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CORNELIUS O'DOWD UPON MEN AND WOMEN, AND OTHER THINGS
I WONDER is the world as pleasant very tangible advantages too–I do as it used to be ? Not to myself, of not think the present occupants course I neither ask nor expect it; make the house as pleasant as their but I mean to those who are in fathers did, and for the very simple the same position to enjoy it as I reason, that they never try. was years ago. I am delicate Indifferentism is the tone of the about the figures, for Mrs. O'D, ocday. No one must be eager, pleased, casionally reads these sketches, and displeased, interested, or anxious might feel a wifelike antipathy to about anything. Life is to be a record of this nature. I repeat- treated as a tiresome sort of thing, I wonder is life as good fun as it but which is far too much beneath was when I made my first acquaint- one to be thought of seriouslyance with it? My impression is wearisome performance, which good that it is not. I do not presame manners require you should sit to say that all the same elements out, though nothing obliges you to are not as abundant as heretofore. applaud or even approve of it. This There are young people, and witty is the theory, and we have been people, and, better, there are beau- most saccessful in reducing it to tifal people, in abundance. There practice. We are immensely bored, are great houses as of yore, main- and we take good care so shall be tained, perhaps, with even more our neighbour. Just as we have than bygone splendoor: the horses voted that there is nothing new, are as good—the dogs as good—the nothing strange, nothing amusing, trout-streams as well stocked--the we defy any one to differ with us, grouse as abundant-foreign travel on pain of pronouncing him vulgar. is more easy-all travel is more North American Indians are not facile there are more books, and more case - hardened against any more illustrated newspapers; and show of suffering under torture, yet with all these advantages than are our well-bred people
against any manifestation of show- the case now? Apatby is exceling pleasure in anytbing. " It lence, and the nearest approach to wasn't bad," is about the highest ex- insensibility is the greatest eminence pression of our praise; and I doubt attaipable. if we would accord more to heaven Io the Regency, when George -if we got there. The grand test IV. was Prince, the clever talkers of your modern Englishman is, to certainly abounded; and men talk bear any amount of amusement well or ill exactly as there is a dewithout wincing: no pleasure is to mand for the article. The wittiest wring a smile from him, nor is any conversationalist that ever existed expectancy to interest, or any un- would be powerless in a circle of looked-for event to astonish. He these modern “Unsurprised ones." would admit that “the Governor" Their vacant self-possession would meaning bis father was surprised; put down all the Grattans and he would concede the fact, as re- Carrans and Jeffreys and Sydney cording some prejudice of a by- Smiths in the world. I defy the gone age. As the tone of manners most brilliant, the readiest, the and observance has grown univer- most genial of talkers to vivify the sal, so has the very expression of mass of inert dulness he will find the features. They are intensely now at every dinner and in every like each other. We are told that drawing-room. a shepherd will know the actual The code of modern manners is faces of all the sheep in his flock, to make ease the first of all objects; distinguishing each from each at & and, in order that the stupidest man glance. I am curious to know if may be at his ease, the ablest is to the Bishop of London knows even be sacrificed. He who could bring the few lost sheep that browse vast stores of agreeability to the about Rotten Row of an afternoon, common stock must not show his and who are so familiar to us in wares, because there are a store of Leech's sketches. There they are incapables who have nothing for the
-whiskered, bearded, and bored; market. fine-looking animals in their way. They have a saying in Donegal, but jast as much living creatures that "the water is so strong it rein Punch' as they are yonder. It quires two whiskies;" but I would is said that they only want the sti- ask what amount of “spirits " malus of a necessity, something of would enliven this dreariness; wbat daring to tempt, or something of infusion of pleasantry would make difficulty to provoke them, to be just Brown and Jones endurable when as bold and energetic as ever their multiplied by what algebraists call fathers were. I don't deny it. I an 2 — an unknown quantity of am only complaining of the system other Browns and Joneses ? which makes sheep of them, reduces We are constantly calling attenlife to a dreary table-land, making tion to the fact of the influence the stupid fellows the standard, and exerted over morals and manners coming down to their level for the in France by the prevailing tone sake of uniformity. Formerly they of the lighter literature, and we who had more wit, more smart mark the increasing licentiousness dess, more worldly knowledge than that has followed such works as their neighbours, enjoyed a certain those of Eugene Sue and the younge pre-eminence; the flash of their er Dumas. Let us not forget to agreeability lighted up the group look at bome, and see if, in the they talked in, and they were days wben the Waverleys constivalued and sought after. Now the tuted almost all our lighter readvery homage rendered, even in this ing, the tone of society was not small way, was at least & testimony bigher, the spirit more heroic, the that superiority was recognised current of thought and expression and its claims admitted. What is purer, than in these realistic daye, when we turn for amusement to and it is my pride to remember that descriptions of every quaint vulga- I have seen some of those who were, rity that makes up the life of the in an age of no common convivial boardiog-house or the strolling thea- excellence, amongst the first and tre.
the greatest. They are gone, and The glorious heroism of Scott's I may speak of them by name-Lord novels was & fine stream to turn Plankett, the Chief Justice Bushe, into the turbid river of our worldli: Mr. Casey, Sir Philip Crampton, ness and money.seeking. It was of Barré Beresford-I need not go on. incalculable benefit to give men even I have but to recall the leading & passing glance of noble devotion, men at the bar, to make up a list of high-bearted courage, and unsullied the most brilliant talkers that ever purity.
