Page images

thought good for Punch to be alone; and when, as these performances had fallen into lower hands, the quarrels between such a pair afforded a standing subject equally adapted to the capacity of the interlocutor and of his audience.

'A tragic part was assigned to Punch in one of Rowland Dixon's pieces, and that one of the most popular, being the celebrated tragedy of Jane Shore. The beadle in this piece, after proclaiming, in obvious and opprobrious rhyme, the offence which has drawn upon Mistress Shore this public punishment, prohibited all persons from relieving her, on pain of death; and turned her out, according to the common story, to die of hunger in the streets. The only person who ventured to disobey this prohibition was Punch the baker; and the reader may judge of the dialogue of these pieces by this baker's words, when he stole behind ber, and nudging her furtively while he spake, offered her a loaf, saying, "Tak it, Jenny, tak it!" for which act, so little consonant with his general character, Punch died, a martyr to humanity, by the hangman's hands.

'Dr. Dove used to say he doubted whether Garrick and Mrs. Cibber could have affected him more in middle life than he had been moved by Punch the baker and this wooden Jane Shore in his boyhood. For rude as were these performances (and nothing could possibly be ruder), the effect on infant minds was prodigious, from the accompanying sense of wonder, an emotion which of all others is at that time of life the most delightful. Here was miracle in any quantity to be seen for two-pence, and believed in for nothing. No matter how confined the theatre, how coarse and inartificial the scenery, or how miserable the properties; the mind supplied all that was wanting.'-vol. i., pp. 213-223.

The main drift of this book, in what we may call its sane parts, is to strengthen and revive the genuine old English feelings and tastes. The author writes no party politics, but his serious passages have generally something of this conservative tendency. Himself obviously one who has mostly resided in the country, he would fain do something towards counteracting the prevalent passion for London-the town itself-the villas in its neighbourhood-(so often crowded with gaieties while the venerable ancestral hall stands desolate)-the metropolitan modes of life, and modes of thought, or rather of thoughtlessness, and the grand cant of the day, that cosmopolitan liberality which hardly condescends to hold one soil or one people as more justly entitled to affection and sympathy than another. He says, for instance

Whatever strengthens our local attachments is favourable both to individual and national character. Our home-our birth-place-our native land;-think, for a while, what the virtues are which arise out of the feelings connected with these words; and if thou hast any intellectual eyes, thou wilt then perceive the connexion between topography and patriotism. Show me a man who cares no more for one


[ocr errors]

place than another, and I will show you in that same person one who loves nothing but himself. Beware of those who are homeless by choice! You have no hold on a human being whose affections are without a tap-root. The laws recognize this truth in the privileges which they confer upon freeholders; and public opinion acknowledges it also, in the confidence which it reposes upon those who have what is called a stake in the country. Vagabond and rogue are convertible terms; and with how much propriety any one may understand who knows what are the habits of the wandering classes, such as gypsies, tinkers, and potters.

The feeling of local attachment was possessed by Daniel Dove, in the highest degree. Spurzheim and the crazyologists would have found out a bump on his head for its local habitation;-letting that quackery pass, it is enough for me to know that he derived this feeling from his birth as a mountaineer, and that he had also a right to it by inheritance, as one whose ancestors had from time immemorial dwelt upon the same estate. Smile not contemptuously at that word, ye whose domains extend over more square miles than there were square roods upon his patrimony! To have held that little patrimony unimpaired, as well as unenlarged, through so many generations, implies more contentment, more happiness, and a more uniform course of steadiness and good conduct, than could be found in the proudest of your genealogies! The most sacred spot upon earth to him was his father's hearth stead. Rhine, Rhone, Danube, Thames, or Tyber, the mighty Ganges, or the mightier Maranon, even Jordan itself, affected his imagination less than the Greta, or Wease, as he was wont to call it, of his native fields; whose sounds, in his boyhood, were the first which he heard at morning, and the last at night; and, during so many peaceful and happy years, made, as it were, an accompaniment to his solitary musings, as he walked between his father's house and his schoolmaster's, to and fro.'—vol. ii., pp. 15-17.

