« ZurückWeiter »
cheaper quarters, nearer the roof, the strugglers were removed, when I lost sight of them.
It was not until the deathbed of the uncompromising father promised speedy relief to all wants, that pride relaxed its last convulsive grasp, and consented by its own sacrifice to accept for others a release.
Other tenants followed in succession, stopping but a short time, or presenting only ordinary features of contradiction in character. One of them was Double, a well-known politician of those days ; some of his descendants, I hear, are figuring about Westminster to this hour. He was a gay, incautious, fervent talker-stanch and uncompromising in Opposition, and so firm a friend to public principles that he never admitted a Minister to be in the right.
Half the day he would hold his assembly in the apartment—a set of debaters congregating, whose stay sometimes caused me a little alarm; for this fact I soon discovered from their conversation--that if each of them in turn were not speedily summoned to St. James's, to take the supreme direction of the government, the country must inevitably go to ruin.
Double was great as the leader of the Opposition, and the whole assembly proclaimed his merits in one particular-his consistency. He had always been of one opinion—had always identified power with oppression and always spoke openly. There was no Dr. Johnson there to report the speeches; but some pretty treason was spoken now and then, and the entire administration was inimitably scandalized. It was pleasing also to observe that where a politician's public conduct could not be conveniently impeached, his personal character was easily discovered to be infamous.
Double, however, though the world knew it not-such secrets find their way into keyholes—was more writer than orator, and, as it turned out, greater ministerially than in opposition. I wondered, at first, what on earth he could be sitting up half the night for--writing, writing and then carefully sealing. At last, one night, pleased perhaps, with his performance, he commenced reading.
Double was a government-hack. He composed for the press rapturous laudations on the character of every member of the ministry; he defended all their measures, and defamed all their adversaries the chiefs of his own party of course, and all his personal friends who happened to be of sufficient importance.
As Double's consequence increased, he ventured upon writing a tremendous pamphlet against himself, which might have gained him distinction, had not the papers perversely fallen into the hands of a Marplot, who recognised the fine Roman hand. After this, Double mounted to the regions of the garretteer.
The next tenant, Josias Oakby called, was a solitary man. As he entered upon his tenancy, all concerned with the occupation of it might have prepared for a gloomy season. There was nothing prepossessing in his looks, something repulsive in his manner, nothing conciliatory in his tones. Sourness and severity were in his visage, and a husk of misanthropy all over him.
He looked pryingly into me, as he tried the lock of the door, and finding that to be right, he inspected other fastenings, fixed his writingdesk, carelessly arranged a few books, stirred up his fire, and was at home.
How at that moment stood his account with the world, which spoke not well of him, regarding him as a once-sheltering tree from whose boughs now fall poison-drops!
He had been rich in youth, and lavishly generous. Careless to conceal, though careless of praise, his bounty found tongues to proclaim it, and the reputation he innocently acquired, was deemed proof positive of his ostentation and pride of pocket. Apt to bestow on impulse and almost uninquiringly, his beneficence was rankly abused, and he was abused with it, for profligately encouraging vice and dissipation. Large sums given and squandered, larger lent on securities good as nutshells—charity perverted by villany and deception to corrupt ends, and upright worldly dealing seeking just returns, construed into hardness and avarice-he buttoned his pocket, turned his back upon the world, and appeared to walk away from it as far as he could.
His suitors saw little of him, his assailants less; to the first he turned a face, into which, if the milk of kindness flowed yet uncurdled in his heart, no drop of it had found its way to mingle with the vinegar and gall; and to the last, he lent an ear as if he would draw from virulent misrepresentation an odd kind of inwardly-chuckling amusement. The universal verdict was that he had been purse-proud in his gifts, grasping in his loans, unprosperous and disappointed in both, and had turned misanthrope preparatory to a misership.
