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recommend to a publisher, or to friends for subscription. To say nothing of incessant “double letters from Northamptonshire,” or, worse still, Jarge packets from America, like those quoted by Mr. Lockhart in his life of Sir Walter—all for the further promotion of such tyrannical designs against your purse and person. To comply with such requests would be a total surrender of personal freedom; to refuse is to make an enemy who will slander you anonymously in the newspapers and journals for the rest of your life. Nay, even if you comply, and
drop into unwilling ears The saving council, keep your piece nine years,' your case is not amended; it is all set down as envy, hatred, and malice, and jealousy of a new rival venturing into the market. But even to criticise is safer than to praise ; no mortal ever yet peppered sufficiently high to content the vanity of an author of this intrusive disposition. Upon the subject of postage, also, there is another plague of popularity to mention—the persecutions of the twopenny post. There is a floating capital of envy and of paltry malignity in the world, of which the littleness is only equalled by the intensity. For this feeling anonymous letter-writing is the accustomed vent; so that there are few popular persons-no matter the cause of their popularity—who do not, about once a-week or so, get their twopenny-worth, beginning with “You infernal scourdrel,” or You conceited ass,” and accusing them of more vices than can be found in the catalogue of a Catholic confessor. If a woman be the object, you may be certain, too, of indecencies unheard of in Broad St. Giles's. Now, though this be all despicable enough, it is also painfully disgusting. It gives too close an insight into the meanness, vulgarity of mind, and total unworthiness, abounding in society, makes one sick of one's fellow-creatures, and moreover, it is in the long run rather expensive.
Another pleasant appendage to popularity is its attracting the especial attention of madmen. The papers perpetually announce the visits these persons pay to kings and ministers, and the hairbreadth escapes of such exalted personages; but the evil extends to all classes whose names are before the public. Actresses (more especially if they be young and handsome) have their lives embittered by lunatic lovers, who keep them in constant apprehension and alarm, and sometimes fire at them from the pit, or Hackman-ize them in their passage to their hackney-coach. Next to these, scarcely less annoying and almost as lunatic, are the hosts of curious impertinents who force themselves into the presence
of eminent men, for the pleasure of staring at live lions, or haply for the profit of “putting them into their book.” A fellow of this description will call on a popular author, pretending to mistake him for another person of the same name; or he will trump up an imaginary business, and, after having detained him half an hour with its details, will fairly own the trick, and acknowledge that it was a stratagem to arrive into his presence. Then, in six months, out comes a printed catalogue of the visitee's furniture, the decorations of his chamber, his personal peculiarities and infirmities, with a full and particular account of all his opinions of men and things, which, in the presumed sanctity of familiar chat, he has been trapped into uttering; and right lucky will he be, if nothing be added nor distorted in the ingenuous narrative. We say nothing of the many visits thus paid upon bona fide letters of recommendation for the bore is the same-only this, that it is a case meriting legislative interference, to determine who shall, and who shall not, have a right to draw such onerous drafts upon their eminent acquaintances.
