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Some specimens exist in earlier volumes, and perhaps just, but disqualifies a man in of this Magazine. But take a little some degree for the business of life, which
requires for its conduct a certain degree of gem, one of many, from his earliest
prejudice. Mr. Vavasour's breakfasts were poems. The following was written renowned. Whatever your creed, class, or when he was nineteen :
country-one might almost add, your charac
ter- you were a welcome guest at his matutiMUTABILITY,
nal meal, provided you were celebrated. That
qualification, however, was rigidly enforced. “I saw two children intertwine
Individuals met at his hospitable house who Their arms about each other,
had never met before, but who for years had Like the lithe tendrils of a vine,
been cherishing in solitude mutual detestation, Around its nearest brother :
with all the irritable exaggeration of the liteAnd ever and anon,
rary character. He prided himself on figuring As gaily they ran on,
as the social medium by which rival reputaEach lookt into the other's face,
tions became acquainted, and paid each other Anticipating an embrace.
in his presence the compliments which veiled
their ineffable disgust. A real philosopher, “I markt those two when they were men, alike from his genial disposition and from the I watcht them meet one day ;
influence of his rich and various information, They toucht each other's hands, and then Vavasour moved amid the strife sympathizing Each went on his own way:
with everyone; and perhaps, after all, the philanThere did not seem a tie
thropy, which was his boast, was not untinged Of love, the lightest chain,
by a dash of humour, of which rare and charmTo make them turn a lingʻring eye, ing quality he possessed no inconsiderable porOr press the hand again.
tion. Vavasour liked to know everybody who “This is a page in our life's book
was known, and to see everything which ought
to be seen. His life was a gyration of energetic We all of us turn over ;
curiosity, an insatiable whirl of social celebrity. The web is rent,
There was not a congregation of sages and The hour-glass spent,
philosophers in any part of Europe which he And, oh! the path we once forsook,
did not attend as a brother. As for his acHow seldom we recover !
quaintances, he was welcomed in every land : “Our days are broken into parts,
his universal sympathies seemed omnipotent. And every fragment has a tale
Emperor and king, jacobin and carbonari, alike Of the abandonment of hearts,
cherished him. He was the steward of Polish May make our freshest hopes turn pale;
balls, and the vindicator of Russian humanity; Even in the plighting of our troth,
he dined with Louis Philippe and gave dinners Even in the passion of our oath,
to Louis Blanc." A cold, hard voice may seem to mutter “We know not what it is we utter.”
A better knowledge of Lord Hough
ton would have taught the writer, and Some seventeen years ago Lord has very likely already taught him, that Houghton was sketched, with the ad- he seeks not celebrity only, but talent, dition of a little playful caricature, and whether celebrated or obscure ; and that of one or two touches inconsistent with merit, and not success, is the indispenthe whole, which the better feelings of sable qualification. Many are the young the man of genius who wrote that sketch authors, and obscure men of talent, who will probably have long since led him may afterwards perhaps attain fame or to regret, in Mr. Disraeli's “Tancred," may miss it, who know the warmth of under the name of “Mr. Vavasour.” his sympathy and the constancy of his The following sentences are a slightly- friendship. Merit or mark, though marred recognition of qualities which lowly or unfashionable, is, indeed, to in the interval have become widely him as beauty to Van Artevelde's known :
Elena — “Mr. Vavasour was a social favourite ; a “Beauty in plain attire her heart could fill; poet, and a real poet, quite a troubadour, as Yea, though in beggary, 'twas beauty still.” well as a member of Parliament, travelled, sweet-tempered, and good - hearted; very Nor can I admit the justice of the amusing, and very clever. With catholic
C insinuation that malice mingles in his
incinnatis, sympathies and an eclectic turn of mind, Mr. Vavasour saw something good in everybody catholic friendship and hospitality; and everything, which is certainly amiable, rather do I believe in the poet-poli
tician's own account of his mission of and the author of the “ Friends in, conciliation in lines, published in 1840, Council ” had a large circle of readers which are worthy to be quoted for, and fame, before the name of Arthur themselves
Helps was generally known. I believe 6 Amid the factions of the Field of Life
that, as is often the case, the merits of The Poet held his little neutral ground, this writer were widely appreciated in And they who mixt the deepest in the strife the United States, even before they Their evening way to his seclusion found. obtained a similar wide appreciation in.
