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some delicious story of bribery and corruption — the House of Commons was frivolous in those benighted days; he tells how Pitt suddenly stalked down from the gallery and administered his thundering reproof; how Murray, then AttorneyGeneral, "crouched, silent and terrified," and the Chancellor of the Exchequer faltered out a humble apology for the unseemly levity. It ia Walpole who best describes the great debate when Pitt, "haughty, defiant, conscious of injury and supreme abilities," burst out in that tremendous speech — tremendous if we may believe the contemporary reports, of which the only tolerably preserved fragment is the celebrated metaphor about the confluence of the Rhone and the Saone. Alas! Chatham's eloquence has all gone to rags and tatters; though, to say the truth, it has only gone the way of nine-tenths of our contemporary eloquence. We have indeed what are called accurate reports of spoken pamphlets, dried specimens of rhetoric from which the life has departed as completely as it is strained out of the specimens in a botanical collection. If there is no Walpole amongst us, we shall know what our greatest living orator has said; but how be said it, and how it moved his audience, will be as obscure as if the reporters' gallery was still unknown. Walpole — when he was not affecting philosophy, or smarting from tho failure of an intrigue, or worried by the gout, or disappointed of a bargain at a sale — could throw electric flashes of light on the figure he describes which reveal the true man. He errs from petulancy, but not from stupidity. He can appreciate great qualities by fits, though he cannot be steadily loyal to their possessor. And if he wrote down most of our rulers as knaves and fools, we have only to lower those epithets to selfish and blundering, to get a very fair estimate of their characters. To the picturesque historian his services are invaluable; though no single statement can be accepted without careful correction.
Wal-'ole's social, as distinguished from his political, anecdotes do in one sense what Leech's drawings have done for this. But the keen old man of the world puts a far bitterer and deeper meaning into his apparently superficial scratches than the kindly modern artist, whose satire was narrowed, if purified, by the decencies of modern manners. Walpole reflects in a thousand places that strange combination of brutality and polish which marked the little circle of fine ladies and gentlemen
| who then constituted society, and played such queer pranks in quiet unconsciousness of the revolutionary elements that were seething below. He is the best of commentators on Hogarth, and gives us GinLane on one side and the Marriage a la mode on the other. As we turn over the well-known pages we come at every turn upon characteristic scenes of the great tragi-comedy that was being played out. In one page a highwayman puts a bullet through his hat, and on the next we read how three thousand ladies and gentlemen visited the criminal in his cell, on the Sunday before his execution, till he fainted away twice from the heat; then we hear how Lord Lovat's buffooneries made the whole brilliant circle laugh as he was being sentenced to death; and how Balmerino pleaded "not guilty," in order that the ladies might not be deprived of their sport; how the Hsuse of Commons adjourned to see a play acted by persons of quality, and the gallery was hung round with blue ribands; how the Gunnings had a guard to protect them in the park; what strange pranks were played by the bigamous Miss Chudleigh; what jokes — now, alas! very faded and dreary — were made by George Selwyn, and how that amiable favourite of society went to Paris in order to see the cruel tortures inflicted upon Damiens, and was introduced to the chief performer on the scaffold as a distinguished amateur in executions. One of the best of all these vignettes portrays the funeral of George II., and is worthy of Thackeray. It opens with the solemn procession to the torch-lighted Abbey, whose "long-drawn aisles and fretted vault" excite the imagination of the author of the Castile of Otranlo. Then the comic element begins to intrude; the procession jostles and falls into disorder at the entrance of Henry Seventh's Chapel; the bearers stagger under the heavy colBn and cry for help; the bishop blunders in the prayers, and the anthem, as fit, says Walpole. for a wedding as a funeral, becomes immeasurably tedious. Against this tragi-comic background are relieved two characteristic figures. The "butcher" Duke of Cumberland, the hero of Culloden, stands with the obstinate courage of his race gazing into the vault where his father is being buried, and into which he is soon to descend. His face is distorted by a recent stroke of paralysis, and he is forced to stand for two hours on a bad leg. To him enters the burlesque Dqke of Newcastle, who begins by bursting into tears and throwing himself
bock in a st.ill whilst the Archbishop "hovers over him with a smelling-bottle." Then curiosity overcomes him, and he runs about the chapel with a spyglass in one hand, to peer into the faces of the company, and mopping his eyes with the other. "Then returned the fear of catching cold; and the Duke of Cumberland, who was sinking with heat, felt himself weighed down, and turning round found it was the Duke of Newcastle standing upon his train to avoid the chill of the marble." What a perch to select I Imagine the contrast of the two men, and remember that the Duke of Newcastle was for an unprecedented time the great dispenser of patronage, and by far the most important personage in the government. Waipole had reason for some of his sneers.
