[graphic][subsumed][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[merged small][graphic]
[ocr errors]

ADIES AND GENTLEMEN,–It is usual, I believe, to open a Penny Reading with

a few prefatory remarks. I must ask you to allow me to avail myself of the
privilege to explain to you the intention of this selection. It is intended,
not only as a hand-book for public readings, but as a fireside companion on
occasions when the weather or ill-health may forbid attendance at the Institute
or the Lecture Hall. It will be offered to you weekly, so that in the absence
of a Public Reading, some member of your family may give you a Home
Reading-a practice I would especially recommend. It will, moreover, as far
as I am able to make it, add to your libraries a collection of the gems to
be found in the English literature of all ages. For the permission which
enables me to add selections from the popular works of our own times, I am
glad to take this public opportunity of thanking those Authors and Publishers
who have so readily granted the use of their copyrights.

There are two specialities in this series of Readings to which I would, in
conclusion, draw your attention—their Ilustration and their Cheapness.

The drawings will, by the direct appeal they make to the eye, assist materially in impressing on your memories the recollection of the passages placed before you. The low price at which the series is issued will enable all to overcome the one drawback to public readings—that generally, through the mere straining of the attention in order not to miss anything, we fail to appreciate fully the very finest passages when read aloud to us for the first time.

With these few words I make my low, opening to you the riches of the finest literature in the world.




[WASHINGTON IRVING, an American writer, long resident in England. Born 1783. Died 1859.]
€ How many bright eyes when fortunate, she scarcely breathes it to her.

grow dim-how many self; but when otherwise, she buries it in the
soft cheeks grow pale- recesses of her bosom, and there lets it cower and
how many lovely forms brood among the ruins of her peace.

into the tomb, I have seen many instances of women running
and none can tell the to waste and self-neglect, and disappearing gradu-
cause that blighted their ally from the earth, almost as if they had been
loveliness !

exhaled to heaven; and have repeatedly fancied

As the dove will clasp that I could trace their deaths through the various its wings to its side, and cover and conceal declensions of consumption, cold, debility, languor, the arrow that is preying on its vitals, so it is melancholy, until I reached the first symptom of the nature of woman to hide from the worid aisappointed love. But an instance of the kind the pangs of wounded affection. The love of a was lately told to me. The circumstances are well delicate female is always shy and silent. Even known in the country where they happened, and I

1-VOL. I.

shall but give them in the manner in which they But it was all in yain. There are some strokes of were related.

calamity that scathe and scoreh the soul-that Every one must recollect the tragical story penetrate to the vital seat of happiness, and blast of young E-, the Irish patriot; it was too touch it, never again to put forth the bud or blossom. ing to be soon forgotten. During the troubles in She never objected to frequent the haunts of Ireland, he was tried, condemned, and executed on pleasure, but she was as much alone there as in a charge of treason. His fate made a deep im the depths of solitude. She walked about in a pression on public sympathy. He was so young, sad reverie, apparently unconscious of the world so intelligent, so generous, so brave, so everything around her. She carried with her an inward woe that we are apt to like in a young man. His con- that mocked at all the blandishments of friend. duct under trial, too, was so lofty and intrepid. ship, and “heeded not the song of the charmer, The noble indignation with which he repelled the charm he never so wisely.” charge of treason against his country; the elo- The person who told me her story had seen her quent vindication of his name ; and the pathetic at a masquerade. There can be no exhibition of appeal to posterity, in the hopeless hour of con- far-gone wretchedness more striking and painful demnation; all these entered deeply into every than to meet it in such a scene. To find it wan. generous bosom, and even his enemies lamented dering like a spectre, lonely and joyless where all the stern policy that dictated his execution. around is gay; to see it dressed out in the trap

But there was one heart whose anguish it would pings of mirth, and looking so wan and woebe impossible to describe. In happier days and begone as if it had tried in vain to cheat the poor fairer fortunes he had won the affections of a heart into a momentary forgetfulness of sorrow. beautiful and interesting girl, the daughter of a After strolling through the splendid rooms and late celebrated Irish barrister. She loved him with giddy crowd with an air of utter abstraction, she the disinterested fervour of a woman's first and sat herself down on the steps of an orchestra, early love. When every worldly maxim arrayed and looking about for some time with a vacant itself against him; when blasted in fortune, and air that showed her insensibility to the garish disgrace and danger darkened around his name, scene, she began, with the capriciousness of a she loved him the more ardently for his very sickly heart, to warble a little plaintive air. She sufferings. If, then, his fatę could awaken the had an exquisite voice; but on this occasion it was sympathy even of his foes, what must have been so simple, so touching, it breathed forth such a the agony of her whose whole soul was occupied soul of wretchedness, that she drew a crowd mute by his image! Let those tell who have had the and silent around her, and melted every one into portals of the tomb suddenly closed between them tears. and the being they most loved on earth ; who have 'The story of one so true and tender could not sat at its threshold as one shut out in a cold and but excite great interest in a country remarkable lonely world, from whence all that was most lovely for enthusiasm. It completely won the heart of a and loving had departed.

brave officer, who paid his addresses to her, and But then the horror of such a grave! so fright- thought that one so true to the dead could not but ful, so disgraceful! so dishonoured !

