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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPelham - Volume 4 - Chapter 52
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Pelham - Volume 4 - Chapter 52 Post by :richerquicker Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2846

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Pelham - Volume 4 - Chapter 52


Illi mors gravis incubat Qui notus nimis omnibus Ignotus moritus sibi. --Seneca.

Nous serons par nos lois les juges des ouvrages.--Les Femmes Savantes.

Vincent called on me the next day. "I have news for you," said he, "though somewhat of a lugubrious nature. Lugete Veneres Cupidinesque. You remember the Duchesse de Perpignan!"

"I should think so," was my answer.

"Well then," pursued Vincent, "she is no more. Her death was worthy of her life. She was to give a brilliant entertainment to all the foreigners at Paris: the day before it took place a dreadful eruption broke over her complexion. She sent for the doctors in despair. 'Cure me against to-morrow,' she said, 'and name your own reward.' 'Madame, it is impossible to do so with safety to your health.' 'Au diable! with your health,' said the duchesse, 'what is health to an eruption?' The doctors took the hint; an external application was used--the duchesse woke in the morning as beautiful as ever--the entertainment took place--she was the Armida of the scene. Supper was announced. She took the arm of the--ambassador, and moved through the crowd amidst the audible admiration of all. She stopped for a moment at the door; all eyes were upon her. A fearful and ghastly convulsion passed over her countenance, her lips trembled, she fell on the ground with the most terrible contortions of face and frame. They carried her to bed. She remained for some days insensible; when she recovered, she asked for a looking-glass. Her whole face was drawn on one side, not a wreck of beauty was left;--that night she poisoned herself!"

I cannot express how shocked I was at this information. Much as I had cause to be disgusted with the conduct of that unhappy woman, I could find in my mind no feeling but commiseration and horror at her death; and it was with great difficulty that Vincent persuaded me to accept an invitation to Lady Roseville's for the evening, to meet Glanville and himself.

However, I cheered up as the night came on; and though my mind was still haunted with the tale of the morning, it was neither in a musing nor a melancholy mood that I entered the drawing-room at Lady Roseville's--"So runs the world away."

Glanville was there in his "customary mourning," and looking remarkably handsome.

"Pelham," he said, when he joined me, "do you remember at Lady--'s one night, I said I would introduce you to my sister? I had no opportunity then, for we left the house before she returned from the refreshment room. May I do so now?"

I need not say what was my answer. I followed Glanville into the next room; and to my inexpressible astonishment and delight, discovered in his sister the beautiful, the never-forgotten stranger I had seen at Cheltenham.

For once in my life I was embarrassed--my bow would have shamed a major in the line, and my stuttered and irrelevant address, an alderman in the presence of His Majesty. However, a few moments sufficed to recover me, and I strained every nerve to be as agreeable and seduisant as possible.

After I had conversed with Miss Glanville for some time, Lady Roseville joined us. Stately and Juno-like as was that charming personage in general, she relaxed into a softness of manner to Miss Glanville, that quite won my heart. She drew her to a part of the room, where a very animated and chiefly literary conversation was going on--and I, resolving to make the best of my time, followed them, and once more found myself seated beside Miss Glanville. Lady Roseville was on the other side of my beautiful companion; and I observed that, whenever she took her eyes from Miss Glanville, they always rested upon her brother, who, in the midst of the disputation and the disputants, sat silent, gloomy, and absorbed.

The conversation turned upon Scott's novels; thence on novels in general; and finally on the particular one of Anastasius.

"It is a thousand pities" said Vincent, "that the scene of that novel is so far removed from us. Could the humour, the persons, the knowledge of character, and of the world, come home to us, in a national, not an exotic garb, it would be a more popular, as it is certainly a more gifted work, than even the exquisite novel of Gil Blas. But it is a great misfortune for Hope that--

"'To learning he narrowed his mind, And gave up to the East what was meant for mankind.'

"One often loses, in admiration at the knowledge of peculiar costume, the deference one would have paid to the masterly grasp of universal character."

"It must require," said Lady Roseville, "an extraordinary combination of mental powers to produce a perfect novel."

"One so extraordinary," answered Vincent, "that, though we have one perfect epic poem, and several which pretend to perfection, we have not one perfect novel in the world. Gil Blas approaches more to perfection than any other (owing to the defect I have just mentioned in Anastasius); but it must be confessed that there is a want of dignity, of moral rectitude, and of what I may term moral beauty, throughout the whole book. If an author could combine the various excellencies of Scott and Le Sage, with a greater and more metaphysical knowledge of morals than either, we might expect from him the perfection we have not yet discovered since the days of Apuleius."

