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from the sufferings which I endured. In a short time I was exhausted, the convulsions became more frequent but less powerful, and I gradually lost all sense and feeling.'
There is no tale in this: it is a mere fragment. The book is closed 'by four papers, which are to us the most amusing part of the work. They are called Recollections, and are rambling essays upon old books and the old pleasures which were derived from them. This is a subject upon which every reading man has a strong sympathy; the names of Chaucer, and Walton, and Burton, of Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Thomas Browne, and the thousand literary English worthies whose names hang on our memories as if we had really been personally acquainted with them, are like spells to call up the enjoyments of the best and happiest days of our lives. In this part of his work the author displays much reading and good taste. It would be uninteresting to our readers to quote any part of them, and unjust to the essays themselves; they deserve to be read through. We dismiss the subject by assuring such of our friends as may want an hour's amusing reading, that we do not know any new book more likely to answer their purpose than the December Tales.
THE LUCUBRATIONS OF HUMPHRY RAVELIN, ESQ. LATE REGT. OF INFANTRY.
MAJOR IN THE
THIS is an imitation of the elegant and airy Geoffrey Crayon; and it is a bad imitation. Unlike the generality of persons who adopt such names as the author has prefixed to his book, and which are generally clumsy deceptions, we believe he is exactly what he announces himself, an ex-militaire. He has the very tone and manner of an old soldier on half pay; that is to say, he is a great bore. Wars, and rumours of wars, crowd his pages, uninteresting as an army list, and not so true. The perils he has past, however, are the least of the tediousness he inflicts on his readers; for whatever may be the subject of his lucubrations, whatever may have engaged his fluttering fancy for a while, he comes back to the disbanding and the half pay with tears in his eyes, and with a most ponderous melancholy. His attempts to be merry are as unsuccessful as those of a defeated candidate at an election; and he mocks his own grinning' at every joke he cuts. Every body knows how tiresome the gentlemen of his cloth are when they cannot forget they are no longer in the army. In most companies it is now one's lot to meet a led captain, who seems to think his only chance of making an impression is to talk of the Peninsula, and to abuse the discipline. These persons have hitherto kept out of print, their idleness being greater than their vanity; but as Mr. Humphry Ravelin shows himself up a representative of his species, he must take the consequence of that indignation which has been long collecting against them. Heaven forbid that we should seem to imply anything disrespectful of retired soldiers who, content with the honours they have acquired, prefer no other claims to notice than those of their intrinsic merit; they command a respect which is willingly paid to them by every well regulated mind; but to have a robustious, perriwig-pated, fellow' of a rasé thrusting his dwarf laurels into one's face, and talking about Barrosa and Badajoz as if he had ever seen any more of them than the other readers of the London Gazette; assuming the part of a hero, and displaying the mind of a milliner; this is really more than one can bear. It is doing good to society to put
such persons down, and it will be a kindness to them to remind them of what they seem miserably to have forgotten;-that having left the army, they are expected to be civil members of the community.
Major Ravelin, as we have said, is of this class; his style is the modern military, which differs in few particulars from that which Fielding has personified in Mrs. Slip-slop: it is of a conversational cast, much like that uttered in a mess-room, only having the damns left out. He quotes by the head and shoulders-not always correctly, and seldom appositely. His stories are long and pointless, in which respects the stories of such soldiers and of aldermen always coincide the subject alone differing, and that only in as much as one treats of eating, and the other of fighting; the one talks of what he has a stomach to, and the other of that to which he has not. The following is a specimen of the author's best style, and one of his best subjects. It is on Modern Extravagance, and is composed chiefly of a comparison between the present and past state of society in middle life.-After some pages of tiresome contrast, he thus pursues:
But it is needless to pursue the comparison of the present with the past, and to wander through all the gradations of society, to prove how we have deserted the wholesome prudence of our fathers. I shall therefore conclude this subject with some account of a visit which I lately paid to a family in one of the midland counties, who appear to me to present a picture from whence not a few of my readers may receive a useful hint.
