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This may be poetry, said a friend at my elbow; but it won’t make you rich or fill your stomach. No, it won't, answered I; and since that time I’ve crush'd all poetic sensibility, and now I’m an item in this dull working-day world. But what’s all this stuff to do with vacation ? Much, Mr. Reader, and let me take the moment to tell you that writers tell stories in their own way. They scribble till their fingers ache and to please you ; shan’t they have one immunity ? Shall the mere drudge be theirs : That were to make them pack-horses. Shall the trouble of thinking, writing, copying, daubing, and tearing be borne cheerfully, and when a resting place shows itself, some little field into which fancy may run and play a moment and thereby ease the mind and stop the heart ache, when memory may come with her forms and things and changes and chances, with her hues and brightness and loveliness and music and poetry, with her thousand hopes and dreams and anticipations and cherish’d prospects; when these appear and they turn to them for pleasure, will you rate them and bite : Pooh don’t think on’t. But to the story. And here I may stop to say that as little of the true method of story writing is known in this world, as the principles of steam boats and cotton gins in the planet Jupiter. The rage is the high pressure system. Every thing must be highly peppered. Every thing must be done by volcanoes and rail roads. Nature is obsolete. Ease and freedom are a pair of simpletons. Simplicity is a misnomer. We are all huzza boys and fire. Thought is not thought, now-a-days. Virtue is not virtue. Truth is not truth. Philosophy is not philosophy. It's all rant, and stuffs, and sustian. This is especially true in literature. Look at its great founder, archetype and engineer, Edward Lytton Bulwer. He'll discourse an hour with a thought, and paint a character ‘such as gods and men don’t approve of.” The pure sountains of English have been more defiled by this man, than by all the writers of the present age put together. This is our opinion. He's a giant, however. There's no doubt of this. A man of deep and extensive readings, but withall as strange an admixture of truth and folly as ever flung ink-horns at paper-mills. But to return. A moment more, however, if you please, sir, while I essay a bit about the benefit of fictitious composition. I urge its claims on the ground of mental perfection. What is a persect mind? Obviously one whose faculties are so developed and trained, that each contributes its quota to the business of analysis. To secure this we want logic for the reason, and something for the imagination. Now novels are the very things. They are imaginative. Tis therefore a natural deduction, that novels have their part to perform in balancing the mind. They are preferable to #." because they lie less. Poets always lie. They aim at it. e who does not know this, does not understand their principles. Tis the peculiar province of poetry to be extravagant, and by a sort of witching tact impose on the understanding, the mind all the while conscious of the imposition, yet putting up with it because so skillfully done. Novels are similar, yet less daring; serving to render us less unfit for life, at the same time giving us a glimpse of the land of pure imagination beyond it. Novels may be said to have the same relation to poetry that the flight of the thrush has to the lark; the one contenting itself with the altitude of the tree top, while the other rising in a spiral curve ceases not its sweet chant till lost in the clouds.
There, reader, I’ve done.
Done! where is your story
Story ! bless you, sir, I’ve no story to tell you.
Providence never blesses a man with any particular good, but right along side of it we find some evil or other to counteract it. A long run of good luck would’nt do ; we should forget what a place the world is; therefore every cup we have must have more or less poison in it to remind us of our mortality. I was never more struck with this than during the last vacation; a little circumstance transpiring which tended to exemplify pretty clearly the flimsiness of prospective happiness. Three weeks had rolled by me, and recruited as to health and spirits I resolved to break up the monotony of vacation by traveling; so setting myself in order I hailed the coach as it wheeled by our door, and began my journey. I was not to go very far for my first stage, and a lady for whom I had a sort of penchant lived in the next village; so I rigged myself before starting in a beautiful new suit, the latest cut of Messrs. - , that no time might be lost when I got there for ‘showing up' the agreeable. Now getting into a stage coach is the devil. The swearing and tearing of drivers, the hustling and bustling of travelers, the ill-savored politeness with which the passengers make room for you, the crashing of band-boxes, (by the way, no lady is allowed to carry over seven,) the O la's of maids and millinery, the rousting up of old ladies from comfortable naps in the corners of the vehicle, all these are horrible ; and to a man partially humanized as I profess to be, this putting to trouble my fellow sinners on these occasions is what I dread like a tooth-ache. Hence as I said, getting into a stage coach is the devil. After the usual trouble, however, after stepping on one man's toes that made him swear terribly, and meeting a demolishing look from a lady of a certain age, into whose poke bonnet I jammed my elbow as I settled into my seat, and after having knocked the skin from my knees against the door lock as I stepped into the coach, I got fixed and began to look about me. My neighborhood was an odd one. On my right was a full plethoric old Irish gentleman, that every time we whacked against a stone, cried out ‘Och' and that's a good un, honey thriver;' while on the same side on the front seat and facing him, sat a huge widow looking dowdy, whose time was alternately occupied in toying with a little nasty vulgar looking boy, and stuffing him with gingerbread. Now there's nothing on earth I love so as a glorious looking boy, a real right down magnificent little fellow, whose fair cheeks, bright
eyes and glossy locks make you want to eat him. I always think of Willis's lines—
“There's something in a noble boy,
With his uncheck'd, unbidden joy,
and feel their fine force like a frenzy. I can play with one for hours, loll on the green grass with him, talk nonsense with him, pull him about, watch his eye, catch his clear silver shout, and forget I am growing old. It tempers one into the finest humanity. Some sealed fount in the heart is made to gush up again. We find the world is not as it looks to our soberer eye. We find there is after all, a life and loveliness, a freshness and poetry in it, and we turn from its mad whirl and seek them in life's quieter paths.
