Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE BOROUGH.

LETTER XX.

THE POOR OF THE BOROUGH.

ELLEN ORFORD.

Patience and sorrow strove Who should express her goodliest. -SHAKSPEARE.

“No charms she now can boast,” – 't is true,
But other charmers wither too:
“And she is old," — the fact I know,
And old will other heroines grow;
But not like them has she been laid,
In ruin'd castle, sore dismay'd;
Where naughty man and ghostly spright

Fill'd her pure mind with awe and dread,
Stalk'd round the room, put out the light,

And shook the curtains round her bed.
No cruel uncle kept her land,
No tyrant father forced her hand;

She had no vixen virgin-aunt,
Without whose aid she could not eat,
And yet who poison'd all her meat,

With gibe and sneer and taunt.
Yet of the heroine she'd a share, –
She saved a lover from despair,
And granted all his wish, in spite
Of what she knew and felt was right:

But, heroine then no more,
She own'd the fault, and wept and pray'd,
And humbly took the parish aid,

And dwelt among the poor.

The Widow's Cottage — Blind Ellen one — Hers not the

Sorrows or Adventures of Heroines - What these are, first described — Deserted Wives; rash Lovers ; courageous Damsels : in desolated Mansions; in grievous Perplexity — These Evils, however severe, of short Duration — Ellen's Story – Her Employment in Childhood – First Love; first Adventure; its miserable Termination - An Idiot Daughter — A Husband — Care in Business without Success — The Men’s Despondency and its Effect — Their Children : how disposed of — One particularly unfortunate — Fate of the Daughter - Ellen keeps a School and is happy — becomes blind : loses her School — Her Consolations.

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

THE BOROUGH.

LETTER XX.

ELLEN ORFORD. (1)

OBSERVE

yon tenement, apart and small, Where the wet pebbles shine upon the wall ; Where the low benches lean beside the door, And the red paling bounds the space

before; Where thrift and lavender, and lad's-love (2)

bloom,
That humble dwelling is the widow's home;
There live a pair, for various fortunes known,
But the blind Ellen will relate her own;

(1) The Life of Ellen Orford, though sufficiently burdened with error and misfortune, has in it little besides, which resembles those of the unhappy men in the preceding Letters, and is still more unlike that of Grimes, in a subsequent one. There is in this character cheerfulness and resignation, a more uniform piety, and an immovable trust in the aid of religion. This, with the light texture of the introductory part, will, I hope, take off from that idea of sameness, which the repetition of crimes and distresses is likely to create.

(2) The lad's or boy's love, of some counties, is the plant southern-wood, the Artemisia Abrotanum of botanists.

Yet ere we hear the story she can tell,
On prouder sorrows let us briefly dwell.

I

I've often marvel'd, when, by night, by day,
I've mark'd the manners moving in my way,
And heard the language and beheld the lives
Of lass and lover, goddesses and wives,
That books, which promise much of life to give,
Should show so little how we truly live. (1)

20

To me it seems, their females and their men Are but the creatures of the author's pen; Nay, creatures borrow'd and again convey'd From book to book — the shadows of a shade: Life, if they'd search, would show them many a

change; The ruin sudden, and the misery strange! With more of grievous, base, and dreadful things, Than novelists relate or poet sings : () But they, who ought to look the world around, 285 Spy out a single spot in fairy-ground; Where all, in turn, ideal forms behold, And plots are laid and histories are told.

(1) ["That'le vrai n'est pas toujours vraisemblable,' we do not deny; but we are prepared to insist that, while le vrai' is the highest recommendation of the historian of real life, the 'vraisemblable is the only legitimate province of the novelist who aims at improving the understanding or touching the heart." – GIFFORD.] (2) C -" Truth is always strange

Stranger than fiction. If it could be told,

How much would Novels gain by the exchange?" &c. – Byron. See antè, vol. ii. p. 60.]

[graphic]

so

Time have I lent-I would their debt were less
To flow'ry pages of sublime distress;
And to the heroine's soul-distracting fears
I early gave my sixpences and tears :
Oft have I travell’d in these tender tales,
To Darnley-Cottages (1) and Maple-Vales, (2)
And watch'd the fair-one from the first-born sigh,
When Henry pass'd and gazed in passing by;
Till I beheld them pacing in the park,
Close by a coppice where 't was cold and dark ;
When such affection with such fate appear’d,
Want and a father to be shunn'd and fear'd,
Without employment, prospect, cot, or cash ;
That I have judged th' heroic souls were rash.

Now shifts the scene,- - the fair in tower confined,
In all things suffers but in change of mind ;
Now woo'd by greatness to a bed of state,
Now deeply threaten'd with a dungeon's grate;
Till, suffering much, and being tried enough,
She shines, triumphant maid !- temptation-proof.

10

Then was I led to vengeful monks, who mix
With nymphs and swains, and play unpriestly tricks;
Then view'd banditti who in forest wide,
And cavern vast, indignant virgins hide;
Who, hemm'd with bands of sturdiest rogues about,
Find some strange succour, and come virgins out.

(1) The title of a novel, in three volumes, written by Mrs. Elizabeth Bonhote, the author also of Bungay Castle, Ellen Woodley, &c.]

(2) [Maple Vale, or the History of Miss Sydney, was published anonymously in 1790.)

« PreviousContinue »