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boy of exquisite and delicate beauty
delicate, that is,
in respect to its feminine elegance and bloom; for else, (as regards constitution) he turned out remarkably robust. In such excess did his beauty flourish during childhood, that those, who remember him and myself at the public. school of Bath, will also remember the ludicrous molestation in the streets, (for to him it was molestation,) which it entailed upon him- ladies stopping continually to kiss him. The relation with whom we came to Bath from a remote quarter of the kingdom, occupied at first the very apartments on the North Parade, just quitted by Edmund Burke at the point of death. That circumstance, or the expectation of finding Burke still there, brought for some weeks crowds of inquirers, many of whom saw the childish Adonis, then scarcely seven years old, and inflicted upon him what he viewed as the martyrdom of their caresses. Thus began a persecution which continued as long as his years allowed it. The most brilliant complexion that could be imagined, the features of an Antinous, and perfect symmetry of figure at that period of his life (afterwards he lost it) made him the subject of never-ending admiration to the whole female population, gentle and simple, who passed him in the streets. In after days, he had the grace to regret his own perverse and scornful coyness what Roman poets would have called his protervitas. But, at that time, so foolishly insensible was he to the honor, that he used to kick and struggle with all his might to liberate himself from the gentle violence which was continually offered, and he renewed the scene so elaborately painted by Shakspeare, of the conflicts between Venus and Adonis. For two years, this continued a subject of irritation the keenest on the one side, and of laughter on the other, between my brother and his uglier school-fellows, myself being amongst them.
Not that we had the slightest jealousy on the subject - far from it it struck us all (as it generally does strike boys) in the light of an attaint upon the dignity of a male, that he should be subjected to the caressses of women, without leave asked this was felt to be a badge of childhood, and a proof that the object of such fondling tenderness, so public and avowed, must be regarded in the light of a baby not to mention that the very foundation of all this distinction, a beautiful face, is as a male distinction regarded in a very questionable light by multitudes, and often by those most who are the possessors of that distinction. Certainly that was the fact in my brother's case. Not one of us could feel so pointedly as himself the ridicule of his situation; nor did he cease, when increasing years had liberated him from that practical expression of homage to his beauty, to regard the beauty itself as a degradation; nor could he bear to be flattered upon it, though, in reality, it did him service in after distresses, when no other endowment whatsoever would have been availing. Often, in fact, do men's natures sternly contradict the promise of their features; for no person would have believed that, under the blooming loveliness of a Narcissus, lay shrouded, as I firmly believe there did, the soul of a hero; as much courage as a man could have, with a capacity of patient submission to hardship, and of wrestling with calamity, that is rarely found amongst the endowments of youth. I have reason, also, to think that the state of degradation in which he believed himself to have passed his childish years, from the sort of public petting which I have described, and his strong recoil from it as an insult, went much deeper than was supposed, and had much to do in his subsequent conduct, and in nerving him to the strong resolutions he adopted. He seemed to resent as an original insult of Nature, the
having given him a false index of character in his feminine beauty, and to take a pleasure in contradicting it. Had it been in his power, I am sure he would have spoiled it. Certain it is, that from the time he reached his eleventh birthday, he had begun already to withdraw himself from the society of all other boys to fall into long fits of abstraction and to throw himself upon his own resources in a way neither usual nor necessary. Schoolfellows of his own age and standing those even who were the most amiable he shunned; and, many years after his disappearance, I found, in his handwriting, a collection of fragments, couched in a sort of wild lyrical verses, presenting, unquestionably, the most extraordinary evidences of a proud, self-sustained mind, consciously concentring his own hopes in himself and abjuring the rest of the world, that can ever have emanated from so young a person; since, upon the largest concession, and supposing them to have been written on the eve of his quitting England, which, however, was hardly compatible with the situation where they were found even in that case, they must have been written at the age of thirteen. I have often speculated on the subject of these mysterious compositions; they were of a nature to have proceeded rather from some mystical quietist, such as Madame Guyon, if one can suppose the union with this rapt devotion of a rebellious spirit of worldly aspiration: passionate apostrophes there were, to nature and the powers of nature; and what seemed strangest of all was - that, in style, not only were they free from all tumor and inflation which might have been looked for in so young a writer, but were even wilfully childish and colloquial in a pathetic degree in fact, in point of tone, allowing for the difference between a narrative poem and a lyrical, they some
what resembled that very beautiful and little-known* poem of George Herbert, in which he describes symbolically to a friend, under the form of treacherous ill usage he had suspected, the religious processes by which a soul is weaned from the world. Taken as a whole, they most remind me of Lewti,' a joint poem by Coleridge and Wordsworth. The most obvious solution of the mystery would be, to suppose these fragments to have been copied from some obscure author: but, besides that no author could have remained obscure in this age of elaborate research, who had been capable of sighs, (for such I may call them,) drawn up from such well-like recesses of feeling, and expressed with such dithyrambic fervor and exquisite simplicity of language there was another testimony to their being the productions of him who owned the penmanship; which was, that some of the papers exhibited the whole process of creation and growth, such as erasures, substitutions, doubts expressed as to this and that form of expression, together with references backwards and forwards. Now, that the handwriting was my brother's, admitted of no doubt whatsoever. I now go on with his story. In 1800, my visit to Ireland, and visits to other places subsequently, separated me from him for above a year. In 1801, we were at very different schools: I in the highest class of a great public school — he at a very sequestered parsonage in a northern county. This situation, probably, fed and cherished his melancholy habits; for he had no society except that of a younger brother, who would give him no disturbance at all. The development of our national resources had not yet gone so far as absolutely to exterminate from the map of Eng
*This poem, from great admiration of its mother English, and to illustrate some ideas upon style, Mr. Coleridge republished in his Biographia Literaria.
land everything like a heath, a breezy down, (such as gave so peculiar a character to the counties of Wilts, Somerset, Dorset, &c.,) or even a village common. Heaths were yet to be found in England, not so spacious, indeed, as the landes of France, but as wild and romantic. In such a situation my brother lived, and under the tuition of a clergyman, retired in his habits, and even ascetic, but gentle in his manners. (To that I can speak myself; for, in the winter of 1801, I dined with him, and I found that his yoke was, indeed, a mild one; since, even to my youngest brother, a headstrong child of seven, he used no stronger remonstrance in urging him to some essential point of duty, than Do be persuaded, sir.') Here, therefore was the best of all possible situations for my brother's wayward and haughty nature. The clergyman was learned, quiet, absorbed in his studies; humble and modest beyond the proprieties of his situation; and treating my brother in all points as a companion: whilst, on the other hand, my brother was not the person to forget the respect due, by a triple title, to a clergyman, a scholar, and his own preceptor one, besides, who so little thought of exacting it. How happy might all parties have been what suffering, what danger, what years of miserable anxiety might have been spared to all who were interested - had the guardians and executors of my father's will thought fit to 'let well alone!' But, ‘per star meglio,'* they chose to remove my brother from this gentle recluse to an active, bustling man of the world, the very anti-pole in character. What might be the pretensions of this gentleman to scholarship, I never had any means of judging; and, considering that he must now, (if
*The well-known Italian epitaph-'Stava bene: ma, per star meglio, sto qui.'