Their residence was, when I knew it, in my younger and gayer days, what might now be styled a farin-house of the better order; and, together with about three or four hundred acres by which it was surrounded, formed the property of the family. They had possessed it for several generations, and were a good sample of the order of the lesser country gentry, or superior farmers, who cultivated their own land, and experienced all the blessings of easy circumstances without the attendant evil of idleness. The father of the present proprietor was the friend of my school-days, and we were attached to each other with all the warmth and sincerity of youthful feelings. But, as we drew towards mauhood, various causes, which it would be useless to particularise, conspired to separate us, without diminishing the ardour of our mutual friendship; and the events of my life so ordered it, that my first visit to the house since boyhood was upon the occasion of which I have spoken. I was then induced, at the pressing invitation of the son of my old friend, who, after the death of his father, had married and settled upon the property, to become once more a guest under the roof where I had spent some of the merriest hours of a chequered life. I accordingly set out upon my expedition; and happening to have no companion in the coach which conveyed me and my portmanteau, I had full leisure for the indulgence of my own cogitations. Insensibly I fell into a train of reverie, which, connecting my present journey with its destination, brought me back to all the scenes of my youth. I was again, in imagination, let loose from school, and passing my Christmas with my sworn crony, at the old house. Every spot where we had shared in mischief or play was fresh in my memory in the colours which it had then worn. The little lake, on whose surface we had skaited together; the great doors of the village church, where we had daily made the old building ring to our game of fives; the cottage of the dame, whose cats our terrier, Snap, the arch
enemy of the feline race, had so often worried in our merciless sports; the forge, where we had many a time provoked the surly smith, by hiding his tools or spoiling his fire, all stood before me such as they had once seemed. Then came the house itself-the old-fashioned parlour, the crackling wood fire, the plain good cheer which reigned within its walls and triumphed despotically at Christmas; the kitchen, with bacon, fishing-rods, and fowling-pieces, all pendent from the roof, and the warm chimney nook, to which we had frequently retired from the parlour, to carry on in security our plots of mischief, or enjoy the uncouth merriment of the farm servants.
These recollections all arose as if the occurrences of my subsequent life had been but a long and wearisome dream, and they the reality to which I had suddenly awakened. When, at last, I had broken the charm in which I was bound, my mind still dwelt upon the scenes I was about to revisit. I forgot the alteratious which must have arisen from the haud of time, and the yet more powerful influence of new manners and tastes, and involuntarily expected to find every thing such as I had left it many, many years before. As I drew near to the end of my journey, this illusion was strengthened by the sight of an ancient oak, which a turn of the road brought to my view. It still stood, as of old, dividing the entrance of the village into two, and seemed scarce to have felt the touch of age; but it was the only memorial of the past-every thing around it was changed, and I could with difficulty have traced on the spot those haunts of which the pictures were so strongly painted in my heart. When I alighted at my friend's gate, and looked with an anxious eye for the rough-cast dwelling, with its lattices, and the bow-window which had distinguished the parlour, the green meadow in front, and farm-yard behind, I beheld in its place an elegant mansion, with a viranda encircling its lower story, and pleasure-grounds extending in front and on both sides, in all the beauty of landscape gardening, with roses, and the endless variety of flowering shrubs, blooming around. No farm-yard was still to be seen; for the offices in the rear were carefully excluded from view by the screen of plantations that shrouded the wings of the house. I was greeted with all the sincerity of welcome by my host, as the early friend of his father; and on entering was introduced to his lady, and received with the same cordiality. But I was no longer in the dwelling of other days. The old parlour, and the style of its furniture, were no more; mirrors and pictures, Grecian sofas, and Turkish carpets, appeared on all sides. "You must, my dear sir, find great changes since you were last under this roof," was the observation of my host: Great, indeed!" replied I, looking around me. "The house," said he, "6 quired complete alteration to make it habitable with our notions of comfort. We have been obliged to throw down a side wall, to build out from the only parlour which it possessed in my father's time, and so to form a drawing and dining-room. I have converted the former kitchen into a library, with a study for myself, and added a new one, with patent steam rauges, and so forth, to the back of the house. It is now comfortable, thongh still confined." I concluded that he must have farmed very advan- · tageously, to be enabled to carry on such expensive works, and observed, that I had no doubt he was an excellent practical farmer.-No: he had found that the business of the farm interfered very much with his pursuits; it left him no time for his books, and he had given it up, and procured a VOL. I. March, 1823. Br. Mag.
ténant for his land. The lady added, that, besides this, the superintendence of his labourers had so confined him, that they could never leave home for a fortnight. His grandfather, thought I, never went beyond the county-town in his life, and only so far to a grand jury or an election; but I said nothing. He told me he had half a dozen friends and a batch of claret for me; and we at length sat down to a superb dinner. Two men servants, and corner dishes of plate, were other concomitants to an entertainment which would have made his grandfather's hair stand an end at the profusion of his polished descendant.
