Page images
PDF
EPUB

of war, in not securing the presence of weary our readers, if we were to a larger number of troops in Paris, attempt to review the various speeches before the insurrection broke out, there he has made in his place in the Nacan be no doubt that his conduct in tional Assembly, or to pass a judg. those days of terror, his unflinching ment on the various measures he has bravery and his great coolness amid thought it right to introduce for the the fire of the barricades, as well as better government of France; suffice the prudent military measures he took it to say, that although General after the insurrection had broken out, Cavaignac is not an orator, he has evinced consummate judgment, and succeeded in commanding the attensaved civilised Paris from the horrors of tion of the National Assembly, not anarchy and confusion. General Ca. only out of deference to the high office vaignac, on the third day of the insur- which he holds, but by the evident rection, was appointed chief of the honesty of intention, and by the executive power of France, and was straightforward, though blunt, man. invested by the National Assembly ner in which he expresses his opi. with dictatorial powers. It has been nions. His military occupations have thought by many, that in abolishing probably prevented him from becomthe liberty of the press, in imprisoning ing so well versed in the science of an editor of a newspaper, and in repressa politics, as other members of the Na. ing the right of meeting at political tional Assembly, who have made it clubs, he carried too far his dictato- more particularly their study ; but rial powers, and trampled on the liber. the singleness of purpose he has ties of the people ; but it should not be shewn during a most trying period forgotten that when he was appointed of political excitement, has earned chief of the executive power, anarchy for him the well-merited reputation prevailed in France, the authority of of being an honest Republican, and of the executive commission had been being, on all occasions, actuated by a set at nought; and that since he has sincere desire to promote the welfare been at the head of the government, and well-being of France. Eugene order has been re-established both in Cavaignac is in person rather above Paris and in the departments of France, the middle height, and bears a digand that he has himself discontinued nified expression of deep thought, and the harsh measures which he at first of high command, on his countenance; thought it necessary to adopt.

in private life he has the polished deWe have now stated the principal meanour of a well-bred gentleman, events in the life of Eugene Ča while at the same time his appearance vaignac; it would extend this article is that of a man accustomed to the to too great a length, and, perhaps, sternness of military discipline.

SONNET
TO THE INFANT SON OF AN OLD FRIEND (T. D.).
Upon that baby forehead, large and high,

Features well formed, soft hands together pressed

O'er the calm heavings of thy little breast,
While veiling lashes fringe each slumbering eye,
Methinks that with a human sympathy,

Transient but true, a stranger's gaze might rest,

And one fond prayer be, by strange lips, addressed
To Him who rules what men call destiny.
But thou to me art with a light of love

Array'd, which streams from many a passèd year ;
Thine infant ways and words shall often move,

In earliest friends of mine, a smile or tear;
And finest sympathies of hearts shall prove

Dear to thee yet-to me, long since, how dear!
November 13, 1848.

W. R. H.

THE TOWN, ITS MEMORABLE CHARACTERS AND EVENTS."

4 Here we go up, up, up,

And here we go down, down, downy;
Here we go backward and forward,

And heigh for London towny."

This is almost the pleasantest of Leigh Hunt's many pleasant books. It is quite astonishing to contemplate the originality which he has the power of diffusing over subjects treated of by so many writers. The materials of such a work as this before us, are neces. sarily drawn from a thousand antiqua. rian writers, some of them the most leaden-headed of men, yet in the vo. lumes there is not one dull page_not one chapter which does not carry the reader on to the end. It is a book which so enchains the attention, that it is absolutely difficult to lay it aside. In many of Mr. Hunt's works there are passages addressed to peculiarities of taste which could not be sympathised with by those living beyond the conventional wishes which were appealed to. The grotesque and the whimsical were, it would so seem, affected. We were not disposed to be reminded of Montaigne or of Addison, as often as our author wished to call them to our remembrance. Mr. Hunt, too, often seemed to be thinking not of his sub ject, but of the way in which others would treat it. The reader was in earnest while his author seemed to be jesting, and this provoked momentary impatience. Still there was everywhere such exuberant good-nature, such fulness of heart, such a determi. nation to be pleased with everything and everybody, that each successive work added to the number of Hunt's friends ; for it is impossible to think of him as a stranger, whether it so happens that his readers may have met him or not. For the last few years his publications, at least such of them as we have seen, have been for the most part reprints of his contribu. tions to periodical works; and to this, in part, perhaps, is to be ascribed the feeling, that although he must now

have as grey hairs as any of his critics, he yet seems a young man, and a young man he certainly is in heart and affections.