The same strain is elsewhere resumed, when Doctor Dove, now a graduate of Leyden, establishes himself in the pretty town of Doncaster, instead of carrying his great talents and acquirements to the market of London.

'Ordinary people, whether their lot be cast in town or country, in the metropolis or in a village, will go on in the ordinary way, conforming their habits to those of the place. It matters nothing more to those who live less in the little world about them, than in a world of their own, with the whole powers of the head, and of the heart too (if they have one), intently fixed upon some favourite pursuit:—if they have a heart, I say, for it sometimes happens that where there is an excellent head, the heart is nothing more than a piece of hard flesh. In this respect, the highest and the meanest intellects are, in a certain sense, alike self-sufficient; that is, they are so far independent of adventitious aid, that they derive little advantage from society, and suffer nothing from the want of it. But there are others, for whose mental improvement, or at least mental enjoyment, collision and sympathy,

sympathy, and external excitement, seem almost indispensable. Just as large towns are the only places in which first-rate workmen in any handicraft business can find employment, so men of letters, and of science generally, appear to think that nowhere but in a metropolis can they find the opportunities which they desire of improvement or of display. These persons are wise in their generation, but they are not children of light.



Among such persons it may perhaps be thought that our friend should be classed; and it cannot be doubted, that, in a more conspicuous field of action, he might have distinguished himself, and obtained a splendid fortune. But for distinction he never entertained the slightest desire; and with the goods of fortune which had fallen to his share, he was perfectly contented. But was he favourably situated for his intellectual advancement?—which, if such an inquiry had come before him concerning any other person, is what he would have considered to be the question-issimus. I answer, without the slightest hesitation, that he was. In London he might have mounted a physician's wig, have ridden in his carriage, have attained the honours of the college, and added F.R.S. to his professional initials. He might, if fortune, opening her eyes, had chosen to favour desert, have become Sir Daniel Dove, Bart., Physician to his Majesty. But he would then have been a very different person from the Dr. Dove of Doncaster, whose memory will be transmitted to posterity in these volumes, and he would have been much less worthy of being remembered. The course of such a life would have left him no leisure for himself; and metropolitan society, in rubbing off the singularities of his character, would just in the same degree have taken from its strength.

It is a pretty general opinion that no society can be so bad as that of a small country town; and certain it is that such towns offer little or no choice. You must take what they have, and make the best of it. But there are not many persons to whom circumstances allow much latitude of choice anywhere except in those public places, as they are called, where the idle and the dissipated, like birds of a feather, flock together. In any settled place of residence, men are circumscribed by station and opportunities, and just as much in the capital as in a provincial town. No one will be disposed to regret this, if he observes, where men have most power of choosing their society, how little benefit is derived from it; or, in other words, with how little wisdom it is used.

'After all, the common varieties of human character will be found distributed in much the same proportion everywhere; and in most places there will be a sprinkling of the uncommon ones. Everywhere you may find the selfish and the sensual, the carking and the careful, the cunning and the credulous, the worldling and the reckless. But kind hearts are also everywhere to be found-right intentions, sober minds, and private virtues-for the sake of which let us hope that God may continue to spare this hitherto highly-favoured nation, not


withstanding the fearful amount of our public and manifold offences." -vol. ii., pp. 244-247.

Another favourite theme with our author is one which has been


so often dwelt upon of late in this Journal, that we may presume our readers to be in possession of most of the important facts bearing on it—namely, the imperious necessity, and most sacred duty, of proceeding to bring into cultivation the enormous tracts of unproductive but improveable land in these kingdoms. This writer details in clear and forcible language the means by which a large morass near Doncaster, called the Potteric Carr, was drained and converted into fertile ground, about the year 1766; and as this example had never before reached our own knowledge, we must extract a portion of the chapter in which it is described. Four thousand acres of bog, whereof that Carr consisted, and upon which common sand, coal ashes, and the scrapings of limestone road, were found the best manure, produce now good crops of grain and excellent pasturage. There are said to be in England and Wales, at this time, 3,984,000 acres of uncultivated but cultivable ground; 5,950,000 in Scotland; 4,900,000 in Ireland; 166,000 in the smaller British islands. Crags, woods, and barren land are not included in this statement. Here are 15,000,000 acres, the worst of which is as good as the morass which has been reclaimed near Doncaster, and the far greater part very materially better.


