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Howls o'er the ocean his uproarious blasts,
And shivers from the ships their friendly masts!
Or moaning forth a drowsy farewell song,
As Boreas, thou art awfully sublime,
But who on earth can tell when thou wert born,
OBITUARY REMARKS ON THE LATE MR. EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND FORTY-TWO, DECEASED.
Quædam ad delectationem, ne suo condimento nostra oratio, vester animus careat refectione; plurimum vero ad eorum utilitatem qui philosophiæ sacris operantur.-CASPAR BARLEIUS. De ente Rationis.
We are time's subjects.-SHAKSPEARE.
PHILOSOPHY has never yet settled the grounds on which man should rejoice, as he does, at the advent of a new year. Religion itself would be equally puzzled to point out the why of this wherefore; for if it may be said that men should in all things submit to Providence, and take the good and the evil with equal cheerfulness at its hands, the inference would be to ring the joy bells every day, and not to confine our sonnerie and our junketings, in a once-for-all fashion, to the 1st of January. If, philosophically speaking, Candide be right in thinking this world the best of all possibles, there seems small reason for rejoicing that another year of it hath slipped by unregarded, if not unenjoyed; and if, on the contrary, it is no better a world than it should be, though we may have a melancholy satisfaction in the idea that it is 66 nearer its end than it ever was," there will be little ground for pleasure in the thought of what next year may in the mean while bring with it. But then it may be said, with equal truth, that if the world is a bad world, we may reasonably rejoice that so much is well over, without grieving about a future which may never arrive; whereas, if we are satisfied with things as they are, we may, in spite of regrets for time past, congratulate ourselves that we are still, in Irish parlance, "alive and kicking," and prepared to make the most of what is to come. Where arguments are so nicely balanced, a satisfactory conclusion is impossible: and the moral is that we should leave every man free to laugh and to cry, as we do (?), to pray, as he pleases,-in his shirt, or without his shirt, and with his face turned to any point of the compass that jumps with his humour. Leaving, therefore, others to side with Heraclitus, or with Democritus, as their " dulcet diseases" may incline them, we shall make bold to maintain our own opinion, that the advent of a new year is a very serious affair, and, at our time of life, disposes us too much to laugh on the wrong side of the face. If, therefore, we do not protest against the bell nuisance, it is because we think the most joyous of peals a very melancholy piece of business, admirably adapted, as Zanga says, to suit "the gloomy disposition of the soul," when thus reminded of the flight of time.
Merry Christmas!-Happy new year!!-was there ever such a mockery? Who can be merry when all nature is in the sulks; when the days are short, the nights long, coals and candles dear, and the varieties of bad weather infinite? Od's Colds, catarrhs, and influenzas, rheumatisms and pleurisies, who can rejoice in such a season but the doctors?-unless it be the undertakers, who might perhaps "grin horribly a ghastly smile;" only a smile on their faces, if possible, would be the death of them. But if these things do not cure you of
Christmas grinnings, what think you of your tradesmen's bills?* Your coal bill, your wine-merchant's bill, your landlord's very civil refresher, your apothecary's lengthy "ditto repeated," and Doctor Floggum's humanities, in the shape of a half-yearly memento for board and birch brooms furnished to your four infant grammarians. If the first of January closed all the other accounts for the past year, as it does that of time, à la bonne heure ; but few indeed are they with whom the march of sun and of money is synchronous, and who do not get rid of their last sovereign some time, more or less, before the last day of the year. Children, indeed, are excusable for their hilarity on the occasion, they have no bills to settle, fortunati nimium sua si bona norint ; and then there are the holidays and the Christmas pies, and coming visions of the glories of twelfth-night: but for one who has arrived at years of discretion to rejoice under the infliction, is to have very little discretion indeed for his years. Some musty old bachelors, perhaps, may have their fancy tickled, at the prospect of feeding at other people's expense, in honour of the new year; but then there are the vails for servants, not quite obsolete in domestic families,-a formidable discount on such enjoyments.
Christmas merry meetings by some are thought to have originated in the saturnalia of Rome; and a greater humbug upon suffering humanity than those saturnalia it were difficult to imagine. Such snatches of liberty (if indeed liberty it could be called) which the slave enjoyed during that festival, could have served only to render slavery more odious for the rest of the year; and as for the unlimited licence of speaking home truths to their masters, show me the slave who would have dared to avail himself of the privilege. Horace tells us the consequence :
Ocyus hinc te
Ni rapis, accedes opera agra nona Sabino.
Whence, then, the self-deception in this particular, for it must be admitted, as a matter of fact, that men do fancy they enjoy the advent of a new year amazingly? Not improbably it arises from the permanence of early habits,-from effects in the grown man surviving their infantile causes. Much also may be attributed to the excuse which Christmas offers for eating and drinking. Turkeys and chines, roast beef and plum puddings, are things bona in se ; which means not good in the abstract, but in the concrete, Mr. Logician. With those who do not fare sumptuously every day, there is some gratification in these feastings incidental to the new year. But if men would be honest to themselves, they would refer much of their rejoicing on this occasion to an absurd superstition that sees in some imaginary barrier between the past year and the present, an efficient cause for the cessation of bad luck, and for fancying that the new year will be better than the old.
