« PreviousContinue »
under seven years' acquaintance; but I hope Miss Lyndsay does not look upon me as a stranger." Therewith he smashed exultingly the large lump of coal, and continued, "Then, Ma'am, as to the Sense of Propriety;" but here Mysie opened the door, and came in with a fluster. My conscience, Mr. M'Taggart, that beast o' yours is eating the crib -it'll take James Adams a forenoon-job with his plane to smooth aff the splinters-he's a deevil o' a horse yon, and likes shavings better than last year's hay." This was an awkward interruption to the " young man eloquent," who was within a few paragraphs of putting the question. But Mysie withdrew-and Mr. M'Taggart forthwith declared his heart. Before Margaret could reply, he strenuously urged his suit. "The heritors are bound to build ine a new Manse-and the teinds are far from being exhausted. I have raised a process of augmentation, and expect seven additional chawder. Ilay Campbell is the friend of the clergy. The stipend is 1377. 17s. 6d. in money-and likewise from the Widow's Fund you will be entitled, on my decease, to 301. per annum, be it less or more so that". Margaret was overwhelmed with such brilliant *prospects, and could not utter a word. "Give me, Ma'am, a categorical answer-be composed-be quiet-I respect the natural modesty of the sex-but as for Nether-place, it shall be settled as you and our common friend Mr Oswald shall fix, upon our children."
'A categorical answer was one which Margaret did not very clearly understand; but she instantly felt that perhaps it might be the little expressive word-" No;" and accordingly she hazarded that monosyllable. Mr. M'Taggart, the Man of the Medal, was confounded and irritated he could not believe his ears, long as they were; and insisted upon an immediate explanation. In a few minutes things were brought to a proper bearing; and it was felt that the Sermon on Sympathy had not produced the expected effect. It is grievous to think, that Æneas was barely civil on his departure; and flung his leg over old Cromwell with such vehemence as almost to derange the balance of power, and very nearly to bring the pride of the Presbytery to the gravel. However, he regained his equilibrium, and
"With his left heel insidiously aside,
Provoked the caper that he seemed to chide;" till he disappeared out of the avenue, from the wondering eyes of Mysie, who kept exclaiming," Safe us-he's like a rough rider! Luke now the beast's funking like mad, and then up again wi' his forelegs like a perfect unicorn."
Margaret rejects again the offer made by Mr. Wedderburne; but, with an inconsistency by no means uncommon, even among sensible women, she falls in love with Ludovic Oswald, a young soldier, and son of the minister. Saving that the gentleman has a very bad character and very bad health, the joint consequence of his wounds and his imprudence, we are not acquainted with his attractions. We have no right to dispute a lady's choice, but we may be permitted to wonder at it. Notwithstanding the cautions of his father, Margaret Lyndsay persists in marrying him.
Their happiness is of short duration, for it is discovered that Mr. Ludovic Oswald had by accident previously been married to a woman who is still alive, and by whom he has a child. They come to claim him, and, upon the detection of his guilt, he rushes from his home, and it is not known whither he has gone. Much time elapses, during which
Margaret leads a widowed life; at length she learns that her husband has returned, and that he is lying sick of a fever in a hospital at Edinburgh. The first wife is now dead, and Margaret hastens to assure the penitent Ludovic of her forgiveness and of her affection. The following scene is in the hospital:
His father and Margaret were sitting one evening as usual in his room, and comforting him in his despondency. "I do not wish to livefor after. guilt like mine, it is impossible that even my father can forgive me, or love his son as before. Neither, Margaret, can you-Oh! never, never-love one who so inhumanly destroyed your peace. You pity me -I see that for I am one of the wretched-but how can you ever love me any more? and without you, what would be this life? I hope that I shall die." Mr. Oswald knew not all that might have passed through Margaret's thoughts in her widowhood. Such guilt as that of his son had struck at the holiest affections of her nature, and reduced her at once to an almost hopeless prostration. Had no anger-no indignation-no bitter and rankling sense of unspeakable injury penetrated her heart along with all its sufferings, and hardened it against her betrayer? Would she give her soul once more to that guilty and miserable man? Would she again leave the calm of resignation, and of a life divorced from agitating emotions, and become the wife of him in whose bosom she had found deceit even during that bridal happiness, which, with all human creatures, is held sacred and uncontaminated? But all such fears in a father's spirit were now to be done away, for Margaret knelt down by the bedside and said, "My beloved Ludovic!-my life was suddenly and terribly darkened for your sake-but never did my love sink in all my struggles-in all my agonies. You think that you are on your deathbed, and perhaps it may be so, for we are all blind, and the decrees of God are unsearchable. But here am I-willing to be your wife once more, even if it be but for a few melancholy days-here am I, with a heart fuller of love than it was even on that day when your father pronounced his benediction over us! If you are to die, let your last breath be drawn on the bosom of me, your wife-and let my days afterwards, which then will not be long, be passed as your widow-so that our names may be on one tombstone, and our bodies be interred side by side, in hopes of a joyful resurrection!"