delighted society. Nor was the soil I can remember the time when, exhausted with these ; there came, as freshmen in our first year, wé so to say, a second crop-a younger went about talking to each other order of men-less versed in affairs, of Ivanhoe' and 'Kenilworth ;' it is true, less imbued with that and I can remember, too, when the vigorous conviviality that prevail. glorious spirit of those novels bad ed in their fathers' days-but of so possessed us, that our romance these I must not speak, for they elevated and warmed us to an un- bave now grown up to great digniconscious imitation of the noble ties and stations, they have risen to thoughts and deeds we had been eminence and honour and repute, reading.
and might possibly be ashamed if Smile if you like at our boyish it were known that they were once enthasiasm, it was better than the so agreeable. Let me, however, remocking spirit engendered by all cord one who is no more, but who this realism, or the insensate cray- possessed the charm of companing after stimulas taught by sensation ionship to a degree I never knew novels.
equalled in all my varied experienNow, I am not old enough to cês of life,--one who could bring remember the great talkers of the the stores of a well-stocked mind, time when George III. was King, rich in scholarship, to bear upon or those who made Carlton House any passing incident, blended with famous; but I belonged to a genera- the fascination of a manner that tion where these men were remem- was irresistible. Highly imaginabered, and where it was common tive, and with a power of expresenough to hear stories of their At- sion that was positively marvellous, tic nights, those noctes canaque he gave to ordinary conversation an deorum which really in brilliancy elevation that actually conferred must bave far transcended anything honour on those who were associated that Europe could boast of conver- with it; and high above all these sational power. The youth of the gifts and graces, & noble nature, time I speak of were full of these generous, hopeful, and confiding. traditions. "If I am not the rose, With an intellect that challenged I grew near one," was no foolish any rivalry, he had, in all that boast; and certainly there was both touched worldly matters, the simin the tone of conversation and the plicity of a child. To my countemper of society a sentiment that trymen it is needless I should tell showed how the great men had of whom I speak; to others, I influenced their age, and how, even say his name was Mortimer O'Salafter their son had gone down, a livan. The mellow cadence of his warm tint remained to remind the winning voice, the beam of his world of the glorious splendour that honest eye, the generous smile had departed.
that never knew scoro, are all beBeing an Irishman, it is to Ire- fore me as I write, and I will write land I must go for my illustration, no more.
against any manifestation of showing pleasure in anything. “It wasn't bad,” is about the highest expression of our praise; and I doubt if we would accord more to heaven —if we got there. The grand test of your modern Englishman is, to bear any amount of amusement without wincing: no pleasure is to wring a smile from him, nor is any expectancy to interest, or any unlooked-for event to astonish. He would admit that “the Governor"— meaning his father—was surprised; he would concede the fact, as recording some prejudice of a bygone age. As the tone of manners and observance has grown universal, so has the very expression of the features. They are intensely like each other. We are told that a shepherd will know the actual faces of all the sheep in his flock, distinguishing each from each at a glance. I am curious to know if the Bishop of London knows even the few lost sheep that browse about Rotten Row of an afternoon, and who are so familiar to us in Leech's sketches. There they are —whiskered, bearded, and bored; fine-looking animals in their way, but just as much living creatures in ‘Punch' as they are yonder. It is said that they only want the stimulus of a necessity, something of daring to tempt, or something of difficulty to provoke them, to be just as bold and energetic as ever their fathers were. I don't deny it. I am only complaining of the system which makes sheep of them, reduces life to a dreary table-land, making the stupid fellows the standard, and coming down to their level for the sake of uniformity. Formerly they who had more wit, more smartness, more worldly knowledge than their neighbours, enjoyed a certain pre-eminence; the flash of their agreeability lighted up the group they talked in, and they were valued and sought after. Now the very homage rendered, even in this small way, was at least a testimony that superiority was recognised and its claims admitted. What is
the case now? Apathy is excellence, and the nearest approach to insensibility is the greatest eminence attainable. In the Regency, when George IV. was Prince, the clever talkers certainly abounded; and men talk well or ill exactly as there is a demand for the article. The wittiest conversationalist that ever existed would be powerless in a circle of these modern “Unsurprised ones.” Their vacant self-possession would put down all the Grattans and Currans and Jeffreys and Sydney Smiths in the world. I defy the most brilliant, the readiest, the most genial of talkers to vivify the mass of inert dulness he will find now at every dinner and in every drawing-room. The code of modern manners is to make ease the first of all objects; and, in order that the stupidest man may be at his ease, the ablest is to be sacrificed. He who could bring vast stores of agreeability to the common stock must not show his wares, because there are a store of incapables who have nothing for the market. They have a saying in Donegal, that “the water is so strong it requires two whiskies;" but I would ask what amount of “spirits" would enliven this dreariness; what infusion of pleasantry would make Brown and Jones endurable when multiplied by what algebraists call an a – an unknown quantity — of other Browns and Joneses? We are constantly calling attention to the fact of the influence exerted over morals and manners in France by the prevailing tone of the lighter literature, and we mark the increasing licentiousness that has followed such works as those of Eugene Sue and the younger Dumas. Let us not forget to look at home, and see if, in the days when the Waverleys constituted almost all our lighter reading, the tone of society was not higher, the spirit more heroic, the current of thought and expression purer, than in these realistic days,