There was

prove affectionate to the living. She declined his nothing for memory to dwell on that could soothe attentions, for her thoughts were irrevocably enthe pang of separation-none of those tender, those grossed by the memory of her former lover. He, melancholy circumstances, that endear the parting however, persisted in his suit. He solicited not scene; nothing to melt sorrow into those blessed her tenderness, but her esteem. He was assisted tears, sent, like the dews of heaven, to revive the by her conviction of his worth, and her sense of heart in the parching hour of anguish.

her own destitute and dependent situation, for she To render her widowed situation more desolate, was existing on the kindness of friends. In a she had incurred her father's displeasure by her word, he at length succeeded in gaining her hand, unfortunate attachment, and was an exile from the though with the solemn assurance that her heart paternal roof. But could the sympathy and kind was unalterably another's. offices of friends have reached a spirit so shocked He took her with him to Sicily, hoping that a and driven in by horror, she would have expe- change of scene might wear out the remembrance rienced no want of consolation, for the Irish are a of early woes. She was an amiable and exemplary people of quick and generous sensibilities. The wife, and made an effort to be a happy one; but most delicate and cherishing attentions were paid nothing could cure the silent and devouring her by families of wealth and distinction. She melancholy that had entered into her very soul. was led into society, and they tried by all kinds of She wasted away in a slow but hopeless decline, occupation and amusement to dissipate her grief, and at length sunk into the grave, the victim of and wean her from the tragical story of her lover. ) a broken soul.


The young

THE CRY OF THE CHILDREN.* [Miss ELIZABETE BARRETT BARRETT, married Robert Browning the poet, and spent the chief part of her life in Italy. Died in 1861,

and was buried at Florence.]

Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers, Crying, 'Get up, little Alice! it is day.'
Ere the sorrow comes with years ?

If you listen by that grave, in sun and shower, They are leaning their young heads against their With your ear down, little Alice never cries ! mothers,

Could we see her face, be sure we should not know And that cannot stop their tears.

her, The young lambs are bleating in the meadows, For the smile has time for growing in her eyes!

birds are chirping in the nest, And merry go her moments, lulled and stilled in The young fawns are playing with the shadows, The shroud, by the kirk-chime !

The young flowers are blowing toward the west; It is good when it happens,” say the children, But the young, young children, O my

brothers, • That we die before our time."
They are weeping bitterly ! -
They are weeping in the playtime of the others,
In the country of the free.

Alas, alas, the children! they are seeking

Death in life, as best to have !

They are binding up their hearts away from
Do you question the young children in the sorrow, breaking,
Why their tears are falling so?

With a cerement from the grave. The old man may weep for his to-morrow,

Go out, children, from the mine and from the city, Which is lost in Long Ago;

Sing out, children, as the little thrashes do ; The old tree is leafless in the forest,

Pluck your handfuls of the meadow-cowslips pretty, The old year is ending in the frost,

Laugh aloud, to feel your fingers let them. The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest,

through! The old hope is hardest to be lost:

But they answer,


your cowslips of the But the young, young children, O my brothers !

meadows Do you ask them why they stand

Like our weeds anear the mine! Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers, Leave us quiet in the dark of the coal-shadows; In our happy fatherland ?

From your pleasures fair and fine !


[blocks in formation]

They look up with their pale and sunken faces, “For oh,” say the children,

we are weary, And their looks are sad to see,

And we cannot run or leap;
For the man's hoary anguish draws and presses If we cared for any meadows, it were merely
Down the cheeks of infancy:

To drop down in them and sleep.
“Your old earth,” they say, “is very dreary; Our knees tremble sorely in the stooping,

Our young feet,” they say, "are very weak! We fall upon our faces, trying to go; Few paces have we taken, yet are weary

And, underneath our heavy eyelids drooping, Our grave-rest is very far to seek :

The reddest flower would look as pale as snow : Ask the aged why they weep, and not the children, For, all day, we drag our burden tiring For the outside earth is cold,

Through the coal-dark, undergroundAnd we young ones stand without, in our be- Or, all day, we drive the wheels of iron wildering,

In the factories, round and round.
And the graves are for the old !


"For, all day, the wheels are droning, turning; “True," say the children, “it may happen

Their wind comes in our faces, That we die before our time.

Till our hearts turn, our head, with pulses Little Alice died last year, her grave is shapen

burning, Like a snowball in the rime.

And the walls turn in their places-We looked into the pit prepared to take her- Turns the sky in the high window blank and Was no room for any work in the close clay !

reelingFrom the sleep wherein she lieth none will wake Turns the long light that drops adown the her,


• By kind permission of Messrs. Chapman and Hall.

« 上一页继续 »