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than Nebuchadnezzar had in his band :-harps, dulcimers, flutes, sackbuts, psalteries, and all kinds of music, ancient and modern, which must farther be conceived to play to the mind's ear as miscellaneous a concerto as was ever composed, consisting of snatches of very many tunes, with a profusion of variations. Should this illustration not be sufficiently illustrative, let a pantomime be supposed to follow and harlequin perform his series of Christmas tricks and transformations. The motley necromancer himself typifies perpetual motion and endless variety; let the freaks of character and the changes of fortune be ever so numerous, he is knight of the shire, and represents them all.
Or the reader may, if he please, or thinks it worth the trouble, summon up and cause to pass in procession before him, all the innumerable images, types, and figures of versatility and mutability, such as chameleong, rainbows, weathercocks, kaleidoscopes, Joseph's coat, or a herald's tabard, the clime of England, the constitutions of France, a Brougham, an opal, a woman, or the moon. He may spin out the pageant, if he like, until it is tedious as my Lord Mayor's show; only let it be equally noisy, with plenty of drums and trumpets, especially speaking-trumpets; for, as Montaigne saith truly, “this is a world of babble," and our Coming Man had more than his fair share of it.
By way of argument to our first book, let it suffice to say, that the subject of our story (whom we deliberately refrain from styling its hero) is born herein; nor can there be a doubt that he made a speech upon the occasion, and one that was exceedingly well received by the audience, although it was altogether unpremeditated, and no report of it has been preserved. Escaping all the fatalities that often cut the mysterious Thread of life while it is yet a short one, he graduates in the nursery with éclat, and, arriving at the green age of thirteen or fourteen, is sent to a public school, to him a momentous event, though, in itself, no startling or extraordinary occurrence. Among our earliest acquaintances, as well as his, will be å reverend father and an accomplished mother; we shall pop upon the gentleman cultivating his cabbages
, and surprise the lady in her white dimity, green spectacles, and blue stockings. Possibly, if the father had cultivated his cabbages less, and his son more, the latter might have succeeded as well as the early York did, or the brocoli. Possibly, too, if the mother's hose had been of another hue, it might have changed the complexion of the boy's fortunes. But a truce to possibili. ties. It is time for our overture, or prologue, to end, and the curtain rise upon the performance, such as it is; for we know not well how to describe it, unless in the words of Polonius: “Comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, comical historical-pastoral, scene undividable, or poem unlimited."
BIRTH AND EARLY EDUCATION OF REUBEN.
Mr. REUBEN MEDLICOTT, whose variegated life we are about to relate in the following pages, was the only son of a clergyman in the neighbourhood of Chichester, who, neither possessing powerful connexions, parliamentary interest, or any higher talents than some classical taste, and a modicum of dry humour, enjoyed no richer preferment in the Church than the vicarage of Underwood, worth about three hundred pounds a-year, including the value of the glebe, and a small, but pretty and comfortable house upon it. The Vicar was a better gardener than theologian, and more a respecter of learning than a learned man himself. He considered himself, however, a good, plain, classical scholar, and was disposed to prize that species of erudition more than
other. His wife, indeed, had the advantage over him in point of variety of attainments. She was the daughter of Doctor Wyndham, an eminent dignitary of the Church, who had been distinguished when a young man at Cambridge among men of science, but having subsequently deserted the serene study of mathematics for the more exciting pursuits of controversial divinity, was supposed to have been making a push for the mitre; and some people thought he had not yet withdrawn his eyes from that captivating and brilliant object. Dean Wyndham, however, had not been very unsuccessful in his professional career, even as things were, for besides the deanery of a cathedral town in the north of England, he was incumbent of a good living near Hereford : and the additional possession of a fair sinecure in the diocese of Chichester, completed his resemblance to those prosperous sons of the Church, who are described by Dryden as
“ bearing on their shield,
Three steeples argent on a sable field.” The veteran pluralist was now a widower, and led a sort of vagrant life, to and fro among his various preferments, something like the wandering shepherds we read of in Arabia, or the steppes of Tartary. When he was supposed to be at Hereford, he was away in Northumberland, and when a letter was addressed to him in Northumberland, an answer was returned from Chichester. Besides he kept up his ancient connexion with the University, where he generally spent a month or two in the height of the academic season, with one or other of his old cronies.
But to return to the mother of our Reuben: she had erudition on both sides of the house, for her mother had heen one of the femmes savantes of her day; she had written a book on education, corresponded with Hannah More, and left an unfinished treatise behind her on the Academic Institutions of the Spartans. It was surprising Mr. Medlicott made the choice he did between Catherine and Elinor Wyndham, the two daughters of the Dean by this learned lady; for Catherine was more suited to him, and better qualified in every respect for the wife of a simple country clergyman; but the fact was, that Catherine Wyndham, having nothing to recommend her but her good looks and sweet disposition, was neglected by her mother, or rather systematically kept in the background, while Elinor, who walked in the maternal footsteps, and resembled her both in mind and person, was trotted out and trumpeted upon all occasions. However, she made a bad hit after all in the matrimonial way; for with her literary pretensions, she ought at least to have netted a senior wrangler, or trapped a regius professor, and she was therefore considered to have actually thrown herself away upon Mr. Medlicott, who had neither university reputation, nor interest in the Church. She married him, too, against the wishes of both her parents; by her mother she was never forgiven, and her father did not relent until her husband obtained his small living through the influence of a patrician schoolfellow, which did not happen until after he had been married for several years.