Josias Oakby, on the contrary, had been generous and disinterested in all his deeds; he had been charitable for the sake of charity; kind and good to human nature, for very love of it, faults and all. He had been grossly mistaken, abused, cheated; and under a sense of such rewards, he had now become
A knock at the door! A suitor is announced, and refused admis. sion. Another is named-with the like result. A letter is brought, and returned unopened-all in that handwriting ordered to be rejected invariably. A second letter; this may be left, but there is no answer. Another visiter, a petitioner ; well, he may come in, but he takes nothing by the motion, moving as the tale is. There is evidently no more milk in Josias, than in a “male tiger."
I saw him smile-there was a grim smile on his visage, like a moonbeam on a standing pool—as the begging, half-choked wretch left the room.
Josias stood before me, a sort of Timon in low life. The man's soul was evidently a blank book, as far as good deeds were concerned; but records of hatred and malice, uncharitableness and revenge, blotted its pages abundantly.
More suitors; the memory of his ostentation attracts them still, and perhaps what they formerly extracted from his love of fame, they now hope io squeeze from his eccentricity. But they come in vain ; Aatly and hopelessly repulsed, dismissed with hard looks and cold words
letters sent back as they came, or laid unopened by—this is for the most part their fate. One or two seemed to have a slight chance; a strange face, a woman's, with hot tears trickling down it, once appeared to move him for an instant; but the tears were not hot enough to thaw the ice round his heart, and, like the rest, she went empty away.
Towards the close of the wintry day, he went forth to dinner, vowing that he had a huge appetite; he seemed pleased with his work of rejection; he had been petitioned, almost knelt to, and he had been merciless.
Josias bore a strong resemblance, not to a man who wanted his dinner, but to a cannibal, who had been all day feeding on human hearts stuffed with grief.
On his return in the evening, the lights, the fire, the scene shut in, had a cheerful, exhilirating look; Josias Oakby crossed the room, like a scowl on a bright face. Then he drew his desk towards the fire, and his chair to the desk; opened letters and read-read again and answered ; a book, it was a banker's book, was taken from a drawer, and blank forms were carefully filled up; entries were made, and more letters were written ; and the evening devoted to business passed away, and Josias took a fair-sized goblet of brandy-and-water before he went to bed.
As he crossed the threshold, with the light held before him, rendering every line and character of his face visible as in brightest sunshine
-the change was quite startling. The same face was there, yet it looked positively handsome.
Josias Oakby passed his days in doing good, and when the day was short he added his evening to it. He did it in his own way, but it was a better one than the way of his youth. He ascertained the nature of the soil before he sowed. He gave away—he no longer flung awayhis money, his warnings, his friendship. He discovered the line which parts a wise charity from that which is merely amiable.
One condition alone was imperative-secrecy; where gratitude could only be expressed by betrayal, the supply was stopped. So protected, he could go on, and be at peace with the misjudging world.' He was content, nay glad, to appear crabbed, Ainty, even fierce; and in truth, he was accounted rock, yet it needed but a touch, and the pure living stream of kindness leaped forth.
The good old man ! for such he soon became, “ frosty but kindly !" The grimness of his smile grew wonderfully sweet and delicious. He seemed more and more to enjoy his mask and his laugh underneath it. He was human, and loved a little trickery.
When he had spent profitably a few hours, and had done a world of good, which few would have believed, even had they witnessed it, he rubbed his hands, and with a flood of savage fun in his face, cried,
" It's as good as a comedy !"
REMINISCENCES OF A MEDICAL STUDENT.
Or all the strange situations it has been the lot of my eventful youth to be placed in, the most remarkable was the temporary care of a private asylum for the insane.
In the course of my medical studies I had frequently been thrown into society with a young gentleman, nephew to the proprietor of an establishment of the kind in question, in which he acted as assistant or clerk. We soon formed an intimacy, and at length, when a necessity arose that he should visit some near relations in the north of Ireland, he requested me to favour him by performing his duty in the house for a week or two during his absence.
As it was not inconvenient to me at the time, and I was very desirous to see the mode of treatment practised by the proprietor, who, though not by profession a medical man, had no indifferent reputation in his peculiar line, I was very glad to take advantage of the offer, and soon found myself at the establishment.
