« 上一页继续 »
By this means, I can improve myself with those objects which others consider with terror. When I look
the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me ; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out ; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion ; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow. When I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great day when we shall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together.
THE EDUCATION OF NATURE.
On earth was never sown :
A lady of my own.
The girl, in rock and plain,
To kindle or restrain.
Or up the mountain springs ;
Of mute insensate things.
“ The floating clouds their state shall lend
Nor shall she fail to see,
By silent sympathy.
In many a secret place
Shall pass into her face.
Her virgin bosom swell ;
Here in this happy dell.”
She died, and left to me
A CONTENTED MAN.
In the garden of the Tuileries there is a sunny corner under the wall of a terrace which fronts the south. Along the wall is a range of benches commanding a view of the walks and avenues of the garden. This genial nook is a place of great resort in the latter part of autumn, and on fine days in winter, as it seems to retain the flavour of departed summer. On a calm, bright morning, it is quite alive with nurserymaids and their playful young charges. Hither also resort a number of ancient ladies and gentlemen, who, with laudable thrift in small pleasures and small expenses (for which the French are noted), come here to enjoy sunshine and save firewood. Here may often be seen some cavalier of the old school, when the sunbeams have warmed his blood into something like a glow, fluttering about like a frost-bitten moth thawed before the fire, putting forth a feeble show of gallantry among the antiquated dames, and looking round upon everything with an eye of interest and curiosity.
Among the habitual frequenters of this place I had often remarked an old gentleman, whose dress was decidedly ante-revolutional (the French Revolution took place in 1791). He wore the three-cornered cocked hat of the ancien régime; and a queue stuck out behind, the loyalty of which was not to be disputed. His dress, though ancient, had an air of decayed gentility; and I observed that he took his snuff out of an elegant though oldfashioned gold box. He appeared to be the most popular man of the walk. He had a compliment for every old lady, he kissed every child, and he patted every little dog on the head—for children and little dogs are very important members of society in France.
I had taken a liking to this old gentleman. There was an habitual expression of benevolence in his face, which I have very frequently remarked in these relics of the politer days of France. The constant interchange of those thousand little courtesies which imperceptibly sweeten life have a happy effect on the features, and spread a mellow, evening charm over the wrinkles of old
age. Where there is a favourable predisposition, one soon forms a tacit intimacy, by often meeting on the same walks. Once or twice I accommodated him with a bench, after which we touched hats on passing each other ; at length we got so far as to take a pinch of snuff together out of his box, which is equivalent to eating salt together in the east ; from that time our acquaintance was established.
I now became his frequent companion in his morning promenades, and derived much amusement from his goodhumoured remarks on men and manners. One morning, as we were strolling through an alley in the Tuileries, with the autumnal breeze whirling the yellow leaves about our
path, my companion fell into a peculiarly communicative vein, and gave me several particulars of his history. He had once been wealthy, and possessed of a fine estate in the country, and a noble residence in Paris ; but the revolution, which effected so many disastrous changes, stripped him of everything. He was secretly denounced by his own steward during a sanguinary period of the Revolution, and a number of the bloodhounds of the Convention were sent to arrest him. He received private intelligence of their approach in time to effect his escape. He landed in England without money or friends, but considered himself singularly fortunate in having his head upon his shoulders, several of his neighbours having been guillotined as a punishment for being rich.
When he reached London, he had but a louis in his pocket, and no prospect of getting another. He ate a solitary dinner on beefsteak, and was almost poisoned by port wine, which, from its colour, he had mistaken for claret. The dingy look of the chop-house, and of the little mahogany-coloured box in which he ate his dinner, contrasted sadly with the gay saloons of Paris. Everything looked gloomy and disheartening. Poverty stared him in the face. He turned over the few shillings he had of change, did not know what was to become of him, and went to the theatre !
He took his seat in the pit, listened attentively to a tragedy of which he did not understand a word, and which seemed made of fighting, stabbing, and scene-shifting, and began to feel his spirits sinking within him; when, casting his eyes into the orchestra, what was his surprise to recognise an old friend and neighbour in the very act of extorting music from a huge violoncello.
As soon as the evening's performance was over, he tapped his friend on the shoulder ; they kissed each other on each cheek, and the musician took him home, and shared his lodgings with him. He had learned music as an accomplishment; by his friend's advice, he now turned to it as a means of support. He procured a violin, offered himself for the orchestra, was received, and again considered himself one of the most fortunate men upon earth.
Here, therefore, he lived for many years during the ascendancy of the terrible Napoleon. He found several emigrants living like himself by the exercise of their talents. They associated together, talked of France and of old times, and endeavoured to keep up a semblance of Parisian life in the centre of London.
They dined at a miserable cheap French restaurant in the neighbourhood of Leicester square, where they were served with a caricature of French cookery. They took their promenade in St. James's Park, and endeavoured to fancy it the Tuileries ; in short they made shift to accommodate themselves to everything but an English Sunday. Indeed, the old gentleman seemed to have nothing to say against the English, whom he affirmed to be braves gens; and he mingled so much among them, that at the end of twenty years he could speak their language almost well enough to be understood.
The downfall of Napoleon was another epoch in his life. He had considered himself a fortunate man to make his escape penniless out of France, and he considered himself fortunate to be able to return penniless into it. It is true that he found his Parisian residence had passed through several hands during the vicissitudes of the times, so as to be beyond the reach of recovery ; but then he had been noticed benignantly by government, and had a pension of several hundred francs, upon which, with careful management, he lived independently, and as far as I could judge, happily.
The old gentleman was a devout attendant upon levees : he was most zealous in his loyalty, and could not speak of the royal family without a burst of enthusiasm ; for he still fest towards them as his companions in exile. As to his poverty, he made light of it ; and indeed had a goodhumoured way of consoling himself for every cross and privation. If he had lost his chateau in the country, he ħad half a dozen royal palaces, as it were, at his command. He had Versailles and St. Cloud for his country resort, and the shady alleys of the Tuileries and the Luxembourg for his own recreation. Thus all his promenades and relaxations were magnificent, yet cost nothing. “ When I walk