It is not very easy to give an account of this book. We have said that Hunt's style, in some of his works, is not free from something which, however natural, is not unlikely to be regarded by readers unfamiliar with his manner, as affectation. From this fault, a serious one, and which has done much to restrict the number of his readers, these volumes are wholly free. Nothing can be more perfectly English than the style is throughout. A few phrases, differing by their col. loquial plainness from the ordinary language of the printed books of the present period, tell occasionally of the old writers, among whose works his favourite studies seem to lie ; but this occurs not half as much, nor to our tastes, half as pedantically, as in the works of Southey. Hunt's is a graceful, natural style for the most part resembling spoken rather than written language. In short, the book is a cordial, chatty, winter fireside book. We do not so much walk through London with him as listen to him telling of his walks. His sympathies are with the great men who have lived in London rather than with London itself. The descriptions of buildings please us less than the associations of persons, often with the humblest lanes and thoroughfares; and Mr. Hunt's book is very rich in this sort of interest. The changes of manners from the earliest times to the period of which Mr. Hunt was personally a witness, are here very amusingly shown. If the book has a fault, and one must be almost a reviewer to find one, it is that the thread of association, which in this book unites topics most

*"The Town, its Memorable Characters and Events." By Leigh Hunt. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1848. VOL. XXXII. -NO. CXCII.

3 B

remote from each other, is their acci. surely, among the best things we know, dental connexion with some London is the tender judgment with which he street. Men that you never have regarded all error and all frailtythought of are presented naturally the defences which he perpetually enough together to the mind of one made for his friends, whose outward who knows London well, by the acci acts were not exactly squared by condent of having been born, or lived-at ventional standards. Of this a hunintervals, perhaps of centuries—in the dred instances might be given. We same locality ; but to all persons who take one from Boswell, with Mr. know little of the great Babel, this Hunt's comment on the biographer. link of association is one that does not “Campbell,” said Johnson, “is a ever suggest itself; and hence, the good man, a pious man. I am afraid contrasts are often very abrupt. The he has not been in the inside of a execution of Lord Russell, for instance, church for many years; but he never prepares us but ill for an election pro. passes a church without pulling off mise of the Duke of Newcastle, and his hat. This shows that he has good the extraordinary accident by which it principles." “On this” (we quote was kept. A very affecting passage from Hunt), “ says Boswell, in a note, I “ Burnet's History,” and “ Lady Rus. am inclined to think he was missell's Letters," harmonise little with "a informed as to this circumstance. I laughable and true story," connected own I am jealous for my worthy friend, with the Duke of Newcastle, told in a Dr. John Campbell. For though curious miscellany, entitled “TheLoun. Milton could, without remorse, absent ger's Commonplace Book.” These, himself from public worship, I canhowever, if faults, are the faults of not." Now, Hunt, like "Johnson, Mr. Hunt's subject, not his own; and teaches us to sympathise with allwe doubt, indeed, whether they are to think a man may be religious who faults at all. “ There are," says goes to church, and another who stays Goldsmith, “ a hundred faults in this away,- to feel that there may be a thing, and a hundred things might be good deal of stern independence besaid to prove them beauties." This coming a great man, in Penn refusing was an author's preface to one of the to take off his bat, or honour, with most charining works ever written, bonnet-worship, his father, the old we speak of the “ Vicar of Wakefield,” admiral; and nevertheless imagine the of which we never saw one of the hun old admiral by no means wrong in dred faults, till pointed out by criti. thinking this peculiarity of manners a cism, and in spite of the criticism we very absurd one, and not the less abforget them whenever we read the surd " for being elevated into theolobook, which we have done again and gical importance." The quaker, reagain, and which we shall do again fusing to take off his hat in a court of and again. Yet how easy would it be justice may, if judged of by the to write a review of it, exhibiting its thoughts actuating him in resistance, impossibilities and incongruities, and be easily a more fitting subject of addealing with fiction as if it were fact, miration, than the beadle, who removes and as if the writer who had addressed it from the refractory disputant's head. the imagination were to weave his tale The latter, however, represents soon the supposition that there was no ciety, seeking to maintain the desuch faculty in his reader-as if all cencies of life, and the value of Mr. these difficulties which disturb the pe- Hunt's catholic taste, is this, that he destrian critic, were difficulties or in- exhibits the inner principle, justifying terruptions at all to the winged fa- each. Men are happier - men are culty which overflies them altogether. better-men are more forbearingWe envy in Mr. Hunt the genial more charitable to each other--from sympathies which make him think of the influence of such books as this. every thing in its true human aspect, There is a pleasant poem of Leigh which make him see even in the most Hunt's, in which he gives us a little vicious states of society, such good as story, from D'Herbelot, which illusis in them finding man, after all, trates happily the train of thought everywhere, not a devil, but a which his present book suggests. We “ damaged archangel." Of Johnson, may as well transcribe it :

" Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase),

Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw within the moonlight, in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel, writing in a book of gold :
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold;
And to the presence, in the room, he said,
• What writest thou ?' The Vision raised its head,
And with a look, made of all sweet accord,
Answered, The names of those who love the Lord.'
"And is mine one ?' said Abou. “Nay, not so,'
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low ;
But cheerly still; and said," I pray thee then,
• Write me as one who loves his fellow-men.'
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again, with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed;
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.” *

The volumes before us contain, with some new matter, a good deal that Mr. Hunt had, some thirteen years ago, published under the title of

The Streets of London," in succes. sive monthly supplements to “ Leigh Hunt's London Journal ;" and the publishers, who it seems look for a more extensive work by the same author, have thought it desirable to reprint this account of that part of London, which extends from St. Paul's to St. James's. To the volumes describing this portion of London, the name of “ The Town" is given, and we are told that“ The author may be encouraged, by the reception which the present venture may meet, to complete his account of London, by extending his researches east, west, north, and south; making the whole circuit of the town, and advancing with its streets into the very suburbs."

The book is ornamentally printed, with a great number of illustrations, for the most part views of buildings, and with fancifully-designed initial letters and tail-pieces. The very bind. ing is extremely beautiful. Binding is becoming one of the fine arts, and the cover of the book is advertised as “ designed by W. Harry Rogers."

We may as well give the opening of the work. One page exemplifies as well as another the exceedingly happy conversational style in which the whole

for a few exceptions are not worth noticing—is written :

liest, and which we have known to interest very grave and even great men, there is a pleasant chapter entitled Eyes and no Eyes, or the Art of Seeing. The two heroes of it come home successively from a walk in the same road, one of them baving seen only a heath and a hill, and the meadows by the water-side, and, therefore, having seen nothing, — the other expatiating on his delightful ramble, because the heath presented him with curious birds, and the hill with the remains of a camp, and the meadows with reeds, and rats, and herons, and king-fishers, and sea-shells, and a man catching eels, and a glorious sunset.

“In like manner people may walk through a crowded city, and see nothing but the crowd. A man may go from Bond-street to Blackwall, and unless he has the luck to witness an accident, or get a knock from a porter's burthen, may be conscious, when he has returned, of nothing but the names of those two places, and of the mud through which he has passed. Nor is this to be attributed to dulness. He may, indeed, be dull. The eyes of his understanding may be like bad spectacles, which no brightening would enable to see much. But he may be only inattentive. Circumstances may have induced a want of curiosity, to which imagination itself shall contribute, if it has not been taught to use its eyes. This is particularly observable in childhood, when the love of novelty is strongest. A boy at the Charter-House, or Christ-Hospital, probably cares nothing for his neighbourhood, though stocked with a great deal that might entertain him. He has been too much accustomed to identify it with his school-room. We remember the time ourselves when the only thought we had in going through the metropolis was, how to get out of it ;

“ In one of those children's books which contain reading fit for the man

[ocr errors][merged small]

how to arrive, with our best speed, at the beautiful vista of home. And long after this, we saw nothing in London but the book-shops."