The literary power implied in these brilliant sketches is remarkable, and even if Walpole's style is more Gallicized than is evident to me, it must be confessed that with a few French idioms he has caught something of that unrivalled dexterity and neatness of touch in which the French are our undisputed masters. His literary character is of course marked by an affectation analogous to that which debases his politics. Walpole was always declaring with doubtful sincerity—(that is one of the matters in which a man is scarcely bound to be quite sincere) — that he has no ambition for literary fame, and that he utterly repudiates the title of "learned gentleman." There is too nu.ch truth in his disavowals to allow us to write them down as mere mock-modesty; but doubtless his principal motive was a dislike to entering the arena of open criticism. He has much of the feeling which drove Pope into paroxysms of unworthy fury on every mention of Grub-street. The anxiety of men in that day to disavow the character of professional authors, must be taken with the fact that professional authors were then an unscrupulous, scurrilous and venal race. Walpole feared collision with them as he feared collision with the " mountains of roast beef." Though literature was emerging from the back-lanes and alleys, the two greatest potentates of the day, Johnson and Warburton, had both a decided cross of the bear in their composition. Walpole was nervously anxious to keep out of their jurisdiction, and to sit at the feet of such refined law-givers as Mason and Grey, or the feebler critics of polite society. In such courts there naturally passes a good deal of very flimsy flattery between persons who are alternately at the bar or on the bench. We do not quite believe that Lady Di
Beauclerk's drawings were unsurpassable by "Salvator Rosa and Guido," or th-vt Lady Ailesbury's •' landscape in worsteds" was a work of high art; and we doubt whether Walpole believed it; nor do we fancy that he expected Sir Horace Mann to believe that when sitting in his room at Strawberry Hill, he was in the habit of apostrophizing the setting sun in such terms as these: "Look at yon sinking beams I His gaudy reign is over; but the silver moon above that elm succeeds to a tranquil horizon," &c. Sweeping aside all this superficial rubbish, as mere concessions to the faded taste of the age of hoops and wigs, Walpole has something to say for himself. lie has been condemned for the absurdity of his criticisms, and it is undeniable that he sometimes blunders strangely. It would, indeed, be easy to show, were it worth while, that he is by no means so silly in his contemporary verdicts as might be supposed from scattered passages in his letters. But what are we to -say to a man who compares Dante to " a Methodist parson in Bedlam?" The first answer is that, in this instance Walpole was countenanced by greater men. Voltaire, with all his faults the most consummate literary artist of the century, says with obvious disgust that there are people to be found who force themselves to admire "feats of imagination as stupidly extravagant and barbarous" as those of the Divina Couimedia. Walpole must be reckoned as belonging both in his faults and his merits to the Voltairian school of literature, and amongst other peculiarities common to the master and his disciple, may be counted an incapacity for reverence and an intense dislike to being bored. For these reasons he hates all epic poets from Dante to Blackmore ; he detests all didactic poems, including those of Thomson and Akenside; and he is utterly scandalized by the French enthusiasm for Richardson. In these last judgments, at least, nine-tenths of the existing race of mankind agree with him; though few people have the courage to express their agreement in print. We may be thankful that Walpole. which is not always the case, is as incapable of boring as of enduring bores. He is one of the few Englishmen who share the quality sometimes ascribed to the French as a nation, and certainly enjoyed by his teacher, Voltaire; namely, that though they may be frivolous, blasphemous, indecent, and faulty in every other way, they can never for a single moment be dull. His letters show that crisp, sparkling quality of style which accompanies this power, and which is so unattainable to most of hia countrymen. The quality is less conspicuous in the rest of his works, and the light verses and essays in which we might expect him to succeed are disappointingly