Billeder på siden

qualities he may have, to be placed in the way of hard and continual exercise. Nothing so effectually rids a man of bodily irritation, such as arises from sedentary habits; and thus far, nothing is so well fitted to sustain a tone of genial spirits and good temper. As to any bad effects, it is difficult to see in what way the practice of hunting or hard riding should ally itself with one set of habits rather than another, except through the social connections which it promotes. Now, as to the probable quality of these connections, the reader must be shy of taking his present impressions from the ill-natured and false delineations of books. These are generally antiquated, and (where true at all) suited to a past age. The country gentlemen, indeed generally, of this island, are a class most malignantly traduced in books; persons answering to the Squire Westerns, of Fielding, supposing them ever to have existed, are now to be found only in novels. As to Lord C―rb-ry, connected by birth and political influence with the Irish county of Limerick, where he had a family seat, called Carass, he resorted to England, chiefly, I believe, on account of the hunting in Leicestershire and the adjacent counties, and, in part, perhaps, with a view to London. But he was far from being an illiterate man, or without interest in literature. He was that Etonian whom I had alluded to in my interview with George III., as having urged my mother to place me at Eton. Having himself had a full Etonian training, and looking back with pleasure upon the manliness of the sports, and the republican equality established by the system of manners in that great seminary, he never allowed himself to suppose that any rational creature could hesitate in giving a preference to Eton, where the expense could be borne. That sole ground of demur he admitted as consistent with a man's sanity, but no other. And certainly some weight will be

allowed to that, when I mention the following anecdote: Dining with a gentleman about 1823, who had two sons at Eton, and three of a more advanced age, at Cambridge, 1 heard with astonishment that the two Etonians cost him annually as much (or nearly so) as the three cantabs: the boys cost £300 per annum each, the young men about £220.

When, by what test, by what indication, does manhood commence ? Physically by one criterion, legally by another, morally by a third, mentally by a fourth, — and all indefinite. Equator, absolute equator, there is none. Between the two spheres of youth and age, perfect and imperfect manhood, as in all analogous cases, there is no strict line of bisection. The change is a large process accomplished within a large and corresponding space; having, perhaps, some central or equatorial line, but lying, like that of our earth, between certain tropics, or limits widely separated. This tropical region may, and generally does, cover a number of years; and, therefore, it is hard to say, even for an assigned case, by any tolerable approximation, at what precise era it would be reasonable to describe the individual as having ceased to be a boy, and as having attained his inauguration as a man. Physically, we know that there is a very large latitude of differences, in the periods of human maturity, not merely between individual and individual, but also between nation and nation; differences so great, that, in some southern regions of Asia, we hear of matrons at the age of twelve. And though, as Mr. Sadler rightly insists, a romance of exaggeration has been built upon the facts, enough remains behind of real marvel, to irritate the curiosity of the physi ologist, as to its efficient, and, perhaps, of the philosopher, as to its final cause. Legally and politically, that is con

ventionally, the differences are even greater on a comparison of nations and eras. In England we have seen senators of mark and authority, nay, even a Prime Minister, the haughtiest, the most despotic, and the most irresponsible of his times, at an age, which, in many states, both ancient and modern, would have operated as a ground of absolute challenge to the candidate for offices the meanest. Intellectually speaking, again, a very large proportion of men never attain maturity. Nonage is their final destiny; and manhood, in this respect, is for them a pure idea. Finally, as regards the moral development, by which I mean the whole system and economy of their love and hatred, of their admirations and contempts, the total organization of their pleasures and their pains, hardly any Vof our species ever attain manhood. It would be unphilosophic to say, that intellects of the highest order were, or could be developed fully, without a corresponding development of the whole nature. But of such intellects there do not appear above two or three in a thousand years. It is a fact, forced upon one by the whole experience of life, that almost all men are children, more or less, in their tastes and admirations. This needs little proof. Society is absolutely held together, under its present constitution, by the baby feelings to which I allude. Were there no admiration for wealth carried to accumulation far beyond what is practically disposable, of honors which are no honors, and of tinsel decorations, the foundations of society, as it is, would actually give way. Oh, man! were it not for thy latent tendencies, were it not for that imperishable grandeur, which exists by way of germ and ultimate possibility in thy nature, hidden as it is, and often all but effaced, how unlimited would be my contempt for thy species; and that misanthropy, which now I fight against when I find it stealing gradually

over my reluctant mind, would, but for the angelic ideal buried and embruted in thy sordid and grovelling race, become fixed, absolute, and deliberately cherished.

But, to resume my question, how, under so variable a standard, both natural and conventional, of everything almost that can be received for a test or a presumption of manhood, shall we seize upon any characteristic feature, sufficiently universal to serve a practical use, as a criterion of the transition from the childish mind to the dignity (relative dignity at least) of that mind which belongs to conscious maturity? One such criterion, and one only, as I believe, there is all others are variable and uncertain. It lies in the reverential feeling, sometimes suddenly developed, towards woman, and the idea of woman. From that moment when women cease to be regarded with carelessness, and when the ideal of womanhood, in its total pomp of loveliness and purity, dawns like some vast aurora upon the mind, boyhood has ended; childish thoughts and inclinations have passed away for ever; and the gravity of manhood, with the self-respecting views of manhood, have commenced. These feelings, no doubt, depend for their development in part upon physical causes; but they are also determined by the many retard. ing or accelerating forces enveloped in circumstances of position, and sometimes in pure accident. For myself, I remember most distinctly the very day—the scene, and its accidents, when that mysterious awe fell upon me which belongs to woman in her ideal portrait: and from that hour a profounder gravity colored all my thoughts, and a 'beauty, still more beauteous,' was lit up for me in this agitating world. My Irish friend and myself had been on a visit to a noble family about fifty miles from Dublin; and we were returning from Tullamore by a public passage-boat, on the splendid canal which connects that place

with the metropolis. To avoid attracting an unpleasant attention to ourselves in public situations, I observed a rule of never addressing Lord W. by his title but it so

happened that the canal carried us along the margin of an estate belonging to the Earl (now Marquis) of W-tm-th; and on turning an angle, we came suddenly in view of this nobleman's bulky person, taking his morning lounge in the sun. Somewhat loftily he reconnoitered the miscellaneous party of clean and unclean beasts, crowded on the deck of our ark, ourselves amongst the number, whom he challenged gaily as young acquaintances from Dublin; and my friend he saluted more than once as 'My Lord.' This accident made known to the assembled mob of our fellow-travellers Lord W.'s rank, and led to a scene rather too broadly exposing the spirit of this world. Herding together on the deck, (or roof of that den denominated the 'state-cabin,') stood a party of young ladies, headed by their governess. In the cabin below was mamma, who as yet had not condescended to illuminate our circle, for she was an awful personage a wit, a blue-stocking, and a leader of ton in Dublin and Belfast. The fact, however, that a young Lord, and one of great expectations, was on board, brought her up. A short cross-examination of Lord W.'s French valet, had confirmed the flying report, and at the same time, (I suppose,) put her in possession of my defect in all those advantages of title, fortune, and expectation, which so brilliantly distinguished my friend. Her admiration of him, and her contempt for myself, were equally undisguised. And in the ring which she soon cleared out for public exhibition, she made us both fully sensible of the very equitable stations which she assigned to us in her regard. She was neither very brilliant, nor altogether a pretender, but might be described as a showy woman, of slight, but popular accomplishments. Any

« ForrigeFortsæt »