Catherine Wyndham remained single until she was no longer in her première jeunesse, and then she
married Mr. Mountjoy, a man of considerable fortune, who dying in the third year of their union (which had not been blessed with offspring), left her blooming and independent, in the possession of a handsome income, which no woman in the kingdom deserved better, for no woman could have made a more amiable and liberal use of it. But
poor Mrs. Mountjoy was, in literary attainments, a mere nobody; she knew a good deal about men, but little or nothing about books. It was here that her sister outshone her. The difficulty is to say what Elinor Wyndham, or Mrs. Medlicott, did not either know, try to know, or wish to seem to know. She knew twenty times as many things, or something about them, as the Vicar, her husband; but so far was this superiority on her part from impressing him with due admiration of the female faculties, that he began to entertain something approaching to contempt for them, before he was many years a married man. He was particularly disposed to this way of thinking when he found his wife meddling with the ancient authors, and used to say sarcastically to his intimate friends, that to see a woman reading Greek or Latin, filled him with spite and envy; “for it was evident she must have exhausted all the stores of knowledge and entertainment to be found in the living languages, before she was reduced to the necessity of resorting to the dead ones.”
The Vicar divided his time, for the most part, between his parish, his garden, and his small collection of books: a few standard works on divinity, from which there is reason to think he purloined his sermons, and now and then a play of Terence, or a dialogue of Lucian, to keep up his knowledge for the benefit of his son. Horticulture was perhaps his favourite occupation, and he did not addict himself it the less because his wife considered it beneath her attention. In spite of the diversity of their tastes however, and a certain quiet conjugal contempt for one another, they did not live inharmoniously together. Sometimes Mrs. Medlicott would even relent from her stern pursuits and take a transitory interest in the flowers, or stoop to pick a strawberry; and again, as a meet return for her complaisance, the Vicar would sit for a quarter of an hour hearkening, with more patience and gravity, than admiration or profit, to his wife's far from luminous elucidations of the secrets of the universe, such as polarised light, or the process by which a nebula developes itself into a world. It was very provoking, however, that he himself never was tempted to plunge into any of the dazzling abysses, into which Mrs. Medlicott led the way, for his encouragement. Such occasional séances generally ended by the Vicar's quoting a verse of the nineteenth psalm, and taking up his hoe to earth his kidney beans.
The Vicarage was as charming a spot as you could wish to be born and bred in, if you had a voice in the matter. It had that modest, sequestered, pastoral character, which agrees so well with the notions we form in the guileless and unsuspecting days of our youth, of the life of a Christian shepherd. If it was not very ancient, there was an air of antiquity about it which made you think of the beautiful old times, when architecture was a province of the kingdom of poetry, and they knew how to build cottages as well as cathedrals. You might have assigned the incumbency of Chaucer's “good parson” as the probable date of its erection : or, if belonging to a much later period, at least have guessed it to have been planned by Milton and built expressly for Lycidas. It stood close to the roadside, not one of your broad, level, dusty, glaring causeways, but a zigzag, up-and-down, primrosed by-road, always surprising you with some new picturesque peep at every rapid turn. The house in its structure was a very jewel of irregularity, with such fantastic gables, such quaint grey chimneys, and windows, such a curious jumble of wood, brick, and stone, mossed over in one place, ivied in another, matted with roses in another, and upon one flank quite overhung with a wilderness of laurels, chestnuts, hawthorns, and laburnums, that had a company of young poets and painters, in the heyday of their imagination, turned masons and carpenters in a freak of fancy, they could scarcely have produced anything more exquisite in the Anglo-Arcadian style. It was just the sort of house which youthful couples, newly united by Holy Church, heigh-ho'd for as they passed, and vowed they preferred a thousand times to any castle, hall, or mansion in the land. Older people, weary of the world, coveted precisely such a peaceful nook to close their days in. The veteran soldier desired no better fortune than to recline in his old age under those superb laurels ; nay, even the passing lawyer in the height of his business and reputation, mused with himself, and doubted whether he would not have had a happier lot as Vicar of Underwood, and the humble tenant of so sweet an abode.
When Master Reuben came into the world, you may imagine with what intense anxiety a woman like Mrs. Medlicott must have watched the growth of his little faculties. To prepare herself to preside properly over his early instruction, she went through a course of study that would frighten many a hardworking scholar of the Universities : and she laid down a course of reading for her husband also, but she might as well have spared herself the trouble, for the Vicar had no original views whatever upon the subject of education, and thought John Locke had said every thing that was to be said about it. There was, however, one point in which the parents were agreed, namely, in praying that Reuben, when arrived at years of maturity, would take after his grandfather, rather than his father. The Vicar had an extraordinary and almost servile veneration for Dean Wyndham, who was in his eyes the greatest divine and almost the greatest man in England. He had written profoundly when a