs, you may taste antiquity, and inspect the whole of his little stock," and feel the olden time on your palate! As we choose for ourselves! We took him at his sip this marvellous Port, to the very colour word; another friend of riper years and graver of which age has been gentle, methinks we authority joined us; and we prepared to fol. have broken into one of those rich vaults in low our guide, who stood ready to conduct us which Sir Thomas Browne, the chief butler to the banks of Lethe. All the preparations, of the tomb, finds treasures rarer than jewels. like those which preceded similar descents “Some," saith he,“ discover sepulchral vessels of the heroes of old, bespoke the awfulness containing liquors which time hath incrassated and peril of the journey. “Our host preceded into jellies. For besides lacrymatories, notable us with his massive keys to perform an office lamps, with oils and aromatic liquors, attended collateral to that of St. Peter; behind, a dingy noble ossuaries; and some yet retaining a imp of the nether regions stood with glasses vinosity and spirit in them, which, if any have in his hands and a prophetic grin on his face; tasted, they have far exceeded the palates of and each of us was armed with a flaming torch antiquity ;-liquors, not to be computed by to penetrate the gloom which now stretched years of annual magistrates, but by great conthrough the narrow entrance before us. junctions and the fatal periods of kingdoms.
We descended the broken and winding stair- The draughts of consulary date were but crude case with cautious steps, and, to confess the unto these, and opimian wine but in the must truth, not without some apprehension for our unto them." upward journey, yet hoping to be numbered We passed on from flavour to flavour with among that select class of Pluto's visiters, our proud and liberal guide, whose comments * quos ardens evexit ad æthera virtus.” On a added zest even to the text which he had to sudden, turning a segment of a mighty cask, dilate on. A scent, a note of music, a voice we stood in the centre of the vast receptacle long unheard, the stirring of the summer of spirituous riches. The roof of solid and breeze, may startle us with the sudden revival stouily compacted brickwork, low, but boldly of long-forgotten feelings and thoughts, but arched, looked substantial enough to defy all none of these little whisperers to the heart is attacks of the natural enemy, water, and resist so potently endowed with this simple spell as a second deluge. From each side ran long the various flavours of Port to one who has galleries, partially shown by the red glare of tried, and, in various moods of his own mind, the torches, extending one way far beneath the relished them all. This full, rough, yet fruity busy trampling of the greatest shopkeepers wine, brings back that first season of London and stock-jobbers in the world; and, on the life, when topics seemed exhaustless as words other, below the clamour of the Old Bailey and coloured with rainbow hues; when Irish Court and the cells of its victims. What a students, fresh from Trinity College, Dublin, range! Here rest, cooling in the deep-delved were not too loud or familiar to be borne; cells, the concentrated essences of sunny when the florid fluency of others was only tireyears! In this archway huge casks of mighty some as it interrupted one's own; when the wine are scattered in bouniejus confusion, vast Temple Hall was not too large or too cold like the heaped jewels and gold on the “ rich for sociality; and ambition, dilating in the strond” of Spenser, the least of which would venerable space, shaped dreams of enterprise, lay Sir Walier's Fleming low! Throughout labour, and glory, till it required more wine to that long succession of vaults, thousands of assuage its fervours. This taste of a liquor, bottles, “in avenues disposed,” lie silently firm yet in body, though tawny with years, waiting their time to kindle the imagination, bears with it to the heart that hour when, hay10 sharpen the wit, to open the soul, and to ing returned to my birth-place, after a long and unchain the trembling tongue. There may eventful absence, and having been cordially you feel the true grandeur of quiescent power, welcomed by my hearty friends, I slipped and walk amidst the palpable elements of mad- away from the table, and hurried, in the light ness or of wisdom. What stores of sentiment of a brilliant sunset, to the gently declining in that butt of raciest Sherry! What a fund fields and richly wooded hedgerows which were of pensive thought! What suggestions for the favourite haunt of my serious boyhood. delicious remembrance! What “aids to re- The swelling hills seemed touched with etheflection !" (genuine as those of Coleridge) in real softness; the level plain was invested that Hock of a century old. What sparkling “with purpureal gleams;" every wild rose and fancies, whirling and foaming, from a stout stirring branch was eloquent with vivid recolbody of thought in that full and ripe Cham- lections: a thousand hours of happy thoughtpagne! What mild and serene philosophy in
Old Port wine is more ancient to the imagination ihat Burgundy, ready to shed" its sunset glow" than any other, though in fact it may have been known on society and nature! This pale Brandy, fewer years; as a broken Gothic arch has more of the softened by age, is the true “spirit” which spirit of antiquity about it than a Grecian temple. Port
reminds us of the obscure middle ages; but Hock, like "disturbs us with the joy of elevated thoughts." I the classical mythology, is always young.
