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frantic resolutions, and not to make a bad use of his liberty. Having obtained it on this condition, he employed the short time he remained in arranging his affairs; and engaged the mistress of a celebrated pension in the neighbourhood, to undertake the care of his child, leaving a sum of money for that purpose sufficient for many years. He had also the precaution to entreat a lady, a native of Geneva, who had been kind to his wife, to visit his poor child sometimes, and see that it was not neglected; and having acquitted himself of this duty, he left the town without taking leave of any one. Those who had been witnesses of his anguish, and who forced him to consent with so much difficulty to make, as it were, a sort of truce with his despair, thought that he had gone to end his life in some violent manner; and how many other comments did the malignity or the idleness of the public make on the death of the baroness! all equally vague, false, and contradictory. With one of these reports Count Hilkoff's name mingled, and dark hints were thrown out concerning him. They said he had been seen to follow her on the evening of her death, when she wandered out so late ; and that when he was informed of her having taken poison, he exhibited marks of the most vehement emotion, but no surprise.
This again was denied by others, who asserted that Count Hilkoff had passed the day at the house of a friend in the country, and had not returned till late at night. Be this as it may, his sorrow for the death of Madame de Clairville seemed little short of that felt by her husband, and he almost immediately left the place with the haste of one who tries to escape from a recollection which is too certain to accompany his flight.
Several years have elapsed since this strange and melancholy scene. I afterwards learnt that M. de Clairville, who had not been heard of during a long interval, at length reappeared in Geneva; but so changed, as to be hardly the shadow of his former self. He was pale and wan, his eyes were sunk lustreless, and his dress neglected; he did not avoid the sight of those whom he had known before, and without explaining more openly than he had hitherto done, the cause of his misfortunes, he confessed that since he quitted Geneva, he had been living in a convent of Westphalia. The sight of his child seemed to revive for a time all the agony of his first emotions; but making an effort against himself, he conquered it, and thanking those who had taken charge of his son, for the kindness with which they fulfilled the trust, he departed -whither, they knew not--but he was gone !
“ Believe me, king of shadows, I mistook."-SHAKSPEARE.
AMONG the worthies who have gained notoriety in these the high and palmy days of quill-driving, it is strange that the notable race of blunderers have never been celebrated. It can hardly be that they are not of sufficient importance, for they literally spread through all the families of the human race; and though they disdain not to shroud with beggars, are yet the intimates of princes and kings : amongst them are some of the veriest sinners that live-of them are crosiered popes, and mitred abbots. The withered old crone who, tottering under the weight of years and woes, is fain to hobble along on a crutch, calls them cousin ; the sylph-like beauty, whose fairy foot scarce crushes the primrose on which it so airily steps, has them in her train. They are spread over every country of the earth: they abound in every clime under heaven.
The number of this widely-extended family is equalled only by its antiquity. The first of the family was Eve: her blunder was decided. And there seems to have been no dearth of blunderers amongst her earliest progeny ; indeed it is said that after the fall they could not open their mouths without error, and that there was but one speech delivered by man before the flood, in which there was not an erroneous conception,” Anglice, BLUNDER. *
Coeval then, or nearly so, with the human race, and scattered-we might rather say spread-over the whole earth, we must inquire in what respect blunderers differ from the rest of human kind, and whether it would be for our advantage to cause, were it possible, their annihilation. We think decidedly it would not; for the first and most general cause of error," essayists say,“ is to be found in the infirmity of human nature;" therefore blunderers are more human, more natural, more loveable than other folks.
Again. “Uncultivated understandings are but bad discerners of verity. The greater part of mankind conceive the earth bigger than the sun, and the fixed stars than the moon, &c. &c. ; thus their sense informeth them, their reason cannot rectify them, they live and die in their absurdities,” i. e., blundering. And where sense and reason fail, shall we take up with the dogmas of blues, philosophers, pedants, and pedagogues ? Forbid it shades of renowned blunderers! When St. Anthony was ridiculed for his ignorance of letters, he asked the selfsufficient philosophers which was the first, reason or learning, and which produced the other. They were obliged to give the preference to the former. “ Yes," said the saint," and this reason or good sense suffices me.” Yet doubtless they had called him blunderer.