"Speaking of morals," said Lady Roseville, "do you not think every novel should have its distinct but, and inculcate, throughout, some one peculiar moral, such as many of Marmontel's and Miss Edgeworth's?"

"No!" answered Vincent, "every good novel has one great end--the same in all--viz. the increasing our knowledge of the heart. It is thus that a novel writer must be a philosopher. Whoever succeeds in shewing us more accurately the nature of ourselves and species, has done science, and, consequently, virtue, the most important benefit; for every truth is a moral. This great and universal end, I am led to imagine, is rather crippled than extended by the rigorous attention to the one isolated moral you mention.

"Thus Dryden, in his Essay on the Progress of Satire, very rightly prefers Horace to Juvenal, so far as instruction is concerned; because the miscellaneous satires of the former are directed against every vice--the more confined ones of the latter (for the most part) only against one. All mankind is the field the novelist should cultivate--all truth, the moral he should strive to bring home. It is in occasional dialogue, in desultory maxims, in deductions from events, in analysis of character, that he should benefit and instruct. It is not enough--and I wish a certain novelist who has lately arisen would remember this--it is not enough for a writer to have a good heart, amiable sympathies, and what are termed high feelings, in order to shape out a moral, either true in itself, or beneficial in its inculcation. Before he touches his tale, he should be thoroughly acquainted with the intricate science of morals, and the metaphysical, as well as the more open, operations of the mind. If his knowledge is not deep and clear, his love of the good may only lead him into error; and he may pass off the prejudices of a susceptible heart for the precepts of virtue. Would to God that people would think it necessary to be instructed before they attempt to instruct. 'Dire simplement que la vertu est vertu parce qu'elle est bonne en son fonds, et le vice tout au contraire, ce n'est pas les faire connoitre.' For me, if I was to write a novel, I would first make myself an acute, active, and vigilant observer of men and manners. Secondly, I would, after having thus noted effects by action in the world, trace the causes by books, and meditation in my closet. It is then, and not till then, that I would study the lighter graces of style and decoration; nor would I give the rein to invention, till I was convinced that it would create neither monsters of men nor falsities of truth. For my vehicles of instruction or amusement, I would have people as they are--neither worse nor better--and the moral they should convey, should be rather through jest or irony, than gravity and seriousness. There never was an imperfection corrected by portraying perfection; and if levity or ridicule be said so easily to allure to sin, I do not see why they should not be used in defence of virtue. Of this we may be sure, that as laughter is a distinct indication of the human race, so there never was a brute mind or a savage heart that loved to indulge in it." (Note: The Philosopher of Malmesbury express a very different opinion of the origin of laughter, and, for my part, I think his doctrine, in great measure, though not altogether--true.--See Hobbes on Human Nature, and the answer to him in Campbell's Rhetoric.)

Vincent ceased.

"Thank you, my lord," said Lady Roseville, as she took Miss Glanville's arm and moved from the table. "For once you have condescended to give us your own sense, and not other people's; you have scarce made a single quotation."

"Accept," answered Vincent, rising--

"'Accept a miracle instead of wit.'"

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Pelham - Volume 4 - Chapter 56 Pelham - Volume 4 - Chapter 56

Pelham - Volume 4 - Chapter 56
VOLUME IV CHAPTER LVI The times have been That when the brains were out, the man would die, And there an end--but now they rise again.--Macbeth. It was a strange thing to see a man like Glanville, with costly tastes, luxurious habits, great talents, peculiarly calculated for display, courted by the highest members of the state, admired for his beauty and genius by half the women in London, yet living in the most ascetic seclusion from his kind, and indulging in the darkest and most morbid despondency. No female was ever seen to win even his momentary glance of admiration.

Pelham - Volume 4 - Chapter 51 Pelham - Volume 4 - Chapter 51

Pelham - Volume 4 - Chapter 51
VOLUME IV CHAPTER LI I hate a drunken rogue.--Twelfth Night. We took an affectionate leave of Mr. Gordon, and found ourselves once more in the open air; the smoke and the purl had contributed greatly to the continuance of our inebriety, and we were as much averse to bed as ever. We conveyed ourselves, laughing and rioting all the way, to a stand of hackney-coaches. We entered the head of the flock, and drove to Piccadilly. It set us down at the corner of the Haymarket. "Past two!" cried the watchman, as we sauntered by him. "You lie, you rascal," said