fulness came back upon the heart; and the glorious clouds which fringed the western horizon looked prophetic of golden years “predestined to descend and bless mankind.” This soft, highly-flavoured Port, in every drop of which you seem to taste an aromatic flower, revives that delicious evening, when, after days of search for the tale of Rosamond Grey, of which I had indistinctly heard, I returned from an obscure circulating library with my prize, and brought out a long-cherished bottle, given me two years before as a curiosity, by way of accompaniment to that quintessence of imaginative romance. How did I enjoy, with a strange delight, its scriptural pathos, like a newly discovered chapter of the Book of Ruth; hang enamoured over its young beauty, lovelier for the antique frame of language in which it was set; and long to be acquainted with the author, though I scarcely dared aspire so high, and little anticipated those hundreds of happy evenings since passed in his society, which now crowd on me in rich confusion'—Thus is it that these subtlest of remembrancers not only revive some joyful season, but this also “contains a glass which shows us many more,” unlocking the choicest stores of memory, that cellar of the brain, in which lie the treasures which make life precious. But see! our party have seated themselves beneath that central arch to enjoy a calmer pleasure after the fatigues of their travel. They look romantic as banditti in a cave, and goodhumoured as a committee of aldermen. A cask which has done good service in its day— the shell of the evaporated spirit—serves for a table, round which they sit on rude but ample benches. The torches planted in the ground cast a broad light over the scene, making the ruddy wine glisten, and seeming, by their irregular flickering, as if they too felt the influence of the spot. My friend, usually so gentle in his convivialities, has actually broken forth into a song, such as these vaults never heard; our respected senior sits trying to preserve his solemn look, but unconsciously smiling; and Mr. B–1, the founder of the banquet, is sedulously doing the honours with only intenser civility, and calling out for fresh store
of ham, sandwiches, and broiled mushrooms, to enable us to do justice to the liquid delicacies before us. The usual order of wines is disregarded; no affected climax, no squeamish assortments of tastes for us here; we despise all rules, and yield a sentimental indulgence to the aberrations of the bottle. “Riches fineless” are piled around us; we are below the laws and their ministers; and just, lo! in the farthest glimmer of the torches lies outstretched our black Mercury, made happy by our leavings, and seeming to rejoice that in the cellar, as in the grave, all men are equal. How the soul expands from this narrow cell and bids defiance to the massive walls | What Elysian scenes begin to dawn amidst the darkness' Now do I understand the glorious tale of Aladdin and the subterranean gardens. It is plain that the visionary boy had discovered just such a cellar as this, and there eagerly learned to gather amaranthine fruits, and range in celestial groves till the Genius of the Ring, who has sobered many a youth, took him in charge, and restored him to common air. Here is the true temple, the inner shrine of Bacchus. Feebly have they understood the attributes of the benignant god, who have represented him as delighting in a garish bower with clustering grapes; here he rejoices to sit, in his true citadel, amidst his mightier treasures. Methinks we could now, in prophetic mood, trace the gay histories of these imbodied inspirations among those who shall feel them hereafter; live at once along a thousand lines of sympathy and thought which they shall kindle; reverse the melancholy musing of Hamlet, and trace that which the bungholestopper confines to “the noble dust of an Alexander,” which it shall quicken ; and peeping into the studies of our brother contributors, see how that vintage which flushed the hills of France with purple, shall mantle afresh in the choice articles of this Magazine. But it is time to stop, or my readers will suspect me of a more recent visit to the cellar. They will be mistaken. One such descent is enough for a life; and I stand too much in awe of the Powers of the Grave to venture again so near to their precincts.
ON THE DESTRUCTION OF THE BRUNSWICK
[New Monthly MAGAZINE.]
