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He had no relative, no friend in the world ;-he never had a friend indeed, except one--a poor fellow who was hanged " innocent," and a dog who was killed by the neighbours because, being playful, it was said to be rabid. He liad his weak brain frightfully injured by a blow intended for another person ; was crippled in constitution by the conspiracy of two physicians and an apothecary, treating him for a complaint he never had; and was once wrongfully accused of stealing six guineas and a half, found on his person, that being the largest sum he ever had of his own in all his days—it was nobly expended in proving that he had come honestly by it.
He had been pumped upon, both by design and by mistake; been called dog, and had dogs set on him ; he was always thrust from the wall, whether he walked north or south; he had been plundered, cheated, and trampled on--and to complete the catalogue of grievances, there was always something in his sorrows almost ridiculoussomething in his wrongs that half-reconciled the beholder to them, if it did not tempt him to make an addition to the stock.
As he again passed by, on his daily round, mud-bedabbled, spiritless, despised, shivering in the wind, sore of toot, and without energy to ward off even the flying snow-ball (type of the cold, if not crushing insults to which he was ever exposed), he appeared to be utterly at the mercy of the meanest thing the world contains, and the exclamation involuntarily rose to my lips-it seemed the only fitting one—“ Poor devil!"
The miserable figure was immediately lost in the grandeur of an object that now appeared at a little distance-its aspect radiant, its head reaching the skies, and its arms extending over both hemispheres. On a nearer view, it turned out to be only a plain-looking gentleman, about the usual height, making a speech io three or four hundred equally plain-looking geruiemen, who, as legislators, were responding to his loud tones and energetic gesticulations with vehement shouis of approbation or dissent.
He was nobiy born, bearing a name that had been famous for many generations; he was immensely rich, and possessed the finest horses, the costliest pictures, the rarest books, the choicest wines, the noblest houses, the broadest lands, in the country. He had a cultivated taste, extensive learning, and continual health to enjoy all these. surrounded by every domestic tie that could unite him to happiness now, and administer to his pleasure and dignity in later age. He ever had, from his cradle, a combination of circumstances working around him to ensure apparently his peace and felicity, such as are read of but in romances, and witnessed but in dreams; and he seemed to bave been sent on earth to show with what a multitude of enviable endowments fortune could invest ber favourite.
Yet for any share he had in the luxuries of life, though he had an ardent relish of them, he might as well have taken unfurnished lodgings in a hermit's cell; for any enjoyment of his horses he might as well have been the statue at Chariny-cross; for any pride and delight in his pictures he might as well have been blind; as for his rare and beautiful editions of the most glorious productions of genius and learning, he never saw their insides--never opening a book except “ Hansard's Debates," or the report of a parliamentary committee.
Tenderly attached to his wife, he scarcely ever saw her awake, except at a very hasty meal now and then, when his mind was so occupied that he was almost unconscious of her presence-being at the same time, and for the same reason, unable to decide, if he had been asked the question, whether he was eating beef or chicken.
As for his little darlings, although he was naturally the fondest father in the world, they rarely crossed his path, except now and then as he was rushing down stairs to go out; and if he could just find time to give them a pat on the head, with a kiss each on Sundays, his overflowing affection was obliged to be content. He certainly did promise himself, year after year, the fatherly delight of taking them all to see the pantomime; he anticipated the innocent and exquisite glee which must necessarily fill his heart while watching their little rosy laughing faces; but as for fulfilling the fond promise, and enjoying the bliss in reality, harlequin's wand itself could work no such wonder.
When the shooting season came, he could only “ wish it were possible to spare a day," and live in hope of leisure next year. When the opera season began, he could only sigh at the remembrance of the music of which he was passionately fond,
and hum an old air, at some risk to himself, while he was shaving.
And why was all this? Why could not the child of freedom do what he liked? Why could not the chosen favourite of fortune partake, by a sip now and then, if not by full delicious draughts of the luxurious tide that flowed to his very lips? Why, with health and strength, could he not ride his own hunter and dine jovially! What spell sealed up his eyes and ears to the charms of painting and music! What demon interposed between the innermost promptings and desires of his heart, and their full gratification in the endearments of a delightful home, hallowed by angel affections! With every blessing life can possess, a distinguished name, a lofty position, wealth to confer comfort on others, a kind heart to prompt its right use, a choice of associates, and an abode which might have led to the inference that the garden of Eden had been let on building leases—why were these prizes in effect blanks—the cup of bitterness drained, the wine of life untasted--the desert only sought, the rose-garden avoided !
