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DIARY OF A BLASÉ.1
Brussels, May 22nd. AMONG the lions of Brussels, a dog was pointed out to me, as he lay on the pavement in front of the House of Assembly. It was a miserable looking cur; but he had a tale extra attached to him, which had magnified him into a lion. It was said that he belonged to a Dutch soldier, who was killed in the revolution, at the spot where the dog then lay, and that ever since, (a period of four years,) the animal had taken up his quarters there, and invariably lain upon that spot. Whether my informant lied, and the dog did not, I cannot pretend to say ; but if the story be true, it was a most remarkable specimen of fidelity and ugliness. And he was a sensible dog, moreover; instead of dying of grief and hunger, as some foolish dogs have done, he always sets off for an hour every evening to cater for his support, and then returns to pass the night on the spot. I went up to him, and when within two yards, he thought proper to show his teeth, and snarl most dogmatically; I may therefore, in addition to his other qualities, state that he was an ill-natured dog. How far the report was correct, I cannot vouch; but I watched him three or four days, and always found him at his post; and after such strict investigation, had I asserted ten years instead of four, I have a prescriptive right, as a traveller, to be believed.
It is singular that it is only in England that you can find dogs, properly so called; abroad they have nothing but curs. I do not know any thing more puzzling than the genealogy of the animals you meet with under the denomination of dogs in most of the capitals of Europe. It would appear as if the vice of promiscuous and unrestricted intercourse had been copied from their masters; and I am almost tempted to assert, that you may judge of the morality of a capital from the degeneracy of the dogs. I have often, at Paris, attempted to make out a descent, but found it impossible. Even the late Sir G. Naylor, with all the herald's office even for double fees, could not manage to decipher escutcheons obliterated by so many crosses.
I am very partial to dogs, and one of my amusements, when abroad, is to watch their meetings with each other; they appear to me to do every thing but speak. Indeed, a constant and acute observer will distinguish in dogs all the passions, virtues, and vices of men; and it is generally the case, that those of the purest race have the nobler qualifications. You will find devotion, courage, generosity, good temper, sagacity, and forbearance; but these virtues, with little alloy, are only to be found in the pure breeds. In a cur it is quite a lottery; he is a most heterogeneous compound of virtue and vice, and sometimes the amalgamation is truly ludicrous. Notwithstanding which,
Continued from vol. xiii. p. 356.
a little scrutiny of his countenance and his motions, will soon enable you to form a very fair estimate of his general character and disposition.
One of the most remarkable qualities in dogs is the fidelity of their attachments; and the more so, as their attachments are very often without any warrantable cause. For no reason that can be assigned, they will take a partiality to people or animals, which becomes so dominant, that their existence appears to depend upon its not being interfered with. I had an instance of this kind, and the parties are all living. I put up at a livery stables in town, a pair of young ponies, for an hour or two. On my taking them out again, the phaeton was followed by a large coach dog, about two years old, a fine grown animal, but not marked, and in very poor condition. He followed us into the country; but having my establishment of dogs, (taxes taken into consideration,) I ordered him to be shut out. He would not leave the iron gates, and when they were opened, in he bolted, and hastening to the stables, found out the ponies, and was not to be dislodged from under the manger without a determined resistance. This alternate bolting in and bolting out continued for many days; finding that I could not get rid of him, I sent him away forty miles in the country; but he returned the next day, expressing the most extravagant joy at the sight of the ponies, who, strange to say, were equally pleased, allowing him to put his paws upon them, and bark in their faces. But although the ponies were partial to the dog, I was not; and aware that a voyage is a great specific for curing improper attachments, I sent the dog down the river in a barge, requesting the men to land him where they were bound, on the other side of the Medway; but in three days the dog again made his appearance, the picture of famine and misery. Even the coachman's heart was melted, and the rights and privileges of his favourite snowwhite terrier were forgotten. It was therefore agreed, in a cabinet council held in the harness room, that we must make the best of it ; and, as the dog would not leave the ponies, the best thing we could do, was to put a little flesh on his bones, and make him look respectable. We therefore victualled him that day, and put him on our books with the purser's name of Pompey. Now this dog proved that sudden as was his attachment to the ponies, it was of the strongest quality. He never would and never has since left these animals. If turned out in the fields, he remains out with them, night as well as day, taking up his station as near as possible half way between the two, and only coming home to get his dinner. No stranger can enter their stables with impunity, for he is very powerful, and on such occasions very savage. A year or two after his domiciliation, I sold the ponies, and the parties who purchased were equally anxious at first to get rid of the dog; but their attempts like mine were unavailing, and like me, they at last became reconciled to him. On my return from abroad, I repurchased them, and Pompey of course was included in the purchase.