Last, though not least, in this long list of grievances, must be set down the morbid state of feeling which popularity engenders in its victims! Odious and detestable as their public life must, on bitter experience, become, it, at the same time, grows to be habitual; and, however much the victim may pant for a return to the snug domesticity of an obscure lot, he will
, on making the experiment, find himself perfectly unfitted for enduring it. Publicity has become his torment; but it is a torment with which he cannot afford to part. It has stolen upon him, like bravdy on a drunkard, and grown into a necessary stimulus. It is " like the breath of heaven ; without it he dies." Incessant, therefore, are the efforts which the popular man makes, and must make, to keep himself before the world ; and the very greatest and best are not exempted from this necessity. A large part even of the extravagancies with which Byron's glorious memory is reproached may fairly be attributed to a thirsting after that species of immortality, which was the more urgent, the more its object seemed to be retiring from his grasp. The desire for notoriety grows with what it feeds on; and so ravenous does the appetite become, that the Popes and the Drydens, as well as the Dennises and the Cibbers, are brought to an harassing conviction that it is “better be dd than not be named at all.” Hence a nervous solicitude to be seen everywhere, and mentioned on every occasion; a restless impatience at the oversights of newspaper reporters, or at the sneers of petty critics, or, worse still, at the successes of contemporaries. Hence intrigues to get up public dinners, or to obtain addresses, no matter from whom, though it be but from a freemason's lodge, or a country club of odd fellows. Has it not been known that, under this morbid fear of oblivion, men have had their legs broken, caused themselves to be shipwrecked, nay, even to be laid out for dead-in the newspapers—and all merely to get an opportunity of coming once more before the public, in a subsequent contradiction. To this cause, also, we should attribute a part of that egregious coxcombry of more than one of our well-known candidates for popularity, who, not content with the social passe par tout which successful authorship affords, seek by a thousand personal affectations and sillinesses to attract all eyes to themselves, and hating even the pretty women who divide attention with them in a fashionable assembly.
But we are growing personal; and it is time to stop. We shall conclude by thanking Heaven for our own anonymosity, grateful that, popularly speaking, we are "rien; pas même académicien;" and rejoicing in the certainty that our own person is, and ever will be, comfortably concealed from the "garish eye” of our readers in the "New Monthly,'' by the mystic monogram,
BY THE AUTHOR OF GLANCES AT LIFE." We know too little of the men of genius we would“ give our hearts away” to know more about. We would know, accurately, no matter how minutely, what they were-what they looked like—how they “ lived, moved, and had their being "-what were their daily difficulties—how mastered-how they were encouraged-how thwarted--and how they surmounted all, and rose at last pre-eminent. There is a craving void--if not " an aching void”-in our desire to learn what Shakspeare really and truly was—what were his daily habits of study, labour, ease, and enjoyment-his friends-his enemies, if that gentle spirit could have had enemies—how he rose, and by what gradations, to the great height of his eternal fame, and how, when he had performed “the work of his high calling," forgetful of himself-careless even to injustice to himself-he modestly, with no noise, walked down into “ the quiet vale of years, and was seen and heard no more !—for let the contemners of his genius say what they will, his was a high and mighty task, well worked out, and nobly and completely finished.
A highly amusing and instructive book might be written upon the little that is known of the lives of all our early poets-pieceing and dove-tailing all the scattered facts and allusions made by themselves and their contemporaries to the habits and manners of the men-who were their companions, and who their friends, social, worldly, and literarywhat were their sources of instruction, how employed-and in how much they were under obligations to them—their competitors, and their imitations and rivalries of each other-how their geniuses grew, and what was their progression. And when facts and data failed the historian of their lives and writings, he should have large liberty of conjecture allowed him to fill up the voids, and work up the mental whole-length portraits of the men. No living writer could, perhaps, do greater justice to such a task than the elder D’Israeli. He has partly performed this labour; but there is room for a completer work, bringing every scattered line and trait together -the least and most slight allusion-the commendatory couplets of contemporaries- letters—all: so that one might have at one grasp all that appertains to the history of the men and their works : the book to be compiled and heaped together in the admiring spirit and in the exactest letter of good old gossiping Mr. John Nichols, in his anecdotes of literature and literary men of the last century:
I was led to entertain this wish by meeting with two or three facts (for such I take them to be)--in the private history of Ben Jonson, which have, as far as I have seen, escaped his most industrious biographers. You learn more, perhaps, of the personal habits of the poet from a jocund verse of Robert Herrick’s than you gain from many a page of sober prose. You get, at least, at the convivial character of the man; and if you have any speculation in your eyes, may easily complete the picture-and great, good-humoured, sober and unsober Ben stands visibly before you—“ living as he looked."