'The conversation at table was pleasing and spirited, and I had more than one occasion of observing that my host possessed some information and talent. But still it was all in the manner of our days. Elegance and refinement of mind, rather than strength of intellect; an imagination that merely skimmed the surface of things; superficial acquaintance with every subject, but depth of research in none. He talked with animation, and bore a considerable share in every topic of the evening; but, whenever an incidental remark could betray the tone of his mind, it was out of unison with the air of easy enjoyment which he assumed. An inward dissatisfaction and inquietude would at intervals break through-the semblance of his gaiety, and discover a breast ill at ease. France was mentioned; and I found that he was about to remove thither with his family. He was over careful to impress upon his hearers, that the many advantages which the Continent afforded for the education of his children were the temptations that induced him to the measure of removal. A few minutes afterwards, the mention of a late public meeting was the signal for the declararion of his political feelings. When I heard him assert that the ruin of the national affairs was at hand, I feared that his own were embarrassed; when I listened to his prophecy, that the general overthrow of property was inevitable, I was strengthened in my suspicion that he had himself little remaining to lose. The evening at last was consumed, the guests took their leave, and I retired for the night to my chamber. Being sleepless from the train of ideas which rushed over my mind, the observations that I had made since I arrived at the house mingled with my other thoughts. Malgré some things of which I could not approve, I was pleased with my host: he appeared open and generous in temper, much attached to his wife and two infant children, and she to him; and I felt real pain at the conviction that they must be ruining themselves, and were probably already in difficulties. I reflected that he had only the same property as his forefathers, and did not, like them, improve his income by farming with skill and industry. I considered that it was certainly not more easy to live now than formerly, and that his predecessors would never for a moment have aspired at a tenth part of the display of riches which I had just witnessed. There was no room to doubt that ruin must ensue.
I formed my resolve upon my pillow, and in the morning, using the privilege of age and long friendship towards the family, I drew from the husband the real state of their affairs, and became acquainted with a detail which made my very heart ache. They were irretrievably in debt; the present was without bope, the prospect of the future insupportable. The fairest side of the picture was sufficiently gloomy; but I thought it yet darker, when he assured me that they had nothing to reproach themselves with; that they were obliged to preserve such an appearance as became
their rank in life; that in a country like England, under the curse of distress and overwhelming taxation, neither they, nor any whom they knew, found it possible to live upon a moderate income: in short, that they were the victims of the times, not of their own extravagance! I had designed to assist them with my counsel, and such little aid as I could offer of the latter they accepted; and it barely enabled them to escape from the horrors of imprisonment by flight across the channel. My advice was yet more ineffectual; for it left them precisely of their former opinion, that they were guiltless of the work of their ruin. A heavy mortgage is now foreclosing on their estate; and if the bounty of Heaven were to bestow a second property upon them, the same train of expense, outward gaiety, real- misery, disgrace, and banishment, would attend them; for adversity has failed to convince them of their errors.
Thus is it that we can deceive ourselves. Thus is it that thousands can sacrifice principle, competence, and inward peace, in the mania for expense, while they steel their minds against the conviction that their own folly is the living fountain of their distresses. If the signs of the times must be looked to for the causes of pecuniary embarrassment in private life, they are to be found in the desertion of the wholesome economy of former days by all classes of society, and by the middle orders in particular. They are to be sought in the general disposition to grasp at indulgences which our means do not warrant. Luxury and profusion have become the deities of our hearths; the desire of vying with superiors, and outdoing equals, the only ambition of English hospitality.'
Nothing could reconcile us to Major Ravelin, unless his book were, like himself, reduced to half pay.
PEVERIL OF THE PEAK. BY THE AUTHOR OF WAVERLEY, KENILWORTH, &c.
THE prolific author of Waverley has produced another novel, which, after the usual flourish of trumpets which precedes his works, has at length arrived to gladden the hearts of the expectant Londoners. It is impossible for any man to hold on untired in the same course at the pace at which this popular author writes; and it would be to betray our judgment and experience if we expected that his latter rapid productions could equal his earlier labours. They bear, indeed, little similarity to each other. In Waverley, and in some of those which immediately followed it, there were evident marks of careful writing; the incidents were skilfully disposed and naturally connected; the characters were strongly marked, and no more of them brought upon the canvass than were essential to the picture; and lastly, the style, though never pare, was easy and agreeable. In the latter novels, instead of these excellences, we are compelled to observe with regret, that while there are marks of the same power as in the others, there is a want of care, an utter slovenliness and depravation of style, which impair the works so much as to bring them on a par with the productions of ordinary novelists. It is said by the uncharitable, that the reason for this is the desire of the author to make his popularity as lucrative as may be. We do not pretend to say whether this be true or not; we do not account for the falling off, but we regret that the fact is so, and that our duty compels us to notice it. Premising then that the