We are none of us perfect—and Pompey had one vice; but the cause of the vice almost changed it into a virtue. He had not a correct feeling relative to meum and tuum, but still he did not altogether steal for himself, but for his friends as well. Many have witnessed the fact of the dog stealing a loaf, or part of one, taking it into the stables, and dividing it into three portions, one for each pony, and the other for himself. I recollect his once walking off with a round of beef, weighing seventeen or eighteen pounds, and taking it to the ponies in the field-they smelt at it, but declined joining him in his repast. By-the-by, to prove that lost things will turn up some day or another, there was a silver skewer in the beef, which was not recovered until two years afterwards, when it was turned up by the second ploughing. One day as the ponies were in the field where I was watching some men at work, I heard them narrating to a stranger the wonderful feats of this dog, for I have related but a small portion. The dog was lying by the ponies as usual, when the servants' dinnerbell rang, and off went Pompey immediately at a hard gallop to the house to get his food. “Well, dang it, but he is a queer dog," observed the man, “ for now he's running as fast as he can, to answer the bell.”
May 23rd. With all the errors of the Catholic religion, it certainly appears to me that its professors extend towards those who are in the bosom of their own church a greater share than most other sects, of the true spirit of every religion--charity. The people of the Low Countries are the most bigoted Catholics at present existing, and in no one country is there so much private as well as public charity. It is, however, to private charity that I refer. In England there is certainly much to be offered in extenuation, as charity is extorted by law to the uttermost farthing. The baneful effects of the poor laws have been to break the links which bound together the upper and lower classes, produced by protection and good will in the former, and in the latter, respect and gratitude. Charity by act of parliament has dissolved the social compact-the rich man grumbles when he pays down the forced contribution-while the poor man walks into the vestry with an insolent demeanour, and claims relief, not as a favour but as a right. The poor laws have in themselves the essence of revolution, for if you once establish the right of the poor man to any portion of the property of the rich, you admit a precedent so far dangerous, that the poor may eventually decide for themselves what portion it may be that they may be pleased to take, and this becomes the more dangerous, as it must be remembered, that the effect of the poor laws is repulsion between the two classes, from the one giving unwillingly, and the other receiving unthankfully. How the new Poor Law Bill will work remains to be proved; but if we may judge from the master-piece of the Whigs, the Reform Bill, from which so much was expected, and so little has been obtained, I do not anticipate any good result from any measure brought forward by such incapable bunglers. But to return.
That the Catholic laity are more charitable is not a matter of surprise, as they are not subjected to forced contributions; but it appears to me that the Catholic clergy are much more careful and kind to their flocks than our own. How, indeed, can it be otherwise, when even now the majority of our clergymen are non-residents, expending the major part of the church revenue, out of the parish, leaving to the curate, who performs the duty, a stipend which renders it impossible for him to exercise that part of his Christian duty to any extentfor charity begins at home, and his means will not allow him to proceed much farther.
But the public charitable institutions abroad are much better conducted than those of England, where almost every thing is made a job by hypocrites, who work their way into these establishments for their own advantage. It is incredible the number of poor people who are effectually relieved on the continent in the course of the year, at an expense which would not meet the weekly disbursements of a large parish in England. But then, how much more judicious is the system! I know for a fact, that in the county where I reside, and in which the hard-working labourer, earning his twelve shillings a week, is quite satisfied if he can find sufficient bread for his family, (not tasting meat, perhaps, ten times during the whole year,) that those who were idlers, supported by charity, were supplied with meat three or four times a week; nay, even the felons and prisoners in the county gaol were better fed than was the industrious working man. And this is what in England is called charity. It is base injustice to the meritorious. But most of the charitable institutions in England are, from mal-administration, and pseudo-philanthropy, nothing more than establishments holding out premiums for vice. I should like to be despotic in England for only one year !!