I was particular to make inquiry of my friend, with regard to the nature of the cases to be under my care, and was informed that the house was unusually empty at the time, there not being more than fifteen patients in it, and that few of the cases were possessed of much interest, with the exception of one, whose peculiarities he forthwith proceeded to explain to me.
“ The individual,” said he, “is a young Pole, by name Loretan Maryanski, a person of very high talent, and his hallucination is, that on the Pythagorean principle, his body is animated by no less a soul than that of the celebrated hero Kosciusko. So long as you avoid interference with this idea you will find him a most intelligent and accomplished young fellow-a gentleman in every respect. He was a student of medicine in London for some years; in fact he has not been many months with us, and strange enough he devoted all along very much attention to the study of mental disorders, upon which subject you will find his information nearly unimpeachable. He believes that he is at present, as a pupil, prosecuting his studies of that class of disease in our asylum, and devotes much attention to all the cases, whilst his care and humanity to the sufferers is unremitting.
“ His father was a nobleman of one of the lesser grades in Lithuania, I believe, who, having taken an energetic part in the last insurrection, found it necessary to flee to England, and along with others in similar circumstances, to become a pensioner on the bounty of our countrymen. By this means, and also from a tolerable income he could make by acting as foreign clerk to an extensive mercantile house, and by employing his spare hours in teaching German and French, he has been enabled to rear a family in comfort, and also to educate his eldest son for the medical profession.
“Loretan was a good classical scholar before he was brought to England, and was also well acquainted with German, French, and English. The last he speaks with very little foreign accent, and is moreover familiar with almost all its idioms, a facility in acquiring which, as well as the accent, is, I am informed, a peculiar property of his countrymen, beyond the people of any other continental nation. As a student he was most devoted, giving his great talents completely to his tasks, nor ever allowing the usual temptations of youth to draw him for a moment from them. I have often thought that when a man of active and original intellect has never been allowed by constraint, whether of others, or "self-imposed-to mingle with society, but has, from his earliest experience, associated with books, and not with men (if you will allow me the expression),—when in addition he has the strong motives of emulation and knowledge of his own powers, or the stronger still of necessity, to force him to his solitary studies—he creates around him a strange world—book-derived—which is quite different from that of ordinary life, and really constitutes a kind of insanity. The idea of madness from much learning would appear to have been a prevalent one, from the days of the apostle Paul to our own; and when you reflect how many of the most noble minds of this age have sunk, and been extinguished in imbecility and mania, you will probably have a clearer view than otherwise, as well of my precise drift in the argument, as of the case of my poor friend Maryanski.
“ His disorder had long been suspected of overstepping the bounds of eccentricity. He began to talk mysteriously of the possibility of holding intercourse with superior beings, to mention the old doctrine of Rosicrucianism with approbation, and seriously express his belief in the theory of the transmigration of souls. At length his hallucination took form, and he coolly and frequently enough announced himself to be the dead hero revived. These ideas his fellow-students received at first with ridicule, till at length it proved somewhat more than a joke to one. Several of them were together in a bookseller's shop, which they were in the habit of frequenting. He was among them, and found means, in the course of conversation on a German physiological work, to introduce his favourite notion, narrating several interesting anecdotes of himself when Kosciusko, which I am afraid are not to be found recorded in any life of that personage. But one of the students, more waggish than wise, ventured to tell him that he too had recollections of a similar kind, having in a former state of existence actually been the celebrated Marshal Suwarrow. The word had hardly left his lips, when the Pole, in a burst of frenzy that was plainly maniacal, seized a ponderous beam of iron, the bar used to fix the window-shutters at night, and heaving it aloft, brought it down with his whole strength in the direction of the unlucky jester's crown, accompanying the act with a wild shriek, that speedily collected a crowd round the door. Had the blow reached its aim, it would undoubtedly have sent the spirit of the Russian in quest of a less jocular tabernacle. As it was, the poor fellow had just time to start to one side, when the iron descended upon him; his arm, which he had instinctively thrown up, received it, and both bones were fractured.
"After this he went beyond all bounds, and in a few days, on the authority of the coroner, he was certified insane, and placed by his friends under our charge.