THE PLEASURES OF MEMORY.* THE stock of anecdotes and reminiscences
contained in the minds of those who are older than the century is simply inexhaustible.
We have volumes upon volumes, all dealing with the same characters, many of them relating the same events, yet all different. This is Captain Gronow's fourth book of the kind ; it is only the last because Death has been less indulgent than the public, or rather has claimed his share of the Captain's recollec- tions. How many books Mr. Cyrus Redding has published we cannot pretend to say, but he calls himself on his present title-
page the author of Fifty Years' Recollections, literary and per- sonal. There seems to be a custom with English writers analo- gous to the Golden Wedding of German households. A man whose experience stretches over half a century celebrates his jubilee as a matter of course, and the mere fact that he recollects the Battle of Waterloo and remembers nothing about it at once entitles him
to correct every military historian. Nor have we any right to object, when we consider that on far less grounds John Wilson Croker corrected the Duke of Wellington.
We have classed Captain Gronow and Mr. Cyrus Redding together merely as writers of reminiscences. There is no other affinity between them. The men they introduce to us, the stories they tell us, the style in which they tell them, are more dissimilar than is the case in any other two books of the same nature. Captain Gronow keeps more to the beaten track of high life and military adventure. His style is easy, if unpretending, and fluent, if not graceful. Mr. Redding gives
us anecdotes of men who are not so. well known to gossip, but
better known to fame. Yet when he has nothing particular to say of them he is too apt to fill up his space with reflections that would do credit to Tupper, rounded off in the language of Alison.
He once at least commits a fault which would be serious in any writer, but is unpardonable in one standing on his memory, as he gives Necker credit for that visit to Court without shoe-buckles which belongs to the just Roland. We do not believe even Alison would have led him wrong on this point, though we trace im- mediate inspiration from that grand writer a few pages later. " When we reflect," says Mr. Redding, "upon the sums expended among the moderately rich in waste and in the most inane pur- suits that can belong to anything above mere animated life, and how minute a portion of each would have made such a man as Clare, born in the lowest rank of civilization, but lifted above it by his Maker, and endowed by him with those powers of genius of which Kings cannot give the minutest portion or wealth pur- chase it, we mast feel that, tending in our national pursuits so
much towards the destiny of Carthage and Tyre as we do, as well as in our aspirations, we ought, from such examples, to see that
we may be on the road to luxury and declension, but will never build up the greatness of glory that distinguished Greece and Rome." And then he concludes the passage with an apostrophe
to genius:—" The heaven-born gift in its destiny leads us to wonder more than ever at the mystery which envelops the ultimate desti- nies of man, so beyond all mortal conjecture." Sir Archibald must
have had a finger in the " pie."
Captain Gronow is too prudent to venture thus out of his depth. But all anecdotes of the class he gives us are tainted with a peculiar absurdity. Is it possible, we ask, that these kings, and nobles, and soldiers, and ministers ever really lived, or lived in a world bounded by the same horizon as we see, and subject to the same laws of nature? Is it possible
that men could ever have accepted as the height of fashion what would now seem not merely vulgar, but barbarous? Yet there is a general consensus of all the writers on this subject, and it would be vain to struggle against it. Captain Gronow never seems to suspect that we can be blasphemous enough to laugh at what must have been affecting in that state of society, and to ridicule the
scruples which were then a part of honour. He tells us, with extreme gravity, of an interview between George IV. and Dr. Porteus, Bishop of London, which has one or two elements of extreme comedy. Hearing that the King was going to review the Household Troops on a Sunday, the Bishop, though in pre- carious health, drove down to Carlton House to remonstrate.
"The Bishop was moat graciously received, and proceeded to say, am come to warn your Majesty of the awful consequences of your breaking the Sabbath, by holding a review on that day which the Almighty has hallowed and set apart for Himself.' The King upon this buret into tears, and fell on his knees before the Bishop, who bestowed upon his Majesty his blessing. The King then assured Dr. Porteus
* Captain Gronow's Last Recollections. Being the Fourth and Final Series of his Reminiscences and Anecdotes. London: Smith and Elder. 1.866.
Pas Celebrities Whom I Ilave Known By Cyrus Bedding. Two rolumes. London : Skeet. 1860.
that no review should take place on the Sabbath during his life. Bishop Porteus then left the Royal presence, never more to return ; for on arriving at his residence he took to his bed, and died shortly afterwards. The King was so deeply afflicted at the news that, on hearing it, he retired into his own apartments, and was heard to sob as one in deep affliction."
The Bishop's conduct was, of course, very right, but could not the scene have been painted in truer colours ? It looks here as if Bishop Porteus died of giving George IV. his blessing. And there are many stories in Captain Gronow's book of men dying from equally slight causes. There is a man who goes to St.
