21 JANUARY 1843, Page 12


THE unfortunate wight described by ancient poets as standing amid all the luxuries wealth can accumulate yet unable to grasp any of them, is no mere creature of the imagination ; nor is he one only ; nor is his place in the unsubstantial region of ghosts. The Tan- taluses of this living and breathing world are so numerous that their name may be said to be legion. Lord HUNTINGTOWER is a Tantalus. He believed that he had money; he has had or will have the name of possessing money. The glittering phantasm lies in heaps around him. But if he seek to touch, it eludes bis grasp. He gave one friend acceptances for 10,0001., and received 100/. or 2001. for them ; be purchased a dressing-case to pawn, and his friend pockets the money advanced on the pledge ; he takes a pic- ture off a dealer's bands at a nominal value of 1,200/., which turns out to be worth 201. It is not merely the money he fancies be holds that proves unsubstantial ; the luxuries purchased with this shadowy coin turn out to be equally unreal. He lives in a world of appear- ances which have no reality—of mocking shadows of pleasures which he cannot taste. And this tantalizing condition will be Lord HUNT.. INGTOWER'S through life : a large portion of his nominal debts are declared to be not binding, but enough remain behind to absorb the property he may hereafter become heir to. Colonel COPLAND I00 is a Tantalus. Lord HUNTINGTOWER'S acceptances enabled him to raise a part of the sum they were ostensibly worth ; but it was all needed to meet claims that were falling due. These had accumulated to such an amount by allowing comparatively small debts to be called larger in order to obtain a prolonged term of payment. A plausible man was the Colonel—inventive in devising ways and means to meet financial difficulties : but in proportion as the sums be raised increased, the claims to be liquidated by him increased also. He realized nothing. The money seemed to be there—be evoked its spectre—but he could not touch it. Again, the money-lender who obtained a mortgage on Lord HUNT-. INGTOWER'S estate may prove a Tantalus. He borrowed money to lend, upon the credit of, it may be, Spanish Bonds, and re- ceived wind-bills in return, as security for the payment of which he obtained a mortgage that may possibly be found invalid. Or if he is more lucky, the money-lenders of other Lord HIINTINGTOWERS have experienced this fate. Thus the money-grub, the blast man of pleasure, the voluptuous boy-lord, are all alike realizations of the mythus of Tantalus. They see, or seem to see, heaps of whatever is most attractive to their several cravings : they try to clutch them, and find nothing but empty air in their grasp. They live in a world of vain imaginations. Their appetites, their active powers, are wasted upon illusions. And it is not only among the votaries of sensuality, and the misers who prey upon them, that we are to seek the multitudinous and immortal counterparts of Tan- talus. There is scarcely a man who could not produce examples

from his own domestic circle. Banking speculations, bubble companies, and agricultural improvements, have reduced as many to this condition as the gaming-table, or the brothel, or the Stock Exchange. There is much real property in this land of ours, but the imaginary property triples it in amount. Every hundred pounds is, by dint of credit and bills, forced to do duty for thrice as much : every thousand pounds has three nominal proprietors. It is not that there is not enough for all, but men have got so accus- tomed to talk of large sums and lavish expenditure that they are ashamed to confess to what they really have and what would really suffice them. We are a nation of braggers, all affecting to be richer, wiser, happier than we really are—an overgrown kennel of puppies, letting go our respective bits of meat to snap at their big shadows in the water.