TOPICS OF THE DAY.
" Sepulcbri Witte supervacuos houores."
PAGEANTS are relics of barbarism, and proportionate to the bar- renness or meanness of the understanding is the delight in them.
A show gives the greatest pleasure where there is the smallest in- telligence, and children and clowns will always be its most earnest admirers. There is, however, a noble as well as a plebeian vulgar, an aged as well as an infantine unripeness of the understanding; and many exalted and venerable .personages evince an absolute mania for spectdcle, and will seek the enjoyment at the sacrifice of comfort and ease, or even at the risk of personal danger. If pa, geantry generally denotes the survival of a mean taste, the appli- cation of it to funeral honours is certainly the most discreditable mode of its exhibition. The association of things of empty show with the saddest reality, the prodigality of pomp upon the condition so harshly admonitory of humility, the bedizening and bedecking the last passage to corruption, and emblazoning the idlest boasts in celebration of the privation of the poor sense of them, seems a shockinE, incongruity, a profanation by vanity of the solemnity of the tomb. Yet the subject has escaped the cen- sures of the pulpit, which has not spared its rebukes on every other mode of displaying the vanities. Respect for the dead is pleaded ; but we have yet to learn that the appropriate clothing of respect is gorgeousness. No part of the Christian dispensation teaches us to show honour through riches ; and such a demonstration, akin as it is to so much that is vicious in practice, encouraging an . easy hypocrisy, and introducing a reference to wealth in test of the most sacred feelings—nay, making costliness the standard of pious sorrow—might surely have called ibrth the animadver- sion of spiritual instructors. Bat custom renders men obtuse to the perception of the quality of these usages. In ordinary cases, the pageantry of a funeral, the trappings, the hacknied under- taker's properties, the mutes, &c. are disgusting circumstances of pretence and misplaced ostentation ; but the very riot of vanity is exhibited in the bedizening of death at a Royal funeral. What have been the consequences of the pageant of the week, continued according to barbarous custom ? There has been a raree show at Windsor Castle—the only theatre open for the night ; sought as a theatre, attended as a theatre; thronged with spectators conducting themselves as in a theatre, and Iodine- for the very vulgarest gratification of a theatre. Such was the effect on the spot, while elsewhere the ordered day of mourning was turned to a day of festival. We make our observation, which will be corroborated by the testimony of thousands, when we say that Thursday was the gayest holiday that has been witnessed for many years. The day of mourning was jour de fele. The streets were thronged with pleasure-seeking idlers ; the favourite places in the neighbourhood of London and the houses of entertain- ment filled to overflowing with revelling visitors. This mockery of a day of sorrow was caused by the acting of a pageant, for which there was a public eye, but no public sympathy. The show was addressed to gaze, not to grief. It was a form, a ceremony ; and to release the people from business on such an occasion, was only to give them up to carousal. The late King has, for the hcnour of his memory, had a splendid public funeral, and the hour of his descent to the tomb has been marked by a nations merry-making. Yet was the solemnization which had such a con- sequence intended for respect. Are these exposures of indiffer- ence well-judged ? Are they consistent with the design, or seemly in effect ? How idle-has been the pageant, when so op- posite to the suitable mood has been the sentiment. There is no way of making a people grieve who have no disposition to grief; but there is a way of avoiding the exhibition of gayety on an occasion for sorrow,—and that is, by abstaining from a public ceremonial, re- quiring, for propriety of effect, the public feeling to accord with its melancholy character. In future, we are sure, private funerals of Royalty will be found more decorous, even ;hough noblemen and persons of high station may by such modest obsequies be denied the ancient privilege of acting in a state pageant. It will be prudent to avoid the exposure that we have just witnessed, and it will be well to set in the highest places the example of dispensing with costly mummeries in the disposal of the dead. Many of our readers are able to bear testimony as to the effect of the day of mourning in London and its neighbourhood,—which, we repeat, as if moved by the spirit of contrariety, we never before witnessed in such an excitement of gayety ; and as for the sentiment on the scene of the pageant, the Morning Chronicle observes, that before the ceremony, " The people and the soldiery seemed to forego their expectations of witnessing the procession, and began to indulge in much conversation. We listened to this with great attention, both as it went on among the soldiers and amongst the spectators, but it was altogether confined to an expression of curiosity or some commonplace jokes. We did not hear one word of praise of his late Majesty, nor one syllable of regret. Much was said of the procession ; many conjectures were formed as to the cere- mony ; but as to him in whose honour it was supposed to be got up, net one word was said. Time show interested the people, the dead King was an object of complete indifference."
In the North Aisle of the Chapel, • . .
"As the multitude gained ground, and poured in with redoubled energy, the screams of distress and fright and pain became more and more frequent, yet happily neither lives were lost nor limbs broken ; but several ladies fainted, and many were compelled to give expression to their sufferings in a very audible manner : all, however, got their re. spective places in the North Aisle long before seven, and soon acquired their wonted composure, satisfaction beaming in their countenances at the thought of having attained the object of their earnest desire, at an ex- pense, now that it was over, which appeared to be comparatively trifling. Indeed, were it not for the sable habiliments. which, without an exception, were worn, the assemblage might have been considered one collected together upon some joyous festival, rather than upon any such imposing and melan. choly solemnity as the funeral of a great monarch. The hum of voices engaged in loud . and animated conversation continued for some time ; but by slow degrees it sunk in a low murmur, and, before the approach
of the procession, was hushed into the deepest silence." .
We are sure the observation of every person of correct ideas will be, that these ceremonies, so considered, should no longer be continued. The taste in the mere pageant does no credit tothe people, nor does the entertainment of it, merely as a pageant, do any honour to the memory of the deceased King.