obtained a similar wide anni “ Thus, meeting oft the antagonists of the day,
England. I cannot conceive a more Who near in mute suspicion seemed to stand,
decisive test of fame—as decisive, cerHe said what neither would be first to say, tainly, as the “Digito monstrari et dicier, And, having spoken, left them hand in hic est”-than what accidentally came hand.”
under my notice a few years ago, viz.,, The description of Lord Houghton's a lecture given in a provincial town (by, life as "a gyration of energetic curiosity, I think, an American lecturer), called an insatiable whirl of social celebrity,” “An Evening with Arthur Helps.” The is not too strong; and the combination “Claims of Labour" made the beginning of such a life with great acquirements of his popularity, and the “Friends in and constant literary occupation, and Council” is the most popular of his with the mental activity which enables works. Many of the readers of these him to keep pace with the progress of books are perhaps yet unacquainted almost all branches of literature and with the learning, wisdom, and eloquence speculative philosophy, and to study and (see, for instance, the eloquent descripprosecute more political questions than tion of the city of Mexico) of his “Hisare undertaken by most legislators, istory of the Conquest of America," or truly matter for amazement. To the with the practical wisdom condensed large mind Mr. Disraeli has done justice, into his “Essays written in the Interbut not to the large heart which is with vals of Business”-superior, perhaps, in it. This has been well described with some respects, and certainly for conciseone single touch, by a well-known popu- ness, to the Essays of the “Friends in lar writer, another “ Apostle," who, in Council.” And few beyond the friends his own quaint manner, in one of the of his youth know of a little volume, volumes of the “Friends in Council," which was published while he was at has set himself to think how his friends Cambridge, and which it is to be rewould treat him if he should get into gretted that he has not reproduced-a serious trouble or discredit, and declares little collection of aphorisms, “ Thoughts himself confident of one thing, that in the Cloister and the Crowd,” which, “ Pontefract” would instantly ask him at the time of its anonymous publicato dinner.
cation, attracted the notice, and obtained There can hardly be a literary repu- the highly favourable judgment, of John tation whose growth and spread have Stuart Mill. This is twenty-seven been so remarkable and satisfactory as years ago. The little book was the that which has come in early manhood subject of an article by Mr. John Mill, to the author of the “ Claims of Labour" which also treated of aphorisms geneand the “Friends in Council.” These rally, in the “London Review” of Januand other books, published without a ary, 1837. The same distinguished name, addressing neither the passions thinker and writer had been foremost nor the imagination, written in no to give warm welcome to the first poetry gorgeous or glittering style, but one of Alfred Tennyson. I remember, when singularly simple, unadorned, and clear, a boy, first learning of Alfred Tennyaltogether unaided by arts of puffing, son's name and poetry, by an article pushed by no newspaper or review, written by John Stuart Mill, pointing silently, steadily, widely worked their out the beauties and great promise of way to "the general heart of man;" poems in which the Quarterly of that, day could find nothing but matter for young head-master of Harrow; Wilsneers and ridicule. This was published, liam Johnson, of Eton; and let me in 1830 or 1831, in a Magazine called end this list with one who may, the Monthly Repository, edited by W. J. without invidiousness, be selected from Fox. It is generally known that Arthur among the younger hopes of the Society, Helps is the author of the Preface to who has lately, in the pages of this the collection of the Prince Consort's Magazine, made a brilliant beginning in “Speeches and Addresses."