weak. Xoho's letter to his countrymen is now as dull as the work of most imaginary travellers, and the essays in The World are remarkably inferior to the Spectator, to say nothing of the Rambler.9 Yet Walpole's place in literature is unmistakable, if of equivocal merit. Byron called him the author of the last tragedy and the first romance in our language. The tragedy, with Byron's leave, is revolting (perhaps the reason why Byron admired it), and the romance passes the borders of the burlesque. And yet the remark hits off a singular point in Walpole's history. A thorough child of the eighteenth century, we might have expected him to share Voltaire's indiscriminating contempt for the middle ages. One would have supposed that in his lips, as in those of all his generation, Gothic would have been synonymous with barbaric, and the admiration of an ancient abbey as redundant as admiration of Dante. So far from which, Walpole is almost the first modern Englishman who found out that our old cathedrals were really beautiful. He discovered that a most charming toy might be made of medievalism. Strawberry Hill, with all its gimcracks, its pasteboard battlements, and stained-paper carvings, with the lineal ancestor of the new law-courts. The restorers of churches, the manufacturers of stained glass, the modern decorators and 'architects of all vanities — perhaps, we may venture to add, the Ritualists and the High Church party — should think of him with kindness. It cannot be said that they should give him a place in their calendar, for he was not of the stuff of which saints are made. It was a very thin veneering of mediaevalism which covered his modern creed; and the mixture is not particularly edifying. Still he undoubtedly found out that charming plaything which, in other hands, has been elaborated and industriously constructed till it is all but indistinguishable from the genuine article. Some persons hold it to be merely a plaything, when all has been said and done, and maintain that when the root has once be severed, the tree can never be made to grow. However that may be, Walpole's trifling was the first forerunner of much that has occu
• It 1» odd that In one of these papers Walpole proposes. In jest, precisely our modern system of pottage cards, only charging a penny Instead of a aaUpenny.
pied the minds of much greater artists ever since. And thus his initiative in literature has been as fruitful as his initiative in art. The Castle of Otranlo and the Mysterious Mother were the progenitors of Mrs. Eadcliffe's romances, and probably had a strong influence upon the author of Ivanhoe. Frowning castles and gloomy monasteries, knights in armour, and ladies in distress, and monks and nuns and hermits, all the scenery and characters that have peopled the imagination of the romantic school, m;iy be said to have had their origin on the night when Walpole lay down to sleep, his head crammed full of Wardour-street curiosities and dreamt that he saw a gigantic hand in armour resting on the banister of his staircase. In three months from that time he had elaborated a story, the object of which, as defined by himself, was to combine the charms of the old romance and the modern novel, and which, to say the least, strikes us now like an exaggerated caricature of the later school. Scott criticises the Castle of Otranto seriously and even Macaulay speaks of it with a certain respect. Absurd as the burlesque seems, our ancestors found it amusing, and, what is stranger, awe inspiring. Excitable readera shuddered when a helmet of more than gigantic size fell from the clouds, in the first chapter, and crashed the young baron to atoms on the eve of his wedding, as a trap smashes a mouse. This, however, was merely a foretaste of a series of unprecedented phenomena. At one moment the portrait of Manfred's grandfather, without the least premonitory warning, utters a deep sigh, and heaves its breast, after which it descends to the floor with a grave and melancholy air. Presently the menials catch sight of a leg and foot in armour to match the helmet, and apparently belonging to a ghost which has lain down promiscuously in the picture gallery. Most appalling, however, of all is the adventure which happened to Count Frederick in the oratory. Kneeling before the altar was a tall figure in a long cloak. As he approached it rose, and, turning round, disclosed to him the fleshless jaws and empty eyesockets of a skeleton. The ghost disappeared as ghosts generally do after