« PreviousContinue »
told him which eye to sight by. “An excellent gun entirely," sais Pat, “ but it tante made like the rifles we have.”
“ Ain't they strange critters, them Irish, Squire? That fel. low never handled a rifle afore in all his born days ; but, unless it was to a priest, he wouldn't confess that much for the world. They are as bad as the English that way; they always pretend they know every thing:
Come, Pat,” sais I, “ blaze away now.” Back goes the hind leg again, up bends the back, and Bull-dog rises slowly to his shoulder, and then he stared and stared, until his arm shook like palsy. Chee, chee, chee, went the squirrel again, louder than ever, as much as to say, “ Why the plague don't you fire? I'm not a goin' to stand here all day for you this way," and then, throwin' his tail over his back, he jumped on to the next branch.
"6" By the piper that played before Moses !” sais Pat, “ I'll stop your chee, chee, cheein' for you, you chatterin' spalpeen of a devil, you.” So he ups with the rifle again, takes a fair aim at him, shuts both eyes, turns his head round, and fires ; and “ Bulldog," findin' he didn't know how to hold her tight to the shoul. der, got mad, and kicked him head over heels on the broad of his back. Pat got up, a makin' awful wry faces, and began to limp, to show how lame his shoulder was, and to rub his arm, to see if he had one left, and the squirrel ran about the tree hoppin' mad, hollerin' out as loud as it could scream, chee, chee, chee.
Oh, bad luck to you !” says Pat, “ if you had a been at t'other eend of the gun," and he rubbed his shoulder agin, and cried like a baby, “ you wouldn't have said chee, chee, chee, that way, I know.'
Now, when your gun, Squire, was a knockin' over Bluenose, and making a proper fool of him, and a knockin' over Jonathan, and a spilin of his bran-new clothes, the English sung out chee, chee, chee, till all was blue agin. You had an excellent gun entirely then ; let's see if they will sing out chee, chee, chee, now, when we take a shot at them. Do you take?' and he laid his thumb on his nose, as if perfectly satisfied with the application of his story. Do you take, Squire ? you have an excellent gun entirely, as Pat says. It's what I call putting the leake into 'em properly. If you had a written this book fust
, the English would have said your gun was no good ; it would'nt have been like the rifles they had seen. Lord, I could tell you stories about the English, that would make even them cryin' devils, the Mississippi crocodiles, laugh, if they was to hear
Mr. Slick, like Mr. Sam Weller, is very fond of these il
lustrative stories ; in this respect, he doubtless imitates his illustrious predecessor. But we cannot often award him the praise of a successful imitation. His stories are too long, and very often dull. In the eighth chapter, for example, the attempt at an amusing sketch of Mr. Rufus Dodge's visit to Niagara Falls is too strained to excite any other feeling than a sense of weariness, and a sincere regret, that the author should have cudgelled his brains so hard to so little purpose. The absurdity of the whole representation is so great, that we can only say,
16 Incredulus odi,” to every word of it. As to being entertained by such a tasteless and awkward effort to be funny, the coarsest and broadest laugher would read it without the slightest peril to his gravity.
One of the prominent characters in the work is Mr. Hopewell, an aged clergyman of the American Episcopal Church. The author has evidently an affection for this prosy old gentleman, his politics, and his general views of men and things. His lectures to Sam on manners and conversation, on the propriety of using and the impropriety of omitting titles, and his Latin and Greek quotations to that erudite functionary, are truly edifying ; and it is surprising, that Sam, having for many years enjoyed the valuable instructions of the reverend gentleman, should have derived so little benefit from them. In truth, the conception of this character is feeble, and we soon weary of it. Mr. Hopewell's doings and sayings, both on board ship, and after his arrival in England, are not those which a man of ordinary sense would do and say, there or anywhere else. We recognize in the delineation the same infirmity of hand, the same inability to draw and sustain a consistent character, - a character that shall act like a human being, with the motives, feelings, and senses of a human being, which we have noted in the other personages of the story. The scene in the cottage, described in the eleventh chapter, is quite mawkish and silly ; and nearly as much so is the twelfth chapter, entitled, “ Stealing the Hearts of the People,” wherein the clergyman is represented as preaching in an English church against all the reforms of the times, and portraying the blessings enjoyed by the poor in that happy country, especially the blessings derived from an Established Church, with such irresistible force and energy, that he convinced William Hodgins, a sturdy radical, of the sin of the Chartist agitation, saved him
from ruin, and made his wife a happy woman. It requires but the simplest statement, to show the extravagant absurdity of this representation. It needed the exaggerated loyalty, the high wrought Toryism of a provincial, to venture to make it, in the face of the existing evils in the condition of the English poor, the oppressiveness of the English Established Church, and its utter inadequacy to the religious or secular instruction of the body of the people. No Englishman of any party would have risked his character for sanity, by gravely putting forth such unreal mockeries, in this nineteenth century. We take a few paragraphs from one of Mr. Hopewell's numerous discourses, and then leave him, with the single remark, that we do not believe there lives an American clergyman of the Episcopal Church, so disloyal to his country, so insensible to the glory of her great historical names, so stupidly blind to all that is noble in her institutions, and all that she is doing to better the condition of man, as to speak of the American Revolution, and of the men who effected it, as the present author, making Mr. Hopewell bis mouthpiece, has the insolence and folly to write, in the ex• tract which follows.
