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A GRECIAN DREAM.
SCENE-The mouth of a stream, near the sea-shore: time-sunset.
FARTHER than wont from thy fountain home,
What has brought thee, sunny-hair'd sister, say,
I have traced from my urn the shining stream
Far up thy brook there is many a flower
Were they all too few to enwreathe thy bower?
Wouldst thou place one brighter, sweet stranger, there?
Oh no, it is not for these locks of mine
In the faint sweet light of the vesper star,
My dwelling is the diamond wave,
The mirror of the stars is mine
To me from earliest time 'twas given
To catch, in all their dyes divine,
The brightest smiles of Earth and Heaven:
All things have changed, my fountains round,-
As in the dawn of time it wound,
With wave all light and voice all song!
Sister, I grieve, ere thy strain be o'er,
HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN.
"There was great wariness and reservedness, and so great a jealousy of each other that they had no mind to give or receive visits."-CLARENDON.
A CERTAIN French author, who was probably a secret Carbonaro, declared that he would believe in the intentions of Nature to create different ranks among mankind, when he saw one class born with a crown upon their heads like the peacock, and another with a mark of servitude across their shoulders, like the jackass. Some such distinctions are sadly wanting, for it must be confessed that the present system savours strongly of levelling and anti-monarchical principles. What! shall the lowest portion of humanity be found in the image of the Deity, while its highest sometimes appear intended to fill up the vacant space between man and the ouran-outang? Shall a peasant not only have "the limbs, the thews, the stature, bulk, and big semblance of a man," but his spirit and his brains, while an Emperor may be a puny abortion both in mind and intellect? Shall torture take a democratical delight in recompensing a man by means of flesh, blood, and intelligence, for that which she witholds in worldly gifts; while she enviously strikes a balance with those upon whom she showers birth, rank, and riches, as if she had previously taken their brains and stamina to fill her cornucopia? Monstrous! Here is a world standing topsy-turvy, every thing acting in an inverse ratio to its apparent purposes; the pigmies lording it over the Patagonians, the dunces upon the first form, and the scholars upon the sixth; the powerful governed by the weak, and the many by the few, without one single natural indication which class was meant to have dominion over the others. True it is there are a set of bipeds, called Negroes, whom we Europeans have very charitably set down for the intended slaves of the Whites; but not only is it impossible, on account of the infinite variety of shades by which the two races are connected, to determine where mastery begins and subjection ends, but the Blacks themselves do most audaciously maintain their own to be the nobler colour of the two, and that the Whites, by their nearer approximation to the hue of dromedaries, camels and jackasses, were obviously meant to be the beasts of burthen. Unfortunately there are no satisfactory means of solving this question; and in the mean time they have most rebelliously proved their capacity for all the customary usurpations of authority by the establishment of an empire and a court at layti. The brethren of the Holy Alliance, though they recognised Tamahama, King of the Sandwich Islands, stand upon punctilio with regard to the sable majesty of Hayti; and yet if his be not the power, which according to M. Hyde de Neuville, "comes from God," whence does it come, or by what outward and visible sign is the genuine article to be made manifest?
In Nature's grand and lamentable oversight of not stamping those who were to command by some moral or physical distinction, men have ingeniously hit upon various contrivances for remedying the defect, and separating themselves from the profane vulgar whom Horace held in such lofty aversion, the polloi of the Greeks, the canaille of the French, the mob, the rabble, the swinish multitude of the English. It was obvious that the ambitious fellow of low life might aspire to any thing after he was born, and haply accomplish celebrity in whatever it might
consist; but no strength, no talent, no contrivance could enable him to begin the race before he was ushered into the world, and achieve an ante-natal right to power and fame. Living or posthumous glory was within any body's reach, but to derive honours from those who were dead and gone, and consequently beyond our control, was a privilege only to be attained by those who could prove their ancestry. Hence the fantastical claims of high birth, as if it were an exemption instead of a responsibility, and hence the learned ignorance and all the groping in the dark of the Heralds' College. True, every family is of equal antiquity, all descended from the same parents; but this was too humiliating for those who could trace the current of their blood a little farther than others before it became lost in the general obscurity. It was therefore held vulgar to have the authority of Scripture for being descended from Adam and Eve; while it was genteel to have the verdict of Garter King at Arms in favour of a birth derived from Tudors and Plantagenets of comparatively modern date. So much reverence did M. de Brissac attach to the notion of being a gentleman in this sense of the word, that in the fervour of his aristocratical piety he invariably spoke of the Deity as "Le Gentilhomme d'en haut.'
