« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
is so affected by these words that he croaks louder than Croaker himself, who says: 'It is a perfect satisfaction to be miserable with you. I'll just step home for my son. And what if I bring my last letter to the Gazeteer on the increase and progress of earthquakes? It will amuse us, I promise you. I there prove how the late earthquake is coming round to pay us another visit, from London to Lisbon, from Lisbon to the Canary Islands, from the Canary Islands to Palmyra, from Palmyra to Constantinople, and so from Constantinople back to London again.' The author shows his knowledge of human nature by making Mrs. Croaker one of the jolliest and happiest of women; as her husband says, 'I believe she could spread a horse-laugh through the pews of a tabernacle.' People condemned to listen to constant croaking are obliged to be jolly in self-defence, otherwise life would become intolerable; and they usually succeed. Have you not observed that the husband of a carping, querulous, discontented woman is usually a good-humoured, kindly fellow, who tries to humour the whims and fancies of his better half, and will not admit to himself or others that she is anything but the best of wives. Such men are the Tapleys of conjugal existence-often sorely tried, but superior to all their trials.
Now it strikes us that Croaker is not altogether an imaginary being. Let the reader reflect for a moment, and he will be able to recall some one in the circle of his own acquaintance who might have sat for this picture-some miserable, yammering, croaking, carping creature, who is always labouring under some imaginary, evil, or anticipating some future woe-who has exhausted the sympathies of others by his constant complaints, and no longer excites their alarm by announcing approaching calamities. It is part of their idiosyncrasy to weep while others rejoice, and to rejoice while others weep. The enjoyment of the present is marred by visions of future evil; but actual misfortune is almost a source of satisfaction.
'Did I not always say so?' is the semi-jubilant croak frequently uttered by one of this class, when he sees his friends or his family overwhelmed by some great sorrow. "There's the advantage,' says Croaker, of fretting away our misfortunes beforehand we never feel them when they come.'
It may be objected that such a croaker is to be seen only on the stage, and never to be met with in real life; our own experience would lead us to an opposite conclusion. We had occasion recently to pass through some of the more intricate and less frequented streets of Westminster. While there is much in that district to interest the antiquary or the student of history, we may as well confess at once that no higher motive than a desire to economize space and time brought us into the vicinity of the Broadway. Our eyes and ears, however, were open to the strange sights and sounds around us, the strangeness of which can only be realized by an actual visit. On turning a corner, our attention was arrested by a large placard fixed on a pole fronting the street. It stood inside a sort of wooden railing which surrounded an open court in front of an old house that stood back some yards from the street. On this placard was a representation of John Bull-not the round, rosy, wellconditioned old fellow familiar to us all, but John Bull in the last stage of deceased respectability and disreputable seediness. His once ample person was so attenuated, that his clothes hung loosely around him; his battered hat was driven violently over his ears; his stockingless toes were peeping through the points of his unpolished boots; to each foot was attached a weight, marked 'Four Hundred Millions of National Debt;' in each hand was a blacking-bottle, with a lighted farthing candle stuck into its mouth. Beneath was an inscription, far from complimentary, demanding if the old dotard would still go on illuminating and rejoicing with a burden of eight hundred millions on his back. There was a sort of coarse, rude humour
in the sketch, which we began to transfer to our note-book. We forgot that we were in a crowded thoroughfare, and that it was impossible to use our pencil in such a place without attracting notice. In a moment or two we were surrounded by an unsavoury multitude, whose curiosity brought them into unpleasant contact with our person, so that we began to close our note-book, and to think of retreating, when an elderly man, of some seventy years of age, with a jolly, good-humoured face, and that certain something in his air which marks the old soldier, advanced from the house, and pointing to the placard, said, 'Do you see the amount? Eight-hundred -millions!' He drawled out each word in an unctuous tone of voice, as if he felt an intense satisfaction in the largeness of the amount. We nodded assent. Well,' he continued, you may safely add another hundred millions without going beyond the mark.' We looked incredulous. But I'll prove it,' he said; and rushing into the house, he returned with a couple of pamphlets, which placed in our hands. We thanked him for the gift, and made off at once, to the evident disappointment of the mob, who had been expecting a passage of arms between us and the British Slave. We mean nothing offensive to one who treated us with much courtesy; we merely use the name which he bestows upon himself. On the outer page of the pamphlet is a portrait of the British Slave, with his large head resting on his ample palm, and an air of intense thought in his somewhat ponderous countenance. In this pamphlet the British Slave, with some inconsistency, calls himself a medical, political, and social reformer. His own abject state has not swallowed up his sympathy for others, or blinded him to their sufferings. As to the State, like Pangloss, he would reform it altogether.' Hamlet more than hinted that there was something rotten in the State of Denmark; but the British Slave has discovered that there is rottenness and nothing else in the State of England. His soul is bent
on reform, and his remarks are 'addressed to the world at large, friend or foe, and especially dedicated to those patrician political patriarchs who, like himself, have passed the age usually allotted to human nature, three score and ten, but (as he charitably hopes and trusts) not all imbecile babblers.' He begins with a croak at Mother Church, which compels him and other British serfs to pay twelve millions annually, whether they believe her doctrines or not. He asserts his right to rank among the great inventors of the age, and mourns over the ingratitude of his country. 'In 1852, at the commencement of the Russian war, at great expense, labour, and anxiety, I invented and constructed a war-machine, which would (if brought into action) have effectually stayed the further effusion of blood, as its destructive powers would instantly have annihilated both armies and navies, field-works and fortifications.' If the war-machine would really have annihilated both armies, we need not be surprised that the Government refused to adopt it. It would certainly have stayed the further effusion of blood, as there would have been no more blood to effuse. But mark the reward which an ungrateful country bestows upon inventive genius. I patented the invention at great expense, and the sole reward I reaped for my patriotic labours was eleven months' imprisonment in the Queen's Bench!" In the future history of science the name of the British Slave will rank with those of Kepler, Galileo, and others, of whom the age in which they lived was not worthy.