literature as the Indian “ Competition Among living and dead there are Wallah," and who, the heir of two repumany other members of this Cambridge tations, is expected by many to follow Society known more or less to fame. not unworthily in the two careers of Let me first enumerate a few of the literature and of politics. living : Frederick Maurice ; Dr. Ken- Of Charles Buller I have already nedy, the Head Master of Shrewsbury; spoken at length. I will mention a few Trench, Archbishop of Dublin, poet as other members of this Society, who have well as divine; another poet and divine, prematurely died, leaving works and a Alford, the Dean of Canterbury ; James name behind them, an instalment only Spedding, who, having served for some of “unfulfilled renown." There was time in the Colonial Office, refused John Sterling, who has had the high nearly twenty years ago the honourable honour of being the subject of two rival offer of succession to Sir James Stephen biographies by two such men as Julius as Under-Secretary for the Colonies, that Charles Hare and Thomas Carlyle; whose he might patiently devote himself to beautiful poem, the “Sexton's Daughter,” his long labour of love on the life and ought to be known by all; whom I only works of Bacon; the Regius Professor saw and heard once,—“ Virgilium vidi of Greek, W. H. Thompson, a member of tantum,”—but the music of whose full the late Commission on Public Schools; and flowing eloquence as heard on that Charles Merivale, the distinguished Latin occasion has never faded from my ears.? scholar and Roman historian, the present There were the two Hallams, the elder chaplain to the House of Commons; of whom will be ever remembered by Kenneth Macaulay, the member for that great threnodia, greater than Cambridge, whose endowments singu- “Lycidas” or “ Adonais," which our larly fitted him for distinction in the Poet Laureate has made in his memory, House of Commons, but whom en- and the younger of whom was refeebled health has prevented from garded by his contemporaries as of seeking there the prominence which in promise hardly inferior to his brother's. 2 younger days of strength he had, with There were John Kemble, the wellsurprising rapidity, acquired at the Bar; known Anglo-Saxon scholar; Henry W. F. Pollock, the translator of Dante; Lushington, who was Secretary of GoTom Taylor, in all whose versatile ac vernment in Malta, and whose virtues complishments and industry are to be and accomplishments and works, much seen high principles of taste and moral diminished by constant ill-health, have aim, and the brightest element of whose been recorded in the charming biovarious fame is the elevation by scholar- graphy of his friend and brothership and moral purpose of his popular apostle, Venables; and, lastly, I will dramas ; Maine, who is now maintain- 1 Archdeacon Hare says of his reputation ing in India, as Legislative Member of as a speaker at Cambridge, “I have been told Council. the high name which he had by several of the most intelligent among his acquired as a philosophical lawyer, and
contemporaries that, of all the speakers they
ever heard, he had the greatest gift of natural as author of a treatise on Ancient Law; eloquence.” Carlyle, speaking of his college another young jurist of solid reputa- reputation as a speaker, says, that Charles tion, Fitzjames Stephen, author of “A en author of coll Buller was considered to be the only one of
his companions who came near him, General View of the Criminal Law
? See Dr. John Brown's “Horæ Subsecivæ," of England ;" Butler, the distinguished first series, for notices of the two Hallams.
name one with whom I was united in close friendship, the late Secretary of the Civil Service Commission, John Gorham Maitland, the extent of whose powers and attainments his great modesty veiled from the world. At Cambridge he seemed never to have any work to do; yet he was third classic of his year, second Chancellor's medallist, and seventh wrangler. His mind embraced all subjects, and was as fitted for the work of life as for speculation. His superiors in the Civil Service Commission-I can speak for one of them at least, Sir John Lefevre—knew his capacity and worth.
A few young men at College, attracted to companionship by a common taste for literature and speculation, make a Society for a weekly essay and discussion. Such societies have often been made in public schools and Universities. This Society was founded about 1820 by some members of St. John's College, among whom was Tomlinson, the late Bishop of Gibraltar. In a few years it gravitated to Trinity, and it began to be famous in the time of Buller, Sterling, Maurice, and Trench. Then came the halo of Tennyson's young celebrity. Mr. Venables has alluded to the Society in his Life of Henry Lushington, as the chief pleasure and occupation of Lushington's Cambridge days. Quoting from one of Lushington's Essays a charming passage of reminiscences of his college life, Mr. Venables adds to the quotation a happy description of his own.
the higher class, though it would seem crude and pedantic to mature minds, is more ambitious, more earnest, and more fruitful, than the talk which furnishes excitement and relaxation in later life. Our Cambridge discussions would have been insufferably tedious to an experienced and accomplished listener of fifty ; but in the audacity of metaphysical conjectures or assertions, in the partisanship of literary enthusiasm, in the exuberant spirits, the occasional melancholy, the far-fetched humour of youth, all were helping each other, governed by the incessant influence of contagious sympathy. Like many past and future generations of students, we spent our days— "In search of deep philosophy, Wit, eloquence and poetry, Arts which I loved, for they, my friend,
were thine.'" Some fifteen generations of young “Apostles” have passed from college into life. A few have gained eminence, several distinction. The just pride of members of the Society in the fame of its greater ornaments cannot surely be proscribed by the most cynical. Within the Society itself there is no hierarchy of greatness. All are friends. Those who have been contemporaries meet through life as brothers. All, old and young, have a bond of sympathy in fellow-membership. All have a common joy and a common interest in the memory of bright days that are gone, of daily rambles and evening meetings, of times when they walked and talked with single-hearted friends in scenes hallowed by many memories and traditions or by the banks of Cam, or in the lime-tree avenues of Trinity, or within sound of the great organ of the great chapel of King's, or in the rural quiet of Madingley or Grantchester, sometimes perhaps “Yearning for the large excitement which
the coming years would yield,” but all, as they stood on the threshold of life, hopeful and happy, gladdened by genial influences which are never forgotten, and sunned by warm friendforgotten, and sunbed by ships of youth which never die.
