Obrázky stránek
[ocr errors]

assertions of sensitive young ladies (who have chicken at command) to the contrary. Indeed, it has always struck me that going without a dinner must be provocative of a vast deal of pathos ; and that it is rather unfair to make such an outcry about " woes that rend the breast," while the pangs and twinges of the contiguous parts of the body, on a descending scale, are never taken into consideration by those who have never felt them. If this view of things be correct-and it is correct-how much intense suffering does the blessed sun look down upon every day! Ah! who that has seen the gaunt, shrivelled frame-the sharpened features—the bloodless, compressed lips, and sunken greedy eye which famine produces, but has felt sick at heart, and inwardly prayed to be preserved, above all things, from inanition. The omission of even such commonplace things as victuals, will, in an astonishingly short time, convince the most wretchedly romantic youth that ever fell in love, folded his arms, and turned his face moonwards, of the excellent properties, moral and physical, of a beef-steak.

The afflictions which poverty brings with it in the country are as nothing to the infinity of evils in which it enmeshes those who are cooped up cities. In the country, though the beds of the poor


be hard, and their food coarse, and their raiment ragged, they have at least the free fresh air of heaven to blow upon them, and they enjoy the changes and delights which the ever-varying seasons bring around, in common with the wealthiest. The odor of the flower is as grateful to their sense the warble of the bird as pleasant to their ear—and the velvet turf as soft and elastic to their tread as to that of the man of many acres. With only the cost of a little care, liberal nature clusters the briery rose about their lowly windows, and twines the graceful woodbine around their humble doors; and not unfrequently in the prime of summer, the mean clay walls of their cottages are completely buried from the view beneath a mass of vegetative beauty and fragrance. The village school gives their children at least glimmerings of knowledge, and the bell of each returning sabbath calls them (seldom in vain) to their simple village church. They have many, very many hardships and difficulties to wrestle with, but they have at least a chance afforded them of being hardy, healthy men and women; and, in the calm of evening (despite of partial and exaggerated statements to the contrary) there are still hundreds of poor peasants that can stand at their cottage doors and feel that content and happiness are not merely empty sounds. But, alas ! for the “city's pale abortions ;"—alas ! for the child born amid sin and gin in a confined, filthy London court or alley, down which not even a straggling breath of pure air, by any accident, ever found its way. What a place for infancy-for the gleesome sports of childhood! But such have no infancythey never are children (except in stature). The springs of life are poisoned in the outset, and the unind, as it gradually unfolds, is as gradually soiled and tainted by all the urchin sees, and hears, and learns. It never has the undoubting confidence and frankness of a child, but becomes at once a premature adult in head and heart; and is almost as knowing, lynx-eyed, artful and suspicious as the fully-developed sinners by whom it is surrounded. Where is the wonder if a few more years fulfil its destiny, and bring it to the convict ship or the gallows? The greatest miracle is, that the lowest of the low in London-surrounded as they hourly are by debasing influences--retain so many human sympathies and kindly feelings as they do, and as they frequently evince towards each other.*

* * None are all evil,” says Byron. A poor street-walker, remarkable for the kindness and gentleness of her disposition, and who was generally known amongst her class by the appellation of “handsome Polly," lately, in a fit of despair, finished her career by throwing herself into one of the canals. Her body was handed over to the civi}

Poor wretches ! Virtue should have lenity on one hand and toleration on the other, when she overlooks their accounts, and take especial note of the few blossoms of good that spring up in such a wilderness of evil. She ought to act upon the prin: ciple I heard laid down by a bloated hackney coachman, as I passed him one cold frosty morning. “ Now I likes a man as can make allowances,” said he, to an ascetic-looking gentleman, who had hired his vehicle, and was apparently endeavoring to dissuade him from swallowing a glass of gin which he had purchased to settle his nerves, preparatory to starting. " It may all be true what you says, sir, but it's uncoinmon hard on a poor fellow like me.-Now I likes a man as can make allowances !" and without further interlocution he raised the cordial with trembling eagerness to his lips. By the position of the glass he might have

authorities. The frail sisterhood of her district clubbed their mites together, and raised a sum sufficient to bury her, as the saying is, “ decently;" but on waiting on the magistrate for the body, they were informed that it had to be handed over for dissection as a warning to others how they committed suicide ! and they were thus prevented from carrying into execution perchance the only good action they had attempted for years.

“He whom the sword of state doth bear,

Should be as holy as severe." It is to be hoped the worthy magistrate is so; but I very much question

; both the moral and legal justice of his decision.

half emptied it, when a miserable half-clad female, shivering with cold, crawled by, and as she passed looked wistfully in his face. The look was understood. It touched a sympathetic chord in the gindrinker's heart, and he made a full pause-" I say ma'am, you're welcome to a drop this cold morning; it will do you good;"—and with something of natural politeness he handed her the glass. The poor creature curtsied, sighed, thanked him, drank it, and went on. There was delirium-there might be poison in the draught, but it was given with the kindliest feelings, and the offering, whether for good or evil, was at least accompanied by the merit of a self-sacrifice of no trifling magnitude. The man was evidently a drunkard—he might be a blackguard-and, I dare say, was altogether unfitted for universal suffrage; but still he had “an eye for pity," and when, poor fellow ! he has succeeded in drinking himself into some obscure grave, I trust he will then experience the benefit of his maxim of “making allowances.”

Often when tired of walking the noble thoroughfares of London, surrounded by wealth and affluence in every direction, I have turned from them, and taking some lofty church, or other prominent landmark, for a guide, rambled carelessly towards it. I will never forget the melancholy streets I have re


« PředchozíPokračovat »