The sight of a lawyer's gown has the same effect on the British Slave as a red cloak on a turkey-cock: it rouses him to such a state of frenzy that his utterance becomes somewhat incoherent. He looks upon the Lord Chancellor as his personal foe, and expresses his utter abhorrence of his brigade of horse-hair whigamores, y'clept the "Devil's Own," independent of the squadrons of legal Mawworms who live and thrive on the rotten, putrid state of society.' We feel curious to dis
cover the cause of the hatred everywhere expressed against the bewigged, useless humbugs called the Bar. On reading on we hit upon the secret cause of all this soreness. On one occasion the Slave had availed himself of the professional services of an attorney: their intercourse ripened into the semblance of friendship, and the legal adviser borrowed his client's pamphlet to read. 'I told him he might take as many as he needed, and he staggered from my house with a whole armful, and absolutely had the audacity to charge me, in his so-called "Bill of Costs," £I IS. for perusing the same.' This was the unkindest cut of all. No wonder that from that hour his deluded victim began to wince at the very thought of a lawyer, and that the horse-hair wig became to him the very abomination of desolation.
the fallacies of the Faculty, and place lawyers and doctors in the same category. 'I'll explain to you the difference between dying from law and dying from physic. It is this the lawyer lingers you to death, and the doctor, being licensed to do so, kills you at once.' The British Slave, not being licensed to kill, professes only to cure; and that he is successful in doing so · can be proved by thousands and thousands whom Nature has afflicted with every fearful malady that flesh is heir to.' In pursuing these labours of love he has to work harder than any black slave on a cotton plantation. I am at my post fourteen hours daily, from Sunday morning at ten o'clock till twelve o'clock on Saturday night, and often called up in the dead of the night.' We are afraid that his labours are not of a highly remunerative character; but if any of our readers are afflicted with toothache, it may be satisfactory to them to know that he hauls out a grinder for 3d.,' and is prepared to deal on more liberal terms. Send all your superannuated molars, grinders, &c., to me, and I will take them all out, without trouble, for a penny eacha dozen out in five minutes.' The meaning of this request is not quite clear: it seems to imply a double process of extraction-one by the patient, the other by the operator. All our superannuated grinders and
molars are to be sent to the British Slave; but how can they be sent without being extracted? If they are extracted, how can he take them out? But a certain incoherency is pardonable in one who works fourteen hours a day all the year round. To extract a molar or a grinder for a penny must entitle the operator to rank as a public benefactor: yet there are depths of poverty to which his beneficence cannot reach. What a pang his generous heart must have felt when he penned the following lines:-'There are hundreds of poverty-stricken serfs whom I have to turn from my door every week, they not having means to pay for relief from their sufferings.' Will no one take pity on them?
The British Slave has inventions for curing as well as for killing: his genius, like the spear of Achilles, can heal the wounds it causes. The curative and the destructive powers of nature are equally obedient to his call: he can wield the lancet of Esculapius, or the bow of the fardarting god. 'When the cholera was raging in 1852, and hundreds of poor white slaves, nicknamed Free Britons, were dying around me, I offered to the Government to cure man, woman, or child for 3d. or 8d. per head, and to forfeit £5 for every death which occurred under my treatment.' This was something better than 'No cure, no pay.' But did the Government accept this patriotic offer? If the British Slave succeeded, it was not too much to pay 3d. or 8d. for saving the life of a man, woman, or child' if he failed, the Treasury would gain £5 by every death. But what was the result? I was summoned to Chelsea Hospital, and told that if I did so I should lose my pension.' If he did what? Why, if he cured man, woman, or child he was to lose his pension, which eventually he did lose. And we call this a free country. No wonder that after meeting with this rebuff he should begin to expose
We have penny subscriptions for building churches in destitute districts will no one subscribe to extract the molars and grinders of the poor at a penny a head?
