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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 7 - Chapter 20
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What Will He Do With It - Book 7 - Chapter 20 Post by :dant245 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2316

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What Will He Do With It - Book 7 - Chapter 20

BOOK VII CHAPTER XX

EACH GENERATION HAS ITS OWN CRITICAL CANONS IN POETRY AS WELL AS IN POLITICAL CREEDS, FINANCIAL SYSTEMS, OR WHATEVER OTHER CHANGEABLE MATTERS OF TASTE ARE CALLED "SETTLED QUESTIONS" AND "FIXED OPINIONS."

George, musing much over all that his uncle had said respecting Darrell, took his way to Lionel's lodgings. The young man received him with the cordial greeting due from Darrell's kinsman to Colonel Morley's nephew, but tempered by the respect no less due to the distinction and the calling of the eloquent preacher.

Lionel was perceptibly affected by learning that Darrell had thus suddenly returned to the gloomy beech-woods of Fawley; and he evinced his anxious interest in his benefactor with so much spontaneous tenderness of feeling that George, as if in sympathy, warmed into the same theme. "I can well conceive," said he, "your affection for Mr. Darrell. I remember, when I was a boy, how powerfully he impressed me, though I saw but little of him. He was then in the zenith of his career, and had but few moments to give to a boy like me; but the ring of his voice and the flash of his eye sent me back to school, dreaming of fame and intent on prizes. I spent part of one Easter vacation at his house in town; he bade his son, who was my schoolfellow, invite me."

LIONEL.--"You knew his son? How Mr. Darrell has felt that loss!"

GEORGE.--"Heaven often veils its most provident mercy in what to man seems its sternest inflictions. That poor boy must have changed his whole nature, if his life had not, to a father like Mr. Darrell, occasioned grief sharper than his death."

LIONEL.--"You amaze me. Mr. Darrell spoke of him as a boy of great promise."

GEORGE.--"He had that kind of energy which to a father conveys the idea of promise, and which might deceive those older than himself--a fine bright-eyed, bold-tongued boy, with just enough awe of his father to bridle his worst qualities before him."

LIONEL.--"What were those?"

GEORGE.--"Headstrong arrogance--relentless cruelty. He had a pride which would have shamed his father out of pride, had Guy Darrell detected its nature--purse pride! I remember his father said to me with a half-laugh: 'My boy must not be galled and mortified as I was every hour at school--clothes patched and pockets empty.' And so, out of mistaken kindness, Mr. Darrell ran into the opposite extreme, and the son was proud, not of his father's fame, but of his father's money, and withal not generous, nor exactly extravagant, but using money as power-power that allowed him to insult an equal or to buy a slave. In a word, his nickname at school was 'Sir Giles Overreach.' His death was the result of his strange passion for tormenting others. He had a fag who could not swim, and who had the greatest terror of the water; and it was while driving this child into the river out of his depth that cramp seized himself, and he was drowned. Yes, when I think what that boy would have been as a man, succeeding to Darrell's wealth--and had Darrell persevered (as he would, perhaps, if the boy had lived) in his public career--to the rank and titles he would probably have acquired and bequeathed--again, I say, in man's affliction is often Heaven's mercy."

Lionel listened aghast. George continued: "Would that I could speak as plainly to Mr. Darrell himself! For we find constantly in the world that there is no error that misleads us like the error that is half a truth wrenched from the other half; and nowhere is such an error so common as when man applies it to the judgment of some event in his own life, and separates calamity from consolation."

LIONEL.--"True; but who could have the heart to tell a mourning father that his dead son was worthless?"

GEORGE.--"Alas! my young friend, the preacher must sometimes harden his own heart if he would strike home to another's soul. But I am not sure that Mr. Darrell would need so cruel a kindness. I believe that his clear intellect must have divined some portions of his son's nature which enabled him to bear the loss with fortitude. And he did bear it bravely. But now, Mr. Haughton, if you have the rest of the day free, I am about to make you an unceremonious proposition for its disposal. A lady who knew Mr. Darrell when she was very young has--a strong desire to form your acquaintance. She resides on the banks of the Thames, a little above Twickenham. I have promised to call on her this evening. Shall we dine together at Richmond? and afterwards we can take a boat to her villa."

Lionel at once accepted, thinking so little of the lady that he did not even ask her name. He was pleased to have a companion with whom he could talk of Darrell. He asked but delay to write a few lines of affectionate inquiry to his kinsman at Fawley, and, while he wrote, George took out Arthur Branthwaite's poems, and resumed their perusal. Lionel having sealed his letter, George extended the book to him. "Here are some remarkable poems by a brother-in-law of that remarkable artist, Frank Vance."

"Frank Vance! True, he had a brother-in-law a poet. I admire Frank so much; and, though he professes to sneer at poetry, he is so associated in my mind with poetical images that I am prepossessed beforehand in favour of all that brings him, despite himself, in connection with poetry."

"Tell me then," said George, pointing out a passage in the volume, "what you think of these lines. My good uncle would call them gibberish. I am not sure that I can construe them; but when I was your age, I think I could--what say you?"

Lionel glanced. "Exquisite indeed!--nothing can be clearer--they express exactly a sentiment in myself that I could never explain."

"Just so," said George, laughing. "Youth has a sentiment that it cannot explain, and the sentiment is expressed in a form of poetry that middle age cannot construe. It is true that poetry of the grand order interests equally all ages; but the world ever throws out a poetry not of the grandest; not meant to be durable--not meant to be universal, but following the shifts and changes of human sentiment, and just like those pretty sundials formed by flowers, which bloom to tell the hour, open their buds to tell it, and, telling it, fade themselves from time."

Not listening to the critic, Lionel continued to read the poems, exclaiming, "How exquisite!--how true!"

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