There is a passage in Boswell, quoted by Hunt, in which he describes the amusement afforded him by the contemplation of what a different thing London is to different people. The politician thinks of it but as the seat of government in its many departments; the grazier as the great cat tle-market; the merchant as the place where the business of the world is done; the lover of the drama as the place where the great theatres are, and so forth; " but the intellectual man,” and here Bozzy rises high above his ordinary self, “ is struck with it as comprehending the whole of human life in all its variety, the contemplation of which is inexhaustible.”

Leigh Hunt's London is intended to touch on all these subjects of inte. rest. The book is to be everybody's book. The grazier is here told of great graziers who lived in former days ; « of Bakewell, who had an ani. mal that produced him in one season eight hundred guineas ; of Fowler, whose horned cattle sold for a value equal to that of the fee-simple of his farm ;" the money-lover is told of the miser of old, who, after spending thou sands at the gaming-table, would haggle for a shilling at Smithfield. In describing St. Paul's School we are reminded that there Milton was educated ; in passing Johnson's-court we are told of the fine old man amusing himself, during his residence there, by imitating, for Boswell's edification, the language of the Scottish heads of families, and proudly designating himself Johnson of that ilk. The very names of the streets have their interests. Who, till reminded of it now, remembers when walking in Fleet-street the river Fleet. There is not a sight or sound in London that this book does not aid us in connecting with additional associations; and we have no doubt that our next visit to the “ Babylon of the Anglicans" will be rendered a pleasanter one, through the hundred incidents which this little book links together by the tie of place. We have no hope of realising objects to ourselves to the extent that years of residence in London and the neighbourhood have rendered possible to

Mr. Hunt. We have nothing of the matter-of-fact imagination which could make us “ feel as if Shakspeare, Milton, Pope, Gay, Arbuthnot, the Club at the Mermaid, and the Beauties at Whitehall were our next-door neighbours ;" but we admit that there is much of truth in this pleasant exaggeration of the pleasurable feeling, and we listen with delight to the eloquent conversation of our gentle guide, who could work this wonder if any one could.

We must place ourselves among the scenes, as we best can, and contem. plate them shifting, under the spell of the magician, Time:

“ Ancient British London was a mere space in the woods, open towards the river, and presenting circular cottages on the hill and slope, and a few boats on the water. As it increased, the cottages grew more numerous, and commerce increased the number of sails.

" Roman London was British London, interspersed with the better dwellings of the conquerors, and surrounded by a wall. It extended from Ludgate to the

Tower, and from the river to the back of Cheapside.

“Saxon London was Roman London, despoiled, but retaining the wall, and ultimately growing civilised with Chris. tianity, and richer in commerce. The first humble cathedral church then arose, where the present one now stands.

“Norman London was Saxon and Roman London, greatly improved, thickened with many houses, adorned with palaces of princes and princely bishops, sounding with minstrelsy, and glittering with the gorgeous pastimes of knighthood. This was its state through the Anglo-Norman and Plantagenet reigns. The friar then walked the streets in his cowl (Chaucer is said to have beaten one in Fleet-street), and the knights rode with trumpets in gaudy colours to their tournaments in Smithfield.

" In the time of Edward I. houses were still built of wood, and roofed with straw, sometimes even with reeds, which gave rise to numerous fires. The fires brought the brooks into request; and an impor. tance which has since been swallowed up in the advancement of science, was then given to the River of Wells (Bagnigge, Sadler's, and Clerkenwell), to the Old Bourne (the origin of the name of Holborn), to the little river Fleet, the Wall-brook, and the brook Langbourne, which last still gives its name to a ward. The conduits, which were large leaden cisterns, twenty in number, were under the special care of the

« PreviousContinue »