Ben was, it must be told, a little too fond of the Mermaid, and no wonder !--for under the auspices of that fish-and-flesh landlady met a greater combination of men of talent and genius than ever mingled
together before or since. The celebrated club held at that equally celebrated tavern originated with Sir Walter Raleigh ; and there, for many a long year, Ben Jonson repaired with Shakspeare, the inseparable pair Beaumont and Fletcher, Selden, Carew, Martin, Donne, Robert Herrick, Alleyne the player, and many others, whose names, even at this distant period, call up a mingled feeling of reverence and regret. Here the “ wit-combats," which Fuller speaks of in his book of “Worthies," took place. Describing these, he says, “ Many were the wit-combats between Shakspeare and Ben Jonson. I beheld them like a Spanish great galleon and an English man-of-war. Master Jonson, like the former, was built far higher in learning-solid, but slow in his performances : Shakspeare, like the latter, less in bulk, but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about, and take advantage of all winds, by the quickness of his wit and invention.” Who that now sips his Claret at Crockford's would not prefer to have dropt in at the Mermaid in Cornhill, where these brave battles of the brain were fought, and where the quaint and humorous old Ben, forgetting all rivalry with the simplehearted and unambitious Shakspeare, kept his table-roarers about him, as long as canary-butts would flow, and life would let him, trolling his fine old rough-flavoured songs, with a tongue sweet and smooth with sherris ?
What is said of Herrick will apply without alteration to his friend Ben :" Our poet seems to have been gifted with no small portion of the conviviality and propensity of that bon-vivant, Falstaff. His relish for sack he records himself in pretty marked characters : whether, like the facetious knight, he flavoured it with sugar, the legend does not inform us.” Herrick, perhaps, took so kindly to his cups out of “ nice affection ” and true filial piety for his poetical father, Jonson ; he followed his precepts and his practice-because both were agreeable. Jonson was no wine-and-water poet : he was for no dilutions-no weakenings of the “frantick liquor"-he was for wine, and wit, the heightener of wine : he would not, as Herrick says, prevaricate” in his loving, unadulterous allegiance toʻ“ sack;" and when, as Sir John
“ Old sack Young Herrick took, to entertain
The Muses in a sprightly vein," Ben drew up his stool to the table, and did not care if he tossed off a glass with the Reverend Robert, a parson of the true old Protestant, anti- Presbyterian stamp, loving a verse and a tierce of wine in equal proportions-and' hating nothing but empty flasks and puritanical Roundheads, as friends and canters off of water, and enemies and canters against wit. Ben knew right well that wine made him, as it made Herrick,
“ Airy, active to be borne,
nimble as the winged Hours,
And ride the sunbeams." And when Herrick, in his “ Welcome to sack,” invoked Apollo's curse upon himself, if ever he turned
“ A postate to his love,'' and desired these odious stigmas and circumstances of contempt might fall upon him,
“ Call me the son of Beer,' and then confine
Me to the tap, the toast, the turf! Let wine
Run to a sudden death and funeral !" “ Amen !” did pious Ben ejaculate, and ordered honest Master “ Anon, anon, Sir!" to bring in another bevy of bottles. Merry doings were done at the Mermaid in that day!
Herrick-who was of a kindred spirit, and loved sack as affectionately as “ Saint Ben,” as he, in the devotion of good-fellowship, canonizes Jonson-makes us acquainted with some other tavern-haunts of canarybibbing Ben. Here is an Ode to him, which is at once lyrical and Herrickal:
“ Ah ! Ben,
Shall we, thy guests,
Made at the Sun,
Where we such clusters had,
And yet each verse of thine
“ My Ben !
Or send to us
But teach us yet
Lest we that talent spend,
That precious stock, the store
Of such a wit the world should have no more." No wonder that, with these taverning habits, Jonson lived poor and died no richer. He ceased to swallow sherris and chirp over canary, on the 16th August, (28th N. S.) 1637. Herrick's epitaph upon him would not be unworthy of his monument :
“ Here lies Jonson, with the rest
Of the poets, but the best.
dead and gone,
At his heels a stone !" in what he styles an ' Epigram upon Mr. Ben Jonson :' “thus sings he:"
“After the rare arch-poet, Jonson, died,