The money which is annually raised for poor-rates in England and Wales has for some years amounted to from five to six millions. With all this expenditure, cases are continually occurring of death from starvation, either of hunger or cold, or both together; wretches are carried before the magistrates for the offence of lying in the streets or in unfinished houses, when they have not where to hide their heads; others have been found dead by the side of lime-kilns, or brick-kilns, whither they had crept to save themselves from perishing for cold; and untold numbers die of the diseases produced by scanty and unwholesome food. This money, moreover, is for the most part so applied, that they who have a rightful claim upon it receive less than, in justice, in humanity, and according to the intent of a law wisely and humanely enacted, ought to be their portion; while they who have only a legal claim upon it, that claim arising from an evil usage which has become prescriptive, receive pay, where justice, policy, and considerate humanity, and these very laws themselves if rightly administered, would award restraint or punishment. Thus it is in those parts of the United Kingdom where a provision for the poor is directly raised by law. In Scotland, the proportion of paupers is little less, and the evils attendant upon poverty are felt in an equal or nearly equal degree. In Ireland they exist to a far greater extent, and may truly be called terrible. Is it fitting that this should be while there are fifteen millions of cultivable acres lying waste? Is it possible to conceive grosser improvidence in a nation, grosser


folly, grosser ignorance of its duty and interest, or grosser neglect of both, than are manifested in the continuance and growth and increase of this enormous evil, when the means of checking it are so obvious; and that too by a process in which every step must produce direct and tangible good?


But while the Government is doing those things which it ought not to have done, and leaves undone those things which it ought to do, let parishes and corporations do what is in their power for themselves. And bestir yourselves in this good work, ye who can! The supineness of the Government is no excuse for you. It is in the exertions of individuals that all national reformation must begin. Go to work cautiously, experimentally, patiently, charitably, and in faith! I am neither so enthusiastic as to suppose, nor so rash as to assert, that a cure may thus be found for the complicated evils arising from the condition of the labouring classes. But it is one of those remedial means by which much misery may be relieved, and much of that profligacy that arises from hopeless wretchedness be prevented. It is one of those means from which present relief may be obtained, and future good expected. It is the readiest way in which useful employment can be provided for the industrious poor. And if the land so appropriated should produce nothing more than is required for the support of those employed in cultivating it, and who must otherwise be partly or wholly supported by the poor-rates, such cultivation would even then be profitable to the public. Wherever there is heath, moor, or fen-which there is in every part of the island—there is work for the spade; employment and subsistence for man is to be found there -and room for him to increase and multiply for generations.'-vol. ii., pp. 27-30.

Among the many beautiful detached passages of Christian reflection which occur in this strange book, we have been particularly struck with one suggested by a melancholy page in the writings of Sir Egerton Brydges, who is well characterized here as an elegant, and wise, and thoughtful author.' The baronet had said:


• The of a cultivated mind is often more complacent, and even age more luxurious, than the youth. It is the reward of the due use of the endowments bestowed by nature: while they who in youth have made no provision for age, are left like an unsheltered tree, stripped of its leaves and its branches, shaking and withering before the cold blasts of winter. In truth, nothing is so happy to itself and so attractive to others, as a genuine and ripened imagination, that knows its own powers, and throws forth its treasures with frankness and fearlessness. The more it produces, the more capable it becomes of production; the creative faculty grows by indulgence; and the more it combines, the more means and varieties of combinations it discovers. When death comes to destroy that mysterious and magical union of capacities and acquirements which has brought a noble genius to this point of power, how frightful and lamentable is the effect of the stroke


« PreviousContinue »