We notice this lamentable accident in our dramatic record, not for the sake of inquiry into its causes, or of multiplying the dismal associations which it awakens, but for the striking manner in which it has brought out the proper virtues of players. Actors of all ranks; managers of all interests; the retired and the active; the successful and the obscure; the refined and the vulgar; from Mrs. Siddons down to the scene-shifters of Sadler's Wells, have pressed forward to afford their sympathy and relief to the living sufferers. The proprietors of the patent theatres, who were just complaining of the infringements on their purchased rights, which have rendered them almost valueless, at once forgot the meditated injury to themselves, and saw nothing but the misery of their comrades. It is only on occasions such as these that the charities which are nurtured amidst the excitements and vicissitudes of a theatrical life are exhibited, so as to put the indiscriminate condemnations of the crabbed moralist and the fanatic to shame. There is more equality in the distribution of goodness and evil than either of these classes imagine; for the “respectable” part of the community are powerful and permanent; and obtain, perhaps, something more than justice for the negative virtues. Far be it from us to undervalue these, or to sympathize with any who would represent the ordinary guards and fences of morality as things of little value; but justice is due to all; and justice, we cannot help thinking, is scarcely done to those whose irregularities and whose virtues grow together on that verge of ruin and despair on which they stand in the times of their giddiest elevation. A cold observance of the decencies of life excites no man's envy and wounds no man's self-love; and, therefore, it is allowed without grudging; while the dazzling errors and redeeming nobleness of the light-hearted and the generous are more easily abused than copied. To detect “the soul of goodness in things evil,” is not to confound evil with good, or to weaken the laws of honour and conscience, but to give to them a finer precision and a more penetrating vigour. It is not by distinguishing, but by confounding, that pernicious sentimentalists pervert the understanding and corrupt the affections. They lend to vice the names and attributes of virtue; tack together qualities which could never be united in nature; and thus, in order to produce a new and startling effect, deprave the moral sensibility, and relax the tone of manly feeling. But it is another thing to hold the balance fairly between the excellencies and the frailties of imperfect men; to trace the hints and indica. tions of high emotion amidst the weaknesses of our nature; to consider temptations as well
as transgressions, and to estimate not only what is done but what is resisted. We can, indeed, do this but partially, yet we should, as far as possible, dispose ourselves to be just in our moral censures; and we shall find in those whom we call “good for nothing people,” more good than we think for. Actors are, no doubt, more liable to deviate from the ordinary proprieties of conduct, than merchants or agriculturists; it is their business to give pleasure to others, and, therefore, they must incline to the pleasurable; they live in the present, and it is no wonder that, as their tenure is more precarious than that of others, they take less thought for the future. But if they have less of the virtue of discretion, they have also less of that alloy of gross selfishness to which it is allied ; they have much of the compassion which they help to diffuse; and ludicrous as their vanities sometimes are, they give way at once on the touch of sympathy for unmerited or merited sorrow. Mr. Kean is an extreme instance, perhaps, both of imprudence and ge. nerosity; and accordingly no man living has been treated with greater injustice by a mora! and discerning public. Raised in a moment from obscurity and want to be the idol of the town ; courted, caressed, and applauded by the multitude, praised by men of genius, with rank, beauty, and wit, proud to be enlisted in his train, he grew giddy and fell, and was hooted from the stage with brutal indignities. All knew his faults; but how few were capable of understanding his virtues—his princely spirit, his warm and cordial friendship, his proneness to forget his own interests in those of others, his magnanimity and his kindness : The “respectable” part of the community do not engross all its goodness, although they turn it to the best account for their own benefit. Under the shield of this character, they sometimes do things which the vagabonds they sneer at would not, and could not achieve; and such is the submission of mankind to custom, that they retain their name even when they are detected. An attorney, in large practice, convicted of a fraud, retains the additicn “respectable” till he receives judgment; the announcement of the failure of a country bank, by which hundreds are ruined, styles the swindlers “the respectable firm ;” and a most respectable member of the religious would speculates in hops, or in stock, without reproach, and, when he has failed for thousands, fraudulently gambled away, continues to hold shilling whist in pious abomination. We have been led to this train of reflection by seeing in a newspaper the speech of a most respectable Home Missionary, named Smith, at the