Titles of nobility were another invention to counteract those inconsiderate proceedings of Nature, who would sometimes dignify with a heavenly patent, and produce
A combination and a form indeed,
Where every God did seem to set his seal
To give the world assurance of a man
where the party was after all, perhaps, a mere upstart, a roturier, a parvenu. An opposition to such levelling and scandalous proceedings became indispensable; and the expedient of hereditary nobility was devised, to serve as a defence and exclusion against that which was innate. Distinctions derived from men were set above those conferred by the Deity. Ay, but what a fine incentive to virtue, cries some one, to hold out these rewards of honour to the brave, the learned, the pious, and the good! Yes, if they were always so conferred; but what becomes of this fine moral stimulus, if the sons of these meritorious personages prove to be the antipodes of their fathers? In that case we can only exclaim with Pope
"What can ennoble fools, or sots, or cowards?
Alas! not all the blood of all the Howards;"
and regret that such an immoral example should be held out to the world as that of emblazoning and dignifying profligates and dunces. It is an idle objection, that men would not struggle to achieve honours if they could not transmit them, for they generally love themselves quite as well as their posterity, and in point of fact there is a keener contest for the ribbons of the different orders which are not transmissible, than for any more durable distinction. "A charming house and grounds," said a gentleman, calling upon his friend in the country, "but I believe you have only got them for your life."-" True," replied the other, "but I did not calculate upon wanting them much longer." Such is the common feeling among the candidates for honours; they would be well content with their personal reward, besides that which virtue confers upon itself.
Strange that those whose talents are fabricated at the Heralds' College, who possess no other distinctions than those by which their ancestors have been distinguished, should not be sensible of the weakness of their position, but provoke a questioning of their claims by their misplaced arrogance. "I know," said a man of talent to a nobleman of this sort, "what is due to your rank, but I also know that it is much easier to be my superior than my equal." One of the Genoese Deputies becoming rather warm in a dispute with the Chevalier de Bouteville, the latter haughtily exclaimed, “Are you aware that I am the representative of the King my master?"—" Are you aware," replied the Genoese, "that I have no master, and that I am the representative of my_equals ?"
For many ages dress afforded an easy and infallible method of distinguishing ranks, and saving dukes and dons from the humiliation of being mistaken for commoners. The lords of the earth stripped birds and beasts of their clothing to make their own lordliness more apparent; a little reptile was hunted, that its fur might assist in the manufacture of monarchs; a worm was robbed of its silk, that its human namesake might strut about in a sash, and call himself a knight: courtiers and Corinthians were known by the gold lace upon their liveries; while stars, garters, and ribbons glittered upon those who attached more importance to the brightness of their persons than that of their heads. Here was an exterior nobility, that was to be had ready made from the court tailor; and it was an egregious mistake on the part of those who could achieve no other greatness but that which they carried upon their backs, to suffer so laudable a habit ever to fall into abeyance. But so it is. In these democratical days there is an universal spread of the same broad-cloth over patrician and plebeian shoulders; the peer and the peasant are confounded, there is but one rank to the eye, all those who are above rags are equals. Nor will a closer acquaintance always enable us to detect the difference; for education, which was once a distinction, is now so widely diffused that people's minds are like their coats, offering no evidence of the wearer's station in society.