In the list of cabinet ministers, or of the leaders of opposition, the why was discoverable. The records of Party explained all. No course of life seemed destined to run in a fairer and smoother channel than his; but he voluntarily plunged into politics, and the stream became rough, turbid, and impetuous. He made no attempt to struggle against it; a master-spell was upon him, and be allowed himself to be borne onward far from the alluring paths of learned leisure, the brilliant circles of luxury and refinement, the green resting-places and loopholes of retreat, whence the wheels of the world might be seen at full work. He aimed at directing the mighty machine, and instantly became absorbed in it; he could no more extricate himself, once entangled, than the various portions of the complicated machinery could act independently of each other. From that moment he was doomed
To scorn delights, and live laborious days. The meanest hind, the veriest drudge on his estate, bad a happy, idle life of it in comparison. Not a groom, or clerk, or messenger employed by him that had not a whole year's holiday once a twelvemonth, if the toils and troubles of such a condition were to be estimated by the overflowing measure that fell to his own share. Every hour of the day had some imperative demand upon it; every minute of the evening, of the deep midnight, often until almost dawn, was pre-occupied a fortnight before.
Every morning brought its manifold tasks and duties to the unwearied and excited mind of the great Leader; applications in every conceivable form for favours out of his reach; claims, one hundred strong, upon the solitary favour that happened to be disposable (so that the misery of making " ninety-nine men discontented and one ungrateful" fell to his lot as often as he did a kindness); inquiries the most delicate, to answer; information to give guardedly, or to withhold while seeming to convey it; jealousies between colleagues to allay; discontent and suspicion among supporters to lull, by letter and interview; demands of pressing friends to ward off, without offence; faithful promises to make, and sometimes, when desperately driven, to perform ; important interests to conciliate ; opinions of public bodies to consult; fears of graziers, sugar-bakers, or money-brokers to appease ; deputations to receive, five-and-twenty deep, all speaking at a time; catechism to study first, and replies to explain and defend afterwards in a published correspondence.
Then there would be official blunders to repair; jobs of tricky but infuential allies to conceal ; subordinates of good family to defend if needful. Public measures to devise, public statements to prepare ; to write the play and cast the parts, always having to act the principal ; unlooked for questions, suddenly arising, to adjust-or to decide upon a course of adjustment, perhaps in the dark; fresh regulations applicable to fresh circumstances to make from time to time; correspondence without end from all ends of the earth to read through and remember, so as to answer a question relative to it at the shortest notice ; replies to dictate, and agents to instruct according to the tone of them, with ten thousand things beside, included in the role of official duty, all tending to prove that every great Minister's morning ought to be a month long.
But all these things done and performed-with visits of state and the necessary courtly attendances added to them—the day's work was not yet half got through. To devise public measures, to discover reasons for introducing them, and arrange the argument in their support, was an essential duty ; but there yet remained the necessary and laborious task of exposing, damaging, and defeating the measures of a rival party. To rush to the rescue of a friend, and to promote the fortunes of an ally, were tasks to be promptly executed; yet it was equally expedient to watch vigilantly for an opportunity of disabling an adversary, and injuring his reputation. There was no end to work-in discharging great guns, and in loading the smaller arms of subordinates ; in demonstrating the excellence of measures proposed, and exhibiting the mischievous character of the unknown plans of opposition.
The day thus consumed in writing, arranging and rehearsing, there was the acting of the play at night. The great Leader seldom devoted
to public speaking alone-not to planning, not to meditation, but to oratorical delivery only-less than a sixth part of the four-and-twenty hours. Very often a fourth part was devoted to that portion of his duty : and one versed in statistics might have had little difficulty in showing, that of the interval between his twentieth and sixtieth year, not less than a period of ten years had been publicly occupied in making speeches-in actual public exercise of the lungs, quite exclusive of the years consumed in preparing matter for the few brief observations which it was evermore his duty to offer.
But perhaps he had the world's homage as the reward of this heroic devotion. On the contrary, he was assured, night after night, that his plans were foolish, mischievous, borrowed, or abortive; that bis motives were corrupt, selfish, and despicable; that his sayings were insidious, and his doings dishonest; he was reviled by his friends when he was conciliatory, and by his enemies when he was firm ; he was interrupted in his explanations by fierce, discordant yells, and a black torrent was constantly poured upon him through the pen of the journalist. Cheat, knave, &c., were the kindest epithets bestowed upon him daily. Sometimes he was voted nerely a contemptible tool, at others he rose to the dignity of a consummate tyrant. All who belonged to him were abused, each according to his degree. High-born, he was supposed to grasp power from an aristocratic love of ascendancy; wealthy, he was accused of seeking office from a subserviency to the sordid influences; fond of elegant pleasures, and of the arts which adorn while they delight, he was pronounced hard and ascetic; gentle-natured, he was thought contemptuous and vindictive.