Again. “Knowledge is made by oblivion, and, to purchase a clear and warrantable body of truth, we must forget and part with much we know;" showing that learning makes blunderers ; indeed, “ saltimbancoes, quacksalvers, charlatans, astrologers, jugglers, and geomancers,” are quoted as “ insensibly making up the legendary body of error,” and as these were all considered the wise ones of the earth in their day, and the circle is further increased by reference to statists,
Sir Thomas Browne's Vulgar Errors, book i., cap. 2.
politicians, legislators, historians, and divines, we may fairly conclude that the wisest of all ages have been blunderers. Such we believe to be the fact.
Then again, another profound author, Lord Bacon, enumerates a tendency to hasty assent among the idols of the understanding by which we are diverted from the truth, that is,-caused to blunder. Therefore, blundering is essentially an amiable propensity, and in annihilating blunderers we should at one blow exterminate all the kind, good-natured, obliging people in the world.
But if it indeed be so, if the blunderers of the world have been really the greatest and wisest and most amiable of those who have trodden its stage, how is it that they have found no historians ? The poets, as poets, are celebrated ; the philosophers, as such, are immortalized;
characteristics” of women (barring blunders) have been sweetly warbled about; the elderly” gentlemen and ladies are comfortably ensconced in every elegant boudoir in the country; highwaymen have their chroniclers, parish-boys their biographers; but blunderers, the most noted family in creation, are hitherto uncelebrated.
Only imagine a world without blunderers and blunders. The very idea puts one to sleep. The somnolent race “do nothing, and not quite that;" for what else is there to do? There are no brave admirals to “go it" for their country's fame; such conduct would be called blundering: there are no brave soldiers who make such blunders as
not to know when they are beaten." In perfect peaceful uniformity, day succeeds to day, and week to week in a valley whose surrounding hills heave from the plain so gently, that even the rivulets have some trouble to trickle down, and amid gardens, the very perfection of order, where not even a rose roams from its trellis to break the smooth uniformity of the lawn, and where even the sunbeams are never too radiant, but gentle and tranquil, and suited to a race who never make blunders.
Happily no such Utopia exists. Sir Thomas More fancied one after his own fashion, and what was the result? The learned Budæus and others, thought it expedient that missionaries should be sent thither to convert the nation to Christianity. This has been represented as a serious blunder on the part of these wise men, who, in that age of discovery, supposed Utopia to be a real country. Was it not rather a stroke of refined satire to show their opinion, and a valuable one it is, of the ignorance of people who could not-blunder.
In fact, blundering is the salt of life. Little as we know of politics, we see that blunders are the very employment of those who sit in high places, and the very life and delight of those that watch them. In the literary world, the analogy still holds. Blunders are as valuable to authors as discords to musicians. Indeed they are much the same. A plot could no more be brought round, or a catastrophe completed without the blunder of somebody, than a fine piece of musical harmony could be achieved without the seventh and its inversions. A modern author exists on the blunders of his predecessors, as his successors will revel on his; and he who brings most blunders into the field, may fairly be considered as a philanthropic labourer, planting seeds of which future generations will cull the fruits.
And blundering is decidedly poetical. It is asked in a late publica
tion,* whether it be not “a sufficient account of the poetical to say that it is applied to those traits, or details, or accidents, which strike us as more • expressive than ordinary ?" Now what can be more pressive" than a blunder? What else speaks so expressively, so unequivocally home to the senses? Why, circumstances which, if duly and regularly performed, would excite no comment-would not be heard, nor seen, nor thought of—become by blundering trumpettongued, and, for the time, infinitely elevated above their ordinary" position. Therefore they become poetical : and, as they become so, are not innately so--but become so in consequence of the expressive" tone which they derive from blundering—it is in blundering that the poetical stamina must reside. Therefore blundering is poetical.
Nor is the converse of this proposition less tenable, viz., that poets are blunderers. All history, all antiquity, unites in portraying poets as a thin, pale, long-limbed, sallow, cadaverous, hungry race, holloweyed and long-visaged, with threadbare clothes, empty pockets, and stomachs emptier still; and with eyes
“In a fine frenzy rolling, Glancing from heaven to earth, and earth to heaven," but glancing not throughout the long-extended vista on a particle which they can call their own—what is it thus, at such cost, to pursue an unsubstantial shadow, a phantom of the mind, a vision, a dream, butblundering? And such must have been the opinion of that parliament of James I., which passed" an act to prevent the further growth of Poetry" in England.