giving a perfectly unnecessary warning, and the catastrophe is soon reached by the final appearance of the whole suit of armour with the ghost inside it, who bursts the castle to bits like au eggshell, and, towering towards the sky, exclaims, "Theodore is the true heir of Alfonso!" This proceeding fortunately made a lawsuit unnecessary, and if the castle was ruined at once, it is not quite impossible that the same result might have been attained more slowly by litigation. The whole machinery strikes us as simply babyish, and sometimes we suspect Waipole of laughing in his sleeve; as, for example, in the solemn scene in the chapel, which closes thus :— "As he spake these words, three drops of blood fell from the nose of Alphonso's statue" (Alphonso is the spectre in armour). "Manfred turned pale, and the princess sank on her knees. 'Behold!' said the friar, 'mark this miraculous indication that the blood of Alfonso will never mix with that of Manfred I'" Nor can we think that the story is rendered much more interesting by Waipole's simple expedient of introducing into the midst of these portents a set of waiting-maids and peasants, who talk in the familiar style of the smart valets in Congreve's or Sheridan's comedies.
Yet, babyish as this mass of nursery tales may appear to us, it is curious that the theory which Walpole advocated has been exactly carried oi't. He wished to relieve the prosaic realism of the Rchool of Fielding and Smollett by making use of the romantic associations, without altogether taking leave of the language of common life. He sought to make real men and women out of mediaeval knights and ladies, or, in other words, he made a • first experimental trip into the province afterwards occupied by Scott. The Mysterious Mother is in the same taste; and his interest in Ossian, in Chattertou, and in Percy's Relics, is another proof of his anticipation of the coming change of sentiment. He was an arrant trifler, it is true; too delicately constituted for real work in literature and politics, and inclined to take a cynical view of his contemporaries generally, he turned for amusement to antiquarianism, and was the first to set modern art and literature masquerading in the antique dresses. That he was quite conscious of the necessity for more serious study, appears in his letters, in one of which, for example, he proposes a systematic history of Gothic architecture, such as has since been often enough executed. It does not, is may be said, require any great intellect or even any exquisite taste for a fine gentleman to strike out a new line of dilettante amusement. In truth, Walpole has no pretensions whatever to be regarded as a great original creator, or even as one of the few infallible critics. The only man of his kind who had more claim to that lost title was his
friend Gray, who shared his Gothic tastes with greatly superior knowledge. But he was indefinitely superior to that knowledge. But he was indefinitely superior to the great mass of commonplace writers who attain a kind of bastard infallibility by always accepting the average verdict of the time ; which on the principle of the vox populi, is more often right than that of any dissenter. There is an intermediate class of men who are useful as sensitive barometers to foretell coming changes of opinion. Their intellects are mobile if shallow: and, perhaps, their want of serious interest in contemporary intellects renders them more accessible to the earliest symptoms of superficial shiftings of taste. They are anxious to be at the head of the fashions in thought as well aa in dress and pure love of novelty serves to some extent in place of genuine originality. Amongst such men, Walpole deserves a high place; and it is not easy to obtain a high place even amongst such men. The people who succeed best at trifles are those who are capable of something better. In spite of Johnson's aphorism, it is the colossus who, when he tries, can cut the best head upon cherry-stones, as well as hew statues out of rock. Walpole was no colossus; but his peevish anxiety to affect even more frivolity than was really natural to him, has blinded his critics to the real power of a remarkably acute, versatile, and original intellect. We cannot regard him with much respect, and still less with much affection; but the more we examine his work, the more we shall admire his extreme cleverness.
From Salot Pauls. OFF THE SKELLIGS.
BY JEAN IHOBLOW.
"And 'tis -1 -i i; i :n. -ii t kills me, says I."