"There is,' he says in one of the accompanying essays, 'a deep truth and tenderness in the tone in which Giusti recalls those four happy years spent without care ; the days, the nights “smoked away" in free gladness, in laughter, in uninterrupted talk ; the aspirations, the free open-hearted converse, as it was then, of some who now meet us disguised as formal worldlings; all the delights of that life, whether at Cambridge or at Pisa, that cines not again.' Youthful conversation of
The life of a most extraordinary man has recently appeared, and should be studied by all who are interested in the curiosities of literature and art.' To this generation he is nearly unknown. To his contemporaries he most frequently seemed to be a madman. Yet of this strange being—at once a poet and a painter-Wordsworth said: “There is “something in his madness which “ interests me more than the sanity of “ Lord Byron and Walter Scott.” Fuseli and Flaxman declared that the time would come when his designs should be as much sought after and treasured in portfolios as those of Michael Angelo. “ Blake is d- good to steal from,” said Fuseli. “And, ah! sir," said Flaxman, “his poems are as grand as his pictures." Who is the unknown genius that is praised so highly, and what has he done? The answer is given in two goodly volumes, to which three ardent admirers have contributed The late Mr. Gilchrist, who distinguished himself by the production of a good biography of Etty, has traced the incidents of Blake's life; Mr. Dante Rossetti, one of the leading preRaphaelite painters, has edited Blake's poetry and criticised his style of art; and Mr. W. M. Rossetti has produced a critical catalogue of Blake's designs. The work produced by three such able men is very interesting. Perhaps they overrate Blake's merits, but their opinion, if exaggerated, is worth examining; and they have done really a good work in rescuing from oblivion one of the most extraordinary men of our nation.
William Blake was born in 1757, and he died in 1827. He was born, he
i The Life of William Blake, “Pictor Ignotus," with Selections from his Poems and other Writings : By the late Alexander Gilchrist, author of "The Life of William Etty :" illustrated from Blake's own works in facsimile by W. J. Linton, and in Photolitho. graphy; with a few of Blake's original Plates. Ž vols. Macmillan and Co. 1863.
lived, and he died in London. His threescore and ten years covered a most important, a most active period in the history of English art and poetry; and what manner of man he was we can see at once in the earliest incident of his childhood which is known. When he had not yet entered his teens he saw a vision. He beheld a tree at Peckham Rye all filled with angels. He told his father of the sight.on coming home, and was about to receive a flogging for the supposed lie, when his mother interfered and saved him for that once. All his life he saw such visions. “ Did you ever see a fairy's funeral, madam ?" he once said, quite gravely, to a lady; “I have.” And then he described how, in the stillness of his garden, he had seen a procession of little creatures of the size and colour of green and grey grasshoppers, bearing a body laid out on a roseleaf, which they buried with songs. At this time he was an artist, and drew with wonderful truthfulness the sights which he saw in vision. He really saw what he drew; and if the vision changed its appearance he could not go on. He once saw and drew the ghost of a flea! See the portrait of this amazing monster at page 255—a sketch of singular vigour, which any one once seeing will never forget. As he was drawing this ghostly flea, it appeared in vision to move its mouth, and he had to take the portrait over again. Mr. Richmond, the well-known portrait-painter, was one of his admirers, and finding his invention flag during a whole fortnight, went to Blake, as was his wont, for advice. When he told Blake that his power of invention had been failing him, the strange visionary turned suddenly to Mrs. Blake and said, “It is just so with us, is it not, for weeks together when the visions forsake us ? What do we do then, Kate ?”. “We kneel down and pray, Mr. Blake," was the reply. He prayed for vision,