The pale and emaciated figure seemed animated with a stronger principle of hope; and tears, the first he had been able to weep, for anguish had dried them up, trickled down his cheeks. "O Margaret, Margaret, was there ever love like unto this!-Father, you have heard her words. Once did I, your miserable son, suffer you to bestow on us a fatal benediction. I am still a sinner-nor is true penitence in my soul,-remorse alone tears it in pieces.-But as I am now on the brink of the grave, will you, father, reunite us on earth, that we may, by the mercy of God and his Son, meet in Heaven ?" Mr. Oswald was happy to hear such humble words, and he knew that truth was then speaking within the supposed shadow of death. "Yes, my son, I will make Margaret Lyndsay your wife on earth; and if you obey her pure and holy heart, you need not despair of seeing her in Heaven, where there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage-but to which mortal beings like us are led by the sanctity of earthly affections."
There is little more to tell. Ludovic recovers his health, but not en
tirely. He returns home, and lives happily with his amiable wife; two children bless their renewed union, which continues in uninterrupted felicity until the death of Ludovic. His death was placid and penitent; and Margaret, though a widow, was not totally unhappy. Her brother the sailor was married to the sister of her husband, and tranquillity promised to gild the days of her declining age.
With all the objections we have made to the work, we cannot conclude without saying that it contains much continuing interest, which, if it is not profound, never flags. Our objections are chiefly made to the manner in which the subject has been treated; not so much because it is a mean one, as because it is the business of an author who selects a mean subject to dignify and exalt it,—and this the writer of the Trials of Margaret Lyndsay has not done. In other respects, and subject to this abatement from its merit, his task has been well performed.
Memoirs of the Life and Works of Sir Christopher Wren, with a brief View of the Progress of Architecture in England, from the beginning of the Reign of Charles the First to the end of the 17th Century. By JAMES ELMES, M. R. I. A. Architect.
IN times like the present, when literature has become so universal a pursuit that there are few professions to the aid of which it is not called, it is not surprising that it should be devoted to purposes the utility or importance of which are not quite apparent. We do not wonder that men who have been long engaged in the contemplation of certain branches of science, acquire an enthusiasm and an affection for the object of their studies, which is not partaken by any other persons. To this feeling we are inclined to refer the production of the Life of Sir Christopher Wren. Without meaning to underrate the value of the labours of this illustrious architect, which we feel to be really of national importance, we cannot in any other manner account for the motives which should induce Mr. Elmes to present the reading public with a ponderous quarto on his biography. In his admiration of the achievements of the artist he has lost sight of his character, and has fancied that what an octavo of the most modest dimensions would conveniently hold is fit to occupy between six and seven hundred quarto pages. This is really becoming a vice of the times; when a gentleman afflicted with the vice of scribbling -that incurable malady, of which the indulgence, like drinking in a fever, is its nourishment-proposes to himself the task of composing the memoirs of any hero whom he may choose to hand down to posterity, his first labour is to collect all that may be made to bear (whether appositely or not matters little) on the subject. If this fashion holds, we may expect to see the memoirs of Buckhorse in a quarto volume, and, because he was born in Whetstone Park, we shall look for a hundred pages of the history of Inigo Jones, who designed some part of Lincoln's Inn Fields, which is near to the place of the hero's nativity. We do not mean to say that Mr. Elmes' work contains any similar absurdity, but it contains much which has no business in the book. The author has so much skill in his profession-possesses so accurate and judicious a knowledge of its principles and its history, that if he were bent on filling a large quarto (which is in any man a great weakness) he might have accomplished his purpose without such means as he has resorted to.