". And besides, my good friend, I have much to say to you relative to the present condition and future prospects of this great country. I have lived to see a few ambitious lawyers, restless demagogues, and political preachers, and unemployed local officers of provincial regiments, agitate and sever thirteen colonies at one time from the government of England. I have witnessed the struggle. It was a fearful, a bloody, and an unnatural one. My opinions, therefore, are strong, in proportion as my experience is great. I have abstained, on account of their appearing like preconceptions, from saying much to you yet, for I want to see more of this country, and to be certain that I am quite right before I speak.
6. When you return, I will give you my views on some of the great questions of the day. Do n't adopt them; hear them, and compare them with your own. I would have you think for yourself, for I am an old man now, and sometimes I distrust my powers of mind.
“• The state of this country, you, in your situation, ought to be thoroughly acquainted with. It is a very perilous one. Its prosperity, its integrity, nay, its existence as a first-rate power, hangs by a thread, and that thread but little better and stronger than a cotton one. Quem Deus vult perdere prius dementat
I look in vain for that constitutional vigor and intellectual power which once ruled the destinies of this great nation.
66. There is an aberration of intellect, and a want of selfpossession, here, that alarms me. I say, alarms me; for American as I am by birth, and republican as I am from the force of circumstances, I cannot but regard England with great interest, and with great affection. What a beautiful country! What a noble constitution! What a high-minded, intelligent, and gen
erous people! When the Whigs came into_office, the Tories were not a party, they were the people of England. Where and what are they now? Will they ever have a lucid interval, or again recognize the sound of their name? And yet, Sam, doubtful as the prospect of their recovery is, and fearful as the consequences of a continuance of their malady appear to be, one thing is most certain, a Tory government is the proper government for a monarchy, a suitable one for, any country, but it is the only one for England. I do not mean an ultra one, for I am a moderate man, and all extremes are equally to be avoided ; I mean a temperate, but firm one ; steady to its friends, just to its enemies, and inflexible to all. When compelled to yield, it
, . should be by the force of reason, and never by the power of agitation. Its measures should be actuated by a sense of what is right, and not what is expedient; for to concede is to recede,
to recede is to evince weakness, — and to betray weakness is to invite attack.'
We have a word to say upon one more topic connected with this book, and then we shall have done. The reader will remember, that, in a previous work, this writer attempted to ridicule Mr. Everett, who was then Governor of Massachusetts, by describing an imaginary interview with him, and his conversation at some small inn. Like many things in the present work, the description was so overdone, the sentiments and language attributed to Mr. Everett were so unlike reality, that the sketch had not even the poor merit of being amusing. We were struck with surprise, at the time, that a person, whose education and position seemed to give the world assurance of a gentleman, could have descended to this paltry kind of malice ; but it passed away with the thousand fooleries of the press, and was speedily forgotten. We should never have recalled that unworthy attempt to lower the character of one whose genius, learning, eloquence, and virtue are the pride of a great country, but that, in the present work, the attempt is more elaborately
- p. 75.
repeated, and in a tone more offensive and ungentlemanly than before. The allusions to the theological profession, which Mr. Everett belonged to and adorned in his youth, and the ridiculous nickname, “ Abednego Layman,” referring to his change of profession, with various other coarse and malicious hints and innuendoes, make it impossible to doubt, that the intended satire is aimed at the American minister to England ; though the grossness of the attack is thinly disguised by setting up a man of straw in the shape of a pretended special minister, and, in another place, by speaking of Mr. Everett by name, in connexion with the imaginary ambassador. We had intended to place this passage before our readers, in order to show them the manner in which this provincial judge deems it decent to write about the United States, and their able minister at the court of St. James ; but on a second
perusal, we found the satire too contemptible and pointless to deserve quotation.
Passing over the fact, that must stare every reader in the face, that the vulgar buffoonery of the dialogue is unredeemed by a particle of humor or wit, we ask, What sense of justice can exist in the writer, who attempts to bring discredit on any American gentleman, because, in the mutations of life which naturally grow out of the peculiarities of American society, he has seen fit to change his occupation ; to leave the clerical profession, and enter upon the more extended theatre of political affairs ? In England such a change we suppose is impossible. There, once a clergyman, always a clergyman. But here, where no established church exists, where perfect freedom in matters of religion, as in other matters, is the birthright of every citizen, where the connexion between the clergyman and his society is wholly voluntary, both as to its original formation and its continuance, where men are often driven by necessity to desert the career for which they were educated, and where all careers are open to all, with as few restraints as are compatible with order and the public interests, how unfair to judge of a man's course in this respect by analogies drawn from the artificial and unnatural state of England ! The English system must alone have right and reason on its side, or these attempted sneers at the American minister are pointless ; and that the English system does enjoy this great preeminence, we suspect it would require even a blinder devotion to prescription and usage, than this writer's, to affirm.