« PreviousContinue »
he had introductions or invitations, but delivered elaborate lectures wherever he went upon the comparative merits of English and American institutions, civil and religious, and their moral and intellectual results. The lecture that made most noise was one upon the eloquence of the two nations, in the course of which he introduced some severe strictures upon the modern taste for oratory at Westminster, which he supported and defended by quoting his own speeches, and relating how totally they had failed. On the other hand, he applauded, and did so most conscientiously, the then prevailing style of the majority of the public speakers at Washington ; for his voyage was antecedent to the adoption in Congress of the celebrated one-hour rule, which imposed such heavy restraint upon the tongues of free-born citizens. That rule was just beginning to be talked about at this period, and Mr. Medlicott thought it his duty to leave behind him, in every state and city he visited, the important protest of a man of his great experience against its justice and wisdom.
Another subject upon which he said a prodigious deal in rooms of all sizes, and before audiences of every variety, was the abolition of slavery, upon which he may be said to have had a special commission to hold forth, from his broad-brimmed friends at home. He discoursed largely on this exciting topic all through the New England States, and finally announced his intention to make little excursion into Virginia and the Carolinas, to put the question in its true light to the southerns themselves, feeling that the planters had probably never had the opportunity of hearing it properly stated and discussed. This design he executed so far as actually to cross the Virginian frontier, and he was on the point of commencing his proceedings at a place called New Argos, or Mycenæ, when he was waited on by a deputation of tobacco-growers, with immense sombreros and cart-whips of proportionate size, who, in a few energetic words, completely changed his purpose, and convinced him of the prudence of making a rapid retreat over the border. When he returned to Philadelphia, he addressed an earnest letter to the slave-holding states in general, in which he complained that the rights of free discussion had been invaded in his person, and counselled them to emancipate their negroes without delay, as he was firmly resolved never to slumber or sleep until they did so. Of this letter there is not the shadow of a ground for believing that any of the slave-holding states ever took the slightest notice. It had a great run in Gracechurch-street, however, where it was not likely
to be of much service to the blacks; and so had another tract of Mr. Medlicott's upon the Mormonites—a sect to which he afterwards owned that he felt at one time a serious inclination to unite himself.
As to the ambitious book he published on his return, called “ America Displayed,” it was a curious and not very judicious mixture of tlorid descriptions of rivers and savannahs, declamatory chapters on liberty and education, zoological and geological discussions, and statistical tables and details, in the accumulation of which his industrious godson (aided by a pair of scissors) made himself remarkably useful. Mr. Medlicott paid particular attention, wherever he travelled in the States, to the schools and the prisons ; in the latter of which establishments he witnessed, for the first time, the operation of the silent system, but expressed no desire to make trial of its benefits in his own person.
His travels made Mr. Medlicott more self-confident than ever, and his loquacity did not diminish, it will easily be believed, with the augmentation of his funds of discourse. If the Rhine or the Rhone often makes men over-talkative, you may fancy the effects of the mighty rivers of the American continent. He came back to England with all his foibles magnified on the scale of the face of nature beyond the Atlantic. His conversation now flowed like the Mississippi, spread out like the prairies, and was often as hard to penetrate as the great forests of the new world. He never was so great a lion as he was for some time after his return to England. Never before did he afford the eyes of friend * Harvey such a feast. The Quakers now tlocked about him in greater numbers than ever, and his connection with them became closer daily. They scarcely left him time to visit his wife and children, or look after his few private affairs. Teas and lectures were the order of the day. Philanthropists of all sects are notorious consumers of congo, and the Quakers exceed all other religionists in the love of lectures. America was an inexhaustible subject. Mr. Medlicott having lectured the Americans on England, now reversed the process, and lectured the English on America. He lectured in London, in Liverpool, in Birmingham, in Glasgow, and going over to Dublin, in company with Harvey, he lectured there also, eclipsing for a week all the ordinary lights of the Rotunda. From Dublin he proceedled on a tour to Killarney, from thence to Connemara, and the Giant's Causeway, after which a book on Ireland was a matter of course; and a remarkable book it was, for it settled every Irish question, probed the difficulties of Irish government to the bottom, and left nothing, to be desired but that the writer should be made Chief Secretary, to set everything to rights by a short and simple Act of Parliament.
Mr. Medlicott, when in Dublin, honoured the lord-lieutenant of the day by attending his levee. The first person he met in the antechamber was Dr. Pigwidgeon; they conversed as if they had never been opposed, and the Doctor informed Reuben that he had just been appointed governor of some happy island belonging to the British Crown, and was on the point of resigning the borough of Blarney. While they were talking, who shouid come up, bustling through the crowd of sycophants and placehunters, but the foremost man in Ireland at that period, the leader of the Catholic body, and as great a borough-monger in his way as any duke in England. He was already acquainted with Mr. Medlicott, shook him cordially by the hand, was profuse of compliments upon the work on America, and finally invited him to dine that day, to meet Governor Pigwidgeon and other eminent public characters.