And for this he had gone on sacrificing his happiness, his tranquillity, his family's peace of mind adding no lustre to his noble name, enjoying nothing that belonged to him, toiling as no slave toiled, undermining his health past repair, and contacting that "perilous stuff," which, weighing upon the heart, defies the physician.
As he still continued within in hearing, and still persevered in his harangue, amidst the most discordant clamour, that grew louder as his speech lengthened—the spectacle became humiliating as well as med lancholy; and perhaps with a tincture of disdain in the pity that prompted it, the exclamation once more rose to my lips, “ Poor devil!" Half-waking up, I became conscious that
I became conscious that in the confusion of my dream Helplessness and Power had become associated, and instead of exciting widely opposite emotions, had created a kindred pity. Extremes had met. But again dozing, a crowd of objects appeared before me, varied as the glowing figures in the fire, whose influence oppressed my senses. Foremost of thein, was a starved and ragged urchin in the act of picking a pocket. in his infancy he had crawled about as he could, until he was of age to mount ihe steps of a factory. The factory closed in the decay of trade, but the little schooling he obtained enabled him to write “ a piece," and with the pence thus obtained he bought some prints, which he offered for sale to passers by. This was an offence in the eye of the law, and he was committed to prison for fourteen days. Released, he missed even his miserable prison fare, and being just tall enough to reach a pocket, though not to dive into one, he caught with trembling and inexperienced fingers the corner of a dazzling handkerchief protruding from the broadcloth of a millionaire. As he made his first essay, he was grasped (being hardly more than a handful) by the broad and heavy hand of the law; and “ Poor devil !" again escaped my lips.
As he was borne away, crying and struggling impotently, one who should have been his schoolmaster came by. His head was white, his eyes sunken, his cheeks hollow, his body hent. For fifty years he had devoted his little stock of scholarship, and his greater store of morality and conscientiousness, to the tuition of youth-without reputation, without reward. From sunrise until past sunset, he had daily pursued his thankless and miserably paid calling--sparing no pains to cultivate in a pupil a dawning faculty that promised well, and checking with equal care the growth of evil propensities. Patient, watchful, and discriminating, he had “done his spiriting gently"sparing the rod, but not spoiling the child.
But the child is not always father to the man. With the sense of awe and of dependance, the sense of respect, even of memory vapished; of the hundreds he had led into the rising path, not one in riper years continued young enough in heart to recollect the early and invaluable lesson; and it was not until he himself became in turn the taught, discovering how much easier it was to sow than to reap, to communicate knowledge than to instil gratitude, that the shadow of his destiny fell upon him. With his quarterly bills the debt had been paid in full, while he fancied it was running on at compound interest. He had manufactured scholars, and like Lingo, he looked upon himself as the master of scholars. The delusion in his old age was pitiable; and the exclamation, “ Poor devil !" was not misapplied here.
A clerk, armed with a blue bag, thrust this figure aside, and hurried on with the air of one who was little accustomed to take his ease in the world-certainly not “ in his inn,” for he belonged to Lincoln's. Early and late he toiled and trotted, sighed for freedom and engrossed ; abbreviating words to shorten his labour, and yet multiplying epithets to make the brief long. But before an involuntary “poor devil !" had become audible, the barrister himself appeared-success in the swing of his gown, occupation in his action, prosperity in his unpowdered wig.
" poor devil!" almost escaped me at the first meeting. His large fee checked it for an instant; the audience before which he had to plead, further retarded its utterance; but it was fast breaking out again, as he ran his eye over his brief, and discovered the scarecrow he was to dandify.
The process of manufacturing a silk purse out of the ear of such an animal as his client, was a most difficult and painful one. At one turn of his case he must argue black to be white, and at another, white to be black. He had to prove that the defendant, born in Caledonia, was not a native of Scotland ! He had to demonstrate, first, that one and one make less than two, and next that two and two make more than four. He had to maintain, not a doubtful case, but a cause that was only doubtful to other people. He had to advocate the claim of so much villany, just so much, as might legally coexist with his con