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whatever that should be articulate, apprehensible, and intercommunicable, such as might differentiate the words: whereas a system of mere vowels too inadequately strengthened by consonants, seemed to leave all words pretty nearly alike. One day, in a pause of languor amongst these arid Hebrew studies, I read to her, with a beating heart, "The Ancient Mariner." It had been first published in 1798; and, about this time (1801), was re-published in the first two-volume edition of "The Lyrical Ballads." Well I knew Lady Carbery's constitutional inaptitude for poetry; and not for the world would I have sought sympathy from her or from anybody else upon that part of the L. B. which belonged to Wordsworth. But I fancied that the wildness of this tale, and the triple majesties of Solitude, of Mist, and of the Ancient Unknown Sea, might have won her into relenting; and, in fact, she listened with gravity and deep attention. But, on reviewing afterwards in conversation such passages as she happened to remember, she laughed at the finest parts, and shocked me by calling the mariner himself " an old quiz; protesting that the latter part of his homily to the wedding guest clearly pointed him out as the very man meant by Providence for a stipendiary curate to the good Dr. Bailey in his over-crowded church.* With an albatross perched on his shoulder, and who might be introduced to the congregation as the immediate organ of his conversion, and supported by the droning of a bassoon, she represented the mariner lecturing to advantage in English; the doctor
* St. James', according to my present recollection.
overhead in the pulpit enforcing it in Hebrew. Angry I was, though forced to laugh. But of what use is anger or argument in a duel with female criticism? Our ponderous masculine wits are no match for the mercurial fancy of women. Once, however, I had a triumph to my great surprise, one day, she suddenly repeated by heart, to Dr. Bailey, the beautiful passage
asking what he thought of that? As it happened, the simple, childlike doctor had more sensibility than herself; for, though he had never in his whole homely life read more of poetry than he had drunk of Tokay or Constantia,- in fact, had scarcely heard tell of any poetry but Watts' Hymns, - he seemed petrified and at last, with a deep sigh, as if recovering from the spasms of a new birth, said, "I never heard anything so beautiful in my whole life."
During the long stay of the Laxton party in Manchester, occurred a Christmas; and at Christmas that is, at the approach of this great Christian festival, so properly substituted in England for the Pagan festival of January and the New Year - there was, according to ancient usage, on the breaking up for the holidays, at the Grammar School, a solemn celebration of the season by public speeches. Among the six speakers, I, of course (as one of the three boys who composed the head class), held a distinguished place; and it followed, also, as a matter of course, that all my friends congregated on this occasion to do me honor. What I had to recite was a copy of Latin verses (Alcaics) on the recent conquest
of Malta. Melite Britannis Subacta - this was the title of my worshipful nonsense. The whole strength of the Laxton party had mustered on this occasion. Lady Carbery made a point of bringing in her party every creature whom she could influence. And, probably, there were in that crowded audience many old Manchester friends of my father, loving his memory, and thinking to honor it by kindness to his son. Furious, at any rate, was the applause which greeted me: furious was my own disgust. Frantic were the clamors as I concluded my nonsense. Frantic was
my inner sense of shame at the childish exhibition to which, unavoidably, I was making myself a party. Lady Carbery had, at first, directed towards me occasional glances, expressing a comic sympathy with the thoughts which she supposed to be occupying my mind. But these glances ceased; and I was recalled by the gloomy sadness in her altered countenance to some sense of my own extravagant and disproportionate frenzy on this occasion: from the indulgent kindness with which she honored me, her countenance on this occasion became a mirror to my
At night she assured me, when talking over the case, that she had never witnessed an expression of such settled misery, and also (so she fancied) of misanthropy, as that which darkened my countenance in those moments of apparent public triumph, no matter how trivial the occasion, and amidst an uproar of friendly felicitation. I look back to that state of mind as almost a criminal reproach to myself, if it were not for the facts of the case. But, in excuse for myself, this fact, above all others, ought to be mentioned that, over and above the killing
oppression to my too sensitive system of the monotonous school tasks, and the ruinous want of exercise, I had fallen under medical advice the most misleading that it is possible to imagine. The physician and the surgeon of my family were men too eminent, it seemed to me, and, consequently, with time too notoriously bearing a high pecuniary value, for any school-boy to detain them with complaints. Under these circumstances, I threw myself for aid, in a case so simple that any clever boy in a druggist's shop would have known how to treat it, upon the advice of an old, old apothecary, who had full authority from my guardians to run up a most furious account against me for medicine. This being the regular mode of payment, inevitably, and unconsciously, he was biased to a mode of treatment; namely, by drastic medicines varied without end, which fearfully exasperated the complaint. This complaint, as I now know, was the simplest possible derangement of the liver, a torpor in its action that might have been put to rights in three days. In fact, one week's pedestrian travelling amongst the Caernarvonshire mountains effected a revolution in my health such as left me nothing to complain of.
An odd thing happened by the merest accident. I, when my Alcaics had run down their foolish larum, instead of resuming my official place as one of the trinity who composed the head class, took a seat by the side of Lady Carbery. On the other side of her was seated a stranger: and this stranger, whom mere chance had thrown next to her, was Lord Belgrave, her old and at one time (as some people fancied) favored suitor. In this there was nothing at
all extraordinary. Lord Grey de Wilton, an old alumnus of this Manchester Grammar School, and an alumnus during the early reign of this same Archididascalus, made a point of showing honor to his ancient tutor, especially now when reputed to be decaying; and with the same view he brought Lord Belgrave, who had become his son-in-law after his rejection by Lady Carbery. The whole was a very natural accident. But Lady Carbery was not sufficiently bronzed by worldly habits to treat this accident with nonchalance. She did not to the public eye betray any embarrassment; but afterwards she told me that no incident could have been more distressing to her.
Some months after this, the Laxton party quitted Manchester, having no further motive for staying. Mrs. Schreiber was now confessedly dying: medical skill could do no more for her; and this being so, there was no reason why she should continue to exchange her own quiet little Rutlandshire cottage for the discomforts of smoky lodgings. Lady Carbery retired like some golden pageant amongst the clouds ; thick darkness succeeded; the ancient torpor reestablished itself; and my health grew distressingly worse. Then it was, after dreadful self-conflicts, that I took the unhappy resolution of which the results are recorded in the "Opium Confessions." At this point, the reader must understand, comes in that chapter of my life; and for all which concerns that delirious period I refer him to those "Confessions." Some anxiety I had, on leaving Manchester, lest my mother should suffer too much from this rash step; and on that impulse I altered the direction of my