Petersburgh, and is taken for a natural son of the Prince Regent. He is treated with great courtesy, and invited to dine with the Czar; but when he finds out the motive of this civility, he is afraid of being sent to Siberia as an impostor, hurries back to England, and dies shortly afterwards. Another man makes a long march, comes in complaining of vermin, gets out of bed
during the night, and cuts his throat from ear to ear. One might almost think that the legend in Pickwick of the man who was warned against eating crumpets, eat sixpennyworth and then blew his brains out, had served as a model for some of these stories. The worst of it is that men's lives are quite as absurd as their
deaths. We smile at George IV.'s impressionable piety ; what are we to think of his rudeness to Brummel and to Lord Barrymore ?
Captain Gronow tells us that when once the Beau laid his snuff- box on a small table in Mrs. Fitzherbert's house the Prince observed, " Mr. Brummel, the place for your box is in your pocket, and not on the table." When Lord Barrymore put his hat on a chair, the Prince remarked, " My Lord, a well bred man places his hat under his arm on entering a room, and on his head when out of doors." Of course, the First Gentleman in Europe knew best what constituted good breeding But a certain Marquis, whose name Captain Gronow does not mention, may claim nearly equal honours. Wishing to go to a ball about to be given by a mean millionaire, he wrote to ask for an invitation. The million- aire was accustomed to such requests, and was in the habit of leaving all letters unopened from the day his balls were announced till
after they were over. Not receiving an answer, the Marquis called, and threatened to drive against the millionaire's carriage the first time they met in any public place. This threat produced the desired effect, and the Marquis not only appeared at the ball,
but was the favoured guest. A companion piece to this is Captain Gronow's story of the late Lady Cowley's ball at the British Embassy in Paris. The lady of the house, seeing a strange
face, asked some friend if he knew the owner. Her friend scrutinized the man, and recognized him as a silversmith. Another stranger could find no voucher at all, and the Secretary of the Embassy volunteered to ask him his name. But he proved to be a Marquis. We think the following anecdote of Lord Castlereagh, one of Captain Gronow's best, but to make the point complete Lord Castlereagh should not have died hereafter, but, like Captain Gronow's other characters, " very soon after :"— " The following incident occurred in London in 1814. When the war had terminated in the Peninsula, Sir Edward Pakenham, with his phy- sician, Dr. John Howell, arrived in England, en route to North America, where Sir Edward had been named by the Duke of York Commander- in-Chief of the British forces. Before the departure of the gallant General, he had promised Lord Castlereagh to breakfast with him, and at the same time to introduce his physician to the Minister. After breakfast, Lord C. inquired of the Doctor the precise place where the jugular vein was situated. Dr. Howell explained it to the satisfaction of his Lordship, stating that it would be a dangerous experiment for any man to take the slightest liberty with that artery, for death would inevitably follow if it were pierced. When the General and his friend were returning to their hotel, the former said, `I am afraid, Doctor, you were too explicit about the jugular artery, for I observed Castlereagh to be in a strange mood when you finished your anatomical lecture.' It is needless to state that many years did not elapse before Lord C. com- mitted suicide by cutting his throat with a penknife."
Mr. Redding's Past Celebrities consist of several good names, but the best chapter in the book is that on Dr. Parr. The pictures of Dr. Parr's wig and pipe, of the Doctor on horseback with a servant in livery preceding him, attired himself in a dressing gown under his coat, a cauliflower wig, a clerical cocked
hat, and one spur, are almost too strange for a caricaturist. Dr. Parr was always allowed his pipe, even at Carlton House, and at a party of twenty he branched off to the fireside to smoke peace- fully. Before delivering his celebrated Spital sermon he had a pipe in the vestry. At church he was very simple and straight- forward, interrupting the lesson to say to his servant, "Show that gentleman and lady into my pew," and explaining the text as he went on reading. If any passage was obscure or wrongly translated he would say, " My brethren, this should have been rendered so ; this is not as clear as it should be." He never read the Athanasian Creed, and he prefaced the Royal Pro- clamation against Vice and Immorality by stating that it was issued by His Majesty in his office as Head of the Church, and not in his private capacity. It does not seem consistent with this side of Dr. Parr's character to find him superstitious about numbers. Yet he objected to sitting down with an odd number, and was once pacified by finding that a lady in the company proposed at some future time to do away with the inequality. He was very much alarmed at a visitation when a toast was proposed by the Bishop to their meeting that day three years. One of the clergy present knocked over, by accident, his glass without tasting it, and the glass rolled to Parr's feet unbroken. The Doctor seemed to take the incident to heart, and, like Captain Gronow's cha- racters, died half a year after. Mr. Cyrus Redding, however, moralizes for a page on omens and presentiments.
As we have thus brought our two authors together again, we may take leave of them together. Nothing more need be said upon them, though, of course, much might be said. But when once our readers know what we think of a book, why we think it, and what arguments we have used to enforce our opinion, our work is done ; and if some books can be dismissed more shortly than others, there is a clear gain of ink and paper.