might have left the opinions of Lord Bacon, and the painful but unsatisfactory compilations of Sir Henry Wotton, to take their own chance of being recollected. Evelyn's description of the fire of London, should have stayed in Evelyn's own book; Dr. Sprat's letters should have been left to slumber in the scarce pages of Parentalia, undisturbed by ought but the book-worm, which like the other members of the Antiquarian Society, displays in his choice of food more of a resolute appetite than of good taste. All that portion of the work which relates to the history of Sir Christopher Wren-and this is but a small part-is executed with care and fidelity; indeed, the research and labour which the author has bestowed upon his task makes us regret that it was not directed to a more worthy end. But really the world knew enough of the history of Sir Christopher Wren before Mr. Elmes took upon himself the trouble of chronicling his deeds; his works are his best monuments, and are at once the history of his life and its most honorable commentary. The author has thought fit to insert careful accounts of his various discoveries and experiments, in the Royal Society and previous to its formation; he has preserved minute particulars which occur in the lives of most men, and which no one yet ever thought worth noticing, since the days of P. P. Clerk of the Parish. With a partisan-spirit, which, though it proves his zeal, says little for his judgment in this respect, he has taken great pains to rescue the character of Sir Christopher Wren from attacks which were made upou it in a pamphlet called Abuses at St. Paul's, and the falsehood of which, he says, he is prepared to prove; as if the world cared a straw about such things, or as if Sir Christopher Wren's fame could now be affected either way by its truth or falsehood. No inconsiderable portion of the volume is occupied with extracts from Acts of Parliament, and from Reports of Committees; with estimates and specifications, all very edifying perhaps to antiquaries and architects, but of no more amusement to cultivators of general literature than so many chapters out of the year-books. Bating the desire to fill a quarto, we cannot imagine what can have induced a writer, like the author, having pretensions to the character of a man of taste, and the professor of an elegant art, to load his volume with such trifling and uninteresting details. A letter of Sir Christopher's, giving some account of his journey to Paris, is preserved, and this possesses that interest which is communicated to every thing tending to throw a light on the private and unfettered sentiments of so great a man. It shows the closeness, as well as the justuess, of his observations; and the introductory passage, which we also extract, may furnish an example of the author's better style:
'The first object of his inquiry was Paris, where art and literature flourished in an unexampled degree, under the splendid munificence of Louis XIV., and the enlightened patronage of Mazarine and Colbert. Paris was then the resort of all the distinguished artists and learned men of the continent; who formed a sort of congress, in which a man of Wren's distinguished abilities and reputation could not be unacceptable. The architecture of the French metropolis became an object of his peculiar solicitude, and he made himself acquainted with all that was remarkable in mechanics and philosophy. The ablest professors sought his acquaintance, and exhibited the newest discoveries to their English visiter; but architecture and its relative arts was his principal object, as the letter to his friend Dr. Bateman, just quoted, abundantly proves.
He was introduced by letter from a friened in England to the Earl of St. Alban's, then a distinguished virtuoso in Paris; which, it appears, gave him much satisfaction, as he represents the earl to have used him with distinguished kindness, and to be, what his friend had described him, one of the best men in the world.. He describes himself spending his time in surveying the most distinguished fabrics of Paris, and the country round. The Louvre was for a while his daily object, where no less than a thousand hands were constantly employed upon the works; "6 some in laying," he says, "mighty foundations, some in raising the stories, columns, entablatures, &c. with vast stones, by great and useful engines; others in carving, inlaying of marbles, plastering, painting, gilding, &c. which altogether made, in his opinion, a school of architecture, the best probably at that day in Europe. The college of the four nations is usually admired; but the artist, he thought, had purposely set it illfavoredly, that he might show his wit in struggling with an inconvenient situation." In his journal he says, that "an academy of painters, sculptors, and architects, with the chief artificers of the Louvre, meet every first and last Saturday of the month. Mons. Colbert, superintendant, comes to the Louvre every Wednesday, and, if business prevents not, Thursday. The workmen are paid every Sunday duly."
The Abbé Charles introduced him to the acquaintance of Bernini, who showed him his designs for the palace of the Louvre, and of the statue of Louis XIV., which he was then executing. Among other rarities, he was shown the curious collection of the Duke of Orleans, which was kept by the Abbé Bruno, and was well filled with excellent intaglios, medals, books of plants, and birds, in miniature. "The Abbé Burdelo," he informed his friend, "keeps an academy at his house for philosophy every Monday afternoon. But I must not," he says, attempt to describe Paris, and the numerous observables there, in the compass of a short letter. The king's houses I could not miss; Fontainbleau has a stately wildness and vastness suitable to the desert it stands in. The antique mass of the Castle of St. Germain's, and the hanging gardens, are delightfully surprising (I mean to any man of judgment), for the pleasures below vanish away in the breath that is spent in ascending. The palace, or if you please the cabinet, of Versailles called me twice to see it; the mixtures of brick and stone, blue tile and gold, made it look like a rich livery; not an inch within but is crowded with little curiosities of ornament. The women, as they make here the language and the fashions, and meddle with politics and philosophy, so they sway also in architecture. Works of filgrand and little trinkets are in great vogue, but building ought certainly to have the attribute of eternal, and therefore the only thing incapable of new fashions.
"The masculine furniture of the Palais Mazarine pleased me much better; there is a great and noble collection of antique statues and bustos, many of porphyry, good basso-relievos, excellent pictures of the great masters, fine arras, true mosaics, besides pièces de rapport* in compartments and pavements, vases of porcelain painted by Raphael, and infinite other rarities; the best of which now furnish the glorious apartment of the queen mother at the Louvre, which I saw many times.
"After the incomparable villas of Vaux and Maisons, I shall name but