But it makes one sad though. However, tis the sorrow, not the sickness of the heart. Tis the merry voiced Spring mated with the gorgeous grandeur of the Autumn. Most of us have sat in a room a thousand times where a fine boy was playing, and looked at him till the heart ached. We think of the little fellow’s life. We think of what’s before him. We think with what a shock, as it were, he must wake from his young dreams. We think how many times he must kick his little toes against the thorns where he expected nothing but roses. Aye, we never look at them but the heart aches; for though they may find pleasure, they will as certainly find the bitterness of life.
But there's another side of the question.
If I love a fine boy, there's nothing I detest more than an ugly one. Let Providence never make me the ‘particular relation’ of one; if it do, I shall certainly be tried for manslaughter. I want to murder them right off. I don’t want they should drink in the light of the living. I want them to grow up in the woods and wilds their proper place, with beasts and bears. Nobody loves them; nobody looks at them ; nobody plays with them ; no ladies kiss them; proving conclusively (the last item especially) that they were made for some other planet besides this. But lest I be thought hard hearted here, I desire to state that as yet I never have killed one. No, no, I have a little of that unhandsome quality about me called pity. I remember my own childhood. I remember my own grey eyes and stiff carroty hair. I remember my own sufferings. No, I never pain the little fellows. They get slights enough from others—a fact that proves the world is ‘devil-born' clearer than any thing I know of. The heart so dead to every thing which is truly magnanimous that it can scout the sweet feelings of children, plain enough came from a bad place, and the sooner it gets back there the better.
We think children don’t feel these things. Softly, softly, sir, some boys are more observing than men. Children are always observing, and none more so than your ugly ones. Their thoughts dwell on their looks and they become sensitive. I ever observe it. Hence I always pick from a company the homely boy (provided he is not dirty, this I can't bear) and treat him kindly ; he never forgets it.
Part of the last sentence is pat, and brings me back to my subject. The little boy of the stage, before mentioned, had’nt been washed since his birth. Perched on the seat directly in front, his legs not long enough to dangle, there he sat his feet sticking strait out, much to the detriment of my drab breeches. Let it not be forgotten that he had taken particular pains to walk near a mud puddle that morning, and the filling up of the picture is left to the reader's imagination.
“Soley like-a-te ride-in-e tagey f’’
“Soley like-a-te get sickey *
“Soley like-a-te gingerbread :''
O, horror! If there's any thing detestable, any custom, any abuse in society, any abomination of which I vote a clean riddance, it is your baby-talk in stage coaches. And yet passengers are gagged with it every twenty miles. I’ll admit your boy, madam, is a prodigy, a Solomon, a Joseph, a Moses, or any thing you please, only for pity’s sake keep it to yourself. Cherish it, love it, adore it, pet it, fondle it to your heart's content, but ‘let your moderation be known.” The world don't overlook greatness, and be assured if he ever rises to the dignity of law-giver, we shall certainly know it. Precocious gentlemen turn out bad. Boys can’t be men. The world thinks so. However, if he is a genius, don’t let him burst on the world in bib and tucker with gingerbread in his mouth. Take my word for it, madam, it troubles the stomach.
“Murder l’ shouted the stage en masse—we struck a stone.
“Och! and that's a good un, honey,” roared the Irishman.
“O ! mum,” cried Master Soley, “thee the gentleman's trowsers.”
The look shook me like a palsy. There it was—the jolt had brought “Soley' and me into collision, and both of his feet the one on one of my knees and the other on the other, had left their prints as large as life. I’m not given to swearing; but an oath mounted my tongue as big as a chain-shot. It looked for all the world as if I had been kneeling in a stable, and forgotten to wipe the dust off as I rose up. “Madam ''' thundered I, “your boy ought to be pitched from the window.” “Sir,” retorted the lady with the dignity of a Semiramis, and a strong accent on the word sir, “Sir, the man who has’nt equanimity enough to bear with patience the ills of life, is a brute.” Whew Plato in petticoats. “Sir, patience is manly; remember Job.” “Job, madam | Job's drab breeches never looked thus.” “Och and that's a good un, honey,” chimed the Irishman. “Soley, you won't hit the gentleman again, will you lovey 2” “Yesh I will, mum, he need’nt put his knees in the way, mum.” “Och! and that’s a good un, honey,” chimed the Irishman. Need’nt put his knees in the way, mum ! you young mud-puddle representative, thought I, grinding my teeth like a tiger. “Don’t be offended,” said the lady deprecatingly. “He’s only eleven last fall. Soley,” addressing the young sprig of Chesterfield, “should’nt be impudent.” “Yesh I will, mum.” “Och and that's a good un, honey.” “If you do I shall whip you, lovey.” “Noa, you won’t, mum; you always say so, mum.” “Och' and that's a good un, honey.” “I’ll give you a big piece of gingerbread, lovey.” “Well, then I wont, mum.” Here was parental government coming out on the whole scale, so I turned away. Let the reader imagine the lady's voice sharp and quick like the snapping of a cane brake, the “Och! and that's a good un, honey,” of the Irishman (the only sentence he uttered during the journey) as rumbling up from the bottom of a volcano, and the words of the boy bolting out with something between a grunt and a nasal twang, and the scene is perfect. Here was a stopping place, so I bolted off into philosophy. What poor fools we are, thought I. What a poor pack horse is human nature. How little we know of the future. A man can’t see the length of his nose, and he have a long one; nor does the joy of today insure a hope to-morrow. I had started full of life and expectation ; I was sleek as a mouse in a band-box; I was starched, perfumed, smoothed, and combed; I was expecting like Don Quixote of old to strike the heart of my Dulcinea. Alas ! how human hopes decay. Mine were gone; my expectations withered ; my laurels dead; my bright airy castles like the mists of the morning. vo L. II. 4