The dinner proved eventful, for it was arranged before the evening was over that Mr. Medlicott should try his luck again in the House of Commons, coming in for Blarney, as successor to the Doctor. It would only cost a thousand pounds or thereabouts ; but it was indispensable that the new candidate should start at once and show himself in the first instance at the Corn Exchange.
On that conspicuous stage, accordingly, Mr. Medlicott the very next day played the mountebank to a large and an admiring audience. He praised the great Irish leader, and the great Irish leader praised him. Mr. Medlicott was only too happy and too proud to serve under the banner of so distinguished a chief, and that distinguished chief, upon his part, was equally ready to accept Mr. Medlicott for his captain.
These mutual flatteries having been exchanged amidst vociferous applause from the unwashed artificers of Dublin, our enterprising hero sent his address to the newspapers, and embarked immediately for England, sedulously attended by his new patron to the water-side.
The report of this most unexpected Irish freak, having preceded him to Salisbury and Chichester, threw the old Bishop into a short paroxysm of indignation, vexed the Vicar considerably, and gratified only the weakest of his friends, including that fondest and vainest of her sex, his mother.
" Again !" cried the Vicar; "after burning his fingers once, I was in hopes he would not be so rash for the future.”
“ I don't know,” said Mr. Cox, after a moment's reflection, “I often hear it said that such a one, having once burned his fingers, will not be apt to burn them again. That is not my view of things. As far as my observation goes, the great mistakes of life are rarely committed only once. When I see a man make one imprudent marriage, I think it the more probable he will make another. If a man embarrasses himself by building a house, I don't expect him to give up building as soon as he is out of his difficulties ; on the contrary, I am inclined to predict he will soon be in the mortar again."
PEACE PROVES MORE FATAL THAN WAR.
MR. MEDLICOTT is now in the House again, but he treats the House with pretty much the same contempt that he formerly treated the University ; writes M. P. after his name, enjoys the éclat and the precedence which the position brings with it, but only meditates appearing upon rernarkable occasions, like a Cincinnatus to save his country, or a comet to make her tremble. His family, waxing larger at the rate of four new comers every three years, continued to reside in the house called the snuff-box, which they inhabited by Mr. Cox's never-ceasing kindness; Reuben lived there himself nearly as much as he did in London ; and not being content with the enterprising outlay of a thousand pounds upon the representation of Blarney, he speculated now a little in agriculture, and bought a farm of twenty acres adjoining his rural abode, which, with the help of the Frenchman and his godson, he hoped to cultivate with credit and advantage.
There never was anything clearer on paper than the profits of this farm ; but far from realising his anticipations, he soon found that it materially diminished his income, and that it was absolutely necessary to have some other iron in the fire. His wife being passionately fond of horticulture, it occurred to him to try the experiment of gardening upon a great scale : she would conduct the floral dapartment; he himself would manage the other branches, or his secretary and clerk under his control and super
intendence. For the disposal of his flowers and vegetables, he opened negotiations with the most extensive green-grocers of Covent Garden, and he inaugurated the speculation with a lecture upon the history and philosophy of gardens, which was attended by all the nobility and gentry within twenty miles of Chichester.
The spot originally combined flower-garden with kitchengarden ; here a cherry-tree, there an acacia; the violets creeping amongst the lettuces, and the roses and gooseberries seeming to grow upon the same bushes. Never did old Matthew sleep so soundly as in the little dimity-curtained bedroom overlooking the cucumber-frame, or breakfast with such appetite as in the sunny parlour underneath it, enjoying the song of the thrushes as much as his chocolate, and the smell of the flowers in their season more than even the odour of the titillating dust by which he had made his fortune. There was, however, something perhaps of the love of property in the gratification which these snatches of rustic existence gave him, for he was fond of thinking, when the whiffs of sweetness came upon the wind, that they came from his own roses ; and when the various birds were chirping, carolling, and cooing round about him, he was wont to distinguish what he called his own robins, or his own doves, from the cuckoo or the wood-pigeon that haunted the neighbouring grove, and were no tenants of his.
It was, indeed, a very pretty spot, and could not have been much more still had it been forty miles from any city, town, or borough. The nearest approach to hubbub ever heard there, was that of a rookery in an adjoining wood; or, if the wind was in a particular point, when the church-bells of the city rang out together upon any great occasion of civil or religious joy.
It was very good in Mr. Cox to surrender this place as he now did to Mr. Medlicott's use, not even reserving for himself the room that overlooked the cucumbers. Reuben now passed many of his days here, sometimes with his flageolet cheering his labourers, sometimes with his hoe in his hand, earthing his marrow-fats, while perhaps he meditated a speech or an enterprise, grafting the cares of the statesman upon the occupations of the farmer and the gardener. The Vicar, though growing unwieldy, was his grand vizier upon all horticultural questions, though no man saw more clearly than he did the wide difference between gardening for amusement, and gardening for profit. His father, moreover, was no visionary even in matters of roses and rasp