The fact is, that, in the great majority of cases, mankind are so pelted by fortune's eldest daughter, so many cards have turned up any thing
* In this observation we have found ourselves anticipated by a writer in the Comic Almanac ; a chiel who, like a seven months' child, has come before his time, to get the start of us.
but trumps for them, that they become heartily tired of the old year long before its date is out; and the augury of opening a new account with time is an error too flattering to be closely investigated. We are in all cases sufficiently given to believe lightly what we intensely desire; there are indeed some prejudices which the natural theologian might almost fancy special providences, provided for carrying mankind the easier through their appointed lot, "and this is of them." Every body knows, if he will but pause to consider the matter, that new years and old years are a simple affair of the almanack-maker,-no The ancient Greek year commenced with that new moon whose full came next after the summer solstice. Afterwards, each state of Greece began the year when it pleased. The Egyptian year dated from the autumnal equinox, the Jewish ecclesiastical year began in spring, but the civil year of the Hebrews coincided with the Egyptian. The Chinese (those of them whom we have left alive) reckon from the new moon after the winter solstice, and so do the Japanese. The ancient Swedes began their year on the reappearance of the sun in the horizon after the winter season of total night. Romulus commenced the year in March, and Numa in January; and the Turks carry heterodoxy so far as to start from the 16th of July (the misbelievers! may their shadow grow less). Without a further expense of learning, we think our readers may be satisfied that the arrangement is purely conventional, and that there is in reality no bureau d'octroi at the entrance of the new year, like those at the gates of a French town, to exclude contraband misfortunes. But what is luck itself more than a fancyformed deity, set up to be invoked against reason, and in spite of evidence, when better auguries of returning good are difficult to come at. Nos te facimus, Fortuna, deum; and yet where is the man so emancipated from the dominion of words, as to cast away all use (or abuse either) of the imaginary goddess. To bear hard, therefore, on those who rejoice in new years on such speculative grounds, would be to exhibit a gross ignorance of human nature.
But if this vaticination was ever more than usually pardonable, it must be at the present moment, when we are turning our backs upon that annus detestabilis, the ill-starred 1842,-out and out the most wearisome, dismal, tragical and abominable year, that has for ages been added to the chronicles of suffering humanity.
Now as touching this same 1842, we beg to observe that, de mortuis nil nisi bonum may be a very goodnatured maxim, à l'usage of those who owe the dead man no personal grudge; but it is a very silly, and a very mischievous maxim for the historian to work upon. The Egyptians (by whose wisdom we are such large profiters, in all things, from religious doctrines to flounced petticoats), acted on a very different principle. Admitting no dead man to the peaceable possession of his grave, on a simple payment of the rector's dues, these wise people booked up all the deceased's antecedents into a debtor and creditor account on the score of morality, spoke out all the evil they knew of him with unsparing severity, and denied him Christian burial, if the balance was against him. This, while it is divested of even the semblance of cruelty, is most profitable to humanity; for what right-minded person has not again and again burned with indignation at newspaper eulogies on de
funct statesmen, whose misdeeds it has been the editor's business to expose during their whole previous lifetime.
What an outrage is such an affectation of generosity and candour on the patient living merit that has suffered, and is still suffering, from the dead man's actions! What an abominable encouragement to those still in the full career of their iniquities, to find their defunct yoke-fellow in evil placed in a line with the Hampdens, the Sidneys, and the Men of Ross!! If it be right to set up the statues of the benefactors of mankind, it is equally so to perpetuate the memory of scoundrels to the execration of the remotest posterity. No, let the corrupt, the false, and the fickle, the peculator, the deceiver, and the rat, who have worked their measure of ill in life, be rendered serviceable to mankind in death, by making them standing monuments of scorn to future generations; and let no mincing ballad-monger of an annalist dare to lie like an epitaph, on the silly and hypocritical plea of forgiveness to the dead. Although, good be thanked, eighteen hundred and forty-two is dead and gone, and though it can sin no more, we shall consider ourselves guilty of no want of charity, and as doing no more than mere necessary justice, in commenting with all freedom of speech on its numerous misdeeds.
Not, however, that we belong to that grumbling race whose creed is ætas parentum, pejor avis. We have no particular affection for the golden days of good Queen Bess, and are much of opinion that the merry England of the olden time was about as miserable a community as ever did not hang itself in its own garters; for which fact we appeal to the grim visages of our ancestors, which the art of painting has handed down to us :-all looking precise impersonations of the penitential psalms, and as melancholy as Moor Ditch. No, if eighteen hundred and forty-two has sins enough of its own to answer for, we freely admit that it was exempt from many which disgraced its predecessors. William the Fourth, of pious memory, did not murder his niece in the tower; and Queen Victoria (God bless her!) has not shown many symptoms of the conjugal tenderness of Henry VIII.; Lord Aberdeen is not Cesar Borgia, nor Sir Robert a second Richelieu. In eighteen hundred and forty-two's times, fanaticism lighted no Smithfield fires, but modestly contented itself with hunting its victims out of society. It indulged not in Star-chamber processes, but confined its illegal severities within the narrow boundaries of gaol-visiting justices. Nay, much as has been laid to its door on account of the manufacturing rioters, we honestly admit that these came nothing near to the folly and the atrocity of Lord George Gordon's demoniacs. Mr. Cobden may say what he pleases about the Corn Laws-and Heaven knows he can hardly say too much-but even he will admit that the Buckinghams and the Tambouf baronets of 1842 are a decided improvement on an aristocracy that did business by moonlight, on the king's highway, and instead of dexterously swindling the merchant, knocked his brains out to inherit his goods, " against the king's peace, his crown, and dignity.
Neither will we be guilty of falsehood by omission, in passing over some of the good deeds of the unhappy defunct; and we would they were more numerous, if it were only for the sake of filling out