It would be endless to trace the progress of blundering through the annals of literature. The classic fables, the delight alike of the ancient and modern world, had mostly their foundation in the natural tendency to error above alluded to; as, e.g., the Centaurs, who originally were some Thessalians on horseback watering their horses, and while the heads of the steeds were depressed in the act of drinking, the distant spectators supposed horse and rider to be one animal, and reported accordingly. Similar matter-of-fact explanations might be given of the wings of Dedalus and Icarus, of Niobe, of Actæon, of Charon, of Briareus, &c. &c.; all of whose marvellous achievements and properties had their origin in the “natural tendency to error," otherwise in the credulity of mankind. But who would willingly destroy the charm of all these romances by thus analyzing them? Who would not sooner have the original blunders, and suppose, for instance, that Medea was really a famous sorceress, and held the gift of youth and beauty in her hands, rather than be told that she possessed the prototypes of Oldridge's “Balm of Columbia" and " Rowland's Kalydor," and so, like these modern sorcerers, she could turn gray hair black, and recal, or rather imitate, the bloom of youth on the faded cheek.
The gorgeous fictions of the middle ages, are all based upon this allpervading principle of humanity, and it equally characterizes the literary productions of later days. Indeed, the blunders of authors
British Critic, October, 1838. + This blunder was made : the object of the bill was to prevent the growth of Popery.
| A similar blander is said to bave been committed by the people of New Spain, when they first beheld the Spanish cavalry.
are a never-ending theme, and all the difference between good authors and bad seems to be, that the former blunder more naturally. We might give innumerable examples of literary blunders, but we will merely cite a few from one author, whom all allow to be a model, whom all would be proud to imitate, though none ever hope to rival; and one, therefore, who (we must suppose) would not have made use of blunders, but from a high idea of their value and respectability.
Shakspeare's character of Juliet, is one on which it would be quite a work of supererogation to say much. So exquisitely gentle and feminine, yet so firmly and so heroically devoted and true; simple and unassuming as a child, yet with an intensity and depth of passionate feeling, which in its vortex of excitement bears along as feathers, rank, splendour, riches, youth, health, and life itself, she must ever be looked upon with admiration and delight. But it is the fiery trials to which she is subjected, that give to Juliet's charaeter its deep and everwhelming pathos. Had her marriage proved happy, and had the feuds of the two parties been brought to an earlier and happier period, we should have thought comparatively little of Juliet. But the master-hand ordained it otherwise.
“For never was a story of more woe,
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo." And how are all these engrossing and wildly pervading woes caused ? By a succession of blunders. Had Balthasar not, in his indiscreet zeal, affirmed blunderingly that Juliet was dead, Romeo had not bought poison; and though bought, yet would it not have been used if Friar John had not so blunderingly prosecuted his inquiries, as to render it impossible for him to execute his commission.
Again Paris sees “that banish'd haughty Montague," and sup
“ Is come to do some villanous shame
To the dead bodies." a most egregious blunder, which costs him his life. And yet all is not over : hope still exists; the lovers may yet be happy. No: in spite of love, of hope-in spite of “beauties ensign," yet “ crimson" in her lips and in her cheeks, Romeo supposes she is dead. The last and fatal blunder,
In Othello, a fatal blunder pervades the whole tragedy, and that is the faith which the Moore places in Iago's honesty, but the pivot on which the catastrophe turns, is the blunder about the handkerchief; and even this might not have been fatal, had not Desdemona unwittingly completed the deception. Her prevarication about the handkerchief, when truthful decision might have saved all--for Othello, though impetuous, was frank and generous,—was a decided blunder ; perhaps at the moment from timidity, but doubtless having its birth in that innate propensity to error, to blunder, which we have remarked as being coeval, nearly, with the human race.
“We are not only inclined,” says a graceful writer, " to forgive Beatrice all her scornful airs, all her biting
jests, all her assumption of superiority: but they amuse and delight us the more, when we find her, with all the headlong simplicity of a child, falling at once into the snare laid for her affections," i. e., blundering : and Benedick, who at the very first glimpse of her accidental approach, exclaims, “ Will your grace command me any service to the world's end? I will go on the