Southampton. My first view of it showed a gloomy background of cloud with lines of angry red running between its thunderous folds, and a dark foreground of old wall — Roman wall, I was informed. It looked as old as the hills, and almost as substantial. A very shallow reach of water that hardly covered the green weed lay between us and the pier, and derived an unquiet beauty from the broken reflections of a long row of lamps just being lighted on shore.
Tom and Mr. Brandon were about to push off when I came on deck. They were going to London that night, partly about passports, partly, I felt sure, that Mr. Brandon might have a surgical opinion about his arm, and partly to call on an annt of the children's, an English lady, who lived in town, and might wish to see them before they were taken to their grandmother.
The dear little creatures had travelled a good deal considering their tender age. They had been born in England, their father being a poor clergyman in the north of Yorkshire. Not quite a year before their return as orphans, he had accepted a chaplaincy in the West Indies, but his health tailing, after a very few months, he had gone up to Charleston with his family to stay with a French lady, a relation of his wife's, and there had died.
Mr. Brandon knew nothing about the circumstances of their family; he was not even sure how their name was spelt, but he had an address in London, and had accepted the charge of them from their mother.
It was Saturday night. Uncle Rollin and I spent a very quiet Sunday, going on shore to church, and afterwards walking beside the grand old wall.
On Monday I did a vast amount of shopping, bought a quantity of material for work at sea when the children should be gone, and spent a great deal of time, with Sirs. Brand's help, in choosing things for my own wear, for I perceived that it was supposed to be my first duty to be always neatly and gracefully dressed. I tried to be as economical as 1 could, as my allowance was not large; but the very next day after these purchases were made, my uncle, taking a walk with me, stopped before one of the principal mercer's shops, and, after looking into the window attentively, beckoned out a young man, and pointing at various things with his finger, said, —
"You'll be Bo good as to put up that for me, and that, and that"
"Won't you come inside, sir ?" said the young man, who was evidently surprised at his style of shopping.
"No," he answered, retreating a step or two. "I don't think I will, thank you."
I gave Mrs. Brand, who was behind us with her husband, a significant look, and the stepped forward.
"And I'll have that, too," said my uncle, pointing at a very broad blue sash-ribbon that dangled in front of the other things.
"Yes, but you only mean a sash of it, tir, and a dress-length of the silk, and of
the embroidered muslin, and that scarf," said Mrs. Brand.
"Of course,'' he answered.
"Uncle, they are too expensive," I ventured to say.
"And what do you call that?" he continued to the master, who had now come out.
"That's an opera cloak, sir; a very sweet thing."
"Well, and I'll have that, if you please. Good morning, sir. This good friend of mine," indicating Mrs. Brand, "will tell you where to send the things."
He then marched off with me.
"I know I shall repent this," he observed in a moment or two.
"Dear uncle, pray, pray let us go back then, and countermand the order."
"Nonsense, child! I meant that as we're going to France, I might have done better to buy these things there."
"I know very well they are for me."
"Yes. Why didn't you say 'Thank you?'"
"Because I am so afraid if you let me be such an expense to you, it will make you dislike me. You must have spent twenty pounds."
"But I only spent what I chose. You should take example by me, and never go inside, and then you can get away whenever, you like."
Uncle Eollin and I were very happy together till three o'clock on Wednesday, when, coming on board, we found Tom and Mr. Brandon waiting for us on deck, and a lady who was introduced to me as Miss Tott.
She remarked that she had come to see her nieces. I saw two huge boxes with her name upon them, and wondered at the amount of luggage she had brought, as we were to sail the next day.
I took her to my cabin, where the children, arrayed in their pink frocks, were playing about.
Miss Tott embraced them both, and wept over them copiously. She was a pleasant-looking person, tall, very slender, head a little on one side, drooping eyes, a long nose that projected rather too far into space, a pensive, soothing voice, and a fine complexion.
Little Frances stared at her, and escaped from her kisses as quickly as possible; Nannette regarded her with curiosity and disfavour.
"My precious ones,'' murmured Miss Tott. '• I trust their spirits are not utterly weighed down by these accumulated mis