An old Covenanter left a dying protest in which he denounced most things animate and inanimate; the British Slave is as sweeping in his denunciations. Unlike the virtuous man of the poet, who finds good in everything, he finds good only in himself: all besides is anathema. He finds nothing but rottenness in the Senate, the Bar, the Church, the medical profession. No wonder, then, that he lifts up his voice and cries aloud against existing evil. No wonder that he has written to the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, the Lord Chancellor, and Dr. Brady, pointing out the abuses of which he complains: his voice has been as the voice of one crying in the wilderness: they receive his letters, but they answer them not. There is one exception; he writes to Lord Palmerston thus-' My Lord, I write to you, rather indignantly, but still, for the sake of common sense, on account of the gross ignorance which I see daily among the medical profession, which is, lite
rally, and not figuratively, disgusting. I have asked repeatedly both yourself and your colleagues to visit my cabin, and to test my systems and plans, but no notice has yet been taken of my serious applications.' This serious application met with the following answer:— 'I am desired by Lord Palmerston to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, but to inform you that Her Majesty's Government have no control over the practice of the medical profession. Ordinary people would regard this answer as a cool rebuff; but it rejoiced the heart of the British Slave, who, on reading it, exclaims: This letter of courtesy from Palmerston will add another feather in his cap, which will last from generation to generation.' If we were disposed to be critical, we might ask, 'Which is to last from generation to generation-the feather or the cap?' But we are sick of the Slave, as perhaps our readers are, and leave him with the concluding remark that the best answer to his groundless croaking is the fact of such an inveterate croaker being left at large. In any other country of Europe he would be consigned to a madhouse or a prison.
P. C. B.
AN EPISODE IN THE MODERN HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
HE Parliamentary Session of 1771
of 1772 one of the quietest known in those years of political turmoil. The session of 1771 would be notable in our annals, were it only for the raid by the House of Commons among the printers of London newspapers, in which the parliamentary debates were being published much more frequently and fully than ever before. Some of them were brought to the bar of the Commons, and reprimanded, but not until the patience of Lord North and of his ministerial majority was nearly worn out by perpetual divisions; a small minority, Edmund Burke conspicuous in its thin ranks, contesting every inch of ground with the assailants of the liberty of reporting. Presently the conflict between parliamentary privilege and the claims of the Fourth Estate was complicated and intensified by the support which the City ave to a rebellious printer-John Wilkes, in his capacity of alderman, instigating the civic opposition to the House of Commons. The Lord Mayor, Wilkes, and another alderman, Oliver, took their stand upon the City charters, and denied the right of the House of Commons to make arrests east of Temple Bar. They issued a warrant against a messenger of the House of Commons who had attempted to arrest a printer in the City, and this step provoked the ministerial majority to go all lengths. A motion was carried (26th March) for the commitment of Oliver to the Tower; and now the City was exasperated. Next day was to be the turn of Crosby, the Lord Mayor, who was also a member of Parliament. When he came to the House, he was attended by a large mob of sympathizers, who assailed Lord North and Charles James Fox, then beginning his political career, and who had warmly supported the Minister against the City and the printers. Lord North's chariot' was broken to pieces, and he himself escaped chiefly through the exertions of a
political opponent, Sir William Meredith, member for Liverpool. The Commons, thwarted and baffled, appointed a Committee to deliberate on the measures that should be taken to enforce obedience to the orders of the House; but the menacing attitude of the City, and the voice of public opinion, did their work. The committee was satisfied with recommending the House to consider the 'expediency' of taking into custody the rebellious printer whom the City authorities protected. This lame and impotent conclusion was eived wi a roar of laughter by the members. No further step was taken by the House to vindicate its privileges or to punish the printer. The right of reporting the debates of Parliament was virtually conceded to the press. A week afterwards (8th May) Parliament was prorogued.
Contrary to custom, it did not meet again until after the Christmas holidays, and on the 21st of January, 1772. Everything promised a session as tranquil as its predecessor had been tempestuous. The Falkland Islands dispute with Spain had been settled; and not until the following year was the smouldering fire of American discontent to break out into unquenchable flame. As regarded domestic politics, Lord North might repose securely in the arms of his majority. He had little to fear from the Opposition, which not only formed an inconsiderable minority in Parliament, but was divided against itself. Chatham and Rockingham still held aloof from each other, and there was a split even in the opposition of the City, where Wilkes and Oliver were at loggerheads. Calm, however, as the parliamentary session of 1772 seems from the point of view of the ordinary political historian, to the student of the progress of spiritual freedom in England it is very far from barren. It was distinguished by at least one animated debate in the House of Commons on a question of ecclesiastical polity, which,