« 上一页继续 »
mighty God!—no, no! They heard !—they suspected !-they knew !--they were making a mockery of my horror —this ! thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die !-and now—again !-hark! louder! louder! louder! louder !—
“ Viilaius !" I shrieked, " dissemble no more! I admit the deed ! -tear up the planks !-here, here !—it is the beating of his hideous heart !"
THE DOMAIN OF ARNHEIM.
The garden like a lady fair was cut,
That lay as if she slumbered in delight,
The.azure fields of Heaven were 'sembled right
In a large round set with the flowers of light.
From his cradle to his grave a gale of prosperity bore my friend Ellison along. Nor do I use the word prosperity in its mere worldly sense. I mean it as synonymous with happiness. The person of whom I speak seemed born for the purpose of foreshadowing the doctrines of Turgot, Price, Priestly and Condorcet --of exemplifying by individual instance what has been deemed the chimera of the perfectionists. In the brief existence of Ellison I fancy that I have seen refuted the duyma, that in man's very nature lies some hidden principle, the antagonist of bliss. An anxious examination of his career has given me to understand That, in general, from the violation of a few simple laws of huinanity arises the wretchedness of mankind—that as a species we have in our possession the as yet unwrought elements of content —and that, even now, in the present darkness and madness of all thought on the great question of the social condition, it is not impossible that man, the individual, under certain unusual and highly fortuitous conditions, may be happy.
With opinions such as these my young friend, too, was fully imbued ; and thus it is worthy of observation that the uninterrupted enjoyment which distinguished his life was, in great mea. sure, the result of preconcert. It is, indeed, eridant that with less of the instinctive philosophy which, now and tn, stands so well in the stead of experience, Mr. Ellison would have found himself precipitated, by the very extraordinary success of his life, into the common vortex of unhappiness which yawns for those of pre-eminent endowments. But it is by no means my object to pen an essay on happiness. The ideas of my friend may be summed up in a few words. lle admitted but four elementary principles, or, more strictly, conditions, of bliss. That which he considered chief was (strange to say!) the simple and purely physical one of free exercise in the open air. “The health,” he said, "attainable by other means is scarcely worth the name.” He instanced the ecstacies of the fox-hunter, and pointed to the tillers of the earth, the only people who, as a class, can be fairly considered happier than others. His second condition was the love of woman. His third, and most difficult of realization, was the contempt of ambition. His fourth was an object of unceasing pursuit; and he held that, other things being equal, the extent of attainable happiness was in proportion to the spirituality of this object.
Ellison was remarkable in the continuous profusion of good gifts lavished upon him by fortune. In personal grace and beauty he exceeded all men. His intellect was of that order to which the acquisition of knowledge is less a labor than an intuition and a necessity. His family was one of the most illustrious of the empire. His bride was the loveliest and most devoted of women. His possessions had been always ample; but, on the attainment of his majority, it was discovered that one of those extraordinary freaks of fate had been played in his behalf which startle the whole social world amid which they occur, and seldom fail radically to alter the moral constitution of those who are their objects.
It appears that about a hundred yeas: before Mr. Ellison's coming of age, there had died, in a remote province, one Mr. Sea bright Ellison. This gentleman had amassed a princely fortune, and, having no immediate connections, conceived the whim of sufsering his wealth to accumulate for a century after his decease. Miuutely and sagaciously directing the various modes of investment,
he bequeathed the aggregate amount to the nearest of blood, bearing the name Ellison, who should be alive at the end of the bundred years. Many attempts had been made to set aside this singular bequest; their ex post facto character rendered them abortire; but the attention of a jealous government was aroused, and a legislative act finally obtained, forbidding all similar accumulations. This act, however, did not prevent young Ellison from en tering into possession, on his twenty-first birth-day, as the heir of his ancestor Seabright, of a fortune of four hunlred anul fifty millions of dollars.*
When it had become known that such was the enormous wealth inherited, there were, of course, many speculations as to the mode of its disposal. The magnitude and the immediate availability of the sum bewildered all who thought on the topic. The possessor of any appreciable amount of money might have beer imagined to perform any one of a thousand things. With riches merely surpassing those of any citizen, it would have been easy to suppose him engaging to supreme excess in the fashionable extravagances of his time-or busying himself with political intrigue or aiming at ministerial power-or purchasing increase of nobility -or collecting large museums of virtu—or playing the munificent patron of letters, of science, of art--or endowing, and bestowing his name upon extensive institutions of charity. But for the inconceivable wealth in the actual possession of the heir, these objects and all ordinary objects were felt to afford too limited a field. Recourse was had to figures, and these but sufficed to confound. It was seen that, even at three per cent., the annual income of the inheritance amounted to no less than thirteen millions and five hun
* An incident, similar in outline to the one here imagined, occurre 1, not very long ago, in England. The name of the fortunate heir was Thelluson. I first oliw an account of this matter in the - Tour" of Prince Puckler Muskau, who makes the sum inherited ninety millions of pounds, and justly observes that in the contemplation of so vast a sum. anil of the services to which it might be applied, there is something even of the sublinie." To suit the views of this article I have followed the Prince's statement, although a grossly exaggerated one. The germi, and, in fact, the commencement of the present paper was published many years ago-previous to the issue of the first nuniber of Sue's admirable “ Juif Errant," which may possibly bave bien surested to him by Muskau's account
dred thousand dollars ; which was one million and one hundred and twenty-five thousand per month; or thirty-six thousand nine hundred and eighty-six per day; or one thousand five hundred and forty-one per hour; or six and twenty dollars for every minute that few. Thus the usual track of supposition was thoroughly broken up. Men knew not wiat to imagine. There were some who even conceived that Mr. Ellison would divest himself of at least one half of his fortune, as of utterly superfluous opulence-enriching whole troops of his relatives by division of his superabundance. To the nearest of these he did, in fact, abandon the very unusual wealth which was his own before the inheritance.
I was not surprised, however, to perceive that he had long mado up his mind on a point which had occasioned so much discussion to his friends. Nor was I greatly astonished at the nature of his decision. In regard to individual charities he had satisfied his conscience. In the possibility of any improvement, properly so called, being effected by man himself in the general condition of man, he had (I am sorry to confess it) little faith. Upon the whole, whether happily or unhappily, he was thrown back, in very great measure, upon self.
In the widest and noblest sense he was a poet. Ile comprehended, moreover, the true character, the august aims, the supreme majesty and dignity of the poetic sentiment. The fullest, if not the sole proper satisfaction of this sentiment he instinctively felt to lie in the creation of novel forms of beauty. Some peculiarities, either in his early education, or in the nature of his intellect, haut tinged with what is termed materialism all his ethical speculations ; and it was this bias, perhaps, which led him to believe that the most advantageous at least, if not the sole legitimate field for the poetic exercise, lies in the creation of novel moods of purely phy sical loveliness. Thus it happened he became neither musician hor poet—if we use this latter term in its every-day acceptation Or it might have been that he neglected to become either, merely in pursuance of his idea that in contempt of ambition is to be found one of the essential principles of happiness on earth. Is it nut, indeed, possible that, while a high order of genius is neces. sarily ambitious, the highest is above that which is termed ambi. tion? And may it not thus happen that many far greater than