Among the institutions founded by Catholics, and particularly deserving of imitation, that of the Sæurs de la Charité appears to be the most valuable. It is an institution, which, like mercy, is twice blessed, it blesses those who give, and those who receive. Those who give, because many hundreds of females, who would otherwise be thrown upon the world, thus find an asylum, and become useful and valuable members to society. They take no vows—they only conform to the rules of the sisterhood during the time that they remain in it, and if they have an opportunity, by marriage or otherwise, of establishing themselves, they are at free liberty to depart. How many young women, now forced into a wretched, wicked life, would gladly incorporate themselves into such a society in England; how many, if such a society existed, would be prevented from falling into error!
It is well known, that to support a large community, the expenses are trifling compared to what they are when you have the same number of isolated individuals to provide for. A company of two or three hundred of these sisters living together, performing among themselves the various household duties, washing, &c., and merely requiring their food, would not incur the same expense in house rent, firing, and provisions, as thirty or forty isolated individuals. Soldiers in barracks are even well fed, housed, and clothed, at a much less expense than it costs the solitary labourer to eat his dry bread in his own cottage ; and the expenses of such communities, if once established, would very soon be paid by their receipts.
Sept. 1835.--VOL. XIV.-NO. LII.
It would be a double charity, charity to those who would willingly embrace the life, and charity to those who might require their assistance. It is well known how difficult it is to obtain a sick nurse in London. It is an avocation seldom embraced by people, until they are advanced in years, and all feeling has been dried up by suffering or disappointment. Those who undertake the task are only actuated by gain, and you can expect but eye-service. Not being very numerous, and constantly in demand, they are overworked, and require stimulants in their long watchings. In fact, they drink and dosedose, and drink again.
But how different would it be if these establishments were formed ! Those who are wealthy would send for one of the sisters when required, and if the illness were tedious, her services could be replaced by another, so that over-fatigue might not destroy watchfulness and attention to the patient. You would at once feel that you had those in your house in whom you could confide. If your means enabled you, you would send a sum to the funds of the charity in return for the service performed, and your liberality would enable them to succour those who could only repay by blessings. A very small subscription would set afloat such a charity, as the funds would so rapidly come in; and if under the surveillance of the medical men who attended the hospitals, it would soon become effective and valuable. I trust if this should meet the eye of any real philanthropist who has time to give, which is more valuable than money, that he will turn it over in his mind; the founder would be a benefactor to his country. And may it also find favour in the sight of those who are so busy legislating for cattle and the Lord's day—perhaps even my friends Buxton and Lushington will take it up, for, as the dress of the sisterhood is invariably black, at all events, it will be the right colour.
May 25th. I have been reading Bulwer's “ Student," and I prefer some parts of it to all his other writings. As a whole “ Eugene Aram” is the most perfect; but either Bulwer mistrusts his own powers, or I am mistaken when I assert, that he is capable of much more than he has yet achieved. What he has as yet done, is but the clearing off before you arrive at the heart of the quarry. His style, as a specimen of the English language, richly, yet not meretriciously ornamented, is peculiar to himself. There is room for much disquisition in many parts of the “ Student," and I doubt if Bulwer could hold his ground, if many of his premises were attacked, as although always brilliant and original, they are not always satisfactory. His remarks upon authors and their works are most assailable. I agree with him, as I do with the phrenologists, only in part; however, as a brother author, I will do him a friendly turn, and bring forward evidence in support of his arguments.
In reading Mrs. Trollope's “ Belgium," I observed, that in every chapter, she expatiated on gastronomy. I think that I reckoned eight-and-twenty times in the two widely printed volumes, and I