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Full Online Book HomeEssaysOld Friends - Essays In Epistolary Parody - LETTER: From Harold Skimpole, Esq., to the Rev. Charles Honeyman, M.A.
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Old Friends - Essays In Epistolary Parody - LETTER: From Harold Skimpole, Esq., to the Rev. Charles Honeyman, M.A. Post by :tmerlino Category :Essays Author :Andrew Lang Date :August 2011 Read :3765

Click below to download : Old Friends - Essays In Epistolary Parody - LETTER: From Harold Skimpole, Esq., to the Rev. Charles Honeyman, M.A. (Format : PDF)

Old Friends - Essays In Epistolary Parody - LETTER: From Harold Skimpole, Esq., to the Rev. Charles Honeyman, M.A.

LETTER: From Harold Skimpole, Esq., to the Rev. Charles Honeyman, M.A.

These letters tell their own tale of Genius and Virtue indigent and in chains. The eloquence of a Honeyman, the accomplishments of a Skimpole, lead only to Cursitor Street.

Coavins's, Cursitor Street, May 1.

My Dear Honeyman,--It is May-day, when even the chimney-sweeper, developing the pleasant unconscious poetry of his nature, forgets the flues, wreathes the flowers, and persuades himself that he is Jack-in-the-Green. Jack who? Was he Jack Sprat, or the young swain who mated with Jill! Who knows? The chimney-sweeper has all I ask, all that the butterflies possess, all that Common-sense and Business and Society deny to Harold Skimpole. He lives, he is free, he is "in the green!" I am in Coavins's! In Cursitor Street I cannot hear the streams warble, the birds chant, the music roll through the stately fane, let us say, of Lady Whittlesea's. Coavins's (as Coavins's man says) is "a 'ouse;" but how unlike, for example, the hospitable home of our friend Jarndyce! I can sketch Coavins's, but I cannot alter it: I can set it to music, on Coavins's piano; but how melancholy are the jingling strains of that dilapidated instrument! At Jarndyce's house, when I am there, I am in possession of it: here Coavins's is in possession of me-- of the person of Harold Skimpole.

And why am I here? Why am I far from landscape, music, conversation? Why, merely because I will follow neither Fame nor Fortune nor Faith. They call to us in the market-place, but I will not dance. Fame blows her trumpet, and offers her shilling (the Queen's). Faith peals her bells, and asks for MY shilling. Fortune rattles her banking-scales. They call, and the world joins the waltz; but I will not march with them. "Go after glory, commerce, creeds," I cry; "only let Harold Skimpole live!" {16} The world pursues the jangling music; but in my ear sound the pipes of Pan, the voices of the river and the wood.

Yet I cannot be in the playground, whither they invite me. Harold Skimpole is fettered--by what? By items! I regret my incapacity for details. It may be the tinker or the tailor at whose suit I am detained. I am certain it is not at that of the soldier, or the sailor, or the ploughboy, or the thief. But, for the apothecary-- why, yes--it MAY be the apothecary! In the dawn of life I loved-- who has not?--I wedded. I set about surrounding myself with rosy cheeks. These cheeks grow pallid. I call for the aid of Science-- Science sends in her bill! "To the Mixture as Before," so much to "the Tonic," so much. The cheeks are rosy again. I pour forth the blessings of a father's heart; but there stands Science inexorable, with her bill, her items. I vainly point out that the mixture has played its part, the tonic has played ITS part; and that, in the nature of things, the transaction is ended. The bill is unappeasable. I forget the details; a certain number of pieces of yellow and white dross are spoken of. Ah, I see it is fifteen and some odd shillings and coppers. Let us say twenty.

My dear Honeyman, you who, as I hear, are about to follow the flutes of Aphrodite into a temple where Hymen gilds the horns of the victims {17}--you, I am sure, will hurry to my rescue. You may not have the specie actually in your coffers; but with your prospects, surely you can sign something, or make over something, or back something, say a post obit or post vincula, or employ some other instrument? Excuse my inexperience; or, I should say, excuse my congenital inability to profit by experience, now considerable, of DIFFICULTIES--and of friendship. Let not the sun of May-day go down on Harold Skimpole in Coavins's!--Yours ever,

H. S.

P.S.--A youthful myrmidon of Coavins's will wait for a reply.
Shall we say, while we are about it, Twenty-five?

From the Rev. Charles Honeyman to Harold Skimpole, Esq.
Cursitor Street, May 1.

My Dear Skimpole,--How would I have joyed, had Providence placed it within my power to relieve your distress! But it cannot be. Like the Carthaginian Queen of whom we read in happier days at dear old Borhambury, I may say that I am haud ignarus mali. But, alas! the very evils in which I am not unlearned, make it impossible for me to add miseris succurrere disco! Rather am I myself in need of succour. You, my dear Harold, have fallen among thieves; I may too truly add that in this I am your neighbour. The dens in which we are lodged are contiguous; we are separated only by the bars. Your note was sent on hither from my rooms in Walpole Street. Since we met I have known the utmost that woman's perfidy and the rich man's contumely can inflict. But I can bear my punishment. I loved, I trusted. She to whose hand I aspired, she on whose affections I had based hopes at once of happiness in life and of extended usefulness in the clerical profession, SHE was less confiding. She summoned to her council a minion of the Law, one Briggs. HIS estimate of my position and prospects could not possibly tally with that of one whose HOPES are not set where the worldling places them. Let him, and such as he, take thought for the morrow and chaffer about settlements. I do not regret the gold to which you so delicately allude. I sorrow only for the bloom that has been brushed from the soaring pinions of a pure and disinterested affection. Sunt lacrymae rerum, and the handkerchief in which I bury my face is dank with them.

Nor is this disappointment my only CROSS. The carrion-birds of commerce have marked down the stricken deer from their eyries in Bond Street and Jermyn Street. To know how Solomons has behaved, and the BLACK colours in which Moss (of Wardour Street) has shown himself, is to receive a new light on the character of a People chosen under a very different Dispensation! Detainers flock in, like ravens to a feast. At this moment I have endured the humiliation of meeting a sneering child of this world--Mr. Arthur Pendennis--the emissary of one {18} to whom I gave in other days the sweetest blossom in the garden of my affections--my sister--of one who has, indeed, behaved like a brother--IN LAW! My word distrusted, my statements received with a chilling scepticism by this NABOB Newcome, I am urged to make some "composition" with my creditors. The world is very censorious, the ear of a Bishop is easily won; who knows how those who have ENVIED talents not misused may turn my circumstances to my disadvantage? You will see that, far from aiding another, I am rather obliged to seek succour myself. But that saying about the sparrows abides with me to my comfort. Could aught be done, think you, with a bill backed by our joint names? On July 12 my pew-rents will come in. I swear to you that they HAVE NOT BEEN ANTICIPATED. Yours afflictedly,


P.S.--Would Jarndyce lend his name to a small bill at three months? You know him well, and I have heard that he is a man of benevolent character, and of substance. But "how hardly shall a rich man"-- you remember the text.--C. H.


{16} This appears to have been a favourite remark of Mr. Skimpole's. It will be noticed that, quite without intending it, Mr. Skimpole was the founder of our New Cyrenaic School.

{17} Mr. Skimpole's recollections of classical ritual are a little mixed hereabouts. He refers to Mr. Honeyman's projected union with the widow of Mr. Bromley, the famous hatter.

{18} Colonel Newcome, indeed.

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