In this deplorable state of things, with the lower classes constantly encroaching upon their prerogatives, our Corinthians have been driven to various devices, some of them "high fantastical" enough, to assert their real superiority, and confer a genuine celebrity upon their names. One has immortalised himself by inventing a coat without flaps, another has become sponsor to a machine for heating gravy, a third to an oddshaped hat, a fourth to a gig of a peculiar construction, and others to different contrivances equally ingenious and exalted. In the aggressions daily committing by wealth upon rank in this our commercial country, none were more galling than those invasions of the territory which had hitherto been appropriated to the upper classes. Street by street, and parish by parish, have the civic trespassers won their unhallowed way. Was it not enough that Portland-place, after its echoes had been long profaned by monosyllabic surnames of awful vulgarity, was finally abandoned to the enemy? Must Manchester, Cavendish, Grosvenor squares, whose very titles attest their patrician destination, be desecrated by the same encroachment, as ignoble as the dry-rot and as insatiable in its progress? Nay, not content with pushing the gentility
out of town, and positively shouldering them into the fields, their assailants have dogged their footsteps, and bearded them in their rural or marine retreats. Gravesend, Ramsgate, and Margate, from their vicinity to the capital, were speedily over-run by the barbarians, and, of course, evacuated by the select. In spite of the sanction of royalty, Brighton was compelled to surrender at discretion to the horde of shopkeepers and money-getters. Weymouth, Tenby, Dawlish, and the remoter bathing-places, enjoyed but a short respite; for the fatal rapidity and cheapness of the steam navigation quickly brought the enemy to their gates, and obliged the fashionable fugitives once more to decamp. History offers no spectacle more piteous than that of this persecuted class. The inroads of the American settlers upon the unfortunate Indians, the Cryptia in which the Spartans chased their slaves, the hunting down of the Maroons with bloodhounds, were nothing compared to this unrelenting pursuit of our Corinthians. "The Thanes fly from me," cries the indefatigable vulgarian, as he reaches the haunt from which they have just escaped; and, like the huntsman when he discovers the empty form of a hare, he is only animated with a keener resolution to run down the wretched fugitive.
Some contented themselves in this trying emergency with bestowing upon their servants the gorgeous liveries which they had discarded in their own persons, and sharing the glory which was reflected upon them from their footmen; but they were soon eclipsed by aldermen and contractors, to say nothing of my lord mayor, who has an undoubted claim to this species of pre-eminence, as Bartholomew fair has to its acknowledged superiority in gilt gingerbread. One would think that the civic classes, no undervaluers of good cheer, would at least leave to their superiors the quiet enjoyment of their dinner hour. Quite the contrary; they have driven them, by successive incroachments, from five o'clock to eight or nine, and bid fair to hunt them all round the dial-plate; for as to the possibility of a patrician eating any repast at the same hour as a plebeian, it is a degradation which none but a radical would dream of. No genuine Corinthian will live in any respect like his inferiors: what a pity that he is obliged to die like them!" One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” and what is to become of him in the ungenteel fellowship of the church-yard? What his recreations if there be no Almacks's in Heaven? Perhaps he calculates upon the same posthumous separation as was placed between Dives and Lazarus, and would rather be condemned to any thing after death, than suffer an imputation upon his gentility when living.
What has been said of the higher classes in England may be applied to all the others in the proportion of their various gradations and degrees. Such has been the rapidity of the general advancement, that there is some little confusion in the respective boundaries, and each is put to all the contrivances of its pride to distinguish itself from the grade beneath. Hence the servility to superiors, and the stiff-necked repulsive reserve, not to say arrogance towards inferiors or equals, which form the marked and besetting sins of English society. No sooner do individuals spring from the earth, than like the soldiers of Cadmus they begin to attack each other. That absence of jealousy and pride, that kindly feeling towards strangers, which in France gives a centripetal direction to society, is utterly unknown to our centrifugal countrymen.