Mansion-house, in which he exults in the horrible catastrophe as “the triumph of piety in London 1" and this person, name of the Supreme Being on the stage as blasphemy. It is difficult to express one's indignation at such a spirit and such language without wounding the feelings of those whose opinions of the guilt of theatrical enjoyments have not rendered them insensible to the feelings of others. It must be admitted that there is something in the sudden death of actors which shocks us peculiarly at the moment, because the contrast between life and death seems more violent in their case than in that of others. We connect them, by the law of association, with our own gayest moments, and fancy that they who live to please must lead a life of pleasure. Alas ! the truth is often far otherwise. The comedian droops behind the scenes, quite chapfallen ; the tragic hero retires from his stately griefs to brood over homely and familiar sorrows, which no poetry softens; the triumphant actress, arrayed in purple and in pall, may know the pangs of despised love, or anticipate the coming on of the time when she shall be prematurely old, and as certainly neglected. The stage is a grave business to those who study it even successfully, though its rewards are intoxicating enough to turn the most sober brain. The professors in misfortune—especially such a misfortune as this—have the most urgent claims on our sympathy. Should we allow those to be miserable who have so often made
no doubt, regards the accidental mention of the hearts against those who have touched them so
us and thousands happy! Should we shut our
truly; who have helped to lighten the weight of existence; and have made us feel our kindred with a world of sorrow and of tears? Their art has the most sacred right to the protection of humanity, for it touches it most nearly. It makes no appeal to posterity; it does not aim at the immortal, in contempt of our perishable aims and regards; but it is contented to live in our enjoyments, and to die with them. Its triumphs are not diffused by the press, nor recorded in marble, but registered on the redleaved tablets of the heart, satisfied to date its fame with the personal existence of its witnesses. It forms a part of ourselves; beats in the quickest pulses of our youth, and supplies the choicest topics of our garrulous age. It partakes of our fragility, nay even dies before us, and leaves its monument in our memories. Surely, then, it becomes us “to see the players well bestowed,” when their gayeties are suddenly and prematurely eclipsed, and their short flutterings of vanity stayed before their time; or to provide for those who depended on their exertions. Of all people, they do most for relations; they hence most depend on them; and, therefore, their case both deserves and requires our most active sympathy. The call has been, in this instance, powerfully made, and will, we hope, be answered practically by all who revere the genius, and love the profession, and partake the humanity of Shakspeare.
FIRST APPEARANCE OF MISS FANNY KEMBLE.
[NEw MonTHLY MAGAZINE.]
WHEN we predicted, last month, that if Covent Garden theatre should be opened at all, it would derive attraction even from the extreme depression into which it had sunk, we had no idea of the manner in which this hope would be realized. We little dreamed that the circumstances which had threatened to render this house desolate, would inspire female genius to spring from the family whose honours were interwoven with its destiny, like an infant Minerva, almost perfect at birth, to revive its fortunes and renew its glories. In the announcement that, on the opening night, Miss Fanny Kemble, known to be a young lady of high literary endowments, though educated without the slightest view to the stage as a profession, would present herself as Juliet— that her mother, who, in her retirement, had been followed by the grateful recollections of all lovers of the drama, would reappear, in the part of Lady Capulet, to introduce and support her; and that her father would imbody, for the first time, that delightful creation of Shakspeare's happiest mood, Mercutio—there was abundant interest to ensure a full, respectable, and excited audience; but no general expecta
tion had gone forth of the splendid event which was to follow. Even in our youngest days, we never shared in so anxious a throb of expectation as that which awaited the several appearances of these personages on the stage. The interest was almost too complicated and intense to be borne with pleasure; and when Kemble bounded on the scene, gayly pointed at Romeo, as if he had cast all his cares and twenty of his years behind him, there was a grateful relief from the first suspense, that expressed itself in the heartiest enthusiasm we ever witnessed. Similar testimonies of feeling greeted the entrance of Mrs. Kemble; but our hearts did not breathe freely till the fair debutant herself had entered, pale, trembling but resolved, and had found encouragement and shelter in her mother's arms. But another and a happier source of interest was soon opened; for the first act did not close till all fears for Miss Kemble's success had been dispelled; the looks of every spectator conveyed that he was electrified by the influence of newtried genius, and was collecting emotions, in silence, as he watched its development, to swell its triumph with fresh acclamations. Fo"